mango lime pops

My oh my, how time flies by…

It’s tax season here in the good ‘old U.S. of A and I’ve been consumed with organizing and entering our business receipts, sales, costs of goods sold, and all that good stuff that accompanies tax preparation…hence, my absence here…

Now, if I’d had the time throughout the year (or chose to make the time) to enter all those facts and figures each month, well, I’d have been here sooner…but, I didn’t, so I had to dedicate many days (and a few nights) to that ‘tax stack’…thankfully though, that mission is complete, and now I can get on with more fun things, like popsicle making – homemade popsicles of course!

I can’t believe its taken me so long to make these luscious lovelies. Two mangos, a bit of sugar water, limes, kosher salt and voila, incredibly refreshing and tasty popsicles – seriously tasty! The most challenging part? Waiting for them to completely freeze…

Here’s how it happened;

I had come across a fabulous book a few years ago titled, ‘jam it, pickle it, cure it and other cooking projects’, by Karen Solomon. It has all the basic ‘stuff’ (think mustard, mayo, crackers, marshmallows…) and then some. Simple ingredients, easy to follow directions and beautiful photos, plus recipes for popsicles and homemade candy –  what’s not to love? I’ve tried a few of the recipes thus far, and look forward to trying many, many more, though popsicles were still on the, ‘to do soon’, list…so, when the opportunity presented itself, we made them!

Mangos happened to be on sale, there was a foot of snow on the ground, skies had been grey for days, more snow was coming … we needed something summer like – pronto – it was time to make the popsicles.

Mango lime popsicles.

popsicles

Here’s what you’ll need and what to do;

Mango and Lime Pops (click to print recipe!)

Ingredients

limes and mango

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

2 small ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks

1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)

IMG_3600

1/2 – 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

pinch of kosher salt

What to do;

Make a simp syrup by combining the sugar and water in  small saucepan and warming over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely.

Combine the syrup, mangoes, lime juice, cayenne pepper, and salt in a blender or food processor.

in blender

Blend well, pour into molds (stainless if you got ’em), and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

in popsicle molds

These can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Either store in the molds or release and wrap well in waxed paper and then store in a marked sealable plastic bag.

Best part, they aren’t so terribly full of sugar that you couldn’t enjoy them for breakfast. (:

popsicles

Enjoy.

roasted almonds

I’m attempting to make hand made chocolate bars for Valentines day and was in need of roasted almonds…I had almonds, but not roasted almonds…after a quick (well, not so quick with my dial-up internet connection – I know, what?) search online, I realized these smokey beauties would be a cinch to make.

olive oil and salt covered almonds

All you need is a bit of kosher salt, some olive oil and a cookie sheet.

I placed a cup of raw almonds in a bowl, drizzled with a bit of olive oil (just enough to coat each nut), threw in a good pinch of kosher salt – tossed well and then placed nuts onto a baking sheet.

Baking sheet went into a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven and baked for 10 minutes.

roasted almonds 2

Voila – roasted almonds.

roasted almonds

Such a simple snack to make!

Roasted nuts will keep for weeks in an airtight container…

Do you have a favorite recipe for roasted nuts?

If so, please share below!

Enjoy.

roasted beets

Roasted beets

These sublime beauties are a cinch to prepare.

Really.

In years past I’ve grown and harvested many, many beets;

veggies

though last years erratic weather prevented an abundant crop, sadly, I had only a few…

beet in ground

so, off to the farmers market I go!

unwashed beets

Wash, scrub (if necessary) and remove green tops. (Steam or saute greens with a bit of olive oil, don’t just throw those beauties away…)

beets in sink

tops and bottoms removed

I usually cut off the tops and tails of each beet. These beets I felt I needed to cut off a bit more than usual…if they are freshly harvested, I cut a much smaller area…

close-up before packing

Dampen each beet slightly with a bit of water and then wrap in foil.

wrapping each

I prefer wrapping each beet individually, though you could also prepare a foil packet and roast a few together. The key to either preparation is to be sure the foil is sealed. You want to be sure to keep all those lovely juices in!

Length of time depends on the size and freshness of the beet. Smaller beets take less time, larger beets, more. Also, the fresher the beet, the less time is takes to roast…smaller beets can take up to 25 minutes, while larger ones, up to an hour.

peeled and cubed

A beet is roasted once it can be easily pierced with a fork or tip of a small knife.

