Monday, June 25, 2012

Birthday Present for My Bestie

I have a best friend. And not just the here-today-gone-tomorrow kind, but the kind that sticks with you through and through. The kind where you can not talk for months and not get mad at each other and you can just pick right up where you left off. Yeah, that kind. Her name is Melinda and we have been friends for almost 20 years! (Mel- I think we need to have an anniversary party next year! 2013 baby!)

Every year for her birthday I make her an ice cream cake and my daughter and I go to her house and swim and just enjoy the day. Sometimes we make lunch as well (like pretzel dogs or zucchini parm) but this time just dessert. (She and the family also got to taste test some beet pie and beet brownies.)

This was my favorite birthday cake growing up. Now that I'm cutting out as much processed food as possible, I didn't want to use the original recipe that included sweetened condensed milk. Here's the new version.

Ice Cream Cake

1 package organic chocolate cookies with cream center (don't use those OTHER ones), Newman's Own or Nature's Promise are fine
1/2 gallon ice cream (I prefer naked mint from Perrydell Dairy, and there you get a full 1/2 gallon.)

Set ice cream out to soften. Place cookies in zip-top bag and smash with mallet/crab hammer/etc. Smush cookies as bottom layer in 9x13 pan. Dip ice cream and layer on top of cookies. I often run the spoon in hot water to help it cut through the ice cream. If you can be more even now, it will save having to smooth it out later. Once you have all the ice cream in the pan, run spoon under hot water and use the back to smooth the ice cream. Place in freezer to re-harden.

Carmel Fudge Topping (this is my favorite part!) (adapted from this recipe)

1/2 c honey
4 T milk
2 T butter
1 c chocolate chips
1 T vanilla
dash salt

Place honey, milk and butter in medium sauce pan over low heat, stirring until mixture boils (this does take a while, you don't want to heat too fast or you'll scald the milk). Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add rest of ingredients and mix until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Allow it to cool a while before putting on top of ice cream. The key is to have it still be pourable, but not so hot that it melts the ice cream (but if it does, when it refreezes the ice cream and fudge are just blended together, and it still tastes good). Refreeze until firm and ready to eat! Sometimes it helps to have it sit out a bit before trying to cut :)

  Isn't she too cute! Love her!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Just beet it! (part 3)

Beet Brownies (based on the recipe from The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue cookbook)

6 T butter
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 T vanilla
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c beet puree
1/2 c all- purpose flour
dash salt
2 tsp baking powder

Optional- 1/2 c mini chocolate chips or nuts 

Slowly melt chips and butter using double boiler method (I used a glass bowl on top of a pot with slightly boiling water.)

In another bowl blend eggs, vanilla, sugar and puree. Add to chocolate mixture and blend completely.

In mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients, then add chocolate mixture. Pour into bottom-only greased 8x8 glass pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean (I've found that if I wait until it is completely clean, the brownies are too dry.)

Make sure brownies cool completely before cutting with a plastic knife. Believe me, they will cut much nicer with a plastic knife than any other! Yum!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Just beet it! (part 2)

Beet Chips (slightly altered recipe shown here)

2 beets, washed but not peeled
2-3 egg whites (save yolks by freezing in ice cube tray and then storing in bag in freezer)
1/2 Tp smoked paprika
1/2 T garlic powder

Slice beets thinly, use a mandolin if possible to get uniform sizes. Rinse in glass bowl until water runs clear.

Combine egg whites and spices. Dip beets in mixture and place on parchment paper-lined cooking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Then flip over beets, increase temperature to 375 and bake another 15 minutes, but keep a close watch so they don't burn.

Salt to taste and enjoy!

I'm hoping to try this method with regular potatoes and sweet potatoes, as these chips were not greasy, nor did they get soggy! They did taste a little too "beet-y" for me, and the flavorings were not strong. However, many tasters did like it. Thus, I have altered the amounts for you so it does taste stronger! I think this would also be a great way to make Old Bay chips.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Just beet it! (part 1)

Haha, sorry, just had to put that in there :) And no, not to disappoint you, but this will not be a post about Michael Jackson. It will, however, be a post about BEETS! (Actually, a 3 part series!)

My next door neighbor (and friend) offered me her beets from her CSA box this week. (CSA= community supported agriculture. It means that you pay up front for a set number of weeks of produce. A great way to support local farms, especially if you can't grow your own.) In the past I had been "sneaky" and put beets into a few recipes (mint brownies or used in place of eggs when making chicken strips) but I really didn't know what I wanted to do with them. Enter a google search :)

I decided on a chocolate mousse pie, beet chips and sneaky brownies with beets added, for Leah to take to a Bible study. If I can fool teens, I'm happy  =)

To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the pie. I could taste the beets and it was so chocolatey I felt sick! But, my dad and step-mom and some friend's kids liked it, so who knows! The beet chips were the best texture of any chip I have made yet. I will definitely try this format with regular potatoes and sweet potatoes. The brownies also turned out awesome, nice and fluffy and not beet-y at all :)

Chocolate Mousse Pie (with some alterations)

1 c Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour (you can def use regular)
1/4 c coconut oil (frozen)
2 T cocoa powder
4 T sugar
5-6 T cold water

Combine first 3 ingredients in mixing bowl. Slowly integrate coconut oil until the batter resembles bread crumbs. Then slowly add water and stir until make a good dough. (Be careful to not add too much water! I did and I think that's why it was so sticky!) Refrigerate about 1/2 an hour then roll out to fit your pie pan. I rolled it between parchment paper, and glad I did because it was sticky! I added too much water :(  Bake at 210 for 10 minutes and cool completely.

