Apple Pie, lazy Sunday fall mornings – Pillsbury pie crusts

October 12, 2010 in Ad free, baking, Food Porn, giveaway

[Details on the Pillsbury pie crust prize pack giveaway pack at the bottom of this post. This giveaway closed as of 10/26/10 at 9:00 pm EDT]

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I live in apple country here in the Northeastern part of the US (central Massachusetts) so I am situated in the middle of many thousands of acres of apple orchards the year round. In the spring we are surrounded by the most beautiful white flowering trees who later bless us by their sweet and tart bounties. We usually go and make an afternoon of picking apples in the fall.

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As a fun way to celebrate the fall, I have been given this neat pack of tools and ingredients one can use to make a splendid apple pie by Pillsbury and MyBlogSpark. (I received the sample pack for free but was under no obligation to write about my experience with these products).

Pie crust can be a challenge for beginning cooks but that should not completely bar you from making an amazing pie for your upcoming holiday dinners (impress the in-laws! your mom!). I have tried the cheap store brand crusts and have always been let down. Having received this free pack, I tried the premium Pillsbury crusts and can report a real, honest, qualitative difference between store brand and Pillsbury. If you are not going to make your own, give these a try, let me know if they work out for you.

Fall Apple Pie

In the prize pack, which I am giving away to one entrant in the contest shown at the bottom of this post, one gets:

  • Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts
  • set of measuring cups
  • apple corer/slicer
  • apple timer
  • red apple shaped trivet
  • pot holder
  • pie plate

Fall Apple Pie

Fall Apple Pie

Fall Apple Pie

I am going show how I made this delicious pie below!

Fall Apple Pie

Pre-heat your oven to the temperature recommended on the package.

Allow your Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts to come to room temperature (about 15 minutes on the counter top) and then carefully un-roll one of the crusts. Put that crust on the bottom of your pie plate.

I added a pie bird because a) I have one and b) I thought it would look neat with it.

Fall Apple Pie

Add your filling.

Fall Apple Pie

Carefully un-roll your second pie crust and prepare it the way you would like. The following illustrates how I did my decorations.

Cut out windows and use extra crust to decorate second layer.

Fall Apple Pie

Put the top crust on the pie, brush where the two crusts meet with some egg wash.

Fall Apple Pie

Fall Apple Pie

Crimp the top and bottom crusts together, not allowing the edge to get too thin (will burn too easily if it does)

Fall Apple Pie

Apply an egg wash over the top crust and sprinkle with large chunky sanding sugar crystals.

Fall Apple Pie

Bake as recommended for your filling!

Remove and cool some what before serving. – I recommend serving it with a slice of sharp cheddar as we do here in New England.

Fall Apple Pie

Giveaway Details:
To enter for a chance to win a Pillsbury pie prize pack (as seen above) you must do at least one of the following and may do all three to enter up to three times:

  • Leave a comment below telling me about your family’s most treasured fall harvest tradition
  • Tweet about this giveaway with this specific tweet ” I entered to win a Pillsbury Apple Pie prize pack @ Nikas Culinaria visit http://bit.ly/bS6YDQ to enter! #pie #myblogspark RT pls! ” MAKE CERTAIN to comment below to let me know about the tweet
  • Blog about this giveaway and about your most treasured fall harvest tradition and then let me know that you blogged it (with valid link) in the comments below

.

Closing date for this giveaway is 10/26/10 at 9:00 pm EDT

After the contest is closed, I will choose the winner with a random number generator.

The Blue Jean chef: Comfortable in the Kitchen By Meredith Laurence

October 11, 2010 in Ad free, cookbook, Food Porn, giveaway, review

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(Chicken Fried pork medallions, fried green tomatoes, sautéed garden spinach, white pan gravy)

This is a both a cookbook review and a giveaway. Five copies of this cookbook will be given away, the winners being selected on October 31, 2010 when there will be a simultaneous live event by Meredith Laurence, the author, on QVC on In the Kitchen with David at 12pm EDT. She will also be introducing her line of cookware along with her book on that day. The details on the giveaway are found later in this post.

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Table of Contents

  • Soups and Salads
  • Snacks and Sandwiches
  • Pasta
  • Meat and Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Breakfast
  • Desserts and Treats

As with any cookbook author, Laurence seeks to present a select group of recipes to the reader in a certain way to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. Laurence crafts her book around core or basic recipes that introduce basic techniques. She shares some of her experience in these basic recipe sections to help the reader feel more comfortable with these techniques and suggests cookware and tools that makes the job easier. She then shares related recipes that helps novice cooks spread their wings with confidence and creativity.

Examples of basic recipes include:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Mac n Cheese
  • Roast Chicken
  • Meatloaf
  • Hamburger
  • Mussels
  • Roasted Vegetables
  • Pancakes
  • Cheesecake
  • Pie Dough
  • Dessert Souffle

For this review I chose the “Chicken Fried Steak” recipe which is listed under the basic recipe “Pan Fried Chicken”. In my version I used pork because thats what I had on hand!

I cut thin medallions from the loin to use in place of the tenderized beef steaks.

