Prickly Pear Syrup

Prickly Pear Syrup

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I picked up quite a few exotic fruits at my local grocery store.  One was prickly pear, which is also known as cactus fruit.  Once the spines and skin are removed, the pulp inside is typically pureed for recipes for easier removal of the seeds inside.

Prickly Pear Syrup

The fruit is a beautiful ruby color, which I thought would be great as an addition to a yogurt parfait or topper for pancakes. Just a bit of sugar and lime juice was all I needed to add to make the prickly pear syrup.  It was a hit with the whole family – I love trying new things!

Prickly Pear Syrup


Prickly Pear Syrup

2 prickly pears
¼ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Remove the skin from the prickly pears, then add the fruit to a food processor and blend until liquefied. Strain the liquid to remove the seeds and add the liquid to a small sauce pan, along with the sugar and lime juice.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-8 minutes or until juice begins to coat the back of a spoon.  Place in a glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  Use as syrup on yogurt, ice cream, or pancakes.

Note: If harvesting prickly pears yourself, make sure to follow safety tips for handling them with spines

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Bacond-avocado dressing

Bacon-Avocado Vinaigrette

Let it be known that I am not a gardener. I had tried container gardening about a decade ago, which turned out to be a complete disaster.  I vowed to wait until I had more space and could have a raised bed garden.

My husband and I finally got around to making a raised bed this summer.  We planted kale, spinach, green onions, and tomatoes – all mostly from seed.  We planted one seedling tomato plant since that was all that looked decent by the time we bought plants this year (we had extremely late May snow and hail in Colorado this year). We had high hopes and thought the kids would have a lot of fun watering the garden and watching the plants grow.

After a summer of cultivating we netted only a small bowl full of kale and 1 tomato. You may notice that I have two ripening tomatoes on my plant in the picture, but one lost its life to a curious kiddo who “gently squeezed it” and left a hole in its side.

To celebrate our bounty I made a kale and tomato salad with bacon-avocado vinaigrette (recipe below). While the serving shown is small, rest assured that I shared the tomato with the entire family.  We each got two, small slivers and declared that is was the best tasting and most expensive tomato we had ever eaten.

bacon-avocado dressing


Bacon-Avocado Vinaigrette

1 small avocado
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup avocado oil
1 slice of cooked, crisp bacon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon minced onion

 

Place the avocado in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add the vinegar, oil, and bacon and process again until smooth.  Stir in the salt, pepper, and minced onion.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Star Punch

Shining Star Punch

I have been looking for starfruit for months, with an idea of doing a themed drink.  I have used starfruit in the past to garnish a dessert, with a flare of celebration.  I wanted to do a drink in the same vein, whether it be to celebrate a promotion, school accomplishment or other success.  I had given up hope on seeing a starfruit again when my local grocery store help a bloggers dream this August– a highlight of all things tropical fruit.

Star Punch

 Not only did they have starfruit on display, they also had jackfruit, prickly pear, lychee, and rambutans.  You name it, they had it on the floor. For me this was like being a kid in the candy store, so you can bet you will see some more posts on exotic fruit in the upcoming weeks.

While I made a fuss about starfruit, the recipe is actually simplistic. I use the starfuit to garnish a glass and mix a bit of tropical sorbet (pina colada or lemon) with a sparkling juice (I used lemoncello mocktail, but any sparkling citrus drink will do) for an easy punch.  A quick google search will net a variety of sorbet punches, so feel free to play around with the flavors.  I was more interested in using a natural decoration – the starfruit – to play on the theme of celebration.  If nothing else use this recipe as an excuse to celebrate trying new foods!

Star Punch


Shining Star Punch

Pina colada or lemon sorbet
Sparkling lemonade or Lemoncello mocktail
1 starfruit, cut into star rounds and slit to fit on glass

 

Place 4 melon baller scoops of sorbet in the bottom of a champagne glass.  Fit one wedge of star fruit over the rim of the glass and fill the glass with the lemonade or lemoncello mocktail. Serve.

