Sunshine Blogger Award

A while back, I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award by Sa from Culture Shocks. Thank you so much for the nomination! I wish I could have gotten to this sooner. It really means a lot though and I always appreciate the support. Be sure to take a moment and check out her blog! Below are the rules for how the award works.

Rules

  1. Thank your nominator and provide a link to his/her blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator.
  3. Nominate other bloggers by commenting on one of their posts and providing a link to their blog.
  4. Write the nominees 11 new questions.
  5. Write the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award.

Answers

  • What are your plans for the the summer? I’m casually working three jobs, applying to veterinary school, competing at horse shows, and getting married in 55 days! Enough to keep me busy to say the least.
  • What place in the world would you want to visit? Italy, Iceland, and Banff National Park to name a few. Even though travelling is super stressful for me, there’s a ton of places I want to go!
  • Which book had an impact on your life? The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein makes me really wonder if my dog can understand everything I tell her.
  • If you were an animal, what animal would you be? My go-to answer for this question is always a horse because they’re my favorite and I kind of eat like a horse (i.e. apples, carrots, watermelon, bananas, kiwi etc). But if you ask my fiancé , I think he’d tell you I’m much more of a koala 🙂
Jenna Suzanne Photography
  • What is your favorite memory from your childhood? Oh man, I could go on for a long time on these! But when we were little, my mom would take bike trips to Vermont in the summer and our dad would stay home with us. My mom would get us disposable cameras and bury them in the yard for us to find with a scavenger hunt. Then we could take pictures of our fishing adventures and shenanigans while she was gone.
  • What is your creative style? If you’re curious, here’s a quiz! For me, creativity is a release.
  • What have you done to pursue your dreams lately? How about today? Lately, I’ve been working on my application to veterinary school and all my jobs are animal related, so I’m getting a lot of experience that way.
  • When you think of your home, what immediately comes to mind? Home? If I’m wrapped up in Daniel’s arms, I’m there 🙂
Jenna Suzanne Photography
  • Describe the greatest adventure of your life? After graduating high school, Lauren and I traveled solo to Costa Rica to stay with family friends. It was really fun to experience a culture that is so drastically different from Wisconsin. If you haven’t been there already, I highly recommend! You can read more about our adventure here!
  • When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? A few weeks ago, I had to learn to drive the ATV at work. That’s scary stuff. But I did it anyway because A) I was told to and B) the comfort zone is not a place for growth!

Nominees

Questions

  1. Who or what inspired you to start blogging?
  2. What is a stereotype that you break?
  3. What is a recipe you’ve always wanted to try?
  4. What is something you love about your hometown?
  5. What is something you wish more people in society understood?
  6. When was a time that your determination really paid off?
  7. Describe the best prank you’ve ever pulled. (Or one that’s been pulled on you!)
  8. Tell about a favorite family tradition.
  9. What is one skill you think everyone should know how to do?
  10. What is your favorite type of music? Why does it appeal to you?
  11. What is something you want to learn to do?

Thanks again for the nomination and I can’t wait to read all the responses to these questions! Happy blogging! 🙂

–Rachel Alexandra

Fresh Strawberry Pie

May. School was finally out! I woke up early to the fresh summer breeze rustling through my curtains as the sun tried to peek through. Birds sang in the woods nearby. Summer was not a time for sleeping in. I went outside for my morning chores, feeding the dog, chickens, and pony. On my way back inside to enjoy my breakfast on the back porch, I made sure to peek in the strawberry beds. The blossoms were gradually forming into berries–it wouldn’t be long!

By the end of May, the first ripe strawberry would appear. Of course Lauren and I would argue over who got the first one…or we’d have to cut it in half. But as we got into June, berries were in full swing and we couldn’t seem to keep up with them! My mom bustled around the kitchen making jam, muffins, mascarpone pie, and strawberry rhubarb coffeecake. We’d pile them on pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or just eat them straight out of the patch. But you couldn’t call it June in our house without a fresh strawberry pie!

Note: this pie is best enjoyed on the back porch during thunderstorms on a cool summer night.

An essential part of this recipe is using a pie crust from scratch. I’m still perfecting my technique and don’t really have a recipe because I learned from my grandma who goes by guess! But I hope to master the art of pie crusts soon and share the recipe when I have it!

