Sunday, May 29, 2022

Apricot and Raspberry Crisp


On a recent trip to the grocery store I went a little fruit crazy. I usually only buy one or two types of fruit, but this time I went kinda nuts: bananas, apples, pineapple, cantaloupe, cherries, raspberries, and several pounds of the cutest little apricots. 

Those apricots totally suckered me in because I don't think I've ever seen them so small and so cute before! I had to have them. When I got home I realized that I had 36 apricots and there was no way I was going to eat all that fruit in a week.

So, I began looking for apricot recipes and wouldn't you know it, they were really few and far between. I found a few apricot tarts, but most apricot recipes consist of apricot jelly and preserves. No, thanks!

I finally decided apricots were a lot like peaches, so I set my sights on Ina's Peach and Raspberry Crisp! I had originally planned to pair the apricots with raspberries anyway, so this recipe seemed meant to be. 

I made Ina's recipe as written, subbing the apricots instead of the peaches and adding a splash of almond extract (because it goes so well with stone fruit).

The recipe turned out perfectly! The apricots and raspberries combined to make a sweet and tart filling with a hint of almond flavor and there was a good amount of crumble on top, which I love. I love this crumble with and without vanilla ice cream and I would definitely make it again!

Apricot and Raspberry Crisp

Adapted from Food Network

by Ina Garten

Serves 6-8

2-3 pounds apricots, skin on, halved if small, quartered if large

1 orange or 1 lemon, zested

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon almond extract*

1-1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 pint raspberries

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 pound cold butter, diced

Note: This recipe was originally written to be a peach and raspberry crisp. I chose to sub apricots. I also chose to add about 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract because I love the almond flavor with stone fruits. 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter inside of a 10 by 15 by 2-1/2 inch oval baking dish or just use any baking dish that fits the fruit mixture.

If using apricots leave the skins on. Cut the apricots in half if they're small and into quarters if they're larger. Add them a medium mixing bowl. Add the orange or lemon zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the raspberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the apricots and berries into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. (I mixed the crumble mixture with my hands). Sprinkle the crumble on top of the apricots and raspberries.

Bake for 1 hour, until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a preheated 350F oven for 20-30 minutes, until warm. 

Picnic Party @ IHCC!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Quick Pantry Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta


 I only have 5 more days of school and then it is SUMMER BREAK! Woohoo! This has been a long school year, one that has been hard on staff, students, and parents. I am more than ready for summer break!

I have a lot of plans for the summer as far as reading, cooking, gardening, walking, swimming, and cleaning go. They are ambitious. We'll see how far I get. 

For now, I'm enjoying this delicious Quick Pantry Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Feta. To me, there is nothing better than a quick pasta dish for a lovely weeknight supper!

Now, cheese is an integral part of my diet and I have three favorite cheeses: Burrata, Feta, and Gruyere (in no specific order). I will literally just look for reasons to eat ANY of the above cheeses. In fact, on any given day, my entire fridge could be empty EXCEPT for the CHEESE DRAWER. The cheese drawer is always toppling over with any and all varieties of cheese.

I can do without meat. I CANNOT do without cheese.

Now that we've established that, let's talk about this pasta dish. Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest originally wrote this recipe served with creamy burrata cheese torn all over the top of the pasta. That sounds amazingly delicious, but I found myself craving feta so I went with that. I don't think you could go wrong with either cheese, it just depends on your vibe.

If you're feeling in an Italian mood, go for burrata.

If you're feeling in a Greek mood, go for feta.

I love how this pasta dish comes together with a few pantry ingredients, sun-dried tomatoes being the star of the dish. I would definitely make this again! 

Quick Pantry Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Feta

Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

by Tieghan Gerard

Serves 6

1 pound short cut pasta


1 jar (8 ounces) oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped, oil reserved

4-6 garlic cloves, minced or grated

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

8 ounces feta cheese* (Tieghan uses burrata cheese, torn)

fresh dill, roughly chopped, for serving*

*Note: I think this would be amazing with burrata, but it is also amazing with feta! I'm not sure why she calls for dill as a garnish, so I omitted that. If you like it, go for it!


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain.

Meanwhile, drain the sun-dried tomato oil out into a large skillet. Reserve the tomatoes.

Set the skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup basil, and lemon zest. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomato paste, cook another minute. Stir in 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and pasta, tossing to coat. Stir in the parmesan and a pinch of pepper. Cook until warmed through, 1-2 minutes. Add the parsley and remaining 1/4 cup basil, toss until the herbs are wilted and the sauce coats the pasta, about 2-3 minutes, adding in more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the pasta to serving bowls and top each with feta (or burrata). Drizzle with olive oil, herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Enjoy! 

Meatless Monday @ IHCC

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Sipi's Strawberry Cake {It's Strawberry Season}!


It is officially strawberry season! All our local farms are harvesting their berries this week and I was able to get an entire flat (8 quarts) of the most perfectly ripe and delicious strawberries. These berries tasted just like strawberries tasted way back in the day. Total perfection! I happily spent the better part of my Saturday prepping all the strawberries and making this cake. I love a good kitchen project like that!

I've been wanting to make this cake ever since I got my copy of Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries about 10 years ago. I could tell from looking at the picture of the cake in the book that this would be a cake the whole family would love! If you are a Strawberry Shortcake fan, then you would love this cake.

The cake itself is very dense and holds up well to the whipped cream and strawberries. The middle of the cake is layered with a heavenly combo of diced strawberries, confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and whipped cream. I love how the mixture turns pink when you combine it together. It makes for a very pretty filling!

Mounds of fluffy whipped cream top the cake, along with a combination of sliced strawberries and fresh berries with their green tops (for color). And...there you have it, a simple summer dessert that pretty much everyone will love!

Sipi's Strawberry Cake

Adapted from Falling Cloudberries

by Tessa Kiros

Serves 10-12

1-/34 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

3/4 cups sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 sticks butter, melted

3/4 cup warm milk

4 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-3/4 pounds (5 cups) whole strawberries

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

3 cups heavy whipping cream

NOTE: I added a touch of vanilla to the whipped cream the second time I made this and everyone liked that version better. You can't go wrong either way.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8-1/2 inch springform cake pan, or a Bundt pan, or any pan you like. (Note: I used an 8" rectangle pan and this cake is very high. An 8x11 pan would thin the cake out some, which I think would be nice).

Put the flour and sugar in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the baking powder. Mix in the butter and then stir in the milk. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat in well. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, incorporating the rest of the baking powder when the eggs have started fluffing up. Fold the whites into the cake mixture.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour (mine was done in 35 minutes), or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is deep golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before turning out onto a rack. When cool, slice the cake in half horizontally and put the bottom half on a large serving plate.

Clean the strawberries and hull them (leave a few with their green tops on, if you wish). Dice about half the strawberries and sprinkle with a little lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners' sugar. Whip the cream into stiff peaks with the remaining confectioners' sugar. (Note: I made this cake twice and the first time around my whipped cream was loose and didn't set up as nice on the cake, so my advice would be to make your whipped cream on the thick side). Mix the diced strawberries with about a third of the whipped cream and spoon over the bottom of the cake. Put the other half of the cake on top and thickly spoon the remaining cream over the top and side, then decorate with the rest of the strawberries. This is best eaten immediately. Any leftovers will keep for a day in the refrigerator.

Note: Tessa indicates in her recipe above that this is best eaten immediately. I usually agree with statements like that, but this cake is very thick and dense and it holds up well the next day (and in my opinion is even better)!

Berry Sweet @ IHCC

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Giada's Baked Lemon Ziti


I found this recipe for Giada's Baked Lemon Ziti last week and thought it was a very fitting spring-based pasta casserole to close out casserole season. I mean how can one go wrong with a pasta casserole made with a Parmesan-based white sauce spiked with lemon zest and lemon juice, flavored with pancetta and basil, before being topped with creamy and ooey-gooey mozzarella and crunchy golden-brown panko?

This was easy enough and fell into my plans perfectly as my husband does not like savory dishes spiked with lemon and he was away on business. The dish came together in no time at all. 

I made a few changes to the recipe, namely: I subbed bacon in place of pancetta for both sourcing reasons and financial reasons and I would likely do this again; I also subbed panko in place of regular breadcrumbs as I prefer panko; and lastly, when the the pasta and sauce had been mixed, and the pasta was poured into the baking dish, I added almost another cup of milk and stirred. I do this often with baked pastas as I find them dry if I do not.

*One more tip: Giada says to mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan and top the casserole, then drizzle with olive oil. I DO NOT like this method because the olive oil does not evenly distribute amongst the crumbs and you have patches of golden-brown topping and then pale topping. Instead, I prefer to mix my breadcrumbs and/or panko with the Parmesan and then douse them with olive oil or melted butter in the same bowl and mix until all is combined and every bit of topping in covered in oil or melted butter and then spread the crumbs over the casserole. This yields a much more desirable topping in every instance!

Reviewers of this recipe had largely given this dish great reviews, saying that it was a real favorite. Some suggested that they couldn't taste the lemon at all. I didn't find this to be true at all. I definitely tasted a good amount of lemon flavor.

I found this to be a very unique pasta dish, one that marries the fresh flavor of lemon with a very rich and cheesy sauce. While good, I felt like something was missing and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Did it need some garlic? I can't quite say. I loved the bits of bacon and the crunchy panko crust, but I did feel like the basil lent a somewhat overwhelming licorice flavor and maybe some pesto added to the sauce would be a more agreeable addition. 

This will likely be one of the more interesting dishes I make this year and I can't say I loved it, but I can't say I hated either. Instead I am left somewhat perplexed, wondering if perhaps this could be improved upon somehow, if I could only figure out how.

If you have any suggestions, please leave them below. Perhaps some peas and spinach? Green veggies?


Baked Lemon Ziti

Adapted from Food Network

By Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 8-10


Butter, for greasing the dish

salt, to taste

1 pound ziti pasta

1 tablespoons olive oil

12 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/4" thick slices/chopped


1 stick butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3-1/2 cups whole milk

zest of 2 large lemons

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon) 

2 cups shredded mozzarella


2/3 cup plain breadcrumbs or panko

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the pasta: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 glass or ceramic baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until brown and crispy, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels.

For the sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the lemon zest. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, salt and pepper.  

In a large bowl, combine the cheese sauce, cooked pancetta, pasta, basil and thyme. Toss until the ingredients are coated. Stir in the lemon juice. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the mozzarella.

For the topping: In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs/panko and Parmesan. Sprinkle the topping over the pasta mixture. Drizzle the top with the olive oil and bake until the top is golden brown, 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and serve. (*See note above within post regarding how I make my breadcrumbs). *The topping can be drizzled with the pancetta cooking juices in place of the olive oil.