Coral Snake Salsa

Iguana grill coral snake salsa recipe

Coral Snake Salsa 1

This salsa.

Has me hopelessly addicted.

Since I noticed fresh apricots in the store 2 weeks ago, I’ve made it no less than 4 times.

Seriously.

The first batch I made, I couldn’t stop eating. First off, because the flavor is so unusually wonderful, but secondly, because it was so flippin hot that I couldn’t stop or my mouth would combust. No worries! I’m going to solve that problem, even for kids!

Recently Produce for Kids asked me to feature a recipe featuring fresh produce in the Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign which will raise money for Homeland’s designated local charity – the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s Food for Kids Backpack Program.

Produce for Kids logo

Oh, THIS is something I believe in, I thought and was so excited to help. I wish I could go back in time and build healthier habits in my kiddos. It’s not too late, and I’m converting them every day to yummy and fresh recipes (as we speak). Kids love salsa in Mexican restuarants here, at least Oklahoma kiddos do, so I thought I’d scale the heat down and use this for inspiration.

Since 2011, Homeland has raised nearly $60,000 for local children’s organizations. Homeland is one of nine retailers participating in the national campaign, which is expected to pass $5 million in overall contributions in 2014! To help Homeland increase its donation, shoppers are encouraged from June 1 through 30 to add more produce to their grocery carts. All participating fruit and vegetable suppliers will make a consumption-based donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

Iguana grill coral snake salsa recipe

If you have kids, or know someone who needs healthy cooking/buying options for their kids, please follow them on the following social media sites or share these with your loved ones!

Also, be sure to check out Produce for Kids on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for more info on the campaigns, healthy eating tips and tricks and delicious recipes that call for spring produce!

One thing I would encourage parents to do is to “buy seasonal”.

What does this mean, exactly? I mean you hear it all the time.  Simply put, it means if asparagus is on sale in the spring -BUY IT!  This helps your budget but also encourages you to try new produce and recipes for them all the time.

This week I saw apricots and something clicked in my mind.  A salsa recipe that we absolutely LOVE that was created by Chef Ryan Parrott here in Oklahoma City when he was the chef at Iguana Grill. Ryan tweeted this recipe once upon a time, which I missed, but when I begged him for it, he generously accepted and told me it is not a deep dark secret so I wanted to share.

Apricots are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Dietary Fiber and Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C so make the mild version of this salsa and your little ones will scoop it up with joy because the flavors are outstanding. I will offer the original (very hot) rendition of this salsa ..and, shall I say “the weenie” variation for kiddos and adults alike who can’t handle the heat.

Start off with 2 cups of halved apricots. The beauty of many salsas are that you toss all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse them giving you fresh and delicious salsa in all of two whole minutes.

This is one of those recipes.

Slice apricots (no need to peel) in half until you can throw them into a 2 cup measuring cup and fill it.  

coral snake salsa

The first time I made it, the large apricots I had only required 4 1/2 apricots to fulfill this requirement, but the second time, I got smaller ones…much smaller, and it took eight, so you’ll have to go with what you buy.

Photo Jun 14, 1 03 24 AM

Next up, you’ll need two tomatillos.  Tomatillos look like a green tomato and are covered in a papery husk that has to be removed.  They lend a tart and slightly spicy flavor to anything they are cooked for and are wonderful.   They are also a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Niacin, Potassium and Manganese.

fresh tomatillos Coral Snake Salsa

To prep them, simply pull off the husk and then give them a rinse, because for some reason, they have a sticky residue on them when you do.

tomatillo husk

Cut these in fourths and along with the apricots, add them into your food processor bowl.

apricots coral snake salsa

Now, if you are making this for kids, please look away.

The next ingredient? 

habanero recipe

Two habanero peppers.

Please in the name of all that is right and good use precautions when using these babies. I keep a box of beautician rubber gloves under my sink for just such a evil ingredient as this.  I learned when putting my contacts in, you should ALWAYS do this, without fail. Well, you know, if you want to have sight for the rest of your life and all.

gloves habaneros

 I cut these open and removed the stems and ribs, but if you are one of those people who can eat lit fire, go ahead and leave them in. 

Habanero peppers

If you’re making this for kids, use 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper with the stems and ribs removed. It’ll lend a bit of spice but nothing too drastic.

jalapeno peppers

You’ll need two tablespoons of cilantro but I just grabbed a small hunk of leaves and threw them in. Also add in 1/2 of a red onion roughly chunked.

red onion coral snake salsa

Add 1/2 cup orange juice and a tablespoon each of salt and pepper (the second batch, I reduced the salt by 1/2).

