I love what buttermilk does to dishes. It really does add a subtle richness to desserts, especially to cakes and pies. This pie is the proof.
This is my first experience with buttermilk pie. I half expected it to turn out like a chess bar or custard. The real difference in a chess bar, I’m told is that a chess bar recipe has cream cheese, and maybe cornmeal. Though it has a sufficient amount of eggs, there’s no egg-like taste to it like custard. It’s firm, but creamy, and the addition of nutmeg really adds an extra umph to it.
If you’ve never made a pie with a liquid or batter consistency to it, just know that “setting” the crust is an important step, and one I highly recommend. Without doing this, you’ll have a soggy-bottom crust.
6 tbs. of butter melted, then cooled to room temperature
1 1/3 cup of white sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
¾ cup of buttermilk
2 tbs. of whipping cream or half and half
3 tbs. flour
1 – 9 inch pie crust
Nutmeg to taste
Method: Preheat oven to 400 Degrees to set the pie (don’t FORGET this step). Combine together first ingredients and mix only until incorporated. Gradually add in the flour last. Pour into your pie crust. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and bake in the bottom third of your oven for 10-15 minutes. Decrease your temperature to 350 and continue baking until the pie is set. This should take another 20-25 minutes.
Creamy, buttery avocados.
How can anyone really resist them? I sure can’t. I can eat them by the boatloads on sandwiches, salads, guacamole, or just with a spoon and salt. Over time, and just through plain old trial and error of bad purchases, and having had way too much velvety, green goodness gone to waste, I’ve learned a thing or two about avocados. Here’s some tips for how to choose, ripen and store, or freeze avocados.
Choosing Avocados (Haas Varieties)
I’ve found a three-step approach works well for determining a ripe, or close-to-ripe avocado: (1) Look for dark green to black avocados with no indentations. These can be a sign of an overripe, rotten avocado, or a bruised one. 2) Give it a gentle squeeze. The avocado should be firm, but yield to pressure. 3) Remove the stem nub. Assuming you’ve already followed step #2, this should pop out fairly easily. Exam the small exposed circle of flesh underneath. A healthy avocado should be pale green. If it’s brown, it’s a goner.
You’re all set to make some killer guacamole, but nary a ripe avocado to be found. Sound familiar? Once off the tree, avocados self-ripen in about a week through exposure to the natural plant hormone ethylene. Sometimes avocado producers will artificially apply this hormone, so that they’re ripe when they reach your grocery. To speed up the ripening process for an under ripe avocado, place it in a paper bag with another high ethylene producer, such as a banana or apple. For a near-ripe Haas avocado, this can take about a day. A larger Florida Variety, such as a SlimCado will take several more days. If you don’t have a banana or apple, no worries. You can still ripen your avocado in a paper bag; however, it will take almost twice as long to ripen.
You may have heard that you can ripen (or at least soften) an avocado in your oven by placing it in your 200 Degree oven for 10-15 minutes. My own experience with this method using both the Florida and Haas avocados only yielded avocados with brown shells. The degree of softness did not change for either avocado, even when I doubled the oven time.
Storing and Freezing Avocados: Once ripened, avocados will last about a week if you keep them in the refrigerator. When peeled and mashed Avocados freeze well with a natural acid such as lemon, lime, or orange juice. You really need a minimum of 2 teaspoons per Haas-sized avocado. My personal favorite is one tablespoon of orange juice and one tsp. of lime juice per mashed Haas avocado. This will produce a less acidic-tasting avocado mash that’s more suitable for recipes other than guacamole. Seal in an airtight container. If you don’t completely fill your container, I highly suggest layering a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on the mashed avocado before sealing to reduce air exposure. This will keep for about 6 months.
Some other things to note about avocados:
- Avocados are a fruit
- You can make avocado mash for guacamole with near-ripe avocados by processing them with high-moisture green vegetables such as sweet peas or cooked broccoli.
- Avocados should not be stored in the refrigerator with ethylene sensitive vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy green vegetables. Doing so can reduce the shelf life of these vegetables
Valentine’s Day is upon us. Yes, it is, and once again I will be in a quandary of how to show my sweetie that I appreciate him. Yes, I know, it shouldn’t need a designated day to remind me of this. I should be all over it, dolling out back rubs, planning one-on-one outings and amazing home cooked dinners. I should be making yummy desserts like whipped Coconut Cream with Strawberry Sauce. That’s what I decided to make for him today, anyway.