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Banana Split Layer Drink

Banana Split Layer Drink

With the start of the school year comes the flurry of science fair projects.  While my kids are too little to participate, my daughter is enamored with science and knows I love it too.  She even bought me a kitchen science kit for Christmas (I guess you could say she knows me pretty well!). Needless to say, we try to do fun experiments at home as time permits.

Banana Split Layer Drink

One of the typical at-home science experiments I have wanted to do is the density demonstration, like this density tower done by Steve Spangler. The only trick is that I wanted to make a completely edible version that tastes good but didn’t involve alcohol (think the colorful, layered party drinks) since I wanted to keep it a teachable moment for my kiddos.  This has meant a bit of tinkering in my kitchen.  In the end, I ended up with the Banana Split Layer Drink.

The least dense layer for most other density towers is alcohol.  Here, I have replaced it with a pureed banana layer.  Why does this work? First, I mixed the banana with a bit of water which is the least dense fluid out of my ingredients.  Second, by mixing the banana with the water using an immersion blender traps air into the mixture, resulting in a lighter than water fluid.

The full banana split density tower is layered as follows: a chocolate syrup layer gets topped with grenadine, half and half, and pureed banana. Each layer has to be poured slowly and carefully, preferably with a turkey baster.

When consumed, the Banana Split Layer Drink does taste like a melted ice cream sundae.  Who knew that a density science experiment could taste so good?

Banana Split Layer Drink


Banana Split Layer Drink

½ banana
2 Tablespoons water
Chocolate syrup
Grenadine
Half and half

 

In a tall cup, blend the banana and water with an immersion blender until smooth and foamy.  Pour the chocolate into the bottom of a tall, skinny glass.  Pour on a layer of grenadine, and then using a turkey baster carefully pour on the banana layer.  Clean the baster and then carefully pour on the half and half layer.

Note: While the banana layer is less dense and would seem to be the last layer to add, a cleaner separation occurs when the pour order of the half and half and banana layers are done in the order described above.

References:

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Lemon and Currant Angel Food Cake

Lemon & Currant Grilled Angel Food Cake

If you are in search of a quick and easy dessert, look no further.  Grilling angel food cake makes this dish look accomplished with minimal effort.  In addition, by grilling the cake it gains a toasted marshmallow flavor which is always a crowd pleaser.

Lemon and Currant Angel Food Cake

The grilled angel food cake is merely a vehicle for the two other flavorful toppings – lemon Noosa yogurt and fresh currants.  The lemon Noosa has a generous amount of lemon curd mixed into it’s creamy base, such that it really tastes like you are eating a lemon whipped cream.  The fresh currants add both a pop of color and burst of tart/sweet to finish the dessert. The final dish is the perfect summer treat. It is both refreshing and light, and requires minimal effort in the kitchen!

Lemon and Currant Angel Food Cake

 

Lemon and Currant Grilled Angel Food Cake

6, 1.5 ounce slices of angel food cake
8 ounce tub lemon Noosa yogurt
6 ounces fresh red currants, de-stemmed
Fresh mint (optional)

 

Heat a grill to medium heat.  Grill the slices of angel food cake for 1.5-2 minutes per side or until grill marks are formed; remove from the heat.  Stir the noosa yogurt to distribute the lemon curd, then plate by topping each of the grilled angel food slices with an equal amount of yogurt and fresh currants. Garnish with fresh mint if desired and serve.

