Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chocolate Pie and a Homemade Crust

I'll be honest, I'm very particular about my pies. As in, I really only eat chocolate pie and strawberry pie... Growing up, my dad's mom always made a ridiculous Thanksgiving Dinner. She would prep for days, get up before the sun, and took great joy in cooking an amazing meal for her family. To finish off this meal, she would have a table of desserts. I'm not talking a table that contained one or two desserts, but literally a table containing everyone's favorite desserts!  For me, this was chocolate pie with no meringue; my cousin wanted apple pie; my dad wanted german chocolate cake; my mom wanted coconut pie; my grandfather caramel cake; and on, and on, and on until all 15 of us had exactly what we wanted.

My grandmother died in a freak accident at the beginning of my sophomore year of college (five years ago this September), and the holidays just aren't the same anymore. She's missed everyday, but Thanksgiving was always "her" holiday. We all try to make it as special as possible now, but no one can do it quite like Granny. I learned how to make her chocolate pie in the months after she died, when my grandfather gave me her recipe box. Every time I make this pie, I miss her terribly, but know that she smiles when she sees me do it.

Chocolate Pie
1 cup of Sugar
1/3 cup of All Purpose Flour
1/4 Tsp of Salt
2 Cups of Milk
3 Eggs (yolk only)
2 Tbsp Butter
1/3 cup Cocoa
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Combine the sugar, flour, and cocoa into a mixing bowl and gradually stir in milk. Once combined well, stir over medium heat (in a decent sized sauce pan) until it bubbles. Once the bubbling occurs (it will be subtle, not a full on boil), continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes.
Take the mixture off the heat and continue stirring. Take 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture and combine it with the egg yolks, then pour the egg/mixture combination back into the saucepan and place it back on the heat.  Add the butter and vanilla extract, then continue cooking for about 1 minute. Pour into a pre-baked pie crust that has cooled.
Dry ingredients
Dry ingredients + Milk
Egg yolks and vanilla extract
Addition of eggs, butter, vanilla extract
Pie Crust
Now, I'm not going to lie. I've been known to use a frozen pie crust more times than not, but last night I learned how to make a REAL pastry pie crust that is absolutely to die for!  You'll need....
1 1/2 Cups Sifted Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Crisco (converts to 8 Tbsp)
4 Tbsp Water

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add in the Crisco with a pastry blender (had never seen one of these until last night!) or a fork until it looks uniform.  Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of water at a time over small portions of the mixture (repeat for the 4 tablespoons total) and mix it in well.  Work the dough into a bowl (try and touch it as little as possible...) and roll out for a pie plate.  You have to kind of eye how big the plate is (a standard 9 inch plate is best).  Once the dough is at the desired thickness, place the pie plate upside down on the dough and then use your mat to flip it over. Smush (yes, that's my technical term for it) it so it fits in the plate well, and then roll the excess pastry under the edges around the top of the pie plate. To make it extra pretty, get some flour on your fingers and you can squeeze the pastry to make "waves" around the top--great for hiding imperfections! Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork, then bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Pesto

Pesto was not something my family ate as I was growing up. Heck, we didn't even eat alfredo sauce at our house--we are very much a tomato-based sauce family. Imagine my surprise when I moved to grad school and my roommate has this green sauce she smears over pasta, chicken, fish, and pretty much anything else you want to be delicious.  Her mother makes it in large batches and we store it in the freezer and ration it for as long as possible! With some extra time on my hands this summer, I decided to try and make my own...here is the story that ensued!

You need:
3-4 Cups of Basil Leaves (fresh, not the spice kind you get in flakes in a jar)

  • Note: Its best if these come fresh out of the garden, but seeing as my mom and I kill every plant in sight, I had to resort to store bought.  While this sounds simple, I went to 3 grocery stores and ended up having to go to Wal-Mart before I found enough to make it! I bought some that was stored in a plastic container in the fresh produce area. I bought three containers containing 2.5oz apiece, but ended up only needing two.

4 Cloves of Garlic

  • My roommate's mom's recipe said to use four cloves, but the next batch I make I think I'll include a little more....its hard to beat good, fresh garlic! On that note, I'm obsessed with my mom's garlic press and am definitely going to need to get one before I go back to school in August!

1/2 Cup of (good) Olive Oil

  • I used what we had in the pantry and chose it over the other brand in the pantry because the bottle was prettier. In my head prettier = better quality.

1/2 Cup of Parmesan Cheese, grated

  • I bought a small container of Parmesan from the grocery store. It can pre-grated and looked good. You could easily by a chunk of Parmesan and grate it yourself, and I'm sure the kind you shake out of the bigger containers on pasta would work just fine too!

1/2 Cup of Pine Nuts

  • I used the Alessi kind that I found in a jar at our local grocery store.  I bought two containers, not knowing quite how much it would take me to get to 1/2 cup. The small container I bought gave me just under 1/2 cup and I just went with that.

Sea Salt

  • Add to taste!

Food Processor

  • As I discovered when I was attempting to make the Oreo crust for my Peanut Butter Pie, my mom didn't own a food processor. However, we did find one in the cabinet at our cabin and brought it home for me to use. I washed it, plugged it in, placed the ingredients in and......nothing. Broken. So I called a neighbor/friend of my mom's who likes to cook and asked if I could borrow her food processor. She said that she had one but never used it so I was welcome to take it and have it. I went and picked it up, washed it, placed my ingredients in it, plugged it up and.....nothing. Again. This one was also broken. So I had to make a quick Target run to purchase a food processor so that I could use all the fresh ingredients I had already bought!
First, you wash the Basil leaves, place them in a colander (you know, the strainer you use to drain water out of pasta, etc) then pat them dry with a thin hand towel. Place the leaves into the food processor and add the Pine Nuts, then turn on the processor and let the two combine.  Then you add the garlic (not the whole clove, actually put it through the garlic press first) Sea Salt, and the Parmesan cheese and combine these into the Food Processor with the Basil Leaves/Pine Nut concoction (turn it on and let them mix).  Then you'll add the olive oil and turn on the food processor again, running it until you like the consistency! 

