Thursday, August 31, 2017

Peach Melba Pie

Though we're having very warm days in the central California valley (we are having multiple days of 100+ degree temps, yikes!), I can feel summer coming to a close.  My grandchildren are back in school. My summer flowers are looking a little peaked, soon I will be pulling them and replacing them with fall/winter flowers.  The sunflowers are hanging their heads, the pomegranates and apples will soon be picked. Fresh-picked fruits and vegetables are disappearing, I find myself going to the produce stand often to get more of this year's crop before it's gone.  My favorite fruit stand has quit picking peaches but I snagged a small bag recently. I think the thing I miss most, when summer is gone, is the fresh produce.

I've always been fond of the peach and raspberry combination.  The most common type of this dessert combination is a peach melba; a dessert of vanilla ice cream, peaches and raspberry sauce.  Combining the fruits in a streusel-topped pie, served with a scoop of ice cream, is a great rendition of the classic dessert. It is probably my last peach pie of the season and we all enjoyed it!

Normally I do a basic streusel topping for an open-faced pie, a streusel with brown sugar, oatmeal, etc. This streusel topping intrigued me as it has powdered sugar and baking powder in it. The result is the topping is light and almost creamy when baked, it oozes into the top layer of the pie as it bakes, similar to a brulee topping. My family isn't a big fan of almonds in baked goods so I left them out. I would've liked it but have to please the masses! I served this after dinner to my parents and shared with my next-door neighbors.  There were no leftovers!

Peach Melba Pie

Pie dough disk for single-dough pie

Peach-Raspberry Filling

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 pounds ripe peaches, halved, peeled, pitted and sliced about 1/2-inch thick
1 basket (pint) raspberries

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sliced almonds, if desired

Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured work surface to about 12 inches in diameter.  Transfer the dough to a pie plate.  Trim the excess dough to about 1/2 inch, roll edge under and flute and crimp.  Refrigerate about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line the refrigerated pie shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 20 minutes, until the crust begins to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

To make the streusel, combine all the streusel ingredients, except the almonds, and mix with a rubber spatula until the mixture resembles crumbly cookie dough. Add the almonds and mix to combine; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack set at the lower third of the oven. Mix the sugars, cornstarch, salt, lemon zest and juice.  Add the peaches and mix.  Gently sir in raspberries.

Add the fruit filling to the pre-baked pie shell.  Top with the almond streusel, sprinkling on a little at a time and covering the whole pie evenly. 

Bake on a foil or parchment-lined baking pan for 60 to 75 minutes, until the fruit starts to bubble around the sides.  Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Baked Honey Sriracha Lime Salmon

This recipe popped up on my Facebook feed the other day and I instantly knew I needed to try it.  We loved it! My Hubbers kept raving about the sauce.  It's a very easy dish to put together, would be a great meal on a busy week night.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy.  The sauce had a little "kick" to it but the honey provided enough sweetness to balance things out. 

The fish only takes about 15 minutes to bake, then it's broiled for a few minutes to get some char.  Don't forget to use aluminum foil on the pan, as you can see, the broiling made for a sticky mess on the foil. We loved topping the salmon with the extra sauce for that little extra spice!

Baked Honey Sriracha Lime Salmon

1 large salmon fillet or 4-6 individual (4-6 ounce) fillets
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup Sriracha sauce
2 limes (one juiced, one for slicing)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, grease lightly, and lay salmon on top. Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste.  Slice one lime thinly, and place the slices under the edgs of the salmon.

In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Stir in honey, Sriracha sauce, juice of one lime, soy sauce, and garlic.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes longer.

Pour 2/3 of the sauce over the salmon (reserve remaining sauce for later) and use a spoon or spatula to make sure the sauce covers all the salmon.  Fold the edges of the foil up around the salmon so the sauce doesn't spill out everywhere.

Bake for 15 minutes, then switch to a broil and cook another 4-5 minutes until the very edges of the salmon begin to char slightly, watch carefully so the whole salmon doesn't burn.

Top salmon with reserved sauce.

(Recipe adapted from
Sriracha is an Asian hot sauce and can be found in most grocery stores' Asian food aisles.  I bought this local honey at my favorite produce stand, it has the honeycomb inside!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nectarine Vanilla Pie

My sister recently told me about a nectarine pie she bought at our favorite local produce stand. I realized that, though I've baked with nectarines many times, I've never baked, nor had, a nectarine pie!  It was time to rectify that. It had to be just like making a peach pie, right? Off to my kitchen I went!  My favorite peach pie has a touch of almond extract in it, I think that really brings out the flavor of the peaches. I wanted to do something a little different with the nectarines so I decided vanilla would be the flavoring of choice.  The pie was so very yummy! We had a slice after dinner and I shared with my next-door neighbors. We also enjoyed a piece for breakfast the next day. My justification for this is it can't be any more calories than a few pieces of toast and jam. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

As I've mentioned before, I keep a jar of vanilla sugar on my countertop.  Whenever I use a vanilla bean I throw the scraped bean in my jar.  I add sugar when it gets low. The vanilla infuses the sugar with the most luscious flavor.  And it smells heavenly, too.  Sometimes I'll walk by and lift the lid just so I can smell it! I use this vanilla sugar all the time; in baking and homemade whipped cream. If you don't have vanilla sugar you can easily make enough for this recipe.  In a food processor, combine the 2/3 cup sugar with 1/2 vanilla bean, which has been cut crosswise in three or four pieces. Blend until the vanilla bean is finely minced.  Sift the vanilla sugar mixture over a bowl, discarding any large chunks of bean.

Nectarine Vanilla Pie

Pie dough disks for 2-crust pie (homemade or from the deli section)
2/3 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 to 4 pounds firm, but ripe nectarines, pitted and sliced (about 10 cups)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine vanilla sugar and flour.  Add the nectarines and toss gently to coat. Let sit 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (this helps get the juices flowing!)

