An Occasional Pie: Frozen Key Lime

When I accidentally opened two cans of sweetened condensed milk last week (I was aiming for the evaporated milk and wasn’t paying attention when I reached into the pantry), it was an invitation to make my two favorite pies. I made my second favorite pie last week. This week, I share with you my all-time favorite, a cheesecake-ice cream-salty-citrus confection that I learned to make from my Great Uncle Gene and Great Aunt Sharon.

Crust:

Mix together 1/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. melted butter, and 1 1/2 c. crushed pretzels; press into a glass 9″ pie plate. Chill until firm, at least 15 minutes. (The crust will not release easily from a metal pie plate.)

Filling:

Use an electric mixer to mix together 2 bars softened cream cheese, 1/2 c. lime juice, lime zest (as much as you like but at least 1 tsp), and 1 can sweetened condensed milk.

Pour into pretzel crust and freeze thoroughly.

 

Pantry Staples: Oven-baked Rice

Apparently, I have never fully embraced the possibilities of my InstantPot. Which is mostly okay with me because it makes two things I love so well that it was worth the cost and cabinet space: hard boiled eggs and rice.

But now the seal is busted and because I take essential to truly mean food, medicine, and emergency services, I’m not going to the hardware store to buy a new one. So I had to figure out how to make rice a different way. Stovetop has always produced uneven results for me, plus if I’m making rice, I am usually making other dishes that require me lots of stove space.

But I’ve been making rice in the oven for a few weeks now, at least 3 times per week, and it’s better than I’ve ever made before. Rice requires both accurate measuring and decent technique; thankfully, in this recipe, both are easy.

It also makes a bunch, which I need, because we eat a lot of it. This is enough for 4 people to eat a meal and plenty of leftovers. (For what? Egg-and-kimchi fried rice for breakfast.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rice, soaked and drained or rinsed until water runs clear
  • 2-3 Tbs butter, sliced into pats
  • dash of salt
  • 5 c. boiling liquid: water, almond milk, coconut milk, chicken, mushroom, or vegetable broth OR some combination of thereof (I typically use some kind of milk + chicken broth)
  • Add ins: cashews, rehydrated golden raisins, pistachios, diced carrots, diced onions, diced celery, peas

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bring salted liquid to a boil.
  • Place rice in a baking dish or Dutch oven. The more surface area, the better.
  • Place pats of butter on top of rice.
  • Place baking dish on oven rack. Pour boiling water into dish.
  • Seal tightly with foil.
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on surface area of the dish and kind of rice. Basmati rice (the most common we prepare) takes the least amount of time, whereas brown rice takes much more.
  • Remove from oven; remove foil, and serve.

Breakfast Carrot Cake

Are you eating leftover carrot cake from Easter for breakfast today?

If not, you know what they say: The best day to make a carrot cake was two days ago. The second best day is today. (And yes, I know that this is not really a breakfast recipe. But the rules about such things disappeared weeks ago.)

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Above, carrot cake in its most simple form. Why? Because I have children. You can bake a more exciting carrot cake using the variations below.

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. oil
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour, sifted (Spoon it in your measuring cup and level it off–this takes 30 more seconds and always produces better results)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 c. shredded carrots

Frosting*

  • 1 lb confectioner sugar, sifted
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 bar cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Cake:

  • Grease round cake pan of size of your choice or 9×13 pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs; add oil and beat further.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add carrots, being careful not to overstir.
  • Spread into pan and cook 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the pan.
  • Allow to cool briefly in the pan, then turn out to cool further before frosting.

Frosting:

  • Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and beat further.
  • Add sifted powdered sugar and beat thoroughly.

*This recipe makes enough frosting to frost the top and sides of a single layer cake or the top and interior of a double layer cake. To frost only the top of a single layer cake, reduce ingredients by half; to frost top, interior, and sides of a double layer cake, add half a stick of butter, half a bar of cream cheese, half a pound of powdered sugar, and half a tsp. vanilla.

Variations:

  • To add raisins, soak 3/4 c raisins (golden ones or a mix of regular and golden) in hot water or orange or pineapple juice until they re-hydrate; then add to cake batter with carrots. Failure to re-hydrate raisins means they will suck moisture from the cake, leading to dreadful consequences.
  • Add 3/4 chopped pecans or walnuts to the batter or top with toasted nuts.
  • Add 3/4 c. crushed pineapple, reducing sugar by 1/4 c.
  • Add up to 2 tsp total of ground cloves, ginger, and/or nutmeg.
  • Top with shredded coconut, if you hate the people you are serving it to.

 

Popcorn Time: Gochujang Caramel Corn

Regular readers of this blog know that we love popcorn in just about every form–including spicy caramel corn! Tonight, we imagined Korean fried chicken as popcorn by making use of gochujang paste, a slightly sweet and spicy paste made from chili peppers, fermented soybeans, barley, and glutinous rice. You can find it in the Asian aisle of the supermarket.

Ingredients:

  • 12 c. popped popcorn
  • 1 bag of Kraft caramels, unwrapped
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 c. gochujang powder
  • 1/8 c. soy sauce

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease roasting pan or 9x 13 pan.
  • Melt caramels and butter over low heat; add gochujang paste and soy sauce, stirring until smooth.
  • Pour caramel sauce over popcorn. Stir until coated.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then stir, and bake 10 minutes further.
  • Turn out onto greased wax paper, breaking up any big clumps. Allow to cool completely before eating.

 

 

 

Popcorn Time! Gochujang Popcorn

Regular readers of this blog know that we love popcorn in just about every form. Tonight’s recipe was inspired by the fact that I was also making Brussel sprout kimchi and had just opened a new container of gochujang, a spicy paste of fermented soy beans, glutinous rice (the kind for making sticky rice), barley malt, and chili peppers.

Ingredients & Directions

Pop 1/3 c. of popcorn.

Whisk together 2 Tbs melted butter, 2 tsp gochujang paste, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp light corn syrup. Pour over popcorn.

Add a light dusting of salt mixed with red cayenne pepper to taste.

Baked Oatmeal, custardy bottom version

Channeling your Depression Era ancestors during a time of economic collapse? Pandemic boredom/anxiety have you cooking with more staples? Just love oatmeal?

Baked oatmeal is one of my favorites. Prep takes about 10 minutes, so I like to put it in the oven, then get a shower or go for a walk, then return for a delicious warm breakfast.

This version makes a baked oatmeal with a custardy base, which I love. If it’s not your thing, don’t give up on baked oatmeal, though, as other versions are a more consistent in their texture. You can also add apples or dried fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 c. oatmeal
  • 1 1/4 c. milk

Directions:

  • Grease a 9×13 pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Beat oil, eggs, and sugar until well blended.
  • Combine remaining dry ingredients separately, then add to wet and mix further.
  • Stir in milk and mix until smooth.
  • Pour into 9×13 pan and bake for 30 minutes.

 

Blood Orange Curd

We recently had a porch visit from friends who gifted us with pickles (our favorite!), olives (also our favorite!), and blood oranges, which are nearing the end of their season so you must enjoy them while you can. I mostly use them in salads, but since we hadn’t recently gone out for our once-a-week trip to the grocery store, we were short on greens. Instead, we made blood orange curd. It’s delicious snuck out of the jar on a spoon (no double dipping, of course!) or spread on soft slices of white bread or stirred into oatmeal. Or, let’s be honest, topping vanilla ice cream, with a sprinkle of black pepper. (Trust me.)

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 blood oranges, or enough to yield 1 1/2 c. juice (If you need to supplement with other citrus, do)
  • zest of 4-5 blood oranges
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 7 Tbs butter, cut into pats

Directions:

  • Reduce juice to 2/3 c. on stove.
  • In mixing bowl, combine zest, sugar, and egg yolks. Mix until pale yellow.
  • Slowly add juice to mixing bowl, continuing to mix. Add salt and mix further.
  • Return to stovetop and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until curd is thickened. To test, lift spoon from curd and run a knife down the back of the spoon to create a line. The line should remain, revealing the wooden spoon.
  • Remove from heat and add butter, stirring constantly until melted.
  • Store in glass jars in the refrigerator.

