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Summer Grain Salads

For me, the most appealing summer recipes are: 1) healthy and light, 2) require little or minimal cooking, 3) easily transportable (suitable for picnics or bringing for lunch at work), and, of course, 4) taste good! The following is not so much of a recipe as it is a highly customizable method for making a healthy, grain-based salad. Start with a grain, and then add any combination of proteins, veggies, crunch, and flavor. Drizzle with a zesty dressing, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper – and you’re good to go! This type of salad is best served at room temperature and the flavor improves after a few hours.

grain salad

Need inspiration? Try these:

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Crunchy Brussel Slaw

I love brussel sprouts – my favorite way to eat them is oven-roasted until they’re deeply caramelized. But sometimes, like when it’s getting warmer out, you just don’t want to turn on the oven – that’s where brussel slaw comes in. I don’t like coleslaw when it’s dripping with mayo but a vinaigrette-dressed slaw is right up my alley. This slaw is satisfyingly crunchy, refreshing, and would make a great side dish for summer cookouts. Last night, it paired well with mustard-roasted salmon, but it worked just as well for a light lunch today. Bonus: brussel sprouts are a good source of fiber and vitamins C & K!

Crunchy Brussel Slaw

  • a bunch of brussel sprouts (I probably used about 2 cups of whole sprouts)
  • good quality olive oil (I used lemon-infused because I happen to have it on hand)
  • some type of vinegar – I used rice wine because I had it in the pantry, but red wine or apple cider vinegar would work equally well
  • whole grain or German-style mustard
  • honey
  • salt & pepper
  • optional add-ins: any thinly sliced veggies (onions or shallots, carrots), avocado, toasted nuts, crumbled bacon, etc.

1. First, cut off the bottoms of your sprouts. Slice sprouts vertically. With the cut side facing down, cut halves into thin strips. [You could also do this with a mandolin if you have one.] Transfer sprouts to a serving bowl – while doing so, break up some of the sprout chunks with your fingers so you get thin strips.

2. In a small bowl, pour 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. vinegar, ~1 tsp. mustard, ~1 tsp. honey, and salt & pepper to taste [note: these amounts are approximate]. Whisk until emulsified. Adjust seasonings if needed (it shouldn’t be too sweet).

3. Pour dressing over sprouts and toss, adding salt & pepper to the mixture as well. Be liberal with the pepper to give it a kick. Let sit 15-30 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld.

This slaw is highly adaptable – play around with the flavors. Infused olive oils would work well, and the lemon was especially nice with the brussel sprouts. You could add other veggies – thinly sliced onions or shallots, carrots, avocado, apple…Add some crumbled bacon, toasted chopped pecans or walnuts…The possibilities are endless – let me know what you try!

Recipe: Apple Streusel Cake

I made this crowd-pleasing cake over the weekend – super easy and delicious! I didn’t manage to get a picture before people dove in.

Makes one 9×13 inch cake.

Streusel Topping

½ cup granulated white sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans (optional – I omitted them)

1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Blend with a pastry blender until the mixture forms small crumbs.

2. Stir in the nuts, if using. Refrigerate topping while making the batter.

Cake

Butter or cooking spray for the pan
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk or 6 ounces plain yogurt in a measuring cup with enough milk to make 1 cup
3 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice (I used Cortland apples) 

1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk to blend them.

3. In an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

4. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk or yogurt mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

5. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand. Fold in the apples just until blended. Transfer the batter to the pan, distributing evenly. Smooth the top with a spatula.

6. Scatter the topping over the cake in an even layer.

7. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool. Serve warm, cut into squares, maybe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

via The Boston Globe

Harry Potter and the Wonderful World of Wizarding Food

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this Friday, the final installment of the epic book series turned movies, let’s talk about food in the Wizarding world. With the amount that J.K. Rowling talks about food, I’m pretty sure she’s a foodie at heart – what with feasts in Hogwarts’ Great Hall, the sweets trolley on the Hogwarts Express, Hogsmeade shop Honeydukes, Dumbledore using his favorite candies as his office password (lemon drops!), Hagrid’s teeth-breaking rock cakes, and endless mentions of butterbeer, chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, and Harry’s favorite treacle tart…you get the picture. J.K. Rowling and her characters are surely ones who delight in the scrumptious foods that their magical world has to offer.

Muggles yearning to taste some of these fictional treats have tried to recreate them, conjuring tastes out of Rowling’s descriptions. Alas, we’ll never know if they’re as good as the “real” thing – but here are a few recipes that will help you escape into the Wizarding world.

Adorable Golden Snitch Butterbeer Cake Pops on AmyBites

Magically-inspired Cocktails on My Mid-Morning Martini

Madam Rosmerta’s Recipes on MuggleNet

Acid Pops, Chocolate Frogs, and Licorice Wands on The Pastry Affair

For devotees, there is also an Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, which I’ve added to my Amazon store here.

And for those of you who really can’t get enough Harry Potter:

  • read about the creation of a butterbeer beverage for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios here
  • watch the best Harry Potter parody videos (including my all-time favorite Potter Puppet Pals “The Mysterious Ticking Noise”) here
  • see the most ridiculous Potter-themed products Muggle money can buy here

I need to try out some of these recipes so I can drown my sorrows in butterbeer after this last movie!

