Monday, July 30, 2012

Coconut Cream Pudding Pie

Well, well, well.  Where to begin with this one?!  This is absolutely fantastic in each and every way.  To start with, it's ridiculously easy compared to creating a traditional cream pie, no messing with egg whites and cream of tartar.  So, that in itself is a huge bonus.  Then you have the fact that you are creating a naturally flavored coconut whip cream out of the coconut milk.  That is like a foodie surprise once you see how the cream separates from the water in the coconut milk once it has been chilled for a day.  I was amazed.  And, last but not least, the taste.  The taste is like heaven on a spoon.  Each bite taking further and further away from where you stand and placing you somewhere past cloud 9.  Straight on to heaven.

1 large box of INSTANT vanilla pudding
2 1/2 cups of milk
1 ready to use graham cracker pie crust
slight 1/4 cup of shredded coconut
1- 13.66oz. can of coconut milk (chilled in fridge for at least 24 hours and DO NOT SHAKE CAN)
1/4 tsp. of real vanilla extract
2 cups of cool whip (defrosted)

-In a large mixing bowl, whisk together by hand the vanilla pudding mix and the milk for about 2 minutes.  Carefully pour this into your ready to use pie crust, cover and refrigerate for a few hours before finishing it off and serving it.  Meanwhile, for the toasting of the shredded coconut, preheat your oven to 300*.  Spread the coconut out on a baking sheet in a thin even layer.  Bake this for 15 minutes, stopping every 5 minutes to stir it.  Remove this from the oven and allow it to stand and cool.  When it has reached room temperature, toss it into a Tupperware dish and cover it to keep it nice and crunchy until you are ready to use it for garnish later.  Once the pie is set and chilled, open the can of coconut milk.  The coconut cream will separate from the coconut water, creating a thick and semi-hard solution that rises to the top of the can.  Using a large spoon, start to scoop out the thick cream solution into a medium sized mixing bowl (going slow making sure not to get the separated water that is in the bottom half of the can- you can save the coconut water for later use or discard it at this point).  Using an electric hand mixer, go ahead and beat the coconut cream on medium speed to kind of cream it as you would butter; beat in the vanilla and the cool whip until combined.  Take this mixture and start spooning it onto the center of the pudding pie and spread it out with a large spoon, going just about to the edges, but not all the way.  Sprinkle the top with as much of the toasted coconut as you prefer.  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Strawberry-Raspberry Jam

Well, sometimes you just find that you gotta make the most out of what you got.  And I had a whole bunch of strawberries that were just about to turn.  Tons really.  So, I thought to myself about what I should do.  And the cost of jam occurred to me just then and also about the demand it has in my home.  From PB and J's to my homemade biscuits, we are using it up around here.  Daily.  And with that being noticed and the fact that I had yet to try my hand at a strawberry jam, I had found my next endeavour.  And I am sure that my family and my grocery bill will both be happy at the fact that we now have the next few months worth of jam in the pantry.  And, of course, almost without having to be said, I am happy then. 

3 cups of strawberries (stemmed)
3/4 cups of raspberries
1/4 cup of lemon juice
7 cups of sugar
1/2 T. of real un-salted butter
1- 3oz. package of liquid pectin (I used Ball Real Fruit Liquid Pectin)
8-10 1/2 pint quilted mason jars with new lids/ rings
canning jar tongs (a must for removing the jars from the boiling stockpot)

-First and foremost, wash your jars, lids and rings in very hot soapy water and rinse well.  Place the jars into a large canning stockpot, filled halfway with water and covered with a lid over a high flame.  Let this heat up to a boil and hold the boil for 10 minutes to sterilize them.  Then just reduce the heat and leave the jars in there and also toss in the lids to keep them hot until you are ready to fill them.  Meanwhile, using a hand potato masher, in a large mixing bowl, smash a small handful of strawberries and raspberries at a time.  Stir together the smashed berries, lemon juice and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add in the butter (keeps it from being overly frothy) and stir well.  Bring this up to a rolling frothy boil that cannot be stirred down and stir in all of the liquid pectin.  Return this to a boil, while constantly stirring for one whole minute. Remove it from the heat and using a metal spoon, skim off any froth from the top to discard.  Remove you hot mason jars and lids from your canning stockpot, with your canning jar tongs, out onto a towel-lined counter (right-side up) and return your canning stockpot to a boil.  Go ahead and ladle in the hot jam into each of your hot, empty mason jars.  Leave a 1/4" of head space at the top of each jar (the empty space at the top to keep them from exploding-yep very important).  Place the lids on the center of each top and screw the rings on hand-tight.  Once your canning stockpot has returned to a boil, using your canning jar tongs, return the mason jars to the boiling stockpot (right-side up).  Cover with the lid and let them process in the boiling pot for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid, remove the stockpot from the heat and let the jars continue to sit in the stockpot for 5 more minutes.  Lastly using your canning jar tongs, remove your mason jars to your towel lined counter.  Place them upside down (people have told me that this is no longer 'the way to do it', but old habits die hard and I tend to stick to what works for me) to cool.  Once the jars have cooled down to room temperature, turn them right-side up.  You will hear the lids pop in at this time if they have not done so already (sometimes I will pop the lid down on some of them as I am checking them, that is ok as long as it does not pop back up).  If you follow the directions of this process correctly, you will have properly sealed them.  But, it is still not the end of the world if one of them does not seal.  That is just going to have to be the first one consumed.  For properly sealed jars, they should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place like a pantry (where I store mine) or a kitchen cabinet.  They will be good stored this way for up to 1 year.  For unsealed jars or seal broken jars (like once you open one), they must be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 3 weeks.  Makes 8-10 1/2 pint quilted mason jars of jam.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Pudding Pie

I feel as though this combination, this whole mint chocolate chip thing, is not only my daughter, Paige Leigh's favorite, but now also one of mine.  I keep stumbling across different ways to use it in many different ways.  From ice cream to cake and now even for pie.  The possibilities are endless and I am enjoying each and every creation.  And of course, so is my Paige.

