Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dutch Oven Pie Baking Tutorial

I wanted to share a little from the class I co-taught today at Preparing Wisely . I was all about the Beginner's Pie Crust and gave some basics on how to actually make the pie. Troy Adair, amazing emergency preparedness guy of glory was there to teach some basics on how to turn a regular outdoor dutch oven into a baker for pie. I was most interested in learning myself how to know that the oven was the proper temperature for baking. Since, y'all know I'm a bit of a baking geek...right? Why bake it in a Dutch oven at all? You know, I'm all about alternative cooking methods and I adore solar baking all summer and winter, but I'm also looking at the fact that my son Little Man will soon be attending BSA camps. I'm getting my game on to cook in the rough...should I ever need to assist in that area. Plus, will I ever be sad I didn't know how to cook something another way? Nay. I dare say I will always be a cub master-chef...even now as I'm not a cub master any more. I can also do a yodeling goat on the mountain impression and sing,"Be prepared! Be prepared! This lesson must be shared..."
It turns out there is a very technical way of knowing the internal temperature of a dutch oven. We used the Lodge Camp Dutch Oven 14 Inch deep dutch oven. It was just about the perfect size for a 9 inch pie. To determine the temperature of the oven, you use what is called, "the rule of 4." If the oven is 14 inches, you subtract 4. You will need 10 coals on the bottom of the dutch oven and twice that many on top of the dutch oven to get the internal temperature to 350 degrees (preheating 20 minutes). Adding 5-7 minutes to the baking time on most items. Add two coals to the bottom and 4 to the top for every additional 25 degrees you want inside your oven. So...for 400 degrees we added 4 to the bottom and 8 to the top. Does that sound technical enough? It almost hurt my brain to do that much math.

Once hot, Troy used a metal hook to take off the lid, with the coals still on top:

Single layer pie crust for a custard pie takes about 25 minutes.

Oh...this is important, we put the pie on top of a metal trivet inside the dutch oven so the bottom didn't burn. This also applies for most other pans you are baking in the dutch oven. Leave a little circulation space under the item's pan so it isn't in direct contact with the dutch oven. This is why we used the deeper dutch oven (5 inched deep instead of 3 inches deep).
A fruit pie generally takes about 45 minutes to bake (50-55) in the dutch oven.

The crust was golden delicious.

For the filling we used freeze dried peaches, raspberries and blueberries, reconstituted and lightly sweetened with agave. The general rule with thickening fruit is this:
4 cups of fruit mixed with 1/4 cup corn starch or ultra gel and 1/4 cup agave nectar. We also added 1 tsp of Chef Tess Wise woman of the east spice blend.
Now I'm ready to go camping! What about you?! Who wouldn't love pie in the mountains?
There you go. Dutch oven baking. We're starting with pie...but bread is next!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Swiss Tess Hot Cocoa Mix (and Hot Cocoa Buttermilk Mix)

Well, it has come to my sweet adorable attention that my pet name Chef Tess is almost as known s my nickname " Sunshine." I hate to report that it wasn't a cute boyfriend who gave me the name. Sadly it started by my 11th grade College Prep Chemistry teacher as a reference to the fact that my sister and I were in the same class with him. I think "Sunshine twins" was his actual reference to us. Well...be that as it may. Thank you Dr. Call for dubbing the twin sisters as "Sunshine". We aren't twins. We're fourteen months apart in age. My sister Em is well, in every way just as perky as I am. It's sad. Auntie Em just happens to be smart enough to have been in my class as at the time. My youngest sister Jen wasn't yet in high school. So there it is. Long way of saying that I don't actually use coffee to get my perky disposition. I do however have a personalized mug. It's for...

Today is, as always, Mix making Monday I thought I'd finally share my recipe for hot cocoa mix. There's been quite a few requests for it now that the weather is right. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Besides...What are you doing buying hot cocoa mix when you can make it natural and cheap? You can change up the flavors. Use whatever sweetener you prefer. It's just an awesome way to stretch your dollars. I've made it using dry buttermilk in place of the regular instant milk and it was awesome! Perky yet satisfying. My personal favorite is using dry buttermilk instead of milk! It has such a unique flavor and really accentuates the flavor of the chocolate. I'm totally addicted!

