It’s August and Summer is in full swing here in Michigan. Actually, with the weather we’ve been having here the past few weeks, it feels like Fall. Not that I mind the cooler temperatures; I’m just hope the mild summer is not going to translate into a brutal winter. But enough about that — nothing says summer quite like a nice boozy watermelon punch.
I did just have my summer shindig recently and made this again. I usually have 4 big get-togethers each year when I invite my close friends (actually I consider these guys to be family) and treat them to some free food and booze. Sure this explanation is a little simplistic, but y’all don’t need to get into my big bag of crazy when it comes to planning and prep. I actually don’t remember what else I made, other than stuff on the grill. But I did remember this! Making this concoction this time seemed a lot easier, but last time I was face down in my backyard all afternoon so who knows what my recollection can actually count for. And, of course, I could not find my old recipe no matter how much I looked around for it. So this is a whole new deal.
Now I really like this recipe. I didn’t think it was overly sweet and you could still pick up on all the ingredients. And if you are like me, you may just have a couple of portions of mint syrup just hanging out in the freezer for emergencies.
I did hollow out the watermelon and use it as a serving utensil, which is completely optional. I like the presentation. If you were interested in serving it this way but don’t know where to get a spigot like this, you could check out your local brewer’s supply shop. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 watermelon (medium-sized, I guess. Use the pictures as a reference)
- 1/2 – 1 c. vodka
- 1 c. cachaça
- 1 1/2 c. rum (I used a dark 8-year-old rum)
- 4 oz. Midori
- 6 limes, juiced
- 2 c. mint syrup
1. Take your watermelon and see if it’s able to stand on its end. If not, just cut off a small slice to level it off, making sure not to expose any of the inner flesh.
2. Cut off the top couple of inches of the watermelon to expose some of the red flesh inside (wow that sounds a little macabre). Using an ice cream scoop, start scooping out the fruit (berry?) and place it in a food processor. Pulse it in batches until smooth and run the purée through a fine sieve set over a large bowl.
3. In a large pitcher or jug, combine the vodka, cachaça, rum, Midori, lime juice, and mint syrup. Stir to blend.
4. Add the strained watermelon juice and stir to combine. You can refrigerate this overnight, just be sure to mix it before hand.
5. Pour yourself a little happy. Add some ice if you like!
Notes — you may want to run the watermelon through a very fine sieve. you could just line a sieve with some paper towel, but that sounds like a long process. . . if you cut off too much on the bottom to level the watermelon, it’s not the end of the world. just be sure not to hollow out the watermelon too much or you will have a boozy, leaky mess on your hands. . . also, be careful not to take out too much of the pulp (is that the right term?). if you are overzealous with your scraping, the hollowed out shell might crack and there’s another boozy, leaky mess. . .
Wow. It is definitely weird how much having a new full-time job affects your life. There’s a whole new schedule to figure out, there are weeks of intense training, there’s tests, new policies and procedures, new people, new office. . . well, you get the point. So my mind has been preoccupied lately, which explains the dearth of postings lately. Sometimes you just have to make a paid gig a priority! But I am sad that I’m probably gonna have to close up the bakery at this point. Just a sign o’ the times! Maybe I’ll just go super-super small-scale, although there is a limit to the amount of downsizing that you can do, especially if your workforce consists of one.
So this is my attempt at achieving some sense of normalcy — a return to blogging, a return to working out, a return to volleyball (that is, if my injuries would stop lingering). I would like to stress the word “attempt”. It may take me some time to really figure out how to balance everything. What makes it more challenging is that my work schedule isn’t exactly always set in stone. Eh, it’s a work in progress, much like everything else in life.
Anyhoo. . . on to the recipe! Now mussels are one of my most favorite things to eat. Just throw them into a pan with some white wine and dinner is ready in like 5 minutes! Really. It’s not the most user-friendly, mainly because you have a whole bunch of shells to deal with when your done. Which is why I try to schedule meals like this the day before trash day. I don’t need bits of shellfish lingering in the trash for several days.
