Bake - Food & Drink - Recipes

Fresh Summer Peach Crisp

07.29.2015

A couple of weeks ago, our family took a trip to a nearby farm. It was a blistering hot day, but the kids sure did enjoy the hayride to the peach orchard. Mostly, they had a ball plucking sweet, fuzzy peaches right from the trees. My little guy, who’s three, had peach juice dripping from his chin and elbows!

Peaches are one of the most popular stone fruits of the summer season and typically ripen pretty quickly. It’s best to eat them right away to prevent spoilage. This crisp is a super-tasty way to use up your bounty of summer peaches. The topping is lovely; I like to describe it as a cross between a soft cookie and pie crust. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the ultimate summer dessert!

peach crisp

orchard

 

Fresh Summer Peach Crisp
 
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 8 medium peaches, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • TOPPING:
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1¼ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp. cold water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. For the filling:
  3. Toss the peaches in a large bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the filling into the bottom of a square, glass baking dish (8 x 8 or slightly larger will work fine). Set aside.
  4. For the topping:
  5. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor except the water. Pulse until combined, about 30 seconds. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is clumpy but crumbly.
  6. Top the peaches with the flour mixture. Be sure to loosely sprinkle the topping and not pack it down.
  7. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for about one hour or until the topping is set and golden brown. The filling should be hot and bubbly.

 

Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Spiked Watermelon Lemonade

07.27.2015

Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a tall glass of ice cold lemonade or a big bowl of cut watermelon. Why not combine the two for the ultimate thirst-quencher? It’s a wonderful seasonal party cocktail, too! This cooler is such a cinch to make and serves a crowd. Plus, you can make the watermelon lemonade ahead of time, then add the booze before serving. Crafty Tip: keep the lemonade in the fridge in the glass blender jar. You’ll notice that it may separate. This is normal. Before making your cocktails, give it a good whirl on the blender base to reincorporate everything. For this recipe, I used store-bought lemonade, which makes it even easier. But, if you’re feeling adventurous, by all means, make your own!

Mint goes perfectly with lemonade and watermelon, so I added a small handful of fresh mint leaves from my garden to brighten it up and add another layer of flavor. Just omit the mint if you don’t care for it or if you’re making a non-alcoholic version of this and the kiddos won’t like the addition of mint (mine don’t care for it).

I chose to spike this cooler with tequila, but vodka or a light rum would work well, too. Use whatever you like or whatever you have on hand. Cheers to easy, breezy summer cocktails!

watermelon cooler

watermelon cooler_top

Spiked Watermelon Lemonade
 
Ingredients
  • 3 liquid cups of lemonade
  • About 2 cups worth of seedless watermelon, cut into chunks (go by the lines on your blender)
  • Small handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Tequila (about 4 shots worth, or more if you prefer it stronger); plus extra for floating on top
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Place the chunks of watermelon in your blender. Puree until smooth.
  2. Add the lemonade and blend.
  3. Finally, add the mint leaves to the blender and blend until small green flecks appear.
  4. To the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add a handful of ice cubes.
  5. Next, pour in the watermelon lemonade and tequila (add enough depending on how many cocktails you're making). I figure one shot of tequila for each serving.
  6. Next, squeeze in some of the fresh lemon juice for a little zing.
  7. Shake it all up; strain out the ice as you pour into glasses.
  8. Garnish with a watermelon cube and a mint leaf.
  9. If desired, float a little extra tequila on top.

 

 

Bake - Food & Drink - Recipes

Summer Berry Bread Pudding

07.23.2015

Berries, like most fruits, are at their peak during the hot summer months. Our family always has a big bowl of berries in the fridge to snack on. As a matter of fact, my new favorite breakfast bowl is plain Greek yogurt topped with ripe blueberries, chopped walnuts and honey… what a yummy way to kick start the day (and healthy, too). This bread pudding is bursting with a trio of sweet, plump berries; raspberries, blueberries and blackberries; and it’s all baked into a decadent, but light, bread pudding that’s perfect for breakfast or brunch. Make it ahead and just reheat before serving. It can also be served warm for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Cheers to summer!

berry bread pudding

Summer Berry Bread Pudding
 
Ingredients
  • Butter at room temp for greasing baking dish
  • 7 eggs
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1½ Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ of a large loaf of challah bread, cut into cubes
  • About 2 cups of berries (a little more won't hurt, though!)
Instructions
  1. Grease the bottom and sides of an oval or rectangular baking dish, slightly smaller than a 9 x 13.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and sugar. Combine well with a whisk, then let it settle so there are no air bubbles on the surface.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Add the challah bread cubes to the egg mixture and toss gently to combine. Scatter the berries into the bottom of the greased baking dish.
  5. Pour the bread/custard mixture on top of the berries. Gently press down so they are packed evenly. Sprinkle with more sugar. Let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard.
  6. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan in case anything bubbles over the edge. Bake for about 45-60 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the berries are bubbling underneath the bread.
  7. Serve warm.

