Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DROPPS Laundry Detergent Liquid Pacs

O.K. you're right, this blog is supposed to be about food, eating and other food related issues. Well, this isn't quite a food related issue but I am trying to be a little bit "greener" wherever I possibly can. I found a really great laundry product that helps me be green. The product is called Dropps. They are premeasured laundry detergent (not sure if it really is a detergent) liquid pacs. They are great because they create much less garbage than those huge laundry detergent bottles that I used to buy. I also find that one small pac cleans any size load. Even though the package says to use two pacs for a large load, I just use one. The clothes come out great. I even got my mother hooked on these Dropps. I only wish they were available in more stores. The only place I have found them so far is at my local Walmart (believe it or not). My mom actually sent away for them from the company. She liked the idea of doing that because now she has 12 packs of 20 liquid pacs and it will last her "forever" she says. She ordered them yesterday and they were delivered to her door today! Since she ordered 12 packs she got -- free shipping!!

Another really great thing about Dropps for me is that they take up hardly any room in your laundry area and they are very light weight. I always hated going to BJ's and having to buy a huge bottle of laundry detergent. I had to make sure I had a visit to my chiropractor scheduled for the next day. No joke!

So, if you want to try something that is good for the environment and good for your back, please give Dropps a try. Their website is http://www.dropps.com/. They are sold in plastic pouches. I haven't seen them in any of our local grocery store chains but I am going to start asking for them. If you find them anywhere besides Walmart, please let me know.

The Creative Cook & Wannabe Green Mom

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Buttermilk Brownie Cake

I promised you this recipe on Monday but I didn't get a chance to post it yesterday. Sorry! It went over very well at my house. Even D who is even picky about desserts, loved it. The recipe comes from Connie Mrachek who said it was her grandmother's recipe. I read about it in the American Profile magazine.

Buttermilk Brownie Cake


2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 15-by-10-inch baking pan.
2. To prepare brownies, combine granulated sugar, flour and cocoa; mix well.
3. Combine 1 cup water with oil and butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; add to flour mixture and mix well. Add buttermilk, baking soda, eggs and vanilla. Beat well by hand and pour into pans. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
4. To prepare frosting, combine butter, cocoa and buttermilk in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar and vanilla with a mixer at low speed. Spread evenly over cooled brownies. Serves 48.


The Creative Cook

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

DSCN0805Yesterday was B and my 17th wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe we have been married that long. It really seems like only yesterday that we walked down the aisle together. B gave me (very unexpectedly) a beautiful bouquet of a dozen red roses last week. We don't usually do much to celebrate our anniversary but with D around he likes to celebrate. On Sunday morning, D made a special effort to bring me breakfast (not in bed but at the kitchen table) and he sat and ate with me. I mean he actually sat at the table and ate with me and didn't run off before I was done. It was a really nice treat. On Sunday afternoon, we had my parents, my sister and her husband and my nephew S and his wife over for cake. I had decided to bake Sara Moulton's Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake because my sister gave me a box of blueberries she had in her fridge for a while. She was going away to her high school reunion for the weekend and figured they would go bad if someone didn't use them. I rose to the challenge and did some baking. Fortunately, she was home in time to celebrate with us on Sunday afternoon. The cake came out great as usual. This is one of the recipes I have made several times. I saw Sara Moulton make it on the Food Network probably eight or nine years ago. I am not sure if she still has a show on Food Network. No matter. This recipe is wonderful. You will definitely enjoy it. She suggests using fresh blueberries rather than frozen. I used only 2 cups of blueberries rather than 3 because that was all I had. It really tastes better with the full 3 cups of blueberries in it. It was still very good, though. My nephew S can testify to that. He ate 2 pieces at my house and took some home. Thanks S! I also made Chocolate Buttermilk Cake which I will share with you tomorrow.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake


12 ounces Cream cheese; softened
1/3 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 tablespoon Fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla


1 stick unsalted butter; softened
1 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt


1 stick unsalted butter; softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder; plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Milk
3 cups picked-over blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish. Do not use a metal baking dish.

Make filling: With an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Make streusel: In a small bowl blend together streusel ingredients until crumbly.

Make batter: In another bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and in batches slowly beat into butter mixture alternately with milk. Fold in blueberries gently but thoroughly.

To assemble cake: Spread 2 1/2 cups batter in bottom of baking dish and spread filling evenly on top. Drop spoonfuls of remaining batter on filling and spread evenly (be careful not to mix layers). Sprinkle streusel evenly over batter.

