Simply Sweet Sugar Cream Pie

or heaven in a pie crust.

First with a disclaimer - there are practically no recipes for sugar cream pie out there that can claim to be completely original.  There are simply not enough ingredients to account for the individualization.  What I present here is simply, and humbly, my version of this delightful dessert.  It isn't terribly different than the base recipes that I have found, but I think the adjustments that I made add to the flavor and texture a bit.

I have often wondered, over the past couple years, where this amazing dessert has been my whole life!  It was brought to my attention by a friend of ours in Chicago and after seeing his success I set out to find the perfect recipe myself.  I can't call what I resulted in the "perfect" sugar cream pie recipe, but it works pretty darn well for us.  Switching out some of the heavy cream for milk makes this rich dessert just a tad lighter in regards to texture, and I like to think health-wise as well but there is no proof of that really - it just makes me feel better.  It is incredibly easy to make, but don't tell your guests that, and it can be made in advance so that dessert is taken care of long before dinner needs to be on the table.

I have made both full sized pies and individual pies from this recipe and both turned out great since the main batch amount for the filling doesn't change.  You can even dress it up more by doing a brulee on the top with coarse sugar instead of the traditional broiler style topping of cinnamon and butter.  So simple, so sweet, and so easily dressed up or down for any occasion - what more could you ask for from a dessert?  Check it out:

1 pie crust, 9 inch cooked (I prefer a shortbread or graham cracker style myself)
4 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup low fat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat broiler to high.

1. In a medium pot mix the cornstarch and sugar. Add 4 tablespoons butter, cream, and milk.

2. Cook, stirring constantly preferably with a wooden spoon, over medium heat until thick and creamy. This will happen quickly when it changes but may take some time to get to that point. It's kind of magical, really, so don't get discouraged and worry that you missed it - you really can't, it goes from liquid to gel-like very clearly.  You will know it is coming when you start to feel a little resistance in the bottom that seems almost gooey when you are stirring.  Once it does change completely, remove from heat immediately and stir in the vanilla.

3. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Drizzle 2 tablespoons melted butter over top and sprinkle with cinnamon.

4. Put under broiler until the butter bubbles--watch it carefully as it doesn’t take long, maybe 30-45 seconds.

5. Refrigerate at least an hour, until set.


Stove-top Applesauce

or a better than store-bought can be a breeze, homemade treat

This little recipe is popping up now because I first made it a couple years back for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Every year we have this wonderful, well now that I am grown it seems more wonderful, tradition of making dutch apple pies with my parents the night before Thanksgiving.  My mom always makes between ten and twenty pies depending on the year and how many friends and relatives we are sharing with.  The memories of this event range from exciting and then exhausting as a child, exasperating as a teenager, and a sense of happy nostalgia and appreciation as an adult.  I can't wait to share all these emotions with our own child as we continue the tradition throughout the years, even though they may not truly appreciate it until they are my age themselves.

Well, to get back on track, this recipe originated during one of these annual events.  We finished up all the pies and still had a fair amount of apples remaining (both cut and uncut).  I was struggling with what to bring to our family gathering the next day and my mom suggested making applesauce.  I thought she was crazy, but as it turns out she was not!  It is surprisingly easy to make, results in the house smelling amazing, and is easily customizable to your own desired sweetness, thickness, and supplemental flavors.  And now on top of the delicious homemade applesauce flavor, I also get that small amount of emotional warmth that comes from happy nostalgia when I make it.  I highly recommend making this in happy moments while creating memories of your own because that feeling is priceless.  If you use all sweeter apples you may find no need for sugar, but a little extra sweetness doesn't hurt.  I like to cook everything down until it dissolves itself, but as you will see in the directions there are other options for those with time constraints.  It's so easy you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before, check it out:

Apples - 7 MacIntosh, 3 Gala
Sugar - 1/3 cup 
Vanilla - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1/4 tsp

1. Peel and core apples. Cut into small pieces, the thinner the chunks the quicker they will cook.

2. Pour into a deep pot and add enough water to just cover the apples.

3. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-4 hours stirring occasionally (ever 30-45 min).

4. If cooking for 2 hours, mash the apples with a potato masher and then run through a food mill or potato ricer. If cooking for 4 hours, mash after three hours and again after the last hour (the apples should break down enough to not need the other step).

5. In the pot with the apples stir in the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Cook gently for at least 5 minutes. Add more cinnamon or sugar to taste.

(all dressed up with a little cinnamon sugar sprinkled over top and a dollop of whipped cream)

This is a great base recipe to customize your own flavors, I hear that crystalized ginger is pretty good if tossed in at the beginning with the apples.  And I have used this for everything from family gatherings to home canning, both for personal use and as part of holiday gift baskets.  The only thing I can say is be sure to cook it down to the consistency that you like.  It may take an extra half hour, but it will definitely be worth the effort!


Holiday Leftovers Hearty Turkey Soup

or all your comfort foods in one over-sized bowl

Soon it will be my favorite holiday of the year - the only one that seems to truly revolve around food and family - Thanksgiving.  I love feeding people.  Well, that may be an understatement.  So, as it stands, there is no better holiday for me to host then one where I can show everyone how much I love and appreciate them by providing a buffet of enticing dishes.  And of course left overs are a must, it may be assumed that part of the reason of the excessive spread of food this holiday is to ensure leftovers exist after everyone has had their fill and are then comfortably reclined in the living room.  The other reason is that I somehow still have absolutely no concept of how much people will eat.  But that is beside the point.

I love finding new ways to use leftovers from big family meals.  In college, I was mildly  obsessed with a "Thanksgiving" sandwich at the restaurant chain Friendly's.  It consisted of texas toast, turkey, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (which I omitted).  It was delicious.  It was all the wonderful parts of comfort food in an easy, handheld format.  Well, obviously I can't just copy that.  So I thought about what other forms of comfort food I love, and it came to me - soup!  I am a sucker for good soup.  A few years ago I decided that we needed to consume all of the leftovers before they went bad and started throwing things together in a pot, what resulted was beyond delicious.  My husband likes this so much that for the first two years I had to make a roasted turkey breast a couple times each year, in addition to Thanksgiving, just so he could have the soup.  Here's how it is done:

2 turkey legs or half breast & bone
celery - 1/2 cup diced
orzo - 1 cup
cream of chicken soup - 1 can condensed
turkey gravy - 1 cup prepared
processed cheese - 3/4 pound cubed
carrots - 1/2 cup diced
onion - 1/2 cup finely diced or minced
peas - 1 can or leftovers
chicken stock - 1 quart
Spices: celery salt, pepper, thyme, parsley

1. Place bone from turkey in a large stock pot. Add the stock and fill with water so that the pot is 3/4 full. If using a deep pot additional chicken stock may be added to reduce the dilution in water.

2. Heat until boiling and keep at a low boil for 1 hour to prep the stock.

3. Cut the turkey meat into bite sized cubes or pull apart to taste. Finely dice carrots and celery, mince the onion.

4. Remove the bones and skim off any fat when the stock is ready. Keep the pot half full, the extra stock can be removed and stored either in the refrigerator or freezer for future use.

5. Add the turkey to the pot of stock. Remove any extra meat from the bones and add into the soup as desired.

6. Add spices and onion; allow to come to a low boil for 10 minutes.

7. Then add the carrots and celery, keep at a boil for 5 minutes.

8. Add in the peas and orzo, continue to boil for 10 minutes.

9. Stir in cream of chicken soup, gravy, and cubed cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese melts, stirring often.

This can be adjusted to your tastes and leftover options, but this is where I started.  The processed cheese, aka Velveeta, was actually a leftover for us because we use it in a chili cheese dip that is generally among our appetizers and we don't use the whole "brick."  It isn't something I often cook with, but it smooths out nicely in soups so it does make it in once in a while.  Keep an open mind about it, it won't bite.  You can also omit the orzo if you want when pouring it over mashed potatoes or stuffing, though leaving it in does create a "turkey stew" feel that is quite a yummy take on the dish.  As always, give it a try, make its tastes your own, and enjoy!