Sunday, July 10, 2016

Watermelon-Tequila Granita - SRC

Timing is everything!  That is exactly the feeling I had when I got my Secret Recipe Club assignment for couldn't have been more perfect.  You might ask, "Why?"  Let me tell you why. First, it was 111 degrees outside.  There was a touch of humidity.  It was miserable.  Second, I was not budging from the house.  Third, I had guests coming for dinner.  And fourth, I had watermelon.

But, fifth, and most importantly, I was assigned Camilla's lovely blog, Culinary Adventures with Camilla!  I have been in group B for over a year and have been waiting for this assignment.  Camilla is a sweetheart!  She has an unending amount of energy.  She is the mother of three boys and describes herself as "a tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean."  She has spent time as a florist, waitress, SCUBA dive master, stock photo agency manager, stroller fitness teacher, writer, editor, and au pair. She also lived and worked in Rome where she learned to cook.  Camilla visited the markets, talked to farmers and fishmongers, and pestered them to learn how to prepare various dishes that are now part of her repertoire. I should be that lucky! 

On this day, I immediately started looking for an appetizer or dessert.  Company was coming. The Champiñones al Ajillo and Prawn Ceviche with Avocados sounded heavenly.  We would have enjoyed either one with a glass of wine.  We would have enjoyed both....but on another day.  My search led me to desserts.  I was looking for something refreshing and light and I found it: Watermelon -Tequila Granita!

Watermelon-Tequila was like finding gold!  Or, was my tequila gold?  Hmmm...I think it was both.  This was super easy, super refreshing, super tasty and just all around wonderful!  With or without the tequila it was wonderful....  

It is an adult snowcone....and the syrup is tequila!

Watermelon-Tequila Granita

6 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Juice from one Meyer lemon
One shot of tequila per serving

Place the watermelon cubes, sugar and lemon juice in a blender. Purée until smooth.  

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish (or any flat container).  Freeze the mixture for 1 hour. Run a fork across the surface of the mixture to break up any large frozen parts.  Repeat the process every hour until frozen.  It will take 3-4 hours to freeze.

Prior to serving let the granita soften just a bit on the counter.  Drag the fork through the granita to create ice flakes.  

To serve, spoon the granita into individual bowls or glasses and pour a shot of tequila over the top.

Garnish with a few mint leaves.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers with Cucumber and Feta Salad

I mentioned the recipe for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers in my earlier post for Ras El Hanout. What I didn't discuss is that we served the chicken on flatbread topped with this wonderful Cucumber and Feta Salad.

All together it was a very flavorful and light meal!  We have used the spice mixture a number of times and find it to be a winner!

Cucumber and Feta Salad
adapted from David Lebovitz

1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Kosher salt
8 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 red onion, peeled, finely diced
1 Tbsp chopped dill
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped mint

In a colander, mix the cucumber with a light sprinkle of salt.  Allow it to drain 30 minutes to an hour. Shake the colander and/or lightly squeeze the mixture a few times.

Crumble the feta into a medium-size bowl and mash it together with the olive oil, lemon juice, water, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.

Add the cucumbers, onion, and herbs to the feta mixture and stir.  Taste and add additional salt, if desired.

NOTE:  This mixture may be served as a topping for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers or served as a appetizer with crackers or with soft or toasted pita triangles.


Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers
adapted from David Lebovitz

Mix up the Ras el Hanout.

3/4 cup whole milk, Greek-style yogurt
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion peeled
3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. Ras el Hanout
1-2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika, sweet smoked or spicy smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 to 2 pound mixture of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts, trimmed and cut into small chunks for skewering.

Chop the garlic and onion into small pieces and finely chop in a mini-chopper.  Put the mixture into a large zip-top freezer bag. (A medium-size bowl works fine, if you prefer.)

In a bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, ras el hanout, black pepper, paprika, red pepper, and the pieces of chicken.  Pour the mixture into the bag with the garlic-onion mixture.  Remove excess air and seal the bag.  Massage the chicken pieces to assure that they are well covered by the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or over night.

Thread the chicken onto skewers.  Light the grill until very hot.  Brush the grill with oil.  Grill the skewers on one side until seared with grill marks, 4-5 minutes.  Turn and grill until cooked through. Total cooking time is 8-9 minutes.

Serve the chicken on flatbread or pita with a dollop of the cucumber and feta salad.

PRINTABLE RECIPE (both chicken and salad)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Head of the Shop" Spice Mixture: Ras el Hanout

Sometimes I think I am in a rut when I go into the kitchen.  Have you ever felt that way?  Some days nothing sounds good and the summer heat makes it hard to even think about eating.  I can be inspired though, and that is what happened when I saw a recent post by David Lebovitz for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers.  There was no question what was going to be for dinner.

First, though, I had to make the spice mixture.  The mixture known as Ras el Hanout is common in the Moroccan spice cabinet.  Translated, Ras el Hanout means "head of the shop" and is a mixture of the very best spices that the shop has to offer.  It can be 20-40 spices put together by the shop owner. The blend of spices can include:  cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, coriander to name a few.  The mixture will vary from shop to shop as each owner selects his very best and creates his own unique Ras el Hanout.

