Friday, June 29, 2012

Red, White and Blue Sangria {White Wine Sangria}

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Happy Independence Day!  Are you all planning anything exciting?  Family get togethers?  Beach picnics?  Stay at home and avoid the holiday crowds?  No matter what your holiday plans are I have a great 4th of July recipe for you.

What's a summer holiday without a refreshing signature drink?  We all need something nice and cold to sip on during the hot summer months.  This white wine sangria is seriously yummy and is a snap to put together.  And it's healthy since there's fruit involved, right?  Right??

I used a Reisling since I wanted the end result to be nice and sweet.  It was a great compliment to the strawberries! Make this at least a day in advance - two days would be best - and you will be rewarded with a beautiful red-tinged sangria that is loaded with tangy and sweet fruit flavor.

That sounded like a commercial for Starburst.

Of course fruits that are in season are going to have the best flavor, so feel free to switch ingredients to your taste.  Summer strawberries are at their peak, so take advantage! 

White Wine Sangria
1 bottle white wine (not too dry)
1 pint strawberries, cut into quarters
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 red apple, sliced
1 bottle sparkling water (Voss, Pellegrino)

In a large pitcher, combine wine and fruit.  Stir gently and let chill at least overnight.  Serve with a splash of sparkling water.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nutella Shortbread Bites

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Who doesn't love cookies?  Nobody I know.  There's something so comforting and homey about warm cookies and a glass of ice cold milk that makes everything in the world disappear for just a bit.

For as long as I can remember, my mom and I have made shortbread cookies at Christmastime.  Tiny little bites of shortbread perfumed with almond extract and then rolled in powdered sugar... so delish.  I decided to tweak the recipe and bit and turn it into a chocolatey treat.  It was a great decision, I have to say.

These Nutella shortbread cookies are little bites of Heaven.  Don't believe me?  Make 'em.  I dare you not to love them.  I rolled half of them in powdered sugar, and half of them in a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  These babies are dangerously yummy.

Nutella Shortbread Bites
| Yields: approx. 48 cookies | Prep Time: 10 mins | Bake time: 15 mins. |
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c Nutella
1/2 powdered sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
Powdered sugar
Cocoa powder

Beat butter and Nutella until light and fluffy.  Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into butter mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add in the egg yolk and vanilla, beating until smooth.  In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.  Then add to the wet mixture and mix until a soft dough is formed.  (Dough will be a bit crumbly.)  Knead the dough lightly.  Chill for several hours.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Form the dough into teaspoon sized balls.  Note to self: take off your wedding rings prior to ball forming.  Bake for 15 minutes.  While the cookies bake, prepare two small bowls for rolling the hot cookies.  In one bowl pour about a cup of powdered sugar and set aside.  In the other bowl, pour 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.  Stir until completely mixed.

The hot cookies are extremely delicate.  Gently roll the cookies a couple at a time in the powdered sugars, then set the cookies out on a baking rack to cool completely.  Store cookies in an airtight container.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

{Dairy Free} Cherry Ice Cream

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Wait - dairy free ice cream?  Isn't that an oxymoron?  Nope!  This really is dairy free.  Not only is it dairy free, it's really, really good.  I mean really good.

Last week my mom and dad came to visit and brought with them a big bag of the most beautiful tart cherries from the cherry tree in their backyard.  This tree, planted decades ago when my grandpa built the house, is so special to our family.  I have wonderful memories of climbing in the tree with my cousins and swinging on the tire swing when I was a kid in Santa Fe.  Every time I eat cherries I am taken back to that very spot.

Aren't they gorgeous??
Believe it or not, I've never made ice cream.  Not ever.  So I wasn't confident in experimenting and coming up with my own recipe this time around.  I happened to have coconut milk in the pantry and found a recipe for coconut milk ice cream on the Whole Foods website.  Now that I know how easy the whole process is I have a feeling you'll be seeing quite a few ice cream recipes pop up on the blog this summer.  Do I hear any complaints?  I thought not.

