Archive for November, 2010

My Mom’s Apple Pie

Week 44

Well friends, it is Thanksgiving and I find myself happily surrounded by my family.  Like any traditional Thanksgiving gathering, my mom and sisters have been preparing for the big meal.  Part of that preparation around my house is homemade pies.  My mom has always been a pie baker and over the years, she has passed the tradition onto my sisters and me.  My youngest sister, Ruth, has even won a pie baking competition…first place!  We’re pretty serious about our pie baking.  This Thanksgiving we set out to make four different pies… pecan, blackberry, pumpkin, and apple.  I was given direction to make the apple pie.  So today I share with you my mom’s homemade apple pie, taken out of her original Betty Crocker Cookbook!  We always make our own crusts too, which adds so much deliciousness to a pie, so I’ll give that recipe as well.  Get ready for some good times baking pies!

My Thanksgiving Apple Pie

Crust (for a 8 or 9 inch pie crust)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tbs shortening
  • 4 to 6 tbs cold water
  1. Measure flour and salt into bowl.  Cut in shortening thoroughly.  Sprinkle in water, 1 tbs at a time, mixing until flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl  (1 to 2 tsp of water can be added if needed)
  2. Divide dough into two equal ball shapes; between two sheets of wax paper, flatten one ball and roll dough with a rolling pin to be 2″ larger than your inverted pie pan.  TIP: as you roll out your dough, you may need to readjust the wax paper.  Just remove and smooth out wax paper as needed.
  3. Once you have your crust to the appropriate size, remove one side of wax paper and ease crust into the pie plate with the remaining wax paper side facing up.  Once the crust is in place, remove the remaining sheet of wax paper.
  4. Trim edges and shape crust by either pinching into a fluted pattern or flatten with a fork.  I found a nifty YouTube video that gives great instruction for this!
  5. Repeat process with second ball to make the top crust.

Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced tart apples (approx. 3-4 apples, depending on the size)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbs butter
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon.
  3. Sprinkle sugar mixture over sliced apples, mixing to ensure even coating over the apples.
  4. Turn into pastry-lined pie plate.  Top with thin slices of butter.
  5. Cover with the prepared top crust, cutting crust to fit within the pie plate.  Cut slits on top.
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until crust has browned and the pie begins to bubble.

My apple pie... prior to baking

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. The most exciting part of this pie for me was the top crust.  Instead of just making the standard slits to the top, my mom found a cookie cutter in the shape of a turkey and I stamped that into the flattened crust before laying it onto the pie.  I didn’t remove the cut out but just let it bake as is.  I think the turkey added a lot of Thanksgiving spirit!  You could do this same trick with any shaped cookie cutter.  The possibilities are endless!  Santa Clause, Christmas trees, Easter bunnies….
  2. Always put something under your pie while it bakes because inevitably, the pie will bubble over and you’ll have a mess in your oven.
  3. I didn’t realize, but my mom and sisters said you have to peel your apples.  I was going to just slice up the apple, peel and all, but apparently that is not correct.  So peel the apples.
  4. I accidentally trimmed the top crust too small.  It didn’t make a big difference, but just be aware.

Recipe High Points

  1. The filling was super easy to make, other than having to peel the apples.
  2. I got to make this with my mom and sisters

Recipe Low Points

  1. A homemade crust is always a lot of work, but worth the effort in the end!

I was so excited about my apple pie!  Especially the turkey cut out!  Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Broccoli Chicken Roli

Week 43

If anyone knows me well, you’ll know I’m not a big phone person.  I tolerate a cell phone because Jeff insists I have one.  His biggest pet peeve is when we get in the car, drive for a couple blocks and then I say “Oh, I forgot my phone.”  Drives him nuts.  My thought is, really… do I need a phone when I’m with him anyway???  I know, I know… you’re saying to yourself “what if you get separated??”  This has happened.  It’s in those moments that I do wish I had remembered the phone, but I don’t get nearly as bent out of shape about it as Jeff.  Personally, I miss the days of just having a phone hooked to the wall and that’s where it stays.  You don’t know who is calling, there is a surprise every time you pick up the receiver.  If I had my choice, that’s what I would have- a phone connected to the wall with a cord to the receiver.  Old fashioned… yes.  That’s how I roll people.

