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Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

I received the The Big Book of BBQ: Recipes and Revelations from the Barbecue Belt {affiliate link} as a Christmas gift from my parents. I’m pretty sure they got it for me so they could reap the benefits, seeing as I cook for them often or send leftovers home with them when they visit.

What a role reversal! Isn’t it usually parents who send food home with their kids?

So far I’ve made about half a dozen recipes and all of them have been outstanding. The bacon-wrapped barbecue chicken kebabs are another favorite in our house.

One of the recent highlights was this mocha frosting, used to top a chocolate marble sheet cake for a Memorial Day party. The cake turned out disappointingly dry but with this amazing frosting, who cares? It’s smooth and velvety, rich but not overly-sweet, and complex from the cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark) and coffee.

Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

This frosting is tempting enough to eat with a spoon. Or with your finger. I made small sandwich cookies for the kids using Nilla wafers and a smear of mocha frosting in between. I can also picture this on dessert crepes with freshly whipped cream and some raspberries.

I have a few leftover slices of chocolate marble sheet cake with mocha frosting that I plan on chopping up and folding into homemade vanilla ice cream this week. That seems like a smart thing to do with dry cake and tasty frosting.

This is an outstanding frosting recipe that I’ll make over and over. It’s quick and easy to make, smooth and lump-less, and delicious.

If I was pairing this with a beer, I’d probably choose a Founder’s Breakfast Stout or Brasserie Ellezelloise La Biere des Collines Hercule Stout.

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting
This quick and easy mocha frosting recipe is rich but not overly-sweet and perfect on cakes, cupcakes, and your spoon.
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups powdered sugar
  2. 2/3 cups Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
  3. 3 tablespoons strong coffee
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  5. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  6. 4 tablespoons half and half
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and cocoa until it's fully incorporated. In a separate small bowl, mix together the coffee and vanilla.
  2. In a stand-mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until it has lightened a bit in color and is creamy. Starting with the cocoa mixture, add a small amount to the butter and beat on low speed until it is fully incorporated. Add a splash of the coffee mixture to the butter and beat until it is fully incorporated. Alternate between the cocoa mixture and coffee mixture until it has all been combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the half and half, one tablespoon at a time and mix until combined.
Notes
  1. Recipe is attributed to "Big Book of BBQ".
Adapted from Big Book of BBQ
Adapted from Big Book of BBQ
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
 Disclaimer: this post contains an affiliate link and has been labeled as such for full transparency. 

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe

Despite the fact that I enjoy slow cooking and think nothing of marinading pork adobo for three days, taking a week to cure a batch of bacon, or allowing a slow rise of dough in refrigerator before baking, sometimes a quick and easy meal is the way to go. We’re always busy here in our household doing something. School, field trips and outings, entertaining guests, the endless chores that come with owning a largish country house containing four humans and four four-legged animals, work and blogging, playing and having fun … rest assured that just because we are here all day long, it isn’t always easy to keep everything balanced!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe
Ingredients, clockwise from top left: olive oil, garlic, chorizo sausage, pipette pasta, broccolini

There are also my personal hobbies like eating reading books, cooking and baking, and current events.

Yes, I did list current events as a hobby. I have breaking news alerts set up on my phone on certain topics so I know the very latest about what’s happening in the great, big world out there. I’ve enjoyed current events since we regularly had to choose one to share with our class in high school and I’ve been hooked ever since. Right now I’m staying on top of MH370, the Ukraine situation, and a spreading Ebola virus. Oh, and did you hear that the Black Plague was pneumonic and not bubonic?! My world is rocked right now.

Seriously, you should read that article. Fleas didn’t cause it! Amazing! I am fascinated by viruses and have eaten read The Hot Zone about a dozen times, in case you were wondering.

Some days, all I have the energy to accomplish in terms of dinner is a quick and easy meal and this one fits the bill. It makes more than enough for this family of four to eat several times throughout the week. This base recipe stands well on its own but can be easily dressed up to add variety when eating it as leftovers. Add in your favorite seasonings, sauces, or dips to the leftovers for a new spin on a basic, yet satisfying meal. A friend suggested using meatless chorizo, a great idea for vegetarians!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe
Voilà! Dinner is served.

