Thursday, December 24, 2009

Baked in a Pie

Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays tend to bring out a variety of pies. From traditional fruit pies (e.g. apple and cherry) to creamy and chunky (peanut butter and pecan) to custard (lemon, lime, and chocolate), all pies start with a crust. In spite of a love for pie, many skip the step for crust making due to the frustration associated with some crust recipes. After trying crust recipes from a few popular cookbooks, I preferred homemade crust but was not satisfied with any certain recipe. I stumbled across a synagogue cookbook from my hometown in Tennessee in a used book sale in South Carolina a few years ago. The book is called Recipes by Request from the B’nai Shalom Sisterhood. I do not know if they print new copies but the date indicates this was the 1967 update. It contains a mix of recipes from all over the world including many traditional Jewish recipes. I decided to pick it up and was pleased. As I tested scattered recipes in the book, I ran across two pie crust recipes. The first recipe produces a sweet double crust that tends to be thick when baked. The second generates a single crust that is savory and rolls out to form a thin delicate crust. Both are easy to follow and tasty! I am modifying them from the original format for readability but the information is unchanged.

Pie Dough (makes two- nine inch pie shells)

½ c. butter
8 tsp. sugar (can reduce or remove for a savory crust)
2/3 c. shortening
3 1/3 c. sifted all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1/3 c. cold water


In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a fork. Blend this mixture well with soft shortening. Combine flour and salt. Then blend the flour mixture with the butter mixture. With the fork, gradually stir in the water until the mixture cleans the side of the bowl. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until just well mixed; use as directed in pie recipe.

Notes: If you roll thinly, you can make 2 pie shells and two lattice tops from this recipe. I recommend a well floured surface to keep the crust from sticking to the counter top.

Pie Crust (1 crust)


1 c. flour
½ tsp salt
3 rounded Tbsp Crisco (shortening)
3 Tbsp ice water


Measure flour and salt into a large bowl. Blend shortening into flour and salt with a pastry blender or fork until it reaches the consistency of heavy cornmeal. Add water 1 tablespoonful at a time, tossing wet and dry ingredients together with blender until all the flour is moistened. Turn out on floured board. Roll into a circle 1/8 to ¼ inch thick and large enough to allow 1 to 1 ½ inches hanging over the edge of the pie tin. Fold up and back to make an upright rim and flute with fingers. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour. Place another tin the same size over the crust. Bake 12 minutes at 450 F until browned at the bottom. Remove upper tin and allow inside of crust to brown.

Note: If rolled thinly, you can make the bottom and a lattice top using this recipe. The recipe can be doubled to prevent anxiety about having enough dough for the upper crust.

I used the Pie Dough recipe to make caramel apple pie for Thanksgiving. The filling was made as stated for caramel apple crisp in a previous post. The modifications to the filling procedure were that I placed the apples in the crust, made the lattice top, and added the brown sugar and cinnamon into the caramel sauce. I poured the caramel topping over the lattice into the pie. I also added a little more cinnamon to the caramel sauce (2 tsp.) but I could’ve easily added more as it was not a dominant flavor.

Pie Before Baking

Pie After Baking

I also used the recipe to make a sugar free (technically reduced sugar since baking Splenda contains some sugar, as do apples) version. Instead of sugar, I used Splenda’s versions of sugar and brown sugar. The sugar substitutes responded quickly to heat and could only be heated on the stove top for 3-5 minutes. The mixture became very thick and would not pour over the lattice crust. In the future, I would recommend mixing the apples with the sugar free caramel sauce prior to making the lattice. This way the flavors will mingle with the apples.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Leftover Turkey?

Turkey with Curry and Rice

This one pot meal was a meal solution for leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I know it has been a few weeks since Thanksgiving. I chose to freeze leftover turkey and thawed some for this recipe in an effort to reduce the contents of the freezer.


