photo from http://www.grouprecipes.com/people/magandab at grouprecipes.com
I have a new addiction: the Blueberry Oat Bars at Starbucks. I rarely purchase the pastries at Starbucks because, well, they are expensive and who needs all those extra calories but one day last week I was feeling "snacky" and I had never tried these bars before. Big mistake. I am now obsessed with them. I have cut myself off from buying and/or eating them, as of yesterday, because I really don't want to have to buy new pants. And by "new" I mean "bigger."
But in case you're wondering here's why I love these bars so much:
They have an oat/crumb base and topping. I'm a sucker for oat crumb topping.
They are made with this blueberry-jammy filling that is super yummy. Not too much of it, just a thin layer to give you the taste of sweet blueberries.
They are sweet but not sweet enough to give me a sugar headache. I could do with a smidge less sugar but for "fast food" I was impressed.
Since I have revoked permission to buy these bars I decided that I could be excused if I made them myself on occasion. That wouldn't be as bad, right? The games I play in my own brain...
I told the Starbucks-lady (she's the cutest little grandma named Mary who always remembers my drink) that I needed to learn how to make them for myself and she leaned across the register to and whispered, "Try allrecipes.com, honey. They have everything!" So that's what did. Only I didn't find what I was looking for at allrecipes.com, I found it instead at grouprecipes.com and it looks reeeeeeeally close to the original.
I have some ideas of my own so I might sit down with my Grandma Shirley to see if we can come up with our own improvised recipe, but in the meantime this one will be just fine.
The dough is super-simple, just combine the ingredients and press it into your pan. Then for the blueberry mixture you pre-cook it by bringing it to a boil with some cornstarch, sugar and lemon. After pouring your blueberry mixture over the raw crust, then topping with a little reserved crust, it bakes for roughly 20 minutes and after cooling you can cut it into bars and enjoy.
I hope you will try it and see if you love it as much as I do. But be careful. It's addicting. And I don't think they have Blueberry Oat Bar Rehab...yet.
The party was this guy's 1st Birthday. He's my little buddy. He loved his smash-cake.
He loved it so much he gave it a big hug then laid down on it. Shortly after, Daddy rolled him and his chair out the backyard and hosed them both down.
The next day I picked approximately 1 lb. of basil from my 4 plants and made 8 cups of pesto. I'm freezing every bit of pesto I can so we will be able to enjoy homemade pesto dishes for at least part of the winter.
I discovered these Padron peppers at Whole Foods and scooped them up not knowing what I would make of them.
What I made of them was a quick roasted salsa. I started by blackening & removing their skins. This process goes so much faster over a gas burner. I usually do it on a cast iron skillet. Effective, but much slower.
I also toasted up some cherry tomatoes, garlic and 1 green onion.
Everything went into the blender with a little S&P then whirl-whirl-whirl, yummy salsa!! On a side note, I hid this salsa from everybody and snacked on it while I prepared other party food. The lucky few that wandered into the house while I was cooking were able to partake but it was so good I wasn't real keen on sharing.
I also purchased this pile of multi-colored sweet peppers. There were overflowing from a big wooden box and I picked out the most colorful ones I could find because I'm still eating my colors!. I was especially drawn in by the light purple ones which tasted the same as all the others but were a tiny bit firmer.
My pile of sweet peppers, along with pencil asparagus and green onions, were grilled up and drizzled with this balsamic sauce from Giada DeLaurentis that I have made over and over. It's a great way to perk up vegetables and might even make a nice dipping sauce for a hunk of focaccia.
So as you can see my weekend, like most weekends, was heavily influenced by food. And it was all good.
I don't know what it is but lately I am craving Fall dishes. Stews, soups, & carb-laden meals, gimme. I'm determined to enjoy this last bit of Summer to the fullest but I might dip my toe into Fall with this dish from Saveur.com. It has some wonderful flavors: feta, nutmeg, spinach, dill and a cheese that is new to me, Graviera. After a bit of research, I discovered that it is a fairly common cheese (iow: easy to find) and very similar to Gruyere which is, ahem, one of my all time faves. And it looks pretty easy, your basic stove-to-oven mac and cheese, just new ingredients.
