Sunday, January 29, 2012

Peach Pie

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time throwing away food. So whenever possible I lovingly place leftovers or produce that is in real danger of rotting in a Tupperware container and put it in the freezer, vowing to use it some week night when I don't have time to cook. Inevitably, the result is a freezer full of food, an empty drawer where my Tupperware is supposed to be, and a Wednesday trip to Jimmy Johns. Jason and I routinely promise to do a better job eating in and using all the food in the fridge before it goes bad; we end up doing well for a bit and then resort back to our old ways. So I was really proud of us for eating freezer leftovers all week, and to celebrate our accomplishment (and because it fits with the warm sunny weather we've been having), I decided to make a peach pie in January with the frozen peaches from last July. Not only did I use frozen peaches, but I also managed to use left over crumb cake topping.

Peach Pie
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 350º.

Prepare two pie crusts.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine:
4-5 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar

Let sit for at least 15 minutes or as long as it takes to finish making the pie crust and crumb topping.

In a food processor, pulse together until finely chopped:
1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2-3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Roll out first pie crust and place in pie pan. Cut off the excess dough, leaving enough to crimp together with the upper crust. Pour the peaches into the pie crust and evenly spread. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the peaches.

Using a basting brush, brush the edges of the pie dough. Roll out the second crust and place on top of peaches. Again, cut off the excess dough and then crimp together edges.

Cut decorative holes for heat to escape.

Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Eat up!

Friday, January 27, 2012


I can't begin to count the number of times I've made this gumbo - sometimes just as it is written below and sometimes to fit the dietary restrictions of my friends and family. Because Jason is allergic to most seafood, my standard recipe doesn't include it at all; however, I have occasionally split gumbo into two separate pots and added shrimp to mine. In case you have dietary restrictions, here are some alterations that have worked in the past for me:

* Making this recipe gluten free is super easy because there is only one substitution: instead of using wheat flour use sorghum flour. (Also, make sure that your Andouille sausage is gluten-free. Whole Foods is a good option.)

* I recently made this for a friend who is breast-feeding, but because she isn't able to do spicy, I left out the cayenne pepper and substituted the Andouille sausage for Spinach-Feta sausage.

* For those of you who don't eat pork, there are great chicken sausage options that still have a kick.

* I also had success making this recipe meat-free when my best friend was eating vegetarian. Just leave out the meat and switch out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. Add a can of sweet yellow corn and 2 cups of diced cooked potatoes. You can also add more green pepper.

Kelley Gondring

Finely dice:
1 green bell pepper
2 small white onions
3 stalks celery

Place in medium bowl and set aside.

Coarsely chop:
1 green bell pepper
1 small white onion
3 stalks celery
15 pieces okra

Place in a separate bowl and set aside.

In a large pot, bring to a boil:
6 cups chicken stock

In a large saucepan, heat:
3/4 cup olive oil/vegetable oil
Once oil is hot, add 1/4 cup at a time:
3/4 cup flour

Whisk together to incorporate all the flour, being careful not to let flour burn (this is a called a roux). Immediately add half of the finely diced vegetables. Reduce the heat and let veggies cook for 5 minutes. Add second half and let cook 10-15 minutes or until veggies are tender.
2 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black better
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 cloves minced garlic

Cook 2 minutes more, stirring enough to prevent garlic from burning.

Turn off heat. One half cup at a time, add the roux to the boiling chicken broth, stirring so that there are no clumps. Reduce heat and let broth simmer so that the flavors continue to develop. Cover.

Place into a medium bowl:
1.5 pounds Andouille sausage, sliced into half moons

Trim and cut into bite-sized pieces:
1.5 pounds dark meat chicken
Place in small saucepan and cook until no pink remains. Drain and place in bowl with sausage.

Add the coarsely chopped veggies and a little olive oil to the large saucepan. Sauté on medium for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat.

Add the sautéed veggies, cooked chicken, and sausage to the broth.

Serve over rice.

Eat up!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Orange Mocha Biscotti

Orange Mocha Biscotti
Kelley Gondring
Preheat oven 375º

In a medium bowl, combine:
3 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
dash of salt

In a large electric mixing bowl, cream together:
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar

One at a time, add:
3 whole eggs
1 egg white

After each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2 tablespoons espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon Nutella

Mix for 30 seconds.

A cup at a time, add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. The dough is going to be stiffer than that of a cake. Pour dough into two piles on a greased cookie sheet. Flour your hands and use them to shape the dough into two loaves. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and use butcher knife to cut the loaf into inch-wide slices. Place them back on the cookie sheet and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and flip. Place them back on the cookie sheet again and bake for 7 more minutes. Remove from oven. Place on a cooling rack and let cool before decorating.

