Apple Pie Squares

Thursday, August 27, 2015

These apple pie squares will have everyone reaching for seconds. The surprise ingredient: Cornflakes!

Apple Pie Squares

2 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening or butter
1 egg yolk (save egg white)
Corn Flakes
8 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix flour, salt and shortening. (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook attachment initially, then gently finished hand-mixing.) Put egg yolk in a cup, stir with fork, and add milk to make 2/3 cup. Pour into flour mixture and mix all together to make dough.

Roll out 1/2 of the dough and place on a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet). Place 2 handfuls of corn flakes on crust. Then add 8 grated or thinly sliced apples. Sprinkle 1 cup white sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon over apples. Roll out the rest of dough and place on top.

Beat egg white until foamy (1 - 2 minutes) and brush on top of crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Drizzle with glaze after slightly cooled, but still warm.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon water (or just enough to make a thick pouring consistency)

Velvety Roasted Peaches

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aren't peaches just the showiest fruit ever? I mean, look at them!  They flounce their color, they're fat and juicy, and the fragrance as they ripen is unlike any other fruit. Here is a wonderful summer recipe I found for roasted peaches from Amanda Jane, author of the blog, Seasonally Jane (link below). This is an easy recipe for a fabulous dessert that is perfect for a week night or fancy enough for a dinner party.

Velvety Roasted Peaches

5 - 6 peaches, cut in half, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 - 3  teaspoons honey
Sea Salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey. Gently fold the peaches into the balsamic mixture until fully coated.

Place peaches on a stoneware baking pan or tin foil lined baking tray and bake in oven for 35 - 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and transfer to serving plate.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, either warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of Seasonally Jane

Straight to the Hips, Baby

Friday, August 14, 2015

In the blue-hued highlands of western Massachusetts known as The Berkshires, you'll find the homes of Edith Wharton and Herman Melville keeping company with historic inns, charming farmers' markets and prestigious galleries. This is also where you'll find the home of Jessie Ross, a former professional ballet dancer and teacher who now writes and cooks for her blog, Straight to the Hips, Baby. Where art and nature intertwine in the serenity of this panoramic countryside, you will find Jessie in her kitchen, hands grasping a rolling pin as she rolls out the dough for challah, or holding a camera as she intently focuses on the beautiful glass of raspberry gin she has prepared for an aperitif.  Meanwhile, her two young sons play at her feet oblivious to the beauty their mom creates for so many aspiring cooks who benefit from her step-by-step instructions for cooking anything from spinach meatballs to colorful gazpacho to peach shortcake with honeyed whipped cream.
Jessie-Sierra Ross: blogger, foodie, home cook and "wrangler of small children."
Jessie grew up in Boston and returned there after college graduation to pursue her dancing and teaching career.  One blustery night at the cinema, as she was waiting in line for a movie, she glanced across the street just as the crowds of college students parted, and making his way towards her was a "tall, dark and handsome stranger" in a windswept black trench coat who was giving her a dazzling smile. He asked her out on the spot, and one movie and dinner later they began dating and were married within two years. Now they make their home in the Berkshires with two "beautiful and inquisitive boys" whose arrival solidified her love of cooking and feeding people.

A slice of warm challah bread served with apple slices.
Jessie started cooking with her mother as a young child but didn't take it seriously until years later when she had children of her own and wanted to create healthy meals for them. She loved trying new recipes but realized, through success and failure, that a lot of her failures were due to a lack of clear instructions or an assumption of skill.  She says, "I decided to break down recipes, or create my own dishes entirely, but always including photographs and clear instructions on each step. It was so helpful for me, I figured there had to be others having the same issues with recipes."

A mom finds clever ways to get greens into her kids. Here, spinach is hidden in fancy meatballs.
After a particularly successful Thanksgiving dinner, friends requested the recipes for that night's dishes, and she decided "on a whim" to start a blog.  Thus, Straight to the Hips, Baby was born.

Eggs Benedict - a weekend at home with breakfast in bed.
Tomato and Ricotta Bruschetta - a tasty summer treat.
Who wouldn't want  the secret of making a perfect burger like this one?
Challah, perfect for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's French toast.


Peach Shortcake with Honeyed Whipped Cream

(For step-by-step instructions and photos on how to make this recipe, click here.)

For the Peaches

4-5 large fresh peaches
1-2 tablespoons sugar (depending on the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit)

For the Shortcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salted butter, cold & cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk

For glaze

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon half & half

For the Honey Whipped Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons local honey + more for garnish
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Garnish with warm honey and toasted slivered almonds (optional)*

Classic Gazpacho
Classic Gazpacho

(For step-by-step instructions and photos on how to prepare this recipe, click here.)

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil + more for garnish
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 slices hearty bread, crusts removed
salt & pepper to taste
scallion for garnish
Wash and dry all of your produce.

Peel the cucumber and chop into thirds. Reserve 1/3 for garnish and place the other portions in a large bowl. Stem the tomatoes and reserve 1 tomato for garnish. Cut the remaining tomatoes into quarters and place into a large bowl with the cucumbers. Stem and seed the 1/2 yellow pepper and cut into thirds. Reserve 1/3 for garnish while placing the remaining portions with the tomatoes & cucumbers.

