Fresh Berries, Pound Cake and Custard Trifle for Easter

I’m so excited that warm Spring weather!

Also, we are all ready to taste all the fresh flavors that come with the sun.

Brightly colored berries and delicate cream go so well together.

This can be so easy to throw together on short notice.

You can use ready made pound cake, instant vanilla pudding and whip up fresh heavy whipping cream for an elegant and so delicious dessert that looks great and extravagant.

Fresh berries make any dessert special and fancy.

The other thing to remember is that you can make this extra special by baking all the ingredients from scratch.

Use your favorite cake recipe, maybe something with a little lemon zest to enhance the flavor of the fresh berries, as well as your favorite vanilla custard.

Be creative or keep it simple, either way, you will have a special treat for you and your guests.

Sweet, Crunchy, Salty! Halloumi, Red Pepper and Pineapple Appetizers!

Halloumi, red pepper and pineapple skewers are too easy not to make for a tasty appetizer on the fly!

Halloumi is a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goats’ and sheep milk, and sometimes also cows’ milk.

It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled and has a salty, chewy, rich flavor that makes it a great compliment to sweet and tangy flavors.

Warm the Halloumi in the oven at 250 degrees fahrenheit for about 15 minutes then just chop and skewer the ingredients.

I kept mine small; about 1/2 inch square makes petite and tasty little bites.

These work great with cocktails as hardy appetizers.

Try a cilantro, olive oil dipping sauce for a little added flavor.

Colorful skewers make these festive for entertaining and I could even see putting this together like a salad or as a side for rice and beans; almost like a salsa.

Try this for early Easter snacks and the perfect way to usher in the bright and sunny flavors of Spring!

Carmelina’s in Little Italy Boston, MA!

Carmelina’s in Boston’s North End was an absolute treat after spending a sunny Saturday afternoon moving my “little Freshman” into her college dorm!

Checking out the menu in silence!

Little Italy in Boston’s North End

Ready for lunch.

Thanks Dad!

Mussels in White Wine

Wild Mushroom Rissotto.

More Rissotto

Japanese Eggplant

Warm Crusty Bread.

Table of food.

Catch of the day on Broccoli Rabe.

Rissotto with Seafood.

More “fruits of the sea”

Angel Hair Pasta

Arugula with shaved Parmesan.

Gorgeous Salad!

Tuna with Fusilli.

Yummy 1

Yummy 2

Yummy3!

Every Last….

Bite!

This meal was delicious and it was the perfect time of day to consume copious calories.

Believe it or not, not long after this meal we walked down the street to the Caffe Paradiso for the world’s best ( no hyperbole ) tiramisu and coffee.

As close to an authentic Italian experience as one could find on this side of the Atlantic.

An emotional weekend fueled by olive oil and mascarpone cheese, you can be sure that I will be visiting often for many reasons!

Juicy, Fleshy, Figs!

I apologize for the photos but I certainly hope that these BEAUTIFUL figs make your mouth water like they did mine!

Figs are great snacks and can set the stage for fancy appetizers like goat cheese stuffed figs with pistachios.

Fresh figs are seriously underrated in my opinion and everyone should eat as many as they can.

Dried figs are nutritious and delicious but fresh figs are a real treat.

Figs are a great source of fiber and are low in calories.

For vegans concerned about calcium, consider this:

Figs are a fruit source of calcium (79 milligrams in an 8 oz-wt serving), a mineral that has many functions including promoting bone density. Additionally, figs’ potassium may also counteract the increased urinary calcium loss caused by the high-salt diets typical of most Americans, thus helping to further prevent bones from thinning out at a fast rate.

Not much needs to be done to prepare figs for your favorite recipes or impromptu creations.

Lightly clean the skin with with water, cut in half and scoop out the flesh, if desired.

Eat the tender skin to benefit from fig’s high fiber content.

You don’t need to add sugar.

You can use the meaty flesh as a fruit spread, in baked goods or with savory cheeses and artisan breads.

Enjoy and Share!

Vegan Chocolate Cream Whoopi Pies To Die For!

“Skinny Bitch” and “Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps” author, Kim Barnouin has shared this recipe for chocolate whoopi pies.

Read the book if you get the chance but definitely make these sinfully delicious desserts!

