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February 2018
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Southern Style Green Beans and Potatoes

Something very exciting happened yesterday! For the first time in over a year, I felt called to the keyboard.  I felt the urge to put my fingers to the letters on my computer keyboard, and tell a tale on my sadly neglected blog.  Honestly, it felt really good.  In fact, it may have felt a little too good, because I kept thinking about that blog post into the evening, and I had the worst night of sleep!  Hopefully. that part of last night’s adventure won’t repeat, because I simply had to come back and get this recipe on my blog for future reference.

Several years ago, I went in search of a southern style green bean recipe that, at the time, I thought called for bacon and tomatoes.  I did find that version of green beans, but what I found way more common than the tomato version was a version that called for potatoes in place of the green beans.  That struck me as sort of… odd… For some reason, the idea of cooking potatoes and green beans together just did not appeal to me much at the time, but I made a note to come back in the future and try it out.  Well, that time arrived this summer when green bean season came on fast and furious.  It was short this year, as the weather wasn’t ideal and the insects were putting in overtime this year.  It didn’t take us long to go through the short repertoire of green bean recipes, so I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the rainy day edition of Southern Style Green Beans.

Let me just say this, this recipe is spectacular- I cannot believe how delicious this simple dish is.  Comfort food all the way, it just hits all the notches just right and quickly became a favorite.  The bacon adds flavor and fat, the green beans add color and flavor, and the potatoes cook down just enough to coat the green beans in a silky smooth sauce, while still maintaining most of their integrity.  A splash of vinegar, salt and pepper at the end brightens the whole dish and takes it to a whole new level.  At the time that I made this, I also wanted this to be a one-pot meal for dinner, so I also thawed a smoked venison sausage we had in the freezer and added that.  The sausage was a brilliant addition to the pot and I wouldn’t hesitate to do that again!  If you don’t happen to have the white balsamic vinegar called for, you can use regular balsamic, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar.

Southern Style Green Beans and Potatoes

  • 4-6 slices of good quality bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds of fresh green beans, strings and stems removed and snapped
  • 1-2 pounds of new potatoes, halved if small, quartered if large
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

In a dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until evenly browned, stirring occasionally.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon.  Give the remaining grease a rough eyeball for measurement- you want 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pot.  If there is significantly more than that, remove some with a ladle or gravy spoon.

Add the onion to the bacon grease and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute, followed by the beans, potatoes and chicken broth. If your broth is unsalted, add half a teaspoon or so of salt to the pot right away as well.  (Along with a few grinds of pepper if you like black pepper.)

Stir to combine, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Don’t stir too often.  The magic in this dish is that you want to cook the beans just enough that they are limp and bathed in potato puree, but not so much that the beans are falling apart and separating every time you stir.  Stir thoughtfully- checking the potatoes for tenderness each time you do so.   Once the potatoes are cooked through, remove from the heat.  Stir in the vinegar as well as additional salt and pepper if it is needed.  TASTE to see if the salt is needed- this will vary depending on how salty your bacon was at the beginning.

Serve immediately.

If adding sausage, just slice it and add it in during the last five minutes of cooking- just enough to cook the sausage through, but again, taking care to not cause the beans to fall apart.

This will serve 4-6 depending on whether you use it as a side dish or a main dish.

The Dish Of The Season- And It’s Crazy Simple!

A trend I’ve noticed among food blogs as of late is a gravitation towards foods that are regarded as “simple”.   It’s definitely not a new concept- for years there have been cookbooks and blogs and magazines touting the 4, 5, 10 ingredient recipes.  But it’s prevalent right now, and for good reason!  Fall finds people thrust into the busy-ness of school, extra-curriculars, work and all the other extra things life throws into the ring just to keep it interesting.  Our family is no exception.

One thing I’ve had to learn this summer is how to balance life with a job outside the home.  Mid-May of this year I decided to look more seriously into the idea of working outside the home.  As my kids get more and more independent with their schoolwork each year, I find I have more time in the mornings that I could put to something productive outside the home.  Funny thing though, when I went looking (and interviewing), NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, wants to hire a former retail manager for just a few hours in the mornings during the week.  In fact, I had one interview where I was told I was flat out unrealistic in my expectations.  Huh, that’s funny, because there is a major worker shortage in the retail world, and when I was a manager, my best employees were the stay-at-home moms who worked just a few hours in the morning when they were not busy with children.   And while I maintain my status that I’ve never interviewed without being offered a job, I did have to turn a prospect down because I could read between the lines and saw all the requests for my time outside of what I had initially offered.

Which works out well, because in the end, I decided to see what it was like to get up very, very early in the morning and deliver newspapers.    The first day I woke up at 3:30 am I thought I was insane.  By the fourth day I wanted to cry.  I was SO freaking tired.  But that was the day I signed the contract to take the route as mine despite how tired I was.   They were willing to work with my summer commitments, and the best part was that I would be out of the home in the early morning hours before it could ever affect anything about the day-to-day life with family, church, dance and everything else.  But let me tell you, it took me most of the summer to really figure out that balance of sleeping and not sleeping.  I suddenly found myself crawling into bed between the hours of 8:00 and 9:00pm- earlier if I could swing it.  But as the days went on, I discovered that most days, I could zip through my route and be back home and back in bed before 5:30 am- where I could sleep a few more hours when I felt like I needed it.  The return is that if I stay on task, my hourly rate is in the $14-$15 range- which is way better than any department store or mall rat job could have offered.

