Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta- Delicious icy treat, no ice cream maker needed

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Last summer, I wandered aimlessly with the husband through the blistering heat of the Tuscan sun, eating as many cold things as possible.  I mostly ate gelato, because well, it’s gelato.  (I really don’t need to explain that one, right?)  Along the way, however, I also found myself devouring gelato-filled cannoli (what?! I didn’t even know that existed!), and of course, granita.  If you aren’t familiar with granita, it’s an icy frozen treat, traditionally made with water, sugar, and lemon juice.  It’s also used as a palate cleanser between meal courses. (File this factoid in your brain somewhere, just in case you someday have an especially fancy-schmancy dinner).  My favorite thing about granita is that it’s ridiculously easy to make at home– no ice cream maker required.  This Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta is the perfect way to cool down on a summer day.

A little ice cream chain 3 hours away sells Wild Berry Lavender Ice Cream, and it is DEEEEElish.  I want to eat it all the time, but I don’t particularly want to drive the 3 hours each way for little bowls of tastiness.  Therefore, when I found myself staring at a bag of dried lavender petals, wondering what to do with them besides make Lavender Lemonade, I thought of their ice cream.  This Wild Berry Granita is an Italian take on their far-away dessert.  If you’ve got wild berries, use those!  If you don’t have berries growing nearby, or don’t feel like foraging– go ahead and use ‘non-wild’ berries from your local market– strawberries, raspberries, blackberries– whatever you like.

Start by making a lavender simple syrup.  Put sugar, dried lavender petals, and water in a small pot, and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes.  Strain the petals out by pouring the syrup through a mesh sieve into another container, and let the syrup cool.  Next, put the berries, syrup, vinegar, and lemon juice into a food processor.  Blend everything up, pour it into an 8″x8″ pan (or something about the same size), and put it in the freezer for 2-3 hours.  Every 30 minutes, rake the whole thing with a fork, paying extra attention to the edges.  Raking it will help keep ice crystals from forming, and keep it from setting into a giant frozen fruit-flavored ice cube.  Yes, you do need to remember to scrape it, which might seem annoying, until you remember that it’s hot outside, and sticking your head in the freezer isn’t really a bad thing.  If, however, you forget to scrape it, you’ll just end up with bigger crystals of granita, and it’ll still taste delicious and cool.

Finish your dessert off with a little whipped ricotta.  Scoop ricotta into a glass bowl with a couple teaspoons of sugar, and whip, whip, whip.  Use an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer, and mix until stiff peaks form.  Mix it all up right before you serve the granita, and serve the whipped ricotta on the side or on top like whipped cream.  Take a bite, close your eyes, and pretend you’re in Italy.

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

~2 1/2 cups granita; Serves 4-6

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh berries (blackberry, raspberry, strawberry etc)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TB dried lavender petals
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 2 tsp sugar

Instructions

  • Make a simple syrup by mixing the sugar, lavender petals, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, and then simmer 5 minutes. Pour syrup through a mesh sieve into another container. Set aside to cool.
  • Put berries into a food processor or blender and purée. Add syrup, vinegar, and lemon juice to food processor and blend more. Pour entire mixture into an 8"x8" pan. Set pan uncovered on a level surface in the freezer for 2-3 hours, scraping with a fork every 30 minutes. Pay extra attention to the edges, making sure to scrape the frozen fruit mixture away from the side of the container. When it's ready, your granita should be a light and flaky mixture.
  • Before serving, mix ricotta and sugar with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Serve granita and ricotta together.
  • Store leftover granita in an airtight container in the freezer.
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/dessert/wild-berry-lavender-granita/

    Granita recipe adapted from: Epicurious / Ricotta recipe adapted from: Food Network

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    Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce

    Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce

    Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce- Delicious, Easy, and Ready in 15 Minutes

    Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce

    I just wrote a love poem to my tuna– want to hear it?  ‘Ahi Tuna, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I love thy flavor and freshness and–‘  Okay I’ll stop.  Seriously, though, ahi tuna is FANTASTIC.  If you’ve never tried it, it’s typically served either raw or VERY lightly seared.  It also tends to be on the pricey side at restaurants, which is tragic, because I want to eat it ALL. THE. TIME.  The solution to my (and your) tuna-budget woes is to cook it at home.  This Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce is simple to make, and is so bursting with delicious flavors that you’ll giggle with happiness.

    Here’s the thing about eating undercooked or raw fish– it needs to be frozen to kill any parasites or other nastiness.*  I was inclined to say that very fresh fish is best, but even sushi restaurants selling fresh fish will often flash freeze their fish for food safety.  Keep in mind, your home freezer doesn’t get cold enough– FDA regulations are pretty specific– and unless you have a commercial-grade freezer, you’re better off with frozen fish.  Personally, I buy frozen fish for my raw or barely cooked seafood adventures.

