Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mitford Series Week 2: Louella's Buttermilk Chess Pie

You, like me, may be wondering why this pie is called chess pie.  After looking it up on Wikipedia, I learned that no one really knows why it's called that, but there are a few theories. One is that the look and consistency of the pie is like that of soft cheese.  After making this pie, it seems like a plausible explanation.  It is a cross between a sugar cream pie and a custard pie...very sweet and very eggy and looks a little like soft cheese.  Another theory is that the pie kept well in a pie chest.  Chest pie turned to chess pie eventually.  The last is my favorite. Once there was a clever housewife (domestic engineer) who created a new type of pie.  When her husband wanted to know what her delicious new creation was called, her not so clever answer was "It's jes pie."  Just pie in a southern accent turned into Chess pie eventually.  It is an apt name for this pie.  It's not too fancy, but it's oh so tasty.  If you don't want to make this pie, please take note of the pie crust recipe, also from the Mitford Cookbook.  It is the perfect crust and would please the pickiest 4-H judges in the "flakiness" category.  

Louella's Buttermilk Chess Pie
1/2 cup unsalted butter melted and cooled, more for greasing the pie pan
1/2 recipe Pastry for a Double Crust (see below)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk (I used low-fat.)
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice (I used lime)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of salt

1.  Butter your pie dish.  I like to use clear so that I can see if the crust is done on the bottom.Roll out crust and press into dish.  
2.  Mix sugar and flour.  Add beaten eggs.  Add the butter and buttermilk.  Mix well after each addition.
3.  Stir in the lemon juice, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt.
4.  Pour into the crust and bake at 400 for 15 min.  Then lower heat to 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Mine actually went for 45 minutes.  It will be lightly browned on the top...kind of reminded me of creme brulee in appearance. Cool before serving.

It is very good slightly warm.  I stored the leftovers in the fridge, and it made a very tasty, if unhealthy breakfast.  

Pastry for a Double Pie Crust
***Remember to halve this recipe if making this pie.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup butter chilled and diced
1/2 cup shortening chilled and diced
1 TBSP sour cream
4-5 TBSP ice water.

1. Place flour, salt and sugar in large food processor and mix.
2. Add butter and quickly pulse five times.  Repeat separately with shortening and then sour cream.
3. Pour into a large bowl and add ice water until dough starts to form.  Form into two disks and place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.  (If you half the recipe, make just one disk.)  

The recipe suggests cooling the crust for 30 more minutes after you put it in the pie dish.  I worked quickly and didn't have to do this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Insanely Delicious Apple Streusel

This is one of  the best apple recipes ever, and it is very simple to make. Here is the link:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen: Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Bryce did not have school today because of the Columbus Day holiday.  I wanted to plan a simple Halloween activity that would be fun for the boys, which led to the chocolate pretzels.  This was a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) activity a few years ago, and I've been making them ever since.  They are fast, easy, cute, not too messy, and most importantly yummy.  

The first step is to gather the children, wash their hands and fingernails, and make them behave!

That's better!

1/2 bar Chocolate Flavored Almond Bark
1 bag pretzel rods
1 large shaker of sprinkles (I bought Halloween themed sprinkles from ALDI)

1. Cover a large cookie sheet with a strip of wax paper.
2. Melt chocolate in the microwave according to package directions.  Stir well.
3. Dip a pretzel into the chocolate and use a spoon to pour chocolate over the length of the pretzel leaving about an inch at the top.  ( I do three at a time.)

4. Hold the chocolate over the wax paper and shake on the sprinkles.  
5. Let set on the wax paper until hardened.  Then put them in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.         Store in a Ziplock bag.

These make cute gifts.  Put them in a clear plastic bag and tie with a ribbon.   

Mitford Series Week 1: Puny's Chicken and Dumplings

Warning: this is not a quick recipe.  You will need to be home for several hours for this one.  Everything is fresh and from scratch.  No pre-cooked chicken, pre-made shortcuts please.  The work is well worth it I guarantee you.  

You will need to start the chicken stock first.  All the vegetables are rough chopped.

