Friday, September 28, 2012

Blueberry Crumble Pie

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I was in a pie making mood recently, and put together a Peach Pie that I froze for the winter. That got me thinking about other pies that I could make and freeze for later use. I had recently bought a big bag of frozen blueberries and thought they would be perfect to use for a "freeze now, use later" pie since they were already frozen. And I have ready-made pie crusts in the freezer as well, so that part is done. Now, for the top of the pie I thought I would do something different. Instead of the usual double crust pie (with a pastry crust on both top and bottom) I thought I would use the crust on the bottom and make a crumble for the top. Some people would also call this a "crisp" topping. It's a mixture of oats, butter, flour, sugar and nuts to make a wonderfully crunchy top to contrast the soft cooked berries inside. It's going to be amazing!
   We love blueberries. When they are in season, we eat them by the bowl full just as a snack. My husband doesn't really care for cooking with blueberries because he feels it takes something away from how delicious the berries are when they are raw. Well, I hope he likes this pie. :) I think it will be "blueberry-y" enough.

It was a cinch to put together, because I already had everything on hand.

It all starts with the berries.
To the berries I added some cornstarch

and some sugar (about 1/2 cup). The amount of sugar will depend on how sweet your berries are, and how sweet you like you pies. My husband is affectionately known as "the Sugar Nazi" so we are o.k. with a tart pie. If you want more sugar, by all means add more!

After the berries, cornstarch and sugar are mixed, I added some cinnamon (not enough to taste of cinnamon, just enough to give a slight warmth to the pie)

and a touch of vanilla

Then I zested one lemon,

about 1 tsp?

and added the juice of the lemon as well.

Make sure to strain the juice, to get all the seeds.

When everything is stirred together well, I pour the mixture into my frozen pie shell. It's a deep dish 9 inch.

Next comes the crumble topping:  I made enough topping for two pies and then used the remaining half to top a peach and blueberry crumble pie. It's pretty much the same recipe as this, but I used 4 cups of peaches and 2 cups of blueberries. It's great if you have some peaches and blueberries you want to use. :)
  So, into a bowl I combine 1 cup of rolled oats.

1/4 cup of slivered almonds

1/2 cup of dark brown sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

and 1/3 cup flour

That gets mixed with 1/3 cup of cold butter, cut into cubes.

I started cutting in the butter with my pastry cutter. This also helps chop the nuts a little.

When it was almost combined, I used my fingers to gently press some of the butter chunks into the mixture, so that it gets more evenly dispersed. You want some chunks left behind, but not a lot.

When it's all mixed, it looks like this:

Then I just start piling it on top of the pie.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is enough to top two pies, so this is the remaining half. You can use it to do another pie, or make a fruit "crisp" or crumble in a baking dish or even individual ramekins!

This is my finished pie ready for the freezer. I just put it in my freezer to get hard; wrapped it a few times in plastic wrap and then put it into a labeled zip-lock freezer bag and back into the freezer for another time.
  If you wanted to bake it now, just set the oven to 375 and bake it off for about 45 minutes. The crust and top should be brown and the fruit should be bubbling. Turn off the oven, crack the door open and allow it to cool in the warm oven.

Blueberry Crumble Pie

1 Deep Dish 9 inch pie crust
6 cups blueberries
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your berries are)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt (about 1/4 tsp)

Topping (for 2 pies):
1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1/3 cup flour

Mix together the berries, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and juice and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour into the 9 inch pie crust.
In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the Crumble Topping. Cut together using a pastry cutter, and then your fingers (Really smash down most of the butter cubes to get the oats, nuts, sugar and flour coated in the butter.) Combine until it holds together when you squeeze it, and there are still some pea sized butter pieces visible. Top the pie with 1/2 of the Crumble mixture.
If you are baking it now, heat the oven to 375F. Bake for 45 minutes, until the crust and topping are brown and the filling is bubbling. (Bake on or over a cookie sheet, just in case it bubbles over in the oven.) When done, turn the oven off, crack the door and let the pie cool in the warm oven until you can take it out with your bare hands. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Peach Pie

