Lemon Meringue Pie

lemon meringue pieMy Dad’s favorite kind of pie is lemon meringue (although we all like just about every kind of pie,) so when they came over for dinner, I made lemon meringue pie.  I thought it would be great for this month’s pie installment.

The easiest way to make lemon pudding is of course the Jello mix you can buy at the grocery store, but homemade lemon pudding is super easy and worlds better.  If you can invest in farm eggs for your lemon pudding, do so.  It adds a beautiful yellow color that wimpy store eggs just cannot.  If all you can buy are store eggs, you’ll still enjoy the wonderful flavor of the homemade pudding.  This recipe come from Mark Bittman’s cookbook How to Cook Everything and is just one example of the always-successful recipes he prints.

Lemon Pudding:

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

Pinch salt

2 cups boiling water

4 eggs, separated (save whites for meringue)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons lemon zest

6 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and boiling water in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until smooth and thick, about 10 minutes.  While it is cooking, beat the egg yolks until smooth.  When the cornstarch mixture is thick, remove from heat and stir about 1/4 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, beating well to warm the yolks, then add the yolk mixture into the cornstarch mixture and stir vigorously.  Return to low heat, add butter and lemon zest and juice and cook and stir about 5 minutes until smooth and hot.

Meringue:

4 egg whites

1/4 cup powdered sugar

pinch cream of tartar

In clean glass or metal bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar using an electric mixer until soft peaks start to form.  Continue beating while adding slowly the powdered sugar until the mixture is shiny and holds stiff peaks.  Take care not to overbeat.

To make lemon meringue pie, first pre-bake a 9-inch pie shell.  While pie crust is still hot, fill with lemon pudding and spread meringue over the pudding, spreading clear to the edges of the pie.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until lightly browned on top.

Lemon pie is also wonderful with whipped cream in place of meringue.  This is even simpler, but it will leave you with finding something to do with your egg whites . . .

Please share your pie recipes or links below!

 

Snacking and the Homeschool Family (How to Feed the Horde)

egg quesadilla

For those of you who, like me, are home with the kids all the time, you know that their appetites are bottomless.  After breakfast, and second breakfast, and lunch, and afternoon snack, and dinner and dessert, you may feel like you never get out of the kitchen!  Although I love to bake, I have nutritional qualms about feeding cookies and sweets for all the snacks my family wants during the week.  This started me working on some snack ideas which are not sweets, but would contribute to a positive nutritious balance to the day’s meals.

While I enjoy a bell pepper or a sweet potato for a snack, that is not something that flies for the kids.  They usually eat either fresh or home-canned fruit (peaches, pears or apricots) for one snack per day.  They complain if that is ALL there is for snack in the house, though.  While snacks like  crackers and peanut butter or popcorn are okay occasionally, I usually prefer to save the peanut butter for lunch (!) and crackers always seem like a waste of money to me.  There are enough cooks in our house to make cookies every day, but that could hardly be said to be nutritious.

Here are some quick foods we have eaten this week for snack.  Try out these “regular” foods at snack time, and see how they leave your horde feeling.

1.  Egg “quesadillas”.  This is not truly a quesadilla, since queso implies cheese.  Instead, I melt a tiny bit of butter in a skillet, add a scrambled egg, and swirl to spread.

scrambled eggAs the egg begins to set on the bottom, top it with a corn tortilla and another tiny pat of butter.  After about 30 seconds to 1 minute, flip the egg over so the tortilla side is down.  Allow to fry for another 30 seconds or so, until the egg is mostly cooked.  Fold in half.

folded egg quesadilla

Allow to brown slightly on each side before serving.  This would also work with a little cheese sprinkled over the egg so that you could have a real “quesadilla.”  We sometimes eat these for breakfast or lunch, 2 or 3 at a time.  Just one makes a nice quick mid-morning snack with a good protein boost to stave off hunger pangs.

2.  Tuna salad.  Lucy loves tuna.  When we make tuna sandwiches, she often asks for some more tuna salad “on the side.”  With this in mind, I mixed up a can of tuna with a little mayo, salt and homemade zucchini relish.  She ate the whole thing with gusto.  Another snack problem solved.

lulu eating tuna

3. Hard boiled eggs or egg salad.  This is another idea we often reserve for lunch, but everyone likes these by themselves or with a slice of bread.

