Celebrating the Red, White and Blue with Blueberry Pie

We recently took our nearly two year old grand daughter and drove to the nearby U-Pick Blueberries Farm at Rainbow Orchards for some delicious mountain grown fruit.  The early July morning was still cool and the farm was clean and well organized with rows of Chandler blueberries growing on one side  and rows of Duke blueberries lining the other half of the farm. What a treat we were in for! Ker-plink, Ker-plank, Ker-plunk, a sample here and there, and before we knew it our buckets were full of the most flavorful blueberries to share, snack on, and bake with.

Once back home we baked blueberry banana bread right away and then a couple days later, I made Ina Garten’s Fresh Blueberry Pie recipe for the fourth of July. I’m positive you’ll love the recipe as much as we did.

Fresh Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried

1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tablespoon cassis liqueur (I substituted vanilla extract)

2 Perfect Pie crusts, recipe follows (best pie crust recipe ever!)

1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash)

Perfect Pie Crust:

12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter

3 cups all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening such as Crisco

1/2 cup ice water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Mix the blueberries, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cassis in a large bowl. Carefully ease one pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate, making sure not to stretch the dough at all, or it will shrink as the pie bakes. With a sharp knife, cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Spoon the blueberry mixture into the pie shell, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula to be sure you have all the juices.

Brush the edge of the crust with the egg wash. Carefully lay the second crust on top, again easing it on to the pie. I chose to do a lattice top on mine. Cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Press the two edges together with a fork. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, cut three slits for steam to escape, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, until the filling is very bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Perfect Pie Crust:

Cut the butter in 1/2 inch dice and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 – 12 times until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out onto a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well floured board into a circle at least one inch larger than the pie pan, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the board so it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, ease it into the pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Cut the dough one inch larger than the pan. Fold the edge over and crimp the edging.

So delicious! 

Soups On!

January is moving along quickly, and even though it has been a mild winter for us so far, I have not done much in the way of winter chores outdoors. There’s cutting back the ornamental grasses left to do, as well as pruning trees and roses, but I still have lots of time for that. My focus for this month is spending lots of time indoors working on some projects that I had put on the “back burner” some time ago. It feels so good to finally be pursuing these interests again.

One of my favorite meals in winter is soup and stews – –  so easy to make, healthy, and as comforting as a homemade quilt. I love that while I’m busy working (playing) on my projects, the house is filled with the savory aromas of dinner.

Today, I’m sharing three delicious, wintry soups that I’ve recently made. Hope there is one that appeals to you and your family. Enjoy!

Southwest Beef Chili with Corn

From Real Simple magazine

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 poblano or bell pepper, chopped

1/2 lb. ground beef

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 cans (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tablespoon chili powder

kosher salt and pepper

1/2 cup corn kernals

1/2 cup grated cheddar

2 scallions, sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high-heat. Add the carrots, onion, and poblano and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is no longer pink.

2. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until it is slightly darkened, 1 minute. Add the beans, chili powder, 3 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the corn. Divide among bowls and top with cheddar and scallions. 

Cioppino

From Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes

Ingredients:

1 lb. cod, halibut, or any firm fleshed white fish, cubed

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (14 ounces) beef broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

7 ounces cooked clams

1/2 pound cooked shrimp

6 ounces cooked crab meat

minced parsley

Directions:

  1. Combine fish pieces, mushrooms, carrots, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, broth, salt, black pepper and oregano in slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 10 -12 hours.
  2. Turn slow cooker to high. Add clams, shrimp, and crabmeat. Cover; cook 15 – 30 minutes or until seafood is heated through. NOTE: This type of seafood is delicate and overcooks easily, becoming tough and rubbery, so cook only long enough for foods to be done. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.Mexican Chicken and Dumplings

From Sunset magazine (I copied this recipe out of the magazine quite a few years ago and was not able to find this particular recipe in their online database).

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 green bell pepper, rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can (15 ounces) chicken broth

1 can (14 ounces) Mexican style stewed tomatoes

1 can (10 ounces) red enchilada sauce

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno chilies

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Pour oil into a 5 – 6 qt pan (I used an electric skillet) over medium-high heat; when hot, add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and stir often, 5 – 7 minutes.

2. Add broth, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and jalapeños.  In a small bowl, whisk butter into milk; stir into flour mixture until well blended. Drop batter in tablespoon portions into simmering chicken mixture; cover and simmer gently until dumplings are cooked all the way through (cut to test), 10 – 12 minutes. At this time I also added about a cup of frozen corn to the pan (not in original recipe).

4. Ladle chicken, dumplings, and sauce into bowls and serve immediately.

Strawberry Shortcake

I came across this recipe in a newspaper over ten years ago and it quickly became a family favorite. I made it yesterday for Father’s Day for the first time this year and want to share it with you. With all of the fresh, sweet strawberries available at farmer’s markets, now is the time to try it. You’ll be in for a treat!

Grandma’s Shortbread

Ingredients:

2 cups flour, sifted

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup whole milk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk. Stir briefly with a fork, just until the dough holds together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead it eight times. Do not knead it more than that.

