Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sweet & Sour Cherry Pie

Sweet and sour cherries nestled inside of a buttery, flaky lattice style crust is my delicious take on cherry pie. Make sure you don't look too closely at my lattice though. It is all over the place, just wrong. But hey, it still tasted good, so we won't call it a total failure :)  I honestly have no idea what happened. I pretty much was just winging it but I thought I had a pretty clear idea in my mind how it should go. I thought I was pulling back alternating strips to make it look all nice and fancy. I thought that it would be the prettiest pie I ever made. Insert sound of *car screeching to a halt* noise here cuz oops, not so much. As I was brushing on the egg wash, I realized, heyyyy wait this isn't right.  Too late now, into the oven it went. And lucky for me, I was the only one who even noticed.  

I considered not sharing these pictures on the blog because, well its sort of embarrassing in that silly perfectionist way that I am, but this recipe is way too fantastic to not share only because of funky lattice.  I mentioned in my last post here that we lost a lovely sour cherry tree in a major storm the first winter we lived in our house.  It wasn't really until after we lost it that I actually realized what kind of tree it was and how much delicious food I could have made with those sour cherries.  I have been on the hunt for some at the grocery store ever since but I always seem to miss their very short season.  I finally found some this year but they were pretty pricey.  So I decided to make a mixed cherry pie with both sweet and sour cherries and I am so glad that I did.

The two cherries have slightly different textures and flavors. The sour cherries have a little bit more tang and become a little bit softer while they bake. The sweet cherries have very intense cherry flavor with lots of sweetness and they stay just a bit firmer. When they are combined together in this bubbly, rich pie they go perfectly together.  The buttery, crispy, flaky, barely sweet crust is wonderful for not only this pie but any pie, sweet or savory that you want to make.  The recipe below is enough for one full pie, top and bottom crusts.  We enjoyed this pie for my mother-in-laws birthday, with a little bit of freshly whipped cream and it was fantastic!  Also, just a note, if you can't find the sour cherries, feel free to make this same recipe with all sweet cherries and it will be amazing as well.  I would recommend decreasing the sugar in the filing to between 1/4 and 1/3 cup.  Hope you enjoy!  

Sweet & Sour Cherry Pie

Pastry Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp ice water

Place the flour, sugar, salt and cubes of very cold butter in a food processor.  Pulse these ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture with butter pieces the size of small peas.  Start by adding 4 tablespoons of the ice water and continue to pulse. Continue to add the water until the mixture looks like fine sand and if you pinch some crumbs together between your fingers it holds together like dough.  Turn everything out into a pile of crumbs on a flat surface and use your hands to bring the dough together into a round disk.  Just the light pressure from pushing the crumbs with your hands will be enough for his dough to hold together. Take care to not over work the dough here; once it all comes together you are done. Wrap the dough disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Sweet & Sour Cherry Filling
1 lb sour cherries, pitted
1 lb sweet cherries, halved and pitted
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

To pit the sour cherries, I used a small frosting piping tip and just gently pushed it through the stem end and popped the pit out the other side of the cherry.  I did not find this method to work very well with the larger sweet cherries so I sliced all the way around the cherry with a pairing knife and then rotated the two halves apart. The pit will stay attached to one half of the cherry, so I just pushed it out with my finger.  You could, of course, make this pie with just sweet cherries or just sour cherries, but make sure to adjust the amount of sugar accordingly.  Combine the cherries with the sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl and stir well.

All-purpose flour for rolling
1 egg + 1 tbsp water, beaten
1 tbsp course sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Remove your pastry dough from the refrigerator and cut in half.  Flour a flat surface very well and roll half of the dough out into a circle about 2 inches larger than your pie plate. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin and carefully transfer it to your pie plate.  Tuck the excess dough that is over hanging the pie plate up under the edge of the pie plate and crimp it all the way around by pressing the dough between your thumbs and fingers.  If you have any long areas of excess dough, you can trim it off first. You want your crust edge to be relatively even in thickness.  Pour the cherry filling into the pie plate and set aside while you make the lattice.  

Roll the second piece of dough out into the same size circle as the first.  Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut 10 strips of dough.  I could be very very wrong about these instructions for making the lattice because mine came out kind of wonky but the method that I describe next is what I thought I was trying to do to make my pie. Lay five strips of alternating pieces of the dough out across the top of the pie filling with about 1 inch gaps between them.  Pull back the second and fourth piece of dough and lay the corresponding sized piece of dough on top in the opposite direction. The new piece of dough should be laying on top of piece one, three, and five.  Pull the second and fourth pieces of dough back over the pie so that they are now laying on top of the crisscrossed piece.  Now pull the first, third, and fifth pieces of dough back and lay your next piece of dough across over the second and fourth strips.  Now pull the first, third, and fifth piece back across the pie and they should now be on top of that second piece of dough.  Continue this method for the remaining three strips of dough, alternating which pieces you pull back each time.  Re-crimp the crust of your pie so that it is fairly even.

