Friday, June 26, 2015

Fresh Peach Pie #FridayPieDay

The only thing that smells better than a big bowl of ripe peaches is this old-fashioned peach pie baking in the oven. Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some thick pouring cream. 

A couple of days ago, I went for what I call the annual mashing, that is to say, a mammogram. (If you are of the female persuasion and haven’t gone for your well-woman check up in the last year – Just do it! Make the appointment and GO. And do your monthly self breast checks.) I rewarded myself with a stop on the way home at the farmers’ market to buy shelled Texas pecans, peaches, homegrown tomatoes, eggplant and fresh purple-hull peas. I love, love, love fresh peas, which are so hard to find the rest of the year. For dinner that evening, I cooked them simply with garlic, sea salt, black pepper and some smoked paprika. I grilled the eggplant on a griddle pan and made a delicious garlicky salad with the homegrown tomatoes.

And the peaches - oh, the fragrant peaches! - were destined for pie! Since it’s the last Friday of the month, I am once again joining my friend, Heather of girlichef for Friday Pie Day. Last month I shared an almond plum tarte tartin made with puff pastry but I really wanted to make a traditional pie with short crust this month.

I brought this baby on the road to Louisiana yesterday to visit my aunt and two uncles in New Iberia. I haven’t been to my Louisiana birthplace since a couple of summers ago when my grandmother passed away but it feels good to be here, in such a familiar place, with people who love me, have the same sense of humor and know all the family history and, most importantly, secrets. Where a person can buy spicy boudin and hog head cheese at the local butcher. Where grey Spanish moss hangs in wispy strands from ancient live oaks along a lazy bayou flanked by historic mansions. Where one can get local blue point crabs by the extra spicy half dozen at all the seafood restaurants. Yes, it’s good to be home home. Even if I am missing Gram.

Double recipe of shortcrust pastry – from this link here or use your own favorite crust recipe for a two-crust pie.
2 lbs 9 oz or 1100g whole fresh peaches (995g or 2 lbs 3 oz, pitted or about six cups once sliced.)
1 cup or 200g sugar
1 small lemon (for 2 tablespoons juice and zest)
1/3 cup or 40g flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons butter

First make the pie crust dough and divide it into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Cover them both in cling film and refrigerator while you get on with the rest of the pie.

Pit and slice your peaches thinly. You can peel them first if you want but I like the look of the slivers of red and I like the way they color the pie filling when baked.

Preheat your oven to 425°F or 218°C.

Add the sugar, flour and salt to the sliced peaches then zest in the lemon and add the juice. Stir well.

Roll out the bigger piece of piecrust and line your pie plate.

Pour the peach filling in and add the butter in small pats.

Roll out the top crust and cut three or four slits in it.

Top the peach filling with the pastry and trim the edges.

Fold the pastry under and crimp the edges.

Bake in your preheated over for about 45 or 50 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Speaking of bubbling, I suggest you put a piece of heavy duty foil or another baking pan under the pie while baking, because the chances of it dripping over are pretty darn good. Another tip: Cover it with foil if the crust gets too dark before the baking time is up.

Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or heavy pouring cream. I didn't have any for the photos but you can trust me that there was ice cream for the real serving.


FridayPieDay is the brilliant invention of Heather from girlichef.

I am pleased to join her on the last Friday of each month for pie and crust recipes, techniques, tools of the trade, and other inspiration.

Today, Heather is also sharing a peach pie recipe but she upped the game with the addition of blueberries! Check out her gorgeous Blueberry Peach Pie with Cornmeal Streusel and Crust!

For more information and recipes, please check out her #FridayPieDay page!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cherry Lemon Muffins #MuffinMonday

Chock full of fresh cherries with a hit of tart lemon, these muffins go equally well with a cup of tea or coffee or even a glass of milk, making breakfast or snack time special. 

