Holiday Pies – Visually Beautiful, Deliciously Delightful!!!

I’ve never been a baker.¬† I LOVE to cook though, and reading cookbooks at night is something I’ve done for fun ūüôā¬† Back when our oldest was little, and I had more time to venture out, we would go to a beautiful bookstore, and he’d play while I thumbed through French Cookbooks – even the memory of that is so blissful!

9493d1420f4f5d909a2eb3b9d21a8020

But baking?¬† It’s just not something that comes natural to me at all, but¬† I force myself to do it anyway ūüôā , and along the way I’ve found some tricks that have made it a lot easier than I thought baking would be.

tumblr_n5wefestLo1skg97to1_500

Every year over the holidays I always get the chance to make something to bring to our family feasts.¬†¬†¬†Since I’m usually the youngest woman there and¬†at the bottom of the family female totem pole ūüėÄ for years I’ve only been allowed to bring the Green Bean Casserole LOL (you know… the meal thats like super easy and if you mess up you’re an idiot –¬†kind of dish)!¬† But along with that, I’ve also been allowed to bring a dessert pie each year.¬† And THIS year, this past Thanksgiving, lo and behold I got the privilege of being in charge of ALL the dessert pies, and wow was it a lot of fun!¬† And a serious privilege I didn’t take lightly.

My older son also loves cooking, and so he’s kind of come with me on this journey of trying to become a baker ūüôā¬† He and I have perfected our own Cherry Pie with lattice work and cut out designs – made from our own homemade pie crust (which is SO delicious you can actually just eat the crust by itself)!

Here some of the things we’ve tried (or similar ones since some I didn’t blog about):

Cherry pie

9533164484_ef5cc6256d_b

Here’s a great cherry pie recipe (not our’s but very good!)

Pumpkin pie (from Pioneer Woman’s amazing recipe!)

50425-Pumpkin-Pie-Crust-Trim

Sweet Potato Pie (a classic of the SOUTH ‚̧ and one I made a few years ago and blogged about it)

05114308701-sweet-potato-pie-recipe-main

***

Chocolate Tarte (the most AMAZING chocolate dessert I’ve ever eaten and super easy! Find it here)

choclate tarte

White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie (still working on perfecting, but THIS ¬†girl’s recipe is what we go off of)

1462220313114

 

 

Marshmellow Fluff Pie Topping:

for the marshmallow fluff:

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 scant cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (if you want them stark white; if you don‚Äôt mind a little ivory color, use the pure vanilla extract)

from: http://aperiodictableblog.com

 

Great video on homemade pie crusts:

 

If I had to pick a favorite one we’ve tried to perfect over the years, it would definitely be the Chocolate Tart recipe.¬† It is just TOO easy, and yet it is beautifully presented visually, and never fails to impress with it’s immaculate taste.

I hope you readers get to eat some pie this year!¬† If you don’t have time to make one, I know restaurants tend to make some really great homemade-style ones.¬† And if you’re in a pinch, I’ve found some brands are VERY good at making pie filling (like for cherry pies) – that along with a homemade crust makes it hard to tell if you made the filling or not.

Enjoy all the eating and drinking!

‚̧

Stephanie

Advertisements

Depression Cooking with Clara

Just found this woman from Mrs. White’s blog. ¬†Fascinating stuff! ¬†She reminds me so much of my paternal grandmother, whose husband never gave up his depression-era habits. ¬†‚̧

She even makes a remark about her mom giving them just a drop of coffee in their milk… but that they “were happy.”

So sweet.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the epic soup of Fall.  The combination of all the ingredients with their surprisingly opposite notes of flavor (onions + maple syrup anyone??), all came together to almost taste like a prelude to a Thanksgiving dinner.  It was like eating a Thanksgiving Soup!

Anyway, I’ve never successfully made this soup before, I think I have tried maybe 2 years ago or so, and failed miserably – somehow it just tasted horrible. ¬†But this recipe I found at our local grocery store (HEB for you Texans) was a new spin on the traditional Butternut Squash Soup. ¬†This soup is drastically different from it’s more widely consumed version; it has maple syrup, brown sugar, and apples – giving it a much deeper flavor and intensity as the regular version sticks with the plain ingredients.

