Take The Classes! Italian Berry Crostata & Fig Tart – and “Gotta Empanada” !

201208-HD-summer-plum-crostata

*Class moved to September 21, 2014 due to the flu!  Because of the poor quality of Peaches, Summer Berries and Plums will be substituted, as well as Figs!

New Class:  Sunday, October 19, 2014 “Gotta Empanada” – $65.00 per Class, includes food & wine

Empanadas

Learn how to hand-craft savory Latin Style Empanadas in this hands-on pastry class!  Register via the event page on Face Book, or contact me via thepiebelle@gmail.com.  See you “In the Kitchen” soon!  *Due to the popularity of this class, size limited to 16; register soon!

Lemon-Garlic Lobster Love: Seefood & Blogging, Differently!

Lobster

Hi Foodie Friends! Thank you for the kind notes of wonderment and well wishing, and to answer a few questions:  No, I did not fall off the face of the earth!  No, I have not given up on baking and Blogging:  Yes, I do miss my Northern California teaching days and students; and Yes, I have been busy doing the following:  Wrapping up things in Northern California, including getting my youngest child off to college; continually adjusting to my new life change in Southern California; getting pastry classes up and running here; tending to my day job and its multiple changes in the short time I have been here (there have been 5!); and most recently, recovering from a bout with a very ugly monster . . . the dreaded flu!  It was brought to my attention in past months, that perhaps food Blogging should remain as exactly that . . . a Blog about food, not personal infusions of life events, thoughts, and feelings, either past or present.  After much consideration and about a month off from Blogging by choice, I have decided, that considering the sources of that suggestion, I am inclined to return to what best suits me and what caused me to initiate a Blog related to baking and food in the first place – that what we feel, live, and inhale – always has to do with food.   So I say to the “nay-sayers” of Blogs like mine that incorporate both with passion for both life and food and who write and bake for others with heart and soul, turn away if you must, as I will be returning to my previous style of Blogging.  Whew!  Having said all of that, I am over-due on a few promised  posts:  Lobster Love (today’s post), and Halibut in Lemon Champagne Broth (tomorrow’s post).  While lying in wait this past weekend, hoping for the quick passage of the flu and all of its lovely parts, I had the opportunity to again watch Julia & Julie, a favorite movie of mine, involving food and story.  I particularly love the scene involving the Lobster sequence, and in fact found myself writing this Lobster post and humming the tune as in the movie, “Lobsta Killer” !  While this recipe does require that you bake lobster tails, luckily, you can purchase the lobster tails from your  local grocer, with the hard part already done for you (i.e., boiling the live lobster).  Whether from your grocer or fish monger, just pluck that meat from the lobster tails, clean it up and rinse it a bit cutting off any fleshy substances, and then give the meat a good drying off with a paper towel – and boom, you are ready to bake.  This recipe works well for shrimp, or a combination of shrimp and lobster tails (baked at the same time), and I guarantee, you will make it time and again when you think you can handle a major infusion of butter.  It’s good to be back Blogging friends, and I will see some of you soon – “In the Kitchen,” in class!

Ingredients:

2 6-8 oz. lobster tails, meat pulled from shell, cleaned and dried

2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 tsp. kosher salt

7-8 cloves of garlic, half pressed, half rough chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, slightly crushed

Juice of one whole large lemon

Sprinkle of Lemon Pepper

Couple turns of the Pepper Grinder

Chives for Garnish

French Baguette, sliced thin, for sopping up the amazing juices!

That’s It!

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place the lobster meat (and shrimp if you are making them also) on a baking sheet; hopefully you have a baking sheet that has a good lip on it, to keep all of the butter and juices in while baking, as opposed to running out all over your oven.  With your hands, take the barely softened butter and mix in all of the other ingredients, incorporating as best you can – yes, your hands will be gunky!  *Note, if butter is too soft, it won’t mix well; just barely soften your butter!  Spread all of the lobster (and shrimp) with all of the butter-lemon-garlic mixture.  Bake in your preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes; check for opaqueness; if you feel the lobster are a little bit wobbly still, then for another two minutes, but no more than that; once you remove them from the oven, they will continue baking on the sheet bathed in those juices!  Remove from the oven when you have baked for 10-12 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then distribute to a plate and chop into chunks or serve whole, pouring juices all over lobster (if serving whole, you can even place back into lobster shell if it remained in tact).  Garnish with chives.  Then, take that bread and sop away any leftover juices, no butter needed!

