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November 2015
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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…

A Nice Twist on Pumpkin Pie

We’re officially in testing mode for some new pies for our Thanksgiving Pie Hour tradition.  I have a nice list of pies to try over the next few weeks to see if they are good enough to add to the annual spread.

The first pie we tried is not actually in contention to be on the Pie Table, as it turns out.  Someone else has offered to make pumpkin pies, and since this one isn’t that different from a standard pie, it won’t be in attendance.  However, it is very delicious and I would make it again in a heartbeat.

Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie utilizes tangy buttermilk instead of the evaporated milk usually called for in your standard pumpkin pie.  I thought the tang would be a fabulous addition, and I was absolutely correct about that.  This pie tastes like caramelized pumpkin.  It’s got the right amount of sweetness and the texture has just a touch more heft to it than a standard custard pie.  The blend of spices is nice.  Too often cloves or ginger can overtake a pumpkin pie and give a bitter taste. This pie solves that problem by leaving them both out entirely.  A bit of allspice and a bit of cinnamon are all that is used.  The result is enough of those spices to give it a warmth, but you can’t sit and pick out what spices are used.  It’s brilliant actually- this pumpkin pie is really all about the pumpkin and making it the star.

As I was baking it, I was waiting for it to firm up- you know how with a custard pie you give it a gentle jiggle in the oven to see if it still moves around at all.  Well, I did that and there was a bit of a jiggle to it.  My first thought was that it wasn’t quite done, but when I grabbed a knife and stuck it in, it came out perfectly clean.  So do the knife/tester check and do not rely on appearance to tell you this pie is done baking.

This came from Food Network Magazine originally.  I did not follow the crust portion of the recipe- I simply used my standard lard based pie crust and all was well.   I’m not totally understanding this year’s trend of every pie recipe in every magazine using a different recipe for the pie crusts.  What ever happened to one crust recipe, eight pie options for filling them?

Anyway, this Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie is delicious.  We didn’t even have any whipped cream on hand to add to it, and we all still enjoyed it.  It was a delicious dessert and a delicious breakfast and I will definitely be making it again.


 Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie

1 disk of pie dough for a 9-inch pie, rolled out and placed in a pie dish
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


Put a baking sheet on the middle oven rack and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line the crust with foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Transfer to the hot baking sheet and bake until lightly golden around the edge, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack, remove the foil and weights and let cool completely; leave the baking sheet in the oven.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Whisk the pumpkin puree, melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, allspice and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the buttermilk and flour and whisk until smooth. Pour into the cooled crust and return to the hot baking sheet in the oven. Bake until the filling is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour (the top may crack slightly). Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Korean BBQ Chicken Marinade

This week Zander’s schoolwork led him to a study of the Korean peninsula, which led to him asking if he could cook something for his end of the week activity.   I’ll admit that I know very little about Korean cooking.  We actually have a very good, authentic Korean restaurant nearby, but as it is pricey, and we also lacked the time for a meal out, I spent some time looking for a small collection of recipes that he could look through.  I found a very small Korean cooking app with my Fire, and had him look through all the recipe on there.  There was only fifteen recipes, so it didn’t take him long to decide on a simple chicken marinade.  When I asked him what he wanted to use the marinade on, he didn’t even think twice before telling me he wanted chicken wings.  Ah, this was promising!

I made sure we had everything on hand that we needed, and he put the marinade together.  He got a nice little lesson on the difference between liquid measuring cups and solid measuring cups (hint: they are NOT interchangeable), and got to work on his whisking skills a bit.  The recipe made a good quantity of marinade, and my only regret is that we used it all on the 30 chicken wings I’d thawed for our dinner that day.  I think it’s an excellent candidate for a dump recipe- add chicken and then put in the freezer for another day.

As an aside, Masterchef Junior has started back up again, and Zander is feeling woefully behind in his cooking skills.  I hope this means a lot more deliciousness coming from him!  I always like it when the kids decide on their own to do some cooking.  They are both determined to be accomplished home cooks before leaving home, but it’s much more fun when they WANT to do the cooking, versus being forced to.

As for the Korean marinade, we marinated the chicken wing parts all afternoon, and then popped them in the oven for 35 minutes- turning twice while cooking.  For as simple as the marinade was, the flavor in the wings was excellent.  Andy and I both were wanting a lot more hot sauce, and I think the next time we make this, I will pull out a portion for the kids and cook those on one pan, and dose a portion for the adults with a heavy hand on the hot sauce.  Overall, this is a keeper recipe.  Andy would like to try and use it on the grill or over the fire.  My only hesitation with that is with regards to the quantity of sugar in the recipe- I worry that fire will cause the end result to be a bit on the singed side.    I don’t want to reduce the sugar, but maybe next time we’ll let him apply fire and see what happens.

