Cherry Icebox Pie

Summer is in full swing and I love it. Our weekends have been busy with summertime festivities – trips to the pool, cookouts with friends, and enjoying the sunshine. Kyle and I have even taken our Sunday dinner tradition outside for the summer, spending the evenings relaxing on the patio and grilling out.

No matter what we end up grilling, no Sunday meal is complete without the proper dessert. I recently recreated one from my childhood – an icebox pie with a filling of whipped cream and cherry gelatin blended then chilled inside a graham cracker crust. My mom used to make this all the time growing up and I  hadn’t had it since I was a kid. (I was surprised to learn she actually got the recipe on the top of a Cool Whip tub many years ago.) This refreshing twist on cherry pie is not only a fond memory of my childhood but an easy-to-make ending to dinner al fresco.

Scroll for recipe.

cherry icebox pie

Ingredients

  • 3 oz gelatin mix
  • 2/3 c boiling water
  • 2 c ice cubes
  • 8 oz whipped cream
  • 8″ or 9″ pre-made graham cracker crust

Directions

  1. Completely dissolve gelatin mix in boiling water, stirring about 3 minutes.
  2. Add ice cubes and stir constantly until gelatin is thickened, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Remove any unmelted ice.
  4. Using wire whip, blend in whipped cream and stir until smooth.
  5. Chill for an hour and then spoon into pie crust.
  6. Chill for 3 hours and serve!

A Sunny Shower

It’s been awhile since my last post and I have lots to share in the next few weeks.  May was a busy month with an engagement (mine!!), a long-awaited trip to the beach, and preparing to help host a baby shower the first weekend in June.

The baby shower was for one of my closest friends, Andi, which I hosted last weekend with my mom and three other family friends, Kathy, Cindy, and Katie. Andi and her husband, Tony, opted not to find out the sex of the baby, so we stuck with a gender neutral theme of “you are my sunshine” to reflect the décor of her nursery.  The yellow-and-blue color scheme felt fun and summery – perfect for an early June afternoon. The menu was a compliment to the light mood with an assortment of tea sandwiches and salads; pineapple chicken salad on croissants, mango shrimp salad in cucumber cups, strawberry romaine salad, and fresh fruit.  For dessert, lemon squares and brownies sat next to a towering display of cupcakes – each topped with a fondant sunshine or cloud. Instead of favors, we opted for a candy bar. Apothecary jars and glass dishes held a variety of yellow candies for guests to fill treat bags with as they got ready to leave.

Throwing a shower is always fun but there’s an excitement and anticipation with baby showers, especially when the mommy-to-be is a close friend, that makes it all the more special. (Plus, as Katie put it, diaper cakes, toys, and tiny outfits are a lot more fun that blenders, towels, silverware.)

Invites

Invitations by Frilly Milly Events

Flower

Sunny flower arrangements by Kathy, one of the other hosts

onesies

Onesies clipped to a ribbon ‘clothesline’ decorated the fireplace.

name tags

Diaper-inspired name tags

fruit

Fruit, baby! (Made by Katie, one of the fellow hostesses)

cake

Sunshine and sugar

A swim in the sherbert punch...

A swim in the sherbert punch…

The mommy-to-be with her mommy.

The mommy-to-be with her mommy.

candy bar

Sunshine-inspired candy for guests to take home.

Your Best Grilled Cheese: Winner

Thanks to all who participated in the “Your Best Grilled Cheese Contest.” I’m excited to announce that we have a winner! The Avocado Mac and Grilled Cheese, submitted by Michaela C. of Cincinnati, Ohio, won the hearts and taste buds of our judges. Warm macaroni and cheese, made with sharp white cheddar and infused with a subtle hint of avocado, sandwiched between two think slices of crusty, buttered ciabatta bread – it’s a unique and delicious combination of two favorite comfort foods. Michaela will receive a $50 gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma to help stock her kitchen for future grilled cheese experimentation. Looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

The Fried Cheese Melt, submitted by Mike C. of Columbus Ohio, was a close runner-up and sure to please even the most extreme cheese lover. This easy-to-make sandwich consists of mozzarella cheese sticks and lots of gooey American cheese melted between two pieces of sourdough bread and served with a side of marinara for dipping.

Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month by trying these two amazing sandwiches for yourself. Scroll down for recipes.

grilled cheese winners

WINNER: Avocado Mac & Grilled Cheese

Submitted by: Michaela C. Cincinnati, Ohio

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow pasta
  • 3/4 c skim milk
  • 1 fully ripened avocado from Mexico, halved pitted, peeled and mashed
  • 3/4 c diced sharp white cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)
  • 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 slices Italian ciabatta bread

Directions

1. In a large sauce pot, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat milk until hot; remove from heat, set aside. When pasta is almost cooked, combine avocado, cheese and lemon juice in blender. Gradually add hot milk and blend until smooth.

3. Drain pasta; return to sauce pot. Stir in cheese sauce. Set aside.

4. Butter two slices of ciabatta bread and grill on a panini press until warm.

5. Add pasta avocado mac to one slice of bread, top with the other slice, and press in the panini press until hot.

RUNNER UP: Fried Cheese Melt (Adapted from a Denny’s favorite)

Submitted by: Mike C. Columbus, Ohio

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tsp softened butter
  • 3-4 slices of American cheese
  • 3 frozen cheese sticks
  • 1/3 c marinara sauce

Directions

1. Prepare cheese sticks accordingly to package directions. Set aside.

2. Heat a skillet to medium heat. Butter one slice of bread, and place in skillet. Cover bread with cheese.

3. Space cooked cheese sticks out over the slice of bread. Top with remaining cheese and second slice of bread. Cook on both sides until golden brown.

4. Serve with a side of marina sauce for dipping.

Contest: Your Best Grilled Cheese

your best grilled cheese contest

April is National Grilled Cheese Month! And what better way to celebrate than on 4/20, when thousands of self-proclaimed grilled cheese connoisseurs will gather in Los Angeles for the 11th annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. The contest, open to 200 amateur and professional chefs, started in 2003 as a friendly competition between friends. Since then, it has not only grown tremendously in size but helped to inspire the national grilled cheese movement, with restaurants and food trucks popping up across the country.

In honor of this upcoming event (and since I’ve yet to get to Los Angeles for it…someday!) I’m hosting my own grilled cheese contest. Tell me your favorite twist on this nostalgic sandwich. Fig, prosciutto, and brie? Pear and whiskey cheddar? Our panel of judges will declare one winner to receive a $50 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma (to load up on grilled cheese-making supplies, of course.)

Rules:

  • All entries must be submitted to michelle@alittlemorelovely.com by Tuesday, April 9 11:59pm EST. The winner will be announced Thursday, April 18.
  • Entries must include first name, last initial, city, email address, ingredients, and directions. Photo(s) recommended. The winner will be notified by email, at which time an address will be requested for gift card fulfillment.
  • Ingredients must include bread and cheese. There are no restrictions around types of bread, cheese, or additional ingredients.

Happy Grilling!

Chicks on Sticks

I’ve seen so many cute Easter recipes and ideas lately. Quite frankly though, all of them seemed like a lot of work so rather than baking cupcakes or trying my luck at cake pops, I decided to start with something pre made (Oreo cookies!) and focus my efforts on only the decorating. The process was a little messy but definitely saved me a few hours in the kitchen and yielded tasty results (plus quite a few broken cookies – ALL of which I ate.)

Scroll down for directions. Happy Easter!oreo chicks on sticks

(Oreo) Chicks on Sticks

*Inspired by these super cute chick cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 12 oz bags of yellow Candy Melts (available at Michael’s or baking supply stores)
  • 24 lollipop sticks
  • 1 box Double Stuf Oreos
  • 1/2 c mini chocolate chips
  • White, yellow, orange icing
  • 1 bottle yellow sanding sugar

Directions

  1. Twist the top off an Oreo cookie. Using one of the sticks, make an indent in the filling.
  2. Melt the candy melts in the microwave and stir until smooth. Dip the stick into the chocolate and press into the indentation. Put the top of the cookie back on and gently press together.
  3. Repeat with remaining cookies.
  4. Reheat the chocolate if necessary. Holding onto the stick, lower a cookie into the melted chocolate. Spoon over sides if needed to cover the cookie completely. Let remaining icing drip off.
  5. Sprinkle the yellow sugar over the cookie until the top and sides are covered, holding over plate or bowl and gently shake off excess sugar.
  6. Lay the cookie onto parchment paper to harden. Immediately push two mini chocolate chips into the chocolate, flat side up for eyes.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 until all cookies are coated with chocolate and sugar. Allow chocolate to harden for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Using the yellow icing, pipe wings onto the side of each cookie and coat with yellow sugar. Next, pipe a triangle beak and feet onto each cookie using the orange icing. Finally, add white icing dots to each chocolate chip.
  9. Place cookies into small cellophane treat bags and tie with a festive ribbon, then arrange in a basket using floral foam and grass.