My hubby loves the taste of coconut, just not the texture of coconut, so I knew this recipe would be perfect for him. If you’re a coconut lover, but you’ve never whipped coconut cream before, you’re in for a real treat. Basically you’ll be taking the hardened fat of the coconut milk and beating it to a creamy airy texture. It tastes like whipped cream, only better, with a slight density to it. I’ve added real dairy whipping cream here as well to make the texture a bit fluffier. Also, I suggest not using a brand of coconut milk that contains Xanthum gum. Experience has taught me that these milks will not harden enough to whip.
1 cup of chilled whipping cream
1 can of coconut milk refrigerated for at least a couple of hours (I use Native Forest Organic Classic)
1/3 cup of powdered sugar
1 /4 tsp. of coconut extract (optional)
1 16 oz carton of hulled, chopped strawberries
1-2 tbs. of lemon juice (to taste)
1 /4 cup of sugar
3 – 4 Tbs. of water
Directions: Remove coconut milk from refrigerator. Open, and use a spoon to remove the hardened coconut fat. You’ll be left with coconut water with a little fat mixed in. Set this aside* (see usage tip below). Place coconut fat in a chilled bowl and whip for 2-3 minutes until stiff peaks form. Add whipping cream and beat for 3-4 more minutes. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Chill in refrigerator, or if you prefer a firmer consistency, place in the freezer for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile combine chopped strawberries, sugar and water in a deep microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes (depending on the depth of your bowl, you may need to watch this so that it does not overflow). Remove from microwave, and cool. Add lemon juice. Spoon the whipped cream in a bowl and drizzle with cooled strawberry sauce. Decorate if desired.
*I add coconut water to juice, use it in smoothies (freeze in ice trays), and use it as a water replacement when cooking rice.
Winter is not typically my favorite season. Mainly because as a gardener, I get to witness the season’s onset – the time when everything withers, falls, and sinks to the ground, waiting to be rolled back into the cycle of life
Spring brings changes that are way more interesting. A tired lawn bursting with new life. Bright buds on tree limbs. The nerdy botanist in me gets excited just thinking about it. That’s why I was pretty intrigued about the concept of winter seed sowing. So, what is it? Winter seed sewing is a process by which seeds are planted outdoors in semi-closed plastic containers during the winter. It’s essentially a greenhouse effect. The seeds get the winter protection they need, while hardening off during the cooler winter season. Because of this, emerging spouts and consequently plants will be more adaptable to temperature changes.
Winter seed sewing also helps you lend nature a helping hand, by shielding and containing (especially) small seeds from elements that can wash or blow them away from the ground.
…. So, let’s get on with the experiment
There are varying opinions on just which seeds work best for winter seed sewing. Both annuals and perennials seem to work. I chose to go with Poppies, Marigolds, Gallardia, and chives. Below are the supplies necessary to get started.
Plastic jug or container – Preferably something with a hinge, such as the lettuce container pictured above, or something like a milk jug that you can cut a hinge into.
Soil – Something with good drainage. I use a mixture of potting soil and worm castings, but you could also use good compost with a nitrogen component added, such as liquid nitrogen or blood meal.
Seed Marker – You can use plastic spoons, popsicle sticks, or whatever works well for writing on.
The Process: For my plastic milk jug, I used a utility knife to cut just under the handle, almost all the way around the jug. I left about an inch incut, so I would have a hinge to bend back the top part of the carton. I used my knife to also cut slits in the bottom of my container for drainage. I unscrewed the top and discarded it. My salad containers already contained hinges, so I cut slits in the tops and bottoms. I then added about 2 inches of soil to all of my containers and sewed my seeds in them according to packet directions. I sealed the containers shut with duct tape and placed them in a full to partial sun area. That’s it.
They’ll sit for now, but then I’l need to give them some water when temperatures start to rise consistently so they don’t dry out. Please check back for an update!
