Queen Bee Eats for a Day

Cherry Cherry July 28, 2010

Filed under: Cooking Adventures,Recipes & How-Tos — queenbeeeatsforaday @ 10:40 pm
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Apparently I was thinking of the 1966 Neil Diamond song when I was came up with a title for this post.  My intentions were to avoid something like “How to Freeze Cherries” which can be so bland and boring, right?

So, the weekend of July 4th this year brought several new adventures for me – I learned to make simple syrup and I learned how to freeze fresh cherries.  Freezing cherries was completely an accidental discovery.  Here’s the backstory.

The summer is a great time for fresh fruits and vegetables; we all know that!  The cherries we had been getting were particularly good and as such we bought a few more packages.  My mistake was that I assumed each was going to be as sweet as the last.  Well, that last package just wasn’t sweet enough to eat, but definitely good to cook with.  What to do?  A little quick research told me I could freeze them for later use – fabulous idea!  I could then figure out what to do with them later.

So, I thought I’d share what I learned – it’s not everyday you learn to freeze cherries, right?

You will definitely need a cherry pitter – one of the greatest inventions of all time!  You can pit most olives, cherries, and just about anything else that fits inside!  Caution: Keep your fingers OUT of the way – we learned the hard way.

How to Freeze Cherries:

1 – Wash the cherries carefully, removing any debris.  Remove the stems while you wash them.  Rubbing them gently with your fingers will usually suffice.

2 – Remove the pits.  You can freeze cherries with the pits, but they often take on a nutty, almond-like flavor, so you may want to avoid that.

3 – Lay the washed, pitted cherries in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen.  This will prevent them from clumping together and will retain their shape.  They will remain round and colorful.  After they are frozen, place them in a freezer bag, removing all the air.  They will last about a year.

Tips & Tricks for Storing and Freezing Cherries:

  • Allow the cherries to dry thoroughly before you freeze them.  This will reduce the likelihood of them all sticking together when you freeze them.
  • When shopping for cherries you should look for cherries that are bright, shiny, and plump.  The darker the cherry, the sweeter the taste.
  • Cherries with their stems have a longer shelf life.
  • When pitting cherries you may want to don an apron – the juice stains everything!
  • If you aren’t freezing your cherries, store them unwashed in plastic bags in the fridge.  Before eating, let them come to room temperature for the best flavor.
  • Some cooks like to freeze cherries in a syrup (40% – 4 parts water to 3 cups sugar) and ascorbic acid or citrus juice.  I skipped this because I am not sure what I will use the cherries for.
  • Sour cherries are best for freezing for pie filling.  You stir in sugar (measurements depend on how many cherries, etc.) and pack in rigid airtight containers for this purpose.

Our cherries are sweetly nestled in the freezer, waiting for me to decide what to do with them.

Does anyone have any ideas?  Make a compote?  A pie, perhaps?  Some cherry sauce for sundaes?  Would love some suggestions!

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Simple Summer Stir-Fry July 17, 2010

Filed under: Cooking Adventures,Recipes & How-Tos — queenbeeeatsforaday @ 9:22 am
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The summer is a great time to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Not only does the grocery store have more of a selection fresh produce that actually looks appetizing (at least in New York) but the farmers markets are out of this world.

Because this is such a great time for produce, it’s also a great time for making a really good stir-fry, which I am all about.  It’s healthy, it’s quick, and it’s something Husband will eat!  In fact, I’ve heard that a stir-fry is a great way to get the kids to eat their vegetables as well!

So, a couple of weeks ago I found a recipe for a simple stir-fry and jazzed it up a bit.  And  even if you’ve never made a stir-fry in your life, this is so easy to do (and easy on the wallet as well.)

The Ingredients:

  • Fresh ginger, minced – 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh lemon juice – 1 teaspoon
  • Vegetable oil (though you could use Peanut) – 3 tablespoons
  • Asian sesame oil – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Fresh ground pepper – ¼ teaspoon
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 heads of baby bok choy, stalks cut into ½-inch pieces and leaves shredded, separate
  • ½ pound of snow peas
  • 5-10 radishes, depending on size
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow squash
  • ½ pound of spinach (without the stems and washed well – baby spinach is great, too)
  • ½ pound of tofu (firm), chicken, shrimp, or beef (depending on your preference)
  • Soy sauce – 4 teaspoons

The Process:

  1. Combine the ginger, fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, sesame oil, ¼ a teaspoon of salt, and the pepper.  Whisk well and set aside to allow the flavors to mingle.
  2. In a wok, heat the rest of the cooking oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir until it’s fragrant, about 10-15 seconds.  Don’t let it burn!
  3. Next, add the bok choy stalks and cook for about 1-2 minutes, just until it starts to soften.  Throw in the snow peas and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Add the radishes, zucchini, squash, and soy sauce cooking and stirring for another minute.
  5. Now, add the bok choy leaves and spinach plus the remainder of the salt.  Cook and toss until the leaves begin to wilt; this should take about 2 minutes.  Add a tablespoon of the stir-fry sauce you made earlier – just enough to coat the contents of the wok.  Then, remove the vegetables from the wok.
  6. Add the rest of the stir-fry sauce to the hot wok and heat it over medium-high heat.  Add the tofu, chicken, shrimp, or beef.  If you’re using tofu, cook until it’s just warmed through, for about two minutes.  With chicken and shrimp, make sure the meat is cooked through.  Cook the beef to your preferred temperature.
  7. Put the vegetables back into the wok and toss everything together.

