Award Winning Apple Walnut Berry Galette

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Lee 1st place southern classicLee after the race!
There are many things I love about the fall and October in particular. One of which is the half-marathon my awesome husband likes to run in the first week of the month.  This year he had a “big” birthday which catapulted him into a new age group at this half-marathon.  Even though he had just ran 13.1 miles adequate training kept him from coming across the finish line huffing and puffing.  Instead he came across quite happy as he saw his time of 2 hours and 9 minutes.  It isn’t his personal best, but it was good enough to win him first place in his category.  I’m so proud of him!

apple berry galette facedown
When we arrived home I wanted to make something special to top off our celebratory dinner.  However, I wanted it easy.  After all, I got up extra early, did a little shopping while he ran, and then cheered him on … oh wait, I wasn’t actually there to cheer him on at the finish line.  Well, that is the rest of the story.

My sole job responsibility for this half-marathon was to get the photo of Lee running across the finish line, WITH the timing clock in the foreground.  Okay, no problem, I had 2 hours and 9 minutes to get ready.  But I actually had calculated that based on his recent training runs he would be crossing the finish line at 2 hours and 23 minutes. The guy and the babySo, at 2 hours and 9 minutes I was actually totally captivated by a young father who had just come across the finish line pushing his 5 month old daughter in her stroller.  About the time he was telling me that this was “her” second half-marathon, I felt a tap on the shoulder.  I spun around to see my marathon runner who said, “Hey, what’s up girl?”  I believe I actually screamed, at least in my head all I heard was screaming. There was a roar pounding in my ears as his bright blue-gray eyes were twinkling and I tried to wrap my head around him standing before me.“Where did you come from?  The finish line?  Are you done?  What about the picture… the picture!  When will I stop asking these stupid questions?”

I didn’t get the shot.  I totally missed him running across the finish line.  Bottom line — now I have to pay $22 to someone else who WAS paying attention as he ran across the finish line.

apple berry galette upclose
I may have been a loser at getting the photo but my big comeback was this deliciously sweet and tart apple-blueberry galette.  This free-form pastry takes only minutes to prepare and is ready to serve when dinner is finished.

Award Win Apple Walnut Blueb galette

 

 

 

 

 

I first learned how to make galette during a baking session from Julia Child’s cookbook making a Triple Berry Galette.  For our savory taste I have made a Tomato and Cheese Galette and a Pepperoni and Cheese one as well!

apple berry galette single

 

 

 

 

 

 

But for an award-winning celebration this apple-walnut-blueberry combination was worthy.

Lee First Place Finish Southern TN Classic
Take it from me, you can make any mealtime a celebration with this lovely galette.

Happy Baking!
~Catherine

Award Winning Apple Walnut Berry Galette

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 6 slices

Award Winning Apple Walnut Berry Galette

A favorite easy-peasy free-form pastry!

Ingredients

  • 1 - 9" round pie crust, homemade or store-bought
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly chopped
  • GLAZE
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk to desired consistency

Directions

  1. Place pie crust on baking sheet sprayed with oil or covered with parchment paper.
  2. Spread softened cream cheese on pie crust, beginning in the middle and extending to about 2" from the edge all around.
  3. Layer sliced apples, blueberries and walnuts.
  4. Carefully bring up edges of the crust towards the center forming a free-form pie.
  5. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F. until pastry is lightly brown and blueberries bubbling, about 35 minutes.
  7. While cooling, mix up the confectioner's sugar glaze.
  8. When pie has cooled spread drizzle with glaze, slice and enjoy!

Notes

The best apples to bake are granny smith, gala, or fuji. You may mix the apple types also for a nice variation.

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DIY Homemade Vanilla – UPDATE and More!

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Vanilla clear bottle
Internet problems have kept me from blogging lately.  But this morning it looks like I have a little window of opportunity and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Speaking of happy — do you ever have one of those days when your heart is just happy!  That is how I felt yesterday.  I started out the day taking my sous chef dish-washing mom into town for early voting.

The Chief and I voted earlier this i-votedweek but mom wasn’t with us at that time.  It is such a privilege to live in the United States of America and voting goes along with that privilege.  So this is a gentle reminder that Election Day is coming up in less than two weeks and most counties offer early voting until the end of next week.

After that we made a quick stop at the little grocery store in town.  It isn’t a Walmart Superstore, a big ‘ol Kroger, or even a Food Lion.  It is a small locally owned grocery store with a lunch counter.  It is busy all the time.  We picked up a few items and headed home.  Did I mention it was absolutely a beautiful autumn day?

scarecrow fall table
Fall is the favorite time at our home.  Not too cold, not too hot.  Just perfect.  Mom and I love getting out the fall decorations.  This little scarecrow looks like he is in the land of giant salt and pepper shakers!