This Skinny Green Onion Chicken Enchilada casserole recipe is more a less a homage to my love for green onions. That, and my growing love for cheesy casserole dishes. It’s not only delicious, but one of the easiest recipes in my cooking repertoire, and a whole lot healthier than other casseroles.
I used to be intimidated by enchilada recipes, mainly because of the time and care it takes to fill the tortillas and roll them up. However, as I started making them, I realized they are really just casseroles, and casseroles are more or less a layering of ingredients. I’ve found that if I cut the tortillas with a pizza cutter and stack the ingredients it takes off an extra 10-15 minutes of prep time, and the only real compromise is the visual appeal of nice, neat rolled tortillas (which will fall apart anyway, once you serve them ).
Once the ingredients are in the pan, this recipe takes no time to cook. Also, if you prefer, feel free to use an enchilada sauce you’ve tried before in place of the tomato sauce, hot sauce, and taco seasoning. I omitted it here because I often find that brands vary so much in salt content and heat – and these variables can greatly alter an otherwise good recipe.
10 corn tortillas, 5.5 inches in diameter
2 – 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 cups of chopped cooked chicken
Taco seasoning and/or hot sauce.
2 cups of Mexican Blend Cheese
5 Tbs. of spreadable low-fat cream cheese ( I used chives)
2 Tsp. of water
Bundle of green onions, chopped (you can use light and light green parts, I used most of the onion)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stack your tortillas five-six at a time and slice like a pizza with a pizza cutter. Divide into two piles. Mix tomato sauce with taco seasoning to taste. In another bowl, add cream cheese and 2 tsp. of water and heat in microwave for about 10 seconds. Mix until smooth and creamy, and set aside. Spread 3 tbs. of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 2 and ½ quart baking dish. Add half of tortillas (a few will stack). Spread with chopped chicken and dot with cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with about ¾ cups of cheese and half of chopped green onions. Top with the rest of the tortillas. Then pour remaining tomato sauce on top. Bake for about 23 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Return to oven and cook for 2-3 more minutes until cheese is melted. Rest casserole for about 6-8 minutes. Top with green onions.
As healthy as I like to eat, I can’t always eat that way.
Blame it on my own personal need for culinary variety, and my southern roots. As you probably know, a whole lot of cooking in the south involves butter, grease or animal fat of some form or fashion, and salt. In these parts of Tennessee and Georgia, where I hail from, use of these ingredients is pretty much an unspoken cooking mantra. So one might say that every self-respecting southern home cook needs at least one artery-clogging recipe in their cooking arsenal. I’m duty bound right? So here it is.
Enter the quintessential fatty southern pork dish, pulled pork, specifically Crock Pot Pulled Pork with Sweet and Spicy Onion Relish. It’s tender, salty-sweet meat that tastes like heaven on a bun. And no, it’s not diet friendly or even remotely healthy, but it is really, really good.
But wait … it gets worse. There’s a sugary soda element here: root beer. You douse your fatty hunk of meat (use Boston Butt. It’s the best) with a 12 oz bottle of this stuff. Seriously, when you add it all up, the sugar is not that bad, considering you are flavoring your meat with this liquid and then draining it. It adds some of the sweetness to the meat, so you only need to drown your meat in about half the amount of barbecue sauce that most people use.
The best part of this meal? It’s SUPER easy. And life is too short not to enjoy a greasy chunk of meet sometimes. Try it.
2 – 2 1/2 lbs of pork shoulder meat
1 – 12 oz. bottle of root beer
1 tbs. of hot sauce (this is optional, and ONLY if you want extra spicy pork)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 bottle of tomato based barbecue sauce ( I use Rays Sweet and Spicy)
4 tbs. of chopped red onion
3 tbs. of sweet pickled relish
¼ tsp. of course black pepper
Method: Rub entire cut of pork with salt and place pork in crock pot. Pour root beer over the meat. Add hot sauce, and cook on low for 8-10 hours ( about halfway through, you will want to spoon some of the liquid over the pork). Drain liquid, then use a fork to separate meat chunks. Add barbecue sauce and mix well. In another bowl, combine ingredients for relish. Serve pork on buns with relish on top.
