Strawberry Milk

Strawberry MilkMilking It
My kids give me a hard time because I watch a lot of the History Channel. (Ummm…hello? History major?) To be fair, I do watch a lot of the History Channel. One of my favorite shows is The Food That Built America, which looks into the history behind the foods we eat. And, it’s perfect for me for obvious reasons. It combines my love of history with my other love, food. If you haven’t seen it, take a minute and search it out. The show is fascinating. Who knew Cheetos were invented because the U.S. government had too much powdered cheese left over after WWII? Or that Hershey’s tastes the way it does because they actually burn the milk a little? Mind blown, people…

This curiosity about food can get me into trouble when I am surfing food blogs looking for interesting things. Case in point, this recipe for Strawberry Milk. I love the Smitten Kitchen blog almost as much as I love the cookbooks. And, while scrolling through the site one day I was drawn to this recipe at first because I was horrified. To me, strawberry milk means strawberry Nesquick—which is a memory from my childhood I would rather forget. So, like a bad accident on the highway, I couldn’t help but click on the link to gawk at it and see what this was all about.

I’m not sure what it was that made me uncomfortable about this recipe. Maybe it’s the idea of the acid in the strawberries reacting with the milk? I’m not totally sure but upon further inspection, I realized that this recipe in no way resembles the alarming neon pink beverage of my youth. If anything, this recipe reminds me of a more liquefied version of a smoothie or a Kefir.

Because of the addition of buttermilk, the strawberry milk is not super-sweet. And, since it has to sit overnight in the fridge, it’s not a bad option for a quick (not that one!) and tasty breakfast on the go. I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical. (And, the kids were somewhat concerned.) But, I found after tasting it that I just kept going back for more. The good news is that it’s all natural, though there is a decent amount of sugar.

If you are a lover of all things strawberry and dairy (ice cream, milkshakes, yogurt, etc.), or are just looking for something different to brighten up your summer day, give this treat a try. I’m thinking of turning this into frozen popsicles. We’ll see how that goes.

Strawberry Milk Recipe
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Strawberry milk is wonderful with breakfast. So, start this recipe the afternoon or evening before. You can macerate the strawberries in the fridge for a few hours before mixing the Strawberry Milk. It sits overnight in the fridge so the flavors can steep and deepen. Read more…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups

Mini Berry Meringue CupsBaking Hot Summer
Today is the last day of school—and the official first day of summer if you ask any kid. The trials of distance learning via Zoom can now make way for better things like the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck and days at the pool. For us, the last day of school also marks the beginning of the calorically perilous time known as Sophie Baking Season.

When there are no classes to attend or homework to be done, my daughter heads to the kitchen to fill her days. For her brothers, this means that there is a better than average chance that they will be eating something for lunch that is not a bowl of cereal. Biscuit sandwiches are one of her go-tos as are any Asian dumplings. But, while there are always exceptions, nine times out of ten, when Sophie is in the kitchen she’s baking something sweet. This makes this time of year a killer on your calorie count. Her weapon of choice? Cookies…

It would be bad enough if she was going with a classic chocolate chip. Because, how can you possibly pass up a chocolate chip cookie? But Soph likes a challenge. Her favorite things to make are French Macarons. And, she’s pretty much mastered them. A friend of the family has even commissioned a few dozen for their graduation party this weekend. (We’ve been in a constant state of taste testing for the past couple of weeks. I know. Oh, the humanity!) If macarons are her first love, meringues would be a very close second.

It makes sense if you think about it. Both desserts require a meringue to make them. The execution is just different. These lighter-than-air treats are so good that you may start with one…but before you know it you have eaten an entire handful. And, with the flavor possibilities being endless—and tested frequently—there’s always seems to be at least a handful available for consumption. (Along with an equal number of dirty dishes and bowls!)

To give the family a break, I have issued her a challenge. Instead of her usual espresso or vanilla flavored favorites, can she use the same meringue to make me some Mini Berry Meringue Cups that I can fill with fresh berries as a lovely and somewhat elegant end to a nice summer dinner? If you have ever eaten a Pavlova, this is essentially that, just made smaller with berries and whipped cream on top. Of course you could always just make the big one to make life a bit easier. And hey, if it breaks you just bust the rest of it up and make a meringue trifle…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups with Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Smokey Blackberry Barbecue Sauce

Smokey Blackberry Barbecue SauceVery Berry BBQ
I have a reservation this weekend to go berry picking—and I am very excited. There is a chance that the berries: a.) won’t be ripe or b.) might be all gone by the time I get there.
I’m keeping a positive attitude while crossing my fingers.

U-pick is one of my favorite things about this time of year. It starts with berries and cherries and moves into peaches and nectarines. I look forward to this every year starting January first. Since I didn’t get to go last year for obvious reasons, the anticipation has been killin’ me. But, I know this time it will be that much sweeter. (See what I did there?)

The last u-pick haul I had was 10 pounds of blackberries. This sounds like a lot, but once you cook ‘em down for jam and make a pie, there’s not much left over. If the stars align, I am planning to get at least that much again and maybe a bit more. Because I really want to make this sauce for Memorial Day.

I love the combination of sweet fruits and pork and there is no better showcase than pork ribs. My Cherry Coke Ribs are a family favorite. And, they are a perfect example of what I am talking about. Juicy tender ribs covered in a spicy sweet glaze. It just doesn’t get much better. (Unless there’s cake or pie…all bets are off at that point!)

I have tried other rib sauces and glazes that had raspberry or blackberry in them and I have always loved the combination. So, I am going to set aside some of this weekends blackberry harvest and cook up some of this spicy berry awesomeness.

Smokey Blackberry Barbecue Sauce Recipe
Yields enough sauce for about 4 pounds of pork spare ribs plus extra
Adapted from Food & Wine

We are using this sauce on pork spareribs, and it is also delicious on grilled pork, baby back ribs, and chicken. The smoky flavor comes from the grilled berries and also the chipotle chiles packed in adobo. Read more…

Arroz Con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)

Pudding it out there
You don’t see a lot of pudding anymore. True, there are the pudding cups calling your name from the dairy aisle. But, actual pudding is not to be found. Growing up it was everywhere. If you were one of the cool kids who got the Jello Pudding cup in your lunch, it was a very good day. Then there was the pudding pop in the frozen section. Jello was trying to take over the world in the 80s…

My grandmother was a big fan of tapioca pudding. It’s one of my absolute favorites as well. If we were lucky, she would make some when we visited her house. She had these cool, stemmed glass cups that she used specifically for the pudding. I still have them—only now I’ve upped the game a bit.

I think it’s because of my love for tapioca that I fell head-over-heels for the Mexican version, Arroz con Leche. Truth be told, they are not exactly the same. Tapioca tends to be a bit thicker and has more of a custard consistency.

It’s the cinnamon in the Arroz that does it for me. And sometimes I add a little lime zest for some zing if I’m feeling sassy. Many traditional recipes add raisins to the pudding. Personally I am not a fan. The soft rice with the raisins is a textural problem for me. Plus, my kids hate raisins.

You can top the pudding with lots of fun stuff from pineapple to mango and some grated coconut. As the days get hotter, this simple chilled dessert option can be a nice change from the usual ice cream. And, it a fantastic ending to you taco Tuesday!

Arroz Con Leche Recipe
Yields 4 servings
Adapted from Lil Luna

This pudding is delicious as directed in the recipe, and also takes well to the addition of toppings. Some suggested toppings are grated coconut, diced fruit (such as fresh mango, banana, and pineapple), toasted slivered almonds or chopped walnuts, and brown sugar for extra sweetness. Read more…