Orzo with Asparagus and Lemon-herb Vinaigrette

Orzo with Asparagus and Lemon-herb VinaigretteWell, there my 27th birthday has come and gone. I am officially in my late twenties.

The week leading up to the big day (and I use that term loosely) was pretty normal, medicine and I hadn’t given much thought to my age or the coming weekend’s festivities. I was just moving through daily life as I always did.

The morning of my birthday, patient I woke up in a good mood. Hearing my husband’s voice say, “Happy birthday, honey!” before anything else was the best way to start my day! But as the day progressed, I found myself feeling a little like someone was tightening a ratchet around my neck, bit by bit, until I was completely panicked. I realized that my timeline to which I’d been basing my life’s moves to this point was in full motion (and this is where the universe begins laughing at my sad attempt to plan out my life), and this birthday marked my last bit of freedom B.K. – Before Kids.

After graduating college, my plan always was to be wildly successful in my career as a book publisher and journalist (didn’t quite happen and I ended up in marketing and PR), to marry a man who loves me unconditionally by 26 (totally happened), and to start a family, write a book and launch a gourmet food line by the time I’m 30 (haven’t even really started on those projects). Beyond that, I figure my life is not really my own for the next 20 years or so after the family bit comes along, so the plan picks up again after that.

Now that you know the embarrassing and incredibly ambitious game plan for my life, you understand why turning 27 became an issue. (Although, it’s not like I can resolve said issue. I can’t stop aging…) On my birthday, I felt like I was running out of time to do the things I “needed” to accomplish in life.

I knew I was totally overreacting, but it didn’t change the way I felt. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put pressure on ourselves to be a certain way or feel like we must have a plan for everything? Why do we need to do x, y and z to be successful? Is it not enough to live a good life and to be kind and hard working?

After my inner birthday battle (and it was a battle – it lasted for hours), I came to realize that we’re all just figuring it out as we go along. It’s okay to not know what’s coming up next. It’s okay that life hasn’t panned out exactly as you had imagined. (What fun would it be if your plan did come to fruition, anyway? Unless, of course, you had planned on inventing a cure for world hunger or something. That would rock.) To hell with the plan, and cheers to living life!

So, now that I’m a year older, I thought I’d make a simple yet sophisticated dish. This colorful and light Orzo with Asparagus and Lemon-herb Vinaigrette is like a [birthday] party in your mouth. Enjoy!

 

Orzo with Asparagus and Lemon-herb Vinaigrette

1 pound orzo

1 pound asparagus

2 red bell peppers, diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 cup kalamata olives, chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Fresh parsley

For the vinaigrette:

Juice of 1 large lemon

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

½ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

First, prepare the asparagus by removing the woody ends. Bend the asparagus spears until they break in a natural spot. Steam the asparagus for 2-3 minutes for medium spears, then immediately transfer them to an ice water bath to shock them and stop the cooking process. Once cooled, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal, and set aside.

Cook the orzo according to package instructions. While the orzo is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. Mix the lemon juice, mustard, honey and herbs together in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream and whisk constantly until well blended. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the orzo and allow to cool for a few minutes. In a large bowl, toss together the chopped asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives and thyme. Add the warm orzo and then add the feta cheese and toss again. Drizzle some of the Lemon-herb Vinaigrette over the orzo mixture and taste. Then adjust based on your desired flavor level. When ready to serve, sprinkle the orzo mixture with fresh parsley and enjoy.

A Honey Bee and a Fund for Jennie

Creamy Peanut Butter PieThe world has seemed a little incredibly off kilter lately – earthquakes in odd and unexpected locations, record high heat, people feeling like they’re out of time and out of money. The list is endless. But the most unexpected (and unfair) of all was the recent tragedy that fell upon fellow food blogger Jennifer Perillo. This influential, witty and talented woman lost her husband, Mikey, to a massive heart attack, and now she is left to pick up the pieces of their once idyllic life.

Naturally, I think about my dear Rick, who became my husband nearly one year ago in my parents’ back yard. It was an intimate setting with our closest family and friends. The weather was gorgeous, the flowers were still in bloom and the crickets seemed to be singing their songs just for us. It was perfect… idyllic.

