Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strawberry Muddle

I will be the first to tell you that this is not a drink for the hard core.  This cocktail is for all the folks that enjoy a refreshing summer drink.  If that is you, then this one has your name written all over it.

Strawberry Muddle
Serves 6-8

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water 
1 bottle of Italian Prosecco

 1. Prepare a simple syrup by combining sugar and water in a small pan.  Heat over medium until sugar dissolves.  Set aside to cool.
 2. Quarter 2-3 strawberries, place in a cocktail glass with 1 tablespoon of the simple syrup.  Muddle strawberries with a wooden spoon or muddler until combined.

3.  Add ice to glass, about half full. 

4.  Pour Prosecco until glass is almost full.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Valerie at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Summer Orzo Salad

Hello Summer!  For those that are still fighting snow drifts and having trouble breaking 50 degrees. Welcome to Florida.  Except for the summer gardens that are exploding, we are already over the heat, and its not even summer yet.

This pasta salad made with orzo is one of my favorite summer cold salads.  I have been making it for family and friends, for what seems like forever, and it has never disappointed me.

During the summer months a good fresh salad means that your meal is never far from the table.

Summer Orzo Salad
Serves 6-8

1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1- 14 ounce can artichoke hearts (not packed in oil), drained
1-14 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cups chopped vine ripened tomatoes (about 2 large)

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool.  Press to remove excess water.  Transfer to a large bowl and toss with olive oil.

With a chef's knife, mash garlic and salt into a paste.  Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in lemon juice and pepper.  Set the dressing aside.

Gently squeeze excess moisture from artichoke hearts, and cut length-wise into eighths.  Add to orzo along with chickpeas, onion, olives, feta, dill, mint and reserved dressing.  Toss gently to combine.

Add tomatoes and toss again.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Ana Powell at Magic Flavours

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Curried Carrot Soup

Are you feeling like you need some clean eating this week?  I do.  I am packing this homemade soup in containers to enjoy for lunch during the work week.  I can't be held responsible for what I might enjoy after this light and healthy soup, but at least I had the right idea.

This soup is packed with Vitamin A, low in calories, high in fiber, with virtually no fat.

Curried Carrot Soup
Serves 4-6

4 cups sliced carrots (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 small turnip, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and quartered
1cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fines herbs
1/4-1/2 teaspoon good quality curry powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Garnish: 1 orange, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces for garnish. A dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

In a saucepan combine the carrots, onion, turnip, potato and water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

In 2 batches, transfer vegetables and remaining liquid to food processor or blender and puree.  Return to pan and add all remaining ingredients.  Simmer, uncovered to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

Garnish with orange slices, sour cream or plain yogurt.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

I discovered this recipe on Thyme for Wine and I have lost count of the number of times this soup has been made in my kitchen these last few months.

The soup has just a hint of spiciness, loaded with shrimp, sauteed with garlic, peppers, tomatoes and rice, then simmered in a coconut sauce.  Who could ask for more?

Brazilian Shrimp Soup
Serves 6
Recipe from Thyme for Wine

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3/4 cup long grain rice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
5 cups water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Cook until tender (about 7 minutes).  Add the rice, red pepper flakes, salt, crushed tomatoes and water to the pot.  bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered, for 10 minutes or until the rice is almost tender.  Stir in the coconut milk.  Return mixture to a simmer, then stir in the shrimp.  Simmer just until shrimp is cooked through (about 3-5 minutes).  Stir in the pepper, lemon juice and cilantro.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Sara Chapman

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chocolate Lava Muffins

It's not often, that I follow-up a dessert post with....Yes, another dessert post.  This one is for the chocolate lovers in the family.  

Lava muffins is a perfect description of what happens when your spoon hits the center of this warm muffin, it explodes with warm gooey chocolate.

