Monday, January 25, 2010

Delicious Derby Pie

God has blessed me with a not only the best husband but his wonderful family, as well!  This delicious Derby Pie recipe is one from my mother-in-love.  It is usually made and brought to just about every Thanksgiving and some Christmas meals, but I love it year round! I have made this pie for a Derby party, dinner party's, family gatherings, church groups, and just for my husband--since it is one of his favorites.
This is a classic Kentucky showcase dessert.  Chocolate chips melted and gooey, crunchy Southern pecans (already a match made in Heaven!), with butter, vanilla (plus a couple more things) and you have a batter that is almost like every one's favorite chocolate chip cookie.  This is definitely one to save the wooden spoon for licking!  It is incredibly easy to make: all you do is mix the ingredients together and pour in a pie crust.  You can choose to make a scratch crust, or use a roll-out one like I do. I like to bring my baking ingredients to room temperature, if I can remember.  So I will sit out my butter a couple hours before,and my eggs about half an hour before so that they will cream together with ease.  Some other recipes that I have seen for derby pie calls for a little bit of bourbon, but I don't like the alcohol taste of those so this is just a perfect pie for adults and kid's tastes alike!

I can't go on enough of how incredibly delicious this pie is!  Be  prepared to make two of these pies for a large gathering, because everyone will want a piece.  I like to enjoy Derby Pie warm with homemade whipped cream for a completely over-the-top indulgence.  I really hope you will make this and enjoy it as much as our family does.  It's a little bit of Kentucky, and a lot to be proud of!

Derby Pie

1 c. sugar
1 stick butter (8Tbsp.)
1 egg
1/2 c. flour
1c. pecans, chopped
1c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Roll out pie crust

Take the pie crust out of the fridge and let thaw about 20 minutes before unrolling.  Unroll and put in a pie pan  that is not deep dish.  Use an egg wash, to make the crust golden and shiny--like the one I did in Nana's loved Apple Pie recipe.

Cream the butter and sugar together well with a mixer.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the flour to the mixture in batches. (I have done this by hand, or with the mixer and both work.) After well incorporated, stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Pour and spread evenly in pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 37-40 minutes or until the top is a golden brown.  The center will be soft and a little gooey!  Let cool at least 30 minutes before eating.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Savory Tomato Basil Soup

At restaurants I am always attracted to the homemade tomato soups that are rich and thick, perfectly seasoned and just so much better than the canned stuff.  So being that it's winter, and I love to make very season-appropriate meals and all, I thought this would be a perfect time to try my hand at homemade tomato soup with my (from scratch) italian croutons.  I have read enough recipes that I just decided to "wing" it and do it my way.  It actually turned out scrumptious!

I decided I wanted to make a tomato and basil soup that is just a bit creamy but very flavorful.  I let my soup slow cook all day in the crock pot, but you can just let it simmer over the stove top if you like -- it would be good either way.  It did reduce down quite a bit in the crock pot, since it cooked for about 8 hours, but it doesn't have to stay in there that long (I ended up having an unexpectedly lengthy evening at work that day). Now looking back I would have probably roasted my tomatoes in the oven over high heat to allow them to caramelize and bring out the flavors even more -- I will next time. I think that treating each component of a recipe with thoughtfulness and asking how you can improve an ingredient like that, makes for a much better meal!  This recipe is so heart warming and good.  The crunchy Italian croutons are a perfect addition to absorb some of the savory soup.  I enjoyed this Tomato Basil soup as much as I would from any restaurant!

Grocery List:
Olive Oil
3-4 Roma tomatoes
1 small carrot
1 shallot
Can crushed tomatoes
Tomato paste
Chicken Broth
Fresh Basil
Crushed Red Pepper
Italian seasoning
Ground black pepper
Half & Half

Dice the carrots and shallots finely, and chop the Roma tomatoes into small pieces.  I didn't seed the tomatoes.  Heat olive oil over medium heat and add the carrots to soften.  Once softened a bit, add the shallots and tomatoes allow to become tender.  Add about 1 tsp of minced garlic & red pepper flakes to taste (about 1/2 tsp for me). Saute a couple of minutes, or until flavors are infused and the garlic starts to melt.  Salt & pepper a bit.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and about a Tbsp. of tomato paste.  Stir all together and add chicken broth until the desired consistency. Julienne the basil (about 10 leaves) thinly and add to the soup.  Then season well with Italian seasoning and salt & pepper (and I usually add a dash of sugar to balance out the acidic tomatoes).

Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down and simmer for at least 30-45 minutes or until you taste and all of the flavors are blended nicely and is cooked down just a bit.  (After adding the last ingredients is when you would add this mixture to the crock pot on low heat.) The longer you cook the soup (especially over the stove), the better it is.  Once it it about ready to serve, ladle about 1 1/2 cups out into a blender and puree.  Pour this mixture back in the pot and stir all together.  This will thicken the soup and give it a smooth texture.  If you don't want any chunky tomatoes in your soup you can blend all the soup and put it back in the pot.

Add a little bit of half and half to make a creamy tomato soup.  You can add as much as you like, but I just poured in not quite 1/4 cup.  You don't have to add any for a fresher and even healthier soup.  Ladle into bowls and add hot croutons on the top.  Garnish with more basil or cheese.  Yum!

