Friday, April 29, 2011

Shortcut Potato Gnocchi

The Italians may never forgive me for this post, but it has to be said. You can make potato gnocchi from start to table in about 25 minutes with good quality dried potato flakes.

There are benefits other than speed too. There’s no need to adjust the flour depending on the starch or water content of the potatoes. Plus, unlike the traditional method, your gnocchi won't turn gray if you don’t cook them immediately. They stay a beautiful golden color and can be frozen for later use.

Oh, and did I mention they're about a $1.00 a batch to make? I may never slave over traditional gnocchi prep again.

Shortcut Potato Gnocchi
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This gnocchi recipe utilizes a food processor, but can be made in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment instead. Each batch serves 2 to 3 people, but I double the recipe in my food processor for five.

1 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups instant potato flakes (from the bulk bin)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, place the water, egg, butter, salt, garlic powder and parsley in the food processor. Process until combined. Add the flour and pulse to mix in. Add the potato flakes and pulse to combine.

3. Move dough to a clean surface and knead for about 20 seconds. Grab chunks of dough and form into snakes. Cut 1/2 inch wide pieces from snakes and roll each piece into a ball with a fork. Pull the fork back toward you for a roll or two to make gnocchi shape.

4. Gently boil gnocchi until they float to the top and then cook for two more minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and serve with your favorite sauce.

Original recipe source from Adapted by Laura Flowers for a one bowl method. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The People’s Chocolate Cheesecake

This wonderful creamy dreamy deeply chocolate cheesecake’s roots come from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible. Several years ago, Dishboy Scott’s family turned it into a food processor chocolate cheesecake. When I got my paws on it, I made a few adjustments and reorganized the recipe.

Now I’m not sure whose recipe this is. So I’m calling it “The People’s Chocolate Cheesecake”. Much like Kate Middleton will become the people’s princess in about eight hours.

The last people’s princess, Diana, married when I was 5-years-old and I still perfectly recall the wedding. I was a wild spirit, and it was the last summer before that boring old kindergarten class would forced me to sit and learn, instead of running around with the neighborhood kids and playing in the dirt.

As the daughter of a pilot and a nurse we were solidly middle class, and I stared at our little television in disbelief witnessing opulence I’d never experience. Princess Diana floated up those beautiful red steps in a gown fit for a fairytale storybook.

I loved watching her enter what I thought at the time was a castle. Her castle. It was certainly the most beautiful building a kid from Walla Walla could ever imagine. Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding was also the first wedding I’d ever witnessed. How’s that for high standards?

From that moment on I realized princesses were real. Not just in the many piles of books I made my parents read to me. It gave my childhood a tie between my imagination, stories and reality. Cinderella all of a sudden didn’t seem so far fetched.

In eight hours I’ll be sleeping, but I’d still like to see the royal wedding. Maybe afterwards, I’ll celebrate like a 5-year-old by gulping down fruit punch and tearing across the neighborhood on my bike.

The People’s Chocolate Cheesecake
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This rich mousse-like cheesecake is prepared in just a few minutes in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, crush the graham crackers in a bag, and mix the filling with an electric mixer.

15 standard or chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup granulated sugar
10 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9” springform pan with foil. Place the pan in a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Process the graham crackers, sugar and melted butter together in a food processor until you get mostly fine crumbs. Press the crumb mixture into the springform pan base and up the sides about 2 inches.

3. Wash and dry the food processor bowls.

8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate (not chocolate chips)
16 ounce full fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups full fat sour cream

1. Break up the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl. Cook it on high in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. In a food processor, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the sour cream and pulse well to combine, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the chocolate and puree to combine.

3. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the crumb crust. Place the rimmed baking sheet in the oven with the cheesecake. Pour very hot water into the baking sheet until it’s about half full.

4. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the timer for 1 hour. Do not open the oven door. Once finished, cool on a cooling rack and chill for several hours before serving.

Recipe adapted by Laura Flowers from Scott Bader from Rose Levy Beranbaum. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Black Olive Bread

You know those canned black olives? The type everyone seems to have a strong opinion about? Well love them or hate them, if you’re an American they’re likely deeply seeded into your childhood memories.

My brother Steve and I used to slink into the kitchen and pilfer out black olives from Dad’s holiday pickle tray. Smashing them down on our fingers, we’d race around like aliens with pod fingers until the last olive was sucked off our tentacles.

Steve and I did this year after year, until our fingers finally grew too big to fit in the holes. Perhaps giving up olive fingers is one of those rights of passage into adulthood. Like boxing up your GI Joes, if you haven’t blown them up with firecrackers already.

Last night, I paired this olive bread with artichokes and lemon dipping sauce for a light meal. It’s also good with soup, salad, or as a change to your standard garlic bread.

Black Olive Bread
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I love soft, salty black olives so much that I had to stop myself from pilfering them from the topping mixture.

1 loaf French bread

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, very soft

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup finely shredded Mexican cheese

2 (3.8 ounce) cans sliced black olives, drained

1/2 cup chopped green onions
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of onion powder

Dash of salt
Dash of pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and mayonnaise. Stir in the Mexican cheese, olives, green onions, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

3. Slice the bread into two long pieces and set them on the baking sheet. Spoon olive mixture on top and spread it out evenly with your fingers. Bake for 20 minutes or until warm and toasted.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beevil the Evil Returns with More S'mores

During the course of creation of Peep Bunnies, sometimes something goes terribly wrong. The Noble Face Stamper shifts slightly out of alignment and the faces of those newly born peeps end up stamped on their neck, leaving them disfigured for life.

When this happens, young Peeps, just like children, can often be cruel. In sugar fluff school, the “perfect Peeps” tease those sad little sugar bunnies until they lose their self-esteem and drop out.

But sometimes, those misaligned peeps take revenge. This is where the second story of Beevil the Evil begins.

“I dream of humans devouring every perfect Peep on the planet!” Beevil’s shout echoed through Polka Dot Field as he danced over the dead body of Fluffy, the town marshmallow-ball star.

D. Bunny and Boyd, Beevil’s trusty goons stood silently behind their evil boss watching as Fluffy became flatter and flatter.

“Well Boss, at least he can’t tease you anymore. I never thought he’d shut up about your face. Not that there’s anything wrong with your face of course.” Backpedaled D. Bunny.

Boyd looked up with his goofy eyes, “The kids won’t be able to resist this one. I’m even considering eating Fluffy myself.”

“Its true Boyd, few humans will be able to keep from devouring my latest torture device. Chocolate death platforms, gooey Snickers Eggs and one newly hideous blown up Fluffy stuffed into the center. It’s my natural born genius!” Laughed Beevil evilly.

At that moment, Fleet the town mail-bunny happened to be racing by with the morning letters. Now, it’s a good thing Fleet is so fast, because he took one look at what Beevil was up to and recognized he’d better hightail it out of there! In fact, Fleet ran so quickly he only stopped when Sergeant Hollow waved his fragile white chocolate bunny arms for him to stop, before they both ended up as shattered bunnies.

“Whoa. Slow down there Fleet. What’s got you so hare panicked?

“It’s Beevil. I think they’ve got Fluffy! I think they’ve killed Fluffy!” gasped Fleet as he stumbled over his words.

“Dang rabbit!” said Sergeant Hollow. “Who’s going to be our marshmallow-ball star if Fluffy’s dead?”

“You’re worried about marshmallow-ball at a time like this?!” exclaimed Fleet. “Fluffy’s dead!”

“Oh right, that was pretty insensitive of me. We better gather the Peep Platoon and find Fluffy before the humans get to him.” Said Sergeant Hollow.

Meanwhile, Beevil was tying up Fluffy’s death platform. He needed to get Fluffy into position close to where the sugar addicted human child liked to play. Without warning, D. Bunny and Boyd began arguing about a noise coming over the hill.

“Quiet you morons!” said Beevil. “It’s time to dispose of the evidence. We must drag this monstrosity into place. Boyd, get the stretcher.”

“Uh, um Boss? Mr. Evil Sir? Shouldn’t we get out of here before that Peep Platoon across the field catches us? It looks like they’re pretty mad and there sure is a lot of them.” Stammered Boyd.

