Monday, August 31, 2009
Well one week from today is Labor Day. If history repeats itself it will either be raining or very hot. I doubt we'll have this fall like weather although it would be fantastic if we did.
Over this week I thought I would post some fun, simple recipes that you could have for your Labor Day gathering with family and friends.
This first recipe will be perfect if the weather is sunny and warm. It's a Pina Colada Creamsicle. Although my photo didn't turn out that great, the creamsicle makes up for it.
I made this using small Solo cups and popsicle sticks. I couldn't find a popsicle mold so I used what I had. I would suggest however that if you decide to make this recipe that you use the mini Solo cups. Those that are used for the bathroom. The ones I used were great but I think the smaller ones would be easier to eat from. Plus, the only popsicle sticks I had were the ones my kids use to use the build with. Use the solid sticks like they have for candy apples and popsicles they are sturdier.
This recipe is so simple. I added just a small amount of rum and you couldn't even taste it. You can add more if you like or none at all. I think this was perfect. If you try it I hope you and your friends enjoy it too.
Pina Colada Creamsicle
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup cream of coconut (can be found in the liquor section at the grocery store)
1 cup heavy cream (YUM)
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 1/2 cups pineapple juice
6 popsicle molds or small solo cups (more if using mini cups)
6 popsicle sticks
Place the crushed pineapple, cream of coconut, heavy cream, and dark rum into a blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
Pour equal portions of the mixture into the molds. If using Solo cups I then took silver foil and with the tip of a knife put a small slit in the top to hold the popsicle stick in place.
Then place the popsicle stick half way down into the mixture with the foil over the top of the cup and seal. Place cups on a small sheet pan and place in the freezer for at least 3 hours, to freeze.
When ready to eat, run warm water over your hands or a paper towel and wrap around the cup. This should be enough to release the Pina Colada Creamsicle out of the cup so you're able to enjoy this delightful treat. Make it with or without the rum so that everyone can have them.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I love mangoes and blueberries. In fact every morning for breakfast I have a bowl of Oatmeal loaded with mangoes, blueberries and cinnamon. It gives me a jump start for my day.
So when I was having breakfast the other day I wondered what these fruits would taste like in a salsa. Since I was preparing Salmon that evening I decided to to try it, I mean how bad could it be? It actually tasted great and very refreshing.
In addition to the way it tasted did you know that Mangoes are:
High in antioxidants
High in iron
High in vitamins A, E and Selenium which protects against heart disease
Blueberries also have some health benefits that include:
They help to slow the aging process.
They help reduce cell damage that may lead to some forms of cancer.
They help prevent and even cure urinary tract infections.
They help clean our blood vessels, our arteries and veins.
They are proving to be beneficial to those suffering with arthritis and fibroses myalgia.
They benefit the nervous system and may help to prevent mood swings.
They help you maintain good vision.
They are good for your complextion.
Help you stick to that “diet” and aid in weight control
Plus of course Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which help to ward off diseases.
With benefits like that I'm glad I've been eating them on a regular basis.
Below is the recipe for Mango & Blueberry Salsa
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup peeled, diced mangoes
2 tablespoons minced red onions
2 tablespoon minced red bell peppers
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon minced jalepeno peppers, seeded
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine blueberries, mangoes, onions, bell peppers, cilantro, lime juice, jalepenos, honey, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside or cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use (Best if used that day to avoid blueberries discoloring mangoes. Otherwise can hold up to 3 days)
Note: Be sure to wash hands carefully after handling chili peppers and be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth prior to washing hands.
For more information on how to cut mangoes go to "Labels" on the right column of my blog and search for "mangoes".
Friday, August 28, 2009
Well I sent my daughter off this morning for her sophmore year of college in Boston. I cried of course. I never can control myself. We had a great summer though and I'm sure she'll have a wonderful year at school.
Over the weekend my sister came in town with one of her sons and we celebrated her sons birthday along with both of my children who have birthdays in August. So my daughter asked if I would make this whimsical cake that I've made before. You can see it above. I'm not the best when it comes to cake decorating but my daughter and I both worked on it together and I think we did a pretty good job.
The cake takes 2-3 days to make depending on how you spread it out. It's a slanted whimsical chocolate butter cake with cookies and cream filling, buttercream icing with neon pink chocolate candles. It was delicious. Everyone loved it and took photos of it. Which of course made my daughter and I feel like quite the accomplished bakers.