This is a great and easy weeknight pasta and sausage skillet recipe that shouldn’t take you any more than 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s a keeper!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet with Broccolini
This is a quick and easy meal to make on a Monday night and change up a few more times throughout the week as leftovers.
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 c. olive oil
  2. 1 lb. sausage, your favorite kind
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 bunch broccolini, washed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 lb. pasta, your favorite kind
  6. 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings (discard casings) and add sausage to the hot oil, breaking it apart as cooks through, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic to the sausage once it is no longer pink and cook, stirring constantly for one minute or until fragrant.
  3. Stir in prepared broccolini, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.
  5. Combine pasta and sausage mixture in a serving bowl and stir in cheese.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Notes
  1. This recipe stands well on its own but it lends excellently to different sauces when served as leftovers.
  2. Stir-in ideas: cayenne pepper, spicy dip, white sauce, chive cream cheese, dijon mustard sauce, cilantro
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/


Germaine’s Cheesy Bread Recipe

I had a request last week for this recipe, which I shared a version of once before and is lost on the internet somewhere. This comes from “The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook” (The Association of Walking Epicurean Females Usually Lunching), that I purchased in 2007 in St. Lucia, while honeymooning. All credit goes to the cookbook.

I wish I had a photo but, alas! I do not. I will be making this again soon, though…

Germaine's Cheesy Bread
Deliciously cheesy braided bread. Boom.
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For the dough
  1. 1 egg, then add enough milk to make 11 fluid ounces
  2. 1 tsp. salt
  3. 3 T butter
  4. 1 1/4 tsp. yeast
  5. 1 T. sugar
  6. 18 oz. white flour
Other ingredients
  1. 1 egg
  2. 8 oz. gruyere or sharp cheddar
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the yeast in a little of the warmed milk then mix with the other dough ingredients. When ready, punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Knead until the air is expelled and shape each into a snake approximately 18" long. Cut cheese into thin straws. Flatten each snake, and place cheese all the way along the length. Roll up dough around cheese trying to make sure there are no holes, as the cheese leaks out in cooking. Place 3 cheese filled snakes to lie one on top of the other at their middle. Plait to each end. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Leave to rise in a warm draught free spot. When dough has doubled in bulk (approximately 1 hour) gently brush all over surface with beaten egg. Bake in 180C oven for 20ish minutes or until golden brown.
Notes
  1. It may take longer for the second rise if you don't live in the Caribbean.
  2. 180C is 350F.
  3. This is super tasty bread.
Adapted from The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook
Adapted from The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea

My Mom’s side of the family has gotten together every year, for as long as I can remember, for an annual tea. Over the years we have patronized several tea houses for victuals, sometimes switching because a business closed and other times just trying somewhere new. We went somewhere two years ago that – in my opinion – was awfully expensive for the quality and quantity of food received. The room was cramped, the decor forgettable, and my then-two year old daughter was seriously in need of a nap (which is a whole other issue, of course). I don’t even remember if we had lemon curd to go along with our scones!

That is a requirement in my book.

It seems as if every year I take on more and more cooking responsibilities when it comes to holidays and such. What started out as a Thanksgiving meal in which I nearly lost my marbles trying to keep every detail together, has turned into my making the occasional Easter and Holiday (my combined Thanksgiving-Christmas … maybe I should dub it Thanksgivingmas) meal along with several other impromptu dinners. I enjoy it. I’m not the world’s greatest entertainer like the women portrayed on commercials who always flit like a butterfly of whimsy around the guests, ensuring plates and glasses are always full. I can’t handle all that. I’m not as outgoing as you may think. But I can organize and execute a pretty good dinner and always welcome visitors with a warm heart. 

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

This weekend we are having our annual Matthews Family Winter Tea at my mom’s house. I’m doing most of the cooking and baking and we asked all the guests to bring one or two of their favorite teas along to share. When all is said and done, the cost of each “ticket” will be around $12.50, much less expensive than the place we went last year. Plus we’ll have more variety and more quantity. 

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

Everyone wins.

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

Some of the recipes I’m using were found on Pinterest. Some from Joy of Cooking (affiliate link). Others from Pampered Chef recipe books. The lemon curd recipe I’m sharing with you is one I adapted from Joy of Cooking, aka The Cooking Bible. I received this cookbook as a gift in the early 2000s and have used it so often that the cover is falling off, there are pages stuck together with who-knows-what, and stains abound. I nearly followed the recipe but upped the sugar amount so I knew it would be more sweet than tart.

