Archive for August, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Oat Muffins

August 30, 2012

Food guilt.  It’s really setting in.  I know that it usually comes immediately after the holiday season, during the dreaded month of January.  It’s cold, holiday lights are being packed away, and you are left with the realization that you ate about 4 dozen more cookies than you intended to.

But for me, this year, my food guilt has come early.  Can we think about the summer for just a second?  Ice creams, and pies disguised as breakfast.  Cakes and…more cakes.  The time has come for my back to school slimdown.

So although I would normally never oppose to having a cupcake for breakfast, as muffins sometimes tend to be, I decided to make this a bit more wholesome.  Oats, whole wheat flour, and maybe just a bit of butter make this a healthy and indulgent all rolled into one.  This healthiness should hold me over until the fall flavors food guilt comes around.

Strawberry Balsamic Muffins (recipe from Simply Recipes)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 pint strawberries, rinsed and cut into quarters

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter, cooled

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

In a large bowl, stir together oats, milk and yogurt until well combined.  Set aside.  In a separate smaller bowl, mix together strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar until well combined.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

To the oat mixture, whisk in eggs, butter, brown sugar and vanilla.  On top of the oat mixture, sift in both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper and cinnamon.  Gently stir in strawberry mixture.

Fill each muffin tin almost to the top.  Bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown on top.  Let stand in muffin tin for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.  These are best eaten freshly baked and warm.

Scalloped Tomatoes

August 16, 2012

You know how some people cannot stand sweet and savory foods together?  Like salt on their chocolate, or dates in their salads.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Yep, I’m not one of them.  What does bother me, though, is when sweet names are given to savory foods.  A mushroom rice pudding.  Or a spinach baklava.  I just don’t understand it.  There are separate and distinct names given to these foods that should be used!  Risotto!  Spanikopita!

The reason why I bring this up is because this dish is essentially a tomato bread pudding.  A dish that I would have not been inspired to make if it were actually named that.  Instead, it was called “scalloped tomatoes.”  The name drew me in.  Scalloped tomatoes just screams comforting, and luxurious goodness.  And that’s exactly what this is.

Barely cooked tomatoes with lightly toasted bread, fresh herbs, and cheese.  It may sound like a savory bread pudding, but no.  Please don’t go there.  There is so much in a name.

Scalloped Tomatoes (very slightly adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups cubed pieces of bread from a French or Italian loaf, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 – 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, cut in 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup slivered basil leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a shallow baking or casserole dish (6-8 cup) with cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned and toasted.

While bread is toasting, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl.  After the cubes have been toasted, add the tomato mixture directly over the bread.  Continue cooking, stirring often, for 5 minutes.  Take off heat and stir in basil leaves.

Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

August 10, 2012

Way back when, at the beginnings of this grand season called summer, I had told you that a delightful, no, delicious, no, dare I say, the best ice cream recipe was forthcoming.  And here we are, in the midst of back to school sales, in the middle of conversations that have at least several mentions of how lovely a season fall is, in the middle of August, when I have finally decided to share this with you.

I wasn’t trying to keep it from you.  Promise.  I just didn’t know how to present it!  I have never been a fan of butter pecan ice cream.  Or, to better explain, I never really even thought about butter pecan ice cream.  It wasn’t a part of my ice cream vocabulary.  Plain vanilla ice cream with pecans mixed in didn’t excite me.  But for some reason, when my most recent love of my life came through my door (my ice cream maker, obviously), all I wanted to make for the inaugural spin, was butter pecan.  It didn’t make sense!  It couldn’t be explained!  And therefore, I held off on posting it.  But here we are, approaching the end of the summer, and I simply cannot let the season slip by before letting you experiencing this.  It would be wrong of me.  Because this ice cream is that good.

Butter pecan ice cream is just a tease, I learned.  It is hardly just vanilla ice cream with pecans.  Or, it doesn’t have to be.  Add some vanilla bean paste, brown some butter, and adjust salt levels to make the most satisfying, most complex, most delicious butter pecan ice cream you will ever have.  You won’t need a reason for making it.  You won’t need an explanation for loving it.  You will simply become a butter pecan believer.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream (adapted from here)

You can tell, right?  I don’t have many photos of this ice cream.  Do I need to say it?  It’s because we ate it so fast.  We didn’t let it freeze.  We ate it straight out of the machine and we couldn’t stop.  So there we have it.  But more importantly, if you want to make this and eat it just as fast, you can still make this even without an ice cream maker!  Just click here for directions!

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 packed cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt

In medium bowl, whisk together both sugars, vanilla, salt and milk until the sugars are dissolved.  Stir in the heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

At least an hour before making ice cream, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Allow it to melt and then foam.  Immediately add  the chopped pecans and salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until pecans are toasted, about 8-10 minutes.  Set aside to cool completely.

Churn according to your ice cream maker’s directions, adding the pecans for the final 5 minutes of churning.  Or look above to see how to make without an ice cream maker.  Serve the soft ice cream, or transfer to a freezer-safe container to freeze completely.

Banoffee Pie

August 2, 2012

This happens to me once every two years.  I don’t move away from the TV for two weeks straight, I’m constantly checking stats and scores, I know the medal count by heart, and I become uncharacteristically emotional at every award ceremony.  I love the Olympics.

What’s weird about this time, though, is not only my obsession with sports I would normally never watch (synchronized diving?  love.  beach volleyball?  can’t get enough of it.  table tennis?  do you see how fast they go?!), but also my thinking that I would totally be able to compete in the games as well.  No, seriously.

Don’t worry, it’s usually a fleeting moment…that comes quite often.  But I’ve come crashing down to reality more than once.  Let’s just say that they make it look easy.  And when that happens, I realize I can never be in the Olympics, go into the kitchen, and make pie instead.  British pie, to keep up with the Olympic theme.  But, unlike me, this could definitely win a gold medal.

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee pie is half banana, half toffee, and all delicious.  I came up with that line myself.

Crust:

1 package digestive biscuits, 400 grams, crushed into crumbs

1.5 sticks butter, melted

1 tbsp. sugar

Filling

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 tbsp. butter

3/4 tsp. flaky sea salt

1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped finely

Topping:

4 bananas, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds.

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp. powdered sugar

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

For crust:

Line 2 muffin tins, 24 cups, with cupcake liners.  Stir together crumbs, sugar and butter, until crust comes together.  Distribute 2 tbsp. of crumb mixture into each of the liners.  Pat down evenly to form a smooth crust.  Place in freezer while you make the filling.

For filling:

Place cream, brown sugar and butter in a medium size pot.  Over medium high heat, bring all three ingredients to a boil.  Immediately turn the heat low and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Take off the heat and stir in salt and pecans.  Let cool to room temperature.

After cooled, over each crust, evenly distribute filling – about 2 tbsp. each.  Smooth out the top for even distribution.  Place in refrigerator to set.

When ready to serve, prepare topping.

Topping:

Place 3-4 banana slices on top of the set filling.  Whip cream, sugar and cinnamon together until soft peaks form.  Gently spoon over bananas and eat immediately.  Preferably while watching the Olympics.