The mixture can be very complex or simple. Since I am the owner of this shop, it was a simple mixture of great flavors!  I followed David's link to a recipe from Epicurious and that is what I used.

Ras el Hanout
adapted from Epicurious

1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Combine all of the spices together in a small bowl.  The spice blend may be kept in an airtight container for one month.

This aromatic spice blend is a familiar mix in Moroccan cuisine. It can readily be used as a rub, in a marinade or as a seasoning in tagines or stews.

I chose to use it as part of a marinade for chicken will be in an upcoming post!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sparkling Rosé Spritzer

It looks as though there is going to be another  early heat wave.  Temps reaching 111° F.  sound oppressive, but, they aren't as bad as what the folks in Arizona are experiencing.  So, I share not complain.  Instead, I am going to share a nice, refreshing drink!

When I first saw this recipe from Bon Appétit, I was sold.  The only thing I disagree with is their lead in...."...the kind of thing that you can drink all afternoon."  While drinking all afternoon may have appealed to me forty years ago, today, I am happy to enjoy this refreshing drink in the evening, while sitting on a the patio and watching the dogs check out the yard for any critters that may be visiting!

Of course, if we had a pool, I might just enjoy a glass or two while dangling my feet in the water!

Sparkling Rosé Spritzer
adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  1 serving

2 lemon slices
4 dashes of bitters
1/2 oz St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
4 oz sparkling rosé

In a rocks glass (short tumbler), place the lemon slices, bitters, and St. Germain.  Add ice and then top off with the sparkling rosé.

That's it.  Pretty refreshing and quite tasty!


This has become my fun drink in the evening.  It really is refreshing...but I think it could be too easy to drink!

I am sharing to day at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Brownie Cheesecake Ice Cream

Are you a cheesecake lover?  Do you like ice cream?  How do you feel about chocolate in the form of a brownie?  If I told you that you could have all three rolled into one, what would you think?  Would you keep reading?  That's what I did when I saw the recipe for Brownie Cheesecake Ice Cream on my assigned blog for the Secret Recipe Club.  And there is's the name of my blog assignment....ready?  It's....Smells Like Brownies!  Isn't that cool?  Why wouldn't you want to go exploring when there may be brownies?

Melissa says that her food style is a bit quirky as she is a picky eater.  She loves veggies, fish and intensely loves chocolate.  That means that she has a very distinct focus:  vegetarian and fish dishes plus dessert!  She believes that variety is the spice of life so there are many variations to try that will lead new things to love!  Keep cooking, Melissa!  I had fun touring your blog.

I must admit that I did love the recipe I selected, Brownie Cheesecake Ice Cream!  But, I was still trying to recover from baking and eating cookies with my granddaughter so I was being pulled toward either the Gruyère and Asparagus Tart or the Niçoise Salad with Seared Tuna, not wanting to indulge.  But....our weather got really, really hot....unreasonably hot for this time of year cream wins!!

One of the biggest appeals was that I didn't have to mess with eggs and making a custard base!  Easy mixture to put together but it does have to be made in advance.  It is not a last minute dessert.

Brownie Cheesecake Ice Cream

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
2 cups brownie cubes (1/2") from a batch of Baker's One Bowl Brownies

In a mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until soft and smooth.  In a measuring cup stir together the sour cream, heavy cream and vanilla.  Add the mixture to the cream cheese in two batches, beat well after each, until combined.  Scrape the edges of the bowl and beat for 1 minute more.  The batter should be thick and smooth.

Chill the cheesecake batter for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

After the hour, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's directions.

Add the brownie cubes per the manufacturer's directions for add-ins.

Transfer the ice cream to a plastic container with a lid, such as a cambro.

Freeze at least 3 hours before serving.

NOTES:  My ice cream maker didn't like the brownie cubes.  I found it easier to mix them into the ice cream prior to transferring them to the plastic container.

PRINTABLE RECIPE (Ice Cream and Brownies)

This is a two fer one post!  The Baker's One-Bowl Brownies are a must to accompany the wonderful Brownie Cheesecake Ice Cream.  Serving the ice cream on top of a brownie square is a must and this simple brownie recipe is perfect.

Baker's One-Bowl Brownies
adapted from Kraft and Smells Like Brownies

4 oz. unsweetened Baker's chocolate
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste, or extract
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven:  350° F.
Line a 9"X 13" baking pan with foil (to make a sling) and spray lightly with baking spray.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, break the chocolate into small pieces and cube the butter.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until the butter is completely melted.  Stir to combine.

Stir in the sugar.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined.

Stir in the flour and salt.  Do not over-beat the batter or the brownies will become tough and chewy.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.  Spread the batter evenly and smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Lift the sling out of the pan and continue cooling the brownies on the counter.  When completely cool, cut the brownies into squares. Serve with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

PRINTABLE RECIPE (Brownies only)

I topped a brownie square with this tasty ice cream and then drizzled it with chocolate sauce.  It was so tasty and very refreshing on this hot, hot evening!  Let's face it, 107° F. is a bit much!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Coconut Cream Bars

I have had a lifelong love affair with coconut.  I don't know why but I do know if there is coconut mentioned, I am there.  I recently saw a post for Coconut Cream Pie Bars and if you know me, you know that making a pie crust is not my favorite thing.  Being a lover of coconut cream pie, I figured I had accomplished two things.  I would get to eat one of my favorites as well as not have to make a pie crust!  How cool is that?  For me to make a pie means that I am in some sort of a blogger recipe exchange where I have to make a, I have to tell myself to get over it and just make the pie!

