Killer Key Lime Bites

Looking for a whimsical and light last minute summer dessert- perhaps for that big holiday right around the corner??? Try these individual Killer Key Lime Bites. There’s no worry about making a perfect pie crust because you use limes to hold the filling and you can whip up the key lime pie filling in a few fast steps.

I followed Ina Garten’s recipe for frozen key lime pie for the filling. Then, I substituted large, hollowed out limes to spoon the pie filling into rather than pie crust. You can make these treats ahead of time, pop them in the freezer and serve just as your guests are ready for dessert.

Ingredients
Filling:
6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes)

For the Topping:
1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime wedges
Crumbled graham crackers (crumble right before serving to keep them fresh)

The first step is buying the largest limes you can find. Cut each lime in half and use a juicer to squeeze all of the juice possible out of each half. After the lime is juiced the inside should be fairly empty. You can scoop out the remainder of the lime with a sharp pairing knife or a grapefruit sectioning spoon. The only secret to this step of preparation is a little patience.

Once the inside of the lime is scooped out, place each half in an empty egg container which holds the lime upright for filling. For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Spoon the filling up to the edge of the lime. Top with fresh whipped cream and a touch of lime zest and place your filled egg carton in the freezer. When you are ready to serve the Key Lime Bites, take them out of the freezer and sprinkle fresh graham cracker crumbs on top.

I found the best serving holders for this mini dessert were circular napkin rings. The lime sits perfectly on top. Place each napkin ring on a large elevated cake plate or decorative platter and add a little more zest around the edges to complete the display.

You can also add mini-appetizer spoons to each Key Lime Bite for easy serving and easy eating.

lemon-thyme cake

FullSizeRenderIsn’t it annoying when a recipe calls for a few sprigs of a particular fresh herb and you are essentially left with the full amount? In my case, the culprit was thyme, whose two sprigs capped off my perfect pot roast. Rather than toss the bunch, I decided to try a few different recipes and really max out the versatility of the herb. One such recipe is this scrumptious cake that popped up as soon as I Googled “lemon-thyme cake.” The talented ladies from the blog Spoon Fork Bacon published the original recipe in 2014 and it is a winner.

No one in my family could pass the cake stand without breaking off pieces of the light fluffly deliciousness. We chipped away diligently until all that remained was a smattering of crumbs.

The Lemon-Thyme cake will debut at my sister’s house on Mother’s Day; one cake wrapped for my sister as a thank you for hosting and another cake as an “I Love You” to my mom. I’m picking up white cake boxes and wrapping each one in soft yellow ribbon with sprigs of thyme on top. Personally, I think it’s a gift everyone will enjoy and it comes straight from the heart (and, of course, will be accompanied by a bottle of champagne).

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

Makes 2 (8”) cakes

Cake Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (I used C&H pure granulated sugar and it was fine)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced thyme

Frosting Ingredients
I strayed from the SFB frosting and made a lemon buttercream which was easy and divine, especially with the hint of lemon subtly popping through.

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Lemonthyme1

Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
3. Place sugar, butter and eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together until very thick and combined.
4. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the zest and thyme, until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
5. Gently fold in the zest and thyme until just combined.
6. Pour the batter into two prepared cake pans (bottoms lined with parchment and lightly greased) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
7. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting them cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions
1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
2. Beat in the confectioners sugar, vanilla and lemon juice
3. Beat until well-blended.
4. Fold in the lemon peel just until mixed.
5. Frost each cake layer when cool and assemble.
6. Decorate the top with a few leaves of thyme and a lemon wheel

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

love bites

Love Bites CollageIf there is any chance of denying your kids are growing up right before your eyes, it only takes a holiday or two to make it clear that there has been a shift.

My “babies” are only 16 and 12 but gone is the Valentine’s Day frenzy of candy grams, homemade treats for the class and finding the perfect Valentine’s cards for the big exchange. Perhaps its denial but I refuse to “go gently into that good night,” when it comes to my maturing babes and ANY holiday. When they are grown with families of their own, I want them to remember their childhood home as a place of tradition and celebration – no matter their age.

So for the past few years, I have made them their own Valentine’s Day celebration replete with decorations and a decadent amount of treats and sweets. I call this little party, “Love Bites,” because each morsel is filled with love (and of course, you can’t overlook the fact that sometimes, love DOES bite).

Love Bites Menu

The first year I created “Love Bites,” it was a wild-haired idea that came to me about an hour before school pick-up. I dashed to the store and bought heart-shaped cookies, nuts, conversation hearts, caramels, strawberries and whipped cream. It wasn’t a fancy display but I knew from the looks on their faces, it wasn’t about the fancy, it was about making an unexpected and special gesture just for them. Don’t think over the top if you create your own Love Bites table, just keep it simple and real – for whoever you’re loving.

