Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Autumn Comfort ~ Warm Apple-Buttermilk Custard Pie

Adapted from myrecipes.com

I'm on a roll with two new recipes in two days! Yesterday was one of those first wonderfully cool, rainy early fall days that always makes me want to heat up the oven and crank out baked goods. All I got done yesterday was the Enchilada Soup, so the baking had to wait until today. So far, this is all I have gotten done today, so I really need to kick it into gear because we need to replace our furnace, and if you saw our basement right now you would think I'm a hoarder. I have no aspirations to become a reality TV star, so cleaning the basement is a necessary evil that I must do, and soon. In the meantime, I've got a very interesting looking apple pie in the oven that I can't wait to try.

This recipe originated in Cooking Light magazine in March, 2003. I got it on myrecipes.com but first saw it on Pinterest. Pinterest really has opened up a whole new world of things to try! At first it sounded like apple crisp in a pie crust, but the buttermilk custard totally threw me. For the crust, I made the Pat-A-Pan crust from the Amish Cook's Baking Book that I told you about here: http://notcandlesagain.blogspot.com/2010/11/pumpkin-pie.html It's the one you make right in the pan. You can use the pre-made crust like it says in the recipe, but I personally think those are nasty and prefer to make my own. Your own favorite crust recipe will do just fine.

Instead of Granny Smith apples, which are an excellent baking apple. I chose to use Jonathans because, well, it's fall and Jonathans were in the store, and I love them.

Aren't these pretty?

Here's the recipe from myrecipes.com:

1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crust dough
cooking spray


1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces


5 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare your crust. For the pre-made crust, spray the pie pan with cooking spray and place dough in pan. Flute the edges and fold under. Keep refrigerated while prepping the rest of the pie.

For the streusel, lightly spoon 1/3 cup flour into dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Okay, isn't this how we always do this? Baking 101... Anyway, combine the flour, brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon into a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or fork (The recipe says use 2 knives.. I've got pretty decent knife skills but lets not press our luck!)Work this until it resembles a coarse meal, then put it in the refrigerator until you're ready for it later. I had trouble with the butter sticking to my pastry cutter, but eventually it worked.

Next, peel, core and slice your apples. Heat a large nonstick skillet and melt a chunk of butter - about a tablespoon. Add the sliced apples, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Let this hang out and cook down for about 10 minutes or until the apples are tender, stirring occasionally.

While the apples are cooking, make the custard. Whisk the eggs, flour, salt and sugar together, then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Spoon the cooked apple mixture into the pie crust, then pour the custard mixture over the apples.

I used a deep dish pie pan and measured the 5 cups of apple slices, and I still had quite a bit of the custard left over.

Bake the pie at 300 for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the streusel topping over the top and bake at 325 for 40 minutes more. When you pull the pie out to sprinkle the topping on, just pull the rack out but leave the pie there, don't pull it completely out of the oven. The custard did bake over a bit, so be sure and put your pan on a foil lined baking sheet to catch the drips. It smelled heavenly in the oven until the spilled custard started burning on the bottom of my oven. Yuck.

I forgot to take pictures until I pulled it out of the oven. Looks pretty good! Be sure and refrigerate the leftover pie.

Yep, pretty good! Not overly sweet, using a sweeter apple would help with that, and I think next time I will add more cinnamon. Let me know what you think!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mexican Comfort Food... Cheesy Enchilada Soup

Adapted from Paula Deen and sufficientlygraced.com

I got off work this morning after a fairly uneventful 24 hour call shift, and to my delight it seemed as if fall had arrived overnight. It was deliciously cool and rainy, and the world was screaming at me to hurry home and get busy making soup and baked goods. The baked goods didn’t get done, but the soup was delicious! Pinned on Pinterest by Sufficiently Graced, it’s a recipe that came from Paula Deen’s magazine. I stayed mostly true to the original recipe this time, only substituting different beans because I wanted to use up what I had on hand, I used frozen corn because I like it better, and I used different cheeses because I was afraid using all pepper-jack would make it too spicy. I was thinking tortillas would be really good with this, but then I remembered how good it was last time I cut up flour tortillas and fried them to make chips. From there my thoughts progressed to tortilla strips and then those ended up being cut up into little pieces to sprinkle on top. It was perfect!

Here's the original recipe:

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 onion, chopped
2 (15oz) cans tomato sauce
2 (10oz) cans enchilada sauce
1 (16oz) can chili beans, drained
1 (15.5oz) can great northern beans, drained
1 (15.25oz) can corn, drained
1 (14.5oz) fire roasted tomatoes
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese with peppers

This makes a huge pot of soup, so since it's just the two of us, I put away quite a bit in the freezer for later. Next time I will try cutting it in half.

Heat up a little olive oil in your soup pot or large Dutch oven and cook the onion over med-high heat until slightly translucent. Don’t overcook them because they will continue to cook while the soup simmers and you don’t want them mushy. Next, add the ground chuck and cook until brown and crumbly.

