Cooking on Vacation

So I had mentioned in some previous posts that I got to cook in a pretty awesome kitchen with a beautiful view during the vacation I took with my family this past weekend.

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Me cooking in the kitchen, with my mom and step-aunt, Nola, doing something at the table. They got to try my strawberry crisp with basil ice cream desert this night.

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View from the loft above the kitchen/dining room area

ImageView from the windows in the great room/kitchen area. (Can I cook while looking at this every day?)

I also got a little experience to feel what catering was like when I went to cook the strawberry shortcake french toast again that I made on Day 2:

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All the kids seemed to like the dessert a lot… I mean it is topped with sugar, more sugar, and then a little more sugar so they better…

Just wanted to share a few pictures, today’s recipe will come soon!

Day 13

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Banana-Walnut Oatmeal Bars with Salted Caramel and Chocolate

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Oh sweet, salty, gooey, and caramely goodness. This recipe was intense. I guess I didn’t realize how many steps go into making a bar like this of. Stove top cooking, oven cooking, melting, caramelizing, and freezing. On today’s stormy day, it was a fun recipe to make.

I guess I didn’t realize that when the recipe said bars, it meant candy bars. I’m glad they’re pretty small though because they are rich.

I left some of the bars without chocolate and the banana flavor comes out a bit more in those.

I also made two different batches of caramel. The first one was a smaller batch and caramelized much better than the other batch, which was about twice the size. Making caramel isn’t easy, but as long as you’re there with a spatula the whole time scraping and stirring it actually works (Even with soy creamer).

I need to move on to real food, my family and I are getting fat with all of these desserts. I do want to try making milk-free ice cream though…

Top with Cinnamon Blog Recipe:

Ingredients

1/2 cup golden syrup / mild honey (International)
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp mashed ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
optional: 
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup desiccated coconut, toasted

For the salted caramel:
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream / double cream (I used Soy Original Creamer)
1/4 tsp fleur de sel
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Decoration: chopped toasted walnuts, toasted desiccated coconut, chocolate chips*

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and line a 10″ x 7″ or 9″ square tin with baking paper and grease the baking paper.

Melt the butter in a medium-large sauce pan. Stir in the sugar and syrup/honey and cook for 5 minutes over a medium-low heat, while constantly stirring. Add in the mashed banana and cook for a further 2 minutes. Sir in the oats, vanilla and optional extras (if you’re adding them in). Pour the mixture into the lined tray, then spread and flatten it out with your hands. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave it in the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.

In a heavy based saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, cream and salt over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Turn the heat up to medium-high, bringing the mixture to a boil. Let it simmer while you stir constantly with a spatula, scraping the sides and edges of the pan, for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter has melted in, then pour the caramel over the baked base and spread it so it covers the entire surface. Sprinkle on any desired toppings then refrigerate until the caramel is firm. Cut into bars/ squares and serve.

*you can melt the chocolate then dip the base of each square in it and drizzle it on after the bars have been refrigerated like I did.

Day 12

Summer Cucumber Salad

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So I’ll admit it, I got really lazy today and decided I wasn’t in the mood to make anything too elaborate. We had a bunch of left over vegetables from our lake vacation and it just so happened this recipe made it so I wouldn’t have to go to the store.

The dressing was a very mild, but tasty white wine vinaigrette dressing. I also added some sunflower seeds on top because everyone likes them a lot at my house.

I think I’m tired of just cut up vegetables to eat with dinner, so I might have to keep making little fresh vegetable salads like this more often.

Recipe created by Epicurean Mom

Ingredients

For salad:

2 cucumbers, skin shaved and sliced in 1/2-inch slices

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped in 1-inch pieces

1/2 orange bell pepper, chopped in 1-inch pieces

3 scallions, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup halved Kalamata olives

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Edible flowers *Optional*

For Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Combine all dressing ingredients, stir well, set aside.

Place salad ingredients in a medium bowl, pour dressing and toss to coat.  Cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day ahead.

Day 11

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Squeaky Clean Spinach & Stone-fruit Smoothie:

I know smoothies are pretty simple, but I figured I’d try something new, and it’s HOT this weekend. I’ve always been a little skeptical of putting spinach in smoothies and sort of get turned off by the dark green color of crazy healthy green smoothies. I have to say, it’s pretty good, and adds smoothness to a smoothie that I’m not used to.

Of course since there are five boys all under my age in this house, I had to make a few batches without spinach, which actually tasted pretty good too. Honestly, they’re just scared (as I was) of the dark green color.

