28 May 2014

Not a great picture, but it was the only one I got before my camera battery died. :( I had a pretty glass set out with a beautiful lemon garnish, but oh well!  This is only a half batch in this little pitcher. I didn't think a whole batch would fit.

I made this punch for our school's closing service last week.  It was a huge hit!  I love how it only has three ingredients and one of them is fresh strawberries.  The absolutely perfect punch for this time of year.  It's adapted from The Frugal Girls.

Strawberry Lemonade Punch

2 (16 oz.) pkgs frozen strawberries, thawed
2 (12 oz.) cans frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 (2 liter) bottles Sprite

Place strawberries and 1 can of the lemonade concentrate in a 2 quart pitcher.  Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture.  (This step can also be done in a regular blender.)  Once pureed as smoothly as possible, add the other can of lemonade concentrate and stir.  Cover pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, pour strawberry lemonade concentrate into a large punchbowl.  Very slowly pour in the Sprite.  It will get really foamy.  Scoop some of the foam off (I put it back into the pitcher) so you can fit all the Sprite in there.  Give it a gentle stir.  The foam will subside a bit after a few minutes, so pour in the Sprite about 10 minutes before you are ready to serve for best results.

Makes 1 large punchbowl.

This is by far the easiest and tastiest punch I've ever made.  Three ingredients and super simple prep.  Amazing.  The only problem I had with it was the Sprite foaming up.  I was not expecting that.  I wonder if it has something to do with the strawberries.  Because earlier this month I made a cherry limeade punch for the spring fine arts program at our school, and it didn't foam up like this when adding the Sprite.  But this punch is totally worth dealing with a little foaminess.  The foam calms down in a matter of minutes, so just pour in the Sprite about 10 minutes before you want to serve.  If you scoop the foam off and into the pitcher, you will see that after a few minutes, it fizzes out and turns back into punch and you can pour into the punchbowl.

This recipe is great for making ahead.  I made two pitchers of the "concentrate" the morning of the event and stored them (and the Sprite) in the fridge.  Then when it was time to serve, I simply poured one pitcher of the concentrate into the punchbowl, then the Sprite.  Then when the punchbowl was getting low, I poured in the other pitcher of concentrate and the rest of the Sprite. Easy peasy!

I wondered if the strawberry seeds would be weird in this, but they totally aren't.  They are so tiny that you don't really notice them, and I found lots of them on the bottom of the punchbowl, so most of them sink down there anyway.  Not a problem.

This will definitely be my go-to punch whenever strawberries are in season.

15 May 2014

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge!

The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's assigned ingredients were lemon and lime.  Great ingredients for this time of year. . . usually.  Of course we are having high temperatures in the 40s and plenty of rain here in Wisconsin this week!  But I soldiered on, making a summery lemon and lime dish anyway.  Another instance of bad timing: The Great Lime Shortage of 2014!!  Did you hear about this?  There is seriously a huge lime shortage going on right now.  Restaurants are paying three times or more for their limes.  Have you noticed the limes in your grocery store looking kinda crappy and being more expensive lately?  Bingo.  It wasn't a huge deal for me, though, because I only needed 2 limes for my recipe.  Spending $2 on two limes is a bit ridiculous though!

It wasn't hard for me to choose a recipe this month.  I had kind of been hungry for cod, so when I saw this All You recipe, I knew I wanted to try it.  It called for flounder, but cod is my whitefish of choice, so I went with that.

Crunchy Cod with Lemon Lime Butter

¼ cup Panko
½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp dried dill
4 (4 oz.) cod fillets, thawed if frozen
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp grated lime zest
Lemon and lime slices for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400°.  

Combine Panko and olive oil in a small pan.  Toast over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until Panko becomes a light golden brown.  Remove from heat and stir in dried dill.  Set aside.

Pat cod fillets dry and place flat on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Season generously on both sides with salt and pepper.

Stir lemon and lime zest into the melted butter.  Set aside 1 tbsp and thoroughly brush the top of each fillet with remaining butter.  Sprinkle equal amounts of Panko mixture over each fillet and drizzle with reserved lemon-lime butter. 

Bake until fish is lightly browned on top and flakes easily when pierced with a fork, 15-20 minutes. Garnish with lemon and lime slices if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

I made a couple of other changes as well.  I used toasted Panko instead of dry breadcrumbs.  The Panko stays crunchy even while being drenched in butter.  It also gives the fish a gorgeous golden color that you wouldn't get from dry breadcrumbs.  I also changed thyme to dill, because I think dill is really great on fish and goes well with lemon.  

