Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Curd

It's July...very close to August.  Are you all aware of that?  I swear I blink and another month passes.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing.  But I am excited about this month's Secret Recipe Club post.  I was assigned the lovely blog, Teaspoon of Spice written by Deanna and Serena, both registered dietitians.  Their blog focuses on healthy yet delicious foods.  In fact they teamed up to start a monthly healthy recipe blog challenge called the Recipe Redux.  It's all about taking recipes and making them better for you, but still keeping them tasty.  I know I could use more of those kinds of recipes in my life!  I have a number of tasty things bookmarked already!

As with every Secret Recipe Club assignment, I always have difficulty choosing just one recipe.  Though it wasn't easy, I finally selected blueberry lemon curd.  I have a love for preserves and curds and just happened to be flush with an abundance of blueberries.  Plus I was totally intrigued by the idea of a blueberry based curd.  I've only made lemon curd in the past and I've really only seen citrus curds.

Blueberry lemon curd rocks!  In case you were wondering.

It's has a rich consistency from the egg yolks and butter, standard ingredients that turn a preserve into a curd (along with a little cornstarch).  I've been eating my new favorite curd for breakfast nearly every day this week on half of my English muffin, smearing peanut butter on the other half (these two pair together nicely).  But for you all, I wanted to share a presentation beyond the English muffin. 

This weekend I set out to pair this beautiful blueberry curd with something equally special.  I thought it would be the perfect time to finally try my hand at French macarons.  The curd would be the filling between those delicate sandwich cookies.  Sadly, the macarons were a huge flop.  I'm not sure where it all went wrong, but I couldn't even pry the little shells off the parchment paper after baking.  3 sheet pans full...into the garbage. 

My second attempt to use the curd was in a recipe I recently saw on Pinterest for lemon bar muddy buddies.  Why not make them BLUEBERRY lemon bar muddy buddies?  Perhaps there is a good reason because, again, I'm not sure where it all went wrong.  The muddy buddies were overly sweet and turned to sog city after a few hours and shortly thereafter, joined the fallen macarons in the trash. :(  Strike two!

I half thought about making homemade linzers, but at that point it just wasn't in me to start another recipe.  Instead I found adorable shortbread tart shells in the baking aisle of my local grocery store. A homerun! The tart shells make a perfect vessel for blueberry lemon curd.  Besides, aren't they the cutest little things?  I happened to have some left over cream cheese frosting to pipe a little flower on top of each one.  Let me tell you, simple is often best.  A perfect blueberry pie bite.

Blueberry lemon curd will be joining my list of keeper recipes!


Blueberry Lemon Curd
from Teaspoon of Spice

Yields about 2 1/2 cups

3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat blueberries, sugar and lemon juice, stirring occasionally over medium/high heat.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 6 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and allow to stand and cool about 5-10 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture.  Alternatively you can transfer the blueberry mixture to a blender.  Please be careful though!  It's incredibly hot liquid. 

Return pan to medium/low heat.  Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and egg yolks until smooth.  Add to the blueberry mixture, whisking constantly.  Allow mixture to come to a boil.  Boil for one minute whisking constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and salt.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so, whisking occasionally to continue to release the heat.  Spoon into jars or containers with an airtight seal and continue to cool for another 15 minutes of so.  Seal and refrigerate.

Notes: I used 1 cup of sugar because my blueberries were quite tart.

Monday, July 15, 2013

No Bake Peanut Butter "Cookies"

Summer is zipping by.  The last few months have truly flown. Things have been busier than usual around here.  And exciting too!  A lot has been going on... 

Like, I will be starting a new job in a few weeks at my current company.  :) It's a promotion (of sorts) and I'm very excited about the new role!  I will miss my current team greatly, but am so ready (and a little nervous) for this step. 

My family celebrated my Grandfather's 96th birthday in early June and I made a big cake (and dip) to feed 25 people.  In case you're wondering, it was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  The cake turned out pretty good for an amateur.   

Then, a couple of weeks ago I said the first new car I ever bought, way back in college.  I had that car for 16 years (I guess I'm dating myself here)!  Anyway, the car served me very well but it was time bid it adieu!  It actually went to a good cause...we donated it to an organization that gives the proceeds to the troops. 

