Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Danish Daring Baker Challenge!

This month's challenge was The Danish Braid for us Daring Baker types. Despite the rather long instructions, this wasn't really a difficult task. Oh, I admit that I was nervous. Pastries are definitely not my thing, and I have absolutely zero experience in making them. And I'm not even adept at braiding hair, let alone pastry. But I followed the directions obsessively and all turned out great. Here's a pictoral of my experience in making this breakfast treat...

This is definitely one of those challenges where you're really proud of the outcome (if you have a good outcome, that is!) This Danish Braid turned out to be a tender, flaky, buttery pastry with wonderful caramelized, cinnamony apples cooked inside. I plated this and brought it to the teachers at my son's school for an end-of-the-year breakfast meeting. Suffice to say, they enjoyed it a lot! I snuck a slice for my kiddo, and then I begged for a sampling. He reluctantly gave me a bite. I felt that the orange zest in the dough worked well with the apples, but I look forward to seeing what creative things other Daring Bakers have done to their Danish Braids this month.

Big shout out to our hosts for the challenge: Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking? The Danish Braid recipe can most likely be found on one of their blogs.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Strawberry- Oatmeal Banana Bread

Yep... yet another banana bread recipe. Why not? You always have those aging bananas ready to draw fruit flies sitting on your counter, so mix those with some ripe & juicy strawberries to try a new recipe: Strawberry- Oatmeal Banana Bread.

I drew inspiration for this bread from Chuck at If you haven't checked out his droolworthy blog, you're missing out. The guy knows his bread. Knowing that, I dared to mess with his recipe and create my own.

I haven't had a whole lot of "luck" with making strawberry breads in the past as I find that strawberries tend to lose a lot of their flavor in the baking process. So for this bread, I purchased some very special French strawberries from my local farmstand (Chino Farms.) I asked the guy what the difference was between the $3 and $5 baskets. He had a difficult time explaining how wonderful the French ($5) ones were, so he popped one in my mouth and let me decide for myself. Oooo la la... the farmer was right. Those French people did something to these strawberries that make them in a class all their own.

A bit more petite, juicier and waaaaaay more flavorful than your average everyday strawberry, they were definitely worth the extra $2. Kind of a splurge, but I was sold when I tasted them. We only got to eat a few, because the rest went into this bread.

The result: A good, moist banana bread with a slight strawberry flavor. I have a feeling though that if you don't have really juicy, flavorful strawberries, you might not get much flavor in the bread from your berries. You don't have to use fancy French strawberries, but keep on the lookout to try them sometime. Of course you could always try this with raspberries or blueberries or some other kind of berry that you have access to.

Enjoy with a cuppa coffee.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Grilled Salmon with Dill Pickle Butter

Although I promised that I would be making that peanut butter and jelly salmon sometime soon, I came across a salmon recipe that was more appealing to my husband. And since he's kind of a big deal, I gave into his wishes.

It's a bit of an inside joke, but I got this T-shirt for him on CafePress. We could have totally gotten out of hand in ordering funny t-shirts from this place because they have quite the selection. Hubby put this one on his screen saver. My husband is one of those guys that is the life of the party, can talk to anyone, and knows his movie lines... and that one about the smokin' hot wife comes from Talladega Nights. That movie cracks us up.

Anywho, back to salmon. This sounded like kind of a funky salmon recipe, and since I have done salmon with fresh dill many-a-time, I thought I'd give Grilled Salmon with Dill Pickle Butter a try too. The recipe comes from a recent issue of Food and Wine (one of my faves.) It's suggested that the salmon be served with sauteed fresh corn and tomatoes.

Since the dill pickle butter incorporates fresh tarragon, I threw it into my veggie saute too.

This was quite a nice summery plate of food. The salmon is simply grilled and the dill butter melted on top is delicious. The veggies round out the meal. Add a glass of chilled white wine and your dinner is complete!

If your weather is nice enough, eat outside and celebrate the beginning of summer.

And a note to my husband... I'm kind of a big deal (too)... ya know... big time blogger and super mom and all! I just don't have the t-shirt.

And for those of you who were waiting for the PB&J salmon... I'll debut that one a little later in the summer!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Grilled Watermelon Salad

The summer season demands that you eat watermelon. Nibbling chilly watermelon slices saturated with sweetness seems indulgent as you devour slice after slice on a heat-drenched summer day. Its juicy nature and bright color make it a natural superstar at an outdoor barbecue. But have you ever thrown it on the grill? Watermelon caramelizes ever so slightly when it's briefly grilled-- who knew?

