Old Take on Banana Bread

Yup, that is delicious banana bread on a scratched up plate. Told ya long ago I don’t stage my food items. ūüėā¬† Although, soon those charming 50s countertops won’t be featured in this blog anymore – more on that later!

This recipe has been the most delicious normal-recipe I’ve experimented with – it’s classic banana bread with a wonderful twist. Normally, messing with something as tried and true as banana bread would be off limits, but I was too intrigued with this Joy of Cooking version from my 1975 edition.¬† I absolutely love older editions of this cookbook, as some of the more interesting baking and cooking methods and recipes get lost to newer editions.

What’s so different? Nothing earth-shattering: swapping butter for cooking oil, adding chopped dried apricots, and chopped pistachios.¬† These add-ins were a delightful surprise are sure to become a mainstay in this house.

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I used 2 eggs and 1-1/4 cups of banana pulp, for denseness and moisture.  The recipe gives a range, depending on how you like your banana bread.  Understanding the science behind your ingredients will make you a better baker, and this is one reason why I really enjoy using the Joy of Cooking, as it reads much like a cooking text-book.  I also really love the blog Kitchn, and this basic entry on eggs illustrates why this blog is great.

My six-year-old daughter told me to leave out the ‘stachios next time, though.¬† Funny, she loves pistachios on their own, but mixing foods together is still a no-no to her.

In other news, the light snow we got yesterday is nearly gone, and I have found green grass in some corners of my yard!¬† I am someone who loves snow, and appreciated yesterday’s beautiful snow fall through my windows, but am also understanding that most of my peers are just simply done with winter at this point in March.

I’m off to ready Easter things for next weekend and finish up some of the last of my grad homework.¬† There is a light at the end of the tunnel now!

Quick Banana Bread – from Joy of Cooking, 1975 edition.

Have all ingredients at about 70ňö.
Heat oven to 350ňö.
Combine:
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend until creamy:
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Beat in:
1 to 2 beaten eggs
1 to 1-1/4 cups ripe banana pulp
Add the dry ingredients in about 3 parts to the sugar mixture.  Beat the batter after each addition until smooth.
Fold in:
1/2 cup chopped pistachios 
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Place the batter in a greased loaf pan.  Bake the bread at about 1 hour or until done.  Cool before slicing.

Sweet Cream Cake

I made a lovely, dense, rich cake last weekend from one of my grandma’s cookbooks – there is just something so wonderful about old cookbooks. ¬†The way recipes are described and explained – it so much less detailed and matter-of-fact than any of the modern cookbooks I own. ¬†There was a certain level of assumption about cooking and baking knowledge, that no longer is found in contemporary cooking explanations.

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I whipped it up, and frosted it, with an almond flavored butter cream frosting on grandma’s wedding pottery (pictured here), to boot. ¬†Fitting, since the old Joy of Cooking, (1946 edition) this recipe came from was a wedding gift.

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This photo shows my grandparents РMary and Gene Рon their wedding day, with both sets of their parents.  There is a photo somewhere of my grandmother holding her wedding Joy of Cooking cookbook that I will have to look for.  That would be a nice addition to my kitchen decor, an homage to one of the two people who guided me most in the kitchen.  My other biggest culinary influence being my mother.

The Joy of Cooking is something I have been reading since I was a little girl.  I find the older editions so intriguing, as one can find explanations on how to prepare a wide variety of dishes, including game, unfamiliar German desserts, fallen from fashion puddings and fruit cakes, and lists and lists of coffee cakes.

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I settled on creating a gluten-free version of the Sweet Cream cake, just because it used what I already had on hand. ¬†I substituted the Cup for Cup flour, for the cake flour. ¬†The recipe below is verbatim from my grandmother’s cookbook.

My kitchen helper helped by stirring, combining, and spit shining the butter cream almond flavored frosting bowl.  The cake, frosted, right.  I left a small section unfrosted for those crazy family members who find frosting too sweet!  As much as I enjoy trying new recipes, this will be one of those cake recipes that goes into my repeated rotation.  Thank you for continuing to influence my kitchen habits, Grandma.  Miss you.