 

Then just hit pulse on your food processor until it looks kind of chunky, but is pureed somewhat.

Coral Snake Salsa

Then eat and enjoy….and keep eating…

Coral snake salsa from Iguana Grill recipe

Because it’s addictive.

Pour it over chicken or fish or shrimp.

It’s SO addictive.

AMEN.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:13]

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Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream

Be and Jerry's cookbook

Heath bar crunch ice cream
I am obsessed with reading cookbooks right now and have been downloading them right and left on my ipad from the library Overdrive app. You can imagine my excitement on seeing this one offered by my local library.

Be and Jerry's cookbook

A Ben and Jerry’s cookbook for ice cream?

SCORE!

The birthday cake being served was going to be chocolate, so I decided to make a vanilla with something in it so as not to have chocolate overkill (IS there such a thing?).

The one recipe that was calling me was their Heath Bar Crunch, which they say is their all-time best-selling flavor. The only thing I changed was instead of cutting up candy bars, I used the pre-packaged Heath Bits (the ones with chocolate).
Heath bits

There was no cooking involved and the reviews were that this was really yummy.

Here’s how you make it.

In a large measuring cup with a spout (the spout will come in handy later on), hand whisk together 2 cups of heavy cream, a cup of whole milk and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Use GOOD and pure vanilla extract please!

Ice cream base

Whisk 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl until they turn a soft yellow and get a bit “fluffy” looking (about 1-2 minutes).

Add in ¾ cup sugar a little at a time. I did this in three offerings. Once it’s all added, continue mixing about one minute.

Mix eggs

Now take that spouted measuring cup you whisked your cream, milk and vanilla in and pour it into the egg/sugar mixture and mix again until well-blended, about a minute or two.

And that’s it. Transfer the entire mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to your ice cream maker instructions.

Our ice cream base into cuisinart

I use the Cuisinart maker and my ice cream is usually done in twenty minutes.

So, after about eighteen minutes, pour in the Heath bits and let them stir for the last two minutes of mixing.

Pour Heath bits into ice cream

You should just do it when your machine has two minutes left!
Seriously, how easy was that?

I figured Ben & Jerry’s would have some sort of magical long drawn-out recipe but it’s nice to know it’s just good pure ingredients and simple to whip up.

Pour your soft ice cream into a bowl with a lid and store in the refrigerator for several hours.

Ben and Jerry's Heath bar crunch

Oh yes, for a fun variation, omit the vanilla and add three tablespoons of instant freeze dried coffee to make Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream!!

I’m gonna try that next!!

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To see what other fantastic food bloggers are making for Food Network’s Summer Soirée: Frozen Treats, check out the links below!,

Feed Me Phoebe: Coconut Mojito Popsicles
Dishing With Divya: Strawberry Sherbet
The Lemon Bowl: Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream (No Machine Required)
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Healthy Fruit Punch Popsicles
Virtually Homemade: Minty Pina Colada Popsicles
Weelicious: Fruity Lemonade Ice Pops
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chai Green Tea Popsicles
Red or Green: Spiced Rooibos Tea Popsicles
Dishin & Dishes: Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Homemade Eggless Vanilla Ice Cream (No Machine Required)
Domesticate Me: Slutty Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Devour: 5 Frozen Finales
Poet in the Pantry: Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Swing Eats: Grapefruit, Pineapple, Basil and Coconut Milk Gelato
Daily*Dishin: Dark Chocolate Sorbet
Cooking With Elise: Frozen Blueberry Treats
FN Dish: 6 Reasons to Brave Brain Freeze
For a savory frozen treat:
Taste With The Eyes: Frozen Alaskan Cod, Mediterranean-Style

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The Best Homemade Ravioli Ever

Ravioli_with_pesto_and_tomatoes.JPG

Ravioli

A few months back, I traveled to Michigan to stay with my Mom for a week who had just had surgery and help cook and clean and generally help Dad with whatever we needed to do to keep her planted on the couch all week.

While I was there, Mr. Wonderful made homemade ravioli.

Without me.

Seriously? I cook all week, every week for the man and he chooses the week that I’m away to make homemade ravioli?

Hmph.

Well, ever since he sent me those gloriously wonderful cell phone messages with photos of his homemade ravioli, I’ve wanted to make them again.

Ravioli_with_pesto_and_tomatoes.JPG
You know, as in, make them again since I would be AROUND to taste them?

So yesterday after church we knocked out a TON of them and they were SO good.

I have been wanting to play around with a ratio of semolina flour to regular flour since we first made pasta. I really like more of a “bite” to my pasta than the regular flour recipes offered and I believe I found the perfect ratio yesterday. Since we were making ravioli, we added in some olive oil to help it be pliable for filling and sealing and I played around with the filling recipe as well which turned out fabulous!

