Strawberry Balsamic Tart

This is probably one of my favorite desserts evah!!

Sweet, juicy strawberries, 
tart balsamic vinegar, 
and creamy, sweet mascarpone filling
all on a puff pastry crust!!

(Please don't lick the screen.)

There is absolutely nothing that I like more than a fancy-schmancy dessert.
I love when it not only tastes great, 
but looks absolutely mouthwatering.
This dessert satisfied both of my fancy-o-meter requirements and did not disappoint.

Strawberry Balsamic Tart

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 tablespoon water
2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest, divided
2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
14 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry sheet to fit either a rectangular or circular tart pan.  Trim edges to fit pan.  Prick puff pastry with fork.  Mix lightly whisked egg with water and brush pastry with egg wash.  Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

To make the filling:
In a large bowl, add the strawberries, sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.  Stir to combine and set aside.  Allow strawberries to macerate for 1 hour.

Mix together the mascarpone cheese, vanilla, remaining orange zest, and remaining lemon juice with a hand-held mixer until well combined.  Refrigerate.

To make the balsamic glaze:
Strain the strawberries, retaining the juice and pour into a small saucepan.  Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until strawberry juice and balsamic vinegar make a thick syrup (approximately 8-10 minutes).  

To assemble the tart:
Spread the mascarpone mixture over the tart.  Top with strawberries.  Drizzle the strawberry-balsamic syrup over the tart.


Thirsty Thursday-Watermelon Limeades

Nothing says summer like watermelon.
(You've got to put it in an ice chest covered in ice, slice it, and salt it like there's no tomorrow--
that's the perfect melon!)

Growing up my Poppaw grew tons of watermelons.
I always think of him everytime I buy a melon.
He would sell them on the side of the road in our little home town.
Now, whenever I see someone selling watermelons by the side of the road, 
I feel obliged to stop and buy one.

These are usually the best ones, too.

I knew this week I was going to have to come up with a watermelon cocktail in honor of my Poppaw and summer.
(Poppaw didn't drink--very strict Southern Baptist, but I don't think he will judge--
he was crazy about me!!)

 This particular watermelon was exceptionally sweet.
I thought that it would be perfect paired with lime.
I wanted to "kind of" copy the wonderfulness that is
(My favorite drink stop.)
and recreate a limeade (also my favorite).

Sweet and tart--a great flavor combo.

Watermelon Limeade

makes 1 cocktail

6 ounces watermelon juice
3 ounces vodka
3 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup (to taste--depending on the sweetness of your melon)
lime wedge for garnish

Juice watermelon in a juicer or liquify in a blender.  In a cocktail shaker, filled with ice, add the watermelon juice, vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup.  Shake until well mixed and pour into a chilled glass or over ice.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

**This drink is meant to be tart, however add sweetener according to your taste.


Sausage Stuffed Boneless Chicken Wings

I am so proud to admit this,
 I have the best job in the whole wide world.

I get to meet and treat the most wonderful patients every day.
I really couldn't ask for a better way to earn a paycheck.

My patient's have illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease, cancer, and strokes.
They are full of life and make you so proud to call them not only patient, but friend.

I even have patients that follow this little 'ol blog and some of them are true foodies.
This recipe is from one of my super-awesome patients.
He is so interesting and imaginative.
He loves to talk about grilling and cooking and he and his wife even wrote a cookbook.

I changed up his original recipe a little,
opting for grilling instead of frying and adding a little more spice.
But, the end result is tasty and oh, so good.

So I have to share one thing about the recipe...
the most difficult part was deboning the chicken wings.
But I tell you I felt like a BOSS when I accomplished this.
(If you find this too difficult, just ask your butcher to do for you or you can even google it.
There are tons of tutorials on it.)

Sausage Stuffed Boneless Chicken Wings

For the stuffing:
12 ounces spicy ground sausage
2 tablespoons green chilies, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 tablespoon green onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg lightly beaten

3 dozen chicken wings, deboned**

For the sauce:
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
4 cloves garlic, finely minced

Chopped peanuts for garnish

Mix all ingredients for the stuffing together in a large bowl and refrigerate.

