Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lobster Cakes

Many of you are asking for the Lobster Cake recipe that I made for the Christmas Tea Party.  I made a few changes to make these smaller than the original recipe stated by using a mini muffin pan instead of a mini cheesecake pan. Use either pan, they are wonderful both ways!

Lobster Cheesecakes
Source: Tea Time Magazine ~ November/December 2011
Prep: 30 minutes   Cook: 5 minutes   Bake: 24 minutes   Oven: 350 degrees F
Yield: 2 dozen mini cheesecakes (or 40 mini muffin size cakes)

2     cups finely crumbled round buttery crackers
1     cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
6     tablespoons butter, melted
1     large egg white
2     tablespoons butter
1/2  cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4  cup finely chopped green onion
3    (6 oz.) lobster tails, cooked, meat removed and finely chopped
2     tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon ground black pepper
2     (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
2     large egg yolks
Garnish: fresh dill

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, Parmesan cheese, melted butter, and egg white, stirring to mix well. Press into bottom and halfway up sides of wells of 2 (12-well) mini cheesecake pans. Bake for 6 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add bell pepper and green onion. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lobster, dill, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl combine cream cheese and egg yolks. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add lobster mixture to cream cheese mixture, stirring to combine. Divide mixture evenly among baked crusts.

Bake until set, 16-18 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pans. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Tea Party ~ Christmas Cheeseball

The most rewarding part of cooking and baking for me is sharing food with others. I love the looks of anticipation, raised eyebrows, savor of a first bite and smile as my friends and family try some new or repeat recipe out of the Melt kitchen. The past few weeks I had the opportunity to cater a Christmas Tea hosted by my mother for her church friends...in total about 60 ladies over two different weekends.

My perspective from the kitchen allowed me to visit with just about everyone, but simultaneously watch beautiful expressions of shared friendship, warm embraces and holiday joy on familiar dear faces. More than once, my eyes filled with tears and heart overflowed with the beauty of friends gathering and enjoying shared time together.

Lobster Cakes

I am sharing the menu, a few photo's of the food and a quick Christmas cheese ball recipe. The cheese ball recipe is one my mom has made for years...I just added some diced pimentos, water chestnuts and changed the nut from almonds to walnuts.

Christmas Tea Party Menu
3 Layer Sandwiches (Egg Salad, Ham Pate and Vegetable Cream Cheese)
Cucumber Christmas Tree Sandwiches
Cucumber Christmas Tree Sandwiches
Chicken Salad Puffs
Lobster Cakes
Christmas Cheeseballs and Assorted Crackers
Stuffed Tomatoes
Carrots and Celery with Ranch
Gingerbread Scones with Spiced Cream
Pistachio Cranberry Scones with Orange Cream

Fruitcake Tea Bread
Pineapple Carrot Cake
Spritz Cookies
Millionaire Shortbread
Red Velvet Cake Pops
Peppermint Bark

Orange Spice Tea
Vanilla Tea
Tea-based Christmas Wassail

Christmas Cheeseball 
Source: adapted from my Mom

1    pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Dry Powder (milk recipe)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
8    ounces cream cheese, softened
8    ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4    ounces diced pimentos
8    ounces sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped finely
5    ounces walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Mix dressing, mayonnaise, milk and cream cheese until well blended. Add cheddar cheese, pimentos and water chestnuts. Cover and freeze for 30 minutes. Shape into a ball and roll in the toasted walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Harmony's Thoughts
I rolled these into individual cheese balls using the same method. 

Red Velvet Cake Pops

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pumpkin Cheese Bread

Today was a beautiful winter day here in central Pennsylvania. Cold and crisp with lots of sunshine. I trudged the hills with my dog Max and my sisters dog Bailey. It was a welcome break from baking and prepping ingredients the rest of the day (I am catering a Christmas tea this weekend for about 40 ladies). 

As I explored and refreshed my mind with a walk, I was struck by how busy our lifestyles are this time of year. I know it is important to send Christmas cards, buy gifts, bake those Christmas cookies and entertain friends, but often we miss out on the enjoyment of these things because we scurry to the next task on our list. In the midst of "making your list and checking it twice," take one step back to soak in the moment and cherish those around you.

Now that I shared my thoughts, I want to share an amazing recipe from a new cookbook I recently purchased. This pumpkin cheese bread intrigued me as soon as I turned to its page. I knew it was either going to be terrible or terrific, and I took a risk, mixed up a batch and served it along side the soup and salad course for Thanksgiving dinner. The "big" risk equaled big reward! It was the highlight of our meal! 

