Happy Canada Day! Eat Some (Strawberry) Pie!

Happy Canada Day, everyone!  We are celebrating Canada Day as our tradition dictates:  hot dog bar with a red-and-white dessert.  In this case, I am making Strawn’s Strawberry Pie using a recipe that I found, first on Food.com (but without the crust recipe), and then the complete recipe in a cookbook I found at Sam’s when my in-laws’ were visiting, Southern Living Off the Eaten Path On the Road Again.  I have been obsessed with Strawn’s pie crust at first bite.  It’s almost a crackery crust, if that makes any since.  Tender it is not, but it is still unique enough to be yummy…and obsession-causing.

I first made the pie during my in-laws’ visit, and I was disappointed that I didn’t have the crust recipe.  The filling recipe is all over the Internet.  The crust recipe that they use for all of their pies–strawberry, chocolate, coconut, and peach.

Strawn’s is a Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana, institution.  And they are known for their pies, particularly their strawberry pies.  The crackery crust, the deep red fresh strawberry filling made extra ruddy with a nip of red food coloring, topped by white billowy clouds of sweetened whipped cream molded into a low center peak.  A big, whole juicy berry right in the center denotes that it is a strawberry pie.

Josh’s first introduction to Strawn’s pies was interesting.  Josh first worked for Circle K, the convenience store, when we were first married.  He met one of the employees at Strawn’s; in fact, she was a customer of his.  She would sometimes bring him a leftover pie at the end of the night if she knew that he would be working.  We ate well during those months.

I’ve been known to visit our local Strawn’s with Josh and Muffin for a late breakfast, putting off breakfast as long as possible, in fact, so that there are pies available to cut for a slice for breakfast.  It has dairy, grain, and fruit…three of the four food groups.  It counts as a breakfast, right?

The first attempt rested on a purchased shortbread crust.  It was good…it just wasn’t the same.  Wish me luck today as I use the following recipe in its entirety.

No changes or augmentations on this one, folks.  You know it’s serious when I don’t change any component of a recipe, but this one will be made as stated.

Strawberry Pie (Strawn’s)

Source:  Southern Living Off the Eaten Path On the Road Again

Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup cold shortening, cut into pieces

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. table salt

3 Tbsp. ice water

Strawberry Filling

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Pinch of table salt

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. red liquid food coloring

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1 cup heavy whipping cream (Bring it up to a pint is closer…oops…one change to be made)

1 Tbsp. sugar (Another change to be made…I would recommend closer to 3 Tbsp.)

1.  Prepare Pastry:  Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas.  Sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, over surface of mixture in bowl; stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened.  Gather dough into a flat disk; cover and chill 1 hour.

2.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roll dough into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.

3.  Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dry beans.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove weights and foil; bake 15-20 more minutes or until golden brown, shielding edges if necessary.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

4.  Prepare Strawberry Filling:  Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan; stir in 3 tablespoons water until a past forms.  Slowly stir in 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil 1 minute or until thickened.  Stir in lemon juice and food coloring.  Remove from heat.  Fill a large bowl with ice; place pan in ice, and let stand, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until cool.  Stir in strawberries.

5.  Beat whipping cream until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

6.  Spread filling in piecrust.  Top with whipped cream.  Chill at least 2 hours.  Makes:  8 servings.

By the way, this is an excellent cookbook.  I plan on making the Gelato di Superior Pub Cookie from the Arkansas section of the cookbook, scooped out in 1/2 cup portions and containing such goodies as oats, coconut, chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, and Oreos.  Muffin has been wanting to make cookies, so this looks like the cookie to make…next week when things aren’t so crazy.

Happy Patriotic Holidays, everyone!

Advent Calendar Activities: December 1

Meet Ketchup (because he’s red) the Elf.

He brought Muffin a new pair of pajamas as his welcome gift.  Muffin was very surprised and happy that Ketchup (newly renamed because we all seem to have forgotten his name) arrived safe and sound.

My mom purchased LEGO Advent Calendars for my nephews and Muffin (LEGO Star Wars for my oldest nephew and LEGO City for Muffin and my youngest nephew).  Muffin has literally (well…figuratively) chomping at the bit to begin his calendar.  After we got home this afternoon, he made quick work of today’s surprise:  a boy carrying letters.

Today marks the beginning of the Advent activities that I had planned today.  Today’s was a near-miss.  Muffin worked to create a LEGO ornament…which then became pieces of cargo (yes…pieces…as in he broke it all up…but he promised to make another one) for the cars of one of his trains.

This is the photo of what he did before it became train car cargo:

How are your advent activities going?

 

Thoughtful Thursday: On the Holidays

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We are in the midst of the holiday season. Whether you believe it or not, for many people who celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, the holiday season begins in mid October. I see all of this hater angst about the holiday season on Facebook on Pinterest and all over social media and television media. I don’t understand it. There people who are fighting mad that people have already put up Christmas decorations. I would think the absence of holiday spirit would be worse  then a surplus of it. And yet the reverse seems true. Yes, I am one of those individual who already has Christmas music blaring on the car radio. I have my copy of Elf all ready to play on my mobile device. Muffin has already nagged Josh several times as to when he will put up the Christmas decorations. I have already begun planning the Christmas baking list to do for the season.