Several months ago, I got a Blackberry mobile phone.  For someone who doesn’t really care one way or another about mobile phones, a Blackberry is a strange choice of phone.  Why I have this phone, I will not go into, but have one I do.  The whole point of a Blackberry is that your emails can be sent directly to your phone.  So I have this feature set up on the phone.  Unless I remember to turn to notifications off at night, I tend to be awoken so very early to the sound of my daily recipe coming into my inbox every morning.  After lots of mornings of this happening, you start to remember to silence the phone.  This week’s recipe is one of those annoying little notifications that popped into my phone recently.  I thought it sounded good and worth giving a try.  You can visit the original website HERE for Broccoli Chicken Roli

  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken meat
  • 2 cups fresh chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls
  1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, broccoli, onions, bell pepper, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic. Mix all together.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place a glass upside down in the center of the cookie sheet. Roll out crescent rolls around the base of the glass, with pointy ends away from the glass; when you’re finished, the arrangement will look like the sun. Spoon some of the chicken mixture onto the thick part of each crescent roll. Fold the pointy end of each roll over the top of the mixture and tuck in the middle. Remove glass from cookie sheet. Arrangement of rolls will now look like a fluted tube cake.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. Several of the comments for this recipe stated that there was too much filling for one package of crescent rolls and three packages were needed; other comments said they didn’t know why people were complaining about too much filling and you just had to pile it on and it worked.  So with this in mind, I bought two packages.  I would say two is a good amount.  I wouldn’t have been able to get all of my filling into one package of rolls, so two worked well for me.
  2. Since I don’t usually buy the crescent rolls, the assembly of this dish was a little intimidating to me.  I read the instructions a couple times before attempting it.  It’s not difficult once you just start.  I did two variations:

    Roli made as directed, with hollow center and one package of crescent rolls

    Roli made without hollow center and remaining filling

  3. After my two variations, I found that the first roll (made as directed) needed more crescent.  The second roll was good, but not very much filling.  So a combo of the two would be perfect next time.
  4. The directions say to back at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Several people said that their rolls burned after 15 minutes at this temp.  I decided to go with the crescent baking directions.  I baked mine at 375 for maybe 20 minutes?? (I can’t really remember now how long).  I was baking both rolls so that probably made a difference too.  I wanted to make sure it baked long enough for the broccoli to cook.
  5. I think I put too much garlic or onion in mine.  Jeff said he liked the flavor, but there was too much of something for me.

Recipe High Points

  1. I liked trying something different!
  2. It was fun trying to figure out how to lay out the crescents and wrap the filling.

Recipe Low Points

  1. Jeff and I don’t usually eat pre-packaged crescent rolls.  The processed dough was kind of rejected by our bodies. 😦

This was a fun recipe, but I think next time I will need to figure out something other than crescent rolls to use for the wrap.  Other than that, it was a success!  Hope you like it too.

 

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Hearty Chicken Enchiladas

Week 42

If you read last week’s post about my chicken enchilada turned Philly Cheese Steak debacle, you may have guessed what this week’s recipe was going to be. Yep, Chicken Enchiladas.  Since I had the chicken all thawed out for this recipe, the only thing to do was to find the right day to make them before the chicken started to go bad.  I figured Sunday was just the day.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m no Julia Child nor am I a Martha Stewart prodigy.  In doing this project this past year, a few things about my personality have been confirmed, or at least become quite apparent to ME.  I tend to just jump in without having all the facts, figuring everything will work out somehow.  I skim over things to get the big picture instead of pour over them for all the details.  I find preparation to be of minimal importance.  These facts, I’ve found, makes me somewhat of a spaz in the kitchen (as well, each of these characteristics makes my very detailed and prepared husband throw his hands up in despair).  And you my friends, continue to read this blog faithfully!  Hmmm, I just realized that may be because I have no problem laying out my haphazard-ness for all to see and you like to tune into my latest misshap of the week…

