Tag Archives: baked goods

Naturally Sweet and Utterly Delectable Strawberry Pie

**Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for Tuesdays with Tommy. He has a five-part mini-series that starts tomorrow and trust me, you don’t want to miss it!**

Do you remember in the post about arepas that I said we made the arepas for Mother’s Day and promised that the recipe for my mom would be coming soon? Well folks, here it is—strawberry pie that is to die for!

Choosing a recipe to honor my mom on Mother’s Day was really hard because she has so many amazing recipes. Her most famous one is for her hot fudge sauce. I swear that stuff has crack in it because it is so so so addicting! I can’t even begin to imagine how many gallons of my mom’s hot fudge I have consumed in my lifetime. Her hot fudge is so good that I don’t even bother to eat any other kind of hot fudge because I know it won’t compare to my mom’s (it’s not worth the disappointment). But making hot fudge for her on Mother’s Day was 1) the easy choice and 2) impossible because it’s the only recipe she doesn’t share in hopes that someday you’ll see “Gramma Judy’s Hot Fudge Sauce” on the shelf in your local grocery store :).

Anyway, back to Mother’s Day. I thought about it for a while and finally settled on strawberry pie. First of all, I love fresh strawberries and when Amanda was here it happened to be strawberry season in Okinawa. And second of all, strawberry pie makes me think of summer and thinking of summer brings back so many wonderful memories from my childhood, including spending the whole summer at our lake house.

My not so red strawberries. I couldn't find any local ones so I had to settle for strawberries from the commissary.

From the time that I was four until I was a freshman in high school, we had a lake house that was just thirty minutes from our ‘regular’ house. It was close enough for my dad to commute to and from work everyday so we stayed out there for the whole summer. Man did I love that place! We didn’t have a TV so I spent all day everyday playing outside with the neighbors’ grandchildren. I spent so much time in the water during those summers that you would think I would have turned into a fish ☺. My mom had this big triangle (the musical instrument) hanging by our front door and when it was time to eat lunch or dinner she would ring the triangle and I would come running home!

We did a lot of entertaining during those summers at the lake house, both for out of town guests and friends from our hometown. Our lake house wasn’t fancy by any means. The best way to describe the décor is kitschy. When my parents bought the house, it was fully furnished. It looked like the previous owners just woke up one day and decided to leave because all of their stuff was still in the house—I’m talking books, dishes, linens, even some clothes! I can remember one of the first times we were at the house and I was looking through the dresser in my room. To my horror, I found a woman’s bra! I could not believe it and was mortified. Hahaha.

Our lake house may not have been fancy, but it was so cozy. One thing that we all loved the best was the enclosed screen porch. We ate all of our meals out on that porch, usually surrounded by lots of family and friends. There are certain foods that make me think of meals on the porch at our lake house—sourdough waffles, corn on the cob, and strawberry pie. And that is why I wanted to make it for my mom on Mother’s Day.

Since I promised you I would share the recipe, I thought it was a great excuse to make it again for us—just so I could take pictures of course ;).

While I was reading the recipe for the piecrust, I saw an option of making individual pies using an inverted muffin tin. I had never tried this before, but thought it sounded like a great idea so I gave it a go and they turned out really well. The piecrust was PERFECT—so flaky with an excellent butter flavor.

I tweaked the original pie recipe a bit to make it naturally sweet, but I don’t think it compromised the flavor at all. My husband and I both loved it—so much that we ate it two nights in a row. (I’m actually eating some as I blog about it right now….that’s how good it is!) Tonight I also topped our pies with some homemade whipped cream—delicious!!

Naturally Sweet Strawberry Pie
*I’m not sure where this recipe comes from other than my mom’s recipe binder 🙂

For the Pie Crust
*Recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt
7 1/2 tbsp butter, chilled
3 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp water, divided

Directions
To make a good piecrust, it is very important that the butter and ice water stay chilled until right before you use them. Letting them warm up too much will produce a crust that is not flaky. To really ensure a flaky crust, I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and letting it chill for 10-15 minutes before you are going to use it.

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until incorporated. Add butter evenly over the dry ingredients and pulse a couple of times until most of the butter is the size of peas. Remove the lid and pour the 3 tbsp ice water over the butter and flour. Pulse until there are no more dry spots.

Remove the lid again and see if you can pinch the dough together with your fingers. If it won’t stick together, add a little more water and pulse again. Do not allow the dough to gather in a ball. Once you can pinch it between your fingers, take it out and shape it into a ball yourself. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 10-15 minutes.

