Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I love chocolate covered strawberries. I rarely have them though, and I had never made them. For some reason this was one of those things I had in my head as being difficult, but it couldn’t be further than the truth! They really are quite simple, and they take next to no time to actually make as well.

There are many variations you can do in terms of chocolate covered strawberries. You can make them really fancy and make them look like something, like a football, or a tuxedo, or even Santa, or they can be really simple and simply be dipped in chocolate and possibly drizzled with a little white chocolate for flare. Or how about some rainbow sprinkles added to give it a punch of color and whimsy?

Most of the time chocolate covered strawberries are considered a romantic gift, or a gift for a woman, but they could be given to anyone at anytime. Who wants to wait around for a special occasion when they are so simple and easy to make. Generally speaking they’re somewhat healthier than the average dessert as well, especially if you use dark chocolate. What are you waiting for?

What You’ll Need:
Ripe strawberries, washed and patted dry
1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (Note: You can use milk, semi, dark, bittersweet, etc.)
1 tablespoon of shortening (Note: Look for a version without trans-fats.)
Bamboo skewers or toothpicks
A foam block to stick the dipped strawberries in

First you want to wash and dry your strawberries and pick out what kind of chocolate chips you want to use:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Chocolate and Strawberries

I like to use Ghirardelli chips or Green and Black’s baking bars chopped up into bits.

Place the chocolate chips and the shortening in a microwave safe glass bowl:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Ready to Melt

Microwave for 20 second intervals at half power, stirring between rounds, until chocolate is melted and smooth:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Dipping Choclate

Now it’s time to start dipping!

While the chocolate is melting, insert toothpicks or bamboo skewers in to the top of your strawberries:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Ready to Dip

If you want you can remove the strawberry caps, but I like to leave them on. They add a bit of pizazz!

Next dip the individual strawberries in to the chocolate to coat and stick toothpicks in a foam block so the chocolate on the strawberries can set or harden:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Chocolate Setting

You can make them set up quickly by placing the block in the fridge and it will harden within 5 to 10 minutes. Or you can leave them at room temperature until they harden in 20 to 30 minutes.

And now you’ve got some really fabulous chocolate covered strawberries!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Doesn’t that look like the perfect dessert or snack?

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Indeed it does!

Notes: You can also fill chocolate covered strawberries by coring out the center and adding a filling of your choice. One of my friends on Twitter suggested cookie dough. You could do sugar cookie or chocolate chip! Or how about a cheesecake type filling? Or butter cream icing would be great too. Be creative!

Lemon Granita

Lemon Granita

I love granita. It’s so easy to make and it’s a really great dessert, that isn’t that bad for you and is just perfect for summer!

You can make granita with pretty much any fruit and this time of year when fruits are so readily available and fresh it’s a really great time to make granita if you’ve never tried it! It’s simple, just a little scraping here and there and you have a really great dessert in just a few hours. What’s not to like about that?

What You’ll Need:
The juice of 10 lemons
1/2 cup of water
4 tablespoons of organic cane sugar (Notes: I like the tartness of lemons. If you want it a bit sweeter then you could add up to 1/2 cup of sugar.)

Mix lemon juice, water and sugar together with a whisk until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture in to a shallow dish like a pie plate and place in the freezer.

You’ll want to check this mixture every 30 minutes and as it freezes you will scrape the mixture with a fork to ensure that as it freezes it doesn’t freeze into a solid block, but makes a fluffy frozen mixture instead. The sides will freeze first so scrape them toward the center. Keep scraping the granita until the mixture is completely frozen (2-4 hours depending on your freezer) and you have a fluffy frozen mix.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes roughly 4 servings.

Notes: For an adult treat stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of light or coconut rum or even lemon vodka would be nice in place of the water.

Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake

Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake with Peach Ice Cream

When my parents came to visit this past week they brought me their old grill. We used to use it when we camped out at the lake in the summers and it was just sitting in Mom’s garage collecting dust. I had hoped to bring it back with me when I was in Tennessee a few weeks ago, but both trips there just wasn’t room in the car. We killed two birds with one stone; Mom got the grill out of her garage and I finally have a grill again! My mom’s only request? “If you decide later you don’t want it you have to find somewhere else for the grill to live!” Deal!

I have to admit that charcoal freaks me out a bit, especially the kind that is drenched in chemicals to ignite. You know me, I’m not much of a chemical person and avoid them at all costs. I was thrilled when we found a natural charcoal that was made from hardwood charcoal and put together with a vegetable binder!

Charcoal

I was further thrilled when I realized by purchasing a charcoal chimney you didn’t need lighter fluid!

My New Charcoal Chimney

There’s a bit of a learning curve with this apparently and this go around wasn’t perfect, but I got it smoking!