I added some water to the pot because I like the ground beef to cook up into a finer crumble rather than have big chunks of hamburger in the soup. The water cooks down and really doesn’t affect the finished soup.

Add all the remaining ingredients except the cheese. I’m so glad I finally broke down and bought an electric can opener! I dumped in the sauces first, and if you look at those cans you'll notice that I have two different brands of enchilada sauce… I wanted to see if there was a big difference between the Old El Paso and La Victoria brands, and there is a little. The OLP brand was milder, and the LV brand was a darker color and had a tasty little kick to it. It also cost about 20 cents more, but it was definitely worth it.

I had to search a bit to find fire roasted tomatoes among all the different brands and combinations of canned tomatoes, but I found them. If you can’t find them it would be fine to use plain diced tomatoes, or if you don’t like chunks of tomatoes, just substitute the same size can of tomato puree. I don’t think in the whole pot of soup it really matters because the flavor of the fire roasted tomatoes isn’t that different.
This reminds me a lot of making chili. The beans went in next, and I never drain them – every bit of that thick liquid goes in my pot. I used dark red kidney beans and pinto beans because that’s what I had. I hate it when I buy something and then come home and find I already had it in the cupboard, so this time I was in the store on the phone making my husband search for beans. He was thrilled.

I had both frozen and canned corn on hand, but I like frozen better so I used a whole 16 oz bag.

Once you get everything in there, let it simmer for about 30 minutes, then stir in the cheese until it all melts. Grate your own, it's required. Not really, but you're probably tired of hearing me harp on this, so just do it.

I wasn’t sure how spicy the pepper-jack would be, so I used a medium cheddar along with the pepper-jack, and grated up the Colby-jack to sprinkle on top. I’ve always been more of a dump cook, so I’m pretty sure there is a lot more than just 2 cups of cheese in this! I was skeptical about dumping all that cheese right in the pot at first, but it all really disintegrates and every bite is wonderfully cheesy but not stringy-gooey like you would expect.

Soup is done, so I turned the heat down to keep it warm and fried up the yummy flour tortilla chips. There is no big trick to this, cut up the tortillas, then just heat some oil in a pan and fry them up on both sides until nice and brown. Pile them up on paper towels to drain and cool a bit. Yum… these are better than any chips you can buy in the store.

I garnished this with a dollop of sour cream, a little cheese and a bit of fresh cilantro. Mmm mm mmmm…..

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chili Rellenos Casserole

Adapted from allrecipes.com

I don't know anyone who doesn't like Mexican food. I sure do, although for me it also serves as yet another vehicle for sour cream. This recipe sounded really good, and looked easy enough that I thought it would be worth a try, and I was right. It's similar to a lasagna with layers of mild green chilies surrounding a thick layer of melted cheese, and a custard-like batter to hold it all together. The plain tomato sauce compliments it perfectly, and it tasted even better re-heated a couple of days later. If you love Mexican food but don't like or can't tolerate the spicy heat, then this is perfect.

I did run into a few snags along the way though, so my adjustments are in parentheses. Here is the original recipe as it appears on allrecipes.com:

2-7oz cans whole green chilies, drained (I recommend 3-10oz cans)
8 oz grated Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz grated Longhorn or cheddar cheese
(buy a 16 oz brick of each and grate it yourself until you have as much as you would like)
2 eggs, beaten
1 5oz can evaporated milk
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1-8oz can tomato sauce

You are supposed to use a 9 x 13" pan, but I used an 8 x 8" square pan and still didn't have enough green chilies even though I had purchased larger 10 oz cans.

I also used a lot more cheese, and I sprinkled the remaining cheese on top of the tomato sauce so it would have that last 15 minutes of baking time to get all melty-ooey-gooey. The chopped green onions were my own addition because we eat with our eyes before anything hits our mouth, and this needed an extra pop of color.

Alright then, here's what you need to do to get this going so you can eat...

Prep your 8 x 8 inch baking dish/pan with cooking spray, or line with non-stick aluminum foil.

Lay half of the green chilies evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Grate up your cheeses and sprinkle half of it over the chilies.

Lay the remaining chilies on top of the cheese. At this point I ran out of chilies, so I raided my stash of chopped green chilies I always have in my pantry and used them.

Now, mix the milk, eggs, flour and evaporated milk together and pour over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes then remove from the oven. It will be a little brown around the edges but will look more like a custard.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the top.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the tomato sauce and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Let it rest for 10 minutes or so before cutting. Sprinkle with chopped green onions, smear with sour cream if you like, and serve.


nom nom nom...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Blueberries & Rhubarb... Bluebarb Slab Pie

Adapted from Becca at Crumbs and Chaos (crumbsandchaos.blogspot.com)

Rhubarb and I have a love/hate relationship. I love it to death but I hate how much sugar it takes so it doesn't pucker my entire face off. The solution is often to mix it with other fruits, like strawberries. The recipe I adapted for this mixed raspberries with the rhubarb - but while I was thinking about how I really didn't want all those seeds, I remembered that I have bags and bags of blueberries in my freezer. Blueberries and rhubarb are super easy to freeze, you don't have to do anything to them except wash and dry them, throw them into freezer bags and you're done. My rhubarb plant is in it's second year of growing, so I'm super excited to finally be able to harvest a little of it.