Sweet Cream Cake, from The Joy of Cooking, 1946 edition

Beat until light and lemon colored:
2 eggs
Sift, then beat in gradually:
1 cup sugar
Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift before measuring:
1 2/3 cake flour
Resift with:
2 1/2 teaspoons tartrate or phosphate baking powder or 2 teaspoons combination type (see Baking Powder, page 447)
1/4 teaspoon soda (if sour cream is used)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Add these ingredients to the egg mixture in about three parts alternately with thirds of:
1 cup rich sweet or sour cream
Beat after each addition until the batter is smooth. ¬†Bake the cake in two greased 8 inch layer pans or in a greased 8 inch tube pan in a moderate oven 350¬į. Allow about 25 minutes for the layers and about 3/4 hour for the loaf cake.

Almond Butter Cream Frostingfrom Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, makes about 2 cups

In a large mixing bowl beat 6 tablespoons of butter until smooth.

Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well.  Slowly beat in 1/8 cup milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Gradually beat in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.  Beat in enough additional milk to reach spreading consistency.

Roasted Beet & Carrot Tart

31f2e27f-2fc8-4fe9-adc5-1ca6a1a6f001I love love love love fall.  This fall has been supremely more busy than most of the previous autumnal seasons combined, for our family.  But, so it goes.  I got my recent Martha Stewart in the mail last week and was itching to do some baking Рit has been far far too long since I have whipped up something creative in the kitchen.

first-dayGrad class, new school, eldest child starting kindergarten, and upcoming presentation at the art educator’s conference has been keeping me racing from one event to the next. ¬†I look forward to some down time in December, perhaps. ¬†Here is a hilarious picture of the three of us on our first official day of school. Big thanks for Eric for taking this picture and holding it together far better than I on her first day of kindergarten.

I found recipe for a tart that looked divine – but being short on time and dealing with some picky eating phases, I swapped and changed a few things. ¬†For starters, I made a simpler sauce from sour cream and pesto. ¬†WIN! ¬†I just love a successful Martha Shortcut, as I call them. ¬†Let’s be honest, her magazine and recipes are amazing but simply not realistic for most of the population.

I roasted the beets and carrots smaller than recommended, to speed up the cooking period.

Martha Stewart’s recipe called for a hazelnut-cilantro chermoula sauce. ¬†This is a North African sauce that can also be served over eggs at breakfast. ¬†It sounded wonderful, other than the cilantro, I absolutely hate cilantro, it tastes like metal to me. ¬†I would have made the sauce, had I had the lemon and hazelnuts needed. ¬†Instead of cilantro, I would have opted for parsley.

I swapped the phyllo for 2 sheets of puff pastry, because it was what I had on hand.

It baked up beautifully and made the entire house smell amazing.  Every time I see beets, I just want to get out my paint set and get to work depicting them in layers of acrylic and swirls of watercolor.

My children both enthusiastically devoured their tart, asking for seconds and thirds. ¬†My daughter declared, “This is the best pizza you have ever made, Mommy!” ¬†Grateful for being short on time and ingredients to find this delectable tart that we will be sure to be making again soon, with some variations in the roasted veggies on top.

 

Roasted Carrot & Beet Tart – adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2016 issue

  1. Preheat oven to 425¬į. ¬†Peel and cut 3 medium beets into 1/2″ slices. ¬†Peel and slice in half, 1 pound of carrots (about 12). ¬†Put on rimmed baking sheet, and toss with about 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. ¬†Roast, turning once, for about 30-35 minutes, until browning in spots and becoming tender. ¬†Start checking on veggies around 25 minutes, for doneness.
  2. Place 2 thawed puff pastry sheets onto a large baking sheet.  You may cut to fit together.  Overlap slightly, wetting with fingers, and pressing together to make a solid sheet.  Brush lightly with olive oil.  
  3. For sauce, combine: 8 oz sour cream with 2 tablespoons pesto.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or till pastry is puffed and slightly golden.
  5. Remove from oven. ¬†Spread pesto sauce over entire puff pastry. ¬†Arrange roasted beets and carrots on top. ¬†Reduce oven heat to 375¬į. ¬†Return tart to oven, bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until sauce is set and pastry is done.
  6. Slice and serve warm.

