Breakfast/Brunch Drinks Uncategorized

Apple Pie Spiced Latte

Apple Pie Spiced Latte
Apple Pie Spiced Latte

Day 5 of 14 Days of Apple brings us to the latte. Mmmm. The Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte was such a success last month, I thought I’d try to replicate the fall fun with apple. While you could just buy various syrups to accomplish the result below, I like to make things from scratch, so I’ve created an apple syrup here with ingredients you probably have on hand. Simply make the syrup, steam some milk and add it all to espresso.

I am no espresso expert, but I recently discovered an espresso maker while cleaning out a basement closet, so I’ve started experimenting. I can’t get the milk steamer to work, though, so for this recipe, I make warmed, frothed milk on the stove top. If anyone has any advice, please pass it along. Basically, when I try to work the steamer, there is a clicking noise instead of steam. My other great discovery since finding the machine were these Illy espresso “pods” that take the guess work out of making the perfect cup of espresso. Just pop the pod in and press “go.” They’re available at Amazon:

Apple Pie Spiced Latte
Makes 1 latte


1 cup apple juice
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
1 shot of espresso
1-2 Tbsp whipped cream (optional)


1. In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the apple juice to a boil and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring back to a boil and allow to reduce further and thicken. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and stir to blend. When syrup clings to the back of a spoon and there are about 2 Tbsp of liquid left, remove from heat and pour into a Pyrex measuring cup to cool. Remember, boiling sugar is extremely hot, so be careful. I put my syrup into the freezer to cool faster, but that may not be necessary. Just bring it to room temperature at your own pace.

2. Now, make the espresso in an espresso machine (or strong coffee with a French press would be good too). If you’re lucky enough to have an espresso machine as well as a milk steamer, you can use that to steam the milk, but I can’t get my milk steamer to work, so here’s how I do it: Heat the milk very gently in a medium saucepan. When it is getting warm, add the cooled syrup (both tablespoons of it), and whisk it in rapidly. While you are whisking, you’ll be adding enough air to the milk mixture to make it frothy. Once everything is warm, mixed and frothy, pour it over the espresso in a tall cup and enjoy. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle on a bit more cinnamon for that special touch.

Dessert Uncategorized

Pumpkin Rum Mousse Pie – Gingersnap Crust

Pumpkin Rum Mousse Pie
Pumpkin Rum Mousse Pie

Day 10 of 31 days of pumpkin brings us to a mousse recipe. I must admit, I’m new at making mousse and this is an adapted recipe, but I am delighted, because it was so easy to make. Before I started, I was a little intimidated by using gelatin, but there was nothing to it. This is one of those recipes that requires no baking and sometimes that comes as a great relief. With pumpkin pie (I haven’t posted one yet; it’ll come), it’s always nerve wracking to wait while it bakes in the oven. Things can go wrong. It can crack. It can dry out. Not so with mousse. Once you’re done. Your done. When I put it in the refrigerator to chill, I knew I was home free.

This recipe has rum flavoring in it, which is really an optional addition. I didn’t have any dark rum in the house, so I used 1 Tbsp of rum extract mixed with 3 Tbsp of water, but you could substitute 1/4 cup of dark rum or leave it out altogether.

I had such fun making the gingersnap crust. Crust is another thing that has the potential to intimidate me, but mushing buttery crumbs into a pie plate was a cinch. I used my handy Cuisinart Mini-Prep to crush the cookies. You could purchase one here and make my day.

Dessert Pizza and Pasta Uncategorized

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie
Blueberry Pie

I confess. I was at Costco the other day. That’s where I found a 32oz clamshell of California blueberries for $6. I adore blueberries, so I bought them without a second thought. (Actually, I did check to make sure that they were grown nearby, which they were). I had recently also purchased pre-made pie crusts thinking I might make a chicken pot pie, but when I got home and saw them in the refrigerator, it was only a matter of minutes before I was putting them together with the blueberries in pie formation.

I’ll admit, I’m intimidated by making my own crust. I do do it, but on this busy day, the thought of being able to basically dump 2 lbs of blueberries into a pre-made crust and have a pie an hour later was totally satisfying.

I consulted my well-used copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything to find a recipe. I was relieved to have the fresh lemon on hand that it calls for. I’ve also become a big fan of grating my own nutmeg with a microplane grater, by the way. So sure enough, my idea of making a pie really fast was going to become a reality with little stress or strain.

Since I’m reprinting the recipe here, I hope you’ll
1. Buy the book
2. Follow @bittman on Twitter
3. Subscribe to Mark Bittman’s NYTimes RSS Feed and subscribe to the NYTimes
4. Watch Mark Bittman’s videos
5. Otherwise throw love and money at Mark Bittman

It’s funny. Now that I’ve watched so many of Bittman’s videos, I can hear his voice in my head when I read the instructions in his cookbook. It’s such a relaxed and reassuring voice, like, “Anyone can cook, and most everyone should.” (which is the first sentence of the Introduction to the 1998 edition of How to Cook Everything).



