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The Art of Granita

Watermelon Granita

Relaxing after a long, busy day, watching Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. I’m a sucker for anything Whedon, well, except Dollhouse, which I bailed on after the first few months. The locusts are competing for my attention, singing their late summer song. They always bring back childhood memories of sitting on the porch swing, reading a book in the evening, trying to stay cool.

Went out to dinner with friends earlier and told them I made Watermelon Granita and their response was similar to mine, watermelon is perfect on its own, why mess with it? Why indeed? Partly because it is so pretty, partly because it is nice to have something cold, not too sweet and easy to make during the heat of summer. Granitas can be made with many flavors, I just happened to have a large seedless watermelon on hand this week.

Strawberries, lemons, oranges, a mix of berries, even coffee can be made into granita. Just substitute for the watermelon in the recipe below. Perfect, light and a burst of sophisticated flavor to top off any meal.

Watermelon Granita

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cut into large chunks
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • fresh limejuice from 1 large lime or 2 small limes
  • dash of lime zest
  • mint leaves for garnish

blender, shallow dish

Blend together the ingredients (except mint) until smooth. Start with 1/4 cup sugar and add more as desired. 1/2 cup is the standard recipe, but I preferred less to let the watermelon shine through.

Pour into a shallow dish and place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove and with a fork, scrape the mixture into small ice crystals. Place back into the freezer for another hour and repeat scraping. Freeze for additional hour, scrape again and serve with mint garnish. You can also top with fresh blueberries for a very pretty dessert.


Friday Recipe Exchange: Ice Cream Delights

Vanilla Nut Crunch

It’s that time again. Time to dig out the ice cream maker and try out some new recipes. I cannot express how much I love the ease of the frozen bowl style machine. No fuss, no mess.

Pictured above is this summer’s first batch, Vanilla Nut Crunch, recipe here (where there is also a bonus kitteh)

And here are four of my favorites from the past summers:

Key Lime Pie Gelato, click here for recipes and photos.

Strawberry Ice Cream, two recipes here.

Blueberry Sorbet, recipe and photos here.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato, really my very favorite of all the recipes, is here.

For the pet lovers, in case you missed it, Bixby needed to cool off in a cute video here. He now has his own kiddie pool in the yard because flooding the bathroom nightly was not an option.

What’s on your menu for the weekend? Getting ready the big holiday? Any favorite frozen treat recipes?

Double Dutch Chocolate

Tonight’s featured recipe is one of the most chocolaty ice creams ever. It takes a full cup of dark dutch cocoa and just enough sugar so it’s not too sweet. The ice cream scoop in the photo was my very first Kickstarter contribution. It works great on the hardest frozen ice cream with little effort. But in all honesty, I contributed because the presentation was so funny and the inventor was a riot.  I <3 engineers.

Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1 cup dark dutch cocoa, unsweetened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  •  1-1/2 cups milk
  • 3-1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp good quality vanilla extract

mixing bowl, ice cream freezer

In the mixing bowl, combine cocoa, sugars and salt, until well blended, add milk and use a hand mixer on low speed to combine until sugar is dissolved (about 2 minutes). Stir in cream and vanilla by hand.

Freeze according to manufacturer’s direction for your ice cream maker (for mine, I place the frozen bowl on the machine, add the paddle and the top, turn it on and then pour the ice cream mixture in while it’s turning. 30 minutes later I have ice cream).

After it has completed its freezing cycle, you usually have a soft serve consistency, you can freeze it until hard. Makes about 1-1/2 quarts.

That’s it for this week. There won’t be an exchange next week because of the holiday. I hope you have a great week and a terrific 4th! – TaMara




Holiday Gifts Ideas: Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. :-) I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.



Holiday Gift Ideas: Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m busy baking for my annual gift boxes. These won’t be in them, because I”m working on two new cookie recipes I’ve never tried my hand at before. More on that later…

Chocolate Chocolate Cookie

These are pretty and very tasty.  They’re easy and just a touch above regular chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or peanuts), chopped

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Sift together salt, soda, flour and cocoa, then add to butter mixture, blending well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.  Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on cooling rack.


Originally posted Nov 2011

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping

Finally got down to some cooking. I started the week out with Pumpkin Squares (recipe here), a real favorite with everyone, so a big pan goes pretty quickly. Then it was on to a good spicy pumpkin cookie, the featured recipe tonight. The photo shows both a crumble topping and a cream cheese frosting, but since I really preferred the crumble topping, that’s what I included in the recipe. These freeze well, so they can travel to Thanksgiving dinner with family.

I really wanted to make a Pumpkin Bundt Cake this year, so I went searching for recipes and adapted one to use buttermilk, click here, which I thought created a very moist, flavorful cake.

