Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Antipasto Skewers

Happy Hump Day! I don't know about you, but I'm anxious for the upcoming holiday weekend to get here. We're looking forward to enjoying the long weekend together and indulging in some summer fare. And with any holiday weekend, there's always some gathering happening somewhere. If you're either hosting or attending an Independence Day event, these Antipasto Skewers would be a nice addition to the table! Colorful, light and easy to make, you can make them quickly and not even bother with turning the oven or stovetop. These are even a great appetizer your little ones can help make. Layers of tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, salumi and cheese tortellini are skewered and enjoyed on a stick... because everything tastes better on a stick, right?!

Why is it that skewers are all the rage in the summer months? It really should continue all throughout the year simply because it makes it so much easier to prepare and eat! I especially like this appetizer because I can cover all my fave food groups on a stick - dairy, vegetable/fruit, pasta, meat. Even better is that there are no dishes or utensils to wash!

There really isn't a complex recipe to share - it's just a matter of taking what you like and skewering it on. Feel free to use whatever you prefer too! Some other ideas include marinated artichokes, olives, sun dried tomatoes, chunks of italian sausage, chunks of parmesan or asiago cheeses, etc. Anything is fair game and you can customize it as you wish. I like finishing off the skewers with a drizzle of balsamic glaze (balsamic vinegar works well as a substitute) and extra virgin olive oil. You could even do a sprinkling of italian seasoning for a bit more flavor. Regardless, they're fun to make and eat no matter what you skewer on...

Antipasto Skewers

  1. 1 lb fresh cheese tortellini
  2. 1-2 medium roma tomatoes, thickly sliced and quartered
  3. 8 oz fresh mozzarella ball, thickly sliced and quartered
  4. 1/4 pound sopressata, salumi, or mortadella thinly sliced 
  5. 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  6. wooden skewers

  7. balsamic glaze, for drizzling
  8. extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  9. Cook the tortellini according to package directions; drain and set aside.

  10. Set up all the ingredients as an assembly line, taking account the color and shapes of each.

  11. Skewer the ingredients to your desired order.

  12. Place finished skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and olive oil before serving.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Island Pork Roast

Each month, close friends and family come over a themed dinner I prepare. It's something I've been doing for years and it's become a tradition to have a big feast, catch up with everyone and really take in the quality time spent with each other. This past weekend was our June dinner event and our theme was the Caribbean! I prepared a few dishes with the tropical vibe in mind and it was a delicious success. It was especially good seeing that there were no leftovers lol.

On our menu were the following dishes, with the appetizers, desserts and drinks not shown (sadly):

Root Vegetable Chips (including taro, batata, yuca & plantains)
Sweet Onion Cassava Chips
Jerk Chicken Skewers with Creamy Cucumber Sauce
Coconut shrimp
Island Pork Roast
Mango Chutney for both shrimp & pork
Coconut Rice
Seasoned Rice & Pigeon Peas
Pineapple Coconut Cheesecake
Tortuga Rum Cake
(Filipino) Halo Halo Shake
Mai Tais
Strawberry Daiquiri Mocktail
Pina Colada Mocktail
Pineapple Cream Smoothies
Mango Smoothies

It was an amazing night where we not only feasted but enjoyed some backyard fun. Since it was such a hot and humid evening, after dinner, we went outside and had ourselves a good old water balloon fight with the kiddies. And the kids took it further with a water sprinkler and a few rounds down the Slip & Slide!

The biggest hit of the night was my Island Pork Roast. I was originally going to prepare a full crown roast but knew it would be too much food for our intimate group of 12 + kids. So I opted for half a crown and it was the perfect amount. This roast is coated with a flavorful rub of citrus juices and spices overnight so the pork has a chance to really absorb everything. However, the key to the recipe is not so much the marinade, but the technique in roasting.

The pork is slow roasted for 2 1/2 hours at a low heat. Then, the oven is turned off and roast remains in the oven for 45 minutes to lock in the juices. After the brief resting period, the oven is turned back on at a higher temperature and the roast continues cooking for another 20 minutes.... all without opening the oven during the 3 1/2+ hours. After the quick roast at a higher temperature, the pork is removed and is set to rest for 15 minutes before it can be cut and served. 

