Tag Archives: fruit

Salads

Today’s post is dedicated to Salads. Salads are on our dinner table almost every night mostly because they are Healthy, Quick and Easy. Basic lettuce and tomato salads are a little too plain to make it on our table. I prefer adding various ingredients that touch on the five food groups which are vegetables, dairy, grains, fruit and protein.

I have to admit in my early days of cooking I made a lot of plain salads. I thought I was spicing it up if I added avocado or seasoned croutons. I didn’t start experimenting with making more robust salads until I expanded my dining choices from food chain restaurants (no offense) to downtown restaurants with new age names (again, no offense) like “Planet One Bistro” which featured out of this world meals. Cute right? Okay, I made the name up because I didn’t want my local restaurants to be mad at me for saying their name was “new age”.

Building a salad is like creating a work of art. Various colors, textures, shapes and sizes blend together into a beautiful edible piece of art both pleasing to the eyes and mouth. One of my signature salads is one made with a 50/50 mix of greens, bright red tomatoes, English cucumbers, deep blue blueberries, shaved parmesan cheese, croutons and crumbed bacon. I top it off with my favorite dressing Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yummy! My Big Salad is also a family favorite.

If you ask me, it is hard to make a bad salad. No matter what you add to a salad it is a reflection of you and your taste in food. So, go crazy and create your own master piece salad. It’s sure to get rave reviews.

Salads

Ingredients:

Fruity Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup blueberries (sliced strawberries and raspberries optional)

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

parmesan flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Avocado Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

1 ripe avocado cut half then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

ranch flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Mushroom and Egg Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

4 large baby bella mushrooms sliced

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

2 boiled eggs diced

2 slices bacon cooked and chopped

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

seasoned croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Layer the ingredients for each salad into two bowls. Top with Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade or your favorite salad dressing.

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Blackberry Shortbread Cake

Spring is in the air and more berries are making their appearance at the local grocer. Whenever there is a sale on fruit (especially berries) like “buy one get one free” I try to take advantage of the sale and stock up. Recently, there was a BOGO sale on blackberries so I grabbed 4 pints. I also grabbed two pints of raspberries because they were on sale too.

There are so many different fruit recipes I rarely have any fruit that goes to waste. After putting some of the fruit away for smoothies, I decided to try out a Blackberry Shortbread Cake. I have been using one of my iron skillets a lot lately to make a variety of skillet pies so I thought I would try my hand at making a shortbread cake in the skillet then top it off with mashed blackberries.

Delicious! At least my taste buds thought the Blackberry Shortbread Cake was delicious. I love crust and shortbread cookies so what’s not to love about a shortbread cake! To give this cake an extra reason to love it I added chopped pecans to the cake batter for a little crunch. Once I topped it with the blackberries it was all over. Delicious!

Yes, I am repeating myself because the cake was that good. I had to stop myself from eating most of the cake and offered to share it with the family. Now I have another cake I like besides chocolate cake.

Blackberry Shortbread Cake

Ingredients:

2 pints blackberries

2 large eggs

1 ½ sticks melted butter

1 ½ cup flour

1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

½ cup pecans chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 10 inch iron skillet with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Add blackberries to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar. Gently mash blackberries and stir to mix in sugar.

Mix 1 cup of sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Shift flour and salt together then gradually add to sugar mixture stirring constantly until combined. Stir in vanilla and pecans until blended into batter.

Pour batter into iron skillet and spread evenly. Drain juice from blackberries and set aside. Spoon blackberries over batter. Bake 40 – 45 minutes until cake is lightly browned and cooked through. Test by sticking toothpick in the middle of the cake and if batter is no longer wet cake is done. Let cool before slicing. Lift out of pan using parchment paper.

Drizzle reserved blackberry juice over sliced cake if desired.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

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There are two foods I love to eat but until recently I never thought of putting them together into one recipe. I love eating apples and I really like butternut squash. Once I thought of combining them into a recipe I was on a roll. The first recipe I came up with was a Butternut Squash and Apple Soup. Soup seemed the most logical recipe to try since the day was crisp, cold and little windy. Days like that call out for soup and I just happen to have both butternut squash and granny smith apples on hand.

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Years ago squash was classified as either a winter squash or a summer squash. Butternut Squash is known as a winter squash because they are generally picked in the winter and have a thick skin. Summer squash is picked in the summer and has a delicate thin skin that is edible. During the summer months I love to make sauteed yellow squash with onions. I also like to make Zucchini and Tomatoes with onions. Both squashes have a thin skin and are wonderful when mixed with onions and/or tomatoes.

