Return to Normal (Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart)

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My last post was in August. August, people. I knew it would be hard for me to blog while I was student teaching, but I had no idea I’d all but abandon the blog during that time. It was next to impossible for me to find any time to cook for myself, let alone take photos, write posts, and publish them for you. My apologies for my absence. I’m back now. And so glad to be here.

Student teaching went well; who knew I’d grow so attached to 121 different 8th graders? I remember myself at that age and I recall it being a really tough time in my life. I’m sure it’s the same for most people, but to be in it every day for three solid months was a wake-up call, for sure. I had some tough days…days when I thought I just wasn’t cut out for teaching, but then those days would wind down and quickly be replaced by really great days in which I felt completely at ease and comfortable in front of the class. Student teaching ended just before Christmas, as well as my graduation. After all this time in school, it’s suddenly over. I feel a bit lost, to be honest, but I’m sure I’ll find my new normal routine again soon.

There are only two short days left in 2014, a year that had some really wonderful ups and some devastating downs for me. What better way to ring in 2015 than with chocolate and caramel, right? This dessert is SWEET. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that my sweet tooth is quite small, but for those of you who love rich and sweet desserts, this one is for you! I used some buttermilk to replace a little of the heavy cream in the caramel, so it has a bit of a sweet and tangy flavor. I quite like it, but if you are not as partial to buttermilk as I am, go ahead and use all heavy cream.
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Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

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This is not the first (nor will it be the last) strawberry-related recipe you’ll see on this blog.  I absolutely love strawberries and I thoroughly enjoy trying new recipes which feature them.  As I was flipping through my July edition of Bon Appétit, I came across a delightful section devoted to tasty frozen treats.

I totally love making ice cream here in my kitchen.  There is something so pure and delicious about a well-made batch of rich ice cream.  I don’t have to wonder what sort of preservatives might be lurking beneath the surface, nor do I have to consider how many artificial flavors are taking the place of good, clean ingredients.

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Chocolate Banana Bread

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If you’re like me at all, you have a collection of overripe bananas in your freezer, destined for bread.  I have a pretty fool-proof (and delicious) recipe for banana bread given to me by my mother, but I wanted to change things up this time around.  And what better way to do that than with chocolate?

I was reminded of a batch of chocolate-banana ice cream I made for my friend Matthew as a Christmas gift.  I asked he and his wife, Sarah, what their favorite flavors of ice cream were, and that is what I gave to them as gifts.  I much prefer giving edible gifts over anything else for holidays and birthdays.  Matthew said he loved the combination of chocolate and banana, and I totally agree.  Why not turn that into a bread?

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The bananas (minus one) are still a little frozen in this photo, my apologies.

I was hoping for a bread that was more dessert-like in texture, and I think this was a success.  It had the dense consistency of pound cake, and the banana flavor was just subtle enough not to be overpowering.   However, I would probably omit the chocolate chips in my next batch of this bread.  I say this only because (as you might know if you read this blog) I don’t prefer overly-sweet dishes.  The chocolate powder was perfect on its own and needed no extra help from the chips.

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All-purpose flour sifted with cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

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Orange “Creamsicle” Ice Cream

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It’s winter here in the midwest.  The sun may be shining, but it is by no means warm outside.  This is the weather of sledding, hot cocoa, fireplaces, and heavy blankets.  Certainly not the weather of ice cream, right?  Normally, I’d agree with you, but in this case, you’d be wrong.

Perhaps it was the sunny sky that fooled me, or perhaps I just wanted to bring a little summer to these winter days.  Either way, I decided I wanted to make a creamy citrus ice cream.

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Sundays in the Summer – Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know that I like to bake.  I love to cook just as much, but when the weekend arrives, I like to pay special attention to baking.  This last weekend was no exception, especially since I found some lovely raspberries at the farmers market on Sunday.

I visited the farmers market alone this weekend.  Normally, Scott and I divide and conquer, but he had some paintings to finish, so I set out with my canvas bags and cash in hand.  I took a little longer wandering around, smelling the produce, checking out the various dogs and their owners, and lingering around the Cajun band playing between vendor booths.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous (we’ve been experiencing 100 + degree days for far too long) so I was in no rush to get back into air conditioning.

I knew I’d be baking this cake later on, so as I walked around I kept my eye out for fresh berries of some sort.  I spied the ruby-red raspberries from quite a distance, and I headed straight for them.  The price was a little steep for just a pint, but I knew that farm fresh berries far surpassed the sad, packaged-in-plastic berries I see in the grocery store.  With a quick exchange of cash, they were mine.

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