Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blueberry Pie

Soooo now that it's time for pumpkin and pecan pie, I finally get around to showing you the blueberry pie I made this summer.

Truth be told, I wasn't so sure about showing you these pics.  After a few months working for a food magazine your own pictures look more like humble pie.  But I might as well finish off the last 3 or 4 posts I started so many months ago, such as this hand-picked blueberry pie.  You don't mind, right?

After picking buckets of blueberries, I knew a blueberry pie was in the works.  Both the blueberries and recipe come from Michigan.  While sitting around the table with our friend Gerry I copied down her recipe for blueberry pie.  Her secret, believe it or not, is a bit of cinnamon. You can't actually taste the cinnamon, but it definitely makes the berry flavor pop.

You should probably be making pumpkin pie right now (how about pumpkin with a gingerbread crust?).  But, if for some crazy reason, you're not into pumpkin pie and you have frozen blueberries leftover from the summer then go ahead and try this pie now.

Since we had so many pounds of berries I also whipped up a blueberry crisp based on this recipe.  The crumb topping has graham cracker crumbs and almonds in addition to your traditional oats.  I imagine it would work quite well on apple crisp too.

Better than fresh pie or a bubbling berry crisp are the friends who shared the recipes and  devoured forkfuls as we sat around the table.  No matter what season, holiday, or type of pie I am grateful for the gift of true friends.

Gerry's Blueberry Pie
recipe from a dear friend, Gerry Embrey

1 pie pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie (use your favorite recipe)
4-5 cups fresh blueberries 
3/4 -1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
dash salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out pastry for bottom crust and ease into a 9-inch glass pie plate.  
* In a large bowl combine blueberries, sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Toss until berries are evenly coated; pour mixture into crust.  
* Roll out top crust and place over berries; seal and flute edges. Cut slits (or shapes) in the center to allow steam to escape. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and bake 50-60 minutes or until crust is golden and fruit in center is bubbling. Let cool completely before serving.  

Food for Thought: "Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart." -Eleanor Roosevelt 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Moving Cookies

I haven't disappeared, but I have been without internet for a few weeks.  Anyway, here's a post I started in the midst of moving.  Far too many things have crossed my mind since I set out to make these, but details don't really matter when you add peanut butter and chocolate chips to a thick and chewy oatmeal raisin cookie, do they?  I'm mostly unpacked and settled in now, but the following paragraphs are a taste of what I was up to when I should have been packing.......

Moving cookies. These are moving cookies. Otherwise known as Melissa has way to many things to be doing/packing/finishing up etc. but can't concentrate on any of them so she just ends up making cookies. Yeah, those kind of cookies.

Our first red flag is cookie justification.  Oh I could take a break and make cookies to give to people who are helping me pack and move. Thank you cookies. Goodbye cookies. Besides, I do have a recipe that needs testing and tweaking. 

The first few minutes of measuring and mixing are indeed a therapeutic zone-out to avoid the task at hand.  But then comes the dough.  Stress eating half a batch of dough and then barely having enough cookies left to give your helpers only heightens the tension and anxiety inside.  But it happens.   Happened.   More than once.   Ugh, will I ever learn?   Note to self: open jars of peanut butter and half-empty bags of chocolate chips are not helpful, especially after all that cookie dough.

It almost seems like an insult to exchange cookies for moving help, these don't come close to repaying all the help I've received.  THANK YOU to all the patient, strong, hard-working helpers.  I wish I had words to express how much I appreciate you.  I just don't know how to thank you, and so by default I make cookies.

Moving Cookies
recipe inspired and adapted from a conglomeration of too many things for me to tell you about right now

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-1/2 cups uncooked quick-oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions: (Danger! Do not proceed under stressful situations, you will just eat too much dough. Rapid and mindless consumption of dough, leftover ingredients and warm cookies will not help in the long run.)
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
* In a large bowl cream together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
* In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir into wet ingredients.  Mix in oats.  Add raisins, chocolate chips and walnuts; stir to combine.
* Scoop mounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Flatten slightly with palm of hand.  Bake 9-10 minutes or until edges just begin to turn golden brown.  Let cool 1-2 minutes before transferring to wire cooling racks.