One of the things that suffered as summer went on was dinner time.  Trying to find that balance of sleep/no sleep/caffeine took a while, and I learned very quickly that working moms have it HARD.  At the end of the day, when 5:00 pm rolls around, I’m already thinking about sleep and bed and getting to that point in the day, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner!  I felt like I was eating a lot of crow, because even grilling some chicken breasts to top a salad took SO MUCH WORK some days.  I was thankful for take-out pizza too many times to count, and Costco chicken came home quite a few times as well.  I started to pay attention to those mail order meal kits- they sure sounded great to me because it didn’t require any brain power on my part to have meals sent to us week after week.  I was THIS close to trying some out- and I still have the coupons hanging around here just in case- but round about the middle of August something clicked inside of me.  All the sudden, after nearly three months of trying to figure this out, it seemed that physically I’d become used to the new way of life for the time being.

It was just in time too! Because that was when the tomatoes ripened all at once, and I had to dive into getting them prepared and preserved for later use.   I may share about this year’s tomato sauce adventures at some point, but what I really wanted to talk about today was the crazy simple tomato dish that we all greatly enjoy every time I make it.  And I’m making it often because I have twelve different cherry tomato plants in the garden and they just keep on giving me more tomatoes!  On any given day I can walk outside and walk back in the house with this at hand:

So, so good, and we sure eat a lot of them out of hand, as well as sharing them with friends, neighbors and church family.   But one can really only eat so many cherry tomatoes before they soften and need to be composted.   In years past I’ve sliced them and dehydrated them, but the kids have confessed that they don’t really care for that sun-dried tomato flavor much, so I wanted to do something else with them.  And here it is:

Roasted Purple Cherries

Cherry tomatoes, tossed with whatever fresh herbs have been gathered from the garden, olive oil, salt and pepper, along with a few cloves of smashed garlic, and roasted in a 375ºF oven for 35-40 minutes or until fragrant and soft.

It will drive you insane while it cooks!

The version posted above is made with two of my purple colored cherry tomatoes- Evan’s Purple Pear and Black Cherry, adding a level of richness to the dish that I really liked.

While the tomatoes roast, you decide what to do with them when they are done.  So far we keep defaulting to tossing them with spaghetti.


One night we added feta cheese, tonight we added Asiago- both were equally delicious.  Tonight we also had some lovely garlic-herb crostini, and scooping a glob of roasted cherry tomato onto that was an amazing experience all by itself.

It’s just so simple, but not simple like, open a can of soup with a can opener and add water.  It did take a little bit of effort, but mostly it was passive effort on my part.  When tossing with pasta, I highly recommend holding out half a cup of the pasta cooking water so you can add some body to the sauce if needed.   Roast your tomatoes until they look like my picture above, then toss with hot cooked pasta.  Add a dribble or two of pasta water and toss.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with fresh parsley and/or shredded cheese.

I plan to make this again so that I can take the roasted cherry tomatoes and just tuck them into the freezer.  I think they’d also make a spectacular topping for a flatbread pizza with some fresh mozzarella.

Make it.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Remembering The CLBB

We had quite the boring day here at The Waz Household.  Our hot water tank blew out yesterday, and today our landlord was here most of the day to put in a new one.  As I had no hot water, I wasn’t doing any cooking or cleaning, so I spent a bit of time reading, and then sat at the computer for a bit to do some internet browsing.  Eventually the day got away from me and I decided that tonight’s dinner was going to be waffles, only I couldn’t find the current favorite recipe.  No problem, I’d found it on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board and I could go there and pull it up speedy quick.  I have dozens of recipes like that, that I don’t really have written down anywhere because I can always find it later at the CLBB.

Only, it turns out that way of life was a luxury.   As of next Monday, September 19, the Cooking Light Bulletin Board will cease its existence.  The company that owns the forum gave just a two weeks notice, and I immediately thought of how thankful I was to need that waffle recipe today, or I might have logged onto that bulletin board a week from now and been flabbergasted by the new hole in my internet.

And it IS a hole.

I have so many delicious food memories from that bulletin board.  I’ve found so many good recipes that were shared by fellow boardies!  I learned so much about cooking in my early days from the people who frequented the forum.  And the relationships through the years, though virtual, were still very real.  We’ve walked through so many things as a community- births, deaths, cancers, remissions, diet struggles, diet achievements, contest winning, career changes, marriages, divorces, kitchen fires, new homes, adoptions… You name it, we experienced it.  And we shared it all amidst the recipes for almond roca, tortilla soup and lindrusso’s marinara magnifica.  It was LIFE.

I am grieving tonight that this community will actually be going away.  This is a genuine LOSS for the internet.  While I have not been particularly active the last few years, it was like a comforting casserole that I could go back to when I had a hankering.  It was always nice to pop in and see who was around, check out a few new recipes and look up that old one once again.   I can’t tell you how many times over the years Andy and I would have a discussion, and in the end I would pop on over to the CLBB to see what “the ladies” had to say.  (Which of course, included a few men as well.  Bobmark, Handyman, Gumbeaux and Hammster were regular posters who I remember fondly.)  Who needed google when you had the CLBB!?

We won’t have that anymore, and I dare not think of the WEALTH of life knowledge that will vanish when the website is taken down later this week.

And yet.

And YET.

Despite having just two weeks notice in advance of the shuttering, a few of the faithful have come together to create a new community out of the remains of the old one.

This is HUGE.  And there is SUCH potential here.  One of the things that has plagued the Cooking Light BB for some time is the great influx of spam that comes with an international audience.  Our friends have taken away that part of the equation and what remains is a community of people with a passion for cooking and sharing that cooking with others.  And so a new community rises out of the old community, and guess what my friends!  There is room at that kitchen table for YOU too!  Anyone can join, and it just takes a moment to register and request admittance to the group.

The Great Food Forum

If you were an old CLBB member, we’d sure love to see you! You can join up with your old CLBB username or create a new one, but please check in on the roll call thread and say hi!

If you are not an old CLBB member, oh, how wonderful it would be to launch this new community with some new members who simply enjoy great food.  Please join us at The Great Food Forum and join a community that has been around for over 16 years and refuses to go down with the ship.  We’re taking the ship to bigger and better places, and I hope you’ll join us for the journey.

Updated: Kosher Dill Pickles

Many years ago when I was first learning how to can and preserve, I bought a cookbook called Pickles & Relishes by Andrea Chesman.  I bought that along with a small Better Homes & Gardens book called Canning & Preserving Recipes.  Those were my Bibles those first few years.  I pored over them countless time, choosing recipes that would be to our liking, and sticking heartily to all the directions and requirements.

It had been a while since I pulled out the Pickles & Relishes book.  Though it contained my favorite Kosher Dill Pickle recipe, I knew the recipe by heart and had no need to have the book on hand.  When making sure I had all the ingredients, one of my digital versions of the recipes stood in as I made sure I had everything I needed.

Last year in early August we hit a Saturday where I knew we were nearing the end of the season for pickling cucumbers.  The kids piled into the van with me, and we spent hours going from farmer’s market to farmstand looking for a bushel of pickling cukes, but they were not to be had.  We bought a few bunches of dill in anticipation, but those last cucumbers were eluding us.  Finally, at our last stop and the bottom of our barrel, they did not have the small pickling cucumbers, but they did have bigger ones.  I was disappointed, but bought  a half bushel of these monster cucumbers and went home to figure out what to do with them.

As I drove, I eyeballed these cucumbers and decided that 6 inch fruit really meant that if I wanted pickles, I was going to have to do spears or slices.  They were definitely too large for whole pickles, which has always been my preference.  So upon our arrival at home, I picked up my old trusty Pickles & Relishes and flipped to the pickling section.  As I read through the recipe for my favorite Kosher Dills, something struck me in the directions.

“Process in a boiling water bath at 180ºF for 30 minutes.”

30 minutes at 180 degrees?  You know, all these years the only complaint we’ve ever had about my pickles is that they are a little on the soft side.  Family members now make my pickles as well, but the comments always come back to the fact that we all wish this fabulous tasting pickle had more crunch to it.  I had already purchased some Pickle Crisp to add to my pickles and see how it helped.  But a little research was in order, and I discovered that 180 degrees for 30 minutes was the temperature and time needed to pasteurize home-canned pickles.  It was the ideal temperature and time for those pickles that you’ve lovingly fermented in a pickle barrel, and now wanted to put up in jars for later use.   The 180 degrees was not hot enough to destroy the good bacteria generated, but keeping it at that temp for a full 30 minutes ensured a safely canned product for eating and sharing.  Huh.

I never really paid attention to those specifics before.  Whoops!  180 degrees is definitely NOT the boiling point of water at 212.  So when I was loading up the canner with my Kosher Dills and then boiling the snot out of them at 212 for 30 minutes… Well, of course those pickles were coming out soft on the other side!

I am happy to say that I have fixed my favorite pickle recipe.  My pickle spears turned out FABULOUS.  They had much more crunch to them in the end and have been a delicious addition to our diet.  Instead of boiling the snot out of my pickles for forever, pint jars process for 10 minutes, quart jars for 15.   Not only did this turn out a far superior pickle, but it also made the process go MUCH faster.

As to those larger than normal pickling cucumbers, we discovered that we absolutely prefer our pickles done in spears over the smaller whole pickles.  This year I will purposely be seeking out the larger cucumber, and I also plan to put up a few jars as slices for our burgers and sandwiches.

THIS is my favorite pickle recipe.  I hope you try it and love it as much as we do.


Kosher Dill Pickles- Updated 2016

One recipe makes 2-3 quarts of pickles

4 pounds cucumbers, about 6 inches long
3 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
6 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled
6 fresh dill heads or 1 1/2 tablespoons dill seeds
pickle crisp

Wash the cucumbers well and slice off the blossom ends.  Cut each cucumber into long spears.  Generally that would be cutting them in half lengthwise, and then cutting those halves into thirds or quarters, so you get 12-16 spears out of one cucumber.

Combine the salt, mustard seeds, water and vinegar in a saucepan.  Heat to boiling.

