Monday, July 30, 2012

Stand Out Sides: Cucumber Herbed Salad

This cucumber salad is perfect for any summer barbeque!  I loved the fresh herbs that gave it a nice extra flavoring, and John loved that he got to eat his favorite veggie, cucumbers!  I have a semi-CSA going with a guy that I work with.

Besides being an awesome professional at our work, he goes home at night to his farm 75 miles from the city.  There he has cows, chickens, and a lot of land to grow vegetables.  He had never heard of a CSA before (he must live under a rock), so I quickly introduced him to the concept and told him I'd be his first customer. 

It's great - he picks the veggies that morning and then brings them into work.  Delivered right into the fridge and then onto the train with me!  A few weeks ago, we got about 35 hot italian peppers!  This week we got about a dozen cucumbers.  The perfect excuse to make this salad!
Cucumber Herbed Salad (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves: 3 (1 cup each)
2 tablespoons greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dill, finely diced
1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced cucumber (we used 2 medium sized ones)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion (we used 1/2 a red onion)

In the food processor, combine yogurt, dill, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt, and garlic clove.  Process until fully combined.  In a large bowl, toss cucumber and red onion slices.  Drizzle with yogurt mixture, toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

If you let this stay out (or want it for leftovers), you will need to salt the cucumber and let the water drain out of it before making the rest of the dish.  It takes more time but the mixture will NOT stay if you aren't going to serve it immediately (it will get very watery - gross!). 


Nutrition Facts, per serving, from Cooking Light:
Calories:  65
Fat:  2.6g
Carbohydrates:  9.9g
Sodium:  150mg
Protein:  1.8g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 27, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Sweet and Spicy Limoncello Pops

IT'S EASY!  *Once per IP Address! 

Hi everyone!  It's me, John, again...back with my second ever blog post!  I feel honored.  In all honesty, I know Danielle takes this blog seriously so I will do my best to make her proud.  When I found the Marx Foods newest challenge:  Fire on Ice Chile Recipe Contest I could not refuse another chance to get back into the foodie ring.
In truth, this recipe contest had Dani and I written all over it.  Well documented has been my love for all things spice and Danielle's love for all things ice cream.  Could we really go wrong?  I was so happy when we got our chile shipment that I immediately broke them open and did the first thing I could think of - stuck them into a small bottle of vodka.  That's right - one Aji Panco Peruvian chile, for it's fruity taste, and 5-6 dried Wild Tepin Peppers, for a spicy kick, into a vodka bottle for 2 days.

While my spicy concoction was percolating to perfection, I prepared the sweet surprise of our limoncello pops - candied lemon slices.  Thanks to Danielle's epic research of Martha Stewart, we found a great, and easy recipe for them.

And then it came to making our limoncello.  Lots of lemons, sugar, and some peppers soaked until they reached the spiciness that I craved.  Freezing it only iced in all that goodness and decreased the intense spice level you may have expected.  These pops are for adults only; but if you have a spicy-loving kid (like I was), omit the pepper vodka and let the peppers soak in the limoncello mixture just a little bit longer.  It will preserve the heat but keep everything legal!
Sweet and Spicy Limoncello Pops
Serves:  12 (1 pop each)
Peppery Vodka
1 Aji Panco Peruvian Chile
5-6 Dried Wild Tepin Peppers
8 ounces vodka


Candied Lemon Slices (adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 large lemon
1 cup sugar
2 cups water, divided
2 mint leaves

Limoncello Pops
4 cups water, divided
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 New Mexico Chilies
2 Thai Chiles
1/4 cup Pepper Vodka
12 Candied Lemon Slices


Pepper Vodka:  Poke holes in the peppers.  Combine vodka, and chile peppers in the vodka.  Let sit overnight. 

Candied Lemon Slices:  Wash lemon thoroughly and then thinly slice the lemon.  Bring 1 cup water to a boil over high heat.  Add lemon slices and cook 1 minute, until softened.  Remove and place into an ice bath. Combine remaining water, sugar, and mint in a large skillet and bring to a boil.  Add lemon slices and cook for 40-50 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.  When the lemon rinds appear translucent remove the slices and place on tin foil until ready to make pops.

