Honey Cupcakes for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year)

 

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It seems that I write about this nearly every year. The classic Honey Cake for Rosh Hashana don’t get no respect. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of cakes.  For my non-Jewish friends, it’s not unlike the Christmas Fruitcake in that you kind of have to have one – it’s traditional – but no one wants to eat it.

Over the years, I have given you my favorite honey cake recipes that actually taste good. They’re moist and fragrant with honey and spices – a treat I always look forward to on our New Year table. Here’s one. Here’s another one. Here’s one made with agave, if those are too sweet for you (*Bonus* – this post also contains my favorite Round Challah recipe!). Here’s one made with pumpkin, for pity’s sake, no sugar, no oil, and sweetened only with honey.  You can’t say that I haven’t tried! But I can’t leave it alone. One more attempt to bring the oh-so-delicious-but-much-maligned Honey Cake into the 21st Century: The Cupcake.

I know. I don’t make cupcakes. Or frosting. Okay, exactly once before. That I’ve told you about. But I was inspired, people! I’ve taken one of my favorite recipes and made it a bit lighter in texture and flavor. And I think, a little bit healthier, using coconut oil and almond milk instead of the vegetable oil and coffee that I generally use for the full-sized cakes. Not that I’m abandoning my traditional honey cake, mind you, but I believe that you need to shake things up a bit, every so often. And when is it better to try something new, than a New Year?

Of course, they’re non-dairy – yes, even the frosting! – so they’ll make the perfect finish for your Rosh Hashana dinner, or for the lactose-intolerant.  You can make these cupcakes ahead and freeze them in heavy duty zip-top freezer bags, but don’t make the frosting or frost them until the same day as you plan to serve them.

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Honey Spice Cupcakes with Honey Meringue Frosting

(Yields about 16 regular-sized cupcakes)

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt (or fine sea salt)
  • 2-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey (preferably local to you)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain almond milk

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Place cupcake liners into muffin or cupcake pan(s) and set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and spice) in a medium bowl. Set aside

In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), beat the coconut oil on high speed for about one minute. Reduce the mixer speed to medium, and add the sugar, followed by the honey, then the eggs, and finally the almond milk, beating thoroughly after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Turning the mixer to low speed, add the flour mixture a little at a time, until the dry ingredients are completely moistened (or you’re reasonably sure that it’s not going to fly out of the bowl at you). Mix on medium-high, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, for an additional two minutes, or the batter is completely smooth.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 with the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are springy to the touch and a skewer or cake tester inserted into the center of one of the “middle” cupcakes, comes out clean and dry.

Cool completely before frosting.

* I used Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice. I don’t usually use commercial pre-mixed spice blends, but in this case it contains exactly what I would put in my honey cake, anyway, and is pretty fresh this time of year. If you don’t have or don’t want to use pumpkin pie spice, substitute: 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon + 1 tsp. ground ginger + 1/2 tsp ground cardamom + 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg + 1/4 tsp. ground cloves.

For the Honey Meringue Frosting:

This is going to make about 5 cups of frosting, which will be more than you need.

  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pinch of table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract

Decor and/or toasted almond slivers or slices for garnish – optional.

Make the Frosting:

Put about 2 inches of water in a medium pot, bring to a simmer.

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, honey, cream of tartar, and salt, in a medium glass or metal mixing bowl. If possible, use the bowl from your stand mixer (if you have one).

Place the bowl onto the pot of simmering water – don’t allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.

Whisk the egg white mixture briskly over the simmering water, until it becomes hot to the touch.

Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Place the bowl onto the mixer and beat on medium speed for one minute. Turn up the speed to high and beat for an additional 5 minutes, or until very stiff peaks form when you lift out the whisk.  Add the almond extract and beat on high for an additional one minute.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand mixer.

Scrape the frosting into a piping bag fitted with whatever tip you like. Or, if you’re like me, a gallon-sized zip-top plastic bag. Snip off one of the corners and pipe the frosting onto the completely cooled cupcakes.

Garnish with candy confetti, toasted slivered or sliced almonds, as you wish.

Honey Cupcake with Honey Meringue Frosting

My husband found these elegant, disposable, bake-safe, dessert wrappers at the Container Store, awhile back, and I couldn’t resist using a few of them here for kind of a classy take on cupcakes.  I thought it would be fun to set these special holiday honey cupcakes up in several different sorts of wrappers so you could see how they might go from fun for the kids to elegant for the adults.

 

By RJ Flamingo ~ 9 Comments

Grilled Turkey Tenders with Hatch Chiles

 

As one of my friends on Twitter noted recently, our grilling season in South Florida doesn’t begin until, say, around October.  August and September days typically run in the 90º F range, with humidity well above 60%, making an ambient (feels-like) temperature around 100º F. Then, just about the time you want to start supper, the storms come around. Guessing at exactly what time that will happen, is a fool’s game. As the old Yiddish expression says, “People make plans, and G-d laughs.” It rhymes in Yiddish.

No, in the summertime, most of my grilling gets done in the Great Indoors, in the coolness of the air conditioning. I’m not jealous of the rest of you. When y’all are hip-deep in snow, come December, I’ll be outside in the backyard with the barbecue grill, trying out some new rub, or tossing on some burgers in the twilight, and enjoying 75º days and cooler nights. I can’t wait!

I tell you all this, because you’re going to look at these pictures and say, “Hey! That’s not a barbecue grill! That’s a stove!”  Right. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And when the snows of January blanket your backyard, there’s no better way to bring back some of the flavors of summer than with a grill pan on the stove.

