Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lemon Basil Sorbet

Hot summer days are great occasions for cool and refreshing lemon sorbet. It has been scorching and humid here the last couple of weeks. This treat is light and perfect for cooling off at the end of the day.

I have tons of basil growing and I like to find fun ways of using it. Here is my container garden that sits on my deck, right outside my kitchen. It really makes it convenient for when you need to grab a handful of herbs while cooking. There are a few more basil plants growing in my garden. I always like to have plenty on hand for pesto and lots of Italian dishes.

The star ingredients, right before cutting, zesting, juicing and enjoying the aroma from such tasks.



Cutting the fragrant basil to steep with the lemon, sugar and water.

Straining the steeped mixture.

Pouring into the ice cream maker, (or pour into bowl and freeze for several hours).

The mouth-watering finished product.

And, a huge thank you to my new daughter-in-law who was visiting for the weekend. Those are her lovely hands in all the pictures. It sure was a help to this photographer!

Lemon Basil Sorbet

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/14 cups sugar
  • 4-5 lemons (to equal 1 cup of juice)
  • 12-15 fresh basil leaves

Pour water and sugar into medium saucepan. Gently heat to dissolve sugar. Zest 1 lemon, juice all lemons to equal 1 cup of juice. Add zest and lemon juice to sugar/water mixture. Cut basil in thin strips and add to saucepan. Heat to just a boil over medium heat. Simmer and steep for 10 minutes. Taste after steeping, if you prefer more of a lemony taste, cut up lemon peels and add to mixture, steeping another 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer and allow to cool completely. After cooling pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for 2-4 hrs. Or, if you don't own an ice cream maker, just freeze for several hrs. after mixture has cooled.

Yield: 5 - 6 servings

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Bryan

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

I may have mentioned before my love of Italian food. It is my favorite cuisine! One of my favorite places to eat Italian food is Carrabba's Italian Grill. Yes, its a chain, they are all over the country. Oddly enough, I noticed that there are none in California. If you are a Californian and find yourself venturing to another state and run across Carrabba's, I highly recommend it!

There is a dish there called "Chicken Bryan." Years ago my oldest son ordered it and liked it enough to try a copy cat recipe of it. I thought he did a sensational job of recreating it! So, here is his version of this delicious entree.

Ready for the grill. The chicken prepared with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.

Grilling to perfection!

Taken off the grill and spreading with goat cheese.

Sun-dried tomatoes added, drizzling with butter/lemon sauce.

The finished product! Watch carefully as the sun-dried tomatoes can burn fast under the broiler!

Chicken Bryan

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 - 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes (2 or 3 tomatoes per chicken breast)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine olive oil and herbs. Brush chicken with olive oil/herbs, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Prepare the grill. Put foil on the grill, spray foil with cooking oil. Grill chicken until cooked through. Meanwhile prepare the lemon butter. Combine butter, garlic, chopped basil and lemon juice. Preheat oven to broil.
When chicken is done remove from grill. Spread the goat cheese on top of each chicken breast. Place 2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes on top of the goat cheese. Drizzle each chicken breast with the lemon butter mixture. Place chicken on a broil pan and broil in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully or sun-dried tomatoes can burn.

Yield: 6 servings

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blackberry Shortbread Squares

Blackberry season is in full swing here in the Bluegrass State. We try to do some picking every year. I've discovered however, that blackberry picking is not for the "faint of heart."

There is of course always the heat and humidity one deals with in mid-July. We always must be hyper-aware of snakes that could be lurking in the tall weeds. Copperheads seem to be the most common dangerous snake "'round these parts." Then there are the briers that get a hold of your clothes or skin and just won't let go.

Most bothersome of all, to me, are the insects! Chiggers, ticks, bees, and hornets love the blackberry patch. This year the June bugs seemed to be out in force, feasting on the luscious black beauties. I believe that the big green bugs were happy to share with me, but every time I infringed on their territory, they would come buzzing right by me. I screamed about every time. June bugs sound to me, like an army of angry bees bent on destruction!

