Tag Archives: Fruit

Tips for Throwing a Holiday Brunch (plus sweet fruit dip!)

BrunchToday’s post is the last in the holiday brunch series, and I thought I’d offer up just a few more tips on making your brunch a success.

1. Finger foods: Never have I ever seen a holiday home brunch where every single person sat down at a nice, long table complete with place settings and a solid surface to cut their food on. Where’s the fun in that? Keep your food small and finger-friendly, and if you must use utensils, limit it to forks. That way everyone can still eat even if they’re standing, and everyone has a free hand for a cocktail. Duh.

2. Keep it small: No one shows up to a holiday brunch ready to eat their faces off. Okay, MOST people don’t. During the holidays, everyone is up to their ears in cookies from co-workers, sweets at home, and candy cane colored everything. The last thing people want is to be force fed your giant culinary mess. I also like to keep things small so that it’s never apparent how much any one person has eaten. Maybe somebody wants only one slice of apple. Maybe somebody else wants eight pounds of hasbrown casserole. No judgment.

3. Balance the sweet and the savory: One year I attended an office potluck holiday party where someone brought chicken wings… they disappeared in about 3 minutes and at the end of the night there were more cookies and cakes leftover than you could shake a stick at (that’s how that saying goes… right?). The moral of the story is that one cannot live on sweets alone… trust me. I’ve tried. Make sure for every sweet dish, you have a savory.

4. Loosen up: No one cares if your plates match or your house is spotlessly clean. They care that they’re all together under one roof, oftentimes for the only time that year. Forgive the spills, laugh off the food flops, have another cocktail, and remember: brunch is an early meal so you can be asleep by 8. Amen.

The last dish on the brunch menu is one I am a tiny bit embarrassed about… it contains Fluff. That’s right. That disgusting, sticky, white spread that my mom wouldn’t let me have when I was a kid but I would sneak at friends’ houses (sorry, mom). It’s gross. But you know what? It makes a damn fine dip for fruit. And when I started researching “fruit dip” this one came up more than I care to mention. So should you dare to add one of those vintage-labeled jars to your cart at the supermarket, you won’t be disappointed. Cross my heart.

On the menu:
Sweet Fruit Dip
Makes 2 cups

1 7-oz jar of Fluff
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, optional

Add Fluff and cream cheese to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend the mixture together. Pour into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon for decoration if you wish. Cut up fruit to serve alongside, such as pears, apples, and grapes.

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Pomegranate Cranberry Bellinis

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What would brunch be without a fancy cocktail or ten? I had it in my head to make a pomegranate bellini so I found a recipe to build on, and when I was finished making it… it didn’t look super appetizing. Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful shade of berry red and it smelled incredible but it was thick and looked almost like you should eat it with a spoon or over ice cream (and you should). But then I tasted it. And I didn’t want to change a darn thing.

So on the morning of brunch I bought cranberry juice and orange juice to mix with champagne in case everyone was scared of the fruit puree. And you know what? Nobody touched that juice.

On the menu:
Pomegranate Cranberry Bellinis
Makes roughly 24 cocktails

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup cranberry juice
Zest of 1 orange (about 1 Tbsp)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Add all ingredients to a large pot that has a fitted lid and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 10 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Cover pan with the fitted lid and cook for 10 minutes. Once the cranberries burst, remove lid and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender (or pour into a standing blender) to blend the liquid for 1 minute. Pour through a strainer to remove seeds and excess pulp.

Let puree chill in the refrigerator for at least a few hours so that the puree is cold by the time you’re ready to make your cocktails.

To serve: pour 2 Tbsp of puree into a champagne glass and top with champagne or prosecco. And then drink. your. face off.

Note: Don’t worry if your puree is too thick to pass through a fine mesh strainer. It’ll mix with champagne just fine. And if it doesn’t, you drink the champagne on the top of the glass, and THEN you pour the rest over ice cream and eat it with a spoon. Bon appetit.

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Cherry Vanilla Waffles

I feel I have to start off with an apology for this sad picture. These waffles do not look very appetizing, but lately I’ve had this food-blogger-problem where I eat everything before I photograph it. And honestly, who wants to read a post about food if they can’t see what it looks like first? I know this, friends, because I am of the same ilk. So while I missed out on sharing a zucchini, sun dried tomato, lemon ravioli, and a skillet lasagna, I couldn’t miss out on sharing this one, too.

I used cherries in this recipe because I found them at a little bodega for $1.25 a pound (A DOLLAR TWENTY FIVE A POUND! Thank you, Queens!) and had a surplus. But you could use any ripe, sweet berry.

On the menu:
Cherry vanilla waffles
Makes 2 full sized Belgian waffles

NOTE: You will need a waffle iron for this! I have no idea how you’d do it without one. Sorry Charlie.

1 1/3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
8 Tbsp egg whites*
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) melted
1 3/4 cups milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup cherries, pitted and quartered

Preheat your waffle iron.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Add melted butter, vanilla, and milk and blend until combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixture just until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into the batter just until incorporated. Add cherries and stir until evenly distributed in the batter.

Pour 2 full cups of batter onto the griddle, adding a bit of extra just so the batter reaches the far corners of the iron. Cook each waffle according to your iron’s specifications. Top with butter and maple syrup, or lemon curd, or powdered sugar, or just eat them straight off the griddle. Not that I would do that. Just saying.

*Note: the original recipe that I based this on (from Food.com) calls for 2 eggs, separated. I think using all egg whites gives the waffles a lighter texture and I usually have a carton of egg whites in my fridge. If you do want to use 2 eggs, just separate the egg and yolk, add the yolk into the dry ingredients during Step 1, and follow the rest of the directions as written regarding the egg whites. Still easy and still delicious!

