Saturday, November 24, 2012

Maple Walnut Pie

This is one recipe it just doesn't make sense to bother with unless you use the best ingredients.  First, only the freshest nuts, this season's, preferably gathered from a neighbor's tree.  Second, you want real maple syrup, the dark full-flavored Grade B type.  Third, real apple cider vinegar is a lot milder and mellower than the acidulated corn syrup with added artificial flavors that is marketed these days as cider vinegar.  Fourth, beyond that this recipe is easy . . . as pie.  In seven simple steps.

Prepare half a batch of Best Pie Crust.  Roll out and fit pie crust into pie pan.  Preheat oven to 375.

Beat together thoroughly

3 eggs 
1 cup sugar 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/3 cup melted butter 
1 cup real Grade B maple syrup 
1 Tbs real apple cider vinegar 
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Stir in
3 cups very fresh walnut pieces, reserving a few unbroken             halves to decorate the top
1 tsp real vanilla extract
Pour filling into pie shell.  Bake pie 50 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Delicious warm with good vanilla ice cream.  Delicious cooled with a dab of cream.  Not half bad all by itself the day after.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Crescent Rolls

I've tried this old family recipe with fresh milk and it just doesn't taste as good. I have no idea why. But I do not argue with results. So the dried milk stays. Every other improving tweak toward whole, fresh and local has been an improvement to my palate: honey for sugar, olive oil for melted shortening. I usually make half a batch of whole wheat and half a batch of white. Our family prefers the white but I almost like the wheat ones better, especially after the big Thanksgiving feast with a little blue cheese spread beneath a moist bit of turkey and dollop of Cranberry Orange relish.

2/3 cup dried milk
2 cups lukewarm water
½ cup honey
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
in the just barely warm milk.  When yeast becomes active, add
2 eggs, well-beaten
and enough
to make a medium batter. Beat and let sit until bubbles begin to form.  Beat in
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
and the rest of
7 cups whole wheat flour (or white) 
and knead until smooth and elastic. The secret of this dough is the use only enough flour to be able to handle it, almost sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until double in bulk, then punch down well. Let rise again.

When it has again doubled in bulk and is light and airy, divide into easily handled balls. Let rest 15 minutes.

Now the fun part!  Forming the rolls. There is no wrong way and no wrong shape, but it just seems unAmerican in this house to make anything but crescents.  Here's how:

  • roll small balls out on oiled countertop with a rolling pin
  • cut into twelfths with a pizza cutter or sharp knife
  • starting from the fat end of resulting triangles, begin rolling in toward the point
  • make sure the thin point is securely underneath the resulting roll
  • curve ends of the roll in to make a crescent

Let the rolls rise on greased pans until light.

Bake at 375° 12-18 minutes.  Brush the tops of the rolls lightly with olive oil while still hot.

Friday, November 16, 2012

French Country Beans

 Lemon, thyme, and sage.
Need I say more?

2 cups dried small white navy beans, picked over, washed, and soaked overnight
8 cups water

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

4 sprigs fresh thyme 
6 fresh sage leaves 
3 strips lemon zest

2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook beans in water—cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer until the beans begin to be tender—about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the carrot, onion, celery, parsley, and garlic, and sauté until limp, about 4 minutes.  Add to the soup pot.
  5. Add thyme, sage, lemon zest.  Begin checking after 1 hour.  Skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
  6. Remove the herbs and lemon zest.
  7. Add the tomatoes. 
  8. Season generously with salt and pepper.

6-8 servings

based on a recipe from 366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains by Andrea Chesman (ISBN 0-452-27654-3)

To adapt to crockpot:  Cook beans 1- 2 hours on high alone.  Add sautéed carrot, onion, celery, parsley and garlic and add to crockpot.  Cook on high 4-6 hours (on low 6-8).  The last hour add the other ingredients (excluding tomatoes and salt and pepper which you’ll add right before serving). 

Spinach Salad

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup sugar (scant)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon grated onion (or minced chives)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon mustard

1 lb spinach greens
6 slices bacon, cooked and broken into bits 
6 boiled eggs, sliced (save one or two for the garnish on top)
sliced red onion
sliced mushrooms (optional)

  1. Shake up the dressing in a container until well mixed and syrupy.
  2. Toss all of the salad ingredients - saving some onion and egg slices for garnish.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad ½ hour before serving – too soon and it becomes too wilted.
Eat it all, it does not save well!