    If you’ve eaten ahi tuna before, you’ve probably seen bright, ruby-red fish on your plate.   Tuna’s signature bright red color actually begins to fade as soon as it’s caught, but some companies spray their tuna with a carbon monoxide gas to enhance the red and make it “prettier.”  That’s why you’ll see both pale pink and bright red tuna steaks when you’re shopping.  The taste shouldn’t be affected, but I tend to avoid the gassed tuna.  If you’re worried about price, but still want to avoid the (usually cheaper) gassed tuna, Trader Joe’s sells tuna steaks that aren’t bright red.  I’ve also found some locally at a health food store for about $6 for 2 steaks– not bad at all!

    Once you’ve got your hands on these tasty fish steaks, go ahead and get excited.  Start this Seared Ahi Tuna by thawing your tuna steaks, and then make the ginger soy marinade by blending rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, green onion, and wasabi.  If you can’t find wasabi, you can substitute horseradish and crushed mustard seeds, and it will still be delicious.  Pour the marinade over the tuna, and leave it alone for about 10 minutes.  Make sure not to throw out the marinade when you cook the steaks– you’ll use it later.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on the tuna (on either both sides or just one side– it’s totally up to you).  Heat oil on high in a heavy bottom pan (I use cast iron), and when it’s very hot and smoking, sear the tuna for 15 – 30 seconds per side, and then remove it from the pan.  Don’t cook it longer– take it off the heat!  Overcooked tuna is a very sad thing.  Turn the heat to medium, and let the pan cool a little.  Next, you’re going to make a pan sauce.  Pour the marinade into the pan along with the lemon juice, and stir, stir, stir with a wooden spoon.  Serve the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with your finished Ginger Soy Sauce.  I like to slice my tuna steaks almost all the way through, so that I can fan them out all fancy-like, but you don’t have to do that unless you want to!  Serve your tuna with a big green salad, dig in, enjoy, and don’t even bother trying to contain your food-happiness.

    Note: When you’re fish shopping in the seafood freezer aisle, you might be tempted to pay extra for the “sushi grade” label, but be aware– It means nothing.  And by nothing, I mean that it isn’t regulated by the FDA.  Maybe you already knew this– after all, there are lots of unregulated food labels on American grocery store shelves.  I wasn’t clued into this particular label scaminess until reading this Ahi Tuna Poke recipe over at Ready to Yumble.

    *Also Note: I’m not a doctor, and I’m not giving medical advice here.  If your doctor says you shouldn’t eat raw fish because you’re at a higher risk for getting sick (i.e.– if you’re pregnant or have a different medical condition that makes it unsafe), talk to them, not me, before chowing down on this lovely tuna.

    Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce

    Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce

    Want more seafood?  Try these:

    Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce

    Total Time: 20 minutes

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    • 2 ahi tuna steaks (~6oz per person)
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 1 TB ginger paste (or shaved ginger)
    • 1 TB minced garlic
    • 1 tsp wasabi OR 1 tsp horseradish and 1/2 tsp crushed mustard seeds
    • 2 tsp sugar
    • 2 green onions, sliced, plus more for garnish (optional)
    • 2 tsp sesame seeds
    • 1 TB olive oil
    • ~1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)

    Instructions

  • Blend vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, wasabi (or horseradish and mustard seeds), sugar, and green onion. Taste sauce, adjust seasoning if necessary (adding more soy, sugar, ginger etc if prefered). Marinate tuna steaks in blended sauce for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of tuna at end of marinade.
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan (like a cast iron pan) on high, until oil is very hot. Reserving marinade for later, sear tuna for 15-30 seconds per side, then remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium and allow pan to cool slightly. Add marinade to pan with lemon juice, and stir with a wooden spoon. If sauce is too thick for your liking, add more lemon juice. Remove sauce from heat.
  • Slice tuna in thin long strips. If desired, leave about 1/2" at one end of the tuna steak uncut, and serve fanned on a plate with ginger soy pan sauce and extra green onion to garnish.
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/seafood-2/sesame-seared-ahi-tuna/

    Sauce adapted from: Food Network

    Seafood Safety Links (compiled, for your reading enjoyment): Seafood Health Facts, TakePart, Pacific Seafood, FDA- Selecting + Serving Seafood

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    italia-210

    Cooking 101: Understanding Ingredients and Techniques

    Cooking 101: Understanding Ingredients + Techniques

    Cooking 101: Understanding Ingredients + Techniques

    DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TAKE A BASIC COOKING CLASS?  DO YOU FIND YOURSELF BUYING A LOT OF PRE-MADE INGREDIENTS, BUT SUSPECT YOU COULD BE COOKING MORE FROM SCRATCH IF YOU KNEW HOW?  PERIODICALLY CHAMPAGNE TASTES WILL BE FEATURING ‘COOKING 101’ RECIPES. THESE COOKING STAPLES WILL TAKE YOUR FOOD TO THE NEXT LEVEL, AND WILL HELP YOU MAKE MORE INGREDIENTS FROM SCRATCH.

