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Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

10 Jun

muffins

I’ve been reading back through older posts from Soule Mama, and came upon this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb muffins. A few of my friends have rhubarb in their gardens, and when one had more than she could handle (it was literally covering her kitchen counter), I knew just what to do with it.

Shhh, don’t tell, but it’s actually the first time I’ve tried rhubarb! I think the name (and the fact that it looks like celery) scared me away, but it’s delicious. Just the right amount of sour and sweet, especially when it’s combined with other fruits. I froze the extra chopped rhubarb, so we’ll be enjoying these muffins for quite a while. They’re perfect for breakfast, or as a snack (especially if you cut them in half and warm them on a skillet with a little bit of butter.

muffins2

 

Soule Mama’s Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

1.5 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking soda

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 stick melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange rind (optional, but oh-so-good)

1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup sliced strawberries

Mix dry in a large bowl. Mix wet separately. Add wet to dry. Stir in berries and rhubarb. Spoon into greased muffin pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Devour.

The Joy of Baking

7 May

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 9.52.22 AM

I’ve always loved to cook, but I haven’t typically been a big baker. I went through a spell where I made my own bread for quite a while (using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method), and I did a few more adventurous desserts, but nothing too regular. Now that I’m a mama, I feel like it’s a skill I need to hone a bit more. As a family, we’ve also been trying to be hospitable at least once a week (whether it’s taking someone dinner or having people over). Finally, there are so many measurements that I’m trying to get the hang of over here (hello mL and grams), so the more I use them the better.

These things led me to my new challenge: baking one thing each week. I’m using Pinterest as a springboard, but the goal is to bake one thing (usually dessert) to share with others, every week. The first week, it was Nigella’s Everyday Brownies (oh man were they good) to share with our neighbors and the ladies at my church Bible study. Next, it was Jamie Oliver’s Pizza Dough when we had friends over for dinner, as well as this Snickerdoodle Apple Cobbler (not as heavenly as I’d hoped it would be, but alright nonetheless).

I have been trying to decrease my sugar/carb intake a bit (which is a lot harder to do over here than it ever was in the US), but treats are, well, treats. I figure once a week is decent moderation, provided I’m always sharing it and not devouring whatever I make as soon as it’s out of the oven.

I’m hoping to keep challenging myself as well–meringue nests, a sponge roll, filled cupcakes, etc. I don’t know that I’ll blog all of my projects, but I’d like to share when I can, both for posterity’s sake and so I can keep myself accountable.

Do you have any suggestions for things I should try out? This weekend I made Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Smitten Kitchen, and they were perfect, so I’m thinking maybe some more cookies would be good.

Getting Back to Green Smoothies

15 Apr

jensfav

One of the wonderful/terrible things about living in the UK is the plethora of delicious desserts. The milk is just better, somehow, which means the ice cream, puddings, custards and chocolate all taste incredible. They’re also everywhere, teasing you with their sugary goodness.

Needless to say, I’ve OD’d a bit on sweet treats since we’ve been here. As a result, I’ve been having a bit of a sugar/carb hangover and it’s time to come off the sweets a tad. One of the ways I’m trying to get more fruits and veg in as well as fill the gap of treats is Green Smoothies. I’ve been a big Green smoothie fan for quite some time, but they’ve dropped out of my daily diet since we’ve moved over here. No more — they are definitely going to be a regular thing in the Jones household.

There’s a really awesome 30-day green smoothie challenge going on right now over at Simple Green Smoothies. I’m a little late starting, but when you sign up (it’s free), they’ll give you the shopping list and recipes for the first two weeks. The recipes are a great mix: simple berry-based smoothies to more unique mixes (like Strawberry Basil or Peach Coconut Dream).

All you really need? A basic blender, some greens, some fruit, and your liquid base. Your fruit can be fresh, frozen — I even use some canned fruit when I don’t have access to it any other way. You can throw in a few ice cubes to make it frothier, or add a carrot or other vegetable for even more nutrients.

Here’s one of the more basic recipes:

 

STRAWBERRY, BANANA, BLUEBERRY GREEN SMOOTHIE

(From SimpleGreenSmoothies.com)

This five ingredient smoothie is full of iron, potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. We add olive leaf extract, echinacea, and elderberry extract to this Strawberry, Banana, Blueberry green smoothie to make it an immunity booster as well. 

