Monday, November 30, 2020

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

  This recipe is from a blog called Fresh April Flours. It's simple, straight forward, and it's the perfect new addition to your Christmas Cookie platter. If you're like me, you like to have lots of different colors of cookies on the platter, and this may or may not be what called me to this recipe in the first place. You make them in sort of the same manner as you make Snickerdoodles. Roll the dough into balls, then roll the balls around in sugar (in this case powdered sugar) and then you bake them. But the fun thing about this recipe is that the powdered sugar separates as the cookies spread out, creating a sort of crackled crinkle look. Fun, right? And btw, they taste absolutely AMAZING! All that fresh lemon zest gives you the burst of lemon that you love. So, I'll say this once again, this recipe goes out to all of my readers who always ask for "anything lemon." If you're a fan of lemon, I promise you'll love 'em! Better make a double batch!


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp baking powder 
1/8 tsp baking soda 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened to room temperature 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 large egg room temperature 
1 1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice 
zest of one lemon 
4 drops yellow food coloring, if desired 
1/2 cup powdered sugar

 In a medium size bowl, toss together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (approximately 2-3 minutes). Beat in vanilla, egg, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Add the food coloring, if using. Mix until just combined. Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. If chilling longer than 1 hour, allow to sit at room temperature about 15 minutes before rolling into balls. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside. Pour the powdered sugar onto a large plate. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop the dough out of the bowl and roll into a ball with your hands. Dough ball does not need to be perfect. Roll the ball of dough generously in the powdered sugar. Place no more than 8 balls of dough on a baking sheet at one time (4 rows of 2). Chill dough you are not using. Bake cookies for 13-14 minutes or until cookies look mostly matte (not wet or shiny). Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 10 days. Baked cookies freeze well, up to 2 months. Rolled cookie dough can be frozen up to 3 months. Roll in powdered sugar before baking and bake frozen. Add another 1-2 minutes to baking time.

 To get the best TRUE lemon flavor, it's always best to use fresh lemon zest, instead of extracts. Use a microplane to grate just the yellow portion of the lemon peel. Stop as soon as you get to the white part because that has a bitter taste. Definitely not what we're going for!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Sister Pie's Salted Maple Pie

Ok, so, full disclosure, I can’t even remember when or where I first saw this recipe. Maybe it was on a TV show? I’m not sure. It might have been on a Food Network show called The Best Thing I Ever Ate, where a bunch of TV cooks and chefs tell you the where and when of some of their favorite foods. In this case, Sister Pie is the name of a bakery in Detroit, and this recipe was one of their stand outs. Honestly, though, I really can’t remember when I first saw it. I just remember thinking “that pie has my name written all over it.”
 It’s syrupy sweet, kind of like a Pecan Pie, but it uses cornmeal to thicken it, similar to a Chess Pie. And it has that salty/sweet thing going on, which I love love LOVE. I just knew I had to try it!
 So I made it for one of my Fall Dinners (where I get to test out a bunch of new recipes with my gang of friends) and everyone loved it! Actually, I loved it so much that I immediately added the Sister Pie Cookbook to my wish list, and it has since become a cherished addition to my cookbook collection. It’s also the perfect addition to your pie repertoire. It’s special enough for Thanksgiving, but easy enough for anytime you just want a nice piece of pie!
Oh, one other thing..
I’ve listed the entire recipe just as it’s printed in the author’s own words. Following the filling recipe is the entire recipe and technique for making their pie crust. Once again, full disclosure, I was short on time and I didn’t make the crust as listed. I just used a ready made pie crust. What can I say? Sometimes I’m in the mood to get my hands in there and be up to my elbows in flour, and sometimes I just don’t have the time. You do you! Use your favorite crust recipe, buy a ready-made, or use this crust recipe that was made specifically for this pie. No matter how you slice it, you’ll still get a fabulous pie!

