Thursday, July 10, 2014

Homemade Banana Pudding-- In A Jar

The best laid plans... yeah. About that. Once a year, my heart rate quickens at the thought of having an entire month off work. Don't hate me. It's without pay, and well earned at the end of a school year. For one whole month, I can turn off my alarm clock. I can catch up on the pile of ironing I hate need to do.  I can swim in our subdivision lap pool. 

Oh! I can blog more than once a week.  Yes, I was going to accomplish all these things.  As the end-of-the-school year countdown began, I had fantasies of making the recipes I've pinned-- greeting my husband with full make-up, a smile and a romantically set table. Didn't happen.  None of it.

What was I thinking when I signed up for a summer class at our community college?!  I've spent almost every day, driving to class and working on my homework.  Next year, I have to rethink this strategy.

 Buy "almost ripe" bananas for best results.

We did manage to make time to spend with some dear friends, who invited us for dinner, at their home. I offered to bring dessert, which was graciously accepted.  I refer to Mr. "D" as our "Southern Gentleman Friend", since he's from Atlanta, Georgia.

Whenever I think of him, I think of Southern recipes. No, I wasn't born in the South. I did, however, spend a few days in Atlanta and Savannah a lifetime ago. To this day, I remember how delicious the food was.  I've never had Banana Pudding (except for that boxed stuff), and I thought this would be a dessert he'd like.  I searched around for recipes and I knew I wanted to make the pudding, from scratch.

Once again, I found the recipe I wanted on Cook's Illustrated's sister website, "Cook's Country" (I subscribe to them). I liked the idea of roasting the bananas, to intensify their flavor.  So, I got to work that morning.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Grilled Steakhouse Steak Tips

Before I talk about this grilled steakhouse steak tip recipe, let me jump in and say that this is one of the best grilled steak recipes I've ever had!  Best of all, the marinade wasn't too fussy to make, and the grilling process/time was super quick. Win! Believe me, you will want to make this. Stat.

The older I become, the more I find that I try not to eat red meat more than once a week-- sometimes, even less.  But, every so often, I crave a juicy steak on the grill.

I had bookmarked a recipe for marinated, skewered, steaks that sounded like something I'd like to prepare.  I asked my husband to buy some skirt steak for me, while making a run to Costco for me. He returned with flap meat.  Flap meat?  "That doesn't sound very good", I thought to myself.  I was dubious (and had to squelch my dissappointment that I didn't get the skirt steak that I wanted), but the butcher convinced Craig that it's pretty much the same thing.  Now, what do I do? Risk it or...

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Is rhubarb a fruit or vegetable? Apparently, in the US it's considered a vegetable.  The only way I've eaten is is in desserts. So, I say it's a fruit. Yes?
Spring is when rhubarb makes it's appearance in the produce section.  Where we live, we can buy it until late fall. They resemble celery stalks with vibrant colors of red and green.  The only recipes I've used rhubarb is in Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie or Fruit Crisps.  The strawberries give a sweet contrast to the tartness of the rhubarb, in a good way.  It's even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

One of the reasons I was anxious to make this coffee cake is that rhubarb is the star of the show-- and I thought that the caramelized rhubarb looks really pretty, once the cake is inverted on a platter.

The cake has sour cream added, which pretty much guarantees plenty of moisture.  The third element is a layer of crumb topping, which becomes the bottom once the cake is inverted!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Olallieberry Iced Hand Pies (and Blitz Puff Pastry Dough)


I realize that not everyone has even heard of olallieberries. That's because they are primarily grown on the Central Coast of California. This is also "home" for us, and my husband planted olallies a few years ago.  Olallies have a very short season-- typically mid to late May, lasting for about a month. Before we know it, the season is over and so I try to freeze enough to last for the rest of the year. Sadly, this year, the season didn't yield as much as last year-- most likely, because of our severe drought. Phooey.

So, if you don't have olallieberries, no worries. This recipe is really all about the pastry, which turned out to be tender and flaky.  Winner! You can use any kind of berries that you like. I promise you that your family will love holding these pastries in their hands, and savoring the flavors of summer berries.

The best way I can describe how olallieberries taste would be that they resemble a blackberry. When ripe, the color is a gorgeous deep purple.

They have a sweet-tart flavor, resembling a raspberry.   My husband is crazy about them! When Craig presented me with a large bowl of freshly picked olallies, I  knew it wouldn't be enough to make a large batch of jam.  (Fortunately, I make a lot of olallieberry jam, to last all year.)

I immediately thought of  Olallieberry PieI reconsidered, thinking that hand pies would be a fun way to go.  A few years ago, I made my first "Blitz Pastry" and I loved it. Think of Blitz Pastry as a faster and easier version of making your own puff pastry (and I have never made my own classic puff pastry, and seriously doubt I ever will).  Don't quote me, but somehow all that folding and layering of butter-- I'll leave it to the pros. 

Let's make Blitz Puff Pastry, shall we?  Most of the ingredients are the same as a classic all-butter pie crust. We do add baking powder, however. Oh, and salt.  The butter should be very cold.  You can use a pastry cutter, but I prefer to use my food processor.  Just pulse the butter into coarse and crumbly pieces.

Next, we add sour cream and pulse until you can still see pea-sized chunks of butter. (Overworking the dough means that we are building gluten-- and this leads to a very tough crust. We don't want that.)  I dumped the dough onto a generously floured surface (wishing I had granite counter tops).  I had to compress the dough with my fingers, so it would all stick together (again, not kneading it, just squeezing it until everything stuck together.

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