S’Mores Baked in the Oven

IMG_8638IMG_8636IMG_8639 IMG_8641 IMG_8642IMG_8634 IMG_8633 IMG_8632Oh Wow!!! what could be better??? truly easy and very little fuss , perfect with the kids and perfect for the adults. Very rich and gooey. Whole thing takes about 40 minutes from start to finish and you can re-heat the sliced bars in the microwave for about 30 seconds if you have some left-over. It’s great for a large group and I would say about 12-15 servings here. Let’s hold on to the last few weeks of summer with this delicious dessert.

For a very traditional s’mores taste eat immediately, I think they tasted a little better after they cooled down for a bit. Whichever way you prefer them –this is a great recipe for a crowd. You can prepare first and then pop in the oven while you are having dinner. Enjoy!

*also I was able to obtain these amazing square marshmallows in the supermarket, if you see them –grab them otherwise just regular old marshmallows will do the trick.

Ingredients:

Crust:

18 graham crackers

1/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter-melted

*parchment paper — I think you’ll want to work with it for this recipe–it can get difficult once they harden to get them out of pan. Clean up was a snap with it.

Topping:

3 extra-large Hershey Bars (or 7 regular-size ones)

24 jumbo marshmallows–look for the large square ones

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 Pyrex type baking pan with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper , allow an extra couple of inches of paper to hang over the edge.

In the food processor bowl, pulse the graham crackers until they are finely ground. Transfer the crumbs to a medium-sized bowl.

Add the sugar and salt to the graham crackers and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and stir until the crumbs are moistened. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer.

Bake the crust for about 10 minutes or until the edges turn lightly golden. Let the crust cool off completely before adding chocolate. I probably let it sit off heat for about 1/2 hour.

Arrange the chocolate bars (see picture) evenly on the top of cooled crust, I had to remove 1 row of chocolate to fit it in pan and left a little uncovered crumbs around edges. Arrange the marshmallows on top of the chocolate, leaving a little space between each one (see photos) Marshmallows will expand slightly.

Bake until the chocolate is soft and beginning to melt, and the marshmallows are evenly toasted on top. Probably about 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.

I couldn’t wait to eat them but I would suggest letting them cool off for  a little bit, cutting was easier when it cooled down ( after 15-20 minutes) I was able to cleanly cut slices. It’s more like campfire s’mores when you eat them hot out of the oven and certainly messier.

You can re-heat the sliced bars in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds. If you are keeping them , cut them and store individual slices.

Vodka Sauce Recipe–Pasta a la Vodka

I have previously posted my recipe under Pasta and Vodka. This is a little different from that recipe but equally as delicious. My Grandson Brody loved the original but didn’t love the pieces of tomato in it. So this time out I gave it a spin in the food processor and got out all those little pieces of tomato that he didn’t like.

This is what I did last night and it was delicious.

Ingredients:

1 box Penne or any other pasta you would like — I like rigatoni or penne or fusilli

3 cloves garlic — minced

*1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper–I love the heat but use at your own discretion

1/2 cup grated Parmesan –and more for serving

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

app. 3/4 to 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt for sauce–and some more to cook the pasta

1/3 cup Vodka–I use whatever I have in the house

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes–I prefer the San Marzano ones so look for that

1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream–I used 1/2 and 1/2 this time — if you’d like it creamier you can add more cream, I used 1/2 cup and it was fine.

Fresh Basil leaves–about 1/4 cup

Directions:

I use a large skillet pan. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmers then add the minced garlic and red pepper. Cook garlic and red pepper  and stir until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the vodka and cook down until it is nearly evaporated there will be a little liquid in the pan. Add the tomatoes– while they are cooking I use a masher or a wooden spoon to break up the whole tomatoes. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  I then let it completely cool down.   I get out the food processor and put it all in and add the fresh basil and then I puree until smooth. Return sauce to the pan and add the cream. You want it to be creamy , I used 1/2 cup and it was fine you can always add more if you’d like. Cook until warmed through and right before using stir in the parmesan cheese and then add the cooked pasta. Toss to combine in the large skillet.

Serve immediately with additional cheese on the table and you can add a little more fresh basil if you’d like.

