Sunday, June 28, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Summer Cup Crisps

Hope you are taking full advantage of summerbreak and summer produce! I know that I certainly have! The produce and seasonal items make for an abundance of flavors as well as provide reason to try new things. It's a great time of the year to roam at the farmer's market and be awed by the variety of tomatoes, carrots, beets, berries, greens, apples, and fruits.

One of my favorite summer desserts is fresh Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie--the way my Mom made it. That being said, she made everything from scratch with one of those real, light and flaky, buttery pie crusts that dissolves in your mouth. I simply do not have that kind of time!

Taking a recent class at The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square in Chicago, IL, we made an incredibly, simple alternative--Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, and instead of using pie crust, we topped pure filling with a delicious crumble! Super simple and a great way to stretch your college grocery budget!  

Makes 6 single serving (1 cup) ramekins!
Or, put the filling in to a pre-made pie-crust and top with crumble!
Or, place it all in a lightly buttered (8"x 8" or small "rectangular") Pyrex dish

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cup Crisps

Mixing Bowl
Ramekins or Pyrex Dish
Baking sheet
Parchment Paper


For The Filling:
1 pint (1 lb) strawberries, quartered
1 pound rhubarb, largely chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbls cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbls lemon juice

For The Crumble:
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled "old-fashioned" oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pince of salt
1 stick cold butter, cubed

Vanilla Ice Cream 
Whipped Cream

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat 375F degrees.
3. Stir together the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and lemon.

4. Make your crumble, mixing the brown sugar, oats, flour and salt together.

5. Use your hands or a pastry cutter or 2 knives to incorporate cold butter to dry mixture.

6. Put it all together and fill your ramekins or baking dish.

7. Top your filling with an ice cream scoop size of crumble.

8. Place the ramekins or pyrex dish on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
9. Bake for 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling thru the golden brown crisp.

Monday, June 22, 2015

No Waste Left Behind: making Great Croutons

Doesn't it always seem that you buy a beautiful, fresh baguette or Italian Loaf, but are never capable of finishing it? You know that by the next morning you will have a "brick" of bread waiting for you--not chewy or crusty from a day ago--just inedible!  

Have a back up plan for maximizing that loaf of bread, and the $3 bucks it cost you! French Toast is an awesome option for breakfast; or, use it for Homemade Croutons instead of buying nasty, stale, powdered Ranch dressing bread cubes! Bonus: your salads will taste all the better!

Stretch your college grocery dollars with this ultra easy recipe I picked up from a cooking class with The Chopping Block in Chicago! Great classes with fantastic instructors in a fun, relaxing environment to learn basic cooking skills! Check them out this weekend. (Disclosure: I have no financial incentive to promote them)

DIY Croutons For Caesar (Any) Salad

Mixing bowl
Baking sheet
Parchment Paper (optional)

3 cups Baguette or other white bread, torn or cut into bite-size pieces
Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil (use Regular Olive Oil and Fresh Garlic otherwise)
Salt & Pepper

1. Wash your hands!
2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees
3. Tear or cube your bread.

4. Combine bread in mixing bowl with drizzle of grapeseed oil. 
5. Bread should appear to be glistening once tossed with enough oil. 

6. Add salt & pepper.
7. Add herbs if you like. 

8. Spread onto baking sheet in single layer.

9. Bake 10 minutes until golden brown. 

10. While you are waiting, prep your Romaine Lettuce, Parmesan, and any protein you may be adding to it!

Fantastic condiment for the Caesar Salad  coming to the blog this week! Or any other salad!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer's Nectar: Agua Fresca

Forget the Vitamin Water and artificially flavored waters that drain your college  budget and offer little flavor. Yes...I am pushing more "water drinking" this summer as well as cutting out sodas from the college consumption this week on the blog, because so many great alternatives exist with seasonal produce, melons and fruit.

As the hot and humid weather begins to settle in, try out one of South America's most refreshing drinks: Agua Fresca. If you have a bowl, sieve, and blender...this is a cinch!

