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Apple Pie Perfection

8 Feb

Sarah’s 18th birthday is today!!! How did the time go so quickly? I think it went quickly because she has been so much fun. She likes to bake and craft, so of course we had to make a special treat to take to school. Sarah has IB Calculus first block and it is a small class with a great teacher–not just because she let’s the girls bring in goodies, but she loves math and helps the girls love math too (it is an all girls school in case you were worried about the boys being ignored.) I linked this up over at Hollie Rogue’s Photo Friday link up party. It is a great place to see and be seen. click on over there to see what’s new.

So what should we make? One of Sarah’s favorite desserts that I make is an apple custard tart. I’ll definitely be making that for the blog sometime, but we have been seeing these adorable apple pies baked in the apple on Pinterest. We saw one at Testado, Provado e Aprovado , it looked both easy and wonderful, so I only changed it a little. Our test Pie was delicious, even though it broke open. I think we carved the inside out a little too much. Here is our version:

Pie crust: adapted from the kitchenaid manual.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shortening –I use coconut oil, which is solid instead of Crisco solid.
1/3 cup  cold  salted butter
5 or 6 Tbs. cold water, add a very little bit more if the dough won’t hold together.

Put all ingredients except water in bowl. With either the paddle attachment on the kitchen aid, or a pastry cutter, cut shortening into flour until it is  like crumbly pea gravel. Then slowly add water and blend until the dough just holds together. Gather it in a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge to chill.

Now cut the tops off the apples, not too far down. Cut the apple top up and peel the skin off those pieces. Now leaving the apple skin intact with about 1/4″ of apple left to give it some strength. First cut out the core, throw out the core pieces, and save the rest. We sprinkled lemon mixed with a little water on the apple pieces to keep the brown down. Make sure your apple pieces are cut up into small pieces. You will have more apple than you need, so don’t worry about doing it perfectly.

Mix in a bowl, not with apple yet:–for 8 apples, obviously less for fewer more for more!

1/2 cup sugar –I like raw sugar it has more flavor.
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1  tsp vanilla

In a small bowl put a heaping 1/2 cup of apple bits and 2 Tbs. of the sugar flour mix. Mix them until the apple is completely covered. Put the coated apples in one of the hollowed out apples, add some bits of butter on top about 1/2 Tbs per apple. Repeat with the other apples and set aside while you roll out the pie crust dough. Pre-heat the oven to 375*

   

Separate the dough into two pieces, on a floured surface roll out half the dough until it is about 1/8″+ thick. Try to roll and handle the dough as little as possible, so that it stay flaky. We used a circular plastic container that was about 5″ in diameter as a cookie cutter, cut out as many tops as you can with the first batch of dough. Add the leftover dough to the second half, and roll it out again and cut out the rest of your tops.

 

The tops need a small vent to let steam escape. We use a mini flower cookie cutter and then put the scrap back on the crust as decoration. Put the tops on the apples, don’t worry about pressing them in place they will naturally fold around the top as they bake.

Bake for about 40 minutes, when the crust looks golden brown in a bubbling syrup they are done. Let them cool for at least ten minutes  before serving.

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I love you S’more!

7 Feb

I Love You S'More!

Really wonderful s’more cookie recipes have been floating around pinterest. These would make great Valentine’s Day treats, or just good snacking fun. the basic idea is, A graham cracker base with chocolate cookie dough on top with marshmallows and a Hershey’s Bar piece. Because marshmallows can make this a little too sweet, I adjusted my cookie dough recipe a little. It is pretty easy, and theywere a big hit for SuperBowl.

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375*

Lightly grease or line with parchment 2 cookie sheets. Line sheets with graham cracker broken into squares.

Mix dry ingredients,

2 1/4 cups flour,

1 tsp salt,

1 tsp baking soda

–set aside

Blend

1 1/2 sticks of butter,

1 cup brown sugar,

1/4 cup regular sugar

until creamed.

Add 2 eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla continue blending.

Slowly add dry ingredients

Now add blend in 1 cup of chocolate chips.

I decided about 4 marshmallows per square was better than the 2 per square I show here. Press a heaping Tbs of dough onto the marshmallow topped graham crackers. let the marshmallows peek out the sides.

Bake for about 6 or 7 minutes,

Now bake for another 5 to seven minutes you want the cookie dough cooked, but still soft. Then cool break them apart and enjoy. And did we ever enjoy them.

Baked Hot Chocolate – WSJ.com

3 Feb

Baked Hot Chocolate – WSJ.com.

What a wonderful winter treat. I will fix this tonight!

