Memorial Day Apple Cake

McIntosh_Apples Most people only think of apple recipes during the fall, but I can’t think of anything more American than a red, juicy apple. Apples area available at a reasonable price year round, making them a great thing to cook and bake with.

Partially inspired by a recipe from Joy the Baker and a host of things viewed on Pinterest, this recipe is a cross between a cake and a fritter, and will hit the spot for anyone with a sweet tooth. (This girl!)

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Overnight Oats

Overnight-Oats

Overnight oatmeal is all the rage on Pinterest these days so I thought I’d give it a try. If you haven’t already heard, overnight oats are essentially just old fashioned oats, soaked overnight int he fridge and eaten cold in the morning. This kind of breakfast is perfect for someone on the go because it requires next to no effort int he morning. It’s also a great (healthy) cereal substitute. I’m a big lover of cereal – Rice Crispies, Lucky Charms, Raisin Brand, everything – so that was another big plus for me.

For the most basic versions, all you need is one part old fashioned oats and one part milk. I went with a lactose-free skim milk but you can really use any kind. That’s it. Seriously. You just stash it in the fridge overnight in an air-tight container and you have breakfast ready and waiting when you wake up.

Part of why this breakfast is so popular is because there are endless possibilities for toppings and flavors. For my test run I just did a traditional brown sugar and cinnamon version. But I think tomorrow I’ll try peanut butter banana. I’ve seen recipes with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit and my all-time favorite chia seeds. Let your imagination run wild!

See what else I’m looking at on Pinterest

Summertime Gazpacho

GazpachoMy boyfriend and I visited Portsmouth, NH last summer and had a wonderful dinner at a lovely little tapas restaurant that we’ve since forgotten the name of. If I ever remember, I’ll update this post because it’s definitely somewhere that I’d recommend getting a bite to eat if you’re in the area. We sat on a gorgeously intimate patio for dinner and one of the dishes that we ordered was a deconstructed gazpacho.

It arrived as perfectly segmented purees (cucumber and tomatoes/red peppers) with a swirl of olive oil decorating the top of each. Since that time, we’ve tried to recreate a decent gazpacho at home for assorted parties and dinners to together. We always debate the consistency because I prefer my gazpacho a bit smoother with a texture similar to soup, while he prefers his to be coarsely pureed and the consistency of salsa. What usually happens is that we make it his way and I water my bowl down a bit.

The recipe below makes a coarser gazpacho but you can always add a bit of water or vegetable stock to adjust the consistency to your preference.

  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes (I usually use canned because it’s easier.)
  • 7 oz. diced red bell pepper (The color doesn’t actually matter, red is just the prettiest.)
  • 7 oz. peeled, chopped cucumber
  • 5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 or 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • vegetable stock (optional add for consistency)
  • garnish with a few leaves of basil (if you’re feeling fancy)
  1. Roast the garlic by cutting the top off about a third a clove of garlic and roasting it in the over at 350 degrees with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – wrapped in tin foil – for 30-45 minutes.
  2. While the garlic is roasting, chop the bell pepper and the cucumber, removing the seeds from both.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chopped red pepper, chopped cucumber, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to a food processor and blend just short of desired consistency.
  4. After the garlic has roasted, discard the foil and remove two or three roasted cloves with a butter knife.
  5. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to the food processor and blend to desired consistency.

One of the best things about gazpacho is that it presents beautifully and because of that people think it’s really difficult. It’s a great way to impress guests or a significant other.

Skinny Vanilla Latte

Vanilla Latte

I am a true Starbucks lover. When I became lactose intolerant, I was forced to eschew those other coffee chains that often don’t carry non-dairy options. Several years later and I haven’t looked back. Something about that frothy treat hitting my lips that instantly makes my day better. Since this can be quite the expensive love affair, I decided to start making some drinks at home.