Some other snack ideas I am exploring:  homemade pudding (tapioca, anyone?), fresh bread, homemade tortillas.  Obviously, I must love to cook!  What are some of your favorite ideas for snacky kids?  Please leave a comment below.

Try This Now: Caramel Popcorn

I finally broke down and bought myself a hot-air popcorn popper.  I’ve wanted one for a while:  I’ve heard many dieticians recommend popcorn as a whole grain, and while I don’t really like it myself, I thought it would be a good snack for the kids.  I don’t like to offer microwave popcorn because of all the additives involved, so when I replaced my Crock-Pot (I broke the pot!), I bought a popcorn popper as well.  The kids have enjoyed popcorn with butter and salt, butter and Parmesan, and butter and cinnamon-sugar.

In an upcoming post, I’ll let you in on a few things I’ve found out about snacking and home schoolers.  But for right now, I just want to share my sister-in-law’s wonderful recipe for homemade Caramel Popcorn.

Start with a big bowl of hot popcorn.  (My popper uses 1/2 cup kernels to make a big bowl, just right for this recipe.)

In a large saucepan, boil together:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons corn syrup or pancake syrup (I haven’t tried this variation)

When the butter is completely melted and boiling, add:

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

This is what it will look like:

carmel for popcornImmediately pour over hot popcorn and stir with a big spoon.  I thought I could use my hands for this, but it was just too hot!

Here’s the finished product:

carmel popcorn

 

And this is what you will look like eating it:

DSC_0039

Start to finish:  15 minutes.  Enjoy those happy faces!

What is your favorite addition to popcorn?  Please leave a comment below.

 

Kids in the Kitchen: Basic Beans and Rice

One my goals for my kids in the kitchen is that they be capable of making all basic dishes that are needed for healthy, economical living.  Two of those basics are beans and rice.  I thought everyone knew how to cook beans, until my sister-in-law told me a few years ago that she had never made beans “from scratch!”  Now I know that cooking dried beans is an art — not!

Max had his first lesson making beans and rice for us this week, and we turned his hard work into a delicious meal:  black bean soup with rice.

Here are the basics for cooking dried beans.

Step 1:  wash the beans.

washing black beans

Step 2:  Put in a pot with water to cover plus about 2 inches, and add salt (I usually add at least a teaspoon.)  The salt is not necessary, but helps the beans to be salted enough at the end of cooking.

add salt best

Step 3:  Bring to a boil and then turn pot to low.  Cover tightly, but keep an eye on the water level so the beans stay covered at all times.  Cook until soft, usually around 2 hours.  Taste and season as needed.

My kid-proof rice recipe is similar.

1 cup rice

2 cups water

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon salt

Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan, turn to low and set a timer for 20 minutes.  Turn rice off after 20 minutes and fluff with a fork.  The same method works for brown rice, just cook for 40 minutes.

black bean soup with rice

To finish this meal, we chopped 2 onions and 2 bell peppers and sauteed them in a LOT of olive oil (3/4 cup.)  Stir those into your pot of cooked black beans, and serve over rice with a homemade roll on the side — now that’s what I call YUMMY!  Cheap, healthy, good food, made by a 7 year old.

What basics do you think are necessary to teach your kids?  Please leave me a comment below.

Pie of the Month: Honey Pecan Pie

lovely pecan pie slice

 

Well, I promised you a pie challenge, and this pie was quite challenging for me.  First of all, I had trouble choosing a recipe for pecan pie.  I was certain this pie could be made with honey, because corn syrup seems like it must be a relatively new invention.  Also, since corn syrup is not a “real” food (it is made through high-level processing) it is persona non grata at our house.  It was troubling as well because most pecan pie seem to me to be too thin: they leave me wanting a little more.  My solution was to add extra pecans to the recipe.  The third problem I had in making this pie was the baking instructions.  The recipe I finally settled on called for baking the pie for a total of 40 minutes, steadily lowering the baking temperature.  However, after the 2nd temperature change (from 400 to 300 degrees) and 20 minutes, the pie was not set at all.  With only 10 minutes left on the original timer, I scoured my cookbooks and reset the oven to 350 degrees.  This resulted in a slightly carmelized top as the top element in the oven came on to bring the oven up to that temperature.

