Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kenji's Easy Butter Pie Crust

Last week, for Pi day, my department at work held a pie party, celebrating the end of a long, time-intensive project. I've never managed a pie for Pi day, but I decided this would be the year. And I was desperately avoiding a trip to the store, so ended up looking for all butter pie crust recipes. I've wanted a good one for a while, due to flavor and also a desire to avoid partially hydrogenated oils. This recipe lived up to the "easy" in its name, both in mixing and rolling, and it was definitely flaky and butter-flavored. You can see that it was popular, too!

pie crust cookies, of course


Kenji's Easy Butter Pie Crust

Source: Serious Eats
Also, check out the step-by-step pictures here: They helped me figure out when to stop the food processor.

Yields two crusts

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 teas kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
6 T cold water

Add the sugar, salt, and 1 3/4 c flour to a food processor bowl, and pulse a couple of times to combine.

Cut the butter into 1/4-inch pats and then add to the food processor. Use a number of short pulses until the dough starts to form clumps and the flour has been incorporated entirely. The original recipe said about 25 pulses; I did at least 50 because my dough wasn't clumping yet. Redistribute the dough in the processor, then add the remaining 3/4 c flour. Pulse a few times until the dough is broken up.

Place the dough in a bowl, and sprinkle with water. Fold and press with a rubber spatula, until it all comes together in a ball. Divide the ball in two and form disks from the two pieces. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before rolling.

Grandma Betty's Rhubarb Crunch

Spring is around the corner--I have rhubarb leaves breaking through the soil.


Grandma Betty's Rhubarb Crunch 

Adapted from my mom's recipe
Yield: an 8X8 pan

1 1/4 pd rhubarb, cut into half-inch pieces (about 5 1/2-6 cups)
1 c old fashioned oatmeal
1 c flour (I like to use wheat but you can use all-purpose)
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c salted butter
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 teas cinnamon
1 T water
1/4-1/2 c chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Mix oatmeal, flour, and brown sugar in a bowl and cut in butter until crumbly. (I like to grate frozen butter into these ingredients). Pat 1/2 of the mixture into the bottom of the 8X8 pan that has been buttered. Add sliced rhubarb to pan and top it with the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and water. (If you prefer you can mix the sugar and cinnamon together before sprinkling it over the rhubarb.) Mix the chopped nuts into the remaining crumble mixture and spread over the sugared rhubarb.

Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Rotate the pan at about the halfway point and check it at about 35 minutes to ensure the crumble topping isn't scorching (if it is, top it loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil). Use a fork to test that the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Eat as is or serve with ice cream, whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or pour some unsweetened cream over the top. 

Note: The original recipe calls for 1/2 c granulated sugar. This is just too sweet for me, but if you find rhubarb overly tart, you may want to use that amount of sugar.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

One-pot Black-eyed Pea and Sausage Soup with Kale

I'm a fan of black-eyed peas and have them in the shell stage in my freezer most of the time. I've not cooked this recipe using the dried legume but I trust the source of this recipe.

Black-eyed peas are delicious with pork and with greens. This soup would be great with any green but spinach (unless you add it at the last minute) so if you don't have kale you can use chard or collard greens. Chard will take less time to cook than kale so add it later.


One-pot Black-eyed Pea and Sausage Soup with Kale

Adapted from:
Serves: 6

1 T oil, olive or vegetable
12 oz andouille sausage, cut into quarter inch slices (or another sausage if this is too hot)
6 oz salt pork or slab bacon (or regular if that's what you have) cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large leek,white and pale green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 c)
1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 c)
2 ribs celery, finely diced (about 1 c)
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 c)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional or to taste)
1/2 teas red pepper flakes (optional, depending on spiciness of sausage)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or minced in a garlic press, if you're in a hurry)
1 pd dried black-eyed peas
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
chopped parsley, as a garnish, (optional)

In a Dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in sausage and salt pork and cook until browned. Add leeks, onion, celery, green pepper, jalapeno (if using), red pepper flakes, and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Add the black-eyed peas, chicken broth, and bay leaves and a bit of salt and pepper (you can add more later--remember the sausage, salt pork, and broth are all salted). Cover the black-eyed peas with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat but keep simmering until the black-eyed peas are tender, 45-75 minutes. This will depend on the size of the peas and their age. When the peas are getting close (try one--you should have some resistance but nothing hard) add the kale and cover until it has wilted--you might have to do this in batches. Cook until the kale is tender and the black-eyed peas are done.

Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. This can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

If you use black-eyed peas in the shell stage, they will only need 35-45 minutes of cooking so you may want to add the kale a little sooner. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Oranges in Caramel Sauce


Oranges in Caramel Sauce

Serves 8 and can be easily halved

8-9 oranges, navel or cara cara oranges or a combination, blood oranges make a nice visual contrast
1 c granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 T butter

Juice 2 of the oranges to yield 3/4 c of juice. I'd advise straining orange pulp out especially if you use cara cara oranges which tend to leave a lot of pulp behind  If this reduces the amount of juice you have left, squeeze some more and add another orange for slicing.

Cut the ends off the remaining oranges and stand each orange on end and cut off the peels and pith. You may notice from the photo that I only peeled mine because the white edges of the oranges don't bother me and I wanted to preserve as much of each orange as possible. Slice the oranges thinly and lay them overlapping somewhat in a 9X13 pan or casserole dish. 

In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, 1/4 c of the orange juice and the cinnamon sticks. Over medium-high heat bring this to a boil and cook, swirling the pan occasionally. The sugar will begin to color around the edges. The bubbling sugar will change from frothy and thin to shiny and thick. At this point reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture is coppery-brown in color, swirling often.

Off heat add the butter and stir constantly until melted. Splash a small amount of the remaining juice in and stir until smooth. The mixture will bubble and steam when the juice joins the caramel. Add the rest of the juice and whisk until completely mixed in. If the caramel sticks to the pan and separates, return it to the heat and simmer until the hard, toffee-like caramel dissolves. When smooth, pour the sauce evenly over the oranges and cover the dish. Place in the fridge for 3 hours.

I like serving this with plain Greek yogurt but you might like it with some ricotta cheese or even vanilla ice cream. 


I had some trouble with crystallization when I made this. I'm not sure whether it was caused by altitude or weather, but each can impact candy making (and caramel is candy). I added extra juice earlier than called for and cooked it until it was fully caramel colored. I used a small strainer to pour the sauce through to catch any sugar lumps that hadn't fully dissolved. 

Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili


Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Serves: 8

This is a vegan chili but I cooked up a little chorizo as an add-in for meat eaters. It is yummy either way.

1 T oil
2 c chopped onion, about 2 medium onions
4 c cubed sweet potatoes (3/4-inch), about 1 1/4 pds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle en adobo, finely chopped, or to taste
1 T ancho chile powder
2 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas smoked paprika
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes, diced or whole and crushed before adding
3 1/2 c cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if from cans (about 2 1/4 15.5 oz. cans)
1 1/2 c homemade or purchased vegetable broth
1/2 teas salt
1 avocado, for garnish, optional
1/4 c snipped chives, for garnish optional

Start heating the oil over medium heat and add the onions once it shimmers. Stir frequently and allow onions to cook until translucent and tender. Add the sweet potatoes and the garlic and cook until the sweet potatoes are beginning to get soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chipotle en adobo, ancho chile powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Stir constantly while the spices become fragrant and mixed in, about a minute.

Add the tomatoes, beans, and broth and raise the heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer slowly uncovered. Stir occasionally until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30-35 minutes. If you want to change the consistency, add more broth.

Stir in the salt and taste and adjust.

Serve topped with chopped avocados and chives.


You can find chipotle en adobo in many supermarkets these days; otherwise it's available in a Mexican market.

I made this with home cooked beans and since I used aromatics (carrot, onion, celery, garlic) while cooking the beans, I used bean broth instead of vegetable broth.

Canned diced tomatoes usually have calcium chloride added which keeps them in a consistent diced state and they don't break down with cooking. It's a matter of preference whether you use them. If you like your tomatoes to dissipate in a soup or stew, break or crush whole tomatoes but if you like chunks of tomatoes in your dish, use the diced version.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (with altitude adjustments)

Betsy and I went through a couple of weeks of concentrated chocolate chip cookie baking last December when she gave a presentation on high altitude baking. This is my current favorite recipe; plus these cookies already have a history.

