Friday, November 29, 2013

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, show your thankfulness for your blessings, and gorge on foods you only see once a year. This year, my new husband and I decided to have our first Thanksgiving together at our home, alone, watching Star Wars.

Since it was the two of us, I only wanted to make one dessert. But which one? I have hundreds of recipes and a dozen favorites. I decided to go traditional: pumpkin pie. That didn't make the choice any easier. How do you go about picking a good recipe off paper, without having tried it before?

When I browse my cook books or favorite websites (cooks, food network, all recipes, to name a few), some things I look for are pictures, ingredients in my pantry, number of steps, and reviews. Sometimes I like to spend hours prepping a special dish, using scientific techniques and gourmet ingredients. However, since I was making an entire Thanksgiving dinner by myself (except for my human food chopper, Adam), my goals were for it to be simple and quick.

I got this recipe from here. It was easy, quick, and delicious! None of the spices overwhelmed it, so if you love your pie to have a zing to it, add more cloves or nutmeg.

  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk, undiluted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9-inch) Marie Callender in the freezer section or homemade, recipe below
  • whipped cream or whipped topping, for garnish
Turn oven on to 400°. Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add eggs; mix well. Add evaporated milk, water, and vanilla; mix well. Pour into pie crust. Cover with a crust shield. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake 30 min, then remove crust shield. Bake 10-15 minutes longer, or until center is set and crust is golden.

Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbl sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
6 tbl cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3-4 tbl ice water

In a food processor, mix flour, salt and sugar until combined. Add shortening and pulse until it looks like sand. Add butter, and pulse until the size of small peas. Put mixture into a medium bowl, sprinkle 3 tbl of water and mix with a spatula (your warm hands will melt the fats). If too crumbly, add remaining water. Once well mixed, fold it about four times until it is a solid ball. Short cut: Put dough into the pie plate, press down, cover with plastic wrap, and roll it out using a mini roller or anything small and round. Press up the sides until it is all even. Remove plastic wrap. Cut off the rough edges with a butter knife then flute with your fingers. Use your thumb and forefinger of one hand and your forefinger on your other to press the flutes in around the edge.

Crust Shield
This is important when baking something for longer than 30 min. Tear off enough aluminum foil to cover the pie and quarter fold. Cut a half moon shape out of the center, unfold, and you have a crust shield! You may have to do this a few times to get the hang of it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Apple Oatmeal Cookies

This weekend my husband and I are going camping for the first time since getting married! Some of my favorite memories growing up are with my family on camping trips in the Tennessee hills. My mother would not pack hot dogs or pre-cooked meals. Oh, no. We'd take food to make every meal from scratch, so setting up our campsite was quite the process! We had every tool you could ever need in our cooking box; we had it down to a science. While I appreciate those memories, I've found that paper plates and meals you only have to reheat are much more my style of camping.

So, here I am, preparing all the food ahead of time. My husband's favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin, but I wanted something a little heartier to sustain us on hikes and fishing excursions. We just bought a bag of apples so that sparked an idea! It then evolved to include craisins and walnuts as well. If I'd had them, I would have thrown in white chocolate chips to finish it off!

My little experiment went well, and we are all set for our trip!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Mix together in a large bowl

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinamon
1 1/2 cup quick oats
Mix together in a medium bowl.
Add dry ingredients to the first bowl, mixing well.
Then add:
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 cup craisins, soaked in warm water for 15 min, then drained
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put your craisins on to soak, then mix the ingredients as directed above.
Scoop out into whatever size you prefer, they don't spread much.
Bake 10-20 min, depending on your pan, oven, and size of the cookie. It'll be easy to tell when they are done, they start to look dry and brown on top. When baking cookies, be sure to baby sit them. Check every 5 min on how the top vs bottoms are cooking, and raise or lower your rack to compensate.

Here's how I did it, then you can use your own judgement. Using Pampered Chef's Large Scoop, I scooped out 15 large cookies onto two pans, a metal and a stoneware pan. The metal pan cooked quickly on the bottom, so I moved to the top rack and it took them 18 min. The stoneware cooked evenly on the middle rack, and took 17 min.

Makes 15 giant cookies, 30 normal sized.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Coconut Cherry Pie

Unexplained cravings are again responsible for spontaneous semi-homemade desserts. This time, it was cherries and coconut. But how to combine these two random, yet delicious ingredients? A pie, of course! Take a traditional crumble topping, add coconut flakes, and put on top of your own cherry filling, or, like me, a canned filling. Wha-la! You've got a pie. 

The delightful surprise of the toasted coconut gives the cherries an added dimension, without overpowering the dish or taking away from the comfort a cherry pie offers. 
1 regular size can cherry pie filling. (I used the one without HF Corn Syrup.)
1/3 c. coconut flakes
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tbl cinnamon 
3 tbl flour
1/3 c. oats 
3 tbl butter, chilled
1 pie crust (my favorite pre-made is Marie Callender in the freezer)

Heat oven to 375. Pour can into pie crust. Cut butter into 1/4 in pieces. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut butter into crumble mix with a pastry blender or two knives until the size of peas. Spread evenly on top of the pie. Make a pie shield out of aluminum foil. (see previous posts) Bake for 30 min. Remove foil and bake for 15 min longer. Let stand before serving to gel and avoid tongue burning. 