Salted Maple Pie Filling:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup Grade B maple syrup*
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 9-inch crust made with All-Butter Pie Dough, blind baked and cooled (see below)
1 large egg, beaten
1 pinch flaky sea salt, for sprinkling top

All-Butter Pie Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge
1/2 cup ice-cold water-vinegar mixture (see below), or more if needed

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk in the brown sugar, cornmeal, and kosher salt.
Crack the eggs and yolk into another medium bowl. Add the cream and vanilla and whisk until combined.
Slowly pour the egg mixture into the maple mixture and whisk just until combined.
Place the blind-baked shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the crimped edge with the beaten egg. Pour the maple filling into the pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps.
Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the edges are puffed and the center jiggles only slightly when shaken. It will continue to set as it cools.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. Once fully cooled and at room temperature, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, slice into 6 to 8 pieces, and serve.
Store leftover pie, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

All Butter Pie Dough:
In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and stir to mix well. Place the sticks of butter in the bowl and coat on all sides with the flour mixture. Using a bench scraper, cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes. Work quickly to separate the cubes with your hands until they are all lightly coated in flour. Grab that bench scraper once again and cut each cube in half. I always tell my pie dough students that it’s unnecessary to actually cut each cube perfectly in half, but it’s a good idea to break up the butter enough so that you can be super-efficient when it’s pastry blender time.
It’s pastry blender time! Switch to the pastry blender and begin to cut in the butter with one hand while turning the bowl with the other. It’s important not to aim for the same spot at the bottom of the bowl with each stroke of the pastry blender, but to actually slice through butter every time to maximize efficiency. When the pastry blender clogs up, carefully clean it out with your fingers (watch out, it bites!) or a butter knife and use your hands to toss the ingredients a bit. Continue to blend and turn until the largest pieces are the size and shape of peas and the rest of the mixture feels and looks freakishly similar to canned Parmesan cheese.
At this point, add the water-vinegar mixture all at once, and switch back to the bench scraper. Scrape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Now it’s hand time. Scoop up as much of the mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a whole lot of pressure) to press it back down onto the rest of the ingredients. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn. With each fold, your intention is to be quickly forming the mixture into one cohesive mass. Remember to incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at the bottom of the bowl, and once those are completely gone and the dough is formed, it’s time to stop.
Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a lightly floured counter, and use your bench scraper to divide it into two equal pieces. Gently pat each into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges before wrapping them tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. If you’re portioning for a lattice-topped pie, shape one half into a 2-inch-thick disc and the other half into a 6 by 3-inch rectangle. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight. When you go to roll out the crust, you want the discs to feel as hard and cold as the butter did when you removed it from the fridge to make the dough. This will make the roll-out way easier.
You can keep the pie dough in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 1 year. If frozen, remove the dough and place it in the refrigerator to thaw one full day before you intend to use it. If you’re planning to make only one single-crust pie, wrap the discs separately and place one in the freezer.
NOTE: Icy water, now improved and with tang: While working at Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds for a summer, I learned a number of good tricks that considerably changed my pie dough–making experience. Here’s one of my favorites: Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with about 1 inch of water and freeze until completely frozen. Just after you mix your dry ingredients, grab it from the freezer and fill with water plus 2 tablespoons or so of apple cider vinegar. The ice-cold water-vinegar mixture should look just like apple juice. Let it chill on your counter while you mix the other ingredients for the dough.
NOTE 2: The addition of vinegar to pie dough was originally thought to tenderize the gluten (thus avoiding a tough crust), but there isn’t any good scientific evidence proving that it makes a difference. We keep it in our recipe for its tangy flavor and our respect for tradition.
NOTE 3: Not the pie-baking plan-ahead type? That’s okay! When you’re ready to make the dough, simply fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup about halfway with ice, then add water and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

*Note from Joey: When looking for different grades of maple syrup, I like to think of it just as I would think of olive oil. The one with the lighter clear color is Grade A, just like extra virgin olive oil. And just like regular olive oil, Grade B maple syrup is a little darker in color, and has a more robust flavor.

You can find Grade B maple syrup at Trader Joe’s or even online, but even if you can’t find it, be sure to use a PURE maple syrup. You don't want the corn syrup based products you’d put on pancakes. I mean, yes, of course you could still use that, but you’ll wind up with a different end result.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Chocolate Chip Pie


Usually, when you think of pie recipes for Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to mind is a pumpkin pie, correct? And if not pumpkin, then maybe sweet potato, or apple, or some kind of fruit mincemeat with lots of warm Fall spices like cinnamon and ginger and cloves and allspice, am I right? But here's a question for you, what about CHOCOLATE? I know we always think of chocolate for other holidays like Valentine's Day or Halloween, but I think chocolate deserves a place at our holiday dessert table just as much as anything else. There. I said it.
 Actually, it’s become a running joke with my brother in law, Gregg. Every time my sister, Cathy, makes a dessert, Gregg always says “it would be better if it had chocolate chips in it.” Well, Gregg, this one’s for you! It's from Nestle, so if you love the classic Nestle Toll House cookie recipe, you'll love this one too.
 It’s rich and chocolatey through and through, and it’s enough to satisfy the biggest chocolate cravings. It's super easy too! And yes, it’s special enough for your holiday dessert!
 So, as you plan your menus, keep your chocolate lovers happy and add this one to your holiday table. The chocoholics in your life with thank you for it!

