Put The Lime In The Coconut…Bars

So I had another birthday not too long ago and there was much celebrating.  I prefer a Key Lime Pie (recipe here) to cake on my birthday. But this year, I decided to go with Key Lime Bars instead. Easier to transport and package up as ‘thank-yous’ to various folks.

This time, I had just a few extra coconut shreds, so instead of storing them, I decided to toast them and add them to the top after I removed the bars from the oven. Continue reading

Graham Cracker Toffee Bars

DSC_1566 (1600x1060)Josie, a commenter at Balloon Juice, put this recipe up in an open thread:

Graham Cracker Toffee

Ingredients
16 graham cracker sheets
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans
6 oz. milk or semi sweet chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Cover prepared cookie sheet with whole graham cracker sheets.
In saucepan, bring brown sugar and butter to a boil over medium heat. Boil for four minutes stirring constantly. Pour over graham crackers and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees F.
After baking, Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of graham cracker and let sit for about two minutes. Spread melted chocolate with a knife. Sprinkle nuts over the top.

I made the recipe in 2 quarter size sheet pans because they were new and I really wanted to use them for something, anything!DSC_1571 (1600x1060)We used Kroger’s house brand crackers and I’m thinking they were sized differently than the ones Josie wrote the recipe for, but cover the bottom with crackers and you’ll be on the right track.  I used way more chocolate chips than the recipe called for, at least twice as many or more, and I’m thinking that it would be better to melt the chocolate separately and then pour it over the toffee after it comes out of the oven, but these came out OK.  I did put the trays with the chips back into the hot oven to help the melting.

 

Friday Recipe Exchange: Ice Cream and Gelato Treats

Key Lime Pie2

I’m swamped with work, trying to catch up after a week away, so tonight in true summer fashion, we’re going to have a repeat. But it’s a delicious repeat. Last year, friends lent me their Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker to test drive, so I spent a week making various frozen treats, testing them on all the neighbors (I was very popular that week) and posted the results. This summer I bought my own Cuisinart, so I thought it was time to pull out the recipes and make some ice cream and gelato. After all, it’s just been too hot to cook. Perfect time for frozen treats.

While Gelato is by far my favorite, I played no favorites and included ice cream and sorbet in the selection. These recipes all make between 1 and 1-1/2 quarts.  Here’s the lineup:

Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream (recipes here)

Blueberry Sorbet (recipe here)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato (recipe here)

What’s your recipe for fun this weekend? What delicious things are you cooking up for this final weekend of July (oh, how can that be)?

Now for the recipe that started the whole thing, the reason I borrowed my friends’ ice cream maker. A while back I was searching for gelato recipes and came across one for Key Lime Pie. It sounded awesome. I tucked it away, planning to try it someday. Someday finally came and I put my own twist on it:

Key Lime Pie Gelato

  • Gelato Plain Base (recipe below)
  • 1 graham cracker crust, broken into pieces and frozen (recipe below)
  • 3 tbsps fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime*
  • 2 tsp grated lime zest

Make the Gelato Plain Base and chill as directed. Make the graham cracker crust as directed and freeze.

To make Key Lime Gelato: Gently whisk the limejuice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Just after churning quickly stir in the graham cracker crust pieces, reserving some for garnish. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

*after you mix in the lime and zest, give it a taste and add more limejuice as desired. If you’re prefer it a bit more tangy, you can add up to 2 more tbsp without worrying about consistency.

Graham Cracker Crust

Note: You can substitute graham cracker pieces if you don’t want to make an actual crust. I just like the buttery flavor and texture of the actual crust in the gelato.

For the graham cracker crust: Mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 cups graham cracker crumbs together. Press firmly onto the bottom of a well buttered 8×8 glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool and remove from the baking dish, break into bite-size pieces and freeze in a covered container.

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

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.

One final note. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Gelato, Sorbet and Ice Cream, click here for a pretty good explanation.

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Dinner Menu: Beef & Pepper Subs with Walnut Pear Salad

DSC_4000 (Copy)

Photo by JeffreyW

Lots going on. I picked up a new client last week, but still need to wrap things up this week with one of my other clients in order to make room for the new client. I’m putting together a trip to Los Angeles and Nebraska, plus I’ve got three personal projects I’m working on, which are at least two, too many.  What I’m trying to say is, it’s busy around here, just the way I like it, which is why I looked for something simple for tonight’s dinner menu. I especially wanted to find something with pears, because right now they are abundant at the store and I wanted to take advantage.

So that’s my Monday…any suggestions for Friday’s Recipe Exchange??

