MAGICAL apple pie

Have you ever been completely consumed with something? I have quite a few times. Usually over things I’ve eaten and just can’t get out of my head. Almost two years ago I had a pie that blew my mind. I was up at my family’s cabin in Wisconsin. They had purchased a local apple pie from Elegant Farmer to have as dessert one night. Apparently there’s a cult following around these pies and for good reason. WHAT DO THEY PUT IN THESE PIES?! Crack. It has to be crack. Ok, it’s not crack but I’ve seriously never had a pie like this before in my life. 

The way I see it, you’re either team pie or team cake. I’m definitely the former. Sorry cake lovers, give me pie ALL DAY EVERYDAY. And this pie… it has the most unique top crust. It’s what pie dreams are made of. It’s so thick, so crunchy that you literally have to stab it with your fork to break it into bite sized chunks. The first bite fills your mouth with perfectly cooked apples that magically still have all their texture, kissed with caramelized sugar and cinnamon and you bite down on that perfectly crunchy top crust and it’s impossible not to have a moment. A perfect, sublime, apple pie moment. Where your world is changed forever because you never knew apple pie could be like this. It’s a game changer. 

So the next time I made an apple pie, I scoured the inter webs for a copycat recipe. I was pleasantly surprised that not only was there a recipe online, but that Elegant Farmer Apple Pie in a Bag had been on a Throwdown with Bobby Flay. DONE. Made the pie that night. But those sneaky, sneaky buggers didn’t give us all their secrets. Because the pie I made turned out nothing like the pie I ate that chilly fall night in Wisconsin. A few months ago I set out on a mission. I went up to WI for my anniversary and my husband and I brought back an apple pie and I went to town. I did my homework and hit the flour butter game hard. I made over 12 pies, tweaking my filling and top crust until I nailed it. And just to be sure, I made 2 more pies with subtle variations and compared them side by side to the original Elegant Farmer Apple Pie. Yep, we had a 3 pie taste off. We ate so much pie for a few months there. But I was all-in, completely consumed in replicating this pie because I HAD TO HAVE IT. I have to say, I nailed it and even made it slightly better than the original. But that’s just my biased opinion. IT WAS WORTH IT!

Can I be honest with you? Pie crust isn’t something I’ve mastered yet. I can’t wait for the day that I can confidently share with you a fool-proof recipe for pie dough. Until that day though, I have a secret to tell you… this recipe, it doesn’t really matter what type of dough you use for the bottom crust. I used…. shhhhhh, store bought *gasp*. I’ve tried with both frozen and fresh and either work just fine. YOU CANT EVEN TELL. I promise. Because the hero is the top “crust”. Which is more sugar cookie dough than crust, but not as sweet. It’s magic AND easy. So if you, like me haven’t mastered the art of pie dough yet, this pie is for you. Not to mention, it’s the perfect pie for Thanksgiving or any holiday party you’re attending or hosting. I’m not usually one for shortcuts but this bottom crust is the exception. 

Also, don’t be scared but you bake this pie in a brown paper bag. Yes, a brown paper bag at 400º F no less. The first time I made it I stalked the oven because I was sure it would end in me burning down my kitchen. Much to my surprise, it didn’t. The bag makes the texture of the apples magical and somehow the top crust still gets golden and beautifully browned. Don’t question it, just follow the recipe and be pleasantly surprised. If that wasn’t enough, I even went the extra mile and figured out how to make a small apple pie if you, like me can’t be controlled when delicious sweets are around. This recipe scales down to a 7” pie too which feeds 4 people obnoxiously or 6 people sensibly. Or… serves you & your boo dessert 2 nights in a row, that’s how I roll. Just halve the ingredients and that 9” pie becomes a small 7” pie. It doesn’t seem like 2” makes a big difference or that 2” should be half the amount of ingredients but it works. Don’t ask me how, it just does. Kind of like that brown bag thing.

I hope you guys have an amazing Thanksgiving filled with friends, family and all the ones you love. Oh, and this pie. Because it will be your new favorite apple pie, I just know it!

apple pie in a bag
adapted from worldwide ward cookbook
yields 9” pie

9” bottom crust (frozen, store bought or homemade)

top “crust”:
2 c. flour
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
pinch salt

4 c. granny smith apples, peeled & sliced (about 4-5 apples)
4 c .honeycrisp apples, peeled & sliced (about 4-5 apples)
½ c. sugar
3 TBSP flour
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 400º F. In the meantime, start by assembling your top crust. Combine all ingredients into a mixer with the paddle attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can do this with electric beaters. Give the mixture a few minutes to come together. At first it will look a bit dry but after about 2 minutes in the mixer. 