Swiss-Tess Hot Chocolate (Hot Cocoa Buttermilk Mix Too)

1 − 16 oz. box of non fat dry milk (about 4 cups instant milk--dry buttermilk works too!)
1 Cup Sugar or 1/2 cup granulated fructose or splenda if you use it.
3/4 Cup dutch baking cocoa (good quality)
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds mixed into this blend. 0r 1 tsp LorAnn flavored oil (buttercream or vanilla )
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg (optional)

Sift all ingredients together three times. Store this mixture in a tightly sealed container in a cool place. When ready to use, you add 1/4 cup mix to 1 cup hot water.

Sprinkle miniature marshmallows on top.
There you go. Make some cocoa!

Bread or Cinnamon Roll Free Class Giveaway!

I had so much fun last year doing a cooking class giveaway that I thought I would do this again for the Holidays! I'm offering a 2 hour personal coaching session for perfect cinnamon rolls or homemade bread (your choice) where I come to your home and teach you and two of your friends how to make excellent bread or amazing cinnamon rolls. That means you and your sisters or best girl friends or you and your husband or wife could be rolling and playing with the dough and your friend Chef Tess. I realize there are folks who are out of the Phoenix area. So far, nobody has offered to fly me to their town to teach a class. I will however, entertain offers. , I'll be giving away 2 bottles of my Wise Women of the East Spice blend (one each...to two winners) out of town though. So still feel free to enter the giveaway! Here's the catch though, I get to pick the winner based on the following:

1. Share this giveaway on Face Book,twitter or your personal blog (if you share on your blog, feel free to attach the links here.)

2. Post a comment letting me know your favorite Holiday cooking memory or why you think you should win.

3. Tell you friends.
I will announce the winner of the cinnamon roll class on December 16th. So, you can give the class as a gift for after the holidays. Who wouldn't want some one on one time with Chef Tess for a gift?
Spice winners should get the spices before the new year. Winner of the cooking class will get a certificate to give to a family member or friend (or themselves). So...

There you go!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seeing the Lights Together (Bread of Life Section)

Sunday is the day I share a little of my soul. Enjoy.

Early this we went as a family to look at Christmas lights. It was a great way to start off the Christmas season. When we first arrived at the lights, it was still dusk and the switch had not been turned on yet. The sun dipped below the horizon and my son asked me why there wasn't any light. Almost immediately and with a gasp...all was bright. He looked like he had seen a miracle. I almost started crying.

In a world of darkness it is sometimes easy to forget who is with us. It is easy to miss the light that is all around us. It is even more difficult when we don't see what the Lord sees. Yet, this week I was reminded of a spiritual battle that takes place every day. I was reminded that it is my job as a mother, to help my children to see the lights of the army of God all around us who are willing to go to battle with us. We are not alone in our efforts.

“And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

“And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings. 6:15–17).

Be strong my friends. God will never forget us or leave us comfortless. He will come to us.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Beginner's Pie Crust--The Upcoming Pie Class This Week!--

Who doesn't adore a good pie? Pie may be the perfect food.

Tuesday at 9 AM I will be teaching a free cooking class at Preparing Wisely Store in Mesa, Arizona (144 S Mesa Drive, Mesa, AZ). We'll be making pie crust from scratch and baking it outside in a dutch oven! It should be amazingly fun! I, Chef Tess will provide you with the instruction needed to make your own homemade pies. Some from homemade mixes, and others from food storage items. This class is just in time for the holiday season! Come and learn while having a great time!

For the beginners, I am posting the directions for homemade pie crust here, along with my favorite pie crust recipe. There will, of course be a lot more recipes for pie in the next few days as we gear up for the actual class. I hope you're as excited as I am!
Did you ever see my chocolate chunk sweet potato pie with hazelnut toffee topping?

For the full story see Pie crust, but it is the one that started me down the road to being a chef and one I've held dear for that very reason. This makes two standard 9 inch pies.

For the crust you will need:

2 1/4 cup pastry flour (all purpose will work)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening (non trans fat try Spectrum brand) I use 1/2 shortening, 1/4 cup butter.
3 T cold water
3 T white distilled vinegar (trust me?)

Combine the flour and the salt in a large bowl.
I keep the fat pretty cold. Yes, if you look closely I do use some butter as well. It helps with the "mouth feel" of the crust. Buttery and not so greasy.

cut in shortening with a pastry blender. combine lightly until the mix resembles course meal or tiny peas: its texture will not be uniform, but will contain small crumbs and small bits and pieces. If you don't have a pastry blender, you can certainly use the wire whisk from your mixer.

Or, my personal favorite...the techno-chef fingers. Just make sure your hands are freezing cold. It's winter, I'm sure you can work that out.

