Anyone in the room who is a chocoholic, please raise your hand! Folks, I am guilty as charged. Whether it’s a gourmet chocolate and peanut butter candy bar or a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, I can’t stay away. But I’m always trying to eat healthier, so I’m on the hunt for ways to have my chocolate and eat it, too, so to speak. I don’t think dark chocolate on its own is inherently bad in moderation, but oftentimes it is accompanied by all kinds of oils, sugars, or unrecognizable ingredients. And those who are trying to eat paleo, gluten-free, etc. often have a hard time finding good options. Plus, if you make your own, you can save money! So it really is time we get back to the basics and indulge our chocolate addiction with ridiculously simple no guilt chocolate fix ideas like these. Come along!
July means peach season in Ohio! And while it can be hard to find peaches grown locally (except at Quarry Hill Orchards, which is fantastic!), I always know when peaches are in season as the markets are full. Those beautiful fruits filling up the racks are just begging to be used in an infinite number of recipes. Today I’m sharing 3 of my favorite ways to use fresh peaches. First, I’m always up for trying a new cocktail so I concocted this Bourbon Peach-Tea Cooler. Second, I got hooked on this peach burrata salad I had a few weeks ago so I am making it again. And third, one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make is a rustic tart with whatever fresh fruit is available – in this case, peaches! You could make any or all of these in one day. I dare say if you make them all at once it will be a veritable “peach feast”. 🙂 Let’s get started…
When I think of the Easter holiday and how it has evolved in my life, I feel so blessed to have been able to share it with family. When I was younger my mom would often cook a big dinner and we would all gather round and enjoy the day. Since I’ve been married, we’ve spend it with hubby’s uncle and aunt. They always welcome a big crowd into their cozy home and somehow make sure everyone has a place.
I have always wanted to make Linzer Cookies. The idea of these delicate confections with a candy-like view of the raspberry jam peeking through the cutout opening and dusted with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar just oozes romance, love and sweetness! What a perfect cookie choice then for Valentine’s Day, especially with some heart shaped Linzer cutters I found at the craft store.
The Linzer cookie origin stems from the Linzertorte – an Austrian dessert from the city of Linz made with a crust including ground nuts of some variety (mostly almonds), filled with black currant preserves, and then topped with an intricate lattice crust. It is most often served at Christmastime. The Linzer cookie is just a smaller version of the torte with two cookies sandwiched together by jam or preserves. If you cut the hole in the cookie round, they are known as Linzer Eyes (Linzer Augen). And you can really use any cutters you have on hand – you just need a larger one for the base and a small one to cut out the jam peekaboo part. At Christmas time, stars can be particularly pretty, but oftentimes simple fluted round cutters are used. I also prefer to use raspberry jam over black currant but you could experiment, just make sure it’s good quality. And the powdered sugar dusting makes them almost too pretty to eat! …nah 🙂
Let’s get started!
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely ground almonds (I used Bob’s Red Mill almond flour)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
In a small bowl, mix the flour, almonds, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix well. Add flour mixture only until incorporated.
Divide dough into 2 pieces, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator and roll out to 1/8inch thickness. Cut half cookies with the insert in the cutter and the other half without. Transfer to cookie sheet. Scraps can be refrigerated and re-rolled.
Pie oh my! How do I compare thee to a warm summer day? or a cool fall night? Any time of year, it seems pie is the perfect end to the meal … or maybe eaten a little after the meal, when we have the chance to savor the flavors on a belly less stressed by turkey dinner or a summer BBQ. Either way, it is the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance! …and served à la mode, ooh la la!
While I can eat pie all year long, there is something about a fresh summertime pie bursting with berries from the farmer’s market and a pie crust made with fresh flour and butter straight from the farm. OR you can just get a pre made pie crust and canned pie filling! I love spending all day in the kitchen creating a home made from scratch pie as much as the next guy. But when I’m pressed for time or looking for a quick dessert to bring to a potluck, I admit, I seek out that little Pillsbury dough boy to help me create it. Pie crust in the freezer, filling in the pantry, badabing… in an hour you have a delicious dessert. Add a few touches to make it your own and you’ll be just like Sandra Lee!
This particular pie is made from Saskatoon berries, those sweet little berries you can only get in Canada, dare I say, near Saskatoon! I remember as a kid driving out through the prairie to the Great Sand Dunes area and picking as many fresh berries as we could while running and falling and playing in those dunes. These days I can only have Saskatoon berries in Saskatchewan or in pie filling I can bring home to the U.S. The recipe below includes instructions for fresh or canned.
“Why go to all the trouble for these berries?”, you may ask, “Why not just use blueberries?” Maybe it’s the memory of childhood in Canada, or maybe it’s because I like the smaller berry with its unique flavor maybe a little more wild and tart than blueberries. But when I make it, I’m reminded of home and those carefree summers on the prairie.
My father-in-law told me several years ago that Saskatoon berries are scientifically known as “amelanchier berries” and can grow in more parts of North America. The word, Saskatoon, is of Cree Indian etymology and was used to describe the berries of the province, so is the only way I’ve known them. The city of Saskatoon itself derives its name from the Cree extension then: “misâskwatôminiskâhk” meaning, “place of many Saskatoon berries”. How cool is that?!
The only similar berries I have tasted in the U.S. are Maine blueberries, which I have learned are a variation sometimes called Juneberries. They tasted delicious but slightly more like a blueberry than the Saskatoons from Canada. It could be the strain or the location. I hope to try some out west some day, too!
These berries can be prepared many ways (think jams, syrup), but with a pie filling created by the Berry Barn (a restaurant with one of the most beautiful settings in Saskatchewn), I can create my “homage au Canada” whenever I crave that taste. And of course, it needs home made vanilla ice cream à la mode!
Refrigerated pie crust
1-2 cans pie filling (1 jar Saskatoon berry pie filling)
3 1/2 cups berries
1/2 cup water (or less if frozen berries)
3/4 cup sugar
3 TB cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice
1 TB butter
1/2 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 425F. Bring crusts to room temperature, roll to size and place one crust in pie pan. For homemade filling, cook ingredients on stove until thickened. Pour filling into prepared pan. Cover with remaining pie crust.
Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, and then cover rim with foil or metal pie rim protector, turn heat down to 400F and bake another 20-30 minutes.
Let cool. Serve!