Now, you ask, “At what temperature do you roast?” Well, this can also fluctuate…beets are flexible with temperature…so, feel free to roast your beets while the rest of dinner is baking away, or on their own…beets are happiest between between 325 degrees F. and 425 degrees F.

If it’s only beets your roasting, then place those lovelies in a 425 degree F pre-heated oven.

I usually roast them in my cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will do. The foil keeps all the steam in, thus, all the resulting juices too…making clean-up a snap!

Do be careful while opening each packet as juice may spill out…beautiful deep purple juice. Staining juice…

Once cooled enough to touch, peeling is so easy that the skins simply slip off. If you don’t mind having your hands stained a crimson red for awhile, then by all means, slide those skins off with your bare hands. If not,  you may prefer using gloved hands or you can also use a paring knife. Granted, using a paring knife will not prevent staining, it’s just another method…

sliced with salt

Regretfully, I do not have any photos depicting the ease of slipping off the skins…by the time each beet had cooled enough to hold, the sun had set. My natural light  had disappeared…

But, the following day, the sun shone bright and I enjoyed these lovelies sliced and sprinkled with a smidgen of kosher salt as well as in a salad of fresh spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

beet and spinach salad

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Why not roast a few today?

Enjoy!

more muffins!

Muffins. Who doesn’t like a muffin? OK, I’m sure someone, somewhere doesn’t like muffins or perhaps has never even heard of a muffin, but for me, I love muffins. Not all the time mind you, but when a situation calls for muffins, muffins I will bake.

muffins under glass

It was our familys’ turn to provide snack for Finns’ classroom (once a month, each family is responsible for providing snack for 25 students), and since cranberry season is upon us, cranberry orange muffins only made sense.

Prefer blueberries? Check this recipe out!

Nuts (of any kind) are not allowed at Finns school (nut allergies), so I couldn’t use them, but if I could have, walnuts would have been my choice. The combination of cranberries and orange zest scream for walnuts…at least in my opinion…so if I could have, I would have added walnuts!

The tart sweetness of the cranberry, the pop of orange zest, combined with the velvety crunch of the walnuts (or not), make this recipe irresistible this time of year…

Assemble your ingredients, blend, mix and bake. Muffins in about an hour. Why not?

muffin on paper

If the thought of cranberries and orange zest makes you swoon, why not try this fancier version for holiday get togethers – Orange cranberry cake!

finished cranberry-orange cake

Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Print this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients;

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 beaten egg

1 2/3 cups milk

1/4 cooking oil (I used olive oil)

2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel (or any orange – like citrus fruit – I used clementine rind)

1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

3/4 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

Here’s what to do;

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Blend in finely shredded orange peel.

Create a well in center of dry mixture.

In medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk and oil.

Add egg mixture to the ‘well’ in the dry mixture.

Stir just until moistened – this is the key for fluffy muffins – do not over mix.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until fork comes out clean. Rest in muffin tins until able to touch, then remove and allow to cool on rack.

Enjoy immediately or freeze for another day.

muffin on plate

 Enjoy!

mixed nut bars on the run…

Fall is in the air…leaves are turning crimson, mustard and golden…smoke fills the morning air and being outside to enjoy it all is a necessity.

And so is snacking. Healthy snacking.

I always have snacks. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll confirm, I always have food and beverages on hand…one never knows when hunger will strike, right?

That little tummy grumble is inevitable (especially with busy little ones), so why not be prepared with a tasty treat?

Especially one which will not only satisfy any budget, but will also appeal to the desires of both sweet and savory lovers…everyone wins…

Plus, it’s easy and only requires the most basic of ingredients and a few minutes of your time.

You’ll need one sauce pan and one baking dish.

Simply melt and mix ingredients in sauce pan…

Spoon into baking dish and bake.

That’s it!

Easy clean-up too (no one ever seems to mention the clean-up part of cooking and baking)…

These little nuggets are way better than any store bought protein bar, you know all the ingredients (and most likely have them on hand), plus, you’ll save money baking these beauties at home, so why not whip up a batch for your favorite people?

Enjoy.

Mixed Nut Bars*

Print this!

ingredients

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup butter

1 beaten egg

1/2 reaspoon vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup mixed nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, or peanuts, coarsely chopped

Grease an 8X8 inch baking pan; set aside.

butter and sugar

In medium saucepan heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.Cool slightly

melted butter:sugar

Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and baking powder until just combined. Stir in nuts. Spread battter in the prepared pan.

nuts added

in pan

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars while warm; cool completely in pan.

baked

served

Want a little extra love in your nut bar? Sprinkle with grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips for the last few minutes of baking…

Everyone will thank you.

