Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Links ~ Fun Recipes for the 4th

Okay, so I know it's not the 4th of July just yet, but this is the last "Friday Links" post that I'll be able to do before this holiday rolls around next week.  Pinterest has been filled with absolutely adorable edible options for this day and I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you.  I'm still deciding what to take to a get together I'll be attending on that day, but I'll be sure to share my confection of choice with you next week.  Stay tuned!

I'm absolutely loving this patriotic pie, complete with 
stars and stripes made from the pastry dough.  The fruit also keeps
this dish light enough to be a good options for warmer

Marshmallow firecrackers sure to be hit amongst your youngsters.  Mix 
up the colored sprinkles to create a few of each shade and 
some that include all three.  Chubby bunny anyone?

Twizzler firecracker sets!  These require very simply assembly leaving
you time to attend to the million other things on your to-do
list before the guests arrive.  Because these are
so easy you can also enlist the kiddos to help with this one.

One of my favorites.  I just want to snatch that puff pastry star
right off the top and then dig down into that creamy goodness below.
Make sure to store these inside in cooler temps!

Another options that takes advantage of all the great in-season fruit.  These are
classic white cake that has been died red, but I'm sure you could
also do a red velvet cake too :)

Um, yes please!  Buy (or bake) a pound cake and cube it up
along with beautifully arranged fruit for this trifle.  So pretty
that your guests almost won't want to dig in!

What's on your to-make list for the 4th??  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Sneak Peak....

Confession:  I don't have a recipe post for you today.  So sorry!  Time got away from me last night and there simply weren't the minutes to put a well thought out and well written one together.  Believe it or not it takes me a little over an hour to edit photos and finish writing a complete post for each day.

So as a consolation offering I'm giving you a sneak peak of the yummy goodies I'm making this morning.  If they turn out as planned (crossing my fingers!) they will be mini German chocolate whoopie pies (aka sandwich cookies) consisting of a pecan coconut frosting sandwiched between two German chocolate cake cookies.

Drumroll please.......

Yeah, that icing is right from the stove and still warm
and gooey.  You know you want a bite.  I'll take a few for you :)  Will 
that suffice??

I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but these things are fabulous.  I'm making them to take to a luncheon for a board I serve on, and hopefully there will be some left to take since I'm eating them one by one with an embarrassingly short amount of time in between cookies.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Light and Fresh Tomato Basil Pasta

Remember that summer salad I blogged about on Monday?  Well that was the precursor for this lovely dish at our house this past Saturday night.  I picked up some fresh grape tomatoes and basil on that same trip to Jaemor Farms in hopes of putting together a simple and fresh pasta dinner fit for the blazing temps that weekend.

I typically think of pasta as a heavier dinner option, but the lack of a thick cream sauce keeps this light while allowing the bright flavors of the tomato, basil and garlic to really stand out.  Just because the ingredients list is super short doesn't mean this dish is short on flavor.

This pasta is filling enough on its own, but it's also the perfect palette for any protein you might want to add.  Fish or chicken would pair wonderfully with the flavors already present.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday's Tips, Tricks and Tid-Bits ~ Correctly Measuring Ingredients

It's happened to all of us.  You follow a recipe to a T and it still somehow flops.  Did you use baking powder instead of baking soda?  Nope.  Did you use self rising flour instead of all purpose?  Nope.  Hhhhmmm maybe you forgot to add the salt or vanilla?  Nope.  [Bangs head with rolling pin]  WHAT HAPPENED?!

A lot of things can go wrong along the way, but one mistake that is commonly made is the incorrect measuring of ingredients.  This applies to both the tools and the methods used to measure them.  It sounds kind of dumb because, I mean, how hard can it be to measure???  But add in an extra 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 C less oil all by accident and your recipe is sure to turn out slightly different than intended.

Below is a quick and easy outline to guide you through the measuring process.....

Dry Ingredients
Graduated measuring cups are used for larger amounts of dry ingredients.  Measuring
spoons should be used to smaller amounts of ingredients.

My fave graduated measuring cups that I received as
a wedding gift.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, Avocado and Chickpeas

I'm not sure about where you are, but here where I live in Georgia it hit the upper 90's this past week.  Ugh.  I hate to be a negative Nancy, but unless there is a body of water (i.e. lake, pool, ocean, or heck, even a sprinkler) nearby I don't enjoy temps that hot.  You're sweaty by 9:00 in the morning if you dare venture outside and your car doubles as an oven in which to toast your morning bagel.

