Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Need some simple, yummy Christmas cookies to make for your holiday cookie exchange? Or just to have on hand because, well, Christmas cookies are delicious? Sarah has an easy, tasty recipe to share with us today that will surely please a crowd.

In my experience, there are two kinds of people who bake. People who love to bake, and people who wish it wasn’t quite so… involved. The holiday season brings with it the anticipated (or dreaded) holiday parties and cookie exchanges. I, for one love any chance to be a little extra festive and fancy (and enjoy a few cocktails, clearly), but I also want an “easy” button.

Today’s recipe—Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies—is a little less involved than other Christmas cookies I’ve made, and the end result tastes great!

This recipe was a challenge for me, because I love to tweak things I already know, and I knew this recipe was good using lemon juice and lemon zest. I also had a dark red cherry liqueur on-hand. And it’s the Christmas season… I really wanted these to be pink cookies with green lime zest on top, but we don’t always get everything we want from Santa, either. The cherry flavor from the cherry liqueur is much more subtle than you think it will be in the finished product, and the dough soaks it right up, so feel free to use a heavy hand.

Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • Cherry liqueur (approximately 5/8 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

-Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. This will be a crumbly mixture with a clump of butter and cream cheese stuck to your mixer paddle. Don’t panic.

-Add the egg. Hooray for egg! This will give you something more akin to a standard cookie’s wet ingredient mixture.

-Add the cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

-Add the flour and cherry liqueur alternately. Mix half a cup of flour into your wet mixture and turn your mixer on for a moment to combine. This will get crumbly. Stop your mixer and add 2 tablespoons of cherry liqueur, then turn your mixer back on to combine. Repeat until you’ve added 2 ½ cups of flour and then balanced it out with cherry liqueur.

-This is an opportunity to either chill your dough, or the start of the period of time where you need to work quickly. Use your hands to form balls of dough about ½ an inch to 1 inch in size (I am terrible at uniform cookie sizes), and space about an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. I am a big fan of shortcuts in the kitchen, but my best tip today is to use the biggest baking sheet that will fit in your oven, so you’ll be making fewer batches of these bad boys.

-Bake 8-10 minutes at 350°.

These cookies beg for some sugar, and maybe some citrus, so you have two (easy!) options to finish them. The first is to top them with powdered sugar and lemon or lime zest. This takes seconds, looks nice, and adds a hit of sweetness. I used my zester to sift the powdered sugar, since I don’t own a sieve. Scoop a small spoonful onto the backside of your zester, holding it horizontally over your cookies. Tap the side of the zester lightly and voilà! Rinse your zester and grate some lemon (or lime—green for Christmas!) zest on top.

Your second option is to make a glaze. This is going to require some time to dry, and may make transporting the finished product more difficult. However, a glaze adds a massive hit of sugar, which is beneficial to a more muffin-y cookie. Mix half a tablespoon of milk with half a tablespoon of your flavoring of choice—lemon juice or cherry liqueur are good choices in this instance. Add confectioner’s sugar bit by bit until you have a dippable consistency (about ¾ of a cup). Dunk the tops of your (cooled!) cookies in the glaze and let dry on a rack or plate before storing (or snacking—or not, I can’t tell you how to live your best life!).

These Christmas cookies are not pink. They are not super sweet. They do not punch you in the face with bold cherry flavor. But they do have a very moist, dense consistency thanks to the cream cheese. And with a glaze or dusting of powdered sugar on top, they are a perfectly balanced bite that you and your cookie exchange participants will enjoy sharing while celebrating the holidays. Happy everything to you and yours!

Cozy Christmas Drinks to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Cozy Christmas Drinks to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Get into the cozy Christmas mood with these festive cocktails from Claire (you know how we love a seasonal drink!). Whether you are spending a quiet night in or hosting a holiday party, Claire has you covered in the cocktail department! Let’s get mixing, Claire!