Gently press or roll the dough into flat piece about a half inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles (or whatever shape you choose) and place them about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned.

The strawberry shortcakes should be assembled while the biscuits are still warm. If the biscuits are made ahead, wrap them in foil and warm them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes before serving.

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients:

6 cups strawberries, washed and stemmed

1/2 cup sugar

1 pint whipping cream, very cold

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Baked, warm shortbread (recipe above)

Instructions:

If the strawberries are large, cut them in half or quarters. Place the berries in a large bowl and sprinkle them with sugar (optional). Allow the bowl to stand at room temperature while you prepare the whipping cream.

Chill the beaters and bowl of your mixer. Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl and beat it on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the cream is thick.

To assemble, top each warm shortbread with a generous scoop of strawberries and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

For the record, I turned on our oven during our current heat spell to make these. It was well worth it!

Italian Lemon Poundcake

Record rain. Heavily damaged roads and main highways. Flooding. Broken levees. It’s certainly been a wild winter here in Northern California after years of drought, to say the least.

In between rain storms I’m out in the yard as much as I can to begin to work on a few projects. Blooming right now and brightening these long February days during this very rainy winter are the Hellebores, Daphne, Primroses, and Daffodils. A love note from heaven was waiting for me to find it as I was doing yard work recently. Imagine the smile it put on my face!Outside, rain pounds on the roof, winds howl, and the creek swells. Inside, lemon pound cake bakes in the oven, filling the house with its sweet aroma.

Italian Lemon Poundcake

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

4 Tablespoons lemon juice

zest of two lemons

1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degreesSift flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest.Mix half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix in the buttermilk and then add in the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the flour disappears. Pour the cake batter in a bundt pan that has been generously sprayed with baking spray.Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Turn the cake over on a cake platter.

Spread half of the lemon glaze over the warm cake so that the glaze can soak into the cake. Let the cake cool completely and drizzle the remaining glaze over the cake.

Lemon Glaze

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons lemon juice at room temperature

Cream the butter and slowly add powdered sugar and lemon juice. Beat well until the glaze is a creamy smooth consistency.Delicious!

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

It’s cold; it’s raining again, and the grey days have got me seeking comfort foods lately. I love a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on a wintry morning and recently found this new-to-me twist on oatmeal online that shouted warm, cozy, and delicious and had the house smelling absolutely scrumptious! The recipe features nuts, oats, fruit and spices, is easily adaptable, and did not disappoint.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon regular table salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups milk of choice (almond milk, coconut milk, or cow’s milk all work)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter, or coconut oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ounces or 1 pint fresh fruit, divided (I used mixed berries)
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar (optional)
  • Optional toppings for serving: yogurt, honey, whipped cream, fresh fruit or maple syrupInstructions:
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 inch square baking dish. Once the oven has finished preheating, pour the nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 4 to 5 minutes, until fragrant.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, toasted nuts, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine.
  • In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup or honey, egg, half of the butter or coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk until blended.
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup of the berries for topping the baked oatmeal, then arrange the remaining berries evenly over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the fruit with the dry oat mixture, then drizzle the wet ingredients over the oats. Wiggle the baking dish to make sure the milk moves down through the oats, then gently pat down any dry oats resting on top.
  • Scatter the remaining berries across the top. Sprinkle the raw sugar on top  if you’d like some extra sweetness and crunch.
  • Bake for 42 to 47 minutes, until the top is nice and golden. Remove your baked oatmeal from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on top before serving.This makes such a warm and wholesome breakfast or snack anytime. Hope you enjoy it too.

Tamale Pot Pies

It’s wet out there! And the forecast includes more wild, windy and wet weather each day all week. I’m quite happy to have the time indoors to work on some projects that have been neglected for the last month or two, though, and make some comfort food recipes as well.

This afternoon I made Tamale Potpies. I didn’t have all of the ingredients called for in this recipe from Cooking Light, and so I’ve made due with what I have in my kitchen. There’s no way I’m heading to the grocery store this afternoon!

Tamale Pot Pies

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

12 oz. ground chicken (I used ground pork)

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup chopped zucchini (this was an ingredient I didn’t have)

3/4 cup corn

1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained

1 (8 ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce

cooking spray

1/2 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups water, divided

3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 3/4 cup)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; saute 3 minutes. Add pork (or chicken); cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook one minute.
  3. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Divide meat mixture evenly among 4 (10 ounce) ramekins (or in my case, 8, 5 ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a jelly roll pan.
  5. Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 oz of cheese.
  6. Divide cornmeal mixture evenly among ramekins. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until light golden brown.Along with a green salad and black beans, this is dinner. Just perfect for a cold, rainy evening at home.

Apple Pocket Pies

One of my favorite gems in Autumn’s jewel box is Apple Hill. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump for me to take a meandering drive in the picturesque foothills. Scenic views of rolling hills, apple farms, vineyards and wineries dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.

The apple farms offer a great variety of apples, pumpkins, and produce, but also craft fairs, corn mazes, hay rides, farm animals to pet, and train rides.

