Basil Lemonade

 

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About a month ago, my beloved Aunt Khaki sent me a box of California lemons that came from right outside her back door. Apparently 2014 has been a stellar year for this citrus fruit in Santa Monica and she had more lemons than she could handle. I was giddy with excitement when she asked me for my mailing address. I welcomed recipe suggestions from others and I ended up making lemon muffins, blueberry lemon coffeecake, and salad dressings and marinades. Still, I had barely made a dent in my glorious supply and I was running out of time. Luckily, I stumbled upon a recipe for this basil lemonade and knew instantly that it would be perfect as it just so happens I have a flourishing basil plant in our herb garden. I got to juicing and plucked some basil and I was able to create this delicious and refreshing summer drink in no time.

I have a deep love for simple syrups. You may recall my borderline obsession with Northstar Cafe’s Fresh Ginger Ale , which is made with ginger simple syrup. This basil simple syrup is right up there as well. It is such a great way to jazz up the standard lemonade. This drink would make a great cocktail as well. Throw in a splash of rum or vodka and you’d be good to go.

I am really excited to experiment with more variations of simple syrups with summer’s bountiful supply of fresh produce. Mint, peaches, raspberries, cucumber. The possibilities are endless.

Have a fabulous Monday, everyone. I hope you enjoy this lemonade as much as we did!

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Oh, and I must throw in a photo of my little sugar dumpling. He doesn’t like lemons. Yet. :)

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Basil Lemonade 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice (about 12-15 lemons)
  • 2 cups filtered or sparkling water
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and stemmed (about 1 cup loose-packed)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Basil and lemon slices for garnish, optional

Directions 

1. Make the basil simple syrup: Place 2 cups sugar, basil leaves, and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutres. Be sure to gently muddle the basil with a spoon as you heat the syrup to intensify the flavor. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain the syrup over a sieve and discard the basil leaves. Store in the refrigerator if you are not going to serve the lemonade immediately.

2. Assemble the lemonade: Mix the lemon juice and 2 cups water or sparkling water together in a pitcher. Add in the cooled basil simple syrup and stir. Serve over ice with a garnish of lemon and basil.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis 

 

 

Life Lately

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Twenty fourteen is off to a fast and exciting start for our family. First, our lives forever and wonderfully changed with the addition of our sweet little rump roast. We spent the first few weeks of the year in a sleep-deprived, love-drunk, terrified-first-time-parent stupor. All the while, Robert and I finalized our decision to move back to the area we grew up as Robert was presented with a great career opportunity to open a satellite office for his engineering firm. We put our house on the market and, wouldn’t you know it,  it sold within 2 weeks. We are very thankful that our house sold so quickly in the cold, snowy chill of this Ohio February; but it also solidified that this move is a reality.

I will admit that it was a very difficult decision for us to make. We’ve lived in Columbus for the past 6 years and I have grown to adore this city. My heart is full of local pride in this place where we started our careers, where we bought our first home, where we developed lifelong friendships with some amazing folks,  and where we welcomed our first child into the world. I am a sentimental sap and I can’t help but have a hard time leaving the city where we’ve lovingly planted our roots. Columbus is a thriving area with lots of culture and a strong sense of community. There are so many fun things to do and see and a good amount of delicious restaurants in which we can feast.

I’ve shed a fair amount of tears as we prepare to move on and it took me a good deal of time to embrace what our next chapter holds. It will be a big transition reintegrating into rural, small-town life. We will be closer to Robert’s family and I have some very dear friends from high school that still live in the area; and it will be very nice to reconnect with them on a regular basis. We will have more space to roam and to grow and Smith will have the opportunity to explore in the woods, get dirty, build forts, fish, and ride his bike.

Though we will be further away from some of our beloved friends and family and we will not have the access to the conveniences and luxuries of city-living, we will still be our little family of three. And, just like one of my culinary idols, Ina Garten, wrote in the beginning of one of her cookbooks: “My home is wherever Jeffrey is.” Robert and Smith are my “Jeffrey,” and wherever we are all together is what fills my heart with joy. On to the next big adventure!