Well, I guess it’s enough to say we ate this pie in one sitting.  The honey taste was not too strong for my dissenter (Max isn’t into honey,) and everyone loved the nuts.  Even the carmelized top was a nice addition, and the (Crisco-based) pie crust was the best I’ve made in months!

unbaked pecan pie

Here’s the recipe:

Unbaked pie shell

3 eggs, beaten until light

1 cup honey

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Beat eggs until very light and frothy.  Add honey and melted butter in a steady stream.  When thoroughly combined, add vanilla, salt and pecan and mix well.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake about 30 minutes more, until filling is set.  Cool completely before serving.

I hope you are having your own pie adventure this month.  Please leave a link or a recipe in the comments below!

Kids in the Kitchen: Key Lime Pie

One of my goals for 2012 was to make a pie each month.  Even though I had already made pumpkin pies in December, I decided to make one last pie to top off the year — a key lime pie.  Mom had given me a whole bunch of limes, and I had some willing helpers to help juice them.  Key lime pie is so terribly easy, I couldn’t help but make one.

Lucy and Max juiced the limes.  Limes juice easier if you microwave them for 20 seconds before slicing.

juicing limes

My recipe calls for only egg yolks.  I showed the kids how to separate eggs just by lifting the yolk out of the bowl of egg white.  This is the most kid friendly way to separate eggs, even if it is MESSY!

max separating eggs

After beating the three ingredients together, we poured the mixture into the pre-baked shell (a Crisco crust, this time.  I like butter crusts, but sometimes just want the crispness that Crisco provides.)  Bake for 10-15 minutes, and when the pie is cool, top with whipped cream.  YUM!

Here’s the recipe:

1 pre-baked pie shell

1 can sweetened condensed milk

4 egg yolks

1/3  cup lime juice

whipping cream for serving

Beat egg yolks until combined, then add sweetened condensed milk and mix thoroughly.  While continuing to beat, slowly add lime juice.  Pour into pie shell and bake in 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until pie is softly set.  Remove from oven and cool completely before serving.

Come back tomorrow for the 2013 pie challenge!

Autumn Abundance #3: Pear Claflouti

Yes, this is the third fruit breakfast recipe I’ve shared with you lately.  It didn’t fit in our October Unprocessed week, but as I’ve said before, autumn tempts me into sweet, fruity breakfast that can rarely be enjoyed at other times of the year.  Hoot’n Annie pancake (with strawberries or apples), apple pan dowdy, and pear claflouti are the joys of living near orchards this time of year.

Pear claflouti is a tender baked custard, with pears, the riper the better, adding sweetness and flavor.  Try it with a little milk for breakfast hot out of the oven to enjoy your autumn pears.

Pear Claflouti

8 ripe pears, peeled and cored

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup flour

3/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1 1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

6 eggs

Grease a 9×13 baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Peel and core pears and place them in the baking dish.  Beat eggs until frothy with electric mixer, then slowly add sugar.  When eggs are frothy and thickened, add flour and beat until smooth.  Add yogurt, cream, milk, vanilla and salt and beat until smooth.  Pour over pears in baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake until custard is set, about 20 more minutes.

Don’t  burn your mouth on the hot pears!

Hope you enjoy this recipe.  Please let me know how it turns out for you!

Kids in the Kitchen: Hoot’n Annie Pancake with Strawberries

This time of year, our usual healthy breakfast routine totally fails.  It’s the fault of the farmers market.  After all, with fresh local peaches, pears, apples, raspberries and strawberries, who can resist making delicious fruit (desserts) breakfasts?  For the past few weeks we have been feasting on pear claflouti, apple crisp, peach cobbler and kuchen, and all kinds of other delicious breakfasts.

About a week ago, I attended a women’s health conference and heard The Food Nanny speak.  After I heard her, I said, “That is a job I would love to have!”  I immediately put her book on hold at the library, and brought it home yesterday.  Her plan for family meals includes “theme nights”:  Mexican, Italian and breakfast.  And in the cookbook, she had a picture of another delicious fruit breakfast.  She calls it German Pancake, I have also heard it called Dutch Baby, but in our family we call it Hoot’n Annie Pancake.

My grandma gave me the recipe when I got married, and we felt innovative by topping it with fried apples and whipping cream.  It has been a favorite family breakfast for a long time.  The Food Nanny’s idea was strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar.

Now, anyone who has not tried dipping strawberries in sour cream and brown sugar:  go buy some strawberries right now.  Yes, it sounds strange.  It is the best thing to do with strawberries ever.  So, how could we go wrong putting these on top of a pancake?  Eden and I came home from our run this morning and whipped up breakfast in about 5 minutes.  Slicing the strawberries was the most strenuous part of this recipe.