1 c. chopped cooked turkey
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 c. cooked rice
1/3 c. peas
4 medium sized carrots, sliced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Cilantro, chopped


Heat the oil in a small pot or medium frying pan.
Toss in onions and carrots. Cook until onions are golden.
Add turkey, curry powder, salt, pepper and peas. Cook 1-2 minutes.
Stir in rice. Cook 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are hot.
Toss in cilantro and serve or add cilantro to each serving.

Note: This made 2.5 lunch servings for me. Consider doubling if this is desired as a one dish meal for more than one person, unless you have very light eaters.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cooking Night : Italian Part IV, Cannoli

Holy Cannoli 101

Cannolis require 2 things: a filling and a shell. The shells can be bought at the store but fresh is so much better they are hardly the same product. While many stores will sell expensive tubes for making shells, this is unnecessary and far from traditional. Apparently, Italians historically used wooden tubes to make their shells. I read one story about a set of wooden tubes that had been in a family for over 50 years and that they were cut from an old broom. That's recycling!

Cannoli tubes

1. I went to Lowe's and looked at the untreated dowel rods. I picked a
1" dowl that must've been 4 feet long. I had it cut into 4" segments and received 12 pieces.

2. Using coarse and fine sandpaper. The edges were sanded with coarse
followed by fine sandpaper until the edges were rounded and faces
smooth. The lengths were sanded with the fine paper only until smooth.

3. The tubes were then washed with soap and water and dried. Ready to use!

Cannoli Shells

Using the following recipe:

A few things can be clarified. If you chill the dough, it may become
too stiff to roll. If it becomes too stiff add a little water. I wound
up adding over a Tbsp before the dough was pliable. Using a container
with a 4" round base (take out container from Thai Sewatdee worked), I
cut circles from the thinly rolled (~1/8 to 1/4 inch, closer to 1/8")
dough. Using a rolling pin (or a flat surfaced cup...I don't remember
which I used) roll the circle a little thinner in one direction to
create an ellipse. You need an ellipse to wrap loosely around the
cannoli tube. Overlap the seam edges as much as possible and press
together firmly. You can try sealing with a little water. It may or
may not help. I didn't find sealing with egg white to be helpful.
Place no more than three in a deep fryer at a time. The tube will want
to roll to the top (the end with less dough (b/c it is lighter) so you
will need to occasionally use a long handled instrument (slotted spoon
or whatever) to roll the cannoli so that it is cooked on all sides.
Remove when browned. This process takes 5-7 minutes per set. Once removed, allow the shells and tubes to cool for a few minutes. Then, gently press the tube from one end to remove the cannoli shell without breaking it. Once the shell is removed, the tube is ready for the next round of cannoli dough.

Cannoli Filling

This was the base recipe for filling. It was a start but far from the finish. The edited recipe follows:

1 c. Ricotta cheese (strained of fluid using cheese cloth)
1/8 c. Kahlua or other coffee flavoring (More can be added but be
careful with liberality b/c your filling needs body.)
3/8 c. Sugar (it wasn't sweet enough the first time. Powdered sugar
might be a better solution)
1/3 c. Semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. Heath bits

The shells are best when freshly made and eaten. They are nowhere near
as good the next day but definitely edible. If the option is
available, roll out the dough but wait to fry them until ready to
fill. The filling is better if you let the flavors mingle for a few hours or overnight. I suggest waiting to put the chips in until before filling so that they do not dissolve in the mixture.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cooking Night : Italian Part III, Fettuccine Carbonara and Onion-Baconated Chicken

Fettuccine Carbonara

As a pasta entree, there was demand for remaking a dish I had made with Mel once in the past. Both Bon Appetit and Cooking Light had published recipes for Carbonara one month. Honestly, I think we combined the recipes but I'm not sure. When it was first prepared, Mel and I used prosciutto but the Bon Appetit recipe called for pancetta. In contrast to normal, we pretty much followed the recipe. Due to popular demand for a vegetable they had eaten before, broccoli was substituted for broccolini. In a cooperative effort between at least three people, Neil and the pancetta, Rebecca with the fettuccine, and I'm not even sure who was taking care of combining it all with the sauce. I think if it were to be done again, it might be better to split the sauce in half and mix the combination in two settings. I know it dirties more bowls but I think there would've been a moister overall dish...that or in the future I would double the sauce.

