Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bye Bye Pie O My

I'm retiring. No more spending my weekends planning and cooking and plating and styling. No more fretting and fuming over pots and pans and whisks and spoons. No more shopping and buying and searching for ingredients. No more pictures and writing and editing and posting.

This blog has been so interesting to create. I started nearly five years ago in May 2008 on a whim and it morphed into at times, an all consuming project.  I've posted 348 entries; an average of seven posts a month. Some recipes turned out great. Others were a complete fiasco. But I learned something with every dish cooked, every photo taken, and every post written.

Over the years I've been doing this I've made a little (and I mean a little!) money which I most often used to buy cookbooks for my ever growing collection.  I have received an amazing array of sample food products and gadgets from companies all over the country. It was always fun to come home to boxes on the front porch and open them up to see what kind of goodies were sent my way.  My blog also generated some press with two mentions on Bon Appetit's website; once for Christmas cookies and another time for shrimp and grits. Locally, a weekly newspaper reporter interviewed me for my take as a hometown food blogger. That was certainly fun to see in print.

But the best part of doing this blog was hearing from readers and enjoying their comments, especially from my dear friends. Such generous words were always motivating. Yum! Of course my in-home fan club, The Husband, was another great motivator. I love cooking for him and he is always most grateful.  He also contributed to my recipes by year after year producing fantastic vegetables in the garden for me to put to good use.

I am going to retire my blog now and move on to some other hobbies.  Who knows, maybe someday I'll work up the energy to compile all of these posts into a cookbook. It's been fun, and through this experience I hope I have become a better cook, a better photographer, and a better writer. GOOD BYE and thanks to all of you who have followed Pie O My!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce


Happy Easter. No bunny cakes or cupcakes with nests of chocolate atop them for this year's Easter dinner.  Instead, I've opted for a sophisticated and rather decedent cheesecake flavored with lots of juice and zest from  slightly sweet Meyer lemons and topped with a lovely raspberry sauce. It just screamed Spring to me.

This cheesecake differs from ones I have made in the past in that the crust is a shortbread rather than the normal graham cracker crumb concoction.  It too contains some lemon zest, making it a perfect compliment for the creamy filling.  This recipe is a keeper!

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

Crust:
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup butter
1 slightly beaten egg yolk
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Filling:
3 packages cream cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 lemons, juiced
1 1/2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sour cream
Raspberry Sauce :
1 cup of raspberry jam (I used seedless jelly)
1 cup of fresh raspberries  (I used frozen berries)
1 tablespoon of lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400.

Make Crust:
Combine first 3 ingredients. Cut in butter till crumbly. Add egg yolk and vanilla; mix well. Pat 1/3 of dough on bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan (sides removed). Bake about 8 minutes or till golden; cool. Butter sides of pan; attach to bottom. Pat remaining dough on sides of pan to height of 1 3/4 inches.

Preheat oven to 450.

Make Filling:
Add softened cream cheese into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until creamy; add sugar, lemon juice and zest. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each just to blend. Add sour cream and stir to combine.

Turn into crust-lined pan. bake at 450 for 12 minutes; reduce heat to 300 degrees; bake 55 minutes or till knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 1/2 hour; loosen sides of cheesecake from pan with knife. Cool 1/2 hour more; remove sides of pan. Cool 2 hours longer.

Raspberry Sauce:
Put jam into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute until melted. Add raspberries and stir to coat. Pour over cooled cheesecake

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me

I threw a birthday party for myself yesterday.  No particular reason this year. I just wanted to celebrate me.  So I invited my best friends over and with The Husband, we ate, drank and were merry.  We had a simple but yummy dinner starting with shrimp cocktails, followed by Caeser Salad and Fettucini Alfredo.  There was crusty French bread that was dipped in the most amazing fruity olive oil pressed from arbequinia olives. Find some and try it.  You'll be glad you did. We drank Lemon Drops and giggled.

For dessert I opted to purchase a cake from a renowned local bakery called Konditerei's.  The proprietor, Gerry Frank,  is a fixture in our town. He comes from a family who owned a famous department store in our state and he was the right hand man for Mark Hatfield, one of the state's long time senators. 