I was grateful that my dear husband was there so that at least someone was hearing my screams. He laughed. He is used to my "fear-of-bugs-that-sound-as-if-they-are-all-going-to-sting-me." I'm grateful that a June Bug's bark is bigger than its bite!

For all the sweat and fear—in the end—blackberry picking is always so worth it! I try to make different things every year with our picked berries. I thought these shortbread squares looked good—and we did enjoy them very much.

Our first day out picking we didn't have much time so we only gathered 2 cups. Consequently, I made a half-batch of these and four of us devoured them in one night.
Below you will find the recipe for the full batch. Make sure you see my note at the bottom concerning the almonds.

Blackberry Shortbread Squares
A Martha Stewart Recipe

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2/3 cup whole blanched almonds (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound blackberries (about 4 cups)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment; butter lining. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 minutes; let cool. Grind in a food processor until fine.
Whisk together flour, nuts, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside. Put 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in almond extract. Add flour mixture in 2 batches; mix until a crumbly dough forms.
Press all but 1 cup dough onto bottom of pan. Scatter berries evenly over dough. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar; crumble reserved dough on top. Bake until golden, about 30 -40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut into 12 squares; dust with sugar.

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Yield: 12 servings

Note: I found the task of blanching the almonds (boiling and peeling), to be a bit labor-intensive. To skip that step you can use 1/2 cup of slivered almonds. Cut your roasting time to 10 minutes and be sure to watch carefully as they roast.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry

I threw this stir-fry together a few weeks ago and my husband and boys liked it so much they said "are you blogging about this?" When I answered no, they said "great, you'll need to make it again soon and blog about it. This is really good..." So, I did! I made it last night and they were pleased.

Stir-fries are a healthy and quick main dish to get on the table . The key to preparing with ease is to be sure and have all your ingredients cut, diced, assembled (sauces), before you start actually stir-frying.

Often times you can find beef that is already cut and prepared for stir-fry.

Stir-frying at high temps, until the meat is cooked through.

Loving the green, green color of the broccoli while it cooks till tender-crisp.

Putting it all together with the sauce.

I usually use brown rice, since it takes longer to cook, it's important to plan ahead and get that going before any of the stir-fry prep.

Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry
Slightly adapted from

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 1/2 cup water, plus
  • 2 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 lb boneless round steak or 1 lb charcoal chuck steaks, cut into thin 3-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 small onions, cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • hot cooked rice

In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water and garlic until smooth.
Add beef and toss.
In a large skillet or wok over medium high heat, stir-fry beef in 1 tablespoon oil until beef reaches desired doneness; remove and keep warm.
Stir-fry broccoli and onion in remaining oil for 4-5 minutes.
Return beef to pan.
Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and remaining cornstarch and water until smooth; add to the pan.
Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
Serve over rice.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oxytocin and the Family Table

A family get-together around Nancy's table.

My big sister is guest-posting for me today. Nancy is a Marriage and Family therapist in California. She is passionate about family and taught me everything about nurturing. She not only loved and nurtured me growing up but gave me wonderful tools with which to nurture my own family. Here she writes about the importance of the family table!

Nancy, cutting a piece of her famous Huckleberry Pie, a recipe handed down to us by our grandmother.

Oxytocin: The Chemical of Love.

Did you know that when you share a meal with another person that you not only get to nourish your body, but also your mind and soul? Good conversation stimulates healthy brain function and development. In addition, we also release a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the "cuddle chemical" or the bonding hormone. Oxytocin is released in large amounts at important bonding times, such as when a woman gives birth, and nurses her baby, and in smaller amounts when we hug each other.

Oxytocin leads to feelings of well-being, relaxation, and helps the gut to function better during digestion.

