Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Pie Squares, the recipe as promised

Of course there is a story behind the recipe.  Last football season the Notre Dame tailgate in September (2009) was one for the record books.  The tailgate, not the game.  Anyway, it was a night game so I believe we started the tailgate around one o'clock in the afternoon.  Plenty of time to socialize.  Beautiful weather.  Oh, I remember it fondly and well.  The tailgate next to us was hosted by a Purdue professor and his sweet wife, Denise.  Both of their sons were there, one was still on campus but the other was out gainfully employed.  The boys always want their mom's apple pie squares, so naturally she had a nice full tray of them.  Enough to share with their tailgate neighbor who had enjoyed enough mojitos to just jump right in and inquire about them (the neighbor would be me-the DD can have a drink if she's not going to drive for eight hours or so).  A great big vintage aluminum jelly roll pan of iced apple pie squares.  Heaven.

She e-mailed me the recipe and let me preface it by saying that it was passed down to her and it is truly old-school pitch-in/church dinner/tailgate fare.  Nothing modern about it, but no one cares after the first bite.  Sara and Kelly's boyfriends joined us this past weekend for the Purdue/IU game and I believe they were responsible for a whole row of squares.

just glazed/iced

a repeat, but yummm!

If you've never rolled out a pie crust, this might seem kind of crazy.  The crusts cover the full sheet.  You can do it.  Either be super patient, use lots of flour so your crust doesn't stick and have a "spotter" to help you lift the crusts OR patch whatever crumbles.  You cover it with icing.  Perfect or not, it will taste the same (good!).  That's the thing with baking and me.  I can bake anything, but I'm probably not going to win any food styling awards.  Just not a talent of mine.  I'm forty seven.  No trouble admitting I have my strengths and my weaknesses.  Can't bowl.  Not very good at cleaning windows.  Sometimes should think before I speak.   I can, however, cook.

So here you go.  Enjoy!

Apple Pie Squares

3 3/4 C flour
3/4 C unsalted butter (cold)
3/4 C crisco (at least now it is trans-fat free)
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk and milk to measure 3/4 C

2 C cornflakes, measured then crushed to sprinkle over crust (someday I'm trying frosted flakes)
10 C apple slices (peeled and sliced nice and thin)
1 1/4 C sugar
1 T cinnamon

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
milk to thin

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix flour and salt, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles small peas (pulsing in a food processor works well).  Add egg yolk and milk.  Mix until dough forms a ball.  Divide dough in half.  Roll each portion large enough to cover the jelly roll pan (with a little up the sides and a little hanging down to crimp together).  The recipe says to roll it the crusts out on foil, I used parchment and dusted it with plenty of flour.  Line the pan with one crust and press up the sides of the jelly roll pan.  Leave the other crust for the top.

Mix together the apple slices, sugar and cinnamon.  Spread cornflakes evenly over bottom crust.  Place apples evenly atop cornflakes.  Top with second crust and crimp edges together.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool mix milk into powdered sugar to for an icing glaze and spread on top of pie.  Cut into squares to serve.

Thanksgiving wrap-up

If I didn't have a house full of family and if it didn't actually take me two hours to clean-up my kitchen I would have sat down and fired off this post Thursday evening.  Our feast was so delicious and delightful it was begging to be recorded for all time on my blog.  It would just have to wait, however with a ridiculously cold tailgate all day Saturday (a horrendous loss to IU keeps me from saying it was fun in almost any way) and a full day on Sunday which also included some horrible football (we went to the Colts game, you know "the worst home loss ever"one?).  Monday would have been a reasonably good day to write, but I was so tired from Sunday Night Football in America that whatever I might have written would have to be edited heavily.  So, here we are five days post holiday ready to share some goodness again.

Let's start with dessert, shall we?  We shall.  The week before Thanksgiving I rounded up every November issue of Fine Cooking in my kitchen.  Sure, all the recipes are on the website (accessed fully only by membership, but I consider that $9.99 annual fee a necessity).  I still like to thumb through the glossy pages, dog-ear them, stick the little mail reply subscription cards in as bookmarks and make an old school list (i.e. Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie, FC 96, p. 50).  I can guarantee you my girls will never make such a list.  They will probably not have cabinets bursting with cookbooks, cooking magazines, folders of clippings and my own crazy full binder of classic recipes either.  So I'd sit down with my stack of magazines, Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, my reading glasses (sad, but true), a pad of paper and a pen and plan out the menu.  Martha Stewart started sending my "Living" magazine a couple of months ago so I dog-eared those too just to keep it interesting.  Finally I settled on the aforementioned Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie, but I would use Dave's Mom's recipe for piecrust.