I actually made the ice cream base and let it chill overnight before churning in the ice cream maker.  The coconut milk tends to separate a bit as it sits, so give it a quick stir before you get started.  While you're making this one I'll probably be in the kitchen messing around with new flavors...  Mint chip anyone?

Cherry Ice Cream
| Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 5 mins. | Cook time: 8 mins. |
4 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
(2) 13.5 ounce cans coconut milk (light or regular)
2 tsp vanilla extract (or whatever other flavor you are in the mood for)
Giant handful of fresh cherries, pitted and quartered

In a good sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow.  This takes some elbow grease (if you're a weakling like me) and a couple minutes.  Shake the coconut milk well and then dump it into the egg yolk/sugar mixture.  Whisk until combined.  Pour into a medium pot and cook on low/medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes or so.)  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Transfer everything to a bowl and chill thoroughly.

When the mixture is chilled and your cherries are ready, it's time to rock and roll.  Process the ice cream mixture according to the instructions that accompany your ice cream maker.  When it's just about done churning, add in the cherry pieces and process until they are thoroughly mixed in.  At this point the ice cream will be the consistency of soft serve.  If you'd like it a bit more firm, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze prior to serving.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Lemon Cake with Strawberries and Almond Buttercream

Pin It Now! I have one word for you - Yum.  And summer.  Okay, so two words.  You are going to love today's recipe.  The cake comes from Cooking Light and is moist and fluffy.  The lemon flavor is not overdone, which makes for a great springtime or summertime dessert.

I wanted to spruce up the cake a bit, so I filled it with a layer of lemon curd and fresh strawberry slices.  Lemon and strawberries are the perfect combination.  Like chocolate and peanut butter.  Like strawberries and chocolate.  Like - well, you get the idea.  They're a match made in dessert heaven.

The grande finale in this whole story is a light and decadent almond buttercream frosting.  Are you familiar with almond extract?  It is wonderfully fragrant.  Try it in your next recipe in place of vanilla.  My mom makes these amazing almond shortbread cookies at Christmastime and when they are warm from the oven and rolled in powdered sugar they are melt-in-your mouth delicious.  I just may have to make a batch so you can see the deliciousness. 

Anyway, back to the cake...  Head's up - when it comes to the lemon curd filling, make sure to leave a bit of room on the edges.  I spread lemon curd all the way to the edge of the cake and it started to ooze out a bit after I put the second layer of cake on top.

Lemon Cake
2 c AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (that seemed like a lot to me, so I did 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 c nonfat buttermilk
zest of one lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Lemon curd (you'll need a bit less than a jar)
Fresh strawberries (a handful, just depends on the size of them)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 8-inch round cake pans: butter pans, line with parchment paper, butter and flour parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of your mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Finally, mix in lemon zest and juice.  Divide batter among prepared pans.  Bake approx 30 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pans for five minutes, then invert onto baking racks and remove parchment to cool completely before filling/frosting.

Almond Buttercream
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp pure almond extract
zest of one lemon

In the bowl of your mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar, mixing well.  Add in almond extract and lemon zest and beat until thoroughly mixed.  Make sure you lick the paddle attachment.  It's what all the pros do.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Pin It Now! Not really sure this qualifies as a "recipe" but it's just so darn delicious that I wouldn't feel right not sharing with you.  I never met a chocolate covered anything that I didn't love, but strawberries have to be my favorite.  They make me weak in the knees.

I actually made these a couple of weeks ago after Hubby & I played farmer at Classic Organic farm in Gaviota.  We came home with loads of fresh picked strawberries so I couldn't help myself.

Make sure to use good quality chocolate like Scharffen Berger or Ghirardelli since the chocolate flavor is front and center.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Strawberries, washed and dried
6 oz chocolate, melted

Line a plate with parchment paper.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and remove from heat.  Dip the berries in the melted chocolate and place on the parchment lined plate to set.  Chill until chocolate is thoroughly hardened.