*This recipe works well entertaining, when chopped up into chunks and served in the juices with toothpicks aside shrimp and skewers of steak; all I can say, is yummmm!

Peaches & Plums & Figs, Oh My! Summer Stone Fruit & Fig Italian-Style Crostata Class

peach-frangipane-galette

Looking for a way to showcase the freshest summer produce of the season? Come to the Italian-Style Crostata class hosted by The Pie Belle, for a wonderful Taste of Summer! Students will incorporate the finest of the seasons’s stone fruits and figs into luscious, free-form style Crostata pies! Each student will learn the secrets to crafting tender butter pastry and take home a luscious mini Stone Fruit Crostata assembled during class, and sample a Buttermilk Fig Crostata. *Hands-on class.

Date: Sunday: September 14, 2014

Time: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Chez Deco, Eagle Rock, CA (Los Angeles)
(register via thepiebelle@gmail.com)

Cost: $95.00 Per Person (includes Appetizers & Wine)

You will fall in love with this pastry; don’t miss it! Watch for listing in the Eagle Rock Boulevard Sentinel News!

Fig Crostata

The Summer Pie You Should Be Making: Mixed Plum Galette

plum galette

If you are like me, you look to the seasons to see what to cook. Where dessert is concerned, Summer is hands-down, the best time of year for pie-making of any kind. If you get to the Farmer’s Market or your local market, I can show you what to do with your haul. Pie is great; but for those smaller bites and appetites, Galettes can be better! Let me explain why. We all know how wonderful and lovely and perfect a whole pie is. Pie is butter’s highest calling, and fruit’s most appealing vehicle. It is the greatest breakfast I know, since it’s basically just a form of toast with butter and jam, morphed into something even more perfect. But pie is not the easiest to conquer, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise (hence, take the pie class coming up!); but you can do it. Pie can be a fickle lover that betrays us in many ways: A soggy crust, soupy fruit fillings, or a crust that’s tough or too chewy (hence, take the pie class coming up!). Did I say that twice? A Galette is what I refer to as a “lazy woman’s pie.” A happy woman’s pie. A Galette is much less likely to make you cry than pie (unless it is my Southern Pecan pie recipe – you will cry because it is SO good!). A Galette can be objectively better than its fussy, double-crusted much lauded cousin. Here’s why: You have a high surface area-to-volume ratio on your side from the get-go, which means almost zero chance of a soggy crust, since there’s so much crust to caramelize, and more space for water to evaporate. There’s only one crust to roll out, and no latticework or pastry decoupage required. It need not be perfect – rustic is the new perfection! While some refer to “rustic” as a Band-Aid for all jagged edges and bubbly leaks and awkward angles, I think Galettes are sexy and beautiful and oozy; they are not for people who have problems with a “freeform pie.” Freeform means you get to construct your own rules of geometry, rather than “color inside” someone else’s lines. And then, there is that little fact that a Galette isn’t really a rigid recipe; mix whatever fruit you like with a handful of sugar and a tablespoon or so of flour or thickener, plus any other spices or flavors that strike your fancy; let them sit until extraneous juices pool at the bottom of the bowl, strain them thoroughly; then fold them into the center your rolled out dough. Add an egg wash and a sprinkle of salt and sanding sugar and you are set. Please don’t forget the salt; you want salt in your butter, salt in your crust (more so here than in regular pie crust), salt in your filling, salt to rain down on this beauty before you slip it into a piping hot oven. My pastry spirit guides have confirmed that starting your Galette in a 425 oven, then decreasing the heat, will give you a nice caramelized crust, and a super flaky one too. As far as the crust? I am giving you a recipe (not the one I teach in class which is really the best of all – what? Can’t give away all the secrets!) that will bode well for you; find your own rhythm with whatever crust you like (or take the Crostata/Galette class coming up in September!); and if all else fails? Slice a piece like a pizza, and adorn it with vanilla ice cream to cover any misfit pieces! Once you get the hang of it, don’t limit your imagination – try Strawberry-Rhubarb, Peach-Frangipane, Leek Fennel & Mushroom (yes, Galettes just like pies, can be savory too) or Blueberry with Rosemary Crust. Good luck foodie friends – while the internet witnesses a war between team pie and team cake, I will always be on the sidelines, or at the forefront, cheering for neither, but making, sharing, creating and eating forms of pies and Galettes, all done by hand, embracing every bit of floury mess. Join me in a class soon – you will be hooked!