Ingredients

2 cups spinach, fresh
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries
2 bananas

Makes 4-5 cups (about 2 servings)

Directions

Blend the liquid and spinach together first. Then add the remaining fruits and vegetables. Serve immediately for best consistency. 

** FYI: This green smoothie is more like a purple smoothie… thanks to the blueberries. 

 

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

1 Aug

I was at Barnes and Noble a few days ago, browsing through a table of books (as I frequently do), and happened to pick up the loveliest book: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. As you know, I recently got an ice cream maker, so anything with ice cream on it immediately catches my attention.

delicious macaron ice cream sandwiches

Jeni’s book is a little different than the typical ice cream cookbook. First of all, there are macaron ice cream sandwiches on the cover. Genius. Second, she embraces local produce and focuses on seasonal recipes in a way that I’ve not yet seen when it comes to ice cream. Eating seasonally and locally is always a great way to support your community while enjoying food at the peak of freshness (and flavor), and ice cream is no different. Jeni does a number of sweet vignettes on her favorite local vendors, exploring how they grow or create the food they distribute.

The book is beautifully designed, and the recipes are easy to follow. Almost all are built around a “base” recipe that is meant for the typical 1 and 1/2 quart Cuisinart style ice cream maker (just like mine!). The recipes are incredibly varied, and feature flavor combinations that are definitely outside your supermarket shelves (Salty Caramel, Rhubarb & Lime Cardamom Yogurt, Wildberry Lavender–yum).

the people behind jeni's

While the design is beautiful and the flavors are amazing, my favorite thing about Jeni’s is the personality behind it. Jeni has been creating ice cream for nearly a decade, and is a great example of a business owner that takes great pride in both her product and the people who help her create it. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shops aren’t afraid to let their personality show, and that’s one of the things that keeps customers coming back again and again.

So check out the cookbook, and if you’re in Ohio or Tennessee, stop by one of the sweet little shops and grab an authentic Jeni’s treat!

Day Eleven – The August Break

16 Aug

On Saturday, I used my technological skills to help my dear friend Eddye transition in to the 21st century on, and she used her incredible cooking skills to make us a fabulous lunch! Shrimp salad, brie with pine nuts wrapped in puff pastry, and brushetta = sooo tasty.

Spotlight: The Pioneer Woman

10 Jun

The Pioneer Woman

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Ree Drummond’s blog, The Pioneer Woman, I envy you. Because the first time I was introduced to her tasty step-by-step recipes, hilarious stories and drool-worthy ranch (the kind with cattle, not suburban neighbors), I was blown away. My friend Erin sent me a link to Ree’s series of posts about how she and her husband met and fell in love (Black Heels to Tractor Wheels) and when I looked up, hours had gone by.

I immediately found a more comfortable chair and got lost for a few more.

Ree's Ranch

Ree is the hilarious, self-deprecatingly confident friend you’d write for yourself in a novel. I have no idea how she finds the time to do the things she does, but I’m so glad she, well, does. Thanks to her blog, I’ve discovered the best way to chop an onion, how to make killer pico de gallo, and what my dream sink looks like (ok, maybe I was better off not knowing that last one).

Dream Sink

Her recipes almost always include a cast of real food characters (despite a cameo now and then from the sugar villain) and they are pretty much fail-proof. Her meticulous step-by-step photos may be too much detail for some, but for me they go a long way towards helping me perfect my cooking techniques.

Tequilla Lime Chicken

Some of my favorites:

Fresh Corn and Avocado Salsa

Potato Bundles

Crispy Yogurt Chicken

Rosemary Sweet-Roasted Acorn Squash Wedges

Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza

…and that’s just to get you started. Go check out The Pioneer Woman and enjoy!

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova

24 May

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova

This past Friday was one of my favorite events of the month: Ladies Supper Club. It’s a monthly dinner that rotates hosts, with each gal bringing one of the courses for the meal (usually based on a theme of the host’s choosing. It’s a wonderful time to let go, catch up, experiment with recipes and have an all-around-good time. If you’re interested in starting your own, I’ll be doing a post later this week with tips to set it up.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about chocolate.

Chopped Chocolate

Mmmmm.

This month’s theme was (you guessed it) chocolate, with the host serving Seitan in Mole sauce (with a cocoa kick). My course was dessert, which I’ll admit was a little intimidating. I decided that since we were going to be having hits of chocolate throughout the evening, I didn’t want to overdo it–no thick chocolate cakes covered in chocolate frosting (although just typing that makes my taste buds leap).

