Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chicken with Artichoke-Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Do you ever find yourself using a certain ingredient over and over again in a pretty short time frame?  I definitely do that.  Sometimes I really get a craving and have to give in to it, sometimes I buy a large amount of something and don't want it to go to waste.  Other times, I just keep finding great recipes that happen to call for the same thing.  I'm sure you've already noticed, but this has happened with artichokes of late.  I did chicken with artichokes in white wine sauce, artichoke crostini, and the outstanding Israeli couscous with roasted asparagus, artichokes, and spinach.  Now this.  I hope you're not tired of artichokes yet because I think you'll really like it.  It's light, fresh, packed with flavor, and comes together in a pinch.  I think I'm working up quite an artichoke recipe rotation :-)

chicken with artichoke pesto

Chicken with Artichoke-Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
adapted from Scott Uehlein, Canyon Ranch Nourish

1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
4 (4-oz.) chicken breast halves or cutlets
1/2 c. water-packed canned artichoke hearts
3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 c. red onion, roughly chopped
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced, plus extra leaves for garnish
1 TBSP fresh lime juice

1.  Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Salt and pepper chicken, then cook 3-5  minutes per side.

2.  Meanwhile, place artichokes, garlic, tomatoes, onion, Parmesan, oregano, and lime juice in a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are uniformly chopped.  Salt and pepper, to taste, and process until combined.  

3.  Place chicken on four plates or one large serving platter.  Spoon pesto over top and garnish with additional oregano leave.  Serve immediately.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stone Fruit Pie with Almond Streusel

Welcome summer!  School's out and the sun is shining.  Best of all ( being out is actually best of all) it's time for summer produce--tomatoes, basil, zucchini, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, and peaches.  Especially peaches.  Fresh summer peaches just can't be beat.  If you ask me, peaches taste best when eaten standing over the sink.  There's just something so nostalgic about having fresh peach juice all over your mouth and running down your arm.  I can't help but picture myself, six years old, sporting pig tails and a slightly sunburned nose, back in Oklahoma in the house my grandfather built.  That sink was the best peach eating spot in the entire world.  So Mammo, Pappo, this pie is for you.  Thank you for all the wonderful summer days on the farm, going fishing, swimming at the lake, playing Old Maid, and eating summer pies just like this one.  I love you and miss you both everyday--especially summer days.

stone fruit pie

Stone Fruit Pie with Almond Streusel
adapted from Food and Wine, June 2012


For the streusel:
1/3 c. light brown sugar
4 TBSP all-purpose flour
4 TBSP slivered almonds
4 TBSP rolled oats
4 amaretti cookies, crumbled
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
6 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the filling:
2 1/2 lbs. assorted stone fruits, such as cherries, apricots, peaches and plums, sliced 1/3-in. thick (peel peaches and plums first--this is how)
1/3 c. sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 TBSP tapioca

1.  To make the streusel, combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter and, with a pastry cutter or your hands, cut or rub the butter into the mixture evenly. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

2.  Remove pie dough from refrigerator and, on a lightly floured work surface, roll pie dough to a 14-in. round, about 1/8 in. thick.  Fold the dough in half and transfer it to a deep dish pie plate.  Unfold dough and gently press it into the plate. Trim overhanging dough to 1/2 in. and fold it under itself; crimp decoratively.  Freeze pie shell for 10 minutes.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  While oven is heating, make the filling by tossing sliced fruit with sugar and lemon juice and let stand for 5 minutes for sugar to dissolve.  Stir in the cornstarch and tapioca. Scrape the fruit into the pie shell in an even layer.  Remove streusel from refrigerator and scatter the evenly over the top.

4.  Bake pie in the lower third of the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit starts to bubble around the sides.  If sides brown too quickly (mine did) cover with foil.  Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.  Pie is best served the day it is made, but will keep, refrigerated, up to three days.  Serves 8-12.

*Note:  If you can't find amaretti cookies, just omit and increase flour, almonds, and oats to 6 TBSP each.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fettuccine with White Beans, Mascarpone, and Prosciutto

After my trip to Italy, pasta will never be the same.  I've simply never tasted anything like the fresh, homemade pasta I enjoyed in Venice.  It was beautiful on the plate and soft in the mouth.  At times, I barely had to chew because it would literally just melt away.  In a word, it was heavenly.