peach-frangipane-galette

Crust:
8 tbls., or 1 stick, salted butter (Kerrygold recommended)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2-4 tbls. iced water
1 tbl. apple cider vinegar

Filling:

2 pounds plumbs, sliced into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbl. flour or thickener
1 pinch salt
Zest of one half lemon (optional)
Splash of vanilla (optional)
Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Egg Wash:
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbl. water or cream
Flaky salt and sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Cut the butter into 1/2 pinch pieces; place on a plate, and freeze for 5-10 minutes. While your butter chills, mix the dry ingredients with a pastry blender; mix the vinegar and 2 tbls. of water in a bowl, then plunk in a few cubes to keep it chilled. Once your butter is nice and firm, dump half into the flour mixture, and toss to coat – ideally, you want a flour barrier between your pastry tool and the butter at all times. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender; then add the second half of the butter mixture and cut it in until you have lima bean sized crumbles. Sprinkle the iced water over the dough 1 tbls. at a time, stirring with a spoon to incorporate until dough comes together; use more water, up to 4 tbls. until you can squeeze the dough but no more (otherwise you will have wet, messy dough).
Form your dough into a disk, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap; chill for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Filling/Assembly:

Preheat your oven to 425. Toss the plums, flour or thickener, sugar and salt together; add zest, vanilla and cinnamon if desired; let sit for 15 minutes or so, and drain off all extra juices. While your filling sits, roll out your crust. Flour a clean, large surface, and plop your disk of dough onto it. Flour the top and your rolling pin just a bit; roll your dough out into a circle; stop when the dough is about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer your dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Once your filling is drained, pile it into the center of your crust, fold the crust over the filling, leaving only the center exposed (see photos). Brush the crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt and sugar; bake for 10 minutes at 425, reduce heat to 375, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, depending upon the size of your Galette. You want the crust a deep, golden brown, but not too brown underneath. Remove from oven; let cool on an elevated rack at least 3 hours; serve slices (like a “pizza”) with vanilla ice cream, and a garnish of mint.

strawberry rhubarb galette

leek mushroom galette

Take The Class! Puff Pastry Turnovers August 23, 2014

Turnovers 1

Looking for that special “bite” of pie but don’t want to make an entire pie? Then Puff Pastry Turnovers are for you! Join Tracy DeVore, The Pie Belle, and venture into the world of Rustic Puff Pastry Turnovers! These delicious “grab and go” pastries are the perfect way to showcase summer’s seasonal and bountiful fruits. Students will be introduced to the techniques of Classic Puff Pastry, and make a “Blitz” Puff Pastry that will shatter into a shower of buttery shards with each fruity bite. Choose from three luscious fruit fillings and take home your baked goodies made and assembled during this one-of-a-kind hands-on class, as
well as recipes of the day.

DATE: Saturday, August 23, 2014

TIME: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (approximate)

WHERE: Chez Deco
5431 Townsend Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(916) 799-5772 (thepiebelle@gmail.com)

COST: $95.00 Per Person (Includes Appetizers & Wine)

Join Tracy and learn how to demystify the art of making Turnovers. Learn how to master Turnover pastry dough, craft your Turnovers individually during class, and become a whiz at rolling dough! You will leave with your confidence so buoyed, you will never, ever, buy that pre-made stuff from the store again! Great baking isn’t about recipes; it’s about technique. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned baker, or anywhere in between, cooking classes are a great way to improve your culinary/baking skills in a relaxed, yet social environment, and have a lot of fun. Meet new friends and allow your inner chef to come out and play. And the best part? Every class ends with dessert! Classes include all ingredients, use of pie-making supplies and tools (from aprons to rolling pins), and bakery boxes for transporting items baked during class. Please dress comfortably and have hair tied back if it is long, and more importantly, bring nothing but your sense of humor and desire to learn and prepare to have fun. As we will be working with floury hands, it is recommended that hand/wrist jewelry also be left at home.

To enroll in this class, fill out the form below, e-mail your interest to the me via the e-mail on the front of this form, and return the bottom portion with your payment as soon as possible to reserve your space. Classes are limited to 18 individuals, on a first come first served basis. Once payment is received, a confirmation e-mail will be sent to you to confirm your reservation. Class fees are nonrefundable except in the event of an emergency, as time and supplies purchased for class are valuable.

What are you waiting for? Hope to see you soon “In the Kitchen”!
——————————————————————-
Please register me for the Puff Pastry Turnover Class on August 23, 2014.

No. Attending: ___________Payment Enclosed: $ ______________

Name: _________________________________________________

Address: _________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

Phone: _________________________________________________

E-Mail: _________________________________________________

Fantastically French: Happy Bastille Day – Eat Black Pepper Gougere BLT’s!

blt gougeres
Today, we’re celebrating Bastille Day – a national French holiday that celebrates the beginning of the French revolution. Personally, I will also be celebrating a friend’s birthday, with lots of champagne and if I wasn’t working at my day job, these little Black Pepper Gougere BLT’s! Similar to a cream puff but on the savory side, the crisp exterior and custard like interior of these French appetizers signifies France at it’s finest. Black pepper is incorporated to balance out the creaminess of the pastry puffs, and to lend a small “bite” of spice. Since it’s all about the celebration of this special day, be extra decadent and stuff them with small strips of pepper or applewood smoked bacon, spicy arugula and fresh sliced baby grape tomatoes. These bite sized BLT’s create the perfect bun for the filling – try a little avocado spread in the place of any type of mayonnaise slathered on the top half of the tiny bun, and take it up another notch to a BLAT! Whether you are whipping up a batch of these for a Bastille Day get together, or future entertaining, I highly recommend making these insanely delicious bites!

Black Pepper Gougere BLT’s
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour (recommended: King Arthur)
1 tbl. unsalted butter
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 large eggs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

10 strips of pepper or applewood smoked bacon, cooked and cut into thirds
10 baby grape tomatoes, halved
25 arugula leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour water into a medium pot and add butter and salt; bring to a boil. Once mixture has come to a boil, add flour and quickly stir with a wooden spoon, until dough forms. Continue to stir over medium heat, for about 3 minutes. Place dough into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and run on medium speed, allowing steam to escape. Once most of the steam has disappeared, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Fold pepper and cheese into the pate a choux pastry, until fully incorporated. Scoop mixture into a piping bag and pipe half dollar sized balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a small amount of black pepper over each puff.

Bake puffs for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown, uninterrupted, in the oven (no peeking!). Allow puffs to cool for 5 minutes. Slice each puff in half and fill with bacon, sliced tomato, and arugula. Serve and enjoy!

Fit For A King: Pan Seared Oven Roasted Perfect Filet Mignon, Bacon Brown Sugar Green Bean Bundles, Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp & Tomato Basil Balsamic Crostini

