Açaí Bowl with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, chocolate chips, and granola

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I never jumped on the açaí bandwagon.  Sure it’s healthy, exotic and has a lot of antioxidants, but so do a lot of other things.  But, about 6 months ago, I had my first açaí bowl and wow, I was hooked.  I couldn’t believe how tasty it was.  And, like other recipes I’ve mentioned before…I thought, they call this breakfast?? Sign me up because to me, this tastes like dessert.  I’ve had a few bowls since, but decided that this was simple enough that I could make it at home.

The only thing I needed to tackle was this açaí berry thing.  After some (okay, alot) of looking and digging, I honed in on what to buy and how to make these bowls.  I found that regular grocery stores had no açaí berry selection (aside from juice), trader joe’s was no help (for once!), and my best bet was whole foods.  The frozen foods section had a few different options – what you want the açaí fruit frozen packs that are supposed to be used in smoothies.  I’ve used the unsweetened packs before, and given the honey and sweet fruits, I personally prefer those.

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Açaí Bowl with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey, chocolate chips, and granola
(makes 2 bowls)

2 single serving frozen açaí berry pouches, ~7 ounces
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 banana, thinly sliced
5 strawberries, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup granola
2 tbs honey
2 tbs coconut flakes

In a blender, mix together the açaí berry and the coconut milk until a smooth consistency is reached.  Place in freezer for approximately 10 minutes.  Scoop the açaí berry mixture into a bowl.  Place strawberries, blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips and granola into the bowl and drizzle with honey and coconut flakes.

Açaí on,
– Shirley

salted caramel apple pie

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K and I love going apple picking in the fall.  When we first started dating, we used to love taking trips up north in Upstate New York.  We’d go apple picking, then head on over to the store and talk over a couple warm apple cider donuts and some s’mores ice cream.  It was the best way for us to take a break from schoolwork and just enjoy each other’s company.  So it’s no surprise that we still find the time every fall to grab ourselves some fresh apples.  But as most of you know, you usually come home with about 30 apples.  aka too many apples!  That’s why this apple pie is exactly what to make when you have way too many apples left over.

Not only is the apple filling easy to make, the pie crust is super simple as well.  But, if you prefer, you can always use store-bought crust as well!

Salted Caramel Apple Pie
(Makes 1 lattice-covered pie)
Adapted from The Baker Chick

1 pie crust, plus more for lattice (recipe follows), chilled
6 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp 2% milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/4″ and place inside your pie dish, leaving a small overhang.  Chill in the refrigerator until the filling is ready.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Add the apples and mix well.  Add the vanilla and milk.

In a large skillet, melt the butter at medium heat.  Once melted, add the apple mixture and cook for about 6-8 minutes, or until the apples are soft and the sugar-flour mixture has turned a golden brown color.  Pour the filling into the pie crust dish.  Cover with a lattice top, if you want to!  Brush the lattice top and the edges with a little bit more milk.

Back at 450 F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 F, and bake for 45 minutes more.  At this point, the crust should be golden and the filling should be bubbling.

Pie Crust
(Makes enough for 1 pie crust, plus more for a lattice top)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse for another 10 seconds.  With the processor (or hand mixer) still running, add the water just until the dough comes together.  This should only take about 15 seconds.

Remove the dough from the food processor and shape into two discs.  Cover the discs in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until they are ready to be used.

- bake on,
Sharon

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Grilled Fish Tacos

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I’ve talked before about my love of seafood and fish, partly due to being raised near great the great waters of New England.  Lucky for me, I was able to potentially upgrade my access to great fish when I moved to San Diego.  And with El Nino warming up the pacific ocean waters, I’ve been in for a treat this year.  A coworker of mine headed fishing this past weekend, and came into work with a large cooler full of mahi mahi.  I came home with a few beautiful, fresh, filets, and I knew I had to make something simple with it so the fish would shine.

Fun fact – did you know mahi mahi, dorado, and dolphin fish are all different names for the same fish?

This dish is super simple.  I put some adobo and lemon on the fish and grilled it on our grill.  Topped it with a little cabbage, cheese, salsa and guacomole.  Took less than 20 minutes and less than 24 hours from swimming in the ocean to my belly.  Talk about fresh.

grilled fish tacos
(makes 2-3 servings)

2 mahi mahi filets
1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp adobo seasoning
6 small corn tortillas
2 cups cabbage, shredded
2 cups guacamole
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup cheese

Rinse your fish filets in warm water, and pat dry using a paper towel.  Spread adobo seasoning and juice of a half a lemon onto both sides of the fish filets.  Place the fish on a hot grill or pan, and cook on each side for about 3 minutes.  Once both sides are cooked, remove from heat.  Heat up some corn tortillas so they are warm and flexible.  Assemble cheese, fish, cabbage, and guacamole and salsa on each of the tortillas and enjoy!

fish on
– shirley

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back to basics: vanilla bean ice cream

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I think I am in denial that summer is truly over, fall is flying by, and any day now winter will be here in full force.  The North Face jacket, and even the winter coat is back out from the closet.  As much as I love the frigid winters of the northeast because it’s all I’ve ever known, the first week of those 40 degree mornings is the worst!  And even though those 40 degree mornings have begun, I’m still pretending it’s summer and making some amazing homemade ice cream.

If you’ve never made ice cream at home before, now’s the time to start.  Four ingredients.  That’s it!  Vanilla beans, sugar, milk, and cream!  A few minutes on the stovetop, a couple hours in the refrigerator, and 20 minutes in the ice cream maker, and you have the most delicious and creamiest dessert possible.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
(Makes 1 quart)

1 cup whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups granulated  sugar
1 vanilla bean, scored down the middle

Combine all the ingredients and slowly bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds to the cream mixture.