Sadly, fresh pasta is a little tougher to come by in Phoenix.  I know I could make it myself and, believe me, it's a major priority for me this summer when I have more time and tomatoes and basil are fresh and just begging to be made into a simple sauce.  For now, a very busy time, I'm making do with dried pasta.  It wasn't the mouthful of perfection I loved in Venice, but with this outstanding, creamy sauce, it was definitely a winner.  If you can make or find fresh pasta, go for it.  This recipe absolutely deserves it.

fettuccine with white beans mascarpone prosciutto

Fettuccine with White Beans, Mascarpone, and Prosciutto
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

1 lb. fettuccine
3 TBSP unsalted butter
3 TBSP olive oil
5 medium leeks, white portion only, cut into thin rounds 
2 (15-oz.) cans white beans 
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into narrow strips
large handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

1.  Bring a large pot two-thirds full of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add leeks and sauté until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add the beans, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and sauté 1 minute.  Add the stock and simmer about 4 minutes.
3.  Remove pan from heat, add the mascarpone and lemon zest, and stir until the cheese is melted. (High heat can make mascarpone separate.)
4.  Drain the pasta and transfer to pan containing bean mixture.  Add prosciutto, basil, and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss to combine.  Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately and pass the remaining cheese at the table. Serves 4-6.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meatless Monday--Watercress and Quinoa Salad

It's been a little while (too long!) and I am so glad to bring you another Meatless Monday recipe.  This super healthy and exceptionally flavorful recipe comes from Cookie and Kate, a blog I've been loving lately.  Kate's blog is packed with colorful, enticing, vegetarian fare.  I've already got quite a long list of her recipes on my must make list.  If the rest of them are anything like this (and I think they will be) I am going to be a very happy, very full girl.  And I'm okay with that :-)

Watercress and Quinoa Salad
adapted from Cookie and Kate

Ginger Vinaigrette:
1 (1-in.) piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped (if grated on a Microplane, you don’t need to peel it)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
2 TBSP peanut oil, olive oil or vegetable oil
2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
2 TBSP reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1/2 tsp. honey 
healthy pinch red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper, to taste

1 big bunch watercress, very roughly chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 to 3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced and roughly chopped
1/4 c. green onion, chopped (both white and green parts)
1 1/2 c. shelled edamame (I used frozen)
1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa, any color (I use a 3:1 ratio of water to quinoa, draining any excess water after cooking)

1.  To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together and set it aside.  Alternately, put all ingredients in a jar, seal well, and shake vigorously to combine.  (Make the dressing at least an hour in advance to allow the flavors to bloom.

2.  Rinse the quinoa in a mesh colander and then cook according to package directions.  At end of cooking time, remove lid, drain any excess water, and fluff quinoa.

3.  Near the end of quinoa's cooking time, cook the edamame.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour in frozen edamame. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the edamame is warmed through, 4-5 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool slightly.

4.  Toss the watercress, pepper, celery, and onion in a large bowl. Once the edamame and rice have cooled, add them to the bowl and toss. Whisk or shake dressing once more and pour into the bowl.  Toss well to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Serves four as a main dish or six as a side.

*Congratulations Stephanie, commenter #100!  You are the winner of last week's giveaway.  Enjoy your Williams-Sonoma gift card and Cocktail Parties book!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Venetian Sunset

This drink is the perfect way to wind down my week-long cocktail party.  After all, I just recently returned from an amazing trip to Venice.  This wasn't a drink I ever had there, but the name alone made it perfect.  

But don't be fooled--just because the name has "sunset" in it doesn't mean this is an easy sipping drink for the front porch.  This bambino is NO JOKE.  It's strong and it's good.  So bottoms, up readers.  Here's to a great week of celebrating, a great giveaway (details below), and many more years of food and fun here on Apple a Day.  Cin cin!

