Strawberry Cream Pie

One of the best things about summer is the arrival of local grown strawberries. They will appear at farm markets and at local farms where you can pick your own. I have picked them a couple of times and that is really hard work.

Strawberries are available year around here in the USA, thanks to California. But I really prefer the Michigan strawberry. The local berries are smaller and sweeter than the ones produced by California. (That is my opinion, obviously.) I have two favorite strawberry desserts that I make and usually only make them when local strawberries are available.

Strawberries have been around for a long time. The University of Illinois Extension has an interesting article about the strawberry, facts and lore, such as:

“The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared in 1454.

The ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII had a strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck. Supposedly, this proved she was a witch.

The American Indians were already eating strawberries when the Colonists arrived.”

I found this wonderful recipe for Strawberry Cream Pie just last year. It is exactly the kind of pie I had been wanting to make over the years. It has a whipped cream and cream cheese filling beneath the glazed strawberries. And what I especially like about it, the glaze is made from all natural ingredients, not red jello or a pouch from the local grocery store.

This recipe is from Leigh Anne who has a very interesting blog, Your Home Based Mom. Her blog has more than just recipes. She blogs about Parties, Crafts, and Home Décor. Be sure to visit her web site.  The recipe on her web site includes directions for homemade pie crusts to go with this pie.

Strawberry Cream Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 Frozen Deep Dish Pie Crust 

Glaze
1 cup strawberries, mashed
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
½ cup water

Cream Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
4 cups whole strawberries

Prepare pie crust as directed on package for one-crust baked shell. Set aside until completely cooled.

Glaze

Crush 1 cup strawberries. Combine 1 cup sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan. Add water and crushed strawberries. Cook and stir over medium heat to boiling, stir constantly until clear and slightly thickened.

Cream Filling
Blend cream cheese and sugar. Stir in vanilla. Fold in whipped cream. Spread evenly in cooled crust. Refrigerate for a few minutes.  Place whole strawberries stem side down on top of creamed filling, pressing slightly.  Spoon glaze over the berries. Chill for 3 hours.

Be sure to make this pie a summertime tradition.

Notes:
I pressed the cooked glaze mixture through a fine mesh strainer in order to have a more smoother glaze and allowed it to cool slightly before spooning over the berries.

 

Prime Rib Roast

Prime rib roast also known as a standing rib roast is always a good choice for a special occasion dinner. Think of the upcoming Father’s Day to possibly serve it. There is no doubt that it is a pricey cut of beef. If you belong to either Sam’s Club or Costco, I have seen them there at a more reasonable price. Wherever you purchase the prime rib, ask the butcher to cut and tie it for you. This is simply where the butcher cuts the meat off the bones and ties it back on, which helps in the carving process once the roast is cooked.

rib roast

Prime rib has always been one of my favorite cuts of beef to roast. When roasted properly, you will have a juicy and tender roast beef. Some recipes suggest starting the roast out at a high heat (500 degrees). I prefer roasting at a medium temperature (350 degrees) and I only season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. This will result in a beautiful, flavorful and well-browned exterior of the roast. I like to add whole new seasoned potatoes to the roast about midway through cooking time but that is optional.

Our love for roast beef in some form has been around for a long time.

There is a reference by a Swedish diplomat named Kalm on a visit to England in the 1600s. He commented on the English at table: “Roast meat is the Englishman’s ‘delice’ and principal dish.” Source for the above is taken from a lovely cookbook by Elisabeth Luard European Peasant Cookery The Rich Tradition.

Peasant Cookbook

And then there is this recipe from a 1660 cookbook, Robert May’s Accomplish’t Cook

“To roast a Chine, Rib, Loin, Brisket, or Fillet of Beef.

Draw them with parsley, rosemary, tyme, sweet marjoram, sage, winter savory, or lemon, or plain without any of them, fresh or salt, as you please; broach it, or spit it, roast it and baste it with butter; a good chine of beef will ask six hours roasting.”

May’s 1660 cookbook is another free online cookbook available from Project Gutenberg and can be found here.

Prime Rib Roast

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 (3-bone) beef rib roast (about 5-6 pounds) cut and tied
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
3 teaspoons seasoned black pepper
3 teaspoons seasoned garlic powder

Remove the roast from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the seasoning ingredients.

Place the roast, fat side up in the roasting pan. Rub the roast generously with the seasoning mix. Place a thermometer in the center of the roast or use an instant read one at different time intervals. Roast uncovered at 350 degrees for approximately 3-4 hours or until meat reaches desired doneness. Suggested temperatures are 115°-120°F for rare or 125°-130°F for medium. It is important to remember that the temperature of the roast will continue to rise after it is taken out of the oven.

Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes. Snip the tied bones off the roast before carving.

Serve the roast with horseradish cream sauce if desired.

If you decide to cook a prime rib roast, you will discover that it is easier than one might think.

prime rib 5

prime rib 4

Mexican Flan

The Cinco de Mayo holiday is almost here. That is the Mexican holiday that we Americans love to celebrate with beer and margaritas. I do like margaritas and that sounds really good. However, I like the idea of a dessert to honor the day, namely Mexican Flan.