Limoncello Pops:  Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a skillet.  Bring to a boil until the sugar has fully dissolved.  Pour into a large bowl and add remaining water and lemon juice.  Poke holes into the New Mexico Chilies and Thai Chilies.  Add to the bowl and let stand for 2-4 hours (depending on your spicy tastes) in the refrigerator.  Remove peppers and mix in vodka.  In the popsicle cups, place a candied lemon slice in each.  Pour the Limoncello over the candied lemon slice dividing evenly between the popsicles.  Add the popsicle toppers and freeze for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

These are so refreshing even Danielle couldn't stop eating them!  That's when you know I've done good!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brilliant Brunch: Mexican Mocha Frappucinos

We couldn't have a frozen treat week without featuring a frappucino for the man that constantly puts up with me!  John is such a happy guy, even in the morning, but lets just say he is a whole lot happier when he is drinking (or drank) his full of coffee!  While he loves frappucinos in the summer (even me, the coffee-hating girl, loves the sweet cool frappucinos), they are no exaggeration, $6 in New York City. 

Besides that our budget can't tolerate that for a breakfast treat, the number of calories in a morning drink does NOT fit into our diet right now. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy this type of coffee drink at home, with a few minor adjustments.  I use only skim milk and just two tablespoons of whipped cream onto each serving. 

Using Mexican cinnamon, Mexican chocolate, and hazelnut coffee, John could not get enough of these.  Which was good because I made a few too many.  He had no trouble drinking them the next day!  One of the many reasons I love him, right?
Mexican Mocha Frappucinos
Serves: 2
4 cups strong brewed hazelnut coffee, cooled*
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3 ounces of Mexican chocolate
1 tablespoon Mexican cinnamon, divided
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

 *Freeze two cups of coffee in ice cubes overnight prior to making these frappucinos.  This will ensure good flavor, and less watery coffee. 

In a blender, combine coffee, coffee ice cubes, skim milk, 1/4 cup sugar, Mexican chocolate, and 1/2 tablespoon Mexican cinnamon, until smooth and frothy.  Pour into 2 large mugs.  Meanwhile, whisk together heavy whipping cream and sugar.  Top each with equal amounts of the whipped cream.  Dust with remaining Mexican cinnamon.  Serve immediately.  

Until the next time my oven is on...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Vanilla Chip Italian Ice

Last weekend was beautiful here and John and I decided to forgo all chores (is that bad considering there are still lots of boxes around?) and head off to Coney Island for the day.  It’s a long subway ride from where we live (over an hour!) but it was awesome and when we got off the subway it was like we had stepped into paradise.  We did all the traditional touristy stuff – rode the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, walked the Boardwalk, ate a Nathan’s hot dog (so long diet!). 

And then we passed italian ices.  Imagine John’s surprise when I insisted we go in (ok little to no surprise).  When we were younger, the only Italian ices you could get were from the frozen section of the food store or at the pizza parlors in our town.  And there was always one flavor they were out of and seemingly never had enough.  Vanilla chip. 

Ironically, despite my love of chocolate (well documented on the blog and beyond), vanilla chip is my favorite type of Italian ice and I only pulled John into this store to get one because they had it on their sign.  In fact, he was shocked that out of all the Italian ice flavors, that was my choice.  But there is something about it that brings me back to when my whole summer world was pools and pizza and fun.  I knew immediately that when we got home, I was going to have to make it.  And make it I did!

Vanilla Chip Italian Ice (adapted from here)
Serves:  6 (1/2 cup)

2 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
 
 Bring the water to a boil.  Stir in the sugar and continue stirring about 3 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in corn syrup and vanilla.  Let it cool, then pour the mixture into a 9x9 pan and place aluminum foil over the pan.  Freeze for 2 hours.  Scrape the ice from the sides of the container, stir it back into the mixture.  Add the melted bittersweet chocolate, stirring quickly, until the chocolate is cooled and broken into small chips.  Freeze another 2-4 hours.  Scrape the ice and stir it back into the mixture.  Freeze completely prior to serving. 
 
Until the next time my oven is on...
 
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream

Summer in New York City is hot.  Really hot.  Way hotter than Boston; it’s like the city just absorbs the heat and radiates it back to you (actually John is telling me I’m not wrong about that).  Anyway, it’s uncomfortable and, more than ever I really miss my little apartment in Boston.

On the flip side, the best part about New York City is that John is now here with me.  Its like a party every night.  Don’t get me wrong – we still have our arguments and disagreements.  But in reality, living together has been 1,000 times better than the 2+ years we spent living apart.  To me anyway; I’m not going to ask him for his input because I like where this is going!

