Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Mom's Magical Apple Caramel Pie

We always had a family tradition at our house.  Every October we would go to the apple grove out in the country so we could pick our basket of apples for my Mom's famous apple pie. We would stop at the little family owned grocery store in town and pick up some homemade vanilla ice cream too. It was always a fun day at the orchard and we knew that that afternoon the whole house would be filled with that heavenly smell.  When most people think of falling leaves and pumpkins and all those things that come with fall....I remember my Mom's wonderful apple pie.  I now call this my Mom's magical pie because when I make it, I am transported back to those wonderful days as a child.  

Mom's Magical Apple Caramel Pie


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chilled (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Make sure all your ingredients are thoroughly chilled before you begin. Freeze your butter for the best pie crusts. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Use a food processor if possible to quickly cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it looks like cornmeal.  It's okay to have a few pea sized pieces of butter throughout. If doing this manually using a pastry cutter, work quickly. The quicker you work the better because you want your butter to stay cold.  

Add 4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse until the dough forms a ball. (If doing by hand, gather the dough and gently press into a ball.) It should come together loosely; if not, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide dough in half; place each on plastic wrap. Flatten into disks. Wrap tightly; refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. 

Remove one disk from refrigerator. Between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, press rolling pin gently all over dough to flatten it slightly. Working from the center to the edge in all directions, roll out dough into a round about 3 inches larger than the pie plate.

Wrap the dough around the rolling pin; lift and center it over the pie plate. Gently unroll the dough over the plate, leaving an even amount of overhang around the perimeter. Flute the edge of the crust using the pointer finger of one hand and the thumb and pointer of the other hand.

Roll out the second disk between two sheets of parchment and cut into 1-inch strips for the lattice top. Chill bottom and top crusts while you prepare the pie filling.  But first prepare salted caramel sauce. 

Salted Caramel

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick of fresh unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp. sea salt

Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper. This process can take awhile depending on the heat source. Keep an eye on it, the caramel should just barely begin to begin to smoke, but be careful not to burn it or you will have to start over.

Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove from heat and immediately add the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble rapidly and steam so be careful as the steam and sugar will be very hot.
Whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the sea salt.  Set aside while you prepare the pie filling.

Pie Filling

 Juice and zest of 1 lemon
6 large apples (Granny Smith, Gala, or Cortland)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Core, peel, and thinly slice the apples, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add zest and juice of the lemon and using your hands make sure the apples are coated in the lemon juice so they don't turn brown.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples. Use your hands to gently mix and coat the apple slices.

Assemble the pie

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Gather your rolled pie crust, salted caramel, and apple mixture. Begin by layering 1/3 of the apples in the bottom of the crust so that there are minimal gaps. Pour 1/3 of the caramel over the apples. Add 1/3 of the apples and caramel for a second layer, and then add a third layer of apples, and then the caramel again. Save a small portion of the caramel for garnishing.

Assemble the lattice crust and blend in with the fluted edges of the crust. 


1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cream
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar 
1 pinch of sea salt

Mix together the yolk and cream. Brush the crust with this egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar and sea salt.

Bake the pie on a baking sheet larger than the pie pan for 20 minutes (otherwise the caramel will bubble over and burn on the bottom of your oven). Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the apples for doneness with a small knife. The apples should be just soft.  

Let the pie cool. Slice and enjoy with vanilla ice cream!

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Saturday, June 06, 2020

Cheese and Mushroom Omelet


I love breakfast so much, I start thinking the night before what I want to make the next morning.  One of my favorites is an omelet filled with whatever I have on hand in the refrigerator.  This time I made a special omelet. My Dad so loved these.

Cheese and Mushroom Omelet

1 pack button mushrooms
3 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons Monterey Jack cheese or mozzarella
Fresh parsley for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a damp cloth, wipe mushrooms to remove any dirt. Slice and set aside.

Next, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter along with mushrooms into the pan, season with salt and pepper and sauté until tender. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.


Add the remaining butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat. Swirl the pan so that the butter spreads evenly around surface.

In a small bowl break the eggs and whisk them until fluffy. Pour in the egg mixture and tilt the pan so that it spreads evenly. As the eggs set, pull away from the sides of the pan and tilt pan so that uncooked egg runs under and makes contact with the bottom of the pan.


When the egg appears to have almost set, place mushrooms and cheese down the center of the eggs.

Sprinkle cheese on top of the mushrooms....any kind of cheese and as much as you want.  Leave a border around the edges.

Allow to cook for another minute and then fold the omelet in half. 

 Transfer to warm plate and sprinkle with parsley.  Enjoy.


This is the basic recipe for a mushroom omelete.  You can add any additional ingredients you'd like.  Onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.  


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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Chicken Ham and Cheese Casserole

Cooking for me is therapeutic. There are days that I am a little down or sometimes overwhelmed and I know exactly where to go. Standing in front of my pantry is like waiting in a therapist’s office. I don’t need to talk. I need to create and feel a sense of accomplishment.  I need to focus on the project and not the problems.   

There are days that I go in with no idea what I am going to make.  It may be one of my Mom’s old favorites or something completely made up as I go along.  Sometimes, it’s a spin off one of my Mom’s recipes that updates it to a totally different recipe.  That is what I did with this recipe last night. I took her recipe for Chicken and Stuffing and changed the entire recipe to something out of this world delicious!  As a matter of fact, as I write this, I don’t even have a name for it yet. It will come to me once I finish taking pictures.   


Chicken Ham and Cheese Casserole

2 packs of chicken tenders
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 slices deli ham
12 slices Swiss or Mozzarella cheese
1 box Stove Top Stuffing
1 stick butter, melted
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 cup uncooked long grain rice


2½ cups chicken broth
1½ cups half and half or whole milk
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Combine chicken broth and ½ cup milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. 


Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour and seasonings together. Pour in remaining milk. Whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. (Mixture will be thick.) Pour the flour/milk mixture into the saucepan with the broth mixture. Whisk and stir constantly as mixture simmers. Continue to let simmer until mixture is smooth and thick. Around 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9" baking dish with a layer of the sauce. Add uncooked rice and stir well.

Line the chicken tenders on top of the sauce and rice so they are packed in tight. You want no room between the tenders. Line the bottom and along the sides.  Next brush the tenders with Dijon mustard making sure to cover them with a light coating.


Lay slices of cheese on top of the tenders, making sure to completely cover the chicken. 

Then lay a double slices of ham on top of the cheese.   

Spoon your sauce on top of ham slices completely covering. Then add one more layer of cheese on top of the sauce. 

Sprinkle entire box of dry stuffing as you final layer, completely covering the top. Then pour melted butter all over the stuffing trying to moisten all of it.  Cover and bake for one hour or until chicken is done and casserole is hot and bubbly.


No time to make sauce?  Use Cream of Chicken Soup

1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced
Omit salt if using soup

In a small mixing bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, milk, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until smooth, thick and creamy.  Use in place of the homemade sauce above.

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