During the holiday season, Betsy had to do without a refrigerator and freezer for a few weeks. I mailed Betsy a couple dozen cookies without high altitude adjustment so attendees could compare them to modified cookies. To protect their freshness they needed to be stored frozen but with no space at home Betsy used the freezer at the church right next door. This was a mistake because the bulk of the cookies disappeared before Betsy's presentation. Happy holidays for someone! I imagine the cookies tasted so good to the 'testers' that they couldn't stop at just one. These are hard to resist!


Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (with altitude adjustments)    

Yield: 16 large cookies

Changes needed for altitudes of 4000-5500 feet above sea level:

add 1 T flour
reduce baking soda to 1/4 teas
reduce granulated sugar by 1 T

1 3/4 c flour
1/2 teas baking soda
14 T unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1 teas table salt
2 teas vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c chopped and toasted pecans or walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 375F with the rack in the middle position. Place parchment paper on 2 baking sheets (18X12). (You may use smaller sheets but will need to bake in more batches.)

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and soda together and set aside.

In a 10-inch skillet (avoid non-stick since it makes it hard to monitor browning) heat 10 tablespoons of butter until melted. Swirling the pan constantly, continue to cook until the butter has browned to a dark golden brown color with a nutty smell. Remove from the heat and using a heat resistant rubber spatula, place the browned butter into a large bowl. Stir the remaining butter into the melted butter and stir it until it has melted completely.

To the bowl containing the butter, add both sugars, salt, and vanilla. Stir until well mixed. Add the egg and yolk and whisk until there are no sugar lumps visible. Allow this mixture to stand for 3 minutes, then whisk it for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking twice more until the mixture is glossy, smooth, and thick. (Don't skip this step; it will allow more of the sugar to dissolve before mixing other ingredients in which improves flavor and texture.)

Stir the flour mixture into the sugar mixture using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) stirring just enough to ensure they are evenly distributed in the dough. This should also ensure no pockets of flour remain.

Divide the dough using a #24 cookie scoop, if you have one, or into portions of about 3 tablespoons (try a scant quarter cup). Place them on the baking sheets, 8 balls per sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10-14 minutes (it's easy to misjudge cooking times with two in the oven and end up with some overcooked cookies).

You may make these smaller if you wish but modify the cooking time.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Although we already have a good mac and cheese recipe in our collection, I'm going to include this one, too. I like the idea of an almost one pan meal (depends on if you want to count supplementary bowls) and I like that this cooks on the stove-top.


Skillet Macaroni and Cheese                     

Source:  Cook's Country Magazine
Serves: 4-6

2 T unsalted butter
2 slices sandwich bread pulsed in food processor until coarsely ground to equal 2 c crumbs

salt and pepper

3 3/4 c water, plus more if needed
1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk, divided
3 c elbow macaroni
1 teas cornstarch
2  teas hot sauce, or to taste
3 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a 12-inch skillet melt butter over medium-high and add bread crumbs, 1/4 teas salt and 1/4 teas pepper. Cook and stir frequently until the crumbs are deep golden brown. Move to a bowl and let rest.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Replace on stove at medium-high heat. To the skillet add the water, 1 1/4 c of the evaporated milk, and 1/2 teas salt and bring it to a simmer. Add the macaroni, stir. Cook until macaroni is al dente remembering to stir often. 

In a small bowl mix the cornstarch with the remaining evaporated milk and stir in the hot sauce. Stir this mix into the skillet and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about a minute. Remove from heat and stir the cheeses in, one handful at a time, adding water if needed to adjust the thickness of the sauce. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and serve.


Because of all the cheese, I believe the amounts of salt called for in cooking may be reduced somewhat.

Also, you could tempt fate and use salted butter on the bread crumbs which would save a step. 

This was plenty cheesy for me, but I realized I used extra sharp cheese which is stronger in flavor. It will be fine if you use what is called for.