Fresh Strawberry Brie Bites

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Need an appetizer for a party?  Or a refreshing dessert after dinner?  This recipe serves both needs!  Fresh strawberries washed and hulled deliver color and sweetness when paired with creamy brie and fresh basil leaves.  Balsamic glaze provides a sweet yet savory finish for a fabulous combination!

Strawberry Brie Bites with Balsamic Glaze (makes 20-24 pieces)

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled

Fresh basil, one leaf per strawberry (about 20-24)

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 pound Brie cheese, cut 1/4-inch slices into 1-inch squares (20-24 pieces)

Toothpicks or small bamboo skewers

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the glaze is thick and coats a spoon (consistency of chocolate syrup). Set aside and allow to cool in pan.

Prepare a serving dish with a light coat of oil or cooking spray. Start stacking ingredients with a piece of brie as the base. Add basil (leaf should curve up to catch the glaze).  Next, add the strawberry (hulled side down). Spear stack with toothpick and drizzle with glaze. Arrange on the prepared serving dish. Enjoy!

Note: Any unused balsamic glaze can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for several weeks. 

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Apple Pie Baked Apples

Apple Pie Baked Apples

It’s apple season!  Empire, Honeycrisp, Fuji, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala… the list of juicy goodness goes on and on.  Which is your favorite?

My 3 boys and I just went apple picking this week. We picked Empire and Honeycrisp. They are both delicious in this recipe.  Apple Pie Baked Apples were the first recipe I made with these freshly picked apples.   They work well as a dessert or a tasty after school snack!  Enjoy!

Apple Pie Baked Apples (serves 4)

We found the biggest apple we have ever picked (and my husband and I have been picking for 27 years!). Quite a prize!

We found the biggest apple we have ever picked (and my husband and I have been picking for 27 years!). Quite a prize!

5 large baking apples (Honeycrisp or Empire)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 package prepared pie crust dough

Caramel sauce, if desired

In a very small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon warm water. Blend until smooth. Set aside. Peel and dice 1 apple. In a small saucepan, combine diced apple, sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch mixture. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice off the tops of 4 apples. Using spoon (or melon baller), dig out the core (leave the bottom of the apple intact). Spoon the prepared apple filling into the cored apples.

Roll out prepared pie crust dough. With a pizza cutter or paring knife, cut dough into 1/4-inch strips. Working with one apple at a time, lay 3 strips of dough horizontally on top of apple. Weave one additional strip vertically across other strips. Repeat with additional vertical strip. Trim any excess dough from sides of apple. Complete same procedure with other apples.

Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by adding hot water to cover the bottom of the pan. Place apples in pan and cover. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Uncover, and bake an additional 25 minutes or until crust is browned and apple is soft.

Remove apples onto a serving plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.

Warm Apple Crisp

Warm Apple Crisp

Tomorrow March begins!!!!!  But here in the snow-covered Midwest, Spring seems like a very distant reality.  The temperatures still average below freezing and there is snow in today’s forecast.  I find this to be the perfect time to share a warm, sweet dessert that will help put a smile on your face and those who eat this with you!  Enjoy!

Warm Apple Crisp (serves 6)

4 medium, tart apples (about 4 cups) peeled, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup yellow raisins

Juice of half lemon (1 tablespoon)

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour (or gluten free flour)

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Set aside. In a bowl, combine apples, sugar, raisins, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon flour. Mix to combine. Spread evenly on pie plate.

Combine 3 tablespoons flour, oats, nuts, oil, brown sugar, and spices. Mix well. Sprinkle this topping evenly over apples. Bake in center of oven until golden and bubbly, 30-40 minutes. Serve in individual dessert dishes and top with your favorite ice cream.

Banana Chip ‘Ice Cream’

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This is a nice dessert option after a season of holiday sweets.  It does not require added sugar for it’s natural sweetness.  All you need are a few ripe bananas and a food processor.  Even your kids can have fun making this ‘ice cream’ as they turn their favorite fruit into a delicious frozen treat.  YUM!

Banana Chip ‘Ice Cream’ (serves 2)

2 small (or one large) ripe banana, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

Chopped nuts and chocolate syrup, if desired

Freeze sliced bananas for at least 2 hours in an airtight container. Chop chocolate chips with knife on cutting board (or in small food processor), set aside.

Blend frozen bananas in a small food processor. Scrape down food processor as banana goes from crumbled to gooey and again to smooth consistency (like ‘soft-serve’). Add chocolate and blend briefly to combine.  Eat immediately garnished with chopped nuts and/or chocolate syrup.  Enjoy!

Candy Corn Fruit & Yogurt Cups

Candy Corn Fruit Cups

Just in time for Halloween!  It’s a snack that is both fun and healthy, unique amongst all the sweets & candy of the season.  It mimics candy corn when assembled:  yellow-orange-white as pineapple-oranges-yogurt.  These are easy to make and individually packed for a party or to simply ‘grab & go’.  Enjoy!

