Archive | June, 2012

Anytime Appetizer | Make Your Own Herbed Olives

25 Jun

As a child my summer days and nights were spent surrounded by adults, most notably my grandparents and my aunt. Entertaining, screen house entertaining that is, was in my family’s blood. I remember the roar of the laughter, the smell of the barbecue and the tiny ceramic vegetable shaped trays filled with “pickies” lining the tables. Pickies are what my family calls appetizers, small bites of goodness served to tide you over for the meal. In the summers there were a variety of them, most notably stuffed celery, crabbies (that can be another blog post on its own), and black and green olives.

I never quite have figured out if the word “pickies” is a New England thing, growing up north of Boston and spending summers at Hampton Beach, or if it was just a word that only my family used, which now I have started using with my own little family.

Here’s an easy crowd pleasing pickies recipe that could be made year round, although I’m sure it would be a Summer hit. *screen house not included*

Lemony Herbed Olives

Ingredients

1 jar Organic Green Olives (I used Cat Cora’s Kitchen)
1/2 fresh lemon
Sprigs of fresh Rosemary (from our container garden)
Sprigs of fresh Thyme (from our container garden)
2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper
Organic California Olive Oil (or whatever your favorite good quality olive oil is)

Steps

1. Drain the liquid from the jar of olives and place olives in a small bowl.
2. Set aside olives and roughly chop the rosemary and thyme.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and smash with the edge of your chef’s knife to release the oils and flavor.
4. Toss the olives with the rosemary, thyme, and garlic in the small bowl.
5. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of the lemon over the olive mixture.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Slice the remaining 1/4 of the lemon and toss with the olive mixture.
8. Spoon mixture into the now empty jar that the olives were purchased in.
9. Don’t be afraid to really squeeze everything in there, it will be a tight fit.
10. Once the jar is filled, pour the olive oil into the jar filling it so the olives are covered in oil.

There you have it, your very own custom herbed olive mix!

Notes:

  •  You can use any combination of herbs that you wish. Be creative!
  • The cuter the label, the better they taste.. ok they taste great regardless, but cute labels don’t hurt.
  • Because I used fresh herbs that we are growing and doctored up store-bought olives, this crowd pleasing recipe is quite thrifty.
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Berries All Around! | Best Berry Salad

23 Jun

image credit: my mom’s childhood “Fun to Cook Book” printed by the Carnation Milk Company

Jess first made me this yummy treat as part of a little picnic (@ Walden Pond!) we went on when we first started dating. Berries are in season & they’re everywhere! Take advantage of local “pick your own” farms — or the sales in your local supermarket & bring this along to your next BBQ. It’s really easy to whip up & your friends/family will thank you! Extra bonus: it’s healthy too. 

Best Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 quarts of strawberries
2 pints of blueberries
1 pint of raspberries 
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 cup “Craisins”
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 
2 Tbsp cane sugar or other natural sweetener

Steps

1. Rinse the berries in cool water & drain.
2. Hull & quarter the strawberries.
3. Put the berries, Craisins, walnuts & sweetener into a large bowl & gently toss with a wooden spoon.
4. Let the salad rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to let the fruit macerate.  
5. Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate. 

Happy picnicking! 

Blueberries All Around | DIY Syrup, Compote & Dad’s Day Memories

17 Jun

I have always loved blueberries & my most delicious memories from childhood (and beyond!) are my dad’s amazing baked goods. We’d wake up on the weekends to freshly baked blueberry muffins (one of his specialties!) or celebrate the 4th of July with blueberry & rhubarb pies. The list of yummy baked confections goes on & on — keep an eye out for future posts featuring some of his secret recipes!

While there aren’t any baked goods featured in this post, this one goes out to my dad: carpenter by trade, baker self-made — & an all around amazing guy. I couldn’t be luckier (or more inspired)!

Inspiration can come from anywhere — a memory, a sale, a recipe, a special birthday, etc. So when ridiculous quantities of blueberries were on sale at a local specialty market & a friend’s birthday (whose SodaStream dreams were about to come true) was right around the corner, I dug out one of my favorite making books, can it, bottle it, smoke it by Karen Solomon, & got inspired!

Blueberry Lemon Syrup (from book referenced above)

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (the BEST/freshest available)
2 cups sugar (I used organic can sugar & a about a 1/4 cup less than this)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
pinch of kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine the berries, sugar & water in a large saucepan over medium heat & bring to a gentle boil (be careful not to let it boil over).
2. Reduce heat & simmer, covered, for 3 minutes — just enough time to let the berries release their juice.
3. Take the pan off the heat & stir to cool slightly then pour the contents of the pan through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl, stirring but not pressing the berries to harvest as much syrup as possible.
4. Reserve the berries for another use (more on that later). The recipe suggests pureeing them in a blender to make a great jam or using them as an ice cream topping, pie filling or compote.
5. Stir the lemon juice & the salt into the syrup.

Storage 

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a glass bottle for storing in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 6 weeks. (I just used a batter bowl with a little dip in the side & that worked just fine — no need for the funnel or extraneous kitchen equipment.)

