Day to Day Cooking: Fear is not an ingredient

I have no idea why I am am writing a blog post. I work in the healthcare industry, I’m really busy.

But now that we’re in quarantine, washing our hands, wearing masks, living in isolation and you know what? it doesn’t feel too odd to me. What is good is that I’ve been reaching out to people more. I want to share with people going through the same thing as me.

So I cleaned the kitchen yesterday: floors, walls, appliances and work surfaces, I went down to the freezer in the basement and rummaged around in there. I found a gold mine of food I forgot about.

Saturday we had our son over for pizza and I made a Kate McDermott Art-of-the-Pie all-butter pie crust and a raspbery-rhubarb pie (from a pre-frozen filing). I sent a picture to my friend of the pie, with lattice top- Saturday at the R’s. Everyday since then, I’ve sent her an email: Sunday at the R’s, Monday at the R’s and hopefully to continue.

Saturday – Pie and Puzzle

Monday-Risotto and Chops

The Mushroom Risotto is from Alton Brown’s Good Eats Volume 2 cookbook. The risotto was from the pantry; the mushrooms were not wild just white and portobello, no asparagus but frozen peas. The pork chops were thin cut and sprinkled with Woodford Reserve Bourbon spice, and oven-baked at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

I like reading recipes but when you can’t run off to the grocery store whenever you want, it makes more sense to look inward rather than out.

Let’s all start sharing what we’re eating out there from the cupboard, from the freezer, from the heart. We’re all in this together.

Home is where the heart is

Oven is on fire - ha haThanksgiving can feel like a drudgery for the cook no matter how fearless she/he is. Luckily, every Thanksgiving, our dear friends Joy & Terry, host the event. I usually bring a salad or vegetable side dish. This year I’m bringing a pie as I stocked the freezer with pie fillings from fruit of the summer and fall bounty.

I have this book to thank for my pre-planning this year.Art of the the Pie  cookbookI met Kate McDermott the author of The Art of the Pie, in June 2012 when I went to a food blogging conference in Seattle. She was a lovely and humble woman who sat next to me,  told me about her story and food blog, Art of the Pie.  I have followed her baking career since our meeting and feel so privileged to have met her and so happy to own her beautiful cookbook. Kate McDermott & I - June 2012Thanksgiving is all about the pie when it comes to dessert. I took a tip from Kate’s book on page 155 on Pre-Cooking and Freezing Apple Pie filling. Partially cook the apple pie filling, allow it to cool, then place plastic wrap on the bottom of a pie plate, the pour the filling inside.Apple Pie Filling -1Wrap up the filling in the pie plate then place in the freezer. Once frozen, you can remove the plate and wrap the filling more securely with aluminum foil if you wish.Apple Pie filling - 2When you are ready for a pie, make the crust and pop in the filling. The filling can be partially thawed and then you would bake it an additional 10-15 minutes at the lower temperature.  I was so happy to have discovered this I froze peach, peach-blueberry and cherry pie fillings from the summer harvest to have ready for the next party.Pie crust crumblesI generally have issues with managing the dough. I made Kate’s Traditional Art of the Pie Butter and Shortening Dough, which has worked well for me in the past. My problem is the timing of chilling the dough, then rolling it out. For today’s pie I chilled it overnight, sat it out for an hour, but it was still a chore to roll it out. One crust rolled out well but the other did not.
img_2129.jpgOne thing about Kate’s book, is that she is not perfect, nor does she profess to be. She admits that baking can be troublesome and she talks about how to to roll with it.

I scrambled around in my pie box where I store items and found some cookie cutters. This was my opportunity as a baker to make a signature crust. Home is where the pie heart is Patty’s Points:

1. The crust rolls out best for me, when chilled after one hour. It is more pliable.

2. I loved making the filling in advance, completely separate from making the crust. This works for me until I have managed making and rolling out the crust with great skill.

