A Good Gift? & Pie

fullsizeoutput_5234

What is a good gift for one who is grieving? Acknowledgement of how hard it must be for them during the holidays. Just a simple heartfelt statement about how much that person must be missed. It doesn’t matter how long the person has been gone. The longing for them to be at the table or searching for the pickle on the tree or exchanging gifts is the same. Just a simple statement and a warm embrace will make a difference. No festive wrapping paper or bow required.

fullsizeoutput_5239

The recognition of a person’s grief allows them to relax a bit. It allows them to remove the happy mask and just be themselves. It releases that tension in the jaw and that need to escape to a quiet place where tears can be shed alone. No one wants to be “Debbie Downer” this time of year, so help release the sorrow and fine the joy. Just a few simple words are all it takes. Trust me.

100_1912

Happy New Year. I hope so. Out with the old and in with the new. A purge. I usually start by cleaning out my pantry, my fridge and my freezer. A fresh start with a hearty meal to brave the cold weather ahead.

fullsizeoutput_5237

Here is a recipe I created cleaning out all my holiday leftovers. A most delicious pie I enjoyed a few years back from a local food truck inspires it. A savory combination of beef, cheese and onions in a flaky crust will do nicely with the addition of some mushrooms. The food truck, “Nomadic Pies” enjoyed such success that they were able to open up a brick and mortar store in my sweet town of Kennett Square. If you’re not a baker (you should be) try a Nomadic pie. Every flavor is delicious and makes a great gift if you want to spread a little comfort and joy in the new year.

fullsizeoutput_522c

A great piecrust recipe is crucial to a great pie. The standard is a mix of flour, salt, fat and water, but I usually try and change it up a bit wanting the crust to enhance the filling. Since I am baking a beef pie I change out the water for beef broth. It offers a subtle flavor and golden color change to the crust I like very much. Before starting make sure all your ingredients are icy cold to insure that flaky crust. I like to grate my butter into the flour and salt mixture.

Savory Pie Crust Dough

Makes enough dough for 4 (5-inch) or 1 (10-inch) double crust pies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 grinds fresh black pepper

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (very cold or frozen)

6 tablespoons low sodium beef broth

Whisk flour, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Grate butter over the top. Toss it well with a fork insuring the butter gets separated into bits and coated with the dry mixture. Add broth, two tablespoons at a time, tossing mixture around with the fork. Using your hands, bring the dough together into a ball. Flatten like a pancake and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes which allows the dough to hydrate evenly. Roll out your dough to fit your pie pans. 

Now for the filling.

fullsizeoutput_522b

Beefy Mushroom & Gruyere Pie

2 sweet onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-cup low sodium beef broth

½ cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing over pies before baking

2 cups diced leftover cooked beef (prime rib, steak whatever you have)

salt and pepper

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 chopped green onions

finishing salt of your choice (I used The Spice Lab Hickory Smoked)

In a skillet, cook onions in 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until golden brown and caramelized. Transfer onions to a bowl. In same skillet, cook mushrooms in remaining butter until they have released their liquid and brown. Sprinkle with flour, cook 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in broth and cream; bring to a boil. Let mixture reduce until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in beef. Season well with salt and pepper. Line Pie plate with pastry. Spread half the cheese over bottom of pastry. Top with an even layer of onions. Spoon mushroom-beef mixture evenly over onions. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and green onions. Dab a small amount of cold water on bottom crust edge. Cover pie with top crust. Seal and flute edges. Brush top of pie lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle with finishing salt. Cut slits in top of pie for steam to escape while baking. Bake at 400F for 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling hot.

fullsizeoutput_5238

Finishing off the crust before baking with a light glaze of cream and salt

The products featured in this blog post are things I actually like and use all the time. I was not paid to feature or endorse them. This is not a sponsored post.

fullsizeoutput_5236

These pies went into the freezer for future meals. Do not make steam vents or glaze if the plan is to freeze them for later.

