Tag Archives: dessert

You don’t have to hug a tree to love granola

31 Mar

I love granola. I mean what’s not to like about sweet crunchy whole grains mixed with fruit and nuts. I make granola a lot at work. I serve it to the kids to mix with yogurt and fruit. It holds up well without going stale and it can be flavored in so many ways. Since today is a very rainy day I figured it was a good day to play with the food in the house.

If your pantry is anything like mine, you have a few items in there that are partially used. I always seem to have a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips or a handful of nuts. I also seem to have an assortment of dried fruits left over from different recipes. Granola is great what to use up all those odds and ends. As with most things, granola is a technique. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can tweak the ingredients to customize your mix.

Here’s the basic formula for granola:

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the mixture is crumbly and the syrup has been evenly incorporated. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture every 5 minutes to prevent burning.

Below is a table of combinations to give you an idea of how you can mix and match flavors to make a personalized granola…

Basic Base Dry Goods Syrup Flavor 2nd Flavor Additives
oats no additional maple cinnamon brown sugar dried fruit
oats wheat germ agave pumpkin

pie spice

vanilla powder pecans
oats coconut honey cinnamon brown sugar dried fruit
oats shredded wheat honey nutmeg clove white chocolate chips
oats puffed rice agave espresso powder vanilla powder chocolate chips

Today I made a tropical granola… here’s the recipe:

2 cups oats
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Added after the base was toasted and cooled:
1/2 cup dried mango, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup banana chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

I followed the above technique and viola, a yummy granola! I would also recommend using macadamia nuts instead of the peanuts or omitting the chocolate chips for a slightly healthier granola, but ce la vie… This is what you get what you’re cleaning out the pantry

Always thinking of the next meal


Strawberry and Rhubarb Galette

6 Mar

Nothing says spring to me like strawberries and rhubarb. And, now that I’m living in Florida, I have the pleasure of getting local strawberries. I’m sure I’ve bored you all before with my rants on fresh local ingredients, but the simple truth is… the shorter the distance between you and your food, the better.

I was in the grocery store this afternoon and the sale was 3 pounds of local strawberries for $5. I wasn’t really shopping for fruit. In fact, I was there getting a toothbrush, but I couldn’t resist this deal. The rhubarb was cleaned and broken down and conveniently merchandised right next to the strawberries. It was kismet. Dessert was a must for tonight.

I love making galettes. They are rustic free form pies that are less stuffy and finicky than traditional pies. The technique is simple enough. Just make a simple pie dough and roll it out on a cookie sheet. Place your fruit in the center of the rolled out dough and then fold the edges in toward the center. Brush the outside with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. In this case I used pearl sugar. (The pearl sugar doesn’t melt so it gives the effect of salt on a soft pretzel.)

Here’s the full recipe. Make this soon, as rhubarb season is short and the frozen stuff just isn’t the same.

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

For filling:1 pound strawberries, hulled
1/2 pound rhubard, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar

For crust:
1 1/2 cup AP flour
6 T butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
2 T water

Start by making the crust. Combine the dry ingredients together and then cut the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients. Add the the wet to the dry and kneed to combine. Once everything is incorporated, chill the dough for approx. 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Combine the fruit with the sugar and allow to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree. When the dough is chilled, roll it out into a 14-16 inch circle. place all of the filling in the center of the dough leaving a 3 inch border around the sides. Then fold the edges in toward the center leaving a 2 inch hole. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the dough is GBD (golden brown and delicious.) Serve at room temp with either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Always thinking of the next meal


I will tira-miss-u

5 Jan

I’m watching what I’m eating. I feel depressed just thinking about that phrase. Let’s face it, I love all things butter, cream and chocolate. I like salt and sugar and egg yolks. God, help me. Life is short and I want to enjoy every mouth full!

With that being said, I’m a realist. Life is short, but I don’t want it to be any shorter. I’m trying to switch up my usual cooking to be more healthy, without losing any flavor. And really, if I can, I want to add more flavor.

