Lemon Bars

I have been overwhelmingly on the sweets train lately.  It’s probably time to cut the sugar habit, but in the meantime, I have been looking for things that are a little more refreshing and less over-the-top sweet.  These lemon bars, from the Strawberry Point Community Cookbook, fit the bill.  I was going to try and update these a little bit more, but I ran out of the surprise ingredient I was going to add.  So, plan lemon bars are what ended up being made.

Every time I make lemon bars, I leave myself wishing I had buttered the pan a little bit more or put down parchment paper on the bottom.  So, that would be my tip to anyone who decides to make this recipe.

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

Crust:
2 c flour
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c margarine

Topping:
4 eggs
2 c sugar
1/3 c lemon juice
1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Sifted powdered sugar

Sift together the 2 c flour and 1/2 c powdered sugar, cut in the margarine, and press into a 9×13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until light brown, 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from oven. Put eggs, 2 c sugar, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until thick and smooth.  Add 1/4 c flour and baking powder and blend until mixed.  Pour over baked crust and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cut in bars when cool.

Bacon-Wrapped Peaches

This is another recipe I’d put in my “meh” folder.  They were not as savory as I was hoping for.  But, I could also chop this up to a few other issues: the peaches weren’t completely ripened, the grill flared up on the bacon quite quickly.  I think they probably deserve another chance.  From Food and Wine 2015 cookbook, these bacon-wrapped peaches went alongside the brined pork chops I made for a peaches and pig, two ways, themed dinner.  I may decide to give these another shot later this summer, once the peaches are better, but at the moment, these were not something I would quickly endorse.

Bacon-Wrapped Peaches.jpg

Bacon-Wrapped Peaches

6 scallions, white and light green parts only
Vegetable oil, for brushing
Kosher salt
4 large peaches, halved and pitted
16 thin strips of bacon (about 1/2 lb)
16 toothpicks, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Light a gas grill.  Brush the scallions with oil and season lightly with salt.  Grill them over moderate heat, turning, until softened and lightly charred, about 3 minutes total.  Let cool and cut into 3/4 inch lengths.  Leave the grill on.

Fill the peach pit cavities with the scallion pieces and season with salt.  Wrap 2 strips of bacon around each peach half and secure them with toothpicks.

Lightly brush the stuffed peaches with olive oil and grill them cut side down over moderately high heat until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes.  Carefully flip the peaches and grill them over moderately low heat, turning occasionally, until they just start to soften and the bacon is crisp at the edges, 7 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and serve.

Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream

I had gotten some of the end-of-season rhubarb and was discussing this with a friend in early July.  She shared that strawberry rhubarb was her favorite pie, and while I considered for a moment making that, I saw this recipe from the Scoop Adventures cookbook and knew I wanted to put it together.  The spice flavor is nice in it — although it’s important to like how cardamom tastes.  I associate cardamom with my Norwegian roots, as I do rhubarb, and so when I tasted this, I felt like I was celebrating my heritage.

Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream.jpg

Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream

Strawberry Rhubarb Swirl

1 c chopped rhubarb
1 c mashed strawberries
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Ice Cream Base
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 3/4 c heavy cream
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

To make the strawberry rhubarb swirl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Stir until the berries have begun to macerate, then place over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb and strawberries are broken down, 10 to 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half of its original volume, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.  Stir in the vanilla.  Cover and chill completely before swirling into the ice cream.

To make the ice cream base, fill a large bowl with ice water.  In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp of milk with the cornstarch, whisk, and set aside.  Combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, star anise, cardamom, and cinamon in a medium saucepan.  Place over medium heat and bring the milk mixture to a low boil.  Cook until the sugar dissolves, 3 minutes.

Remove the milk mixture from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture.  Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Pour into a medium bowl and whisk in the salt.  Set the bowl in the ice water bath to cool, 20 minutes, whisking occasionally.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once chilled, pour the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Spoon a small layer of strawberry rhubarb swirl into a freezer-safe container and light spoon a layer of ice cream on top.  Continue to alternate layers of fruit swirl and ice cream until the container is full, gently swirling with a spoon (careful not to muddy the ice cream).  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

My hippie puppy Meg was groomed last week.  How adorable are thee flowers for her ears?

Meet my puppy, the hippie. #thatsmymeg

A post shared by Gwen Schimek (@gwenschimek) on

I have been meaning to make this recipe for months.  I decided to finally commit to doing it and am so glad I did.  I modified from the original recipe and instead of broiling, used the grill to cook the chicken thighs, but loved this Cooking Light recipe.  This is a recipe that I thought tasted exactly how I expected it to taste and I hope to make it again soon!

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray
4 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.

Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 chicken thighs)

Peanut Bread

A coworker of mine was moving away and starting graduate school.  I am so excited for her as she begins to enter the field and get a new degree.  I know the next couple years will be really challenging, but I also believe she will do amazing things over the course of the degree and moving forward.  We were at a wedding a few weeks ago and she mentioned she likes peanuts, and it reminded me of this recipe from the Cedar Rapids Women of the Moose Cookbook 1979.  I had never made a peanut-flavored quick bread, but this seemed like a great opportunity to try it out.  She was going to let me know if it wasn’t any good, so hopefully, she liked it and it brought some tastiness while she was packing boxes.