Throughout our wedding, we used the honey bee as a symbol of the productive and fruitful life we are building together. For centuries, bees have been mythical symbols of love, wisdom, fertility and more. Honey bees are known for their hard work and perseverance – a friendly reminder that the “impossible” is attainable. In life, as in marriage, things get bumpy from time to time. We all go through “rough patches” in which we feel we’ll never see the light again. But we realize that, somehow, we will get through these tough spots.

A honey bee wedding favor

The repercussions of Mikey’s death are more than just raising her children alone – Jennie’s also faced with financial challenges. She just learned that she cannot collect widow’s benefits from Social Security because she earns above the national cap ($14,160) each year.

I urge all of you to read more about Jennie’s story and contribute to a Fund for Jennie, an outstanding show of love and support through Bloggers without Borders. You have the opportunity to donate to the fund and to bid on incredible auction items from generous food bloggers and many others wanting to help. Please give what you can – 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to Jennie.

To support Jennie and celebrate Mikey’s life, I’m following the lead of numerous food bloggers – I’m making Mikey’s favorite Creamy Peanut Butter Pie. *This recipe is directly from Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen.

Never forget the worker bee at your side who toils selflessly for the good of the hive. It’s for the good of this amazing food blogging community (our hive) that we pull together to support one of our own. You will get through this, Jennie, and we’re all here for you, sending you our love.

Love

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies

4 tablespoons butter, melted

4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

*Wedding photos courtesy of Jennifer Schumacher Photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Cinnamon Biscotti: A Recipe for Comfort

chocolate cinnamon biscottiLast week, cialis Rick and I found out that our neighbors’ dog, Sydney, had passed away. We were devastated – not only for the loss of an incredible dog, but also because, to us, this came as a surprise.

When we moved into the neighborhood last February, it took us a while to settle in and meet our neighbors. Rick and I would wave and smile at anyone in our neighborhood, but it wasn’t until early springtime (when the weather warmed up) that we actually began to connect with them. And Sydney and her “parents” made a lasting impression.

Our relationship with our closest neighbors reminds me of the show Home Improvement. (Ah, nostalgia…) Rick and I were constantly asking Chuck (Sydney’s dad) for advice on lawn care and making conversation over our back fence. Friendly smiles and countless laughs about our dogs were an everyday occasion. And Sydney would always greet us with an enthusiastic bark, a high-speed tail wag and a few whispers of please-pet-me-I’m-so-cute.

Sydney was my favorite dog in the neighborhood (besides our Linus, of course) and she was the bright spot of my evening and weekend yard work sessions. Every time I saw her, I would stop what I was doing, sit on the ground, take her precious face in my hands and tell what a good girl she was. (Chuck always patiently waited for me to get my pets and “lovins” in.) Sydney wasn’t young, by any means, but she seemed so full of life and that made me happy.

When we heard the sad, sad news about Sydney’s passing, I wanted to do something to comfort our neighbors. But nothing I thought of really felt right. A card just wasn’t enough, but flowers seemed inappropriate as well.

The truest way I know how to express my feelings and/or gratitude is through food (and I was certainly grateful for having known Sydney). I decided to make some chocolate cinnamon biscotti for Sydney’s parents. I figured that waking up without Sydney would be the roughest part of the day, and I wanted to make that time a little easier. Pairing the warm flavors of chocolate and cinnamon biscotti with my favorite Kona coffee, I hoped that this would be a recipe for comfort. Life without Sydney won’t be the same for our dear neighbors, but she will always live on in our hearts.

 

Chocolate Cinnamon BiscottiChocolate Cinnamon Biscotti

The New Complete Coffee Book, Sara Perry

(Makes 18-20 biscotti)

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

3 egg whites

1 to 2 teaspoons water, if needed

¼ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add the room temperature butter and mix until crumbly. Beat in 2 of the egg whites until a soft dough forms, about 1 minutes. (If the dough doesn’t come together, add 1 to 2 teaspoons water. Mine didn’t and I ended up adding the water.) Stir in the walnuts.

With lightly floured hands, gather the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into two 9-inch logs. Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly to a 2-inch width.

In a cup or small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg white until foamy. Brush the egg white over the logs and dust with the 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake logs until firm, about 35 minutes. Slide each log onto a wire rack to cool for 8 to 10 minutes.

(If you like your biscotti slightly chewy, disregard the next baking.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Transfer a log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice ½-inch-thick diagonal pieces. Place, cut-side down, on the baking sheet, and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining log. Store in a tightly covered container.