Baked Hot chocolate

I Love You–Pink Marshmallows

31 Jan

For Emma Kate’s 5th Birthday—this recipe is for you!!! These are the best gourmet marshmallow ever, ever, ever, really they are that good. I promise. Hollie Rogue has a fun photo contest on Fridays, there are lots of fun pictures over on her site.

I Love You--Pink Marshmallows, the best marshmallows of all time!

Marshmallows became a fixation for me when my sister made an amazing sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner topped with homemade marshmallows. They taste better and have more character than store bought marshmallows. I developed marshmallow envy. Even when something is really good, I have to make it better. So how does one make something as simple and sinfully sweet as marshmallows better? Well, my first rule for great cooking. Rule #1–Always use the best ingredients available. Actually, use better ingredients than the recipe calls for!

Start with a good basic recipe and add to or modify it to suit your tastes. Pinterest, my new addiction, had some beautiful homemade marshmallow pictures and recipes. I started with this “Baking Bites” recipe. There are three main ingredients, gelatin, sugar and corn syrup, plus water, salt and vanilla. 1st try, I decided that I would add some butter, because rice crispy treats have butter and they taste better. This was an epic fail, not so much because of the butter, but because I failed to notice that my box of Knox gelatin was past its “use by” date. It made the marshmallow smell slightly off—hello, garbage can. I also worried that the butter made the marshmallows too runny.

Second try, marshmallows are just sweet, but just sweet isn’t good enough. Sweet plus some flavor is better. Back to Rule #1, what ingredients could be better? How about honey, clover honey is very mild but it has a distinct flavor. If you prefer one of the stronger flavors, that should work equally well. And raw sugar has slightly more flavor than white sugar. Also, adding more salt balances the sweetness of the sugar. Vanilla pairs well with cinnamon, and cardamom, so a little of those will add the final touch without overwhelming the soft sweetness of marshmallow. And since it is my niece, Emma Kate’s 5th birthday and valentine’s day is just around the corner, they need to be pink; so you definitely need to add some food color. Below is the new and improved “I love you—pink marshmallows.”

In the bowl of a stand mixer add,

½ cup cold water
3 packets Knox gelatin (0.25 oz. each)—sprinkle on top of water

Allow the water and gelatin to gel for about 10 minutes.

In a 2 quart sauce pan add,

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup honey
¼ cup water

Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Keep it at a full boil for one full minute—I had to take the honey mixture off the burner to keep it from boiling over, when I made this with corn syrup it didn’t boil over. While still boiling, pour it over the gelatin. Using the whisk attachment, whisk on high for 7 minutes. It should become opaque and very fluffy.

Fluffy Pink and wonderful--Keep mixing

Add,

1Tbs. Vanilla—real vanilla!
1tsp salt—sea salt is very good!
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp cardamom
and food coloring if you want them colored—6 or 7 drops to get good pink

Continue to beat on high for another 7 minutes.

While your mixer is working and you are waiting, lightly but completely oil two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper on one side. They should be big enough to cover a 10”x15” cookie sheet. Place one in the bottom of your baking sheet, leave the other out. When your marshmallows have been totally whipped, pour the mixture onto your cookie sheet spread it out with a spatula which has been wiped down with oil. Cover with the second sheet of oiled plastic and let them set for 4 hours or overnight.

Smooth marshmallow out evenly on the cookie sheet with a spatula

When thoroughly set, turn the marshmallow out onto a cutting board. You my cut them with a lightly oiled pizza cutter or cookie cutters—maybe a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Dust well with powdered sugar, and enjoy!

Pink Marshmallows cut into bite size morsels and covered in Powdered sugar

Feta Spinach Puffs

26 Jan

Spanakopita are wonderful spinach Puffs. How hard could they be to make? As it turns out, not that hard at all.

I made two types of puffs, salsa, cream cheese and avocado which I saw on Pinterest; and a spinach, feta mix.

I just made up a recipe for the spinach one, but they tasted great!

Here is my recipe for the Spinach filler to make 8 large or 16 mini puffs, preheat oven to 350* ( I actually only made half this much, since it was for my lunch)

½ cup or about 4 oz. of cream cheese
½ cup of ricotta cheese
½ cup feta cheese
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. crushed garlic

Mix these ingredients well.

 

These are the ingredients for the avocado, salsa puffs, just add about a teaspoon of each and close the pastry with wet fingers.

 

Roll out your puff pastry sheet.

 

Cut rectangles that are the finished width you want and twice as long, –about 2″x4″ for mini puffs and 4″x8″ for regular size ones.