The Bon Appetit Recipe can be found here. The Cooking Light recipe is here. We skipped the egg on top as we had an alternate meat entree.

For the meat entree, I switched out a fish recipe that was liked in previous cooking and used it for chicken.

Onion-Baconated Grilled Chicken


1 large Videlia onion
1 lb bacon
3-4 large chicken breasts
low salt soy sauce

1. Preheat outdoor grill.
2. Using a fish basket ($10 at Lowe's and well worth it), Place bacon strips about 1/2 apart across the basket.
3. Cover the bacon slices with single layer slices of onion
4. Place chicken on top of onion.
5. Layer more onion on top of chicken
6. Layer bacon strips 1/2 inch apart across the top of the chicken.
7. Lightly splash soy sauce across the top.
8. Close grill basket well. This is very important. Make sure the grill basket top is on as tightly as possible. You're not likely to break it but it is likely to open and spew out your contents if not closed well. Push the metal clasp as far down as possible.
9. Place the basket on the grill with the grill set to medium heat. Do not abandon the grill! Using a squirt bottle, shoot out the flames that are definitely going to rise.
10. After the chicken has cooked 10 minutes, get ready to flip. BEFORE flipping, go ahead and readjust the grill basket. As the contents cooked, they have lost water and the lid on the basket will likely be loose. After adjusting and tightening, flip and continue monitoring the chicken with your trusty squirt bottle.
11. This takes 20-30 minutes to grill. Be sure to check the chicken to make sure it is done. It should be white all the way through.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cooking Night : Italian Part II, White Bean and Pasta Soup

White bean and pasta soup was a featured recipe earlier this year from Bon Appetit. However, as it sometimes happens, the recipe didn't work with what was available at groceries here so it required a fair bit of modification.

The original recipes can be found here and here.

The original recipe called for cooking cannellini beans (aka white kidney beans) with a mixture of spices prior to preparing the soup. Oddly, there were no white kidney beans to be found in dried form. Fortunately, we located already cooked canned white kidney beans. If you're in Winston-Salem, save yourself some time...the only grocery that carries them is Lowe's Foods. Since the beans were cooked with seasonings in the original recipe prior to being added to the soup, the seasonings were a guess and were supplemented along as it was taste tested. Mini farfellini pasta was selected because they were so cute. Seriously. Pasta is often selected based on cuteness if I'm making it. That's how I wound up eating radiatore. I thought it looked like small car radiators and that seemed very fun that day. Anyway, here's the soup and how we made it with seasoning edits. Keep in mind if you make this, you may want more salt or garlic. Also for the non carrot lovers...while the carrots were in there, the flavors melded and they didn't have a distinct taste in the soup.


3 Tbsp olive oil
2 c. chopped onions (we added a little more but we like onions)
2/3 c. chopped carrot
2/3 c. chopped celery
2 15 oz cans cooked white kidney beans
1 large tomato
1 c. mini farfellini
1/3 c. chopped green onions (everything except the top dark green parts and roots)
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 1/2 c. water


Heat oil in the soup pot.

Add onions(both types), carrots, garlic, and celery and cook until soft. Bon appetit says 12 min. I don't know that it took that long but its an estimate.

Add water, beans, salt, pepper, and tomato.

Bring to a simmer and reduce heat while simmering for 25 minutes.

Add pasta and cook until done. (8-10 minutes)


Friday, December 11, 2009

Cooking Night : Italian Part I, Baguettes

I decided to start a group cooking night with a group of friends so that we could all experience cooking together in one place, while trying different foods each time. The first cooking night was Italian themed.