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Peach season is winding down in our part of the world, and my peach tree has given all it will give this year. My husband and I spent a good chunk of his weekend processing peaches. Our dining room table was just full of them, and more hands make lighter work. So, he peeled and I sliced, tossed with lemon juice and packed three big zip-lock freezer bags up to use in the winter. But, we also had some that we left fresh. I made peach cobbler, peach and blueberry pies and also just a plain peach pie. That is the recipe I am sharing with you today. (I actually made the pies to freeze and then bake in the winter, so that is why the picture above is uncooked. I just put it in the freezer as is to get rock hard. Then, I wrapped it a few times in plastic wrap, and put it in a labeled zip-lock freezer bag. When the dead of winter hits and I want some warm, sweet peach pie, I can go to the freezer and have this waiting for me. I love it when I plan ahead!)
   If you don't happen to have fresh peaches on sale, you can use the frozen, or even the canned in a pinch, but you will need to taste your peaches for sweetness. My peaches are really sweet off my tree, so I didn't use as much sugar as I would have if I were using less desirable peaches from the store.  The sugar in this recipe is "to taste" so make sure the filling tastes good before you put it in your pie.

This is how it starts:

The peaches go into a large mixing bowl with some cornstarch. (I'm using 6 cups of peaches to fill a deep dish 9 inch pie). The more cornstarch you use, the thicker the filling will be. I recommend using 1/3 cup. (My peaches are really juicy.)

Next comes the cinnamon. I like a little warmth in the background, so that is why I like the cinnamon in this recipe. If you want just a straight, old fashioned peach pie, you can leave this out. I like it, though.

The sugar is next (remember it's to taste).

And a dash of salt gets added as well.  This just brings out the flavors of everything.

About 1 tsp of vanilla goes in,

and it all gets stirred together to combine well.

Now, I have a recipe for pie crust that I love, but I don't always have the time or patience to make it. So, on days like today I go for the frozen pie crust. I love the deep dish Marie Callender's pie shells for the bottom crust, but use what you'd like.  Since my pie is going in the freezer, I don't even thaw the pie shell out. Just take it from the freezer and fill it.

For the top crust, to make the pretty lattice top, I use a rolled Pillsbury crust. I use my pizza cutter and cut it into 1 inch strips. (This does have to be thawed out so it's pliable enough to roll out nicely.)

The filling gets poured into the pie shell - and don't forget all the juice in the bottom of the bowl. This has most of the cornstarch in it, and without this liquid your pie won't set up.

Even out the filling with your mixing spoon, and get ready to make it pretty.

I start by laying one strip across the bottom of the pie.

Then I lay down a strip across the right side of the pie.

I pull back the bottom strip over the side strip and place another strip going vertically - leaving about 1 inch in between.

I place the bottom strip back and then I do the same thing with the strip I just just placed vertically. (I fold back the vertical strip and lay down a second horizontal strip.) I love pictures right now. It's so much easier to show you what I'm doing instead of just trying to explain it with words!

Repeat the process, alternating vertical and horizontal strips of dough, keeping the basket weave pattern.

When I have 4 or 5 horizontal strips down, the work goes much faster.

Now I just fold back every other horizontal strip, and lay down a new vertical strip.

Then I fold back the other horizontal strips, that I left flat last time, and place yet another vertical strip down.

When all is said and done it should look something like this.

Just trim around the edges with a sharp knife,

and press the top crust to the bottom crust with your finger. (Follow the previously crimped edge of the bottom crust to keep it looking pretty.)

And this is the finished product. Ta-da! Now, if you want to freeze it like I did, just put it in the freezer as is and let it get hard. Then wrap it up tight with plastic wrap a few times and place it into a labeled gallon sized zip-lock bag and store it in your freezer to use at another date. You can cook it from frozen, it just takes longer and you need to cover it with foil for a little while to prevent burning.
   If, on the other hand, you want to bake it right away, set your oven to 350F. Brush the top with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes (until the crust is golden and the filling is boiling. Turn the oven off, slightly open the door and allow the pie to cool in the oven until able to touch with bare hands (this allows the filling to continue to thicken without the crust burning). Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Basic Peach Pie