3. It takes practice to make pie crust as it is more art and skill than anything.

4. Make the pie crust topping your own. Be creative.

Happy Thanksgiving – Enjoy your family and friends during this American Holiday.

Retro Rhubarb Pie

When I think of rhubarb I think of Aunt Rose. She was my Dad’s oldest sister and the matriarch of the family. The first time I ate rhubarb was a family summer trip to Kansas. It was odd tasting, intriguing,and it grew in her back yard to boot!

I have two rhubarb plants in my garden. It is a rite of spring to see the shoots burst forward into a lovely plant. I usually mix it with a fruit from the berry family to make a pie, crisp or cobbler. Then I ran across a 100-year old recipe in a blog I follow A Hundred Years Ago. My old soul was touched by this recipe so I had to try. The pictures below left: Aunt Rose and my Grandpa and right: me, my sister and my Grandpa celebrating my 11th birthday. We had matching cherry smock tops 🙂

This recipe is unique as it uses raisins to accompany the rhubarb. Never seen that before.

So here we go.

Left to right pictures:

1 1/2 C rhubarb and 1 C golden raisins

1 C sugar, 1 egg, 1 TBSP cornstarch, 1 tsp vanilla

Blending the two mixtures into one bowl

Continuing the retro theme, I made the pie crusts from Jiffy pie crust mix $0.38 on sale, original price $0.84. The Jiffy Mix products were established in 1930 but the Chelsea Milling Company  was a traditional flour mill, established in 1901 in Chelsea, Michigan. If you want to learn the history of the company watch this video for a virtual tour.  My mom was a Jiffy consumer, she may have grown up with it during the depression.

Pictures left: Jiffy Pie crust mix and right: my retro milk glass pie plate with the crust.

Brush the pie crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar atop. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake an addtional 20-30 minutes.

IMG_1836

Patty’s Points:

  1. Rhubarb has a high water content so addition of cornstarch, flour, arrowroot, or tapioca are used as traditional thickeners for the filling. Most recipes call for 3 TBSP but this recipe called for 1 TBSP. The addition of the raisins added a “sponge” for soaking up additional liquid. Raisins can hold a lot of liquid. I almost wonder if any thickener would have been needed with the raisins as part of the recipe. As a result, there wasn’t much “bubbling” through the vents that I am used to when I know the pie is done.
  2. I liked the raisins as part of the filling. It allowed the rhubarb to be slightly sweetened and still taste the rhubarb. In most berry-rhubarb recipes you can’t taste the rhubarb at all.
  3. I made adjustments to the filling by adding vanilla and reducing the sugar content to 3/4 C. The egg made the filling custard-like and contributed to the thickening.
  4. The Jiffy crust – all you add is cold water – 4-5 TBSP.  The ingredients are wheat flour, hydrogenated lard, salt, and preservatives. I wonder how that lard gets pulverized into a grain mixture? It was a pretty wet mixture. In retrospect, I should’ve added 1 TBSP at a time into the cold food processor and checked the consistency.  I refrigerated the dough for 30 minutes before rolling it out although the directions indicate that you don’t have to. I added flour to the board before rolling it out which helped. It was a very tender crust and was easy to place in the pie plate.
  5. The pie crust was dry, the filling was moist and compact, but very little juiciness.  If I made this again I would use a different crust and eliminate the thickener. The raisin-rhubarb combo was good but it needed something.  Maybe it needed something like Julia would’ve used,  “With enough butter, anything is good.”

Oh Snap! Popovers

Have you ever been gifted something and didn’t know what to do with it? This was true for me with this popover pan.

We moved our belongings out of the house into the garage this past November when we had ALL of our hardwood floors refinished before Christmas. I was in a tossing and keeping mode I was in I stared at this popover pan – Stay? or Go!

IMG_8456

Well it must be used before any decision can be made, right? I have never eaten a popover before. I must try it out.