**To debone the chicken wings:  Remove the small drumstick and reserve for another use.
Bend the middle section bones back and forth at the bone connection between the middle section and the tip section.  Take a paring knife and scrape all the meat from the bones in the middle section toward the tip section.  After that has been completed, remove and discard the bones.  Do not remove the skin or cut the skin on the middle section. 

Take the stuffing in a spoon and stuff the middle section completely.  After you stuff the wing, return to the refrigerator, repeating the process until all of the wings have been stuffed.

To make the sauce, mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat your grill to 400 degrees.  Place wings on a lightly oiled surface to prevent sticking.

Grill until done, approximately 20 minutes.

Top with the sauce and garnish with chopped peanuts.


Thirsty Thursday--Frozen Coconut Margaritas

I don't know what my deal is lately with tropical fruit.
I guess I'm dreaming of vacation on some tropical island,
but every time I wander through the grocery store I end up in the produce section filling up my cart.

This past weekend I walked past the Creme of Coco (very cleverly displayed, by the way) and it called to me.
Literally, the can told me to run home and whip up a decadent Coconut Margarita.

(Who am I to argue with that little blue can and I definitely can't argue with tequila...
I always agree with tequila.)

I've actually never had a coconut margarita before.
I've had my share of coconut daiquiris and pina coladas,
but never a coconut margarita.

Yes, I've heard the song
"You put the lime in the coconut",
but I've never actually done it.

I absolutely loved it.
The only thing missing from this cocktail is the paper umbrella and you would swear you were listening to the waves crash against the beach.
It's that good.

Frozen Coconut Margaritas

Printable Recipe

(makes 4 margaritas)

1 can Creme de Coco
1/4 cup coconut water
12 ounces silver tequila (I used Casa Noble--my favorite)
4 ounces Grand Marnier
8 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
(simple syrup to taste--depending on how sweet you like it)
crushed ice, 2-3 cups
lime wedges for garnish

In a large blender, combine the Creme de Coco, coconut water, tequila, Grand Marnier, and lime juice. Pulse just until blended.  Taste and add simple syrup if you would like them sweeter.  Next add the crushed ice and blend.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

(I tried this margarita rimmed with salt, sugar,and a combination of the two, but found that I liked it best plain.)


A Few Patio Updates

This time of year we spend most of our time outside...
grilling, working in the yard, or just hanging out.

I absolutely love spring time and The Mister has really made our garden lush and inviting.

We undertook a few new projects and made some additions, big and small.

The first thing that we did this year was add to our existing pea gravel and flagstone patio.
We decided that we wanted to have a spot for our little glass topped table out in the yard.

I really like how it turned out and it gives us even more entertaining area.

We also removed a bed of azaleas around our huge River Birch tree and replaced them with 
The Mister's Buddha Bed.

We are beyond excited with the end result of this bed.

We have 3 different varieties of Japanese Maples (Tamukeyama, Crimson Queen, and Waterfall) and a Traveller Weeping Redbud tree.
We also added perennials and lots of color.

This fish fountain (originally from my Mother-In-Law's backyard) adds a perfect spot of color and provides a habitat for a wide variety of visitors.

Irises, umbrella plant, and potted herbs.

We made a few changes on the covered patio area including a new-to-us glider, a new chair and ottoman, and some peacock blue cushions.

I'm seriously in love with the color.

Everything is really starting to grow and bloom,
really making me want to be outside more and more.

I've linked up to

Thirsty Thursday--Pineapple Mojitos

Do you ever smell something and become instantly obsessed?
Or is that just me?

Well, the other day, 
I was shopping (surprise) and I picked up a candle and was overwhelmed at the heavenly scent of pineapple and mint.
I instantly thought--Pineapple Mojito.

I immediately went to the store...
bought a pineapple...
got out the really good Rum...
and made a super fabulous makes-me-think-of summer cocktail.