I know you, dear family members (I’m not naming names). I know all about you and your sweet teeth. 

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

I never knew how easy it was to make lemon curd. It sounds difficult for some reason but I assure you, it is not. My 4-year old daughter helped make this. She cracked the eggs, measured the sugar, squeezed the lemons as best as she could, and whisked it all up. She’s such a great helper in the kitchen and I love teaching her what I know. All that to say, don’t be afraid to give this a try! If a 4-year old and a woman who never made it before can do it, anyone can.

Do you have any annual traditions in your family that you cherish? 

Lemon Curd
Lemon curd is an essential topping for scones at any tea party, whether it is formal or non-traditional.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1/2 c. sugar
  3. Zest of 1 lemon
  4. 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice, strained
  5. 6 T butter, cut into pieces
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. In a stainless steel saucepan, whisk the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest together until the color has lightened. Add the lemon juice and butter chunks and set on a burner over medium heat. Whisk the content constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture has thickened considerably.
  2. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a bowl. Press the mixture through the strainer, leaving only the lemon zest.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and put in refrigerator to cool and thicken.
Notes
  1. *The Joy of Cooking says this will last for 1 week if kept refrigerated.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Chocolate-Nut Spread (à la Nutella) | Fine Craft Living

Chocolate-Nut Spread (à la Nutella)

Who doesn’t love Nutella (except for my husband and son, what’s up with that)? I mean, it’s rich, chocolatey, velvety, and ridiculously decadent. You can add it to cookies, mix it with whipped cream, stir it into hot chocolate, drizzled onto toast, or – my personal favorite – eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.

Why not? I am the queen of my castle.

“Caramels are only a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing.” 
― Milton Snavely Hershey

Taking favorite foods and drinks and making them from scratch is, to me, a pinnacle of simple pleasure. Nutella is such a treat and there is absolutely no reason why we all shouldn’t try, at least once, to make a perfectly acceptable copycat right at home in our very own kitchen. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! 

I recommend making chocolate-nut spread (à la Nutella) for yourself or for a gift. Go crazy and make a double batch! This is a quick and easy recipe but there are a few notes I should go over with you first.

a) I used a variety of nuts, about 1/4 c. each of walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds. You can use all of one kind or more varieties, I really don’t think it will matter.

b) I roasted my nuts at 350F for about 7 minutes, until I could smell them in the kitchen. You can do this or not, that’s your call.

c) I used a combination of chocolates: Ghirardelli semi-sweet, Ghirardelli bittersweet, Hershey milk chocolate chips, and Wilbur dark chocolate chips. Bottom line – use what’s in your pantry if you have it. You can always adjust the amount of sweetener if needed.

d) I’m leaving this out at room temperature because it got too hard in the refrigerator to use and I had to reheat it in order to spread. A little microwave time will help soften those coconut oils up if your house is on the cool side. I have no idea how long the shelf life will be but I’m confident it won’t last long enough to spoil. 

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
― Charles M. Schulz

 

Got it? Good!

 

Chocolate-Nut Spread (à la Nutella)
Yields 1
A delicious version of Nutella that is quick and easy to make in your own kitchen.
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Prep Time
45 hr
Prep Time
45 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 c. nuts, your choice of variety
  2. 10 oz. chocolate, your choice, chopped if in bar form
  3. 3 T. coconut oil
  4. 4 T. powdered sugar
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  6. 1 tsp. fine sea salt
Instructions
  1. If roasting the nuts, preheat oven to 350F and spread on a baking tray. Roast for ~10 minutes, until the nuts become fragrant.
  2. Combine the chocolate and coconut oil and melt in a double boiler or in the microwave. Allow to cool.
  3. In a food processor, whir the nuts until a fine, dry paste forms. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and sea salt and whir until nicely combined, scraping down as needed. Add the chocolate mixture to the nuts and process until that is combined and smooth.
  4. Grab a spoon!
Notes
  1. Disregard the calories below. That cannot be true. ;)
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
Food Photography | Fine Craft Living

Homemade Sriracha Recipe, aka Rooster Sauce

I’m a big fan of hot sauces and add one or another to almost everything I eat. We like hot sauces so much that we trade with a friend who lives in California. While I dig trying new hot sauces, one of my favorites will always be sriracha sauce, aka rooster sauce, aka cock sauce. It has such a nice warm heat but the vinegar cuts through sharply and the underlying garlic is ever present. 