Ingredients

Pie

1 9-inch homemade pie crust, baked

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (local and organic is best)

1/3 cup raw honey

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tbs cornstarch

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp butter

Whipped Cream

8 oz. heavy cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Pie

Take half of the strawberries and cut off the stems. Then arrange the berries on the baked pie crust, hull side down.

In a saucepan, put the rest of the strawberries, honey, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Cook on medium/low until combined and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Allow the sauce to cool before pouring over the strawberries and pie crust. Chill before serving with homemade whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks begin to form. Slowly add the vanilla and sugar and continue whipping until it reaches desired consistency. Scoop a generous dollop on a slice of pie and enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Salmon with Roasted Asparagus

Today I want to share a new salmon recipe that’s perfect for this time of year when asparagus is in season! This is also a great option for Friday night if you’re craving fish, but want a heart-healthy option instead of beer-battered fish fry. It’s a very simple recipe, super quick, but loaded with flavor! If you want to work ahead and get even more flavor, you could try marinating the salmon with the lemon and garlic beforehand.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Asparagus

1 bunch fresh asparagus

1 clove garlic

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Salmon

2 large wild caught salmon fillets (or four small ones)

2 cloves garlic

1 small lemon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice asparagus into 4 inch spears and arrange on a baking sheet. Mince one clove of garlic and sprinkle on the asparagus. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, rotating the pieces every 15 minutes. Cooking time varies based on the size of asparagus.

While the asparagus is roasting, prepare the salmon. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (if not non-stick) and lightly grease with olive oil. Mince two cloves of garlic and zest the lemon. Place salmon fillets in the pan skin down. Sprinkle with garlic and lemon zest. Then squeeze the lemon juice on the salmon and add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The fillets should be opaque and flaky when done. Enjoy!

Cappuccino Cheesecake

It’s finally here! Cappuccino cheesecake! I was hoping to get this brand new recipe published early this week, but finals got the best of me. Looking back, I think my biggest accomplishment this semester was not “procrasto-baking”…not too much anyway. But if you’re looking for an excuse to procrasto-bake, then this is your opportunity!

My fiancé and I baked this cheesecake a couple weeks ago and it was a huge hit (My mom even says it’s her favorite one yet!) It starts with a buttery graham cracker crust with a creamy, coffee infused filling and topped with chocolate ganache. 😋

As always with recipes involving coffee, I’m going to recommend Purity Coffee. You can learn more about why this is the only coffee I buy here and they also have tons of awesome, science-packed info on their website. Enjoy 10% off your first order with promo code ROOTS!

Crust

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup melted butter

Filling

1 cup white chocolate chips*

2 Tbs. butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese (room temperature)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup coffee reduction

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Ganache

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. butter

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted coconut oil/butter.

Put the graham crackers in a food processor and grind until they are just small crumbs. Add the sugar and pulse a few more times.

In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted coconut oil or butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Prepare the coffee reduction using this recipe. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled white chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, coffee reduction, and salt. Use an electric mixture to mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Be sure not to use the slowest setting and do not over mix.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, let the cheesecake cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to overnight.

While the cheesecake is cooling, it’s time to start the ganache! Measure the chocolate and set aside in glass bowl. Over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to boil. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Pour the cream and butter over the chocolate chips and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir the mixture until the ganache becomes homogeneous. Pour over cake and smooth with offset spatula. Allow ganache to cool before serving. Enjoy!

Tips

*When selecting white chocolate, make sure it actually contains cocoa butter and is free from hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors. (I get mine at Trader Joe’s.)

It’s important to make sure the base of of the spring-form pan is right side up. However, even if it is, it’s still possible for butter to leak out the bottom. To prevent a major mess, line a baking sheet with foil and place it under the cake pan.

Allow the cream cheese to reach room temperature before use so that it mixes smoothly. It will also help prevent the need to over-mix which can cause the cheesecake to cave in.

Whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but you just have to trust me on this one! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

But in the unfortunate event that the cake does cave in, all is not lost! The ganache will make it less noticeable and it will still taste great!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

Baked Asparagus Risotto

You always know when it’s spring in my family because that’s when there’s fresh, wild asparagus incorporated into nearly every dish. Asparagus was never something we would buy at the store when I was growing up since we always had so much of it growing around our property. Because of that, we only ate it seasonally, but we sure made the most out of asparagus season!

