Quick & Easy Berry Custard Pie

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As I mentioned earlier, I foraged some wild mulberries. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them, but I did read that they don’t last long just fresh on their own. I decided to make a quick custard pie with whatever ingredients I already had in the house.

Ingredients

1.5 cups of mulberries (or other berries)
1-4oz cup of lemon yogurt 
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 whole wheat pie crust (I used a pre-made one I had in the freezer)

Directions

Bake the pie crust for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Meanwhile, wash the berries carefully, removing any debris. In a medium sized bowl, mix the yogurt, eggs, and salt. Stir until the texture is smooth.

Remove the pie crust from the oven and arrange the berries in the bottom of the crust. Optional: reserve a few berries for the top. Pour the custard mixture over the top of the berries. If desired, place a few more berries on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the custard has mostly set.

[Note: If you like your pie a little sweeter, sprinkle some course natural sugar over the top.]

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Wild Foraging

[Disclaimer: I am not a foraging expert. Do not eat random things from the wild without an expert or a good field guide.]

I’ve officially become that neighbor who goes foraging for wild edibles.

This morning on Charlie’s way to the train, he rode his skateboard through a whole bunch of berries that lined the sidewalk near our house. After a short discussion about where I’d find them and assurances to each other that we’d both read that aggregate cluster berries (like blackberries) are not poisonous, I headed out with a bag.

I picked probably a pint or more of what appear to be mulberries. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with them yet (a quick jam? mulberry muffins?) but I’m looking forward to eating them and to picking some more tomorrow.

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Kale, Artichoke, & Ricotta Quiche

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I’ve been reading this book called The Everlasting Meal, and when the author mentioned pairing ricotta and kale together, I was pretty enthused. I bought some ricotta this week, and I’ve got kale growing in my garden, so last night I googled a bit until I found a ricotta and kale quiche. This one called for artichokes, and I happened to have a couple in my fridge, so I put them in there, but for me, they don’t add a lot to the dish. Next time, I’d probably sub in garlic and leave out the artichokes. I also added some fresh herbs, but I would add a whole bunch more next time.

This came together really quickly and easily. It would be great for a weeknight meal, but I chose to slice mine up and freeze most of it for a rainy day.ricottaquiche2

Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 single pie crust (I used pre-fab whole wheat)
4 eggs, beaten
8 ounces ricotta cheese (I eyeballed half a 15oz container)
1 large cooked artichoke heart, chopped (canned is ok, too)
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped and lightly steamed
2-4 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used a mix of sage, parsley, basil, and oregano)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pre-bake the crust for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and cheese. Add salt, pepper, and herbs.

Arrange the vegetables in the pre-baked crust. Pour egg mixture over top, being sure that all vegetables are coated in the egg mixture.

Pour contents of bowl into the greased cake pan and cook until custard is set, about 40-50 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Homemade Yogurt Popsicles

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We’ve been getting over pneumonia and bronchitis in our house, so popsicles have been on our mind. When we were at the grocery store the other day, I impulse-bought some popsicle molds, and I am so interested in making some awesome pops that I almost want to go out and get a second set (pops with kefir! or lavender! or lemon yogurt!). On the first night I bought them, I googled to see what I could make with what was already in the house. Just about every recipe I came across told me to use some yogurt, some fruit, and some honey. Done.

Next time, I’d probably use a strained or fuller-fat yogurt to see what that’s like, but these were very delicious.

Ingredients

8oz blueberry yogurt (I used Wallababy Organic and this was two of their tiny pots)
1 cup mixed strawberries and blueberries
2 teaspoons honey

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a blender, or in a bowl and blend it up with an immersion blender. Leave it a little chunky if you like, or get it totally smooth. Taste it and see if you want more honey. You might, but I didn’t. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze til solid. Delight.

Hello, again.

This blog has obviously been inactive for quite a while. My living situation changed a couple of times, my schedule changed, and mostly, I wasn’t doing much baking, or even much cooking that was anything out of the ordinary. But recently, I described something I’d made, and someone asked me if I’d posted it on my blog, and then I made something else, and I found myself snapping a photo or two. So, I think I’m going to start with a post or two and see how it goes. CSA season starts up in a week or so, which will surely have me making some delicious food again. 

