Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vanilla Cream Pie

Sorry I haven't posted for so long - has it really been a whole week? My family came to visit this weekend and I was busy enjoying my time with them. But it's back in the food saddle!

Jeff made this simple and delicious pie yesterday, and we've been enjoying it ever since. It's a basic pie that lends itself well to a variety of variations. Hmm, was that redundant - variety of variations...

Vanilla Cream Pie
2/3 cup sugar
Dash salt
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. flour
3 cups milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter

Mix sugar, salt, cornstarch, and flour in a saucepan. Gradually add in milk. Cook over moderate heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Slowly stir half the mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Blend egg yolk mixture into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Blend in vanilla and butter.

Cool and pour into cooled baked pie shell. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Chill thoroughly (about 2 hours) before serving.

1. Top with whipped topping.
2. Top with meringue.
3. Sprinkle with shaved nuts, coconut, fresh berries, or fruit (I topped with canned peaches).
4. Arrange a layer of sliced bananas in pastry shell before pouring in cooled filling.
5. Fold in 3/4 cup moist shredded coconut.
6. You decide! The sky's the limit!

The creamy filling is delicious with or without adding any of the optional variations. Man, I love pie!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mini Pizzas :-)

Cheap food doesn't have to be boring. Yes, we eat lots of beans and rice here, but we also throw in some fun and cheerful foods for variety. Case in point: these cute little individual pizzas.

I used this recipe to make the crust, then formed about five individual crusts. That's how many fit on my pizza stone. I made them simple and super cheap by using canned tomatoes for sauce, seasoned with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder, and topped them with a little cheese. The kids and I just loved getting to enjoy this little treat!

After I made the five individual pizzas, I used the rest of the dough to make a rustic round loaf, dusted with flour and corn meal.

Both the pizzas and the bread baked at 425 for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Roasted Potato Wedges with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce - Sweet Hallelujah, This Stuff is Good!!

Christy from Southern Plate posted a recipe for Alabama White Barbecue Sauce way back in October. It looked delicious to me, but I never did make up my mind to actually try and make it. Sometimes I'm like that - I'll fall in love with a recipe and want to try it, but it gets pushed to the back of my mind and just doesn't end up happening. Well, this evening I decided that I would try it! I made some roasted potato wedges for dinner with the express purpose of serving them with the white barbecue sauce.

And Oh Lawdy, my life will never be the same.

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
2 C Mayonnaise
1 1/2 T salt
2 T black pepper
6 T white vinegar
6 T lemon juice
4 T white sugar

Mix all ingredients together and stir well. I did 1/4 this recipe because it was just me and the kids tonight.

What did I think of this sauce? Well, I'll just copy and paste my comment on Christy's post:

"So I finally got around to trying this sauce. And let me tell you, I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAITED THIS LONG TO TRY IT!!! This stuff is incredible! It’s vinegary, it’s lemony, it’s peppery, it’s mayo-y, it’s deliciously flavorful, it’s indescribable! I made it to go with some roast potato wedges (which are actually still in the oven right now!) and tasted a bit on my finger. Then I went crazy looking for things around the kitchen that I could dip in it because I suddenly couldn’t wait until the potatoes were done. I dipped popcorn and saltines and they were great! Then I dipped my fingers some more. ;-)

And all this was before realizing that I had forgotten the sugar. I added it, and wouldn’t you know it was even better than before!

Yeah, long story short, you have made an Alabama White Barbecue Sauce lover out of this Idaho/Utah gal."

And a short while later I wrote:

"Mmmmm… I’m eating it with the potato wedges now… I’m in heaven…"

So yes, the Alabama White Barbecue Sauce was a total success. Despite (or perhaps because of) its distinct and powerful flavor, both Zaylee and Thomas loved the sauce. Zaylee even kept asking for it "I need more white!" It was cute. They ate their potatoes with the sauce and some ketchup as well. I kept mine purely unadulterated - just the potatoes and the perfection, er, I mean, white sauce.

Oh yeah, the potatoes. Really easy - I cut up three potatoes into large wedge-like chunks. Then I tossed them with oil, and a bit of salt and pepper, and put them in an 8-inch baking pan. Baked at 425 for 30 minutes, turning with spatula after the first 20. Super easy and uncomplicated. After all, I only made them to complement the white barbecue sauce. :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pears Helene (the cheater tightwad version)

Today, Mar. 15, is National Pears Helene Day. I'd never heard of Pears Helene before I saw it come up on my little calendar of upcoming national food holidays (left sidebar). But it sounded intriguing so I looked it up online. I found lots of recipes, and the common thread among them is that Pears Helene is cooked pears with chocolate sauce, usually served over ice cream and topped with almonds. Well, we don't have ice cream or almonds, but since those are optional and we did have pears and chocolate, I decided to forge ahead and create a cheap and easy version of this delightful looking French dessert.

Pears Helene, the easy way
1 large can pear halves in light syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3-4 tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp. shortening
1/4 cup milk

Empty pears and syrup into saucepan and heat over medium heat (I chose to quarter the pears instead of leaving them in halves). Don't boil, just get them good and hot. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk. I did this in the microwave, and the texture didn't end up the way I wanted, so I reheated the chocolate with some shortening and milk until it reached a smooth and syrupy consistency.

To serve, place 3 or 4 pear quarters on each plate and drizzle (liberally, heehee) with chocolate sauce. Or spoon some pears over vanilla ice cream and top with chocolate sauce and sliced almonds. Eat and enjoy!!

