Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake is another of those recipes that takes me back to childhood summers. There are so many different ways to make the recipe. Some people use Angel food cake for a base, while some like Pound Cake and my Mom even sometimes served it with pie crust that had been baked and crumbled! I’ve used all of the above at some point in time, but anyway you slice it (oh dear lord, did I just say that?) it’s delicious none the less! Especially with fresh, just picked strawberries!

What You’ll Need For The Strawberry “Filling”:
Strawberries
Sugar

Note: There is no exact measurement for this, but a general rule of thumb is roughly 1/3 cup of sugar per 4 cups of strawberries. If you want it sweeter add more sugar, if you want it less so add less. Tweak it until it comes out the way you like it.

Strawberry Caps

Wash berries and cap them. Cut into round slices or quarters. (I generally slice smaller berries in quarters and larger ones into round slices.) Pour sugar over and stir. Place in the fridge to let syrup form for 30 minutes to an hour at least. The longer they sit the better they get.

Strawberries Quartered for the Strawberry Shortcake

What You’ll Need For The Shortcakes:
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 cup of trans-fat free shortening
1 cup of buttermilk
1 stick of butter, melted
Organic cane sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder until incorporated. Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter or a fork until flour mixture becomes pea like. Stir in buttermilk until dough forms and roll out with a rolling pin. Cut into small rounds as you would for biscuits and place on a baking sheet that is lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar to coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

What You’ll Need To Put The Shortcakes Together:
Cooled Shortcakes
Chilled strawberry and sugar mixture
Whipped Cream

Cut a shortcake in half and lay the bottom of the shortcake on a plate or bowl. Spoon on some of the strawberry sugar mixture on top of the bottom piece of the shortcake and then top with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream. Top with the remaining piece of shortcake and enjoy!

Cocktail Time: Frozen Pineapple Margaritas

Frozen Pineapple Margarita

I love margaritas and I always like to try new renditions. Watermelon? Check! Strawberry? Check! Peach? Oh yeah! This pineapple version is cool, fruity and oh so lovely. It’s just perfect for a warm summer evening! If you like margaritas give this one a try…You won’t be disappointed!

What You’ll Need:
The juice of 12 limes
1 cup of pineapple juice
1 cup of simple syrup
1/2 cup of triple sec
1/2 cup of tequila
Ice
Salt or Sugar

Dump all ingredients in the ingredients into the jar of your blender (add enough ice to fill the jar) and blend on high until smooth. Serve with a salted rim or even a sugar rim. Drink and enjoy.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Goat Cheese Pizza with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

Goat Cheese Pizza with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

If you’ve been reading Dianne’s Dishes for a while you’ve probably figured out I love goat cheese. You’ve also probably figured out I love tomatoes and rosemary…put them all together and you’ve got one heck of a pizza! Throw in some zucchini and garlic and it’s heaven! This is one of my favorite homemade pizza combos. If you like zucchini and cherry tomatoes, I promise, this is the pizza for you!

What You’ll Need For the Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup of warm water (or more depending on the humidity)
1 tablespoon of sugar
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

In the bowl of your food processor pulse flour and salt until mixed (roughly 4-6 pulses). In a glass measuring cup add honey and yeast to warm water and let sit for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add olive oil to the food processor and turn the machine on. Slowly add water/yeast mixture until ball of dough forms. (Note: Depending on humidity and such you may need a little more or a little less water. Eyeball it as you go. Once the ball forms you’ll know to stop. It’s hard to mess this recipe up. It’s very forgiving. If you go too far wit the water add more flour a tablespoon at a time until ball forms. It’s all about the dough ball! 😉 )

Once the dough ball forms you need to let it rise. This make roughly one large pizza or 4-6 personal sized pizzas depending on how big you like them. I like to make personal sized pizzas so that way everyone can have their own favorite toppings. If you’re making one big pizza simply place the dough on a baking sheet in your oven with your oven light on (the oven light puts out just enough heat to rise to dough) or if you want to make personal sized pizzas divide the dough into 4 to 6 small balls and place on a baking sheet and follow the same procedure as for the large ball. Let the dough balls rise for at least one hour. Then roll or push out the dough and top with your favorite pizza toppings to bake.