And finally, Pumpkin Cream Pie with a brown sugar whipped cream topping, which I am really enjoying at Thanksgiving instead of the traditional custard pumpkin pie. Pictures and recipe here. I’ll probably make it again this year.

For the pet lovers, Bixby update is here. He’s five months old this week and a wild thing. And as I was writing this, JeffreyW put up some adorable photos of shelter puppies in sweaters, click here. Please keep your squeals to a minimum.

Now it’s your turn. Are you a fan of pumpkin? I know it can be one of those ingredients that inspires a very strong response, either positive or negative. What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or product this time of year? If not pumpkin, what treat really puts you in a fall mood?

Tonight’s recipe:

Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice

Cream together butter and sugar; add egg, pumpkin, and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together dry ingredients and slowly mix into pumpkin mixture and mix until well combined. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then drop by spoonful on a baking sheet. Top with crumble topping, pressing gently into the dough. Refrigerate remaining dough until ready to bake.

Bake for 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 2 dozen


  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix together until crumbly

That’s it for this week. Stay warm – TaMara


Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Cake Slices

This was a much more successful pumpkin recipe. Very moist, very flavorful And if you’re creative, you can make it look like a pumpkin. Because I’m at high altitude, I should have remembered to add 2 tbsp extra flour. Next time.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake

  • 2-1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp buttermilk powder
  • 3 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup water


  • 1 -1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk (more or less as needed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

bowls, bundt pan

Butter and flour bundt pan generously. In bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes), add eggs, beat 1 minute. Add pumpkin and vanilla and beat on low until incorporated, scraping sides frequently. Alternate adding the flour mixture and water until all are incorporated with the pumpkin mixture and batter is smooth.

Spoon into the bundt pan and gently tap pan on the counter to remove any bubbles and even out the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden skewer comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert on a plate and remove from bundt pan. Let cool completely before frosting.

Icing:  Add vanilla to powdered sugar  and then slowly add milk until mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over cooled cake. (I added yellow and red food coloring for some Halloween fun)




Pumpkin Squares Revisted

I make these every year and they disappear quickly. This year was no different. Not all my pumpkin creations are a success. Playing around with an oatmeal pumpkin cookie, I came up with an inedible concoction. Luckily Bixby and his playmates were not quite so discerning, so it wasn’t a complete waste of ingredients. I was glad to whip a batch of squares up after that to restore my faith in my own cooking.

Pumpkin Squares


  •  4 eggs
  • 1-2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil or butter
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice (less if desired, I like them spicy)

mixing bowl & 13×9 baking dish, greased

Beat eggs, sugar, butter & pumpkin together, add dry ingredients, mixing well. Spread into baking dish, bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Cool & frost (frosting below). These are rich, so I would cut them into at least 24 squares.


  • 16 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-3/4 cups powdered sugar

mixing bowl

Mix together cream cheese, sugar & vanilla. Mix until smooth.

You can frost & freeze in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.  Enjoy.


Originally posted 10/2011


Frozen Treats: Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

Hazelnut Gelato1

This first appeared May 2013. At the time I had borrowed my friend’s ice cream freezer to test drive it. I bought my own this past week or so and decided it was a good time to start making some sweet frozen treats again. And as luck would have it, LFern is back from Japan and coming over tomorrow to share stories of her adventure. I also need to ask her a big favor, so I thought a fresh batch of her favorite frozen treat couldn’t hurt my case.


My friend LFern and I are not able to get together frequently. Family, work and other daily obligations, plus the fact we now live about 25 minutes apart, make it difficult to plan a lunch or coffee time. But this week I sent her an email that said this:

If you decide to come visit me this week I’ll make chocolate-hazelnut gelato (ok, I’m making it anyway, but why miss out?)


That seemed to be incentive enough. Remember she’s my coffee and chocolate friend. I sweetened the deal with the promise of Lavazza coffee, too. When she arrived the ice cream maker was busy humming away. Fifteen minutes later, we had coffee and Gelato ready for a well-deserved girls’ afternoon.

I served up bowls and then proceeded to put the rest in the freezer. LFern mentioned I really didn’t need to do that, she’d be happy to finish it for me. I reminded her I still needed to take photos. She suggested this would be the only photo I would need:

empty bowl1

Needless to say, the recipe was a success. I had to agree with her, it was difficult to put enough away to photograph later. But luckily, once the photos were done, someone had to eat the bowl of goodness. Since I was the only one around at the time, I didn’t have to share.

