reposting from a few years ago…

BUTTER LAMBS

Years ago when my husband and I lived in Buffalo, New York, there was (and still is) a big Polish Catholic tradition of purchasing butter in the shape of a lamb for your Easter celebration.

I don’t ban the bunnies, but I feel a lot happier with a few lambs and crosses around my house, especially at this time of the year.  Those sorts of things are getting more difficult to find nowadays on account of having to make store shelf room for the camouflage plastic eggs and the Barbie tin pails that someone out there feels is a MUST-HAVE for your modern egg hunt (I have to admit that those little rubber duckies they have this year are adorable!).

So when we lived in Buffalo, I joyously bought my butter lamb every year. When we left Buffalo, I was very sad to have no more.  So I make my own now.

Some people make a “wooly” lamb by making the butter all squiggly through a garlic press, but I just use a plastic mold that you might buy for making chocolate lambs.   I have 2 kinds:  one has a front and a back that makes a whole lamb, and the other is for chocolate lollipops–the front of a lamb without a back.

You can purchase a whole lamb mold at a baking supplies shop or at the Polish Art Center.

Here’s how to make a butter lamb!

1.  Using clean hands or the tip of a table knife, press semi-firm butter into the molds.  Keep looking on the front-side as you’re pressing, to make sure you get the air bubbles out.

2.  Scrape the back-sides level, wipe off the excess around the edges, and attach the two sides together.

3.  Put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

4.  Carefully take the lamb out of the mold.  Using a knife and/or paper towel, trim the excess off the seams.

5.  Traditionally, peppercorns are used for the eyes; I melt a few chocolate chips and use a toothpick to paint the eyes.

6.  Traditionally, the lamb has a bow or sash, and a toothpick flag with a red cross is placed in his back.  I usually put a red or purple ribbon bow on mine, using melted chocolate to attach it.

May you have a blessed Easter, Friends!

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  ~~Isaiah 53:6

 

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER:  PI DAY

Yes, I should have done it when my Youngest Son wrote and presented a speech on it a couple of years ago (which made him quite famous).  But it’s “better late than never”, so yesterday we celebrated BIG.

We ate nothing but pie.

The menu looked like this:

It was terribly hard to choose, because there really are an awful lot of pies out there.  I didn’t include any of the cream pies, for example, nor did we have any ice cream pie. There’s a whole slew of Bisquick Impossible pies, and they are all fantastic.  Plus, there are only so many hours in the day for this cook to deal with it!

So, the night before, I worked on breakfast and lunch.  These are all made with gluten-free flour, but if you want to use wheat, simply substitute regular wheat flour for the Better Batter GF flour mix that I used.

Because my guys take their lunch to school, I made the French Canadian Tourtiere first, to kinda set the tone with its decoration. 

It comes from my battered La Leche League’s Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook and is a hearty meat pie that is a favorite in this house.  I bake it in a 10″ pie pan instead of the 9″  they recommend, because usually my grocery store gives me more meat than the recipe calls for.

French Canadian Tourtiere

pastry dough for a 2-crust 9″ pie  (go to the end of this post to see
    my gluten-free pie crust recipe)
1 1/2 lbs. mixture of lean ground pork and hamburger (sometimes my
    store sells a “meatloaf mix” that includes veal
1 medium onion, chopped
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/2 C. hot water
1/4 tsp. crushed celery seeds
1 large potato, grated

1.  Brown the meat and onions in a large pot.  Pour off the grease.  Add the
      rest of the ingredients and cook  uncovered for 20 minutes. 
2.  Make the pie crust, put the meat mixture inside, and add the pie crust
      top.  Prick with a fork.
3.  Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes until the crust is brown.

Next, I worked on the Ham & Cheese Pocket Pies.  These are the to die for sort of things that are great for picnics, snacks, and travel. 
 

My Ham & Cheese Pocket Pies

GF Crust:  I use the directions from Better Batter for Hot Pocket Dough, which tends to stick together better:

    2 C. Better Batter flour
    1 tsp. salt
    1 C. butter
    4 T. cream cheese
    8 T. ice water
    egg white

1.    Combine the flour, salt, butter, and cream cheese in a food processor
      until coarse crumbs form.  With motor running, add ice water and process
      just a bit more to form a dough.
2.    Divide it into 16 balls and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Wheat Crust:  Just make your favorite pie crust for a 2-crust 9″ pie.