I have a full weekend planned; it's my nephew's first birthday and we have a river-tubing trip planned. Last time I went tubing I came back with a scar on my back the size of a quarter and a compressed disc. Pray for me!
Sweet. Tart. Floral. Berries are the perfect combination of those three tastes. And when you pair them up with a crusty, salty, flaky crust you just might feel like you're in heaven. Think I'm exaggerating? My friends, I wouldn't steer you wrong.
I first saw a version of this recipe on the site Rachel Cooks. She made a beautiful, shiny blueberry pie that appeared to hold together remarkably well. That is one thing about berry pies that has always bothered me; they tend to be runny and the filling dumps into the middle of the pie pan after the first slice is removed. I have experimented with adding tapioca pearls to my berry cobblers with great success. But those little pearls can be telling and canpotentially cook unevenly and flour just makes it murky so I knew there must be a way to incorporate some other thickener to get the results I was looking for.
After reading the full recipe I saw that she adapted it from a blueberry pie recipe by Baked Bree. Again, she shows a glossy pie that held together quite well.
So after reading both recipes I concluded that the trick was indeed cornstarch. A surprisingly large amount of it: 6 tablespoons. I was a little hesitant to put that much cornstarch into my pie but then I realized, this filling is pre-cooked. And you pour it into a pre-cooked pie shell. Pre-cooking the filling allows the cornstarch to get even distributed and come fully up to temperature, allowing it to dissolve and thicken. I was a tad wary that it might make my pie cloudy but if you look at their photos, it doesn't appear to have effected their results so what-the-hay, I would give it a try!
(Don't be confused by the sight of 2 pies below. We had 2 family get-togethers that day so I went ahead and doubled the recipe so each gathering would have it's own pie.)
First things first, I had to get some berries. The other 2 recipes call for all blueberries but I crave plump, juicy blackberries (or better yet boysenberries) this time of year, so instead I opted for a combo of fresh blackberries and frozen wild blueberries. Off I went to a local farm stand to find some fresh blackberries. 5 miles down the road I found 7 full pints of the biggest blackberries I have ever seen. I bought them all, even though I really only needed 4. And yes, we ate them all.
Next in the order of things was to bake some pie crusts. I shared that story with you earlier this week but you can click over here in case you missed it!
About that time I realized I had not eaten lunch! There was a brief intermission so I could whip up a fresh blackberry vanilla protein shake. And eat a handful of berries.
While my pie crusts were cooling I worked on the filling which was as simple as throwing everything into a pot, stirring well till it boiled, stirring a few minutes more, then setting it aside to cool.
I let the filling cool just for bit then tossed in a few more whole berries for good measure, then poured it into my pie shells. Into the fridge they went for a good 3-4 hours and then we devoured. The filling stayed together beautifully and the flavor was intensely "berry". The tartness of the blackberries rounded out the sweet perfume of the blueberries... ohhhhh, it was heaven.
The full recipe is below, with my own changes. I hope you can give it a try because it really was one of the easiest pies I've made and truly delicious.
2 pints of fresh blackberries, plus 1/2 pint (optional); rinsed
2 cups frozen wild blueberries (I use Wynan's brand)
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your blackberries)
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
In a large saucepan, combine 2 pints of blackberries (reserving the 1/2 pint for later), blueberries, and cornstarch, stirring gently so as not to damage the blackberries. After the cornstarch is evenly distributed, add the salt, sugar, water and lemon juice and turn the heat up to medium high. Stirring occasionally, allow the mixture to come up to a soft boil. Continue to stir for 2-4 more minutes, letting the mixture get thick and coat the spoon. Remove from heat and add the butter, gently stirring to combine.
Allow the mixture to cool slightly then add the 1/2 pint reserved blackberries then pour mixture into your cooled pie shell. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (just to make sure nothing falls into it) and set in refrigerator to cool for at least 3-4 hours before serving.