I’ve always been a volume eater when it comes to foods. The old adage “less is more” doesn’t work here with me. I’d much rather eat more of something low-calorie, then less of something fattening. Take this low-fat frozen blackberry yogurt, for example. It could have been a little creamier, a little richer – but I knew a half a cup of it wouldn’t have satisfied me, and we all have to make compromises somewhere right? That’s right where I’m going with this recipe.
What this dish is: Really satisfying and flavorful on the blackberry end, and it has a slight tartness, which you’d expect from the Greek yogurt (if you’re a Greek yogurt lover). What it’s not: It’s not as creamy as ice cream, but it still maintains a creamy texture. It’s not near as high calorie as ice cream. Yes, that’s a big score for me.
1 cup of blackberries
6 tbs. of fat-free half and half
1/4 of sugar, or 1 – 2tbs. of your preferred granulated no calorie sweetener (Truvia works well)
1 – 5 or 6 oz. container of Greek vanilla no-fat yogurt
1/2 cup of low fat milk
Method: Blend first 4 ingredients and ¼ cup of milk in a high speed blender. Mixture will look an unnatural purple color at first, but will look more like the color pictured here after its frozen. Pour into ice trays and freeze. Once frozen, reprocess in a blender with remaining milk. Scoop and serve.
This recipe is being featured on Full Plate Thursdays. Hop on over to Miz Helen’s Country Cottage for the link party.
It’s skinny. It’s hot, and it’s super chocolaty-tasting cocoa. What more do you need to cure a chocolate fix?
Not a thing, because this recipe has you covered. This skinny Hot Cocoa recipe was initially born from my desire to have something healthier and chocolatey without all the fat and calories. I was further motivated by the fact that it’s now a record-breaking 16 degrees outside here in Atlanta, and icy cold low-fat chocolate milk just won’t cut it. And even if I did want to go out for store bought cocoa – which I don’t – I ‘d have to fend off shoppers vying for bread, milk, and other life necessities like hot chocolatey instant beverage mixes. All of this is in preparation for the threat of a maybe a centimeter of snow tonight … Yes, Atlantans do get a bit manic at the threat of any bad weather, especially when we’ve had such an easy winter thus far.
Anyway, I’m needing some toasty warmth in my beverage. This cocoa is quick. it’s easy, and delicious. It hit the mark for me. Give it a try
1 cup of almond milk (I use 65-calorie Blue Diamond)
1 and ½ tsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbs. of Stevia
1 tbs. of peppermint schnapps (This is optional, but If your considering it, you probably deserve it, and it’s only about 45 additional calories)
Dash of cinnamon (don’t add if adding schnapps)
Method: combine cocoa, Stevia, and milk. Heat for approximately 30 seconds, stir to incorporate cocoa. Heat again for another 40-60 seconds. Add schnapps, or cinnamon to taste.
This is really, really good bread.
Of course I never met a piece of bread that I didn’t like, but this is one of the best I’ve personally baked. I first made this recipe a couple of years ago, then made it a couple of more times. I’m not sure why I then put it away and forgot about it, until just recently.
It’s really easy to make as well. Because this recipe uses beer, and there’s some kind of yeast meets baking powder action going on, there’s no kneading. Don’t ask me to explain the science. I just know it all comes together well and makes for an exceptional bread. Still, the very best part is not even the taste. It’s the heavenly smell – Kind of a sweet yeasty smell like the baked bread smell your used to, but only maybe a little stronger. It will fill your home and your soul, like a good warm bowl of soup. In fact, you should try it with soup, or as dessert, or with soup and as a dessert.
Honey Beer Bread
Adapted from Food.com
3 cups of all purpose flour
3 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of melted butter
1 12 oz. bottle of beer
2 tbs. honey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix first three ingredients, then add melted butter. Add beer last, and stir to combine. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes. The bread will have a tough crust on the top, but should be moist in the middle. Cool until just warm and drizzle with honey.
Today as I weeded through the strewn packaging, nick-nacks and other Christmas vestiges cluttering my living area, all the while exhausted, I am again reminded how – I almost allowed the commercialized version of the holidays to take over me and my house.
