Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tortellini with Pesto and Roasted Veggies

Nature does not hurry
yet everything is accomplished.
by Lao Tzu
Cook's notes: This recipe was a lucky Pinterest find. It's healthy loaded with  veggies and flavorful packed with basil pesto to produce a very memorable meal. It's definitely  company worthy and quite simple to put together. 
The recipe serves four but the ingredients can easily be increased to serve more. A little advance prep makes the assembly go faster .
Recipe source cookingclassy.com
Tortellini with Pesto and Roasted Veggies
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, sliced into half moons
  • 1 medium yellow squash, ends trimmed, sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced in chunks
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved,drained on a paper towel
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB. olive oil or herb olive oil
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1-10 oz package refrigerated three cheese tortellini
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, torn leaves and stems removed 
  • 1/4 cup store bought basil pesto  
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl add sliced zucchini, squash, red pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. 
  • Spread on rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with herbes de Provence. 
  • Roast in oven 10 minutes. Add in tomatoes and roast 10 minutes more. Add in torn spinach leaves and cook one minutes longer or until spinach is wilted. 
  • Cook tortellini until al dente. Drain and add to a large bowl with cooked veggies. 
  • Start with 1/4 cup pesto and mix pesto into veggies and tortellini until lightly coated. 
  • Serve immediately.

     
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Keep The Party Going Part Two



Mini S'more Pies
Cook's notes: Kids and adults will love this quintessential summertime dessert. And it's only made with 3 ingredients: mini-graham cracker crusts, Hersheys' chocolate bars and marshmallows. 





This dessert merits attention for your summer entertaining. Here is why the recipe works.
1. It's easy to put together with only three ingredients;Hershey candy bars, graham cracker shells and marshmallows.
2. It's a summer crowd pleaser and good alternative to a having a campfire.
3. It's not messy as you eat from the foil container.
4. And it has the same great taste as a campfire S'more
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 and bake graham cracker pie shells for 4 minutes.
  • While shells are still warm and on cookie sheet place, 4 pieces of chocolate in each shell. Let chocolate set a few minutes to melt.
  • Adjust rack one level above middle rack and set oven to broil.
  • Place 3 regular size marshmallows on top of chocolate. I only had mini-marshmallows and they worked just fine. Put a handful in each shell.
  • Brown marshmallows on broil-about 1 minute 
  • In microwave melt one whole chocolate bar, stir to blend and drizzle over top of broiled marshmallows.


I had sprinkles and sticks left over from cake pops recipes and this one went together in less than five minutes! Make sure the the ice cream sandwiches are slightly softened so sprinkles adhere better. I wrapped them in wax paper and placed back in freezer until I was ready to serve them. 

Mixed Berries Trifle
Cook’s notes: Use a glass stemmed compote to showcase the dessert. Make the custard the day before and refrigerate. Assemble the trifle the day it will be served.
Ingredients:
  • 1 small pint of raspberries and blueberries 
  • 1 quart sliced strawberries 
  • optional adding in 1 cup of blackberries 
  • 2 tsp. orange-flavored liqueur 
  • 1 large prepared angel food cake torn in chunks 
Custard 
  • 6 large egg yolks 
  • ¾ cup sugar 
  • ¼ cup flour 
  • 2 cups half and half 
  • 1 cup of whip cream-whipped 
  • ½ tsp. vanilla 
  • 2 TB. Amaretto or 1 tsp. almond extract 
Directions: 
  • Whisk yolks in a saucepan, add in sugar and flour and blend well. 
  • Bring half and half to a simmer in another saucepan and then add to yolk mixture. 
  • On low heat use a whisk as mixture thickens cook about 1-2 minutes do not let boil or mixture will curdle. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, almond extract or Amaretto. 
  • Run mixture through the blender to make sure it is a smooth consistency. 
  • Place in a bowl to cool, fold in whip cream that has been whipped, cover custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Assemble early in day before serving: 
  • Rinse fruit and pat dry on paper towels.
  • Add all fruits in a bowl and drizzle with Grand Marnier. 
  • Divide torn cake into thirds as well as fruit and custard. 
  • Bottom layer of serving glass with 1/3 cake pieces, 1/3 of the custard and 1/3 of the mixed fruit. 
  • Repeat two more times, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.
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Monday, June 27, 2016