This cocktail makes me really happy.
It is light, fresh, and very tropical.

The next time I go here,
I'm having one of these.

Why, oh why can't my job be inventing cocktails on a tropical island.
(St. Thomas--by the way)
I was born for that job!!

Pineapple Mojito
(makes 1 cocktail)

1/4 cup fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces (save a piece for garnish)
6-8 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, cut in half
1 teaspoon sugar
3 ounces rum
lemon-lime soda or club soda
mojito sugar
lime wedge
mint sprig

In a cocktail shaker, combine the pineapple, mint leaves, lime, and sugar.  Muddle until well mixed. Add the rum.  Add ice and shake until well blended.  Pour into a glass rimmed with mojito sugar.
Top with lemon-lime soda or club soda.   Garnish with a piece of pineapple, lime wedge, and a sprig of mint.

Mojito Sugar

1/4 cup sugar
zest of one lime
1 teaspoon minced mint leaves

Mix all ingredients in place in an airtight jar.  Store up to 3 months.


Spring Salad with Bacon, Cucumber, and White Wine Vinaigrette

I don't know about you,
but I always order the salad to start my meal when I'm eating out.
There is something about starting a fancy meal with a fancy salad that makes me happy.

I love when it has lots of ingredients, textures, and flavors.
No plain jane salads for this girl.

I made this salad this Easter and it was so easy,
but really satisfied my needs for texture, flavor, and presentation.

Spring Salad with Bacon, Cucumber, and White Wine Vinaigrette
(adapted from Southern Living)

Serves 6

For the salad:

3 medium cucumbers
3 cups spring mix baby greens
3 cooked thick-cut bacon slices, halved
1/3 shredded carrots
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3 tablespoons pecans, roasted
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, cut cucumber into thin strips.  Discard core.  Shape cucumber slices into rings.  Secure with a toothpick and stand upright on 4 serving plates.

Fill each cucumber ring with greens, carrots, cherry tomatoes, shallots, pecans, cheese, and piece of bacon.  

To make the vinaigrette:

Whisk together 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and next 3 ingredients until well blended.  Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth.  Whisk in salt and pepper to taste.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week.


Coconut Cream Meringue Cake

This is a super fancy-schmancy cake.
I'm not playing.

It's a work of art.
I absolutely love everything about this cake.
I think you will too.

Six thin layers of cake with unbelievable vanilla coconut filling...
all topped with gorgeous browned meringue.


I first made this cake long before my blogging days for my father-in-law's birthday.
I've made it again for birthdays, holidays, and this time I made it on Easter.

It is my ultimate decadent cake.

(I have to warn you that when you read the recipe you might get a little shell-shocked.
This is not a quick cake.
I usually make the cake the night before,
assemble it and refrigerate,
and make the meringue the next day.
This makes the whole process somewhat easier and results in a super moist cake.)

Coconut Cream Meringue Cake
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Printable Recipe

Serves 16

For the cake:
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken and at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, scraped
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature

For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
1 ounce unsalted butter, softened
1 vanilla bean, scraped
pinch kosher salt

For the meringue:
3 cups sugar
10 large egg whites, at room temperature

To make the cake:
Position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare six 9x2-inch round cake pans and line each with a parchment round.  Butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk and vanilla.

In a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add about one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low speech until incorporated.  Add half of the coconut milk and mix until incorporated.  Continue adding the flour mixture and coconut milk, alternating the two and ending with the flour.  Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated.  Pour the batter into a large bowl.

In a clean mixer bowl and using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.  Using a spatula, gently stir a large spoonful of the whites into the batter to loosen it, and then fold the remaining egg whites gently into the batter.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans.  Level the batter with a spatula.  Stagger the pans on the racks so that no pan is directly over another (You will probably want to bake in batches unless you have two ovens).  Bake until the center of the cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total. (Rotate and swap the pans after 15 minutes if baking in 1 oven.)  Cool on racks for 10 minutes.  Inverts the cakes onto the racks, remove the parchment, and cool completely.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups of the cream and egg yolks.

