Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There is something to be said for Pillsbury pie crusts. They’re easy, quick, convenient and virtually fool-proof. Those thoughts were running through my head as my Thanksgiving piecrust got ruined. I prepared the dough for flaky cream cheese pie crust and froze it several days ago, but forgot to take it out of the freezer the night before. If it had thawed in the fridge overnight, I might not have had a problem. Instead, I tried to quick-thaw it on the counter and probably left it out too long. When I tried to prebake my pie shell, I wound up with a shrunken, tough mess that went into the trash.
Plan B was a quick butter pie crust, thrown into the fridge for an hour to cure. I like to let pie crusts cure overnight in the fridge, but there was no time. And this crust did not get prebaked. Instead, I lowered the oven rack to its lowest position and placed my pizza stone on it, preheated the oven to 400F for a half hour, and then placed the filled pie on tinfoil on the stone. Of course, to complete my day, the pie cracked in a very unappetizing manner…… Deep cracks…… I guess this is my humble pie.
The pie filling recipe, found on, was tweaked to my liking. I wanted to taste the pumpkin, not spices and sugar, and I liked the spices in this recipe. I just decreased the nutmeg by 1/8 teaspoon. I cut the sugar and corn syrup a bit, used dark corn syrup instead of light, subbed milk for 2/3 of the cream and added melted butter. The filling calls for 1-1/2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree, but I’m sure that canned pumpkin can be used. I used 1 cup of Hubbard squash, 1/2 c of butternut squash and 1/2 cup of sweet potato. After pureeing and draining, it came to 1-1/2 cups. Draining the squash is an integral part of this recipe, so I didn’t want to skip it. If you opt to use canned pumpkin, you might still want to drain it to get the excess water out. The filling for this pie fits perfectly into a 9” pie plate with no leftovers.
I am still thankful at Thanksgiving time. I’m thankful that the pie, although ugly, is still edible and that I have people to share it with. Sometimes it’s the little things……

UPDATE: The pie was fantastic! Guy said it was the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever made. It was very light, yet rich and creamy with just enough sweetness and subtle spices that perfectly complemented the mix of squashes and sweet potato. An ugly duckling for sure, but still a winner. The crust was as ugly as the filling. It broke if you looked at it, but it was absolutely delicious – buttery, tender, flaky and perfect with the pie. Oh, and best yet – the crust was cooked through. Using the bottom rack of the oven and a pizza stone that’s preheated definitely makes a difference in the pie crust.
Adapted from Printable Recipe
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1-1/2 cups cooked butternut and hubbard squashes or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup cooked or canned sweet potatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia + 1/2 tsp. molasses)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (I used 1/8 tsp.)
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Puree squashes (or pumpkin) and sweet potato in work bowl of food processor or blender.  Drain overnight.* (See note below)

Place pizza stone or quarry tiles on bottom rack of oven, in lowest position. Heat oven to 400F about 15-30 minutes before you plan to bake the pie. Fit a 9” pie plate with your favorite pie crust and refrigerate.

In work bowl of food processor or in blender, combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, butter and corn syrup. Pulse till very smooth and no lumps remain. Add remaining ingredients and pulse again till very smooth, scraping sides and bottom if needed. Remove pie crust from fridge; put a sheet of tinfoil underneath pie plate, then pour filling into prepared crust. Place pie and tinfoil on pizza stone.


Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, then, without opening oven door, lower temperature to 325F and bake an additional 25-30 minutes, or till filling is slightly puffed up around edges and pie crust is nicely browned. (Filling will be jiggly in center but will continue to cook as it cools.) Transfer pie to wire rack to cool, then refrigerate overnight, covered. Serve chilled pie with ice cream or whipped cream.