filet and crostini

Need a way to your King’s heart? It is often said that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach . . . or rather, making damn good food that nourishes his soul and makes him feel loved! As the weekend fast approaches, and the longest day of summer will arrive tomorrow morning (summer solstice), the time is perfect for making this awesome combination of flavors for your special someone. And to top it off? MAKE PIE! Enjoy these wonderful dishes, each good enough to stand on its own, but when combined, a match made in heaven. The filet of beef is tender and buttery and slightly garlicky, and while many cooks choose to dab on blue cheese butters or herb sauces, when done properly, this meat will and should stand on its very own legs, i.e., flavors. And the shrimp? Follow the directions exactly, and they will be some of the most tender and flavorful shrimp you have ever eaten. The crostini and green bean recipes are chock full of garlic as well, so if you are garlic challenged, these recipes may not be for you; however, my guess is that when you try them, you will enjoy them. So Queens and Princesses unite, and learn and make these dishes for your King and Prince Charming – he will love them! *Cook’s Note: You will be layering all of these dishes with salt and flavoring; it is the best way to achieve that final, lip smacking, result!

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Filet Mignon

2-3 6-8 oz. Filet Mignon, about 1 1/2 inches thick, room temperature
1 tbl. salted butter
7:2:2 seasoning (recipe follows)
Chives, garnish

Seasoning:

1 tbl. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic (garlic powder)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Let the meat come to full room temperature for best results.

Season all sides of your filets with the seasoning above. In an oven safe pan (preferably cast iron), over medium high to high heat, melt the butter until it barely browns; then lay the seasoned beef in the pan, roughly 2-3 minutes on the first side undisturbed, then flip, for 2 minutes on the other side; you want to see a seasoned buttered “crust” on the meat, but you don’t want to end up with overcooked filet mignon! So, set a timer for all of these cooking instructions. Turn off the heat, and place directly into the oven; roast for about 8-9 minutes, for medium rare; but watch the meat or use a thermometer, as it could be as little as 5 minutes for rare, or 12 minutes for medium to medium well; for me, foolproof, perfect pink inside even once the meat has rested, is about 8 minutes. When desired doneness is achieved, remove to foil, and wrap individually to process the rest of the cooking; let rest in the foil for 10 minutes; remove, slice, and serve with any juices draped over that have accumulated, and a sprinkling of chives. Can you say . . . melt in your mouth? Yum!

Tomato Basil Balsamic Crostini

2 ripe tomatoes, Roma or Summer, finely chopped, juices and all
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbl. balsamic vinegar
1 splash of red wine vinegar
6 cloves of garlic, half minced and half rough chopped
8 leaves of basil (added in last – see directions)
Sourdough Baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

To Toast Baguette slices:

In a 350 oven, place bread slices, brushed with olive oil on both sides (and a sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper) on a baking sheet; bake for about 12 minutes, turning over once during baking when bottom of side one is lightly browned; you want to achieve a fairly toasted bread slice, so don’t underbake! Once removed from oven, rub each side with a smashed clove of garlic. Cool 20 minutes; top with tomato mixture. *The goal here is to have a salty, crunchy vehicle on which to house the cold, tomatoey, vinegary, garlicky goodness! Opposites attract? Indeed!

In a bowl, place tomatoes, garlic, vinegars, salt and fresh cracked black pepper; let marinate at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours, giving it an occasional stir. About one hour prior to serving, add in chopped basil. Check for taste; re-season if needed. Place atop toasted baguette slices, and garnish with black pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if desired.

Bacon Brown Sugar Green Bean Bundles

8 thick bacon slices
6 tbls. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and blanched
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon in batches until the slices are just barely beginning to brown along the edges, but still very underdone and pliable, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and let cool; then cut each slice in half, crosswise. In a small bowl, whisk together butter, salt and garlic powder.

Divide the green beans into 16 equal portions; about 5 beans to a bundle. Gather each portion into a neat bunch or bundle, and wrap a half slice of bacon around the center to hold them together. Place the bundles on the baking sheet with the loose end of the bacon underneath. Brush the beans with the butter mixture, and then sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter mxture.

Roast the beans until the bacon is cooked through and browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp

2 pounds raw shrimp, deveined, shells on preferably
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, but into pieces
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and rough chopped
1/8 cup of parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 whole large lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 350. Rinse shrimp to separate, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. In a large bowl, place butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley and red pepper flakes. Using your pastry blender, blend to combine all ingredients, until small crumbles form (which you will press together and deliver over the shrimp before baking). Sprinkle the cold butter “crumbles” over the shrimp.

