Sunday, July 24, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Blueberry Lemon Trifle

Our air-conditioning died sometime yesterday.  We didn't notice until it got to be about 76 degrees on the main level of our house (we keep it about 70 year round, since our upstairs is usually 5-6 degrees warmer).  I guess we shouldn't be surprised, since we're at the tail end of a record-setting heat wave.  And yet...we are at the tail end of a record-setting heat wave.  Which means it was 100+ yesterday, and 95 today.  By some miracle, it's still below 80 inside the house, and a refreshing 70-something in our basement.  Which, conveniently, is where our home office (and my computer!) is located.  The repair folks will be here tomorrow.  Please cross all of your fingers and toes that it's an easy fix and the house will be cool by the time I return from work.

Now, back to this trifle.  I made this blueberry lemon trifle last weekend when it was less hot.  I was looking for a no-bake dessert, since we're still having troubles with our oven.  While the original recipe involves baking, I substituted store-bought angel food cake for the homemade cookies.  (I think the cookies would have been delicious, so if my oven ever works again, perhaps I'll give that a try!)  It was a snap to pull together, and surprisingly delicious.

So what is a trifle?  It's really just a layered dessert, with layers of cake (or cookies), creamy filling, and fruit.  It's traditionally served in a tall clear glass bowl (usually footed), so that you can admire all the pretty layers.  However, I do not have a trifle dish, so I just made it in a souffle dish.  It may not look as pretty, but it sure tasted beautiful!

In addition to substituting the angel food cake for the cookies, I also made one big trifle rather than the small individual ones in the original recipe.  I also used just 2 cups of yogurt (yes, yogurt!) and a whole jar of lemon curd.  I was shocked at how good the yogurt-lemon curd cream tasted--it didn't taste yogurty at all.

Click for the recipe!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Grilled Vegetables

This record-setting heat wave is bound to end eventually.  Maybe I'll feel like cooking again when it does.  But in the meanwhile, I'd like to share some more of thr recipes I made last weekend.  Like this awesome orzo salad.

This Mediterranean orzo salad wth grilled vegetables is great because it's adjustable.  The basics--proportions and the dressing--are a good foundation to build from.  You can use whatever veggies you'd like, and you could use goat cheese instead of feta if you prefer.  I left out the olives because my husband doesn't like them, and it was still delicious.  I forgot to add the fresh parsley the first night I served it, and it was still good.  I used a bit of fresh oregano that I grew, as well, and it added a nice touch.

I used 2 small zucchini, 2 small yellow squash, one orange bell pepper, and one medium-sized Vidalia onion.  I probably didn't need all the zucchini, but they looked so pretty at the farmer's market, I couldn't help myself!  The largest time sink in this recipe was grilling the veggies--I used my indoor grill pan, and it took three batches to get them all cooked.

I served the orzo salad with grilled pork chops on Saturday night, and the leftovers with salmon grilled indoors on my grill pan on Sunday (pictured).  It was great leftover.

Click for the recipe!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Butterbeer (for Adults)

Friday night, my husband and I stood in line for over an hour just to get seats at a late showing of the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II.  Luckily, I bought tickets online a week in advance, or else I'm not sure we would have gotten in!  It was a great movie, and extra great to enjoy a little glass of butterbeer before heading to the theater!

As promised last week, I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen this weekend.  The first experiment was to try the popular beverage of witches and wizards: butterbeer.  I found a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, Ezra Pound Cake.

I'll tell you right now that while I fully believe this is a good buttebeer recipe, I'm not sure I'll make it again.  And since it has about 98398739 calories, that's probably a good thing.  The end result is a creamy, butterscotchy beer beverage.  If I could not make the beer part, I think it would be even better.  But then it's basically homemade butterscotch eggnog.  Because I didn't like the beer part that much, I used very little of it, which is why my glass here looks so pale compared to the one from the original recipe.

But the butterscotch cream is pretty tasty, and you could probably cut it with some cream soda to make a nice, though admittedly less buttery, drink.

Click for pictures and recipe!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recipe Roundup: What I'll Be Making This Weekend

I am off from work every other Friday, and tomorrow is one of those Fridays.  On my "long" weekends, I usually have more time (and desire) to cook and try new things. 

