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Strawberry-Blueberry Pie

I was down visiting relatives this past weekend in Iowa and fell under some trance where all I wanted to do was camp out in the kitchen and make tons of comfort foods.  I ran to the local grocery store and bought up all kinds of goodies, which included my latest pie obsession: strawberry-blueberry.  Please understand that my hosts did not have a food processor, and I honestly would never make my own pie crust if I didn't own one - so the next best thing was to purchase pie dough, which actually isn't the end of the world - although there truly is a taste difference.  Now that everyone has picked up their jaws (store-bought pie dough is not a sign of end times) - here is the filling:

2 qt containers strawberries, hulled and rough chopped
2 pt. containers blueberries
zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla
4 tsbp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted.
Egg wash and sugar for finishing top crust

In a bowl mix together the berries with the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla.  Pour into a pie dish that has been fitted with one of the rounds of pie dough (obviously you can make your own as well).  Make sure to adjust filling so there are no large open spaces and that it is somewhat even on the top.  Drizzle melted butter over top.  Score top round with vents to steam can escape and place on top of berry mixture.  Tuck edges under bottom crust edge and seal the edge however you desire.  Place into refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Before you pull the pie out of the refrigerator, whisk together one egg and 1/4 c. milk, 1/2&1/2 or cream - preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove pie from refrigerator and brush top with egg mixture, then sprinkle generously with 1/4 c. sugar.  Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25 more minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing - this will assure your liquid inside the pie sets up fully and does not run all over.  

Tator Tot Hotdish

This is like going home whenever I make this dish.  It reminds me of my childhood, when life seemed simpler and I had less cares to worry about.  Meals such as this were meant to be economical and feed a big family. The ingredients are simple, and the dish is pure comfort.  Here I made the hotdish in several, different-sized containers and baked them off so they could be frozen and pulled out at a later time to thaw and then feed one, two or three.  This recipe makes two 9X13 pans, and can easily be halved.
4 lbs. 75% lean ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
2 - 4 oz. container sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
32 oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 - 50 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 bag frozen tator tots
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Brown hamburger, onions and mushrooms together - then drain grease and place back into pot.  Add flour, salt and pepper, mixing well to combine.  Divide meat mixture evenly into the bottom of your pans.  Top with  frozen vegetables.

Place cream soup into a bowl and stir with a fork until mixture becomes creamy.  Spread over top of vegetables, then place frozen tator tots on top of that.  Place into a 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes, until mixture is bubbly.  Open oven, pull out rack and sprinkle tops of hotdish with shredded cheese.  Place back into oven and bake for 15 more minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes - serve.

Apple Fritter Pudding

This recipe is true comfort food, the apple fritters make it sweet and homey.  It's basically taking bread pudding to a whole new level.  The pudding benefits from placing a piece of parchment over the top of the mixture, then setting another 9X13 glass dish on top of that to weigh it down and make sure the fritters soak up all the delicious custard.  Subsequently you remove them before baking and your pudding puffs and bakes up to an amazing breakfast treat. This recipe has inspired me to think of numerous ways to make this dish with various types of bread - wait til you see what I have up my sleeve or oven mitt!

8 apple fritters, torn apart and dried out
4 c. half & half
5 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. sugar

Place the dried out apple fritter pieces into a 9X13 oven dish and set aside.  Make custard by mixing half & half, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar together - then pouring over the fritter pieces.  Cover with a sheet of parchment and place a second 9X13 dish on top of that to weigh the fritter pieces down and keep them submerged in the custard.  Place into refrigerator and chill overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 50 minutes, until pudding is puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Ginger & Mustard Carrots

This is one of those recipes where I know I have to rush to the computer and type up the recipe so I don't forget how I did it.  I took the flavors I normally associate when cooking carrots on the stove or in the oven and intermingled them into a pickled carrot.  I have to be honest, waiting until tomorrow is going to kill me so I can know how they will taste.  The end result will be posted tomorrow.  I purchased the carrots in this recipe from the local farmer's market so I could control how large they were and also cut the tops off to the length I desired.  I canned these in tall Weck cylindrical jars so the carrots would have the height I needed.

4 lbs. of baby carrots cleaned and divided between your canning jars.
Place into each jar the following:
1 tsp. chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 fresh garlic clove, sliced

In a large pot add:
9 c. distilled water
6 c. white vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. kosher salt
1 oz. fresh ginger, sliced into coins
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Bring mixture to a boil and then pour into jars leaving 1/2" space at top - do not put fresh ginger coins into jars, remove these.  If you need to make more canning liquid, that's fine.  Cover jars that are filled and finish the others when the second batch of liquid is done.

Place sealed jars into a boiling water bath, making sure water is fully covering the tops (most canning bath pots will leave little room, don't fret) and cook for ten minutes.  Carefully remove the jars and allow them to fully cool.  When cool, turn them over to make sure seal is secure - if any seals are not - place into refrigerator and eat within two weeks.  You can store any others in cool, dry place for up to one year.   Serve chilled.

Ginger Pear Jam

4 Bosc Pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. Australian Crystallized ginger
1 1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Prep your pot for canning as well as your jars to begin with.

I make my jam in a 14" Deep Saute Cast Iron Pan.  Place all of your ingredients in the pan and turn heat to medium high, bring to boil - reduce heat to medium and set timer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Mixture should have a steady boil, not rapid.  When 30 minutes are up, place into appropriate jars - I tend to get 7-8, 1/2 c. jars.  Wipe jar rims, seal and place into water bath for ten minutes.  Remove and cool thoroughly - check seals and store any with broken seals in the refrigerator, the rest can be in your pantry for up to one year.

Bacon & Corn Fritters

This recipe is one of the reasons why when I am making bacon, I always cook a few extra strips and store them in the refrigerator because I know I can find some way to sneak those tasty morsels into something.  It's another reason why mixing this recipe together only took five minutes.  I used a half-cup scoop measure and fried them in a well-oiled pan for four minutes on the first side and three minutes on the second over medium heat.  I'm going to use any leftovers to make a sandwich with fried green tomatoes and avocado!

3 c. fresh or frozen corn
6 strips, thick-cut bacon - fried and diced
4 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. sugar
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. AP flour

Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl, then allow to sit and rest for five minutes.  Place roughly 1/4 cup oil into a fry pan over medium high heat and when oil begins to shimmer reduce heat to medium.  Using a half-cup measure place fritter mixture into pan, I usually get two in a pan and fry on one side for four minutes, then turn and fry for another two.  Check doneness before you flip, it should be a golden brown color - if not, turn your heat up otherwise reduce heat if too brown.  Serve - I like to drizzle them with Burton's maple syrup.