But it will come together like a soft dough, sort of like a sugar cookie dough. Set aside and begin to prep your filling. 

I like to use an apple slicer peeler corer but if you don’t have one a peeler and knife will work just fine. I like to slice the apples about ¼” thick and halve the slices so you have long, stackable slices. I find it gives the best texture when eating the pie. Cut your apples however you prefer, really it’s all about preference. Once the apples are sliced, add the remaining filling ingredients. Stir to combine and let sit about 5 minutes.

Grab your bottom pie crust. It really doesn’t matter if you use your favorite recipe, a frozen or fresh store bought version. The hero of this pie is the top crust. Pour your apple mixture in the bottom of the pie shell and spread into an even layer. It should be heaping over the top. Grab about half of the top crust mixture and work it with your hands to flatten it out a bit. Place on top of the pie and do the same with the other half of the dough. Spread it around with your hands so that you completely cover the apples and bottom crust. It’s really easy to manipulate the top crust mixture. Just pull it, spread it around. It’s not something you have to be gentle with so don’t be scared. 

Place pie in a large brown paper bag. Fold the opening closed. If you can’t get it to stay down, feel free to staple it shut. I find that just folding it a few times and tucking it in the bottom works just fine. Place on a large baking sheet and put in a 400º F oven for 1 hour 20 minutes. Make sure the bag isn’t touching the sides of the oven. Once the pie is done baking, pull it out of the oven and immediately cut open the top of the bag. Be careful not to burn yourself on the steam as you do this. I usually take a paring knife and cut a circle shape at the top and rip it away from the pie. Let it come to room temperature and then place in the fridge until ready to eat. 

I find this pie is good warm but it’s excellent chilled. By refrigerating the pie, the top crust gets extra hard and crunchy which is what makes this recipe so unique. To make a 7” pie cut the ingredients in half.

improv style:
i call for a combo of granny smith & honeycrisp apples but i’ve made this with a different variety. use what you have on hand or what’s available in your grocery store. stay clear from apples that don’t bake well like red & golden delicious. stick to a firmer, more tart apple.

sometimes i like to add salted bourbon caramel sauce in the filling. i highly recommend trying that sometime too! start with ¼ c. and see how it turns out. you can always drizzle extra over the top. or try adding in 1-2 TBSP bourbon to the apple filling. bourbon just makes everything taste better, amiright?!


carrot risotto

i’m going to keep this short and sweet because you need to stop everything you’re doing and go buy LOTS of carrots to make this recipe ASAP. i’ve discovered loads of great recipes on Food 52 lately, this being one of them. 

my favorite thing about this risotto is that although it’s a hearty dish, it somehow feels light and totally seasonally appropriate. i shot this recipe back in april and intended to share it with you as a vegetarian easter dinner idea. yeah… work has been keeping me pretty busy lately - sorry about that! mostly sorry because i’ve kept this recipe from you for so long. 

we roast, caramelize, puree and shred the carrots first. the recipe might seem like a lot of work for risotto but by doing the carrots 4 ways, you get a rich, full-bodied carrot flavor. it's worth every step and then some. 

carrot risotto
adapted from katherine martinelli via food 52
yields 6 servings

7 carrots
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 TBSP butter
1 c. arborio rice
½ c. dry white wine
2 TBSP butter
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
4 oz mascarpone
½ c. grated parmesan cheese
34 oz vegetable stock

preheat oven to 375º F. 

slice 4 of the carrots into thin, even rounds. divide them in half - try to keep the smaller ones together and the larger ones together. it will help with even baking. 

caramelize the smaller rounds in a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat. melt the butter and add in the carrots sugar and salt. give them a gentle stir and watch them closely. once they’re golden on one side, flip them over and cook. it will take about 10 - 15 minutes. place them on a paper towel to cool. if any of the pieces get slightly overdone, that’s ok. 

roast the other half of the carrot rounds on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil. sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and pop them in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until tender and golden. 

shred 2 of the carrots on the large grate of a cheese grater and set aside. chop the remaining carrot into small pieces and cook in a small sauce pan with 1c. water. boil until they’re soft & can be mashed into a carrot puree. 

