Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Double Bean Burgers with Avocado-Basil Cream

Haha, I'm so proud of myself for pulling off this meal with my kids. I hijacked their normal burger and replaced it with this delicious and flavorful double bean burger and they weren't even the wiser! My oldest daughter even told me how yummy it was and ate most of it as well.

I had to give my husband the "ojo" across the table to make sure he didn't spill the beans about the beans in the burgers. Cause I know if my girls got one wiff of the fact that there were beans on those buns instead of a "real" burger, they for sure would have turned up their noses at it and not eaten another bite. Luckily the man caught my drift and we were safe.

I have actually been wanting to make bean burgers forever. I've bookmarked many many recipes, only to delete them thinking it would be a waste of my time because no one would eat them but me. I finally got up the nerve when I saw this recipe. They looked yummy and flavorful, but to tell you the truth the basil avocado cream totally SOLD me. Anything with basil and I SWOON.

Truly this does make a delicious and light burger and it's a great addition to any repertoire of meatless meals.

Double Bean Burgers
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large egg
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 whole grain buns, toasted if desired

In a large bowl, mash beans with a potato masher or fork. Add in the rest of the ingredients, using only 1 tablespoon of the oil, and mix thoroughly to combine, bringing it together with your hands if needed. Separate the beans into 6 equal sections and form patties.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil (or as much as you need). Add burgers and cook on each side until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove and serve with avocado cream on whole wheat buns.

Avocado-Basil Cream
1 avocado
1/3 cup mayonnaise
10 basil leaves, chopped
pinch of salt and pepper

Mash the avocado, then mix with the mayonnaise to combine. Stir in the basil leaves and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve over bean burgers.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Backyard Mint Ice Cream

National Ice Cream Month is almost over and I've got a new flavor for you today. Mint ice cream literally from your own backyard! Does it get any better?

This recipe comes from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home and is amazing. Her method is unique in that she doesn't use eggs as a thickener, rather cornstarch and a little cream cheese. I think that worked perfectly here because it kept the ice cream nice and minty white in color and didn't give off an eggy flavor for the base. It also kept it nice and smooth, rather than icy, which often results when there's not enough fat. Another thing I love is that this ice cream is infused with fresh mint leaves, rather than an extract so there's no funky aftertaste from fake ingredients.

When my mom brought me a bunch of mint from her garden I was so excited I finally got to try this ice cream. I made a double batch and have probably eaten most of it myself!

So, whether you have to step out the back porch, run to the farmer's market, or just the regular marker, make sure you save some mint (and some room in your belly) for this delicious frozen treat!

Backyard Mint Ice Cream
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 Tbsp.) cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
large handful of fresh mint, leaves roughly torn into small pieces.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. If you have trouble whisking the cream cheese, microwave it for 5-10 seconds to soften it a bit more.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Make sure not to pour too fast, if you add it all at once, it will be lumpy and it will be very difficult to get them out. Add the mint. Pour the mixture into a large container with tight-fitting lid, or a gallon size ziploc bag.

Refrigerate to steep for 4 to 12 hours.

Strain out the mint. Pour the ice cream base into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.

Pack the ice cream into a freezer-safe storage container, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest park of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours. Enjoy!

SOURCE: Jenni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cherry Chocolate Scones

I think it's funny how some words have two meanings. Take scones, for instance. When I tell my husband I want to make scones, he gets all excited and asks if we can make honey butter to go with them. See, to him scones are what I've always heard referred to as fry bread, or Indian Fry bread. Not an unlikable treat, but not something I'd generally go to. I find it funny that my husband doesn't think of scones as typical English scones (like I do) because he lived near there for practically 2 years of his life! Oh well.

Anyway, back to what I call scones. These dreamy, cream scones are as good as you're going to get people! If you've ever made scones, it's weird how it all comes together. Almost seems like it won't, looking at that big floury mass. But that butter and cream work their magic.

These are the lightest and most fluffy scones I have ever eaten. They practically melt in your mouth. My girls absolutely went crazy for them, especially with the little chocolate chips; although they could have done without the cherries. They actually love cherries, but they don't do the whole chunky fruit mixed up in baked goods concept.

Now is the prime time to get you some cherries. They do make the dough a little stickier than usual, but don't be dissuaded, you won't be sorry.

Cherry Chocolate Scones
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (or use chips)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse.

If mixing by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Stir in cream and vanilla, just barely combining, then gently stir in cherries and chocolate. Stir with a spoon until a dough forms, using your hands to bring it together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently, adding a bit more flour, if needed.

Form scones by either patting the dough into an 8-inch circle and cutting it into 8 wedges or cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter.

Place rounds or wedges on un-greased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

**If you want to glaze the scones, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1-2 Tbsp. milk and 1/4 tsp. almond extract. Drizzle over tops of warm scones.

