Why I Don’t Have Abs

Pie is a year round affair at the Wright household for as long as I can remember. Every Thanksgiving we have a Pie Party. My dad is the pie baker of the family and makes 15-20ish different pies and we have a big party! My job is the decorating. There was a time in my life for whatever reason I missed five pie parties in a row. It was a dark time in my life. Over the years pies have been added including (but not limited to) key lime, chocolate haupia, lilikoi, and candy land.

The secret to a great pie? The crust. There are a lot of pie dough recipes out there. But the secret to great pie crust is to not overwork the dough. Pie crust should be tender and flaky. If you overwork it, the crust will become tough and hard. Personally, I avoid making pie whenever I can. I find the crust frustrating and especially upsetting when it doesn’t turn out how I was expecting. But thankfully, between Nathan and my dad, I’m never stuck making the crust.

The following recipe is the one my dad most often uses.

Pie Crust
Serves: 2 Crusts
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco)
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ - ⅔ cup ice water
Instructions
  1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut shortening into the flour mixture until the particles are about the size of peas. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with a fork until all the flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans the side of the bowl. You may need a little more water.
  2. Gather half the dough into a ball and shape into a flattened round on a lightly floured surface. Roll pastry out into a round circle with a rolling pin until approximately 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Lift occasionally to prevent sticking.
  3. Carefully fold the pastry into quarters and place into pie pan. Unfold and press firmly into bottom and sides. For a baked pie shell, prick bottom and sides with a fork. Bake at 475o for about 10 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

This recipe is Nathan’s go to pie crust recipe.
Pie Crust
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)
  2. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Whatever recipe you use, remember to work the dough as little as possible.

Nathan here. Let me be first to say how impressed I’ve always been with the visual perfection of Uncle Mark’s pie crusts. They are always a consistent thickness and the decorative edge is always just perfect. He makes it look easy as, well, as easy as pie. My crust recipe (and just a foreshadowing, I plan on thoroughly reading and experimenting with Julia Childs pie crust suggestions here in the future) produces a rougher more rustic looking pie crust (let’s be honest, it’s probably more me than the recipe) and many explicit interjections as I try to make the crust cooperate. When using a butter based crust I much prefer a good, thick pie crust because I love it.

 

 

Eat your heart out

One of my big frustrations as a culinary teacher are my students who are picky eaters. They won’t try something because it looks “disgusting” or they don’t “like” a certain food. I’m pretty sure those in the latter category have never even tried a lot of the foods we work with. Why I find this so frustrating is because I was the exact same way growing up. I was as picky as they come. If something looked weird or I didn’t like the color, I wouldn’t touch it. Peas were my nemesis, but that’s a story for a different time.

I will forever be grateful to the woman who introduced me to asparagus. I’m sure my mom tried, but to no avail. The first time I ate asparagus I was 27. I’m ashamed. I had just graduated from college and was doing an internship at two resorts in Midway, Utah. For the duration of my internship I lived with a couple I didn’t know beforehand. Janet loved to cook and was always making something delicious! One night she served asparagus. I didn’t want to have any. But as any polite guest would do, I took a little of everything on the table…which included the asparagus. I was not only surprised, but thrilled at how delicious it tasted! Who knew?!? From then on, it has been one of my favorite vegetables to eat.

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Asparagus is not only delicious, but extremely easy to cook. I’m loving this recipe right now. I don’t normally measure ingredients when I cook asparagus, but if that makes you uneasy, I have included them. But feel free to experiment.

Be careful to not overcook the asparagus. There are not many things worse than soggy, mushy vegetables. It is my opinion, that kids won’t eat their vegetables because they are overcooked and mushy. Don’t do it. I would start the baking time at ten minutes and go from there. A fork should easily pierce the asparagus when it’s finished cooking.

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Oven Baked Asparagus
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Place the asparagus into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat the spears, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange the asparagus onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes depending on thickness.
  4. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.

 

Brownies for Two

For the last two years my classroom has been under construction for several months in the middle of the school year. I want my students to still have a chance to cook, even if it is in the microwave. I always have them make mug brownies.