Many studies have shown that when families share regular meals there is more healthy connection. In addition, when children grow up enjoying these meals with parents, they are less likely to experiment with nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs. The risk of developing eating disorders is lower for adolescents who eat with their families. Grades are consistently higher for children and adolescents in families where mealtimes are made a priority.

To make the most of mealtimes, it is good to unplug—turn the TV off, no cell phones (especially texting) or other electronic interruptions. This is such an important time for families to enjoy each other as parents teach values and ideas and encourage children of all ages to form their own ideas as well as to share about how the day went and the important events that impacted each family member.

Bon appetite!

Nancy Williams, MA, IBCLC, CCE
Marriage and Family Therapist
Joyce's Big Sister

Friday, July 8, 2011

Frozen Ice Cream Delight

We had a birthday at our house this past weekend. My baby, the very youngest turned 15! How can this be? It seems that this is the cry of every mother's heart, lamenting how quickly the time has passed.

Back in the day, we used to only have cakes to celebrate birthdays. Then we decided that there are way too many great desserts out there to just limit birthdays to cakes. So, our boys now choose what dessert they would like.

My youngest chose this ice cream dessert. It is a great choice for a summer dessert, birthday, party or "just because." I might also add that our nephew, after enjoying his dessert said "Aunt Joyce, that was the best dessert I've ever had." Success!

It starts with an Oreo cookie crust with some butter and sugar mixed in.

Next comes the ice cream layer, you can choose vanilla, chocolate or coffee!

The chocolate sauce is next and it is a bit decadent! But, oh so worth it!

You just simply cannot skip the peanuts!

How about some dollops of Cool Whip?

I usually prefer to use real whipping cream, but for convenience and consistency, the Cool Whip is a great addition.

Almost complete!

Here's the birthday boy himself, enjoying his dessert at his party! Why is he wearing a sombrero on his head? Ummmmm...teenage boys are a bit of a mystery!

Frozen Ice Cream Delight
Adapted from Taste of Home

  • 2-1/2 cups cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 gallon chocolate, coffee or vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed

Combine 2 cups cookie crumbs with butter and sugar. Press onto the
bottom of a 13-in. x 9-in. dish. Freeze for 15 minutes.
Spread ice cream over crumbs; freeze until firm, about 3 hours.
In a small saucepan, combine the confectioners' sugar, chocolate
chips, butter and evaporated milk. Bring to a boil; boil for 8
minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool to room
temperature. Spoon sauce over ice cream layer; sprinkle with peanuts. Freeze until
Spread whipped topping over the top; sprinkle with remaining
cookie crumbs. Freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.

Yield: 12-16 servings.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Breakfast Blueberry Cobbler

Dessert for Breakfast? Yes please, and thank you very much! This is (in my humble opinion), the ultimate breakfast. It includes a serving of fruit, not just any fruit but blueberries and strawberries! Contains a whole grain (love you oatmeal), protein in the form of yogurt, is low in sugar and tastes just like you're eating a dessert!

It starts with using fresh blueberries. In the winter, I could easily see using frozen as well.

Topped with oatmeal, a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of butter.

Fresh out of the oven, topped with a combination of plain yogurt, strawberries, bananas and honey.

The possibilities are endless with this recipe. How about peach cobbler with blueberries in the yogurt? Or doing some combination of 3 different berries, blueberries raspberries and strawberries? Don't forget to comment on whatever variations you come up with–Enjoy!

Breakfast Blueberry Cobbler

2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 1/4 oatmeal (old fashioned or quick cooking, not instant)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup plain yogurt
sliced strawberries
sliced bananas
1 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350
Divide blueberries between 4 ramekins. Combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Use your hands to incorporate butter into mixture. Sprinkle oats mixture evenly over blueberries. Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile combine all ingredients for topping. When cobblers are done baking, evenly distribute yogurt mixture between the 4 cobblers or place yogurt mixture on table and allow individuals to use desired amount.

Yield: 4 servings