 

Pie Crust 101

done.pies

A good pie is a flaky crust filled with delectable filling and a side of ice cream.  Once on masters the crust, and figures out correct volume for your particular pie pans, you are free to experiment and create new combinations of pies.

But I truly believe, a good pie is all about the crust.  I have done quite a few posts about pies Рbut still get frequent requests for my crust recipe.

I have used the same crust recipe for a number of years now, one that my dad shared with me. ¬†I always use it, because it creates perfection. ¬†Why the vodka, you ask? ¬†My dad discovered the vodka crust method from J. Kenji L√≥pez-Alt’s article in Cook’s Illustrated. ¬†The idea is, you are able to add more liquid to the dough, without making it tough by adding too much water. ¬†Most of the vodka bakes out and there is no after-taste. ¬†In a pinch I have used gin in place of vodka, and used bourbon once to make a fantastic bourbon apple pie.

I am by no means pie scientist, I just do what I know works best – check out¬†J. Kenji L√≥pez-Alt’s Serious Eats article on pie myths for even more information on pies. ¬†I will have to test out the rubber spatula method on my next pie!

Dad‚Äôs Pie Crust¬†‚Äď makes a double crust for a pie

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
3 tablespoons cold vodka

1.  Preheat oven for particular pie recipe temperature.  In a medium mixing bowl, use a pastry blender to cut in cold butter until pieces are coarse crumb size.

2.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon ice-cold liquid at a time, alternating water & vodka; gently toss with fork.  Push moistened dough to side of bowl.  Repeat using rest of liquid.  Dough will be dry, do NOT give into temptation to make dough moister by adding more liquid, however, if it is unworkable, dry and crumbly, you may add 1-2 more tablespoons of vodka.  Too much water will make your dough tough.  Divide dough in half; form into a ball.

3.  On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to flatten ball of dough.  Roll dough from center to edges into a circle 12 inches in diameter.  Do not overwork the dough and do not allow dough to warm up.  Refrigerate while preparing filling, or if your baking time is delayed.  If the dough is too warm, it will stick and tear.

4.  Carefully transfer dough to pie pan, by wrapping around a rolling-pin, not allowing it to stretch.

5.  Transfer filling into pie pan.  Repeat steps 3 and 4 for second ball of dough.  Gently drape second circle of dough over the filling.  Use your fingers to seal the edges of the dough.

6.  Optional: brush dough with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Cover edges in foil or with crust shield.  Place piece of foil on bottom rack of oven, or pie drippings pan.  Place pie in preheated oven, on middle shelf.  Bake, according to filling directions.

7. Let cool on wire rack.

 

butter

Crust is all about the right ingredients Рlike cold butter and cold vodka.  I am always a big fan of organic butter.

pie.tools

Crust is also all about the right tools: pastry cutter, marble rolling-pin, silicone baking mat, and crust shields. ¬†My first few pies were without these tools and it wasn’t impossible, but a little more frustrating to work without them.

Sometimes I stack the fillings high, sometimes I keep my pies classic, and sometimes I mix and match the fillings.  Following the correct volume, thickeners, and sugar amounts is important Рonce you have mastered the basics, any pie is possible.  These two pies are strawberry-rhubarb and raspberry-rhubarb.

My newest and most favorite pie tool is the silicone mat.  I measured my pie pans and now never have the issue of a crust being too small and falling apart when I try to roll it larger.  I still have the occasional small piece of crust is lop-sided and then a patch is needed.  I never said my pies all looked like perfection Рbut taste is another story!

See more about my must-have pie tools below.

pie.crust.brush

Depending on the pie, there can be a proper finish.  For my double-crust fruit pies, this entails a brushing of milk and sprinkling of Demerara sugar.  Sometimes cinnamon is also called for.

 

My favorite pie tools are the following items:

A marble rolling-pin helps keep the dough colder while you are working with it.  I refrigerate mine before rolling out the crust.  I do not wash it with soap, just hot water.  

A silicone pie mat prevents sticking, helps with correct measurements, and makes cleaning up the countertops easier.  