Bake coffeecake in middle of oven 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until golden and a tester comes out clean.

Cool coffeecake completely in baking dish on a rack.

By: Sara Moulton, Gourmet Magazine 1989

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Supper Swap Girls

It is a shame that very few people give dinner parties anymore. They seem to be passe these days. We're all too busy rushing our kids to sporting events, lessons, parties, etc. I have only one child but he is involved in several activities. D does karate, cub scouts, plays in his elementary school band and has religious ed. This keeps us all very busy. Dinner parties but a dream. When I read the article in my local newspaper about the Supper Swap Girls and their Fuss-Free Dinner Party Plan, I thought, "maybe this could work." They have a simple framework for a fun evening with friends.


1. Invite three couples over for a four-course meal.
2. Each couple is in charge of one course with wine. The host makes the main dish. Go ahead and get out that wedding china you never use, because each couple also is in charge of washing the dishes from their course.
3. Divide up the menu and email the recipes. It's a surefire win.

Click here to check out their blog for all the details. They also stress that you can't worry about whether or not your kids are asleep or your house is clean. You should just go ahead and "do it." It does sound like a great plan. Now if only we knew 3 other couples with a free Friday or Saturday night. I have a feeling we would have to plan several months in advance. It would be worth it though to give me a chance to make one of the great recipes I've assembled for a bunch of friends.

The Creative Cook

Friday, April 18, 2008

Smith Island Ten-Layer Cake

As my fellow blogger, Cathy of My Little Kitchen reported a few weeks ago, the Smith Island Ten-Layer Cake was nominated to the Maryland General Assembly in a bill to be named as the official Maryland State Dessert. I just read in the Carroll County Times yesterday that the bill was successful! I am happy to provide you with a recipe for the newly appointed Maryland State dessert. As mentioned in the Carroll County Times, the cake's presentation seems to be more important than the recipe itself. Some of the recent write-ups on this dessert indicate that you could use a box cake mix in place of the recipe and then make the frosting and prepare it in its signature 10 layers. I would think that making the 10-layer cake from scratch would definitely take more time but that it would be a good investment because your cake would be an authentic Smith Island Ten-Layer Cake. No one seems to know when the first Smith Island 10-Layer Cake first came out of the oven but it has been around for at least 4 generations. Apparently, on Smith Island this cake is so common that it is just referred to as a "layer cake." Here is the recipe I found for the Smith Island Ten-Layer Cake.

Smith Island 10-Layer Cake

For the cake:

2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup water

Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Mix into egg mixture one cup at a time.

With mixer running, slowly pour in the evaporated milk, then vanilla and water. Mix just until uniform.

Put 3 serving spoons full of batter in each of 10 lightly greased 9-inch pans, using the back of the spoon to spread evenly. Bake 3 layers at a time on the middle rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. A layer is done when you hold it near your ear and you don't hear it sizzle.

Start making the icing when the first layer goes into the oven.

Let the layers cool a couple of minutes in the pans. Put the cake together as the layers are finished. Run a spatula around the edge of the pan and ease the layer out of the pan. Don't worry if it tears; no one will notice when the cake is finished. Use two or three serving spoonfuls of icing between the layers. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the icing. Push icing that runs onto the plate back into the cake.

To Frost the Cake:

Take 1 slightly cooled layer and spread with cooled frosting. Add crushed candy randomly on layer. (Whatever your favorite is -- candy is optional as well.)

Add next layers, frosting, candy and repeat process until the 10th layer. Do not add candy to the final layer.

Finish frosting the cake and sides. You may have to wait to ice the top and sides until the icing cools.

Chocolate Icing for 10-Layer Cake

2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla

Put sugar and evaporated milk in a medium pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until warm. Add chocolate and cook to melt. Add butter and melt. Cook over medium heat at a slow boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add vanilla. Icing will be thin but thickens as it cools.

If you haven't seen a picture of this cake, you need to click on the link I put on the title of the recipe. It is one enormous cake. The State of Maryland may be small but we have one gigantic state dessert. What does that say about Maryland, I wonder?

If you ask me, this cake sounds like quite a bit of work. It seems to me that you would be eating mostly icing but for the chocoholic in me, that's o.k. If you want to see an authentic Smith Island lady named Mary Ada who bakes these cakes all the time, click here to watch a video of her that was on WJZ news last month. It is interesting that she can bake this cake and have everything cleaned up, washed and put away within 20 minutes! I find that amazing. I probably couldn't even have the batter ready for baking in 20 minutes.