Into each sterilized quart jar, drop 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, and 1 dill head or 1/2 tablespoon of dill seeds.  Pack the cucumber spears into the jars rather snugly.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp over the cucumbers for a quart jar- 1/8 teaspoon for a pint jar.  Top each jar with 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, and 1 dill head.  Carefully, fill the jars with the hot vinegar liquid to 1/2-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims with a warm damp cloth, and then add the lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for quarts, 10 minutes for pints.  Pickles will be ready to eat in 2 to 3 weeks, but of course, improve with age.

My Best Christmas Treat

During the formative years of my life I would not have considered myself a mint fan.  Oh, I would occasionally indulge in a candy cane or a stick of gum, but if you presented me with a flavor array, I never ever chose mint anything.  Mint ice cream?  Forget it.  Mint cookies?  No way.  Mint brownies?  Heathens!  Why ruin perfectly good and chocolatey brownies with mint!

Somewhere along the way, though, I have discovered a very sincere fondness for mint and chocolate.  Peppermint mocha? I cannot get enough!  Brownies with peppermint in them?  We’ve come a long way baby.  So long that I now only make my Peppermint Fudge Brownies for bake sales because, I kid you not, if I have them on hand I will literally sit and eat the whole pan.  You know how they say no bite is as good as the first bite?  Not here.  Every bite makes my taste buds tingle and causes my eyes to roll back in my head.  They really are that good.

They are so good that I’ve long debated sharing the recipe because they really are bakery quality.  This year as we were wrapping up the over-sized brownies for the bake sale I mentioned to the kids that I need to come up with a second bar that I can perfect in the same way so that we can present a variety when the bake sale requests come knocking.


One note about the peppermint oil.  I have many friends who are into the essential oil business.  I am not, as I am allergic to many, but I do have peppermint, orange and lemon essential oils from my friends.  The peppermint oil is worth every penny.  Just a few drops transforms my brownies into magic.  You may need to play with the number of drops to find your perfect amount, depending on the oil you’ve used.  I have DoTerra oils on hand, and their quality is far superior to the peppermint oil I’ve bought in the candy-making department.  But use what you have on hand, you just may need to add a few extra drops- you could also use extract, I’m sure, but I’m not sure on quantity there either.

You will also notice a different ingredient in the brownie portion of this recipe.  The malted milk powder.  Trust me on this one. The malt works like coffee- it adds a depth of flavor that you don’t notice as a malt flavor.  It also contributes to the texture of the brownies.

To garnish the brownies I prefer to use Ande’s Peppermint Crunch bits, and I tint the frosting pink.  You can use whatever you like here, and opt for tinting the frosting green if you prefer.

This recipe makes a sheet pan of brownies, so it makes a lot.  But you’ll want a lot because they are so good you’ll want to share.  Or you’ll want to hide in a closet and eat them all yourself.


Peppermint Fudge Brownies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 TBS malted milk powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut up
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
5 drops peppermint essential oil
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 cup half & half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 drops red food coloring (or green)
6 drops peppermint essential oil
Chocolate Glaze:
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet ( or dark) chocolate chips
9 TBS butter
Peppermint Crunch bits or chopped Ande’s candies for topping bars


  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Lightly grease a sheet pan OR line with non-stick foil and lightly grease the sides of the pan where the foil didn’t reach; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, malted milk powder, and salt; whisk together and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and chocolate; heat and stir over low heat until chocolate melts. Remove from heat, stir in sugar. Using a wooden spoon, beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and peppermint oil. Stir in flour mixture, followed by 1 cup of chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely in a pan on a wire rack.
  4. Once completely cool make the frosting.  Combine the butter, powdered sugar and 1/4 cup of half & half in a bowl.  Use a hand mixer on low speed to combine.  If it’s too stiff you will need more half and half.  If it’s too loose, you’ll need to add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until it’s a consistency you are happy with.  Add vanilla, food coloring and peppermint oil.  Mix well.  Taste, and adjust the peppermint oil if needed. Spread all of the frosting all over the cooled brownies, edge to edge.  Set aside, uncovered, to give the frosting layer time to set up.
  5. Make the chocolate glaze.  Combine the 9 tablespoons of butter and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute.  Stir with a spoon until completely melted and combined.  Microwave it further, 30 seconds at a time, if needed.  Set the glaze aside until it is no longer hot and at room temperature, but still liquid and spreadable.
  6. Working quickly, spread the chocolate glaze over the whole pan of bars.
  7. Sprinkle with garnish and allow the chocolate to set completely.
  8. Wait an hour or so before cutting into bars and enjoy.

Dill Pickle Pot Roast

No lie.  This made one of the most fabulous pot roasts we’ve ever had.

Last week I pulled a chuck roast out of the freezer to thaw, but pulled it out a little late.  I was sort of planning to finish the thawing in the microwave while I debated what I wanted to do with it.  I really wanted to do the long and tedious Mom’s Pot Roast, but I didn’t have time for it.  Then there’s the Foolproof Pot Roast, which I now make using beef broth and onion flakes instead of condensed soup.  But that was how I’d cooked up the last chuck roast and I wanted to do something different.

