Pie Time

img_5642

Last weekend we picked some apples. If you are not one to frequent an orchard to pick your own apples then you might not know how easy it is to pick too many. One bag is easy to fill, especially when the apples are the size of grapefruits, so it is tempting to fill a second, and a third. Even though there were several of us on this particular trip, adults and youth types, we did not pick too many. Pat on the back for us.

We did, however, pick enough to make an apple pie. I have been using a variation of the same recipe now for years. It is a tasty pie, no doubt. The crust, with a bit of dried mustard and cheddar cheese baked right in, is spot on. It is a good crust. And the filling tastes great–robust apple flavor, not too sweet. But the consistency I just can’t nail.

This recipe calls for two tablespoons of corn starch to thicken the filling. I used the recommended number of apples, and I tried not to add only the humongo ones. More apples means more moisture which means more starch is required to absorb the excess liquid. I know this. So even though the number of apples in my pie matched that in the recipe, I doubled the corn starch. I was going to add only one extra tablespoon but I added two just to be on the safe side.

But the dang thing was still way too runny. I even let it sit a while so it would not flow out just because it was too hot. So, like a late New Year’s resolution, I have decided to just bag this recipe and to find another. This one stinks. I am always afraid I will add too much corn starch and it always comes out runny. Lame, I tell you. Lame. So from here on out I toss that filling recipe into the bin. I’ll keep the crust, but the filling? Ain’t happenin’ no more.

So I am on the hunt for a new apple pie recipe. I have a few in books on the shelf, and I will certainly give the pie recipes in them a try. I guess I will need to just get baking to try a few. Do you have a tried and true recipe that makes the apples pop on your tongue and is just sweet enough? You let me know. I’m game. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Advertisements

Tofu Pot Pie

IMG_0686For over ten years now one of the favorite dishes in our house has been tofu pot pie. We got the recipe from a good friend on a visit to Idaho. The recipe (or an approximation of a recipe) was hastily written on the back of a page of a transcript of an interview about a timber sale. It has rudimentary directions but enough for me to understand it and to make the pie scores of times. I made it again last night.

The original recipe is a little different. It calls for mushrooms and not potatoes, but I love potatoes in a pot pie and mushrooms are not always appreciated by some members of our household. It has a few other modifications as well, which were added after many attempts to try something new. This takes some time to prepare, no question, but it is worth it. Here is the recipe:

TOFU POT PIE

Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons water

Mix salt and flour in a food processor. Cut butter into chunks and add to food processor; mix until it forms loose crumbs. Add water in stages until dough starts to cohere. Pack into two flat discs, one slightly larger than the other, and wrap in wax paper. Chill for at least an hour.

Vegetables

1 onion

2 celery stalks

2 large carrots

3-4 potatoes

1 cup peas

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon pepper

salt to taste

1 ½ Tablespoons tamari

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Chop onion, celery, carrots and potatoes into ¼ inch pieces. Cook in large sauté pan in olive oil on medium high heat until potatoes start to get soft. Add spices, salt, peas and tamari. Set aside.

Tofu

14 oz. extra-firm tofu

1/3 cup flour

2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Cut tofu into ¾-inch cubes. Mix flour, nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder in large bowl. Coat tofu well in this mixture. Brown coated tofu in hot oil in large sauté pan and set aside.

Gravy

½ cup nutritional yeast

¼ cup flour

1/3 cup olive oil

1½ cup cold water

2 Tablespoons tamari

In dry hot large sauté pan, toast flour and nutritional yeast for a few minutes. Add olive oil and whisk into a paste. Add water and tamari and whisk well until blended. Remove from heat.

Assembly

Heat oven to 400°.

Roll out bottom crust and insert into 10-inch pie pan. Add half each of the vegetables, tofu and gravy, then add the rest in additional layers. Cover with top of crust and seal.

Bake at 400° for 30 minutes. Crust should be slightly browned. Cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8. Total time to prepare and bake: 1½- 2 hours.

Who Knew Pancakes Could Be So Good?

So buttermilk pancakes are the classic pancakes. Every time I hear about pancakes, at a restaurant, in a cookbook featuring some awesome breakfast, even on a box of powdered mix, it is all about buttermilk pancakes. Supposedly they are just “so good.” I have made lots of pancakes. I feel like I have a pretty good basic recipe. It does not involve buttermilk.

The waffle recipe I use is made with yeast. It requires making the batter the day before and letting it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. It takes some planning but good gravy those puppies are delicious. Recently I wanted to try something different so decided to try to make pancakes using yeast. I made that batter with some yeast and some baking soda. They came out really well. In fact, they were the best pancakes I had ever made.

I have never made pancakes with buttermilk in part because I never have buttermilk. I mean, what else do you make with buttermilk besides buttermilk pancakes? It isn’t exactly an item to keep stocked in the pantry. Or the icebox. Or whatever. I’m not going to go out and buy buttermilk when I can make perfectly good pancakes with regular old milk.

However (and you knew there would be a however), our CSA share recently started offering buttermilk. Our CSA share works a little differently than others. We get a quota of points each week and can use them for whatever they have–produce, eggs, honey, flowers. Last time we were there I grabbed some buttermilk–from a local dairy farm. I figured it was time to try making me some buttermilk pancakes.

I adapted the yeast pancake recipe I used before, adding buttermilk instead of plain milk. And let me tell you, those pancakes were crazy good–fluffy and light and buttery, and soft on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. Daggone those babies offered some good juju to my taste buds.