It reminds me that despite my affection and love for Boston and the belief that one day I will live there again, location is secondary to the person you are with.  And two is always better than one.  That’s where this ice cream comes in.  John’s favorite sweet cream ice cream plus my favorite strawberry ice cream peppered with some frozen pound cake combines to make the ultimate dessert dish.
Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream
Serves:  2 (1/2 cup of ice cream)

Cut the pound cake into 1-inch cubes.  Place on a cookie sheet and freeze 15 minutes, until hardened.  Scoop sweet cream ice cream and strawberry ice cream into a large bowl.  Let soften, about 3-5 minutes.  Add frozen pound cake cubes and swirl ice cream together, until colors are nicely swirled.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze 1 hour, or overnight.  Let sit about 3-5 minutes, until softened, prior to scooping and serving.  Serve with fresh cut strawberries, if desired.
Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Strawberry Ice Cream

The amount of ice cream in our freezer is immense right now.  I wish I was kidding.  The problem is, by the time I scoop it and we eat it (or try to photograph it as the case is today), its melted.  A combination of no central air (ah, how we miss our Boston apartments), and a perfectionist blogger (sadly, too true!), is making this ice cream become soup.

We still eat the ice cream soup, don't worry about that!  In fact not a single drop goes to waste.  To be honest, this simple strawberry ice cream was one of my favorites from the past week.  It tastes like summer and it was easy enough to make that I didn't feel bad when I ate almost the entire first batch  in a few days.  We just made some more.

And as an added bonus, this and our sweet cream ice cream from last week will be put to good use in tomorrow's recipe - a real winner (if I do say so myself) that you will NOT want to miss out on.  Believe me.  It hardly lasted a full day in our freezer.  Sad but true.
Strawberry Ice Cream
Serves:  6 (1/2 cup)
1 pound strawberries, hulled
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup fat free half-and-half
1/3 cup sugar (adjust to tastes)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Puree the strawberries and then strain them through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl.  Whisk in the whipping cream, half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla.  Whisk until sugar is dissolved and transfer into your ice cream machine (according to manufacturer's directions).  When the ice cream is finished, transfer into an airtight container and freeze until it is frozen solid.  Let sit about 3-5 minutes prior to serving for easy scooping.

Nutrition Information per Serving, based on 6 servings, from MyFitnessPal.com:
Calories:  216
Fat:  15g
Carbohydrates:  20g
Sugar:  15g
Sodium:  74mg
Protein:  2g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 20, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Haagen-Dazs' Java Chip

I can’t have an ice cream week without incorporating something John likes in the mix.  And in his opinion, I saved the best for last!  The nice thing about replicating a recipe is that you have some free license to play around.  I wanted it to taste as much like Haagen-Dazs as possible, but I also wanted to make sure there was a strong coffee flavor that John could enjoy!

I used pre-made coffee, rather than espresso powder or instant coffee for the recipe.  It came out slightly more icy than the actual coffee.  However, I think it really lent a truer flavor to the ice cream.  It tasted like you had dove into a bowl of iced coffee goodness. 

John doesn’t take kindly to stealing any of his coffee so, like the wonderful woman I am, I made him his coffee over the weekend.  I woke up early, stuck it in the fridge to cool down, and while I was mixing it with some ice, snagged some for myself!  Sneaky blogger girlfriend!  I think he would agree it was worth the steal.  He could hardly contain himself while I was busy taking these pictures!
Haagen-Daz’s Java Chip Ice Cream
Serves:  6 (1/2 cup)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups fat free half-and-half
1/2 cup premade vanilla coffee, cooled through
1/3 cup sugar
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small chunks

In a bowl, combine cream, half-and-half, coffee, and sugar.  Follow your ice cream instructions to make soft-churned ice cream.  Add chocolate and then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours, until completely frozen through.  Let the ice cream sit out for 3-7 minutes prior to serving for easy scooping!

Nutrition Information, per serving, Based on 6 Servings from MyFitnessPal.com:
Calories:  271
Fat:  19g
Carbohydrates:  22g
Sugar:  17g
Sodium:  15mg
Protein:  3g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Blue Bunny's Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

I'm not sure how many other couples this happens to, but John and I have completely different tastes in ice cream.  I love chocolate, John loves vanilla.  John likes nuts and peanut butter in his ice cream, not me!  The only ice cream we can agree on is Blue Bunny.

And the only GOOD Blue Bunny ice cream (in our expert opinion) is the Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate.  It is a delicious cherry-amaretto ice cream with chocolate chunks and chunks of cherry.  It is incredible and whenever Blue Bunny is on sale, we stock up.  And stock up to me means 2-3 half gallons.  They last a while but we never tire of them.