Ingredients

1 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Method

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk and vinegar, and set aside. (It will curdle a little; it’s supposed to do that.)

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars on low speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the almond milk mixture to the batter and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and almond milk mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto a lightly greased baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before placing them onto a rack to cool completely.

Filling

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup Earth Balance, room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk

In a large bowl, beat the shortening and Earth Balance together until well combined. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the extract and almond milk, and beat for another 5-7 minutes until fluffy.

These will not last very long and I challenge you to miss anything.

I would like to try making these with coconut flour to make them gluten/wheat free, as well

It’s Time for a New Spin on Old Favorites!

I am a Clevelander and Michael Symon the famed Iron Chef and celebrity du jour also, hails from this mid-west town.

Along with his acolyte, Johathon Sawyer, cuisine in Cleveland continues to function as a pork delivery system, along side of french fries in duck fat and fois gras as garnish.

Food trends happen for many reasons and conspicuous consumption factors in, I’m sure.

But at what point do we question celebrating gratuitous overindulgence as a substitute for culinary genius?

I get it. If you like bacon then food cooked with or otherwise augmented with bacon is delicious.

Like ice cream? Like Bacon? Mix the two and, voila! Genius!

I think not.

It’s like putting a girl in a bikini on a car.

Is it a better car? Is the design imaginative or ground breaking?

Or is it just a car with a scantily clad girl astride?

A dish which is flavorful and healthy, appealing to the eye and created without death and suffering; now that takes some talent!

Make cauliflower sexy; without bacon! and make me lust for a fruit dessert over the chocolate molten, whatever and I’m impressed.

There is a place for everything, I will concede. However, the Malthusian mathematics will come back to haunt is all.

Technology aside, there is only so much land to fill the appetites of food porn addicts and the lowest common denominator of palates!

And while some of my favorites may be no more or less creative and unique, I would like to think that they are environmentally friendly and healthy.

Coconut milk soups, fruit purees, fried broccoli rabe with Marcona almonds, nut creams both sweet and savory and an endless array of spices and greens presented in inventive and unexpected ways will satisfy and delight time after time.

Check out the article below for a short list of tired favorites.

Read the whole article here.

Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese Bread; For Lack of a Better Name!

It’s not really bread.

It’s dough from my favorite pizza place spread with veggies and cheese and egg.

I happened to have these items in the fridge.

I sauteed the spinach and mushrooms with some crushed garlic and olive oil.

While the bread is raising let the sautee mixture cool and whisk together two eggs; reserve 2 TBSPN to brush on the loaf after you roll it.

Spread the mixture evenly being sure to go all the way to the ends.

Roll the loaf and cover with the egg wash.

Some of the mixture may seep out, try to contain it.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until deep goden brown.

I tried to get photos of the finished product but this was devoured in minutes.

It is great for kids lunches, a travel meal or anytime you want a filling, satisfying treat; hot or cold.

Warm this up sliced in the oven like toast and the edges get crispy. Just delicious!

Beautiful Mochi at Itto Sushi in Chicago!

I have enjoyed Itto Sushi for years.

And after a few years living outside of Chicago, I was happy to see that one of my favorite spots for great food was still around.

Located in Lincoln Park, Itto is favored by locals.

It’s not at all scene-y or flashy but far enough off the beaten path to not be bothered by hype or tourists!

All of the food is fantastic, authentic with a few twists and turns.

Check out these deep fried sushi rolls.

And one of my favorites, unagi.

But today it was all about the mochi!

Green tee, mango, strawberry and vanilla.

Not just delicious; look at how pretty these are!

I simply worked my way to dessert and enjoyed every sweet spoonful!

Coconut Lime Cheese Cake with Cashew and Graham Cracker Crust! Summer Indulgence!

I came across this great recipe on Lick My Spoon.

This is a great recipe because it was easy to follow and the cake came out perfectly on the first try.

I don’t know why but I am always surprised when that happens!

Also, I have been on this kick lately with coconut, limes and mango.

This recipe calls for Key Limes but I used just regular limes and it worked out fine.

I’m sure that the unique and delicate taste of Key Limes adds a whole new dimension of flavor but any ripe fragrant fruit is just so beautiful to me.

