Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coconut Dream Pie

1 recipe 9" pie crust (use your favorite), baked & cooled
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup half & half
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup cream of coconut
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coconut extract
2 cups coconut, toasted (350*f oven for 7-10 min)
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces chocolate, chopped

In a small dish, melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth. "Paint" the chocolate all over the inside of the baked pie crust. This will not only make a decadent addition to your pie, it will keep the crust crisp and flaky after it's filled! Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the toasted coconut, and allow chocolate to set.

Next, make your filling. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow in color, and fluffy. Add cornstarch and melted butter, mix to combine. Heat milk and half & half to scalding, and whisk in vanilla, coconut extract, and cream of coconut. Slowly add to the egg yolks, with mixer on low (or while whisking). Return to the pan over med heat until it reaches a full boil. Cook 1 minute, and remove from heat. Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps, cover with plastic wrap (directly on the custard), and chill. It will seem very thick, but don't worry, that's deliberate! When it is completely cooled, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream to soft peaks, and fold into the custard until well combined. Next, fold in 3/4 cup of the toasted coconut. Gently scoop into the pie crust; cover and chill.

Just before serving, whip remaining heavy cream, adding 1 tbsp sugar when it reaches soft peaks. Spread over custard, and top with remaining toasted coconut. Serve chilled.

A Lot to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is all about being thankful, and I have a lot to be thankful for. My family is not the least amongst those things. They are amazing, every one of them.
This year, due to circumstances beyond our control, my daughter and I were unable to be with her Daddy for Thanksgiving, so instead we did something I haven't done in a long, long time...we went to my parents' house for the holiday. We weren't alone, my brother Jim and his family, my brother Rick and his wife, and my brother Brian and his girlfriend were all there as well. And though it was an exhausting, busy day (heck, week!), it was also a lot of fun, and very filling!

Another reason to love Thanksgiving is the food. The Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and more is one that I look forward to each year. It is a lot of work, and worth every second when things go as they should! Now, as I mentioned before, I am a gravy loving girl, so the gravy is a hugely important part of the meal for me! So, I want to do it right. I went to my butcher (Iowa Meat Farms), and got my hands on some turkey necks and wings, which were added to a stock pot with some onion, celery, and carrots to make our turkey stock. Everything was roasted before simmering, for extra flavor, and I used chicken broth instead of water, so the flavor was rich and heady.

My sister in law, Carrie, made a mashed butternut squash dish which was similar in texture to mashed potatoes, and decadent with melted butter and fresh ground pepper. Mashed yukon gold potatoes were also given a butter and black pepper treatment before being served.

Of course, the star of the show is the turkey! A roasting bag helped to ensure this turkey was moist and flavorful. Look at that yummy golden skin! I know, I know, it isn't good for me...but it sure tastes delicious! Didn't Dad do a great job of carving and serving the turkey? I thought it looked terrific! And what's turkey without the dressing? Next to the gravy, the dressing is my favorite. We are'll find no fruit or oysters in this dressing. Bread, celery, onion, and turkey stock are the basis of this luscious side.

And then, there are the pies. We had a total of 7 pies! I know it sounds like a lot, but believe me, everyone wants pie to take home, so it's not too much. Pumpkin and apple, traditional choices, were just the tip of the iceberg! Cherry was next on the list, being a favorite of both mine and my brothers. And this year was a special treat because this was the first time my daughter made a pie. She did everything herself, with the sole exception of the crust, which we got at Trader Joe's (very good, by the way!). She made an apple crumb pie, but added a secret ingredient: fresh pomegranate juice! It added a tart-sweet flavor that was such a great contrast to the crumb topping! It was equally good, hot and cold- I should know! I tried it both ways :)

Also served: Coconut Dream Pie, my own invention (which I'll be posting, both recipe and pics) and fruit salad, plus both fresh and jellied cranberry sauce. It was enough food to feed an army, and the leftovers are terrific! And the best part is, later this week I get another of my favorite comfort foods: Turkey Pot Pie! Don't worry, there will be pics and recipe forthcoming for that one too!

Here's hoping you all had an amazing, delicious Thanksgiving and that you had a lot to be thankful for on this special day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Family that Cooks Together....

Looks delicious, doesn't it? Not too long ago, we went to my brother's house for my niece's birthday and dinner was one of my all time favorite meals: Stuffed Shells! Luscious ricotta cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, pasta, tomato sauce...what is not to love?!
Stuffed shells are one of those meals that look terrifically complicated when done and give the impression that you spent hours in the kitchen...yet they're simple to make and so easy to change up to suit whatever mood you happen to be in that day. A basic cheese stuffed shell can be made ahead as well, so when you're ready to serve them, you just pop them in the oven and bake until all the cheesy goodness gets hot and yummy!
To make a simple ricotta filling, you'll need:
  • 1 tub (pint size) ricotta cheese (whole or skim milk)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup asiago cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
  • salt & freshly ground white or black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • pkg dried large pasta shells, cooked al dente and drained
  • 6 cups or more meat sauce
In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with 1 3/4 cups of the mozzarella, 3/4 cup parmesan, 3/4 cup asiago, and the parsley. Add a little salt and some fesh ground pepper. I like white pepper for this, as I do for cream sauces. Stir in the eggs until thoroughly combined. Place the mixture into a piping bag (the kind used for cake decorating) or a quart size zip loc bag, and snip the corner.
In your baking pan (I like to use a glass baking dish for this, sprayed with olive oil spray, but you can use a regular baking pan as well) put about a cup and a half of the meat sauce in the bottom...just enough to create a thin layer that covers the entire bottom of the dish or pan. Holding a shell in your palm, use the piping bag (or baggie) to pipe in the cheese filling. Place into the sauce and repeat until you've filled enough to fill the entire baking dish in a single layer. Add more sauce over the top of the shells, being sure to cover the pasta. Combine the remaining cheeses, and sprinkle over the top of the sauce covered shells.

At this point you can cover with both plastic wrap and foil and freeze, or you can put directly into a 375*f oven for about 35-40 min, or until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and golden. I like to put a little extra sauce on when I am plating, but you don't have to..I'm just a fan of Italian tomato sauces. Serve with a salad and your favorite bread for an easy meal that's both fun to make and delicious to eat!

And if you're curious, the salad was a simple mixture of greens (lettuce & spinach), heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, and julienned red and orange bell peppers, dressed simply with a balsamic vinaigrette. Taste and quick, what more could you want? Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hello, Again, Hello

Hello, Friends! I am so sorry it's been so long since I's been a busy couple of weeks with lots of back and forth, so I haven't had a lot of time to myself at all. I am here to tell you, that's over! I will be posting new reviews soon: Antique Row Cafe, Ciao!, and more. I will also be posting some of my favorite recipes for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this week. Dry-brined turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, Aussie pie and more! I am looking forward to sharing again, and I promise not to go so long again without an update!! Well, unless I can't help it :P