Fresh Strawberry Dessert Sauce

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It’s been a busy summer, and the weather has been perfect.  Is this mother nature’s way of apologizing for the polar vortex?  We haven’t have the air conditioner on for the last two weeks, which is amazing.  I love the fresh air and I really love the low electric bills!  Add to that all of the fresh produce and the long days and it’s hard not to be happy.  We’ve been painting bathrooms and cleaning out closets and fighting over whether or not to plant trees in the back yard (I will win this battle).

Last night, Lily and Jake went to see Walking with Dinosaurs and she is still glowing.  She knows the names, eating habits, mannerisms, and pretty much every other tidbit you may or may not be interested in learning about dinosaurs, so it was a fun time.  Jake said that she got excited for each new scene and was the entertainment of the people around her.  Though supposedly there is once scene where a dead dino gets picked apart and eaten by the others, which was slightly traumatizing to my 3-year-old.  No time like the present to learn the ins and outs of the circle of life!

So, while we’ve been busy, I forgot to post this recipe from a month or two ago.  I originally made this sauce to go over the cheesecakes seen in the picture above but I didn’t like the cheesecake recipe enough to post.  The texture was off and it was way too lemony (didn’t stop Jake from liking it, but I wasn’t a fan).  The sauce is easy and delicious though, so why leave it hanging?   Plus, it’s the last day of national ice cream month, so you can whip up a batch and throw it on a scoop after dinner.  Or before dinner.  Whatever tickles your fancy.  :)

Fresh Strawberry Dessert Sauce

1 pound strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Wash and hull the strawberries.  Chop them up to the size that you would like (if you want big hunks of strawberry in the end product, cut them in half; if not then dice them smaller).

Combine the strawberries in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the strawberries have released their juice and the sugar has dissolved.  Add the corn starch, vanilla, and salt, reduce the heat to low, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take off the heat and let cool.  Serve over ice cream, cheesecake, or really anything else that you like.  Can be kept in the fridge.

Source: L+K original, though strawberry sauce in general has obviously been around awhile!

Fresh Strawberry Curd

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So, Easter has come and gone and I somehow got through it without cooking a single thing.  My dad had us over to his house for a pre-Easter dinner that was comprised of a smorgasbord of homemade Mexican foods (omg I didn’t know ahead of time that I should have worn an elastic waist band) and then on the actual holiday we were too busy picking up our messy house in anticipation of Jake’s parents’ arrival that night to actually make a meal.  We didn’t even have chips and dip (which I now regret).   But we DID have an Easter Egg hunt for Lily (two of them!), found a hidden basket full of crayons, coloring books, and sweets, and discovered an Anna doll from Frozen that the bunny must have snuck into the house.  It was even nice enough to spend some time at the playground.  I’ll post pictures soon!  And by soon, I mean that if they are up before Cinco de Mayo then you have to give me a standing ovation and a margarita in each hand.  On the rocks.  With salt. But once Easter was over, I started to feel bad that I hadn’t made anything in awhile, so I set off to find a recipe to try.  Something with a little spring in it’s step (pun intended).  I found this one from A Calculated Whisk as a part of the SRC swap for April.  I was going to make her lemon curd because I could eat lemon curd all day long and on top of anything, but strawberries were on sale at the grocery store and they looked delicious.  I bought two pounds and made this recipe before Lily and I ate the rest straight out of the container.  I could eat this with a spoon, and do encourage everyone else do that, too, but it’s also great on top of everything from angel food cake to vanilla ice cream.  And I bet it would be a great filling in lemon cupcakes.  If you think of anything creative to make with this curd, let me know!  I still have some left and I need to find it a home.

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Fresh Strawberry Curd 1/2 pound strawberries, hulled Zest and juice of one orange 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice Pinch of salt 1 cup sugar 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), cubed 4 large egg yolks In a food processor, puree the strawberries, orange juice, orange zest, and lemon juice until very smooth. Heat a shallow amount of water to a simmer in a double boiler or a saucepan.  In the top of the double boiler or in a heatproof bowl, combine the puree, salt, sugar, and butter.  Place the bowl on top of the pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t actually touching the water.  Beat the egg yolks and add them to the bowl.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the curd comes together and thickens, about ten minutes.  When the curd is done, it will coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let the curd cool to room temperature.  Then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Source: Adapted slightly from A Calculated Whisk

Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes

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Love is in the air, and is always in the chocolate.  Today, Lily said to me when I handed her toast with butter on it, “Thank you, Mommy.  This is delicious!  Happy Valentine’s Day, my best cutie girl!”  It was pretty adorable considering it was the simplest food I could have possibly made for her.  She’s all about a good snuggle, so I should have known that Valentine’s Day would be the one holiday that could get her mind off of Christmas (though she does still sing carols and watch Rudolph on a regular basis).

I baked these little cakes that I found on Cooking Light over the weekend because they are chocolate and gooey, but made with egg whites, so not as completely unhealthy as they might otherwise be.  Even with my uneven oven making some of the cakes go a little over, they were still fairly moist and definitely rich.  The other nice thing about little individual cakes is that you don’t have to slice them, so serving is 100x easier and cleaner.  And when you’re making dessert for Valentine’s Day, you’d rather spend the evening playing kissy face than cleaning up a cake mess, amiright?