I started doing Muffin Monday almost three years ago today with this Banana Bacon Peanut Butter Chip Muffin. Until these last few weeks, when I’ve been traveling, I had not missed a single week since then. Even so, this is my 150th Muffin Monday!  Muffins are so easy to bake. They can be relatively healthy, made with less sugar than a cupcake with none of the cloyingly sweet icing that a cupcake requires, the batter filled with a variety of fruit, nuts and other add-ins like chocolate, bacon, jam and cheese. Yes, the flexible muffin can be sweet or savory. If you tell me you can’t bake, I’m going to suggest you start with muffins. One bowl holds your wet ingredients, the other your dry. Mix them together and bake. Nothing is more simple yet creates a fluffy, tender baked good in under 30 minutes.

For the first time in many years, cherries in Houston are on sale for $1.87 a pound which is less than one dollar per kilo. And I just can’t get enough of them! This muffin is a celebration of the seasonal Bing cherries, brightened with fresh lemon juice and zest. I baked them yesterday morning and, after they cooled, popped them in a plastic container to take along to the beach. It was a lovely day, watching my little nieces seine for fish with their father on Galveston Bay, while chatting with my sister, mother and daughter from the high perch of their beautiful front porch, where the wind cooled us off and the sea view went on forever and ever.

2 cups or 250g flour
1/2 cup or 115g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small lemon (for zest and 4 teaspoons juice)
2 eggs
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1/3 cup or 75ml canola or other light oil
5 2/3 oz or 160g 125g pitted fresh cherries (about 3/4 cup once quartered)

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Butter or grease your muffin pan or line it with paper liners.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.

Grate in the lemon zest and mix.

Juice your lemon. Quarter your cherries and set 12 pieces aside for topping the muffins.

Put the bigger pile of cut cherries in the flour mixture and toss well to cover.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and lemon juice.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just mixed through.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cups in pan.  Top with reserved cherry quarters.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden.  Allow them to cool for a few minutes then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bee's Knees Lemon Honey Bundt #BundtBakers

Based on the Prohibition era cocktail called Bee’s Knees, this lovely buttermilk-pound-cake textured Bundt is flavored with honey and lemon, spiked with gin and finished with a gin honey lemon glaze sprinkled with lemon zest. 

A couple of weeks ago, one of my fellow Bundt Bakers asked for a Pimm’s cake recipe in another Facebook group. I had never heard of such a thing so I did a quick web search and found several. Pimm’s is one of our favorite summer drinks, made with lots of fresh fruit and cucumber so I was most intrigued. Deon’s cake is not on the list list below but you can see his Pimm's Bundt here.  I was inspired to check out some other lemony cocktails to recreate as a Bundt and settled on this one called Bee’s Knees popular during the American Prohibition.

For the cake batter:
1 cup or 226g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups or 300g sugar
2 2/3 cups or 335g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest one small lemon
1 cup or 240ml buttermilk
1/4 cup or 60ml gin
1/4 cup or 60ml honey
1/4 cup or 60ml lemon juice
3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the lemon honey gin glaze:
3/4 cup or 95g confectioners' sugar or as needed to get the consistency you’d like.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons gin
2 teaspoons honey
Pinch salt

To decorate:
Zest one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C. Generously grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. Mine is a Nordic Ware Chrysanthemum pan. I’d love to put an affiliate link for that one but it’s been discontinued. Sorry!

In a stand mixer cream your butter combine the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Zest one lemon into the flour and mix.

Zest your second lemon on to a paper towel and set aside.

Measure out your honey, gin and lemon juice and add it to the buttermilk. Mix well.

Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.

In three additions, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and one third of the liquid mixture, beating well in between. Scrape the bowl down before each new addition.

Spoon the batter into your prepared Bundt pan, making sure to fill all the little crevices.

Bake until the center of cake springs back when touched and a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, around 55 or 65 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine, the lemon juice, gin, honey and pinch of salt. Add in the icing sugar a little at a time, whisking well between additions until all the sugar is dissolved. Keep adding icing sugar and whisking until you reach your desired consistency.

Drizzle the glaze over the cake. Sprinkle with the zest of the second lemon which should have dried out somewhat from sitting on the paper towel.


