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What's_Baking_BadgeThis month is my first to participate in a blogging event called What’s Baking? Every month or two, a blogger will choose a theme, and the rest of us will bake something that fits in with the theme. It’s a great way to try out new recipes, sometimes out of your comfort zone.

This month, the theme of “Heritage Dish” was chosen by Ali from Sparks from the Kitchen. This theme couldn’t have come at a better time, as I recently saw my Polish grandparents. What’s Baking? was the perfect excuse to make something that my grandpa always enjoyed – babka.

Babka is a sweet yeast bread or cake from Eastern Europe. Growing up, my family served the Jewish version, a bread (the cake version is associated with Christian Easter and other holidays). I don’t recall anyone ever making it but it was ordered from bakeries a time or two around both Easter and Christmas.

This version is streaked with semisweet chocolate. My coworkers polished off two loaves of this bread before noon one day. My grandfather, however, was not as impressed. He reminded me every time he had a slice, that I should have used raisins in it, and that it was a little heavy. But he ate two or three slices a day, so it couldn’t have been that bad. :-)

Baking Note: The original recipe made 4 loaves of bread. I halved the recipe below, because even though it’s freezable, four loaves is quite a lot. If you choose to freeze the dough, it can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost in the fridge 24-hours before using. Then roll out the dough, allow it to rest and rise, and bake.

Chocolate-Flecked Babka

Chocolate-Flecked Babka

Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois), p. 221

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 c. lukewarm milk
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3/4 Tbs. granulated yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. finely chopped or shaved semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate
  • 1/8 c. rum, divided (for soaking the bread)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together milk, yolks, salt, and butter with a wooden spoon until fairly well combined. Attach bowl to mixer and fit with dough hook. Add flour and stir on speed 2 (the highest speed my mixer could handle using the dough hook) until all of the flour has been incorporated. The mixture will be fairly loose.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), about 2 hours. (I tend to place the bread near the oven/stove, when it’s turned on to help it along a little).

When the dough has risen, brush with half of the rum and refrigerate (still covered loosely with plastic wrap) until chilled.

Here, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to a month. If using dough from the freezer, allow to defrost in the fridge for 24 hours before resuming recipe below. 

On baking day, grease a standard loaf pan and set aside. .

Lightly flour a work surface with flour. Remove dough from fridge and cut dough in half. Dust with flour and shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the below around to the bottom. Roll out into a rectangle, approximately 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle the entire piece of the dough (including edges) with half of the shaved chocolate (1/2 c.). Roll into a log, starting at the short end. Fold the ends of the log into the middle, so that the ends meet. Place in prepared loaf pan and allow to rise and rest, about 2 hours.

Repeat with the second portion of dough, if you’re baking both at once.

Shortly before before baking, ensure that a rack is in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and firm.

Remove from the oven and brush with rum. Allow to rest for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve at room temperature.

Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

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Cherry Margaritas

For someone who isn’t interested in fresh cherries, my hubby got interested in these margaritas real fast. There I was, making myself one of these margaritas to enjoy with a book. I was looking forward to savoring 30 minutes of quiet time to myself when he strolled over and starts eyeing the counter.

Hubby: Whatcha making?

Me: A cherry margaritas

Hubby: Oh. I’m not a fan of cherries.

Me: I know. That’s why I didn’t offer to make you one.

Hubby: Maybe I can just try some of yours Me:

Go away, I want my cocktail and my book.

Ok, so that last line isn’t true. I kindly let him taste my margarita and then started over to make him one of his own. I  guess cherries + tequila aren’t that bad after all. While pitting the cherries was annoying (I’ve got to get myself a cherry pitter), it was worth it for these margaritas. Brilliant red, the margarita is light and refreshing, just sweet enough to feel like it’s a real treat.

