Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

I’ve said it before, but I have to repeat it…I love coconut cream. The other day I got a powerful hankering (for those of you not familiar with hankering, it basically means you really, really want it) for coconut cream pie. I knew I needed to take care of this, because as we all know, once you get a hankering, it doesn’t go away. I checked my pantry stash to see what I had on hand. Generally, whenever baking items go on sale, like cake mixes, brownies, puddings, chocolate chips, etc., I stock up. After all, you never know when we could have a natural disaster and I would be without anything to assuage my sweet tooth. Now, THAT would be a disaster! What I found in my stash was sugar free vanilla pudding, coconut flavoring and in my frig, flaked coconut, cream of coconut and whipping cream I’d bought for something I didn’t end up making. Truth be told, I probably had graham crackers to make the crust with, but being lazy, I decided to buy a premade one.

Ingredients:

Premade Graham cracker crust (or you can make your own using 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar and 6 Tbls. melted butter)

For pudding:

Two small boxes Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix (I used sugar free)
1/2 cup (or thereabouts) Cream of Coconut (like Coco Lopez)
2 1/4 cups cold milk
Sweetened flaked coconut

For Whipped Cream

One pint whipping cream
2 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. coconut flavor

Pudding Directions:

In medium size bowl, mix together the milk and Cream of Coconut, add the pudding mixes. Using a wire whisk, whip the pudding mix with the milks until all pudding is dissolved and mixed thoroughly. Add the flaked coconut. The amount you add is up to you. I used about a half cup, but I have to be honest, I didn’t measure it. Pour the pudding mixture into the graham cracker crust and allow the pudding to set up.

Whipped Cream Directions

The directions for making whipped cream call for placing the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 20 minutes. Unfortunately (really, it is fortunate) I had no room in my freezer to put them in, so instead I filled the bowl with ice water and put the mixer paddle in it and put them in the refrigerator. Once the bowl was good and cold, I poured out the water and dried the bowl and paddle. Combine the sugar, coconut flavor and whipping cream in the bowl and beat on medium high speed until soft peaks form (about 10 minutes). Spread over the coconut pudding and refrigerate.

If you want, you can sprinkle toasted flake coconut on top the whipped cream. To toast your coconut, place a thin layer of coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven. Stir coconut around half way through the baking time so the coconut browns evenly.

OMG, this is an absolutely wonderful, creamy, easy to make pie that it is all I couldE do not to hide it from my husband.

 

Adios, Good and Faithful Friend

You know what they say, “breaking up is hard to do”. Yes, that’s true, especially to someone who routinely keeps something until it is totally broken. So when my trusted Dazey can opener I’ve had for probably forty years (I think it was a wedding present back in 1972) began not to work correctly any longer, I knew it was time.20141228_083209

I know I tried a number of years ago to breakup with this trusted friend, only to find that it’s replacement had a bottom edge that stuck out which prohibited the opening of large cans. (How can you make chili if you can’t get those big cans of beans open?) It didn’t take long before that new replacement changed places with the old in the Salvation Army bin and go back to my old faithful. But now, I knew it was time, so for Christmas, I received a new Hamilton Beach can opener. What a difference 40 years makes!

My old faithful had a plug I could plug into any outlet, every which way. plugI didn’t have to worry about which way I was plugging the cord in, it went in any which way. Saved probably several minutes over the last, who knows how many years! After all, why do they make those plugs that can only go in one way, oh yeah, safety reasons.

And way back then, if you got instructions to go with that new can opener, you didn’t have to figure out what language you wanted to read the instructions in. 20141228_084104_resizedNow, of course, I can choose between English, French (?) and Spanish. Sometimes I read the Spanish manuals just to figure out if any of my three years of high school Spanish have stuck with me. “Como utilizarlo: Asegurese de que la palanca de activacion se encurentre en las posicion UP (arriba) y Unlocked (destrabado).” I understand it says something about activation in the up position…Guess I’d better stick with the English version.

My old trusty can opener cut the lid out of the can. Yes, you had to be careful not to cut your fingers on the sharp edges of the lid when you removed it from the magnet but, blood is the same color as tomato sauce (I know, gross!) So now the new version cuts the entire top off the can, eliminating sharp edges of the can lid. Hmmm. Must be another one of those safety issues.

