Tag Archives: cream cheese

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

Venezuelan Arepas

Did I ever tell you that I was a super picky eater when I was younger?  I pretty much only ate Kraft Mac and Cheese and sugar on top of more sugar (but not necessarily together).  My mom made all of these amazing gourmet meals—that I now want all of the recipes for—and I would turn my nose up at them and tell her I just wanted mac and cheese.  My parents always made me try everything and kept telling me that someday I would like all of these foods, but in the meantime, they let me be picky.

My mom always bought crunchy peanut butter—because that’s what my dad likes—and whole wheat bread, but bratty little me told her I would only eat creamy peanut butter and white bread.  I later admitted to my mom that I really did like all of those things, I just told her I didn’t because at Amanda’s house they ate creamy peanut butter and white bread—and I wanted to do everything Amanda did.  What a little brat I was!

Luckily I grew out of those habits and now love all of those gourmet meals my mom makes—well, most of them.  I still don’t like salmon and I’m sorry to say Mom and Dad, but I don’t know if I’ll ever like salmon.  Thanks for making me try all of those other ‘weird’ things though because I now consider myself to be quite a good eater.

Many of the things that I used to classify as ‘weird’ were foods from other countries.  My dad owned a stained glass studio for 40 years and during that time we had many artists come and stay with us.  During my childhood, there were always people living with us, which meant that we always had people cooking all sorts of foods I had never heard of.  On top of that, both of my parents have done a lot of traveling and both have lived abroad, so we were always trying foods from other countries.

While we were growing up, Amanda’s family had many foreign exchange students.  These students often made us some of their favorite foods from their home countries.  Some of the foods we loved and others we weren’t so crazy about, but Venezuelan arepas (pronounced ah-ray-pas) are one thing that we have really grown to love and continue making to this day.  Amanda and I even made them for Mother’s Day when we each picked something to make to honor our moms J.  Amanda chose arepas because her mom lived in Venezuela when she was in high school.

Making arepas for Mother's Day

Showing off our arepas and strawberry pie (recipe coming soon!!)

Arepas are made out of white corn meal.  We use the brand called P.A.N.  I have found it in the ethnic food aisle at Safeway in both DC and CA.  I’m sure they carry it at Hispanic Food Markets too.  (I’m sorry to say Oki friends, but I’ve never seen this at the commissary.  If you want to try them though, you’re more than welcome to come to my house and I’ll make them for you!)

Arepas can be baked, fried, or grilled.  We usually brown them in a pan on the stove and them bake them the rest of the way.  Amanda said they are excellent when grilled so I’m going to try that next time.  They can be eaten open-face or as a sandwich as you’ll see in the pictures below.  We always top them with ham, cheese, and perico (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions), but the possibilities are endless.  Amanda and I like them with cream cheese and I had some avocado on hand so we used those this time too.  Amanda’s dad loved to eat them with peanut butter (to her mom’s dismay)!

I know they might sound kind of strange, but they are so tasty—crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The white corn flavor provides such a nice background for the ham, cheese, and perico.  They are also really easy to make so don’t be afraid to go out and try them!

Venezuelan Arepas with Perico

*Recipe from the back of the P.A.N. bag

The spread (plus some roasted veggies on the side)

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

2 cups PAN corn meal

1 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the water in a bowl, add the salt and slowly add the corn meal.  Knead the dough a bit until smooth.  Set aside for about 10 minutes.

Form the dough into round patties.  Saute the arepas in pan until golden on both sides.  Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (**This will vary depending on the size and thickness of your arepas.  When the arepas are done they should sound hollow when you tap them.)

Remove from oven and fill with toppings of your choice.  (They should definitely be served warm, but can be reheated the next day in the microwave or oven.)

Perico (serves 2-4)

1 medium to large tomato, chopped

1/2 medium onions, diced small

4 eggs

Melt butter or oil over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the onions and tomatoes and cook until the onions are soft.  Add eggs and scramble until no longer runny.

**I promise you that these are very easy to make and are a fun alternative to the norm!

Question: What is your favorite food from another country?

6 Comments

Filed under Vegetarian

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