Leaves are turning bright red, yellow and orange. The smell of fresh cider and hot cinnamon donuts lingers in the air. Swimsuits and suntan lotion are traded for hayrides, wool blankets and cold metal bleachers at football games. It's fall in Michigan! The apples are abundant and it is the perfect time of year to make caramel apples.
The caramel apple has an uncertain history. Some say that a Kraft caramel salesman is credited with the first commercially publicized caramel apple. In the 1950's a man by the name of Dan Walker convinced Kraft to print and publicize a caramel apple recipe on the back of their wrapped caramel packages. It was an instant success. Families were able to make simple caramel apples with just three ingredients. An apple, a wooden stick and packaged caramels from Kraft. While this is a very heartwarming story, many historians would disagree, stating that there are recipes for caramel dating back to the 1700's and even earlier.
Pure Vanilla Extract. Prized for its rich, complex flavor and incredibly smooth aroma, pure vanilla extract should be a mainstay in a culinary enthusiast's kitchen. There is no substitute for quality and flavor. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple. Pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol - that's it! Don't be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure; imitation and clear vanilla utilizes artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. That big bottle of Mexican vanilla (that sort of smells like suntan lotion); the one you brought back home from your vacation abroad, is likely not even vanilla at all...
It's canning season;that time of the year when you wonder why in the world you planted that many tomato, jalapeño and squash plants?! After a long and often dreary winter, the anticipation of planting and tending to a large garden full of vibrant fruits and vegetables is extremely enticing to all garden savvy Midwesterners. In our giddiness for warm weather and green growth, we often forget that at the end of a very brief (sadly) warm and sunny summer, we are left with more vegetables than one family of four could ever eat! What do we do? We can! Canning preserves that sun-kissed real vegetable taste that many of us crave in the long winter months. A bright jar of fresh fruits and vegetables that gives us the hope that spring will come once again and endurance to brave the long cold winters.
My husband loves avocados, which was great when we lived in San Diego where fresh avocados were available year round. Finding the perfect ripe avocado that doesn't cost $3.00 proved to be a bit of a challenge here in West Michigan this winter. When the season began again, and the prices dropped to a more reasonable $1.50, I began to think once again about this luscious little fruit. Fresh guacamole is delicious, sliced avocado is lovely and salads of avocado are amazing, but after awhile it becomes a little monotonous. In my quest to discover new ways to use this creamy, delicious fruit, I have found and created a couple new desserts. I know it's hard to grasp, but avocados are delicious in dessert applications! The texture of the fruit makes it easy to blend them into ice cream and whipped creams. My favorite way to use them is in a delicious avocado cream. A simple combination of heavy cream and sugar beaten together with half of an avocado can create a heavenly dessert. Kick it up a notch with a crispy cinnamon sugar tortilla and a delicious currant sauce.
Raspberry picking season is finally upon us! Sweet, juicy, ripe red raspberries that beg to be eaten right from the plant. Those berries that do make it home usually are eaten by the handful or frozen on sheet trays, bagged and labeled for the long winter months ahead. But..... what do you do when your plants gave you more than you can handle, or when that 5 pound box called out to you at the farmers market? Make jam of course!
The Florida Mangoes are in season and they are delicious! Fragrant, large and brightly colored, the Tommy Atkins mango is the most popular variety seen in the grocery stores and at farmers markets. Mangoes are at their peak from June-September. When picking a mango, choose one that is firm but the outer skin gives when gently pushed. The aroma should be sweet and tropical, and the coloring should be consistent throughout the fruit, ranging from bright red to a deep orange. Mangoes can be utilized in many applications from a savory and spicy mango salsa to a sweet and juicy tropical fruit salad. When in season, the most delicious and unique way to let the fruit shine is in a sweet and creamy mango tart.
I come from a long line of proud military men and women. The fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate our country's independence and the men and women who fight to continue to keep our freedom.
Growing up in Michigan was very family centric, especially when the holidays came around. Fourth of July was certainly no exception. The day usually began with a city parade, floats and candy, along with the red, white and blue decorated bicycles passing by as we sat on the curb waiting to scramble into the street to gather the treats. We sat until the last float passed us by, and proudly gathered up all of our sweets and headed to a family picnic at the lake. Hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad were always the typical picnic fare. It was the one time of year my grandmother would bring out the two liters of soda. Weeks later she would try to convince one of her unsuspecting family members to lug home the exact same bottle of soda, only now they were incredibly flat from sitting half-opened on the picnic table.
There is nothing quite as simple or versatile as homemade vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be utilized in a variety of desserts; from apple pies, snickerdoodles and crème brûlée to light and airy pavlova's. Vanilla sugar can even be used in savory recipes to give a slight sweetness to acidic foods such as barbecue sauce and vinaigrettes. Add to drinks such as coffee or tea - the possibilities are endless!
Panna Cotta is a sweet, creamy and tangy custard-like dessert, minus the eggs! Panna Cotta is a quintessential Northern Italian dessert, perfect for warm summer nights. Panna Cotta can be served with fresh fruit, berry coulis, homemade caramel sauce or simply drizzled with fresh honey. Tahitian vanilla beans enhance the tangy flavor of the cream and buttermilk while lending a slight floral flavor to the dessert. This is the perfect dessert to make ahead and impress your guests!
I embrace technology whole heartedly. My iPad, iPhone and digital camera rarely stray far from my satchel. I love being connected to anyone and everyone far and near, but I simply can't embrace reading my favorite publications in digital form. There is something about the feel of flipping through my favorite food magazines and cookbooks, and the feel of the pages and the vibrancy of the photographs gracing the pictorials. I have a file of my favorite international food magazines that I often refer to when creating new recipes. The pages are worn and many are dog-eared waiting for future projects, but I wouldn't trade them for an e-reader or the simplicity of the iPad. I recently pulled one of them out looking for inspiration; a beautiful recipe for marinated raspberries and coconut granita caught my eye. Simple, unique and refreshing! I took the concept and adapted it to fit Beanilla and what I think you, the reader, will enjoy!