Caribbean Rum Coconut Pie

I have been absent from this blog (but not from the kitchen) for a few months. There have been many recipes that haven’t made it from the kitchen to the computer – other priorities beckoned. I just returned from St. Croix and enjoyed many delicious fresh coconut dishes. The one thing I was craving was coconut cream pie – but there was none to be found on the island (I checked)  Here’s a great recipe I created today that is short on prep time and big on taste.

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Ingredients:

1 ready to bake rolled pie crust, brought to room temperature
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla bean paste or extract

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 cup tru whip or cool whip, thawed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Carefully roll out pie crust onto 9 inch pie plate, using  pie weights to help keep shape. Bake 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool.

Decrease oven temperature to 230 degrees F.
Spread the coconut out evenly on a baking sheet and bake it, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 -10 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, eggs, sugar, flour and salt and mix well. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Add rum and continue stirring consistently for 1 minite more. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the toasted coconut and the vanilla extract.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and chill until firm, about 3-4 hours.
top with whipped topping and with the remaining coconut. Store leftovers lightly covered in the refrigerator.

Perfect Peach Cobbler

When I was buying peaches for my first Alpha Bakers project, I found a great local source for fresh picked peaches – so of course I had to go back for more. This peach cobbler is super easy to make, uses one of my favorite baking ingredients (those amazing candied walnuts from Trader Joe’s) and tastes delicious!

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Filling ingredients:

6 cups ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Topping ingredients:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 ounces (1 stick) butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1/2 cup candied walnuts (or chopped almonds, if you prefer)

2-3 tablespoons almond milk or water

pinch of salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large bowl, toss peaches with lemon juice, then add all filling ingredients. Mix thoroughly and set aside to macerate at least 30 minutes. For the topping, place chunked butter in a plastic sandwich bag and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor except almond milk and pulse for 30 seconds.  Add chilled butter, then add almond milk one tablespoon at a time until mixture resembles coarse crumbs like this:

cobbler topping

Pour peach filling in a buttered 9 by 9 inch baking dish. Crumble topping evenly over top of peaches. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until peaches are bubbly and topping is medium brown. Cool 30 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Easy Broccoli Gratin

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This is the perfect side dish for when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare but you want a hot savory dinner. This can be made the night before, then cover and put it in the fridge. On the way home,  just grab a rotisserie chicken and pop this in the oven while you set the table. Dinner on the table on 30 minutes – how easy is that?

Ingredients

8 cups broccoli, roughly chopped

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups half and half

1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (I like these)

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Directions
Preheat oven to 375° F. Fill a large saucepan with 1/2  inch of water, then add about 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil. Place the broccoli in the saucepan and steam 3 to 5 minutes, until just tender.  Drain thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the half and half and simmer until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss with the broccoli.
Transfer the broccoli mixture to a shallow 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining half cup of cheese and the panko bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Manicotti with Fresh Basil and Parsley

Manicotti

Cravings…everyone has cravings, right?  I have had a craving for this dish since we moved to sunny California three years ago. California is a wonderful place to live – the ocean, the mountains, the weather, the wine….a foodies’ paradise too, with all of the fresh fruits and vegetables available year round. They have some stellar restaurants here. The one thing I haven’t found is a real authentic Italian restaurant. I’m not talking “new american” Italian cuisine – I’m looking for an old school, dimly lit place, the menu filled with old family recipes hand carried over on the boat by great grandma Maria.  The kind of place they would film “The Godfather Part 4” in (hey you never know…..) I have been to several wonderful old school Italian restaurants in New York City and also in St. Louis in an area known as “The Hill” where there are a couple dozen amazing and authentic Italian restaurants.

This recipe is an authentic manicotti made with crespelle (italian crepes), not those ridged tubular noodles called manicotti shells in the store. It takes some time but it is actually very simple to prepare – and the results are so worth it! The crespelle are made just like french dessert crepes – the technique takes a little practice – but after a few tries you will have your crepes all ready to stuff with the ricotta mixture.

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The photo is a little blurry because I’m moving the pan around…you have to get the crepes very thin and just lightly browned. I always make the sauce first, then the crepes, then the filling.  Bake 20 minutes in the oven and you have one amazing dinner.

