Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sweet Little Cherry Pie Tartlettes

     I've always loved history.  Not only was it my favorite subject all through school, but even now I love to go on trips to historical places and tour old homes from centuries ago!  That is probably what fuels my love for Europe all anything "old world".  Homes, streets and businesses with old stone or brick, walls and floors that are bursting at the seems (sometimes literally!) with stories to tell fascinate my husband and I! I love a period film or a restaurant with the flair of another era.  Don't worry, there is a point to all of this. :)

     Now back to the really good stuff--the pie!...

     So, of course I've always loved George Washington's birthday.  In grade school we learned about the story about a young Washington cutting down the little cherry tree that he couldn't lie to his father about.  You know the story...perfect for children...especially whenever you have an object lesson like making a cute little cherry pies!  After all these years I still enjoy celebrating the birthday of one of the very best Presidents America has ever had, with baking a cherry pie.  (My husband love this tradition!)  This year I thought I would make these sugar-sweet, little tartlette pies.  Not sure what to call them, but I think something that ends with "lette" is so cute! 

     They are easy to make, and would be a perfect dessert for your children to help with! The filling is so much tastier than canned pie filling, and the frozen sweet cherries make this recipe surprisingly easy!  There is just enough sugar to sweeten them but not too much!  With the egg wash and sprinkled sugar on the top, you will get unbelievably crisp crust that's irresistably good!  This recipe is very similar to my Sugar Laced Cherry Pie, which would also be perfect to make for this holiday!  I just love these adorable baby pies, and I think you and your kids will, too!

Cherry Pie Tartlettes

1 bag frozen dark, sweet cherries

1/4 c. sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 pkg. (2) refrigerated pie crusts

1 egg

1 Tbsp. sugar for sprinkling

In a bowl, place cherries with the next three ingredients.  Let sit for about 20 minutes or so stirring occasionally, or until the juices have created a yummy syrup. 

Unroll the pie crust.  Using a  biscuit cutter, make 3 in. circles until all the crust in used up.       .

Place about 4 cherries (with juice) onto a circle and place another one on the top, like a sandwich.  Fold and crimp the edges like you would a pie.

Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, because your little pies will leak juice.  It is going to happen, so don't worry!  Makes tiny slits in the top and brush with an egg wash.  (Egg wisked with a little water.) Sprinkle heavily with sugar over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Carefully remove from the pan before any of the spilled juice hardens, making it difficult to remove.  Eat warm and enjoy!  Makes about 10-12.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Valentines Day, Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Homemade Chocolate Chip Buttercream Frosting


     These cupcake are truly a sweet tooth lover's delight!  There are no words for how happy these little polka dotted cakes make me feel and that is why I made them for my loved ones this Valentines!  Mini chocolate chips are piled in a (completely homemade) batter that is so fluffy yet moist from sifted cake flour and whipped egg whites then drenched with an entire tablespoon of real vanilla extract.  This perfectly delicious cake is then piled up with a rich and dreamy buttercream frosting specked with lots of semi sweet chocolate chips.  I'm drooling. No...really!  This is some good stuff!!!

     I won't lie.  These cupcakes take a little time to make, but really what doesn't when you make something  from scratch?  They are more than worth the time it takes to make!  For a few tips...I advise you to be sure and use cake flour because it will lend to a perfect "crumb" for the cake.  That is how you can make your cakes taste like you ordered them from your favorite bakery.  I have used regular chocolate chips in the batter in the past, but found the minis work best because they don't sink to the bottom and make the cake too rich.  As for the frosting, you will have to judge yourself how much cream to add.  I was originally planning on piping the frosting so I didn't add as much, but I ended up deciding to just spread it on.  I think when piping it should be a little thicker, than if you are just spreading it on.  Which reminds me, this frosting would be amazing on a cake--especially chocolate cake!  There was a bakery we loved to go to in Louisville that had a yummy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.  How good would that would be with this chocolate chip buttercream!