Cheers,

cat

P.S. Here’s what my garden is looking like this year. 

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Back row: Lemon Cucumbers, improvised trellis we found in the trash, hopefully Sugar Baby Watermelons, Husk Cherries, Black Beauty Eggplant
Next row: Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Bianca Peppers
Next row: Kale, Dino Kale, Broccoli 
Front Row: Isis Candy Tomatoes, Patio Tomatoes, Walla Walla Onions&lt

Lemon Whoopie Pies Two Ways

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I’m part of an online baking community, and this month, the monthly challenge was to take a box mix and transform it. I’ve been watching a lot of Chopped lately, so I was definitely interested in seeing what I could do.

I got the idea to make Whoopie Pies, though not the traditional black and white kind. (Chocolate cake with vanilla icing is actually my least favorite.) I picked up a box of Organic Lemon Cake mix at Whole Foods early in the month, and it sat in the pantry for quite a while.

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Today I finally got into gear. I used a recipe I found online to turn the cake mix into whoopie pie mix, but the batter really looked too runny to me. Hoping for some kind of miracle, I spooned some onto the parchment. They came out thin and flat, just as I’d expected. So, I altered the recipe with some baking powder and extra flour, and then they came out perfectly.

I went ahead and assembled my whoopie pies, and I let my partner and my little brother eat some of the failed flat ones. I still had four or five of them left, though, and I had some beautiful, ripe peaches from our farm share. I sliced a peach super thin, went to the garden and got some lemon basil, and made a second beautiful dessert.

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If you want to make the Napolean variation, just omit the extra flour and baking powder. Use a cup or a cookie cutter to obtain uniform shapes, then layer the thin pastry with slivers of peaches and whipped cream or custard. Garnish with lemon basil to bring together these amazing flavors.

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For the whoopie pies, I chose to make them a bit smaller than they traditionally are. I find the larger ones to be sugar-headache inducing! For the filling, I made one buttercream, then split it and flavored half with raspberry and half with lavender.

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Ingredients
For the whoopie pies
1 box of lemon cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup flour (or til the batter is thickened; for whoopie pies only)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (for whoopie pies only)

For the filling
1 stick butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon lavender extract
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer or a large bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, water, oil, flour, and baking powder. Stir until smooth.

Drop the batter onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. I used about 1 tablespoon for each; you can make them bigger, but they may need an extra couple minutes to cook. Try to make them round!

Bake for 5-8 minutes. Carefully peel back the parchment and let the rounds cool on a rack.

Meanwhile, make the buttercream filling. In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar until a smooth frosting is formed. Add a few drops of water or milk if necessary. If making two flavors, divide the filling in half. In one bowl, add the lavender extract (to taste) and mix well. In another bowl, add the raspberry jam to taste and mix well.

Using a spoon or a piping bag (I used a star tip on the raspberry ones and an angled tip on the lavender ones, just for cuteness), fill in some frosting on the flat side of one of the whoopie pies. Add another one on top for the lid. Continue making the little sandwiches, using one flavor for some and the other for others. If you feel inspired, roll the edges in sprinkles for an extra sweet look.

Keep refrigerated. They also apparently freeze well!

First time canning: Peach Jam

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Guys, I am so proud of myself! I MADE JAM!

I haven’t opened it yet, and of course, there’s still the off-chance that I did something horribly wrong and will have botulized someone, but… I’m so happy! I truly feel like this is one more step towards getting out of the vicious consumer cycle.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that I have had lofty dreams of canning for years, but have opted to freeze things like tomato sauce, apple butter, and to make refrigerator pickles rather than to actually process them. I’m actually surprised that I even have an interest in canning. It was never something my mother did, but once, when I was a child (perhaps 9 or 10, with sun-sensitivity from antibiotics for my Lyme disease), my mom and (at the time) two younger brothers went off with another mom from our school – let’s call her Ellie-May – and her couple of children to go strawberry picking, with plans to make jam for the rest of the afternoon.