Ingredients:

Marinara Sauce

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped fine

2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic (cloves or the jar kind found in the produce section)

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons fresh italian parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style, divided

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

salt to taste

Crespelle Batter

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Ricotta filling

1 8 ounce container part skim ricotta cheese

8 ounces shredded mozarella, divided

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh italian parsley

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and sautee until just lightly browned. Add the crushed tomatoes, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring often.  (you will be making the crepes and filling while this is cooking)  Add the wine, salt, pepper and herbs and simmer 10 more minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon basil for garnish.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients for ricotta filling, reserving 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Store in refrigerator until you finish the crepes.

Make the crepes by whisking together the eggs, milk and slightly cooled melted butter in a chilled mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the flour and salt until the mixture is smooth. Lightly coat an 8 inch nonstick skillet with olive oil and place the pan over medium heat. With a 1/4 cup measuring cup or small ladle, pour the batter in the middle of the pan. Turn the pan at an angle and shake from side to side to coat the entire bottom of the pan with batter. Cook only about 30 seconds, or until lightly browned on bottom. Turn crepe over with a large spatula and cook 20 – 30  seconds more. Stack the crepes on a plate lined with waxed paper between each layer.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan with with 2 cups of the marinara sauce. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta about an inch from the end of each crepe. Roll evenly into a tube, keeping the filling even as you roll. Place seam side down in the sauce filled pan. Repeat with the remaining crepes. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over top of the manicotti, then sprinkle remaining mozarella over top. Cover loosely with foil and bake approximately 20 minutes, until the sides of the pan are bubbling. Let sit 10 minutes to firm up the filling. Top each serving with reserved fresh basil.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Pecans

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This month I am writing exclusively about Thanksgiving recipes – why not? We are planning on trying some new things this year to shake things up. Beef instead of the big turkey, some new sides, and a pumpkin cheesecake – recipe to follow. My dad, who is an awesome cook, will be doing a lot of the cooking and is bringing some of his longtime favorite recipes. Every couple of days I will try something different and share my favorites…this is a new favorite and not just for turkey day…

Ingedients:

2 acorn squash

4 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons maple syrup

6 pats unsalted butter

4 tablespoons chopped pecans

Pinch each ( about 1/4 teaspoon) of ground cloves and nutmeg

Directions:

Trim ends so the squash will lay flat while baking. Wash, then cut each squash in half and clean out the centers. Score each half vertically and diagonally with a sharp knife. Salt and pepper each half.  In order, sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1½ pats of butter, pinch each of cloves and nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon pecans in cavity of each squash half. Bake at 350°F until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Here are the ingredients…and this is what it should look like right before it goes in the oven. If you like, you can cut into quarters to serve – so your guests will have enough room on their plate for everything!

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Slow Cooker Browned Beef Stew

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This is a super easy way to have a hot and savory dinner on the table fast. I took another 10 minutes to make some Bisquick biscuits to top it off.  This recipe makes 4-6 hearty servings.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 pounds cubed beef stew meat

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 can Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup

8 ounces water

2 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 pound baby carrots

1 small onion, sliced

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste

Directions:

Place cubed beef in ziploc bag, and toss with flour. Place in heated saucepan with olive oil and brown beef evenly on each side – approximately 10 minutes.

Add beef, soup, water, onion, carrots and potatoes to crockpot. Cook on “high” for 5 1/2 hours.  Stir in wine and remaining ingredients and cook an additional 30 minutes.

Notes: Make sure you buy “golden mushroom” soup and not cream of mushroom soup. I found some nice rainbow baby heirloom carrots and they added a colorful touch to the dish. You can use any hearty red wine  – I used Barbera but pretty much any red wine will work. If you have port, that is even better…

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Mini Pumpkin Custards

mini pumpkin custards

These little treats are a great substitute for pumpkin pie – and with only 150 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein – you don’t have to save them for a special meal like Thanksgiving.

adapted from Very Best Baking

Ingredients:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin

1 can (12 ounces) Evaporated Fat Free Milk

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and dry ingredients. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour evenly into 6 ounce ramekins and place on baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until soft-set (knife inserted into ramekin comes out almost clean). Cool on wire rack for two hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel, if desired. pumpkincustards