Well, that is not the case here, I was happy to make coconut cream bars!!  ...I ended up with three layers:  a buttery crust, a wonderful creamy, coconutty (is that even a word?) custard, and a whipped cream topping with lots of extra coconut on hand.  To make it even better, I was coffee hostess at church and I thought this would make a great little bite for everybody.  So, I knew I wouldn't sit down and eat the entire pan single-handedly and never be able to stand up and walk again!

I went directly to the kitchen and I soon had toasted coconut to munch on while I got things together!

Coconut Cream Bars
adapted from Willow Bird Baking

Crust Layer
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Coconut Cream Layer
3 cups half and half
3 cups coconut milk
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 tsp coconut flavoring (or extract, if available)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping
1 Tbsp cold water (for stabilizing)
1 tsp gelatin (for stabilizing)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3-4 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 cup coconut, toasted

Crust Layer
Preheat oven:  350° F.

Prepare baking dish (9 X 13 inches) by making a foil sling by folding an 18" piece of foil lengthwise to an 8" width.  Fit the foil into the length of your baking pan.  Push it into the corners and up the sides of the pan.  Allow the excess foil to hang over the edge of the pan.

Cut a 14" length of foil and fit it into the width of the pan in the same manner, pushing it into corners and up the sides of the pan.  It will be perpendicular to the first piece.  Allow the excess foil to hang over the edge of the pan.

In a bowl, cut the butter into the flour and the powdered sugar, by hand or in the food processor.   Press the dough evenly into the baking dish,  Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

While the oven is on, toast the coconut for the topping.  Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread about 1 cup coconut flakes on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 3-6 minutes. Stir every few minutes until the coconut is a golden brown.  Remove from the oven and spread on a separate baking sheet or a plate to cool.

Coconut Cream Layer
In a large saucepan combine the half and half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.  Whisk constantly until it is thick and bubbling, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.  Add the coconut flavoring, vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut (not toasted).  Stir.

Pour the mixture over the cooled crust.  Allow to cool.  Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to chill until firm.

Whipped Cream Topping
Put 1 Tablespoon cold water in a small microwave safe bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface.  Let the gelatin soften for 2 minutes.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Whisk to dissolve the gelatin.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 2 cups of heavy cream and powdered sugar together until the cream forms stiff peaks.  Stop about halfway through to add the gelatin mixture.  Gently spread the cream over the top of the bars.  Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.

Chill until ready to serve to allow the whipped cream to set up.

Use the sling to lift the bars out of the dish.  Slice with a sharp knife and enjoy!


The Verdict:  The bars were amazing.  We loved them.  The learning was that these are not finger food!  They are creamy and delicious but I decided that they were not really firm enough to easily handle and balance coffee at the same time!  So, they never made the trip to church...but, we shared with neighbors and friends and did our fair share.

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm as well as SEASONS, hosted by St. Germain's Blog.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Honey Mustard Salmon

Salmon has been on the menu at our house frequently.  For many years we prepared it the same way...why? Because we really, really like it.  Lately we have broken away from the rut and have been trying a variety of new recipes.  While our method of cooking hasn't really changed that much...we do love to put it on the barbecue....the seasonings have changed.

Food and Wine had a recipe for Honey Mustard Salmon that sounded good and since it wouldn't involve me driving into town to go to the store, it was a go!

I did make an adjustment for our taste.  The original recipe calls for equal parts Dijon, whole grain mustard and honey.  I cut the whole grain portion in half.  I also cut back to 1 tablespoon of soy.

Honey Mustard Salmon
adapted from Food and Wine

1 1/2 pound salmon, cut into fillets
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1/4 cup honey
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp Canola oil, for brushing on salmon
kosher salt
Pepper, freshly ground
1-2 Tbsp chopped parsley
Lemon wedges, if desired

In a small bowl mix the Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, honey, soy, and garlic. Set aside.

Brush the salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the salmon fillets skinned side down over medium heat for about 3 minutes.  Turn the fillets and grill about 3 minutes longer, until the salmon is nearly cooked through. Then, generously brush both sides of the salmon with the honey mustard sauce and continue grilling, turning frequently, for another minute or two, until the salmon is richly glazed.

The salmon is done when the thickest part of the salmon will flake.

Transfer the fillets to a platter alongside fresh steamed broccoli and lemon wedges.  Drizzle the salmon and broccoli with a bit of the reserved honey mustard sauce, a sprinkle of chopped parsley, and serve.  Pass any remaining honey mustard sauce at the table.


And what was the verdict?  We would make this again.  The sauce was very nice and there was enough left over to try it out on chicken the next night.  I think I have found a keeper!