SOURCE: Adapted from America's Test Kitchen via. Smitten Kitchen, and How Sweet It Is

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes

So, the other week after menu planning and doing all my grocery shopping I realized mid-week that I had come home with a carton or ricotta and totally forgotten what I bought it for. I checked over my menu and didn't find anything there I was planning on using it for so I turned my thoughts toward what I could make with it.

Naturally I went with pancakes. By now, there's hardly a pancake I haven't made, but these just sounded too delicious to not make a go of it. My girls aren't fans of chunks of fruit in their pancakes, in fact the only add-ins they'll usually go for is chocolate chips-go figure! So, in favor of my daughters' no chunky things in pancakes, I opted to puree the strawberries for this one and it SO worked in my favor. The girls were over the top that these pancakes came out pink(-ish).

When I presented my oldest daughter with a short stack of these, just like in the photo, she literally thought she had died and gone to heaven! She somehow got out of that that it was her special party day and she kept telling her friends all day long about it. If that doesn't convince you to try these, I don't know what will.

I love that the ricotta in these pancakes not only gives it that hint of cheesecake flavor, but makes them really moist. You can use whatever syrup you'd like on these. In lieu of making strawberry syrup I just decided to thin out some strawberry freezer jam to pour over the top and it worked out perfectly. And, of course topping it off with sweetened whipped cream is just like the icing on the cake...but totally optional...especially if it's a weekday.

Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup pureed strawberries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted*
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine combine buttermilk, ricotta, egg yolks, vanilla and strawberry puree. Whisk to combine well. Add in flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and stir just to combine. (*Note: I don't usually sift my flour for pancakes but I did it the first time and not the second and it made a difference.)

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 of the egg whites to batter and whisk to combine. Then add the rest of the whites and gently fold them into the batter.

Heat griddle. Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto the griddle and cook until bubbles start to form and sides are looking dry. Flip and continue cooking another 2 minutes or so.

Serve warm with syrup of your choice and whipped cream, if desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from Annie's Eats

Monday, July 23, 2012

Strawberry-Banana-Orange Green Smoothie

The other day I wanted to share this smoothie recipe with some friends so I went back through my post list and couldn't find it! I can't believe I haven't shared it with you before. This smoothie, or spinach drink as I used to call it, is the first one I had ever tried, over 10 years ago, albeit with some modifications.

I got the main idea for this smoothie, from a college roommate who had celiac and couldn't eat wheat, so she ate a lot of fruits and veggies, and this smoothie. Back then you didn't hear about celiac and gluten-free, so at first I thought it was a little weird, but then I tried it and loved it. I didn't even have a powerful blender back then and my drinks came out a little chunky and the spinach wasn't very well blended, but I didn't care, it was healthy and good.

So, here I am finally sharing what has evolved into my favorite green smoothie. If you have been reluctant to try the green drinks past, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Strawberry-Banana-Orange Green Smoothie
1 cup water
splash of almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 whole orange, peeled*
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 frozen banana
2 handfuls baby spinach

*If you do not have a powerful blender, I suggest just using the juice of the orange or about 1/2 cup orange juice.

**If your strawberries are not frozen, use ice for part of the water.

Place ingredients in blender in order listed. Blend to your liking-may take a few minutes if you do not have a powerful blender. Drink immediately or store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to 48 hours. Shake well before drinking.

Makes about 3-4 cups

Monday, July 16, 2012

Strawberry Fields Salad with Lemon-Poppy Seed Dressing

I thought I better throw a salad in here, it's been a while.

I love summer produce! I try to soak it up all I can while the getting is good. 'Cause you know, come those winter months and the gettin' gets pretty slim.

This is a fabulous salad. A little different, but not too unusual. The seasonal fruit is delicious, the fresh basil, to die for and the dressing is an absolute keeper! I believe salad dressing totally can totally make or break a salad. I make tons of homemade dressings, which I love, but I have never thought to substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. Totally genius, especially since I love all things lemon.

Strawberry Fields Salad
4 large nectarines, cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 (4-oz.) package crumbled feta cheese

Lemon-Poppy Seed Dressing (recipe below)

Toss nectarines with 1/4 cup Lemon-Poppy Seed Dressing.

Put shredded lettuce in a large salad bowl. Layer nectarines, strawberries, tomatoes and basil on top of the lettuce.

Add feta and pecans and dressing just before serving; lightly toss.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Dressing
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
2 tsp. finely chopped onion
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt

Process vegetable oil, sugar, fresh lemon juice, poppy seeds, finely chopped onion, Dijon mustard, and salt in a blender until smooth. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week; serve at room temperature.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Southern Living

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

One of the things I love most about summer is keeping my freezer well stocked with homemade ice cream. At the end of a long, hot day, I love nothing more than to sit down to a delicious chocolaty refreshing treat and this totally hits the spot.

I love the base for this ice cream. It's one of the smoothest, most chocolaty I've ever made. I think using the bittersweet chocolate is amazing here, although if you prefer a lighter, sweeter chocolate flavor, I would go with a dark or semi-sweet chocolate.

