Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Peach and Cherry Chocolate-Studded Crisp

What I love about fruit crisps is that I can pretty much make them year-round and still feel like I am keeping in line with the season. In the fall, I make many versions of apple crisp. In the spring, I like incorporating rhubarb into my crisps. I've made pear versions during the winter months and now that it is summer, my mind immediately turned to cherries. The inclusion of peaches, as well, was pretty much a given since they are one of our favorite fruits in the JD household and I figured that they would pair well with the cherries.

I spent a couple of days testing some versions of a peach and cherry crisp. I purchased both fresh cherries and frozen for recipe testing, but knew that I wanted to stick with fresh peaches since they are easy to work with and are pretty fabulous this time of year. When all was said and done, I much preferred using the frozen cherries, however. First, using frozen cherries is an easy time-saver compared to pitting and handling fresh ones. But, I actually liked how the frozen cherries came together with the fresh peaches upon baking. I don't like crisps that are too runny, so the texture and consistency was perfect for my preference. And, the frozen cherries seem to have a sweeter, fuller flavor in the end.

Since I don't think I had ever tried incorporating chocolate into a crisp, I decided to toss on some dark chocolate towards the end of baking. It totally elevated the crisp and added another flavor element that I just loved.

This is a recipe that comes together in a matter of a few minutes. Then, it bakes off for about thirty minutes in the oven. Of course, a crisp must be topped off with either ice cream, whipped cream or a little yogurt at the time of service. And, as a bonus ... if you have any leftovers, I give permission for you to enjoy them the following day for breakfast.

Serves 4 - 5.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Lemon-Kissed Homemade Tapioca Pudding

Sometimes we just crave old-school, from-scratch desserts ... recipes perhaps that our mothers and grandmothers made throughout our childhoods. For me, that often means desserts like, homemade banana pudding, Texas sheet cake and gelatin pretzel dessert. It, also, means tapioca pudding. My grandmother used to make the best homemade puddings. My favorite was always tapioca, which works well for me even to this day because it is, also, my kids' favorite type of pudding.

I have made traditional tapioca pudding numerous times for my children over the years. Recently, I experimented with a lemon version. And, I just adore the fresh twist. The lemon is not overpowering, but is present just enough to rock the boat in the typical-vanilla-pudding sea. And, this pudding isn't one that is overly sweet, which is part of why I love making it at home. I control the ingredients.

Basic pantry and refrigerator staples are the foundation of tapioca pudding - pearl tapioca, milk, water, vanilla, eggs, salt and sugar. With a touch of lemon zest and juice added, the result is a super satisfying, refreshing and unexpected dessert that I'm sure you'll fall in love with, too.

Keep in mind that you need to use actual pearl tapioca. (Do not use the instant tapioca powder that is typically used as a thickening agent.) Also, note that the lemon flavor will develop as the pudding completely cools and hangs out in the fridge. So, don't think when tasting it at the time of preparation that the lemon essence isn't present. It will be there ... just be patient. The pudding really does need, at least, a few hours to chill in the fridge for the perfect consistency and for the flavors to develop.

Serves 4.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Festive Farro Rainbow Taco Salad

If you're anything like me, taco salads are a favorite. The blending of simple ingredients into one salad that's loaded with spice, texture and freshness always seems to be a hit. In our house, we prefer our taco salads without meat. {This particular one could easily be adapted to include some grilled chicken or shrimp, however, if you desire.} I find that the farro is pretty hearty and actually mimics the texture somewhat of ground beef. I season it up simply in this recipe by blending it with fresh salsa, so it has a lot of flavor and a little kick. Building this salad using blue tortilla chips, tomatoes, corn, iceberg lettuce, sweet peppers and cheddar cheese drives home the rainbow theme and yields quite the pretty presentation.

Farro is a grain that is pretty easily found in most supermarkets these days. You could replace it with brown rice or quinoa if you'd like here, but I think you'll agree that the use of cooked farro is a great choice in taco salads.

This taco salad is hearty and filling enough to be a meal all on its own. And, it makes for a quick and easy-to-prepare weeknight dinner that is especially satisfying in the summer.

Serves 4.