After a long winter, Lime is the flavor I’m craving!

I did make a few adjustments.

Instead of 1/4 cup Malibu I used 1/4 cup Coco Lopez.

This cake has a very Lime forward flavor, which is lovely, however, I wanted to taste the coconut, as well.

Key Lime Coconut Cheesecake
Makes: One (10 inch) cheesecake, serves 8-10
Recipe Courtesy of Lick My Spoon

Ingredients:

Crust
1 package graham crackers (approx. 1 cup)
1 cup cashews
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Filling
1 (12 oz.) container sour cream
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
½ cup lime juice (if you can’t find key limes, substitute with regular limes)
¼ cup Malibu (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Topping
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
Slices of lime for garnish

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Butter or spray the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the outside of the pan in foil. Finely grind the graham crackers and cashews in a food processor. Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

3. Mix together the sour cream, cream cheese, and sugar. Blend in the lime zest, lime juice, Malibu, and vanilla. Add eggs in one at a time.

4. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Create a hot water bath by pouring enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour.

5. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top. I just toast the coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn; it will toast up quickly. Garnish with lime slices.

6. Transfer the cake to a rack; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold and firm, at least 8 hours (best overnight).

I used my artistic discretion to garnish the cake.

These gorgeous limes were my inspiration.

We’ve been eating limes with everything lately!

We’ve been making lime juice cocktails and garnishing every meal with limes!

The crust calls for lemon zest.

Fantastic!

The crust is delicious.

The lemon adds just the right amount of flavour.

Sugar, cream cheese and vanilla…..

Sounds like a good start to me.

The scent of this crust in the food processor was driving us insane.

We wanted to spoon it into our mouths.

I am happy that it made it’s way into the springform pan.

Eggs, sour cream, coco lopez and the lime zest go into the batter.

It has a mouth-watering aroma.

The cake baked perfectly.

Maybe one of my best.

The water bath is a must to avoid cracks.

Lots of toasted coconut!

Sweet and crunchy toasted coconut is divine with rich and creamy lime lovliness!

And a few more photos of my handy work.

I was so happy with the way this cake turned out.

I will be making many more of these.

I have the feeling that this will be the Summertime go-to cheese cake for picnics, parties or whatever comes our way!

Strawberries and Cream Cake!

I discovered this cake on Twitter!

I follow Hungry Rabbit NYC and he told the most lovely story from his childhood and made the most beautiful cake for his mother for Mother’s Day!

Ken, otherwise known as HungryRabbitNYC, takes amazing photographs and builds an even more amazing cake.

My photos aren’t nearly as good, and my skills don’t seem to be as sharpened as Ken’s but this cake was delicious!

Strawberry n Cream Cake

recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients

1 tablespoon lemon zest, freshly grated
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
1-1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

2-1/2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, use 3 quarts), washed, dried, reserve 8-10 strawberries (stems in tacked) for decoration
4–6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons rum
Pinch table salt

WHIPPED ICING
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3-1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream

Method

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 by 2-inch cake line with parchment paper, grease and flour, set aside.

2. Add lemon zest and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in large mixing bowl, rub with fingers until sugar is slightly moist and takes on a pale yellow color. Add flour, baking powder, salt, whisk to combine. add 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water and both extracts; whisk until smooth.

3. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form,about 2 minutes. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.

5. Stemmed and halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2-3/4 cup). Place macerated berries in food processor fitted with metal blade, give it five 1-second pulses (you should have about 2 cups).

6. In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and rum until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

WHIPPED ICING
1. Place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed.

ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
1. Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cake plate and arrange half of the strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently. Repeat with remaining strawberry halves and berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with reserved strawberries. Chill for 1-2 hours.

The aroma of the batter; full of lemon zest and vanilla, was intoxicating!

We wanted to eat it fresh out of the oven!

The texture is also fantastic and I could see using this recipe for other fruity type cakes, heavy frostings, or nut fillings.

I am a bit sloppy campared to Ken who seems to be an engineer of all things Baked!

Thank you Hungry Rabbit for a beautiful recipe and for inspiring me to make this cake for myself on Mother’s Day!

I assure you that I thuroughly enjoyed it!

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