Place the cut vegetables into the bowl of a large food processor (you may have to do this in stages if you have a smaller food processor or blender) with the cup of water, bread, garlic clove, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Add a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Pulse the food processor to start and then blend full tilt until smooth. If working in stages, try to achieve an even consistency with each batch.

Once the mixture is smooth, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a large bowl to serve immediately, or cover and chill. I let mine sit for 45 minutes in the fridge and it was perfect!

To Plate...

Dice the reserved veggies & scallion into 1/2 inch pieces and place into a small bowl. Gently toss to mix.

Pour the chilled soup into several serving bowls and garnish with the chopped vegetables and a swirl of olive oil. 

Warm Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese
Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese

(For step by step directions on how to make this recipe, click here)

3 large red tomatoes
4 cups mixed greens, packed
6 ounces fresh goat cheese (not feta, but soft goat cheese)
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
1 crusty baguette

Cut the baguette on a bias into thin slices. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place into the oven and broil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Then flip and broil for 2 minutes. Take out of the oven and reserve.

Cut the tomatoes in half and slice into wedges. Place into a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Heat the tomatoes in the microwave, on high, for 1 minute. Carefully remove and place the warmed tomatoes into a fine sieve. Gently press on the tomatoes to remove some of the tomato water. After squeezing, place into a large serving bowl.

Add the mixed greens and 4 ounces of the goat cheese (crumbled/broken) to the bowl.

In a separate small mixing bowl, add the oil, balsamic, pinch of salt, and 2 ounces of goat cheese. Quickly whisk until blended.

Add the dressing to the serving bowl and toss to coat. Arrange the toasts around the bowl, or plate individually.

Raspberry Gin Fizz
Raspberry Gin Fizz

4 ounces Hendrick's Gin
1 tablespoon Chambord
1 teaspoon super fine sugar*
3 teaspoons fresh lime juice
tonic water
raspberries for garnish

Fill a shaker (yes, I retired my jam jar!) with ice. Pour the gin and Chambord over the ice. Add the super fine sugar and fresh lime juice. Close the shaker up and give it a vigorous couple of shakes. Strain over a chilled martini glass and fill the remaining with tonic water to the brim. Garnish with fresh raspberries. 

* If super fine sugar isn't readily available, pull out your handy mortar & pestle and grind down regular table sugar. 

Photos courtesy of Jessie Ross. Used with permission.

Peach Divinity Icebox Pie

Sunday, August 9, 2015

If there is a fruit that best describes summer for me, it is the peach.  My love affair with this colorful fruit started when I was a young child growing up on the farm.  We had one lone peach tree in our back yard nestled in the cluster of American Chestnut trees, and each year I would wait impatiently for its fruit to ripen.  Then, when Ohio's fickle summer sun finally brought the fruit to maturity, I would pluck a fat warm peach from the branch, feeling the soft and fuzzy skin brush my lips, and, with juice running down both sides of my mouth, lean happily against the wooden fence and enjoy a reprieve from the never-ending duties of farm life.

This pie beautifully recalls the flavors of my childhood, though different from the traditional double-crusted peach pie my Mom would make.  From its gingersnap crust, fluffy and chiffon-like center and crowning glory of freshly sliced peaches garnished with whipped cream and apple mint, it is the perfect ending to a summer meal.

Peach Divinity Icebox Pie 
(recipe courtesy of Southern Living)

3 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
4 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup peach preserves
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
3 peaches (reserve until ready to serve, then peel, slice thinly and follow directions below)

Pour water to a depth of 1 1/2 inches into a 3 1/2 quart saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a 2 1/2 quatt glass bowl. Place bowl over simmering water, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 - 6 minutes or until mixture becomes slightly thick and sugar disolves. Remove from heat.

Place gelatin in a small bowl, and gradually add 1/4 cup boiling water, whisking constantly until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Beat egg misture at high speed in mixer bowl 8 - 10 minutes or until ribbons form on surface of mixture when beater is lifted. Add gealtin mixture and beat for one more minute. Fold in peach preserves and salt.

Beat heavy cream in a medium bowl at high speed 2 - 3 minutes or until soft peaks form. Fold gently into eggs and preserves mixture.

Spoon filling into crust; cover with plastic wrap and freeze 2 hours.

About one hour before serving, remove from freezer. Mix peach slices in a bowl with about 1 - 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon to keep them from turning brown. Arrange peach slices on top of pie. Dollop with more whipped cream, peaches and mint leaves just before serving.

Gingersnap Crust

1 1/2 - 2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Vegetable cooking spray

Process crushed cookies, sugar and salt in a food processor until finely crushed and well-combined. Add melted butter and process until thoroughly combined. Press on bottom, up sides and onto lip of a a lightly-greased (with cooking spray) 9-inch pie pan. Freeze 30 minutes to 1 hour or while preparing filling.

Peach Pie eatin' and back porch sittin'.