Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cranberry White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Pie

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back with a super quick and easy recipe for a delicious dessert. My friend made this for a mom's get together and it was SO delectable I had to ask for the recipe.
 Preheat Oven to 350F

Ingredients:
 1 pie crust (any way you want to do it, we won't judge)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nuts (my kids asked me to leave these out and since I didn't want to eat the pie myself so I decided to do it their way)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped finely
 Don't you love these little bowls? They had so many colors. I just got two. I'm a fool for blue and white dishes but I loved the orange, too.
 Mix everything together. This was a great recipe for little people. Dump and stir, done!
 Excuse my wonky crust. For some reason I cut the edges too short and by the time I realized it, the little guys had already taken over the scraps for their own tasty project.
 50-55 minutes later or until the knife comes out clean... The top will be nice and brown. (I actually put foil over it for the last ten minutes because I was afraid it was going to get too brown.)
Cool completely. Can be stored at room temperature, but ours was gone in minutes. Maybe it ahd something to do with the whipped topping and the cherry! But the white chocolate melted perfectly and the cranberries gave it just the right bit of tart. The picture makes it look brown and crumbly but that was just my picture taking/pie cutting skills. And the fact we didn't wait for it to cool completely. It was delicious!

 Until next time and stay warm, everyone in the path of this next storm!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kav's Gingerbread Cookies

Missy, here. And I'm thrilled to share a post today from Kav. Y'all give her a big Yankee-Belle welcome!

Soft Gingerbread Cookies
Kav Rees

So, I posted a picture of my biggest Christmas kitchen triumph on Facebook and Missy asked me to share it here. But first I thought I’d give you a gander at my wee little house that’s falling apart.





Luckily you can’t notice all its flaws in this picture thanks to my garden. That’s at the early stages. Blissful sigh. I love my garden. Now it’s just piles of snow.



And here’s my tiny little kitchen complete with floor tile counters! Talk about step-saving design. I didn’t have to move an inch in order to access everything I needed to create today’s confection…



 Drum roll please….soft and chewy gingerbread cookies. I know, y’all are probably rolling your eyes at the simplicity of it all. Who can’t make gingerbread? Me for one! No matter what recipe I tried it always came out way too crispy. In fact, some of my attempts could have been used for hockey pucks. Even my dogs wouldn’t risk their canines on them! So when my daughter requested gingerbread cookies for part of our Christmas baking line up I cringed and promptly made her research a recipe so I could blame her for the epic fail sure to come. Only sweet success!!!!!!

 Soft Not Snappish Gingerbread Cookies

Butter (1/2 cup)
Dark Brown Sugar (3/4 cup)
Molasses (1/3 cup)
Egg (1)
Flour (2& 2/3 cup)
Ground Ginger (2 tsp)
Baking Soda (1 tsp)
Salt (1/2 tsp)
Ground cinnamon (1/2 tsp)
Nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
Alspice (1/2 tsp)



Ignore the white sugar. It snuck in there when I wasn’t looking. Such a ham!

I didn’t take pictures of the process but you cream butter and sugar really well. Add in molasses and egg. Mix the dry ingredients separately and then mix gradually with the butter/molasses mixture. You’ll have to use your hands when you add the last of the flour mixture and then knead the dough for bit. It feels really dry at first, but keep at it and pretty soon you’ll have a nice smooth ball of gingerbread dough.



Divide into two balls and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

(Funny side note here. My daughter copied this recipe down and she’s notorious for leaving things out. This time it looks like she left out a water measurement in the ingredient list because as I was copying out the directions I noticed it said to add water. LOL. Oops, no idea how much, but I’ve made it twice now and haven’t missed the water. Wondering if that’s what makes these so soft and chewy instead of crisp? Who knows?)

On a lightly floured surface roll out dough – I left it thicker than I would for sugar cookies because I like my gingerbread soft not snappish. Cut out cookies, place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet (or just use parchment paper which is what I do). Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. I undercook mine…so first couple of batches are 8 minutes but later ones are about 7 minutes because I’m all about the chew in my gingerbread.



