Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tonya's Special Pie Crust

I now know that when someone stated that cooking is an art and baking is a science, that they were probably making pies at the time.  Now don't let me scare you off already, it's not hard to make homemade pie crust.  You just have to work quickly and efficiently if you want the dough to cooperate.  When you pull that gorgeous creation out of your oven, you will forget all the hard work and effort that went into it.  And just wait until you taste this amazing crust.  It is, hands down,  the best crust that I have ever had.  I won't evenconsider trying another recipe.

‎4 c all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c butter flavored shortening
1 T sugar
2 tsp salt
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup water

-Using a fork mix together flour, shortening, sugar and salt. In another bowl beat remaining ingredients. Combine together with a fork until moistened and form a ball with your hands. Wrap in saran wrap and flatten on countertop into a disc-like shape (helps chill quicker and is easier to roll out). Refrigerate for at least 30 min's or more prior to rolling out on a well floured countertop. Dough can last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or can be frozen for up to 1 year. If you freeze it, do it in individual baggies 1 crust-sized portion in each. It does not like to be seperated and over-worked after freezing. Makes 2 thick and rustic pie shells (like I like mine) or 2 regular shells and 2 regular tops.  Enjoy!

Honey Pumpkin Pie

This my friends, is my very most favorite thing of all.  I absolutely love anything that has pumpkin in it, especially my pumpkin pie. The honey adds a great touch of natural sweetness and flavor.  A perfect match for the melody of spices and the wonderful flaky crust.  Top it off with a dollop of cool whip and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Nothing compares to a homemade pie.  At least nothing compares to this homemade pie that is.

1 single pie crust from Tonya's Special Pie Crust recipe: 
1 15oz can of pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs (beaten)
1 12oz can of evaporated milk
1 T honey

-Preheat oven to 375*.  Place prepared and rolled single-pie crust into a 9" pie pan.  Use left over rolled pie crust for the decorative edging.  Cut out l2-15 leaf shapes (cookie cutter) and gently apply to the edge of the pie.  Combine all ingredient's in a medium bowl; pour into pastry lined pie pan.  Cover crust with an aluminum foil ring (keep on for the first 25-30 minutes to keep crust from burning).  Bake for 50-55 minutes.Let completely cool before covering and refrigerating (if left at room temperature, it begins it liquify).  Serve cold (if you warm it up it liquifies) with a dollop of cool whip and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Honey Pecan Pie

This pie is my husbands most favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.  It is the only thing besides my baked sweet potatoes that he will request.  With it's heavenly honey-roasted aroma and sweet nutty flavor, it is surely to go along just as perfectly with your holiday meal as it does with ours. 

1 pie shell from Tonya's Special Pie Crust recipe: 
3 eggs (at room temperature/ beaten)
1 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup real un-salted butter (melted)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 T honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (chopped)

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Place prepared and rolled single-pie crust into a 9" pie pan.  Use left over rolled pie crust for the decorative edging.  Cut out l2-15 leaf shapes (cookie cutter) and gently apply to the edge of the pie.  Combine all ingredient's in a medium bowl; pour into pastry lined pie pan.  Cover crust with an aluminum foil ring (keep on for the first 25-30 minutes to keep crust from burning).  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Let completely cool before covering and refrigerating (if left at room temperature, it begins it liquify).  Serve cold (if you warm it up it liquifies) with vanilla bean ice cream.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Sticks

It is time for holiday sweets people!  And why not start with a fun and simple treat that you can share with your kids.  My daughter, Paige, played "The Dipper" role, so partial credit must go to her.  We whipped these out tonight just as a holiday teaser.  And I must say that they were fantastic.  Whenever you have a combination of sweet, salty and crunchy you know it will be good.

1/2 bag of mini pretzel sticks
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tsp vegetable oil
and a dash of fun

-Combine chocolate chips and the oil in a small microwavable bowl.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes or just until chocolate stirs smoothly.  Dip pretzel sticks about 1/2 way into melted chocolate and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Place sheets in freezer for 10 minutes.  Store refrigerated in a covered container.  Makes 8-10 cups.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cream of Chicken with Rice

Usually when you start with butter, you end in delicious.  I do believe that butter makes everything better.  It creates a nice base layer of rich flavor as in this soup.  This was a beautiful cream soup, with a hearty down-home attitude.  I love how the fresh rosemary and squeezed lemon brought out a brightness to it, enhancing the chicken.   This is one of my favorite comfort foods that I make as soon as it gets cold every year.  Just the aroma of this simmering away on the stove is enough to warm you up.

2 T real un-salted butter (divided)
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups baby carrots (peeled/ chopped)
3 stalks of celery (chopped)
1 small onion (diced)
3 T all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy whipping cream (just because)
2 cups milk (if needed)
1 T fresh rosemary (minced, you can use dried but only about 1-2 tsp. then)
2 tsp. dried thyme
salt/ pepper
1 cup Jasmine rice (uncooked)
sliced lemon for garnish

-Heavily salt and pepper each side of the chicken breasts.  In a large dutch oven or stockpot, over med-high heat, deeply brown both sides of the chicken in 1 tablespoon of butter.  Remove from pan and set on a platter to cool before chopping (helps to keep the flavor). Meanwhile, prepare rice as directed and keep covered until ready to add in. Toss in chopped vegetables with remaining tablespoon of butter.  Give them a nice salt and peppering.  Saute' over me-high heat until soft.  Stir in flour and brown (it will coat the veggies, that's ok).  Slowly pour in heavy whipping cream and chicken stock.  Add in chopped chicken breasts, rice, rosemary and thyme.  Simmer while constantly stirring over med-high heat for 5-10 minutes.  Reduce heat and continue stirring.  Soup will slowly begin to thicken.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or more.  Use milk as a thinning agent, adding in 1 cup at a time if soup is too thick.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

hatThe only problem that these cookies cause at our home, is who gets to put the "X's" on the top.  I usually end up giving in and letting my daughter, Paige, do it.  But, first not without a fight.  These cookies bake up wonderfully soft and sweet.  And their delicious aroma is found everywhere in our home for hours.  You can dress them up with sprinkled sugar on top or with some chocolate chips, but I personally prefer them as is.  Of course I have to have a nice icy cold glass of milk to go along with them.  But, that's a given.