Tiramisu is one of my all time favorite desserts. What isn’t to love about espresso and rum soaked cakes layered between creamy, whipped mascarpone cheese and cocoa? So, how do you make this dish lighter and tastier? Start with portion size. Small portions are all the rage in restaurants. Desserts served in shot glasses make you feel less guilty but still leave you satisfied. I “plated” these little beauties in mini trifle dishes, but a tall shot glass would be a perfect substitute.

My first upgrade to this classic Italian dish was to use low fat dark chocolate biscotti instead of lady fingers. I used Martha’s recipe for the biscotti, but I substituted non fat greek yogurt for the oil. I then crumbled 4 biscotti and put 1 at the bottom of each dish. I mixed 1 tablespoon of instant espresso with a 1/2 cup of hot water and 1 tablespoon spiced rum. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoon of the espresso mixture over the cookies.

For the cheese layer, instead of mascarpone, I combined 3/4 cup non fat greek yogurt, 1/4 cup light, whipped cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Layer this on top of the cookies and then continue to layer until you’ve run out of ingredients. To garnish, sprinkle with any remaining biscotti crumbs and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

I know these changes don’t make this dish fat free, or super low calorie, but it is dessert and it is better than the usual. Remember the key is portion size. The double dark chocolate biscotti with take care of your chocolate craving and the creamy yogurt layer tastes like a cross between cheesecake and cannoli filling.

Give this recipe a try. It’s definitely a treat and a good way to keep on track

Always thinking of the next meal


Pot de Creme

8 Nov

IMG_0955So this is pot de creme. In definition, this is a baked custard similar to creme brulee. But in reality is a cup of sexy, creamy, chocolate love. I’m not exaggerating. It is so creamy and delightful there are really no other words to describe it.

Pot de creme is one of my all time favorite desserts. Translates into pot of cream and that is exactly what it is. A baked egg and cream custard. It can be flavored in any way you see fit, but the traditional way is with chocolate. I do love some decedent dark myself, but since the hubs and I were sharing this batch I opted for milk chocolate.

As with most French desserts, this is more of a technique and less of a recipe. Of course everyone has their own version, but the basic idea is cream and milk infused with a flavor, and whipped with eggs and sugar. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and pumpkin are all common flavors.

I love experimenting with these types of desserts. You can easily cater the basic recipe to fit the meal you are serving. Since the texture is similar to pudding, it’s something that everyone will like. You can also serve this whipped cream and berries for a more attractive presentation. With mine, I was in such a hurry to get it into the oven that I didn’t wait for the bubbles that form on the top of the uncooked custard to settle, so the top had a slightly sugary crust on the top after baking. If you don’t want to wait, you can use a kitchen torch to pop the bubbles before covering and baking.

Here’s the recipe that I used, but again don’t feel too attached to the flavorings, just pay attention to the ratios

Pot de Creme

Always thinking of the next meal


Plum Perfect

11 Oct

IMG_0861Plums are hitting the peak of their season. Late summer and early fall produce sweet, spicy plums that yield beautifully fulfilling flavors. I think that plums can be easily overlooked as an ingredient. Sure plenty of people eat plums out of hand, and eat them dried as prunes, but there are far fewer recipes that include plums when compared to say apples or peaches.

At work one day they were giving out plums for free. Being that free just happens to be one of my favorite words,IMG_0863 I couldn’t resist. I grabbed a few without knowing how I was going to use them. When I got home I looked through a few of my cookbooks only to be disappointed with average sounding recipes for plum, raspberry tarts and plum preserves. So I looked online and found a recipe for plum tatin by Ina Garten. I brought it to my aunt’s house on Thursday and it was a huge hit. Although everyone had a few reserves about a dense cake with plums, it happily surprised everyone. The cake was sweet but not overwhelming. The plums paired nicely with the additional allspice and cinnamon added into the recipe. Although we didn’t have any, the cake would have been great with a little french vanilla ice cream.