The husband loves turkey and is always after me to make more of it. Short of roasting a whole one a la Thanksgiving (which he wouldn’t mind in the least, by the way), the turkey tender (boneless, skinless breast meat), is an easy, no-fuss way to bring turkey into a variety of meals during the rest of the year.  Turkey tenders are more dense than their chicken counterparts, too, and because of that, lend themselves well to higher heat cooking, like grilling.

This is a simple, weeknight dish that’s quick to put together, but really flavorful with the spicy addition of the Hatch chiles, and using a grill pan on top of the stove is an easy way to bring out the sweetness of the onions and garlic.

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Grilled Turkey Tenders with Hatch Chiles

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 Hatch chile peppers
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 2 turkey tenders (about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Roast and peel the Hatch peppers. (See the tutorial if you need instructions).  Cut off stems, slice open and remove seeds. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Set aside.

Peel and quarter the onions, then slice the quarters into 1/4″-ish slices. Smash and peel the garlic, chop coarsely.

Heat a grill pan (or frying pan) and brush a little of the oil onto the hot surface. Add the onions and garlic to the hot pan, sprinkle with a little salt and, stirring occasionally, saute until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.  Remove the onions and garlic from the pan. and set aside.

Brush the hot pan with a little more oil and add the turkey tenders. Sprinkle the raw side with a little salt and pepper. Cook until they are golden brown (or acquire golden brown grill marks), about 6-7 minutes, and turn them over. Cook for an additional 6-7 minutes. They will still be raw in the center. Cut the tenders in half and then split each half. If this were steak, it would be called “butterflying”. Put them back in the pan with the undercooked sides down on the hot surface and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Add the cooked onions, garlic, and roasted Hatch chile strips back into the pan with the turkey, and cook until the onions turn a light golden color, just a few minutes longer.

Serve over rice, pasta, noodles, or even mashed potatoes for a delicious change of pace! You can even brush the cooked turkey tenders with Spicy Watermelon Jam to kick the flavor up another notch!

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Roasting Hatch Chiles

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Everything’s in the pan to get those flavors working!

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Let’s eat!

 

The Hatch chiles used in this dish were sent to me by Frieda’s Specialty Produce, just because they love me. I was not paid or given any other consideration. Grill pan link is an associate’s link to my Amazon.com store, Flamingo’s Favorites. If you buy something through this link, I will eventually receive a few cents commission which does not increase your price, but might help me continue to pay my internet host and keep this blog going. For you. I do it for you.
By RJ Flamingo ~ 9 Comments

Calphalon Pan Giveaway! Happy Blogaversary To Me!

 

Amazingly, Flamingo Musings is 8 years old, this week! And, the Flamingo Musings Fan Page on Facebook, has just crossed the 1000 “Likers” mark!  To celebrate both milestones, I’ve decided to give away this gorgeous Calphalon Contemporary 13″ Deep Skillet!

Calphalon Contemporary 13" Deep SkilletJust to be clear, much as I love them, Calphalon is not sponsoring this giveaway, and I’ll be paying for shipping to the winner out of my own pocket, so I’m sorry, but this giveaway is limited to U.S. addresses only.

This pan was part of my swag package (too big to fit in the swag bag!) from the Eat, Write, Retreat food bloggers’ conference in Philadelphia, a couple of months ago. Why aren’t I keeping it for myself? Because I already own two of them. For the last couple of years, I’ve been phasing out all of my old cookware and replacing it with Calphalon products. That I (mostly) buy for myself with my own money. Aaaand – I’m out of space!

This guy is the workhorse in my kitchen. I’m a lazy cook and I love one-pan meals. So I only have one pan to wash. Get it? ;-)  It’s large enough to accommodate those, or if you need to cook for a large family or a party.  Here are some favorite one-pan meals I’ve cooked in this pan:

Orzo & Veggie Skillet | Flamingo MusingsOrzo Pasta & Veggie Skillet

 Vegan Taco Salad | Flamingo MusingsVegan Taco Salad (w/non-veg options)

Farfalle Pasta & Chickpea Toss | Flamingo Musings Farfalle Pasta & Chickpea Toss

 Kaju Mutter Paneer | Flamingo MusingsKaju Mutter Paneer (Indian Cashews, Peas, and Cheese)

 Black Bean Chili | Flamingo Musings15 Minute Black Bean Chili / Sloppy Joes

This brand new, state-of-the-art, still-sealed-in-original-packaging covered skillet is PFOA-free, dishwasher-safe, and much more. Read all about it here.

What do you need to do? Click into the Rafflecopter box below. Leave a comment and tell me what would be the first thing you’d make in this terrific pan. Doesn’t have to be one of my recipes, either.  For optional additional entries, you can “like” Flamingo Musings on Facebook, if you don’t already. And/or, you can “like” Freakin’ Flamingo’s Facebook page, if you don’t already. And/or you can tweet about this giveaway once per day on Twitter.

You have about two weeks, because I love a party! Somebody bake me a cake, would ya?

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

By RJ Flamingo ~ 100 Comments

Spicy Watermelon Jam

Spicy Watermelon Jam

Give me fruit and I’m going to make jam. In under an hour. That was the culinary challenge I accepted at an Eat, Write, Retreat food bloggers conference, several years ago. The fruit? Watermelon!  Now, there was something I’d never done before. And since our theme at the time was Cinco de Mayo, it called for a bit of Mexican flare.  Thus, Spicy Watermelon Jam was born!

It has since become a real favorite at Freakin’ Flamingo and the farmers markets I bring it to, and now, after three years, I’m sharing the recipe with you!  It’s easy and pretty quick to make (compared to a lot of other jam recipes), very low added sugar, and I think it really highlights the versatility of watermelon!  After the jam recipe, I’m also sharing some ideas for a variety of fun and tasty uses for it, that I and some of my customers enjoy, so don’t forget to scroll down for some delicious options.