Enjoy.

*Better Homes and Garden’ New baking book 1998

…the last taste of summer

It’s officially fall now.

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the leaves are beginning to turn here in Maine…apples and pumpkins abound, mums (the flowers) are being popped into the ground and into pots everywhere and the smell of smoke is in the air…but I’m still savoring the last taste of summer…

vine-ripened

Vine ripened tomatoes,

basil 2

fresh basil,

fresh mozz. 2

fresh mozzarella

presto pesto

and pesto.

Melt together between two slices of bread and you will taste summer in a way which no other sandwich compares…

Granted, my tomatoes have all been plucked from their vines (nights are getting a bit too chilly for them) and they now continue to ripen on my window sill and the basil (still in the garden) is starting to brown, but I picked as much as I could before the cooler nights settled in and I’m so glad I did! I’ve made batches of pesto, stored what I could in the fridge and am drying more…

So what to do with all those tomatoes, basil and pesto?

Bake some bread, buy a block of fresh mozzarella and get slicing….

Now it’s not a ‘cheap’ sandwich to make if you have to buy all the ingredients, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to grow the basil and tomatoes and have the desire to bake some bread (check this recipe out for a very simple and inexpensive recipe) all you’ll need to buy is the fresh mozzarella. The least expensive block I’ve found sets me back $4, but I can get at least 4 sandwiches from one, so that ends up being only $1 per sandwich (at least for the cheese), a far cry from what this sandwich would cost if it was to be ordered out…

Gather your ingredients;

tomatoes + basil

sliced bread 2

fresh mozz. 2

A few leaves of basil, a few slices of fresh mozz., a couple pieces of bread, a tablespoon or two of pesto and sliced tomato. Add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic if you wish, a bit of butter for browning and you will have the tastiest summer sandwich – ever!

Spread each half of bread with pesto,

pesto spread 2

top with a layer of basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and then tomatoes…drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic (if you wish), a sprinkle of salt and top with other half of the bread…butter each side and place on hot griddle. Turn once browned and then cook the other side. Cut and serve! side view layered 2

layer tomatoes, basil and cheese 2

top view browned

cut and ready to serve 2

These were so delicious, Michael and I agreed we each had to have a second!

Are you missing summer already? Then why not make this sandwich and be reminded…

What are your favorite summertime ingredients? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

fresh corn, basil and tomato tart…perfect for a maine lobster bake…

Michael (my partner) and Finn (my 3.5 year old son) were out for a few hours, helping a friend put together the necessary components for a lobster bake…

Seaweed. Rocks. Wood to build the fire (and maintain it for hours). A few canvas tarps. And most importantly, a dug space. A pot in the earth so to speak… in which to bake the lobsters, corn and clams.  A real Maine lobster bake.

Hot rocks layer the bottom of the ‘pot’ (a hole dug into sand or soil). Seaweed is dropped on top, creating steam…lobsters are placed on top of this, and then they are topped with another layer of seaweed and a few splashes of sea water…sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…

seaweed + steam

lobsters, corn + seaweed

Corn is layered next, followed by more water, seaweed and then finally, the clams…more sea water and more seaweed are added, and then the tarps are tossed over, covering the opening, thus creating a ‘lid.’

tarps

As the sun sets over the Atlantic, lobsters bake, in the ground, on an island…

sunset

freshly steamed lobsters, corn and clams

I digress…this (potluck) lobster bake, and the fact that Michael and Finn were out for a few hours helping organize the party, is what inspired me to try this recipe.

It’s a recipe I found some time ago…torn from a magazine I regretfully do not know (note to self, write down the month, the year and the title of the magazine, from which the recipe was removed…), and I had yet to make it…

Basil was in the garden, corn I could buy 6 minutes down the road at a local farm stand (my corn is not ready yet), I had eggs (from same local farm stand), cream and enough grape tomatoes to give it a go…I decided this is what I was going to bring to the potluck lobster bake;

A fresh corn, basil and tomato tart.

complete

Plus, I had one hour of uninterrupted time – something truly treasured – now that I’m a parent, and phenomenal lighting, so I prepped, photographed and baked this scrumptious tart in only 60 minutes.

Fun.