This recipe got mixed reviews at my house.  My three-year-old, Eva, didn't eat it.  My six-year-old, Lena, gobbled it up.  My husband wasn't a huge fan, but I think it was mostly because his piece of fish was a tad freezer-burned.  Oops.  He said he liked the flavor, but the texture was definitely off.  I liked it ok, but thought I could have used more salt.  That's why I added the word "generously" in the directions.  I still struggle with liking whitefish, so this wasn't the best thing I've ever tasted, but it was good enough that I would definitely make it again.  The lemon and lime flavors are very subtle.  Maybe next time I would squeeze a little lemon juice over the top as a finishing touch.

I served this fish with a rice pilaf made with peas, carrots, and toasted almonds.  It made a great dinner.

Be sure to check out all the other great lemon and lime recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with berries and cream!


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04 May 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  I can't believe it's May already. I have to apologize for being MIA around here lately.  Life has just gotten crazy busy and my poor blog is the first thing to get put on the back burner. I have a lot of recipes that I can't wait to share with you, so hopefully life will ease up a little soon and I can get back to focusing more on food!

I am really glad that this month's Secret Recipe Club reveal coincided with Cinco de Mayo.  I love Mexican food and, like the rest of America, treat Cinco de Mayo as a fun food holiday by making awesome Mexican feasts.  Now, I know that most of what we call "Mexican" food isn't totally authentic to the Mexican culture and is more accurately considered "Tex-Mex".  But it's what most Americans have come to know as Mexican food, so that's why I call it that.

Secret Recipe Club

For this month's Secret Recipe Club reveal, I was assigned Katrina's blog, Baking and Boys.  I was so excited to get Katrina's blog!  Katrina not only has a really awesome blog filled with incredible baked goodies, but she is such a sweet, down-to-earth person too.  I love how she always makes and posts two recipes from her assigned blog every month.  She is a total Group A rockstar!

I had my heart set on picking a Mexican recipe before I even got my assignment.  Since Katrina's blog is mostly about baking (hence the name!), there weren't a lot of Mexican recipes to choose from.  But she does have some great salsa recipes, and she has a super yummy looking Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream.  Unfortunately that was out for me as I don't have an ice cream maker and am lactose intolerant.  But then I found her Corn Fritters with Green Chile Buttermilk Dip and her Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins.  They both looked amazing, but I decided to go with the muffins because not only were they kind of "Mexican-ish", but they fell under the category of baking, which honors the theme of Katrina's blog.

Chipotle Cornbread Muffins with Cilantro Butter

1 stick butter, softened
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, very finely minced
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg yolk
½ cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1-2 chipotle peppers, seeded, deveined and very finely minced

Cilantro butter: Mix chopped cilantro into softened butter.  Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and form the butter into a log shape on it.  Fold up the sides and twist the ends to seal.  Place butter in refrigerator until muffins are ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Coat a muffin tin with baking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, chili powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter and egg yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently fold to blend.  Don’t overstir; batter is supposed to be a bit lumpy.  Add the corn kernels and minced chipotle and gently stir to evenly distribute.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin.  Serve warm with cilantro butter.

Makes 12 muffins.

The cilantro butter was Katrina's genius invention.  The cilantro was supposed to be chopped up and mixed into the batter, but she forgot to add it.  She decided to do a cilantro butter instead; how smart!  I love cilantro, so I thought it was awesome how the butter gave it a little more of a starring role.

The only thing I changed about Katrina's muffins was that I used chipotle instead of jalapeno and red bell pepper.  I strongly prefer chipotle over any other pepper and I thought the smoky flavor would work really well in them.  And it did.  I only used one chipotle because they can really pack a punch and I wanted my kids to be able to enjoy the muffins.  I really liked them this way, but if you are a hot and spicy lover, you may want to use more.

These muffins are so fantastic!  They are the absolute perfect balance of sweet and savory.  As a Midwesterner, I have always preferred sweet cornbread, so they are just perfect in my opinion.  You Southerners might not enjoy the sweetness so much, but I think you probably could omit the sugar and they would still be good. The smokiness of the chipotle really enhances the chili powder and the corn gives a great contrast of textures.

These muffins would be really awesome with chili, but we enjoyed them alongside a chicken taco salad.  My three- and six-year-old daughters loved them.  They are such a great alternative to regular boring old cornbread.

Thanks for a great recipe, Katrina!

To see 41 more great Cinco de Mayo recipes, click on "Mexican" in the category list to the right.  I've got you covered!


    An InLinkz Link-up