Christmas Pomegranate Tossed Green Salad

2 cloves garlic (rub inside of salad bowl)
1 lb fresh spinach leaves
1½ lb. mixed mesclun salad
1 C. basil, torn
½ C. dill, torn
1 bunch parsley, torn
1 bunch cilantro, torn
2+ C. blue cheese vinaigrette

2 cans (16 oz) kidney beans, drained
1 can (16 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
3-4 ripe avocados, chopped
1 bunch radishes, very thinly sliced

3 pomegranates, peeled and broken into seeds
½ C. GrapeNuts cereal

Mix all greens/ herbs with dressing.  Toss in avocados, beans, and radishes.  Sprinkle with pomegranate. Serve with GrapeNuts to sprinkle over top.

Jello Wassail Salad

A recipe from Grace Alleman, one of the old ladies
in my first grown-up neighborhood.
She called it Spice Island Jello 
and served it with a sour cream topping.
I am unashamedly fond of it.

1 (15½ -oz) chunked/ crushed pineapple, unsweetened
3 Tablespoons real apple cider vinegar
12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 packages (3-oz) orange jello
(1 can ginger ale, optional)
1 can (11-oz) mandarin oranges, drained

  1. Drain pineapple, reserve pineapple juice.
  2. Add to pineapple juice enough water (or ginger ale*) to make liquid equal 3¼ cups. *(If using ginger ale, add after boiling, not before.)
  3. Combine measured juice, vinegar, and spices in saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Strain and discard spices.
  4. Dissolve gelatin in hot liquid.
  5. Chill until thickened.  Stir in pineapple.
  Arrange oranges in bottom of a 5-cup mold.  Pour jello into mold.Chill until firm about 4 hours.

Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette

I love the bottled blue cheese vinaigrette
from the refrigerator case at the grocery.
I think I got it figured out here.

½ C grapeseed oil or extra-light olive oil or other good quality mild-tasting oil
½ C. real apple cider vinegar
1T honey
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1½ tsp each basil, thyme, marjoram, chervil
1-2 crushed garlic cloves
1T grated onion
¼ - ½ C. crumbled blue cheese

 Combine all but cheese and blend until smooth.  Stir in cheese.  Refrigerate 24 hours before using.

Orange-Almond Shortbread

from Martha Stewart's Christmas Cookies
To die for.


1 ½ cups almonds (about 6 oz), toasted, skins rubbed off, chopped
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Tablespoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sanding sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 325° with racks in upper and lower thirds.
  2. Combine chopped almonds, flour, sugar, butter, orange zest, and salt.  Mix with hands until dough just comes together and forms a ball.
  3. Halve dough.  Press each into 7-9 inch cake pan lined with parchment and score to mark 12 equal wedges (but don’t cut through).  Sprinkle each with 1 Tablespoon sanding sugar.
  4. Bake, rotating halfway through until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
  5. While shortbread is warm, cut wedges to separate completely.  Let wedges cool slightly in pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.  Can be frozen.

**Or substitute hazelnuts for almonds

Raspberry-White Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

My sister and I made these ONCE.
I keep intending to make them again
(because delicious and lovely to look at)
however they are time-consuming.
If my sister would come over and help me though
I'd make these in an instant!
for the cookies:
1 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse salt
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved

for the filling:
1 ⅓ cups fresh raspberries ( ½ pint)
2 teaspoons sugar
7 ½ best-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup heavy cream

  1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 300°.
    1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 
    2. Cream together butter and sugar. 
    3. Add egg, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds; (reserve bean for another use). 
    4. Mix until smooth.  Then gradually mix in flour mixture.
    5. With ½ -inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing 1+ inch apart.
    6. Bake rotating sheets halfway through, until golden and just set 8-10 minutes. 
    7. Let cool on parchment on wire racks.
  2. Make filling: Purée berries and sugar. 
    1. Pour mixture through fine sieve, pressing to extract juice; discard seeds. Set aside.
    2. Melt white chocolate in heatproof bowl set over pan of simmering water. 
    3. Remove from heat; whisk in cream in a slow, steady stream. 
    4. Add reserved raspberry mixture; slowly whisk until pale, about 3 minutes.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Assemble cookies:  Spread 1+ teaspoon filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie; sandwich with another. 
  4. Cookies can be refrigerated between layers of parchment in airtight containers up to 2 days.  Can be frozen.

