Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

  sandwich

With summer in full swing, I’ve been seeing a lot of ice cream recipes circulating around Pinterest. This ice cream sandwich trick has popped up a few times and I decided to give it a try after reading about Lauren Conrad’s successful attempt on her website. I used my sea salt chocolate chip cookie recipe (minus the sea salt) to make the cookies and bought a variety of mini ice cream cartons for the filling. Instead of using pints and large cookies, which other recipes called for, I decided to use the personal-sized cartons and small chocolate chip cookies to create a more manageable serving size. It was a simple, sweet treat and just the right amount!

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How to:

  1. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and use a sharp knife to make an incision at the top of the carton where the cardboard overlaps, dragging it vertically to the bottom. This will make it easier to peel off the wrapping when the ice cream is cut into discs.
  2. Next, cut horizontally to create a one-inch-thick disk of ice cream, then peel off the cardboard.
  3. Place on top of one cookie, then top with another to create the sandwich. To ensure it stays frozen, return to freezer and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  4. Repeat and enjoy :)

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It’s important to keep the ice cream in the freezer until you are ready to begin cutting, working with one carton at a time. The softer the ice cream, the harder it is to cut into disks. Also, the ice cream will naturally melt while you are working with it, so it helps to freeze the assembled sandwiches before eating them in order to keep their shape and not become a sticky mess. Overall, I would agree that this trick works, but it’s not as easy and perfect as Pinterest makes it seem.

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{Pictured above: salted caramel, vanilla bean and chocolate chip cookie dough}

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Carson Kitchen

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For Rob’s birthday in March, I told him I would buy tickets for a concert at Brooklyn Bowl because I think he would really enjoy this new venue at The LINQ complete with food, drinks and bowling. The concert space reminds me of the Showbox in Seattle, which we saw some fun shows at, so I thought it was a great gift! However, we haven’t been able to see any of the bands we like because of his weird shift work schedule, so we did a little birthday redo. He wanted to see the Book of Mormon, so I bought him tickets to that and surprised him with dinner before the show. Carson Kitchen is a new restaurant in Downtown Las Vegas and had only been open for a day or two when we dined. Everything was on point and is now one of our favorite Vegas restaurants.

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We started with the baked brie and bacon jam, which is served alongside a toasted baguette. The flavor was amazing and definitely unique! We also shared the veal meatballs in a sherry foie gras cream sauce. These sharable plates were delicious and something you can’t find anywhere else.

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I ordered the cocoa-espresso NY strip steak with red wine demi  since I can’t say no to chocolate or espresso. Rob and I always play the “who ordered best” game and I definitely won this round. His swordfish was good, too, but it’s hard to beat this indulgent steak.

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Throughout the meal I couldn’t stop thinking about the bourbon brownie I had seen on the dessert menu. It is served with brown butter bacon ice cream, which was similar to a salted caramel flavor. The candied bacon added a little crunch and created that sweet and salty flavor that I love! We will definitely try making this with our own ice cream machine soon!

Since this first visit, I have been back for a girls’ night where we enjoyed the tempura green beans with pepper jelly cream cheese and baked truffle mac & cheese. Of course I also had to try the glazed donut bread pudding, which is made with doughnuts from the neighboring O Face Doughnuts. It was also amazing. The restaurant itself has a casual, neighborhood vibe that is enhanced with a rooftop deck adorned with festive strings of lights making it a great Downtown destination.

 

Flavorful Friday Fiesta

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TGIF! What better way to start the weekend than with a flavorful fiesta – and watermelon margarita?! Last weekend we grilled up some of our favorite eats and meats to have a fun, festive dinner. The meal was an afterthought to the watermelon margaritas I was excited to try. I wanted the cuisine to complement the refreshing concoction, so we grilled some summer staples and added a Mexican twist.

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We grilled a seasoned skirt steak, which was then topped with an avocado salsa. For a side, I spiced up classic corn on the cob by seasoning it with chili powder and sprinkling it with cotija cheese. I had tasted this traditional Mexican street corn at a restaurant here in Vegas and decided to recreate the deliciousness. The buttery, flavorful corn made for a sensational side.

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Mexican Corn on the Cob

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated cotija cheese
  • 2 wedges of lime
  • 1 tsp. chili powder

Directions

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Grill corn until hot and lightly charred, 7 to 10 minutes. Use a basting brush to coat corn with melted butter and mayonnaise. Sprinkle with cotija cheese, lime juice and chili powder.