This was the first copycat ice cream I decided to try was this one.  The first time was too much amaretto.  The second time too little cherry.  And just like Goldilocks, the third one was JUST right!  However, unlike Goldilocks, no bears were present throughout this ice cream testing.  Even in Maine.
Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
Serves:  10 (approximately 5 cups)
3 cups cherries, pitted, divided
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups fat-free half-and-half
1 cup granulated sugar
1-2 tablespoons amaretto, to taste (to be alcohol-free, use amaretto extract instead)
6 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate

Puree 2 1/2 cups of cherries and strain them, removing as much of the skin pieces as possible.  Whisk together the cherry puree, cream, half-and-half, sugar, and amaretto.  Place into an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions.  Chop the remaining cherries into large chunks.  Then, chop the chocolate into small rectangular chunks.  When the ice cream is ready, carefully mix in the cherry and chocolate chunks.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve. 

Nutrition Information per Serving, Based on 10 Servings, from MyFitnessPal.com:
Calories:  335
Fat:  21g
Carbohydrates:  37g
Sugar:  29g
Sodium: 88mg
Protein:  3g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Edy's Thin Mint Ice Cream

As a Girl Scout from the time I was 5 until today, Girl Scout cookies are close to my heart.  I'm lucky that the cookie part of Girl Scouts is also loved by John!  I was awed when a few years ago Edy's debuted their Girl Scout Cookie Ice Creams.  In fact, I have been known to go from store-to-store when Edy's is on sale in the spring scouting for half-gallons of the Thin Mint Ice Cream.

Oh, and don't go buying the LITE version.  That one is Vanilla.  I like the original: rich chocolate, the thin mint cookie, gosh it is pure heaven.  The fact that it's a limited edition flavor only adds to the fervor that I have when the sales have ended, the ice cream is gone, and the last half gallon is sitting in my freezer.  I guard that stuff with my LIFE.  Just ask John.  The fact that I am drooling while writing this is (possibly) just sad!

So how to satisfy this craving?  Well, that's easy enough, make my own Thin Mint Ice Cream.  Girl Scout Cookies stay good in the freezer for a year, seriously!  So with two boxes in my freezer, I knew that I could whip up this treat in just a few minutes.  And once I have, I don't think I can stop!  John doesn't even like chocolate and told me that he's had to resist heading into the freezer for a scoop!
Edy's Thin Mint Ice Cream
Serves:  6 (1/3 cup)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vodka*
12 Thin Mint cookies
*if desired, add vodka to help consistency

Whisk together whipping cream, half-and-half, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla.  Transfer the mixture to the ice cream maker and start, according to manufacturer instructions.  Crush cookies, slightly (so they are bite-sized pieces), and mix into the soft-frozen ice cream.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze.  Before serving, let sit out 3-5 minutes, for easy scooping. 
 
Nutrition Per Serving, based on 6 servings, from MyFitnessPal.com
Calories: 322
Fat:  21g
Carbohydrates:  34g
Sodium:  170mg
Sugar:  19g
Protein: 5g


Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Ben & Jerry's Blueberry Vanilla Graham

Earlier this month when John and I seriously committed to losing weight, I knew there was one thing I could never give up.  Ice cream!  It was timely, then, that we were at Ben and Jerrys on vacation and I found their new greek yogurt flavors! 

Don’t worry, this won’t be a Ben and Jerry’s advertisement.  I just loved their forward-thinking and vowed to include one in our copycat week!  Personally, this one was a keeper.  It’s also super easy.  I used a blend of fresh blueberry puree, blueberry greek yogurt, and vanilla bean greek yogurt. 

Plus, this incorporated one of my favorite activities – crushing graham crackers!  Sometimes after a long day, this really goes a long way to reduce stress.  Stress is like that huge pink elephant on my back.  I worry about EVERYTHING, and worry leads to stress.  One thing I have vowed (along with lightening up our diet) is to lighten up on my stressing.  I’m not sure if it’s really working, but sitting down with a big bowl of this frozen yogurt alleviates that stress (for the evening anyway!).
Ben & Jerry's Blueberry Vanilla Graham Greek Yogurt
Serves:  6 (1/2 cup)
1 cup blueberry greek yogurt
2 cups vanilla bean greek yogurt
1/2 cup blueberries, pureed and strained
1 tablespoon vodka*
1/2 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup blueberries
*vodka will freeze the yogurt without affecting the taste