1/2 c beet puree
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make beet puree you can either wash and roast beets or wash and boil them. I chose to boil (2 beets made about 1 c puree) and it took a long time for them to get soft, so you might actually want to do this first. Then puree in blender or food processor.

Slowly melt chips using double boiler method (I used a glass bowl on top of a pot with slightly boiling water.)

Then add beet puree and mix well. It takes a bit to get it combined really well.

Pour chocolate mixture into crust and refrigerate until set.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cinnamon Almonds

I love Pinterest. It took me a while to catch on (mostly due to lack of time to get it all figured out!) but it is a great way to save all the recipes that I find and want to try. If you want to search my recipes by picture, you can do that here. Feel free to check out my other boards as well!

Here's one that just had to try, and it makes your house smell so good! (Although I'm now steaming some shrimp, so it smells like Old Bay, lol.)

Cinnamon "Roasted" Almonds (Adapted from the recipe here.)
*This recipe doubles well.

3 c raw organic almonds, walnuts or combination of the two
1 c sucanat
1/4 c water
1 T cinnamon

Combine sucanat, water and cinnamon in large skillet on medium heat. Once combined, add almonds, stirring constantly to coat almonds in mixture. You may need to turn heat down as the sauce cooks off. Keep stirring until sugar crystallizes on almonds. I was worried I wouldn't know when this happened, but trust me, you'll know! It will become harder and harder to stir. Cool on parchment paper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ah, Local Dining at Its Finest!

Today, I was super excited. My husband and I had the whole day to ourselves- no kids, which very rarely happens! This afternoon we got to go bowling, one of our favorite dates but we don't get to do too often. And no, I will NOT reveal my scores, ugh, they were horrible today. I totally blame it on the floor, you couldn't slide at all. The best part though was seeing a former home-bound student that I haven't seen in almost 6 years!

But, I was most excited for the next part of our day- visiting the Farmers on the Square market in Carlisle followed by dinner at the Green Room!

The market was the cutest open-air market ever. There were not so many vendors that you were overwhelmed but enough for a great variety of foods (and all local, and most either organic or pesticide free). There were bakers (including a gluten-free Green Room booth!), meats, ice cream, honey, soaps, cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies, massage, bubbles and a band! I loved it! Wish we lived closer so I could visit it every week (Wednesdays from 3-7). Here's what I ended up with:

- 1 quart organic strawberries, $6 (Shortcake will be baked tomorrow! Thankful I already have some homemade whipped cream in the fridge from making some frozen mochas last night!)
- 2 small loaves gluten-free sourdough bread from the Green Room bakery, $5
- Honey-based lip balm, $3
- Honey-based hand creme, $6

I could have (and should have) bought more, but we wanted to get to the Green Room right when they opened. I'll say it again, I really wish there was a market quite like this one close by. I love York's Central Market but not everything there is local, etc. So we were off to dinner after a quick stop at the car to chill the strawberries.

I have only ever been to the Green Room one other time, almost 2 years ago, for my 30th birthday. We were well overdue! I will be honest up front, it is much more costly than any other dinner we have had. For me though, I would rather do a dinner like this infrequently than meals at chain restaurants frequently. At least after this meal I was stuffed, but not sick or tired like I am if I eat most anywhere else (except the Warehouse Gourmet, one of my other faves, and a bit cheaper).

It is so hard to decide what to get when I go there. I'm the kind of person who loves to split meals, especially if it is something new or different that I haven't had before (remember Planet X?)

First I chose a salad with coconut chicken, strawberries and orange blossom vinaigrette. It was fabulous! I definitely want to try to recreate the chicken, delish! You can get this as a meal but they were able to make it into a side salad for me.

We also each got some bread. Randy's was an onion pesto bread that he absolutely loved, but I forgot to get a picture of it. They gave me some gluten-free sourdough- the same kind I just bought at the market! Good thing I liked it :)

 Then for my meal I chose Alaskan rockfish, pan fried with sticky rice and an onion/garlic broth. Randy wanted to take my pic with my meal :)

And here's a close-up:

The rockfish is on top of the sticky rice. I've never had anything quite like it but it was very good! I joked that the fish needed a little Old Bay on it (we keep an emergency bottle in the car, but I forgot to put it in my purse).

Randy was a little camera shy, but he ordered the sirloin steak with beet greens and potatoes:

The greens were so good, garlic-y and salty. The steak was very good also, and no hormones or grain here!

I don't typically get dessert out, but this is definitely an exceptional place. I ordered mint chocolate "ice cream" although it was vegan, I think made with coconut milk. It was very good, although the mint could have been stronger. The chocolate was definitely the best part!

Randy ordered a vegan, gluten-free "cheese" cake. We both thought it was "ok". I actually didn't really like the honey drizzled on it, made it too sweet for me.

Ah, what a meal! I can't wait 2 years to get back! Hoping to visit again this summer with my sister when she is home, and hopefully on a Wednesday so we can get to the market, too! Hmmm, I think I may have to go break into that sourdough bread now...

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