 

Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Trader Joe’s Sandwich

07.10.2015

Trader Joe’s is one of my guilty pleasures. You, too? I love to go there and scour the aisles looking for hidden gems. It’s like a foodie paradise (the fresh flowers are great, too). The quality of the products is excellent and the prices are often unbeatable. If you haven’t been to one yet and there’s one nearby, I highly recommend stopping in for a visit. I made this little sandwich last night; most of the ingredients were purchased at Trader Joe’s. No worries if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s close to you; it can be re-created using ingredients bought elsewhere.  It was a delightful combination of salty, nutty, sweet, herby and garlicky all at the same time — yum! Serve it for lunch, snack or even as a light dinner with soup or salad on the side.

trader joes sandwich

Trader Joe’s ingredients:

  • Sliced Rosemary Ham
  • Rosemary Asiago Cheese
  • Cherry Preserves made with Fresh Cherries

Other ingredients:  

  • Baguette or other crusty bread
  • Garlic-Herb Olive Oil — get my recipe here!
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced finely
  • Dried rosemary, optional

How to:

  1. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise
  2. Set oven to broil
  3. Place bread, cut side up, on a cookie sheet
  4. Drizzle each half of bread with olive oil, evenly coating
  5. Sprinkle the minced garlic on top
  6. Layer the slices of ham
  7. Using a vegetable peeler, shave long strips of Asiago cheese on top of the ham
  8. Broil until the cheese is melted and the bread turns lightly golden
  9. Put the sandwich back together (top and bottom) and slice
  10. Serve with the cherry preserves on the side (sprinkle jam with dried rosemary if desired)

 

 

 

Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Peanut Butter-Banana Parfait

07.07.2015

Some things just go together… hand and glove, Bonnie & Clyde, salt and pepper, to name just a few. Creamy, salty peanut butter and sweet bananas is another classic duo, made famous by the ‘King’ himself, Elvis Presley. I skipped the bacon (which was included in the original Elvis sandwich) and replaced it with a crunchy layer of cereal (granola would work really well, too). The peanut butter cream is made with velvety-smooth Italian mascarpone cheese, lightened up with confectioners sugar and whipped to perfection! This recipe makes a decent amount of peanut butter cream, so if there’s any leftovers, use it as a spread on toast or muffins or make a chocolate cookie sandwich with the cream in the middle. You can even use it as a dip for fruit. I have to admit, I was eating it by the spoonful! You’ll love this no-cook parfait for breakfast, brunch or dessert all summer long. I promise it’ll have you “all shook up”!

GG Parfait_1 GG Parfait_top view

Peanut Butter-Banana Parfait
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar
  • Great Grains Banana Nut Crunch Cereal
  • Sliced bananas
Instructions
  1. To make the peanut butter cream:
  2. Combine peanut butter, mascarpone and granulated sugar in a bowl. Beat with a handheld mixer until well combined. Start on low speed, then gradually increase the speed.
  3. Slowly add the heavy cream, mixing on low-medium speed.
  4. Once all combined, add the confectioners' sugar and whip on high speed until super light and fluffy. If storing any for another use, keep in an airtight container in the fridge,
  5. To assemble the parfaits:
  6. Place a layer of sliced bananas on the bottom of the parfait cup or bowl.
  7. Spoon a good amount of peanut butter cream on top of the bananas.
  8. Top the cream with a handful of Great Grains cereal.
  9. Repeat until you reach the top of the parfait cup.
  10. Finish with a final layer of crushed cereal; add whipped cream and garnish with a slice of banana, if desired.

