Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blueberry Quick Bread

A great quick bread recipe is a must have in any respectable baker’s arsenal. Even beginner bakers can succeed at impressing their friends and family with quick bread. Quick bread recipes are usually mixed in a bowl with a spoon, as opposed to requiring a stand mixer and they are extremely adaptable. You can use whatever fruits you have on hand or adapt to the preferences of your family.

To learn more about these Blueberry Quick Bread, head over to Cooking New England for the full post and recipe.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Peppermint Fudge Brownies

Does anyone else remember those York Peppermint Patty commercials from when we were younger? Where people would "feel the sensation" during random activities?

I've been feeling the sensation for the past couple of weeks thanks to some mini York Peppermint Patties that I've been storing in the fridge. They have been really hitting the spot as the temperature increases in Boston.

When I was brainstorming ideas of what to bring to our friends for a cookout last week, I reached into the fridge to grab one of these cool minty treats and it hit me. Brownies with York Peppermint Patties had to be an amazing treat.

So I whipped up a batch of my favorite brownies, and added a layer of York Peppermint Patties in the middle. I packed as many of those little York Peppermint Patties into the pan as I could. The resulting brownie was minty, fudgey, and indulgent. They were a big hit at the cookout and taste even better slightly chilled.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Frosted Strawberry Squares

Everyone is talking about the weather this summer. With record-breaking days more often then not, it’s hard NOT to talk about the weather. I remember the first summer I moved to Boston. Coming from the Midwest, where central air is the norm, I was shocked to find that most apartments didn’t have air conditioning at all.

To learn more about these Frosted Strawberry Squares, head over to Cooking New England for the full post and recipe.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Roasted Cherry Brownie Cheesecake

I have a confession to make. While I love almost all fruits and veggies, there are just some fruits I CANNOT eat raw. Fruits that have a thin skin covering their flesh. Think blueberries, grapes, and cherries. Unlike Hubby, who can eat blueberries until his hands and mouth are literally blue, I just can't do it. The texture really grosses me out.

Just because I don't eat these fruit raw, doesn't mean I don't love baking with them. As evidenced by the plethera of blueberry recipes I've already posted, I clearly enjoy the flavors these fruits have to offer.

Cherries are a new food for me. Since I don't eat them raw, and Hubby doesn't crave them year-round, we just never buy them. On our recent strawberry picking adventure, the farm also had cherry picking available. The cherries looked amazingly juicy and full of flavor. We didn't end up picking any, but I've been seeing tons of cherry recipes popping up on the internet recently.

Then I was at the store and cherries were on sale for a great price. On a whim, I stuck a bag in my cart and brought some home. Hubby was shocked and instantly started snacking on them, claiming he was taste testing them to make sure they were safe for consumption.

Before Hubby ate his way through the whole bag, I set off to find something to make with my impulse buy. There were quite a few recipes out there that caught my eye. I decided to combine this recipe for a Cherry Brownie Cheesecake and this recipe for Roasted Cherry Brownies into one.

I used my Go-To Brownie Recipe for the brownie layer. Instead of using canned cherry pie filling, I used roasted cherries in between the brownie and cheesecake layers, and more on top. I figure if I'm going to heat up the oven to 450 on a hot summer day, I might as well roast a ton of cherries at once.

Hubby and I agreed that this cheesecake was a great way to use up this bag of cherries. We also agreed that I need to buy cherries more often to bake something with them. Roasting fruit gives it a deeper, more sophisticated flavor profile. And who can beat the combination of brownies, cheesecake, and cherry?

Since I don't have a cherry pitter, I just used a sturdy plastic straw to remove the pits of the cherries. It did take a bit of time to stem, pit, and chop a pound and a half of cherries, but it's definitely worth it. If you're in a hurry, you could definitely use brownie mix and store-bought whipped chream instead of making everything from scratch.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Cheesecake Bars and Raspberry Almond Coconut Breakfast Quinoa
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Almond Cake with Lemon Drizzle
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Goat Cheese Potato Salad
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

I am submitting this for this month's What's Baking, hosted by Jaida of Sweet Beginnings. This month's theme is Summer Fruit!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Europe Trip Recap - Belgium

After spending two nights in The Netherlands, we were excited to take a train to Belgium. Going in to this trip, I was most excited about our time in Belgium. They are famous for a few of my favorite foods - beer, chocolate, and fries!