Well, if you’ve never picked strawberries or raspberries, let me tell you, it is nothing like the idyllic autumn afternoons of picking apples in mid-September.

It is hot.

It is sunny.

It involves hunching over the plants as opposed to strolling along an apple orchard and plucking the fruit from eye level.

And it is sticky.

If you happen to be with Ellie-May and her children, they will throw tantrums and torment you and your siblings. Ellie-May will bring you back to her house to make quarts upon quarts of jam, but the children will not be involved, it will be hot as hell in the house, and she will neglect to offer anyone lunch, so the already bad behavior from the children will quickly diminish.

Somehow, though, I still was interested in learning to can. Perhaps it was the trips to Lancaster that we took, where we could buy jam topped with a little square of pretty fabric from lovely Amish families. Perhaps it’s my recent love of local food, farmers markets, and learning to appreciate a simpler life.

Whatever it is, I have wanted to try this out for years, and for Christmas, Charlie bought me a canning kit. He also got me a really great book, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff. When I started perusing this book, I knew it was perfect for me. Liana isn’t super troubled if the jelly doesn’t look perfect, like me. And she uses recipes that are lower in sugar, though they still have enough to make the preserves… well… preserve. She even uses apples and other fruits in the recipes for their high pectin content, meaning that there’s no need to go buy an additional product at the store; you can simply use fruit to set up your jam.

Canning is a bit of work, but not quite as bad as I expected it to be. Here are a few tips for if you’re like me and you fatigue easily.

- Get a partner in crime. This is easy to do when you offer to share the finished product.
Don’t attempt to can fifty jars in one day. There will be other days, and it’s a much more manageable task if you do one recipe at a time.
Break your task up into steps, if possible. I found a whole lot of peaches that were seconds at the farmers market, and it took me a couple of hours to cut them all up. So, I did that one night, and I read all the instructions and assembled my materials the next day, but I was too tired to actually can that day. The day after, we canned. If I hadn’t been able to muster up the energy, I planned to use all those cut up peaches in a cobbler or a pie.

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Here I am, cutting up peaches the night of the farmers market.

I can’t wait to try another recipe from this book!

Note: I am all about changing up recipes usually, but canning needs to be very precise so that it’s safe to store on a shelf. Make sure you’re familiar with canning before you try anything besides a tested recipe.

Classic Peach Jam from Canning for a New Generation

Makes about 5 half-pint jars

12 oz Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)
4 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

Prepare for water bath canning: Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot, put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl. (See page 21 of book for details.)

Cut the apples into quarters and core them. Tie the cores and seeds in a cheesecloth bag and set aside.

Put the peaches and sugar in a wide, 6- to 8-quart preserving pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices just cover the peaches. Pour into a colander set over a large bowl and stir the peaches gently to drain off the juice. Return the juice to the pan, along with the apples and cheesecloth bag, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is thick and reduced, about 15 minutes.

Return the peaches and any accumulated juice to the pan, along with the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the peaches are very tender and a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute becomes somewhat firm (it will not gel), about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir gently for a few seconds to distibute the fruit in the liquid. Remove the bag and the apples. (Reserve the apples for another use; see page 94 of book.)

Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.

Peach Crisp with Honey & Coconut

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The weather has been unusually warm here lately, and the Jersey peaches have been available sweet and absolutely ridiculously delicious for weeks. I went to a farmers market one Tuesday almost a month ago and bought a small bucket of peaches that held perhaps five beautiful peaches. I only got to eat one of those incredible peaches, as my littlest brother, age 12, apparently ate the rest of them in immediate succession. The next week, I went back and bought two or three times as many, and I got to eat one in my morning oatmeal.