In a small bowl, melt:
5 ounces semisweet chocolate

In another small bowl, place:
Zest of 1/2 orange

Dip one end of the biscotti into the chocolate and the backside of a knife to scrap off excess. Sprinkle as desired with orange zest. Let cool on wax paper.

Eat up!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dal Makhani

Aside from tigers and yoga, one of the main reasons Jason and I decided to visit India was the food. When we began planning our vacation, I was adhering to a gluten, dairy, and soy free diet for health reasons. We had originally envisioned a trip to France because I was dying to eat the food! But then Jason brilliantly pointed out that I would be able to eat neither the pastries nor the cheese. Well, that would just not do. So we began to brainstorm places that would more easily accommodate my dietary restrictions. India made the short list, and once Jason figured out there were tigers to be seen, our destination quickly decided.

While Jason was figuring out where to stay, I was learning about the food! I bought an Indian cookbook and tried to make a couple of dishes before we departed on our adventure. When I got back, I opened it up to see if I could replicate any of the dishes we'd had. It was then that I realized I'd purchased a book that focused on southern Indian recipes, and because we were in northern India, there was next to nothing I recognized. After perusing the internet, I found several helpful sites to guide me along the way (Manjula's Kitchen + A Life (Time) of Cooking were two of my favorites). It's taken me a number of tries to get my Indian cooking to taste like the dishes we had in India, but tonight I actually got it right. Both Jason and I thought it tasted downright authentic. It isn't a particularly difficult recipe to make, though it does require spices you may not already have in your kitchen. While I was able to find most of them at Whole Foods, I did have to go to the local Indian grocery store to find mango powder and asafetida. The first time I attempted to make Dal Makani, I left those spices out and it just wasn't the same. Go ahead and make the $4 investment! If you do make it, I'd love to know what you think.

Dal Makhani
Kelley Gondring

In a large bowl, soak for at least 24 hours:
3/4 cup dried urad dal (black lentils)
1/4 cup dried red kidney beans
1/4 cup dried garbanzo beans

Periodically drain the water, rinse the lentils and beans, and refill with new water. If you plan on using canned beans instead of dry beans, you don't need to soak them.

Either by hand or using a food processor, mince:
1 green pepper
2 red chili peppers
1/2 inch piece of ginger

In a medium pot, add:
4 cups water
Add the lentil/bean mixture along with the minced peppers and ginger to the pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook until there is no longer standing water. Stir occasionally and adjust the heat to prevent burning on the bottom. This will take about an hour and fifteen minutes. I kept the lid on for the first forty-five minutes and removed it for the last half hour.

Reduce heat and add:
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon mango powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
dash of asafetida

Using the back of a spoon or a potato masher (which is what I did), smash the beans and lentils so that they are a bit mushy. Cook on low heat for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat:
1/4 cup clarified butter

Once the butter is hot, add:
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

Cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent the seeds from burning. Immediately add to the dal and stir until thoroughly combined.

Serve with white rice and garlic naan.

Eat up!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

For lovers of coconut, these are one of the easiest and best desserts to make. I made them one Thursday night with my little sister, who I am trying to teach the basics of baking. Even my friend and coworker, who rarely indulges his sweet tooth despite the fact he bikes an ungodly number of miles and swims a zillion laps, went back for seconds!

Coconut Macaroons
taken from The Joy of Cooking

Preheat oven 350º

In a medium bowl, combine:
2/3 cup condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg white
dash of salt

Once thoroughly combined, add:
4 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (don't just rely on greasing the cookie sheet because these guys are really sticky). Drop spoonfuls of coconut onto sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes (this makes it easier to remove macaroons from parchment paper). Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely before storing.

Eat up!

Sweet + Savory Rice Salad

Last weekend my friends, David + Traci, invited me over for dinner at their place. When I asked what I could bring, David told me "salad." I had literally just returned from Harris Teeter and really didn't want to get back in my car to pick up lettuce, so I texted him and asked if I could make a non-green salad. Thankfully, he agreed, so I headed to my pantry to see what, if anything, I could pull together. No potatoes, so potato salad was out. I had pasta, but nothing to mix with it. My eyes landed on the jasmine rice on the bottom shelf and the dried fruit just above it. I wasn't sure if it would work, but after a little experimentation, this sweet and savory rice salad was born. It is definitely sweet, so I would recommend pairing it with a sweet and savory meat dish such as lamb stew.

