Monday, June 30, 2014

Sometimes it's worth $8.14...

I am one of those people who pretty much insist that dessert is homemade. I will spend days laboring over a birthday cake and obsess for weeks over my holiday baking plans. I kind of love it. But then, there are those days and weeks where life totally kicks you in the butt and sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that the world won't implode if I can't make that pie from scratch. In fact, not a soul will actually care.  Sometimes it is just important to spend that kitchen time with the people you love, soaking up the sunshine.  Sometimes it's worth $8.14 to just go and buy the pie (or cookies, or cake).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mango Lime Sorbet

I know, another ice cream post.  I used to hate it when my blog feed would be full of ice cream in the summer and I didn't have an ice cream maker.  But, never fear, there are ways to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.  It just takes a little more work.  Here is the David Lebovitz post that I used before I got my ice cream maker.

The thing is, ice cream and sorbet is almost all I want for dessert these days.  Here in Illinois, it is hot and so so humid.  Sweat runs down your back just venturing out to get the mail.  And with the long list of fun things to do outside, something that requires only about 15 minutes of real work is ideal.

Mango Sorbet

makes about 1 quart sorbet

  • 24 ounces frozen mango, partially thawed (I thawed mine on the counter about 2 hours)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 cup palm sugar* (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
In a medium saucepan, heat palm sugar and 3 tablespoons of water until completely melted.  In a food processor or blender, puree mango.  Pour in sugar syrup and lime zest and blend to combine.  Add in alcohol and blend to combine.  The alcohol keeps the sorbet from freezing so hard, you can leave it out or add in any alcohol that you like (rum, brandy, etc.).  Chill for a few hours in the fridge.  Churn according to your ice cream makers directions.  Pour into a freezer safe container and freeze for a few hours to harden up.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Under Construction

Been working on some updates here to hopefully make my recipe index more user friendly.  Sorry if things are a little wonky for a few days.  Thanks for understanding!

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, June 23, 2014

Deconstructed Cherry Dessert

Last weekend I made cherry dessert for my dad for Father's day.  It's one of his favorites.  Well, I had too much filling left over, so I whipped it into a martini glass (poor martini glasses, never see martinis only dessert).  Turned out to be pretty and extremely easy.

Cherry Dessert in a Glass

makes 5-6 martini glasses full


  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 can cherry pie filling

Gooey Middle:

  • 2 Cups Confectioner's sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 package Dream Whip already made up (Dream Whip is a whipped non-dairy topping that is made from a powder and milk.  You can probably substitute whipped cream or Cool Whip with good results)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large bowl, beat together Dream Whip, cream cheese and Confectioner's sugar until smooth.  

To Assemble:

Divide graham cracker crumbs evenly amongst the glasses.  Spoon gooey middle on top of the crumbs.  Add cherry pie filling on top.  Refrigerate for an hour or so to firm up.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

Happy Friday!  I hope you saved some of those roasted strawberries from earlier in the week because we are going to make some strawberry ice cream.  It's hot and sweaty here in the midwest, let's make it happen!

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup roasted strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan mix together 1 cup heavy cream and the granulated sugar.  Cook over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved.  In a large bowl, stir together remaining cup of cream, whole milk and vanilla extract.  Pour the warm cream and sugar mixture over into the cold cream mixture.  Stir to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Churn ice cream base according to your ice cream maker's directions.  While the base is churning, take roasted strawberries for a spin in the food processor.  I left mine a little chunky, but feel free to process to whatever consistency suits you.  No food processor, no problem, you will just have larger chunks of strawberry in your ice cream.

Once the ice cream base is starting to thicken, pour in roasted strawberries and allow the machine to finish churning.  Scoop into a freezer safe container and freeze several hours or overnight to harden.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Roasted Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

So I have a confession.  I don't like balsamic vinegar very much.  I know, right?  Balsamic is everywhere!  Everyone seems to like it.  But to me, it's too sweet for savory goods. But when paired with already sweet strawberries, the vinegar makes them come alive.

Why roast your strawberries?  Roasting brings out their natural sweetness and adding just a touch of sugar creates a nice syrup.  Eat these plain with a spoon or swirled into yogurt or piled on top of a bowl of ice cream.

Roasted Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

  • 3 cups quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl stir together strawberries, brown sugar, and vinegar.  Pour mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment.  Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Funday

Happy Father's Day to all you Dad's out there.  I am so so lucky in this life to have an amazing Dad.  I don't know what I would do without him.  This afternoon we are headed out to shoot some clay targets together if the weather decides to corporate.

This week has been far more chill than the past several.  We didn't go anywhere this weekend, just relaxed and got some good house stuff done.  I got some time in the kayak, time in the garden, and time behind the camera so this girl is pretty satisfied.

Here are some interesting things I read this week:

  • Loved this article from Her Packing List about Plus Size Travel
  • Jes's Womanifesto
  • I am just dipping my toe into making coconut milk ice cream, so this one from Joy the baker looked like the perfect next step.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trail Food: Spiced Pecans

In about another month, we are headed out west for another backpacking trip.  This time, Washington.  5 days and 4 nights learning, hiking, camping, and not showering.  What does that mean to me?  Snacks.  When I am on the trail, I need some good snacks.

I have been eating these spiced pecans for the better part of a decade now.  My mother-in-law makes them by the boatload every Christmas as gifts and I am always eager to eat them.  This was the first Christmas I made them.  As I was munching on them,  the realization hit me that they would be wonderful trail snacks.  A little sugar to get you jazzed up, a lot protein to keep you going, and crunch to keep you satisfied.  They are also a dream stirred into your morning oatmeal, in case for some freak reason, you have more than you can eat.

Spiced Pecans

From: Suzanne Goodell who got the recipe from Dee Goodell

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the water and egg white.  Add in sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Allow to sit until sugar dissolves, about 15 minutes.   While waiting for sugar to dissolve, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or silpat.  (Seriously, do this step.  My mother-in-law's recipe says you can grease the pan, but then her notes also say the nuts will stick and break if you allow them to cool on the pan.  Let's make it easier on ourselves and just use some parchment.  No sticking.)

Dip nuts in egg mixture and spread on cookie sheet flat side down.  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove from oven.  Using a wide spatula, scrape the nuts off the cookie sheet so they aren't sticking to the parchment but allow them to remain on the pan to cool.  Allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container.  If not using right away, you can freeze.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Guest Post: Grammee's Sauerkraut

Editor's note: Today's post is from my sweet friend and former college roommate Marie who blogs about a little bit of everything at Life Beyond Silicon.  She's a wicked smart engineer and lives in the Silicon Valley with her husband and Tillie, the cutest Australian Shepherd you will ever meet. 

Thanks to Heather for graciously inviting me to write a guest post!  To guarantee a quality recipe for you readers, I've turned to my most-trusted recipe resource.

Heather and I were college roommates, but at some point during a summer she came to visit me in the Western suburbs of Chicago, where I grew up.  We ended up stopping by my grandparents' house.  Although she passed away in 2009, my grandma is still my role model today for her sense of humor and her get-things-done-attitude.

Since Heather and I lived together most of the year, she knew that my grandmother was proud of our (White) Russian heritage.  I had never heard Grammee speak Russian to anyone other than her Russian friends.  Despite this, it just spontaneously occurred to me to mention on the drive that my grandma spoke perfect english (Heather must've known this anyway).  Lo and behold, we showed up and Grammee opened the door with a warm Russian greeting just to mess with Heather!  We all laughed - it is so cool to have a grandma with a great sense of humor and one so like your own that you can guess a practical joke before it happens.

Another major specialty of (both of) my grandmas was cooking.  Every year we would have Polish sausage at one grandmother's house, then trek to Grammee's on Christmas day for Russian sausage!  Russian sausage always came with Grammee's sauerkraut, which is a little less sour (oxymoron?) than German kraut.  

It does seem that she cheated just a little bit by starting with some pre-made sauerkraut, but her recipe is still the only one I know that matches smorgasbords or Russian church events and I'm not going to fault her for saving us all several days!  

Posting a sauerkraut recipe is risky since many folks have a love-hate relationship with sauerkraut, but 1) it's not something you usually find a recipe for and 2) my husband commented that the house smelled good before he really knew what I was up to, then he enjoyed it.

Grammee's sauerkraut

*Serves ~10 depending on serving size
  • 2 jars of plain, boring sauerkraut, rinsed
  • 1 shredded head or bag of cabbage
  • 6oz salt pork*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar**
*I have never bought salt pork for anything else.  I could've subbed bacon, but I am glad I found this ingredient at my normal grocery store because 1) it was cheaper than bacon and 2) I think this is the key ingredient that gives Grammee's sauerkraut it's flavor.  It did not come in strips here, so I cubed it.  This would be easier after about 30 minutes in a freezer

** The original recipe did not call for this sugar, but upon tasting I wanted to cut the acidity just a tad to match my memory.  I was unable to find Grammee's specified brands of Red Gold tomatoes or Frank's sauerkraut in California circa 2014

Cook and render the fat from the salt port in a dutch oven.  Remove and drain the salt pork on a paper towel.  Saute the onion until soft in the drippings, removing any fat that you feel is excessive.  Put the salt pork back in the pot.

Add the kraut and the cabbage to the pot.  Just barely cover with cold water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour.

 Add the tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with your hand as you add them.  Do not squirt tomato juice on your kitchen or clothes.  Simmer for another hour or until your pot looks like this:

On our awesome induction stove, this took closer to 1.5 hours instead of 2.  Serve with mashed potatoes and Russian/Polish sausage with horseradish.  

You can see some giardiniera on the plate which my dad flew all the way from Chicago with the frozen polish sausage.  While not entirely appropriate for sauerkraut and sausage, we did not have any horseradish on hand and this was a Chicago-themed meal after all.  Not everything about California is sunshine and flowers in our hair - I have found that many Chicago-style foods, still the best in the world to this Chicagoland native, are most authenthic when made in our own kitchen.
By the way, Heather's post on her own grandma was quite touching.

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