Have You Tried Dragon Fruit?


Dragon Fruit is a beautiful type of cactus also referred to as Pitaya. Its origin is unknown, but believed to be from Mexico and cultivated around the world.  It is more commonly found in Thailand and Vietnam.  The color can be a vibrant red or yellow with layers of leaves.

A dragon fruit is ready to eat when you press on the outside flesh and it gives slightly.  Any softer than this and it will be too ripe.  After washing the fruit, simply cut in half.  The flesh is easy to scoop out and contains black edible seeds, similar to kiwi (the skin is very bitter and inedible).

The taste is very mild and refreshing, slightly crunchy but not as tart as kiwis.  While dragon fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, they are also high in fructose and should be enjoyed in moderation.

The shell of the fruit is so pretty you can even use it to serve ice cream, yogurt or sherbet or sorbets. The fruit itself is best eaten cold.

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Scrambled Eggs with Cherry Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese

When my mother-in-law gives me baskets full of cherry tomatoes, fresh from her garden, I’m in tomato overload!  But, I’m never short on recipes.  One of our favorites is roasted cherry tomatoes (recipe coming soon)!

Another one I’d like to share is scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese!  I can’t really call it a recipe because this dish is super simple, and a refreshing change from plain old scrambled eggs.  It’s perfect for breakfast or served with a salad for lunch/brunch.

Scrambled Eggs with Cherry Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese

  • Slice cherry tomatoes in half
  • Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, then add a little bit of butter and canola oil
  • Sauté tomatoes until slightly softened, then transfer to a bowl and set aside
  • Wipe skillet clean, bring back to medium heat, and then add a little butter and canola oil
  • Add beaten eggs and cook until almost set
  • Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Enjoy!

~Did I say how delicious this is??? 

Cherry Tomatoes Fresh From the Garden


How lucky am I to get baskets full of cherry tomatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden every year!

Cherry tomatoes come in so many varieties and colors, and can range from tiny and round, to oblong, and as large as golf balls!

Not only are they high in antioxidants, they help lower cholesterol. And, they’re absolutely delicious – little bursts of fresh tomato flavor.

Check back soon for some scrumptious cherry tomato recipes!

Peach Pie vs. Peach Crostata

Who doesn’t love pie? Our all-time favorites are apple and coconut, with blueberry and peach not far behind. In our region, peaches are at their peak in June, July, August and September.

Peeling peaches sounds like a lot of work but here’s an easy way to peel peaches.  Cut an X on the bottom of each peach and carefully lower them in simmering water for 30-40 seconds.  Remove peaches with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of iced water.  They should peel off easily, or with the back of a spoon if necessary (start at the X).   And, the boiling water will take care of any nasty pesticides!

I’ve made pies with a traditional double crust (my favorite), lattice crust or as a crostata (H’s favorite). I find the latter to be much easier! There is no difference between a crostata, which is an Italian baked tart or free-pie, and a galette which is the French term. They also range from savory to sweet and I’ve also seen them referred to as flat pies.  In any event, they’re all delicious!!

When making crostatas, the method is to place a rolled out pie dough on a rimmed baking sheet, place filling in the middle and fold the sides over. I find the filling tends to ooze out despite all the trouble shooting steps I could find. I’m left with all that delicious fresh fruit filling making a puddle “around” the crostata!

My solution which is so much better and way easier is to place the pie dough on a pie plate, pile the fruit filling in the middle and just fold the edges over! Don’t worry about perfecting this; it’s supposed to be rustic. Just be sure to go around the crostata and pinch any openings close (don’t forget this step), apply an egg wash, place on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and in the oven it goes!! Amazing!!!

Let’s get to the recipe … I searched high and low for one that would draw oohs and ahhs! Most recipes call for a lot of sugar, up to 1 cup. I always reduce the sugar because I want to taste pure fruit. And, no pie is complete without ice cream so there really isn’t any need for all that sweetness!

I experimented 3 times before I was satisfied, and the results are impressive … just saying! The peaches were bursting with flavor, with just the right amount of sugar and spices. The crust was flaky, tender and buttery!

This crostata was just taken out of the oven.  You might even see the juices still bubbling away!  I wish you could smell and taste it too!

I hope you’ll try this scrumptious peach crostata (or as a pie)! Either way, you’ll definitely crave a second piece!