 

A pastry blender works better for cutting in cold butter than a fork, but now I am intrigued with the idea of using a rubber spatula, and will be trying that next.  
King Arthur all-purpose flour is the only kind I use these days.  The quality is top-notch and it never fails for all my baking needs.  Unless I am baking gluten-free, and then I use Cup for Cup.  I am still working on a perfect, from scratch gluten-free pie crust.  I will let you know when I make the break-through.

You may have noticed earlier in this post, that my pie shields are a tad on the small size. I may have to invest in these adjustable ones in the near future.  

A pie drip catcher means you are no longer wasting rolls of foil, trying to keep your oven free of the bubbling over pie fillings.  


I don’t believe in all the crazy sugar-fad items, but I sure do like the taste of coconut sugar. ¬†I will be trying this combination out on the top of my next pie!

Rhubarb Raspberry Crisp

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One of the things I missed most about the Midwest was its unique plants – moving to North Carolina made me realize that I couldn’t smell lilacs every spring, watch the corn grow into tall tasseled plants, and wouldn’t be enjoying freshly cut rhubarb desserts.  Of course, moving back to the Midwest has made me miss uniquely southern plants as well – the looming ancient magnolias and their white messy blooms, the grape-like bunches of sweet-smelling wisteria, the browning fields of tobacco plants, dots of white dogwood in the understory of the forests, the creeping cathedral-like kudzu that took over the countryside.  What are your favorite plants?  Are they tied to a location, particular time, or memory?

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I often make rhubarb strawberry desserts, as the sweet strawberries complement the tangy and tart rhubarb so nicely.  However, I did not have strawberries on hand, and thus used a carton of raspberries instead.  To me, rhubarb looks like reddish-green stalks of celery.  The leaves are full and scalloped and also happen to be poisonous.  Their blooms are fascinating bunches of flowers and they happen to prefer cooler climates.

I kept this dessert on the sour side, by swapping refined white sugar for coconut sugar. It’s not as sweet in flavor, but remember, sugar is still sugar.

 

Rhubarb Raspberry Crisp

  1. In a 8×8′ baking dish combine: 2 large stalks of rhubarb, sliced and 6 oz of red raspberries (or more is fine too, this is just what I had on hand).
  2. In a small bowl combine: 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1 cup oats, and 8 tablespoons of cold butter.  Combine with hands until mixture is sticky and butter is completely combined.
  3. Bake in a 350¬į oven for 35-40 minutes or till fruit is bubbly and top is lightly browned.
  4. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

 

Vegan Blondie Bars

I love a solid baking or cooking challenge Рveganizing and freeing of gluten are two that I do frequently.  With food allergies and diet preferences abundant in my circles, I have come to embrace this style of preparing food.

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I made these during the month of crazy-busy April. ¬†I wrapped up a grad class, an art class, a presentation at work, and working on some other big changes all in one month. ¬†I made time for some fun around Eric’s birthday weekend though. ¬†We got together with some friends to grill out one evening, and I brought these lovelies along for dessert. ¬†The swapping of a few ingredients made them no less delectable, I promise!

ingredients

To make these vegan, I swapped out butter for coconut oil and chia seeds for eggs.  I decided that while I was it, I may as well swap out the brown sugar for coconut sugar.  It made them a little less sweet tasting but kept the chewy goodness.

meal

This is the fantastic meal prepared by our friend, Ben, which preceeded the dessert. ¬†I’m drooling just looking at this image – please start a food blog!

Qtags

Q proceeded to work on his tag – making these diagonal pink lines all over the sidewalk, steps, hose, himself… Yup, those are my wedding shoes, they are still going strong. ¬†More on the rest of April later – I have been busy creating, just not posting/sharing busy.

 

Vegan Blondie Bars – adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

  1. In a small bowl combine: 2 tablespoons chia seed with 6 tablespoons water.  Stir and allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour or till thickened and gel-like.
  2. Grease 13x9x2 inch baking pan with dairy-free shortening.  Microwave 2 cups coconut sugar and 2/3 cup coconut oil until oil is melted.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly.  Combine with chia seed and water mixture and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  3. Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups Cup 4 Cup mix, for gluten-free option!), 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Mix in 1 cup semi-sweet, vegan chocolate chips.
  4. Spread batter into prepared pan. ¬†Bake in a 350¬į oven for 25-30 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. ¬†Cool slightly. ¬†Cut into bars while still warm.