Combine blueberry greek yogurt, vanilla bean greek yogurt, pureed blueberries, and vodka in the ice cream maker.  When the greek yogurt is soft, slowly stir in crushed graham crackers, and blueberries.  Freeze until firm.  Before serving, let the yogurt sit at room temperature for 3-5 minutes for easy scooping.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, July 16, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Cold Stone's Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Since July is Ice Cream Month, I thought we could celebrate with TWO WEEKS worth of frozen recipes!  Yes, 8 ice cream recipes and 2 other frozen recipes, just for you!  This week, we're doing "copycat" ice creams - the ice creams you crave from your favorite ice cream scoop shops, or those half-gallons that fly out of the freezer a little too fast.

John and I have been working diligently (all for you, I might add), on taste-testing against the original flavors.  This sweet cream ice cream comes straight from Cold Stone Creamery.  It's one of John's favorite flavors there, and I knew it would be simple to recreate at home!

In fact, I made it exactly the way it sounds - with just two ingredients!  Cream and sugar.  Healthy, probably not.  Delicious, most definitely!  This is the traditional base that a typical ice cream shop uses to make the rest of their ice creams.  And, if you make this, and have any leftover, hang on to it for next week - I have an ice cream flavor that is going to BLOW your mind.
Sweet Cream Ice Cream
Serves: 6 (1/3 cup)
1 pint of heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Whisk together the heavy cream and sugar until sugar dissolves.  Place in the ice cream maker and churn until soft and creamy.  Place it in an airtight container and freeze it for at least 2 hours, until hardened.

You could easily serve this when it comes out of the ice cream maker.  John and I might have eaten a large portion of it that way.  But you'll never know...and I will never tell!

Nutrition Info Per Serving, Based on 6 Servings, From MyFitnessPal.com
Calories:  297
Fat:  29g
Carbohydrates:  10g
Sugar:  8g
Sodium:  30mg
Protein:  2g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Saturday, July 14, 2012

NEW! Exciting Blog Stuff!

Hi all!

I hope you enjoyed our vacation to Portland, Maine!  As many of you have noticed over the past week, I've been slowly and quietly updating a variety of blog design and layout stuffs. 

Today, though, I'm excited to talk about the BIGGEST thing I've been working on...my NEW Recipe Index!  I have been inspired to really overhaul the index and make it more user-friendly.  Even for me!  When I first started this blog, I had no idea that almost 2 full years later, I would still be blogging!

I will leave my reminiscing for another time...the more writing I do, the more blogs I post, the larger my recipe index was becoming.  In fact, it was just becoming unruly and I feel like all you dedicated readers were missing some wonderful recipes because of the fact that the index was so unwieldy.


Part of this, I take full blame - I am TERRIBLE at updating the index!  It has to be the worst blogger job, besides doing the dishes (oh wait, John takes care of that!). 

Anyway, click around, check it out!  I hope you enjoy it.  It wasn't easy, but with a little hard work, dedication, and help from my beloved IT professional, John, it works. 

Next week is a big week - a full week of frozen treats.  I'll tease you with just that very bit of information for now...

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 13, 2012

Field Trip: Portland, Maine

I'm so happy that after almost 9 months, John and I have finally gotten to explore a new city.  Technically, for us, Portland isn't exactly a "new" city.  With John living in Maine, we got to hang out in Portland a good amount of time.

We also spent much of this vacation with his family, which is why (and I apologize) the pictures are few and far between.  But the ones we have are great ones!  The first night there, John and I shared a "grown-up dinner" with his brother and sister-in-law.  It was the night before his sister came up with her little ones, and we decided to enjoy the solitude before chaos ensued.

Anyway, we ate at Local188 in Portland which focuses on local produce and free-range meats.  We started dinner with a cheese plate which featured a variety of Northeastern cheeses.  For dinner, I had their smoked lamb chop special.  It was great, but what really sold it was the lemon-tomato sauce which was interesting but so delicious I couldn't stop eating it and practically licked my plate.  The highlight of dinner though, was John's delicious Hanger Steak.  John enjoyed a local brew while I had the house infused margarita.  Go there, try it.  You won't be disappointed.  We finished our delicious meal with something equally delicious - dessert!  It was definitely the week of ice cream because wherever we were, whenever I found ice cream, we tried it!  John and I tried both gelato places in Portland (all in the name of blog research, of course - its a hardship sometimes!).  The first place, Gorgeous Gelato, had a small variety of delicious gelato flavors!  The night we were there I had a chocolate whiskey gelato to die for!