I found that we got a delightful and moist result from this simple recipe, I recommend it! As a side, I made fried green tomatoes because its the end of our gardening season and I have an abundance of green tomatoes! That recipe is not one I found in this cookbook.

Chicken Fried Steak (Page 118, modified here to pork vs beef)

Ingredients

  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 C + 2 tablespoons flour, divided in half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 tenderized round steaks (~5-6 oz each, 1/2 inch thick)
  • 1 pound shortening (2 C oil)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 C milk, room temperature

Directions
Preheat oven to 170 F. Pour buttermilk into shallow bowl. Combine 1 C flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and divide mixture between two separate bowls or plates.

Heat shortening/oil (I used olive oil) in a 12 inch heavy bottomed saute pan, about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat to ~ 350 F. When hot, dip tenderized steaks, one at a time, in the flour, then the buttermilk, then the flour and then put into the pan. Fry about 2 – 3 minutes per side (until golden) and then remove to the oven to keep warm.

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

When done cooking all meat, drain all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the pan along with the fresh thyme. Cook about 2 minutes or until flour is cooked. Add the room temperature milk to the pan and scrub up all bits of fried meat from bottom of the pan. Whisk this sauce and cook until it comes to a boil and then thickens. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour this gravy into a gravy boat ad serve with the steaks as well as your desired sides.

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

Chicken fried pork and fried green tomatoes, garden spinach

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 large green tomatoes
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C bread crumbs
  • 1/2 C corn meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • enough oil for about 1/4 to 1/2 inch oil in bottom of pan

Directions
Preheat oven to about 200 F. Heat oil to about 350 F. Slice green tomatoes about 1/2 inch in thickness. Dip tomato slices in eggs/milk and then dredge in the flour mixture. Place dredged slices into hot oil and cook until golden on each side. Remove slices to a baking pan in the 200 F oven to hold until time to serve. Sprinkle with some salt before serving.

Giveaway Details
To enter for a chance to win one of five copies of this cookbook you must do at least one of the following and may do all three to enter up to three times:

  • Leave a comment below telling me about your most important basic go-to recipe
  • Tweet about this giveaway with this specific tweet ” I entered 2 win @bluejeanchef ‘s cookbook Comfortable in the Kitchen @ Nikas Culinaria visit http://bit.ly/c8Hwh1 2 enter! #recipes #foodies ” MAKE CERTAIN to comment below to let me know about the tweet
  • Blog about this giveaway and then let me know that you blogged it (with valid link) in the comments below

At the end of the contest, I will use a random number generator to select the winner.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Product Details

  • BLUE JEAN CHEF: Comfortable in the Kitchen
  • By Meredith Laurence
  • Walah!, LLC Publishing
  • October 2010
  • $24.95/Softcover
  • 96 full-color photos
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-9827540-3-0

Making pasta with a machine – fun!

October 7, 2010 in Ad free, Food Porn, product, review

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Thanks to the generosity of the CSN Stores, their site Cookware.com and their great social media outreach people I have been given an opportunity to review several kitchen tools that are basic but, in my mind, are “good things to have.”

The one I am going to share with you today is a piece of technology that can be enabling for even the most novice of cooks – a pasta maker.

This one, a CucinaPro Imperia, is a step up from the most basic in that it can be attached to a motor as well as a variety of pasta cutting accessories. I am reviewing it without the motor and I find that using it without a motor is not at all difficult (as some might suggest if you look around on the web).

I have written about making pasta before:

In each of those cases (and the many many times I have made pasta without blogging about it) I rolled the pasta dough out by hand and also cut it by hand.

There is a qualitative difference in process between making it by hand (the way I did it anyways) and by pasta machine.

I minimized the amount of folding and kneading of the dough to the very minimum because I am generally the sort to do just that (my hands only have so much strength).

This leads to a heavier thicker dough and also same with the finished pasta.

When you use the pasta maker, as I describe below, you get a much more homogenous pliable dough and you can get thinner pasta strands (if you wish).

These both have their good points. Hand rolled and cut is thicker and “meatier” with more “dente” to it while the pasta machine gives a more standard pasta experience.

The biggest advantage to making your own pasta is that you have 100% control over the quality of the basic ingredients and also, somehow even if made with bargain ingredients, it always tastes more delicious – much more savory and bursting with flavor.

When it comes to pasta – fresh is best!

Spinach Basil Pasta (1 pound)

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cooked spinach greens, well drained and squeezed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

Puree the spinach in a blender VERY WELL – you want to molecularize the spinach as much as you can (I use my Vita Mix).

Add the two eggs, oil, and water and mix well.

In a bowl or in a stand mixer, add liquids to the flour and mix until you have a dough.

Wrap with plastic and allow to rest 30 minutes or longer. Overnight is good. You can also freeze it down at this point! To thaw take out in the AM, put in the fridge, will likely be ready for you to shape by evening. I found that my thawed dough was simply fantastic because it had time to meld and hydrate well.

Once the dough has melded/rested, its time to either roll out and cut or to begin to use your pasta maker.

Pasta Maker Review: spinach basil pasta resting

You have to run the dough through the machine to condition it before you make your final sheets and then final pasta shape.