Easter Brunch 2016

Easter was a little while ago, I know.  However, I have been busy taking two classes, testing the waters for big and exciting changes coming soon.  I actually started this post just after Easter and it has been sitting as a draft since then.  I have quite a few artwork drafts sitting around right now too, waiting for my classes to end.  More on those later.

coffee.cakeI have been raised on good coffee cake, however, it wasn’t until recently that I was given the best recipe on earth – my maternal grandmother’s recipe. ¬†She was famous for this recipe – she worked in a diner and regular patrons would come in asking if she was working that particular day, and if so, had she made her coffee cake yet. ¬†I have an adapted version of her recipe in this post, see below.

I love the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour for all my baking needs.  It is as close as you can get to typical gluten baking, and I have tried quite a few different kinds.

The struesel in this cake is perfect Рdue to mixing the sugar, cinnamon, and flour with melted butter, rather than cutting the butter in.  It creates the best and most even struesel I have had.

This Bagel, Lox, and Egg Strata  from Better Homes & Gardens, was a keeper РI will be sure to make it again soon.  We swapped out the regular bagels for gluten-free, found in the freezer section at The Fresh Market (one of my favorite stores from Greensboro that recently opened here in Des Moines!)

Notice the difference in egg color, above? ¬†The brighter ones are from our friends’ farm, Lipes Family Farm, outside of Iowa City. ¬†We have been buying eggs and meat from their monthly buyer’s club here in Des Moines for more than a year now. ¬†If you are in the Des Moines Metro area, sign up for their e-mail list to join!

img_9591Brunch was delicious Рsmoked salmon, bagel, & egg casserole, fruit salad, mixed greens salad with lemon vinaigrette, and bacon from our friends at Lipes Family Farm.  Some of the best, I have been told, as I am no bacon expert!

img_9586I kept the kids busy and entertained during brunch prep with assorted washi tapes.  These are the best thing for my creative  & busy kids Рthey can tear off whatever size they like, and stick them everywhere.  The tape peels off of all surfaces easily and it comes in glitter, patterns, and bright colors galore.  The rolls are small enough to easily fit in my purse and take along for on-the-go fun anywhere.

 

Gluten Free Struesel Coffee Cake

For struesel topping, combine: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour, 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

For cake, combine: 3 cups Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour, 6¬†teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and ¬†1-1/2 cups sugar. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles cornmeal. Blend in 1 cup milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. ¬†Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan. ¬†Sprinkle struesel topping over top. ¬†Bake at 375¬į for 35-40 minutes, or till knife inserted near center comes out clean.

 

Pizza Quiche 

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This is another recipe that I concocted based on items I had in my kitchen, I did not go out and buy any of these things with this recipe in my mind. ¬†This is my favorite kind of cooking – I feel it’s a direct extension from my collage and painting mindset.

If you have been following this blog, or have spent any time with me, you know I am a breakfast-aholic – waffles, pancakes, muffins, egg casseroles, and especially quiches. ¬†This was one of those ideas that I just thought was so brilliant that even my adventuresome eaters would gobble up. ¬†Ha, that’s funny…

My ah-ha moment of making quiches came about when I finally figured out to fill my favorite pie pan with water and then pour it into my stainless steel bowl that is marked with measurements.  Now, aside from a few basics I keep the same Р4-5 eggs and 1 cup of liquid  РI can mix and match my quiche recipes as I like.  The 1 quart line is the magic line to keep my quiche from overflowing.

Pizza quiche should be whatever pizza toppings are your favorite – we went with pepperoni, tomato, red bell pepper, kale, onion, and cheese.

For more on crust techniques and tricks of the trade check out previous links on pastry crusts. ¬†I first learned about the vodka crust technique from my dad, who learned about through reading about¬†J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s findings, author of The Food Lab, for America‚Äôs Test Kitchen. ¬†You can read more about it here.