In any event, this week was one of those spaz weeks.  Our recipe this week comes to us from Taste of Home.  Read on to find out what happened with Hearty Chicken Enchiladas

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) enchilada sauce
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 flour tortillas (6 inches)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Sour cream, optional
  1. In a 3-qt. slow cooker, combine the chicken, enchilada sauce and chilies. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 170°.
  2. Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Reserve 1-2/3 cups cooking juices. Pour the remaining cooking juices into a large bowl; add the beans and shredded chicken. Coat two freezer-safe 8-in. square baking dishes with cooking spray; add 1/2 cup reserved juices to each.
  3. Place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in prepared dishes. Pour remaining reserved juices over top; sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Cover and freeze one dish for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the second dish at 350° for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is lightly browned. Serve with sour cream if desired.
  5. To use frozen enchiladas: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed. Yield: 4 servings.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

OK, I might as well just go down each numbered direction because I think I may have screwed each one up…

  1. Number 1 started off great.  I got the chicken, enchilada sauce and chilies in the slow cooker by 8:30am.  Turned the sucker on and went about my day.  I should note here that these Enchiladas were going to be for Monday’s dinner and we were out for part of the afternoon/evening which is why I forgot about them until about 9pm!!  As I was laying on the couch, getting ready to head to bed, all of the sudden I realized I had totally forgotten about my chicken enchiladas in the crockpot!!  Sheesh!  I bolt off the couch, my heart beating wildly because I didn’t want burned chicken.  No fear… the chicken was wonderfully tender and fell right apart.   PS- I used green enchilada sauce and it was DELICIOUS!!
  2. Reserve juices and pour remaining in a large bowl:  because it was 9pm I think I may have been a bit delusional because I poured ALL the remaining juices into the chicken bowl!  I stood there looking at what resembled chicken soup and wondered how that could be right.“Geez, these are some runny enchiladas…” I stirred things up a bit hoping… I don’t know… that it would thicken??  It took a minute to realize I had messed up.  I think it actually worked out OK though.  I ended up straining the enchilada sauce out of the chicken with my mesh strainer.  However, this mishap made the chicken extra tasty.  I may do this again next time just to get some extra flavor into the chicken!
  3. Number 3:  After mishap one and two, I read direction number 3, 4, and 5 very carefully and am glad to report all went well.  I think it was smooth sailing after that.

Recipe High Points

  1. While it may not seem like it from my experience, this was a super easy recipe that even the most novice cook would be able to handle.
  2. It was super delicious!  Sooo GOOD!!!

Recipe Low Points

  1. Other than my inability to read directions carefully, there were no low points.

I heated these enchiladas as directed for dinner Monday night and they were wonderful.  Jeff really liked them a lot, I really liked them a lot and Ava liked them too.  These will definitely be a repeat sometime in the future!

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Philly Cheese Steak

Week 41

This week I had a near disaster at dinner time.  I had my week’s meals all planned out and Thursday night had I had decided would be chicken enchilada night.  That was going to be my new recipe of the week and I was pretty excited about it.  Around noon I took my chicken out of the freezer to thaw out and didn’t come back to it until about 5:00.  That is when panic struck.  As I read through my recipe, I quickly realized I had a MAJOR problem on my hands.  The enchilada recipe was a crock pot recipe and my chicken was supposed to have been cooking for the last 8 hours.  Aaauuuuggghhh!  How the heck did I miss that somewhat significant detail?!?!?