Sweet + Savory Rice Salad
Kelley Gondring

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk

Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and add:
1 cup white rice
2/3 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped
[I used 4 apricots plus cherries + cranberries]
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook rice about 20 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

Before serving, add:
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts + sliced almonds

Garnish with additional dried fruit and toasted nuts.

Eat up!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Coconut Almond Granola

My mom has been making her own granola and eating it for breakfast for years. She gave me her recipe about five years ago, and I have used it as a base, sometimes adding dried fruit, sometimes heavy on the cinnamon, sometimes with coconut. Always with almonds. Sometimes the variations are successful and sometimes they aren't. For example, if you want to add dried fruit to your granola, add it after baking, as baking an already dried fruit will cause it to be ridiculously chewy.

My best disaster was one week night when Jason was on a business trip in Arizona. We'd been back in Winston for around six months, and we'd only been living in our house for three. This was back when my office benefited heavily from my baking, as making friends was slow going. I had nothing to do but exercise and cook, and no one to feed but my co-workers. So I was back in the kitchen to make cinnamon laden granola for my co-worker, Cara. Since my baking itch often hits right around the time normal people are getting into bed, it was almost eleven o'clock when I finally put the granola in the oven to bake. Not being one for timers, I just periodically checked back to see how it was doing. Nope, not brown yet. Ten minutes pass. Still not golden brown. Check facebook; pet the cat. Grrr. Hurry up. I'm tired. Read long article in the National Geographic. Really?! Hmm...what if I put it on Convection Bake? That should this speed up. Turn the oven dial to Convention Bake. Watch. Nothing. Walk away. Get distracted. Bad idea. Open oven door. Fire. Quote Lilly from last night's Modern Family: F***! F***! F***! F***! F***! Close oven door. No fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink. F***! Open oven door again. Yup, top of granola still on fire. Close it. Turn off the oven. Run around in a circle. Maybe it will smother itself it there's no air. Wait ten seconds. Open oven door. Still on fire. F***! Chemical fire...normal fire? Chemical fire...normal fire? Can I use water? Oh F***! Jason is going to kill me if I burn down the f***ing house. F***! Close door. Turn on sink. Fill cup with water. Open oven door. F***! Throw water. Repeat. Pray. Dear God, please, please, please let this be right. Don't let my house burn. Sorry for the f-bombs. Smoke alarm. Dang that's loud. Smoke. No fire. YAY!!

Thankfully, my house didn't catch on fire and the only mess I had to clean up was the charred granola and water all over the floor and inside the oven. And even though I never had to call, it was only as I was opening all the windows and standing on a stool under the fire alarm using the National Geographic as a fan it that I appreciated the fire station three blocks away. And the need for a fire extinguisher. We now own three.

To this day I set the timer in thirty second increments when I use Convection Bake.

Coconut Almond Granola
Kelley Gondring

Preheat oven 300

In a medium bowl, combine:
2 cups sliced almonds, toasted
2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted [either shaved or shredded]

In a large bowl, pour:
4 cups rolled oats

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together:
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon molasses
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

Continuously whisk until the sugar is dissolved and all ingredients are well-blended. Remove from heat and immediately pour sugar mixture over the rolled oats. Mix together so that the oats are completely coated. Pour toasted almond and coconut into bowl with oats. Using your hands, toss until thoroughly combined.

Pour onto cookie sheet and evenly spread. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

Eat up!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

Today is my dad's birthday, so I made him a lemon meringue pie to help celebrate his sixty-two years on earth. I've been thinking about what story to tell about my dad for days, hoping I could find the perfect one to highlight all his strengths and lovingly tease him about his quirks. Should I brag about his talents in furniture making by telling you about the time he turned a neighbor's shattered cherry tree into the most beautiful dining room table I've ever seen? Or should I tell you about the time he got so tickled in the parking lot of Cha Da Thai when telling a joke about my mom's native land of New Jersey, that he couldn't even get out the punch line because he was in tears? Should I tell you about the time he bought a 36-pack of Sharpie markers so that he'd always have one around since his family members liked to take but not return them to their designated drawer? Or when he chained the scissors in the kitchen drawer so as counteract the same problem. Perhaps I should just talk about our runs through "downtown" Lewisville and how he would act like it wasn't a competition and then take off in a dead sprint to the car so that he'd win. Yes, those would all be great stories, but I've decided on this simple story:

When I was a sophomore in college, I was home visiting my parents one weekend. I can't be sure what specifically brought me home, so I assume there was no real occasion. I suspect it was a quick visit over spring break or at the beginning of the summer because I remember it being a beautiful warm day. Not too hot. Not too humid. As was the well-established routine, I would pack up all my belongings in the car, head back upstairs, check to make sure that I had not forgotten anything [invariably, I had], and yelled to my parents that I was leaving. Both mom and dad would then walk me down the basement stairs, give me hugs in the driveway, and wave goodbye to me as I began to back out of the driveway.