*official movie poster image from the Huffington Post

*thank to you the Huffington Post for supporting my love of all things Harry Potter-related with the above articles

Recipe: Fresh Strawberry Pie

This recipe is best made with very ripe strawberries – ones that are just on the cusp of being overripe. If you can, use fresh, local berries – not the overgrown, mutant varieties that you’d find at the grocery store. This recipe was a combination of various found recipes and winging it. As you can see* by the amount of liquid hanging out in our pie, we obviously didn’t use enough cornstarch. Some recipes use gelatin as a thickening agent, but we only had cornstarch in the pantry so we went with it. Despite its soupy appearance, this pie still tasted pretty darn good!

*My apologies for the crappy picture – someone (who thinks 1/4 of a pie equals 1 serving) couldn’t wait to eat it!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

your favorite crust recipe

~2 lbs ripe strawberries

3/4 cup white sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1/3 cup water

1. Make enough of your favorite pie crust recipe for 1 bottom crust. I prefer an all-butter crust, but you use whichever you like. I’ve seen recipes for this using a graham cracker crust but I think a standard flour and butter crust will hold up to the strawberry juice better. Bake off your crust and let cool.

2. While the crust is cooling, hull enough of the strawberries to fill the bottom of the crust in 2 layers – you want the strawberry level to be roughly even with the top of crust, but slightly higher. Use the nicer-looking and bigger berries for this part and arrange them somewhat nicely.

3. For the remaining strawberries (~1 pound), hull and slice into halves or quarters, depending on their size. If you have any overripe or ugly berries, use them here. Combine these with the water, sugar, and cornstarch and bring to a boil. As the mixture is coming to a boil, mash the berries with a spatula or spoon as best you can. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the mixture thickens substantially (about 5-7 minutes).

4. Let the strawberry sauce mixture cool for a 5-10 minutes (it will continue to thicken as it cools). After waiting, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer over the fresh berries in the crust. Cool pie in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

5. Once chilled, serve pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. This is best served the same day it’s made or the next day (if it lasts that long). Enjoy!

Cooling Down: Popsicle Recipes

Folks, I have a popsicle problem. I’ve been known to eat multiple popsicles in one sitting, all summer long. There’s really nothing like a icy cold popsicle to cool you down when it’s blazing hot out. I’ve had limited success in the past with making my own popsicles but, considering how quickly I go through a $5 box of grocery store pops, I’m determined to start making my own this summer. If you love popsicles as much as I do, check out the following recipes:

Strawberry Peach Vodka Collins Popsicles (adults only) via Endless Simmer

Avocado and Greek yogurt with blackberry popsicles (2 separate recipes) via Cup of Jo

Watermelon Mojito popsicles  via Endless Simmer

Fudge popsicles via Smitten Kitchen

Mocha popsicles via A Cozy Kitchen

I still need to buy a popsicle mold – you can find cheap ones at Target, pricier ones at Williams-Sonoma or invest in a Zoku machine.

(image via Zoku)

Why don’t more people make funny cooking shows?

Sent to me by a friend, this is the funniest video I’ve seen in awhile. Starring Hannah Hart as “Belligerent” and Cheese as “Sorely Missed,” welcome to My Drunk Kitchen.

You can find more drunken recipes on Harto & Co’s website.

Weeknight Baking

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Last week, a friend and I made Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake and Deb’s Key Lime Meltaways.

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Both great, classic recipes that I will use over and over again. The lemon cake is moist, tart, and the edges have a delectable lemony kick to them from the lemon/sugar syrup that soaks into cake (the end pieces were the first to go, naturally). The key lime meltaways are simply heavenly – I could scarf down 10 of them in a sitting, no problem. Next time, I might try adding things to the lemon cake – like the optional glaze (more glaze is not optional in my book…it’s a must!), and maybe some blueberries or raspberries.

Recipe: Homemade Thin Mints

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It seems that all the kids in my neighborhood have outgrown their Girl Scout memberships – that’s a shame, because I could really use a year’s supply of Thin Mints, Samoas (or their politically correct twin, the Caramel De-lite), and Tagalongs. Do you think that girl is still selling them on YouTube? In any case, when I couldn’t get my hands on the real thing this year – I decided to make my own. How’d they turn out? I’m still trying to answer that one for myself.

This is an easy recipe, and the second icebox cookie I’ve made in the past week. But do they taste like the crisp, mint-chocolatey variety that comes in the recognizable green box? Ehhh, almost. The Girl Scout version are a bit waxy – these ones aren’t, and that’s a plus. Mine didn’t turn out quite as crispy as expected, but I also cut them thicker than the recipe said to. And, the finished product was disappointingly lacking in strong peppermint flavor – I’ve made adjustments in the written recipe here. The recipe could use a few tweaks, but you might have better results. Wait, that didn’t sound very positive – these are, in fact, good! And worth making again! Just don’t expect the real thing. Read on for some very detailed instructions…

let me have the recipe already!

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