And with a goodbye, I got to welcome a new car into the picture, which I LOVE!  I ended up getting a hybrid...I couldn't resist the great gas mileage and opportunity to save a few bucks at the pump.  When living in Southern California, this is a very good thing! 

Then last weekend, I baked my second big cake in just over a month.  My very close friend and her husband threw a big birthday bash for their sons and I brought along another chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (chocolate cream cheese frosting to be exact!)--this time to feed 40!  I have to say baking the cake is the easy part....putting it together and decorating it is another story.  But I'm getting better.  The cake was a big hit! 

And since I had a large captive audience at the party, I took the opportunity to test out the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe as well.  It did not disappoint.  Definitely a winner and it may just be "the one".  Unfortunately the cookies were all gobbled up before I could photograph them, so you know what that means?  More cookies! 

I have to take a moment to give a shout out to Hubby...he not only helped me get the massive 3 layer sheet cake put together, but he also scooped and baked off all the cookies because I was running out of time.  Thanks Hubs!  You're a keeper! ;)

This is the first weekend that things have settled down.  And I'm ready for a brief lull in the all the excitement and activity.  Other than the aforementioned cakes and cookies, I've done little baking in the last several weeks.  In fact, I have been avoiding the oven.  Mostly because it's too darn hot out.  But a girl still needs her sweet fix.  I thought this would be the perfect time to finally try a "no-bake" cookie recipe. 

This version comes from the book Baked Explorations, where I've made a number of traditional "baked" cookie recipes.  Like the authors of the book, I have a hard time truly classifying this as a "cookie."  It's not so much a cookie.  It is more in the confections/candy bar-esque category if you ask me.  But, that doesn't make it any less tasty!  The recipe title indicates this is a peanut butter cookie, but there is a pronounced chocolate element as well with the inclusion of cocoa powder.  You all know how I'm a fan of chocolate and peanut butter together. ;) So this was a winner for me.  And the oats bring in a nice chewy factor.  It definitely satisfied my sweet tooth (a few times this weekend).  The best part--no oven needed! 


No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Yields 36 cookies

1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Guittard)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and softened
1 cup chunky peanut butter (smooth can be used as well)*
3 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan heat milk, sugar, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly.  Once the mixture is boiling, stop stirring and allow to boil for 90 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in peanut butter, oats and vanilla until fully combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop (about 1 1/2 inches wide) with a release mechanism, scoop out cookies onto the prepared baking sheet leaving room in between as they spread a bit.  You can also use a tablespoon to drop the cookies onto the baking sheet.  Once the cookies are cool, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill for an hour.  Serve cold or you can also return them to room temperature.  The cookies should be stored in an airtight container separated by layers of parchment paper for up to 3 days.

*You can also use natural peanut butter, but you will also need to increase the oats by 1/3 cup.

Monday, July 8, 2013

7 Layer Nacho Dip

Growing up I ate dinner at my Grandma and Grandpa's house about once a week for several years.  Grandma was a good cook and I always looked forward to meals at her house.  With a dozen or so regular recipes, her style was simple and pretty all American...some of my favorite dishes were pan fried pork chops served with rice and gravy, spaghetti and meatballs and her good old fashioned potato salad.  Grandma rarely veered from her rotation of recipes.

But lucky for my family she found a recipe in the newspaper one day that she had to try.  I'm not sure when the dip made it's first appearance, but I do remember being surprised she made it.  It was definitely not part of her normal repertoire and neither were the ingredients.  It was a pleasant and very tasty surprise!  The 7 layer nacho dip was an immediate hit and went on to grace a number of family events through the years.

Last month Grandpa turned 96 (wow!) and my parents hosted a big party to celebrate.  Happy Birthday Grandpa!!!  :) When deciding what appetizer to bring to the party, I immediately thought of Grandma's 7 layer nacho dip.  It's been a few years since I've had it, but it was just as tasty as I remembered.  Thanks Grandma!  Miss you bunches!