This year seems to have gone by in record time, which is good, because 2016 has been a real stinker and I’m not going to miss it when it’s done. Usually in December, all I want to do is get cozy and Christmassy, but this year I’ve been having a tougher time than I normally do getting festive. Luckily, I have devised a brilliant, alcohol-fueled plan to grease my Christmas spirit wheels, and it all starts today, as I trim my tree.

A cozy Christmas cocktail is the perfect way to fire up the holiday spirit!

As a child of a mixed-religious union, I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Chanukah, though with so many fun activities involved, Christmas always won out as the bigger deal of the two. Our family tradition was to spend Christmas day at our Grandma’s house, so we didn’t always have a tree in our house. Well, I am a strong believer in creating your own holiday traditions, so now that I have my own house, I always have a Christmas tree, no matter where I’ll be on Christmas day. The week after Thanksgiving, Pier and I go out to the tree lot, we pick out a tree, and then he helps me set it up so I can decorate it. Well, this year, Pier has had to work late all week so I went to the tree lot by myself. I tied the tree to my car by myself and then unloaded and stood it up by myself. I knew I was going to need some powerful holiday magic to get me through decorating by myself. What better than hot cocoa? I used to always make Mexican hot chocolate from scratch whenever I got a craving for cocoa, but I found that I actually wanted cocoa more often than I was willing to put the effort into the process. Since then, I have gotten smarter and/or lazier, and I have adapted my own recipe for an instant mix from Alton Brown’s own recipe (so you know it must be good).

Mix together one and a half to two cups of powdered sugar, one cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, two and a half cups of dry milk powder, two teaspoons of cornstarch, and one teaspoon of salt. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper to suit your taste. I like a lot of heat in mine, so I go a little heavier on the cayenne. Just add hot water, et voilà, you’re in cocoa heaven. This mix can keep for a whole year in an air-tight container, but I doubt it will last longer than a month, especially if you prepare it the way I like it best. Put two spoonfuls of cocoa mix into your mug. Add some coffee if you have some made, or a little bit of instant espresso if you don’t. Pour in hot water, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Stir until everything is dissolved, then fill the space to the top with Irish cream. Top it with marshmallows (obviously) and you are ready to get cozy while you untangle your lights!

Cozy Christmas

Cocoa is nice while I enjoy the Fireplace for Your Home on Netflix, but it can be a little rich for everyday drinking. For something equally warming, I recommend mulled cider. Mulling spices make some of the best smells on the planet, and they go great with the piney smell of the Christmas tree. This will make your home smell like a cozy Christmas cabin. To make mulled cider, just pour some good apple juice or cider into a saucepan. Add a tangerine, either pierced with cloves, or sliced. Also add a couple of whole star anise, a good tablespoon or so of allspice berries, and two or three cinnamon sticks, cracked. I like to add some ginger to my cider as well, because I like the kick. Add a little wine, if you like, and bring the whole pot to a gentle boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, and strain. If you need an extra pick-me-up, bourbon, rum or brandy will all blend beautifully with your cider.

Cozy Christmas

Of course, the Christmas season isn’t just about cuddling. December has only just started, and I already have three parties on my calendar. Hot cider works nicely at a quiet dinner party or a bonfire, but for a traditional Christmas soiree, I’d say that punch is best. It can be made in large batches, so the host doesn’t have to tend bar, and it makes a festive and stylish centerpiece. There are a lot of ways you can go with your punch, but I think it’s nice to keep it simple. For this one, simply pour a whole bottle of sparking white wine (Prosecco, Champagne, whatever!) into your punch bowl. Add a cup of cranberry juice cocktail, half a cup of vodka, and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to taste. I like to freeze a bag of cranberries and throw them into the bowl, too. They help keep the punch cold, and they add a festive flair. I also recommend setting your punch bowl on top of a bowl of ice or some freezer packs wrapped in a napkin or towel to keep it chilled.