Sounds crazy? Perhaps. But is it worth it? Definitely!

Island Pork Roast
marinade recipe from Food

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons key lime juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 dash ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

5 lb bone in pork crown roast 

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough for your pork roast to sit in; whisk to combine.

Place roast in marinade and coat thoroughly. Keep thickest part of roast in marinade to absorb flavors. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Discard marinade and transfer marinated pork roast to a roasting rack set in a foil- lined roasting pan. Roast for 2 1/2 hours. 

Without opening the oven, turn the oven off and leave roast inside the oven to rest for 45 minutes.

Warm oven to 375 degrees and allow pork to roast a second time for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, tent with foil for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Round Up: Taste of the Tropics!

We finally hit the official day of summer this week - woohoo! With that, it's definitely nice to soak in all the sun, warmth and fun of the season. It reminds of how nice it must be to live in a tropical part of the world to experience this all year round. And with that, I'm hosting a dinner party tomorrow highlighting the Caribbean flavors.But in the meantime, here are some tropical tastes to share so you can have some island eats too! The following are recipes that capture the tropical flavors and ingredients of the Caribbean and beyond....

Jerk Chicken with Mango Cilantro Relish

The sweetness of the mango and red onions work nicely with the subtle heat of the jerk marinade as well. This relish is a must to serve with the chicken!

Tropical Shrimp Cups with Pineapple Salsa

Citrus seasoned shrimp nested in flaky phyllo cups topped with a refreshing pineapple salsa for a perfect summer appetizer...

Island Shrimp Rice

A melange of sautéed zucchini, bell pepper and red onion are tossed with succulent shrimp seasoned with Jamaican jerk seasoning, rice and sweet mango to create this dish...

Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Toasted Coconut Rice

Coated with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon, this rub really packed a punch!

Shrimp & Mango Salad

This colorful and flavorful dish brings a bit of tropical sunshine to the table...

Jamaican Jerk Crown Roast of Pork

A melange of spices including thyme, allspice, black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon and salt came together perfectly for this special roast.

Tropical Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

The salsa is great as an accompaniment to the meat or even on it's own for a nice alternative to traditional tomato based salsa. 

Pineapple Strawberry & Rambutan Smoothie

Rambutan is a fruit native to Southeast Asia and is one that will surely catch your eye

Hawaiian Flatbread

A thin crisp crust is slathered with a zesty pizza sauce before a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon and a sweet pineapple salsa as a nod to the ever popular 'Hawaiian pizza'...

Ginger & Mango Kabobs

Ginger and mango make a wonderful marinade for both chicken and beef!

Tropical Carrot Cake

Tender and sweet spice cake with bits of fresh grated carrots, juicy pineapple and plump golden raisins are in every bite to satisfy any sweet tooth

Passion Fruit Slice Bars

Similar to the classic lemon bars, this has a tropical twist using passion fruit pulp...

Rose Sangria with Guava & Pineapple

This cocktail captures the sweet tropical flavors of guava and pineapple and I love the pink color!

Pina Colada Bread Pudding

Crushed pineapples, coconut milk and a subtle hint of rum gave me a sweet little thought of sunny beaches on a getaway island...

Papaya Cream

This dessert combines fresh papaya with cool, creamy ice cream to create a sweet ending to the meal. 

Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava & Cream Cheese Pastries)

These combine a favorite pairing of guava paste and cream cheese tucked inside layers of flaky puff pastry.

Pina Colada Cheesecake Truffles

Take the flavors of a pina colada and put them in a cheesecake truffle!

Tropical Pavlova

This dessert is beautifully presented at any table and deliciously light, especially for a summer night.

Passion Fruit Cheesecake Truffles

A passion fruit reduction elevates these truffles for some island flair...

Guava Pound Cake

Shhh... This is Paula Deen's pound cake recipe with a Cuban flair!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Round Up: Berry Bliss!