This brand of semolina flour is widely available at most stores and it is what I used.

red Mill Semolina flour

I made a double recipe as well, because if you’re going to go to all that trouble, why not freeze some for later? We laid them out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and froze them solid then popped them into freezer bags for an easy but delicious meal another night!

I also tried out a new toy I’d ordered, and I can’t tell you how convenient this Ravioli mold turned out to be.
Norpro ravioli mold

It is the perfect width for the noodles that rolled out of our KitchenAid pasta rollers. You can absolutely positively make ravioli without one of these but it’ll be a bit more work.

I just used a large bowl to make my dough in but you can start it on the counter.

Flour eggs pasta dough

I used one cup of semolina flour and two cups of all-purpose flour and whisked them together then cracked in two eggs (I doubled the recipe this time). Using a fork, mix the eggs together in the well they are sitting in, then add in 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1/2 cup of water right into the same well.

Pull the flour into the egg mixture with the fork a little at a time while mixing.

Continue to mix with the fork until it becomes workable for your hands then roll the dough around to get any loosed flour. If you need a tad more water, add it one tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky.Turn it out onto a floured cutting board or clean counter top and knead it several times until it becomes smooth. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit for thirty minutes to let the glutens relax.

Follow this post for rolling out the dough.

 

We used our KitchenAid pasta roller attachment, but you could use a countertop roller or even a rolling pin, if you’re feeling ambitious. We first cut our disk into 4 equal sizes pieces and rolled out each one. The width of our pasta roller was absolutely perfect for the ravioli mold, and we only had to cut square corners (work the cut off sections back into the next piece of dough you use.

Ravioli makers

Roll the dough thin but not too thin. On our KitchenAid pasta rollers, we stopped on the #4 setting (On KitchenAid #1 is the thickest and #8 is the smallest).

We laid our ravioli mold (we have this one) next to the dough and leaving about ½ inch extra on the ends, we cut two pieces to fit.

Ravioli molds come in different sizes. The one we have makes the smaller ravioli (1 ½ inches each) but you can also buy them in larger sizes. I prefer the smaller ones for nite-size purposes, but I may have to buy the larger size as well!

Here is how a ravioli mold works. You lay your first layer of dough over top of the metal side.

The metal side has teeth outlining each ravioli square and all the way around the entire thing.

After the first layer of dough is on the metal piece, you gently place the plastic mold (with the round bubbles on the bottom) right on top of the dough and again, gently press down.

 

The plastic bubbles press the dough through the holes in the metal piece to form indentions in your dough for you to uniformly fill your ravioli.

I also put my herbed ricotta and spinach filling into a pastry bag to pipe it into the ravioli dimples I created with the plastic mold to help make the filling uniform in volume on each square. You could use a baggie with the corner cut off or even a spoon though.

To make the filling, dump a 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta into a mixing bowl. Take about 6 cups of fresh spinach leaves and chop them up. Also, chop up about 8 basil leaves.Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and bring it up to medium heat. Add the spinach for only about a minute or two until it begins to wilt but is still bright green.

Remove it to the mixing bowl with the ricotta and add in the basil along with one cup of grated parmesan cheese, one beaten egg , a clove of chopped garlic and some salt and pepper.Mix it up really well and then spoon it into your baggie or piping bag.

Pipe it into the indentions on the bottom layer of pasta.

Take a pastry brush (or just use one finger) and brush water in between each line of ravioli, or anyplace that will be sealed for each ravioli.

Lay the top layer of dough over top.

Use a rolling pin to go over the entire thing, pressing down firmly.

This will cause the teeth to cut the ravioli through the dough. Don’t worry about flattening out the filling because the top that you are rolling over is going to be the BOTTOM of the ravioli and it should be flat.

Once you can clearly see the teeth all the way through the dough, Pull off the excess dough from the edges.

And then flip the metal piece upside down and give it a good shake a couple of times to dislodge the ravioli from the mold

A few of ours had to be helped by gently pressing them out but it left a little dent in the top of the ravioli.

Ugly ravioli makes me upset!

Not really. It still tastes fine.

To cook these, bring a large pot of water to boil. They only need about 3-4 minutes tops. I used a spider to gently stir them to make sure they didn’t stick to each other and then to lift them out into a bowl afterward. I also only boiled about a dozen at a time because you don’t want to overcrowd the pot.

We tossed them with homemade pesto I had in the freezer due to the enormous amounts of basil I grew last year. While the ravioli was in process, I added about 20 cherry tomatoes into my small iron skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and cooked them until they were soft and the skin was blistering in places. It leant just the perfect amount of acidity to the richly filled ravioli and the pesto.


