Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Easter Mocktail - Bunny's Helper

Easter is on Sunday, y'all. 

And if you've got family in a 300 mile radius - you're probably gonna be hanging out with them. 

Which means a big meal, lots of chatting, and at least 7 pounds of chocolate. 

Per person. 

Hee hee hee. 

And what do we drink on this festive occasion? Typically something in the beer/wine/soda category. You have to worry about stocking the merlot for Uncle Bob, Mom only drinks chilled chardonnay, and what was that local beer that your cousin John was going on and on about at Christmas? Don't forget your 10 year old twin nephews. They need their cola fix.

I have a solution - a special Easter drink. One that will impress everyone, including the under-21 set. 

And it's super easy to make by the pitcher or the glass. Triumph! 

Start with super ripe strawberries. The ones that look like they're about to start molding if you look at them funny. 

Toss them in a blender with a handful of mint leaves and a tablespoon of sugar. 

Blitz!! Once you've got it all chopped up (hint, do this on Saturday) jar it up and slide it in the fridge. It only gets better with a night in the ice box. 

On Easter, once Aunt Betty shows up and demands to "help" you in the kitchen - give her the strawberry mint stuff, a bottle of limeade, and a bottle of club soda.

Into the pitcher goes 1/2 limeade, 1/2 club soda, and a 1/2 c (or more - up to you) of the strawberry mint stuff. If you're doing by the glass, 1/2 limade, 1/2 club soda, and 2 tbsp strawberry mint stuff. 

To pump it up a notch for those who need a little pick me up - toss in a shot of bourbon or rum. Or both. If the bunny needs a little help to stay friendly. 

Bunny's Helper

1 pt very ripe strawberries
1 handful (15-20) mint leaves
1 tbsp sugar
1 jug limeade
1 bottle club soda

In a food processor, blitz strawberries, mint, and sugar. If done the day before, store in a glass jar in the fridge over night. 

When ready to part, mix in proportions 1/2 limeade 1/2 club soda, and as much strawberry mint stuff as you desire. Mix by the pitcher or glass. 

Add a little something extra if you need it. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mango Salsa - On Everything!

Did you have a good weekend? We sure did. 

Mr. S turned the big 3-0 a few days ago, and this was our chosen weekend to celebrate. We drove up north of San Fran to Point Reyes, this ridiculous state/national park. 

There were gorgeous overlooks - perfect for picnic-ing.

We drove down to one of the beaches and walked along admiring the cliffs. The whole area is pretty close to the San Andreas Fault - and the cliffs kept shedding small rocky bits. 

Needless to say, I admired them from the beach side. No intention of getting myself pummeled by pebbles. 

Then we went to a sandier beach. It had humongous waves. And a super studly beach dude. He came home with ME.

It was a beautiful weekend, and we had a lovely relaxing time. Hopefully you found a moment to breathe at some point too!

It always makes Mondays much more agreeable when you've had a chance to clear your head. 

So, needless to say, when we came home on Sunday afternoon we had little desire to prepare a 6 course meal. 

No siree bob.

But Mr. S had a plan. A delicious, tasty plan.

All these ingredients - avocado, cucumber, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, mango, red onion, and salt....

 ...wound up making the most delightful salsa. 

Which he piled on a salad with shrimp. 

And I used to create shrimp lettuce wraps. Because too much lettuce was obscuring my salsa. And you best not obscure my salsa!

But seriously - put this on chicken. A pork chop. A beef skirt steak cooked fajita-style. Over black beans and rice. A mountain of chips. On a fork aimed at your mouth. 

Whatever you've got handy, you know? You need this in your life. And if you make it an hour or so ahead of time and let the ingredients get to know each other.... well. 

If you find yourself standing in the kitchen eating this stuff by the spoonful, just remember that it's fruits and veggies. So you can eat the whole bowl and not feel a twinge of guilt. 

You're welcome. Bring on swimsuit season.

Mango Salsa
Created by Mr. S

1 jalapeno pepper, diced (or more or less as you like it)
1/2 cucumber, de-seeded
1/4 red onion
1 mango
1-2 tbsp cilantro
1 avocado
1/2 tsp salt

Chop the mango, cucumber, red onion, and avocado into similar sized small pieces. If you want to take the raw bite out of the red onion, rinse it under water prior to tossing in the bowl. Mix the chopped bits together with the diced jalapeno and chopped cilantro. Toss in the salt and stir till combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Overnight Baked French Toast Casserole


Hi, y'all!

I'm back from my unplanned 2-week blog vacation. 

And I brought you French Toast!

It's the best kind of french toast too. It's the kind that you make the day before, stick in the fridge, and have a restful night's sleep. Then pop it in the oven the next morning and look like a hero an hour later. 

I tell ya. A hero. 

