Southern Pecan Pie

Southern Pecan Pie (secret ingredient)

Southern Pecan Pie

For as long as I can remember, my favorite pie was Southern Pecan Pie. I remember when I was a child, my family visited our Uncle and his family for Christmas. Their kitchen was huge and they had the most kitchen gadgets and appliances I had ever seen. It was fascinating to observe how my favorite dishes were prepared, especially the pies! I desperately wanted to help but, was told I was too young. That day I made a resolution to myself to learn how to bake pies.

A few years later, my grandmother began to teach me how to bake. She always insisted on using JR Watkins extracts for her baked goods. I didn’t realize how much of a flavor difference it made until I tried using other brands. Even though I carefully followed my grandmother’s recipes, my baked goods never tasted as good as hers, then I realized why she was so adamant to use JR Watkins extracts and spices. Their extracts are true to flavor and don’t have an aftertaste like other brands. Granny’s secret ingredient is now my secret ingredient.

Today, my family is grateful for my commitment to learn the art of baking pies. Recently, my husband had a craving for Southern Pecan Pie. An hour later his pie was cooling on the rack.  The following is our favorite recipe to achieve the rich buttery filling that makes Southern Pecan Pie so decadent.

Prep Time: 10 min.          Cook Time: 45-50 min.          Serves: 8-10          Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

9-inch unbaked pie crust

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 tsp. salt

1 tsp. JR Watkins Original Double Strength Vanilla

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Butter Extract

1 heaping cup pecan halves

Directions:

Heat oven to 350ºF. Prepare pie crust and place in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, butter extract and vanilla; mix well. Pour filling into cold, unbaked pie crust (remember, cold crust plus hot oven equals flaky crust); sprinkle with pecan halves. Cover with pie crust shield to prevent over-browning of the crust.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until center is set. (Toothpick will come out clean when pie is “done”). You can remove the pie crust shield for the last 5 minutes if necessary. Allow to cool completely before serving.

How do you like to top your Southern Pecan Pie? Do you prefer a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream?

Do you have a fond memory of how you learned to bake? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Here are some items we find useful when baking:

JR Watkins Original Double-Strength Vanilla
JR Watkins Original Double-Strength Vanilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Piece Measuring Spoon Set
5pc SS Measuring Spoon Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silicone Pie Crust Shield
This Silicone Pie Crust Shield prevents over-browning and is easy to clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kozy Nook, Gourmet Kitchen Shoppe
The Kozy Nook, Gourmet Kitchen Shoppe

Visit our website to view all our baking essentials.

 

 

 

Homemade Creamy Almond Milk

Creamy Almond Milk Quick and Easy

Creamy Almond Milk

 

My primary reason for learning how to make Creamy Almond Milk is to add flavor to coffee. I really enjoy adding creamer to my coffee. For years, my creamer of choice was half and half. However, in an effort to reduce calories, I decided to try some alternatives. First, I tried soy milk and really enjoy the taste, but became increasingly more concerned about the list of ingredients. Next, I tried Almond Milk. The taste was acceptable, but after a few days I noticed a rash developing. The rash disappeared after I discontinued drinking the almond milk. This was puzzling because, I consume almonds almost daily without any skin issues. After investigating the ingredients, I decided the possible cause was due to the preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients.

A few days later, a friend mentioned that she makes her own and explained the simple steps to make creamy almond milk. With just a couple of personal tweaks, I decided on this very basic recipe. The difference in flavor is amazing. It gives my coffee a wonderful almond, vanilla flavor. Occasionally, I even use it in place of milk for cereal and oatmeal.

Here are the quick and easy, step-by-step directions for making Creamy Almond Milk.

You will need:

1 cup raw almonds (preferably organic)

3 cups filtered water (plus more for soaking almonds)

1 Tbsp. vanilla (I only use JR Watkins Original Double Strength Vanilla)

1-2 Tbsp. raw honey (completely optional but, really good)

Soak Almonds
Soak Almonds Overnight using filtered water.

 

 

Cover the Almonds in filtered water and soak for 24 hours or at least overnight. The almonds will swell and soften slightly as they absorb some of the water. This will make a creamy almond milk with less grit. After soaking, rinse and place in a blender.