If you are a fan of lemon in baked goods, this is the Bundt Baker month for you! Many thanks to our host Anne of From My Sweet Heart!


#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board right here. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Uncle Hector's 100 Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

Chocolate is essential in these cookies, as are eggs, sugar, butter, oil and flour, but the rest of the ingredients can be mixed and matched, adding cereals, nuts, seeds, coconut or whatever you’ve got on hand to mix in.

We were living in Balikpapan when our elder daughter was born almost 25 years ago. I’d gone home to Houston to have her but we returned to Indonesia when she was but three weeks old, her passport photo just a tiny baby face, days old, swaddled in that ubiquitous pink and blue hospital blanket, with her eyes squeezed shut tight against the camera flash. Try as he might, her father couldn’t get a photo with her eyes open, as normally required. The passport lady took pity on him and processed it any way.

I’ve written about Balikpapan before, the small oilfield town on the southeast corner of Borneo without much to recommend it but the good friends we made there. There was no system in place in case of an emergency – no 911 or 999 to call in case of trouble or an accident, so I never felt comfortable leaving our baby with anyone, until she was one year old and we were being transferred away from Balikpapan. The person I finally entrusted her to, to attend our company going-away dinner, was my dear friend Margaret, also known as MJ. She is a teacher by profession and by nature, one of the best women, in every respect, who I am blessed to know. If you've reading along with me for a while, you'll know she is the reason I got involved with supporting the elementary school in Uganda.

One of the most challenging aspects of expat life is parting from dear friends who are moving on or moving away. I left Margaret once in 1992 and now, after almost three years together in Dubai, she’s leaving me, headed back to Canada after 25 years overseas. As she prepared to depart, she gave me the candy apple red Kitchenaid her own dear friend Carol bequeathed to her when she left Dubai last year. There’s no adequate way to thank someone for such a gift but I offered to use the mixer to bake whatever she’d like.

Isn't she a beauty?

She sent me this recipe for Uncle Hector’s 100 Cookies, so called because he said they could be made 100 ways.

Uncle Hector was her father’s brother, a doctor who had moved south from Canada to sunny California. After working all day at a stressful job, he’d come home and cook or bake to relax. These cookies were one of his specialties. When our Creative Cookie Exchange theme of Chips, Chunks or Bits was announced, I knew I had to ask permission to share this recipe. I am delighted to honor Uncle Hector and my friend, Margaret, by sharing them here, with her kind permission.

Ingredients for about three dozen cookies
1 cup or 200g white sugar
1 cup or 200g brown sugar
1 cup or 225g butter
1 cup or 240ml oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups or 440g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup or 90g Grape Nuts cereal (original, not flakes)
1 cup of 100g quick cook oats
2 cups or 400g semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup or 65g freshly grated coconut
1 cup or 60g bran flakes

This is what I actually used because it’s what I had on hand. Margaret says nuts are good too but she avoids them because of allergies. Have a look at the screenshot above for other suggestions.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Grease a cookie sheet or line it with baking parchment or a silicone mat.

Cream the sugars and butter together in your mixer.

Add in the egg, oil and vanilla and beat well.

 Now add in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix again.

Here’s where things get interesting. You can use the combination of ingredients I did or mix and match your own. Once again, take a look at the screenshot above for other suggestions. Plus nuts. As Margaret says, the only essential is chocolate, which I doubled. I think Uncle Hector would probably approve.

I added the chocolate, oatmeal and coconut first. And mixed well.

Then I added my two cereals and mixed well again.

Do not taste the dough or you may not bother to bake it. It's delicious as is and, as a bonus, also freezes beautifully.

Scoop your cookie dough out on the prepared pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom, in your preheated oven. Remove to a wire rack to cool.


Many thanks to our Creative Cookie Exchange host this month, Tara from Noshing with the Nolands. Check our all the wonderful cookies with Chips, Chunks or Bits!

If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links. Please be patient though, as this month Laura is traveling in Italy and will not be checking email quite as often!

