Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pear Crumble Pie

Pear Crumble Pie


I've never been a particular fan of pears. Pears bring me back to my childhood when my mom used to always buy them or put the canned pears in our lunch boxes. She'd also get so excited when she found new varieties of pears. The taste was okay, they were sweet after all. I just didn't care for the grittiness and I thought that they were just plain ugly.

Another thing about pears is that they just don't seem very versatile. But that could just be my own ignorance. Very rarely do I come across a different pear recipe that has me rushing out to purchase pears. If you have a great pear recipe, please share it with me! :-)

While I'm still not a huge lover of pears, I've come to appreciate them a lot more now that I'm an adult. Though you still won't find them in my shopping cart on a regular basis. Every now and then I will get some pears from work during the holidays or I will find a great recipe that calls for pears (this is one of those recipes).

I started using this recipe a couple years ago when my office had a bunch of pears for the winter holidays. I wanted to make a dessert with pears, but didn't really know very many desserts that were made with pears. (Actually, I still don't.) I thought, "Hmmm.... I wonder if anyone has made a pie with pears?"

I combined this recipe from two different pear pie recipes from food.com. When I'm looking for a particular recipe, I tend to look for as many recipes for that as I can. Then I just combine them to fit my tastes. For this particular recipe, I liked the ingredients for the filling and the crumble from a two separate recipes so I just combined the two which turned out really great.

I really do like this pie and I won't complain one bit that it has pears in it! :-) This pie only has half a cup of sugar, so it's not a really sweet pie; it has just the right amount of sweetness to it. It also has just a hint of nutmeg that actually works really well with the recipe. I also used it with my easy homemade pie crust.

The pears!

All the filling ingredients... then just add pears. So easy!

The crumble topping.

The finished product, so good.

Close up of all that goodie.



Pear Crumble Pie
Filling recipe from: http://baking.food.com/recipe/pear-crumble-pie-314522
Crumble recipe adapted from: http://www.food.com/recipe/pear-pie-393043

Filling:
9-inch unbaked pie shell (try it with my homemade pie crust!)
1 c. sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3-4 large ripe pears, peeled and sliced

Crumble:

1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. pecans, chopped

 Directions:

For the pie:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sour cream, egg, 1/2 c sugar, 2 T flour, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium sized bowl. Fold in the peeled. Scrape into the pie shell. Bake pie for about 40 minutes. (While pie bakes, make the crumble topping.)

For the Crumble:
In small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in nuts. Sprinkle crumble topping over pie.

Place pie back into the oven for about 20 minutes longer. After baking, cool and then refrigerate. This pie is best served cold and leftovers need to be refrigerated!

  

Easy Homemade Pie Crust (Step-by-Step Photo Guide!)


Homemade pie crust


Homemade pie crust. It's seriously one of my favorite things! I used to be so intimidated by homemade pie crust that it took me years to attempt. My first couple attempts weren't that great, but with a couple shortcuts and a forgiving recipe, I haven't used store-bought pie crust in a few years.

When I say forgiving recipe, this recipe truly is forgiving. When I started out making this crust years ago, I wasn't able to roll it out the way I'd like, so eventually I'd end up slapping it into the pie pan and frustratingly working out the dough with my fingers to form a crust. And every time it worked out fine.

Now that I have my own way of rolling out the crust, pie crust is a lot more easy for me. So, here, I offer you my pie crust recipe. All you need are the ingredients as well as a food processor (I only have a mini one and it works perfect!), saran wrap, a rolling pin, and a pie plate! I'm including step-by-step pictures that will hopefully guide you a little more to how I make my pie crust.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

PS - Yes, that is a snow cone machine (a birthday gift from my boyfriend!) and an ice cream maker that you see on my counter! :-)

1. Add 1 1/4 c. flour

2. Add 1 tsp. salt

3. Pulse until well combined

4. Add 1/2 c. of cold butter, cut into cubes

5. Pulse again until it looks like coarse cornmeal

6. Add 2-3 Tbs of cold water (2 works perfect for me)

7. Pulse until the dough comes together and a ball forms

8. Place dough in center of plastic wrap

9. Fold over sides of plastic wrap to cover dough
10. Wrap up dough

11. Form dough into a disk (about 4-5 inches in diameter)
12. Chill wrapped dough in fridge for 30 min to an hour

13. Re-fold the plastic to create a square, but dough still inside



14. Roll dough out creating a large disk (keep between plastic)

15. Unfold top portion of plastic wrap

16. Place dough upside down in pie plate so that the plastic is on top

17. Remove plastic from the dough

18. Fold edges of dough over

19. Crimp edges of dough to form a pretty crust



Easy Homemade Pie Crust

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter, cubed and chilled.
2-3 Tbs cold water


Place the flour and salt in the food processor, then hit the pulse button a couple times. Add in the cubes of butter, then press the pulse button until you get a cornmeal-type consistency. Add 2 Tbs of cold water, then turn on the processor until a ball forms. If the dough isn't coming together, add in another 1 Tbs on water.

