Lime Marinated Grilled Shrimp Salad

Now that winter is over and it’s officially spring (for the most part) it’s time to get “beach body ready”!  Even if you’re not trying to lose weight it’s always a good idea to eat a healthy balanced diet and this recipe is perfect.  When I made this dish I wanted something quick and easy to make with as few ingredients as possible and this is what I came up with 🙂

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Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
mixed greens
vinaigrette dressing

Directions

In a medium bowl combine shrimp, olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, cumin, oregano, garlic power, salt and pepper.  Toss shrimp so that each piece is evenly covered in marinade.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat grill or grill pan over medium high heat.  Place shrimp on grill and cook about 4 minutes on each side.  Allow shrimp to cool slightly and serve on top of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette dressing.

 

*An NCJ Original*

 

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Lamb Meatballs with Cucumber Dill Sauce

 

As my friend says, “It’s not a party without meatballs!”  So for my latest Girls Night In I made these deliciou Lamb Meatballs. I wanted to try something different from the standard BBQ  meatballs, which are pretty darn good in their own right.   However, if you’re looking for something quick and easy to make that will still impress your guests these are perfect.  They only took about 30 minutes to prepare (if that long) and 20 minutes to bake. So if you’re in a rush you can make the meatballs ahead of time, refrigerate them and pop them in the oven right before your party.

These meatballs are tender and juicy with just the right amount of crunch from the onion and toasted pine nuts.  Next time you have a party make these and trust me your guest will love you for it!  They go  perfectly with a glass of pino noir or riesling if you’re not into red wine.

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Ingredients

2 lb Lamb, ground
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped and divided
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup greek yogurt, strained
1/2 cup cucumber dill dressing
Fresh Dill for Garnish

Directions

In a saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes and set aside. Meanwhile in a large bowl thoroughly combine lamb, pine nuts, cumin, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon dill, egg, salt and pepper.  Add onions and combine using your hands.  Line a baking sheet with foil and roll out 1 1/2” balls placing them on baking sheet. These can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator for up to a day.  Bake for 20 minutes.

While meatballs are baking, prepare yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, combine Cucumber Dill Dressing, yogurt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of dill.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a starter with dipping sauce on the side and garnish with fresh dill.

 

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen

 

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Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parmesan

Hey NCJ Peeps, I took a little time off for the holidays but I’m back!  It’s a new year and time to start fulfilling those New Year’s resolutions and eating healthy.  After Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years I can’t eat another bite of turkey, stuffing or (I can’t believe I’m saying this) cake!  So here’s a recipe to help you stay healthy while not sacrificing flavor.  I actually never had eggplant before writing this post but I can see why a lot of vegetarians substitute this for meat.  It has a hearty texture and is heavy enough to fill you without giving you that bloated feel.  Also, instead of frying the eggplant Parmesan it’s baked, lightly sprinkled with mozzarella (not smothered) and served with a healthy tomato sauce.  Now if I could just get myself to the gym I would be good!

Aside from eating healthy I have some resolutions of my own for this website.  My goal is to post a new recipe at least twice a week, begin my YouTube series and do more exciting giveaways for my loyal fans.  I’m telling you all this so you can hold me accountable!  So I won’t get upset if I get an email or two holding me to my word…that’s what friends are for 🙂

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions you want to share?  Here’s to a bigger better 2013!

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Ingredients

Olive oil, for baking sheets
2 large eggs
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large eggplants (2 1/2 pounds total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
6 cups (48 ounces) store-bought chunky tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded low fat mozzarella

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs.  In another shallow bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in eggs, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets.  Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes.  Turn slices; continue baking until browned on the other side, about 20 minutes more.  Sprinkle low fat mozzarella on each slice and place back in oven until cheese is melted.
While the eggplant is baking, heat sauce on the stove until bubbling.  To serve, ladle about a half cup of sauce on a plate and place 2 to 3 slice of eggplant on the sauce.  Garnish with fresh parsley or oregano.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

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Roasted Turkey Sandwich with Onion Jam and Brie

By show of hands, who here loves onions?  Ok I won’t be able to see you but you know who you are!  I have a love/love relationship with onions that goes way back.  In my humble opion they are the best condiment and can be eaten with almost anything.  Since we’re sharing, here’s a quick run down of few of my favorite onion dishes: onion rings, french onion soup, caramelized onions, raw onions, white onions, yellow onions, red onions…you get the picture!