Next time we pick up our share I plan to get more buttermilk. I need to make more of those pancakes. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
extra butter for the griddle

Whisk together 1 cup flour, the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl.

Warm the buttermilk until just warm–too warm and it will curdle (but if it does, don’t worry, just mix it right in). Mix this into the the flour mixture thoroughly and set aside, covered with a towel. Let rise for about an hour.

Whisk together the remaining flour and sugar, the baking soda, and the salt in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and melted butter together in a yet another bowl. Make sure the griddle is heating at this point.

Stir down the yeast mixture and add the egg/butter mixture until well blended. Add the flour mixture slowly, stirring all the while, until just blended. Pour small amounts onto hot griddle and heat. Once each pancake is brown on one side, flip only once to brown the other side and to cook through. Do not be tempted to flip them again as they will lose their loft and will not be nearly as good.

Scrape down the bowl with a silicone spatula to get all that tastiness cooked up.

Cold Weather and Hot Cocoa

Time for Sunbathing?

The warmest temperature I saw today was 1 degree. That ain’t summer. Last night the temperature dropped below zero; at its lowest point, just before sunrise, it was -16. Like I said, that ain’t summer. Winter–full on. It was the kind of day where those thin pants are like wearing no pants, the kind of day when your breath freezes in the air. I left the house this morning, driving on the squeaking snow, and all was well. As my car warmed, the moisture inside the car unfroze, evaporated, clung to the windows, and then froze again. I couldn’t see doodly squat. I had to wait for it to thaw inside the vehicle. Cold.

I was chilly enough this evening that I craved something warm. I craved dessert, I admit, but I thought I might combine the two. So I whipped up some hot cocoa. And I’m not talking that instant add hot water junk. I’m talking genuine rich and creamy chocolate deliciousness. Here is the recipe for two servings (or one, if you use a mug as large as mine):

Hot Cocoa

Mix 2 Tablespoons cocoa and 2 Tablespoons sugar with a dash of salt.

Add 2/3 cup water and stir well.

Heat over medium heat, whisking, until mixture boils, then stir for 2 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup cream or half and half and 2/3 cup skim milk.

Heat until hot but do not boil.

Drink up, baby.

Below zero tonight and then we are back to normal winter temperatures tomorrow. Earlier in the week we were aiming to get a storm, but that will miss us. I suppose we can’t have all the extremes at once. That would be a blizzard and schools might be closed. Although, schools were closed today. Busses wouldn’t start. I wonder who got reprimanded for forgetting to plug in the engines. Or maybe it really was just too damn cold for real.

Making Pesto

We have, out in our garden, what I described to my lovely spouse as an insane amount of basil.  It has been, I admit, far too long since I have made pesto. I haven’t gotten around to it once school started and work kicked in and things just got busy. But now it is starting to go to flower, and we need a pesto fix, and we have an insane amount of basil in our garden. So this afternoon I picked and picked and made four double batches.

The first batch I popped into a glass vessel and saved for immediate consumption, meaning dinner tonight.

Batch number two I put into a freezer container–two cups–and stashed in the freezer for this winter.

I combined batches three and four into one 4-cup container and added it to the getting-full-with-summer-produce freezer as well.

So we will be good with pesto for a while, especially since, even though I picked 16 cups of basil leaves and made a half gallon of pesto, we still have an insane amount of basil in our garden. I will be able to make maybe two more gallons. That is just nuts. I know we can use basil for other things, but, um, why?

Here is my recipe:

Combine 4 cups basil leaves (washed and spun dry), 1/2 cup nuts (walnuts or cashews or pine nuts if you can find some) and two to four large garlic cloves in small pieces in a food processor; mix until well blended.

Add 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon salt and process to blend.

With the food processor running, add 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff–none of that light crap) until completely blended and smooth.

Makes two cups. This freezes well in a tight container.

Bon appetit and all that.

Zucchini Bread Recipe

Fresh From the Oven

As I write, a large loaf of zucchini bread finishes up its baking. We did give four squashes to a neighbor today, and I figured I had to make more bread. We do need to use up this squash, but this bread also happens to be tasty. Here is the recipe:

Prep time is about 15-20 minutes and baking time is 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Mix:

  • 3 cups fresh shredded zucchini1
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 large eggs

Slowly add to this mixture:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

I use a large loaf pan (9″) and bake it for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 375 degrees. You can also use two small loaf pans (8″) and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Let cool and slice her up.

Another Batch of Ice Cream

Recently my wife has been craving chocolate ice cream. One day last week she went to four stores in search of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream. Chocolate ice cream is pretty much found anywhere one might find ice cream but we like to eat locally. Truth: Ben and Jerry’s is hard to beat. Chocolate ice cream is one thing. Good chocolate ice cream is another.

So I decided to make some good chocolate ice cream. After some delicious trial and error I think I’ve got it. Not too rich, not too meak. Plenty of creaminess and just sweet enough.

Here is the recipe for one quart wicked good chocolate ice cream:

Melt 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate in a double boiler or in a sauce pan over low heat.

Stir in 1/4 cup baking chocolate. It will get clumpy but have no fear.

Stir in 1/2 cup skim milk and 1 cup cream, a little a time. Whisk until smooth. Let cool.

In a bowl, whisk two eggs until light and fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, until blended. Whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup cream.

Mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Let cool for at least one hour in a refrigerator. Use an ice cream maker to turn it into ice cream.

Try not to eat it all once.

Next up: mint chocolate ice cream made with fresh mint. I’m salivating already.