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Orange Creamsicle Custard Pie

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There’s a team spirit around here like nothing I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. Everyone goes bananas (or maybe I should say oranges) over our local Syracuse University basketball team, the Syracuse Orange. It’s a passion that has nothing to do with where a person actually went to school, and everything to do with the place we call home. I’ve never seen an entire city so consumed with team spirit. The way a typical city turns green on St. Patty’s Day is the way this place turns orange on the day of an SU game. There’s a sort of magic to it all.

Out of necessity, I broke my unwritten rule and ventured into my grocery store yesterday (on a Saturday) to return some movies I’d rented from Redbox. The place was a predictable madhouse. But there was something else at play inside the store. It was like an unspoken rally for our hometown team. Syracuse balloons floated up from every table. Displays of elaborately decorated SU cookies and orange and blue frosted cupcakes tempted team spirit with sweets. And a full wall of the store was decorated with an arrangement of Fanta and Pepsi boxes in an SU design.

But beyond that, nearly every person I passed was dressed in their favorite Syracuse Orange gear. T-shirts, hats, and hoodies. My grocery store was a living, breathing playground of team spirit. And it was contagious.

I’ve never really followed sports of any kind. Being a Yankees fan is in my blood and I’m darn proud of it, but I barely follow the baseball season. In fact, I know very little about baseball. I didn’t go to an undergrad college known for sports, so I never experienced that swell of excitement on game day. And though my graduate school had some teams to be proud of, I commuted to classes and was never engaged in that part of the school community.

But as I was walking through my grocery store, surrounded by the infectious excitement for our local team, I could feel my blood turn orange. I became a true Syracusian sometime during that grocery trip. I’ve lived here for almost five years now. It’s about time I joined the team. During that grocery trip, I bought myself my first SU t-shirt and a couple shirts for the boys. I even picked up a pack of SU shaped pasta in all of the excitement (though I refused to get the SU antennae balls that the boys insisted they needed).

And I made this pie. I call it an Orange Creamsicle Custard Pie, since it’s got the sweet flavors of fresh orange combined with a smooth vanilla custard…reminiscent of a bite into a frozen Creamsicle bar. I nestled the custard into a vanilla cookie crust and topped it with vanilla accented whipped cream and fresh orange slices. The boys are calling it ‘SU Pie’. Whatever you call it, don’t cheat on the fresh oranges with pre-squeezed juice. The fresh zest is one the MVPs when it comes to the flavor in this recipe. Use fresh oranges.

We let the boys stay up late last night to see the beginning of the game. They wore their new t-shirts, ate SU pasta salad and SU pie, and created long lists for all of the SU gear our family suddenly needs. Our team ended their run for the season last night, but it’s ok. It was a good game. I think I could get into watching basketball. In fact, I think this could be the start of something…

Orange Creamsicle Custard Pie

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed to fine crumbs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest*
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice*
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Two large oranges should provide the zest and juice necessary for this recipe.

Directions

To prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the vanilla wafer crumbs and the melted butter. Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a pie dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

To prepare the filling: Combine the milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, salt, and orange zest in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5-6 minutes until the mixture comes to a gentle boil and begins to thicken. (It should be quite noticeable when the thickening occurs.) Remove from heat. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of the hot milk and whisk to combine. (This slow addition of the hot liquid tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from scrambling when added to the hot liquid.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot. Bring the mixture to a very gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture becomes even thicker. Whisk in the orange juice and lemon juice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Allow to cool slightly, whisking every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Refrigerate for a few hours to set.

For the whipped cream: Beat together the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until thick. Use the whipped cream and additional fresh oranges or fresh orange zest to garnish the pie, as desired.

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Cinnamon Apples

And just like that, it’s fall. We were swimming on Sunday. Today, it’s raining and chilly enough for hoodies. Mother Nature doesn’t dilly dally around here.

Before we can blink, the leaves will be a rainbow of bright reds, burnt oranges, and golden yellows. And then the snow will hit.

Ugh. The snow. I still haven’t recovered from last year’s 179 inches. Do the math. That’s almost 15 whopping feet of snow.

I could do without Syracuse winters, but Syracuse falls are spectacular. I sometimes forget to appreciate the absolute beauty of where we live.

We brought in September with a visit to a local apple farm. The Paula Reds, an apple similar to McIntosh, were ripe for picking. After a quick tractor ride to the trees, the boys filled two baskets. I’m already planning our next trip back to enjoy the changing fall foliage and fill our baskets with another variety of fresh-picked apples…and maybe taste a bit more of the apple wine while we’re there!

There is no shortage of delicious ways to put fresh-picked apples to use. I decided to use a few of our apples to make a quick cinnamon apple topping, which would be delicious over ice cream or mixed in with a bit of yogurt and granola. Or, do as I did, and pair the apples with a creamy buttermilk panna cotta!

