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Monday, August 31, 2015

Blueberry Peach Pie

Blueberries are abundant right now.  We've been picking them for the last couple of weeks. (Or, I really should say Don has been picking them.)  The freezer is bursting at the seams with our new crop. But we've been eating our share of the fresh berries as well.  A blueberry pie is always a welcome dessert and using the fresh berries makes them taste even better.  What I didn't know was how delicious blueberries and peaches could be when combined in a pie.  

We've also been blessed this year with fat, juicy Ontario peaches.  I don't know if it was a particularly good year for peaches but these are wonderful.  We've been eating them all the month of August as they've been on sale each week.   Each time I bite into a peach, juice starts running down my chin and I've started eating them with my head over the kitchen sink trying to avoid a change of clothing.  Yes, my t-shirts are full of peach juice.  Thankfully, that washes out better than blueberry juice.  

As I was in the midst of this blueberry and peach festival, I saw a television show about pies where one of the bakers had combined huckleberries and peaches together.   It looked good so I thought I'd give it a try with blueberries and peaches as I had both on hand.  I suppose people have been combining blueberries and peaches for years but I hadn't, so I was up to the challenge.  

Because I'd never made a Blueberry Peach Pie before, I had a look on the internet to see what others were putting in their pies.  I found some people used spices such as cinnamon and allspice and even nutmeg.  I decided against using the spices because I wanted to taste the lovely peaches and I was afraid the spices would mask their flavour.  There also seemed to be too much sugar in most pies--up to a full cup in a nine inch pie!  That seemed way too much, especially for sweet fresh fruit.  So I decided I'd plunge ahead and make the pie my own way and see what happened.

The next day I got busy making my new pie and oh, YUM!  Why hadn't I made Blueberry Peach Pie before?  Don and I finished off a 9-inch pie in two days!  I was so busy eating it I almost forgot to take a picture of the cut pie.  I promised Nan Gill a slice and had to make another pie because the two "greedy guts" had eaten the whole pie themselves.  Nan didn't mind because she now had a whole pie instead of a slice.

Here's my Blueberry Peach Pie. I went with a ½ cup sugar but I could have used even a little less as the peaches were so sweet. But sugar amounts are a matter of taste.  I think if I was using frozen berries and peaches the half cup would have been perfect.  Frozen fruits are not as sweet as fresh. 

Blueberry Peach Pie
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh peach slices, about 3 medium large peaches 
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 tablespoon butter, optional
1 9-inch unbaked double pie crust, homemade or purchased
 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Have the pie crust rolled out and fitted into a 9-inch pie plate.  

Mix the berries and peaches together in a large bowl.  Mix in the sugar and tapioca.  Pile the mixture into the prepared pie crust.  Dot with butter if you wish and cover the filling with the top crust.  Seal the edges and crimp.  Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.  Lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until the middle of the pie is bubbling.  If your crust starts to brown or burn cover with foil.  

Remove the pie from the oven and cool before cutting (if you can wait).   You can serve the pie warm but if you serve it hot you'll burn your tongue and then you won't be able to taste the pie.  A scoop of ice cream would be so nice with the pie but we didn't have any in the freezer so we ate ours "à la naked" and didn't mind one bit.

Makes 6-8 servings. 

 Mix the blueberries, peaches, sugar and minute tapioca together.

The sugar and tapioca should be well distributed throughout the fruit.

 Pile the filling into the pie crust.  Dot with butter if you wish. 

Cover the filling with the top pastry, seal and crimp the edges.  

Bake in the preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes then lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake an additional 20-25 minutes.  The middle of the pie should be bubbling.  This insures the tapioca has been thoroughly cooked.  

The pie crust should be a golden colour.  If it starts browning too quickly cover the edges with foil.

Oozing with blueberries and peaches, this pie is a taste delight for the mouth.

Here's a piece of Blueberry Peach Pie, just for you!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tater Tot and Vegetable Casserole--Vegetarian

Tater Tot Casserole is one of those dishes that just about everyone likes and is quickly put together to serve at a family gathering or bring to a potluck.  Not a gourmet dish, it is full of convenience and processed foods, but it tastes great and makes a large dish for those gatherings.  

The sauce for Tater Tot Casserole is made from condensed cream of mushroom soup, milk and sour cream.  The combination of sour cream and mushroom soup makes a tangy gravy-like sauce that complements the remaining ingredients well.  If you don't like mushroom soup use your favourite cream soup.  I like mushroom soup and can eat it cold from the can if necessary.  (I know some of you are gagging at that thought.) 