I’ve always considered the holiday season to be a reflection on what is best about humanity. Yes I have made sure to watch some of my favorite Christmas movies made by Hallmark and look forward to any new ones that shall be created and shown the season.

That is why it is so disconcerting when people vilify the holiday season. I realize it is stressful season, but the joy of the season brings to others… Family, friends, and virtual strangers that you meet… Far outweighs  the angst the season can cause. 

So if you are a person who could be likened to Ebenezer Scrooge, I ask you this: give the holiday season, it’s joyous participants, its bright lights, and the hope of a better, brighter tomorrow infuse your spirit and your soul with warmth and purpose.  I say to you Merry Christmas!

We Plan Wednesday: A New Blog Series for December

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Yes…I have been MIA.   I have been doing very many things…with my family…with work…and with planning for the blog.   I have something new to work toward:  25 days of holiday recipes…appropriate for Christmas…Thanksgiving…New Year’s Eve…and New Year’s Day.  Some are brand new to the blog…and some are re-fashioned favorites of recipes I’ve already posted.  I hope you’ll be impressed with my best. 

Here are few recipes that you will be seeing:

Sea salt caramel truffles
Sparkling apple cider
cornbread dressing vs white bread dressing
My take on Yams Richard
Chicken and steak fajitas
Guacamole
Pico de gallo
Spanish rice
Nanaimo bars
Pecan pie
cranberry relish
chocolate dipped licorice
Frogs
Olive bread
BBQ little sausages
Red velvet cake the right way
How to make greens from frozen
And many other surprises

If you’re going through Christmas withdrawal, be sure to visit my 12 days of Christmas in July
entries and round up. If you are one of those people who feels that Christmas is beginning to early each year, I apologize but respectfully disagree. I think the world could do with more Christmas spirit all year… The sharing, the caring, the generosity toward others, and tolerance and patience for other’s shortcomings.

I wish you in advance Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy new year, and a great year next year.

Here are a few of the recipes I plan to feature:

Canadian Thanksgiving: Cranberry Relish

My sister and brother-in-law use two recipes at holiday time from The Commander’s Palace Cookbook:  Yams Richard and the cranberry-orange relish.  Both are amped up versions of holiday classics.  Yams Richard is an uber sweet potato casserole complete with pecans, marshmallows, butter, and, of course, that yummy Louisiana starchy vegetable roasted to syrup-oozing-out-of-the-steamholes perfection.

The cranberry orange relish, in contrast, is a tartly sweet, slightly boozy complement to the ubiquitous canned jellied cranberry sauce.  From previous experience I have seen leftover relish further blended and further booze-infused to create a cran-orange margarita or daiquiri.  Delish!

I have been buying up and freezing bags of cranberries post-holiday season in order to make this relish for Canadian Thanksgiving (otherwise as the time that occurs too early for the southern United States to stock bags of fresh cranberries).

But I should be glad that we don’t have a surveillance camera trained on the fridge in the kitchen because I have been guilty (quite a few times) of scooping out a surreptitious spoonful of relish before Monday.

It’s addictive.

And here’s what I did:

Cranberry-Orange Relish

Source:  The Commander’s Palace Cookbook

1 pound cranberries

2 oranges, peeled (peel discarded)

1 cup sugar

1 ounce rum

1 ounce orange liqueur (The recipe calls for Grand Marnier, but I don’t live on a Grand Marnier budget.  I live on a orange liqueur budget)

Blend until “relish”-sized pieces and refrigerate at least overnight.

Sample judiciously and surreptitiously.

Repeat.

Serve with turkey or on dressing/stuffing.  Serve by the spoonful in a big bowl.  Or just serve a big bowl and get out of my way!

Yes.  It’s that good.

Canadian Thanksgiving: Nanaimo Bars

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Can you identify this famous bar?

I first ate these, oddly enough, at a local restaurant.  Josh and I were newly married (pre-Muffin), and were making a rare splurge out to eat.  This is the same restaurant known for its tomato-basil soup (that…well…if you remember from the post…it definitely isn’t Le Mad’s), but they have a big to-go refrigerated case.

I had heard Josh mention (quite a few times) Nanaimo bars.  I had heard them mentioned in Corner Gas (well…Nanaimo-style Saskatchewan Bars).

I had never seen them before.  And I had never tasted them before.

I should note that, just as with the tomato-basil soup, this restaurant didn’t quite corner the market on Nanaimo Bars.  They were missing something…namely custard powder, I believe.

They were good…just not what I now know to be more Nanaimo-like…Nanaimo-esque?

So, I went on the hunt.  The site that was still then Recipezaar (now Food.com) had a large Canadian contingent.  Someone on there had to have a good Nanaimo Bar recipe.

