happy pie accident

This is a semi homemade kind of a cooking post. Languishing in the chest freezer. I found a random graham cracker crust. I had been thinking of making a pie because I had leftover cherries and a couple of apples that needed to be used.

So I decided that I was going to make my fruit pie with my graham cracker crust. I let the graham cracker crust thaw, and while I was doing that, I got the crumb topping and the fruit prepared for the filling.

A fruit pie is not rocket science. It is fruit, sugar, lemon, or lime juice, and a few tablespoons of flour, or some people use tapioca. And spices if you’re adding any. In fruit pies, I like cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.

First, I pitted all my black cherries. I will admit that is a bit labor intensive because I don’t have one of those handy little pitting machines. I added them to the bowl with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom. Not a lot of spices because it’s a summer pie not a fall pie — just enough to give it a delightful flavor profile.

Next, I peeled my apples and sliced them paper thin like I was going to make a Tarte Tatin. I added them to the cherries and the sugar and spices and added the juice of two small lemons. That’s what I had on hand I said that to the side.

For the crumble topping I used half a stick of unsalted butter, cubed, into little pieces, a handful of oatmeal, brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon, and flour. I used one of those fun pastry cutters to cut everything into a crumble status.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I had an oven preheating to 350°.

Pie assembly was very simple. I put the filling in the graham cracker crust. Next I patted in and slightly mounded the crumble topping over the filling.

**I assembled this pie on a baking sheet because I put pies on a baking sheet in the oven so if they bubble over, they don’t cause a huge oven mess**

My final step before the oven was using my silicone piecrust cover around the edge of the graham cracker crust, so nothing burned.

I baked my pie for about 50 minutes in my preheated oven, and the result was surprisingly delicious. I had never used a graham cracker crust before on a summer fruit pie. I actually like the way it turned out. I forgot to take a picture of the pie before I cut it last night so above is just a photo of a little slice.

I am sorry this is a little of this and dash of that recipe, but that’s kind of how I roll in the kitchen half of the time. But I am writing this down enough that I can repeat my happy pie accident.

The pie tasted great, and the graham cracker crust was a good complement to just a fruit pie. It also cut down the preparation time considerably since I didn’t make a crust from scratch.

Bon appétit 😋

semi-homemade cream of celery soup.

So what do you do when you end up with two giant heads of celery less than a week? You make soup. I went through recipes for cream of celery soup and I didn’t really want something that delicate. I wanted something with a little bit of flavor, so I came up with my version. Yes, wing it soup.

I saved some of my celery for the salmon cakes I’m making on Friday, but the rest of it got a rough chop and tossed into one of my soup pots with about 3 tablespoons of butter, four cloves of garlic, also chopped, and rough chopped onions. I also added salt, thyme, a couple of bay leaves, and 1/3 cup of water. I put the lid on the pot and let the vegetables cook down a few minutes.

Normally cream of celery soup calls for leeks but when I went to Aldi this week they didn’t have any, so I used red onions and yellow onions specifically are used one big red onion and two regular yellow onions.

To the onions and garlic and celery, I next added two chopped up yellow Yukon Gold potatoes I had. I also peeled and chopped small a bunch of parsnips that arrived in my vegetable box from Lancaster this week. We use Doorstep Dairy if you’re interested and are in their delivery area.

I let all the vegetables kind of meld together and cooked down about another 15 minutes. Then I used a box and a half of prepackaged chicken stock. Each box is 32 ounces so in total, I added 48 ounces of chicken stock. Two that I added a dash of Herbes de Provence. I brought it all up to a boil, then reduced to low and covered, and let everything cook.

When the parsnips and potatoes were both soft, I removed the bay leaves, and I took out my Cuisinart hand blender and puréed everything. I then let it all cook down more. I did this part of the cooking on low heat, and I stirred fairly often, so nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan. This was probably about another 40 minutes.

Then I added half a cup of half-and-half, and a dash of curry powder. Not a spicy curry powder just Keen’s Traditional Curry Powder. I know that sounds weird to add, but it just struck me that it would make a good addition to the flavor profile and I was right. I love curry so I do add curry powders to a lot of recipes.

