Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Thanksgiving Dinner, The Cheaters' Guide

Get these in the refrigerated section of your grocery

If you have been following my blog, you know that I encourage everyone to make homemade food. The less food is processed, the better it is. Home cooking is tastier, healthier and usually less expensive. However, I am also a realist. I teach school and sometimes I work 12 hour days during the week and then go in on the weekend. I get it. You are tired and don’t have time to get all fancy and aren’t into being judged. You just want to open a can of something, heat it up, and have dinner. Especially on Thanksgiving. So. Much. Work….I hear you. I am here to make things easier. I am here to help you cheat.
 You cannot cheat with the turkey. You can make Maple Roasted Turkey which is simple and delicious. You can, however, cheat with the side dishes. I promise you, just hide the packages. No one will know.
First, get refrigerated, pre-made mashed potatoes. Do not get boxed flakes. They actually take more time and effort than refrigerated potatoes and do not taste as good. We like Simply Potatoes. Next, jazz them up. I stirred half a container of Heluva Good Dip (6 ounces) into 32 ounces of potatoes. I have tried every flavor and liked them all except for the pickle and jalapeño. (Don’t get me wrong, those two flavors are still great as dips.) You could add instead (also?) crumbled fried bacon, chopped chives, shredded cheese, a few ounces of cream cheese, garlic butter, sour cream, a little dried dill, lots and lots of ground black pepper or Parmesan cheese. Add the mix-ins and a little bit of butter or a splash of milk (buttermilk?) to the saucepan before you add the mashed potatoes, stir and heat. Finally, just serve them and don’t say anything. No one will know better.
You can also make a quick side dish with wide, egg noodles. Boil the noodles in water with a generous amount of Better than Bouillon. Chicken, veggie or garlic flavors work best. Toss the hot, drained noodles with more butter than you think is necessary. Then add a little more butter. You can then sir in crumbled fried bacon, chopped ham, drained black olives, chopped chives, dried dill, dried parsley, sour cream, ground black pepper or Parmesan cheese. You can also defrost frozen peas or zap a bag of frozen broccoli and toss the veggies in, too. And then add more butter.
This came from a box. Shhhhh!
Cornbread from a box is an allowable cheat. Krusteze is the best boxed mix, but you can use which ever brand you prefer. If you use Jiffy, get two boxes. Follow the instructions for making corn muffins and stir in any one of the following wet ingredients: a can of drained, whole kernel corn, a single serving can of creamed corn, or ¼ cup chunky salsa. You can also add any or all of these: a four ounce can of drained hatch peppers, 4 sliced green onions, ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, or ½ pound cooked crumbled sausage. Following the package directions for baking. So good, so easy.
For dessert, make a dump cake. That name is so NOT appealing. We’re going to call it a Simple Cobbler from now on. This could not be easier. Get 2 cans of some type of fruit. Preferably, something ridiculously sweet, like cherry pie filling or crushed pineapple. Dump the fruit into the bottom of a 9×13 inch glass baking dish. Then dump a yellow or white cake mix on top of the fruit. Use a spatula to spread out the cake mix to the edges. Give the pan a little shake to make sure that all of the dry ingredients are sort of settled in. Add thin slices of butter over the top of the cake mix. Make sure to add enough butter so that none of the cake mix will be dry when the cake starts baking. (Powdery, unbaked cake? No thanks.) Bake the cobbler at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Simple Cobbler can also be jazzed up. Substitute frozen fruit for one of the cans. If you are making peach or apple Simple Cobbler, stir golden raisins into the fruit. Add a little cinnamon or citrus zest to the cake mix. Sprinkle chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds onto the top before baking. This is really awful and yet really delicious. People will know that you cheated here, but they won’t care. Everybody loves this stuff.
If you are in the mood and have time, you can make any of my Thanksgiving recipes from scratch. However, if you want to take some shortcuts, I’m not going to tell.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Swirled Apple Pie

My theme this Thanksgiving is to keep ‘all things simple.’ This pie breaks with the theme, but since everything else was simple I could give this Swirled Apple Pie the time that it deserved.

What is the old saying? ‘Easy as apple pie?’ Apple pie is my husband’s favorite. It is true that making an apple pie is easy, making a GOOD apple pie is not easy. In the past my pies were runny or too sweet or too tart or worst of all, they had soggy bottom crusts. Not good.