    How did you learn to cook?  Whether you hoarded cook books, learned from your mother, watched YouTube video tutorials, scoured the web for how-to articles, or are still just trying to figure out how to microwave frozen dinners without getting third-degree burns on your tongue, there’s probably more to learn.  No matter what you like to cook, no matter your dietary restrictions, learning more about your food and how to prepare it is always a good thing.  For this ‘Cooking 101’ post, we’ll take a look at two fantastic blogs– Will Cook for Friends and Food Above Gold.  Both are filled with tutorials focusing on helping us all learn WHY our food behaves the way it does when we cook it, as well as how we can better control it. Next, we’ll look around the blogosphere at a few recipe tutorials that will help you take your cooking up a notch.

    Understanding Ingredients

    Understanding what your ingredients are, and what they do, is probably one of the most important aspects of cooking.  Once you understand, you have power.  You have choices.  You can make better informed choices (and substitutions).  If you understand what you’re using, you’re much less likely to accidentally serve your friend a fruit cobbler made using baking soda instead of baking powder. (It was truly, truly disgusting, and I apologize).  You’ll know that yes, you probably can substitute regular butter for ghee in a pinch.  You’ll know which type of flour you want to buy, instead of staring blankly at the wall of flour bags, panicking, and grabbing one randomly.  Learn more, and the grocery store will be less overwhelming.

    Understanding techniques

    For self-taught cooks, it can be easy to assume we know how to do something, just because we’ve figured it out on our own.  Sometimes our assumptions are correct, and it turns out we have been doing things the correct way!  (If this happens, cheer yourself on, pat yourself on the back, and keep on doing what you’ve been doing.  Drink some wine to celebrate).  On occasion, however, we learn a new technique, and find that making simple changes to our cooking styles can make a huge difference in the quality of our final product.  Learn more, and eat better food.

    bonus: Recipe tutorials

    Finally, take a look at these recipe tutorials from around the food blogging universe.  Most of these recipes are basic cooking strategies that can be applied to other recipes.  Once you’ve learned how to poach an egg, for example, any recipe using poached eggs will seem less intimidating.

    What basic food tips have you found helpful?  Let me know in the comments!

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    Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce- No egg poacher needed, no vinegar needed, no swirling the water around the eggs. Easy. Fast. Delicious.

    Cooking 101: Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce

    Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce- No egg poacher needed, no vinegar needed, no swirling the water around the eggs. Easy. Fast. Delicious.

    Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce

    DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TAKE A BASIC COOKING CLASS? DO YOU FIND YOURSELF BUYING A LOT OF PRE-MADE INGREDIENTS, BUT SUSPECT YOU COULD BE COOKING MORE FROM SCRATCH IF YOU KNEW HOW? PERIODICALLY CHAMPAGNE TASTES WILL BE FEATURING COOKING 101 RECIPES. THESE COOKING STAPLES WILL TAKE YOUR FOOD TO THE NEXT LEVEL, AND WILL HELP YOU MAKE MORE INGREDIENTS FROM SCRATCH.

    I watch a lot of cooking competition shows with the husband, and whenever he hears someone tell a judge that their dish is prepared “perfectly,” he cringes.  “Don’t do it!” he cries, “don’t say it!” Inevitably, the judge takes a bite and says, “Well yes, it’s good, but you promised ‘perfection,’ and I’m just not sure it’s there.”  Therefore, it is with quite some risk, but nevertheless great confidence, that I present to you: Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce.

    Now yes, it’s true that there are dozens of ways to poach an egg.  There are kitchen contraptions, debates over adding vinegar, techniques to swirl your egg whites to make them prettier, and I’m sure the list goes on.  The truth is– you don’t need to buy an egg poacher.  You don’t need vinegar.  You don’t even need to swirl the egg white.  All you need to do is strain the egg in a mesh sieve or strainer before you put it in the water.  That’s it.  You see, (I’m going to pretend I can ‘talk science’ now), surrounding the egg white is a layer of loose albumen that doesn’t “look pretty” when it’s poached.  In other words, it’s the weird white bits that don’t want to stick to the egg when it’s dropped in the water. (That was my inner scientist right there. “Weird white bits” is a very technical term.  You’ll see it in textbooks soon).  To ensure you have the prettiest, most delicious, poached eggs– crack your egg into a mesh sieve and let that part slip through the sieve openings.  I just set my sieve in the kitchen sink, and then carry it over to the pot.  You don’t need to rescue this part of the egg for egg white omelettes– it’s not the tasty part of the egg white– just let it drain down the sink.  Then, pour your egg carefully into simmering water, and poach it 3-5 minutes.*  Once it’s done poaching, take the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon.  I like to set my eggs on a paper towel before putting them on the plate, to make sure I’ve got all the excess water off.