Bake until the shrimp are opaque and butter is hot and bubbly, about 10 minutes; no more, as they will continue to cook, just like the filet mignon, once removed from the oven; this is where so many go wrong, and end up with leathery, chewy shrimp! Remove from oven; spoon all of the garlicky, buttery juices over the shrimp, and serve with some hot crusty bread for dipping and mopping up all of those yummy juices!

*Note: If you like mesculun salad mix, add some cherry tomatoes, red onion rings or thicker slices, shaved parmesan slices, and toss with this vinaigrette: 1/2 cup extra light olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 3 tbl. white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper; whisk together; then add in 1 tbl. A-1 steak sauce, and a few dashes of hot sauce; it goes extremely well under the filet of beef or alongside this meal!

Pig Out In Paradise: Chipotle Mini Sliders, Onion Strings & Grilled Peaches & Pound Cake

sliders and rings

Who ever said you had to leave your backyard to have a feast in paradise? Moving to Los Angeles has provided me with something I truly love; summer weather almost year-round! What inspired this meal just happened to be a trip to the local Trader Joe’s – where standing before me were the cutest, littlest, mini slider hamburger buns I have ever seen! Usually when I make sliders, I use Hawaiian rolls or sometimes specialty smaller bakery rolls; but get these folks, they are darling and yummy! There are so many variations on sliders – use this recipe as a base and get your creative juices flowing! Little-big fat bacon sliders, mushroom and swiss sliders, whiskey honey barbecue, jalapeno and chipotle are but a few suggestions; create your own burger bar with all the toppings imaginable at your next get together (think 4th of July?) and take it outside folks – all summer long! The addition of the onion strings (an old favorite of my son), and the Grilled Peaches and Pound Cake, round out the meal . . . and don’t forget the oven baked fries (pictured also) and but of course . . . the Grey Poupon! The heck with the kids on this one, make it for the adults – they will love it too! Happy Summer Grilling!

Sliders:

1-2 lbs. high grade 80/20 ground beef
3 tbls. whipping cream
6 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsps. chipotle chile sauce (from can of chiles – freeze the rest)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sliders buns
Clove of garlic
Melted Butter

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl; take an ice cream scoop and shape one scoop into a mini hamburger patty, making an indentation in the middle with your thumb to keep them from plumping too much when they cook. Repeat with remaining burger. Grill the sliders until cooked through, 3 minutes per side; top with cheese of choice during last minute of grilling. Grill the halved slider buns, spread with butter, until toasty; remove from grill and rub with the garlic clove; discard garlic clove. Place one patty inside each bun and serve immediately with your favorite fixing (think as above, or with blue cheese or gorgonzola, carmelized onions, mesculun salad mix tossed with vinaigrette . . . the sky’s the limit)!

Onion Strings:

1 whole large onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbl. kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1-2 quarts canola or vegetable oil
Black pepper to taste

Slice onion very thin; place in a baking dish and cover with buttermilk and soak for at least 1 hour.

Combine dry ingredients; set aside. Heat oil in a pot to 375 degrees (use a thermometer to gauge heat). When temperature is reached, remove from pot; grab a handful of onions, throw into the flour mixture, tap to shake off excess, and plunge into hot oil carefully (tongs work best here). Fry for a few minutes and remove with a slotted spoon as they become golden brown; don’t crowd too many in the pot at one time; do it in batches for best results. Remove browned onions to a plate lined with paper towel; season with salt and pepper immediately. Repeat until onions are gone.