To make a large pie, roll out the dough and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Prick the dough with a fork (to prevent bubbling), line it with foil, and weight it down with beans or metal pie weights. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, remove the weights and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until golden.

To make individual pies, roll out the dough and cut into 4 or 5-inch rounds (I used a large ramekin for this). Fit rounds of dough over inverted muffin cups (that have been greased) and prick with a fork. (Side note: I forgot to prick mine until half-way through the baking process and they still turned out okay.) Cover with a large piece of foil and bake at 425 degrees for 11-12 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 4 minutes, or until golden.

Let piecrust cool completely before filling.

For the Strawberry Pie

Ingredients
*I made half the filling for the individual pies

6 cups strawberries, washed and stems removed
3/4 cup agave syrup
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 package cream cheese, softened

Directions
**My strawberries were not super sweet (since I couldn’t find any local ones and had to buy some from the commissary that were shipped in from the States…boo). I drizzled a little honey over the cut up strawberries to bring out their sweetness, but this isn’t necessary if your strawberries are already really sweet.

Mash (I used the food processor) enough strawberries to measure 1 cup. Place agave in a small saucepan. Blend water and cornstarch together and add to agave. Stir in crushed berries and cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Once mixture boils, cook for 1 minute (stirring constantly). Cool.

Beat cream cheese until smooth and spread evenly over the baked pie shell. I probably used about a tablespoon per pie.

Fill shell with remaining berries. My mom usually leaves the berries whole and places them tops-down in the pie pan. I was worried they wouldn’t fit so well like that in the mini pies so I cut up the strawberries.


Pour cooked berry mixture over the top and refrigerate for several hours or until set.

For the Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp agave syrup
splash of maple syrup
splash of vanilla extract

Whip heavy cream on high speed until it starts to thicken. Add sweeteners (these are just approximations—add them to your taste preference) and vanilla. Beat until peaks form and pipe over individual pies.

Go make this strawberry pie—I promise you’ll love it! It’s just the perfect amount of sweetness, and utterly delectable!

Question: What summer foods bring back special childhood memories for you?

Advertisements

14 Comments

Filed under Baking Tips, Desserts

The BEST Carrot Cake

My mom is known to a lot of her friends as “the cake lady”.  Her cakes not only taste incredible, but they are always something really elaborate.  When Amanda and I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney in CA, she made us a 3-D cake modeled after the mountain—complete with all the switchbacks and two hikers made out of pipe cleaners.  It was one of the coolest cakes she’s ever made, and that is saying a lot because she has easily made hundreds of cakes throughout my life.

My junior year in high school she made my Volkl racing skis—full size!  Then there was the full size bassoon cake she made for a friend that played the bassoon.  She also did a 3-D model of a local theater to celebrate one of its anniversaries.  She made paint cans, sports logos, Paddington bear, ladybugs, Barbie—pretty much anything and everything you could imagine.  She is incredibly talented and everyone is always in awe of her beautiful cakes.  The best part is that everything is homemade—none of this fondant stuff—she makes the icing from scratch and models the cakes using the frosting as a mold.

I grew up watching my mom make these cakes, but it wasn’t until I moved to Japan three years ago that I attempted to make one on my own.  It was our friend Mike’s birthday and he had made me a pyramid of Funfetti cake for my birthday (brilliant, right?) so I wanted to make him an awesome cake in return.  I was pretty nervous about it because I felt like there was a lot to live up to, but I was very excited at how well it came out.  It turns out I did learn a thing or two from watching her all those years!

The Pyramid of Funfetti Cake!

My first fancy cake!

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because today is my friend Lindsay’s birthday and each year I tell myself I’m going to make Lindsay a cake, and for one reason or another I haven’t done it yet.  She made me an awesome birthday cake two years ago—this time involving Funfetti cake (can you tell I LOVE Funfetti cake?) and a cookie crust…YUM!!—and I still hadn’t returned the favor.

The delicious cake Lindsay made for me.

I wanted to make Lindsay a cake in the shape of Oregon because I have never met anyone who is more proud of where they are from than Lindsay.  We always tease her because anytime she sees anyone’s pictures from vacation she says, “It looks just like Oregon!”  In order to make one of my mom’s famous cakes, I would have had to use a lot of processed sugars, and since I’m not eating those right now, I thought that would be submitting myself to unnecessary torture and temptation.  I asked Lindsay how she felt about me making her a naturally sweetened birthday cake and she was in.

