Friday, July 27, 2012

Re-energize & Enjoy the World!


Just a quick to note to let you know I've decided to take a vacation - for the first time in years! I'll be using the time away to re-energize and enjoy the world. I'm excited to be taking a break and I'm looking forward to coming back full of ideas to share! While I'm away, I'll be {re}-sharing some "golden oldies" I've posted over the past year - classic recipes that will NEVER go out of style!

I will miss you all! See you in August!!

Chocolate Cake is ALWAYS a good idea, don't you think?


Monday, July 23, 2012

What's in the oven? Classic Peach Crisp

Fruit crisps - most notably Apple Crisp - are relatively new to American cuisine having made their appearance sometime in the mid-1920s. It is believed that fruit crisps are variations of a much older recipe for Apple Pandowdy. In Britain, fruit crisps are known as crumbles; the cobbler and brown betty are also closely related to crisps. No matter what they are topped with or what you call them, desserts like fruit crisps are generally based on seasonal fruits and tend to rely more on their great taste rather than their looks.

My recipe is a blend of the cobbler filling with the crisp topping. I've made the traditional fruit crisp recipes and they've turned out beautifully. But I prefer a softer filling with more syrup or sauce to it. You can see in the photo below, the filling really bubbles up over the topping. You'd think that would leave the topping soggy, but it doesn't.

Peaches are abundant at this time of year, so I decided to make a Peach Crisp. This dish is especially good with vanilla ice cream on a hot summer evening!

Classic Peach Crisp


1/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 cup water

pinch of salt

5 cups fresh peaches, pitted, peeled & sliced

In a 2 1/2 - 3 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, water and salt. Stir until smooth. Add the peach slices and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly.

Place the filling in an 8-inch round or square baking dish. Set aside and prepare the topping.


1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal (old-fashioned oats work best)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ginger

pinch of salt

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup slivered almonds or coconut, optional

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a bowl, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and ginger. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients between your fingers. The topping should resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts or coconut (or both!), if you like. Evenly spread the topping over the peach filling.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

You can see in the photo below, even though the filling bubbled up over the crispy topping, the fruit has (about) the same consistency as a traditional fruit crisp. Enjoy!

One year ago:  Vegetable Salad

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Friday, July 20, 2012

An American Classic: Tuna Noodle Casserole

As a child, I groaned whenever I came to the dinner table and saw tuna noodle casserole waiting for me. It might not be the most exciting meal to serve, but that doesn't make it any less of a classic American dish. Not only is tuna noodle casserole a comfort-classic that's easy to prepare, it's also a very frugal dish. Casseroles, like the tuna noodle casserole, became popular in the 1950s. They're relatively easy to prepare and many are one-dish recipes which makes them the favorites of many busy cooks.

Fortunately for me, two things happened as I got older that gave me a new appreciation for tuna noodle casserole:  1) I found a recipe for a much creamier tuna noodle casserole than I grew up eating and 2) I discovered chicken worked equally as well in the recipe. Many traditional recipes for tuna noodle casserole call for a crunchy topping (usually made of potato chips), but you'll notice my recipe does not have a crunchy topping. You can certainly add one, if you like. Many cooks also like to add peas to the casserole; I prefer mushrooms. Almost any vegetable can be used in tuna noodle casserole. It's a very versatile dish. The recipe I'm sharing with you this week can be made in a slow cooker or the oven. It's been so miserably hot here, I was loathe to turn on my oven, so I opted for the slow cooker. My children prefer the chicken version to the tuna, so that's usually what I make.

In our home, thanks to the creamy, delicious recipe below, there's no groaning at the dinner table whenever tuna (or chicken) noodle casserole is served. It's become one of our favorite comfort foods.

Slow Cooked Tuna (or Chicken) Casserole

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 (10 1/2 oz.) can cream of chicken soup

1 (10 1/2 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup Colby (or cheddar) cheese, shredded

1 (9.25 oz.) can tuna or 2 cups chicken, shredded or diced

1 (12 oz.) pkg. uncooked medium noodles (about 3 cups)

Spray the crock of your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the onion, mushrooms, salt, pepper, soups, mayonnaise and cheese in the slow cooker crock; mix well. Stir in the tuna (or chicken) and uncooked noodles. Set slow cooker temperature to low, cover and cook for 6 - 8 hours or until noodles are tender.