That day's routine was really no different than the others before it. Except that when I loaded the last of my belongings into the backseat, I noticed a bag of my favorite jelly beans -- buttered popcorn -- in the driver's seat of my car. The beginnings of a smile twitched their way to the corners of my mouth. It wasn't my birthday; I hadn't done anything for which I deserved a reward. It was just a random act of kindness. I remember asking both my parents about it. Mom looked at Dad; Dad sheepishly smiled, making limited eye contact, like he was both proud of himself and a little embarrassed. It was then that I really understood what a sweet guy my dad is.

I see Dad's kindness frequently now: when he brings my favorite Chardonnay to dinner; when he stocks Jason's favorite beer in the basement fridge; when he brings my mom a cappuccino in bed on Saturday mornings. So on the sixty-second anniversary of his birthday, I want to highlight and celebrate one of the qualities I love most about him - his genuine thoughtfulness.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Lemon Meringue Pie
[adapted from The Joy of Cooking]

Preheat oven 325º

Prepare one pie crust. Bake it before filling with custard and meringue otherwise you risk the crust not fully cooking. Pierce the dough with a fork. So that the bottom of the crust doesn't bubble, you will need to weigh it down. Fit a piece of aluminum foil over the bottom and sides of the dough. Pour beans or rice on top of the foil. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Lemon Custard
In a medium saucepan combine:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
dash of salt
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 large egg yolks
[keep whites - you'll use them for the meringue]
Whisk the ingredients together.

Once well blended, turn on medium heat and add:
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Constantly whisk until the mixture gets very thick. This will take 3-5 minutes depending upon your stove. Remove from heat and pour into the baked pie shell. Cover the custard with plastic wrap. Immediately prepare the meringue.

In metal electric mixing bowl add:
4 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
[Soft peaks are when the whisk is lifted, the egg whites stand-up on their own but the point is like the rounded peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. In contrast, stiff peaks are like the pointed peaks of the Rockies Mountains.]

Gradually beat in:
1/2 cup sugar
Beat on high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form. Turn off mixer.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, thoroughly whisk together:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup water

Continuously whisk until a translucent paste forms. Remove paste from heat. Turn on electric mixer to the lowest speed and add the paste to the egg whites one spoonful at a time. Once all of the paste is incorporated, increase speed and beat for ten seconds.

Remove the plastic wrap from top of the custard and pour meringue over it. Make sure to spread the meringue all the way to the edges of the crust.
Egg whites here have formed a stiff peak

Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely before refrigerating. Serve cold.

Eat up!

Pie Crust

My Grandma Gondring taught me to make her pie crust when I was still in middle school. The recipe she wrote out for me at my request when I was still in high school is pretty beat-up. Unfortunately, I never put it in a plastic sleeve, so it quite literally wears the remnants of many my pie-making adventures, from pumpkin, to apple, to lemon meringue, to mince, to cherry, to blueberry, and on and on. Not to mention a fine coat of flour and a drop or two of oil. And even though I committed her recipe to my memory many pies ago, I cannot bring myself to throw away this tattered slip. There is something about having this well-worn recipe written in her handwriting that makes it special to me. At Christmastime I asked her to write it out for me again, but even when I get the new, immaculate version, I don't plan to toss the original. I know I'm probably biased, but even though I've tested several different pie crust recipes, I still think this one is the best. The number one reason to use this recipe is because the crust is absolutely delicious. It's flaky without falling apart. It's flavorful without being overly oily. Plus, its versatile. The number two reason to use this recipe is because it's really pretty easy. My sweet grandma has congratulated me a number on a pie well made, to which I reply "I had a good teacher."
Pie Crust
Majora "Jo" Gondring [Grandma Gondring]
Makes one pie crust.

In a medium bowl combine:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup vegetable oil
Use a large fork to mix thoroughly.
1/4 cup cold water
Stir until well blended.

Roll out dough between two sheets of lightly floured wax paper. Flip into pie pan. Trim excess dough with a sharp knife. Flute or crimp edges. [For tips on how to make special edge on a pie crust, click here.]

Some pie recipes will have you fill the pie before the crust is cooked whereas others will have you cook the crust first. Refer to individual recipes.