I loved how it gave our family a taste of Thanksgiving to come!  I hope you try it and enjoy it!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup – HEB Recipe

  • 3 pkg. HEB Butternut Squash or 1-Whole Butternut, cleaned and diced discarding peel
  • 2 Apples, cored and diced (Ambrosia Apples are great flavor), or 2 cups Apple sauce (Unsweetened preferred but sweetened works just fine)
  • 8 oz Diced Savory Vegetables (HEB wants you to buy their packages, but I just looked online to see what “diced veggies” could go into this soup normally. ¬†It’s a blend of 1/2 an onion diced, 1 potato diced, along with other optional things like 1 carrot or 1 celery stalk. ¬†It’s up to you what you use really).
  • 6 oz Maple Syrup or 1 cup Brown Sugar (I used 1/2 cup Maple Syrup and 1/2 cup Brown Sugar because I liked the idea of having both in the soup).
  • 1 Tbsp Texas Prime Coarse seasoning (I simply used some parsley & garlic as I didn’t want to buy more seasoning)
  • 1 qt HEB Chicken broth or stock
  • 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream (I used 1 1/2 cups of milk, whisking it in after the soup was pureed)
  • Salt & Black pepper

Preheat oven to 400’F.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amazed at the brown sugar and maple syrup combination!

Amazed at the brown sugar and maple syrup combination!

1 Potato diced

1 Potato diced

The beautiful veggie mixture, onions were added afterwards.

The beautiful veggie mixture tossed and coated, onions were added afterwards.

After roasting for 1 hour

After roasting for 1 hour.  Smelled heavenly, like a Thanksgiving Soup!

After puree, the end result!

After puree, the end result!

Combine all squash, diced apples (applesauce) and veggies and place into baking pan.  Drizzle maple syrup and add seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Roast for 45 min to 1 hr.  Allow veggie mixture to cool and add into food processor in batches to create puree. In a stock pot, pour broth, cream and puree and simmer for 10 minutes.

Adjust to your favorite consistency (by adding more water or broth if you have any left over, or the texture of the puree). ¬†My husband loves soup that isn’t completely pureed, so I make sure to leave some of¬†chunks of the veggies in the soup. ¬†It was glorious!

Bon Appetit!

Creamy Poblano Soup & Taco Soup

Creamy Poblano Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love a good, hearty, hot soup in when the weather gets cooler, or for those freezing Winter nights of which we have very few here in Texas. ¬†This soup was just amazing! ¬†I modified a recipe from Epicurious, adding in about a pound of ground beef seasoned with garlic, cumin, and pepper spices, substituting heavy whipping cream for a large can of Cream of Mushroom soup, and adding in a cup of our favorite salsa to add a little more kick, and omitting the butter altogether (it doesn’t need it!).

The roasted poblano peppers really make this soup sooo delish! ¬†It’s hard to stop eating it!

***

Taco Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This recipe I came up with on the fly, based very loosely on the traditional Chicken tortilla soup Рbut instead, using beef seasoned with taco seasoning (garlic & cumin), adding black beans (canned or already cooked, otherwise they get crunchy Рask me how I know!), a cup of salsa, two-three cups of frozen veggies from our fridge, cooked for a few hours in a slow cooker, creates the most wonderful, scrumptious, complex-texture of soup with Mexican flavor.  We ate it with cheese, guacamole, and chips to garnish!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My picky-eater actually really enjoyed it!  Success!!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So. Amazing.

Simple Sweet Maple Syrup Cookies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few weeks ago, to really get into the festive fall spirit, my oldest son & I made some Maple Syrup cookies together to make for a special treat. ¬†They made great snacks to take in his lunch box or to enjoy after school. ¬†‚̧ ¬†So excited for the Fall season and all the baking, cooking, and … well, eating!!!

We used this recipe from Allrecipes.com,

Maple Cookies

1 cup butter – softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup authentic maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg, syrup and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir into mixture until well blended. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool on wire rack.

They came out so beautifully!

Make sure to use a really great maple syrup – it’s healthier and the flavor is so much more intense!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pico de Gallo and Low Calorie Taco Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had an exciting and long day trip yesterday… our summers are like that, full of long, hot and humid days, seeing beautiful sights around our area, taking in the sunlight and baking in the heat. ¬†We were out all day, playing in the heat and water, and came back for dinner and watching Pirates of the Caribbean. ¬†Another severe thunderstorm came in the dead of night, waking everyone up except our oldest, but because of yesterday’s hot adventure, we slept in and awoke to a beautiful, bright morning.