If you have a can of pumpkin and some sharp cheddar cheese in your kitchen...go make this! If you don't have the ingredients, pull on your old sweats and go get them.......now that your back.....make this bread! Get the point?? Make this bread!!! :) The dough does have to be refrigerated overnight, but the recipe is incredibly simple. I ate this warm out of the oven, toasted for breakfast and (shhhh...) as a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Pumpkin Cheese Bread
Source: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Prep: 15 minutes    Let Stand: Overnight    Rise: 1 hour   Bake: 50 minutes   Oven: 375 degrees F

3 1/2   cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1         tablespoon light brown sugar
2 1/4   teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 envelope)
1 1/4   teaspoons salt
1/8      teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4      cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1         cup shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese
1         tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1         large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt and cayenne. Add 1 cup water, the pumpkin and cheese and mix until well combined. The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth ball. (Add flour as needed) Sprinkle a large bowl with flour and add the ball of dough, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day take the dough out of the refrigerator, transfer to a lightly floured work surface and flatten the dough to a rough rectangle with your hands. Use the butter to coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Roll the dough up into a cylindrical shape and place seam-side down in the loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until almost doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, when the dough has risen for 35 minutes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slash the loaf down the center with a sharp knife. Brush the loaf with the egg-water wash. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Turn the bread out of the pan and onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Harmony's Thoughts
I used about 1 1/2 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese.
I did not bother with the egg wash and just used regular yeast, not rapid rise.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apple Dumplings

We all struggle with showing our true selves to each other. I believe it is a very human trait to attempt to project an image of ourselves that we want others to believe is who we are. And although sometimes the censorship is appreciated, I believe that we typically take ourselves too seriously. Working towards complete honesty while continuing to protect my privacy on this blog is a delicate balance. I do not feel the need to share each detail of my life, or even everything that I eat and cook. Where I strive to be very honest is in the passion I have for cooking and the person I am when I step into my kitchen (or any kitchen). My desire is to be helpful, to inspire and learn while sharing with you. 

So I have a confession to make :) Saturday I made home made puff pastry. At the risk of my readers not being interested in making their own puff pastry and considering me to be a food snob, I quickly decided that I would not share my experience through the process and began making apple dumplings to feature on the blog instead. But as I considered my decision I came to the realization above. I was making a choice to hide my first experiment with puff pastry when I had such an excitement and passion to explore a laminated dough. It might make me a bit of a food snob to want to make my own, but that is who I am. 

Currently I do not have the photos of the process and am not sure if I will share the recipe, but I at least wanted to share my excitement as I tackled the huge undertaking of creating a laminated dough like puff pastry and the pride I felt when the whole project (that took all day to complete) was finished successfully!

Although the apple dumplings made for dessert are much more homey and basic then a puff pastry, they were a huge hit with my family and me. Taking inspiration from a baked apple, I chose to fill the cores of the apples with a mixture of currants, walnuts and spices. Hopefully you will take the time to try this delicious recipe and be reminded to open yourself up and be honest with others when sharing who you are.

Apple Dumplings
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (published 1976)
Prep: 20 minutes   Bake: 40 minutes   Oven: 375 degrees F   Servings: Makes 6

2       cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4    teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4    teaspoon ground nutmeg
8       drops red food coloring
1/4    cup butter
2       cups flour
2       teaspoons baking powder
1       teaspoon salt
3/4    cup shortening
1/2    cup milk
6       small, whole apples pared and cored

For syrup, mix first 5 ingredients; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter.

Sift together dry ingredients; cut in shortening till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once; stir just till flour is moistened. On lightly floured surface, roll to 18x12-inch rectangle.

Cut in six 6-inch squares. Place apple on each. Sprinkle apples generously with additional sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; dot with additional butter. Moisten edges of pastry. Bring corners to center and pinch edges together. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Pour syrup over dumplings. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Harmony's Thoughts
I omitted the red food coloring.
I filled the cores of the apples with a mixture of 1/3 cup currants (you could use chopped raisins as well), 1/3 cup walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Divide evenly among the 6 apple cores.
The recipe was vague on how much additional sugar, so I measured about 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg for each apple. Along with 1 small dot of butter. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart

The past two Thanksgivings my husband and I have shared together have been without family. We split every other Christmas with my parents or his, but Thanksgiving has been spent with a group of military guys that are without family as well. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner I plan includes this Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart. This year, since my husband is in training and I'm with family in Pennsylvania, I am hoping that I can convince my family that they want this on menu!

