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