Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tequila Soaked Watermelon

Hot.  Hawt.  Nashville is so dang hot right now, it needs extra syllables in the word “hot”.  One look at Instagram or Facebook and I see tons of pictures of iPhone screenshots of the weather app’s temperature display, or the temperature gauge in people’s cars.  Record highs of 109.  To beat the heat, I’ve been staying indoors.  But let’s face it, even if it were only a high of 89 I’d likely be indoors since I’m caring for an infant.  All I can say is THANK GOODNESS I’m not pregnant in this heat.  High temps are supposed to continue to hang around through the 4th of July, with forecasts in the upper 90s.  While I’ll be spending most of my 4th of July indoors, I know many people still plan on gathering for BBQs and such, and a cool & refreshing treat is needed.

Last year we were fortunate to spend 4th of July celebrating at our neighbor’s house, watching the fireworks from his rooftop patio.  I brought two contributions to his party, and both included alcohol.  One was this Pineapple Sangria, which has gone on to be a pretty popular post for me, and the other was this Tequila Soaked Watermelon.  I never got around to blogging it, but saved the photos so I could share it with you this year.  This was simple, delicious, and certainly hit the spot!  Were I indulging in alcohol this year, I’d definitely be making these again.  So do me a favor, make these, and enjoy!

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Tequila Soaked Watermelon

Total Time: 20 min prep + time for chilling (approx 45 min)

Ingredients:

1 inch-thick watermelon wedges (enough to lay flat in two 9x13-inch baking dishes)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
2 limes, halved or cut into wedges
sea salt

Directions:

Arrange watermelon wedges in a single layer in 2 (9x13-inch) baking dishes.

Prepare Spiked Simple Syrup: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in tequila and Triple Sec. Set aside to cool.

Pour cooled syrup over watermelon and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes (longer if you wish).

Remove watermelon from syrup, and arrange on a platter. Squeeze limes over the watermelon and sprinkle with sea salt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

We’ve reached the point in baby-land where most of our visitors have come, oohed & ahhed, and gone.  Nathan is off to work everyday, and Elliott & I are hanging out all day (with Jesse by our side).  I’ll admit, I actually enjoy running errands with him, and it was on one such trip to Sam’s Club that I picked up a huge bunch of bananas.  I ate the vast majority of them as quick & easy one-handed fuel while holding the baby.  But they turned brown before I could eat them all, and my first thought was to throw them in the freezer for later baking.  But, since it had been a while since I baked, I had the urge to bake something.  (Don’t be fooled by my timing of posts, I baked & photographed the Cookie Dough Panini BEFORE Elliott made his appearance!)

While Elliott gets rather fussy in the evenings, the mornings are usually pretty calm, so I thought I might actually have the chance to bake something. What a silly idea that was!  Let’s just say the oven was preheated a good 2 hours before anything went into it.  Elliott transitioned from the Boppy, to the Bjorn Bouncer, and finally I stuck him in the Moby and was able to get something done!  (Sorry for all the baby product jargon.  It’s like you learn an entirely new vocabulary when you become a parent!)  The Moby is basically a huge piece of fabric you wrap around yourself like a ninja and it holds the baby next to you, keeping your hands free.  So, Elliott & I baked this banana bread, with him strapped onto me.

{foreground Elliott, background batter in progress}

I chose this recipe to use up the brown bananas because I also had a ton of coconut on hand that I never seem to use.  Plus, I saw it on my friend Kelsey’s blog, Apple A Day, and if she made it, then it was sure to be delicious!  Hers was originally just Banana Coconut Bread, and I chose to add in chocolate chips because… wait, is it necessary to explain why I added in chocolate?  I think not.  Chocolate = good.  This banana bread was spectacular.  Mine came out incredibly moist, and full of flavor.  It wasn’t heavy on coconut flavor, so I think even coconut-averse people would still enjoy this.  The coconut really just added a unique texture.  And I LOVED the little bit extra the chocolate chips add.  At first I debated between using regular sized chips, or using mini chips, and I’m glad I went with regular sized because the bursts of chocolate just add to the party in your mouth.

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Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Like with many quick breads and muffins, I swapped out 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour. I then told myself it was now "healthy" and therefore acceptable to eat for breakfast. Feel free to do the same.

