Sunday, September 28, 2008

Strawberry Limoncello Delight

No Time? Try this No Bake...
No Brainer

Sometimes you just want a decedent dessert that you don't have to work too hard for. And this was my time. I wanted something a little different from the usual (but easy) strawberries over angel food cake.

Liquor always seems appropriate in these cases. It just makes anything seem gourmet when you add a little boose to it. LOL!

I guess you could use any of your favorite liquors here, but the limoncello really worked well. By marinating the strawberries in it, they take on a great lemony flavor. By adding it to the water and sugar (simple syrup), it mellowed out a little and sweetened up just enough.

Strawberry Limoncello Delight

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
50 ml limoncello,(one nip bottle), divided
1 - 15 0z store bought angel food cake
Lite Cool Whip or light whipped cream
1lb strawberries - sliced

Place the strawberries in a bowl and pour half of the limoncello over them. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight for the flavors to infuse.

Place 1/4 cup sugar, remaining limoncello and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

Cut cake into individual slices and place on dessert plates or small bowls. Brush the lemon syrup all over the tops of the slices, allowing the syrup to absorb. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

Dollup some cool whip or spray some whipped cream over the cake, add some of the strawberries, more of the cool whip or whipped cream and finally top off with more strawberries.

Garnish with one more small dollup or cool whip or spray of whipped cream.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pesto Now or Pesto Later

Lovely Arrangement With a Beautiful Scent...

Basil Herb Arrangements. I like the sound of that. I should start up my own business sending them out for birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. Ok maybe not those special occasions but how about for get well bouquets. I mean basil does have medicinal properties.

I'm sad because it is the end of the season for garden basil or any other herb for that matter. So you know what that means... Get your food processors and blenders out because we're making PESTO! And enough to last well into the winter months.

With this recipe you can enjoy it now or bring a little summer back into the kitchen by storing it away in the freezer. Either way, you will feel like you just received a get well bouquet, only this one really will make you feel great. And, you can eat it!

Pesto Now or Pesto Later

4 c. packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (roast nuts in 325 degree oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 10 minutes)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
about 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (For the best flavor, use freshly grated cheese)

In a food processor pulse basil, nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper until finely chopped. Gradually add enough oil to form a smooth, thick consistency (while blender is running). Transfer to bowl and add cheese*. Season with more salt and pepper as necessary. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

*Note: If you don't plan on using the whole batch right away, put some aside and do not add the cheese. Spoon the pesto without the cheese into an ice cube try and freeze. (The cheese tends to break down in the freezer). When frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a freezer bag. When you are ready to use them, just thaw them in the refrigerator and then add the cheese. If you choose to use one or two cubes at a time, just a tablespoon of cheese per cube or to your own taste.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Apple Cobbler & Crisp

It's Apple Season...
Cobbler or Crisp? Why not both.

I love apple pie but I very rarely make pie crust. I leave that to my Mom. Instead I like to make apple cobbler or apple crisp, both are quicker and easier to make than a pie crust, and in my opinion a little healthier too.

Cobblers are so named for the cobbled look of the crust when it's cooked. It usually consists of flour, sugar, eggs and butter; similar to a biscuit topping. This time I added toasted walnuts and I loved it.

Crisps are more of a crunchy or "crispy" topping usually made up of butter, flour, oatmeal and sometimes nuts. The inspiration for my crisp came from Susan over at Food Blogga. She has a great recipe for a Triple Berry Rhubarb Crisp. Susan has a knack for making the most delicious recipes without over loading them with too much butter and/or sugar. I changed her crisp topping recipe a little by adding organic unsweetened coconut (because I am alergic to the sulfites in the sweetened coconut) and flax seeds to healthy it up a little bit more. I also used toasted walnuts instead of almonds because I had them on hand.
Since I was making a cobbler and not an apple pie, I had to make sure my apples weren't plied too high in the pie plate so the topping wouldn't just slide off. I used just enough apples to fill the pie plate for my cobbler and then I filled a small casserole dish with the remaining apples and topped it with my crisp topping mixture. So in the end I had the best of both worlds!

