Lemon Icebox Pie

Bob is a big pie fan. He likes pie way more than cake or cookies or other desserts and it is what he wants me to bake if I give him an open choice. His favorite pie is his mom’s lemon icebox pie. This isn’t a pie I’m familiar with and one I’ve never made, so when he brought me a few cookbooks from his mom’s house, I looked through them and found a recipe for a lemon icebox pie and decided to try it.

img_20190617_092321The original recipe I found was different than most pie recipes I am familiar with, but it did remind me a little of a key lime pie. It is a condensed milk based pie with a cookie crust and a sweet meringue on top. I did balk at the original 6 tablespoons of sugar in the meringue and altered that part of the recipe (I just couldn’t bring myself to do 6 tablespoons of sugar) including using coconut sugar in the meringue instead of regular granulated sugar.

Recipe:

  • Nilla wafers (about 2/3 of a box)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar

Pre-head oven to 325. Melt butter. Crush vanilla wafers to make about 1 3/4 – 2 cups wafer crumbs. Butter a pie pan, including the sides. Mix wafer crumbs and melted butter and press into the pie pan. Line the sides of the pan with whole Nilla Wafers.

In a medium bowl, mix condensed milk and egg yolks. Add zest of two lemons and juice of three lemons to the milk mixture and combine well. Pour into prepared pie pan.

In a large, clean bowl beat egg white until stiff peaks begin to form. Add sugar, slowly, to desired sweetness (I think 1.5 tablespoons would be best, but since the original recipe called for 6, I just halved that to see how it would go). Cover pie filling with meringue, covering the pie completely (you could leave the whole wafers uncovered, but cover the filling completely).

Bake pie in 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes. The meringue should be lightly browned and the filling is set.

Sourdough French Toast

Val gave me a sourdough starter and brought sourdough bread with her when she came out for Mom’s birthday. I don’t usually have bread in the house … not unless I am making something specific so French toast is usually not on the menu. But … fresh home-made bread just begs to be made into French toast, so I did.

French toast isn’t hard – start with day old bread, or slightly stale bread. Eggs, milk, butter and a hot pan and you have breakfast.

Recipe:

  • 1/2 loaf sourdough bread, sliced thick
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • butter, maple syrup and fruit for serving

Beat eggs and milk in a bowl. Dip bread into egg mixture and let soak for a few minutes. Heat a large frying pan over a medium high flame and melt some butter in the pan to coat the bottom. Before adding the bread, dip each side of the bread again in the egg mixture. Cook a few minutes on each side – until the egg coating begins to brown. Serve immediately.

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Potato Corn & Leek Soup

Sometimes I want a simple meal. Something hearty and delicious, but I want it to not take a lot of brain power to make. One of my favorites in this category is soup because it really is filling and can have great flavors without being difficult. Yes, there are soups that are more complicated, but sometimes a straightforward soup is just as good.

When I was at the farmers market over the weekend I found really pretty corn and a beautiful leek. What better way to use them in the middle of winter than in a soup.

The one thing that may seem a little strange here is the corn cobs in the soup. I add them in when I’m cooking the potatoes because I think it adds to the flavor of the soup. It’s like the bay leaf – you can leave it out, but it is just better if you add it in.

Recipe:

  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced – about 1/2 cup
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large russet/baking potato
  • 4 cups vegetable broth/stock
  • 2 ears corn with the cobs (or about a cup of frozen corn)
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil or butter for pan

Slice the leek lengthwise then chop into small pieces. Place in a bowl and add water. Gently toss the leeks to separate then let sit about three or four minutes. (This is where I chop the onion and garlic). Remove leeks from water – do not pour out -clean out the bowl and repeat. Leeks keep a lot of dirt trapped, so I like to clean them twice.

