Can She Make a Healthy Pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

cherry-pit-this-one

[Click here for the music.]
Oh, where have you been,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been,
Charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife,
She’s the joy of my life,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

Can she make a cherry pie,
Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she make a cherry pie,
Charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie,
Quick as a cat can wink an eye,
She’s a young thing
And cannot leave her mother.

Every time I think about, crave or eat cherry pie, the traditional folk song “Billy Boy” comes to mind. It’s one of those nursery rhyme-type songs that Aunt Dot used to sing to “Billy,” my husband, each time he scampered through the house.

Last Sunday, in the bleak mid-winter, I was craving cherry pie made with sour cherries which obviously are not in season. To the rescue is Trader Joe’s deep purple Morello cherries, imported from Germany. Here’s a healthy pie – Billy Boy, Billy Boy – made with whole wheat flour and sour cherries resulting in a filling that is not overcome with a heavy sugary cornstarch filling. Besides, a pie like this one is great for breakfast – fruit and a whole wheat crust.

[Healthy] Cherry Pie [Billy Boy, Billy Boy]
Use jarred Morello cherries when you can’ t get fresh. They retain their tart flavor and meaty texture. Do not use canned cherry pie filling. 

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 cups Morello cherries (2 12-oz. jars of Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 double-crust pie dough (recipe below)

Heat oven to 500 degrees and adjust oven rack to the bottom rack. Place a rimmed cookie sheet on the rack.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the cherries and the almond extract.

Spread the filling in the unbaked pie crust bottom. Place top pie crust over cherries, seal and crimp the edges and make four air slices. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.

Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, lower oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for about 35 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.morello-cherries

Coconut Oil/Whole Wheat Pie Crust
Makes enough for one 9-inch pie crust. Double the recipe for a top and bottom crust.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4-7 tablespoon water, cold

Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in coconut oil with your fingertips or use a hand mixer on low speed. Using a fork, stir in cold water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Add water gradually, a tablespoon or two at a time. Press dough into a ball, divide in half, and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least one hour.

When ready to use, let the dough come to room temperature (coconut oil hardens firmer than butter). Use flour on the surface to prevent sticking when rolling it.

Now, start singing!

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Don’t Try This Trick at Home!

I could have titled this blog “The Amazing Exploding Hungarian Noodle Casserole.” Make no mistake, this is a delicious and hardy accompaniment for a Beef Bourguignon or similar entrée. But, my first experience in serving this to my guests taught me several valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: fire and noodles don’t mix!

The scene was a dinner party at my home with a buffet table full of mouth-watering offerings. Many folks had made their first pass through the buffet table and several us were hovering around the buffet chatting when…“BAM!…SHATTER!…SPRAY!!

Stunned, we all were paralyzed, jaws dropped as we gawked at the Baked Hungarian Noodle Casserole that had literally EXPLODED!. Glass shards and noodles littered the buffet table. The dinner was ruined — glass penetrated every nook and cranny of the food and surrounding area.

Silence. No…one…said…a…word…and turned toward me.

I wanted to cry, but without missing a beat, I threw my hands in the air and exclaimed, “And now for my next trick!”

The crowd exploded (pun noted) in laughter and applause! What else could we do? Several folks helped with clean up, in disbelief that Pyrex would shatter like that! I pulled some back-up food from the fridge and brought out more wine and desserts.

Lesson 2: It doesn’t matter what you serve people, whether it’s fancy or low-key, hospitality is from the heart. The main thing is to make people feel you are glad they came. Famous chef Julia Child wrote in her autobiography that on a few occasions she served dishes that flopped and she only realized it when she took a bite along with her guests. She never batted an eye or drew attention to the food, focusing on her guests the entire time.

So what happened? I guess I had the Sterno a little too close to the Pyrex? I had no idea  Pyrex could shatter but no glass is bullet proof. For more on this topic read this article “Exploding Pyrex Cookware Mystery Solved.”