What You’ll Need For The Pizza Topping:
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, stripped and chopped
2 springs of thyme, stripped
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place tomatoes, onion and zucchini on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with minced garlic, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Top with the rosemary and thyme leaves and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until zucchini is slightly tender.

What You’ll Need To Complete The Pizza:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Cooked veggie mixture
Sliced black olives
1/2 of a 5 ounce log of goat cheese crumbled
1/3 cup of fresh Mozzarella, grated

Preheat oven to 425 F.

While the veggies are roasting, spread out pizza crust(s) and brush it with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 5-7 minutes until crust is done, but not browned and remove from oven.

Top baked crust with veggies mixture and black olives. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and mozzarella. Place back in the oven for 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Even though it looks in depth it’s really quite easy. Once you start making your own pizzas you’ll love them a lot more than carry out or order in any day! 😉

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

My parents are visiting us from Tennessee and my dad requested that I make dinner. Things have been a bit busy with us flitting here and there, so I hadn’t cooked dinner since their arrival as we had been out and about. Last night however we slowed down long enough to actually be at home and I got to cook a home cooked meal, which as you know I adore and prefer to eating out any day.

As a child this was another of my Mom’s special occasion meals. Serve the meatballs and rice along with a few vegetables and/or a salad and you’ve got a great meal! The next time I make them I’m going to try to make them with Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style meat substitute and make them meatless, but that’s a little “daring” for my Dad! For last night’s dinner we just stuck to the basics. That’s the way he likes things! 😉

What You’ll Need:
1 small onion, shredded
1 large or 3 small carrots, shredded
1 medium to large potato, shredded
2 pounds of ground beef
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cans of cream of mushrooms soup, plus 1 cup of milk or 4-6 cups of a homemade cream of mushroom soup
2 cups of uncooked rice, cooked according to package directions or cooked egg noodles

Mix shredded veggies, ground beef, salt, pepper and eggs until completely incorporated. (Tip: Much like meatloaf it’s easier if you just dig in with your hands and mix it that way.) Once the meat/veggie mixture is mixed form into meatballs about the size of a cherry tomato.

Preheat a large skillet.

Also preheat oven to 375 F.

Add a thin layer (about 1/8 of an inch) of olive oil to your preheated skillet and brown meatballs on each side and place into a 13 X9 inch baking dish. Cover browned meatballs with soup.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until meatballs are done through. (Note: I tend to like ground beef when I eat it to be between medium well to well done. If you prefer a different amount of doneness then adjust cooking times accordingly.)

Serve meatballs over rice or noodles.

Swedish Meatballs

Mushroom Broth

Mushroom Broth

I started using mushroom broth about a year ago. A lot of the commercially prepared options have way too much salt in them though! I did a little research and most broths are made from dried mushrooms. I purchased some dried varieties and I put them in the cupboard meaning to make broth. Months passed and I still hadn’t done just that!

Every spring I like to clean out the cupboards and freezer, It’s part of my spring cleaning routine. When I came across the dried mushrooms I decided it was high time to make some broth! This is the first time I’ve made homemade mushroom broth, but it turned out to be delicious! Plus it’s super simple and that’s always a plus.

Mushroom broth can be used in place of any broth. It is especially good at replacing beef broth because many mushrooms have a beefy flavor, especially portabella mushrooms, though there are no portabellas in this rendition. Mushroom broth also makes a very good soup similar to French Onion soup as well.