 

 

Food & Drink - Make - Recipes

Fresh Summer Peach Salsa

07.02.2015

Summer is the perfect time to unwind and relax with a cool cocktail and a big bowl of something to snack on. Whether poolside, at the beach or hanging with the family in the backyard, this salsa is made with fresh ingredients and packs a colorful summer punch! The bright medley of flavors combines the sweetness from ripe, juicy peaches and strawberries; the coolness of English cucumber; a little tang from sweet red onion; brightness from lime juice; and a slight kick of heat from a jalapeno. Scoop it onto chips or spoon it over grilled chicken or shrimp. However you choose to enjoy it, be sure to make a big bowl of it for the July 4th holiday weekend!

summer peach salsa

Fresh Summer Peach Salsa
 
Ingredients
  • 3 large, ripe peaches (skin removed)
  • About 10 ripe strawberries
  • About ⅓ of an English cucumber (skin peeled off)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and inside removed (if you prefer it spicy, add another jalapeno)
  • ¼ of a red onion
  • A small handful of Italian parsley
  • Sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Dice all ingredients into small pieces (except the limes). I like to try to chop everything into a dice of roughly the same size. Combine in a bowl.
  2. Squeeze the limes into the mixture.
  3. Season with sea salt to taste.
  4. Mix well to combine and set aside while you arrange your tortilla chips on a platter or in a serving bowl.
  5. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days. This can also be made the day before.

 

DIY/Crafts - Home & Garden

DIY Terrarium Garden

06.27.2015

No matter where you look, succulents and terrariums (even fairy gardens) are everywhere. It’s a home & garden trend that definitely seems to be hanging around — and rightfully so! Incorporating living, fresh elements into your home decor scheme is often crucial to obtain a cohesive grouping of elements. Succulents are not only easy to maintain, they are exciting to look at, too. They offer a rainbow of colors, shapes, sizes and textures, and most are small enough to nestle into just about any nook, corner, vignette or tablescape. I just love, love, love the unexpected flair and whimsy they add to any home decor scheme! If you’ve been thinking about creating your own terrarium garden, this summer is the perfect time to try it. My father (yes, my dear ol’ dad. I guess the crafty gene runs in the family!) made this one for my mother to set on the dining room table. I can assure you this beauty is perfect for the beginner but looks like it was assembled by a pro!

terrarium garden

terrarium plants terrarium top view

How to:

1. First, you’ll need a terrarium box or container. This lovely wood and glass one was purchased at Michaels. I just love it.

2. Next, you’ll need to purchase succulents of varying colors and sizes. Using different size plants offers more visual interest for the garden since the plants will sit at varying heights. All of these plants were purchased at Metropolitan Plant & Flower Exchange, but many stores carry succulents these days, including Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walmart.

3. You will also need a plastic liner to catch any water and in this case, protect the wood bottom of the terrarium. Moss and decorative accents, like the adorable little turtle, add a special, whimsical touch. Moss is sold in bags and can be found wherever you purchase your plants, in most cases. These little accent pieces were found at a local nursery in the fairy garden section.

4. My dad found it easier to assemble the entire terrarium inside the box. If you assemble it first then try to place it inside the box, likely, stuff will start to fall out all over your work surface. With the plants kept in their original plastic pots, begin by arranging them on the plastic liner.

5. Next, tuck the moss in and around all of the pots. You want to achieve a look of varying heights, so be sure that the moss allows for this.

6. Once you’re satisfied with how the plants and moss are arranged, carefully and slowly place the entire tray into the terrarium. If anything shifts during transport, carefully fix it to your liking.

7. Carefully place any decorative accents on the moss, nestling them in well.

8. Using a small, long-neck watering can, give each succulent a little water. It’s not recommended that you spray the plants with water once they’re inside the terrarium. This will cause water to spot the glass, making it difficult to clean once the terrarium is assembled.

 

 

Food & Drink - Recipes

No-Boil Potato & Egg Salad

06.15.2015

During the hot, balmy days of summer, turning on the oven is the last thing you want to do. Even with the air conditioning running inside, summer is a state-of-mind that demands cool, crisp salads, crunchy veggies, sweet fruits and anything that can be made on the outdoor grill. This potato salad is my take on the version that my grandmother used to make. She combined chunks of potato with hard-boiled eggs and tossed them in a creamy, slightly tangy dressing. What I love about my version is that it can be made without boiling a thing! One of my favorite go-to products is Steamables potatoes (I always have a bag on hand). Just microwave in the bag and they’re cooked; it’s that easy. And, most grocery stores sell eggs that are already hard-boiled. Done and done. Don’t let the summer heat discourage you from whipping up this classic picnic side — no cooking required!

potato salad

No-Boil Potato & Egg Salad
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bag of Steamables potatoes (I used the baby red potatoes for this recipe, but the white or golden would work well, too)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half, then into quarters
  • About ½ cup of mayonnaise (I'm a Hellmann's girl)
  • About 2 Tbsp. Grey Poupon Country Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Smoked paprika, about ½ tsp.
  • Chopped celery, optional
Instructions
  1. Steam the potatoes according to the package directions. When still warm, but not too hot to handle, peel the skin off each potato. It should come off easily. (I made mine the night before and kept in the fridge, which was a good time-saver, plus the potatoes stayed nice and firm.)
  2. Cut the potatoes in half or into quarters, depending on their size.
  3. Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper and paprika in a small bowl. Whisk together. Adjust the seasoning according to taste.
  4. Combine the potatoes, eggs and chopped celery, if using, in a bowl. Spoon the dressing mixture into the bowl and gently toss to coat, taking care not to break the eggs too much.
  5. Sprinkle with additional smoked paprika before serving.