For a gluten-free option, instead of using soy sauce, which contains wheat, look for  wheat-free Tamari Sauce, which tastes very similar without ingredients that offend the gluten sensitive.


Korean BBQ Chicken Marinade

1 cup white sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from half of a lemon)
1-4 teaspoons hot sauce (adjust as desired)


Combine sugar, soy sauce, water, onion powder and ground ginger in a saucepan over high heat.  Whisk together until the sugar is dissolved and it has come to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and let cool completely.  Add the lemon juice and hot sauce, if using.  Place chicken in marinade, cover, and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours for best flavor.

A Change To Beef Stew

Earlier this week I was flipping through the most recent issue of Real Simple magazine when I stumbled on a recipe for a Slow-Cooker Shepherd’s Pie. The picture was enticing.  It looked like a pile of mashed potatoes surrounded by a beef stew, and that stew looked luscious!  I read the recipe through a few times and had questions.  One of the more interesting aspects of it is that you combined the beef and vegetables in broth, and then you nestle whole, peeled potatoes in the broth.  Once cooking time is up, you remove the potatoes and mash them up to be a separate component.  It’s an interesting idea.

The thing about that is, though, honestly, one of my least favorite things to eat is potatoes that have been cooked with beef.  I don’t know why that is, and I’ll eat them, but I don’t care for the flavor of a potato that has been cooked with a pot roast, or in a pot of beef soup, or tumbled into beef stew.  They are my least favorite bites of the whole meal.  But when I saw this picture of the mashed potatoes surrounded by stew, the wheels started turning.  Just last weekend I’d made a roasted chicken dinner and a large pot of mashed potatoes accompanied.  Those leftover potatoes have sat in the fridge all week, just begging for an opportunity to be put to use before they expire.

Another thing about the recipe in the magazine that I was hesitant about was the fact that it called for a cup of dark beer as an ingredient.  I’ve cooked with beer from time to time, and usually you can’t pick it out at the end, but I wasn’t entirely sure that using beer in the crock pot was going to be the best idea when 3/4 of my family does not like the taste of beer.  On top of that, Andy didn’t really have anything on hand that I thought would have the same profile as a cup of Guinness would.  So I eliminated the beer and reduced the volume of liquid overall.

When I went shopping for the beef to put in the stew, the recipe called for a chuck roast, cut into pieces. My intention had been to pick up a chuck roast, but right there next to the chucks was a large package of stew meat with a reduced sticker on it, so I went for the stew meat instead.  Hey, it was already cut up and prepared for me, I like that when I’m popping things into the crock pot to cook all day!

And finally, when all was said and done, I totally forgot to add any frozen vegetables as the magazine indicated.  They called for frozen peas for the last five minutes or so, and it just completely slipped my mind, so we didn’t have any extra veggies in the stew.

And honestly, it didn’t need it.  For being such a simple assembly of ingredients, this stew was delicious!  I already have an Oven Baked Stew that I really like and make often, but I have to say, I think I liked the flavors of this one even better, in spite of its simplicity.

And the whole idea of serving beef stew over mashed potatoes?  This was genius.  It was so homey and comforting.  I would make mashed potatoes from scratch just to do that again.  I don’t think I would take the magazine’s suggestion and cook the potatoes in the stew itself, just on the stove like any other time I make a pot of mash.  But do it again?  Most definitely.  This may be my new favorite beef stew- and way to eat it.  Because you know how you have a bowl of beef stew and you usually need some fresh bread or rolls to help you sop up the gravy left on the plate?  The potatoes do that for you in this case, and it’s just so much more delicious.  Like an elevated mashed potatoes and gravy.

I changed the recipe so much from its original version, that I am posting my new version below with a new name.


Simple Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 1 /2 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups frozen peas (optional)


Combine all the ingredients in a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.  Stir the frozen peas in about ten minutes before serving to give them time to cook through- if you are using them.

Cottage Pies. Amazing!

Oh my goodness.  Last night’s dinner was spectacular. It was a repeat of a dish I’ve made several times before, but never quite in this same way.  I’ve posted about this dish before- the original recipe came from Eating Well magazine several years ago.  Every time I’ve made it I’ve tweaked it here and there, but last night it finally arrived.

