It's Labor Day weekend, I'm back from vacation (sniff, sniff), Caitlin is getting ready to start her new teaching job (exciting!!!) and it's time to say goodbye to summer.

So, my oven was acting up and I had to get inventive with the idea of making an end of summer tart.  Instead of baking a fruit tart, I opted to make a refreshing cream-cheese "no bake" tart.  It's basically a take on a cheesecake but the best thing about it is just how quick, easy and most importantly, how good it truly is!

The crust is comprised of crushed up graham crackers with a bit of butter to hold it together. The main layer is cream cheese, whipped topping, fresh lemon juice and a tad of sugar.  I opted to top it with some deliciously sweet fresh blueberries and lemon zest.  That's it!  All you have to do is chill it and a few hours later it is ready to be devoured.  Doesn't get much easier than that!!!  

P.S. It is the perfect sweet treat for any end of summer/Labor Day weekend barbecues.
It's the end of summer, why not indulge a bit with some Prosecco.

As I mentioned, I am just back from a fabulous vacation in the UK...here's some music inspired by that and this delicious treat:
1).  The Four Seasons:  Dawn (Go Away)
2).  Pink Martini:  Sunday Table
3).  The Beatles:  Mr. Moonlight
4).  Bon Iver:  Lump Sum
5).  Avicci:  Levels



Nothing says summer like a light, sweet shortcake. Here are our takes on this summertime classic!

Grilling isn't just for savory delights, it is perfect for all the wonderful stone fruits summer has to offer.  After grilling up some amazing portabella burgers I decided to slice up some peaches and throw them onto the grill. Grilling fruit, like peaches, enhances the flavor tremendously; and is an unexpected addition to a typical shortcake recipe.  

The base of my recipe was the buttermilk biscuit. I found a great recipe for a simple biscuit here (follow the ingredient list and omit the cinnamon butter, unless you want to make some for the leftover biscuits).
I simply filled the biscuit with homemade vanilla cream, grilled peaches, more cream, crushed pretzels (for the salty/sweet combo so many of us love), and finally the other half of the biscuit.  If you want to omit the pretzels, then sprinkle some coarse sea salt on the cream before topping it off with the biscuit.
If it is too late in the summer to find the perfect peach, any stone fruit would be delicious. the biscuits aren't too labor intensive, however, require more preparation and baking time. I recommend making them ahead of time, allowing them to cool while you prepare the other elements of the dish. This shortcake is the perfect way to enjoy the warm summer nights!
I enjoyed my shortcake with a strong, soy iced latte with a dash of cinnamon.

Perfect music for a warm August night:
1).  The Drifters: Under The Boardwalk
2).  Willie Nelson: Worry B Gone
3).  Bob Marley: Waiting in Vain
4). The Rolling Stones: Beast of Burden
5).  Bob Dylan: To Be Alone With You

Sweet and Salty Strawberry, Cream Cheese Whipped Cream and Pretzel Shortcake

One of my favorite desserts is something that Monica makes with strawberry sauce, cream cheese and pretzels. When we were mulling over the idea of a shortcake dessert, I wanted to try something different but really capture that sweet and salty combination that I love. So I topped the shortcake with strawberry sauce, whipped cream with added cream cheese and then I crumbled pretzels over it - it was delicious! A quick and easy summer night dessert that satisfied my sweet and salty craving.
Green tea iced tea

I had just watched the first episode of Treme (great show, by the way) and they played Louis Prima's Buona Sera in it's entirety. I hadn't heard that song in years and it sounded great! So this playlist is Treme/ Louis Prima inspired. 
1). Louis Prima: Buona Sera
2).  Dean Martin: Volare
3). Dr. John: Junko Partner
4). Louis Armstrong: Skokiaan (South African Song) 



This burger is amazing! It does take some minimal prep time (which can be done ahead and set aside), but it's well worth it. I served it with grilled red bell peppers. Perfect summer dish.
A bit messy, but well worth it.
Some summer bbq'ing fun music
1. Calvin Harris - "The Rain"
2. Mike Snow - "Animal"
3. The Knife - "Heartbeats"
4. Belle and Sebastian - "The Boy with the Arab Strap"
5. The Specials - "A Message to Rudy"

A light Mexican beer - Dos Equis, Tecate or Modelo

So Caitlin came up with this fab flavor combination for a summer burger.  With summer in full swing, what's better than a perfectly grilled burger?! We used many of the same flavors in our burger, however, I substituted grilled chicken and portabella mushrooms instead of the red meat patty. Now to keep this 100% veggie, omit the chicken, and use the grilled mushrooms.  The mushrooms are "meaty" and tasty enough to substitute for the meat (not to mention a slightly healthier option).

Don't forget the Sriracha!

Music for a perfect summer evening:
1.  Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - "Te tiraré del altar"
2.  Jimmy Cliff - "Wonderful World, Beautiful People"
3.  Madeleine Peyroux - "I'm All Right"
4.  Paul Simon - "Dazzling Blue"
5.  The Rolling Stones - "Miss You"

Sierra Nevada "Summerfest" Beer...a good seasonal beer!



Berries, brownies, shortbread, vanilla bean ice cream...need we say more!

Brownie Parfait with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Mixed Berry Sauce with Brandy
So, I was browsing around on Pinterest the other day looking for cute crafty things that I'll probably never start or finish, and there were tons of dessert pins - things like baked s'mores cookies, chewy chocolatey cookies and the mother of all sweet combinations: peanut butter and chocolate (my absolute favorite!). So needless to say, I was craving something sickly sweet. I decided to make brownies from a recipe I've been using for years. I found it in the cookbook, The New California Cook; recipes that use seasonal fruits and vegetables native to Southern California. I found it in the discount bin at Borders years ago for 4.95 and have been modifying recipes and ideas from it ever since. Anyway, there's a great brownie recipe that I've taken and tweaked here and there to perfection. So I threw it in a glass with some vanilla bean ice cream and mixed berry sauce with brandy. Mission accomplished - sweet tooth fulfilled and here we are with a new blog post. It's an easy weeknight dessert that you can make ahead and throw together at the last minute.  And it tastes awesome!

Mixed Berry Sauce with Brandy

So, I should preface this playlist by saying that I had just watched Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (which I absolutely loved!!) so the following playlist is inspired by music from the movie.
1)  You're the Top - Cole Porter
2)  La Mer - Chantal Chamberland
3)  I Got Rhythm - Ella Fitzgerald
4)  La Conga Blicoti - Josephine Baker
5)  I'm in the Mood for Love - Louis Armstrong

With spring's arrival comes warm afternoons and delicious fruit based desserts. This dessert parfait is no exception. It is refreshing, delicious, and just the right size. Caitlin opted for a brownie based parfait (which is incredible) and I decided to do a take on the traditional strawberry-shortcake dessert which is popular this time of the year.

The only thing I had to bake was the shortbread. This was my first time baking shortbread and I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of this particular recipe adapted from Food & WineYes, I used butter, and it was worth it! (Everything in moderation, right??!!) What I loved most about the final product is how much it reminded me of those Walkers shortbread cookies - soooo good!

The strawberry - cinnamon sauce was also quite delicious. You can choose to use yogurt here instead, however, I had a craving for vanilla bean ice cream and so I decided to go all out. If you have any sauce leftover, it is a delicious addition to a bowl of Greek yogurt in the morning. 

{melting, but still delicious!}
Baking and assembling music:
1) Bluebird of Happiness - Mojave 3
2) He's a Rebel - The Crystals
3) Gone Daddy Gone - Violent Femmes
4) Sheila Is a Punk Rocker - Ramones
5) Easy - Anoushka Shankar