We had a fun time celebrating their birthdays. I just wanted to share with you our creation. We are very proud of ourselves!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Well it's hard to believe that summer is coming to an end. For many of you, your children have started back to school or they'll be heading out very soon. My daughter leaves for her sophmore year up in Boston tomorrow. As always, I'll miss her and shed a few tears before she goes, which I've already managed to do.
However, not everyone is sending their children off to college, many of you have grown children or none at all. For those with kids still living at home that you send off to school with a lunch bag, I have a few tips that I hope you'll find helpful.
When you send your kids to school with a lunch bag, how can you be sure that the food will stay fresh and cold by the time they sit down to eat it at noon?
Here are a few tips that might insure the freshness of their brown bag lunch.
If packing a juice box for lunch, put the box in the frezzer the night before. When you pack it in the morning it will be frozen keeping the rest of their lunch fresh. By lunch time the juice box will be very cold but thawed and perfect for drinking.
Use an insulated lunch bag
Purchase a mini ice brick - these stay colder longer keeping food fresh and free of any bacteria developing
Freeze bread slices cut in half before making sandwiches. The food remains cold and doesn't get soggy.
Food should not be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).
So before you send your son or daughter off to school with a lunch bag, make sure you've insulated it or added something cold to the bag to keep the food fresh until lunchtime. Not taking the time could cause your child to get very ill. It only takes a minute. Don't forget.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
If you love garlic, then you'll love roasted garlic. The flavor is smooth and sweet and perfect in so many dishes. You can use it on:
Spreads and Dips
Spread roasted garlic on bread or bruschetta with olive oil or add it to cream cheese, hummus or bean dip for extra flavor.
Use roasted garlic in any pasta dish. For a quick meal, serve pasta with roasted garlic, olive oil, steamed broccoli and Parmesan cheese.
Roasted garlic is great in any soups where fresh garlic is normally used. Minestrone, vegetable, bean and pureed soups are all improved by the addition of roasted garlic.
Use roasted garlic in sauces such as homemade salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and gravy. Add roasted garlic to mayonnaise or melted butter to liven up the taste.
Add roasted garlic to any type of cooked vegetables, particularly broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, cooked greens and mashed potatoes, one of my favorites.
Making Roasted Garlic is actually very simple. Just follow these directions.
You can start with just one head of garlic but, since you're making it I'd do at least:
4 heads garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut off and discard the tips from the garlic heads. Place garlic on aluminum foil (shiny side in) and drizzle the oil over the exposed garlic cloves. Fold the foil over the garlic heads and seal so it becomes an airtight envelope. Place the garlic in the oven and roast for 1 hour. Let cool. Remove from foil and leave at room temperature for up to 12 hours, or refrigerate. The recipe can be completed to this point up to 2 weeks before serving.
To serve, if the garlic is refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Remove a garlic clove by pressing the skin and squeeze the garlic paste onto a cracker, crotini, bruschetta or into your favorite veggies, sauces, soups, pasta, etc.
It's that simple and delicious! Try it, you'll like it. You'll be amazed at how something so easy can jazz up any dish.
Monday, August 24, 2009
By now I'm sure you're well aware that I love to write about food, recipes, gadgets and everything food related. That's because I love to cook so much. So when I find something that I think is great or will be fun for the kitchen I like to share it with everyone.
This morning I was browsing the internet and found these fabulous vintage looking aprons. They're perfect for the new bride to be, as a gift or for yourself. I think they are so much fun.
I just ordered mine called the Dorothy in Red, since it will match my kitchen perfectly. Please check out Carolyn's Kitchen and tell me what you think. Which one is your favorite?
Please post your comment on your favorite apron and add your name as a follower to my blog and your name will be entered to win one of these adorable aprons. What are you waiting for?
One lucky winner will be announced on September 7th.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Those of you that know me, know that I am a dog lover. We have two adorable labs that we spoil rotten. As you can see in this photo, they live the Life of Riley (whoever that is) and enjoy lounging in the pool during the summer heat.
Well today I read a blurb about something called "Ice Lick". When I saw it I thought wow what a great idea. My dogs get so hot hanging out in the yard or even when they are at the pool. That's why they go lounging on the rafts. Why should they be any different than us?
When it's scalding out with 90% humidity I love an ice cold glass of water, tea or lemonade. Ice Lick is just that, in my opinion, for dogs.