Cannellini Bean and Rosemary Spread {Vegetarian}

Cannellini Bean and Rosemary SpreadI’m sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car, erectile trying to read a book. It’s not a very big book, it’s not a complicated book, but I’m not sure what it’s saying. I’m getting frustrated at myself for not knowing the words and the perfectionist in me kicks into overdrive.

My parents pull into the garage and I know my time is up. I have failed to read the book before we reached home (I’m quite the goal setter). “I’ll help you,” says a kind, soft voice next to me. For the next 30 minutes, I sit in the backseat of the car, parked in the garage, while my older sister helps me figure out the words I thought were impossible to learn.

I was five years old and I’m still reminded of that moment when I think of my sister. I’m not even sure if she remembers it. But that’s who she is – giving, thoughtful, inspiring and loving – without even realizing it.

Growing up, I was the typical little sister. I was always snooping through her things, trying on her clothes when she wasn’t looking, copying her every move and eavesdropping on her phone calls. I couldn’t stand her, I couldn’t stand how cool she was, but I loved her more than anything and wanted to be just like her. I still do sometimes.

Now that we’re both “grown,” as my mom says, I have a respect for her that I didn’t know when I was younger. I look back at our childhood (which wasn’t always peachy: hair pulling, door slamming, name calling, death threats – you know, the norm) and think of all of the times she was there for me when she certainly didn’t have to be. My sister is my best friend, but that doesn’t even begin to describe it, nor does that label give justice to the deep-running vein of our relationship.

There are a billion memories I could share with you about my sister, a billion laughs, a billion blowups, a billion tear-jerking moments that have shaped who I am. But those I’ll save for another time… or maybe I’ll just keep them to myself, as a sacred piece of my heart.

One thing I will share though is our great love for all things Sheryl Crow (we’ve been so close to her on stage that we could literally lick her boots if we wanted to… but who would want to do that?) which includes her new cookbook, If It Makes You Healthy. Written and developed with her chef, Chuck White, the book is full of clean, healthy, simple recipes that use mostly seasonal ingredients.

I like my people like I like my food: the ingredients’ true flavors shine through, there’s no fuss and no drama involved in the cooking process and quality ingredients are a recipe for a fantastic meal. Just as I know what to expect from the recipes in Sheryl’s cookbook, I know what to expect from my sister. I know I can count on her. I know that she carries my heart with care. I know that she is one in a million. And I love her for that, more than she will ever know.

Sisters

My sister and me on our way to our second Sheryl Crow concert!

 

Cannellini Bean and Rosemary Spread

*Taken from If It Makes You Healthy, minimally changed

2 cans cannellini beans

Juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 large garlic clove

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

In a food processor, combine beans, lemon juice, rosemary, paprika and garlic. Mix until well blended and all ingredients have been pureed.

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture becomes smooth and reaches an easily spreadable consistency.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with toasted bread or pita chips.

Cannellini Bean and Rosemary Spread

Gluten-free Toasted Coc-Oat-Nut Energy Squares

Gluten-free energy squaresI used to work at Starbucks. I love (L.O.V.E.) coffee and thought it would be a great place to work. And quite honestly, viagra it was (for the short time I was there). But I had absolutely no idea how tiring it is to make lattes all day and to smile in the faces of customers, treatment even when you don’t feel like it or when they don’t deserve it.

One of my coworkers (and one of the most adorable people I’ve ever met) would be so exhausted that she would take a nap on the floor of the break room, snuggled under a green apron – a nap during her 10-minute break. Now keep in mind that this is at Starbucks, with a floor covered in coffee grounds and flavored syrups. Also keep in mind that she so desperately wanted a nap that she would sleep on that floor for less than 10 minutes. What a picture… (love her determination!).

We’ve all been there – maybe not on a Starbucks break room floor – exhausted and willing to do anything to get a little bit of energy. And that’s why I developed these Gluten-free Toasted Coc-Oat-Nut Energy Squares. Full of energy-boosting carbs and made with all-natural ingredients, these little squares will give you a burst of energy when you need it most. Plus, they’re gluten free and pack a punch of antioxidants. Go get ‘em, tiger!

 

Gluten-free Toasted Coc-Oat-Nut Energy SquaresGluten-free energy squares

4 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1 ½ cups shredded coconut

2/3 cup dried cherries

½ cup honey

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 bag 60% cacao dark chocolate chips, melted

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toast the oats and coconut (together) and be sure to watch them – they will burn easily!