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Soup is very versatile which means you can toss almost any combination of vegetables together with a little broth and call it soup. This time around I tossed  veggies and fruit together and the result was delicious if I do say so myself. I have roasted butternut squash with apples in the oven to create a tasty side dish with turkey or pork so I imagined the combination might taste pretty good in soup. My imagination turned into reality which is always a thrill!

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Whether you decide to make this soup during the crisp days of fall or in the middle of summer I think you will be pleased. Soups fans enjoy soup no matter the season. Me? I am truly a fan of soup.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Ingredients:

1 granny smith apple – peeled and sliced

1 lb butternut squash – peeled and cubed

1 small onion sliced

1 small red pepper sliced

1 scallion thinly sliced

3 slices bacon crumbled

2 cups chicken stock

½ cup half and half

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place squash, apples, onions and red pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss gently to coat. Spread out on a rimmed cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

Place in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until squash and apples softened. Remove from oven and place in a large pot. Add chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes until is heated up. Remove from heat. Blend using an immusion blender or place in a blender until smooth. Stir in half and half along with heavy cream. Place back on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until soup thickens. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle crumbed bacon and scalllions on top.

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Apple Salad

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Refreshing is the word that kept springing from my mouth when I first tasted my Apple Salad dish and when I described it to my hubby and son. I have been thinking about light and refreshing dishes quite a bit lately since warmer weather has crept into my life. During warmer weather I don’t feel like making heavy or complicated meals. Summer is the time when I am looking for quick recipes and dishes that don’t make me tired or lazy after eating.

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My Apple Salad recipe is all the things I just mentioned. It is quick to make. It is light and refreshing. Plus, it does not make me feel heavy, bloated or lazy after eating it. On the contrary. I actually feel energized after eating this salad. Apple Salad is packed with protein from the delicious chopped walnuts and golden raisins and has vitamin C from the apples. Another plus is that the raisins contain antioxidants which helps our bodies to fight against cancer and heart disease. Also, the raisins add a hint of sweetness to counter the tartness of the apples.

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Bottom-line… Apple Salad is a low calorie, healthy dish that will leave you feeling refreshed and energetic. Just ask my son. He liked this salad so much that he had it for breakfast and as a snack. If my biggest critic loved my Apple Salad, I think you will too.

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Apple Salad

Ingredients:

2 large granny smith apples diced

2 large re crispy apples diced

1 8oz container marscapone cheese

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup sour cream

4 tbsp milk

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

juice from ½ of a lemon

Place apples in a large bowl and squeeze lemon juice over apples then toss. This will keep the apples from turning brown. Set asides.

In a deep bowl add marscapone cheese, sour cream, milk and sugar. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat until seasonings are incorporated into mixture. Stir in orange zest. Pour mixture over apples then add walnuts and raisins. Gently mix until the apples are well coated along with the nuts and raisins. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Apple, Brie and Prosciutto Appetizer

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Apples are a marvelous fruit that is transformed throughout the year into delicious recipes for snacks, drinks and desserts. Some recipes are seasonal like warm apple crisp in the warmer months or mixed into fruit salads in the cooler months. My simple recipe for Apple, Brie and Prosciutto Appetizer can be made anytime of the year and may be transformed by the type of apple you decide to use.

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In the fall , the best kinds of apples are honey crisp, Swiss gourmet and granny smith. When my youngest son was a little guy we would gather some friends to go apple picking before the weather turned too cold. There was a local farm not far from out neighborhood that allowed you to pick seasonal fruits by the pound. The kids loved it because they could ride a wagon down to the apple orchard then fill their bags to the brim. Granted, it was a little more expense than store bought apples but to see the kids running around having fun was well worth it. Plus, there was a petting zoo, face painting and pony rides that the kids all loved.

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My apple of choice for this recipe was a granny smith apple. We did not have time to pick any so I had to settle for apples from the grocer. Still, the apples were juicy and delicious. Anyway, I used granny smith apples because I wanted a contrast of flavors between the Apples, Brie and Prosciutto.

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Hubby thought the Apple, Brie and Prosciutto Appetizer was sweet and rich but not too rich. Sour, salty and sweet is how I would describe the flavors. Sour, because of the granny smith apples. Salty, because of the slightly salty prosciutto and sweet because of the nice creamy brie. Adding a few crackers to the mix made my hubby and I agree this was an appetizer our family, friends and my blog followers would enjoy. This recipe will definitely be on my menu for the holidays. To make it look festive during the holidays I think I will use both red and green apples. Maybe I should make an apricot fruit dip to go along with the apples. Hmmm….. stay tuned for that one.

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Apple, Brie and Prosciutto Appetizer

Ingredients:
1 – 2 granny smith apples sliced into wedges
1 – 2 pkgs prosciutto sliced in half lengthwise
8 oz brie sliced cut into bite sized pieces

Place a piece of brie on each apple slice then wrap with prosciutto. Serve with crackers.