Fresh Cherry Margaritas

Adapted from Fine Cooking June/July 2010 (p. 80)

Makes 2 Drinks

Ingredients:

  • 24 fresh sweet cherries, pitted, plus 2 whole cherries for garnish
  • 2 1/2 oz. tequila
  • 2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. agave nectar
  • 1 oz. maraschino cherry juice

In a jigger, crush cherries with wooden spoon to release juices, about 1 minute. Top with ice. Add remaining ingredients, except the cherry garnish and shake for at least 30 seconds. Pour into a glass with about 1/2 c. of ice. Garnish with a cherry, if desired.

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This final week of Frozen Fridays is a roundup of all sorts of tasty treats that sort of fall into their own category. Most are based on homemade ice cream, but all have a little something extra designed to impress.

Roasted Cherry Sundae from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Roasted Cherry Sundae from Confections of a Foodie Bride

{Frozen Fridays: Round Up}

Frozen Desserts

  1. Bailey’s Spiked Ice Cream Cake (from Beyond Frosting)
  2. Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Bites (from Busy in Brooklyn)
  3. Chocolate Dipped S’mores Ice Cream Sandwiches (from Love and Olive Oil)
  4. Cookies and Cream Icebox Cake (from Baked Bree)
  5. Dipped Oreo Ice Cream Pops (from Snappy Gourmet)
  6. Frozen Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie (from Bakers Royale)
  7. Ice cream Chimichangas (from Diethood)
  8. Ice Cream Petit Fours (from 17 and Baking)
  9. Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream Sandwiches with Brown Butter Cookies (from Donuts, Dresses and Dirt)
  10. Mudslide Ice Cream Cake (from Endless Simmer)
  11. Neopolitan Ice Cream Cake (from Heather Cristo)
  12. Roasted Cherry Brownie Sundaes (from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
  13. S’mores Ice Cream Cake (from Annie’s Eats)
  14. Snickers Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake (from Life Love & Sugar)
  15. Strawberries and Cream Sandwiches (from Alida’s Kitchen)
  16. Tartufi aka Ice Cream Truffles (from Annie’s Eats)
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When I was pregnant with Sophie, I ate like a 7-year old. I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches (no crust) and bagel pizza bites. I didn’t want water, as important as it was, so I’d have popsicles. By the dozen. My hubby used to yell at me for when a box of popsicles was dinner.

At the time, I was so exhausted that I ate store-bought “ice pops,” as I grew up calling them. But now that I’ve found a new routine with a toddler running around, I’m enjoying experimenting with making my own. This week, I give you several of the popsicle recipes that are on my “to make” list.

If you try any of them, please come back and let me know how you liked it!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Popsicles from Cara's Cravings

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Popsicles from Cara’s Cravings

{Frozen Fridays}

Popsicles

  1. Banana Coconut Cream Popsicles (from Spoonful of Flavor)
  2. Berry 7-Up Popsicles (from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks)
  3. Berry Coconut Popsicles (from Pint Sized Baker)
  4. Blackberry and Lime Popsicles (from Baked Bree)
  5. Blackberry Mojito Popsicles (from White on Rice Couple)
  6. Blueberry Vanilla Yogurt Ice Popsicles (from The Slow Roasted Italian)
  7. Butterscotch Pudding Popsicles (from Pink Parsley)
  8. Citrus Basil Mojito Pops (from Gina’s Skinny Taste)
  9. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Popsicles (from Cara’s Cravings)
  10. Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Pops (from Annie’s Eats)
  11. Coconut Lime Spa Pops (from Mom Foodie)
  12. Cookies and Cream Popsicles (from Just Baked)
  13. Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Pops with Rumchata (from Pass the Sushi)
  14. Limoncello and Raspberry Whiskey Sour Popsicles (from Bakers Royale on Endless Simmer)
  15. Margarita Popsicles (from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
  16. Orange Creamsicles (from Bakers Royale on Endless Simmer)
  17. Oreo Pudding Pops (from Tatertots & Jello)
  18. Raspberry Lemonade Yogurt Ice Pops (from The Slow Roasted Italian)
  19. Strawberry Margarita Popsicles (from Bakers Royale)
  20. Sweet Cream and Raspberry Pudding Pops (from Country Cleaver)
  21. Watermelon Agua Fresca Popsicles (from Little Inspiration)
  22. White Sangria Popsicles (from Confections of a Foodie Bride)

 

And if this isn’t enough, check out Endless Poptails Endless Poptails (cocktail popsicles) on Endless Simmer

 

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Last Friday, I gave you 25 great ice cream and sorbet recipes to try this summer. With all of those recipes to try, I couldn’t leave you without some fun toppings and a few homemade bowls to jazz up those recipes even more.

Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes from What’s Cooking, Chicago?

{Frozen Fridays}

Toppings & Servers

  1. Black Forest Dessert Sauce (from Kate’s Recipe Box)
  2. Blueberry Ice Cream Topping (from The Kitchen Whisperer)
  3. Caramelized Pineapple Sundae Sauce (from What’s Cooking, Chicago?)
  4. Chianti Balsamic Strawberries (from Sparks From the Kitchen)
  5. Chocolate Raspberry Sauce (from Cherry Tea Cakes)
  6. Homemade Ice Cream Cake Crunchies (from Heather Likes Food)
  7. Homemade Magic Shell (from Gimme Some Oven)
  8. Peach Bourbon Pecan Sundae Sauce (from Taylor Takes a Taste)
  9. Pecan Brittle Basket (from Baked Bree)
  10. Pie Crust Ice Cream Bowls (from Crazy for Crust)
  11. Raspberry Sauce (from Spoonful of Flavor)
  12. Salted Caramel Sauce (from Sweetest kitchen)

One final suggestion: Use your favorite homemade or store-bought cookie for crumbling, dipping, or to make ice cream sandwiches!

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Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

 

One of the things I enjoy most about summer is that most of the weeknight cooking is relegated to my hubby. I prep the meal – usually some sort of protein and veggie – and he grills it. This gives me an extra few minutes each day to relax or play with the little one (at this point, it’s usually less playing together and more, me chasing after her as she climbs up the stairs or pulls things off pantry shelves).

This recipe is quick and easy for your summer entertaining. Prep the peanut sauce earlier in the day, grill up some shrimp, and serve. There’s only about 15 minutes total prep and cook time, and that’s if you’re cooking the shrimp instead of talking your hubby into it. I’d recommend serving the shrimp hot, but room temperature is fine too.

Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 96

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer, Yields 1 c. Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium limes
  • 1/2 c. creamy natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. Aisan garlic chili paste or sauce, more to taste
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint, more for garnish
  • 1 1/2-2 lbs. cooked shrimp (I grilled them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper)

In a food processor, combine zest from 1 lime, juice from two limes, peanut butter, garlic chili sauce, 3 Tbs. mint, and 1/4 c. cold water. Process until smooth. Taste – add additional chili paste if you’d like a spicier sauce. Add an additional tablespoon or two of water and/or lime juice for a looser consistency.

Serve with cooked shrimp, either hot or at room temperature.

Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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First off, Happy 4th of July! I hope you’re enjoying this day with family and friends. We’ll be kicking off the day with a lazy morning, and then joining friends this afternoon for the day’s World Cup soccer game, dinner, and fireworks.

Secondly, I’d like to welcome you to Frozen Fridays. Each Friday throughout the month of July, I’ll be sharing a number of recipes to cool off your summer.

To kick things off, I’ve got 25 ice creams, sorbets, sherberts, and granitas that make my mouth water. It’s been hitting the 90s and higher, so I’m looking forward to stocking my freezer with cool treats. Do you have a favorite that’s not listed below? Please leave a comment and let me know (and share a link to the recipe!).

Pistachio Ice Cream from Cook Like A Champion

Pistachio Ice Cream from Cook Like A Champion

{Frozen Fridays: Round Up}

Ice Creams, Sorbets, and More!

