Carey’s Recipes

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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 can potentially 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!
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(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!

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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.

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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.

Blackberry-Blueberry Pie

(adapted from Baked Bree)

Ingredients:

  • 1 precooked, cooled pie shell
  • 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.

Epilogue:

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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.

Catch a Glimpse Button

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Somewhat Simple

Thirty Handmade Days

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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Cherry Almond Cookies by accordingtocarey.com

I have a confession:  I don't usually like chunks of dried fruit.  I suppose it's the texture more than anything that bothers me but for whatever reason I won't usually eat something if it has... say raisins in it.   The same goes for dried blueberries, apricots, peaches, apples, persimmons, etc., etc.... you get the point.

And then last week at work I received this little gift:

Weird gift, right?  Except... at my day job we build and sell tree shakers.  Big machines that shake ripe fruit and nuts from their trees.  The cherries in this container were shaken from their tree by one of our shakers.  It's kinda fun to see the end product of everyone's labor, from the welders that molded the machine together to the farmers who grew the fruit.  And here it sits on my desk, farm to table.  Very cool.

What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, cookies!

Even though I normally have a bad attitude about dried fruit, I was determined to incorporate these ruby gems into a recipe.  I grew up on a cherry far for goodness sake, I can think of something!  And that's when Cherry Almond Cookies were born.

I figured if I chopped the cherries up super fine, the texture would no longer be an issue and I would still get all that great cherry flavor.  Problem solved!

I started with a base recipe from my Grandma Shirley that includes a healthy dose of natural almond flavor.  Why almond?  (Hold on to your seats because this is where the geek in me comes out.)  Did you know that almonds and cherries are related?  Yep, they are both from the Prunus genus of fruiting trees.  If you have ever cracked open the pit of a cherry, peach or nectarine you may have noticed the resemblance to an almond.  Their kissing cousins! Without hesitation I knew this flavor combo would work.  Plus the tartness of the cherries would play well against the richness of the butter. One whole cup of butter to be exact.  I never said these were health-food cookies!

My Grandma's original recipe (Chinese Almond Cookies) is so ridiculously simple, the only ingredient you might not already have in your cupboard is pure almond extract.  If you don't have it, go get some!  You can use it in a ton of recipes from baked goods to coffee to cocktails.  And if you happen to accidentally splash a little on you while cooking, it will make you smell irresistible.  To squirrels, that is.

cherry almond cookies raw cookie dough

Here is how simple the recipe is:

  • Sift together your dry ingredients.  And by "sift" I mean dump them all in the mixing bowl and use a whisk to quickly combine them all together.
  • Add the fat of your choice, butter or Crisco.  I usually choose salted butter.  Cut the butter in til the whole mixture resembles wet sand.  You can do it by hand or with a mixer.
  • Add the eggs, almond extract and in this case, finely chopped dried cherries until it all comes together in one big ball of dough.

And now you're ready for baking!  That whole process comes together in less than 5 minutes and with only 18 minutes of baking time you can have buttery, delicious cookies in under 30 minutes and you will love me because they are awesome!  I will post the whole recipe below.

Have a terrific summer weekend, bake some cookies, enjoy this crazy life!

Cherry Almond Cookies by accordingtocarey.com

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter or shortening, softened

1 slightly beaten egg

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1/2 cup finely chopped dried cherries

1/4 cup slivered or halved almonds

Preheat oven to 325.  Combine first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl, using a whisk to gently stir till all combined and no lumps are visible.  With an electric mixer or by hand cut in butter or shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal or wet sand.  With an electric mixer or large wooden spoon add egg, extract and dried cherries, mixing gently until one large, soft ball of dough forms.  Using a small spoon, scoop out a small portion of dough and roll into a 1" ball, about the size of a walnut.  Place balls on an ungreased baking sheet with about 1 inch in between each cookie.  Take an almond half or a couple slivers of almond and lightly press them onto the top of the dough ball, pressing down slightly so the middle has a slight indentation.  Bake cookies for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are just barely beginning to turn golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before eating.  Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

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pine nuts, parsley, mediterranean

I promised you something special this week due to my vanishing act last Friday.  Because I love ya, here we go:

You might remember a few weeks past when I posted this photo:

That is a gorgeous crepe that I ate in Port Townsend last month when I went to visit my Wonder Twin:

We don't know how it happened, but we were separated at birth.