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Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, or other dark chocolate finely chopped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Whipped cream for topping

Sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.

Place the butter and sugars  in a large bowl or stand mixer, and beat at medium speed until they are well blended (a few minutes). Add the egg whites and vanilla, beating until well blended. Lower the speed and slowly add in the flour mixture.  Fold in the chocolate. Divide the batter evenly into 4 ounce ramekins (for me it makes about 8).  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Let the ramekins stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Uncover and bake at for about 21 minutes or until cakes are puffy and slightly crusty on top. Keep an eye on them, as different ovens cook differently and you don’t want to over bake them.  Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar, add a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, and serve immediately.

Source: Adapted very slightly from Cooking Light

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Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

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I was recently asked what recipe it was that made me really love cooking.  The honest answer isn’t some gourmet meal that takes hours to prepare and has ten thousand ingredients. It’s homemade marshmallows.  For one thing, they are 100x better than store bought.  It isn’t even a close comparison, and it made me realize that a little effort can yield amazing dividends.  If you haven’t had homemade, then get on it.  The other draw was the synergy of the recipe.  Egg whites, sugar, gelatin, and corn syrup combine to create this delicious, spongy, sweet dessert.  The end product is definitely greater than the combinations of its parts.  But, ironically enough, the one thing that made me love cooking is something that I can’t eat anymore (gelatin isn’t vegetarian).  Sob.  I’ve been missing marshmallows like, well, I can’t think of a good metaphor.  But a lot.

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Then, several weeks ago, I realized that marshmallow fluff (a.k.a cream a.k.a. creme.  I don’t know what the correct name is) doesn’t have gelatin in it.  Woohoo!  The great taste of marshmallows right in my own kitchen again!  You can even take a torch to fluff if you want the taste of s’mores, though a campfire is obviously still off the table.  Which is fine, because I could live happily with my fluffernutter sandwiches.  You can take the girl out of Boston, but the classic New England lunchbox staple will be with me forever.

Poor Jake doesn’t really like marshmallows, so he’s just been surviving the last couple of weeks while I’ve gorged.  This stuff is perfect for topping ice cream, dipping graham crackers, pretzels, and apples in, and really just eating with a spoon.  Or your fingers.  I’m going to put up a recipe for a dip soon, so keep an eye out!

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Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir until the ingredients are combined.  Bring to a boil and leave untouched until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. (You want to have the egg whites whipped and ready when the syrup is ready to be drizzled in. If they’re whipping faster than your syrup is coming to temperature, just stop the mixer until the syrup is ready.)

When the syrup reaches 240°, slowly drizzle about 2 tablespoons of syrup into the egg whites to warm them. Let it combine for several seconds.  (If you add too much syrup at once, the whites will scramble.) Slowly drizzle in the rest of the syrup. Increase the speed to medium high and whip until the marshmallow is stiff and glossy, about 7 minutes. Add in the vanilla and whip for 2 more minutes. Use immediately or refrigerate stored in an airtight container.

Source: Adapted very slightly from Shauna Sever

Apple Pie Bread

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Thanksgiving is almost here!  My brother and his finance are coming to town, and I’m excited to share my nutritional yeast gravy with them 😉  I’m the only vegetarian in my family, so Thanksgiving is one of those funny holidays where dinner just doesn’t work out to my advantage.  I have actually had a boss who asked me if vegetarians are allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Ha.  Yes, we are.  But when dinner is made by our carnivore family members, we mostly eat pie. Not that I’m complaining about pie!  And, as this post proves, you can have pie as both a dinner dessert AND for breakfast.  Of course, when you’re me, you have even the breakfast version with ice cream or whipped cream, but I think that most people would eat this apple pie bread like they would any other breakfast pastry.

When my MIL, Deb, was here last week, she made this recipe on the same day that she made the creamy lemon orzo posted last week.  It’s a pull-apart bread, so it was daunting at first, but the further she got into creating it, the more it made sense.  She did it as a challenge, and definitely succeeded!

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In the end, it was really good.  Deb decided that next time she would roll the dough out thinner because it expands a lot in the baking process.  I knew it was a little surprising to have a yeast bread with no rising time, so I probably should have seen it coming that the yeast would come to life.  But overall, the apples keep the bread moist and flavorful and the crumb topping is just deliciously crunchy.  If you have family coming over this weekend, or even if you don’t, give this recipe a try!

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Apple Pie
 Bread

For the filling:
3 apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

For the dough:
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 egg

For the crumb topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup chopped pecans (We used almonds because it’s what we had)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

Combine the filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.  Heat the milk and butter in a separate small saucepan until butter is melted.

Whisk  together the flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add in the water, egg, milk, and butter. With the dough hook on your stand mixer, combine all ingredients until dough comes together.  It will be sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a well floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. If dough is too sticky, add additional flour about 1 tablespoon at a time until it doesn’t stick to your hands.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filling over the dough evenly, reserving 1/3 cup of the filling to put on the top at the end.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 4×5″ rectangles.

With the loaf pan on it’s side, stack the pieces of dough on top of each other, putting filling in between each slice. Set the pan down and, if needed, spread the dough slices gently to distribute through the pan evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of apple filling on top.

Combine the crumb topping ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Sprinkle over the dough.

Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.  Let it cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes before running a knife along the edges to loosen.

Source: Dough See Dough