Once the oats and coconut have reached a golden brown, remove them from the oven and sprinkle the cinnamon and cherries on top of the oat mixture. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

In a food processor, combine the oat mixture with the honey and blend until well mixed. Spread out the mixture in an 8×8 baking dish, cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for about one hour.

In the meantime, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave, heating then stirring every 30 seconds until melted (or you could heat the chocolate in a double boiler).

When the oat mixture is chilled, cut into 1- to 2-inch squares and then dip the bottom of each square in the melted chocolate (and drizzle some chocolate over the tops for decoration, if you’d like). Place chocolate covered squares on a lined baking sheet to cool and harden. (When you’re ready to eat them, I suggest taking the chill off for a few minutes before biting into them.)

*If you are a chocoholic, dip each square, in its entirety, into the pool of chocolate, covering every last millimeter. If you want to use less chocolate (why would anyone want to do that?!), you could toss 1/3-1/2 of the bag of chocolate into the food processor with the other ingredients.

Chilled Strawberry-Avocado Soup

Chilled Strawberry-Avocado Soup“Honey, online what are you thinking about?” asked my dear and loving husband. I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a big, beautiful bowl of strawberries. “Strawberries,” I said with a smile. “It’s amazing to me how this one little fruit can bring me so much joy.” And I wasn’t kidding…

Strawberries are my favorite fruit. Apparently, they always have been, even before I was born. My mom says I would celebrate every time she ate strawberries, kicking like crazy and doing my own little happy dance. I still feel that way about this wonder fruit today. There’s just nothing like it.

Biting into a strawberry is like acing a test. There is a sense of satisfaction, excitement and happiness as the juice from that berry drips into your mouth and coats your tongue. Rolling the rough seeds between your fingers as your teeth find the perfect bite is the most satisfying feeling because you know what you’re about to do (devour it, obviously).

I probably go through a pint or two of strawberries every week (maybe more… no judgment), so I’m always thinking of ways to use them – especially during the summer. Here is a sweet and savory Chilled Strawberry-Avocado Soup that’s perfect for a summer appetizer or even a great addition to a light summer lunch.

 

Chilled Strawberry-Avocado SoupChilled Strawberry-Avocado Soup

(Dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian)

Makes 4-6 servings

1 pint strawberries

1 avocado

½ seedless cucumber, chopped

Juice of 2 limes

2/3 cup Honey Simple Syrup (equal parts honey and water, brought to a boil, then cooled)

5-7 small basil leaves

Pinch of salt

Hull the strawberries and toss them into a food processor. Blend until they’re smooth. Then add the avocado, cucumber, lime juice, honey simple syrup and basil. Blend again, until smooth. Add a pinch of salt, give the food processor another whirl and give the soup a taste. (I recommend tasting the flavor as you add the ingredients. I like the strawberry flavor to be the most prominent, but you may prefer the refreshing cucumber. Play with it!)

When the soup is flavored to your liking, pour it into a clean bowl and chill it in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight. (The basil will add more flavor the longer the soup is chilled.) Serve and enjoy!

Strawberry Lemonade with Honey Simple Syrup

Strawberry LemonadeIt’s hot. Really, really hot.

I feel like I’m in a time warp that’s taking me back to my childhood. I grew up and spent a good majority of my life in Oklahoma – the land of red dirt and wide open prairie. Summers were excruciatingly hot and humid, but back then I loved it.

I remember that idyllic time when everything was simple and playful. Watching lightening bugs (fireflies) was a nightly activity and I could spend hours singing at the top of my lungs while swinging on my swing set in the back yard. I still know the feeling of that hot summer sun on my face – it feels totally different now.

One thing I loved about Oklahoma was the sky. The sky seemed bigger then, more open and full of wonder. Blue skies were bluer and the truth-telling clouds were fluffier and more defined into shapes that could take your mind to far off places. The stars burned brighter in an Oklahoman sky and you could never keep count of the billions upon billions of them that you could actually see. I can’t even tell you how many of my memories involve that sky.

This (newfound) love for Oklahoma may stem from the realization that my childhood was incredibly peaceful. My biggest worry was me. Not traffic. Not money. Not even what to wear each day. When was the last time any of us had that? I didn’t know how special it was then, but now I appreciate every second I spent there.

The rustling shimmer of wheat fields, the faint smell of cow manure, the pulsing hum of locusts all day, everyday – all of this will forever hold a place in my heart.