Ingredients:

About 3 large, overripe bananas
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 TBSP vanilla
1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 TBSP raw sugar, such as demerara

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a standard-size loaf pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mash the bananas on medium-low speed. Measure out 1 1/2 c. and set aside. (Any remaining banana can be saved. Molly from Orangette recommends stirring it into plain yogurt.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In the stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, and beat to mix well. Add the banana and flour mixtures alternately, about 1 cup at a time, beginning with the banana and beating to just incorporate.

Use a spatula to fold in any flour that has not been absorbed, and stir in the coconut & chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

Scrape the batter (it will be quite thick) into the prepared pan. Smooth the top, and sprinkle evenly with the raw sugar. Bake for 50-65 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (If using a mini-loaf pan like I did, reduce baking time to approximately 35 min.) Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow to cool completely. Keeps, sealed airtight, for three to four days.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cocoa Pound Cake Cookie Dough Panini with Salted Caramel

I’m so excited & honored to be participating in the Cookie Dough-lympics!  This is a blogging event to promote the release of Love & Olive Oil‘s very first cookbook, The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.  This entire cookbook is based on Lindsay’s love of cookie dough, and her recipe for an eggless version that is safe to consume.  I mean come on, who doesn’t love to eat cookie dough?  I’ve known about this cookbook for a while, as Lindsay & I are friends & neighbors in real life.  I had the extreme fortunate of being someone she pawned off samples & “prototypes” of many of these treats.  Later, I even got to help test some of her recipes.  Yeah, it’s a hard life I lead.  :)

While I knew some of the treats she made, I didn’t know what all the recipes were.  I was so excited when I first opened up the cookbook.  There are SO many good treats in there!  When I was asked to participate in this event, for some reason I didn’t really brainstorm at all about what treat to make.  It instantly popped in my head that I wanted to do a dessert panini.  I whipped up the Cocoa Poundcake recipe from Baking from My Home to Yours.  While it was cooling I made Lindsay’s basic recipe for her egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough.  I sliced the poundcake, slathered on some cookie dough, and then grilled it in my panini press briefly to warm it.  Once removed, I drizzled it with homemade salted caramel sauce.

The result?  Wow.  Just WOW.  This tastes like an epic dessert you’d get at a restaurant.  The cookie dough gets a bit gooey, and combines perfectly with the cake.  And I find there are few things that salted caramel doesn’t improve upon!

I’m so excited for the release of The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook, so others can finally experience some of the amazing treats I’ve been fortunate to get to sample.  Some of my personal favorites include Cookie Dough Rice Krispie Treats, Cookie Dough Marshmallows, and Cookie Dough Fudge.  If you love cookie dough, you can’t pass up this book!

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Cocoa Pound Cake Cookie Dough Panini

No panini press? Just heat this briefly in the microwave, and it's equally delicious!

Ingredients:

COCOA POUND CAKE:
1-2/3 c all-purpose flour OR 1-3/4 c cake flour
1/2 c dark cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
4 lg. eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

COOKIE DOUGH:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Sauce

Directions:

COCOA POUNDCAKE:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan or an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each egg goes in. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated – don’t overmix. In fact, you might want to fold in the last of the flour, or even all of it, by hand with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top.

Put the cake into the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. If you’re using a 9×5 pan, you’ll need to bake the cake for 70 to 75 minutes; the smaller pan needs about 90 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 30 minutes. Run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature.

Wrapped well, the cake will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature (stale cake is great toasted) or up to 2 months in the freezer.

COOKIE DOUGH:
In a large bowl beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt and mix on low speed (or by hand) until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

PANINI:
Preheat panini press. Slice poundcake, spread with cookie dough, and sandwich with second slice of poundcake. Press in panini press for 1-2 minutes to warm. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce.