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup half and half, divided
  • 1 packet gelatin powder
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin powder over 1/4 cup of the milk. Set aside to allow the gelatin to bloom, or soften.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining half and half, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla extract. Over medium/medium-low heat, gradually heat the mixture, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture begins to bubble around the edges and the sugar is fully dissolved, gradually whisk in the gelatin mixture. Gently simmer for a minute or two, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Strain, if necessary, to remove any undissolved gelatin chunks. Allow the mixture to cool to almost room temperature. Then, pour the mixture into small dishes or ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Serve in the dishes, topped with cinnamon apples (recipe below), or unmold to serve plated. To unmold, dip the bottom of the dishes into warm water for a few seconds. Use a knife to loosen the edges. Invert over your serving dish.

Easy Cinnamon Apple Topping

Ingredients

  • 4-5 apples, sliced or chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10-15 minutes, until the apples are quite tender and lightly glazed with the sugar and cinnamon.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Craisin Cookies

It’s cookie time!

We’re on our fourth consecutive day of non-stop snow around here. They call this Lake Effect Snow, since it results from our proximity to the Great Lakes. It seems to appear without warning and quickly covers the area with mounds of snow, which are practically taller than my children. But, large snowfalls are nothing new to the area, so for the most part, people just move on with their business. Personally, I prefer to hole up in the warmth of my home until the snow stops.

The timing of this particular snow event is perfect though. I had nothing more planned for the week besides baking Christmas cookies. And so, as the snow continues to fall outside, we’re staying warm in the kitchen and beginning this year’s Christmas cookie collection. The tree is lit, the house smells of pine, and we’re well stocked with cocoa and candy canes. It’s time to get our Christmas baking on.

We’re starting with a personal favorite; oatmeal chocolate chip. This is a small variation on a recipe I’ve shared before, which is a slight adaptation of the recipe you can find on the inside cover of a barrel of Quaker Oats. In my opinion, these are truly the best oatmeal cookies ever. They’re perfectly sweet and buttery, with crisp edges and a slightly chewy center. I almost always add chocolate chips and typically some chopped dried apricot when I make these cookies. With the holidays approaching, dried cranberries felt a bit more festive, so we’re swapping the apricots for craisins.

Stay tuned during the next two weeks for more cookie recipes!

Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Craisin Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 sticks Salted Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup White Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats
  • 1 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3/4 cup Dried Cranberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture. Blend until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and apricots. Form into small balls, about 1 inch diameter, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 14-15 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and the center appears cooked. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen*

*It’s actually more like 4 dozen, if you count the taste-testing cookies, that is… I’m firmly committed to quality control, you know.


Chorizo and Potato Frittata

During a recent episode of Man v. Food, host Adam Richman visited the city of Syracuse, the city I call home. Though, admittedly, I don’t regularly watch Man v. Food, I recorded this episode, since I’d heard there would be a segment featuring one of my favorite places, Dinosaur BBQ. And there was. But the segment which really caught my attention featured a place I haven’t been to, called Mother’s Cupboard, home of the six pound frittata. You heard me right. Six. Pound. Frittata.

Now this frittata is not like any frittata I’ve ever seen. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 5.95 pounds of it is composed of the fillings; sausage, peppers, onions, pepperoni, and a full pound of potatoes. The entire pile of food is bound together with 4 scrambled eggs and served with 4 ends of Italian bread. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to eat and I have a very healthy appetite, but watching Adam Richman eat that entire mass of food turned my stomach just a bit. The small percentage of diners who do manage to eat the entire meal, as Mr. Richman did, get a T-shirt and their picture on the wall. I don’t think I’ll be attempting the challenge anytime soon, but it was sure fun to watch.

I like frittatas quite a bit and don’t make them nearly enough. Frittatas are an egg dish, similar to an omelet, filled with any combination of ingredients and typically finished in an oven. Once you’ve got the idea, the possibilities are infinite. They make a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They’re also perfect for using up leftover vegetables, cheese, or meat.

For my frittata, I made use of some chorizo I’ve been storing and a few potatoes I purchased for another meal. The potatoes get cooked with the chorizo and a bit of chopped onion. As the chorizo cooks, it releases its tasty flavor to coat the potatoes. Once the potatoes are tender, the egg mixture gets poured over the fillings, cooked for a few minutes on the stovetop (try not to burn the bottom like I did), then placed in the oven to finish. A bit of melty Fontina cheese adds the finishing touch.