Yum, doesn't it just look delicious! I think we'll be making this quick, easy, scrumptious dessert many times in the future. This is one of those things I want my kids to grow up asking for. "Mom, can we have Pears Helene for dessert tonight?" "Of course, honey! Go grab a can of pears and some chocolate chips!" Ah, it just rolls off the tongue! :-)

As a bonus, the chocolate sauce would also make a good fondue-like dip for things like bananas, strawberries, pound cake cubes, graham crackers, etc.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Middle Eastern Rice and Lentils

Wow, it's been a while since I posted here. Oops. Today I bring you a healthy recipe, to make up for the sugary, unhealthy brownies and pie and other such dishes as I've been posting. This yummy meal was full of protein and fiber, and completely meat-free. We do meatless meals pretty often here because meat costs more than beans and rice. :-)

Middle Eastern Rice and Lentils
1 cup lentils, uncooked
1 cup canned tomatoes, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or broth of your choice)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 cup white rice (I used brown rice)
1/2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, sliced

Bring the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, cumin, stock or broth, and pepper to a simmer over high heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Stir, cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are cooked through and have absorbed the liquid, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove the bay leaf.

Cook the rice according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes.

Place the rice on a plate; put the lentils on top of the rice and the onion on top of the lentils. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fudgy Rich Brownies

I made these for our monthly Girls' Night Out tonight. We were going to have brownie sundaes, with brownies, and vanilla ice cream, and bananas, and caramel, and...

...My car died. Jeff tried to go to work this morning, but the car wouldn't start so he had to take the train. It's still not working, so I couldn't go to the Girls' Night Out. So sad, and so disappointing! But I was able to comfort myself with the fact that I still had these brownies!

I used this recipe to make these deliciously dark, rich, fudgy brownies. The directions are strange; I've never seen a brownie recipe quite like this one. But I'm not questioning - they turned out wonderful! These are a rich and dark brownie, not overly sweet. I love them!!

Fudgy Brownies
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Optional: chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt (and choc. chips if desired); mix just until all of the flour is absorbed. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Weird directions. But somehow it definitely worked!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I set some black beans to soak yesterday and cooked them up today. Finally I could try the black bean veggie burgers that I've been wanting to try for weeks! The cool part is that this recipe only used about a fifth of the beans that I cooked (I did one pound of dry beans), so I still have about four cans' worth of beans to freeze and use in later meals. I love batch cooking, when I get around to it!

This is the third veggie burger that I've tried making. I'm enjoying having burgers without the cost of ground beef. Not only do I like the price, but I'm finding that I really like the flavor and texture, even though it's different from regular hamburgers. The first veggie burger we tried, pumpkin chickpea burgers, was my definite favorite, though the lentil burgers were good too. Now I have these black bean burgers to add to our repertoire. They taste good, and look a little more like hamburger than the other ones.

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (or equivalent amount cooked from dry)
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces (omitted and added extra onion)
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs (substituted wheat bran)

If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375, and lightly oil a baking sheet (I baked mine).

In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic (I minced mine by hand to save myself the work of washing the food processor. Next time I'll use the food processor to save myself the work of mincing the vegetables by hand!). Then stir into mashed beans.

In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans.

Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.

If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Veggie burgers are fun!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Apple Crumble Pie with Whole Wheat Crust

I made a quiche the other night that turned out pretty good (I didn't take pictures, so I'll have to make another one later to post some other time). The unique thing about this particular quiche was the crust - I used whole wheat flour and oil. It was delicious with the quiche, but we thought that perhaps the whole wheat crust would be absolutely fantastic with something like an apple pie - the spices and apple flavor from the filling would be wonderfully enhanced by the strong nutty flavor of the wheat. And since it's a pat-in-the-pan type of pastry, we decided to have a crumb topping on the pie instead of making it double crusted.

Here's the resulting delicious recipe!

Apple Crumble Pie with Whole Wheat Crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cooking oil
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cold water or milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter or margarine

To make crust: Dump flour in an ungreased pie plate. Add the oil, salt, and sugar, and stir well. Pour in the water or milk, and mix with a fork into a stiff dough. Press into shape in the pie plate. Set aside (or if you need a baked crust for an unbaked pie: bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes).

In a mixing bowl stir together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp. flour; set aside. Sprinkle apple slices with lemon juice. Toss apples with sugar mixture to coat. Turn apples into pastry-lined pie plate.

Combine the crumb topping dry ingredients. Cut in the butter or margarine till crumbly; sprinkle atop the apple slices.

Bake pie at 375 for 1 hour or till topping is golden. Serve pie warm with vanilla ice cream!

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Last night Jeff discovered that we had a can of evaporated milk that had passed its expiration date by several months. This of course meant that we needed to use it right away (what, you think we would throw away an entire can of milk just because it was a little old? Tee hee)! Jeff immediately thought of our recipe for flan - the delicious caramel-coated custard of Mexican cooking. We don't make it often, because it's kind of high in calories and fairly rich, but it's so good! We were glad for the excuse.

1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 13-oz can evaporated milk (1 2/3 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt

In small skillet heat and stir the 1/3 cup sugar over medium heat till sugar melts and becomes golden brown. Quickly pour caramelized sugar into a 3-cup ring mold (we usually just use a loaf pan), tilting mold to coat bottom and sides.

In bowl beat eggs; stir in milk, the 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour into caramel-coated mold. Set mold in baking pan on oven rack. Pour hot water around mold in pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake, uncovered, in 325-degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes (our oven bakes slow, it took an additional 25 minutes) or till a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Chill.

Carefully loosen chilled custard from sides and center; invert on platter. Makes 4 to 6 servings (though Jeff could probably eat about two of these entire flans all by himself).

Mmmm, delicious caramel-covered goodness. Does life get any better than this?