Cocoa Pound Cake from Baking from My Home to Yours, Cookie Dough from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Skirt Steak with Beets & Greens

And now I bring to you… another dish I did not cook myself.  My mom is the one who did the cooking of this dish, but I’m the one who picked it out.  I received beets in my CSA and I was determined to not let them go to waste.  So I needed to be sure and have my mom cook them while she was here helping out the week Nathan returned to work.  I chose this dish because it was very simple to prepare, and I didn’t want to ask her to do anything too elaborate.  While Nathan can be picky about some things, I’ll be the first to admit he’s pretty open to any vegetable I throw his way, but I wasn’t sure he’d be into the beets.  Luckily, I knew I could distract him by pointing out we were having steak for dinner!  I very rarely choose steak, or read meat of any kind when choosing meals to cook.

We all really enjoyed this dish.  I did feel the greens needed some kick, so I added in additional red wine vinegar.  I would recommend starting with the listed amount, and adding more if you feel it needs it.  But other than that it was really flavorful & balanced.  Sometimes I feel beets can come off too earthy, and in this dish they did not.  The steak preparation was really simple, and if you have a good cut of quality meat, simple is best.

Overall, I’m really glad my mom was there to cook this for us, as I’m not sure I could have prepared it from start to finish!  Elliott has been going through a growth spurt and dinner time is the worst.  He wants to eat every hour and a half!  Feeding/burping/changing him takes about an hour, then he needs to be held & “shushed”, and before you know it it’s time to do all over again!  I chose to breastfeed, and I’m so thankful it’s working out for us, though it can be hard at times.  Because he’s getting ALL of his nutrients from me, I am trying my hardest to make sure I eat a healthy, balanced diet.  I love that through my CSA I am eating so many wonderful, local vegetables, and passing along the nutrients to my son.  It’s been working well, because he sure is chunking up!

{3 weeks old, and chunking up!}

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Skirt Steak with Beets & Greens

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

I added the beet greens in along with the swiss chard.

Ingredients:

3 to 4 medium red or yellow beets (1 1/2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 skirt steak (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 4 equal pieces
1 bunch Swiss chard (12 ounces), ribs cut away and discarded, leaves cut into large pieces
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets on a large sheet of foil; drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold foil to make a packet and crimp edges to create a tight seal. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Season steaks with salt and pepper and cook until medium-rare, 3 to 6 minutes per side (depending on thickness). Transfer to a plate to rest.

Wipe skillet clean with a paper towel; return to stove. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add Swiss chard; cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add beets and vinegar; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Thinly slice steak against the grain and serve with beets and greens.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Prosciutto

First of all, thank you all so much for all the kind congratulatory comments regarding the new addition to our family.  We’re overjoyed, and filled with love.  Also, a bit tired & sleep deprived, but, it’s worth it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m really excited to share this recipe with you.  My mother came down for a few days after Elliott was born to help out with the house & Jesse.  This is one of the meals she prepared for us, and I knew the moment I took a bite I had to share it with my readers.  I’m actually a bit shocked that she wanted to prepare this.  It just doesn’t seem like something that would interest her.  I think I must be helping broaden her culinary horizons.  ;)

This is an awesome dish that has a balance of vegetables & pasta, where meat is more a complimentary accent.  It has a savory/sweet balance that is really unique.  I would never think to put a dijon mustard/honey/red wine vinegar vinaigrette mixed in with roasted vegetables and prosciutto, but it really works!  And, it’s a perfect way to use seasonal produce.  My mom walked over to the farmer’s market to pick up all the veggies, and most are ones I’m also receiving in my CSA right now.  I was a bit worried that Nathan might not like it, because it wasn’t heavy on meat, but turns out he really liked it too!

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Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Prosciutto

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Total Time: > 1 hour

This tastes best slightly warm or room temperature, which makes it perfect for a summer gathering!

Ingredients:

Pasta:
Salt
1 pound penne pasta

Vegetables:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 large zucchini, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1-inch half-moon pieces (about 12 ounces)
3 medium summer squash, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1-inch half-moon pieces (about 12 ounces)
1/2 small cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 medium carrots, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey or agave
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:

For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Place the pasta in a large serving bowl.

For the vegetables: Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a heavy baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Arrange the zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, carrots and garlic in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and bake until light golden and tender, 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

For the vinaigrette: Whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth.

To assemble: Add the vegetables, vinaigrette, prosciutto and Parmesan to the cooked pasta. Toss until coated, and season with salt and pepper.