Homemade Sriracha Recipe

In last week’s CSA there was a bag of beautiful, ruby red cajun belle peppers. I bought a bag of jalapeño peppers too but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with all of them. Stuff them? Make salsa? I started Googling hot sauce recipes and came up with one for fresh sriracha at Food52 via a Huffington Post article. I had to adapt it because of the peppers I had on hand and because I’ve never had palm sugar in my house in my life. This is what I came up with and believe me, it’s worth making. 

Homemade Sriracha

The heat is stronger than your traditional sriracha so if you prefer it to be more similar then I would recommend removing the seeds from half of the peppers before brining. As it is, this recipe has some serious heat but it’s not going to melt your face off or anything. I wore gloves while preparing this sauce, and standing back from the steam while cooking was necessary, but I didn’t have to open up any windows in order to breathe.

Homemade Sriracha

The color in your finished sauce will be more of a creamy orange than the brick red you’ll see in a sriracha container because of the addition of green jalapeños. If you use a different combination of peppers then the heat will be different than what I ended up having. It’s okay! Experiment and play around with your peppers. I just did a side-by-side between the real deal and my homemade sriracha and the only differences are the heat factor, color, and that my homemade sriracha is considerably less salty.

homemade sriracha

 

I should bottle this stuff to sell … who wants some?

homemade sriracha

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet with Broccolini
This is a quick and easy meal to make on a Monday night and change up a few more times throughout the week as leftovers.
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 c. olive oil
  2. 1 lb. sausage, your favorite kind
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 bunch broccolini, washed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 lb. pasta, your favorite kind
  6. 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings (discard casings) and add sausage to the hot oil, breaking it apart as cooks through, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic to the sausage once it is no longer pink and cook, stirring constantly for one minute or until fragrant.
  3. Stir in prepared broccolini, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.
  5. Combine pasta and sausage mixture in a serving bowl and stir in cheese.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Notes
  1. This recipe stands well on its own but it lends excellently to different sauces when served as leftovers.
  2. Stir-in ideas: cayenne pepper, spicy dip, white sauce, chive cream cheese, dijon mustard sauce, cilantro
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/

Black & Mint Iced Tea

I have been on a drink-making kick lately. Maybe it’s the heat or maybe it’s the humidity. Maybe it’s the little mini garden I have on the back deck with quite a few herbs to muddle and mix with anything from rum to tequila to water to lemonade. 

Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.

This is where my new favorite black & mint iced tea recipe comes in.

I found a recipe on Pinterest (of course) a few weeks ago, called Perfect Iced Tea. It was too strong for my taste, even though I cut it back to 2 family-size tea bags. It was, however, a great starting point for me to figure out what my perfect iced tea recipe looks like.

This is also a great base iced tea to make half-and-half with lemonade or to make mixed adult beverages. 

I started with 2 Luzianne family size tea bags and 6 Boston’s Mint-in-Tea tea bags. The Boston’s tea is a mixture of Orange Pekoe and Kentucky mint and the Luzianne is Orange Pekoe and Pekoe cut tea. Orange Pekoe isn’t orange at all, in flavor or appearance. Orange Pekoe is actually a grading given to tea leaves, certifying them to be of finest quality.  When it comes to tea, the smaller and younger the leaves are, the better they are. The grading of tea leaves is quite fascinating (at least I think so).

Black & Mint Iced Tea {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy
Tea used to make Tickling My Fancy’s black & mint iced tea

 

Black & Mint Iced Tea {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy
Luzianne family-size black tea bags (two)

 

Black & Mint Iced Tea {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy
Boston’s Mint-In-Tea bags (six)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After boiling 8 cups of water, I add my tea bags to it and let it steep for a timed 5 minutes. You don’t want to steep it too long because it’ll turn bitter. 

