Thursday, March 18, 2010

Love for Chocolate

Ohhhhh, this picture. Do you know what this is?

This, my friends...this is happiness.

You deserve some happiness in your life. You really do.

But you know what? Today is Friday! So that helps, right?


And such a day as Friday deserves a celebration, right?


What a great excuse to get some chocolate! You're welcome! :)

Happy Friday!

the Peas

P. S. No Russell Stover's French Mints were harmed in the taking of this photo. If anything, there were loved and cherished.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Menu Planning: An Open Forum

Since I was a kid, one of the most fascinating phenomena to me has been grocery shopping.

Ah, the grocery store--sweet haven of Nutella, fresh bread, and the baking aisle. Is it shameful that I feel contented relief wash over me when I walk into a grocery store--like there's actually a reason to have hope in the world? Then again, this was one of my favorite shows growing up. I like to think I had no chance.

Come back, Supermarket Sweep! I have missed you greatly. And your conspicuous sweatshirt Peter Pan collars.

Recently, I have decided to keep my indulgent grocery shopping in check by keeping every receipt I get, and I have done this for a couple of reasons. For one, I can track the prices on frequently purchased items, noting when they go on sale, thus saving myself a bit of money. But also, I am attempting to cut down on my instances of: "How on earth did I justify spending FORTY extra dollars on groceries when I specifically went right after dinner so I wouldn't spend frivolously?!"
Receipt reviewing...those are dark times. I usually have some chocolate nearby to abate the pain.

I am consciously aware that I need to nip this irresponsible spending in the bud. Someday, I'm going to find myself in a family as the head of the kitchen, and it's imperative that I know how to spend our limited income wisely. And this is where I'm sure that menu planning would help me out.

I'm sure most of you are much more experienced than I am in everything that encompasses menu planning: things like dictating which recipes will show up when, re-creating leftovers, and filling up your pantry on a budget. Today, I offer no words of culinary wisdom. Today, I'm asking you for some much-needed help and advice.

What is your method of menu planning?

Do you do it at all? Why or why not? If so, what is your time frame for planning? What is your format for planning--spreadsheets or a good ol' fashioned laundry list? Do you use coupons, or do you think they are they a convenient excuse for wasting budget money? How often to you purchase "splurge" items? What convenience items are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of cost? How often do you utilize a farmer's market?

I'm so eager to hear from you! I know your answers are going to vary, depending on your lifestyle and family size. But that's the beauty of this discussion--there's no right or wrong way to do it...unless you're approaching your shopping the way I am!

Thanks for your thoughts, dear friends. I don't want to be thrust out into the murky waters of menu preparation without a flashlight. Just think--YOU could be my flashlight, and together we can escape the clutches of frivolous spending and find the path to culinary and familial greatness!

Too much metaphor? Perhaps. Hints at mental instability? You bet. Aren't you glad you stopped by?!

Praying earnestly for the return of Supermarket Sweep,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Today is March 14th, which means it's Pi Day! If you've never heard of Pi Day, you must learn about it; it'll give you a fantastic excuse to make and eat dessert. And who doesn't love a great excuse to eat dessert?!


Let me tell you this: today's date is 3/14. The Greek letter Pi's first few digits of mathematical value are 3.14. Get it?!

As many of you know, I am not mathematically inclined. In fact, one of the happiest days of my life was a couple of years ago when I walked out of the last math class I would ever have to take. I nearly cried--and I'm not exaggerating.

Growing up, the only day of math class I ever looked forward to Pi Day, March 14th. Derived from the first three numbers of Pi's mathematical value 3.14, Pi day was the best day in math class in the entire year solely because all of the math teachers would make pies.

Pie--the only thing that could coax a book nerd with a sweet tooth to memorize numbers she would never care about otherwise.

I owe so much to that clever math teacher who decided to make a teaching moment out of a clever pun. I remember one teacher who made a wager us students: if any of his pupils could say the first 20 digits of Pi, they would earn a slice of glorious pie. I remember memorizing the first not twenty, but twenty-one digits of Pi--I treated them like they were phone numbers. So in my mind, I was only memorizing three phone numbers to get a slice of pie--a small price to pay. Needless to say, I rattled the numbers off flawlessly in order to get myself a nice slice of pecan pie. The sad thing is that I can remember the flavor of the pie...but I can't remember the actual number.

3.141...5...9...maybe? That's about all I've got...*sigh*

I'm missing so many digits. This is disgraceful.

And that's why I have a food blog...and don't work for NASA. Trust me--it's DEFINITELY in everybody's best interest!