I then use my hand blender once again, and emulsified everything a little more. I served the soup with Italian breadsticks. I have always loved breadsticks, and people always forget about them.

Now you have my semi homemade recipe for cream of celery soup. I will note I rarely use heavy cream when I do a cream based soup because I don’t like the extra thick and heavy, which means I will use half-and-half, canned unsweetened coconut milk, or even buttermilk. I think this recipe could be done with any of the above, but I just happen to have half-and-half in, so that’s what I used.

I know people don’t like it when I say a dash of this or a dash of that, but it really just is depending on what your taste level is and if you’re unsure of some thing you can always add a little less at first because you can always add a little more later.

Good soup, even semi-homemade, does take a little bit of time, but the thing about soup is you can cook it while you’re doing other things. So if you work from home it doesn’t really interfere with life.

I have been working really hard to try to use and not be wasteful with food. That even includes with leftovers. Like a pasta sauce and ricotta that was the leftover last week became baked ziti.

Food prices are crazy and what’s even nuttier are what the stores are out of from week to week and it’s not even Covid anymore. And with high food prices, it doesn’t mean you can’t eat well, it just means sometimes you have to be a little more inventive and use what you have versus buying lots of new things. I have been shopping more at places like Aldi, because they have great prices and their products are not bad.

Anyway, this is an easy enough soup to make, so I thought I would share it with you, because it did turn out to be quite delicious. I will probably have more for lunch today since it’s damp and rainy.

yes, semi-homemade

  I know some of you think I’m like a demented Martha Stewart and I do everything from scratch and that includes churn my own  butter. But truthfully, often I do it semi-homemade. And it tastes just fine.

What you were looking at are my cheaters carrot cake cupcakes. I call them cheaters because I start with a box cake mix.

I take a French vanilla cake mix, and I add four eggs, One cup of milk instead of the one cup of water called for on the package, one stick or 1/2 cup of butter melted and cooled slightly instead of vegetable oil. 

To that I add 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cardamom, 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, and 4 finally grated medium-sized carrots.

I add the dry cake mix and beat the better according to the package directions. Today I used a Betty Crocker super moist French vanilla mix.

I cook the cupcakes according to package directions which is 350° for 17 to 20 minutes and you have to keep an eye on it.  Once they are cool, I frost them with store-bought cream cheese frosting. I mixed my manufacturers and used Pillsberry frosting today.

I love making cupcakes I think they are fun and you can go on Amazon and through Wilton bakeware you can get all sorts of cute cupcake liners. And I use aluminum cupcake pans – they were my grandmother’s actually. I do not like a lot of dark metal non stick bakeware. I don’t like the way things cook in the nonstick.

Thanks for stopping by!

little old italian lady in training 



I became a bit of an Italian cliché today, or a little old Italian lady in training, take your pick.

I made sauce, I made gnocchi, and I made a ricotta pie.

I will give you the recipe below I used a roll out store-bought crust this time –Pillsbury  brand.

Deep dish pie plate required.

Preheat oven to 350°

Follow instructions on premade piecrust – I like using my own pie plates so I get the Pillsberry brand piecrust when I don’t feel like making my own crust. 

So I laid my piecrust in my pan, fluted the edges of the crust and tossed in the freezer while I mixed up the ricotta mixture.

Beat 5 eggs and  1 tablespoon vanilla together. (my mother bought me back this amazing Mexican vanilla on her last trip there and that is what I use today – the flavor is better I think than regular vanilla.)

Mix in with electric mixer 1/4  cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the grated rind of one fresh lemon and one fresh orange. (I had some blood oranges and so that is the grated orange rind that I used today.)

Mix in with electric mixer 1 cup of white sugar and beat together well.

Beat in 3 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese. When mixture is well mixed, you next stir in 1/3 cup candied minced orange peel and 1/3 cup candied minced lemon peel.

Get out your pie shell in your deep dish pie plate and carefully pour the creamy ricotta cheese mixture into the piecrust.

 Bake at 350° until firm and light brown on top approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

You can either serve this at room temperature or chilled.

Enjoy!

love vintage ornaments ?

20131108-191536.jpg

….. Then you will want to hit the Smithfield barn this weekend while they still have them. This is part of what I acquired today.