If you'd like to make your casserole in the oven, bake it for 35 - 45 minutes at 350° F. Tuna casserole can be frozen - after cooling completely - for 3 to 6 months. Be sure to store the casserole in a freezer-safe container with a good seal.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

What's in the oven? Classic Apple Pie

Do any of you remember the Chevrolet jingle from the 1970s - baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and (of course) Chevrolet? For those of you who do remember it, I bet you just sang it in your head, didn't you?

I can't think of any food more American than apple pie. Would it surprise you if I told you apple pie most likely originated in medieval England? And the earliest recipes did not include sugar. The Dutch can be credited for the addition of flavors like cinnamon and lemon to apple pie and the Swedish version of apple pie has no crust. Instead, apple slices were placed in a baking dish and topped with lightly spiced dough. It stands to reason that apple pie - in its many different forms - was brought over with immigrants looking for a new life in America. The recipes slowly blended as the early settlers moved across the country, until sometime in the 18th century, apple pie became a common dessert in America. I think apple pie is a wonderful testament to the great American melting pot.

As with many classic American recipes, there are many recipes for apple pie. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, aren't I? I prefer to make an apple pie filling because I'm guaranteed success, if I do. I've tried the recipes that combine the apple slices, sugar, spices and butter right in the crust, but I've sometimes ended up with a filling that was too loose. You know the kind - it runs all over the plate and makes for a soggy bottom crust. I've included my filling recipe, if you'd like to give it a try. This filling recipe is also great for canning; I've given many jars of this filling in gift baskets for my friends and neighbors. I've also included one of the pastry crust recipes I like to use. This one is a 50/50 blend of butter and shortening that makes for a very flaky, slightly sweet crust.

The pie I made for this post has a very rustic-looking lattice crust with cut outs of apples decorating the top and edge. Mini cookie cutters work great for creating a decorative edge on the pie whenever I feel like doing something other than crimping the edge.

Classic Apple Pie

Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

3 tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg yolk

3 tbsp. ice water

Using a food processor, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter and shortening; pulse until mixture resembles course meal, about 10-20 pulses. You can also use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or, if mixing by hand, cut the butter in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk; add enough ice water to the yolk to measure 1/4 cup. With food processor or mixer running, slowly add the egg mixture in a steady stream until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Take care not to process for more than 30 seconds. If mixing by hand, use a fork and mix in the egg mixture until dough holds together. To test, squeeze a small amount of dough together. If it's crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tbsp. at a time, until mixture is no longer crumbly.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

While the pie crust is chilling, make the filling.

Apple Pie Filling

5-6 apples, cored, peeled & cut into thick slices (I like Granny Smith, but you can use any variety)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. apple pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. allspice)

2 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. cornstarch

In a 2 1/2 - 3 quart saucepan, combine the apple slices, sugar, 1 tbsp. water, lemon juice and apple pie spice; stir gently to combine. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until apple slices are tender.

Combine the 2 tbsp. water and cornstarch in a small bowl; mix until smooth. Add to the apple mixture; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.

Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate in a covered container, if assembling the pie at a later time.

Assemble your pie

I like to take the pie crust out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before I roll out the dough.

Roll out one disc of dough into a circle about 1 inch wider than you pie pan. I used a 9-inch pie pan, so I rolled by dough out to about a 10-inch circle. Place the dough into the pie pan, making sure it's positioned evenly in the pan. You can use whatever method works best for you when rolling out your dough. I like to roll mine out between pieces of plastic wrap; it makes it really easy to move the dough into the pie pan and re-position it, if you necessary.

Spoon the pie filling into the bottom crust and set aside.

Roll out the second disc dough to form a top crust. You can do many things for a top crust, at this point. I chose to do a basic (and very rustic looking!) lattice for my pie today. I also used the scraps of pie dough to cut out little apple shapes with a mini cookie cutter to place over the lattice and around the edge of the dough instead of crimping the edges. Once the top crust is on the pie, trim the dough from around the edge and crimp to seal the top and bottom crusts. You can find some great ideas for finishing your pie crust here and different ways to crimp the edge here.