 

Food & Drink

Have you ever met a cookie you didn’t like?

06.04.2015

I have. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Just a little, teensy, weensy bit true. The kind folks at Gimmee Jimmy’s Cookies recently invited me to sample two varieties of their fresh-baked, gourmet cookies in exchange for a product review on the blog. I’m a good sport. I mean, what kind of foodie would I be if I turned them down? And honestly, who would EVER turn down a complimentary tin of cookies? Not me!

I didn’t know what types of cookies they’d be sending me. I only knew that it was 2 pounds of home-style goodness, baked fresh and delivered to my door. So far, so good! When they arrived, I was pleased to see that they had been packaged very well; plastic bag tied to seal in freshness, bubble wrap to protect them, all enclosed in a large metal tin that could be reused again and again. The tin (see image below) was nice, but if I worked at Gimmee Jimmy’s, I’d probably recommend that they “jazz up” the packaging a little bit more to make a more impactful first impression. Despite the lackluster packaging graphics, the baked goods were certainly packed for freshness and looked very appetizing in the tin.

Gimmee Jimmy

I couldn’t wait to dive in and taste the goodies! My initial reaction was a good one. They looked fresh, soft and hand-crafted. I really loved the way the chocolate rugelach looked; perfect alternating, twisting stripes of chocolate and pastry. However, I reached for the oatmeal raisin cookie first. Something about it looked so moist and delicious… and it was. The taste was wonderful. It was loaded with raisins and the balance of flavors was nice. My only gripe was that the cookie was a little too oily; they fell apart very easily. Was it because they were so darn fresh? Or could it be that they were a little too oily? Nevertheless, they were delish and my kids loved them, too.

Gimme Jimmy_2

Now on to the chocolate rugelach, which I think I was secretly saving for last since I’m a major chocaholic and I really WANTED to love them. I liked them, but sadly, no love affair there. Unlike the oatmeal raisin, I found them to be dry. A little too dry for my liking. I also wasn’t crazy about the flavor of the chocolate. It left a slight aftertaste. Although they didn’t last long since they were the clear favorite in our house, they stayed fresh the longest. The rugelach, on the other hand, seemed stale after just a few days.

Overall, I had a positive experience and I appreciate the opportunity to work with a brand that’s been around since the 80’s. I would definitely send the oatmeal raisin variety as a gift… and I’d certainly be willing to try another variety… wink, wink.

 

Food & Drink - Recipes

Infused Strawberry-Mint Water

06.01.2015

These last few weeks, it seems as if Mother Nature has decided to skip over spring and head right to summer! Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not complaining! So as the weather heats up and everything seems a bit, well, balmy, quench your thirst with this bright, refreshing water infused with fresh, whole strawberries, mint leaves and slices of lemon. Nowadays, you can find these pretty beverage dispensers in just about every store, at every price point. I got the one pictured here with the iron stand at Bed Bath & Beyond for under $40. I love it because the clear glass allows the gorgeous fruits and herbs to be seen and it’s a cinch for guests to serve themselves. Every hostess needs one! If you don’t have one of these, a pitcher will do just fine.

I prefer to let the fruits and mint sit in the water overnight to really infuse it. But, if you’re short on time, you can certainly serve it right away (it just won’t be as flavorful). Poking holes into each strawberry with a fork may help the flavors permeate the water a bit faster.

This is just one recipe idea for infusing water. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations all summer long. Fresh cubes of watermelon or cantaloupe, orange slices, peach segments, fresh lavender… these are just a few ideas to get you started!

infused water

Infused Strawberry-Mint Water
 
Ingredients
  • 1 container of strawberries, hulled and rinsed well (leave whole)
  • I small bunch of mint leaves, rinsed (leaves left whole)
  • 1 large lemon, washed well and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 gallon cold water
Instructions
  1. Add the strawberries, mint and lemon slices to the bottom of the beverage dispenser or pitcher.
  2. Pour in the water.
  3. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight so the fruit and mint infuse the water.
  4. Serve over ice, if desired.
  5. If you'd like for your guests to enjoy the fruit with their beverage, include a long spoon so guests can drop a strawberry or lemon slice in their glass.