You all may think I'm nuts but I think it's a great idea. It's an ice cold treat for our beloved friends. Check it out. That's my food blog today for dogs!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Today is my sons birthday. For his birthday dinner he decided he wanted to go out last night and get the famous Blueberry Hill burger. We would have taken him anywhere he wanted to go but he loves those burgers and it was his choice. From there we hit Ted Drews for dessert another favorite for great frozen custard. It was a fun evening with great grubb food as I call it.
So tonight, since it's his actual birthday, I decided to fix him one of his favorite dishes. Horseradish Encrusted Salmon with a Dijon Cream Sauce, Red Beans & Rice and Roasted Asparagus. Personally I would rather have something other than the Red Beans and Rice with this dish but he loves it and it is his day. I wanted to bake a cake but he asked me not to since we kind of went overboard last night. The meal was delightful but best of all he had a terrific day! I love celebrating birthday's and always want to make them as special as I can for those I love.
If you'd like to learn how to cook the Horseradish Encrusted Salmon along with some luscious sides and dessert contact me to schedule an in-home culinary class. This is a wonderful recipe, that's simple and delicious. Plus it's perfect for just the family or if you're entertaining.
To view the class schedule for "At Home with Vicki Bensinger" go to "Labels" in my blog and click on "classes offered."
I won an award! This award is for up and coming blogstress', who've been blogging for less than 3 years and one of the next generations super bloggers! I was nominated by Dee Gordon of Runako Designs and Runako Designs Girls Night Out.
I'd like to thank Dee Gordon, all my followers, family and friends for making this award possible. I couldn't have done this without your support and our love of food. I will continue to bring you lots of tasty bits of news and recipes in the years to come.
Now the rules are I must pass this award on to other bloggers. If you have been nominated for this award, you must pay it forward! You must post an acceptance speech on your blog and then nominate as many other blogs as you wish, and, if you have been nominated, feel free to post the above award proudly on your blog! I nominate the following who have been instrumental in helping me get started on my blog. They are part of a direct sales company that we are affiliated with, but have branched out or continued to pursue their passions. They are:
Designs By Loretta
Chocolate and Jewels
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There have been trial studies done that show, eating a Mediterranean Diet and Exercise combined, lower the risk of Alzheimer's.
In a previous blog I discussed in detail the Mediterranean Diet. However, in a nutshell it's a lifestyle approach to healthy eating that includes a balanced variety of foods and daily exercise.
The main ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet include:
- Eating abundant amounts of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Enjoying moderate portions of cheese and yogurt
- Choosing healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, avocados, and canola oil
- Drinking wine in moderation, usually with meals, if okay to do so
- Consuming fish and seafood regularly
- Eating small amounts of red meat only few times per month
- Being physically active daily
Most of us know someone who has Alzheimer's or have friends whose parents or family members have been diagnosed with it. If you could know ahead that eating a healthy diet (Mediterranean) and exercise could possibly prevent you from getting this disease wouldn't you make the effort to follow it?
Here is the link to the article that I read that I think you will find interesting. Please share this with others.
However, if someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and you are unsure how to care for them please check out this site, that offers in-home assessments for those with dementia-related illnesses and solutions for aging-in-place.
Remember, exercise makes you feel great and eating a Mediterranean Diet nourishes your body. The two combined will do wonders for you and those you love, plus ward off many diseases.
To learn how to cook the Mediterranean way, contact me to schedule your Mediterranean Culinary Class. In the meantime, to help you get started, try this great summer chilled soup recipe.
This light, no-cook soup is a great base for endless possibilities. Try it with croutons, chopped vegetables or cooked shrimp.
1 pound tomatoes, skinned
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Place the tomatoes, onion, oil, vinegar and tomato puree in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in tomato juice, cucumber, green pepper, salt and pepper. Chill thoroughly before serving.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
When the heat index gets up to over a 100 degrees, cooking just doesn't sound great. Howver, if everyone is counting on you for dinner then something light and refreshing is what they're going to get.
So tonight I decided to make a Grilled Greek Swordfish Salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette and some bruschetta. It was perfect. Light and refreshing. The swordfish was marinated in a lemon, olive oil and some fresh herbs. After the swordfish had sometime to marinate I placed them on skewers and grilled them.
I planned to make frozen lemonade but I was so exhausted from the heat I just had ice water.
