July 13, 2017

Italian Berry Mule

As I googled recipes utilizing BERRIES & BALSAMIC vinegar for July's #ImprovCookingChallenge I came across one I couldn't shake. Actually, I could shake...

There's a little bit of quite a backstory, you can skip down to the  ^*^recipe^*^ if you wish...

This story actually begins in 2006 with the death of our friend who was a fighter pilot. (You can read about his widow's & their 5 kids' story in this incredible book.)
Folds of  Honor is an organization that steps in to help families of our military who have paid the ultimate price for our country. It has been exciting the past few years to watch the breadth of FOH's fundraising grow. At first it was golf tournaments, soon QT was involved and now there are many major donors giving to honor the sacrifices made for our blessed nation.
So when Budweiser advertised their tribute, we had to buy a carton (even though we don't like beer...)
Perhaps you've seen this ad:

^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^recipe^*^ *^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

First I made a ginger syrup with about 8 oz. ginger I thinly sliced with the mandolin. Boiled it up with 4 cups of water and 2 cups sugar, then simmered for an hour. I strained it into glass bottles & refrigerated.

For the mule (adapted from here) we used the following ingredients:
10 raspberries
1 shot vodka
2 t. fresh lime juice
1/2 t. balsamic vinegar
1 T. ginger syrup
beer to top off

Muddle raspberries in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients excepting beer and shake well. Strain into an iced highball glass and top it off with the beer.

10 blueberries
1 shot vodka
T. ginger syrup
1/2 t. balsamic vinegar
beer to top off

Muddle blueberries in cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients but the beer and shake well. Strain into an iced highball glass and top it off with beer.
(light up the night!)

If you're looking for more BERRIES & BALSAMIC recipes, please check out the links below:

Balsamic Berry Hand Pies

While I do love me some balsamic vinegar on my caprese, I'd never thought to use it in any but savory dishes. When July's #ImprovCookingChallenge ingredient list popped up, I figured I'd pass on this month's entry -- Berries & Balsamic -- yuk!
So I googled berries & balsamic - who knew it was a "thing"?! I figured I'd better try it, just in case the fellas might like it.
I used a mix of blueberries & raspberries.
The filling wasn't quite as bright-colored as I'd hoped, but it sure tasted killer
Turns out, balsamic vinegar enhances berry flavors!

I made a gluten-free pie crust and cut rounds.
Added a large dollop of filling, then topped it with a second round.
Since gf pastry doesn't always brown nicely, I brushed the tops with beaten egg & sprinkled sugar over before baking.
The crust was super flake-y and could not contain all the goodness that was the balsamic kissed berries!
So yummy! 

Good to the last crumb!

Here's what I used to make the filling:

  • 12 oz. blueberries
  • 12 oz. raspberries
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 T. fresh lime juice
Stir in sauce pan over medium heat until mixture thickens.

Check out these other recipes from my fellow "Improvists" -- you won't be sorry!

July 12, 2017

~ June Celebrations ~

June was jam-packed, as usual...

From the time of my MIL's birthday on the 2nd until my birthday 3 weeks later, we kept busy crafting & baking & celebrating. (3 birthdays, 2 anniversaries & Father's Day...)
(from a shirt for my mom's 58th anniversary)
(lil' somethin' for my man to carry around -- I ordered it here)

(we might or might not've eaten our way across town during our anniversary weekend...)

(a raggy banner I made for the headboard)

(fudgy cookies for my chocolate-addicted f.i.l's b-day... ☺)

(don't mind these -- they were just gf tart cherry bittersweet chocolate chip...)

My sis made a big party @ her house to celebrated Father's Day + my birthday.

The very best part of my birthday was having all my fellas together at the same table!

June 18, 2017

The Second Star to the Right

This month I have learned much about the beauty of the broken. (semi-referencing a dessert recipe from last week...) At times, this loveliness is seen when the item is mended. But quite often, the damaged object has an exquisiteness that would never have been realized except for its perceived imperfection.

This story, however, is not about the shattered & repaired, but about replacement & making better. (This is also a story, unfortunately, about how long it takes me to figure something out... ☹)

In January a teeny, tiny boy was born. He was too small, at 2.5 pounds, and too immature to cope with our world, so he had to live in the NICU for some days.
We all rejoiced when he graduated & got to come home to live in the wonderful Peter Pan-themed nursery his parents lovingly decorated for him.


