Bakeless Sweets

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It is officially summer time. Although most of us have been suffering from the humid heat for weeks now. That means it is the time of year we try to use the oven as little as possible. What else does summer call for? Parties and sweet desserts. Lucky for me (and the rest of you), I crossed paths with Faith Durand when compiling our graham cracker recipe list. Not only does Faith have some awesome graham cracker icebox recipes (including a s”mores icebox cake), but an entire book full of Bakeless Sweets ranging from puddings and panna cottas to fluff and icebox cakes. Hence the name of her book: Bakeless Sweets.

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Put It In a Jar: Pickled Blueberries

“So. Pickled blueberries, huh?” …was along the lines of what I was thinking when I decided on this as my next victim. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit hesitant at first. Once I began looking up ways to use pickled blueberries though (more on that later), I was sold.

I used this recipe from Saveur, and lemme-tell-you, it is the perfect way to stretch out those pickling muscles. Minimal ingredients, no stovetop prep, plus it’s ready to be devoured in 24 hours. All y’all lazies out there who think pickling takes days and weeks to take effect will love this. Do yourselves a favor though and make this recipe now while blueberries are in season!

Pickled Blueberries

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Caffeinated Baking: Blueberry Coffee Tart

On a quick 2-day trip to Michigan I kept driving past all these signs and billboards for u-pick blueberry farms. I resisted until the drive home and made a last minute stop. I didn’t have enough time to pick my own, but I did have enough cash to pick up a 5 lb bucket of blueberries. The first dessert to come of the blueberry bounty was this mildly sweet tart. If you’ve had bad luck with crusts before, fear not, I’ll walk you through a (nearly) fool-proof way to make a light and fluffy crust. Or if you just don’t care or aren’t up to the task, feel free to substitute store-bought pie crust.

Blueberry Coffee Tart

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The Endless Road Trip: Salt and Straw

We’re no strangers to crazy ice cream flavors here at ES, and let’s be real—in this brave new dessert world where salted caramel sundaes and olive oil ice cream have become the norm, a chef putting something insane inside your cone is not really newsworthy. HOWEVER, when I heard there is an ice cream shop in meat-mad Portland serving bone marrow ice cream, clearly I was there in a New York minute.

The bad news: Salt and Straw did not have the bone marrow flavor in stock on the day I visited, but really for the very best reason possible: they were waiting for cherry season to start, so that they could make a bone marrow-black cherry ice cream. Obvi.

The good news: I had enough friends with me to order up a smorgasbord of outrageous flavors: honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper, sea salt with caramel ribbons, coffee-bourbon, blue cheese and pear (!), honey-lavender, blood orange, and blueberry with key lime marmalade. All head-over-heels amazing. the sweet-and-savory balsamic-strawberry-pepper took top honors for me.

The better news:

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BEER: It’s What’s for Dinner (Numbers 3, 4, & 5)

Things are getting fast and furious in Endless Simmer’s quest to use beer in 100 different dishes. After an off-list detour for Corona cupcakes, we’re back this week and crossing three items off the agenda: beer cornbread, beer-marinated pork, and chocolate beer milkshakes!

Last week, I embarked on a beerfeast of epic proportions. My plans consisted of a four-course meal; each course cooked with beer and paired with a different beer. I got through my week mostly by dreaming up the menu: pork loin marinated in an IPA, mashed potatoes with a brown ale gravy, cornbread with a wheat beer, and milk stout milkshakes.

When the end of the week finally came around (and the drinking began) the menu got downsized a bit, quickly falling from a beerfeast to a dinner with some things made of beer, but not all the beers I wanted to make them with. The pork ended up being marinated in a brown ale, which the friend who brewed it proudly called a “piece of shit.” Mashed potatoes and gravy didn’t even happen, after I asked another drunken pal to peel potatoes and found that ending horribly wrong.

Fortunately, I made the cornbread in advance, and when I reached my peak in drunkenness later on in the night, I was still well able to whip up the milk stout shakes. And of course, while we were beginning our beveraging, we did brew an IPA. So in the end, I still had a fairly epic beer dinner, reaching a new record of three items from my beholden list.

1. The Appetizer: Wheat Berry Cornbread

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Blendtec: A 99% Rationale

I love gadgets and my kitchen is full of them: mini-food processor, mini-crockpot, Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, deep fat fryer, slow cooker… You get the picture, but one item I’ve always lacked was a blender…until recently. I splurged and went with a Blendtec Total Blender, $400 worth of blending goodness. Yes, $400. I get that this is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a blender when there are tons of cheaper blenders out there, and I’m sure something as simple as a Magic Bullet would suffice for smoothies.

Here’s my justification. I’ve been on a smoothie kick of late but the only place I can find one close to my office is at Whole Foods. They charge $7.50 a drink which I think is a little absurd for some blended frozen fruit and ice. A couple of bags of frozen fruit — enough for five smoothies — is $12, plus a carton of coconut water is $3.95. Instead of spending $37.50 on smoothies a week I’m now spending $15. A weekly saving of $21.50. In 19 weeks I’m going to be even. In 20 weeks that $400 Blendtec will start saving me money.

The BF thinks my rational is ridiculous. He thinks the idea of spending $7.50 on a smoothie to begin with is too much. I’m sure he’s not alone in thinking that. But he’s wrong. In addition to saving money, it’s pretty to look at and I will make many other things in the blender, not just smoothies — margaritas for instance.

Who’s right? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and enjoy a recipe for my smoothie du jour.

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