My old faithful had a cord that was at least two foot long, allowing me to pull the can opener to the edge of the counter to open those large cans. My new one’s cord is only 12″ long. Guess I’ll have to figure out how to get those large cans open. Maybe instead of holding the can as it instructs you, I’ll have to hold the can opener up instead. Another advance I’m sure.

So out with the old and in with the new. After all, it is the start of a new year. New year, new can opener. What’s the chance this one will last forty years? I wouldn’t bet on it.20141228_083339

Stray Dog Dessert, Choco-Peanut Butter Bars

Stray Dog Dessert
As our families grew larger with kids getting married and having kids of their own, my brothers and I realized that our homes could no longer comfortably accommodate everyone. As we three siblings are the remaining members of our family (we’ve lost our dad, mom and one brother) we made the difficult decision to no longer get together on Christmas Day. We decided instead to spend an adults only evening experiencing some of the holiday events taking place in St. Louis. This has proven to be great fun and we’ve done such fun things as a carriage ride through the holiday lights at Winter Wonderland at Tillis Park and attending performances at the Stray Dog Theater in the Tower Grove East area of St. Louis. My one brother lives in City of St. Louis and knows great places to eat. We usually have dinner together, attend the show which is held in a refurbished Catholic Church and have dessert at the play. A couple weeks ago, I shared a recipe posted by Six Sisters Stuff of Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars and my brother responded that this recipe looked like a good dessert for our upcoming Stray Dog night, thus, the title, Stray Dog Dessert was born.

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups peanut butter (divided)
2 cups oatmeal (not quick)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Cream first 3 ingredients together. Add the vanilla, eggs, and 1 cup peanut butter and combine. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Spread dough on a greased jelly roll pan (18x13x1″). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (until golden brown). The bars will be soft when removed from the oven and while still hot drop the other 1 1/2 cups peanut butter on top the batter, wait a few minutes until the peanut butter begins to melt and then spread the peanut butter on top the batter. Let the bars cool so that the peanut butter has become solid again. Spread your favorite chocolate frosting (store-bought or homemade) on top and cut into bars.

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Frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine, softened
1/4 cup milk
1-2 tsp vanilla (depending on your taste)
3 Tablespoons cocoa (I have never really exactly measured)
2-3 cups of powdered sugar
Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth and spread on top of bars.

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Bribery to get my picky son to try the bars.

Here are some of the Christmas plays presented at Stray Dog over the last couple years: Santaland Diaries; William Gibson’s The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut and the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree and The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical.

Waiting with Bated Breath

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Protestors, Ferguson, Missouri, usatoday.com

“Waiting with baited breath.” What a strange phrase. It’s probably not a phrase that is familiar or understood among the younger generation and when I was thinking about it, I wondered what exactly it meant. Going to the source of all knowledge (the internet, of course), I found a definition from Wikipedia that says “…refers to a state in which the speaker nearly stops breathing through fear, anxiety, awe, anticipation, or suspense”. That pretty well describes it. I, along with most of the Metropolitan St. Louis area, and maybe even the nation, wait with “bated breath” as the decision of the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown shooting nears.

What is going to happen and how bad will it actually be? As bad as anticipated? How will it impact the surrounding areas? Will anyone die? Will a police officer be killed? Will a police officer be forced to defend his life with deadly force? How many officers will be injured? How many innocent civilians will be injured? How many buildings will be looted or burned?  How many people will be threatened or inconvenienced? How long will it last? How will we deal with the aftermath?

Or will the pleas of Michael Brown’s family for peaceful protesting be heeded? For some it will, those people who respect the parents and understand that violence will only beget violence. But for others, I doubt it. Those people whose agenda it is to cause havoc, to loot and destroy, or even kill, don’t care that they are further defiling the memory of Michael Brown. He is just a pawn for their own personal agendas.

Headlines are everywhere, causing us to cringe and twinge. Facebook is full of them: “Rioters to Target Whites: “You will never be safe-Not You, not your children!” “Law Enforcement sources confirming the FBI arrested two men in connection with purchasing explosives to be used in pipe bombs during protest”; “Security Experts: what to do if protesters surround your car”, “Two with Black Panther connections charged in St. Louis in federal firearms case”, “Private Military contractors Hired to Move Guns and gold out of Ferguson”; “St. Louis County Police Prepare for Ferguson Decision: 650 Teargas grenades, 2,000 plastic handcuffs, 6,000 pepper balls, 5,000 hours of additional training”; “FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision”; “Jennings School district cancels classes Monday, Tuesday”; “Businesses and residents stressed over looming Ferguson grand jury ruling”; “RbG Black Rebels: If any store owner in Ferg/Stl shoots or harms any protesters promise your store will never open again. This is not a threat it’s a promise”; “Anonymous warns Ferguson police and KKK in new video: ‘We are the law now’”; “Missouri Governor declares state of emergency ahead of ruling on Ferguson shooting”.

