Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spumoni Sundaes with Hot Fudge and Amaretto Cherry Sauce

Sundaes always make me think of long summer days growing up in the midwest.  At the peak of summer in Ohio, the sun sometimes didn't dip below the horizon until almost 9:30pm, which meant lots of daylight hours to laugh and play, especially after school was out for the summer.  Those days, it was pretty safe to roam around the neighborhood, and I spent my time playing kickball in the street with the boys or riding bikes with my girlfriends.  My mom always told me I had to be home by the time the streetlights came on, and I would grudgingly drag my feet back home to end the day.  

Other evenings, my mom would load us up in the minivan (oh yeah, we did have two minivans in my lifetime) and we would head to the ice cream shop for cones or sundaes.  Hands-down, my favorite places to go were Honey Hut Ice Cream and East Coast Custard, and if you grew up in Cleveland, I really really hope you have been to one or both places.  (It is no coincidence that the Yelp review for Honey Hut has 5 stars for reviews.)  

Ghiradelli chocolate for Espresso Hot Fudge Sauce. (Can you read upside down?)

When my family would go for ice cream, sometimes I would be in the mood for just a cone (with two scoops of course), but often I would want a sundae.  Thinking back, might have just wanted the sundae for the maraschino cherry on the top, but the hot fudge sauce on the frozen ice cream didn't hurt either.  Actually, I think I gravitated towards the sundae because aside from a banana split, it was the most indulgent thing on the menu.  Even as a child I was a smart girl. 

Now I don't know if it was these childhood memories or just the appeal of chocolate, cherries, and ice cream, but when I saw this Spumoni Sundae with Hot Fudge and Cherry Sauce in Bon Appetit last summer, I swooned.  

Plus, I can rarely turn away chocolate.    

I cannot resist this. 

Espresso hot fudge sauce?  Warm amaretto cherry sauce?  Pistachio and vanilla ice cream?  Check, check, and check.  Yes, I would like them all please.  And if you can serve them to me in a pretty sundae glass that would be great.  I can even say please and thank you if you want.  Pretty please...? 

This warm amaretto cherry sauce is to die for.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Tangy Peanut Sauce

I am super excited to share this recipe with you today - partially because I get to tell you about an amazing new gadget I discovered (pssst... the Swissmar Julienne Peeler rocks my world!) but more importantly because I am sharing this recipe on one of my favorite blogs: Kitchen Confidante.  

The lovely Liren of Kitchen Confidante is getting some much needed rest and relaxation in Maui for a week and she was kind enough to invite me to guest post for her while she is gone.  I love Kitchen Confidante because the recipes Liren shares use seasonal, fresh ingredients that I enjoy, but there is often a twist that makes each dish really unique and innovative.  On the flipside, some of her more traditional recipes touch close to my heart and remind me of happy food and family memories.  Plus, her photography is always stunning, and you know how I love my beautiful food.        

The recipe I am sharing on her site today is definitely seasonal - hooray for vibrant summer squash and zucchini! - as well as an easy and healthy way to shake up your weeknight meals.  Be sure to head on over to Kitchen Confidante to get the recipe for these Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Tangy Peanut Sauce - trust me, you want to go there as much to get my recipe as you do to check out all Liren's other great posts.  Plus I really really have fallen head over heels in love with this new julienne peeler that I got, and I want you to see how easily you can make healthy vegetable 'noodles.'  This recipe is for good, clean food to keep fit and happy.  


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bacon Meatball Subs

When I was younger, it was my dad's job to do the grocery shopping, and he always went on Saturdays.  Sometimes I would tag along with him, and as I followed up and down the aisles, we would make sure to try all the free samples they were offering that weekend.  Back then, the grocery stores must have been rolling in dough or otherwise feeling generous, because they were giving away so much food that little girls like me often went home with full tummies, feeling spoiled by free treats and indulgent dads.  

