I feel like there is an unspoken rule when it comes to preparing food for guests: never try a new recipe when serving guests. I guess the theory is that if the recipe doesn't live up to your expectations, you won't embarrass yourself in front of other people.
I can say that in most cases, I ignore this rule completely. I like to take advantage of the opportunity and create menus that are completely new and original when we have company at our house for dinner and when I prepare food to take to a friends house. I find myself paying much closer attention to the recipe when I make it for the first time and especially when I have to photograph each step and blog it. Maybe it's just me but I think my inaugural attempt at any recipes usually produces the best results.
Anyone else like to use their friends as guinea pigs? I guess my friends have come to expect the unexpected when they get an invitation to dinner and my house. I always serve new foods and in most cases, I also photographing the entire evening from preparation through dessert. (The struggles of going to the home of a food blogger for dinner.)
These chocolate shortcakes were a last minute dessert that I pulled together to take to a friends house on the 4th of July. I chose this particular recipe because of it's colorful nod to patriotism. The red and blue berries with the white cream just seemed to scream 4TH OF JULY!
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter, cold
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
Split in half.
Fill with whipped cream and your favorite fruit.
Changing the rules of cooking as we know them. Forget only fixing known recipes when it comes to serving guests - be adventurous and try something that you've never made before. With any luck, your guests will give you their honest opinion about your food. (Just remember to take it with a grain of salt.)
I actually copied this recipe for blanched pesto into my blog que over a year ago and by the time I got around to making it, my basil had expired. (That's a nice way of saying that I didn't keep it pruned and I let it go to seed.)
I love fresh pesto and I was super excited to try this recipe but it just wasn't cost effective for me to buy the 6 cups of fresh basil leaves that this recipe requires. No one wants to spend 30.00 on a batch of pesto - especially me. Sooo ... I patiently waited 12 months for a new batch of basil to grow and mature and in the meantime, I dreamt about the pesto that I would make with the fresh basil from my garden.
My long awaited blanched pesto did not disappoint. This was a such a simple sauce to put together. 5 scrumptious ingredients and a food processor is all it took to create this fresh and flavorful pesto.
6 cups fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoon unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a second bowl with ice water. Place basil leaves in a metal strainer.
Place strainer in pan and use tongs to submerge leaves. Cook 5 seconds. Remove strainer with basil and immediately submerge into ice water. Let stand 10 seconds.
Spread basil on towel and gently blot dry.
Place basil, sunflower seeds, oil and salt in food processor and pulse until smooth.
Add cheese and process until smooth.
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Toss pesto with warm pasta.
I served my pesto with toasted naan bread and a peach caprese salad.
I knew that I would love this recipe but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much my family enjoyed this pesto as well. I would categorize them as traditionalists when it comes to pasta sauce but now that I know they are fans of pesto, we can switch up our usual marinara routine from time to time. It's always a good sign when they go in for second and even third helping dinner!!
It's blueberry season in Georgia. Woohoo!!! I have 2 blueberry bushes in my yard and they actually yield quite a few berries but I've after five years, I've finally surrendered my right to the tiny, ripe fruit to the birds. Literally. I got tired of trying to compete with the birds for the berries and I resolved myself to the fact that they needed the nourishment more than I. It took a couple of years, but I now actually enjoy watching the birds come to feast on the sweet superfood.
Since the blueberries in my yard have been turned over the birds, I head to the blueberry farm to pick berries for my family. There's something so peaceful and serene about going into the blueberry fields at the crack of dawn and quietly filling my bucket with tiny blue morsels of antioxidant rich berries.
I treasure my hand picked blueberries because of the time and care that it takes to collect them. I carefully scrutinize each blueberry recipe before I make it to decide whether it's worthy of my cherished hand picked berries or whether I can substitute grocery store berries in their place. This blueberry cobbler recipe is definitely hand picked blueberry worthy. Enough said.
1 1/2 cups flour
5 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 Tablespoons butter, melted + 1 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
6 cups blueberries
Bake 12-14 minutes.
When I used my kids with me to pick berries when they were small so I understand that blueberry picking is not always a calming and peaceful experience. I enjoyed blueberry picking with the kids but on a totally different level - in a more hectic and chaotic kind of way. If picking your own blueberries is not an option for you, there is no shame in buying berries from the grocery store to make your cobbler.
I am currently in search of another pick your own blueberry farm close to the Monroe, Georgia area. If you know of one or have heard about a nearby blueberry farm, send me a comment. I would love check it out.