Wonder Twin, her daughters and I each ordered this Mediterranean Crepe for lunch at a seaside cafe' in Port Townsend (sorry, I don't remember the name right now).  I ate every last bit.  In fact, I was completely fascinated by it.  I took pictures of it.  I opened it up so I could inspect all the ingredients.  And then I came home and tried to copy it.  And you know what?  I did it!  I promise I will share the whole dang thing with you as soon as it's perfected.  Soon, very soon.

But one of the by-products of all that testing was another recipe that popped into my little brain: a pork loin stuffed with a Mediterranean inspired filling.  Again, I'm still perfecting that recipe.  I haven't nailed down the cooking temperature on the pork loin but I have to admit, it is delicious whether I overcook the pork or not.

How cruel is that, to tell you about delicious recipes and not give them to you.  Sorry.  I just want it to be perfect for you.

However, I CAN share the filling with you because it's simple and works as wonderfully inside a whole wheat tortilla or pita bread as it does inside a butterflied pork loin.

Mediterranean filling

Here's your cast of characters:

  • half a bunch of parsley (about 3/4 cup)
  • lightly toasted pine nuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • sun dried tomato (about 1/4 cup) AND some of the oil it's packed in (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 3-4 oz of crumbled feta cheese
  • capers (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • a dash of black pepper
  • a drizzle of olive oil (if needed)
Stuff all these ingredients into a small food processor and give it several pulses.  Don't let it run because although you want it well combined, you still want to maintain a little texture.  We are not making baby food.
If it looks a little dry, you can either drizzle in some more oil from the jar of sun dried tomatoes OR a little olive oil.  Check for salt and pepper.  The mixture should be salty enough from the feta and capers but if you like it saltier, add a little more.
Next, toast up some pita halves OR whole wheat tortillas and shmear about 2 Tablespoons of mixture inside.
Eat.  And enjoy.  Because you will love it.

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I've made a batch of this filling and snacked on it for a couple days.  My mouth is watering  just thinking about it.  I wonder if we have any feta at home....

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First of all, by the time most of you are reading this I will be on a big ole jet plane headed out to see Wonder Twin!!  Ohhh there will be adventures to share when I get back.

Now, back to the "recipe".  OK, it's not really a recipe.  It's more of a "look what I made" post.  This is how it started:

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My uncle showed up at the house the other day with this bag.  He plopped it on the counter and said something like, "You're not going to believe what I brought you."  Oddly enough, this happens a lot with my Uncle, my mother's youngest brother.  Like the time he showed up to a birthday party with a pickup bed full of packed, freshly fallen snow and freshly cooked crab embedded into it.  Yeah, this kind of thing happens a lot.

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So cautiously, I opened up the mysterious black bag to reveal yet another bag:  a bag full of orange ice cubes.

What you need to know about my Uncle is that he is very resourceful.  He knows all the local growers and just about every week he talks them into selling him a bounty of little-heard-of produce that you will not find down at the local Bel Air shopping center. One such week he received a bunch of juicy, ripe Cara Cara oranges.  I bet most of you (like me) are saying "What is a Cara Cara orange?"

Cara Cara oranges are a variety of navel orange that are known for their almost salmon colored flesh.  They are truly beautiful and the flavor is great as well.  Something like a cross between flowers, oranges, berries and apricots.  But he had A LOT of oranges and rather than let them go to waste (how many oranges can you really eat in a week?), he juiced them and put them into ice cube trays.  And that's what was in the bag.