Cozy Christmas

Whatever you’re drinking this holiday season, I hope you are with people who love you, or at least a cat that doesn’t mind sharing the room with you. Happy holidays to you and yours.

National Sandwich Day – Pomegranate Balsamic Chicken Sandwich

National Sandwich Day – Pomegranate Balsamic Chicken Sandwich

National Sandwich Day should happen at least once a week, in my opinion. But if I got my way, we’d all be getting paid to eat sandwiches and play with puppies and kitties  and the economy would collapse…so maybe we should leave Sandwich Day alone. I am always happy to have a new idea in my sandwich arsenal, though, which is why I am particularly thrilled with Sarah today. Not only does this sandwich look 100% phenomenal, I never knew about cilantro in a tube, and I think my life may be forever altered in the best possible way. I hope you feel the same about this creation. Sarah, if you would be so kind, show us the way to sandwich perfection.

Happy National Sandwich Day, folks! I am a big fan of putting things between bread as a meal, as well as the season of FALL, and so when I discovered that National Sandwich Day happens to be in November, I knew we had to cook up a hearty fall sandwich to celebrate.

I have always been enamored with “weird” foods. This may have begun when my dad brought home a coconut from the grocery store when my brother and I were little kids. We cracked it open with a hammer and chisel, I think, and while none of us really cared for what we found inside, I retained the fascination with food that required a little bit of work to get to the good stuff. Shellfish, avocados, mangoes, and pomegranates are huge favorites of mine, possibly for this very reason.

Not many things speak “fall” to me more than pomegranate—we’ll leave the turkey and cranberry to Thanksgiving (which is SO SOON, you guys!).

Today we will be making a Pomegranate Balsamic Glazed Chicken Sandwich with Smoked Gouda, Anjou Pear, and Cilantro Aioli.

Ingredients:

  • Good loaf of bread
  • Cooked chicken (you know my favorite shortcut is a rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup pomegranate seeds (about 2/3 of a pomegranate)
  • Sriracha
  • Ginger
  • Cilantro
  • Mayonnaise
  • Smoked Gouda
  • 1 Anjou pear

Let’s get started! The first step is to open your pomegranate. After googling this lazily (I believe my search keyword was “open pomegranate”) and clicking on the very first video, I found an acceptable method which only requires a bowl of cold water and a knife. The idea is to score the pomegranate along its sections (I followed the splits in the top of the fruit with my knife), break it open with your hands, and proceed to pull the seeds apart from the casing in the water. The dense seeds sink to the bottom, while the vaguely pool noodle-like outer skin floats. This science checks out. It took the longest for me to break the thing open, but start to finish I think I had all the seeds out in about ten minutes.

sandwich

Once you have your pomegranate seeds, chuck them in a small pot with ½ cup of balsamic vinegar. I let mine come to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. You basically want to cook the vinegar until it thickens and loses its bite. I can’t leave things be, so I added a squeeze of Sriracha and a squeeze of ginger (herbs in a tube are the BEST shortcut) to amp up the tart pomegranate and sweet balsamic flavors.

While the glaze was thickening, I cut up my pear into thin slices, sliced my Gouda, cut two thick slices of what my grocery store told me is “Tuscany bread,” and broke down my chicken into vaguely bite-sized pieces. Now would also be an excellent time to toast your bread and cheese, if you want a toasted sandwich. The pear adds some crunch, but not quite as much as I wanted. I think next time I make these, I’ll definitely go toasty.

Once your glaze is making thick bubbles and doesn’t have a watery consistency (taste it, too—the vinegar “bite” should be mostly eliminated), throw it (pomegranate seeds and all) into the container with your chicken and coat well.