I was a little bit intimidated when I first looked at this recipe, but then when I really read it I could see that it was actually quite easy. You make the crust - a yummy pie crust, then the fruit filling, and top it off with the brown sugar and butter crumble, then bake the whole thing all at once. Using a food processor to make the crust and crumb topping made the whole thing a lot easier. Just make sure you let the pie cool completely before you make the icing.

Let's get started!

Heat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. If you are using a baking spray, open your dishwasher and hold the pan inside while you spray. It contains the mess and will get cleaned up next time you run it.


1 1/2 cups flour
1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
1 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp cold water

The butter and water MUST be cold - if I'm channeling the Barefoot Contessa, I will even put my flour and the blade for my food processor in the freezer before I start.

Fruit Filling:

2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup sugar and 1 cup Stevia in the Raw)
1/3 cup corn starch
5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
3 cups sliced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)

Crumb Topping

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes


1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 tsp milk

Make the crust first by putting the flour, butter cubes, sugar and salt into your food processor.

Pulse until it looks like coarse crumbs, then add the vinegar and water until it looks doughy. Mine still looked crumbly, but you can see the little clump with my fingerprints on it - it holds together like a crust.

Pat it down evenly in the bottom of your prepared pan.

Set the pan aside mix up the filling. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together and toss it with blueberries and rhubarb in a large bowl. I put my blueberries in still frozen, and it worked fine.

Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the crust.

Now make the crumb topping. Put the flour, brown sugar and cold butter cubes in the food processor.

Don't worry about cleaning the little bits of crust out, it won't matter once it's baked. Pulse a few times until it's nice and crumbly, then sprinkle it evenly over the crust.

Bake until bubbly, 50-60 minutes.

Let it cool completely, then make the icing and drizzle it over the pie. Yum!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tart and Sweet Summer Treat - Lemon Bars

Well, here I am, finally getting around to posting again. It's been a tough year with both of my parents taking turns being gravely ill, and then just when things seemed to finally be settling down and getting better, my father suddenly passed away in early June. It's been 5 weeks now, and I'm slowly getting back into some sense of normalcy. We were very close and there are no words for how much I miss him, and my job now is to do my best to carry on with my life in a way that honors his memory. I could write a book about everything I learned during that process of acting as Power of Attorney for them and dealing with multiple government agencies, and now that it's over it's been almost as hard adjusting to having my life back now that my mom is getting back on her feet. Every minute of frustration and almost daily meltdowns was worth it for the comfort and peace of mind it gave them knowing things were being taken care of. I owe my life to my parents, so I'm happy I was able to take care of things for them.

So, now it's time to move forward. I have still been cooking and baking, and taking pictures along the way, so now I will try to get it all organized and share what I've done with you.

This recipe is an old one, I got it from a co-worker (Mary D.) back in 1979. Some of my best recipes I got from nurses I've worked with over the years! If you live in the Omaha area and remember the Garden Cafe, this is a pretty close duplicate to the lemon bars they made. It's always been a favorite whenever I've made it, with it's tender crust and slightly tart but not too sweet custard-like lemon filling. Mmm...

Alright then, let's get down to business!


Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

For the Lemon Filling:

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
4 heaping Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
Juice of 2 large lemons (about 5 tablespoons of juice)

to make the crust, first gather your ingredients. I like to get everything measured and organized before I start:

Mix all the ingredients for the crust together and pat it down into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. I used a pastry cutter, it should be crumbly somewhat like pie crust dough.

The recipe doesn't say to grease the pan, but I used a baking spray because the lemon filling tends to stick to the sides of the pan.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then set it aside to cool a bit while you make the filling. You don't want it too brown because it goes back into the oven later. Here's what it should look like:

Now, gather your ingredients for the filling:

My lemons weren't "large", so I only got 4 tablespoons of juice, but a neat trick I learned saved me. Earlier this year I found bags of Meyer lemons at Walmart for 5 bucks, so I bought a bunch of them, squeezed the juice out, and froze it in ice cube trays, so I just grabbed a cube of frozen juice and it was enough to make up the difference. You will also get more juice if you roll the lemons around on the counter, or pop them into the microwave for a few seconds, but I like to use one of those hand held juice squeezers. Also, to get more flavor out of the lemons I grated in the zest from one of the lemons.

So, mix all this together with an electric mixer until it's well mixed and starting to get a little bubbly.

Pour it onto the baked crust.

Pop this back into the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Here's what it looks like when it's done:

Dust the whole thing with powdered sugar when it's cooled completely. Don't even try it if it's the least bit warm because the sugar will melt into a hot mess, and it won't be pretty. Even if you spray your pan you will probably still need to run a knife around the edges before cutting because it does tend to stick to the sides. You shouldn't need to refrigerate the leftovers, it doesn't usually last long enough to need refrigeration.

Pucker up people, you're going to love this!