Flan is a sweet custard dish made with caramelized sugar and baked in the oven in a water bath. Like a lot of recipes it can be found as far back as ancient Rome. It was originally a savory dish. It was in Spain that it became a sweet dish with the caramelized sugar. After being brought to Mexico by the Spanish, this dish has become especially associated with Mexico. For a short and interesting article on the history of Flan see this.

Cinco de Mayo doesn’t celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain but their victory over France in an important battle in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. This was during the French-Mexican War. For more information on Cinco De Mayo see this article.

Adapted from a recipe by Cooking with Alia.

Mexican Flan

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
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1 cup granulated white sugar
5 large eggs
1 can condensed milk (14 ounces)
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat. Shake and swirl occasionally to distribute sugar until it is dissolved and begins to brown. Lift the pan over the heat source (4 to 6 inches) and continue to brown the sugar until it becomes a dark golden brown. You may slightly stir while cooking, but continually stirring causes the sugar to crystallize. Carefully pour caramelized sugar into a 1 1/2 quart baking pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Set the pan aside. The caramel will harden in the bottom of the pan.

In a mixing bowl combine the eggs, condensed milk, the heavy cream, half and half and vanilla extract. Mix on low speed until blended. Don’t over mix. With a sieve, strain the mixture over the prepared caramel.

Place the pan with the flan mixture in a larger pan and place in the oven. Then pour hot tap water until the water reaches half the height of the flan pan. It’s much easier to do it this way than moving the pans around when water is in.

Bake the flan for around 1 hour or until set. To check for doneness, insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean the flan is ready. Very carefully, remove the pan from the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of pan. Place a serving plate slightly larger than the pan on top of it, flip, then give it a shake. Slowly remove the pan from the flan. And there is your flan with a beautiful caramel topping.  

Note:
When making this recipe, allow enough time for it to chill overnight before serving.

Be sure to have your favorite cerveza or margarita to celebrate the day and to end it with a slice of flan to make the holiday more festive. Happy Cinco de Mayo Day.

 

Classic Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a time honored American food along with the likes of hamburgers and hot dogs. It is also easy to make. All you really need to make a meatloaf is ground meat (usually beef), seasonings and some kind of binder such as bread crumbs and eggs.

However, a classic meatloaf may typically contain ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork. I prefer to use a mix that includes ground beef, turkey and pork.

Using the Lipton onion soup mix and sour cream will result in a tender and moist meatloaf. With a little bit of brown sugar in the topping, this is a recipe that is a perfect dinner and awesome sandwiches the next day.

I had assumed that the meatloaf recipe was developed during the depression. But no, it seems that mixing meat with a filler traces back to the fourth or fifth century AD. The following recipe is from Apicius Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, a cookbook from the fourth or fifth century AD.

“FINELY CUT PULP [of pork] IS GROUND WITH THE HEARTS [2] OF WINTER WHEAT AND DILUTED WITH WINE. FLAVOR LIGHTLY WITH PEPPER AND BROTH AND IF YOU LIKE ADD A MODERATE QUANTITY OF [myrtle] BERRIES ALSO CRUSHED, AND AFTER YOU HAVE ADDED CRUSHED NUTS AND PEPPER [3] SHAPE THE FORCEMEAT INTO SMALL ROLLS, WRAP THESE IN CAUL, FRY, AND SERVE WITH WINE GRAVY.”

A translated free ebook version of Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome by Apiciusis is available through The Project Gutenberg here

While meatloaf has been around for a long time, the modern meatloaf is probably an American innovation, aided by the invention of the meat grinder by German inventor Karl Drais in the 19th century. Recipes soon started appearing in cookbooks such as the Fannie Farmer Cookbok The Boston Cooking School Cookbook 1918 edition. Source theatlantic.com

Classic Meatloaf

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pound ground chuck
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground turkey
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced green pepper
1 envelope of Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the meats. Mix in the Lipton Onion Soup, egg, sour cream, onions, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce and seasoned pepper using your hands. Form into a loaf and place in a baking dish. Bake the meatloaf for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the meatloaf from the oven and pour the sauce over it and return to the oven. Continuing baking for another 45 minutes to an hour or until done. An instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the meatloaf can be used to determine doneness. It should register 160 degrees.

Sauce: Stir together the ketchup, chili sauce, and brown sugar until smooth.

The dry onion soup mix and the chopped fresh onions add an additional layer of flavor to this easy and tasty recipe.

 

Beefy Au Gratin Potatoes

This is an easy slow cooker (Crock Pot) dish to make for your family, ready in just over four hours. It is a recipe that uses convenience foods which I think on occasion are perfectly fine. It can give us some breathing room in our busy lives. If you don’t like using convenience foods, then this recipe may not be for you.

Ingredients

It is a good casserole to take to family and office potlucks. This recipe was originally published as Beefy Au Gratin Potatoes in Taste of Home Ground Beef Cookbook 1999, p70. With a little searching it can be found online.

