Top Ate Blueberry Recipes

August 2, 2014

The increasing price of buying blueberries in the store has started to drastically decrease our family's consumption. How sad, right? So, last week, when a friend asked me to join her for blueberry picking at a local farm, I jumped at the chance. I'd never been blueberry picking before. Yes, I know. Insert giant gasp here. I'm typically not a dirt-digging, tractor-riding, country kind of gal, but to my surprise, it was actually quite therapeutic. After riding in the back of a truck out to the field, I was handed a bucket that hung around my neck to collect the goods. The sweeter-than-sweet berries fell right off the branch into my hands when touched, making it the entire process super easy. Admittedly, some of the berries didn't make it from my hands into the bucket and took a detour to my mouth. That was totally for quality control. The best part? I paid half as much as the store and got twice as many berries. So, with five pound of blueberries burning a whole in my bucket, I was almost giddy about the endless recipe possibilities.
I also had no idea that blueberries are so freezer friendly. First, flash-freeze them on a cookie sheet. Then transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag and store for up to a year. I actually like to eat them frozen, but they can be thawed and used just like fresh blueberries in any of the Top Ate Blueberry Recipes.
Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting: This is my version of heaven on earth. The lemon cream cheese frosting has just the right amount of sweetness and pairs perfectly with the blueberries in the cupcakes. You must try this recipe! I'll repay you in virtual cocktails. See below.
Blueberry Lime Granita with Cava
Blueberry Lime Granita with Cava: Granita is like a Slurpee...only better because it's made with booze and without sugary chemicals. Yup, that's right, thank me later.
Frozen Greek Yogurt Covered Blueberries
Frozen Greek Yogurt Covered Blueberries: This blueberry treat is way too easy to actually be called a recipe. After dipping blueberries in Greek yogurt, freeze them for pop-able sweet frozen treats all summer long!
Blueberry Syrup
Blueberry Syrup: As I sit here typing this blog post, I am enjoying a blueberry coffee with this syrup. I would most certainly be napping right along with The Finnster without it and it's only 1:00 PM. I've also used it in other things like this Lemon Blueberry Vinaigrette and over these scones.
Blueberry and Brie Pizza with Caramelized Onions
Blueberry and Brie Pizza with Caramelized Onions: This pizza showcases subtle sweet and savory flavor combinations better than any dish I've recently had. The sweetness in the caramelized onions and blueberries pairs perfectly with the brie and mozzarella cheese. The best part: The Finnster loves it too!
American Flag Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
American Flag Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: Blueberries may not be the star ingredient in this cake, but they certainly are a crucial part of the recipe. Using a boxed cake mix and homemade cream cheese frosting, this cake comes together in a cinch. A homemade cake recipe is included for the more adventurous bakers.
Lemon Blueberry Vinaigrette
Lemon Blueberry Vinaigrette: It's not weird, I swear. It's amazing. Try it with this or this or instead of one of THESE!
Blueberry Oat Bars
Blueberry Oat Bars: Made with simple all-natural ingredients, these oat bars were devoured by my son and his playgroup friends.

Top Ate Summer BBQ Recipes

July 18, 2014

So, I don't grill.
I am actually slightly neurotic overly cautious when dealing with propane. Even driving home from the hardware store with the propane tank in my car elicits a fear that my car will spontaneously explode. Although, my recent craving for charred salty corn on the cob made me surppress my fear. We were completely out and I NEEDED to have that corn! The guy at the hardware store assured me that the tank was so tightly wedged on the floor of my backseat that there was no way it could move. What a nice guy he was, but I still drove the four miles home like a grandma.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to eat grilled food. The flavor to health ratio is off the charts. But I don't even like standing near the grill when The Hubbster turns it on for fear that the flame will jump out and burn my eyebrows off.
Luckily, The Hubbster has turned into a grill master. I dream up these crazy concoctions creative recipes and ideas inside and he turns them into charred (but never burnt), smoky deliciousness outside. He knows exactly  how to achieve the elusive intersection of charred but not burnt and juicy but not overcooked. AND the most amazing part...he does all this on a seven-year-old rusted through hunk-a-junk. I dream about the day we get a Weber. Imagine what The Hubbster could do with a Weber!  His grilling skills are likely genetic. You haven't lived until you've eaten my father-in-law's Slow Cooked BBQ Pork Ribs. I typically stay away from pork because of the bathroom issues that ensue, but his ribs are worth the extra toilet time! TMI? Anywho, he has this wood pellet grill that makes ours look like a child's toy. It grills. It smokes. It sears. It doubles as a convection oven. It even cleans itself. It's like grill porn for those of you who are into that.
While we don't have the Cadillac of grills, we do love to grill and eat on our deck as often as we can in the warmer months. I compiled my Top Ate Summer BBQ recipes based on what we eat and enjoy most often. We typically keep it healthy, but since the recent realization that S'Mores can be prepared on the grill, our sugar intake has increased five fold more than I am willing to admit.