    These eggs are perfect as is, but I like a little sauce with mine.  To make a dijon sauce, mix plain yogurt (or substitute Greek yogurt or sour cream– whichever you have on hand), with a little dijon mustard, green onions, salt, and pepper.  Make your sauce while the eggs are poaching, and serve the eggs while they’re still hot.  Before you know it, you’ll be an egg poaching maniac, showing off these gorgeous, dare I say, ‘perfectly poached,’ eggs to all your guests.  Feel free to spread the word about the mesh sieve trick, or don’t, and just let everyone think you have magical egg skills.

    Note: 3 minutes should give you a runny yolk, similar to an ‘over easy’ fried egg.  5 minutes should give you a mostly cooked yolk.  I actually prefer mine somewhere in the middle.  That would be a 4 minute egg, if you’re keeping track. 

    Also Note: I didn’t invent this brilliant mesh-straining technique.  Instead, I’m standing on the shoulders of egg geniuses such as Michael Ruhlman and Heston Blumenthal, who figured this technique out a long time ago.

    Perfectly Poached Eggs

    Perfectly Poached Eggs

     

    Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce

    Total Time: 10 minutes

    Perfectly Poached Eggs with Dijon Sauce

    Perfectly Poached Eggs

    Ingredients

    • 4 eggs
    • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 TB dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp lemon juice
    • pinch salt, pepper
    • diced green onion

    Instructions

  • Bring about 3" water to boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Set a mesh sieve in sink or over a bowl, and crack 1 egg into sieve. Allow egg to drain for a few seconds, and then carefully pour egg into the water. Repeat for each egg. Simmer eggs 3-5 minutes, depending on desired doneness. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon. Set eggs on a paper towel to get rid of excess water.
  • To prepare sauce, add all remaining ingredients into a small bowl and mix together.
  • Serve eggs hot with the sauce.
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/breakfast/perfectly-poached-egg/

    Dijon Sauce adapted from: Health.com

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    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Gourmet Special: Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Lemon Pepper Octopus - Perfect for seafood lovers!

    DO YOU NEED A FANCY RECIPE FOR DATE NIGHT?  A ROMANTIC DINNER FOR TWO?  ARE YOUR IN-LAWS OR BOSS COMING FOR DINNER AND YOU NEED TO IMPRESS?  PERIODICALLY CHAMPAGNE TASTES WILL BE FEATURING GOURMET RECIPES.  THESE WILL STILL BE BUDGET FRIENDLY AND RELATIVELY SIMPLE, BUT WILL HELP YOU CONFIDENTLY SERVE A GOURMET MEAL WITHOUT HIRING A CHEF.

    Are you feeling adventurous?  Let’s talk octopus.  That’s right, those eight-legged sea monsters that spend their days looking like they’ve escaped from a Jules Verne novel.  The spineless, fascinating creatures that can fit through any space they can squeeze their jaw bones through.  Well, my friends, those leggy beasts are also completely and utterly delicious.  The husband talked me into buying one on a Jungle Jim’s trip, and that’s how our invertebrate obsession began.  This recipe for Lemon Pepper Octopus is easy, and sure to leave you with a tender and flavor-packed meal.

    Here’s the thing about octopus– it can either melt in your mouth, or taste like little bits of rubber if overcooked.  If you’ve ever had calamari, you’ve already eaten squid.  Octopus has a similar texture.  As with calamari, if your octopus is chewy, it’s probably been overcooked.  It should fall apart in your mouth.

    This octopus is cooked twice– once braised on the stove top in wine and water to tenderize it, and then cooked very quickly on a grill at high heat or quickly pan seared.  It should take anywhere from about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to prepare start to finish, but most of that is very hands-off.  I find it’s easier (if I’ve planned ahead), to braise it the day before, and then just grill or pan sear it quickly before dinner the next day.

    Either serve one octopus per person, or cut it into pieces and divide them up between plates.  This recipe is for 1 lb – 1 1/2 lbs of octopus and serves 2, but you can easily double the recipe as long as your pot is big enough.  This Lemon Pepper Octopus on its own probably won’t fill you up, but it’s incredibly flavorful.  Serve it quickly while it’s still piping hot with pasta tossed in a little cream and butter, or with Forbidden Rice*.  Dig in and enjoy your deliciously adventurous dinner.

    Note: If you’re serving your octopus with a grain or legume that cooks in water or broth (like rice or lentils), save the liquid from braising the octopus and use that instead of the broth!  You might need to add a little salt to taste.  You could do this with pasta water too, but be aware that the dark octopus stock might dye your pasta a little darker (the dye-effect won’t be as noticeable with a dark grain or legume).