put the chicken stock into a stockpot and heat over medium-low. coat the bottom of a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil. add the onion and cook until slightly translucent. add in the shredded carrots & and cook for 3 more minutes. add in the rice and smashed garlic cloves. cook for 1 minute and then pour in the wine. stir for 1 minute and then add in the carrot puree & 1 ladle of vegetable stock. stir continuously adding in a ladle of broth as it gets absorbed by the rice. the rice will be finished when it’s al dente & the liquid is absorbed & no longer soupy. add in the roasted carrots & half of the caramelized carrots, parmesan and mascarpone cheese. garnish with remaining caramelized carrots. 

improv style:

you can use chicken stock if you don’t have vegetable stock. you can omit the white wine and add in extra stock instead. i like the flavor the wine gives it - i use kendal jackson chardonnay because i love the buttery richness that an oaky chardonnay gives the dish. you could also use a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. 


deviled tiramisu egg

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Remember yesterday's post about jalapeno popper deviled eggs when I said I was going to make you a little uncomfortable?! Let's talk about sweet deviled eggs. If you think about it, a lot of desserts start with eggs. Custards are made with egg yolks and well, the whites don't really taste like anything. I loved the juxtaposition of doing sweet and savory deviled eggs for an easter menu. It's playful, fun and something that will at least get everyone at the table talking. Be brave, they actually do taste delicious! Even my husband thought I was crazy… until he tried it. 

Tiramisu is one of my all time favorite desserts when it's done right. There are lots of bad ones out there. But a good one, a good one will comfort the soul with creamy, subtly espresso & chocolatey goodness. I worked on my recipe for 6 months after I got back from living in Rome before I got my recipe just riiiiiighhhhttttt. I applied similar thoughts to this deviled egg recipe.

Be bold, try something outside of your comfort zone. Besides, I made the recipe to yield 4 servings so anyone feeling slightly adventurous could try it without too much commitment.

tiramisu deviled eggs
yields 4 servings

2 hardboiled eggs
2 TBSP mascarpone cheese, room temperature
½ tsp espresso powder
2 tsp honey
3 TBSP heavy whipping cream (then whip it into whipped cream)
1 tsp heavy whipping cream (this one stays liquid)
2 tsp dark rum
1 tsp cocoa powder, garnish
1 lady finger, crumbled (optional garnish)

Cut your eggs in half and scoop out the yolks into a small bowl. Mash them up good with a fork until they're fluffy and in tiny crumbs. Add in the mascarpone, espresso powder, honey, rum, and heavy whipping cream (the liquid one). In a medium shaped bowl whip up the 3 TBSP heavy whipping cream until it's light and fluffy. Gently fold half of the whipped cream mixture into your small bowl. Once incorporated, fold the remaining whipping cream. This helps give it a nice texture and consistency. 

Give your egg whites a light dusting with the cocoa powder and pipe or spoon your filling into the whites. Top with lady finger crumbs for a nice little crunch and texture variation. I didn't do this but after taste testing realized that would have been the perfect addition. Leave this step off until right before serving.

improv style:
there are so many ways to switch this up! serving to kiddos and want to leave out the rum? No problem, substitute with heavy whipping cream. 

don't want to buy a pack of lady fingers just to garnish? use any type of vanilla cookie (think vanilla wafer) or even gram cracker crumbs for the same affect. Amaretti cookies would be great too if you have them!

you can substitute the rum for light rum, kahula, or amaretto instead. 

no espresso powder? you could play with using super fine coffee grounds or even liquid espresso. just be careful if you're using liquid. it could make the mixture runny. 

i like a thicker filling for deviled eggs. they make prettier presentation but i also really like the consistency. if you're on team runny, add more liquid to the mix! 

don't let a distaste for tiramisu stop you from making sweet deviled eggs. think of the possibilities! you could do my raspberry lemon tiramisu with limoncello and raspberry chunks instead of coffee & chocolate. or, ooh, oooh! strawberry cheesecake anyone?!


deviled jalapeno popper egg

Easter is one of my favorite holidays for one reason, ham. I could eat my weight in that porky goodness. The sides are good, and it's always fun to spend time with my family but let's be honest, it's really about HAM.

Except now we're going to talk about non ham things. I love deviled eggs. Not quite as much as ham but they're up there. Last year I shared with you my family's classic deviled egg recipe. Deviled eggs are really the perfect canvas to shake things up and improvise. This year I got a little weird with it - in the best possible way. For those of you looking to shake things up a bit I created 2 deviled egg variations. One might scare you. I'll get to that post tomorrow. 