1 9 inch deep dish pie shell
1 9 inch pie crust, cut into 1 inch strips
6 full cups sliced peaches (I used 12 fresh peaches to get 6 cups)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt (about 1/4 tsp)
1/3 cup sugar (this will depend on how sweet your peaches are)
egg wash (1 egg with 1 Tbsp water)
sugar for sprinkling over the top 

Combine the peeled and sliced peaches in a large mixing bowl with the cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, and pour filling into the 9 inch pie shell. Use the strips of pie crust to create a lattice top (see pictures). At this point the pie can be frozen for later use. If baking right away, brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake @ 350F for about 45 minutes (until the crust is brown and the filling is boiling). Turn the oven off and open the door slightly. Allow the pie to cool in the warm oven until you are able to touch it with your bare hands. Serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Garden Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

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I made these Garden Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes a couple weeks back, but I was waiting until the weather cooled off a bit before sharing this recipe with you. Well, I can't wait any longer. They're just too good to keep to myself. They were amazing the first night, and thanks to my planning ahead and freezing method, I have plenty more on hand whenever the craving strikes. (I love having all the work done ahead of time for busy nights - which seem to be every night these days!)
   I call them "garden" stuffed because I put lots of veggies in them. I used Broccoli, carrots and squash, but of course, feel free to substitute your favorite veggies. Just use whatever you have on hand, I'm sure it will be delicious.
   There are actually 3 "recipes" in this post because twice baked potatoes are such a process to complete. First - I'll share with you how I do my baked potatoes. Next, I will share my new favorite mashed potato recipe (which happens to be The Pioneer Woman's Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes ). Finally I will show you how it all comes together with veggies and cheese to be the twice baked version you see above. (My apologies for the pictures. By the time I had dinner on the table the sun had already gone down and I was left with the awful overhead florescent lights to click my camera by.)

  These potatoes are super simple - they just have a few steps is all.

First and foremost, wash the potatoes. I used about 5 lbs of Russet potatoes. It ended up being 20 small to medium potatoes.

After the potatoes are washed and dried, they get a rub down with your fat of choice. If I'm the one choosing it's going to be bacon fat. Yeah, you heard me right. Bacon fat. That luscious liquid that is left in the pan after cooking up some bacon. If you haven't saved yours in the past, your really should consider it. I just pour mine into a mug.

Each potato is pricked with a fork a few times,

and then gets a rub down with a little bacon grease. It doesn't take much, just enough to cover the skin of all the potatoes. I probably only used 1-2 Tbsp for all 20 potatoes. I don't salt them if I'm using bacon grease (since it already has some salt in it), but if I'm using olive oil or some other kind of fat I do salt the potatoes. You do as you wish. :)

When they are all coated, they go onto a baking sheet and into the oven. They bake @ 400F for about an hour (50 minutes for my small ones), or until they are fork tender.

While the potatoes are baking, I took my butter and cream cheese out of the fridge for later. You want these to be @ room temperature, so if they haven't come out of the fridge already they should come out now.(1 1/2 sticks of butter and 8 oz cream cheese)

When the potatoes are done baking, they look like this.

When they are cool enough to handle, I slice them in half horizontally.

Then I scoop out the insides with a spoon; making sure to leave at least 1/4 inch rim around the edges and on the bottom. The potato skins need to have some support to hold all the filling later.

See? Just like this. Leave enough potato in the skin so it holds it's shape well.

You'll need to scrape out all of the potato skins (that's 40 halves for me).

The insides of the potato skins go into a large bowl.

Here's where the butter and cream cheese come in. Now, let me start off by saying that I really did try to make these more figure friendly than the Pioneer Woman has them written. She calls for 3/4 cups butter (that's 1 1/2 sticks) and 8 oz of cream cheese. I got out the total amounts in the beginning to soften, and come to room temperature, but I didn't really think I would need it all. SO, I started out with just 1 stick of butter. . .

and about 4 oz of cream cheese.

I mashed them all together with the potatoes until almost smooth.

Then I added the cream. (The recipe states to add half and half but I never keep that on hand. Instead I just added equal parts cream and milk. Voila. Homemade half and half.)