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Click HERE for recipe

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

 

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Click HERE for recipe

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

 

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

 

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

 

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

 

Food alone won't fill your table - pay attention to the special touches

Food alone won’t fill your table – pay attention to the special touches

Happy Valentine’s Day!

tamale making party

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What better way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo than with a group of friends making tamales. A few girlfriends and I embarked on this tradition four years ago. Originally, December seemed like a good time for this endeavor so we could serve tamales during the holidays. We picked a day right before the Winter recess when all of our kids would still be in school. A memorable day was spent side-by-side, filling, wrapping and steaming our bundles of deliciousness. We each went home with overflowing trays of tamales (they freeze very well).

Ready to Steam Away.

READY TO BE FILLED WITH STEAMING TAMALES

Despite our efforts, the “holiday” tamale making party fell by the wayside until we determinedly resurrected it this year. Acknowledging that the holidays were NOT an ideal time for this endeavor, we decided to plan it for “ski week” in February when schedules and obligations calmed a bit. We had a relaxing and chatter-filled day, with tamales steaming in every kind of stock pot we could find. And we each commented that the process was so easy, we didn’t know why we waited so long to do it again.

Like anything in life, the experience is what you make of it. You don’t have to follow any steadfast rules about what goes in the tamales. There are the traditonal favorites but you can be as creative as you like. There were three of us so we each brought a filling. I made a spicy shredded beef in the slow cooker. Another friend made a chicken and chile version she found online and our third friend made a vegetarian version with roasted peppers, roasted corn and black beans. The key is to ensure your fillings have enough liquid so the tamales don’t dry out after steaming. Every version was delicious and made with love, creativity and friendship.

USE PREPARED MASA WHICH IS READY TO GO

USE PREPARED MASA WHICH IS READY TO GO AND GLUTEN FREE!

You never need a reason to celebrate friendship or good food but Cinco De Mayo seems as good a time as any.

Basic Ingredients
10 pounds of “prepared” Masa. You can purchase this at most Mexican restaurants that make tamales. Be sure to ask for it “prepared” or you will get a bag of flour like substance.
3 pounds of cooked spicy shredded beef (click here for easy slow cooker recipe)
3 pounds of cooked chicken and chili (click here for easy slow cooker recipe)
1 to 2 pounds of vegetarian mixture
2 to 3 bags of tamale husks (purchase at any Mexican market, Smart & Final or Mexican restaurant)
3 to 4 large stock pots with steamers
Aluminum trays
Tongs

EVERYONE GETS A JOB - ASSEMBLY LINE STYLE

EVERYONE GETS A JOB – ASSEMBLY LINE STYLE

Basic Directions
Prep and make your filling the day before, especially the shreeded beef which cooks for 8 to 10 hours in the slow cooker. Soak corn husks in warm water the night before.

On tamale making day, create an assembly line and have each friend responsible for a step in the process. Make sure you remove the tamale husks from water and pat them dry with a paper towel (they will still be slightly damp).

Lay the tamale husk flat (it will naturally fold up a little bit). Spread about one cup of the prepared Masa on the tamale husk. Use a spatula or large spoon to spread the Masa about 3/4 up the tamale husk. Place a large serving spoon size of your prepared filling on the Masa. Fold the tamale up from the bottom first, and then roll each side in so you have a nice little pouch. Tie the top of the tamale with strings pulled from some of the tamale husks (the texture is similar to a thick raffia ribbon).

Lay each uncooked tamale on a cutting board or tray and pile them up. When you have 15 to 20, line the inside of your stock pot with the tamales. Make sure they are standing straight up with the ties at the top. You want to pack them in the stock pot.

ALL TIED UP AND READY TO BE STEAMED

ALL TIED UP AND READY TO BE STEAMED

Make sure the tamales are standing on a steamer and that you have enough water in the bottom of the pot. Steam on high heat for 90 minutes (YES – 90 MINUTES). This is why we like to have bunches of tamales ready to be steamed. If you can have 3 to 4 stock pots ready to go, you can steam 45 to 60 tamales at the same time.

Once the tamales are finished steaming, remove from heat, place in the aluminum trays (be sure to mark the different types of tamales – beef, chicken, veg) and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. When you are ready to eat, unwrap the tamale from the tamale husk and dig in!!!

