Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Hand-held" Homemade Apple, Ginger and Fig Pies!!!!


We have this giant apple tree in your that yielded heaps of juicy, delicious, sweet apples this year so I did what any other good wife would do…I baked a pie!! But not just any old pie, individual "hand-held" apple, ginger, fig pies! I've never really been a fan of good ole American apple pie and always found it to be pretty boring and unreasonably sweet. So I figured I could put my own twist on it, try to make it at least a little bit healthier for us and it would still be amazing! Then of course, I'd smother it with a bunch of stuff that's not so healthy, so ya see?? The balance of the world is restored!

The reason hand-held is in quotes is because while that was the intention, and you could most definitely hold one in your hand, they turned out to be rather large and taste divine with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top, drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with cinnamon cardamom sugar. So hold if you'd like or indulge as you should! 

I'm not quite sure what kind of apples these are but it certainly doesn't matter which ones you use.

 I picked a bushel and headed inside. I only diced up about 4-5 since it was just the two of us and it was more than enough to make 4 giant little pies.

Just try to not eat all of this before you put it in the pie shells! It's SO good!!

Then I mixed in some cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, cardamom, a little salt, vanilla extract and about a tablespoon of caramel sauce. Maple syrup would probably work fine too, I just happened to have some caramel in the fridge and figured it would help to bind it all together.

I've always been a big fan of utilizing whatever I have on hand and figured this would be the perfect time to try some of the amazing fig preserves we got from our cousin's, Cort and Chrys, in Austin. It was a great idea! Along with some freshly grated ginger, it complemented the apples perfectly so I threw it all in there!

Now here comes the easiest part, the crust! Ordinarily this would be the part I dread because sometimes you just feel like making something as quickly and easily as possible…this was one of the times! You can't get much easier than store bought pie shells from the freezer section of your grocery store. They're like $1.50 for 2, crazy cheap! Take them out of the freezer and let em thaw for about 15 minutes at least, then you can just turn them upside down on your work surface and they should slide right out. I sprinkled mine with a little sugar so they didn't stick.

Once you pop em out, just slice em half right down the middle and place about 2 tablespoons or so of the filling in the center, near the top. 

Then just fold the bottom half up… 

And voila'! A piece of pie!!

Now, if you press the edges together ever so slightly, you can pick it up and add more filling if you'd like. Or even take some out if you think you're gonna have a big mess when you squish it together. 

Gently pinch the top edge together when you're done filling and place it gently on your work surface.

Take a fork and seal the edges. If it starts to stick, just dip your fork into your cinnamon sugar mixture and it'll work like a champ!

Do that around both edges and you're all set.

Brush with melted butter then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. I also threw some cardamom in there cuz I can't get enough of it.

Cut a tiny slit in each of your pies so that the steam can escape.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees then pop em in there on a slightly greased, non-stick cookie sheet for about 18-20 minutes until the edges are nice and brown.


Now just top with some vanilla ice cream, drizzle with caramel (honey would be good too!) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar!


 "Hand-held" Homemade Apple, Ginger and Fig Pies 

 Makes 4 servings

4-5 Apples, diced
Fig Preserves (Apple Butter would be good too)
Freshly Grated Ginger
Caramel Sauce 1 Tablespoon or so for filling, more to drizzle
Cinnamon, Sugar, Cardamom, and Salt to taste

2 Frozen Pie Shells
2 Tablespoons or so Melted Butter
Cinnamon Cardamom Sugar (mix to taste)

Vanilla Ice Cream (optional but highly recommended)

 As you might notice, my measurements are pretty vague and usually always are. I'm not much of a measurer and neither should you be…LIVE ON THE EDGE!!! DIE BY THE PIE!!! 

 And have a nice day!! Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Juicy, delicious homemade SANGRIA!!

On your way to a refreshing day!

Gather your fruit!
Get yourself a nice deep pitcher! I like a clear one so that you can see all the fruit.

Sangria is definitely a place for experimenting, go traditional with cinnamon sticks and brandy or put your own twist on it and add watermelon schnapps and fresh mango!
Making a delicious and refreshing pitcher of Sangria is easy as pie! Actually, it's much MUCH easier!
I've been experimenting with sangria recipes for years now and have discovered that you really can't go wrong. (Are you starting to sense a theme here?) I love dishes and drinks that are fun to play with and hard to screw up! Playing around with the easy stuff will help build your kitchen confidence so when it comes time to make things like Beef Bourguignon you'll have no problem channelling your inner Julia Child!

