Strawberry Cacao Pigpen

A week or two ago I got an email asking if I was interesting in trying cacao tea. Although I’m not a tea drinker, I am always curious about anything chocolatey, so found a method more my style to check it out! This recipe makes roughly twice as much cacao tea jello as you’ll need, so you’ll have some more for sampling.

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups boiling water, divided
  • 6 ounce box strawberry jello
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons cacao tea grounds
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, or more as desired
  • mint leaves

This smells Very Good.

To start off, you’ll need a Piggy Pop mold for the pigs, which is something I had just been given/was eager to use.

To 1 1/4 cups of the boiling water, add the box of strawberry jello and stir well until fully dissolved. Let cool, then stir in the sour cream, which helps make them a bit opaque and isn’t enough to impact the taste.

Gotta whisk pretty seriously to break up all the sour cream.

Pour into the pig mold and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring 2 1/2 cups of the remaining water to a boil. Place the 2 tablespoons of tea into a tea strainer or, as I had, empty tea bags. Put your tea strainer/bags into the boiling water, cover, and turn off the heat but leave the pot on the warm burner. Steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small dish, combine the cold water and three packets of gelatin, stir together, and let sit 5 minutes.

Remove the tea strainer/bag from the hot water, and if necessary, bring back to a near-boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture. Let cool to room temperature.

Gently remove the jello pigs from the mold, pushing from the top – I found they popped out quite easily even from an ungreased mold.

Place as many pigs as you’d like into an empty 9″ springform pan. Pour enough of the cacao tea gelatin in to act as a cozy mud bath for your pigs. Refrigerate until set, several hours.

Meanwhile, line a small pan with parchment or wax paper. Melt the chocolate chips by microwaving in short bursts. Place in a piping bag or ziplock with the corner cut off, using a flat tip if you have one. Pipe even length lines, evenly spaced, for fence posts, then cross them perpendicularly to connect your fence. Make several short sections, as you’ll be putting straight fences into a round pan. Refrigerate to set the chocolate.

Once all the gelatin is set, remove the side from the pan. Gently peel the chocolate fences from the parchment and stab the bottom of each section into the gelatin around the outside, to create a fence. Holding the mint leaves in a tight bunch, cut thinly either with a knife or kitchen shears. Sprinkle the cut mint as desired to create patches of ‘grass’. Slice, and enjoy your wigglepigs!

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Mongolian Beef

That good takeout taste without leaving the house! This recipe comes together quite quickly (definitely within 15 minutes once the meat is sliced), so don’t forget to get rice and any other sides you might want started early enough!

In this case, butternut squash actually on the sides.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb skirt steak or flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain (I have terrible knife skills, my thin-ish was thin enough)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • cooked rice, for serving

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Place a mesh strainer in the sink.

Pat the sliced steak dry using paper towel, then place the dried meat in a large ziploc. Add the cornstarch, seal, and shake well to coat evenly.

Turn the coated meat out into the strainer you placed in the sink, shaking gently to remove excess cornstarch.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant, 15-30 seconds.

Add the soy sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes before transferring back to the bowl. The sauce won’t have thickened up yet, and that’s ok, we’ll come back to it!

Turn the heat up to high and add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides.

Add the sauce back and cook until thickened to your desired consistency, which should happen within a few minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the scallions. Serve with the prepared rice, and garnish with extra scallions if desired.

Mongolian Beef

From Tracey’s Culinary Adventures.

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb skirt steak or flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • cooked rice, for serving

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes. Set aside. Place a mesh strainer in the sink.

Pat the sliced steak dry using paper towel, then place the dried meat in a large ziploc. Add the cornstarch, seal, and shake well to coat evenly. Turn the coated meat out into the strainer you placed in the sink, shaking gently to remove excess cornstarch.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant, 15-30 seconds, then add the soy sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes before transferring back to the bowl.

Turn the heat up to high and add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides. Add the sauce back and cook until thickened to your desired consistency, which should happen within a few minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the scallions. Serve with the prepared rice, and garnish with extra scallions if desired.

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Flourless PB&C Bars

A huge batch of very peanut butter-y oat bars with both chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces. These will be very popular with anyone you give them to (give or take a peanut allergy..)!

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup salted butter, at room temp
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups peanut butter (I prefer creamy but either way)
  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13×18″ half sheet pan and set aside.