This Tater Tot Casserole does have at least one redeeming nutritional quality, because it does contain vegetables.  Not every Tater Tot Casserole recipe contains vegetables but I like the convenience of an all-in-one dinner dish.  Choose your favourite vegetable or combination of vegetables.  I often use frozen mixed vegetables or I combine whatever I have in the fridge (which is a good way to clean out the vegetable drawer).  Broccoli can be used, but be aware it over cooks and looks nasty in the finished dish.

I haven't included any salt in the recipe as the canned soup, cheese and the tater tots are quite salty in themselves and I find the casserole salty enough as it is.  If you think you may want more salt, please add what you think will be sufficient or pass the salt shaker.  

Tater Tot Casserole
1 bag frozen tater tots or crowns
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon oil or butter
1½ cups veggie burger
2-3 cups lightly cooked, any mix of favourite cooked vegetable(s)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
½ cup milk
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet and a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Spread tater tots in a greased baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes in 400 degree oven.

While tater tots are baking prepare remaining ingredients.

In a frying pan sauté the onion in the oil until soft and starting to caramelize.  Add the veggie burger  and stir to heat through. Mix in your choice of vegetable(s), soup, milk, and sour cream.  Spread mixture in the prepared 9x13-inch dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup of the cheese. Cover mixture with the baked tator tots and bake for 20 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Remove from oven after 20 minutes and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese over top of casserole.  Return to oven about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and tator tops are crispy.

Makes 8-10 servings.  

Serve with additional sour cream, if desired.

 Sauté onions until softened and starting to caramelize.  Stir in the veggie burger to heat.

Add vegetables and mushroom soup.  On the left I used lightly cooked carrots and green beans.  On the right I used lightly cooked frozen mixed vegetables.  Any favourite vegetable such as broccoli, peas, carrots, green beans, corn, etc. will work nicely in the casserole.

Mix the milk and sour cream with the veggie burger and soup mixture.

Pour the hot mixture in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.  Cover with the prebaked tater tots. 

Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove and sprinkle with remaining cup of cheese.  Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the tater tots are crisp and cheese is melted.

Serve the Tater Tot Casserole with a green vegetable or tossed salad.  Extra sour cream can be served on the side if desired.

  Hot and tasty--Tater Tot Casserole with Vegetables.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Brown Onion Gravy

Many years ago I was invited out for dinner.  I was anticipating a lovely meal with turkey, potatoes and vegetables and of course gravy.  Everything was well cooked but I was sorely disappointed with the gravy.  It had as much flavour as a pot of wall paper paste.  That pasty flavoured sauce left an indelible impression on my gravy loving brain.  Some may have lapped up that gravy, thinking it was delicious but coming from my background, living with the "Gravy Queen", and eating the best gravy ever, I knew it was not good.  

Mom made the best gravy anyone could ever wish to eat.  It was wonderfully flavoured and always well seasoned.  It was an integral part of most of the dinners we ate.  To have potatoes without gravy would be like having summer without sun.  

My mother used to tell us the story of the Christmas she dropped the turkey when removing it from the oven.  It slid across the floor and all the pan juices splattered everywhere.  Mom saved the turkey but the pan juices, which the gravy is made from, were gone.  No one knew what happened in the kitchen and we were certainly none the wiser about how the gravy appeared on our plates.  Mom would smile as she told us how she cleaned up the turkey and made an onion gravy to go along with the unfortunate bird.  She'd laugh then because Dad didn't even realize what had happened and how he enjoyed the gravy with his Christmas dinner. 

Mom could eat gravy like soup so it's no wonder I have inherited her love of the savoury sauce.  Since that fateful day of the turkey disaster I have become vegetarian and no longer rely on the pan juices of meat to make gravy.  I, like my mother, can make a great Brown Onion Gravy that is quite delicious on a pile of mashed potatoes and can be enjoyed by both meat eaters and vegetarians.  The key to a successful onion gravy is the caramelization of the onions and flour before adding the liquid.  And don't forget the salt.  Salt is a flavour enhancer which is so often lacking in poorly made homemade gravies.  

I know it's easy to grab a package of gravy mix but sometimes you just need a potful of the good homemade stuff to make your dinner special. It takes only fifteen minutes to make this tasty Brown Onion Gravy.  

Brown Onion Gravy
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups hot water or vegetable broth or vegetarian "beef" or "chicken" bouillon
Few drops gravy browning, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter and oil together in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat.  Add the onions and sauté until they start to turn a light golden colour.  Season with the salt.  