Filtered Water in Pyrex Measure Cup
Filtered Water

 

Pour three cups of filtered water over the almonds and set the blender to the puree setting.

Blending almonds in Vitamix
Blend until creamy.

 

Puree in blender until thick and creamy.

 

Draining almonds using a nut bag
Drain the almond mixture

 

Drain the almond mixture using a stainless steel double mesh strainer, lined with a nut bag. You will need to stir occasionally to enable most of the milk to drain.

Squeeze milk from almonds.
Squeeze milk from almonds.

 

Squeeze excess milk from the bag. Pour the milk, vanilla and honey into the blender.

 

Blend ingredients just until combined
Blend ingredients just until combined

 

Blend for about 30 seconds to a minute, just enough to combine the ingredients. Pour into a glass pitcher and place in the refrigerator.

 

Homemade Creamy Almond Milk
Homemade Creamy Almond Milk

 

 

 

The Creamy Almond Milk will stay fresh for 3-4 days.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Please leave a comment to share how you use almond milk and different variations you like to use.

 

 

Use the remaining almond mixture to make almond meal.

Drying almonds in warm oven.
Dry almonds in warm oven.

 

Heat the oven on its lowest setting. Spread the leftover almond meal on a lined baking sheet and place in the heated oven until thoroughly dry. Pour dried almond meal in a blender and process until fine.

Use the almond meal in cookies, cakes, bread or a variety of other recipes. It is especially delicious when used as breading for chicken strips.

Here are some of the culinary tools I use to prepare Creamy Almond Milk.

 
Simply click the image to learn more about each product:

Krona Stainless Steel Deluxe Double Mesh Strainer by Norpro
Stainless Steel Double Mesh Strainer

 

Nut Milk Bag by Rawsome Creations
Nut Milk Bag

 

Anchor Hocking 8-Cup Batter Bowl With Red Lid from Fox Run
8-cup Batter Bowl with red lid.

 

1 qt Milk Bottle
This vintage style, ceramic Milk Bottle keeps milk colder than plastic or cardboard.

 

JR Watkins Original Double-Strength Vanilla
JR Watkins Original Double-Strength Vanilla

 

Visit The Kozy Nook
View our complete line of culinary tools.
A collage of whisks for every cooking need.

Gourmet Cooking Utensils

Kozy Nook Has Your

Gourmet Cooking Utensils

So, what’s the difference between an ordinary kitchen gadget and gourmet cooking utensils? The cost? Some gourmet cooking utensils can be quite expensive, but not always. Are they utensils that only professional chefs have access to? That’s not typically the case either. Let’s take a look at the whisk, one of the most common utensils found in most every kitchen. Are whisks considered gourmet cooking utensils?

Technically a whisk refers to a utensil used in a rapid, sweeping motion for the purpose of moving an item. In the kitchen, our intention is to move ingredients. Whisks are vital for incorporating air into eggs and batters or blending ingredients to a smooth consistency. While most kitchens have a basic whisk for whipping up scrambled eggs, others are stocked with several types designed for more specific purposes. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular styles.

Balloon Whisk Baking Utensil
Stainless Steel Balloon Whisk, click image for complete details.

A basic Balloon Whisk is designed for general all-purpose whipping. Most popular sizes range from a mini 6- inch, up to 13-inches. Commonly used for eggs, pancake batter, roux, dressing and a variety of other applications. The rounded structure conforms perfectly to the shape of mixing bowls. Generally, a 9-inch size is sufficient for many purposes and every kitchen should include at least one of these.

Stainless Steel Aerator Cage Whisk Gourmet Kitchen Utensils
Aerator Cage Whisk, click image for complete details

An Aerator Cage Whisk is similar to a balloon whisk except, its unique design includes a large head and an additional wire cage inside which contains a metal ball. It is used for heavy whipping and thoroughly blends thicker batters, culminating in an extra-smooth texture.

Danish Dough Whisk Baking Utensil
The Danish Dough Whisk, click image for complete details.