I also scored two vintage artificial tabletop trees, also known as feather trees. The “feathers” are artificial which puts them on the newer side of vintage, but I do not care as they are the exact dimensions I need for a Christmas Day tablescape!

I love decorating for Christmas, although you will not find me decorating now as that’s a little too American big box retailer for me.

I have been collecting vintage ornaments since before Martha Stewart made it cool. And why I like finding the ornaments at places like the Smithfield Barn is the prices are modest, and that way I can afford to have a beautiful looking house for the holidays. And I think vintage Christmas ornaments make everything more beautiful!

Anyway if you like vintage ornaments, and fun holiday decorating, you’re going to want to see what Kristin has out at the barn, the Smithfield barn in Downingtown. PA. Check out their Facebook page for hours of operation this weekend and their address.

Also tomorrow is the second day of AngelFest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Route 30 in Exton!

side stuff

A lazy Sunday afternoon, warm enough to make a fresh batch of sweet tea, with fresh curly mint from the garden.

What is sweet tea?

Sweet tea is southern style iced tea, where you brew the tea with the sugar in it.  I also add the mint at this stage and tie it with a tiny piece of kitchen twine so I can fish it out after the tea cools, prior to adding the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon.  I am a bit of a tea snob and I like one of two teas for brewing homemade iced tea: American Classic Tea from Charleston, SC or PG Tips from England.  Those are the two black teas I drink, hot or cold.  Good tea is worth the extra money.

So dinner is semi-homemade without Sandra Lee (she’s kind of annoying I think). I have a pre-marinated Smithfield pork loin (Teriyaki), but I can’t just serve that with a salad (even if it is the beautiful red leaf lettuce I bought this week at the East Goshen Farmers’ Market), or there might be a revolt.

Since the 12-year-old loves pasta, I thought a spin on mac and cheese was in order. Now I made this pasta up today, and truthfully, it is rather tasty.

Side Stuff: Ziti with Mushrooms and Swiss Cheese Sauce.

Cook a small box of Barilla Ziti, drain, do not rinse.

Cheese Sauce:

2  cups of grated swiss cheese (I used a blend today that contained Gruyère) 

4 oz of fresh Queso

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

Dash of Tabasco

Couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

salt & pepper to taste

dash nutmeg

4 oz. of sliced white button mushrooms*

4 oz. of sliced baby bella mushrooms*

(*it’s what was in the ‘fridge – you could use shiitaki or whatever fresh mushrooms you have handy except canned. Canned mushrooms are rubbery and gross.)

2 or 3 scallions minced

3 tablespoons of butter for mushrooms/scallions

4 tablespoons flour for sauce (rue)

4 tablespoons butter for sauce (rue)

zest of fresh lemon

small dash nutmeg

squeeze of chilis in a tube (Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper Spice Blend)

Fresh flat leaf parsley

Melt butter for cheese sauce with flour.  Create a rue.  Add a dash of tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and whisk in.

Add milk, whisking constantly over medium heat, until the temperature comes up to just about a boil.

Add the Queso, whisking constantly until blended.  Add the swiss bit by bit, whisking until blended.

Using a small grater or micro plane, give like three runs of a lemon across the blades over the sauce so the lemon zest goes right in.

Salt and pepper to taste.  Nutmeg (seriously not much) Set aside.

Using a small saute pan, take the other butter and melt.  Toss in the chopped scallions, salt to taste and cook until almost transluscent.  Add the mushrooms, cook down.

Return cheese sauce to a medium to low flame and incorporate the mushroom and scallian mixture into it.  Add a squeeze of the chili peppers in a tube, check the salt and pepper.

Pour over ziti in a medium dutch oven on the stove top, mix around a bit, throw in flat leaf parsley rough chopped.  The sauce will be hot, but if the pasta is not warm enough, warm gently to your desired temperature on VERY LOW so as not to burn.

This is literally something I just did for the first time, so you might have to tweak it to your taste.  This is not a stick a spoon in it and it will stand up in the cheese sauce either.

Later……..

Of course, Murphy’s Law of 12 Year Olds was triggered and he went to the neighbors’ house to have dinner with some other kids….and order take-out Chinese.

I am sure the left overs will entice him at some point later this week, and grown-ups will eat this too, incidentally.