Aunt Louise’s Blueberry Cream Pie (with wine)

I have to say that this is a recipe that was handed down to me by my mother, from her mother’s sister, so the original recipe did not contain wine.  That being said, it wasn’t hard to add a splash of wine so I could include this delicious pie on my blog. It’s simple, yet elegant… and one that most everyone in our family loves to have as the sweet ending to a meal.  It’s definitely not a “low cal” sort of dessert, but it could be made a bit lighter if you’re inclined to tweak things here and there.  For me, it’ll all about recreating a beloved dessert, so I don’t adjust it too much.BlueberryCreamPie (1)

Ingredients:

  • one small package of cream cheese (I’ve been instructed not to use light or non-fat for this dessert)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (again, don’t skimp for calorie sake or the flavor will fall flat)
  • Pie shell – use your favorite, but we found that we like a pastry shell more than a graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 can blueberry pie filling
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of white wine (or use lemon juice if you prefer)

Directions:

  • Cream room temperature cream cheese  and add sugar and vanilla, then beat well
  • In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream just until stiff peaks form
  • Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream with great care
  • Pour into pie shell.
  • Blend wine into the pie filling and top the pie with the blueberry mixture
  • Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

This pie has been on our Easter table for years… it’s also a fabulous addition to any picnic or family gathering.  You can substitute fresh fruit for the pie filling if you prefer…. it’s all about making something that your own family will love. Traditional or not, making food for those you love is the whole idea.  Enjoy!

Starter Recipe: Easy Lemon Shrimp

It’s been awhile since I last wrote… but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped cooking, or planning out recipes for this blog! Here’s an amazing (and easy) recipe that is sure to impress even the pickiest of guests who enjoy shrimp.  I love pulling a dinner together in under 20-30 minutes, and this recipe is one that delivers every single time.  I hope you’ll try it and make it your own!

Ingredients:EasyLemonShrimp

1 bag of frozen raw shrimp (I buy mine whenever they’re on sale at the local grocer and keep them in the freezer… anything sized large or above is worth the money, in my opinion)

1 lemon

1 jar of your favorite preserves (I happen to like using fig preserves these days, but apricot or any light colored fruit would work well)

Butter (just a pat to sear the shrimp) and olive oil (just 1T for searing shrimp)

Wine (or your preferred liquid of choice)

1 package microwave brown rice (for convenience… feel free to use the cheaper stuff if you’d prefer)

Directions:

  1. Peel shrimp and have them ready to cook.  I always remove the tails because I hate the idea of having to put the empty tail shell back on my plate.  I also like to salt/pepper my shrimp prior to cooking, but it’s up to you if you want to do this step.
  2. Put butter and olive oil into a large skillet and turn the heat on to medium high.  Allow the fats to mingle and get really hot..
  3. Sear shrimp on both sides in the hot butter/oil mixture – my husband likes them to have a bit of “crisp” to the edges, so that’s how I make it in our house.  Just make sure the shrimp is thoroughly cooked before making your sauce.
  4. In a small bowl, make your sauce using the juice of the lemon, some wine (I used a half cup of sparkling white wine that we had in the fridge, but feel free to use whatever you have), and a few spoonfuls of preserves.  Mix everything together.
  5. Add sauce to the cooked shrimp and allow to thicken.
  6. Pop brown rice in the microwave and cook on high for 90 seconds (this is why I prefer to use this type of rice… so easy and quick!)
  7. Once the sauce has thickened, plate your meal with some brown rice, spoon the shrimp evenly between the dishes, and pour over the sauce.
  8. Yes, it’s just THAT easy.  Now, enjoy the compliments that come raining your way.