Melt-in-your-Mouth Rocky Ledge Bars

 from Martha Stewart's Christmas Cookies
Very rich. Very popular. 
Not good for your self-image if you're around them for too long.
Kind of like that queen bee from junior high . . .

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cup sifted flour
⅛ teaspoon salt

1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup butterscotch chips
18 soft caramel-candy cubes, coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and vanilla and beat in well.
  3. Sift together flour and salt.  Add in 3 parts to butter mixture, blending them well.
  4. Fold in half of marshmallows, chocolate and caramels.
  5. Bake about 15 minutes.
  6. Scatter remaining marshmallows, chocolate and caramels on top.  Bake about 15 minutes longer.
  7. Cool, then refrigerate until set. Cut into triangles.

Cocoa Crackles

Another recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Christmas Cookies.
My husband swears these are the cookies of his childhood.
We are required to make them at Christmastime - often they
appear wrapped in a tin under the tree
as a special gift for Dad.


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 300°. 
  2. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring.  Set aside, and let cool. 
  3. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Mix in eggs and vanilla, and then melted chocolate.
  5. Mix in flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with milk.
  6. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.  Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
  7. Divide each piece into 32 ( ½ inch) balls.  Roll in granulate sugar to coat, then in powdered sugar to coat.  Space 1+ inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment.
  8. Bake until surfaces crack, about 10-13 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  9. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers up to 3 days.  Can be frozen.

Savory Rosemary Butter Cookies

Martha Stewart made these first.
I'm not sure she made them better.
Not a sweet cookie but savory.
Perfect for New Year's Eve.

Rosemary for remembrance. 

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted flour
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
¾ teaspoon salt
1 egg white, beaten
½ cup fine sanding sugar

  1. Cream together butter and sugar
  2. Mix in egg and vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, rosemary, and salt.
  4. Halve dough and shape each into a log.  Wrap with plastic and slip inside paper towel tubes to hold shape.  Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°.
  6. Brush each log with egg white.  Roll in sanding sugar.
  7. Cut into ¼ -inch-thick rounds.  Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment.
  8. Bake until edges are golden, 15-18 minutes.
  9. Let cool on wire rack.
  10. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.  Can be frozen.

Carlie's Incomparable Crisp

This is my friend Carlie's recipe and a standard at our house
when a quick dessert is desired.
Also good made with home-canned peaches. 

⅔ cup butter
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
  cup brown sugar

6-8 large tart apples (or 6-8 fresh peaches)

  1. Mix all ingredients but apples with fork or fingertips.
  2. Peel and slice apples and put in 9”x13” pan. 
  3. Sprinkle topping over apples.
Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

This is my grandmother's pumpkin bread and growing up, Christmas Eve wasn't Christmas Eve without a slice of this wonderfully moist and dense cake alongside a hot cup of spiced cider. I've never added frosting because this cake is so good, so rich, so moist all on its own.  But a smear of cream cheese on a toasted slice is nothing to sneer at. 

Cream together
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar 
until fluffy. Mix in thoroughly 
1 egg, beaten 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 cup hot mashed pumpkin 
then add to creamed mixture. Sift together 
2 cup sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
Gradually stir flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, adding 
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts (unchopped if you choose) 
with the last cupful. Pour into a well-greased loaf pan. 

 (Note: a #2½ can of pumpkin (29 oz), plus a little water, will make 4 cups, enough for 4 cakes) 

Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Raspberry Poke Cake

Someday I'm going to re-invent this one with homemade cake, but in the meantime . . . 

1 package white cake mix
1 package (3-oz) raspberry jello
1 cup boiling water
½ cup cold water
whipped cream

  1. Prepare cake mix as directed on package, baking in well-greased and floured 9”x13” pan at 350° for 30 –35 min. 
  2. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then poke with fork at ½ inch intervals. 
  3. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.  Add cold water and spoon over cake in pan. 
Chill 3 to 4 hours.  Top with whipped cream.