First you make a log of a part of your dough, run it through, fold into thirds, rotate so that its 90 degrees from the direction you fed it in previously. Roll through. Repeat with the folding and turning.

Do this 6-7 times or until the dough takes on a very even pliable consistency – a bit of practice will get you there.

Pasta Maker Review: rolling out

Now you begin to thin out your dough. You will no longer fold your sheet in third but run it through with successively thinner settings on the adjusting button on the side. If you are making ravioli, go for thin. If you are making other types of pasta like fettucini then do not let the sheet get too thin – its again a matter of practice for you.

Pasta Maker Review: rolling out

Once its a thickness you like/need, you can run it through the detachable pasta cutting accessory to get your finished product!

Pasta Maker Review: fresh spinach fettucini

Pasta Maker Review: fresh spinach fettucini

(I rolled this pasta sheet a bit too thin for fettucini)

Pasta Maker Review: fresh spinach fettucini

You can now hang it all up to dry a bit and then use immediately (cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, depending on your tastes), dry it more for later, or freeze it down for later.

I wanted to test out my new FoodSaver vacuum system that I bought because we have a new freezer (we bought it from Sears – its awesome).

Pasta Maker Review: vacuum sealer - LOVE it

I learned one big lesson – do NOT vacuum pack fresh raw pasta – you will get this:

Pasta Maker Review: FAIL!

It mushes your fresh pasta back into dough.

The solution is to freeze it FIRST and then vacuum seal it and then put it back in the freezer.

Pasta Maker review

Product Details:

  • 6in wide roller
  • Includes double cutter for spaghetti and fettuccine
  • Optional motor and attachments

To Die For Lemon Cream Crepes

September 4, 2010 in Ad free, baking, dessert, Food Porn

Betty Crocker related posts:

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My two amazingly action packed days at General Mills and the Betty Crocker kitchens still boggle me – we got so much done! From the moment we arrived at GM, I am visualizing those first few moments walking through their front door, we were enveloped by a well oiled and very welcoming machine composed of the nicest people who seemed honestly excited to see us.

One of the first things we saw in the lobby was a welcoming sign in spanish as we were a sub-group of a larger group of bloggers – the latina bloggers (blogueras if you will).

That sign was similar to the one you see below that welcomed us on the second day.

Baking with Betty event at General Mills

I am going to go a bit backward in this post and share with you a recipe we cooked, in teams, on the second day in the kitchens you see below.

Baking with Betty event at General Mills

Notice the film crew? Yeah, I did too.

I tried to duck them as much as possible but I fear there is video out there, of me – if you find it, dont tell me, I just cant watch!

There is a lot more about the beautiful GM campus but I will leave that for another post.

Today I am going to share this easy but beautiful recipe for crepes made with Bisquick, filled with a delightful lemon cream and raspberries.

When we were making this in the test kitchens, we had a lot of fun making the delicate crepes.

They look delicate but are actually quite easy to make. You get a great sense of satisfaction making these because they come out so pretty – very photogenic.

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For those of you following from homes where you might make your own bisquick mix or might wish to use a whole wheat alternative I will blog a similarly delicious flip/side to the delicious crepes you see above – whole wheat buttermilk crepes with homemilked goats milk custard and blueberries.

Here is a sneak peek at that recipe:

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Crepes with Goats milk custard and blueberries

Stay tuned for that post.

Lemon Cream Crepes
(recipe link)

Ingredients:

Crepes

  • 1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
Filling

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 box (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • Powdered sugar
  • Additional fresh raspberries, if desired

Directions:

In small bowl, beat Bisquick mix, sugar, 1/2 cup milk, the melted butter and eggs with whisk or fork until blended. Grease 6- or 7-inch nonstick skillet with shortening; heat over medium heat until bubbly. For each crepe, pour 2 tablespoons batter into skillet; immediately rotate skillet until batter covers bottom. Cook until golden brown on bottom side. Run wide spatula around edge to loosen; turn and cook other side until golden brown. Stack crepes as you remove them from skillet, placing waxed paper between each; keep covered.

In small bowl, beat sour cream, 1/2 cup milk, the lemon peel, lemon juice and pudding mix with whisk or fork until blended.

To assemble each crepe, spoon about 1/4 cup of the filling on one end of crepe; top with 5 raspberries. Roll up; sprinkle each crepe with powdered sugar. Serve with additional raspberries.

bwb-crepes

Enjoy! Let me know if you try these – they are sure to impress your friends and family.

Nutritional Information:

1 Serving (1 Crepe) Calories 240 (Calories from Fat 120),Total Fat 14g (Saturated Fat 8g,Trans Fat 1/2g), Cholesterol 75mg; Sodium 300mg; Total Carbohydrate 23g (Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 15g), Protein 5g; Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 10%; Vitamin C 8%; Calcium 15%; Iron 4%; Exchanges:1 Starch; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 0 High-Fat Meat; 2 1/2 Fat; Carbohydrate Choices:1 1/2; *Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

(Disclosure: General Mills paid for my travel and hotel stay for this blogger event but did not at any time require that I or any other blogger must reciprocate with reviews or blog posts in exchange for this experience.)