I had started a nightlight project for Benjamin when I found out how his mama was designing his bedroom. I got a shadow box from the HobLob and fastened in some battery-operated mini lights. I was planning on cutting the lyrics to "The Second Star to the Right" (from the original Disney animated  movie "Peter Pan") on black cardstock with a stencil-type font; then I would just affix the paper to the glass -- boom -- done.
Of course that's not what transpired! I believe I ran that scenario 4 times, changing my blade & mat a couple times in the process. (...and I was way too frustrated to take photos I knew I'd be way too embarrassed to post!!!!!)
I knew even with the best transfer tape I would struggle applying that large of a piece of vinyl with that many tiny letters cut out. Any wrinkles would ruin the nightlight's appearance. So I decided since HTV comes on its own transfer sheet, that would be my best bet.
(My premature celebratory photo...)

I  wanted to adhere it to the back side of the glass. I thought I would be smart & save time so decided not to take the cover off the shadow box to press the HTV. Not my most brilliant move. Even with a stack of towels to firmly support the glass, I couldn't get a good press.
Duncan tried to warn me...
My goose was cooked as I was trying to heat that final bubble when I heard a tiny "pop" & "crackle"...
Needless to say, words were said & tears were shed.
I put the project aside for awhile. ☹

When I was ready, I went to the hardware store to have a piece of glass cut to fit the frame. (Long story short, guy wasn't exact with his measurements & I had to use the dremel on the frame to get it to seat correctly...)
Meantime I'd picked up some black glitter htv... changed the font and it cut like butter!
Did my penance with a few hours of weeding.
Held my breath and pressed it to the glass. HALLELUJAH! We didn't crack!
I also held my breath fastening to glass back into the frame.
Had to go with a little wood glue after the hurry-up dremel job...
...and decided to change the light string.
So happy I got it delivered without any more mishaps!

This morning we were blessed to witness Big Ben's baby dedication at church...  

June 8, 2017

Strawberry Jalapeño Cornmeal Cream Puffs

So, along with the Pretzel Dogs, I wished to use the jalapeño & cheese #ImprovCookingChallenge ingredients in a dessert. The past few weeks I've seen quite a few recipes featuring strawberries with cornmeal -- shortcakes, muffins, waffles... I wanted to make something gluten free, of course, but desired it a little "fancier" than cornbread. I looked for cornmeal pâte à choux, but consensus seemed to deem that ingredient as too heavy for puffs. I decided to use my successful gf profiteroles recipe from December and just sub in a little cornmeal. IT WORKED! THEY PUFFED!
The texture was what I wanted. Plus, they tasted of cornmeal!

Cornmeal Pâte à choux

1 c. water
½ c. butter (if using unsalted, add a pinch of kosher salt)
¾ c. Bob’s Red Mill® 
Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour 

¼ c. yellow cornmeal

4 large eggs

(It’s easier to assemble ingredients before starting, because the process goes fast!) Break the eggs into a spouted measuring cup. Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk the flour & cornmeal together. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Combine the water & butter in a saucepan; bring to a rolling boil.
Remove from heat and add the flour mixture all at once, stirring vigorously.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat for a couple minutes until it’s cooled to below 125°F.
Beat in the eggs one at a time on medium speed; scrape the bowl after each addition.
After the last egg, beat the dough a couple minutes until it holds a peak.
Scoop about a 2 tablespoon-size portion of batter onto the prepared baking sheets for each puff. (Allow space for the puffs to expand.) This made 12 puffs for me. 
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the dough has risen and the pastries are a medium golden brown. (They should sound hollow if you tap them…) Remove the pastries from the oven, make a small slit in the top of each, and return them to the oven for another 5 minutes, to allow the steam to escape.
Transfer the puffs to a rack to cool.
Split each one in half & fill the bottom with a scoop of the jalapeño strawberry mixture then replace the tops. 
Serve immediately!

Now, about that filling:
It actually evolved from what I'd planned, but happened to turn out ever so much better than I thought it would.

First of all I candied fresh jalapeño slices in a piloncillo syrup.

I had found an interesting recipe for strawberry flan from Spain that I adapted for my filling. But here's what I did instead:
  • 1 lb. hulled fresh strawberries
  • 1 piloncillo cone, chopped
  • 1 c. half-and-half
  • 4 oz. caramel sirup (see Joy of Cooking pic)
  • 6 Eggs
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • finely chopped candied jalapeños, to taste
  • 2 T. tequila

(recipe from 1946 Joy of Cooking)
Add first 5 ingredients to blender & chop until smooth.
Pour into sauce pan & cook on medium to 180° (as if you were cooking a custard, so stir frequently...) Cover & chill.
Beat cream cheese & candied jalapeños until creamy. Add a shot of tequila & beat some more. Combine chilled strawberry mixture & beat again. Pour into freezer-safe container & freeze until firm. Scoop & enjoy!
(SOMEBODY has to eat the melty leftovers...)
(Enjoy responsibly! BTW - you don't have to add the tequila, but it just makes the flavor soooooooo much better.)

As always, check out the links to jalapeño & cheese recipes by my friends: