Monday, July 28, 2008

More Summer Recipes

We were away for 10 days on vacation. B, D and I flew to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and then to Phoenix, Arizona to visit with my niece M, her husband M and their son M. I have lots of stories from our trip but first I thought I would share a few amazing-looking recipes that I found during our travels. The first one was in the July issue of the Southwest Airlines Magazine. I was reading it on our flight out to Las Vegas. I tore it out of the magazine on our trip home. The recipe is for a mocktail called Aqua Frutta created by Marissa Barnes. Marissa is a bartender at Vivo Trattoria in Hartford, Connecticut. This sounds like a wonderful drink to make for a summer barbecue. I can't wait to try this recipe!

Strawberry Aqua Frutta
by Marissa Barnes

2-3 slices each of lemon and lime
9 small strawberries, sliced
Small handful of blueberries
3 ounces lemon juice
5 ounces water
1 ounce simple syrup (recipe below)
Dash vanilla extract
Sprig of mint

Puree seven of the strawberries in a blender until smooth, adding water if necessary. Put the lemon and lime slices, remaining strawberries, and blueberries in a pilsner glass filled 3/4 with ice, then use a straw to distribute the fruit throughout. In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree, lemon juice, water, simple syrup, and vanilla extract. Shake well and strain into glass. Garnish with mint sprig. Makes one Aqua Frutta.

Simple Syrup

1 part sugar
1 part water

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stir until dissolved, then cool.

This next recipe is from a Woman's Day magazine that I brought with my on our trip. The picture of this parfait is on the cover of the August 1 issue. It looks so summery and delicious that I couldn't resist it.

Mixed Berry Parfaits
Serves 5

1 box (3 oz) wild strawberry Jello
1 cup each fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
2 cups prepared vanilla pudding

1. You'll need five 10-oz glass or plastic glasses
2. Prepare Jello in a 2-cup glass measure as box directs. Refrigerate, occasionally stirring gently (try not to create bubbles.) 30 minutes or until consistency of egg whites.
3. Meanwhile, stem and hull 1/2 cup strawberries, cut in small pieces. Combine with 1/2 cup each blueberries and raspberries. Divide fruit mixture among glasses.
4. Add Jello and gently stir with a skewer to incorporate berries so some are suspended in gelatin (don't overstir). Refrigerate 3 hours or until set.
5. Spoon pudding on gelatin. Stem, hull and slice remaining strawberries and mix in a bowl with remaining blueberries and raspberries; spoon over pudding.

Planning Tip: Can be made through Step 4 up to 2 days in advance.

Doesn't this sound yummy?!

The Creative Cook

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Refreshing Summer Drinks - Non Alchoholic

I know that I've talked about iced tea and lemonade before but there are so many delicious and refreshing summer drinks that I am compelled to share a few more with you. I also found a great list of summer drinks at Real Simple's website for even more variety. I have the ingredients for these drinks in my freezer right now. I would be making them, too but we are leaving for vacation tomorrow. I will definitely be making them when I get back. Don't give your kids soda and juice boxes all summer, try one or two of these recipes instead.


Place 1 12-oz. can frozen pineapple juice concentrate (thawed) in a large pitcher; pour in 5 cups seltzer and 5 cups ginger ale. Stir vigorously until well blended. Stir in 4 cups cranberry juice and 2 cups orange juice; mix well. Scrub 1 lemon and 2 limes, then thinly slice. Just before serving, add sliced lemon and limes to pitcher and pour punch over ice. Serves 8.

Prep: 5 min. Serves: 8

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
2 6 oz cans frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 lemon, sliced (optional)

Pour 2 cups cold water into a blender and add half of the raspberries. Blend until smooth, then pour puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a large pitcher (discard seeds). Add 4 more cups cold water, remaining raspberries and lemonade concentrate to raspberry puree. Mix well and pour over ice. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

** Swap berries – use blueberries or strawberries instead of raspberries


3/4 c Freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c Freshly squeezed lime juice
5 cups ice water
1 cup Superfine sugar or 1-1/2 cups sugar
Lemon and lime slices for garnish

1. Combine juices and sugar in pitcher and stir until all sugar is dissolved.
2. When ready to serve fill tall glasses with ice.
3. Pour about 1/4 cup juice mixture in each glass and add beverage of choice to taste.
4. Stir to blend and add garnishes.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

NOTE: SIMPLE SYRUP - Sugar needs no dissolving time when you add this ready-made sweetener to drinks. Refrigerated in a tightly closed jar, it keeps indefinitely.

3 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar

1. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, add sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes until mixture has a light syrup consistency.
3. Cool, pour into jars, cover and refrigerate.

Makes 3-1⁄4 cups

From Woman's Day Magazine

I had a hard time finding frozen pineapple concentrate, so I bought pineapple juice instead. I will substitute for the frozen concentrate unless I find some in a grocery store soon.

The Creative Cook

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fruity Chicken Salad

I have been really lazy recently regarding cooking and most other things. I usually get like this during the summer months. D and I go to the pool all the time and the rest of life just kind of falls apart. I did manage to actually make a meal the other day. I was inspired to make a really great salad -- not that it has been very hot in Maryland recently. In fact, we have been going to the pool later in the day and I've been bringing my sweat jacket to put on when the sun goes down. This is a salad recipe I found in the August 1 issue of All You magazine. It is called Fruity Chicken Salad. B and I ate it over a bed of romaine lettuce. We both enjoyed it. I took another bad picture without my flash on!

