Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Making mud pie

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas! I’m enjoying a stay-cation this week, catching up on sleep and attempting to do my part in eliminating the sugary treats that have taken up residence in our house over the holiday.

This chocolate pie recipe has been sitting in my recipe book for a couple years now, and I’ve been looking for a reason to make it. With texture that’s a cross between a chocolate-bottomed pie and a moist chocolate cake, Mississippi Mud Pie starts with a chocolate pastry dough. The filling includes whipped egg whites and chocolate that bakes to a thin crispy top layer with a moist cake-like center. It may not be the most beautiful looking pie on the planet, but it is appropriately named for its textural similarity to the rich, gooey mud found along one of America’s greatest rivers. And, it tastes way better than any mud pie I’ve ever made!




Mississippi Mud Pie

1 Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 Cup ice water

3 Tablespoons butter
1/3 Cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 Teaspoon vanilla
4 large egg whites
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup Dutch process cocoa
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt

To prepare the crust, combine 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until blended. Add shortening and chilled butter; pulse 6 more time or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With the processor on, slowly pour ice water through the food chute, processing just until blended (don’t allow the dough to form a ball); remove from bowl. Gently press mixture into a 4-inch circle; warp in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Unwrap and place chilled dough on a floured surface. Roll into a 10-inch circle and press into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold edges over and flute.

To prepare the filling, place 3 tablespoons butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until butter and chocolate melt. Stir to combine. Place vanilla and egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and beat at medium speed until foamy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar; beat until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gently fold in melted chocolate and butter mixture.

Combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and a dash of salt in a small bowl. Fold flour mixture into egg white mixture. Pour filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350°F. for 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pecan Tassies

What’s a tassie? It’s a small tart. These tiny tarts are created with a golden, flaky cream cheese pastry that cradles sweet, gooey pecan filling. They are mini pecan pies you can eat in one to three fabulous bites!

I like these tasty treats because they are the perfect desserts for eating with your fingers, and you can make them ahead and pop them in the freezer before the holidays... what’s not to like?


Pecan Tassies

Cream together and chill for 2 hours or overnight: 
8 oz. regular cream cheese
1 Cup unsalted butter
2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Form chilled dough into walnut sized balls and press into lightly buttered mini muffin tins.

2 eggs
1 1/2 Cups brown sugar
1/8 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 Cup chopped pecans
Beat eggs well. Add remaining ingredients. Fill pastry lined pans and bake at 350°F. for about 12-15 minutes. Remove tassies and let them cool on a wire rack. If you don’t plan to serve them within the next day or two, pop them into freezer-safe containers and freeze while they’re fresh. 

Makes about 4 dozen tassies



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Cookies

Gather your butter! It’s time to make cookies. First up... butter cookies. I like to make the decorated cut-out, butter cookies first. They can be sealed in airtight containers and wait patiently in the freezer for weeks before the holidays, then thawed and decorated days before they’re eaten.


I love this recipe, cause it’s versatile. You can add a little flavoring, put the dough through a cookie press, or give it a different shape, and voila! A new cookie is born from the same dough!



Get creative when decorating. I like to cover the cookies with a layer of frosting, let it set for several hours, pipe on a design and sprinkle with sanding sugar. That way the sugar sparkles stick to the piped on frosting and your design really stands out.


Butter Cookie Dough
This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies
Two dozen snowflakes, two dozen spritz

2 Cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 Cups sugar
2 Large eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 Teaspoons salt 
5 Cups all-purpose flour

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and salt. Mix on medium speed until they’re combined. With the mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, and mix until it’s mixed well. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Place each section on a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to a week.

When you are ready to bake:
Snowflakes - Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out one or two disks of dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Using your choice of snowflake cookie cutter (I like the 3-inch one), cut out shapes and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Gather scraps together, and continue to roll out more cookies. Chill for about 10-15 minutes. Bake cookies for about 8-10 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges. Let cool on baking sheets for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. You can then store them in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for several months.

Spritz - Preheat oven to 350°. To the basic sugar dough add a Tablespoon of orange zest. Transfer dough to a cookie press and pipe shapes onto greased baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar(s). Chill for about 10-15 minutes. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until edges are light brown.

These recipes make enough to frost two dozen cookies, or half of the above recipe. (Remember, you’re going to sprinkle the Spritz cookies with Sanding sugar)


For spreading:
In a bowl, stir until smooth:
3 Cups powdered sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1/4 Cup water
To tint, stir in food coloring, a teeny tiny bit at a time. A little goes a long way.