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Skirt Steak with Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

For the steak:

  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak or sirloin steak
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

For the salsa:

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 sprigs of cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Mix all of the steak seasonings together and rub on the steaks about 1 hour before grilling, covering well and storing in refrigerator. Grill for about 4 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes, until steak reaches desired doneness.
  2. To make the salsa, mix the salsa ingredients together in a bowl and serve on top of the steak.

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Bread and Breakfast

In honor of #TBT, I’m finally sharing this post I wrote in February, but never completely finished. I came across it in my drafts and decided to add the finishing touches because this is still one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants. We have been back multiple times since our initial visit and enjoy taking out of town guests there because all of the menu items are fresh, unique and delicious!

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It was love at first bite. I had been wanting to try Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast for a while now and decided to check it out with my parents while they were in town (Las Vegas). The country chic restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, was beautifully decorated for Valentine’s Day, so love was already in the air before checking out the mouthwatering menu.

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We started with the cinnamon roll “appetizer.” It tastes as good as it looks. No skimping on the cream cheese frosting here! The roll itself is more of a croissant than the usual doughy cinnamon roll, which made for a nice texture.

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My Dad got the Benicio Del Porko, a unique take on Eggs Benedict made with corn bread, pulled pork, poached egg and barbecue and hollandaise sauces. The corn bread was an amazing addition! I’m glad I waited to write this post because this dish was named the “Best Benedict” in Las Vegas Weekly‘s Best of Vegas 2014 issue this week.

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I had the “New Year’s Resolution,” aptly named since it is a healthier menu item made with egg whites and a spinach tortilla. Since this first visit we have tried the S.O.B (egg sandwich with chicken chorizo, green chiles, avocado and cotija cheese), grilled cheese made with brie and apricot preserve, sweet potato hash and Captain America (egg sandwich with sausage, ham and white cheddar), which were all delicious.

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In addition to the great food, I also love the decorations and casual atmosphere. Instead of a boring table number, they give you a unique card (we got “nest”) to put in the Coca-Cola holder. It added a fun, quirky touch. We enjoy sitting outside on the patio, which you can do most of the year being in Vegas. Definitely a restaurant worth trying next time you are in town!

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National Hot Dog Day

hot dog 2 CollageI think it’s fitting that National Hot Dog Day falls in July. Whether they are enjoyed at the ball park or around a camp fire, these popular eats seem like the epitome of summer (in addition to ice cream and s’mores, of course). Even though hot dogs seem like a seasonal dish, when I was little they were a year-round staple. I remember Thanksgiving dinners as a kid when my mom would bring hot dogs for my sister and I because we were such picky eaters. I don’t know what happened because now I am very adventurous and enjoy trying new cuisines. Who would have thought that the kid chowing down on microwaved hot dogs would have tried (and liked!) calamari and carpaccio?!

Back then I stuck to ketchup (not even mustard!) as a classic condiment, but now these unique creations make my mouth water! I can’t wait to spice up our next backyard barbecue with these tasty treats.

hot dog 7{Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Popper Hot Dog from Shared Appetite}

hot dog 5
{Corn Dog Mini Muffins from Damn Delicious}

hot dog 1{Tex Mex Hot Dogs from Country Cleaver}

hot dog 6
{BLT Hot Dogs with Caraway Remoulade from Food & Wine}

hot dog 2
{Sweet Pork & Tomatillo Ranch Hot Dogs from Creme de la Crumb}

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

ice cream CollageWith temperatures in the 100’s my favorite dessert to make right now is ice cream! We got an ice cream maker for Christmas and have been putting it to good use making delicious flavors such as chocolate Thin Mint and brown sugar bourbon. I’m always looking for new combinations to try, so with July being National Ice Cream Month and today being National Ice Cream Day, I thought it was fitting to share some recipes that I can’t wait to whip up! Calories don’t count on holidays, right? Looks like July is a free pass for these tasty treats!

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{Watermelon Ice Cream Cones)

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(Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream from The Novice Housewife}

ice cream 4

{Coffee Hazelnut Ice Cream from Top with Cinnamon}

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{Ice Cream Sandwich Cake from A Subtle Revelry}

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{Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwiches from Paper & Stitch}

 

Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

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Rob loves snacking on chips and salsa, so when we bought a food processor the first thing he made was tomatillo avocado salsa. We loved it as the fresh ingredients make it stand out from store-bought dips. It’s the perfect combination of salsa and guacamole with just enough spice. Pair it with a refreshing margarita and you’ve got a flavorful fiesta!

Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and sliced in half
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cilantro sprigs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. On baking sheet covered with foil, place the tomatillo halves, seed-side down, jalapeño and garlic. Cook (or broil) for about 10 minutes, until tomatillos and softened and slightly charred. Let cool.
  2. Add tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño, onion, cilantro and scooped avocado to a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

 

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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For a summer-inspired dinner yesterday, I grilled zucchini slices to have as a side with our barbecue chicken. We still had one left over, so I decided to mix it up and make a sweet treat instead. Since it would only be for the two of us, I didn’t want to make a batch of two dozen. Instead I created this chocolate zucchini recipe that only yields eight muffins, which is a much more manageable amount. Although I could probably finish a dozen myself, I would prefer to be able to fit into my jeans.

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If you’re looking to sneak some vegetables into your diet, this is a good way to enjoy some zucchini. It’s not exactly healthy, but I guess you have to start somewhere. The zucchini flavor is hardly noticeable as the chocolate is the dominant flavor. You can vary the amount of chocolate by using more or less cocoa powder and by adding or omitting the chocolate chips.

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The muffins turned out nice and moist with a firm top, creating a nice texture. Next time I might try the recipe with bananas or apple sauce instead of the oil and substituting the all-purpose flour with whole wheat to make it a little healthier.

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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

{Makes 8 muffins}

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners (I found these cute parchment paper cups at Target).
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Beat in sugar and oil, until combined. Add cocoa, vanilla and zucchini, stirring until fully incorporated.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, mixing until just moist. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins filling them 2/3 of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with additional chocolate chips, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.

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Chocolate Thin Mint Ice Cream

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Shockingly, we still had a box of Thin Mints sitting in our kitchen cupboard. I don’t know how it has lasted since Girl Scout cookie season in March. I would like to credit it to my strong self-control (yeah right…), but most likely I have just been preoccupied with other sweets. We decided to put our ice cream maker to use once again and make this chocolate treat. With the cookies melted into the batter, the mint flavor can be tasted throughout the creamy dessert, not just from the crushed pieces. Chocolate and mint is the perfect combination for a post-dinner treat. I like to think it helps sooth the stomach… maybe not, but it is delicious :)

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Chocolate Thin Mint Ice Cream

Yields 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 box Thin Mints, divided
  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add cocoa powder and whisk until no lumps remain. Gradually add whole milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly. Finely chop 10 Thin Mints and stir into dairy mixture. Pour into saucepan.
  2. Heat dairy mixture on medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and reaches 180°F. Remove from heat and mix in chocolate chips, stirring until fully melted. Add salt to taste, then pour into a medium-sized bowl. Cover with cling wrap, pushing it all the way down so that it touches the surface of the ice cream base to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. When fully chilled, churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Roughly chop remaining Thin Mints. When only a few minutes remain, add chopped cookies. Transfer ice cream to air tight container and freeze for at least two hours before serving. Or serve immediately if you like it softer, similar to the consistency of a Blizzard. Enjoy!

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Açaí Bowl

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I have read a lot about açaí bowls in magazines and on Pinterest, so I finally tried one at a local cafe. It was cool, refreshing and (best of all) healthy! It didn’t look too hard to make at home, so I decided to give it a try. While looking at various recipes online, I came across Sambazon açaí smoothie packs. The frozen puree, which can be found at Whole Foods, makes for a tasty treat that can be made in minutes. The açaí mixture is blended like a smoothie and then topped with your favorite fruits and granola. The colorful concoction is a simple summer snack!

Below are some variations from fellow bloggers that I look forward to trying:

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Açaí Bowl

Ingredients

For the açaí mixture:

  • 2 ounces unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • Açaí Smoothie Pack

For the topping:

  • sliced banana
  • sliced kiwi
  • sliced strawberries
  • fresh blueberries
  • granola
  • sliced almonds
  • coconut chips
  • honey

Run frozen smoothie pack under hot water for 5 seconds. Add ingredients for the açaí mixture to blender and blend until smooth. Pour into bowl and sprinkle with desired toppings. Enjoy!

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San Diego Treats

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Rob and I went to San Diego last weekend for a wedding, so I did a lot of research and made a list of places to visit since we had never been. Of course my top priority was finding the best restaurants. Although we didn’t have time to try them all, we did have several scrumptious meals! San Diego has a fun culinary scene with a variety of fresh seafood and chic gastropubs. Gaslamp Quarter is full of trendy dining destinations and we also liked Little Italy, which has a bustling farmers’ market. We tend to stay within the $ to $$ range on Yelp, so the below restaurants are pretty affordable, but still delicious!