Other weekends, I would stay at home with my mom while my dad did the grocery shopping, and those times he would usually make a stop at Subway on the way home to pick up lunch for us.  I remember I used to try out all different sorts of subs (I eventually decided I like the veggie sub on white bread best, boring I know), but my dad would predictably come home with the same thing each week: A meatball sub.    

When I was younger, I never really understood the appeal of the meatball sub.  I can blame that on childhood naiveté, or just plain picky eating, but now I know that my dad was a smart man.  Meatball subs are amazing.  Since I am all grown up (or so I pretend to be), I have changed my ways and fallen head over heels in love with meatballs.  Initially I slowly warmed up to them, but last year I chased after them with lust when I tried the Meatball Sammy from MIHO Gastrotruck here in San Diego.  (Seriously, check out the post, you can see me eating the meatball sub with gusto.)      

When this Meatball Sammy was on MIHO's menu, I tried it on Thursday, I went back and ordered it again on Friday, and I ate it again the following week.  I was obsessed.  Four of my co-workers tried it as well, and they agreed - MIHO's meatball sub was the best they had ever had.  Any hand-crafted meatball sub is pretty great, but I think their sub really knocked my socks off because the meatballs themselves were so intensely flavorful and juicy.  Of course, I had to have the recipe, and I found out their secrets: lots of fresh herbs and spices, shitake mushrooms, grass-fed beef... and bacon.  BACON. seems at the heart of every truly indulgent dish lies a core made out of bacon.    

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Curried Green Lentil Soup

I know, I am late to the game.  Everyone has been talking about about Heidi Swanson's new book for weeks now, and so it is probably old news.  I am sure those of you who were savvy enough to buy her book hot off the press have made a dozen or so recipes from it so far and have bookmarked even more.  Me?  I have about ten or eleven little neon pink and yellow tabs sticking out of the pages of my copy, but yet, I have only made one single recipe - her Green Lentil Soup.  

Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
Super Natural Every Day:
Well-loved Recipes from my Natural Foods Kitchen
By Heidi Swanson

See here is what happens... I keep flipping through the book, my mouth watering with the turn of each beautiful page and my mind swirling with ideas as I am inspired by Heidi's natural pantry.  

But then I flip to the page with the bright green lentil soup.  

And I remember how much I loved it.  How it was sooooo good.  How I had fragrant, satisfying soup without so much as lifting a finger.

And then I make it again.  

And again. 

And oh my friend is coming over?  I think she would like this soup, I suppose I can make it again. 

Yeah I have made it four times.  Although I haven't quite revealed this part of my personality to you before, I can tell you with certainty - when I find something that works, I stick with it.  And this recipe works.      

Green lentils in the back, green split peas in the front. 

Let me tell you why I think this recipe is my new favorite.  

First off, it has lentils which are super healthy - they are rich in fiber, high in iron and protein, and and also a plant chemical called lignan, which I just read might lower the risk of breast caner and fight PMS.  Pretty cool ladies.  Also, I know this recipe works with green lentils and green split peas, and one of my friends just tried it with regular brown lentils - it works with them all.  

My new-found love: Coconut oil.

Second, I am loving this recipe because it uses coconut oil.  I don't know if this is also a place where I am late to the game, but I had never tried coconut oil before this I tried this recipe, and I can say I was totally missing out.  I really feel like the world shifted a little bit when I decided to give coconut oil a try.  The fragrance when you cook with it is transcending, and it gives an awesome nutty flavor to sauteed vegetables.  In this recipe, it reinforces the flavor of the coconut milk.    

Sweet onions from the farmers market.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On the side, Spice Roasted Carrots

I am always attracted to fresh, bright orange carrots at the farmers market.  With their springy, leafy green tops and wispy roots still attached, they are worlds apart from their plastic-wrapped counterparts at the grocery store.  They might even still have a little dirt clinging to them, telling you they really came from the earth.  (As opposed to those perfectly shaped baby carrots; who knows where they really come from...) 

Freshly washed carrots from the farmers market. 