4th of July Party Ideas Part One


Sparkle Cones
Ingredients:
  • 1 box of ice cream cones, either cake or sugar
  • 1 container of microwavable white chocolate for dipping fruit
  • Red, White and Blue sprinkles and/or sanding sugar
Directions:
  • Melt the white chocolate according to the instructions. Dip the edge of each cone and spread melted white chocolate with the back of a spoon. 
  • Holding the cone over a plate, add sprinkles and sparkles. 
  • Allow to dry and serve with your favorite ice cream.
Pound Cake Kabobs

Red White and Blue Stuffed Strawberries 

Ingredients:
  • 20-25 fresh strawberries
  • 20-25 fresh blueberries
  • 8 0z. mascarpone cheese
  • 3 TB. confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Directions:
  • Wash and dry strawberries and blueberries. Set blueberries aside. Using a small paring knife, cut the bottom off of each berry so that they stand up on a plate or tray. Using a melon baller, scoop out the top and stem of the strawberry.
  • In a mixer beat together cheese, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Place this mixture in a ziploc bag and snip off a tiny corner of one bag to make an opening like a pastry bag. Alternatively, use a pastry bag if you have one available.
  • Gently squeeze the cheese mixture into each berry and top it with a fresh blueberry. Serve.
  • Variation Ideas: If you want to take this dessert over the top simply dip the finished strawberries in chocolate, or add cocoa powder to the mascarpone cheese to make the stuffing chocolate flavored.
Firecracker Cupcakes (adapted from Kitchen Daily)
Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe cupcakes
  • 1 recipe frosting (try a traditional buttercream recipe here, or lightly sweet cream cheese frosting here)
for the decoration
  • Twizzlers
  • Swedish fish
  • baby blue Tic Tacs
  • blue and red jimmy’s
  • chocolate nonpareils
  • red and blue sprinkles
  • red and white starlight mints
Directions:
  • Completely cool your cupcakes and apply a generous layer of frosting. Cut the Twizzlers into segments of varying length, and set all of your candy out. Decorate away!
Firecracker Drink
Turn your summer drink into firecrackers. Coat the glass rim with lemon juice and then dip the rims into Pop Rock candies that are in a dish. 

To get the red-white-blue effect use Tropical punch (blue) add some Pop Rocks candies and then fill glass with any red drink such as pomegranate and cranberry juice , add seltzer.


Cherry Margaritas
Recipe makes 1
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup cherries pitted and mashed or 2 oz fresh cherry puree
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1- 1/2 oz tequila
  • Lime wedge for garnish
Directions:
  • Combine all ingredients into an ice filled mixing tin. Shake and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
  • Combine the zest of one lime with several teaspoons of rock salt.
  • Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass. Dip into the zest salt mixture.
  • Fill the glass with ice.
  • In a cocktail shaker mash the cherries with the simple syrup and lime juice. Add the other ingredients and shake to combine. If using the puree shake to combine.
  • Pour into prepared glass and and garnish with a lime wedge.
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

Some of the week's best
Summer Reading Highly Recommended Books by  
JoAnne W.
"The Language of Threads" by Gail Tsukiyama  
Readers of "Women of the Silk" never forgot the moving story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a young girl. Now we learn what happened to Pei as she arrives in 1930s Hong Kong with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life in the home of Mrs. Finch, a British expatriate. But war, and the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, tear everything apart, and Pei is once again forced to make her own way, struggling to survive and to keep her extended family alive.
http://www.helensbookblog.com/2014/11/review-language-of-threads-by-gail.html\  
Helen had this to say about Gail Tsukiyama's books
Setting: I love delving into books about other countries since I feel like I learn about the language, history, customs, food, and people in an interesting way. Tsukiyama sets her books beautifully. She doesn't over do the descriptive sections (which turns me off) and instead allows the experiences of the characters to reveal the setting. Hong Kong in the 1930s and '40s was such an interesting time and I feel like I got to know the pace of life, the struggles for immigrants, whether Chinese or European, and the changes that took place as the Japanese took over during World War II.
Plot--Continuing the story of Pei as she leaves the insular life with her sisters working the silk is genius. I care about Pei and Ji Shen as well as the people who come into their lives. They face such hardship, but manage to take it in stride, remaining calm, centered and determined to persevere. The characters face such difficult situations due to the times and their social class but I still felt like there was always hope.
Characters--I love Tsukiyama's characters! Pei comes from nothing: a small village in rural China to the bustling city of Hong Kong and we are on that journey with her as she faces difficult times, good times, her loved ones dying and making new friends.
Writing--The only way I can think to describe Tsukiyama's writing is gentle. I feel calm when reading her books even though some of her characters are troubled. 

