Perfect Pie Crust

Before I found this recipe, pie crust – and really pies in general, had been my nemesis. Jon prefers pie over cake. So I tried, God I tried. But I always had issues with the dough splitting and cracking, or not rolling out evenly. Not to mention my rolling skills weren’t the best to begin with. But I knew that pie crust was something that I had to get the hang of, so I soldiered on and finally came across this recipe from Annie.

Couldn’t be simpler! There’s no funny techniques or weird ingredients (I’m looking at you, vodka) to worry about. It’s made in the stand mixer, which is always a plus – the paddle attachment breaks up the butter pieces as a pastry cutter would do. A little chilling period in the refrigerator to firm it up before rolling out, and then voila – a pie crust that rolls out beautifully, and it still sturdy enough to work with to get in the pan and get your crimping done. Not to mention it’s always perfectly tender and flaky as well…everything that a pie crust should be!

I’ve used this recipe for pies that require a blind bake (for something like this Cherry Cheese Pie, where you need a baked pie shell, but the pie-filling doesn’t need to be cooked) or for something like Ricotta-Pineapple Pie, where the whole pie needs to go in the oven to bake. In either even, it always turns out beautifully. If you too have struggled with pie crusts in the past, give this recipe a try. It really was a lifesaver for me, and now I’m so proud of my many pie accomplishments in the kitchen!

Source: adapted from William’s Sonoma via Annie’s Eats

Italian Bread

I love making bread at home. And, I think the bread that I use most often would have to be Italian bread. It’s my go-to loaf to make garlic bread, and croutons, and breadcrumbs…great in so many applications. So it was only natural that I wanted to learn to make this favorite at home!

It’s a little time consuming, as it requires a “sponge” that needs to be prepared and let to do it’s thing before the bread is put together for it’s rise and bake. But it’s that crucial step that produces a chewy loaf that’s soft on the inside, yet crusty and crunchy on the outside – essential for a good loaf of Italian bread. You can do it the night before, but I’ve also just done the sponge early in the morning, and then continued with the recipe in the afternoon with no issues.

This recipe turns out two gorgeous loaves. We’ll usually have one for dinner the night that I bake it, and then store on in the freezer so there’s always one on hand. Saves me a trip to the store on those last-minute spaghetti nights when all I need is a loaf of bread. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Source: adapted from The Fresh Loaf via Annie’s Eats

Homemade Strawberry Syrup

It’s the end of March, officially spring, and there’s 6-inches of snow on the ground outside my front door right now. While I love snow, I’ve had my fill of snow cream for the year. It astonishes me that it can be 70 degrees one day, and 20 the next!

One thing that does have me feeling like spring are the delicious strawberries I’ve been getting at the store recently. While snow might be still blanketing the ground here – in warm, sunny Florida it’s strawberry season! So whenever I see any berries from the sunshine state  in my local grocery store, I can’t pass them by without picking up a package. I haven’t had bad berries yet!

Most of the time they just get gobbled up, before getting the chance to be transformed into something else in a recipe. But, I did get a chance to make this delicious strawberry syrup a couple of weeks ago. It’s perfect over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, stirred into a cold glass of milk, served over hot Belgian waffles, or mixed into a cocktail to give it a fruity twist. It’s also wonderful to toss with some fresh sliced strawberries and then pour into a graham cracker crust for an easy, but delicious dessert.

The batch I made barely lasted a week, and I’ve already made it a couple of times since then. It’s so wonderfully versatile, and it’s nice to have that burst of fresh strawberry flavor in my refrigerator anytime I’d like!

Source: adapted from StrawberrySue.com

Homemade Hamburger Helper

As the third-trimester winds down, and we get closer and closer to the due date – I’m getting tireder and tireder of just about everything, cooking included. So, a go-to easy meal like this one is a lifesaver on those nights when I’m just exhausted.

I’ve always secretly loved a bowl of Hamburger Helper, but hated the fact that I couldn’t pronounce half of the things on the ingredients label. Not to mention the astronomical sodium content…and, the fact that you feel like you have a lead pellet sitting in your stomach for hours afterwards. I knew I could do better at home!

So I set out to make a homemade version, and I tried a few before I finally settled on one that I really loved. It takes the same amount of time to bring together as the box you buy in the store, and is about a million times better – both on the health front as well as taste. Ingredients like basic spices in your pantry, milk, pasta, and lots of freshly shredded cheddar cheese are the only things on my ingredient list.

You could easily pre-mix a few batches of the spices and pasta together and store them in a resealable bag to have them ready to go – making this dinner even quicker and easier. It always feels great to kick yet another boxed processed mix to the curb!

Source: adapted from Food.com via Iowa Girl Eats