Once the dough forms into a ball, take a long strip of saran wrap and place the dough in the middle. Fold sides over dough and press the dough down to create a disk about 4-5 inches in diameter. Place in fridge 30 minutes to 1 hr.

Once dough has chilled, unwrap the plastic from the dough. Re-fold the plastic loosely folded over the dough to create a square so that the dough is still inside the plastic wrap. You'll want the square to be roughly the size you want the dough to be when it's rolled out.

Roll out dough to the diameter that you want. The plastic wrap makes it a lot easier to roll out because the dough can't stick to the counter or the rolling pin.

Once you have the dough to the diameter that you want, un-fold the top potion of the dough but leaving the bottom of the dough still on top of the plastic wrap. Slide your hand underneath the bottom of the plastic wrap and flip the exposed side into the bottom of you your pie plate. Then remove the rest of the plastic wrap.

Fold the edges of the dough to start creating the crust. If some parts don't have a lot of dough, I just peel off sections where there is a lot of excess dough and stick them to the portions that don't have a lot of dough. Once all the edges are folded down, I go back and crimp the crust with me finger to form a crust.

Makes one 9-inch pie crust.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip


My friend's brother is leaving soon for training with the US Army, so his family threw him a going away party. I decided to make two dishes that I knew he'd love, the oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies and hot spinach and artichoke dip.

I usually make this amazing garlic artichoke dip for parties, but the first time I made it, he tried it and said it would be better with spinach. This is what their friends and family lovingly call being "Davised." :-) So instead of making my usual dip, I decided to make this recipe from Closet Cooking.

The original recipe looks like it was made for 2-4 people, so I doubled the amount of ingredients called for, which is reflected below. I also had to adjust the amount of baking time because I doubled the recipe, so just make sure to keep an eye out to prevent it from being overdone. This came out very well and I even heard stories of the family scraping all the leftovers they could from the pan. The only adjustment that I may make is more garlic. Maybe next time I will adjust my original recipe to see how well spinach goes with it.




Right before going in the oven. Already looks good!

Right out of the oven.


Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip
From Closet Cooking

1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed, drained and coarsely chopped
2 14 oz. cans artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1/2 c. grated parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded


Mix everything and pour it into a baking dish. (I used a 9 x 9 baking dish.)

Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the sides are bubbling and the cheese has melted and turned golden brown on top, about 20-30 minutes. (Because I doubled the recipe, it may take you 30-45 minutes, just watch it and adjust your baking time accordingly.)


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jolly Rancher Vodka

Jolly Rancher Vodka



This is where I'm at today. I seriously had the worst day at work on Monday, I can't even think about food. Only alcohol. Yup, that bad.

So I share with you this wonderful little concoction. Jolly Rancher Vodka! These lovely little babies make me very happy.

This is a great gift to give as well. I gave them away for Christmas and people were incredibly excited to receive them. They are colorful, different, and evoke a little nostalgia. And there's alcohol! Just make sure to serve it chilled. :-)



Jolly Rancher Vodka
From Mix That Drink

Jolly Ranchers (separated into different flavors, you'll need 12 Jolly Ranchers of each flavor)
Vodka
8.5 oz flasks or other containers (I used 8 oz bottles)

Drop the 12 Jolly Ranchers of the flavor of your choice into the empty containers.

Fill the bottle with vodka.

Let mixture sit for a couple days until the Jolly Ranchers have disintegrated, giving them a good shake every now and then.

Serve chilled or over ice. Or mix however you'd like. If you're drinking this straight, definitely drink it chilled or it will be WAY too strong. :-)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Bars

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Bars


My mom sent me this recipe from Baking Bites the other day and requested that I make it for Sunday dinner. Rice krispies and a layer of peanut butter sounded really interesting to me and I LOVE peanut butter, so it didn't take much convincing.

