Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sugar Cookie Pie Crust -YUM!

I have been on a bit of a pie-making binge the past couple weeks: 6 pies total. It all started when a friend brought me some delicious Utah peaches... so I whipped up one of my peach pies + made an extra Sugar Cookie crust, which I filled with my homemade vanilla cream pie filling (initially I intended to make TWO peach pies, but didn't have enough cream cheese on hand). Yum - that crust was supa good with vanilla cream filling, too!

I had been promising another friend a chocolate cream pie, so with my pie crust momentum I made another couple of sugar cookie crusts (one for my friend + one for my family, since we enjoyed the previous pies so much). I filled them with chocolate and vanilla cream. That evening on a whim I invited my neighbors over for pie... I could always make more, right?

Did I think to take any pictures of a completed pie? NO.

But I did manage a few shots of the crusts.

In the past I have typically gone the easy route and used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, but this crust seems to be forgiving, therefore pretty simple to do. And it is crust that I actually want to eat!

Sugar Cookie Pie Crust

1 cup butter, softened (1 cup = 2 cubes = 2 sticks = 1/2 lb.)
6 Tbs. sugar
2 large egg yolks, room temp
6 Tbs. heavy cream
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl on low speed of an electric mixer (I use the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid), cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks and cream, mixing well. Add the flour and salt, mixing just until combined. Gather the dough into a ball, and divide into two equal pieces. You can TRY to roll this dough out on a floured surface and then transfer to your 9" glass pie plate. I have also resorted to just pressing it into the pie plate due to the stickiness of the dough. The good news is, both techniques produce a similar crust... nice and tender, comes out of the pie plate easily, and so so tasty. 

 (The pie on the left I was able to roll, so it looks nice and smooth. The pie on the right would NOT roll well, and I didn't want to add too much flour, making it tough, so I just pressed it into the pie plate.)

Fold the edges under all around the rim of the pie plate and crimp. Prick the bottom and sides all over with a fork. Cover the edges with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.

 I have found that making simple foil strips and holding them together with paper clips works amazingly well...

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (I usually do 15). Carefully remove the foil and continue baking 15 to 20 minutes more (I usually do 15), until the crust is crisp and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, it's ready to fill! I have an amazing cream pie filling recipe, which I hope to post in the next couple of weeks... just in time for Thanksgiving :-)


Apple Dumplings a la Trisha Yearwood

I don't have a fabulous finished picture of these, but let me tell ya, they are the BOMB. Seriously so so good! My friend Susan brought these to our conference luncheon last month, and I've made them several times since. I think they will become my new breakfast menu item for special occasions. They are also totally awesome as a yummy dessert topped with ice cream. Either way, there is no losing on this one!
Thanks, Trisha ;-)

Apple Dumplings a la Trisha Yearwood
(adapted from this recipe)

2 Granny Smith apples (I would get 3 for good measure - I like my slices pretty thick)
1 lemon (you can use bottled lemon juice) + water
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 cube = 1 stick = 8 Tbs. = 1/2 cup = 1/4 lb... just to be clear!)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 can Grands Flaky Layers Buttermilk biscuits (8 biscuits total)
4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice, peel, and core the apples into 8 slices each. Squeeze (or pour) the lemon juice into a bowl of water and add the apple slices to keep them from browning.

Separate each biscuit into 2 layers. (Don't miss this step!)

Wrap a biscuit layer around a slice of apple, stretching the biscuit slightly to overlap, and seal the edges.

Place the wrapped slices in a 9" x 12" casserole dish.

In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, butter, and vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

Pour the hot sugar mixture over the apple slices.

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the apples.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Note: I think you could reduce the amount of cinnamon/sugar you sprinkle over the top. It makes a delicious crust, but the first time I made these, I didn't use all of the cinnamon/sugar mixture and they were still perfectly cinnamon-y and crusty, and I didn't have sections of un-dissolved/caramelized sugar as shown in the above pic. They come out looking a little "burnt," but it is only due to the amount of cinnamon in the topping... they don't taste burnt at all.

I'm telling you... delish!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mini German Pancakes

The first time I had a German pancake was when I was in 8th grade. I had gone to my friend's house after school, and she whipped one up for us. I was super impressed that she knew how to make something edible that required baking in an oven (I seriously don't think I baked anything until after I was married). She slathered the finished puff with butter, then sprinkled on brown sugar and lemon juice. It was the yummiest thing EVER.