Food for Thought: The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. -Proverbs 27:12

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Buckets (and buckets) of Blueberries

You should know by now that my favorite color is blue.  You may also be aware of my more than slight obsession with fresh fruit and the fact that I'm a sucker for a good deal.  Well it turns out if you combine something blue, something fruity and something that's a super good deal, I get more than a little carried away. And by a little I mean a lot.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Flashback Friday: Camp Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

Camp cookies are a longstanding tradition at our house.  Most of my growing up years we went camping for several weeks each summer.  Whether it was a week at a state park or a 3 week road trip packing in as many national parks as possible, we made lots of memories.  No matter where we went these cookies were a part of each trip, which is exactly why we call them camp cookies.  I know, brilliant, right?

The best thing about these cookies is we were allowed to eat them for breakfast.  Loaded with oats, peanut butter and raisins + the fact that we were on vacation made these a perfectly acceptable breakfast.  Many an early morning my parents would carry us to the car still in our sleeping bags.  Breakfast on the road meant reaching over the backseat and into the trunk to find the ice cream pail full of camp cookies.  Of course they also doubled as dessert, hiking snacks and "are we there yet?" silencers.

Let's see, what else do you need to know about this tradition? True to our last minute form, a gigantic batch of these monster cookies found their way to the oven late into the night or in the wee hours of the morning before we left.  While the cookies baked there was plenty of time to cram things into the car, finish laundry and stuff it into suitcases and gather all the camping gear.

Oh, you also need to be a strategic spiller when you make these.  The M&M's are never measured, just dumped and spilled into the dough.  I usually tried to make sure my mom spilled in a few extra.  Depending on the length of our trip we would make up to 3 big batches. Penciled into our cookbook are measurements for a double and triple batch, which I've included in the recipe below.  I'm not sure we ever made just a single batch, they disappear too quickly.

Three week road trips definitely meant a triple batch, which barely fit into our trusty yellow mixing bowl.  When the bowl is literally so full the dough falls out, you had better eat some.  And trust me when I say this dough is seriously good.  It's probably a good thing cookie dough doesn't travel well or I'd never have had room for smores. Though the days of family camping trips are long past these camp cookies are still a family favorite.

Camp Cookies
adapted from an old church cookbook recipe submitted by Miriam Fokema Rogers to "Our Favorite Recipes, United Methodist Church of Kasson"

Ingredients: (double recipe, triple recipe)
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 c, 1-1/2 c)
1/2 cup peanut butter (1 c, 1-1/2 c)
1 cup granulated sugar (2 c, 3 c)
1 cup packed brown sugar (2 c, 3 c)
2 large eggs (4, 6)
1/4 cup milk (1/2 c, 3/4 c)
1 tsp vanilla (2 tsp, 1 Tbsp)
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3-1/2 c, 5-1/4 c)
1 tsp baking soda (2 tsp, 1 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp salt (1 tsp, 1-1/2 tsp)
3 cups oats (6 c, 9 c) (I used 1-1/2 cups quick oats and 1-1/2 cups rolled oats....or whatever you have on hand at midnight the night before your camping trip)
1 cup peanuts (2 c, 3 c)
1 cup raisins  (2 c, 3 c)
1 cup candy coated chocolate pieces  (2 c, 3 c) (please don't measure here, just dump generously or spill in some extra.  We usually use both plain and peanut candy coated chocolate pieces...which doubles the spilling opportunities.)

Instructions: (if making a triple batch, use an extra large bowl)
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
* In a large bowl cream together butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla.
* In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir into wet ingredients.  Mix in oats then stir in peanuts, raisins and candy coated chocolate pieces.
* Using a cookie scoop (or ice cream scoop for monster cookies), scoop dough onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes (slightly longer for larger cookies) or until edges are golden brown and centers are almost (but not quite) set. Let stand 3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling racks.  When completely cool, store in airtight containers. (We always used 5-gallon ice cream pails for camping trips.)