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It just so happened to be the night of the oyster feast, so as an accompaniment I tossed a few of the Cara Cara cubes into a goblet....

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... covered them with a little club soda we had stashed away from last week's birthday party...

...and had a refreshing, bubbly treat!  The more the cubes melted, the more  I could taste the floral sweetness of the Cara Cara.

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It was a good day.

I wonder what Uncle will bring this weekend?

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I am still without internet capabilities a mi casa, if you're wondering why the posts have been lean lately.  I literally had to wander around in a walnut orchard this week to find enough cell bars to send a text message.  I finally found 4 bars about 50 yards from the house, it was pretty exciting.  And so although I've been cooking up a storm and have about 200 projects in line, I can't share most of them with you yet!

It will all work itself out eventually.  Maybe after I get back from my trip I will park myself at a local Starbucks and get some stuff done!

Happy weekend everyone!  I hope yours is full of sunshine and joy!

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(pretend there's a picture here of a huge bowl of creamy, dreamy pasta; I didn't have time to snap a pic!)

I'm writing this last minute post to tell you about the last minute pasta we had last night because we threw a last minute Thursday night celebration.  Long story short, yesterday afternoon we received some really great news and invited a few friends over after work to share the joy.  After a few rounds of cocktails, the natives started getting hungry.  Luckily, right then some friends showed  with some delicious sausages to throw on the Webber.  But we couldn't sit around outside eating just sausages like some sort of savages.  We needed a starch to make it a civilized meal!

"Carey, think real fast!  What would go with sausages... uhhhh... how about buttered Parmesan noodles?  It's quick, it's tasty, it fills the belly, it will be perfect!"  Thus began the scrounging through the refrigerator, only to discover <gasp!> we were completely out of Parmesan!  What to do??!!

I'll tell you what you do: you treasure hunt for all the bits and scraps of cheese you can find in the cheese drawer, make a cheese sauce  and turn it into a stove top mac and cheese.

To further complicate things, I needed to cook up 2 lbs of pasta to feed the small crowd that had gathered.  The problem with that was what I  found in the pantry was one box of whole wheat shells, one box of regular white shells of a slightly different shape, a box of spaghetti, a box of corkscrew pasta and one bag of analletti (think Spaghetti O's).   I knew the whole wheat shells were going to cook at a different rate than all the rest but I took my chances and went with 2 lbs. of shell pasta.  I set that to boil and crossed my fingers.

Meanwhile, I rounded up all the leftover cheeses we had in the fridge.  It's a good thing I'm a cheese hoarder because this is what I found: 1/2 bag of shredded mozzarella, 1/2 bag of shredded "Mexican Style" shredded cheese blend, a couple slices of Swiss Cheese, about 6 oz. of sharp cheddar cheese, a couple slices of Provolone, 1 brick of smoked Gouda and 2 bags of mozzarella cheese sticks.

Yeah, we eat a lot of cheese.  You got a problem with that?

Into a medium saucepan I melted a whole cube of butter and sprinkled in about 4 heaping tablespoons of flour.  I let that cook out for about a minute then poured in enough milk to make a roux, about 4 cups.  Then I raided the newly organized spiced cabinet.  I fished out salt, pepper, ground mustard, roasted garlic powder, toasted onion powder and sprinkled a little of each into my pot of roux.

Then I stirred in the shredded cheeses.  I showed some restraint by only choosing the following cheeses:  the cheddar, the shredded mozzarella, the shredded Mexican style cheese and the smoked Gouda.

I drained the al dente pasta (thank goodness the whole wheat shells didn't overcook), but left about 3/4 cup of the pasta water in the pot then stirred in the gooey, melted cheese sauce.  I gave it all a vigorous stir so the pasta and sauce could get to know each other and it was done!

Those sausages with that pasta... well my friends... it was divine.  And I'm not just saying that because we were starving hungry (it was nearly 10pm by then).  It was a delicious feast, thrown together at the last minute and shared with 1 happy little group of friends.

