Friday, August 1, 2014

Nectarine Yogurt Pops


Popsicles are quickly climbing the ranks of my least favorite items to photograph. It's hard enough for this photography-newbie to shoot normal food items, like cookies and cupcakes. 

Is the lighting just right? 

Is that space between those two cookies too big? 

Does that color of straw accentuate those cupcake liners? 

Add in the concern that the subject of your shoot is melting away before your eyes, and you have a recipe for disaster. Since I have 2 popsicle molds which make a total of 8 pops, I usually photograph 4 popsicles at a time and leave the remaining 4 in the freezer. When the ones I'm working with get too "melty", I swap em' out. But I'm sure other food bloggers can relate to that moment when you're in the zone and the photos are looking great- and suddenly you have to stop to swap out popsicles. It's distracting and irritating. However, I'm thankful my popsicles actually melt as opposed to those un-meltable ice cream sandwiches that Walmart sells. Have you watched that video? Gross!

Go here to watch the video. Then I dare you to go by them at Walmart :)

I can personally vouch for the fact that my popsicles will melt. Thank goodness.


Pardon my manicure. It never ceases to fail that I'm wearing old polish when my fingers end up in pictures. Drat.

Make these popsicles! I love nectarines. I pretty much love all stone fruits- peaches, plums, nectarines, plumcots, apricots, you name it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again- Summer produce is the best. I look forward to berries, peaches, tomatoes, corn, etc being in season every year. Why is it that summer-fresh berries taste soooo good? I actually found an amazing bag of nectarines at the local big-box store and couldn't resist. I snapped that bag up. And these popsicles were born. I simply pureed the nectarine until smooth to use for the pops. I didn't even add any sugar, it was perfect the way it was. I did sweeten up the yogurt mixture (but only with honey!). I swirled the yogurt mixture with the fruit puree, which makes it the perfect complement to the naturally tart nectarine. Yum!

Plus, how pretty are these swirled popsicles?


I know I'm constantly extolling the benefits of fruit, but I honestly find fruit to be the best snack food. Instead of sitting down to watch "Orange is the New Black" (OMG, so good!) with a bowl of chips, I sit down with a bowl of strawberries. Who doesn't like to mindlessly snack while watching TV? Why not make it healthy? I get my snack on, minus the guilt. And nectarines have just as many health benefits as other fruits. They are rich in antioxidants that fight against cancer, promote healthy cholesterol, protect heart health, aid in digestion, are low in calories, and high in Vitamin A. 

How does fruit get such a bad rap??? I will never know.

What a ramble-y post. First I told you why I hate photographing popsicles, only to move on to my repulsion for Walmart's ice cream sandwiches. Which all leads to me shouting out the benefits of fruit. It would be interesting to round up all my posts, and figure out how I always end up praising the benefits of fruit.  A game of "The Seven Degrees of Fruit", if you will :)


The hubby and I have a 6-mile run up today. Now, I have a confession to make here. I was really irritated with this training program the hubby put us on, mainly because I hate anyone telling me what to do. Even if it's only an app on a phone that I deem as "bossing me". I must have a problem with authority... Anyhoo, it's taken me a couple of weeks to get used to the program. Somewhere along the line, my attitude has completely changed. I'm enjoying having a goal. In fact, I told the hubby this morning that once we finish this race, I'm going to start a training program for another one. Just because I'm loving it so much! My plan right now is to start a 4-month training program for a half-marathon. I'm nervous and excited, all at once.

I guess all I have to do now is sign up for a half-marathon! :)

Have a great weekend everyone!


Ingredients (makes 6 popsicles):

1 cup nectarine puree (about 3 large nectarines)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp honey

Directions:

1. Puree nectarines in food processor until smooth.
2. In a small bowl, combine yogurt and honey. Whisk to combine.
3. Fill popsicle mold 3/4 full with nectarine puree. Drop a generous spoonful of yogurt mixture on nectarine puree. Using a knife, gently swirl the yogurt into the nectarine. Repeat until you've used up both mixtures. 
4. Insert wooden craft sticks into popsicles. Place in freezer until set, about 4-6 hours. Run under warm water to loosen popsicles from mold. Store in an airtight bag in the freezer.

Recipe adapted from Home Cooking Adventures.
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pulled Pork Taco Casserole


I was hoping to bring you a post today with pictures experimenting with my new photography light. However, after the first shoot, I think there's more work to be done. The first pictures taken with the new light actually weren't that bad. The lighting was almost perfect in them. Almost. As I mentioned before, there's more work to be done. We are hosting my mother-in-law for a couple of days while her carpet is redone, so I haven't had a ton of time to mess around. I'll have more time for that tomorrow :)

And to be honest, lighting wasn't the main problem with the pictures I took. 

So in the meantime, I'll reach into the vault and pull out another recipe that's been waiting in the wings. One more great way to use leftover pulled pork in a re-inventive way. The hubby went back for generous seconds on this dish. I'm just saying...