I decided on carrot cake because I thought it would go well with honey.  And it just so happens that my mom also makes a killer carrot cake that can be made with sugar or honey—jackpot!  When I say this is the BEST carrot cake ever, I’m not exaggerating.  One of our friends told me he doesn’t even like carrot cake and he ate two pieces.  Trust me, it’s amazing—even if you think you don’t like carrot cake, you’ll love it.  My mom won’t steer you wrong :).

The BEST Carrot Cake Ever

Mmmmmmm so moist and delicious!

For the Cake:

3/4 lb. (about 6 medium) carrots

zest from 1/2 lemon

1 cup honey (I used 3/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup maple syrup because I ran out of honey)

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)

1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan.  Knock out excess flour.

2. Shred carrots in food processor using shredding disc.  Remove and set aside.

3. With metal blade in place, combine honey, lemon zest, and butter.  Add eggs and vanilla and process until smooth.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to work bowl and pulse on and off only until flour just disappears.  Add shredded carrots 1/3 at a time, pulsing on and off after each addition until shreds disappear.  Add walnuts and raisins and pulse a few times.

4. Pour batter into Bundt pan and spread evenly with a spatula.  Bang pan on countertop to release trapped air bubbles.

5. Bake on center rack in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool thoroughly on a wire rack.  To remove cake from pan, loosen from side of pan with a knife, then invert onto a serving plate.

**Makes 1 Bundt cake.

For the Frosting:

16 oz (2 pkgs) cream cheese (low fat is okay, but don’t use fat free)

1/2 cup butter

6 tbsp honey

1-2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth and creamy.

**I know you might be thinking, butter in the cream cheese frosting?  I thought that too, but it gives it a really good flavor without being too rich.

And now for a few of the other cakes I’ve made over the past three years:

This was a giant sugar cookie for my husband who prefers cookies to cake.

For our friend Marc who was obsessed with this game for a little while.

For a friend's daughter.

Another cake for Mike. He lucked out that his birthday always fell on my break for school when I had more free time.

Please excuse me if there are any typos here.  I re-read it, but I’m pretty tired so I may have missed something!  We’re leaving for China tomorrow, but I wanted to post something before we leave.  I hope you enjoy this recipe and please let me know if you try it!

2 Comments

Filed under Desserts

Baking with Honey

After my first experiment baking with honey, I decided to look up some tips on baking with honey because I felt the cookies I made were very rich (although delicious).  I also wanted to find out what sort of recommendations are out there for substituting sugar with honey.  I know from my many baking experiences that baking is definitely a science and the smallest change in ingredients or measurements can make a huge difference in the final product.  Since honey is a liquid, I figured it would change the properties of the ingredients and how they worked together in the baking process.  I found some good advice and tested it out this evening on some Maple Honey Pumpkin Muffins.  Here are the helpful tips with the recipe to follow:

  • Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup
  • Add ½ tsp baking soda for each 1 cup of honey
  • Lower baking temp by 25°

I decided to test out this advice with pumpkin muffins because I had some leftover pumpkin and don’t want it to go bad over the next two weeks while we’re in China.  The recipe comes from Ellie Krieger on the Food Network who is known for her healthy recipes.  By substituting all of the brown sugar with honey and maple syrup, these muffins are even better for you because unprocessed sugars take longer to digest and therefore do not cause the huge surge (and consequent drop) in blood sugar levels as processed sugars do.

Maple Honey Pumpkin Muffins

Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger, Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk (I made my own using milk and lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.  (**Mine were done after 18 minutes, they maybe could have come out after 16 or 17 minutes.)

Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

**I didn’t have any pumpkin seeds so I didn’t use them, but I’m sure they would add a nice texture.  I think these muffins would also be great with chopped walnuts or pecans added to the batter.  Oatmeal would probably also make a great addition!

QuestionHave you ever replaced all of the sugar in a recipe?  What did you use instead and how did it turn out?

5 Comments

Filed under Muffins

Satisfying My Cravings

Fist off, let me apologize for not posting for so long.  I was finishing up my classes last week for grad school (yay!), which means I just have my thesis to write this summer and then I will graduate with an M.S. in Global and International Education.  I have loved the program, but it has been a long two years and I’m very excited to know the end is in sight!  Then my cat ran away.

This sounds like a silly excuse that kids give their teachers for not doing their homework, but in my case it’s true.  He is an indoor cat, except for going out on our balcony.  On Sunday night he ran away and we didn’t find him until Tuesday evening.  It was a long two days and I was starting to feel pretty depressed about it.  I love my little Harold and I’m so happy to finally have him home!

