Keep Summer Alive with Simple Sides and Scrumptious Desserts

Keep Summer Alive with Simple Sides and Scrumptious Desserts

Keeping summer alive after summer vacation has ended is the theme of this month’s Cook This column. We’re in no hurry to rush into a new season without extending this one to the max. It’s all about light and easy dishes and this month we’re reflecting the cuisine of Polynesia. Picture white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and Tiki Torches flickering shadows while preparing these scrumptious recipes for your family.

Our main course dish recipe for Marinated Chicken Kabobs can be found in the pages of August’s Simply Family Magazine, which can also be viewed online. Once you have that authentic dish sizzling on the grill, get my fragrant Coconut Jasmine Rice dish simmering on the stovetop. (This will really get your family’s gastronomical juices flowing and before you know it, everyone will be swarming the kitchen ready to eat!) Take advantage of their eagerness and assign tasks such as setting the table, filling water glasses, or removing the yummy frozen mini-cheesecakes from the freezer.

Coconut Jasmine Rice (serves 8)

Complimenting our Asian flavors found in the Chicken Kabobs is this delicious Coconut Milk Jasmine Rice side dish.  photo by Carole Davenport

Complimenting our Asian flavors found in the Chicken Kabobs is this delicious Coconut Milk Jasmine Rice side dish. photo by Carole Davenport

In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine 2 cups Jasmine rice, 3/4-cup water, 1 ½ cups coconut milk and 3/4-teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Stir once, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. (Do not lift the lid or stir!) Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes; fluff with a fork and serve. Lightly sprinkle with sesame seeds.

While your mouth-watering Jasmine rice is cooking, grab your fresh carrots from the ‘frig (you know, the ones you bought at Farmers Market last weekend!) for my Pan-roasted Balsamic Carrot side dish.

Using a heavy bottom frying pan, lay carrots side-by-side and drizzle with Olive Oil. Start with Med-high heat to roast, keep turning the carrots using kitchen tongs, to prevent burning. After a few minutes, reduce heat to medium, adding a couple Tablespoons of butter, two or three pinches of kosher salt, and 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Allow carrots to sizzle in this sauce while carefully adding enough water to keep it liquid. (I usually just add a Tablespoon or two at a time). It’s helpful if you buy skinny carrots, which cook faster.

Fresh from the farm to the table is emphasized in my Pan-roasted Balsamic Carrot side dish. With the right blend of balsamic vinegar, butter, and honey these carrots seem to melt in your mouth.  photo by Carole Davenport

Fresh from the farm to the table is emphasized in my Pan-roasted Balsamic Carrot side dish. With the right blend of balsamic vinegar, butter, and honey these carrots seem to melt in your mouth. photo by Carole Davenport

When carrots are al dente (still firm when bitten) add 2 Tablespoons of honey, and another Tablespoon of butter. Season with more salt if needed, and add a sprinkle of pepper. The balsamic glazed honey will reflect the Tiki-Torch flames you’re still picturing in your mind!

Your shish kabobs are plated and drizzled with marinade, your Jasmine rice is fragrantly enjoying its last few minutes of steaming, and your picture-perfect carrots are completing their roasting. Time to whip out your choice of summer fruit and prepare for topping those cute mini-cheesecakes! Sliced berries, banana, or even a few chocolate chips depending on each family member’s preference, completes your meal with just enough sweet, just enough cold, and just enough beauty to make you wish for a hammock between those swaying palm trees! Okay, back to reality to supervise kitchen clean up!

This month’s dessert recipe for mini cheesecakes  is sure to become one of your family favorites, as it has been in ours for over 30 years! Super easy to prepare, so versatile to adapt to individual tastes, yet delicious enough that my daughter included it in her wedding reception desserts! photo by Carole Davenport

This month’s dessert recipe for mini cheesecakes is sure to become one of your family favorites, as it has been in ours for over 30 years! Super easy to prepare, so versatile to adapt to individual tastes, yet delicious enough that my daughter included it in her wedding reception desserts! photo by Carole Davenport

Little Frozen Cheesecakes

  • 3 8oz packages of softened cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Directions: Mix all the ingredients well. Put cupcake wrappers in muffin pan and place 1 vanilla cookie wafer in the bottom of each cupcake holder. Add a dollop of the cheese mixture, filling to the top (there is no rising or expansion so no worries). Bake at 325 degrees on top shelf of oven for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. Cover with plastic to assure freshness, and place in freezer. Use within one month of baking. Remove as needed and allow to thaw at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving. Add any variety of toppings. Sometimes we use a pre-made cherry pie filling, but usually it’s fresh fruit with a little whipped cream on top.

About the author…Carole Davenport is a Montana native, freelance writer, cook, and owner of Bitterroot Fresh Food Styling Photography. She and her daughters are currently compiling a Fresh is Best cookbook using their original recipes.

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