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There is nothing more “American” than apple pie… but when the leaves begin to turn and the air grows crisp every New Englander knows it is time for apple picking!  What is sad is the fact that this New England girl has never actually gone apple picking.  However, before I get evicted from the best place on earth, I do visit my local farm stands and orchards for all those wonderful varieties.  And for the donuts… oh, the apple cider donuts!

My Grandmother was the queen of apple pies.  Actually, she was queen of any pie really.  She was said to make two strawberry rhubarb pies… one for the dessert and one for her brother who would take his and hide it… eating it in secretive bliss without sharing a single crumb.  While she had some of the best fillings it was really her crust that was so wonderful.  Sadly, her recipe was never documented and was lost when she passed.  My guess is she used lard which would have been a standard in her era.

Now that I am living on the family land in the house where she was born… I felt it my mission to find a good crust recipe and perfect it.  There have been many recipes tried and many recipes rejected as just not “up to snuff”.  After all… I have some huge expectations to fill… or I might get haunted!  Finally, I have found a great recipe which I may eventually start to tinker with to make it my own but for now I wanted to share my find and my excitement.

Thanks to Ina Garten who published her Perfect Pie Crust recipe which yields two 10″ crusts.  I am also posting it below should the link ever fail…

Deep Dish Apple Pie! Crust from Ina Garten’s recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

Directions:

Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

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When hosting an adoption day party for a dog… it is important to have treats and cake for the four-legged guests .  I looked around at the local specialty stores for pets and found overpriced disasters with mystery ingredients.  Some were cute but I opted to make the treats so that it would be a healthier option.  A quick search on the internet yielded a couple of recipes that turned out to be the hit of the party so I figured I would share!

First, I purchased several cookie cutters from Sur le Table.  Most of these cutters were going to be party favors as I already had a dog bone shaped cutter but I added the little dog and the fire hydrant… to make things fun.  Then I found an easy recipe using things I have on hand.  I only had to purchase the whole wheat flour.  The pup-cookies recipe can be found here.  These were super easy to make and can be made ahead of time.  Just be sure they are completely cool before offering them to the fur-kids.  They were a huge hit at the party!

I use a pie sheet which makes the dough easy to roll out and cut.

Fun shapes!

What is really great… you can use up every last bit of this dough to make the most of it.  It doesn’t care how many times you roll it out!  No waste!!

The pup-cakes recipe can be found here.  This recipe can be used to make a traditional cake or cupcakes.  I chose the cupcakes and renamed them pup-cakes!  I wish I had more time to find better liners but the recipe was perfect.  I only had one banana so I added another 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce.  Worked like a champ.  I will tell you that the fur-kids will consider this a meal.  Just be sure to not let them over indulge.  They also freeze beautifully.  The frosting recipe is imbedded in the link above.  It whipped up quickly and easily with room temp cream cheese.

Can’t really go wrong with banana and peanut butter!

Happy baking (for every member of your family)!

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I bought some of these Pesto Cubes as gifts for some friends who used to share my passion for growing herbs.  They often would talk about making pesto and having a great pasta dinner, etc.  Did I ever hear back about the cubes… nope.  Oh well, I tried.  But I did remember to buy some for myself as well so I could give this whole pesto thing a try.  These come in 3 sizes, the trays allow you to stack them in the freezer… and there is even a label on the tray which you can mark with dry erase markers.  My OCD is in heaven!  I used the medium size so the portions would be more individual meal sized.

However, last year was a tough year for growing basil and I never got enough for even a single batch.  This year’s basil crop is another story… I have basil growing out of control.  My first harvest alone was enough for two batches of pesto!  In researching pesto recipes I noticed many that left out the cheese if freezing.  Apparently it can affect the taste, who knew? So I opted to go without in favor of adding the cheese after the batch was defrosted.

What you need:

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted)

What you do:

In a heavy skillet toast the pine nuts over medium low heat… being careful not to burn them.  Let them cool… and then place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and run until a paste consistency.  Done!  Spoon into the cubes and freeze.  Enjoy whenever you want and remember to add Parmesan cheese!

Some notes:

I used 1/2 a clove of Elephant Garlic… It seemed to be the same as 2 to 3 large cloves of the regular sized garlic.  There are also recipes out there that use walnuts or almonds to save money.  Pine nuts are not cheap but I started with the traditional recipe first.  Changing up the types of basil with give you different pesto so find the flavor combinations you love and have fun with it!

