How to preserve fresh pears

Food

One of the things I’m loving the most about our new house is the flourishing pear tree in our back yard. This is (apparently) a great year for pears, and Andy and I are currently overrun with them.

As much as we love having natural, fresh fruit at our disposal, there is absolutely no way we are capable of eating all of these pears before they go bad.

Accepting this reality led us to look into different methods of preserving our bounty.

Pearpicking

After doing some Google research I quickly learned that there are dozens of ways to preserve this fruit, some easier than others.

Naturally, I gravitated towards the easiest solution!

Here is perhaps one of the easiest ways to preserve fresh pears:

  1. Wash and peel your pears
  2. Core and slice (be really careful – peeled pears are very juicy and as a result, difficult to hold on to while slicing!)
  3. Bring two cups of water and one cup of sugar to a boil
  4. Boil the pears for 2-3 mins
  5. Drain
  6. Let them cool
  7. Throw them in a freezer bag and stick them in the freezer
  8. Done!

Use this method to keep your pears fresh for up to six months!

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Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Food

I found this recipe on the 4th of July when I was looking for something cute, simple and delicious to make for the holiday festivities — not to mention easy to eat while we sat around the campfire watching the fireworks!

This Tyler Florence recipe was ridiculously easy to put together (you can make the whole thing in the food processor!) and was a huge hit with my fiancé’s family.

I’m a big fan of anything lemon and this sweet and zesty bar certainly hit the spot. Another bonus? You can make them the night before!

Find the full recipe, here.

Healthy Dose of Southern Cuisine: Shrimp and Grits

Food

You may remember my mentioning that for me, wedding planning has meant more than just picking out colors and flower arrangements: it has also meant a reboot on my overall wellness.

Ever since I was a child, I have been very mindful of my physical wellbeing. I workout on a daily basis — it’s my favorite part of the day! But as most of us know, what you eat is just as important (if not more so) and plays a HUGE role in your body composition, your energy levels and how you feel!

Thinking about the wedding dress hanging in my closet, I’ve been recommitting to my nutrition and exploring healthy, delicious recipes to add into my weekly rotation.

In my search for something different, I came across this great recipe from Food Network for Shrimp and Grits.

I’ve always shied away from this dish, knowing that most recipes are calorie-laden and rely on a heavy amount of butter for flavor and consistency. Much to my delight, this recipe is only 367 calories per serving and packs a whopping 34 grams of protein per dish.

It seriously only took me 15 minutes to prepare so keep this one in mind for busy weeknights!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup instant grits
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, covered.
  2. Uncover and slowly whisk in the grits, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter.
  5. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
  6. Meanwhile, season the shrimp with salt and pepper.
  7. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cayenne, if using, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons water, the lemon juice and parsley; stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Divide the grits among shallow bowls and top with the shrimp and sauce.
  10. Serve with lemon wedges.

I paired my shrimp and grits with a side of maple brussels sprouts for an extra dose of southern flair!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Food

Like most of us – I adore chocolate chip cookies. In fact, they might be my favorite cookie of all time.

The comforting combination of vanilla, butter and chocolate is pure bliss in a baked format. Not to mention there’s nothing quite like the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.

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Seriously – this is true Americana.

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During the holidays, I shared a trick for making your average CCC a little more festive: substitute the chips for chopped pieces of Andes candies.

This trick also proved useful during Saint Patrick’s day and is, overall, just an easy way to add a fun twist to this American cookie classic.

The freshness of the Andes mints actually lighten up the cookie and provides for a more complex flavor profile.

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Don’t care for mint? The vanilla base to these cookies is just a canvas waiting to be painted!

Try adding different candies and share your creations below!

Irish Soda Bread

Food

An ever-classic addition to the Irish table: Soda Bread! While obviously a commonly prepared piece of the St. Patrick’s day dinner menu, this crusty bread is so hearty there is no reason not to enjoy it all year round!

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To be honest with you, I had never actually made Irish Soda Bread before this St. Patrick’s Day, but was inspired by this recipe on Chobani.com.

I was attracted to the inclusion of the Greek yogurt (a great way to cut calories and add protein) but also loved how few ingredients were involved!

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The other thing I loved? You don’t need yeast! Yeast is something I never think to keep in the house, so I thoroughly appreciate a yeast-less bread recipe. Check it out below:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Chobani® Plain Whole Milk Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt and buttermilk, and mix well.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in wet ingredients. Using one hand, pull together ingredients in a circular motion from the center to the outside of the bowl in circles. The dough should be soft, but not too wet or sticky.
  5. When dough comes together, turn onto a well-floured surface. Pat the dough into a round, about 1.5 inches thick and about 8 inches wide.
  6. Cut a deep cross in the loaf and poke a hole in each of the four corners.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400ºF and bake for an additional 30 minutes. To ensure bread is done, tap the bottom of the loaf-it should sound hollow.
  8. Let cool slightly on a wire rack and serve warm.

