Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beat the Heat with a Cool Summer Salad

It. Is. So. Hot. Really all I want to do is sit in a pool or maybe in front of an air conditioner and read. It is too hot for baking of any kind! Oh how I dream of a cool fall evening that is just begging for me to turn on the oven and slip in a nice apple pie, baked squash or cookies, but alas, there is no such evening in the near future. So in the mean time, while I dream of using my oven, I must be satisfied with using the delicious veggies that are coming out of the garden and relishing in the heat. Yes, I know, those tomatoes would not taste nearly as good if it wasn't for the heat, so I am enjoying the bounty of the earth on wheat bread with mayo, salt and pepper for a good old MD tomato sandwich.

Another summer favorite that is light and refreshing as well as healthy is a Mediterranean Cucumber Salad that I made when my friend Steph came to visit. We found this easy salad the perfect way to cool down. The cucumbers are crunchy and the olives add a great salty flavor. You can whip this up in minutes!

Mediterranean Cucumber Salad

1 lg or 2 small cucumbers chopped into bite sized chunks
2 cups of cherry tomatoes halved
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 cup of Feta cheese crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl and serve cold. Stay cool!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Crab Bruschetta

Being from Maryland, there is little that we will not add crab meat to. My new summer favorite is Crab Bruschetta. It is great to take to picnics or for a summer BBQ because it uses seasonal ingredients. I have made it several times this summer already.

It is also good added to pasta or on an English muffin with melted cheese as a melt. I am sure it would also be great in other ways. Let me know how else you may use this versatile appetizer.

Crab Bruschetta

1-2 Large tomatoes diced (Beefsteak work well) or 1 lg can of Petite dices tomatoes
3-4 Leaves of fresh Basil or 1/4 - 1/2 tsp/ dried Basil
1 or 1/2 clove Garlic grated or finely chopped (the garlic gets stronger the longer it sits, so sometimes less is more)
1 tbs. olive oil
The meat of 2 or more picked crabs or 1 can crab meat
Salt and Pepper to taste

First put the chopped basil and grated or chopped garlic into a non-metallic bowl with the olive oil. Let that sit for a bit so the oil becomes infused with the flavors. Then add the chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper. Mix these together. Add the crab LAST because as you mix it will break up the meat. Gently fold in the crab meat and serve over toasted bread.

It is good right away, but better the second day because the flavors become stronger.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Salted Caramel Sauce

One of my earliest memories of baking is making chocolate chip cookies with my dad. He was always the baker in our house growing up and he is still an expert cookie maker. I can remember standing at the counter watching him cream the butter and sugar together with a pastry cutter. To me it never seemed like a planned thing to make cookies. We would take the butter out and start, no waiting for it to come to room temperature. And, there were always chocolate chips in the pantry. I couldn't tell you where or when they were purchased, but they were just always there like a favorite stuffed animal. And maybe that is what chocolate chip cookies have become for me, a comfort food like no other, not only because of the salty, chewy, and sweet flavors, but because of the comfort of making them with family. Now as an adult, I always have chocolate chips in my pantry, just in case I need them.

It is my father's birthday today, so I have made chocolate chip cookies and will be dropping them off at his work this afternoon to surprise him. I used the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse chip bag. That is the one we always have used, and I follow it exactly. That recipe, hands down makes the best chocolate chip cookies. My only piece of advice is to bake them for the minimum amount of time listed on the package (usually 9 minutes).

As an aside, this recipe also always makes me think of the Friends episode when Phoebe tries to remember the recipe that her grandmother used to make chocolate chip cookies. Monica then makes about 100 batches of cookies to try and get it right, only to find that it was the recipe from the back of the Nestle chip bag that she used.

The other thing that I made was a Salted Caramel Sauce. My dad is a huge fan of ice cream, salt and caramel. I thought what would be better than a jar of homemade salted caramel to go over his ice cream. I used a recipe from Cara at Cara Lee Cupcakes and Cake. The recipe was super easy to follow and the sauce turned out delicious!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pear Ginger Maple Pie

I got back from the beach yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed my weekend free from technology. Just me, the sun, and lots of sunblock! The downside to this trip is that when I returned, the roofers were still hammering away and the gutters still have to go up. So much for wishful thinking that it would all be done by the time I got home.

And, to be even more of a Debbie Downer, I was trying to bring my plants back to life, by giving then a thorough soaking and I stepped on a nail! Yes, one of the nails that has been flung into my yard by said roofers. Needless to say to be on the safe side, I cleaned up my foot and hauled it to Target to get a Tetanus shot (really, what can Target NOT do?) Now that I have averted potential lock jaw, I feel better, but I am not sure what hurts worse, the shot site or nail wound!

I also returned to find I had missed the Pie Party! So despite my late submission, I am still posting about pie (cause pie makes everything better) and sharing a recipe that I got from my neighbor, who is also quite skilled in the kitchen. I love when she pops over to share something that she has whipped up! This time she shared a slice of Pear Ginger Maple Pie. I quickly requested the recipe which she shared, notes and all! The original recipe is from food blogger Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic.

Pear Ginger Maple Pie Recipe
from Simply Recipes via Garrett McCord

•1 recipe dough for pate brisee pie crust (or use frozen crust)(I went with frozen)
•6 cups of peeled and roughly chopped pears (use Bosc or Bartlett)(Red Danjou work too)
•1 ½ tablespoons of cornstarch
•1/2 teaspoon of salt
•1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
•1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
•1 tablespoon of lemon juice
•1 teaspoon of lemon zest
•2 tablespoons of chopped candied ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger)

Oatmeal Crumb Topping Ingredients
•2/3 cup of flour
•1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats
•1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
•1/4 teaspoon of salt
•1/3 cup of cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 Roll out pie dough and place in a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie dish and place in the freezer to set. (A 9 inch works fine too)
2 Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the chopped pears in a large bowl with the cornstarch, candied ginger, brown sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Toss well.
3 Place the pear mixture into the chilled, crust lined pie dish and smooth the top of the fruit. Place the pie into the center oven rack and bake for 45 minutes. (Put a baking sheet on the rack under the pie to catch any drippings.) After 30 minutes, line the edges of the pie with foil or a pie protector to prevent them from burning.

4 While baking take all the Oatmeal Crumb Topping ingredients and place them in a bowl. Use your hands and mix the ingredients until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until use.

5 After 45 minutes reduce heat to 375F. Remove the pie and carefully place the crumb topping over the pie, covering all the fruit. Bake for another 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour. Serve.

I am not nearly finished on the topic of pie as it is a part of my family food history!