I think the big key to how delicious it was was that last night I finally made the cottage pies in individual portions.  I usually just use one large baking dish and make one large cottage pie that we all scoop out of.  Last night I used my French Onion Soup crocks and made four individual portions of these cottage pies.  They were absolute perfection.  The proportions in every bite were perfect.  I loved the kale added to the beef, but I especially loved the smoked paprika added to the squash.  Everything melded together perfectly, and it just was a personal bowl of yum.

Make these.   I used kale in the dish because I spent yesterday cleaning out the garden- everything except the kale plants that are still going strong.  So I harvested some of the kale and thought this cottage pie would be a great place to add the kale without it taking over.  It absolutely worked perfectly.  If you don’t like kale or don’t want to use it, you can use spinach or any green you prefer.  Or even green peas or diced carrots, really.  It’s pretty adaptable to whatever veggies you have on hand and want to include.


Squash-Topped Cottage Pies

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3-4 cups chopped kale
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
few grinds fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook for another minute.  Reduce heat to medium, stir in ground beef and cook until browned. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper and flour, and cook, stirring, for just a minute or two until everything is incorporated. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth is the consistency of thick gravy, about 4 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until wilted and most of the liquid has disappeared- about 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Place squash in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil gently until the squash is tender- about 7 or 8 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of pepper and the smoked paprika. Divide the meat mixture among four 10-ounce broiler-safe ramekins or soup bowls. Top each with about 1/2 cup of the squash. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Broil until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until it is just melted, about 3 minutes more.

A Twist On Chicken Pot Pie

A small change has come upon The Waz household this week which is a very welcome change.  After working out of town Monday thru Thursday since…hmm… I don’t remember, it’s been a long work season away from home, Andy is now home every evening from work.  Their job site this summer is over a 90 minute drive from home, so they’d been staying overnight at a local hotel. They do that so that they can work while the sun shines and still get a decent night of rest before the next day.  Daylight Saving rolled around though, and since it’s well and dark by about 5:00 pm, they have plenty of time to drive home, eat a good meal, and get a good night of sleep before the next day.  Andy never minds an early morning commute, so he’s pleased with the change.  For me it means that I have the opportunity to have a little more fun cooking all week long instead of just on the weekends.

You wouldn’t think that would change things much, having Andy gone so many days a week.  I mean, we all need to eat. But I would hesitate to make any of his favorites when he was gone, but then he’d come home for the weekend and it was a mad scramble to make sure he ate good meals at least on the weekend.  That led to a fridge full of leftovers for the week that probably didn’t get eaten by the rest of us.  Further compounding our problem was that Andy’s hotel did not have a microwave available for him to use.  Eating out every day gets old so fast, so we let him take the microwave with him every week.  Wow, we’ve often talked about eliminating the microwave from our home.  I really don’t use it very often, and it takes up a ton of space.  But once without it, I realized how much I do rely on it.  It takes a while to soften a stick of butter on the counter when you want to bake cookies and it’s only 65 degrees inside.  All those leftovers in the fridge?  Require multiple pots and pans to re-heat and consume for another meal instead of just making a plate and giving it a zap.  Leftover Chinese take-out was definitely not as good warmed up in the stove as it would have been in the microwave.

So.  Now Andy is home every night for dinner, so he’s eating much better.  We have the microwave back so I can use the leftovers a meal generates and not be wasteful.  And overall we get to settle into a new normal again.  For a few weeks anyway until something changes again!

Yesterday morning I was puzzling about what to make for dinner when I saw something pop up on my Facebook feed.   It was an Alfredo Chicken and Biscuit bake that was somewhat intriguing.  I read through the recipe and discarded it when I saw it called for jarred alfredo sauce as well as canned biscuits.  On top of that, you cut the biscuits into pieces and then folded them into the saucy chicken, and I just couldn’t see that working quite right.  I envisioned gummy nuggets of biscuit and that didn’t sound good at all.  But I liked the idea of those things combined, so I decided I would put together my own creation.  I already had leftover chicken sitting in the freezer, so I pulled that out to thaw, as well as a couple of cups of frozen mixed veggies and set to work.

