Berry Cherry Pie

September 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

I believe I have finally conquered my achilles heal…pie making.  Practice makes perfect and this pie turned out pretty perfect, in my opinion (see whole pie below).  Not a piece of this one went uneaten.  Actually, we were disappointed when it was gone.  Guess I will just have to make another one.

Look out friends and family.  Now that I have pie making figured out, you can expect to see me arriving to your house with a pie.  I hope you all like pie.  I am now taking orders.  You know, apple season is coming…  

In order to make this pie, you must first start out with my Mom’s Pie Crust (This really is my Mom’s recipe. Thanks Mom!).  No other crust will do.  Really!  This crust is a must.

Mom’s Pie Crust

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup ice water

In a large bowl, add the flour and salt.  Blend in shortening with a pastry blender.  In a small bowl, crack egg and beat with a fork until yolk and white are mixed.  Add lemon juice and water to the egg.  Pour mixture into the flour mixture.  Knead together.  Divide the dough into 4 equal balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes then roll out.  Makes 4 pie crusts.  This recipe can be cut in half but you’ll still need 1 egg.

Take one of the balls and roll it out with a rolling-pin.  Line a 9″ pie plate with it.  Roll out second ball of crust and set aside.

Berry Cherry Filling

  • 2 – 16 oz bags of frozen berry cherry fruit from Trader Joe’s, slightly thawed (this mixture includes blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries)
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup instant tapioca
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Coarse sugar

Place berries in a large bowl.  Add the sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and tapioca.  Mix together.  Pour into the prepare 9″ pie plate that you already lined with the bottom crust.  Top with seconded rolled out crust.  Trim the crust (if needed) and crimp together edges.  Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle coarse sugar over it.  Add slits into the top the pie.  This allows the steam to be released when cooking.  To avoid over browning the edge of the pie, cover edges with aluminum foil.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.   Remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes until top is golden brown.   Let cool.  It is best if the pie sits for a few hours so the juices can set-up.  Makes 8 heavenly slices.   


Sweet Summer Sangria

September 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sangria (Spanish: Sangría) is a wine punch typical of Argentina, Uruguay, Spain and Portugal. It normally consists of a wine, chopped fruit, and a sweetener.  Some people like to add brandy to it but I like to add club soda for a little bubble. 

I created this specific sangria recipe because I had a ton of watermelon and needed something to do with it.  It turned out so good that I wanted to share it with you.

Sangria is truly one of the best summer drinks around and should be enjoyed with friends on your back patio.   Make this and call over your neighbors for an end of summer visit.  They’ll be so happy you did.

Sweet Summer Sangria

  • 3 cups of watermelon, cubed
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fine granulated sugar (depends on how sweet your watermelon is)
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 3-4 cups club soda

In a small sauce pan, combine orange juice and sugar.  Heat over low until sugar has completely dissolved into the juice.  Cool.  Take 2 cups of the watermelon and blend it up in a blender.  Pour the watermelon juice into a pitcher along with the sweetened orange juice.  Add the wine, remaining cup of cubed watermelon and sliced fruit.  Chill in refrigerator for 2-3 hours.  Once chilled, add the club soda.  Pour over ice and drink up.

Thin, Crispy and So Tasty: Onion Strings

September 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

What goes great with onion rings?  A great big juicy hamburger, of course!  But whenever my husband and I think of onion rings, it reminds us of Papa Hammer.  When he would cook steak, he would also cook up a big batch of crispy onion rings.  Papa Hammer would marinate the slice onion overnight in buttermilk.  He used to say that this was the key to a great onion ring.  So in true Papa Hammer form, I too marinate my strings in buttermilk.  This recipe is a tribute to him.  Who knows, he might have even liked these better than his own rings.  Maybe.  Just maybe. 🙂

  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • slight pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 qt canola oil

Thinly slice the onion and place into a bowl.  Pour buttermilk over the top and let sit for at least 4 hours (longer if possible).  In a large dish, mix together flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne.  When ready to cook, pour canola oil into a large pot or fryer.  Heat to 350 degrees.  Remove onion from bowl in small batches and dredge in the flour mixture.  Fry each batch until golden brown.  Drain on paper towel and season again with salt right after they come out of the oil.  Repeat until all the onions have been fried.  Eat them with whatever you like or just by themselves.  Hopefully you won’t eat them all before they get to the table.  They are addicting and totally irresistable.

(Below is my sweet boy with a huge bowl of onion strings)

The Ultimate Focaccia Bread

August 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

For quite a while now, I’ve been on the hunt for the ultimate focaccia bread and I may have just found it.  The Food Network’s, Anne Burrell made this recipe on her show and it looked so yummy I had to give it a try.  She uses a lot of olive oil but I think that is what makes it so good.  I followed her recipe exactly and (in my opinion) it came out perfect.  It is crunchy and crusty on the outside, moist on the inside, and oh so greasy.  Now doesn’t that sound like a recipe for something good?  I’m posting her recipe as written.  I have absolutely NO EDITS to this recipe.  I hope you enjoy it.  We certainly did.