Combine the sugar and flour in a medium saucepan.  Add the cream mixture and cook, whisking, over medium heat until smooth, 2 minutes.  Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking until thickened to a pudding consistency, 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the coconut, butter, vanilla, and salt and let cool to room temperature.

With an electric hand mixer, whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks.  With a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the filling.

To assemble the cake:

Put a cake layer on a flat serving platter lined with strips of waxed paper to keep it clean while icing. Top the layer with 1/5 of the filling, spreading it evenly.  Repeat the next 4 layers.  Top with last cake layer.

To make the meringue:

Put the sugar and egg whites in the metal bowl of a stand mixer (make sure it's clean) and set over a pot of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until the sugar melts completely, 3 to 4 minutes.  Rub a small amount between your fingers to make sure all of the sugar grains have melted.

Transfer the bowl to the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk at low speed until the mixture becomes completely opaque and begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.  Raise the speed to medium and beat until thickened to soft peaks that barely hold their shape and flop over when the beater is lifted, 5 to 7 minutes.  Finally raise the speed to high and beat until glossy and thickened to medium-firm peaks that stand up stiffly, but curl slightly at the tip when the beater is lifted, about 4 minutes more.

Using an offset spatula, apply the meringue thickly over the entire cake.  Then poke you fingertips into the meringue into spikes all over the cake.  Remove the wax paper.

Brown the meringue by holding a kitchen torch 2 to 3 inches from the meringue and waving the flame over the cake until it's browned all over.


Roasted Corn and Jalapeno Guacamole and a Margarita Round-Up

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, 
I thought that I would share one of my favorite adaptations to my Ultimate Guacamole...

Roasted corn and jalapeno.

It turns my Ultimate Guacamole into Super Guacamole.

By adding the roasted corn and jalapeno the guacamole becomes a little smokier and sweeter.

Roasted Corn and Jalapeno Guacamole

4 large avocados
1 small purple onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, roasted, seeded and minced
2 ears corn, roasted, kernels removed
20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 -1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lime
cilantro (optional)

To prepare the avocados--remove the pits and dice in the skin.  Use a spoon to scoop the avocado from the skin. Place in a large bowl.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, corn, and cherry tomatoes.  Stir to combine.  Add the cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cilantro (if using--I usually leave it out because my husband doesn't really like it) and lime juice.  Stir to combine.  Taste and add remaining salt if needed.

Margarita Round-Up
If you are looking for a Margarita recipe to celebrate this festive holiday, 
I've got a few for you...
18 to be exact.

Here are a few of my favorites.
Blood Orange, Sour Apple, Strawberry, Blueberry, Pineapple Jalapeno, St. Germain, and Lemonade.

Make sure to stop by my cocktails page for all my Margarita Recipes.


Thirsty Thursday--Lemonade Margaritas

I had originally planned for these super delicious little margaritas to be shared last week.
I had made a batch of my lemonade and had a little left over.
And since I'm a margarita addict,
 I thought why not lemon instead of lime.

Lemonade + tequila = perfect combo

after looking at the pictures that I took of them I decided that maybe I shouldn't drink margaritas while photographing them!!

Lesson learned.

So I decided to sacrifice and make a few more of these tasty treats so that they could be shared this week.
I know, I'm a giver.


(I waited until I took the pictures and then they were downed!!)

Lemonade Margaritas

Makes 1 margarita

3 ounces lemonade
3 ounces tequila (I used Casa Noble Silver--my fave)
1 ounce Grand Marnier
a few dashes of Orange Bitters

Garnish with lemon sugar**, salt, and a slice of lemon.

Combine the lemonade, tequila, and Grand Marnier in a cocktail shaker full of ice.  Mix well and pour into a glass rimmed with lemon sugar, salt, and a slice of lemon.  Add a few dashes of Orange Bitters.

Add a little more lemon juice if your lemonade is overly sweet. 

**Lemon Sugar-combine 1/4 cup sugar with zest of 1 lemon.  Allow to sit for 1 week.