The end.

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I repeat, this is not a recipe. It is simply the 5 minute meal I made for myself the last two nights 1) because it was so fast and 2) because it was so darn good and 3) because I was allowed to have it.

I probably forgot to tell you that somehow I got suckered into doing P90x exercise program for the next couple of months, diet and all. Yes, I am breaking one of my own rules and adhering to a high protein/low carb diet but only because it is perfectly calculated to fuel you through these intense workouts. To tell you the truth, the hardest part of the diet has been eating that much food. I have to fit 7 portions of protein into one day! It's not easy to fit in work, my daily workout and cooking all that protein.

But yesterday I "cooked" a great throw together meal! It's too simple to call it a recipe but here is what you need:

  • one box of quick couscous (Near East is my favorite)
  • precooked frozen fajita meat, beef or chicken (the one at my Sam's Club is not frozen so it's even quicker); I don't now the amount, just eyeball it
  • 1 bag of sugar snap peas from the produce aisle; again, I don't know the weight of the bag, I told you this wasn't a recipe!
  • a drizzle of olive oil (but you can add up to 2 teaspoons if you are not on a restrictive diet like me)

Follow the directions on the package to prepare the couscous, it usually is something like this: bring 1 1/2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of oil and the contents of the spice pack to a boil. Stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Put the lid on the pot and let sit for 5 minutes.

While your couscous is boiling or resting, you can heat your fajita meat up in the microwave. About 1-2 minutes depending on if it's frozen.

Also while your couscous is resting and your meat is reheating, cut your sugar snap peas in half on the diagonal, because it's prettier on the diagonal. And the smaller pieces just make more sense.

Once your couscous has rested, take the lid off the pot and give it a small stir with a fork to fluff it up. Stir in your sugar snap peas and dish up onto plates, about 1/2 cup on each plate. Top with your fajita meat and ta-da! A filling, healthy meal in just about 5 minutes!! Hoooray!!

Of course, you could add more veggies to your couscous, depending on what you have on hand. Some caramelized red onions or chopped green onion tops or halved grape tomatoes would be yummy, too.  Or you could leave out the meat and use a package of fajita veggies.  Throw in the kitchen sink for all I care but give this quick weeknight meal a shot, I think you'll make it again and again.  I know I will.

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biscuits2

There are some recipes that are just so common we forget about them.  Angel Biscuits have been around for-ev-er.  Open up just about any Betty Crocker cookbook and you will find them.  They are so easy to make and just plain tasty!

biscuitbowl

I made 60 biscuits for Thanksgiving and it only took about an hour, no lie.  This is me mixing the biscuits by hand in the ginormous bowl, because the only way to mix biscuits is by hand.

My mom made these biscuits often for dinner because although there is yeast, you don’t have to let it rise all day AND you can roll out the biscuits earlier in the day, let them sit in the fridge until about 1/2 hour before dinner then cook them just before dinner so everyone gets a chewy, hot delicious biscuit.

Making a triple batch might take an hour but making one little batch for a weeknight dinner takes no time at all.  The one thing I will warn you about is this:  don’t over mix your dough! Once you get all the ingredients in the bowl, just mix til combined. The mixture will be kinda wet so throw lots of bench flour down before you turn the dough out on to your board.  Then dust the top with flower as you smoosh the dough flat (by hand) for cutting.  Also dust your cutter or knife so it doesn’t stick.  It takes some practice to get it JUST right but really, even if you make a few goofs, it’s a forgiving dough and you will have some rich, yummy biscuits for dinner in no time.

Mom’s recipe is below.  I hope you have a wonderful, delicious weekend!

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Mom’s Angel Biscuits

Ingredients:

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)

1 cup buttermilk

 

Preheat oven to 400.