I do try to be good, but for those of you with a mad sweet tooth like me, the fritters, apple donuts, cider, pies, and cakes are out of this world! I didn’t indulge (this time) but bought my apples and headed home, eager to try a new recipe.img_1642img_1640img_1657img_1653img_1650img_1646img_1645

Apple Pocket Pies

Ingredients:

Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into half inch dice

6 – 8 Tablespoons ice water

Filling:

1 1/2 lbs. Pink Lady or McIntosh apples, peeled and cored, and cut into half inch dice

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

pocket pie mold (such as this one)

Directions:

Beat together the flour, salt, and 2 Tablespoons sugar on low speed until combined (about 10 seconds). img_1594Add the butter and beat for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium low and beat until mixture resembles course meal, about one and a half minutes more. Add the 6 Tablespoons ice water, reduce speed to low and beat 20 seconds. Dough should hold together but not be sticky. If crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating for 5 seconds after each addition.img_1595Turn dough out onto a work surface. Divide dough in half. Wrap with plastic wrap and shape each into a disc. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.img_1596In large bowl stir apples, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cornstarch together. img_1604In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple mixture. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not mushy, 16 – 18 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and let cool 30 minutes.img_1605Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. On a floured surface roll out one dough disc into a round, 3/16 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Using a pocket pie mold, cut out 8 of each shape. Re-roll if necessary and continue.

Place a solid dough shape into the bottom of the mold cutter and gently place the dough in the mold. Fill the center with 2 T apple filling and brush the edges of the dough with egg wash.img_1606Top with a shape with a decorative cut out. Press the top half of the cutter down to seal and crimp the edges of the pie.img_1608Remove the pie from the mold and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Freeze pies for 30 minutes.img_1610Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush tops of pies with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on tops. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is gently bubbling, 22 – 24 minutes. Transfer pies to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
img_1611img_1613For the record, my husband has let me know (more than a few times) how perfect these little hand held pies are. I get the hint; I’m happy to make more!

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

The blueberries were ripe and ready for picking at Once in a Blue Moon Blueberry Farm in El Dorado Hills, so off we went with these two loves to gather our loot for making blueberry muffins. IMG_9763

IMG_9815IMG_9816IMG_9759Ahhh, two buckets full; time to pay for them and make our way home for some baking.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

These delicious muffins have a sugary-cinnamon crumb topping, which I’m a total sucker for!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a one cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
  3. To make crumb topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in preheated oven, or until done.

IMG_9766IMG_9767IMG_9768Now before we go any further, I must admit that there was the sweetest request to add sprinkles to the muffins. Sprinkles in blueberry muffins? Well, why not, indeed!IMG_9770IMG_9771IMG_9790Now we’re ready for our snack and a favorite book. Yum!IMG_9807

Easter Nests

IMG_7849Daffodils, tulips, the sound of birdsong, trees leafing out, nests…I am so enjoying the season!

On Thursday we had an early Easter celebration with part of our family who won’t be able to join us on Sunday. It was a delightful day with egg hunts, playing in the yard, the discovery of new toys from the Easter bunny, lunch, and nest making.

These tasty treats are from the recipe called No-Bake Nests in Sharon Lovejoy’s book called Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars.

Ingredients:

34 large marshmallows

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups cornflakes

1/4 cup toasted coconut

candy eggs

IMG_8282Directions:

In large saucepan, stir the marshmallows and the butter together over medium heat.

Add the vanilla to the melted marshmallow mixture and stir. Remove from heat.IMG_8283Fold in the cornflakes and the lightly toasted cornflakes and mix.IMG_8284Drop a spoonful of the mixture into the cup of a greased muffin pan. Form nests. It helps to spray hands with cooking spray for this.IMG_8288Remove once they’re formed and place on a baking sheet. Nestle small candy eggs inside each one. Cover with plastic wrap and let harden on the countertop. Nests can be stored in a single layer in a tightly covered container.IMG_8342Aren’t they adorable? And fair warning, they’re a bit addicting too.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and blessed Easter.

Citrus and Spinach Salad

Do you ever come across recipes you’ve written down on a piece of paper and can’t recall where it came from? I wish I could remember where I got this recipe to give credit where credit is due, but I don’t have that information. I didn’t even write the name of the salad down. I may have been watching a cooking show. I spent some time online looking to see if I could find it there and had no luck, but found so many other citrus and spinach salads that looked great. Anyway, this is a tasty one and I’d like to share it with you now, while citrus is in abundance.

Salad Ingredients:

5 oz fresh spinach

3/4 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup orange segments

1 large granny smith apple, cut up

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/3 cup pecans

feta, to sprinkle over the top

grilled chicken (optional)

IMG_8173

Combine all of the ingredients and toss. Sprinkle feta over the top.

Dressing Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (I didn’t have this on hand and used champagne wine vinegar)

2 – 4 teaspoons sugar (or honey)

1/8 teaspoons each paprika, onion powder

1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

IMG_8174

Combine all dressing ingredients. Drizzle over salad.

IMG_8175Dinner is served!