STAND TAMALES UP AND PACK THEM IN. STEAM FOR 90 MINUTES

STAND TAMALES UP AND PACK THEM IN – STEAM FOR 90 MINUTES

When you are ready to divide them up, we find that large freezer type Ziplock bags work best. The tamales will keep in your refrigerator for about a week or you can freeze them. To re-heat, simply microwave them for a few minutes or re-steam for about 10 to 15 minutes until warmed through.

TAKE YOUR PICK...

TAKE YOUR PICK…

Tamales really are easy to make. Even if you have a few that don’t turn out or make a mistake, you will get the hang of it and feel like a pro by the end of the day. I can’t wait for next year – we all have some new and fun ideas for the fillings. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

EVERYONE GOES HOME WITH TAMALES

EVERYONE GOES HOME WITH TAMALES

[gal] entine’s day lunch

Galentine's 1 CollageAhhhhh…the month of LOVE. Yes, there are reminders and not so subtle hints everywhere we look. And while we have no shortage of love or devotion for our spouses, there are those people in our lives that fill a special place.

I, for one, would be lost without the love, dedication, spirit, sarcasm, thoughtfulness and humor of my girlfriends. If you think about it, we have girlfriends wherever we turn. Not every single one has to be a BFF. There is a certain camaraderie, understanding and sympathy from the ladies in our lives. Maybe it’s the school receptionist you share an orthodontist story with while signing out your child for yet another appointment. Maybe it’s the woman standing behind you in line at the grocery store as you commiserate about the challenge of getting a hot and relatively healthy meal on the table for your family. Maybe it’s a stranger you encounter in the dressing room at Nordstrom asking for your opinion… Girlfriends are all around us and should be CELEBRATED.

We hosted a Galentine’s Lunch for some special GALS we are lucky enough to call girlfriends….Whatever you do this February 14th, be sure to give some love to the girlfriends that give it back to you time and time again {our Galentine’s Lunch recipes will be on the blog this Friday}. Follow this easy, step-by-step guide to create your own unique Valentine’s day occasion…

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Galentine's Lead 5

 

Galentine's Lead 6

 

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superbowl bloody mary bar

Bloody Mary Bronco Style

Across America this weekend, Superbowl Sunday is sure to be filled with scrumptious gut-busting food and lots of beer (can’t wait for this year’s commercials). In honor of Sunday’s “big game,” we veered off the beer path and created a Bloody Mary Bar that pays homage to each football team. I love the Bloody Mary because there are no rules. Start with a base of tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix and vodka and layer in your creativity from there. I used Mr. & Mrs. T’s in regular and in a Bold and Spicy version. Create your own specialty Bloody Mary or stick with the traditional – you really can’t go wrong with this festive cocktail that personifies a relaxing Sunday.

Colorado and Denver are known for a lot of things in the way of cuisine, especially good meat and spicy food. Our “Denver Broncos” Bloody Mary features Mr. & Mrs. T’s Bold and Spicy Bloody Mary mix, Greygoose vodka, a crisp piece of center cut bacon paired with a sliced yellow pepper, a mini vine-ripened orange tomato, a crisp celery stalk and then lightly sprinkled with a pinch of black Alder Smoked salt.

Bloody Mary Denver Broncos Style

Bloody Mary – Denver Broncos Style

Washington and Seattle are known for equally delicious food traditions with the focus falling on seafood. Our “Seattle Seahawks” Bloody Mary features Mr. & Mrs. T’s regular Bloody Mary mix and Greygoose vodka which is then garnished with a green tomato, Pacific Sea salt and a mini shrimp corn dog (so yummy and easy – mini shrimp corn dogs are carried by Trader Joe’s). Serve a side of Sweet Chili dipping sauce with the mini shrimp corn dogs.

Bloody Mary Seattle Seahawk Style

Bloody Mary – Seattle Seahawks Style

Bloody Mary Basics

Whether you choose to theme your Bloody Mary bar or not, there are some basic Ingredients to include:
Bloody Mary Mix or Tomato juice
Vodka
Crushed ice
Tabasco
Hot sauce
Horseradish
Garnish of your choice: fresh cut celery, cornichons, pickles, stuffed olives, pickled green beans, lemons, limes, capers, small tomatoes and salt
Stirring sticks
Large wooden toothpicks
Straws

Final Bloody Mary Collage

take time to smell the apples

Julian Lead CollageChristi and I chose an idyllic fall day to embark on the All-American “seasonal” pastime of apple-picking.

Having a short-window in southern California for showcasing our winter wardrobes, we busted out our scarves, boots and hats and hit the open road. Armed with steaming coffee, a basketful of road trip snacks and two teenagers in the back to help us capture all of our candid apple-picking shots, we looked forward to the day ahead.

