Thursday, August 30, 2012

Watermelon Limeaid

I've been in a bit of blogging funk lately.  I've only posted for the cooking and baking groups I belong to for the last month and a half.  If it wasn't for those groups, it would have been radio silence over here.  I don't know what my deal is.  I have a stash of recipes I've been making over the weeks along with photos to accompany them.  But every time I found myself in front of the laptop, I also found my mind to be blank.  The words did not come and the days continued to pass. 

I don't have a bunch of good excuses, like the dog cat ate my memory card with my photos on it or I was watching a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon.  Okay, maybe I was watching the Real Housewives, but not a marathon.  I watch those episodes within 24 hours of airing because I'm completely sucked into the train wreck of ridiculousness.  The point is, I have no excuse for my blogging pause.

Even as I sit here today, I'm not exactly sure where this post is going, but the bottom line is I know that I miss blogging.

And I didn't want miss the opportunity to share this watermelon limeaid with you before the summer passed us all by.  I made it on 4th of July when we had an other couple over for an impromptu barbecue.  It's a fun refreshing drink and nice to have something different.  You know, it feels special.  The watermelon and lime juice are very complimentary.  And it could be extra special if you splashed in a little vodka.  Either way, it's perfect for a Labor Day barbecue.  What are your plans for the long weekend?

Isn't it pretty?  And it tastes as good as it looks.


Watermelon Limeaid
adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

Makes 6-8 small cups

1 cups water
1/2  cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1 cup lime juice (from about 7 limes)
1 three pound watermelon, trimmed and cubed
Fresh Mint

Heat 1/2 cup of the water, sugar and lime zest in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add lime juice.

Line a colander or mesh strainer with a cheesecloth.  Place it over a large bowl and strain the sugar mixture to remove the pieces of lime zest.

Puree the watermelon in batches in a blender with the remaining 1/2 cup of water.  Strain the watermelon juice through the cheesecloth into the same bowl with the sugar/lime juice mixture.  It will take about 10-15 minutes to drain.  Gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze out the remaining juice.   Chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator.  Serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Non-Dairy Banana Chocolate Ice Cream Pie

Is it really August?  The time is flying and I can feel fall coming right around the corner.  That feeling is in my mind and not due to any sign from the hot and unseasonably humid weather that doesn't seem to let up.  I guess the thought of fall is more like wishful thinking at this point  But doesn't a pumpkin spice cake or warm apple pie sound delicious? 

In the meantime, I have this banana chocolate ice cream pie to cool me off.  I love the combination of banana and chocolate! 

Today marks another round of Secret Recipe Club.  This month I was assigned Deanna's blog, The Mommy Bowl.  The Mommy Bowl is dedicated to gluten free and dairy free recipes.  There's a charming story behind how The Mommy Bowl got it's name.  Deanna had a bowl, actually 3 bowls, that have been with her since childhood.  She managed to hang on to them through college dorm rooms, apartments and eventually marriage and children.  The bowls are still in Deanna's life and she always keeps one of the bowls at the ready for her morning cereal--The Mommy Bowl.  Her bowls have been filled with various things over the years and her blog is the journey to document what will fill her bowl next.  Don't you just love that?

When I first started browsing Deanna's blog, I'm not going to lie, I got nervous.  I have only baked gluten free once and butter and eggs, among other dairy products, are regular characters in my kitchen. What would I make?  The reality is whatever recipe I selected, I would have to go out and buy ingredients which are not staples in my pantry.  I was having a little bit of the fear of the unknown....but this is what Secret Recipe Club is all about.  Making new things.  New, tasty things.  :)

I ultimately decided to make Deanna's Non-Dairy Queen Ice Cream "Cake" a.k.a Banana Chocolate Ice Cream Cake.  But I turned mine into pie because I didn't have the mold rings Deanna used for hers.  But I do have a cute 6 inch mini pie pan.  And it worked perfectly!

What I enjoyed the most about making this was seeing how alternative ingredients turn into flavors that I'm familiar with.  Like turning dates, cocoa powder, honey and water into fudge sauce.  And it really does have a dark chocolate fudgey taste and consistency.  I would never guess I was eating dates!  Kind of cool!  It turns out my gluten free, dairy free fears were unfounded.  This ice cream pie is a delicious and refreshing summer treat.  It reminds me a lot of eating a chocolate covered frozen banana topped with nuts.  Who doesn't love those?  Especially on a hot day.

Thanks to Deanna for turning me onto the goodness of a non-dairy frozen dessert!  If you are looking for a variety of gluten free or dairy free recipes, including a ton of baked goods head over to The Mommy Bowl.


Non-Dairy Banana Chocolate Ice Cream Pie
adapted from The Mommy Bowl

Note: The Mommy Bowl makes an ice cream "cake" version using a round English muffin mold.  For this presentation head over to her site. 

Makes one 6 inch mini pie


2 tablespoons palm sugar
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (heaping) raw cacao (I used cacao nibs)

3 dried dates soaked in water for 1 hour
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder (I used cocoa powder)
1 teaspoon honey (not in original recipe)
1-2 tablespoons water

Ice Cream:
2 large bananas, peeled and frozen (I used 3 small)
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

Chocolate Sauce to drizzle on top:
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder (I used cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon coconut nectar, agave nectar or maple syrup (I used clover honey)
1 teaspoon water

Start by peeling and freezing the bananas.  I recommend doing this the night before you plan to make the dessert.  Prepare your mini pie pan (or you could use a 6 inch cake pan) by spraying it with non stick cooking spray. 