So, I put my research skills to use. I figured out that the bottoms get soggy because apples release a great deal of liquid while cooking and people allow the crust to get warm before baking. I took care of these issues by precooking the apples and keeping the crust in the fridge until I placed it in the oven. Brushing the inside of the shell with egg wash helped keep it from absorbing any liquid. Finally, baking the pie on a hot baking sheet also helped the bottom crust crisp up.

I reduced the amount of sugar and lemon juice I normally use to pie balance the flavors of sweet and tart. The flavor of the apples is not hidden. Ground ginger gives the pie a little kick.

Finally, about the top crust. I saw something like this on a video on Facebook. The video didn’t give any instructions, but the pie was so pretty that I couldn’t resist. It was difficult to get the little swirls onto the pie. They didn’t want to hold together. So, I transferred the ones that did stick. Then I then rerolled the ones that didn’t hold together and laid them on top of the pie like a puzzle. There was enough of the dough left over to make a pretty edge on the crust.

I started this pie the day before I needed it.  I completed steps one and two the night before. Then I baked the pie first thing the next morning. It was cooled and ready at dinner time.
Serving: 1 large pie
Time: prep: 1 hour; cooling time for the filling: at least 2 hours; cooking time: 55 minutes to 1 hour; pie in 6 hours
Hardware: Measuring cups and spoons, a large saucepan, a veggie peeler, a knife and cutting board, a food processor (optional), a wooden spoon, a silicone spatula, a large mixing bowl, a strainer, a storage container with a lid, a baking sheet, 9-inch pie pan, a large flat surface, a rolling pin, wax paper, a fork, a small bowl, and a pastry brush, wire cooling rack

  • 4 of pounds of apples (I used Granny Smith)
  • ¾ cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar + more for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 prepared pie crusts, the type that are NOT in a pan
  • A little flour
  • 1 egg
  1. Peel and slice the apples. Try to make each slice the same thickness. I find this is easiest to do with a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor then slice the apple as if it were orange sections. Make them about ¼ inch thick.
  2. Place the apples, ¾ cup sugar, the cornstarch, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ginger, salt and water in the saucepan. Gently stir, bring to a low boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Pour the apples into the strainer and strain the liquid into the large mixing bowl. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and cook until the liquid is thick and syrupy. Scrape the syrup and the apples into the storage container and when it has cooled, cover them and refrigerate them. Don’t cover it while it is hot, because condensation will ruin everything.
  3. When you are ready to bake the pie, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is heating. Unroll one of the pie crusts and place it into the pie dish. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Be careful not to tear the dough. Place this in the fridge until you need it.
  4. Unroll another pie crust onto a lightly floured work surface. Use the rolling pin to roll it out until it is about 4 inches larger, Sprinkle the crust with half the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the crust and slice it into ¼ inch slices. Repeat for the other crust. Put a large piece of wax paper onto the flat surface. Place the slices, sliced side up on the wax paper in a large circular shape. Cover with another piece of wax paper and roll out until the little circles are flat as a pie crust.
  5. Take the other crust out of the fridge. Use the fork to mix the egg with a splash of water in the small bowl. Brush the inside of the pie crust with the egg wash. This will keep your crust from getting soggy.
  6. Layer the apples into the crust. Make sure to spread the apples out to the edges of the pie and press down so that there are no spaces in the apples. You can even shake the pan a little to get the apples to settle. This stops the filing from shrinking away from the top crust.
  7. Now, move the rolled-out pinwheels onto the pie to act as the top crust. They may not hold together and that is okay. I just reshaped them into pinwheels and placed them onto the pie so that there were no gaps. There will be left over wheels. Roll them back up and place them around the edge of the crust like a fence. Pinch the under crust and the edge-fence together. Make sure that the pinwheels nearest the edge-fence are sealed. It is okay for there to be a few gaps on top. They can act as vents.
  8. Brush the top crust and the edge with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.  Cover the edge with foil and remove it during the last 10 minutes of baking. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top is brown. Allow the pie to cool completely before slicing (4 hours)

Roll out the pie crust
Slice into ¼ inch slices
Roll out until the little circles are flat as a pie crust
Place the pinwheels onto the pie so that there are no gaps