Venetian Sunset
from Williams-Sonoma, Cocktail Parties

ice cubes
3 TBSP gin
1 TBSP dry vermouth
1 TBSP Campari
1 TBSP Grand Marnier
orange twist, for garnish

1.  Chill a cocktail glass and fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice.  Pour all alcohols into shaker, cover with lid, and shake about 20 seconds.  Strain into glass and garnish with orange twist.  Makes one drink.

*And now you last reminder for this week's giveaway.  Remember, you can enter three times for each post this week.  At stake--a copy of the book I used for this week's recipes (except Aperol Spritz) and a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card.  You know you could have fun with that!  Here's how to get your three entries:

1.  Leave a comment on today's post telling me what drink, cocktail or non-alcoholic, you've never had but would love to try.  

2.  Either like Apple a Day's new facebook page and come back here to tell me you've done so or, if you've already liked the page, leave a comment on the facebook page question of the day and come back here to tell me you've done so.
3.  Tweet the following message (just copy and paste the text in between the stars): *I entered to win a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card on Apple a Day!  You can enter here: @appleadayblog*  Once you've tweeted, come back to today's post and tell me you've tweeted.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dates with Walnuts and Parmesan

I know I complain (a lot) about the lack of good produce here in the middle of the desert.  It's true--there are so many things that just don't grow well here because the heat turns them to mush before they've had adequate time to grow.  Sure, it's fun to have perfect peaches two months before everyone else, but the fun is over right about the time the rest of the country is just getting their first taste.  One thing we can grow really well here are dates.  Palm trees do well here with Phoenix's H.O.T. weather.  Our date palms produce lots and lots of huge, perfectly sweet dates.  This fact made choosing today's appetizer quite easy.

Keeping in line with simple, yet outstanding, appetizers than can be made ahead, I've got a tray of beautiful Arizona dates filled with Parmesan and walnuts.  I know lots of people don't like or have never tried dates, but M and I love them.  In fact, all three of these ingredients rank at the top of my list of likes, so I knew these would be good.  But, wow!  I seriously underestimated how tasty they would be.  Somehow, the Parmesan and date combine to make a perfectly creamy combination that isn't just two flavors working together, but two flavors creating a whole new one.  To say we enjoyed these would be a serious understatement.

Don't forget about this week's giveaway!  You only have two more days to enter, but you can rack up six entries between the two days.  Here's how:

1.  Leave a comment on today's post telling me what unpopular food you like.  

2.  Either like Apple a Day's new facebook page and come back here to tell me you've done so or, if you've already liked the page, leave a comment on the facebook page question of the day and come back here to tell me you've done so.

3.  Tweet the following message (just copy and paste the text in between the stars): *I entered to win a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card on Apple a Day!  You can enter here: @appleadayblog*  Once you've tweeted, come back to today's post and tell me you've tweeted.

dates with walnuts parmesan

Dates with Walnuts and Parmesan
from Williams-Sonoma, Cocktail Parties

24 walnut halves
24 dates
Parmesan cheese 

1.  Place the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant.  Set aside and allow to cool.

2.  Meanwhile, slice dates lengthwise, leaving the ends in tact.  Using the tip of your knife, remove the pits.  Slice the Parmesan cheese into 24 matchstick or thin, narrow slices.

3.  Once the walnuts have cooled, assemble appetizers bu tucking a piece of cheese and walnut half into each date.  Can be made and kept in the refrigerator up to 4 hours ahead.  Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to take the chill off.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

White Grape Splash

I have to say, I always feel bad for expectant and nursing mother when they're out at evening events.  I'm definitely not saying those events can't be fun unless you're drinking, but it makes me crazy when the only beverage choices are alcoholic, caffeinated, or water.  It's like nobody considered the moms or even people who don't drink.  How rude!

At my cocktail party, everyone gets remembered.  After all, light and pretty drinks like this one are delicious any time, especially in the hot summer months.  This particular recipe could be adapted in an infinite number of ways.  I'm already dreaming up a version with peach nectar and frozen raspberries.