I can’t wait until that kale is coming out of my yard again.

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It was so nice earlier this week – at 71¬į – that we ate dinner on our porch. ¬†Today it was supposed to snow, guess that is just spring in Iowa for you. ¬†My daughter is in the background of this photo making her *lovely* gagging-because-you-made-me-try-a-new-food face. ¬†Even though it is just eggs and pizza toppings, both of which she loves.

Sigh.  Toddler adventures with food.

 

Pizza Quiche

  1. Prepare a single-crust pastry.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté 1/2 yellow onion, diced with 1 small red bell pepper, diced with seeds and ribs removed in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until softened.
  3. Combine in a bowl: 5 beaten eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 medium tomato, diced, 3-4 oz of chopped pepperoni, 1-2 tablespoons of pizza seasoning, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.  Mix in the onion mixture and 1 cup of shredded kale.
  4. Pour into prepared crust and bake at 325¬į for 50-55 minutes or till the center jiggles slightly and is almost set, or when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. ¬†If necessary, cover the edges in foil or with a pie crust shield, to prevent browning in last 20 minutes, or so, of baking.

Pastry for Single-Crust

1.  Using a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup butter into 1-1/4 cups flour. Pieces should be pea-sized. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ice-cold water over part of the flour mixture; toss with a fork.  Push moistened flour to one side of the bowl.  Repeat, using 1 tablespoon of the liquid at a time until all the flour is moistened, using 4-5 tablespoons of ice-cold liquid Рwater, vodka, or a mixture of the two Рin all.  Form dough into a ball.

2. On a lightly floured board, use hands to slightly flatten dough.  Roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.

3. To transfer pastry, wrap dough around a rolling pin.  Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate.  Do not stretch the dough, as this will cause shrinking.  Trim excess dough and fold over.  Do not prick dough.

4.¬†Line with double thickness of aluminum foil. ¬†Bake in a 450¬į oven for 8 minutes. ¬†Remove foil, bake for 4 to 5 more minutes or until pastry is set and dry. ¬†Reduce oven temperature to 325¬į.

 

Christmas 2015

pie.sliceThis year for our Christmas Day meal, I decided to make a blueberry pie. ¬†It’s good to shake things up a bit, especially on holidays, I think. ¬†Some of my family would disagree and say this is a terrible idea – why mess with a a good thing, especially on holidays?! ¬†It is due to this sentiment that I left my Challah recipe alone this year.

blueberry.pieI was using a combination of a couple recipes Рa terrible habit of mine when I am in the kitchen.  I ended up with a delightful, though a bit on the juicy side of a pie.  My youngest Рa huge pie fan Рalmost perfected his ability to say the word pie due to his love of the blueberries in this pie.

I used my dad’s crust recipe with gin this time – I was out of vodka. ¬†And the basic blueberry filling from my Martha Stewart pie wheel. ¬†See below for both recipes. ¬†I would add thickener in the form of tapioca or corn starch for future reference. ¬†I topped it off with real whipped cream. ¬†I accidentally bought a carton of heavy whipping cream instead of the kids’ milk, so I have been creatively putting it to use.

walkIt snowed on Christmas Eve day and so I enjoyed a wintery walk with my eldest child. ¬†She is a budding scientist and makes keen observations that make her mama proud. ¬†Here she is gingerly touching the thin crust of ice at the very edge of the pond. ¬†She told me after doing this that she, “would hold on to my hand while we were near the water’s edge.”

familyWe enjoyed quality family time with cousins and grandparents. ¬†Poor Q, Christmas is a lot of work when you aren’t yet 2. ¬†Though it’s a lot of work when you are my age, too.

IMG_8487Here he is earlier in the day, a little calmer and still barefoot.