As I looked at the very frozen chuck roast, the thought came to me that I’d recently seen some kind of roast recipe using pickles or pickle juice, and I decided to just go for it.

This could not have been easier!

I started with my mostly frozen chuck roast.  I sprinkled it nicely with salt and pepper and put it in my crock pot.  Then I grabbed a quart of home canned pickles, removed the dill sprigs, garlic cloves and bay leaves so that all I had was pickle juice, pickles and mustard seeds.  Then I dumped that in the crock pot with the beef.  I decided to take about half of the pickles and put them under the roast.  Then I turned the crock pot on to high and let it do it’s thing.

A few hours later it started to smell deliciously dilly and pickle-like in the house.  I was cooking on high because I only had 5 or 6 hours to get the frozen roast cooked.  Next time I will cook it on low for 8 hours, as my beef ended up just a touch not-quite-tender enough, and I’m sure that was because it was cooked on high instead of low.

The only problem we had with this roast is that it didn’t produce anything that could be turned into gravy, but we quickly forgave it for that because it was SO crazy delicious.  Andy literally called it spectacular!

I did try a pickle from the crock pot.  That was a little strange to me.  It was hot and fall-apart, and I decided that we did not want to eat the pickles that were in the pot.  Your mileage may vary though.

I would make this for a holiday- it was THAT good.  I’m sure you can make it with store-bought pickles, but I encourage you to use one that has some goodies floating in the brine and is closer to homemade pickles than the neon green ones.  But if that’s all you can get your hands on, I’m sure it will still turn out.

Yes, you’ll feel really strange putting this together.  Two ingredients plus salt and pepper, and you will have a family and crowd-pleasing dish at your disposal.  Make this, you won’t be sorry!


Dill Pickle Pot Roast

1 chuck roast (3-4 pounds)
1 quart whole pickles 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Remove anything from the pickle jar that is big and chunky and not a pickle.  (Bay leaves, garlic cloves, hot peppers, etc.) Put about half of the pickles into the bottom of the crock pot.

Add the chuck roast to the pot and sprinkle it liberally with salt and pepper.

Pour the rest of the pickles and all the brine over the chuck roast.  Add another small sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for about  7-8 hours or high for 4-6.  If you use a frozen roast the time will be the longer one.

Meet Eli

Two years ago, the dance studio we are a part of dedicated their dance year to kids with cancer.  All the competition teams “adopted” kids with cancer, showering them with gifts and dancing in their honor along the way.  It was a beautiful year of dance.  Not only did we have a purpose for what we did, but we got to meet some incredible children who should never have to deal with the daily horrors of cancer. It really was a life-changing experience for our kids and for our dance family.

But then it got too close to home.

In early October, it was discovered that my four year old nephew Eli had a form of childhood cancer growing in his abdomen.  I can’t even begin to tell you how it felt to hear that word applied to this fun-loving little boy.  Cancer?!  That’s something that we’ve experienced with grandparents and older aunts and uncles.  Not four year old little boys who like to play Mario and eat jelly beans.  Even worse, this special little boy lives in a completely different part of the country.  It’s not like we could just dash over and over immediate support.   So we’ve been supporting and praying long-distance.


It’s been an insane couple of months.  Every day our thoughts turn to Eli and how he is doing today.  He immediately began chemo to work to shrink that tumor.  He went through several weeks of hell, terrified of those needles and all the throwing up.   We learned the seriousness of being immuno-compromised with low white blood cell counts.  This past Monday he finally was able to have surgery to remove the tumor, though it remains to be seen if more chemo or radiation will be required.  He’s SUCH a trooper.  He is spending the week in the hospital recovering from having his entire abdomen cut open.  He will be watched carefully for infection and for pain.

eli bike


This adorable little boy has been through more in the last two months than any child should have to go through.  And on top of all that my sister’s family has had to go through dealing with this, they have recently learned that insurance will not cover everything.  While insurance will cover most, for a young family, the expenses when dealing with cancer add up quickly.   When your child, who is fighting cancer, spikes a fever, you don’t just give alternating Tylenol and Advil and hope it goes down.  You take the temp twice.  Wait a few minutes.  Take the temperature again.  Call your mom to see what she would do.  Take the temp again.  Then call the doctor and make the trip in to their office if it’s open, or to the ER if it’s not.  You don’t stop to think about what a trip to the ER is going to cost.  This fever could be life-threatening and needs to be checked out.   And to hear that as they may be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel that insurance is NOT going to cover all the expenses of this nightmare they have been living?  It’s just too much for any family to have to deal with.

So I thought I’d take a moment to share with you Eli’s story, and to share an opportunity in this season of giving for YOU to make a difference and help Eli’s family  emerge from this trial victorious in every way.   Eli’s family has set up a fund through, which is an online giving platform in which 100% of every penny donated goes directly to the family with the need.  There are no administrative costs, no hidden fees.  When you give ten dollars, that ten dollars goes right where it is needed.  Any money donated will go straight to those medical bills, which are piling up quickly.  Should the fund go beyond what is needed to meet those expense, any extra is going to be given to the charitable organizations that reached out to my sister and Eli and have made such a difference for them and their lives these last few months.

Many times in the past I’ve used this blog to advocate for something near and dear to my heart.  It doesn’t get much more nearer and dearer than my nieces and nephews.  I love my own children with all my heart, but there is something special about each and every one of my nieces and nephews, and to have such a sweet one go through such a trial…  Would you please consider helping Eli and his family out this holiday season?  Every donation, no matter how small WILL make a difference.  Thank you, my dear friends.  The link below will take you to the generosity page, where you will see yet another adorable picture of this little guy fighting the fight of his life.

Super Eli’s Super Cancer Smash


Wisconsin Harvest Pie

Commentary to come!  Just have to get this posted for now!

Wisconsin Harvest Pie

1 recipe for Double-Crust Pie
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled and cored tart apples, such as granny smith
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup frozen pitted tart red cherries, thawed and drained
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar

.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare and roll out Pastry for Double-Crust Pie. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry circle, trimming to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate; set aside.
2.In a very large bowl, stir together the 1/3 cup sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the apples, cranberries, and cherries; toss to coat. Add honey, maple syrup and almond extract. Toss to combine. Transfer apple mixture to pastry-lined plate. Dot with butter. Trim bottom pastry to edge of pie plate. Roll remaining pastry ball into a 12-inch circle. Cut slits in pastry circle; place on filling. Trim to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold top pastry edge under bottom pastry edge. Crimp edge as desired. Brush the top of pie with egg white and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
3.Place a foil-lined shallow baking pan on the rack below the pie in oven. Bake pie for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake about 50 minutes more or until crust is browned and filling is bubbly, covering loosely with foil the last 10 minutes to prevent overbrowning, if necessary. Cool on a wire rack for at least 3 hours.

Make This Ahead: Cranberry Pie

I have used cranberries in pies before, but I have never made a cranberry pie- one that features that tart little berry in all it’s glory.  I have a recipe for a Cranberry Meringue Pie, which is spectacular, and I’ve tossed cranberries into a pecan pie before.  Today’s pie, though, uses whole berries and little else.  I had been hunting for weeks for what I thought would be the best version of a cranberry pie.  There were so many options!  Some folded cranberries into custard, some topped them with tons of delicious brown sugar streusel, and then there were others who added them to apple or pear or pecan pies.  All nice, but I just couldn’t settle on one.  So of course I decided to make my own.

I started with a package of cranberries- which are now sold in 12 ounce packages instead of a full pound.  I thought about using more than just one package, but decided that a lesser amount would be just fine.  I took the cranberries and my kitchen knife and gave all the berries a coarse chop.  You could certainly use a food processor, but I didn’t want bits of cranberries, and didn’t trust myself to not pulse the machine “just one more time”.  So I used a knife, and put the cranberries in a bowl.

Next, I zested two tiny Halo clementines into the cranberries, and followed that with a cup of white sugar, 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and half a teaspoon of vanilla.  That’s it.  I stirred that all together a few times.  Oh, it smelled so fabulous! Then I poured that into a pie crust and set it aside while I assembled the streusel topping.

I made the streusel similarly to the one I used on the pineapple pie, the changes being that I left out the white sugar and used a little less melted butter.  I really wanted to add some slivered almonds to the streusel, but discovered I was out.  The streusel went on top of the cranberries, and then the whole thing went into a 350ºF oven for 55 minutes.


It came out to rest, and as Zander and I looked at it, he thought it needed a drizzle of icing.  He had been my consultant for this pie, as he thought he had an idea what flavors would work best, so I took his suggestion and threw together a quick icing while the pie cooled.

One-quarter cup of heavy cream, half a cup of powdered sugar and a hint of vanilla whipped together with a whisk became a thick and creamy icing that we spread all over the mostly-cooled pie.

A few hours later we all dove in and thought the pie was delicious.  And yet… there was something about it that was just a touch off.  I wondered if I should have used even more sugar in the filling because the cranberries still seemed a touch on the harsh side.  But the next day as I went back for a second slice, I was rewarded with the perfect slice of cranberry pie.  The cranberries had mellowed overnight and had merged beautifully with the streusel topping and then the creamy icing component on top.  It was an excellent slice of pie, and I waited rather impatiently for the rest of the family to go in for a sample and confirm for me that it really was that much better the next day.  They all agreed, so lesson learned.  Make this pie the day before you want to eat it.  That gives the flavors time to come together and for the astringent characteristic of the cranberries to completely go away.  This is a delicious pie, and will make an excellent addition to Pie Hour!

Note:  You could probably skip the icing here if you really wanted to.  I thought it complimented the whole thing perfectly, though it was a little strange putting it over the streusel topping.  If you decide to skip it, make sure you serve this pie up with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.   It really wants that creamy sweet component to complement the tart berries.


Cranberry Pie with Streusel and Icing

pie dough for one 9-inch pie
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
zest from two clementines (Halos, cuties, etc)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats (if you want to use nuts, use the nuts instead of the oats)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Roll out pie dough and place in a 9-inch pie plate.

First, you will want to roughly chop your cranberries.  You can use either a knife and a cutting board or a food processor.  Be careful using the processor because we don’t want cranberry crumbs.  At the very least what you are looking for is for every single berry to be cut in half- we don’t want whole berries bursting in the pie and creating pits.

