Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Millions of Peaches - Mile High Crumble Pie

For some reason when I think of the summer holidays I always think of homemade ice cream and pie. There is something so Americana about a homemade pie. I love pie. My Nana's chocolate pie is a treasured recipe that I will pass along to you at some point in life. I also love fruit pies, especially ones involving peaches. I grew up in Texas which is peach cobbler territory. Peach cobblers were a staple at all church pot lucks and family get togethers.
Last week I was asked to prepare a meal for a family that included dessert so I decided to make a pie. I sort of went a bit overboard with this pie because I wanted to prepare the pie in a traditional crust but I wanted to create a crumble top. Crumbles are the perfect crunchy partner to pair with a soft and delicate pie, especially one that involves tender juicy peaches and fresh plump strawberries. When I went to the store to buy peaches I saw that the peaches looked terrible and were hard as rocks so I ended up using canned peaches. Please don't think less of me. This allowed me to shave off a good 30 minutes of pealing and pitting peaches, which time is money for me when I have a little Muffin hanging around my leg. This pie was a yummy treat for a hot summer day and will be a great addition to your Memorial Day dishes.

Mile High Crumble Pie

1 store bought deep dish pie crust (feel free to make it homemade)
1 large can (26 oz?) of peaches drained really well (in a few weeks are in season, you can use fresh peaches. You will need about 6 large peaches peeled and sliced and you should increase the sugar amount to 1/2 cup)
12-14 large size strawberries rinsed, hulled, and cut in quarters (almost a whole small container at the store)
2 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 and bake the pie crust for 8-10 minutes. Be sure you poke holes in the crust before baking to allow the steam bubbles to escape.
In a large bowl toss the fruit and remaining ingredients. You can easily change out the fruit if you want. Blackberries or blueberries would be great, or a combination of all three. 
Once the shell has baked, pour the fruit filling into the pie. It is going to stick up a bit (hence the mile high) but just wait until you get the crumble on there. It is best to place the pie on a cookie sheet before baking so that you don't start a fire!
Crumble topping
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup steel cut oats (quick cooking, not instant kind) 
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter chilled and cut into cubes
Combine all ingredients, except the butter, into a bowl and stir until combined. Add the butter cubes and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry mix. If you don't have a pastry cutter you can use a large serving fork to help. I like to get the butter mixed with the pastry cutter first then I like to stick my hands in there and get it mixed. Using your hands will allow for you to really get the butter good and mashed into the topping. It will sort of feel like a dry cookie dough batter. I like to make a few big hunks that stick together.
Once you have combined the crumble, pile the crumble topping over the fruit and evenly spread it out. Be sure you use all of the crumble since it is the best part!
Place the pie in the oven and bake for 45 minutes until crumble has browned.
This is great paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or just left alone.

Enjoy Y'all!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who do they think they are kidding? Beef Stroganoff

You know the people I am talking about. You can spot them a mile away. They may have just had a simple tummy tuck or eye brow lift but you know that they have had some work done.
Beef stroganoff has not always been part of my life. Well, it has been if you count the hamburger helper stroganoff that comes in a box that you add ground beef to. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about slow simmered beef in a creamy hearty mushroom gravy with wide egg noodles. And not just any noodles, browned butter herb noodles. This recipe is not anything too original but it has had some work done and you will be able to tell that with one small bite. Stroganoff can be way over done. There are a million things you can add to it but this recipe is simple and satisfying and that is just what I need at the end of a long day. This makes enough for a crowd and pairs perfectly with buttery peas. Well, what are you waiting for? Get to cookin'!

Beef Stroganoff with Browned Butter Herb Noodles - Serves 8-10 hungry folks

3.5 lbs beef tips, sometimes called stew meat
2 Tbs flour
salt and pepper
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic smashed
1 small box fresh sliced onions
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 large can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup half and half

Place your beef, flour and a heavy sprinkle of salt and pepper into a bowl and toss it to coat the beef.
In a large dutch oven pan with a tight fitting lid, warm up 2 Tbsp of olive oil and throw in your beef. Simmer the beef on medium heat until it has lightly browned on all sides. You don't want them to cook through, just get some color to them. Be sure you stir it a few times so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the meat has browned, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl and set aside.