Italian Croutons
Dice day old bread or whatever sandwich bread you have on hand.  (I have used anything from whole wheat bread to italian bread to plain white.)  Put in a bowl and add enough olive oil so that all the bread is coated well. Add Italian seaoning, garlic salt, finely grated parmesan cheese (optional) and a little pepper.  Stir together well and pour out in a single layer onto a greased , shallow pan.  Put in the oven on 400-425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until deep golden brown and crunchy.  These are delicious, and I make this all the time for my salads!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Orange Pecan Tea Bread

I made this one lazy Sunday afternoon as a pick me up with our coffee after a routine Sunday nap.  (Yes, I obey the Lord when He says to rest on the seventh day!)  I already had the orange marmalade which is something I don't normally keep, and I had the spices which is something I always have on hand.  The taste that comes from the combination of the citrusy-sweet orange marmalade and zest with the low fat buttermilk make this bread one that's so moist and tastes more rich and fattening than it really is.  There is not as much sugar in this quick bread recipe as most have, and I use fat free milk although it called for low fat.  The low fat buttermilk the recipe calls for is just ideal for enhancing baking.  It is also used in my Double Chocolate Christmas Cake that is so good!  The toasting of the pecans truly brings out their flavor in the bread and is "a must" to do. Be sure and save a few to sprinkle over the top.  The glaze is a simple mixture of the powdered sugar and orange juice.  I like to poke small holes in the top of the bread right after it comes out of the oven and drizzle part of the glaze on it to soak in and really make it moist.  After I take the bread out of the pan I will set it on a cooling rack and after about 15-20 more minutes, then I drizzle the rest of the orange glaze on the top of the bread.  This time it will not soak all the way in the bread, but will run down the sides a bit for a glossy and pretty presentation right before sprinkling the last chopped pecan on the top. Yum!!
This is a simple and rather healthy bread that's so tasty and perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Orange-Pecan Tea Bread recipe

Pear Cobbler with Blueberry Streusel topping


So, my first Cozy Little Kitchen order was quite exciting to receive!  I was asked to bake something for some good friends to take home to their family Christmas dinner.  Family Christmas, Me?!?  So of course I was ecstatic and honored to do so.  How could I pass this rare opportunity to share my humble baking skills with my friends' loved ones?  Our friends requested the Pear Cobbler with Blueberry Streusel topping. I have this baked for them before and we all just loved it!  However...I must give credit where it's due; this is based upon a Tyler Florence recipe that I have from one of his cookbooks.  I love Tyler's cooking and recipes -- after he won us over with his Ultimate Chicken Parm recipe!  (That's for another blog....)

Anyway, you may be thinking, "Pears and Blueberries?...little bit of an odd combo."  The original recipe actually calls for using cranberries, which you know I love. The first time I made it I only had blueberries on hand so that's what I tossed in, and it turned out to be a perfectly delicious decision!  This cobbler, unlike most southern cobbler recipes I know, has the pears only cored and cut in halves and then delicately arranged around the dish.  I think this makes the dessert look more elegant while showing off the almost feminine curves of the pears.  (Also, saves you time on chopping!)

I love making this dessert!  This time I made it, I actually prepped some of the ingredients the night before to save on time the next day.  I put all of the dry streusel topping ingredients (everything but the butter and blueberries) together in a zip lock bag.  I did the same with the dry ingredients for the filling, and I washed the fresh blueberries and had those ready in the fridge.  I feel more organized whenever I prep what I can beforehand and the actual baking process doesn't seem as intimidating, especially when you are short on time.

There are a couple of things I would do differently the next time I prepare this wonderful dish. First, I wouldn't let the butter soften as the recipe says.  This may just be something I am doing the wrong way, but I have found that when it get softened it is much more difficult to make a crumbly streusel on the top.  Before I put mine in the oven, it looked a bit gobby and wet.  Although the outcome was quite mouth watering and they said it was delicious, I just got a little frustrated while I was cutting my butter into the dry ingredients.  Well, this is something that would be up to you -- but the next time I think I am going to try to keep the butter cold. Second, this dish will bubble a lot in the oven. Although mine never bubbled over, you may want to put a foil-covered baking sheet on the rack below just in case.

This enticing cobbler will fragrance your home of fruit and cinnamon like an Amish bakery, and after you take it out of the oven it will be a rustic beauty cooling on your stove top for all to see.  The deep purple hue of the blueberries that burst, melts into the golden buttery goodness of the topping making it look almost too good to eat.--almost!
It was a pleasure to make this delicious dessert for dear friends over the holiday season.  This cobbler is perfect to eat after a comfy supper on a chilly winter night.  Serve a warm scoop of cobbler with homemade whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream and enjoy!

Pear Cobbler

Unsalted butter, at room temperature
Granulated sugar
4 Bartlett Pears
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (or not)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8 by 8in. baking dish or deep dish pie pan.  Dust the dish with the granulated sugar and tap out any excess.

Peel the pears and cut them in half through the stem end.  Use a melon baller to scoop out the cores.  Put the pear halves in a large bowl and sprinkle with vanilla and toss.  Then sprinkle over the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss so that the pears are really well coated with the flavorings.  Set the pears in a single layer, cored side down, in the baking dish.

Now make the topping.  In the same bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt and mash it all together with your fingers.  Toss in the blueberries.  Crumble the topping mixture over the pears in a baking dish and bake until the topping is nice and crunchy and browned and the pears are very tender, 35-40 minutes.  (I baked mine the entire 40 minutes.) Let cool for at least 20 minutes and serve warm!