Easy Charred Corn on the Cob
Easy Charred Corn on the Cob: Corn is my absolute favorite food to grill. I sometimes wonder why I ever boiled it. By using a teensy bit of oil, the salt (or whatever spice you like) sticks to the corn and the result is perfectly charred and super sweet.
Watermelon Salad Bar
Watermelon Salad Bar: While I realize this is not prepared on the grill, but I had to include it due to the perfection of watermelon on a warm summer night. I literally spent five minutes preparing this spread. My family had so much fun concocting their own watermelon salads.
Spatchcock Grilled Chicken
Spatchcock Grilled Chicken: I saw this in the Whole Foods Flyer and HAD to try it. By cutting out the backbone and splitting open the breast bone, the chicken lines completely opened and flat on the grill. This allows the chicken to grill in under an hour. Placing pads of butter under the skin and rubbing olive oil and a spice blend on the outside keeps the chicken moist yet flavorful throughout the cooking process. Intimidated? I don't blame you; I was at first too. It sounds complicated, but this video makes it feels totally approachable.
Easy Chicken Sausage Sliders
Easy Chicken Sausage Sliders:  I recently made these little guys for a poker night along with Turkey Nachos. After removing the casing from chicken sausages, mix in some Panko bread crumbs so the meat isn't so sticky. In 10 minutes, they were prepared and ready to be grilled. And, thanks to The Hubbster, my sliders quickly achieved grilled, juicy goodness. I used chicken sausage, but pork or turkey would work well too.
Grilled Brussels Sprouts Kabobs
Grilled Brussels Sprouts Kabobs: My sister-in-law got me into Brussels sprouts. In fact, we eat them so often in our house, that this roasted Brussels sprouts recipe is one of like five recipes that The Hubbster can prepare when I'm teaching a night class. He actually makes them better than I do now. I'm not really sure how that happened. But, no complaints here; I love coming home to them! This kabob recipe was inspired by the roasted version.
Grilled Caprese Eggplant
Grilled Caprese Eggplant: I used to hate eggplant. Then I added salt and make sure not to overcook it. Now, I can't get enough! By layering the tomatoes, basil and cheese in the last minute of cooking, the cheese melts into the other ingredients, leaving you with nothing to do but savor after removing from the grill.
Balsamic Grilled Portbello Mushrooms
Balsamic Grilled Portobello Mushrooms: I am in love with these mushrooms. I've been making them consistently since college. It's one of my favorite recipes to share with my health conscience UMASS buddies. They are so low in calories yet the meatiness of the mushrooms leaves you satisfied.
Grilled S'mores with Peanut Butter and Banana
Grilled S'mores with Peanut Butter and Banana: It was a life-altering revelation to realize that I DON'T need a campfire to make S'mores. Add some ripe bananas and peanut butter to really kick it up a notch.

Check out these recipes for even more grilling ideas.

Top Ate One Pot Wonder Pasta Recipes

June 5, 2014
Hello from my blogosphere! This post is super exciting! I say that every time, don't I? It's REALLY true this time. I love me some pasta. I quit pasta back when we did the cleanse and was fairly successful with not introducing it back into our diets. The cravings subsided and we learned to live without it. That is, until I started reading about the One Pot Wonders. Hey, a girl needs her pasta fix every once in a while, right?

A One Pot Wonder is a recipe in which all ingredients (raw and uncooked) are thrown into one deep sided skillet or saucepan with a precise measurement of liquid. Depending on the desired flavors, the liquids could include water, wine, broth, sauce or vinegar. The liquid is brought to a boil and cooks all the ingredients for about 10-15 minutes to create a saucy, creamy dish. These weeknight recipes are perfect for working parents because they are ready, from fridge to plate, in 30 minutes or less! And the best part....Your kids may even eat some of them! Now if that's not a reason to celebrate, I don't know what is.