Given that I still don't have a reliable oven (it works, but the temperature is inconsistent, which makes it unpredictable and frustrating), I won't be making any blueberry muffins like I really want to.  But there are other things I can do with those blueberries!  And there are some other things that look interesting.  Here are a few things I'm considering trying over the next few days.

The final Harry Potter movie opens tomorrow, and Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake has been posting Harry Potter-themed recipes all week.  Most sound delicious, but many involve baking (Pumpkin Pasties, anyone?).  But this homemade Butterbeer recipe does not!  I fully intend to brew a batch so that we can enjoy it before we head to the movie theater!

Gina of shared a recipe for a Fish and Shellfish Soup that sounds awesome and easy.  We'll see if my husband will go for it.  Perhaps if I can find a recipe for that delicious French rouille that goes so well with toasted rounds of bread and French fish soup?  It is Bastille Day today, after all, so a French-themed meal might be called for.  And this soup recipe basically sounds like a simplified version of the fish soup we had in Provence and Nice, which was unexpectedly delicious.

Speaking of blueberries, don't these Blueberry Lemon Trifles from Kerstin at Cake, Batter & Bowl look good?  I could probably substitute store-bought poundcake for the cookies...  Anything involving lemon curd is a winner in my mind!

Since the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend, I see us spending some time on our patio, and I will definitely be asking my husband to fire up the grill.  Perhaps some steaks or pork chops served alongside this yummy-looking Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Grilled Vegetables from Pam at For the Love of Cooking?

(And I'm still thinking about that Grilled Chicken Salad with Fresh Corn, Feta, and Blueberries that Pioneer Woman shared a while back that I included in my salad post the other week.  We'll see if I can squeeze that in, somewhere.  Maybe if we get some good-looking corn from the farmer's market?)

I'm definitely looking forward to spending some time in the kitchen--what about you all?  What's on the menu for this weekend?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'll be honest with you all, the heat of the summer is making me cranky.  Despite many years lived in the south, including 6 years in Florida, I've just never become a fan of hot weather.  It could be because I'm fair-skinned and don't tan (so I just walk around looking flushed and sweaty all summer), or maybe because my hair has just enough natural wave in it that the humidity turns me into a big frizzball.  Or perhaps because it's so hot that I don't even feel like cooking.  Really. 

Truth be told, I haven't cooked that much in the last couple of weeks.  A couple of nights ago we grilled burgers (no recipe needed).  Last week we had "kitchen sink pasta" at least once (pasta + whatever we've got on hand, all tossed together).  But nothing really worth sharing.  My parents were visiting over the Fourth of July holiday, and we only cooked at home once.  What did we make?  Grilled pork chops (again, no recipe), and two of the salads from my last post.  (That squash ribbon salad is awesome, by the way! Even my husband, who doesn't care for squash or zucchini, really enjoyed it!)  All delicious, but nothing really blogworthy.

And I'm afraid it's going to get worse.  My oven is on the fritz again (it had a slow meltdown this past spring, and we had it repaired under our home warranty; the same issue seems to be rearing its head again), which means no baking, roasting, broiling, etc.  Not only does this limit my options, it also just puts me in a bad mood.  We have tons of blueberries at home, and I can't even bake muffins!  (I know, I know.  Cry me a river.)

But you, my friends and few readers, deserve better than this.  So I'm going to reach back in time and provide a recipe I made a while ago, and then I will endeavor somehow to find recipes to share that don't involve the oven.

When it's nearly triple-digit heat outside, it seems a silly time to share a soup recipe.  But I honestly think this soup recipe is so delicious and flexible that you could adjust it to make it lighter in warm months and heartier in cool months.  And it's easy and quick, which are good things no matter what the weather's like. 

I found the inspiration for this recipe from a recipe for crockpot chicken tacos on Tasty Kitchen. The chicken taco meat has three ingredients.  What's not to love?  I recommend you give them a try, as well, and then you can use some of the leftover chicken for this soup, as the original recipe intended.  But if not, no worries, you can still make this soup in a snap.