PS: You might have a little extra filling so might I recommend cooling it then using it to top a serving of full fat Greek yogurt? Trust me, it's yummy.
If you must transport your pie before it has rested in the refrigerator for 3 hours, be sure to place it in a cardboard box or you will end up with blackberry pie filling all over your car. You have been warned.
Until I was in my 20's I did not know that most pie crusts were made out of shortening or butter. There was only one recipe for pie crust in my mother's recipe box and it was for this recipe right here that I'm going to share with you today. The recipe is my Great-Grandmother Pat's recipe and she did not use shortening or butter in her pie crust; she used vegetable oil. I have no idea why. Maybe it was a Great Depression thing. Maybe it was a Polish thing. Maybe it was a preference thing. I just don't know. What I do know is that every time I make this crust I can hear my grandma's voice, see her knobby fingers and smell her house.
I have introduced you to my Great-Grandma Pat before:
She's the lovely bride and that handsome gentleman sitting next to her is my Great-Grandpa Pat. Her full name was Antonia Cecilia Smith (Smigkelski) but she went by Annette because she hated being called "Antonia." I think it was too "ethnic" to her. I love it. She was always "Grandma Pat" to me and I loved visiting her house in Gridley, CA where she always had 2 things waiting for me to nibble on: egg custards in the fridge and spice cookies on the counter. I'm still trying to figure out the spice cookie recipe, I think my Grandma Shirley is holding out on me.
One recipe I do have tucked safely away in my stash is the recipe for her pie crust. So let's get to it:
The ingredient list is simple (makes one 9in. crust):
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk (I've always used whole milk)
The directions couldn't be any easier either:
Dump everything in a bowl
Mix until forms into a solid ball of dough
Starting from the middle working out, roll out into at least 9" pie crust, place in pie plate and using a fork poke holes all over the inside to keep it from puffing up while baking.
Bake at 450 degrees, 10-12 minutes, until edges are golden brown
Now, let me give you a couple of tips:
My Grandma Shirley (Annette's daughter) informed me this weekend that she never uses this recipe because it always crumbles on her. True, it is not as silky or soft as a traditional pie crust. The vegetable oil does a good job of providing the fat to make it flaky but it does not make this crust "smooth". It may crack or crumble while you are working with it and that's ok. Take a deep breath, everything is going to work out, I promise. This weekend I made 2 crusts and it seemed to me that the first one came together with the least amount of breakage so it may be that working quickly will help you get the pie into the pan all in one piece.
This crust may stick a little to the counter or cutting board, as most crusts do. The best way to transfer it to the pan, I found, is to use a spatula or bench scraper to peel it up and gently fold it into 4ths like the picture above. Plop it in your pie plate and carefully unfold it. Voila! Of course, I could have sprinkled a little flour before I started rolling out the dough, but I forgot. And it all worked out anyway. See? Cooking isn't scary. It all works out somehow.
Even if it cracks (and it probably will crack at least a bit), this dough is very forgiving and meant to be very rustic. Just take a chunk of excess dough & "repair" the crack. Squish and press it back into the shape you need it to be, most of it is going to be covered with filling anyway.
Although very similar to a traditional shortening pie crust, this pie has a tiny bit more heft to it so I try to roll it out as thin as possible, just keeping the edges a smidge thicker. If you roll the crust out "thick" it will taste "thick". And that may be what you prefer, just be forewarned.
I have to stop here and point out the brilliance of my new cutting board from.... wait for it... Walmart!
It's from the Paula Deen line, no less, but I saw it months ago and debated whether or not to get it. When I went back to pick up some extra pie plates this weekend I decided it must come home with me. I gotta tell you, I love this new cutting board! It's a darker, acacia wood which I appreciate much more than the lighter colored boards. But the selling point was that engraved onto one side of the board are measurements for 6,8,9 & 10 in. rounds as well as a 14 in. straight edge. It took out all the guesswork when I rolled out my pie dough. I knew I had rolled far enough when I got the 9 in. border line. Infomercial complete.