Kathleen K.
"Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams" by Susan Branch
Review from http://www.bookpeople.com/event/susan-branch-marthas-vineyard-isle-dreams
In the winter of 1982, long before she became the watercolor artist and author we know today, Susan Branch, 34-years-old and heartbroken from the sudden and unexpected end of her marriage in California, "ran away from home" to the Island of Martha's Vineyard hoping to gain perspective.

It was meant to be temporary, a three-month time-out from the daily grind of being broken up and miserable, but within days of her arrival, alone and not quite in her right mind, Susan "accidentally" bought a tiny one-bedroom cottage in the woods ~ which is how she discovered she was moving 3,000 miles away from everyone and everything she had known and loved.

Funny, observant, touching, and addictive (you are not going to want this book to end), based on the diaries she has kept all her life, Susan Branch relates her inspirational tale of lost love and self discovery, her search for roots, purpose, and destiny with laugh-out-loud honesty. A road map for overcoming loss, following your heart, and making dreams come true, charmingly hand-lettered and watercolored in Susan's inimitable style, there are diary excerpts, recipes, and hundreds of photographs. 


Ever Ready
YA Novel "Frozen" by Mary Casanova  
Frozen is a mix of historical fiction, coming-of-age and mystery, set in 1920s Minnesota. The setting, the characters and the story make for a haunting, lyrical story as Sadie Rose's past is gradually revealed through the return of her memories from childhood.

Dotted throughout the book there are also references to the early wilderness preservation movement, prohibition and the suffragette movement, all of which Sadie finds herself part of. Although the pacing of Frozen is quite slow, it is steady and allows the characters and their relationships to intimately develop.

I liked Sadie as a character - she was tenacious without being overbearing, curious and clever, and I really wanted her to find what she was looking for. The secondary characters, Hans and Aasta, Owen, Trinity play an important part in Sadie's story and give her the strength and courage to move forward in her life.


Ever Ready
"Raymie Nightingale" by Kate DiCamillo
review from http://www.ew.com/article/2015/09/21/kate-dicamillo-announcement-raymie-nightingale
Kate DiCamillo, the two-time Newbery Medal winning author of The Tale of Despereaux, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, and Because of Winn-Dixie newest book is Raymie Nightingale, a middle grade novel.

It centers on a spunky 10-year-old named Raymie Clarke, whose father has just run away with a local dental hygienist. Raymie realizes that it’s up to her to get him back, so she concocts a plan: She’ll win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then once her father sees her photo in the paper, he’ll come home. But can she deal with the pressures of baton-twirling and new friends like Louisiana Elefante, who has a background in show-biz, and Beverly Tapinski, who has her own plan to sabotage the entire contest.

Raymie and DiCamillo share a childhood memory: DiCamillo’s father also left her family in the mid-70s, while they were living in Central Florida. “I guess it is [autobiographical],” she says, “Although I wasn’t thinking that when I was doing it. I was more like, ‘Let me tell this story right.’ But when you’re done with something you think, ‘I have some distance, and I can start to see what I’m doing.’”