As you are menu planning for Thanksgiving, consider this Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (or pie). It is simple but spectacular topped with a dollop of maple whipped cream.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart (or Pie)
Source: adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Prep: 15 minutes   Oven: 400 degrees F then reduce to 300 degrees F

1    9 inch pie shell or 11 inch tart shell, partially baked
2    cups pumpkin puree
3    eggs, room temperature 
1    cup light brown sugar
1    cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1    teaspoon cinnamon
1    teaspoon ginger
1    pinch of ground cloves
1    pinch of nutmeg
1    pinch of salt
3    tablespoons dark rum (optional)
2    teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk all ingredients for 2 minutes. Pour into crust. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F and continue to bake for 35 to 40 minutes (20 to 25 minutes for a tart) or until set.

Cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.

Harmony's Thoughts
To make Maple Whipped Cream, add 3-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup after beating your 1 cup of cream stiff. Sweeten to taste with more maple syrup. Another option is to use maple flavoring instead of vanilla in your whipping cream. Sweeten with powdered sugar in this case.
Although I have scaled this recipe down some, I still end up with a little extra filling. I typically pour the extra filling into greased ramekins and bake with the tart.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tea Party Menu Planning

My Grandma asked me a few weeks ago to cater an afternoon tea for her while I was visiting in Wyoming. The tea was this past week and I wanted to share the menu that I created and a few snapshots as well. I will work to post many of the recipes over the next few weeks.

Afternoon Tea Menu
Open Faced Cucumber Sandwich
Curried Chicken Salad on a Puff Pastry
Egg Salad, Ham Pate and Vegetable Cream Cheese Sandwich
Roast Beef with Spicy Mustard Sandwich

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
Carrot Sticks and Celery with Ranch

Vanilla Bean Scones
Lemon Poppy Seed Scones      (all with clotted cream, lemon curd and strawberry preserves)
Blueberry Almond Scones

Raspberry Mousse Tarts
Apricot Thumbprint Cookies
Mini Gingersnap Cookies
Chocolate Truffles

Egg Salad, Ham Pate and Vegetable Cream Cheese Sandwiches

Scones with Clotted Cream, Lemon Curd and Strawberry Preserves

Carrot Sticks and Celery with Ranch

Curried Chicken Salad on Puff Pastry

Open Faced Cucumber Sandwiches

Roast Beef with Spicy Mustard Sandwich

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Mini Gingersnaps and Apricot Thumbprints

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eggs Benedict

Just an update on our move and new adventures...my husband is currently in GA in training and will remain there until the middle-end of March. I am in Wyoming this week at my grandparents ranch. The Melt kitchen is mobile and catering my grandmother's tea party at the end of this week. The menu is planned and the prep work is beginning. I will do my best to document the process to share some recipes and ideas with you! In the meantime, here is a favorite breakfast (although, I admit I have eaten it for lunch and dinner) loved by so many and extremely versatile.

Eggs Benedict is such a classic breakfast that I'm not sure if it really needs much of a recipe. At the same time, I make my Hollandaise sauce from scratch and wanted to share the recipe and hopefully inspire you to play with it as well.

Hollandaise Sauce
Source: original recipe

3    egg yolks
1    teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, cold
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, whisk egg yolks with lemon juice. Over the lowest heat setting possible, add butter in one whole piece and stir constantly until it begins to slowly melt. Continue stirring until butter completely incorporates into egg yolks without curdling the egg. The sauce will thicken gently. Remove from heat and add cayenne, nutmeg and salt. Set a small bowl over a larger bowl of very warm water; pour the sauce into the small bowl, cover and keep warm.

Eggs Benedict 

4    English muffins, split, toasted and buttered
8    slices of Canadian bacon, warmed
8    eggs, poached
1    recipe of Hollandaise sauce

Assemble by placing the English muffin on the plate, topped with a slice of Canadian bacon, and an egg. Pour a generous amount of Hollandaise sauce over the egg, garnish with chives or a sprig of parsley and serve.