Also, a good trick, that might seem sort of obvious with smoothies is to add ice after you’ve mixed all the other ingredients little by little. Makes for the perfect consistency.

Maybe I’d be more healthy if I made myself a fresh fruit smoothie with spinach every morning…

ImageIn Pursuit of More Recipe:

Ingredients

  • (2) fresh nectarines (can sub peaches or apricots, if using apricots up to 3-4)
  • (1) heaping cup frozen peaches
  • (1) large handful packed fresh spinach leaves
  • (1) banana
  • (1-1.5) cup mango juice (can also sub apricot, peach, or other yellow tropical combo)
  • (1) cup ice cubes (optional)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until super smooth – about 1 minute minimum.

Depending on the strength of your blender, the time it takes to properly blend really varies.

Day 10

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto/Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean Dip

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This was a fun one since no one in my family could decide if i should make the dip or the pesto. I decided to cut the recipe in half so that we could try each. I’d have to say my favorite of the two was the dip, because the white beans added a little extra flavor and just made more sense to eat with a chip.The pesto was great, just really thick and needed some extra salt.

I think the key with these recipes is to roast the red peppers fresh. This also kept the dip and sauce warm so extra cooking wasn’t necessary. I just roasted them the same way I did the brussel sprouts, with olive oil and a lot of salt and pepper. I included a picture up top of the red peppers after being roasted. I secretly just wanted to eat them like that.

I’ll ACTUALLY post pictures of the kitchen that I’m cooking in soon.

Girlichef Recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4-8)

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 c. walnuts
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 c. cooked (or canned) and drained cannellini beans
  • 1 c. fresh basil, optional
  • ½ c. olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Pulse the garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the walnuts and pulse a few more times to break up any large pieces.

Add the roasted red peppers and basil and process, streaming in the oil as you go, until all the ingredients are well combined and as coarse or as smooth as you want them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately with crudités, crostini, or vegetable chips, or spread on sandwiches or toss with pasta.

Store in a covered airtight container in the fridge for a day or so, or freeze.

Day 9

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Salty Sweet Strawberry Crisp with Lazy Basil Ice Cream

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Wow, this dessert is seriously nailing it and it’s also amazing to be cooking in a beautiful kitchen at the house my family is renting on Canandaigua lake (will post pictures tomorrow).

Using Ritz crackers and almonds for the topping made for an unbelievable crunch. Additionally the strawberries get extremely hot and make for a gooey warm sauce that ends up boiling all over everything (AMAZING). I love the little ramekins I used to bake and dish the dessert. It makes for awesome presentation and easy/portioned eating.

Adding basil to soy ice cream made for an extremely fresh topping that ends up melting its way into the dessert as you eat. Also, out of everyone who tried the dessert, not one person noticed any difference in the taste of the soy ice cream. I guess basil and strawberry goo does the trick.

I’d have to say… Strawberries are definitely the most used ingredient so far in the blog. What can I say, they’re on sale at Wegmans and they’re amazing.

Salty Sweet Strawberry Crisp Ingredients

2 heaping cups hulled & diced fresh strawberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons sugar (depending on berries)
1 tablespoon cornstarch

15 Ritz crackers
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup raw almonds, finely chopped
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
pinch of coarse salt

Lazy Basil Ice Cream Ingredients

1 cup good vanilla ice cream
6-8 large basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 4 6-ounce ramekins on a foil lined baking sheet.

Toss strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl. Divide evenly among ramekins.

Using your hands, crumble crackers into roughly pea sized pieces a medium bowl. Add brown sugar, almonds, salt and melted butter. Toss together until damp and evenly mixed. Top ramekins with mixture.

Bake ramekins uncovered on foiled lined baking sheet at 350°F for 25-30 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and top is browned.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve the crisps, remove ice cream container from freezer and sit at room temp to soften. Roll basil leaves into a cigar-shape and slice finely (aka chiffonade), then chop finely into small pieces. Scoop about 1 cup of softened ice cream into a small bowl and fold in basil with a spatula. Serve immediately over warm strawberry crisps.

To make ahead: You can bake the crisp several hours ahead of time. Cool, then keep loosely covered at room temperature. (I don’t recommend refrigerating, as the topping will get soggy.) Reheat at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, or until warm.

Day 8

2 Recipes Today:

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Pancetta Carbonara:

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Making this recipe was a lot of fun. I was excited to research the best kind of vegan Parmesan for my milk allergy. I found that the best substitute might be from Galaxy Nutritional Food products. It was really nice to try a substitute for cheese, I had been missing the taste for a while.

