Monday, September 21, 2009

Pasties (Meat Pies)

Pasties are one of my favorite grab-n-go meals. It's like a tiny steak dinner in your hand. As I mentioned before, every time I make them I am reminded of my childhood.
This "recipe" has been handed down from my grandmother. Although she used suet in her pie dough and I never learned to apply that ingredient, the outcome is still fabulous.  These are not the same as the gravy-laden pasties you can find at an English Pub. These are drier, but lend themselves to be eaten hot or cold.  I really don't have a preference!

Since the crust for these should be fairly sturdy, don't panic if you haven't worked much with pie dough. This is a great start as overworking the dough a little will make it tough, but will be just fine to hold up to the handling and weight of the filling.

Pasties (meat pies)

Makes about 15

4 medium baking potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 round steak, fat trimmed and cut into small cubes
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
salt & pepper
1 Egg, slightly beaten

Savory Pie dough, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the cut potatoes, onions, and steak into their own  bowls. Season the meat with garlic, salt and pepper.

Roll pie dough until it is 1/4" thick. Cut large circles, 3 1/2"-4" in diameter, in an even amount.  On one circle, layer potatoes, meat, and onion leaving about 1/4"-1/2" edge. Flatten a second circle so it is just slightly larger than the first. Cover the filling and seal the edges with a fork. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. When baking sheet is full (approx. 6-8 per 1/2 sheet size), brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Make a little vent slice at the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.

Let rest for 5 minutes before removing from pans.
Try not to burn your fingers or tongue when taking the first bite!

Savory Pie Dough
From Julia Child's Baking with Julia

5 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP salt
1 1/2 (6 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 3/4 (11 oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

Using a mixer with paddle attachment: Put the flour and salt into the bowl and stir to mix.  Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly.  Ad the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together.

To make dough by hand:  Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender, cut in te shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times. The dough will be soft but will firm up in the refrigerator.

Chilling the dough:  Divide into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 5 days or frozen for 1 month. It's a good idea to diide the dough into quarters for freezing since one quarter of the recipe is generally enough for one pie crust or tart shell. Defrost, wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Cooking Hodge Podge

Saturday was a rough day for me. I spent the afternoon studying for a grueling test that I'll be taking in a couple of weeks and then got sick on the way home from the session...not my idea of a good time!  So, Sunday, when I was feeling normal again, I wanted to cook...a lot.  I wound up narrowing it down to 3 dishes. Two were new and one was an old favorite.

I love "old favorites" since they bring back so many memories.  This one brought back memories as far away as elementary school. My mom use to make Pasties and I would love to take them for lunch. All the kids would look at me like I was crazy--and why wouldn't I be? How many fourth graders bring cold meat pies to school for lunch?  Regardless, I loved the attention and I loved the lunch.  I remember that whenever I make them.

The new dishes I made I found out of a bargain cookbook from Border's: Appetizers Finger Food Buffets & Parties by Bridget Jones. (Not of the Bridget Jones' Diary fame, I'm sure...anyone remember blue soup?) The first was Smoked Salmon and Rice Salad Parcels and the other was Cold Lemon Souffle with Almonds.  Let me tell you they all turned out great!  Other than a little time consuming, they are all easy to make.  Still, 4 hours in the kitchen doesn't seem all that bad when the therapy aspect is considered.  It was the ideal therapy session, indeed.  I made dinner and felt giddy by the time the plates were filled. Seeing the happy faces of my kids trying something new and hearing the comments that follow, well, that just makes my heart soar.

Smoked Salmon and Rice Salad Parcels

Serves 4

1 cup mixed wild rice and basmati rice (I used Near East without the seasoning packet)
8 slices smoked salmon, approx. 12 oz. worth
4 inch piece of cucumber, finely diced
8 oz. feta cheese, cubed
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup diced onion
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. chopped curly leaf parsley
salt & fresh ground pepper
Lime slices & parsley for garnish

1. Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain any excess liquid and transfer to a bowl to cool completely.