Oh, and I know the picture of my filled pesto trays has oregano in the shot and not basil… but it just happened that way!

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After a summer wine and cheese tasting at my local Whole Foods… I have developed a passion for one of the cheeses featured.  Bijou, an aged goat cheese, is a soft cheese done in a crottin style.  This means that it is presented as a small round disk of cheese.  When it is put in the container it continues to age in this little micro environment.  According to the woman doing the presentation of the cheeses… she (and I) prefer it when the bottom of the cheese starts to expand a bit signaling that it is soft, ripe and perfect!

Bijou has a mild, nutty flavor with a dense center and a wrinkled rind.  This cheese works well when paired with wines or edibles that have flavors of dried cherries, blackberries, and roasted hazelnuts.

Now… on to my new spin on a classic.  After harvesting some basil from the herb garden my kitchen smelled glorious.  I had one crottin of Bijou left and thought… toasted cheese!  (That’s grilled cheese to most people)  Sparing no calorie, I quickly pulled out all the ingredients; bread, butter, Bijou, and basil leaves.  I was ready to get the party started when the power went out.  Seriously?!

After waiting 40 minutes (which worked beautifully since it allowed the cheese to soften on the counter naturally) I finally got the power back and it was off to the races.  It was glorious.  The soft cheese melted perfectly and combine with the butter and the basil it was a full-blown party of flavors.  Try it!

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I searched high and low… and finally found the recipe for a meatloaf that always amazed me that it wasn’t ground beef… but turkey!  It is lighter, tastier and better for you.  So here is a recipe clipped out of some newspaper years ago and found filed incorrectly in my Mom’s recipe box.  Yes, yes, I can hear her now… telling me I didn’t file it correctly!

What you will need:

Meatloaf:

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 1 Carrot, chopped
  • 1 Stalk Celery, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Onion, chopped
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbs Molasses
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs

Sauce:

  • 1/2 Cup Ketchup
  • 3 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Molasses
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

What to do:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine all ingredients for the Meatloaf; mix well.  Shape into loaf and place in an ungreased loaf baking pan.  Bake 30 minutes.  Top with sauce and bake 15 minutes longer.

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I happened to be watching a cooking show (go figure) and they served roasted parsnips as a side dish with a balsamic ketchup.  Since I love parsnips and add them with wild abandon to my boiled dinner… this seemed like a great alternative so off to the store I go to pick up a bag of parsnips.  I made a half recipe as a tester and will be making this again in the future!  For those of you who have never had them, parsnips are a root vegetable similar to carrots but white and with more attitude.  You can choose to mix it up and have some potato wedges in with the parsnips if you like.  I went with pure veggie for my tester batch.

What you will need:

  • 2 to 2.5 lbs of parsnips, peeled and cut into 3″ x 1/2″ strips
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 to 2 tsp dried
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove, minced or grated
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • Kosher or Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp (or more) Ground Cumin

What to do:

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.  Place the parsnip strips, chopped rosemary, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic and oil in a large mixing bowl and toss to coat well.  Arrange in a single layer on a baker’s half sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes, turn parsnips and roast until parsnips are tender and browned in spots (about 10-15 minutes longer).  Season to taste with additional salt, pepper and cumin, if desired.  (I didn’t feel the need to)  Enjoy!

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After making my Whiskey Chicken Drummies I found myself with a bottle of Whiskey and a craving.  As promised, here is my recipe for a Whiskey Sour…

Sour Mix:

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice (4 Lemons)
  • 1 Cup Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice (5 Limes)

Put water and sugar on stove over medium/high heat and bring to boil while stirring.  You want the sugar to completely dissolve.  Once it does, remove from heat and you have your simple syrup.  To this add the Lemon/Lime juice after straining.  Stir and let cool completely.  This will be good in the refrigerator for up to a week or until the mixture becomes cloudy and/or the sugar starts to crystallize again.

Whiskey Sour

I prefer a 50/50 ratio of booze to Sour Mix but you can make to your own liking.  Some recipes I have seen use 2 to 1 ratio booze to Sour Mix but that make for a very strong drink and if you don’t have top shelf whiskey… probably not a good idea.

Put some ice into a bar shaker and add your preferred ratio of booze to Sour Mix.  Shake vigorously for a minute.  Pour over ice in short glass and garnish with 2 to 3 Maraschino cherries.  Cheers!

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