I wanted something that was chocolate through and through, but still fairly light. When I heard the words “chocolate” and “dessert”, the cover of How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson immediately popped into my head. I began browsing through some dessert recipes on Nigella’s website and stumbled on Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova. I’ve made meringue-based desserts in the past but hadn’t tried adding flavors (like chocolate) or doing a large pavlova-style meringue. It was almost perfect! Almost, because as mouth-watering as the raspberries and cream on top looked, it wasn’t quite chocolaty enough.

After a quick search on AllRecipes.com, I had a highly rated recipe for Chocolate Mousse and a vision for the ideal franken-recipe:

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova Detail

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova

(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova)

Ingredients:

Pavlova Base

• 6 large egg whites
• 2 cups superfine sugar (if you have a food processor, pulse regular sugar in it to make it superfine. It will make the meringue lighter and fluffier)
• 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
• 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
• 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Mousse Topping

• 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
• 3 tablespoons water
• 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
• 1-½ tablespoons vanilla extract
• 1-½ 2 cups whipping cream
• 3 tablespoons sugar

[note: you only need 6 eggs for this recipe—put aside three of the yolks in a bowl when you separate them]

Make the mousse: In a small heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips with water over low heat; stir until smooth. Stir a small amount of hot chocolate mixture into egg yolk; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool, stirring several times. In a mixing bowl, beat whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Make the meringue: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Draw a 9-inch-diameter circle on the paper (I just traced a 9” round cake pan). You can flip the paper over so the meringue won’t touch the ink/pencil but you can still see the circle.

Beat Eggs Until Stiff

Beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over the egg whites.

Fold in Chocolate

Gently fold everything with a rubber spatula until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue under each corner. Mound the meringue onto the parchment within the circle, smoothing the sides and the top with a spatula.

Mound the Meringue

Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees F and cook for one to one and a quarter hours. When it’s ready, it should look crisp and dry on top, but when you prod the center you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; let the chocolate meringue disk cool completely in the oven.

When you’re ready to serve, invert onto a large, flat plate and peel off the parchment. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to spread the mousse on top, and grate a piece of dark chocolate over the mousse for a nice finishing touch.

Chocolate Mousse Pavlova, Served

This recipe is great when you need to take a dessert to a party—you can bring them separately and quickly put the pavlova together when you arrive. Both the meringue and the mousse can be made up to a day ahead: the mousse should be kept covered in the fridge and the meringue in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Oh. And it’s fabulously, heavenly delicious.

Blackened Mahi Mahi with Fruit Salsa

28 Apr

Blackened Mahi Mahi with Fruit Salsa and Corn on the Cob

To celebrate being back in sunny Florida, I decided to make something a little colorful tonight. Mixed with a little something from the sea.

I’ve been wanting to make fruit salsa ever since I ate Mango Mango’s Mahi Mahi (which has some of the best fruit salsa on the planet). If you’re ever in St. Augustine, you definitely have to try it. Or really, anything from Mango Mango’s. It’s all amazing.

Fruit Salsa, Before & After

I threw this recipe together from looking at a couple of recipes online, modifying it with what I had on hand. My secret to making it quickly was to grab a carton of fresh tropical mixed fruit while I was at Publix. It had chunks of pineapple, some strawberries, and kiwi. I only used half of it, and now I have enough left to make a green smoothie tomorrow morning.


Blackened Mahi Mahi with Fruit Salsa

Salsa
• 1 cup pineapple chunks
• 1 kiwi, sliced
• a few strawberries (optional)
• two green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
• pinch of fresh ginger
• 1/2 bell pepper (I used orange), sliced
• 1 small tomato
• juice of one lime
• small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
• 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette
• a few sprigs of cilantro

Fish
• 2 Mahi Mahi fillets
• salt and pepper
• Cajun seasoning
• 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the salsa ingredients in a food processor (you can also just chop/dice them finely and combine in a bowl). Pulse briefly until the salsa is well combined/chopped, but not soupy. A few quick pulses should do it!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Swirl a tablespoon of the olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or any skillet that you can place in the oven) over medium heat. Sear the fish for a minute and a half on each side, then place the skillet in the oven for 6 minutes. Top with salsa and add a fruity drink (especially if you have any of those fun umbrellas)!

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