1 (9 inch) unbaked
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.


Before the pie is finished baking, I added a few extra chocolate chips on top, just to make the pie look a bit more like a chocolate chip cookie. Of course, this is completely optional, but doesn’t it look better that way? Who's with me?
Also, I should note that the original recipe specifically said to use a deep dish pie plate. But I didn’t think it looked like enough filling, so I only used a regular 9” pie plate. It filled it perfectly!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Joey's Creamed Spinach and Potato Casserole


 I was recently trying to think of something interesting to do with a basic creamed spinach recipe. Yes, of course, I love it just as it is, with its delicious cream sauce, and the onions and garlic, but I wondered what else might go in with it. In my family, 2 little boxes of frozen chopped spinach wouldn’t go very far, so I was thinking of what else I could add to it, to stretch the dish and make it go a little further.
 Then I thought of my Dad. It was always a running joke that whenever any of us brought friends home for dinner, my Dad would tell my Mom “I guess you’d better throw another potato into the pot!”  I thought “Ah! potatoes! of course!”
So that’s what I did. Just some par-boiled potatoes, added to your basic creamed spinach, baked into a casserole, and now you’re ready to feed an army. It’s quite economical too, because it doesn’t cost all that much and fills a lot of bellies.
 Then I thought, ooo this would make the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, just as an alternative to the usual mash. Why not? It’s always  nice to have a variety!
 Even if it’s not Thanksgiving, keep this recipe in your back pocket and serve it up with some baked chicken or a roast beast. Super delish!

3 lbs red potatoes, peeled and sliced to bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tbs butter
2 (10oz) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs flour
2 cups milk
1 cup cream or half and half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese

Place potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You want to simmer them until they’re almost cooked through, but not quite. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large sauce pot, sauce the onion with the butter. Add the spinach and garlic and continue to saute. Let any excess moisture evaporate, then sprinkle the flour over all. Give it a good stir until there flour coats everything for a good minute or two.Add the milk, cream, grated cheese, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Stir all together until it thickens. Add your potatoes to the pot, and stir to combine well.
Pour into a 13x9 casserole dish. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.

Instead of peeling and slicing the potatoes, you can just use baby potatoes and cut them in half. The skins are tender enough that you don’t need to peel them!
To remove the most moisture from your thawed spinach, place a clean tea towel flat on the counter. Plop your drained spinach onto the towel in one mound in the center. Gather all four corners of the towel together, making a little bundle of spinach. Now twist the bundle until it squeezes out all of the excess water. You’ll be amazed at just how much more water can be extracted!
If your sauce pot is not big enough to accommodate adding the potatoes to it, just toss everything in a large mixing bowl before transferring it to the casserole dish.
When adding the nutmeg, you only want just a tiny pinch. It’s a classic addition to any cream sauce, but you don’t want it to come out tasting like egg nog. Just a tiny pinch is enough!



Monday, November 2, 2020

Onion Roasted Carrots and Potatoes

 Have you ever used onion soup mix to make roasted potatoes? If you haven't, where have you been your whole life?????  It's one of those tried and true recipes that has been on the back of the box of Lipton Onion Soup mix for a million years. For me, it's one of those classic recipes that I'll always love, kind of like the favorite Green Bean Casserole or Libby's Pumpkin Pie.
 But this time, I thought, why not add something else to it? How about carrots? YES! That sounds fabulous. (Wait, why have we never done this before??)
 So I tried it, and just as I figured, it was amazing! It’s literally just the exact same Lipton recipe with added carrots. Normally, I’d think “eh, not exactly ground breaking”, but I’m telling you, it was so good that I needed to share. It’s good enough for a holiday dinner or just a Sunday roast beast.
I think this just might be the new way I make this recipe from now on. LOVE it.

2 lbs potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine all ingredients in 13 x 9-inch baking, roasting pan, or sheet tray.
Bake, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Top with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.

If you want to do a mix of root vegetables, go for it! I would absolutely add diced sweet potatoes, butternut squash,  and/or turnips to this. Make it your own! Are you feeding a crowd? Double everything!