You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tuscan Bean Salad #BloggerCLUE

Perfect picnic fare, this delicious salad of kale, cannellini beans, grape tomatoes and canned tuna can be made ahead because it gets better as all the tasty ingredients spend more time together.  Seriously, we had only the tiniest bowl of leftovers so it got lost but my daughter reclaimed it from the refrigerator four days later. Still delicious! How many salads can say that?!

It’s Blogger C.L.U.E. time again, where I am assigned another blog from our group in which to snoop and find a recipe to share that fits the current theme or “clue,” which is Picnic. My favorite part of this process is getting to know my fellow food bloggers because although we have a love of tasty food in common, it’s great to find other commonalities and learn about their interests, work, families and the cities in which they live. This month I spent time getting acquainted with Kate from Kate’s Kitchen.

Kate and her husband recently moved house and I’ve been following that story with interest because, you know, moving is kind of my thing. I know the drill only too well and it amuses me to read other people’s stories of the trials and tribulations of a move. Kate has done it with aplomb, still working in the field of finance, cooking deliciousness and recently posting a fabulous mushroom lasagna roll from under a pile of boxes with scant kitchen equipment. She’s an avid gardener so her recipes often take advantage of that fresh, homegrown bounty. I’m so jealous of the rich soil of Indiana!

So, I needed to hunt for picnic friendly recipes! I love taking salads along to picnics or potlucks so that’s where I started my search. I was spoiled for choice on Kate’s blog, bookmarking her Blueberry Watermelon Salad with mint and lemon, Lana’s Chicken Salad with roasted chicken, grapes and pecans, her Lemon Apricot Salad with lemon curd (!) stirred through it,  Green Bead Salad with Black Beluga Lentils made with tasty sun-dried tomatoes and salami, and Kate’s lovely Blue Cheese Potato Salad with bacon.  I simply couldn’t not make up my mind until I got to the Tuscan Beans with Tuna. Sold! We ate it for dinner with yesterday's Chickpea Moroccan Flatbread.

The couple of minor changes I made:
I was catering for one vegetarian (younger daughter) who isn’t so strict that meat or fish can’t touch her veggies but she didn’t want to eat the actual tuna so I just made little piles of it on top instead of mixing it in. If you want to make this strictly vegetarian, use olive oil instead of the tuna oil. And, obviously, leave off the tuna itself. Kate’s salad called for normal kale, which was on my shopping list, but I couldn’t resist the gorgeous purple kale I came across in my nearby supermarket. Kate adapted this recipe herself from Food Network where they used garlic and cooked the kale. I liked her easy no-cook method but decided to keep the original garlic since we are fans and I totally forgot to buy Italian dressing. Massaging the kale with the oil and vinegar softens it nicely without cooking if you want to serve immediately. Otherwise just mixing everything and leaving it for a while works great too, especially if you are taking it along to a picnic.

3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons white balsamic
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cans (5 oz or 151g each) tuna packed in olive oil
1/2 lb or 225g purple kale (I medium head – bigger or smaller will still work.)
1 15.5 oz or 439g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup or 170g grape tomatoes
3 inner stalks celery with some leaves
3/4 cup or 100g pitted ripe black olives
3.5 oz or 100g roasted red peppers
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop your garlic and put it in a big salad bowl with the vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper while you get on with the rest of the salad. This takes a little of the sharpness off of the garlic.

Cut your little tomatoes in half. Pull the strings off of the celery and chop it into pieces.

Remove the hard stems from your kale and cut the bigger leaves into smaller pieces. Small leaves can be left intact. If you are using thicker dark green kale, slice it finely.

How could I resist?!

Squeeze the tuna oil into the salad bowl with the garlic and vinegar and give it a stir and a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set the tuna aside for later.

Add in the kale and use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves.

Slice your olives and roasted peppers.

Put everything, including the rinsed cannellini beans, into the bowl with the garlic, vinegar and oil. Toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the tuna and toss again. (Or set it on the top of the salad.)