In lieu of taking you to Oklahoma to experience the summers there for yourself, I’m bringing you a lemonade recipe. Four ingredients make up this refreshing summer beverage. It’s almost as simple and sweet as an Oklahoma summer.

 

Strawberry Lemonade with Honey Simple SyrupStrawberry Lemonade

½ cup honey + ½ cup water

Juice of 8 lemons (about 1 cup)

1 pint of strawberries

5 cups water

First, make the honey simple syrup by combining ½ cup honey and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Next, juice the lemons. Ideally, you’ll end up with about 1 cup of lemon juice.

Then hull the strawberries, cut them in half and toss them in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, then pour the pureed strawberries through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.

Combine the lemon juice, strawberry puree, 5 cups water and ½ cup of the honey simple syrup in a pitcher and stir well. Adjust the sweetness based on your taste. Chill and serve.

Chipotle Bean Burritos (Vegetarian)

Chipotle Bean BurritoI love meat. Sometimes I just need a big, juicy steak with a pat of garlic butter on top. But most of the time, I don’t enjoy cooking meat (it’s really the raw part I don’t much care for)… so we don’t eat a whole lot of it (my poor husband!).

Growing up, some sort of meat was served for dinner every night. It was the focal point of the dinner plate. So, I grew up thinking that a meal wasn’t a real meal without meat. Even today, at this very moment as I share this recipe with you, I almost feel guilty about not including meat (ground turkey would be pretty tasty in this…).

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture of this dish, which was inspired by an old Cooking Light magazine article. I made a few tweaks to the recipe and really didn’t miss the meat at all (for shame!).

So, next weekend when you’re wondering what on earth you’re going to fix for Meatless Monday, try this recipe out – it takes 15 minutes to make, it’s vegetarian and practically guilt-free.

 

Chipotle Bean Burritos (Vegetarian)

*Inspired by Cooking Light

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon ground red chipotle

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup water

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained

1 (15 oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained

1 (4 oz.) can green chilies

¼ cup chipotle salsa

Juice of 1 lime

4 reduced-fat flour tortillas

Toppings:

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

3 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped

1 avocado, sliced

Cilantro

Shredded cheese

Sour cream

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pan to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the ground red chipotle and salt. Then add the water, beans and green chilies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

While bean mixture is simmering, prepare tomatoes, lettuce, green onions and avocado.

When bean mixture is done, use a wooden spoon to mash the beans just a bit. Then stir in the salsa and lime juice.

Assemble the burritos with your desired toppings, give one more squeeze of lime and a touch of cilantro to the filling before rolling it up, and enjoy!

Honey Lemon Shortbread with Lemon Thyme Ice Cream

Honey Lemon Shortbread with Lemon Thyme Ice CreamHonestly, I can’t stand ice cream sandwiches. I think a wet cookie is absolutely repulsive. I don’t even like dipping my cookies in milk. So, naturally, I would bring to you an ice cream sandwich recipe today… naturally. But this is a different kind of ice cream sandwich – different cookie, different ice cream. And we’re in the thick of summer, after all – the best time for ice cream.

I actually dreamed up this recipe while I was out in my garden pruning (yes, pruning) my unruly lemon thyme. She had become so lush and beautiful, but the pot hath overflowed! I thought, what could I possibly do with all of this lemon thyme? I could make ice cream, of course! In a previous post I made Bay Leaf Ice Cream, which was a hit among family and friends. So, I decided to give this “herbal” ice cream kick another go.

I chose the Honey Lemon Shortbread cookie for the sandwich because I thought the texture of the cookie would hold up well against my fear for “the sog,” as I like to call it. And since I used honey in this recipe, the end result is a much more moist shortbread cookie.

This post is kind of a two-for-one special because the ice cream and the cookie are both good as stand alone desserts. But when paired together, it’s the best ever ice cream sandwich! Seriously. Enjoy!

 

Honey Lemon Shortbread with Lemon Thyme Ice Cream 

Honey Lemon Shortbread CookiesHoney Lemon Shortbread Cookies

1 ½ cups flour

¼ cup superfine sugar

1 stick + 3 tablespoons butter (softened)

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift the dry ingredients together and set them aside. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the dry ingredients, honey and lemon zest. Mix until just combined. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly at this point.

