Saturday, July 31, 2010

Macaroon Bars with Apricots and Cherries

I hope you weren't looking for macarons.  You know, the adorable, bite-size, come-in-all-colors-and-flavors, French cookies that seem to be all the rage right now.  Because I have yet to tackle them.  It's not that I don't want to.  It's just that I haven't.

What I've got here are some good ol' American macaroons, in bar form.  What they lack in precious pastel color and petite size, they make up for in flavor.  Yum, yum, yum.  This combination of flavors worked out beautifully, though I'd be wiling to say you could use just about any combination of dried fruits and liquors you'd like.

Macaroon Bars with Apricots and Cherries
adapted from The Cookie Book


For the crust:
non-stick baking spray
3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. vanilla sugar (regular will work here too)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. unsweetened flaked coconut

For the filling:
2 c. dried apricots, chopped
1 c. dried cherries, chopped
1 c. water
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 TBSP bourbon (optional)
3/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut

1.  Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil, leaving excess overhang as handles, and spray with non-stick baking spray.

2.  For the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high for 30 seconds.  Add the sugars and beat on medium-high for two minutes, until mixture become light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer down to medium-low and beat in the eggs and almond extract.

3.  Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour and salt in two additions, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between.  Add in the coconut.

4.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan (it will be slightly sticky) and bake for 25 minutes.

5.  For the filling: While the crust is baking, combine the apricots, cherries, and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for approximately eight minutes, or until the apricots are tender.  Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and bourbon.

6.  Spread the fruit mixture over the hot crust and bake ten minutes more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7.  Turn the oven to broil.  Sprinkle sweetened coconut  over the top of the bars and return to the oven.  Watch very carefully and remove the bars as soon as the coconut is lightly toasted.

8.  Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Once cooled, remove the bars by lifting up on the foil overhang.  Cut into 20 bars.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Glazed Pork Chops with Peach Salsa

From October to April, I wait and wait and wait for summer to roll around, bringing its bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables with it.  During those non-summer months, I rack up recipe after recipe I know I could make at any time, but should save for the times when the featured produce will be at its peak.  This is one of those recipes and man, was it worth the wait!

The sweet, juicy, perfectly ripe peaches shined through in this fresh salsa, which doubles as a side dish here because of the generous amount it makes.  As a bonus, the glaze and salsa are better when made a day ahead, so this could easily be a weeknight meal.  

Glazed Pork Chops with Peach Salsa

For the sauce:
 3/4 c. orange marmalade
6 TBSP bourbon whiskey or peach nectar
4 TBSP white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 to 1 tsp. hot-pepper sauce

For the peach salsa:
 2 fresh peaches, chopped 
1 green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. chopped red onion
1 jalapeño chilies, seeded and finely chopped
3 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro or mint
1 tsp. grated lime zest
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 boneless pork chops, each about 6 oz. and 3/4 inch thick
2 TBSP olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.  To make the sauce, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the marmalade, bourbon, vinegar and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the hot-pepper sauce and remove from the heat. Use the sauce immediately, or let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If refrigerated, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before using. Measure out 1/4 c. to use as a glaze for the chops and reserve.

2.  To make the salsa, combine the peaches, bell pepper, onion, chilies, cilantro, lime zest, lime juice, and ginger in a mdium bowl and toss gently to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight before serving.

3.  To cook the chops, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack.  If you do not have a grill, preheat a large saute pan and the oil over medium-high heat.

4.  Brush the chops on both sides with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the chops on both sides with some of the sauce.  If cooking on the stove, brush the top of the chop with the glaze once you've laid it in the pan.

5.  Grill the chops over the hottest part of a charcoal fire or directly over the heat elements of a gas grill, turning once and brushing with additional sauce, until cooked to your liking, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium (slightly pink at the center and juicy).  If cooking on the stove top, these times should remain the same.

6.  To serve, spoon remaining glaze over the chops and serve with one-fourth of the salsa. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thai Chicken Salad

Summer.  Perfect for vacations, perfect for hanging out with friends, and perfect for recipes that don't require much actual cooking.  When it's 115 degrees outside, running the oven isn't always that enticing, especially when what's inside it doesn't involve chocolate.  

This salad was so quick and simple to assemble; all it takes is some chopping and cooking off the chicken.  If you have a grill, you could grill the chicken, though I think the texture would be better just pan roasted.  The finished product is tasty, colorful, and very healthy.  What more you you ask for in a summer recipe?

Thai Chicken Salad
an "Apple a Day" original

1 1/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
2 TBSP chili garlic paste
1/2 c. unseasoned rice vinegar
3 TBSP fish sauce
2 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP lime juice
2 tsp. sugar
2 TBSP olive oil or non-stick cooking spray
1/2 small head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 small head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 c. red onion, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped

1.  Place the chicken in a wide shallow dish suitable for marinating.  Coat with chili garlic paste and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to eight hours.

2.  Make the dressing by combining the vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, and sugar in a small jar.  Shake to combine.  This may be done when the chicken is marinated or just before serving.  If done ahead of time, keep in the refrigerator, but remove 30 minutes prior to serving to allow the dressing to come to room temperature.

3.  Heat a pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil or non-stick coking spray.  Cook the chicken until cooked through, but still moist, about five to eight minutes per side, depending on thickness.  When chicken is done, let rest for three minutes, then chop into bite-size pieces.

4.  Meanwhile, combine cabbage, lettuce, carrot, onion, pepper, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Just before serving, toss with desired amount of dressing.  (Unused dressing with keep in the refrigerator up to two weeks.)

5.  To serve, divide salad mixture among four bowls, then top with avocado, chicken, and chopped peanuts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

31 While 31--Carnitas

My dad was in town and came over for dinner last night, so it was the prefect time to tackle of of my designated recipes.  I knew he'd love carnitas, but I did NOT want to run the oven all day.  I'm not joking when I say it was 113 degrees here yesterday!  Luckily, I found a slow cooker version that looked perfect.  And let me tell you, readers, it was yummy.  So yummy I'm glad I had tons of leftovers.  I think they'll freeze well so I can save them for the first week of school when I am way too exhausted to even think about making a grocery list.  I even think I'll make it again in the winter, when running the oven for three hours is all I'll need to heat the house for the day.


2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 boneless pork shoulder roast, 3 to 4 lb. (I used bone-in and it worked fine)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. Mexican lager-style beer (one bottle)
grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
grated zest and juice of 1 lime      
1 TBSP dried oregano

For serving:
warm corn or flour tortillas
lime wedges
chopped yellow onion
chopped fresh cilantro
cotija cheese (mild feta will work if you can't find cotija) 

1.  In a small bowl, combine the salt and pepper. Season the pork roast generously with the mixture.

2.  In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pork and cook, turning frequently until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

3.  Pour off all but a thin layer of fat in the pan (I didn't even have enough fat to worry about pouring off).  Add the onion and garlic and sauté just until they begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beer and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the pan bottom with a wooden spoon.

4.  Oven method: Preheat an oven to 350°F. Transfer the pork to a large Dutch oven and pour in the beer mixture. Add the orange and lime zests and juices and the oregano. Cover and cook until the pork is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Slow-cooker method: Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and pour in the beer mixture. Add the orange and lime zests and juices and the oregano. Cover and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until the pork is very tender, about 5 hours on high or 10 hours on low.

5.  Transfer the pork to a carving board and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Using a large, shallow spoon or a ladle, skim as much fat as possible from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a large, sharp knife and a fork, coarsely cut and shred the pork into small bite-size pieces.  (My pork was so tender, I couldn't even pick the shoulder up out of the slow cooker.  I just skimmed off the fat, then used tongs to pull of the bone and shred the meat.)

6.  Arrange the meat on a warmed platter or individual plates, moisten it lightly with the cooking juices, and serve immediately with the tortillas, lime wedges, chopped onion, salsa and cilantro. Serves 6 to 8.

Monday, July 12, 2010

31 While 31--Bumbleberry Pie

When I was drafting my "30 Things to Make While I'm 30" list, I very purposely included a berry pie.  I didn't specify the type of berry, but I knew I wanted the pie on my list.  Why?  Because I love berry pies and have never had much success in making them.  Oh sure, I've made a tasty apple-cranberry pie and an out-of-this-world pear pie with maple and ginger, but berry pies have proven to be more difficult for me.  Until now.

This bumbleberry pie was absolutely, positively, 110% a success!  The various thickening agents provided a perfectly set but not gelatinous filling and the pie crust recipe was flaky and buttery, yet sturdy enough to handle this pie.  Best of all, the combination of berries and fruit was just perfect.  The flavors really melded together to create a sweet and tart mixture that tasted natural and summery. 

I was so pleased with this pie, I decided to submit it to "You Want Pies With That?"  The July theme happened to be summer berry pies and I knew I had to share this recipe.  I will absolutely be making this again!

Bumbleberry Pie
adapted from

1 recipe pate brisee
1 c. blueberries
1 c. raspberries
1 c. strawberries, hulled and cut into one-inch pieces
1 c. Macintosh of Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into one-inch pieces
1 c. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces (about two stalks)
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 c. granulated sugar (I used half vanilla sugar and half regular)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 TBSP tapioca
1 egg
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP turbinado sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Remove pate brisee from the refrigerator and allow to warm very slightly.

2.  In a large bowl, gently mix all fruits with the lemon juice.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and tapioca.  Sprinkle over berries and stir very gently to coat.

4.  On a floured work surface, roll out one disk of pate brisee.  Lay in the bottom of a deep pie dish and smooth into the edges.  Leave the overhang.  Roll out the second disk.  If using mini cutters to create a design, do so now.  Leave to the side.