With the heat still on medium, toss the onions, garlic and mushrooms into the pot and stir. Add a good heavy dash of black pepper and a splash of salt and the thyme. Allow the veggies to cook for about 4-5 minutes, until the onions become translucent then toss the meat back into the pot.

Add the large can of cream of mushroom soup, turn the heat down to low, place the lid on the pot and let it simmer away for about 1-1 1/2 hours. Be sure you stir it about every 15 minutes to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom. You don't want it to simmer too high or it will get thick and lumpy on you.

When you are about 20 minutes from serving time, cook the noodles and just before removing the meat from the stove you want to turn the heat OFF, then add the cream and stir. If the heat is on it will cause the cream to chunk up and NO one wants chunky cream!
See the sprinkle of black pepper and flecks of herbs?!?!? 
Brown Butter Herb Noodles
1 1/2 Package wide egg noodles
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp fresh minced rosemary
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2-1 Tsp fresh black pepper

Fill a large pot with water and place it on the store on high heat. Once the water is close to a boil, add in 2-3 Tbsp sea salt. This might sound crazy but the best and only way to really flavor noodles is while they are cooking. You want the water to taste like sea salt water. Dump the noodles in, give it a good stir, turn the heat to medium high and let the noodles cook until al dente, about 6-8 minutes.
This is right before it start the brown up. Yum!
While the noodles are cooking, place the butter in a small sauce pan on medium high. You want the butter to "brown" which means it will start the separate from the fat and it will become a nice amber color and will smell a bit toasty. There is a fine line between burnt and brown so stay close and keep your eye on the butter.

Drain your noodles then stir in 2 Tbsp olive oil, the browned butter, herbs and pepper. Taste for seasoning. I like the pepper to really stand out so add as much as you would like.

To serve, place a spoonful of the herb noodles, top with a scoop of creamy beef sauce and sprinkle on some fresh parsley.

Enjoy Y'all!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Woo

I am in the process of trying to woo a new man. Yes, the salesman knows all about it. Since I started my crazy cake baking business I have been blessed to meet hundreds of new friends through word of mouth. I don't do advertising and I don't really talk about this business much at all because I like staying sorta hidden. When Graceland called me two years ago to enter the Elvis 75th birthday cake competition I remember asking several times how they found me. I have been so, so very lucky to have amazing clients who pass along my info and it has allowed me to have a great side "business". I really do think I am the luckiest girl in the world because I get to play with sugar and food, I mean come on. Does it get better than that?
Well, recently a new event planner was hired at the company I use to work for. I will not mention any names here simply because I want this to stay between the two of us. I am trying to woo him. The old even planner and I were good friends and I was able to work with her for several events but the new planner is new to Nashville and doesn't know a thing about me. I decided to put together a "Taste of Tennessee" platter to deliver him with a sample of a few cakes that have some Tennessee inspired toppings. I also threw in a box of cake shooters which are the newest item I have just added to my menu, more on that later. Alas, this post will not include any recipes but it will just show you a glimpse into my day job. Really, I am the luckiest!
Overall design

Vanilla cake with caramel buttercream and pecan praline topping with a mini guitar

Traditional vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and a ham biscuit in honor of Loveless Cafe

The Elvis cake, Banana cake, peanut butter buttercream, chocolate and peanut butter drizzle and candied bacon sprinkles. Thank you very much
Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and blackberries. This has a replica of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the quote "May the circle be unbroken" which is inscribed in the rotunda of the building.