I'm gonna be honest with you. This was probably the second time I've ever made rice krispie treats. The first time I made them was like 10 years ago at a roommate's request. I don't even remember if they came out good. I actually love rice krispie treats, I just never had the urge to make them.

This is a simple dessert that you don't have to bake, so this would probably be a great summer recipe. Even though there's three layers, it doesn't take much time much time to prepare either... you just have to wait for the chocolate topping to cool and harden before you cut them into squares.

I ended up adding about 1/8 tsp of salt to the peanut butter mixture because the peanut butter mixture was a little sweet for my taste and I didn't want the peanut butter flavor to get lost. I wanted the bars to be sweet and salty, so I added salt to the mixture. It could be the type of peanut butter I used. So taste the mixture first to see if it meets your tastes.

 This is probably another recipe that you can play with the flavors. Maybe add a layer of bananas before you add the peanut butter layer? I'll probably talk about peanut butter and bananas a lot, it's one of my favorite flavor combinations. :-)


Rice Krispie layer

Next, the peanut butter layer


Last, the chocolate layer

The finished product!



Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Bars
Slightly adapted from Baking Bites

For the Rice Krispies:
2 Tbs butter
5-oz marshmallows (1/2 large bag)
3 c. Rice Krispies cereal

 Peanut Butter Filling:
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. peanut butter
1 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1-2 Tbs milk
1/8 tsp. salt (See note before you add this)

Chocolate Topping:
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. semisweet/dark chocolate chips

Lightly grease a 9×9-inch pan.

In a large, microwave safe bowl, combine butter and marshmallows. Heat until butter is melted and marshmallows are soft. (I just did this in a saucepan and melted it on low on the stove.) Stir to combine. Fold in rice cereal with a spatula, then pour mixture into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Allow to cool and set at room temperature.

For the peanut butter layer, combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. The consistency should be like frosting. If it is too crumbly (consistency may vary slightly by type of peanut butter used), add an additional tablespoon or two of milk until filling is spreadable. (Note: I also added 1/8 tsp. of salt to the mixture because it seemed too sweet for me, but taste your mixture before you add any salt. Again, this depends on the peanut butter you use.) Spread onto cereal layer.

For the chocolate topping, melt chocolate chips and butter in a small, microwave-safe bowl. (I also did this on the stove, on a very low heat.) Stir until smooth. Pour over peanut butter layer and, using an offset spatula or regular spatula, spread chocolate to cover entire surface. Let chocolate set up at room temperature before slicing.

Makes 20 rectangular candy bars. (I cut them into 16 squares.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting


These cookies by RecipeGirl took Pinterest by storm this Valentine's Day. I had every intention of making these for my boyfriend and my family, but my boyfriend doesn't typically like things that are overly sweet. After I bought all the ingredients, I realized that these may be way too sweet for him. So I ended up making completely different (Almond Joy Brownie Bites).

I waited to make these cookies for my family dinner the other day. These cookies were really fast to whip up... it probably took more time unwrapping all the Hershey's Hugs than it did to make the actual cookies themselves. I just realized the leftover Hugs are still in my pantry and need to be removed from my house ASAP.

What's funny is that I hardly ever find things too sweet, but these cookies were a little too sweet for me. (Wow! Who would have thought.) And it was my family that completely disagreed with me. (Another wow!)

One suggestion I have about storing these cookies (because the icing used in this recipe doesn't harden completely): spray the underside of a piece of parchment paper and place on top before adding another layer of cookies on top. This will help the cookies from sticking to each other and the parchment paper.












Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
From RecipeGirl


COOKIES:
1 box Red Velvet cake mix
1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix (dry)
4 to 5 large egg whites
1/2 c. sour cream

FILLING:
24 Hershey's "Hugs" Kisses, unwrapped (may need more depending on how many cookies you get-- I got 36!)

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tbs whipping cream or milk


Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.

2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, mix 4 egg whites and sour cream, then use a WOODEN SPOON to mix it into the dry mixture. The mixture will be very thick. Add an additional egg white if it's impossible to stir, but a thick batter is what you're looking for.

4. Use a small cookie scoop or a spoon to drop a tablespoon of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Press a kiss into the cookie dough, and then top the kiss with another tablespoon of dough. Just kind of plop it on top... it will bake together in the oven and keep the Kiss inside. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. Bake 12 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are set. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. For Frosting: Use a hand mixer to combine the cream cheese with 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar and drizzle in enough whipping cream or milk to create a nice spreading consistency, adding more powdered sugar if needed. Spread the frosting on the cookies. Top with decorative sprinkles, if desired. Cookies need to be refrigerated.