I am so excited to start experimenting with new fillings now like mushrooms, butternut squash, roasted vegetables and seafood.

Homemade pasta is so unbelievably delicious.

How to make ravioli

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Summertime Basil Lemonade

Basil lemonade

The same night that we made the Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, I used some of the mounds of fresh basil that I picked from our herb garden to make this lemonade.

Does anything say summer like freshly squeezed lemons?  Bursting with tartness and balanced with a little sweetness, they are the ultimate thirst quencher in this, the all-american summertime drink.

As a child, we all probably poured some processed powder drink into a plastic jug to sell around the neighborhood at a homemade stand, but there is nothing like freshly-squeezed lemonade.

Start by making something called simple syrup, which is nothing more than equal parts of water and sugar.  I used one cup each of water and sugar and put them over medium heat on the stove.  You don’t want to boil this mixture, just heat it, stirring with a whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.

Then turn this off and let it cool into a nice, clear, sugary syrup.

Get 6 good sized lemons, cut them in half, and squeeze them into a small measuring pitcher.  You’re looking for about a cup.

Pour this into your blender with a handful of basil leaves.  I used roughly about ten leaves.

Turn your blender on high and let it blend for a minute.

And then pour it into a large glass pitcher, because lemonade demands a tall, cool, glass container.  If you’re fussy about floaties in your drinks, you can strain it as you pour.

I had a bad experience with car sickness and orange juice and pulp that left me with a bad case of anti-floaties in my drinks.

Needless to say, I strained mine.

Add in your simple syrup and stir with a wooden spoon.

Now, fill the pitcher with water.  I used about 5 cups of water on top of my syrup and juice mixture.

At this point, you might want to taste your lemonade and see what you think.

Not tart enough? Squeeze in another lemon or two. Not sweet enough? Make a little more syrup.  Too tart? Add a little more water.

I’ve found that the measurements I gave you are just about perfect for me, but everyone’s tastes are different.

Slice up a couple of lemon slices and float them on top and garnish with a sprig of basil.

Then sit back and enjoy the tastes of summer with a relaxing glass of tall, cool Basil Lemonade.

Katie’s Printable Recipe – Summertime Basil Lemonade

See what other great drink recipes for summer other food bloggers are making when participating this week for Food Network’s Summer Soirée!
Feed Me Phoebe: Healthy Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie with Cacao Nibs
Poet in the Pantry: Strawberry Lemonade (Sweetened with Pure Maple Syrup)
Dishin & Dishes: Summertime Basil Lemonade
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Frozen Mango Lemonade Mocktail
Dishing With Divya: Thandai
Virtually Homemade: Strawberry Soda with Lime
The Lemon Bowl: Banana Licuado (Mexican Smoothie)
Weelicious: Mermaid Deep Sea Punch
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Mango Lassi
Cooking With Elise: Black Cherry Sweet Tea
Devour: 5 Booze-Free Picnic Sips
Taste With The Eyes: Roasted Barley-Corn Tea
Domesticate Me: Vegan “Orange Julius” Smoothie
Daily*Dishin: Sweet Balsamic Spritzers
FN Dish: Refreshing Summer Drinks for the Whole Family

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Grill Basket Stuffed Slider Burgers

cheese stuffed burgers

Grill basket slider burgers
emorial Day has come and gone, and to me, thus begins one of my favorite seasons – that of summer grilling!

I wanted to feature an All-American grilled burger to start the season off with a bang this week so I am featuring this (slider) burger on my morning food segment on my local TV station this week.

Imagine a giant perfect rectangle of two layers of juicy burger meat with a layer of bacon and cheese sandwiched in between them.

Also imagine that you can slice these into nice uniformly sized squares to use as sliders.

I’ve been reading Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty by Andy Husbands/Chris Hart and Andrea Pysenson this week. This group (The Yankees) won the Jack Daniel’s World Championship invitational and went on to make an all  things burger cookbook that inspires.

cookbook-wicked
While I changed up the recipe somewhat, the premise is the same and I love the genius that this works. You can change it to a healthy burger by using turkey and turkey bacon and low fat cheese, or make it the way we did for an extreme indulgence. I can dream of several different stuffing options. Either way, check out how fun and simple this is!

Start out by grating 8-12 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese.

cheese

Like I said, this is so interchangeable. You could totally use pepper jack or swiss or anything that makes your heart sing when you think of cheese on burgers.