Its really a pretty simple, easy thing to make, unless you've got to go to four stores for basil leaves and try out three food processors!
Basil Leaves

Basil Leaves, Sea Salt, Pine Nuts
Basil, Pine Nuts, Sea Salt...Mixed
Olive Oil, Parmesan

Will definitely be making this again soon! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

Being informed I had to make dessert for 12 people on Friday afternoon left me worried that one dessert wouldn't be enough. So, I decided to make a second dessert that I'd found the recipe for in my mom's [junk] drawer which also happens to contain recipes.  

The ingredients are relatively simple and straightforward.
  • 1 cup of creamy Peanut Butter (Peter Pan is the only acceptable kind at my house!)
  • 1 8oz container of Cream Cheese
  • 1 8oz container of Cool Whip
  • 1 1/4 cup of Confectioner's Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 25 Oreo cookies

First, you want to make the Oreo crust. To do this, you put the Oreos into a food processor and let it grind them into a fine crumble....of course, this is the easy way to do it.  When I called my momma to question her as to where our food processor was, she told me we didn't have one. WHAT? She and my dad have been married for 34 years and they don't have a food processor? Okay, well then Momma, where is the blender (thinking I could break them up that way...) to which I am informed that she dropped her 34 year old blender and it is no longer working/living in our kitchen.  So I regrouped and put the Oreos in a big Ziploc bag and beat them to a pulp with a rolling pin.  Once the Oreos are crumbly and small with the icing invisible, put the crumbs into a mixing bowl and add in 4 tbsp of melted butter.  Then press the mixture into a 9inch pie dish to form your crust (bake at 350 for around 5 minutes).

To make the filling, put 1 cup of peanut butter into a large mixing bowl along with the cream cheese and beat it with a mixer until its somewhat smooth.  Then add the Confectioner's Sugar and mix that together. Finally you add the Cool Whip (not frozen) and mix it all together until the consistency/color is the same throughout.  Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and place it in the refrigerator to set. The recipe says to let it set for at least an hour, but mine sat overnight and set up beautifully! 

I liked the pie (to be honest though, the crust was my favorite part), but it was very rich.  The recipe says it serves around six people, but with how rich the pie is it could easily be served in smaller pieces and everyone would still get their sweet fix!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Better Than Sex Cake

On Friday my mother informed me that I needed to make dessert 12 people for our weekend at the lake with family and some friends. She said cookies or brownies from the package were fine, but I wanted to go a little further and make something more homemade.  My roommate made "Better Than Sex" Cake over Spring Break this year and it was a huge hit, so I decided to try it out for myself.  She got this recipe from Recipes.com and emailed it to me.

You will need:
  1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix (if no pudding in mix, add 1 small. box instant vanilla pudding)
  4 eggs  1/2 c. oil
  1/2 c. water
  1 c. sour cream
  1 bar German's sweet chocolate, grated
  1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
  1 (6 oz.) pkg. butterscotch chips
  1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

Mix first 7 ingredients by hand and beat only a few strokes (it doesn't need to be well mixed at this point). Then add last 3 ingredients and mix the concoction well. Bake in greased and
floured Bundt pan at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until cake tests done. Invert immediately to cake plate.
Note: Grease the Bundt pan WELL. I didn't grease the part in the middle as well as I should have       and my cake didn't come out cleanly. However, it still tasted great!

This was a big hit with the family and our friends and is definitely something I'll be trying again! Here are some pictures to show you what it looks like!

Some of the ingredients (minus eggs, sour cream, oil, water)

Cake Mix, Eggs, Oil, Water, Sour Cream, and the beginnings of the grated chocolate
Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch Chips, and Pecans added
Gooey mixture

Finished Product (ideally, there should be a hole in the middle. Like I said, I didn't do a great job greasing the middle of the Bundt pan!)!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Surviving the NOLA Bachelorette Party

My college best friend is getting married in July.  We met when we joined the same sorority the very first week of freshman year at The University of Tennessee.  I have tons of fun memories from college and the vast majority of them include Kat. From dancing the nights away at band parties on fraternity row, to sorority date functions, to football games, to spring break, to late nights studying on the sorority floor....Kat and I have been together through a lot.  During a particularly hard time in my life, she literally would pick me up off the floor and spend the night with me so I could sleep.  I couldn't ask for a more loyal or better friend, so it was necessary to send her out of the single life in a big way.

12 girls headed to NOLA on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. We had big plans to eat, drink, and celebrate Kat (and needless to say, all these were fulfilled!). We all had matching pink sunglasses which were so useful in keeping up with each other!

  • True story: got asked by a TSA officer at airport security if I was positive the pockets of my shorts were empty because they looked like they were full.  I got to reply that, yes, my pockets were empty, that it was just my round ass filling out my shorts.  The security guy was kind of embarrassed and quickly sent me through the metal detector. 
Here are some of my favorite pictures from the weekend.
Kat rocking out at a bar.
Great friends!
Art in Jackson Square
Rooftop Pool Party

Such a fun weekend (that we all managed to survive)!