Watermelon is at its peak of the season right now – my grocery store’s prices are at their lowest. And you can buy watermelon in your grocers’ produce department already cut up, all year long, so there’s nothing to stop you when you want to make some of this spicy fruity goodness for your holiday or football get togethers!  If you’re into canning and preserving, you may want to make an extra-large batch and water-bath can the jam in Mason jars so you can keep it on the shelf, ready and waiting for your next inspiration!

Give it a try and don’t forget to Think Outside The Jar! Let me know what you come up with, too!

Spicy Watermelon Jam

Spicy Watermelon Jam

(yields about 3-1/2 to 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups ripe watermelon, cubed and seeded
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers (depending on heat desired)
  • 4 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin + 5 tsp. calcium water *
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 – 2 large limes (yielding about 2 Tbs zest & ¼ cup juice)
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

Place a couple of small plates into the freezer.

To adjust the heat in this recipe, taste your jalapeños first.  These days, I’ve found that they vary in heat from extremely mild to very hot – sometimes in the same lot. Knowing the heat of the peppers you’re using will affect just how hot this jam will be, and you can adjust it to your taste.

Using tongs, roast the jalapeño pepper over gas flame until blackened. Place the pepper into a small dish, cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam for about 5 minutes. Peel under cool running water. (See Roasting Peppers Tutorial for alternate methods)

While the pepper is roasting and steaming, puree the watermelon. Pour the puree into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the puree is reduced by about 1/3. Add the calcium water and continue boiling.  *Important: If you are canning this jam, add 1 Tbs of lemon juice to the jam recipe when adding the calcium water!

Slice open the jalapeño and remove the pith and seeds. Finely chop and stir into the watermelon puree.

Combine the pectin powder with the sugar & salt. Stir into the boiling watermelon mixture until dissolved. Boil for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Perform a gel test by placing a teaspoon of the mixture on one of the frozen plates and return to the freezer for 2 minutes.  If the mixture wrinkles when pushed with the tip of a spoon, proceed to the next step.

Add the lime juice, lime zest, and chopped cilantro to the watermelon mixture, return to the heat and bring back to a boil for another minute. Pour into a heat-safe container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Use within 2 weeks.

*(Recipe Note:  I only use Pomona’s Universal Pectin in my jam and jelly recipes. Each box consists of 2 packets: one smaller packet that contains the calcium powder to be mixed with water – 1/2 tsp. calcium powder mixed with 1/2 cup of water  (that’s the “calcium water”), and one larger packet that contains the pectin powder.)

Small-Batch Canning Instructions:

*Important: If you are canning this jam, add 1 Tbs of lemon juice to the jam recipe when adding the calcium water! This is so important, that I’m repeating myself!

This recipe may be doubled if you want to make more to give as gifts or for future use.

  • Place a stock pot filled about 2/3 with water on the stove and bring to a boil. Make sure that there is a rack or a pot holder in the bottom of the pot, so your canning jars do not come into direct contact with the bottom of the pot, itself.
  • Sterilize the appropriate number of jars by placing them in the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the jar lids in the boiling water for a minute or two.
  • Empty the water out of each jar, then fill with the hot jam, leaving 1/4″ to 1/2″ headroom at the top. Place a hot lid on top of the jar and screw on the lid ring, finger-tight.  Place the filled jar back into the pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the jar(s) from the boiling water and place on a towel or newspaper-covered surface to cool and seal. You should shortly hear the *ping* or *pop* of the lid sealing. When completely cool, store on a shelf or in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight. If a jar does not seal within 24 hours, refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

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Okay, now what do I do with it?

I’m so glad you asked!

Snacks:

Spicy Watermelon Jam Snack

One of my favorite snacks is cream cheese and pepper jam (or jelly) and crackers.  It’s as easy as spreading a bit of cream cheese on your favorite cracker and topping with a small dollop of jam!

Salad Dressing:

Spicy Watermelon Jam Dressing

To make 1/2 cup of dressing, whisk together:

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. Spicy Watermelon Jam

Alternatively, you can put all of the ingredients into a small jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it up vigorously.

Watermelon Glazed Fish:

Watermelon Jam Glazed Fish

Timing depends on the size and thickness of the fish you use, as well as your chosen cooking method, so follow your fish monger’s instructions or the package directions for cooking times and your favorite method.

Season a fish filet of your choice with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake, grill, or pan-fry for several minutes on one side. Turn the filet over and generously brush Spicy Watermelon Jam on the cooked side. Continue cooking until the fish is cooked through. Brush with additional jam, if desired.

Here, I pan-fried, over medium heat, Red Snapper filets about 1-inch thick in about 1 Tbs. of grapeseed oil for 2 minutes on the skin side. After turning them over, I brushed the jam on the skin side and allowed it to cook for about 4 minutes more.

Hot Wings or Spicy Chicken Tenders:

Spicy Watermelon Jam Hot Wings

Fry or bake the wings according to your preference.  When they’re cooked through, but still hot, put them in a large bowl and toss with several spoonfuls of Spicy Watermelon Jam to coat well. Serve with additional jam on the side for dipping.

Here, I dredged six boneless, skinless chicken tenders in 1/3 cup flour mixed with 1/8 tsp of freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 tsp sea salt. I then pan fried the chicken in about 1/4″ of grapeseed oil for about 3 minutes on each side, drained them on paper towels, and tossed them with 2 Tbs. Spicy Watermelon Jam.

You need to try this, because I know you CAN.  (See what I did there?)

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For dozens of more beautiful watermelon recipes, both sweet and savory, and more information about this incredibly delicious and versatile fruit, visit Watermelon.org. They also have all sorts of promotions, contests, and more, so be sure to “Like” and get notifications on their Facebook page, and follow @All4Watermelon on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, for the latest inspirations!