Add the flour to the onions and stir until well blended.  Continue cooking and stirring over low to medium heat until the flour and onions turn a deeper golden brown colour.  This will take about five minutes.  Be careful not to burn the flour mixture. 

Add the hot liquid of your choice, stirring constantly as you do.  You can use water, a vegetable broth or mix a vegetarian bouillon cube in water for the liquid.  Any of these will work equally well and add different flavours to the gravy.  Continue to stir and bring to a boil until the gravy thickens.  Cook an additional 2 minutes after the mixture comes to a boil to avoid a raw flavour.

Taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings.  If you made your gravy with water it will require more salt to bring out the onion flavour.  Start with an additional ¼ teaspoon salt and add more as needed.  If you used a broth or bouillon add more salt if needed as these can be salty enough.  Do not under season the gravy.  If you like pepper add that now as well.  

If you prefer a deeper coloured gravy, add a few drops of gravy browning.  You can find that near the packaged and canned gravies in your grocery store.  

The gravy is now ready to be served.  Store any left-over gravy in the refrigerator.  Reheat over low heat.  

Makes about 2 cups gravy.  

If you want a vegan gravy, substitute vegan margarine for the butter. 

Heat the oil and butter together and sauté the onions adding the salt to flavour.  

When the onions have turned a light golden colour, add the flour and cook and stir about 5 minutes until the flour and onions have deepened in colour.  Add the hot liquid and stir and cook until the gravy has thickened.

If you prefer a darker colour gravy, add a few drops of gravy browning.  Adjust the seasoning.  If you have used water you will need to add more salt.  If you have used a broth or bouillon make sure you taste before adding the salt as the broth/bouillon is usually salty.  If you like pepper, add that now as well. 

The gravy is now ready to serve. 

I served the Brown Onion Gravy with Dinner Patties, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

A well-seasoned gravy is a welcome addition to a mound of mashed potatoes.

Tasty Brown Onion Gravy perfectly tops your dinner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Homemade Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

Some time ago I mentioned I wanted the "Homemakers' Cookbook and Guide to Nutrition".  It was a cookbook my mother owned and I spent hours looking through this book, even as an adult.  Mom's book didn't survive through the years but I longed to have one just like hers.  I made a search through cyberspace and found several on Ebay and left a few pointed hints to the boys and, what do you know, I received this one for my birthday a few months ago.   It's one of the best gifts I've ever received because it means so much to me. 

The cookbook David and Peter
gave me for my birthday.
The inside cover and flyleaf.  

The edge of the book.

There was a simple Vanilla Custard Ice Cream in the "Homemaker's Cookbook" that I wanted to try. The ingredient amounts were just perfect to fit in my tabletop ice cream freezer and there were no weird or strange ingredients. The directions were straight forward and needed little adjustments for the 21st century.  The book was published in 1947 and has quite a few antiquated, if not charming, terms and instructions.  

The recipe.  I've changed it a little.

Vanilla is the world's most popular flavour of ice cream.  I can understand that based on production and sales because vanilla ice cream forms the base of  so many flavoured ice creams.  And who doesn't grab a container of vanilla ice cream when shopping because just about everyone will eat it plain or drizzled with a chocolate, strawberry or butterscotch sauce?  It goes with almost any dessert.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream with a slice of  pie or a piece of cake takes the dessert from ordinary to special.  (I know there will be naysayers but vanilla ice cream is king.)

We enjoyed the Vanilla Custard Ice Cream, as I have renamed it.  I did use vanilla bean paste in place of the vanilla extract.  Vanilla beans are so expensive but if you want those little specks of vanilla bean showing, the paste is a good alternative.   

Vanilla Custard Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
¾ cup sugar, or to taste
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1 or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, or to taste

Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat.  Mix cornstarch with cold water and pour into the hot milk stirring constantly until thickened.  Add the sugar to the beaten eggs and temper with some of the hot milk.  Gradually add the tempered eggs to the thickened milk stirring constantly.  Cook an additional 2 minutes over medium low heat.  Strain custard though a fine sieve and let cool.  Whisk  the cream and vanilla into the cooled custard.  Refrigerate until cold.  Freeze according to ice cream manufacturer's directions.

Makes about 1 litre (1 quart).

The ingredients:  Milk, cream, eggs, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla.

Cook the milk and cornstarch together.  

Beat the eggs and sugar together.

Pour some of the hot milk mixture into the eggs and sugar.  This will temper the eggs so they don't scramble.  No one want's "Scrambled Egg Ice Cream"!  