1 large box of cook & serve chocolate pudding (prepared as directed)
1/8- 1/4 tsp. of spearmint extract (I used 1/8, but thought it needed a bit more)
1 ready to serve chocolate cookie pie crust
1 small tub of cool whip topping (defrosted)
a few drops of green food coloring
1/4 cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

- Once you have prepared your pudding as directed, remove it from heat and stir in your mint extract while it is still piping hot.  Go ahead and carefully pour this into your pie crust, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.   When you are ready to serve, transfer your cool whip into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the food coloring.  Serve each piece with a dollop of green cool whip and a good sprinkle of mini chocolate chips.  Serves 6-8.  Enjoy!

Margarita Pizza Bread

Sometimes you can make the simplest of dinners into something different.  Something better.  Something so darn good that even after you have stuffed yourself to the gills, you are already beginning to crave the next days leftover lunch.  This is a dinner like that.  This is a dinner that teases you with it's aroma and makes you drool with it's appearance.  And the next best thing about it, besides it being amazing, is that it takes all of 20 minutes to make and bake.  That's just 20 minutes away from amazing to me.

2 loaves of bakery fresh Vienna Bread
1 can of pizza sauce (I used Pastorelli)
4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large ripe red tomatoes (sliced thin, then halved)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves (chopped)

-Preheat your oven to 425*.  Slice your bread in half width-wise, then in half horizontally (making 8 boats).  Place them on a few aluminum foil covered baking sheets (to keep the clean up simple).  Spread a spoonful of sauce across the entire open cut side of each piece (making sure to get all the way to the edges).  Then just smother them in the cheese, again making sure to cover all of the sauce all the way to the edges (or else the sauce will dry up when baked if not covered by the cheese).  Toss on your sliced tomatoes, a few to every piece.  Then drizzle the tops of them lightly with the e.v.o. and a nice healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Bake at 425* for about 12-15 minutes (catching it once the cheese has melted yet before the edges begin to really brown).  Remove from the oven and immediately dust the tops of them with your chopped basil (doing it while they are still oven hot will help infuse their fragrance in, on and around the bread).  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cream of Broccoli Soup

This has always been a favorite soup of mine since all the way back as far as I can remember.  And to tell you the truth, my memories came from sitting at my best friend, Stacy's, dinner table, not at my own with this one.  It was her Mom, Sandy, that would make this soup by scratch all summer long from the bounty of her own garden.  It was there at her table, where my love of vegetables was born.  From her soups to her wagon wheels (made out of zucchini), I learned to love it all.  She had a houseful of kids.  At one point there were 6 altogether and with me, which was usually a given, there were 7.  And due to her there was always a healthy homemade meal.  She made sure that there was always more than enough and that I was always welcomed. She is the original back to the basics cook and she is and was absolutely amazing in her kitchen.  I spent many a nights at their dinner table and many a days there playing with all of the children.  And I am honored to post a recipe for her, another wonderful woman in my life that has helped me learn to cook and grow my own ingredients. Sandy this one is just for you.

5 cups of fresh broccoli head (chopped)
1 cup of peeled baby carrots (sliced)
1 medium vidalia sweet onion (diced)
3 1/4 cups of chicken stock
2 T. of real butter (I generally always use un-salted butter in my cooking too since I buy it so much for baking)
2 T. of all-purpose flour
sea salt (to your liking)
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 T. of lemon juice
1/4 cup of milk + 2 T. of all-purpose flour (whisked together this is a slurry used to thicken the soup if you prefer)

-Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, then add in your broccoli, carrots and onion; boil until crisp tender.  Drain out the water from the pot.  Place all but 1 cup of the veggies into your blender or food processor (set a reserved 1 cup of veggies to the side for adding in later), along with 1/2 of the chicken stock and puree until smooth.  Back to your original empty stockpot, toss in your butter and melt it down over medium heat.  Stir in your 2 T. of flour, sea salt and white pepper (this is making a rue).  Once this is combined and just beginning to lightly brown, pour in the cream and stir it in well.  Bring this to a frothy boil and then add in your pureed veggies, reserved 1 cup of cooked veggies, remaining chicken stock, cheese and lemon juice.  Let this return to a boil and reduce the heat to low.  If at this time the soup is too thin for your liking, go ahead and make the flour slurry by fork whisking together 1/4 cup of milk and 2 T. of flour in a small bowl.  You can add this slurry in a little at a time, or like me all at once (I like my cream soups thick thick thick).  Go ahead and return it back to a boil over medium heat before serving.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!