This post was sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. All opinions and recipes are my own, as always. So, what else is new?
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By RJ Flamingo ~ 12 Comments

Baked Barbecued Tofu

 

We’re omnivores at our house, and well-made tofu and seitan dishes turn up as regularly as meat does, on our lunch and dinner table. We’re even apt to tell people who tell us that they “hate” tofu, that old saw: “Oh, you just haven’t had it prepared properly, that’s all.”  This Baked Barbecued Tofu shows up on salads, sandwiches, and even as a TV snack, all year round, and is a virtually fat-free way to get a nice hit of protein, as well as a myriad of other health benefits that soy and tofu can supply. Not to mention that it’s delicious and has a great “meaty” texture, too!

BBQ Tofu at Flamingo Musings

We’re partial, of course, to our own Freakin’ Flamingo Mango Chipotle BBQ Sauce, a 50/50 blend of local mangoes and tomatoes, plus roasted & smoked jalapeõ chipotle chili peppers and local avocado honey… plus a few other things. ;-)  It’s vegetarian and available in both Hot and Mild, so no one has to miss out!

Freakin' Flamingo Mango Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Here’s how you do it:

Baked BBQ Tofu

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Drain the block of tofu. If you own a tofu press (and there are less expensive ones available than this one), simply place the block of tofu in the press according to manufacturer’s instructions, and leave it for about 30-45 minutes.  Dump out the water and proceed.

If you don’t own a tofu press, wrap the block of tofu in a clean kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels, and place it on a rack or a plate tipped at a slight angle, and add some weight. A large can of tomatoes, or a foil-wrapped brick will do nicely. Again, allow it to be pressed for about 30-45 minutes, draining off into the sink.

Preheat the oven (or your toaster oven) to 375ºF.

Line a small cookie sheet with non-stick foil or a silicone baking mat.  Slice the now-drained block of tofu into 1/4″ slices and lay out on the prepared cookie sheet.

Brush each slice liberally with some barbecue sauce. Place the cookie sheet in the hot oven and bake for 12 minutes.

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After the first 12 minutes, remove the cookie sheet from the oven, turn all the tofu slices over, and brush the other side with the barbecue sauce. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake for an additional 12 – 15 minutes, or until the edges look dry.

You can now either give them another coat of barbecue sauce, or eat as is. When cooled, the slices can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for future use.  Here, I prepared a simple green salad, topped with a few slices. But, as I mentioned earlier, these are great on sandwiches or alone as a snack!

BBQ Tofu 5195, Flamingo Musings

Serve this as a thoughtful and delicious vegetarian option at your next cook-out, or give it a try as your introduction to what tofu can be.

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 10 Comments

Roasting Peppers For Now and Later – A Tutorial

 

Sweet bell peppers in all sorts of jewel-like colors from green to yellow to orange to red to chocolate and purple.  Fiery jalapeños and serranos, fruity and spicy Hatch chiles and banana peppers, mild Cubanelles, and everything in between, above and below on the Scoville Scale.  They’re calling your name.

Pretty Peppers peppers_3982_400You picked a peck of peppers at the farmers market over the weekend, didn’t you?  Or maybe you went a little overboard at the U-Pick, or maybe your own garden is especially abundant.  It’s okay. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step. And the immediate problem is how to save them all for future use. Aside from pickling and canning them (and we’ll cover that in a future post), the easiest and best way to preserve your pile o’ peppers is to roast and freeze them.

 

You don’t have to live in New Mexico or own a ton of special equipment. A pair of long, metal-tipped tongs (don’t use the ones with plastic or silicone tips – they’ll melt), an old metal cake rack, and the top of your stove (if you have a gas range), will do. Or your barbecue grill. Or your oven.  Plus a bowl or storage container with a lid. And just a very few minutes of your time.  We’re going to need some roasted peppers for several things, this week, so let’s get started!

Start by washing and drying your peppers.

Gas Range/Cooktop:

Place an old metal cake rack (bent-up is okay, rusted is not) on top of the largest gas burner. Turn the burner up to High and use the long metal tongs to place your peppers on top of the rack, so the peppers are over the flames. As the peppers’ skins begin to blacken and blister, turn them with the tongs to roast all sides.

Roasting Hatch Chiles 2These are Hatch chiles.

Roasting Hatch Chiles

When the peppers are almost completely blackened and blistered, remove them from the rack and place into a bowl or heat-safe container and cover immediately. Repeat with the next batch of peppers, and so on.

When all the peppers have been roasted, allow them to cool in the covered container(s) for a minimum of 10 minutes. The steam generated from the hot, roasted peppers will loosen their blistered skins and make later peeling easier.  *Some people will say to put the hot, roasted peppers in a plastic bag to cool. I don’t trust plastic bags for this purpose and prefer covered bowls or – even better – heat/freezer-safe storage containers.  Just me?

Barbecue Grills:

Grills run a lot hotter than the burners on your stove, so if you have the ability, either use the lowest temperature setting or keep the peppers on a cooler area of the grill. The blackening/blistering process will also go a lot faster, so don’t walk off to answer the phone or play with the dog.  Keep those tongs handy!  Place the peppers in a covered container to cool, as above.

Oven Roasting:

Place the rack in your oven in the upper 1/3 position.  Preheat the oven or even your toaster oven to 500ºF.  Lay out the peppers in a single layer on a rack that’s been placed over a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for several minutes, until they begin blackening and blistering, as above, turning with the tongs as necessary.   If using the broiler, place the peppers on a broiler pan and proceed.  Again, place the roasted peppers in a covered container as above.