I know that the title of this post begins with “turkey sandwich” but the real star of this post is the onion jam.  So when my fellow classmate from culinary school made some I thought, “Why haven’t I thought of this before?!”.  We tasted it with toasted baguets and if it tasted that good on plain bread I knew it would be awesome on a sandwich, burger…just about anything!

After a few days of eating the traditional Thanksgiving turkey I came up with this yummy sandwich that I hope you all enjoy!

 

Ingredients

For onion jam:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup dry red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

For sandwich

Toasted baguette

Brie cheese

1 tbsp mayo

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Sliced or deli turkey meat

Directions

1. In a medium skillet set over medium-low heat, add the olive oil, Vidalia  onion and red onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and  translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the marjoram, rosemary, thyme, salt and black pepper and cook for  2 minutes. Add the honey, red wine, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar and  stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the  mixture is thickened and the liquid is almost evaporated, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Transfer the onion jam to a bowl and cool completely. Serve at room  temperature, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5  days.

 4. Cut baguette lengthwise and lightly toast cut side up.   Layer sandwich in this order: bread, Dijon mustard, onion jam, turkey meat, brie cheese, lettuce (if desired), mayo and bread.

Turkey sandwich an NCJ Original

Onion Jam Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

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Roasted Turkey

When you think of Thanksgiving one of the first images that come to mind is THE Thanksgiving turkey.  Placed at the center of the table with all the trimmings, surrounded by the delicious side dishes and your family sitting around the table waiting expectantly for that first slice.  This is exactly why I’ve avoided making one all these years.  I usually defer to my mom, the turkey maker, to pull off this classic dish with no help from me.  But since I began this cooking journey I decided I needed to be brave and if I could make a delicious turkey then so could you NCJ Peeps!

 

I’m not ashamed to admit it….one of the most intimidating things for me to cook has always been a turkey.  Most cooks have their achilles heel and this has for a long time been mine.  I mean first of all it’s huge and it just looks intimidating;  like it’s daring me to mess up and make a dry burnt bird.  But with the encouragement of my friend Monica and this awesome recipe from Alton Brown I decided I was not going to let this bird beat me…I’m smarter than the turkey, lol!

 

Within the first 30 minutes of roasting I could smell the savory herbs and spices throughout my entire house and I knew this was going to be good.  Soaking the turkey in a brine allows the spices, and yes salt, to penetrate the meat itself so no additional seasoning is needed.  The meat stays moist and no basting is needed as long as you watch the internal temperature and pull the bird out of the oven as soon as it reaches 161 degrees.  If you want you can sprinkle an herb mixture on the skin of the turkey before roasting it but I would advise against using anything with salt.  The meat is so flavorful and juicy from the brine that none is needed.

 

Needless to say I absolutely love this recipe and will be using it whenever a turkey is needed.  I usually make some changes to a recipe to put my spin on it, but this one is good as is.  I was like a proud mama pulling my turkey out of the oven and was even prouder when I saw the faces of my family when they tasted it.  I highly recommend using this recipe if this is your first or fiftieth time making a turkey.

In the spirit of  Thanksgiving, I am thankful for God’s grace & mercy, my family and my friends.  What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

♥ Nina

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Ingredients

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 gallon vegetable stock

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger

1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

Canola oil

Directions

2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket (I bought a cheap one from Home Depot) . Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

 

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network

 

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Pumpkin Chowder

A lot of you have been asking for my recipes from culinary school and I am working on putting them all together for you.  In the meantime here is my latest culinary creation.  I had to do a presentation on a fruit or vegetable so I decided to  do my favorite Fall fruit, the Pumpkin!  Nothing like doing a 10 minute presentation on pumpkin to make me feel like real foodie geek, lol.

Part  of my presentation included a recipe demo and since this is culinary school I wanted make something using fresh pumpkin and not the pumpkin puree you find in a can.  I wouldn’t have been able to show my face in the kitchen!  I’d never eaten or cooked with fresh pumpkin but I was so surprised at how delicious this chowder is.  It’s not at all what you’d expect and doesn’t have the “pumpkin pie” flavor that we’re all used to.  It’s warm and savory with just enough spice to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Perfect for a cold Fall day.

Here are some interesting pumpkin facts I found during my research:

  • Originated in North America and first cultivated by Native Americans
  • Small pumkins are best for cooking, more tender and sweet
  • Pumpkins are 90% water
  • Entire plant is edible including the shell, leaves, seeds and flower
  • 80% of pumpkins in the US are harvested in October
  • Excellent source of Alpha & Beta carotene and fiber

P.S. – Sorry for the picture quality but I can’t bring my high powered DSLR camera to the kitchen, lol.