At first, I was skeptical. I thought it was too good to be true. After surfing Pinterest incessantly, doing some extensive research, I gave it a go and was so pleased with the results. Because all the ingredients, including the pasta, cook together in one pot, the flavors blend incredibly well and the starchiness of the pasta creates a perfectly creamy sauce that will leave you craving seconds and thirdsIs this a good thing or a bad thing?

I was not the only skeptic. Typically when friends and family ask what I am working on, I get the "mmmmm!" or the "Oh, that sounds so good. I can't wait to see your pictures!" When I told people about the One Pot Wonder post, the response was not so typical. Almost universally, people said, "Really? Will that work?" with their noses crunched in mild disgust and eyes wide in disbelief. I knew what they were thinking; I thought the same thing! Would the dish be too starchy? Would the meat overcook or undercook? Would it turn to complete mush? These were legitimate questions!

Here are some general tips that will ensure a perfectly cooked, not too mushy One Pot Wonder result:
  • Rinse the uncooked pasta in cold water before putting it in the pot. It will remove some of the extra starch and keep the dish from getting mushy.
  • Play around with the types of liquid used. Water can be completely or partially replaced by broth, stock, red wine or white wine.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs after cooking to maximize the flavor that the herbs bring to the dish.
  • Grate cheese (where appropriate) over the dish after cooking but before removing from hot pan so it can be incorporated but not cooked.
  • Add peeled and deveined shrimp (or other seafood) to any One Pot Wonder about 2-3 minutes before the cooking process is done. This is just enough time to cook the shrimp fully without being chewy or overdone. The seafood should be raw yet thawed for optimal results.

One Pot Pasta: Tomato and Basil Spaghetti
One Pot Pasta: Tomato and Basil Spaghetti: The chopped artichoke hearts and Kalamata olives give this traditional dish a Mediterranean flair. This is a great meatless Monday option.
One Pot Pasta: Thai Peanut Butter Noodles
One Pot Pasta: Thai Peanut Butter Noodles: I was recently introduced to the idea of adding peanut butter to my pasta noodles by Anna. The creamy peanut butter, fresh veggies, grated ginger and salty Asian flavors all cook together in this life-altering dish. Anna has altered my life. Garnish with fresh torn cilantro and sesame seeds.
One Pot Pasta: Creamy Goat Cheese Orzo Risotto with Butternut Squash and Walnuts
One Pot Pasta: Creamy Goat Cheese Orzo Risotto with Butternut Squash and Walnuts: The creaminess of this dish is off the charts. Oh, I just thought of something....add bacon. YES!
One Pot Pasta: Chicken Rigatoni
One Pot Pasta: Chicken Rigatoni: I've boiled chicken. I've boiled pasta. Why have I never boiled them together in the same pot? Now I have and you should too!
One Pot Pasta: Chicken Taco Rotini
One Pot Pasta: Chicken Taco Rotini: I tacos. I am thrilled about the spice combination in this dish. Although they are super convenient, I am not a huge fan of the pre-packaged taco seasoning packets. They are SO salty and have ingredients that I cannot pronounce. So I made my own and added it to this dish!
One Pot Pasta: Buffalo Chicken
One Pot Pasta: Buffalo Chicken: My love for Buffalo Chicken ANYTHING has been well documented on the blog. See here. Use Marie's Blue Cheese Dressing and Frank's Red Hot Sauce to achieve optimal texture and flavor.
One Pot Pasta: Spaghetti Bolognese
One Pot Pasta: Spaghetti Bolognese: Using any combination of ground meat and/or sausage with some fresh veggies, you won't be disappointed at how quickly such a hearty meal is ready to eat!
One Pot Pasta: Pasta Puttanesca
One Pot Pasta: Pasta Puttanesca: Inspired by the original Pasta Puttanesca recipe, the pasta cooks up directly in the sauce creating a creamier texture with the same salty, nutty flavors. Yum-O!

Top Ate All Time Favorite Desserts

Eight Easy Desserts that Impress a Crowd
May 15, 2014

Everything is my life is now punctuated by naptime. This is something I did not understand before having my own child. My friends' days would completely revolve around naptime.  I always thought, "Come on, does your kid need to nap EVERDAY?" Now, I am living and breathing it. Yes, he needs to nap EVERYDAY and yes, it NEEDS to be at the same time! If I try to push naptime, never mind try to skip it all together (OMG, I can't even imagine), everyone's day is ruined. By everyone, I am not just referring to myself, Quinn and The Hubbster.  I am talking about the elderly lady in the grocery store who rolls her eyes because my kid is screaming or screeching or BOTH.  There's also the young 20-something waitress who cringes at the sight of a complete arm-flailing, leg-kicking temper tantrum while we try to enjoy lunch at a totally kid friendly restaurant. She thinks to herself "When I have kids, they will NEVER behave that way." I know this because I use to be her! Have you seen the Friends Without Kids Video? Hilarious!
For the reasons mentioned above, traditional pastry making and proper baking are generally out of the question. If a dessert takes longer than a naptime to prepare from start to finish, there's no way it's happening. If it requires special baking equipment or ingredients I don't already keep in my pantry, forget about it! I LOVE to bake make desserts, but I don't love to spend all my time and energy perseverating in the kitchen. It's just not worth it! So, to make the list of my Top Ate All Time Favorite Desserts, each recipe needed to feel approachable but also have impressive presentation and knock-your-socks-off flavor.
No-Bake Banana Pudding
No-Bake Banana Pudding: Years ago, Kevin, my dear friend and dedicated blog editor, brought this amazing dessert to a party we both attended. It was love at first taste. I immediately asked for and LOST the recipe. This happened three or four times before I finally had half a brain to store it in my email so it was easily accessible from anywhere. It has become a favorite at several annual parties that my family attends. Kevin, thanks for the years of compliments.
Quick and Easy Blueberry Crisp
Quick and Easy Blueberry Crisp: Rinse, dump and sprinkle. There were two reasons that I was amazed the first time I had this at my stepmother's house. First, she literally spent five minutes preparing it to bake. Second, the crunchy, buttery, sweetness.....OMG. I just decided that I am making this again today. Done.
Best Ever Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Best Ever Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: My mother-in-law has a fantastic repertoire of recipes that would make you drool. Her carrot cake is no exception. Many family members, myself included, request it as their birthday cake each year.  I think I may even go as far to say this is my favorite Roze recipe....well this and her Mac and Cheese.  Ohhhhhh, that Mac and Cheese kills me. Recipe coming soon!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Trifle
Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Trifle: This trifle is one of the first recipes I started making regularly as it was often requested by family and friends. By using a box brownie mix (or if I am feeling lazy I pick up some store made brownies from the bakery department), this dish feels approachable and is easy to whip up in no time! The presentation will make your friends think you spent hours slaving in the kitchen. BUT, you didn't!
Golden Oreo Cupcakes
Golden Oreo Cupcakes: I love Oreos. Who doesn't, right? But, Golden Oreos? Those bad boys are a force to be reckoned with. Up the ante on the classic vanilla cupcake by placing one Golden Oreo in the cupcake liner before scooping in the batter. The cookie will bake right along with the cupcake. Typically I use a homemade cupcake and frosting recipe but I've substituted a box mix and canned frosting when I am in a time crunch. Ninety percent of people won't know the difference!
Peach Crumble
Peach Crumble: I LOVE the crumble part. In fact, I adapted the recipe by doubling the topping. Each time I made this recipe, I prepared slightly more topping until I got to double what the original recipe called for. It's perfect! When I was at Whole Foods today (I go exaggeration), I drooled over the fresh peaches that are JUST starting to come into season.  Even if peaches aren't in season, this recipe can be made with almost any other fruit.  Apple Crumble is typically another crowd-pleasing favorite!
Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Streusel and Cinnamon Frosting
Snickerdoodle Cupcakes with Streusel and Cinnamon Frosting: The Hubbster is not typically a dessert eater. (I know, crazy.) BUT, because of the cinnamon and streusel, he LOVES these cupcakes!  Similar to my Golden Oreo Cupcakes, the homemade cupcake recipe can be substituted for a box mix. The streusel is to die for, so make sure to include it even if you go with a box mix!
Individual Vanilla Cookie Trifles
Individual Vanilla Cookie Trifles: As previously stated, I have my own private relationship with Golden Oreos. Mixing them with butter to make the crust of this trifle goes beyond my wildest dreams.  After serving your guests their own little trifles, they’ll rave about all your “hard work” in the kitchen and never realize that you barely turned on your mixer and never even opened the oven. That's my idea of making dessert!