Let the mixture cool down to room temperature, then refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until the mixture is very cold.

Pour the cold mixture into an ice cream maker bowl and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

- dessert on,
Sharon

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Good morning muffins

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I am not a morning person. at. all.  When I have the option to, whether I’m working or not, I’ll be in bed until at least 8 or 9.  Too bad that most mornings I can’t have this luxury, and I am up before 5.  I always have been good about eating breakfast (you mean some people turn down the opportunity to eat?!?! I just don’t get that).   The last thing I want to do at 5 in the morning is try to figure out what to make for breakfast – so, these muffins are great and perfect to eat in the car if I am running late.

The first time I tasted a good morning muffin was at whole foods.  I thought it was so yummy that I immediately found some recipes online as inspiration and played around with ingredients.  Truthfully, I still adjust some of the ingredients and add-ons based on what I have at home – apple sauce, fruit butters, butternut squash all make these muffins taste so so good.

And by the way, if you have a kitchenaid mixer at home, USE IT.  I didn’t use it to make these muffins until recently, and wow.  I regretted not using it every time.  Not only did it make a huge difference in the prep time and eliminating the frustration of mixing a thousand ingredients together, but the muffins came out fluffier and tastier.

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Good morning Muffins
(makes 8 large muffins)

1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fruit butter, apple sauce, or other fruit “mash”
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place muffin cups into a muffin tin.  Mix together all the dry ingredients (flour through salt) until well mixed and uniform.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together and continue to add wet ingredients (vegetable oil, fruit butter, and vanilla extract) to the eggs.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, gather together the add ins, and fold into the dough mixture.  Place approximately 1/2 – 3/4 cup mixture into each muffin cup and top with some coconut flakes or sliced nuts.  Place into oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  A toothpick placed into a muffin should come back clean when the muffins are ready.  Enjoy!

Breakfast on,
– shirley

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cannoli cupcakes

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It’s no surprise that I love baking, especially cupcakes.  My favorite part about cupcakes is that the batter and frosting is so versatile.  I think one day I’m going to stick a bunch of batter options (vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, confetti, strawberry, etc.) into a hat, and a bunch of frosting options (chocolate buttercream, vanilla buttercream, cream cheese, whipped cream, etc.) into another hat, and just make whatever I get.  Pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting?  Chocolate cupcake with mocha whipped cream frosting?  Yum.

When I first decided to make this cupcake, I had no idea what to make.  I knew I wanted to go simple with the batter, but I was very open to the frosting options.  I was making this cupcake for a friend with deep Italian roots, and all I could think of was cannoli.  How hard could it be to turn a cannoli into a cupcake?  Turns out it is incredibly easy, and incredibly tasty!

So if you want the cannoli flavor, but want to avoid the cannoli frying, this cupcake will do the trick! Enjoy!

Cannoli Cupcakes with Cannoli Chocolate Chip Frosting
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

For the cupcakes:

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup 2% milk

For the frosting:

1 cup whole milk ricotta
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the chocolate-dipped cannoli decoration:

4 oz dark chocolate, melted
12 cannoli chips

Prepare the frosting first; In a large bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Slowly add the powdered sugar and ricotta to the mixture and beat until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Place the bowl of frosting uncovered in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Prepare the cannoli decoration by dunking each cannoli chip halfway in melted chocolate.  Place each dipped chip on a parchment-lined sheet and leave in the refrigerator for about an hour to harden.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line the cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.  In a separate large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until uniform.  Starting and ending with the flour mixture, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill each cupcake tin about 2/3 full with batter.  Bake in oven for 16-18 minutes, or until the sides of the cupcake begin to brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Once the cupcakes are cool, frost them with the cannoli frosting.  Top each cupcake with a chocolate-dipped cannoli chip.

bake on,
Sharon

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Crab Cakes

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Growing up in New England, seafood was always abundant.  Lobster Rolls, Crab cakes, New England Clam Chowder, and the list goes on and on.  Most of these items are popular on menus throughout restaurants in every corner, but sometimes, it’s fun to take these items and make them at home.  It allows you to pick the ingredients, modify based on any preferences, and let’s face it, keep it a little bit healthier (How many cups of butter and heavy cream made up that chowder anyways?!).

One of the first seafood items that my mom brought home and made for us was crab cakes.  It allows you to control exactly how much crab (and what kind) goes into the mixture.  Enter crab cakes with  full of large chunks of crab and not so much fillers. I promise you won’t feel the urge to pay $15 for a jumbo crab cake at the local seafood restaurant anymore!!!

Crab Cakes
(makes 8 cakes)

1/2 onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cans premium crab meat, drained
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
2 tsp seasoned salt

Saute the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in medium heat until the onion begins to caramelize and become clear.  In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine crab meat, hot sauce, breadcrumbs, eggs and seasonings.  Once the onions and garlic are ready, combine them with the other ingredients.  Add the remaining oil to a pan, ensuring oil is about 1-2 inches in height.  Turn pan on high heat and allow oil to get hot.  Once hot, use your hands to shape about 3/4 cup of batter into a ball, flatten with your hands, and place into hot oil.  Place 4-6 cakes into the pan, depending on size.  After approximately 5 minutes, flip each cake, and cook again for about 5 minutes, until both sides are nicely browned.  Remove from heat and enjoy with ketchup, tartar sauce, or your favorite condiment!!

food on,
– shirley

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