Thursday, July 11, 2013

Julie Surprise: Oven-less Cherry Pie!

Okay, so normally you would want some kind of oven for this recipe. 
 Mine was ovenless out of necessity because our oven has been broken for the past two months or so.

 Luckily for me, the weather has been such that most people wouldn't want to turn on an oven anyway, so I was able to 'bake' my crust on the dashboard of my minivan for a few hours. It might have even taken less time if I had thought of it sooner since it got to be at least 102° fahrenheit that day. As it was, I put the crust on the dashboard and rolled up all the windows at about 5pm at which point the sun was about to go behind some trees near our parking lot and then a cloud cover came over. I pulled it out after 9pm (after I'd put the girls to bed) thinking that it would simply have to wait till another hot day since the next day I'd be gone to Lagoon all day, but to my delight and relief when I pulled it out it was firm and baked through. Yay!
 The recipe I used was extremely simple. I basically used this shortbread recipe that I found on Pinterest except I didn't have any almond flour so I gleaned inspiration from the photo for this crust recipe and used ground almonds instead. It worked great!
So, since I guess I once again, sort of made my own recipe, I'll be kind enough to type it out below for those who want to try the "Julie" method. :}

 As for the cherry filling, well, that was an interesting adventure in and of itself. A tangent which needs it's own post, actually.

Basically it started out as a bowl of fresh cherries marinated with lemon juice and honey because I didn't have any sugar at the time I received the cherries. It sat in my fridge for almost three weeks. Finally, the evening before the fourth of July I decided to try making the pie despite my lack of oven. So I whipped up the crust as stated above. It was only after bringing the crust in from the van that night that I figured I'd better finish making the pie and began to consider how best to deal with the filling.
I'd added some coconut sugar to the cherries earlier that evening while working on the crust, and it was back in my fridge in a glass casserole dish with a lid. It occurred to me as I came in with the crust that while I could use the stove top (which still works) to cook the filling, it seemed a shame to dirty another dish when it was already in a lovely microwavable dish, and I didn't see any reason why the microwave wouldn't work. So that's what I ended up doing. I cooked the cherry filling in the microwave on the fresh veggies setting until it made the kitchen smell wonderful. Then I stirred in a pack and a half of pectin. Then I scooped the cherries into the crust. There was quite a bit of sauce though so I sort of strained the fruit out of the sauce so the pie wouldn't be too runny. The leftover sauce went into a jar in the fridge were it turned into a sort of cherry jelly, not unlike grape jelly actually, though perhaps a tad more tart.
Once that was done I toasted some sliced almonds with a little butter and coconut sugar on the stove top and added those to the pie as a topping.

Tada! Julie Surprise Cherry Pie!

Now, here's the recipe all written out a bit more tidily.

Almond Lemon Crust:

  • 6 Tablespoons organic butter
  • 2 cups freshly ground almonds (Used my little food processor for this)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sweetener (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (Mine was actually frozen, but it worked fine)
  • Melt the butter in the microwave in the glass pie dish. Add the almond meal, sweetener, and lemon zest, stirring until fully combined.
  • To make a tart or pie crust:
  • No need to pre-chill, just press dough into the pie pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees (F) for 15 mins until firm and golden brown. Or, as in my case, put on the dashboard of a hot vehicle for 2-5 hours or until firm and cooked through. (I put a sheet of tinfoil underneath it, shiny side up, and another to one side to try and reflect the sun to the top of it. Don't know if it made any difference, but there you have it.)

Cherry Filling:

  • 4 cups fresh, pitted cherries
  • Enough honey to coat cherries well
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sweetener (I used coconut sugar) Optional
    1 to 1 & 1/2 packs of pectin (depending on how runny filling is)
  • Stir honey and lemon with cherries and if you wish, refrigerate overnight (or up to three weeks!)
    Add extra sweetener (coconut sugar) if needed before cooking.
  • Cook in the microwave on the fresh vegetable setting until filling become fragrant and looks done. Then stir in pectin and transfer to crust. Add topping and refrigerate pie overnight or until set.
    If you wish to cook the filling on the stove top add the pectin once it comes to a simmer and stir and cook until sauce begins to thicken.
    Then add to crust as stated above.