     No joke, these could be my favorite cupcakes of all time!  I was thrilled whenever I decided to make them for my husband (who loves them as much as me) and our friends for Valentines Day.  I actually found myself getting more excited as I prepped to bake these by getting all my ingredients out, setting out the butter, sifting the flour and powdered sugar, and pulling the chocolate out of the cabinets!  I'm happy to say that these cupcakes were made with lots of love, shared in love, and were eaten on the day of Love....Oh how, Lovely!

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

3 1/4 c. sifted cake flour (not self rising)

1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

7 oz. (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened

1 3/4 c. sugar

1 c. + 2 Tbsp. milk

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

5 egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks (See picture)

2 c.(1 bag) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix any remaining wet ingredients (milk and vanilla) in a separate bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in about 3 additions, alternating with wet and ending with dry.  Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. (*A little tip: Leave egg whites sitting out in the bowl at room temperature for 30 minutes before whipping them, for maximum volume!)  Gently fold whipped egg whites into batter.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Divide batter among cups and bake for 23- 25 minutes.  Allow to cool and then frost with Chocolate Chip Buttercream.  Makes 24 cupcakes.

Chocolate Chip Buttercream Frosting

1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
        3 sticks of butter, softened
        1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
        2-3 Tbsp. whipping cream
        1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips

Beat butter with a mixer until light and creamy. Add vanilla. Turn mixer 
to low and gradually add powdered sugar and cream.  Mix very well. 
Add more cream to thin it out or more powdered sugar to thicken it up if you need to.  Stir in chocolate chips. 
Immediately frost cupcakes

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pot Roast with Carrots & Potatoes and Roasted Green Beans

     What's more comforting than to come home from work or church to find a complete, ready-to-eat pot roast dinner with delicious carrots and potatoes?!  Pot roast is one of those classic meals that have been around for decades and can be made a hundred different scrumptious ways!  I love making mine in a crock pot so that the meat gets incredibly tender and the vegetables drink in all the drippings and seasonings.  YUM!

     This is a delicious Paula Dean recipe that I tried for the first time.  The only changes I made was that I used a slightly tougher eye of round roast instead of the more succulent (and quite fatty) chuck roast.  The eye of round was on sale at the grocery, and since I slow cook mine anyways I knew it would get nice and tender...and it did!  Also, I didn't have any wine like it calls for, so I added more water.  You could also add beef broth if you have it.  Thirdly, I like to add potatoes and carrots to all my beef roast recipes and that's what I did.  The gravy that come from the drippings and cream of mushroom soup (among other good  things) made the veggies so flavorful!  I used whole baby carrots and  baby Yukon gold potatoes cut in quarters, but you can use whatever kind you have on hand.  I love using leftovers for beef stew or shred it and add with more sauteed onions, peppers and cheese for a Philly cheese steak sandwich.

Yes this is another pot roast recipe, but why not give a new twist on an old meal and get excited about pot roast again!  I served it up with my roasted French green beans.  (Fresh green beans, kosher salt, and pepper tossed in a little olive oil in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes.) These are really tasty and a perfect vegetable that's healthy and adds color to the plate!  So get you crock pot back out, and surprise yourself with how incredibly good and easy this Slow Cooked Pot Roast what Carrots and Potatoes really is!
Pot Roast
1 (3-4 lb.) Boneless chuck roast
1 tsp. House Seasoning, recipe follows
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black pepper
2 Tbsp. Canola oil
1 c. Thinly sliced onion
3 Cloves garlic crushed
2 Bay leaves
1 (10 3/4 oz.) Can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup Red wine
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, low sodium
1 Tbsp. Beef bouillon granules or 1cube
3/4 cup Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees if you are using the oven.  If using a crock pot, like me, set on low.  Add house seasoning, salt and pepper to a small bowl.  Rub seasoning into the roast on both sides.  Heat oil in a large (preferably) cast iron skillet and brown the roast, searing on both sides.  Place the meat in the crock pot.  Add the onions and garlic in the skillet for just a minute or 2 to absorb all the leftover roast juice.  Place into the crock pot and on the roast and add bay leaves.

(This is whenever I add the carrots and cut up potatoes into the crock pot.)

