Refreshing Blackberry and Mint Canapés

Summer is just around the corner. I can see all of the days ahead of me: reading on the beach, gardening and harvesting fresh vegetables and herbs, and blogging. I have to say that this year has truly been one of the toughest, most-challenging years of my life. Although I’ve had setbacks, long nights of grading, and some tears, more than anything, I’ve learned the importance of balance and patience.

As many of you know, this was my first year as a full-time teacher. I worked within the same school system for a few years prior, but this year, I was given the opportunity to teach high schoolers about literature, writing, and out-of-date pop culture references. In return, they surprised me time and again with their creativity, determination, and leadership skills.

Now that the school year is winding down, I’ll have more time to spend blogging and writing for pleasure. Can I just say how excited I am to be able to reconnect with all of my favorite bloggers?

In the meantime, I have a super refreshing and healthy canapé recipe for you to enjoy while the weather begins to heat up and barbecues are in full swing.

Do you know about the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission? If you’ve never heard of these fabulous individuals, I’ll share a little bit with you. The ORBC promotes the delicious, locally sourced berries. Their Commission works with farmers and the public to promote healthy and delicious fruit. It has been a pleasure working with the ORBC. Recently, they asked me to create a “Go Bite Sized” recipe for their website, and of course, I was up for the challenge. The ORBC kindly provided me with the funds to purchase the ingredients for the recipe that I’ll be sharing with you today.

My inspiration for this appetizer was actually based on the flavors that I love in the summer: mint, cucumbers, cool and creamy cheeses and blackberries.

No one wants a heavy meal on a hot, sunny day, right? I know that I sure as heck don’t. I started brainstorming what I could do with my flavor choices and decided that a canapé would be the perfect option. You get a small bite that just explodes with flavor. I couldn’t stop eating them.

 

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Refreshing Blackberry and Mint Canapés

Ingredients

    Blackberry Sauce
  • 1 package frozen Oregon Blackberries (I use Stahlbush Island Farms brand)
  • Blackberry Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mint
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon agave
  • Blackberry and Mint Canapés
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries
  • 3 Parisian cucumbers (diced)
  • 1/2 goat cheese crumbles
  • Blackberry dressing
  • Puff Pastry, Crackers, or Crostini

Instructions

  1. Add frozen berries to a small pot on medium heat. Keep on heat until berries burst and become mostly liquid. Use emersion blender to create a smooth syrup. Empty hot berry juice over a strainer into new, small bowl; separate seeds from liquid or sauce. Let juice cool to room temperature. You may keep the berry guts (yes, I called them guts) for ice cream or pound cake.
  2. In a small food processor or blender, create dressing. Blend ingredients until dressing is smooth and creamy. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more agave.
  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, place cucumbers, fresh blackberries, and goat cheese. Toss with blackberry dressing. If you are not eating right away, refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  4. Scoop approximately two teaspoons of mixture onto each puff pastry, cracker, or crostini. Enjoy with a glass of wine or iced tea.
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Brown Butter Funfetti Blondies

For some reason, I am just not ready for my birthday this year.  Usually, I’m all about the confetti, cake, and attention. It might have something to do with the fact that I’m going to be a quarter-century gal. While I understand that 25-years-old isn’t OLD, I still am in disbelief that time is passing faster and faster. My pop culture references are no longer hip. My students don’t even know who Mrs. Doubtfire is!

 

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Mint Oreo Thin Cheesecake Truffles

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Everyone. Although I do not know very much about the historical background of the day, I do take time to thank my Irish ancestors for traveling overseas to start a new life. Like so many other people that I know, I have quite a mixed-European ethnicity; but, I am prominently Irish. I would love to visit Ireland someday. My sister was lucky enough to go with my grandmother when she was in high school, but I was too young. 

While most people will be singing drinking songs and treating themselves to some Guinness, I will be grading papers and chowing down on some of these bite size treats. I have given up drinking for a few months, and my body has been much happier. I do miss an occasional glass of wine or beer though. Have one for me tomorrow?

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Red Velvet Pizzelles with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hello, Friends! I hope your February has been wonderful so far. I cannot believe that I’m almost halfway done with my first year of teaching already. It’s been such a rewarding experience. I have to say that I was a little anxious about teaching Shakespeare (okay…a lot a bit stressed about it), but it’s been a blast. My students are truly understanding what they’re reading without having to rely on Sparknotes or other online summaries. We do a lot of acting out scenes in class, and sometimes, I make them wear funny hats and flower crowns.

