December 30, 2010

Kumquat Pie...a puffy, fluffy, orangey cloud

Do you know what a Kumquat is?
It's a small oval shaped fruit, the size of a large olive, that resembles an orange...a teeny, tiny orange! It has a thin, sweet skin with tart flesh...very tart flesh!

The kumquat is believed to be native to China. The fruit is grown in China, Japan, Florida and California. They grow on shrub-like bushes that resemble tiny orange tree. Kumquats are frequently candied or made into preserves and jelly.

I had my first experience eating a Kumquat just the other day.
It was......TART! Yowza! This little thing has some serious pucker power! I had no idea what to expect though, so I just went for it. It tastes like an orange, but sour like a lemon...and you can definitely taste the rind.

Some like to cut them in half...

and dip them in sugar.

This method was much more palatable!

So the interesting thing about Kumquats is you can eat the entire thing..except for the seeds. This alone intrigued the heck out of me. It just seemed so odd to eat a teeny, tiny "orange", rind and all. How could that be possible...let alone, taste good?

My curiosity had the best of me. I bought the package of Kumquats without knowing what I would make with them, but figured I would be doing some investigating very soon. Low and behold, there was a recipe for pie on the inside of the container. If this was the recipe the growers decided should be on their could I go wrong? I went for it!

Getting down to business, I washed the kumquats and pulled off the tiny green stems.

Silly me...I forgot to slice the Kumquats open to de-seed them before I threw them into the food processor to be pureed.

As I began to pulse them and chop them into oblivion, I screamed "AAAHHHH! THE SEEDS!"

Dude, how could I have forgotten! So...I began pulling handfuls of pulp out of the food processor bowl and picked out all of the seeds. Luckily 98% of the seeds were still intact and were very easy to spot and discard. A few had been cut through, but even still, they were easy to pick out. Don't ya hate when you make a stupid mistake and then correcting it takes double the time to fix?! However, despite this small mishap, this pie is sooooo easy to make!

I followed the recipe to the "T"...I wasn't about to make any changes with an ingredient I knew nothing about. I figured I'd make it this way, try it, then make adjustments or enhancements next time if I felt so inclined.

By the way, there is no baking required...this is a refrigerator pie! Easy, Easy!

I love this photo! It's whipped topping and sweetened condensed milk. It's so beautiful! I could just get a spoon and eat it and be happy!

The first step is to cream the whipped topping and sweetened condensed milk together.

Next, add the kumquat puree.

blend that together...

Scoop the beautiful, fluffy goodness into a pre-baked pie shell, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

After a night in the fridge, the pie was perfectly chilled and I was ready to taste the first slice...and I was pleasantly surprised!

So light and airy! So very, very creamy! The orange flavor was full bodied but well rounded out by the sweetened condensed milk.

I really like this pie!

I would put this pie in the same family as lemon meringue and key lime pie. In fact this would be like Key Lime's cousin...lemon meringue's baby sister!

When you want a fresh and light dessert to cleanse the palate after a seafood dinner or pork roast meal...Kumquat pie would make a wonderful choice!

I think this was a great recipe...but the amatuer pastry chef deep inside of me is wanting to put her own twist on this pie...something like a thin layer of chocolate at the bottom of the pie! Something like a touch of pretty chocolate shavings to garnish the top of the pie! Sounds good! We'll see!

But until then, I think I'm going to go enjoy another slice of this pie with a cup of tea and think about the new year to come.

Happy New Year Bloggy friends! Here's to 2011...may it be a good one!

*for pie crust, use this recipe


1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cold water

Mix flour, sugar and salt. Remove 2 Tbsp. shortening from the 1/2 cup and set aside. Cut in the remaining shortening with two knives or a pastry blender into the flour mixture until mixture resembles course meal. Cut in remaining 2 Tbsp. shortening in pieces the size of large peas. Add lemon juice and mix with fork. Add cold water one Tbsp. at a time and mix with fork. Form into a ball. Roll out on lightly floured surface. Fit loosely into pie pan, pat out air bubbles and flute edges. Prick sides and bottom of crust with a fork. Bake in oven 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool. Makes one 9 inch pie shell.

December 26, 2010

chicken tracks...and other critter tracks as well!

I love the tracks in the snow made by my chickens. It really is the cutest thing ever.

The chickens do seem a little bored with the ground covered in snow.

It takes them a while to decide if they even want to come out of the coop at all.

Before the snow came, they would be at the door, sqwakin' and bawkin' trying to get out. I could barely get the door off the coop and they would be squirming their way through. But now...well, it's cold, and there's no worms, or mosquitoes, or green grass to munch on.

When I look out into the yard, I find them just standing there and staring. Normally they are on a never ending pecking session...all day long.

I am finding many other animal tracks in the snow near the chicken coop and in the field. I am no expert at identifying animal tracks in the snow, but I have made some educated guesses here. I believe these tracks belong to bunny rabbits. They hop and when they land, they have all four feet close together. Also, the rear tracks are longer than the front paws.

These tracks look like they belong to deer. We always have deer in our field. The tracks are large and solid like that of a hoof. Also, the positioning of the alternating foot prints and length of space in between the prints. I can't imagine it to be any other animal.

This track, I cannot identify. It may a squirrel. The snow is a little deeper here, so I'm thinking the tracks would not be very identifiable. The tracks are small and almost like little slits in the snow. What else could it be?

At first, I thought these were raccoon tracks, but at second glance, I really thought them to be squirrel tracks. They are all around the coop and I know the squirrels like to pilfer the chicken feed. But, looking again, I think they are much too big for a squirrel. My husband said they belong to a ground hog. We definately have groung hogs around here!