Chorizo and Potato Frittata

Ingredients

  • 4 Baby Red Potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1/2 small Onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup Spanish Chorizo, chopped
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 1/3 cup Fontina Cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray an oven-proof skillet with cooking spray. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo, potatoes, and onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley. Once the potatoes are tender, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Cook for a couple minutes until the eggs appear cooked around the edges. Sprinkle the fontina cheese over the egg mixture and place the pan in the oven.  Cook for 10-15 minutes until the eggs are completely cooked through. The top will appear golden brown and the center should look a bit puffy.

Serves 4

Tomato-Cucumber Salad

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One of the benefit’s of making yesterday’s Pulled Pork and Peach Pizza is that you’ll end up with a mound of leftover pork…perfect for a few pulled pork sandwiches.

I can’t think about pulled pork without thinking of Dinosaur Bar B Que, our local barbecue biker bar. It’s definitely a place we like to bring visiting friends. Really delicious, authentic barbecue is the name of their game. It was even voted America’s best barbecue on ABC’s Good Morning America in 2009 and it will be featured in an upcoming episode of Travel Channel’s Man v. Food with Adam Richman.

Dinosaur Bar B Que’s smoked pulled pork puts mine to shame. It’s so very good. You can never go wrong with the Big Ass Pork Plate. Excuse my language, please. I blush a little every time I order it. Dinosaur’s Big Ass Pork Plate comes with a huge mound of pork, a chunk of their Honey Hush Corn Bread and two of their many delicious side dishes. One of my favorite side dishes is their Tomato-Cucumber Salad. It’s always a nice fresh balance to the pile of meat on the other end of the platter.

So, with my dinner of leftover pulled pork, I’m mixing up my take on this classic summer side dish. Simple, summer-fresh flavors are always a win in my book.

Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 red onion, diced fine
  • 1 pound rom tomatoes
  • 1 large, seedless cucumber

Directions

Depending on the size of the tomatoes, cut them into fourths or eighths. Remove the seeds. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again, to form four long quarters. Slice the cucumbers into small fan-shaped pieces. Combine the vinegar, oil, garlic, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. Toss to combine.

If possible, make the salad a few hours before eating to allow the veggies to get comfy in the dressing.

If you’re feeling saucy, a batch of my Sweet Honey Corn Bread would work beautifully with this meal! Click here for that recipe.

Taste of Syracuse

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Zippity doo dah! Zippity day! My, oh my, what a wonderful day!

Over the course of the year, Syracuse hosts a wide variety of festivals, celebrating everything from jazz, food, wine, film, beer, heritage, and crafts. Even in the freezing winter weather, Syracusians head outside for Chili cook-offs and Martini mix-offs. I’ve had the pleasure (and disappointment…I’m talking about you, pitiful Syracuse Octoberfest) of attending many of these festivals.  But, the one I look most forward to every year is the Taste of Syracuse!

**I should note that I do not categorize The Great New York State Fair as a mere festival. We’ll talk about the fair in 82 days. (But, I’m not counting down or anything.) Mmmm…deep-fried oreos, cinnamon-sprinkled funnel cake, wine slushies.  Mmmm…

Focus, Amy! Focus!

During the annual Taste of Syracuse, local restaurants take over the Clinton Square  area of downtown Syracuse, each offering a $1 sampling of food. For a few bucks, you can stuff yourself silly. There’s also live music, children’s entertainment, a beer sampling tent, wine tasting area, and an assortment of vendors. Absolutely my kind of festival!

So, today the family and I headed down to gorge ourselves on $1 treats.  A few pics for your viewing enjoyment…

Stromboli from Cam's Pizzeria. Delicious, but doesn't hold a candle to my Uncle Tom's stromboli!

Chicken Riggies from Dominick's Restaurant. Riggies are a Central New York specialty, featuring chicken and pasta in a slightly spicy, tomato-cream sauce. Excellent!

Meatball Sub from J.J.'s. Fantastic!

Gulasz-Beef Stew from Eva's European Sweets. Very tender beef and flavorful broth.

Keftedes (Greek meatball) with Tzatziki Sauce from Kiki's Authentic Greek Cuisine. Well seasoned meatball. Perfect tzatziki!

Baked Beans from Dinosaur Barbecue. Oh yeah! OH YEAH! Best baked beans ever!

My husband, savoring the baked beany aroma.

Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill. Spicylicious!

Fudge from Em's Specialty Candies. (See the pictures of the kids for reviews.)

A positive review for the fudge!

Undecided between the fudge and a homemade hot dog from Liehs and Steigerwald.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake from Big Mama's Cheesecake. Luscious!

Chicken Spiedie from Charlie's Famous Steak Pit. Spiedies are marinated, skewered, and grilled chicken, native to Binghamton, New York.

Hot Apple Fritter from Navarind Orchard. Crisp slice of apple, dipped in batter, fried, and coated in cinnamon sugar. Doesn't get much better than that!

Cheesecake Calzone from Kalzonies. Two thumbs up from my husband.

Full bellies. Happy family.

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