 

 

Blueberry Crumb Bars

photo (2)photophoto (3)photo (4)photo (2)OK another blueberry recipe while the blueberries are so ripe and delicious! I combined a few recipes that I had and kept my fingers crossed and made a mess in the kitchen and used too much butter and here it goes. Sometimes I just don’t feel like using electric mixer even though I seemed to use a lot of different mixing bowls for this one. I had seen another recipe for a blueberry crumble but it called for shortening, so I substituted butter. It’s a lot of butter I know, but how much can be in one piece? My plan is to eat a little of this and freeze the rest for when my family comes out next month. As I was cutting it up to freeze I managed to eat way more than I should have and they were really beautiful and delicious. Just the right amount of sweet. I let them sit in fridge overnight, and they were way easier to cut into right out of the fridge. They are now nestled in to the freezer, except for the few pieces I left out to eat. I would keep unused and unfrozen pieces in the fridge, take out and bring to room temp. when you’re ready to eat them. You can also heat up in microwave if you prefer them warm. Either way, once you taste this buttery fruity combo you’ll be hooked.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks cold unsalted butter I cut it up into small diced pieces. I sliced stick in half, and then cut up into smaller pieces which would be easier to blend in.

1 egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup of lemon juice and zest of one whole lemon ( I did use a large lemon)

4 cups fresh blueberries

9 x 13 inch pan , I used a glass Pyrex and it was perfect

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and Spray 9 x 13 pan. I used Bakers Aid Baking Spray because there is enough butter in this already.

In a medium size bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Using a fork or pastry cutter blend in the cold butter pieces and egg. Then with clean hands I played with the dough a bit and got a crumbly texture going. I took half the dough and patted it down gently into pan with my hands. I made as clean an edge as I could, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix into the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble with your clean hands the remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until top is slightly browned. I baked for 50 minutes , then checked on them. I baked for another 5 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. I actually cooled in refrigerator over night, and cut up the next day.

Fresh Basil Pesto

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Chicken and Pesto on the Grill

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Pasta Pesto

The original recipe for this delicious pesto appeared back in May 2011 on Cooking with Candi.  Yummy Pesto was the title. This is the same recipe from my BFF Suki. I have tried many pesto sauces and this remains my absolute go to favorite. It is super easy and while the basil is abundant you should make it and freeze it. When you freeze the pesto in a container, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top . I have it frozen for up to 3 months. I use it on chicken, pasta, and it’s wonderful as a spread. This recipe is good for 2 lbs. of pasta usually. So I use 1/2 and freeze the rest if it’s just the 2 of us.

Pesto Chicken on the Grill with Grilled Peppers and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Fresh Basil

If you are going to use on chicken , just brush on the chicken sprinkle a tiny bit of  kosher salt on it and  let it marinate for a few hours at least and it can be marinated  overnight in the refrigerator. Take it out of fridge and let it sit at room temp. before putting on the grill. That’s it!

*You’ll need a food processor

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil (washed)

1/2 cup romano cheese (grated)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese ( grated)

1/2 cup pignolli nuts or walnuts

1 cup extra virgin olive oil–use a good one

1 – 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (it’s good if the butter is softened before adding) you can soften in microwave

4 cloves garlic – peeled and whole

freshly ground black pepper–to taste

*kosher salt to taste if you feel you need it after finished making pesto

Directions:

I put all ingredients except for olive oil in the food processor. Give it a few grinds using the blade attachment. Then I slowly add in the olive oil through the top of processor while it’s on. Beautiful green pesto! so easy. Taste for salt and pepper

Cook pasta and drain and add pesto. Done!

Summer Blueberry Cake

I just keep finding new recipes for blueberries. I love blueberries and they are so abundant right now and in peak season. I love them right out of the containers, and I love them in muffins, pies, cakes and cobblers. Here is another delicious cake which you can freeze and a few months from now when fresh blueberries aren’t really around ,you will bring back that summer day that you baked this. I cut this in 1/2 , 1/2 for now and 1/2 for when I return in the winter. You can always make this with frozen berries but I have never done so. To me it’s all about cooking with fruits and vegetables that are seasonal.  There really is nothing like fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, and I can’t get enough of them . This is a fairly easy cake to bake. I baked it for 45 minutes, and the tester came out clean. You’ll have to check your own oven for cooking time . It can vary from 40 – 50 minutes depending on your oven.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs , Smitten Kitchen. I may have made a few changes which I often do, but it is pretty much the same.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups all – purpose flour, plus another tablespoon to dust blueberries with

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon table salt

2 sticks unsalted butter ( softened) YIKES

3/4 cup light brown sugar packed

1/2 cup sugar ( regular granulated sugar)

3 large eggs ( room temperature)

1 cup buttermilk ( I used low-fat buttermilk)

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Topping:

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and lightly flour a 9 x 13 baking pan. ( I prefer Pam baking spray)

Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium size bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium high-speed until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each egg is just incorporated. Don’t overbeat. Reduce speed to medium and beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, and beat in 1/2 of the buttermilk. Beat in another 1/3 of the flour and the remaining milk, and then the remaining flour mixture. Toss  blueberries with a tablespoon of flour just lightly dust them. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in 1/2 of the blueberries. Spread batter into prepared dish.( see photo)

For the topping:

Scatter remaining 1/2 of the blueberries over the top of the batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle all over the top of the batter. Bake until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean in center of cake. I cooked for 45 minutes. It should take anywhere between 40 – 50 minutes. Cool in pan for about 1/2 hour, then turn it out of baking dish or cut out pieces. I turned it out, cut in 1/2 and froze 1/2 of it for the cold months. This is a delightful cake served for dessert, and so perfect for breakfast and a great afternoon snack with ice coffee .