Also, fry up 8 strips of bacon, again, your preference but I used a nice thick sliced smokey one. I always use this method to make the best possible bacon in the world, and then let it lay on paper towels to absorb excess grease.

oven baked bacon

Now, do you have one of these?

Grill basket

You could try and make it without one but this would really REALLY make it simple. One flip and without a mess all over your grill (if your flip goes way wrong) if you fail. I think I purchased mine at TJ Maxx for about $7. It’s normally used for placing four hamburgers, hotdogs or pieces of fish or shrimp inside and makes for some really neat and easy flipping of meat on the grill.

In this case it’s going to save us flipping 12 sliders.

One flip or 12 flips. Which would you prefer?

Open the basket and spray the grill basket bottom and top and sides well with cooking spray.  Trust me, you want to make sure and do this.

Now take three pounds of hamburger meat of your choice and make it into a disk and cut it in half.

hamburger meat
Measure your grill basket to see what size it is and then press out both disks of the meat into even sized rectangles that match the size of your grill basket.

Photo May 25, 5 34 00 AM

You can use a flat-bladed knife or the sides of your hands to make them fairly straight.
Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over both rectangles of meat and any other spice you normally love on your burgers. I used Chipotle and garlic powder.
Over top of the first rectangle, lay your bacon evenly over the meat and sprinkle it with the cheese.

grill basket burgers
Layer your other rectangle of meat right over top of this in the basket to make a sandwich. I know, I know! It’s RIDICULOUS isn’t it?

grill basket burger

Use your fingers to close up all of the sides.

Photo May 25, 5 45 19 AM

On my first attempt at this, I didn’t take care to do this carefully.  Take a few minutes and really close it up, otherwise you’ll lose the precious ooey gooey cheese to the grill goblins and that my dears is a tragedy!

Now sprinkle some more seasoning over the top.  And close the basket carefully.

Photo May 25, 5 50 23 AM

The grates of the grill basket will squish over the hamburger but if you do it carefully, it will be fine. Once it cooks and browns, the burger comes right out.

Now carry this out and pop it onto a medium hot grill.

grill basket burger

Cook it for about 6-7 minutes on the first side.

Grill basket burger

Please note the ooey gooey cheese previously mentioned oozing out the sides. (bad food blogger!)

Cook an additional 7 minutes on the second side and plop that baby on a sheet pan and carry it in to the kitchen to de-basket it!

Photo May 25, 6 20 29 AM

Look at that! It’s a giant rectangle of pure goodness, stuffed with bacon and cheese!

How we did this process – Mr. Wonderful placed a cutting board over the open basket. He then flipped the entire thing over so the cutting board was now on the bottom. It slid right out onto the cutting board.

Photo May 25, 6 21 17 AM

One little itty bitty spot stuck and we just stuck a knife in the slots and pushed it through.

Grill basket stuffed burgers

Now we used these buns, as they are our favorite for sliders.

Hawaiian rolls

It may have something to do with the fact that Mr. Wonderful is part Hawaiian…potato rolls are also fabulous!

Place your rolls at the edge of the rectangle and add just a hair in width.

Photo May 25, 6 47 07 AM

 

You’ll want them to be a bit larger and hang over the bun just a tad and make a slice the entire length of the rectangle.

Photo May 25, 6 47 21 AM

Slice along the rectangle making even strips until you get to the end.  Do you see the cheese oozing out? And also, remember there are strips of bacon inside!

Photo May 25, 6 48 04 AM

Now turn your knife 90º and cut across the strips the other way to make perfect squares.
Photo May 25, 6 49 05 AM

Place them on each bun.

Photo May 25, 6 55 14 AM

And that is how you make 12 sliders in one grill basket.  I think it’s pretty genius.

Grill basket sliders
No little sliders falling through the grates of the grill.  No individual pattying of 24 individual pieces and smashing them together around the cheese and bacon.

Grill basket slider burgers

As my grand baby would say….

TA DAH!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:9]M

See what other wonderful bloggers mad for F old Network’s Summer Soirée featuring Burgers!

Weelicious: Mexican Chicken Sliders
Devour: 5 Sizzling Burgers
Virtually Homemade: Grilled Greek Turkey Burger
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Green Chile and Bacon Burgers
Red or Green: Grilled Marinated Eggplant Burgers (Spicy)
The Heritage Cook: Juicy Turkey Burgers for Every Cookout
Taste With The Eyes: Chicken Burger Caesar Club Sandwich
Cooking With Elise: Super Smashed Burgers
Domesticate Me: Bacon and Smoked Cheddar Cheeseburger Sliders with Jalapeno Relish
Swing Eats: Shrimp Burgers with Sriracha Aioli on Bibb Lettuce
Daily*Dishin: Jalapeno Feta Bison Burgers
FN Dish: 5 Ways to Bring on the Burgers

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Triple Berry Pretzel Salad Dessert in a Jar

Triple Berry Pretzel Salad Dessert

Triple Berry Pretzel Salad Dessert

One of Mr. Wonderful and My favorite things to do is to venture off to the lake with our boat.