    Also Note: When you search for octopus recipes, there will be lots of wives’ tales about putting corks or coins in the water with your octopus.  Go ahead and do it if you want, but mine has always turned out perfectly without doing any of that.

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

    Serves 4

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Lemon Pepper Octopus

    Ingredients

    • 1 - 1 1/2 lbs octopus (either 2 smaller or 1 larger octopus)
    • ~1 cup white wine
    • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns
    • 1 lemon cut in half
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 TB minced garlic
    • ~1 TB olive oil
    • lemon or orange wedges for serving

    Instructions

  • In a large heavy pot (such as a cast iron Dutch oven), place octopus, wine, peppercorns, lemon cut in half, salt, bay leaves, and garlic. Add water until octopus is covered with water by 1" (or try-- it will float). Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to simmer, and cook octopus until tender. Cook time will depend on the size of your octopus- a half pound octopus should take about 40 minutes, and a 1 lb may take closer to 55 minutes.  Octopus is done when you can pierce the skin easily with a fork or knife.  Do NOT continue to cook- overcooked octopus becomes rubbery.
  • Drain and allow octopus to come to room temperature, OR replace lid and place in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook (cook within a day).
  • To grill:
  • Preheat a charcoal grill to high heat. Brush octopus with olive oil. Grill on very hot grill until browned- about 3 minutes per side. Serve with lemon or orange wedges.
  • To pan sear:
  • Heat olive oil on medium high heat until oil ripples.  Sear octopus about 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Serve with lemon or orange wedges.  
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/seafood-2/lemon-pepper-octopus/

    Recipe adapted from: Serious Eats

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    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Corn on the Cob with Chili Garlic Butter

    Corn on the Cob with Chili Garlic Butter

    If you live anywhere remotely close to the Midwestern United States, there’s a good chance that warm weather means fresh corn on the cob.  You can, most likely, buy corn on the cob all year long, but in the summer it’s fresher and tastier.  If you, like me, enjoy gobbling down these tasty morsels of summertime goodness, it’s possible that you, like me, will find yourself with more corn than you intended to buy.  The recipe for Chili Butter Corn on the Cob will help you shake up your corn routine.

    Do you want to hear a story?  I thought so.  (I’m just going to assume you said “yes” here).  Every time I eat corn on the cob, I think of that old Matthew Broderick movie, “WarGames.”  (Do you guys remember “WarGames”?!)  In particular, I think about the dinner scene where the mom tries to serve raw corn on the cob.  The dad pauses mid-bite to shout in horror, “This corn is raw!!!” (No? You don’t remember the random corn scene in this 80s flick? How is that possible?  Well, do you remember those little yellow plastic corn-shaped corn on the cob holders everyone used to have?  Reminisce with me, people!)  After watching the family (almost) eat their corn raw, I would glance suspiciously at the corn on our dinner table, wondering if my mom was going to try to sneak raw corn into our diets.  (For the record, she didn’t.  Or at least, I don’t remember it happening if she did.)

    If you’re thinking that serving corn raw sounds like a fantastic time-saving idea, stop!  If you’re bored with regular butter on your corn– also stop!  Make this slightly spicy, buttery dish instead.  It’s simple and quick to prepare.  Simply melt the butter, garlic, and chili flakes together, and let them cool.  Then boil water with a little sugar, and cook the corn until it’s tender.  Serve the corn smeared with the spicy buttery deliciousness, and enjoy your summer!

    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Want more veggies?  Try these:

    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Total Time: 20 minutes

    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Chili Butter Corn on the Cob

    Ingredients

      For butter:
    • 1/4 cup salted butter (or add 1/2 tsp salt with unsalted butter)
    • 2 tsp minced garlic
    • 1 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (or substitute 1 tsp chipotle chili flakes for more heat)
    • Corn
    • 4 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
    • 2 TB white sugar
    • 1 TB red wine vinegar
    • 1 lime, quartered
    • pinch of salt

    Instructions

  • In a small pan or butter warmer, heat butter, garlic, and chili flakes until melted. Set aside and allow to cool (set in the fridge if you're in a hurry).
  • While butter is cooling, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add sugar, vinegar, and corn. Boil until corn is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove corn from water with tongs, and smear butter over corn while still hot. Sprinkle lime juice and a little salt on each corn cob. Serve while hot with extra butter.
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/side-dishes/chili-butter-corn-on-the-cob/

    Recipe adapted from: Made in India

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    Lavender Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade- Quick, Easy, and Perfect for Parties. Only ingredients needed- lavender petals, sugar, + lemons. Optional: Add gin or vodka for Hard Lavender Lemonade!