Cake shooter!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cha Cha Chicken

You know that I am a born again Southern girl and because of that I am able to quote Steel Magnolias any time I please. It is probably the most quotable movie in the whole world in my opinion with phrases like, "take a whack of...", "nothing like a good piece of ...", and "looks like two pig's fightin' under a blanket". The title for this post is directly taken from the movie as well because this chicken is just "too cha cha for words".
Growing up my dad LOVED French's fried onions and he still does to this day. He adds them to all sorts of crazy things including this homemade sacred chex mix (which we were all against). I never really buy fried onions but I was able to get some for super cheap one day at the store so I decided to use those babies on some chicken breasts. I am always looking for a new spin on chicken, and I have coated chicken with everything from tortilla chips to Captain Crunch so fried onions seemed to be a natural fit. The key to this dish is to get the chicken flavored really well because the onions don't add a whole lot of flavor, other than fried onion. These were super simple to throw together and you just bake them until they are"warm and bubbly".

Cha Cha Chicken

4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts patted dry with a paper towel
1 can French's fried onions smashed in a bowl
1/2 cup good mayonaise
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2-3 dashes hot sauce

In a small bowl combine the mayonaise and the next 6 ingredients. Spray a casserole pan with cooking spray.
Dollop your mayo mixture evenly on top of each chicken breast and spread it on the top to make an even coating.
Next, turn your mayo coated chicken and smash it into the onions to get a good coating, one piece at a time. Place the chicken on your pan and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until the onions are golden.

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Good Life - Spinach Enchiladas

Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal
Mm, the good life lets you hide all the sadness you feel

It's the good life to be free and explore the unknown
Like the heartaches when you learn you must face them alone

These are totally part of the "good life". I said it before that cooking and meals are a scrapbook of my life and there are certain foods that bring a smile to my face and a look of shock to others because they didn't know they would have it so good. These enchiladas are amazing! Their simplicity and richness is unmatched...well, almost (My last supper chicken enchiladas are close). You know by now that the salesman is a meat eater and so is our offspring, but these babies are deceptively delicious. For those of you who don't know, I have a side food business I have been doing for several years now. I cook and prepare meals and deliver them to clients and friends around town. I love doing this because it keeps me on my cooking toes and allows me to "explore the unknown". It also gives me an excuse to barricade myself in a corner with my cookbooks piled up sky high and sit and read through the pages of my books in order to create monthly menus. Getting a new cookbook is sort of like Christmas morning for me and therefore I limit myself as to how many new ones I can get. I literally will sit for hours and read through recipes page by page so I can stock the recipes away in my mental card catalog. This is one of those recipes that was shared with me years ago by my sister and I knew that I would be "facing it alone" since the salesman wouldn't eat it. But, he did eat them. And, I won't say he necessarily fell in love with them, but in my heart I knew that he had shared part of the good life with me. And now I will share it with you.

Spinach Enchiladas

1 24oz container sour cream - regular or low fat
3 10oz packages of spinach, thawed. Squeeze one to remove some liquid, just one.
16-18 flour tortillas
1 small onion diced
1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp butter
2 can Whole green chilies - dice by hand. Promise, it is worth it
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 block of Monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese freshly grated (or 2 cups)

First, let me state that you should not buy green chilies diced if at all possible. They have a gross texture to them if you buy them diced and there is always a gross hard piece of a stem in the can. Slice and dicing the chilies is easy peasy and well worth it to ensure that you get some good chilies pieces that you can actually see and taste.
Second, don't buy pre-shredded cheese. I know I have said it before but it is weird should be banned. Amen. Moving on.
In a large bowl, combine the 2 unsqueezed packages of spinach and the one squeezed package, sour cream, diced chilies, milk and spices.
In a small saute pan, simmer the onion in the butter for about 8 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the onions to the creamy spinach mixture.
Spray a 9x13 pan with Pam. Take one tortilla at a time in your hand and spoon in about a 1/2 cup of spinach filling. Roll up the tortilla and place it seam side down in the pan. Continue until you run out of tortillas but be sure to leave about 2 1/2 cups of sauce for the top. After you have finished filling and rolling all tortillas, spoon the rest of the spinach mixture over the top of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cheese on the top. These can be frozen at this point if you want to share a pan or eat them later. If you are cooking right away, place them in a 350 degree oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
Serve with some black beans and rice.