The Creative Cook

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grandma's Cookies Win $1 Million

That is the kind of story I like to hear!! Go grandma. Hey, if you think about it I could be a grandmother myself. But that isn't what this story is all about. I just read about a 59 year old Gaithersburg, Maryland grandmother who won the 53rd Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off this year. That is amazing. She is quoted as saying that her Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies are crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. She said her grown sons aged 30 and 33 both told her she had a winning recipe. What clinched it for her was that their dog couldn't get enough of them. If D wasn't allergic to peanuts, I would bake a batch right now. I love peanut butter and so does my hubby. I really want some peanut butter cookies now. I have another great peanut butter cookie recipe that was given to my by my sister's niece Melissa. She tells me she came up with this recipe on her own. She adapted it from many different recipes over the years. She should have entered the Pillsbury Bake-Off with it. Wow~ a million bucks. We could all use that kind of cash. I had no idea that a recipe could be worth $1 million bucks. Anyway, thank you Melissa. Here is her recipe:


1/4 lb. butter
1 egg
1 cup creamy peanut butter (She only uses JIF)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease some cookie sheets. Cream butter and peanut butter together. Beat in the two sugars, then add the egg, the vanilla and mix well. Mix together the salt, baking soda, and flour and add to the first mixture, combining thoroughly. Arrange by teaspoonfuls on the cookie sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Press each one flat with the back of a floured teaspoon. Bake about 7 minutes or until firm.

Hope you enjoy them!


Note: You can also change them up a little taking each teaspoonful and rolling it in sugar then adding a Hershey's kiss right in the middle. I like using the cherry chocolate kisses but any kiss will do. :o]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pesticides in Produce

I have been trying to go organic a little bit at a time. I know it is very expensive but I think it is worthwhile. I saw an interesting article in a newspaper or magazine a few weeks ago. It said that the things you should consider buying organic are certain types of produce that are commonly called the "Dirty Dozen." The dirty dozen are the following:

Sweet Bell Peppers
Grapes (imported)
I am not always lucky enough to find organic versions of these produce items at my local grocery store when I shop. I do try to find organic potatoes, apples, pears and lettuce. I also often buy organic carrots and celery because they are readily available and sometimes almost the same price as non-organic ones. I am definitely going to try to buy organic berries this summer. I have also been trying to buy hormone and additive free milk and meats. I have not been lucky enough to find any really good organic cheeses in the markets near my home. At least ones that aren't super-expensive or just about to expire. It really annoys me that I can't get a gallon of organic non-fat milk. I have to buy two half gallons which is much more expensive. Every time I look at the gallons, they are only a few days away from their expiration date.

I am sorry to report that Horizon Organic used to have a farm in Annapolis, Maryland but they closed it after only a few years.

On a brighter note, the produce that you can buy non-organic (has the least amount of pesticides) are the following:

Sweet Corn (frozen)
Sweet Peas (frozen)
This does make some sense to me because most of the produce with lower pesticide levels have thicker skins. The ones that really don't make sense are the broccoli and the asparagus. Maybe they are less prone to pests than the others and don't get sprayed as much? I don't know. I am not going completely organic or anything but I am trying to buy healthier foods. Good luck!

The Creative Cook

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza

The weather is getting really nice down here. It was actually sunny today after several straight days of rain. In fact, my dad has been talking about Noah's Ark lately... Just in time for the great weather, I started craving salad. Not to mention the fact that my work calendar for April has a chef making a huge salad on it. Could that be the source of my cravings?? Maybe. But I asked D last night if he wanted to do movie and pizza night. He said "sure" in his creative kid fashion. I thought we should try something different so I suggested Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza. He jumped at the chance to try that. So tonight, I made the pizza and we lurved it. It was really great. We watched "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" and it wasn't nearly as bad as I was led to believe it would be. Maybe I was expecting a terrible movie. It wasn't "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" or anything but it was far from terrible. I will say that Dustin Hoffman's character, Mr. Magorium is very weird. I wouldn't recommend it for really little kids but D thought it was pretty good. So rent a copy of it from the Red Box and cook up some Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza. You'll have a great night!

Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza

3/4 pound chicken tenders (we used pre-cooked chicken)
1/2 cup Caesar salad dressing, plus 2 tablespoons
1 (12-inch) pizza crust
1-3/4 cups shredded mozzarella and asiago cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

For Salad Topping:

4 cups hearts of romaine, shredded
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup Caesar salad dressing
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 cup seasoned croutons

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl combine chicken with 1/2 cup salad dressing; set aside. Brush pizza crust with remaining 2 tablespoons of dressing and top with cheeses; set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan. When oil is hot, saute chicken strips for 4 to 6 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan; place on top of pizza. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and begun to bubble. Complete pizza as directed.

The Creative Cook

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

And I say, "Great." What I'm talking about is a brand new grocery store chain from England called Fresh & Easy that has landed in the U.S. Their first store just opened in Los Angeles recently. I read about it in an article by Bruce Horovitz for USA Today on AOL Money. It sounds like a great concept. They are offering quality food at low prices. This means fewer choices for shoppers. Why would I prefer a grocery store with fewer options, you ask? Well, that isn't the main reason I am cheering for them. I am glad to hear that these stores have wider aisles -- wide enough to fit 3 carts at once. On a recent visit to a very large local grocery store, I could barely get through each aisle. The store was super-crowded on a Monday night! Unfortunately, they keep the aisles packed with carts full of food that needs to be stocked and displays.

Fresh & Easy is also offering produce that is wrapped and date-stamped. Can you imagine that? I would love to be able to go into a grocery store and buy food that was within its use by or sell by date. I couldn't ever have come up with the idea of a use by or sell by date for produce. That is just amazing. I am forever buying produce that lasts a day or less in my house. No, I don't mean that we eat it that quickly. I mean it goes bad that fast. (I haven't tried those new green grocery storage bags yet.)

Another great idea -- no nasty cashiers -- Fresh & Easy has only self-checkouts.

So far, it seems as though the folks in LA are a bit confused as to what Fresh & Easy is because of its simple design and layout. I guess if a grocery store isn't "designer" the folks out there won't shop at it? I will definitely stop at a Fresh & Easy store if I ever see one in my travels. It looks fab to me. Maybe they should have opened their first store on the east coast, instead.

Here is the quote from the USA Today article that has me excited:

"Other Fresh & Easy features:

--Natural products. Fresh & Easy brand items have no added preservatives, artificial flavors, colors or trans fats. Eggs are from cage-free chickens; milk does not contain the growth hormone rbST.

--Low prices. An analysis by TNS Retail Forward found the total for a basket of eight Fresh & Easy products beat market chain Vons by 30%, Albertsons by 32% and Ralphs by 23%.

--Produce expiration dates. Fruits and veggies are mostly locally sourced - and come wrapped in plastic trays with expiration dates. The packaging, however, pleases some shoppers and seriously bugs others.

--Limited inventory. Fresh & Easy sells about 3,500 items vs. 60,000 at a typical supermarket.--Low shelves. You can see from one end of the store to the other.

--No loyalty cards. No swiping cards for the price breaks.

--Wide aisles. Aisles are wide enough for three carts to pass.

--All self-checkout. To cut costs, there are no cashiers.

--Limited advertising. The chains buy no TV or newspaper ads. When it enters a market, it mails $5 coupons to area residents.

--Green design. Stores are designed to use 30% less energy than typical grocery stores its size, and recycling is a priority.

--Show the food. Most Fresh & Easy brand products are packaged so shoppers can see what's inside.

--Wine guru. The chain employs an accredited Master of Wine (one of 265 in the world)."

When is Fresh & Easy coming to my neck of the woods, I ask?! Before I'm too old to care, I hope.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Italian Style Rice Balls

Rice Balls are a wonderful comfort food for me. My mom always made them for us when we were kids. They are great on days like today. A bit chilly and kinda damp. At least it is in my little corner of Maryland. My pictures of rice balls are not very good. I must confess that I don't find them very photogenic. Just tasty. I hope you'll try them. I used 4 32 oz boxes of Nature's Promise chicken broth. You can use your own home-made chicken soup or whatever brand you choose. I am partial to Nature's Promise brand because it tastes great and it is readily available down here. I used Uncle Ben's Instant Brown Rice because my mother told me to. Really, she did. I am going against what I have told you in previous posts about not using boxed breadcrumbs. I used them for this recipe, again because my mother told me to! I did go with my gut and use an organic brand.