Now it’s aioli time! Guys, aiolis are the easiest things to make. You know the fancy, creamy dipping sauces you get in some restaurants. “Sriracha garlic aioli” is usually mayonnaise with a squeeze of Sriracha and some roasted garlic (this is over-simplifying things—but not much!). Let’s make a fancy-sounding super tasty cilantro aioli with—wait for it—two ingredients. I took a small container, added a squeeze of mayonnaise and about a teaspoon and a half of cilantro from a tube (I love fresh herbs, but this stuff packs a lot of flavor and doesn’t go bad quickly) and mixed it together. Congratulations, you’ve made a fancy, restaurant-quality dipping sauce. Spread it on your bread!

sandwich

So the steps of sandwich-building today are going to go: aioli Sandwich and pear on one piece of bread, Gouda and chicken on the other, then quickly slap them together. I apply some pressure to kind of hold this guy together, and cut it in half to make this less unwieldy to eat. The Gouda brings creaminess, the chicken has a nice sweet flavor thanks to the glaze, the occasional pomegranate seed gives you some tartness, while the pears are a bit crisp, and the aioli adds a bit of salt.

This is a heavy, but well-balanced sandwich, in my opinion. Perfect to welcome fall and get ready for sweaters and blankets and bonfires and raking leaves in the crisp air.

What are your favorite fall flavors? Would you toast this sandwich (I should have toasted this sandwich)? What kinds of aiolis are you inspired to make this season? I think I want to try something with figs…

 

White Bean Soup – A Family Favorite

White Bean Soup – A Family Favorite

Now that it’s starting to cool down a bit in the evenings, we can turn our thoughts to soup. There is nothing quite like a nice, cozy meal to bring family together, and Claire is here to share a recipe from her sister for comforting White Bean Soup. This is the perfect recipe to ease us into soup season. Grab a spoon and come along for story time and soup with Claire!

I have two sisters and I love them like crazy. Like a lot of siblings, we fought a lot when we were kids, but as we got older and less obnoxious, we became much closer. Though we all live far apart now, we speak on the phone often and try to get together as frequently as we can manage with our busy schedules. One of the side effects of our relatively infrequent face-to-face interaction, though, is that my older sister and I came to realize that we probably didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did. In an effort to remedy that, we have been trying to spend as much time together as possible so we can become reacquainted. Over the summer, I got to spend my vacation week at the lake with her, but by the end of my trip, I still wanted more one-on-one time. I found a relatively inexpensive flight to Denver and I planned a long weekend for some more quality time with my big sis, and, let’s be honest here, a break from the California heat.

We managed to pack three parties, three meals out, and several hours of crafting time in just Friday and Saturday, so when Sunday rolled around, we agreed that we needed a day to just sit around. We sat and knit Christmas stockings and chatted. We vented about family frustrations and work. We made plans for this Christmas and next summer, and then when we got hungry, we made plans for dinner. Unlike in California, in Colorado, the weather is actually starting to cool to boots and jean jackets temperatures, so I requested one of my all-time favorites from my sister’s dinner recipe arsenal: white bean soup.

This white bean soup is perfect because it is hearty and filling, but not heavy.

It’s easy to cook, so it fits with a lazy afternoon, and the addition of a simple green salad and some bread or crackers turns it into a good, square meal.

To make this soup, you will need:

  • 2 cans Great Northern Beans, drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, chopped (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 bacon slices, chopped
  • 10 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

White Bean Soup

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add bacon and onion and cook until bacon fat is rendered, then add the rest of the chopped vegetables. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes.

Add beans, chicken stock, thyme, and rosemary. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Since we are using canned beans instead of dried, there is no need to cook the beans, but simmering time will allow the flavors to deepen.

Next, blend the soup until it is smooth. If you have an immersion blender, you can achieve this step right in the pot. If not, you can use a blender or food processor to puree the soup in batches.

When the soup has reached a smooth, consistent texture, stir in the cream. Season with salt and fresh pepper and serve.

White Bean Soup

Soup is easy, but relationships are hard. They take work and dedication and willingness to be open and listen, but they reward us with a sense of kinship and emotional fulfillment. By the end of my trip to Denver, I felt like my sister and I had both revealed new facets of ourselves. I think I know her better now than I did before, and I hope she feels the same about me. Also, I hope this white bean soup tastes as good when I make it at home as it always does at her house.