All-Stars Peach Pie

I make this pie once a year to celebrate
the peak of the peach harvest.
It is superlative.

1 cup chilled flour
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup chilled leaf lard or shortening
1 Tablespoon chilled butter
2 Tablespoons ice water (½ teaspoon – ½ Tablespoon more if needed)

1 egg (or 2 egg yolks)
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup melted butter
several fresh peaches, halved and peeled

prepare crust:
  1. Sift together flour and salt.
  2. Combine lard and butter.  Cut ½ of lard mixture into the flour mixture with pastry blender until it has grain of cornmeal
  3. Cut remaining half coarsely into the dough until it is pea size.
  4. Sprinkle dough lightly with ice water, pushing wetted dough away to one side of bowl as you sprinkle. 
  5. When you can gather dough into a ball, stop handling it.
  6. Refrigerate until 1 hour before use: allow it to come to room temperature.  Pinch off just enough dough for one pie shell and press it into approximate shape needed.  Roll as lightly and as little as possible.
prepare filling:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line pie pan with dough.
  2. Beat together egg, flour, sugar and butter.
  3. Place peach halves cut-side up in pie shell. Fill in with smaller pieces of peach.
  4. Pour egg mixture over the top.
  5. For top crust, cut stars from leftover pie dough with cookie-cutters and scatter over top of pie, overlapping as desired.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300° and bake about 50 minutes more.

Apple Pie (with three variations)

The first pie I ever made was apple pie with streusel topping.
I still like it.
And I had always thought I hated apple pie.
The secret is: good apples. Fresh. Tart. Mix and match.

2 cups chilled flour
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ cup chilled leaf lard or shortening
2 Tablespoons chilled butter
¼ cup ice water (+1 teaspoon – 1 Tablespoon more if needed)

3 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (optional)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon salt 
⅔ cup sugar
6+ cups tart apples, peeled, cored, wedged
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 ½ Tablespoon butter

  1. prepare crust: Sift together flour and salt.
  2. Combine lard and butter.  Cut ½ of lard mixture into the flour mixture with pastry blender until it has grain of cornmeal.  Cut remaining half coarsely into the dough until it is pea size.
  3. Sprinkle dough lightly with ice water, pushing wetted dough away to one side of bowl as you sprinkle.  When you can gather dough into a ball, stop handling it.
  4. Refrigerate until 1 hour before use: allow it to come to room temperature.  Pinch off just enough dough for one pie shell and press it into approximate shape needed.  Roll as lightly and as little as possible.
  5. prepare filling:  Preheat oven to 425°F.
  6. Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt, and sugar.
  7. Gently toss with apples and lemon juice until well-coated.
  8. Place in layers in pie shell.  Dot with butter.
  9. Bake pie 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more.
  10. Cool pie to warm or room temperature on a rack, 2 to 4 hours

1st.    Autumn Apple:
Make ½ crust recipe.  For top crust, cut leaves and acorns from left-over dough with cookie cutters.  Scatter over top of pie, overlapping as desired.  (If desired, paint with beaten egg tinted with food-coloring in autumn colors.)

2nd.    Streusel:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 Tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
6 Tablespoons flour (or rolled oats)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup chopped walnuts

3rd.   Cheesy Apple:
Substitute 1 teaspoon of fennel or anise seed for other flavorings.  After baking, sprinkle 1 cup shredded sharp cheese and place briefly under a broiler to melt.

Yummy Jello Salad

My Grandma Hannah made this every Thanksgiving.  
In memory of her (and because it is YUM)  I make this too.


2 package (3-oz) lemon jello (or a 6-oz)
2 cups hot water
1½ cups cold water (or 7-Up)
1 cup drained pineapple (save juice)
3 bananas, cubed
mini-marshmallows, to cover top

1.       Mix jello and water according to package directions. 
2.       Thicken slightly in refrigerator, then add fruit and marshmallows.

1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup sugar
1½ Tablespoon flour
1 beaten egg
1 cup whipped cream
¼ cup grated sharp cheddar (or chopped nuts)

  1. Heat pineapple juice.  
  2. Add sugar, flour, and egg.  Cook until thick, stirring constantly. 
  3. Chill.  Fold in whipped cream. Spread over jello. 
  4. Top with grated cheese (or chopped nuts).
  5. EAT.