I have altered this recipe in many different ways, but I really love the way that lemon compliments shrimp.  If you want, you can make a vegetable and top the veggie with some lemon zest… brings all parts of the meal together nicely.  Last time, I used a bag of green beans, tossed the cooked beans with a pat of butter, salt/pepper, and the lemon zest. It was fabulous! Using the preserves counteracts the strong tart taste of the lemon juice and really does a nice job of pulling everything together.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If making this shrimp dish, don’t use a red or deep colored preserve as it will make the shrimp look as if it’s under cooked or raw.  Trust me… I did this once and will never forget the reaction.

Leftover Recipe: Turkey Spring Rolls

I was searching for a new way to use up leftover turkey when I stumbled upon The Pioneer Woman, showing her spring roll recipe and I knew I had my inspiration.

I started by letting a small round of rice vermicelli sit in hot water until they were soft (this is, by far, the easiest thing to do!).  I then created a turkey mixture using thin sliced turkey, a spoon of apricot jam, some rose’ wine (white wine would be just as good, but I had leftover rose’ from Thanksgiving and I think it goes beautifully with turkey), a dash of sesame oil, a blob of ketchup, a little commercial orange sauce, salt & pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  I set this aside and then sliced some cucumber into thin sticks for crunch and opened a bag of broccoli slaw.  I was now ready to assemble these delicious spring rolls.TurkeySpringRolls

First thing was to pull out a few rice spring roll wrappers.  These things are great…. just soak them in hot water until they are limp and you can wrap them around anything.  They are a little tricky when you first start playing with them, so be ready to have an extra or two on hand, just in case.

I laid out the soft wrapper and assembled each of the spring rolls by layering a little of the soft vermicelli, then the cucumber sticks, a bit of the turkey mixture, and topped it with the colorful broccoli slaw.  Once they were assembled, the creative part had to happen…. I had to roll these things into logs!  I started by pulling the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling, then folded each side in, and rolled the whole thing into a log.  The first one was a bit funky-looking, but they got better as I went along.  NOTE: I had two spring rolls that each got holes poked in the sides from the broccoli slaw, so I just added a second wrapper around the original spring roll.  No biggie… 

Once all six rolls were done, I made a dipping sauce out of a mixture of apricot jam, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and a drizzle of honey.  Calling this a “dipping sauce” is sort of a mis-nomer… it was more like a “spooning sauce”, but you get the idea.  I could have made it runnier by warming the jam up a bit, but this was so yummy that I left it alone.  I liked the thick texture of the sauce when spooned onto (or into, after a bite) the spring roll, so it was all good.  I also sprinkled a tiny bit of sesame seeds over top to make it look pretty, but that was totally unnecessary.  These things were gorgeous in their own right.

Try this recipe sometime… you’ll be amazed, just as I was, at the fresh twist you get from using turkey in such a unique way.

White Mini Cinnamon Rolls

It’s the holidays, so this is when I try to take some extended time in the kitchen to play around with recipes… and this holiday season was no exception.  I knew that my husband would love it if I could come up with a way to make his favorite breakfast of Cinnamon Rolls, so I started with a basic bread recipe and played from there.

The recipe I started with is one that came from The Bread Machine Cookbook by Donna German.  This is a link to an Amazon page where you could purchase any of her #1-4 cookbooks… I have cookbooks #1, #2, and #4.  She has some amazing recipes and I love looking through her books for inspirations.  I found her recipe for a Cinnamon Swirl bread and started from there.  WhiteMiniCinnamonRolls

Into my bread machine, I put the following, in order: 4 oz water, 1 oz white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio, but you can simply replace this with more water), 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cup4s flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast.  I then set my machine on the “quick dough” setting and began to collect the remaining ingredients.

I warmed some butter (about 4 Tablespoons) in a ramekin and added a dash of salt and a drop or two of vanilla, whisking all together before setting this aside.

