Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cool and Refreshed!


Yet another hot and humid evening here is New England - not that I am complaining it beats snow every time! The sticky heat gave me an excuse to bring out the Ice Cream Maker that M gave me a few weeks ago. I have to say this little gem has definitely earned it's keep!

Over the past few weeks we have luscious cool sorbet on hand at all times. I wowed the kids (okay so they are all grown up, but they are still kids to me!) on Father's Day with a selection of sweet sugar free sorbet for dessert instead of my usual cheesecake - still watching that waist line!

Last night I was too hot to bother with dinner, ya know how sometimes it's just too e-ooey to eat a heavy meal? Well, I happened to have some melon sorbet base already made so refreshment was just a moments away!

This base was adapted from Alton Brown's recipe, but I have used splenda and left out the alcohol as it seems to make the sorbet more granita-like. I also added a little fresh ginger juice - a fantastic combination!

Like my other sugar free sorbets, this sorbet does not benefit from too long a stay in the deep freeze. Make sure you don't over process in the machine, you want a soft serve texture not a granita (scraped ice). A good idea if you want to make this more than an hour ahead is to put the sorbet on the door, not deep inside your freezer.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Okay, so it's not food...

Bearded Iris - up close and personal!

Too hot to cook but not too hot to walk the property and reap the rewards of many hours of digging in the dirt!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dinner Interrupted - First Course

Cream of Watercress & Zucchini Soup

So, you plan you buy you create and what happens? Your guest gets sick. Of course you show the appropriate amount of concern for the ailing party, I mean they must be at death’s door if they have to miss one of my fabulous dinners right? But, now what do you do, you have a fridge full of food that you normally would not have around – who keeps a 3 pound filet mignon hanging around the fridge.

Do you freeze and have franks and beans instead? Nope – you have a beautiful dinner for two.

First course; a pale green zucchini and watercress soup adapted from Emeril Live on the Food Network. This soup is smooth, tasty and a great starter - almost all veggie but still thick and creamy. I cut the cream down to half, but you can skip the cream altogether for a healthier soup without loosing the silky texture. It has become a standard in my entertaining repertoire.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dog Blogging Weekend

Doin' the Happy Dance!

This is my reward for a particularly nice breakfast! We call it the happy dance - he calls it just plain fun!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Polenta for Lunch

Who says impulse buying is bad!

Every once in a while you pick up something totally new when you go to the store, with no idea of what you plan to do with it. It kind of hangs around waiting for an inspiration that causes you to bring it out of the fridge and make it fantastic. Well such was the case with a roll of ready basil polenta. I have always liked the idea of polenta – I've just never gotten around to making it.

The day started on a completely different note - with tomatoes. Last week while I was at the bulk food store I came across a huge package of roma tomatoes. Their bright red color immediately made me think of slow roasting. It was rainy cold and yucky so what better day to turn the oven on and fill the house with warmth and yummy smells. Besides, they are a good thing to have in the fridge for a quick sauce or just on a cracker with some nice wine. Now everyone has their own recipe for slow roasting or oven drying, what ever you want to call it. I go for roasting because I don't dry the tomatoes out completely. I like them still moist and a bit soft, but not fresh tasting.

I had popped the tomatoes in the oven early in the morning and gone about my house work. It wasn’t long before the smell of garlic and oregano started to fill the place. Every time M or I passed through the kitchen it was an occasion to say “Wow that smells great!”

When noon time rolled around we went through the usual laundry list of what to have for lunch. Sandwich? No. Soup? No. Gee that smells good. Take out? No. Then - I swear a light bulb actually popped up over my head – the polenta jumped into my mind. An idea!

I grilled up medallions of the polenta topped them with a fresh basil leaf (who doesn’t always have fresh basil on hand, right?), a fragrant tomato right from the oven and some cheese. Whip the whole thing under the broiler to brown the cheese and you’ve got yourself something pretty special. Wow. Needless to say M and I were quite pleased with this little inspiration. It’s nice to have a special lunch once in a while were you actually eat something nice on a pretty plate, instead of something you just grab and eat with your hands.

In a larger portion, I liked this as a lunch, but it would hold its own quite well as a first course – or cut the polenta into bit size pieces and serve as an hors d'oeuvre.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Guilt Free Strawberry Sorbet - Almost

Summer in a bowl!

It was very warm this past weekend and I had a real hankering for some ice cream. I have to admit to a significant amount of whining. Now for this reason and that, we try to keep sugar out of the house. Lately fatty food has been fooda-non-grata too. Yeah, yeah, I know; what is a chocolate lover doing banishing sugar and fat?!?! Well, that’s just the way it is – most of the time - of course I fall off the wagon a lot, but I try. Then, the fabulous M had a brilliant idea – let’s have some sugar free, low fat ice cream – he’d even buy me a present - an ice cream maker.

Well, just the thought of a present made me take notice, but sugar free AND fat free ice cream? What’s the point? Never one to turn down a present, especially a kitchen power tool – I hopped in the car and away we went shopping.

Luckily I haven’t gotten over my need for strawberries yet…and since I have a new toy why not use both! I carefully read the instructions while depositing my tank in the freezer for an unbearable 6 hrs! I tweaked the provided Strawberry Sorbet recipe and replaced the sugar with Splenda. I left the corn syrup in though as I was concerned about crystallization, so there is still a bit of "sugar" left in the recipe. I chopped, I whirred, I chilled and then it was time to deposit my creation into my new toy!

In a surprisingly short amount of time I had a beautiful soft serve textured sorbet that was an explosion of strawberries and sweetness in the mouth. I diligently followed the instructions to "ripen" the sorbet in the freezer for 2 hours…kind of a mistake! Because I hadn’t used a true sugar syrup, my sorbet turned a bit hard due to crystallization. Next time I will cut the curing to about 45 minutes before eating. A little time to melt on the counter helped, but the texture was not as “creamy” as it could have been. It is definitely a sacrifice I am willing to make though, for something I can eat with wild abandon and zero guilt! The flavor was still great, it was low sugar (not sugar free, bummer) and completely FAT FREE. I’ll make this again…and again…and again.