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If you want to use the peppers right away, wait until they’re completely cool and peel under a gentle stream of cool, running water in the sink. The now-loosened skins and most of the blackened parts will slip right off.  Blot with a kitchen towel or paper towel to dry them off a bit, and proceed with your recipe. Do I need to remind you that it would be a really good idea to put on some gloves, before handling hot peppers?

If you want to freeze the peppers for later use, just lay them in a freezer-safe storage container or freezer storage bag, and put them in the freezer without peeling.  Initially, the peppers will stick together in a clump. Don’t be alarmed! After several hours in the freezer, remove the clump o’ peppers from the container and pull them apart. They will separate again. Really. Put the separated peppers back into the container or bag, then back in the freezer. They should last about 6 months.

To use the frozen peppers, just take out whatever amount you need, and as above, run them individually under a gentle stream of cool, running water in the sink, peel, blot, and use.

Whether you need some sweet bell pepper for pastas, soups, and sauces, or spicy hatch or jalapeño peppers for salsas or other fun uses, if you roast and freeze at the peak of growing season, you’ll always have that special ingredient at your fingertips.

 Now, we’re ready to get cooking!  We’ll be using our roasted peppers for a couple of delicious and fun dishes and treats, this week, so be sure to stop by!

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 16 Comments

No-Cook Jam and Buttermilk Ice Cream

 

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This No-Cook Jam Buttermilk Ice Cream was inspired – as many of my recipes are – by craving some ice cream, not having any in the house, and by being too lazy to leave the house to go get some. And by what was available in my fridge and freezer.  You were expecting something nostalgic, maybe?

I’ll admit it – I’m not a big fan of the super-premium ice creams. For me, the flavor is undercut by what I can only describe as kind of a waxy feeling on my lips. I hardly ever wear lipstick, either. I just don’t care for the sensation. All the heavy cream and eggs may be “premium”, but I’m afraid that it’s lost on me.  So, I added a bit of my own Freakin’ Flamingo® jam to enrich the creaminess of the texture without adding any fat!

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No-Cook Jam and Buttermilk Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup light (or single) cream or half-and-half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced and frozen (or other fruit of your choice)
  • 4 Tbs. Freakin’ Flamingo® Strawberry Vanilla Jam (or other complementary favorite flavor)
  • Pinch of table salt
  • Special equipment: small food processor and ice cream maker

Preparation:

If your ice cream maker has a separate core that needs to be frozen, put it into your freezer well ahead of time. Personally, mine lives in my freezer 24/7, this time of year.

Whisk together the buttermilk, cream, and sugar. In a small food processor, combine the strawberries and jam. Whisk the strawberry mixture into the buttermilk mixture.

Ice Cream Base

Turn on the ice cream maker and pour the ice cream base into it while it’s running.  Process until it’s the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. This takes about 20 minutes in my old Krups ice cream maker. Turn it out into freezer containers, cover tightly, and freeze for an additional minimum 2 hours or more.

Yields 2 quarts.

Jam Butermilk Ice Cream

Notes:

I use my electric hand blender / immersion blender and its attachments (the chopper processor and the whisk attachment on lowest speed) to do all the work. If you don’t have one, you should get one. It’s the single most-used tool in my kitchen, except for spoons and knives!

If your ice cream maker holds only 1 quart, you can either halve the recipe, or run it in two batches. It comes together so quickly, you shouldn’t even have to re-freeze the ice cream maker core.

I think you’ll love the simplicity and easy way this ice cream comes together. And, because all of the ingredients are already cold, you don’t have to chill the base before putting it through the ice cream maker! That cuts at least 2-3 hours off of your wait time to dig in! Score!

“But I don’t want to wait 2 hours for it to firm up in the freezer!” Fine, Little Miss (or Mr.) Instant Gratification. Be that way. (I love you!)  Here’s a secret:  After running it through the ice cream maker, just pour it into tall glasses (or what I call “grown-up sippy cups”), stick in a straw, and get ready to have one of the best milkshakes you’ve ever had! ;-)

Even my husband, who is not normally a huge strawberry ice cream fan, loves this version.  The slight tang from the buttermilk makes it refreshing, while adding another dimension of flavor to the fruit. It’s sweet and creamy enough to satisfy the dessert-freaks, but light enough that you can still feel good about serving it to your family and friends. Give it a try!

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 4 Comments

Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet – 6 Ways!

 

The end of National Watermelon Month is upon us, but certainly nowhere near the end of watermelon! We’re at the height of the season, and I couldn’t be happier! Take a look at these prices at my local grocery store:

watermelon store display

I’ve always loved watermelon as far back as I can remember. Hot, Ohio summer days at the community swimming pool, coming home to Dad’s potato salad and grilling burgers in the backyard for supper… Sitting outside in the warm, muggy twilight afterwards, still in our bathing suits, with big icy cold slices… Juices all over my face and running down my arms as I tried to get every last bit of sweet fruit off the rind. I think those were the only times that my mother never yelled at us for getting messy with our food!

What Mom didn’t know back then, is that watermelon not only tastes good, but is so good for you, too. Watermelon is over 92% water (hence its name), and is incredibly hydrating. Not only that, but it contains more Lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable! Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and is what gives it and some other fruits and vegetables their red color.  It’s also packed with Vitamin A, C, B6 and Potassium.  So, there’s a lot more to it than just water and sugar! Who knew?

These days, I love eating watermelon in so many different ways and with so many different foods. Once you make this Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet, you can use it as a platform for desserts, smoothies, and even change up some of your favorite cocktails! Make sure you read the notes at the bottom!

 Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet

– Yields about 1 quart plus 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups Watermelon chunks
  • 3 Tbs. Key Lime Juice
  • 1 Tbs. Key Lime (or Lime) Zest
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 1 cup water

Special equipment: Ice cream maker

Preparation:

If your ice cream maker has a separate core that needs to be frozen, make sure you do that well ahead of time.