  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sweetener (I used coconut sugar) Optional
  • 1/3 cup organic butter
  • Add almonds to a small frying pan or skillet and toast on low heat stirring occasionally until fragrant.
    Add sweetener (coconut sugar) and organic butter and stir until sugar melts and coats the almonds evenly.
    Now, you can let the almonds cool and break them up over your pie, or you can do what I did and let them drizzle out of the hot pan over the pie, using a rubber spatula to guide them until the pie is evenly coated. Either way works.

~Julie :}

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Lump of Bread

So our oven has been broken for weeks now.
Yesterday I finally remembered that I have a bread machine that we got for our wedding.
I've never used it because when I planned to a few years back I couldn't find one of the parts.

I have since found it though, so I attempted to make some bread yesterday. I followed the directions precisely and after four hours of waiting it finally heated up, without using any of those previous hours to actually knead the ingredients. They were all sitting in there exactly as I had placed them in. Yet the machine was starting to get hot in order to cook my unmixed ingredients.

Needless to say I was rather perturbed and tried to stop it which had no effect, so I unplugged it and went through the process of re-reading the manual again and trying to find a solution online, all to no avail!

Finally in exasperation (it didn't help my six year old was whining at me that she was so disappointed that we didn't have any bread yet.) I upturned the bread pan onto the counter and kneaded it by hand. No easy task since it had been sitting still for four hours and the sugar and wet ingredients had melted into a sticky mass underneath all of the flour. I attempted to let the now kneaded dough rise on the counter for a few hours but by 9pm I was done with waiting and threw the solid lump of dough back into the machine and plugged it in.

When I had unplugged it previously in an attempt to start over and see if it would knead the dough the second time, it had made no difference and plugging it back in at that point only showed that it had the same amount of time on the timer and was still heating up. I guess it just hadn't been unplugged long enough before because when I replugged it in after working the dough by hand and attempting to let it rise the whole process started over and the timer said it would take another four hours!

I washed my hands of it both literally and otherwise and went to bed, only to be awakened about 4 hours later to the sound of the machine beeping that it was done.  I ignored it for a while, but eventually I dragged myself out of bed, extracted the pan from the machine, unplugged it and went back to bed.

Hours later we awakened to find a solid mass of wheat something in the pan. It looked just like the lump of dough I'd put in the pan the night before, except cooked, I guess.
It was edible when toasted and buttered, but not exactly delectable.
I think it's possible there was also something wrong with my yeast, but considering how long it sat in a bunch of flour before it ever coming in contact with sugar and or water, it's hard to be sure. At any rate, the machine appears to be defective. Sad that it took me over eight years to find out one of my wedding gifts is useless huh? So let this be a lesson to you newly weds out there. If you're keeping it, you'd better use it within the first year. Well, I guess we all make mistakes, eh?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ukrainian Red Borsh Recipe

My husband served a mission in the Ukraine for two years and one of the members there made a bunch of recipe books for the elders to take home, full of some awesome traditional Ukrainian recipes. The only drawback about this for me is that it's all written in Russian/Cyrillic.
So, every time we've wanted to make our favorite Ukrainian Dish, Ukrainian Red Borsh, I've needed my husband right there to translate for me, every ingredient and step of the way.

It's been about 9 years since he left the Ukraine and so this last time that we made it, the translation seemed to take a bit longer for him than usual and in the end he finally decided to write it all down in the margins in English as he went. The soup itself turned out really well, (seriously, even if you think you don't like beets, this soup will change your mind!) so we of course were sharing pictures and accolades all over facebook for a couple of days. Which, of course, inevitably resulted in people asking for the recipe. I've been intending to post it here ever since, and now, over 3 months later, it looks like today is finally the day!

Ukrainian Red Borsh*


1-3 fresh beets shredded or grated. (depending on size. If large, one is usually sufficient, but if small you may even want three. You really can't go overboard with this ingredient as it is. After-all, it is beet soup.)