We served this dish over plain white rice, at Husband’s request.  But for a fun twist we thought you could try some Asian noodles.  I love picking at stir-fry as-is, so I often leave out the rice.

 

Independently Simple July 7, 2010

Filed under: Cooking Adventures,Drinks,Recipes & How-Tos — queenbeeeatsforaday @ 5:00 am
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Over the years I’ve seen plenty of recipes for homemade beverages and yummy cocktails that have called for simple syrup that’s I’ve simply avoided because I was afraid. Afraid of the simplicity of it, I suppose. Until now…until the 4th of July!

Independence Day 2010 included not only fireworks and simple syrup but plans with some Brooklyn-based friends who love good food, good times, and good drinks. They were doing the fantastic menu (corn salad, potatoes, tomato & mozzarella, coffee rubbed steak, and brownies for dessert) so we offered to bring the cocktails. Then I got to thinking, what’s the best outdoor, summery drink for the 4th of July?

Mojitos. Of course!

It was the perfect solution. They’re cool, refreshing, fruity, and sweet. They go down easy. And some recipes require simple syrup so I bit the bullet, pulled out my saucepans, sugar, and water.

I’m going to tell you a secret. They don’t call it “simple syrup” for nothing.

Here’s what you need – 1 part sugar, 1 part water, a stove, and a pot. That’s it!

Here’s what you do – Put the water and sugar into the saucepan and bring it to a boil. You can stir it once or twice, but just keep an eye on it until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Then, remove it from the heat, let it cool, and refrigerate for later use.

Here’s a hint or two – You know you’re on the right track as the liquid in the saucepan thickens and drips off your spoon or whisk in a stream. If it acts like syrup you’ve done good! For sweeter syrup, you can do 1 part water, 2 parts sugar. Oh, and simple syrup usually stays good for about a month in the fridge.

You can flavor the syrup with a couple of pieces of peeled ginger, lemon zest, or just about anything else to give it an extra kick.

That’s it. Super simple. Simple syrup.

Keep your eyes out for the upcoming post, Mojito Madness, to get your drink on.

 

Let them eat (gluten-free) cake March 23, 2009

Filed under: Cakes,Cooking Adventures,Recipes & How-Tos — haleyhoneybee @ 5:43 pm
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As a wedding present for a childhood friend of my hubby, we are making them some cakes to serve at their wedding. We could call them wedding cakes. And this has become a cake baking adventure for many weeks.

Strategy:img_6676

  • The betrothed have very adventurous taste buds and are non-traditional in a fabulous way.
  • Instead of just one cake, we decided to make cakes of various sizes, each with a unique cake stand/plate (most of which are vintage).
  • The Bride has gluten intolerance so care must be taken. For the wedding day only one of the cakes will be GF but for the cake tasting I baked them all GF so she could partake. (This would be a good time to mention that my Mama is allergic to all things wheat, and buckwheat, and totally Celiac…so I have a bit of practice)

The cakes that made the cut for the tasting (recipe links in progress):

  • Black pearl layer cake with ginger vanilla fresh cream frosting
  • Cranberry snow cake with white chocolate Swiss butter cream frosting
  • Lemon Curd layer cake with lemon Swiss butter cream frosting
  • Passion fruit layer cake with passion fruit Swiss butter cream frosting
  • Honey spice cake with cardamom cream frosting
  • Honey spice cake with a thick sugar glaze (made the cake twice because I wanted to try it with garbanzo flour)
  • Molten chocolate mini-cupcakes

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*Note on the alternative flours used: The first five cakes were all made with a white rice flour blend, for one of the honey cakes I used a garbanzo flour blend, and the cupcakes only call for cornstarch.

There was also a red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting, but that one was nixed during a previous trial – after much research on classic recipes, in the end it didn’t have enough oomph.

 

Fettucine Alfredo – Quick and Easy

Filed under: Recipes & How-Tos — queenbeeeatsforaday @ 1:22 am
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fettucine-alfredo

It’s funny that the things you didn’t love growing up kinda grow on you as an adult.  A few years ago, I had such a craving for fettucine alfredo and decided to learn how to make it.  Looking back at my years at home, my mom would make this dish and I would dread it.  Today, while it’s still not my favorite Italian dish, it ranks quite high.