Printer-friendly recipe: White Bean Soup

Baked Apples – The Taste of Autumn

Baked Apples – The Taste of Autumn

My only encounters with baked apples have been on camping trips, when we would wrap stuffed apples in foil and throw them in the fire. While delicious, they were quite messy…and there was no ice cream, so really what’s the point? I like Claire’s approach better, as it involves staying indoors and using real plates. And these baked apples just look SO GOOD! They are the perfect way to ease into Fall baking. Let’s get to it. Claire, usher us into Autumn with your spectacular baked apples!

Well, it’s eighty-three degrees in the shade today, and California is still on fire, but I am ninety-three percent sure that I felt a cool, cool, autumn breeze last week, so I am already gearing up for fall. I am packing up my summer wardrobe, planning my Halloween costume, and breaking out the knitting needles for sweater season. Just joking; this is California. I just wear all dresses all year. I also plan my Halloween costume and knit year-round, obviously. I’m not joking about the breeze, though. I have lived here long enough to know that one cool week means nothing, except that we’re about to have another month of dry, relentless heat. In fact, in my experience, the first week of October has a habit of being the most unbearably hot week all year. All that aside, I am ready for fall, whether Mother Nature likes it or not.

Across our great nation, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks are ushering in the autumn with pumpkin spice everything, but for my money, the most supreme fall fruit is still the apple. Whether pressed into cider or baked into pie, the combination of apple and cinnamon is distinctly, undeniably autumnal. Now, my grandmother taught me well and I make a damn good pie crust. Still, sometimes I find myself in a bit of a time crunch and have to turn out something delicious and impressive in a third the time of a pie. In a case like that, I will choose to forego the rolling and chilling and latticework and egg wash and skip right to the bake.

This very hot autumn, my go-to dessert is baked apples and vanilla ice cream.

  • 4 large Honeycrisp or other good baking apples
  • 1/3 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped very fine

Preheat your oven to 375°. Using a sharp paring knife and a spoon, hollow out the cores of the apples, leaving just enough at the bottom to form a basin. In a medium bowl, mix together the rest of your ingredients. Fill each apple to the top with the spice mixture and place them in a baking dish. Pour half a cup of water into the bottom of the baking dish and bake for one hour until the apples are soft.

Baked Apples

Let the baked apples cool slightly. With a slotted spoon, gently lift each one into its own bowl or plate and top it with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream. These evoke all the comforting warmth of an apple pie without the fuss of the crust, and, as a bonus, they will make your home smell like heaven. For as simple as these treats are to make, they really make a stunning dessert, and a quintessentially autumnal crowd-pleaser.

Baked Apples

Oktoberfest Food – Beer Cheese Recipe

Oktoberfest Food – Beer Cheese Recipe

I am always ready for some delicious Oktoberfest food and beer! It’s too bad Oktoberfest doesn’t last all year. But if you’ve got a simple and delicious recipe, you can have Oktoberfest at home any time you want! Claire is here to share just such a recipe, and I can’t wait to try it. Cheese us, Claire!

Oktoberfest is just around the corner, and though I’ll be far away from the Bavarian tents, I am still on the edge of my American seat to partake of this year’s batch of Oktoberfest food and beer offerings. The official Oktoberfest in Munich is the largest beer festival in the world, and is in its 186th year! And what better way to get into the spirit of the fest than a party? I’ve been invited to just such a party this year by a very close friend, and unlike Labor Day BBQs with strangers, a German beer festival with friends is something I can fully get behind. This one is going to be potluck style, and this friend actually lived in Germany for a couple of years, so I worry that any Oktoberfest food I bring to the table will be judged pretty carefully. With this in mind, I spent a good couple of days combing over the German foods I could think up off the top of my head trying to decide what to make.

