September 24, 2014

Apple Pie

We have two birthdays in September just 3 days apart!  My son had the first birthday this month.  He's now fifteen!  We reminisced about the fun cakes that I made for his past birthdays.  I know there won't be anymore Elmo, Cookie monster, Bob the Builder, Harry Potter or Star Wars cakes.  This makes me a little sad. :(

He's actually not a big cake fan.  The last few years he has asked for something different than traditional birthday cake and ice cream.  He knows I will make whatever he requests.  This year he asked for homemade apple pie.  I told him that I have never made an apple pie by myself---all from scratch!  That didn't seem to bother him.  I guess he had more faith in me than I did.  So, I began my search of which recipe to make, which apples to use and some basic pie making tips.

I finally settled on this recipe that is originally from Allrecipes.  It has 5 stars from almost 6000 votes.  I figured that was a good sign!  I drove to a local farmer's market to make sure I had the best apples before I got started.  After all this isn't just any apple pie, it's a special birthday apple pie for my special son!

Ingredients (printable recipe)
Pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
6-8 Honeycrisp apples (depends on size of apples) peeled, cored and sliced
1 egg white, whisked until foamy
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour and cornstarch. Add water, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil. Add vanilla and reduce temperature and let simmer.
2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Brush with the egg white. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the apples, reserving about a cup for the top crust. Cover with either a lattice work crust or a full crust with slits cut for venting. Pour remaining sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off!
3. Bake 10 minutes in preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35-45 minutes or until apples are soft. I recommend putting a foiled lined baking sheet at the bottom of the oven to catch any drips. This pie gets messy as it cooks! 
Let cool to room temperature before cutting.
Makes one double-crust pie

*I used this recipe for Perfect Pie Crust from Ina Garten

Adapted from Allrecipes


In search of the perfect apples for this pie, I went to a local farmer's market and found these Honeycrisp apples. They were seriously some of the BEST apples I have ever eaten. Definitely worth the trip! They were on the large side, so I used only 6 in the pie.
I didn't want a soggy bottom pie, so I brushed the bottom crust with whisked egg white. If you want to know why this works, check this out from everythingpies.com.
This is the first pie and it was full of those delicious Honeycrisp apples.
I poured most of the sauce over the apples. I saved a little for the top crust....
I didn't do a lattice top crust. I cut a circle of dough out of the middle to let this vent as it cooked and then, poured the remaining sugar/butter liquid on top. Looking at the edges makes my cringe! I'll have to work on making better looking edges. :)
You will definitely be happy that you put a foil lined baking sheet underneath this pie while it's in the oven. It drips and oozes and gets pretty messy as it bakes.
For my second pie, I did NOT pour the sugar/butter liquid over the apples. I followed the original recipe and put the lattice top on first. Then, I very slowly poured the whole mixture over the top of the pie. BTW, If you want some tips on making a lattice top, check out these instructions from Simply Recipes.
Wow! I had to be really careful while pouring this liquid stuff on top! Now it's ready for the oven.
Here are our Birthday Apple pies!!!
Happy Birthday!
The Results...
These pies came out terrific!  The top crust turned out crispy and sweet---my husband really liked that part.  The apples were just right---soft and tender, but not mushy.  The bottom was not soggy.  The filling was full of flavor and it wasn't runny at all.  It actually had a perfect consistency.  Most importantly, this special birthday apple pie was birthday boy approved!

Now, I'm going to enjoy this year.  I've been warned enough times that next year he'll be driving, yikes!  They really do grow up too fast!

 Here's another recipe you might like:
It's even easier than making pie and it still has all the delicious flavors!

I share recipes at these link parties.

August 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas

Our family loves Mexican food.  Before we moved to the Northeast, we lived in Texas where delicious Mexican food was easy to find.  The grocery store I shopped at in Texas had a whole aisle just for different kinds of tortilla chips.  That was awesome!  There are a lot of great things about where we live now, but good Mexican food isn't one of them.  We are usually disappointed each time we try a new Mexican restaurant.  Right now, there is only one Mexican restaurant that we like and it is about 40 minutes away.  So, we usually cook it ourselves.  

