Zucchini Pineapple Bread



Zucchini Pineapple Bread * how to grease and flour a pan * how to grate zucchini * what to substitute for oil

Zucchini Pineapple Bread

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¾ c. sugar
  • 1 c vegetable oil (or ½ c vegetable oil and ½ c unsweetened applesauce)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 to 3 c grated zucchini
  • 1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 c chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a very large bowl, beat eggs with a fork, then add sugar, oil, and vanilla and mix well. Add zucchini and pineapple and mix in well. Add dry ingredients to wet alternately with nuts.

Pour batter evenly into the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Greased and floured pans:

Grating zucchini:

The finished bread! Yum!

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make zucchini bread! Yes, you can finally do something with all that zucchini your coworker has grown and keeps bringing into the office to give away.

Zucchini is a type of summer squash. It’s usually green but there are golden varieties. You can cook it like squash, and if you don’t know how to cook squash just stick around a few weeks because that’s an upcoming episode. But zucchini is also traditionally made into zucchini bread, which to my mind is the very best thing you can get at any bake sale.

Zucchini bread is a good way to use up large zucchinis, which aren’t as tender as young ones. If the zucchini you get is large, you probably only need one. The first thing you’ll need to do is give it a quick wash to remove any dirt.

This recipe makes two loaves, so you’ll need two loaf pans. You’ll also need a medium mixing bowl, a large mixing bowl, and a very large mixing bowl–the giant one that came with the set of bowls that you thought you’d never use. And, of course, you need a cheese grater to grate the zucchini up so you can use it.

Once you’ve got everything gathered, your first step is to grease and flour the loaf pans. Grease them as usual with Crisco or that spray stuff. Take extra care that you grease the corners and all the way up nearly to the top of the pan. Then put a small handful of all-purpose flour into one of the pans, pick it up, tilt it, and pat the bottom of the pan so that the flour falls to one side. You’ll see that some of the flour sticks on the grease, and you want to flour all of the grease. This will keep your zucchini bread from sticking and will allow you to actually get it out of the pan when it’s done.

Pat the sides and bottom of the pan as you tilt the flour all around. As more of the flour sticks to the grease, less and less flour will be available to grease the rest, but there should be enough from one small handful. If you run out, give the bottom of the pan a good hard bang with your hand. This will loosen some more of the flour. Make sure you’ve floured all the grease, then turn the pan upside down over the trash and give the bottom a final thump to release any loose flour. Then do the same for the second loaf pan.

This is a good way to get flour all over you and the floor, so you might want to wear an apron. I always end up cradling the pan to my stomach at some point, which means my shirt always ends up with lots of flour on it.

Once you’ve greased and floured the pans, set them aside and get out the large mixing bowl. Not the giant one, just the large one. Measure out your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk it together well with a whisk or a fork. If you don’t have nutmeg, you can use an extra spoonful of cinnamon instead. Set the dry ingredients aside too.

Next you need to grate your zucchini. It’s actually not hard, although it will take you a good five minutes or maybe more. This is where you need the medium mixing bowl and the cheese grater.

Before you do any grating, though, use a paring knife to slice the zucchini up. You just want to slice it into rounds like a gigantic carrot, not dice it or anything. This will make it a lot easier to grate. Each piece should be a few inches wide. Discard the piece with the stem and the end piece.

You don’t need to peel the zucchini. Zucchini bread is supposed to have flecks of green in it, or gold if you use golden zucchini. You’ll grate the peel along with the flesh.

You measure grated zucchini the same way you measure grated carrots. You basically don’t. You just grate a whole pile of it and think, “That looks right.” In this case, you want at least two cups of grated zucchini, but probably no more than three. That’s most of one really big zucchini, all of a big zucchini, and a couple of smaller zucchinis.

If your cheese grater is a flat piece of metal, set it over the mixing bowl. If it’s one of those cone-shaped or triangular ones that stand up, set it on a clean plate. Pick up one of your pieces of zucchini and rub it hard against the larger holes of the cheese grater, turning it around and around as you work until you’ve grated off the peel and most of the flesh down to the central section, which contains seeds. It won’t hurt anything to include the grated-up seeds, since they’re probably soft, but it’s not the highest quality part of the zucchini and it’s harder to grate. When you get down to the center portion, toss the little disc of seed-studded zucchini away and start on a fresh piece. Make sure not to grate your knuckles too.

As you grate, you may need to stop and shake the bowl to redistribute the grated zucchini, which tends to mound up right under where you’re working. If you’re using a stand-up cheese grater, it’ll fill up, so stop frequently and move the grated zucchini into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Once you estimate you’ve probably got enough grated zucchini, wipe up all the bits and pieces of grated zucchini that have managed somehow to get all over the kitchen. Then set the bowl of zucchini aside and get out your giant mixing bowl.

This recipe calls for an entire cup of vegetable oil, but I hate adding that much even to a recipe that makes two loaves. Sometimes it turns out just too oily, not to mention that it’s really not good for you. But you can substitute applesauce for vegetable oil in baked goods. I’m serious. I typically only substitute unsweetened applesauce for half the called-for oil, because in some recipes applesauce just doesn’t supply enough moisture. In this recipe, with tons of zucchini and pineapple, that won’t be a problem. So while I used half a cup of vegetable oil and half a cup of applesauce, you can just use a full cup of applesauce. I recommend unsweetened applesauce, but if all you have is sweetened, it should be fine.

First, turn your oven on to preheat if you haven’t already. Then crack the eggs into the giant bowl and muddle them up good with a fork or a whisk. Then add the sugar, the vegetable oil and/or applesauce, and the vanilla. Mix it well, then add the zucchini and mix it in too. Goodness, that’s a lot of zucchini. This is going to be the best zucchini bread ever.

Next, add the crushed pineapple. Although the recipe says to use an 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple and drain it first, I couldn’t actually find an 8-oz can. I bought a 20-oz can instead, packed in juice, not syrup. It’s really not very practical to drain crushed pineapple. Instead, the easiest thing to do is lift the pineapple out of the can with a fork, let it drip a little bit, then toss it into the zucchini and egg mixture. Do this until you’ve added about half the can, maybe a little more if you really like pineapple. Mix it in well.

Finally, add about half of the flour mixture, mix it in, add the nuts if you want to use them, mix those in, and add the rest of the flour mixture. Once you’ve got it mixed up well, pour the batter into the loaf pans as evenly as possible. If one of your loaf pans is bigger than the other, add a little more batter to the bigger pan.

Hopefully by now your oven is hot. Put the loaf pans into the oven and set the timer for 55 minutes. When the timer goes off, check the zucchini bread with a toothpick inserted about halfway between the side of the pan and the center of the bread. It should come out clean, although there will probably be some evidence of moisture on the toothpick. If there’s actual wet crumbs on the toothpick, leave the pans in the oven for another five minutes.

Take the pans out and let them sit for around ten minutes while they cool down somewhat. If you have a wire rack, you can set the pans on it. Otherwise you can just set them on the stove eyes—which are off, of course—which will allow air to circulate under the pans a little.

After ten or fifteen minutes, run a table knife around the edges of the bread to loosen it from the sides of the pan. Be careful of the pan, which is probably still pretty hot. You’ll probably want to handle it with hotpads or a dishcloth just in case. Then you need to turn the bread out of the pans. Because zucchini bread is moist and heavy, the loaves probably aren’t going to slide right out. Turn a pan on its side, grasp the ends firmly, and while holding the pan nearly upside down, give the bottom rim of the pan a hard smack against the counter. It should pop right out, but if it doesn’t, go around the edges of the bread again with the knife, paying special attention to the corners. Then smack it again even harder against the counter. If it doesn’t come out even with a good healthy bang, hold it upside down with one end of the pan resting against the counter and you holding the other end up a few inches, and smack the bottom of the pan hard with your palm. That should do it. If it doesn’t, are you sure you greased and floured the pan? Try the other loaf pan to see if you can get that loaf out, and if you absolutely cannot remove the bread by slamming it around, cut into it and lever pieces out. But one good firm smack should do it.

The bread is ready to eat! I usually reserve the prettier loaf to take to work, and keep the other one to eat at home. It’s okay sitting on the counter for a day or two if you wrap it up well in tinfoil after it cools, but if you haven’t finished eating the loaf in a few days, it’s a good idea to refrigerate the rest. You don’t want the pineapple to get moldy. But generally, these loaves go really fast because they’re really good—moist, full of flavor, and of course practically a health food because hey, it’s full of zucchini!

The only drawback to this recipe is that you’re only encouraging your coworker who grew the zucchini, and they’ll bring you more and more all summer long.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes. You can also email us at reallifecookingpodcast@gmail.com.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Peach Pie



Peach Pie * how to separate eggs * how to whip egg whites * folding in ingredients

Peach Pie

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 14 saltine crackers, finely crushed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ c. chopped pecans
  • 4-6 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • cinnamon
  • sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9” pie plate.

Whip egg whites until they can hold a peak. Add sugar and vanilla while continue to whip egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold in cracker crumbs, baking powder, and pecans. Spread into pie plate. Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven, and let cool completely.

Arrange peach slices on top in two or more layers. Sprinkle each layer with cinnamon (and a little sugar if the peaches are not very sweet). Top with whipped cream to cover the peaches completely. Chill before serving.

I like to reserve one peach, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and fold it into the whipped cream before topping the pie.

The cracker crumbs, ready to go:

You have made meringue (left). Right, folding in the other ingredients.

Left to the right, the meringue crust before baking, immediately after baking, and after cooling:

The peaches on the crust. Folding the peaches in to the whipped cream. And finally, the finished pie, ready to eat!

    

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make peach pie with a meringue crust!

This is hands down my best recipe. It’s the one everyone at work wants me to bring for our end-of-semester potluck meetings. Even people who don’t really like peaches, pies, or me rave over this pie. And the best part is it’s really easy to make even though it looks difficult. You don’t even need to make pie pastry.

You do, however, need to whip egg whites to make a meringue crust. You’ll need an electric mixer for this, and you’ll need the mixer again at the end of the recipe to make whipped cream. Other than that, you’ll just need a pie plate, a large mixing bowl, and a lot of fresh peaches.

I’ve tried making this recipe with frozen peach slices, thawed. They were disappointing but if you can’t find decent fresh peaches and you want to make this recipe, you can use them. But really good fresh peaches are what make this recipe so good. The juice seeps down into the meringue and infuses the whipped cream with summer goodness.

Get the ripest peaches you can find, and buy more than you think you’ll need because when you’re getting really ripe peaches, inevitably one or more will turn out to be on the rotten side of overripe. Since the peaches aren’t baked, you don’t want to include any that don’t taste perfect. You also shouldn’t use peaches that turn out to be underripe. If you end up with just one or two decent peaches, that’s okay. I’ve made this recipe with only a single layer of peach slices and it’s turned out fine.

But whatever you do, reserve the very best peach to go in the whipped cream. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The very first thing you do, once you’ve got all your ingredients and mixing bowls and things, is crush up the crackers. You need exactly 14 saltines, with each single square counting as one cracker. If you have the type that are two crackers joined together into one, that counts as two crackers.

Get out a small bowl, like a cereal bowl, and use your hands to roughly crunch the crackers into the bowl the way you would if you were adding them to soup or chili. Then use the back of a spoon to further crush the pieces finer and finer. Eventually it becomes virtually impossible to get all the pieces crushed any finer—you’ll end up with basically cracker dust around the edges with slightly larger pieces in the middle, and no amount of stirring and crushing seems to make a difference. That’s fine.

Next, measure out your pecans and put them in the same bowl with the crackers. Add the baking powder on top and mix the whole thing up with the spoon a little bit, until the baking powder isn’t sitting there in a lump. Set the bowl aside.

Set the vanilla and measuring spoon where you can get to them easily. I usually even loosen the lid of the vanilla, although I don’t take it off completely because that’s just asking for an accident. Measure out the sugar you’ll need and set it aside too.

Grease the pie plate with Crisco or that spray stuff and set it aside.

Now you’re ready to whip the egg whites. Before you try separating eggs for the first time, though, make sure your mixing bowl is absolutely clean and dry, even more than you would ordinarily. Make sure the egg beaters are likewise perfectly clean and dry. Egg whites are easy to whip, but if there’s even a speck of fat in them the whipping will fail.

This mainly means you need to be careful when separating the eggs. If one of the yolks breaks while you’re separating the eggs, discard the entire egg and wash your hands with soap and water. If any of the broken egg may have dripped into the already separated egg whites, discard them too, wash and dry the bowl, and start over.

Now that I’ve scared you, please believe me when I say eggs are easy to separate. I use my hands but everyone has their own method. You can even get a gadget that will separate the egg for you. This is the way I do it.