I have made many German pancakes over the years, but a few years back I came across the idea to make individual ones in a muffin tin. That is the only way I've made them since.

I've made them twice in the past 10 days - once on the first day of school, and again on the first day of Seminary (yes, Seminary that starts at 6:10am!). They are a favorite around here, for sure.

Mini German Pancakes

1 cube (= 1 stick = 1/2cup) butter (can use less and they turn out fine)
6 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt (because I use salted butter - you could add 1 tsp. salt if you use unsalted butter)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice butter into 12 equal pieces and put in the bottoms of 12 muffin cups. Put into oven and melt butter. IMPORTANT: I use 2 LARGE 6-count muffin tins - I have not tried them in regular sized (12 count) muffin tins.

Blend remaining ingredients in a blender (or you can whisk by hand). Once the butter is melted in the bottom of the muffin cups, pour batter into tins, dividing equally. I use a scoop, but you can eyeball it. It's better to have batter left over, then add it to the batter already in the cups, than to run out and have a muffin cup with melted butter and no batter. That butter will burn and possibly catch fire. Just sayin'.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until pancakes are puffed and brown on the edges.

Sometimes they look like this...

...and sometimes they look like this.

Serve immediately. Note: the beautiful little puffs that come out of the oven quickly deflate... but they are so, so delicious anyway.

I am still a HUGE fan of topping these with brown sugar and lemon juice (if you've never tried it, you need to!), but you can also top them with regular maple syrup, or berries and whipped cream... or whatever your heart desires.

Serves 6... or 4... or 3, depending on how many each person wants to eat.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Family Favorite Smoky Tilapia Tacos + Cabbage Slaw and Lime Crema

These are the best!

They are simple and quick. Another thing to love about them.

I combined a couple of recipes - one from Cooking Light, Sept 2014, the other from here.

I've made the spice rub from the Spicy Fish Taco recipe, and can also say it is delicious. I've just never tried it with snapper, since tilapia is so gosh darn easy to find at Costco {wink}. 

I love the fish recipe and cooking technique from Cooking Light, but didn't care for the texture of the completed recipe - no crunch, just mush (it only calls for a mashed avocado topping).

Here's my slightly adjusted combined recipe:

Smoky Tilapia Tacos with Cabbage Slaw and Lime Crema

The thing that takes the most time for me is thawing the frozen tilapia. I'm not on the ball enough to get it in the refrigerator the night before, so I usually thaw it in my sink, covered with cold water, weighted with a casserole dish to keep it submerged, for about an hour. If you are organized enough to skip this step, you can seriously have dinner on the table in 20.

Spice rub:
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

5 tilapia fillets (easily feeds 5 to 6)

Preheat broiler to high.
Combine spice rub ingredients.
Brush fillets with oil, then sprinkle with spice mixture (both sides)
Place on baking sheet.
Broil 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Note: Broiling makes this a no-fuss dish. The tilapia cooks so fast, put it under the broiler just before you are ready to serve - literally 8 minutes before you are sitting down to the table to eat.

Cabbage slaw:
4 cups shredded cabbage (I use the coleslaw mix from the store - makes this super quick)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (I didn't have this for my pictured tacos because my cilantro was slimy - gross!)
2 green onions (I also didn't have this because I had used all my green onion the night prior - seriously adds to the flavor of the slaw, so try not to leave it out!)
3 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar

Toss all slaw ingredients together in a bowl.

Lime crema:
1/3 cup sour cream (I use light)
3 Tbs. mayonnaise (I never use light)
juice and zest of 1 lime
salt, to taste

Whisk ingredients together and season to taste with salt.

Warmed corn tortillas, for serving.
Note: I like to cook my tortillas directly on my ceramic cook-top burners. This technique is super fast if you use two burners at a time. I use a tortilla keeper (I found mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond for about $6) to keep them warm and soft. Corn tortillas are my fave.

Even my daughter who doesn't like fish, likes these tacos (she says it's a texture thing, so the cabbage slaw helps). I made them for a 14-year-old guest last night and she loved them. I ate leftovers for lunch and they were STILL delish (it helps if you know how to reheat meat/fish in the microwave - the trick is a lower cook power {I typically use cook-power 7} for a short period of time {a minute or less} - you can always add more time, but if you nuke it to death it will NEVER taste good).