Apple Cobbler & Crisp

8-10 peeled and sliced Apples (I used 5 macintoch and 5 golden variety)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons tapioka

Cobbler Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons butter or margarine (softened)
1 large egg and 1 egg white (beaten)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Crisp Topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons flax seeds
1/8 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons Smart Balance Buttery Spread or butter

Preheat oven to 4oo degrees.

In a very large bowl, mix the apples and lemon juice. Add the sugar, cinnamon, apple pie spice and tapioka. Set aside for about 10 minutes.

To prepare topping, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and eggs.
Grease a pie plate with butter or margarine and fill with enough apple mixture so that it is even with the top of the pie plate. Spoon cobbler topping over fruit.

Add the remaining apples to a small greased casserole dish and top with the crisp topping.

Bake cobbler and crisp until topping is lightly golden and apple mixture is bubbling, about 35-45 minutes. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fairy Tale Vegetable Casserole

Eat Your Vegetables...And Live Happily Ever After

I finally made it to my local farmers market this year. I know pretty sad, huh. I don't know what took me so long. I actually do love shopping at the local farms, stands and farmers markets for garden fresh produce. It is more of an experience, than a shopping trip. You get to see and smell all the fabulous fruits and vegetables bursting with color at their absolute freshest state!

You also get to learn about produce that you've never had before, like the fairy tale eggplant. These beautiful mini purple and white eggplant caught my eye right away. And what a perfect name for them. They are so fun and whimsical that they could be in a "fairy tale". There were several "regular shoppers" of the farmers market ready to give out their recipes using this little gem. They all sounded great, but the one I liked the sound of, involved steaming the eggplant along with zucchini, summer squash, garden tomatoes, and fresh herbs together and then baking it all in a casserole with cheese. YUM! I came up with my own healthy version and it was fantastic!

Fairy Tale Vegetable Casserole
by Mixed Salad Annie

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 fairy tale eggplant, 1/2 inch thick crosswise slices
1 medium zucchini, 1/2 inch thick crosswise slices
1 small summer squash, 1/2 inch thick crosswise slices
1 large garden tomato, diced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered, Optional
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped and divided
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped and divided
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Place a heavy pan or dutch oven over medium heat; add the oil, shallot and garlic. Stir and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, squash, zucchini, artichokes, tomatoes, 6 tablespoons basil, 3 tablespoons parsley, pepper flakes, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir to combine; cover and cook over low heat until vegetables are softened, about 10-13 minutes.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and add the vegetable mixture. Top with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Spray the top lightly with cooking spray and place baking dish in oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Sprinkle the remaining basil and parsley on top and serve.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Chick Pea Salad

Great For a Light Lunch!

I have been bringing salads to work for lunch for about a year now. Usually it's a classic salad with romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, black and green olives, croutons, and chic peas. I make my own dressing with organic raw apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and a lemon dill seasoning. It is so refreshing and extremely good for you. I am really surprised that I haven't gotten sick of eating salad everyday yet.

This past week I changed things up a bit, however. Not because I didn't want my usual salad, but because I forgot the romaine this week. Also, my friend and avid gardener extraordinaire, Jen, has been supplying me with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden. So I decided to feature the cucumbers and tomatoes along with my usual protein packed chick peas. I pretty much just adapted the recipe on the back of the Goya Chick Pea can. It turned out delicious, light and refreshing!

Chick Pea Salad

1 15.5 oz can of Goya Low Sodium Chick Peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup red pepper, sliced in 1 inch strips
1 small shallot, chopped
1 medium cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into half moons
1/4 cup mixed kalamata and green manzanilla olives, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/3 cup organic raw apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon lemon-dill seasoning

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate until chilled and flavors combine.
Serves 5 - 6