Personally, I haven’t been thrilled with the recipes I have found for mug brownies. But, my high schoolers don’t seem to mind. They’re not bad, just mediocre. America’s Test Kitchen just came out with a molten brownie recipe that you cook in the microwave. It was a Valentines Day miracle! I made them last night and they were delicious (and quite rich)! This is the perfect recipe because it’s quick and so so good!

At the store I was having a hard time finding bittersweet chocolate. Turns out bittersweet chocolate is made of 54% – 60% cocoa. So instead of a baking bar (which was impossible to find) I grabbed some chocolate from the candy aisle and went on my way.

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Brownies for Two
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 4 TBSP Unsalted Butter
  • 1 OZ Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped, plus 1 oz broken into 4 equal pieces
  • ¼ C Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ¼ C Flour
  • ½ tsp Baking Powder
Instructions
  1. Microwave butter and chopped chocolate in large bowl, stirring often, until melted, about 1 minute. Whisk sugar, eggs, cocoa, vanilla, and salt into chocolate mixture until smooth. In separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Whisk flour mixture into chocolate mixture until combined. Divide batter evenly between 2 (11-ounce) coffee mugs.
  2. Place mugs on opposite sides of microwave turntable. Microwave at 50 percent power for 45 seconds. Stir batter and microwave at 50 percent power for 45 seconds (batter will rise to just below rim of mug). Press 2 chocolate pieces into center of each cake until chocolate is flush with top of cake. Microwave at 50 percent power for 35 seconds (cake should be slightly wet around edges of mug and somewhat drier toward center). Let cakes rest for 2 minutes. Serve.

 

Muffin Lovin at 425 degrees

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Nathan has been slightly obsessed with finding the perfect blueberry muffin recipe for quite some time now. He has tried countless recipes. I’m not sure he has settled on one particular recipe, but this recipe is in the top three for sure. Between me and you, it’s my favorite blueberry muffin recipe.

We hope you like these as much as we do!

Gather all ingredients.

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For the topping.: Stir together sugar and lemon zest until combined and set aside. This topping was a revelation. It adds the perfect amount of lemon flavor and crunch to these muffins. It’s magical.

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Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing blueberries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Let cool.

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This recipe calls for fresh blueberries. We used frozen instead, which seemed to work just as well.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

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Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together until thick and fully combined. About 45 seconds.

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Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined .

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Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined.

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Fold egg mixture and remaining 1 cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened.

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There will be be a few lumps and spots of dry flour. Do not over mix. About 12 strokes.

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Fill muffin cups 1/2 full with batter.

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Top with a teaspoon or so of the cooked berry mixture.
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Use a toothpick and swirl together.  I was fresh out of toothpicks, so we got creative.
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Divide the remaining batter between muffin cups.  The batter should completely fill the cups and mound slightly.  Divide the remaining cooked berry mixture between muffin cups.  Use a toothpick and gently swirl the berry filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion.  Sprinkle the lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.  
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Bake until the muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17-18 minutes, rotating the muffin tin halfway through.  Cool the muffins in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool five more minutes before serving. Let’s be honest, they usually don’t last five seconds on the cooling rack! 
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Blueberry Muffins
Author: 
Recipe type: Muffins
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
This is a great blueberry muffin recipe to keep on hand.
Ingredients
  • Topping:
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. grated lemon zest
  • Muffins:
  • 2 c. fresh blueberries, picked over
  • 1⅛ c. + 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla
Instructions
  1. For the topping: Stir the sugar and lemon zest together in a small bowl until combined; set aside.
  2. For the muffins: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a standard muffin tin with vegetable oil spray (or line with paper liners and spray). Bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 tsp. of the sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing the berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened about 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1⅛ cups sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg mixture and the remaining 1 cup blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened. The batter will be very lumpy with a few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.
  4. Fill muffin cups ½ full with batter and top with a teaspoon or so of the cooked berry mixture. Use a toothpick and swirl together. Divide the remaining batter between muffin cups. The batter should completely fill the cups and mound slightly. Divide the remaining cooked berry mixture between muffin cups. Use a toothpick and gently swirl the berry filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion. Sprinkle the lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.
  5. Bake until the muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17-18 minutes, rotating the muffin tin halfway through. Cool the muffins in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool 5 more minutes before serving.

Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breast

We are loving America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbooks right now.

Nathan and I were in charge of dinner Sunday night so we opened one of these great books and found this gem. Stuffed chicken is a simple recipe that looks fancy. We’re all about fancy. Enjoy!

Start with your ingredients.

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Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Stir the cream cheese, goat cheese, thyme, garlic, pesto, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper together until smooth.

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Trim any fat off chicken.

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Pound the chicken to an even 1/4 inch thickness. We put the chicken in a ziplock bag before pounding. If you don’t own a meat mallet, rolling pins work well.

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Before and after.

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Pat dry with paper towels.

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Season with salt and pepper.

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Mound 1/4 cup of the cream cheese filling at the wider end of the chicken, form the cheese into a log, and then roll the chicken up. There will be leftover filling.

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Place the chicken rolls, seam side down in a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. In the future for this recipe we would probably use a slightly bigger pan. As it was our stuffed chicken rolls probably ended up being a bit bigger than the smart folks at America’s Test Kitchen had intended them to be. No biggie really, but any assembled meat roll like this will cook better if it isn’t so massive.

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Mix any remaining filling with the mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon juice.

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Brush this mixture over the tops of the chicken rolls.

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Toss breadcrumbs with butter and sprinkle over chicken. A few notes on the bread crumbs: The recipe calls for you to make your own bread crumbs (a very America’s Test Kitchen-y thing to do), but we were lazy due to dealing with family all weekend so we used (gasp!) store bought bread crumbs. Not a horrible choice, but coarser bread crumbs would have looked better. FYI.

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Bake until breadcrumbs are golden and the very center of the chicken rolls registers 165 degrees on a thermometer, about 30 minutes. I’m not sure this much of the filling was supposed to melt out, but were were having a little trouble regulating the oven temperature.

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Serve with lemon wedges.

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As it turned out these were very rich and delicious. Not to mention they looked very impressive. As I always say, you eat a dish with your eyes first.

A few notes from ATK

-Make sure the chicken rolls do not touch each other in the pan. By using the right size pan, you can avoid burnt breadcrumbs and unevenly cooked chicken.

-Avoid using dried thyme. Dried thyme will add a stale and dusty flavor [they say].

UPDATE: We made these again for Nathan’s birthday with homemade breadcrumbs. We couldn’t find coarse at the store so we made our own. It was amazing the difference that they made. There was a perfect crunch on the outside. This time we made two pans. The first pan was done after thirty minutes. The second pan needed a little more time. It seemed the longer the pan stayed in the oven the more the filling leaked out. These were great the first time around and truly amazing the second time.

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Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breast
Author: 
Recipe type: Poultry
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 Servings
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz goat cheese, softened
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme (ATK mentions to stay away from dried thyme or the filling will taste like dust)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 TBSP pesto
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cleaned and trimmed
  • ¾ c Mayonnaise
  • 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 TBSP melted butter
  • Lemon wedges for serving
Instructions
  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Stir the cream cheese, goat cheese, thyme, garlic, 6 TBSP of pesto, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper together until smooth.
  3. Pound the chicken to an even ¼ inch thickness. Pat dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper,.
  4. Mound ¼ of the cream cheese mixture at the wider end of the chicken, form the cheese into a log , and then roll the chicken up. There should be a little leftover filling.
  5. Arrange the chicken rolls, seam side down in a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan.
  6. Mix remaining cream cheese mixture with the mayo, lemon juice, and mustard. Brush over the tops and sides of the chicken rolls.
  7. Mix melted butter with breadcrumbs and sprinkle over chicken.
  8. Bake until breadcrumbs are brown and the very middle of the chicken rolls measure an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve with lemon wedges.