I'm already looking forward to cooler days like we had in Colorado.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Tonight my daughter and I went to see Julie & Julia. First of all I absolutely loved the movie. Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci were wonderful in their roles. A must see movie, especially for foodies!
As I sat watching the movie I thought back to how I became passionate about cooking. Without question it started when I was a little girl sitting around the kitchen table and stove helping my grandmother cook. She lived with us. I continued my passion for cooking when I got my first apartment, junior year in college, and would cook for my roommates and friends on the floor. The one dish I recall most was the Crabmeat Quiche I prepared from a recipe out of Bon Appetit. It was incredible even though the stove caught fire. Lucky for me we had plenty of flour to drown out the flames.
However, it wasn't until years later when I was a stay at home mom that my passion for cooking actually grew out of necessity. For those of you reading this, who may also be stay at home moms or were, I'm sure you can relate. Let me explain....
After graduating college and eventually getting married I had a full time job. Each day I would get a pat on the back for something I did well or for the way I looked or dressed. When you stay at home all day with the children (a job I wouldn't have traded for the world) you just don't typically get those rewards on a regular basis. Now that my children are grown, I'm reaping them big time. I can see what a terrific job my husband and I did raising them.
Back then though, when I would cook a great meal whether it be for my own family, friends or relatives and I'd get a pat on the back, it just encouraged me more. It made me that much more passionate about my cooking. I found that I wanted my next meal to be even more spectacular. I would try new things daily and rummage through 100s of cookbooks that I collected over the years. I found myself being creative, adventurous and stepping out of my comfort zone trying all things wrapped. Wellingtons, foods wrapped in phyllo dough, exotic sauces, you name it I tried it.
With each new dish I was rewarded over and over again. Which brings me to where I am today.
I taught myself most of what I know and still continue to soak up everything I read or watch when it comes to cooking. I know I wasn't always a great cook but I have always enjoyed the creative aspect of it. It's like being an artist.
I suppose that's why I feel so strongly about teaching others to cook. If I could do it, I know others can. For some it just takes learning how to understand what you're reading and following the directions. Once you master that skill the rest becomes easy.
Julie & Julia reminded me of how I got where I am today with cooking, and I know I'm not alone.
So I'm curious. Obviously I became more involved with cooking as a means of keeping myself busy and reaping rewards for the wonderful dishes that I prepared for others.
What made you so passionate about cooking or if not cooking what has your outlet been?
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Welcome to my Bakeless Bake Sale! I have signed to participate in Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale and in addition to holding a traditional bake sale, I've decided to take my bake sale to the internet. I have joined fight against childhood hunger in America and I hope you will join me.
Today, more than 12 million children in the United States do not know when their next meal will come. Unfortunately, this number continues to rise as these difficult economic times are leaving more and more people jobless, without homes, and unable to provide food for their families. But there is hope. We can end childhood hunger. Thanks to programs like Great American Bake Sale, we can all do our part to help families struggling to make ends meet.
Great American Bake Sale is a program that supports Share Our Strength, a national organization that works hard to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry. Share Our Strength helps close gaps between nutritious food programs and families in need. They help develop lasting solutions for hungry families - the difference between feeding a family tonight and ensuring that they never have to worry about their next meal again.
I am writing to you to ask for support. I have set a goal to raise $500. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale support summer and after-school feeding programs in our community that hundreds and thousands of kids depend on. No donation is too GREAT nor too SMALL... every dollar counts! To make a donation online please visit my Great American Bake Sale website.
Thank you in advance for supporting me, my efforts and Share Our Strength. I appreciate any contribution you can make and look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions about Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale please do not hesitate to contact me.
"At Home with Vicki Bensinger"
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Today I had a million things to do. I found myself running from one place to the next. Dinnertime was fastly approaching and I knew I had to come up with something and quick. So I drove to the grocery store and decided that I'd whip together a batch of Chicken Parmesan. A dish that takes no time to put together when your making it the semi-homemade way. Which is what I did this evening.
My family always loves this dish and hey, who cares if it's not always totally from scratch, if time is of the essence and quality isn't sacrificed.
I thought for those of you that run in twenty different directions daily like I do, you might enjoy this easy recipe.
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Italian Breadcrumbs (I use Progresso)
1 3/4 - 2 cup package of Mozzerella Cheese
1 lb. 10oz. jar of Pasta Sauce (We love Robusto Ragu with Sauteed Onions & Garlic)
Non-stick cooking spray
Wash chicken breasts and set on plate.