Now that I’ve gotten that lovely image out of the way we can get back to the recipe. It’s relatively simple and it’s easily changed to fit whatever ingredients you have around. This time around I had some onions, garlic, celery, Roma tomatoes, and some basil. Throw in the little bit of Andouille that I had bought specifically for this and you get one of my most favoritest dishes. Here’s what you need:
- 1 1/2 lbs mussels, cleaned and beards removed
- 1/4 lb. andouille sausage
- 1 rib of celery, 1/4 in. diagonal slice
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 c. basil, chopped
- 1-2 c. white wine
- salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pan, sauté the Andouille for about 3 minutes. Add the celery and onion and sauté for about 2 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and half of the basil. Cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Throw in the mussels and white wine and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Then remove the cover, stir the mussels, and return the lid. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Top with remaining basil. Serve over pasta, or rice, or with crackers, or with a straw (or just slurp it out of the bowl).
Alright so this isn’t all that much of an experiment, but I’m doing this in a different way. But what I wanted to do is try to make some mini cheesecakes and clean out the pantry at the same time. I had a bunch of cream cheese in the fridge, but not enough to make a whole cheesecake; I had some raspberry coulis left over from the Marquis Roulade I made a few weeks ago; and there was some honey that I was just tired of looking at. Throw in some graham crackers and some frozen raspberries and it all made sense.
Actually there is a little bit of an experiment going on here. Instead of making the filling using a stand mixer, I tried to make everything in the blender. I was thinking to myself that this should work, in theory. It actually didn’t work out too bad. There was a little bit of work trying to get the blender going at first, but the batter was very smooth. Doubt that I could do this for a full cheesecake recipe though — my blender is too small.
It’s hard to figure out a recipe here. Like I’ve said before, I do have a specific formula for cheesecakes that I like to follow, so I just used that as a guide. I cut down a graham cracker crust recipe in half which I just sprinkled on the bottom of the tins or cupcake papers. My serious recommendation that I have for a recipe like this is to definitely use paper liners. One of the pans that I used is non-stick which I also generously sprayed with cooking spray — I still had to dig the cheesecakes out with a fork and spoon. Here’s what you need:
For the crust:
- 6 graham crackers
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. butter, melted
Pulse the crackers and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs. Mix in butter and set aside.
For the filling:
- 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 c. honey
- about 4 oz. frozen raspberries
- raspberry coulis
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard cupcake pans with liners.
2. Throw the cream cheese, eggs, and honey in a blender. Or you could beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth. Add the honey and combine. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. (See! Using the blender is easier).
3. Place a couple of tablespoons of the crust mixture on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Lightly press down and place 1-2 of the frozen raspberries on the bottom. Fill about halfway with the cheesecake batter. Add about 1 t. of the coulis and carefully fill the liner about 2/3 full.
4. Bake in the over for about 30 – 45 minutes, until the middle is set. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.
It could just be me, but I need a break from the Olympics. So instead I’m up watching the NASA channel on updates about the Mars Rover, well that and reruns of Futurama. I guess I need to feed my inner nerd. Sure I could be studying up on Policies and Procedures, but science is important.
And as another break from the Olympics I thought I’d just post some random things that I find funny that are food related. I was thinking about trying to make this a regular feature, but that requires extra work that is difficult right now with all the training and studying I have to do. Hell, I can’t even keep up with my regular blogging duties.
Anyhoo, I thought this was funny. It was making the rounds a little bit ago along all the Interwebs, so I’m a little late with this one. I have no idea on the source, but if anyone knows, drop me a line.
Beets. Now who doesn’t like beets? Actually, I didn’t for the longest time (skip this if you already know this story 🙂 ). The taste was odd to me — kinda like an earthier carrot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it just seemed weird. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t exposed to them as a child. Actually I don’t think Brooklyn had any beets at the time. Sure, that’s probably not accurate and my memory is somewhat foggy. After all, I was only like five years old at the time and that was like 100 years ago.
