Thursday, November 25, 2010

Basic Pie Dough

Pie dough is one of those things that a lot of people, including some very good bakers, shy away from, they seem to find the whole concept intimidating.  I used to feel the same way, it would really freak me out just thinking that I needed to make a pie, so I would do what a lot do, run to the store and by a ready made pie crust.

There are a lot of opinions and thoughts when it comes to making pie dough, some people swear by shortening and only shortening.  I've tried a few versions here and there and have always pretty much come up with the same kind of pie dough, but this version I'm about to share with you is the one I always come back to.

It's easy, it uses ingredients that I always have on hand and I end up with a delicious flaky pie crust that everyone enjoys.


Basic Pie Dough
Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust*
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp. very cold water

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix briefly to blend.  Add in the butter pieces and mix on medium-low speed to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are not much bigger than peas.  Mix in the cold water on low speed just until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  (This dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)


 Remove from the refrigerator.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Use as directed in your desired pie recipe.


*Double the recipe for a double crust pie.

Dulce De Leche Apple Pie

What do you get when you combine two of the most delicious flavors on earth?  You get a pie that will have you licking your lips and wondering why you never thought to combine these two to begin with.


This pie was one of the desserts for our Thanksgiving Meal.  It's supposed to be eaten cold but I warmed my slice up and dropped on a dollop of whipped cream.  Goodness was it tasty.


Dulce de Leche Apple Pie

Double crust for 9” pie (using Basic Pie Dough)
Egg white for brushing dough
5 cups peeled and sliced mixed apples
¼ cup dulce de leche
2 Tablespoons apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon of butter for dotting pie
9” Pyrex pie dish, not the 9 1/2" deep dish

1. Place the oven rack on the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Mix together sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Make sure the cornstarch is well mixed in so you don’t get cornstarch lumps in your pie.

3. In a large bowl toss together the apples, then toss with dulce de leche, apple cider, and vanilla extract. Add the dry mixture and toss to combine. Set aside.

4. Between wax paper gently roll out the pie dough and stretch it about another inch or more for the bottom piece, and roll the top piece gently to even out the dough.

5. Line a 9” Pyrex pie dish with the bottom crust, brush with the egg white. Add the filling and spread out evenly. Dot the mixture with little bits of butter here and there.


6. Cover with the top crust. Press the top dough into the bottom piece gently to stick together. Tuck the top edges into the pie dish leaving a little to crimp at the top. Flute the edges.

7. Poke a few holes in the crust for venting or cut out decorations.

8. Bake for 30 minutes. Then turn the temperature to 375 degrees, cover crust edges with a pie shield, and bake for another 30 minutes or until crust is golden on the bottom and no longer wet and raw looking.

9. Remove the pie from the oven and set on a cooling rack for several hours to set up the filling.


Dulce De Leche

Delicious and yet it seems to be shrouded in this belief that it is something hard to make, out of our reach.

I'm sure there are those out there who know how to make it and also know that it basically is just sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked for a few hours until it caramelizes into a rich dark brown yumminess.


I've been wanting to make some for a while but never got around to it, until this Thanksgiving when I wanted to make a Dulce De Leche Apple Pie and realized that I either had to buy it, or, finally put my reservations aside and make it myself.

If I had only known how easy this was, believe me, I would have been making it a very long time ago.

Now the most common way to make it, is to submerge a can of condensed milk into a pot of water, and then boil it for 2 to 4 hours.  Some people have never had problems doing it this way, while others say that it's not safe as the can may explode.  The trick though is to make sure that the can is ALWAYS covered with water.

Just to be on the save side, I did it a different way, much safer but equally easy, I found the directions over at David Lebovitz.


Homemade Dulce de Leche

Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).

Pour one can (400 gr/14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.


By the way, I also made one can using the traditional way and didn't have any exploding cans going on, but I did watch over it carefully and made sure that it was completely submerged in water, I also waited until the can was completely cool before opening it.  

One thing I noticed though, this way didn't produce as rich of a dark brown color as the oven method did.  Not that it matters, they're both delectable but if you're wanting a darker brown, try the recipe above.


Homemade Dulce de Leche (On the stove)

Sweetened condensed milk in cans (You can do several at a time and store extras in your cupboard)
1 Big deep pot
A tea kettle
Two timers

Remove the labels. Place the cans in the pot and cover cans completely with water at least two inches above the top of the cans. Bring the water to a boil. After it starts to boil set two timers; one for 4 hours and the other for thirty minutes. Turn down the heat if the boil becomes overly vigorous.