(A very nice spiced whipped cream topping can be made by whipping heavy cream with a little cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, and some dark corn syrup. Taste it and make it to your taste preference. I also made some leaves with the extra pie dough, rolled them in sugar instead of flour and baked them separately. I added them on the whipped cream as a garnish – see top photo. )

*You can drain pumpkin puree by placing a large coffee filter in a strainer, then putting the puree into that over a bowl. The liquid will drip through. This will take several hours, or place it, covered, overnight in the fridge. You will have to press it a bit to get all the liquid out.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Here’s the recipe I used for my Chicken Pot Pies. I’m also going to use this pie crust recipe for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. What I especially like about this recipe is the fact that the dough is firm and doesn’t shrink. The flavor is good, and the crust is flaky and tender. It probably would have been more so had I used all bleached flour. I opted to use half unbleached all-purpose. It was great for chicken pot pies, and I suspect it will also be great for my pumpkin pie. I’ll let you know.
Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust (for 9” pie shell)
Adapted from, “The Pie and Pastry Bible,” 1998 Cordon Rose, Inc.
Rating: 10 out of 10
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. pastry flour or 1 cup (dip & sweep) bleached all-purpose flour
(I used 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose & 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. White Lily all-purpose)
1/8 tsp. salt (1/4 tsp. for savory recipes)
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup cream cheese, cold
1 Tbsp. ice water
1-1/2 tsp. cider vinegar

Cut the butter into 1/2” cubes. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze about 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a reclosable plastic sandwich bag and freeze about 30 minutes. (I also put the work bowl and metal blade of my food processor in the freezer.)

In the work bowl of a food processor with the metal blade, pulse flour mixture a few times to combine. (Save the sandwich bag for the finished dough.) Cut cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add to flour. Process for about 20 seconds, or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea. (Toss with a fork to see it better.) Remove the cover and add vinegar and water. (I actually added about 3 Tbsp. water, as 1 Tbsp. just didn’t do it.) Pulse until most of the butter is reduced to the size of small peas. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together. Spoon it into the plastic bag. Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled. Flatten into a disc, reseal the bag and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Can be refrigerated up to 2 days; frozen, up to 3 months.

Friday, November 20, 2009



A rotisserie chicken with lots of meat to use up was the inspiration for this recipe. I used a pie crust recipe from epicurious which I will post separately. Over the years, I’ve made so many different pot pie recipes, including my own. Though I love shortcuts, I just don’t like using canned soups in my cooking. Call me weird. How long does it take to make a roux, anyway? And I can pronounce the ingredients in my pot pie, besides the fact that mine tastes better than anything from a can, IMHO. If you’re looking for a shortcut, skip this recipe, because this is all from scratch. It’s the way I mostly cook. 002

This is my own recipe, and I pretty much used what was in my fridge. Results were stellar. We both gobbled this one up and gave it my highest rating. The crust was tender, flaky and light, and the filling was perfect – nice chunks of meat with a not too soupy sauce and just enough veggies and seasonings. I have two Corning Grab-It pots that I used to bake the pot pies in. They’re the perfect size for one serving each, and I always make our pot pies in them. Any small casserole dish will work, though, or use a slightly larger one for two servings.001

Traditional Chicken Pot Pies for Two Printable Recipe
Source: Judy’s Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: Your favorite pastry recipe
3 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend (or butter, if preferred)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2-3 slices cooked, crumbled bacon
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and pepper to taste (go light on this, and taste at the end to adjust)
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken, turkey or meat of choice (or veggie if preferred)
1 cup frozen peas (or other veggie of choice)
1/2 cup cooked chopped potatoes (half white, half sweet)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 400F. In a medium-sized sauté pan, cook the onion in the SB over medium heat till transparent. Add the garlic and bacon and cook another minute. Stir in the flour, thyme, salt and pepper to make a paste. Add the broth slowly, stirring all the while to make a thin roux. Bring to a boil, stir, stir, stir. Add chicken and veggies. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook a few minutes to heat everything, then stir in the heavy cream. Get the roux to the proper consistency now. If it’s too thick, add more broth. If it’s too thin, stir in a bit more flour. Transfer contents to buttered ramekins or small casserole dishes. Top with pastry; flute edges; cut steam vents in top. Place casseroles on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and place in oven about 20-25 minutes, or till pastry is nicely browned and pot pie is bubbling hot. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 2 servings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



With some frozen leftover cobbler dough from my August peach cobbler, I made this delicious apple cobbler to experiment with using nothing but NuNaturals Stevia for the sweetener, but you can make it with regular sugar if you don't like using alternative sweeteners. It wasn’t a big cobbler, since this was just for two of us. I used a small Corning ware square pan, giving us each two servings, enough for two nights of dessert.


The cobbler topping resembles a pie crust more than a biscuit dough. I’m not a big fan of biscuit-dough cobblers. Too fluffy for me. We both gave this dessert two thumbs up – way up. But then, we never met an apple dessert we didn’t like.


Apple Cobbler Printable Recipe
Source: Cobbler Topping: Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Filling: Judy’s Kitchen
Rating: Cobbler Topping: 10 out of 10
Filling: 8.5 out of 10

Cobbler Dough:
1/4 cup almond meal or finely ground almonds
1 cup flour (I used 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour + 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
7 Tbsp. butter cut into small pieces  (I used Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend)
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp. Limoncello or plain vodka (or ice water)

In work bowl of food processor, combine almond meal, flours, 3 Tbsp. sugar and salt; pulse to combine, being sure almonds are finely ground. Add 7 Tbsp. butter and pulse till mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Butter pieces should be no larger than small peas. In small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and 2 Tbsp. Limoncello; pour over flour mixture and pulse in quick, short motions till dough pulls together. Do not over mix. Transfer dough to work surface; divide into two pieces. Pat each into a ball, then into discs. Refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 30 minutes. (Freeze for up to 3 months. ) Yield: 2 cobbler doughs

Apple Filling
2 large apples (I used Jonagold)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. Nu Naturals Stevia)
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. butter (I used Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend)

Heat oven to 425F. Peel, core and quarter apples. Cut into 1/2” slices. Grease a small pan (I used a small square Corning ware pan), and add the apples; toss with lemon juice, sweetener, cornstarch and cinnamon.  Roll out the pastry to fit the top of the pan; place over apples; crimp edges as desired.

Place pan on large sheet of aluminum foil that can be pulled up over the pan as needed. Place the pan in the foil in a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Leave the foil flat and bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or till apples are tender and bubbling and crust is nicely browned. If crust browns too quickly, pull foil up to cover it. Yield: 4 servings

Monday, November 16, 2009



Recently, I was contacted by NuNaturals about trying their products. Since I’ve used Nu Naturals White Stevia Powder for several years in my baking, I consented. In addition to receiving the same stevia I’ve been using, two new products came my way: NuStevia Sweetener Stevia Baking Blend and liquid Vanilla Stevia, along with product information and recipes.

I decided to try my hand with the baking blend first, but unfortunately had less-than-stellar results. The baking blend, which measures like sugar, contains fiber along with Acacia, Guar and Xantham gums; and the banana-oatmeal muffins I made had a gummy texture, though they tasted great. They went into the trash, because they were so bad I wouldn’t even give them away. I am going to try again with a simpler recipe and use less of the baking blend to see if I can get a better result.

Next, I tried making a smoothie with the liquid Vanilla Stevia: a mix of toasted slivered almonds, vanilla yogurt, crushed ice, banana, mango, pineapple, cinnamon and chai spice blend. I sweetened it with the Vanilla Stevia, and it was delicious! I made another, switching the almonds out for peanut butter, and it was equally as good. I definitely like the liquid Vanilla Stevia!

Lastly, I tried an apple cobbler, sweetened only with stevia powder. My usual method is to use half stevia, half sugar; but I tried using the stevia on its own to see if I’d like it. Not only did I, but so did hubby. (I didn’t tell him there was no sugar in the apples, and he didn’t detect anything off-tasting. That’s because the Nu Naturals company has a technique for eliminating the bitter aftertaste that you get with most stevia products -- which is why I’ve been using NuNaturals myself. )

I heartily recommend NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia pure liquid and NuNaturals White Stevia Powder, in packets or loose. You can purchase these items at the NuNaturals website; they offer free shipping for orders of $35 or more, and their prices are comparable to what you will pay in stores. Their website also has more information about stevia, about their company and their products. You’ll also find recipes there.

Next post will have the recipe for the apple cobbler, and I welcome your questions and/or comments concerning this product.

QUESTION: How do you feel about sugar alternatives? Do you use them? If so, which ones?