I’m actually going to freeze these sweeties and decorate them closer to Valentine’s Day so the decorated pic at the top of this post is a picture of our Christmas cookies – decorated with a zip lock bag that had a hole cut out of a corner. Hoping to get a proper decorating set before I make these pretties into Valentine treats. I’ll pipe around them and add love scripture references in the centre. I used to do that when I taught Sunday School and made the students read the scripture before they could eat the cookie. Devious, eh?


****

Kav is a mystery – even to herself which maybe explains why she is so fond of romantic suspense.  After a lifetime of writing as a leisure pursuit, she is now setting her sights towards publication.

A passionate reader of inspirational fiction, Kav devours books and then blogs about them on her review blog http://www.bestreads-kav.blogspot.ca where she is fond of hosting giveaways as well. She is also part of a ten woman blogging team over at http://inkspirationalmessages.com/  

You can also find Kav on Facebook.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Other Wonderful Things!

I love pork.

One of my favorite, favorite dishes is pork chops and applesauce. I remember loving it when I was a little girl. My Grandpa, Jack Logan, would come by the house once a month or so. I didn't know why back then, but every now and again I'd see Grandpa's car parked on Flower City Park and my heart would race! He was so good and kind and he had big blue eyes that sparkled... but I bet they sparked with anger or disappointment a time or two, but I never saw it.

And even if I didn't see him, evidence of him would be there. A pork roast, in the fridge. A big pack of pork chops or a leg of lamb. Bananas, such a treat! Apples, in season. A jug of cider. Oh, for that glorious few days the larder was full and such delicious meals were had!

I thought he was rich. It wasn't until my mother was dying that I realized he came once a month to bring food when he received his monthly pension check. A part of that old man's reward went to feeding his grandchildren in a hovel in the 10th ward of Rochester, New York.

My father didn't like him. I found that out later, too. And when my father would get home and find the food, not a word of appreciation was said, nor was the food acknowledged. He'd stumble to bed, enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor for days, and never said as much as a thank-you.

Luckily, I learned better! From Grandpa's generous heart came my nature, and it's something I thank God for every day. What if I'd been born a selfish jerk instead of just an occasional jerk????

THE WORLD WOULD BE DENIED SWEET RUTHY STORIES BECAUSE SWEET RUTHY WOULDN'T EXIST! YIKES!!!!

So my love for pork came from those early "Grandpa" gifts, such a blessing, and this is something I tried this week because they had pork tenderloins on sale. It was easy, delicious, and we didn't find anyone who didn't love it. Even the leftovers went quickly!

Marinate the pork loin in apple cider if you have any, for 6 - 8 hours. If you don't have any, don't fret! Skip this step, I'm not sure it was all that important!

I dredged the tenderloin in a mix of seasonings:


Then I covered the base of a big frying pan (one of my favorites, the Revere Ware chicken fryer, I love this pan!!!) with olive oil, heated it and put the tenderloin in, letting it get good and brown on all sides.



Already the house smelled like HEAVEN!!!!! Oh, happy day!

While I was braising that pork, I peeled four large potatoes. I cut them into chunks and half-cooked them in the microwave to give them a head start. I would also suggest doing this to two sweet potatoes also. We didn't do it this time, but we all decided the sweet potato flavor would blend perfectly.



I didn't have fresh mushrooms on hand, but I keep canned mushrooms around for emergencies like this!


I added the can of mushrooms to the pan with the braised pork. I stirred up all those little tasty morsels on the bottom of the pan, then I added about two cups of water, maybe a little less. I didn't want the pork swimming, but I wanted a rich broth.




Then in go the potatoes, circling the pork.



I sprinkled them with granulated garlic, salt, pepper, onion and paprika.

Then I covered the whole kaboodle and tucked it into a 350° oven for about 25 minutes....



PERFECT!!!!!

Wonderful!!!!

Delicious!!!!

Now if you wanted this low-carb, skip the potatoes and use a cauliflower/broccoli mix and roast that with the pork. How could that be a bad thing, right???