2. Line 4 ramekins (or small cereal bowls) with plastic wrap, then line each with smoked salmon, allowing the ends to overlap the edges of the dishes. (I had extra salmon, so I used about 3 slices each.)

3. Add the cucumber, cubes of feta, and tomato quarters to the rice and stir in the mayonnaise, lime juice and parsley. Mix together well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Spoon the rice salad mixture into the salmon-lined bowls. Carefully fold over the overlapping ends of the salmon so that the rice mixture is completely encased.

5. Chill the parcels in the refrigerator 30-60 minutes, then invert each parcel onto a plate, using the plastic wrap to ease them out of the bowls. Carefully peel off the wrap, then garnish with parsley and lime. Serve.

Note: The extra rice mixture can be served as a separate salad.

Cold Lemon Souffle

Cold Lemon Souffle with Almonds

Vegetable oil, for greasing (or cooking spray)
Grated rind and juice of 3 large lemons
5 large eggs, separated
4 oz, generous 1/2 c. superfine sugar
1 1/2 tbsp powdered geletin (2 packets)
3/4 pint, scant 2 cups heavy cream

Almond topping:
3/4 c sliced almonds
3/4 c powdered sugar

  1. To make the souffle collar, cut a strip of baking parchment long enough to fit around a 3 3/4 c souffle dish and wide enough to extend 3" above the rime. Fit the strip around the dish, tape and then tie it arond the top of the dish with string. Lightly coat the inside of the paper collar with oil using a pastry brush, or use cooking spray.
  2. Put the lemon rind and yolks in a bowl. Add 3 tbsp of sugar and whisk until the mixture is creamy.
  3. Place the lemon juice in a small heatproof bowl and sprinkle over the geletin. Set aside for 5 minutes, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occassionally, until the geletin has dissolved. Cool slightly, then stir the gelatin and lemon juice mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, lightly whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold into the egg yolk mixture and set aside.
  5. Whist the whites to stiff peaks. Gradually whisk the remaining sugar until stiff and glossy.  Quickly and lightly fold teh whites into the yolk mix. Pour into prepared dish, smooth the surface, and chill for 4-5 hours.
  6. To make the almond topping, brush a baking tray lightly with oil (or cooking spray). Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the almonds over the baking tray and sift the powdered sugar over. Broil until the nuts turn a rich golden color and the sugar has carmelized.
  7. Leave to cool, then remove the almond mixture from the tray with a palette knife of metal spatula and break it into pieces.
  8. When the souffle has set, carefully peel off the paper. If the paper does not come away easily, hold the blade of a knife against the set souffle to help it hold its shape. Sprinkle the carmalized almonds over the top before serving.
  • This souffle is wonderfully refreshing when served semi-frozen. Place the undecorated, set souffle in the freezer for about an hour. Just before serving, remove from the freezer and decorate with the almonds.
  • Can vary the flavor by using the juice and rind of 5 limes or 3 oranges.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Potato Cheese Soup

When I picked up my youngest today from day care, she was sitting alone in the middle of the floor, crying. All of the other kids around her were busy coloring, playing, or enthralled with the computers. I asked her what was wrong and she thought one of her friends didn't like her anymore... She DID get a Sunshine Report, which would normally make her happy, but not today. Her teacher said she was tired and a little grumpy all afternoon. So, on the way to pick up her sister, I asked if she wanted potato soup for dinner. Since it is one of her favorites, I thought it would help her mood.  It did. Immediately, her outlook shifted.

This is one of the ultimate "comfort foods" in our house. Sick, grumpy, bad day, just a case of the blues...they can all be lifted with a batch of potato cheese soup. In the many years that I've been making it--for myself, friends, potlucks, sick neighbors--I've not had one complaint...and rarely have I had leftovers.  This has prompted me to make the "big batch" that I do now. 30 minutes later, we have enough for dinner and a lunch...

Potato Cheese Soup

8 med baking potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, diced

4 cups milk

4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
4 TBSP roasted red pepper (jar), chopped
2 TBSP flat leaf parsely, chopped
Dash hot sauce

8 ounces shredded cheese (colby-jack, cheddar, pepper jack, etc)
Extra cheese for garnish

Boil the potatoes and onions in the chicken broth until very tender. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add milk and stir. Keep on low heat.