The Danish Dough Whisk has a unique design, which at first glance, doesn’t appear to be very useful. However, it has become essential in my kitchen for mixing sourdough starter, incorporating delicate ingredients into batter and mixing dough for cookies or biscuits. It requires fewer strokes to accomplish incredible results.

 

 

 

Stainless Steel Flat Whisk Gourmet Cooking Utensils
Stainless Steel Flat Whisk, click image for complete details.

A Flat Whisk is routinely used to prepare a roux or sauce in a skillet. It is formed to efficiently sweep across the surface of your skillet while stirring to prevent lumps. This results in a smoother roux or sauce.

Whisk Coil Whip Gourmet Kitchen Utensil
Whip Whisk, click image to view complete details.

The Coil Wire Whisk is constructed with an individual wire, coiled into a balloon shape. It’s primarily used for liquids or beating eggs. Simply place it in a bowl and pump the handle up and down to distribute liquids. This springing action whips and fluffs batters.

Sauce Master Gourmet Kitchen Utensil
Sauce Master kitchen utensil, click image for complete details.

The peculiar style of the Sauce Master consists of a main loop encased in a wire that is coiled around it. It is wonderful for preparing sauces, gravy, pudding, gelatin and batters. The long handle and angle allow it to be used in deep pots or bowls. The whisk head covers more surface than a traditional balloon whisk.

Mini Saucinator
The Saucinator, click to order yours.

The Saucinator is an extraordinary whisk similar to the Sauce Master, with a few notable improvements. The heat resistant silicone coil covers more pan surface to prevent scorching and will not damage your cookware. The coil that extends up the handle performs like an additional whisk. Your sauce, gravy, pudding or batter will be even smoother. The silicone construction makes it easier to clean. It is available in a large size for deeper pots and a small size for saucepans. It’s another essential whisk in my kitchen.

Flat Coil Whisk Kitchen Utensil
Flat Coil Whisk, click image for complete details.

The Flat Coil Whip bears a resemblance to the Master Sauce Whisk and Saucinator. However, it is smaller at only about 8-inches and the head isn’t quite as angled. It does have many handy capabilities. Its small, slender size enables it to fit easily into small containers to quickly whip up an egg wash for pastries, incorporate milk into eggs for light and fluffy scrambled eggs, mix cornstarch with water for a thickener or anytime you need to mix a small amount of liquid ingredients quickly and easily.

Granny Fork Gourmet Kitchen Utensils
Granny Fork, click image for complete details.

A Granny Fork, efficiently incorporates eggs, butter or other liquids with dry ingredients. It has slightly offset stainless steel tines and a sturdy soft grip handle. Due to its size, it can also be used to shred meat, mix together meatloaf or for cookie dough. Although, not usually thought of as a whisk, it can function as one in many instances.

Rotary Beater Whisk Baking Utensil
Rotary Beater Whisk, click image for complete details.

The Rotary Beater Whisk is a throwback to a time before electric mixers. It brings back memories when, as a child, I was not allowed to operate the electric mixer. I have always loved to experiment in the kitchen so, I didn’t allow that minor restriction deter me. The rotary beater would be my alternative. At my young age, the rotary beater seemed so awkward to handle. I always ended up with a mess to clean and usually didn’t achieve the results I was striving for. It was a dream come true when I finally saved up enough money from babysitting to buy my own electric hand mixer. I still keep a rotary whisk, more for sentimental reasons than practical purposes. Even now it seems a little awkward to use, but you never know, I might get the hang of it someday.

In conclusion, all kitchen gadgets, regardless of how common, are considered to be gourmet cooking utensils when they’re used to prepare a gourmet dish. What do you think? Do you remember a time when you were excited to receive a new kitchen utensil? Leave a comment and share with us.

Perfect Burger Press

 

Perfect Burger Press from Progressive Int'l.
Perfect Burger Press by Progressive Int’l.

This Perfect Burger Press by Progressive Int’l. makes it quick and easy to make hamburgers, turkey burgers or veggie burgers. The three-piece set includes a comfort grip pusher, dimple insert and non-skid base. The dimple insert enables the burger to cook more evenly.

 

Garlic Asiago Cheddar Burger

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Smoked Paprika

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Chipotle

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Granulated Black Pepper

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Coarse Sea Salt

2/3 cup Asaigo cheese, grated

2/3 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients until combined.

In a large bowl, gently combine ground beef, minced garlic and spices. Don’t over work the ground beef or, the burger will be tough. Divide into 6 balls and form patties using the Perfect Burger Press.

Cook burgers on a hot grill to desired doneness. Top with a mound of Asiago and Cheddar.  These burgers are just as delicious cooked indoors on an indoor George Foreman type of grill.

Here are some of our favorite tools for preparing perfect burgers:

Perfect Burger Press by Progressive Int'l.
The Perfect Burger Press by Progressive Int’l.

To order yours, click on the image

Garlic Twist by NexTrend
Clear Garlic Twist

Quickly minces garlic and is dishwasher safe.

JR Watkins Grinder Seasonings
JR Watkins Spices

Click the image to view the complete line

of JR Watkins spices and herbs.

 

 

Clean and Store Fresh Strawberries

Plump Sweet Strawberry
Plump Sweet Strawberry

Plump, sweet strawberries are such a healthful treat. One cup has only 50 calories and they’re a good source of vitamins A & C, potassium, folate and fiber. Utilizing the following method for cleaning and storing fresh strawberries helps to prolong the freshness so, you can enjoy every last berry.

Normally, we have to purchase twice the amount we need because, we typically eat half of the berries before we have a chance to use them in recipes.

Clean Fresh Strawberries
Wash fresh Strawberries in water, vinegar mixture.

Fill a large bowl or basin with 8 cups cold water and stir in one cup of apple cider vinegar. Carefully pour strawberries into water/vinegar mixture and gently swish to make sure all berries are wet. Allow to set 5 minutes, swishing gently every couple of minutes.

Dry Strawberries
Dry strawberries on dishtowel.

Place strawberries on a dishtowel or paper towels to dry. Discard any berries that show signs of mold and remove any bruised berries.  They will cause the other berries to break down sooner. Blot lightly with another dishtowel or allow to air dry.

Progressive Fresh Fruit & Veggie Keeper
Strawberries stored in Progressive Fresh Fruit & Veggie Keeper

Place a paper towel in bottom of storage container to absorb any moisture, fill with berries and place in refrigerator.

This is the best method we’ve found to clean and store fresh strawberries. The vinegar helps to kill bacteria and reduce mold yet, the flavor of the berry is not affected.

This water/vinegar method is good for cleaning most fruit and vegetables.  Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower probably need to set 10 minutes. If you get into the habit of soaking your produce as soon as you get it home from the market, you’ll be able to enjoy it whenever you need it for cooking or for a healthful snack.

Here are some culinary tools we like for preparing fresh strawberries:

Fresh Fruit and Veggie Keeper by Progressive
Progressive Fresh Fruit & Veggie Keeper
Strawberry Tomato Huller
Strawberry/Tomato Huller
Jole Strawberry Slicer
Strawberry Slicer
Push n Spin Strawberry Huller
Push ‘n Spin Huller by Progressive Int’l.
Stuffed Burger Press from Norpro

Stuffed Burger Prepared Fast and Easy

Stuffed Burgers in 3 Easy Steps

Stuffed Burger made with Stuffed Burger Press from Norpro
Juicy stuffed burger filled with cheese, onions and mushrooms.

 

This was the easiest stuffed burger I have ever assembled. I was able to easily fill the the burger with my favorite ingredients without making a mess. The filling stayed inside the burger while grilling and the cheese was deliciously melted as you can see from the image.

My husband stuffed his burger with swiss cheese, diced onions and mushrooms. I preferred a little attitude with my stuffed burger, so I filled mine with pepper jack cheese, diced jalapeños and caramelized onions for sweetness.

 

Stuffed Burger Maker with Removable Indention Tool
Stuffed Burger Press with removable indention tool.

 

 

If stuffed burgers are not your thing. The set includes a removable indention tool to allow you to prepare traditional patties.

 

Step 1:

Two Patties Need for Stuffed Burgers
You need two patties for each burger.

Prepare your favorite filling ingredients and set aside. Divide your ground meat into approximately 2-inch balls. You want the patties to completely encase your stuffing to prevent the filling from oozing out during grilling. If they’re too large, the patty will be too thick. With just a little practice, you will be able to make the perfect size to fit your personal preference. You will need two patties for each burger.

Two Patties Need for Stuffed Burgers
You need two patties for each burger.

Step 2:

Press the indention tool into the patties, add stuffing and season with your favorite spices.  Every member of the family will enjoy creating their own variations. Plan a burger night with lots of filling options.

Step 3:

Stuffed burger patty
Stuffed Burger Patty

The final step is to grill your burgers. If the weather is warm, we prefer to grill outdoors. During cool or rainy weather, we grill indoors using a George Foreman type grill. To add a smoky flavor when cooking indoors, I like to combine a little Liquid Smoke with barbecue sauce and baste liberally onto the burgers before grilling.


Grilled Bacon Mushroom Swiss

Stuffed Burgers

 

Grilled Bacon Mushroom Swiss Stuffed Burger
Grilled Bacon Mushroom Swiss Stuffed Burger

Ingredients:

5 pounds lean ground beef
10 slices bacon, chopped and cooked (not crispy)
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
JR Watkins Coarse Sea Salt and JR Watkins Granulated Black Pepper
2 cups finely diced onion
2 cups finely diced baby bella mushrooms
3 cups shredded Baby Swiss
JR Watkins Steak and Chop Seasoning Grinder (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat a grill for high heat. When the grill is hot, lightly oil the grate.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, bacon, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, garlic, salt and pepper until well blended. Make 20 balls. Prepare and fill patties as instructed above, distributing the onions, mushrooms and cheese evenly.  Make sure to enclose the filling and seal all of the edges of the patties together tightly. Liberally grind the Steak and Chop seasoning over the prepared patties.

3. Grill the patties for 8 to 10 minutes per side, or until meat is done according to your preference and cheese in the center is melted. Serve on a toasted bun with your favorite toppings and dressing.

PREP 15 mins

COOK 15 mins

READY IN 30 mins

Variation:

Substitute the beef with ground turkey or chicken and fill with a mixture of grated carrots, grated parsnips, finely diced bell pepper and feta.

 Here are a few links to our favorite kitchen gadgets for preparing stuffed burgers:

Purchase a Stuffed Burger Maker at 1. http://www.shop.thekozynook.com/Stuffed-Burger-Press-028901500508.htm?sourceCode=blog
Purchase your Stuffed Burger Maker Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic Twist by NexTrend
This Garlic Twist will quickly mince garlic, ginger, nuts and more. Purchase yours here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better Zester from Kitchen IQ
This Better Zester from Kitchen IQ features a non-stick grating surface and conveniently measures grated ingredients. Purchase yours here.
Better Zester II
Conveniently measures your grated ingredients. Purchase yours here.
JR Watkins Grinder Seasonings
Find a complete line of JR Watkins Grinders, Spices and Extracts here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Have you ever stuffed your burgers? Please leave a comment below and share your most delicious burger recipe with us.

 

Lemon Pudding Dessert

Lemon Pudding with Gingersnap and Blueberries
A tart and refreshing dessert.

Recently, we entered this delicious Lemon Pudding Dessert in a contest hosted on The Ranting Chef blog. It features delicious layers of homemade gingersnap cookie crumbs, creamy lemon pudding and fresh blueberries. An incredible ending to your favorite summer meal.

Lemon Pudding Dessert

Featuring Gingersnap and Blueberries

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (scant) granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest or JR Watkins Lemon Peel
1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon JR Watkins Pure Lemon Extract
2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 12 to 14 cookies)
2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, whisk sugar and cornstarch together. Whisk in milk until well blended. Do not put the saucepan on the heat yet.

Whisk Lemon Pudding Dessert Mixture
Whisk lemon pudding dessert mixture.