The following is a very loose recipe. I just add ingredients until it tastes the way I like it to, some people like a sweeter sangria, some like more of an effervescent sangria, it's totally up to you! I like this one!
6 Cups bottle of Red Wine 
2  Cups or more Peach Schnapps
1 Cup Fruit Juice
1/2 Cup Soda Water (only if serving immediatley)
1 or 3 Oranges, apples, pears, peaches (whatever you'd like)
a handful or 2 of fresh berries
Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and drink it!!
Cut thick slices of oranges, lemons, limes and large chunks of apples, peaches, pears for a more stimulating presentation!
Some people like to cut their fruit into very small cubes, I don't like this method for two reasons...first, the large beautiful slices are more visually stimulating when seen thru the glass pitcher (presentation is always huge no matter what you're making!) and secondly, it's a lot easier to suck that juice down if you don't have to sift it thru all the tiny pieces!
Now choose your fruit.  Again, you really can't go wrong here. I like to include a variety of oranges, lemons, limes, peaches, pears or apples. And always feel free to throw in mango, pineapples, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or even watermelon!

Now for the booze!! Start off with a decent red wine. No need to spend top dollar here because it'll just get lost with all of the other wonderful flavors. But don't go too cheap either. I like to stay around $10 for one of the big 1.5L bottles, like a Rex Goliath or Little Penguin Cab will do just fine. Some people stick strictly with chianti but I think this is another area where personal taste comes into play, experiment and see what you like best.

Many recipes call for triple sec but I think Peach Schnapps is much better and gives it a nice rich flavor.  Next add some type of juice, I like a little orange juice or a can of pineapple, peach, pear or mango jumex. Again, just try it and see what you like, I've used limeade too and it was delicious! The beauty of sangria is that you can add whatever fruit or juice you have around the house and it's gonna taste great!

If adding berries always wait until the end, that way they don't get destroyed when you're stirring it up and tweaking your flavor!
If serving immediately, add a little sparkling water or ginger ale to give it a lil spunk! If I'm just going to keep it in the fridge for a week, I leave it out.

Garnish with a fresh sprig o mint and suck it down!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Neicy's Homemade Mac n Cheese!

Alright, you asked for it! My deliciously hearty, stick-to-the-ribs, homemade mac n cheese! This recipe is inspired by the mac my grandmother, Flo used to make. It was soooo good and every time I tried to get the recipe from her, she say, "Oh gee, ya know, I don't quite remember. A lil o this...and a lil o that..." which would send her digging thru her cookbooks to find the "recipe". Which totally tells you where I got it from. I've never really been one for recipes either. I just kinda wing it and make it yummy! But in this case, I needed to know the "secret" to making it so awesome. I tried dumping mixtures of cheese and butter, or cheese and cream into some hot freshly cooked noodles and it was never quite right. The result...stringy, chewy, cheesy noodles. Eww.
So what's the secret? A good ROUX! Which is a very simple mix of 2 ingredients that serves as a sturdy and flavorful base and thickener for many different sauces...and is a MUST for good homemade mac n cheese!
It's a combination of equal parts flour and fat, usually butter. In some cases, you'd use bacon grease for the fat, as the base of sauces like Gumbo...yum! Anyway, back to mac.

This is really all you need...easy as cheesy pie!

Start with large elbow macaroni noodles. NOTHING else will do! These noodles, to me, scream homemade mac. Cook em til there done, drain em and set em aside.

Next, pour 1 Quart of Milk (I use low fat, but you can definitely ramp it up with whole) and slowly heat it up, without boiling, in a small saucepan.

Preheat your oven to 375, then make your roux.
Don't be intimidated by the fancy word, it's a piece o cake and you'll find yourself using it all the time. 

Melt 6 Tablespoons of salted butter in a large non-stick 2 Qt. pan (large enough to pour the noodles in afterwards). 

As soon as it melts, slowly whisk in your flour.
Keep whisking for 2 minutes or so and it will turn a lovely light, golden brown.

While whisking, stir in the hot milk and cook for a few more minutes until thick and smooth. (Sorry for the blur, it's hard to be the chef and the photographer.)

Remove from heat and stir in your shredded cheeses. (This is where you can really experiment til you find the blend you like.) 
I find that a nice somewhat pungent cheese like gruyere with sharp cheddar and a lil parmesan is perfect. But you really can't go wrong, it is cheese, after all!