Cherries are in season right now and are on sale everywhere. I couldn't resist pairing them with the chocolate ice cream. The rum extract adds a little dimension and nicely compliments the other flavors. If you have rum on hand, feel free to swap out the water when cooking the cherries and omit the rum extract.

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
1 1/3 cups halved pitted cherries (about 13 ounces whole cherries)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. rum extract (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Put the cherries, 2 tablespoons sugar and the water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until syrupy, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add rum extract and let cool, then refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Gradually whisk about 1/2 of the warm milk mixture into the eggs, then whisk the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats a spoon and registers 168 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; add the bittersweet chocolate and the butter and set aside until the chocolate melts, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the chocolate mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Churn the chilled chocolate mixture in an ice cream maker. Strain the cherry mixture, reserving the syrup. When the ice cream is very thick, add the cherries and continue churning until incorporated. Transfer to a freezer-safe container. Drizzle in the reserved cherry syrup and swirl with a spoon. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

SOURCE: Food Network

Monday, July 9, 2012

Berry Balsamic Basil Sauce

So, if you remember last week I was talking about using up a whole bunch of fresh basil in like a day or two. I tell you, I love that stuff and I can't seem to get enough of it, especially when summer rolls around. I think I added it to every meal I ate one day last week. I was on the prowl for any way to use it.

As soon as I got it in my head to mix balsamic, basil and fruit for an ice cream topping, I couldn't not wait to make it. I have been loving this stuff ever since, and I daresay, more than chocolate! Now that's saying a lot.

This would be perfect to share at a family or friend gathering. It would make any plain old bowl of vanilla ice cream shine like a superstar! And, it's just in time for national ice cream month.

Berry Balsamic Basil Sauce
12 oz. berries (I used half blueberries and half strawberries; frozen is fine)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

Put everything, except basil, into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5 minutes. *Using an immersion blender, puree fruit in sauce and continue boiling until sauce has reduced and thickened a bit; about 5-10 minutes longer. Sauce will thicken upon cooling.

When sauce is done cooking, add fresh basil and allow to cool. Pour into container with a tight-fitting; mine fit perfectly into a half-pint mason jar. Store leftovers in the fridge.

*If you don't have an immersion blender, you may want to puree the fruit before you begin cooking.

SOURCE:Slightly adapted from Oh, She Dabbles

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Whole Grain Fresh Peach Pancakes

Ok, it's time for some serious talk! Ripe, fresh peaches, in season, are on my top 5 most favorite things to eat. Pancakes are in there too. So, why I never before brought those two together in beloved matrimony is BEYOND ME! I can't believe I never thought to make these. I'm so totally kicking myself for not doing it until now.

Of course, I love the fresh peach flavor and the little bits of peach all throughout the batter, but I also love that I can use my Wheat-Oat Pancake Mix, keeping it healthy and quick.

I topped my pancakes with a few more slices of peach and some syrup. However, I think homemade ginger syrup and a dollop of whipped cream would be heavenly too!

Whole Grain Peach Pancakes
1 cup Wheat-Oat Pancake Mix
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
pinch cloves
pinch nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup fresh peaches, chopped

In a small mixing bowl, mix together 1 cup of pancake mix, sugar and spices. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add in dry ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in chopped peaches. Let batter sit while griddle heats up.

Drop batter by 1/4 cup onto griddle. Cook until bubbles start to form and edges start looking dry. Flip pancakes and cook on other side another minute or two.

Serve warm with syrup of your choice and other toppings as desired.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

So, a few weeks ago I was grocery shopping with my girls and we were in the produce department. I always love to point out things to them to see if they know what they are (and if they don't, I school them right then and there!). Anyway,my older daughter was walking by the cooler section and saw eggplant and her eyes lit up. She turned to me and begged me to get one. Eggplant? Huh, you want me to get eggplant? I'm all for letting my kids experiment with any fruits and veggies they want so I decided to get a small one. (Then my daughter proceeded to carry the eggplant around the store like it was her baby...hmmm.)

I had been eying a few ratatouille recipes that I wanted to make with the eggplant, you know like the one from the movie, but I couldn't find the right recipe that just struck a chord with me. Then I remembered this orzo dish my mom sent me a few years ago. It's a Ina Garten recipe from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. It's fabulous, just like everything Ina makes.

I decided to vamp up the veg factor and this turned out even better than I had remembered! I love roasting vegetables to bring out their flavors and even thought about doing it on the grill so I wouldn't have to turn on my oven. So, if you have a veggie tray for your grill that would be a great option too.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
2 small zucchini
8 oz, mushrooms, quartered or sliced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
4 green onions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3/4 pound feta, 1/2-inch diced
5 oz. baby spinach, chopped
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, feta, spinach and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

SOURCE: Adapted from Ina Garten
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