 

Lemon Blueberry Loaf Cake

photophotoDSCN0186I am clearly obsessed with everything blueberry and everything lemon. So a loaf cake with both was most definitely in order.  It doesn’t get much better, yum! I had a lot of lemons in the house and this took 3 large lemons to get the right amount of zest.  This really is a delightful combo and how perfect for a quick loaf cake. I will probably freeze this cake for a later use. You can even cut in half and eat part of it now and freeze the rest. I am a big fan of freezing baked goods, as long as you wrap them well and don’t keep frozen more than 3 months. If you’re in the market for another new recipe for blueberries, here you go.

Happy Cooking and Enjoy what’s left of the Summer!

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup softened butter

1 cup white sugar

3 large lemons (You’ll need the zest of 3, juice of 1 whole lemon for cake and 2 tablespoons of juice for the glaze)

2 eggs (room temp. is always perfect)

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk (I used Skim Plus)

1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried and sprinkled with a little flour so they won’t sink to the bottom of the cake

1/4 cup sugar

*you’ll need an 8 x 4 loaf pan

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour an 8 x 4 loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. ( I used my Kitchen-Aid Mixer) Add eggs, and beat well. Mix in the juice of 1 lemon. Add the dry flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Fold in the lemon zest and the blueberries. Pour into prepared 8×4 loaf pan.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester ( toothpick) inserted into the cake comes out clean.

For the glaze, combine 1/4 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Drizzle over cake while still warm not hot.

I let completely cool and then I froze it for when I would want to serve it.

It was super moist and delicious.

Cauliflower, Orzo and Feta Salad

 

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Completed Salad

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Before I added the spinach

 

 

This is one of my most favorite salads of all time. The flavors meld together beautifully to make a most delicious salad. I highly recommend this salad if you’re just looking for something new to make for brunch, lunch or even dinner! I got this recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s Cookbook Cravings a few years back and it has gone into constant rotation ever since. Perfect for Meatless Monday!

I made cauliflower and orzo in the morning and put together ingredients as they cooled down. The cooling off of orzo and cauliflower was the only time-consuming event in making this recipe. You can refrigerate salad once cooled down, but I would bring it to room temperature prior to serving.

This salad was a side dish amongst many, it would serve 4-6 just as a salad. I had 11 people and it was one of many side dishes for a luncheon I was making. This one gets a  big thumbs up! If you were making this as a salad I would say it would serve 4-6 very nicely.

If you want to add a protein like chicken this would make a most perfect dinner salad. Or just eat it veggie style! Nothing bad here!

Ingredients:

Cauliflower and Orzo Prep

1 head cauliflower broken into small florets, any color cauliflower will do and purple would be beautiful if you can find it

4 Tablespoons olive oil

3 minced cloves of fresh garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup orzo pasta

Dressing and the rest of the salad

3 Tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

 

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

2/3 cup dried cherries

4 cups baby spinach

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl toss the cauliflower with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the fresh garlic, the salt and pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until softened and the edges of cauliflower start to brown up. ( not burned) I did it for 25 minutes. Set cauliflower aside and let it completely cool down.

Cook orzo according to box directions, I cooked for a minute less so it would be more al dente ( just a bit undercooked ) Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water, drain well and while draining toss in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil right in the colander.

In a big bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, salt and pepper.

I allowed about an hour for complete cool down of cauliflower and orzo and added to bowl with dressing along with onion , feta, and cherries . Toss well until completely coated with dressing. Throw in the spinach and toss again till spinach is incorporated. Taste for Salt and Pepper and adjust seasonings to your liking. I added a sprinkle of black  pepper but no more salt.

Enjoy — this was totally delicious.

 

Blueberry Crisp

IMG_1943IMG_1944I am always looking for new ways to invent the wheel . What I mean by that is even though I have at least 4 great blueberry crisp and cobblers in my repertoire I am always looking for the next best thing in terms of a recipe. Maybe this one will be the one that’s the best one — sort of a FOMO feeling. In any event this is the crisp I made the other night and it was totally delicious and it will go into the rotation and because it has no white sugar it attracted my eye. It does have plenty of brown sugar though and it’s totally delicious and the Ben and Jerry’s vanilla ice cream didn’t hurt any either. Go out and snag some of those delicious ripe blueberries in the market now.  Somehow it’s just not the same when they are frozen.