I hope you're dreaming of what you'd do with a copy of Williams-Sonoma's Cocktail Parties and a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card.  Today marks the middle of the entry period, so make sure you're getting each of your three entry EVERYDAY this week.  Remember, you can:

1.  Leave a comment on today's post telling me what your favorite non-alcoholic beverage is. 

2.  Either like Apple a Day's new facebook page and come back here to tell me you've done so or, if you've already liked the page, leave a comment on the facebook page question of the day and come back here to tell me you've done so.

3.  Tweet the following message (just copy and paste the text in between the stars): *I entered to win a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card on Apple a Day!  You can enter here: @appleadayblog*  Once you've tweeted, come back to today's post and tell me you've tweeted.

White Grape Splash
from Williams-Sonoma, Cocktail Parties

ice cubes
2-3 bunches red or green grapes, frozen
3 c. white grape juice
1 bottle sparkling water
fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

1.  Put several ice cubes and 6 frozen grapes in the bottom of four tumblers or wineglasses.  Pour 3/4 c. grape juice into each glass.  Pour 1/4 c. sparkling water over the grape juice.  Garnish each glass with a mint sprig and serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Artichoke Crostini and Radishes with Butter and Sea Salt

So, I whet your palate with an aperitif yesterday.  Let's move this cocktail party along with some appetizers!

As a frequent hostess, I am always on the lookout for crowd-pleasing munchies I can prepare entirely or largely ahead of time.  It's true I love being the kitchen, but when I have guests, I want to spend time with them!  It's also true I love spending inordinate amounts of time on lengthy, complicated recipes.  That doesn't mean I want everything I make to be that way, though.  I truly do enjoy making a dish people enjoy only to be able to tell them how easy it was and convince them they can make it, too. 

These two appetizers make the grade in both of these categories.  The radishes with butter and sea salt, a classic French combination, barely even count for a recipe.  You just clean and prep the radishes and put out some butter and a dish of sea salt.  If you're expecting a large crowd, you can halve the radishes and smear them with butter and sprinkle on the salt.  The artichoke spread is a pour and process kind of recipe.  It can even be made the day before.  Frankly, it tastes even better after the flavors have had a chance to meld for a couple of hours.

Both of today's recipes come from Williams-Sonoma's Cocktail Parties book, which is packed with recipes just like these.  If you'd like to win a copy along with a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card, don't forget to submit your three entries for the day.  I'll choose the winner, by random integer generator, first thing Saturday morning, so you can enter right up until midnight on Friday.  Here's how:

1.  Leave a comment on today's post telling me what you think of these recipes. 

2.  Either like Apple a Day's new facebook page and come back here to tell me you've done so.  If you already liked the page yesterday, leave a comment on the facebook page question of the day and come back here to tell me.

3.  Tweet the following message: *I entered to win a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card on Apple a Day!  You can enter here: @appleadayblog*  Once you've tweeted, come back to that day's post and leave a post letting me know.
Good luck!

artichoke crostini

Artichoke Crostini and Radishes with Butter and Sea Salt
from Williams-Sonoma, Cocktail Parties

For radishes:
1 bunch radishes for each 6 guests
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
sea salt 

For artichoke crostini:
1 large baguette, sliced into 1/4-in. rounds
1 (14-oz.) can water-packed artichokes hearts
1 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used olive oil)
3/4 c. freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
salt, to taste
fresh parsley, left whole or chiffonade, for garnish

1.  Prepare radishes by trimming the roots and stems without cutting into the body.  Leave whole or cut in half.  Put the butter into a ramekin and smooth the top.  Put the sea salt in a small dish.  To serve, arrange radishes on a platter and put out with butter, salt, and several small knives.  (Alternately, serve radishes already buttered and salted.)

2.  For artichoke crostini, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until slightly golden, 5-7 minutes per side, depending on desired crispness.  Remove from oven and let cool.

3.  Meanwhile, drain, rinse, and pat artichoke hearts dry.  Coarsely chop them and place in a food processor along with butter or oil, cheese, pepper, and lemon juice.  Purée until smooth, then season to taste with salt.