Mix together:

1 lb. shaved ham–chopped
1 C. cheese (cheddar or mozarella)
15 oz. can pizza sauce

Make the pockets:

1.    Roll out each ball into a circle.  With the GF recipe, I do this between
      2 sheets of saran.  Gently remove the circle from the saran and hold it in
      one hand while using the other hand to scoop up some of the meat/cheese
      mixture and place it in a row in the center of the circle.
2.    Fold the circle in half and crimp the edges with your fingers.
3.    Place all the pockets onto a greased cookie sheet, brush with egg white,
      and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Try really hard to get the pockets sealed well, but for those of you who know GF flour, that can be hard to do! 

One great thing is that it never seems to matter whether or not you succeed in making these perfectly beautiful–they always look great in the end!

I made the Connemarra Apple Tart next.  It is gently sweet with a slightly cake-like crust.  In place of the self-rising wheat flour, I used Better Batter and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder.  The recipe can be found here (although my own calls for 1/4 cup of sugar in the topping as well as in the crust).

The next day, I armed myself with video versions of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued on baking.  First up was the Impossible Broccoli Pie, creamy-cheesy-smooth.  With Betty Crocker now selling a gluten-free version of their Bisquick, it was impossibly easy to convert the original recipe (its real name is Impossible Brunch Pie).

In looking for more side dishes, I decided to try a new recipe for a Vidalia Onion Pie.  I notice that in eating leftovers today, it is the pie I have been gravitating to the most.  I found it at allrecipes.com.  Once again I used Better Batter to make a single pie crust, baked it for 8 minutes at 350 degrees and stuffed it full of the onion mixture.

Next came the Chicken Pot Pie.  I’ve combined many versions of this old-fashioned dish to make my own, as simply as possible.  The chicken and onion, already chopped, come from my freezer.  The spices are so important to make this dish stay away from blandness.

 

My Chicken Pot Pie

2 C. chicken–chopped (I do chicken & turkeys in big batches, then cut it up
      and freeze it in 2 C. portions for whatever recipe might come along)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 to 1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 C. chicken broth
3 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 C. onion, chopped
1/3 C. flour (Better Batter)
3/4 C. milk
5 oz. (1 C.) frozen peas, thawed

1.    Bring carrots, celery, onion, and broth to a boil; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

2.    Drain the broth from the carrots/onions into a microwavable dish such as a
      medium glass casserole that already has the flour and milk in it.  Mix well with
      a wire whisk and microwave this into a thick sauce:  Microwave on HIGH for
      1 minute; stir.  Micro on HI for 1 minute; stir.  Micro on HI 1 minute; stir.

3.    Meanwhile, put these into a large mixing bowl:  chicken, carrots/onions, peas,
      and spices.  Then add the thick sauce and stir.

4.    Pour all into a greased 9 X 13 glass dish.

5.    Make pastry dough for a 2-crust 9″ pie and roll it into a rectangle shape of
      14″ X 10″.  Lay it on top and make slits for the steam.

6.    Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour till golden.

Last, but not least was the Cherry Pie.  HOWEVER:  Are you exhausted from reading all this?  I certainly was from making it!  So the cherry pie never got made.  I don’t think any of us noticed at all.
__________

My Gluten-Free Pie Crust

With Better Batter gluten-free four mix, I just use my regular old pie crust recipe and substitute it for the wheat flour, cup-for-cup.  My recipe comes from the back of the Crisco can:

2 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 C. Crisco shortening
6-8 T. water

With GF flour, it’s easier to see how much water you should be adding.  You have to make sure it isn’t too dry or it will be a crumbly mess.  So add enough water to make it really stick together–almost gloppy.

I have less stress when I roll it out between 2 sheets of saran.  Still–sometimes my frustration level gets really high.  Be assured that rather than killing yourself over getting that rolled-out dough over to the pan without tearing, you might just consider throwing the broken bits on top of the pie.  That’s what I did with the rectangular Chicken Pot Pie above (see the photo).  Looks OK, doesn’t it?

STILL HAVING FUN WITH MERINGUE

Because my Younger Son and I are gluten-free, and because we knew of six other wedding reception attendees who are gluten-free, it was suggested that I create a table of gluten-free goodies just for our own selves.

It was a lot of work.

It was kind of like planning for a whole ‘nother reception, without the “going-to-Sam’s Club-and-getting-food-that-was-already-made” part.

As it so happens, it was also extremely well received.  At the last minute, I added food for someone very allergic to poultry/eggs and then too, five more gluten-free people emerged at the reception!  This was something I had not planned, but fortunately, we had enough.