Pour the tempered mixture back into the hot milk mixture and continue to cook an additional 2 minutes.  

Strain the custard through a sieve.  This ensures there are no small lumps of cooked egg or cornstarch left in the custard.

Cool the mixture a little and add the vanilla.  At the last moment I decided to use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract.  I like the little black seeds showing in the ice cream. 

 Then stir in the cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours.  

Freeze according to manufacturer's directions.  I have this little electric tabletop freezer.  Not quite as sturdy as the old hand-cranked freezers but adequate for our needs.

When frozen pack the ice cream in a bowl or plastic tub and continue the freezing process in your refrigerator freezer or deep freezer.  But, of course, you can dig in right away.

Your Vanilla Custard Ice Cream will be frozen hard enough to scoop in about 4-5 hours.  

Absolutely delicious!  So much better than store-bought.

Here, have a lick!
Just what you need on a hot summer day.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Blueberry & Pineapple Layered Dessert

If necessity is the mother of invention then this Blueberry & Pineapple Eclair Cake is certainly a child of that mother.  Having almost a full can of crushed pineapple sitting around in the fridge for nearly a week I felt obligated to do something with it before it met its fate in the garbage.   And because I'd been picking and packing blueberries all week I thought of combining the two fruits in some kind of dessert.  And because we'd finally gotten some hot and humid weather, after a nasty and cold July, I didn't want to bake or cook anything that would add to the humidity.  (Although, as one person has said, "Humidity is the only heat we get.")  So I thought and thought and looked through cookbooks and then went online and finally had a look through my recipe files.  There was nothing I wanted to make--too much work, or it didn't sound nice, or it had strange ingredients.  Then my eyes fell upon my recipe for Chocolate Eclair Cake which is on this blog as well as in my files.  I could add blueberries and the crushed pineapple to the filling and have a new dessert (and use up that pineapple).  I had all the ingredients in the cupboard or fridge so I was good to go.  

Easy to make, it comes together in minutes if the cream cheese is at room temperature.  I made a few minor changes to the original recipe but it's basically the same with the addition of fresh blueberries and drained crushed pineapple. 


Blueberry & Pineapple Layered Dessert
1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
2 packages vanilla instant pudding (each package makes four ½-cup servings)
3 cups milk
3 cups whipped topping or whipped cream
21-23 whole graham wafers 

2 or 3 cups fresh blueberries
1 570 ml (19-ounce) can crushed pineapple, well drained

Chocolate or Vanilla Icing (recipe follows)
Chopped nuts or toasted coconut for garnish

Beat cream cheese with a little milk.  Gradually add all milk and the dry pudding mixes.  Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.  Fold in whipped topping.  If you are using a frozen whipped topping, let it thaw before using.  Fold in the blueberries and drained crushed pineapple. 

Layer whole graham wafers and pudding in a 9"x13" dish.  You should have 3 layers of wafers and 2 layers of pudding mix, starting and ending with wafers.  Frost with vanilla or chocolate icing.  Sprinkle with a few chopped nuts or toasted coconut if desired. Set overnight in refrigerator.

While in the refrigerator overnight, the crackers will absorb moisture from the pudding and turn soft and cake-like.  Any leftovers must be refrigerated.

Chocolate Icing
4 tablespoon butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons cocoa
1¾ cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
4 tablespoons milk

Mix together until creamy and smooth.  Only use as much milk as you need.

Vanilla Icing

4 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1¾-2 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Mix together until creamy and smooth.  Only use as much milk as you need.

Beat the cream cheese with a little of the milk until there are no lumps.  Add the dry pudding and the remaining milk and beat 2 minutes.  Fold in the whipped cream or whipped topping. 

Fold the blueberries and drained pineapple into the pudding mixture.

  Line the baking dish with graham wafers.  I made half a recipe.

Spread half the pudding mixture over the bottom layer of wafers and top the pudding with another layer of wafers.

Top the second layer of wafers with remaining pudding mixture.

Top everything with the last layer of wafers.  You should now have 3 layers of wafers and 2 layers of pudding.

Add a thin layer of vanilla or chocolate icing.  I took a family vote and after some discussion we all decided on vanilla icing.  Sprinkle chopped nuts over the icing.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

As the dessert sits in the fridge, the wafers will turn cake-like as they absorb moisture from the pudding.

Cut into squares and serve.
Blueberry & Pineapple Layered Dessert 
is perfect for a family gathering or potluck.