What Gerry Frank is probably best known for though, is his bakery and his cakes, particularly chocolate cakes.  Every year at the state fair there is a chocolate cake contest judged by Mr. Frank.  The annual winner receives not only a blue ribbon, but lots of publicity and accolades.  I purchased the Gerry's Chocolate Cake to celebrate my birthday and it was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Changing Seasons


Changing Seasons
The seasons are in their biannual flux
Not Winter nor Spring, somewhere in between.
As the dead leaves still coat the hard garden soil,
New shoots of what's to come poke through toward the sun.


The bare stark limbs on trees begin to sprout
While early blooming daffodils show off their
yellow heads proudly, a hope and promise of
the sunny warm days we have ahead.


BY: SMC 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's All Greek To Me

This post will be short but flavorful. I have had a craving for Greek food and unfortunately my town is lacking in such fare, except for one restaurant which isn't always open when we want it to be.  Since I had a trip to Portland planned yesterday, I stopped by Barbur World Market which I have blogged about in the past and picked up some fresh baked pita bread along with some hummus for our delicious Greek dinner I served today. I made my own tzatziki which I have posted before also.
Included on the menu to go with our steak gyros was Greek potatoes.  I made up this recipe and the combination of ingredients worked out great.  They made a wonderful accompaniment to our meal. Now my Greek craving is satisfied for awhile anyway.

Greek Potatoes
(Serves 4)

One pound of new potatoes into one inch cubes and microwaved them until just slightly done  
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp. fresh oregano (optional)
Dash of cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients together and toss the microwaved potatoes with the marinade.  Put in a baking dish in a single layer and roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes until golden brown.  Sprinkle with salt.  These can be served hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cioppino

The latest edition of Bon Appetit (March 2013) arrived in my mailbox and as usual, there were at least a dozen recipes I want to try.  This weekend I tried my hand at making Cioppino, an Italian seafood stew.  It's one of The Husband's favorite dishes when we go to seafood restaurants and I have never made it at home.

A trip to my favorite fish store, Fitts was in order and after getting all of the necessary ingredients, including their in-store made fish stock, I got busy in the kitchen.  The recipe calls for bottled clam juice but I figured fish stock would make a better soup. I also cut back a tad on the red pepper flakes but actually could have left the measurements as stated. It was a little on the mild side. I also omitted the step at the end that calls for adding butter to the soup.  Who needs the extra calories??  Though there appears to be a lot of steps to this recipe, it went together very easily.  This recipe states serves 6-8 so I cut it in half for the two of us and we'll have leftovers tomorrow. 

For the photo shoot, I left the seafood in their shells. But in actuality, when it came time to serve I deshelled the clams and mussels because really,  who wants to deal with those shells at the dinner table (or in the TV room if truth be told!)  I got the words of approval from The Husband when he stated "This is the best soup ever."  Praise indeed!

Cioppino
(Serves 6-8)
Broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 8-ounce bottles clam juice (or 16 ounces of fish stock)
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 pounds any mix of mussels (debearded), clams, or cockles, scrubbed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound firm skinless white fish fillets (such as sea bass), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Flat-leaf parsley leaves (for serving)

Toasted country bread, rubbed with garlic and olive oil (for serving)

Preparation
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes; stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add wine. Return pot to heat, bring to a boil, and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices, crushing with your hands as you add them.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15-20 minutes. Add clam juice, parsley, bay leaves, and 8 cups water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until flavors meld, 10-15 minutes more. Discard parsley sprigs and bay leaves. DO AHEAD: Broth can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing.

Soup
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add shallot; stir often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; add mussels and wine. Set over medium-high heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shells open (discard any that do not open), about 4 minutes.