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My favorite restaurants + bars:

  • Prepkitchen. I knew this was going to be a great restaurant when I walked in and saw the rustic chic décor. We went on a Saturday afternoon when they were still serving brunch, so I ordered the chilaquiles made with chipotle braised chicken, avocado, onion, queso fresco and over-medium eggs. It had great flavor! My friend ordered the poppy seed pancakes topped with strawberries, rhubarb whipped cream and almond crumble – it was unreal! With the fluffy pancakes and flavorful toppings, she definitely had the best order. They also offer a self-serve coffee and scone bar (pictured above), which I thought was a cute idea.
  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. Rob and I love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so we try to visit at least one of those restaurants when we go to a new city. Since we were in San Diego, we also wanted to take advantage of the fresh, local seafood. Blue Water did not disappoint! I loved the mini Calico Amber Ale beer-battered shrimp tacos. The portions are good-sized, too, so you definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Donut Bar. Before heading home we stopped for some sweet treats. The artisan doughnuts come in a variety of delicious flavors, such as salted caramel (pictured below), Nutella, red velvet and chocolate espresso. These doughnuts are HUGE. I thought they might be a little overpriced when I was looking up the flavors online, but these are at least three times as large as a typical grocery store cake doughnut. We were in a sugar coma on our drive home, but well worth it!
  • El Indio. This popular San Diego establishment catered the wedding, which made for a tasty fiesta! We enjoyed the mini chicken burritos, fish tacos and chips topped with guacamole. Next time we will try out the actual restaurant, too!
  • The Fish Market. After touring the USS Midway, we were starving and looking to grab some grub right on the harbor. We came across this waterfront restaurant and had a savory lunch while sitting in the sun. It was pretty crowded, but we found a table on the deck with an amazing view of the water. We loved the baked crab & artichoke dip and king crab BLT.
  • Werewolf. Before heading to the Padres game on the 4th of July we fueled up at this American pub with seared ahi soba noodles and some drinks. It’s a fun atmosphere with a great menu and within walking distance of the stadium.
  • Frost Me. While looking for some waterfront attractions I came across Seaport Village, which is full of shops, restaurants and entertainment. I saw that there was a gourmet cupcake shop that had been a champion on Cupcake Wars, so I immediately added it to our to-do list. Located in the heart of the bustling village, the bakery has a long list of classic and specialty flavors. I tried mocha (pictured below), which was made with chocolate cake topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, espresso frosting and crushed espresso beans – delicious!
  • Noble Experiment. This chic speakeasy is hidden inside Neighborhood, a gastropub located in Gaslamp. To get in you have to text a number to make reservation. Luckily, they were able to squeeze the eight of us in last-minute. After you walk through the secret entrance, you’ll find an intimate bar where they specialize in craft cocktails. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I told the bartender I liked wine. He made a delicious drink with fortified wine and strawberries. It was exactly what I wanted without even knowing.
  • Taste and Thirst. This restaurant is divided into a bar and an eating area (hence taste AND thirst). When we stopped by, they were offering a 4th of July special, which was half off of all drinks. We are always down for a cheap drink! It’s a casual atmosphere with a tasty menu – hello, truffle fries!
  • Shiku sushi. Located in the heart of La Jolla, this tasty sushi restaurant has fresh seafood and unique rolls – we loved the soft shell crab. It was the perfect post-kayaking lunch.
  • South Beach Bar & Grille. Great food and great deals! We enjoyed the Taco Tuesday specials – all tacos were $2.75 and much larger than I expected for that price. Great surfside dining!

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Do you have any suggestions on where to eat next time? Let me know :)

 

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

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Rise and shine! Continue your celebratory 4th of July weekend with some tart, yet sweet treats. These tasty pancakes are made with whole wheat flour and cornmeal, giving them a heartier texture. Sprinkle blueberries and raspberries on top to keep with the red, white and blue spirit!

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk and cornmeal together. Cut butter into four chunks, then add to mixture. Cover and microwave for about 15 seconds, until butter is melted. Stir to fully incorporate and then microwave for another minute, until slightly thickened around the edges. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat eggs and remaining 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Whisk into cornmeal mixture, then add to flour mixture and whisk until combined. Stir in poppy seeds, lemon zest and lemon juice. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Evenly coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low. Using a 1/4 cup scoop, pour batter into pan and cook until edges are set and bubbles begin to form on top, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is golden brown, about 1 more minute. Repeat with remaining batter and serve warm with syrup or fruit.