Enjoy Y'all!

Mr. T's Pork Loin

The salesman and I have enjoyed cooking "together" since we were first married. Now, when I say together I need to clarify exactly what that means. There are some dishes that he does completely solo from me like homemade pizza crust with homemade pizza sauce...anything in the pizza world for that matter except for my BBQ Chicken. He also makes a great bowl of cereal completely solo. There are some dishes that he also takes total credit for because of his effort he added. For example, meatballs. I put all of the ingredients in a bowl, he mixes it together and forms them and then I cook them all...and he takes all of the credit. See how this works? Well, this past weekend we worked "together" on making a pork loin that was TO DIE FOR! You know how I feel about saying things are the best or insisting that you cook them, but read my words, THIS IS THE BEST PORK LOIN YOU WILL EVER HAVE AND YOU MUST MAKE THIS. Got it?!
I cooked for the Ronald McDonald house last week and made for them Roma's pork chops (Recipe on site). They are delicious and the RMDH gobbled them up. I didn't have all of the exact same ingredients on hand so I instructed the salesman on what all to grab out of the fridge in order to marinate our own pork loin. He dumped all of the stuff together in a large zip lock bag and we let it sit and get all cozy in the fridge overnight. He then cooked it to my specifications yesterday for Mother's Day...then took all of the credit for it. Again, see how this works? But, it was AMAZING! I have to state for the record that this is the best pork loin I have ever had and is exactly how a pork loin is suppose to taste. We even ate it cold last night on homemade cheddar biscuits which the salesman made all on his own. This was the ultimate treat for Mother's Day and is a great dish to make for an every day celebration! I was able to get my 3.5 lb pork loin (NOT TENDERLOIN) for 9.00 at the store on sale and it lasted two meals so you can't beat that.
Well, what are you waiting for?!? GET TO COOKIN'!!!

Mr. T's Pork Loin
1 3-4 lb pork loin (you can adjust your marinate to the size of your loin - the loin is what chops are cut from, it is thicker then a tenderloin and doesn't have a bone)
1/2 cup Kraft brand Tuscan House Italian Dressing and Marinade
2 Tbsp coarse grain Dijon mustard (must have coarse!)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Dump all of this in a bag and marinade at least overnight but up to two days in advance. Before cooking, remove from bag and discard marinade.
Now, the way you cook this will make all of the difference. On your grill, you are going to want to cook it by using in-direct heat. So, on our grill we have 3 burners. We turned the far Left to HIGH, the Center to LOW and the far Right was OFF. Got that? Your loin will sit on the far RIGHT side but will cook in-directly by the heat of the other burners.
Preheat your grill to 400 degrees using the above method. If you only have 2 burners then leave one off and one on. Place your meat on the side that does not have any heat and close the lid. The pork loin will cook for approximately 1 hour, until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. You want the grill to stay at an even 400 degrees. You MUST have a meat thermometer for this because if you over cook it, you will have jerky. If you under cook it, you will die (just kidding!) Thermometers can be purchased for super cheap at the grocery store and are crucial for grilling. Stick the thermometer in the loin so that it reaches the center (but make sure your thermometer doesn't have any plastic or that baby will melt all over your pork and I will cry for you!) You are going to turn the loin a quarter of the way over every 15 minutes for one hour. It will get a nice crunchy bark on the outside and will have a beautiful light smoke ring on the inside. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
 Notice the bark on the outside and the smoke ring on the inside?! So yummy!!
When your meat reaches 180 degrees, remove from the grill and place on a large platter. Leave it alone and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This will allow it to get all nice and juicy again. Using a sharp long thin blade, slice it in super thin slices and serve. Be sure you spoon up the juice that ran out on the platter over the meat, or sop it up with your bread.