The first step was the alfredo sauce.  Real, honest-to-goodness alfredo sauce is made with heavy cream, Parmesan cheese and butter.  So decadent and delicious, but this was going to bake in the oven for a bit after it’s creation, and plus I did not have heavy cream on hand.  I opted to follow my recipe for Creamy Macaroni and Cheese with a few changes.  The first change was garlic, and lots of it.  I minced up four large cloves and threw those in the pan while the butter was melting.  Once the butter was very fragrant and the garlic somewhat cooked, I added 1/4 cup of flour and stirred that in to make a roux.  Next I stirred in one can of evaporated milk, and then used the milk can to add one can of water to the pan as well.  I whisked that together until it just started to bubble up, and then added salt, pepper, and 1/2 of a cup of freshly grated Asiago cheese.  Once the cheese was melted- which was almost instantly- I stirred in my chicken and frozen veggies, and then turned off the burner and set it aside.

Next I needed the biscuits.  My biscuit recipe is quick and easy, so I made up a batch of that for rolling them out (as opposed to drop biscuits, which is what I usually do).  I cut out the biscuits with a circle cutter, and then cut each circle into quarters. I re-rolled my dough a few times until I’d used almost all of it up. I had a nice little pile of biscuit nuggets, so then I assembled my casserole.

First the chicken-alfredo mixture when into a 9×13 pan, and then I scattered the biscuit nuggets evenly over the top of that- pressing them in just a touch.  Finally, 2/3 of a cup of a Parmesan/Asiago/Mozzarella cheese plend went over the whole thing and it went into a 425ºF oven for 35 minutes- or until the top was nicely browned.


This was really good!  It was a tasty change to a regular old chicken pot pie.  I loved the addition of the garlicky alfredo sauce.  The once change I would make- and my recipe below reflects that- is that I would add some flavor to the biscuits from the inside.  Namely, a hint of garlic powder, black pepper, and Parmesan or Asiago cheese.  But other than that, it was a very nice dinner and a slightly different way to utilize chicken leftovers.  Note: My recipe below assumes that you want to make everything from scratch.  By all means, if you like jarred alfredo sauce, feel free to use that.  If you like canned biscuits, go ahead and use them.  Your ingredient list will be much smaller then.


Chicken Alfredo Casserole

4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
12 ounces of water (use evaporated milk can to measure)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago or Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2-3 cups (or one package) frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago or Romano cheese (or a blend)
Biscuit topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 stick of butter
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter or cooking spray and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, or until nicely fragrant.  Whisk in 1/4 cup of flour until nice and creamy and smooth.  Slowly add the evaporated milk, followed by the water, stirring constantly.  When the sauce begins to bubble, add 1/2 cup of your grated cheese plus salt and pepper.  Stir until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated.  Add the shredded chicken and the vegetables.  Mix well and remove from heat.  You can now pour the chicken mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly.  Set aside.

To a fresh mixing bowl, add the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and grated cheese if using.  Mix well.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the stick of butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk all at once and stir just until the dough starts to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough a few times with your hands- just until everything has come together.  Roll or pat the dough into 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, and then cut each circle into four even pieces with a knife.  Gather the scraps and re-roll- repeat until you’ve used all the dough.

Scatter the biscuit pieces evenly over the top of the chicken mixture in the baking dish.  Sprinkle your remaining half cup of grated cheese over the top of everything and pop into a 425ºF oven to bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is hot and bubbly.

Makes 6 servings.

Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

It’s a beautiful thing when your children get old enough to bake or cook on their own.  When the fancy strikes, Abigail just gets in the mood and wants to bake something, and we’re almost always pleased with her creations.   Today’s recipe is no exception.  Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars start with a layer of brownie, followed by a layer of marshmallow, followed by a layer of a chocolatey-peanut buttery-rice krispie thing.   She made these bars for a conference weekend, and they were the perfect bit of sweet to follow (or precede) our quick meals that weekend.  The bars actually came together quite quickly, even though there are multiple steps to them.   We also decided they needed a few small changes, and my recipe below reflects those changes.

The original recipe called for just 4 cups of mini marshmallows, which you melted in the oven and then spread out over the bars.  I thought about how irritating spreading melted marshmallow was going to be, and instead, we just used an entire bag of mini marshmallows and spread them out over the whole pan of brownie before baking.  One bag is the perfect amount to cover a sheet pan.

The other change we made is to the topping.  We thought the recipe as written did not have quite enough for the sheet pan, so I multiplied that as well.  Work quickly when you spread the topping- the chocolate and peanut butter set up quickly.  By the time I finished pouring the topping on one side of the pan, the other side had already started firming up.  Increasing the amount of topping makes the spreading part easier, so it should go well for you should you decide to make these.