Remove the black seeds from the watermelon. There is no need to remove the white “seeds” – they will disintegrate during the pureeing process. See notes.*

Puree the watermelon in either a blender or in a bowl, using a hand blender. Add the Key Lime juice, zest, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Pour the water and sugar into a small saucepan, and bring it to a boil over high heat. When it comes to a boil, give it a stir to make sure that all the sugar is dissolved. Allow the liquid to boil rapidly until it reaches 240º F on a rapid-read or candy thermometer. This will take about 12-14 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. As it cools, the syrup will thicken, so don’t allow it to cool completely.

Add the syrup to the fruit puree in a stream, while blending completely.

Cover and refrigerate the puree for a minimum of 1 -2 hours.

Assemble your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Turn it on, and pour the cooled fruit mixture into it while it’s running. Allow to process until thickened and soft-frozen – mine takes about 20 minutes.

Transfer the sorbet into freezer-friendly lidded containers and pop ‘em into your freezer.

frozen watermelon sorbet

At this point, we can go any number of different refreshing directions!

1.  Dessert: Watermelon SorbetSimply allow your sorbet to sit in the freezer for about an hour or two after processing, then scoop and eat! Delicious with other cut fruits, or on its own, this makes a bright finish to any meal, or as a palate cleanser between courses. Does anyone still do that anymore?

2.  Slushies:  Key Lime Watermelon Slushy

Absolutely nothing is more refreshing, cooling, and hydrating on a hot and humid day than a slushy made with this sorbet and a little crushed ice! Just put 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet into your blender or blender cup with 1 cup crushed ice, and blend until smooth.  The kids will love it – and you!

3.  Smoothies:  Yes, I know. I told you a few weeks ago that the smoothie was dead. And I still say that the green ones taste like liquified lawn clippings. But, even I will admit that the smoothie has its advantages. It’s fast, nutritious, and easy to handle, especially if you only have one hand free.  Just because you’re having something healthy, doesn’t mean you have to suffer, though.  Make this smoothie and you’ll feel like you’re drinking a decadent milkshake! P.S. – I adore these “grown-up sippy cups”, don’t you?

Key Lime Watermelon Smoothie

Key Lime Watermelon Smoothie (makes 1 large serving):

  • 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk of your choice
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1 tsp – 1 Tbs flax seed meal (optional)
  • 1 tsp – 1 Tbs hemp seed (optional)

Put all ingredients in your blender and let ‘er rip until smooth! Loaded with protein, calcium, lycopene, potassium, Vitamins A, B6, C, and fiber, this delicious smoothie will keep you going all morning or afternoon!

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Now for the really fun stuff!

Key Lime Watermelon Daiquiri

4.  Frozen Key Lime Watermelon Daiquiri (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 2 oz. silver rum (preferably Florida-made!)
  • Lime slices and sugar for garnish (optional)

Place all ingredients, except the lime slices and sugar, into a blender and blend until smooth.

Put some sugar into a shallow dish. Rub the outer rims of the glasses with a piece of lime and dip the rims into the sugar. Tap off any excess. Pour the frozen daiquiris into the glasses. Cut a slit into each lime slice to garnish the rims.

Key Lime Watermelon Mojito

5.  Frozen Key Lime Watermelon Mojito (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 2 oz. silver rum (preferably Florida-made!)
  • 6 large mint leaves
  • 2 sprigs of mint for garnish

Place all ingredients, except the whole mint sprigs, in a blender and blend until the mint leaves are chopped super-fine. Pour into glasses and garnish with mint sprigs.

Key Lime Watermelon Margarita

6.  Frozen Key Lime Watermelon Margarita (makes 2 servings)

  • 1-1/2 cups Key Lime Watermelon Sorbet
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 oz orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec)
  • 1 oz Tequila
  • small wedge of lime (to wet glass rims) and kosher salt for garnish

Place all ingredients, except the lime and salt, into the blender and blend until smooth.  Place some kosher salt into a shallow dish. Rub the lime wedge around the outer part of the glass rims, then dip the glasses in the salt. Tap off any excess. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

*Notes:

Those little white “seeds” in “seedless” watermelons are technically not seeds at all, but rather sterile seed coats that never developed into seeds, and don’t detract from the watermelon’s deliciousness. You probably wouldn’t even notice them in your mouth, if you hadn’t seen them first! They will completely disintegrate into the fruit puree, so don’t give them a second thought.

Why did we make a sugar syrup for the sorbet? Isn’t watermelon sweet enough on its own? Well, usually watermelon is pretty sweet in its natural state, but freezing anything reduces its sweetness. So, there are actually two reasons we made the syrup. The first is to bump up the sweetness, so the end product will taste the way you want it to. The second reason is to make the sorbet’s texture a little smoother and reduce the sharpness of the ice crystals as it freezes. If you don’t want to make the sugar syrup, you can substitute with one cup of corn syrup. Relax! There’s nothing wrong with corn syrup you buy at the grocery store. Don’t confuse it with the High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) used by large commercial food companies. It’s not the same thing, and you can’t buy HFCS at the grocery store. Read the ingredients label on the corn syrup bottle, though. Some store brands of corn syrup actually contain HFCS, and you don’t want that. Only buy good quality corn syrup, such as Karo. If you’re still squeamish about it, make the sugar syrup.

Just like ice cream, this sorbet will stay fresh in your freezer for several weeks.  However, you will need to remove it from the freezer about 15 minutes ahead of time to allow it to soften a bit for use, if you freeze it for more than several hours after making it.