Serve the casserole with a salad and rolls, if desired.

Beefy Au Gratin Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 package (5-1/4 ounces) au gratin potatoes or cheddar and bacon potatoes
1 can (15-1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of potato soup, undiluted
1 cup water
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
1 can (4 ounces) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimientos, drained
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Set potato sauce mix aside. Place potatoes in a 3-quart slow cooker; top with corn. In a bowl, combine soup, water, chilies, mushrooms, pimientos and reserved sauce mix; mix well. Pour a third of the mixture over corn. In a skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Transfer to slow cooker. Top with remaining sauce mixture. Do not stir. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until potatoes are tender. Add shredded cheese on top of the casserole the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Beef Au Gratin Potatoes

It is interesting to note that while all Crock Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock Pots. The Crock Pot has its beginnings from a lowly Bean Pot patented by Irving Naxom in the 1940s. This design was sold to Rival Manufacturing in 1970 who rebranded the device as a Crock Pot. For more about the Crock Pot check out this article in Huffington Post.

Easy Peanut Butter Blossoms

I discovered these cookies in a roundabout way. A friend gives out small batches of these cookies at Christmas time and I happened to share them with my grandson.  Well, it seems after Chocolate Crinkles these are his favorite cookies. I was surprised to learn that he has even baked a batch or two of these cookies.

He likes the cookies from the recipe on the back of the Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookie Mix. So these cookies are now included for Christmas and for special events throughout the year.

I admit I prefer a cookie that is baked from scratch. However, these Peanut Butter Blossoms are so good that one should not be bothered by using a cookie mix.  In my opinion, these are as good as the ones made from scratch. So, if you are looking for a quick, easy, and delicious cookie recipe, this is the one. In fact, the hardest part of this recipe just might be unwrapping all of the Hershey’s Kisses.

Easy Peanut Butter Blossoms

  • Servings: 36 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pouch (1 lb 5 oz) Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar
36 Hershey’s Kisses Brand milk chocolates, unwrapped

Heat oven to 375°F.  In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil, water and egg until dough forms.

Shape dough into 36 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven, and immediately press 1 Hersey Kiss in center of each cookie.  Remove from cookie sheets to wire racks. Cool completely and store cookies in a tightly covered container.

Notes:
Depending on the size of the cookie, amount can vary.

 

Roast Chicken with Vegetables

snowman

Hello from snowy and cold Michigan. Cold weather has a tendency to make me think of comfort food and a desire to go in the kitchen and cook something warm and comforting.

To me the classic comfort food is roast chicken. I think why I like this so much is we often had it as a Sunday Dinner when I was growing up. My Dad did all the cooking and he would prepare this for Sunday Dinner while the rest of us went to Church. No, he didn’t go to church but he was a good person anyway. So, it was nearly always roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and his homemade yeast rolls for our Sunday dinner. He didn’t do the roast vegetables which I now prefer to mashed potatoes. But anyway, it was always a good meal back then.

Chickens have been around for a long time. The ancient Egyptians liked to use the roosters for fighting and also developed a system for artificial incubation. Whereas, the ancient Greeks considered the chicken to be a delicacy and prestigious food. A really informative article on the history of chickens can be found here.

Chicken can be cooked in so many ways, probably more so than any other food. It can be roasted, fried, braised, broiled, grilled or stewed. I like to use the whole small fryers for roasting. You can readily find them at the grocery store. If one is not enough, it is just as easy to cook two chickens at the same time.

It was difficult to find historical references to roast chicken but I did find this short recipe which I will quote.

“Grain-Fed Chicken
These chickens are plucked dry, dressed and seared on the fire. When that is done, lard or bard them; roast them. Then serve them.”

Interesting. Right? Above quoted recipe is from La Varenne’s Cookery (The French Cook), a cookbook that was first published in the mid 1600’s.

french cookbook

Roast Chicken with Vegetables

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 3-4 pound whole chicken, neck and giblets removed from the cavity
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots
4 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes
8 Cipollini onions or 3 medium sweet onions
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, plus an additional 2-3 sprigs
Seasoned salt, pepper and garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Wash and peel the carrots, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Wash and peel the potatoes, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Peel the onions and leave whole if using the Cipollini onions. If using a larger kind of onion cut into chunks or wedges.

Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer in a roasting pan. Drizzle them with some of the olive oil and sprinkle some of the salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme on them. Toss well and position around the pan, leaving room in the center for the chicken.

Place the chicken on a work surface or cutting board and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut off and discard any extra fat hanging around the body cavity.

Brush some of the olive oil all over the chicken skin and season the outside of the chicken generously with some of the seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place one of the onions, the garlic clove and 2-3 sprigs of thyme inside the cavity. Place the chicken breast-side up in the center of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Roast the chicken in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°. The skin should be brown and crisp and the vegetables tender.

Let the chicken rest for approximately 30 minutes before carving and serving with the vegetables.

roast chicken

By the way, photo of Mr. Snowman is courtesy of a family member.

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