First, get a small bowl out and set it next to the mixing bowl. I put the egg yolks into the small bowl because I absolutely refuse to throw them out. Pick up one egg and knock it lightly on the rim of the bowl, just enough to crack the shell. Push your thumb gently into the cracked part of the eggshell until it breaks through, then pull the top of the shell off and discard it. Pour the contents of the egg into your palm, which you hold over the mixing bowl. Let the egg white ooze between your fingers and fall into the bowl, but keep the yolk in your palm. Discard the rest of the egg shell, hopefully by dropping it into the trash instead of, for instance, throwing it at the trash can because you forgot to move the trash can closer, because then you have a lot of egg white to clean up off the floor later.

When most of the egg white is in the bowl, close your fingers together as though you’re trying to cup water, which breaks the egg white off from the yolk. Then you can gently roll the egg yolk from one hand to another, letting the remaining egg white drip off into the bowl.

The thing about egg yolk is it’s in a thin but remarkably strong membrane. As long as you’re gentle, you can move the yolk around quite a bit without it bursting. The fresher the egg, the more you can handle the yolk safely. You can even pull the little white pieces on either side of the yolk off. These are called the chalazae and anchor the yolk in place, as we learned in the deviled egg episode, but this time I looked up their name.

If you plan to use the egg yolks for something, whether to add to another recipe or just warm up in the microwave and eat with toast, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days by covering them gently with water until they’re completely submerged. Otherwise, just throw them out, although I really hate doing that. I usually go the toast route.

So you’ve got the eggs separated and your egg whites are waiting in the bowl. Plug in the electric mixer—and incidentally, check first to make sure it’s turned off. I jumped a mile. Oh, and this is a good time to turn the oven on.

Put the beaters into the egg whites and turn the mixer on, low at first, then turn it up to medium or even high. The eggs will start to get foamy and will quickly increase in volume. Eggs are much faster to whip than cream. Within a few minutes the egg whites will be holding peaks. While you continue to beat the eggs, slowly add the sugar with your free hand. This is why you measured it out ahead of time. Once all the sugar is incorporated, stop the mixer and set it down, then quickly measure out your vanilla and add it. Then immediately start beating the eggs again. They’ll feel much heavier now that they contain sugar and it will take much longer to get them back to the soft-peak stage where they were. The goal in beating eggs is to add as much air to them as possible, so you don’t want to stop and do other stuff like putting away the vanilla, because your eggs will start to lose air.

Eventually the egg mixture has turned thick and is full of ripples from the mixer that don’t disappear, they just stay there. The mixture will have a thick, almost foamy consistency. That’s because you have made meringue. But this is real meringue, not that nasty spongy fake stuff you get on pies in Walmart. And this meringue makes the base of your pie.

Remove the beaters from the egg mixture and set the mixer aside. Grab a big spoon or a rubber spatula and fold in the nuts, cracker crumbs, and baking powder mixture.

Folding in just means you’re adding an ingredient very gently—in this case, so your eggs don’t deflate. Pour the nut mixture onto the egg mixture and dip your spatula or spoon into the bowl, pushing it down deep into the bowl and scooping the egg mixture over the nut mixture. Then do it again. You’re moving your spatula slowly, gently, bringing the egg mixture up and over the nut mixture. Your spatula should be making a motion like a slowly rolling wheel, down, up; down, up. Isn’t that restful? You can change directions, of course, and squish things around gently to get the nut mixture to combine with the egg mixture. Just don’t treat it like cake batter.

Then you scoop the meringue mixture into the pie plate and push it into place with the spatula, smoothing the top so it’s more or less even. Then you pop the pie plate into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

When the timer goes off, take the pie plate out of the oven and marvel at what you have made. That’s a homemade baked meringue crust! Set it on the stove and take a picture now, because within seconds it’ll start to deflate a little. Remember how eggs do. Don’t stress if it starts to crack as it deflates. It won’t show once the pie is finished and those cracks just mean the peach juice will seep into the meringue more easily.

Before you make the pie, though, the meringue has to cool completely. Let it sit until it’s cooled enough to safely put it in the fridge, or you can leave it sitting out. You can refrigerate it overnight and make the pie first thing in the morning if you’re taking this to work, but it’s best on the day it’s made.

Once the meringue is completely cool and you’re ready to finish the pie, it’s time to cut up your peaches. Do this the same way you did it for the peach kuchen recipe last week, slicing the peaches up and arranging them in a pretty layer on the meringue. The main difference is you definitely want to peel the peaches first for this recipe.

After you have one layer of peaches, taste a peach if you haven’t already and decide whether it’s sweet enough and flavorful enough as is. If not, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over the layer. If so, just sprinkle a little cinnamon. I like to use the premixed cinnamon sugar shakers you can find in the baking section of the grocery, but I actually ran out today after covering the first layer. After that I had to use regular granulated sugar and cinnamon, but it all works.

You can add as many layers of peach slices as you have peaches to cut up. Sometimes I’ll only have enough peaches for one layer, sometimes I’ll have three or even four. More than four layers is probably overkill, but do what you want. Make sure to reserve the best peach, though, or if your peaches are big, half a peach.

Once you’re done with slicing and layering peaches, you’ll need to whip the cream. Do this the way you did for the strawberry shortcake recipe, or you can always use premade whipped cream—but you’ve already got the mixer out, all you need is to wash the beaters and you’re good to go, assuming you have heavy whipping cream. I typically add half a cup of powdered sugar to one pint of whipped cream, but you can add more powdered sugar if you like, up to about a cup. You don’t need to add vanilla, though, because once you’ve got the cream whipped to stiff peak stage, cut up the reserved peach and fold it into the whipped cream.

The final step after that is to spoon the whipped cream over the pie. Use all the whipped cream. Yes, I know, it’s a ridiculous amount. Use it all anyway. Make sure to spread the whipped cream all the way to the edges of the pie, covering all the layered peaches. You do this so the peaches won’t discolor since they’re not exposed to the air.

Once you’ve got all the whipped cream piled on the pie in a glorious mound, the pie is done. You can literally serve it immediately, or you can stick it in the fridge and serve it later. It’s best the first day it’s made, but it keeps in the fridge just fine for a few days, assuming there’s any left. The meringue gets goopy and soft as it absorbs moisture–from the peaches, but also from the air–but it’s absolutely delicious.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Peach Kuchen



How to halve, pit, and peel peaches

Peach Kuchen

  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c butter, softened
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • sliced fresh peaches (or other fruit)

Topping:

sliced or slivered almonds, 3 Tbsp turbinado sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon

Grease a 9” round cake pan or a pie plate. Heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, mix the topping and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then add egg and almond extract and blend well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Batter will be thick. Spread the batter into the pie plate or cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula, thinly across the bottom and about one inch up the sides of the pan. Arrange the peach slices in a pretty spiral in the bottom, add any other fruit desired, and sprinkle with the topping.

Bake for 25 minutes for a ceramic pie plate, 35 to 40 minutes for a cake pan.

Batter is thick and should extend up the sides of the pan/pie plate a little to hold the fruit and topping:

Finished cake!

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make Peach Kuchen, which is basically a very thin cake with a lot of fruit on top.

It’s an easy cake to make. The hardest part is peeling and slicing all those peaches. Actually, no, the hardest part is finding decent peaches. I lucked out and found three small but perfectly ripe and juicy peaches, so I decided to make peach kuchen with them. I also had about half a cup of raspberries and blackberries I picked yesterday that needed to be used up, so this recipe is perfect.

You’ll need almond extract and sliced or slivered almonds, although if you don’t have almond extract or don’t like it, you can substitute vanilla. You can also substitute pecans for the almonds. But the almonds and almond extract give this recipe a sophisticated, delicate flavor that’s a little unusual. If you liked the raspberry almond coffee cake recipe from last month, you’ll like this recipe.

You can make this in a 9” round cake pan or a pie plate. Whichever you use, grease it well. Then you’ll need a couple of mixing bowls, but not big ones. Medium-sized ones will do, because there’s not actually a lot of batter for this cake. You also need a small mixing bowl for the topping, but there’s not a lot of it so you can use a big cereal bowl if you need to.

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and set it aside. Then mix the topping and set it aside. I’ve always made the topping with slivered almonds until this time, when all I had was sliced almonds, and I like the sliced almonds just as much.

Next, make sure the butter is softened enough to work with easily but not melted, and cream it together with the sugar until it’s fluffy. Add the egg and almond extract and mix well. Then add about half the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stir until it’s smooth, and add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until all the flour is incorporated and there are no lumps.

It’s a very simple standard recipe for cake batter, with the main difference being there’s not much batter. It’s also very thick. Spoon it into your greased pan and use a rubber spatula or the back of a big spoon to spread the batter around, right up to the edges of the pan and up the edges. Basically what you’re doing is making a shallow batter receptacle for the fruit.

Once you’ve got the batter spread, turn the oven on. Then you need to cut up the peaches. If you listened to the raspberry pie episode last month you may remember how to halve cherries, which is the same way you halve peaches before cutting them up. Take a paring knife, cut around the entire peach top to bottom, cutting down to the pit, then twist both halves in different directions. This will pull the peach in two, with one half retaining the pit. Unless the pit is rotten, in which case it sometimes pulls in half also.

Either way, you need to remove the pit, and this is harder with peaches than with cherries. Cut around the stem end of the pit at the top of the peach, then use your thumb to pry the pit out of the peach. This is easy to do in freestone peaches, harder in clingstone. You probably worked that out from the name. I do find that clingstone peaches are usually sweeter and are worth the extra effort, but it doesn’t really matter what kind of peach you have as long as it’s fully ripe.

You may also want to peel the peaches, depending on how you feel about peach skin. It’s fuzzy and usually fairly thick, which some people dislike. You peel a peach by sliding the edge of the paring knife blade under the skin, holding the skin in place on top of the blade with your thumb, and pulling gently but firmly. The riper the peach, the more easily the skin will pull off. If you can’t get that skin off except in little strips and bits, cut off a piece of the peach and taste it to make sure it’s not too underripe. A ripe peach is juicy and sweet and the flesh is soft. You don’t want to use a hard, underripe peach no matter how pretty it looks in the store. Sometimes you’ll get a peach that looks and feels perfectly ripe, but when you cut it in half you discover that it was picked too early and never ripened properly, just started to go bad. This means it feels soft to the touch but it’s not very sweet or juicy. In this case, you can just cut the skin off like you’re peeling an apple since it doesn’t matter if you lose some of the flesh. Or you can just throw it out sadly and use different peaches.

Once you’ve halved and pitted a peach, and removed the peel if you want to, you need to slice it and arrange it on top of the cake batter. Cut off any rotten, bruised, or otherwise unappetizing parts of the peach, then slice it up. As you work, place each piece on the batter. It’s up to you how you arrange the slices, but I like to line the slices up pointing the same way, both to cover as much of the batter as possible without gaps, and because it looks nice. Once you’ve cut up the first peach, halve, pit, peel, and slice up the next and arrange it too. Depending on the size of your peaches, it may only take two or three to cover the batter in a single layer, or it may take all the peaches you have and you still end up with gaps. If you have lots of peaches, you can make a second layer too.

This sounds like a lot of work but it actually goes pretty fast once you get the hang of it and if your peaches are properly ripe. I’ve tried this recipe with frozen peaches, thawed, which works okay. I’ve tried it with canned peaches, which is awful and disappointing and don’t do it. Fresh, ripe peaches are best. My cousin Margo made a very similar recipe to this one recently with plums, which was delicious, so if you can’t find good peaches, or if you can’t find enough good peaches, you can try plums, apricots, or nectarines. I also like to add some fresh raspberries and/or blackberries in the middle if I have any, because they look nice and add some extra flavor and texture.

Once you’ve got the fruit arranged, sprinkle the topping over it. There’s a lot of topping but add it all, because it adds crunch, flavor, and sweetness to the cake.

By the time you’re done, the oven should be hot. Put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes, if you’re using a metal pan, or 25 minutes if you’re using a ceramic pie plate.

Because you’re using fruit that has a high moisture content, there’s really no way to stop the cake from being a little on the goopy side on the bottom, even when it’s perfectly cooked. Just accept it and recognize that it’s supposed to be like this and it will taste amazing. You also won’t be able to test the cake for doneness with a toothpick like you would for an ordinary cake. Instead, look at the sides of the cake that come a little ways up the sides of the pan. When the sides of the cake look done, you have to trust that the inside of the cake is done too.

That’s all you need to do. The cake is done and it should be delicious, because you can’t go wrong with a cake topped with fresh peaches and cinnamon. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. It goes really well with vanilla ice cream, in case you hadn’t already thought of it.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Roast Chicken



How to roast a chicken * a new way to peel garlic easily * how to use a meat thermometer

Roast chicken

The chicken freshly out of the oven and with the meat thermometer stuck in it:

The broccoli steaming with the chicken under its tinfoil tent, and the finished plate:

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to roast a whole chicken. If you know how to roast a chicken, you can save a lot of money and expand your choices when it comes to food. And it’s really easy, so let’s go.

First, you need a whole chicken. Don’t buy a roasting chicken. Roasters are huge and are actually best cooked by boiling, and who has a pot that big? Buy a smaller chicken, usually advertised as a fryer or just as a young chicken. You don’t want one more than about five pounds in weight, and preferably closer to four pounds.