Besides all the paper waste, there were already gifts and more gifts. Gifts for me and my family, and those destined for others. Now I love, love, Christmas. In fact, it’s one of the few holidays that brings out the overgrown kid in me. But do I really need any of this? Actually, no. I would trade it all for more better spent quality time with my family, and for more space in my home to spend it in. Did I need to buy ALL those gifts? No again. I’d say most of that shopping time and energy could’ve been better spent with my family as well.
Why do I do this to myself every year? I could call it retail therapy, or a whole bunch of other things, but I think it comes down to wanting to ensure that loved ones have the best Christmas possible. For some reason, for me that translates to buying multiple gifts, lots of baking and candy-making, Christmas home gadgets – you name it. All of this is healthy in moderation, but I do tend to overdo it at times. And it does seem rather ludicrous to think I can actually control someone’s Christmas experience.Experiencing the joy of Christmas is, after all, more a personal state of mind than anything else.
Admittedly, I sometimes don’t think about such important things enough, until the time passes, or in this case when the post Christmas aftermath kind of smacked me in the face. While I’m mournful for the season that’s passing, I am especially grateful for the blessings, and most importantly, the people in my life.
Like this little guy …
It’s also during the Christmas season that I am often humbled by the acts of love from my family. Consequently, I’m reminded that the best things in life are not things. They are the sing-song voices of your children, the candid “I love yous” from friends and family, the deep, soulful conversations with your spouse. They are the life connections that lift your spirits and pluck your heart strings.
I love meringues. Meringue cookies, that is.
Not just because they’re pretty, fun-to-make, sweet little treasures. But because they’re also fat-free and virtually guilt-free. This is important, because I have to admit, one of the reasons I don’t make cookies so often – as in the fresh, hot, chocolatey, full of butter fat kind – is because I eat WAY to many of them. With these, I don’t have to worry about all those extra calories landing on my backside. In fact, I can eat a whole bowl of meringue cookies without remorse. And maybe I already did. But I digress.
With the holidays here, I’m in the midst of a baking spree, and it is now time to make my go-to cookies: Meringues. Contrary to popular belief, these cookies are one of the easiest recipes to make. They have two main ingredients: sugar and egg whites. The only real work required is whipping these two ingredients up to hard peaks, adding your flavoring, and then transferring your batter into a pastry bag to pipe. The other great thing about meringues is that your egg and sugar mixture is pretty much a blank canvas in terms of flavorings. I’ve tried many – mini chocolate chips, crushed nuts (in very small doses), as well as spearmint, chocolate, and orange extracts. All of them worked well. On that note, I would advise not using more than 1 tsp. of extract to flavor your meringue. Otherwise, the batter might deflate a bit. Also, keep in mind that meringues don’t like moisture, so stay away from fruit or heavy chocolate add-ins.
I do hope you’ll give these a try. They truly do make beautiful cookies.
4 eggs, room temperature (see tips)
¼ tsp of cream of tarter
¼ tsp of salt
1 tsp of extract (I used clear vanilla here)
1 cup of sugar
Large Star tip ( I used a 1M open star tip)
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until peaks are stiff. Add extract and any food coloring. Fill pastry bag and pipe shapes onto parchment paper. Bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and leave it ajar until cookies cool, or leave overnight.
Tip: Eggs absolutely must be at least room temperature in order to whip correctly to a foamy consistency. If you aren’t sure if your eggs are warm enough, place them in a bowl of very warm water for about 15 minutes. Drain and crack your eggs to remove the whites.
Sometimes inspiration comes from some of the oddest places. Take these cookies for example. I was craving something peppery, but also something sweet when I hatched this recipe.
Yeah, I know. It sounds a little too outside of the box. But why not? Pepper already wakes up savory dishes that might otherwise seem a little mundane, and adds to the complexity of the taste of most any food. And when used in moderation, black pepper tickles the taste buds and stirs the senses – not in a light your mouth on fire kind of way, but more of a subtle bite on the back end of your palette kind of way.
It’s just the kick I needed for my shortbread cookies, and the black pepper really delivered. They were dense and buttery with a subtle pleasant aftertaste, that you probably wouldn’t recognize if you weren’t aware of the pepper content. I only used 1/3 of a teaspoon, so these cookies were pretty low on the heat scale, but if you wanted them spicy, you could try ½ teaspoon or more. Also, you’ll need the fine ground variety of black pepper to completely permeate your batter. Save the course ground for decoration.
