Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie

Did you know you can make a delicious pumpkin pie WITHOUT evaporated or sweetened condensed milk?? 

I have always made my pumpkin pies using the traditional recipe found on the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can. And it is a definite winner. But, this past Sunday I had a pie crust, eggs, sugar, spices, vanilla, a can of pumpkin, and NO canned milk.  I did, however, have other forms of milk, among them: Sour Cream.

So I substituted sour cream for evaporated milk. I didn't do a straight substitution; because of the density of the sour cream, I used less of it.  

This pie cooked up beautifully, and my family scarfed it down with nothing but praise for its texture and flavor!  I LOVE when an experiment becomes a new recipe success! 

Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat pumpkin and sour cream until smooth. Add sugar, spices, and vanilla, stirring well. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
3. Pour into pie crust.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 30-35 more minutes, until middle of pie is set (no longer liquid).
4. Cool completely before serving. Store in refrigerator. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Protein & Fiber Rich Blueberry Bars

This summer FLEW by for our family and fall has sneaked up on me like a ninja in the night. I didn't do HALF of what I had planned to this summer, but one thing I did do was go blueberry picking-- twice! So, my freezer has an abundance of blueberries.  

So although blueberry season is over, I wanted to share this new-favorite recipe I developed that uses blueberries (fresh or frozen!) and is full of healthy redeeming value. You can feel good about your family indulging in these puppies!

I had to hide away two of these bars to photograph soon after I made them because they were disappearing so fast! They were yummy right out of the oven, but also once they cooled.  They have a buttery, whole-wheat and oatmeal crust, a sweet, lemony tofu-based filling, and are topped with blueberries and more buttery wheat and oatmeal goodness. 

The whole wheat, oatmeal and blueberries provide a significant amount of healthy fiber, and the tofu adds a shot of protein that make these bars not only yummy, but pretty darn healthy for a delectable dessert! 

This was my first experience using tofu in a dessert. I was a bit apprehensive. I didn't tell my family what was in these until they had tried them.  I was THRILLED that they turned out so well and were so enjoyed! Win-Win!!

I made these at night and quickly snapped a picture of them right out of the oven.  Although it's a bit dark, I'm glad I did. This pan was attacked soon after this photo was taken.

Protein and Fiber Rich Blueberry Bars
Makes 32 bars

Crust and Topping:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup salted sweet cream butter, softened

Lemon Tofu Filling:
24 oz firm tofu, drained
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon extract

Blueberry Layer:
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 10"x15" baking dish with aluminum foil.  Two 8"x 8" or  9"x 9" square dishes will work. Coat lightly with cooking spray.
2. In large mixing bowl, whisk wheat flour, powdered sugar and oatmeal together. Cut in softened butter until well incorporated (I used my cookie-dough paddles for cutting in the butter).  Reserve 2 scant cups of this mixture in a separate dish, and press the rest of it into the prepared pans. 
3. Using the same mixing bowl (no need to clean out the crumbs), beat the tofu, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and extract together. Mixture may seem chunky (no worries!).  Spread the tofu mixture evenly over the first layer.
4. Sprinkle sugar, lemon juice, and flour over the blueberries and mix gently. Spread the berries over the tofu layer. 
5. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over the top of the blueberries.  Place in center of oven. Bake 50-55 minutes. Cool and cut into bars. Store in refrigerator. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How to Make Perfect Pickles

I LOVE a good dill pickle.  And after making them homemade, the store-bought ones are often second-rate.  But I've read that many people have trouble making their pickles have the taste and the texture they are looking for.  I have now successfully made PERFECT PICKLES twice, and I want to share what I did so you can enjoy the dilly, salty, crisp goodness yourself!

The secret is in the method. Pickles can become soggy if they cook too long in the brine. But you want the jars to cook enough to seal correctly and safely for preservation of the food.  I will share the method that has worked for me. More information on safe pickling procedures can be found here:

I started with this mess of cukes from Bountiful Baskets. They were ripe and ready for pickling. They were too big to pickle whole, so I decided to do spears and slices.

1. First, prepare your pickling brine: 8 1/2 cups water, 2 1/4 cups white vinegar, 1/2 cup pickling salt.  Bring brine to a full boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Second, prepare your cucumbers.  I sliced mine lengthwise into sixths for spears, and into about 1/4" slices.

3. HERBS: One thing I LOVE about this recipe is the simplicity of the ingredients.  You'll need fresh dill, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley (optional). 

4. In each sterilized quart-size jars, place a clove of garlic, and 1 sprig each of parsley and dill.

5. Now, STUFF the pickles into the jar. Spears should stand up and and have seeds turned inward as much as you can.  Finish each jar with another sprig of dill, parsley, and garlic clove.

6. Prepare your water bath canner by filling about halfway with water. Bring to a low simmer.

7. Pour brine into filled jars, leaving 1/4" of headspace. You may need to tap the jars gently on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles and make room for more brine. 

8. Wipe rims and place sterilized seals and rings (tightened just slightly) on the jars.

9. Place the jars into the simmering water, making sure the water only comes to the neck of the jars. Process pickles for 15 minutes, beginning timer as soon as you place them in the water. Avoid letting water reach a rolling boil, but keep it simmering. This will seal the jars, but won't cook the heck out of the pickles. 

10. Remove jars and cover with a towel as they cool. Listen for the glorious POP that lets you know they have sealed.  Wait at least 3 weeks to enjoy your pickles. The "pickling" happens as the cucumbers sit in the brine and soak in all the yummy flavors, so don't cheat and open them early.  We had to put a countdown calendar up in our house so the kids would know when they could dig in! 

Perfect Dill Pickles
Makes 7 quarts

8 1/2 cups water
2 1/4 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup pickling salt
Picking Cucumbers (30-40 medium or 10 lbs), washed and cut into slices or spears
Fresh dill
Fresh parsley (optional)
Fresh garlic

1. Prepare your brine by boiling water, vinegar, and salt, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In the bottom of each sterilized quart-size jar, place a sprig of dill and parsley, and one peeled garlic clove.  Fill the jars with cucumber slices or spears, turning spears seed-side in if possible. Finish with another sprig of dill, parsley, and a garlic clove.
3. Fill water bath canner about half-way with water and bring to a simmer on the stove.
4. Use a funnel to pour brine into the stuffed jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, and top with sterilized lids and rings. 
5. Place jars in water bath, making sure the water reaches just to the top of the neck of the jars. Process in water bath for 15 minutes, avoiding a rolling boil, but maintaining a simmer.
6. Remove jars from water bath and cool on the counter, covering cans with a dish towel.  Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3-4 weeks before opening.

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