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Our Favorite Rump Roast

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We haven’t been doing too much cooking or baking around here lately. We’re too busy snuggling our little rump roast. Smith Robert, who was named in honor of my maternal grandmother’s maiden name, was born on New Year’s Eve at 12:29pm. He weighed a healthy 9 pounds 9 ounces and was 21.6 inches long. He is absolutely perfect. We are adjusting to our new life as a family of three and I will probably be back in the kitchen after our freezer meals run out. I can’t seem to focus on much else besides our precious little bundle these days.

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Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables & Cooking with Jess

How is that for a long title?

This past weekend, Jess and Greg came over for dinner and what seems like forever since Jess and I last got together for a “Cooking with Jess” segment. What can I say, we are busy folks. But, then again, who isn’t this time of year?

As always, Jess and I had a lovely time together and the food was equally wonderful. It’s not always easy to get together and sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day, but I’m always glad when we make it happen.

The menu consisted of mostly fall-inspired foods (with the exception of Jess’s tasty strawberry daiquiri shortcakes for dessert). In addition to the scrumptious dessert, we had classic pot roast, pumpkin soup, and wheat berry salad with roasted root vegetables. I had been eyeying the wheat berry salad recipe as a possible Thanksgiving side dish for a few weeks; and, after gentle coaxing from my Aunt Khaki, decided to include it on our holiday menu.

I could think of no better occasion to give the recipe a test run than cooking with my like-minded culinary friend, Jess.

Wheat berries, also known as Farro (as Khaki so lovingly educated me), are pine nut-sized Italian whole grains that are- in my opinion-a delicious hybrid between rice and pasta. It was somewhat tricky for me to find Farro as my usual grocery store didn’t carry it. I ended up getting it at Giant Eagle in the international section after nearly giving up hope. It tastes great cold or warm and it is even better in this salad with roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, pine nuts, and goat cheese. Although it’s not exactly traditional, I am looking forward to adding this to the table next Thursday.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables

Yield 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups wheat berries (farro)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup  dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2-3 ounces goat cheese, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly grease with spray oil. Set aside.

2. Place 2 quarts water in a medium pot. Add in about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Add in the bay leaves and wheat berries. Cook until chewy and tender, about 40 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, place the chopped vegetables on the foil-lined baking sheet. Toss lightly with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. When the wheat berries are done cooking, drain well and place in a large bowl. Add in the olive oil,cranberries, pine nuts, goat cheese, and roasted vegetables. Stir gently to combine (the goat cheese will melt into delicious creaminess). Serve hot or cold.

Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz

Chocolate Cream Puffs

Oh hey- just felt like posting mysterious pictures of cream puffs with no explanations last week. I had self-inflicted technical issues, but now I’m back. My mom made these beautiful puffs of delight for our Memorial Day party we had a few weeks ago. She happened to make them again this weekend and people always go crazy for them

While I love all things made from scratch, I have to admit the filling for these puffs are made with *gasp* boxed vanilla pudding. It saves some steps and it still is delicious; perhaps we’ll have to re-do this recipe sometime to experiment what impact a truly homemade filling would have on these babies.

We topped these particular cream puffs with my favorite fudge sauce and it really put the finishing touch on the tasty treat.

In other news, Robert and I got a whole flat of Ohio strawberries over the weekend and I am thinking up and researching different ways to use them. My mom suggested strawberry rhubarb jam, Robert wants his beloved strawberry shortcake, and I am on the hunt for some good savory ways to use these flavorful berry.

Any suggestions for savory (or any) strawberry recipes?

Chocolate Cream Puffs

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs

Filling:

  • 2-1/2 cups cold milk
  • 1 package (5.1 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Topping:

Homemade fudge sauce

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degreess. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with a silicone mat. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, combine butter and water. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring until the butter melts. Reduce heat to low; add flour and salt. Stir vigorously until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a stiff ball. Remove from the heat.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix until the mixture is combined and smooth and shiny.