I tasted it, and wouldn't you know? It needed the other 1/2 stick of butter.

What the heck. Might as well add the other 4 oz of cream cheese too right?

Then goes in the milk (the other half to my "half and half")

1 tsp of seasoned salt

and some freshly ground black pepper.

Now, these potatoes are perfectly "delicious and creamy" as the name states, but I like some sour cream in my twice baked potatoes. So, I wanted to add some of that too. The "light" variety counteracts all the butter, cream cheese and cream right?

I'm guessing I added about 1/2 cup.

I stirred it all together, and that is the base. The next variations are completely up to you. This is what I did:

I got out some broccoli stems I had in my freezer. (I always save these. They are just as good as the florets, and hey, I paid for them! There's no way they are going in the trash.) Then, I put them into my mini food processor and pulsed it until it turned to confetti.

Like this:

Then I put the 2 cups of broccoli confetti into a skillet with a little butter.

Next I processed up 3 carrots. (About 1 cup of diced, raw carrots)

And turned that into confetti too.

It also went into the skillet with the broccoli.

The last veggie I did was some squash from my garden. (I used about 1 cup of this)

That got turned into confetti as well,

and added to the skillet with the other veggies.

I cooked them over medium low heat, with just a little salt and pepper, until they were tender.

Then the sauteed veggies were added to the mashed potatoes.

The potatoes and veggies were stirred together and then some cheese was added. I probably added about 1 1/2 cups, but add as much or as little as you'd like.

When everything is well combined, the filling is done! (Some people add egg to their twice baked potatoes but I'm not one of them.)

We are almost done, hang in there! The potato skins get filled, and filled generously.

I lined up 10 halves onto a baking sheet for tonight's dinner.

They all got topped with a little more cheese, and into the oven they went @ 350F for about 20 minutes. (Until heated through and the cheese is melted.)

I filled the other 30 potato skins just like the first ten, but I didn't top them with extra cheese.

Instead, I wrapped each one up with plastic wrap.

Then they went onto a baking sheet and into my freezer to get rock hard.

After a couple hours, I put them into a labeled zip-top freezer bag for later use.  Now I can have twice baked potatoes anytime I want, without all the work. They can be cooked from frozen @ 350 for about 45 minutes. (30-40 minutes for the small ones) I got this trick from Omaha Steaks. About 10 minutes before they are finished, I would add the extra cheese on top. (I actually added cheese to a couple of them before I froze them, but most I left plain to top later.)

When the ones for dinner were done, this is what they looked like.

We had them with steak. They are filling and very scrumptious, if I do say so myself. This is a definite must try!
Here's the recipe:
adapted from PW Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Garden Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

5 lbs of Russet Potatoes, washed and dried
1-2 Tbsp bacon grease (or other fat)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) salted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese softened
3/4 cups half and half 
1 tsp seasoned salt (to taste)
1/2 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 cups broccoli, processed into confetti
1 cup carrots, processed into confetti
1 cup squash, processed into confetti
1 Tbsp butter
salt (to taste)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (more if you like), plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 400F. Poke all of the potatoes with a fork at least 3 times each, and rub each one with bacon grease. Put onto a baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour (until they are fork tender). When they are cool enough to touch, slice them horizontally in half. Scoop out the insides with a spoon, leaving at least 1/4 inch rim around the potatoes and on the bottoms. Place the scooped out potato into a large bowl. When all the insides are scooped out, add the softened butter, cream cheese, half and half, seasoned salt, sour cream and black pepper. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Set aside.
   In a skillet, combine the broccoli, carrot and squash confetti with 1 Tbsp butter and a little salt. Saute until soft. Add to the mashed potatoes. Stir and add 1 1/2 cups (or more if you like) of the cheese. Stir to combine.
  Turn oven to 350F. Fill each potato skin generously. For those you want to bake now, top with more cheddar cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes (until they are hot all the way through and the cheese is really melted). Serve hot.
   The rest of the potatoes can be wrapped in plastic wrap, and put into the freezer. When they are rock hard, place them all into a labeled zip-top freezer bag with instructions for baking (30-45 minutes @ 350F from frozen for small to medium potatoes).