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Apple Dumpling

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Slowly but surely I am becoming more and more comfortable trying out my baking skills. Granted I am still a long way off from competing with my Mom who is the baking Queen of the universe. Once someone tries any of her baked goods they will come back again and again to ask Mom Mom if she will bake them a cake, pie, cookies or anything sweet.

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I am the tortoise in the baking race of life. I am slow but steadily gaining ground as I go along. Today I decided I would try to make an Apple Dumpling for dmariedining.com. Instead of making an apple pie I thought it would be nice to create an apple filled pastry that has all of the flavors of an apple pie. Plus, the process seemed simpler to me. I wanted an individual dessert rather than a large pie since my family does not eat a lot of dessert. Making an Apple Dumpling meant I could make two dumplings that we could all share and not worry about wasting a whole pie.

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I must admit I have only had an Apple Dumpling once or twice in my life. They were okay but the pastry was a little tough. For me, the crust is the best part of any pastry dessert. Since I am still honing my baking skills I either get my Mom to make me a batch of crust which freezes nicely or I buy a crust I know will be flaky.

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Apple Dumplings are a wonderful treat that is pretty simple to make with only a few ingredients. Hmmm… I think I will try making a peach dumpling when peach season comes around.

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Apple Dumpling

Ingredients:
2 granny smith apples peeled
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tbsp nutmeg
4 tbsp butter melted
1 egg lightly beaten
1 box Pillsbury Pie Crusts (two per box)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice and core apple with an apple slicer (to maintain shape of apple). Wrap a strip of pastry dough around the apple to hold slices together. Melt butter in small sauce pan. Brush apple with butter then roll in sugar mixture or pat mixture around apple with your hands. Place apple in the center of the pastry. Spoon a little melted butter in the middle of the apple and fill center with more of the sugar mixture. Fold pastry tightly around apple and brush the pastry with egg wash. Poke the top and sides of the pastry with a fork for ventilation. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hr until golden brown and the apples appear to be soft..

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Meringue Clouds

Check out my dessert at rantingchef.com Diced! Day of Eating Contest.  Vote for my Meringue Clouds recipe.  Voting ends on 10/9/15.IMG_9458_1

I was sitting on our porch the other day surrounded by the beauty of nature watching clouds go by. The clouds were big, white, fluffy and moving ever so slowly against the bluest sky I had seen in a while. Watching the clouds I started thinking about cotton candy, food in general then dessert.

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Dessert. What kind of dessert could I make that reminded me of clouds? Meringue came to mind but the problem was that I wasn’t a lover of meringue. Whenever my mom made her delicious lemon meringue pie I would scrap off the meringue then eat the lemon filling and crust. The two textures of meringue, both crusty and squishy, just did not feel right in my mouth. After searching for a meringue alternative to crusty and squishy I ran across a recipe that called for baking the meringue and it looked light like a macaroon.

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To make meringue the centerpiece of my dessert, I created mounds of sweetness that melted in your mouth. Then I added fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries that were slowly simmered until a simple syrup was rendered and the fruit was fragrant. Talk about heaven! Eating my Meringue Clouds reminded me of sitting on the porch watching the clouds go by surrounded by the sweetness of nature.

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Meringue Clouds

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1 pint blueberries
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place eggs whites in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add ¾ cup sugar 1 tbsp at a time on high speed until stiff peaks are formed.

Drop a large spoonful of meringue on to parchment paper or place in a piping bag and pipe onto parchment paper to create mounds. Meringue will spread so do not make the mounds too big. Bake for 45 minutes then turn off the oven and DO NOT open the oven door for 1-2 hours.

While the meringue is baking, place berries, water, lemon juice, zest and ¼ cup of sugar into a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until berries begin to breakdown and a simple sugar is rendered.

Place a Meringue Cloud in the center of a bowl then drizzle the berries and juice around the Meringue Cloud.

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Banana Bread Bars

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The idea for Banana Bread Bars came to me when I was thinking of making more of my Fruit Nut Bars but I had two ripe bananas crying out for me to do something with them. I have only recently started using ripe bananas in various recipes. Before I started dmariedining.com I would just freeze overly ripe bananas for smoothies because I don’t like to eat mushy bananas. Fortunately for the bananas, I was in an aventerous mood and decided I could try making banana bread but in the shape of bars instead of a loaf.

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Making banana bread is not too different from making banana muffins but I found that the texture and flavor was slightly different. The Banana Bread Bars were firmer but still very moist. As always, my family and friends are my taste testers and truly honest judges of my cooking. If something does not quite meet their level of expectation or does not tickle their taste buds, they have no problem in letting me know without hurting my feelings. I also know I have not hit the mark if my son does not let me know how much he will miss my cooking when he goes to college or he does not brag to his friends that I can make dirt taste good. No, I have never tried to make dirt taste good but I figure that was a very high compliment coming from my youngest son.