“What? Those brainless dweebs will never find…. Eeeek, Why didn’t you tell me they were coming? Run! Every handsome Peep for himself!” yelled Beevil. And Beevil and his two goons ran for their sugary lives.”

“Get them!” Shouted Sergeant Hollow. But the Peep Platoon became confused and ran the wrong way, allowing Beevil to escape.

The chocolate bunnies had all but forgotten Beevil as they hopped forward in shocked silence to get a good look at Fluffy. “He sure was a good marshmallow-ball player. Too bad he was such a jerk.” Said Flower sadly. “I suppose we should give him a proper burial out at Three Crosses.”

And so the Peeps and chocolate bunnies raised enough money to give Fluffy a nice burial. Although many thought he really did deserved to be eaten, and after a time life returned mostly to normal. Though Sergeant Hollow’s still looking for a marshmallow-ball star replacement.

As for Beevil, he’s lying low evilly dreaming up his next torture device recipe.

Beevil’s Torture Device 2
1 chocolate graham cracker death platform
1 Snickers Egg
1 Mean Peep Bunny named Fluffy

Break the death platform in half. Place it on a microwave plate. Put the Snickers Egg on the graham cracker and top with one defiant Peep Bunny.

Blow said peep bunny up in the microwave until you are happy. Laugh evilly. Top with second half of death platform. Dance around on death platform. Eat.

By Laura Flowers @ The Cooking Photographer. Written for friend Mari Lindsley, who requested Beevil come back for another story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Grilled Super Veggie Supreme Pizza

Stop! I know what you’re going to say. “Laura, are you nuts? Look at that ingredient list!” It’s not that bad, mostly it’s a small amount of veggies, cheese and a few spices. The tomato sauce doesn’t even need to be cooked and will only take about 2 minutes. You can do this!

Besides, I can’t think of a better way to get a day’s worth of vegetables than on a grilled pizza. Your doctor will be proud.

Grilled Super Veggie Supreme Pizza
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Grilled pizza is a ton of fun to make, but set aside at least 1 1/2 hours from the start of the dough to the finished pizza.

Coarse cornmeal
Pizza dough, recipe below
Olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
Pizza sauce, recipe below
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
A couple handfuls of baby spinach
2 to 3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 onion, sliced thin & cut in half
4 mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 green bell pepper, sliced thin and cut in half
4 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Pecorino Romano
Few shakes of dried Grana Padano or dried Parmesan
Salt & pepper
Granulated garlic powder
Granulated onion powder
Dried oregano
Red pepper flakes, optional

1. Place the tomatoes on a paper towel lined plate. Salt well, cover with another paper towel and set aside. Preheat the grill to high.

2. Sprinkle a 12 to 14 inch pan with cornmeal. Pat and roll out the dough until thin. Place dough on the pan and brush with olive oil. Spoon on sauce to taste.

3. Sprinkle mozzarella over the sauce. Top with spinach, minced garlic, onion, mushrooms and bell pepper slices. Pat liquid off tomatoes and place them on the pizza. Top with olives.

4. Spread Pecorino Romano over the top and add a few shakes of the dried cheese. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and red pepper flakes if using. Drizzle with olive oil.

5. Cook pizzas for 4 to 8 minutes until done to taste.

Zesty Old School Style Pizza Sauce
Makes enough sauce to cover three medium, or two large pizzas.

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce (without sugar)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir together.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of pizza sauce.

Garlic Pizza Dough
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 cup lukewarm water, plus a bit more if needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt

Place water, yeast, and honey or sugar into a stand mixer bowl. Stir to combine and set aside for 10 minutes.

Place the rest of the ingredients in the bowl and knead with a dough hook on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand on a clean surface for another minute. Pat into a circle.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside, flipping once to coat with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Makes two large pizzas.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Annie's Orange Chicken

It’s been a day trying to get next semester’s courses figured out. My husband pointed out at lunch that I couldn’t be in two places at once, and suggested I drop a super cool food processing class.

I’m sort of glad he spotted it before I register tonight.

Sort of, because I really want to take that class. Sort of not because I need to fill the empty space, and ended up with two math classes. But I figured, to take all those fun upper level food science courses I need to get math out of the way anyway. So I’m bucking up and pretending to be brave about it.

I also figured I better take the afternoon off while I still can!

Therefore, today’s recipe is not my own. It comes from Annie at Annie’s Eats. I've noticed several foodie blogger friends talking about Annie’s Orange Chicken recently. I resisted the first time, the second, and weakened about the third post.

So deep fried goodness it was. I did serve it with brown rice, which helped justify the yummy splurge.

Annie's Orange Chicken
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For the marinade and sauce:
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well.

Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat.

Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes (Not too long though, chicken can get tough and cornstarch doesn’t brown so watch it.), turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired.

Recipe from Annie's Eats. Photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jam Sauce Creme Brulee & Inside a Food Blogger Life

Have you ever wondered what a food blogger’s shooting area looks like? Are you a food blogger who’d like a peek into someone else’s setup? I thought I’d share a little bit of the inner workings of what goes around here.

When I’m not shooting for a client I’m here at my own home. That means my little house ends up looking a bit too much like a studio, but that’s the life of a regular food blogger.

In my southwestern windows there’s a square white child’s table and a homemade round table I built out of an old beat up coffee table and an outdoor side table. Both tables are set low so I can shoot above them without too much difficulty.

You’ll notice that there are several layers of tablecloths covering the round table. Storing them on top of each other keeps them from getting wrinkled, and I can quickly find what I’m looking for.

I also have several lighting set ups, but the one I prefer is a mix of natural light, soft boxes, and silver and gold reflectors. My other lights tend to stay stored away until I have a large shoot where I’m covering people and food, instead of just small place settings.

My camera is a Canon and I most often use a 50mm macro lens for food blogging. It gives me the flexibility to get close to my subject and move away from it without having to switch lenses. When there are hungry people waiting for dinner, it makes a difference!

Props are a big deal here. (Sorry about the mess, I really do need to clean them out.) When I’m shooting for a magazine oftentimes they’ll ask for a holiday or season specific shot months ahead, and without those types of props I wouldn’t be able to fill the order. This photograph is just a small section of my very messy prop area. Anyone want to help me organize? Please?

As far as food propping goes, I try to purchase as many items as possible that coordinate well together. Lots of solid colors with a few patterned pieces to draw the eye and make the look more interesting. That way the feel can be changed quickly but the items will still work together.

Most of my props come from discount stores like Ross, Wal-Mart when they clearance out their holiday items, and even the Dollar Store.

It’s also important that I take extra time for photographs to get my creative juices going. I try at all costs to shoot when I’m not stressed trying to feed the numerous people who come through my door. I’ve learned that sauces can be thinned out the next day with water, and many foods can be styled later without compromise to quality.

Since I’m a photographer by trade and not a food stylist, I have a couple of food styling heroes whose books have been vastly helpful to me. Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera by Delores Custer, and The Food Stylist's Handbook by Denise Vivaldo are my go to bibles.

Not all things Delores and Denise do apply to us as food bloggers, as we shoot real food that we actually eat, but I’ve learned little things from them that help a lot. Like trimming edges of hamburger buns to clean them up, and brushing foods with oil for a fresher look.

And that’s it. At least that I can remember right now. If you ever have questions please feel free to ask. I’m always happy to try to help.

Jam Sauce Crème Brûlée
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This is a twist on the Blackberry Crème Brûlée with Brown Sugar Sauce recipe. Thick jam turns to flavorful sauce on the bottom of your custards. I used blackcap raspberry jam, but marmalade, strawberry or any favorite good quality jam would work well.

Special tools you’ll need are 4 six-ounce ramekins, a fine mesh sieve (strainer) and a torch of some kind. I use Jesse’s shop propane torch (more fire=more fun), but you can buy a little brûlée torch at most fancy kitchen stores.

2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 cup or so fresh or frozen blackberries
8 teaspoons dark brown sugar, divided
Sugar for brûlée

1. Place 4 six-ounce ramekins in a metal rimmed half bakers sheet. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a kettle of water to boil.

2. Place the heavy cream in a 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring often until just the point of boiling. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl whisk together egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Whisking the entire time, slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot heavy cream into the egg mixture. Then pour the egg mixture into the heavy cream while whisking.

4. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large clean bowl. Spread 1 tablespoon of your favorite jam onto the bottom of each ramekin. Slowly ladle cream mixture evenly into the ramekins, scraping all of it out of the bowl with a spatula.

5. Pull the oven rack out about half way and place the pan on it. Pour the hot water into the pan until it’s about half way up the ramekins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Custards should be mainly set around the edges, but the center will still be jiggly.

6. Carefully move the custards to a cooling rack. Once cool, move to the refrigerator and chill for at least four hours.

7. To Brûlée: Sprinkle custard tops with about a teaspoon of granulated sugar and torch with fire until deeply golden brown pulling back the torch as needed so the sugar doesn’t char.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grilled Guacamole Black Bean Burgers

Oh boy, you need this burger in your life. Warm earthy spiced black beans with melty cheese, guacamole and crunchy tortilla chips. I so totally planned this beauty to the minutest detail.

Or not.

Ok. It was 5 p.m. and I arrived at the grocery store without a list or a plan. Its times like this I actually use food products.

Shh… Don’t tell anyone. OK, go ahead. Yell it out loud. Just don’t tell Michael Pollan. He’d be so disappointed in me.

Well he’d be disappointed in me if he knew who I was. Which he doesn’t. So I’m probably safe. Sometimes food products are yummy and mainly healthy.

I just wish I could eat this burger all over again. Why are there only three meals in a day?

Grilled Guacamole Black Bean Burgers
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If you have time, feel free to make your own black bean burgers and guacamole. Or, you can spend 10 minutes prepping dinner and relax for the rest of the night with a good book like I did.

MorningStar Farms 1/4 LB Chipotle Black Bean Burgers
Vegetable oil
Granulated garlic powder
Granulated onion powder
Slices of cheddar cheese
1 package guacamole with tomatoes, or homemade
Tortilla chips
Hamburger Buns

1. Turn the grill to medium high. Brush burgers with oil and sprinkle with garlic and onion powder.

2, Grill burgers for 4 minutes. Flip and grill for 2 more minutes. Top with cheese and cook until cheese is melted.

3. Meanwhile, brush buns with a little butter. Place on the grill for about 1 minute until toasted.

4. Place bottom bun on a plate. Top with several tortilla chips, then a burger and slather with guacamole. Top with bun and serve.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Low Sugar Blueberry Pie Pi

Clara: “Mom, can you cut a big C into that pie?”

Me: “I probably can. Are you going to eat this pie?”

Clara: “No, I don’t like pie.”

Me: “Then why would I cut a C into this pie?”

Clara: “How about cutting a pi into the pie?”

Me, “Yeah ok, sure.”

I mean, how many 9-year-old girls are obsessed with pi? And since I’m studying math myself right now it seemed somehow appropriate.

Blueberries are sweet enough that lowering the sugar content doesn’t alter the outcome of this pie very much. Of course, now you can also call it, “breakfast” or “health pie”.

Health pie. I like it.

Low Sugar Blueberry Pie Pi
Printer Version
For a low sugar version, your berries have to be ripe and taste good. So taste them before you start this pie. If you need, you can increase the sugar up to 3/4 cup for sweetness if your berries aren’t ideal.

Double crust pie dough, store bought or homemade
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon Cointreau Liqueur or Triple Sec
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
Egg white for brushing
Sugar for sprinkling

1. Place the oven shelf on the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9” pie dish with dough and brush with egg white mixed with a teaspoon of water.

2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, flour and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl gently toss together blueberries, vanilla extract, almond extract, and Cointreau. Add flour mixture and gently toss to coat. Pour blueberries into the pie pan and spread out evenly.

4. Dot the fruit with butter and cover with another pie dough. Trim and flute edges. Brush top lightly with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Cut vents into pie in the shape of pi if you like.

5. Bake for 50 minutes, placing a pie shield on after about 10 minutes. Remove from oven when crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seasoned Taco Meat from Scratch

This taco filling is a redo from an unnecessarily long recipe. I’m much happier with it now and hope you’ll be able to navigate it quickly.

Seasoned Taco Meat from Scratch
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Skip the chemical laden taco spice packets. This re-worked recipe from an old magazine puts those things to shame.