Dave and I loved this, it was like 20 minute prep time, and because there are always people snacking out of our refrigerator, it was deemed a success by two others.

Quick, easy, delicious and affordable. I don't know how suppertime can get much better than that!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A House Divided: Mushroom Edition

I love mushrooms. I love them raw, sliced into spinach salads. I love making homemade mushroom soup to use in casseroles. I love them on pizza. ManO does not. And that "does not" is more than on his pizza.

Oh no! There is a mushroom on ManO's ham side of the pizza. Much bemoaning occurred!
Now pizza is an easy thing to compromise on. Each person gets their half to do with what they will. But other recipes are far more difficult.

I invited my friend Cathy over to celebrate her birthday and be a part of The Great Dining Room experiment. You know you have a good friend when you make her sit in the middle of a room torn apart. Nope, you can't see the chaos. I'm smart that way. But we haven't used the room in ten years and something had to be done. That's what this experiment got me. More on that next week.
 In ManO's childhood kitchen, the table's almost an antique.
Cathy also loves mushrooms. You might think I could fix something mushroom related no stress but I also planned serving ManO the same dish for dinner. I knew I wanted to fix zucchini lasagna You can find the DIY here.  But I really wanted to hide, I mean, layer the lasagna with mushrooms. But ManO is too smart for that.

That's when it hit me. Steak houses, at least the good ones, serve a sauteed mushroom side dish so customers can spoon the mushrooms over the steak. Why not do the same with lasagna?
Oh my goodness! Delish! Instructions below.
Thanks to Jan Drexler's quick cheesecake dessert , I revisited my gluten free cheesecake recipe  and experimented with both the crust and putting it in custard cups. I used my berry-sauce topped baked cheesecake because of the added protein. But if you want to make it no bake simply use organic confectioners sugar, cream cheese and whipped cream to thin and chill.  I could have easily done the crust with gluten-free chocolate cookies and corn syrup free homemade chocolate sauce and peanuts or pecans as a base with cane sugar caramel sauce.


The bottom line is we had a great lunch and I didn't have to cook ManO an entirely new dinner!

Easy Sauteed Mushrooms

1 pint washed and sliced mushrooms
1 or 2 tablespoons butter
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
minced garlic to taste (optional)

Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat.
Add minced garlic and stir. 
Saute until cooked but NOT limp.
Serve over veggies, meat or as a side.

So, what about you? Do you have a love or hate affair with mushrooms? Is there something you've given up because no one else in the house loves a particular food or ingredient?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dinner for One (Beef...It's what's for dinner)

Okay, Kav, I know this post isn't for you. But I still love you, tofu and all.

So my guys were gone this weekend. That meant I finally removed all traces of Christmas, watched a lot of Food Network and HGTV and napped through half of the Green Bay/Seattle game. 
Yes, I should have gotten some writing in, too, but since I got my proposal for book four in on deadline and my copy edits in a week before they were due, I decided I was allowed to be a little lazy. (I don't think that word even exists in Ruthy's vocabulary, which always makes me feel like such a schlep.)

Nonetheless, it was a good weekend. And I got to eat whatever I wanted. 
The first night, I had brie stuffed mushrooms, but I forgot to take pictures (except for this one I texted a friend to make her jealous), so I will have to share that recipe with you later.

But it was SOOOOOO good.

The next night, I wanted beef. Steak to be exact. 
Partly because I had this great new salt I wanted to try.

There's this great little spice and tea shop in downtown Grapevine. My son and I go in there and sniff all kinds of things. It's a very interesting experience. 
Over the Christmas holiday, we discovered all of these different sea salts. Hickory Smoked, Chipotle, Cocoa (yes, cocoa) and this Applewood Smoked, just to name a few.
He and I both drooled over this one. But, we had yet to try so, while the kitten was away...


I decided to keep it very simple, because I wanted to see if I could taste the smoky flavor in the salt. 
So I added about a tablespoon of butter to a pan and let it melt over medium-high heat.