In a cup or small bowl, whisk egg and yolk until slightly beaten, then whisk into the milk mixture in the saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest, juice, butter, and lemon extract. Put through a strainer. Cover the top of the pudding with plastic wrap and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place gingersnap cookies into a food processor and pulse to make the crumbs.

Gingersnap Cookies in a food processor.
Place Gingersnap Cookies into a food processor.

In individual trifle bowls, layer with gingersnap crumbs, blueberries and lemon pudding. Top with a piece of gingersnap cookie and 3 blueberries just before serving. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Here are some great culinary tool suggestions you may enjoy as much as we do:

 

Five Piece Measuring Spoon Set
5pc SS Measuring Spoon Set

Perfect for reaching into most spice jars.

 

Stainless Steel Measuring Cups Set of 4
Set of 4 SS Measuring Cups

Beautiful stainless steel set of measuring cups.

 

Mini Saucinator
The Saucinator is ideal for preparing pudding.

It’s unique shape makes it ideal for
preparing eggs, sauce, gravy, pudding
and many batters.

JR Watkins Naturals
JR Watkins Naturals

Ind. Consultant #391032

JR Watkins features an incredible
variety of Gourmet Extracts and
Spices. The Original DS Vanilla and
Cinnamon were my Granny’s
secret ingredients for creating
unforgettable desserts.

 

Visit The Kozy Nook
View our complete line of culinary tools.

 

 

Artichoke Spinach Pizza

Artichoke Spinach Pizza
Artichoke Spinach Pizza

Recently, we went to dinner with our son and his girlfriend. As we were waiting for our waiter to serve our meals, I suddenly felt something very warm on my shoulder and chest. The waiter had attempted to reach over my head to place my dish on the table. While doing so, a small bowl of dipping sauce had slipped off the plate, spilling sauce onto the front of my blouse and splattered the remaining contents as it hit the table. Thankfully, it was not one of my best blouses and we all had a good laugh. I had ordered an artichoke spinach pizza and was really impressed with the flavor.

We enjoy a preparing our own freshly baked pizza. This Artichoke Spinach Pizza recipe is quick, easy and most importantly, delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Artichoke Spinach Pizza

Ingredients:

1 pizza crust
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Pitted Green Olives
1 Garlic Clove
8 oz. can or jar Artichokes, drained
1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice
2 oz. fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh Baby Spinach
1 Tbsp. Sliced Green Olives
1/4 cup chopped can or jar Artichokes, drained
1/4 cup Roasted Red Peppers, thinly sliced
Cornmeal

Directions:

Preheat pizza stone in oven to 500 degrees F, then reduce to 400 degrees F.

Put the next 6 ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a smooth sauce consistency, about 30 seconds.

Roll out pizza dough to desired dimension. Place onto pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread the processed artichoke/olive pesto sauce over the pizza crust. Take a little more olive oil and brush the edges of the pizza crust, then evenly distribute the toppings: mozzarella, spinach, green olives, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. Slide pizza onto preheated pizza stone.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust gets golden brown and top is hot and bubbly.

Note: We enjoy adding a liberal amount of JR Watkins Pizza & Pasta Seasoning right before serving.

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment while dining out? Please leave a comment telling us about it.

Here are a few items you may find useful while preparing pizza at home:

Grip EZ Pizza Wheel Cutter
Grip EZ Pizza Wheel Cutter

 

Solid Bamboo Pizza Peel Paddle
Solid Bamboo Pizza Peel Paddle
Rectangle Pizza Stone 13 x 15
Pizza Stone 13 x 15
JR Watkins Grinder Seasonings
JR Watkins Grinder Seasonings

 

 

 

Healthful Smoothie Recipes

Vita-Mix Green Smoothie
Green Pick Me Up Smoothie

I have had an Oster blender/mixer/meat grinder system since 1981. It has been invaluable for all these years and I continue to use it today. However, several years ago, I witnessed a demonstration for a VitaMix and have been desperately wanting one because, it blends the roughest vegetables and fruit into silky, delicious smoothies. The investment was a little much since I already had a blender but, the results weren’t as smooth as I wanted. In July of 2013, I had an unbelievable surprise when I won a door prize for this beautiful VitaMix 750 Pro!

