Apple pie – with priceless tips from Anna Olson

Apple pie – with priceless tips from Anna Olson

After baking several apple pies over the years and not quite getting the one that my palate would scream on wows, I decided to try yet another recipe, after watching Anna Olson on TV this fall. I am not sure if this recipe features on her new book but it was very nice to watch the video with all her tips. You can watch it here . It was quite revealing to me to learn some new directions towards that “blue ribbon” quality!

Ingredients:
1 cup diced unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3 tbs oil
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold water
2 tsp lemon j uice or white vinegar

Filling:

6 cups of sliced apples of 3 different varieties*
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown packed sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tbs oats
egg wash (1 egg with 2 tbs water)
sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

* It seems the perfect Blue ribbon pie always has 3 varieties of apples: at least one for tartness, like honey crisp and one for body like granny smith.

Directions:

If you are baking this pie in the fall when apples are so fresh and juice, start by taking 1/2 of the sliced apples and cooking for 10 min to let all the excessive moisture out. If you end up with lots of liquid, cook it down a bit and then add the nice apple concentrate to the filling. Let it cool before adding to the uncooked apples.

For the dough, cut the butter in squares and let it sit on the counter for half an hour. I know, totally opposite of other instructions where you can’t barely touch the cold butter!

Start blending the flour with the oil (in a mixer for better control – a processor would also work but everything goes too fast) so the flour gets nicely coated, which will facilitate its mixing with butter. Add the butter mixing until you have a coarse dough, the butter doesn’t need to be fully incorporated at this point. Add the water and the lemon juice. The lemon juice will help the dough to stretch nicely later on. Roll up into 2 discs and put in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. It freezes very well too.

For a vegan version using coconut oil, for example, reduce the amount to 20% and add more liquid (butter has 80% fat and coconut oil has 100% fat).

For the filling, mix all ingredients together.
At this point pre heat the oven to 400F.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit for a while before rolling it up, it is easier if it is not so hard.

Use a glass pie dish if you can which will distribute the heat more evenly when baking.
Sprinkle the oats on top of the dough before poring the filling, it will prevent excessive moisture when baking. You can also use crumbled cookies for this purpose.
Add the filling, top it up with the second dough, brush the egg wash and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Poke a few holes to let the steam out.

Bake for 10 min at 400F and then at 375F for about 40 to 50 min until golden and bubbling.

Yes! I loved the result!

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Perfect classic pumpkin pie

Perfect classic pumpkin pie

perfect pumpkin pie
perfect pumpkin pie

Finally it’s time for pumpkin pie! Not that we can’t enjoy at other time of the year, but when the air is crisp, the leaves are turning red and a light jacket is needed to walk the dog, it is time to fill the house with the sweet smell of a pumpkin pie baking away in the oven.

Every year I try a different recipe and normally I am pretty happy with all of them, just for a change. This time I tried Anna Olson’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie and, literally, is to die for!

The crust is firm and flaky, not too sweet, doesn’t overpower the pumpkin filling, which is definitely the star.
This pie filling is essentially a custard. High heat will let it set, and the reduced heat will cook it. The result is a silky, melt in your mouth filling, rich and soothing but subtle enough to get you wanting a second piece.

Perfection! That’s the pie I will be baking for Thanks Giving this year.

I decided to skip the orange zest and the spicy whipped cream since my family is not too adventurous to changes in a pumpkin pie. But I am sure it would taste great!
Read more

Fresh mint jelly

Fresh mint jelly

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With the end of summer and a full supply of fresh mint from my backyard, I decided to make some mint jam. We love lamb and having home made mint jam always available seemed to be the right thing to do. Of course there are lots of other ways to use it but for us is normally mainly with lamb.
It was a fun process, simple and straight forward but as always, I did my home work first. The original recipe is here. I normally search for 2 or 3 recipes from different sources to find the right balance when I am trying a recipe for the first time, reading the reviews helps a lot too. It wasn’t my first time making jam but it was the first time I used pectin, which really makes things a lot easier.
I had to go for more homework to learn how pectin works:

Pectin needs the proper ratio acidity and sugar to make jams or jellies set, it is a natural
complex carbohydrate present in the ripening process of citrus fruits that becomes a gelling agent. Apples, guavas, plums, gooseberries, oranges and other citrus fruits contain large amounts of pectin as oppose as soft fruits (cherries, grapes and strawberries). Pectin also has a wide range of medical applications and has been around for quite a long time. At CERTO website you can find information about the types of pectin that are available.

I used liquid pectin. This recipe will not work with other type of pectin.

However I did find the jam too sweet, which is caused by the necessary ratio of sugar when you’re using this kind of pectin. I later learned that there is such a thing as a low-sugar pectin. There are a couple of different options such as the Sure-Jell’s “Low Sugar” pectin, or Pomona’s Universal Pectin which uses a calcium water solution (included in the box) to create the set rather than the sugar/acid reaction needed for other commercial pectins. This allows you to reduce the sugar significantly, or even use honey instead of granulated sugar. I will certainly go for those in my next batch.
If you like sweet jam this recipe is right for you. In my case, enjoying this mint jam with lamb will camouflage the “too sweet effect”. I also will be able to control the sweetness when using it for salad dressing, so my fresh mint jam batch won’t be wasted.

As important as the recipe itself, is the preparation to sterilize the canning jars, which I followed from here.

It is a project that requires full attention but it really doesn’t take the whole day to do it. I started by sterilizing the jars. In the mean time I had time to gather all the ingredients and get everything ready to go.

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I did not add any green food coloring, I like the natural yellowish appearance of the jam, but you might prefer otherwise and get the pretty green color using one drop of food color. Next time I will keep some of the leaves tiny pieces to get a more rustic look.