I then collected about 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a bowl and added a dash of salt, a tiny amount of nutmeg, and a few teaspoons of cinnamon.  I tossed this together and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray your mini cupcake tin with cooking spray.  NOTE:  I like to put the pan on a baking sheet covered with foil so I don’t have to worry if the filling cooks over the edge and so it doesn’t drip onto the bottom my oven.  I love easy cleanup!  I also like to put a small amount of the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. It’s only about 1/4 teaspoon, but it seems to bake into a yummy topping in the end.

Once the bread machine had done it’s work and the dough was ready, I rolled it out on a board, into a large rectangle.  Take your vanilla butter and spread it evenly all over the dough.  Sprinkle all the spiced brown sugar over top and then begin to roll the dough into a log, length-wise, starting with the area closest to you.  Cut the log into 12 even slices and put each slice into a muffin cup.  I also like to press the rolls down lightly to push them into their individual cups.  Bake your cinnamon rolls for 17-20 minutes or until the rolls are nicely browned and puffy.

While your rolls are baking, you’ll want to make your frosting.  You can make yours any way you choose… use a prepared frosting, make a cream cheese frosting, or make something as simple as a blend of butter, milk, and confectioner’s sugar. I added a wedge of laughing cow light cheese to some butter, milk, and confectioner’s sugar… this is where your creativity can have fun.  You can add some orange juice instead of the milk if you want a little citrus taste… if you have some evaporated milk left over from a recipe you could use that instead.  It’s really all about what tastes good to you.

Once the rolls are baked, I like to turn them upside down on a rectangle platter and slather as much frosting as I can load onto these little yummy morsels.  You’ll want to serve them warm with milk or coffee… they are fabulous!

Wishing you sweet, delicious mornings and a very Happy New Year!

Recipe: Espresso Wine Biscotti

I really love to snack.  I know it’s not what we’re supposed to do to maintain (or lose) weight, but I find myself wandering around the house when I’m bored, looking for something that might be delicious.  This recipe has saved me multiple times by being easy to make, yet satisfyingly delicious while still being fairly healthy.  Since I love to incorporate wine into anything I make or bake, this recipe has become one of my own after starting as one from a published cookbook (Simply Delicious).

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  EspressoWineBiscotti
  2. Mix your dry ingredients together:  1 1/8 cup flour, 1T ground espresso coffee, 1 t baking powder, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/8 t salt.
  3. Whisk your wet ingredients until frothy:  1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/2 T brewed espresso, 1/2 t vanilla, and 1 T red wine (I used a Merlot in this recipe, but use whatever red wine you like).
  4. Combine your dry ingredients into the wet, until they just come together.
  5. Roll the dough gently, on a floured board with floured hands, to form a log. Carefully transfer the log onto the baking sheet and pat it into a form about 3/4 inch high and 2 inches wide.
  6. Bake the log until it’s firm to touch, about 20 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so.  Reduce heat in oven to 300 degrees.
  7. While log is still warm, cut into 1/4 inch slices, using a serrated knife, and lay the slices back on the baking sheet in a single file.  Bake biscotti for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until dry.  Remove to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.  The biscotti will become more crisp as they cool.
  8. If you want to add an extra touch, warm chocolate chips and drizzle over an end of the biscotti.  This is not necessary but is a delicious addition if you’re not planning to use these for dunking in coffee or hot cocoa.

I really liked the addition of the red wine to this recipe.  The flavor was just a touch deeper and it didn’t alter the consistency of the biscotti in any discernible way.  I like keeping these on hand for when someone stops by to visit… it’s always nice to seem prepared for company with such an elegant thing to add to a shared cup of coffee.  Hope you find them as tasty as I do… I love these!