4.  When crostini have cooled, spread with artichoke mixture, garnish with parsley, and arrange on a platter.  Serves 8-10.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Aperol Spritz

So...what do you think?  You like the new digs?  I sure hope so because my web designer, Brooke, with Smitten Designs, and I have been working hard to get this all put together.  I wanted my blog to reflect the bright, fun food I like to make, as well as my love of comforting and entertaining those I love.  I think she did an amazing job.  Hopefully you think the same.  

To celebrate, I'm hosting a week long cocktail party!  I'll be posting a new recipe every day this week--two cocktails, one non-alcoholic beverage, and a small handful of appetizers for you and your guests to nosh on.  With the exception of today's drink, something I feel in love with in Venice, all the recipes come from Williams-Sonoma's Cocktail Parites: Inspired Recipes and Party Ideas for Entertaining with Friends.  And guess what?  To celebrate and thank all of your for being such loyal readers, I'm giving away a copy of this great book along with a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card so you can stock up on stemware, cocktail napkins, and anything else you might need for a party of your own. can enter THREE times each day this week.  Here's how:

1.  Leave a comment on that day's post telling me what you think of the recipe.

2.  Like Apple a Day's new facebook page.  Come back here and leave a comment you've done so.  Once you've liked the page, leave a comment on the question of the day and come back here to tell me you've left an answer.

3.  Tweet the following message: *I entered to win a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card on Apple a Day!  You can enter here: @appleadayblog*  Once you've tweeted, come back to that day's post and leave a post letting me know.

So, to get this party started, I'm sharing an Aperol Spritz, an aperitif drink with orange and herbal notes I enjoyed in Venice.  It's simple to make, not terribly sweet, and makes for a great light beverage in the late afternoon or early evening before a meal.  It's incredibly popular across Italy and it's now popular in my kitchen.  I hope you'll like it too.

aperol spritz

Aperol Spritz
from Aperol

6 oz. Prosecco
4 oz. Aperol
splash soda or seltzer water
orange wedges

1.  Place a few ice cubes in a glass.  (In Venice, I saw spritzes served in stemmed wine glasses, stemless wine glasses, and double old fashioned glasses, so any glass will work.)  Pour Prosecco and Aperol in glass.  Add splash of soda and top with orange slice.  Enjoy.  Makes 1 drink. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze for Erin's Baby Shower

Whenever I stop to think of my Oklahoma roots  I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I am so lucky to be from a place where faith, family, friends, and food are so treasured.  Every gathering I can remember--from childhood birthday parties to holidays to church functions--just wouldn't have been complete without a table full of lovingly homemade salads, pies, and cakes.  After my grandfather's death, nearly every single family from our town sent a representative to make sure were were properly fed.  When my sister passed away, we literally had more food than we could fit in our freezer and on our counters; we were happy to take a large amount of it to the local firehouse.   Holidays?  Church functions?  You'd better be ready for multiple versions of pies and cakes because bring a pie isn't just about pie--it's about pride

Today, I am so glad to bring this pride in baking and love of friends to a very special blog post.  It's Erin's virtual baby shower, y'all!  I've known Erin for quite some time and here's something I am 100% positive about her--she loves family, friends, and food just as much as I do.  Her appreciation for those things run just as deep as the joy she feels exploring new shops and restaurant in her beloved city of Nashville.  Just like a true Southerner, she places great value in knowing she is supporting those who don't just sells lattes, food, and music, they craft it with pride and love.  With that in mind, it was quite easy to decide on a shower of Southern-themed goodies.  To see the whole spread, head on over to The Novice Chef, where our hostess, Jessica, has posted the whole roundup.

Erin, I am so happy for you.  I hope this cake fills your (baby) belly and your heart with cake, warmth, and beautiful thoughts of passing a legacy of homemade holidays and gathering on to your little one.

Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze
from Robbin Gourley, Sugar Pie and Jelly Roll: Sweets from a Southern Kitchen

For the cake:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
12 oz. fig preserves (I like Bonne Maman
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. chopped pecans, divided (optional)

For the glaze:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 TBSP light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10-in. fluted tube pan.

2.  In a bowl sift together flour, spices, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together oil and sugar until honey colored.  Stir in eggs, one at a time, then mix in fig preserves.