But I digress… This I served as a side, but it is easy to turn this into a full vegetarian course. And again, this is hard for me to quantify because I grilled some beets and served it with a handful of greens and topped it with some feta so ingredients are just a guestimation. This is easy-peasy lemon-squeezy; here’s kinda what you need:
- 1 beet, sliced about 1/4″ thick
- vegetable oil, for brushing the beets
- 1 c. micro greens or baby greens (I used daikon and chard)
- 1/4 c. feta, crumbled
- salt and pepper, to taste
- salad dressing, to taste
1. Prepare your grill, as needed (again, I use hardwood charcoal). Brush the beets with the vegetable oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Grill the beets until tender over direct heat, about 2-3 minutes a side. Remove from the heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly dress the greens
3. Arrange the beets on the plate. Top with the dressed greens. Sprinkle with the feta crumbles. Add salt and pepper if you like.
Notes — for the dressing, I just drizzled some olive oil and lemon juice on top of the greens to dress them
Corn, a grill, and compound butter. How can that combination be wrong? I love grilling corn and I’m on the side of the spectrum that grills the corn without the husks on. In my opinion, if you grill with the husks on you’re really not grilling the corn but steaming it. I, for one, like a nice, smoky char. And I like nice, simple, summer recipes. You can’t get much simpler than this — corn, butter, radishes. That’s essentially all you need. I just add some herbs for some additional flavor (just some basil and parsley, but use whatever you want).
I would serve this as a side, but it is easy to get full from this because you can get carried away. Here’s what you need:
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 1 -2 radishes, chopped
- chopped herbs, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 – 8 ears of corn, husks removed
- vegetable oil
1. Prepare your grill (I use charcoal). Meanwhile, combine the butter, radishes, herbs, salt, & pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Brush the corn with the oil and place on the grill over direct heat. Grill until nicely browned, about 8 – 10 minutes. Turn the ears as needed to cook evenly. Transfer to a serving plate.
3. After the corn is removed from the grill, brush with the radish butter. Sprinkle on a little salt & pepper if you like and serve.
Notes — You can bush the radish butter on the corn while it’s on the grill, but I’d wait until the last couple of minutes because the radishes could burn. . . You can keep the husks on. Peel them back and tie them to make a handle. Just keep the husks off the heat — hang them over the edge of the grill. . . Make some extra radish butter — it’s great on a nice toasty baguette!
Alright, I gots power back (huzzah!) And I gots a job offer (another huzzah!). So let’s celebrate with a pretty cheesecake! This is definitely one of the prettier cheesecakes that I make. Of course, it is one of the more labor intensive ones to construct, but it’s easy to switch it up by using peaches, oranges, kiwis, or what’s ever striking your fancy that day. And the cheesecake recipe is such a great staple to have. This particular recipe is a little bit extra special because I do use a vanilla bean here instead of the extract. Just a nice touch that really stands out. Plus you see all the nice tiny vanilla beans, which I just love.
This I made for my Summer Mullet Party / Wine Tasting (you know — business in the front, party in the back). Unfortunately I was not able to take any pics of any slices, but it was a big hit from what I understand. I was too preoccupied tasting wine at the time. And rum. And bourbon. Anyhoo, here’s what you need:
For the crust:
- 12 big graham crackers (before you break it into four pieces)
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 t. salt
- 6 T. butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan with heavy-duty foil. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Slightly break up crackers and place in the bowl of a food processor with the sugar and salt. Pulse until fine. Stir in butter well, and transfer to prepared pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides of the pan.
3. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until crust starts to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Set aside.
For the filling:
- 5 8-oz. packages cream cheese
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 t. salt
- 5 eggs
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
- 1 c. sour cream
1. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and salt while mixing on low, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Now add the vanilla seeds and mix to combine. Stir in the sour cream, again scraping the sides to mix well.
3. Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Place the pan in a roasting pan. Now fill the roasting pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake. Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until set in the middle. If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.
4. Remove from the oven and run a pairing knife around the edge of the cake to help release it. Cool completely and then refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
For the topping:
- 1-2 pints strawberries, hulled & sliced thin, leaving one whole
- 1/2 red currant jelly
- 2 t. water
1. In a small saucepan on low heat, combine the jelly and water. Gradually melt until mixture is easily spread with a pastry brush. Set aside to cool but still stay liquid.
2. Brush the edge of the top of the cheesecake with the warm red currant jelly glaze and make a ring of the sliced strawberries around the edge. The glaze should re-set when chilled which helps hold the strawberries in place.