Grilled watermelon is the best discovery since goat cheese. Add those together and you've got a salad: Grilled Watermelon Salad.

It makes for a pretty presentation and an impressive salad to serve to guests. The simple combination of watermelon, goat cheese, greens and balsamic just works.

This is my new favorite salad... the hit of the summer (and it's only just the beginning!) Amaze your friends and family by grilling up some watermelon. It's easier than you might think.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mango Gingerbread with Macadamia Streusel

Gingerbread in June? You betcha. This isn't a holiday sort of cake in any sense. When I spotted this recipe in an old Bon Appetit, I tucked it away into my 'must make soon' file. Anything that sounds just a little strange-but-wonderful gets tucked into that file. Fresh pureed mango is incorporated into a gingery flavored sweet bread that is scattered throughout with roasted macadamia nuts: Mango Gingerbread with Macadamia Streusel.

If you're expecting a bread infused with the wonderful, tropical flavor of mango, this isn't it. The mango simply works as a 'moisturizer' much the same way that applesauce does in cakes. Added buttermilk helps with the tenderness as well. The whole cake only has 1/4 cup of canola oil in it.

This bite gives you a sneak peak of how moist the bread is. Heavy on the ginger flavor, this cake-like bread is topped with a mixture of macadamias, sugar and crystallized ginger. If you don't care much for a heavy ginger flavor, I would suggest nixing the crystallized ginger on top.

We liked it best with a smidgen of sweetened whipped cream. Next time I might even add two smidgens.

The next strange-but-wonderful recipe sitting in my 'must try soon' file involves salmon, peanut butter, and grape jelly. No kidding. Because you never might just be the next best thing!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Chili

A hot, steaming bowl of comforting chili isn't something that usually comes to mind as a summery sort of meal. Grill up a few fresh vegetables though and you will turn this vegetarian chili recipe into one that is warm-weather friendly: Grilled Vegetable Chili.

Grilled veggies are chopped up and added to garlic, jalapeno, black beans, chili powder and tomato paste. The mix is simmered in beer and vegetable broth, until thickened.
We topped ours with melted cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped cilantro. With an added squeeze of lime, this was a wonderful summer chili. We enjoyed ours with tortilla chip dunkers.
This recipe was found in a recent issue of Rachael Ray's Everyday magazine. The gal talks up a storm, but she does have some good ideas for recipes!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse Tart

Strawberries! They're in season and easy to locate just about everywhere right now... red, ripe, juicy and ready to be used up before they turn to mush. This oh-so-fab dessert is a little fancy, but it was an excellent choice to end our Gourmet Club's dinner party.

Behold the Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse Tart!... an older recipe from Bon Appetit.

The crust is a buttery, sugary sort. Rather good, I should add. **WARNING** Don't remove a tart pan from the oven with one hand while you're talking on the phone with the other. The crust pops right out the top and splats on the floor. Yes, this really happened... I made my crust twice. And got a nice, crisp burn mark across my wrist from frantically trying to save it. Cook and learn, huh?

The mousse is a light and airy layer of whipped cream mixed with melted white chocolate. An oldie but goodie, this tart takes a day and a half to create- make the crust and filling one day, let it set a good 24 hours, then top with strawberries right before serving.

By the time we cut into this, everyone had consumed quite a bit of wine....thus the blurry picture. (But we think we remember that we liked it.) Just kidding, of course. It was very good. My friends were impressed.

So if you're looking for a way to use up all those strawberries, or if you need an impressive dessert for an event, this is a good one to try (with both hands.)

And if you have one of those places where you can actually go and pick your own strawberries, you should definitely go that route. It's quite fun, and you'll feel that-much-better about your end product. (All that work that you spent slaving away in the fields... and no one had to consume any gas to transport your strawberries!) I say that after spending over $100 on a tank of gas today. Crazy.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Slow Cooked Carnitas Tacos

Have a long day coming up? Won't feel like cooking? This was the perfect recipe for that sort of thing: Slow Cooked Carnitas Tacos (shredded pork tacos.) It doesn't get any easier than this. And before you turn up your nose at a crockpot recipe, you should know that this comes from a recent issue of Bon Appetit. Yes, it appears that even the folks at BA see the importance of having some simple slow-cooker recipes at hand. That being said, the crockpot in our house only makes an appearance about three times a year (and one of those is just to keep a big pot of chili heated during a football party.) I just haven't had a whole lot of success in finding slow-cooker recipes that are worth repeating.

