29.6.13

Bad Girl Orange Raspberry Coconut Popsicles



(Warning-completely obvious statement coming your way.)

It's hot.

Sweaty, sticky, humid, blazing hot. This means it's time for one thing.

POPSICLES.


Cold, drippy, sweet, lick-your-fingers-style popsicles.

Popsicles with GOOD things, like fresh squeezed orange juice, whole raspberries, and healthy rehydrating coconut water.

But maybe, just because we're obsessed with against our better judgement liking this good girl/bad girl song, we decide to make the popsicles a little more interesting. Maybe we decide to add a BAD thing to the mix, like (legal) fruit-flavored moonshine.


Definitely a good decision. You don't taste the moonshine exactly, and one of these is not going to make you remotely tipsy. But it gives it an edge. A little naughtiness. An added dimension to the sweet popsicle flavor.

I know you want it.

Please tell me I'm not the only one obsessed with that song.



Bad Girl Orange Raspberry Coconut Popsicles

Ingredients:
¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (from about 4 oranges)
1 ¼ cups coconut water
½ cup fresh raspberries
4 tablespoons fruit-flavored moonshine (or more, depending on your preference!) I used strawberry!

Directions:

Using a large glass measuring container, squeeze in the orange juice, then add the coconut water. (Up to 2 cups) Stir in the moonshine. 

Add three raspberries to each of the popsicles molds, then pour liquid mixture overtop, not quite to the brim.  Freeze for at least 3 hours. 


If you have any extra liquid mixture, pour it over ice and enjoy it as a cocktail, with or without a few more tablespoons of moonshine!




22.6.13

Peaches & Cream Greek Yogurt Cheesecake




Well friends, it's officially happened. 

I am no longer in the cool kids club. 

Some of you that know me are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, "Well, Trisha, you were never exactly in the cool kids club to begin with.."  

To which I would agree. I guess I'll say that any semblance of coolness I once had is officially gone, over, and out. 



On Friday night, Adam and I walked to Food Truck Friday in South End. I had been dying to try some fish tacos from one of the food trucks there, and they did not disappoint. However, all the other cool kids in Charlotte had the same idea, and the lot was packed. We had to wait in line for over an hour, which left plenty of time for people watching. 

In fact, there was a group of youngish, coolish people in front of us. The women screamed repeatedly about things like puppies and 4th of July booze cruises and took instagram videos (OMG!) of themselves making weird noises with their mouths. 

I kind of wanted to gouge my eyes out. 

I don't like to think of myself as a judgmental kind of person, and I don't think I'm exactly an old married lady yet, but maybe I am. Because I was REALLY annoyed. 

And as I looked around, most of the women seemed to have their hair straightened and the latest lace shorts/maxi dress/bubble necklace/lululemon tank. I looked down at my thrifted black halter dress and 5-year-old flip flops and felt distinctly un-cool. 

As I looked around at the guys, I realized that most of them seemed like professional beer guzzlers who were quite full of themselves.

Then I looked over at my husband and thought, "THANK GOD!"

THANK GOD I don't have to do this schmoozing-competitive-young-professionals-mate-hunting-thing. And if coming home to you every night and eating cheesecake and going on bike rides and watching tv on the couch means I am old and married then I will take that any day.


Whoo, I'm glad I got that off my chest. You all are probably much cooler than me and have absolutely nothing to worry about.  But if you haven't tried it before, it's a nice feeling to be in a large crowd of people, look over at your mate, and realize just how lucky you are. 

Anyway, let's talk about this old married people's cheesecake.  This is a no-bake dessert, which is ideal for these blazing summer-time temperatures. Each bite feels decadent, even though the lower fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt don't necessarily make it so.  

You could use any kind of fruit for the topping. I chose peaches because they are in season right now, and their sweetness pairs well with the slight tartness in the cheesecake.  This is a relatively easy to assemble, but crowd pleasing dessert. You could pull it out as a grand finale at a dinner party, or just surprise that one person that makes your heart flutter. 