I made the crust the same day I made the crust for the apple pie squares.  Might as well clean up that flour-y mess just once.  Thought one pie would do since my mom was bringing a pumpkin cake.  Good thought, but Friday after Thanksgiving Kelly and I would roll out the saved crust and make another pie.  It was that good.  The only substitution I made in the recipe was using evaporated milk (not the fat free or skim kind either, it's pie for goodness sake) instead of heavy cream.  I'm sure it would be even more delicious with heavy cream but I had only bought one pint of heavy cream for the whipped cream to serve with the pie.

If you haven't had enough pumpkin pie, give this version a try while it's all dark and chilly out or just remember I'll have this recipe waiting for you next fall.  And next year make a pumpkin pie in October to kind of space out your enjoyment.

Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Pie

one blind-baked pie crust (heat your oven to 400 degrees, rollout your crust and place it in your pan, prick the bottom and sides with a fork, line the bottom with a circle of parchment, fill with pie weights/rice/beans and bake just until set about 16-20 minutes)

15-oz. can pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 C evaporated milk (not the sweetened condensed sticky kind)
3/4 C lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (get the good Vietnamese cinnamon)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground cloves (I like more, maybe you aren't so sure)
one fresh grind of black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl (that nice 8-cup Pampered Chef batter bowl is good) whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk and evaporated milk.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and the spices.  Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.
Pour the filling into the blind-baked and cooled pie crust.  Bake in the 325 degree oven until the pie is set around the outside, but still slightly wet and jiggly in the center or about one hour.  The filling will continue to set as it cools.  If this freaks you out, keep it in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until more of it is set (but not all the way to the middle), your pie will still be good.  Let the pie completely cool on a wire rack before chilling it in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to two days before serving.  If you put it in your refrigerator with any kind of cover and it's still warm you'll have a not so lovely pond of condensed steam on your lovely pie, and you've gone to all the trouble of making it special.

Serve with real whipped cream.  If you serve it with whipped topping, that's just wrong.  You can have a child or a husband or  your mother who wants to be so helpful whip the cream while you get out the serving dishes.  A chilled bowl and beaters are nice, but not mandatory.  Pour your cream in and whip it at the highest speed.  Before it's set, add some powdered sugar.  Kelly whipped one pint of cream and I added about one-half cup of powdered sugar.  Start with a small quantity of sugar.  Lightly sweetened cream is one of the joys of life.  Fine Cooking whipped one cup of heavy cream with 2 T of brown sugar, 1 tsp of ground ginger and 1 tsp of brandy.  Decadent.

Before we leave today, let me just share a favorite moment from the holiday weekend.  Rewind to Wednesday when the kitchen was in full-on stay-out-of my-way motion.  Greg walks in and sees me with my camera taking photos of my apple pie squares and pumpkin pie.  He loves my blogging and all the photos of food.  He says that my blog is titled "blue skies with a squeeze of lime" and his blog would be titled "grey skies and a glass of scotch".  Funny man.  He hadn't even witnessed all the bad football and bad basketball from his teams yet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

day before and the ovens are hot!

Kelly and I baked all morning.  We finished the apple pie squares with a glaze and moved them into a storage box for the tailgate Saturday.  We made the filling and baked the pumpkin pie.  She baked the delicious Trader Joe's gingerbread snack cake.  I baked the sweet potatoes, mashed them and sauteed the apples for the topping.  I made the cranberries (orange and Grand Marnier this year).  We crafted some cheesy panninis for lunch.  We're in the middle of cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast.  The last time we made this recipe from Fine Cooking they didn't see morning.

the apple pie squares for the tailgate, well except for the two that we've already eaten :)