Make the Crust:
Next make the crust by combining all ingredients in a mini food processor until the nuts begin to break down and release some of their oil.  The crumbs should stick together when you press them together.  Press crumbs along bottom and sides of the pie pan.  Place pan in freezer for about an hour or until crust feels solid.

Make the Fudge:
While the crust is freezing, make the fudge by combining all the ingredients in a mini food processor and blend until smooth.  Spoon the fudge layer over the frozen crust, on the bottom and up the sides stopping about 1/4 inch from the top of the crust layer.  Return to the freezer for another hour or until the fudge is frozen.

Make the Ice Cream:
Blend bananas and non dairy milk in a large food processor until smooth and creamy and no chunks of banana remain.  Fill the pie with the banana "ice cream" and return to the freezer for 2-4 hours or until frozen through.

Make the Chocolate Sauce:
Mix the sauce by stirring all the ingredients together in a small bowl until it reaches a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle sauce over the frozen banana pie and return to the freezer for one final set up, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Cut, serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Strawberry Jell-O Salad

I started a walk/run routine first thing in the morning.  And when I say routine, I mean I've done it 4 times in the last 5 days.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good start.  But in reality, I don't trust myself.  I need to check back in a couple of weeks to determine if it really has the potential to be a routine.  I'm doing a 3 mile circuit and I walk some and run some.  My goal is to run the full route at some point.   I think it's necessary that this become a regular part of my day.  Mostly so I can eat more of this Strawberry Jell-O Salad and the array of other desserts my sweet tooth craves.

I've had my eye on this recipe ever since I bought Baked Explorations about a year and a half ago.  It was an easy pick when I was asked what recipe I wanted to host for this round of Club:Baked.  I can't say exactly why it originally caught my eye.  Probably because Jell-O brings me back to childhood.  My family never made a dessert quite like this when I was a child, but I can say my family surely enjoyed it when I brought it for a gathering this past weekend. 

I'm not exactly certain why it's called a salad...but call it what you want, it's damn tasty.  This dessert "salad" is layered in a 9x13 pan.  The bottom is a salty and slightly sweet crunchy pretzel crust.  The middle layer is smooth cream cheese filling that is lightened up by folding in fresh whipped cream.  The top is good old strawberry Jell-O from a box studded with fresh sliced strawberries.  Bring it all together in one bite and I'm a happy girl.

Each component of this recipe is easy to make.  It does require some planning ahead and a little bit of patience to allow the Jell-O to set up properly.  When I took my photos, I think my salad could have used a little more fridge time as it wasn't long until the Jell-O layer started to slowly slide off the cream cheese layer which resulted in far fewer photos than I would normally take. 

I doubled the recipe...sort of.  I wanted to take a full recipe to my family gathering on Sunday, but I didn't think setting up a photo shoot at the event would be the best approach.  And it's not so classy to bring over a dessert that's already been cut into.  So I made a small version just for me!  Problem is I misread the amount of Jell-O thinking it called for a 3 ounce box, when it actually called for a 6 ounce box.  After I was already well into the recipe, I realized that I had double of everything except Jell-O.  Despite the miscalculation, it still worked out just fine.  I had slightly thicker pretzel and cream cheese layers than pictured in the Baked book, but in the end it all tasted delicious.

To see how other Club: Bakers "salads" turned out head over the Club: Baked site.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Jell-O Salad
from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito


Jell-O Layer
1 six ounce package strawberry Jell-O
2 cups fresh strawberries sliced (about 14 ounces)

Pretzel Crust
8 ounces salty pretzels (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 pieces
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

Cream Cheese Layer
1 eight ounce page cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

To make the Jell-O layer
Prepare the Jello-O according to the instructions on the package.  Stir in sliced strawberries and refrigerate until it is partially set (about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the container you use--I used an extra large, shallow bowl and it took 1 hour to partially set).  While you wait for the Jell-O, make the other components of the recipe.

To Make the Pretzel Crust
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Prepare a 9x13 pan by buttering the sides and bottom or spray with non stick cooking spray.

Using a food processor, place in the pretzels in 2 batches, pulsing until coarse crumbs form (don't over process into a powder).  If you don't have a food processor you can crush the pretzels in a zip top bag using a rolling pin or the smooth side of a meat mallet until coarse crumbs form.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over low heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar and remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the pretzel pieces until well combined.  Pour pretzel mixture into your prepared pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan.  You can use your hand or a flat metal measuring cup to press the crumbs into a crust.  Don't press crust up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.

To Make the Cream Cheese Layer
Place the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl of stand mixer, or use a regular bowl and hand mixer (this is what I did) and beat on medium speed until fully combined (about 2 minutes).  In a clean bowl whip heavy cream on medium high speed with your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or you can whip it by hand with a whisk) until soft peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream in batches into the cream cheese mixture until fully combined.

Spread the cream cheese over the fully cooled crust.  Chill for 5 minutes in the refrigerator.  Pour the Jell-O over the cream cheese filling and cover and chill for 2 more hours or more before serving.

Store tightly covered and refrigerate for up to 3 days.