The second place, Gelato Fiasco, is a chain throughout New England.  John and I sampled on our last night there.  We give them a + for a much better variety, but a - for actual taste.  Gorgeous Gelato was just amazing and if you're not picky, we would suggest you detour there (they are right across the street from each other, so you can easily sample for yourselves!!

The next day, we took the kids (and ourselves, let's be honest) to the deepest and 2nd largest lake in Maine, Sebago Lake.  I really dislike swimming in lake water; I was a swimmer, I like pools.  Chlorinated, clean, pools.   But the lake was beautiful and I got to swim around with the hair piled on top of my head, so it wouldn't get infested with bacteria (what can I say?  I am weird).  I also realized I am sorely in need of getting back into some swimming shape.  We spent most of the day hanging out, despite some rain, and enjoyed a BBQ there. 

While John and I spent two other days visiting family, we were lucky to get a day to ourselves on one of the nicest days we were there!  John planned a perfect day, too.  We took the Casco Bay Ferry 20 minutes to Peaks Island, an adorable island in the Casco Bay.  Personally, I love that kind of small island life where most of the transportation is golf carts and bicycles, beach surrounds you on all sides, and you have to take a ferry to get there!  Just the ferry ride relaxes you and you step off into such a paradise!  Of course, like almost every day we were there, it DOWN POURED on us while we were 3/4s of the way around the island which sent us scurrying to the ferry terminal gift shop, which conveniently also houses an ice cream shop.  Yes, another scoop of ice cream - this time it was "Maine Black Bear" which was vanilla ice cream with a raspberry ripple and scrumptious raspberry-filled chocolate cups!  Of course, this was after lunch - so let's backtrack and talk about the island and our delicious lunch.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the streets of Peaks Island.  I would have opted for the bicycles but since our bike ride in Central Park a few weeks ago, John let me know he needed to let himself recover before we could get back on bikes.  The nice thing is the island is so small we were able to walk all around in the time we were there.  On our way around the island, we saw this great named restaurant (restaurant?  More like a grille or cafe), the Cockeyed Gull.  John could not stop laughing about the name of the restaurant that halfway through our walk, we doubled back to grab a quick lunch there.  It had a great deck looking out on the water which is where we ate.  The views were picturesque and the food was awesome!  It doesn't look like much but don't let its look fool you.
We were rewarded later in the week when we happened to meet one of John's good friends.  It turns out he recently bought a house and lives on Peaks Island and agreed that was the best place you could go on the island to get a decent meal!  Score 1 for John and I!  Anyway, we stuck to seafood seeing as we were literally next to the sea. 

As you may imagine from these photographs, the view and the hunger took over when the food arrived.  

The dish on the right is the remnants of our crab cakes (oops!).   And on the left, is the last few bites of our fresh fish tacos.  They were both wonderful and enjoyed immensely. 

This is already a long post but a quick spotlight on our favorite LOBSTER place in Portland, The Portland Lobster Company.  It opens for the season (i.e. May through September) and has a deck that is usually pulsing with locals, tourists, and local bands.  John and I love the vibe there (and, we couldn't say enough good things about the lobster)!  The special while we were there were sea scallops in a bourbon cream sauce.  While I wish I could have had it, we chose to be good and focus on seafood without the butter and calories that kind of sauce would have provided.  But while you are in Maine, I believe you have to indulge in lobster!  It's such a treat!!

Until the next time my oven is on...


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Light Pound Cake

First off, you shouldn't make pound cake in the summer.  Keeping the oven on for an hour (in this tiny apartment) was not a smart idea; in fact, I'm surprised John is still awake in the living room - it has gotten extremely warm!  And despite our air conditioner working overtime, it really hasn't helped one bit.

That being said, I had to make this cake.  As a food lover, I sometimes get these IDEAS in my head.  Do you ever get them?  They come to me at all times but, especially, late at night.  Early on in my journey, someone suggested keeping a notepad by my bed so I could easily scribble.  It's not John's favorite thing about me, but he puts up with it.

