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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Sweet Orange Chia Seed Pudding

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Chia seeds are a new ingredient in my kitchen.  What first intrigued me was their unique  nutritional profile.  Just 2 tablespoons provide 5 grams of fiber and 4500 mg of alpha-linoileic acid (omega 3’s) along with protein, calcium, vitamins and other minerals.  When these seeds are hydrated in liquid, they form a gel and suspend in that liquid.  They add texture to smoothies and are the gelling agent in this pudding recipe.  If you are a veteran user of chia seeds, please share your favorite way to use them.  If you are new to them, this recipe is a great place to start!

Sweet Orange Chia Seed Pudding (serves 4)

1 cup of low fat milk

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest of 1/2 orange

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup non fat plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup Chia seeds

Toppings: orange sections and shredded coconut

In a small bowl, mix together milk and maple syrup. Add Chia seeds and mix well. Let sit for 5 minutes and stir again. Refrigerate for 2 hours (or overnight), stirring again after first hour. When ready to serve, stir in orange juice, zest and yogurt, and thoroughly combine.

Pour into individual serving bowls and top with orange sections and shredded coconut. Enjoy!

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!

Lemon Panna Cotta from Nonnie’s Italian Kitchen

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Today I taught a class at Marcel’s with my mom.  It was really a special day!  Lunch in Nonnie’s Italian Kitchen ended with this delicious dessert.  The great thing about this dessert is how easy it is to make.  Your family or dinner guests will never know!

Light Lemon Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce (serves 8)

Panna Cotta:

1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

Panna Cotta1 cup 2% milk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups low-fat buttermilk

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Prepare 8 ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 2% milk, let stand 10 minutes. Cook milk and gelatin over medium-low heat until gelatin dissolves (3-5 minutes). Increase heat to medium and add sugar, stirring with a whisk until it dissolves (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat. Add buttermilk and zest, stirring well. Divide mixture evenly among prepared custard cups. Cover and chill 5 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, place dessert plate on top of each ramekin. Invert panna cotta onto plates. Serve with sauce. Enjoy!

Sauce:

1/2 cup apple juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

2 cups blueberries

2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

In a small saucepan, combine apple juice, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the blueberries and reduce heat to simmer. Cook about 5 minutes until blueberries soften and begin to open. Add cornstarch mixture if thicker consistency is desired. Cool sauce to room temperature.

This recipe was adapted from one in Italian Cooking Light 2006