P.P.S. – I’m pretty sure I got an A+ 🙂

Enjoy!

♥ Nina

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Leeks, trimmed of tough green tops and chopped
3 large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 1/4 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2- by 1-inch-thick pieces
1 1/2 tsp dried majoram
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 cups frozen corn
6 cups chicken broth

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in green peppers, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until peppers soften, about 8 more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes.

 

Recipe adapted from Country Living

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Chicken Skewers with Walnut Pesto

 

A few weeks ago I went to an event with my sisters and co-workers.  It was a nice relaxing night with my girls and a glass, or two, of wine…my kind of night!  The only thing that made it better was the delicious food.  Nadia G. from the show “Bitchin’ Kitchen” on the Cooking Channel was there to promote her new cookbook “Cookin’ for Trouble”.

Nadia did a demo of some of her new recipes but the one the impressed me most was her Chicken Skewers with Walnut Pesto.  Such a simple recipe that packs a ton of flavor.  I didn’t want to seem greedy but…whatever these skewers are awesome and you should make them now.

Normally pesto is made with pine nuts  and olive oil but this recipe calls for walnuts and walnut oil.  It gives the pesto a more mellow flavor in my opinion but I think I’ll try a more traditional pesto next time.  Before this event I’d only seen Bitchin Kitchen a few times. I’m more of a Barefoot Contessa on a Saturday morning kind of girl.  But after trying some of the recipes in her new cookbook I am officially a fan of Nadia G.

Ingredients

For Pesto:

2 cups of basil, packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

For Chicken skewers:

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cubed
12 cherry tomatoes
9 pearl onions, cut in half
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Making the pesto: In the processor, pulse basil, walnuts, garlic, and walnut oil until combined. Add Parmesan and olive oil, and pulse again.  Season with sea salt to taste.

Making the chicken skewers: Soak the wooden skewers in water for 1 hour. Onto each skewer, alternately thread chicken, cherry tomatoes and onions; repeat until skewer is full.

Brush the prepared skewers with olive oil, and season with garlic powder sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Grill for around 5 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked. Slather with walnut pesto.

 ♥ Nina

Recipe adapted from Windy City Live with Nadia G.

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Corn Flour Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream {and Cookbook Giveaway!}

Hello NCJ Peeps!

Here is the winner of the Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food book giveaway:

#6 Jenna Z: “Wow, favorite veg dish of any kind?! I am a huge fan of dal, especially a red lentil dal spiced with cumin and garam masala. Yummy!”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favorite veggie dishes!

♥ Nina

The Giveaway:


 

I am so proud of my friend, Alicia Simpson, for putting out her third cookbook this year!  So in honor of her latest achievement I will be giving away a copy of her latest cookbook: Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food.  Alicia and I go way way back to our college years.  We stayed in the same dorm right down the hall from each other and I distinctly remember some late night shenanigans that will go down in history, and stay there, LOL!  One day while I was perusing Facebook I saw her status update.  I was pleasantly surprised to see her writing her own line of vegan cookbooks and even though I’m not vegan the pictures had me drooling!  I was intrigued.

So what’s this book about?

150 satisfying, flavorful, all-new recipes to enjoy from breakfast to dinner and anytime in between. However you define “comfort food,” Alicia’s got you covered with down-home Southern standards, Tex-Mex fiesta favorites, backyard BBQ fare, ole-fashioned one-dish meals, riffs on classic takeout—and a few surprises destined to become new standbys.

And they do not lie.  It’s all that and more!  I love how Alicia uses fresh ingredients to make comforting food that is pretty much guilt free (think Baked Hush Puppies, Sweet Potato Salad, Carolina BBQ Sammich, Butter Rum Pound Cake, Mexican Hot Cocoa and more).  The recipes are easy to follow and the flavors and textures almost leap straight off of the page.   I am sincerely excited to make more recipes from her fabulous book, and I’m also excited that 1 lucky reader will win their own copy!   But, let’s talk more about the recipe I made to share with you, these Corn Flour Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream. . .

First, let me start by saying that I love meat and really enjoy eating it (ok that came out wrong) but you get what I’m saying!  Secondly, if you’re like me you’re probably wondering what the heck is the difference between vegans and regular vegetarians.  Well according to Wikipedia:

A dietary vegan is one who abstains from including animal products (not only meat and fish, but also dairy products, eggs and often honey, as well as other animal-derived substances) from his/her diet.