Italian Style Rice Balls

4 Quarts of Chicken Broth (I used Nature's Promise brand)
1 pound of lean ground beef (I use Laura's brand)
1/2 cup of Uncle Ben's Instant Brown Rice
1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (I used organic)
1 egg
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese

Get your chicken broth boiling in a large stock pot. Once it reaches a full boil then start mixing all the ingredients together well (I use my hands to do this). Form the meat mixture into small balls and drop them into the boiling chicken broth. Boil for approximately 45 minutes. You should start seeing the rice balls popping up to the top of the boiling stock. Once they start to rise to the top, they are pretty much done. I served myself a bowl immediately. You can garnish with more parmesan cheese and some parsley if you like. I didn't bother. These are great without any garnish.

The Creative Cook

Saturday, April 5, 2008

All-American, All Delicious Apple Pie!!

Guess what!? I made an apple pie today. I haven't made an apple pie from scratch or any other way (except by taking it out of the freezer and putting it in my oven) since about 1992. Back then, I decided to try my hand at making an apple pie. It came out pretty well but after I looked at the kitchen and contemplated how much work went into making that pie I decided that I could just go ahead and buy my pie from a bakery (Oh naive me, if only there was a bakery in this neck of the woods that sold a decent apple pie). I haven't eaten much apple pie since 1992 because most of the pies we have available here are from grocery stores (yuck). We did have a bakery in a small town not far from here. My mom bought an apple pie or two from that bakery. Unfortunately, the apples in the pie were practically raw. I don't know about you, but I really don't like to take a bite of apple pie and hear a "crunch." So, I just did without apple pie.

Last night, I was lying in bed thinking about what to make for this blog. I couldn't say I was inspired by anything. Then suddenly, I remembered I had a bag of organic apples in my fridge. Yeah, I could use up those apples in something. This morning I asked my son whether he would like apple turnovers or apple pie. He chose the pie. That is how I came to decide on making an apple pie. Yes, apple pie. I know it's spring not fall but apple pie goes great with spring and summer meals. I think apple pie is the perfect dessert for any season.

The pie that I made is from the cookbook "Baking from My House to Yours by Dorie Greenspan." I just bought this cookbook and have been reading through it. The recipes look to die for! I have been thinking about joining TWD (Tuesdays With Dorie) but I haven't done it yet. I hope that I haven't ruined my chances of becoming part of that group by pre-making one of her recipes! Oh well, we'll see. In case you don't know anything about Dorie Greenspan (which I didn't until I started reading TWD), she is the author of the best-selling cookbook "Baking With Julia" -- Julia Child that is. Dorie has also written books with Pierre Herme. Dorie is awesome!

So far, the apple pie looks great. It is baking in the oven right now. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it might be to make this pie. I think that Dorie's idea about using the food processor to make the pie dough really cuts the time down. I have to admit that I already made one mistake with the pie that I know of. Instead of putting the graham crackers on the bottom of the pie dish, I mixed them in with the apples. I also put two tablespoons on top of the bottom pie crust. You'll understand what I'm talking about after you read the recipe. By the way, Dorie also has a website called In the Kitchen and on the Road with Dorie Greenspan. I am not going to type out Dorie's recipe for the Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough. If you want that, you can find it here.

I just took the pie out of the oven and it is taking all my strenth not to cut right into it. It smells heavenly in here. And, if I do say so myself, the pie looks perfectly yummy. I can't wait to have a slice with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk tomorrow.

All-American, All Delicious Apple Pie

Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough for a double crust (page 442) chilled
4 pounds (about 6 very large apples)
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon (I used lemon juice)
2 tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used 1/4 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs (or dry breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

FOR THE GLAZE (Optional):

Milk or heavy cream
Decorating (course) or granulated sugar

Getting Ready: Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate (Dorie uses a Pyrex plate). If you want to use a standard 9-inch pie plate, just reduce the amount of filling by about one quarter. (I used a regular 9-inch pie plate and cut down the amount of apples to 3 pounds).

Working on a well floured surface (or between wax paper or plastic wrap), roll out one piece of the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Fit the dough into a buttered pie plate and trim the edges to about a 1/2 inch overhang. Roll the other piece of dough into a 1/8 inch thick circle and slip it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Cover both the circle and the crust in the pie plate with platic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven and prepare the filling. (If it's more convenient, the crusts can be well covered and kept refrigerated overnight).

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, core and slice the apples. You've got a choice for slicing: you can cut each apple in half and then slice each half crosswise or lengthwise into slices about 1/4 inch thick, or you can cut the apples into chunks about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on a side. In either case, put the apples into a large bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest, tapioca, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Toss everything together really well -- I do this with my hands. If you've got a little time, let the mix sit for about 5 minutes, until the juice starts to accumulate in the bottom of the bowl.