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On the few occasions that we have unexpected company or I don’t feel like making a complicated dessert for a family gathering, I can make Banana Bread Bars in a little over an hour. That is my kind of cooking. The next time your bananas start turning brown don’t toss them or freeze them. Turn them into Banana Bread Bars. Pretty Quick and Pretty Easy.

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Banana Bread Bars

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
2 large eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shift flour, baking soda and salt together into a small bowl and set aside.

Place bananas in a large bowl and mash. Mix in vanilla extract and eggs. Set aside.

Melt butter in a medium size sauce pan over medium high heat. Add sugars. Stir until sugars melt and are smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 8 – 10 minutes.

Add cooled sugar mixture to bananas. Slowly whisk flour with bananas and sugar until totally blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour mixture onto a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper. Spread out evenly in the pan. Chill in the frig for 15 minutes then bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center of the banana bread to see if center is cooked. If it comes out clean the banana bread is done. Let cool then cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

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Fruit and Nuts Cookie Bars

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I have been searching for cookie recipes that were easy to make and included mascarpone cheese. I found a couple of recipes but changed my mind and decided to come up with a cookie bar that included nuts and dried fruit. I could try to say the nuts and fruit made the cookies healthier than a regular cookie but who would I be kidding!

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I usually use pecans in my dessert recipes but I decided I wanted to use some thing different so I chose walnuts. Walnuts of course go great in any cookie. To compliment the nuts I used dried chopped plums instead of cranberries just because they looked interesting and they were on sale.

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Since I have been working on improving my baking skills I was pretty confident I could pull off making a tasty cookie bar. The issue would be whether or not my son would like them because they had both nuts and fruit. He is more of a chocolate chip cookie or oatmeal raisin kind of person. Nuts and dried plum? I was not too sure about that. I was pleasantly surprised that he really liked the cookie bars and didn’t even ask what was in them. One step closer to being a real baker!

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Fruit and Nuts Cookie Bar

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter softened
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup dried cranberries or dried chopped plums
¼ cup golden raisins (optional)
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter over medium high heat then stir in brown sugar. Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let mixture cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl combine four baking soda and salt. In another bowl mix eggs, vanilla and cooled sugar. Slowly add flour to butter mixture and stir until well mixed. Stir in nuts and dried fruit.

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour cookie mix onto parchment paper and spread it out. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool then cut into 2 inch squares.

Enjoy!

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Fruit Cups

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When you think of fruit cups I am sure you think of fresh (or canned) fruit chopped up and mixed together. Kind of like the fruit cup they would serve you in grade school for lunch. Well this Fruit Cup is nothing like the fruit cup from our childhood memories. My alternate version of a fruit cup is a pastry cup full of fresh (or canned) fruit simmered down with pecans then topped with a glob of vanilla ice cream.

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I came up with the idea of creating pastry fruit cups when I was thinking of what else I could make with the extra large muffin tins I used to bake big muffins. I also was trying to decide what to make with the leftover pastry dough my mom gave me so I could work on a new quiche recipe. Rather than make a big pie I thought I could create individual Fruit Cups that would be like a slice of pie.

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The great thing about Fruit Cups is that you can fill them with any kind of fruit you like and make several different types at once. For this post I tried making peach fruit cups. They tasted like mini peach pies with a hint of pecans. Apples were a good substitute for the peaches when I made this for my hubby because he likes apple pie but blueberry and blackberry also work well with this recipe. I just had to tweak it a little and instead of using brown sugar and cinnamon I used only regular sugar and lemon zest to brighten the flavors.

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Try making Fruit Cups the next time you have a desire for pie but don’t want the whole thing only a muffin sized slice.

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Fruit Cups

Ingredients:
1 pkg of Pillsbury pie sheets (or your own crust)
2 15 oz cans peaches in heavy syrup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup pecans chopped
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp of water
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 4 large muffin tins with cooking spray.

Add peaches with syrup, butter, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg to a medium sized pot and simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat.

Cut out four 6 ½ inch circles (I used a cereal bowl to measure) from the pie sheets re-rolling the excess dough if necessary. Place each circle in the muffin tin then with a slotted spoon fill will fruit & nut mixture. Add a little of the juice from fruit to each cup. Fold over top of pie sheet to close the cup. Brush with egg wash and then vent with a knife. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until crust is golden brown. Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Optional:
Sliced Apples
Blueberries
Blackberries
Strawberries

If using berries, substitute sugar for brown sugar and add a little lemon zest.

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