I was planning on making some pico de gallo to go with some refried beans I made from this recipe (modified to add Kosher salt while mashing beans and diced cilantro).  Pico de gallo is like the taste of a crisp fresh Summer, and makes me actually crave tequila Margaritas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fresh cilantro, diced

It’s too easy to make, a bit of fresh cilantro (only fresh should ever be used for pico), 1/2 to 3/4 of a medium sized white onion, diced.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And about 5 Roma tomatoes, or 2 salad tomatoes, diced.  3 Limes juiced over the diced mixture, or one lemon will do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This made a ton of cilantro! ¬†It’s perfect with the homemade refried beans with a little cheese – you feel like you’re eating the famous 1,000 calorie taco salad.

The homemade refried beans are done without lard and much healthier.  This tasted incredible!  Healthy but full of intense flavor.  We ate it in lettuce leaf (just pull off the leaves from a head of lettuce, wash the leaves individually so that the lettuce head will keep longer in the fridge.  Dry off the leaves and fill with practically anything you want to eat!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoy a delish and cozy “Taco Salad!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Israeli Couscous

Even though it’s been rain off and on, flooding in various areas, and muddy shoes galore, we found some time to get to the store to do our weekly shopping this week.

2015 rainntx

I’ve always wanted to try out a recipe with Israeli Couscous… and why not in a celebratory way of kicking off a hopefully scorching summer? ¬†This was easy, quick, and full of wonderful aroma and taste, amazing if you’re in any kind of rut emotionally or sensually.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First, find a good, economical brand of Israeli Couscous. ¬†They typically aren’t expensive by any means, and the minute extra price is a good bargain for adding different flavors and experiences to your children’s repertoire of foods at the dinner table. ¬†My son was wide-eyed to see the pearlescent balls of noodle-like flavor! ¬†Eating can be exciting!

The littlest tomato came from our garden!  Ha!  We were proud :)

The littlest tomato came from our garden! Ha! We were proud ūüôā ¬†It’s flavor was more intense!

Dice about 1/2 or 3/4 of a cucumber, and about 3-4 Roma tomatoes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I save the extra cucumber slices for sandwiches or quick salad options, putting them a separate ziplock bag from the diced

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From our garden!!! Basil, Thyme, Oregano leaves

From our garden!!! Basil, Thyme, Oregano leaves

It was fun to stop the cooking, run outside to our garden and pick the necessary herbs, it reminded me of living in the country.  Cooking with fresh grown spices and herbs or vegetables is a different experience, the flavor of the herbs, the sheer aroma is overwhelming while your cooking.  It is incredible for the senses, and the taste is wholesome.

Cilantro from our garden... be sure to plant it in an area where it only gets partial sun.  Cilantro is tender and fragile, I've mistakenly had it scorch when it was planted in full sunlight.

Cilantro from our garden… be sure to plant it in an area where it only gets partial sun. Cilantro is tender and fragile, I’ve mistakenly had it scorch to a burnt crisp when it was planted in full sunlight.

Next, saute in Olive Oil, some chopped onions (I keep some handy in the fridge or freezer for quick need like this), add garlic, and your garden herbs to taste.  Cook on low heat, and enjoy the breathtaking aromas that fill your kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The couscous should be done by now, add in the cooked & fluffed couscous, the diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and the torn cilantro leaves.

Bring to boil 2 cups of water, add 1 cup of Israeli couscous, turn OFF the heat, COVER the pot, and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Bring to boil 2 cups of water, add 1 cup of Israeli couscous, turn OFF the heat, COVER the pot, and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Mix it all together off the heat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And it is incredible!  Eat hot or cold, by itself or in a lettuce leaf.  I chose for us simple pita pockets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mexican Chili Rellenos – Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Beef & Cheese

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last week was our city’s Fiesta week, a time where hundreds of thousands flock to our city from all over, to enjoy the parties, the music, the Mexican food, parades, and carnivals. ¬†It’s a little not unlike California’s Coachella, except with a very Mexican twist and with the focus not being solely on music, but instead being a celebration of Texas’ unique history commemorating the Battles of San Jacinto & the Alamo. ¬†Last year, my husband and I got to experience the night parade, but ended up instead escaping the drunken crowds and going under the streets to be near the romantic, quiet river.

Even though we tried to get out to experience it again this year, the rain kept us from staying for longer than a quick drive around before we headed back. ¬†But there’s always next year to try.

Last night I decided to make a traditional Mexican dish called Chili Rellenos, poblano peppers that are stuffed and fried in a creamy batter. ¬†We don’t usually eat fried stuff, and the last time I made fried chicken we had to eat it outside because the oil (never use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to fry) smoked so badly it filled the whole house!