Time to set the table and polish the place up a bit.  We're off to the Straight No Chaser concert this evening to enjoy our dear friend Ryan Ahlwardt and the other nine SNC members singing some a cappella holiday tunes and etc.  My parents are joining us and my dad not only sang in the Purdue Glee Club, but at 75 still sings to this day with the Singer's Club of Cleveland (men's chorus).  He will so love it.  I can hear him humming along already.

bag of cranberries, 1 cup sugar, zest of one orange, 1/2 C juice, 3 T grand marnier
stirred as they simmered for about 10 minutes until thickened

Probably will get a bit too busy to post until Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  In the meantime, I am thankful for time, the love of friends and family, our warm and cosy home and the health and presence to enjoy it.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving wherever you may be!


game on!

Round one of kitchen prep for Thanksgiving and the last tailgate of 2010 just wrapped in my kitchen.  Have to pace myself.  I have a beautiful kitchen that I designed for myself nine years ago and I'm thankful for it all.  But even my kitchen feels crowded and small when a big meal prep is on.  So tonight after dinner I blind-baked my pumpkin pie crust and baked an 11 x 15 tray of apple pie squares.  Two different pie crust recipes:  one, my tried and true pie crust from David Letterman's mom and the other shared through e-mail by a generous fellow tailgater after a Purdue game in 2009.  Let's just say I have Crisco and I'm not afraid to use it.  There's just no way around it.

Tomorrow morning I'll make the pumpkin pie filling and bake the pumpkin pie.  I'll glaze the tray of apple pie squares, cut them and pack them up for the tailgate.  I need my stoneware jelly roll pan the great big slab of apple pie is cooling in to roast some vegetables for Thanksgiving.  I'm also making cranberries in the morning just as soon as I decide on the recipe for this year.  Cosmopolitan Cranberries with vodka and chambord?  Kelly and I are really the only ones that eat the cranberries and she's not driving anywhere.  Cranberries with Orange Zest?  Or maybe Cranberries with Apples and Oranges?  I have a 48-ounce bag of berries from Costco, so really I could make them all.  Luckily it's going to be very cold here the next few days.  I'm going to need a third refrigerator  and as long as the raccoons don't get too curious as to what I'm keeping on the back deck that will do.

Kelly came home Saturday night for a nice long week at home after all but one of her classes this week was cancelled.   She had the brilliant idea that we order pizza from Bazbeaux tonight.  Awesome.  Her only request being that I make her favorite salad.  Ask and you shall receive.  Apparently she has learned that despite my love of cooking, there is a limit and no one needs to find that limit two days before Thanksgiving.  Smart girl.

The pizza was amazing.  The salad was pretty delicious too.  The thing she loves about this salad is the dressing and the feta.  Feel free to make your salad with anything you like and or whatever happens to be in your kitchen or garden.

salad in the low light of my winter kitchen
Kelly's Favorite Salad

romaine lettuce, washed and torn
red onion, sliced in thin vertical slices
avocado, pitted and sliced (if you have a nice ripe one on hand)
tomato, chopped
cucumber, sliced
carrots, sliced or shredded
feta cheese, crumbled

2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T chopped fresh thyme (both herbs are so easy to grow at home and they both winter over fine with a little water and minimal sunlight in our garage)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt, pepper
olive oil
white wine vinegar (I love sauvignon-blanc vinegar)

For the dressing chop the herbs and mince the garlic and mince and mash all together with about a half teaspoon of salt.  Put the herb/salt mix in your salad bowl and pour a few tablespoons of light olive oil followed by about half that amount of vinegar (red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar or lemon juice make a great salad too-experiment and pick your favorite one, but just one at a time please).   Grind in some black pepper.  Add the salad ingredients and toss.

Be good to yourself.  Eat yummy fresh food.

Happy Thanksgiving Prep day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

thanksgiving recipes

I'll get back to my "stickies" note on my mac with all the recipes needing posting, but possibly you are looking for Thanksgiving ideas with just a week to go.  I go the updated traditional route.  No need to reinvent the wheel on this one.  The twists I make lighten the overall calorie load, but the point really is to add some freshness to a heavy meal.  I'm going to eat the full fat dressing, gravy, potatoes and pie because it's a holiday.  Besides, my whole little family runs the 3-mile Turkey Schlepp through our neighborhood at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.  We'll be fine.  Life is short.  Food is love.

sorry, no photos of today's classic recipes yet
I will add them after Thanksgiving
in the meantime, this is Rio and wouldn't we all like to be our pets?