3. Start layering overlapping concentric circles of strawberries, brushing each with the glaze. Once you get to the middle, place the whole strawberry and brush with the glaze.
4. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours to set. Then you can slice and serve! And then you visit Jereme’s Kitchen and Daisy Cakes on Facebook and tell me how the recipe went for you 🙂
Notes — I’ve found it helpful to sort the strawberries according to size first before slicing. I use the slices of the larger strawberries on the outer layers, saving the smaller ones for the inner circles. . . Try different patterns. Instead of pointing the tips of strawberries out, have the points run along the edge of the cake. You can then alternate directions with each successive circle. I really hope that I explained that well.
So this is another one of those clean-out-the-pantry kind of recipes. I had some fresh rhubarb to use up so I thought to myself, “Waterlily, how should we handle this?” So looking around, I found some shredded coconut left over from some German Chocolate Cakes and I had some Tapioca pearls that I had no idea that I had. Let’s throw this all together and make some empanadas! But somewhere along the line, I lost track of how big things should be and ended up making a half-pie or a calzone kind of thing. Just think of it as a “family sized” empanada!
And I was surprised with how they turned out and how the flavors worked together. You get some tartness from the rhubarb, some sweetness from the coconut, some chewiness from the tapioca, and the crispy, flaky crust.
Again, since the recipe falls under the category of clean-out-the-pantry, it’s a rough approximation, at least for the filling. The crust does have exact measurements, but like with any pie crust, it will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Here’s what you need.
For the crust:
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks cold butter, cubed
- 8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1/4 c. cold water, at most
1. In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together to combine.
2. Add the cubed butter and cream cheese. Pulse until the mixture becomes coarse, maybe 15 seconds or so. With the processor on, gradually stream the water through the feed tube until the crust starts to form a ball.
3. Turn the crust out onto a work surface and form into a ball. Divide the ball in half and form both halves into discs. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Roll out the dough into a rough circle about 1/16″ thick. Return to the refrigerator to chill whilst you make the filling.
For the filling:
- 2 c. chopped rhubarb
- 1 c. shredded coconut
- 1 c. unprepared tapioca pearls.
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. flour
1. Prepare the tapioca according to package directions (although I think I made up my own directions). Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, place the rhubarb, coconut, and tapioca. Sprinkle flour and sugar on top and toss to combine.
Make your empanadas:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In your prepared crust, spread about half the filling onto on half of the dough. Lightly brush some water onto the edge of the crust. Gently fold over the other half of the dough onto filling and crimp the edges or roll them over.
2. Brush the empanada with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar. Cut some vents in the top to release some steam. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Notes — I didn’t add a lot of flour because, in theory, the tapioca should help absorb the liquid released by the rhubarb. . . I thought that this would be good with just the coconut and the tapioca. . . Still working on taking nice pictures, but I was excited to include my peonies. They didn’t bloom last year. . .
We just had our first official day of summer and it was ridiculously hot here in Michigan — 97 degrees F around these parts. Now I’m not 100% sure if figs are a summer fruit, but rhubarb and raspberries always make me think of the season. And when it’s summer, you don’t want to be in a hot kitchen all day, so this is ideal! What’s special about this recipe are the dried figs. They can help absorb some of the liquid that is released by the rhubarb and they add some sweetness, texture, and color. Sure, I was just trying to clean out my pantry but this combination really goes well together.
Just throw all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix it up, and get another bowl to toss the filling with some sugar and flour and you are all set. You can even make the topping the night before and put it in the fridge for when you’re ready! Easy-peasy! Here’s what you need:
For the topping:
- 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1/2 c. rolled oats
- 1/2 c. chopped pecans
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the topping resembles loose crumbs.
2. Stir in the oats and pecans. Set aside.
For the filling:
- 1/2 c. vanilla sugar
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1/4 t. nutmeg
- 1 lb. rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-in pieces
- 12 – 15 dried figs, cut into quarters
- 8 oz. raspberries
- juice of 1/2 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. Place the lemon juice, rhubarb, figs, and raspberries in your baking dish. Gently toss. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top and let sit for about 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle the topping over the top of the fruit in an even layer. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the topping is golden. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving so the filling can set up just a tiny bit.
