Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Strawberry Pretzel DessertKindle Cuisine
I am an avid reader. My husband likes to joke that he’s actually married to the back of my kindle. He may have a point. Usually, any free time I have is spent reading. I’ll read anything and everything but I love political thrillers, anything having to do with Black-Ops, and Romance novels of all kinds.

Because I read mostly on my kindle, I am able to do a web search whenever I come across something that I am unfamiliar with or want more info on. Usually, it’s a place, or in the case of the Black Ops stuff, some highly-technical super spy helicopter or whatever. Over the weekend, I came across something in one of my books that I just had to research. The main character in the story is a native of the state of Alabama and she kept talking about Strawberry Pretzel Salad.

Being the foodie that I am, I was immediately intrigued since I had never even heard of it before. But, the book presented it as a Southern staple along the lines of fried chicken or biscuits and gravy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is not, in fact, strawberries tossed in a bowl with pretzels and spinach leaves—since that is what comes to mind when I think of a salad. Instead, it is more like a cheesecake bar, though I am sure any devoted Southerner with better knowledge than me is going to roast me for calling it that. Whatever you want to call it, I have been obsessing over it and now I just HAVE to make it.

All of the pictures I have found online make it look so pretty and with the strawberries as good as they are right now, the timing is perfect. There are actually a number of recipes available online and all of them are similar, although some use frozen strawberries and some of them call for fresh. I am using fresh strawberries because it is summer and frankly, I think it will look prettier. I am also opting not to include pineapple. Not that I have anything against pineapple but I’m thinking that straight strawberry is a better place to start.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert  
Adapted from All Recipes
Read more…

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Bourbon Peach CobblerPeachy-Keen
I know that apple pie is the undisputed champion of 4th of July, but if you have walked through any produce department lately you may have noticed that peaches and nectarines are doing everything they can to get your attention. What is it about that fragrance that makes me stop in my tracks and throw a half dozen in a bag?

Truth is I am a bit mad for peaches and nectarines right now. It is the peak of their season and they are just so good. I think I have used them in every meal this week. Grilled and diced into a salsa to put on the pork chops I grilled them with or sliced up in a cool crisp salad with some Point Reyes blue cheese and some spiced nuts. Or just sliced and eaten by themselves. Then there are the smoothies and baked goods….

I love apple pie but I am having a hard time getting excited about it for the 4th. Instead, my mind is filled with visions of gooey cobbler mixing with cool vanilla bean ice cream and it’s making my mouth water. Even better? This recipe also includes a splash of Bourbon…

Bourbon Peach Cobbler 
Adapted from Tyler Florence and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter CookiesCookie Monster
If you ask my husband what he wants for Father’s Day, he will tell you without hesitation that he neither needs nor wants anything. He has said, however, that he would be okay with a clean and organized house. I wish I could say that is an easy request….

The love of my life is not a person that needs stuff (unless you count musical instruments). In fact, his preference is for the least amount of stuff he can get away with. Because of this, it is hard to recognize his awesomeness as a father in the usual ways. That is why birthdays and Father’s Day are usually celebrated with some sort of special food item.

There are many treats that our #1 Dad thinks are the best thing ever. The first would be ice cream. Whether it is a bowl of his favorite Tin Roof Sundae or an ice cream sandwich, anyone who thinks they might be able to keep a stash on hand for craving emergencies would be very, very wrong. You’d be lucky if either lasts the night. There is one other tasty treat that trumps even the most decadent ice cream and that treat would be cookies.

One of the first things I learned about my husband when we met was of his love of cookies. In fact, cookie was the first word he spoke as a child. To say that he has never met a cookie he didn’t like would be a massive understatement. But, his hands down, absolute favorite is classic peanut butter cookie dipped in melted chocolate.

While I love peanut butter cookies they are a variety I don’t make very often. Mainly because most of the cookies I make are for school functions and peanuts are generally a bad idea at school. So, to celebrate and thank the best father to my kids that I could ever have thought of, I will be making these to go with the milk in his World’s Greatest Dad mug.

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 2 dozen giant cookies Read more…

On the Fly Blackberry Pie

On the Fly Blackberry PiePie on the Fly
Last Saturday, my sister and I grabbed our buckets and boxes and set out for Brentwood to pick fruit. We picked a lot of fruit. Peaches, pluots, cherries, and blackberries. I personally harvested almost 9 pounds of blackberries. And, I felt the fruits of that labor for an embarrassing two days after. I gathered that much because I had a jam plan for the blackberries and I wanted to make sure I had enough for a double batch.

Turns out I had more than enough to make the jam as well as a fresh blackberry pie.

My grandmother had a huge blackberry bramble in her garden and we used to pick blackberries every year to make in to jam. But, she also had a killer recipe for blackberry pie. And, I have no clue what that recipe was. Maybe she just eyeballed the sugar and cornstarch and threw it and the fruit together in a pie crust. But, for the life of me, I can’t find a copy of her pie recipe, or for that matter her jam recipe, anywhere.

So, while my jars were processing, I went on a hunt for a blackberry pie recipe. You think it would be easy—but you would be wrong. Most of the pies that have blackberries in them also have other fruits and I wanted a straight up blackberry pie. I never found one that was quite right. So, I eventually just combined a bunch of different recipes into one and went with it.

Turns out my Blackberry Pie on the Fly was darn tasty. In fact, the scent of the pie and our impatience prompted us to cut into it before it had finished cooling—which was a mistake. The blackberry goodness inside did not stay inside and oozed out of the crust into the pie plate. Note to self, the pie must be allowed to cool completely. The visual did not affect the flavor though and all traces of pie were gone by morning…

On The Fly Blackberry Pie
Yields 10 servings Read more…

Flan

FlanThat’s the Flan
The older I get the more I notice how time is speeding up. The month of April is gone and I seriously have no idea where it went. It’s crazy to believe that we are now in the Month of May. But if it is early in the month of May you know what that means…

For me, Cinco de Mayo is just another excuse to make Mexican food which, frankly, I make a lot. However, for Cinco de Mayo I like to step up my game. I try to dig a little deeper into Mexican cuisine and get to the good stuff beyond tacos and enchiladas.

One such dish is flan.

True, flan is not exactly unheard of. You can basically get it in any Mexican restaurant but it’s not something that your average home cook just whips up. I will whip up a batch of guacamole at the drop of a hat. Flan? Not so much.

Flan can be sort of polarizing. I have found that people either like it or they hate it. There is not a lot of grey area. For the most part, it’s a texture thing. Not everybody likes that eggy custard mouthfeel. Personally, I love it. Though it may seem daunting, Mexican flan is not difficult to make especially if you do individual servings. I have had more difficulties with the bigger versions coming out clean.

When making flan, ingredients matter because the recipe is so simple. Make sure you use good quality vanilla. You can also use the seeds from a vanilla bean if you want big vanilla flavor. I like to add a little cinnamon to mine. Try to use a true Ceylon cinnamon if you can.

Regardless of what you serve at your fiesta this weekend, enjoy the great weather, good food, and good friends. And, most of all be safe.

Flan 
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
Yields approximately 8 servings Read more…