Recipe: Winter Crab Bisque

One of the best things about this recipe is that it uses up the leftover Crab Dip that I had from our family’s Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend.  Crab Dip is a thing of beauty…. thick, creamy, and so very decadent.  The hard part comes when the entire recipe isn’t eaten and you have to find something that is equally delicious in which to use all that fabulous crab… and this, in my opinion, is it!WinterCrabBisque

I started my Winter Crab Bisque by making the soup base.  I diced half an onion and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil.  I then diced 3/4 of a butternut squash (about 4 cups) and one large sweet potato and added them to the large stock pot, turning the heat to medium to start a simmer.  Quickly adding equal parts chicken stock and white wine, I gave the vegetables time to cook on a low boil until everything was soft.  I had chosen to use marjoram, some fresh rosemary, and pepper for my seasoning, so added these to the cooking vegetables so the flavors would combine.

Once the vegetables were soft (almost “falling apart” soft), I used a stick blender to thoroughly mash everything until smooth. The soup was still very warm at this point, so I turned off the heat and added the cold leftover crab dip.  NOTE: My Crab Dip recipe couldn’t be easier… it comes from my cousin, Kris, and it’s as easy as warming 1 stick of butter and 1 block of cream cheese in a double boiler, then adding 1 lb crabmeat and seasoning with Old Bay and parsley.  

After adding the cold crab dip, I simply folded the soup over the dip until everything came to the same temperature and combined nicely.  The crab dip had already been seasoned with Old Bay and parsley, so this was a lovely addition to the winter vegetables in the soup, coming together to make a thick and hearty bisque that could warm the coldest hearts on a winters day.

One extra note on the crab dip: my official recipe from Kris says to use Lump crab meat, but the cost was about to make me choke, so I substituted claw meat, which was half the cost of the lump crab meat.  I was pleased with the results, but I was also serving a bunch of guys who don’t mind the difference.  If you’re trying to impress, the lump crab meat is definitely more “perfect”, but I tend to lean more toward something that’s less costly if I’m mixing it into other ingredients.

I do hope you’ll try this simple, yet elegant dish.  I made it in under an hour this morning and am very happy with the results.  If you’re looking for a delicious bisque recipe that isn’t going to send you running to the store for new/unique ingredients, this is a great option!  Enjoy!

Recipe: Apricot Chicken and Snow Peas

This recipe was such a huge success this week!  I was trying to come up with a simple recipe to use a sweet/spicy sauce with chicken and I ended up with this winner of a meal.  You’ve GOT to try this one… truly!

I started with a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I salted/peppered each side and seared them in a medium-large skillet pan into which I had melted a small amount of olive oil and sesame oil.  Once they were nicely browned, but definitely NOT cooked through, I added a rather creative sauce.ApricotChickenSnowPeas

My sauce consisted of the following ingredients:  Gewurztraminer (dry) wine, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, apricot jam, commercial orange sauce, and soy sauce.  All these ingredients can be used, to varying degrees, depending on your taste preferences. NOTE: I chose to use a dry Gewurztraminer wine because of the heat that was going to come out from the orange sauce, but you could easily switch out a sweeter Riesling or Vidal Blanc white wine (or even chicken stock if you don’t want to use wine) but if you choose a sweeter wine, I’d decrease the amount of jam used.  It’s totally up to you!

Once I rolled the chicken in the sauce, I chose to roast this dish, covered, in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours.  I had the time and really wanted to have the scent permeate the house before we had dinner.  If I were more pressed for time, I could easily have left this on the stove top and kept the heat on medium for about 45 minutes or until the chicken thighs were cooked through.

Once the chicken was done, I added half of a small package of snow peas (sugar snap peas would be a great substitute) and allowed them time to cook in the sauce. Just before serving, while the sauce was still a bit runny, I mixed a few tablespoons of sauce with a little bit of cornstarch to make a slurry and added that into the sauce to thicken the mixture.  NOTE:  Make sure to add the cornstarch to a small amount of liquid rather than adding the cornstarch directly to the pan to prevent lumps in your sauce.

When I added the snow peas, I started cooking a small batch of egg noodles so they would be ready in time for dinner. This was a great bed for the dish and really allowed the flavors to pop.  If you prefer, brown rice would also make an excellent accompaniment.