The carrots from the farmers market even taste better - they have a sweeter and more grassy taste, whereas I think the carrots from the grocery store just taste a little watery and dull.  And speaking of watery, it is funny how those plastic wrapped carrots are packed in water, but yet can be so dry.  The carrots from the farmers market are always fresh and full of life.  And if you like a little variety in your life, look no further than the farmers market to find red, purple, and yellow carrots.  

The carrots from the farmers market come in all sizes... including some mini ones.

Sometimes when I get these carrots I just bring them home and eat them raw with an easy veggie dip, or I slice them up for salads or slaws.  But recently, I have been really into roasting them with spices to enhance their sweet flavor.  

No need to peel them, these carrots are perfect and beautiful just sliced in half.

You can really toss vegetables with any spices you like, but I often try out some new or more exotic spice blends.  Spice things up, if you will.  (Ha!  A pun!)  

So for these spice roasted carrots, I decided to mix sweet and salty with a rich spice blend known as baharat.  Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend commonly used to season lamb, lentils, stews, and soups and there are several different varieties.  The one originating in Turkey also contains mint, but the most traditional Arabic or North African baharat spice blend contains black pepper, coriander, cloves, cassia bark, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice.  Some blends also include chili pepper or paprika to give them a bit more ‘heat,’ but mine doesn't so I added some extra cayenne pepper to this recipe.  

Olive oil with sugar, salt, and spices to glaze the carrots.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Recipe for Sweet Cherry Preserves

It is cherry season!  I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first cherries at the farmers markets, and finally their happy red faces have appeared.  They are juicy, sweet, and voluptuous, with smooth shiny skin and soft flesh inside.  They are just absolutely perfect.  Some of them are even so red and ripe that they are almost a deep crimson violet color.  

Here in San Diego we get the common Bing variety of cherry, but we also get neon-colored and super sweet Rainier cherries, and as well as Lapin Cherries.  I buy them all.  I love them all.  I am an equal opportunity cherry eater.  

Now last year when cherry season rolled around, I didn't quite get my act together.  I bought lots and lots of cherries, and snacked on them.  Often.  Cherries are just the ideal size for popping in your mouth one at a time, and then of course, you can't eat just one.  They are sweet enough to feel like an indulgence, but they are also really healthy - a win-win in the snack world.  

But yet, there were those pesky pits... and that was when I realized something was missing from my life.  Specifically, I didn't have a cherry pitter, and clearly everyone should own a cherry pitter.  (Am I right friends?)  Now I should have used this as a good excuse to go shopping (as though I need an excuse), but because of aforementioned lack of getting-act-together, I lagged behind and the cherry season passed me by.     

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Simple Oat and Brown Sugar Scones

I've had a lot on my mind lately.  Everyday when I open my eyes first thing in the morning, ideas start racing across my brain, rushing ahead, trying to reach the forefront first.  Sometimes it seems like I can barely remember those days of waking up in a pleasant fog, hearing the birds chirping outside. 

And yet...  Despite the whirling vortex that I sometimes am unable to calm, thoughts of good food and good times eating food always surface just above the turbulence.  Take these scones for instance.  Ever since seeing Isabelle's lovely blossom-shaped Lemon Ginger Scones, I have been dreaming of making my own.  Scones have outcompeted work, working out, and sometimes even sleep.  They have almost won out over the start of cherry season and Game of Thrones... but not quite.  (Please, I have my priorities people.)   I have made different versions of scones at least 4 times now in as many days.  You might think that sounds over the top, but when I decide to do something I do it right.      

Simple ingredients for simple scones.

At first I wanted scones with fruit in them.  As I mentioned, I am overjoyed with the start of cherry season, but I also had some lingering strawberries I needed to bake or eat before they kicked the bucket.  But then I abandoned both those ideas when I realized I would much rather eat a well-flavored non-fruit scone and slather it with fruit jam.  I wanted a simple scone, nothing fancy. 

Scone dough just after kneading together for just a minute.

Scone dough on a well-floured board.