The chicken is probably not frozen. If it is, stick it in the fridge for a day or two. But typically fryer chickens aren’t frozen. It’ll be in a heavy plastic bag. Sit this in the sink, round side down and the feet side up. Yes, I know you can’t see the chicken at this point and it doesn’t have feet anymore anyway, but you can feel the ends of the drumsticks and you want those pointing up. Cut the bag open at this end and pull it down around the chicken like a skirt.

Oh, and this is a good time to get out a pan with sides and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you haven’t already done this, do it now, hopefully before your hands get covered with chicken grease. I usually use a plain 9×13 Pyrex pan, sometimes a metal pan that I line with one layer of tinfoil to help keep the mess down. Pyrex dishes are easier to clean than metal so I don’t use tinfoil in the Pyrex dish.

Usually the chicken will have giblets in a little bag stuffed into the cavity. Sometimes the chicken has loose giblets stuck in the cavity and probably surrounded by chicken-juice ice. Giblets are the edible organs, and even if you plan to cook them you need to take them out before you roast the chicken. If it’s a bag, that’s easy. If they’re loose, you’re going to need to pick the chicken up and shake it violently feet-side down over the sink. Hopefully the giblets drop out and you’re not too traumatized, because the wings and legs flop around and water droplets fly and it’s basically just like something out of a cut-rate horror movie.

If you can’t shake the loose giblets out, they’re frozen in place and you’re going to have to get in there with your hand. The main problem with this is that your fingers are going to immediately get so cold that you can’t tell what you’re doing, and trying to pick squidgy bits of chicken guts out of a matrix of ice with frozen fingertips is really the least fun part of roasting a chicken. I guess you could use a spoon.

If you’re still with me and haven’t given up on this episode yet, let’s fast forward to the point where you’ve removed those giblets. Usually it’s really not difficult. I almost always shop by price, so sometimes I luck out and the cheap chicken I bought is cheap because the giblets got left out so the chicken weighed less. That’s great, because in my house, the giblets go in the trash.

So you’ve emptied the chicken. You can rinse it if you want, but it’s really not necessary unless the skin doesn’t look clean. I mean, it’s going to look like dead chicken skin, but you don’t want to see any flecks of actual dirt. Also, if you dropped it in the sink at any point you should rinse it.

Plop your chicken on its back in the pan. Sprinkle it liberally with salt and pepper. You can add rosemary or other herbs too, but if you’ve never roasted a chicken before, just go the simple route. Salt and pepper, that’s it. However, if you’re a garlic lover, or even a garlic liker, and you have some garlic cloves on hand, get them out along with a knife with a broad blade.

You only need to peel this garlic, not cut it up, and after the lime crema episode my cousin Molly showed me the easiest way to peel garlic in the world. Seriously, it’s so easy. Separate a clove of garlic from the head and cut the end off where it attached to the head. Then, instead of laboriously peeling the paper covering off with your fingernails, lay the clove on the counter or cutting board. Then take your knife and turn it sideways so that the blade is flat. Press the flat of the blade down on the garlic, pressing with the heel of your hand and taking care not to trap your fingers underneath. The garlic will go crack when it’s done. Pick it up and most of the time the clove will slide right out of its covering.

So, peel five or six or seven cloves of garlic. Then slide the cloves under the skin of the chicken. You may need to poke a few holes in the chicken skin with the knife for easier access. Push the cloves under the skin securely, spacing them out across the chicken breast and down the sides where the legs meet the body. Save at least one big clove to stick in the cavity of the chicken. This doesn’t take very long and the garlic flavor gets right into the meat without being overpowering.

When the oven is hot, pop the pan in the oven on the middle rack. Set the timer for one hour and 45 minutes. Then wash your hands really well with hot water and soap.

That’s it. You don’t need to do anything fancy. No basting, or elaborate turning of the bird or covering it with foil at a certain time, or turning the oven temperature up and down. Just put it in the oven and walk away for an hour and 45 minutes. If your chicken is over five pounds, maybe bump this time up by five minutes. Don’t be fooled by the smell, because that chicken will smell done for an hour before it’s actually done.

So how do you know when it’s done? When I first started cooking, this worried me terribly. I read all the directives about checking to see if the leg moved easily, if the juice ran clear, and so forth. I anxiously checked the meat thermometer so often that my chicken eventually came out of the oven looking like a pincushion. But these days I don’t stress about it. One hour 45 minutes, maybe a little longer if it’s a big chicken, and I take it out of the oven.

Occasionally, admittedly, I have to put it back in the oven for a little longer. But that’s rare and usually means the chicken started out partially frozen, which increases cooking time.

A good way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Do this after the chicken has cooked for its full one hour and 45 minutes. Then as soon as you take it out of the oven, check the temperature. Stick the pointy end of the meat thermometer into the breast meat. Stick it in pretty deep but not so deep that you risk poking it right through into the cavity. Definitely make sure the tip of the thermometer isn’t resting against a rib bone too. Then look at the reading. The more expensive meat thermometers have a digital reading that doesn’t require much waiting, but the cheaper ones like mine take a minute or so to get a full reading. At first it climbs very fast, then much more slowly. What you want it to reach is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If you get that, you can be confident that the chicken is fully cooked. Now remove the meat thermometer and set it aside to wash later.

Once the chicken’s out of the oven, take a piece of tinfoil, crease it down the middle to make a little tent, and prop it lightly over the chicken. This keeps the steam from escaping and helps keep the chicken from drying out. You don’t need to mold the tinfoil to the chicken’s surface, just set it on the chicken lightly while you’re doing other stuff. The chicken is continuing to cook from the heat trapped inside the meat, so don’t skip this step. This is a good time to start any side dishes that only require a few minutes of preparation, like putting together a salad.

While we’re talking about side dishes, I steamed broccoli to go with my roast chicken today. That’s also incredibly easy. If you haven’t listened to the Carrots episode, it walks you through the process of steaming vegetables. Just rinse a crown of fresh broccoli, cut the broccoli part off the stem and throw the stem away, and steam the broccoli for about ten minutes, maybe a little more, until it’s as tender as you like. Sprinkle it with a touch of salt and serve hot.

Anyway, after about ten minutes, take the tinfoil off the chicken, grab a reasonably sharp, preferably serrated knife and a fork, and cut the meat off the chicken. You’ll need a plate to put the meat onto.

I admit I don’t know how to carve a bird, but I also don’t see the point of learning because my method works just fine for me. As long as you get the meat off and don’t drop it on the floor, you’re fine.

The breast skin has usually crisped and separated at least somewhat from the meat. I don’t like chicken skin much so I usually cut this off and pull it to the side or off entirely, but some people love chicken skin and think this is the best part. Up to you, really. If you added peeled garlic cloves, discard them too.

You’ll start with the breast meat, which is the white meat. White meat has good texture, although it can also dry out if overcooked, but it doesn’t have as much flavor as dark meat. Modern chickens have been bred to produce a lot of breast meat.

The thing to remember is how the meat and bones are arranged. There are two halves of the breast separated by the keel, which is made of bone and cartilage that you obviously want to avoid. Each side of the breast is made up of two layers. The upper layer will be cooked at this point and you can remove it and put it on your plate. Sometimes the lower layer will turn out to be underdone. You’ll know it’s underdone because it looks underdone, with pinkish meat and pinkish juice when you cut into it. This is when I put the chicken back in the oven, once I remove the upper layer of cooked meat.

There’s also a fairly large vein that runs through both layers of breast meat and is especially noticeable when you get to the bottom layer. I’m a little squicky about this sort of thing so I like to pull that vein out with the fork or my fingers since I don’t want to eat it, but it’s perfectly edible. It will frequently discolor the meat around it, but that’s okay too. What you don’t want to see is really red discoloration around the vein, because that means your meat is underdone.

Underneath the layers of breast meat are the chicken’s ribs, which are covered with a membrane. It’s really easy to accidentally poke your knife between the ribs while cutting the meat, but it’s not going to hurt anything even if you cut through a bone. After roasting, chicken bones are brittle and splintery, though, so make sure you don’t accidentally put any pieces of bone on your plate. Also, this is why you don’t feed cooked chicken bones to a dog. They’ll splinter in its stomach and hurt it.

Once you’ve got as much of the breast meat off as you can, you need to turn the chicken over to get the dark meat. Since the chicken is probably still pretty hot at this point, and you probably don’t want to get hot chicken fat all over your hands, this can be a tricky proposition. But once you manage it, you’re faced with the back of the chicken.

It will look pretty gross. Scrape the wet floppy skin off to expose the meat. You’re going to use the fork more than the knife here. What you mainly want is the thigh meat, which is tender and flavorful, plus there’s a lot of it. Use the fork to separate the muscles from the bone where it attaches at the top. If you’re lucky, and if the chicken is well cooked, it should separate pretty easily and you can pull it off in layers. Sometimes, especially if your oven doesn’t heat evenly, the thigh meat may be underdone. It’ll be obvious when this happens because the juice will be cloudy and the meat has a rubbery texture when chewed, although it may not appear pink. If your inner layer of breast meat was underdone, the thigh meat probably is too.

Once you get the thigh meat off, flip the chicken back over. You’re almost done. You want the drumstick meat now. The thick part of the drumstick will be done even if the thigh meat wasn’t. Start with the thick part, which mostly pulls off like a sort of cap. Then you can get the slivers of small muscles from the leg, but be careful that you don’t also pull out that sharp little bone that’s always in the way when you eat a fried chicken drumstick.

At this point you’re probably starving and if you’ve got a family, they’re complaining at how long you’re taking. You can take off more meat later if you want from the back and wings, but you’ve got most of it now and can serve it up.

So what happens if you sample a piece of chicken after you carve the bird, and it’s chewy and underdone even though it looks fine? Is there any way to save it?

I actually did this on purpose so I could experiment. I bought the smallest chicken I could find, which after I removed the giblets probably worked out to barely more than 3 ½ pounds. I put it in the oven for only an hour and 35 minutes. I was mostly experimenting with cooking times and figured I’d end up putting the chicken back in the oven after taking a picture of underdone meat. But when I cut into the meat, it looked done. It wasn’t pink, so I went ahead and carved it.

Well, guess what? I took a taste and realized it was underdone. I’d started to suspect during carving but at that point the oven was off and I’d removed most of the meat from the bird. I had a whole plateful of meat that looked delicious but had a rubbery texture and an unpleasant flavor.

So, I spread the meat out across the plate into one layer instead of heaped up, and stuck the whole thing in the microwave. I microwaved it for a minute, tasted a small piece, microwaved it for two minutes more, tasted a small piece, and microwaved it for another minute. At that point when I tasted a piece, it tasted done.

Unfortunately, it also tasted dry, since microwaving meat dries it out no matter what you do. It wasn’t so dry that I couldn’t choke it down, but setting the timer for one hour 45 minutes would have taken care of the issue in the first place.

Just a hint. If you have a recipe planned that requires a certain amount of chicken and you intend to use whatever’s left over for that recipe, measure out at least half of what you require. Roast chicken made at home is much better than rotisserie chickens from Walmart, which mostly taste like salt, so you’re going to eat a lot more of it than you expect.

You can use the meat in any recipe that calls for chicken, especially if it specifies roast chicken or baked chicken.

Of course you can get much fancier than this. You can brine your chicken ahead of time—basically soak it in a saltwater bath for a few hours—and you can put all kinds of flavorings in the cavity. Experiment once you’re comfortable with roasting chicken.

Wait until the chicken carcass is cool and the fat in the pan has started to congeal before you tip the whole thing into the trash can. Eventually I’ll do an episode about making your own chicken stock, but for now you can safely throw it out. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about this. Making stock is easy, yes, but it’s also time-consuming.

Refrigerate any uneaten chicken for a few days. You can cover the plate with the tinfoil tent you used after you took the pan out of the oven. Leftovers go great in recipes, as I mentioned, or you can put chunks of cold chicken between a couple of slices of bread, throw some mustard on it, and eat it like the world’s best sandwich. If you only have a little bit of chicken leftover, you can either eat it with your fingers or mix it into newly made rice and then put your face into the bowl and eat it like a starving dog.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Baked Beans



baked beans * how to prepare a bell pepper

Janice’s Baked Beans

  • 1 32-oz can pork and beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ medium bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ½ lb. pork sausage, browned and drained
  • 4 strips bacon

Put everything except the bacon into a baking dish and mix well. Lay bacon over top. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. You can double this recipe.

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make my aunt Janice’s baked beans recipe!

It’s an easy recipe to make and it’s absolutely delicious. My aunt made it for the Fourth of July and I asked her about it. It’s a funny story, so I recorded her telling it.

To make Janice’s baked beans recipe, all you need is a pan big enough to hold everything. You can mix the ingredients directly in the pan.

First, though, you need to get all your ingredients ready. The very first thing you do is brown and drain the pork sausage the same way we learned to brown and drain hamburger meat in the lasagna roll-ups episode. Then turn the oven on. Then dice the onion the way we learned in the carrots episode, and pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup firmly the way we learned in the chocolate chip cookies episode.

