A Charlie Brown(ie) Christmas

Every year around this time, I dig through my small, but cherished collection of CD’s and pull out one that makes me happy just looking at it.

For those of you unfamiliar with this cartoon character, he's the one on the left.

Sometimes I even do the happy dance. :)

Charlie Brown is a man after my own heart — optimistic in spite of the odds, always hoping for the best.  Even when the needles fall off his spindly Christmas tree year after year (via the wonder of re-runs), his spirit remains undaunted.  I like that.

I also like brownies.

Yup, that would be me in the all-seeing silver bulb...

These brownies make me happy looking at them, too.  Better yet, eating them.  I’ve made them year after year (over 30 years’ worth of re-runs) and, just like Charlie Brown, they’ve withstood the test of time.

Unlike my “tree”…

The tree AND brownies eventually took a tumble.

But… my spirit remained undaunted.

Charlie Brown(ies)

1 stick of butter (plus a little extra, to butter the baking pan)

2 squares (2 oz. total) unsweetened chocolate

1 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/4 c. flour

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Butter a 9″ x 9″ glass baking pan; set aside.

Get out a heavy saucepan, a wooden spoon, and a spatula.  (These are the only utensils you’ll need; consider it an early gift.) :)

Melt butter over low heat in the saucepan.  When butter is almost melted, add the chocolate.  Stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is melted; remove from heat.

Add sugar; mix well.  Cool mixture for several minutes.  (You don’t want your eggs to cook when you add them.)  Add vanilla and eggs; mix vigorously until combined.

Add flour and salt; mix until flour is incorporated.  Using a spatula, scrape the batter into the buttered baking pan.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.  They’ll look fairly “wet” but please do not overbake — they’ll settle down if you will.

Cool on a wire rack until you can no longer resist eating them.

Do the happy dance!

Enjoying the simple joys of the season,

~ Kim

Autumn Is Afoot (Apples & Walnuts with Cinnamon Caramel Sauce)

I like the word “afoot.”

On foot.

     In action.

          In progress.

Autumn wasn’t meant to be experienced indoors.  It requires participation…

With apples and camera in hand, I went exploring.

Where to take the picture?  Hmm….

                                                                                                                                                                                  (Disregard the photographer in the spoon…)

While I debate this dilemma, allow me to share the recipe.

Apples & Walnuts With Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

1 tart apple (per person), cored and sliced

1/4 c. toasted walnuts (per person)

Cinnamon Caramel Sauce:

4 T. butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 T. milk

1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 t. cinnamon

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir in brown sugar, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.  Increase heat slightly and bring mixture to a boil.  Cook and stir until “caramelly” consistency.  (I like my sauce thinner; use your judgement.)  Cool slightly and drizzle over apples and walnuts.  Enjoy!

As to where to take that final shot…

It’s Autumn!

Now go outside and play.

Enjoying all things afoot,

~ Kim

Everything’s Just Peachy (Or, The Pie Lady Speaks)

In a previous post, I promised to show you how to turn this…

Into this.

But first, a story…

Back in the trucking days, we didn’t get much “home time.”  The hubby and I were on the road together for weeks, or he’d have to head out for deliveries in one direction while I headed the opposite way.

Don’t get me wrong.  I relished the thrill of driving a big rig into the unknown, meeting interesting people and eating great food.  But, I missed my comfort zone — my kitchen — and the longing for “homemade” wouldn’t let up until I stood in front of my stove.

Everyone has their own idea of the ultimate “homemade” treat.  For me, it’s pie.  Maybe I watched one too many episodes of “Bonanza.”  The way Hoss’s eyes lit up when he spied a pie cooling on a window sill made me want to feed that man.  Or at least make him a pie.

After coveted weekends at home, we couldn’t possibly eat all of the goodies I made, so we’d bring them OTR (over the road) to share with our customers.  Enroute, I felt like a pirate with a booty of oven-lovin’ tucked under the sleeper bed. :)

Soon, our favorite customers became accustomed to receiving a homemade pie (or two) along with 50,000 pounds of steel, and it wasn’t long before they dubbed me The Pie Lady.