Easy peasy lemon (or lime) squeezy. And oh-so good!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Best Whole Wheat Bread EVER

Note: This is another transfer over from my family blog... original post here. Circa May 2012.

I made a batch of white bread late last night, and decided that I would try a recipe for wheat bread this morning. The recipe called for DOUGH ENHANCER, and for some reason I thought I had seen it before at the grocery store... so after getting the girls off to their FINAL DAY OF SEMINARY FOR THE YEAR, I headed to Safeway... then Walmart... then King Soopers (yes, 6am). No dough enhancer. I determined to make the bread anyway. I found the recipe here a long time ago, but had never taken the opportunity to make it, most likely due to my aversion to whole wheat bread ingrained in childhood from sack lunches with sandwiches made from small, dense, dark loaves. If they were tuna sandwiches, it was even worse. My mom was determined to feed her family healthily. She would grind wheat and bake bread weekly, I'd guess. I can vaguely remember conversation about how that "store-bought" Wonder-type sandwich bread was nothing but air. No nutritious value. "Wheat for man," she'd say. I certainly see her efforts were valiant and worthy, but at the time it just felt like torture.

But thanks to such an upbringing, I have a desire to feed my family healthier, too. I BUY wheat bread, I just don't eat it (unless I have to). And I'll admit to a twinge of guilt every time I put that white bread in my shopping cart.

Back to today. I was going to make wheat bread (from wheat I ground myself last night, even), and I was going to see if Shawni's recipe really WAS "the best home-made bread." Dough enhancer or not. I could always blame a less-than-successful attempt on that anyway.

One of my loaves turned out looking a little "funny" - certainly not Bake Sale worthy (which is why I was making a lot o' homemade bread in the first place) - so I decided to cut it open and give'r a try.

Oh. My. Stars.
Light, fluffy, de-lish. I wouldn't have believed it was 100% whole wheat had I not ground the wheat myself.


Put into a small bowl* and let sit while you mix the rest of the ingredients:
2 Tbs. yeast
1/2 cup warm water (tap hot)
1 Tbs. sugar

(*Use something bigger than a 1-cup measure - mine foamed over the top, so my bread was most likely lacking a bit of leavening)

In mixer, combine:
5 cups warm water (tap hot again)
7 cups ground whole wheat flour


2 Tbs. salt (you could reduce amount if you are watching your salt)
2/3 cup oil
2/3 cup honey (if you put the oil in the measuring cup first, then add the honey, it will come out all slick into the mixing bowl)
2 Tbs. vital wheat gluten
2 Tbs. dough enhancer (didn't have it, didn't use it... the bread still turned out awesome.)

Mix all together.

Add one more cup of wheat flour.

Add yeast mixture, and mix again.

Gradually add 3 to 5 more cups wheat flour until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl (I used about 4-1/3 cups).

Knead for 10 minutes - either by hand or in the Bosch
(I think I've mentioned how much I love the $5 Bosch my mom found at her local DI years back and gifted to me. It isn't pretty -less so now that I've used for years - but it gets the job done. LOVE IT.)

Shape into 4 loaves of bread (I spray non-stick spray on my hands so it's not so sticky)

Put in well oiled bread pans. Let rise for 35 to 40 minutes or until almost doubled.

Bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes.

Another thing I learned: Apparently bread rises faster/higher in glass baking pans. I didn't know. Now I do, and plan to purchase a few more glass pans in the future. When I have some extra dough. Haha.

Bake Sale bread (wheat AND white)... ready to go.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Blueberry Protein Shake

I love this protein smoothie/shake (recipe courtesy of a good friend of mine). I made it for my daughter, Britt, while she was here visiting a while back and she said, "It must have to grow on you... it still has that protein aftertaste." Another daughter, Lolo, said, "I don't like feeling like I have to chew it." Just warning you if you have a strong aversion to a "protein aftertaste" or chewy smoothies!!

I, on the other hand, immediately liked it. It tastes like a blueberry graham cracker milk shake - but so much healthier for you!

Give it a try. Then give it another. It just might grow on you, or you just might think it's delish right off the bat.