Add heaping 1 tbs. to the mini puffs and 2 to the large puffs. Wet your finger and run it around the edge of the pastry. Fold the long side over to create a little pillow, press the two side together to seal it well. You can bake it right away or chill them and bake them later.

Place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Enjoy these for an appetizer or lunch. They are delicious and easy.

 

Easy Cheesy Quiche

25 Jan

Good quiche should be fixable from what you have on hand. I don’t really use recipes for quiche. I just throw in whatever is sitting in the fridge. Quiche is my—I don’t feel like going to the grocery fall back meal. Here is a basic recipe—that was really delicious—but add in your own goodies to make it even better.

Preheat Oven to 350*

6 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup ricotta cheese or cottage cheese or even cream cheese
½ cup flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. rosemary
½ tsp. crushed garlic
pinch sage and red pepper
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 strips cooked ’til crispy bacon

1 pie shell—recipe below or use a pre-made one—9″ deep dish.

Bake pie shell for 15 minutes. While it is cooking throw all your ingredients in a bowl and blend really well. This is one of those recipes where a kitchen aid makes it extremely easy. Pour the batter into your pie shell and cook for approximately 45 minute or until lightly browned with small fissures along the top.

Options: add some lightly steamed broccoli or spinach. Add ham or chicken instead of bacon, add more cheddar or even Swiss cheese instead. Use whatever is in the fridge. I think using cream or at least ½ and ½ makes it better. This will serve six and a small salad or steamed veggies make it a great and easy meal. It keeps well in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave one slice at a time. I even like the leftovers for breakfast.

Pie crust:

2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt—3/4 if you don’t use your bacon grease.
1/3 cup butter–cold
1/3 cup cold shortening—bacon grease is best for a savory pie, you can pour your hot grease in your pie pan and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to chill. Then scrape it up and add it to the flour mixture. The little bits of bacon only add flavor and character.
5 Tbs. cold water—possibly one more if your ingredients don’t hold together

With a pastry cutter blend shortening and butter into the flour and salt until you have little peas of dough. Slowly add water and mix—you want to mix as little as possible while forming dough. Form it into a ball, wrap it in plastic and let it rest for at least 15 minutes in the fridge. Roll it out on parchment or wax paper—again less work will yield a much flakier crust—place it in your pie pan and bake as directed above.

 

 

 

 

From Cold Kernels to Kettle Corn in 5 Easy Minutes: Why I Love my Whirley-Pop

5 Jan

Perfect kettle corn, which is lightly sugared popcorn, is a wonderful treat. I like mine with a few spices. Caution, this popcorn is addicting! Here is the place for disclosures—to the best of my knowledge—no one at Whirley-Pop has ever heard of me, and I am receiving no money for writing this—although I would love it if someone wanted to pay me! Here is a link to Whirley-Pop, they cost about $25, and you will need one to make this tasty treat. The Whirley-Pop is also a great gift for families with young kids, or any popcorn lover.

http://www.popcornpopper.com/

FIRST:

My secret recipe:

salt, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves

Mix together:

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp.vanilla

Stir together all ingredients and then sift to remove clumps. I suggest a sift with a spinning handle, this will save you from sore hands. The “Secret Recipe” can be made days in advance and stored in a plastic tub or clean jar. This is also a great topping for strawberries or toast. The longer the sugar sits the better it tastes, because the spices’ flavors meld together.

SECOND:

To make the delicious popcorn, you will need:

3 Tbs cooking Oil

½ cup popcorn

½ cup “Secret Recipe” sugar

If you have an electric stove, turn it on to medium heat while you get your ingredients out.

virgin coconut oil

Also, Instead of cooking oil, I used virgin or unrefined coconut oil. It adds a faint coconut flavor and smells like the beach when you open the jar. If you don’ like coconut, don’t use coconut oil. It is a solid, so I melt it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It is also, a poly-unsaturated fat, one of the good ones.

Put the oil, popcorn, and “Secret Recipe” in your Whirley-Pop. Turn the handle at a slow constant pace. When the corn stops popping, after about 2 to 3 minutes, pour it onto your cookie sheet (I put parchment paper on mine) to cool, then into a bowl to serve.

Popcorn is a great movie night treat, and if your children are old enough and safe around the stove, they can even turn the handle for you. If you don’t like sweet popcorn, don’t add the “Secret Recipe,” just add salt and/or your favorite spices.

Lucky for us, Sarah’s first video didn’t work out, so we had to make a second batch, YUM! I still don’t know how to edit or post a video, but luckily my son is home. In exchange for some Kettle corn, he helped.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MDMwOjXUzc&feature=g-upl&context=G25749f4AUAAAAAAAAAA

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