Grilled Peaches & Pound Cake:

1 fresh pound cake, cut into 1 inch thick slices
Melted butter
2 Yellow Peaches, ripe but still firm, cut into thicker slices
2 tbl. brown sugar mixed with 2 tbl. melted butter
Lime or lemon, halved
Mint leaves, garnish
Whipped cream, garnish
*Or fresh whipping cream mixed with 1 tbl. sour cream, garnish

Over a medium-heated grill, lay buttered pound cake slices beginning with the 2 o’clock angle; grill just a few minutes until char marks appear, turn to opposite angle (10 o’clock), and repeat; you are basically just lightly toasting the cake. Remove to a platter; place peach slices on the grill in the same manner, cross-wise so that they don’t slip through the grill. Squeeze lime or lemon juice over them, then brush them with the brown sugar butter mixture, grilling and turning just a few minutes, until lightly, lightly grilled (not mush!). Remove to a platter; serve over the pound cake immediately, with whipped cream as above of your choice and mint sprigs. *Grilling or roasting fruit lightly brings out the natural juice and sweetness – give it a try!

Know Reality And Walk The Truth: Move Over Kale, Brussels Sprouts Chips Are The Real Deal

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Today’s post will serve two purposes; a wonderful recipe, but also, a brief “catch up” on my move to Los Angeles as promised and requested by crazyaboutpie followers. While this blog often posts recipes coinciding with personal stories and often my real life, I have found myself recently in the big, fat middle, of what I like to refer to as being “lost” in the minutia of reality. Life will connect you to the truth of your experiences, deliver meaning, and where it can, help you benefit from optimism, adventure and even risk. It’s not our experiences, but our ability to derive meaning from them that make our life both ordinary, and extraordinary. What I find I often lack in vision, forces me to seek new perspective. “Dwell in possibility, because Truth is so rare, it is delightful to finally tell it.” – Emily Dickinson. I have been described in the past as irrepressibly optimistic, often banishing darkness and hopelessness with optimism and hope with a hint of charm but always with an enchanting spin on real life coupled with creative imagination. Somewhere in the scattered details of the past six months, my endeavours to cultivate a more optimistic mindset despite all of my woes, has come to a screaching and predictable halt . . . and “lost” in all of the “minutia” a divorce and life direction change, i.e., rebuilding a new life entails. In the last few days, my usual hefty appetite for pleasure, for enjoying life to its fullest, and my inner world of imagination and feeling, have been more inclined to be in retrograde – with meaningful soul searching of a life lived in bits, bites and bytes, often forgetting to digest all of my experiences, individually and as a whole, for meaning. My attention is divided, and my focus unfocusable (if that is even a word). Truth be told, I sometimes fall victim to my own negative thinking – comparing myself to other people, listening to the words of others spewing negativity about me that I know is untrue and undeserving; and on really bad days, subconsciously talking myself through evidence if only in my mind, that I am nobody, and that I will never live up to my full potential. That’s not to say that I have been kicked hard through my divorce and those drop-kicks to the curb are far from over; divorce is hard on everyone involved, and for everyone, a no-win situation. I’m sure you can all relate. Some of you have been there. Sometimes in the midst of all of life’s bumps and pressures, we totally forget all the wonderful, unique things about ourselves we have to give to the world. We get stuck in our worried minds and allow our wounded self-esteem to be our inner critic and completely tear apart our self-worth until we feel too small to do anything except eat comfort food, watch television or movies, sleep, and generally retreat from life and the daily joys we experience. Non-serving, self-depreciating thoughts are allowed to flow, and while we all let them slip in at times, we are human; so it’s okay to experience them for a brief time, but in this life, there are two kinds of people: survivors, and those who don’t. For me, now it’s time to recharge, regroup, and move on through the minutia. Although I have made other baked goods for friends and a few events here in Los Angeles, I have not made . . . one pie since leaving northern California (where I was baking pies for a local restaurant to the tune of about 28 per week!), nor taught any classes (I am trying to secure a venue in which to do that). Could it be that part of the joy I experience from baking/creating/sharing will come to my rescue? Do I indeed need to get hands on with my dough again? I have come to the realization that the answer is . . . Yes. So other than the fact that tonight I will be making pie in my kitchen, here are a list of 12 thoughts that I will be repeating to myself while doing just that:

Know Your Reality:

1. The people you compare yourself to compare themselves to other people too – and even to YOU!

2. Your mind WILL lie to you sometimes – don’t, I repeat don’t, believe everything you think; thoughts can be exhausting and unhealthy when the negative ones are given power.