Or - you could make it the day before, completely forget that there's french toast to be had, leave it sitting in the fridge all day, and then, when in search of a cheese stick at 4 pm, stumble across it and scream elated, "We're having French Toast for dinner! Hope that's ok!"

And trust me - it's always ok. 

Start off with brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter. Mix it all up in the bottom of the pan. 

Chop up a nearly whole loaf of several-day-old rustic Italian bread (the kind that's bigger, not the skinny baguette type - and a week old is just fine). I like them in long strips, with a few cubes. 

Line the strips up in the bottom of the pan, topping them with the cubes for a nice even-ish layer. 

In a ridiculously large measuring cup (or a big bowl) crack in 7 eggs. Add in 1 cup of cream and 5 cups of milk. And then a healthy shot of vanilla and a bit of brown sugar for good measure. 

Mix it all up and pour over the bread. If it doesn't all fit, wait 20 minutes for the bread to soak it up and see if you can add more. If you have any leftover at that point, put it in a container in the fridge cause you might need it the next day. 

Cover the pan and put it in the fridge. Go to bed. 

Wake up the next morning and look at the pan - does the bread look dry at all? If it's not super soggy, add more of the remaining milk mixture. Let rest and soak for 20 minutes. 

Bake at 375 for an hour - until the whole thing has puffed up several inches. It's done when you tap it and it wobbles like jello. All over. 

Pull it out and let it rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve flipped over with the brown sugar glaze on top. 


Overnight Baked French Toast Casserole
Makes 1 9x13 pan

1 loaf rustic Italian bread, several days old (a week is just fine)
1 3/4 c. brown sugar, divided
1 & a half sticks of butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
7 eggs
1 c. cream 
5 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In the bottom of a 9x13 pan, mix 1 1/2 c. of the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter together. Spread it out evenly. 

Slice up the Italian bread into strips and cubes. Line the pan with the strips and top with the cubes.Try to get it decently even.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, remaining 1/4 c. of the brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour as much as you can into the dish to cover the bread. Let soak in for 20 minutes, then pour in as much more as will fit. Keep any leftover in a dish in the fridge - you may need it tomorrow. 

Cover the french toast and rest in the fridge overnight. In the morning, check and see if any more of the liquid will fit in. Let rest another 20 minutes out of the fridge. 

Bake for an hour at 350 degrees, until puffed up all over and golden. It should wiggle like jello. 

Let rest for 15 minutes. Then slice into and serve upside down. No need for syrup!

Friday, March 1, 2013

No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Tart - for the soul

Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes when you think you're on the up-swing, you're just about to hit a brick wall and plummet 50 feet. 

Some friends of ours recently got some terrible news. They live 3,000 miles away. And I, selfishly, wish I was there to hug them and hold them. Or at least bring them a casserole. 

Instead, I had a good little cry. Sometimes we need those. I'm sure that there were many, many more tears shed those many miles away. 

And then?

I made a tart. 

Cause I needed chocolate. 

And if I could ship this sucker to the East Coast without it thawing and turning into a ridiculous mess, I would. 

But it's so easy, I'm just going to post the recipe. And hope that someone over by the other ocean decides to make it and drop it by their house. 

This is definitely a healing tart. 

Start off with a package of chocolate cookies. The ones with fudge on the bottom work quite nicely. Put 3/4 of the package into a food processor. 

Blitz until you get crumbs. 

Pour in the melted butter and pulse until combined. 

Then press out into a tart pan - you can also use a pie plate. I just like the fluted edge of the tart pan better. It's fancier. 

Put it in the freezer while you make the filling. 

In a medium bowl, whip up some whipped cream. 

In a large bowl, beat together peanut butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and a bit of unwhipped cream. 

Fold in the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture.

Gently spoon into the tart shell that you just retrieved from the freezer. 

Top with some crumbled bits of cookie. 

Freeze again. 

Slice and serve! 

No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Tart
Inspired by a ridiculous photo I saw on Pinterest

1 package chocolate fudge cookies
5 tbsp butter, melted
6 oz (1/2 c.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 c. heavy whipping cream, divided

In a food processor, blitz three quarters of the cookies in the package. Leave some for garnish. Once the cookies resemble sand, pour in the melted butter and pulse to combine. 

Dump out the chocolate mud into a large tart shell. Press to the edges to form your crust. Put in the freezer.

In a medium bowl, beat 3/4 c. of the whipping cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. (You can buy whipped topping and skip this step, but I think more highly of you than that.)

In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese and the remaining 1/4 c. of whipping cream together with the electric mixer. Beat until smooth. If you didn't let your cream cheese soften enough, this part will take a while. 

Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Gently spoon into the tart shell. Top with the left over cookies, broken into small-ish pieces. Return to freezer for at least 2 hours.