November 6, 2011


Pumpkin Pie is always on the Thanksgiving table usually next to the overlooked Cranberry Sauce.  Bad Pumpkin Pie made with over baked dry Crust and thick and pasty Pumpkin Pie filling is usually what we all eat for dessert during the holidays.  It's usually store bought from the frozen section and we eat it because we think we are supposed to.  If frozen store bought Pumpkin Pie was delicious I would be all for it and buying them myself, but it just isn't.  Once you have had real homemade Pumpkin Pie in a flaky homemade Pie Crust you can never go back to nasty Pie again.  And it is so easy to make.  If you can use a hand mixer you can make this Pie.  If the homemade Pie Crust is scaring you then make it with a Graham Cracker Crust.   You can make Pumpkin Pie all year round not and just for the holidays especially when it is this easy and you are Cooking The Amazing.   

Here is the recipe.

or Graham Cracker Crust (recipe below)
2 Large Eggs, Room Temperature
1 Large Egg Yolk, Room Temperature
1/2 c  Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 c  Sugar
1/2 t  Fine Grain Sea Salt
2 t  Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t  Ground Nutmeg
1/4 t  Ground Cloves
1/2 t  Ground Ginger
1 can Pumpkin (15 oz.) (NOT PIE FILLING MIX)
1 1/2 c  Half And Half
1 t Vanilla Extract
1 T  Maple Syrup

1.  Plan Ahead:  Use my prebaked 9 inch deep dish Homemade Pie Crust or a very good store bought prebaked Pie Crust or for a twist use a Graham Cracker Pie Crust.  See the recipe for Graham Cracker Crust at the bottom.  Whatever you use make sure it tastes good.  Bad tasting Pie Crust will make a not so good Pie regardless how good the filling is.  Have your 9 inch Pie Crust (or Graham Cracker Crust recipe below) baked and cooled and ready to go before proceeding to the Pie filling.  Have your 3 Eggs at room temperature before making the Pie filling.  This makes a 9 inch deep dish Pie.

1.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Have a Cookie Sheet ready to place your 9 inch deep dish Pie pan on for ease of transfer and catch overflow in oven.  Bake in the center of your oven.

2.  In a large bowl place 2 large room temperature Eggs and 1 large room temperature Egg yolk.  Add the Brown Sugar, Sugar, Sea Salt and all the Spices.
Mix with a hand mixer on high until well incorporated.
3.  To this mixture add the 1 can Pumpkin and mix well with the hand mixer on high until well incorporated.
4.  Add the Half and Half, Vanilla Extract and Maple Syrup and mix well with the hand mixer on high.
5.  Place the Pie plate with the prebaked Pie Crust on a Cookie sheet for ease of transfer near your oven.  Pour the Pie filling into the prebaked Pie Crust.  Cover the Pie Crust edges with aluminum foil to protect it from burning while the Pie bakes.  Place in a 425 degree oven on the center rack.  Set timer for 15 minutes.  After baking for 15 minutes at 425 reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45-50 minutes or until the center is set. 
6.  Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature setting the Pie pan on a cooling rack for about 1 1/2- 2 hours.  Serve with my homemade Perfect Whipped Cream for the most Amazing dessert anytime of the year.


9 whole Graham Crackers, Honey Flavor (1 sleeve from a box of Graham Crackers)
1 T Sugar
1 T Brown Sugar
5 T Unsalted Butter, Melted
Pinch of  Fine Grain Sea Salt (omit Salt if you only have Salted Butter)
1/4 c Pecans, Chopped

TIP: Use 1 1/2 c of finely crushed Ginger Snaps in place of the Graham Crackers as another tasty option for the Crust.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Place Graham Crackers in a large zip lock bag and close tight with all air out. Using a rolling pin or large heavy can, roll over the bag of Graham Crackers crushing them. Flip the bag over several times and crush until finely crushed and there are no large pieces.

3.  Pour crushed Crackers into a medium bowl. Remove any big pieces you missed while crushing and crush them and add them back.

4.  Add Pecans, Sugars and Salt and mix well with a fork until combined.

5.  Microwave Butter in a small bowl until melted, about 45 secs.

6.  Pour the melted Butter over the Graham Cracker mixture and with a fork combined, mixing well but keep it crumbly.

7.  Pour the Graham Cracker butter mixture into an 9 inch Pie pan and using your fingers, press it into the bottom of the pan going up the sides of the pan. Pack it firm against the pan.

8.  Bake Crust in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes or until browned. Remove and cool on the counter while you prepare filling.