On days like these I want something light to eat.  Filling, but light.  

Enter this summer salad.

On Saturday the hubs and I stopped by Jaemor Farms (a-mazing local farmers market for those not familiar) and they had tons of fresh produce just begging to be adding to some yummy dish.  So of course I obliged :)

We picked up some grape tomatoes, avocado and corn that I paired with some chickpeas from home for the most delicious, light and refreshing summer salad.  This bowl of fresh goodness is topped with a honey lime dressing that brings out all of the bright flavors of each and every ingredient but at the same time isn't overpowering in and of itself.

Serve this dish as an appetizer when hosting your favorite friends or as a side dish.  Then keep it to snack on late at night.  Or in the afternoon.  Or right after lunch even though you're not really hungry anymore.  [Guilty.]

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Links ~ Cupcakes

TGIF!  How does that saying never get old?  Probably because Fridays and the weekends that accompany them shortly thereafter never get old.  Another thing that never gets old?  Cupcakes.

I know you love them too.  Layer cakes will always have a special place in my heart, but I've often found that cupcakes go over better when there's a crowd involved.  This is especially true if that crowd is mingling.  You don't want to have to mess with cutting a slice of cake, balancing it on your plate while juggling your fork, and then have to figure out what you're going to do with your wine glass while you enjoy your tasty treat.  But you will swiftly grab a cute cup of cake neatly bundled in its own wrapper.

And therefore I bring you some of my fave cupcakes from around the web today.  Some of these I like because of their unique flavor combinations and others I just like because they look pretty.  Yes, I'm judging the book by it's cover here.  Deal with it.  And do the same yourself here.

Gluten Free Blackberry Lemon Cupcakes
I'm loving that more bakeries out there are whipping up
gluten free versions of their favorite sweet treats.  These fruity cups of
love are certainly no exception!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins with Oat Streusel Crumb Topping

My husband's family has several blueberry bushes in their backyard and while we were over there this past weekend I was able to pick some of the ripe ones that had finally turned a deep blueish purple.  Most blueberries don't come in until July so I was thrilled to be able to get my hands on these little guys.

I had already made blueberry banana waffles earlier in the week, so I was a bit hesitant to do yet another breakfast dish with these same berries.  But then I came across a recipe for blueberry muffins from my favorite cookbook from Foster's Market.  I didn't eat a blueberry muffin when Trey and I stopped by Foster's during our trip to Durham back in March, but I absolutely loved everything we tried, so I knew this recipe had to be good!

And good it was.  This recipe calls for the blueberries to be chopped instead of added whole.  I LOVED this because it made the blueberry flavor so much more prevalent and kept the muffins decidedly more moist.  The streusel crumb topping wasn't originally called for by Foster's though....are you surprised it was my idea to add even more butter and sugar??? :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers

I've seen stuffed bell peppers on several sites over the world wide web recently, but to be honest they all look like too much work.  I know that sounds incredibly lazy, but I don't want to spend 45 minutes on a measly side dish that calls for 20+ ingredients.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I'll save those types of endeavors for special occasions.

And I'm guessing I'm not the only one in this boat who needs meal ideas that don't take Martha Stewart-esque efforts to put together.  Yes, those are great and I do feature a lot more in-depth recipes on this blog, but I also want to bring you realistic recipes as well.  Ones you actually might use because they're doable on a weeknight when you don't get home until 5:00.

My solution to this stuffed bell pepper issue turned out to be quite easy.....instead of stuffing the peppers with a mile long list of rice and spices, I'd just use Zatarain's.  I know, I know...that's cheating.  But on a night when you need something quick yet semi-impressive it works wonders and tastes delicious.

And so I present to you my 1-2-3-4 peppers.  Literally all you have to do to prepare these adorable cups is cook the peppers to soften them, prepare the rice, spoon the rice into the peppers and top with cheese, and then bake.  Boom.  You're done.

Of course if you really want to complicate things you can add chicken :)

Like?  I do.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday's Tips, Trick and Tid-Bits ~ Farm Fresh Eggs

Most of these themed Tuesday posts revolve around how to do something better or in fewer steps, but this one is more or less my two cents.  I think I had mentioned in a previous post that I had read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  I'll save my 10 page long review of that book for another day, but one thing I took away from it was the importance of supporting local farms.  By buying from smaller local farms you support farming sustainability and get a much better product (that will also come at a much better price).  This is true for virtually every food (meat and produce) out there, but today I want to focus on eggs.