Peaches and Cream Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
Non-stick cooking spray

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumb
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

¼ cup sugar


Filling:
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin (or 1 pack)

1 ½ tsp water

1 ½ pounds cream cheese, room temperature (or 3 8 oz packages)  (I used the 1/3 less fat kind)

1 ½ cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

¾ cups sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (juice of about half a lemon)

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt


Peach Topping:

4 peaches, skin peeled and sliced thinly

5 tablespoons sugar


Directions:

**Make sure to leave cream cheese out on the counter to soften for at least 2 hours before preparing.


Grease a 9 inch spring foam pan liberally with cooking spray


In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar, using your hands if necessary. Press mixture into the bottom of the pan, filling in any gaps.


Pour gelatin into a small heat-proof bowl and add 1 ½ tsp water, stirring until thick. Place a small saucepan over medium heat with 1 ½ inches of water. Place small bowl of gelatin into the sauce pan and stir continuously until gelatin is completely melted.


Using a food processor or electric beaters, mix cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and sugar until smooth.  Add in lemon juice, vanilla extract and salt. Blend until smooth and continue blending as you add in the gelatin in a steady stream.


Pour cheesecake mixture into pan and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.


To assemble the peach topping, place peeled sliced peaches into a container with the sugar and allow to macerate for at least one hour before serving.


To serve, arrange peace slices on top of the cheesecake. Drizzle the extra peach juice on each slice!

Cheesecake recipe from Bon Appetit


16.6.13

Chopped Salad with Fresh Corn, Avocado, Tomato, Feta & Tortilla Chips




Let's talk salad, friends. 

As in THE most amazing chopped salad you have ever had.

A salad you will most likely eat EVERY SINGLE day for the remainder of the summer. 

Ok, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but remember how I said once before that I wasn't a salad-everyday-for-lunch-kind-of-girl? Well, this salad changed all that. I've made it three times in the past week. I might have eaten it for lunch and dinner one day. 

(Also, we're going to totally ignore the fact that I eat this salad with so many tortilla chips it would not be unreasonable to call it nachos with a salad. We're ignoring that.)



This is the pinnacle of summer salad perfection. 

The star of the show is the fresh summer corn, which you cut from the cob and immediately put into your salad bowl. No cooking. Trust me. The sweet crunchy corn is perfect as is and pairs fantastically with the other ingredients.  (Creamy avocado, juicy tomatoes, crispy tortilla chips, & salty feta cheese.)

Ohhhhh emmmmm geeee YUM. 


The recipe is adapted from the wonderful How Sweet It Is blog.  Jessica's recipe calls for bacon, which was delicious of course, but the rapidity with which I was devouring this salad necessitated a lower fat item for the salty/crunchy factor---enter the tortilla chips.

She also uses a great lime vinaigrette, but Adam and I are a tad lazy and found a couple tablespoons of salsa to be just as good.

You could eat this salad as a meal, or serve it as a side dish at your summer cookouts.

I'll probably be making it for my dad for our 4th of July cookout.  He is the reason I'm a foodie, after all.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you.


Enjoy your Sunday, friends!



Chopped Salad with Fresh Corn, Avocado, Tomato, Feta & Tortilla Chips

Ingredients:
1-2 ears of fresh summer corn with the husks removed
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large ripe avocado, cubed
½ cup crushed tortilla chips
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1-2 tablespoons salsa per serving

Directions:

Carefully remove the kernels from the cob using a sharp knife.  Combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Top each serving with a tablespoon or two of salsa and enjoy!


Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.

Wedding photo from Lime Green Photography.


9.6.13

Apple Butter Crumb Bars




WARNING: If you’re just here for the apple butter crumb bars, skip past my philosophical ramblings to the bottom for the recipe.

This is the post that I have been writing in my head and not writing down for at least three months.
See, I sort of wrote about the end of my teaching experience once already, and I really consider last year to have been my most successful year in the classroom.  This year has been different…and difficult. Well, difficult is sort of an understatement. 

After two years of teaching sixth graders (who I loved!) my principal decided to move me up to seventh grade. Seventh grade is THE worst.  This is a pretty much unanimous fact among all teachers I have spoken to, ever.   The little boys I had adored in sixth grade morphed into disgusting, perverted teenagers who looked for any possible opportunity to rebuke, slander, or jab with an insult or sexual innuendo. My girls lost all sense of sweetness and became experts at eye-rolling, sighing deeply and dramatically, and writing/hiding elaborate love letters under their textbooks.