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 ounces of dried wild porcini mushrooms
1/2 ounce dried crimini mushrooms
1/2 ounce of dried oyster mushrooms
OR
3 packages of the fresh mushroom of your choice, or a mix of mushrooms
AND
Water
Sea salt
Black Pepper

Place mushrooms in a medium sized stock pot and add enough water to just cover the mushrooms. Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Remove mushroom broth from stove and strain. Keep mushrooms for another recipe. (Mushroom soup is a good choice.) Store broth covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Note: The broth is very strong, so you will need to dilute it with a little water when you actually use it for cooking. You can also use whatever type of dried mushrooms you like or can find. It’s completely up to you.

Toaster Oven S’Mores

Toaster Oven S'Mores

Who doesn’t love S’Mores? The thought of S’Mores instantly takes me back to childhood. Whether at Girl Scout camp, or summers spent camping (very rustically I might add) at the lake with family and friends, there were usually S’Mores involved. Regardless of the occasion there was the inevitable marshmallow roasting over the fire, the ones that caught on fire (whether intentional or not), laughter and fun. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

The other day at the grocery store I saw a display set up with the ingredients for S’Mores and decided to make them and let Alexis try one of my childhood favorites. Her response when seeing them was, “No thank you. Can I have some spinach?” Spinach over chocolate and marshmallow goodness? But hey that’s ok too. :O) Jamison just shakes his head when she says things like that, but she eventually came around though and she loved them too.

As a child we used various forms of chocolate. Sometimes (and this is my favorite to be honest) we used milk chocolate Hershey bars. Other times we used chocolate frosting, which is good too, but I really prefer a good chocolate bar over frosting any day.

When we purchased the ingredients for this adventure I immediately grabbed the chocolate bars. I didn’t realize until I had gotten home that I had gotten Hershey Special Dark bars, instead of the milk chocolate variety, but given we usually eat Dagoba milk chocolate, which has a higher cocoa content in it than the Hershey’s Dark variety, you can’t really tell the difference.

There is no wrong answer when it comes to S’Mores. Just go with what you like. I think they would even be good dipped IN chocolate! But any way you make them what’s not to like about chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers?

Toaster Oven S'Mores

What You’ll Need:
4 graham crackers, broken in half
1 chocolate candy bar (This is entirely up to you. Most of the time milk chocolate is used for S’Mores, but you can use dark or whatever floats your boat.)
4 marshmallows

Place 4 graham cracker squares on a toaster oven baking sheet. Top each cracker with 1/4 of your candy bar and 1 marshmallow. Place in your toaster oven on the highest heat setting for 5-8 minutes or until the marshmallow is slightly browned. Remove from heat and top with remaining four cracker squares and press down. Enjoy immediately or you can even let them cool and eat them that way. They are more cookie like when they chocolate and marshmallow harden, but they are good no matter when you choose to take your first bite!

Meringues

Meringues

I love Meringues, but I always just bought them from Miss Meringue. The thought of actually making them myself was a bit intimidating, but I decided it couldn’t be that hard and I’m always up for a cooking challenge.

The first batch I made I added vanilla and cream of tartar, but I didn’t like the flavor. It was a bit tangy. Meringues are supposed to be sweet, not tangy. It had to be the cream of tartar that did the trick as vanilla has a more smooth flavor. Whatever it was I just didn’t like the flavor, so I went back to the drawing board.

With the next batch I decided to try and make Mint Chocolate, but I couldn’t get the whites to become stiff so that batch was scratched. I think the peppermint oil might have been the issue. I was going to make some mint brownies with the spoils of that battle, but I put the egg mixture in the fridge and promptly forgot all about it until today when I found it had soured. That’s a story for another time. I’ll be trying the chocolate version again soon. I refuse to be defeated! 😉

Finally I settled on simple and straight forward and this is the result. Not only are they completely delicious, sweet, light and crisp, just like they should be, they also have roughly 20 calories per meringue! Now there’s a dessert you can get behind, or perhaps more aptly put it won’t show up ON your behind! 😉

What You’ll Need:
3 egg whites
2/3 cup of sugar

Preheat oven to 225 F.