Smoothie Recipes
Preparing the First of many Vitamix Smoothie Recipes

Obviously, I was beyond ecstatic. Thankfully, a wonderful cookbook was included and I was already stocked up on fresh produce so, I could begin blending up smoothie recipes right away. As you may have already guessed, the first recipe to try was the Green Pick Me Up smoothie. It is so refreshing and flavorful. We have it quite often and occasionally change it up a little according to what’s in season. Here is the recipe and a couple other favorites you may enjoy.

 GREEN PICK ME UP SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (75 grams) green grapes

1/2 orange, peeled & seeded

1/2 green apple

2 cups (72 grams) Swiss chard

2 cups (480 ml) ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients into the blender in the order listed, secure lid and process until smooth. For the Vitamix, select Smoothie program. Per 1 cup serving, this recipe has only 70 calories, 3 grams of fiber and no fat.

FRUIT SALAD SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup green grapes

1/2  medium orange, peeled & seeded

1/2  slice pineapple, core included, cut to 1/2 inch thickness

1/2 cup (65 g) peeled and roughly chopped cucumber

1/2 medium carrot

1/4 medium apple, seeded

2 cups (480 ml) ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients into the blender and process until smooth. For the Vitamix, select Smoothie program. Per 1 cup serving, this smoothie has only 83 calories, 3 grams of fiber and no fat.

PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 cup almond milk

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Original Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp. JR Watkins Peanut Butter Extract

1 medium banana

1 Tbsp. peanut butter

1 cup ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients into the blender and process until smooth. For the Vitamix, select Smoothie program. For the Vitamix, select the smoothie program. This recipe contains only 177 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of fat.

Options:

JR Watkins Extracts impart incredible flavor without adding additional calories or fat.

Various herbs and spices can be added for additional health benefits such as ginger, turmeric, cayenne powder and cinnamon.

To increase the protein in smoothies, we like to  add one or more of the following:

1/4 cup soft tofu

1-2 scoops of whey protein powder

1 Tbsp. Peanut or Almond Butter

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

Here are a few items you may find useful for preparing your favorite smoothie recipes:

Stainless Steel Measuring Cups Set of 4
Set of 4 SS Measuring Cups
Measuring Spoons SS 5pc rectangle
Set of 5 SS Measure Spoons
Sink Station Green
Sink Station for washing, peeling and draining fresh fruit and veggies.
Swiss Pro Peeler
Useful to remove peel from kiwi, potatoes, carrots and a variety of other fruit or vegetables.
JR Watkins Naturals
JR Watkins Naturals offers the finest quality Gourmet Extracts and Spices to add incredible flavor to your favorite smoothie recipes.

We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment telling us about some of your favorite smoothie recipes.

 

Buttery Flaky Pastry

My family enjoys homemade pies all year long. My first attempts at baking pies were frustrating and disappointing. The crust was either chewy, doughy or hard. I didn’t like the taste or texture of store bought pie crust. So, with perseverance, I tried a variety of recipes before I found a few that resulted in consistently flaky, delicious pastry.  Many pies later, I have discovered other delicious recipes. The following are a few of my favorites.

Making Pastry
Preparing pie crust.

When it comes to baking pastries and pies, I find that preparing my dough for pastry and pie crust a day or week ahead results in flakier pastries and pies. If I will be using the dough in one or two days, I’ll store in the refrigerator. Otherwise, I’ll place it in the freezer.

Pate Brisee has a wonderful buttery flavor and a flaky texture. I mostly use it for tarts or pies that require a pre-baked shell. Due to the high butter content, it tends to over-brown when baking pies for more than 30 minutes at a high temperature, even when using a pie shield.

Pate Brisee

Ingredients:

Lemon Tart
Image Source CanStockPhoto

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut inpieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Directions:

Step 1 Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds.

Step 2 Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide in two. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form two discs. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using. I usually prepare and freeze a week ahead. Then, I thaw in the refrigerator the day before I need it.

Source: MarthaStewart.com

Homemade Puff Pastry

Ingredients:

Puff Pastry Dough
Image Source About.com

13 ounces (390 g) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp (7 ml) salt 3 ounces (90 g) unsalted butter, cold
7 fluid ounces (210 ml) water, cold
10 ounces (300 g) unsalted butter, softened

Directions: 

Combine the flour, salt and pieces of cold butter in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Process until a coarse meal is formed. With the processor running, slowly add the water. Turn the machine off as soon as the dough comes together to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times by hand, rounding it into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill overnight.

To roll in the butter, first prepare the softened butter by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the softened butter into a rectangle, approximately 5 inches by 8 inches (12.5 centimeters by 20 centimeters). It is important that the dough and butter be of almost equal consistency. If necessary, allow the dough to sit at room temperature to soften or chill the butter briefly to harden.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 15 inches (30 centimeters by 37.5 centimeters). Lift and rotate the dough as necessary to prevent sticking.

Use a dry pastry brush to brush away any flour from the dough’s surface. Loose flour can cause gray streaks and can prevent the puff pastry from rising properly when baked.

Peel one piece of plastic wrap from the butter. Position the butter in the center of the rectangle and remove the remaining plastic. Fold the four edges of the dough over the butter enclosing it completely. Stretch the dough if necessary; it is important that none of the butter be exposed.

With the folded side facing up, press the dough several times with a rolling pin. Use a rocking motion to create ridges in the dough. Place the rolling pin in each ridge and slowly roll back and forth to widen the ridge. Repeat until all the ridges are doubled in size. Using the ridges as a starting point, roll the dough out into a smooth, even rectangle approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 centimeters by 50 centimeters). Be careful to keep the corners of the dough as right angles.

Use a dry pastry brush to remove any loose flour from the dough’s surface. Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. If one end is damaged or in worse condition, fold it in first; otherwise, start at the bottom. This completes the first turn.

Rotate the block of dough 90 degrees so that the folded edge is on your left and the dough faces you like a book. Roll out the dough again, repeating the ridging technique. Once again, the dough should be in a smooth, even rectangle of approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 centimeters by 60 centimeters).

Fold the dough in thirds again, completing the second turn. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling and folding technique until the dough has had a total of five turns. Do not perform more than two turns without a resting and chilling period. Cover the dough completely and chill overnight before shaping and baking.

Yield: 2 pounds (1 kg)

Notes: If you don’t need all of the pastry for your recipe, simply cut the block into thirds or quarters and work with one of these portions at a time, keeping the rest chilled until needed.

Puff pastry sheets may be frozen. Fold finished rectangles in thirds and wrap tightly before freezing. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.

Source: http://homecooking.about.com/od/breadrecipes/r/blbread85.htm

The following Homemade Pie Crust Mix is my “go to” recipe for most of my pies. It is easy to prepare and the mix will last up to 6 months without refrigeration. It never lasts that long in my home, though. The prepared crust always receives rave reviews from family and friends. It will make up to 5 single crust pie shells which saves time. Simply measure out the required amount of mix, add cold water and roll out the dough.

Homemade Pie Crust Mix

Ingredients:

Pie Crust
Preparing Pie Crust

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/3 cups (1 lb. can) Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening

Directions:

Combine flour and salt in large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Store in covered container up to 6 months. No refrigeration is needed

Measure amount of mix for pie crust into a bowl. Sprinkle water over mix, a tablespoon at a time. Toss lightly with a fork until mixture comes together to form a ball. Do not over mix.

Use to make crusts for your favorite pie recipes.

Amount to use:

Single Crust Pie: 1 1/2 cups mix and 3 tablespoons cold water.
Double Crust Pie: 2 1/4 cups mix and 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water.

Source: Crisco.com
Image Source: Allrecipes.com

Do you have a favorite pie crust recipe? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Here are a few baking tools you may find useful:

Grip EZ Pastry Blender from Norpro
Grip EZ Pastry Blender
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measure Cup Set
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measure Cup Set
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measuring Spoons
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measuring Spoons
Pie Crust Maker
Pie Crust Maker
Pastry Cloth & Rolling Pin Cover
Pastry Cloth & Rolling Pin Cover