Notes — My pecans got a little bit toasty, but tasted fine. If burning them is a concern, you could add the pecans to the filling instead of in the topping. . . Store this in the refrigerator. . . You can reheat this in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 – 20 minutes.
I was hoping to have this posted before Flag Day, but it turns out that Flag Day was yesterday (and apparently National Bourbon Day was yesterday, too). At least this is something that you can make for the upcoming 4th of July holiday. I made these a little bit ago for a Memorial Day / Birthday celebration. They’re fun and festive, especially if you put metallic star picks in them! Very patriotic, and not just here in The States, but everywhere else that has those same colors in their national flag. Like France, the UK, Puerto Rico, Slovakia — in Canada, you can just make the Red Velvet cupcakes — in Greece just make the blue ones! — and so on. Maybe you could make some for a UEFA Championship Party (can’t believe the Dutch are almost eliminated).
As for the recipe, Red velvet is what people typically think of, but why not Blue velvet cupcakes? It’s the same principle, just with blue coloring. Plus, there’s that song about them. Well, not the cupcakes, but about blue velvet. Or was it Blue Moon? But I digress. . . if you were ever wondering about some of the background of the Red Velvet cake, you can find some fascinating information here at Gilt Taste.
As you can see from one of the pictures, I tried to use one of those cupcake stands made out of cardboard (There was a sale at Jo-Ann’s, so I thought why not? I can never resist a sale!). I just could not get that thing together right, AND there were three of us working on it. Sure I had a couple margaritas, some sangria, and a beer in me by then, but I’m pretty sure my two “assistants” were fairly sober. That thing was such a hassle it had me sweating like a wh@%& in church, pardon my language. And of course the first cupcake we put on made the top tier topple over and fall onto several of the other cupcakes. Alas, if I was only recording the whole ordeal. Such is life. Maybe I should just invest in something more sturdy, but then again, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell!
There’s a small part of me that is always hesitant about using dyes, particularly in cakes. With frostings and buttercreams, I’m okay with using tints, but I always balk at cakes. So I probably didn’t use as much color as I could have. I’ve seen some recipes that called for a whole bottle of coloring, which I did not do, so the color is not as pronounced. But no worries — if you want more intensity in the colors just use more. You can get away with using less red since the chemical reaction between the acids (buttermilk and vinegar) and the cocoa are supposed to produce the red color you get in Red Velvet cakes, although it’s very faint. But I did use more of the blue to make sure it would come out. And the amount of dye you use may depend on what products you have. The blue that I used for this is AmeriColor Royal Blue; the red is Wilton’s Red-Red. Gel pastes are usually what I prefer because it will not affect the recipe ratios as much. Here’s what you need:
for the cupcakes (one batch makes about 2 dozen; the red batch used 1/2 t. of coloring and the blue used 1 t.):
- 2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 c. corn starch
- 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1 t. salt
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 2 t. white vinegar
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- gel paste coloring (see above)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, and vanilla. Set aside as well.
3. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the oil and sugars until combined on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Whisk in the gel paste, scraping down the sides as needed.
4. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture. Scrape down the sides after each addition and whisk well.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling to about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking. Cool cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks. Frost with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.
for the frosting (this was enough for 4 dozen cupcakes):
- 3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 3 c. confectioners sugar
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1 t. vanilla
- 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped.
1. In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium for a couple of minutes, until well combined. Place the white chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave in 15 second bunches until melted, stirring after each time. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep in a liquid state.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt. Mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and white chocolate and mix for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides. Use either a small spatula knife or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.
Notes — I have read that you can use beet juice instead of the red coloring, but I have no idea how much you need and how to adjust the recipes for the change in the amount of liquid. . . I’m not sure about an alternative for the blue, but I do have some ideas if you needed something green 🙂 . . .You should be able to store these in the freezer for a few weeks. Thaw the frozen cakes in the refrigerator overnight. . . As always when making cakes, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. . . I’m still bummed I missed National Bourbon Day; been wanting to add some Four Roses bourbon to my collection. I really need to revisit my Foodie Holiday postings. . . And don’t forget to visit Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen on Facebook. . .