Click for recipe and pictures!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recipe Snapshot & Ideas from Around the Web: Summer Salads

We haven't hit it yet, but we know it's coming--that part of summer when it's just too hot to cook.  When you can't bear the idea of turning on your stove, let alone the oven.  The good news is that there's so much wonderful produce floating around this time of year that it's a lot easier to get dinner on the table with little or no actual "cooking" involved.

One of my favorites this time of year is the simple caprese salad--luscious ripe tomatoes, creamy fresh mozzarella cheese, bright fresh basil, and very little else.  I prefer mine with just a drizzle of really good olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I recommend using a mix of tomatoes if you can--I made this salad last summer, and the plum (Roma) tomatoes and yellow tomatoes complemented one another perfectly.  Yellow tomatoes have less acid in them, and are a bit milder.  I like to think of them as a "gateway tomato" for folks who don't love tomatoes.  (It's sad, yes, but there are many people who don't.)  Also, you need to use fresh mozzarella, which is usually sold in the deli section of your grocery store, with the fancy cheeses--it's spongier in texture than the stuff you usually put on pizza, and is often packaged in liquid.  If you prefer to gussy your caprese up with balsamic or other flavors, might I suggest this recipe from the Pioneer Woman?  My recipe is at the end of this post.

What if Caprese salad isn't really your thing?  Never fear.  Here are some other ideas for yummy hot weather meals that won't even make you break a sweat!

Seared Chicken Salad with Cherries and Goat Cheese Dressing, from Everyday Food  magazine: I've made this a couple of times, and it's delicious and easy. The tang of the goat cheese is perfect with the crisp lettuce and sweet cherries!

Grilled Chicken Salad with Feta, Fresh Corn, and Blueberries, from the Pioneer Woman: I haven't tried this, but it sounds delish!

Thai Chicken Salad, from For the Love of Cooking: This sounds totally delish, and might help satisfy a craving for Asian food while keeping things light.

Squash Ribbon Salad with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts, from Ezra Pound Cake: This is so unique; I wonder if I could get my husband to eat squash this way?

Hope there's something here to inspire you to make the most of the summer's bounty of fresh produce.  I want to head to the farmers' market right now!

Caprese Salad, recipe by Julie
Time: 15 minutes, including washing the basil. Serves: 2-4.

  • Mixed ripe tomatoes, about 1 large or 2 small tomatoes per person
  • 8-16 oz. fresh mozzarella (depending how much cheese you want per person!)
  • 1-2 cups fresh basil leaves, whole (again, depending how much you like).
  • Very good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Sea salt, such as fleur de sel, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Wash tomatoes, remove the cores of large tomatoes, and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices using a serrated knife. Arrange on a large plate or platter. (You may add some salt and pepper at this point if you want to focus the seasoning on the tomatoes themselves.)  Since the ends of the tomato don't usually look as pretty, you can just go ahead and eat them right now--no one will know!
  2. Slice mozzarella into equal thickness slices and arrange on top of the tomato slices, however you like.  Tip: the trick to slicing the mozzarella is to use the same serrated knife you used for the tomatoes.
  3. Rinse and pat dry the basil leaves.  Scatter across the salad.
  4. Drizzle the whole salad with olive oil, to taste, and season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Blueberry Cobbler

Well, it's officially summer, and about that time of year, with blueberries everywhere.  I don't know about you all, but I often forget about blueberries in the colder months (I think it's a defense mechanism), but then in the summer, when they are bountiful, I just cannot get enough.  One of the simplest ways to enjoy them is to bake them into a yummy homemade cobbler.  It's far easier than pie, but just as delicious, in my humblest of opinions.

Forgive me the bad picture--while I did in fact bake a blueberry cobbler last weekend when my father-in-law was in town, I did not take any pictures of it.  The pictured cobbler was made a couple of summers ago, pre-blog.  But you get the idea, right?

So what's the difference between a cobbler and a crisp, or a crumble?  Well, this isn't scientific or well-researched, but a cobbler is most likely to have a cakey or biscuity topping, while crisps are usually topped with nuts and/or oats, and crumbled with, well...crumbles.  I prefer cobblers, personally, because you get both a soft and fluffy topping AND a crisp crust.  Win-win.

Recipe below the cut!