IMG_8492My daughter’s¬†writing is exploding now. ¬†She decorated my present herself, asking for spelling help with all her favorite characters. ¬†If she hadn’t made me open it, I would have just left it wrapped like this forever.

batmans

Santa visited my two little Batmen with some surprises, and some surprises for me Рthey are actually sharing in this picture!  My youngest little ham now slits his eyes when he smiles Рnot sure if he is trying to be funny or if this is how he thinks one is supposed to smile.

frostOn Christmas Day the foggy morning weather made everything a frosty white that surprisingly lasted all day.  It was absolutely beautiful and I found myself stopping and staring out my in-laws windows frequently during the day.

giftsWe opened gifts .  The chaos of this picture is perfect.

salt.fish

The men did most of the cooking.  Eric is working on assisting my brother-in-law with his salted fish recipe.  The fish are covered in a salt and egg white mixture and then baked.  The salt crust is then peeled off and a perfectly cooked fish is left inside.  This was paired with a saffron risotto, challah, a salad, and yule log cake and pie for dessert.

all the grandkidsWe certainly missed Grandma this year, this image was taken last year at Christmas. ¬†She would have turned 91 on Christmas Day – how lucky I have been to celebrate her birthday and Christmas, together, for so many years. ¬†So, with the exception of losing loved ones, each year Christmas just gets better. ¬†I am so grateful for my life, my family, my health, my friends, and the way I get to spend my time. ¬†Here’s to 2016!

Dad’s Double Pie Crust

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons vodka
  1. Sift together flour and salt; cut in butter with pastry blender until pieces are the size of small peas.  (For extra tender pastry, cut in half the shortening till like cornmeal. Cut in remaining till like small peas).
  2. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of the mixture.  Gently toss with fork; push to side of bowl.  Repeat, alternating water and vodka till all is moistened.  Form into 2 balls.
  3. Flatten on lightly floured surface by pressing with edge of hand 3 times across in both directions.  Roll from center to edge, till about 1/8 inch thick.
  4. Trim lower crust even with rim of pie plate.  Cut slits in top crust.  Lift pastry by rolling it over rolling pin; then unroll loosely over well-filled pie.  Trim 1/2 inch beyond edge.  Tuck top crust into under edge of lower crust.  Flute edge of pastry as desired.

Blueberry Pie FillingMartha Stewart Pie Wheel, (click here for your own printable version)

Combine in a large bowl: 3 pints of blueberries, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 chopped up tablespoons of butter.

Bake at 425¬į for 20 minutes with a Pie Crust Shield¬†or aluminum foil on edges to protect crust edges. ¬†Reduce to 350¬į, remove foil or shield, cook for 30-40 minutes more or till golden and filling is bubbling.

 

 

A Man’s Favorite {Applesauce Cake}

cake

I made a cake from my Gramma’s recipe box this week – A Man’s Favorite (Applesauce Cake). ¬†It was a perfect cake for a weeknight fall meal – simple flavors, ingredients I had on hand, fast to mix up, and made a smaller-than-most sized cake. ¬†My gramma got this recipe from a friend of hers from when they lived in Texas – I just love her penciled in addition of Applesauce Cake after A Man’s Favorite. ¬†I have to wonder if someone was being cheeky naming the cake this, or were they serious and it was the man’s favorite?

 batter

I especially liked the addition of my homemade applesauce and a full cup of raisins.

frosted

I added a quick powdered sugar glaze by whisking together until smooth: 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1-2 teaspoons almond milk.  

I don’t have much to report on right now – I’ve been busy with some big projects at work, wrapping up some artworks and fun decorating ideas at home, and I have been trying to squeeze in as much outside time as I can right now. ¬†It is the most ideal weather right now, in my book, 50s and 60s in the mornings and 70s in the afternoon. ¬†Walking, biking, and enjoying my fair city has been at the top of my agenda.

A Man’s Favorite {Applesauce Cake}¬†

1/2 cup crisco (I used margarine)

1 cup sugar

1 cup seedless raisins

1 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons hot water

(Optional: add about 3/4 cup of nuts walnuts or pecans)

Blend crisco, sugar, and egg thoroughly in one operation. ¬†Add raisins and applesauce. ¬†Then add the spices and salt with flour, and add in several portions. ¬†Before the last of the flour is added, stir in the soda dissolved in hot water. ¬†Beat well, pour into a greased loaf or tube pan and bake about 1/2 hour in a 350¬į. ¬†(I found it to take about 1 hour to bake thoroughly, but test it with a knife, in the center, to see if it comes out clean).