Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cherry Salsa

I love cherries and look forward to cherry season! So it was no surprise when I couldn't resist buying a large tub of cherries at the Farmer's Market yesterday. With the help of my cherry pitter they are easier than ever to eat.  My family loves fresh fruit, but don't want to work too hard for it.  I have found, that if I prepare it, they will eat it.   I bought a  cherry pitter a few years ago, after my sister sang the praises of hers. The ease of this tool has made eating and baking with cherries so much easier. It shoots the pit right out leaving the cherry whole.  The newer models have a splatter guard, which is a great addition because  pitting cherries can be a juicy task.

With plenty of cherries on hand I decided to use them to make salsa.  I typically don't like fruit with spicy flavors, but I really enjoyed a blueberry salsa I made last summer  so I thought cherries would work nicely too.  Cherry Salsa may sound weird, but the flavors work.  It is a great twist on traditional salsa with the goodness of fresh seasonal fruit. Quite a refreshing taste!

Cherry Salsa

3/4 cup fresh cherries, chopped
2/3 cup chopped nectarines
1 green onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbs cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine cherries, nectarines, onion, jalapeno and garlic.  In separate bowl, stir together lime juice, vinegar, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Add to cherry mixture, stir to coat.
Let stand in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes for flavors to blend. 
Serve with tortilla chips. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Banana Cake

Andy is always requesting a sweet treat at the end of the day, and lately we have been rotating the same old favorites, so I looked back through my stash of ideas and rediscovered and old favorite - banana cake.
Short on time, I baked it as a sheet cake this time.   It was easy because making it didn't require a trip to the grocery store. 

Correctly predicting the number of bananas my family will eat each week is a lesson in futility.  The week I buy only a few, they gobble them up right away.  Next week I buy more, because obviously a few is not enough.  That's the week they hardly  eat any.  This ongoing game leaves me with a freezer well stocked with bananas.  As soon as the bananas are on their way out, I put them in the freezer.  When in need of bananas for a recipe, I set them out on the counter to thaw and within minutes they are ready to use.  Of course they don't look very tasty, but are great for cooking. 

 We make so many sweet treats at our house that we often don't eat all of what we make, before we are on to the next one....but not with this one, we ate every single piece! We did add a topping to our last few pieces to make them extra special - peanut butter sauce.  I know I should be able to make this myself, but I haven't found the perfect recipe yet.  The peanut butter sauce we used came from Friendly's.  It is oh so good, but heed my warning - it is addictive and tastes good on everything!
We all know peanut butter and bananas play nicely together so it was a perfect match.
As you can see we like this sauce a lot!

I would like to make my own peanut butter sauce so if you could help me out I'd love to hear from you.

Banana Cake Recipe
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3-4 mashed, ripened bananas
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream together butter & sugar.  Add eggs and bananas.  Mix.  Add dry ingredients and gradually add buttermilk.  Add vanilla.  Mix until combined.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes for 9 x 13 sheet cake
Top with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat until mixed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tomato Pie

Nothing says summer like Tomato Pie, especially when the tomatoes and basil are home grown.  Our Topsy Turvy has been cranking out the tomatoes and we have a small herb garden in containers.  This is a dish I had not experienced until I moved to South Carolina during my high school years.  I have loved it ever since.  It can be the main course as it was for us today.  We try to eat fresh foods as much as possible and one of my children is a vegetarian so  it works for both of us.   There are many variations of this recipe.  This version is very cheesy!  You can easily adjust the quantity of each ingredient to suit your personal preference.

Tomato Pie

4 tomatoes, sliced (peeled if you like)
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup mayonaise
1 9-inch pre baked deep dish pie shell
Salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste

Layer tomato slices, green onions, basil, salt, pepper and granulated garlic in pie shell.

Mix mayonnaise and cheeses together and spread on top of tomatoes.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool slightly before cutting to serve.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Topsy Turvy Tomato Rocks

Our Topsy Turvy rocks!  We live in a townhouse and long to have a garden for vegetables.  To make up  for not having the space, we have learned to be creative, hence the topsy turvy.  I never imagined it would work out so well. It just keeps growing and growing. It does require more watering than a traditional potted plant, especially here is HOT Florida. We initially hung it from a Crepe Myrtle tree next to our garage, but our neighborhood deer found it and enjoyed a feast of tomatoes one night.  We needed to keep it on the sunny side of our house, so my husband anchored it from the eave of the garage.  Just high enough that our deer family is not able to reach it. As you can see it is a happy plant.  We just had the first crop of tomatoes this weekend.  We celebrated with BLTs.  There is something wonderful about enjoying food from your own garden, or in our case, topsy turvy. I see a tomato pie in my future. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Expedition Everest Challenge

This is Andy and me right before the challenge began.  Our task was to complete a 5K run with 4 obstacles along the way (balance beam, running tires, jumping bales of hay and crawling under a net) and then solve 5 clues in a scavenger hunt.  All this took place in Disney World's Animal Kingdom last night starting at 8:30pm.  We were in wave 5 so didn't get to the starting line until 8:55.  Each wave was sent on their way with a round of fireworks.  Although the sun was down it was a hot night.  The race went all through Animal Kingdom, but it was  a pretty dark course, so I only saw what was right around me.  At then end of the race we were given a a pen, mini-flashlight and our first clue to solve.  We headed back into the park to find our first destination.  The first clue was so obvious that it was difficult to solve. You know, when it is right in front of you and you can't see it.  Initially we made it harder than it had to be, but then the light bulb came on.  The other four clues were easier for us with the help of the park map. We ended the race in Dino Land and were awarded medals that resembled a compass.  From here the party was just starting- DJ party and access to rides until 1am.  I think the parks are much more fun with fewer people. We got to ride our favorites multiple times.  The swag for this race was plentiful, but I guess it should be because the entry fee was $229 for a 2 person team.  In addition to the race and after race party we got a tech t-shirt, medal, Clif bar, sharpie, Clif Shot blocks, shampoo, disposable camera, therapeutic tape a few other sample products and a 1-day ticket to any Disney Park.  We completed the run in 31:22 min and the scavenger hunt in 36:08 min for a race total of 1:07:30.  Not bad for the first time.
After this I am sure we are ready to tackle the Amazing Race

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Interval Run

I got up early this morning to get in my run before work.  I wasn't sure how far I wanted to run, but chose to do the Kara Goucher Endurance Boost.  This is a Nike workout I purchased from iTunes.  In this workout Kara leads you through 4 reps of 4 minutes at a leisurely pace and 4 minutes at a brisk pace with a warm up and a cool down.  It includes 13 songs and is about 40 minutes long, with Kara giving you motivational directions along the way.    I was not initially pumped up to complete this workout, but the time really went by quickly as I only focused on 4 minutes at a time. It made me work a lot harder than I would have.  It is very easy for me to complete my usual 3-4 miles without too much effort, but still giving myself credit for working out. This was a much more challenging choice.  I know interval training is the way to go and this was a great workout.  I am in training for Saturday's Disney Expedition Everest Challenge  at Disney World's Animal Kingdom.  My husband, Andy and I will be participating as a team to complete the 5K adventure run with obstacles and a scavenger hunt.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food Tours

Food Tours are a great way to get to know a city you are visiting.  I recommend you schedule your tour early in your trip so you can get to know the city from the locals point of view.  Plus, you will have a list of great places to eat during your stay.  They take about 2-3 hours depending on the tour.   Tours typically include tastes of local flavor and interesting facts about the city and the places you visit.  I use Trip Advisor when planning a trip and have found information about food tours there. You can also google "food tours" and the name of your destination city.
I have taken food tours in Seattle, Washington and most recently in Chicago.  The Seattle tour was through Savor Seattle Food Tours. We took the Pike Place Market Food & Cultural Tour.  It was fabulous!!  At the end of the tour we were given a 10% discount card to use at any of the places we visited for the remainder of our stay.

 This is cheese being made at Beecher's Handmade Cheese.  We got to eat some excellent macaroni & cheese on this stop. Mmmm.

If you've ever seen the video clip of the fish market where they throw the fish, this is it! -  Pike Place Fish. We witnessed the fish tossing and tasted smoked salmon.

A few weeks ago during a visit to Chicago I took a Chicago Food Planet Food Tour.  There are a few tours to choose between and we choose the Bucktown/WickerPark Tour.  This is in a section of town I had not visited before and it was a delicious experience.

We started a tour at George's Hot Dogs... #1 rated hot dog stand for a Chicago-style hot dog.

Hot Chocolate was next and this was my favorite stop on the tour.  We drank the absolute best hot chocolate I have ever had.  It was a creamy blend of 3 chocolates and was served with a homemade marshmallow. 

The i cream shop was fascinating as they use liquid nitrogen to make individual ice cream creations to order. You choose your base then flavors and mix ins.  You can even make it a favorite color.  All this is mixed before your eyes and ready to eat in minutes.  A fun and tasty stop.

These were just a few of my favorite places along the tour.  Needless to say, we were well fed after visiting all 6 locations and in addition were able to experience one of Chicago's historic neighborhoods.
Check out food tours next time your are traveling.