Brush the pie crust with the egg wash and sprinkle course sugar all over the top.  Bake the pie on the bottom rack of your over for about 60 minutes.  If your crust starts to get too brown towards the end of the cooking process, you can tent the pie with aluminum foil.  Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour or two before serving.


Inspired by Martha Stewart and Foodwishes

Monday, July 20, 2015

Honey & Lemon Sweet Iced Tea

Refreshing and delicious, this sweet iced tea has lovely hints of lemon and honey! I created this drink on a total whim one hot afternoon. We were working in the yard doing a bunch of little projects, sweating away (hah sorry TMI) and K asked if we had anything yummy and cold to drink.  The only thing we had in the fridge was milk, which was definitely not the right thirst quencher so I rummaged around in the cabinet and found these cold brew tea bags that I picked up awhile back.  I put a quick simple syrup together and saw the honey sitting on the counter, so I poured a couple tablespoons of that in for extra sweetness and flavor.  We had lemons on hand too, so I squeezed in some juice and added a few slices for garnish as well.

I don't make homemade drinks very often, so I was excited to use this beautiful pitcher that my mom painted for me a few years ago.  We had an awesome sour cherry tree in our backyard and unfortunately it was destroyed in a major snow storm. I was really bummed about it so she painted this amazing pitcher to cheer me up and to remember it by. I just noticed, while I was typing this post, that you can see the reflection of me taking the photo in the pitcher. Of course I am in this weird squating position to get the right photo angel. Awkward..... I suppose I could go back and edit it out but what's the fun in that :)

I hope you give this sweet tea a try and you enjoy it as much as we did!

Honey Lemon Sweet Iced Tea

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 lemons, divided
10 cold brew black tea bags
2 quarts water

Start by making a simple syrup.  Combine the 1 cup of water with the sugar in a small saucepan.  Heat the mixture over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until all of the sugar dissolves.  The water does not have to boil, it should just look completely clear and free of any sugar crystals.  Stir in the honey and let this mixture cool for at least 10 minutes.  Add 2 quarts of water and a full tray of ice cubes to a pitcher.  Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon.  Add the tea bags and let them steep for five minutes.  I used 10 cold brew black tea bags (which can be found at most supermarkets in the tea section). You could definitely make this with any tea that you like. Just brew the tea in boiling water, as directed and then cool completely.  Remove the tea bags and stir in as much simple syrup as you like. I used the full amount and the tea was pretty sweet but not overly sweet in my opinion. If you like a less sweet tea, start with half of the mixture and go up from there. Cut the second lemon into slices and add them to the pitcher.  Serve the iced tea in glasses full of ice cubes and a slice of lemon, if desired!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Stuffed Bell Peppers

These stuffed peppers are packed with delicious savory ingredients that will certainly be a big hit at your dinner table. For some reason I always considered stuffed peppers to be a fancy dish that I was intimidated to try. Then one day, while browsing around on youtube, I saw a super simple recipe that completely changed my mind.  This recipe does have a bit of a longer cooking time for an average weeknight meal, but they are really quick and easy to prepare.  Once they go in the oven, you can pretty much set it and forget it while you go about whatever your other evening activities are.  I made this batch with green and orange peppers but next time I would stick to red or orange peppers.  The green peppers are just a little more bitter when they are baked. We really enjoyed the sweetness of the orange peppers paired with the savory beef and rice mixture.  You could substitute the ground beef with ground turkey or italian sausage or go vegetarian maybe with black beans or mushrooms or zucchini instead.    I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as we did. This dish will definitely be making the meal plan at least once a month for awhile!  

Stuffed Bell Peppers

1/2 small onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup beef broth or water
2 cups tomato sauce or marinara sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Briefly saute the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent.  Combine the onions will all of the other ingredients in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish and stir well.

1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice (leftover rice works great)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
6 Slices of provolone or other cheese
3 large bell peppers, any color

Preheat the oven to 375°F. To prepare the peppers, cut them in half lengthwise and remove the stem, seeds, ribs, etc so they are completely clean.  Combine all of the other ingredients except the cheese slices in a medium bowl and mix until everything just comes together. You don't want to over mix the ground beef. Divide the mixture evenly into the six pepper halves and place the peppers in the 9x13 pan right in the tomato sauce mixture. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 25-30 minutes more.  Add the slices of cheese (I used a four cheese Italian blend from the deli) on top of each pepper about 5 minutes before the end of the baking time. Let the peppers rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.  You can either serve the peppers with a base of the tomato sauce on the plate or spoon some over top of the peppers.