To kick things off, we had to take three trains to get the Bruges due to some construction on tracks somewhere, but we enjoyed our time relaxing and reading. We also enjoyed talking to other train-riders throughout the day. We met a girl from Canada who was one month into a three month European trip by herself.

The amazing train station in Antwerp

Windmill in Bruges

Along the way, we had about 30 minutes in the Antwerp train station which was a really cool looking station. Once we made it to Bruges, we took a bus from the train station to the center of town. After a 10 minute walk, we checked in to our B&B. The B&B (B&B Eleven) we stayed at in Bruges was our favorite hotel of the entire trip.

View from our room during sunset in Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

The owner of the B&B got us set up with the bikes that we had for our time there. We rode around the ring of Bruges, saw some windmills, swans, and just enjoyed riding around the cobblestone roads through Bruges.

Belgium beers!

Belgium waffle with strawberries and chocolate

The next day we headed into Bruges on our bikes. We went on a brewery tour that included amazing views of the city. After enjoying our free Bruges Zot beer, we walked around some and enjoyed Belgium waffles before heading over to the Frites Museum. Yea,... we should have listened to Rick Steves on that one. Definitely not worth the price of admission.

Next up, we tried to climb the stairs to the top of the bell tower. I say tried because about 2/3 of the way up, I got all claustrophobic and we decided to turn back. After enjoying some chocolates and a nap in the hammock at our B&B, we enjoyed an amazing dinner, including Flemish beef stew for me. This is another food experience I plan to recreate at home this fall.
Cemetery in Damme

Bike path in Belgium country-side

After a day of enjoying all sorts of Belgium foods the day before, we woke up the next morning with a plan to hit the road. We grabbed our bikes and headed out of town to Damme along tree lined canals. After Damme, we headed to Sluis where we enjoyed lunch and Hubby had his Belgium mussels. We knew we wanted to head up to the North Sea, so we grabbed a bike map and hit the road again.

Putting my toes in the North Sea

Belgium country-side

The bike trail system in Belgium was amazing. Intersections are labeled with a number. When you're on the trail, it will tell you which way you to go to get to your intersection. So by stringing together a series of intersections, you'll find your way. Once we made it to the North Sea, we enjoyed the beach and getting our feet wet. As we were riding around the Belgium countryside, we saw more cows than I've ever seen in my time in the Midwest. We ended up clocking about 60 km on our bike that day.

Windmill on way back to Bruges

Chocolates from The Chocolate Line in Bruges

Our last day in Belgium was quite sad. We had enjoyed ourselves so much in Bruges that we just weren't ready to leave. Hubby and I both agreed that the day in the Belgium countryside was one of our favorites of the entire trip. We got up and checked out of our B&B before catching a train to Brussels, but first we went to check out the Basilica of the Holy Blood and the Church of Our Lady. Both were quite impressive. We only had one night in Brussels and it was pretty forgettable. It was grey and rainy and we just weren't much in the mood to be out exploring Brussels.

Inside the Church of Our Lady

Chimay label in Brussels that made us laugh

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Balsamic Basil Strawberry Shortcake

It's official. This summer, I'm obsessed with strawberries. Way more obsessed then usual. After going strawberry picking a couple weeks ago, I thought my craving for fresh sweet strawberries had passed.

But then, this weekend I was up in NH visiting a friend. We went to a farmer's market in nearby VT and I saw these beauties sitting there. They called out to me. I couldn't resist.

And instead of being reasonable, I decided to just go ahead an buy 8 qts of strawberries. Since Hubby and I both enjoy snacking on fresh strawberries, I knew it wouldn't be an issue to have so many super-ripe berries in our house.

I also decided this would be a great opportunity for me to redeem myself with Hubby. You see, when we went strawberry picking, I asked him what he wanted me to bake. He immediately replied "Shortcake".

I then proceeded to ignore his request and made this awesome Fresh Strawberry Pie. Sure, he enjoyed it, but it wasn't shortcake and he was giving me crap all week about asking what he wanted then just making something else.

So I decided on shortcake. I just needed a recipe. I sat down with a bunch of my favorite cookbooks to look for inspiration. When I saw Joanne Chang's version, something spoke to me. I think it was the balsamic vinegar.

I decided to add basil because I know it pairs well with strawberries and balsamic. We shared the shortcake with some friends and everyone agreed that it was a great way to highlight the tiny fresh berries.