Enjoy Y'all!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sam I am- Raspberry Curd

You may be wondering what this title is all about but let me tell you it is NOT about green eggs or ham. This is all about a delicious treat called Raspberry Curd. Now let me state for the record that curd is a gross word. It reminds me of something that would be a side effect of a bad sinus infection. Curd, for those of you new to the cooking world, is a fruit based pudding like filling that is used in cakes and pastries....and any where else you can shove it. It can come in any flavor and the most popular kinds are lemon and lime. I use store bought lime curd as the base for my Key Lime Dip (which is amazing!!!) but I prefer to make mine homemade as much as possible. I made a blueberry curd for my BFF's wedding cake a few years back and it was slathered between layers of cinnamon kissed vanilla cake, cream cheese filling and brown sugar buttercream...and it was to die for! It was a blueberry muffin on steroids. Raspberry curd is a request that one of my clients has whenever I make cakes for her family. It has a bright tart and sweet flavor and pairs perfectly with rich dark chocolate cake brushed with Chambord and silky chocolate buttercream. Curd is easy to make but it demands all of your attention, just for a few minutes. It is worth all of the effort because, in the words of Sam I am, "I would eat it in a box, with a fox, in a chair with a bear, in a boat with a goat"...you get my drift.
I highly suggest you get your hands on some chocolate cake to eat with this, or smear it on some toast, or dip some graham crackers in it, or eat it with some pound cake and berries. Well, what are you waiting for? Get to cookin'!

Raspberry Curd
1 bag (15 oz I think) frozen raspberries thawed
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter softened
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed (bottled is okay but not my preference) lemon juice
3 Egg yolks - place in a separate larger bowl

First, grab a mesh strainer and place it over a bowl. If you don't have a strainer yet you can get one for a few bucks at any grocery store. They come in super handy for straining everything!! Dump your bag of thawed berries in the strainer and using the back of a wooden spoon, or you hands, mash the berries until you have removed all of the juice. I really like the feeling of smooshing the berries and I think you get the most out of them that way, but I know that might gross some of you out. Pour your juice into a sauce pan, add the sugar, and turn to medium heat.
While this is warming, combine your lemon juice with the corn starch and stir until it is a smooth liquid. If it is too stiff, add just a drop more of juice. Using a whisk, pour your corn starch mixture into the berry juice and whisk thoroughly to combine. Using this method will prevent any lumps from forming.
After about 3 minutes when the mixture is really starting to heat up you will need to get your yolks ready. Now, you don't want to scramble the yolks so you must do as I say. With the whisk in your right hand and your sauce pan in the left, you want to pour in a steady slow stream some of the warmed juice into the egg yolks but you must do this SLOWLY and you must WHISK CONSTANTLY. This is going to help heat up the yolks so you can add them in and they won't scramble on you. You will want to pour about half of the juice in with the eggs. Whisk the juice in thoroughly with the eggs, place the saucepan back on the stove then whisk in the egg mixture into the saucepan. Got that?!?
Continue to cook the mixture for about 4-5 minutes while whisking constantly. Allow it to gently boil for about two minutes and you will see it start to set up. After two minutes, remove it from the heat, dump the butter in and mix just until combined. Pour the curd into a bowl. Take a piece of plastic wrap and place it directly on the curd, not over the bowl, but smashed on the curd. This will prevent that weirdo gross think layer on top. Place in the fridge and allow it to chill to room temp before eating.

See, easy huh? And so worth it!
Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bread Salad aka Panzanella

We are reaching that time of the year when tomatoes are at their peak and are itching to be used every day in every way. One of the dishes I love making with fresh tomatoes is bread salad. This is an old Italian dish that peasants created to use up old bread. It is a great summer salad because it doesn't have any mayo in it that would cause it to go bad. I like tossing in the bread just before serving so that it doesn't become completely soggy...but that is your call. This is a beautiful and very colorful dish that would be perfect for a meatless Monday meal or with a Greek marinated grilled chicken breast.