A wave of panic swept over me.  Now what?!?!  Since it was the end of October, I had already spent all of my grocery money (except for $2… I had two lonely dollar bills left in my wallet.  That will hardly buy you a pack of gum these days…)  I couldn’t just run to the store for something else.  I had to come up with a new plan… stat!  I ran through all my options in my head.  The only one that seemed even remotely viable was a Philly Cheese Steak.  I still had some unused beef left over from the fajitas that I made for Week 39 in the freezer and had planned to try a Philly with that.  Plus I luckily had some hoagie rolls frozen as well.  It could just work… hopefully.  I still had to find the right recipe.  I raced to Google and after only about 5 minutes, found the following recipe.  It was PERFECT because it calls for the meat to be frozen (which is exactly what I had).  A quick trip to the grocery to pick up $1.45 worth of mushrooms and I was on my way.

The website I found for this week gives a neat little history on the Philly Cheese Steak.  If you’re a food history buff, this is right up your alley.  The site is called whatscookingamerica.net which I thought was fun.  You can see the original recipe as well as the history info by clicking HERE.  Hope you enjoy this week’s Philly Cheese Steak!

  • 2 medium onions, sliced as thin as possible and rings separated
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 12 oz chipped steak (thin sliced eye of round, rib eye, or sirloin tip roast)**
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • Cheese Whiz or Provolone cheese slices
  • 4 Italian, French or hoagie rolls
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dill pickle spears

** Freeze steak before slicing.  Slice it paper thin.

  1. In a large frying pan over high heat, add oil and heat so that a drop of water will sizzle when you drop it in the oil; lower heat to medium.  Add onions and mushrooms, stir and cook until mushrooms darken and onions start to look transparent.
  2. Add steak slices and cook for 3 minutes or until meat lightly browns.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heap cooked meat mixture in a long pile across pan.  Lay cheese slices over meat until melted.  If using Cheese Whiz, melt in a double broiler or in the microwave.
  4. Slice bread lengthwise.  Using a spatula, scoop meat mixture and cheese and lay on bread with cheese on top.  If using Cheese Whiz, ladle it on top.  Serve with a dill pickle.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

I have lots of tips this week so bare with me! 

  1. First off, regarding the meat.  Since I only had flank steak that’s what I used.  And it was tasty.  I’m sure there is some difference between steak cuts but I’m not aware of what they are.  You’d probably need a boy to tell you about that.
  2. Since I conveniently had frozen meat fresh from the freezer I started right off trying to slice it.  I didn’t get very far.  It was too frozen.  Perhaps if I had an electric knife I would have had better luck, but I just had good old fashioned elbow grease and a sharp knife.  So I decided to defrost the meat in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes.  This worked beautifully.  The meat was still frozen but not rock hard.  I was able to get some pretty thin slices which I later realized was VERY important.  You have to have super thin slices (paper thin as the recipe says) or your meat will be chewy.
  3. The meat package I had was 18 oz.  I got 4 really good sized sandwiches out of this.  The original recipe says you’ll only get two if you follow the directions as is.  I would use at least 1lb.
  4. After cooking everything and adding the meat, I tasted it to see if it needed more seasoning.  I decided to add one cube of beef bullion to the mixture for a little more flavor.  That was just the ticket!  Yummm!!
  5. I read this trick on another recipe that I had looked at before finding this one.  I pre-heated the oven to 350.  Instead of adding the cheese (I used Provolone) to the meat mixture in the pan, I loaded up the hoagies and placed the cheese on top.  I wrapped the sandwiches in tin foil and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.  This was such a fantastic idea!  The cheese melted so wonderfully and I had two neat little sandwiches all ready for the refrigerator.
  6. Don’t scrimp on your mushrooms and onions.  When I was chopping everything up it looked like a lot, but everything cooks down quite a bit.  I probably added more than the recipe called for.

Recipe High Points

  1. This was a super easy recipe!  Considering the chaos at the begin, it didn’t take very long to pull this all together at all!
  2. The sandwiches were delicious!  So good.  Jeff thought they were restaurant quality.  That’s what I’m going for people.

Recipe Low Points

  1. This meal can be a little heavy.  Good, but heavy
  2. I don’t usually have steak sitting around in the freezer.

We loved these Philly Cheese Steaks.  And since the seasoning is just salt and pepper (and a beef bullion cube), they are a simple easy meal to pull together.  We’ll be having this again!

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