On trips when I was dispatched elsewhere, I’d send pies along with the hubby to drop off with the following instructions:  “Please put them in the break room so everybody gets a slice.”  (The fellow at the front desk had a real hankerin’ for pie.)

After one such delivery, my hubby returned to the steel yard to pick up a second load.  When he walked into the office, he caught the yard manager with a fork in hand, sneaking “bites” from his desk drawer.  He’d stashed a whole blueberry pie in his desk!  Another Hoss.

(Such is the power of pie.)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens.  But first, start your stove.

Back in the early pie-making days, I never knew when fruit pies were “done enough.”  Was the filling set — or soup?  Was it cooked — or crunchy?  Plus, I got tired of boil-overs, burnt crusts and fricassee’d fingers.  Ouch.

Then I came up with an idea:  “Why not cook the filling on top of the stove first?”  Not only did it take the mystery out of “doneness,” it ultimately cut down on baking time.  (Less time in the kitchen meant more time to play!)

I’ll interject “the recipe” here so it’s easier to follow along…

Homemade Peach Pie

5 c. sliced fresh peaches

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. butter

3/4 c. sugar, divided

3 Tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated)

Pinch of salt

Pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie

Extra sugar for “dusting”

First, peel yourself a mess of peaches. (For an easy “how to,” click here.  Thanks, Dara!)  Next, cut them in half, remove the pits, and slice them into 1/4″ slices.

Place the sliced peaches in a large non-stick skillet over low heat.  Sprinkle with water and half the sugar.  Dot with butter.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally.  (I use a wide spatula to “lift” the peaches from the bottom and gently mix them to retain their “sliced” shape.)

Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

This is generally when I make my crusts (while the peaches cook.)  Since everyone has their own “secret” pie crust recipe and some recipes require chilling, I won’t tell you how and when to make it.  But I will share my secret weapon.  Waxed paper.

I ran across this crust-making method many (many, many…) years ago and it was SO easy and SO non-messy, it made perfect sense.  Roll it out between waxed paper.  (I know, I know — it’s not “old school,” but it beats prying crust off of the counter or extricating it from your rolling pin.)  It also allows you to use less liquid — be it water, milk or cream.  Less liquid = flakier crust.

While you might have to experiment to get the proportions right, pie crust has never been easier, or as fast.  (Dare I say “It’s easy as pie?”)

Be sure to keep an eye on your peaches during this time!

Another crust-making tip:  You don’t need as much liquid as you think you do.  (If you overdo it, it’ll stick to the waxed paper.)  But, pie crust is forgiving and I’ve made many a “patched pie” that’s turned out just fine.  Take it a tablespoon at a time and trust that it’ll hold together once you start rolling.

Also, pie crust ala waxed paper makes it easier to transfer it to the pie plate — just peel off one side, “flip it,” center it and peel off the other side.  (Sorry, no photos to go with that tutorial.)

Now, preheat your oven to 400° F.

After the peaches have begun to soften, sprinkle the flour/sugar mixture over the top.  Stir gently to distribute and keep stirring!   (It thickens fairly quickly.)  When the filling becomes clear and bubbly, remove from heat and cool slightly.  Have your pie crusts at the ready and don’t overcook the filling; the fruit will cook down “just right” during the remaining time in the oven.

Carefully fill the bottom crust, then add the top crust.  (Don’t worry if the top crust looks like it’s “melting” — it’ll all work out, trust me.)  Trim the edges, crimp them, cut slits for steam, and sprinkle with with sugar.  Bake 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling starts bubbling through the vents.  Remove pie from oven and cool on a wire rack.

This method works equally well for apple and berry pies, bearing in mind that fruit differs in the amount of time needed to cook, depending on the variety you use.  (Sigh… so much information, so little time.)  It’s difficult to condense 35 years (ahem) of experience into one post.

If only I could make you a pie instead… 

What’s your favorite?

Last but not least, since this post is about sharing (or at least I hope y’all took it that way), please click on this link for ways to show the world it’s more blessed to give than receive.  Not everyone has it “peachy.”  I highly encourage you to read it — or better yet, link with a post of your own.