Definitely make them.  They were delicious and not cloyingly sweet in the least.  The crunch of the krispies makes this a very satisfying dessert square to serve at an upcoming gathering.


Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, and we left them out- they don’t need the added richness)
1 bag of miniature marshmallows
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons butter
3 cups Rice Krispies Cereal


Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a sheet pan well.  (We used an 18 x 12 sheet pan.)

In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add it to the creamed mixture.  Stir in nuts if using.  Spread in the already greased pan using an offset spatula.  This layer will be thin, just spread it evenly to the edges and corners.

Bake at 350ºF for about 15 minutes, or until set.  Spread the marshmallows evenly over the whole surface of the bars.  Bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until melted, but not toasted.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the topping, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a saucepan.  Cook and stir over low heat until blended.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the Rice Krispies and immediately spread over the bars.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into them.

In Which Zander Makes A Pavlova

One of our primary focuses in our homeschool this school year is world geography.  For the most part, our main social studies focus is always on history, and this year Zander is combining the two with a study of the Eastern Hemisphere- a part of the world rarely studied in-depth in American schools.  He’s studying the history and the geography of Australia, Africa, Asia, Antarctica, and all the little island nations floating in that general area.  It’s a fascinating study- one that Abigail enjoyed for her sixth grade year, so I thought it was worth repeating with the little man for his own journey through sixth grade.

As he studies each region or country, the opportunity comes up to do a project related to that area of the world.  Things like research reports, craft projects, topography mapping are some of the recommendations in the guide we are using.  Of course, there are frequently food suggestions, but I confess, I didn’t really see Zander choosing many of the food options this year.  He’s not been as interested in cooking as his sister, and though he will definitely learn how to cook before he leaves the nest, it won’t be by his choice.

Or will it?

Because when he saw the options given for the country of New Zealand, he very quickly told me he wanted to make a pavlova.  Then he asked me what a pavlova was.   As soon as he saw the pictures, he wanted to go ahead with the project, and since I had everything necessary on hand, we sought out to learn to make a pavlova together.

I’ve only ever had pavlova once, and that was many years ago when we were hosting a weekly group in our home. A friend made a pavlova, and while I absolutely loved it, for some reason it never came to me to make one myself.  Be assured, it’s going into the file as something to consider for company in the future, because Zander and I discovered that it is actually very easy to make.

The difficult part is carefully separating the 4 eggs needed for the recipe.  Zander has seen many a cooking show where separating eggs proves to be a challenge, so he was a little nervous about that step, but managed with flying colors.  After that, it was really easy to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and then add the remaining ingredients.  We made one large pavlova, which Zander spread out into a 9-inch circle, and then baked for one hour at 300ºF.  Once it cooled, we smeared on some lightly sweetened whipped cream, and his choice of fruit was raspberries.  The tangy raspberries were absolutely perfect with the sweet meringue base.  The only thing I would have liked better would have been many more raspberries- Zander was a little sparing in his decoration.  But overall, the pavlova was impressive and delicious.

We’re moving into Japan this week for school, and I really hope he chooses another cooking challenge.  Eating our way through Asia sounds absolutely wonderful to me!

One quick note about this recipe. I’ve seen many instances over the years of people trying to cut back on the amount of sugar in baked goods.  By all means, if that is your M.O. keep doing it, just don’t do it for this recipe.  The proportion of sugar to egg whites and cornstarch is critical to the success of the meringue holding it’s shape and texture.  If you want to reduce the sugar, do so with the toppings.  I sweetened our cream with a few tablespoons of powdered sugar, but you can certainly skip that part.

Oh, and surprise of surprise, this held perfectly overnight in a refrigerator. I expected that when we went to get it out the second day it would have softened and turned into a pile of goo, and that was not the case.  It was just as good the second day as it was the first.



4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pint of heavy cream
fruit of your choice for topping

Preheat oven to 300ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Draw a 9-inch circle on the parchment paper with a pencil.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Gradually add in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat until thick and glossy.  Gently fold in the vanilla, lemon juice and cornstarch.

Spoon mixture inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper.  Working from the center, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly.  This should leave a slight depression in the center.

Bake for 1 hour.  Cool on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.  Remove the paper and place the meringue on a flat serving plate.  Fill the center of the meringue with whipped cream and top with the fresh fruit of your choice.