Bread Salad
6-8 slices day old hearty bread (I really like sour dough) cut into cubes
4 tomatoes, cut in 4 quarters then in half to create 8 chunks. I also like to use a combo of colors because they are so beautiful!
1/4 red onion thinly sliced
1 cup cubed English cucumber
8 basil leaves torn into pieces
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 avocado cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup feta crumbles (optional)
Salt and Pepper

In a large heavy bottom skillet combine the bread, 3 Tbsp of olive oil and a very generous dash of salt and pepper and garlic powder and toss to coat. Turn the heat to medium and cook the bread until it becomes crispy and lightly golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the bread cubes and serve.

Enjoy Y'all!

Total Cheeseball

Cheese balls are by far at the top of my list for a quick appetizer! You can't screw them up at all and I typically have everything on hand for them. I was with my mom over the holidays and she was tempted to go buy some but I reminded her that 1. store bought cheese balls are gross and 2. I was home, so why not make them? Store bought cheese balls are so disturbing to me. I can never figure out why they have a red color in them and who wants to eat the nasty soggy almonds they are rolled in? Cheese balls are so easy to make! I have so many recipes I can share with you but I will just provide you with my favorite cheddar ball and you can go from there. I am going to warn you now, you must mix these by hand to get the best flavor. And, it is best if you can make them the day before so that they are nice and tasty.

Smokey Cheddar Cheese ball
1 cup extra sharp yellow cheddar
1 cup sharp white cheddar (I LOVE the flavor combo of both but if you only have one on hand then that is fine) You can use dill Havarti (LOVE!) or pepper jack for other fun flavors.
1 block cream cheese softened
 2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce - depending on how spicy you like it
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 tsp ground onion and ground garlic
2 green onions finely diced (optional if you don't have it on hand)

Dump all of the above into a bowl. Wash your hands, remove your rings and smash it all together until it is combined. Roll it into a ball.
Wash your hands, then place the bowl into a large piece of plastic wrap and pop in the fridge.

You can use any of the following to roll your ball in. I like a combo of all but if you only have one or hand that is fine too. You can see that you can easily adjust the flavor of this cheese ball by what you put in and on it.
You will need about 1/2 a cup of any of the following:
Smoky salted almonds finely chopped
Pecans finely chopped
Real bacon bits
Fresh Parsley or a combo of dill, parsley and rosemary

Take your cheese ball out of the fridge and stretch out the plastic wrap. Pour your desired topping over the ball and shake it around in the plastic wrap until it is thoroughly coated. Wrap back in the plastic wrap and pop in the fridge until you are ready to serve. You can also make mini cheese balls by first rolling them into small walnut size balls then rolling them in your favorite topping.

Enjoy Y'all!

Shortberry Pie

Yeah, I know, it's been a while. Life happens. Kids happen. So much has happened that we might as well move on and talk about pie.
I love pie. I don't eat is as much as I would like and that is probably a good thing!
When the salesman and I first started dating he introduced me to his Great Granny who makes a killer strawberry rhubarb pie. It has been his request every year for his birthday since we married. I asked Granny how to make it years ago and she basically told me to dump in some sugar, berries, rhubarb and butter and it would turn out alright. Don't you just love recipes like that? Well last night I was craving some strawberry pie. I had a few berries that were sort of becoming nasty lasties (you should know that term by now) in my fridge. They were well past their peak but I kept hanging on to them until I could figure out what to do with them. I decided to try out a peek a boo pie, the kind where you roll out the dough pizza style, dump your filling then the middle then gently fold the sides in. I am way too lazy to crimp edges and butter a dish. This yummy pie had all of the wonderful elements of a good strawberry shortcake including lots of buttery crust, sugary sweet berries and a small...maybe large scoop of whipped cream. It also had the extra hint of cinnamon and orange with pair perfectly with the berries.This was "easy as pie" (I know, I did it) to put together and was perfect for our family of four. You could easily double this recipe to make a larger pie but I liked how we were able to gobble it all up and not have left overs (not that I would mind that for breakfast). If you are feeling really lazy, you can easily fill up four small ramekins with the strawberry filling then top each a layer of crust (sort of like a mini pie). Just be sure you poke holes in the crust to allow steam to get out. I didn't have any rhubarb on hand but it would be a great addition to this filling.
So, what are you waiting for? Get to cookin'!