Let's temper the water a bit first with jalapeño popper deviled eggs. Who doesn't love a cream cheesy roasted jalapeño that's breaded and deep fried?! These deviled eggs were inspired by that. And no need to bust out the deep frier. Unless you want to do some sort of scottish egg version of a deviled jalapeño popper egg… that's an idea for another day. 

These are really simple and I created the recipe in a small enough batch for those willing to try something new but might want to do a few different versions for your guests. Oh and if you struggle peeling hardboiled eggs like I do, check out this tip I stumbled upon from Food & Wine today. I'm going to try it next time.

deviled jalapeño popper egg
yields 6 servings

3 hardboiled eggs 
3 TBSP cream cheese, room temperature (about 1" from an 8 oz brick)
½ tse pickled jalapeños, diced
salt to taste
fresh jalapeño slices, optional garnish

peel and half your eggs. scoop the yolks into a bowl and mash them really well with a fork. you want them to be like little crumbs. add in the ingredients and give it a good mix until everything is incorporated and smooth.

i like to pipe the filling into bags because it makes a nice presentation but you can scoop them into the egg whites with a spoon too. i cut paper thin slices of fresh jalapeño for a bit of crunch and it looks really nice. i'm not a big fan of super spicy and the paper thin slices were perfect. 

improv style:
big spicy fan? add in some hot sauce, garnish with cayenne pepper or one of my fav's, tapatio sauce.

no meat?! bacon, duh! there's always room for bacon. wether you chop it up into little bits OR you take a 1" piece and use it as a garnish, you can't go wrong.

no cream cheese? you could do a mix of sour cream and shredded cheddar. pickled jalapeños come in spicy or mild. i used spicy but either works perfect depending on your preferences. no pickled jalapeños? use fresh! you could even roast fresh ones which would add a nice depth of flavor. 


green smoothies round 2

Where did the last 3 months go? I swear it was just the holidays and the next thing I know, BAM, it’s Spring. How has it been so long since I’ve posted?! You probably thought I’ve abandoned you, right? I promise I haven’t. This Winter in Chicago has just been so… COLD. And I’ve been so busy and tired and and I’ve had great intentions of sharing what I’ve been up to in the kitchen with you guys. I just never got around to testing, shooting and writing all of the thoughts in this crazy head of mine. Plus, polar vortex. No human should ever have to experience -40º F let alone 3 different times!!

Just because the sun is out longer during the day doesn’t mean that 36º is Spring, Chicago. Lets close our eyes and pretend that Spring has sprung, for reals. Or maybe you’re already in Spring mode because you don’t live in one of these crazy states with freak cold weather. Did I really just rant about the weather for 2 paragraphs?! I promise I’m not usually that person… 

Lets talk about feel good things. Like cats, new shoes, lipstick and green smoothies. Green smoothies?! Ever since I discovered them over 2 years ago, I’ve been making one for breakfast almost every morning. It’s a natural boost of energy and such a great way to start the day. I’m always looking for new combinations of ingredients to keep from getting bored. My latest favorite is a bit more “advanced”. I say that because when I first started making green smoothies I used unsweetened almond milk and was heavy on the fruit. Eventually you get more and more used to the bright and fresh flavors of the greens and begin to crave it. There’s lots of ways to tweak this recipe to cater to whatever level green smoothie drinker you are - novice to advanced. 

green smoothie
yields 1 serving

1 stalk dinosaur kale
1 c. leafy greens (spinach, red leaf lettuce, romaine, etc…)
2 limes, juice + pulp
1” ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
3” cucumber (skin on)
3 mint leaves
1 green apple
1 c. brewed green tea, chilled

Place all your ingredients in a blender (starting with the kale and ending with the iced tea) and blend on the highest setting for 1 - 2 minutes. Add more tea or water as needed to reach your desired consistency. 

improv style:
i like the balance that the green apple gives but if you don’t have green apples, you could use any apple you have on hand. no kale? you can add a little bit more leafy greens or just leave it out. no brewed tea? just use water!

more of a beginner? leave out the kale and stick to spinach. you can do 1 - 2 apples to amplify the sweetness too. if you’re going to use almond milk i would consider leaving out the cucumber as it might be a weird flavor combo.

finally, you can add in your favorite bonus heath food too! think chia seeds, flax, hemp, etc… 

*note, i'm not usually a mint fan but in this recipe, it's subtle and very balanced. if you're like me, give this mint recipe a try.

**curious about what blender to use and my first discovery of green smoothies? check out the post here. yes, my kitchenaid blender is still going strong 2+ years!