Monday, May 31, 2010

Pretty Colors Orzo Salad and Homemade Orange Creamsicle Popsicles

Hello Again My Dears :)

See? I promised it wouldn't be too long before my next post. I'd forgotten how therapeutic writing this blog was for me! It keeps my brain nice and active, having something to focus on, thinking ahead about recipes I want to try and what might be interesting to blog about. And for this post, you're gonna get a two-for-one! Two recipes in the past few days that struck me as blog-worthy. Enjoy :)

First up, a Pasta Salad recipe of my own creation. I first made this last weekend for the Housewarming Party of a dear friend. And then yesterday my Mom decided to cook out for dinner and asked me to make said Pasta Salad again. I tweaked the recipe slightly, based on trial and error from the first time, and here it be, but first, a few notes:

1. If you don't groove on Orzo (rice shaped pasta), any small-ish/round-ish pasta will do. It'd probably work with couscous or real rice too, if that's your thing. As with many of my recipes, this is mostly method, make substitutions according to your taste.

2. I used Tri-Colored Orzo for this salad, which gave it it's beautiful colors and it's name. If you don't have tri-colored pasta, any single color will be fine , it'll just look different.

3. I used the Bon Vivant Orzo from Flour City Pasta. It is local, organic, delicious, hand-made and family-owned by some wonderful people that I am very privileged to know and sometimes work with. They have a storefront in the Rochester area, and come to both the Rochester and Syracuse Farmer's Markets. Visit them here:

Pretty Colors Orzo Salad
-1 lb Tri-Colored Orzo
-3 stalks celery, chopped into medium sized pieces
- 1/2 red onion, chopped into small-medium-sized pieces
- 1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 10-20 kalamata olives, chopped
- a few good drizzles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- a few splashes Red Wine Vinegar
- a few splashes Apple Cider Vinegar
- a handful or two of Romano or Parmesan Cheese (fresh is best, NOT from the green can, I'M WATCHING YOU!!!)
- salt and pepper to taste

- Cook Orzo until Al Dente, place in large serving bowl with a little EVOO until slightly cooled. Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time and stir thoroughly to mix, taste and adjust seasonings. Chill salad in the refrigerator until service so flavors can combine. Before service, taste once again to see if any flavors need to be boosted. This is an excellent accompaniment to any backyard barbecue or warm-weather potluck :)

And now, the Popsicles. Not sure what exactly made me want to do this, probably a combination of things. One, the absolutely gorgeous weather we've been having here in Syracuse the last few days, and warm weather always makes me think of ice cream and popsicles and other frozen desserts. Two, who the heck doesn't love a popsicle? There's something so endearing about popsicles, something very innocent and child-like and happy. Ever seen anyone eating a popsicle that was in a bad mood? Me neither :) Three, while I love popsicles, I do NOT love excessive amounts of sugar, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, food dye and all the other stuff I will politely call "junk" that ends up in most of the popsicles that you buy in the store. I remembered that my Mom used to have popsicle molds when I was a kid, and that we used to put juice and stuff in them and make juice pops. Yesterday, I randomly asked my Mom if she still had those popsicle molds and she said yes! They were right in our basement. And, because yesterday was a gorgeous day and I felt like it, I decided to try my hand at popsicles.

    Please understand, it was hardly rocket science, it's not like I had a major breakthrough in gastronomy or anything. But I'm astounded at how simple these were, and how delicious! If people knew how easy these were to make, they'd never get the store brand stuff again. Get a popsicle mold at a department store,and you'll never look back. And,dare I say it? These could actually be considered GOOD FOR YOU. I used fat free plain yogurt, orange juice, and vanilla extract, that's it, no added sugar, no food coloring, nothing. The following recipe is for Orange Creamsicle Popsicles, but you could absolutely use any fruit/juice/yogurt combo you can think of, it's a pretty safe bet that it will all taste good, and with berry season approaching (yay!!!), the possibilities are virtually endless :)

Orange Creamsicle Popsicles
- About half of a container of fat-free Plain yogurt.
- a few glugs Orange Juice
- 1-2 tsp vanilla extract

-Combine above ingredients in a mixing bowl. If you want a prominent orange flavor, add more juice, more vanilla flavor, add more extract, etc. Just make sure the mixture doesn't get too runny. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. This recipe will make about six popsicles.
Eat these outside on a blanket like I did and all will be well with the world :)

There we go, folks, two summery recipes for the unofficial summer kickoff. Happy Memorial Day!!!
Lynn :)



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guess Who's Back???

Well Hello There!!!
After almost seven months, I have finally had the wherewithal to get back to my blog, which I've missed so very much :)  It's the same old song, busy busy busy, and, sadly, my blog fell off the radar. But, no more. I owe it to myself to make more time for the things I love to do, and cooking is most certainly one of them :) I'm so happy to be blogging again :)

Well, let's get right to the point, shall we? I'll get back into the blogging groove with a dessert recipe (whee!!!) For my father's 60th birthday, I offered to make him his favorite dessert. He chose Banana Cream Pie. And, I must admit, though I have certainly eaten it over the years, I had never made one. After perusing my Mom's considerable recipe files and finding nothing that jumped out at me, I went to my cookbook shelf and went straight for  *Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics*, which is a compilation of her first two cookbooks, *The Lady and Sons* and *The Lady and Sons Too*. May I please take a moment and sing the praises of Miss Paula? This woman's food is beyond delicious, I have never, ever, ever been let down by one of her recipes. I find her unapologetic use of real butter and other such "no-no's" and her refusal to get on the bus with any particular *food trend of the moment* incredibly refreshing. Her food is what it is, classic Southern cooking, not be messed with, and darned if I don't agree and give her kudos for sticking to her guns. That, and she's just so cute and funny and comforting. I'd love to hang out with her, I'll bet she has great stories. But I digress, back to the pie...

This is just your basic Banana Cream Pie, nothing too elaborate, but I think that's what I like about it, not fussy, you know? Before the recipe, a few notes:

1. Although I am generally a fan of making my own pie crust, I found myself pressed for time and used a Wegmans brand pre-made pie shell. It was totally fine. So, make your own or use one from the store, it matters not to me :)

2. I made this pie on a 90 degree day, so the egg whites did not get as fluffy as I would have liked. It didn't affect the taste at all, but it gave the pie a thicker consistency as opposed to a fluffier one. So, make sure your egg whites are as cold as possible, save this pie for a cooler day, or, just make peace with the fact that the custard with have a thicker consistency, which you may even prefer, depending on your tastes.

3. This pie gets runny fairly quickly at room temp. So, chill it right up until service and then put it back in the fridge ASAP. Obviously it'll still taste fine if left out, it'll just get soft. Treat it as you would a bowl of pudding.

Banana Cream Pie
-1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
-3 tbsp. cornstarch
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups milk
-2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
-2 tbsp. butter
-2 tsp. vanilla
-2 egg whites
-2 bananas, sliced
- One 9-inch prebaked pie shell

-In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/3 cup sugar with the cornstarch and salt. Blend in milk, then egg yolks. Cook and stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Cool custard mixture to room temperature. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into custard mixture. In pie shell, alternate layers of banana slices and custard filling. For service, top with whipped cream and additional sliced bananas, if desired.

So there it is, everyone. I can't tell you how good it felt to write this blog post :) Leave me comments! Let me know I haven't lost my following :) Another blog post soon, Scout's Honor :)

Love Always,
Lynn :)