Monday, July 21, 2014

Blueberry pie

Blueberries are the star
Fresh berries and cream cheese filling make pie special

We had such a treat at my cousin Martha Cayton’s last week.

My daughter, granddaughter and I were invited to the pool with my cousins. We always look forward to spending an evening or two by the pool with them each summer and were excited about it all day. Five-year-old Sora even agreed to miss the library’s summer reading program and a worm race to go swimming!

We talked about school, new babies in the family and the 900 ears of corn they had frozen that day while I was at work.

As the sun started to set and the mosquitoes came looking for fresh meat (us!), we got out of the pool, dried off and sat down to enjoy a delicious blueberry dessert Martha had made for us with fruit from her own bushes.

Her sister, Betty Russell, had given her the recipe, and she made it for all of us to try. The delicious blueberry pie is made in a graham cracker crust and has layers of a sweet cream cheese and a homemade blueberry filling. A dollop of whipped topping adds the finishing touch.

The pie is sweet and cool and refreshing and such a wonderful summer dessert. It combines some of my favorite flavors, especially fresh blueberries.

My daughter, Anna, and I knew right away that we must share this recipe in my column. So Martha went in the house, brought out a pretty cloth and plate and we set up a photo on the spot. We couldn’t let this opportunity pass!

This recipe is a keeper for those lucky folks out there who have bushes filled with blueberries right now. If you don’t, check out the local farmers markets and buy some. You won’t regret it!

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Blueberry Pie

1 large graham cracker pie crust

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar

31⁄2 tablespoons cornstarch

1⁄4 cup cold water

1 cup crushed blueberries

1⁄2 cup butter

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese (Martha used reduced fat)

1 to 11⁄2 cups whole blueberries

1 small carton (8 ounces) whipped topping

Combine 1 cup sugar, cornstarch mixed with water, crushed berries and butter in saucepan. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Cool.

While cooling, whip cream cheese and 1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar in food processor or mixer. Spread on graham cracker crust. Layer whole berries on top of cream cheese mixture, covering cream cheese layer. Cover with cooled berry mixture and place in refrigerator until cold. When ready to serve, cover top of pie with Cool Whip.

Pat Triplett of Lenoir

from Carolina Country Kitchen

zucchini muffins

Zucchini season
Add some green to your muffins

We were thrilled to find a box of zucchini, squash and broccoli under our carport last week. It was a welcomed gift from my brother-in-law and his wife.

Fresh produce is one of the wonderful things about summer, I think, and we didn’t want to waste anything they sent.

So last week we had fried zucchini, pan roasted vegetables and zucchini muffins.

I have made zucchini bread before but never muffins. I knew I wanted spices similar to what I put in pumpkin muffins and opted not to add golden raisins because I knew they wouldn’t be appreciated by half my family!

I read many recipes before choosing how I wanted to make my muffins, deciding to use a little bit of ground cloves, for instance, and opting to add in both brown sugar and granulated sugar.

It only takes a few minutes to mix up these muffins, especially if someone grates the zucchini for you. (Thanks Anna!) Before popping the muffins into the oven, I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top for extra flavor and a little crunch.

The muffins smelled very good as they baked, with the scent of allspice, cinnamon and cloves making my mouth water.

I couldn’t wait to try my muffins when they came out of the oven and ate one while it was hot enough to burn my mouth. I’m not a patient person. I was rewarded with a delicious treat with flavors I really enjoy.

I love how a tiny bit of green peeks through the muffins, but I was afraid it would keep my 5-year-old granddaughter from trying them. I was wrong. I’m not sure if she just didn’t see the green or was too distracted to ask, but she eagerly ate the entire muffin, which I called a spice muffin in front of her. Don’t judge me. It did have spices in it!

I liked the muffins best the first day. They weren’t as moist the second day but might have been if I had popped them in the microwave briefly.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Zucchini Muffins 

3 cups grated fresh zucchini

1 stick melted butter

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups self-rising flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄4 teaspoon allspice

Cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the sugars, eggs and vanilla with a spoon and stir in grated zucchini and butter. Mix in flour, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice until combined; don’t over mix.

Spoon into muffin cups prepared with baking spray; sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Makes 12 to 18 muffins depending on size of muffin cups. (Mine made 18.) 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Granola from your slow cooker
Easy way to make a family favorite

I enjoy making my own granola. I love mixing in my favorite nuts and adding sweet honey and brown sugar. Yum.

What I don’t like is worrying if I’m going to burn it when I cook it in the oven.

You basically have to babysit granola while it bakes — taking it out of the oven often and stirring it, being careful not to let it spill out of the pan when you stir. The stirring helps it bake evenly and keeps it from burning around the edges.

Granted, you still run the risk of burning granola in the slow cooker, and you need to stir it occasionally, but I think the burn risk is lower. You also don’t have to heat up the kitchen if you are using the slow cooker.

When I tried this recipe, I adapted one I had posted a few years ago made with almonds and pecans. It’s my favorite granola recipe. But for the slow cooker version I also added Rice Krispies and ground cinnamon, and I used applesauce instead of apple juice. I used coconut oil the first time I made this slow cooker recipe but used canola oil the second time; both versions were delicious.

Right away, as the granola started to warm, I knew I had made the right decision with the cinnamon because the kitchen smelled so good.

The little pieces of Rice Krispies got crunchy and almost burned. I wasn’t sure I’d add them when I made the recipe a second time, but my daughter really liked it that way, so I included them when I repeated the recipe Monday.

My problem with making this granola is the moisture that builds up in the slow cooker while the granola cooks. After I made it the first time, I was unhappy with the texture and ended up putting it in the oven for a few minutes to dry it out. But from reviews on other slow cooker granola recipes, I found that the best way to avoid excess moisture inside the crock is to leave the lid slightly ajar. If it doesn’t work by sliding over the lid a bit, then prop open the lid just a little with a spoon or rolled up piece of aluminum foil. I’ve done this with a number of slow cooker recipes to thicken a sauce or gravy.

Anna likes the granola with a fresh fruit and a little milk added in, so she doesn’t mind if it’s not real crunchy. I like it crunchy!

After your granola has cooled, add in dried fruit or even chocolate pieces if you’d like.

In addition to eating granola with milk and fruit, try this recipe with yogurt or ice cream or just eat it out of your hand for a snack.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Slow Cooker Granola 

4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup Rice Krispies

3⁄4 cup chopped almonds (I used roasted almonds)

1⁄2 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1⁄4 cup canola oil or coconut oil

1⁄2 cup honey

1⁄4 cup applesauce

Add all ingredients to slow cooker crock and stir to combine. Cook on low for around 3 hours, depending on your slow cooker. Stir several times while cooking and monitor if it’s cooking too fast. The first time I cooked this, I stirred every 30 minutes. The next time, I wasn’t at home, so it cooked without stirring the first 21⁄2 hours. Only a few pieces were too brown.

To avoid moisture build-up and soggy granola, prop open the slow cooker lid with a spoon or rolled up piece of aluminum foil or leave it ajar.

Once granola has cooked and cooled, add in dried fruit or chocolate chips if desired.