These cookies paired really well with a cup of dark coffee. Surprisingly, my six-year-old actually loved them as well. Go figure.
2 cups of flour
½ cup of confectioner’s sugar
2 sticks of butter, minus one Tbs.
1 tsp of water
½ cup of powdered sugar, plus more for rolling.
1/3 teaspoon of black pepper (fine ground, not course ground)
Method: Preheat oven to 35 degrees. Whip butter, then slowly add other ingredients. Dust with powdered sugar, roll these out to about a ¼ inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. You can also roll into a ball and flatten with a buttered glass. Place on greased or parchment lined pan. Scoring isn’t necessary, but you can score with a fork if you prefer. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until slightly brown.
I’m an egg snob, specifically a scrambled egg snob. I like them warm, light and fluffy. This is why I seldom order scrambled eggs on their own, and never omelets in a restaurant. Most are too overcooked for me, so I end up making my own when I crave them. Still, until recently, I’ve have a one-note style in regards to cooking scrambled eggs – 2 eggs, milk salt and pepper. In 20 + years, I never deviated from that formula only because I never knew any other way to prepare them.
Then I tried Adam Roberts’ Eggs Adam Roberts recipe from the Amateur Gourmet. Among other ingredients, It uses sour cream, cheddar and pickled jalapenos. The result is a kicked-up creamy, cheesy kind of scrambled egg heaven. I really didn’t know scrambled eggs could taste this good. The only recipe modification I made from the original was to back off from the cheese about ¼ a cup.
Thanks for the recipe Adam. In my eyes, your eggs truly do immortalize you, but I make better toast than you do
This recipe was a nice, tasty little happy accident. I was looking for some texture to go with my cranberry blueberry sauce. Granola seemed like it might work, but I didn’t really have enough oatmeal, so I substituted the quinoa. As someone who’s not a huge stand alone granola fan, I must admit that I was surprised that I really, really liked it – so much so, that I was eating handfuls before it even made it to the cranberry blueberry sauce.
Ummm, how to describe? … Sweet, crunchy bliss with a quinoa-protein boost. Of course as granola goes, you can also eat it as a light snack (be careful, as I have implied here already, it is slightly addictive), or in a bowl of milk, but my favorite part of this recipe was that it took me 10 minutes to make it. If you’ve read any of my posts on this site, you already know that alone is a double win in my book.
The only pitfall to making this as a cereal, was that I couldn’t get my son to eat it, but then he could be the pickiest kid on the planet when it comes to high texture foods.
1 / 4 cup of quinoa
1/ 4 cup of oatmeal
2 tbs. of honey
2 tsp. of coconut oil
Dash of cinnamon
Melt coconut oil. Combine all and bake in a 425 degree oven for about 6-9 minutes.
They say food is love.
I’ve been feeling a lot of that lately, like the kind of love that comes from buttery starchy food and rich desserts. The kind that starts on the lips and ends up on the thighs, post Thanksgiving kind of love.
Definitely not the kind I welcome on a day-to-day basis. In fact, today I decided I needed something body cleansing, a bit of atonement for my fat laden, food foundering sins. I settled on a healthier version of a tuna salad wrap. This tuna salad wrap. Yes, it was pretty humble meal, but it tasted awesome.
One thing you’ll immediately notice about this recipe is that it uses olive oil in place of mayonnaise, so it’s doesn’t have your typical creamy texture that’s typical of most tuna salad recipes. However, it is much healthier than any mayonnaise version and it literally takes about 5 minutes to throw together. For a simple cook like myself, this fact alone scores high marks in my book.
3 - 7 oz cans of tuna
4 tbs. of olive oil
4 tbs. of chopped olives
Bibb lettuce leaves
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
Method: Combine all ingredients. Wrap in lettuce leaves and serve.
During my college years, my all-time favorite pie was a creamy heavenly, caramel-tasting concoction, spread into the bottom of a graham cracker crust. It was a popular desert my restaurant chain employer served it to its customers, and a seemingly easy one too. Basically you boiled a whole unopened can of condensed milk (or in my employer’s case several cans) in a large pan of water, for four hours. Once cooled, you spread the can’s contents into your crust and decorated with whipped cream and crushed pecans. Back then, the restaurant where I worked called this a caramel pie, but because the condensed milk contains no butter, the creamy amber substance is technically a dulce de leche.