Heat the butter or oil in a large pot and when hot add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring about three minutes (the second cleaning of the leeks for me). Season with salt and pepper. I used about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Yes, kosher salt – more on that later. Add the clean leeks and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked down a little and soft. (About 5 minutes)

Peel and chop the potato. Once leeks and onion are cooked down, add potato, vegetable broth and bay leaf to the pot. If you have the corn cobs, remove the kernels here and add the cobs to the pot. If not, skip. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook about 25 minutes until the potatoes are done. Remove cobs and bay leaves, add the corn kernels and cook about 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot. If I had some chives, I would have added those to the top as a pretty garnish, but it really isn’t necessary.

*So the kosher salt. I know lots of chefs and cooks who deride kosher salt because it is much saltier than regular salt or sea salt. But that is actually why I’ve moved to using it when I cook. I love my salt grinder and the light tough of salt that I can get with it, but I wasn’t getting enough salt when I used it (I have awful luck with salt grinders – it’s a little maddening). So I experimented with the kosher salt, and was careful in how much I used and found that if I use it for the initial seasoning – just at the beginning – my dishes were coming out much better and I didn’t need to add more salt as I ate, or even during more of the cooking process most of the time. So … yes, kosher salt.

Clean out the fridge soup

On the day I’m writing this it is cold. Below 40 in the morning in south Florida cold. I broke out the blueberry (the very warm winter jacket Val bought for me the first year I had Jessie), the scarf and gloves to walk Arthas. It may have been overkill to some, but it worked for me. 40 is cold, especially after ten years in Florida.

But it is also a great day to make soup and making soup means cleaning out the fridge. Soup was not on the list to make this week, but I decided to go ahead and make it since it’s cold and Bob is sick. Homemade soup is always good when you are sick.

So … I stared at the contents of my pantry and refrigerator for a bit and settled on barley and vegetable soup. I had celery on it’s last legs, carrots that I was not sure would last a whole lot longer, a zucchini I intended to use the week before and garlic that was just starting to sprout. Add some onion, a can of fire roasted tomatoes, the chard that I HAVE to use this week, vegetable stock and seasoning and you have … soup.

I have to admit, like most of the time when I just wing it in the kitchen, I got very nervous about this. It’s a lot of vegetables and if it doesn’t taste right it is a lot of food wasted. But I was pleasantly surprised. The soup has a nice depth to it and it is both light and filling at the same time. I would love to take this soup for lunch when I know I”m going to have access to a microwave, so to the freezer some of this soup will go.

Recipe:

  • Celery (about 3/4 cup, diced)
  • Carrot (about 3/4 cup, diced
  • Onion (about 1 cup, diced)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic (enough for about 2 teaspoons minced)
  • Zucchini (about 1 medium, diced)
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup quick cooking barley (or grain of your choice)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large leaves Swiss Chard, chopped including stems
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

In a large pot heat oil. When hot, add celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium high heat for about three minutes then add the zucchini and cook another 4-5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Add fire roasted tomatoes, vegetable broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Reduce heat, add barley (or other grain) and simmer, covered, on low heat for ~25 minutes.

Remove lid. Add chard and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning again if needed. Cook on low for about 3 minutes. Serve hot with bread, and if you like, some grated cheese.

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Chickpea Curry

I have a love/hate relationship with curry. I love the taste, love the texture and love the warm, comforting feeling I get from a good curry, but trying to make curry is really frustrating. It is probably the most frequent “yeah, I can’t eat this” dish I experiment with and I hate that feeling. You know, the one where you feel like you wasted time, food and money and it really, really didn’t work. I don’t attempt curries often because I hate this feeling but I’m pretty sure the few times we have not been able to eat something I’ve made, it was a curry.

Given this, I was skeptical of the recipe I found on Hurry The Food Up. I mean, it’s another curry recipe and they generally look kind of do-able, but this looked really possible. As in easy possible not just give it a go possible. So I tried it. Since I wasn’t thinking it would work, I didn’t bother with pictures and that was a mistake. Oh my gosh, this was good. A month or so later, I made it again because … well … it seemed like I found a curry recipe that I could do and I wanted to see if it was a fluke or not. Nope – really good and still easy. But I forgot pictures. So, I tried again and the results speak for themselves …

I actually follow this recipe except I only use one onion. Other than that – make it as is. It will taste a little meh until you add in the maple syrup and lime juice, but once you do … oh my gosh, it is so good. Bob even likes it (a lot) and chickpeas are not high on his list of go-to food items. Seriously, try it. It is awesome!