My first thought was fresh pretzels, but honestly, even if I cheated with a bread machine for the kneading process, who really has the time to deal with the dough rise and the baking soda bath and everything else? But thinking of pretzels led me right to beer cheese. Pretzels and cheese is one of my favorite snacks, and if the cheese is good enough, I think we can excuse some store-bought pretzels. After a quick Google, I found a few recipes for Obatzda and headed to Trader Joe’s with a short list. I was also lucky enough while I was there to find some tiny Bavarian-style bratwurst, along with some apparently very traditional pumpernickel pretzels, if the cartoon German on the front of the bag is anything to go by.

This recipe is as simple as it is delicious. To make it, you will need:

  • 1 pound of Camembert, rind mostly removed
  • 3 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 ounces of butter
  • 1teaspoon of paprika
  • Half of a small onion, minced or grated
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Up to 3 oz German Weizenbock or Hefeweizen
  • Chives for garnish

Let the cheese and butter come to room temperature. With a potato masher or a hand mixer, work the brie until it forms a pretty consistent blob. Add in the cream cheese, butter, onions, and paprika. Gradually add the beer until the mixture is your desired flavor and consistency. If you like a drier cheese spread, you can leave the beer out entirely, though you’ll certainly want to chill that beer and drink it heartily while you eat delicious cheese spread on pretzels or potatoes or maybe even slathered all over a traditional Bavarian bratwurst. I scooped my Obatzda into a little wooden bowl, garnished it with some chives from my front yard, and surrounded it with pretzels and celery (for color, mostly… no one is going to actually choose celery over pretzels, obviously). I am fully ready to drop this platter on a long table with some sausages, sauerkraut, and other Oktoberfest food, and raise a glass of liquid gold to friends and ‘fest!

Oktoberfest food

Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

It’s been a while since I blogged a recipe to our readers. Thankfully we have Claire and Sarah to do most of the food blogs for us, because they LOVE to cook.  I, however, really don’t love cooking or baking. I’m not sure why. Maybe because as a kid about 12 years old, it was my job to make dinner! We were given a day of the week, and it was our responsibility to plan and prepare the meal for the family. My divorced mom had 5 kids living at home at the time (seven kids total), so it was a very smart, strategic move on her part. While I was proud of what I learned to make…lasagna, meatloaf, spaghetti…I always felt like it was a chore. But luckily, I married a guy who is simply fabulous in the kitchen! He does nearly all of the cooking, AND he has taught me how to simplify recipes, and to enjoy the process as much as the end result. So once again, he has helped me come up with a recipe idea for our Butcher Block Co. Blog!

For our walnut-themed week, I’m making easy, delicious Walnut Banana Bread! It’s timed perfectly for you foodies out there, because Saturday is also National Banana Lovers Day!

So what makes this recipe easy?  Buy Trader Joe’s boxed Banana Bread Mix and a bag of Walnut halves.

What makes this recipe unique?  Roast the walnuts, use frozen bananas, add vanilla, orange and almond extract, and add chocolate chips (of course)!

For those of you who know what you’re doing in the kitchen, you can probably stop reading now and go make this walnut banana bread.  For the rest of you, there are a few helpful tips and adjustments to the recipe that are required to pull this off successfully, so read on…

Ingredients

walnut banana bread ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Banana Bread Mix
  • Walnut Halves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • * 1/4 cup water (not the 3/4 cup noted on the box)
  • *1/4 tsp orange extract
  • *1/4 tsp almond extract
  • *1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 * frozen bananas (in the peel works best)
  • * = adjustments to the recipe

Directions

walnuts Slightly roast the walnut halves in a dry fry pan on medium to high heat.  Walnuts are done when they just begin to darken slightly AND you get a waft of nutty, earthy smell off of them.  This should take no more than 10 minutes.  Do not let them burn.  Roasting will take the bitterness out of the walnut. Then chop them to the desired size. I used my handy John Boos Herb Board and Mezzaluna Knife for this. Yah!