Combine the mushroom soup, wine, Worcestershire sauce and beef bouillon into a bowl.  Pour over the roast and add water.

Cover and keep on low in the crock pot for 8 hours.  If baking in the oven, cover pan with foil and bake for 3- 3 1/2 hours. Either way, cook until the meat is very tender.

Remove and discard bay leaves.

Take out of the pot, cover in foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.  Serve with the vegetables on a platter and enjoy!

House Seasoning
 1 c. salt
1/4 c. black pepper
1/4 c. garlic powder

Mix ingredients and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lovely Baked Apple Pancake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

     February is the month of love!  Valentines Day is on the way, and I'm reminded of all the wonderful family and friends that God has placed in my life.  You know, Valentines Day isn't just a celebration of love for couples, but I find that it's a time to share with any loved one in your life how much they mean to you!  Of course this is something that we should try to do all throughout the year, but I think that it's pretty neat for there to be a specific day set aside to highlight romance for couples and God's love to our family, friends...also lonely elderly people and widows that are too often forgotten.  Thank you Lord for blessing us with loved ones!  Happy Valentines Day!!!

     Where do I start telling you how much I LOVE this beautiful pancake?!  My amazing husband actually was first to make this!  The morning after getting back home from a week long girl's trip with my mom and sister he surprised me by waking up early to prepare this lovely, personal sized heart shaped pancake that he drizzled with luscious homemade caramel sauce!

Talk about love!!!

He's such a thoughful husband that I have to brag on for minute.  As busy as he stays being in medical school (and trust me whenever I say that "busy" is an understatement), he has always taken the time to make me feel as though I'm the only important thing to him on this earth!  He never forgets the details in life--and he knows that I appreciate every one of them:) Honey, I love you so much!

     So, back to this scrumptious breakfast treat.....This is a pancake that is baked in the oven and is made to slice and share.  It consists of a batter that is poured over sugary apples and pecans in a buttery skillet and baked to golden brown.  The delicate pancake is then turned over onto a platter for the pretty apple design to show.  It is then showered with snow-like powdered sugar and drizzed with caramel sauce for a perfectly wonderful presentation that will not be left for long!!  This is a recipe that is every bit tasty as it is beautiful!  I love the heart shape pancake my husband made me.  That would be perfect for a Valentines Day treat for your Love or your lovely children!  Otherwise I use my 7 in. cast iron skillet, and it turns out great!  The recipe calls for Granny Smith apples originally, but we use Jonathan's when they are in season.  The caramel sauce is an added decadence since it is homemade!  Rich, dark and almost buttery--it's the perfect combination with the tart apple!  While the pancake is baking is the perfect time to make the sauce, and that way it's still warm and ready when you flip out the pancake.

     I really hope that you've been inspired to try something different, like this Baked Apple Pancake to treat yourself or someone special in your life!  Let this melt in your mouth and it will feed your soul as well as your tummy!  What are you waiting for?...go get your apron and get ready to surprise someone YOU love!

Baked Apple Pancake with Homemade Caramel Sauce

8 eggs
1 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
cooking spray
1/2 c. butter
3 Granny Smith or Jonathan apples,peeled & thinly sliced
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
Powdered sugar

Chopped, toasted Pecans

Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients.  (Mixture will be lumpy.)  Add buttermilk and vanilla, whisking until batter is blended.

Coat a 7in.(ish) oven safe skillet with cooking spray, and sliced stick of butter.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 5 minutes or until the butter melts.  Place apple slices evenly, going around in a circle into the skillet.  Pour the batter into the skillet to coat the apples.  Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.  Bake 35-45 more minutes.

Carefully turn out the pancake onto a plate or platter.  If a few apples are out of place, don't worry, put them back!  Right before serving, dust the pancake with powdered sugar and drizzle with homemade caramel sauce or maple syrup and sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans.  Serve warm!


Caramel Sauce
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine brown sugar and whipping cream in a heavy saucepan; cook over med-low heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until bubbly. (mixture may look curdled)  Cook, stirring constantly 2 more minutes.  Remove from the heat; add butter and vanilla, stirring until blended.  Cool 3-5 minutes.

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