I am making this recipe for Christmas Eve dinner this year.

Lesson 3: No Sterno and no Pyrex this time.

Baked Hungarian Noodles

This recipe, from A Private Collection published by the Junior League of Palo Alto, is written to serve 24 guests because it’s suitable for a crowd. It can be easily divided by 2 to serve 12. This can be made well in advance of the party. You might question only one pound of noodles for 24 servings; be sure to use only fine noodles to get the proper volume.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound fine noodles
  • 4 cups cream-style cottage cheese
  • 4 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • Paprika
  • Freshly-grated parmesan cheese

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Combine the noodles with the remaining ingredients except the paprika and Parmesan cheese.

Place in two or three buttered casseroles and bake at 350 degrees until hot. Or, put in refrigerator at this point until ready to use. Approximately 30 minutes before serving, remove from refrigerator and bake until hot.

Sprinkle with paprika and serve with Parmesan cheese.

“While Visions of Sugar-Plums Danced in Their Heads”

I don’t really know what sugar-plums are but I decided they are anything sweet and delectable eaten during the Christmas season so you can have visions of them the night before Christmas. Sounds good to me.

Try this year’s version of my sugar-plums.

Ice Cream Cups, Inspired by Snickers®
An easy make-ahead dessert

  • 1 pint of chocolate ice cream
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • Caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 boxes of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (found in the baking aisle, not the cookie aisle)

Use about 24 paper cupcake cups. Place one chocolate wafer in each cup.

Soften the ice cream with a spoon, takes about 2-3 minutes. Stir peanut butter into the ice cream until well blended

Spread a tablespoon of ice cream mixture on each chocolate wafer. Top with a few teaspoons of caramel topping, top with another chocolate wafer, another layer of ice cream, then caramel topping. End with a chocolate wafer, drizzle with caramel sauce and red and green sprinkles. Put into freezer covered tightly for up to one week. Serve directly from freezer.

Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

You can also use vanilla ice cream with peanut butter stirred into it. Or, use both flavors and alternate layers.

True Colors

‘Tis the season for red and green and easy-to-carry party food. Spinach stuffed tomatoes provide all the color you need and this dish is easy to make ahead (even the day before) and bake when you need it. This tasty veggie dish is also a hit when you have to take something to a party because baked-ahead tomatoes can be eaten at room temp.

Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion of your choice (I use chopped shallots or finely-minced red onion)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese mixed with 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Wash tomatoes and slice a small slice off the stem end so the tomato will sit upright in a baking dish. Cut off the top of the tomato and scoop out the pulp. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a little salt. Spray baking dish with cooking spray and place cored tomatoes in dish.

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain and squeeze all water out

Add butter, cream cheese, onions, salt and pepper and combine until butter and cheese is melted.

Spoon spinach mixture into tomatoes. Top with parmesan/bread crumb mixture.

Bake for 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Can make ahead and hold in refrigerator for two days before baking.

 

 

 

 

 

It Might Be Your Grandmother’s Gooey Dessert, But It’s NOT Your Grandmother’s Hearing Loss

Hearing loss isn’t just for grandparents. You might not be an elder statesmen, but you could be losing a little hearing. Join the crowd – one in ten people have a hearing loss in the U.S.

  • Do you often think,  “I can hear but I can’t understand.”
  • Do you have trouble hearing on the phone?
  • Do you turn up the volume on the TV?
  • Do you say to yourself, “I’ll just stay in the kitchen and cook so I won’t have to talk to anyone!”

I hope I am not making you uncomfortable by asking these questions. (Quick, skip to the recipe!)

I write about the food that brings us together, but when someone is left out of the party, the family dinner, or the conversation because he or she can’t hear, that’s NOT hospitality. If you haven’t already, do something about your hearing loss today. The holidays are coming so don’t stay home or leave the party early! I love you and that’s why I am writing about this.