Enjoy this crusty bread with corned beef, cabbage and (most importantly) a good beer!

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*Original recipe retrieved from Chobani.com

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins!

Food

In a true New York effort, the Nor’easter has covered my tiny town in snow! With travel bans keeping us appropriately holed in at home, this morning was the perfect time to try out a new recipe and indulge in an unhurried breakfast.

Leading up to the wedding, Andy and I are doing what most engaged couples probably do: recommitting to health and wellness.

As I already workout on a daily basis, for me this means re-focusing on nutrition and finding exciting ways to eat healthy. Prioritizing health without losing flavor!

With an itch for baking, I scoured the internet for ideas and found this recipe by Ambitious Kitchen for lightened up Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

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It’s the first time I tried this recipe and was definitely impressed by the flavor – you’d never know that these muffins are made without processed sugars and contain essentially no fat! I also love the extra protein you get from incorporating Greek yogurt – always Chobani in our household!

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Check out my adapted version of the recipe below:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Chobani plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon milk (or almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (add a full cup if you’re a dedicated chocoholic!) 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. *Make sure to grease the pan well!*
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix mashed bananas, honey, vanilla, oil, egg, milk and yogurt until well combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  6. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  7. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tooth pick comes out clean.
  8. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. 
  9. Enjoy!

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Ultimate Christmas Eve Cocktail

Food

Last weekend Andy and I enjoyed a night in, decorating the Christmas tree and sipping on festive beverages.

While you’ve probably had spiked eggnog before – rum i’m guessing? Andy and I discovered that nog + peppermint schnapps is a by-far superior combination.

The schnapps blends really well with the thickness of the eggnog, and cuts back on the drink’s sweetness while also adding a festive peppermint burst!

To make the treat yourself simply pour out the desired amount of eggnog (feel free to venture beyond the suggested serving size), drizzle in a splash of schnapps (again, feel free to be heavy handed), and top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and nutmeg!

Have these ingredients on-hand for all Christmas get-togethers and celebrations!

P.S. Only 8 days until Christmas!

Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Food

I’m an avid fan of Food Network‘s Holiday Baking Competition and, as a result, have watched many-a-baker create Mexican hot chocolate inspired goodies. While I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying Mexican hot chocolate, I’m a sure-fire (spicy reference intended) fan of chocolate and pepper combined and have been eager to try out this flavor profile during the holidays.

This weekend I made my first batch of Mexican hot chocolate cookies and it was truly love at first bite!

SO gooey, with a satisfying zip of spice from the cayenne pepper and chili powder. The recipe is also really easy which is another plus, especially this time of year!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter
  • 4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can also use bitter chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 25-second increments, whisking between each interval. Cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature.
  3.  Beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Pour in the cooled chocolate and continue to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix on low speed until just combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  6. Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie (they expand!).
  7. Bake the cookies for approximately 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven.
  8. Immediately slide the cookies, still on the parchment paper, onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. Enjoy this recipe with friends, co-workers and loved ones this holiday season.

P.S. 13 days until Christmas!

Original recipe retrieved from http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/spicy-mexican-hot-chocolate-cookies-1962907#reviewsTop

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Food

With every season there are a handful of recipes that are on my absolute must-make list. For fall, we’re talking butternut squash, homemade applesauce, cheesy bowtie bratwurst casserole and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

It’s no secret that pumpkin spice is a an all-time favorite for most (#PSL season started two months ago), and this recipe combines the rich, rustic spices of fall with milk chocolate for a winning combination.

As I’ve mentioned before, I also love this recipe for the cookies’ consistency (think dessert AND breakfast) and love how many batches the dough renders.

And while this recipe is super simple, it’s also quite elegant – great for both cookie connoisseurs and beginning bakers alike!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.
  3. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  6. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds.
  7. Stir in the chips.
  8. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.
  9. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks or paper bags.
  10. Share with friends and family for a hyggelig time!

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*Original recipe retrieved from FoodNetwork.com

Fruit Kabobs!

Food

It’s that time of year again: barbecue season! And while we all love a good burger, bratwurst, and heaping serving of potato & macaroni salad, sometimes we find ourselves in the mood for something a wee bit healthier.

Fruit kabobs are a simple way to fill that health-craving void. All you need for these simple kabobs are wooden skewers, strawberries and a fresh pineapple (or canned pineapple chunks if you’re in a rush).

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Wash strawberries and cut them in half.
  2. Cut your pineapple by first cutting off the outside skin. Proceed to cut the meat of the pineapple into chunks.
  3. Spear your kabobs, rotating between pineapple and strawberry.
  4. Enjoy!