That being said you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy vegan recipes!!  Amazing I know, but so true.  I will admit I was a skeptic but after trying some of the recipes in Quick & Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food I am a changed woman!  I had a hard time deciding what to cook for this post because there was so much that I wanted to try.  After a lot of debate I settled on Corn Flour Cupcakes with Raspberry Butter cream Frosting.  Sounds good, right?  Right!  The cupcake was delicious but the real star is the frosting.  Light and fluffy with a hint of raspberries (or more if you want).  I will be using this on my non-vegan cupcakes in the near future.  Every time I ate one of these cupcakes all I had to tell myself was this is only 178 calories!   I was sold.

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What is your favorite vegetarian dish?”

2. For an extra entry, tweet: ”I want to win a copy of @VeganGuineaPig’s book from @NinasCooking!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends Sunday, October 28th, 2012 at 11:59 pm (EST) and winner will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear at first, but it’s there.

*Prize courtesy of The Experiment Publishing. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.  This is the third in a series of cookbooks by Alicia, check out Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Food and Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations.

Good luck, everyone!

Now, here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book:

Ingredients

For corn flour cupcakes:

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup corn flour (can be found in the organic section)
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup plain almond milk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain soy yogurt  (can be found in the organic section)

For raspberry buttercream frosting:

1 tbsp vegetable shortening
1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine, softened
1 tbsp raspberry jam or preserves
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:

For corn flour cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper liners.  Stir together the all-purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, baking powder and salt until combined.  Add the shortening, milk vanilla and yogurt and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed, scraping the mixture from the sides often, until just blended.

Divide the batter equally among the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool.

For raspberry buttercream frosting:

Beat together the shortening, margarine, jam and almond extract with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and whip until smooth.  Frost the cooled cupcakes using all the frosting.

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Visit to the Farmer’s Market

One of the great things about working in downtown Chicago is the access to all the wonderful restaurants and eclectic people.  So no one could have been more surprised than me to walk out of my building for lunch and find a farmer’s market set up right in the middle of Daley Plaza!  I was so excited that I forgot to eat lunch and instead went on a shopping spree that left me on a foodie high.  I got such a rush when I saw all of the fresh produce and food that I felt like a geek but hey, it’s the small things that make me happy 🙂  The only thing that stopped me, luckily, was my inability to carry any more bags.

Of course I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without taking a few pics!  I actually took these with my cell phone but they came out pretty good don’t you think?

A few people gave me weird looks when I got on my knees and started arranging fruits and vegetables so I could take a picture.  This nice lady was actually in line to buy tomatoes and she kindly stepped back while I took my photos, lol.  I didn’t know how to explain what I was doing so I just said thank you and moved on.

Aside from all of the fresh food, I was in awe of the beautiful colors.  Literally a rainbow of food, I hope I captured it adequately for you.

It’s almost the end of the summer so if there’s a farmer’s market near you make sure you visit and take advantage of the fresh produce that will only be in season for a little while longer.

 Stay tuned for part 2 of my visit to the farmer’s market.  I think they’re in town until October so watch out, here I come (with my DSLR camera this time)!

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Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone

Continueing my week long series on Peaches, I bring to you this amazingly simple recipe.  There’s honey, butter and peaches.  What could be wrong with that?!  I made these for my family and my dad especially loved them.  I think he ate half the tray but who’s counting, right?  Grilling the peaches actually carmelizes the sugar in the honey giving them a sweet smoky flavor unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  These would be a perfect dessert on a warm day when you already have the grill out.  Quick, easy and delicious.

Ingredients

8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
6 medium peaches, halved and pitted
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp honey, divided
1 tbsp rosemary, minced plus one whole sprig

Directions

Bring Mascarpone cheese to room temperature. Heat grill to medium high heat.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and 2 tablespoons honey and cook on low heat for 1 minute while constantly stirring.  Add rosemary sprig and simmer on medium heat for another minute.  Remove from heat and remove rosemary sprig.  Using a pastry brush, baste cut side of peaches with honey.  If you don’t have a brush you can simply dip the cut side of the peaches into the honey butter mixture.   Add peaches to grill cut side down and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Turn peaches and baste again with honey butter mixture and cook for 3-4 more minutes.

Remove peaches from grill and plate on individual plates or platter. Add one tablespoon Mascarpone per peach half, drizzle with remaining honey butter and plain honey and garnish with minced rosemary.

 

Recipe adapted from Go Bold With Butter

 

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