Mmmm pea size.

I use vinegar in my crust. I have for years. It helps with the flaky texture and it actually does make an amazing crust. Gena was convinced after just one taste. Should you doubt me, please, just try it once. If you don't like it, never return to it. I doubt you'll feel that way though.

Make a well in the dry stuff and add 3 T cold water and 3 T vinegar. You may need more or less, so go with 2 T of vinegar at first...but I can't think if the last time I needed to change the recipe and add more water or vinegar than what it says.

Lightly combine, just until mixed. Over mixing the dough will always result in hard non-flake-like crust. You have been warned. I bring it together.

Kneading it only a few times and making into a ball.
Refrigerate about 30 minutes. It will be easier to work with, and it gives the gluten (protein in the wheat) time to rest so the dough will roll out easier.
Take half of the dough. With your hands form it into a patty. I put my dough between two pieces of wax paper. I've used this method since my granny W. Forever. It's never failed me. Lightly...and I do mean lightly...wipe the counter top with a lightly damp clean washcloth. Place a piece of wax paper down, about 1 foot by 1 foot. Put the dough down. Top with another piece of wax paper of same proportions. Wax paper helps contribute to a tender crust, using extra flour on the counter instead may lead to a dry crust if overdone. This keeps me good.
Totally not necessary to have a Candy-land rolling pin. Gena just has this old thing laying around so I had to use it. Totally cute isn't it?! Roll the dough out into a circle. This may take practice to get it just right. Take your time.

Once to the edges of the wax paper, remove the top piece of paper. Place crust, uncovered side down in the pan, with an inch or so of crust hanging over the edge of the pan.

Now remove the second piece of crust.
Trim the edge so it hangs over about 3/4 inch, then fold it under so it leaves a little rim on the pan. This one comes up about 1/2 inch.

I will now play the flute for your listening pleasure...pppflllkkkkiiispuutttt. Like so.
Don't expect your first pie to look this neat and tidy. I may have made several hundred pies in the course of my days. If, however, yours looks this nice, keep in mind you are a freaky genius and I don't even know what to say.

You will need a 400 degree pre-heated oven. I'm not kidding on that point either. It's really important to heat that bad boy up first. Your crust will be better. Now here's what I do. I have these magic beans see...and they go on this layer of aluminum foil, right on top of the crust. They hold the crust down when it bakes so it doesn't get air bubbles. Use the dry uncooked beans...not like a can of pork-n-beans. The dry bags...you know? Or, use the fancy pie weights...whatever.
Bake 15-20 minutes, just to make the crust nice and pre-cooked crust for pudding pies and other goodies. One of my favorites is the Hot Cocoa Cream pie but I also have a few other Pies
here on the blog. Have fun with it and remember if you need more personal instruction, I will be teaching Tuesday Morning 9AM at Preparing Wisely (144 S Mesa Drive, Mesa, AZ). Contact me, chef-tess@hotmail.com if you have any further questions about the class.
There you go! See you soon!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple, Sausage and Wild Rice stuffed Acorn Squash (Freezer Friday)

It's Freezer Meal Friday once again. Never mind that it's "black Friday". My children have been obsessing lately with zombies. No. Not the Grinch. Do not ask me why they are worried about getting their brains sucked by half-living-leg-dragging freaks. I have no one to blame but my husband Ace ...who apparently loves old weird sci-fi movies from the 70's. Yup. I have one of those guys who thinks "Omega Man" was cool. I was not impressed...but he has certainly gleaned priceless information to compile a big "game plan" for total survival should that become a real-world scenario. Yes. The army of undead walking brain suckers might actually happen. Dude...Look...I never claimed to be married to the brightest bulb on the tree. Should that ever "really" happen, I'm taking these frozen squash-bad-boys out of the freezer an hurling them down the street at the angry mob of brain eating troglodytes. Behold my awesome power you freaks! I'm certain it would buy us enough time to light explosives...and gas cans and crap. Now there's a visual certain to haunt you the rest of your days. Sorry about that.

On the more practical side, it does give me ammo for dinner most nights of the week. It's a powerful thing to be able to triumphantly raise a frozen squash over your head and pronounce, "Prepare to worship me! For behold, I hold the power of the squash!" That may not really happen either. More recently, this recipe has been a great use for those acorn squash we've been collecting in droves from the garden. I'm pretty sure that they are not alien egg pods. I'm wearing foil on my head just in case though. Relax. Alas, they are just food for my hungry family of zombies. I will not mention how I lose my brain cells just thinking about motherhood. Wait...I mentioned it just now huh? Sucking the brain cell (singular) out right now in fact...as I post this blog entry...

