Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back-To-School Caramel Apple Dip

Back-To School time!  One of my favorite back-to-school memories was, usually the first week of school, apples with this delicious and easy caramel dip for an after-school snack.  After the search for new back-packs, all the school supplies on the list (where can we find Duo-Tang folders??!!), and nervously meeting my new teacher, this snack was a sign that summer was over and the school year was finally starting.  This can also be a great after-dinner dessert.

















Ingredients:
1 bag (11 oz.) plain caramels
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 apples, cut into small slices, for dipping

Directions:

Unwrap caramels and place in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

















Heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until caramels are melted.  Add vanilla and stir to combine.

















Remove from heat, spoon into ramekins and serve with apple slices.  Keep in the fridge for up to a week.

















Hint:  This can be a good way to get younger kids to try several different kinds of apples, and hence create a lesson in healthy eating.  :-)



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ice cream sodas for summer

I'm back!  Excited to be blogging again.  Some lovely ladies in my family have expressed interest in being guest contributors, so be on the lookout for that as well.

Right before an amazing trip to San Francisco (technically for a conference, but tons of fun!!), I hosted a teambuilding cookout for some employees of my department.  For a fun and interactive dessert, we made ice cream sodas (got the idea from my hands-down favorite food network star.  However, I added one minor twist - a vanilla ice cream soda made with a homemade vanilla syrup and vanilla bean ice cream.

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

For the vanilla syrup:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon vanilla

For the sodas:
1 quart vanilla bean ice cream
1 liter plain seltzer

To make the syrup:

Heat sugar and water over medium-low heat.  Stir occasionally until dissolved.
















Scrape the bottom of the pot with a spoon.  When the sugar has dissolved, there will be no grains of sugar on the spoon.  If the spoon looks like shown below, the sugar still needs to dissolve.
















When all the sugar has dissolved, add the vanilla.  Continue to heat for 3 to 5 more minutes, or until syrup has thickened.

















Remove from heat and allow to cool.


To make the ice cream sodas:

Put 2 to 3 Table spoons of syrup in a medium sized glass.  While stirring with a fork, fill the glass to 2/3 full with seltzer.

















Gently level a generous scoop of the ice cream into the glass. Be careful, as it can easily foam.  Serve with a straw or spoon.






























Note:  Be sure to tell your friends what the vanilla syrup is, because it looks a lot like honey.  Later, I got creative with the leftover vanilla syrup and made a vanilla berry sundae.  IT also tastes great stirred into your morning coffee!








Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Red fruit with mascarpone vanilla bean dip

This creamy vanilla dip tastes somewhat like a thick whipped cream.  It is the perfect complement to red fruits such as cherries and strawberries.  It tastes best when the dip is maxed together several hours in advance so that the flavors have time to blend together.  This is a good item to use as part of a brunch, dessert or picnic spread.

Ingredients:
1 8 oz. container mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs. heavy cream
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. strawberries
1 lb. cherries






















Directions:

In a small mixing bowl, mix together mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and seeds.  Add cream in two batches and mix.  Add more cream if necessary to get desired consistency.  Refrigerate of serve with red fruit.





























Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Honey-Balsamic Shallot Tart!

This tart is the perfect appetizer to serve with wine.  It makes 9 squares, and people often like it well enough to go back and get a second piece. One is enough to serve four to six people.  If you're having a bigger party, make two!

Ingredients:
3 Tbs. butter
10 shallots, quartered lengthwise
3 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
















Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Unfold pastry dough onto a buttered baking sheet.  Fold about 1/2 inch of each edge in to make crust.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown.





Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  Add shallots and honey, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shallots are slightly caramelized.














 Add vinegar, and cook for about 10 more minutes, until liquid is syrupy.  Remove pan from heat.  Spread shallot mixture over baked pastry dough. Top with crumbled goat cheese, and bake at 400 for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool for 5 to 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve.



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Last Day of School Lemonade

Summer is almost here!  Make this tasty fresh-squeezed lemonade to celebrate the last day of school.  It's made with seltzer instead of water, so it's refreshing and fizzy.  The lemon slices that float in the pitcher are optional of course, but they make it festive.  For those of us who are out of school, or at least 21 or older, this also tastes good with vodka or gin added in.  Serves 4.

Ingredients:
3 small lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1-liter bottle unflavored seltzer water, chilled
Ice cubes















Slice one of the lemons crosswise to make circular slices.  Squeeze the juice from the other two and place in a small mixing bowl.  Add sugar, and mix until thoroughly dissolved and not grainy.  Pour into pitcher, add seltzer water and stir to combine.  Add ice and lemon slices.