Fresh mint jelly

4 – 1/2 pint jars

1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 drop green food color – optional
3 1/2 cups white sugar
3 ounce liquid pectin (1 pouch) *

* it is not interchangeable with other type of pectin

Rinse off the mint leaves, place them into a large saucepan and crush it with a potato masher or the bottom of a jar or glass. Add water, and bring the mint to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain, and measure out 1 2/3 cups of the mint.

Place 1 2/3 cups mint into a saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and food coloring if using. Mix in the sugar, and place the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, stir in the pectin. Boil the mixture for a full minute while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim foam off the top using a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to hot sterile jars, and seal.

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Fill hot 1-cup (250 mL) canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch (5 mm) headspace. Cover with prepared discs. Screw on bands until resistance is met; increase to fingertip tight. Boil in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat. Uncover and let jars stand in canner for 5 minutes. Lift up rack. With canning tongs, transfer jars to cooling rack; let cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

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Back pork ribs marinated in beer

Back pork ribs marinated in beer

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I thought we should celebrate spring arrival making something to give us a preview of the coming summer: our favorite pork ribs! I’ve been using this recipe for so many years that I have never even tried another one. I adapted it from a Food Network recipe, but so long ago that I can’t find it in the site now. It is not something I make too often, it is a day project and we use it for special dates.

For me the perfect ribs start with trimming the excess fat and removing the thin skin, which takes patience and preferably a little pair of pliers. It really makes a big difference if you get them from a good butcher, fresh and thick.

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Then, marinating it for 4 hours with a mix of beer and spices. And that is what takes my ribs to a new experience, it is unbelievable how the beer blends well with onions and spices, cutting the edge of the pork fat and filling the meat with its comforting fermented zest.

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After the 4 hours, pre heat the oven to 325F, take out of the fridge and cook for at least 90 min.

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Start early in the day or even in the previous day. I’ve done a large batch to be frozen to take it to the cottage, it worked very well.

Back pork ribs marinated in beer

4 pork back ribs (5lbs each)
2 bay leaves
2 sliced onions
2 tbs black peppercorn
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 bunch each of fresh rosemary, thyme or whatever you have
3 bottles of beer (any kind you want)

The sauce

1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar ( I use 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup Splenda for diabetes control)
5 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tbs dry mustard powder
1 tsp Tabasco
1 tbs Italian seasoning
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs maple syrup
1/2 tbs dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Trim fat and skin of ribs and cut them in 2 or 3 pieces. Place 1/2 of the onions slices on the bottom of ovenproof dish and place ribs on top with the remaining of the onions and all spices. Pour beer over the ribs and cover with foil. Marinate in the fridge for 4 hours. Pre heat oven to 325F.
Poke a few holes in the foil and place in the oven for 90 min.

In the mean time mix all the ingredients for the sauce and allow to sit while he ribs are cooking.
Remove ribs from the dish, separating the liquid and scraping onions off the rib pieces.
Grill the ribs, placing them side down, on the grill, directly over medium heat. Grill for 10 min or until brown, blasting every few minutes with sauce and reserved liquid.
Serve ribs with remaining sauce.

An option to grilling is to broil them in the oven, which I did this time since our BBQ wasn’t ready yet. Make sure to pre heat them, blast with liquid and then sauce and broil for 3 or 4 min.

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Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

Festive quinoa salad with cranberry and apricot

Festive quinoa salad with cranberry and apricot

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I am not sure if I like the way we are being rushed into Christmas. It is already everywhere as soon as November starts. Actually even before Halloween was gone, many stores had their Christmas inventory out. It can be a nice way to enjoy the holidays and all the preparation required, that to me, it is one of the best parts of Christmas, but come on people, slow down a bit on the sales greed!
Well, regardless of my anti capitalism comment – lol – the thing is that I caught myself already filling my air freshener in the living room with the apple cider scent, that to me, it is the smell of Christmas around the block. Lol I guess I am a “go with the flow” person and here I am posting my first recipe for the holidays! And loving it!

November is also the month for National Blog Posting Month–NaBloPoMo– and I will try to do a new posting every day! This will be a challenge for my writing skills and I hope I can be creative and well organized to do so!

Again, being obsessed with quinoa, I created this delicious salad that can be a great side dish for the holidays dinners. It combines the nutty flavors of wheat berries and quinoa, with the sweetness of dried cranberries and apricots. Add some pine nuts and sun flower seeds and you have a crunchy and festive salad, that can be prepared 1 or 2 days in advance and will impress your guests. Extremely nutritious, will compete with the roast of your preference in protein intake and will please any vegetarian guest you might have. It is also a diabetes friendly and carb conscious option.

Feel free to add different nuts and dried fruit, I used the ones I had in my pantry.
It is a very easy salad to make after you have your quinoa and wheat berry cooked, so plan accordingly.

4 – 6 portions

Festive quinoa salad with apricot and cranberry

2 cups cooked (not warm)quinoa (see how to cook the quinoa here
1 cup cooked wheat berry*
1/2 cup apricots chopped
1/2 cup dried sweet cranberries
1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
1/4 cup sun flower seeds
1/4 cup parsley chopped
2 tbs canola oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbs red wine vinegar

Cook the wheat berries ahead of time. I let it soak over night and then cook for 40 min. For one cup of wheat berries I used 3 cups of water. Don’t over cook, you want to keep a nice crunchiness going. Even if after the 40 min. you find there is still some liquid left in the pan, just drain it and rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Let it cool before making the salad.

To make the salad, just add everything together. If you like crunchier, wait and add the nuts right before serving it. It is super tasty either way!

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

Another quinoa recipes:

Quinoa caprese salad to go

Quinoa, avocado, almond and soft white cheese salad