Meanwhile fill the tea kettle with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and leave on the burner. After the 30 minute timer is up refill the water that has evaporated from the pot with the water from the tea kettle. Turn the timer on for 30 more minutes and repeat until the 4 hours is up. You must keep the water filled! Exploding cans are not good!

Once 4 hours is up, turn the heat off from under the pot and let the cans cool completely in the pot of water for a couple hours. Once cool, remove the cans and rinse them off under the sink and dry them with a towel.

That’s it. Now you can open the cans and enjoy the world’s easiest caramel type sauce.

Refrigerate any leftovers in a separate container.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

You may be seeing a lot of recipes popping up between today and tomorrow morning, I have a few side dishes and desserts that I want to post on here.

I've been in the kitchen pretty much all day, getting things ready for Thanksgiving.  Obviously there are certain dishes that won't be made until the morning but some of the side dishes and desserts I make the day before, saves me a whole lot of time in the kitchen.

First I'm starting with Baked Macaroni and Cheese, there's so many recipes out there but I usually turn to this one which came from Alton Brown from Food Network.  My kids LOVE it.

Note:  I made a big pan for Thanksgiving and then a smaller one for dinner.  I didn't add the panko crust topping to this one though, so that is missing from these pics.


Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Credit: Alton Brown


* 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
* 3 cups milk
* 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 large egg
* 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* Fresh black pepper


* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 cup panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


There are many things I miss about South Africa, mainly my family and my friends and the surroundings.  I grew up in that beautiful country and there are days that I want nothing more than to go back, to visit everyone, to walk the streets I used to though I know I can't do that nowadays because of the violence and the crime.


In all the things that remind me of home, one of the biggest has to be food and maybe because I love cooking so much and maybe because I associated certain meals with a certain event in my life, or a person, or a time and place.

As I was looking through my facebook today, one of my friends from South Africa who is actually living in Georgia now, mentioned that she was making Koeksisters and it immediately brought me a pang of homesickness, I wanted to have them too, I wanted to take a bite and close my eyes and imagine that it's a warm South African afternoon and that I'm sitting in my kitchen after school, eating one of these.


They take a little time to make but if you double the recipe like I did, you get a huge amount of Koeksisters.

A koeksister or koesister comes from the Dutch word koekje, the diminutive of koek meaning "cake". It is a South African syrup-coated doughnut in a twisted or braided shape.  Many call them Koeksuster too!




* 250 ml water (1 cup)
* 625 ml white sugar (2 1/2 cups)
* 12 1/2 ml lemon juice (2 1/2 tsp.)
* 5 ml vanilla essence (1 tsp.)


* 375 ml cake flour (1 1/2 cups)
* 22 ml baking powder (4 1/2 tsp.)
* 1 ml salt (1/4 tsp.)
* 20 g butter or 20 g margarine
* 150 ml milk (5 oz or about 3/4 cups) (I had to add a little bit more to get my dough to form, it was way too dry with just the 5/8 cup of milk)
* 750 ml canola oil (3 cups)

Put the water and sugar in a ot and bring to boil on low heat. Stir frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Boil for 7 minutes.


Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla essence. Put the pot into the fridge.


Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Break the butter or margarine into small pieces and add to the four mixture. Add the milk. Mix well until a dough is formed.

Roll the dough out to a thickness of 5 mm (+ or - 1/4 in.). Cut the dough into thin (+ or - 10 mm or 1/2 in.) strips. Take 3 strips and join their ends on one side. Braid the strips to desired koeksister length and join other ends.


Heat the oil in a pot until fairly hot. Put about 3 koeksisters (or what can fit)at a time in the oil and fry them on both sides until they get a golden-brown color.


As you remove the koeksisters for the oil, place them directly ito the syrup from the fridge. It is important to keep the syrup cool, so between soakings, return the syrup to the fridge to maintain its coolness. (I actually place my bowl inside a bigger bowl with a bed of ice and pop some in between the bowls too, it keeps it nice and cool)



Remove the koeksisters from the syrup and allow the excess syrup to drip off. Place them in the refrigerator to cool and then eat!


They are amazing.  You have this twisted donut that is drenched in syrup.


You HAVE to put them in the fridge, they need to be nice and chilled when you eat them.  YUM!


As you can see, I doubled the recipe and it made a HUGE batch, there are so many here that I'm going to give some away to friends, let them taste a little bit of South Africa and see what they think.