The only aspect of this recipe we haven’t covered before is how to chop up a bell pepper. This is about as easy as it can be.

If you’ve ever looked at the bell peppers for sale at the store and wondered what the difference is between green, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers, they’re all the same thing. Green bell peppers are picked before they fully ripen. Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are of varying stages of ripeness. Bell peppers don’t contain any capsaicin, which is what makes other peppers hot, so you can use the brightest red bell pepper you can find in a recipe and it’ll be perfectly mild. The flavor is a little different, with green bell pepper being a much more definite flavor and the yellow, orange, or red bell peppers being mellower. The brightly colored bell peppers are mostly used to give a dish extra color.

Bell peppers are easy to prepare. You’ll need a paring knife and a cutting board if you have one. If you plan to use every scrap of pepper, cut around the stem and discard it, and you can use the rest. Otherwise, just roughly cut the pepper into slices, then cut those slices into pieces.

The inside of a bell pepper is mostly empty. There are a lot of small seeds, though, which you should discard. They’re easy to remove, though. You can cut up and use the ribs inside the pepper or trim them off and only use the outer shell of the pepper. It all tastes the same but the outside is a shinier green that looks nicer.

Once your bell pepper is cut up into pieces, it’s ready to use. Easy peasy.

So you’ve got the ground pork browned and drained, the onion and bell pepper chopped up, and the brown sugar measured out and ready. Open the can of pork and beans and drain it. Then pour the beans into your pan, add the pork, onion, bell pepper, and brown sugar, and mix it all up really well. In the recording of Janice, the sounds you hear in the background are her stirring the mixture. She uses a heavy oven-safe pot to make it. She also doubles the recipe.

Once you have it all mixed up, lay four strips of raw bacon across the top. It will cook in the oven and add its delicious grease and flavor to the dish as it does. Make sure to lay the bacon strips side by side, not overlapping. If they’re too long to fit into the pan without overlapping, cut them short. If the bacon is especially fatty, trim off the fatty ends and discard them. That way you can pretend that you’re making the recipe healthier.

Put the pan in the oven and set the timer for one hour. At the end of the hour, take the pan out. It’s done! Pour the baked beans into a serving dish or just let people serve themselves directly from the pan.

I checked with my aunt before I recorded this episode, because I thought she discarded the bacon after baking. She said no, that the reason I’d never seen the bacon was because I was too slow and other people grabbed it up before I got to it.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Iced Tea and Sangria



Iced Tea * Sangria * how to section oranges

Iced tea

  • 6-8 c. water
  • 2 family-sized tea bags
  • About 1 c. sugar

Heat water in a pot until it begins to boil but before it is at a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Place tea bags in the water, cover with a lid, and let steep for about 10-15 minutes. Remove the tea bags and stir in sugar until dissolved.

Allow the tea to cool to room temperature. Then fill a pitcher with ice and pour the tea over the ice.

Sangria (alcoholic)

  • 1 bottle cheap red wine
  • ½ c spiced rum
  • ½ c orange juice
  • ½ – 1 c pineapple juice
  • several oranges, peeled and sectioned
  • other fruit as desired

Mix everything together in a jug and refrigerate at least overnight (24 hours is best). Give the jug a good stir with a long spoon every few hours, making sure to press the pieces of fruit against the side of the jug to express some of the juice.

Serve cold with ginger ale (or Sprite) to taste.

Iced tea:

Sangria:

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make sangria, which is alcoholic, and iced tea, which is not.

We’ll cover iced tea first, so if you want to listen to that part and skip the discussion of how to make sangria, I’ll tell you where to stop listening.

There are a number of ways to make iced tea. The recipe at the top of the show notes is how my grandmother made it, which I’ll go over in just a minute.

The easiest way is to cold-brew your tea. Fill a big jug with warm water—not hot—plop a couple of family-sized tea bags formulated for iced tea in it, and stick it in the fridge overnight. In the morning remove the tea bags and drink the tea. This is how I make it most of the time, because I like my iced tea unsweetened. You can’t sweeten iced tea properly once it’s cold, since the sugar won’t dissolve, so if you want to make real southern sweet tea, you have to make it a different way.

Whatever you do, don’t make tea the way you would to drink it hot, then throw ice cubes in it. I suspect that people from areas where iced tea is rare or practically unknown, like the UK, think that’s how you make iced tea. For the love of all that’s holy, no no no.

Also, you don’t want to use the same kind of tea you use for hot tea. If you make it right—and you will if you follow my recipe—the tea steeps for a relatively long time. Therefore, you can use lower quality tea and still end up with a strong but smooth brew. Conversely, if you start with high quality tea leaves, your tea may end up too strong. Plus, iced tea is meant for swilling, not sipping. I make it by the gallon every summer and go through it quickly. There’s no sense wasting high quality tea on something you’re going to chug after you mow the lawn. Save your good tea for chilly autumn days when you want to curl up with a hot drink and a murder mystery.

You can find lots of brands of tea made specifically for iced tea. I’ve tried them all and don’t really have a preference. This time I used one bag of Lipton tea meant for cold brewing, since that’s how I usually make it, and one bag of Walmart brand tea. I mean it that the quality of the tea has very little impact on the finished product if you make it right.

For this recipe you’ll need a pot with a lid and a pitcher. I measured out eight cups of water when I made the recipe this time, just to make sure I had the proportions right, but usually I just fill the pot with tap water and don’t worry too much about measuring.

So, fill your pot with tap water and set it on the stove. Turn the burner to high and keep an eye on it as it heats, because you want to bring the water to a boil but not a rolling boil. Once the water is moving briskly but not slopping around violently, move the pot off the heat.

Put two big family-sized tea bags in the pot and set a lid on it. Then set your timer for fifteen minutes. You can get by with ten, but I like to let the tea steep for a full fifteen so it’s good and strong.

After the timer goes off, remove the tea bags and throw them out. Do not squeeze them first. What is wrong with you? Add a cup of sugar to the tea and stir it in until it’s dissolved. You can add less sugar if you like—I typically use ¾ cup instead of a full cup—but adding more than a cup is overkill. And I say this as someone who was born in Georgia and grew up in Tennessee, where I live now, so you can trust that I know my tea.

Let the pot with the tea in it sit right there until it’s cooled to room temperature. Don’t put it in the fridge, don’t put ice in it, just let it sit. This is the secret to making your tea smooth and perfect. It’ll take several hours to cool and that’s okay. It’s worth the wait. You can leave the lid off the pot or put it on; as far as I can tell it makes no difference.

Once the tea is more or less room temperature, put a bunch of ice in your pitcher and pour the tea over the ice. There you go. Perfect iced tea. You can brew the tea early and let it sit and cool while you do other things, and the last thing you do before serving a meal is pour the tea over the ice. Like I said, this is the way my grandmother made tea, and as a kid, I knew it was almost time to eat when the tea was in the pitcher.

Some people make iced tea from flavored teas, but those people should be put in jail.

That’s the end of the iced tea discussion. Next up is the sangria, so if you don’t want to listen to a recipe that is about alcohol, stop here and thanks for listening!

Okay, for those of you interested in sangria, you need a big jug or pitcher and a long-handled spoon of some kind. I have a wooden spoon with a very long handle that I use almost exclusively for sangria, but before I got it, I used a regular wooden spoon with the understanding that every time I stirred the sangria, my hand would end up in the mixture and would end up dyed purplish. You do what you gotta do.

Now, I don’t even like sangria because I don’t much care for red wine, but I have family members who love this stuff. I always make a double batch for our family Fourth of July get-together and it’s always gone by the end of the day. The only thing I like out of it are some of the drunky oranges, which I fish out and eat with a fork.

You start with the cheapest bottle of red wine you can find. If you pay more than $5 for the bottle, you’re starting with wine that’s far too good, or you just live in a really expensive part of the world. The wine is the vehicle for all the other flavors, which will blend with it and mellow it into something sublime.

Start making your sangria at least a full 24 hours before you plan to serve it. It needs time for all the flavors to mingle and for the fruit to absorb the alcohol. Start by pouring the entire bottle of red wine into the pitcher. If it only half-fills the pitcher, you’re good. If it fills the pitcher, your pitcher is far too small and you need to get a bigger one. You’ll be adding a lot of stuff to the wine, especially fruit, which will take up a lot more space than you think.

Next, add half a cup of orange juice and half a cup of spiced rum. If you don’t have spiced rum, you can use any other rum, but spiced is best. Plus, I always have spiced rum on hand because that’s my drink of choice.

Then add your pineapple juice. You don’t have to buy a big bottle of pineapple juice, just get a can of pineapple in its own juice and drain the can into the sangria jug. You can throw the pineapple pieces in the sangria too if you want. I usually put some of the pineapple in, but not all of it, because I want to leave plenty of room for oranges.

The oranges are as important a part of the sangria as the red wine. You want to put lots of oranges in your sangria. I typically buy a bag of oranges. But preparing the oranges takes a long time. You don’t just peel them and dump them in. You have to section them too.

Sectioning oranges is a pain in the butt, but it leaves you with a lovely morsel of citrus that’s easy to eat. I don’t mean you’re pulling the orange apart and putting the sections in. Sectioning oranges means you take each individual section and remove as much of the membrane as possible.

[record scratch] This is where I originally had a long description about how to section oranges, which I’ve always done laboriously by removing the membrane from each orange segment individually. Then on the Fourth of July I was talking to a few of my cousins about this, and they all gave me funny looks and said, you know, you can just treat the orange like a grapefruit. Cut it in half, use a knife to slice along the edges of each segment to loosen the pulp from the membrane separating each segment from the next, and scoop out the inside and drop it into the sangria.

Thank you, Molly and Margo. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this! I love grapefruit but I’ve never thought of the process of removing the pulp to eat it as sectioning the grapefruit. I certainly never thought about using the same process for sectioning oranges.

Now, back to the rest of the original recording.

I usually plan to put all the oranges in the sangria, but usually I give up after five or six.

The reason you’re sectioning the oranges like this is so they can more easily absorb the flavors of the other ingredients and so they can more readily contribute their own juice to the whole jug. By the time the sangria is done, those oranges have absorbed a lot of alcohol and are both potent and delicious. You won’t get nearly the same effect and flavor if you don’t section them.

You can also add other fruit if you like. I’ve tried apples and was disappointed—they just don’t absorb much flavor—but if you like apples or just want to see what you think, slice one up into bite-sized pieces and throw them in. Berries of any kind work well, including blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. If you can find decent peaches, definitely try them. If you want to add other citrus fruits, like lemons or limes, make sure to peel and section them like the oranges. If you leave citrus peel on, it will give the sangria a bitter flavor.

Once you’ve got all the fruit in that you want to add, give the whole jug a good stir, making sure to mash the fruit against the sides with the spoon to help express some of the juice. Then stick the pitcher in the fridge. Every so often—basically whenever you’re in the kitchen—give the sangria a good stir. I like to lick the spoon after I’ve stirred, before I wash the spoon for next time, because even though I don’t care for sangria myself, it’s fascinating to taste the difference as the flavors mingle. At first it tastes like cheap red wine with some overtones of juice and rum. Then, slowly, it becomes something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

You can double this recipe easily, but you’re going to need a really big jug and a really long spoon. Those containers meant for iced tea are the right size, but it’s impossible to find them without a spigot at the bottom. The spigot quickly gets clogged with pieces of fruit if anyone tries to use it, so make sure to tell everyone to pour from the top.

Serve sangria chilled, mixed half and half with ginger ale or Sprite. It will keep in the fridge for several days if you have any left over.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Raspberry Pie



Making pie crust * rolling out dough * preparing fresh cherries * care of a wooden rolling pin

Raspberry Pie

Pastry:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • ¾ c cold butter, cut up (or shortening)
  • 3-4 Tbsp icewater

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and cut in shortening or butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add just enough water to hold together. Chill 30 minutes, divide dough, and roll out. Line the bottom of the pie pan with pastry, add filling, then top with the remaining pastry.

Filling:

  • 5 c. raspberries (or frozen, thawed)
  • ½ to ¾ c sugar
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 375.

Mix sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add berries and toss until coated. Pour into the pastry-lined pie dish. Top with the remaining pastry and crimp edges. Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar, and cut slits in the top to release steam. Cover the edges with tinfoil to keep from overbrowning.

Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil, and bake another 25-30 minutes. You can substitute blueberries, blackberries, or cherries for about half of the raspberries, if desired.

Pitting cherries? Or MURDER? And the difference between raspberries (red, hollow inside) and blackberries (purple, has a dob in the center):

The pastry while I’m working (that’s a pastry cutter), the pastry when it’s ready to add water, and the dough balls ready to chill:

The bottom crust partially unfolded into the pie plate, putting tinfoil on the crust, the crimped edges of the second pie I made:

 

The two pies. The one in my green pie plate is prettier, but the one in the deep-dish pie plate didn’t leak all over the oven:

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make raspberry pie. And yes, you are going to learn how to make your own pie crust. Do not be afraid.