Our little Harold 🙂

Anyway, enough with the excuses!  I am happy to report that we are now two weeks into our challenge and so far things are still going really well.  I have found that I am craving sugar a lot less, which for me is a HUGE accomplishment!  I also think I have more energy.  I have been subbing a lot in the past two weeks and spending a lot of time out in the hot sun, so it’s a little hard to tell, but I haven’t taken any naps and in the past, I was taking a 30-minute nap almost every day!

Although I am not craving sugar as much, I still want something sweet once in a while.  I made some of HEAB’s oaties the other day.  My friend Katie made some for me before and they were delightful, but without adding any chocolate chips or butterscotch chips, they were too “healthy” tasting and didn’t really taste like I was having a treat!  I highly recommend them though with chocolate or butterscotch chips.  HEAB has many variations and the ones I have tried are all delicious.

I sought out to find something else that doesn’t involve chocolate, but would satisfy my craving.  I found a recipe for peanut butter honey cookies.  These were excellent and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.  Dare I say they were even too sweet for me?  I know that is hard to believe, but I’m finding that honey gives baked goods a very rich flavor so I need to start reducing the amount of honey called for in the recipes I try.  Anyway, these were excellent and I thought I would share the recipe with you.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I think they would be delightful as cookie sandwiches with cream cheese “frosting” (cream cheese sweetened with a little honey) in the middle.

Peanut Butter Honey Cookies

Recipe from http://www.honey.com

Makes 2 dozen

3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

3/4 cup peanut butter**

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In medium bowl, cream honey and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg, peanut butter and vanilla.  Add flour, salt and baking soda; mix until combined.  Drop dough, one tablespoon at a time, onto well-greased baking sheet.  Dip fork into flour and press flat on each cookie to form an “x.”  Bake at 350°F for about 10-12 minutes.  Remove cookies from sheet and cool on wire rack.

**I used natural peanut butter (the kind with oil on top that you have to mix in).

**I also halved the recipe, so only used the yolk of the egg.  I like my cookies under done so I only baked them for 8 minutes rather than 10-12 as the recipe calls for.  Oh and the “x” in the cookies was not happening.  I don’t know if it’s because it is super humid here or what, but the fork kept sticking to the cookies even after I sprayed it.  “X” or no “x” they were excellent :).

3 Comments

Filed under Baking Tips, Cookies, Desserts

One Day Down!

So far things are going really well.  It’s amazing how much more mindful of my eating I’ve become in just the past two days.  I consider myself to be pretty conscious about what I eat, but at the same time, I have what some might call a slight sugar addiction :).  I love love love to bake and almost always crave something sweet after I eat.  I usually have some sort of homemade baked good on my counter so most of my friends are shocked to hear I’m giving up all processed sugar for the summer.  Most of them ask, “what are you going to do if you can’t bake?”  I know it’s shocking, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m actually looking forward to experimenting with my baking and finding ways to make delicious baked goods without processed sugars.

However, I’m also looking forward to knowing what it’s like not to constantly be craving sugar.  In the past two days, I haven’t really felt like I’ve wanted sugar too much, but that might have something to do with the fact that Amanda and I baked up a storm in the past month and my body needs to detox :).  One thing that I have noticed is that it almost feels liberating to not eat sugar.  I thought it would feel restrictive, but I don’t feel that way at all.  Before we started this challenge, if I saw a baked good then I would almost certainly want to eat it and would have to battle with myself not to eat it–or at least not to eat too much.  Now that I’m not eating sugar, it’s much easier to just say no.

One of the goals of this challenge is also to be more mindful of what we’re eating.  I always add protein powder to my smoothies, but found out yesterday that my protein powder has sugar in it.  Who knew?  I guess it’s not that surprising since it does taste kind of sweet, but honestly I had never thought about that before.  Then last night, my husband and I went out to dinner and he grabbed some hard candies by the cash register on our way out.  I normally would do the same thing and when I saw him reach for the candies, I realized  that I almost always reach for those candies too without even thinking about it.

The other thing that I’m really looking forward to with this challenge is to see how my energy levels change.  Even though I exercise regularly, I still often feel lethargic and I’m interested to see if I my energy level increases as my sugar intake decreases.

And because I think blogs are way more exciting if they have pictures, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of us from Amanda’s last day in Okinawa.  They don’t relate to food, but they’re fun!

Close at 25:00?? Hmmmmm....

We blew our own glass. It was pretty tricky! Check out the sweet protective gear we got to wear!

The sun finally came out for Amanda's last day!

Have you ever given up sugar before?  If so, did you notice any changes in your body, energy levels, overall health?  We’re curious to hear about your experience eating more naturally so please leave your comments below!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized