Friday, September 23, 2011

Miniature Über-berry Pies

The days are getting shorter and soon, instead of bemoaning how hot and humid it is, we'll be griping about the cold! As a final farewell to summer, here's a classic recipe for berry pie that's pretty simple but easily lends itself to personalization - like these cute little mini-pies!


~6 cups berries - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, your choice!
~1.25 cups sugar (I used Splenda)
1/2 cup flour (I used finely ground whole wheat flour)
~1 tbsp lemon juice
3 pie crusts (for regular pie, use only 2 pie crusts)

1. Preheat oven to

2. Wash berries (slice if necessary, so they are roughly the same size) and mix them in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and flour. Combine the dry mixture with the berries.

4. Sprinkle lemon juice over the berry/flour mixture, let sit 10 minutes to let juices come out. Stir occasionally.

For regular pies
5. Place one pie crust in a 9-inch round pie pan and fill with the berry mixture.

6. For a double crust, lay the second pie crust on top and crimp the edges together, cutting away the excess. For a lattice crust, cut the second pie crust into ~1/2-inch strips. Lay one strip vertically in the center (dividing the pie in half), then one horizontally, also at the center. Working your way out, alternately lay strips horizontally and vertically in a lattice pattern until the strips are used up. Space the strips about 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart. Crimp edges together and cut away excess.

7. Slightly roll up the edges of the crust to help prevent berry juices from oozing over. As this doesn't always keep the juices in, line a cookie sheet with foil and put the pie pan on the cookie sheet to catch any rogue juice drippings.

8. Bake at
425°F for 10 minues, then reduce heat to 325°F and bake for another 50 minutes. Let cool.
For mini-pies:
5. Line a muffin pan with foil. Though it takes some work, lining each muffin cup separately will make it much easier to remove the mini-pies after baking. NOTE: It is best not to use muffin cup liners, as the crust will snag on the ridges and tear.
6. From each of the 3 pie crusts, cut circles about 3 inches in diameter with a cookie cutter, or some other circular object, like a huge mug :-) Save the rest of the crust.
7. Press the circular crust rounds into each muffin cup. The rounds should be large enough that some extra is able to fold out on the muffin pan. Spoon the berry mixture into each muffin cup.

8. Using the crust left over from cutting the small circular rounds, cut ~1/4-inch strips about 3-4 inches long. Arrange over the top of each muffin cup in a small lattice pattern (see step 6 for regular pies on how to do this). Crimp edges together and slightly roll them up to help prevent berry juices from spilling over.

Bake at 425°F for 10 minues, then reduce heat to 325°F and bake for another 10-20 minutes. Let cool.

Serve the pie à la mode for a sweet, anytime dessert!


Note: Fresh berries work best, but if using frozen berries, make sure they are defrosted and discard excess liquid so that the pie doesn't get too soggy. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

Did you know eggplant is botanically classified as a berry?! We didn't either! We think that eggplant is typically under-appreciated as a food, but it can be super delicious - stuffed, baked, in a stir-fry or even chili. However, one of the most common eggplant dishes you'll see in a restaurant is eggplant parmigiana. We made this a few times for some dinner parties (and my parents!) with great success. Here's the recipe we used, adapted from Simply Recipes.
2 lbs (about 2 large) eggplants
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (or diced or crushed, whatever your preference)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (we used fine ground whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs (we omitted these and replaced with flour)
4 large eggs, beaten (we used Egg Beaters)
1 1/2 lbs fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (or you can use shredded)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (or ~1/2 cup loose dried basil)
olive oil (or canola oil)
salt, pepper

Pre-cooking steps

1. Cut eggplant into 1/4-inch slices (either rounds or lengthwise). In the bottom of a colander, arrange a layer and lightly sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining eggplant, salting between layers, until all the eggplant is in the colander. Weigh down the slices (a large stack of bowls worked for us) and let moisture drain for a couple hours. When we made this, we put paper towel between layers of eggplant to help absorb the moisture. NOTE: As an alternative, you can broil the slices for a few minutes per side instead of salting them.

2. While the eggplant is draining, make the tomato sauce by combining the tomatoes, garlic, and 1/3 cup oil and mix well. If you don't want tomato chunks, you can blend the mixture in a food processor to smooth it out. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. (Additionally, we added some garlic, and oregano would also add some extra flavor.)

Cooking steps

3. Preheat oven to 350°F.

4. After eggplant has drained, wipe off excess salt and wipe or pat down with paper towel to remove as much extra moisture as possible. In a large shallow bowl, combine flour and breadcrumbs (or just flour). Pour beaten eggs into another large shallow bowl. Heat some oil in a large skillet.

5. To cook the eggplant, dredge the slices in the flour mixture, then dip them in the egg. Lightly fry the slices until they are golden brown on both sides. It's not necessary to use a lot oil, but if you run out just add a little at a time to the skillet. NOTE: As an alternative to frying - after dredging the slices in flour and egg, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes on each side.

6. In a baking dish, spread a cup of tomato sauce, then layer with about 1/3 of the eggplant slices. On top of the eggplant, spread a layer of mozzarella (either slices or shredded) using about half the cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil. Repeat the process for a second layer, using the rest of the mozzarella. Put the remaining eggplant slices on top, then top with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle and even layer of Parmesan cheese.

7. Bake about 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and the top is slightly brown. Let the dish cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

The finished eggplant parmigiana can be served on its own, or with pasta of your choice. Enjoy!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chocolate filled shortbread cookies


Shortbread cookies are very simple to make and can be easily flavored with chocolate or fruit jams. They do taste delicious without adding any of those flavors, but since it is not a very sweet cookie, I prefer some kind of filling to sweeten it up a little. I found a wonderful recipe for a chocolate filled shortbread in the book Crazy for Chocolate, which I’ve modified a little.


125g (4oz) butter, chopped
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cornflour
1 tablespoon iced water

60g (2 oz) dark chocolate
60 g (2 oz) cream cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease a baking tray. Combine flour, baking powder, salt.
2. Beat butter and icing sugar until creamy. Add flour mixture and water. Process for few seconds until mixture comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
3. For the filling, melt dark chocolate. Beat cream cheese until soft, add cooled melted chocolate and half of the beaten egg, and mix well.
4. Roll out the shortbread mixture between two sheets of aluminum foil to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter. If you don’t have anything round to cut with, just cut out squares with a knife.
5. Place half the rounds on the prepared tray. Place 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the centre of the rounds, brush edges with remaining beaten egg and place the remaining rounds over the filling. Press edges lightly to seal.
6. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire rack. Dust warm cookies with powdered sugar, or a mixture of powdered sugar and cocoa….or just use Nesquik like I did :-)

Enjoy the cookies with a hot cup of tea or coffee.