I spend the last few weeks of summer dreading the start of the school year and rigorously applying for other jobs. I spent the first few weeks of the school year waiting and praying for a phone call from my dream job that I had interviewed for on the 3rd day of school.  (Never got the phone call.)

In my first two months teaching 7th grade, I wrote more referrals than I had in my two previous years combined. (Referral=majorly bad behavior that necessitates meeting with the principal)  I sent Adam numerous “I hate my life” texts, cried make-up all over several of his nice white work shirts when he got home, and generally whined more than I would care to admit. In January, a student hacked into my account and re-titled a document “Fuck you Ms. Ryan everyone hates you,” which, perhaps unsurprisingly, upset me more than the one that happened a month later, entitled “Fuck you Ms. Ryan you slutty bitch.” 

The administration continued to place all 7th grade newcomer ESL students into my team’s classes, which would have been wonderful if I had a newcomer-only class. Instead, the newcomer students were thrown haphazardly into my standard Language Arts classes (already filled with plenty of challenging behavior students), which produced the lovely side effect that in two out of my four classes, I had more students than desks. And no extra assistance or support. And sweet non-English speaking Burmese students in a class with kids who got suspended for smuggling Jack Daniels to school in water bottles.

In my particularly heinous second block, I would sometimes walk to the back of the room and literally imagine banging my head against a brick wall, as that seemed more desirable than being in my classroom at that moment.

Are you still reading? 


And YET….and yet…In March, something changed.  I’m not really sure what it was. Maybe the proximity to the end of the school year? The light at the end of the tunnel? Maybe some of my particularly difficult students started annoying me a teensy bit less?  Maybe I developed a more laid back attitude? I don’t know. But I came to a place where I felt thankful for this year and everything it has taught me.

Teaching seventh grade has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.  I think it’s good to do really hard things, to push yourself beyond what you thought you could handle. Now, to be honest, I think I would be physically, mentally and emotionally spent if I continued to do this job, but the tenacity and strength I have gained this year is something I will never take for granted.

Then, of course, there are the kids.  I sound very sappy and cliché when I say this, but I love some of them so much that it hurts. There a few students that I would adopt in a heartbeat if they ever needed a home, and Adam gets nervous when I say this because he knows that it’s true.  Because I moved from sixth grade to seventh grade, I moved up with about fifty of my students. I’ve seen them grow for two years. These are the kids that I thought about as I sobbed into the steering wheel on my long drive last weekend.  (“I’m leaving them! What will they do! What if they don’t make it?”) These are the kids I will never stop thinking and worrying about.

Seventh grade is a strange time. You are changing from child to teenager. Weird hormonal things are happening. You are trying to negotiate all these expectations and ideas of who you should be and how you should look and how you should act, and, except for when you’re trying to impress your friends, you put it all out there—the kind, the crazy, the dramatic, the cruel, the silly. You haven’t necessarily learned how to put on a mask to cover up all the quirky and inconvenient things about you, like the rest of the adults around you have.  

To make things even more difficult, my students are doing all this while living in poverty.

Throughout much of the past year when I thought of leaving teaching and entering law school, I thought, “I can’t wait to just be responsible for myself and NOT be responsible for 100 children. It will be so much easier.”  

However, what I have realized about teaching is that the thing that makes it so messy and difficult and frustrating is the SAME as what makes it rewarding and heart-wrenching and beautiful—the kids.  Any job in which you serve people all day long is going to have some component of this because, let’s face it, we are a flawed, messy bunch.  

I guess what I realized is that, whatever path my future career takes, I want this messiness in my life.


There is no easy segue into this apple butter crumb bar recipe, but I will say that I did NOT make it because of the whole apple/teacher thing.

I made it because we are moving in a month, and when starting the process of de-cluttering our fridge, I realized that we had two large jars of apple butter and two slightly soft apples.  Though this recipe was born out of desperation convenience, I will say it is one that we will be making again and again. In fact, Adam has already requested another pan since we finished it up last night.

This was my first time cooking with apple butter, and I loved the effect.  It raised this relatively standard apple crisp recipe to heavenly heights—extra moist, extra apple-y, and extra sweet. (If you want less for the sweet factor, reduce the brown sugar to ½ cup.)

Once you assemble the ingredients, there are essentially three parts: the crumble, the apple butter, and the chopped apples. Though you may have all the ingredients on hand already, I must add that it is absolutely necessary to run out to the store for vanilla ice cream to go with it.

The bars, as their name suggests, are wonderfully crumbly. If you really want to maintain the bar form, for traveling purposes, for instance, you’ll want to let them cool for at least an hour before cutting.  However, if you’re like us and just want some apple crumb deliciousness in your belly, you can scoop a serving into a bowl hot out of the oven and top with a large arc of vanilla ice cream.  Your choice.



Apple Butter Crumb Bars

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cups regular oats
½ to ¾ cups brown sugar, depending on your sweetness preference
¼ tsp salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 tsp cinnamon, divided
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup apple butter 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Coat an 8 by 8 inch pan liberally with cooking spray.

Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar , ½ tsp cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in butter until until pea-sized clumps form. 

Spread half of the oat mixture over the bottom of the pan. Spread the the apple butter over the oat layer. In a small bowl, mix together the ½ tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, and cut apples. Sprinkle the cut spiced apples over the apple butter, then top with remaining oat mixture.  

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. 

Enjoy warm with ice cream or cool for one hour and then cut into bars. 

Adapted slightly from Three Many Cooks.

2.6.13

Arugula & Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad with Broccoli & Chickpeas




Sometimes I take things a little too far, as evidenced by this post's extremely long title. 
It all started when I had a craving for pasta salad. My favorite pasta salad last summer had chickpeas and broccoli in it, so I decided on those two ingredients. 

Then I thought pesto would be fun to try, BUT of course I had to do something different. I found Giada's recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto, which sounded intriguing, but I also ran into a couple arugula pesto recipes too. Choices? No. Combinations? Yes. Additions? Why not? 

Anyway, in the end I decided to keep things light by nixing the traditional nuts and adding some fresh tomatoes to the mix as well. 

(The chickpeas didn't actually go into the pesto. They just look pretty.)

With the first spin of the food processor I realized that green and red together form a rather unappetizing color for food. Actually, it's sort of reminiscent of vomit.  Ooops. 

I also discovered that while I like the spicy/bitter flavor of arugula in contrast to other ingredients in salads, such as with the sweet potato and black bean salad or this amazing chopped salad, when pureed into a sauce-like substance, the arugula tastes, well, bitter.

Between the barf-like appearance and bitter flavor of the pesto, I strongly considered dumping out the whole thing and starting over.

But, I hate wasting food.

And then two things happened:

1.) I added a tablespoon of sugar and more cheese (Don't those two things fix all the problems of the world?)

2.) I left it in the fridge overnight.

The extra cheese and sugar definitely helped, but something really changed when I tried this dish the next day. I'm not sure if it was the cooler temperature or the extra time for the flavors to meld together, but some radical transformation occurred.

As in this dish transformed from something I wouldn't eat into something I wanted second helpings of.

You'll get more than your daily servings of vegetables and fiber with this pasta salad, while also satisfying picky eaters with the luxuriousness of the two types of cheese.

Also, if you want to skip the whole arugula/sugar question, just try it with spinach. :)



Arugula and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Chickpeas

Ingredients:
8oz dried pasta
1 cup reserved pasta water
1 cup broccoli
1 can chickpeas, drained
4 cups arugula (or use spinach and omit the sugar!)
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
½ cup parmesean cheese

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving one cup of starchy cooking liquid.

Preheat oven to 400. 

Spread chickpeas and broccoli over a lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring at least once.

In a food processor, add 2 cups of the arugula, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and ¼ cup olive oil. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the remaining 2 cups of arugula and pulse until smooth.

Combine the pesto and reserved pasta water in a small saucepan. (I used the same pan the pasta cooked in as the pasta was draining in the colander) Cook on low for 5 minutes or until desired consistency. Taste and add sugar if desired.

Mix together pasta, pesto, broccoli, chickpeas and two cheeses. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
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