Food for Thought: "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." -John Muir

Monday, August 12, 2013

Farmer's Market Finds

Hey! It's been a while hasn't it?  I'm smack dab in the middle of transition stage right now, but I'm back for a little bit.  Endings, beginnings, life is so full of changes and transitions.  Anyway, blogging just didn't seem to fit in the puzzle over the past few weeks.   I'm honestly not sure where my blogging will go from here.  The posts certainly won't be as frequent, but I don't quite want to stop all together either.

Oh, and I've been stress-baking a lot lately.  You know, when you have a million things to do and somehow end up doing none of them but just bake cookies instead.  Yeah, that kind of baking.

A few of those...occurrences, were captured on camera, but most were the non-recorded throw in some of this and that type thing.  I will have a few recipes for you in the near future, but for today we'll just go with some (rather careless) snapshots of this weekend's Farmer's Market Finds.  One of these days I'll bring my camera to the market instead of taking pictures of wilted produce that's sat in a hot car for an hour.  One of these days, but not today. 

Fresh green beans, which I prefer to eat raw.  Is that weird?  Whatever, that's just what my family does. 

Zucchini and yellow summer squash at 50 cents a piece.

I fell for this Swiss Chard at only $1 a bunch.  I wasn't really sure how I was going to use it, but the vibrant pink stalks were so pretty.

Mmmm, fresh basil smells so good.  Again, only $1 for a large bunch...much cheaper and more efficient than the $4+ plants I can only keep alive long enough to grow 6 leaves.

Crunchy cucumbers.  I made a batch of pickles yesterday, but really I just prefer to munch on the raw cucumbers.  One day I will like pickles, especially if I keep making them.  

This Russian Kale came from the garden of a generous friend.  She also shared her sweet corn and tomatoes.  Thanks!

Everything  but the green beans and cucumbers went into a super tasty quinoa dish based off of these Farmer's Market Skillet and Easy Summer Quinoa recipes from Iowa Girl Eats.  I've made this twice in the past two days and both times I inhaled it quicker than the click of a camera.  Don't skip the honey-lemon dressing.  Fresh basil is also a must.  And now that we've eaten our vegetables, I'd say it's time for some baked goods.  Cookies are coming up next.  

Food for Thought: "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With an unfailing love I have drawn you to myself." -Jeremiah 3:31 (NLT)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mindful Monday: Making Time

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

I feel like I've had enough on my plate lately that I haven't had room for blogging.  But, I've also said many times here that I must make time to be thankful.  So, let's start the week out with another thankful list.

potential for change
sound advice
helpful input
handfuls of wild blackberries
cooler weather
the sound of treetops rustling in the breeze
the smell of a farm (ummm yeah, never thought I would be thankful for/miss that smell)
hills and valleys loaded with trees
vibrant bouquets at farmer's market
a friendly conversation
new books to read
time to play with a few recipes
a thoughtful phone call
abundant provision
a playful twinkle of the eye
learning life lessons
hopeful expectation
clear communication
feeling an inner peace or stillness
support in decision making
fun dishes
sharing recipes
fresh air and sunshine

Food for Thought: "Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't." -Steve Maraboli

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Heat-Wave Wednesday

It turns out when you don't have air conditioning the last thing you want to do is stand over the stove or turn on the oven.  I mean, I want to, and I have plenty of recipes to test just piling up.  But seriously, with a near 100 degree heat index I just don't have it in me to add any more heat.

Instead I'm enjoying cold, juicy melon, massive fresh salads and frozen berries stirred into yogurt.  Cereal and peanut butter have been a little too forefront as well.  Anyway, all that to say that I have no recipe for you today.  Cookies on Friday are still questionable, we shall see.  Hmm, cookie dough itself doesn't require an oven, but even that doesn't sound too appealing in the heat.

From sweet, juicy peaches to thirst-quenching melons and insanely sweet cherry tomatoes, I'm definitely enjoying the pure simplicity of what's in season.  And I'm enjoying it so much I haven't given the camera chance to bat an eye before I gobble it up.  So there you have it, no recipe and no pictures. I just felt like saying hello.  So, ummm, hello.  Okay, that is all, carry on with your day.

Food for Thought: "If you really want to eat, keep climbing. The fruits are on the top of the tree. Stretch you hands and keep stretching them. Success is on the top, keep going." -Israelmore Ayivor

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Farmer's Market Friday: Fresh Finds

This week we're taking a break from our Flashback Friday series.  Fresh produce straight from the fields is not something to be messed with.  Of course I'm not saying you can't make something with it, it's just that I prefer my peas and green beans raw and crunchy.

Last Saturday was a perfect morning for a stroll around the Farmer's Market.  Music, color, abundance and fresh, beautiful food; it was all there.  I didn't bring my camera along, but here are a few of the things I brought home with me.

Sugar snap peas.  Sweet and crisp, these peas were delicious straight from hand to mouth.

Leaf lettuce.  Most of this turned into a strawberry salad with balsamic and black pepper.

Rhubarb. Okay, I take back that part about eating everything straight from the field.  While I can eat a bite or two of raw rhubarb, it's not exactly something you snack on.  A slice of rhubarb pie, however, may have qualified as a snack instead of dessert multiple times last week.

Free pectin mixes for making jam.  Ball was sponsoring a booth and giving out small packets of pectin and salsa kits.  Strawberry jam definitely happened this week.

Yum, I love fresh fruits and veggies!

Food for thought: "Reflect upon your present blessings- of which every man has many- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some." -Charles Dickens 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Recipeless Wednesday: Strawberry Simplicity

One does not need a recipe for fresh picked strawberries.  They are simply perfect just as they are.  These berries were so sweet, juicy and delicate they instantly melted in my mouth.  Words can not describe their utter perfection.  

We picked 25 pounds of these red beauties, which we believe were the Jewel and Winona varieties.  A few pounds found their way to homemade jam, but most of the berries were eaten straight out of the box.  I ate a good 4 to 6 pounds myself.  In one day.  And yes, it was worth the stomach ache.  

I don't think I could eat 4-6 pounds of berries every day, but I could definitely go for a strawberry spinach salad drizzled with balsamic at least once a day.  Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are meant to mingle.  It may sound odd to you, but they improve each other, drawing out new flavors you don't want to miss.  (Though this particular batch of berries needed no improvement.)  

If I haven't inhaled all the strawberries straight up, then I also enjoy stirring them into lemon yogurt.  In my world strawberries straight out of the field are pure delight.  I may even pick a few more pounds this week, just because I can.  Yes, these berries are a gift that undoubtedly belong on this week's thankful list

Food for Thought: "If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable." -Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mindful Monday: Day to Day Perspective

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

I've been out in the fresh air and sunshine and away from the computer.  And you know what?  It feels great.  Anyway, I'm just dropping in for a quick thankful list.  Here goes:

open communication
farmer's market
bursts of color
a cool breeze
those little cotton seed things that float down from the trees
time with friends
thoughtful provision
going the extra mile
new insights and perspectives
lessons to learn
hope that doesn't disappoint
fresh air
dancing sunbeams
clouds of all shapes and sizes
open fields
cold water
matching socks
hand sanitizer inside an impressively clean outhouse
piano music
reading a magazine outside
soap that bubbles nicely
leaves rustling in the wind

Food for Thought: "You can not find peace by avoiding life." -Virginia Woolf

Friday, July 5, 2013

Flashback Friday: Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

This recipe appeared twice in my great-grandmother's notebook.  On one page she called them "Cookies, Mamma's White" and on another they were called "Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies." If they were old-fashioned even in her day, what does that make them now?  Super-old-fashioned?  And when she called them Mamma's White Cookies does that mean this recipe was from my great-great-grandmother?

Let's just say a few other details have been lost as well.  Both times she left out the flour measurement and instructions. Again.  Yep, it's time for another round of guessing games and recipe testing.