Add reserved broth; bring to a simmer. Add fish and shrimp. Cover; cook just until opaque, about 4 minutes. Stir in butter; season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls; top with parsley. Serve with toast.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Winter Citrus

I have been so into consuming citrus fruits lately. Oranges, tangerines, and juicy pink grapefruits.  I also very much enjoy drinking citrus sodas, particular the San Pellegrino brand which has recently arrived in my local grocery store.  It is so refreshing, not too sweet, and a great subsitute for soda pop, of which I am not a particular fan.
Here's the problem though.  It is very expensive at more than $5.00 for a six pack.  Mind you, if I want it, I buy it.  But a discovered it is much more of a bargain to make my own citrus soda.  I had a coupon for a free bottle of the San Pellegrino natural spring water which I had recently redeemed.  I just juiced one pink grapefruit, added about 1 tablespoon of simple syrup (one part sugar to one part water, boiled for a few seconds until sugar dissolves then cooled), and then topped the glass with the spring water.  It was much better than what comes in a can and completely natural.
I can't say I still won't be tempted to buy myself a few cans of the store bought product occasionally, but this is a great make-it-yourself alternative.  Give it a try!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

I am dedicating this blog post to my special Valentine, The Husband.  Not only does he assist me when needed in the kitchen, such as unwrapping all the Hershey's Kisses, he is my best taste tester and honest critic when it comes to my blog.  As we are just a few days from Valentine's Day and just a month from our 18th wedding anniversary (I can hardly believe it!), I reflect on how much I love him and how happy  I am he is my life partner.  He is going to absolutely hate this public declaration of affection but it's my blog and I can say what I want!!
About these fun cookies.  They are a remake of the third most viewed post I've had since I started this blog.  They are a cookie called Chocolate Blossoms and thanks to Pinterest and other bloggers who link their recipe to my blog, this has been a very popular one.  I originally made them to include in Christmas cookie baskets a few years ago, but today I rolled these little chocolate balls into festive Valentine sprinkles, and voila, a retooled holiday cookie.  You can get the recipe by clicking on the highlighted cookie name above. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

French Baguettes

This weekend I pulled out all the stops and made a major French dinner which includes Coq au Vin (chicken in red wine) and this recipe for French baguettes. 

When we were at my mother's in January for a post-holiday visit she made us the Coq au Vin and is was so marvelous I had to try to make it myself.  It is Julia Child's recipe out of her Mastering The Art of French Cooking classic cookbook.  My mom had given me this cookbook for my birthday last year and I had yet to make anything out of it.  I will try to post the coq au vin another time.  But let's talk about this bread.

This recipe is from Saveur Magazine and it's great.  I had 3 loaves of crispy, golden French bread out of the oven about 3 1/2 hours after I started this morning.  Not bad.  Now mind you, it's not up to Parisian standards, I'm sure, but for a first attempt at baking French bread I must say, not too shabby.  And really, is there anything better than the smell of bread baking?  I think not. 

So tonight The Husband and I will don on our berets, turn on some Edith Piaf music, drink some red wine, and eat our tres Francais dinner.  Well the eating of  the very French dinner will happen, I know that for sure. The rest of it, probably not!

French Baguettes
1 ½ cups (12 oz.) tap water, heated to 115°
1 tsp. (⅛ oz.) active dry yeast
3 ¼ cups (14 ⅔ oz.) all–purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. (⅜ oz.) kosher salt
Canola oil, for greasing bowl
½ cup ice cubes

Whisk together water and yeast in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, and stir with a fork until dough forms and all flour is absorbed; let dough sit to allow flour to hydrate, about 20 minutes. Add salt. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and shape into an 8″ x 6″ rectangle. Fold the 8″ sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center. Return dough, seam side down, to bowl. Cover with plastic again, and return to oven; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Remove bowl with dough from oven, and place a cast–iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone on it.

Heat oven to 475°. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and cut into three equal pieces; shape each piece into a 14″ rope. Flour a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet; place ropes, evenly spaced, on paper. Lift paper between ropes to form pleats; place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

Uncover; remove towels, and flatten paper to space out loaves. Using a sharp razor or paring knife, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle in four spots; each slash should be about 4″ long. Using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone. Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms). Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, about 30 minutes; cool before serving.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winter Doldrums

As these long gray days of winter go on and on, I share with you some splashes of summer colors to brighten your spirits.