Add the chopped berries to a small mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, all-purpose flour, clementine zest and vanilla.  Mix together with a spoon and then spread in the prepared pie crust.

Make the streusel.  Put the brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon in a bowl and mix together.  Add the melted butter and stir until it’s all combined and wet.  Spread the streusel over the cranberry filling.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the pie no longer jiggles when shaken, and when the cranberry filling is bubbling through the streusel in several places.

Allow to cool on a wire rack before making the icing.

Once the pie is at least mostly cool, you can assemble your icing.  Whisk together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt.  Whip it until it starts to thicken a touch and the powdered sugar is completely dissolved.  Depending on the moisture content of your cream you may have to add a little more- a teaspoon at a time until it gets to be a spreadable conistency.  Carefully spread the icing over the streusel, getting as close to the edges of the filling as you can.

Allow to rest overnight at room temperature, simply covered with foil or plastic wrap before cutting in and enjoying.


Yes, You CAN Make A Pineapple Pie!

And I don’t know why we don’t see more of them!

Yesterday Abigail conducted a science experiment for her Biology course using a fresh pineapple and a box of gelatin. Fresh pineapple is full of enzymes which prohibit gelatin from setting, and it was pretty cool to actually see that put to the test.  She divided a box of lime Jello between three bowls.  One was her control with nothing added, one had a bit of freshly chopped pineapple added, and for the third bowl she cooked some pineapple on the stove for five minutes before adding it to the Jello.  A few hours later we saw the proof in the pudding, or rather, the gelatin, as the bowl with the fresh pineapple was as liquidy as when it went in.  The cooked pineapple set up nicely though, and the kids had a treat of a bowl of Jello with their lunch.

That left me with most of a whole fresh pineapple that wasn’t really at it’s peak for fresh eating.  I thought briefly about making an upside down cake, but then I wondered about pie. ‘Tis the season after all!  Because I was using fresh pineapple, I thought that using normal thickeners might not work so well.  I was fairly certain tapioca would work, and considered using that, but in the end I decided to make a simple custard for nestling the fresh pineapple in.

I used my standard lard pie crust rolled out and pressed into a pie plate.  I popped that in the oven to get hot while I mixed everything else together.  The custard was quick and easy.  A few eggs, sugar, a pinch of salt, flour and some melted butter were all that I needed to hold that pineapple together.  The pineapple itself I chopped up into pieces that were about halfway between a tidbit and a chunk.  Next time I would cut them a little smaller so they are closer to tidbit size.  The custard and the pineapple were mixed together and then poured into the hot crust, and then I gently made sure the pineapple were evenly distributed.

Since I wasn’t using a top crust, and I had also been thinking about that upside down cake flavor, I decided that my best option for this pineapple pie was to make a streusel topping.  I mean, you can never go wrong with streusel in the first place, but I thought the brown sugar crust would be exceptional with the fresh pineapple.  So a few topping ingredients went into a bowl and a became a topping for my pie.

I baked the pie for 15 minutes at 425ºF and then brought the temperature down to 375ºF to finish baking.  It smelled absolutely heavenly in here while it was baking- and then all afternoon it tantalized us when we walked past.  I’ve never been more hopeful that a pie would turn out!  After a series of duds in the pie department I was due for a good one, and on top of that I created this one without a recipe- I really wanted it to work!

Zander took the first bite of pie, looked at me, but didn’t say anything.  Generally if he doesn’t like something he takes one bite and hands the plate or bowl back.  He refused to say what he thought though, and Abigail received her slice next.  She took one bite and the reaction was “Oh my gosh.” To which Zander then grinned and said “I know, right?”   We had a great discussion about how wonderful this pie would also be for breakfast, and we all concurred that it earned a spot on the Pie Hour table.  Pineapple Pie!  Who knew?

This pie really celebrates the fresh pineapple.  You could probably use canned and well-drained pineapple in a pinch, but it won’t have the same flavor.  I may add a splash of vanilla or a bit of citrus zest to the custard for next time, but the way it is right now completely highlights the delicious flavor of the pineapple.  The streusel is a perfect compliment without overwhelming it in the least.  This is a great pie.  I hope you’ll make it.


Pineapple Streusel Pie

Pie dough for 1 9-inch pie, rolled out and placed in pie plate.
3 1/2 cups freshly cut pineapple (Cut into smaller tidbit sized pieces)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Poke the pie crust with a fork in several places and then pop in the oven to get hot while you mix together the filling ingredients.

To make the filling: Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, and then add the sugar, salt, and flour.  Mix well.  Gently drizzle in the melted butter while mixing.  Add the pineapple chunks and fold it all together.  Remove the hot pie plate from the oven and pour the filling into the crust- spreading the chunks around evenly.

To make the streusel, combine the oats, flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the melted butter until fully combined.  Gently spread the streusel topping over the pineapple filling.

Bake in a 425ºF oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375ºF and bake for an additional 35 minutes.  The pie will be done when the streusel topping and the crust edges are golden brown.

Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Thank You Collard Greens: A Veggie Victory

Remember this post about Collard Greens earlier this year?

It turns out the kids not only didn’t like those collard greens, they truly reviled them.

This was revealed to me last night by both kids, individually, when the other was not in earshot. The cause for this revelation?  I put some kale into our macaroni and cheese for dinner.  I didn’t add a ton, but I added it nonetheless, and figured the kids would eat the mac and leave the kale behind.