It’s super simple to make and chances are, you already have everything you need in the pantry and fridge.  It is the perfect dish to make when you don’t feel like cooking but you also don’t feel like any take out.  Give it a shot!  You’ll be ready to eat in less than a half hour.

adding-cheese

The Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried fettuccine
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of nutmeg, optional
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional

before-tossThe Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Cook the fettuccine until al dente. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

2. As the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the shallots and sauté until tender.

3. Add the heavy cream and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the nutmeg here if you choose to.

4. Cook the cream mixture, stirring occasionally, until sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

5. Put the pasta, along with the reserved cooking liquid, back into the pot it was cooked in. Heat this over medium-high heat.

6. Add the butter-cream mixture to the pasta and half of the grated Parmesan-Reggiano. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan-Reggiano and garnish with parsley.

Serve immediately. This recipe yields about 4 to 6 servings.

XOXO
QB

 

The Perfect St. Patrick’s Day Meal March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Hope you’re wearing lots of GREEN!

the-table


Two weeks ago, my sweetie and I were in Gainesville partly for business and partly for pleasure.  I had scheduled a work trip to coincide with the same week of the Morrissey concert in Jacksonville for which we had tickets.  (The show was cancelled.)

corned-beef

 

As serendipity would have it, the other bee, Melissa, was also in town for work and my sister, Jennifer, was free, so what better way to celebrate our meshing schedules than to invite ourselves over to Donald and Erica’s for an early St. Patrick’s Day meal – Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Potatoes.

cabbage

 

We paired dinner with some Trader Joe’s Shiraz (surprisingly good) and a couple of beers.

 

potatoes

 

Melissa provided a quick, simple, and lovely conclusion to the meal in a dessert of fresh strawberries and cannoli accompanied by some really terrific Sweetwater (locally roasted & organic) decaf coffee Donald brewed.

 

dessert

It was a fun night filled with lots of food and friends.  I think we all had a really great time and can’t wait to do it again!

Here’s the Recipe –

New England Boiled Dinner

Ingredients –

4-5 pound corned beef brisket
1 head green cabbage, cut into wedges

8 red skin potatoes, halved
2-3 tbsp dried pickling spices

Directions –

  1. Place the corned beef in a large pot and fill with cold water.  Add the pickling spices to the pot – sometimes the corned beef will come with a packet of spices but it’s usually not very much.  Let the beef simmer for 3 hours.
  2. Next, add the potatoes to the same pot and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage and let simmer until the cabbage and the potatoes are fork tender.
  4. Finally remove the vegetables and the corned beef from the pot.  Thinly slice the corned beef perpendicular to the grain of the meat. Serve with a variety of mustards or horseradish sauces.

Everything was really delicious and cooked to perfection!  After seeing how it was done, it seems like a super easy way to make a lot of food for a hungry crowd!  Thanks again, Erica and Donald!

XOXO
QB

 

Tuesday must be the new burger night! March 11, 2009

Filed under: Recipes & How-Tos — haleyhoneybee @ 11:52 pm
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Tuesday night had something in the air…maybe the smell of burgers. And when I checked my email on Wednesday morning there was a note from Rica about their mouth watering BIG burgers. My hubby and I had also made burgers Tuesday night – although ours were considerably different, and meatless. I thought the irony of the burgers deserved attention.
Try them out and see which is your preference.
xoxo,
HHB

Burger #1, Black Bean with pineapple salad. I must admit, sometimes I’m just not in the mood for eat. And I am always up for a veggie-only night, but these burgers were a far cry from a girly California veggie burger – yes we are in Cali but they can fill up a manly appetite – take my hubby’s word for it. My uber-fav part was the pineapple salad to accompany – YUM, the perfect side.

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Black bean Burgers with Pineapple Salad

(adapted from Gourmet Magazine Feb 2009)
1 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) cans refried beans (I used the 365 brand)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup panko flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 whole grain buns
1 (3-pound) pineapple, peeled and diced
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 (7-to 8-ounce) avocado, cut into cubes
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Mix first 8 ingredients together. Form mixture into 4 patties. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook burgers until outsides are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes total. Serve on buns. (my hubby liked his with some melted cheddar and sour cream). For the salad toss together the last 6 ingredients with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If jicama isn’t easily found you could also use radishes.

~~~~~

Burger #2, Email from Rica:

Last night we [Rica & Don] decided to make burgers & fries for dinner.  I thought this would be just the usual burger…but it wasn’t…it was better than usual.  Now, this is either because of my extreme hunger or Don’s talent!  Here’s the recipe:

donsbigkahunaburger

Don’s Big Kahuna Burger

1 lb       97% lean ground beef
1/2       medium onion, grated
1/2 c    shredded colby jack cheese
1 tbsp   A1 steak sauce
1/4 tsp  fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp     kosher salt
1/8 tsp  crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp     cajun seasoning
4          Of your favorite hamburger buns

Combine all of the ingredients, including the shredded cheese, in a bowl. Mix with hands until combined. Form 4 patties. Grill the burgers to desired doneness. Serve the burgers on toasted buns and top with your favorite burger toppings!

Enjoy!