 

Potluck Dishes and Party Tricks: Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

What is this? Jello? A no-bake cheesecake?

I don’t know, which is probably why it’s called “strawberry pretzel dessert” rather than something more specific.

Is it a Southern delicacy? A Lutheran potluck staple? A summer camp favorite? The myths abound.

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. crushed pretzels
  • 1 /4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1 8 oz. bar cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
  • 2 16 oz. containers of frozen, sweetened strawberries
  • 2 3 oz. packets of strawberry Jello
  • 2 c. boiling water

 

Crust:

  • Mix 3 c. crushed pretzels (spring for the Snyder’s of Hanover Butter Snaps), 1/4 c. sugar, and 3/4 c. butter, melted. Spread into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 8-10 mins. Cool.

Cream Cheese Layer:

  • Mix 1 bar of softened cream cheese and 1 cup sugar well. Fold in 8 oz. Cool Whip. Chill.

Strawberry layer:

  • Add 2 c. boiling water to Jello; stir for 3 minutes. Add frozen strawberries and stir until thawed. Spread over cream cheese layer. Chill for 6 hours.

 

 

An Occasional Pie: Atlantic Coast Pie

Regular readers know my issues with pie: making a crust, eating a crust, and syrupy filling. But sometimes you want a pie, and I basically always want this pie in particular, which is salty (trust me–it’s good) and creamy and tart. It’s perfect for winter, when lemons are in season, and it’s also perfect for summer when you want something creamy and cold but not ice cream.

Oops. Someones has a midnight snack before I got to take the photo.

It’s a relatively cheap pie to make, and it’s possible that you have the ingredients on hand already. Plus, it’s one that isn’t all that common, so when you bring it to a dinner party, you’ll usually get to share something new with friends.

This makes two 10-inch pies. If you are using an 8 inch pie plate, adjust the recipe to 3 sleeves of saltines, 1 c. butter, 2/3 c. sugar, 2 cans of milk,   8 eggs, and 1 c. lemon juice.

Ingredients:

For the saltine crust:

  • 4 sleeves of saltine crackers
  • 1- 1 1/4 cup softened unsalted butter (2- 2/12 sticks)
  • 1/2 c sugar

For the filling:

  • 3 cans (14 ounces each) sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • grated lemon peel
  • Maldon salt

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust: Crush crackers by hand or using a food processor, being careful not to turn them to dust. Combine with sugar. Knead in the butter. Press into two 10-inch pie plans. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust just begins to brown. Allow to cool at least slightly.

To make the filling: Place milk in mixer bowl, then thoroughly beat in eggs. Add lemon juice and beat well again. Pour into saltine shell and bake for 16 minutes or until the filling has set. Chill thoroughly, then top with Maldon salt (and/or whipped cream) and slice.

 

 

 

Not-a-Meal-Plan: Chopped, the Pantry Version

Hate meal planning? Us too. That’s why we skip it in favor of a not-a-meal-plan, which involves figuring out where you want to turn to find dinner (pantry, fridge, freezer). As long as these are well-stocked, you can make a meal. In this short blog series, we describe what we do when we look in each of those places. 

We also aim for a once-a-month pantry audit. Sometimes things end up in the pantry that just don’t make sense. (I said to buy “chilis,” but someone buys a can of beans in chili sauce. I convince myself I’m going to love lentils this time but bring them home and can’t persuade myself to actually cook them.) These inspire our Chopped nights. No, no one is allowed to make dinner out of stinky tofu, finger limes, smoked pork tails, and raspberry Toaster Strudels. Instead, a child works with a parent to make a meal out of what we have, working with flavor profiles we know that our family likes. Yes, this means a lot of variations of chili (because we have a lot of beans), grain bowls (Why did I buy millet?), and curry (because we almost always have coconut milk).

See the source image

For some reason, Chopped and The Amazing World of Gumball are our go-to choices for watching TV in hotels. Anyone else reserve food-related TV for travel?