Score One for the Pie People – Freestylin’ with Jeni’s Raspberry Blueberry Oven-Baked Empanadas

2014-08-06 122

Dan and I got into a small debate last weekend with some friends as to whether cake is better than pie. Dan and I fall firmly down on the “pie” side, which might be one of the defining reasons for our eight years together. I’m sure other factors play a part, but they surely can’t be as important as pie.

Cupcakes, with their beneficial frosting-to-cake ratio were mentioned during this debate, and I countered this argument with the existence of hand pies. Or empanadas. Or turnovers. Or whatever you want to call these wonderful little single-serving treats that give you an amazing crust-to-filling ratio that blows a cupcake away.

People who grew up in New Orleans (like me) also grew up on Hubig’s Pies, these amazing deep fried sugar bombs that always made an appearance at every family function in my childhood. (I have an aunt who used to work in their corporate office, and it was always her potluck contribution to bring an entire case of assorted flavors.) Unfortunately, Hubig’s suffered a devastating fire in 2012, and the factory has yet to be restored. That leaves those of us firmly entrenched on the “pie” side without some of our favorite things.

How do we fix this problem? We make our own.

2014-08-06 079

We get out our new ice cream cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, turn to the page with the recipe for Sweet Empanadas, and get to mixing up some dough.

2014-08-06 081

2014-08-06 084

Jeni’s has been encouraging people to take the recipes in the cookbooks and run with them, putting their own spin on things or creating new flavors, something they’ve dubbed Freestylin’. #freestylin if we want to be super-cool.

2014-08-06 087

When I was asking Dan about what flavor of hand pie he’d like, he specified raspberry. I was in more of a blueberry mood. What to do, especially since we’re in freestylin’ mode? Mix them together.

2014-08-06 099

Raspberries and blueberries cooked down into a delicious syrup makes the most beautiful deep magenta that I’ve ever been able to produce in my kitchen.

2014-08-06 103

I cut my circles out of my dough, using a Hard Rock Cafe cocktail glass that I have never used once for alcohol, mostly because of its cartoonish shape.

2014-08-06 105

And because I didn’t have any troubles with the dough, I was bound to run into problems sooner or later. The recipe recommends 2-2 1/2 tablespoons of filling per pie, but I could barely fit in one without having problems sealing the dough.

2014-08-06 107

See those ones in the back spilling their purple guts already? I think that I might need to invest in an empanada press. Then, the oozing might not have been so…oozy.

2014-08-06 112

Because we were freestylin’ (and slightly because I am still moderately terrified of boiling oil), I decided to bake the pies instead of frying them. Everything got brushed with eggwash and sprinkled with some extra sugar. Then, they went into a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, switching places and turning halfway through.

Even though oozing did occur, however, the pies stayed fairly plump and didn’t lose the majority of their fruity filling, so things worked out in the end.

2014-08-06 119

Especially when we scooped some vanilla bean ice cream (tragically not handmade) on top, as per Jeni’s suggestion.

2014-08-06 120

Look at that melty, fruity goodness. Yum.

2014-08-06 126

The pies have only been in existence for two days, and they are already more than halfway gone. I should have doubled things up, clearly. Or maybe we just need Hubig’s back ASAP. Either way would be a win for us “pie” people.

Frozen Yogurt for Breakfast

My birthday was about two weeks ago, and I wanted to be sure that I had something interesting and delicious to eat for breakfast on that special day.

2014-06-22 123

What? You don’t eat ice cream for breakfast? You should really sort out your priorities.

While I agree that it’s probably not the best practice for everyday life, birthdays are special days where general eating rules should be able to go out the window. Plus, it’s frozen yogurt, so let’s just pretend that makes it more acceptable.

2014-06-22 042

I had never made frozen yogurt before, but I knew that Jeni would be able to guide me through it with flying colors. Plus, I knew that I was going to have to draw on a reserve of patience that I normally do not have when it comes to frozen treats. Making frozen yogurt with a fruit sauce takes 2 solid afternoons worth of work, and you need to be fairly precise about what you’re doing.