Beat egg whites and sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form (roughly 8 minutes). Place stiffened whites into a pastry bag with a very large flower tip and pipe onto a baking sheet that is lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. (Note: If you don’t have a large star tip you can just pipe out blobs without a tip. They will still be pretty and it won’t affect the taste! ;o)) Bake for 50 minutes to one hour until meringue are stiff and not spongy. (I like to cook them for 30 minutes and then check them every 10 minutes after that to make sure they don’t go too far, but I’m a bit OCD! 😉 )

Let cool for 30 minutes and then store in an airtight container.

Makes roughly 24-30 meringues depending on how big you pipe them.

Stuffed Mushroom and Irish Cheddar Burger with Cajun Oven Fries

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger with Cajun Oven Fries

I rarely eat red meat. I rarely eat meat at all for that matter, but for the past several years red meat has made my stomach hurt. Sure I enjoy the taste, but I usually regret the consequences. Last night when I discovered that I was out of Boca Burgers I decided to try my hand at a stuffed burger. The burger turned out great and for once it didn’t bother my stomach either! This burger is deliciously tangy, with a “surprise” in the middle! If you like burgers, you’ll LOVE this one…Try it!

What You’ll Need for the Stuffed Mushroom and Irish Cheddar Burger:
2 pounds of lean ground beef
1 packet of onion soup mix
1/2 cup of A1 Steak Sauce
4 ounces of Kerrygold Aged Cheddar, cut into small slices (Or any cheddar will do, I just particularly like the Kerrygold variety!)
8 small button mushrooms, sliced

Mix beef, soup mix and steak sauce until fully incorporated and form into 4 patties and then follow the directions below.

First, make each patty into a “nest”:

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger: Nest

Next line your “nest” with cheddar:

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger: Add the Cheese

Now add a layer of mushrooms over the cheese:

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger: Add the Mushrooms

Form patty over the center ingredients to seal in the cheese and mushrooms:

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger: Sealed and Ready to Cook

Cook the burgers over medium heat to your specifications. I like mine medium well to well done. (Or about 10 minutes for that level of doneness.)

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger: Cooked

And inside you have a yummy “surprise”!

Stuffed Mushroom and Cheddar Burger: The Center

Top burger with condiments of your choice and enjoy!

Makes 4 burgers.

What You’ll Need for the Cajun Oven Fries:
2 large russet potatoes, cut into strips
Extra virgin olive oil
Cajun seasoning
Sea salt (Note: The Cajun seasoning I use does NOT have added salt. If you are using a brand that does, then omit the salt)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Toss potatoes with a little olive oil and sprinkle Cajun seasoning over them and a little sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes until done through and slightly crispy.

Makes 4 servings.

Guinness Risotto With Goat Cheese And Thyme

Guinness Risotto With Goat Cheese And Thyme

What do you do with left over Guinness from Saint Patrick’s Day? Why get creative of course! Throw in a little goat cheese and a few veggies and you’ve got a risotto that is to die for!

What You’ll Need:
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small package of button mushrooms, sliced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 – 15 ounce package of Arborio rice
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups of frozen green peas
1 – 11.2 ounce bottle of Guinness
Water (4-6 cups)
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 – 5 ounce package of goat cheese, crumbled

Note: If you’ve never cooked risotto before, don’t be intimidated by this dish! It has an aura about it, but it’s really quite easy to make. Basically you just keep adding liquid. The liquid is almost absorbed and you keep adding more 1 or 2 cups at a time until the risotto is tender and ready to serve.

In a large pan saute onion and mushroom with sea salt, black pepper and thyme until veggies are tender. Add Arborio rice and let cook 1-2 minutes to slightly toast the grains. Stir in mixed veggies, peas and the bottle of Guinness. Cook until liquid mostly evaporates and then add 1-2 cups of water to cover grains. Cook again until liquid evaporates and keep repeating this step until risotto is fully cooked and tender. Once the risotto is fully cooked remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and goat cheese until smooth and melted. Serve immediately.