If you've never had farm fresh eggs you're seriously missing out.  The color of the yolks is a much deeper yellow (almost an orange) and they just taste phenomenal.  They have a very rich taste...if that makes any sense.  You're also assured that the hens that laid these eggs were running around outside perching and flapping their wings and doing innate birds things like eating bugs and poop and grass.  They're doing things that birds should be doing.

Look at all those gorgeous, green, tan...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Waffles

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, but so often there simply isn't time in our schedule to spend 20+ minutes over a pan putting something together before the hubby and I are dashing out the door.  I'd rather take an extra bit of shut eye and grab something that is still yummy, but easy to throw together.

But most Saturday mornings this changes.  I sleep in a bit (hopefully) and then roll out of bed around 9:00 or 10:00 to make a brunch of sorts.  We had some blueberries and bananas on hand this weekend so I decided on waffles.  Waffles are just a no brainer and there's something so nostalgic about whipping that wonderful waffle maker out, don't you think?

And while it's pretty darn hard to mess up a waffle, I do think these turned out just fabulous.  Most banana waffle recipes have you mash up the banana, but I chopped mine so that the end result was thick chunks of them all throughout the waffle.

Top these babies with more fresh blueberries and banana (and walnuts in my case) and you're good to go!  I used whole wheat flour for a healthier option, but really any all purpose flour will do.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thick and Chewy Cherry Almond Granola Bars

Granola is one of those foods that seems like a no-fail healthy option for breakfast or for a snack.  You've got plenty of fiber courtesy of wholesome oats, lots of good-for-you fruit, and heart healthy nuts like almonds.  It's a no brainer, right?

Wrong.  Oh my dear is it *usually* wrong.   A lot of processed granola that you'll find in the grocery store is swimming in sugar and yucky ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.  So much for a healthy  breakfast to get your day off to a great start.

While these bars do have some sugar in them (2/3 C for the whole pan), they have substantially less sugar than your average brand at Kroger and also use honey to add sweetness instead of just relying on granulated sugar.  And lord knows there isn't any high fructose corn syrup in these little guys.

Another favorite thing about this recipe is how infinitely adaptable it is.  You can use any fruit or nuts you like and can play around with using either almond or vanilla extract.  I used dried cherries, sliced almonds and then almond extract for my bars and have to admit that I thought they were a-mazing....even if I do say so myself :)  Put it this way...I took the pan of them up to my family's lake house one weekend not too long ago, and between just four of us we had polished off the whole pan in a day and a half.  Yikes!

My one gripe is that these were a bit crumbly and getting the sliced bars out of the pan was a bit of a cumbersome process.  Placing the pan in the fridge for a bit helped, but I still had to be very gentle with them.  Maybe next time I'll add a bit more peanut butter or honey to moisten them up even more and cut down on the crumbly texture.

The good news though...even if they crumbled to bits they still taste exactly the same.  And of course you could always completely forgo the bar route and just crumble these up into a bowl or sprinkle it on top of your favorite yogurt.

Dig in!  You won't regret making these.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Salted Honey Almond Butter

I know I've mentioned this before, but peanut butter is one of those foods I think I might have a slight obsession with.  There aren't many foods that I haven't tried putting peanut butter on or in......oreos, bread, crackers, m&m's, ice cream, oatmeal, pancakes....the long list is quite embarrassing.

My sister mentioned some time back that she had tried almond butter.  By the way, I must interject here and say that if you haven't already, you must check out her amazing blog here.  Seriously, she has a way with words.  Okay, back to my point.....almond butter?  I was so hooked on peanut butter that I wasn't sure I really wanted to branch out of my little comfort zone I had created and cheat on the peanut butter.

But then I came along quite an enticing picture of some salted honey almond butter on pinterest that came from the amazing Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod.  She had recently posted the recipe on Tasty Kitchen and it looked so easy I figured I had to give it a try.

And oh my dear and I glad I did!  This stuff was delicious.  So delicious that I ended up having to give quite a bit of it away because I couldn't quit eating it by the spoonful.  Oops.

PS I have to point out that the texture of almond butter is indeed different than that of peanut butter.  So don't be surprised.  It's not different in a bad way at all, but it is much firmer than peanut butter and doesn't spread quite as easily.  Just wanted to give you a heads up so you don't think yours turned out wrong!