Roll out 1 pie crust disk on floured surface and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Spoon nectarine mixture into crust; dot with butter. Roll out second pie crust disk on floured surface to a 12-inch round.  Drape over fruit mixture, trim overhang to 1 1/2 inches. Fold top and bottom edges under, pressing together to seal.  Crimp edges decoratively and cut small slits in the crust for steam to escape (or make a lattice or other decorative crust). If desired, brush crust lightly with whipping cream and sprinkle with sugar. Place pie on rimmed aluminum foil-lined baking sheet (trust me on this, you don't want it overflowing on your oven floor!) Bake until crust is golden, nectarines are tender, and juices bubble thickly, about 1 hour. Transfer pie to rack and cool until lukewarm.  Of course, it's best when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata

I put an SOS call out to some clients (who, over the years, have also become friends!) to see if they still had figs available. The next day I received 2 boxes of just-picked black figs.  Thank you, Susan & John! My Mom loves figs so I always try to make fig jam each summer. 

Just-picked! Aren't they beautiful?

I made a batch of jam one night after work and was left with a box of figs to use up.  Though I love to munch on fresh figs, a girl can only eat so many of them!  I started searching online for fig recipes and found this crostata from Martha Stewart. A crostata is basically a free-form pie, no pie pan is involved, just roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper, add the filling, fold over the edges and bake.  Super easy! We loved this crostata! The almond filling was a nice complement to the fresh figs.  The crust is very buttery and flaky.  My husband, step-daughter, and I each had a slice then I drove across town and delivered the rest of the crostata to my parents. They, too, loved it! (I also left fig jam for Mom!) My Dad, of course, had to have a scoop of ice cream with his portion! This is a wonderful late-summer fruit dessert.

Now in the interest of fair reporting I must admit I messed up on the dough.  I misread the recipe and used 1 1/2 sticks butter.  I discovered this as I was rolling it out, my dough was very soft. Oops!  I added extra flour as I rolled it out so was able to use the dough.  It spread more than it probably should have but it still tasted great. I'm sure a crostata made with the correct amount of butter in the dough would be much prettier than mine turned out to be!  In this case, taste won over form!

Fresh Fig and Almond Crostata

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound ripe fresh figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

To make dough: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if, necessary, gradually add up to 2 tablespoons more water). Do not overmix. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

To make filling: In food processor, combine almonds and sugar; process until finely ground. Add egg, butter, flour, vanilla, and salt; pulse until smooth, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine figs and lemon juice; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a large lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to a 14-inch round. Spread almond filling in center, leaving a 2 inch border; top with fig mixture.  Fold border over edge of filling, pleating all around; press down gently to seal. If desired, brush dough with an egg wash.

Lifting edges of parchment, transfer crostata to a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.  Let cool on baking sheet at least 30 minutes. To serve, cut crostata into wedges.

Monday, August 7, 2017


According to family lore, tacos were the dinner menu for my first birthday.  I have no recollection of that birthday party but at every birthday I can remember tacos were served. Even as an adult I would head over to my parents' house for my annual taco celebration. My parents both have health issues now and my Mom can't cook like she used to, especially for a large gathering. I try to help out with their meals so thought a taco dinner would be a fun way to feed them and gather the family together. Tacos for 12 it was! We had a nice time but the negative about making tacos is the kitchen mess.  It took me until 8:30 to get my kitchen back to normal again!

No taco dinner would be complete without guacamole and chips. Guacamole is a true "add a little bit of this, little bit of that, until it tastes right" recipe.  We like a variety of items in our guacamole; I use jalapenos, cilantro, tomatoes, and red onion.  After smashing the avocados I season with salt and pepper and add fresh lime juice.  Then I add the other ingredients, tasting as I go, until I get the flavor the way I want it. Depending on who I'm serving, I'll use less jalapenos and onions. Guacamole is easy to make and never lasts long!

I chop up all the ingredients and add until I get just the right taste!

My favorite guacamole-making tool is my pastry blender! We like our guacamole a little chunky so this tool works well!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

English Muffin Bread

July has been a whirlwind! As a result, my little blog got neglected.  I've been cooking and baking, doing some of my crafting; just not taking photos or chronicling my adventures. July started with a bang when my Hubbers had a series of small strokes.  A trip to the ER and a week in the hospital with many follow-up visits to physicians made the first few weeks of the month fly by.  Thankfully, he is recovering nicely and should have no lasting effects from the stroke. The last two weeks of the month found us at the drag strip, pursuing my family's passion.  We lived out of our motorhome at the track.  I managed to make three meals a day, for 5-6 people, out of the teeny-tiny kitchen.  I must admit to being relieved that we are home again where I have much more room to play!

One morning in the RV, I was making breakfast for my troops.  Part of the meal was English muffins.  As I was toasting them I remembered that I used to make an English muffin bread. The recipe comes from a Fleischmann's Yeast cookbook that I've probably had for 40 years. It's an easy yeast bread to make, with no kneading required and only one rise.  It makes a wonderful bread, every bit as good as an English muffin, including all the nooks and crannies for the butter to melt into. I don't know why it's been years since I've baked some! It makes two loaves and freezes nicely. A few slices popped in the toaster makes for a great morning snack!


English Muffin Bread

2 packages active dry yeast
6 cups unsifted flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
Corn meal

Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and soda in a large bowl.  Heat liquids until very warm (120-130 degrees).  Add to dry mixture; beat well.  Stir in rest of flour to make a stiff batter.  Spoon into two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans that have been greased and sprinkled with corn meal.  Sprinkle tops with corn meal. Cover; let rise in warm place for 45 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from pans immediately and cool.