Blueberry Protein Shake
Makes 2 servings.

2 scoops protein powder
1/2 cup fiber cereal (the kind with NO SUGAR)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup water
1 cup ice cubes

Combine all ingredients and blend together to desired shake consistency. Yes, I use my trusty $20 Oster blender and it works just dandy. A Blendtec, Vitamix, Magic Bullet, Ninja or any other fancy blender would work, too {wink}.

Approx. 185 calories, 3 grams of fat, 24 grams of protein, and a lot o' fiber (8.8 grams). 
Good for you, I tell ya.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

I cannot tell a lie. This is not my original recipe (original found here), but I'm tired of going to Pinterest, scrolling through my saved recipes to find this one, then following the link for the dressing. So I'm posting it, giving full credit to it's originator.

I love this mix. It's easy to make with ingredients on hand, and stores well. I use it in place of any recipe calling for Ranch dressing mix. I think it's far more flavorful than the old stand-bys (which will remain nameless), and a lot less expensive!

 Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

2 Tbs. black pepper
2 Tbs. dry minced garlic (I use garlic powder or granulated garlic)
2 Tbs. dry minced onion
2 Tbs. garlic salt
2 Tbs. onion salt (I use onion powder - you may need to adjust salt to taste)
6 Tbs. dried parsley flakes

Mix ingredients together in a pint (or even half-pint) mason jar or ziplock baggie. Makes enough for up to 12 batches of dressing.

Ranch Dressing

1 to 2 Tbs. dry Ranch Dressing Mix
1 cup mayonnaise (regular, not light - definitely NO Miracle Whip)
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
3/4 cup buttermilk

Whisk together and serve with salad of your choice. This keeps for a couple weeks in the refrigerator. If you need less dressing and don't like to store it (I need less these days with only one baby bear left at home), cut the recipe in half.

Note: you can use all buttermilk instead of adding the sour cream, but the dressing will be runnier.

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Favorite Caesar Dressing + Crouton Bonus

I've been making my own salad dressing for a while now. Occasionally I will buy a bottle or two - for ease - but I usually end up throwing them out long after their expiration date. It's just as easy, and so much yummier, to whip up a little batch of dressing each time you make a salad.

This salad, in particular, is super simple, fast, and requires few ingredients. Perfect.

Even though I'm usually not great at photo-documenting my recipes, for whatever reason (back in Dec. 2014) I took a lot o' pics of this one. Probably because I really, really like this dressing.

Quick and Easy Caesar Dressing

 1/4 cup mayo

 Juice of 1 lemon

 (Always a good idea to strain those pesky seeds out)

 1 garlic clove

Peeled, crushed, and chopped fine (or you can put in through a garlic press. I went about 2 years without one, so had to crush and chop. Good news: I now have a garlic press once again).

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  (Yes, Kraft Parmesan. I've used freshly grated also, but if you're looking for easy, Kraft comes in supa handy AND still tastes delish.)

Mix it all together and add some freshly ground black pepper. I like quite a bit, but you can adjust to your personal preference.

Note: If you are a stickler for a more authentic Caesar, you can add 2 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped, or a squeeze of anchovy paste.

Chop up your romaine,

then add the dressing to the lettuce and toss.

You can add more black pepper, if desired.

For whatever reason, while I was carefully documenting this recipe, I neglected to snap a pic of the finished salad with croutons tossed in. You can visualize it, right?...

Consolidated recipe:
Quick and Easy Caesar Dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (or pressed)
2 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped (optional - and use the blender method of mixing)

Whisk ingredients together and pour over salad. For a smooth dressing, mix ingredients in a blender.

I love homemade croutons, too. If you're looking for supa {crazy} easy, just use the kind you get at Costco. Homemade, however, are way more amazing, easy to customize, and really simple.

Homemade Croutons
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut into cubes: French bread, French baguette, Italian bread, Sourdough bread, or plain ol' white bread (day-old preferred, but not necessary).

Drizzle with olive oil (or canola oil... or melted butter...), and toss.

Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss again.

Other customizable additions: red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, dried herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary), garlic powder.

Spread cubes evenly on a sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes. Toss once or twice during baking.

These croutons are good enough to snack on, and perfect for a Caesar salad.