Gluten free? Just substitute flour with a gluten free flour and enjoy…

 Fresh corn, basil and tomato tart

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

ingrediants 1

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs (despite only seeing one in the photo)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half or light cream

1.5 cups fresh corn kernels (2-3 ears of corn, depending on size) – steamed or boiled for 2-3 minutes

peel the corn 1

remove corn kernals

1/2+ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

chopped basil

1/2+ tsp. salt

1/2+ tsp. freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomato

fresh basil

spring of fresh basil for garnish

First the cornmeal crust;

What to do;

adding dry to wet 2

1. In a medium bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high for about 30 seconds.

2. Add sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Beat until combined.

3. Beat in 1 of the eggs until combined.

ball is formed 3

4. Beat in cornmeal and flour, until ball begins to form.

5. Shape into disk with hands and wrap in wax paper and chill for 30-60 minutes or until easy to handle.

chilled dough + tart pan

Next, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

– Lightly press dough on bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom…

press into pan and up sides

work dough towards the sides of the pan and then gently with your fingertips, force the dough upwards, along the sides of the tart pan,

even sides

keeping the thickness even all around and up to the brim. This is not as complicated as it sounds. The dough is so malleable, it moves upwards with ease…make sure you keep all sides uniform and to the brim (to prevent overflow, over the top of the crust, when filling).

crust close-up

– Line crust with double thickness of foil and bake for 10 minutes; remove foil and bake for an additional 6-10 minutes more, or until pastry is set.

While that is happening…

pouring cream

eggs + cream blended

– In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining two eggs and cream.

corn + basil added to eggs

blend all

– Stir in corn, basil and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

tart filled

– Pour over crust.

baked

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve.

complete

Top with chopped tomato and fresh basil.

top view slices

side angle view sliced

Makes 8 servings or more if sliced smaller…

tart with cucumbers

 Sliced cucumbers and lime are in the background – I brought a plate of these (cucumbers are plentiful right now) as well as blueberry crisp. Abundant summer fruits – love it!

Enjoy.

summertime potato salad

Potato salad is synonymous with summer in New England (well, at least in my world it is)…

Potato salad and Maine lobster.

Potato salad and hotdogs.

Potato salad and burgers.

Potato salad and veggie burgers.

Potato salad and kabobs.

Potato salad and grilled fish.

Potato salad and just about any sandwich you can think of…

Potato salad.

Need I say more?

Yum.

While I have yet to grow potatoes (on next years list); green beans I’ve mastered…

green beans I've mastered

green beans are what give this potato salad its’ crisp loveliness as well as its’ freshness…

Green beans and lemon juice to be precise.

squeezed lemon

Lemons are another favorite of mine. I love using lemon juice instead of vinegar…plus, lemon juice is so good for us – it’s alkaline (not acidic ) and high in vitamin C – both of which are immune builders…

Back to potatoes and green beans.

Combine the two with a bit of mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have the makings for a delicious (and nutritious) potato salad.

Enjoy on its’ own or serve as a side to a number of mains…

Potato salad with green beans and onion (preferably, red onion)

print this recipe!

*adapted from the cook book, The Frugal Gourmet

Ingredients;

2 pounds potatoes (russet, gold, yukon), skin on

potatoes in white bowl

3/4 fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces (this is one recipe I do not recommend using the frozen counterpart)

cut green beans

2 tablespoons olive oil (for blanching)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (white or yellow onion could suffice (as I did here), though, I do recommend red onion – visually and flavor wise, red onion is what this recipe aught to have!)

2 hard boiled eggs

For the dressing;

dressing ingrediants

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (olive oil will suffice too)

1/4 mayonnaise

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

What to do;

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil uncovered.

Then simmer 30-40 minutes (depending upon type of potato used) or until very tender when pierced with a knife.

Carefully drain and allow to cool.

Once cool, peel and cut the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

potatoes cubed

While potatoes are simmering away, blanch the cut beans for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water (I just use a heavy bottomed skillet, filled 3/4 with water, add the beans and then toss quickly with tongs…) with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

blanching green beans

Quickly drain and rinse the beans under cold running water, to stop the cooking…you want them cooked, yet crisp.