My New Charcoal Chimney

And then we really got it going!

My New Charcoal Chimney

Next time I’ll put more charcoal in the chimney and put the paper underneath it instead of the in the chimney itself! You live, you learn! But no lighter fluid! Woot!

Overall this really is a simple, yet delicious summer time treat that gives you a bit of wow factor, yet doesn’t take a ton of time or a lot of effort. I love fresh, simple desserts like that!

What You’ll Need:
Peach ice cream
Peaches, cut in half and pitted
Pound cake, sliced (Note: You can buy one at the store like I did this go around, or you can make one. This is my favorite.)

Obviously you’ll want to make your ice cream ahead of time and have it ready to go.

Next up grill your peaches:

Peaches and Corn Grilling

I actually grilled the peaches with our dinner and then let them cool off before we ate them. They were fabulous! It’s simple to do, just cut the peach in half, remove the pit and place it face down on the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes or until tender.

How easy is that?

Next grill the pound cake!

Slice your pound cake and place the slices on the grill:

Pound Cake Grilling

This process basically just toasts the pound cake and deepens its flavor! Toast each side about 1-2 minutes until golden:

Pound Cake Grilling

Now you’re ready to put your dessert together. A slice of pound cake, a grilled peach and a scoop of peach ice cream and voila…Dessert is served!

See easy peasy!

Notes: You can grill many fruits. Apples, bananas, pineapple, plums, nectarines, etc.

Gooey Lemon Squares

Gooey Lemon Bars

I love lemons. I really do. I normally have a bag of lemons hanging around. I like them in my tea, in water, to cook with, to clean with, you name it and lemons can come to the rescue!

For a while now I’ve wanted to make lemon bars and I’ve had ideas in my head of how I thought they should be and what should go in them. These didn’t turn out as I expected, but that isn’t a bad thing! They turned out great! Just the right punch of tart, with a pinch of sweet. Perfect!

These little babies are going to work with Jamison tomorrow for his pot luck. Any that are left I’ll feed to my dad this weekend since he’s always wanting to snack on when he’s here. That is if I don’t eat them first! ;oP

Gooey Lemon Bars: Crust Baked

What You’ll Need For The Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 stick of butter, cut into pats
1/3 cup of heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Place flour, sugar and sea salt in the bowl of your food processor and process until well mixed. Add butter and heavy cream and process until mixture is pebbly:

Gooey Lemon Bars: Crumbly Crust

Press crust mixture in to a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Gooey Lemon Bars: Crust Ready to Bake

Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is like a big sugar cookie.

Let cool for 10 minutes. Make the filling while the crust is cooling slightly. (See below.)

Gooey Lemon Bars

What You’ll Need For The Filling:
3 cups of organic cane sugar
6 eggs
1 cup of lemon juice (usually 4 or 5 lemons)
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
Powdered sugar for dusting

While the crust is cooling begin making your filling. Leave oven on at 325 F.

In the bowl of a mixer beat eggs and sugar for 5 minutes on high.

Slowly add lemon juice and mix until incorporated. Next add flour and stir until mixed well. Pour mixture on top of the baked crust:

Gooey Lemon Bars: Ready to Bake

Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown:

Gooey Lemon Bars: Baked

The center will still be sightly gooey.

Let cool to room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar:

Gooey Lemon Bars: Sprinkled with Powdered Sugar

Cut into squares and serve.

Notes: You can serve these straight up or you cant add a dollop of whipped cream or even some blueberry sauce!

Key Lime Mousse

Key Lime Mousse: Ready to Serve

If you’ve been a reader of Dianne’s Dishes for a while you’ve heard me profess my adoration of key lime before. To say I’m a huge fan is somewhat of an understatement. From ice cream, to cheesecake, to cookie bars, to even a parfait I’m all about the key lime!

The other day I actually stumbled upon a bag of key limes and I was thrilled! I’ve never had fresh key lime juice before and I was excited to actually try my hand at juicing the little fruits. It’s a lot of work, to be quite honest, for very little juice, but the flavor is well worth it in the end!

This mousse is ultra simple, yet oh so delicious. In minutes you have a really fabulous, impressive dessert that took no time (Other than squeezing those little limes if you go the fresh juice route!) to make. If you’re a fan of key limes then this is the dessert for you!

What You’ll Need:
1/2 of a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (Note: I used the fat free variety, but any will work.)
1/3 cup of fresh key lime juice (Note: If you’re using bottled, it’s a bit stronger since it’s more concentrated so I’d cut it back to 1/4 a cup.)
1 cup of heavy cream
Graham cracker crumbs and graham crackers for garnish

In the bowl of your mixer mix sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice until well mixed. Add heavy cream and beat on high until the basic consistency of whipped cream:

Key Lime Mousse: Whipping

It will be a bit smoother than whipped cream, but along the same lines.

To serve place a dollop of the mousse in a bowl:

Key Lime Mousse

The sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and place a section of graham cracker in the middle of the mound just to shake things up a bit.

Serve immediately.

And enjoy every, delicious bite!

Key Lime Mousse: A Bite

Notes: If you just must you could add a drop or two of green food coloring, but I wouldn’t advise it. You could also do this process with any other citrus.

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

Another wonderful thing about fall are apples! If you take a drive out through the country you’ll come across numerous orchards that have tons of fresh, crisp, fabulous apples! Beautiful leaves and tons of apples. What could be better than that?

There are many things you can do with apples, but one of my favorite ways to use apples, though I rarely make them, are baked apples! With a few simple ingredients you’ve got a fabulous autumn treat that can’t be beat. It’s also versatile because you can use it as a side dish or dessert. Who doesn’t like multipurpose dishes?

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1 apple, cored
A small chunk of bread
1 tablespoon of butter, cut into six pieces
1 tablespoon of natural brown sugar
Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Core apple:

Baked Apples: Cored Apple

Chop butter into bite sized pieces:

Baked Apples: Butter

Next stuff the chunk of bread in the bottom of the apple to stop up the hole and then press the butter down into the apple and “pack” it in:

Baked Apples: Bread and Butter

Top butter with brown sugar:

Baked Apples: Brown Sugar

All of the sugar might not fit in the hole, but that’s ok. Just get as much of it into the hole as possible and the rest of it can just top the apple and even fall down into the dish.

Sprinkle with cinnamon:

Baked Apples: Cinnamon

I like a lot of cinnamon, but you can use as little cinnamon, or as much as you like.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until apple is tender and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit five minutes and then serve.

Notes: If you wanted to make this a dessert you could top it with whipped cream, but I like it as a side dish to pork. The bread is there to keep most of the butter and sugar inside the apple as it bakes.

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

I love mangoes, but I rarely eat them because they really are a pain in the rear to cut up. I’ve tried the tricks that supposedly make cutting them easier, but I have never really found one that I like. Often I buy frozen mango for smoothies, but once in a while I’ll buy an actual mango to enjoy.

Mango is great all by itself, but it’s really a fun component to add to salsa! This version is cool, fresh and really great to compliment a summer meal. Who says salsa has to be tomato based?

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Ingredients

What You’ll Need:
1 mango, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1-3 jalapenos, chopped fine
2 cups of cooked black beans
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped (Note: I am not a fan of cilantro, in fact I despise cilantro, but if you’re a fan you could substitute this if you desired. I won’t vouch for the over all taste of the salsa though if you do choose this route.)

First chop a mango and add it to a large glass bowl:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Mango

Next add the chopped red onion:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Red Onion

Have I mentioned lately how these should be call purple onions instead? There is not red there! I haven’t? Well there you go then! ;oP

Next add cucumber:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Cucumbers

Then jalapeños:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Jalapeño

And then the black beans, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Salt, Pepper, Oil and Vinegar

Toss everything together until well mixed. Then add chopped parsley and stir until incorporated:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Serve immediately or chill for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes: This is great on fish or steaks. Also you’ll want to use this within a day of making.

No Cook Blueberry Jam

No Cook Blueberry Jam

As I mentioned yesterday Alexis and I went to the orchard after our trip to the library to pick up some blueberries (and of course peas for Miss G)! I just love blueberry season! Blueberries are my favorite fruit, followed closely by watermelon and fresh pineapple. In fact if you do a search on Dianne’s Dishes for blueberries you’ll find Blueberry Muffins to Blueberry Ice Cream to Blueberry Cheesecake and everything in between!

I’m a big fan of blueberry jam. In fact I normally get mine from a local company called McCutcheons. I love their jams/jellies/preserves! And as an added bonus they have no high fructose corn syrup in them and use real sugar. That’s always a plus in my book. But I’ve been wanting to try to make some on my own for a while now.

This jam turned out just perfect! The lemon and blueberry go so well together, and it was just the right amount of sweet! It also goes together in no time and you don’t have to fuss with canning or anything either since it’s a fridge or freezer jam. In less than an hour you’ve got yourself some fabulous homemade jam!

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Blueberries

What You’ll Need:
4 pints of blueberries
2/3 cup of organic cane sugar
The zest of one lemon
The juice of one lemon
1 package of Ball Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin

Rinse berries and pick over them to ensure there are no stems. Mash berries well:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Mashed Blueberries

If there are a few blueberries that don’t get mashed that’s ok.