 

Caramel Pecan Pie

When I asked Bob what kind of dessert he wanted me to make for the holidays, he said pie. When I asked what kind of pie, I got the answer I expected – pecan pie. Bob was raised in the south so pecan pie is taken fairly seriously. I’ve made some good ones before, but decided to up the game a little and make a caramel pecan pie.

I thought about not using a recipe and coming up with my own, but this was going to go with us to his sister’s for the holiday, so I decided against just winging it. Unfortunately I forgot the pie – I left it in the microwave to cool so Arthas would not get to it (that is a thing in our house) and totally forgot it. The internet has a ton of recipes for pecan pie, and quite a few of them are caramel pecan pie. I settled on this one from Spicy Southern Kitchen that looked both easy and good. For the most part I followed this recipe – I did use pecan pieces instead of half pecan and I upped the amount of nuts to almost three cups, and I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the caramel just as it finished – and the results were amazing. High praise all around so I’m definitely keeping this recipe.

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Seriously – just make it. It’s that good and totally worth every calorie.

 

“Right Proper” Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

A few weeks ago Bob and I did our annual DC trip. We had an amazing meal at the Fancy Radish, a completely vegan restaurant. I honestly can’t say enough about that meal, but this post isn’t about that – although I’m pretty much betting we end up back there next year because it was so good.

This post is about a dish we shared at another restaurant, the Right Proper Brewing Company. While most of the meal was good, the Brussels Sprouts from the appetizer list was just fantastic. When we were done eating, I had really, really wished I had the sprouts all to myself for dinner.

So what does any self-respecting home cook do when faced with a fantastic dish that you know you can’t get again for a while (that is possible to make – I am not attempting the Fancy Radish dishes …. they were a little too different than what is in my repertoire to really attempt)? You make you own version.

Because this was a lunch dish, I wanted more than just the Brussels Sprouts, I wanted some tofu and rice too. I figured this would increase the protein and the full feeling factor. I didn’t have a recipe for any of this … I just went with what I had on hand, a little knowledge from having made pieces of this in different forms before and a bit of tasting along the way.

Recipe:

  • Brussels Sprouts (I think I had 10 oz)
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2/3-3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tbs. ginger (puree from the refrigerator section of the grocery)
  • 2-3 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
  • 1 Tbs.  rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. corn starch
  • salt and pepper
  • oil – I used a combination of olive oil and sesame oil
  • Scallions (optional)
  • Dry roasted peanuts (optional)

Brussels Sprouts:

Pre-heat oven to 400. Wash, dry, and trim the Brussels Sprouts. Cut in half and toss with about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes tossing half way through. You want the sprouts crispy and slightly charred, but not burnt.

Tofu:

Cut tofu into cubes of desired size. Lay flat on a cutting board lined with a paper towel. Layer another paper towel on top and press down. Let sit for a few minutes while you make the sauce.

Transfer the tofu to a bowl or a zip top bag and add 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Toss to coat.

Heat oil in a frying pan (I used half olive and half sesame for a bit of extra flavor but you can use whatever you like). When oil is hot, add coated tofu to the pan. Spread out and let cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom is crisp and lightly browned/golden in color. Turn and toss to ensure the oil is evenly distributed. Cook about 3-5 minutes, until the second side is golden in color.

Thai Peanut Sauce:

Combine soy sauce, peanut butter, ginger, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar and maple syrup. Mix well and taste. Adjust amounts as needed – more soy for more salt, maple syrup for sweetness, peanut butter to cut the salt, chili garlic for more heat. You could also thin it more with warm water, but I like a thicker sauce.

To Plate:

IMG_20181216_115836Spoon rice onto the plate. Top with Brussels Sprouts and tofu. Drizzle sauce (be generous – this dish is really about the sauce) over everything. Top with chopped peanuts and scallions if desired.

IMG_20181216_121220The best part of this – leftovers!