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (I use the sticks for an easy, mess-free, precise measurement)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
4 T milk
1 T real vanilla extract
1 large egg (stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or so, then beaten)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 T sugar for garnish (optional)
1 small bag of chocolate chips (optional)

-Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large bowl combine peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer just until well blended.  Mix in beaten egg.  In a small bowl mix together flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir into peanut butter mixture in small batches, thoroughly combining before each new addition.  If using chocolate chips, fold them in at this point. Drop by small spoonfuls onto a baking stone.  Using a wet fork (keeps fork from sticking to dough), inprint top of each cookie with a cross-hatched pattern (this actually has a purpose, it presses them down into shape or else they would be too thick and cook unevenly).  If topping with sugar, sprinkle evenly on top of each cookie at this point.  Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes or so, watching not to over brown.  Makes 3 dozen.  Enjoy!

Marinated Steak Fajitas with Saute'd Red/ Green Sweet Peppers and Lime Infused Sour Cream

These were very good and suprisingly tender.  You know that they are when your three year old eats as many as you do!  Mixing the fresh squeezed lime juice in with the sour cream, well, that was nothing short of genius.  I'd have to say that was my favoright part. 

1/3 cup Bold and Spicy A.1. Steak Sauce
1/4 cup medium chunky salsa
1 1/2 lb boneless sirloin steak (thinly sliced against grain)
1/2 cup sour cream (don't use Lite, it is too thin when lime juice is mixed in)
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice (using palm of hand, press hard & roll on countertop to excrete juices before slicing and squeezing)
1 red sweet pepper (sliced)
1 green sweet pepper (sliced)
1 medium onion (halved then sliced thin)
6-8 flour tortillas (warmed)

-Combine steak sauce and salsa in a medium bowl.  Toss in steak strips; cover and chill for 2 hours or so to marinate.  Meanwhile, mix sour cream and lime juice together; cover and chill until ready to use.  Saute' veggies in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and salt/ pepper (helps to soften) over high heat until crisp-tender.  Remove from pan, cover with aluminum foil and set aside.  Toss sirloin strips into the hot pan and cook about 4-5 minutes or until evenly browned.  Add veggies back in and cover.  Serve over warmed tortillas with lime infused sour cream.  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Chicken Bean Soup

Well if you're looking for a warm and hearty soup, then this is one is just perfect for you.  It's stocked full of veggies, beans and meat.  And it carries a beautiful array of flavors.  I like to garnish my "southwestern style soups" with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.  And if I'm feeling a little risky, I'll dice up a few jalapeno's too.  Accompanied by some warm corn muffins, this is my idea of a warm and hearty soup. 

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (minced)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 medium carrot (diced)
1 can (15 oz) black beans (rinsed/ drained)
1 can (15 oz) navy beans (rinsed/ drained)
1 can (14 1/2 oz) crushed tomatoes (undrained)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
sour cream and cheddar cheese for garnish

-Combine all ingredient's (excpet garnish's) in slow-cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Remove bay leaf and chicken bones prior to serving.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pancakes

This recipe came from a very good old friend.  And, it is a wonderful recipe at that.  These pancake's were very filling a dense, while at the same time they were light and spongey.  Slathered with butter and syrup, they are the perfect match for some breakfast sausage.  Like I have said before, if it calls for pumpkin then I'm making it!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbs brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin
1 egg
2 tbs oil
2 tbs vinegar
1 tbs honey
-Combine all dry ingredient's in a large mixing bowl.  Then add in milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, vinegar and honey.  Stir until completely combined.  Cook on a hot buttered griddle by ladel fulls.  Serve with butter and syrup.  Serves many.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sautee'd Rosemary and Pear Pork Chops

This is a wonderful dish.  I was quite impressed with how well the balsamic vinaigrette dressing played in with the sauce.  It also helped to soften and tenderize the pork chops to the point that the meat literally fell off the bone.  And the simple seasoning of garlic and fresh rosemary (that I grew myself thank you very much) was just the perfect pairing for the pears.  Served with some sweet and fragrant Jasmine rice, this has just become one of our family favorite's.  Hopefully, it will become one of your family's too.

5 bone in center-cut pork chops
1/4 cup light balsamic vinaigrette dressing (divided)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 shallots (these are nice and mild)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (minced)
1 can pear halves (undrained)
extra virgin olive oil
salt/ pepper

-Heat a little oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops; sautee 3-4 min's on each side or until you get a nice golden-brown crust.  Remove chops from pan and set aside.  Add in 3 tablespoons of the dressing along with the shallots, rosemary and garlic.  Sautee until softened.  Then, add in the remainder of the dressing, pears with juice and lastly the chops.  Cover and simmer over low heat for at least one hour (the longer the better!).  Occassionally checking and flipping pork chops.  Serve with the sauce over chops alongside some Jasmine rice and steamed vegetables.  Serves 5.  Enjoy!