My pie crusts were beautiful and tasty and easy and... well, awesome. Don't judge my crimping skills, I never was able to master the "pie crimp" and this dough doesn't lend easily to it anyway. People know it's a homemade pie when they see edges that ugly and somehow they love you a little more for it.
Yes, I feed people to get them love me. There was a lot of love going around this weekend.
PS: Stay tuned for Friday when I share the recipe for the yummy filling!
I was a busy little chicken this weekend but that did not stop me from working on TWO, count 'em, TWO recipes that I am very excited to share with you because... and I am not ashamed to say it... they both turned out AWESOME!
This photo is just a teaser of what is yet to come, later this week. Can you guess? Isn't it obvious? Doesn't it make you drool?
Lately I only post on Fridays, our Friday Recipe where I showcase a recipe I've noticed lately or one of my own creations. I love to look at the stats on Mondays to see just how many of you are checking-in every Friday, and you do! I'm not a lame-o really, I wish I could post more but I just can't pull it off right now. I hope soon that will change, keep your fingers crossed for me.
In the meantime I thought I might show you a few photos of what I've been up to. I document just about everything that goes on on my life via Iphone, camera, etc. so it's pretty easy to give you my past few weeks in a nutshell. So without any further hoopla, here we go:
Last week I had about an hour to myself so I wandered around Barnes & Noble, one of my happy places. Of course I spent quite a bit of time in the cookbook section, doing a little research. I'm currently researching cookbook styles, layout, paper, etc. One that I really liked was "Mad Hungry:Feeding Men & Boys" by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I love watching her on Martha Stewart Everyday and I just adore this cookbook. It's so easy to read, the paper is heavy but not glossy (that kind of bugs me) and is chocked full of good 'ole family recipes.
My tomatoes are starting to turn red finally! This was a tiny harvest of my cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100's?). They are tiny but so full of flavor. They taste just like sunshine. I pull them off the vine as soon as they are ready and eat them as a snack after I finish watering all the plants.
I've been cooking, of course. Random stuff mostly, feeding myself. And trying to come up with creative uses for all the pesto I have been making with my forest of basil. The other day I created "Pesto Tuna Melts" on toasted English muffins. It sounds weird. It was yummy. And my brother and I had a conversation about weird people who take pictures of their food. "Hey, I do that!", said I. "Exaclty." said he. I get no respect.
Have you heard of She Reads Truth ? It's a Bible reading "group" using the reading plans on YouVersion. Everyday you follow the planned reading and if you want to you can post a little "something" on Instagram or Twitter or any other social media outlet with the tag #shereadstruth to share with the rest of the group. I've met some lovely gals and have been so encouraged by this reading plan. You can check it out here.
And lastly, my favorite picture so far this year is this one of my nephew Jake and I at the 2012 Color Run-Sacramento. It was a blast!! My sister Natalie, Bree and I went together, along with 15,000 other people and let strangers throw colored cornstarch at us. It sounds crazy. It was crazy. You can learn more about the Color Run here and I'll link up some videos so you can get an idea of just how bizarre/fun it is.
I have hit the floor running every day this week and that means that you are regrettably getting a drive-by recipe today. You don't mind, right?
My buddy Serena (aka: Wonder Twin) discovered this recipe on Pinterest and posted it to our "Did It/Made It" board. I really want to try it because
I have no spare time right now. None.
I love dessert. Nay, I NEED dessert.
I have family members with food allergies and this quick cake is gluten, dairy and sugar free. Yippee!!
Even if it's a total flop (which I don't think it will be), you've only lost 2 minutes of your day and pennies in ingredients. Totally worth a shot!
The recipe is from ATX Gluten Free and you can substitute your favorite gluten-free baking mix, which for me is currently Cup-4-Cup from Chef Thomas Keller. My sister has been using it on all our favorite family recipes and having some great results!
Looking at my calendar, I should have 2 minutes to myself... in November. Maybe I can make this cake then. I hope you have some time this weekend to try this little dessert!!