IMG_8467

I read two recipes: the one on the popover pan box and Alton Brown’s Good Eats 3 cookbook. The ingredients were simple eggs, milk, flour, salt and butter and toss in the the blender. I love simple, so how hard could it be?

I was also curious to see how this whole pop-up event was going to transpire in the oven so I sat and watch the event through the oven window.

POP OVER recipe (from Progressive International)

Preheat over and Pan 450 degrees F (makes 5-6 popovers)

Ingredients: 1 C milk, 1 C flour, 3 eggs, 2 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend on high until bubbles form. Fill the preheated popover tins (BNSP-100) 1/2 to 3/4 full depending on how large you want your rolls to be. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, reduce heat, bake an additional 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Patty’s Popover points:

1.The key to popovers is heating the pan. If you don’t preheat the pan you will have doughy denseness and no pop. Also brush the sides with butter or oil so the side of the roll does not stick to the pan.

The batter will get crispy first on the outside next to the tubes in the pan and rise first. Then the batter in the center will rise later and provide the pop and leave the hole (see next point).

2.Yes there is a hole in the center. These rolls are good for putting an egg in for breakfast or a chicken salad for lunch. What they are best used and known for is a hearty beef meal with gravy and mashed potatoes. Mmmmmmm. Me, I like butter and jelly.

IMG_8457

3.The difference between the recipe above and AB Good Eats 3 version is amount of flour and eggs he used; and he used butter. No offense AB, but I liked the side of the box recipe better, save the oil. The amount was just right for filling all six tubes. I like even numbers.

4. As you can see below, the tubes were not evenly filled so the popovers on the bottom of the picture did not rise as high as the ones at the top of the picture. Best to use a measuring cup – probably 1/2 cup – so as to not have different sized rolls.

IMG_8468

5. It is plain to see that popovers are puffy and pretty cool. I was a little amazed. My husband liked them. I don’t think he had ever had one before. Most references say that they are easier to make than dinner rolls for a nice meal planned. The eggs give them substance compared to a dinner roll.

I made popovers six times in a span of two weeks. I sat on the floor watching them rise at 10:00 pm at night and I made the mistake of not preheating the pan once. Big mistake. There was no pop in the over. Tee hee.

6. Some recipes I researched used a regular muffin pan to make popovers. They are just not as tall as these. Should I keep the pan? or toss it? I can’t decide, yet.

When you have a few ingredients, then technique is the key. It’s all in the preparation to make your popover the star.

Sneak zucchini onto your neighbors porch

Today is my birthday and a National Holiday:  Sneak zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch day!

I have my share of zucchini in the garden and with vacation coming, my neighbors may be the recipient of some of these squash babies.

IMG_8097IMG_8098

If you gifted with a few zucchini – here are some new recipes I have tried this season.

IMG_8096

Chocolate Zucchini cake

IMG_8075

Crust-less Summer Zucchini Pie

IMG_8072

Zucchini Fritters

IMG_8069

Quinoa-Rice salad with cherries and feta adapted from the Weight Watchers July/August 2016 edition.

Patty’s Points

1. The all recipes! website is a great resource to look for recipes for the home cook. AND always read the reviews by the readers to see the pitfalls and triumphs of the recipe.

2. Here are a few cookbooks to sample:

The Inspired by Zucchini Cookbook

Chocolate & Zucchini: Le Livre

The Classic Zucchini Cookbook

3.The Chocolate Zucchini Cake is a winner! It is a great cake to make and store in the freezer and pull out for a potluck or picnic. Chocolate Cheese Frosting is an awesome addition to this cake. Super!

4.Zucchini can be used to substitute for pickles in relishes – made sweet or dill – and canned. I tried a recipe through the Ball Canning Cookbook summer and they were awesome as hot dog condiments.

5. Invest in a food processor with a shredder. Place the zucchini in a colander/strainer to get the water content out before cooking with it.

Get on with it now. It’s Zucchini Day!