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Brown Sugar Bourbon Ice Cream

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One of our favorite Christmas presents has been the ice cream maker that Rob’s parents gave us this year. Since it’s officially ice cream season, we finally decided to give it a try this week and made some vanilla ice cream with bites of Tagalongs, creating a peanut butter and chocolate flavor. It was good, but I wanted to try something more flavorful and unique.

After raving about our fun ice cream maker to my mom, she sent me a recipe that she saw for brown sugar bourbon ice cream with Theo chocolate from Floating Kitchen. It looked amazing, so we decided to give it a go.

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The bourbon is the focal flavor, but not overpowering, while the brown sugar makes it buttery and sweet. This recipe was softer and creamier than the first batch of ice cream we made, which I really enjoyed. It didn’t last long – between the two of us it only lasted five days. We will definitely make it again!

Brown Sugar Bourbon Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. bourbon
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • Ice cream maker

Directions

  1. To make the ice cream base, combine the milk, heavy cream, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a low boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and granulated sugar in a separate bowl, until the egg yolks become pale yellow and slightly thickened.
  3. Temper the egg yolks by whisking about a 1/2 cup of the boiling milk mixture into the egg yolks. Then add tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the milk mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into medium-sized bowl. Cover with cling wrap, pushing it all the way down so that it touches the surface of the ice cream base to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  5. Once chilled, pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Add the bourbon and churn until the mixture is nearly frozen, about 20 minutes. Add chocolate and churn for additional 5 minutes, until evenly distributed.
  6. Serve and transfer remaining ice cream to a freezer-safe container to store in freezer. It makes 1 quart.

 

Farm Fresh Caprese Salad

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One thing I miss about living in Washington is the variety of farms and fresh produce. There’s nothing better than a juicy Honeycrisp apple straight from the orchard in the fall. I was excited (and surprised) to hear about a farm here in Las Vegas where you can pick fruits and vegetables right from the source.

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Gilcrease Orchard offers a nice break from the brown, dry desert. It was fun to walk through the fields and orchard, looking for the freshest produce. We went home with some beautiful tomatoes. I will definitely be back in the fall when there are pumpkins and apple cider doughnuts!

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We decided to put the fresh tomatoes to good use and make a refreshing caprese salad. Since we had one tomato left from the grocery store, I used that, too. The difference between the tomatoes from the store and the farm was amazing! Physically, those from the farm were darker in color, juicier, softer and had more seeds. The store-bought tomato was easier to slice because it was firmer, but when it came to taste, it was kind of plain and watery. Lesson learned – farm fresh is much more flavorful! Even Rob, who is happy with non-organic produce from Walmart, was genuinely shocked at the difference. Because this salad is so simple, top-quality tomatoes and mozzarella are important and very noticeable.

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Farm Fresh Caprese Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • fine sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

On a large platter, evenly space out tomato slices. Top with mozzarella sliced and then basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and/or pepper.

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

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It’s hard to beat a classic chocolate chip cookie, but I decided to sprinkle on some sea salt to create that salty, sweet flavor and it was a hit. I made them for a pool party that we went to this weekend and I was happy to take home an empty container – success!

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I have tried numerous recipes on my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but my mom suggested that I try this foolproof recipe. The cookies stay thick and fluffy because of the cornstarch, which is exactly what I was going for! Flat, crispy cookies are not my idea of a mouthwatering sweet treat. It’s safe to say that I found my new go-to recipe!

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Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix on medium speed until combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Drop a tablespoon of dough onto baking sheet and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. The tops will not brown, but don’t cook longer than 10-11 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

Homemade Piña Coladas

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When it’s hotter than 100 degrees, all I want to eat is something cool and refreshing. I bought an entire pineapple the other day, but before cutting it up to snack on, Rob suggested that we use it for drinks instead. I didn’t disagree. To cool down by the pool this weekend we made our own piña coladas – complete with a pineapple cup (I used this tutorial to hollow out the pineapple). Just one sip made me feel like I was back on the beach in Cabo!

Piña Colada

Ingredients

  • Ice cubes
  • 3/4 cup rum
  • 1 8-ounce can coconut cream
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks.
Fill blender halfway with ice cubes. Add rum, coconut cream, coconut milk and pineapple chunks. Puree until smooth. Serve in a pineapple cup. or glass garnished with a slice of pineapple and maraschino cherry, if desired. Cheers!