Harmony's Thoughts
If you don't like "runny" eggs, cook them a bit longer (than the average 2 1/2 minutes) to firm the yolk up. This was my trick for easing my husband into any kind of a "dip egg". I got him hooked on Eggs Benedict and then slowly brought the eggs from firm to runny a little bit each time I made it....It worked!
The variation on this recipe is endless. I have seen savory scones and biscuits replace the English muffin, crab and salmon cakes replace the Canadian bacon, cheese added to the Hollandaise sauce and so on. Honestly........feel free to play with it and let something unusual inspire you. If you do, share with us in the comment section below this post!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Just a warning....these muffins are addictive! I found this recipe last fall and have made them quite often since then. Truthfully, I even made them in the middle of April because they sounded so good and I had some frozen pumpkin puree to use up. I whipped up a batch of these muffins a few weeks ago so that my husband could enjoy these before he left. 

On a personal note, blogging is going to be sporadic the next couple of weeks. I officially have seven days left with my husband before we are separated (military) for five months. We found out that he was leaving four weeks ago and since then, our time has been a blur of packing, preparing and squeezing in every moment together. The house is almost all packed up. About half of the Melt kitchen is going into the storage unit; the other half is traveling in the car with me as I venture to Wyoming to spend time with my grandparents and then drive across the country to live with my dear sister and be close to my parents. I will continue to blog from "guest kitchen's" as I will not be in my own. We will have to see how it all works out! I hope to be able to share my adventures and continue to produce quality pictures and interesting recipes.

In this time of transition and uncertainty, I cling to my faith in Jesus Christ and the love of my husband. My emotions are a mixture of excitement and sadness, hope and wistfulness, adventure and loneliness. I take many beautiful friendships with me from my time in Colorado; simultaneously looking forward to the new relationships and people around the next curve of my life path. My journey continues to evolve, adding more beauty to it with each passing moment. 

Now...back to amazing pumpkin muffins. If you get the chance to share these muffins with a friend or family member, slip your hand in theirs and tell them how much they mean you. 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Source: Country Living
Prep: 20 minutes   Bake: 20-25 minutes   Oven: 375 degrees F

8        oz. cream cheese, softened 
3        large eggs
2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2  cups sugar
1/4     cup pecans, chopped
3         tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/2  teaspoons cinnamon
1/2     teaspoon salt
2        teaspoons baking powder
1/4     teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4  cup pumpkin puree
1/3     cup vegetable oil
1/2     teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a standard muffin tin with oil or papers and set aside.

Mix the cream cheese, 1 egg and 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Toss 5 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup flour, pecans, butter and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the remaining 2 cups sugar, flour, remaining cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Lightly beat the remaining eggs, pumpkin, oil and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour the pumpkin mixture into the well and mix with a fork just until moistened. 

Evenly divide half the batter among the muffin cups. Place 2 teaspoonfuls of the cream cheese filling into the center of each cup and fill with the remaining batter. Sprinkle some of the pecan mixture over the top of each muffin and bake until golden brown or a tester comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Harmony's Thoughts
Take extra care not to overfill the muffin cups. By the time you pour in 3 different layers, they can get very full and overflow.
I sometimes throw in a few more spices to make these taste even "warmer". Typically a grate or two of nutmeg and a dash of cloves.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caramel Pecan Apple Pie

Apple pie is always warm and inviting. It's basic and perfect all at the same time. Now add a little caramel and pecans and you have an extraordinary pie. From its flaky crust to its warm, sweet center, it brings homey, sentimental feelings. A pie can be the perfect showing of love, whether you give it to welcome a neighbor or to celebrate a birthday! This apple pie was an instant hit in my kitchen. I was apprehensive about the caramel as many desserts with caramel are too sweet for me. The blend of warm cinnamon, toasty pecans, tart apples and sticky caramel was perfect. 

Enjoy making this pie; pour your love into it! Serve it to loved one's with a small touch and a smile. Something about it is therapeutic and giving. I hope you savor it like we do in our house! 

Caramel Pecan Apple Pie
Source: recipe from a family friend, Barb Norman
Prep: 25 minutes   Bake 55-65 minutes   Oven: 350 degrees F

7     cups peeled and sliced tart apples
1     teaspoon lemon juice
1     teaspoon vanilla
3/4  cup chopped pecans
1/3  cup brown sugar
3     tablespoons sugar
4     teaspoons cinnamon
1     tablespoon cornstarch
1/4  cup caramel ice cream topping
1     unbaked, 9-inch pie shell (your favorite recipe or use mine here)
3     tablespoons butter, melted
Crumb Topping:
3/4  cup flour
2/3  cup chopped pecans
1/4  cup sugar
6     tablespoons cold butter
1/4  cup caramel ice cream topping

In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and vanilla. Combine pecans, sugars cinnamon and cornstarch. Add to apples - toss to coat.

