Caprese Wreath (aka- the easiest appetizer ever)

DSC_1011I love that moment in the summer when I go out to water the herbs and tomatoes in the back and say to myself, “Hey! They’re growing!” (like I’m surprised every year). I always grow extra basil because honestly, it’s one of my favorites. Pestos, tomatoes with basil, basil in pastas, basil infused oils, and basically basil everything gets my approval. I love having herbs on hand in the summer to add quick, fresh flavor to my dishes. Speaking of quick, sometimes when guests are on the way I’m in need of an appetizer that I can throw together in a flash. You’ve been there, right?

You’re running errands. You’re making dinner. You’re rushing home from work. You’re at the zoo with the kids. Then, you get the call that (surprise!) people are on the way over to your house earlier than expected. Don’t freak out- we got your back. This impressive wreath will hold over the crowd until your main dish is ready. It’s delicious, fresh, and easy to prepare.

The classic flavors of a caprese salad come together on individual skewers to make this impressive dish. Simply skewer mozzarella pearls between two cherry tomatoes, top with basil and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Boom. You’re done, and your guests are happy. So, whether you’re rushing to feed a crowd, or just want to use some of your fresh herbs, serve this fun caprese wreath and savor the flavors of summer.

Caprese Wreath
Prep Time: 15 min. Cook Time: 10 min.

Ingredients:

20 mozzarella cheese pearls
40 cherry tomatoes
1 handful basil leaves, chiffonade cut
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Black pepper

Preparation:

Using small skewers, stack one tomato, one mozzarella pearl, and another tomato up to the end of the skewer. Arrange the skewers in a circle to form a wreath.

Place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vinegar has reduced by half. (NOTE: Watch this closely as it’s easy to burn. Depending on the size of your saucepan, you may need to reduce cooking time)

Sprinkle basil and balsamic reduction on the tomato and mozzarella wreath. Finish with freshly cracked black pepper.

Makes 20 skewers

Key Lime Meringue Pie

DSC_0050

Cue the music: school is out for the summer!  That’s right everyone, it’s time to hit the pool, go on trips, watch baseball, and (one of our favorite things to do) BBQ! To me, Memorial Day is the opening ceremony of the BBQ olympics. It’s the big, delicious, overwhelming feast of food that foreshadows all the grilling we’ll be doing during the summer. Sides tend to be pretty standard: beans, slaw, potato salad of some sort, chips, etc. With dessert, I can let my creative juices run a bit more wild.

I haven’t baked much lately, as I tried to cut sweets altogether while on Whole30. Last week, as I stepped back in my kitchen arena donned in my apron and armed with my pink silicone spatula, I was ready to create.

Upon Neil’s request, I made this zesty, creamy key lime pie topped with a lightly sweetened airy meringue. I am so attracted to the the rustic look of this pie made by lifting the pillowy meringue upward with the back of a spoon right before it hits the oven. It felt great to bake again, and the pie was a hit at our family BBQ.

I’m sure it will win gold at your next BBQ, too. Happy summer and let the games begin!

Key Lime Meringue Pie
Prep Time: 15 min. Cook Time: 26 min. Chill Time: Overnight

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

15 honey graham cracker sheets
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Filling:

Zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup key lime juice
2 egg yolks
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

For the Meringue Topping:

4 egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch cream of tartar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a food processor, blend all ingredients of the crust until it becomes like fine wet sand. When pinched together, the crumbs should lightly stick together. Add more butter if not sticking together. Pat crumbs evenly into a 9″ pie round. Bake the crust for about 6 minutes until aromatic. Clean food processor while crust is baking.

Blend all filling ingredients in the food processor until smooth. Pour into pie crust and bake for about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly while you prepare the meringue.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar together until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, and continue to whisk for another minute. Top the pie with the meringue, spreading the meringue up around the whole edge of the crust. Use the back of a spoon to lift the meringue in several places, creating tall peaks.

Bake pie for 12-14 minutes until meringue is lightly browned.

Cool overnight in refrigerator and serve chilled.

No Grainola

DSC_1007

Neil is really looking forward to eating tacos on Wednesday (Day 31 of our Whole 30 adventure). I will be reintroducing certain excluded ingredients back into my meals slowly, but I really have enjoyed some of the creative dishes we’ve whipped up this month. I don’t think my breakfasts will look too different once Whole 30 is over. During the week, I usually hard boil two eggs and pop out the yolks, taking the whites with me to eat on the way to work. Or, I make these breakfast cups (which are getting great reviews on social media, thanks!).

But you know, even on Whole 30 I need variety. Eggs 30 days in a row can be a little… well… boring. Fruit and nuts are only supposed to be consumed sparingly, so I don’t have this too often, but this granola (pardon me, NO GRAINola) is GOOD. We like to sprinkle a little atop mixed berries. It makes for a good mini-vacation from the egg. It also makes for a great afternoon snack if I can’t hold out to the next meal!

The flavor combination of sweet orange paired with the aromatic cinnamon and coconut oil makes my mouth water every time I think of this granola. I actually prefer it to some grain containing recipes I’ve tried in the past. The only catch is that it takes a while to cut up all the fruit into tiny pieces, but I’ve found that when I use scissors to cut strips of the fruit, then cut those strips into little squares, it goes way faster. Either way, this dish is nice to occasionally incorporate in your breakfast routine, whether you’re looking for a lifestyle change or just need some variety.

Oh, and if you’re doing Whole 30, make sure your dried fruit has no added sugars or sweeteners. The ingredients on the package should simply list the fruit. And also be sure that you don’t eat a whole bowl of this stuff like you’re eating cereal. Just use it as a sprinkle of flavor and crunch!

No Grainola
Prep Time: 20 min. Cook Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

1 cup raw blanched almonds, chopped
2 cups raw cashews, chopped
1 cup dried apple rings, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried mangoes, chopped
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 large orange, juiced
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place chopped nuts on a baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes until they start to turn golden brown. When you can smell them, they’re done or very close to being done. Place the nuts along with all other ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Grainola will appear oily, but as it cools and dries, that will go away. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.