Garden Fresh Fig Coffee Cake

fullsizeoutput_4eff

I never dreamed that I would ever be able to grow fresh figs until this move to southeast Pennsylvania. The climate here is warmer and the growing season longer. With a little winter protection my fig trees have thrived. As grocery produce goes they are a pricey commodity, so it’s a great example of why tending a small backyard garden is worth it. Here we are on the edge of November and these fresh figs are ripening fast and furious.

fullsizeoutput_4ef9

Once picked figs don’t last long. They are quite perishable. We love them sliced and caramelized in butter with goat cheese and balsamic glaze, but we can only eat so many that way. Simmering a large pot of figs with honey and orange yielded two nice jars of jam. Still so many figs, so I baked a fresh fig cake recipe that I present today.

fullsizeoutput_4efb

This is a dense fruit cake filled with toasted pecans, chopped dates, dried cranberries and the fresh figs. It’s flavored with cardamom, citrus zest and a little orange liqueur. It is a moist cake that is delicious for breakfast topped with plain Greek yogurt or can be served as an elegant after dinner dessert topped with whipped cream.

fullsizeoutput_4efc

Garden Fresh Fig Cake

1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup pitted dates, quartered

2 tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups canola

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

3 eggs

1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

 

12 ripe figs, quartered

Heat oven to 350F. Spray a coffee cake pan with no-stick baking spray. In small bowl, toss cranberries, dates and orange liqueur or juice; reserve. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil and orange zest on high speed for 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. With mixer on low speed gradually add flour mixture blending just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in pecans and reserved dried fruit mixture. Spread half the batter evenly over bottom of pan. Evenly space half the figs on the batter. Spread remaining batter over figs. Top with remaining figs. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate and then invert again on to a cooling rack. I prefer the fig side up.

fullsizeoutput_4efd

I prefer to flip this over and serve it fig side up

 

Are You Waffling?

fullsizeoutput_4e5f

Today is one of those days of indecision. It happens from time to time. Soooo many recipes soooo little time. I frequently change my mind, but hedge my bets that you’d prefer two recipes brought to the table instead of one. Having options is a good thing! Both recipes are a bit twisted and are brought to you by a tasty gift sent from my friend, Maryann.

fullsizeoutput_4e5d

As a side note, Maryann is one of the dear friends and colleagues I miss most since leaving my job at The Taft School in Connecticut. As a physical therapist and director of the athletic training room Maryann and I worked closely together caring for injured athletes. Smart as a whip, selfless and caring she did whatever it took to get the students well and safely back in the game. Mutual respect and our love for the kids we cared for made us fast friends on and off the field. William adored her.

DSCN2396

 

Maryann and her husband, Kennie, winter in Arizona. When they came across Queen Creek Olive Mill luckily she was missing me, too. ❤ She sent me a gift box of liquid gold. Pesticide free and non-GMO fruits like blood oranges, meyer lemons and Mexican limes are cold pressed with hand-picked fresh olives to create the most flavorful and aromatic oils I have ever had the pleasure to bake with. Perfect for savory dishes, as well, the oils impart a fresh fruity flavor without any bitterness. These oils are now pantry staples.

fullsizeoutput_4e5e

First up are these waffles. Made with ricotta cheese and buttermilk they bake up fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside with a twist of blood orange flavor.

Blood Orange Ricotta Waffles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons blood orange olive oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup part-skim milk ricotta cheese

1 cup buttermilk

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.In a small bowl, mix sugar and orange zest until the zest is coated in sugar. Add the orange sugar to the bowl with the dry ingredients. In a bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together butter, eggs, vanilla, ricotta, and buttermilk. Whisk until combined well. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t overmix. It’s ok if a few lumps remain. Heat waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Drop batter into the waffle iron; cook until golden brown.  Serve immediately.  These waffles can also be individually wrapped and frozen.  They’re great heated up in the toaster directly from the freezer.

IMG_8017

You can thank this photo on IG for this banana bread recipe. Too many requests for the actual recipe, so thought it best to share it here. What’s the sign of a perfectly baked quick bread? It’s that crack down the center! Moist on the inside with a bit of crunch on top its a flavor bomb of banana, lime and a touch of ginger. Don’t like ginger or almonds? Use any warm spice or nuts you prefer. No waffling!

Banana Bread with a Lime Twist

2 cups all purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger (or if you prefer, cinnamon)

2 eggs

2/3-cup sugar

¼ cup sour cream

½ cup Mexican lime olive oil*

2 large over-ripe bananas, peeled and smashed

1/3-cup chopped or sliced nuts of your choice

2 teaspoons turbinado or demera sugar

Heat oven 375F. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with baking spray (or grease and dust with flour). In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger; set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, sour cream, oil and banana; set aside. Using a rubber spatula, stir wet ingredients into flour mixture until blended and dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with nuts and then sugar. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. There should be the classic quick bread crack down the center. Transfer loaf to wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

*½ cup light olive oil plus the juice and zest of ½ lime can be substituted

Note: if you prefer your quick breads sweeter up the sugar to 1 cup

IMG_8039