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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Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

Who doesn’t love bacon? Right? Now combine bacon with one of my favorite blogger contests – the Saucy Mama Blogger Contest – and I couldn’t wait to get started.  First comes the hard part of choosing products to sample since they all sound so good.  From the variety of mustards, sauces, and marinades I finally narrowed it down to the Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce and Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade to work into my dish.

My entry for this year’s contest is a blend of one of my favorite appetizers (bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates) and Turkish apricots to create Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots.

I mixed the Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade (and a bit of green onions and bacon) into some ricotta cheese for a well spiced, creamy stuffing. Once stuffed and wrapped with bacon, the apricots got a coating of Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce for a sweet kick.  The Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots are baked until the bacon is crisp, and the wing sauce has caramelized.

My family loved them so much I don’t know if I could make enough for a party since they fly off the plate so fast.  Give them a try and see what I mean!

Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

You can find other Saucy Mama recipes and products on their facebook and pinterest pages

Saucy Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Apricots

14 slices (1 ½ pounds) applewood smoked bacon, divided
4 ounces ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons minced green onions
2 teaspoons Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade
24 dried apricots
24 toothpicks
¼ cup Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce

 

Pre-heat the oven to 375 °F.

Place 2 pieces of bacon in a 12-inch skillet.  Pan fry the bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp; cool and crumble.

Mix ricotta cheese, green onion, crumbled bacon, and Saucy Mama® cracked pepper marinade, stirring to combine.   Gently pull open the cavity in the dried apricots and place ~1 teaspoon of ricotta in the center of each (i.e. equally divide the ricotta mixture between the apricots). Cut the remaining bacon slices in half, wrap one around each apricot, and secure with a toothpick. Place on a large baking sheet (13 inches x 18 inches), and evenly brush the tops of the wrapped apricots with the Saucy Mama® orange habanero wing sauce.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and serve.

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baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

My daughter was successful in finishing kindergarten as a word warrior (a title based on the number of first grade words she knew). In our house, this title earned her a dinner of her choosing.   We meandered through the grocery store, and one of the items she picked out was peewee potatoes.  For her special dinner, I roasted some of the tiny potatoes (they are about the size of grape or cherry tomatoes) and contemplated how else I could serve them.

baked potato salad

One idea that came to mind was a potato salad that didn’t involve chopping and boiling.  Hence, the Baked Potato Salad was born. The mini potatoes are roasted whole, and then stirred together with some chive cream cheese, bacon bits, black olives, green onions, and cheddar cheese for a crowd pleaser of a dish.

The Baked Potato Salad was such a hit with my husband, I’m sure the next time I make it I will need to double the recipe to have enough for guests!

baked potato salad

Baked Potato Salad

1 ½ pounds peewee potatoes
4 ounces whipped, chive cream cheese
One 2.25 ounce can sliced, black olives, drained
¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup real bacon bits
¼ cup diced green onions

 

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Rinse the peewee potatoes, then spread them out on a large, greased baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and begin to brown slightly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Place the cooled, baked potatoes in a large bowl, add the cream cheese and stir to coat.  Add in the remainder of the ingredients and stir to mix.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Tamarisk Honey Bites

Tamarisk Honey Bites

One of these days I am going to host a honey tasting party.  If you have never tried a honey other than clover, you are missing out. One of my favorites is meadowfoam honey which tastes like cotton candy in honey form. Other honey flavors, such as tamarisk or buckwheat, are dark colored honey with a robust and earthy taste.

Tamarisk Honey Bite

Since I had some tamarisk (and buckwheat) honey on hand, I wanted to make an easy appetizer that showcases the honey.  I topped sweet potato chips with a small wedge of brie cheese, drizzled on some honey and garnished with chives.

Now that I have started to think of ways to sample the honey, I just have to plan and execute the party!

Tamarisk Honey Bite

I typically pick up different honey varieties when I visit farmer’s markets, but some of the larger specialty honey makers sell online as well. A few of the brands that I have tried are Grampa’s Honey and Winter Park Honey.

 

Tamarisk Honey Bites

2 ounce brie cheese
12 sweet potato chips
4 teaspoons tamarisk or buckwheat honey
Chives (optional), chopped

 

Cut the brie into 12 small pieces, then place one piece on each chip. Drizzle evenly with the honey and garnish with chive pieces if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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labne tartine

Labne Tartine

I love when I pick up a cookbook and learn about new ingredients.  One such ingredient that has recently been added to my diet is labne (sometimes written labneh) cheese, which is a spreadable cheese that is made from kefir.  The consistency is similar to softened cream cheese, with a bit more tartness like that of plain Greek yogurt.  I enjoy it both for breakfast and on sandwiches, so make sure you experiment to find your favorite use.

labne tartine

Today I am serving an open face breakfast sandwich (or tartine) for a pretty display of both the labne and the colorful raisin topping.  Adding a bit of fresh oregano cuts the sweetness of the raisins and adds a unique depth to the dish. The tartine is quick to pull together, yet looks amazing when plated, so don’t be afraid to serve this for your next brunch.

labne tartine

Labne Tartine

½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup pecan bits
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
4 English muffins
8 tablespoons labne cheese

 

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the raisins, cranberries, pecans, oregano, lime juice, and honey.  Split and toast the English muffins, then spread 1 tablespoon of labne on the cut side of each muffin.  Top with even amounts of the raisin mixture and serve.  Makes four servings.

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tater tot bruschetta

Tater Tot Bruschetta

When I read about tater tot waffles in a recent edition of Food and Wine magazine I knew I had to give them a try.  To keep the treat to a manageable portion I decided to put a spin on it and make Tater Tot Bruschetta.

tater tot bruschetta

I followed the directions for the tater tot waffle recipe, using a rectangular waffle iron.  I cut each waffle in half to serve as my bruschetta base, and then topped them with a heaping portion of diced tomatoes, basil, and garlic coated in a balsamic vinaigrette.  While you do need a fork to eat it, I’m sure your guests won’t mind.

My whole family loved the tater tot bruschetta, but I’m not surprised. Is there anyone who doesn’t like tater tots?

tater tot bruschetta

Tater Tot Bruschetta

1 pint baby tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
8 basil leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds tater tots, thawed

 

Heat waffle iron to high; preheat oven to 200°F.

While waffle iron is heating, mix together the tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper; set aside.

Cover the waffle iron surface with tater tots (mine measures 5.5 inches by 7 inches). Close and cook on high until nearly crisp, about 3 minutes. Open the waffle iron and fill in any holes in the waffle with more tots, then close and cook until golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet; keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining tots (makes four waffles).

Cut the four waffles in half, top evenly with the tomato mixture and serve. Makes 8 servings.

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