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple, for those lazy nights when you don’t want to cook an elaborate meal.  I usually let everyone assemble their own sandwich at the counter – less cleanup. I didn’t put chips on the menu, but they would probably show up last minute at my house anyway. The walnut pear salad is a nice treat this time of year, when you can usually find fresh pears at a good price. Pears and bleu cheese are a winning combo, and spinach seems to be on sale everywhere this week. If you can find it, drinking chocolate is like hot cocoa on steroids. We have a local coffee roaster who also makes drinking chocolate. It’s as if someone melted a chocolate bar in your cup and added some cream. A little goes a very long way.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef & Pepper Subs
  2. Walnut Pear Salad
  3. Hot cocoa, marshmallows and graham crackers

Beef & Pepper Subs

  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sirloin or flank steak, thinly sliced*
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 large crusty Italian sub rolls, sliced
  • 8 oz Provolone or American cheese, sliced

skillet

Heat oil in skillet, add meat, garlic, onions & peppers. Allow to cook until tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add immediately to rolls. Top with cheese. If desired you can also then pop under the broiler to melt the cheese (keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn)

* it’s easiest to do if it’s slightly frozen when you slice it

Walnut Pear Salad

  • 3 pears, thinly sliced
  • Bibb lettuces & spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp walnut oil (opt)
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey (more if needed)
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

large platter and saucepan

Arrange lettuce leaves on platter, add pear slices. Combine walnuts, oil(s), vinegar & honey in saucepan, mix well, and heat until honey is melted. Taste and add more honey or vinegar as needed. Pour over pears. Crumble cheese over salad.

Shopping List:

  • Hot cocoa
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • 1 lb sirloin or flank steak
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 large crusty Italian sub rolls, sliced
  • 8 oz Provolone or American cheese, sliced
  • Bibb lettuces & spinach leaves
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 oz walnut oil (opt)
  • 4 oz honey
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Also: crushed garlic, salt & pepper, vinegar

Originally posted January 2011

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Dinner Menu: Color It Orange

Blood Orange1snap

In the heat of summer, I like to keep the menus out of the kitchen to keep things cool. So break out the grill and the chocolate.

Sometimes I really want oranges. Orange juice, orange popsicles, orange dreamsicles, orange chicken, and oranges, lots of oranges. When I originally put this menu together, I worried that there would be too much orange with both the chicken and the salad. But the chicken flavor is subtle; more of a tangy citrus and the orange salad compliments it nicely. Instead of bread you can try couscous or a nice variety of rice, I’m into brown Jasmine these days. Chocolate is the perfect finish to an orange themed dinner, so fire up the grill, get out your sticks,  put on your scout cap and make some S’Mores.

On the board tonight:

  1. Orange Grilled Chicken
  2. Orange Salad
  3. Artisan Bread with garlic butter
  4. S’Mores

Orange Grilled Chicken – Marinate Overnight

  • ½ cup orange juice concentrate
  • ¼ cup limejuice
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried mint, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp salt & pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts

zip-lock bag, bowl, brush & saucepan

Mix together all ingredients and marinate overnight in a ziplock bag or sealed container. Remove chicken from marinade and set aside. Add marinade to saucepan and boil until reduced by half, stirring constantly. Grill chicken over medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes until no longer pink in the center (170ºf). Baste frequently with sauce after the first 5 minutes.

To keep chicken from drying out, sear both sides (about 3-5 minutes) over direct heat and finish cooking away from direct flame.

Orange Salad

  • 1 head red leaf lettuce
  • 3 oranges, peeled, remove pith and slice in thin circles
  • 1 cucumber, peeled & sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced rings
  • 4 oz slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp ea. Oregano, cumin & salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

serving bowl

Tear leaves and arrange in bowl. Layer oranges, cucumber, onion and almonds. Whisk together remaining ingredients and drizzle over lettuce mixture.

Menu serves 4

Shopping List:

  • Loaf of Artisan Bread
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 16 oz box of graham crackers
  • 1 bag marshmallows
  • 4 chocolate bars (okay, to be authentic I think they should be Hersheys)
  • 6 oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 3 oz limejuice
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 oz slivered almonds

Also: lots of crushed garlic, dried mint, oregano, ground ginger, salt, pepper, cumin, white wine vinegar, honey

Originally published June 2010

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Frozen Sweet Treats

Key Lime Pie2

My house was the most popular house on the block this week. That’s because I decided to make a different batch of frozen treats everyday. All so you could have something fun for the holiday weekend. I toiled away in the kitchen and gave no thought whatsoever to my hips, freezing and taste-testing five batches of creamy, sweet, cold goodness. Each one got rave reviews, and while it was a close vote, in the end the Chocolate-Hazelnut won by a nut. Tonight’s featured recipe is the flavor that inspired the entire week.

While Gelato is by far my favorite, I played no favorites and included ice cream and sorbet in the selection. These recipes all make between 1 and 1-1/2 quarts.  Here’s the lineup in order of appearance:

Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream (recipes here)

Blueberry Sorbet (recipe here)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato (recipe here)

Before we get to the featured recipe, what fun things do you have planned for this holiday weekend? What delicious things are you making for your cookout/picnic/get-togethers? I’ll probably take advantage of the predicted good weather to hike and cycle. Maybe even drive up to the mountains.