Since I didn’t use all of the plums I took the remaining fruits and quartered them. I tossed them with some avocado honey and gray sea salt. I put them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I wanted to serve them like that with vanilla yogurt but fate had other plans.

Later in the week I had an urge to bake. Since I had already made the cake I didn’t want to repeat, so this time I made a plum apple crisp. Here’s the recipe:

Plum Apple CrumbleIMG_0873

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 stick butter
1 pound apples sliced
1 pound plums, quartered

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add in the butter until the mixture looks like cornmeal and holds together. Arrange the fruit in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Cover with the crumb mixture and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbling. If you want, you can let the crumble cool and drizzle with a glaze made with powdered sugar and maple syrup.

Give plums a shot at the spotlight when it comes to dessert.

Always thinking of the next meal


If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does a bushel a day keep away?

21 Sep

IMG_0844This past weekend my family was in town for my cousin’s wedding. The following day we were all looking for a fun outdoor activity to do together. We took some suggestions from everyone but the winning suggestion was the surprising one from my dad. We decided to go to the Linvilla Orchards and pick some apples.

This thought was originally a good one. I mean who doesn’t love running up and down the sweet smelling aisles looking for the biggest and best apples. The bonus was the bluegrass and craft festival, and being a festival junkie, I couldn’t resist. Like I said, this was a good idea. My folks were leaving for Orlando later in the afternoon and my brother and his girlfriend were  both heading home as well. This left me and my husband with a LOT of apples. Don’t get me wrong I love apples, but the picture to the left is what we had minus 9 that were baked into pies.

So now the question is no long what should we do, but what should we do with all these apples? Since we picked golden delicious, jonagold, and courtlands, we knew that we wanted to makes pie. These varieties hold up well to the heat of the oven. They cook down slightly, making them soft to eat, but they also retain their shape so you can see the big chunks of apple in your pie. So I made 2 apple pies this afternoon with streusel topping (recipe below) and my hubby has requested apple sauce.

Still I think that there are about 100 things or more that you can do with apples. Apple butter is one of my favorites, and although I’ve never made it before, I like a good challenge. I’ve also been thinking about apple slaw, roasted apple vinaigrette, and an apple cranberry chutney. But before I get too ahead of myself, here’s the apple pie recipe:

Homemade apple pie:IMG_0845

For the filling:
8-10 large apples, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch thickness
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Put the apples in a large pot with the sugars and cinnamon. Cook just until the fruit starts to soften. Add in 1/2 of the apple cider and continue to cook on medium heat. Take the other half of the cider and wisk it in with the cornstarch in a separate bowl. Slowly add it to the cooking apples and allow to simmer. Watch the thickness of the syrup. If it looks too thin add more slurry, if it looks too thick add more cider. The liquid will thicken more during the baking process.

For the crust:

I used the crust recipe from an earlier post about pie

The strusel topping was unmeasured. I just combined flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter until the mixture looked like cornmeal and sprinkled it on top of the pie before baking.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and let cool completely before serving

Apples are one of the fantastic ingredients that lend themselves to be sweet an savory. They pair beautifully with bacon, sausage, chicken and many cheeses and well as the obvious sweet treatments. I saw a recipe on epicurious earlier today that was kielbasa with shaved apples and onions. It sounds to me like a great fall dinner! I’m sure I’ll be posting about the rest of my apple adventures during the remainder of the week so keep checking back!

Always thinking of the next meal


Psychology of Chocolate Chip Cookies

18 Sep

What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to cookies EVERYTHING! You know the moment the words hit your ears. For everyone it’s different. For some, it the crispy spicy bite of a gingersnap. For others, it’s the chewy cinnamon flavors of an oatmeal raisin. But for me, it’s the sweet, decadent childish indulgence of a chocolate chip cookie.

IMG_0808Thankfully my husband shares in this need for chocolate chips, otherwise I’d be making batches of cookies and eating them all myself! Yes, cookies are not the healthiest things that can happen to you, but let’s face it, eating cookies just makes you feel happy.