4. With a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or with a tablespoon), pipe 2 inch rounds of dough onto the cookie sheet.

5. To make the filling,  whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until somewhat set. In another large bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla; fold into pudding. Pipe the filling into the cooled cream puff shells.

6. Spread the fudge sauce on top of the puffs and refrigerate until ready to use.

Source: Filling and pastry from Taste of Home

Life Lately

Whew! I can’t believe it’s already the middle of June. This summer is speeding by at record pace and it seems like there hasn’t been a lot of time for blogging. Don’t get me wrong- it’s been a good kind of busy. Full of cookouts, parties, and reuniting with some long lost friends. I’ve just gotten so caught up in the fun of things, I haven’t had much time to dedicate to cooking or baking.

Here’s what’s been going on in our neck of the woods lately:

My friend, Chelsea, is getting married next month. We celebrated her last few weeks as a bachelorette with a night out on the town. It was so much fun.

We ran the Warrior Dash. It’s a three and a half muddy obstacle course and more fun than I could have ever imagined. We will definitely be doing it again next year.

We have roommates! Our friends, Jess and Greg, recently bought a house, but can’t take possession until the end of June. So they’re living in our basement. :)

There’s a new addition on Robert’s side of the family. Baby Noah joined us last week. Congratulations to Robert’s cousin, Kerri, and her husband, David.

Our good friend from high school, Ryan, graduated medical school. Congrats, Ryan! His parents threw him a party and it just so happens they live in my childhood home. It was great to see Ryan and to take a trip down memory lane.

June has been a crazy month so far and I hope to be back to a more regular blogging schedule soon

Happy Monday, everyone!

Butterscoth Pie

Butterscotch Pie

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 (9 inch) pie crusts, prepared, baked and cooled
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350°.

2. In a medium-sized saucepan, stir brown sugar and butter until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cook 2-3 minutes longer on low-medium heat. Remove from heat.

3. Beat egg yolks in a separate small bowl.

4. In separate large bowl, mix flour with 1/2 of milk, until smooth. Carefully add beaten egg yolks and salt. Mix well. Blend remaining milk with this mixture.

5. Add flour mixture to saucepan with sugar/butter mixture and cook on medium-low heat until thickened (ranges from 30-45 minutes), stirring constantly.

6. Remove from heat and blend in vanilla extract. Stir constantly until well blended and slightly warm and then pour into a prepared (baked) 9″ pie crust. Allow to cool

7. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar. Spread over pie and refrigerate. Top with hazelnuts and drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.

Source: My mom, adapted from Food.com

Jalapeno Lime Grilled Chicken

It looks like the warm weather is here to stay in Ohio and that means grilling season is well under way. Robert and I have been taking full advantage of our trusty gas grill and have been using it for anything and everything we can- burgers, pizza, vegetables, and this jalapeno lime grilled chicken.

This marinade comes from a recipe for chicken fajitas, which is absolutely scrumptious; but this sauce so tasty on it’s own that it works for just a simple grilled chicken. The ingredients are simple and it it comes together faster than you can say, “the jalapeno juice is burning my eye.”

Welcome June, and welcome summer. Lots more grilling recipes coming your way!

Lime Jalapeno Grilled Chicken

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup juice from 2 to 3 limes
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, excess fat trimmed

Directions

1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vegetable oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, salt and pepper.

2. Place the chicken in a plastic resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

3. When ready to make the chicken, heat the grill over medium high heat. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until juices just run clear and a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees. Remove from the grill. Cover with tin foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes and then serve.

Source: Marinade from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally from Cooks Illustrated

Strawberry Pineapple Jam

My mom always made her own jam while we were growing up- blackberry, red raspberry, pepper jelly, strawberry. You name it. She is quite an ambitious woman. I took for granted the luxury of having stores of delicious jam at my fingertips, and especially realized this when I left for college and was stuck with cafeteria stuff.