To store cookies: Lay first layer of cookies in a container. Spray the underside of a piece of parchment paper and place on top before adding another layer of cookies on top. This will help the cookies from sticking to each other and the parchment paper.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Almond Joy Brownie Bites

Almond Joy Brownie Bites


These yummy little things were what I made for Valentine's Day this year. They don't look very Valentine-y, but I changed what I was going to make at the last minute because I thought my boyfriend might like these more. He loves brownies and Almond Joys, so I thought he'd appreciate these. :-) I also took the extras over to my parents' for our Sunday family dinner and they loved them too. My dad is also a huge fan of Almond Joys (maybe even more than Joe).

Because the recipe calls for a boxed brownie mix, the recipe is really fast to whip up. Though I don't see why you couldn't use your own favorite homemade brownie mix? Maybe next time I'll use a homemade recipe I like just to see.

These were very scrumptious! The coconut mixture on the top definitely makes the dessert for me, so that was my favorite part. Add the gooey brownie on the bottom and you've got a people-pleaser!

The brownies did stick terribly to the cupcake liners, so maybe next time I'll spray it with non-stick cooking spray. And I made them in two different types of cupcake pans and one baked up at the right time while the other took a lot longer. Kinda frustrating at the time, but at least it's something to remember for next. (The grocery store had a pair of cupcake pans for half off this weekend, so now I have matching pans! Woohoo!)

I will totally be making these again. And I can already see myself experimenting with the different flavor combinations that I could do! Peanut butter and banana go with coconut, don't they? And toffee goes with everything too, right? :-)







Almond Joy Brownie Bites
 From The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

1 box (family size) chocolate fudge brownie mix, plus ingredients for making
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (14oz) bag coconut
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. crushed almonds

Oven to 350.

Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Prepare the brownies according to the package directions. Pour the batter half way up the cupcake liners. Bake for 12 minutes.

While the brownies are baking, mix the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, milk & vanilla extract together.

Remove the brownies from the oven and spoon on about a teaspoon full of the sweetened coconut. Return to the oven for an additional 14 – 16 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool completely. Melt the chocolate chips on low power in the microwave for 1 - 2 minutes. Stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle on the chocolate and top with chopped almonds.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Arugula Salad with Truffle Oil Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad with Truffle Oil Vinaigrette


What can I possibly say about this salad to make you believe this isn't just a regular salad? Two words: truffle oil. Seriously. It's simple and it's refreshing, but the truffle oil really puts it over the top. This is instantly my new favorite salad, and I can't get enough of it!

My mom made this salad a couple weeks ago for our Sunday family dinner at her house. She used a simple arugula salad recipe and changed it up a little bit. The result was mind-blowing! It's amazing what a small touch of truffle oil can do to really vamp up the flavors of this salad.

I absolutely love truffles. I was introduced to them a couple years ago when I went to dinner with my mom to Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro. I didn't really know what they were, but ordered their "Truffled Chicken Paillard." Let me tell you, when they make that dish, the entire restaurant is filled with the aroma of truffles. And since the aroma and the flavor remind me of a mild garlic (my other favorite flavor!), I was instantly in love with truffles. (Also, I am determined to try to re-create that chicken dish on my own one of these days.)

You really can use black or white truffle oil. If you want a more mild flavor, go with the white truffle oil. But if you're a fan of truffles like I am, certainly go with the black truffle oil!

An important note too: you really have to season this salad well with salt and pepper. It brings out the flavors of the truffle oil and the avocados; it would be a little bland otherwise. So don't forget that step!


Only three ingredients to an amazing dressing!


Don't be fooled by the simplicity of this salad.



Arugula Salad with Truffle Oil Vinaigrette
Adapted from All Recipes

Salad:
4 c. young arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. piƱon (pine nuts)
1 large avocado - peeled, pitted and cubed
1/4-1/2 c. shredded fontina cheese (or shredded mozzarella)

Vinaigrette:
1 Tbs. truffle oil (black or white)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad, combine all ingredients in a salad bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together. (I tripled the recipe and combined all ingredients in a jar with a lid screwed on securely. Then shake until all ingredients are mixed together well. That way I have more to use for later!)

Drizzle vinaigrette onto salad. Season well with salt and pepper. (Don't skip the salt and pepper-- it really brings out the flavor!)


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