Friday, July 29, 2011

Grilled Rum Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese & Orange Blossom Honey

Living in the South definitely has many great advantages.  One of the many reasons I love living here is the different produce seasons, which tend to be a little be longer than where I am from in the Northeast.  What is wonderful is the Carolinas’ close proximity to the great Peach State.  Peach season in the south typically runs from mid-June through the end of September.  
This dessert recipe is one of the simplest ways to celebrate summer.  I also love a dessert that is made with rum! The mascarpone cheese instantly melts into a creamy, yummy topping that contrasts the crispness of the grilled peaches.  
To top it off, I drizzled local-made honey I purchased recently at my regional farmers market.  This honey is from the Smokey Mountain Honey House in one of my fav towns, Asheville, NC.  I served this for dessert at a recent dinner party and it was a hit!

Ingredients - Serves 2
2 ripe peaches
2 T of honey, plus extra for serving
2 ounces of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

For the Marinade:
5 T of butter
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of dark rum (I used Sailor Jerry, a favorite in my household thanks to our friend Steve)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Pinch of salt


Combine all ingredients for the rum marinade in a stove-top pan on medium high heat. Reduce heat and let simmer for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Remove from heat and let cool.  

Prepare peaches by cutting them in half and removing the pits.  Place the peaches in a glass dish top with rum marinade.  Marinate for 30 minutes to 4 hours.  

Grill, cut side down for 3-4 minutes, then flip for another 5 minutes.  Remove from grill and top with mascarpone cheese and drizzle with honey!  Viola!

Let me know how this recipe works for you!  Also follow me on Twitter @CheesePlease531

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wild Mushroom and Pesto Crostini

This recipe was inspired by a dish my girlfriends and I shared at Lincoln Restaurant in Washington, DC this spring.  Since all of my closest girlfriends no longer all live in the same city, we re-united in our nation's captial to celebrate our dear friend's upcoming nuptials.  We stumbled onto Lincoln Restaurant by chance, and were glad we did.
Lincoln Restaurant is know for it's playful dedication to Abraham Lincoln in a chic, upscale way.   The theme "Food of the People, by the People, for the People" is complemented with an unusual floor made entirely from pennies, and with gorgeous back lit walls scripted with the famous Emancipation Proclamation. We were thrilled with its seasonal small plate menu and found everything delicious.

Floor of restaurant, made up of 799,997 pennies
Throughout our meal one dish really stuck out and I had to try to re-create it at home -Lincoln's mushroom bruchetta.  The only difference is Lincoln's dish included pea's and ricotta cheese and I was fresh out of both of those ingredients.  Regardless, this mushroom appetizer still turned out great!

This dish is not only delicious, it is easy to prepare, but also makes me incredibly happy thinking back to a really fun girls weekend.  Also great served as an hor' dourve at dinner parties!

serves 4

1/2 of a whole wheat baguette
1 1/2 cups of wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup of prepared pesto
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of garlic, pureed or minced
2 tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until brown over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and saute for 8-10 minutes until thoroughly cooked.  Remove from heat and add sauteed mushrooms to a small mixing bowl of prepared pesto.  Toss until mushrooms are evenly coated.  Slice whole wheat baguette in half length-wise and then cut into small 1/2 inch slices.   Toast until golden brown and then top with mushrooms and Parmesan.  Enjoy!

Me and my girls @LincolnWDC

Follow me on Twitter @Cheeseplease531

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Perfect Pesto

One of the things I love the most about cooking is not just preparing fresh, healthy and delicious food, it is also the thrill of learning how to cook something new!!  A few years ago I discovered pesto for the first time (shocking, I know, but I used to be the pickiest eater)  and it was love at first sight.  The combination of a long favorite of mine, garlic, combined with a new favorite, basil, in addition to toasty nuts and parmesan cheese equaled heaven to my palette!

While I was shopping at our local farmer's market, I purchased two big bags of fresh basil for a dollar each, much less expensive than the grocery store, and much more leaves than my 'lil basil plant in the backyard.  (None of my potted herbs this summer are holding up well against these recent heat waves, any suggestions to keep my plants alive would be welcomed!)  Regardless, I was so excited about seeing these large bags of basil, I knew I had to try to make my own pesto!  Below is the winning combination that not only appeased my friends but also my husband.

Jess' Perfect Pesto

3 cups of fresh basil
1 cup of Italian parsley*
1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted till golden
1/4 cup of freshly grated good quality parmesan
3 large garlic cloves (or 3 tbsp of minced garlic)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, add up to 3 more tablespoons if desired

I decided to blanch my basil leaves.  Blanching is great to do if you want to freeze some pesto for later, and it also brightens up the color of your pesto.  It is easy to blanch - bring a pot of water to boil, and preparing a bowl of icy water.  Pick a bunch of basil with kitchen tongs and immerse in the hot water for 2-3 seconds.  Then submerge basil in the ice bath.  Blanching basil leaves is apparently controversial, but it really comes down to the condition of your ingredients.  If your basil looks great, is fresh and fragrant, skip this step!

*I found that mixing in some fresh parsley into this recipe not only gave it a great flavor, it also gave the pesto a beautiful color.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process for about 30 seconds.   I just adore my Cuisinart 9-cup food processor.  Thank you Julie and Steve for the fabulous gift!!

Enjoy!!! Pesto is such a great addition to any of your summer recipes!  Let me know if you have any favorite pesto recipes, I have been on whirlwind of preparing pesto dishes lately!

Remember to follow me on Twitter @CheesePlease531
Caprese Panini
Chicken Pesto Campanelle
Heirloom Tomato & Pesto on a Whole Wheat Baguette

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Berry Parfait

To continue with my recent changed-up breakfast routine, I had to share this simple and healthy breakfast parfait.  Strawberries are a great source of Folate, Potassium and Vitamin C.  It is berry delicious!  

3/4 cup of plain non-fat greek yogurt (Chobani is my favorite)
1/2 cup of granola
1 teaspoon of ground flax seed
1 cup of sliced strawberries
1/2 cup of blueberries
1 T of honey drizzled

I am off to Charlotte's regional farmers market after lunch today with my friend Ellen, I am hoping to stumble on inspiration for a new dish.  Stay tuned!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins with Lemon

Sometimes you need to change a pace from your daily breakfast routine.  Chris and I usually start each morning off with some type of egg whites.  Typically it is a combo of turkey, egg whites, and whatever fresh vegetables are in the fridge.  However, I was craving something different and fell in love with this healthy but filling breakfast option!  Full of antioxidant rich blueberries and heart healthy oatmeal, this recipe is also great as a snack. 

Makes 12 Muffins

1 1/4 cup oats (regular or steel cut)
1 cup of white whole wheat  flour (milder in flavor than traditional whole wheat flour)
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup baking splenda or sugar
1 T fresh lemon zest
1 T of vanilla
1 egg or 2 egg whites
1 cup of skim milk
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup fresh blueberries (if frozen defrost first)

*Recipe inspiration from Kalyn's Kitchen, one of my favorite health food blogs!

Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl combine egg, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Slowly add liquids to they dry ingredients.  Pour in a 12 cup muffin pan 3/4 up to the top.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Update:  I made these again and believe they are even better with a "topping"  Reserve a few tablespoons of oats and combine with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.  After muffins are poured into the muffin pan, top each muffin with oats and brown sugar mixture.  

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