Finally, these last tracks, they are either a red fox, which we know for sure frequents our neighborhood and has been spotted in our field. Notice how there are 2 paw prints very close to each other for each imprint..almost overlapping. It makes me wonder if a fox was pouncing along, pushing off with the two hind feet close together and then landing on two front paws close together. But then again, they look small enough to be a kitty cat...maybe she was running...I don't know. I am perplexed. What do you think? I love these tracks..I am so curious!

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To My Blog Friends!


First snow! The flakes,
so few, so light,
Remake the world
in solid white.

All bundled up,
We feel as if
We were fat penguins,
Warm and stiff.

The toy-packed shops
Half split their sides,
And Mother brings home
Things she hides.

Old carols peal.
The dusk is dense.
There is a mood
Of sweet suspense.

The shepherds wait,
The kings, the tree,
All wait for something
Yet to be.

Some miracle.
And then it's here,
Wrapped up in hope,
Another year!

*a poem by John Updike

December 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Blossoms, My Favorite Cookie!

My favorite cookie of all time is Peanut Butter Blossoms. I can't resist the combined flavors of peanut butter and chocolate. It is my favorite combination! This cookie has been a part of my Christmas tradition my whole life.

I started baking when I was just a kid. I really can't remember how old I was, but I always remember my Mom telling us kids to each pick a cookie recipe of our choice and we would each make it by ourselves. My Mom would pick as recipe as well and if we had a friend over, they would pick a recipe too.

I remember all of us in the kitchen, the sounds of the oven ticking and cracking as it warmed to 375 degrees. I love that sound even to this day. I remember the big 3 ring binder Betty Crocker cook book on the kitchen table...the mixing bowls and wooden spoons, the flour, sugar, peanut butter, chocolate, coconut, chopped nuts, and powdered sugar. I remember thinking to myself that it was so exciting that we were making 4 or 5 different cookie recipes in one day. I thought that was unheard of and the greatest thing ever! Every one was happy and busy creating their own favorite cookie. I love those memories!

And so, the tradition of baking cookies has carried on to my own house with my own children. Some years I bake more than other years. This year I have made peanut blossoms, chocolate chip, my candy corn cookies - but with an M&M instead, chocolate shortbread Christmas trees drizzled with white chocolate and snickerdoodles. That is really not many compared to what I have made in previous years. Today, I plan to bake oatmeal with dried cranberries and pecans, and gingerbread men.

My 12 year old son has been asking to make gingerbread men for today is his lucky day. Maybe it will put him in a better mood. He woke up early today and said "I wouldn't even mind if I had to go to school today because it would make the day go faster." He wants tomorrow to get here so he can open presents and give presents.

Him and I made a fantastic breakfast together as Dad went off to work and my youngest slept in...scrambled eggs and sausage on toasted English muffins smeared with pancake syrup instead of butter. Holy cow! It was GOOD!! Breakfast made him happy, but since then he's been kinda "blah" and walking around the house with nothing to do. I even offered to play every game in the game closet with him...and he said "eh". I asked him if he would go on an adventure in the field to take photos of animals tracks in the snow...and he said "eh". I asked him if he would make a batch of cookies...and he said "eh". I asked him if he would look on the computer for a tutorial on how to make an Origami Christmas tree for me...and he said "uh...ok".

So anyhow, I reminded him of the true meaning of Christmas, told him to stop bugging his little brother and to remember that his attitude affects everyone...including be happy, find something to do, or take a nap, cause maybe he got up a little too early. gotta love 'em! Cause they're so lovable!!!

Here's my recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms. This year I used dark chocolate Hershey kisses instead of milk chocolate and it was even better! Yum!

Hope you have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas Eve!

December 22, 2010

15 Bean Soup

15 bean soup...I love it!
It's very hearty and full of protein and potassium!
Add some nice chunks of salty ham...and you've got yourself the classic comfort food!

Just what kinds of beans are we talking about here?
Well, here's the list!

3)large lima
6)baby lima
8)cranberry bean
9)small white
10)pink bean
11)small red
14)white kidney
15)black bean
*also included in the soup are green split peas and yellow split peas

You may be wondering how you are going to gather up all of these beans!
Don't you's already been done for you!

Look no further than your local grocery store. You'll find nice little package loaded with a plethora of different beans...all different shapes, sizes and colors! I have also found packages like this in the dried soup mix section as well.

I love to add ham to my bean soup. I like to buy this little package of ham cubes. Ham steaks work well too, you just have to cut them up.

On the back of the package of beans, you will find the cooking instructions for making this very tasty soup.

To get started, you'll want to prepare your beans by soaking them in water overnight or first thing in the morning for 8 hours.

After 8 hours your beans will look something like this...a little bloated, swelled up and some will be split.

Next, drain the beans.

Put the beans back in the pot and add 2 quarts of water.

Bring beans to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.
At this point, add the ham to beans.

Simmer uncovered, on low heat, for 2 hours.

*Tip* Please keep an eye on your beans while waiting to boil.'ll find your pot quickly boiling over and a layer of bean scum all around the edges of your pot. I, of course, have let my beans boil over each time I have made this! I swear the next time I will not let this happen again...but that remains to be seen!

One very important thing I want to tell you!! While your beans are cooking, the water will look very murky and kinda grey.

Please do not be scared! This is very normal. The beans are beginning to soften and break down and all of the colors are coming together creating this strange color. I promise you...after about 2 hours it will all come together beautifully!

When 30 minutes of cooking time remains, throw in a big handful of diced onion, 2cloves of diced garlic, one 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, 1 tsp. chili powder and the juice of 1 lemon. If you have bottled lemon, this will work fine as well...just a splash.

Ladle a nice big scoop of bean soup into a bowl, sprinkle with some salt to bring out the flavors and enjoy. Of course this soup goes well with a nice hunk of buttered rustic bread.

Oh man! Delicious!