Candy Corn Fruit & Yogurt Cups (serves 12)

3 cups low fat vanilla yogurt

2 cans pineapples chunks (in juice), drained

2 cans mandarin oranges, drained

12 plastic, clear, 6-ounce cups

Candy corn, for garnish

Using a spoon, equally distribute pineapple in bottom of each cup.  Repeat process with orange slices.  Top with a 1/4 cup dollop of yogurt.  Garnish with a piece of candy corn.  Now they are ready to share with your favorite goblins!

 

Summer Fruit Dessert

Summer Fruit Dessert

There is such sweetness this time of year!  Ripe fruit and lots of it!!  Here is a great way to enjoy some of this season’s bounty.  Even if you don’t have kiwi or bananas, try strawberries, pitted cherries, cantaloupe, sliced peaches, plums…so many fruits to dip!  Have fun and enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Dipped Fruit with Hazelnuts (makes 16 pieces)

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

8 slices fresh kiwi

8 chunks fresh banana

1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts (or almonds, peanuts, pecans)

Slice fruit and place on parchment lined pan. Put in freezer for 15 minutes to firm the fruit. Melt chocolate in double boiler or in microwave. Dip fruit into melted chocolate, sprinkle with nuts and place on parchment-lined pan. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, until chocolate and nuts are set and fruit remains chilled.

Dreamsicle Smoothie

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School’s out!  My kids are so happy!!  I remember that excitement when I was a kid.  Summer meant lots of time playing outside and listening for the bell of the ice cream truck coming through the neighborhood.  Do you remember Dreamsicles?  The orange sherbet coating on vanilla ice cream bar?  Well, try this healthy smoothie recipe and please let me know if I’ve named it appropriately!

Dreamsicle Smoothie (makes 12 ounces)

1 cup vanilla low- or non-fat yogurt

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup diced peaches

1/2 cup ice cubes

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

Blend on high for 1 minute until smooth.  Enjoy!

Caramelized Grapefruit

Carmelized Grapefruit

Refreshing! A new twist to an old favorite!  Yummy!

However you want to describe it, now is the time to treat yourself to Caramelized Grapefruit.  Enjoy it at breakfast, as an afternoon snack or as ‘salad’ for dinner.  It’s easy!

Caramelized Grapefruit (serves 2)

1 large ruby red grapefruit, cut in half at center and chilled

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat broiler 500 degrees.  Set oven rack 6 inches below heating element.

Run a paring knife around each grapefruit section to release.  Spread brown sugar evenly on both halves.

Arrange each half on a baking sheet and place in broiler for 2-3 minutes when sugar begins to caramelize. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Sweet Rhubarb Muffins

iStock rhubarb

The first sighting of fresh rhubarb in your local market is another sign of Spring.  Are you wondering if rhubarb is a fruit or a vegetable?  I was, too, and found that technically, rhubarb is considered a vegetable.  But since 1947, it’s been called a fruit in the U.S. when a New York court decided that since it was being used as a fruit it should be counted as a fruit.

Regardless of whether it is a fruit or a vegetable, I encourage you to try these muffins. Typically I am used to the taste combination of strawberry and rhubarb.  But without any strawberry, these muffins nicely highlight the flavor of rhubarb with their delicate sweetness.  They’re yummy!

Rhubarb Muffins (makes 1-1/2 dozen)

Sweet Rhubarb Muffin

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 egg

1 cup low fat buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 ounces (1-1/2 cups diced) rhubarb (fresh or frozen), cut into ½ inch dice

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup ground flaxseeds

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

topping:  2 tablespoons brown sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin pans with 18 paper muffin cups. In a small bowl, combine the flour, flax, baking soda and powder.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, oil, egg, vanilla and buttermilk.  Stir in the rhubarb and nuts.  Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ones.  Fold together quickly until just blended to make a lumpy batter.

Spoon batter equally into the muffin cups.  Sprinkle topping evenly onto the 18 muffins.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Enjoy!

The recipe was adapted from Nigella Lawson

Strawberries!

Strawberries!

Strawberries have arrived in sweet abundance in the Midwest!  Aren’t they beautiful?  These pictured are ones I just bought at my local grocery store for $1.00.  I love their flavor, nutrition, and versatility.  And the good news continues…last week I attended a nutrition symposium where strawberry science was reviewed.  The health benefits of consuming strawberries go far beyond the fruit’s high vitamin C and fiber content.  Strawberries are also rich in phytonutritients that have cardio-protective and anti-inflammatory effects.  These may help promote cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and cognitive function.

All this to say…enjoy these delicious red berries!  Slice them on top of your morning cereal or yogurt.  Eat them as a whole fruit at lunch.  Blend them into a smoothie at snack time or include them in a salad at dinner.  You can also find some fun recipes at www.californiastrawberries.com.  I think you’ll agree, there are many ways (and reasons) to enjoy their goodness!