Our destination was Julian, California which is a small rustic town located in the mountains one hour east of San Diego. Julian’s roots date back to the 1870’s and the Gold Rush days. Today Julian is most famous for apples and scrumptious apple pie but attracts visitors who enjoy its charming appeal, multiple offerings from afternoon tea to wine tasting to mining tours, and its four seasons, a rarity in southern California.

A little more than two hours into our drive, we pulled into a quaint orchard, instantly noticing ours was the only car in the gravelly lot. With our enthusiasm still at full mast, we strode into the office to get our apple-picking baskets envisioning ourselves gracefully plucking apples from hundred year-old trees.

We were met by a tall gentleman working at the orchard who informed us, apple picking season is over and the orchard is closed.” Not to be discouraged and hoping to slightly ingratiate ourselves, we listened attentively to a very detailed explanation of apple-picking, why the season ends, when the season begins, how sustainable farming works, etc., etc… We in turn talked about our blog, the drive we made all the way out here and how we really, really, really needed to pick apples. We might have begged a little. I’m pretty sure we did. But you know, it takes five NO’s to get to a YES and we got our YES.

Julian Final 3

Christi and I scampered out to the orchard and filled our bags with apples of all sizes and colors from golden to deep red. And let me tell you, the apples are delicious – crunchy, crisp, full of flavor and possibility. We finished our picking and hopped back in the car to explore Julian. It is a charming and quaint town with a pace that feels unhurried. We strolled up and down the main street, ate lunch in a cute bistro and headed home. On the way out of town we hit the Julian Pie Company with thoughts of Thanksgiving and beautiful pies (check that off the list) being served for dessert.
Julian Collage 2

Having lived in California my whole life, the visit to Julian was a completely new experience. What a little treasure right in our own backyard. The slow pace, tranquil setting, beautiful scenery and quality “friend” time made it worth the trip…apple-picking season or NOT!

If you plan on visiting Julian, we recommend you visit during the “Julian Apple Days,” and have an idea of which orchards you want to visit (see orchard guide here). The Apple Days coincide with the fall harvest of the Julian apples which occur from September through Mid-October or “whenever all the apples are gone!

This week on Cashmere Apron, we will feature two of our favorite recipes made with our very own, hand-picked Julian apples!

love your holiday table

Final HolidayTable CollageI love having people over. I don’t have an explanation for this passion other than that’s how I was raised. My parents entertained ALL THE TIME. I can still picture my mom and dad writing out their menus, planning the evening, setting the table and welcoming guests with warmth and humor. My dad never started an evening without fresh ice in a silver bucket on his bar. I can hear the crisp liquid over crackling ice as he whipped up martinis, vodka tonics and scotch on the rocks. I suppose I strive to create that same magic and comfort guests felt in my home growing up.

And here we are on the precipice of another holiday season. Despite all the wonder and joy of the next few months, at times it feels like a game of survival as entertaining goes into overdrive. To combat my stress levels from going to DEFCON 5, I find a plan is helpful- a plan which includes a “go-to” theme and menu for those special holiday nights.

When Christi (the other half of Cashmere Apron who currently resides in Florida), visited a few weeks ago, I put together a simple and rustic themed table and a meal that I can easily roll with into the holidays.

So this week at Cashmere Apron, we are presenting you with one simple entertaining idea- from table and decor to a three-course meal that serves ten. Today’s post is all about setting your table.

Setting a Rustic Dinner Table
10 naturally woven chargers (I found these at Big Lots)
10 cardboard coasters
Felt Letters (I had these leftover from a school project but purchased them at Michael’s)
Gold sparkle spray paint
2 yards of natural fabric
2 yards of thick burlap ribbon (try to find a pattern or design to add interest)

Entertain Collage 1
10 wine glasses (use a variety of styles, sizes and colors. Pier 1 has a great selection and they usually have sale racks)
2 classic looking bottles of Chianti
Candelabra wine bottle topper (I found mine at a local wine store and each candelabra holds 4 taper candles)
4 to 8 off-white, unscented taper candles

Entertainment Collage 3

White or neutral dinner plates
10 cloth napkins (use a few different colors and patterns but stay toward the neutral)
Fresh Rosemary
Lots of Lemons
Variety of vases, large and small
White roses or white flower of your choice (we all have our favs but think natural and simple beauty)
A few stems of lavender or purple sage
Inspiring quotes on ______________ (fill in the blank to fit your occasion). For my dinner party I used inspiring quotes on friendship

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“May The {Entertaining} Odds be Ever in Your Favor.”
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