Talk about ratcheting up the anxiety. Guess I should just stop reading my Facebook feed, but it’s sort of like a train wreck. Regardless of how gruesome it is, you just gotta take a peak. Like a moth to a flame; I gotta get closer even if it might burn my wings.

If the rumormill is to be believed, the decision will be announced early tomorrow evening. That would seem to set with the National Guard being deployed and on its way to the area and the Jennings School District cancelling their classes for Monday and Tuesday. That’s still a full 24 hours away; 24 hours to wait, worry and agonize. Maybe it’s like a cancer tumor. You dread the surgery, but you know you will never get better until they cut it out. The recovery will be slow and painful and getting back to normal may take some time, but in the end, hopefully, there will be a full recovery.

In the meantime, I wait with bated breath.

 

Green Tomato Salsa (Chow Chow)

One day after Halloween and the Christmas commercials have started. I really hate to see winter come. I like the cooler weather, the colorful leaves, (my husband going deer hunting) and even snow for the Christmas season, but after that, the months  leading up to Spring are just wasted time to me. I hate to see the growing season come to an end too. I don’t plant that many vegetables, but each year I plant tomatoes and green and jalapeno peppers. I can’t think of any vegetable I like better picked right from the vine than a tomato; any kind of tomato; Beefsteak, Roma, Grape, any kind, red and juicy. I rarely buy a tomato in the store during the winter. I find them tasteless, not to mention expensive. This year as last, when the first frost hit the area, I had an abundance of green tomatoes. I’ve gotten to the point where I hate to see anything go to waste so my husband picked all the tomatoes and I added store bought peppers and onions to make a green tomato relish, or Chow Chow.

Green tomatoes, red and green peppers

Chow Chow is one of those names that no one seems to have a concensus as to where it came from. Some believe the name “Chow Chow” comes from the Indian (as in India) word “chayote”. Others believe it is French “chou” meaning cabbage and still others believe it is either Chinese or the Hindu word “achar” for pickle.

“… Kevin West, the author of Saving the Season, explains that chow-chow is a relish traditionally made from end-of-season produce.

I call it a catchall relish because, although somebody might tell you that your grandmother made the one and only ‘right’ kind of chow-chow there is, in fact, there is no such thing as an objective standard,” West said. “You basically take whatever’s in the garden right before the last frost, and you grind it up.”

Then salt, vinegar, and spices like mustard seed, mustard powder, celery seed are added for flavor. The concoction is then sealed up in a jar and left to age.” (http://www.wnyc.org/story/last-chance-foods-chow-chows-southern-roots/).

Ingredients:
12 – large green Tomatoes, cored (about 20 small to med size)
3 – green bell peppers, seeded
1 extra large yellow onions
2 – red bell pepper, seeded
1 – tablespoon + 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 – tablespoons celery flakes
2 – cups apple cider vinegar
2 – cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:
Chop the tomatoes, peppers and onion. I use a wonderful invention called a “Vidalia Chop Wizard”. This neat little tool makes quick work of chopping. It took longer to core the tomatoes than it did to chop all the veggies combined. What a treat this gadget is. It is well worth it’s $20 price tag and gives you two different sizes to chop depending on whether you like your salsa chunky or not.

Vidalia Chop Wizard

Put the chopped vegetables in a large pot, add the mustard and celery, vinegar, kosher salt and sugar.

 

Adding vinegar to the vegetables in the pot

Stir well and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook stirring often and skimming as needed.

Simmer until the relish/chow chow cooks down and thickens into a relish, about 2 hrs.

I canned my relish using a hot water bath. It yielded six pints and two half pint jars. Unfortunately, I only had four new pint sealing lids, so two of the pints had to go in my refrigerator for use now.

Jars of canned green tomato relish

Recipe adapted from http://www.mommyskitchen.net/2009/07/tomatoes-tomatoes-everywhere-lets-make.html.