Strawberry Pretzel Salad Ice Cream

strawberry pretzel salad ice cream | sunsets on the side

strawberry pretzel salad ice cream | sunsets on the side

Strawberry pretzel salad is one of those magical foods from back when I was little.  You know the one…a pretzel crust, a layer of cream cheese filling, strawberries and jello on top?  It made an appearance at nearly every special occasion, it was incredibly delicious, and even though it tasted exactly like a dessert it was always somehow served with the main course like it was ‘regular’ food.  Then, dessert came afterwards.

2 desserts for the price of 1.

See?  I told you it was magical.

Today, we’re turning those flavors into ice cream because it’s high time we get this ice cream train started for the summer, no?  The weather has certainly been heating up, and I’ve been getting the most incredible strawberries at the store lately.  They’re definitely the best yet this year.

Between the strawberry sauce, the cream cheese base, and the mixed-in pretzel pieces, this ice cream tastes just like the (magical) strawberry pretzel salad you remember…only this really is a dessert.  And, this frozen treat would make a great finale for an upcoming Memorial Day picnic you might be hosting.  You can make it well in advance, so you don’t have to worry about it the day of (or even the day before) your party.  Just grab some cones from the grocery store, and you’ll have the perfect post-cookout indulgence.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Ice Cream
 
Author:
Makes: 12
Ingredients
  • ~~~ Strawberry Sauce ~~~
  • 1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup diced fresh strawberries
  • 2 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • ~~~ Ice Cream ~~~
  • 14 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temp
  • ¼ cup sour cream, at room temp
  • ½ cup broken pretzel pieces or chips
Instructions
  1. For the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until completely incorporated. Combine cornstarch mixture, sugar, berries, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 6-7 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture is thickened. Cool. Refrigerate until chilled.
  2. For the ice cream: In a stand mixer, mix cream cheese on medium speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. With mixer running, slowly add sugar and salt. Mix until smooth.
  3. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. With mixer on low, slowly add milk.
  5. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and whisk until milk is totally incorporated into the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Fold in sour cream. Cover and refrigerate at least three hours or overnight.
  7. Pour chilled mixture into the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is at soft serve stage (about 8-10 minutes), pour the strawberry sauce and the pretzel pieces into the machine and let mix.
  8. Transfer ice cream to freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.

Ice cream adapted from Cuisinart.

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

I’m a pasta girl.  I always have been.

I am legitimately half Italian, so I guess I come by it honestly.  But, truly, if I didn’t think my husband would object, I’d have absolutely no problem eating pasta for dinner every single night.

And, this particular pasta?

It’s everything.

It’s rich and filling from the cream sauce yet bright and fresh from the lemon.  The shrimp and vegetables add pops of color and flavor and keep it from seeming too heavy.  (See, I had spinach with my heavy cream.  Antioxidants!  Iron!).

Oh, and did I mention it’s easy?  If you prep a little bit ahead of time – zest and juice the lemons and chop the vegetables, you can totally cook this baby in about 25 minutes flat.

Win.

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp (31/35 count), peeled & deveined
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. penne (or any short pasta)
  • ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. In a large (12”) nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side until they are cooked through. Remove the cooked shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic to the remaining olive oil. Cook for one minute.
  3. Add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water with a handful of kosher salt to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and put back in the pot.
  5. Add the thickened lemon cream sauce to the pasta in the pot. Add tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Stir together to coat with the sauce. Let the mixture cook on low for 3-5 minutes until the sauce is mostly absorbed into the pasta, and it coats the other ingredients.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and stir to combine.
  7. Serve hot with extra parmesan cheese, if desired.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Blueberry Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing

blueberry cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese icing | sunsets on the side

blueberry cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese icing | sunsets on the side

There are so many things to love about spring.  Abundant tree buds, cheerful daffodils, flavorful berries, pastel colors.

Actually, pastels aren’t really my thing (unless they’re decorating the crunchy outside coating of chocolate candy eggs), but everything else…yes.

Especially those berries.

blueberry cupcakes | sunsets on the side

Even though it’s not quite the season yet, I’ve been on such a blueberry kick recently.  The ones I’ve been getting at the store have been delicious, which means they’ve been going on top of my cereal, inside my yogurt, and now into these delicious treats.

The flavor combination of blueberries and lemon is one of my absolute favorites, and I feel like I’ve been waiting all winter for these cupcakes.

blueberry cupcake with blueberry cream cheese icing | sunsets on the side

Blueberry Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing
 
Author:
Makes: 15 cupcakes
Ingredients
  • ~~~Cupcakes~~~
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • ~~~Icing~~~
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T. blueberry syrup (I used Smucker’s)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, melted butter, and canola oil on medium speed until well mixed (30-45 seconds).
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the lemon zest and sour cream and mix (scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go) until well incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Working in 3 batches on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries with a spatula.
  7. Fill each cupcake liner about ⅔ full with the cupcake batter. Bake for 23-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes then remove to cooling racks and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter.
  9. Once cupcakes have cooled, prepare the icing. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and salt, and mix to combine.
  10. On low speed, slowly mix in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated and no lumps remain. Mix in the blueberry syrup.
  11. Ice cupcakes using an offset spatula or pipe the icing onto the cupcakes with a piping bag and tip of your choice.

Cupcakes slightly adapted from Cooking Classy.

Scallops & Shrimp over Herbed Rice with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette

scallops shrimp and dill rice with lemon mustard vinaigrette | sunsets on the side

scallops and shrimp over herbed rice with mustard dill vinaigrette | sunsets on the side

I have always been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.  I mean, what’s not to love about a day designed to celebrate love?

I’m lucky enough to have a lot of great Valentine memories to think back to.  My favorite has to be the year when Scott and I were still long-distance dating and he flew 1,000 miles just to surprise me at my office and take me out for a Valentine’s date.  He called and told me that I needed to go down to the lobby of my building to pick up his delivery for me, and it turned out that he was my delivery.

I’m not sure that one can be topped.  That’s just Scott, though.  Spontaneous, fun-loving, thoughtful, kind.  That long-distance dating thing wasn’t easy, but it sure had its share of high points.

I’m so lucky that he’s my Valentine…

…my Valentine that doesn’t live 1,000 miles away anymore!

When it comes to celebrating these days, though, we almost always stay in.  The crowds are larger here in St. Pete during the winter anyway, and the restaurants are positively spilling over on Valentine’s Day.  So, I usually make us a special dinner in.  And, my guy is a seafood dinner man all the way.

scallops and shrimp | sunsets on the side

This is a great meal for a night in when you want your dinner to feel a little fancy.  It looks and tastes like something you’d order in a restaurant, but it will be much easier on your wallet.  There are three different components to this meal, but all of them are easy, and the seafood cooks in a snap.  It’s a good portion for two (if your appetite is as big as ours), and I guarantee your date will feel spoiled and loved.

scallops and shrimp over herbed rice with mustard dill vinaigrette

scallops and shrimp over herbed rice with mustard dill vinaigrette | sunsets on the side

Scallops & Shrimp over Herbed Rice with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette
 
Author:
Makes: 2-3 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup + 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 T. minced fresh dill, divided
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided (plus more for seasoning)
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, divided (plus more for seasoning)
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ lb. shrimp (I used 31-35 count), peeled & deveined
  • ½ lb. scallops (I used 20-30 count)
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. For the vinaigrette: Pour ½ cup of the olive oil into a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Add the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, shallot, 1 T. dill, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Whisk together vigorously until the vinaigrette combines and thickens.
  2. For the rice: Stir the rice, chicken stock, and remaining salt and pepper together in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and let simmer – stirring occasionally – for 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove the rice from the heat, let it stand for 5 minutes, and then stir in the parsley, remaining dill, and ½ cup of the prepared vinaigrette.
  3. For the seafood: Pat the shrimp and scallops dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and remaining 1 T. olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallops to the hot pan. Sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon and place on a plate.
  4. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook the same way (sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side). Add the scallops and their juices back into the pan with the shrimp, pour in 1 T. of the vinaigrette, and cook for just 1 minute longer to coat the seafood in the sauce.
  5. To serve, place the rice on a plate, top with scallops and shrimp. Garnish with lemon slices and drizzle more vinaigrette on top, if desired.

Pomegranate Cidertini

pomegranate cidertini

pomegranate cidertini

So, I guess it’s Christmas now?  I know this because of two things:

(1) Michael Buble is singing “White Christmas” to me right now, and (2) I have approximately one gazillion emails left in my inbox singing the praises of yesterday’s Cyber Monday sales.

Well, ok then.  Happy holidays!

This calls for a cocktail.

Have I ever told you how much I love hard cider?  If I haven’t, now you know.  I love it.  It’s one of my favorite drinks.  I particularly like the super dry kind that’s crisp from the apples but also tastes a lot like beer.

I’ve been making this pomegranate cidertini to help dwindle my annual cider supply, but this cocktail is perfect to make throughout the coming holiday season.  The pomegranate juice gives it a deep, beautiful ruby color, and its flavor is pleasantly complex.  It’s not too sweet, so it won’t compete with the other treats that tend to be around this time of year.  And, the ratio of one part peach vodka to 2 parts pomegranate and hard cider is easy to multiply into a pitcher of ready-to-shake drinks when you’re having friends and family over.  Instant festivity!

Pomegranate Cidertini
 
Author:
Makes: 1 cocktail
Ingredients
  • 1.5 ounces peach vodka
  • 3 ounces pomegranate juice
  • 3 ounces dry hard cider
  • Splash fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon slices
Instructions
  1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in the vodka, pomegranate juice, hard cider, and a splash of fresh lemon juice.
  2. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

 

New York Sour

new york sour

new york sour

We had such a terrific time visiting Pittsburgh this past weekend.  Gorgeous fall leaves were out in full force, both the hockey and football games we saw were down-to-the-wire wins, and we got to catch up with so many friends and family members.  It was wonderful.

One of the many highlights of the trip was seeing Ina Garten with my mom and sister and getting to hear her share details of the fascinating culinary adventure she’s living.

She’s just as gracious and elegant in person as she seems on television.  In fact, we saw her on the street a short while before the show was scheduled to begin, and she didn’t even miss a beat, kindly greeting all the fans who were so surprised and happy to run into her.

new york sour wine pour

The evening we saw her was cold and rainy, and my sister fixed this cocktail for me when we got back to her house after the show.  Just when you think a whiskey sour can’t get any better, someone thinks to pour some red wine on top.  Not only was it a visually stunning cocktail, it was absolutely delicious and the perfect nightcap for a dreary autumn night.  Thanks for the hospitality, Betsy!

New York Sour
 
Author:
Makes: 2 cocktails
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ ounces (7 T.) rye whiskey
  • 1 ½ ounces (3 T.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce (2 T.) rich simple syrup (see note)
  • 1 ½ ounces (3 T.) Zinfandel
  • Ice
Instructions
  1. Place 3 ice cubes (each) into 2 rocks glasses. Set aside.
  2. Fill half a large cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Pour into prepared rocks glasses.
  3. Hold a spoon upside down over one of the glasses. Gently pour ¾ ounce of the red wine onto the back of the spoon so that the wine floats on top of the drink. Repeat with second glass and remaining wine.
  4. Note: To make the rich simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and let cook for 2-3 minutes until the sugar is totally dissolved. Remove from heat, cool, and chill until ready to use.

Barely adapted from Molly and Brandon on FOOD52.

Roasted Mushroom Couscous with Lemon Vinaigrette

roasted-mushroom-couscous-with-lemon-vinaigrette

roasted-mushroom-couscous-with-lemon-vinaigrette

A lot of times, a good recipe materializes just from what you have left in the refrigerator.

I needed a quick side dish, and couscous always fits the bill.  It’s something I always tend to have on hand, too, along with both mushrooms and grape tomatoes.  I used wheat couscous for this recipe (because that’s what was in my cupboard), but plain would be just as delicious.

The vinaigrette recipe makes quite a bit.  I like the ratio of 1/2 cup vinaigrette over this amount of couscous, but pour on as much as you’d like.  If you do go the 1/2 cup route, you’ll have plenty leftover to dress a salad to go along with it!

Roasted Mushroom Couscous with Lemon Vinaigrette
 
Author:
Makes: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup + 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • ¾ tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 (7 oz.) box couscous
  • 16 oz. mushrooms, button or cremini
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. minced shallot
  • ½ tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 T. minced chives
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Bring 1 T. olive oil, chicken stock, and ½ tsp. salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour in couscous, stir to combine, and remove from heat. Let the mixture sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and pour into a large bowl.
  3. Chop mushrooms in half or quarters, depending on size, and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 T. olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for 10 minutes. Place in bowl with couscous.
  4. For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together ½ cup olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, shallot, garlic, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper.
  5. Pour ½ cup of the vinaigrette (or more, if desired) over the couscous and mushrooms. Add tomatoes and chives, and stir to combine. Serve warm.

Vinaigrette adapted from Barefoot Contessa.

Lemon Basil Chicken Soup

lemon-basil-chicken-soup

lemon-basil-chicken-soup

Sometimes chicken soup just needs some speed and some *pow,* am I right?  Chicken soup is a classic, and I respect everything about making the whole thing from scratch…creating a homemade stock and incorporating the very chicken used to make it.  And, I do that from time to time.

But, sometimes I just want it to be…faster.  And, brighter.  This recipe is the perfect thing for those times.  Using cooked or rotisserie chicken and store-bought chicken stock (or broth, whichever you prefer) speeds the process along.  Plus, the lemon and the basil in this will help you cling onto summer while also enjoying the comfort food-ness (sorry, have you ever seen “You, Me and Dupree?”) of the beginning of fall.

One of the things I like most about cooking soup is that it’s almost always a one-pot meal.  This one will require two (sorry again) but for the best possible reason: so you’ll have really terrific leftovers the next day!  By cooking the orzo separately, instead of throwing it into the soup for its last few minutes of cooking time, the pasta will remain firm, and it won’t swell up and absorb all of your delicious soup broth.  Cook it separately and store it separately: that’s the advice of the day.  Enjoy!

Lemon Basil Chicken Soup
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp. olive oil, separated
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled & diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken stock/broth
  • ⅓ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts, diced
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 3 T. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup orzo
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onions, carrots, and celery to the oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the chicken stock/broth, lemon juice, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain, drizzle remaining teaspoon of olive oil over pasta, and stir so it doesn’t clump.
  5. Add the cooked chicken to the soup pot and cook 5 minutes longer to heat it through. Off the heat, add the parmesan cheese and basil.
  6. Spoon some of the orzo into a large bowl, and ladle the soup on top. Serve with more parmesan cheese, if desired.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.