2 cups of strawberries hulled and cubed
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp corn starch
Combine all of the above in a bowl. Set aside.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp regular or buttermilk

Combine all of the above in another bowl. Using a pastry fork or two forks, mash in 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) cold unsalted butter cubed and 3 Tbsp water until it is thoroughly mixed. Gently dump the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gently mash it together with your hands until it forms a night smooth ball. You don't want to over mix it, you want to see little flecks of butter throughout the dough. Butter flecks ensure that it has a nice flaky crust.
Once the dough is combined, roll it into a ball, wrap it with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill. After it has had time to set up, remove it from the plastic wrap and gently roll it out onto a lightly floured surface until it is about the size of a large dinner plate, or about 9" across.
Very carefully, slide it onto your baking dish (I used a pizza stone but you can use a basic cookie sheet). Spoon the strawberry filling into the center leaving about 2 inches of crust boarder but DON'T pour the juice yet. Gently fold the sides up and in making a pocket of sorts to secure in all of the filling. After it is folded you can spoon in a tablespoon or two of the juice.
Take a pastry brush and gently brush the edges with milk (this makes it have a soft buttery texture reminiscent of short cakes) and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon, sugar and salt.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Allow it to cool for a bit before slicing so the juices have time to set.  Serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy Y'all!

Live Beyond

A few weeks ago, during my time off I had the pleasure of attending a fundraiser for a local organization called MMDR. This organization is led by a couple from our church and they provide medical support to areas around the world that have suffered various tragedies. Their work in Haiti has gained world wide recognition and they are currently in the process of building a "Live Beyond" base in Haiti that will have a hospital, school, orphanage...just about everything you can think of. Their work is life changing and so self sacrificing. I am so blessed to know them and support them in this effort. If you are interested, please check out www.mmdr.org and learn about how you too can help them.
Back to the fundraiser. The meal for the evening was similar to a meal you would have in Haiti (if you had money!) and it included a chicken dish, rice and beans and a coconut banana dessert and was all served on metal pie plates. Not gonna lie, the food didn't hit my spot that night but it was all for a good cause so who cared! Soon after I came across a recipe that reminded me of the dinner and decided to add a few things to spruce it up. It quickly became a very memorable meal for me with it's earthy sweet undertones, bit of heat and bright flavors and I know that every time I make this meal I will be reminded of a beautiful night, a beautiful family, a beautiful country in desperate need and a beautiful God who will never leave nor abandon us.

Haitian Chicken with Coconut Lime Rice and Red Beans

1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves diced
6 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
 Juice of 3 limes (Zest 2 of the times and save the 3rd limes shell for the rice)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp honey

Saute the onions, celery and carrots into a large dutch oven in 2 Tbsp of olive oil and a slash of salt until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. The salt helps the veggies start to sweat and speeds up the process.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and stir. Cover the dish with a lid and simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, tilt the lid of the pot to allow some of steam to come out and the sauce to thicken and allow it to cook for 45 minutes more on low heat.

During the last 20 minutes of the chicken cooking, prepare the following...
2 cups basmati or brown fast cooking rice (should cook in about 20 minutes, NOT instant)
1 15 oz can lite coconut milk- not cream of coconut. This will not be sweet.
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
Lime zest and lime shell
Combine all of the above in a large pan with a lid (you want to minimally stir rice so it is best to cook it in a large pot so it doesn't get gummy) Cook according to the package directions (typically about 20 minutes).

10 minutes into cooking ADD one can of thoroughly rinsed red beans. Place the lid back on the pot and continue cooking.

Just before serving remove the lime shell and add the following...
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 green onion bundles diced
Stir until combined. Taste to see if any extra seasoning needs to be added.

For serving, place a spoonful of the rice and beans on the plate. Place a chicken breast on top and spoon extra sauce over the top. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge, fresh chopped cilantro, avocado chunks and toasted coconut.

Enjoy Y'all!