Now add your spices to the cheesy goodness. Salt, White and Black Pepper, a little Dry Mustard and heaps of freshly grated Nutmeg!

I talk about this all the time. Fresh nutmeg is essential in cheesy sauces, it's totally unexpected, but try it, it rules!
I usually use a almost whole nutmeg nugget in a batch o mac.

Time for the noodles!

Stir your cooked macaroni into the pan and mix together really well. 

This time, I added some cubed proscuitto (for the hubs) and stirred it all up.

Taste for goodness and adjust any seasonings...

then pour it into a large baking dish and top with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

You can cover it with bread crumbs or more shredded cheese if you like and then pop it into the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes until sauce it bubbling and your cheese is nice n melty.

After removing from oven, let it sit for 5-10 so it can thicken, then serve!
Peas are also an amazing addition to this mac!

 Neicy's Homemade Mac n Cheese!

Serves 8-10 ppl

1 pound Large Elbow Macaroni
1 Quart Milk
6 TB Salted Butter
1/2 Cup Flour
12 oz Shredded Gruyere
12 oz Shredded Sharp Cheddar (save a little for the top)
1/2 Cup Proscuitto or Pancetta (optional)
1 Nugget Whole Nutmeg
1 tsp-ish Dry Mustard powder
1 tsp-ish Ground White Pepper

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pomegranate, Kale and Black Rice Salad with Chopped Pecans, Feta and a Poached Egg!

Pomegranate, Kale and Black Rice Salad with Chopped Pecans, Feta and a Poached Egg! What?!?

OK, I saw this dish on Pinterest and just had to make it, modified of course. I used Black Rice instead of Wild, Pecans instead of Walnuts and added a Poached Egg and Feta Cheese. And it was... awesome! I'm definitely throwing this into the weekly rotation. You could do so many different things with it. I tossed a few slices of last night's pork tenderloin on top and it was delicious!
"Lean, Green and Protein!" my new motto.

 I also made a yummy dressing for the Kale with some Pomegranate Habanero Jam that I had in the fridge, which added a sweet bite to the slightly bitter kale that was just perfect.

Add a little Olive Oil to a Tablespoon or 2 of the jam, whisk it up with some Honey, Red Wine Vinegar, and a few drops of water just for consistency.
Apple or Cranberry Juice is a nice touch too, rather than water.

And now...the easiest way to bust those juicy lil morsels out of those pesky lil pomegranates! I've struggled with this for years and remember trying to eat them as a kid just like you would a grapefruit and ending up with a red stained face, fingers and shirt, sitting in a pool of juice. But boy, was it good! I've actually avoided them in the past just because I didn't want to deal with the mess. but since I've discovered this method, I'm all over it!

Start by "scalping" the Pomegranate. Just take your knife and barely score the skin of the fruit all the way around, and then peel off the top and any portion of the thin white membrane that remains.

What you'll find inside are a few separate chambers containing all the seeds.

Score the edges of the fruit down the sides of each segment and then pull them apart like an orange.

Knock the seeds out of each section and discard the membrane portions that fall into the bowl.

And now you're left with a big bowl of luscious pods!
Chop up some fresh raw Kale and add it to one side of the bowl.

Add your cooked Black Rice to a section of the bowl. I sprinkled in some Feta while it was still hot which meant that every now and then you'd bite into a yummy lil melty pocket of cheese...yum.

Sprinkle some Feta and chopped Pecans on top and add your pomegranate seeds to the last section, then drizzle your dressing lightly over the top of the Kale. You don't want to add to much as this salad already has tons of flavor, the dressing just adds a little sweetness that brings it all together.

I added a few slices of cold Pork Tenderloin leftover from last night's dinner, but this dish easily stands alone as a tasty vegetarian option.

Last but not least...a soft poached egg, which I really can't say enough about. When the yolk breaks and runs down into the nooks and crannies of the Kale, it's just amazing! LOVE an egg!

Pomegranate, Kale and Black Rice Salad with Chopped Pecans, Feta and a Poached Egg                                    Serves 2

1 Pomegranate
2 Cups Black Rice, cooked
4 Cups Kale, raw and chopped
2 Soft Poached Eggs
A handful of Chopped Pecans
Some Crumbled Feta

For the dressing:
2 Tbs Pomegranate Habanero Jam (but you could really use almost any flavor)
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 tsp Honey
A tiny bit of water

I can't wait to experiment with this bowl of goodness and see all the varieties I can come up with...Stay tuned!!  :)