Thursday, December 23, 2010

Peanut Butter Pie...Yum!

As Christmas is quickly approaching and time is a luxury, here is a super quick and delicious pie recipe that you can whip up for your next holiday party. I first tasted this pie this past Thanksgiving in Kentucky. My brother-in-law Joey made it to bring to his wife Leslie's parent's farm. Not having grown up eating peanut butter, I normally use it very sparingly, maybe in a Thai peanut sauce, or to dip my dog's cookies in for a louder bark! I don't know if it was being out there, surrounded by land and black wooden fences, watching the cold misty air hanging outside the windows that made me love this pie. Peanut butter fan or not, this pie is a party favorite!

Here is what you'll need:

1 graham cracker pie crust
1 cup of powdered sugar
4 ounces of whipped cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
2 containers of Cool Whip (thawed)
Chocolate syrup

This first step is not 100% necessary, but it does add some extra crunch to the pie crust. It almost primes the crust and makes it less likely to get soggy, especially if you make this pie in advance:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Whisk 1 whole egg and brush it on crust
3. Bake for 10 minutes

egg wash and bake

golden-brown crust
 Now get ready for easy...

1. Cream sugar and cheese together with a large silicone spatula

2. Incorporate peanut butter

3. Add contents of first Cool Whip container and blend until fully incorporated

4. Scoop into pie crust and smooth out

5. Use a clean spatula to top pie with remaining Cool Whip

6. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

it's cool to go overboard with the chocolate!

Of note: you may want to make this the night before your event, as it is much better cold!


I brought this pie to a recent friend's gathering and it was a hit! Everyone ate their pieces so quickly, I barely had time to grab a camera to catch them enjoying their last bite!

Happy Holidaze!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adventures in Marmalade Making

As soon as the temperature slightly dropped in Miami, I had the sudden urge to make jam. I had never made jam before, but I thought it might make for a fun holiday project. My original plan was to make strawberry jam with hand-picked fruit from a farm in Homestead known for its delicious strawberry shakes and fresh produce. Once the season opened, I hurried down to the farm on my day off, but as it turned out, the berry field would not be ready until January.
Determined to make my jam dreams come true, my experiment began with a test run of store-bought strawberries which I used to make a small batch of jam with my newly purchased canning equipment. I have to admit it took me several days to research canning history, safe procedures (yes, you do not want to give anyone botulism), and the necessary tools involved. I could go on for pages discussing all the details of jar and lid sterilization, preserving temperatures, etc, but instead, here is the link to a lengthy but very useful USDA document covering every aspect of this culinary process: Complete Guide to Home Canning ( The strawberry jam turned out delicious, but I still continued with the idea to use a local seasonal fruit for a larger batch.

strawberry jam, canning test run
I proceeded to try my luck with citrus. Due to the lack of local berries this time of year, I decided to try orange marmalade instead. I guess you can’t get more Florida than that! I followed a recipe from a charming cookbook called Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff. My grandma, who is visiting from Lima, helped me digest the directions and made a wonderful sous-chef. She actually remembered every single step and measurement better than I did!
This is how we did it (makes exactly 6 half-pint jelly jars):

4 pounds of navel oranges (about 7 to 10)
2 lemons
1/3 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups of sugar

The very first thing to consider when you enter the kitchen is to get the canning pot filled with water (1-2 inches of water over the jars) and on the stove, as it will take about 30 minutes to boil. This water will be used for both sterilizing the jars/lids and processing the preserves. I recently purchased a 21.5 quart granite ware canner with a rack. It is that extremely large but light-weight pot you sometimes see at hardware stores which is black with white specks. The rack helps to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pan or other jars which can weaken the glass jars.

21.5 quart canning pot
While the canning water heats up, peel the well-scrubbed oranges and finely julienne the zest to make 1½ cups. Segment the oranges with a sharp knife over a bowl to catch the juice, seeds, and membranes. Put the membrane-free orange segments into a wide, 6 to 8 quart pan (I used an enameled cast-iron pan which weighs a ton) along with the zest. Strain the juice from the bowl into a measuring cup and complete a total of 3 cups with water. Pour into pan.

orange segments, free of membranes, zest and seeds
julienne zest

preserving pan
 Next, segment 2 unpeeled lemons and cut into small pieces and put in the pan, leaving behind the membranes and seeds. Also squeeze the other 2 lemons to make 1/3 of a cup of strained juice and pour into pan. Turn the heat of the pan to high. Use 4 layers of cheesecloth to make a tied bag containing the orange and lemon membranes and seeds. Drop the bag into the pan.

4-layered cheesecloth bag of citrus membranes and seeds
Boil all components for a couple of minutes, then drop the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes until the zest is tender. Let cool until the bag can be handled and squeeze as much juice as you can from the bag and into the pan. Throw the bag away.

Add the sugar to the pan and boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes until the mixture reaches 220 °F.

Place your sterilized jars and lids on a towel to dry for a minute (a jar lifter is useful for easy and safe removal of jars out of the boiling water). Ladle the hot marmalade into the jars, leaving about a ¼ inch head-space at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars and place the flat lid and ring on each jar (rings do not require sterilization). Screw on rings just to the point where you feel resistance. It is important not to over-tighten the lid rings since air bubbles must escape out of the jars during processing.

Return the closed, filled jars into the boiling water of the canning pot. Process for 5 minutes. Remove the jars out of the pot and place them on a towel to be undisturbed for at least 12 hours. You will hear a popping sound made by the center of the lids pulling downwards. This means they sealed properly. If this does not occur, the jar should be refrigerated immediately for preserving.

Your preserves should last for year, especially if kept in a cool, dark place. In Miami, I wouldn’t go for more than 6 months and refrigerate after opening due to our warm and humid climate.

Ready for some multigrain toast, pound cake or vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Welcome to my blog! Now a bit about how i got here...

Lentils on Mondays. This describes a bit of food culture that went on in my house growing up, and in many houses, around the city of Lima. Perhaps it's purely a superstition since lentils are thought to bring bounty when consumed early in the week. Perhaps it is the fact that gastronomy in Peruvian households is very much driven by the freshness and availability of local ingredients, but most importantly by good old-fashioned home economics. Lentils are highly nutritious and very inexpensive. They are extremely high in iron, B-vitamins and protein. What a perfect food to eat on a Monday, paired with some simple white rice, or with a salad on the side (for us carb-conscious eaters). After perhaps some over-indulgences and overspending during the weekend, why not some healthy and seriously cheap lentils! Traditionally, Tuesday would be a great day for tacu-tacu, made by frying up some left-over lentils and rice and topping it with a thin steak or some fried up bananas. Yum! 

Coming from a background where food was always something to get excited about, my curiosity was sparked from an early age. The kitchen was where I wanted to be as a kid. Asking my mom and grandmas questions about measurement conversions was not enough, according to a story my mom reminded me of recently, I wanted to be enrolled in a cooking class. Me, a 7 year-old kid, with a bunch of older ladies learned how to bake brownies and such. I'm surprised they even allowed me to join. I wish I had a picture to share of those times!

Now, I am almost 30 and I still get struck by the same curiosity about food as I did as a child. I love watching food being prepared, exploring new ingredients (thank you Farm Fresh biweekly food co-op), and of course, eating. I hope you will enjoy this journey of culinary inspiration and exploration!