My son requested fajitas for dinner this week.  I decided to try this slow cooker version of Chicken Fajitas from Eat at Home.  I know a slow cooker recipe for fajitas won't be the same as sizzling fajitas hot off the grill.  But, I'm still hoping this dish will be full of the fajita flavors that we all like and also be super easy to put together on a busy day.

 Ingredients (printable recipe)
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 med. onions, sliced
1 bell pepper and plus about 20 mini sweet peppers (it's what I already had on hand)*
2 pkgs. Taco Seasoning (use homemade taco seasoning if you prefer)
Flour tortillas
Toppings--sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole , etc... 
Directions
1. Spray inside of 5-6 quart slow cooker with cooking oil spray. Slice peppers and onions and place them on the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Put chicken on top of the onions and peppers.
3. Sprinkle seasonings on top.
4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
5. Take chicken out and slice. If chicken is too tender to slice, just shred it.
6. Serve in a flour tortilla with your favorite toppings.

*Original recipe calls for 3 bell peppers, one of each color (red, yellow and green)

Adapted from Eat at Home

I used what I already had on hand. I mixed up a green bell pepper along with some small sweet peppers.
Onions and peppers on the bottom
Chicken and seasoning on the top. So Easy!

The Results... 
 What surprised me most about this meal was that the kids all really liked it!  I heard 4 and 4 1/2 stars (out of 5) from them.  The chicken turned out very tender and the peppers were super soft (the way the kids like them).  I'm adding this recipe to my family favorites list because it's something my kids will eat again.  

My husband thought it was OK.  We both think fajitas are best when they are sizzling hot off the grill with crisp tender veggies and of course there isn't any other way to get that smoky, grilled flavor.  I still thought this was tasty and it was nice that this was so easy to throw together on a busy day.  Overall, I'm glad I gave this recipe a try and I would make it again.

More Slow Cooker Dinners.....

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August 6, 2014

Chocolate Banana Bread

Here we go again with too many ripe bananas!  We love our usual banana bread recipe, but I wanted to try something slightly different.  I figured Chocolate Banana Bread will help me use those ripe bananas and give me an excuse to have some chocolate, too. :)

Ingredients (printable recipe)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
6 medium bananas, mashed (about 3 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
Optional ~ 1 cup more of chocolate chips to sprinkle on top of loaves
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom of two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, cream together softened butter, sugar and eggs. Stir in mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Sift in flour, baking soda and cocoa; mix well. Stir in sour cream and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pans. If desired, sprinkle more chocolate chips evenly over the batter.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.
4. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing bread from pans. Remove and cool completely on wire racks covered with a clean kitchen towel to keep moist. Slice and enjoy!
makes 2 loaves

Adapted from Allrecipes


These 6 ripe bananas......
turned into 3 cups of mashed bananas
First, cream the butter, sugar and eggs together
Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract
Sift in the dry ingredients
Stir in the sour cream and chocolate chips
More chocolate chips sprinkled on top of the batter
It turned out moist and yummy!
The Results...
Moist and yummy!  If you like banana and chocolate together, then I think you will like this bread.  The bread itself still tastes very much like banana bread with a hint of cocoa added.  The chocolate chips are what really add some rich chocolate flavor to this recipe.  My girls suggested I add more chocolate next time. :)  I noticed after I made this bread, that there isn't any salt in this recipe.  Next time, I think I will add a teaspoon of salt to see if it helps.  Overall, we were not disappointed.  Chocolate Banana Bread was moist, flavorful and we decided to give it 4 stars (out of 5).

More Banana Bread Recipes...
Not Your Ordinary Banana Bread
Banana Bread
More Banana Recipes...
Banana Ice Cream
Not Yo' mama's Banana Pudding (Paula Deen)
Browned Butter Banana Bread Brownies
Pumpkin Banana Muffins

I share recipes at these link parties.