3. There is far more RIGHT with you than wrong with you!

4. You need love the most . . .when you feel you deserve it the least.

5. You have to accept and make peace with everything in front of you today . . . before you can reach and feel excited about what the future holds tomorrow.

6. Focus on progress, small steps at a time, not perfection.

7. You can’t hate your way into loving yourself i.e., telling yourself you are a failure won’t help you reach a higher potential! Accept the things you cannot change, be accountable and responsible and respectful.

8. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself – that is just . . . wasted time!

9. Don’t waste energy on things or people you simply can’t control.

10. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone; that will never, ever, happen.

11. Don’t expect immediate results! Remember the little engine that could!

12. And last, but not least, follow your heart . . . it will never, lead you astray.

For those of you who don’t know, I ended a dysfunctional, long-term marriage last year and after listening to my heart and what the universe unfolded in front of me (think Serendipity), made a move to Los Angeles to pursue the life I most likely always should have had – in both love and career. A brief description simply cannot do justice to the number of signs that destiny presented to me that encouraged me to follow through with this choice – it really is, quite a story to tell. But, in order to do so, I had to make the conscious choice to leave behind a life I created the last 25 years, complete with now almost grown children and grandchildren, friends and business acquaintances, leaving behind a long-term job and any self-doubt, to see if what my heart had always told me was true; and truth be told, it is. By far, this “life” move was the most difficult thing I have done to date – and I am well over 50 years of age. At present, I am navigating my way through the ups and downs of an unpleasant divorce, missing my children and friends up north, and re-establishing both an amazing love relationship and a passion for cooking/baking/teaching here in Los Angeles, two of the paths I should have followed via my heart years ago if I had only listened to it rather than what was inside my mind, and “walked the truth.” Do you know reality? Take the time to get acquainted with your own reality . . . it just might make the difference in your direction in life. Oh . . . and the recipe? Awesome. The once-maligned Brussels sprouts have been getting more and more love lately, showing up shaved in salads, roasted with pancetta, and even in a previous post by yours truly, topped with Cheezits! Here’s one way you may not have tried these baby cabbages yet: with the leaves separated and each one roasted to a crisp. They are so thin, they cook in just a few minutes, and even slightly charred, they are addictive. Try them out . . . the reality is, they are way better than Kale chips . . . hands down.

Ingredients:
10 Brussels sprouts
1 tbl. olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, if desired
Black pepper, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. With a paring knife, cut off the bottom tip of each sprout. The outer leaves will then fall off. Trim off a tiny bit more of the bottom, so all leaves fall off. Remove all of the leaves. Toss the leaves with the oil and lay in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Roast 7 to 10 minutes, until leaves are lightly browned and crisped. A few shakes of the pepper grinder once removed from the oven, or red pepper flakes, and you’re set to go.

For the truly adventurous, roast shallots and onions and garlic with the leaves; then toss all with a hit of balsamic vinegar; yummmmmm.

Make Mine Mini Please: Black Bottomed Nutella Swirl Mini Cheesecakes

The Pie Belle:

Per request, I am re-posting the recipe for these mini desserts I brought to a party last weekend. Enjoy!

Originally posted on CrazyAboutPie - Tres Serendipite!:

Remember what I said about appetizers not only being savory, but also being sweet? 

mini nutella cheesecakes

Uh huh.  You want these now, am I right?  And well you should.  I made this new recipe over the holidays, and they are now firmly placed in my dessert arsenal, courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine.  Absolutely awesome.  These chocolate-hazelnut treats combine the creaminess of a rich cheesecake, all packed into a cupcake sized dessert – perfect for one or to be shared by two.  I’m thinking, Valentine’s Day? Don’t change a thing about the recipe – it was perfect, as written.  Experiment now, so you can surprise your significant other next month – you will be richly rewarded.  Promise.

Ingredients:

For the Black Bottom:

3/4 cup finely ground chocolate cookies (use Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers only)

2 tbl. unsalted butter, melted

For the Cheesecake:

2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

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