Black & Mint Iced Tea {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy
5 minute steeping time

Once the timer goes off, remove the tea bags without squeezing them overmuch and add your sweetener. I like my tea mildly sweet more than a Southern-style sweet tea. I added 3 tablespoons of Tres Agaves Organic Agave Nectar, which dissolves rapidly like honey. If you use white sugar or another sweetener you’ll have to stir until it’s dissolved and the sweetness of each additive will be different so you’ll want to adjust to taste. 

Black & Mint Iced Tea {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy
Finished black & mint iced tea, sweetened with Tres Agaves Organic Agave Nectar

Now, stick the carafe or pitcher of black & mint iced tea in your fridge until it’s cold. If you’re impatient, fill a glass with ice cubes and pour your fresh tea right over top. It’ll dilute some but you’ll have instant gratification. 

Serve with ice, a slice or squeeze of lime or lemon, or with a sprig of mint. Whatever tickles your fancy!

Black & Mint Iced Tea {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy
Enjoy!

 

 

 

Germaine's Cheesy Bread
Deliciously cheesy braided bread. Boom.
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For the dough
  1. 1 egg, then add enough milk to make 11 fluid ounces
  2. 1 tsp. salt
  3. 3 T butter
  4. 1 1/4 tsp. yeast
  5. 1 T. sugar
  6. 18 oz. white flour
Other ingredients
  1. 1 egg
  2. 8 oz. gruyere or sharp cheddar
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the yeast in a little of the warmed milk then mix with the other dough ingredients. When ready, punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Knead until the air is expelled and shape each into a snake approximately 18" long. Cut cheese into thin straws. Flatten each snake, and place cheese all the way along the length. Roll up dough around cheese trying to make sure there are no holes, as the cheese leaks out in cooking. Place 3 cheese filled snakes to lie one on top of the other at their middle. Plait to each end. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Leave to rise in a warm draught free spot. When dough has doubled in bulk (approximately 1 hour) gently brush all over surface with beaten egg. Bake in 180C oven for 20ish minutes or until golden brown.
Notes
  1. It may take longer for the second rise if you don't live in the Caribbean.
  2. 180C is 350F.
  3. This is super tasty bread.
Adapted from The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook
Adapted from The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
Submitted to Chef in Training's The Tuesday Talent Show
Submitted to Chef in Training’s The Tuesday Talent Show
PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake

PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries

Fresh strawberry season never lasts long enough. There is a certain juicy sweetness found in freshly picked strawberries that gets lost when packaged, shipped, or frozen. It loses the kiss of the sun. I haven’t gotten out this year to pick any fresh strawberries but there are quite a few farms where you can pick your own or at least purchase them farm-fresh. If you’re in the York County, PA, area, check out these spots for fresh strawberries now and other produce and more the rest of the year!

Brown’s Orchards – offers fresh produce, canned goods, baked goods, deli, and a cafe. Pick your own fruits throughout the year. Located in Loganville.

Ken-Mar Farms - you can’t pick your own but the prices at the charming little store are great and the produce is always of outstanding quality. You can also purchase local, raw honey and local maple syrup here. This is at a York address and isn’t too far from the Leaders Heights exit off 83.

Miller Plant Farm - we have a full share CSA from here this year and an egg add-on. I’m thrilled with the selection for the price we paid! If you aren’t part of a CSA this year, consider one next year. They also have a full garden center. They don’t have a huge produce section for sale but last time I was in there were leftovers from the CSA so you can get an idea of what all you may get each week. Miller is just down the road from Ken-Mar Farms.

First CSA from Miller Plant Farm
First CSA from Miller Plant Farm

Flinchbaugh’s Orchards - located in Hellam, you will find loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, local gifts, cheese and meats, and baked goods. There are classes for kids, farm tours, and events throughout the year.

Twin Pines Farm - this is the farm I grew up going to weekly for meats, fruits, and vegetables. Back then, the store was right at the farm and I used to love picking something out for myself every time we went. It is such a pleasure to take my kids to local farm stores and watch their excitement as they pick something out for themselves to eat. It also feels good to give our hard-earned money to someone in our own community to support their hard work. Twin Pines now has a large country store where you can purchase meat, cheeses, milk, produce, baked goods, and other sundry pantry items. Twin Pines is located between Seven Valleys (my hometown) and York New Salem.

Author’s note: Not all farms above offer pick-your-own strawberries (thank you for that note, Miller Plant Farm!) but you can find who does offer that service by visiting this site.

PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries
PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries

I grew up eating strawberry shortcake for supper. That’s right – strawberry shortcake in PA Dutch country is not a dessert, it’s a meal in and of itself. We never had strawberry shortcake that was strawberries with biscuits and we never had it with sweet crumpets or puff pastry or angel food cake. There is no whipped cream and it is beautiful in its rustic simplicity, not for being fancy schmancy.

PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries
PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries

Traditional strawberry shortcake in my neck of the woods is this: macerated strawberries, an actual slice of cake-like shortcake, and milk or cream poured overtop. The milk is optional: my dad likes his with and mom likes hers without, I like mine with and my husband likes his without. The cake? Not optional. This is the only way to do it. The cake should be moist, a little tacky on top, lightly sweet, and spongy enough to soak up the milk without being light and airy.

PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries
PA Dutch Strawberry Shortcake with Local Strawberries

If you haven’t tried strawberry shortcake this way, please do!

Strawberry Shortcake

(adapted from Sonoma Kitchen)

For macerated strawberries: Rinse and hull 1 quart of strawberries. Halve or quarter them, depending on how large they are. Put them in a bowl and stir in 1-2 T. sugar. Cover and let sit at least 30 minutes before serving. Juices begin to release from the strawberries so you’re left with a super easy and fresh strawberry topping that is lightly sweetened and swimming in its own syrup.

For the shortcake:

1 stick of butter (8 T), at room temperature

3/4 c. brown sugar (white sugar works too, I just didn’t have any at the time)

1 large egg

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 c. sour milk (measure milk to just below 3/4 c. and add a splash of white vinegar, then stir)

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter an 8″x8″ baking dish.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add all the other ingredients and mix until incorporated. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared dish and even it out. It is very sticky! Bake for 23-28 minutes or until the sides have pulled away from the pan, it is slightly golden, and set in the middle.

Serve warm from the oven or reheat refrigerated leftovers in the microwave. Top with macerated strawberries and milk.


Do you have a favorite way to eat fresh strawberries?

Shrimp Etouffee and Get Away With Tablet

I often have an intended meal in mind for the day and end up changing it five minutes before I start cooking. One of the nice things about being a work at home parent is that I have the leisure of doing things like that. Sometimes I change my mind due to time constraints (we all know what that’s like) but more often than not, it’s just because my taste buds decide they want something different.

Last week was no different. I planned on making spicy shrimp with cellophane noodles and ended up deciding to make shrimp etouffee. I took some liberties with it, like serving it on creamy polenta instead of white rice. I also omitted cayenne in case my kids wanted to try it.

I should have just added it since they refused to even try a bite. I added hot sauce to my plate.

Shrimp Etouffee and Get Away With Tablet {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy

I’ve been feeling especially drawn lately to go to New Orleans. I think I’d fall right in love with the music culture, food and drink, the festive vibe, and the delicious architecture. Think of all the photo opportunities! I started a Pinterest board yesterday for a Tablet hotels I Just Want To Get Away contest. Basically, you create a Pinterest board called Get Away With Tablet and use one of four destinations as inspiration: Aran Islands, New Orleans, Paris, and Jalisco. Typically I’d be all over the Aran Islands but I decided to focus on what I’d do in The Big Easy. So far my board contains some historical points of interest, restaurants, basic travel information relevant to the city, craft beer, and music venues. Feel free to stop by my board and get some inspiration of your own! Have you been to New Orleans? What should I add to the board that is a “can’t miss”? I would love some off the beaten path recommendations. You can also enter the contest! {Disclaimer: I am not posting this on behalf of Tablet hotels. They have no idea who I am but I dig their digs.}

 

 

Shrimp Etouffee (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Stock:

4 c. water

1 onion, peeled and quartered

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds

1/4 tsp. dried red chili pepper

2 lbs. shrimp, in their shells

Sauce:

3 T. olive oil

3 T. flour

1 red or yellow bell pepper, minced

1 medium onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. butter

1 T. lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the stock: In a large saucepan and over high heat, combine the water, onion, garlic, thyme, black pepper, coriander seeds, and dried chili pepper. Once it is at a boil, add the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium, cover, cook 1 minute and then remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove shrimp and strain liquid into another saucepan. Put this liquid back on the stove and boil it down until it has reduced to about 2 cups. While it’s boiling, peel the shrimp and set aside.

For the sauce: In a large saucepan (just wash the one you used for stock a few minutes ago), heat oil on medium and whisk in the flour. Stir for about 10 minutes, until the flour turns a rich brown and smells toasty. Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic and mix until coated. Whisk in the stock you made up above and cook while stirring over medium-low heat until the sauce has become thick. Stir in the shrimp, butter, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve over polenta or white rice, or anything else that tickles your fancy.

Generously apply your favorite hot sauce. Garnish with a bit of fresh chopped parsley, if desired. It sure does make it look pretty.

Buffalo Chicken Braid

From what it looks like upon my brief search into the history of authentic buffalo wings, it is no different than many great legends – the details are disputed. One thing is certain, this legendary dish graces the menu of nearly every restaurant/bar where I’ve ever dined and I’m willing to bet that nearly every red-blooded American has at least tried buffalo wings once.

Buffalo sauce isn’t anything fancy. It’s vinegary. It’s spicy. It leaves your lips tingling and your nose running. There aren’t 50 ingredients that go into making it, and although the real deal may be difficult to replicate accurately, one can get pretty darn close.

This recipe I’m sharing is a sort of mish-mash of a couple other recipes I found online. I’m going to send you to the sites with the recipes I used to give credit where credit is due. You can click through and it should open in a new tab, making going back and forth between there and here much easier. I found the pizza crust recipe on Pinterest, “Perfect homemade pizza crust – tips and tricks” by Annie’s Eats. Check out her blog for all the best knowledge on fab pizza crust.

Likewise, I used someone else’s recipe for my buffalo sauce. I never have Frank’s Red Hot Sauce in the house, which apparently is an important detail when making buffalo sauce. I do have a bottle of Crystal Extra Hot Sauce which has a similar cayenne kick without the awkward neon color of Frank’s. You know the color I’m talking about. It looks like it’s going to make your innards bleed. I found this recipe at about.com and decided to use it. Since I was using Crystal Extra Hot, I omitted the cayenne. For the amount of chicken I used I could have halved this recipe but at least now I have a small jar of buffalo sauce in the fridge for the next time I need to scorch a layer of skin off my lips. Other than that I followed the recipe and it was perfect in this meal.

You can play around with the amounts of what you put in this braid. I eyeballed the stuffing so all ingredients are approximate. Do what works for you in regards to how much heat you want and how cheesy and saucy you like.

Buffalo Chicken Braid {recipe} | Tickling My Fancy

Buffalo Chicken Braid

1/2 recipe Perfect Homemade Pizza Crust

1/2 recipe (or to taste) Buffalo Chicken Wing Sauce Recipe

2 1/2 c. shredded cooked chicken – I used leftover roast chicken

1 c. feta cheese

1 c. bleu cheese dressing of your choice

1 T. butter

Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Grease a cookie sheet and stretch the dough out into a large square (I used a square cookie sheet). If you’re using a rectangular sheet, just make sure to stretch it into a rectangle and that it reaches all the way to the corners. If it keeps bouncing back, just walk away and come back in 15 minutes and it should stretch and stay more easily.

In a mixing bowl, combine the shredded chicken with the amount of Buffalo sauce you’d like to use. For my extra hot Buffalo sauce I only added about 1/2 c., just enough to moisten the chicken. Put the chicken down the center of the rolled-out dough, starting at one end and evenly spreading it to the other end. Sprinkle the cheese over the chicken and spread the bleu cheese dressing over it all. On each side of the chicken, cut diagonal lines about 1″ apart from the outside going in. Then, just braid the dough over the top of the chicken.*

Put in the oven for 15 minutes, then brush the top with the olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Put back in the oven until crusty and browned, about 5 minutes or so.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting the braid at a diagonal. This is finger food. Dip it in extra Buffalo sauce or bleu cheese dressing, if desired.

* For a nice visual tutorial on how to cut and braid the dough, go to Six Sisters’ Stuff. I would have taken more shots of the process but I didn’t know it was going to turn out as tasty as it did!