lime mock-a-rita


My favorite margarita to make at home comes frozen, with five ingredients: fresh lime juice, a simple syrup of sugar and water, tequila, and triple sec. At Chuy’s restaurant, where we often ate when we lived in Austin, we were introduced to the fancier sangria margarita, frozen, with a swirl of sangria mixed in. For our less-fancy home version, we simply stir in a shooter made with fruity red wine and peach schnapps. 

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strawberries with sweet orange liqueur & cardamom

Here in the United States, the month of July was the warmest on record, and the heat doesn’t appear to be subsiding yet. What’s needed is a little relief, something cool and easy, and I think some simply dressed fruit is perfectly appropriate. Since this recipe is the type you throw together by feel and taste, it hardly needs an explanation, or even an exact amount for each ingredient-just make as much or as little as you want. I really did just throw it together the other night after dinner, and as hoped, the flavors played very well together for a light, refreshing finish to the meal. The liqueur and cardamom-coated strawberries, especially when left to soak for awhile, go beautifully with vanilla ice cream, too. Serve in a bowl to share, or if you’re concerned you won’t get enough, make a bowl all for yourself.

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pistachio cardamom ice cream


I’m a couple of weeks early for national ice cream month, which officially starts in July, but who needs an official reason to eat ice cream? Continuing on my cardamom binge, I offer you this pistachio cardamom ice cream. I’ve finally gotten around to trying the ice cream base recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer, and the slightly adapted version I made provides the base for the added flavors of roasted pistachios and ground cardamom. There’s a whole science behind Jeni’s method to making ice cream, and it’s an informative read in the article “Here’s the Scoop” by Molly O’Neill, which first appeared in Saveur magazine.

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lemon rose granita


When we lived in California, we used to regularly visit Second Street in Long Beach, located in the neighborhood of Belmont Shore. I’d forgotten how often we’d gone there, and how many great food memories I had from the small storefront or side street restaurants we loved to go to. One of our favorites was Cafe Gazelle, an Italian restaurant that despite its tiny dining space was big on atmosphere and authentic food and consistently packed out; another was a sweets shop called Grandma’s Sugarplums that was overflowing with an amazing variety of homemade desserts. After finding a parking spot, we would often start walking at one end of Second Street and just wander until we decided where to eat; sometimes we made it past the window of Sweet Jill’s Bakery while they were making fresh cinnamon rolls, and sometimes not.

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triple sec ricotta cheesecake


On a recent night after dinner out, my husband and I were looking for a little dessert before seeing a movie. We ended up getting a cheesecake to go from a restaurant nearby, and wow, was that cheesecake sweet. For most of the movie I felt like I was fighting to stay awake from the overdose of sugar. A couple nights later we had dinner at a friend’s house, and one of the desserts served was a cheesecake made from tofu and Neufchatel cheese. This cheesecake had the perfect amount of sweetness, unlike the restaurant version we’d had, and the texture reminded me of a classic Italian cheesecake that uses ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese for the filling.

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honey beet cake with ginger cream topping

For Valentine’s Day this year, it’s my turn to make dinner. At least at this point I know I’ve got dessert covered, and it’s something I’ve never tried before. Made with honey, roasted beets, whole wheat flour, and soaked in freshly squeezed orange juice, it’s a sweet little cake for two. For a compliment to the flavor of the beets I used a simple sour cream topping barely sweetened with honey. The final touch is the tiny, spicy crunch of crystallized ginger. It’s my riff on one of Mark Bittman‘s soaked cake recipes from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Who knew? You can eat your vegetables for dessert too. 

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whole wheat rugelach with fig jam, almonds, and ruby port

When baking rugelach, there seems to be two schools of thought on how to approach the dough. And within those formulas, there is the crescent or roulade shape and a variety of filling combinations. Who knew rugelach had so many options? Well, here I am to throw in another-a rugelach dough made with white whole wheat flour, and freshly ground at that. I spent a week experimenting to get the dough I wanted, and even the less-than-perfect batches were still a sweet little treat.

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rich chocolate brownies with rosemary, sea salt, and olive oil


It might be safe to say that I’ve eaten more box mix Ghirardelli brownies than most people I know. I’ve made those brownies with such persistent regularity that it’s possible it could be diagnosed as a mild obsessive compulsive disorder. So when I began the shift from pre-mixed store bought to made from scratch, I reluctantly gave up that box mix brownie, conceding I was better off without all those additives. Then, one day, oh happy day, I found a from-scratch recipe for Ghirardelli-like brownies in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. 

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goat’s milk and cajeta ice cream

The idea for this ice cream started with a homemade cajeta made from raw goat’s milk as its inspiration. Cajeta is a caramel sauce popular among Latin cultures with different versions among those cultures. Cubans have their own version in which they heat sweetened condensed cow’s milk until it caramelizes, called dulce de leche, while the traditional Mexican cajeta recipe uses goat’s milk and adds cinnamon and sugar when caramelizing. Since I hadn’t yet made an ice cream using the raw goat’s milk I buy from a local farm, the combination of an ice cream and cajeta made purely from the raw goat’s milk sounded like a good idea. What I didn’t know was just how great it would taste. The flavor of this ice cream is a serious contender for surpassing my lifetime favorite flavor of dark chocolate. There’s not much that can approach the immutable status of dark chocolate in my opinion, but oh, this goat’s milk ice cream with cajeta definitely does. 

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dark chocolate marcona almond ice cream

Imagine yourself in a sea of creamy dark chocolate, its rich texture filled with buttery, roasted almonds. It might just be a sweet dream, or it could be that you’re eating dark chocolate marcona almond ice cream. As it so happens, it’s not just a dream, it’s a reality, and it’s about as easy as ice cream gets. I took my recipe cues from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and used almond milk as the base instead of cream and half-and-half. 

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