Cook's notes: And let's not forget food and a drink while enjoying your favorite read. 
Tequila Lime Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos and Ever Ready's Famous Margarita
Recipe adapted from cookierookie.com
Ingredients:
  • Lime Baked Tortilla Chips or use your favorite tortilla chips instead
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small strips
  • 1 packet taco seasoning  (need only 1-1/2 tsp. seasoning mix from packet)
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 TB. tequila
  • 1 TB. lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup White Queso (store-bought}
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 cup prepared pico de gallo or picante
  • 1 can Steamfresh Mexicorn, drained and patted dry with a paper towel 
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed, patted dry with a paper towel 
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Optional additional toppings: jalapenos,  refried beans, olives, or anything you love!
  • Garnish ideas: sour cream, avocado, guacamole, salsa, the list goes on and on!
Directions:
  • Preheat your oven to 350 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • In a large skillet, heat your oil over medium/high heat
  • Add the chicken into the skillet and toss in the tequila, 1 tsp. taco seasoning, and lime juice, Stir to combine. Cook the chicken until fully cooked; about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
  • Cover the baking sheet with chips single layer, slightly overlapping.
  • Arrange the chicken and onion over the chips.
  • Sprinkle with Mexican and drained black beans.  
  • Add spoonfuls of picante dip, drizzle the chips and chicken with the white queso, a little goes a long way. You don't want everything to get soggy.
  • Sprinkle everything with the shredded cheese
  • Optional top with cilantro.
  • Bake for approximately 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. You want the cheese fully melted and the chips starting to turn brown on the edges.
  • Remove from the oven and garnish with all your favorites: sour cream, guac, salsa, the works!

Margarita Cocktail
Cook's note:
I have saved my best Mexican recipe for last. 

The basic ration is 3 to 1 to 1/2 to 1/2 for one drink
This recipe makes three servings.
Ingredients:
9 shot glasses of plain ( no alcohol) margarita mix ( I like to use Jose Cuvero)
3 shot glasses of Tequila
1-1/2 shot glasses Cointreau
1-1/2 shot glasses Grand Marnier
1 tray of ice cubes

Directions:

In a blender crush one tray of ice cubes.
Add in rest of ingredients and blend till smooth.
Dip rim of glass in lime juice and then into salt, pour margarita  in glass.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tom Sawyer

It's June and Time to Jump into a Classic
I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge with
March "Little Prince"
http://sockfairies.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-reading-challenge.html
April "Wind in the Willows"
http://sockfairies.blogspot.com/2016/04/jump-into-childrens-classic-in-april.html

May "James and the Giant Peach" 
http://sockfairies.blogspot.com/2016/05/its-may-and-time-to-jump-into-classic.html



Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this idea.
My June pick "Tom Sawyer" more than hits the mark for reading a children's classic. 
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, Samuel L. Clemens went on to author several novels, including two major classics of American literature: “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. Twain died on April 21, 1910, in Reading, Connecticut. 
Writing grand tales about Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and the mighty Mississippi River, Mark Twain explored the American soul with wit, buoyancy, and a sharp eye for truth. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is the first of Mark Twain's novels to feature one of the best-loved characters in American fiction. Tom Sawyer, an orphan, lived with Aunt Polly and his siblings on the banks of the Mississippi River more than 100 years ago - during a time when slavery still existed and people thought you could cure warts by playing with dead cats. 
In this story the children seem to have a lot of freedom and it's interesting to see how they occupy themselves in the 1800's. For instance, Joe, Huck and Tom seem to have “The Merry Adventures  of Robin Hood” memorized. They run around the forest acting it out, each boy taking turns playing various parts. They also pretend to be pirates, hermits, explorers making lots of discoveries. There's also a fascination with animals (both alive and dead), sores and cuts, insects, knives and half-broken baubles on which great importance is placed. And Tom is always trying to show off for the cutest girl in school, Becky Thatcher. 

Twain humor and wit shines when he writes the famous episodes of Tom having to whitewash the fence and when he and Huck showed up at their own funeral. Drama prevailed when Tom and Huck discover a murder and the culprit's escape cause much tension and fear in the boys and when Becky and Tom are lost in the caves.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” epitomizes life in the Mississippi River towns in which Twain spent his own youth But beneath the innocence of childhood lie the inequities of adult reality—its emotions, superstitions, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.

Tom Sawyer isn't really a bad kid although he's always painted and remembered as a little troublemaker. But the truth is he has a strong conscience and a strong moral compass. He honorably steps up and takes a whipping at school to save Becky’s face, in another instance stands up and tells the truth in a situation in which he literally could be murdered for doing so, etc. Sure he basks in the fame and glory, and even some feminine gratitude he receives after these acts, but that's okay because most people wouldn't be brave enough to perform these acts in the first place.