I looked up multiple old-fashioned sour cream sugar cookie recipes.  Having old cookbooks comes in handy, but some of the recipes aren't any more detailed than my great-grandma's.  Once again I found drop cookies and cut-out cookies, so I split the recipe in half and tried it both ways.  The Betty Crocker Picture Cooky Book (which I showed you on our very first Flashback Friday) gave me a good starting point for the cut-out cookies.  I never would have picked an oven temperature of 425, but most of the recipes I found used surprisingly high temperatures.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Instant Frozen Yogurt

I bet you remember the frozen banana "soft-serve" craze of last summer.  I made countless batches of the creamy concoction, but this summer it's time for something new.  Instead of whirling up creamy frozen bananas, I decided to play with frozen grapes.  

Have you ever tried frozen grapes?  You should try frozen grapes.  They're a great snack in the summer heat.  Unlike other fruits they stay semi-soft even when frozen, kind of like bananas do.  With that same frozen-but-not-icy-or-rock-solid texture, I figured gapes could also be turned into a creamy frozen soft-serve.  Of course this had nothing to do with the 2 gallons of frozen grapes in our freezer (you'll never guess what was on sale a few weeks ago).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mindful Monday: A Slice of Daily Bread

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. -Psalm 34:8

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. -Proverbs 16:3

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. -Proverbs 4:23

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. -Matthew 5:6

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. -Psalm 90:14

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. -James 3:17

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith....let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. -Hebrews 10:22-23

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. -Hebrews 11:1

But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. -Romans 8:24-25

Food for Thought: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. -Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flashback Friday: Good Jumbo Raisin Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

These cookies more than make up for that disappointing Mock Angel Food cake I told you about last Friday.  I expected a rather plain and boring old-lady cookie full of nuts and raisins, but boy was I wrong.  Each lovely bite was soft and just a hint chewy, but not cakey.  You know, like all the goodness of a fresh, warm cookie....only they stayed that way even when they weren't straight out of the oven.  And believe me when I say I taste tested them at multiple stages; as dough, straight from the pan, cooled 5 min, cooled 10 min, 30 min later, 2 hours later, breakfast the next morning, within 20 seconds of walking in the door after work, and, well, you get the idea.  Not even possible to just eat one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday's Twist: Cupcake Project

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Instead of testing out recipes this weekend, I baked and decorated around 250 mini cupcakes.  These bite-sized desserts weren't blogging related, they were requested for a private party.  I decided to snap a few pictures to share with you before I delivered the order.

There were 4 kinds of cupcakes: 

Chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting and chocolate sprinkles.

Almond-flavored white cake with an almond buttercream and decorating sugar crystals.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and chocolate curls.

Lemon cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting and yellow decorating sugar.

The lemon was my favorite, but I must admit I had fun using my vegetable peeler to make the chocolate curls for the red velvet cupcakes.

The whole process went fairly smoothly.  I made the frosting earlier in the week, then baked the cupcakes the night before the event.  The original order was for 10 dozen, but I didn't realize one batch made 5 dozen of the mini size.  With 4 flavors I ended up with 20 dozen cupcakes spread across my table and counter.  Umm yeah, only double what I needed.  But now I know for next time.  The next morning I frosted and finished each cupcake.  Of course I doubted myself and freaked out that I wouldn't have enough frosting.  After all, I had prepped for 10 dozen not 20.

So I hastily made one more batch of frosting and then rewhipped each previous batch, adding just a little more butter and powdered sugar to stretch it.  My brain, however, was still in frosting conservation mode and I went light on the frosting while decorating.  I ended up with way too much leftover.  Oops, guess I should have stuck with the original plan and gone with my instinct, not the doubt of the last minute rush.   Hmmm, I've never said that before.  Oh and by last minute rush, I actually mean cram everything into half the time and  have it done several hours early.  I had a little too much fun using that extra time to play with my camera.

Food for Thought: "Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection." -Toba Beta