Here is what we had:

meatballs in a special sweet sauce
ham roll-ups
shrimp and sauce
sausage cheese balls
banana bread
fruit and veggies
spiced pecans
cookies–shortbread, Cocoa Pebbles, peanut butter kisses, meringue
cupcakes
brownies with mint frosting
eyeball candy
cheeseball with crackers
cheesecake
rice

Here is what the table looked like a few hours before the reception (with the refrigerator items missing):

 

Now, the something special that was going to grace the reception table–the beautiful and impressive dessert– was another and new variation of meringue.  I have been having a grand time with meringue in the last year or so (click on the FOOD TABhere at my blog to find some recipes) and I was excited to surprise my friends with the latest:  meringue cookies with cream filling.  Part of the idea came from a magazine I saw at the doctor’s office.

These are terribly good, and they come close to being a grand substitute for cream puffs.  But when the wedding was over, I lamented these were all gone by the time I got to the table.  I supposed so, anyway.  My Younger Son didn’t remember having seen them either.  I wondered….

Today, 8 days after the wedding, I stopped at the reception hall, opened the freezer door, and…there were the meringue cookies!  All of them untouched from the time I put them inside.  Ah well; I didn’t get to show them off, but my Younger Son and I enjoyed them very much and very quickly. 

CHRISTMAS CREAM MERINGUES

Make meringue cookies (here is my favorite recipe) with the following exceptions:

1.  Use almond flavoring instead of vanilla
2.  Don’t put anything else in the cookies (such as chocolate chips)
3.  Pipe it (using either a decorator frosting bag or a ziplock bag with the corner
    snipped out) into Hershey Kiss-like mounds about 1 1/4″ in diameter

When the cookies are finished, make the Cream Filling by mixing these together:

8 oz. cream cheese
8 drops red food color
1/4 C. strawberry preserves (try to find some without large lumps)

Assemble cookie sandwiches this way: 

1.  Spread some cream filling on the bottom of a cookie/kiss.
2.  Take another cookie/kiss and attach the bottom of it to the cream.

How to eat them:

The cream filling does make these cookies weep quickly.  So you must eat them fairly soon!  For the wedding, I intended to keep them in the freezer up till the last minute so they wouldn’t have time to get soft.

Also, you yourself can ponder what method you would like to use in actually biting them.  It’s a bit tricky trying to bite a little bit off at a time, in a dainty way.  The best method we have here at our house is to put the entire cookie in your mouth all at once:  not a pretty picture.

 

LEMON MERINGUE

(Continuing our Meringue Dessert Escapade)

Another way to use the yolks left over from making the meringue shell is to have a lemon pudding on top.  We tried Betty Crocker’s (1976) Lemon Schaum Torte:

Meringue Shell (I used half of my favorite recipe)
3/4 C. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 C. water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 T. butter
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/3 C. lemon juice
1 C. whipping cream

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan.  Stir in water gradually.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till mixture thickens & boils.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir at least half the hot mixture gradually into egg yolks.  Blend into hot mixture in pan.  Boil and stir 1 minute.

Remove from heat; stir in butter, lemon peel, and lemon juice.  Cool to room temperature.  Spoon into shell.  Chill at least 12 hours.  Whip the cream and spread on top.

Before the Whipping Cream:

 

We did not like this recipe.  There was a dry gummy taste to it, perhaps from the cornstarch?  And of course, I’ve never grated a lemon without scubbing my hand up, so I vote for avoiding this altogether!  Maybe if we found a different lemon pudding filling, it would be more appealing to us, BUT:  WHO CARES, WHEN YOU CAN HAVE PAVLOVA WITH FRUIT ON TOP??  Here are directions.

CHOCOLATE MERINGUE DESSERT

(Continuing our Meringue Dessert Escapade)

Next we tried a meringue shell with a chocolate insert, a recipe taken from my beloved Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1976 printing.  This is a great idea, because it gives you something to do with the egg yolks left over from making the meringue.

 

CHOCOLATE MERINGUE TORTE from Betty Crocker

Meringue Shell  (I used half of my favorite recipe)
2/3 C. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 C. milk
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. chilled whipping cream
1/4 C. confectioners’ sugar

Blend sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan.  Combine egg yolks and milk; gradually stir into sugar mixture.  Add chocolate.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till chocolate melts and mixture thickens & boils.  Boil & stir 1 minute.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Cool to room temperature; chill 1 hour.  Spoon into shell.  Chill at least 12 hours.