Beat together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the vanilla and baking soda and beat again until well combined.

Add the peanut butter and stir in by hand with a rubber spatula.

Stir in the oats, then the chocolate chips, then turn out into the prepared pan.

Spread the dough evenly, pressing it into a flat layer filling the whole pan.

Sprinkle the Reese’s Pieces evenly over the top and gently press them into the dough.

Bake 15-17 minutes, until lightly golden and no longer moist looking. Cool completely in the pan before cutting.

Flourless PB&C Oat Bars

From Brow Eyed Baker.

  • 2/3 cup salted butter, at room temp
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13×18″ half sheet pan and set aside.

Beat together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and baking soda and beat again until well combined.

Add the peanut butter and stir in by hand with a rubber spatula. Stir in the oats, then the chocolate chips, then turn out into the prepared pan. Spread the dough evenly, pressing it into a flat layer filling the whole pan. Sprinkle the Reese’s Pieces evenly over the top and gently press them into the dough.

Bake 15-17 minutes, until lightly golden and no longer moist looking. Cool completely in the pan before cutting.

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Creamy Corn and Basil Orzotto

I’ve done some real risotto and some baked risotto in the past, but today we’re doing real risotto cooking technique, except with orzo pasta instead! It does make a creamy texture, like you’d expect from risotto, but goes a bit faster. Add in some cheese, corn, and basil from the garden at work, and you’ve got a great meal!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I just used more broth…)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering, then add the shallot and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the broth to a low simmer in a small pot.

Add the orzo, dry, to the dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Add the wine/extra broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits of shallot from the bottom of the pan. Stir, slowly but constantly, until the wine has fully evaporated.

Add a ladle-full of the simmering broth to the dutch oven and cook, stirring still slowly but constantly, until the broth has been fully absorbed into the orzo. Repeat, adding ladles-full every time the last one has been absorbed. Once half of the broth has been added, add the corn as well, and continue adding, stirring, and absorbing.

Once all the broth has been absorbed, about 15 minutes total, remove the dutch oven from the heat and add the cheese, basil, and butter.

Continue stirring until the butter has been melted and spread throughout, then taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with additional Parm on each serving.

Creamy Corn and Basil Orzotto

From The Kitchn.

ut goes a bit faster. Add in some cheese, corn, and basil from the garden at work, and you’ve got a great meal!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering, then add the shallot and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the broth to a low simmer in a small pot.

Add the orzo, dry, to the dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the wine/extra broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits of shallot from the bottom of the pan. Stir, slowly but constantly, until the wine has fully evaporated.

Add a ladle-full of the simmering broth to the dutch oven and cook, stirring still slowly but constantly, until the broth has been fully absorbed into the orzo. Repeat, adding ladles-full every time the last one has been absorbed. Once half of the broth has been added, add the corn as well, and continue adding, stirring, and absorbing. Once all the broth has been absorbed, about 15 minutes total, remove the dutch oven from the heat and add the cheese, basil, and butter. Continue stirring until the butter has been melted and spread throughout, then taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with additional Parm on each serving.

 

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Ground Cherry Pie

Ground cherries are the weirdest dang fruit, but they make a very tasty pie! If you’ve never heard of them, they look like a small tomatillo (a little tomato with a papery ‘husk’ you remove to eat) but taste, when raw, like a walnut. Baffling. When heated up in piethough, you get kind of the flavor of apple pie with a hint of pineapple. If you eat cold leftovers, though, back to a walnutty flavor. So strange! Totally worth eating, hot, though! They’re easy to grow, and if that’s not your thing you might be able to find them at the farmers’ market.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 8-10 tablespoons ice water

Fruit Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups ground cherries, measured with husks removed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch (I used flour, cornstarch would be much better for thickening)

To make the crust, first whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Work in the shortening with a pastry blender or your fingers until well combined. Work the butter in until the mixture is unevenly crumbly, with some butter pieces still a bit larger than others. Add the water one tablespoon at a time, stirring as you sprinkle. When the dough is moist enough that it holds together when squeezed, stop adding water and knead it three or four times to bring it together. Divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten somewhat into a disk, and roll each disk on the counter to smooth out the edges, which helps with the edges later when you roll out the crust. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight. (This is just a doubled version of the crust from Paper Bag Apple Pie.)