Sometimes we go alone for an inexpensive and relaxing date-night. Sometimes we drag a long some friends.

Boat

We love to order from the East Wharf restaurants if we’re taking it easy. One of them even delivers down to the courtesy docks.

Redrock grill

But what we love even more is to take a picnic basket and a cooler of drinks and park off the banks by the restaurants on a weekend night and listen to their live music.

When Food Network’s Let Pull Up a Chair theme turned into “Summer Soirée” this month, I was excited to write my usual weekly post for the event when I heard it was themed “Packable Desserts”.

I’d been wanting to try one packed in mason jars to take on the boat. I came up with a variation of the old classic Strawberry Pretzel Salad Dessert.

I didn’t want to go the old route and make it with frozen whipped topping, because honestly, I have no idea what that stuff is even MADE of.

So instead, I added fresh whipped cream and jazzed it up with a variety of berries which I believe make it the absolutely perfect dessert for the Fourth of July!

Strawberry pretzel salad in jar

Imagine setting out a tray of these along with your red, white and blue decorations! Wouldn’t that just be perfect?

image

First off, boil two cups of water and mix it with either 2 (6 oz) packages of strawberry gelatin or 1 (12 oz.) package. Stir it until the jello dissolves, then transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to cool.

Jello

Next, let’s make the crust.

The crust is what makes this dessert salty, and the cream middle layer is sweet and the berries are a bit sour but cloaked in the strawberry gelatin, so you can see why this dessert is so delicious can’t you?

Start off by throwing roughly about 4 cups of salted pretzels in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can put them in a gallon size baggie and smash them with a rolling pin. I used the stick pretzels but you could probably use the twists as well.

Pretzel crust

You don’t want to grind them to a powder but leave small chunks like in the photo for some texture.

I did this by just pulsing the food processor until I got them to the right size.

Now microwave one stick of butter just until it’s all melted and pour it and 3 tablespoons of sugar into the pretzels (transfer them to a mixing bowl). Mix it all up well.

Crust collage

Take roughly about 2 heaping tablespoons of the crust mixture and put it in each of 10 (8 oz) mason jars. Then take either the back of your spoon, or another utensil that fits well and tamp down the crust a little but don’t smash it too much. You just want it to be slightly compacted.

image

image

At this point, you can pop these in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process, as they need to be completely cooled before you put on the next layer of creamy filling.

Now let’s make the creamy filling.

Measure 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream into your mixer bowl. Usually you can count on one cup of liquid to become 2 cups of whipped cream, so because we only need 8 ounces, or one cup, we are going to use ½ cup.

Beat it until soft peaks form and then to stabilize it, add one tablespoon of instant vanilla pudding. This is a trick I use to keep whipped cream from getting too runny over time. I learned it from a restaurant here in Oklahoma City who does this and it works brilliantly!

Whip it up for another 20 seconds or so to incorporate the pudding throughout all of the whipped cream. Remove the whipped cream to a separate bowl.

Back in your original mixing bowl, add two (8 oz.) packages of room temperature cream cheese with one cup of sugar. If your cream cheese isn’t room temperature it will be lumpy when you mix it.

Cream cheese layer

Mix this up until it’s smooth and creamy. Then fold the whipped cream gently into this mixture. Put the whole thing in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. If you don’t have a pastry bag, just pile it into a quart baggie and snip off the corner.

Pipe this evenly between the 10 mason jars right on top of the crust, being careful not to dribble it on the sides at the top.

Pipe cream cheese filling

Important!!! I learned through trial and error that if you don’t take a spoon and smooth out this layer, your gelatinwill seep through to the crust and it won’t be as pretty, so do it!

image

See that jar in the back? It ended up with red crust. Incidentally, this was pretty good to eat!

Now for the topping you are going to need two cups of fresh fruit. I used whole blueberries and raspberries and sliced up my strawberries. Decide what ratio you want of each and just make them equal two cups when you’re finished.

Pull out your (now cooled) strawberry gelatin and stir the fruit right into it.

Jello with berries

Now using a ladle (I found that worked best), evenly ration out this mixture right over the cream cheese layer.

Ladle berries

Pop them back into the refrigerator for at least an hour and voila! You’re done!

I think these will be perfect to take out on our boat or to make again for the Fourth of July!