    This spring, I went a little crazy with my herb garden.  What started out as 2 herbs, grew to four, and then I added a few more, and then a few more, and then before I knew it, there were 13 colorful little metal pots filled with perky green herbs.  Among the herbs were two lavender plants, happily growing and making everything on my tiny deck smell better.  Seeing those lavender plants reminded me that a little while back, a I’d been gifted a bag of dried culinary lavender petals.  (Thank you, lavender-gifting friend!)  I wanted to use the dried petals up before I (hopefully) had a plant full of new lavender flowers to dry out, and that is how my obsession with Lavender Lemonade began.  This lemonade is not only delicious, it’s incredibly easy.

    Honestly, I was a little nervous to use lavender in food because, as any avid watcher of The Great British Bakeoff knows, too much lavender can make things go terribly wrong.  However, lavender and lemon work well together, and the strong flavor of lemons means that you don’t have to worry about the lavender overwhelming your drink.  Instead of taking over, the lavender is subtle compared to the lemons, and gives it a hint of floral.  If you want to try this, but no gift-giving, lavender-toting friend has shown up at your door,  you can dry out your own lavender flowers, buy it online, or in the spice aisle at your grocery store.  You can also try looking in the food aisle at over-stock stores like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, or Burlington Coat Factory.

    To make Lavender Lemonade, start with an herb-infused simple syrup.  Take 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, and 2 TB of lavender petals, and heat them until the water boils.  Let the syrup simmer for about 5 minutes, and then pour it through a mesh sieve into a different container to get rid of the petals.  While it’s cooling, juice your lemons until you have about a cup of lemon juice.  Add the lemon juice and 4 more cups of water to a drink pitcher, and then add the syrup once it’s cooled.  I like to add more lemon slices next (because it’s pretty that way!).  In theory you could also garnish it with lavender sprigs, so that the lemonade screams, “Hey! I’m fancy because I’m made with lavender!”  If you don’t care for flowers floating in your drink, however, skip those and stick with the lemons.

    If you’re wondering, because I definitely was when I made it– Yes! This is delicious as hard lemonade.  It blends well with gin or vodka, and the liquor can either be stirred into the whole batch, or added glass by glass for those who want it.  If you follow the recipe measurements for hard lemonade, the smaller amount will give you a lighter hard lemonade (about the same strength as a Mike’s Hard Lemonade), and the larger amount will give you a stronger mixed drink, more like a cocktail.  Whether you enjoy it on its own or hard, alone or at a party, you’re sure to find that your day feels a little more special than it would with regular lemonade.  I’m sure of it.

    Note: Sadly, this Lavender Lemonade is not ACTUALLY lavender in color.  Maybe that’s a good thing, since a pretty purple drink might scare away some people, but it seems like it would be even more awesome if it was Actually lavender.  Sometimes, however, the petals will dye the simple syrup a pretty pale pink, and your lemonade will have a pink tint.

    Lavender Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Want more spring-time drinks?  Try this tasty cocktail:

    Lavender Lemonade

    Total Time: 15 minutes

    Lavender Lemonade

    Lavender Lemonade

    Ingredients

      Lavender Simple Syrup
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 TB dried lavender petals
    • Lemonade
    • 6-8 lemons (approx. 1 cup fresh lemon juice), plus 1 more for garnish (sliced and deseeded)
    • Optional Hard Lemonade Add-Ins
    • 9-12 oz gin or vodka, depending on desired alcohol content (optionally- add 1 1/2 - 2 oz alcohol per 8oz of lemonade)

    Instructions

  • Make simple syrup by adding sugar, lavender and 1 cup water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 5 minutes. Pour syrup through a mesh sieve into a measuring cup (or other spouted container), and allow it to cool.
  • Meanwhile, juice lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Pour juice into pitcher, and add 4 cups of cold water. Add cooled syrup. Garnish with extra lemon slices. If serving hard, add liquor to pitcher (or add to individual glasses as serving). Serve cold.
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/drinks/lavender-lemonade/

    Recipe adapted from: The Kitchn

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    Chocolate Truffle Pie

    Chocolate Truffle Pie

    Chocolate Truffle Pie- All the flavor of chocolate truffles, with much less effort!

    Let’s talk chocolate.  Dark, rich, decadent, melt in your mouth chocolate.  One of my favorite ways to eat chocolate is in a truffle– not the pre-made chocolate truffles you’ll find in the candy aisle– I want the fresh, silky chocolate truffles made from melting chocolate into cream at home.  Unfortunately, rolling out these tiny balls is time-consuming and tedious.  Plus, I always end up with chocolate all over myself and my kitchen.  This Chocolate Truffle Pie is the solution to my laziness.  It’s fast– with no truffle rolling at all– and is perfect for parties, because this extra rich pie needs to be served in small slices and feeds more people than a traditional pie.