A few weeks ago I had a food revelation - the perfect dessert to make celebrating summer.  I wish I could tell you what it was but you will have to wait a week or two (oh my god, I am such a tease!  So sorry!).  Anyway, this dessert is going to blow your mind (as it did mine) but it needed this cake.  Any cake will do so if you have a hankering to make it, I suggest skipping the loaf pan.  Make it in a 9x13 and it will cook up in 1/3 of the time!  That will keep your apartment, house, dwelling, cooler and won't overtax the AC.  Believe me, your family will thank you!
Light Pound Cake (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  8 (8 slices from a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan)
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick), softened
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup skim milk

Lightly spray a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.  Combine oil and vanilla bean in a small skillet over low heat.  Slowly bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and let the mixture stand about 10 minutes (until the mixture is about room temperature - the temperature of your fingers).  Scrap the seeds from the vanilla bean.  Stir the seeds into the oil; discard the bean.  Combine the oil, sugar, and butter in a large bowl.  Beat until well-blended (about 4-7 minutes).  Add the egg and beat well.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder, whisking together until completely blended.  Add the flour mixture and the milk to the sugar mixture, alternating between the two but beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake the loaf for about 45 minutes - 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 10-20 minutes.  Then, remove from pan and let cool completely before using in any recipes.  Or, serve it warm immediately. 

Nutrition Information per serving, based on 8 Servings from MyFitnessPal.com:
Calories:  265 
Fat:  12g
Carbohydrates:  40g
Sugars: 21g  
Sodium: 113mg
Protein:  4g


Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, July 9, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Chipotle-Garlic Chicken Tacos

I hate to be a tease, but my kitchen right now is churning out frozen treats like no one’s business!  That’s right – 2 days back, and we are back into the swing of things, in our kitchen at least.  Don’t even talk to me about the large mound of laundry piled in our bedroom.  Doesn’t everyone have that when they get home from vacation?  Does it ever go away?  I wonder about these things.

Anyway, with my focus primarily on next week’s exciting week of recipes, our dinners have had to become quicker and simpler than usual.  These chicken tacos from Cooking Light were pulled out a few months ago.   In fact, they were the main meal with our delicious Avocado-Orange Salad I posted on Friday.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!  In fact, make it with the chicken tacos – they go extremely well together.

John brought a limited number of kitchen items from his old apartment when he moved.  The one thing he did bring?  Canned peppers in adobo sauce.  I kid you not.  Between that and Awa’s generous chicken gift a few weeks ago I did not have to buy a single thing to make these tacos.  That is the perfect dinner in our house!
Chipotle-Garlic Chicken Tacos (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves: 4 (2 tacos each)
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound chicken cutlets
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided 
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 small red bell pepper
1 small green bell pepper
1 small Vidalia onion, cut into 1/2-inch rings
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2 cup shredded green leaf lettuce
In a large bowl, combine garlic, chipotle chili, and oil.  Place the chicken in the bowl and toss so the chicken is evenly spiced.  Let sit 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium heat.  Sprinkle chicken cutlets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Place on grill rack, grill 3 minutes on each side or until fully cooked through.  Either remove from the grill or move it to the side of the grill that is off so it stays warm without overcooking.  
Combine remaining oil, salt, black pepper, and all the chili powder in a bowl.  Add peppers and onions and toss together until the vegetables are well-coated.  Grill vegetables about 5 minutes on each side (until soft, and lightly charred).  If you wish, also grill the tortillas.  Thinly slice the chicken.  Divide chicken, bell peppers, onion, and lettuce among tortillas.  Serve immediately.  


Nutrition Facts, per serving, from CookingLight.com:
Calories: 312
Fat: 9.8g
Saturated fat: 0.9g
Monounsaturated fat: 4.8g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.8g
Protein: 29.5g
Carbohydrate: 27.8g
Cholesterol: 66mg
Sodium: 533mg

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, July 6, 2012

Stand Out Sides: Avocado-Orange Salad

I know this “salad” sounds weird but suspend belief until you eat it.  You will thank me.  And Cooking Light.   When I saw next week’s Chicken Tacos, this salad accompanied it.  At first, I was skeptical but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how we really just had to try it.  It looked so refreshing and delicious and perfect for the summer.

While I made our main meal, John was in charge of the slicing and dicing for the salad.  What I would do without my sous chef?  I’d be chopping a lot more, that’s for sure.  I also wouldn’t have as nice pictures…what a skilled knife man he is! 