After a few misses, I located it:  Kittencal’s Best Nanaimo Bars (No Bake).  I do make some alterations.  But, for the most part, I keep the recipe as pure as I can make it.

Nanaimo Bars

Adapted from Food.com

Bottom Layer

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (I actually purchased crumbs specifically for this)

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (Her recipe calls for almonds)

1 cup finely chopped (“fancy” shredded) coconut

Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 scant tablespoons whipping cream

2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (I use Bird’s brand which my sister recently informed me is available at Cost Plus World Market)

2 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar to some)

Top Layer

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon whipping cream (She says optional.  I think it’s completely necessary)

For bottom layer:  On low heat in a saucepan, melt the first three ingredients, remove from heat.  Let the saucepan cool for a few minutes.  Stir in egg to combine and thicken (I’ve not let the mixture cool and had chocolate-flavored scrambled egg before).  Stir in remaining bottom layer ingredients.

Press firmly into prepared ungreased 8×8-inch square Pyrex pan.  The mixture will be crumbly but will appear to become a solid layer once tamped down.

For the middle layer:  cream the middle layer ingredients.  I used my Kitchen Aid for the first time on this attempt and it creates a smoother product than a hand mixer.

Spread over bottom layer.  Refrigerate 10-15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

For the top layer:  microwave chips, cream, and butter for one minute.  Slowly stir or whisk together until the consistency of slightly thick chocolate syrup.

Pour evenly over the middle layer, smoothing out with a spoon, a spoonula, a spatula, or a knife if necessary.

Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting.

The recipe says it makes 16 (which would be 2×2 bars).  I would recommend much smaller squares because at over half a pound of butter, they are very rich.

This recipe is completely Muffin Approved (and the only dessert that I prepped for Thanksgiving that my mom or I would eat).

Muffin Approved

The Pinteresting Blogosphere: I Love Fall; I Promise

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m obsessed with the Pinteresting Blogosphere.

But recently I thought of taking a hiatus…going on strike…from the Pinteresting Blogosphere.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I love fall, autumn, the autumnal equinox.  I love sweater weather, October (my birth month), Thanksgiving (both the Canadian and the American varieties), shorter days, jack o’lanterns, apple recipes, and soups.

However, there is one thing about autumn I most definitely DO NOT like.

Pumpkin.

I have a feeling you are scratching your head now.  Wait a sec…she said she likes jack o’lanterns, and those are made from pumpkins.  Please, let me clarify.  I hate pumpkin recipes.

I’m very happy when my Pinterest feed is clogged with casserole recipes, chocolate delights, red velvet anything, and salted caramel everything.  Yet, right now, my Pinterest feed is infested…absolutely overrun…with…PUMPKIN.

I think I have a can of pumpkin mush somewhere in the house.  I think it may be out of date by a few years or so.

Now, I realize there are those (quite obviously, if my Pinterest feed is to be believed) that actually seem to like pumpkin.  I don’t have anything against you personally; I promise.

But my stomach does this really weird caving in on itself in fear (a pucker) when I view those pumpkinny “delights.”  Cakes.  No.  Pies.  Well, I don’t eat it, but it is tradition at Thanksgiving, so my husband and dad eat it.  French toast.  No.  Ravioli or pasta of any kind with pumpkin in it.  Revolting.  Cookies.  Please.  Just.  No.  Granola.  Whyyyyyyyyy?  Cinnamon rolls?  Really?  What did the poor cinnamon roll do to you?????  Cheesecake cupcakes sound yummy…until I glance to the word in front of cheesecake.  Pumpkin.  And this insidious “Got pumpkin?  10 delicious pumpkin recipes for fall!”  Uh.  No.

Dear Pinteresting Board of Directors:

Please, please, puhleeze, give us the option to screen certain items with let’s say the keyword of pumpkin out of our Pinterest feed.  Thank you very much.  Sincerely, A Pinterest-obsessed person.

I do, however, really enjoy sweet potato recipes.  I live in the south, after all.  I love sweet potato pie.  I love sweet potato bread and rolls and muffins.  I love sweet potatoes baked in their (slightly leathery) jackets until their syrup oozes out of the fork holes so made to allow steam to escape.  I love them with butter…with cream…with mushrooms…with cinnamon…and with brown sugar.  I love them mashed.  I love them with pecans.  I love them, Sam-I-am.

I do NOT, however, like sweet potatoes in savory dishes.  That’s where it crosses the line into pumpkin insanity.  A sweet potato should never debut in pasta…or swim in soups or chilis…or nap in savory casseroles.  Yes, I realize they are a superfood and people believe all superfoods should be in everything, but give the sweet tater it’s due…and leave it out of things that make some people go ew!

In the coming week, I will be sharing with you several recipes that make Canadian Thanksgiving happen in our house.  I hope you enjoy.  And…to bring it all back to pumpkin:  Yes, as I mentioned above, pumpkin pie will make an appearance on the table, but it will not be made by me.  That is one thing I do not do homemade.