Every Christmas season, I purchase no less than 3 large serving trays and fill them with a plethora of holiday goodies. No matter how many beautifully decorated sugar cookies there are, no matter how many fruit and nut stuffed rugula there are, and no matter how many Italian butter cookies have been pain-stakenly pressed, the favorite is always my chocolate chip cookies. I derived my cookie recipe from Miss Paula Dean’s recipe for triple chocolate chip cookies. Here’s her version:


Why does this recipe work? Well here’s what I know. The amount of butter and shortening are in perfect ratio. There is enough butter to make the outside of the cookies crispy, but there is enough shortening to keep the inside soft and moist. The balance of the sugar and brown sugar lends the cookie to be sweet, but no so sweet that your teeth hurt afterward. The amount of brown sugar also helps to keep the cookies moist.

You can change what you put in these cookies as well. Instead of chocolate chips, try M&M’s or raisins. Make a “trail mix” cookie by using premixed trail mix. You can also add things like dried fruits and peanut butter chips.

These cookies are a constant request in my house. Make them once and I can guarantee you your household will be all smiles.

Always thinking of the next meal


Oh Crepe!

9 Sep

IMG_0793Today’s recipe testing involved crepes. When I was in Paris, crepe vendors were as common as hot dog carts in New York. They were used as envelope for fabulous fillings like, ham and gruyére, nutella and bananas, sugar, strawberries, and anything else you can imagine. I think each vendor had at least 20 combinations of fillings. The crepe itself, was wonderful. It was light and crispy, but still chewy and satisfying.

I made my attempt at these French favorites this afternoon. I wanted my version to be smaller, more of an appetizer size. Since I wasn’t sure what kind of filling I wanted to use I choose to make my crepes a neutral flavor. So I stuck to the basic recipe. Here it is:

Basic Crepe Recipe:IMG_0794

1 cup AP flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoons canola oil
1/4-1/3 cup water

mix all ingredients in a blender and allow to rest for at least 1 hour before using. When rested, pour 2 oz portions onto a hot griddle, swirling the batter with your ladle to create an even circle. flip when the top of the crepe looks dry. Cook on opposite side for 30 seconds. Remove from griddle and set aside while the other crepes are cooking.

*NOTE: if your first crepe looks too thick add a little water until the batter is the correct consistency

IMG_0795If I had decided the filling ahead of time, I could have tweaked the basic recipe to further compliment the filling. For example, if I knew that I would be making a sweet crepe filling, I could have added 1 tablespoon of sugar to the batter. Or if I knew I was going to use bananas and cinnamon as a filling, I could have used 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and topped the finished crepes with a brown butter bourbon sauce. Bananas Foster anyone?

If I had decided to fill the crepes with lox, cream cheese, and red onion, I could have added fresh dill and salt to the batter for a fun twist on bagels and lox. (Yes this is fusion food 🙂 )

Since I did stick with the basic recipe, I was able to experiment with different fillings. I made 6 different fillings; nutella and banana, PB&J, lemon and sugar, cream cheese and dill, cream cheese and pork roll, and provolone and olive tapenade. Ryan helped me with the tasting and here’s the verdict. The top 2 flavors were the nutella and banana and the lemon sugar. I liked the cream cheese and dill, but Ryan wasn’t convinced.

Next time you’re thinking about trying something new, try crepes. They are versatile, tasty, and full of your favorite flavors

Always thinking of the next meal


Recipe testing

3 Sep

So the best part of my job is recipe testing. I get to take ingredients that I have in the house, an idea I have in my head and create. Literally, I get to play with my food. This week I gave myself a challenge. Only go to the grocery store once. It doesn’t seem like that would be such a challenge, but trust me it is. I went to the store on Monday, it’s now Thursday and here’s what I’ve made so far:

Pasta with homemade red sauce

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Cheesesteak eggrolls with Pespi BBQ sauce

Pineapple Upside down cupcakes

Sweet and Sour jerk chicken with orange couscous

Bleu Cheese risotto with corn, zucchini, and turkey

And about six different breakfast burritos

What does all this testing give me? Well not only does it help me develop new and exciting things to eat, but it also helps me practice the techniques that I learned in school. I like taking recipes that I’ve found online, or in a cookbook and making them my own. The eggrolls we obviously inspired by normal Chinese eggroll, but were also inspired by some of the findings in frozen food aisle. Have you ever looked at what’s in those frozen appetizer bites? Well let me enlighten you. It’s salt. Salt is cheap and makes things taste good. By making them yourself you control the amount of salt and can actually eat more of them. Chicken Cheesesteak Eggrolls

The BBQ sauce that accompany them is my own recipe. Yes, you can make your own BBQ sauce. I mean the stuff in the bottle doesn’t just magically appear there. Again, by making it on your own you can control what’s going into it. Like it spicy? Add chili peppers. Like it sweet? Add brown sugar, honey, or onions. I used ketchup as a base for mine with the surprise ingredient of Pepsi. It wound up being very sweet up front and then finishing spicy in the back of your throat. Perfect for me.

The jerk chicken was something that I have been craving for a few days. I made my own jerk seasoning since I didn’t have any on the spice shelf. In general the jerk spice blends that I’ve gotten at the store have been pretty good. McCormick has a good one and it saves time and money to just buy the jar. But it you have a decent supply of spices already and you you can spare a few minutes you can make it at home. Here’s my recipe for jerk spice:

Jerk Spice:

IMG_07842 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

combine and store in airtight container for up to 2 months

I used the jerk seasoning on chicken, onions and pineapple. Sort of a Caribbean stir-fry. I added black beans and basil and then served it over orange couscous. Surprisingly, Ryan really liked it. It had a really nice sweet but spicy flavor and the extra bursts of sweetness from the pineapple really made the dish pop. This one is definitely a keeper. Next time I might add a little diced red pepper to add some color.

The other ventures were just as exciting. The Pineapple cakes were also a big hit. (In case you were wondering, I had a whole pineapple that I needed to use so that’s why there are so many recipes involving the fruit.) It’s making it really fun not being able to go out for more ingredients. Tonight’s menu holds tuna melts, and baked apple dumplings. I hope I have everything for the dumplings. The weather is turning and I think a little fall-ish dessert is in order.

Always thinking of the next meal


If I die a cheesecake related death… this is why

20 Aug

Cheesecake. You hear its delicious name roll off the tongue of your server at the restaurant and instantly you start to fantasize. You imagine the rich, creamy, tangy cheese. Maybe it’s covered in super bright, unnaturally sweet cherries, or maybe it’s teasing you with dark decadent chocolate dripping down the sides. You try to resist, but it’s a guilty pleasure you don’t mind punishing yourself at the gym for later.

Oh yes, this is what dessert can do to us. Why is it that food can have such an emotion hold on us?I think whoever coined the phrase, “the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was wrong. The truth is, the fastest way to a man’s heart is with cheesecake. Featured here is a picture of the cheesecake I made yesterday.IMG_0759 Oh yes, I made it. If cheesecake alone wasn’t sinful enough, this one happens to be a creme bruleé cheesecake. Oh don’t thank me. Thank the people at Disney cruise line for putting this recipe in the Disney cookbook. I know, they are evil (in the best way of course.)

I’ve made this cheesecake before. The first time I made it for my friend Luke’s birthday. It was so good, and got such a good reception I tried making it for Thanksgiving. For some reason (a different sized pan a suspect) the cheesecake just did not turn out the same. The outside was perfect, however the middle was runny and uncooked (yuck). But, now that I have baking troubleshooting skills under my cap, this cake turned out beautifully!

It’s a shame that it has to wait until Saturday to be eaten. It sits in my fridge taunting me with its creamy richness. The sugary, crunchy crust calling my name. It’s saying, “Katie…I’m so delicious and you’ve been so good and working so hard, you deserve a piece.” No cheesecake… the anticipation of Saturday will make you taste that much better 🙂

Always thinking of the next meal