back to basics: strawberry sauce

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I know it’s not strawberry season, but for some reason when I walked through Whole Foods this weekend and saw the cartons of strawberries, I couldn’t help but grab one right away.  It’s probably the fact that the weather has been so spectacular lately.  Today is March 1st, a time of the year when it is often still frigid and snowing, yet for the past couple weeks, the northeast has been blessed with beautiful sunny days in the 50s and up.  I even turned my A/C on in the car this weekend!  And walked outside with a long sleeve shirt on!  So when I saw those bright red strawberries, I immediately started thinking about what I could do with them.  I knew that I had to bake a cake during the weekend, so a lightbulb went off instantly – I would make a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberry filling.

I love being able to make a basic sauce like this strawberry sauce because the possibilities with it are endless.  And we all know how much I love a versatile ingredient.  Sure, I used this sauce as a cake filling.  But this sauce also works great as a filling in a cupcake, as a sauce to incorporate into (or top) your vanilla ice cream, or even as a filling in doughnuts!  Mmmmmm.  Now excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my face!

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you use it for in the comments below.

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Strawberry Sauce
(Makes 2 cups)

2 1/2 cups cubed fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the cornstarch and continue to stir.  Let boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  The sauce will thicken and go from translucent to opaque.  Allow to cool completely before using.

– sauce on,
Sharon

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trio of fruit smoothies

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For the past year or so, I’ve grown to love fruit smoothies.  I don’t go overboard with the ingredients either.  The way I see it, if I have a way to get fruit, juice, and yogurt in my belly before 10am, that’s 100% A-okay.  I have these smoothies pretty regularly for breakfast, and I also love to have them as a post-workout “snack”.

I also love making smoothies because it’s pretty impossible to mess it up.  Pretty much any and all combinations work.  Whatever juice, fruit, or yogurt I have in the house, I can throw it in the blender and (somehow) it always comes out delicious.  Today I’m sharing three (yes, three!) different smoothies.  But again, use these recipes as just a base – feel free to include, or leave out, whatever fruit you’d like!

Pink Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt (I typically use vanilla, strawberry or blueberry yogurt)
3-4 large strawberries
1 banana
1/2 apple, peeled and seeds removed
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

Yellow Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup green grapes
1 cup honeydew chunks
1 cup cantaloupe chunks
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

Green Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings, easily multiplied)

1/2 cup coconut water
1 cup green grapes
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 banana
2 cups spinach, lightly packed
5 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or Vitamix and pulse for 45 seconds, or until smooth.  Refrigerate before serving.  If any separation occurs, mix with a smooth or pulse for 10 seconds.

smoothie on,
Sharon

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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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banana & peach muffins

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K is 100% an apple lover.  He eats them every day with peanut butter after dinner like it’s some kind of ritual.  But for the past few months, they haven’t exactly been in season.  In a couple weeks or so, the apple selection will be endless, but for now, peaches have been our replacement.  I’ve never been a huge peach lover.  They have a weird flavor – almost like the peach gods couldn’t decide if they want to be sweet or sour, so they decided to be a little bit of both.

Which is why this recipe has been amazing for the two of us.  First of all, K and I are the type to get up early in the morning and be out the door within 10 minutes.  We do as much prep the night before as possible.  So grabbing a quick snack like this for the road is exactly what we needed.  Plus, the peaches give a new life to the boring old muffin.  They give it so much flavor, but subdued enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re biting into a fresh peach.  Maybe I’m weird, but I think it’s a lovely balance.  Sweet, moist, healthy AND filling?  It hits the spot.

Sharon – 1.  Early morning – 0.

Banana & Peach Muffins
(Makes 10-12 muffins)

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup vegetable oil
3 bananas, mashed
1 pound peaches, cut to 1/4″ slices, and then each slice cut into 4 equal segments

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a muffin pan with liners.

Whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  In another bowl, blend together the maple syrup, oil and mashed bananas.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold in peaches. Stir only until combined.

Fill the muffin tins 90% of the way full with batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.  Serve warm.

– food on,
Sharon

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