The Ultimate Focaccia Bread (I named it that, not Anne) 


  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided


Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low-speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (Chef’s Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).

Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef’s Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)

Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

Oh baby!

Easy Crockpot Carnitas

August 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

This certainly is not a traditional carnitas recipe.  Typically, carnitas meat is cooked in lard.  Not this recipe.  This one is slow cooked in the crockpot.  It comes out so juicy and tender with a ton of flavor.

My family really likes the carnitas at Chipotle, so I modeled my recipe after what I thought was in their recipe.  In my opinion, this recipe is better than Chipotle.   So now you’ll have to get your crockpot out to see, right?  

The meat works well in a taco, burrito, tostada or even over nachos.  It is also great for a “taco bar” party.  It is pictured above on a flour tortilla with avocado and my homemade corn salsa.  Believe me, it tastes as good as it looks. 🙂

Crockpot Carnitas

  • 3 lb. pork roast
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup apple juice

Mix together the salt, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper together.  Rub all of the seasoning onto pork the night before you plan to cook it.  Let set over night.  The next day, place pork into crockpot.  Pour the apple juice and chicken stock around the pork.  Set to cook on low for 8 hours.  Half way through (at around 3-4 hours) turn pork over.  At the 7 hour mark, remove meat from pot.  Shred it up with 2 forks.  Pour off the liquid in the crockpot into a container.  Place meat back into the pot.  Pour about 1/2 cup – 1 cup of liquid back over the top the meat to keep moist.  Cook another hour.   Serve straight from the crockpot.

Roasted Potatoes with Bacon and Gorgonzola

August 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Roasted Potatoes with Bacon and Gorgonzola

If you are like me, I’m always looking for new ways to prepare old, boring ingredients.  This is a perfect, jazzed up recipe for plain roasted potatoes. 

It truly doesn’t get much better than these potatoes.  The crispness of the potatoes and bacon with the creaminess of the gorgonzola cheese…Oh man!  TRUE HEAVEN!  Best of all, so simple.

I fed this to my group of picky eaters and they all went for seconds of this one.  It was loved by all except the 6-year-old.  I don’t take his judgement personally though.  His palate will develop and once it does, he’ll be glad I have this one in my recipe box. 

One thing I’d like to point out: If by some off-chance you actually have any leftovers of this dish, it goes great on a salad.  Yes, sounds weird I know but believe me, it is so good.

  • 3 lbs. small red, purple and gold potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped and uncooked
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Pour canola oil onto large cookie sheet.  Place washed and quartered potatoes onto the prepared cookie sheet.   Season with salt and pepper and toss on sheet.  Place into oven and let cook for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, toss potatoes and add the chopped bacon.  Cook another 15 minutes.  Remove and let stand for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle green onion, parsley and gorgonzola over the top and serve.

Beer Bread

July 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is an old recipe from when I was a kid.  If memory serves me correctly, my aunt Norma Jean was the first person to bring this recipe into the family.  If my memory isn’t exactly right, I’m sure my mom will let me know.  Anyhow, we loved the bread so much that my mom started making it and so the recipe chain began.  This bread was my first taste of beer and apparently I like it…a lot (and still do).  Beer bread was on my favorites list back then and still is to this day. 

I absolutely love the crispy edge of this bread (which is from the butter).  I could just eat the edges!  But the truth is that when it comes out of oven, I want to eat the whole loaf not just a slice.  Slightly warm with butter is my preferred way of consumption.  This bread also goes really well paired up with meat loaf.   Yes, I said the word – meat loaf!  Anyhow, now I’m getting hungry.  Good thing I have a whole loaf of beer bread to eat!   Should be gone by morning. 

The original beer bread recipe that had been passed down to me called for self-rising flour.  I typically don’t buy this type of flour, so this recipe has been modified using all-purpose flour.  The key to this bread turning out perfect is to sift the flour.  Don’t leave this step out otherwise you’ll unintentionally bake up a brick.  I’ve actually forgotten this step before only to bake up something that should be part of my homes foundation.  Not good.  So please remember to sift. 

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (must sift)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz bottle of beer, room temp.
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease loaf pan with butter.  In a medium size bowl,  SIFT together the dry ingredients.  Add beer and mix together.  Pour into loaf pan.  Pour the melted butter over the top.  Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, depending on oven and whether you are using a glass or metal pan.  Metal pans take less time to bake.  When done, the top will be a nice golden brown.  Let cool for about 15 minutes on wire rack.  Slice. Butter. Eat!