In fact, we all enjoyed the berries so much that we ate them all slopped over only 4 of the 8 biscuits. So the next night, I sliced more berries, macerated them with some balsamic and basil, and had friends over again to enjoy the rest of the Balsamic Basil Strawberry Shortcake. I recommend you do the same while you can still get your hands on strawberries!

I also took a picture of my new favorite kitchen gadget - my cream whipper - because I got quite a few questions about it when I mentioned it last time. Once you fill it with heavy cream, you can keep it in your fridge for up to two weeks and have freshly whipped cream in seconds. It's dangerously awesome.

One last thing - definitely double the strawberries and whipped cream in this recipe. I've typed it up below with the quantities I used, and we definitely piled the toppings on high. Either that or cut the shortcake ingredients in half to only make 4 biscuits.

One Year Ago: Butterbeer Recipe and More Harry Potter Cupcakes (Including Golden Snitch Cupcakes)
Two Years Ago: Osso Bucco Style Chicken
Three Years Ago: Chipster Topped Brownies
Four Years Ago: Red, White, and Blue No-Bake Frozen Cupcakes and Rum Punch Cupcakes

Monday, July 9, 2012

Spiced Meat Rub

When I posted this Spice Rubbed Chicken a couple months ago, I am not sure that I emphasized how much we love this chicken. And the rub. It's a perfect combination of sweet and spice.

I mix up this rub in large quantities and keep it in my pantry. I might even give it as gifts this holiday season (shhh, it's our little secret!) I have even expanded the proteins that I use this rub on. It goes amazingly well with pork and I'd like to try it on tofu as well.

I just wish we had a grill so I could taste the awesomeness of this rub and meat that's been cooked on a grill...

One Year Ago: Golden Snitch Cake Pops
Two Years Ago: Chicken Gyros and French Silk Pie
Three Years Ago: Square Cake Balls and Buttermilk Cupcakes with Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Four Years Ago: Monster Cookies

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Europe Trip Recap - The Netherlands

Now that we've covered how to Pack Light for Europe, it's time to get to the good stuff! Our trip recaps!! I'm breaking these posts up by cities and will be spreading them over the next couple of weeks.

We started our trip in Amsterdam. We chose Amsterdam mostly because there are direct flights from Boston and it is close to the other places we wanted to go. On our red-eye to Amsterdam, we had a screaming baby on the flight. Not sleeping on the plane made us pretty tired the first day, but we were able to stay up until about 9pm which really helped us get ahead of the jetlag.

Strawberries at the Haarlem Market
There were tons of cute little alleys in Haarlem
We decided to stay in Haarlem because I had been doing research and it seemed like a cuter, more quaint town than Amsterdam itself. After landing at 8am, we took a bus straight to Haarlem and were able to check in to our hotel room. We actually laid down for about 30 minutes before getting up to head to the open-air market. We bought some fruit and bread to have a snack. We even ran in to someone who works at our company (big company, small world).

One of the canals in Haarlem
Canal in Haarlem
We both weren't overly impressed with Amsterdam. Parts of it were really cute, but the main drag was just really crowded and felt very Western. We did go to the Van Gogh museum which was awesome. Tip - buy your tickets online for the Van Gogh museum. They cost the same price and you can skip the long line outside. We tried to go to the Anne Frank house twice. Both times the line was insane. It was hot and we just weren't up for waiting, so we skipped it. As you can see, we had great weather the first two days of the trip. We just enjoyed walking around and doing a lot of people watching.

Canal in Haarlem
Block of restaurants near our hotel in Haarlem

We stayed in Haarlem for two nights. Just before bed the second night, I saw that Elina from Healthy and Sane posted a picture of herself in Dam Square. Turns out she was in Amsterdam that same day! We chatted a bit about trying to meet up, but we were catching an early train to Belguim the next morning, so it didn't work out. To say the least, those first two days were a little crazy with running into people...

Windmill in Haarlem
Another view of the windmill in Haarlem

We absolutely loved Haarlem and highly recommend staying there if you're visiting Amsterdam. It was a 15-20 minute train ride from Amsterdam and offered cute little outdoor restaurants, a windmill that you can go up in (the tour was really informative), and just a more quaint look at life in the Netherlands.

Train Station in Haarlem
Dutch Apple Pie from Winkel in Amsterdam - you better believe I'm going to try to recreate this in the fall!

One Year Ago: Summer Shrimp Salad
Two Years Ago: Pita Bread and Tzatziki Sauce
Three Years Ago: Chorizo, Shrimp, and Lentil Stew
Four Years Ago: Layered Cookie Cake and Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

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