Triple Berry strawberry pretzel salad

These didn’t last long at our house this week.

Mr wonderful Dishin and Dishes

I think this speaks volume about whether they were a winner or not!

Strawberry Berry pretzel salad

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See what other wonderful food bloggers made for Food Network’s Summer Soirée “Packable Desserts” this week!

The Lemon Bowl: 5 Ingredient No-Bake Fig Newton Bites
Dishing: Caramelized Pineapple with Mint
Weelicious: Raspberry Cheesecake Jars
Virtually Homemade: Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Salted Brownies
The Heritage Cook: Anzac Biscotti
Taste With The Eyes: Cherimoya Brulee
Devour: The 5 Best Picnic Sweets
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with Chambord Raspberries
Red or Green: Healthy Ginger-Molasses Cookies
Cooking With Elise: Salted Caramel Brownies
Swing Eats: S’Mores Bars (Gluten-Free)
Domesticate Me: Summer Berry Parfaits with Vanilla Bean Ricotta and Toasted Almonds
Dishin & Dishes: Triple Berry Pretzel Salad Dessert in a Jar
Food For 7 Stages of Life: Oats and Peanut Laddoo (No Bake Energy Bites)
Bacon and Souffle: Mason Jar Overnight Oats
In Jennie’s Kitchen: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
FN Dish: Make-and-Take Picnic Desserts

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Short and Sweet – A Thought Process About Friends

Friends

Friends

I believe I. titled this post most appropriately as I think it should be the quote we all adopt when we have a last minute thought about inviting friends over.

The thought in our head should be to adopt a “short and sweet” mentality.

If you have a bit of a planning/organizing mind like myself, you might be tempted to go with “heck no” instead, but Sunday night I learned the beauty that comes from “short and sweet”.

Kelly, who you might remember from some of our women of Oklahoma blogger get-togethers (like this one), invited us all out to her place for an impromptu BBQ/bring a side-dish event.

I’m so glad Kelly went with “short and sweet”, when the idea hit her instead of “heck no” because had she gone with the latter, we would have been robbed of a “short and sweet” evening. TOO short, I might add for this group of mighty worded women to even go beyond one mere thought. Bloggers tend to have a lot of mighty words they need to get out and when we get together, well, conversations could go on and on and on. And stay interesting to boot!

When we get together, I am always amazed at the forthcoming of honesty, wit, beauty and insight I leave with. It’s such an honor to be their friend. I truly love you Marie, Rose & Kelly. What would our lives have been like had we not started blogging and met each other?

Incidentally, our hubbies met for the first time at this gathering, although some had met one or twice over the course of time. Bravo to them for allowing us women our “short and sweet” time together (read more about that over at Rose’s post).

Next time I have that fleeting thought to invite someone, I will remember that night, the laughs, insights and the food, oh YES, the food! It’s always fabulous. Kelly made jerk chicken that was swimming in a freezer bag of habenero, herbs and spices when we arrived. Rose brought Uoside Down Cake, and Marie added chocolate to Oatmeal Lace Cookies (yumm!) I brought my Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing, and here in Oklahoma, hotlinks are always a staple at BBQ’s (which makes for an interesting feeling in your tummy later on that evening).

image

Excuse my less-than-par photos as I brought my camera, but sadly left my memory card at home. The iPhone always comes through though!

So the next time you have a spur-of-the-moment desire to sociale, remember….short and sweet thought processes are the best kind.

*It doesn’t matter if your house is perfect.

*You don’t need a lot of planning time and Pinterest perfect decorations.

*Do it potluck and it’ll be a joy!

Read more about Kelly, Rose and Marie by visiting their blogs at:

OK Roserock
The (Not Always) Lazy W
Red Dirt Chronicles

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Simple Salad Garden in a Container

Salad garden in container

Salad garden in container

Good lord, I love to make salads but those giant boxes of beautiful greens you buy at the store can get quite expensive.

Maybe you don’t want to fuss over a big messy garden or maybe you live in an apartment, but the good news is you can plant a salad garden….

In a container.

Use a simple large pot like I did in the above picture, or get creative and use an old wagon, or vintage bicycle basket. The great thing about planting in a container is that you can extend your cool growing season for lettuce by moving the pot into a shady area away from the hot blazing summer sun.

All you need is good bag of potting soil and a packet of seeds.  Lettuce grows very quickly. The spring mix I plant in my garden is ready to start eating within a few short weeks.

The salad I planted above has spinach and kale. As it grows, pick the outer leaves to keep it from getting too big.  Snip spring mix leaves with scissors in the early morning close to the plants crown.