I want to stress going in that this is not hard. It is 100% simple and you are going to make it successfully and be proud and it will be delicious. You can buy a premade pie crust, of course, but I guarantee you that a homemade one is better and well within the abilities of even a novice cook.

This recipe came from my friend Amanda, and I make it every summer when the raspberries and blackberries are ripe. You can use all raspberries in the filling or you can use a mixture of raspberries and other berries, like blackberries, blueberries, and fresh cherries. Amanda says not to use strawberries, though. I’ve never tried it, but I suspect strawberries are both too full of moisture and too lacking in pectin for the filling to gel properly.

The recipe calls for five cups of berries, and Amanda suggested a ratio of two cups of raspberries, two cups of cherries, and one cup of blueberries. I typically use about two to three cups of raspberries, about two cups of blackberries, and enough blueberries to make up the difference. You can use frozen berries, but thaw them first. Fresh is best, of course.

This time—you guessed it—I had to make the recipe before raspberries were ripe where I live, so I had to buy raspberries. I used frozen, along with fresh blueberries and fresh cherries. I didn’t have enough raspberries and it really showed. The pie was fine, but it wasn’t fantastic the way it would be if I’d had more raspberries. So I waited until nearly the last minute, when I had to get the episode finished and uploaded in time, until the raspberries were ripe. I made the pie again with about half and half raspberries and blackberries, with a half-pint of blueberries just to add a little sweetness. The result was much better. So if you look at the pictures in the show notes, the reason it looks like some of the pictures are from a different pie from the other pictures is because they are.

For this recipe you’ll need two large mixing bowls, a pie plate, also called a pie pan, and something you can use as a rolling pin, hopefully an actual rolling pin.

I recommend you spend some money on a real actual rolling pin if you can. I have a solid wood one my grandmother gave me ages ago that works beautifully. If you get a wooden rolling pin, treat it like a high quality wooden spoon. That is, hand-wash it with hot water and maybe a tiny dab of soap if absolutely necessary, dry it when it’s clean, and rub it with a thin coating of olive oil or other vegetable oil to make sure it doesn’t dry out. If you get a good rolling pin, it should last you forever and it’s way easier to use than a glass turned on its side. But yeah, if you don’t have a rolling pin and for whatever reason can’t get one, you can turn a glass on its side and use it to roll your dough out. Just don’t press down too hard on the glass and break it. Plus, I’m just going to warn you that using a glass to roll out dough makes it really difficult to roll it out evenly.

If you’re using fresh cherries in the pie, you’re going to need to pit and halve them. This isn’t hard but it is time-consuming, plus by the time you’re done it looks like you murdered someone in your kitchen. Cherries are juicy and have very red juice.

Put your cherries in a colander and rinse them. Then get a paring knife. Pick off the stem to a cherry, then run the knife all the way around the middle of the cherry. I do this by sort of turning the cherry with the hand holding it while I cut around it top to bottom. Then twist the two halves of the cherry opposite to each other, which breaks it open into two halves. The pit will be in one half. Dig it out with your fingernail and discard it, then put the cherry halves in a bowl. Now do this for every cherry. I recommend you put some good music on or a podcast to keep you from just eating the cherries and giving up on the pie.

This is the same way you pit peaches, by the way, but I’ll give you more information on that in August when I share my very best recipe with you.

Once you’re done with the cherries, set them aside, mop up all the juice, and get ready to make the pastry dough.

The first thing to do before you start is clean off your counter or the table where you’ll roll out your dough. Declutter a good big space, wipe any crumbs and dust off, then give it a good wipe-down with a wet cloth. Then dry it with a clean cloth and run your clean hand across the surface. You should be able to feel any sticky spots or bits of dried food that you might not be able to see. Give it another good scrub with the wet towel to remove those. If you don’t feel that it’s really clean with just water, add some soap and scrub the surface well, then wipe it down with plain water and dry it.

This sounds complicated, but it shouldn’t take you long. The absolute last thing you want is to pick up hairs or toast crumbs in your beautiful pie crust.

Next, fill a quarter cup measuring cup with water and stick it in the fridge. A metal cup is best since it’ll get cold faster, but use whatever you have.

Get a large mixing bowl and measure your flour, salt, and sugar into it. Give it a good stir with a fork or whisk, then cut in the butter using your method of choice. I’ll point you to the strawberry shortcake episode if you haven’t listened to it yet, which explains how to cut fat into a recipe. But after that episode ran, my brother told me he cuts in butter by taking a piece from the freezer and grating it into the flour mixture using a cheese grater. This is brilliant and I meant to try it myself, but I forgot to put a stick of butter in the freezer ahead of time.

So, cut the butter into the flour mixture. For pie crust, the smaller you can get your pieces of butter, the better the result, but don’t obsess over it. I used my usual method of cutting the butter in with two knives, but once the pieces got small I switched to a pastry cutter gadget that’s basically some wires with a handle. You rock the wires through the flour mixture and in theory they cut through pieces of fat, but in actual practice the fat tends to clump up on the wires and I have to scrape it off with a knife, and for big chunks of cold butter the wires aren’t effective at all. That’s why I don’t use it unless I’ve already cut the pieces up small. The gadget just finishes the job more easily than knives.

Once your flour and butter mixture resembles coarse crumbs, you have a decision to make. Do you make the pie now or do you wait until later or tomorrow? Because this is the point where you can cover the bowl with plastic and stick it in the fridge if you want to make your pie later. I’ve seen my aunt prepare her flour and butter mixture for pie pastry the night before Thanksgiving, then finish the pie quickly the next morning.

If you’re ready to roll—ha ha, literally roll out pastry, I mean—get the measuring cup of water you put in the fridge. The colder you can keep pie crust dough, the better your result, which is why you want to use really cold water. But don’t stress about it if you forgot to put the water in the fridge, or if it spilled. Just use cold water from the tap.

Even though you’ve measured the water into a measuring cup, you are not going to necessarily add it all. A quarter cup equals about four Tablespoons of water, which is absolutely the maximum amount of water that needs to go into the dough.

Use a measuring spoon to measure three Tbsps of the cold water into your mixing bowl. Use a fork to smush it into the flour and butter mixture, and don’t be scared to get aggressive. You can’t hurt it and there’s no great hurry. Take your time, smush it really well, pushing any clumped-up dough off the fork occasionally with a clean finger or a knife or something. Then, when you honestly don’t think you can incorporate any more of the dry flour into the dough, add about half of the remaining water.

With luck, it’ll all come together like magic and your dough magically sucks up all the rest of the flour and water. If you still have some dry flour left that no amount of smushing with the fork will take care of, add the last of the water. I will point out that you can use shortening instead of butter in pie crust, which is much easier to cut in but which isn’t as flavorful, and I’ve noticed that pastry made with shortening requires a little more water than pastry made with butter. You probably won’t need that last tablespoon of water at all in pie crust made with butter.

Once your dough is ready, gather it up with your hands and form it into one big ball, then divide it and form each half into a ball. I try to make one of the balls slightly larger than the other, since the bottom crust needs to be bigger than the top crust. Then set those balls back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a dish cloth or plastic wrap, and pop it in the fridge to chill. The colder your dough is when you roll it out, the easier it is to work with. Uh, but don’t freeze it. Fridge temperature is fine.

While the dough is chilling, get your other mixing bowl out. Mix the flour and sugar well. I never use more than half a cup of sugar, but if you want a sweeter pie filling of course you can use more—but don’t go overboard or the pie will be really way too sweet. Once the berries are cooked you’ll be surprised at how sweet they taste naturally. If you use blueberries or cherries as part of the filling, you probably won’t want to add more than half a cup of sugar.

Then, carefully pour the mixture into a small bowl. Then add all the berries to the large bowl where you initially mixed the flour and sugar. Pour the flour and sugar mixture over the berries and stir them with a big spoon, coating them well. You can keep the mixture in the big bowl and throw the berries in on top of them, of course, but it’s much easier to coat them if you add the mixture over the top.

Now it’s time to roll out the bottom crust. Set your pie plate close to the counter or table where you’ll be doing the rolling out, but make sure you won’t accidentally bump it while rolling out. Then turn the oven on.

Sprinkle flour across your clean counter or table. Use your hands for this since your hands do a better job sprinkling the flour evenly and you need to flour your hands anyway. You don’t need a ton of flour on the surface, but you also don’t want to have any big unfloured spots. Use maybe two small handfuls of flour. I like to clap my hands over the surface after sprinkling the flour, which removes a lot of the excess flour from my hands and fine-dusts the counter.

Once you’ve got your surface dusted, pick up the larger ball of dough and flatten it into a sort of thick disc with your hands. The edges will sort of break apart, so do your best to smooth them down, pinching them together so they’re whole, like the edge of a little doughy Frisbee. Then set the disc on the floured counter. Then get a little tiny handful of flour from the canister and rub it into your hands, since the dough just absorbed most of the flour you had on them. Let excess flour fall onto the dough disc.

Now get your rolling pin. The colder your dough is, the less likely it is to stick to your rolling pin, and that’s good, because once a piece of dough breaks off or cracks away from the rest of the dough, you really can’t make it stick properly again, not once it’s been on that floured surface. But don’t stress if it does happen. It won’t hurt anything.

Your goal is to roll the dough out into a roughly round shape that’s very thin. Say, two or three millimeters. If you’ve ever rolled out cookie dough, which by the way we’ll be doing closer to the winter holidays, the technique is the same but you want the dough much, much thinner. Here’s how you do it.

Always start at the middle of the dough, not the edge. Place the rolling pin in the middle and push it toward the edge with a firm outward pressure, not a downward pressure and not an excessive pressure. Let the pin rotate in your hands, actually rolling. Then pick up the rolling pin, place it back on the middle of the dough, and roll it with the same pressure in a different direction. You want to gently but firmly press all the dough outward from the middle to the edges evenly so that it stays roughly round and roughly the same thickness everywhere.

As the dough warms, it will start to stick to the rolling pin. Dip one palm in some flour and rub it along the length of the rolling pin, flouring it and removing any pieces of dough. Dough sticks to dough, so pull off any dough from the rolling pin. When I flour the surface I typically leave an extra little pile of flour on the edge so I can more easily flour my palm by just pressing my hand on it.

When you think you’ve got your dough all rolled out, look at your pastry and look at your pie plate. Is that pastry piece really big enough to completely cover the bottom and sides of the pie plate with a little left over to drape over the edges? If not, you’re not done. Don’t skimp on this. You really don’t want your pastry to be too thick and too small. It won’t cook right and the filling will seep down underneath the pastry and glue itself to your pie plate.

But before you start round two of making your pastry larger, very gently run the palm of one hand over the pastry. It’s sort of amazing how well you can detect the thickness of the pastry just by touch. You want to concentrate your rolling out where the pastry is thicker, making it the same thickness as the rest of it. This will usually malform the round shape even more than it already is, but don’t stress about it.

Be cautious at this point, though. You don’t want to make your pastry so thin that it starts to tear. If you didn’t use enough dough to make your dough ball, do what you can. I’ll give you a tip on how to repair it later.

When you’ve got your dough rolled out to your satisfaction, set the rolling pin aside and get out a spatula. Gently but firmly slide the spatula under the edges of the dough, loosening it. If you floured your surface properly, it shouldn’t stick too much. Then use the spatula to pick up one edge of the pastry, slide your hand underneath the pastry to hold it up, and set the spatula aside. Use your hands to very gently double the pastry over so that you’ve sort of made a big taco shell. Then pick up one end of the taco shell shape and gently fold it over again. Don’t crease those folds! You’re only doing this to make it easy to put in the pie shell. You’re going to unfold it in just a moment.

In recipes, this is usually referred to as folding the pastry in quarters or some variation of that phrase. It really is the easiest way to move the pastry into the pie dish without tearing it.

Pick up your folded pastry and lay it down in the appropriate corner of your pie plate so it unfolds to cover the plate. It is incredibly satisfying to unfold the dough and suddenly see that you’ve finished the hardest part of the pie.

Gently press the pastry down so that there aren’t any air bubbles underneath and it lies snugly. Don’t press it so hard that you leave fingerprints in the dough. Pretend it’s a blanket you’re placing over a tiny sleeping baby. Don’t wake the baby.

If all went well, you have a complete piece of pastry with no holes or fissures that completely covers the pie plate and drapes over the edge. If you do have holes, you can repair them. Trim the edges of the pastry even with the rim of the pie plate. I typically do this by tearing, but you can use a paring knife to cut the pieces away. Then tear off a piece just a little bigger than the hole or fissure you need to repair. Then dip one finger in milk and rub the milk on the edges of the hole and on the edges of the repair piece of pastry. Place the repair piece over the hole, milk side to milk side, and gently pat and smooth the pastry together. Again, don’t wake the baby. If you just can’t get the pieces to stick, just do what you can and leave it that way. It’ll be fine.

Now you’ve got the bottom crust in the pie plate. Look at you, making a homemade pie crust! Good job. Pour the entire bowlful of berries you prepared earlier into the pie plate and use a spoon or rubber spatula to distribute the filling evenly. All you have to do now is make the top layer of the crust, and you’re practically an expert by now. I promise it’ll go faster this time.

Before you take the second dough ball from the fridge, use one hand to sweep all the flour on your floured surface into a pile, then sweep the pile off the edge of the surface into your other hand. You know, just like you do when you’re getting toast crumbs off the counter, but in this case it’s just clean flour. It’ll probably be a good big handful which you can use to re-flour the counter. Add a little more flour if necessary, and make sure you flour your rolling pin and remove any pieces of dough from it too.

Then get your second dough ball from the fridge and do this all over again. This piece doesn’t need to be as big, but try to make it about the same thickness as the bottom crust. Roll it out, fold it gently into quarters, and place the folded-up pastry on the pie and unfold it to cover the filling. Pull or off cut the excess pieces hanging over the edges. You don’t need to repair holes in your dough for the top crust, since you’ll be cutting slits in the dough soon. If you have a really big hole, stick a repair piece of dough over it but don’t bother to glue it on with milk.

You do need to sort of fasten the top and bottom pastry pieces together, though, and the best way to do this is by crimping them together. This looks nice and keeps the dough from separating. My aunt can crimp her pie crusts so that they look almost machine made and professional, but I’m not that good at it, probably because I don’t need to do it often. My ordinary pie plate has a scalloped rim so I just press the two layers of dough together in the scallops and leave it at that. But for my deep-dish pie plate, I crimp the edges.

This is how I do it. It may not be the most efficient way, but it works for me. I use both hands. I’m right-handed, so I use my left index finger to hold the dough in place while my right index finger and thumb crimp the dough. That is, I press the top of my left index finger—basically just the fingernail—gently against the side of the dough to hold it in place. Then I pinch the two layers of dough together right in front of my left finger, using a sort of twisting motion to push my right fingertip forward toward me slightly and my right thumb slightly away from me. I’m not sure if that makes any sense—it’s a hard motion to explain.

However you do it, sort of smush the edges together one way or another and don’t worry too much. Then you need to get the milk out again. You don’t need much—very, very little, in fact. I usually pour just enough milk into a half-cup measuring cup to barely cover the bottom. Dip a couple of fingers in the milk and rub them across the top pie crust. Do this quickly and don’t put a lot of milk on anywhere, just a quick thin layer. Don’t worry about trying to cover every inch, either. This will help the top of your pie crust brown nicely and give it a little bit of a glaze. Then sprinkle just a little bit of sugar over the top in a thin layer.

You’re almost ready to put this thing in the oven, but you’ve got two more steps. Wait, three. Step one is to get out a baking sheet and set the pie on it. Yes, even if you used a deep-dish pie plate, because if you don’t, the berry juice will sometimes overflow as the pie cooks and you will end up with a real mess in the bottom of your oven. That’s okay, because I really needed to give my oven a good clean anyway. Just maybe not on that particular busy day.

Step two is to cover those edges you crimped so laboriously with tinfoil. You do this because otherwise they’ll brown too much and start to taste burnt. Take a piece of tinfoil that’s about half the size of what you’d use to cover a large mixing bowl and tear it into three strips. Gently crunch the tinfoil around the edges of the pie plate, covering the crimped edges of the pastry and usually part of the pie itself. These tinfoil pieces are a pain and tend to fall off, but get them on as well as you can. It helps to scrunch their ends together.

The final step is to cut slits in the top crust. You do this to release steam as the pie cooks. If you don’t, the steam will either punch holes in your crust where it’s thinnest, will separate your crimped edges where they don’t quite match up, or—if you’ve made the pastry strong and crimped it together well—it’ll just blow up your top crust like a balloon, leaving a big air pocket that looks very odd although it doesn’t affect the flavor.

You can cut the slits in any pattern you like. Traditionally you just go around the middle cutting a slit about an inch long every few inches. I also like to cut my initial into the very middle of my pie, so the letter K looks like it has rays of light shining from it, if you interpret ‘rays of light’ to mean ‘slits in a top pie crust.’ If you want to see a picture of this, check the show notes. It’s pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself.

Put the baking sheet with the pie plate on it into the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. This is a good time to clean off the counter and get all the flour up.

When the timer goes off, open the oven and remove the tinfoil. The best way to do this is to use metal tongs, either salad tongs or those tongs you use to flip meat when you’re grilling out. But I admit I usually end up using a doubled-over hot pad to pinch them off and yank them out of the oven.

Then set the timer for another 25 minutes. When it goes off again, take the pie out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool. Look at that! Look at that beautiful pie! Take a bunch of pictures and post them to Instagram. Post them to Facebook too so your grandma sees how awesome a cook you are these days. Post one to Twitter with an ironic comment. Basically, you want the whole world to see your pie and be impressed, because it looks like it was incredibly hard to make. But you and I both know it was easy.

I won’t say it. YES I WILL! It was easy as pie!

It’s best to let the pie cool before serving it. Not only will the filling burn your mouth like molten lava when it’s freshly out of the oven, it’s also very runny until it cools. As it cools, the filling sets and turns into a sort of berry-filled jam. I can never wait that long, though. If you make this for a meal with others, make it first so it has plenty of time to cool before you serve it. It’s fantastic with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It keeps well in the fridge for several days.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake



Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • ¼ c butter, melted
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • About ¼ c. raspberry juice, drained from berries (or ¼ c. milk)
  • 2 c. raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • ½ c. slivered almonds (or sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit

Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon) in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, melted butter, almond extract, eggs, and juice or milk. Blend well. Add the butter/sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just moist. Batter will be thick.

Spoon about half the batter into a greased 9” round cake pan or a deep-dish pie plate. Spread the raspberries evenly on top, then spoon remaining batter over. Top with almonds. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. (You may need to set the cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.)

The cake made with raspberry juice:

The cake made with milk (note that it’s not blue):

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make raspberry almond coffee cake. It’s so good.

Raspberries are my favorite fruit, and one of my favorite foods. I also know where raspberries grow wild near my house, so every year for a few blissful weeks I can have as many raspberries as I want for free, completely organic and fresh. All I have to do is pick them and then spend the next two weeks trying not to scratch my chigger bites.

I eat a lot of the raspberries by themselves, but I also like to cook with them. This week’s recipe is one I make every year with fresh berries and it’s delicious. But because I get these episodes ready well in advance, I needed to make this week’s raspberry almond coffee cake before raspberries were in season locally. Rather than spend ridiculous amounts of money on a tiny package of fresh raspberries that are half moldy anyway, I just bought frozen raspberries. They worked even better than fresh.

Then, a week later, I decided I needed to make the recipe again using fresh raspberries. So I bought the tiny package of fresh raspberries but I also added some early-ripening blackberries I picked this afternoon.

Besides the raspberries, which are expensive if you have to buy them, this recipe calls for almond extract and slivered almonds. Almond extract doesn’t really cost that much considering how long it will last you, and it gives a sophisticated and subtle flavor to recipes that you just don’t get from vanilla. But if you absolutely cannot get almond extract, you can use vanilla extract instead. Slivered almonds have a good texture, but again, if you can’t find slivered almonds, you can use sliced or chopped almonds instead. In fact, when I made the recipe a second time for this episode, I realized I’d forgotten to buy slivered almonds. I used sliced instead, and they worked just as well—maybe even better, since they’re crunchier.

This recipe is unusual in several ways, but it’s also really easy. You’ll need two mixing bowls, one large and one medium-sized. You’ll also need a 9” round cake pan or a deep-dish pie plate. Don’t use anything smaller than a 9” pan or the cake will overflow as it rises.

If you use frozen berries, you need to thaw them before you do anything else. The easiest way to thaw a bag of frozen raspberries is how I did it, which is to put them in a grocery bag in the car on a day when it’s 90 out and then get stuck in traffic. Voila, totally thawed before I even got them home! Or you can buy them a day or two before you need them and stick them in the fridge. If you forget to thaw them, you can either microwave them on defrost setting or fill a large bowl with warm water and plunk the unopened bag in the water for a while.

Once the berries are thawed, you’re ready to go. First, grease your pan. I use Crisco, you can use that spray stuff or whatever you want. Then, preheat the oven to 350.

Mix your dry ingredients in the larger mixing bowl and set them aside. Then get the butter out and melt it, either in the microwave or over the stove. A quarter cup of butter is half a stick, incidentally. The butter probably isn’t warm enough to start cooking the eggs when you add them, but just to be on the safe side, add the sour cream to the melted butter first. Mix it up well, then add the eggs and the almond extract.

Then you need to add your liquid. If you are using thawed frozen berries, there should be juice in the bottom of the bag. Add about a quarter cup to the batter and mix it in well. It will make your cake look slightly blue, but it adds a ton of flavor. If you’re using fresh berries, or if you don’t want your cake to be slightly blue in color, add a quarter cup of milk instead.

Once you have the wet ingredients mixed up well, you’re going to do the very opposite thing that you do for every other cake. You’re going to add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients instead of the other way round. Just pour the whole bowlful into the dry ingredients and mix the batter with a big spoon. You only want to mix it until all the flour is incorporated, not until it’s smooth. If you think of this as a recipe to make one big scone instead of an actual cake, you might feel more comfortable with this step.

The batter will be thick like a scone or biscuit dough instead of like cake batter, too. It’s so thick, in fact, that you can’t really pour it into the cake pan. You have to either push the batter out of the bowl into the pan, or you can spoon it into the cake pan in big blobs.

However you do it, don’t add all the batter to the pan yet. Add about half of it, then set the bowl down and get your raspberries. Spoon them onto the batter in the cake pan so that you have a layer of raspberries. If you have lots of raspberries, this layer will be nice and thick, but if you don’t have as many berries as you like, maybe because you refuse to spend $7 on a carton of raspberries that are already moldy, space the berries as evenly as possible over the cake. Once you’ve put all your berries on the batter, spoon or push the rest of the batter on top of the berries, then spread it around with a spatula or the back of your spoon to make sure the batter is more or less even across the top.

The last step before you put the pan in the oven is to cover the top with the almonds. I almost always forget and have to open the oven door, pull the rack out, and add the almonds after the cake has been in the oven for several minutes. If you forget too, don’t think you’ll just add them when the cake comes out of the oven. Putting them on the cake while it bakes will toast the almonds, which gives them a warmer, nuttier flavor.

In the past, I’ve had trouble with this cake rising so much that it actually overflows the pan a little bit, so I always put the cake pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips. If you use a deep-dish pie plate, you shouldn’t have any issues with drips. When I made the recipe today with the fresh berries, I used my deep-dish pie plate, which by the way was not lost as I’d thought, it just turns out that for some reason I thought the top shelf of the linen closet was a good place to store it. Anyway, the reason I’m specifying that you should use a deep-dish pie plate is because the cake rose up beautifully and completely filled the pan. If I’d tried to make it in a regular pie plate, it would have overflowed.

Put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. When the timer goes off, or a minute or two before, check the doneness by inserting a toothpick about halfway between the middle and the edge of the cake. However, remember that you’ve got a layer of raspberries so don’t stick the toothpick all the way down. The toothpick should come out clean when the cake is done, unless you pierced the raspberry layer in which case it should come out clean with some possible staining and moisture from raspberry juice.

This is one cake you serve directly from the cake pan, since you obviously can’t turn it out when the topping is already on it. This is another reason to make it in a deep-dish pie plate.

This is a lightly sweet cake with a deliciously tart raspberry filling, which is why it’s a coffee cake and not a cake-cake. It’s best the day it’s made although it keeps well covered in the fridge for a few days. You can garnish the top with raspberries if you have any leftover, or give it a dusting of powdered sugar as an extra decorative touch once it’s cooled.

If you’re looking for an unusual recipe to bring to a summer potluck, this is a good one. Because of its firm texture, it also travels well. It’s great in lunches.

One last note. My 9” cake pans are cheap aluminum, and I don’t use them often enough to replace them with higher quality metal. But raspberries and other acidic foods will react with aluminum and discolor after a matter of hours or a day or so. Both the pan and the berry will turn a dark blue-gray where the berry touches the pan, which looks like a spot of black mold. This is normal, although since aluminum isn’t good for you, if you find yourself using your aluminum pans a lot, it’s worth it to spend some money for better quality pans. Or just use a deep-dish pie plate, which is prettier anyway. I’m so glad I found mine.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Carrots



How to string pea pods/green beans * How to use a steamer basket *

Carrot Recipes

Sauteed Carrots

  • some carrots, peeled and sliced up
  • half a small yellow onion, diced
  • cooking oil
  • salt and pepper

Saute onions and carrots in a little oil over medium heat for about a minute. Add salt and pepper, cover, and lower heat to medium low. Allow to cook for several minutes, then remove lid just long enough to stir vegetables. Allow to cook for several more minutes before stirring again. Add a little water if necessary. Continue cooking, covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender.