Follow the directions on the banana bread box.  Whisk wet ingredients together then add the dry mix to the wet and blend with a spoon until just mixed.

Now for the frozen bananas.  Living in Arizona, I find that bananas turn really fast, so we have a freezer full of brown bananas at all times.  Just toss them in the freezer, peels and all, and they are always on hand for baking and making shakes! So now, grab your frozen bananas and defrost them in the microwave just until soft.  Squeeze the banana out of the peel into a bowl and mash them slightly with a fork.  Add them to the mixture. mix walnut banana bread

Add chocolate chips and your chopped, roasted walnuts and fold together. Pour into lightly greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for *50 minutes (instead of the recommended 40 minutes).

Cool.  Slice.  Eat.  Repeat.

Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

Final walnut banana bread

Printer-friendly recipe:Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

 

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

There’s still a little time left for some summer fun! We’ve been compiling recipes and ideas for a few years now, and we figure it’s the perfect time to share the summer fun with you.

Adult or kid (or kid at heart!), there’s something for everyone in this summer fun roundup!

First and foremost, get a batch of Boozy Poptails in the freezer right away. These adults-only frozen pops will surely get you through the last few weeks of summer!

Poptails Done

If that booze gets you feeling nostalgic, come share your childhood summer fun memories with us here.

Doing any camping this summer? Or attending a bonfire? Sarah’s fire pies are a definite must!

Campfire Pies summer fun

Another fun way to eat outdoors is having a build-your-own kabob party! Everyone gets exactly what they want all grilled to perfection!

If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, Claire’s grilled salad brings the best of summer onto your plate.

Grilled Salad

Or if the heat is just too unbearable, stick with something delicious that you don’t even have to cook! Ceviche tacos make for the perfect dish on a hot day – no grill required!

The very best way to finish off summer is with the most refreshingly delicious dessert: homemade mint ice cream. Can you think of anything better? I sure can’t!

Mint Ice Cream

What are your go-to meals and activities for summer fun? Share with us!

 

 

Light and Tasty Shrimp Burgers

Light and Tasty Shrimp Burgers

Have you ever had a shrimp burger? The thought of making a shrimp burger would have never occurred to me, and I LOVE shrimp. But that’s why we keep Claire around, right? She’s always available to treat us to something delicious and unexpected! So let’s get to it. Claire, tell us why these shrimp burgers should be our new summer staple!

Something about summer makes me want to just start mainlining hamburgers. I’m a big supporter of letting my body decide what it wants to eat most of the time, but even I think there needs to be a limit, and 24-hour burgers is surely over that line. That said, I think a small increase in burger consumption is mostly harmless, and I’m willing to make some excuses to justify a few extra burgers. I’m not too worried about getting my body beach-ready – as far as I’m concerned, my beach bod is whatever bod I happen to take to the beach – but I do still like to keep my calorie consumption on a relatively even keel, and beef all day err day doesn’t exactly fit with that plan. For that reason, I have developed a work-around: Shrimp burgers!

Seafood is such an obvious choice for summer fare, and especially shrimp. It barely takes any heat to cook, and it goes equally well in a salad or cold pasta dish. Besides that, shrimp is almost always a great, sustainable choice. Its sticky texture makes it ideal for manipulating it into a patty, and just a tiny bit of panko is plenty of binder to help keep a great shape. If you’re lucky enough to live close to the ocean, you can usually find a fishmonger with a supply of fresh shrimp, but frozen raw shrimp will also work great.

These shrimp burgers are so magical, they actually feel decadent and light at the same time. They just take a few minutes to put together, and when I’m done eating, they don’t leave me feeling heavy and lethargic.

Like traditional beef burgers, there are basically endless ways to top your shrimp burgers, but I like to keep it pretty simple with a piece of crisp butter lettuce, maybe some onion slices, and some avocado. I also like a creamy dressing. My husband says he hates mayonnaise, but he goes nuts for aioli, so I just added a bunch of Old Bay seasoning and whole corn kernels to some mayo and called it aioli. He loved it, obviously, and it went perfectly with the shrimp burgers.