Dissolve yeast in water and set aside.  Next, mix dry ingredients together in order given.  Cut the shortening into dry mixture til the mixture with all it’s chunks of shortening resembles peas on a sandy beach (how’s that for a visual?!).  Stir in buttermilk and yeast mixture.  Blend by hand or with a dough cutter.  This is the messy part, but stick with it (no pun intended).  At this point you have some options:

  • Refrigerate the dough until you are ready to roll it out and cook the biscuits.  Let them rise and come up to temp for about 12 to 15 minutes before baking.
  • If you are ready to eat then proceed as follows:  Dump the dough out onto the well floured counter or board (as described earlier).  Knead lightly, roll out the dough to about 3/4 inch and cut the biscuits either with a knife or biscuit cutter.  Place in a greased pan, separated slightly, they will spread out a tiny bit as they bake.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size you cut them.

I hope that all makes sense but if you need more help let me know!

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm betting you have a fridge full of leftovers.  Well, my dad kept all the leftovers at his house so I bought a little turkey to cook tomorrow specifically for the purpose of having turkey sandwiches and turkey soup.  But I'm not going to make just any soup, mine is going to have a Latin flair.  I'm loosely basing it off of a recipe for  Tortilla Soup by Lourdes Castro.  As a side note, I really recommend this book, (even though she isn't Mexican, she's Cuban.  Oh well, everyone can't be perfect :) )

Now, I know some of you indulged a little too much yesterday and are having to live in your stretchy pant today.  It's OK, this recipe is not creamy and heavy like some of the tortilla soups served in chain restaurants (blech!).  This soup is light, brothy, smokey, de-licious and very healthy.

I know what some of you are thinking:  "Carey made this so it must have 12 hot peppers in it."  Guess what?  There are NO hot peppers in this recipe.   You can make it spicy if you want to but the base is just tomato, onion & garlic and it so flavorful you won't miss the punch of hot peppers.

So I just adapted the recipe to turkey, using my turkey carcass for homemade stock but you can use canned chicken stock too.  Oh, and this base will freeze beautifully, just leave the "toppings" out until just before serving.

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Turkey Tortilla Soup (adapted from Lourdes Castro's Tortilla Soup)

BASE

2 large tomatoes

1 small white onion, peeled and quartered

3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

2 tablespoons canola oil (or other vegetable oil)

6 cups of low sodium turkey broth (or chicken)

Leftover turkey, chopped into small pieces (roughly 2 cups)

Over medium high heat, heat up a dry cast iron skillet (or non-stick).  Put the tomatoes, onion and garlic in the pan and allow to cook, getting black spots on all sides.  When veggies are toasted and softened remove to a blender BUT allow to cool for a few minutes (don't puree hot food, you'll be sorry!).  Pop the garlic out of it's skin.  Once cooled, puree veggies until all chunks are gone.

In a large soup pot heat up the oil over medium high heat.  Add the veggie puree and watch out because it will sputter and splatter at you.  Cook and stir the mixture until it darkens and reduces by almost half.  If you need some spice in your soup, now would be a good time to add a pinch of chile powder.  You can also add a scant pinch of salt and pepper but don't go crazy with the salt because we will be reducing the soup again.

Add the broth and turkey, give it a stir then allow it to come up to a low boil then reduce to a simmer.  Allow to simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes then test for seasoning.  Add a pinch of salt if needed.  That's the base, now it's time for the toppings.

TOPPINGS

shredded or crumbled cheese (preferably Mexican queso fresco but Monterrey Jack is a good option)

cilantro, roughly chopped

tortilla chips, roughly crumbled

avocado, thinly sliced

Serve the soup in warmed bowls and then top with the above toppings or anything else that suits your fancy!

 

4 Comments

Growing up on the farm, eating according to the seasons was just elementary to us.   May meant cherries, because that's when they are growing in Northern CA. July meant the yummiest Independence nectarines, because that's when they were full of sugar from the summer sunshine.  Mom grew peppers and tomatoes in the summer and Grandma grew lettuce in the winter in big raised beds. Eating seasonally just makes sense because that's when food will taste its best.