5 cups blueberries, picked over, briefly rinsed, and lightly dried
1/2 to 1 cup sugar, depending on your taste and the sweetness of the berries, plus a little for the top of the pie
2 tablespoons cornstarch or 3 tablespoons instant tapioca
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground allspice or nutmeg
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest (optional)
1 recipe Pie Shell for a Two Crust pie (I used Pillsbury pre-made shells)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
Milk as needed


1. Gently toss the blueberries with the sugar, thickener, salt, and spices. Stir in the lemon juice and optional zest and pile into the rolled-out shell, making the pile a little higher in the center than at the sides. Dot with butter. Cover with the top crust. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers, using any of the methods illustrated on page 686 (of How to Cook Everything). Refrigerate while you preheat the oven to 450˚F.

2. Place the pie on a baking sheet and brush the top lightly with milk; sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp paring knife to cut two or three 2-inch long vent holes in the top crust; this will allow steam to escape. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350˚F and bake another 40 to 50 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown. Do not underbake. Cool on a rack before serving warm or at room temperature.

Blueberry Pie
Blueberry Pie
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Beef Casseroles

Shepherd’s Pie – Scroll Down for Video

Shepherds Pie just out of the oven
Shepherd's Pie just out of the oven

For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to master the art of making what those in the UK refer to as “mince.” We call it ground beef. My husband adores mince and tatties (translation: ground beef and mashed potatoes) and his mother makes it better than anyone I know. Here, I’m going to go ahead and put the mince and tatties (and carrots and onions) together into a Shepherd’s Pie, but the mince preparation can stand on its own – if it is as good as my mother-in-law’s of course. Her mince has so much flavor and is so finely crumbled. It just melts in your mouth. I’ve asked her what the secret is again and again. Preparing it is so second nature to her, she’s not sure exactly what I’m getting at. But after years of trying to absorb the knowledge,

These are the tips I’ve been able to glean:

1) Drain the fat after the initial browning of the ground beef.

It seems counter-intuitive, like draining the fat would get rid of the yummy flavor, but in this preparation, flavor is enhanced by an OXO cube and lots of simmering time, which brings me to tip #2

2) After draining the fat, return the browned ground beef to the pot, add a little water and an OXO cube, mix it all up and let it simmer for 20 minutest to half an hour.
The flavor intensifies and the extra simmering time breaks down the beef bits further so you get a finer consistency.

Mince simmering
Mince simmering

What is the origin of meat pies, you ask? Well, back before there was refrigeration, covering the meat with a crust helped prevent spoilage. When the potato became popular in Britain in the mid-1800’s, a mashed potato topping presented an alternative to the pastry one.

Mashed  with shredded cheddar cheese
Mashed with shredded cheddar cheese
Score the potatoes for a crispy finish
Score the potatoes for a crispy finish

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter – divided
1.5 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 onion or 2-3 shallots, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 large russet potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 OXO beef bouillon cube
1/2 cup water
Salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water
5 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1-2 Tbsp butter melted


1. In a stockpot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Add ground beef and break up into little pieces while it is cooking. Brown for about 10 minutes, continuously breaking it into smaller bits and stirring it. Drain the beef through a colander (don’t forget to put a pan underneath to catch the drippings)! Return the beef to the pot and add 1/2 cup of water and one OXO beef bouillon cube. Break up the cube and stir it in until it is completely dissolved and incorporated. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot and add the potato. Boil for about 20 minutes or until fork tender, but not mushy.

3. While the meat is simmering and the potatoes are boiling, heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sautée until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to sautée until onions are browning, carrots are softened and starting to brown, about 4-5 more minutes.

4. When the mince has simmered for 20 minutes, add the carrots and shallots and stir to combine. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch to 1/2 cup water and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved completely. Add this mixture to the mince and vegetables and stir to combine. Keep heat very low, cover, and let it simmer to a bubble.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

5. Mash the potatoes with 1/2 cup of milk, adding the milk gradually, until potatoes have reached smooth consistency. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese.

6. In a dutch oven or a shallow, but not-too-shallow baking dish, spread the meat evenly on the bottom. Then spread potatoes evenly on top. Score the top of the potatoes for better browning and crispiness. Drizzle 1 1/2 Tbsp of melted butter on top. Add just a bit of the shredded cheddar cheese on top as well.

7. Bake in 400˚F oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove and let stand for a couple of minutes before serving.

Shepherds Pie
Shepherd's Pie
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