As you can see, once the sorbet is made, pretty much all the work has been done and you’ve got the perfect base for any number of icy treats!

For dozens of more beautiful watermelon recipes, both sweet and savory, and more information about this incredibly delicious and versatile fruit, visit Watermelon.org. They also have all sorts of promotions, carving contests, and more, so be sure to “Like” and get notifications on their Facebook page, and follow @All4Watermelon on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, for the latest inspirations!

This post was sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. All opinions are my own, as always. So, what else is new?
watermelon_logo

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 6 Comments

A Tour of Some Blogs I Love

 

key lime watermelon sorbet

What’s this? This is just a teaser for a post that’s coming later in the week. Feel free to meditate on it…

It’s early Sunday morning, the cats have succeeded in their demands for breakfast, I have my coffee cup, and it’s still quiet and peaceful here. So far. This is the perfect opportunity to share with you a little bit more about me, and to introduce you to several food blogs that I love to visit, by friends of mine who inspire me. Go get your cup and settle in for a few minutes. I’ll wait right here…. (humming Final Jeopardy music)….

First, a big Thank You shoutout to Sherri Jo of The Adventures of Kitchen Girl for featuring Flamingo Musings in her blog tour, last week. I’ve kind of lost track of how long we’ve known each other, but it definitely goes back to long before I was ever on Facebook! Sherri Jo is honest and earthy, and her blog focuses on the actual food she feeds her kids – it’s all real, wholesome, and creative. I mean, who wouldn’t love a big, heaping forkful of this Quick Asian Style Beef?

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I had to love her when she put my Spicy Tomato Jam on grilled cheese!

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She’s been focusing on a lot of fresh veg recipes, lately, and hosts a lot of fun giveaways, so you should check her out. And go ahead and follow her on Facebook, too – Sherri Jo loves company!

What am I working on?

Besides making some fun, seasonal jams for my business Freakin’ Flamingo, I’m currently working on a sponsored post for the National Watermelon Promotion Board, that will be posted on Wednesday. You’re going to really enjoy this one – I know I am! Hey, there’s booze involved! ;-)

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think that the main way my work is different from a lot of other food blogs, is that, while it’s not immediately obvious, everything I make is Kosher. You won’t find any recipes for pork or seafood, or anything that mixes dairy and meat. I was raised that way, and that’s how I cook. As a result of my having a kosher kitchen, you’ll find a lot of “work-arounds” and vegetarian and vegan (dairy-free or meat-free) substitutions and options. And, since I’ve lived in South Florida since 1970, you’ll frequently find quite a lot of Latin and Caribbean influences in many of my dishes. I love those flavors and I refuse to deprive myself of them! You’ll also find my family’s traditional Jewish-influenced favorites. Sometimes, as-is, and sometimes with delicious and healthier twists.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I can’t keep it all to myself! Even though I’m Jewish and keep kosher in my home, I come up with loads of recipes and ideas that are suitable for anyone and everyone and any occasion. I don’t like being pigeon-holed. When people ask me how I come up with some of my off-the-wall jam, barbecue sauce, or pickle concoctions, I tell them: This is my creative outlet. Some people paint and some people sculpt, and I play with my food!

How does my writing process work?

Well, first I stare in my fridge. Then I stare in my pantry. Then I stare at my spice and condiment shelves. Sometimes, I’ll spot something that captures my imagination at the grocery store or farmers market. Then I ask myself: “What if I … ”  I don’t like recipes that are too fussy or take ridiculous amounts of time to prepare. I’m a home cook, just like most of you, and I don’t have a team of sous chefs and underlings to do all the chopping, etc. So, if I can’t cook or bake something and get it on the table in a reasonable amount of time, I won’t do it and I won’t expect you to make it. I’ll cook it, I’ll write it down, and I’ll do it again to make sure it can be reproduced.  A lot of times, I’ll have something at a restaurant, or I’ll get an inspiration, and no matter what else I’m doing at the time, my brain won’t shut up until I produce it at home. I try not to bore you, but I’ll have to tell you the “Why” behind much of the process. So you’ll get it. Then I take all of that mishmash, edit it down, and rearrange it so it’ll make sense.  I hope.

So, that’s enough about me. Let me introduce you to a couple of my long-time friends with unique points of view, that you should know:

First up is my good friend Jenny, who writes The Mad Rantings of Andrew’s Mom – “The joys and struggles of autism with recipes, cooking and baking thrown in for good measure.”  Parents of autistic children will find an empathetic ear here, and the rest of us will gain a small measure of understanding for the challenges and cheer for the victories. But, mostly what you’ll find on Jenny’s blog is the love of food. And cookbooks. Lots and lots of cookbooks. And even more cookbooks. Jenny loves cookbooks so much, that she began and is the admin for The Cookbook Junkies, a Facebook group of over 7,000 like-minded cookbook addicts! If you were wondering whether or not to buy the latest book written by the latest star-chef, or an entry in the latest hip cuisine, odds are you’ll find a review of the cookbook on Jenny’s blog, or consensus about it over at The Cookbook Junkies. You’ll also find some of Jenny’s great twists and delicious original recipes, like these Citrus Ricotta Zepole! Mmm….

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Next on our mini-tour, is one of my earliest blogging friends from back when Twitter was actually social, rather than a series of links to other people’s blog posts, Heather and her now-husband, Jeff of He Cooks She Cooks. Heather and Jeff have found their mutual voice in the love of all things beer and meat – mainly charcuterie. That beer love is immediately apparent in this recipe for Farmhouse Ale Cheese Fondue

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You’ll also find all sorts of recipes incorporating beer into breads and other main dishes, and let’s face it – their love for bacon will not be denied! So much so, that they just started selling some of their unique bacons and jerkys (jerkies?) under their “Smoke & Honey” label at the farmers market in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You will have to seek them out. The reviews of their products are over the moon. Seriously. But in the meantime, check out some of their mouthwatering recipes on their blog!