4.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk and beat until  thoroughly moistened.  Stir in vanilla extract and add 1 cup pecans, if desired.

5.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan, on a wire rack, 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving platter or cake stand and let cool 15 minutes more.  

6.  Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by combining all ingredients except vanilla in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Boil 4 minutes, then remove from heat and add vanilla.  Let cool 3 minutes before carefully pouring over warm cake.  (I did not use all the glaze.)  Serves 12-16.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Meatless Monday--Gooey Guacamole Grilled Cheese

To be honest, this sandwich was a way to use up some groceries before they went to waste.  I had grilled cheese sandwiches planned so I could use some fantastic cheddar I'd found.  But then I had an onion, some fresh salsa, and one lonely avocado just clinging to its last day of goodness.  What the heck, I thought--Why not mash up the avocado, add the last bit of salsa to it, and put it on the grilled cheese with some onion slices?  

Now the question is "Why not do it again?"  Because man, was it good.  Gooey, and melty, and good.  I can't wait to repeat this sandwich with some spicy pepper jack.

guacamole grilled cheese

Gooey Guacamole Grilled Cheese
an "Apple a Day" original

1 small avocado
1/4 c. your favorite salsa or pico de gallo
4 slices your favorite bread
2 TBSP butter or mayonnaise
4 slices cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack recommended)
sliced onions, to taste

1.  Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat.

2.  Mash avocado and combine with salsa or pico de gallo.  Add salt or pepper, as necessary, keeping in mind that the cheese will add saltiness.

3.  Spread butter or mayo on on side of each piece of bread.  Assemble sandwiches so guacamole and onions slices are in the middle of the cheese slices.

4.  Cook sandwiches until cheese begins to melt.  Flip and repeat until bread is nicely browned and all cheese is melted and oozing.  Serves 2--have the napkins ready!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I was lucky enough to take a fabulous trip to Venice.  It was truly the vacation of a lifetime.  The history, the architecture, the art--it was all amazing. 

But the food...oh the food.  I don't even think I have the words in my vocabulary to describe all the truly incredible things we ate.  The melt-in-your-mouth pasta, the most perfect grilled vegetables, the freshest seafood imaginable, and the gelato.  Oh my goodness, the gelato.  I had gelato every afternoon.  By about day four of the trip, I decided I needed to start going for the double scoop if I was going to come anywhere near trying all the flavors I wanted to taste.  This picture is my last cone in Venice--a scoop of rich, dark chocolate on the bottom topped with a scoop of amarena, a sweet cream base with ribbons of sour cherry throughout.  Perfection.

Needless to say, I've been going through withdrawals ever since I came home.  About two weeks after I returned, I went to a popular gelato place here in town.  I loved the gelato there before my trip, but knew I wouldn't be able to view it in the same way once I'd had the real deal.  As I feared, it didn't even come close.  This homemade chocolate-hazelnut gelato wasn't the same either, but it was certainly fun to try.  It was very good and it had the softer texture I loved about Italian gelato.  I'll definitely make it again.  I can eat it and dream about the day I'll return to Venice.   

chocolate hazelnut gelato

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato
from Giada DeLaurentiis via Food Network

2 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. cup sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella
1/2 c. toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish

1.  In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 c. sugar over medium heat. Cook until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.  Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7-10 minutes.

3.  Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves.  Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker, then follow manufacturer's instructions.  Place in airtight container in freezer at least four hours before serving.  To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with hazelnuts.  Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seis Recipes for Cinco de Mayo

I would've worked better if I'd chosen cinco recipes for Cinco de Mayo.  But let's be real, pretty much none of us are celebrating this day because of our deep knowledge of Mexican history and cultural celebrations.  We're here because this, at least for most Americans, Cinco de Mayo is a really good reason to gorge ourselves on incredible food and drown ourselves in pitchers of margaritas.  So be it.  To me, it's all good as long as we realize we're here for the fun.  Nothing wrong with having some fun.  These recipes can help you :-)

bottom row: tropical chicken tacos, grapefruit margaritas, sopaipilla cheesecake