I have consumed a lot of mediocre lattes in my quest for my at-home treat, but here’s what I’ve come up with:
– 2 shots espresso
– 1 c steamed, frothed milk
– 1 tsp simple syrup
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Super Easy Sorbet

Sorbet

With summer right around the corner, I got the urge to dip into my recipe box for a fun sorbet. There’s nothing more refreshing than a tangy, cool summer treat. Since I recently snagged a bunch of fresh produce I decided to make lemon, grapefruit and strawberry sorbets.

The basic recipe is fairly easy to follow. It’s really just frozen simple syrup and a puree/juice. When using a puree to make my sorbet, I like to do 1:2 simple syrup to puree. In this case I did one cup of simple syrup and two cups of strawberry puree. (Full recipe below.)

Not all fruits lend themselves to a nice puree. As a hater of pulp, I stick to using the juices from my favorite citrus-y (but pulpy) fruits. When it comes to using juice to create a sorbet, I tend to do a 1:1, simple syrup to fruit juice. Since you’re lacking the solids of a puree, if you do 2:1, simple syrup to juice, you’re going to end up with a popsicle. For the lemon and grapefruit sorbets, I used one cup of simple syrup and one cup of fresh fruit juice. (Full recipes below.)

The creation process is as easy as the recipe. To create a cup of simple syrup, heat a cup of water in a sauce pan and dissolve in one cup of sugar. Stir over medium heat until the sugar fully dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Let it boil for one  minute and remove from the stove to cool. (If I’m being impatient, I will put it in the fridge to cool.)

While the simple syrup cools, create your puree or juice your fresh fruit. I like to add a splash (about a TBSP) of lemon juice to all my purees for that extra tart taste but it’s not necessary.

Once the syrup is cooled, combine it with the puree/juice. At this point, if you have an ice cream maker, just toss the mixture in there and you’re all set! We have the old-school Waring ice cream maker from the early ’90s. Despite the horridly designed box and graphics, you can’t fault it for being reliable. The only downfall is that the thing is SO loud. I seriously think I’d rather sitting on the tarmac at Laguardia Airport than sit in the same room as that ice cream maker. Since I just didn’t have the patience for that noise, I decided to use the freezer method.

Strawberry Sorbet

Dump the mixture into a 9 inch, metal baking dish and stash it in the freezer. Check it every hour or two and when the mixture is a little more than half frozen, pull it out, break it up with a fork (this shouldn’t be too hard) and run the whole thing through the blender or food processor. This will help infuse some of those delightful little air bubbles into the sorbet that you would naturally get from the churning of a traditional ice cream maker. If you’re busy chasing kids or catching zzz’s, it’s not the end of the world if you skip this step. But if you’re intent on following the directions you can always pull out the totally frozen sorbet, let it melt on the counter for a while and then blend it up again.

Without further adieu, here are the recipes that I used:

Lemon Sorbet

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c fresh squeezed lemon juice

Strawberry Sorbet

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 2 c fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice

Grapefruit Sorbet

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

Specialty Pizza – Made by You

Who doesn’t like pizza? Even after I became lactose intolerant I couldn’t resist the chewy goodness of a freshly baked pie. After more than a few stomach aches, I taught myself to make my beloved pizza at home. Thankfully, making pizza is basically the easiest thing ever.

DIY Pizza Dough
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can likely make a pretty good pizza dough with ingredients that you have around the kitchen.

  • 3 1/2 to 4 c flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 TBSP olive oil

Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

Grease the mixer bowl (or another large bowl if you’re into doing dishes) with a bit of olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it rise for about an hour. The dough should have about doubled in size. Divide it into 2 equal pieces and let them rest for 10 minutes before rolling out.

Top it Off
Now that you’re all rolled out, it’s onto the important part – toppings! I personally love salty toppings (Hawaiian pizza confuses me) so I’m sharing my favorite combination. Prosciutto, arugula and goat cheese.

  • 1/2 c arugula
  • 2 slices thinly cut prosciutto
  • 1/4 c goat cheese
  • 1/4 c mozzarella

This is pizza so feel free to add or subtract ingredients or adjust the amounts according to your taste. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes (depending on your oven).