The first entry today is roasted cauliflower with rosemary-lemon-thyme oil.  Fine Cooking published an amazing guide to roasting vegetables a couple of years ago (found it: Oct./Nov. 2007 issue 88, a particularly good one) and I've photocopied it for many friends.  Roasting vegetables not only caramelizes the sugars in the vegetables it also produces a fabulous bite with crisp outsides and tender insides.  Yummm.  I like to cut the core of the cauliflower out and then vertically slice the florets into thin "fans".  Very pretty.  Your best results from roasting come when your vegetables are uniform thickness.  Roasted cauliflower is also good just with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a 1/2 tsp white sugar added when you toss it with some olive oil (broccoli is fabulous this way too).  Another version for company would be dijon mustard and a little honey tossed with the cauliflower after roasting.  If you don't think you like cauliflower, give roasting a try.

roasted cauliflower with rosemary-lemon-thyme oil


one large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets and/or vertical slices like fans
(for Thanksgiving I will roast 2 heads)
olive oil
rosemary-lemon-thyme olive oil (see below)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

rosemary-lemon-thyme oil

zest of one large lemon in long strips (love my cute yellow Zylis zester, but a peeler works well), save the lemon you might want to add the juice after baking
2 T olive oil
1tsp choopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
(double this for more than one head of cauliflower)

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest and olive oil.  Cook over medium-low heat until the zest bubbles steadily for about 30 seconds.   Remove from the heat and cool for about 3 minutes.  Stire in the rosemary and thyme and let sit about 20 minutes before using.

Heat the oven to 475 degrees (450 if you have a convection oven).  If you have a nice stoneware jelly roll pan like I do (Pampered Chef) you can brush some plain olive oil in a thin coat on the pan then sprinkle it with a little kosher salt and fresh pepper.  If you are using a baking sheet (roasting pans can have pretty high sides and you'll steam your veggies instead of crisp roasting them), line it with parchment paper.  Toss the cauliflower with the rosemary-lemon-thyme oil, salt and pepper regardless of your pan.  Place in a single layer on your pan/sheet.  REMOVE THE STRIPS OF ZEST before roasting (or they will be bitter and burned, ick).  Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring if you have florets and turning if you have "fans" after about 10 minutes.  Toss with additional rosemary-lemon-thyme oil if desired or the juice of a lemon (both additions are worth it).  Serve warm.

Ina Garten knows how to cook and she also knows how to generously employ butter and sugar.  I've adapted her sweet potato recipe which surely is delicious as written, but my version has it's own devoted following.  Basically you make mashed sweet potatoes and top them with cinnamon-sugar sauteed apple slices.  How could that be anything but fabulous?

baked sweet potatoes, milk, butter, brown sugar and spices ready to blend in the Kitchenaid

all mashed and ready to go

apples, butter and brown sugar in the saute pan

ready for the oven 
sweet potatoes with sauteed apples

4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
1/2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 C 2 % milk, half and half or go for broke with heavy cream
4 T unsalted butter, melted (you can use less, but at least 2 T)
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

sauteed apples

2 T unsalted butter
3 large McIntosh apples, peeled cored and sliced
3 T brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Scrub the potatoes then prick them in 5 or 6 spots with a knife or fork and bake for one hour or until very soft (do yourself a favor and put some nonstick foil on a baking sheet and either bake them on the sheet or put the sheet on the rack below in case the potatoes ooze out their sugary goodness-Thanksgiving is not a good time to have to clean your ovens).  Cool until you can handle them with a mitt and scoop out the insides into a large mixing bowl.  Add the orange juice, milk/cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg (buy it whole and use your rasp grater, very handy), cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Mix until combined, but not smooth.  Pour into a baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (2 quart dish or  9 x 13 casserole).

Melt the butter for the apples in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the apple slices and brown sugar and cook for about 10 minutes, lightly browning both sides.  Place apples on top of sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until hot all the way through.