And the process sounds simple enough, except for the four-hour part, which is where I myself failed miserably. Unwatched, my pot of water quickly boiled down to nothing, resulting in cans exploding on my father’s kitchen ceiling. Yikes … needless to say, it was a long while before I tried to make it again. Many times since then, I thought a crock pot would’ve made the process much easier and a whole lot less messy.
Then I tried making my own crock pot dulce de leche, and found it was not only easy, but as delicious as I remember. All said and done, it took about 11 hours in the crock pot, and about 2.5 hours to cool enough to spread into a crust. As there’s a PBA fear today with cans, I chose not to use the container and instead poured my can’s contents into a Pyrex measuring cup.
1 can of sweetened condensed milk, poured into a ceramic or heatproof container (A large Pyrex measuring cup works really well)
Enough water to cover the sides of the measuring cup
6 small graham cracker pie crusts
Toppings of your choice – I used toasted coconut, hot fudge, nuts, whipped cream, sprinkles, and crushed heath bars
Method: Place container of condensed milk into crock pot and cover with aluminum foil. Fill crock pot up with water so that it reaches the side of your container. Cook on low for about 11-12 hours. Cool, spread into pie shells and decorate.
Today I really needed something simple.
After ripping through my closet and bedroom again and again trying to find an article of clothing, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have way too much stuff. This kick-started a cleaning rampage and a renewed determination to stay (slightly ) more organized. Everything in my closet is in its place, discarded, or in the donation bag. I feel cleansed, collected, and have reclaimed a little peace of mind – at least for the moment. Now, If I could just find the matches to all those orphan socks …
Aside from leftovers, anything else I made for dinner had to be way less complicated. I went for something truly simple: a warm delicious bowl of cranberry blueberry sauce.
Warm, tangy and slightly tart, this sauce is not only a 4-ingredient winner for dessert, or with turkey or chicken, but it’s comfort food at its finest. And bonus: it’s made in a crock pot, so it’s easy.
Now, I love crock pot cooking, but let’s face it, crock pots don’t usually lend themselves to good looking meals. This cranberry blueberry sauce is the exception. Not only is it a bowl of tantalizing, mouth watering goodness, It’s simply, well … lovely. Even in the crock pot, this humble dish looks bold and beautiful. Try it. You’ll love it.
1 – 12 oz bag of cranberries
1/3 cup of orange juice
1 cup of blueberries, fresh or previously frozen
4 Tbs. of honey
Cook cranberries and orange juice on low for 4-5 hours. Drain all liquid except for about 2 tbs. of liquid. Add blueberries and honey, and mix thoroughly. This is awesome warm, but of course you can eat it cold as well.
I hate waste, any waste really. And it’s always a challenge in the kitchen when I have too much of any one thing. As a pumpkin lover, over time I’ve found a few ways to dispense of any leftovers. Luckily, once canned or processed, we’re dealing with a pretty versatile vegetable. Here’s what you can do with your excess pumpkin:
- Make pumpkin spread. Add 2 Tbs. of brown sugar and 1 Tbs. of honey or maple syrup for every 1/2 cup of pumpkin. Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice, and microwave for 90 seconds. Stir and cool. This will keep in a sealed container in your refrigerator for 2 weeks.
- Add to any savory meat or vegetable-broth based soup. Add to soup broth base first, or whisk into soup while hot. This even works well with canned soup.
- Add to pancake mix. Try ¼ cup for every ½ cup of dry mix. Follow package directions for the amount of liquid to add.
- Use for an oil replacement for cakes, muffins, or quick breads using a one to one ratio for replacement
- Freeze for later use, or make a pumpkin pie smoothie, like the one here.
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
5 frozen cubes of pumpkin
1 cup of almond milk
2 fingers of graham crackers
½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
2 tbs. of agave
Method: Process in a blender until smooth.
I’ve had a zillion pumpkin recipes swarming in my head before fall even began, but somehow I only managed to execute two so far. I suspect they went by the wayside, in favor of mounting laundry, dishes, or all-elusive sleep. As we know, Life happens.