We planned to have supper prepared by 7PM. Most of the people coming to help cook arrived around 5PM. Since I wanted fresh themed bread, I went back to a standby recipe for Baguettes. I have tried other recipes but this one works. After having some mixed results with others, it may take some time before I venture to another one. This recipe is easy to vary and the directions (while long) are not really complicated, just detailed. I can appreciate that. I do not know the exact amount of time it takes to make this recipe. I know that you have to allow for at least 2 risings each lasting at least an hour. I started at 1PM. That way, if the bread was ready early (and it was) it could hold until I was ready to bake without a problem. If you will be in a hurry the day of cooking, I recommend starting the bread the day before and getting it either to one rising point or other and placing it in the fridge. Prior to baking, sit the bread out on the counter for at least 30 minutes to reach room temperature.

I apologize for the lack of photo. As soon as the bread came out of the oven, the response was wow, it looks great, lets try it was promptly sliced. It didn't cross my mind to take a picture until well after the fact. However, the upcoming posts will have images of the sliced bread in them.

The following recipe came from Better Homes and Garden magazine when they did a segment on Old World Breads. I have had the recipe since I was in high school or undergrad and don't have a good idea of how old it was when I acquired it.


2 1/2 c. cool water (70-75F)
2 pkg. Active dry yeast
6-6 3/4 c. bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 egg white 2 Tbsp. water
Bread flour, toasted sesame seed, and/or toasted wheat germ
**(optional: cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella or other cheese for cheesy Baguettes)


In the large mixing bowl stir together the 2 1/2 c. water and yeast. Let stand about 3 minutes or till mixture looks creamy. With a freestanding electric mixer or by hand with a spoon, add 3 to 4 cups of the flour, a little at a time, mixing on low speed at first and then on medium speed. (This will take about 10 minutes.) Sprinkle the salt over the dough during the last minute of mixing.

If your mixer has a dough hook, continue to add flour, 1/4 c. at a time, till the dough clings together and cleans the side of the bowl. Continue mixing on medium speed about 5 minutes to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Or, to knead by hand, with a spoon stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes total).

Shape the dough into a ball. Place dough in a large greased bowl; turn once to grease surface of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place till double (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Or, cover and chill overnight.

Punch the dough down and knead gently in the bowl just a few strokes. Cover and let rise again till nearly double (3/4 to 1 hour in a warm place, or 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the refridgerator). Punch dough down again and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal portions. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

To shape loaves, work with 1 portion of dough at a time, leaving others covered. Flatten 1 portion with the heel of your hand to about an 8x4-inch rectangle, pressing out air bubbles as you go. Bring up the long edges of the dough and pinch together to close the seam, gently stretching the loaf lengthwise as you work. Pat the dough flat again, then repeat pinching and stretching to make a 17 inch long loaf that is about 2 inches in diameter. If the dough becomes too bouncy and shrinks back as you work with it,let it rest for 5-10 min. and continue with another portion of dough. (The dough will be easier to shape after it rests.) Place each loaf, seam side down, in a greased baguette pan or place loaves 3-4 inches apart on grease baking sheets. Cover with a kitchen towl and let rise in a warm place till nearly double (3/4 to 1 hour).

Preheat oven to 450F and adjust 2 oven racks so that one is in the lowest position and the other is in the middle of the oven. With a sharp knife, cute 4 or 5 diagonal slashes in each loaf, about 1/4 inch deep. Combine egg white, and the 2 tables spoons of water; brush atop loaves. Dust with flour or sprinkle with other toppings.

Place bread in the oven on the middle rack. (If you don't have room to bake all loaves at once, place the others, covered, in the refrigerator, removing 10 minutes before baking time. Repeat heating broiler pan and adding water for each batch. Bake for 20-25 minutes or til loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. The water in the pan wil evaporate after about 10 min. baking time; remove dry pan to prevent warping.

Transfer loaves to wire racks; cool completely. Servce within 12 hours or wrap in freezer wrap and freeze up to 3 months. Makes 4 baquettes.

To reheat and crisp bread: Thaw, if frozen. Unwrap and place directly on the rack in a preheated 400F oven. Bake for 10 min. or til crisp and heated through.

My notes:

Specially designed baguette pans give the loaves their round shape. Bake sheepts give the same delicious results, but produce loaves with flat bottoms.

**If you want cheesy baguettes, when shaping loaves, place strips of cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, etc. along the middle as you shape. Garlic and oil can be added into the middle at this point, as another option.

If you decide to bake baguettes ahead of time, allow them to completely cool without being wrapped up by anything. Wrapping a hot baguette completely ruins the texture and you will be disappointed.

We made a dip for the bread using olive oil, garlic (of course), and rosemary. It went quite well with the soup...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Taste of Pittsburgh

In early October, I went to Pittsburgh, PA for a conference. I had not been to Pittsburgh previously. Prior to the trip, my friend Neil made sure to give me some pointers for places to see and eat! Neil's list included the Duquesne Incline, the strip district, Pittsburgh Macaroni Company, Primanti Brothers, and the Cathedral of Learning. Fortunately, my friend Rob lives in Pittsburgh and was willing to tour me around town so I was able to get a good taste of the city.

Day 1:
Rob met me when I got into town. He made sure to inform me that Pittsburgh loves potatoes, especially fries. In fact, they love them so much fries are found inside of sandwiches, on top of salads and as a traditional side. Each restaurant had their own spin on fries which kept things interesting. The first night we ate a burger joint. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name. Naturally, the burger came with fries but not in your traditional sense. Their fries were chunks of potatoes pan fried with onions. The burgers were delicious. Mine came with fried onions, cheddar and mushrooms. Rob took care of the mushrooms for me. After burgers, we went up to the Duquesne (Due-cane) Incline. The view was incredible! From the hill, we could see the intersection of the three rivers and the city. I learned the incline had been used by the people on the other side of the river to travel down the hill to the ferry. The ferry crossed the river over to downtown Pittsburgh. The incline is now a piece of history rather than needed transportation. You can take a ride down and back up for a couple of dollars. As an added bonus, you can see the inner workings of the incline from an outside observation deck.

Day 2:
The pre-conference workshop that I came to attend didn't begin until 1PM so I had the morning to explore. I decided to walk from my hotel to the strip district. The strip district is literally a strip of shops and restaurants in an older area of town where steel mills once dominated. The walk from my hotel took about 30 minutes but I thought it was well worth the time. The area had several international grocery stores including Pittsburgh Macaroni Company.

Pittsburgh Macaroni company was the largest of the groceries. When I stepped in, I felt like I had entered a general store. Spices available by the scoop and nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc) were held in barrels. Past this point, the store reminded me of my imagination of what its like to shop in Europe. One area had shelf after shelf of fresh bread. I'm not talking about Iron kids and Sara Lee. The options from foccacia and baquettes to cheese filled breads were excellent. I couldn't resist a small loaf of asiago filled ciabatta. In addition to breads, the store offered over 200 kinds of cheese and a separate butcher shop. Fabulous. It felt touristy to take a picture so I refrained. I did stand in amazement for several minutes though. I'd never seen so much cheese!

From there, I decided to locate Primanti Brothers sandwich shop. After walking up to the end of the strip district, I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to find it. Walking back towards the hotel, I was able to see the restaurant. Primanti's was between streets and impossible to see from the direction I had walked up the street. I was excited to find it and pretty hungry from my walk so I headed over for lunch. After looking over a lengthy sandwich menu, I decided on kolbassi and cheese. I got over my shyness and took a picture of the monster sandwich they brought me.

This was half of it. It was all of 6 inches tall! I had to take two small bites from the top and bottom to get a taste of the sandwich at once. Yum! I learned that Primanti's sandwiches were made with french fries and slaw inside because truckers were the original market. The truckers didn't have time to eat slaw, fries, and a sandwich separately so Primanti's packed a meal into each sandwich. Later that evening, Nicole and Alex arrived. After an extended search, we found ice cream. To my shock, Pittsburgh shops do not sell ice cream year round due to the low demand from cold winters. Yikes, that's cold! The Milk Shake Factory was open. They offered ice cream, milk shakes, and a host of chocolates! Rob tried the pumpkin ice cream and was quite pleased. Alex insisted on a milk shake. I got butter pecan and mocha. Due to an accident in scooping the wrong flavor, I also wound up with a 3rd scoop as well. Unfortunately, I don't remember what it was but all the flavors were tasty!

