31 January 2014

Butterscotch Meringue Pie

This is one of those pies that just sort of speaks for itself.  It really does.  My pictures (unfortunately) don't really do it justice since I took them with my ipod instead of my real camera.  My husband had claimed the camera for his web project, so I had to make things work with what I had.  You can tell, however that the ladies at work enjoyed it.  This pie got destroyed.

This pie is my take on a Southern classic.  Pretty much anything covered in meringue is a classic around these parts.  To make this pie work there are a few things you have to remember.  First, don't give up on the filling.  It will thicken.  I promise.  Just keep stirring (or whisking).  As soon as you are ready to throw in the towel and walk away from the whole disaster, that's when it will thicken.  Second, you can use a regular pie crust, just bake it beforehand.  I happen to like the graham cracker crust with the butterscotch filling, but my opinion isn't the one that matters when you're making this.  Third, you don't have to make this into a pie at all.  You can just eat the filling straight.  It's just butterscotch pudding.  No one will know you didn't put it in a pie.  Fourth, you need to make this pie filling whether it goes into pie form or not.  Most folk have only had artificially flavored (a.k.a. fake) butterscotch.  The real stuff will blow your mind.  You may never go back.  This stuff is pure brown sugar, nutty, sweet, buttery heaven.  Seriously.  I think I'm in love.

Be sure all your stuff is ready for the custard so nothing burns or scalds. 

 The brown sugar meringue is just plain pretty.  You don't have to get all fancy to make it look all professional-like.

 Yummy, creamy goodness is your reward.  Oh my.

Butterscotch Meringue Pie
makes one 9" pie

for the pie:
1 cup dark brown sugar 
1/2  tsp salt
2 Tbsp water
2 cup cold milk
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
One graham cracker pie crust
for the meringue:
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp dark brown sugar

Combine the brown sugar, salt, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over moderate heat to a thick syrup (about 5 minutes).  Mix 1/4 cup milk and cornstarch to make a smooth thin paste. Add 1 3/4 cups milk; then combine with hot brown sugar mixture; cook over low heat until thick and smooth,  stirring or whisking constantly. Stir a small amount of the hot brown sugar mixture into the beaten egg yolks, return to double boiler, and cook a few minutes longer. Add butter and almond extract, stirring until the butter is completely melted.  Cool completely.  Once cooled, pour the custard into
the pie shell. 

Preheat the oven to 350°.

To make the meringue, beat the egg whites on high speed until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar, and salt.  Continue beating until soft peaks form.  Add the vanilla, then gradually add the brown sugar.  Continue beating until the mixture is glossy and stiff peaks form. 

Spread the meringue over the butterscotch custard.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown.  Let cool completely before slicing.  Store, refrigerated, in a covered container up to 3 days.

27 January 2014

Texas Star Pecan Pie

My life has become remarkably pie-centric the last few days.  I've been reading the book "Arkansas Pie" by Kat Robinson.  Guess what it's about?  It makes me want to simultaneously hop in the car and go all over the state eating pie until I burst and at the same time go in the kitchen and cook pie after pie.  I'm not quite sure how I would do both of those at the same time, but that's what I wanna do nonetheless. 

To top off all the pie-ness, last Friday was National Pie Day.  I realized it too late to get up a pie post in honor of the holiday, but I did spend the evening digging through old recipes looking for some gem that I may have missed.  I happened upon this recipe in my countless piles I inherited from my grandmother.  The name gives nothing away.  This is a lot like a soda cracker pie, basically a meringue pie filling.  That pie is one of my husband's favorites and also one of the first recipes I posted on the blog.  There are some big differences, though.  First (and most obvious) is the lack of soda crackers.  They are swapped out for a graham cracker crust.  There's no crust in a soda cracker pie.  There's brown sugar in addition to white sugar.  It adds a nice little caramel-y flavor to the filling.  There's chocolate in this pie, too.  There's no chocolate in soda cracker pie.  I figure some chocolate's never a bad thing.

I did leave two things out from the original recipe -- the caramel sauce and ice cream on top for serving.  This pie is sweet enough to make my dentist have pain just hearing about it.  I love caramel sauce as much as the next guy, but the last thing this pie needs is some more sugar.  I also put a little dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream on top in place of the ice cream.  The creaminess is a nice complement.

23 January 2014

My Super Smoothie

This is the post I never, ever, ever in a million years thought I would be writing.  I'm not a big smoothie drinker.  I've always preferred eating my fruit and/or yogurt to drinking them.  Plus so many smoothies are just filled with so much that's just horrible for you, packed with all sorts of sugar and calories, and leave you hungry after and hour or two.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.

This smoothie is the opposite of all that stuff and I'm completely obsessed.  This is now my almost-daily breakfast.  It's actually good for me.  I can carry it with me while I tote the kids to their schools and go to work.  I'm a slow digester in the morning, so prolonging the breakfast consumption totally works for me.  It keeps me full until lunchtime.  Another awesome thing.  It also gives me as much get up and go as numerous cups of coffee.  Totally bonkers awesome.

I get what you're thinking.  I was thinking it, too.  At least I was until I made one of these bad boys.  Green juice?  Ugh.  That's my first thought.  Do I really wanna drink spinach?  Second thought.  I must not be a smoothies kinda girl.  Third thought.  I don't know what made me do it, but then I decided to bust out the blender.  I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised.  The green stuff's subtle.  You mainly taste the banana.  Banana does have that magical power about it. 

There is a trick to the blending order.  You must abide by the order or you might end up with stringy chunks of kale and spinach.  That's not appetizing.  I found out the hard way, so trust me on this one.  Blend the spinach and kale with the liquid first.  Blend it for a couple of minutes.  Blend until you don't see distinct dark green specks.

My Super Smoothie
makes 2  small or 1 large smoothie

Print me, Please!!!

1 cup baby spinach leaves, packed
1 cup chopped kale, packed
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/2 cup ice
1 medium banana
1/2 cup fat free vanilla greek yogurt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend the spinach, kale, and almond milk for 2-3 minutes, or until completely smooth and there are not distinctive pieces of leaves in the mixture.  Add the peaches and ice.  Blend until combined.  Add the banana, yogurt, and cinnamon.  Blend until combined and completely smooth.  Serve immediately.

20 January 2014

Honey Roasted Peanut Brownies

You're going to have to use your imagination on these.  This picture is the only one I was able to get.  Clearly they were all gone.  Okay, so here's what they looked like -- super-dark, gooey chocolate brownies.  Got that?  Okay.  Check.  The entire top covered with dry roast honey roasted peanuts.  Got it?  Okay.  Check on that one, too.  Now picture my husband, unmoving next to the plate eating square after square and saying "oh my gaaaawwwwd...."  That's these brownies in a nutshell.
Needless to say, these turned out really good and we were fans.  I know that's a captain obvious statement.  The brownies are bittersweet chocolate with some semisweet chocolate chips mixed in.  That makes for a not too bitter, not too sweet combo.  I'm a big fan of that.  Plus, how can you argue with double the chocolate?  I'm pretty sure you can't.  The batter also has a secret ingredient -- sour cream.  The sour cream works wonders in brownies.  It makes them super, crazy moist.  It also adds a little tang that counteracts all that sweet for some miraculous balance.  It's totally amazing.  You should try it.  I covered the top with a ton (almost literally) of dry roast honey roasted peanuts.  Of course you know already that I'm about the world's biggest fan of anything salty/sweet and these are one of my greatest weaknesses.  They're made even better by that extra toasty roasting time in the oven.  Oh my.
Outside of the nearly life-affirming brownies, we had a really big week around my house last week.  On Friday, Sam competed in the school-wide spelling bee.  He won the first grade spelling bee a few weeks ago and moved on the go up against the winners for every class in school.  He came in third
place for the entire school, even though he was the youngest kid in the competition.  He beat out two 5th graders, a 4th grader, two 3rd graders, two 2nd graders and another 1st grader.  Needless to say Eric and I are super proud of the guy.  Oh, and he turned 7 on Saturday, so that's totally awesome, too.

Honey Roasted Peanut Brownies
makes about 24 brownies

Print me, Please!!!

10 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
10 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dry roast honey roasted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a 11x7" baking dish with foil; set aside.

Place the bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat in microwave 30 seconds at a time until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the chocolate mixture with the sugar, eggs, vanilla and sour cream until smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir until just barely combined.  Fold in the semisweet chocolate chips.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Cover the top of the batter with the peanuts, pressing the peanuts slightly into the batter.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until barely set in the center.  Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.  Store in a covered container up to 1 week.

15 January 2014

The Saveur 100 -- Inspiration Galore

Want some inspiration?  Need a new dinner idea?  Wanna just look at some great food photos and writing for about 4 hours?  Go straight to the Saveur 100.  Seriously.  It's amazing.  I love Saveur anyway, but seeing all this awesome stuff in one place is a little bit mind blowing.  The world of food and cooking is so crazy creative and beautiful right now.  It truly is a sight to behold.  Now if we could only get the food teleported through the DSL lines....I'd be happy as a pig in mud.

Here's some of my favorites and/or things I would like to try:
I gotta get me some of this.  This would make my turkey sandwich super classy.


I'm not going to give away what this is.  Go read it.  It totally blows my mind.

I am making Anzac biscuits this year.  These are right up my alley.


I used to love Sassy.  This makes me miss high school.


This range is too pretty to cook on.


Lazy Woman's Pie?  This is calling my name.

You can also go and look at last year's top 100.  Or the year before that.  They're amazing, too.


12 January 2014

Malt Caramel Pretzel Blondies

I can't stop looking at Pinterest.  It's just straight up food porn.  Anyone who has spent any time on Pinterest knows that it is physically impossible to look for just a second.  You can't look away; you might miss something.  Of course since the beginning of the year, most of the recipes have been about being healthier, eating clean, cleansing, etc....  There have been smoothies in pretty much every color in the rainbow, healthier casseroles, lots of dips, and a handful of guilt-free snacks.   These blondies are pretty much the opposite of everything I just talked about.  They're also pretty much the opposite of how I have been eating myself.

I, much like all the folks on Pinterest, have been drinking smoothies, eating way healthier, etc....  I am quite literally counting calories.  Now for confession time.....  I constantly struggle with my weight and I mostly lose the battle.  Two years ago I got fed up and lost 75 pounds in eight months.  Last year I gained back about half of it.  And, no, I am not blaming writing a blog that is mainly about desserts on that weight gain.  I eat for comfort and I eat more when I'm stressing out.  Although, I didn't write about most of what was going on, this last year was really stress-filled.  I ate.  I ate a lot to deal.  All the eating didn't help, but I'm working on getting past that hurdle, too.

My husband is not on a diet, though, so I made him these blondies.  He loves anything with salt.  He's a salt junkie.  His favorite food is green olives, which are total salt bombs.  I like them, too, but only in small doses.  He could eat a whole jar in one sitting.  So these blondies have salty pretzels for him.  They also have chocolate and malted milk powder.  Those are two of his other favorite things.  Oh, and there's caramel.  Caramel makes everything better, right?  The ladies at work really dug these, too.  I literally had to hide the last piece so that I could take these pictures. 


08 January 2014

Lemon Meringue Cake

I wanted to start the year on the right note.  No.  Not quite.  I've been working on so many good things I couldn't decide what to post first.  Nope.  I've been too lazy to post anything.  No, well, maybe a little.  I've been too busy watching football to cook anything new on my day off.  That's probably the biggest culprit for the lack of posting lately.  Sorry.  Well, this week is sort of the saddest week of the year for me in a way.  The Packers were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, so now I can start cooking again.  That's the good news.  The sadness is the fact that there's no more football until the fall.  Okay, enough of the no football pity party.

In my football fixation, I have actually gotten a little behind in posting.  I made this cake back in November and just haven't gotten around to posting it.  I really did think it would be a nice way to start the new year, too.  It's crazy tart and lemony.  It's all shortcuts, which I usually don't go for, but in this case they're okay and they totally work.  You get to use a blowtorch!  Yea!  That's my favorite part.  I don't get nearly enough chances to use my little kitchen torch.


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