It’s as easy as can be and makes for a very yummy dessert after a savory dinner.

*you can freeze this if you’d like to take advantage of the ripe blueberries. Just fully defrost before cooking.

*leftovers were even better than the first night!

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons Corn Starch, divided 2 for dish and 2 for berries

2 Tablespoons brown sugar plus 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound fresh blueberries

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

3 Tablespoons chopped nuts–I used chopped pecans but you can use walnuts too or omit the nuts all together

2 Tablespoons Cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Coat an 8″ square glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray –I used Bakers Aid — I like it for baking. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cornstarch evenly into the bottom of the dish.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 Tbsp. Brown sugar, vanilla and blueberries in a large bowl toss and place in prepared baking dish.

Combine flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed) 1/4 cup rolled old-fashioned oats, nuts, cornmeal, salt  and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor, pulse twice to combine. Add cold butter pieces and pulse about 5 times or until the mixture resembles a coarse meal like substance and everything is mixed together.  Spoon topping over blueberries, packing down lightly. Bake at 375 degrees or until filling is bubbly and topping is a golden brown.

Serve warm with frozen yogurt or ice cream.

 

Middle Eastern Salad

This salad appeals to me on so many levels. Firstly I love Middle Eastern food , I love raw salads, I love the freshness that is going on in this salad and did I mention that it’s super easy with very obtainable ingredients.

I served with toasted pita bread cut into small triangles.

Ingredients:

5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

2 pints of small grape /cherry tomatoes or any tomatoes that you want to use. You can use up to 1 lb. of fresh cut up tomatoes

1 hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise , seeded and 1/2 inch diced

1 can 12 to 16 oz. size of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup cut up fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice — you may need up to 4 small lemons or 2 very large ones. I use my juicer for this.

1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic — app. 3 cloves

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste– start with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 tsp. pepper– you’ll taste for additional salt and pepper at the end.

1/2 cup good olive oil

8 oz. good feta cheese, buy a chunk and dice it up

Toasted Pita Bread for serving

Directions:

Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, drained chickpeas, parsley , mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, garlic 2 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream till it emulsifies. Pour the dressing over the salad tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add in the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper *if necessary. Serve the salad alongside the toasted pita.

Yum!

 

Orzo with Lemon Shrimp and Spinach

photoDSCN0367DSCN0363DSCN0372DSCN0384DSCN0390By now you all know how very much we love shrimp. It comes in handy to have an ex-shrimp monger on hand to clean and devein my shrimp. I love cooking it but not so much cleaning and deveining it. Joel not only obtains the best shrimp around but he really does do a great job of cleaning and deveining. ( I think it’s in his DNA) In any event we make a pretty good team when it comes to shrimp dishes.
So now on to this delicious dish. I didn’t feel like grilling and this dish was calling out to me. I saw Giada de Laurentiis make a shrimp scampi on her show and she made it with arugula , it looked so awesome and light I figured I’d do it my way and make it with spinach even though I knew Joel wouldn’t eat the spinach.  This dish was pretty easy to pull together once shrimp was prepped. Not a whole lot of ingredients, and whole thing took about 1/2 hour.  This dish was very light in flavor and a perfect summer night meal, doesn’t have to be served super hot , can be room temperature. Thanks again to Giada for the wonderfully inspiring recipe.

*once the shrimp is prepared this dish is a snap. Have your fish store clean and de-vein your shrimp for you.

Ingredients:

Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup olive oil

zest of 2 large lemons ( try to use organic if you’re zesting and eating the peel) and scrub those lemons well

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice ( from the 2 large lemons you just zested)

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt and pepper until smooth and set aside.

Ingredients:

1 lb. orzo

1 lb. shrimp , I used large under 10’s, peeled and deveined  ( you can have fish monger do this )

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot , chopped

app. 1 more teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup dry white wine ,  ( I used what I had on hand)

6 ounces of spinach , I used baby spinach, use whatever greens you like. Giada used arugula .

Directions:

Cook orzo according to directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place shrimp in a bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper . Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped shallots and cook until soft for a few minutes. Add the shrimp, cook shrimp until they turn pink and are just cooked through depending on the size of your shrimp. When shrimp is cooked through remove the shrimp from the skillet. Increase the heat to high and add the 1/2 cup of wine, allow to boil up and scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, cook for another minute or so until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Then add orzo to the pan along with the vinaigrette and the spinach and let it wilt down.  I added most of the reserved pasta water , you’ll use as much or as little as you need, I used whole cup of reserved pasta water. Add the shrimp back in and toss well until all the ingredients are well coated. Serve up and enjoy.