Hot Cross Buns

 I haven’t had much time to relax at home and bake in a while now. I woke up on a mission this morning to bake hot cross buns for my mother in law Helen. I can’t believe it’s that time of year again! Helen really enjoys hot cross buns. I’ve always purchased them at work it’s so easy to just pick up a package. I had them in my hand yesterday but decided to bake them myself knowing I had the next day off. I made hot cross buns for the fist time last year and was thrilled with the results. Today I pulled out my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and followed that recipe. I’m so glad I decided to make the effort. It was so rainy here today. The perfect way to relax on my day off.  My Husband  Joe will deliver the buns to Mom tomorrow. I hope she enjoys them as much as I enjoyed making them.





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Individual Chicken Pot Pies

I have always loved chicken pot pie. Even when I was a young girl I thought it so comforting. I especially loved the gravy. When my children were very young I began to learn how to bake. I bravely made white and wheat bread, homemade cakes and pies. Most attempts turned out pretty badly. I remember once serving company  homemade coconut cake it was so dry, all they could say was how much they admired me for trying. In time my efforts improved. I got to know the look and feel of bread and pie dough and mastered the cake batter. I made the chicken pot pie recipe in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook over and over again until I could make it pretty much perfect. My children have always loved it. To this day if I make a special  dinner they ask for that pot pie. The crust is flakey and crispy. The filling heavenly, with the flavor of fresh sage and thyme baked into the chicken. The tender pieces of chicken, sweet carrot, baby potatoes, and a few fresh peas add even more flavor. I love the idea of making them individual just like the banquet pot pies my Mom used to buy. Only these are oh so much tastier.

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I like to bake my chicken in chicken broth, sprinkled with fresh sage, thyme, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. The broth keeps the chicken very tender and flavorful.

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Chop the vegetables in a small dice. Keeping them the same size for even cooking.

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Dice the chicken.

DSCF6589The gravy is made in the in the pan I sauté the onions and carrots in.

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Add all of the cooked vegetables and chicken.

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Pour the filling into the tins.

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Put the crusts on top and egg wash and bake.

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Time to enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

Homemade or store bough pie crust

3 cups chicken, diced

Good pinch of fresh thyme and sage, chopped

Kosher salt, to taste

Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

1 cup diced baby potatoes, yellow or red

2/3 cup carrots, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

¼ cup fresh or frozen peas

4 tablespoons butter

2 1/4 cups chicken stock or broth

¾ cup whole milk

1/3 cup of all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground sage

To prepare the chicken place the breasts into a baking dish add enough broth to generously coat the bottom, but not to cover the chicken. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Bake 350 degree until the temperature reads 160 degrees. Rest chicken for 10 minutes. Boil the potatoes and carrots together until tender, strain and set aside. In a sauté pan melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onion, celery, salt, pepper, and ground sage. Be careful not to brown the onion. Cook until tender about 5 minutes. Add the flour to the pan stir with a whisk. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth while mixing with a whisk, and then add the milk and whisk to get smooth gravy. Cook until thick and bubbly. Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and peas. You may bake the pot pie in a 9 inch pie plate or individual tins. Pour the filling into the tins and top with your prepared dough. Cut a hole or slits in the crust to vent. Egg wash and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and bubbling. I used only a top crust you may use top and bottom crust. You can also top with prepared puff pastry.

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Hot Cross Buns And Snow

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My snowy backyard.

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I was at the book store one day last week and to my delight my eyes came upon a new magazine: SIFT, a King Arthur Publication. As I thumbed my way through I saw beautiful pictures of bread, muffins, cakes, biscuits, pizza, sandwiches, gluten free baked goods, and a section on a Mediterranean feast. The photos all looked so appealing, but one picture really had my attention: hot cross buns. I was hoping to make hot cross buns for the upcoming Easter season this year to share with my Mother-In-Law Helen. She just loves hot cross buns and buys them every year. I read over the ingredients and method for preparing the dough and the baking. I happily purchased my new magazine and couldn’t wait to bake the buns. Later that week we had a snow storm and I knew it was the perfect day for baking. The recipe called for either apple juice or rum, and I had rum on hand so I used that. It also called for mixed dried fruit, and I used a mixture of golden raisins and California raisins. I chose to mix the dough by hand instead of the mixer. When baking bread at home in such a small batch I love to get my hands in it. The dough was easy to mix and the process was relaxing. I did some reading during the rise times. It was so hard waiting for those buns to cool, but I wanted to enjoy the little taste of icing piped on the top to get the whole experience of the tasting. It was worth the wait! The bun was soft and tender. The fruit was tasty with the infusion of the rum, and who doesn’t love the taste of icing? I love the buns and the magazine. I will be patiently awaiting the next issue, but ‘till then there’s lots more great recipes in this issue to try.

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Mini Quiche

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These mini quiches make the perfect little savory bite. I love serving them at my tea parties. The crust is flaky and the custard light and delicious. The cheddar cheese adds a sharp note and the red pepper adds a hint of sweetness. They just melt in your mouth.

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 Quiche Custard

3 large eggs

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ cup milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup diced red pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Dash cayenne pepper

Whisk eggs, heavy cream, milk, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to blend.

Method:

Use store bought or homemade pastry crust. Using a biscuit cutter cut circles from the dough. Gently push the dough circles into the spaces of a greased mini muffin pan. Put a small amount of the cheese and a couple of pieces of the diced red pepper into each space. Carefully fill the spaces with the custard do not overfill. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When you can safely remove them arrange on a serving platter. Serve hot or cold. Recipe yields 48 or more mini quiche.