I adapted this from my Turkey Taco Casserole. I thought pulled pork would be a fantastic stand-in, and yep, I was right. In fact, I only have 3 pictures of this casserole, because this is all that was left. True, it was a small casserole, but I mean, sheesh. We did some serious damage. And I can't say I'm sorry about it. Well, kind of sorry, but that's only because I didn't take pictures before I devoured my plate. I'd liken this to a Mexican Lasagna, with layers of pulled pork, refried beans, salsa, cheese, and tortilla strips. It's amazing, you'll just have to try it for yourself. I'll leave it at that.

You all know that I'm a big advocate for roasts. Large, tough, and usually cheap cuts of meat. There are many methods to make the roast tender, and you get lots of meals out of one piece of meat. It's economical to the nth degree. Not to mention, you can usually prepare them in the crock pot aka the lazy cook's best friend. In fact, I made a crockpot meal yesterday and was remarking to the hubby how much I love the crockpot. I love doing all the work in the morning, when I have the most energy anyway. There are many days that by the time evening rolls around, I'm too tired to cook. It's those days I wish I knew ahead of time so I could have planned a crock pot meal that day. Plus, those crockpot days open the door to leftover recipes, like this one. Having prepared meat at your fingertips gives you almost endless dinner options, and quick ones too. Pulled pork taco filling is one of my all-time favorite crockpot recipes.

Have I convinced you to make pulled pork yet? Seriously peeps. The initial meal will be good, but the meal possibilities are endless after that. Casseroles (like this one!), pizza, hash, enchiladas, sandwiches, salads, etc... I could go on for a long time :)

Have a fantastic day friends!


Ingredients (serves 4-6):

2 cups prepared Pulled Pork
1 (16 oz) can refried beans
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch thick strips
1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
sour cream, lime wedges, and sliced avocado (for serving)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ. Lightly coat an 8x8 casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. To assemble the casserole, spread a thin layer of pulled pork into the casserole pan. Spread a layer of refried beans over the pork, followed by a layer of green chiles, and then cheese. Top cheese layer with 4 tortilla strips. Repeat layers. Top 2nd layer of tortilla strips with more cheese, and then more salsa.
3. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Top with sour cream, lime wedges, sliced avocado, and more salsa.

Recipe adapted from Eat, Live, Run.
Looking for other casserole recipes? Try these!








Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spiced Blueberry Jam


Something awesome happened yesterday...

My photography light came!

My parents took pity on me, probably after hearing me lament the fact I haven't had much usable photography light the last couple of weeks, and bought me a light! They are so very awesome! The light came in the mail yesterday afternoon, I actually haven't even had time to play with it yet. But today, I will! 

In the meantime, I took these photos on a day where I happened to catch 30 minutes of sunlight :)


So I had a huge tub of blueberries sitting in the fridge that I got on sale a couple of weeks ago. And what's my go-to recipe when I have lots of fruit I need to use ASAP? That's right, jam. While raspberry jam is my ultimate favorite, there's a spot in my life for blueberry as well. This blueberry jam recipe happens to incorporate the slightest hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and wow! Revelation! I had no idea blueberry and cinnamon went so well together.  

Jam can be one of those convenience items that is so tempting to just buy at the store. However, homemade jam doesn't require much effort. It's mostly made by hands-off simmering time on the stove. And it tastes so much better than commercial. One thing (of many) I hate about commercial jam is you definitely taste the artificial flavor. There's nothing artificial about homemade jam, you're never going to get that fake taste. For me, it's worth the effort of simmering the fruit on the stove. Plus, a jar will stay good in the fridge for up to a month. 


Most of the recipes I found used pectin, as the recipes were mostly for canning. I just had one container of blueberries though, basically enough berries for one jar. There was no way I was going to can one jar of jam, so I omitted the next steps for canning the jam. I simply funneled the jam into a Mason jar and called it a day. Jam is pretty amazing, because when I poured it into the jar it had the consistency of syrup. After setting on the counter for an hour however, I had jam. The texture thickens and sets until you have wonderful, gloopy jam.

Is gloopy a word? It is now :)


Now, I have a big jar of jam in the fridge to play with. Since my brother is going to be here soon for a visit, I'm thinking about making Blueberry Danish's for when he comes. I've got the filling, I've got frozen puff pastry, I'm good to go! Mmmm, I wish I had one now...

All right, off I go. It's another busy day in the life of the Jarrell's. The hubby and I are still training for a 10K, so I've got 4 miles to put in today. Whew. Training is hard! It will all be worth after I cross the finish line, having ran my 1st-ever 10K!

Look out world! Jessica's putting her running shoes on! :)

Happy Tuesday!


Ingredients (makes 1 large Mason Jar):

4 cups blueberries
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir continuously until sugar melts and becomes like a syrup. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer mixture to a Mason jar, and allow to cool to room temperature. Place in fridge when cool. Keeps in fridge up to one month.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

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