For piping:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
Tint with a little food coloring. The icing needs to be stiff enough to hold a line when piped through a pastry bag fitted with an 1/8-inch tip. If it’s too thick, add a little water; if it’s too thin, add a little powdered sugar.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


My dear Mother tells me she ordered my birthday gift. She reminds me of the fact that she recently attended an art show. “She bought me art?!” I envision a somewhat tacky chicken painting (sorry Mom). “Such a personal taste thing to buy me,” I thought.

It turns out, she did buy me art... 

My wearable art. Is this not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Mom chose so well!

I love polka dots!

For the coffee loving cook

I knew you’d want one! So here’s the info...

First, a bit about the artist: 
Chris Brady creates each and every apron herself. She uses only the finest, fashion-forward fabrics — from high-quality cottons to specialty fabrics such as machine-washable Ultraleather — and she carefully designs, cuts, and sews each and every apron in her Boise, Idaho studio. Most aprons are one-of-a-kind creations; a few include vintage fabric or trim.

Chris’ company is Hotdish Aprons. “For doing dishes ... or just looking ‘dishy’” is her tagline.

If you have cooks on your holiday list, don’t hesitate to order one of these handmade, beautifully designed, works of art. And don’t forget to get one for yourself too! You’ll be glad you did. They’re offering free shipping through December!

There are several different styles to choose from. ‘Spice’ style is the one I have. It’s one piece at the top, so there are no ties around your neck. But there are several other styles to choose from. You can view them here.

I’m hoping this one with chickens on it arrives in my stocking this Christmas. It also came in yellow, but it looks like she may have sold that one (hopefully to my hubby).

NOTE: This post is not sponsored by Hotdish Aprons. Although I have never met Chris Brady, my Mom has, and says she’s a wonderful person. When my Mother gives someone a stamp of approval, you can be assured that person is pretty special.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Corn Chowder

The day after Thanksgiving, my teenage daughter tells me she’s thinking of becoming a vegetarian. “When I eat meat, it makes me feel bad.” 

“Physically?” I ask.

“No, I just feel bad killing animals.” “Would it be difficult for you if I become vegetarian?”

This morning, as I packed her a lunch of red pepper hummus, pita bread, carrots, broccoli, and apple slices, I contemplated the challenges as well as her question. Difficult? Hmmm... let me get back to you on that one. 

Fall and winter months are my favorite cooking months. The smell of homemade soups and stews wafting through the house is one of the things that gives me pleasure, and makes the cold weather tolerable. 

I made a vegetarian chowder yesterday and, because it was a huge hit, I want to share it with you. It’s a corn chowder, but unlike most, cellulite is not the main ingredient... it’s actually a lower fat, lighter version. This was tucked away in the dark depths of my recipe files, and I’m so glad to have rediscovered it.


Corn Chowder
(recipe slightly modified from Cooking Light Magazine)

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Medium sweet onions, diced
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 Teaspoon sweet paprika
4 Cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 Celery rib, thinly sliced
1 Bay leaf
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Cups frozen corn kernels
5 Scallions, thinly sliced
1 Cup milk (or half and half if you want it richer)
1/4 Teaspoon dried thyme
A few dashes of cayenne pepper
Sour cream

1. In a large stockpot, combine the butter, olive oil, onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until the onions are tender but not brown, about 10 minutes or so. Sprinkle with the paprika, stir, and cook for a minute.

2. Add the vegetable broth, potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, sugar and pepper. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the corn and scallions and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Scoop out 2 cups of the chowder and set it aside. Puree the remainder (if you have an immersion blender, it comes in handy since you can puree directly in the pot of soup) and return it to the pot. Stir in the reserved chowder, milk, thyme and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve hot with a spoonful of sour cream on top.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Seeds

If you saved the seeds from those pumpkins you pureed...


Rinse the gooey seeds in a mesh colander to remove as much of the pumpkin pulp as possible.


Lay them out on a stack of paper towels to dry.


After they dry, mix a teaspoon each of worcestershire sauce and vegetable oil together in a bowl. Add about two cups of seeds, and sprinkle with sea salt, spike, garlic powder, brewer’s yeast, or whatever spices you like. The sky’s the limit, just sprinkle on whatever spices float your boat. Mix it all up real good and spread the seeds out on a baking sheet. Bake at 300°F for about an hour, turning frequently.