Friday, November 13, 2009



I’m not a huge fan of banana muffins, but these are different. First, they’re light as air, but also tender and moist. The banana flavor is almost not there, and the crunch topping is toffee-like, crispy and tender crunchy. Even though I made these with whole wheat flour, no one could tell. This is definitely a keeper.057

Banana Crunch Muffins Printable Recipe
Source: Judy’s Kitchen
Rating: 9 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour (or all purpose, if preferred)
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/ tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farm)
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup mashed very ripe banana
Crunch topping (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin and a 12-cup mini-muffin tin; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients. In a medium microwaveable bowl, melt the butter on high about 30 seconds, covered, or till butter is almost melted. Let it sit in the microwave until it is completely melted, then whisk in the yogurt, vanilla, and egg till very smooth. Add the banana and whisk again till combined. Stir in dry ingredients with a spoon or spatula, and only mix till barely combined. Fill the muffin cups with the batter, using a scant 1/4 cup for standard muffin tins and about a generous tablespoonful for the minis. Top each muffin with some of the crunch topping, and bake about 12 minutes for the minis and about 15 minutes for the standards, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool after they have rested in the pans about 3 minutes.

Crunch Topping: 3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/3 cup quick oats (Do not use instant oats, use the 1-minute)
1/3 cup broken pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. dried sweetened coconut

Combine all ingredients in small bowl using a fork.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


003 Here’s yet another tomato soup recipe, and this one is fairly simple and pretty good. I like it topped with Parmesan cheese shavings (just take a wide vegetable peeler and scrape down the side of a piece of Parmesan to get a wide shaving), but you can top the soup however you like – with croutons, chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, or a drizzle of cream. I used a mix of fresh tomatoes (which I roasted) and canned diced tomatoes. The excess soup went into the freezer, waiting for a cold winter night.

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Buffalo Mtn Grille’s Tomato Basil Bisque Printable Recipe
Rating: 9 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1 large onion
2 celery ribs
3 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. EVOO or butter
3 (14.5 oz.) cans tomatoes (or mix with fresh roasted tomatoes, as I did)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 small can tomato paste
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Coarsely chop onion, celery & garlic. Sauté onion and celery in EVOO over medium heat in large skillet about 5 minutes, or till onions are translucent. Add garlic, sauté additional minute. Add tomatoes, broth, paste, parsley, red pepper flakes and basil and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low heat and cook 10 minutes, covered. Uncover pot and cook additional 10 minutes. Puree with hand-held immersion blender or in batches in blender. Stir in cream, salt and pepper. Top with croutons, shavings of Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and/or chopped tomatoes, if desired.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Sunday, November 8, 2009



I’m not nuts on chili, but I do occasionally enjoy a smashed baked potato or grilled hot dog topped with it. Store-bought chili has always disappointed me, and I haven’t found a restaurant chili that really rocks my socks. So, rather than purchase already-made chili, every once in a while, I’ll make my own and freeze it in small containers to be used for baked potatoes and hot dogs.


Chili is one of those intensely personal dishes. With beans or without? Ground meat or chunks? Beef, pork, chicken, turkey or vegetarian? Hot or mild? Since I don’t eat it that often, I’m not exactly a chili expert. But I know what I like to eat: something with deep flavor and a nice tinge of spicy, smoky hotness, with beans please, and not too soupy. That’s what this recipe delivers.

I started with a recipe, titled “Best Chili,” from Moms Who Think, and I tweaked it to make it my own. According to Moms Who Think, the original recipe was a blue ribbon winner at a chili cook-off and took home the prize of $20,000. Is it the best? I haven’t tasted enough chilis to know. Guy and I both liked this chili recipe, and I would definitely make it again. The beer and cocoa, along with the spices, develop a deep, pleasing flavor. I added beans to the pot, since they were missing from the original recipe. If you’re not a bean person, leave them out.

A Good Chili Recipe Printable recipe
Adapted from Moms Who Think
Rating: 9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1-1/2 lbs. good-quality lean ground beef (I used Black Angus)
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 tsp. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp.. ketchup
1 (7 oz.) can fire-roasted green chilies, peeled and diced, with liquid
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce (I used Contadina)
1 tsp. California hot sauce (or other hot sauce of choice)
3/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup beer (I used Budweiser)
3 (14.5 oz.) cans of beans of choice (I used black beans)

In a heavy Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, brown the meat, preferably in two stages. (If you put all the meat in at once, it will steam rather than brown.) Drain off all but 2 Tbsp. fat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir till tender. Add the other half of the meat that you took out, along with the remaining ingredients except beans, stirring well to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2-1/2 hours. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot. Cook an additional 1/2 hour. Serves 6-8