Note:

You can make this recipe ahead. The quiches freeze well. Just refrigerate to thaw the night before ready to use. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Potato Salad

I can’t imagine a summer BBQ without potato salad. Most families have their own traditional recipe. The recipe I have is the one my Mom and Grandmother used, with a few personal tweaks. As a young girl I was a very fussy eater. I would never even taste the potato salad put on our picnic table. As an adult I can’t remember the first time I tasted potato salad, I just know that I love it now. My Mom’s recipe seems very simple and it is, but it is creamy and delicious. It’s the recipe that my brother Tommy really enjoys. He called me yesterday and asked me if I had our mom’s recipe. He then went on to tell me what he remembered. He had it really close. This is the recipe he is making for his 4th of July celebration with his family today. I’ve gone outside the box and added a few ingredients that I feel push it into comfort food heaven. I have shared my Mom’s recipe with you and also included my added ingredients if you would like to try my version. This is the potato salad I have posted here on my blog. I cut the size of the salad by half to feed my family today. I’m confident that you will love it either way.

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Potato Salad

5 lbs. potatoes, I prefer red bliss

1 large onion, chopped, yellow or red

3-4 stalks celery, chopped

2 tablespoons vinegar

½-1 teaspoon milk, to thin

Kosher salt (to taste)

Lots of fresh cracked pepper

1 ½-2 cups mayonnaise

Garnish with sweet paprika and fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

Boil the potatoes till fork tender. Chop onion and celery. In a large bowl cut cooled potatoes ¼ inch thick slices or to the thickness you prefer. Add the chopped onion, chopped celery, vinegar, salt, pepper, milk and mayonnaise. Gently fold to combine the ingredients. Turn the mixture into a serve bowl. Garnish with paprika, and herb of your choice.

Ingredients I add to my potato salad along with the above recipe:

¾-1 cup sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon stone ground mustard

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Blueberry Muffins

I love blueberries! I consider myself lucky to live right near the blueberry capital of the world, Hammonton N.J. The farmers markets are filled with an abundance of these deep blue delicious berries. It is the perfect time to bake my favorite blueberry muffins. I love to make these muffins not just because they are so delicious, but they remind me of my boy’s Justin and Daniel. I found this recipe in a little paperback book I had purchased when they were little school boys. It had all kinds of recipes for lunch and snacks. They ate this muffin like it was a yummy dessert. I would always put butter on it hot from the oven. The recipe gave two amounts for the sugar. I always got away with the lesser amount. My boys just loved the blueberries and the buttery taste. I always added a few extra berries to the recipe. This was a treat we always looked forward to.

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Blueberry Muffins

1¾ cup all-purpose flour

1/3 – 2/3 cup of sugar (infused with a vanilla bean)

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup melted butter

1 cup of fresh blueberries, frozen may be substituted

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs, combine the melted butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Spoon the wet mixture into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon just to incorporate the ingredients. You don’t want to over mix. Gently fold in the cup of blueberries. Line a cupcake pan with liners or grease each section with butter. Fill 2/3 full of batter. Bake 20 minutes. Makes 12 delicious muffins.

Baker’s notes: These muffins are best with the fresh blueberries. You may use oil instead of the melted butter. I prefer the melted butter. You could also add fresh lemon zest. I keep a container of sugar with a vanilla bean stuck in the center to infuse the sugar with vanilla. You may also use regular sugar.

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Blueberry Pie

I just love baking homemade pie. It is such a satisfying feeling. When I slip the pie into the oven I can barely wait for the sweet aroma to permeate the air throughout my home. My favorite summer pie is blueberry. I’ve been patiently waiting for that little container full of blueberries that say Hammonton, NJ I love that they are local. I wouldn’t dare bake my pie without these fresh berries, and I’d never bake this pie any other time of year. I’m day dreaming in the cold winter months of baking the pie. It’s the anticipation that makes it even sweeter on that first bite. I will be sharing this pie with my Mother-in-law Helen. She is turning 89 years young on the 23rd of June. I happen to know that she too loves blueberry pie.

Fresh blueberries
Fresh blueberries

 

Fresh blueberries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, Lemon zest, pure cane sugar, cornstarch, salt.
Fresh blueberries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, pure cane sugar, cornstarch, salt.

 

Roll pie crust.
Roll pie crust.

 

Pour filling into prepared crust.
Pour filling into prepared crust. Slip little bits of unsalted butter into the blueberry mixture.

 

Brush on milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Brush on milk and sprinkle with sugar.

 

 

Let pie cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
Let pie cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Blueberry Pie

4 heaping cups fresh blueberries

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

¾ cup of pure cane sugar, or granulated sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Place washed berries in a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir sugar, lemon juice and zest, cornstarch, and salt. Combine the mixture with the blueberries stirring gently to coat. Pour the blueberry mixture into a prepared pastry crust. Tuck dots of cold butter into the berries. Top with your 2nd crust. Flute the edges of the pie. Cut a hole in the center for an air vent. Then cut slits in the top of the pie around the circle. Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes. Please don’t skip this step; it gives you a flakier crust. Use whole milk with a pastry brush to wash the top of the crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling in the center. About 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely. I cool my pie for 3-4 hours before cutting into the pie. After cooling my pie I refrigerate it overnight. I love it ice cold. You can serve the pie room temperature as well.

Double crust pastry

2/3 cup solid shortening, very cold

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

6-8 tablespoons ice cold water

*For a sweet crust add 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

In a medium bowl stir the flour and salt with a whisk. Add the shortening and cut in using a pastry blender till the mixture resembles tiny peas. Add the ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time mixing with a fork until the dough starts to form a ball. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead just to form a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

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