Nutrition note: pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc. Zinc is an antioxidant mineral, not produced naturally in our bodies. Zinc is helpful in obliterating free radicals and keeping your body healthy. If you want to maximize the amount of zinc (and fiber) you get from pumpkin seeds, consume them with the shells on. The shell itself does not contain much zinc, but there is a thin layer directly beneath the shell, called the endosperm, that does. Zinc is especially concentrated in this endosperm envelope. 

So spice ‘em up, roast, and enjoy... endosperm envelope and all!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pumpkin Purée

Let’s pretend there’s a canned pumpkin shortage going on. Every grocery store within 20 miles of your house is completely out, and Thanksgiving is just days away. How will you make that delicious pumpkin pie recipe you’re clutching in your hands? Well, lucky for you, you thought ahead and already picked up some pumpkins while they were plentiful. Or better yet, you grew your own. Either way, those pumpkins need to be pureed before they can be baked in a pie.

It’s preferable to use smallish sugar pumpkins, (aka pie pumpkins). This variety will be sweetest and easier to cut than a large jack-o-lantern type pumpkin. Larger pumpkins can be used, but be ready to strain out excess liquid from the puree and use a large, sharp knife.

Let’s make pumpkin purée...


Cut the top off the pumpkins. This will provide you with a flat spot to lie the pumpkin on to make cutting it into fourths much easier.


Cut the pumpkin into four pieces.


Scrape out the pulp and set the seeds aside for roasting later.


Once you’ve gutted all the quarters, place the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake in a 300°F oven for about an hour, or until they’re soft and browned.


Take the roasted pumpkin pieces out of the oven and let them cool until you’re able to handle them.


Cut away the outer skin so only pumpkin chunks remain. 


Place the pumpkin pieces into a food processor.


Pulse several times until the pumpkin becomes a smooth texture. If the mixture is dry, you can add a Tablespoon or two of water. If it’s too wet, you can strain it through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to remove moisture. 

Place the puree into containers with tight lids or plastic freezer bags. I like to place 1 1/4 cups in each container since that’s what I need for a pie.


If you’re not planning to use the purée right away, make sure you put it in the freezer to keep it fresh.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

If you found yourself in Long Beach, Washington 13 years ago, you most likely passed a quaint little pie shop. That was My Mom’s Pie Kitchen. At that time, the shop operated out of a small trailer. The proprietors were two women, whom I came to respect for their handcrafted creations, as well as their warm welcoming personalities. In spite of the restaurant’s unassuming presence, the telltale line of people waiting outside told you when they were open for business. The shop later moved to a storefront along the main highway, but unfortunately when the older of the two women passed away in 2006, the shop closed. On what turned out to be one of my last visits, I did manage to convince them that I could not live another day without having a few recipes from their kitchen. My desperation must have been obvious, because I now have several recipes from My Mom’s Pie in my possession.


This is the most perfectly spiced, flavorful pumpkin pie I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.


Creamy pumpkin custard, with complex notes of cloves, allspice, cinnamon and vanilla will surely make your taste buds sing.



Pumpkin Pie
(slightly modified from My Mom’s Pie Kitchen)

One unbaked 9" pie shell

1 1/4 Cups pumpkin (If you’re using canned pumpkin, make sure it’s 100% pumpkin)
1 1/2 Cups sugar
3 eggs
1 Cup half and half
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon allspice
1/8 Teaspoon ground cloves
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1/4 Teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix the cinnamon, allspice and cloves with the sugar. Warm the half and half just until it’s luke warm. Beat the eggs until smooth, and add the luke warm half and half, beating constantly. Stir the sugar mixture into the pumpkin. Add egg/half and half mixture, vanilla and salt.

Stir well, but do not beat.

Pour contents into the pie shell.

Bake the pie in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for 15 minutes to set the crust. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees F. for an additional 45 minutes. It may look a little soft in the middle, but it firms up as it cools.

I like to serve it at room temperature with a dollop of whipping cream. Due to the fact that it contains half and half and eggs, it should be kept in the refrigerator, lightly covered.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Basic Pie Crust 101

It’s almost holiday pie season! If, like me, you’re in charge of baking pies for holiday gatherings, you probably already have your own tried and true pastry and pie recipes down to a science. If not, and you want to create pies that will make you a pie queen amongst your family and friends, read on. I will share with you my favorite crust recipe and, in the coming weeks, most requested pies of the season.

First things first. Let’s build a pie from the crust up. You have to have a flaky, flavorful crust to hold the filling in place, so let me help you master this.


