Basil Pots de Creme with Balsamic Strawberry Reduction

I love herbs in unexpected places, like desserts or drinks. I think they have this wonderful way of enhancing sweets in a way you that wouldn’t expect. Basil is one of my very favorite herbs. It’s so fresh and I want to eat it in everything. So I was perusing one of my very favorite sites and came across a dessert that just wowed me.

Never have I been so enthralled with a dessert. I have seen (and used) basil in desserts before but these little custards put basil in the spotlight. So many times you see basil as merely a tiny ingredient, a supporting actor. Here there is no mistaking what ingredient is front and center.

Basil is ground together with sugar, producing a gorgeous bright green, all-natural color and unbelievable, fresh taste. Only slightly sweet and paired with a balsamic strawberry reduction, this treat will have you devouring it and wanting more.

*What unique ingredients do you use in unexpected places?



One Year Ago: Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies

Basil Pots de Creme with Balsamic Strawberry Reduction

Basil Pots de Creme from BraveTart

1 1/2 cups strawberries, plus more for garnish

1/3 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped

– Prepare the pots de creme.

– Place strawberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, vanilla bean seeds and pod into a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the strawberries break down and the mixture becomes thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

– Serve basil pots de creme with a dollop of balsamic strawberry reduction.

– Enjoy!

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fresh Tomato & Smoked Gouda Pie

There are so many wonderful recipes that I read on a regular basis and bookmark in my “must make” folder. There are so many, that often I forget about them! I get caught up making other things and before you know it, it’s nearly a year later and I’m rediscovering something that should have made a long time ago. Last summer, I came across a fresh tomato pie on my friend, Barb’s site. As the page loaded and I gazed longingly at ripe tomatoes, nestled in cheese and baked into a pie I resisted the urge to lick the screen. Honestly, it’s just gorgeous. You would want to lick the screen too. Right then and there, I knew I needed to make it.

Fast forward, that tomato pie was buried in my bookmarks but I’m so glad that I remembered it. I changed things up a bit and the biggest change was adding smoked gouda. I am a gigantic lover of cheese but lately gouda has been my “go to” cheese and it was the perfect complement to these fresh tomatoes. This tomato pie is wonderfully bright and fresh. I’m not a fan of cooked tomatoes at all unless they’re squished into oblivion, transformed into sauce and covering carbolicious pasta. This pie is cooked just long enough to warm the tomatoes a bit and get the cheeses all melty so when you have a bite, the tomatoes are bursting with flavor and still resemble their “just picked off the vine” selves. In fact, as I ate this pie I couldn’t help but notice that it tasted very much like eating bruschetta which happens to be one of my very favorite appetizers. This fresh tomato pie is a powerhouse of flavor that will have you coming back for more.

 *What’s on your “must make” list lately?



One Year Ago: Rosemary Infused Watermelon Lemonade

Fresh Tomato & Smoked Gouda Pie 

3 large tomatoes, sliced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Premade or homemade 9″ pastry crust

1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded

1 cup Asiago cheese, grated

1 cup fine bread crumbs

– Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

– In a medium sized bowl, add all of the tomatoes and the onion.

– Add the salt, pepper, garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar. Lightly toss together and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.

– Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pastry crust.

– Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven.

– Mix the bread crumbs with the Gouda and Asiago cheeses. Layer half of the bread crumb mixture on top of the baked pie crust.

– Gently scoop the tomato mixture into the pastry shell and then sprinkle the rest of the bread crumb mixture over the top.

– Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until warmed through.

– Let the pie cool a bit and serve warm.

– Enjoy!

Adapted from Creative Culinary

Posted in Pie | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maple Bacon Caramel Corn with Pecans ~ Secret Recipe Club

This month for Secret Recipe Club I was given the blog, Bakeaholic Mama and man, was I excited! One look at Carrie’s site and you’ll understand why. First, her site is gorgeous with its cute design and crisp, clean pictures that just invite you to take a bite. She’ll get your mouth-watering from the moment you land on her homepage. Carrie says that she is “a young food obsessed wife, mother of three kiddos and a black lab. And I am a bacon crazed yoga lover from New Hampshire.” Right off the bat, as a young food obsessed wife, mother of 3 children and a bacon freak myself, I immediately love this lady!

Then I got to really looking around and peeking at all the scrumptious creations that were waiting for me to feast my eyes on. At first I thought I would simply have to make her Pound Cake with Caramel Peaches and Chevre Whipped Cream and trust me, I will be making that. As everyone knows by now, I am a fiend for goat cheese and I’ve never had it in whipped cream but not only that, she made an avocado pound cake. Yes, avocado! I find that to be so intriguing. Bookmarked!

Then I thought about making Carrie’s Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese. Holy crow, that sounds good!! I love buffalo chicken but I can’t say I’ve ever used it in mac and cheese and now, I definitely need to. And there’s bacon too! That’s a big win in my book. As I continued to have trouble narrowing things down, I stumbled across Sea Salted Maple Caramel Popcorn.