First, melt a stick of butter in a hot oven while you use the blender to mix the rest of the ingredients.  Pour the blended batter into the melted butter in the pan.

Then, set the timer for 30 minutes and prepare your toppings.

Serve and enjoy!

Hoot’n Annie Pancake with Strawberries

Serves 6

1/2 cup butter

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

6 eggs

Turn oven on to 375 degrees and place butter in 7×11 pan in oven to melt as it preheats.  Meanwhile, add milk, flour and eggs to blender and blend thoroughly.  When butter is melted, pour batter into pan and set timer for 30 minutes.  Do not open oven door while pancake is cooking.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Topping:

3 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix together sour cream and brown sugar.  Serve pancake topped with strawberries and cream mixture.

Do you enjoy having fruit based desserts for breakfast?  Stay tuned — I have another quick recipe for you soon.  Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Peaches and Cream Oatmeal from the Slow Cooker

I recently have fallen in love with steel cut oats cooked in the slow cooker (Crock pot.)  I put my big Pyrex mixing cup in my slow cooker filled with delicious ingredients, fill the surrounding pot with water and turn it to low.  Early the next morning, I wake up to a delicious, creamy breakfast.  While my usual recipe calls for apples and applesauce, my counters are overflowing with peaches from a local fruit farm right now, so I decided to try peaches in my oatmeal.

Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oats

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats

up to 1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups milk

4 cups water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

5 peaches, peeled and chopped

Place all ingredients in glass bowl or mixing cup and mix together.  I used 1/2 cup of brown sugar and found it quite sweet.  Place inside crock of slow cooker and cover with aluminum foil.  Fill slow  cooker with water to level of mixture in glass bowl.  Turn slow cooker to low and cook for about 8 hours.  Serve topped with milk or vanilla yogurt.

This is an excellent recipe for substitution.  As I said before, I often use apples and applesauce and add dried apricots, chopped almonds or chia seeds for extra nutrition.  I have also cooked cracked 9 grain cereal using this method.  It falls apart more than the steel cut oats, and I didn’t like it quite as much that way as cooked on the stove.

This is a great recipe for school days because it can be prepared the night before and is ready to eat early in the morning. If at your house, like at ours, you sometimes stagger breakfast eating times, this is very convenient for staying warm and good to eat.  (We sometimes have to start practicing piano early in the morning due to other commitments, and so whoever is practicing eats at a different time than the rest of us.)

Hope your school year is starting off great!  We start Monday, and I am looking forward to bringing you pictures of our first day of school and the various projects we have in store.  Have a great weekend!

 

Slow Cooker Tomato Jam (Ketchup)

As I mentioned in my last post, fall is a stressful time for me.  Besides starting school off on the right foot, I am trying to preserve as many fall fruits and vegetables for winter as possible.  Being crazy, I bought 10(!) boxes of tomatoes last weekend.  They were turned into 48 wonderful quart bottles of whole canned tomatoes, 7 quarts of beautiful spaghetti sauce, 10 quarts of amazing creamy tomato soup and 8 pints of homemade tomato ketchup.  I have to share this recipe with you, and then I have to find more tomatoes to make more ketchup — this is the kind of ketchup you eat with a spoon, no french fries required.

Slow Cooker Tomato Ketchup

16 cups tomatoes, crushed, drained well and then pureed

2 heads garlic, peeled and crushed

2 large onions, chopped fine

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup molasses

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt

Pepper

Blanch, peel and quarter tomatoes.  Thoroughly drain them in a colander.   (The better you do this step, the better the ketchup will be.  Try to drain all water from the tomatoes.)  Puree in a blender, then measure puree to get 16 cups.  Place in slow cooker with garlic and onion.  With lid off the slow cooker, cook on low (depending on how close you want to watch it) for about 12 hours.  I cooked on high for about 3 hours, then turned the pot to low and went to bed.  In about 8 hours, the sauce had reduced by nearly half.  When the sauce is reduced, add spices, sugars, and vinegar.  Cook 3-4 more hours to allow to reduce more completely.  During this time, you may want to put the lid on the pot, propped open with a wooden spoon.

When the sauce is thick, taste and adjust seasonings.  Ladle into clean pint jars, top with lids and rings, and process in a hot water canner for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before checking seal and storing.

This tomato jam was wonderful on this sandwich, accompanying the cream cheese spread.