Today my pumpkin inspiration grabbed me again, when I was getting ready to make chili. Now the last time I tried to make a pumpkin chili, it was an abysmal failure. Yes, It was completely inedible. I fed it to my husband (Of course, this was before I knew how horrible it was). As I recall, he gave me the occasional, but standard “Not really a fan, hon,” remark, which sounds harmless enough, except for the extra emphasis he put on the “fan” part. Then there was the “Please don’t ask me to eat slop that I wouldn’t feed to the raccoons out back” look.
Now I could complain that my husband doesn’t appreciate my kitchen prowess, but that wouldn’t be true. He’s eaten plenty of my botched culinary experiments, has done so with a smile, and lived to tell about all of them. Still, I was especially glad that this time I had developed a pumpkin chili recipe that worked well.
Looks delicious, doesn’t it?
What did I do differently this time? Well for my last attempt, I used ground turkey, which I love; however, I’m not so sure the turkey-pumpkin taste combination worked all that well together. This time I used lean ground beef and lowered the pumpkin content to about a cup. For me, it was pretty close to perfect. The husband liked it too, except he thought it needed a bit more heat to balance the sweetness. Next time, I’ll probably add some crushed red pepper.
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 / 2 yellow and 1/2 red pepper chopped
3 tbs. of Cumin
2 tbs. of chili powder
1 cup of pumpkin
½ to ¾ cup of water
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
3 tbs. of brown sugar
Method: Brown ground beef.* Add to crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
*As a side note, I would not recommend using meat that is less than 90% lean. I used extra lean ground beef and ended up adding a couple of tbs. of coconut oil, as I thought the meat tasted at little too dry for chili; however, this did correct my problem.
My family would tell you that I’d rather eat the crust than the pizza. That’s partially true, but I really do love the whole package, everything from the hot melted cheese-veggie-or-meat blend, to the soft, puffy, slightly chewy warm crust. Yes, a good pie entices the taste buds like nothing else. In fact, my stomach is downright bottomless when it comes to good pizza. It’s truly my biggest food weakness.
Still, a tasty one starts with a good crust, and a bad one (aka dry) can be the difference between a delicious pie and a blah one. Then there’s the matter of those “good for you” whole wheat crusts. While I’m all for healthy alternatives to most foods, this doesn’t usually extend to pizza crust. Most I’ve tried just don’t pass muster.
Ah, but there’s the super easy quinoa pizza crust, like the one I made here for my Gluten-Free Muffaletta Pizza. Now that’s something different all together …
Doesn’t this make your mouth water? Yes, there is a big ole’ crack in the piece you see here where I spread the batter a little too thin in one spot, but I assure you this isn’t dry.
This was a recipe I tried on a whim after trying to use up some extra quinoa. Then I came up with my own version. Other than water, it only has a handful of ingredients and only takes minutes to process in a blender or food processor. It’s soft, but has a sturdy nutty, crust, that crisps slightly on the bottom – Not your standard crust for sure, but still a pretty darn good alternative that just happens to be healthy as well.
¾ cup of quinoa
2 tbs. of grape seed oil.
1 tbs. of parmesian cheese
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 cup, plus 2 tbs. water
1/3 – 1/2 cup of tapenade (I used Trader Joes)
1/3 cup or more of chopped ham
4 green onions, light and light green parts
1 and 1 /2 cups of low moisture mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
Cover quinoa and soak overnight, or about 8 hours* Drain. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 Degrees. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, grease it and place it into your oven while it’s preheating. Process ingredients and pour and spread evenly with a spatula into a greased pan. It should be slightly thicker than pancake batter. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until bottom is slightly crisp. Remove and add toppings. Place back in oven for 10 more minutes.
I found the batter to fit perfectly into a 12-inch cast iron skillet for a medium weight crust, with a little less than ¼ cup of batter left over. It would probably fit a 16-inch pan, with just a slightly thinner crust. If you’re going for a thinner crust, I’d suggest adding another half tablespoon or more of water, and to be careful not to overload on toppings.
*If you choose to soak your quinoa in advance, it will keep an extra day in the refrigerator. Just make sure to drain well, and then rinse with warm water and drain again before processing.