Make Roux. Combine butter and flour and cook until thick. Add peppers, parsley, hot sauce, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.  Add to potato mixture and mix until smooth and well distributed.

Add cheese just before serving and stir until cheese has melted.
Ladle into bowls and top with extra cheese.  Can make "Baked Potato Soup" by adding your favorite toppings: crunchy bacon bits, sour cream, or fresh chives.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

My youngest loves cinnamon rolls. The sweet combination of cinnamon, spices, and sweet frosting will send her into ecstasy...and she's 5. 

I've been making french toast for as long as I can remember. During my early college days, my roommate would ask me to make it at the wee hours of the morning to offset a night of drinking. This version of french toast is sweet and flavorful and if done right will have a soft custard like center.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast

5 eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg (approx)

6 slices Texas Toast, thick cut French Bread, OR 8 slices regular bread

Mix first 5 ingredients together until well blended. Soak bread in egg mixture until soggy. Cook on a hot, buttered griddle until lightlty browned. Turn once. The center should "poof" a little while cooking.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and butter. Serve with syrup or Orange Whipped Cream.

Orange Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp orange marmalade

Whip cream with vanilla and sugar until medium stiff peaks form. Fold in marmalde. Serve.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Confetti Macaroni Salad

My girls love pasta. Not as much as potatoes, but mac n cheese is a big hit...and so is spaghetti (which I'll post later!). But, on a hot summer holiday, macaroni salad is a refreshing treat...especially when it's colorful and full of a variety of flavors and textures. Did I mention that we hate boring food? Well, this salad has a lot of flavors and colors. That's how it got it's name. It's best when it's been allowed to develop overnight, but don't worry if you want to dive into it right away.

Confetti Macaroni Salad

1 lb small shell macaroni
2 hard boiled eggs
2 ears roasted corn
2 green onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 small jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded


12 oz. light sour cream
16 oz. light mayonaise
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 TBSP salt
1 1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, diced
Cayenne Pepper-to taste

For the salad, cook macaroni according to package directions. Cook eggs and corn. To roast corn, place corn still in husks in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. You want it to be crisp-tender. When done, peel back the husks and remove silk. Rinse well. Remove the kernals and place in a medium size bowl. Add vegetables to this bowl as they are prepared. Remove macaroni from the water when just tender and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain completely. Peel and dice eggs. All ingredients should be at room temperature when assembled together. Place everything in a large mixing or serving bowl; one with a lid/seal is ideal.

In a seperate bowl, add together all ingredients for dressing. Taste. Make adjustment according to your liking. I like mine a little less salty and with a little "zip". When thoroughly mixed, add to salad and blend well, making sure all pasta is coated and all ingredients have dispersed through the salad. Refrigerate at least 2 hours if possible...overnight is best.

Serve cold.

Getting Started

I'm new to blogging. There, I said it. I read blogs. I follow blogs. I've thought about starting a blog for a long time. So, with inspiration from friends, and, I have to admit a very compelling movie, I took the plunge.

There are millions of blogs out there. I know. Why read mine? Well, why not? I have been cooking and baking for years...mostly successfully, but there was a time when I couldn't get chicken to cook beyond raw...ick...but I'm over that now. Luckily, it was a brief time period and no one died--or even got sick. Whew!

But seriously, cooking and baking are my passion. More baking than cooking, but we all have to eat, right? I can go for days on an emotional high when my daughters exclaim that the latest meal was the best thing they've ever tasted and we HAVE to have it every night. Laughter with friends is always enhanced by good food and drinks, isn't it? So I cook to keep us healthy and bake to keep us happy. Isn't that what life is all about? Healthy and happy? Family time and togetherness?

So, with the encouragement of others, I begin this journey of sharing some of my recipes. Some I have been making for years. Some are brand new to me...and I'll give you my opinions as we go along. Many will have stories to go with them, and that just makes it a little more interesting.