So in honor of Pi Day, I have decided to give you a pie recipe of my own. I made this pie for my dear friend, Laura Bailey. She is a wonderfully brilliant friend (who probably knows many more digits of Pi than I do) who proclaimed that she wanted--no, needed--a coconut cream pie for her birthday. And because she needed one so much, I made her one. Then again, I didn't really need much prodding to make her pie. So if you ever tell me you want a pie...I will probably make you one.

Don't tempt me for the sake of it. That would just be cruel!

Alright friends, let's get down to it: the great thing about this recipe is that it's full of delicious coconut without being overly sweet! I make mine in a graham cracker crust because...well, I actually prefer those over the traditional pastry crust. But if you don't have any graham crackers lying around, this would be great with a traditional crust too! This pie is fantastic in the warmer months--a great way to cool off! Just make sure this is in your life by summertime, ok?


Coconut Cream Pie (serves 8-10)
*click here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe*

For the Crust
  • 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted

For the Filling
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

For the Topping
  • 2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
To make the Crust:

To make the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan and add to the crumb mixture, stirring until everything is moist and just comes together (if you need to add butter or graham cracker crumbs to achieve your desired consistency, that's fine--these numbers are a starting point for you). Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a pie pan with your palm or the back of a spoon. Set aside, and make pie filling.

To make the Filling:

Whisk the sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and flour in medium bowl. Bring the milk and coconut to a simmer (a rolling bubble) in a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly--you don't want to have scrambled eggs in your pie! Return the mixture to the same saucepan. Cook the mixture until the custard boils then thickens, stirring constantly for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and mix in the vanilla and coconut extracts. Pour the custard to a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface--this prevents a nasty skin from forming on top of the pie. Chill until cold, at least 3 hours. Transfer the filling to crust. Cover and chill overnight.

At this point, the pie looks like this. Still yummy, but now it's time to dress it up!

To make the topping:

Toast the coconut in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside and cool completely.

Using electric mixer, beat the cream, sugar, and coconut extract in medium bowl until stiff peaks form (make sure your whipping cream and beaters are cold--this encourages peaks to form). Spread the whipped cream over top of filling. Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the surface of the pie. Serve the pie cold, and devour it!

Mmm...the wonderful custardy goodness with the whipped creamy's enough to make you swoon! Let's take a closer look.

Oh, look at that crunchy toasted coconutty goodness...I just wanna swipe my finger across the top of that pie. I'm mischievous like that.

Darling friends, even if you're not into coconut, MAKE THIS PIE! Many of my friends who aren't coconut people enjoy this pie. And for those of you who enjoy're going to thank yourself for making it.

Any day that celebrates with pie, even if it's remotely associated with math, is ok with me. I hope you enjoy Pi Day as much as I do!

Taking every advantage of this blessed day,

EDIT: To second what Amy said - I too celebrated Pi(e) Day. Mother Pea and I had every intention of making our own pie, but the whole "Spring Forward" thing threw us off. So instead, this Pea went to The Loveless Cafe (one of the best, most celebrated Southern restaurants in Tennessee). There, I had my choice of about 15 pies, I settled on the Southern Pecan Pie. OH MY GOODNESS. Best Pie ever. I still have some left will be eaten on 3.15 The IDES OF MARCH. Beware...

Cautiously Full,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Toil and Trouble

Never fear, dear friends: we are still alive! This is a busy week for the Peas--it's the week before our Spring Break, and all of our professors are conveniently piling on the assignments to ensure our productivity (as our brains will be mush throughout the break). This leaves us with:
  1. Not as much time to cook
  2. Not as much time to blog
  3. Not much willpower to live
HOWEVER--once we are free from our academic fetters, we will have some glorious time to get busy in the kitchen. Rumor has it that a recipe for coconut cream pie will be posted this weekend.

Pie and freedom. It's going to be a good weekend.

I'm just saying.

Frantically remembering that we're students,
the Peas

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why Caitlin and Amy Shouldn't Sit Together in Class

We're not very good at paying attention.

Maybe we could pass this off as a visual aid?

Happy Friday!

The Peas

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Amy's Lemon Icebox Pie

Is it just me, or has it been a really long winter this year? How many days has it been gloomy and overcast? How many days has the wind been whipping through the trees, across your cheeks, and into your bones? How many times has it snowed this year?!

I've been praying for relief since the end of January. But then the groundhog saw his shadow. And I almost wept bitterly.

But you know what? It's all ok because...