    To make Chocolate Truffle Pie, first make sure you have the 3-4 hours to chill the chocolate.  You can put the entire pie together in about 15 minutes, but it needs to set.  Then, prepare a graham cracker crust before you start with the chocolate.  These aren’t tricky to make from scratch– just put graham crackers* in the food processor or blender until they’re crumbly, and mix in enough melted butter to make it a little sticky.  Press your crust into a small pie container (this isn’t the time to use your deep dish pie crust).  If, however, you’re feeling a bit lazy, and grabbed a pre-made graham cracker crust at the grocery store, do the following:  Pop it out if the aluminum tin it’s in, and set it into a small pie pan.  It’s probably going to fall apart in transit– this is okay!  Next, take a fork and break up the pie crust to make it a little more crumbly, especially along the edges.  It won’t look factory-perfect, it’ll look like you home-made it with love.  Ta-da!  Crust cheat.

    If you want to make your pie extra fancy-schmancy, add some berries to the bottom of the pie crust.  Next, heat cream until it begins to simmer.  Don’t try to use 2% or skim milk- your pie won’t set.  As soon as your cream starts simmering, take it off the heat.  Add all the chocolate and stir, stir, stir.  The chocolate will melt quickly and you’ll suddenly be stirring a pot of gooey, chocolatey deliciousness.  Go ahead and add your vanilla and a dash of liqueur (I usually use amaretto), and stir some more.  Pour the mixture into your crust.  Quickly toast some coconut and nuts, and dust the top of the pie.  Set the pie in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.  Once it’s set, you can leave it out at room temperature for an afternoon or evening while people are eating.  I like to either begin cutting the pie into tiny pieces myself, or warn whoever is cutting the pie to make small slices (about 1/2 or 1/3 the size of a normal pie slice).  This pie will be a decadent addition to your party dessert table, and you’ll find yourself never wanting to roll out truffles again!

    *Note: If you can’t find, or don’t like graham crackers, any dry crumbly cookie should work.  For example, this would taste great with a ginger snap crust.

    Chocolate Truffle Pie

    Chocolate Truffle Pie

    Want more dessert?  Try these:

    Chocolate Truffle Pie

    15 minutes

    Total Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

    Serves 12-16 (depending on slice size)

    Chocolate Truffle Pie

    chocolate truffle pie

    Ingredients

      Pie:
    • 1 graham cracker crust
    • 1 cup whipping cream
    • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1-2 TB amaretto or Grand Marnier (optional)
    • Topping:
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
    • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped OR 1/2 cup almond slivers
    • pinch of sea salt

    Instructions

  • Preheat oven 350F
  • Roast nuts and coconut for 3-5 min until coconut is golden, then set aside.
  • Prepare graham cracker crust crust. 
  • Bring cream to a boil and immediately remove from heat.  Add chocolate, and stir until creamy. Add vanilla and amaretto.
  • Pour chocolate mixture into the prepared crust, then sprinkle coconut and nuts on top.  Set pie carefully onto a level surface in your fridge, and allow to set 4-5 hours.
  • To serve- Cut slices VERY small.  Think 1/2 - 1/3 a normal pie slice.  Serve on its own, with berries, or whipped cream.  Refrigerate leftovers (if you leave them out too long the leftover pie will lose its shape). 
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/dessert/chocolate-truffle-pie/

     

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    Braised White Asparagus

    Braised White Asparagus

    Easy, Vegan White Asparagus Braised in White Wine, Coconut Oil, and Herbs

    I’ve been asparagus obsessed lately, guys.  Ever since I talked about purple and white asparagus (here), I’ve been on a mission to try them both.  So far I’ve only found white asparagus, but you can be sure that if (WHEN) I find purple, it will be amazing.  I’m sure of it.  I found white asparagus in the ‘Scratch n Dent’ food section at Jungle Jim’s  (Did you even know that was a thing???  I believe it’s similar to the “Manager Specials” marked-down food at Kroger, but it’s all gathered conveniently in one insanely awesome, if easy to completely miss, section.)  Yes, Jungle Jim’s, I will take your marked-down and perfect-looking produce and cook it right away!  This Braised White Asparagus is cooked with white wine and fresh herbs, and makes a deliciously fresh spring-time side dish.

    What’s the deal with white asparagus, you ask?  It’s grown underneath soil instead of above-ground, so it doesn’t have any chlorophyll to make it green.  It also has a tougher skin, so it’s a good idea to peel it before cooking.  Just use a vegetable peeler and go around the outside of each stalk.  What about the taste?  It doesn’t taste the same, but it also doesn’t taste extremely different.  It’s got a lighter flavor, and raw it almost tasted a little bit like watercress.  By the way, you can DEFINITELY use this recipe for green asparagus too!  Just skip the peeling part (unless you have especially thick green asparagus, or happen to love peeled asparagus more).