Inspired by Food Wishes

Thursday, July 9, 2015

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I have a super easy no bake recipe for you today that will help you beat the heat and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time! You only need five simple ingredients, a few minutes and a microwave to make this yummy dessert.  The bars do need to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours so you will have to plan ahead a little bit, but the wait is well worth it.  You most likely have everything you need to make these already in your pantry.  If you find yourself without any powdered sugar (like me), a quick way to save yourself a trip to the store is to just grind the sugar in the food processor until it is fine and powdery.  It will take a few minutes but it comes out just like powdered sugar you would buy.  This whole recipe only takes about 10 minutes to put together and that's including grinding your own sugar and having tiny person jumping up and down all around you asking to be picked up the entire time. So on average I will say only five minutes of prep time :).  After a little chill to set up, these bars are a delicious treat, with really great texture from the crushed graham crackers and the perfect flavor combo of peanut butter and chocolate!

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 1 sleeve)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp peanut butter, divided
1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate, optional

Place your graham cracker cookies in a large plastic zip top bag and crush with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet until you have fine crumbs.  Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the powdered sugar, melted butter and 3/4 cup of the peanut butter.  You can use creamy or crunchy PB, but I would not recommend a natural PB that needs to be stirred, for this recipe.  Mix these ingredients until well combined and then press into an even layer in a 8x8 or 9x9 pan lined with aluminum foil.  Place the remaining 2 tbsp of PB and the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring each time, until melted and smooth.  Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter mixture and spread out evenly with a spatula or spoon.  Optional, melt the white chocolate in the same fashion and transfer to a small plastic zip top bag.  Cut the corner off the bag and pipe straight lines on top of the chocolate.  Immediately run a toothpick through the lines, back and forth to create the zig zag pattern.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.  Let set at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting the bars.


*Note* If you don't have or use a microwave, just melt the chocolates in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring frequently.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Roasted Potato Salad

I know, I know, you are probably thinking ehhh, I have seen so many potato salad recipes over the last month, why bother reading another one. I certainly have been seeing my fair share of this category of recipe in the food-blog-a-sphere since the warm summer weather hit, but let me tell you, this recipe is worth checking out.  Roasting the potatoes instead of boiling them absolutely makes this salad a stand out.  Something magical happens to vegetables when you roast them in the oven and it really boosts the complexity of the flavors in this salad.  Plus, this salad has everything that a good potato salad should have, a little onion for flavor, a little celery for crunch, a little hard boiled egg for texture, and a little, or a lotta, bacon for mmm, goodness.  Yes of course you can leave the bacon out if you are going the vegetarian route.  The creamy, rich dressing brings everything all together, just the way potato salad should be.  This would be the perfect recipe to try for your next barbecue or maybe this weekend for your Fourth of July celebrations.  In other news, I had the opportunity to do a little creative photography a few weekends ago and got to take some fun flower shots at my favorite spot.  I added a few of my favs down below the recipe if you are interested in checking them out :)

Roasted Potato Salad


5-6 medium red potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Wash and dry the potatoes and then chop into bite size pieces.  Toss the potatoes in the olive oil and spices and place in a single layer on a large, greased baking tray.  Roast the potatoes for about 25 minutes or until tender, flipping once during the cooking time.  Let the potatoes cool to room temperature.


3/4 mayonnaise
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, chives
salt & pepper, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass measuring cup or a bowl and whisk well until combined. You can use whatever herbs you like; I used a combo of parsley and chives.  If you don't have fresh herbs, you can substitute dry, but reduce the quantity as they are much stronger.  Set the dressing aside until you are ready to assemble.


1 shallot, diced finely
3 stalks celery, diced
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
6+ slices of cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 cup pickles (variety of your choosing), roughly chopped

The bacon can be cooked in a frying pan or in the oven.  I cooked mine in the oven on a wire rack placed over a baking tray lined with aluminum foil while the potatoes were roasting, for about 15 minutes. Place the bacon onto a paper towel lined plate immediately after removing from the oven.  Most grocery stores sell pre-made hard boiled eggs now or you can boil your own at home.  I bought them pre-made because boiling eggs stinks, in my personal opinion.  Make sure these ingredients are at least cooled down to room temperature before adding to the salad. Reserve some bacon for garnish.  Add all of the fixings to a large bowl, including the roasted potatoes.  Toss everything together and then add the dressing.  Give everything a big mix, until the entire salad is well coated in the dressing.  Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to one day before serving.  Garnish with reserved bacon and additional herbs or scallions, if desired.


Inspired by The Candid Appetite