Zander was the first one home from dance, so he looked in the pot and grinned.  I told him it was mac-n-cheese with ham and a little bit of kale.  His reply was that he would eat the kale.  He didn’t mind it, and as long as it wasn’t a collard green he was on board.

He stunned me into silence for a moment.  I quietly said that I would just keep adding kale to dishes then and he said that was just fine.

Then later on I was driving Abigail home and mentioned to her what dinner was.  I warned her that there was a bit of kale mixed in with the macaroni and cheese and she didn’t even blink.  ”As long as it’s not collard greens” was her reply.

Both kids ate every bite out of their bowl- no kale was left behind.

THAT is a huge victory on the veggie front.

In other veggie news, we also found a way the kids will actually eat (and enjoy) brussels sprouts!  I almost forgot about this one, but there is a sweet kale salad mix at Sam’s Club that has raw brussels sprouts that have been very finely sliced.  They are obviously brussles sprouts, but both kids have said they like them in that salad, so maybe I should try preparing them in salads more often.

Keep at it parents!  You WILL score a victory at some point along the way.  Now if only we could get Zander over his dislike of potatoes…

Tasty German Chocolate Pie

We’ve had a string of bad pies around the Waz Household this last week.   First I made a cookie pie that was in need of a whole lot more sugar, and something else that we couldn’t quite figure out.  I debated doing some fiddling and tweaking to make it a contender for Pie Hour, but in the end decided it just wasn’t good enough to make the cut anyway.

So next we decided on a chocolate pie face-off.  I already have a spectacular Chocolate Cream Pie that is planned for Pie Hour (and happens to be the first pie I reach for when eating leftover pie), but it couldn’t hurt to have another chocolate pie or two on the table, right?!

I had two new-to-me chocolate pie recipes that sounded like they could be contenders for Pie Hour.  I’ve gotten quite particular on the pies that make the cut for the table, so I picked up the ingredients I needed to make a Chocolate-Marshmallow Pie from Food Network magazine and a German Chocolate Pie from Taste of Home.  The Chocolate-Marshmallow I thought would appeal to the little ones at our celebration who think they don’t care for pie, but like pie if it involved candy in some way.  The German Chocolate seemed like a really fun twist on a German Chocolate Cake.  I mean, German Chocolate Cake really is all about that gooey concoction of a topping, and since that was going on this chocolate pie, how could they be bad?

Well… I made one pretty big error when I made these pies together.  And that was making them at the same time for a side-by-side tasting.  As we all dug into the Chocolate Marshmallow Pie, we all quickly became dismayed and disappointed.  The texture of the pie was awful- it was like a cross between a brownie and a piece of fudge, AND it was really dense.  It was difficult to get a fork into it.  We all liked the marshmallow whipped cream on top, but that was hardly a reason to want to even take another bite of the pie.  On top of the horrid texture, the chocolate flavor was just plain odd.  It was kind of bittersweet, which was bizarre anyway since we started with milk chocolate for the base.  We all agreed instantly that it was not a contender for Pie Hour, and we won’t be finishing the pie.  I did go in for a second piece the next day to see if it had improved, but it really hadn’t.  It was just plain bad.   I went to the Food Network website to leave a review, plunked in my poor review, and then they ate it.  And now when I go back to the recipe, it doesn’t even give me the option to leave a review at all.  It’s like they know it’s a bad pie and they don’t want anyone to know.

Anyway, disappointed with the first pie, three of us (Zander does not care for coconut much) turned to the German Chocolate Pie, hoping for better news.  Once again, we were disappointed.  Oh, the topping part was very good, but we weren’t getting even one hint of chocolate or flavor beyond the topping.  It wasn’t bad like the first pie, so we finished our pieces, but by the end of the slice, we figured it was not going to be a contender, and the meal ended on a big bummer of a down note.

Fast forward to the next day and I see these pies in the fridge.  I decided to try the German Chocolate one more time, because of the two pies, that was the one I really had been rooting for.  Lo and behold, it was exceptionally better!  I could taste chocolate with the topping, and I was pleased with the overall texture of the pie.  Nice and creamy, and it definitely reminded me of German Chocolate Cake.   I then asked Abigail to try a second slice, and Andy had one later on.  We all agreed, it was much better by itself, and we faulted the awful chocolate-marshmallow pie for dulling our taste buds against this pie that was so much better.  After much discussion and deliberation though, we all unanimously agree that this is not a pie for Pie Hour.

This German Chocolate Pie is delicious.  It’s got a great texture and is an overall good pie.  But it’s quite delicate as far as the taste goes, and we feel that serving it alongside any other pie will just muddle the flavors and it’s better than that.  So while we like the pie, it won’t make the cut for Pie Hour.  It will go in the file as a keeper recipe and I will definitely make it again, but it will be a standalone pie to enjoy all by itself with a cup of coffee.


You can find the recipe for the Contest Winning German Chocolate Pie at the Taste of Home website.

Now I am turning my attention to a series of pies involving fresh cranberries.  I hope we have better luck with one of those than with the collection of chocolate pies!  I also have an idea to do something with pineapple…