Chocolate Lava Muffins
Makes 12
Recipe from Alton Brown

8-ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Butter, to coat muffin tin
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1 teaspoon espresso powder

Place a small metal bowl over a saucepan with simmering water.  Melt the chocolate and butter in the bowl.  Stir in vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt.  Sift these into the chocolate and mix well with electric hand mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next.  Beat at high until batter is creamy and lightens in color, approximately 4 minutes.  Chill mixture.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat the top and each cup of  the muffin tin with butter.  Dust with the cocoa powder and shake out excess.  Spoon mixture into pan using a 4-ounce scoop or ladle.  Bake for 10-11 minutes.  Outsides should be cake-like and centers should be gooey.

While muffins are in oven, melt the ice cream in a small saucepan.  Stir in the espresso powder.  Serve over warm muffins.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thomas Keller's Coconut Cake

I thrive in simplicity except when it comes to a Thomas Keller recipe.  There is nothing simplistic about his recipes. When you take the time, read the details carefully and make a point of following the directions, your final product is going to turn out amazing.  You will be thankful that you followed each and every step.  Since I am rarely capable of following directions, and detail can give me a headache, all the credit for this out of this world coconut cake belongs to my husband....Cocktail extraordinaire and family baker.

The ingredients in this cake are surprisingly simple but the directions are lengthy. Don't shy away from this recipe.  The directions are mostly, "how to" which reflects the science and art of baking.  You will learn a lot and finish with an awesome cake.

A white cake, with the lightness of angel food, but plenty of butter is added for richness and flavor.

Coconut Cake
Serves 10-12
Recipe from Thomas Keller

One 15-ounce can coconut milk (not "lite")
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup egg whites, at room temperature (from about 6 large eggs)
2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
Meringue (recipe below)

Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan and whisk to blend.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the milk has reduced to 1 cup.

Meanwhile prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl and set a small metal bowl on top.

Pour the coconut milk into the small bowl.  Once the milk is cool, remove from the ice bath and stir in the vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans.  Line with parchment paper, butter the parchment, and coat with flour, tapping out the excess.

Sift the cake flour and baking powder together into a bowl.  Stir in the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium speed, until they begin to froth.  With the mixer running, slowly add 3/4 cup of the sugar, then increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip until medium peaks form.

Remove from the mixer.  (if you have only one bowl, transfer the whites to another bowl and wash out the mixer bowl.)  Switch to the paddle attachment.

Put the butter in the mixer bowl and beat on medium-low to medium speed to soften, about 1 minute.  Scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, add the remaining 1-1/4 cups sugar, and mix on medium speed until light and creamy, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.  3-4 minutes.

From this point, it is important not to over mix the batter.  Each addition does not have to be completely incorporated before you add the next; there may be some visible streaks remaining.  Add half the dry ingredients to the butter and mix on medium-low to medium speed.  Add half of the coconut milk and mix.  Add half of the remaining dry mixture, then the remaining milk and finally the remaining dry mixture.  Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Scrape down the sides and the bottom to incorporate any ingredients that may have settled in the bottom of the bowl, and mix with the spatula so there are no longer any streaks.

Top the batter with one-third of the whites and fold in gently.  Gently fold in another third of the whites and finally the remaining whites.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and gently smooth the tops.  Bake until a cake tester or wooden skewer comes out clean, 26 to 28 minutes.  Let the layers cool on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let cool completely.  

Meanwhile, spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast lightly in the oven, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and let cool completely.

Lay strips of parchment paper around the edges of a cake stand or serving plate to catch any excess frosting or coconut when you decorate the cake.  Position one of the cake layers in the center.  Spread a 1/3-inch-thick layer of meringue evenly over the cake layer.  Sprinkle a light layer of the coconut over the meringue.  Top with the second cake layer.  Spread the remaining meringue evenly over the sides and top of the cake.  Sprinkle the remaining coconut on the sides and the top.  Pull away and discard the pieces of parchment paper.  This cake is best served the day it is made.

Recipe for Meringue:

1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons plus teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine 1- 1/4 cups of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat to 220F., stirring at first to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they begin to look foamy, then gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar.  Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until the whites form soft peaks.

With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar syrup, pouring it down the side of the bowl to avoid the whisk.  Add the vanilla, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form and the bowl is cool.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo Submitted by Andy Wallack