Form the dough into a ball and divide it in half. (It’s easier to work with this amount at a time.) Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. (The honey will turn this dough into a softer, cookie-like consistency, but the flour from dusting turns it back into more of a shortbread-type cookie.) Roll out dough to a 1/4 – 1/2 inch thickness, then cut as desired and prick the tops with a fork. (I used a 2 1/2-inch scalloped round. You could also roll the dough into a log and slice the cookies to the desired thickness.) Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 20-25 minutes or until pale golden.

 

Lemon Thyme Ice creamLemon Thyme Ice Cream

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

8-10 sprigs lemon thyme

3 eggs

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon thyme leaves

Heat the milk, cream and sprigs of lemon thyme in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Watch this mixture carefully so it doesn’t scorch. Bring it up to a low boil and remove from heat. Cover, and allow the sprigs to steep in the hot milk mixture for 20 minutes.

In a large, non-reactive mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and cornstarch, whisking together until thoroughly blended.

When the lemon thyme sprigs are finished steeping, remove them from the milk. Slowly and carefully temper the eggs by pouring in the milk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until all has been incorporated into the egg mixture. (If the eggs scramble at this point, run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

Return the custard base to the saucepan and set over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be sure to make contact with the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching or scrambling the eggs. Heat custard until it thickens (coats the back of a spoon) and just begins to bubble. Remove from heat immediately. Stir in vanilla bean paste.

Pour custard into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in fresh lemon thyme leaves. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes, then refrigerate the custard 3 hours or overnight (preferable).

When you’re ready to churn the custard (after freezing the ice cream bowl), follow the instructions for your ice cream maker. (Typically, you will have to churn the custard for 20-30 minutes for this amount.) Pop it back in the freezer for a couple of hours before serving.

How to assemble The Best Ever Ice Cream Sandwich:

Make sure your ice cream has hardened completely. If it is still pretty soft, you will have a major mess on your hands. Take about 1/3 cup of the ice cream and spread on the bottom cookie. Then top with the other cookie and enjoy!

 

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and Spaghetti

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and SpaghettiAh, medical the power of a tweet! In a matter of seconds, viagra buy you can find a wealth of information on any subject just by sending a tweet or searching Twitter’s recent activity. It’s amazing how instant gratification just got a little more… instantaneous.

Case in point: Most of my meals consist of potatoes, breads, rice, pasta… you get the idea. I can’t help it. I love starch. So, when I decided to try this new low-carb diet, I was at a loss. My culinary creativity was stunted (must have been the lack of sugar in my system) and all I could think about was how much I wanted a greasy pizza and chocolate cake.

So, I tweeted (panicked) about needing low-carb dinner suggestions – and quick, before I gave into my cravings and my diet became another one for the books. Instantly, I got terrific suggestions from my fellow tweeters, and one in particular caught my attention: Dreamfields’ low-carb pasta. Uhm, hello? Low-carb pasta? I think the best of both worlds just emerged in my very own Twitter feed.

Honestly, I was a little skeptical about how this low-carb pasta was going to taste. Would it be gummy and have a strange texture? Would it have off-putting flavors to compensate for the lack of carbohydrates? Not. At. All. I LOVED everything about this no-guilt pasta!

To top it all off, this meal comes together in 15 minutes – seriously. It’s a perfect, delicious, feels-like-I’m-having-a-gourmet-meal, quick fix (save) for those not-so-friendly, ruin-your-diet cravings. (Whew!)

*A big thank you to my dear friend @MLBee and Dreamfields for sending me the delicious pasta. I don’t normally endorse specific products because everyone’s tastes are different, but this is truly an exceptional product. Try it out!

 

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and Spaghetti

1 package Dreamfields spaghetti

½ bag frozen shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined

1 recipe cilantro pesto (below)

½ lemon

Cilantro and lemon slices for garnish

Thaw the frozen shrimp and set aside. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, then drain when cooked. While the pasta is still piping hot, add the shrimp and toss. (This will warm the shrimp.) Add the cilantro pesto (as much as you’d like – I use the entire bowl.) and toss to coat the pasta and shrimp evenly. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta and garnish with cilantro and a fresh lemon slice.

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and Spaghetti

Cilantro Pesto

1 cup cilantro, packed

1 large garlic clove

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. Then, with the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture is well-blended and at a smooth consistency. Adjust the ingredient amounts to suit your tastes. (That’s the great thing about pesto – you don’t really need to measure anything; just taste it along the way and adjust as needed.)