Food & Nostalgia

When I was little, my parents would throw a Christmas party that was the highlight of the year (in a child’s eyes).  The house was decorated with trees galore and Santa was sure to make an appearance. Of course there was also the thrill of a banquet of food, treats, and dessert.  One year in particular sticks in my mind though. My parents packed us in the car, drove to downtown Chicago, and visited a soda shop. The shop sold soda in all sorts of flavors, which you could sample before purchase.  We settled on strawberry flavored and peppermint flavored pop for our party.  Pop was an infrequent treat, so to go to a specialty shop was extra special.

Unfortunately the store we visited is no longer in business, but a store recently opened in my neighborhood that specializes in soda.  Seeing the store refreshed my holiday memory, so of course I had to take a peek at their flavors.  The flavors range from unique to wacky and are too numerous to list here.  However, here are a few that sounded interesting enough to try:

 

Perhaps I will have to see if they have a peppermint flavored version I could sample over Christmas.  Do you have any fun, food related memories?

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Cape Gooseberry

Gooseberry Salsa

I had mentioned that I went a little bit nuts with the purchase of exotic fruits a few weeks ago. This is my third, and final exotic fruits post for a while. The feature of today’s post is cape gooseberries. The gooseberries of my childhood were of the green variety, which grew in my grandmother’s backyard. I had never see orange gooseberries that resembled tomatillos in packaging, meaning a paper thin husk that surrounds the fruit.

Cape Gooseberry
Cape gooseberries, which are also referred to as ground cherries, have a unique and hard to describe flavor. It is a combination of a bunch of sweet and tart fruits rolled into one, such that I can only suggest you give it a try to see what I mean.
To showcase the flavor I chose to make a simple salsa. I mixed diced cape gooseberries with red onion, green onion, lime juice, and honey, which served as a topping for roasted chicken.

Cape Gooseberry
OK, so cape gooseberries might be hard to find, but I still like trying new things. What unique fruit do you want to recommend?


Gooseberry Salsa

20 cape gooseberries, quartered (~3-4 ounces)
2 tablespoons diced red onions
2 tablespoons diced green onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey

 

Mix together the gooseberries, red onion, green onion, lime juice, and honey.  Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

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Smoked Salmon Alfredo

Smoked Salmon Alfredo

This week I had a taste for lox and all of the typical accompaniments – tomatoes, cream cheese, onions, etc.  But instead of making a breakfast spread, I turned it into a Smoked Salmon Alfredo. 

Smoked Salmon Alfredo

The cream cheese was blended into a smooth sauce for spaghetti, which served as the base for my other mix-ins.  The star of the entree is the smoked salmon, which is broken into chunks and scattered through the dish. Even my husband (who isn’t super fond of a pasta-seafood combo) loved it. I hope you enjoy this spin on a classic just as much!

smoked salmon alfredo


Smoked Salmon Alfredo

8 ounces cream cheese
4 ounce half and half
1 lb spaghetti
8 ounces baby tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup diced green onions
½ cup diced red onion
6 ounces smoked salmon, broken into chunks

 

In a small sauce pan, place the cream cheese and half and half and simmer over medium heat until the cream cheese is melt; stirring frequently.  While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. During the last minute of pasta cooking, add the tomatoes to the water with the pasta.  Drain the pasta and tomatoes and add to a large bowl.  Stir the salt and pepper in to the cream sauce, and pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat.  Add the green onions, red onions, and smoked salmon to the pasta, stir to evenly mix and serve.

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Fall Favorites Trail Mix

Fall Favorites Trail Mix

These days it seems that the arrival of fall is announced with pumpkin everything.  Yet when thanksgiving rolls around, people are divided between pumpkin pie and pecan pie. This Fall Favorites Trail Mix allows you to stop the bickering.

Fall Favorites Trail Mix

  Homemade pumpkin granola, pecan pie M&Ms, caramel pieces, and raisins get tossed together for a sweet treat. It’s such a hit, you will have to make batch after batch to keep it on hand. 

Fall Favorites Trail Mix


Fall Favorites Trail Mix

½ cup canned pureed pumpkin
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups quick cook oats
5 ounces pecan pie M&Ms (1/2 a bag)
2 ounces caramel baking chips
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup pecans

 

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line a half sheet baking pan with parchment paper.  Stir together the pumpkin, honey, oil, maple extract, apple pie spice, and salt.  Fold in the oats until coated evenly.  Spread the oats onto the parchment lined pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir and redistribute and then bake for 20-30 minutes longer until golden brown. Cool completely, than add to a large container.  Add the M&Ms, caramel baking chips, raisins, and pecans and toss gently.

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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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[2]

[3]

 

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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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