Because I apparently wasn’t a very good helper to my mom, I always assumed making jam was  a seriously complicated and time-consuming task; and while it does take a little planning, I was pretty pleased with the fact that it isn’t as arduous an undertaking as I had previously thought.

You need very few ingredients- fruit, Sure-Jell pectin, and sugar. And it turns out that the Sure-Jell box has several ratios for different fruit jams on a sheet inside the package. Each fruit has different pectin levels that help the jam mixture set and, as I am in no way an expert in this arena, it was nice that all of that work was done for me.

Another perk, is that this jam didn’t need to be placed in a canner to achieve the seal on the jars. My mom told me about an easy trick in which you screw the lid and seal on, flip the jar over, and allow it to set for several hours. I let my jam set overnight and every single jar sealed perfectly. Excellent.

With strawberry season almost into full swing, this jam would be a delicious and great way to use up some of spring and summer’s bounty. And it makes  a great shower favor as well! :)

Strawberry Pineapple Jam

Ingredients

  • 3 cups clean and hulled strawberries, crushed
  • 2 cups pineapple, finely chopped
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar

Directions

1. Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

2. Measureexactly 3 cups crushed strawberries and 2 cups chopped pineapple into a large 6-8 quart pot.

3. Stir pectin into prepared fruit in pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat (it shouldn’t stop bubbling when boiled), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Carefully stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil approximately 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken on the spoon or when it thickens when placed in a small bowl over ice water.  Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

4.  Ladle the jam immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims with a wet washcloth to remove any jam on the outside of the jars. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Immediately turn the jars over and allow to set for several hours. The lids should seal with this method (you shouldn’t be able to spring back the lid with your finger). If it hasn’t sealed it must be stored in the refrigerator. Eat immediately or store sealed jars for several months.

Source: SURE-JELL

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake for my brother-in-law, Kenny’s, birthday last week. Young Ken turned 23 and has evolved into a self-proclaimed “non-dessert lover.” A bit strange, even freakish, if you ask me. Nonetheless, he does still hold a special place in his heart for cheesecake. So, I forced him to choose a birthday cheesecake I could make for him, and he requested chocolate peanut butter.

I did some research online and found this recipe from Taste of Home. It got great reviews and I made a few minor changes to it- like using homemade fudge instead of store bought, upping the Oreo amount in the crust, and being more liberal with the Reese cups (because how could that ever be a bad thing?).

Unfortunately, the day the cheesecake was served I was out of town attending one of my dear friend’s bridal showers and I didn’t get a chance to get a good picture of it pre-feast. Robert’s family and extended family were in town that day and I came home to find only a small sliver left. It was a success. I will definitely be making this dessert again, most likely for special occasions or after I’ve burned thousands of calories. ;)

If you’re looking for a true crowd-pleaser, look no further.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Yield: 14-16 servings

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed Oreos
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (doesn’t go in crust)

For the filling:

  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup hot fudge
  • 16-20 mini peanut butter cupcakes, chopped

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar, cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan. Cover the outer bottom and sides of the pan with tin foil (to prevent water in water bath from seeping into crust in later steps).
  • Place on a baking sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  •  In a microwave-safe bowl, heat peanut butter on high for 30 seconds or until softened. Spread evenly over the crust. Top with hot fudge and about 1/2 cup chopped peanut butter cups.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour 1 cup into a bowl; set aside. Pour remaining filling over peanut butter/fudge layer.
  • Using 1/4 cup warmed fudge, fold into reserved cream cheese mixture. Carefully pour and spread over filling.
  • Place pan in a pan or pot with about 1 inch deep water to prevent the cake from cracking while baking. Carefully place in the oven. Bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
  • Spread remaining hot fudge over cheesecake. Garnish with peanut butter cups. Refrigerate overnight before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers.

Source: Taste of Home