2 lbs of potatoes cubed or about 4 regular potatoes (about the size of an index card) We chose to use smaller red potatoes this time around so we used  more. Once again amounts can vary without ruining anything.

2 large carrots grated.

2 onions grated very fine. (sweet red onions are our favorite)

1 cabbage cut into long, thin strips, (sort of like noodles. We used red cabbage but green will also work)

1/2 cup of cooking oil, your choice.

3.5 oz tomato paste (That amounts to about half of a small 6 oz can, but I'm thinking we used the whole can.)

1 sweet pepper, sliced. We prefer red bells, though yellow or orange would be yummy too.

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste.

4 liters of meat or veggie stock. The original calls for beef stock or bullion, but we used the organic chicken stock from Costco. You can also make your own stock. 

  1. In your largest pot, bring stock to a boil.
  2. Add half of the grated beet(s) into the boiling stock. (We used the food processor to shred the beets this last time and it was a so much faster than grating it by hand, though not necessarily less messy.)
  3. Once the beets have turned white add the potatoes.
  4. Add half of the carrots and half of the onions after the potatoes have come to a boil.
  5. Once carrots and onions come to a boil, add all of the cabbage to the stock. Cook for 15 minutes.
  6. In a large skillet or frying pan, place the remaining beets, carrots and onions in the oil and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Then add to the pan, the sliced pepper, the tomato paste and 2 cups of water. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  8. Add everything from the pan into the pot of stock with the bay leaves and boil for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Can be served with sour cream or Greek yogurt as a nice condiment.

    This soup in incredibly tasty and healthful. I've begun to refer to it as prenatal soup because it's so chock full of iron and other important nutrients. Also, it is so much better the next day. This batch turned out really good even for the first day (during which I ended up eating 5 bowls of it.) but during the following days the flavors continue to blend and mature and it just gets better and better!

    Also, this makes a LOT of soup. When I said use your largest pot, I wasn't kidding. We almost couldn't fit everything into the one we have (8 quarts) when it came time to add the skillet veggies to the main soup. Our stove was a huge mess due to the effects of the ruby red soup boiling so happily near the edge of the pot. It was so worth it though! In fact, I believe I will have to enlist the hubs into another Borsh making session soon. If only it weren't so hot outside. Hmm . . . 

*P.s. I would like to note that while Borsh is usually spelled as 'Borscht' in English and your spell checkers will not approve of another spelling, my Russian speaking husband feels that this is completely erroneous and only encourages people to mispronounce a rather simple word.
The Cyrillic spelling which looks like this:
борщ, contains 4 characters, one of which equates to our letter 'b' another to 'o' another to 'r' and the final one to the 'sh' sound. There is no 'ch' or 't' sound in Borsh.
I am simply noting this to explain my spelling of the word in order to avoid a lot of unnecessary comments about it later. Believe me, it is completely intentional and not done in ignorance. Thanks!

For Sale, Ashton Drake Traditional African Porcelain Doll, The Passport to Friendship Collection

I would normally sell this on Etsy, but she is one year too new to qualify for their vintage category.
This is another item I inherited from my Grandmother. Serena is from the Ashton Drake Passport to Friendship collection. She is 16" tall and in like new condition. In original box, with certificate and accessories; which include a basket of fruit, necklace, earrings and a bracelet. She wears a colorful traditonal african top and skirt and her black hair is plaited and tried back with a matching scarf. Made of porcelain. Smoke and pet free home in both homes where she has resided. 

My Grandmother Collected Dolls. I'm keeping one of the dolls I inherited from her, but I don't really have a place for this one, and I think it should probably go to a home were African culture is more appreciated, whether because it's your heritage, or you lived or visited there. This is an Ashton Drake Porcelain doll. She is lovely, still has her box, her certificate and all her accessories. Please let me know if you're interested. It seems a shame to keep her in storage. I really don't know what I'd like for this, just want to know it will end up in a good home, so best offer will get her.

Please E-mail me if interested.