    To make this Braised White Asparagus, sear your asparagus for a few minutes on both sides, and then simmer it in white wine and vinegar for another few minutes until it’s tender.  Cook-time will depend on how big your stalks are, and also older asparagus takes longer to cook than fresh.  If your asparagus came from your garden or from a farmer’s market- reduce the cook time a little.  When the asparagus is tender, take it out of the wine, and then stir in butter or coconut oil and some herbs.  Butter will give you a thicker sauce, coconut oil will leave your sauce thinner (like a vinaigrette), but both are delicious.  Pour the sauce over the cooked asparagus and serve your veggies hot.  If you’re feeling extra fancy, top the asparagus with some more fresh herbs, and dig in.

    Braised White Asparagus

    Braised White Asparagus

    Braised White Asparagus

    Total Time: 15 minutes

    Braised White Asparagus

    Braised White Asparagus

    Ingredients

    • 1 bunch white asparagus (if subbing green asparagus, skip peeling unless its extremely thick)
    • 1 TB olive oil OR coconut oil
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 1 TB white wine vinegar
    • 1 TB butter OR coconut oil
    • 4-5 sprigs of Italian parsley and rosemary, plus more for garnish (optional)

    Instructions

  • Remove the woody ends and peel outer skin off asparagus. Heat oil on medium-high in a large sauté pan. When oil begins to shimmer, place asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Allow asparagus to sear about 3-4 minutes per side (they should begin to brown- very thin asparagus may cook more quickly).
  • Reduce heat to medium. Carefully (they'll splash back at you) pour wine and vinegar into pan and cover. Simmer liquids until they begin to reduce and the asparagus is tender (about 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus).
  • Remove asparagus and continue to allow wine to reduce. Stir in butter or coconut oil and herbs and continue to reduce for 1-2 more minutes. Pour wine mixture over asparagus, garnish with fresh herbs (optional), and serve immediately.
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    http://champagne-tastes.com/side-dishes/braised-white-asparagus/

    Recipe inspired by: Edible Santa Fe

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    Food to Pack for Road Trips

    Food to Pack for Road Trips - Tips for Packing, Food for When You Have a Cooler, and Road Trip Staples. Bonus: Cooking While Camping

    Food to Pack for Road Trips

    You’ve been driving for hours.  Your only food options are McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or a gas station, and all you can think is that you really, really, want something homemade and flavorful.  You’re in a food desert.  If this sounds awful, horrible, nightmarish, imagine how you’d feel after several days of barren food options.  How can you protect yourself from this tragic situation?  Pack your own food.  We’ve already talked about how packing food saves money, and it can definitely give you healthier and more flavorful food options.  What, though, can you pack?  Today we’ll look at a round-up of travel-friendly foods from around the blogosphere.

    Tips

    • If you’re planning on cooking on your trip, do a little menu planning.  Narrow your meals down to a few options that use similar cooking utensils / ingredients.
    • Pack fresh fruits and vegetables that travel well for snacks, such as apples,  baby carrots, and celery.  Remember that bananas tend to make everything else in their container or bag smell and taste like bananas, especially as they ripen.
    • Bring plenty of water, and stock up on dry goods like peanut butter, bread, tea bags, and coffee.
    • If you want to cook with milk, or have access to a refrigerator one night and want to make overnight oats or chia pudding, try packing shelf stable milk substitutes (like almond or soy milk).  If you can’t go through an entire carton in one meal, look for smaller, individual size boxes.
    • If you’re packing canned goods– don’t forget your can opener.  Ditto for wine bottles and a corkscrew, as well as beer bottles and a bottle opener.

    Food that needs a cooler

    Some food, as we all know, needs refrigeration.  It might be tempting to completely write these foods off, call them ‘driving incompatible,’ and stick to granola bars and muffins.  However, if you, like me, crave fresh food, these foods will be perfectly fine on days that you have a chilled cooler.  Some of these foods need a little preparation, but are all portable and work well for day one of your trip.  If you happen to be staying in a hotel along your route with a mini-kitchen or fridge, keep these snacks in mind your whole trip.  If nothing else, they’ll help make the first day of your road trip a little tastier and healthier.

    Road trip snack-bag staples

    After the ice melts in your cooler, and you’ve (hopefully) finished eating all of your cooler food, you’re probably still going to get hungry.  If you’re tired of gas station snacks, fast food, and want something homemade instead of store-bought, check out these travel-friendly foods.  Make them at home, and bring them along to snack on.

    bonus: Cooking while camping

    If your road trip involves camping, or if you’re just extra ambitious and plan to bring cookware with you on your vacation, here’s a few more recipes for ‘camping-friendly’ cooking from Megan and Michael over at Fresh Off the Grid.

    What are your favorite foods to pack on road trips?  Let me know in the comments!

    Want more food advice?  Read these:

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