I've been keeping a secret from you. (No, I'm not pregnant. LOL) I've been living sugar free for a couple of weeks now. Even as I type those words, I can hardly believe it. After all, I'm a chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookie, mint chocolate chip ice cream loving kind of girl. I have mad love and appreciation for sugar. If it weren't for sugar, I wouldn't be able to make all of the sugary sweet treats for my baking business. I use so much sugar every week that my son actually nicknamed me the "sugar dealer" of our town.
Being surrounded by cookies, cupcakes and brownies every single day was never something that I considered to be a hinderance. I complain about the fact that I smell like buttercream at the end of the day but there are far worse smells. I still believe that I've got the very best job in the world. The only problem is that it's turned me into a serious sugar addict. Being surrounded by sugar is a great place to be until you realize that you can't live without it.
Being unable to finish a meal (including breakfast) without a dessert, having intense cravings for sweets and experiencing a serious sugar crash every afternoon was a wake up call for me to be more mindful of the amount of sugar that I was consuming on a daily basis. When I started to journal my food, I realized that I was eating a whole lot more sugar than I ever realized. A cookie here and a bite of buttercream there seemed pretty harmless until I added up all of those "little" bites that I was consuming throughout the day.
Sugar is so pervasive in my life that eliminating it completely seemed almost impossible. Living sugar free means something different for everyone. For me, going sugar free meant eliminated as much refined sugar from my diet as I possibly could. I also swapped out white breads for bread and snacks made exclusively of whole wheat flour. I did allow myself a small amount of natural sweeteners like honey, molasses, maple syrup and stevia. (I'm only human after all.) I also swapped out white potatoes with sweet potatoes and limited myself to one Tablespoon of ketchup with my baked sweet potato fries. (That was a HUGE sacrifice.) I had to educate myself about the hidden sugars in foods like yogurt, salad dressings and milk alternatives. It's worth noting that I also limited my dairy intake at the same time - for entirely different reasons. I started drinking and baking with milk alternatives like almond and coconut milk and eating soy yogurt.
I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't always easy to avoid sugar and my family will attest to the fact that I wasn't always pleasant to be around when I was living sugar free. The first couple of days were the worst and then the cravings and afternoon sugar crashes started to magically disappear. As I got more comfortable eating sugar free, I also found more ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with things like with fresh fruit. Did you know that fresh fruit tastes even better when you haven't eaten refined sugar for a few weeks? Still struggling with leaving the dinner table without a little sweet treat, I had to come up with creative ways to make my fruit look more like dessert. Let's just say that a bowl of strawberry whip after dinner, was a lifesaver.
Slice strawberries and freeze on a baking sheet.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Scoop into a plastic bag and freeze 10 minutes.
Cut a corner of the bag and squeeze into a bowl to serve.
I don't want to make blanket statements about nutrition because let's face it - I'm not here to start a nutrition war. What's best for me, may not be best for everyone else. I have no idea how long I will be able to embrace this sugar free living but I can tell you that I am feeling better than I did when I was eating refined sugar. I feel great and I'm not experiencing the sugar cravings or crashes that I did last month.
I'm still giving myself some grace for those important events that come up and absolutely MUST be celebrated with a small slice of high quality, real deal, piece of rich, decadent chocolate cake covered in creamy fudge frosting. I'm not going to feel guilty about indulging in an occasional treat because to be honest - it takes a lot less dessert to satisfy me now. My taste buds are more sensitive to sugar since I've become more sugar aware.
I'm on the search for more sugar free treats so if you have a tried and true favorite - send the recipe my way. I'd love to try it. Thanks in advance.
Sitting around a campfire with hand carved wooden sticks, roasting marshmallows to golden perfection and sandwiching them between two honey sweetened graham crackers and a layer of chocolate is the quintessence of a perfect summer night.
As much as I love the act of creating smores, I'm not really sure how I feel about eating them. I love all of the smore ingredients: graham crackers, chocolate, toasted marshmallows - what's not to like? I actually prefer to deconstruct my smores to eat them though. I guess I like to savor each flavor without being muddled together.
This smore ice cream really got me thinking. If you can take a smore and transform it into a heavenly frozen treat, what other things can you transform a smore into? I've made them into cakes and cupcakes but I couldn't help thinking that the chocolate, marshmallow, graham combinations would also make a great muffin.
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
Bake 20-25 minutes at 350.
Top each muffin with a Tablespoon of marshmallow cream. Let sit 10 minutes.
When sitting around a campfire is not an option, you can always improvise and bake up a batch of smore muffins. Admittedly, these smore muffins are a little sweeter than your normal breakfast muffin but they're a delicious morning treat. My plan is to bake a batch another batch of graham cracker muffins without the chocolate and marshmallow. I'll let you know how they turn out.
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