Please visit Jenny’s and Heather’s blogs and next week they’ll be featuring several of their own personal favorites for you to discover.

Thanks for visiting Flamingo Musings and my friends. Feel free to stop by any time to see what’s fresh!

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 7 Comments

Spicy Peanut Butter & Jelly Burgers and Quick PB&J Tarts

 

Stuffed Burger

Wait! Don’t run away!  Listen – Lots of people have been doing weird stuff to hamburgers, these days. It’s just not enough to slap a patty on the grill, maybe a little cheese, and be done with it anymore.  Now, they have to be loaded, stuffed, and dressed for prime time.  Truth is, stuffing a burger with peanut butter, as we’re doing here today, isn’t a new thing at all. In the South, we call ‘em Goober Burgers.  But, you know me – the twists are coming…

You know how I’m always telling you to play with your Freakin’ Flamingo jams and jellies? What a delicious addition they are to both sweet AND savory foods? In fact, I’ve posted before about adding jam to your meatloaf instead of ketchup.  My favorite Freakin’ Flamingo flavors to add to meatloaf are the Blueberry Mojito and Blue Sunshine. It doesn’t taste like there’s jam in your meatloaf, but gives the meat a bit of a sweet/savory kick and helps keep it moist. In fact, not only does my husband love my meatloaf made this way, but even some of my customers have told me that it’s the best meatloaf they ever made!

I’ve been a fan of Peanut Butter & Co. for several years and use them at home on a regular basis, because they don’t use any HFCS or anything fake, and their imaginative flavors are just delicious!  Their “Bee’s Knees” (honey flavor) and “White Chocolate Wonderful” are among my favorites – especially for a quick breakfast or snack. So when I met a couple of people representing the company a couple of months ago (and I swear – it was purely by chance!), it just seemed like a match made in heaven, didn’t it? I mean, we’re both always telling people to “Think Outside the Jar!”  And when I heard that PB & Co. has a spicy peanut butter named “The Heat is On”? Make no mistake about it – this stuff is HOT! No, really. If you can’t take the heat, I suggest using one of their other flavors, such as Mighty Maple.

Thus, the Spicy Peanut Butter & Jelly Burger was born:

Stuffed Burger

Spicy Peanut Butter & Jelly Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 4 rounded tsp. Peanut Butter & Co. ® The Heat Is On peanut butter, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 Tbs. Freakin’ Flamingo ® Blueberry Mojito or Blue Sunshine Jam (regular or sugar-free)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. (or just a few grinds) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Method:

Scoop out individual teaspoons of the peanut butter onto a small sheet of parchment paper and place into the freezer for about an hour or more.

peanut butter discs

In a medium bowl, lightly mix together the ground beef, jam, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, until well-blended.

Divide the meat into four portions and shape into large balls, then flatten.

Place a frozen peanut butter disc onto the center of each patty, then wrap the edges around it and seal well. It should look like a regular patty, with no seams showing. We don’t want that peanut buttery goodness to leak out! :-)

patties_4697_400

Cook on your outdoor grill or on a stovetop grill pan (or even your broiler) to your preferred doneness, and top as desired.

This is easily doubled for a crowd and you can assemble them up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to grill.

IMG_4763

Now, who’s ready for a quickie dessert? Peanut Butter & Jam Tartlets are so ridiculously easy and quick to put together, I almost feel guilty turning it into a recipe. Almost.

These little tartlets are the perfect take-along dessert for any get-together, anytime of year. Make these for last-minute company, family night, or when you just want a little snack. You can even make them in your toaster oven – no need to heat up the kitchen! And all you need are three ingredients for the perfect bite!

peanut butter and jelly tarts

Peanut Butter & Jam Tarts

Ingredients:

  • Freakin’ Flamingo ® Jam (any flavor – except tomato – regular or sugar-free)
  • Peanut Butter & Co. ® Peanut Butter (any flavor)
  • 1 package of Mini-Fillo (Phyllo) shells
  • various toppings, such as shredded coconut, chocolate chips, or mini-marshmallows (optional)

You’ll find the phyllo shells in your grocer’s freezer section. There are 15 in each package.

Pre-heat your oven (or toaster oven) to 350º F. Place the thawed shells on a baking tray and bake for about 5-6 minutes to crisp them up a bit. Remove from the oven and cool.  Leave the oven on.

IMG_4711

Fill each tart shell with 1/2 tsp of peanut butter and top with 1/2 tsp of jam. Sprinkle with a little of your chosen topping, if using. Bake for an additional 5-6 minutes in the hot oven, remove and allow to cool before serving.  Can’t wait? You really don’t have to bake them at all!

My favorite combinations? Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter with any mango or strawberry flavor jam; Smooth Operator or White Chocolate Wonderful with Blue Sunshine, Lemon Ginger Jelly, or Piña Colada; Mighty Maple with Strawberry Joe (when in stock) or Strawberry Vanilla (when in stock).

I always have a package of phyllo shells in my freezer at all times. And if you have a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter and Freakin’ Flamingo jam around, you’re always ready for a snack attack! Because you just never know, right?

Visit Peanut Butter & Co. to find a store near you or, if your store doesn’t carry the flavor or style you want, order from them directly.  Of course, you know where to find your favorite seasonal flavors of Freakin’ Flamingo! ;-)

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Peanut Butter & Co. provided me with several jars of their peanut butter to experiment with Freakin’ Flamingo jams and jellies. All opinions expressed are my own, as always. You had doubts?
By RJ Flamingo ~ 2 Comments
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