 After laying out the lattice top, I mixed 1 egg with 1 tsp. of water in a small bowl and brushed the egg wash over the top (lattice) crust and all around the edges. This will help seal the crusts and "glue" the little apple cut outs to the top crust. Once all the cut outs were in position, I lightly brushed the top crust and edge again with the egg wash. Finally, I sprinkled turbinado (raw) sugar over the top crust and placed the pie pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Plain, granulated sugar is also fine, if you don't have turbinado sugar on hand.

Bake the pie in a 375°F oven for 35-40 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool the pie on a rack until ready to serve.


One Year Ago:  Easy Slow Cooker Pork Ribs

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gone: A Little Piece of Sioux Falls' Food Culture

Yesterday was Friday the 13th and, despite all the superstition surrounding the day, I was having the Best. Day. Ever. It was unbelievable! I even jumped up-and-down, at one point and squealed (yes, squealed) with joy more than once. It was that awesome of a day.

And then I saw this little headline while cruising the local news online:

Food Falls Blog:  Hamburger Inn closes up shop tomorrow

What? {I quickly clicked on the link to read the blog-post-of-doom.}

What!?! And then I saw the photo confirming the closure. WAAAAHHHHHH!

For those of you who may be wondering why I'm mourning the closing of a little hamburger shop, let me explain. 

The Hamburger Inn is an iconic little hole-in-the-wall located in downtown Sioux Falls that has just a counter with maybe 10 stools to sit at (I never counted them). The walls are decorated with an eclectic collection of signs and clippings from all over the world. The grills and fryers are just on the other side of the counter and you literally watch the cook hand-form and fry your burger. {Excellent photos of the Hamburger Inn} It's been a part of Sioux Falls for well over 60 years and despite its reputation as a greasy spoon, it was a place you just HAD to go to at least once. What did you order once there? An Eggburger, of course! The Hamburger Inn had a pretty extensive menu (written on a white board that sat atop the refrigerator on the other side of the counter), but it was famous for the Eggburger - a fresh, made-to-order burger with a fried egg on top of it. The Cadillac of burgers was the Eggburger with Bacon.

But no more. 

The only glimmer of hope in the entire post was the reminder that the Hamburger Inn closed briefly about a year ago and then re-opened. Let's hope this closing will be temporary, too.

To honor the best little hamburger shop Sioux Falls will ever know, here's my version of the Eggburger with Bacon. I will never be able to duplicate the "eggs-traordinay" flavor of a Hamburger Inn burger, but it's still pretty tasty!

My Eggburger with Bacon

I like a burger without a lot of seasoning mixed into the beef prior to grilling, but you can add any seasoning or other flavoring you like. We also lightly toast our buns on the grill, but a plain bun is also fine.

1 lb. ground beef 

1 tsp. kosher salt


3 hamburger buns buttered

3 eggs, fried

3 strips of bacon, cooked (we like ours crispy)

3 slices of cheese (your choice - I used white American cheese)

lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions & whatever else you like on your burgers

Preheat your grill (or light the coals, if you're using a charcoal grill). You'll want it screaming hot when you put the burgers down.

Add the salt and pepper to the ground beef and mix it into the beef. I use my hands to make sure it's evenly mixed. Divide the seasoned ground beef into three balls and form into patties. Be sure to wash your hands after handling raw meat!

Put the burgers on the grill. I place mine on the upper rack of our gas grill over medium-high heat and cook each side for 5 - 6 minutes, depending on how you like your burgers done. You can use whatever method works best for you, including broiling or pan-frying, if you don't want to grill. In the last minute or two of grilling, place a slice of cheese on each burger and place the buns - buttered side down - on the grill, if you like toasted buns.

While the cheese melts and the buns toast, fry the eggs to your liking. I prefer over-easy with a soft yolk. It doesn't always work out that way, though!

To assemble:  place a cheese-covered burger on the bottom half of a bun, cut or break a slice of bacon in half and place it on top of the burger. Place the fried egg on top of the bacon and add any other condiments you like. Place the top half of the bun on the burger . . . 

. . . and ENJOY!!

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