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My Italian Grandmother

My mother always tells me, “You had the only Italian grandmother who couldn’t cook.” Grandma Mel may have made more imitation-crab salads than meaty lasagnas, but she made one dish that I will never forget. And in this CONSTANT heat and humidity, my craving for it hit me like a Mack truck.

On the menu:
Rosa Marina Pasta Salad

1 lb of Rosa Marina or Orzo (I had to use Orzo because my local grocer doesn’t carry Rosa Marina)
1 small bag of shredded coconut
1 9 oz container of Cool Whip
2 eggs, beaten
2 large cans of crushed pineapple packed in 100% pineapple juice (no syrup!)
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup cherries, chopped (this recipe typically calls for maraschino cherries, but I had just bought fresh so I used them)
1 large can of mandarin oranges*
3/4 cup of sugar*

*I’m not sure if once again this was my local grocery or a trend in canned fruit, but I could only find mandarin oranges packed in light syrup instead of real fruit juice, which I HATE. Because I could only find the sugared oranges, I only added 1/2 cup of sugar. You really don’t need all that extra anyway.

Cook noodles according to package. Drain pineapple and oranges, but save juice.  In juice, cook eggs, sugar and flour until the mixture comes to a boil.  Let cool for 5 minutes and then pour over noodles. Cover and refrigerate over night. Next day, loosen mixture with spatula. Fold in chopped cherries, pineapple, oranges, coconut and Cool Whip. Mix well and chill. Eat in front of a fan with a glass of lemon water with a little Buona Fortuna by The Four Sicilians playing in the background…

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The Green Wonder

Sometimes I have mundane things for dinner, and I think, is this worth posting? But if this grabs you:

… then maybe you might be interested in my hum-drum dinner. I am currently obsessed with everything to do with this green fruit, and I find myself ordering anything on a menu that has avocado in it. They have the good kind of fat (I know, right? Good fat?! Yes, please!), they add gorgeous color to any dish (okay, not ANY dish), and they have such a brilliant, smooth, creamy texture that I could just bathe in them.

But I won’t.

That would be weird.

Anyway… tonight for dinner I created a burger-less version of my favorite burger: swiss cheese, bacon, and avocado. This is amazing on a ground beef patty, but I used sliced smoked turkey (on sale at my local grocery) and it was divine. Way better than the spoiled potato salad I had for lunch…

…I don’t want to talk about it.

Are you an avocado lover? Here are a few more ideas of what to do with this peerless pitted pod of perfection.

… Sliced up and wedged between scrambled eggs and mozzarella in a tortilla for breakfast

… In the standard guacamole with salty chips and margaritas (avocado, chopped red onion, lime juice, and cilantro – easy as pie!)

… Blended with powdered sugar and lemon juice as frosting for a yellow or white cake (seriously!)

… Sliced up on toast with a sprinkle of lemon juice and coarse kosher salt

… Cut into chunks, add chunks of honey dew, sprinkle with lime juice, and use as a salsa for white fish or sauteed scallops

… Sliced up on crusty french bread underneath a layer of watermelon (I know, this is a weird one, but it is SO GOOD… I’m a texture girl myself)

A few tips when using avocados:

In any type of recipe, once you remove the meat from the skin and the pit, it will turn brown unless you add lime or lemon juice (notice all the above suggestions that are not immediately melted on a sandwich have lime/lemon juice in them)

A ripe avocado can be cut in half, around the pit, and twisted apart. Stick a sharp knife in the pit, twist, and it should pull right out.

To remove the meat from the skin: scoop with a spoon starting at the narrow end of the half, or for a VERY ripe fruit, peel away the skin (this is my favorite way because it preserves that smooth rounded appearance)

If you’re only using half an avocado at a time, you can leave the pit in the leftover half and it’ll help it keep longer in the fridge.

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The Only Pancake Recipe You Will Ever Need

Pancakes are my favorite food. Ever. Potato pancakes, flapjacks, scallion pancakes, crepes, Dutch baby… you name it. I love it. But truth be told, I very rarely order plain old pancakes out at a restaurant because they’re usual chewy and giant and gross. They do not compare to The Adirondack Cookbook’s pancake recipe.

Trust me, kids. This is the only pancake recipe you will ever need.

On the menu: Adirondack banana pancakes with caramelized banana topping

Makes 5 skillet-sized pancakes
*Note: you don’t have to add banana to the pancake batter itself. This is my go-to recipe for pancakes with or without the fruit.

Pancakes
1 1/3 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp melted butter*
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 Tbsp butter

Mix dry ingredients. Blend together milk, butter, and egg. Add liquids to dry mixture. Add banana and mix well. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a non-stick skillet, coat the pan. Pour batter in skillet 1/2 cup at a time. When the pancake bubbles, flip and cook for approximately 2 minutes on the other side.
*Let the butter sit for a few minutes after you melt it, otherwise when you add it to the cold milk it will harden. When you do add the warm butter, temper it (i.e. add a tiny bit at a time to the cold milk, constantly stirring). Don’t worry if the butter hardens – it’ll melt inside the pancake anyway, forming delicious little butter pockets. Mmm butter pockets…

Caramelized Banana Topping
3 bananas, sliced
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Saute bananas with sugar over low heat and stir for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until a syrup has formed. Add cinnamon and saute for 2 minutes.

Note: the caramelized topping works with tons of different fruits. I’ve done this with pear, apple, banana. It would work with raspberries (just add a little orange juice to cut the sweetness a bit), blueberries, strawberries… bacon. You heard me. Caramelized bacon. Mmm bacon…

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