But Sugar is Sweeter

Posts tagged “Fourth of July

Star Spangled Apple Pie

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Between pinterest, google reader, and an ever growing cookbook collection, I read a lot of recipes.  Usually I file them away so that I can peruse my favorites  when trying to plan a menu.  But every once in a while a recipe is so memorable  that it pops into your head  a whole year later, while at the grocery store frantically trying to finalize the memorial day barbeque.  This recipe would fall into that category.

Normally I wouldn’t think of apple pie as a traditional Fourth of July dessert, but a star spangled apple pie – well that’s entirely patriotic.  It’s amazing what a few star cut outs can do for the “festive” level of a dessert.  Served with ice cream, a possibly a slice of cheddar cheese, it’s perfect for summertime.  And after all the saying does go, “As American as apple pie”.
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The other thing I really liked about this recipe was how simple it was – most of the ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.  But since the crust is really the “star” in this pie, I think  a homemade one is almost imperative.   I had a little bit of trouble with overbrowning, so next time I make this I plan to tent some foil over the top to help even cooking.  As you may know, I’m somewhat partial to sugar, but I truly did think that the sugar crystals elevated the crust from good to great, and would probably add even more when I make this for the next patriotic holiday.

Star Spangled Apple Pie

Makes 1 9-inch pie

  • Pie Crust
  • 6 medium/large Granny Smith apples (about 2½ lbs.), peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water (for egg wash)
  • Coarse sugar/Sugar sprinkles

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pie dough into approximately a 12-inch round.  (Keep the other half of the pie dough chilled for now.)  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the excess and crimping the edges.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes in order to help the crust hold it’s shape while baking.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples, sugars, flour, spices and lemon juice.  Toss well to combine.  When the bottom crust is finished chilling, pour the apple mixture and accumulated juices into the bottom pie crust and use a spatula to even the top out slightly.  Place thin slices of cold butter over the apples.   Roll out the remaining pie dough on a floured work surface.  Cut out numerous star shapes and use these to cover the top of the pie, using as much of the dough as possible.  Brush the top and edges of the crust with the egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Place the pie on the upper rack and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, about 50-60 minutes.  Watch carefully and tent with foil for the 2nd half of baking if necessary to prevent overbrowning. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slightly Adapted from Annie’s Eats

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Strawberry, Cream Cheese, Pretzel Squares

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This dessert is kind of hard to describe.  When you hear  “Strawberry-Pretzel” it sounds weird, and even slightly gross,  and I get that.  Let me just tell you that when I was describing it to my mom, before I could even finish telling her about the middle layer of the dessert, she said, “That is my all time favorite summer dessert!,” and then she was disappointed that she couldn’t partake in eating it.   I’m pretty sure that at some point in your life, you have eaten this dessert, perhaps without ever knowing what went into making it so delicious.  I made this for the 4th of July BBQ we had when we got back from our camping adventure and since I wanted it to be red white and blue, I added some blueberries to the cream cheese layer.  Unfortunately, you could hardly see the blue, or taste the blueberries, which should only tell you that this dessert should not simply be relegated to the 4th of July – you should probably just eat it all summer, or all year for that matter.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to take pictures of all the steps, but I was in kind of a hurry because  I started making this without first reading the instructions carefully.  This is probably the type of thing you should make the day before, or at least the morning of an evening BBQ, because jello takes a long time to set!  I cut down the chilling time significantly (because I needed it ready by 7 pm), and it still turned out fine, so I have indicated this change in the recipe below.  However, other than the waiting time between each layer, this was much simpler to put together than I imagined.  Each layer is super easy- just mix and pour into the pan.  The only baking required is the 10 minutes to set the pretzel crust.  I even took the liberty of “lightening” this dessert, and  it didn’t taste any different than I remember as a kid.  In fact, a lot of people call this “Strawberry, Pretzel Salad”, so I’m pretty sure that means that you can eat a lot of it without feeling guilty ;-).

Strawberry, Cream Cheese and Pretzel Squares

Hands on time: 20 minutes                Total Time with Cooling: 3 1/2 hours

Makes 1-13×9 inch pan, about 15-20 servings

  • 2 cups finely crushed pretzels (Pulse in the food processor)
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 10 T. butter (1 stick + 2 T.), melted
  • 1½ pkg. (10 oz. total) PHILADELPHIA 1/3 less fat Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pkg. (4 servings) JELL-O Brand Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
  • 1 pkg. (4 servings) Sugar Free JELL-O Brand Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
  • 1½ cups ice cold water (ice cubes are fine)
  • 1 qt. (4 cups) strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, if desired

Pretzel Layer: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and all the butter. Press into bottom of 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake 10 min. Cool.

Cream Cheese Layer: Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the milk until well blended. Gently stir in whipped topping and blueberries (if using).  Spread over cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Strawberry Jello Layer: While the above layers are in the fridge, stir boiling water into dry gelatin mix in large bowl for at least 2 minutes, until completely dissolved. Stir in ice cold water (it is fine if ice cubes are still in the water, they will melt).  Put bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes, then remove and stir in strawberries. Pour cool jello over the cream cheese layer, and allow to solidify in the fridge for about 3 hours.  Slice in squares and serve with a fork.