Peach Pie or Peach Crostata

Adapted from epicurious.com

My Favorite Pie Crust Recipe

Use 1 pie crust for a crostata or 2 for a traditional pie

Peach Filling

  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 6 cups peeled and sliced firm ripe peaches (about 8-10). You don’t have to be precise about the amount!
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, potato starch or flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg or grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg beaten with small amount of milk or cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F
  2. Place fresh lemon juice in a large bowl. Add peach slices and toss to combine
  3. In another bowl, whisk sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch (or potato starch or flour), cinnamon, nutmeg and salt (make sure it is lump free). Sprinkle over peach slices and mix gently. Set aside
  4. Roll out pie dough and place on a 9” pie plate
  5. Pour peach filling over pie shell and dot with unsalted butter
    For crostata: gently fold overhanging pie dough over the filling. Double check for any cracks. If there are, gently pinch and fix (this will help keep the juices in)
    For double pie crust: Place second rolled pie dough over peach slices and crimp/decorate as you would a regular pie. Make sure there are some slits or holes on the top to allow steam to escape
  6. Brush egg wash evenly over pie crust (not on the filling)
  7. Place pie on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper (don’t skip this step or you’ll have a mess to clean up)
  8. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes, then lower temperature to 375°F and bake until pie crust is brown and peach filling is bubbly (approximately 30 – 35 minutes) depending on your oven temperature.  If your pie crust is getting too browned, cover loosely with foil
  9. Let pie cool before serving (if you can wait that long), to allow juices to settle, or you will have a runny pie!

Kitchen notes:

  • If you have a lot of juices from your peach filling, just scoop the peaches onto the pie dough, do not add the remaining juices, it will cause the pie/crostata to overflow and become too wet and soggy.  I find this happens when the peaches are too ripe
  • If you really crave a sweeter pie/crostata, add additional 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp brown sugar

Our Favorite Guacamole Recipe

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Now that you’ve seen how to make homemade tortilla chips, are you craving guacamole?

There are so many recipes and versions, but it’s quite simple to make.  We like to add plum tomatoes and coriander, but you can also leave them out. The amount of lime juice, salt as well as the spice level can be adjusted to your taste.

This recipe from Martha Stewart is our T&T (tried and true) version.

Our Favorite Guacamole Recipe

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and lightly mashed
  • ¼ cup finely minced onion
  • ½ – 1 small jalapeno pepper, finely diced (remove seeds and ribs for less heat)
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander
  • 2 to 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Coarse salt
  1. In a bowl, combine avocados, onion, jalapeno, tomato, coriander, and lime juice.
  2. Season with salt, and mix to combine
  3. Sprinkle with additional chili peppers if you like it spicy

Kitchen note:

  • You can make the guacamole several hours ahead and keep it in the refrigerator. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the guacamole to prevent discoloration

Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade

This drink screams summertime!

I had leftover watermelon and was inspired to mix it with fresh lemon juice. The recipe is so easy and a real thirst quencher. You can easily adjust the amounts to suit your own taste, and you don’t have to measure anything, just eyeball it.

Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade

Makes 6 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon, cut into small chunks
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp superfine sugar
  1. In a blender combine all ingredients and pulse until very smooth
  2. Pour over ice cubes, about 2/3 full
  3. Fill with sparkling water such as Perrier or San Pellegrino (you can also substitute Sprite or 7 Up. Just eliminate the sugar)

Kitchen note:

  • Depending on the strength of your blender, you may need to blend ingredients in 2 batches

Cheers!

Light and Refreshing Strawberry Mousse

 

After purchasing a huge amount of Ontario strawberries, I’m now in the midst of a strawberry phase!  After mini strawberry shortcakes, I decided to try my hand at strawberry mousse.

I’ve made mousse before, as part of a cake, but with the hot and humid weather, I opted for just the mousse. Some recipes produce a very firm texture, almost jello-like and I didn’t want that (if the mousse is part of a cake, it has to hold up, so in that case, you do need to use more gelatin).

This recipe only used one package of gelatin and the result was a light, fluffy, pillowy soft and very refreshing dessert. Perfect for summertime!