Charlie has a bit of an allergy to some hand fruits like apples and peaches, and I felt so bad that he couldn’t enjoy these awesome peaches with me. Since they don’t seem to bother him when they’re cooked, on my last trip to the farmers market, I bought enough to make a crisp or a cobbler with. (I never remember if there’s a difference between the two…)

I have a pretty big amount of honey left over from a wedding cake I did several months ago, and I’ve been thinking for a while about making a crisp/cobbler with honey as the sugar. I assumed it would be fine, but I did a bit of googling, and it seemed like people had been successful with it.

I also decided to go out on a limb and change out the fat that I used. I’ve been trying to be mindful of the food I’m putting in my body lately. (I recently got back from a roadtrip, and nearly every time I go on a roadtrip, I clean up my eating habits when I return because I feel crappy from eating so much crappy food on the road.) I decided to give coconut oil a try in this recipe since I’ve been wanting to experiment with cooking with it, and also because peach and coconut are great together.

The flavors in this were amazing. The peaches were perfect (no sweetener needed in the fruit portion). On the first day, the taste of honey shone through, but the next day, the coconut flavor showed itself a bit more. I would definitely make this again with these variations.

With a crisp, I usually just wing it, so unfortunately, these measurements are sort of approximations, but, in my experience, crisps are pretty darn forgiving, so it all works out. :)

*Note: My peaches were very juicy, and after the first day, things got a bit sloshy, so if yours are very juicy, too, I’d suggest mixing a tiny bit of cornstarch in with the fruit.

Ingredients

5-7 large peaches, pitted and cut into slices or large chunks (I left the skins on)
2 plums (optional, these were just very ripe and needed to be used)
1/3-1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons pepitas (optional)
1/3 cup coconut flakes (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the fruit in the bottom of a pan (I used a corningware one about 12x12x2).

In a mixer or large bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil. Mix until blended. Add the dry ingredients (oats, flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon) and mix until large crumbs are form. Add a bit more flour or oats if necessary. Stir in the walnuts. Spread evenly over the top of the fruit. Sprinkle the pepitas and coconut on top.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the crisp is brown and the fruit is bubbling. Enjoy warm!

Fresh Fava Bean Dip (with Garlic Scapes)

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Today we found ourselves with both some beautiful fava beans and some garlic scapes in our CSA share. Last year when we got fava beans, we grilled them, which was awesome! Ever since we started getting them, though, I’ve been wanting to turn them into a scrumptious dip. I wanted something easy, simple, and delicious, so I did a quick google search. I found Fresh Fava Bean Dip with Rosemary on the blog What Julia Ate. It was a super simple, guesstimating quantities type of recipe, which was just what I wanted. I scooped up a bit on a cracker to try, and it’s yummy. The fava flavor is very accommodating, so feel free to sub in another herb.

I’m saving it for tomorrow since we’d already begun cooking rice & beans for our meal, but I’m really looking forward to this divine dip.

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Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet Cupcakes

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I have a cupcake order coming up next month for a baby shower, and they’ve requested red velvet cupcakes, so I am testing out red velvet cupcake recipes in the next few weeks to find the very best one. 

Today I used Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet Cupcake recipe pretty much exactly as it was. This is a great cupcake. The flavor is good, the cupcake is moist, and it pairs beautifully with a basic cream cheese frosting (I used Martha’s Cream Cheese Frosting, though I added an extra splash of vanilla). The cupcake did not turn out very red, so I would definitely bump that up if you want a very red cupcake. Also, despite their great flavor, these did not dome up well, which was disappointing. Lastly, if I made them again, I would try decreasing the oil a tiny bit to see if the wrappers might be a bit less greasy, though I wouldn’t want to lose any of the terrific moistness.

Overall, these cupcakes are great; no one will be disappointed to eat one.  

Do you have a perfect red velvet cupcake recipe? Share it with me and I may feature it on the blog! 

Ingedients (Red Velvet Cupcakes)

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Directions (Red Velvet Cupcakes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting.

Cook’s Note

Gel-paste food color is much more concentrated than the supermarket liquid variety; if you substitute the liquid, you may need to add an entire bottle (1.5 ounces) to achieve the desired shade.

Ingredients (Cream Cheese Frosting)

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions (Cream Cheese Frosting)

Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.