Here's one that's worth repeating!!

The recipe instructs that the pork sit in its slow-cooking state for 6 hours with only salt, pepper, oregano and onion. After trimming a bit of fat off of the boneless pork ribs that I picked up from Costco, I left them slow cooking all day (10 hours) and the pork turned out perfect... moist and easy-to-shred.

Our family LOOOOOVED these tacos. We put them together with low carb tortillas, green chile salsa, light sour cream, cilantro and red bell pepper. I looked all over the place for avocados but for some reason they were all hard-as-a-rock (not so good for eating.) Next time I would add some velvety slices of fresh (ripe) avocado. We also tried mango salsa, and that was good w/ the pork too. Add some juicy slices of watermelon and you've got yourself a nice, summery Mexican meal.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Smitten with Trader Joe's... and some awards!

If you're lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's in your neck of the woods, you will agree that they have some awfully good products. And the fun part about shopping there is that you're always discovering new ones.

Now, I'm not much of a frozen-food kinda gal at all. But Trader Joe's has some frozen gems worth trying. This is one of them. These burgers are big, they grill up nicely, and they don't taste like cardboard.

We topped our burgers with jalapeno cheddar, guacamole, lettuce & tomato (and a squeeze of lime.) The whole family loved these. I'd say they're worth trying, for sure.

Smitten Kitchen has a Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes recipe that made a nice little side to our juicy burgers. These were simply awesome.

And now for a little bizness. I think I mentioned that I'm in the middle of a website overhaul/design... and that's why I haven't been a good little blogger in terms of visiting and commenting as often as usual. It will be a several-months-long-project before the thing is finally finished. I'm taking deep breaths and working as quickly as I can. I've also been remiss in acknowledging a couple of awards that have been passed my way.

Psychgrad from Equal Opportunity Kitchen passed along the Make My Day award. Thank you. You make my day too, Psychgrad! I'll pass this award along to the following five blogs who continually make my day with their witty writing and interesting choices for blog posts:

*Noble Pig
*The Leftover Queen
*A Southern Grace
*White on Rice Couple

Another lovely award was passed along to me from Cookie Baker Lynn: The Yummy Blog award. Thanks Lynn... your blog is equally yummy!!

I could give this award to all of you, really. For now I'll pick five favorite yummy blogs:
*Genesis of a Cook
*Canary Girl
*Bake or Break
*Taste and Tell
*My Sweet and Saucy

Go forth and pass along these little awards to other yummy blogs and 'make their day!!'

Monday, June 9, 2008

Butterfinger Fans... I Give You Butterfinger BROWNIES!

I'm a sucker for recipes that utilize candy bars in one way or another. I've tried Milky Way Cake... it called for 8 full-size Milky Way bars. I swear that cake weighed about 5 pounds (it was awfully good though.) Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake is another keeper... just one of those recipes that always turns out, well... 'perfect.' My son made a Snicker's Bar Pie for our County Fair last year. He won a blue ribbon with that decadent treat. And my absolute favorite Gelato recipe has chunks of Heath Bar swimming inside.

The task of finding a kid-friendly dessert for an event we attended was up to me. Since those candy-bar-type desserts are always a bit hit with others, I went a searchin' for a new one and I found it (thanks to Recipezaar).... Butterfinger Brownies!

Ok, so they're not really technically a "brownie." They're more like a blondie with lots of butterfinger chunks mixed in.

These were a HUGE hit at our event. The teenagers scarfed them down like crazy and were scampering after me asking where to find the recipe. By the time my husband reached the desserts, only crumbs were left on the butterfinger brownie platter. I had a bite of the scraps when I was cutting them into neat little squares, and found them to be mighty good scraps (and I'm not even much of a butterfinger fan.)

These 'brownies' are a definite repeater (but next time, I'll hide them from the teenagers!) Are there any more candy bar baked goods out there that I must try? I'll tuck them away for the next big event.

This recipe can be found HERE. And if this recipe sounds good, you might also enjoy Butterfinger- Chunk Cookies.