So when I went to the grocery store and saw these beauties:

... gorgeous Rainbow Swiss Chard, I just had to buy them and make something yummy. So I bought 2 bunches and some of these:

These happen to be spicy cilantro chicken sausages but there are many flavors available and they are all good. And they come fully cooked, so cooking is speedy. If you haven't tried them yet, try the Aidell's brand.  Back to the swiss chard.

I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret...

I use my Iphone in the kitchen a lot. One of my favorite apps is "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. It is the book, "How to Cook Everything", in digital format.  Mark Bittman writes for the New York Times and this cookbook is a valuable resource and has been a bestseller for years. To have access to the book at any time, like when I 'm wandering around in the grocery store, is such a time saver. I use it all the time.

Now if Ina would come out with a recipe app, my life would be complete.  Please Ina?  Please?

Anyway, when I got home and pulled out my swiss chard, I couldn't remember how to properly trim them up. So I simply looked up "swiss chard" in the app and voila, easy directions and cooking tips.

I washed my swiss chard  (it holds on to sand so rinse well) and started prepping it for the pan. Here's the most important thing to remember about swiss chard:

The stems are significantly thicker and more dense than the leaves. If you are sauteing (which I highly recommend), you need to cut out the thickest part of the stem and chop them up separately than the leaves.

It's not a big deal, it all goes pretty quickly. After you chop the stems and tear up the leaves you will have 2 beautiful piles that look like this:

I also chopped up some garlic, you don't need a picture of that. It's not very exciting. I drizzled some olive oil in a pan and turned the heat to medium.

I added the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and let them soften up for just a minute. Then I added all my bright stems:

Look at all the gorgeous color!  That color means healthy eating!

While the stems softened up, 3-4 minutes, I went to work on the chicken sausage. I cut mine on the bias into medallions.

Why on the bias? 1) I think it's prettier. 2) It creates more surface area. Why do I need more surface area? Because I caramelized my sausages before combining them with the swiss chard. This step is not crucial. If you are in a hurry and don't want to caramelize the sausage, it will not hurt my feelings. Because they are already fully cooked, you can cut them up any old way and throw them in the pan with the swiss chard. It will still be yummy. But I wanted to extract as much flavor as I could:

See that? That lovely browned goodness equals FLAVOR! It makes me happy. So while the swiss chard stems were cooking away, I browned these little sausage nuggets in a smaller pan. Afterward, I cooked the swiss chard leaves.

Right on top of the slightly softened swiss chard stems, I added the swiss chard leaves. Now, don't get scared. I had a huge mound of leaves in the pan.

Looks like they won't all fit, right? No worries, these leaves are going to shrink down significantly. The water will evaporate out, steaming the leaves and creating flavor. It will be OK, trust me.

See what I mean?! It only took 2-3 minutes for the huge pile of leaves to cook down to about 3 cups of greens. Perfect amount.  I checked them for done-ness after bout 3 minutes and they were softened but not quite enough for my taste so I added a glug of white wine and put the lid on for about 2 minutes. You can skip that step if you like, or add chicken stock or water. Or just let them keep cooking with the lid off, they will eventually soften up.   I just wanted to speed things up a bit and the wine does add another layer of flavor.

After the greens were softened to my liking, I added the browned sausage and let it all marry together for a minute or so:

"Bonjour swiss chard!"
"Bonjour chicken sausage!"

And that, my friends, is my easy Swiss Chard and Chicken Sausage.

I should tell you that I added a sprinkle of salt & pepper here and there but don't get carried away with the salt until you have added the sausage to the greens because the sausage tends to have a lot of salt in it already. Best to wait til the end and check for seasoning then.

If you are scared of swiss chard or can't find it in season you can substitute spinach, dandelion greens or any other "greens" you prefer.  Cooking times will vary, just keep an eye on it.

Try it!  You'll love it!

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