2014-06-22 043

At first, I was considering just going with the plain lemon frozen yogurt, but when I saw this suggestion, I knew that blueberries had to become involved. Both recipes are from the first book: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and I have a feeling that I will not feel truly complete until I have made at least one batch of everything in it. Then, I’ll move on to the second book. Let’s hope there’s not a third because I might never find true ice-cream-related emotional fulfillment. (Just kidding. I would buy it immediately, if only for the opportunity to leaf through the pages and sigh wistfully.)

2014-06-22 005

The first step in making frozen yogurt? Draining yogurt. The first time I ever heard of this concept was in a post years ago from everybody likes sandwiches about this amazing-sounding orange yogurt. I have always kept this concept in the back of my mind, but never got the opportunity to practice it until this day. I have a feeling that my local grocery store employees would have looked at me funny if I asked them where they kept their cheesecloth (It is still a major moment of confusion for them when I pull out my own shopping bags. One step at a time.), so I decided to go with the coffee filter option, which seemed to work beautifully.

2014-06-22 013

That yogurt needs to drain for several hours, so overnight was the best option. Next? The blueberry sauce. I figured that making it during the day before was a good idea, although I wasn’t anticipating the delicious smell and the way that the idea of fresh blueberry sauce sitting in the refrigerator would taunt me the rest of the day.

2014-06-22 022

Blueberries and sugar get tossed together and heated up over the stove until the whole house smells like you’re baking blueberry muffins.

2014-06-22 030

Blueberry sauce might be the prettiest purple of all the purples.

2014-06-22 033

The draining yogurt and cooling blueberry sauce sit in the refrigerator for a day, waiting for their ultimate destiny.

2014-06-22 045

2014-06-22 047

The next day, lemons take over your whole kitchen. You zest them into big long strips.

2014-06-22 049

You juice them up.

2014-06-22 052

You make lemon syrup.

2014-06-22 063

And then you boil up that zest with your milk and cream and sugar and all of the other white things in your kitchen.

Speaking of white things…

2014-06-22 057

How did that yogurt do? How much liquid can really be in there anyway?

2014-06-22 055

I think I actually gasped. This moment was on a par with the time that I finally got to squeeze out shredded zucchini. So much unexpected greenish liquid. It was weird. But again, so worth it. Getting rid of that extra stuff helps to make the frozen yogurt base incredibly silky and smooth, with as little incidence of ice crystals as possible.

2014-06-22 061

Check out my mise en place. I’m getting so much better at this.

After things are boiled up, the various whiskings begin.

2014-06-22 067

You whisk in cornstarch slurry. You whisk in cream cheese.

2014-06-22 070

You whisk in that lovely thick yogurt.

2014-06-22 073

You whisk in your homemade lemon syrup.

Your arm gets tired.

2014-06-22 078

You let things chill out. (You do some dishes now, because to wait until you’re finished has previously proven to be a bad idea.)

2014-06-22 080

You strain out those pesky lemon zests.

2014-06-22 083

You get this amazing silky concoction, that, if I were I lesser woman, I would have eaten straight from the bowl with a spoon like lemon curd without a care in the world. However, one of the few things that I am willing to sacrifice for is the prospect of having ice cream, so I kept that impulse in check.

2014-06-22 088

You spin it up, and then do some more dishes. It’s a good idea to make ice cream so that you have an excuse to do some dishes, really. Let’s keep telling ourselves that.

Then, the assembly begins. I think that I’ll just let this go by like a stop-motion movie. You guys know what’s up.

2014-06-22 090

2014-06-22 091

2014-06-22 092

2014-06-22 094

Such pretty stuff, with all those alternating layers of the lightest yellow and deep purple.

2014-06-22 095

Seal it up, and let it go. That’s right. More waiting. At least four hours, or if you’re like me, until your birthday.

2014-06-22 113

And then again, if you’re like me, deny yourself the pleasure of digging right in on your birthday morning so that you can take pictures first because you are absolutely ridiculous.

2014-06-22 122

But this beauty needed to be documented. The lemon frozen yogurt is super smooth, tart, and bright, much lighter than its traditional lemon ice cream counterpart. The blueberry swirl is sweet and fresh, with the tiniest bit of iciness and chewiness from those whole berries. The whole things just screams summer. And when your birthday is on the first day of summer, could there be anything better?

Now get inside from that crazy heat and stand over a hot stove and make yourself some frozen yogurt. It’s totally worth it. And your dirty dishes will thank you for it.