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November 3, 2011


Whenever I eat a slice of Pie and the Pie Crust is dry and brittle and hard, it doesn't matter how good the Pie filling is, I don't want to finish it.  If a Pie Crust is flaky and tender with lots of Buttery flavor then that's the Pie I want to eat.  The secret to any flaky delicious Pie Crust is very cold Pastry Dough.  The Butter must stay cold until the second it hits the oven because it is the steam from the cold Butter that will cause the Crust to be Flaky and delicious.
This recipe is for a double 9 inch Pie Crust and uses a food processor.  You can also use a Pastry blender by hand as long as you follow the rule of keeping the Butter cold and not allowing the Butter to be broken down too small.  ALWAYS keep the Butter cold and in big pieces that you can see.  That is where the flavor is and Pie Crust perfection that follows.  And where there is flavor there is always Cooking the Amazing!

Here is the recipe.

2 1/2 c  All Purpose Flour
3/4 t  Fine Grain Sea Salt
3 t  Sugar (for Sweet Crust)
1/2 t  Sugar (for Savory Crust)
2 Sticks Frozen Butter, No-Salt
1/2 c Water with Ice Cubes Added

1 Egg (For Egg Wash)
1 T Water
Sugar To Sprinkle

1.  Prepare ahead.  This Pie Crust is easy to make when you use your food processor and takes about 5 minutes to make the Dough.  The Dough must be very cold when you bake it to get it to be flaky and tender.  Freeze the Butter ahead of time and take it out at the last minute.  Work the Dough in a cool area if possible.  If the Butter melts the Pie Crust will be less flaky.  Pour 1/2 c Water into a measuring cup then add 4-5 ice cubes and place in the freezer 5 minutes before needed.

2.  In the bowl of your food processor with the blade attachment put 2 1/2 c All Purpose Flour, 3/4 t  fine grain Sea Salt and 3 t Sugar.  Use 1/2 t of Sugar if you are making a savory dish like a Pot Pie or 3 t if you are making a sweet dish like Pumpkin Pie.  Pulse 10 times to combine well.
3.  Remove the Butter from the Freezer and cut each stick into small approximately 1/2 inch cubes using a sharp large knife.  Be careful because frozen Butter is hard to cut.  Take your time.  Place Butter cubes back into the freezer for 3 minutes until very cold again.  Remove from the freezer and place directly into the food processor over Flour mixture and pulse 6 times for 1 second each pulse.  Don't be tempted to pulse more.
4.  The Flour Butter mixture should look like there are small lumps in it and look coarse.
5.  Remove the Ice Water from the freezer and take out the Ice cubes.  Pour the cold Water through the shoot on top.  At the same time pulse for approximately 10-15 times 1 second each pulse.  The Dough will look coarse and like picture below.  You should be able to pinch a small amount and it holds together with your fingers.  If not, add 1 T more of Ice Water and pulse 1-2 seconds more.  Repeating this as needed until it does pinch together and hold.
 6.  Pour out the Dough mixture onto a lightly Floured surface and mound together pressing with both hands and gathering into one large lump.  It will be crumbly and will be loose in areas.  It won't look right, but it is.  You should see Butter pieces in the Dough.  This should take about 15 seconds.  If it looks like the Butter in the Dough is melting place it in the freezer for 5 minutes and then remove and begin where you left off.  (Warm melted Butter leads to an unflaky crust.)
 7.  Once in a big lump, cut in half.  Mold each half into a flat disc about 5 inches across using your hands and fingers (takes about 10 secs.) and wrap tight with plastic wrap.  If you plan on using the Dough today refrigerate for 2 hours before using.  Or freeze in a freezer bag over the plastic wrap for up to 60 days.  Thaw over night in the refrigerator before using for frozen Dough.
 8.  When ready to roll out your Pie Crust and use it, remove from the refrigerator and place the cold disc of Dough on a lightly Floured surface.  Roll with a lightly Floured rolling pin in one direction turning the Dough a quarter turn with each pass of the rolling pin.  DO NOT STRETCH THE DOUGH which will cause shrinkage of your Crust during baking.  Be gentle and keep it Floured to move it easily at all times.  Roll out in a rough circle approximately 1/8 th inch thick.  You want it about 2 inches larger than your Pie pan's top.  It is ok if the edges are rough as long as it is larger than your Pie pan and can overlap by 3 inches.  For a 9 inch Pie roll out at least 11 inches diameter.  Brush off excess Flour before placing the Dough onto the Pie Pan to shape.
  9.  Use your rolling pin to roll up the Pie Dough at one end.  Placing it on the edge of one end of the Pie pan and roll it out.  Adjust the Dough so it covers the entire Pie pan with overlap.  Allow the dough to fall into the well of the Pie Pan and gently press it in to form the shape of the pan.  Don't press too hard and DO NOT STRETCH IT.  If it tears or cracks do not worry.  Pinch or press together any tears in the Dough with your fingers to repair.  Use your thumb and forefinger to crimp the edge of the Dough and the forefinger of your other hand to make an indention in the crimp for the edges.   Use a fork to dock the bottom Crust so it won't puff up when baking.   Refrigerate the shaped Crust for 40 minutes before baking.  This helps the Dough relax and reduces shrinking.

 10. SINGLE CRUST PIE:  Blind bake the crust by placing a sheet of aluminum foil in the well of the cold Pie Crust after docking the bottom with a fork,  Add uncooked dried Beans as a weight.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and remove the foil and dried Beans (save dried Beans to use again for another Pie Crust over and over).  Prick the sides and bottom again with a fork if any puffiness is noted and return to the oven for 5 more minutes.  Remove and brush the entire Crust with 1 Egg beaten with 1 T Water.  Sprinkle with Sugar all over and bake continue to bake at 450 until golden brown, about 4-7 more minutes.  Watch it closely, ovens vary so yours may brown sooner.  Remove and allow to cool before using in a recipe.  Follow your recipe's directions and bake with the filling from your recipe but cover the crimped Crust edges with a ring of aluminum foil to prevent a burnt or dark edges.   Use this for my delicious recipe for Pumpkin Pie.
 11.  DOUBLE CRUST PIE:  If you are using a top and bottom Crust Pie, fill your Pie with filling after the bottom Pie Crust is in place then place the top Crust over the filling and crimp edges of the bottom and top Crust together.  Cut 4 vent slits in the center of the top crust.   The last 20 minutes of baking: Beat 1 Egg with 1 T Water with a fork and brush the entire top surface with the Egg wash.  If it is a sweet Pie you are baking, sprinkle with Sugar.   Bake as directed by your recipe at whatever oven temperature is called for.  To prevent the edges from browning faster than the rest of the Pie, cover the crimped edges with a ring of aluminum foil during baking, leaving the center Pie Crust exposed, until the last 15 minutes and remove the aluminum foil ring and finish baking as directed by your recipe.

TIP:  Use left over Pie Crust Dough to make decorative leaves by cutting out a leaf shape with a small knife and using the back of the knife to make the leaf veins as in the main picture at the top.

Click here for my amazing Pumpkin Pie recipe.

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November 2, 2011


On my last visit to Italy I ate one of the most delicious Pasta dishes of my life.  That is saying a lot having been to Italy many times over the years and eating my way across the country and back.  It was one that I had to recreate a recipe for when I came home because I could not get that Amazing flavor combination of Linguine in a Cream Sauce of Spring Peas, Mushrooms, Prosciutto and Mint out of my mind.  The Mint was, at first, something that I thought would not be good in a savory dish, but it works.  The Mint gives a great fresh bright taste to the Cream Sauce and rounds out the flavors of the Prosciutto, Mushrooms and Peas well.  This is a quick cooking dish that requires all of your prep work to be done ahead of time.   Being able to eat the best dishes from Italy is easy when you are Cooking The Amazing

Antica Trattoria Tritone in Rome.  An amazing restaurant where we ate this delicious Pasta.

The real dish from Italy that insptired this recipe.  This one uses Tagliatelli Pasta.

Here is the recipe.

1 lb.  Fresh Linguine
2 T  Butter
2 T  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 T  Finely Diced Onion
1 c  Fresh Mushrooms Sliced
1  Clove of Garlic, Peeled
1/2 t  Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 c  Heavy Cream
4 oz.  Prosciutto, Sliced In Strips
1 c  Parmesan Cheese, Grated Fine
1 c  Fresh Peas (or Frozen Thawed)
1/2 c  Reserved Pasta Water
40  Mint Leaves, Chopped Fine
Fine Grain Sea Salt To taste
Parmesan Cheese To Finish