Once the dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 425. Roll out one of the disks of dough (the larger one, if one is bigger) and line a pie dish. Prick all over with a fork. Roll out the other disk of dough and cut into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir together the filling ingredients well, then gently spoon into the bottom crust.

Create a lattice top with your crust slices, laying strips in one direction, then folding every other one back about halfway to add a perpendicular strip, alternating which strips get folded back to create a woven-looking pattern. Fold over the outside edge and crimp.

I’m still working on my crusts, clearly….

Bake 20 minutes at 425, then reduce the heat to 300 and bake an additional 35-40 minutes, until the filling is thickened. Serve still warm.

Ground Cherry Pie

Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 8-10 tablespoons ice water

Fruit Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups ground cherries, measured with husks removed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch

To make the crust, first whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Work in the shortening with a pastry blender or your fingers until well combined. Work the butter in until the mixture is unevenly crumbly, with some butter pieces still a bit larger than others. Add the water one tablespoon at a time, stirring as you sprinkle. When the dough is moist enough that it holds together when squeezed, stop adding water and knead it three or four times to bring it together. Divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten somewhat into a disk, and roll each disk on the counter to smooth out the edges. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Once the dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 425. Roll out one of the disks of dough and line a pie dish with it. Prick all over with a fork. Roll out the other disk of dough and cut into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir together the filling ingredients well, then gently spoon into the bottom crust. Create a lattice top with your crust slices, laying strips in one direction, then folding every other one back about halfway to add a perpendicular strip, alternating which strips get folded back to create a woven-looking pattern. Fold over the outside edge and crimp, then bake 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 and bake an additional 35-40 minutes, until the filling is thickened. Serve still warm.

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Honey Chicken Pizza

As with many pizzas, this is more an idea than a 100% rigid recipe, but it’s a good flavor combo I recommend working with! I had it first at Zax in Moab, so there is at least one pizza professional out there that thinks it’s a good idea and you don’t have to take my word for it, but I’ve made this pizza many times since because I do love it!

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough (I tend to use this refrigerator pizza dough for convenience)
  • 1 small chicken breast’s worth of shredded chicken
  • honey
  • shredded mozzarella cheese

If you have leftover shredded chicken from something, that’s handy! Otherwise, I wrap a small chicken breast in foil, to hold in moisture, and cook it at 350 in a toaster oven for an hour, until it’s shred-able.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease or line a baking sheet/pizza pan. Roll or toss the dough to desired thickness and spread on the pan.

In a small bowl, stir enough honey into the shredded chicken to just cover the chicken.

Drizzle additional honey over the prepared crust – you don’t want nearly as much honey as you would pizza sauce, as with too much honey the heat of the oven will cause it to melt, pour out onto the pan, and burn.

Top with the chicken, then several large handfuls of shredded cheese. You want the cheese on top to keep the shredded, honey-coated chicken from burning.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and started to brown.

Slice and serve!

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Cucumber Cake

So, this is a pretty weird one, but it’s good and will help use up some of the outrageous overabundance that comes with cucumber plants. It’s fluffy and moist, and definitely tastes cucumber-y, but in a more dessert-y way.

Ingredients:

Cake:

 

  • approximately 2 1/2 pounds fresh cucumbers
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs

Frosting:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13″ pan and set aside.

Wash and peel the cucumbers, then shred.

Looking juicy already.

Place the shredded cucumber in a colander and press to squeeze out much of the liquid. I pressed quite firmly and there was still plenty of liquid left in the cake! Set drained cucumber aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.

Stir in 3 cups of the cucumber shreds, oil, and eggs until well mixed.

Pour into the greased pan.

Bake 1 hour, or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool.

When the cake has cooled to room temperature, use a mixer to beat together all the frosting ingredients until smooth. Spread over the top of the cake and enjoy!

Cucumber Cake

Adapted from Food52.

Cake:

 

  • approximately 2 1/2 pounds fresh cucumbers
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs

Frosting:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13″ pan and set aside.

Wash and peel the cucumbers, then shred. Place the shredded cucumber in a colander and press to squeeze out much of the liquid. Set drained cucumber aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir in the cucumber shreds, oil, and eggs until well mixed. Pour into the greased pan and bake 1 hour, or until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool.

When the cake has cooled to room temperature, use a mixer to beat together all the frosting ingredients until smooth. Spread over the top of the cake and enjoy!

 

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