And while you’re at it, have a piece of pie.  There’s a little bit of Hoss in all of us. :)

Enjoying “home time” at last,

~ Kim

Saturday Night Sundaes

With just two of us in our household, I generally make half-batches of things.  But, we do end up with leftovers (and leftover ingredients) from time to time — especially when I bake.  Sometimes it’s just a tablespoon of this or a cup of that, but I enjoy “re-inventing” leftovers so they don’t go to waste.

With the number of heavy cream recipes I’ve posted lately, you must think I have a pipeline to the dairy, lol.  (A half-pint goes a long way at our house.)  We really don’t eat dessert 7 days a week, but I needed to use up the Creme de Cacao Whipped Cream (and the rest of the heavy cream…), along with a smattering of white chocolate chips.  Sometimes the best inspirations are the simplest ones.

Begin with an empty wine goblet…

Add two small scoops of chocolate ice cream (drizzled with Creme de Cacao, if desired) and a handful of White Chocolate Ganache stuffed raspberries…

Add a dollop of Creme de Cacao whipped cream, and a spoon…

Then sit down and ENJOY!

Raspberries with White Chocolate Ganache

(requires advance preparation)

1/3 c. heavy cream

1/3 c. white chocolate (I used Ghirardelli white chocolate chips)

Fresh raspberries

In a glass measuring cup, microwave the cream until just boiling.  (Watch so it doesn’t boil over!)  Add white chocolate chips; let sit for 2 minutes to soften.  Stir to combine. 

Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  When completely chilled, whip with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Place the ganache in a piping bag with a small tip.  Fill each raspberry (previously rinsed and thoroughly dried.)  Chill until serving time.

And if you have leftover raspberries…

Enjoying “re-inventing,”

~ Kim

Sweet Apologies…

Dear Readers,

In a previous post, I told you the Baker’s Company dropped the “apostrophe s from its German Chocolate bar.  I was wrong.

Cruising through the long-neglected baking aisle at the grocery store this past weekend (in anticipation of cooler weather, lol…), I spied the familiar brown and green package.  To my chagrin (spelled out before my very eyes), it said:  Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.  Oops.

I immediately rushed home with bar in hand to amend the error of my ways.  But first, I checked Wikipedia to make sure I’d read things correctly.  I hadn’t.

(Small consolation:  I was only half-wrong.  Which is better than being all wrong.  But I was still wrong.)

Wikipedia did indeed state that the “apostrophe s” was a thing of the past, but it pertained to the cake recipe, not the product.  (Apparently, German Chocolate Cake was easier to say than Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake.)

I’m sorry for misquoting you.  Please consider this my retraction.

As for the Baker’s Company (with profuse apologies for misrepresenting your fine product), I present a peace offering (in familiar brown and green):

Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Pie…

With Creme de Cacao added for good measure.  (One cannot apologize profusely enough.)

Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Pie

4 Tbsp. butter

4 oz. Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate

1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

1-1/2 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. Creme de Cacao (or vanilla)

1-1/3 c. shredded coconut

1/2 c. chopped pecans

unbaked 10″ deep dish pie shell

1 pt. heavy cream, whipped with 2 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. Creme de Cacao (or vanilla)

Whole pecans for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter and Baker’s German’s Chocolate, stirring until blended.  Remove from heat.  Gradually whisk in evaporated milk; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour and salt; set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs and Creme de Cacao (or vanilla) and add to dry ingredients; mix until well-combined.  Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture until blended.  

Combine coconut and pecans; sprinkle them over the bottom of the pie shell and slowly pour in the filling.

NOTE:  Be forewarned, this makes a LOT of filling.  I used a shallow pie plate and ended up with more filling than pie.  (If this happens, simply pour the remaining filling into a buttered bowl and bake it alongside the pie; in the event it bakes faster than the pie, consider it a taste test.)

Back to the recipe…

Carefully transfer the pie into the oven — it’s very sloshy!  Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until filling is set and top is golden.  Cool 1 hour on a wire rack before cutting.  Garnish with Creme de Cacao Whipped Cream and whole pecans.

Refrigerate unused portion; bring to room temperature before serving, if desired (although it’s great cold, too.)

Adapted from a recipe I wrote out 30 years ago — most likely from a Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Bar box!  (Thank you.)

Enjoying the sweet sound of “I’m sorry…”

~ Kim