1.  Plan ahead and prepare all of the chopping, dicing, slicing etc. and set aside.  This dish cooks fast and everything needs to be ready to go.  Finely dice 4 T of Onion (approximately 1/2 of a medium onion).  Slice fresh Mushrooms thin to equal 1 c.  Peel one clove of Garlic and make a slice with a knife in the end.  Later you will be pulling the Garlic out so keep it whole to find it easily.  Slice the Prosciutto into 2 inch strips.  It will get sticky and ball up as you slice it, don't worry.  Grate 1 c of Parmesan Cheese finely.  Parmigiano Reggiano is the best choice for the cheese but it is expensive and worth it for the flavor it provides.  (Whole Foods Market sells it by the chunk.)  Measure out 1 c of Fresh Peas (or Thawed frozen Peas works well, too).  Chop finely 45 Fresh Mint leaves (see below).    Put a large pot of Salted Water on high heat on the stove to boil for the Pasta.
Stack 10 of the Mint Leaves in a pile. 
Fold the stacked leaves over in half and cut crosswise into thin ribbons.
Cut the ribbons into smaller pieces.  Repeat with the remaining Mint leaves.
 2.  In a large pan over medium heat add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Butter.  Once the Butter has melted add the finely diced Onions and Mushrooms, the whole Garlic clove and the fresh ground Black Pepper.   Saute for 4-5 minutes until the Onions and Mushrooms are softened with just a little brown color beginning to emerge. 
3.  Your Pasta water should be well Salted and boiling now.  Add your Linguine and cook until almost soft and cooked (al dente).  Later you will use 1/2 c of the Pasta Water after the Pasta is done in the Sauce so do not pour it all down the drain.  Cook the Pasta while you finish the Sauce.

4.  Add 1 c of Heavy Cream to the sauteed Onions and Mushrooms and stir in well.  Simmer for 2 minutes stirring constantly.  Remove the Garlic Clove and discard after simmering.
5.  Add the Prosciutto and Peas and stir in well and turn off the heat. 
6.  With the heat remaining off, add the Parmesan Cheese and stir in well then add 1/2 c of Pasta Water direct from the pot of boiling Pasta.  This is a very Italian cooking technique that binds the Sauce using the starches from the Pasta.  Stir until the Parmesan Cheese incorporates into the Sauce.

7.  Keep the heat off.  To the Sauce add all of the cooked Pasta immediately at once.  Do not strain it, just pull it out directly from the boiling pot and toss it in the Sauce, dripping wet and all.  Quickly stir in well and then add the chopped Mint and stir well.  Taste the Sauce and add Sea Salt if needed.   Serve immediately and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese on top.

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There are many different types of nutritious Squash that can be used for this easy to prepare recipe.  Use your favorite like Butternut or Sugar Pie Pumpkin or what ever looks best at the market.  I grew this Acorn Squash in my garden and thought it would make a great side dish in place of traditional Sweet Potatoes for a holiday dinner.  It can be served sweet with the Maple glaze or savory by using just the Butter, Olive Oil and Sage or Cayenne to really Spice it up.  The leftovers can be pureed into my recipe for Roasted Squash Soup by adding Chicken Stock and a touch of heavy Cream.   Serve this along your holiday Roast Turkey and your family table will look Amazing with a delicious side dish that even Aunt Pearl will love.  Maple Roasted Acorn Squash is a nutritious and easy dish to prepare.  When you are Cooking The Amazing even the good for you food can be the best tasting food, too!

Here is the recipe.

2  Acorn Squash
2-3 T Olive Oil
1/2 t  Fine Grain Sea Salt
1/2 t  Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/4 c  Dark Brown Sugar
4 T  Maple Syrup
4 T  Butter

TIP:  This can also be made savory without the sweet Maple glaze and roasted with just Olive Oil, Butter, Salt and Pepper.  Make as directed and add 1/4 t Cayenne Pepper or 1 t Sage to the melted Butter for a kick of flavor.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a Cookie sheet by covering it with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. 

2.  Using a large knife cut the Acorn Squash in half and remove all the seeds using a large spoon and place flesh side up on a Cookie sheet.  Brush Olive Oil over the entire top surface then sprinkle with 1/2 t of Sea Salt and 1/2 t fresh ground Black Pepper.
Roast in the oven on middle rack at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.   Later you will add the Maple glaze and roast again.

3.  Remove from the oven after 45 minutes of roasting.  In a small pot over medium low heat add the Dark Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup and Butter and simmer for 2 minutes or until the Butter and Brown Sugar have melted and combined.  Mix well with a spoon and brush evenly on the Acorn Squash.  Pour any left over into the well of the Squash.

4.  Place back into the oven and continue roasting at 400 degrees for 12-25 more minutes or until the Acorn Squash is soft and a fork easily pierces the flesh and it has well browned areas on the surface.   The outer skin should be soft and pliable.  Remove from the oven and brush any Syrup that has collected in the well of the Squash over the surface again and serve immediately.

*Click here for my Amazing Roasted Squash Soup recipe.
Click here for my Amazing Roast Turkey recipe.

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