Now for the recipe that started this whole week of  treats. A while back I was searching for gelato recipes and came across one for Key Lime Pie. It sounded awesome. I tucked it away, planning to try it someday. Someday finally came and I put my own twist on it:

Key Lime Pie Gelato

  • Gelato Plain Base (recipe below)
  • 1 graham cracker crust, broken into pieces and frozen (recipe below)
  • 3 tbsps fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime*
  • 2 tsp grated lime zest

Make the Gelato Plain Base and chill as directed. Make the graham cracker crust as directed and freeze.

To make Key Lime Gelato: Gently whisk the limejuice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Just after churning quickly stir in the graham cracker crust pieces, reserving some for garnish. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

*after you mix in the lime and zest, give it a taste and add more limejuice as desired. If you’re prefer it a bit more tangy, you can add up to 2 more tbsp without worrying about consistency.

Graham Cracker Crust

Note: You can substitute graham cracker pieces if you don’t want to make an actual crust. I just like the buttery flavor and texture of the actual crust in the gelato.

For the graham cracker crust: Mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 cups graham cracker crumbs together. Press firmly onto the bottom of a well buttered 8×8 glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool and remove from the baking dish, break into bite-size pieces and freeze in a covered container.

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

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.

One final note. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Gelato, Sorbet and Ice Cream, click here for a pretty good explanation.

==================================================

Key Lime Coconut Bars

Tired of winter?  How about something a bit tropical to get you through the day?  These are quick and easy to put together, though it was difficult to let them cool completely before digging in.

Key Lime Coconut Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (approx 28 squares)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons shredded coconut
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 oz pk cream cheese, softened
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I use fat free)
  • 1/4 cup Key Lime juice or regular limejuice
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract (opt)
  • 1 lime, sliced into thin slices, then quarter

9×9 glass baking dish, mixing bowl and 36 cupcake papers

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease square pan, 9x9x2 inches.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, coconut and butter thoroughly with fork. Press evenly in bottom of pan. Refrigerate while preparing cream cheese mixture. Beat cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in milk until smooth. Beat in lime juice, lemon extract and lime peel. Pour into pan, spreading evenly over crust. Bake about 35 minutes or until center is set. Cool 30 minutes on rack, then cover loosely and refrigerate at least 3 hours until chilled. Cut into 36 pieces, place in cupcake papers and top with lime quarters.

Thursday Night Menu: Keeping it Simple

I know many of you are snowed under and I’m sorry about that. I’m wishing for spring as hard as you. Meanwhile we’ve had a suspicious 60 degree day with the promise of an ugly storm soon to follow.  Can I just say, “yippee.” (I’d say more, but I try to keep it PG). One other note: our intrepid blogger/photographer JeffW is on crutches after knee surgery, so everyone please wish him well.

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple, for those lazy nights when you don’t want to cook an elaborate meal.  I usually let everyone assemble their own sandwich at the counter – less cleanup. I didn’t put chips on the menu, but they would probably show up last minute  at my house anyway. The walnut pear salad is a nice treat this time of year, when you can usually find fresh pears at a good price. Pears and bleu cheese are a winning combo, and spinach seems to be on sale everywhere this week. If you can find it, drinking chocolate is like hot cocoa on steroids. We have a local coffee roaster who also makes drinking chocolate. It’s as if someone melted a chocolate bar in your cup and added some cream. A little goes a very long way.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef & Pepper Subs
  2. Walnut Pear Salad
  3. Hot cocoa, marshmallows and graham crackers

Beef & Pepper Subs

  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sirloin or flank steak, thinly sliced*
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 large crusty Italian sub rolls, sliced
  • 8 oz Provolone or American cheese, sliced

skillet

Heat oil in skillet, add meat, garlic, onions & peppers. Allow to cook until tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add immediately to rolls. Top with cheese. If desired you can also then pop under the broiler to melt the cheese (keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn)

* it’s easiest to do if it’s slightly frozen when you slice it

Walnut Pear Salad

  • 3 pears, thinly sliced
  • Bibb lettuces & spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp walnut oil (opt)
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey (more if needed)
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

large platter and saucepan

Arrange lettuce leaves on platter, add pear slices. Combine walnuts, oil(s), vinegar & honey in saucepan, mix well, and heat until honey is melted. Taste and add more honey or vinegar as needed. Pour over pears. Crumble cheese over salad.

Shopping List:

  • Hot cocoa
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • 1 lb sirloin or flank steak
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 large crusty Italian sub rolls, sliced
  • 8 oz Provolone or American cheese, sliced
  • Bibb lettuces & spinach leaves
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 oz walnut oil (opt)
  • 4 oz honey
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Also: crushed garlic, salt & pepper, vinegar