 

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Lemon Blackberry Thumbprints

A memory comes to mind on this cold January evening. A warmer season in my early childhood. I was naturally drying myself in the warm summer air after hours of Marco Polo and “How Many Seconds Can I Hold My Breath Underwater?” My grandparents’ home was any child’s favorite place to go on summer vacation. I can’t count how many summer pool parties were thrown at this house, but I know there were a lot of water balloons made and cannon balls splashed. Not only was it always stocked with Goldfish, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Haagen Dazs Ice Cream Bars, but it had an in-the-ground swimming pool and a pond where we caught sunfish. One of my favorite things about summers at my grandparents’ house was the fresh fruit bushes that divided their property from the neighbors’ land. I distinctly remember plucking ripe berries off of my grandmother’s berry bushes right around the week of July 4th. To this day, whenever I eat blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, I think of the summer spent footloose and fancy-free.

 

So, when the fine folks over at The Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission asked me to create a sweet recipe with their wonderful berries, I had to say, “Absolutely I will!” I respect people who grow food and also communities who support their local farmers. In my adolescence, I went to an agricultural school and worked at a farm stand during the summer. Farming, harvesting, growing… it’s hard work. Tasty work, but hard work nonetheless. If you have never seen the R&B Commission’s website, I urge you to check it out. Not only does it have wonderful recipes, but also it provides a plethora of information about the berry seasons in Oregon as well as health articles about the positive effects of berries in our lives.

 

After the R&B Commission asked me to create a recipe, I decided that I needed to make thumbprints. Now, traditionally, thumbprints are only made around Christmas time and are generally a shortbread dough flavored with almond or vanilla. I’m a rebel; what can I say? Erin’s going to make thumbprints at the end of January, but they’re going to make everyone wish that it was summertime. I wanted to kick things up a notch and decided that lemon extract was just the flavor to tango with the blackberry fruit spread center. I had to make two batches of these cookies because they did not last long in my house. These cookies shout warmer weather and happy vibes.

 

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Lemon Blackberry Thumbprints

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 stick unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 6 ounces blackberry fruit spread for filling
  • powdered sugar for topping

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy and light. Slowly add sugar and lemon extract into mixture. Set aside.
  2. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk with fork.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and beat until dough comes together. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Roll dough into 2 inch balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Gently press thumb into the middle of each cookie and fill cookie with fruit spread.
  6. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. As soon as cookies are out of the oven, remove from cookie sheet and place on cooling rack. When cookies are completely cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
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Greek Salad Pita

Let me first start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! What did you do for the holiday? Anything fun or crazy? My New Year’s Eve was extremely laid back. Joshua and I cooked up some pizzas made with Portland Pie Dough and binge watched some episodes of Psych. Because we are all caught up on our favorite television programs (The Walking DeadGame of ThronesAmerican Horror Story), we have resorted to throwing it back to 2006. 2006 had some pretty hilarious comedies out on cable: The OfficeMonk, and Psych. But, I digress. Our holiday was quiet, and we fell asleep by 10:30 PM. We didn’t even attempt to keep our eyes open for the ball to drop. Oh well.

 

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Mint Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

Is everyone looking forward to the holidays? I sure am. Between the music, desserts, time with family, and school vacation, I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Let’s catch up on life over a Mint Chocolate Marshmallow Bar. Okay? Okay.

 

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It wouldn’t have been Thanksgiving without our annual pilgrimage to Maine. My sister and I got to spend an entire day together in Portland. Emily said that it was the most she had laughed in a while. Thanksgiving arrived the next day. Compared to last year’s 20+ guest list at our house, we just settled in with just my immediate family this year. It couldn’t have been more relaxing and rejuvenating. I ate my weight in nutter butter acorns and caramel apple pumpkin pie.

 

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Did you know that Maine is one of the three states left in the country to have Blue Laws on holidays? Basically, this means that department stores cannot open their doors until 12 AM on Black Friday. My sister, her boyfriend, and I braved the crowds for our forth annual Black Friday. I was able to grab some hot ticket items (but I can’t tell you what these presents are because it would ruin the surprise for my family who reads my blog!).

 

In other news, as many of you know, I was a Starbucks barista for almost six years. The milk foam and coffee bean oils will forever linger in the depths of my soul. I hung up my apron for bigger and better things last month. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling to be done; however, the free time to sleep in on a weekend or take a spin class is worth it. Even though I no longer am working at Starbucks, the memories and friendships remain.

 

So, let’s get back to these marshmallow bars. Their subtle mint flavor lingers and embraces it’s chocolate counterpart. I’ve always loved Rice Krispie Treats. Something about them shouts happiness. This time of the year, I love peppermint chocolate and probably devour too many peppermint patties. These treats are perfect to bring to a holiday party or share with Santa Clause.

 

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Mint Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

Ingredients

    Chocolate Mint Marshmallow Bars
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon mint extract (not peppermint)
  • 5 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 4-1/2 cups chocolate rice cereal
  • Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon milk
  • Toppings
  • peppermint candies (crushed)
  • chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In a large sauce pan on medium-high heat, melt butter and mint extract. Add in marshmallows and stir until marshmallows melt.
  2. Remove marshmallow mixture from heat and add chocolate rice cereal. Mix until cereal is coated.
  3. Spray a 8 x 8 pan with non-stick spray. Scoop chocolate rice cereal mixture into pan and press down.
  4. While waiting for bars to cool, make chocolate buttercream frosting. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and milk. Whip until mixture is soft and fluffy.
  5. Spread chocolate buttercream frosting on top of bars. This will be a thin layer of frosting. If you prefer more frosting, double the recipe. Sprinkle with peppermint candies or chocolate candies.
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Buzz Worthy Cocktail

I’m such a busy bee these days. Teaching has been such a challenging and enjoyable experience so far. When the 2 o’clock bell rings on Friday, I’ve got a few things on my mind: relaxation, a few cocktails, and spending time with Joshua. 

I’ve had this drink on my mind for a few months and was going to share it with you during the summer, but I needed to perfect it. I truly think I have. Yes, this lemon-honey cocktail is a perfect warm weather drink, but it tastes just as good as the air gets crisper and the days get shorter. 

I originally had this drink in Florida at a speakeasy; my friends and I proceeded to make a few more when we arrived back at their apartment with organic lemons (they were overpriced!) and local honey. I am not a huge fan of sickly sweet drinks, which is why I love this beverage so much. 

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The tartness of the lemon is perfectly balanced out by the honey and gin. You won’t get cavities after drinking a few of these. 

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How has everyone been? I apologize for my absence, but am trying to still connect with my blog family during my first full-time teaching position. I’d love to hear what you have planned for Thanksgiving and what your new favorite cocktails are! 

Buzz Worthy Cocktail

Ingredients

    Honey Lemon Syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Buzzy Worthy Cocktail
  • 4 ounces honey lemon syrup
  • 1-1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 cup shaved ice
  • lemon slice

Instructions

  1. Boil water on medium-high heat. Add lemon juice and honey; stir until honey has thinned. Remove from heat. Set aside until cooled.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, ice, and honey lemon syrup. Shake ten minutes. Pour into two glasses. Serves two, but can adjust recipe to the amount of guests.
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Pretzel Crusted Chicken Skewers with Buffalo Ranch Dip

I think my father could’ve used a son.

 

I’m not saying that he doesn’t love my sister, me and my two stepsisters dearly, but he’s a man’s man. My father loves fishing, golfing, NASCAR, and bowling. As a father to four girls, my dad had to play with our Barbies, help paint our nails, and occasionally listen to our ‘perfect’ rendition of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca”. Sorry Dad!

 

Although my dad put up with a lot of girly-stuff, he did teach me how to fish and bowl. Some of my favorite memories with my father are Sundays in October, November, and December: Football Season. I love football season more than a lot of other things.

 

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Pumpkin Spice Muddy Buddies

Happy Monday, everyone! Fall is in full swing here in Connecticut. Although it’s been difficult to completely enjoy my weekends, I have been enjoying some autumn activities and baking. 

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A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I went up to the Big E. For those of you who are not from New England, the Big E is the biggest fairgrounds in New England. This fair is opened from the middle of September until the first week in October. You can find any type of fried food imaginable. Joshua and I stayed away from the fried food though. We settled for the Maine Baked Potato! So delicious. 

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