Let me know if you try them, they are ridiculously addictive, quite rich and sweet so I don't make them very often but believe it or not, after being in the fridge it takes away some of that sweetness so it's just right.


Bob Evan's Mashed Potatoes Review


Bob Evan's!  Have you heard of the Bob Evans products?  I'm sure you have, they are one of the brands of Breakfast Sausage that I buy for my house, but I had yet to try their Mashed Potatoes.

I'm a little iffy when it comes to Mashed Potatoes, it's very seldom that I find a brand of ready made either frozen or dry potatoes that I think taste good, they always seem to have this taste in the background that screams "NOT HOMEMADE".

When the wonderful folks at Bob Evans asked me if I would consider trying their Mashed Potatoes, I said yes, I mean what do I have to loose?  If anything I can find something I like and that I did.

Not only do our mashed potatoes provide a convenient solution for your hectic mealtime schedule, but they taste homemade. But don’t just take our word for it – check out what other people are saying about them by clicking here.  
And do you know that right now Bob Evan's is looking for families to do their best impression of American Idol to enter for a chance to win a FREE trip for four to Walt Disney World or a MinoHD Digital Flip Video Camera?   Here's what you have to do:

It’s as simple as visiting our Super Spud Sing Along website and uploading a home video of you, your kids, your spouse – or even your pet – doing your own rendition of our Super Spud song on

But back to our potatoes.  I received a box in the mail with two packages, one of the original Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes and one of the Cheddar Mashed Potatoes.

I made both and served them with our dinner that night and I have to tell you, they were GONE in a matter of minutes.


What struck me was how much they tasted like homemade mashed potatoes and I'm not kidding you, the creamiest tastiest frozen mashed potatoes I have ever and I mean EVER tasted......and the Cheddar ones????  Lordy they were so good too.


I went right out and bought a few more of the potatoes as well as some of their Seasoned Hashbrowns too.

Really, if you're looking for a quick, inexpensive side dish that tastes like real good ol' homemade food, look no further than Bob Evans.

Thank you to Bob Evans for sending me the two products for review.  All opinions and thoughts are mine alone.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ranch Macaroni and Cheese

My youngest, Nicholas, loves mac and cheese, he often will request it when we're out to dinner.


I found this version of macaroni and cheese and decided to put it to the test with him.  Let's just say that the recipe makes quite a bit and for the rest of the week, he would go into the fridge, pull out the leftovers, dish out a plate for himself and warm it up in the microwave.  He liked it THAT much.

So here you go, a different take on good ol mac and cheese.


Ranch Macaroni and Cheese
Credit: Taste of Home


* 1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
* 1 cup 2% milk
* 1/4 cup butter, cubed
* 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
* 1 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 teaspoon garlic pepper blend
* 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
* 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Colby cheese
* 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
* 1/2 cup crushed saltines
* 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese


* Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the milk, butter, dressing mix and seasonings; heat through. Stir in Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses until melted. Stir in sour cream.

* Drain macaroni; stir into cheese sauce with the saltines. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yield: 8 servings.



You may be familiar with this dish or you may not.  Truth be told, I didn't know about these until I saw the recipe in the Taste of Home Cookbook.


After looking at the picture and reading through the recipe, I just knew that this would one be a hit in my house....and it was.


It is SO good, it's a cross between a taco and a burrito, it's creamy, it's filling, it's delicious.


Credit:  Taste of Home Cookbook 2011


* 1/4 cup butter, cubed
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 4 cups water
* 3 tablespoons chili powder
* 1 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 pound ground beef
* 1 pound bulk pork sausage
* 1/4 cup chopped onion
* 1 cup refried beans
* 8 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
* 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* Optional toppings: shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced ripe olives and sour cream


* In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add water. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in chili powder and garlic salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
* In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the beef, sausage and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in refried beans; heat through.
* Spread 1/4 cup sauce in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Spread 1 tablespoon sauce over each tortilla; place 2/3 cup meat mixture down the center of each. Top each with 1/4 cup cheese. Roll up and place seam side down in prepared dish. Pour remaining sauce over the top; sprinkle with remaining cheese.
* Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 18-22 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Serve with optional toppings if desired. Yield: 8 servings.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Portuguese Rice Pudding


Revisiting an old favorite of ours.

It makes me think of my greatgrandma and makes me miss her even more.  I remember her standing over the stove with her apron around her waist, stirring and stirring the pot, the scent of lemon peel and cinnamon permeating the air.