We're bursting with berries! It's definite the best time to take advantage of the bounty of berries this time of year. All my local grocery stores are fully stocked with an abundance of berries on sale - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc. So in honor of all the berries available, this recipe round up is dedicated to my favorite ones - raspberries and blueberries! Here are 15 berrylicious recipes of Berry Bliss incorporating those raspberries and blueberries to make something spectacular this summer...

Raspberry & Cream Stuffed French Toast
This is one luscious breakfast to enjoy! Golden and fluffy french toast is stuffed with sweet cream cheese and fresh raspberry pureé to kick off that morning on a sweet note...

Lemon Blueberry Bundt CakeWith some help from my friends at Krusteaz, this bundt cake was easily made and is a popular show stopper at many potlucks I attended!

Summer Berry CrispBerries are combined and baked with a sweet and crunch topping. We especially like this served with some cool and creamy ice cream for a perfect mix of textures and temperatures!

Triple Berry PieOur family are big pie fans and no summer is complete without a pie filled to the brim with seasonal sweet berries that have been flash frozen. This one is made with strawberry, blueberry & raspberry...

Raspberry Cream Cheese LoafRaspberries are swirled into a lemon cheesecake batter to create this dessert. With the nice burst of citrus notes and plump, ripe raspberries throughout, this is perfect for summer!

Blueberry Lemon Freezer JamPlump fresh blueberries are crushed and combined with lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and pectin to create this luscious fruit spread that's great on pretty much everything...

Raspberry Cream Scones with Lemon GlazeStudded with fresh raspberries in a rich cream dough and drizzled with a lemon galze, these will surely hit the spot and are perfect for brunch or any time of day...

Mixed Berry Ice Cream ShortcakesA variation on the old time classic, this one incorporates a combination fo strawberries, blueberries and raspberries sandwiched with ice cream for a cool, creamy and fruit dessert...

Raspberry Lemonade CupcakesLemony cake is topped with a fresh raspberry buttercream and garnished with fresh berries.
Sweet. Tart. Delicious...

Blueberry Cream SconesWhen enjoyed fresh out of the oven, these blueberry studded and creamy scones
make it easier to take time out for breakfast!

Mixed Berry Picnic CakeThis takes a simple cake batter in a pan that's topped with a mix of berries and is sprinkled with a sugar topping before baking. Each bite is bursting with fruit and if you need an idea to use up the season's berries, this is your go to recipe!

White Chocolate Raspberry Ice CreamThis ice cream combines white chocolate morsels and a fresh raspberry puree. It's a great flavor profile with a bit of texture and it's easy to make!

Blueberry Hand PiesThese flaky pockets of bluberry goodness have just a slight hint of lemon, thanks to a bit of lemon zest tossed in with the fresh blueberry filling...

Berry Topped Pudding TartsDelicate puff pastry shells are baked and filled with a velvety smooth vanilla bean pudding, then topped with mixed berries. They make a great addition to a brunch, tea party or a quick dessert...

Berry Surprise Cake
You won't believe the delicious surprise that awaits you when the cake is cut! It's wonderfully light, delicious and perfect to end a delicious meal...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Magic Shortbread Bars

Father's Day is around the corner... how will you be celebrating those wonderful father figures in your life? My dad is pretty amazing and I admit, I don't tell him or show him enough. Over the years, I've paid close attention to foods he like so I can spoil him with treats. This year is no exception and I'm especially excited since my dad will be flying in half way across the globe to be with me and my family for Father's Day. That said, I've been trying to figure out what special treat to prepare for him! He loves cookies and so it occurred to me that a special cookie bar would be in order. Every cookie bar needs a solid base to carry all the sweet, fun toppings! These Magic Shortbread Bars have the perfect buttery shortbread cookie base that's loaded with chocolate chips, butterscotch, toasted coconut, and pecans...

Some of my fondest memories of my dad involves impromptu dinner out with my siblings while my mom was working nights. We'd pile into the car, head over to a local restaurant and splurge on appetizers and desserts. It was awesome. I cherish those memories with my dad and it makes me think of what memories my little guy will have to look back on as he gets older. 