Glazed Carrots and Snow Peas

  • some carrots, peeled and sliced (or baby carrots)
  • some snow peas in pods
  • some butter
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • about 1 Tbsp honey or syrup

Place carrots in a steamer basket and steam until they’re mostly tender, about 15 minutes. Add pea pods and steam another minute or two. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in cornstarch. Add vegetables and stir gently, making sure to coat with the butter. Add honey or syrup and stir to coat.

Parmesan Roasted Carrots and Potatoes

  • some carrots, peeled and sliced (or baby carrots)
  • Some small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • pepper
  • ¼ to ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 375. Pour olive oil into a 9 x 13 pan and add carrots and potatoes. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper over and stir well to coat.

Roast for about 30-40 minutes. Carrots and potatoes should be getting tender. Sprinkle about a quarter cup of the cheese over the vegetables and roast another 10 minutes until cheese is lightly browned. Place in a serving dish, add butter and allow it to melt. Stir gently to coat, then add more cheese, stir well, and serve.

Sauteed carrots with onions with the sun glaring in through the kitchen window, blowing out all my photos that day:

Pictured left to right: Finished glazed carrots (with chicken), glazing the carrots, preparing the carrots to steam, and finished Parmesan roasted carrots and potatoes

 

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’ll learn how to cook carrots in three different ways.

I really like carrots, which are naturally sweet but not overpoweringly sweet. You may have noticed by now that I don’t typically like super-sweet stuff, so I tend to prefer carrot recipes that don’t add lots of extra sugar. But if you like your carrots to taste like candy, try the glazed carrots recipe.

If you aren’t sure how to prepare fresh carrots, I recommend you listen to the spring chicken soup episode since in that one I go over how to clean and slice up carrots. You can also avoid the issue completely by using baby carrots. Baby carrots aren’t actually young carrots, they’re usually carrot pieces that are too small to sell as whole carrots. They are pre-peeled and washed so they’re mostly ready to use. I do like to pick them over quickly to make sure there aren’t any carrot tops or bad spots on any of the pieces. If there are, just cut them off and discard before cooking.

Let’s start with sautéed carrots. They’re delicious and really easy.

To make them, you’ll need a skillet with a lid. I used two fairly large carrots and half a small onion, which made two good-sized portions.

Scrape or peel your carrots and cut the tops off. Then slice them up. You can slice them however you like, into pennies or sticks. I sliced one carrot into pennies, the other into sticks about three inches long, just to see which I preferred. I think I preferred the sticks but both were equally good and took about the same amount of time to cook.

Peel and dice the onion next. If you like onion or are making a lot of carrots, dice up the whole thing. Remember you can wipe your oniony hand on the metal sink spigot, or anything metal, to remove most or all of the onion smell. It’s science!

Heat the skillet to about medium and add a little oil. I used just a little drip of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. When the skillet is hot, add the carrots and onion and add salt and pepper. I didn’t measure, just sprinkled maybe half a teaspoon of salt and some shakes of pepper, and they tasted fine.

Put the lid on the skillet and turn the heat down to medium-low. Allow the vegetables to cook for a few minutes, then take the lid off and stir them well with a spatula, making sure to turn them over. There should be plenty of moisture in the pan at this point, but if the vegetables are sticking, turn the heat down a little more. Replace the lid as quickly as you can and allow the vegetables to cook for a few more minutes.

Stir them again, and this time you’re probably going to need to add a little bit of water. Don’t add much, just enough to barely cover the bottom of the skillet. Replace the lid and let the vegetables cook some more. You may need to adjust the heat up a tad now.

The onions should be translucent by now and starting to turn brown on the edges as they caramelize. The carrots will still be hard, but hopefully they’re getting tender. You may need to continue cooking them for another minute or two, but they may be done by now. You don’t want the carrots to be mushy, but you should be able to poke a fork through one without too much trouble. Pick one up on a fork, let it cool briefly, then eat it to decide if it’s done through or if you want it to be more tender.

The onions give the carrots some pizzazz and a little extra sweetness, which is tempered by the pepper. This is a great light accompaniment to foods like meat, potatoes, a rich casserole, or even pasta. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days if you have leftovers.

Next we’ll cover the glazed carrots with snow peas. You can leave the snow peas out if you don’t have any or don’t like them, but they look nice and taste good with the carrots. Snow peas are easy to grow if you remember to plant them really early and put up a piece of fencing or something they can climb. They like cool weather, which where I live means I need to get the seeds in the ground in February at the latest or else it’ll be too hot for them. You pick the pods when they’re still flat, before the peas are fully developed. You eat them whole, pod and all, ideally while you stand right there in the garden. They’re tender and slightly sweet and crunchy. But you can also buy them in the store and use them in all sorts of recipes. They need very little cooking.

Snow peas also happen to be expensive even when they’re in season, so when I went to the store to pick some up, I only bought a few small handfuls. Then when I got home from the store I looked at my receipt, since it seemed like a low total, and discovered that the cashier had rung up my $5 a pound snow peas as snap peas, which are much cheaper. So I paid 17 cents for the peas.

For this recipe you’ll need a pot with a lid, a steamer basket, and either a skillet or a second pot. If you don’t have a steamer basket you can boil the carrots instead, but steaming them results in much more flavor and a better texture.

A steamer basket is a metal contraption that fits down into the inside of a regular pot. It has a flat bottom but the sides are overlapping pieces like the petals of a flower so that they snug against the sides of the pot without any gaps, no matter the size of your pot. There’s a piece in the middle that sticks up, with a ring on the end so you can pick it up by sticking the tines of a fork through the ring. At least, that’s what I use it for. I can only assume that’s what it’s designed for.

To use the steamer basket, set it into the pot you want to use. Then run water into the pot until the water starts to seep up through the holes in the basket. Then pour off just a little water. The steamer basket holds the vegetables out of the water, which is boiling. You put a lid on the pot to hold the steam in, and the hot steam cooks the vegetables. If you start with vegetables that are room temperature instead of cold from the fridge, they’ll cook faster.

So set your pot on the stove and turn the heat up to high or just below high. Then put your chopped carrots into the basket and pop the lid on. As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat down a little and allow it to simmer for around 15 minutes. Steam will escape through either the vent, if your lid has one, or around the edges of the lid if not, or usually both, making a mess on the stove. At least the mess is just water. You can wipe it up later after it cools.

Toward the end of the cooking time, melt the butter over low heat in a skillet or another pot. Mix in the cornstarch if you have it, although if you don’t have any cornstarch you can leave this out. It just makes the glaze stick to the vegetables better. Turn the heat off but leave the skillet or pot where it is.

You also want to prepare your snow peas. Give them a quick rinse to remove any dirt, then string them. This is easy and is something you need to do to most green beans that you cook from scratch, but you need to do it to peas too when you’re cooking the pea pods. There’s a tough cord of plant material, called a string, that grows down the length of the pod. You can eat it but it’s so tough that it ends up as a wad of green string in your mouth that you either have to swallow whole (which won’t hurt you but isn’t pleasant) or spit out (which is also not pleasant). So it’s best to remove it before cooking. Just pick up a pod, pinch the very tip of one end or the other with your thumbnail, and pull the pinched-off end like the handle of a zipper. You’ll remove most if not all of the string with it. Sometimes it’ll break, in which case you just repeat the process from the other end. This is labor intensive if you have a lot of pea pods or green beans, which is why it’s typically the job of a child in the household. Once you’ve stringed all your pea pods, set them aside.

After fifteen minutes or a little before, take the lid off and poke the carrots with a fork to see how tender they are. Be careful when removing the lid. The steam is hot and the water probably sputtering from around the edges of the pot is hot too. I typically wrap my hand with a dish towel and use it to pick up the lid.

Your fork should go through the carrots. If you can’t get a fork into the carrots, you probably turned the heat down too much and there isn’t enough steam in the pot to cook the vegetables. Put the lid back on and turn the heat up so that the water is boiling and generating lots of steam.

If the carrots are tender, toss the snow peas in on top of them and replace the lid. Let the vegetables cook for one or two minutes more, but no longer than that. You want the snow peas to be crispy. Then turn the heat off and remove the lid.

Move the pot off the burner but put the skillet onto the burner, which is still hot even though it’s off. This will warm up the butter again. Sprinkle several generous shakes of salt and pepper into the pot with the steamer basket, stirring the carrots and peas around with your fork so they all get some seasoning.

Then take your fork and stick the tines through the wire loop at the top of the steamer basket’s handle, assuming it has one, but I think they all do. Make sure it’s secure so the basket won’t slip off the fork tines. Then hold the pot over the skillet or second pot, the one with the butter in it, and very carefully lift the steamer basket out with your fork. Remember that the steamer basket sides will flop down into the size and shape of a plate as soon as it’s free of the pot, which can overbalance the basket and tip your vegetables onto the floor. So be very careful. Set the pot down as soon as you’re sure you aren’t going to lose the vegetables, then grab a spatula or another fork or whatever’s within reach and use it to tip one side of the steamer basket up, letting the vegetables fall off into the butter.

Stir the carrots and pea pods until they’re well coated with butter. It’s best to use a rubber spatula for this so you won’t maul the carrots into little pieces with your fork. Then add the honey or syrup and stir everything around gently, making sure every piece gets nicely coated. If you cooked a whole lot of carrots, you can add more honey if necessary, but one tablespoon was more than enough when I made these with half a pound of baby carrots.

That’s it. You can now eat your delicious food. This makes a great side dish for a heavier main course, plus it looks pretty on the table and on your plate. It keeps okay in the fridge for a day or two, but it’s best when it’s fresh. You probably won’t have any leftovers anyway even if you planned for it. I just ate an entire half pound of baby carrots with a lot of snow peas in one sitting by myself, and I have no regrets.

Finally, let’s make Parmesan roasted carrots. I made these with red potatoes too since I had some, and they turned out so well I added them to the recipe in the show notes. Red potatoes have a thin, almost papery skin that’s red in color, and they bake up beautifully in recipes like this one. They tend to be small and almost round in shape. You can spend more and get little bitty ones, but the regular sized ones are fine too.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe, but it does take some time. I used half a pound of baby carrots—the rest of the bag that I used for the recipe with snow peas, and yes I made both recipes on the same day. I am a carrot-eating fool. I also used four red potatoes, the smallest ones I could find in the bag, which I cut into pieces.

Start by turning on the oven to preheat. You only need a single baking dish for this recipe, probably a 9×13 pan. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, maybe a little more. If you don’t have olive oil, you can use another type of vegetable oil, but olive oil adds a ton of flavor. It really is worth spending some money to get a decent bottle of olive oil, since it will last you a long time.

Dump the carrots into the pan, then cut up the potatoes and add them. If you bought little bitty mini baby potatoes, you can just cut them in half. Otherwise, cut them into at least four pieces. You want the pieces to be all roughly the same thickness so they’ll all cook at the same rate. You also want them to be larger than the carrot pieces since carrots take longer to cook than potatoes.

Sprinkle the garlic salt and pepper over the vegetables. If you don’t have garlic salt, add half a teaspoon of regular salt and either half a teaspoon of garlic powder, or mince up a clove or two of garlic and add it to the vegetables. I didn’t measure the pepper, just gave several good shakes, and later before I popped the pan in the oven I added a few more good shakes just in case. My guess is it only worked out to about a quarter teaspoonful.

Use a spatula to push the vegetables around and turn them over, making sure they’re all well coated with the oil and that the oil covers the bottom of the pan. Then make sure the vegetables are all in a single layer and not piled up anywhere. By the time you’ve done this, your oven should be hot. Put the pan into the oven and set your timer for 35 minutes.

When the timer goes off, test the vegetables by sticking a fork into several of the carrots. If they’re tender enough that your fork can go through, you’re ready for the next step. If they’re still hard, set the timer for another five minutes so they can cook a little longer. Then check them again. Remember, they don’t have to be fully tender at this point.

Next, sprinkle about a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese over the vegetables. Then set the timer for ten minutes. At the end of the ten minutes, the carrots should be tender but with a little firmness that makes them pleasantly toothsome. The potatoes will definitely be tender and the cheese should be toasted. The vegetables will probably be blackened in areas from contact with the hot pan. That’s fine; it will give them a good extra flavor and texture.

Take the pan out of the oven and move the vegetables into a serving bowl. They’ll have baked onto the pan but that’s okay. You’ll just need to soak the pan for a short while before you wash it later.

Drop a spoonful or two of butter into the bowl and let it melt on the hot vegetables, stirring gently to coat them. Then sprinkle them with a few more spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

This makes a robust, rich, cheesy dish that can accompany either a mild meat like fish or turkey or an equally strongly flavored main course like meatloaf. Or you can do what I did and eat it as the main course. I ate almost all of the carrots and half the potatoes, which means I’ve eaten almost an entire pound of baby carrots today. I like carrots, but good grief.

This keeps well for a few days in the fridge, although it’s best right after it comes out of the oven while the toasted Parmesan is still crispy.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. Now get out there and enjoy your food.