Love it and when I'm having a day where I am really missing her, I always make this pudding.

My kids love it too which is always a bonus.


Arroz Doce
(Portuguese Rice Pudding)


1 1/2 quarts of milk (6 cups)
1 1/4 cup of uncooked white rice
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 cinnamon stick

Over high heat, combine cinnamon stick, sugar and milk. When bubbles form at edges, stir in rice and reduce heat to medium-low.
Cook 60 minutes, stirring often, until rice is tender. Do NOT allow to boil.

Remove from heat, remove cinnamon stick and vigorously stir in beaten eggs, a little at a time, until well incorporated. Pour into serving dish, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve warm.
Refrigerate the leftovers.


Now, in my family we let it cool down a bit and then eat it warm, but I have to say that the next day, it tastes just as good cold out of the refrigerator.

Pasta Salad

One of my favorite side dishes is pasta salad and truly there are so many ways to serve it.

I have tried a lot of recipes and different versions to the plain ol' pasta salad.  This one is so good too, I actually found it over at Rosie's Ramblings blog, which I adore.  Go on over and visit her when you get a chance, she has amazing photos.


::Pasta Salad::
Credit:  Rosie's Ramblings

Cook 1 lb. pasta, elbow or rotini
1 can pinto beans
2 cans black olives (I only used 1)
1 head of broccoli steamed
1 onion finely chopped  (I used onion flakes instead)
chopped cheddar cheese ( about half a block ) (I substituted parmesan cheese for the cheddar)

Mix all together well.

Half a cup olive oil
1 T mustard
1 lemon juiced
1/2 t oregano
1 T apple cider vinegar


Pour over pasta and mix gently.


  Serve chilled.

Notes:  I only added in one can of olives didn't want it to become overwhelming.  I also used Parmesan Cheese instead of Cheddar and I added in salt, pepper and garlic powder.


Cheesy Hashbrown Chicken

My kids LOVE this and when I say love I mean REALLY love it, it's like I can't even get their faces out of the plates and there's always requests for seconds, and leftovers the next day.

I have to admit, I love it too and so does the hubby.

It's a very simple recipe and pretty versatile, I've made it for a hearty breakfast, I've served it for a quick lunch and even for dinner with a salad.


Cheesy Hashbrown Chicken

1 bag of Potatoes O'Brien
4 slices bacon
2 packages of grilled pre-cooked chicken
salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded Cheese

Cook bacon in the skillet over medium heat until bacon is crunchy.  Remove bacon from skillet and place on a paper towel. When the bacon is cool, break into pieces. Don't drain the bacon fat.

Add the potatoes o' brien and cook until tender, remember to keep an eye on it and stir frequently so it won't stick.


Add the chicken chopped into cubes and the bacon pieces. stir well.


  Remove from heat and add the shredded cheese, cover and let the cheese melt.  Serve immediately.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Roadside Diner Cheeseburger Quiche

Quiche?  Cheeseburger?  What is there not to like?

This was supposed to be tonight's dinner but I was running so late today, Jasmine had to stay in for Character Counts Club and by the time I got the ball rolling on dinner it was almost 6 pm.

We're used to eating around 5 or 5:30pm, so it was McDonald's for dinner because you know, you have kids who come home from school starving.

Roadside Diner Cheeseburger Quiche

But I went ahead and made it anyway and it will be tomorrow's dinner.  Of course I had to cut out a piece and try a little and boy is it yummy.

Roadside Diner Cheeseburger Quiche

Roadside Diner Cheeseburger Quiche
From Taste of Home, adapted from Noble Pig

1 refrigerated pie crust (or make your own or use a frozen deep-dish pie shell)
3/4 lb. ground beef
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup dill pickle relish
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
5 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Optional garnishes: Additional pickle relish, crumbled cooked bacon, chopped onion and tomato, mayonnaise and shredded lettuce

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, onion, relish and bacon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, mustard, pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Unroll pie crust into a 9" deep-dish pie plate (make sure it's deep dish, otherwise, the mixture will not fit) and flute the edges. To make refrigerated pie crust fit into a deep-dish plate, roll it out a little bit more with a rolling pin. You can make your own pie crust or purchase frozen deep dish pie crusts; just make sure it's completely thawed out. Transfer meat mixture into prepared crust. Pour egg mixture over the meat and use a fork to move the meat around, letting the egg mixture settle in between. Sprinkle with cheeses.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Roadside Diner Cheeseburger Quiche