To make four patties, you will need:

  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped small
  • Small bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons panko
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Shrimp Burger prep
Pat the shrimp dry with some paper towel, and drop it into your food processor with the garlic and jalapeño. Pulse a few times until a lumpy paste starts to form. Add the shrimp together with the rest of the ingredients, and then divide the paste into four roughly even sections. Using your hands, form each section into a patty shape to fit the bun. I like to wear kitchen gloves for this section because the shrimp seems to stick to them a little less. Heat a grill or well-oiled griddle over medium heat. Cook the patties for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, and assemble your burgers.

shrimp burgers plated

 

I like to serve these with just a nice green salad on the side, though if you want to skip the bun, they are fabulous on top of a big salad. These shrimp burgers are also good cold, so wrap them up and get that hot bod to the beach!

Printer-friendly recipe: Shrimp Burgers

Chef’s Recipe – Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Chef’s Recipe – Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail is one of my most favorite appetizers, and I am fortunate enough to have easy access to the best one I’ve ever eaten. My younger brother, Garrison Whiting, is the supremely talented chef at Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale, AZ. The menu at CI changes up every few months with the start of a new “episode.” The current episode is “Agua Caliente Racetrack,” which pulls inspiration from the famed horse racing track that opened in Tijuana in 1929 when drinking and gambling were still illegal in the states. The track catered to celebrities, and the spectacular menu at Counter Intuitive reflects that opulence in both food and drink.

Back to the shrimp cocktail. Chef Garrison has concocted a delicious variation on a classic, and I would eat it every day if I could (I have almost two quarts of it in my fridge at the moment, so I will be living that dream for the next several days). This isn’t your standard “dip shrimp in sauce” shrimp cocktail; this is more of the Mexican style that you eat with a spoon. Crunchy bites of cucumber and onion combine with the richness of avocado and bits of shrimp, all brought together by a spiced tomato cocktail reminiscent of a Bloody Mary.

This Shrimp Cocktail is the best I’ve ever had, and you should definitely add it to your no-cook meal recipe arsenal.

We’ve been talking about no-cook Shrimp Cocktail meals this week on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and this shrimp cocktail fits the bill if you use pre-cooked shrimp; even if you use fresh, though, it only takes a minute (literally) to cook them. The recipe below is in restaurant quantity (about 16 servings), but it is easily halved or even quartered if you’re not serving a crowd. I cut it in half and ended up with about two quarts. I always have shrimp in the freezer, so I’ve just been boiling up a handful every day and adding them into my individual serving in order to keep things fresh (I’m weird about seafood, okay?).

Chef Garrison’s Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

  • 1 64 oz. bottle original Clamato
  • 1 6 oz. can El Pato tomato sauce
  • 2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz. honey (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1-2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1 Tbs extra hot horseradish
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups medium-diced Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups medium-diced red onion
  • 2 cups medium-diced English cucumber
  • 2 cups medium-diced avocado
  • 2 lbs. large raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp (or pre-cooked)

Makes approximately one gallon/16 servings

Shrimp Cocktail

Stir together all liquids and spices, then add veggies and let sit refrigerated overnight.

In a large sauce pot bring 5-6 qts. of water to a boil with a handful of salt and a splash of white vinegar. Remove from heat and add the shrimp until they are just cooked (about 1 minute). Pour the shrimp into a colander and immediately transfer to a sheet pan to cool. Do not use an ice bath to cool the shrimp.

To serve, cut up about 3/4ths of the shrimp into halves or thirds and place portions into large margarita/martini glasses. Ladle the cocktail sauce over the pieces and garnish with diced avocado, a lime wedge, and 1 whole shrimp. Serve with Saltine crackers.

Printer-friendly recipe: Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail