My Kind of Salad

I don’t know if this is a regional dish, or if they appear at holiday dinners everywhere, but I grew up with what my family calls “24-hour salad” at almost every holiday meal.

You mix canned fruit and mini marshmallows in a bowl, then sprinkle instant pudding mix over the entire thing. Stir in a container of Cool Whip, and then stick it in the fridge overnight. Bam! Holiday side complete. And since it’s a salad, you can eat it alongside your ham AND have seconds before dessert even appears. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Things like instant pudding and Cool Whip.¬†Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a generous serving of 24-hour salad at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if a more “homemade” option exists, I’ll try that too. ūüôā

I stumbled on this recipe last fall when Karen, Janelle and I were planning our Friendsgiving 2.0 menu. I was immediately intrigued. It looked like a cranberry version of the traditional 24-hour salad, and it used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I had a stockpile of cranberries in the freezer, and I almost always have whipping cream in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the salad got scratched from the Friendsgiving menu because we had SO MUCH FOOD.

I didn’t forget about the recipe though. As I started planning our Easter menu, I knew I wanted to try the cranberry salad. And since we were having people over for dinner, I knew we wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl ourselves.

I used my food processor to chop the cranberries and walnuts (not together though). After that, I simply mixed everything together and put it in the fridge. Right before dinner, I whipped the cream and folded it into the cranberries. It was probably the easiest part of the meal. It was one of the tastiest parts too. I definitely went back for seconds and thirds on salad.

One of the downsides to this recipe, if there is one, is that it doesn’t keep nearly as well. The whipped cream starts to separate and get soggy after a day in the fridge, so you should plan on eating it all in one sitting. Good thing it’s always OK to have more salad.


Creamy Cranberry Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, pineapple, apple, sugar, salt and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream and walnuts into the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately.

From Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.

Dessert? Breakfast? You Decide.

You may have picked up on this ¬†(especially if we’re friends outside of the internet), but dessert for breakfast is something that I endorse wholeheartedly.

Apple crisp? That’s apples and oatmeal, which totally equals breakfast¬†in my book. Fruit pie? I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.¬†After all, there’s no way that’s any worse than having a bowl of Frosted Flakes. I’d argue that it’s better for you than most boxed cereals, actually.

I’ve even gone as far as having coffee ice cream in the morning, but I’ll admit that’s a little more of a stretch. However, that’s one of the perks of being an adult. Just like calling chocolate waffles “breakfast for dinner” when you know they’re¬†really just brownies. Ha. ūüėČ

Either way, when I saw Deb’s Apricot Breakfast Crisp, I was all in. Crisp would be an excellent addition to our busy weekday mornings. Except for one tiny detail: Apricots (or peaches, which I prefer) aren’t in season. Even worse: they won’t be for MONTHS, and there’s almost nothing more disappointing than biting into tasteless off-season fruit. (Or, as Kirsten points out, a flavorless off-season tomato.)¬†

I spend hot summer days picking and preserving fruit just for moments like this though. Last summer I canned 14 quarts of peaches (along with several jars of peach jam), so I figured that I’d be able to use some of them in a “breakfast crisp.”

I drained a jar of peaches and weighed the fruit, which came to just over a pound. Perfect! I dumped the peaches in the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart dish, added the sugar/flour mixture and made the topping. I think the entire process took less than 10 minutes. Then it took a quite spin in the hot oven, and bam! My Sunday afternoon baking was complete.

Of course, there was no way that I could convince Andy to save all of the crisp for Monday morning. He had to sample some that evening, which, of course, meant that I had to sample some too. And true to form, the crisp lasted about 24 hours in our house, which meant that we got one breakfast out of it. Maybe a double batch should be in our future.

Peach Breakfast Crisp 2

Peach Breakfast Crisp

For the fruit filling:
1 quart of peaches, drained (use a pound of fresh peaches if they’re in season where you live)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon AP flour
Pinch of nutmeg

For the topping:
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup AP flour
Generous pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400¬į.

Place the peaches in the bottom of a small baking dish. (I used a 1-1/2 quart dish; Deb recommends a 1-quart gratin dish.) In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour and a pinch of nutmeg. Sprinkle the flour-sugar-spice mixture over the peaches and gently stir until they are all covered.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and then the oats, flour, almonds and salt. Stir until the mixture clumps together. (I’ll go ahead and admit that mine never formed large clumps like Deb said, but I figured it didn’t really matter.)

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is browned and your kitchen smells amazing. Serve warm or cold, with a scoop of yogurt for breakfast or ice cream for dessert.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

Making Up With Pie

Last weekend, pie and I got into a fight. I spent most of Saturday making two lemon meringue pies, and by the end of the day, pie crust and I were not on speaking terms. I don’t know what it is about blind-baked crusts, but they do not bring out the best in me.¬†Andy’s been known to flee the kitchen (or even the house) when I’m fighting with pie crust. Smart man.

In my search for the perfect lemon meringue pie, I stumbled upon something that sounded much better: Deep-Dish Rhubarb Cherry Berry pie. Why was I fighting with blind baked crusts and tempering eggs? I had all the necessary fruit in my freezer! I should bake this instead!

Well, I had to ¬†make the lemon pie to share with our Sunday school class, but that didn’t keep me from thinking about the pie that should have been. And when you get stuck on a recipe, there’s really only one thing you can do: BAKE THE DANG PIE. So I went home and did just that, and it ended up being everything I’d hoped it would be.

It¬†was the perfect combination of sweet and tart from the rhubarb, cherries and blueberries. The almond extract melded perfectly with the fruit, and (wonder of wonders) the filling thickened up perfectly. I had been¬†a little concerned that we’d end up with a pie that was too runny, as the cherries released a LOT of juice as they sat in the sugar.

I had the pie crust all rolled out and ready to go when I realized that the recipe wanted me to brush it with a beaten egg white to help keep the crust from getting soggy. Well, I HATE recipes that just call for part of an egg. What was I supposed to do with the yolk? We’d already eaten lunch, and breakfast for dinner wasn’t on the menu anytime soon. (Ironically enough, lunch had been scrambled eggs. The perfect solution¬†for an extra yolk. GRRR.) So I skipped the whole “brush with beaten egg white” step, and you know what? We didn’t have a soggy crust!

And it was easy, as far as pies go. Yes, a lattice top looks fancy, but it doesn’t take that much more time than a regular double-crust pie. And yes, I made my own pie dough, but that takes all of 15 minutes with the pastry blender. Really, as long as you’re not blind-baking a crust, pies are fairly simple.

So¬†there you have it. Pie and I are friends again. For now. Or at least until Andy requests a chocolate pie. ūüėČ

Cherry Rhubarb Berry Pie
OK, not the greatest picture. We were on our way out the door (with the pie), and it was getting dark. 

Deep-Dish Rhubarb Cherry Berry Pie

Pie dough for a double-crust pie (I like Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter, Really Flaky Crust.)
1 generous pint of sour cherries, thawed and drained if frozen (Sweet cherries or strawberries can be substituted if you weren’t lucky enough to put some Door County cherries in your freezer last summer.)
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, thawed and drained if frozen
1 generous pint of blueberries
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375¬į. Place an empty baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven to catch any drips.

In a large bowl, toss the cherries with 1/2 cup of sugar. Set aside while you prepare the pie crust.

Divide the pie dough into two slightly even pieces. On a floured surface, roll the larger piece out into a circle large enough for a 9″ deep dish pie pan. Gently fold the dough into quarters and transfer it to the pie pan. Unfold the dough and press it into the pie pan. Trim the edges of the dough, leaving a small (1/2″ – 3/4″) overhang.

Roll the second piece of dough out into a 10″ circle. Using a knife (or pastry wheel if you’re fancy), cut the circle into 3/4″-wide strips.

Add the rhubarb, blueberries and almond extract to the cherry-sugar mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining cup of sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar-cornstarch-salt-cinnamon mixture over the fruit and gently stir to combine.

Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pie shell. Place half of the lattice strips across the pie, parallel to each other, at about 1/2″ intervals. One at a time, place the remaining strips across the pie in the opposite direction, lifting the other strips to “weave” the strips together in a lattice pattern. Press the ends of the strips into the bottom crust and fold the edges of the bottom crust over the edge of the pie plate and crimp the edges. Sprinkle the lattice strips with sugar.

Place a large piece of foil over the top of the pie and place the pie in the oven. Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  (The book says this will take 30-40 additional minutes; mine took nearly an hour.) If the edges of the crust begin to brown too quickly, cover them with pieces of aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream if you have it.

Barely adapted from Classic Home Desserts

Click here for a printable version.

Apricots for Andy

As soon as¬†I saw these cookies, I knew I had to make them for Andy. After all, he is a self-proclaimed fruit junkie. If you give him a choice between a piece of fruit or cookies/cake/other snack food, he will choose the fruit, nine times out of ten. Of course, he’ll probably go back for the cookie once the fruit is gone, but still. I can’t buy the stuff fast enough. So when I saw a cookie studded with chunks of dried apricots (one of Andy’s favorite snacks), I was pretty sure that I’d stumbled upon his cookie utopia.

I didn’t get around to trying these cookies right away, and they kind of fell off my¬†radar until a couple weeks ago. Andy was spending¬†some quality time in the garage with his truck, fixing something with the leaf spring bracket. (I think, anyway. I tried to pay attention to what exactly was going on, but a lot of it went over my head. He fixed it though! Yay for handy husbands!) I felt bad for him (especially since our garage isn’t heated) and decided to make a “you’re-the-best-for-fixing-the-truck” treat. What better way to show my appreciation than with cookies, right? Especially cookies with one of his favorite fruits!

Well… they weren’t chocolate chip cookies. And when you’re expecting a chewy, melty chocolate chip cookie, shortbread is a little bit of a disappointment, apparently. Even if it is stuffed with apricots. That’s fine. Nothing said he had to be wowed by them (even though these were the best shortbread cookies I’d ever tried). I’d just eat them myself.

A funny thing happened though. Andy kept going back for “just one more cookie.” I don’t know if it was the butter, the apricots, or the appetite he worked up out in the garage, but these things had some sort of magnetic pull. We could not quit eating them. In fact, they disappeared in record time, which is pretty amazing when you consider that they weren’t chocolate chip cookies.

apricot shortbread cookies

This was my first time making a shortbread cookie, and while I knew they were going to be crumbly, I was a little surprised at how hard it was for the dough to come together. The recipe said to mix it by hand, and I think that was part of my problem. Next time, I’ll try it with my mixer and see if that works better. I was also unsure about a cookie recipe without any baking powder or soda, but since these worked out just fine, it must not be necessary for shortbread! I ended up adding some extra vanilla, and I think that almond extract would be great in them as well. I’m not including those changes in the recipe below, because I didn’t have a chance to try most of them out. Next time. ūüôā

Apricot Shortbread Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Combine all of the ingredients except the apricots together in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. (I ended up using my hands to work it together.) Gently stir in the chopped apricots.

Cut a large piece of plastic wrap and turn the dough out onto the plastic. Shape the dough into a 2″ wide log. Roll the log in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (Or, 20 minutes in the freezer if you’re impatient like me.)¬†

Remove the dough from the freezer and slice into rounds that are about 1/4″ thick. Place cookies about 1/2″ apart on the prepared sheet and bake until they are barely golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

As seen on Branny Boils Over, originally adapted from Martha Stewart

Click here for a printable version.

Summer in a Jar

I feel as though I’m in produce overload right now. Everything seems to be ripening at the same time! Our CSA has blessed us with more cucumbers than two people can eat, so I HAVE to make pickles soon, and I’m getting at least three pounds off our green beans every three days. Oh, and the tomatoes started ripening – I picked 10 of them yesterday. We won’t even talk about the squash that just keeps coming.

And then we have the peaches and blueberries that we ordered. I put 15 lbs. of blueberries in the freeze and made a pie and a blueberry version of this cake, Still need to make muffins… maybe tonight after work. And I did can two batches of peaches – you know, so I can make things like peach¬†pie and ice cream on dreary winter days. After all, it’s no secret that I love peaches. (So much so, that I asked for peach trees for my birthday this year! Here’s hoping they survive our Wisconsin winter!)¬†And then I made jam as well.

What I love most about this recipe is the fact that it goes in freezer, which means it saves me a TON of time. I don’t have to bring a giant kettle of water up to a boil and spend hours processing jars. Simply peel and crush your peaches, cook for a few minutes and ladle into freezer-safe containers. Bam! You’ve captured summer in a jar, and left yourself some time to enjoy the little bit of summer that remains. (Or you can move on to the giant pile of green beans in the fridge.) ūüėÄ


Peach Freezer Jam

5 cups of crushed peaches, peeled and pitted*
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup low-sugar powdered pectin (I used the Ball variety, as the store was out of the Sure-Jel in the pink box.)
1/3 cup lemon juice

Wash, rinse and dry seven 8-ounce freezer-safe containers. (I use glass jam jars, and since I only had five 8-ounce jars, I filled one pint jar as well.) Set aside.

In a large pot, combine the fruit and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and pectin. Pour into the hot fruit and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture has come back up to a boil that you can’t stir down. Allow mixture to boil for 1 minute, stirring as needed to keep it from sticking. Remove from heat.

Ladle jam into prepared containers, being sure to leave at least 1/2″ headspace, and allow to cool to room temperature before freezing. Store in the freezer.

From Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011

*I slipped my peaches into a boiling water bath for a minute or so to remove the skins, then roughly chopped them. I crushed some of the peaches with my hands before they started cooking and then used a potato masher to mush them down further. As you can see, I left my jam rather chunky, but that’s just a personal preference.¬†

Click here for a printable version.

Getting Saucy

There’s a slight chill in the air, the nights are getting longer, and my Saturdays involve college football. (GO BUCKEYES!) Fall has arrived! For Karen some people, fall is ushered in by all things pumpkin. For me, fall means apples. Apple pie, apple crisp and applesauce.

Some might say that I’m somewhat of an applesauce snob. I remember being a kid and telling someone (maybe my aunt?) that I wasn’t going to have the applesauce with dinner because it was from the store, not homemade. (In hindsight, I bet I sounded a little bratty then. Sorry ’bout that.) I don’t think of it as being a snob, just having high standards. This is one of those times where the homemade stuff really is better. It’s not hard to make, and since I freeze mine, rather than can it, it’s a cinch. (Plus, frozen applesauce makes an excellent snack. It’s like a slushy, only better.)¬†

My sauce set-up: pan to catch the sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, a bowl to catch the skins, seeds and cores, and two bowls to place the warm, sweet goodness.

Don’t let that picture scare you; homemade applesauce is easy.

Here’s what you’ll need:¬†
Apples (I use a mix of apples for the best flavor; some of my favorites are Cortlands, Macs and Jonathans.) Sugar
Spices (I use cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.)
A large stock pot for cooking down the apples
A food mill/sauce maker OR a vegetable peeler and a potato masher
Freezer containers

First, rinse off your apples and cut them in quarters. (If you don’t have a strainer like the one pictured above, you ¬†will also need to peel and core the apples. If you’re going to make a lot of sauce, I’d suggest investing in one. It’s a huge time saver!)

Place the apple chunks in the stock pot with about an inch of water. Simmer over medium heat until the apples are soft and mushy.

Just about ready for their time in the strainer…

Pour the cooked apples and juice¬†(yes, with the seeds and all)¬†into the strainer. Place a pan underneath the strainer to catch the applesauce and another bowl underneath the waste spout to catch the seeds, cores and skins. Crank away! If you don’t have a strainer, take out your potato masher and smash the apples until they’re the consistency you want.

Pour the fresh applesauce into a bowl and season to taste with sugar and the spices. I use 1-2 tablespoons of sugar for that giant red bowl shown in the picture, and I add the spices until it tastes good! Fill your freezer containers, label, date, and you’re done! Don’t freeze it all though – the only thing that tastes better than frozen applesauce is fresh, piping hot applesauce!

From my mom

Blueberry Goodness

Remember, back when I froze rhubarb, I said that the only thing easier was freezing blueberries? I wasn’t kidding! This was an easy enough (and fast enough) project where I knocked this out one morning before I left for work. I managed to get nine pounds of blueberries in the freezer for this year. (Yes, I know we bought 20 pounds. I only made a couple pies and cobblers with them. The rest of the blueberries were consumed by the bowlful. They’re like nature’s candy.)

Anyway… if you still have blueberries coming in, be sure to save some for those chilly winter mornings! They’re great in muffins, pancakes or pie. (What? You don’t eat pie for breakfast? Hmm.)

You’ll need:¬†
Blueberries (from the farmer’s market or even the grocery store!)
Ziploc bags
Measuring cup or food scale
Sharpie for marking bags

Step 1: Wash the blueberries and allow them to dry on a clean kitchen towel. (You don’t have to wait for them to dry completely if you don’t want to, but if they’re dry, they freeze as individual berries, rather than one giant berry cube.)

Step 2: Measure your berries into ziploc freezer bags. (I freeze them in one-pound increments, but feel free to use any size you like.)

Step 3: Seal, label, date and store!

Look at that, you’re done!

Millions of peaches…

…peaches for me (come on, you know you’re singing the rest of the song with me now). You know that entire bushel of peaches I had? Well, I couldn’t let the summer go by without at least testing that peach wine cooler recipe I saw. And I knew that Karen would be more than willing to give this a try with me. (Side note: I realize that my posts make it sound like all we do is get together to try out new drinks. That’s not true. Sometimes we do other things, like frost cakes and eat ice cream.)¬†

The original recipe called for two ounces of peach schnapps. Well, I must not be familiar enough with the liquor section at my grocery store, because I was unable to find a bottle of schnapps. And after thinking about it some more, I decided that I didn’t want to buy an entire bottle for just a couple ounces. What would I do with the rest? It’s not like vodka, which I could turn into vanilla. (And yes, I do turn vodka into vanilla. It’s wonderful. More on that another day.) Instead, we decided to add some vanilla and a couple of extra peaches to the wine coolers instead of the schnapps. I also halved the recipe, and it was the perfect amount for four glasses. I’ve noted these changes below; head on over to Annie’s site to see the original recipe!

I realize it’s not the prettiest picture. I blame the lack of daylight and the fact that it was after 10 p.m. when we finally got around to drinking/photographing these.

Peach Wine Coolers

12 ounces of fresh peaches, peeled and halved
1 750ml bottle of semi-sweet white wine (I tried FlipFlop’s Riesling for this batch.)¬†
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
Extra peach slices for garnish

In a blender, combine the peaches, one cup of wine, vanilla and salt. Puree until the mixture is smooth. Add in the remaining wine and chill for an hour or two.

Serve over ice, garnished with peach slices.

From Annie’s Eats

CSA Week #5

One of my favorite things about summer (besides longer days, camping and fresh strawberries) is sweet corn! I can eat an embarrassingly large quantity of corn on the cob. Needless to say, the sweet corn we got this week was gone almost immediately. (And yes, I did share with Andy.)

So, what else did we get? One head of cabbage, half a pound of green beans, one cucumber and two more of those funny yellow zucchini.

I made “quick pickles” with the cucumber and coleslaw with half of the cabbage. We’ve been enjoying the green beans as well. I wasn’t wowed by last week’s yellow zucchini when we grilled it, so I’m considering roasting this batch.

I also picked up our fruit order this week. (It’s not affiliated with our CSA.) Each year, we go in on a large order of cherries, blueberries and peaches. I brought home one bushel of peaches, 20 pounds of blueberries and 15 pounds of cherries. I’ll freeze some of the blueberries and cherries, and I’ll can some of the peaches. I may make some peach jam again (last year’s batch was well-received and eaten very quickly), and I saw a cherry chocolate chip ice cream recipe that is just begging dying demanding asking to be made. Oh, and there’s always those peach wine coolers. Not to mention the fact that Andy is more than willing eat his weight in fruit. We’ll go through it quickly, I’m sure.

Sweet Salsa

The more I cook, the more adventurous I get. Need proof? Look no further than here and here. Last week, I’d bought a mango (total impulse buy) without any real idea of what I was going to do with it. Well, a week had gone by, and this mango was at the peak of perfect. It needed using NOW. Not tomorrow, not sometime over the weekend, but NOW.¬†Hmm. What was I going to do with the mango?

I didn’t have all of the stuff I needed for the mango salsa I normally make, and since we were having pork chops, I didn’t really think we needed another protein. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just wing it. Lucky for us, I managed to come up with a winner! (Like they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.)¬†

I would have added a little chopped jalapeno, but since I didn’t have one on hand, that didn’t happen. (Which Andy was A-OK with, by the way. He seems to think I’m out to see how much heat he can handle. No clue where he gets that idea.) If you have the pepper, go for it. Make it even if you don’t have a jalapeno. It’s that good.

Mango Blueberry Salsa

1 mango, diced into half-inch pieces
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped (pick your favorite, I used yellow because that’s what I had!)¬†
1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (if using)
Juice of half a lime
1/4 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed (used the ones from this week’s CSA!)¬†
pinch of sea salt
3-4 basil leaves, sliced into thin strips

In a small bowl, combine the mango, pepper and onion. Add the lime juice and stir to combine. Add salt to taste and gently stir in the blueberries and basil. Let sit for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve over pork chops, chicken or fish. (Or, eat it straight from the bowl, like Andy did when I asked him to taste-test it.) Store leftover salsa in the fridge.