Here are a few things you’ll NEED to create what I consider the perfect pie crust: 

• Cold Unsalted Butter
• Unbleached flour
• Salt
• Ice Cold Water
• Food processor
• Plastic Wrap
• Pastry cloth and rolling pin
• A good pie plate (I like Emile Henry pie plates, they’re a little pricey, but totally worth it. They bake very evenly, and can go from fridge or even freezer directly into a preheated oven without breaking.) 


I like to make two crusts at one time. Even if I don’t use both of them right away, I’ll have a spare to use later. During the holidays, I like to have extra on hand for those last minute invites. This recipe is for a double crust. You can easily cut it in half.  

Measure out 2 cups of flour and pour it into the food processor.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt and pulse for about 5 seconds.

Cut 2 cubes of cold unsalted butter into small pieces and add them to the flour/salt mixture.

Pulse in 5 second intervals about 4 times, or until the mixture is the consistency of small peas.

Place cubes of ice into a large glass measuring cup and add some water. Stir it around to make sure the water is icy cold. From the measuring container, measure out 1/4 cup cold water and add it slowly to the mixture through the tube of the food processor.

Turn processor switch to the ON position and mix until the dough starts to form a ball. It will take about 20 seconds before this happens. It should look like the dough in the above photo. Be careful not to over-mix.

Gather the dough together into 2 equal balls and place each one onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten the balls into a round disc, wrap them up, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to three days. You can also freeze it for several months.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator or freezer and let it sit for several minutes, until its soft enough to work with, but still fairly cool to the touch.


Spread 3/4 cup of flour over the pastry cloth and rolling pin. Roll dough into a circle until it measures about 2-3 inches larger than the pie plate. Make sure the pie plate you will be using is close by.

Once you have rolled the dough out to the correct size, carefully roll it onto the rolling pin for transport to the pie plate.

Carefully drape the dough as close to the center of the plate as possible. You can easily shift it one way or the other into position once you have it in the plate.

Press the dough into the sides of the plate and flute the edges using your thumb and first two fingers.

Voila! You are now holding a perfect unbaked pie crust. Place a piece of plastic wrap over it and place it back in the fridge until you are ready to fill and bake. Now pat yourself on the back. Good job! If you’re not planning to bake a pie  the same day, you can freeze it until you’re ready.


Here’s the recipe:

Basic Butter Pie Crust
Makes two 9-crusts

2 cups unbleached flour + 3/4 cup for rolling out dough
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Cold Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup Ice Water

Add flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 5-10 seconds just to combine. With butter cut into small pieces, add those to the flour. Pulse about 4 times for 5 seconds each time, until the mixture is the texture of small peas. Add 1/4 cup ice water slowly into the bowl through the feeder tube. (I always use 1/4 cup because I’ve determined it turns out perfectly, but the amount you need may be slightly less.) Turn the food processor on for about 20 seconds, or until the dough sticks together and gathers in large pieces. Gather the dough together into one large chunk and divide it into 2 equal balls. On a hard, flat surface, place each ball of dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten them into round discs. Wrap them up and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

Come back here next week. I’ll have a fabulous pumpkin pie recipe for you to add to that crust.

pumpkin pie

Friday, October 19, 2012

what's keeping me busy

I’m popping in to briefly tell you what’s happening in my world. I have a new love, and he’s keeping me very busy. 



His name is Bleu.


You wouldn’t know by looking at these images, but he’s a bit of a handful. He wants his meals to arrive at the same time each day. In spite of the fact that he has access to 5 million toys and 2 million raw hide bones, he still manages to chew things he shouldn’t. (The new space heater I bought two weeks ago has a cord that’s in three pieces.) My daughter is out two pairs of flip flops (I’m glad his tastes are cheap where shoes are concerned). He snacks on poop any chance he gets. He’s slowly tunneling his way to China through our backyard. He flunked kindergarten class by lunging aggressively toward an innocent little puppy. Remember Marley and Me?

He follows me everywhere. He’s so happy to see me when I’m away for a couple hours, or minutes, you’d think he hasn’t seen me in weeks. (Think of those videos of soldiers returning home.) He loves me unconditionally. He warms my side of the bed before I get in, then after he has had sufficient cuddle time, moves to the foot of the bed, where he sleeps all night. He wakes up every morning with the most amazing enthusiasm for life like I’ve witnessed in no human ever. 

Bleu is smart as a whip. I taught him to sit, lay down, stay, and leave-it by the time he was just ten weeks old. When it comes to encounters with desirable objects other than doggie treats, we have a little ways to go. I do know he is capable, the challenge is getting past his stubborn streak.


Bleu’s goofy smile has the ability to warm my heart, and I love him to pieces!