The Number One charitable organization in the world for people with hearing loss is HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America). I normally don’t ask for donations for charitable organizations on this blog, but this organization is a winner. Revlon has chosen HLAA for the LOVE IS ON 2016 MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE.

You have about 24 hours to make a tax-deductible contribution. Read more about HLAA and the Revlon Challenge. I’ve donated. If you think you have a hearing loss or know someone who does, you might want to as well. Click here and scroll to my photo. The LOVE IS ON! If you aren’t inclined to give (no amount is too small), just enjoy this easy recipe and peruse the blog. Thanks for reading.

Spread-the-Love Space Cake

(This is my grandmother’s gooey peanut-butter chocolate cake. Mabel Varner Space did not have a hearing loss that she admitted to, but her husband, my grandpa, sure did, as do the younger branches on the family tree!)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box graham crackers
  • Bananas, about 3-5 depending on the size of the dish
  • Chocolate frosting, about 1-2 cups
  • Peanut butter, about 1 to 2 cups

DIRECTIONS

Layer graham crackers in a baking pan. Slice bananas lengthwise and layer on top of graham crackers. Repeat the layers at least twice until you end with graham crackers. Frost the top with your favorite chocolate frosting mixed with peanut butter (about half and half). Cover tightly and let cake sit for at least 24 hours before eating it. It gets better with age and will hold in the refrigerator a few days after that.

[Photo by Cindy Dyer.]

It’s Not the 1960s Anymore

By this time in 1969, I had consumed at least (at least!) 52 Sealtest ® Ice Cream Sandwiches at the local Clarion pool in the college town where I grew up. Clarion was sleepy in the summer because the college kids left and all the happenings were at the pool on Liberty Street or down at the river.

I remember those ice cream sandwiches from the vending machine – thick with ice cream, not like the skimpy ones today. Maybe when you’re a kid everything just seems bigger and better like the little house you grew up in.

I never deviated from that frozen treat, even though the lure of banana popsicles beckoned. I think I only sat out one week that summer when I had what mom called, “sun poisoning.” I looked like a lobster with bumps and the word “poisoning” scared me enough to stay home, but it killed me!

The pool closed down after that for several years on and off for repairs and I never really got back into going. I found books, bicycling and baking instead. Hang on to those good memories as you build new ones.

2016 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pictured above is my brownie bar filled with Breyers® Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Cut the brownies into squares, freeze them. Take them out of the freezer and slice in half crosswise and top each half with your favorite flavor of ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt. Make little ice cream sandwiches and wrap each individually with plastic wrap. Make a ton and keep them in the freezer for when the kids come in looking for something good.

Cookies work well too. I used molasses cookies here. And, keep enjoying summer with all those food memories!

Susie-Infused Shrimp

Susie makes a succulent marinated shrimp and avocado salad. I’ve never met Susie but I couldn’t help but think about her yesterday when preparing this dish for a picnic.

Do you ever feel like you know someone just by hearing about her over many years? Susie is Nancy’s sister. I know she makes delicious and creative food. She’s pretty, fun and loves her family. She’s also a youngish grandmother who loves cuddling babies. I can picture the kind of clothes she wears because Nancy will often say, “My sister Susie could get away with wearing that! (And it’s always something stylish.) Susie also talks to the hummingbirds that linger on her feeders, “Hi sweetie…”

Now you know Susie like I know Susie. Enjoy one of her signature recipes.

Marinated Shrimp and Avocado

  • 2 lbs. shrimp, peeled, cooked and deveined
  • 2 small onions sliced (I used one bunch of green scallions)
  • 12 mushrooms, sliced
  • Lemon-Thyme Marinade (recipe below)
  • 2 avocados cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine the shrimp, onions and mushrooms in a bowl. Toss lightly. Pour in the Lemon-Thyme Marinade and toss gently to coat. Chill covered in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Add avocado a few hours before serving. Drain the marinade and serve.

Lemon-Thyme Marinade

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I added some fresh thyme from my garden to the dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Whisk ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.