Lasagna Rollups



Lasagna Rollups * how to ready an onion for cooking * how to brown ground beef * how to cook pasta

Lasagna Rollups

  • 9 (or 12) lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 24 oz can or jar of pasta sauce
  • dried oregano, pepper, garlic powder
  • 4 to 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 to 2 c shredded cheese

For 9 servings, use a 9×9 baking dish. For 12 servings, use a 9×13 baking dish.

Brown the meat with the onion, add spices and the pasta sauce, and simmer while the lasagna noodles cook. Add enough of the meat sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish to cover it in a thin layer. Spread cream cheese on each noodle, then add meat sauce. Roll up and place seam side down in the dish. Cover with leftover meat sauce and shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Welcome to the Real Life Cooking Podcast. I’m Kate Shaw and this week we’re going to learn how to make fake lasagna, or as I like to call it, lasagna rollups. Instead of making an entire dish of lasagna in layers, you roll up each individual lasagna noodle around the filling, creating layers that way. And instead of sixteen different types of cheese, you just need cream cheese and some shredded cheese for the top. Yes, this sounds disgusting but it is incredibly good.

We’ll learn how to brown ground meat in this recipe and we’ll learn a little bit about how to cook pasta.

You’ll need a skillet, a pot, and a baking dish for this recipe. This sounds complicated but it’s actually not. There are a number of steps, and one of them is fairly labor intensive, but nothing about it is hard. If you want to make 9 servings of lasagna, you need a 9×9 baking dish. If you want to make 12 servings, you need a 9×13 baking dish. If you make 12 servings, though, you’ll probably run low on meat sauce, so add extra pasta sauce to the meat when you get to that step. This makes this recipe a great way to use up leftover pasta sauce.

First, drizzle just a little bit of olive oil or other oil in your skillet and turn the heat on to medium or just below.

While the skillet’s heating, dice your onion. I’m not a huge onion fan so I only use half an onion, but unless you’re also not an onion fan you can use a whole onion. Take a paring knife and cut the top and bottom of the onion off, which is the stem side and the root side of the onion. Then remove the outer layer of the onion, including the papery onion skin. The easiest way to do this is to make a shallow cut top to bottom on one side of the onion. You’ll see how an onion separates into layers, and it’s easy to pull the outermost layer off. Once you’ve removed it, you’ll have an onion that’s ready to chop up into little pieces and cook.

So, dice your onion. By the time you’re done, the skillet should be hot. Add the pieces of onion to the skillet and give them a quick stir with a spatula to make sure the oil is spread all around and that none of the onions start to stick. If they do start to stick, turn the heat down a little. Sautee the onions for a minute or two, moving them around with the spatula and turning them over so that they all get a chance to cook evenly.

Next you need to add the ground beef. It doesn’t matter what kind of ground beef you get. I typically go for ground chuck because it’s relatively inexpensive and has a lot of flavor without massive amounts of grease. You can use ground turkey or chicken in this recipe if you want to, but ground beef has more flavor.

Before you add the meat, make sure you’re wearing an old shirt, since hamburger grease spatters and you may end up with grease spots on your clothes.

Open the package of ground beef and plop the meat into the skillet on top of the onions. You don’t have to touch it, just drop it in directly from the package. Then take your spatula and start chopping the block of meat into smaller and smaller clumps. While you’re doing this, make sure to keep stirring everything up, onions and meat, and turning it over so it won’t burn. Even after you’ve chopped the meat into pieces that are bite-sized or smaller, keep sautéing.

The onion pieces will turn translucent and the meat will brown as you saute it, until there’s no pink or red visible on any of the pieces of meat. At this point the meat is done, so you need to make it into sauce. But before you do anything else, you need to drain the meat.

Hamburger is greasy and contains a lot of water, and both grease and water is released by the meat as it cooks. You don’t want to leave it in or your sauce will end up watery and greasy, a terrible combination. But draining the meat isn’t difficult, although you will need to be able to pick up the skillet with one hand. If you have a cast-iron skillet or strength issues this can be difficult, so if you have someone else to help you with this step it can’t hurt to give them a holler at this point. I’ll give an alternate way to drain meat in a minute, though, if you need it.

Get out a bowl of some kind, like a cereal bowl, but don’t pick a plastic one. You’ll be pouring hot grease into the bowl and you don’t want to risk it melting. Pick up the skillet in one hand and tilt it carefully over the bowl. At first the grease and water will pour out easily, but as the stream slows to a trickle and you continue to tilt the skillet farther, use the spatula to keep meat from falling into the bowl. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, you’re probably going to lose a few pieces of meat, and once you do, go ahead and put the skillet back down on the stove. You can fish the pieces of meat out of the bowl with the spatula if you want, or you can just leave them since you’ve probably got plenty of meat.

If you can’t pick up that skillet with one hand, get out a large plate as well as a bowl. Cover the plate with several paper towels and scoop the meat and onions out of the skillet and onto the paper towels. When all the meat is heaped onto the plate, put the spatula down and pick up the skillet with both hands. Then you can pour whatever grease and water is left in the skillet into the bowl, then return the meat to the skillet. The paper towels are probably soaked through with grease, so throw them into the trash.

Whatever you do, don’t pour the grease into the sink. Nothing will clog your sink faster. I’ll tell you what to do with that bowl of grease later.

You don’t need to be obsessive about removing all the grease. You just want to get the worst of it out. Once you’ve done that, turn the stove down to low and pour the pasta sauce in on top of the meat. I use Hunt’s because it’s only a dollar for a 24 ounce can and it’s not super sweet like a lot of cheap pasta sauces. You can use homemade pasta sauce if you have it, of course. My cousin Molly gave me her recipe for homemade pasta sauce, which is super easy to make, but I continue to use Hunt’s because I admit I just prefer it.

Stir the pasta sauce into the meat and onion mixture and add several good shakes of garlic powder, dried oregano, and pepper. Mix the spices in. If you don’t have garlic powder or oregano, you can leave them out, but they add more flavor to the sauce. You can add basil or whatever other herbs and spices you like in your pasta sauce too.

At this point the meat sauce is pretty much done, but it needs to simmer for a good 15 minutes so the flavors will combine. That’s perfect, because now you need to cook the lasagna noodles.

There are such things as oven-ready lasagna noodles. Oven-ready is for people who are making traditional lasagna. It absorbs moisture in the oven and by the time the lasagna is done, the noodles have softened properly so they can be eaten without going crunch. If you accidentally bought that kind, you can use it, but it’s going to get boiled.

Fill a pot with enough water that it will cover the lasagna noodles when they’re lying on their sides. Lasagna is pretty wide so your water needs to be pretty deep. Bring the water to a boil and add the noodles, then turn the heat down just a little so that the water continues to boil but doesn’t boil over.

Don’t panic if your water boils over, though. All that means is it has foamed up and the foam starts slopping over the sides of the pot. If this happens, turn the heat down a little and blow gently over the top of the water. This makes the foaming subside. You’ll probably need to blow on it several times until the water temperature lowers enough from the lowered heat that it stops boiling over.

Of course, when you add the noodles, the lower half of them are in the water getting cooked but the upper half of them are sticking out of the water not cooking at all. That’s okay. It’ll be fine. As the bottom half of the noodles start to soften, they’ll start slumping deeper into the water. Use a fork to tweak the noodles into place, turning them onto their sides and pushing them into the water entirely.

Once the noodles are fully in the water, let the water boil for close to ten more minutes. Give the meat sauce a stir with the spatula every so often to make sure it isn’t sticking and to mix it up well. No matter how low the heat, the meat sauce will be sputtering and making a mess on your stove. You can wipe it up after the lasagna is in the oven, so no need to stress about it now.

While the noodles are cooking, you need to get set up for the next step. This is going to be the labor-intensive part so the more prepared you are before you start, the easier it will be to complete it.

First, clear a space on your countertop and give it a good wipe-down with a wet cloth to make sure it’s clean and there are no crumbs. You’ll be putting food directly on the counter. If the counter is really dirty, scrub it first with hot sudsy water, then wipe it dry and scrub it again with plain water. If you don’t have a counter, or if your counter can’t be cleaned well enough to place food directly on it, you can use a clean cutting board or even a plate in a pinch.

Get the cream cheese out of the fridge and open it. Set a regular table knife next to it. Get out a regular spoon and set it next to the stove. Put the colander in the sink to drain your noodles into.

Now, you don’t want to boil pasta of any kind until it’s totally soft. You need to get it out of the hot water before it’s smushy. It should still be just slightly firm, referred to as al dente. I learned how to cook pasta by making a lot of Kraft mac and cheese when I was newly on my own in my early 20s. My mom had always, always overcooked pasta, so when I discovered that you didn’t have to eat pasta that was soggy, it was a revelation. The best way to figure out how long to cook your pasta is just to look at the directions on the box. The lasagna box in my cupboard says to boil the noodles for eight minutes.

When you’re ready to drain the pasta, turn off both stove burners, for the pasta and the meat sauce. Then drain the pasta.

You’ll be working with each noodle separately, which means the ones you’re not working with will sit in the colander cooling, and they’ll start to stick together. Immediately after draining the pasta, use a fork to separate the pieces. Don’t use your fingers; the pasta is too hot to touch yet.

Pick up a noodle on your fork and carry it to your clean section of counter. Place the noodle on the counter and straighten it out. I actually do this three at a time, so I have three noodles stuck on the counter at the same time waiting to be worked with. If you have enough space, you can stick all the noodles to your counter at once.

The next step is to spread cream cheese on each noodle. This sounds easy, but cream cheese is fairly stiff and the noodles are still kind of wet, so the cream cheese doesn’t want to spread and it doesn’t want to stick. It takes some work to get it onto the noodles. How much you put on each noodle depends on you. I typically use half of an 8-oz package of cream cheese when I make the nine serving size of this recipe, but sometimes I use a little more. You can use a lot more if you like.

Once you have a decent amount of cream cheese on a noodle, take your spoon and use it to dip some meat sauce from the skillet and spread it onto the cream cheese. Make sure you get some of the meat in there, not just sauce. I don’t so much spread the meat sauce on top of the cream cheese as pour it out of the spoon and then push bits of meat around so it’s more or less evenly distributed.

Once you’ve finished with your first noodle, or your first three noodles, leave them for a moment and do two things. First, turn the oven on. Then, get your baking dish and spread some of the meat sauce in the bottom. You do this instead of greasing it. The sauce will keep the noodles from sticking. You don’t need a lot of sauce, just enough to barely cover the bottom. Go more for the sauce part for this step and leave as much of the meat to actually go inside the noodles.

Once you’ve done those things, return to the noodle or noodles you’ve prepared. Now it’s time to roll them up. This is actually pretty easy. It doesn’t have to be rolled up tightly. I start at the top, turning the end of the noodle over and holding it in place while I continue to roll the whole thing up. Sauce will ooze out of the sides and that’s okay, just keep rolling. Once it’s rolled up, pick it up carefully with both hands and place it into the corner of your baking dish, with the end of the noodle on the bottom.

Now, do this eight more times, or 11 more times if you’re using a larger dish. Set the rolled up noodles right next to each other. Nine should fit into a 9×9 dish, three rows of three; twelve should fit into a 9×13 dish, four rows of three.

As I said, I have three noodles out to work on at once. After I put all three into the baking dish, I take a paper towel and wipe down the counter. This removes any spilled sauce and dries any condensation and water from the noodles. Then the counter is ready for the next three noodles.

Once you’ve finished all your noodles, hopefully you have some sauce left. Use the spatula to transfer all the remaining sauce on top of the rolled-up noodles in the baking dish. Then spread shredded cheese on the top. It doesn’t really matter what kind of cheese you use—it’s all good. Tonight I finished off a package of shredded cheddar and added a few handfuls of mozzarella for good measure. I probably use about a cup of shredded cheese, although I don’t actually measure it, but you can certainly use more.

The oven should be hot by now, so put the pan in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. This final step is to melt the cheese and heat the lasagna through; it’s already cooked. So if you’re starving and can’t wait more than 15 minutes, you’re fine getting it out a little early.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easy to serve. If you’ve got kids who have a keen interest in fairness, you can show them that each serving is one single noodle rolled up around its own filling, so no one is getting a bigger or smaller portion than anyone else. This also makes it easy to package for lunches. Just pop a square of lasagna into a microwave-safe container and your lunch is ready. And if you don’t want a full square, it’s easy to cut in half too.

This keeps well covered in the fridge. I typically eat it all week and it doesn’t start to get hard and stale until the last day or two. It makes a good meal on its own, but you can dress it up with some Caesar salad on the side.

Oh, and I promised I’d tell you what to do with that grease you drained off the hamburger meat. Once the bowl has mostly cooled, stick it in the fridge. The next day, use a paper towel to push the solidified grease out of the bowl and into the trash. Be careful since there’s probably a layer of greasy water underneath and you don’t want to splash your clothes. Give the empty bowl a good wipe out with a fresh paper towel, then wash it normally.

Thanks for listening! You can find Real Life Cooking Podcast at reallifecooking.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. We also have a Patreon page at patreon.com/reallifecooking, where you can sign up for as low as one dollar a month for bonus episodes.

Now get out there and enjoy your food.