In terms of reading, the book it's really not an easy read because of the many colloquial terms that Mark Twain used. I found myself shuffling between the text and the appendix to find out words and phrases being used that really were part of America during the 19th century. It did slow down my reading but at the end, it was all worth it. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a great read that has a bit of everything - treasure hunts, murder and romance. Each chapter is a unique adventure that fits into a larger story about the importance of friendship, loyalty, family and the idea of freedom.

It is interesting to note that the book I was reading had an editorial note forewarning the reader that the old fashioned style of punctuation and spelling and typeset were retained in order to convey to the flavor of the original work. And the publisher noted that portions of this work contained racial references and language that were part of the time period and environment written about that some modern readers might take offense. I would hope a parent or teacher would guide a child through the reading. It is definitely a middle school read and/or a YA novel. I see on the horizon another summer read
Check out this link for some fun facts about Mark Twain.




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Friday, June 24, 2016

A Summer Treat

Peach-Blueberry Almond Crisp
Fresh blueberries and peaches are covered with a sweet cinnamon crunchy crumble topping and baked to perfection! This dessert screams summer!
Cook's notes:For easier removal of peach skins place peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and run peaches under cold water. Remove skins.
Ingredients:
For the Filling:

  • 7 cups sliced peaches (about 7 large peaches)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 tsp. corn starch 
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • optional 2 TB. Peach Schnapps
  • 1-'1/2 cups blueberries

For the Topping:
  • 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 tsp. ground Saigon cinnamon 
  • 5 TB. chilled butter, cut into pieces 
  • 1 cup chopped Blue Diamond Honey Roasted Cinnamon Almonds or 1 cup crushed almonds mixed with 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • optional ice cream for serving 
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish or a 2 qt. baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine sliced peaches with the flour, sugar, corn starch, and peach schnapps if using and vanilla. Gently mix and let sit 10 minutes. 
  • In a separate large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until well combined and the brown sugar clumps are broken down. Add the butter pieces and mix in with your hands until you have a crumbly mixture. A food processor can be used for this step pulsing butter pieces in. Stir in chopped almonds.
  • Gently stir blueberries into peach mixture and use a slotted spoon to place filling in baking dish. 
  • Evenly sprinkle the oat topping over peaches and blueberry filling. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the crisp is bubbling. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and cool for 10 minutes before serving. 
Some last words... A scoop of vanilla ice cream would certainly elevate this dessert to rock star status. It was a perfect treat to celebrate John Ciardi's birthday June 24th (1916-1986). He was an American poet, translator and etymologist.
"How Does A Poem Mean" is Ciardi's most well-known work. This book was published in 1959 and details how to read, write and teach poetry. It is considered a standard text for college and high school poetry courses. Ciardi was a regular commentator on NPR, and an editor, poetry critic and columnist for Saturday Review for many years. While John Ciardi is primarily known as a poet his translation of Dante' s Divine Comedy was highly acclaimed. Ciardi's poetry is much like that of Walt Whitman and Vachel Lindsay. He sought to make poetry more accessible to all by clarity and immediacy.
The River is a Piece of Sky is from his first book of poems for children, "The Reason for the Pelican"published in 1959.

The River is a Piece of Sky
by John Ciardi

From the top of the bridge
The river below
is a piece of sky-
Until you throw
A penny in
Or a cockleshell
Or a pebble or two
Or a bicycle bell
Or a cobblestone
Or a fat man's cane-
And then you can see
It's a river again.

The difference you'll see
When you drop a penny;
The river has splashes,
The sky hasn't any.
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

It's Thursday-Fire Up The Grill

Just right-try these summer side dishes to serve at your next cookout or a potluck with your favorite grilled food. 
Nutty Asian Cabbage Salad
http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/nutty-asian-cabbage-with-plums/
Creamy Spinach Basil Salad
http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/creamy-spinach-basil-pasta-salad/
24 Hour Tex-Mex Salad
http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/salads/24-hour-tex-mex-salad
Sassy Baked Beans
http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/beans/sassy-baked-beans/
Old Fashioned Scalloped Corn 
http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/vegetables/old-fashioned-scalloped-corn

A Pinterest Find
for those who have some spare time  


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