Add to the cut potatoes, shredded egg, and onions.

ingrediants added

Prepare the dressing, pour over veggies and egg,

pour dressing

combine dressing with ingrediants

toss gently and finish with freshly chopped parsley, a pinch or two more of salt and freshly ground pepper.

finish with parsely

Enjoy.

versatile swiss chard becomes a tart

I’ve found swiss chard to be one of the most forgiving greens to grow. Having said this, kale is also very tolerant. For me, the challenge with kale is that it does not have the ‘softness’ that swiss chard has thus is not so easily substituted for spinach…swiss chard on the other hand, is.  Swiss chard is versatile, easy to grow, nutritious and abundant this time of year…

swiss chard ready to cut

Granted, kale grows well into the cooler months and can easily be substituted for spinach or any dark leafy green, though there is something about swiss chard (at least for me) that I just love…perhaps it’s the red and green contrast or simply its abundance all spring, summer and fall…you can count on swiss chard to be there when spinach is not. I like kale  but I love swiss chard…

swiss chard

I plant swiss chard in the early spring and enjoy it all summer and into the late fall…

baby swiss chard

During the hot days of summer I rely on it to become my ‘spinach.’ Spinach bolts when the weather turns hot – swiss chard does not…one row will give nutritious greens for months.

I simply cut the larger, outer leaves, and more grows back! Plant seeds, water, nurture, cut, grow, cut, grow, cut…grow…

Enjoy it in recipes which call for spinach or swiss chard. Simply cut or tear the leaves away from the thick stem, chop and then steam, saute, bake or add to soups.

swiss chard piled on board

My personal favorite is a swiss chard and ricotta tart. I use two different recipes. The one below is an open faced tart. Both require basically the same ingredients; the difference – one is open faced and one is not…

This recipe is the simplest of the two as it only requires a baking sheet and one puff pastry sheet…I have yet to make my own puff pastry, though I so want to…but, until then, a store bought one (without the high fructose corn syrup) will suffice…

So buy yourself a packet of puff pasty and get going!

This recipe also freezes well…plan ahead, bake ahead…dinner or a delicious appetizer is served…

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart

Print this!

Ingredients;

1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry. One sheet thawed. Save remaining sheet for another project…

1 large egg beaten with one teaspoon water (for egg wash)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

15 ounces ricotta cheese (one small container)

2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, if you have it)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh, if you have it)

12 ounces fresh swiss chard (frozen works well too – be sure to thaw and squeeze dry) – spinach can be substituted or a combination of the two.

What to do;

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unfold one pastry sheet, pinching seams together, if necessary…and roll out to cover baking sheet. Fold over edges, just slightly, to create an edge. Brush with egg wash (if desired).

2. Prick bottom, all over with fork. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the bottom; place tart on lower rack in preheated oven, for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese lightly browns. Let cool a few minutes.

ricotta + pastry

3 .While baking, combine combine ricotta and next five ingredients.

ricotta ingredients

4. Chop and saute swiss chard, in a large skillet, over medium heat. Cook in batches if necessary. Drain excess liquid.

sautee chard

5. Spoon about 2/3 ricotta mixture onto the baked pastry shell and then top with swiss chard. Dollop remaining ricotta mixture…

toppings on pastry

6. Finish with parmesan.

7. Top with fresh basil.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set, in 350 degree oven.

pastry baked

9. Cut and serve.

enjoy!

plump pancakes

Plump with fruit that is.

Raspberries and bananas to be exact.

And you won’t find any baking powder or baking soda in this recipe – we like pancakes, dense and moist…

No fluff here.

Cakes – thin, yet plump with fresh or frozen fruit.

Stack high and top with a bit of butter and then drizzle warmed maple syrup over top ’till it drips down the sides…

stacked high

enjoy with homemade homefries and breakfast is served.

homefries

Pancakes with raspberries and bananas

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

2 cups flour

2 cups buttermilk (can substitute regular milk)

1 Tbs. melted butter (or olive oil)

2 eggs (beaten)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

mini pinch of salt

1-2 cups fresh or frozen fruit

What to do;

Add buttermilk, tiny pinch of salt, melted butter and eggs to flour. Mix until smooth.

Add vanilla, stir

pancake batter

Blend in fruit

How to cook;

Heat skillet over medium to high heat and coat with butter.

Before butter starts browning or bubbling, pour one ladleful of batter onto heated skillet. Continue as space allows.

Let each cake sit (and cook) until little bubbles begin to appear on the top side of cake. Once a few bubbles have ‘popped’, flip gently to the other side…and cook opposite side.

Pancakes on griddle

Keep warm in oven until all batter has been used…cover slightly to prevent drying out, though not entirely, to prevent ‘sogginess’ from trapped moisture.

If you make too many (is that possible?), just freeze and enjoy on another day…what fun!

stacked high

Fun fact; pretty flower plate picked up at my local freebie barn (actually an entire set). What?

Have a great weekend!