(I used a combination of recipes from Whole Foods, the Food Network, and my own ideas)

Watermelon-Mint Agua Fresca

Blender or bullet
(if you don't have a blender...mash it and strain it)

1/2 medium ripe watermelon
3 cups ice cold water
Juice of one lime
1 Tbls agave syrup plus to taste

--jalapeno slices

1. Wash your hands.
2. Chop watermelon in 1-2" chunks.
3. Pulse in batches in magic bullet or full blender.

4. Strain liquid mixture with mint and discard pulp.

5. Add lime juice. 
6. Add agave to taste.

7. Add herbs, ie mint or basil
7. Add extras here: strawberries, jalapeno, basil
8. Add to a glass filled with ice!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dollar In My Wallet: Drink More H2O

Unfortunately, there's no 'summerbreak' for your budget! But…some of the simplest ways to reduce costs is sticking to water as your preferred beverage--certainly don't buy bottled water--use your tap or get a Sodastream device that carbonates plain water!! I have found that just having 'sparkling' water increases my interest in consuming water for meals or throughout the day; and, I save money and calories while being healthier.

That said, just because you are drinking water, doesn't mean it has to be boring! The market has recently been flooded with ideas for reaching you daily "water-quota" and making it more adding frozen fruit to your water bottle or adding a few slices of citrus with cucumber--the possibilities are really endless.  

Just last week I stumbled upon a 2014 Allrecipes Magazine which featured another great idea that not only adds flavor to your water, but keeps your water cold:  Frozen, flavored ice cubes! Awesome, right? Pop one of these into your sparkling water and have a spritzer instead!

Additionally, if you are making a batch of lemonade or agua fresca…using these ice cubes will keep your drinks cold without diluting them! Or add them to your morning o.j.  
Pure Genius! 

Drink More H20

Ice trays
Mixing bowl
Fork for mashing
Blender for pulsing

Simple syrup or honey, in small quantities
--strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries
--pineapple, mango
--lemons, limes
Herbs / Cucumber
--jalpenos, habaneros, serrano (for some heat)
--mint, thyme, basil


--add simple fruit to your ice tray and cover with water
--make a strawberry puree with fruit and basil before freezing in your tray
--make a batch of lemonade, or limeade, and add berries or mango, then freeze
--use honey for a touch of sweetness

Mashed Strawberries & Basil
Ginger-Honey Lemonade
Jalapeño-Infused Lemonade
Blueberry Limeade
--put it all in the freezer
--see what you can come up with!

Strawberry-Basil. Blueberry Limeade. Ginger-Honey Lemonade. Jalapeño-Lemonade. Cherry-Limeade.
--when you are ready, add a few cubes to your water bottle or glass

Drink More Water! Save more money!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Greek Tortellini Salad

Summer just makes you think: family get-togethers, potlucks, and late-night conversations. This is also the time of year that I don't want to be cooking anything too complex or time-consuming. Getting (and staying) outside is key for an awesome summer experience!

If you are working over summerbreak to pay college bills make sure you enjoy the weekends 100%. If at all possible, take 3-4 weeks off to travel (or volunteer) somewhere new!

Easy ways to stretch your hard-earned college budget cooking smart with recipes like this one. Adding cheese tortellini to veggies adds substance, minimizes expensive proteins, but doesn't leave you feeling hungry. Make this recipe as a meal or use any leftover pasta to add to veggies! (Avoiding pasta? Use garbanzo beans instead of tortellini)

Greek Tortellini Salad

3-Qt saucepan
Mixing bowl

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp oregano, rubbed
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Kalamata olives, pitted
Red Onion, thinly sliced

1. Wash your hands and local veggies.
2. Boil pasta and drain. 

3. Prep your veggies and add-ins.

4. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and spices together. 

5. Season dressing with salt & pepper.
6. Combine it all in a mixing bowl.