Day 3:
The conference began in full swing. I decided to try Korean sushi for lunch. I honestly cannot recommend what I tried. The spicy tuna was better than than white tuna but neither were anywhere close to as good as sushi from Ishi in Winston Salem. I had to have help to finish. Supper was excellent though! We went to India Garden. I ordered paneer korma. Nicole ordered something hideously hot. Dr. Wagner was excited about a dish with peas and carrots. I can't remember the rest but we all shared. The food and company were great. Afterwards, we drove through Carnegie Mellon's campus and part of the University of Pittsburgh. The Cathedral of Learning was open so we stepped in for a look. The Cathedral is in impressive 42 story Gothic revival style cathedral built between the 1920's and 1930's with classrooms decorated as classrooms from around the world. The Bosnian room had a class in it so we took a peek. The rest were locked for the evening but you can catch a picture tour through them all here. The view from the top allowed you to see the city from the middle. We went almost to the top and looked out the windows. Then we went back to Mount Washington (where the Duquesne Incline is located) to get an alternate view. This time, I had my camera!

Day 4:
For lunch I had a Pittsburgh style salad. Steak with french fries is a fairly normal thing but when on a salad, its different. I thought it was surprisingly good though. For supper, Nicole and I were in the mood for Italian. The conference was hosting a special event at the Heinz center. We weren't sure what that included so after consulting the concierge and the map to the Heinz center, we settled on Lidia's. That was one of the best decisions we made during the entire trip. After a 10 minute wait, we were seated. They brought out varieties of breads (sorry I don't know all the names. One type was sliced baguette. One type was a cheesy stick. I liked it a lot. Along with the bread came flavored hummus, basil and green olive! Both were great but I preferred the basil. For our meal, we decided to both get the Italian trio. A sample of all we could eat of three surprise pastas! The pastas of the night were Beef Bolognese with Linguini, Raisin and Rum Ravioli (it had cheese in it too), and bowtie pasta with pesto sauce. The ravioli was my favorite. They altered the Linguini dish so Nicole could have her vegetarian. We were happy campers!

After supper, we went to the Heinz museum.

The museum consisted of 6 floors of Pennsylvania history. From pioneers and tools to impressive halls of sports and art, I was surprised at how much had come from Pennsylvania. Dr. Wagner is originally from PA so he enjoyed telling us stories and showing us pictures of famous people he knew. It was great. Did you know Dr. Wagner was a famous hockey player?

Just kidding. Dr. Wagner and Nicole decided to play a game in the kids area together.

Afterwards we went downstairs for ice cream, cookies, and coffee. Being an ice cream gal, I stuck to ice cream. A good time was had by all. We bumped into Dr. Lu (who was the Ph.D. student I worked with during the BBSI summer research program when I was in undergrad) and Dr. Lee (from the University of Chicago who had visited as a guest lecturer at Wake Forest last fall).

Day 5:
There really wasn't much food involved in this day. We had lunch at the Marriot's restaurant. Nicole and I had grabbed dessert there on day 3. She had enjoyed some Stilton blue cheese ice cream while I had espresso cheesecake. Both were awesome!!! We were concerned it might be pricey for lunch but found out it was the best lunch deal we'd had all week! I had a chicken and prosciutto sandwich with a side of fruit. They offered fries but I was ready for something healthy. Nicole had vegetarian french onion soup made with mushroom broth. She was elated. Our return trip only offered airport food so it wasn't too exciting. We made it back safely to Winston-Salem. My cats were thrilled to see me and I was glad to be back after the long trip.