Add the zest and juice of one lemon:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Lemon Zest

Also add the organic cane sugar:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Organic Cane Sugar

Stir to mix well:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Mixed and Ready for Pectin

Add pectin 1 tablespoon at a time:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Pectin

And then stir until mixed in. Repeat this process until the pectin is completely gone and well mixed in to the blueberry mixture:

No Cook Blueberry Jam: Ready for Jars

Stir for 3-4 minutes and then you’re ready to store. I like to use canning jars. Using a funnel ladle the mixture into the jar:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Be sure not to fill the jars quite full, especially if you’re going to store this in the freezer:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

This will give you about 3 1/2 pints:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

The one that was going in the fridge I filled a little more full than those going into the freezer.

Let sit for 30 minutes and voila…Jam!

Store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks or the freezer for 10-12 months.

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Notes: This method should work with other types of fruits and berries too. Next up I want to try peaches!

Strawberry Muffins

Strawberry Muffins

I’ve really been enjoying the strawberries we’ve gotten from our CSA. I miss my little strawberry patch that I planted at our old house. (Though I’ll readily admit there isn’t much else I miss from there! ;oP) When strawberries are in season my first task is eating them all by their little selves. Once that thrill wears off, which is about a week or so, I start doing other things with them. I have frozen some for later, I’ve made salads, I’ve made jam, ice cream is always a good idea and then I decided it was time to do some baking!

But what to bake? You can always make strawberry shortcake…I mean who doesn’t like that classic? Or you could make another classic…Cobbler! And then there are always muffins! Blueberry muffins are usually the norm around here when muffins are made, but this time around I wanted to make some strawberry muffins because I’ve always wanted to try them!

Jamison works from home a lot. I like it when he works from home. It’s nice to have him in the house even though he’s working anyway. But when he goes in, from time to time, I like to send in treats with him to work. It let’s me try something and have a little of it, without having to worry about eating it all myself! This way I got to have my muffin and eat it too so to speak! ;oP

For the past two weeks Jamison has had to go in each day because he’s teaching a class, so last week I decided that it was high time to make a batch of strawberry muffins and send them in with him. I liked how these turned out…The strawberry flavor was just right, while the muffin itself was very moist and tender. I’ll definitely be making these again. If you like strawberries then this is the muffin for you!

Strawberry Muffins: Ready for Jamison to Take to Work

What You’ll Need:
2 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 vanilla Greek yogurt (Note: I like Oikos.)
2 eggs
1/8 cup of safflower oil
2/3 cups of buttermilk
2 cups of strawberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Strawberry Muffins: Strawberries

In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder until well mixed. Add yogurt, eggs, oil and buttermilk and stir until completely incorporated and thick batter forms. (Note: Flours is a finicky thing. You might need to add a little more buttermilk. You want the batter to be thick enough to sort of hold up the strawberries, but still be able to be stirred without strain.)

Once batter is mixed slowly stir in strawberries and stir until just mixed:

Strawberry Muffins: Batter

Line a muffin pan with muffin liners. (Note: If I’m making muffins for us I use silicone cupcake liners instead of paper. You can use them over and over and they cut down on waste! When I’m making something to send out I use the traditional paper liner.)

Fill each cup 3/4ths of the way full:

Strawberry Muffins: Ready to Bake

Bake for 18-20 minutes until muffins are golden and stick done.

Serve immediately or let cool and store in an airtight container.

Strawberry Muffins: The Inside

Notes: You could add half strawberry and half rhubarb if you wanted to shake things up a little bit. Or how about half strawberry and half blueberry?

Minty Strawberry Sauce

Minty Strawberry Sauce

I’ve already told you how much I enjoy fresh strawberries, so I won’t go there again, but when we got more strawberries this week from our CSA, along with some mint, I was thrilled! I knew immediately that I wanted to do something with them together.

We had a few slices of pound cake left over from our dinner last week (I froze most of it for use later) and I decided to make some Minty Strawberry Sauce to top that and of course it was just perfect! If you’ve never had mint and strawberries together before try it…It really is fabulous!

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Strawberries

What You’ll Need:
1 pint of strawberries
1/4 cup of mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar

In a glass bowl or container chop strawberries to desired size:

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Ready for Sugar and Mint

Stir in mint leaves and sugar until mixed:

Minty Strawberry Sauce: Ready for the Fridge

Cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or until “sauce” forms. Perfect as an ice cream topping for vanilla or vanilla white chocolate ice cream or as a topping on angel food cake or pound cake.

Notes: This goes together quickly, is easy, yet provides a bit of bang in terms of wow factor. This mixture also can be used to make an ice cream similar to this one.