Mozzarella Pesto Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese, without a doubt, is my favorite food. Imagine my excitement when my beloved sandwich gained popularity a few years ago! Now, with gourmet grilled cheese restaurants in nearly every city, food trucks, even competitive eating contests – my days of shamefully requesting a children’s menu at restaurants to get my fix are gone.

The grilled cheese craze has spurred creations such as grilled mac and cheese, a grilled cheese donut, even buffalo chicken grilled cheese. And while I might not be as adventurous in my love of grilled cheese as some, this new found popularly had inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and experiment with combinations such as apple with sharp cheddar and brie layered with fig jam. Most recently, I tried a mozzarella pesto combination that is sure to make many repeat appearances on my menu. Paired with a bowl of steaming tomato soup, it’s a grown up version of a classic that’s the perfect treat for a cozy night in.

Recipe below.

Mozzarella Pesto Grilled Cheese

Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

  • Crusty Italian bread (I used a Ready to Bake Tuscan bread)
  • 2 tbsp of pesto
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • Fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Prepared tomato soup

Directions

  1. Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously butter both sides of each slide of bread and lay into skillet. Grill one side until lightly browned.
  2. Flip both slices over in skillet. Place cheese on one slice; spread pesto on the other. Grill until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Place slice of bread with pesto face down on sandwich.
  3. Remove from heat, cut into halves, and serve with tomato soup. Enjoy!

Super Bowl Snack: Mac and Beer Cheese Cups

I don’t watch the Super Bowl for the football. I don’t even watch it for the commercials. (By the second quarter, they’re all repeats.) Let’s face it, I watch it for the food. Pizza, beer, queso, potato skins – all in one sitting. Sure, I might indulge in a slice or two of pizza on a Friday night or share a bowl of queso at a Mexican restaurant but what other day of the year is it socially acceptable to pig out on all of these delicious delicacies in the same meal?

Naturally, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I’ll be feasting on during this year’s big game. My stomach immediately started growling when I ran across this recipe for macaroni and beer cheese. I tweaked the recipe a bit and then decided to bake snack-sized portions using a muffin tin. The result was delicious – rich and cheesy, infused with a slight malty flavor from the beer. This game-day twist on classic comfort food is definitely on the menu for Sunday’s festivities.

My adaptation of the recipe below.

Untitled

Serves 12

*Ingredients and steps 1, 2, 4, 6 adapted from livelovepasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ c elbow macaroni
  • 10 oz grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz grated gouda cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz milk
  • 8 oz amber beer
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of black pepper
  • ½ c Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c grated Romano cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 ° F.
  2. Prepare water for pasta and boil according to package directions. Strain, return to pan, and remove from heat.
  3. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. If using foil liners, one should be enough. If using paper liners, use two.
  4. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in flour to create a roux and cook about 2 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Add milk and beer into saucepan whisking constantly, then add gouda and cheddar cheeses and stir until melted. Reduce heat continue to stir until mixture thickens. Add pepper, paprika and nutmeg.
  5. Pour cheese over pasta, mixing until completely covered. Spoon macaroni and cheese into muffin tins.
  6. Top with Panko bread crumbs, pepper, and Romano cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top.

Arugula, Parmesan, and Pine Nut Salad

I’ve never particularly enjoyed salad unless it’s covered with cheese, creamy dressing, or other toppings that would likely make a plate of nachos a healthier choice. However, I discovered a light, healthy option last year at one of my favorite tapas restaurants that may have changed my outlook on salad altogether. I’ve attempted to re-create the salad several times since, never getting the dressing quite right until the other night when I finally tasted victory by altering a basic citronette recipe.

What I love most about this salad is that it’s literally foolproof (yay!) and is easy to put together. It can be served as as simple, elegant side dish or topped with grilled chicken strips for a main course.

Bon appetit!

(Recipe below)

Arugula, Parmesan, & Pine Nut Salad

Ingredients
(Serves 2)

Salad

  • 2 c baby arugula
  • 1/2 c shaved Parmesan
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp minced shallot

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Arrange a single layer of pine nuts on a cookie sheet with sides (so the nuts don’t roll off). Bakes 5-7 minutes or until lightly lightly toasted.
  2. To make the dressing, combine ingredients and place in a tightly capped container. Shake until ingredients are well blended.
  3. In a larger bowl, combine arugula, cheese, and pine nuts.
  4. Pour dressing over salad and toss.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Enjoy!