Strawberry Mousse

Adapted from ochef.com

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream (35%)
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • Whole strawberries for garnish
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan; let stand 1 minute to soften. Stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat
  2. Place hulled strawberries, granulated sugar, and gelatin mixture in a food processor or blender. Whirl to purée. Pour into a bowl. Chill until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon, 1 hour
  3. Beat cream and icing sugar in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Stir one-quarter of cream into strawberry purée to lighten mixture. Fold in remaining cream
  4. Spoon into 6 stemmed glasses or dessert bowls, dividing equally. Chill for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight for best results

Kitchnen note:

  • If using frozen strawberries, thaw before using

Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

It’s strawberry season! These little cakes are so cute and absolutely scrumptious.

There are two kinds of strawberry shortcakes, one with a sponge or cake layer and another made with biscuits. Being a cake lover, I prefer the first, but both are delicious.

I started with a basic sponge cake recipe. Here’s the thing, sponge cakes can be very tricky to make. I’ve even seen professional bakers fail from time to time. When I tried Anna Olson’s recipe, the cake fell flat as it cooled, and was doughy in the middle. I experimented with several other recipes that didn’t come out either, and almost gave up. They were either too dry, overly sweet or had a course crumb.

I searched for trouble-shooting steps and came up with dozens of possibilities. I even tried my favorite vanilla cake recipe, but it was too rich for strawberry shortcake. I thought to myself, this will be the last time before I run out of eggs, butter and patience!  Then I stumbled upon a recipe from woodlandbakery.com and watched the video (twice).  The recipe is similar to the one on cakeboss.com.

The first time I made this cake it was way too sweet, and the amount of vanilla extract completely overwhelmed the flavor of the cake.  The second time, I reduced the sugar and the vanilla extract.  The cake turned out perfect; so moist and flavorful.  Success!  I’m happy to share the results with you!

** You can easily split this recipe in half to make just one cake, 12 cupcakes, or a small sheet pan to cut out mini cakes.

**  I would highly suggest you use a scale to measure the flour (in grams).  Click here for conversions (flour, sugar, etc.)

You will definitely crave another piece!

Vanilla Sponge Cake

Recipe adapted from cakeboss.com

Makes 2 – 8” round cakes or 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 ½ cups superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (doesn’t have to be at room temperature)
  • 256 grams (2 cups) unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer, whip the eggs on high speed with the whip attachment until foamy. Gradually add sugar (very slowly)
  3. The eggs will take about 5 minutes to reach the ribbon stage
    The ribbon stage is where the egg/sugar mixture is very light in color and very thick. When you lift your whip attachment, the batter runs back into the bowl and makes a ribbon effect before disappearing back into the mixture. You can also do a “figure 8″ pattern with the mixture, and if it stays visible for a few seconds before disappearing, you have reached the ribbon stage
  4. In the meantime you can heat the milk and butter together in the microwave or on the stovetop, remove from heat and then add the vanilla extract (watch carefully, I overheated the mixture the first time around)
  5. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and set aside
  6. When you have reached the ribbon stage, turn your mixer to low and add in all of the dry ingredients at once
  7. Mix only until combined on low speed or you will deflate the batter
  8. Next, prepare a liaison with the milk/butter mixture. A liaison is a technique in which rather than pouring the liquids straight into the main batter, which will deflate, you will take out about 2 cups of the cake batter into a separate mixing bowl, and with a hand whisk, add the liquids to that batter. Whisk it all together and then proceed to add this liaison to the original cake batter in the KitchenAid bowl
  9. Fold gently to combine
  10. Pour into prepared pans (parchment paper for cakes, or cupcake liners)
  11. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (rotate pans halfway through) at 350°F then lower the temperature to 325°F to continue baking until done.  Closer to the end of baking time, check cake (s) with the toothpick test.  If you are making cupcakes, bake for approximately 15-18 minutes, and then start checking every minute or so with a toothpick.  Baking times will always differ with various ovens.  Do not overbake (even by a few minutes), or your cake will be dry.

Kitchen notes:

  • To assemble the shortcakes, cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter to your desired size. I used a 3” round
  • Add icing sugar (to taste) to whipped cream at the soft peak stage, and then whip until firm. I added approximately 1 teaspoon for each 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Layer the cakes with whipped cream and fresh strawberries
  • The whipped cream is best eaten right away, as it will deflate after 1 day
  • The sponge cake freezes well if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then in freezer bags or lock and lock containers