Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pie Crust

Pie crust is easier than you think! This one is pretty foolproof. Just be careful to add just enough water to get the dough to clump together.

1/2 cup shortening or butter*
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
pinch sugar
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

Mix the flour, salt & sugar. Cut in the shortening or butter until it's crumbly. You can use a fork or a pastry blender to do this. Slowly stir in the water. You may not need all of it!! Just pour enough in to allow the dough to clump together & not be dry & crumbly. Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it's big enough to fit your 9" pie pan. To put it in the pan, I lightly dust the top of the crust with flour and roll it up loosely. Lift it carefully into the pan and unroll.

If you are using it for a pie that has a prebaked crust, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, lay a sheet of parchment paper over it and carefully fill it with dry beans.That's what the picture is above, in case you were wondering. (I have an ice cream bucket of pintos set aside for this purpose.) Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

*Note: If using butter, make sure it is cold and cut it into cubes before cutting into the flour mixture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mexican Casserole

This is one of my high-mileage recipes. It is a great way to use leftover chicken or Thanksgiving turkey, or any kind of meat really. It's also a great way to use those refried beans I mentioned below. You can even make it without the meat - it's a very flexible dish.

4 cups cooked chicken or turkey, shredded or chopped
2 Tbs taco seasoning (or a packet)
2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups sour cream
4 cups refried beans
2 cups cheddar cheese

In a 9x13 dish, layer the ingredients in the order in which they are given. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until heated through. Top with whatever taco fixin's you normally like (olives, salsa, lettuce, etc...) and serve with tortilla chips. Serves 8.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Refried Beans

If you like the refried beans at mexican restaurants, you have GOT to try these. They are so easy and so good. I usually make them at least once a week. The first night that I make them, we have them as soup. The next day, they have thickened and we'll eat them as a side dish. The rest will go in the freezer or in burritos and then into the freezer. The recipe came from and whenever I make them, I make a double batch. (It fits perfectly in my 7 quart crockpot.)
1 onion, diced
3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed

1/2 jalapeno, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
9 cups water

Combine everything in the crockpot. Cook on high for 8 hours. Mash the beans (see note below) with a potato masher, or better yet, a stick blender. Serves a lot.

The beans will be runny, but will thicken with refrigeration. If you want them less runny, scoop out a cup or two of the water before mashing. Then, you can add the water back after mashing if you want them thinner.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Look out Amelia Bedelia, you've got competition! This pie is really good, and it's fairly simple to make, too. It uses ingredients that I always have on hand.

1 prebaked pie crust
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs flour
3 Tbs corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup lemon juice (I used bottled!)
2 Tbs butter
4 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
6 Tbs sugar

Combine sugar, flour, corn starch & salt in a medium pot. Stir in milk and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Add butter & stir till melted. Turn off heat. Scoop out 1/2 cup and slowly stir it into the 4 egg yolks. Add that mixture back to the pot and cook until thickened. While that is still hot, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks start to form. Gradually beat in the 6 Tbs of sugar.

Spread the filling into the pie crust. Spread the meringue over top. Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until meringue starts to turn golden. Cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.
Note 1:
To keep the meringue from shrinking, you must spread it over the filling while the filling is still hot.
Note 2:
The reason the lemon part of my pie pictured above looks so orange, is that our chickens' egg yolks are very orange!
Note 3:
If you don't know who Amelia Bedelia is, you must go to the library and look her up!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Easy 100% Whole Wheat Bread

This is my go-to bread. When I'm in a hurry or need homemade bread with very little effort, this is what I make. It is soft and not heavy or dense, like you would expect 100% whole wheat bread to be. The best part about it is that you don't have to knead it! That means no sticky or doughy hands.

8 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs yeast (see note below!!)
2 tsp salt
3 Tbs molasses
3 cups warm water

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. It will look like a thick, sticky batter. Let it rise until doubled. (Watch out! It rises relatively fast.)

Punch down and spoon into 3 greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled. Bake at 375F for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

With all my breads, I use the bulk yeast from Sam's club. It is wayyy cheaper than the packets. It may be the same thing as the jar labeled "Bread Yeast" from a grocery store, but I am not certain. You add the bulk yeast to the flour before you add any wet ingredients. If you choose to use packets for this recipe, you will need 3 of them, and you will need to add them to 1 cup of warm water before you combine it with the rest of the ingredients. If you do, then decrease the amount of water you add to the rest of the bread by 1 cup.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ham Chowder

It's raining here today. That is good news. One, because I don't have to go anywhere. And two, because I can make soup for dinner! Soup is so much more appetizing when it is cold and rainy.

This is a soup that I started making several years ago from a recipe that used canned cream of mushroom soup and canned vegetables. I lost that recipe somewhere along the way, and have come up with my own version. My own version is subject to change, depending on what I have in the fridge & pantry. Today when I made it, I measured and wrote down what I used. You can pretty much use whatever vegetables you have.
1 stick butter
2 onions
8 cups potatoes, cut into chunks
2 cups green beans (2 cans would work, as well)
2 cups carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup flour
8 cups chicken broth (I use bouillon and water)
2 cups diced, cooked ham
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp pepper

Sautee veggies and butter in a large pot until veggies are just about tender. Stir in flour. Slowly stir in broth and cook over medium heat (stirring frequently) for 5 minutes. Add ham, sour cream, milk & pepper. Heat over low heat for 3-5 more minutes or until heated through. Serves an army, or about 8-10 people. You can easily halve this recipe.

If you use fresh green beans, you may want to steam them separately for a few minutes before you start. The potatoes were tender long before they were.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Graham Crackers

A box of graham crackers lasts approximately 38 seconds around here. (That's pretty much how it is with most anything edible.) So, it behooves me to learn to make these kinds of things from scratch. Afterall, it is much easier (and cheaper & probably healthier) to make a batch of them than it is to load all seven or eight of us up in the van & make a trip to the grocery store.

I love getting a chance to use the word behooves.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey (though I have used corn syrup in a pinch)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

cinnamon & sugar

Cream the butter & sugar. Beat in the honey, milk & vanilla. Stir in the remaining ingredients (except the cinnamon & sugar) until thoroughly combined. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour. (You can keep it in the fridge up to one week.)

Divide the dough into fourths and roll a fourth at a time onto parchment paper. Roll it to about 1/4" thickness. Place the dough, still on the parchment paper, onto a baking sheet & sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar mix, pressing it down lightly. Cut the dough into squares or shapes & leave them next to each other. In other words, don't move it once you cut it. Prick it all over with a fork to keep it from bubbling up. Bake at 350F for about 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. (And repeat with the remaining dough:)