In chilled bowl, beat cream and confectioners’ sugar till stiff; spread on filling.

I spread the meringue shell into a circle with a crater in the center and the sides built up, to hold the pudding.  This time around, I learned that it’s helpful to have wax paper underneath it, so it won’t stick.  Otherwise, you end up with secret folk standing silently in the kitchen, scraping and licking the cookie sheet. Better to get it inside the tummy first time around, I think!

We liked this one! 

The quick quick route to this recipe would be to put some store-bought meringue cookies in each single-serving bowl.  Add some store-bought chocolate pudding and squirt ready-made whipping cream on top.  The chocolate pudding wouldn’t be the same thicker and heavy chocolate as this recipe, but…pudding is NEVER bad, is it?

A NEW FLUFF BINGE

A year ago, I went on a meringue cookie-making binge.  I made plain ones and chocolate chip ones and peppermint ones.  The chocolate chip meringues are now the ones we make the most often.

This past holiday season I went on a meringue binge again–but this time with DESSERTS.  I’ve been branching out to try meringue desserts I’ve found here and there.  They have such a mixture of sweet and not-sweet and of fluff and crisp, it causes every bite to be ecstasy. 

On Christmas Eve, we tried Baked Alaska again.  We’ve tried this over the years, but it’s so bulky in the freezer, and I prefer to have my cake not frozen, so I don’t think we will be doing it again.  It’s basically cake with ice cream covered by a meringue.

Then we made Pavlova.  It is the BEST.  “Pavlova” is the Australian/New Zealand name for a meringue shell topped by unsweetened whipped cream with fruit on top.

After making a square one, we decided to cut it in half, so it’s not very attractive.  Our Fruit Designers had some strange ideas too, but does that affect the taste?  No way!

The meringue shell is crisp on the outside, but soft and rather marshmellowy inside.  It is sweet.  The whipped cream is smooth and not sweet.  The fruit is a mix of sweet and sour.  What a combination!

There are so many slight differences between recipes for meringue (especially the cooking temps & times), but I’ve found this one to be superb, so I’m stickin’ with it–with the recipe cut in half for a serving of 6 (I’ve heard that leftovers tend to get soggy, but we at our house wouldn’t know).

If you want a short short version of this, here’s what you could do:  Buy a container of ready-made meringue cookies and put some in each single-serving bowl.  Squirt ready-made whipping cream on top.  Add cut-up fruit.  Blueberries and strawberries and grapes are highly recommended, but ya do with what ya got.

YOU MUST TRY THIS AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFETIME!

 

BUTTER LAMBS

Years ago when my husband and I lived in Buffalo, New York, there was (and still is) a big Polish Catholic tradition of purchasing butter in the shape of a lamb for your Easter celebration.

I don’t ban the bunnies, but I feel a lot happier with a few lambs and crosses around my house, especially at this time of the year.  Those sorts of things are getting more difficult to find nowadays on account of having to make store shelf room for the camouflage plastic eggs and the Barbie tin pails that someone out there feels is a MUST-HAVE for your modern egg hunt (I have to admit that those little rubber duckies they have this year are adorable!).

So when we lived in Buffalo, I joyously bought my butter lamb every year. When we left Buffalo, I was very sad to have no more.  So I make my own now.

Some people make a “wooly” lamb by making the butter all squiggly through a garlic press, but I just use a plastic mold that you might buy for making chocolate lambs.   I have 2 kinds:  one has a front and a back that makes a whole lamb, and the other is for chocolate lollipops–the front of a lamb without a back.

You can purchase a whole lamb mold at a baking supplies shop or at the Polish Art Center.

Here’s how to make a butter lamb!

1.  Using clean hands or the tip of a table knife, press semi-firm butter into the molds.  Keep looking on the front-side as you’re pressing, to make sure you get the air bubbles out.

2.  Scrape the back-sides level, wipe off the excess around the edges, and attach the two sides together.

3.  Put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

4.  Carefully take the lamb out of the mold.  Using a knife and/or paper towel, trim the excess off the seams.

5.  Traditionally, peppercorns are used for the eyes; I melt a few chocolate chips and use a toothpick to paint the eyes.

6.  Traditionally, the lamb has a bow or sash, and a toothpick flag with a red cross is placed in his back.  I usually put a red or purple ribbon bow on mine, using melted chocolate to attach it.

May you have a blessed Easter, Friends!

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  ~~Isaiah 53:6