So grow ya some lettuce and have fun!

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Quinoa “Fried Rice”

How to make Quinoa fried rice

 

Fried rice made from quinoa

Last night I was craving fried rice, but two problems faced me.

Number One – we were out of rice.

Number Two – rice is not diet friendly for me, or my love handles.

Opening up my cupboards, I found a new box of quinoa. Our family is regularly replacing white rice with quinoa for health benefit reasons. It has more protein and nutrients and our entire household is working out and trying to get summer swimsuit ready.

I just substituted the quinoa in place of the rice and the result was pretty darn good. We’ll be doing this often.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:8]
Quinoa fried rice

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Herbed Yogurt Cheese

Yogurt cheese

Yogurt cheese

Making yogurt cheese is simple. While it involves a teeny bit of fuss, like a wet towel and a strainer, you can make it overnight and have it at your disposal for any number of dishes.

It’s great to spread on sandwiches and bagels, add to a baked potato or dollop on some soup. And the great thing is?

It’s healthy.

I use plain fat free yogurt and here is how I make yogurt cheese.

Get one an entire container of fat-free, plain yogurt. Line a mesh strainer with a thin towel. Place it over a deep bowl.

Plop your entire container of yogurt right inside.

Fold the opposite ends over top of each other over the yogurt.

Place a bowl that will fit down over the cheese right over top of the towel and then weight it with a jar of pickles or a large can.

And place the entire thing into your refrigerator…right next to the giant silver pot of chicken stock your husband thawed out to make chicken n dumplings.

Honey?

Where are the chicken n dumplings? This is very sad to me that the chicken n dumplings never appeared. Hmph.

Anyway, leave this overnight and the water and whey (which is really healthy so it’s a shame to waste it!) will drain out of the yogurt leaving it with a cream cheese consistency.

Now you’ll just need to to roll the cheese out of the towel and into a contain or bowl. The towel will be wet so I do it in the sink. Just flip the ends off of it and it will peel right out into the bowl.

Look how nice and thick this is!

Now, at this point, you can do whatever you like with it. You can use it to make dips you might normally use cream cheese with. I’m not sure about cheesecake..that whole baking thing is pretty precise! But it would be fabulous with dips or spreads..

Here is what I did.

I chopped up some fresh herbs from my garden – basil, chives and parsley.  I have a bazillion herbs in my greenhouse it now that we transplanted to the herb garden. I can’t tell you how excited I am when it’s spring time and herbs as are thriving again!

I also peeled one clove of garlic.

Add  all the herbs right into your cheese.

Chop up or press in one clove of garlic.

Also sprinkle a little salt and pepper if you like.

Mix it all up with a large spoon.

It’s really best to let it set for a few hours or even overnight. That way the garlic melds into the cheese as well as the herbs and makes it really kicked-up in flavor.

The possibilities here are endless…what if you added cinnamon, walnuts and honey and made a sweet spread for toast?  You could blend it with sun dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers for a wonderful dip.

This is fantastic spread on a bagel, or in a wrap for a healthier option than mayonnaise or regular cream cheese, and it lends a very satisfying flavor to a sandwich or baked potato when you just feel like you don’t want to miss out on flavor.

Can you think of other ways it would be good to use? Leave a comment below!

Herbed Yogurt Cheese
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (32 oz) container plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 2 T. chopped basil
  • 2 T. chopped chives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Line a mesh strainer with a thin towel and place the strainer over a fairly deep bowl. Dump yogurt into towel. Fold opposite corners of the towel over top of yogurt. Place bowl over top of yogurt that fits inside of strainer. Place large can or pickle jar on top of bowl to weight it down. Place all into refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain liquid and save for smoothies or discard. Mix chopped herbs and garlic with cheese and let set for at least 4 hours or overnight.

See what other wonderful food bloggers made I t eh “No-Cook” category for this weeks Let’s Pull Up a Chair for Food Network!

Feed Me Phoebe: Almond-Sesame Noodles with Kelp Pasta
Weelicious: Lemony Quinoa Salad
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: “Mixed Bag” Kale Salad
Big Girls, Small Kitchen: Creamy Mango Pudding
Cooking With Elise: Macerated Berries with Creamy Fruit Dip
Devour: Four Reasons Not to Turn on Your Oven
Dishin & Dishes: Herbed Yogurt Cheese
Taste With The Eyes: Fennel, Mushroom, Watercress, Parmesan and Walnut Salad
Virtually Homemade: Frozen Raspberry Cheesecake
Domesticate Me: Shaved Vegetable Salad with Faro and Pecans
FN Dish: A Whole Week of No-Cook Sides

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