Spice Mixture
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Place all the spices together in a small bowl and set aside.

Taco Filling

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, diced

3 medium garlic cloves, minced
Spice mixture, above

1 pound 90 percent lean (or leaner) ground beef, yak or bison 

1/2 cup plain tomato sauce

1/2 cup chicken broth 

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.

2. Add garlic and spice mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground meat and cook, breaking meat up as you go. Deglaze the pan a little with extra broth if needed at this point. Scrape the pan bottom to prevent scorching, until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

3. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth and vinegar; bring to simmer. Stir frequently and break meat chunks up completely. Cook for about 10 minutes or so until the liquid is reduced and thickened, but mixture isn’t dry. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Philly Cheesesteaks

I did something crazy.


I enrolled back into college at the age of thirty-four to start working toward my PhD in food science.

Why didn’t I do this earlier? Because I have a phobia. A horrible fear of big math, and to get into this program I have to face this dastardly subject.

Starting about seven years ago, I watched the university catalog come and go. I noticed when the school of food science merged with the neighboring school to expand their program. I noticed four years ago when they began offering an undergraduate degree in wine.

Then two days ago, I noticed that first class of wine students will be graduating next month.

Lastly, I noticed I let all this time pass by and allowed fear to stop me from accomplishing my dreams over a few scary math classes.

Not anymore, I’ve signed up. I’m going to finish those crazy classes and apply to the PhD program. It might take while, but in the meantime I’ll take every single food class on the list. Food processing, cheese making, wine classes, nutrition courses and on and on.

Or, I’ll fail out of math miserably but learn a lot of foodstuff. OK, I’m NOT going to think about that! I can do this!

I hope.

Philly Cheesesteaks
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So easy! Why don’t I make these more often?

3 to 4 hoagie rolls
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 pound good quality deli roast beef, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sliced provolone cheese or warmed Cheese Whiz
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oil in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetable soften and start to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the chopped deli meat and cook until no longer pink. Add the peppers and onions back in and toss to warm through.

3. Smear mayonnaise on the hoagie rolls. Place a slice of provolone on the side if using. Spoon in the hot beef mixture. Smear with Cheese Whiz if using.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Freshly Squeezed Texas Margarita on the Rocks

It’s been a big week. Not for me, but for the many friends who called and emailed with huge happy news and devastatingly sad news. I’ve both cheered and cried with those friends, and now at the end of the week I’m feeling a little shell-shocked. How can so many big life things happen to so many in one little week?

It gotten to the point I’ve started preemptively emailing a few people and asking if they’re ok. They must think I’m nuts.

And then today, my local paper’s “horrorscope” said, Capricorn~ "In the immediate future, there is a strong likelihood of accidents taking place at home, especially related to fire and electricity. Be careful." 

After a good laugh, I started to think; maybe I should stay away from the stove, the grill, the smoker, the teakettle, and the fireplace and go make a margarita. So I did, just as the sun started to fall below the horizon. It was one of those fresh squeezed Texas types I spent the past several days “perfecting”. Making sure they all tasted exactly like the ones I enjoyed two weeks ago in Austin and San Antonio. Or maybe they were so good I drank them before I could snap a photograph. I can’t remember now.

Thankfully, the week is over, and for better and worse life will go on for my friends and hopefully, I’ll always be here to lend an ear.

Freshly Squeezed Texas Margarita on the Rocks

Printer Version
This recipe makes one drink. Feel free to double, triple, or even times the recipe to make as many margaritas as you’ll need. Then take your friends’ keys away because they’ll want more than one.

Juice of 1 lime
1/2 ounce silver tequila
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce simple syrup, store bought or homemade
1/2 cup cold water
Crushed Ice
Coarse Kosher Salt

1. Place some salt on a small flat plate. Fill a shaker half way with ice. Set both aside.

2. Cut lime in half, then slice it down the middle of each half part way. Run the cut part of the lime around the edge of the glass and dip into the salt turning the glass back and forth a bit. Fill the glass with ice.

3. Squeeze as much juice out of lime as you can into the shaker. Add the tequila, Cointreau, simple syrup and cold water. Cover and shake. Strain into prepared glass and serve.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

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