 

Fish Tacos with Pomegranate Mango Salsa

taco

Happy Taco Tuesday! For a summer-inspired meal, these sweet and spicy tacos will hit the spot. The fresh flavors and vibrant colors create a delicious dish that pairs perfectly with a fruity margarita!

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I love topping tacos with fruit salsas, which make for a clean, refreshing dish. The sweet and citrusy flavors complement the savory fish while the chipotle crema adds some spice.

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Now let’s get this fiesta started with these tasty tacos!

Beer-Battered Fish Tacos with Pomegranate Mango Salsa

Ingredients

For the fish:

  • 2 pounds fresh white firm-flesh fish fillets (I used cod), cut into bite-sized strips
  • Beer batter mix
  • 1 cup beer
  • oil for frying

For the salsa:

  • 1 mango
  • arils from half of a pomegranate
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Chipotle Crema

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. buttermilk
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce

To assemble tacos:

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • small flour tortillas

Directions

  1. For the salsa: Peel the mango and cut out pit. Dice and place into medium-sized bowl. Add the pomegranate arils, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice. Toss until combined and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in refrigerator.
  2. For the Chipotle Crema: In a small mixing bowl, combine yogurt, buttermilk, minced chipotle chile and tablespoon adobo sauce. Stir until combined, then cover and place in fridge.
  3. For the fish: Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Stir beer batter mix with 1 cup beer and whisk until smooth. Dip fish in batter and coat evenly, shaking off excess batter. Deep fry at 375F until golden brown.
  4. To assemble tacos: Place fried fish on tortilla. Top with salsa, then drizzle with chipotle crema. Sprinkle on avocado. Enjoy!!

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Lemon Blueberry Cake

lemon cake

Lemonade is the ultimate summer flavor. Add some fresh blueberries and you’ve got a seasonal stand-out. Add cream cheese frosting and it’s unstoppable. Although I think most desserts need to have chocolate in them, my fiance prefers fruit-flavored sweets.This layered cake was a treat that we both enjoyed and it’s perfect for a 4th of July party! Your taste buds will be seeing fireworks as they burst with flavor.

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The recipe makes enough batter for a three-layered cake or a two-layered cake with some cupcakes. I decided to go the cupcake route to add some variety. Topped with creamy icing, the dense, moist cake makes for a refreshing summer treat.

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Lemon Blueberry Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • zest and juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (if you use frozen, do not thaw!)
  • 1 Tbsp. flour

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

Make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 9″ cake pans with cooking spray and/or line muffin pan. Set aside.
  2. Using a standing mixer, beat the butter on high until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Add milk, lemon zest and lemon juice and stir lightly until combined. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1 Tbsp. of flour and gently fold into batter. Do not over mix, or the cake will be too dense.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake cake layers for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. If you chose to make cupcakes, bake those by themselves for about 10 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until no lumps remain.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar while mixing on low speed until frosting thickens. Add cream, vanilla and salt and stir on low until combined, then increase speed to high and beat for 3 minutes.
  3. If frosting is too thick, add additional tablespoon of cream.

To assemble:

  1. If the cake layers did not come out with a level surface, use a serrated knife to trim the tops off until they are flat.
  2. Place 1 layer on your cake stand or plate. Evenly cover with frosting. Top it with the second layer, more frosting and then the third layer. Finish by frosting the top and the sides.
  3. Garnish with blueberries or lemon slices, if desired.

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Sweet Potato Breakfast Crisp

sweet potato

Back in college, B4D (breakfast for dinner) was one of my favorite meals served in the sorority and I would always be first in line for the sweet treats. I love when it is acceptable to indulge in dessert-like dishes for dinner. If it were up to me, chocolate chip pancakes would be a supper staple! I decided to channel this B4D mentality because my fiance is on a midnight work schedule, so his breakfast is my dinner. This sweet potato breakfast crisp makes for a delicious start to the morning… or evening. It was very filling, yet relatively healthy – Rob even thought it would be a good pre-hike meal.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a medium bowl, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and the coconut oil. Add honey, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice, whisking until combined. Add diced sweet potato and toss until fully coated. Place in 16-ounce ramekin or divide between two 10-ounce ramekins.
  3. In the same bowl, add remaining tablespoon of butter and oats. Combine until well-coated and crumbly, then sprinkle over sweet potatoes.
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft. Test the pieces with a knife before removing from oven. Serve hot.

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