My dad has also been one of my best recipe guinea pigs in that he is always open to trying up whatever I concoct in the kitchen. He's been so supportive and willing to try things I make... and for the times he doesn't like something, he'll find a nice way to make me feel better lol! 

So back to these Magic Shortbread Bars... I have to admit I did get some help from my friends at Krusteaz. Their shortbread cookie mix provided the most buttery, delicious cookie base to build the bars upon. Did I mention how much of a time saver it was too?! In fact, if you want the Magic Shortbread Bars recipe, head on over to Krusteaz to get all the details!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Smoked Salmon Crostini

For those that know me well understand my love of appetizers and snacks. I could just snack all day instead of a traditional big meal. The best part of snacking for me is just being able to nibble on small bites for some variety. That said, my favorite snack lately is simple - a toasted piece of bread or crostini, schmeared with cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon and a garnish of fresh snipped chives. Easy, right?! These Smoked Salmon Crostini are fantastic all on it's own and with enough on your plate, it can easily be considered a meal!

If you're hosting a summer get together or thinking about taking an appetizer for a potluck, this dish is a wonderful choice. It's easy, quick and delicious too. It's not so much a recipe I can credit to anyone - it just happens to be what I like, so feel free to play around with it!

You can do a spin of lox & bagels by topping with finely diced red onion, some capers, thinly sliced tomato... or even substitue the cream chese with mashed avocado!

Want to go a bit on the wild side? Try a flavored cream cheese like garden vegetable, chive & onion, or chipotle.

When it comes to the salmon, you might be asking yourself what's the difference between smoked salmon, lox, gravlax, etc. Here's the rundown:
- lox is from the salmon belly and unsmoked
- nova lax is from the salmon belly and cold smoked
- gravlax is any part of salmon and unsmoked, but seasoned with spices
- hot smoked is is any part of salmon and smoked similarly to bbq

For this recipe, I used hot smoked salmon for flavor but you can certainly use the other times of salmon if you prefer!

Smoked Salmon Crostini

French bread slices, cut on a bias and toasted
Cream cheese (low fat works great!)
Smoked salmon, flaked
Chives, snipped for garnish

Spread the cream cheese on the toasted bread; top with salmon and garnish with chives.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Round Up: Summer Sipping!

With the temperatures creeping up in the Midwest, we have to do a better job of being hydrated! Summer is a wonderful time to play with drinks - punches, cocktails, etc. Here's a top 10 list of some of our Summer Sipping favorites!

Watermelon, Mint & Lychee MojitosThis pitcher is perfect for a party! Watermelon and mint are a classic flavor combo, but throw in some lychee for a sweet and subtle twist to elevate mojitos a notch!

Bloody Mary PunchThose summer mornings when you've partied it a bit too hard the night before will go by easier with this version of the Bloody Mary. No need to load up on all those extra food distractions - enjoy this one all on it's own!

Blueberry Pom CoolerThis recipe is mixed in with another on my site, but it certainly deserves to be put in it's own spotlight! Aside from the beautiful blush color, the fresh blueberries and mint spring are the perfect garnish to tie the flavors all together...

Fresh Raspberry LemonadeThis one is perfect for the kiddies. Who can resist a refreshing, cold glass of lemonade with some fresh berries thrown in for flavor and color?!

Summer Fruit PunchMade with a blend of juices and ginger ale, this punch is another one for the kiddies to enjoy and you gotta love that beautiful hue!

Watermelon CoolersWatermelon is a must in the summer so naturally, make some drinks with them! These coolers are deliciously refreshing and so easy to make!

Fresh Herbed LemonadePut those fresh herbs to use in some lemonade! It adds a fresh flavor and makes it so fragrant too...

Watermelon & Mint SangriaNot for the kiddies, this twist on a classic sangria combines wine, watermelon & mint for a most refreshing twist...

Peach Bellini Iced TeaIf you've been to Olive Garden, then this drink will be familiar to you! In an attempt to recreating a popular drink there, I think we got the perfect copycat recipe...

Watermelon LemonadeProbably my most favorite drink of this round up, this is colorful, flavorful and so refreshing! Watermelon and lemon are a natural pairing so drink up & enjoy...

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