Sometimes we would just have it grilled or steamed with melted butter on top. Other times it would be pureed in asparagus soup or added to my mom’s famous veggie lasagna (hopefully a post on this coming soon). But one of my favorite spring dishes has always been asparagus risotto.

During my time volunteering at Healthy Community Kitchens, I learned how to make authentic risotto. It was only then that I realized that this recipe isn’t true risotto. That being said, risotto is one of those dishes that has to be very precise and takes some time to master. So while I work on developing that skill, enjoy this simpler baked version!

Makes 4, 1 cup servings

Ingredients

1 Tbs olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice

8 cup spinach leaves (about 4 oz)

2 cup vegetable broth*

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)

1/2 cup fresh, grated Parmesan cheese, divided (2 oz)

1 1/2 cup diagonally sliced asparagus (about 1 inch pieces) **

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add rice and stir well. Stir in spinach, broth, salt, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Stir in asparagus and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed.

Notes

*Substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth to make it vegetarian.

**Also try substituting half of the asparagus with peas (as pictured).

Mocha Cheesecake

This egg-less mocha cheesecake is actually one I made a while ago, but never got around to sharing the recipe. So here it is! It features a classic graham cracker crust and a chocolate filling with a hint of coffee. I chose to top it off with a drizzle of coffee infused glaze.

In case you’re wondering what type of coffee to use, I always recommend Purity Coffee. Purity is certified organic and lab tested for mold and mycotoxins. It is also higher in antioxidants than other conventional coffees. You can learn more about all the wonderful health benefits here! In the meantime, enjoy 10% off your first order by using promo code ROOTS.

As you read through the recipe, you make notice that there are no amounts listed for the glaze ingredients. If you’ve been following my blog for while, you probably know my philosophy on frostings, icings, and glazes: no recipe needed! Just add a little of this and a little of that until it’s just how you like it. Worst case scenario, you keep adding more until you have a lot more frosting than you really need 🙂 Enjoy!

Ingredients

Crust

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter

Filling

1 cup dark chocolate chips

2 Tbs. melted coconut oil or butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese (room temperature)

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. coffee reduction

1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp. pure vanilla

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Glaze

Coffee reduction

Powdered sugar

Milk

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted coconut oil/butter.

Put the graham crackers in a food processor and grind until they are just small crumbs. Add the sugar and pulse a few more times.

In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted coconut oil or butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Prepare the coffee reduction using this recipe. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of dark chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter or coconut oil. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, coffee reduction, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Use an electric mixture to mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Be sure not to use the slowest setting and do not over mix.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, let the cheesecake cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to overnight.

While the cheesecake is cooling, it’s time to start the glaze! In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar, coffee reduction, and milk. Adjust the amounts to achieve your desired consistency. When the cake is cool, drizzle with glaze and enjoy!

Tips

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Allow the cream cheese to reach room temperature so that it mixes smoothly.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

But in the unfortunate event that the cake does cave in, all is not lost! The glaze will make it less noticeable and it will still taste great!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Good morning! Today I’d like to share a simple banana snack cake recipe. It tastes like banana bread, but has a light, fluffy cake texture. I chose to use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose and to reduce the sugar by 1/2 cup to make it a little healthier.

You may also notice the aquafaba in the ingredients list. I go into this in a little more detail in my post on egg substitutes, but it’s basically just the water from the can of garbanzo beans.

The original cake recipe (from Brown Eyed Baker) also suggests topping it with cream cheese frosting. But you know what? I don’t think it needs it. Wait…what?? Me?! Saying it doesn’t need frosting?! I know that probably comes a shock, because if you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ve probably gathered that I love all things frosting, glaze, and ganache. But I honestly think the cake is sweet enough and moist enough on it’s own and the cream cheese was just a bit too tangy for me. (Maybe I just didn’t have enough sugar in the frosting 😉) That being said, if you want to make it more of a dessert cake than a snack cake, by all means go ahead and add some frosting! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. aquafaba*
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium bananas)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Grease a square 8 inch baking pan and preheat the oven to 350° F.

Before measuring any other ingredients, mash the banana to ensure you have the right amount. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe and finding out you don’t have enough of something!

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the aquafaba, bananas, and vanilla.

Now, stirring by hand, alternate between adding the milk and dry ingredient mixture until a batter comes together. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (with the exception of some melted chocolate). Rotate the pan in the oven halfway through baking.

The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to 5.

*This amount of aquafaba is equivalent to 2 whole eggs.