I seasoned the meat with the Applewood Smoked Sea Salt and a little bit of pepper.
Then placed it in the hot skillet and cooked for five minutes.

After five minutes, I turned it over for another four minutes. 
I like my meat medium (pink in the middle), so if you prefer medium-well, you'd want to add another minute or two.

Tah-dah!

Throw in a salad and that's my kinda meal.
And as I'm typing this, I'm thinking let's go again.
Yes, I do love me some beef.

But about the salt. Yes, it added a wonderful flavor to the beef, though I can't say I really tasted any smoke flavor. Perhaps a tiny bit, but the meat wasn't infused with a heavy smokiness.

It does make me eager to take another trip to the spice shop, though. They have some incredible seasoning blends. Not to mention the sea salts. I'm thinking that Chipotle Sea Salt would be awesome mixed in some brownies. Or sprinkled atop some dark chocolate whatever.

What's your favorite dinner for one?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cheddar-Garlic Biscuits, low-carb style

One amazing thing about social media - when something catches one person's attention, it goes viral!

This recipe for Low Carb Cheddar Cheese and Garlic Biscuits is one of those things. If you're eating low carb, gluten free, or if you've adopted an eating plan like Trim Healthy Mama, you know about these biscuits.



Since these are nothing new, call this a recipe review ☺

Before I begin, though, keep in mind that there are also plenty of versions of the copy-cat recipes of these biscuits from a famous seafood restaurant chain, but those are regular biscuits. (Or as my son says, real biscuits!) They are delicious! But not low carb. Not at all low carb.

In fact, we've highlighted the real version of these biscuits here at the cafe a few times in the past. Here is Mindy's version: Cheesy, Yummy Goodness!!!. Here is Ruthy's version: Red Lobster Style Biscuits II. And we even have a version from Tina Radcliffe: Suppertime! With Tina Radcliffe.

But today we're talking low carb. These are even grain free. Not low fat though. Sorry. But low fat is overrated. (Says the cook who fries her eggs in butter!)

So, here we go.

Low Carb Cheddar Cheese and Garlic Biscuits
(makes 6-7 biscuits)

ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Almond flour (also known as almond meal)
2 Tablespoons Coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided - or - 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (not the powdered stuff)
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons butter, softened


You might not have some of these ingredients in your pantry. If you're experimenting with this type of recipe, see if you have a friend who will split a bag of coconut flour or almond flour with you. Or perhaps your local natural food store sells it in bulk.

First, preheat your oven to 350° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Start by mixing the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Now add the egg, sour cream and butter, and mix well. Finally add 1/2 cup shredded cheese and mix thoroughly (reserve 1/4 cup cheddar cheese for the end).



At this point, you can add other herbs to your dough for a different flavor. Basil would be a good addition, giving the biscuits an Italian flair. Or try reducing the garlic, and add some chopped cilantro and a pinch of oregano.

Drop the batter onto your lined cookie sheet. Each drop of dough should be a little less than 1/4 cup.


Bake at 350° for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the biscuits have slightly browned.

Sprinkle your reserved cheese on top and put them back in the oven for a minute or so to melt the cheese.


Delicious, cheesy goodness!

These are best served warm. If you have leftovers, keep them in the refrigerator and then warm them up before serving them.

I like one with my fried eggs in the morning ☺

This recipe is just one of several available on-line. This one came from http://satisfyingeats.com. I also found another recipe for a larger batch of biscuits on http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com.

Now for the review: These aren't real biscuits, as my son says. If you're looking for a flaky, soft, fluffy biscuit, this isn't it. BUT, these are delicious. And if you're avoiding carbs for any reason, either for a season or for a meal, these are a great substitute. One note - you can taste the coconut flour in these. I happen to like coconut, and it gives these biscuits a fabulous undertone. But if you really don't like coconut, you should avoid recipes using coconut flour.

And since you're all wondering (I'm sure you are!), yes, I did meet my deadlines! Since June, I've been working with multiple deadlines, multiple books and multiple editors. Round after round of revisions...emails back and forth.... But all the while, I knew that what my editors were asking me to do was going to make each story better.