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Cheers!
Lauren

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I’m a serious snacker. It has always been my diet downfall and the only way I know to combat it is to keep healthy, filling snacks around me at all times. Because of this, I go through about a dozen cliff bars and the like weekly. I got to thinking that making them can’t be all that hard, right? Here goes nothing:

Ingredients:
1/4 C coconut oil
1 C peanut butter (I used Teddy but I’m sure anything natural will give you the same results)
1/2 C agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 C quick oats
1/2 C shredded coconut
1/4 C sliced almonds
1/4 C salted sunflower seeds
1/2 C chocolate (I used our leftover chocolate easter bunnies because those are NOT snacks that I want sticking around.)

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  1. Line an 11 x 7 baking dish with waxed paper
  2. In a sauce pan, melt coconut oil, peanut butter and agave nectar, stirring consistently.
  3. While you’re melting, combine oats, shredded coconut, almonds and sunflower seeds in a separate bowl.
  4. When the peanut butter mixture is melted and smooth, remove from heat and fold in vanilla and dry ingredients.Image
  5. Press the mixture into the prepped pan, on top of the waxed paper. You have to really press it in there or the bars will come out crumbly. I used a meat tenderizer to press it in but I’m sure a heavy-duty spatula or the back of a small bowl would work just as well.
  6. Because I was upcycling some chocolate easter bunnies, I broke them into small pieces and melted them in the microwave by nuking them on high in 25-second increments until they’re melted.
  7. Once melted, I just used a spatula to spread the chocolate on top of the bars.
  8. Because I’m impatient, I tossed the whole pan in the fridge to cool but I’m sure you could just leave it on the counter for a few hours. Once cooled I dumped the whole batch out onto a cutting board, diced em up and wrapped them individually with plastic wrap.

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Spiced Cake Donuts

I have really fond memories of going after church to get donuts with the whole family.  As much as I still love the tasty treats, I’m wise enough to know that they are packing some major sugar/oil/fat content that I really don’t need to be eating.

I’m definitely not a martyr for moderation so my solution to these kinds of conundrums is to try to make it at home.  For this project I managed to pick up a donut pan for a few bucks at the discount store by my office – those big box discount stores are a goldmine for random kitchen utensils.  The only downfall is that they are stocked by chance so I would have grabbed two if they had been there but, alas, I only go the one.

Homemade Spiced Cake Donuts

  • 2 c cake flour
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 TBSP shortening
  1. In a large bowl mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
  2. Stir in milk, eggs, vanilla and shortening and beat together until well blended.
  3. Fill each donut cup about 3/4 of the way and bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 325 degrees.

Maple Glaze

  • 2 TBSP pure hot maple syrup
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  1. Heat the maple syrup and combine powdered sugar with a whisk until smooth.

Take the cooled donuts and dip them in the maple glaze.  Return to cooling rack to harden.

Sugar Cookies with a Lemon Glaze

Like all great recipes, this one comes from my grandmother.  Being the slovak that she is, if she could use lard for everything, she would.  Unfortunately for her, here in America, her doctor says no and the pescetarian in me thinks that is just gross.  But as far as I’m concerned, the real secret to fluffy sugar cookies is crisco.

Simple Sugar Cookies
2 3/4 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 C Shortening
1 1/2 C Sugar (I subbed Splenda this time around)
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla

As with all cookies, combine dry ingredients and then mix in the shortening, egg and vanilla.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  In my opinion, these cookies should be a tiny bit golden brown on the edges and never over-baked.

Lemon Glaze (simplest thing in the world and it sounds really fancy)
1 C Powdered Sugar
1/4 tsp Lemon Zest
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 Drops Yellow Food Color (optional)

Just whisk this up in literally 30 seconds.  I added yellow food coloring just to make the cookies a little prettier but it’s definitely not necessary.  I usually take the lazy-man’s approach and wait until the cookies cool and then dip them directly in the glaze.   This is the least messy option.