Making soda

Stir 1 part syrup into 2 parts sparkling water. Add ice cubes & enjoy. (Shot of vodka optional.) It’s very pretty looking & a yummy summer beverage!

Using the blueberry leftovers

I put the leftover blueberries from the syrup making process into a mason jar & tossed it in the refrigerator. I used the compote as a topping for a week’s worth of DIY yogurt parfait breakfasts using a couple of tablespoons of compote, 0% Chobani plain yogurt & Trader Joe’s blueberry muesli. We also mixed some of the compote with fresh berries & used it as a topping for angel food cake. YUM!
 

Life Snippets | 2 Weeks in Photos

12 Jun

Phew! We’ve been busy bees these last couple of weeks. Here’s some of the goodness we’ve been up to…

Beautiful weather = inspired dinners on our deck. The pups like the extra fresh air too!

pulled pork (crockpot!), soft corn tacos, butter lettuce, fresh pineapple, fancy carrots, sour cream

Jess & Stevie enjoying the deck

Ollie likes the deck too!

Cold brewed coffee makes the BEST iced coffee in the world. Psssst…it’s also fun to prettily package in fancy bottles & give to friends as gifts. Put it on your summer “to do” list…now.

cold brewin’…patience is a virtue & the payoff is delicious!

Secret birthday prize (blueberry lemon syrup) for Kris made with fresh blueberries & lemon (just add to carbonated water to make a perfect summer soda :: recipe later this week!) yielded yummy blueberry compote “leftovers”. The compote makes a yummy spread, yogurt accompaniment or angel food cake topping especially when mixed with fresh berries.

blueberry goodness x2

blueberry compote, Chobani 0% plain yogurt, blueberry muesli (Trader Joe’s) = protein & antioxidant packed breakfast

It’s that time of year again…when Diesel & Bloc 11 Café staff release their inner artists & create unique pieces for the staff art show (hosted by Diesel Café). It’s the perfect opportunity to check out the show, support local artists &/or your favorite barista & give art a good home. Tip: This is a great way to purchase really affordable art pieces to add to your collection…or a good excuse to start one!

Here’s one of three framed pieces in the #thecaffeinatedlife series by Jess (inspired by life stories & connections that happened at the café).

Jess’s art for Diesel Cafe staff art show (happening now!)…this one sounds a little familiar 🙂

Ollie Turns 3 | Pupcake Celebration!

3 Jun

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that as much as we love baking for humans, we also love baking for our pets. We also have a self-proclaimed insane tradition of buying our pups a balloon on their birthdays. Ollie is terrified of balloons and so…it was decided, we’d get him some pupcakes to celebrate his day instead.

There are a few local cupcakeries that also sell a pup friendly version of their sweet delights, but 1) we love baking 2) we had all of the ingredients in our pantry/refrigerator 3) it’s cheaper…but most important of all, 4) we know exactly what’s inside. And no mystery ingredients means no potential allergens (Stevie has a wicked intolerance to all things poultry). Yay!

Now onto the important stuff…

Pupcakes for Ollie

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
rounded 1/4 cup whole oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup all natural organic creamy peanut butter (no sugar added!)
1/4 cup unsweetened organic apple sauce
1 cup shredded carrots (I finely chopped a couple of handfuls of baby carrots in the food processor)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey*
1 egg

*If you don’t want to add the sweetener, just substitute the same amount of the apple sauce. Dogs don’t need the extra sugar but we made these as a once in a blue moon treat so I sweetened them a bit with honey.

Steps 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray or line with paper liners.

2. With a whisk, mix the flour, oats, baking soda & cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Baker’s tip for measuring honey: Spray the measuring cup/spoon with a little bit of non-stick spray before pouring the honey into it. The honey will slide out — no messy honey fingers or lost sweetness.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients & mix well (I used a wooden spoon, but the same whisk you used in step 2, is fine).

4. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling cups a generous 2/3’s full. (I got 8 pupcakes out of my batter.)

Baker’s tip for baking partially filled muffin pans: If your batter doesn’t fully fill all of the spots of the muffin pan, pour a little bit of water into each empty cup (not too high or it will be tricky to remove from the hot oven — 1/3 full or so). This will ensure even baking. Just remember to use extra caution when removing the pan from the hot oven!

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean. (Our oven is a little unpredictable so I rotated the pan after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.)

Stevie loves to help!

6. Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack…and…let the celebration begin!

Very patient pups! (Sorry there are no action shots of them eating…they went completely & overwhelmingly crazy for these birthday treats.)

Notes

  • This recipe could easily be made gluten free for dogs with gluten/wheat allergies — just be sure that the oats you’re using are gluten free (Trader Joe’s Whole Oats are affordable & labeled gluten free).
  • Be creative when baking for your pup but always do your research to make sure your ingredients are dog safe! For example, while it might be tempting to add raisins to this recipe, please don’t. They can cause toxicity/death in dogs. Add a handful of fresh blueberries instead. YUM! Here’s a helpful list of people foods to avoid giving your pup (source: ASPCA). When in doubt, call your vet or leave it out.
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