Pour breadcrumbs in a large soup bowl. Dip moistened chicken breasts into crumbs and place each in a hot saute pan that has approximately 2 tablespoons of oil added to it.
Once all 4 chicken breasts have been added to the saute pan cover with lid and reduce to medium heat for about 3 minutes. Just enough to get brown on one side. Then flip chicken pieces over and saute for another 3 minutes until that side is brown.
While the chicken is sauteing spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Spread about 1/4 of the pasta sauce over the bottom of the pan.
When the chicken has browned on both sides remove and place on top of the pasta sauce.
Pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken, being sure to cover each piece.
Then sprinkle the package of Mozzerella cheese over each piece of chicken.
Cover with foil, shiny side facing in (keeps heat in).
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes - until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbling.
Take pan out of the oven and plate up with Ceasar Salad and fresh veggies.
Although this may sound like a lot of steps it's not. Plus, I've never met anyone that doesn't like it. I hope you do too!
Remember: If you like this recipe or any of the recipes that I've posted, and are looking to hone your culinary skills - Consider, "At Home with Vicki Bensinger", In-Home Culinary Classes. To view "classes offered" go to the right side of my blog and click on the label.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
So this morning I'm sitting here browsing sites on my computer to keep myself busy. Yesterday was my daughter's 20th birthday. All she wanted to do was go skydiving, something that I haven't mustered up the courage yet to do myself. Both my husband and son have gone together and now, this morning, my son has taken my daughter for a surprise skydiving birthday present at Archway Skydiving in Vandalia, Illinois (www.ArchwaySkydiving.com). To say the least I'm on pins and needles. They start at 10:30am and probably won't get done until around 2:30pm.
So I'm browsing sites about food and happen to look online at The Daily Sauce, a local online food publication that I really enjoy. While browsing I happened to run across one of my all time favorite desserts that I've had out. It's from the old Blue Water Grill that closed but is now being served at one of their sister restaurants Big Sky Cafe. I can't believe it! I have tried for years to recreate this recipe and even asked for the recipe and here it is posted in The Daily Sauce. It's the Chocolate Enchilada shown above.
I can only tell you that this dessert is WONDERFUL! Even when your stuffed, there's always room for it. Since I have been a fan of this incredible dessert for years I just had to share it, if you didn't have the fortune to view it for yourself.
Here's the Chocolate Enchilada:
Oh and if you don't want to tackle making it yourself, then get some friends together and I will teach you all how, in your kitchen, along with a Mexican Fiesta (see classes offered).
Courtesy of Big Sky Café’s Christine Craddock
12 chocolate crêpes (recipe follows)
Kahlúa whipped cream (recipe follows)
3 bananas, peeled and diced
12 large ripe strawberries, hulled and diced
½ large ripe pineapple, peeled and diced
1 cup bottled dark chocolate sauce
1 cup caramel sauce (recipe follows)
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
• Fill each crêpe with 3 heaping tablespoons of Kahlúa whipped cream, then divide the fruits evenly between the crêpes.
• Roll up the crêpes enchilada-style, then drizzle with the chocolate and caramel sauces and sprinkle with the almonds.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 cups whole milk, divided
2 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter, cooled
• Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg, yolk and 1 cup of the milk. Whisk until a smooth paste forms.
• Add the remaining cup of milk and the melted butter and whisk until smooth.
• Heat and lightly oil a crêpe pan or griddle to medium-high heat.
• Ladle 3 ounces of batter into the pan and swirl it into a circle.
• Cook until the edges become slightly dry, about 45 seconds. Use an offset spatula to loosen and then flip the crêpe. Cook for another 15 seconds and remove to a sheet pan.
• Repeat with the remaining batter.
Kahlúa Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 oz. Kahlúa
• In a mixer with a whip attachment, whip the cream and sugar. When almost at stiff peaks, stream in the Kahlúa.
• Continue whipping until stiff peaks form.
3/4 cup water
3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
• In a sauce pot, pour the water over the sugar. Do not whisk.
• Add the lemon juice and salt and cook over a medium flame until the mixture is a dark amber color.
• Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream (it will bubble and steam
• quite a bit).
• Place the diced butter in a large plastic or metal bowl.
• Once the cream is incorporated, pour the mixture over the butter and whisk until the butter is incorporated.
• Allow to cool.
I guess while my son and daughter are skydiving I will whip up a batch for another birthday treat for when she gets home.