So here is the next recipe in the Frozen Treats series. (A reminder, the first recipe is here and the second one is here. )

Hazelnut-Chocolate Gelato

  • Gelato plain base (recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp dark cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 13 oz chunky chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella style spread)
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

bowl with cover, ice cream freezer

ETA: Two things I forgot to mention. I reduced the sugar in the plain base because the hazelnut spread has lots of sugar in it and I was afraid it would be overly sweet. When I tasted the mixture after the spread was added, it was still a little too sweet, so I decided to add the tablespoon of dark cocoa powder. That did it and gave the finished product a nice rich chocolate flavor.

Make gelato plain base. Remove mixture from the heat and sift dark cocoa into the mixture and then add vanilla and hazelnut spread, stirring until the spread has dissolved completely. Remove to bowl, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Before covering with lid, I also cover with plastic wrap, pressed down onto the mixture to keep it from forming a ‘skin’. Next add to the ice cream freezer and freeze according to the machine’s directions.  It will be a soft serve consistency when done, freeze for at least an hour before serving. (Okay, we didn’t wait that long and it was yummy anyway). You can stir the chopped hazelnuts in before freezing or you can use as a garnish for each bowl.

This recipe is the base for most gelatos, it’s also good frozen by itself:

Gelato di Crema (Gelato Plain Base)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup sugar (for the Hazelnut Gelato, reduce to 1/2 cup)

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper* the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.

*The best way to temper is to add a tablespoon at a time until you’ve added about 1/4 cup. Then you can add a full ladle at a time, slowly.

Recipe makes 1 to 1-1/2 quarts.

Side note: While I was typing this entry, late (last) night, I kept hearing this repetitive sound. It took a moment for it to register. It was our neighborhood Great Horned Owl, making quite the ruckus, hoot-hooting away in the rain. That was a pretty perfect moment.

I’ll conclude this series with the Friday Recipe Exchange, featuring the recipe idea that started the whole thing off. Until then…


Frozen Treats: Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Creams

strawberry-ice-cream1 After friends  let me test drive their Cuisinart Ice Cream maker, I bought my own, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit a whole week of frozen treats, which will conclude with the Friday Recipe Exchange. I thought it would be good to start with the basics. The first recipe is for a cream only ice cream and I’ll link to a JeffreyW post that has an egg custard ice cream. Then I’ll add strawberries to it.  These recipes all make 1 to 1-1/2 quarts.

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 2 cups half-and-halfP12738915
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 3 tsp high quality vanilla extract)

Combine all ingredients (including the bean and its pulp – if you’re using extract, DO NOT add yet) in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to barely simmering, about 170 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly – remove the hull of the vanilla bean or add extract at this point, stirring in completely. Pour mixture into lidded container and refrigerate mixture overnight to mellow flavors and texture. Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to unit’s instructions. The mixture will not freeze hard in the machine. It will reach a soft serve consistency. Then spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour before serving.

Strawberry Ice Cream (or really Any Berry Ice Cream)

  • Make the vanilla base (above), cooled overnight
  • 2 cups of chopped frozen strawberries (or any quality frozen berry of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp vodka

ice cream maker Toss strawberries with vodka, stir into the cold vanilla cream mixture. Add to your ice cream maker and freeze according to unit’s instructions. Again it will be a soft serve consistency when done, remove to an airtight container and freeze for 1 hour before serving.

As promised: For an egg custard ice cream, go to JeffreyW’s post here.

JeffreyW makes strawberry ice cream, too

JeffreyW makes strawberry ice cream, too


Originally posted May 2013

Easy As…Upside Down Cake

Slice of cake3This was better than I even imagined. I was craving something intensely blueberry and I had just made the Pineapple Upside Down Cake for a birthday. I decided if it was good enough for pineapple, it was good enough for blueberries. And boy was it. I had to tweak the recipe a bit to complement the blueberry flavor, adding lemon to the mix and I reduced the flour down so the blueberries were not overwhelmed by cake.

Blueberry Upside Down2Blueberry-Lemon Upside Down Cake

  • 8 oz frozen wild blueberries (or enough to completely cover the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest


  • 1/3 cup shortening (I used butter)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice + enough water to make 1/2 cup of liquid.

8×8 glass baking dish and mixing bowl

 Melt 3 tbsp of butter and add to baking dish with sugar, lemon juice and zest.  Mix well.  Spread blueberries evenly over sugar and butter mixture.

In bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beat until fluffy.  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt, add to creamed mixture.  Add lemon water and zest to batter, mixing well (it will be lumpy) and then pour over blueberries.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick test in the cake center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes and then invert on a plate.

ETA: click any photo to enlarge and uncompress.


copyright Whats 4 Dinner Solutions 2014



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