Pour 1/4 cup caramel topping over the bottom of the pie crust.  Top with apple mixture. Drizzle with butter.

In a small bowl combine flour, pecans and sugar. Cut in butter to create coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over pie filling. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-65 minutes or until filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping. Cool on wire rack.

Harmony's Thoughts
I don't change anything about this recipe...it is fabulous!
Feel free to make changes as your creativity allows...and post a comment with them so we all benefit from it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Harmony's Pie Crust

Over the next few weeks (and forever after that) I will be posting pie recipes. Many pie recipes call for a baked, partially baked, or unbaked pie shell. Some call for a double pie crust. Whatever the case may be, I have created a pie crust recipe that works for me. 

In my childhood years baking with my mother was frequent and normal. I was not scared to work in the kitchen and my love of food developed through my mom asking me to work alongside her as she baked pies, breads and cookies. I helped with pancakes for breakfast, soup for lunch and casseroles for dinner. 

My mom makes such a tasty pie crust. It is flaky and light in every way. What it is not - is pretty. Not that it is particularly ugly; it just never seems to be easy to work with, which leaves creating the perfect edge out of reach. I grew up using her recipe, struggling with my crust ripping, and generally frustrated with the concept of pie crust making.

After I became a stay at home wife, I purchased a cookbook called Great Pies and Tarts by Carole Walter. Her cookbook is an excellent resource and has about 20 pie crust recipes for all different occasions. I was sure that one of her basic recipes would work for me. Five or six pie crust recipes later, the perfect crust continued to elude me. I shook my head each time I read that the crust had to be refrigerated for 30 minutes, let sit to rest, or rolled on a pastry cloth, pastry mat or marble surface.

"It should not be this difficult or complicated," I complained to my husband one evening. He listened to me rant and then quietly asked, "Why not create your own pie crust recipe?" Shaking my head I remember mumbling some comment about not being any more profound than all the pastry chef's and their recipes. If they could make their pie crust recipes turn out perfectly, it must be my inadequacy.

But the seed had been planted. I change every other recipe I come across and create recipes all the time. I cut extra steps out of Martha Stewart recipes because I secretly believe that she adds them to make her recipes seem more prestigious! I shout at cookbooks when they call for 4 tablespoons of sugar when it should just say 1/4 cup. Could I really simplify a pie crust?

I fussed for a few days in the kitchen, threw out all the rules I had read, and came up with a recipe and method that works for me. Not to say that my recipe replaces any other out there. If you have success with a pie crust recipe, then stick with it! But if you have ever been in my shoes, looking down with aggravation as your crust rips or cracks, maybe my method will work for you!

Harmony's Pie Crust
Source: original recipe 
Prep: 10 minutes   Bake: see below for options
Yield: Single pie crust (double recipe for a double crust)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2    teaspoon salt
1/4    cup cold butter, cubed
1/4    cup Crisco shortening
3       tablespoons cold water

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening and butter with a pastry blender until fat is well blended (your mixture should look like pea-sized crumbs) Add cold water and stir with fork until mixture forms a ball (add a few drops more if it is too dry). Once it forms a loose ball, gather the dough up with your hands and transfer it to a surface covered with floured plastic wrap. Flatten the ball into a disk, and begin to roll out, rotating the plastic wrap to keep the shape circular. If it starts to stick to your rolling pin, sprinkle the crust with a little more flour or cover with plastic wrap and roll out between the two layers. 

Once you think your pie crust is a large enough circle, gently place your pie plate on top in the center and check to see if you have about 1 to 1 1/2 inch of the pie crust on all sides. If not, roll it bigger until you have an overlap on all sides. Peal off the top layer of plastic wrap (if you placed some on top) and transfer the pie crust to the pie plate by sliding your hand under the plastic wrap and turning it into the pie plate. Make sure it is centered and adjusted before you peel the plastic wrap from the crust. Press gently into the pie plate and tuck the overlap under on all sides. Form your pie edge by placing your index finger on the inside of the crust and your thumb and index finger (other hand) on the outside of the crust and squeezing gently. Repeat this method around entire crust.

If you are filling your crust (i.e. apple pie, pumpkin, peach, etc.) follow the temperature settings and bake time the recipe calls for.

If you are blind baking (empty pie shell) your crust (i.e. banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, etc.) line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice and bake at 425 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. 

If you are partially baking your crust (some recipes call for this, I typically find it unnecessary) line the crust with foil, fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice and bake at 400 degrees F for 10- 13 minutes, until set but pale.

If you would like to make your pie crust ahead of time, wrap in plastic and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Return to a cool room temperature before rolling out. You can also roll it out, form the crust and freeze for up to a month. Just be sure to cover it well while in the freezer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sriracha Glazed Chicken Wings

Some people claim that marriage is all about compromise. I agree that you do have to compromise in some situations, but in my opinion, it has more to do with liking each other and respecting the commitment you make to your other half. That being said, in our house, these wings are made with a compromise. My husband has agreed to cut the wing tips off and separate the drumettes from the wings. I don't want to mess with cutting the chicken joints. I have agreed that if he does this, I will make the sauce and bake them. We live in perfect harmony. 

These chicken wings are not for the faint of heart (I do not eat them). They are spicy and have enough heat to please those who eat the Original Hot at most wing joints. I'm a mild kind of girl so this recipe gets made for others. My husband doesn't mind that he gets them all to himself!

Sriracha Glazed Chicken Wings
Source: adapted from Martha Stewart - Everyday Food Magazine
 Prep: 10 minutes   Marinate: 30 minutes   Bake: 30 minutes   Oven: 475 degrees F

1/3    cup soy sauce
2       tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar
3       tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1       tablespoon Frank's hot sauce
1       tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 pounds chicken wings, cut in half at joint (wing tips removed), or drumsticks

In a glass baking dish, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, Sriracha sauce, sugar, ginger, and sesame oil. Add chicken and toss to coat. Marinate 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through.

Harmony's Thoughts
Sriracha sauce can be found in the Asian section of the grocery store.
If you don't have sesame oil, substitute vegetable oil.
These are perfect for a football crowd!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gingersnap Cookies

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for baking. The beauty of the last fruit at the farmer's market, the enchantment of spices, and the cooler temperatures coax me into the kitchen to experiment with an idea or revisit a recipe from last fall.

Classic cookies have to be perfect. They do not need to be reinvented, just comforting in the same way each time. That is my view for a gingersnap. I have seen many recipes that call for unusual spices or chocolate. They don't even tempt me. I pull out the recipe my Mom used when I was a kid and begin my batch. 

Gingersnap Cookies
Source: Mom's recipe and very similar to the recipe on the back of a Grandma's molasses jar
Prep: 10 minutes   Bake: 8-10 minutes  Oven: 375 degrees F

3/4     cup shortening
1        cup brown sugar
1/4     cup molasses
1        egg
2 1/4  cup flour
2        teaspoons baking soda
1/2     teaspoon salt
1        teaspoon ginger
1        teaspoon cinnamon
1/2     teaspoon cloves
1/4     cup sugar

Cream shortening with brown sugar. Add molasses and egg; beat until fluffy. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix with creamed mixture.
Form into small balls and roll in sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet (or lined with parchment) and bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Harmony's Thoughts
I tend to under bake these about a minute, in order to keep them soft.
When making cookies, I rarely combine my ingredients in a separate bowl. I just ensure that I mix them thoroughly. I do suggest that novice bakers do this step. Feel free to do what you please!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes with Spiced Maple Pecan Sauce

Pancakes are so versatile and fun to make! I created this recipe last fall, after seeing it in a magazine somewhere and not writing it down (I do that too many times to count). This morning, my husband asked for something pumpkin for breakfast and I dusted off this recipe and we enjoyed it once again. 

These pancakes are perfect for a fall brunch or lazy Saturday morning!

Pumpkin Pancakes with Spiced Maple Pecan Sauce
Source: original recipe
Prep: 10 minutes   Cooking: 5 minutes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
3        tablespoons packed brown sugar 
2        teaspoons baking powder 
1        teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1        teaspoon salt 
2        eggs 
1 1/2  cups milk 
3/4     cup canned pumpkin  
4        ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4     cup butter
1/2     cup maple syrup 
1/2     teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4     teaspoon nutmeg 
1/3     cup chopped pecans, toasted

In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, pumpkin and cream cheese until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. 
Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for sauce in a small saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until butter is melted and sauce is heated through. Keep warm.
Heat griddle on medium high heat (325-350 degrees F).  Pour 1/4 cupfulls of batter onto griddle and cook until bubbles start to surface (about 2 min). Flip pancakes and cook until bottoms are lightly browned. Serve with warm sauce.