I do hope you’ll try this recipe sometime.  I’ll be using the basic idea of this sauce for a shrimp dish tonight for dinner and expect it to present the same stellar results.  It’s all about finding the flavors that mix best for your family and playing with them to make your own arsenal of go-to recipes.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Red Turkey Chili

Last night was windy, cold, and rainy here in Maryland, so my first impulse was to make chili.  This dish is one of my favorite things to make, especially in the fall and winter, because I can change out the recipe so easily.  I’ve made it many different ways, but last night’s was a much healthier rendition that still warmed us up nicely.  See if you and your family notice a difference if you try this version!

I started by heating a large stock pot on the stove and dropped in one diced onion with some olive oil. Once the onion was translucent, I added one package of ground turkey and took some time to let it all brown thoroughly.  To add a bit of smokiness to the finished product, I added a bit of bacon that I pulled from the freezer and gave that some time to cook. RedTurkeyChiliNOTE:  I had previously taken a one-pound package of bacon and sliced it into 8 portions.  Each portion went into a small freezer bag and I use a portion any time I want a little bacon flavor without having to thaw or cook an entire package.  I diced this portion so the bacon wasn’t discernible, but the flavor permeated the chili nicely.

I then added about a cup of diced sweet pepper (as you can see, I used a variety of green, red, orange, and yellow peppers) as well as a generous pour of red wine.  NOTE:  For this recipe, I had a bottle of red wine from Adams County, PA, but any good dry red wine is great to add, provided it’s a red wine that you like to drink.  Don’t ever add wine that you wouldn’t drink to a recipe, since cooking will concentrate the flavors from the wine.  

Once the vegetables and wine are incorporated into the chili, I then added one can each of light and dark red kidney beans (rinsed and drained) and one can of diced tomatoes (not drained).  I was now ready to add my spices to make this dinner into something memorable.

Since my family is not a fan of hot/spicy flavors, I used a conservative amount of dark chili powder, ground cumin, and smoked paprikaone teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, along with some salt and pepper.   At the very end, I drizzled in a bit of a prepared Balsamic Glaze, which really gave this dish a bit of zing without overpowering the traditional chili flavors.

I do hope that you’ll try your hand at this chili recipe.  Feel free to substitute other meats, beans, or vegetables as you like – that’s what makes each person’s recipe unique and special.  We thought this version had a great balanced flavor… exactly what I wanted on a cold, rainy fall evening.  This would be a great dish to share with friends and will freeze nicely, so feel free to double or even triple the recipe if you have the time (and freezer space)!

Recipe: Red Meatloaf & White Carrots

Dinner last night was one of those “comfort meals” that everyone talks about… meatloaf and mashed potatoes… classic, right?  I have a habit of taking classics and adding a new “wine’d up” spin on things, so this dinner was no different.  I was craving meatloaf and I had a small bag of baby carrots in the fridge, so I came up with a way to cook both dishes at the same time.  Brilliant, right?  Actually, it was more of a fluke the first time I tried it last week, but it really does work!RedMeatloaf&WhiteCarrots

I started out making the meatloaf.  I used one package ground turkey, two palms full of seasoned bread crumbs, some dark red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon that my neighbor had given me… yummy!), a hefty squirt of dijon mustard, some Montreal Steak Seasoning, an egg, and some parsley.   I mixed everything together until it was nicely combined (feel free to add a little more of the bread crumbs if it’s too moist).  Then I assembled the baking portion of the meal.

Using a loaf pan, I sprinkled a layer of baby carrots on the bottom of the pan and poured some white wine (I used the Chardonnay I had in the fridge) over top.  I then put a large piece of foil over the carrots, to create a new “loaf pan” for the meatloaf, and sprayed it with cooking spray.  I formed the meatloaf into the pan and made a bit of a well down the center.  Before I popped the pan into the 375 degree oven for an hour, I added a touch of ketchup on top for color and sweetness.

  DOnce the meatloaf had cooked for the hour, I removed it and let the pan sit for 5-7 minutes before lifting the meatloaf off the carrots and slicing the loaf for dinner.  The white wine had cooked the carrots to a perfect al dente’ and the meatloaf was dense and tasty.  Adding some homemade mashed potatoes was just the perfect accompaniment.

If you’re looking for a simple way to make comfort food, this really did it for me.  I hope you’ll try it and let me know how it turns out for you!  Enjoy….

Recipe: Asian Wine’d Salmon ‘n Veggies

Here’s a basic recipe that I used last night for dinner.  It’s a very classic “Using the Force” sort of recipe, where I started with a single ingredient for dinner and then started pulling things from the fridge/cabinet, blending them until the sauce tasted the way I wanted.  I actually went to a few recipe sites, but wasn’t finding the sort of ingredient list I could pull together, so I “Used The Force”.  If this term is new to you, please check out my explanation at the very beginning of this blog (almost <gasp> two years ago).

I started out with two packets of Salmon for our dinner.  Seriously, these are 4-oz packets of frozen salmon that I picked up on a “super deal” at the local grocery store… awesome for a quick meal and easy to add/subtract as your guest count changes.  I  let the salmon thaw in the fridge during the day so it was easier to handle when dinner time rolled around.  NOTE: It might have thawed faster if I had taken it out of the packaging, but I didn’t want to worry about the mess.

Looking in my fridge, I found four small Yukon Gold Potatoes and a head of broccoli.  For two of us. this seemed like the perfect amount to roast for dinner, as long as the potato pieces were thin enough and the broccoli was sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Again, these are items that you could easily increase to serve more people if necessary.  NOTE: If you end up doubling this recipe, I would separate the vegetables from the salmon and roast them in different pans so that you can control the cooking times of each as needed.  You can also substitute your favorite vegetables for this dish… just be aware of size and cooking times of whatever you choose.AsianWine'dSalmon&Veggies

Once I had my main ingredients picked, I needed to create a sauce…and here’s where The Force came into play.  All-in-all, I used the following ingredients:  Hoisin sauce, dijon mustard, white wine (I used a Chardonnay I had in the fridge), balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.  Using a medium bowl, I spooned some hoisin (asian BBQ sauce) into the bowl, poured in some wine. and squirted in some dijon mustard.  These were not equal measures, but I went light on everything so I could add more if needed.  I like using hoisin because it’s got a bit of a kick and it thickens up things nicely.  I then added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, a generous portion of soy sauce, and sweetened everything up with a bit of honey.  After whisking everything together, I tasted the result and added another bit of honey so the sauce didn’t have too much bite.

I chose to make this recipe on one sheet pan, so I covered a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray so the sweet/sticky sauce wouldn’t be difficult to handle after cooking.  I sliced each potato in half, length-wise, and sliced each half into very thin half-rounds that would cook fairly quickly before layering them on the baking sheet.  I then cut the broccoli into thin slivers, cutting small stalks in half as needed, and layered them on top of the potato thins.  I decided to top the veggies with a bit of sauce before adding the salmon because I wanted to make sure I got most of the veggies touched with the sauce… not necessarily coated, but a little bit would go a long way with this flavor.

Once I had spooned sauce on the veggies, I laid the salmon fillets on top and spooned sauce over them as well, using up all the sauce.  It smelled rich and flavorful, even as it hit the oven, which was my intent… I love when the house smells like something delicious when we’re getting ready for dinner!

Dinner cooked for 30 minutes in a 375-degree preheated oven and was really tasty.  The potato thins were cooked, the broccoli was crisp-tender, and the salmon was delicious. I reheated rolls to have along side this meal, but it really wasn’t necessary.  Just follow your instincts and see what your family prefers.

Remember, this is a recipe that you can change up in a million ways to suit your family’s individual tastes so have fun with it.  We thought it was a hit!