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally adapted from Kraft

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Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

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Usually I’m one of those people who remembers the 4th of July on the 3rd of July, but this year was different.  Since we have some organized and adventurous friends, we had a camping trip planned about month in advance of the holiday weekend.  This was a good lesson for me in the fact that “anticipation is half the fun”, because it really was exciting having something to look forward to.    I even bought some  red and blue marshmallow roasting sticks as well as color coordinating paper plates to take with us.  And of course, I was excited to plan some of the menu.  When I saw this smoked gouda pasta salad, I immediately bookmarked it as a must try, and I thought camping would be the perfect opportunity.

I’m very familiar with the Caprese type pasta salad, and while the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are tasty, I often feel that they are not strong enough flavors to create an interesting pasta salad.  I’ve made that type of salad many times, and usually end up picking out everything but the pasta.  That’s what I think is so great about this recipe – the pasta itself has some great flavor. It’s also really easy to make and requires pretty basic ingredients.  While you might not regularly buy  chipotle peppers in adobo sauce,  they add a lot of great flavor for a small cost.  The thing that used to annoy me about them is that most recipes only call for 1-2 peppers and I would inevitably let the leftovers sit in the fridge until they looked so gross that I didn’t feel guilty throwing them away- but I have found the solution.  Well, actually I should say that Sara over at Our Best Bites has found the solution: freeze the peppers in individual cubes of how much you might need.  See her post here to see what I’m talking about.  But seriously, don’t skip the chipotles- the adobo has very little spice but adds a smokey flavor that complements the gouda nicely.  Then you can make this pasta salad and eat it out of  individual ziplocs like we did on our picnic (classy I know).  Or don’t do that, and eat it like a normal person, out of a bowl – I’m pretty sure it will taste good either way.

By the way, we went to Mackinac Island.  You should totally make the trip if you live anywhere near Michigan, or even if you don’t.  I did not remember such cool places existing in Michigan – it’s kind of making me change my view of the Midwest (at least until winter comes :-)). IMG_1123

Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

Serves 10-12 as a side

  • 1 lb (16 oz) Mostaccioli pasta
  • 1/2 cup light Mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Milk (I used part skim, part cream)
  • 5 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  • 1 T. Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers
  • Salt and Ground Black Pepper To Taste
  • 2 pints  Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes
  • 30 whole Basil Leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)

1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent pasta from sticking.

2. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo sauce.

3. Add the pasta, halved tomatoes, cubed gouda and basil to the sauce in the large bowl.  Stir to incorporate, and add more salt and pepper to taste.  Chill before serving (or keep on ice in your camping cooler).

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

 

 

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S’more Nachos

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When John and I took a trip out to New Mexico over spring break, in addition to skiing, hiking and visiting with my in-laws, we got to try this great restaurant called Graham’s Grill.  (Side Note: it’s pretty nice to have parents-in-law that both happen to live in vacation spots :-)). The restaurant  combines the traditional flavors of the southwest but puts it’s own unique spin on them.  The chef, Lesley B. Fay recently came out with a cookbook called Straight From the Heart, and my mother-in-law was nice enough to surprise me at the end of the meal with my very own copy.    I have looked through the cookbook so many times trying to decide what to make but  I finally decided that I couldn’t pass up a recipe combining 2 of America’s greatest inventions – S’mores and Nachos.  (Another side note:  I used to think nachos were from Mexico – then I went there in college and searched every restaurant menu for them only to find out that they don’t actually serve nachos in Mexico… definitely an American creation.)

The original recipe called for deep frying tortillas, but after my recent frying disaster, I chose to make them in the oven instead .  It was actually a good reinforcement that never again do I need to fry anything, because the “chips” still came out crisp and delicious without having to mess with hot oil.  In fact, I think cinnamon-sugar chips would be a pretty great snack on their own – so next time I will likely make a double batch.  The recipe itself is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll have to say Lesley must be some kind of genius for thinking up the idea of “S’more nachos” in the first place!   If you really want to go crazy, you could try using ice cream as a dip for these nachos.   I’m sure this would be fabulous – warm cinnamon chips against cool ice cream –  but you might have to skip dinner all together if you want to try that.  So if you don’t have the pleasure of a campfire this Fourth of July, make this instead….It’s definitely easier than building a fire ;-).

S’more Nachos

Serves 3-4

For the chips:

  • 6-8 small (6 inch) flour tortillas
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T. cinnamon

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • chocolate syrup for drizzling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a dish.  Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter onto both sides of the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 side of each tortilla with a covering of cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Using a kitchen scissors (or knife), cut each tortilla  into 8-10 triangles.  Without overlapping, place triangles sugar side up on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges turn up.
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Remove chips from oven and combine into a pile on a small baking sheet or oven-proof dish.  Sprinkle  with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and marshmallows.  Turn the oven on broil, and place the baking sheet on the middle rack (too close to the heat will catch your marshmallows on fire).  Watch carefully until the marshmallows are browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle chocolate syrup over the chips.  Serve warm.

Before:
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And the Aftermath:
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– Nachos Adapted from from  Straight From the Heart by Lesley B. Fay.

– Cinnamon Chips adapted from Our Best Bites