Chilled Strawberry Soup

Chilled Strawberry Soup
I ran across this interesting recipe last week and wanted desperately to try it.  A chilled strawberry soup!  What could be more summery or fun?

The original recipe called for Riesling and a garnish of black pepper and olive oil and next time I do it, I really want to try that version.  Since I would be serving it to Olive and wouldn’t be cooking the alcohol out, I decided to alter the 1/2 cup of Riesling for lime juice and I think the results were so refreshing.  Some might call this a smoothie, and it basically is, but it’s thinner and if you go the adult version route, it would certainly be more elevated than a smoothie.  Olive loved this different snack and I loved it for breakfast this morning!  I garnished the soup with a bit of chocolate mint from my plant out back.  Did you know there was such a thing as chocolate mint?!  I didn’t but was intrigued and I think there is a subtle smooth difference between it and basic sweet mint (which has the quintessential “gum” flavor).  I thought mint and hints of chocolate would be great on a strawberry soup and it was – next time I may even add some dark chocolate shavings as a garnish!

Enjoy!  It’s a hot one out there, today!

Chilled Strawberry Soup
makes about 3 cups

3 cups strawberries, hulled
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice from two large limes (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup raw honey
Garnish: mint, chocolate, cracked pepper

Put all ingredients except the garnish in a blender or food processor and blend for about a minute, scraping down the sides.  If you want to go the extra mile, strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Chill for at least an hour and garnish as you wish!  (I didn’t chill ours at all and it was great).

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Ginger Ale Poached Apricots over Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Apricots Poached in Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean
Simplicity.  I crave it, lately.  Maybe because I’m in a world filled with a bouncing-off-the-wall toddler and red-headed drama, or maybe it’s because the summer is heating up and I’m busy shooting weddings, all the while wondering who this little baby growing inside me will turn out to be.  I forget I’m pregnant most days.  Other than my sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture and the hair tie holding my pants together, it’s easy to forget while dealing with everything else.  That’s why I love cooking so much – it forces you to slow down and spend some time in thought.  Even if for just five minutes – there will be some point in meal prep where you must wait.  And in that waiting usually comes contemplation (if you can keep your phone out of reach).

Last week when I stood over my stove and smelled the tart sweetness of apricots stewing, I was transported back to the very first time I made jam.  It was about this time four years ago and the (now gone) huge, old apricot tree in our front yard decided to dump about 10 lbs of fruit on our lawn for a week straight.  I didn’t know what to do with all that fruit and I’d never made jam before, but I just started to create.  Took a base recipe and made all kinds of flavors: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Red Pepper, Bourbon, Chinese 5 Spice – they were all amazing and I felt so good about not letting any of that fruit go to waste.  I also learned the simplicity of jamming.  The joy of tasting that fruit completely come ALIVE with just the addition of some sugar and a squeeze of lemon.  I never cared about apricots before that year, but since then, they’ve become one of my favorite fruits.
Poached Apricots in Ginger Syrup
I didn’t make jam with these store-bought apricots, but I did let them poach in some leftover ginger ale and a stick of cinnamon and vanilla bean.  The scent in my kitchen was as bright as the summer sun.  When the apricots were done poaching, I removed them from the liquid and let the ginger ale reduce until it was a syrup.  The apricots are sitting in that syrup in my fridge, now.  Waiting to be poured over ice cream or spooned over a warm biscuit with butter.  Or maybe just eaten straight out of the jar. Last week I made a cinnamon vanilla bean rice pudding for Olive’s snack time and added some poached apricots on top.  The combination was so comforting and for a few minutes, we both just ate and smiled at each other.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Poached Apricots

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 lbs of apricots, halved, pits removed
1 liter of ginger ale
two cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4 cup sugar

Place the apricot halves in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger ale, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar and let the mixture come to a boil.  After 10 minutes, remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and set them in a large bowl.  Allow the liquid to reduce to about 1-2 cups of liquid and pour over the apricots in the bowl.  Spoon apricots and syrup over rice pudding, ice cream, waffles, whatever you want!

Cinnamon Rice Pudding*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice (short grain rice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, heat the milks, rice and salt until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cook about 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and in a smaller bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and egg and whip until smooth.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, stirring quickly to temper the egg.  Then, while whisking, add the egg/sugar mixture back into the pot of rice and let it cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with poached apricots!

*adapted from this lovely recipe off Simply Recipes

Blueberry Granola and Cinnamon Vanilla Yogurt Parfaits

Blueberry Granola and Cinnamon Yogurt Parfaits Yogurt and Granola Parfaits
This is a very simple snack that you can make ahead of time and have it ready to pull out of the fridge at any time during the week!  I had some blueberries in the freezer that needed to be used and so I created a soft granola that could be good cut into bars, or crumbled up like I did here, to add to yogurt, cereal, ice cream, whatever!  I love these little jam jar parfaits – I used the small 4 oz. size for Olive and used the bigger 6 oz. size for us big kids.  Layered with plain, rich Greek yogurt that I mixed with some cinnamon and vanilla bean paste – these are ready for my fridge and ready for a week of snack time, pregnancy cravings or a quick breakfast!

Sweetening plain yogurt with cinnamon and vanilla bean paste (which is slightly sweet) adds enough sweetness without adding several teaspoons of honey or sugar, like we all feel compelled to do with plain yogurt.  You’re getting plenty of sugar from granola (never let anyone tell you granola is a diet food) and so there’s no need to add even more by buying a pre-sweetened yogurt (which can have over 20 grams of sugar in each serving!) This recipe makes a really large batch of granola that’ll last you a while and I hope you enjoy the smell of your entire house while you make it!

blueberry granola parfaits

Blueberry Granola Parfaits
makes about 3 cups of granola

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup honey
1 stick melted butter
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 cup dried currants, raisins, whatever you like

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, combine the steel cut oats and 1 cup boiling water and let them soak for 20 minutes.  Drain and add to the other oat mixture.  If you don’t want to do this, simply add 2 more cups of regular rolled oats.  I liked the steel cut chewiness, but I’ve done this recipe with all rolled oats before and it works fine either way!

Add to the oat mixture the vanilla bean paste (can sub regular vanilla extract), melted butter and honey and stir well to combine everything.  Gently fold in the blueberries, currants and pecans (or any trifecta you desire).  Spread mixture out on a greased, rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Take it out and let it cool and then break it all up and spread it out on the sheet again and let it bake at 250 for about 30 more minutes until it’s all golden brown.  If you want to make granola bars, increase your first bake time to 30 minutes and let it cool completely before cutting into bars.  While it’s cooling and still hot, I’d spread some white chocolate chips over the top and let them melt and then spread them all over for a topping for your granola bars, if you’re gonna swing that way.

Cinnamon Yogurt

1 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and whip up until fully blended.  Layer in cute little jars with the granola and top with fresh berries for the snack pictured here!  Garnishing with mint adds a wonderful flavor addition and brightens everything up.

*this can easily be made gluten-free by substituting the flour for coconut flour and insuring that your oats are gluten free.  Check the box – a lot of brands are, nowadays!

Cinnamon Yogurt and Blueberry Granola Parfaits

The Best Peach Cobbler: Food is Healing

Peach Cobbler over Vanilla Ice Cream
I grew up in Eastern New Mexico.  Which is basically West Texas.  Which is basically the South.  Basically.  And in the South, when someone is ailing, grieving, winging it as a single parent for a week with a house full of kids, or whatever – we bring food.  The more comforting the dish, the better.

Enter: homemade peach cobbler.  The BEST peach cobbler you’ll likely ever have.

My Aunt Mary could have been my grandmother.  The oldest in a family of eight children, Aunt Mary has acted like our grandmother as far back as I can remember.  She picked me up from school, she made a few dresses for me, she always gave away the best homemade treats at Halloween and she stood in place of my own ailing grandmother when I got married.  Did the same for both my brothers’ weddings, too.  Aunt Mary also brings food.  I would guess it is her first thought when she hears of someone’s suffering.

A few years ago my dad’s 20 year-old carpentry business and production shop burned to the ground in one night.  I remember us all sitting around the dining room table a couple days later, feeling numb and really not knowing what to say or do next.  It was as if a close family member had passed away.  Aunt Mary walked in holding this still-warm peach cobbler and a pint of vanilla ice cream.  We made a bowl and after the first bite,  I felt a little bit of weight released from my shoulders as my heart sank into those amazing flavors.  It was the food-equivalent of a hug.  It could have been the emotions of the day or the fact that we all love Aunt Mary so much, but I think it was the best peach cobbler, or any cobbler, I’d ever had in my life.

When my grandpa passed away a couple weeks ago, we were sitting around the house the afternoon after his funeral and Aunt Mary called.  She said, “I was just sitting here and realized that I NEVER brought over any food!”  I smiled and said quietly to myself, “please let it be peach-” at the same time she said, “I JUST made a peach cobbler. Can I drop by?”

And the same comfort washed over us, again.  This time my uncle had the first taste and in his quiet demeanor, he just nodded and said, “That IS the best cobbler I’ve ever had.”  And he’s a farmer.  He knows his cobbler.  I sat Aunt Mary down before she could leave and told her that this time, she HAD to tell me the recipe.  So, from memory she just told me how she did it.  I love recipes like that.  She even apologized and blushed a little when she told me how much sugar. 🙂

So I want to give this comforting recipe to you.  So you can give it to someone else.  Food, sometimes, is so much more than nourishment, calories, ingredients, fast or fancy restaurants.  It can be those words you don’t know how to say or that comfort you wish you could provide but  just don’t know how.

Classic Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler

serves 8-10

1 stick unsalted butter
2 – 28 oz cans of sliced peaches (don’t drain.  And the ounces may vary.  Aunt Mary just said, “Not the soup-can size – the bigger one! So I guessed.)
3 cups sugar (I know.  You might eat this once a year.  It’s okay.)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt (she told me 1/8 tsp salt, but kosher is bigger so I always double the amount if I’m using it)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 400F.  In a 9×13 pan, melt the stick of butter in the oven.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the peaches with their syrup, two cups of sugar and let it start bubbling.  Meanwhile, mix flour and the remaining cup of sugar, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and then add the milk.

Pour the batter on top of the melted butter.  Then pour the peach mixture over the batter.  Bake about 40 minutes until the batter is a rich brown.  I’d really advise letting this cool down considerably before eating.  You’ll think there’s waaaaaay too much syrup, but it thickens upon cooling and you have this glorious syrup to pour over your ice cream. Worth it.

Peach Cobbler