SPRING IS ALMOST HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's almost time for taking long walks on sunny days, picking fresh flowers, feeling the green grass under my toes. My friends, it's almost time for the earth to come alive again! I can't tell you how excited I am for longer days and trees with green leaves on them!

This has been the theme of my thoughts lately. On Friday afternoon, I spotted a beautiful pink pie pan in my lovely friend Ms. Kenna's office. And like any mature person, I rhapsodized over the beauty of the dish and begged her to tell me where she got it. She coyly smiled at me and told me that she'd make a bet with me: if I could put something wonderful and worthy of her affections into that pie pan, I would get to keep the dish.

Folks, this is a no-brainer: I am a college student. I'm all about the free stuff.

Ms. Kenna loves the warm weather more than I do, so I knew I had to put something in that dish to remind her of the beautiful sunshine she loves so much. And what says sunshine more than the taste of fresh lemons?

I think you know where this is going--I made a lemon icebox pie.

Have you heard of the wonder that is lemon icebox? I think it might be more of a Southern thing. I've lived in the South all my life, so sometimes I just assume that everybody has heard of things like lemon icebox. But as I was making this pie, all of my friends from the North kept asking me what on earth lemon icebox pie was. I was astounded!

If you've never had lemon icebox, this is going to rock your world! It's super easy, and even more delicious. The fresh lemon flavor reminds me of the fun times to be had in the warmer weather. This pie will be a staple for all of your cookouts and potlucks this summer! Add a homemade graham cracker crust, and people will grovel at your feet.

Lemon Icebox Pie (serves 8-10)
*Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe*

For the crust:
  • 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
For the pie filling:
  • 1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, or juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Make the crust:

Combine the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan and add to the crumb mixture, stirring until everything is moist (if you need to add butter or graham cracker crumbs to achieve your desired consistency, that's fine--these numbers are a starting point for you). Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a pie pan with your palm or the back of a spoon. Set aside, and make pie filling.

Whip up the filling:

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat at a medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into the crust, and smooth the surface. Place the pie into a refrigerator (this the where the "icebox"comes in!), and let it sit overnight or at least 8 hours. Keep the pie chilled until ready to serve.

My friends, give this recipe a try. Like I said, it's SUPER simple, and it's just so flavorful! You'll wonder how you lived life without it.

As for the pie pan? I got to keep it. Life is good.

Not-so-patiently awaiting warmer temperatures,

P.S. Here's a fun trick: if you heat your lemons in the microwave for about 15 seconds, they'll give you a little more juice. Try it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crack in Cheesy form...or Amy's Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

I'm about to do something very, very bad. You're probably going to never speak to me again. You're probably never going to come back to this blog. And you're probably going to hate me. But since we are friends, I've got to be honest with you.

I'm addicted to garlic cheddar biscuits. And you're about to be too.

And I don't even care!

In a word, these things are amazing. The ingredients are right in your pantry. They're so simple to whip up, you can have yourself a batch in about 15 minutes. And I don't know what it is, but these little babies are just so good.

So when you're wondering what's going to accompany the chicken you're having for the fifth night in a row because it was on sale for $1.19/lb and we're in a recession and you just can't allow yourself to upgrade to the $2.99/lb chuck roast because it's too extravagant, you should make these. Your family won't even remember that you're having leftover leftovers!

That last paragraph might have been venting. I have given all of my funds for my education, and therefore, the betterment of society. I keep telling myself this and hoping that somebody will pay me something someday to do something. Maybe one day, I'll be able to afford a chuck roast.
And what a beautiful day that will be.

But I digress.

Come with me, my friend. Your life will never be the same.

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
(yields about 12-15 biscuits)

*Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe*
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, shredded or cubed (I prefer cubed)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick), melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • parsley flakes, for garnish (if you're into that sort of thing)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Add cheddar and milk, and mix with a fork until well incorporated, when the dough follows the fork around the bowl. Place 1 tablespoon of dough on a greased cookie sheet, making sure the dough balls stay 2 inches apart. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes, until cheese is melted and biscuits are golden.

While the biscuits are in the oven, make the garlic butter. Melt the butter, and stir in garlic powder and parsley (if using). When biscuits come out of the oven, immediate baste them with the garlic butter. Let them stand for a few minutes to absorb the garlic butter, and ravenously enjoy.

I'm sorry for what this might do to your thighs...and then I'm not sorry. Look at it this way: in your arsenal, you now have a recipe that is (1) quick and easy to make and (2) a definite crowd pleaser. And that's all any cook could ask for, right? Right?!

Right. At least I feel justified.

Happy cooking,