Fall table
We were having a going-away dinner for a friend recently and I needed 12 dinner plates to set the table.  Our fallish-green dishes began as 12 place settings but through natural attrition (breakage!) we are down to 9.  On a stop through the dollar store for some balloons I saw these perfectly bronzed fall dinner plates.  $1 each.  What a great find.  I used 6 green plates and 6 new fall plates.

fall table setting
It was a lot of fun setting this table for 12 and the best part – we have used the 6 dinner plates over and over this fall.  All for $6!

Okay back to the kitchen …   I spent the next 3 1/2 hours in the kitchen.  It was during that time I noticed that my heart just felt so happy!  The Chief had just ground fresh wheat flour from the bucket of wheat berries we bought some time ago.  He brought 10 cups in and set them on the counter.  BREAD!  Soon I will post my new favorite whole wheat bread recipe. In the meantime you can find a wheat bread recipe here.  Oh my gosh it produces fantastic all-wheat bread!

Pasta-and-Fagioli-Soup-from-Our-Best-Bites-590x393Earlier in the morning I had read this blog post from Our Best Bites. My sous chef dish-washing mom absolutely adores Olive Garden’s Pasta E Fagioli soup. So, part of my heart-happy day was making a big pot of soup for her (and us) for our  dinner.   I found it necessary to change up the recipe a bit and will tell you about that soon!

vanilla box prettyOh, and finally about the homemade vanilla.  Wow, so many of you are making this for Christmas gifts.  Way to go!  I have received several questions via email and while answering one from my friend Cheryl, it dawned on mevanilla beans that I didn’t suggest that you use GLOVES when handling the vanilla beans.  I always keep disposable latex gloves in the kitchen for when I handle meat but they came in handy when cutting up the vanilla beans because these aromatic little beauties will stain your fingers!

That is about it from me this morning.  Hope you are having a wonderful week and here is wishing you a blessed weekend!

Happy Cooking!
~ Catherine

Wise thought for the day:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10 ESV

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

Once you have made homemade vanilla extract you will never want to use anything else!

NOTE: It is helpful to wear disposable gloves when handling the vanilla beans as they can stain your fingers.

Ingredients

  • 3 to 5 vanilla beans
  • 8 ounces alcohol such as vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

Directions

  1. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces, depending on the size of the bottles you will use.
  2. Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover with alcohol making sure they are completely submerged. Add sugar (optional).
  3. Infuse for at least 1 month. Shake the bottle and place in a cool, dark spot, shaking once or twice a week.
  4. After a month taste the extract and let it infuse longer if you want a stronger flavor.
  5. When extract is ready you may wish to remove the vanilla pods and decant the vanilla.
  6. Divide into smaller bottles. Vanilla beans can be removed or one or two pieces can be left in each bottle.

Notes

Vanilla can be made from white rum, vodka, bourbon, or brandy -- I used white rum and have been very happy with the flavoring. Madagascar beans are my favorite, but Mexican beans or other varieties can be used, depending on the flavor you prefer. *The sugar is optional.

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Abbey and Her First Pecan Pie – JD Style

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Abbey's first pecan pie finished
I cannot remember when I made my first pie.  But on the bright side I know it was when I was still in high school!  My sous-chef dish-washing mom has made pie for as long as I can remember and I inherited her love of making anything pie!

When granddaughter Abbey arrived for a visit we talked about the things she would like to do, making salsa, jam, and pie were all at the top of her list!

Abbey first pecan pie
I asked Jack Daniels for pecan pieif she had ever made a pecan pie.
She said she hadn’t and since we had just returned from a tour of Jack Daniel’s distillery, just down the road,  I suspected a pecan pie laced with Lynchburg’s hometown product was in our future!  FYI — the alcohol cooks out and the flavor really enhances the sweetness of a custard pie like pecan.

As I have mentioned earlier, I became an instant Grandma to Abbey in 1991 when I married her Grandpa Lee. Abbey and I are only 29 years apart in age – unusually on the light side for grandmother and granddaughter. It is a pecan-pie-slice-closerwonderful blessing for me having her young, creative and fun spirit in the kitchen! It is not only inspiring but also a barrel of laughs! Besides chattering about cooking and baking we throw in a measurable amount of discussion on topics like MEN, love, and the pitfalls and benefits of both! :)

Praying your week is also filled with the joys of spending time with those you love.

Happy Baking!
Catherine

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”    Billy Graham

Pecan Pie Jack Daniel-Style

Yield: 6-8 slices

Pecan Pie Jack Daniel-Style

Cranking it up a bit with a splash of Lynchburg's hometown product!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 2/3 cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup (Light or dark)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Pecan halves or pieces (can be roughly chopped if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup Jack Daniel Whiskey (Optional)
  • 1 Pie Crust ( I use Pillsbury, but homemade is good too!)

Directions

  1. Lightly spray pie plate with canola oil. Line pie plate with pastry shell, flute edges and sprinkle with pecans.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy using a mixer or food processor. Add in next four ingredients mixing well.
  3. Pour filling over pecans.
  4. Cover outer pie crust with a pie ring or loosely with tin foil.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or longer if needed, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream.

Notes

(1) Pie will set slightly as it cools. (2) The pie ring or foil is necessary or the outer pie crust will brown too much during cooking.