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tamarind BBQ sauce

Tamarind BBQ Sauce

I have tried to make my own BBQ sauce in the past but I felt like it didn’t have the right balance.  Consequently I have been on the hunt to find the “it” ingredient that gives it the right punch.  I have decided that the key ingredient is tamarind sauce. Tamarind is a tart, fruit that lends its unique flavor to Worcestershire sauce and pad thai.

tamarind BBQ

Often you will find tamarind in paste form, but I wanted to try to make my own tamarind sauce from the fresh pods. The outershell is broken off, and the sticky flesh is boiled off, and the inedible seeds discarded.

tamarind

To make my tamarind BBQ sauce I mixed some of my tamarind sauce with other BBQ sauce staples – ketchup and molasses – and seasoned it with some Worcestershire sauce, onion granules, garlic, and pepper. The result was a tasty sauce with I now consider my base to build upon.  I can’t wait to add on more depth to this tamarind BBQ sauce.

tamarind BBQ sauce

Tamarind BBQ Sauce

Tamarind sauce

8 ounces fresh tamarind (~10-12 pods)
2 cups water

Break off the outershells from the tamarind pods, and discard the shells. Place the tamarind in a bowl. the Pour 2 cups boiling water over the tamarind and let sit for 1 hour.  Break apart the flesh, remove the seeds, and strain, squeezing out the juice and flesh.  Add the strained tamarind to a small sauce pan and boil for 10 minutes; remove from heat and place in a sealable glass container. Makes 1 cup; refrigerate.

Note: I found this blog helpful in making sure I got the steps done correctly.

BBQ Sauce

1 cup ketchup
¼ cup dark molasses
¼ cup tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried onion granules
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper

 

Place ingredients in a large sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, place in a sealable glass container and refrigerate until ready to use.

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avocado sandwich

Chicken & Avocado Sandwich

I can’t believe it is already time for school again.  I feel like summer just disappeared! Now that I will have to pack lunches for my kiddos, I have been experimenting with healthy options that will keep them fueled for the day.

avocado sandwich

For example, in my bento box for this post I packed snap peas, strawberries, blueberries, and a Chicken and Avocado Sandwich.  Adding the avocado to the sandwich is more than just a creamy layer – the good fat is beneficial for the absorption of other vitamins and minerals. The chicken and cheese provide protein and calcium, whereas the whole grain bread adds complex carbohydrates and fiber.  I’m hoping this will be a satisfying and well received lunch!

avocado sandwich

Chicken & Avocado Sandwich

2 slices of whole grain bread
½ medium sized avocado
2 ounces cooked, sliced chicken breast or chicken lunch meat
1 tablespoon mustard
1 ounce slice of provolone cheese

Toast the bread, then spread the avocado on one side of each piece of bread. Lay the chicken evenly over the avocado on one slice, spread the mustard over the top, and add the provolone cheese.  Then place the other piece of toast, avocado side down, on top. Serve.

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apple ice box cake

Apple Pie Ice Box Cake

For picnics or other summer gatherings, I find an ice box cake is an easy treat to make. The work is done ahead of time, and they tend to be crowd pleasers. For my latest ice box cake I wanted to make a take on an American classic – the Apple Pie.

apple pie ice box cake

This Apple Pie Ice Box Cake layers apple snaps or vanilla wafers with spiced vanilla pudding, and apple pie filling. The final touch is a drizzle or caramel sauce and peanuts, which adds a teaser of candy apple to the cake. It should be no surprise that my kids loved this dessert. A serving or two may have even disappeared at breakfast time!

apple pie ice box cake

Apple Pie Ice Box Cake

12 ounces apple snap cookies or vanilla wafer cookies

2 cups vanilla pudding

1 teaspoon apple pie spice

21 ounce can apple pie filing

¼ cup caramel sauce

¼ cup dry roasted peanuts

 

Line to bottom of an 8 inch x 8 inch dish with 1/3 or the cookies.  Stir the apple pie spice into the vanilla pudding, and then evenly pour 1 cup of the pudding over the cookies. Next evenly pour half of the apple pie filling over the pudding.  Add another layer of cookies on top and repeat the pudding and apple pie filling layers. Place a third and final layer of cookies on top, and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.  Before serving, drizzle the caramel sauce on top and sprinkle with the peanuts.  Cut and serve.

 

 

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Shrimp Stuffed Tomato

The summertime heat often begs for meals that require little cooking or are lighter fare. With that in mind I wanted to try a stuffed tomato this week.  For the filling I chose to use a mix of asparagus, red onion, and shrimp for a delicious and colorful dish.  The dressing was a mix of tomato, sriracha powder and mayonnaise, which gave a nice kick to the filling.  The result was a simple yet satisfying dinner.  What summertime meals do you enjoy?

stuffed tomato

stuffed tomato

Stuffed Tomatoes

½ lb asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon sriracha powder

4 large beefsteak tomatoes (~3 lbs)

½ lb small cooked and peeled shrimp, thawed and drained

½ cup diced red onion

 

 

Bring 2 cup of water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan. Blanch the asparagus for 3 minutes, then remove and place in ice water.  Remove the centers from the tomatoes, reserving about ½ lb of the scooped out tomato for the sauce.  Add the reserved tomato to a food processor, along with the mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and sriracha powder. Drain the asparagus and add to a large bowl along with the shrimp and onion.  Pour the sauce over the shrimp and stir to coat.  Stuff the tomatoes with the shrimp mixture and serve immediately.

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mayocoba beans

Mayocoba Bean Salad

It is that time of year again where the benefits program offered by my employer encourages healthy eating choices.  By choosing “superfoods” such as beans and legumes I can earn points faster, so I tend to incorporate them even more than I already do in my diet.

mayocoba beans

With this in mind I have been on the search for beans I haven’t tried and I stumbled upon mayocoba beans.  They are a smooth white bean, similar to a northern bean, and equally as mild.

I decided on a basil vinaigrette and tomatoes and heart of palm as mix-ins, which was a decision based on using up some leftover ingredients.  The resulting mayocoba bean salad was a fresh dish that I most certainly will make again.

mayocoba beans

Mayocoba Bean Salad

1 lb dry mayocoba beans
6 cups chicken stock
14 ounce can of hearts of palm, drained and chopped
1 lb vine-riped tomatoes, destemmed and chopped
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons basil stir in paste
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Soak the beans overnight, then drain and rinse.  Add the beans and stock to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1.5-2 hours or until beans are tender, but firm.  Drain and add to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and hearts of palm.  In a separate bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, basil paste, and salt.  Pour over the bean mixture and stir to coat.  Stir in the cheese and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

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licorice "sparklers"

Licorice “Sparklers”

Quick and easy (and red, white, and blue!) treats are a great way to add a bit of fun to your Independence Day celebration. What I decided to make for this year are licorice “sparklers”, which are are just a new twist on chocolate coated pretzel rods.

Licorice "Sparklers"

Instead of pretzels, red vine licorice gets dipped in white candy melt and sprinkled with blue sugar, sprinkles, or pop rocks.  Using pop rocks as the dash of blue is a fun way to add a bit of surprise to these licorice “sparklers”, it just requires that they are consumed shortly after are made in order to retain the pop rock fizz.

(RLicorice "sparklers"

Licorice “Sparklers”

8 ounces white candy melt
10 ounces red vines (about 30)
one, 0.24 ounce packet of blue pop rocks, or blue sugar or sprinkles

 

lay out a large sheet of wax paper, Melt the candy melts according to their package direction, and then one at a time dip the red vines in the melted candy, coating about a third or the red vine.  Place the dipped red vine on the wax paper. Once a few red vines have been dipped and the coating is beginning to set, sprinkle a bit of the pop rocks/sprinkles on top.   Repeat with the remaining red vines.  Once the candy coating is set, the licorice “sparklers” are ready to serve.  Store in a sealed container or zipped plastic bag.

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bone broth

Bone Broth Experiment

Bone broth is one of the “it” food items these days.  This nutrient dense stock is praised for its vitamin and mineral content thought to improve health.  I figured I’d give it a try and incorporate the bone broth into a soup.

I’m sorry folks, but I didn’t like the taste. In addition, for the soup I was trying to make, the other ingredients and spices didn’t mask the taste. Let’s call this a food experiment fail.

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