Late for Work Smoothies

2013-03-02 013

I decided that I would indulge in two treats this morning. One, that I would allow myself to post on my blog after just completing a 49-page paper about lupus. (Didn’t think that there was that much of interest to say about lupus? You’re right! But certain things must be overlooked in the interest of getting a nursing degree.)

Two, that I would enjoy a delicious smoothie made by the best smoothie-maker that lives in this house. By not me, of course. By Dan.

2013-03-02 008

Dan’s smoothies are always delicious, always unique (which made it hard to pin him down on measurements for this recipe), and always enacted at the very last minute, hence the title…Late for Work Smoothies.

Since both of our work and school demands shove us out of the house earlier and earlier every morning, this smoothie is the perfect thing to waste those last few precious moments on as you’re attempting to run out of the door. It’s relatively quick to put together, super healthy, and a tarty kick to your taste buds first thing in the morning.

2013-03-02 010

Let’s get with the smoothie-making!

Late for Work Smoothies
from Dan’s kitchen imagination

A word to the wise: Take all of the following ingredients and measurements with a grain of salt. Measurements are not as important to my better half as they are to my OCD-tendency self.

4 large ice cubes
heaping 1/3 cup frozen blueberries
heaping 1/3 cup frozen raspberries
2/3 cup oats
2/3 cup grape juice (but that’s just what we had on hand…you could substitute orange juice or cranberry juice and it’s just as delicious)
1/3 cup of pineapple juice, with some pineapple chunks thrown in, if you’re adventurous
1 whole banana (on the smallish side)
3 heaping scoops of fat-free vanilla yogurt (Let’s assume we all know what scoops means. We all do, right?)

Add ice cubes to blender and give them a few pulses to get the ice chopped up first. We found that this works best with our blender so that the resulting drink still has delicious bits of fruit and oatmeal without large, distracting ice chunks getting in the way.

Toss everything else into the blender and blend away on the ‘chop’ setting. Again, we want little evenly distributed bits of fruit and goodness, not a completely liquified mess. I particularly love a smoothie that’s got some tooth to it, and chewing on those tiny bits of oatmeal makes me happy.

Pour it into your travel cup of choice and run out the door!

2013-03-02 011

This recipe makes around 20 oz. of bright purple smoothie craziness, perfect for your hardcore smoothie enthusiast, or just enough for two to share if you just want a fancy drink with breakfast.

You can make the whole thing even more tart and tangy by leaving out the banana, if you wish. But really, all that banana and oatmeal in there is all the breakfast you need, keeping you all filled up and ready to go until lunch, especially if you need to perform the exceptionally dreary task of writing a paper about lupus.

Drink it up and be happy all morning!

2013-03-02 017

Blueberry Muffins for Lunch

2012-06-30 193

Over the past week, I’ve had 2 vaccines, a TB test, and two titers drawn, in addition to lots of waiting in doctor’s offices and the DMV. Something had to be better today in reward for my patience.

2012-06-30 184

I had to be allowed to make a giant mess of my kitchen and eat blueberry muffins for lunch because I said so. Not just any blueberry muffins, either. Amazing blueberry muffins devised by one of my primary girl crushes, Joy the Baker. Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins.

2012-06-30 188

A futuristic in-the-oven shot! It’s been a while. This took place when everything was just starting to smell so good that I may have been going a bit mad.

These muffins are awesome.

2012-06-30 190

Because Joy is a genius. She knows that the only way to make buttery muffins better is to make them taste even butterier.

2012-06-30 192

And to add crunchy, crumbly delicious topping.

2012-06-30 198

In addition to her fantastically silly and awe-inspiring blog, the Joy the Baker podcast also fills a void that I didn’t know I had. (And made me get way into shutterbean, thankfully!) And listening to her interview awesome inspirational people on We’re About to Be Friends makes me want to be a better blogger. Better baker. Better person. Better everything.

2012-06-30 199

Look at all those blueberries!

2012-06-30 202

Seriously. I’m probably obsessed. I may have just gotten a haircut that inadvertently (I swear!) looks a lot like hers on the cover of her new cookbook.

365 2012-06-23

Completely an accident. I promise. But I love it.

2012-06-30 205

I also totally ate blueberry muffins and milk for lunch, which is something of which I think Joy would totally approve.