Verdict: it was delicious. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guilt-free Chocolate Chip Banana "Bread"

Necessity has forced me to clean out my freezer. I recently got married, and between my old fridge, his fridge, and wedding leftovers, we were out of space. I set out on my counter a few random items, trying to brainstorm what action to take.

If you're like me, you hate throwing food away, and stick things in the freezer when they're on their last leg to preserve them for some future moment when you know you'll just crave that half a serving of casserole or a few slivers of chicken breast. Thus said, I always put browned bananas in my freezer for baking. I also had a carton of egg whites (yes, you can freeze eggs), so this is what I came up with: wheat free, dairy free, mostly fat and sugar free yumminess!

4 bananas, previously frozen, thawed
1 cup egg whites
1 cup oats (I used gluten free)
1 tablespoon Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus spice blend
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350. Mix together with an electric mixer. Because the bananas have been frozen and thawed, they are really juicy and mix well. Choose a baking dish that is easy to clean, such as glass, corningware or stoneware. This will stick, and you'll want to use an abrasive pad. Bake until it doesn't jiggle and it's slightly browned on top. 20 minutes or so.

Serves 4

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing

 My fiance and I were putting together an impromptu dinner for our good friends when we remembered that Megan's birthday was this week. Adam suggested we stop and buy a store-made cake to surprise her. Every ounce of baker in me repelled this idea, so I went to my stand-by recipe, grabbed all the ingredients, and headed to his house. Within 30 minutes we had cupcakes cooling and icing waiting for the great reveal after dinner! It pays to keep a well-stocked pantry, and oddly enough, I happened to have buttermilk from a recipe last week. For a list of items to always keep on-hand, see the list at the end of the post.

Cake Ingredients
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup, less 1 tbl unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Icing Ingredients
1/2 cup (1stick) butter, softened, not melted
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar,
3 ounces (3 squares) unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper cups. In a medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Fold in 1/4 of the flour mixture at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.

Fill cupcake tins 1/2 to 2/3 full. Anymore and it will overflow. Bake for 15 min-20 min, or until the tops are just firm and a toothpick comes out with a few little crumbs attached. If you bake until the toothpick is clean, they'll be too dry.

While they're baking, prepare the frosting. Beat soft butter and confectioner sugar until light and fluffy. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring well each time. Add the chocolate while beating the butter mixture. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Put icing in your decorating bag or a gallon ziplock and let cool to room temp. When the cupcakes are completely cool, put a small amount of icing on each cupcake. If you want to pile it on thick, you'll need to double the icing recipe. Add sprinkles or choc shavings before the icing dries.

Pantry Staples 
(everything you need to make almost every cake, cookie, and pie)
All-purpose flour
Granulated sugar
Powdered sugar
Brown sugar
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Vanilla (clear if you need to make white cake or icing)
Cocoa Powder
Chocolate Baking Squares
Chocolate chips, white and semi-sweet

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

Nothing says fall like sweet breads made out of gourds. In October, my boyfriend Adam and I went to a pumpkin carving party with our friends. His vision was to scrape the inside of the pumpkin until it was paper thin and the pattern could show a soft orange glow when the candle was lit. After 30 min of constant scraping, we left with a stuffed gallon-sized bag of shredded pumpkin. What else to do, than to make pumpkin bread! My search for a recipe led me online to Food Network and Alton Brown. I omitted the pumpkin seeds, because from previous experience, their texture isn't pleasant once the bread isn't fresh. 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded fresh pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Combine both mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin. Once the ingredients are all incorporated, pour into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 30 minutes. At this point a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin should come out clean. 

I acquired this recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network. 

Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie "Derby Pie"

  • Last year I had the good fortune to be set up on a girl date with who is now my best friend, Bonnie. She and I share a love of horses and often talk about Kentucky and the races. This summer she made a "Derby Pie," and I will never look at a pecan pie the same way. 

  • The Derby Pie is a tradition of Kentucky, and the only original recipe is a well kept family secret. This version is a cross between a chocolate chess and a pecan. 

  • Frozen Marie Callenders crust 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans 
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon or water 
  • large eggs 
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted 
  • 2 teaspoons cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Sprinkle pecans and chocolate evenly onto bottom of piecrust; set aside.
  • Combine corn syrup and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk about one-fourth hot mixture into egg mixture; add to remaining hot mixture, whisking constantly. Pour filling into prepared piecrust. Cover with crust shield for first 30 min. 
  • Bake at 325° for 50 minutes or until set; cool on wire rack.
  • Cynthia Ann Briscoe, Birmingham, Alabama,