Harmony's Thoughts
You can substitute the cream cheese for ricotta or even sour cream if you have that on hand instead.
I feel that roasted pumpkin puree (from a pie pumpkin) is best, but wrote the recipe with canned pumpkin as most people use canned. Feel free to do what you prefer.
If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, omit or substitute with cinnamon.
To toast pecans, toss in a small pan over high heat until toasted. Watch carefully; it should only take about 2 minutes!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bacon Tomato Pasta (Homemade Pasta)

A few years ago when my husband and I met, I directed one of our many conversations to food, more specifically, his favorite foods. Like most men, bacon was on the list, along with pasta. Which got me working in the kitchen to create this recipe for him. In fact, this recipe even made it to our wedding, on the back of the seating cards for our reception. 

Nostalgia hits me each time I make this recipe. Remembering the insecurities and excitement of falling in love, recalling the first impressions and then a deeper knowledge of my husband, celebrating the years we have had since then.

I roll pasta and think of the first brush of fingertips and the comfort of a hand that still secretly squeezes mine when we are thinking the same thing and can't verbalize it. If happiness could be portrayed through food, Bacon Tomato Pasta would be one of my happiest dishes to create. I hope to pass some of that happiness to you.

Bacon Tomato Pasta
Source: original recipe

1    lb. bacon, chopped into small pieces
1    container cherry tomatoes, halved
1    teaspoon crushed red pepper
1    teaspoon Italian seasoning
2    teaspoons dried basil
2    tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
1    lb. cooked pasta, such as linguini, spaghetti, or angel hair

In a high sided pan, fry bacon over medium high heat, about 3-5 minutes. Add tomato halves, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, basil and olive oil. Cook for another 5 minutes until tomatoes have softened. Toss with cooked pasta, adding more olive oil, if needed.

Harmony's Thoughts
No need to use homemade pasta. The majority of the time I use Barilla dry pasta.

Harmony's Basic Pasta
Source: original recipe

1    cup high gluten flour (all-purpose or bread flour will work)
1/2 cup Semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2    eggs
2    tablespoons olive oil
1    tablespoon water
Combine flours and salt. Add eggs, olive oil and water. Mix to make a stiff dough. Knead dough 10 minutes or until dough is elastic. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Using a rolling pin or pasta roller, roll out to desired thickness and cut as desired. 


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; add pasta and cook until tender about 4 minutes. Pasta can also be dried and stored in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spicy Chicken Thighs

This past week the Air Force gave my husband a training assignment for five months. He will be on assignment from November to March. There will be a flurry of activity in our house for the next month, preparing for his departure. When circumstances come that cause us to be apart, I am thankful for our strong commitment and support that we provide one another. These past few days I have been reflecting on the beauty of our love and the strength he is to me. I remember the reading my Grandma read at our wedding ~

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant. Love is not rude, it is not self-serving. Love is not easily angered, or resentful. Love rejoices not in evil but in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  ~ adapted from I Corinthians 13

 I hope each of you have a love like this in your life....and if you don't, make a point to give the gift of true love to your family and friends.

For the next few weeks, the recipes that I post will be some of my husbands favorites since I will be cooking and baking especially for him before he leaves. These spicy chicken thighs are requested by him often.

Spicy Chicken Thighs
Source: original recipe
Prep: 10 minutes   Bake: 30-40 minutes   Oven: 425 degrees F

2    tablespoons Kosher salt
3    tablespoons brown sugar
2    tablespoons chili powder
1    tablespoon hot smoked paprika
1    tablespoon paprika
1    tablespoon cumin
3    teaspoons pepper
1    teaspoon thyme
1    teaspoon herbs de provence
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4-5 lbs. chicken thighs

Mix all spices and herbs together in a small bowl. Place chicken thighs in a 9x13 pan and rub all sides with the spices. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake for 30-40 minutes turning once about halfway through the baking time.

Harmony's Thoughts
To make ahead, mix spices and herbs, rub on chicken and place in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 8 hours. 
I have also grilled these chicken thighs on medium high heat about 20-25 min. I rub the chicken with olive oil before coating with the spices when I grill them. 
If you don't have hot smoked paprika, substitute regular paprika. (although I suggest trying it :)