7 Layer Nacho Dip
source unknown

1 lb ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
2 15 ounce cans refried beans
1 small can of mild diced green chiles
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 15 ounce bottle of red taco sauce (such as La Victoria)
1 pint sour cream
4 green onions, thinly sliced

Optional items: You can personalize the dip to your tastes.  Some other suggestions would be using canned sliced jalapenos in place of green chiles for extra heat.  Or sprinkle top with sliced black olives in addition to the green onions. My family usually serves the dip with Nacho cheese Doritos...but any chip will work!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.

In a non stick skillet brown the ground beef until cooked through.  While beef is cooking, season with salt and pepper to your taste.  Drain off fat.

Spread refried beans evenly across the baking dish to start the first layer.  Top with ground beef.  Scatter green chiles over the beef.  Top with cheese and use your hand to lightly pat it down.  Pour taco sauce over the cheese so that all the cheese is completely covered.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes until edges start to brown and the taco sauce is bubbling.  Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes (you will be putting cold sour cream on top so you don't want it to melt).

Just before serving, spread sour cream evenly over the cooled dip.  Sprinkle green onions on top.  Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl Ice Cream

Happy 4th of July! 

Today I'm going straight for the good stuff.  Sweet, delicious ice cream.  Peanut butter ice cream with fudge ripple swirled throughout, no less.  This is something I'm fairly certain you NEED in your life.  Unless you don't like peanut butter and chocolate together.  Then you should seek counseling immediately.  Because this is a flavor combination that makes one's life complete (unless you are allergic to peanuts...then you already probably stopped reading this)!

I saw this recipe on my pal Tracey's blog and instantly knew this would be the first ice cream churned of the summer at my house.  It was.  And it was pretty darn fantastic.  The ice cream base delivers on a solid peanut butter flavor.  The fudge ripple brings just the right amount of chocolate to balance the peanut butter.  Very creamy, peanutty and fudgy.  All good things in my book!

The ice cream didn't last long here.  In fact I barely had enough to squeak out some photos.  Most of it disappeared after we had my nephew and his fiancĂ© over to watch the Blackhawks vs. Bruins game two Stanley Cup hockey game--yeah I'm a little late posting this!  I have to detour a bit from the ice cream and talk about hockey...

Hubs and I aren't too big into sports.  We occasionally watch things like the Super Bowl or World Series, but rarely follow a team.  Except when a Chicago team is the running for playoffs Hubs gets into it showing a little love for his hometown.  We started watching the NHL playoff series and low and behold the Chicago Blackhawks kept in it all the way to win the western conference and moved on to the Stanley Cup finals where they defeated the Boston Bruins (sorry Tracey!) and won the cup! We had a blast watching the games (and make food for the games).  It's safe to say we are officially hooked on hockey and are looking forward to the start of the next season in the fall. 

Back to the ice cream.

It's really delicious.  Enough said.


Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl Ice Cream
from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones via Tracey's Culinary Adventures

For the fudge ripple
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Start by making the fudge ripple.  In a small sauce pan combine sugar, water, cocoa powder, corn syrup and salt.  Heat on medium/high until the mixture comes to a simmer, whisking frequently.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate and allow to sit for one minute.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Transfer to a heat proof container and refrigerate until fully chilled.

For the peanut butter ice cream
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup sugar divided in two
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup natural peanut butter (I used regular Skippy)
1/4 to 1/3 cup fudge ripple

Make the ice cream by adding heavy cream, milk and half the sugar to a medium saucepan and place on medium heat.  Stir to combine and allow the cream mixture to just come to a simmer.

While the cream is heating, whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium heatproof bowl until pale.

In another medium heatproof bowl (large enough to hold all the ice cream mixture) add the peanut butter and set aside. 

When the cream mixture comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking continuously (you don't want your eggs to scramble!).  Add the cream/egg mixture back to the saucepan and return heat to medium/low.  Stir frequently until the mixture thickens slightly and the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 170 - 175.  The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. 

Strain the mixture into the bowl with the peanut butter.  Stir to combine the peanut butter until the cream is smooth and peanut butter is fully incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours, or overnight until mixture is fully chilled. 

Churn peanut butter ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer instructions.  Transfer ice cream to a freezer proof airtight container, adding drizzles of fudge ripple along the way.  Add as much or little as you like to suit your taste.  Swirl the fudge using a butter knife.  Cover and return to the freezer until firm, about 4 hours.