The pancetta was really amazing, and all I did was just buy small pancetta bites from Wegmans that I was able to fry with garlic.

Carbonara is very heavy but such a good pasta dish.

Tyler Forence Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving- I used vegan parmesan
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian “al dente.”) Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.

Roasted Brussels Sprout with Kielbasa

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So I took a food network simple Brussels sprout recipe and got a recommendation from Lily to add some sort of meat to it, to pair nicely with the carbonara. I had a little bit of left over kielbasa so used that, which roasted so nicely and added extra taste to the brussel sprout.

I’ve always loved Brussels sprout but haven’t found a way to cook them that I liked until this recipe. I think the key is simply just a lot of salt and oil. Additionally, cooking the sprouts for a long time allows the flavor to soak through and take away the bitterness of the vegetable.

I’m proud of myself for finally just adding in an ingredient like kielbasa because the ingredient worked perfectly with the other dish.

Finally I made a main and side dish for a complete dinner.

Barefoot Contessa and Mitchell Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Sprinkle with more kosher salt ( I like these salty like French fries), and serve immediately.

Serves: 6; Calories: 109; Total Fat: 7 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 4 grams; Total carbohydrates: 10 grams; Sugar: 2 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 269 milligrams

Day 7

Breakfast Pizza

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Baking a pizza cleanly through the whole pan must be an art, especially where eggs are concerned. I decided to listen to one of the comments on the recipe and put the dough in a Pyrex can instead of on a pizza sheet. This allowed the eggs to spread out and cook a little higher since there was some depth in the pan.

I also struggled to make this a milk-free recipe, but just decided to take out the cheese. The shredded has browns were great, and I might even add a little more next time I make them. I used turkey sausage instead of vegetarian sausage because let’s be real, real meat is better.

It’s funny that this is the second recipe I’ve made that fake’s pizza crust, I definitely owe it to myself to learn how to make real pizza crust soon.

Vegetarian Times Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz. can low-fat refrigerated crescent dinner roll dough
  • 7 oz. vegetarian breakfast “sausage” patties
  • 1 cup frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 8-oz. carton egg substitute or 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup skim milk or soymilk
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Separate dough into triangles. Press triangles together to form single round crust on 12-inch pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form rim.
  2. Cook “sausages” 5 to 7 minutes, breaking into small crumbles. Drain on paper towels, and let cool slightly.
  3. Top prepared dough with “sausage,” potatoes and cheese. Whisk together egg substitute, milk, sage, salt and red pepper flakes in medium bowl. Carefully pour milk mixture over “sausage” mixture. Bake 25 minutes, or until crust is browned. Cut into wedges, and serve warm.

Day 6

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins Recipe

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Thanks to my mom’s co-worker Sue, who found this recipe, I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store to make it. Both Oatmeal and Strawberries are great ingredients for a muffin. Macerating the strawberries in sugar and balsamic vinaigrette made the strawberries great for baking, which is a good trick for the future.

The muffins tasted awesome but were just a tiny bit under cooked. I still haven’t mastered the art of knowing when something is finished baking. I love cookies and brownies under cooked but definitely am not a fan of a doughy undercooked muffins. Luckily these weren’t too bad.

I find baking a good amount easier than most other cooking, because you sort of rely on the oven to make the dough spread and rise, so presentation is less of a responsibility.

James let me go solo with cooking this recipe (and he’s leaving on Wednesday), which made me feel like I had to be an octopus to get everything done. He did take an awesome picture of this one though!

Simply Recipes Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1 Mix the oats and plain yogurt together in a large bowl.

2 Rinse and core the strawberries. Roughly chop the strawberries (I cut them in quarters lengthwise and then make one or two crosswise cuts). You should have about 1 1/2 cups of chopped strawberries. Place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with white sugar and balsamic vinegar. Gently stir to coat the strawberries with the sugar and vinegar.

3 Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a 12-well muffin tin by coating with butter or lining with paper muffin cups.

4 Whisk together in a medium bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, finely ground black pepper, and cinnamon.

5 Add the eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract to the oatmeal and yogurt mixture. Stir until just incorporated.

6 Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the flour mixture into the oatmeal. Stir until just incorporated and the flour is moistened. Do not over-mix! Or your muffins will end up rubbery. The batter should be rather lumpy, not smooth.

7 Gently fold in the strawberries, including any of the sugary vinegary liquid the strawberries have been sitting in.

8 Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tin wells or cups. Bake until the tops are browned and the muffin bounces back when you gently press on the top with your finger tips, about 20 minutes. A bamboo or metal skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool for a couple minutes in the muffin tin before removing to serve.