I was surprised to find that most Chili Relleno recipes only call for cheese to be the ingredient in the stuffing, every plate of Chili Relleno I’ve eaten in our area of Texas has always had hearty ground beef inside, so I’ve moderated the recipe to include beef and cheese. ¬†It’s fairly healthy for “fried food,” with the beef adding an element of protein. ¬†Ground turkey would also work great as a healthy substitute.

First, start the meat cooking, I used about 2 lbs lean ground beef.  Season it with a tablespoon of each: Cumin, Garlic powder, and Chili powder.  You can also add chopped onions for more flavor if you wish!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Broil and really watch the peppers, they burn very easily.  You want them to have just enough char on them so that they are easy to peel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beef should be done around the time the peppers are done if not before, set it aside and wait to stuff the peppers with it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Watch the video below if you aren’t sure on how to peel the peppers, once they’re charred well, you’ll find the skin comes off quite easily. ¬†You also want to make a slit or cut inside the pepper in order to cut out the seed pulp and remove any left over seeds. ¬†You don’t need to get all of them, but in general, you don’t want many left over inside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next is to fill or stuff the peppers. ¬†The skins rips easily, as you can tell, don’t worry if they split all the way down, they’re still salvageable if you “glue” them together with the batter when frying them. ¬†Stuff with cheese and beef – Mexican Oaxaca cheese is the traditional cheese, but any cheese you have on hand is ok and adds to create a wonderful flavor with each bite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Use 4 eggs to create the creamy batter from scratch. ¬†Separate the whites from the yolks, keeping the whites in a large mixing bowl. ¬†Beat with a mixer (or if you really want to… by hand) until it gets to “soft peak” formation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I should have gotten a pic of when the egg whites are really done… it looks much different from the above photo as it turns into a thicker, creamier batter. ¬†Watch the video to get the full effect of what you’re aiming for with this.

Once it’s at soft peak, mix in the egg yolks gently until they’re incorporated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Use a bit of flour (not necessary if you’re trying to keep this gluten free) just if you want to make the batter stick a little easier. ¬†It will stick anyway so don’t feel like you’re missing much if you skip this step for your health.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then pat the batter over each side, closing any slits that may have opened while you were stuffing the peppers.  Fry until each side is nice and golden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Flip!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd done!  I underestimated how much I would be able to make, this recipe was enough to make 8 stuffed peppers!  So delicious and so hearty.

!Viva Fiesta!

10 Minute Homemade Salted Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Being a mom of a new little one + my rowdy 4 year old, I appreciate recipes that are quick and delicious – this Salted Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup recipe is beyond amazing, full of protein & low in fat, and takes literally 10 minutes or less to throw together!

I’m amazed at how fast this was… and how beautiful the results are – these are perfect Valentine’s Day treats to give to a love or to friends or family.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter (use any you like – regular, organic, crunchy even if you want that nut texture in your cups)
  • Kosher Salt for sprinkling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Instructions:

Set up your muffin tins with liners and lightly spray them with oil or Pam spray

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwavable bowl, heat for 1 minute, stop and stir, then heat for another minute, stir until creamy, melted down, and blended

Drop about a tablespoon of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner – don’t bother to spread it out, the hot peanut butter will take care of it

Heat up the peanut butter in a microwavable mug or bowl for 1 minute, stir to make sure the oil doesn’t separate afterwards

Drop about a tablespoon of melted peanut butter (it should be almost liquidy but not quite), into each cupcake liner directly onto the chocolate

Repeat the process with the remainder of the chocolate – you don’t need to completely cover the peanut butter, it gives it a beautiful swirl if you delicately just spread it a little with the end of the spoon

Refridgerate for about 15 minutes, sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt onto each peanut butter cup, then return to refrigerator for at least another 15 minutes.

Enjoy a delicious & healthy chocolate treat!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Simple, Warm, Delicious Refried Beans

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Refried beans are the simplest dish to cook if you’re wanting an incredible, homemade taste of Mexican-American style beans.¬† My oldest son (4), is crazy about the warm bean & cheese breakfast tacos we eat here (at any time of day) in Texas… and it’s great to be able to whip up a big easy batch of refried beans to sate his cravings ūüôā

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I found a great recipe here, at slate.com, follow the directions to create this dish.

You can use dry or canned beans Рonly use dry if you have 4-5 hours to spare while they cook in the crock pot, canned is fine and is faster overall.  Make sure to add enough salt and pepper to taste Рwith their warm, gentle flavor, these beans just hit the spot!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.