I tried to reserve judgment of this salad until I tasted it.  I am the more adventurous eater; I dove right into this while John was busy eating the main meal.  But my groans of ecstasy and repeated forkfuls encouraged John to try it and before I knew it, we were fighting over that last morsel.  A typical ending to our meal!
Avocado-Orange Salad (adapted from here)
Serves:  4
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 orange
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, black pepper, and kosher salt.  Peel and section the orange.  Squeeze a quarter of the membranes to extract juice into the bowl.  Whisk it all together.  In another bowl, combine remaining orange sections, red onion slices, and avocado slices.   Pour the garlic mixture over the salad and toss gently, being careful not to squish the avocados.
Nutrition per serving, based on 4 servings, from MyFitnessPal.com
Calories:  96
Carbohydrates:  10g
Fat:  7g
Protein: 1g
Sodium: 121mg
Sugar: 4g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Time-Out: Strawberry Soda

Happy Fourth of July everyone!  This red strawberry soda is the perfect easy cooler for today’s celebrations.  If you’re anything like John and I, some vodka in here would be a great adult addition to the kid’s drinks!  What a great way to enjoy the nation’s independence.

John and I had everyone over to the new place to see it for the first time a few weeks ago(since it was a big empty shell that is).  When we first planned this out, we had just went strawberry picking so this strawberry soda seemed like the perfect fit.  John and I have been wanting to try this for ages, but we’ve never found the time.  I’m glad to say it was worth the wait – although we might not be drinking anything but homemade soda EVER again!!!

Tonight we are taking in the fireworks in Boston, a tradition that we started since our first Fourth of July together.  There is something about the Pops’ traditional music, the Charles, the skyline in the background, and the fireworks that makes today magical.  Watching the celebration tonight on the banks of one of the oldest American cities, a city that I fiercely love, I am overwhelmed by how much I love being an American.  It’s a great day to remember that. 
Strawberry Soda (adapted from here)
Serves: 6 (36 ounces of strawberry soda)
Strawberry Syrup  (1 cup)
16 ounces strawberries
4 teaspoons white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar 

Strawberry Soda (6 8-ounce glasses)
1 cup strawberry syrup (above)
48 ounces of Seltzer
Ice, if desired

To make the strawberry syrup place strawberries in a blender and pulse until smooth.  Strain the strawberries into a large pot, pressing to get as much juice as possible.  Discard the pulp.  Add the vinegar and sugar to the juice.  Bring the strawberry juice to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool and store in the fridge. 

To make the strawberry soda, pour 16 ounces of seltzer into a pitcher.  Add strawberry syrup and stir until combined.  Top with remaining seltzer and stir.  Top with ice, before serving, if desired.

Nutrition per Serving, Based on 6 Servings, from MyFitnessPal.com
Calories:  78
Fat:  0g
Carbohydrates:  19g
Sodium:  1mg
Sugars:  16g
Protein:  1g

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dorm Room Dinner: Spicy Pork Skewers

WE’RE ON VACATION!!!!!!!  Yes you read that right.  I am gone, and you are reading this blog!  Sorry to rub it in but I cannot tell you how excited I am to take a week off from life.  Since I’ve moved to NYC, I haven’t had more than 2 days off at a time, so this has been something that I have really been looking forward to.

We’re taking a little road trip up the coast to Maine where we can visit John’s family and friends; I think we will also make some good stops along the way and I can’t wait to show you where we’ve been when we finally get back.  It’s only been 6 weeks or so since John has moved but we need to get the last of his boxes (that his brother and sister-in-law graciously kept in their home).  Not only that, they are also leaving us their home while they go to San Francisco! 

A free house, a chance to visit family and friends, and a week away was too good to pass up.  Plus, I do love Maine in the summertime.  I would love to go blueberry picking while we are there and have hounded John about planning that NONSTOP since we started planning this adventure.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  In the meantime, I have these delicious pork skewers to keep you going!
Spicy Pork Skewers (adapted from here)
Serves:  4
1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

Cut the pork tenderloin into 32 chunks.  Place in a large sealed bag.  In a small bowl combine soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, cumin, red pepper flakes, canola oil, and pepper.  Open the bag of pork and pour the soy sauce mixture over it.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Turn bag occasionally.

When ready to serve, place 8 skewers into a glass of water for 3-5 minutes.  Drain the pork tenderloins of their sauce and start pre-heating the grill to medium heat.  Thread 4 pork chunks per skewer.  Grill about 5-8 minutes, until pork is fully cooked through.  Serve immediately.

We served ours with a delicious cajun slaw.  Hold on to your hats, you'll get that recipe in just a few weeks.

Nutrition Info Per Serving, based on 4 servings, from MyFitnessPal.com:
*For this information, I used one quarter of the marinade mixture in the calorie count*
Calories:  366
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fat: 15g
Protein: 52g
Sodium: 398mg
Sugar: 2g
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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