Remove the pie plate and top crust from the refrigerator and put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the crust --this will help keep it from getting too soggy (some sog is inevitable)--and then turn the apples and their juices into the crust. The apples will heap over the top of the crust. Pat them into an even mound. Dot the apples with bits of cold butter.

Very lightly moisten the rim of the bottom crust with water, then center the top crust over the apples. (If the crusts -- top and bottom -- are still very cold and in danger of cracking when you work with them, let them sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes.) Either fold the overhang from the top crust under the bottom crust and crimp the crust attractively, or press the top crust against the bottom crust and trim the overhang from both crusts even with the rim of the pie plate. If you've pressed and trimmed the crust, use the tines of a fork to press the two crusts together securely. (I used the latter method)

Use a sharp knife to cut about 6 slits in the top crust. I always use the wide end of a piping tip to cut a circle out of the center of the crust as a steam vent. If you'd like, brush the top of the crust with a little milk or cream and sprinkle it with sugar. (I did both of these)

Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake the pie for another 50 to 60 minutes (total baking time is between 65 and 75 minutes), or until the crust is gorgeously browned and the juices bubble up through the top crust. After about 40 minutes in the oven, if the top crust looks as if it's browning too quickly, cover the pie loosely with a foil tent.

Transfer the pie to a rack and let it rest until it is only just warm or until it reaches room temperature. Then enjoy!!
The Creative Cook

Friday, April 4, 2008

Happy Friday!

I haven't been doing much cooking or baking this week. It is almost the end of tax season so I have been working every day this week and I'll be working every day next week. So today, instead of providing you with an awesome recipe, I have some interesting pictures created with food. Can you guess what vegetables or fruits were used to create these pictures? I can see potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and gourds. What intrigues me is how do you find the time to spend creating pictures like this? I have to think they were created for some type of advertising purpose, otherwise I really can't imagine why anyone would do it. But in any event, the pictures are really interesting. Check them out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cheese Danish


My son has been a big fan of the cheese danish for a year or so. We have tried every version of cheese danish available in our local grocery stores. Most are not very good. Some are really bad. I got the "bright" idea to try making cheese danish from scratch to appease my son since most of the recipes I have posted recently are not his favorites. I tried a recipe that I got from an Austrian website. Did you know that cheese danish were Austrian? I thought they were from Denmark but apparently not. The recipe came out really great. I made them on Sunday and today (Tuesday) all but 2 are gone. I was unsure about how many danish the recipe would make. I rolled out only 9 danish but I had an excessive amount of filling. The next time I make the recipe, I'll roll out at least 12 of the danish. I hope you'll try this recipe and let me know how yours came out.

Topfenkolatsche (Cheese Danish)



1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk ("blood warm", to be exact!)
1 3/4 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ground or chopped almonds


2 tablespoon butter, soft
8 oz. cream cheese ('Topfen')
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon golden raisins


Proof yeast in warm milk. Sift flour and salt together into large bowl. Add sugar and stir in yeast mixture. Beat in egg and butter and work into a dough using a wooden spoon; dough should be smooth and elastic and not stick to sides of bowl. Cover bowl with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn dough out onto floured surface, punch down, knead until smooth and elastic. Roll out into rectangle about 1/2" thick. Cut into 3" squares. Arrange squares on greased baking sheets about 1" apart.


Combine butter, cheese, egg yolks, sugar, zest and beat (or process in machine) until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture. Stir in raisins. Put 1 tablespoon filling into the center of each dough square and fold corners in toward center, pressing lightly to hold the filling in. Let rise in warm place for about 45 min. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush buns with egg white and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 30 min. or until well browned.

I did pretty well at overcoming my fear of yeast with this recipe. The dough rose as it was supposed to! That is a great accomplishment for me. I did some reading about "proofing" yeast to find out what the recipe means by "blood warm milk". I found out that when you proof yeast you should be able to put your finger into the water or milk without it burning. I put the milk in the microwave for a few seconds and tested it to make sure it wasn't too hot.

I would also recommend using unsalted butter. I read an article written by a chef several years ago that said not to use salted butter when baking since you really don't know how much salt the butter contains. I think that is a good idea especially since so many people have high blood pressure and are on salt-restricted diets.

I left out the almonds, the raisins and the lemon zest because my family isn't partial to them. You can use them or not, it is your choice. Happy baking!

The Creative Cook