Apple Sausage and Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

You will need:

3 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed.

1/2 cup cooked maple sausage (about 6 oz), 1/2 cup chopped granny smith apple,
1 1/2 cup cooked wild rice (well seasoned with Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning )
1/2 cup condensed soup of your choice, I use my Homemade cream of condensed soup replacement , 1/2 cup cooked carrots, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 2T minced fresh parsley, 1/4 cup mashed roasted garlic,

Combine well.

Sprinkle the squash with Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning and stuff squash with 1/3-1/2 cup filling.
To cook in oven, place in an oven safe dutch oven or covered casserole. Bake 350 degrees 35-40 minutes, until squash is tender. I had to use both of my dutch ovens for all six halves.

To cook in microwave: Place in covered microwave safe container and cook on high 7 minutes, turning half way through cooking.

Allow to cool 5 minutes before cutting into squash. Serve immediately or make into a freezer meal.
To Freeze. place one half stuffed squash into a quart size freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Put in the fridge until well chilled and transfer to the freezer. To serve, remove from bag and microwave on high from frozen 5-7 minutes. To heat in the oven, remove from freezer bag. Place in covered casserole and bake 350 degrees 35-40 minutes if defrosted, or 45-50 minutes from frozen. May cover with cheese the last 10 minutes of baking or just before microwaving.

There you go. Freaks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is it Just Me?

I got so giddy seeing this label today on a new product. Y'all know I'm totally all about all natural stuff.

But...this is saaaaweeeeet!
It ranks right up there with this one...

Is it just me?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Infused Holiday Vinegar Tutorial

One of the things I like to do for the holidays is give away homemade infused vinegars and oils along with some noodles for a quick holiday meal gift set. It's a simple and cost effective way to say "Smoooches". My Chef Tess homemade condiments are among some of the few kitchen gifts that can be prepared up to a month in advance. Home canning recipes are good year round for preparing for the Season. Some condiment recipes don't require home canning, just being kept in the fridge. Vinegar infusions don't even need to be kept in the fridge as long as you follow some simple rules. With all the amazing herbs in my garden this year and the access I have to fresh fruit and garlic...we're having a very inexpensive blow-out condiment making fest. Be it as it may. I shall always love giving homemade gifts. They're not just for penny pinching, they're for heart warming. They are personal. Anyone can go down to the mega-mall and get an infused oil. Few will take the time to make something from the heart. So...that's my take on that subject. I love gifts of any kind (feel free to send anything my way you feel you need to...chocolate is always in season...).

Keep in mind, if one makes a gift, it fills two voids in a person's heart; the void to create and the void to give freely to one's fellow man. Enough said. Let's go vinegar vooom-voom.

For Garlic Herb infused vinegar you will need:

1 gallon of distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar, unflavored
8 cups of whole clean fresh herbs (your choice...today I used home grown tarragon, but rosemary, basil, thyme and dill are also particularly amazing).
32 peeled garlic cloves

8 1 pint jars, sterile

Divide the herbs between the pint jars, about 1 cup per jar. Put 4 cloves of garlic in each jar. Fill the jar with vinegar and tighten lid. Put in a cool dry place for 3-4 weeks. Give as holiday gifts or use for your own family.

Homemade Raspberry Vinegar is particularly delightful. It's amazing drizzled on holiday apple salads or in a ham glaze. I like to make it using Freeze Dried Raspberries, as they are always in season.

You can however use frozen raspberries as well. Those are made with the ratio of 6 cups berries to 8 cups vinegar.
You will need:
2 cups freeze dried raspberries
8 cups of unseasoned rice or wine vinegar
1 gallon glass jug

Put half of the berries in the jug. Put the remaining in a large gallon size non-reactive sauce pan and gently warm vinegar over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Pour warm vinegar over berries in jar. Add cap tightly. Let stand two weeks, shaking daily.

After two weeks, pour mixture through a cheesecloth lined sieve set over a bowl, pressing down on berries to extract as much juice as possible. Discard berry seeds and pulp. Divide between 4-5 sterile pint jars. Seal tightly.

Both raspberry vinegar and tarragon vinegar can be kept at room temperature up to a year.
There you go.
What are you doing this season to simplify your gift giving? Next week...we start candy making week! It should be rather eye opening...and as close to "evil" as I dare allow on my blog. Smoooches everyone!