strawberries with balsamic vinegar

So we’ve been away for a little while.  Two months, to be exact.  Tending to other things.  Our hearts, our souls, our peace-of-mind, our new (to us) cottage in Northern Michigan where we’ll happily watch the weather in the desert on our smartphones and say, “Oh, how good it is to be here in Northern Michigan.”

With two months of projects, including a white picket fence, I’ve been otherwise occupied with gardening, and beach walks and campfires.  The simple pleasures of life.  With that said, and with summer berries in abundance, I bring you another simple pleasure.  Some of the best and most simple pleasures of summer: strawberries and balsamic.  And vanilla ice cream.  Moomers, of course.

This is so easy to make and is so incredibly delicious, you’ll never want to put anything else on your vanilla ice cream, again.  Guaranteed.  Enjoy!!

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balsamic@zouptonuts

 

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar (recipe courtesy Traverse Magazine, June 2012)

 Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring vinegar, granulated sugar and lemon juice to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Simmer until syrup is reduced by half. Cool.
  3. Toss berries and brown sugar in a bowl.
  4. Pour vinegar syrup over berries, add fresh black pepper to taste.
  5. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

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sauced©zouptonuts

 

***Cook’s Notes:  Use the very best balsamic vinegar you can afford…which is true no matter what you’re making.

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baked s’mores – not just for the campfire

Kat and I had a girl’s night last night while Daddy-O was at the Stanford/ASU game.  We baked homemade mac/cheese (her all-time favorite meal) and settled on the animated version of A Christmas Carol for after dinner entertainment.

But what of dessert?

Ice cream?  Too cold.

Popcorn?  Too last Friday night.

Baked S’mores?  Why, yes, please and thank you!

These are pretty much a no-brainer.  You don’t really need a recipe.  Just keep your eyes on the s’mores at all times lest they quickly turn to ash under the broiler.

©zouptonuts

©zouptonuts

Baked S’mores

Ingredients:

  • Graham Crackers
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate pieces (Hershey, Dove, you choose)
  • Parchment paper for easy clean-up

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat broiler to 500° F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Break crackers in half, placing one half on baking sheet and reserve other half to top your S’more.  (Or, bake both sides and eat them open-faced.)  Place one marshmallow on each cracker.  Heat under broiler until tops of marshmallows are golden brown.  Turn off oven and remove pan.
  3. Top melted marshmallow with the chocolate pieces of your choice.  For these I used dark chocolate Dove candies.
  4. Slide pan back in the oven for 25 -30 seconds, or until chocolate starts to melt.
  5. Remove and top with remaining graham cracker halves to complete your S’mores.
  6. Indulge!

©zouptonuts

©zouptonuts

pumpkin chocolate chip squares

So, yesterday I spent too much time reading news and scanning the Twitter feed re: the current state of affairs in Washington D.C.  I’m a fiscal conservative.  Borrowing money to pay your bills is ludicrous.  You wouldn’t run your household budget that way, so why is it ok for the government to spend like a passel of reckless teenagers with a stolen ATM card??  (I’d refer you to the recent glitch in the welfare EBT system in which recipients of government-funded, i.e., my tax dollars, debit cards went on a spending spree…knowing full well their cards did NOT have balances to support their spending).  Get it?

Well, enough of that.  After an overload of (more) bad news out of our nation’s capital, I shut down (ha ha…no pun intended) the internet and headed to the kitchen to bake.  With ingredients I bought with hard-earned money contained within our monthly household budget.  Get it?

Oh, never mind.  Just bake these.  They’re yummy and perfect for fall – pumpkin, pumpkin spice, vanilla, and chocolate.  Good stuff.  Good stuff.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 Tbsp pumpkin-pie spice*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5/8 cup sugar (weighed on a kitchen scale = .625 ounces)
  • 1/2 large egg (approx 1 Tbsp and 1 1/2 tsp)**
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips (I used a combination of white and semi-sweet)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray bottom of 8 x 8 baking pan with Pam Non-Stick Baking Spray
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Approximately 30 – 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

*Pumpkin Pie Spice is easy to make at home:  Combine 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

**I halved this recipe which created the dilemma of halving an egg.  A typical large egg contains about 2 Tbsp egg white and 1 Tbsp yolk.  So, to half the egg, you’ll need 1 1/2 Tbsp of whipped egg (1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp).

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***Baker’s Notes:  First, the original recipe called for chocolate chips.  I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate, but I had a partial bag I wanted to use up, so I divided the 6 ounces into half white chocolate, half semi-sweet.  The end result?  Perfect way to eat white chocolate.  You can’t even really taste the difference.  Secondly, because I halved the recipe, I ended up baking in an 8 x 8 pan rather than the 9 x 13.  Watch the baking time.  I pulled them the first time at 30 minutes, but quickly reconsidered because they’re much thicker.  Last, the one thing I might add to give this recipe a little more punch (not that they’re not delicious), is cayenne pepper.  Heat and chocolate and pumpkin.  Triple threat!!

four fruit oatmeal crumble bars

I haven’t baked for a while, in some small part because 2/3 of the house has been down with the creeping crud.  I generally prefer not to hack and cough all over my goodies even if they’re going to bake at 350° for 40 minutes.  Yeah, that’s just gross!  So I’ve been out of the kitchen for a couple of weeks.  Good man that he is, hubs has been picking up the slack at meal time, but he’s not about to photograph it – even though last night he put together an amazingly good Shrimp Scampi….garlic heaven, people.  Garlic. Heaven!!!

Of course, this mandatory time off has forced allowed me to spend an awful lot of time perusing recipes on the interwebs.  That’s what laptops and iPads are for, right?  Just because you feel like death-warmed-over doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make yourself feel better by indulging in some foodie fantasy.  I might not have been capable of much else, but I could prop myself up on my pillow and imagine what I’d cook/bake if I ever stopped feeling like death-warmed-over.

This recipe caught my eye because it was so easy and so adaptable.  The original recipe calls for strawberry preserves, but a four fruit preserve made up of  cherries, strawberries, red currants, and raspberries sounded particularly delicious when I was picking up some other ingredients at the grocery store.  If you’re moved by a certain fruit preserve, have at it.  If I can find some pear preserves, that has the makings of a good combination, as well.

These fruit crumble bars are easy to assemble and make great school or after-school snacks for the kids, too.  Enjoy!!

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Strawberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars (recipe courtesy The Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 stick cold butter, unsalted, cut into pieces
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cup Oats (quick or regular)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jar (10 To 12 Ounce) strawberry preserves (or the preserve of your choice)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 or 8 x 10 baking dish.

Mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle half the mixture into the pan and pat lightly to pack it a little tight. Spoon strawberry preserves evenly over the surface, then use a dinner knife to carefully spread it around. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly again.

Bake until light golden brown on top, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan.

When cool, cut into squares and serve.

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Baker’s Notes:  I used regular rolled oats in the recipe.  The original recipe did mention slight differences in texture based on whether you use regular or quick cooking oats.  The regular rolled oats result in a crisper bottom crust and more crunchiness.  I think the quick cooking oats would result in a softer, chewier cookie.  Again, like the preserves, it’s all personal preference.