Serves 8-10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

waaayyy behind

Today we are in luck because it's another morning coming off painkillers from another visit to the oral surgeon.  So, all those recipes and photos accumulating on my desktop can start making their way on to my blog pages.  I've been out and about meeting lots of interesting people and usually tossing in that I write a food blog.  Well, sometimes I write a food blog and sometimes I just write in my head and post stickies on my mac and get way behind on my food blog.

It's still tailgate season.  We are firmly in fall cooking mode.    And almost everyone I know is the grown-up this year and is hosting Thanksgiving (a big shift that's been slowly occurring and at 47, I best embrace it).  Time to share some recipes.

Let's start today with a quick soup recipe I developed using Trader Joe's 17 Bean and Barley Soup Mix and Sara as my adviser and official taster.  She has become quite a reader of recipes and may just have the gift for just knowing a good recipe when she reads it.  It is a truly a gift.

my favorite picture from Tokyo, note Greg in the back with the old-school video camera
That of course will lead me to my "stream of consciousness" section for today.  Have I told you when I realized I had "the gift"?  We moved to Tokyo on a one-year assignment with TDK on Kelly's 4th birthday (1994).  Yes, we lived overseas in the days without e-mail, cell phones, the internet and Skype.  Imagine.  So when my girls were napping I would grab my cookbooks and just sit on the front step and read recipes over and over again.  I was so hungry for American food, I would devour the recipes and imagine their taste, texture and aroma.  It really wasn't as sad as it sounds.  I did put three meals a day on the little table in my tiny kitchen, but I only had a two-burner stove (like camping without the view) and a deluxe microwave that supposedly was also an oven that I could never figure out (significant written language barrier).  Almost forgot, I also had a rice cooker.  Loved that thing.  Thank God we hadn't been beaten to submission about not eating white food.  We would have starved without that lovely sticky white rice.  Besides, we walked or biked everywhere.  Oh, and we were just over 30 so who was worried about carbs (for the record, I'm still not worried).  We lived three subway lines and 45-minutes from the expatriate community and their imported groceries, so we ate a lot of rice, vegetables and fruit and a little chicken or beef.  Every day we went to one of five stops on the regular rotation to keep food in our little refrigerator.  Every week we went to the McDonald's on the ground floor of the Jusco department store for "cheeseburger sets" because that was pretty much the only meat Kelly would eat in Japan.  Sara turned two just after we moved and was still in toddler food mode.  There are lots of good stories from the Tokyo adventures.  But we'll wrap it up today by noting that this was really where my love of a good recipe and a bountiful meal had its genesis.

Back to the soup.  Consider it a good afternoon cooking project.   A super nutritious meal in a bowl.  Serve with crusty bread and a salad or just have a really nice big bowl of hot soup and maybe some apples or pears.

this is what you are looking for on the shelves at Trader Joe's
Kristin's 17 Bean and Barley Chicken Sausage Soup

one package Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley Soup Mix
6 C chicken broth (love the organic boxed broth at Costco or TJ's)
one 29-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen tomatoes are wonderful)
5 or 6 fresh chicken Italian sausages (Whole Foods) or turkey Italian sausages (sweet or hot, you choose)
one medium onion, diced
1 cup diced or sliced carrot
one or two zucchini, diced
one red or yellow pepper, diced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 T apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 bay leaves
Parmesan rind or grated Parmesan

Soak beans overnight as directed on the package OR do as I did, put them in your soup pot with triple their volume of cold water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook uncovered over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Let sit to soften for one hour.

Drain the beans.  Rinse out and dry your soup pot.  Add 1-2 T of olive oil and cook the sausages either in bite-size pieces or squeeze the sausage from the casings and crumble the meat as you brown it.  Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels.  Wipe the pot clean-ish and add another 1-2 T of olive oil to saute the onions until translucent.  Add the peppers, zucchini and carrots and saute until soft (6-8 minutes).  Stir in the garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and saute for another minute until fragrant (do not brown the garlic).  Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and beans and bring the pot to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and add the bay leaves, pinch of cayenne and Parmesan rind (if you have it, buy the wedge from Costco and save the rinds for soup).  Simmer for at least an hour or until the beans are soft.  Before serving, add the splash of cider vinegar and taste for salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves and the Parmesan rind.  Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.  Serves 8.