Fruity Chicken Salad

Prep: 10 min.
Cook: 15 min. Serves: 8

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 oz each)
salt and pepper
1 13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 cups light mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 10-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup packed shredded coconut, toasted

(1) Place chicken in skillet and season with salt and pepper. Pour in coconut milk and bring to a boil over high heat. (Add water, if necessary, to cover chicken.) Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until chicken is opaque and firm, 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Discard coconut milk. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into small pieces using your fingers.

(2) Blend mayonnaise with sour cream in a medium bowl. Stir in lime juice, relish and celery. Add chicken, pineapple, oranges and peanuts. Season with salt and pepper. Gently fold to blend and coat ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle with coconut just before serving.

This is a nice easy meal to make as a main dish or a side dish for a cookout.

The Creative Cook

Monday, July 7, 2008

Amish Sourdough Cinnamon Friendship Bread

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't out looking for a starter for Amish bread but when one of my guests at our get-together brought a batch and gave me the starter I was pretty excited. I had gotten two batches within the last year or so that I had to throw out because I didn't do what I was supposed to do with them and I was too busy to bake the bread. This time, I was determined to make it all the way through the 10 day process and bake the bread. I was successful! I did take a picture of a piece of my bread but I didn't have my flash on so the picture is very blue. Sorry.

In the meantime, I found out quite a bit about this stuff. Here is what I found out: (1) Not just the Amish can make the starter. There are several recipes on the Internet for starter. (2) You can freeze the starter. (3) You can freeze the bread once you bake it. One of the recipients of my starter told me she bakes them all throughout the fall and winter and then freezes them. (4) There are several variations of Amish bread including pistachio, chocolate and chocolate chip! (5) You can make the bread without adding the additional sugar. (6) You can bake it in a metal pan. The bread my guest brought to our party was baked in a metal pan and it was fantastic. (7) some people like getting Friendship Bread starters more than others. I felt weird passing out gallon size bags of this yellowish goo to my friends. I really didn't want to insult them or lose them as friends. But they should know that they don't really have to bake the bread. I promise I won't ask and you don't have to tell. You can do what I did several times and just toss the bag out if you don't want to bake it. Some people describe Friendship Bread as a form of baking "chain letter." I disagree because there is no bad luck associated with breaking the chain. Perhaps it's a racket started by the plastic bag manufacturers or the instant pudding companies but it is good cake. So, keep an open mind when someone hands you a bag of this stuff.

Amish Sourdough Cinnamon Friendship Bread*

· Don’t use any type of metal spoon, bowl or pan (glass, plastic or wood only)
· Do not refrigerate
· If air gets in the bag, let it out.
· It is normal for the batter to rise, bubble and ferment.
· You can go over by a day or two to feed the starter but you can’t bake it early!

Day 1: You received fermented batter in a one-gallon bag. Do nothing. Place bag on kitchen counter.
Day 2: Mush bag several times during the day.
Day 3: Mush bag several times during the day.
Day 4: Mush bag several times during the day.
Day 5: Mush bag several times during the day.
Day 6: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Squeeze several times.
Day 7: Mush bag several times. You can open the bag to release air bubbles.
Day 8: Mush bag several times during the day.
Day 9: Mush bag several times during the day.
Day 10: In a large non-metallic bowl, combine batter with 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 2 cups milk. Mix with a wooden spoon. Pour four 1-cup starters into four 1-gallon Ziploc bags. Give to family and friends with a copy of these instructions.

To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:

1 cup oil (or ½ cup oil and ½ cup applesauce)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Grease the bottom and sides of pans. In a separate bowl, mix 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and ½ cup sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle half this mixture into two well-greased loaf pans before pouring in batter. Sprinkle remaining half on top. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes two loaves or one 10 x 15 inch glass pan baked at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool until bread loosens from pan and then remove.

*Bread, hah! What a scam. This is a yummy cake.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Home Made Breadcrumbs

I mentioned that we had a get-together last Saturday night, right? We had exactly 54 people at our house. It was definitely a record for us. We didn't have too much left-over, which is good. But we had lots of hamburger and hot dog rolls that hadn't been eaten. In my experience, when you put hot dog and hamburger rolls in the freezer, they shrivel up and don't taste quite the same after they thaw. I had the idea to make home made breadcrumbs with the left over rolls. I did a little research after talking with my mom. She mentioned that "stale" bread isn't what you should make breadcrumbs from. The bread needs to be "dried". Naturally, I didn't believe her at first. After I googled "home made breadcrumbs" and found a website with directions on how to make them, I believe her. They specifically said that you shouldn't use stale bread. If you do, the breadcrumbs you make will taste stale too. The directions are simple. The breadcrumbs can be made with any type of bread that you have left over. Here is what they said to do:

1. Place bread on a cookie sheet and put into a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Flip the bread over, halfway through the drying process.

2. Take the bread out of the oven and let cool (so you can handle it).

3. Tear the bread into smaller pieces and put into your food processor. Turn the food processor on and grind the bread until it gets to the consistency you like for your breadcrumbs.

4. Put into a plastic bag or container and freeze.

I tried this process on Sunday. It worked like a charm. Home made breadcrumbs are much tastier than their store-bought counterparts but you also save money by making them yourself. If you think about it, it is also better for the environment because you won't have the empty container from the breadcrumbs to throw away. You can reuse the plastic bag for your next batch of home made breadcrumbs. The only negative was that it was fairly messy. Crumbs got all over my counters and the floor. I am sure that I am going to love cooking with my home made breadcrumbs, though!

The Creative Cook