Oh yes, this was it. I immediately loved the salty sweet combo cause well… that’s kind of one of my all-time favorite things ever! As I read her post, Carrie mentioned this was to be her Hurricane Irene survival food. Being on the East Coast myself, I knew exactly what she meant and I could have used this kind of food during my time with Irene.  I also pretty instantly knew that I would need to add bacon to this popcorn. I knew that the maple hints in Carrie’s caramel corn would be the perfect sweet for the porkiness. It all comes back to the whole “sweet and salty” goodness. Bacon really does make everything better. Everything.

When I sampled the creation I was quickly hooked, like scary hooked. I had to stop myself but even that wasn’t enough. I actually had to take it to work to prevent myself from eating the entire batch. I’m not being dramatic here people. You need to make this. Now. Today. At the latest, tomorrow. After you do you’ll need to have a bit and then you’re going to need to find the best hiding spot in your house and put this popcorn there.

The crunchy popcorn has a perfect balance of maple, brown sugar sweetness, buttery pecans and then you’re hit with the smoky flavor from the bacon. What happens next is that you just find yourself so enamoured that you cannot help but continue to reach back into the bowl, handful after handful. Yes, this is that kind of snack. Consider yourself warned.

*Is there any snack that you absolutely have no self-control around?

Now, let’s go see what the rest of the Secret Recipe Club has been up to this month, shall we?



One Year Ago: Cherry Clafouti 

Maple Bacon Caramel Corn with Pecans

1 bag of plain microwave popcorn, popped

8 slices bacon

2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

1 stick of unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used dark)

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

– Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.

– Cook the bacon slices until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Once cool, coarsely chop into pieces.

– In a large bowl, toss together the popped popcorn, bacon pieces and pecans. Set aside.

– In a medium sauce pan, add the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Melt, stirring and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

– Remove from heat and add the vanilla and baking soda.

– Working quickly, pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture and stir until all the pieces are covered.

– Spread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

– Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

– Remove from oven, break apart a bit and then let it cool.

– Enjoy!

Posted in Candy, Secret Recipe Club, Snacks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cherry Almond Sorbet ~ Improv Challenge

Each year I get all giddy as cherries come into season and start to appear in the farmer’s market. Cherries are definitely my favorite fruit and Madelyn can just eat them like they’re candy. I have to ration them so that they last longer than a day. This month for Improv Challenge, our assigned ingredients were cherries and almonds. Due to Maddy’s peanut allergy I’m not able to use most other nuts either despite the fact that she only reacts to peanuts. It’s difficult to find almonds that haven’t been processed on equipment that also processes peanuts.


I was already thinking about a sorbet the moment I saw what the ingredients were and good luck keeping Maddy away from anything sweet and frosty. She definitely inherited the ice cream gene. So I knew I needed to come up with a fix so that Maddy would also be able to enjoy this frozen delight. I decided to “stretch it” a little bit here. I made a fresh cherry sorbet that has a bit of almond extract in it. Any time I bake with cherries I always add almond extract because it really complements the cherry flavor and takes it to the next level. I’m able to use almond extract since I learned that most commercial almond extracts are not even derived from almonds. They are made from the kernels of peach or apricot pits. Who knew?

This sorbet is all about the cherries, they reign supreme here. If you love cherries the way I do, you’re going to be in heaven. I used sweet cherries but you can surely use any cherry that you like. One of the great things about this recipe, from a health perspective is that there is hardly any sugar in it. Only a few tablespoons in the entire batch! As a mother and a person who tries to eat relatively healthy, this thrills me. The other part of me, the grown up me is thrilled by the other batch I made. The boozy sorbet!



Oh yes, you can have some fun with the flavor here by adding wine in place of water. You can add white or red, whichever you prefer. I made two additional versions, one using a Moscato wine and the other using a Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were fantastic! I loved how the wines changed the taste and added their own complexity to the sorbet. So use your favorite wine and just see what happens. With either wine or water this is a vibrant, refreshing treat that is easy and quick to make.

*What’s your favorite frosty treat?



Now, let’s go see what the rest of the Improv Challenge people have made this month!

*Must be something about this time of year that makes me crave sorbet! Didn’t realize that a year ago I had also posted sorbet.*

One Year Ago: Strawberry, White Peach & Fresh Basil Sorbet and Coconut Key Lime Sorbet with Fresh Ginger

Cherry Almond Sorbet

4 cups pitted sour or sweet cherries, fresh or frozen (do not thaw)

1 cup of water or 1 cup of your favorite wine

2-4 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (taste and see, I only used 2 in any of mine)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

– Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

– Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and strain the cherry mixture, pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.

– Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions until firm and slushy. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

– Enjoy!

*If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can also pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and place the pan on a level surface in your freezer. Stir and scrape the sorbet with a fork every 30 minutes, moving the frozen edges in toward the center and crushing any lumps, until firm and slushy, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Adapted from Eating Well

Posted in Ice Cream, Improv Challenge | Tagged , , | Leave a comment