Now both books are in the editor's hands and I'm waiting for the copy edit process. I took a couple days off last week, but today I'm back at it, working on the next book. A busy writer is a happy writer, right?

Whether you're a writer or not, what is your next project in the pipeline?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Lutefisk? Is that a thing?"

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a fun blog post for you this weekend. Remember the secret German apple cake recipe I posted a few weeks ago from my friend Stacey? Well, she not only didn't take revenge on me for posting it here (AGAIN), she's now volunteered to be my international food correspondent... from the wilds of Savage, Montana.
   Her family was invited to the annual Lutheran Church fund raising dinner (that included lutefisk, lefsa, meatballs and fruit soup) and she knew I'd be SO EXCITED to hear about it. Because I love food. All food. And especially weird food.
  Here, I'll let her tell you the tale in her own words (with pictures, because she's just that cool). 
Since moving to Northeastern Montana, we have noticed the local people take pride in their Norwegian heritage. They're very happy to trace their family tree for you and  there are lots of blonde hair and blue eyed folks. We also have a sprinkling of Black Feet, Shoshoni and other Indian tribes, not to mention the migrant workers from as far away as South Africa and  as near as Idaho who have come to work in the oil fields.  Montana is a true melting pot of cultures.
Now let's get to the food.
                                        
Background notes of Lutefisk: Literally translated, Lutefisk means lyefish,which refers to the early process of soaking with a lye solution made of birch ashes was used in the luting process.  It is made from Cod or stockfish and was used in Viking trade way back in the 12th century.
                                           
Here in Montana you will find the Lutefisk in all its glory.  I even find it an option on salad bars. 
 A few locals gave me some tips on how to make Lutefisk at home.
First, buy some lutefisk. A good deal I am told is Olsen Fish Company.
Combine 3 quarts of water with 1 & 1/2 Tbsp. of salt.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat * Wrap fish in Cheese Cloth* then add fish to water (make sure water is NOT boiling, just under at this point). Cook for 7-11 minutes. Serve immediately with melted butter or cream sauce.Sounds just like the way I prepare crab. I added salt and pepper. My daughter says it has a "unique texture" and she traded me for my meatballs. 
 Other items at the dinner were boiled potatoes with white gravy and lefsa, a Norwegian flatbread.
                                   


For kids it was recommended to place a piece of lefsa on a plate, spread with thin layer of butter, then add mashed potatoes,  then flake Lutefisk on top of the potatoes and pour melted butter over the top.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Yummy!  
                                   
Some people spread the lefsa with butter and added packets of sugar. 


The fruit "Sweet soup" looked like baked beans at first, YIKES! But soon I discovered it is the best! You use lots and lots of the heavy table cream. Oh and it is served cold.  I couldn't get the recipe, my dearest friend Mrs. Munoz, so sorry.  I could identify at least apples, raisins, dates and possibly grapes.
(That part about the beans made me laugh. And here's a link to a few recipes for "sot soup" as it's called in most of Scandinavia. I couldn't tell if this was the recipe, or not, but the all seem pretty similar. It has tapioca, dried fruit, prunes, grapes, cinnamon and served hot or cold.)

Don't you just love the creamer dish?  I was tempted to swiped it for you, except I was in church at the time, so, I settled on giving it a loving stroke and whispered sweet nothings to it as it passed by.

(Again, I really laughed at this comment. She knows that I LOVE antique dishes. And it is a very lovely vintage creamer. I would be tempted to befriend the person who owned this because I know we would have so much in common... namely, an admiration for beautiful dishware.)
                                         
I hope everyone enjoyed this post from the wilds of Montana where it was recently -40F. Those sorts of thermometric numbers makes me think that people just aren't meant to live there, but my friend insists they're very happy in that frigid wasteland, populated by elk, moose, and the occasional lutefisk. To each his or her own, yes?
  Thank you, Stacey, for all the pictures and the informative "food from afar"!
Until next time, everyone!