5.  Fill pie dish with fruit mixture.  Lay the top crust on top of the mixture.  Using a paring knife, trim extra crust, leaving a half-inch overhang.  Crimp edges by folding top crust under the bottom crust.  Seal by pressing gently with a fork or your fingers.  If not using mini cutters, use the paring knife to cut slits in the top.

6.  Whisk together the egg and water to create an egg wash.  Brush over the top of the pie.  Bake pie for 40 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle on turbinado sugar, if desired.  Bake for 15-20 minutes more.  Remove and allow to cool at least three hours on a wire rack before serving.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Perfect Pie Crust (Pate Brisee)

To me, the quality of a good pie depends on so many things.  The filling can't be too thick or too thin, it can't be too sweet or too tart, and the crust has to be sturdy enough to support the pie, yet light, flaky, and buttery at the same time.  

I searched through several cookbooks and looking for the recipe I felt could become my go-to perfect pie crust.  I settled on Martha Stewart's perfect pate brisee but incorporated a trick I learned from "America's Test Kitchen"--I replaced one tablespoon of the ice water with vodka.  According to the geniuses at ATK, when the alcohol cooks out, it makes for an even flakier pie dough.  I have to say, Martha and ATK sure know what they're talking about.  The dough was perfect!

Perfect Pate Brisée
adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar (I like to use vanilla sugar)
1 c. (2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 TBSP chilled vodka
1/4 to 1/2 c. ice water, less 1 TBSP

1.  Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a few seconds to combine.

2.  Add the butter pieces to the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten seconds.

3.  Add the vodka then the water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together.  Do not process for more than 30 seconds.

4.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.  Divide into two equal pieces and place on two separate sheets of plastic wrap.  Flatten into disks, then wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before using.  Make two 8 to 10-inch single-crust pies pies or one 8 to 10-inch double crust pie.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Quinoa with Salmon, Feta, and Dill

Looking for a quick and healthy dish to get you through the hot and hectic days of summer?  Want something that will keep you energized and ready to go all afternoon?  Here you go!  

quinoa salmon feta dill

Quinoa with Salmon, Feta, and Dill
an "Apple a Day" original

1 (10 oz.) cut of salmon
3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 c. water
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP fresh dill, minced
half of a cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/2 c. feta cheese, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat a non-stick pan on the stove over medium heat.  Meanwhile, salt and pepper the salmon filet.  When pan is heated, add 2 TBSP olive oil and cook salmon until cooked through but not dry, about 5-6 minutes per side.  Place salmon on a plate and set aside to cool down a bit.

2.  In a medium saucepan, bring the water, half the lemon zest, and half the lemon juice to a boil.  Once boiling, pour in the quinoa, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. 

3.  While quinoa is cooking, mince the garlic and dill and chop the cucumber and feta.

4. After the quinoa has simmered for 15 minutes, remove from the heat and uncover.  Fluff with a fork and gently stir in the garlic.  Allow to sit for three minutes to finish absorbing the water.

5.  With a fork, flake the salmon into large chunks and discard the skin.  Fold salmon, cucumber, feta, remaining lemon zest, lemon juice, and dill into the quinoa.  Salt and pepper as desired.

two years ago: salmon and edamame pasta salad

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tropical Granola

Ever since I first saw Annie's tropical granola, I knew that I wanted to make it.  I've always loved granola and, ever since I tried my hand and homemade granola last fall, I've wanted to give it another shot.  I'm so glad I did.  

I set out to make the granola just as Annie did, but found a few fun surprises at the store that prompted me to make several adaptations.  For starters, I found Santa Cruz Organic's new tropical fruit sauce, which I used in place of the fruit purees Annie used.  I found some unsweetened flaked coconut (finally!) and a great dried tropical fruit mixture.  Armed with these goodies, I was more ready than ever to get into the kitchen.

This granola is perfect for summer.  It's not at all heavy and it's full of fun and beachy flavors.  I've been loving it over plain yogurt and by the handful out of the container!

tropical granola

Tropical Granola
adapted from Annie's Eats

1 1/4 c. tropical fruit sauce
1/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. rolled oats 
2 1/2 c. puffed brown rice cereal
1 c. unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 c. macadamia nuts, chopped 
2 c. dried tropical fruit, chopped (I used banana chips, mango, papaya, and pineapple)

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together fruit sauce, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Fold in oats and rice cereal.  Spread on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes.   

3.  Using a large, wide spatula, turn sections of the granola over on the baking sheet.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until nearly dried.  Sprinkle coconut and macadamia nuts over the top and return to the oven for five minutes more.  If your granola layer is thick, you may need to bake it a bit longer, removing the edges that have cooked completely but making sure the center is done.   

4.  Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then crumble into a large airtight storage container.  Add dried fruit, then seal and shake well until evenly combined.

note:  I've also added this to Cara's coconut oil giveaway.  Go enter for yourself!
two years ago: all-American berry bundt cake