Puny's Chicken Stock
(from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook 2004, pg 137)

1 (3-4 lb) chicken, rinsed and giblets removed (the plastic bag in the cavity of the chicken)
2 large onions, quartered
2 large carrots, sliced thick
3 stalks celery, sliced thick
10 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
3 sprigs fresh parsley
4 quarts cold water

In a large pot, combine all ingredients, adding water last.  Bring to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2-3 hours.  Remove chicken.  Strain and discard the vegetables.

Puny's Chicken and Dumplings 

2 cups self-rising flour (more for rolling out dumplings)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 1/2 cups Puny's Chicken Stock
3 TBSP unsalted butter
4 cups cooked chicken meat (from the chicken stock)
1 cup milk

1.  Combine flour, salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl.
2.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until coarse crumb consistency 
3.  Add buttermilk and stir with fork just until dough forms.
4.  Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface (put a sheet of wax paper down for easy clean-up) to 1/8 in thick and cut into 1 inch squares.
5.  Bring the 4 1/2 cups of stock to a rolling boil in the large pot and drop dumplings in one at a time so that they don't stick, stirring gently occasionally.
6.  Put chicken meat on top of dumplings and pour the milk over all.
7.  Cover, reduce heat to med. low, and simmer for 20 min.  Do not open the cover.
8.  Add more milk, if it's too dry and season with salt and pepper if needed. 

I served my on top of homemade mashed potatoes.  

For more information about the Mitford books or how to purchase them please visit:

Working My Way Through Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader

Throughout the next couple months, I plan on trying out some of the recipes in the Mitford cookbook and sharing them with you.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Mitford novels, they are about an Episcopal minister living in the small quaint southern village of Mitford, North Carolina.  There are many colorful characters, and the recipes come from all these fictional folk. Please visit Jan Karon's website at for information about the series, the cookbook, and where to order them.  I highly recommend these books.  

If you'd like to get started with the series the first book is called At Home in Mitford.  This is the review of the book:

Father Tim, a cherished small-town rector, is the steadfast soldier in this beloved slice of life story set in an American village where the grass is still green, the pickets are still white, and the air still smells sweet. The rector's forthright secretary, Emma Garret, worries about her employer, as she sees past his Christian cheerfulness into his aching loneliness. Slowly but surely, the empty places in Father Tim's heart do get filled. First with a gangly stray dog, later with a seemingly stray boy, and finally with the realization that he is stumbling into love with his independent and Christian-wise next-door neighbor. Much more than a gentle love story, this is a homespun tale about a town of endearing characters-- including a mysterious jewel thief--who are as quirky and popular as those of Mayberry, R.F.D. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to the Paperback edition. 

The recipes are homestyle, southern, and from scratch!  I will not be following the order of the series, but will pick recipes based on what I think sounds good for the week.  First up is Puny's Chicken and Dumplings.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Soft Pretzels

I usually try to make healthy dinners for my kids.  Occasionally on the weekend, we are bad and eat something like ice cream for dinner.  Tonight, I made soft pretzels.  I used my stand mixer with dough hook attachment to knead.  The dough was very sticky, so I ended up adding a bit more flour.  I made these pretzels using cinnamon and sugar rather than coarse salt. Then made a simple glaze with powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to drizzle on top and to use as a dip.   

Fall Decorating

Can you guess which item on the table got snickers from a couple of women at TJ Max while I was carrying this treasure around the store?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Just thought I'd share this link for perfect scrambled eggs.  I follow the recipe exactly, and they come out great every time.  

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Baked Ham Sandwiches

I found the original recipe on submitted by Charlotte Rowe, but of course I didn't follow it exactly, adjusting the ingredients to my own tastes.  These are great for freezing and baking later.  I like to have them with soup or as a quick meal on the weekend.

1/3 c butter (softened)
1/3 c prepared yellow mustard
1/3 c dried minced onion
1 TBSP poppy seeds
8 hamburger buns
1 pkg deli sliced ham
8 slices swiss cheese
aluminum foil
1. In a bowl, combine butter, onion, mustard and poppy seeds. Spread about 1 tablespoon over both halves of buns. Layer ham and cheese on the bottom halves; replace tops. Wrap each sandwich in foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 6-10 minutes or until cheese is melted, or freeze for up to 2 months.
2. To use frozen sandwiches: Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until cheese is melted.