  1. Apple Pie Ice Cream (from Brown Eyed Baker)
  2. Berry Basil Sorbet (from Former Chef)
  3. Blackberry Creamsicle Sherbet (from 17 and Baking)
  4. Blueberry Granita (from The Frugal Foodie Mom)
  5. Boozy Blueberry Thyme Sorbet (from bell’alimento)
  6. Cake Batter Ice Cream (from Baked Perfection)
  7. Caramel S’mores Ice Cream (from Cookaholic Wife)
  8. Cardamon Ice Cream with Spiced Candied Pistachios (from Savory Simple)
  9. Cherry Bourbon Ice Cream (from Books n’ Cooks)
  10. Cherry Garcia Ice Cream (from Dieter’s Downfall)
  11. Churro Ice Cream (from Bakers Royale)
  12. Dark Chocolate Ice Cream (from Baked Bree)

    Dark Chocolate Icre Cream from Baked Bree

    Dark Chocolate Icre Cream from Baked Bree

  13. Drunken Cherry Ice Cream (from Savory Simple)
  14. Key Lime Pie Ice Cream (from Cherry Tea Cakes)
  15. Lemon Sorbet (from Live, Dine, Party)
  16. Oreo Fudge Cappuccino Ice Cream (from Inside BruCrew Life)
  17. Pistachio Ice Cream (from Cook Like a Champion)
  18. Raspberry Chambord Sorbet (from Books n’ Cooks)
  19. Raspberry Pina Colada Ice Cream (from Try Anything Once)
  20. Strawberry Angel Food Ice Cream (from A Beautiful Mess)
  21. Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (from Books n’ Cooks)
  22. Toasted Coconut Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple (from Life Made Simple)
  23. Toasted Marshmallow Swirl Ice Cream (from Love and Olive Oil)
  24. Vanilla Bean Honey Ice Cream (from The Foodie Army Wife)
  25. Vanilla Bean Ice Cream: Two Ways (from Annie’s Eats)
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Beef Wellington

I feel like Beef Wellington is one of those dishes you indulge in. It’s expensive and while not difficult to make, it does take a little bit of time. However, this recipe has become of of my favorite beef recipes and my go-to entree for special occasions, particularly for Easter. The beef is incredibly tender and the stuffing is full of flavor. I usually pair it with a simple potato dish, a roasted vegetable, and a salad – the beef is the star of the show and there’s no need to detract from it with fancy sides.

I’ve used this recipe (scaled accordingly) to make both individual Beef Wellingtons as well as one large Beef Wellington, which we then sliced. While I like the idea of everyone having their own individual serving, the larger one was easier to put together and honestly easier to accommodate appetites of varying sizes.

Beef Wellington 

Heavily adapted (simplified) from Tyler Florence

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the Mushroom Duxelles: 

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 pints (1 1/2 lbs.) white button mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Ingredients for the Beef:

  • 3 lbs. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb. puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • cooking spray
  • coarse sea salt

Make the Duxelles: On the stove, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add butter and olive oil.

Meanwhile, in a large food processor, pulse the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme until finely chopped. Add to skillet with melted butter and olive oil. Sautee for about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

I’ve made this step several hours ahead of time, and simply refrigerated it until ready to prepare the beef.

Prep the Beef: In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.

While the oil is heating, season all sides of the beef tenderloin with salt and pepper. Sear meat on all sides for only a few minutes, to seal in juices.

Beef Wellington

Assemble the Beef Wellington:  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F and lightly flour the counter. Roll out puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness, overlapping the two sheets of puff pastry as necessary. Spread duxelles in the center, to the approximate length and width of the puff pastry. Set seared beef tenderloin on top.

Combine beaten egg with a little bit of water to create an egg wash. Brush long sides of puff pastry with egg wash and then fold over, sealing in meat. Trim ends, if necessary. Brush with egg wash and fold over.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Gently place beef on prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cut slits into top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the beef comes out at 125F. Allow to rest for 15 minutes, which will allow the meat to continue to cool until it reaches medium, about 140 degrees.

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AllegiantSo I have something a little embarrassing to admit. This post is soooo long overdue. Like, so long that I read the book twice in order to do really do my review justice. I just cannot seem to carve out enough time to spend on the blog. I really need to go back to my grad school habit of visiting a coffee shop for a few hours of quiet every weekend.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you my review of Allegiant, the third book in the Divergent series. If  you have not read my review of the first two books in the series, check them out here.

Book Review: Divergent Trilogy

Book 3: Allegiant

By Veronica Roth

Book three in the Divergent series picked up where the previous book left off. The factions ceased to exist. There is only the factionless and the allegiant, those that wanted a return to the factions and the principles upon which their city was founded.

Tris and Four join a handful of the allegiant in a trip beyond the city walls, to see what lies before them. There their world, although already spinning from revelations about the creation of the city, is upended once again as they discover that even that was a lie. The two struggle to figure out not their own future but also that of everyone still within the city.

Review/Recommendation: I enjoyed Allegiant. The story was pretty good, and to be honest, Roth completely shocked me with her ending. It shouldn’t have been unexpected, but so rarely do books end in such a way… but no more on that (no spoilers!). I’ll just say that the ending was very surprising and that she wrapped up the story very nicely. One of the better endings I’ve read, actually.

One of my more frequent criticisms of young adult books is that the characters get a little whiny, ruining an otherwise great story. Insurgent, book two in the series, was no different. However, I’m really happy to report that Allegiant did not follow that tradition. Tris returned as a strong character, more mature than she was in the earlier books of the series.

I think my only complaint about Allegiant was that the chapters alternated points of view between Tris and Four. That would have been fine, but the two characters largely had the same voice, making it sometimes easy to forget whose point of view you were reading from.

Overall, a great end to the trilogy.

Grade: A-

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I bookmark a lot of recipes. A LOT. Way more than I ever get to make.

It’s sad really. There are so many fabulous sounding recipes out there and because of time, energy, various dietary restrictions, general pickiness… I only get to try a small fraction of those that I bookmark, and often a long time after I bookmarked it. This recipe (and the last recipe I blogged) were both on my to-make list for over two years. It’s such a shame that I am not able to spend more time in the kitchen because both recipes were winners in my book.

This blackberry coconut macaroon tart tasted amazing. I loved the coconut taste but I’ve never thought to pair a berry with it. The burst of freshness from the blackberry was refreshing, but, I’m happy to say, didn’t outshine the wonderful coconut flavor. My only complaint about the tart was that it was very crumbly. I noted in the directions below where I’d add a little extra butter to help remedy the problem.

Since I’ve recently pulled two (fabulous) recipes buried deep within pages of bookmarks, I thought I’d ask whether there are any recipes that took you forever to make, that you loved once you did get around to making it? Are there any recipes that you’ve had bookmarked forever, and still haven’t gotten around to making? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Blackberry Coconut Macaroon Tart

Blackberry Coconut Macaroon Tart

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day (by Heidi Swanson) via Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 tart

Ingredients for the Crust:

  •  1 c. plus 2 Tbs. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbs. unsweetened finely shredded coconut (I found it in the organic food aisle)
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbs. natural cane sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)
  • Heaping 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted (more if your dough doesn’t come together)
  • Additional unsalted butter for greasing the pan

Ingredients for the Filling: 

  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 6 Tbs. natural cane sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  •  6 oz. fresh blackberries

Make the Crust: Ensure a rack is positioned in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom with parchment paper. Generously grease the parchment paper and sides of the pan. 

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, coconut, sugar and salt. Stir in melted butter until well combined. If your crust is too dry, add 1-2 Tbs. more melted butter (add 1 Tbs. at a time). Press into prepared ban so that mixture firms a solid layer across the bottom, like shortbread.

Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile prepare the topping. Stir together coconut, sugar and egg whites.

When crust has cooled slightly, scatter blackberries evenly over the crust. Using your fingers, dollop topping around and over blackberries. Make sure at least some blackberries remain at least partially uncovered.

Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until tart is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

Serve at room temperature.

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