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DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract – Perfect For Gift Giving

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vanilla box pretty
Do you have any bakers on your Christmas list this year?  YES?  Then this is the perfect time of year to begin a do-it-yourself gift giving Christmas project — Homemade Vanilla Extract! 

Last year my cousin Jill shared a recipe with me that she and her sister, my cousin Laura, have made for many years. She said, “once you make your own vanilla you will never want to use any other!” As the Christmas season came fast and furious I ran out of time to share it in time for your gift gifting.

But make vanilla I did!  And just as Jill and Laura promised — it is fabulous!
NOW is the right time to prepare for this easy and yet fabulous gift for this year.

vanilla beans
I ordered these Madagascar beans from Amazon but they are also readily available from many other sources, including my cousin Jill’s favorite place, Penzy’s Spices.

homemade vanilla start
Because I am an overachiever, I started out with 64 ounces of white rum.  I left a good amount of it in the larger container but poured some off into a couple of glass pints. (See recipe below.)  Once a week I shook each container replacing it in a cool, dark place.

making vanilla
After about 6 weeks I was ready to taste-test my first batch of vanilla.  The fragrance is strong and lovely. I particularly like the little specks of vanilla bean that stay in the vanilla.  (You can strain it if you prefer.)

vanilla box bulb
I ordered 4 ounce brown glass bottles from Amazon but I am sure you can use any favorite bottle, clear glass or brown glass.  I have also seen really cute bottles at Hobby Lobby.

vanilla decorated bottle
When I filled the bottles I added a few of the vanilla pieces. They will keep giving the vanilla flavor and add a few vanilla bean specks to your baking as well.

Vanilla clear bottle

I have used vanilla from this little bottle all year-long and have refilled it a time or two already!

Happy Gift Giving!
Blessings, Catherine

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

Once you have made homemade vanilla extract you will never want to use anything else!

NOTE: It is helpful to wear disposable gloves when handling the vanilla beans as they can stain your fingers.

Ingredients

  • 3 to 5 vanilla beans
  • 8 ounces alcohol such as vodka, bourbon, brandy, or rum
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

Directions

  1. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces, depending on the size of the bottles you will use.
  2. Place the vanilla beans in a jar and cover with alcohol making sure they are completely submerged. Add sugar (optional).
  3. Infuse for at least 1 month. Shake the bottle and place in a cool, dark spot, shaking once or twice a week.
  4. After a month taste the extract and let it infuse longer if you want a stronger flavor.
  5. When extract is ready you may wish to remove the vanilla pods and decant the vanilla.
  6. Divide into smaller bottles. Vanilla beans can be removed or one or two pieces can be left in each bottle.

Notes

Vanilla can be made from white rum, vodka, bourbon, or brandy -- I used white rum and have been very happy with the flavoring. Madagascar beans are my favorite, but Mexican beans or other varieties can be used, depending on the flavor you prefer. *The sugar is optional.

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Awesome Fried Okra

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DSC08556
When granddaughter Abbey arrived she had driven from California via Colorado for the better part of a week. She was ready to get out of the car and to get busy in Grandma’s kitchen!

Our first evening meal together included garden-fresh fried okra.  Growing up in Colorado and California Abbey never had eaten okra.  I guess it really is a southern thing since I’d never even heard of it until I met my southern-born sweetheart!

The story of Abbey and okra was love at first bite! She couldn’t wait for a DIY lesson.  Well, I don’t really want to brag, but for a Nebraska girl I can turn out some awesome fried okra.

The local farmer’s market provided fresh okra and we added the fun as we cooked up this mess of tasty-finger lickin’ delights.  She and her Grandpa ate every one!  (They wouldn’t want me to share that with you, but hey — I’m a food blogger, when it comes to the kitchen, it’s all fair game!)

close up Okra
I realize frying okra isn’t rocket science.  But there is a particular sequence necessary to get perfectly breaded, nicely seasoned, non-slimy okra!

If you have a hankerin’ for a bowl of these tasty veggie bites, follow this recipe and you won’t be disappointed!

Blessings and Happy Cooking!
Catherine

 

Awesome Fried Okra

Awesome Fried Okra

You don't have to live in the South to have this southern-fried awesome okra -- delicious on any table, anywhere!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. fresh okra, sliced 1/2-inch thick round pieces
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Oil* for frying amount dependent on size of frying skillet

Directions

  1. Rinse okra pods in water and dry with paper towel. Slice into 1/2" round slices being careful to keep the pods away from water and as dry as possible.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper.
  3. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat well.
  4. Spread okra on baking sheet and allow to set while dipping and coating the rest of the okra.
  5. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. Fill with 1/4" to 1/2" oil up the sides of the skillet.
  6. Carefully add breaded okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, turning only once. (It may be necessary to fry the okra in batches.)
  7. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels, and then serve immediately.

Notes

* Oil used can be canola, corn, grape or coconut (without flavor). Use your favorite oil for frying. Butter will be too greasy.

This recipe adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen, Food Network.

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