Peanut Bread.jpg

Peanut Bread

1 3/4 c flour
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c chopped peanuts
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
3/4 c milk
2 beaten eggs

In a mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cut in peanut butter until the mixture is crumbly.  Add milk and eggs, stirring until mixture is well-combined.  Stir in peanuts.  Turn batter into well-greased 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Kohlrabi Spring Rolls

Several years ago, when I worked at a previous institution, the students working in our office over the summer lamented their ability to cook.  As three professional staff members who really enjoyed cooking, we wanted to pass this interest along to the students (and make sure they were eating something beyond cereal and taco Tuesdays at the local bar).  Some students were gourmands themselves, sharing how they whipped up garlic and mushrooms in the middle of the night for a bedtime snack, while others had no talents.  The basic premise was this: we would pair up two-by-two and the pair would have to decide what they were going to make.  Sometimes there would be a theme or an assignment of the course, while other times it was a free-for-all.  A shopping list would be procured and two of us would go tot he grocery store and acquire the necessary ingredients.  Finally, we would go to the boss lady’s house and spend the time doing team building, cooking, and skill-development.

On the very first of these visits, I was working with a student who didn’t have much cooking experience but was filled with ambition.  She wanted for us to make spring rolls together.  This was a slightly disastrous, but not horribly awful experience.  Since then, I have been hesitant to try spring rolls or something of the like again.  But, with an abundance of kohlrabi, I went looking for recipes and was delighted to find this recipe for Kohlrabi Spring Rolls from the Love and Lemons Cookbook.  They tasted great.  The peanut sauce could use some work — I haven’t found a homemade or store bought peanut sauce I love yet.  But, I’ll keep looking.  My rolling skills could continue to be developed, but flavor-wise, the recipe is a keeper.

Kohlrabi Spring Rolls.jpg

Kohlrabi Spring Rolls

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/3 c creamy peanut butter
2 tsp tamari, plus more to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime, plus more to taste
2-3 Tbsp water
1 tsp sriracha, plus more to taste
1/4 c crushed peanuts, toasted

Spring Rolls

4 oz vermicelli rice noodles
1 kohlrabi bulb, sliced into matchsticks
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 mango, peeled and sliced into thin strips
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1/2 c loosely packed basil
1/2 c loosely packed mint
8 rice papers
Sea salt
1/4 c microgreens (optional)

Make the peanut dipping sauce: In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter, tamari, lime juice, water, and sriracha and adjust the seasonings.  Sprinkle with crushed peanuts.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook the vermicelli rice noodles according to the instructions on the package.  Drain and set aside.

Toss the sliced kohlrabi with the lime juice and a pinch of salt.  Have all filling ingredients prepped and in front of you before you start rolling — noodles, kohlrabi, mango, avocado, basil, mint, and microgreens, if you are using.

Assemble the spring rolls: Fill a shallow baking dish or pie plate with 1 inch of warm water.  Submerge one rice paper wrapper in the warm water for 15 seconds and then lay the softened wrapper on a clean kitchen towel.  Place a portion of each filling ingredient on the rice paper.  Fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling and gently tuck the filling under the wrapper.  Fold the sides over the filling.  Then continue rolling and tucking the rice paper to form the spring roll  Repeat with the remaining rice papers.

Serve with the peanut dipping sauce.

Dark Chocolate Zin Ice Cream

When I was going through my cupboards, I found a bottle of Zin and this sparked a recollection of seeing a recipe from Izzy’s Ice Cream shop, a great little ice cream shop in St. Paul in the Scoop Adventures cookbook, so I thought it was time to go grab this recipe and try it out.

By the way, if you get a chance to visit Izzy’s, you should definitely do it.  Not only is it close to where I went to college, but they have a great little add-on, called the Izzy scoop.

When I reviewed the ice cream and saw that it was egg yolk-based, I questioned for a moment whether I wanted to make it.  As I shared a month or so ago, I didn’t love the egg-based ice cream base I had previously attempted, but it seemed worth another shot.  Overall, I’m very happy with the recipe itself and the ice cream — the taste of the dark chocolate is strong and the zinfandel in relatively faint in the background.  My only complaint/frustration is that the ice cream is VERY soft.  It hardly firmed up.  I’m hoping that the returning it to the freezer after some scooping will help with the firmness.  That being said, it’s not so soft that it’s not servable, but in the hot summer days we’ve been having, I wouldn’t trust it to travel very far and not melt.

Dark Chocolate Zin Ice Cream

Dark Chocolate Zin Ice Cream

Chocolate Liquor
3/4 c cocoa powder
1/3 c water
1/3 c red zinfandel
1/4 c sugar
1 oz dark chocolate, chopped

Ice Cream Base
3 egg yolks
2 1/4 c heavy cream, divided
1 c whole milk
1/2 c sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp balsamic vinegar, divided
1/4 c red zinfandel

To make the chocolate liquor, combine the cocoa powder, water, wine, and sugar in a small saucepan.  Place the saucepan over low heat and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly.  As soon as you see bubbles, remove from the heat and add the dark chocolate.  Let sit for 2 minutes, and then stir the chocolate liquor until smooth.  Pour into a medium bowl and set aside.

To make the ice cream base, fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.  Lightly whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine 1 cup of the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat.

Warm to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes (do not boil).  Temper the eggs by slowly pouring the warmed cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until combined.  Return the custard to the pan and stir in the remaining 1 1/4 c cream.  Warm over medium-low heat, stirring until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 8 minutes.

Remove the custard from the heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into the chocolate liquor.  Add the vanilla and whisk to combine.  Set the bowl into the ice water bath to cool, 20 minutes, whisking occasionally.  Once cool, add 1 teaspoon of the vinegar and stir to incorporate.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once chilled, pour the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  When the ice cream has begun to freeze but is not completely frozen, slowly pour in the remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar and wine.  Complete churning.  Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight.