Sweet Vanilla Cream Pie

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Matthew’s mom (Chris Tessnear) loves vanilla pie. For years, her mom (Matthew’s grandma, Vember Quinn) made it for her on special occasions. She said she had never quite gotten vanilla pie like her mom’s anywhere else.

Until now.

While searching through vanilla-inspired recipes on Pinterest, we came across a semi-complicated recipe for vanilla bean cream pie. It looked delicious and I thought it could be simplified by cutting out the process of scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean to use during cooking, especially since vanilla extract was also in the recipe. So I removed the vanilla bean (which also made the recipe cheaper and easier to make with common pantry items) and substituted entirely with vanilla extract. The resulting recipe was just as vanilla-sweet and creamy as I’m sure the original was. I also simplified some of the recipe instructions, to where now, this is another of my easiest pies to make, only requiring a small bowl and a pot worth of cookware, a few simple ingredients, and a little time.

Matthew’s mom says this pie is the best she’s had since her mom’s pie, and is in fact, just as good. That’s high praise from a lady who can cook as well as my mother-in-law can! We hope you give this pie a try. We know you’ll love it just as much as we do!

P.S. You could also make the pie’s filling and enjoy it as pudding, without a shell or any additional baking. It would be delicious as a homemade, cooked vanilla pudding! And there are no eggs in the recipe, which I love, because you don’t have to worry about any undercooking. Easy peasy! Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

9 inch pie crust (baked and cooled)

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp. butter

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping: 2 tbsp. melted butter; 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

1. Pre-bake the pie shell on 350 for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and no longer doughy in appearance.

2. Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and put to the side.

3. In a nonstick pan, melt the 4 tbsp. of butter on medium heat. Add the heavy cream, milk and vanilla.

4. Add the dry ingredients (cornstarch/sugar mixture) to the pot slowly and stir with a whisk constantly until the pudding thickens (about 10 minutes).

5. Remove from heat and pour the pudding into the prepared pie crust.

6. Drizzle with the 2 tbsp. of melted butter (I usually melt it in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup) and sprinkle the cinnamon on top evenly.

7. Put the pie in the oven on broil just until the butter starts to bubble. Keep a check on it; this will only take a few minutes.

8. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Slice and delight!

Serves: about 8

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Homemade Snow Cream

My mom always made us snow cream. Living in the South, we didn’t get the right kind of snow often, so when we did, it was imperative that we break out the sweetened condensed milk (brand didn’t matter), regular milk, sugar and vanilla. I would help, and eventually, be the one to make it in our family. Really, all you needed to know was the ingredients. And of course, what exactly is the right type of snow.

You’ll need the soft, fluffy, clean kind. (No yellow or orange.) The kind that crunches softly beneath your feet as you pack it down when you walk. The best way to gather it is by taking a large bowl or two outside, along with a large spoon, and scooping it from a flat surface high off the ground. If it looks clean, the ground will do in a pinch. But you’ve probably got a car around, and the hood or top of a car is usually a clean enough place. You don’t want to scoop the bottom layer of the snow anyway. Scoop off the clean top layer. Bring it in the house, after you’re finished playing outside, and get out your ingredients. I’ll tell you how to make it, below. It’s very simple, but I never measure. Today, I did, just for our readers. It helps to measure when you’re starting out with something new. You can tweak from there. 😉

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Snow Cream Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

1 1/2 cups regular milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 large bowls full of snow

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl about 3/4 full with snow.
  2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the regular milk. Stir.
  3. When the mixture becomes more runny, add more snow until the bowl is about 3/4 full again.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla.
  5. Add more snow as desired, if you want it less sweet, but you don’t have to.

Enjoy!!

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Fresh snow on Jan. 7, 2017

Creamy Homemade Ice Cream

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My fondest childhood memories of ice cream fit vividly into two categories. There are the Sunday afternoon trips to Dairy Queen in Dallas, N.C. And there are the summer afternoons at home when mom and dad would churn homemade ice cream in our kitchen in a one-gallon Proctor-Silex machine.

It seems like the flavor in our house was always cherry. That’s Dad’s favorite, and one we all could enjoy, too. But the method of churning that my parents shared with me during a Fourth of July weekend cookout this year (and the one they’ve used for years) can be adapted for any flavor you like. They made cherry and vanilla batches this time, and a neighbor who heard about their ice cream making and decided to try his own made a flavorful batch of banana pineapple.

Your first question might be where you can obtain an ice cream churn. The simple answer, of course, is Amazon.com, where you can purchase a wide variety of models, beginning at about $25.

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Here’s what you do next for basic ice cream, and you have the choice of adding what you like to personalize each batch.

Ingredients

10 cups milk (This can be a combination of milk, cream or other similar liquids, but you should stick to 10 cups or fewer of liquid if your machine is a similar size to my parents’ to give yourself plenty of room in the canister for the mixture to expand as it churns and freezes into ice cream. You should also be careful to not use more than 2 total cups of fat, such as a whole milk or cream, so that the mixture doesn’t thicken and turn into more of a butter-like substance. Also be aware that any extra juices you add to make a specific flavor should be part of the 10 total cups of liquid and not in addition to it. For example, you can add cherry juice for a cherry flavor. That amount of juice should be part of your 10 cups of liquid ingredients.)

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (if making basic vanilla)

Dash of kitchen salt

You will also need a 10-pound bag of ice and a container of ice cream salt for use in the ice cream-making process, NOT in your liquid mixture that will be part of what you will eat.

 

Steps

1. Mix your 10 cups of milk and cream ingredients and allow that combination to chill together in your fridge for just a bit.

2. Once you have chilled the mixture, pour it into your canister, which will go inside the ice cream tub. Then place the dasher in the canister and the lid on top. You can also go ahead and place the motor on top and secure it.

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3. Surround the tub with an ice and ice cream salt mixture. Use eight parts ice to one part ice cream salt. Alternate layers of adding them until the tub around the ice cream canister is almost full.

4. Plug in the machine to start the churning process.

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5. Be sure not to put too much ice cream salt into the tub so that it gets up into the ice cream canister and ruins your ice cream. You don’t want the ice cream salt in what you will actually eat. The ice cream salt is only used to help melt the ice and transfer the cold in the ice into the canister to your ice cream mixture. It’s a scientific principle of heat transfer that my chemistry and physics-minded dad can explain in further detail if you’d like. He helped explain it to me as we made our tasty summer dessert.

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6. There should be a spout on your ice cream machine. Be sure it is pointed into a sink if you’re making your cream in the kitchen, or have it in an acceptable place if you’ve connected your machine to a power outlet outside. Eventually, the spout will flow water and some ice from the tub out of the machine entirely. You can also expect to see your tub frosting a bit on the outside. It’s a great idea to keep a towel beside or on top of the machine (but not the motor as it gets at least a bit hot) to help wipe excess condensation.

7. You will need to continue to add ice to the tub as it melts throughout the churning process.

8. When the motor and machine slow down, you’re getting closer to having completed ice cream. Mom and dad’s older machine takes about 40-50 minutes to churn a canister full of delicious ice cream. If you stop the machine sooner, you’ll have something more akin to soft serve. If you churn longer, you’ll have a thicker ice cream.

9. Unplug your machine before checking out the ice cream and make sure the ice and salt have melted down far from the top to avoid getting those items in your food.

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10. Enjoy! You can store your ice cream in the freezer for a period of time (which varies by ingredients and mixing). Be sure you remove the dasher and clean it off before storing ice cream in an air-tight container. Be aware that homemade ice cream can get hard or icy and can lose some of its creaminess if you keep it too long.

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I have a big head, but the ice cream dasher (mixer) on mom and dad’s machine is bigger, especially when covered in fresh vanilla ice cream!

10-Minute Super-Sweet Bananas Foster Dessert

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Banana Pudding is a legendary dessert favorite in the South. But it’s not the only sweet way to serve up bananas. In fact, there’s an even better way to plate bananas for dessert, especially for those of you who aren’t big fans of fruit in your sweet dishes.

Bananas Foster truly takes about 10 minutes to make, and it offers you flexibility to make it your own way. Alcohol, for example, is a big part of Bananas Foster for many, but it was an unnecessary ingredient for our house.

Whether you add rum to yours or not, Bananas Foster, like other caramelized fruit dishes, provides a glimpse into the science of cooking. As you heat your sauce in the pan, you truly see the sugars coming out as the ingredients mix.

Here are the ingredients you will need to make your Bananas Foster for four people:

2 under-ripe bananas

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or cinnamon sugar

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

pinch of salt

four scoops of vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Slice your bananas into thin pieces.
  2. Heat your burner on medium heat. In a pan on the heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir to mix your ingredients and thoroughly combine all of them. Turn your heat up to high and continue to stir. You will see the sugary mixture almost pulsing in the pan.
  3. When you mix your ingredients well, add your sliced bananas to the pan, and thoroughly coat the bananas in the sauce. Don’t stop stirring to make sure that your mixture does not have time to solidify, stick or burn in the pan.
  4. Scoop vanilla ice cream into four separate bowls. Use a spatula or spoon to scoop your bananas and sauce onto your ice cream. Serve quickly before the ice cream melts.

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Molly’s Take: I’m not a huge fruit dessert person, but this simple recipe blew me away. The sweet, caramel-coated bananas literally melted in my mouth and the vanilla bean ice cream proved a creamy, delightful companion to the occasional caramel crunch. I loved this and I’m the person who usually picks the bananas out of her banana pudding. It’s quite easy, quite simple and definitely something you can – and should – try. For me, a caramel or vanilla or simple sugar dessert is always my favorite. Add this to the list of favorites for the Tessnear household.

Matthew’s Take: If you’ve been reading the blog faithfully, you’ll know that I enjoy caramelizing fruit. This is a different way to do it because it includes more than the natural and juicy sugars in a peach or blueberry. You don’t get juices in a banana, so you make your own sweet sauce to complement the banana flavor. You get a very sweet banana dessert that outdistances banana pudding in decadence. You also get the best of both worlds: You feel like you’re eating healthy because you’re eating fruit, but you also feel like you’re getting something incredibly rich because of the sugary coating that tops your ice cream. This take on Bananas Foster gets an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease and an A for cost. If you already keep the pantry ingredients in your home, then all you need to do is pick up bananas and ice cream at the grocery store.

Simple Caramelized Peaches

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Fresh peaches are a sign of summer in the South, particularly in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Roadside stands are the resource of choice when possible, and those baskets of fruit can yield the most delicious cobblers, pies and baked goods you can imagine.

But you often get more peaches in a cheap bin than you can use in those oven-baked treats. So what do you do with the rest?

One of Matthew’s favorite things to do with fresh fruit that contains some natural juices is to caramelize it. The process draws out the natural sugars in the fruit and creates almost a sweet sauce that is delicious by itself, on top of another dessert element or with plain ole vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is a bit unconventional because there’s no need to really list ingredients or a process. Many recipes for caramelized fruits will suggest adding white or brown sugar to the pan. Some guides even suggest putting a little bit of olive oil in the pan to keep your fruit from sticking. Matthew doesn’t prefer the oil because it doesn’t benefit a sweet dish, and he doesn’t prefer adding sugar to the pan because it defeats the purpose of relying on and enjoying the natural sugars.

For fresh peaches that you have peeled yourself, it’s likely you have some juices in addition to the solid fruit, especially if your leftover fruit has had time to sit in the fridge for a few days.

How we made it:

Put your frying pan or skillet on your burner and give it medium-high to high heat.

Take a cup or two of fresh fruit, depending on how much you want to eat, and spread it out in your pan, being sure to include some of the juice. The key to having the juice is that it will help keep your fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Still, like many things you cook in a stovetop pan, you’re less likely to deal with sticking if you’re using a newer, non-stick pan.

You have to achieve the right balance of letting your peaches sit to heat and caramelize and moving them around so they don’t stick. That balance can only be determined by your pan and your burner, along with how much juice you add to the pan. I would suggest a quarter cup of juice per cup of fruit.

Your fruit will almost become a light jelly or sauce, with the chunks of peach or fruit of choice still visible in good supply. That’s when you will know that your caramelization process is done.

As we said above, you can do many things with caramelized peaches and other fruits.

Matthew chose to use the fruit he made to top a graham cracker square in a bowl. Then he added a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Molly’s Take: I love this recipe because it does encourage creativity. Caramelizing the fruit, then topping it with whatever you like (ice cream, whipped cream, cookies, etc.) can be completely different every time, for whatever your taste buds desire. And when you use fresh South Carolina peaches, the juice, the consistency and the taste is just delicious. Mouth-watering, even. I love fruit with ice cream, and caramelizing it with vanilla bean ice cream is a delightful pairing.

Matthew’s Take: I’ve caramelized fruit many times, but peaches may be my favorite. They retain so much of their juice after peeling that they are perfect for cooking in a pan on the stove. They pair perfectly with a slightly sweet cookie and/or vanilla ice cream. I give this one an A+ for taste, an A for presentation, depending on your topping, an A for cost if peaches are readily available, and a B for ease. It takes some creativity to caramelize fruit because you can’t just follow an exact recipe and expect the same results every time.

Fancy Pecan French Toast for Two

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We’re big fans of the $1 specialty bakery-quality bread loaves you can buy at Walmart. The bread has a short shelf life, but that just encourages you to get creative in how you use the bread to ensure you make the most out of that $1.

On a recent Sunday morning, Matthew used slices of a French bread loaf and just a few ingredients to whip up a quick and fancy breakfast. Here’s how he made his own variation of French toast for two, using the ingredients from a simple Food Network recipe.

Ingredients

four slices of $1 loaf of bread (we used the specialty Walmart bread, but many French toast recipes call for your plain, stale white bread loaf)

two eggs

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar

1/3 cup of milk

butter

syrup

powdered sugar

brown sugar

pecans halves

Step one: Preheat your stovetop burner on medium heat.

Step two: Thoroughly mix your eggs, vanilla, cinnamon sugar and milk in a bowl.

Step three: Coat your bread slices in the sweet egg mixture.

Step four: Lightly butter (or oil) your pan and place your first two slices of coated bread into the pan.

Step five: Turn your French toast slices once, then repeat the process for the remainder of your bread.

Step six: Cut each French toast slice of bread in half and arrange as you like on a plate. With the ingredients in this recipe, you will have four half-slices each for two plates.

Step seven: Crush a few pecan halves with your hands and sprinkle on the French toast slices.

Step eight: Sprinkle your desired amount of brown and powdered sugars onto your French toast.

Step nine: Serve with the desired amount of syrup.

Matthew’s Take: When I’m cooking for people, I like to deliver a beautiful presentation when possible. There’s so much you can do to make French toast look beautiful. Powdered sugar and pecans (or any kind of nuts or fruit) can make your dish look like something you would get in a restaurant. This recipe is my take on a Food Network basic French toast formula. I added the pecans and sugar topping, but the original recipe suggests the perfect ratio of eggs, milk, cinnamon sugar and vanilla extract. You can take that basic provision and then top the toast with your favorite ingredients. I give this French toast an A+ for presentation, an A for taste and a B for cost-effectiveness. You can make French toast very cheap, with only bread, milk, eggs and a cinnamon and/or sugar ingredient. The pecans, multiple sugars and vanilla are extras that add taste, while also adding a few more ingredients and dollars to that grocery bill. The only reason I didn’t give this recipe an A+ on taste is that I used a French bread loaf that had “everything” seasoning topping on it and, although I brushed the topping off, a slight hint of flavor remained on a few slices of the bread. I would suggest using plain French bread, but I used the loaf we had in our pantry.

Molly’s Take: How do I love this French toast – let me count the ways! Not only is it fluffy, soft and deliciously moist, this French toast is covered in tasty toppings that enhance its hearty, pancake-y exterior. Now, you have to know me to know how absolutely crazy it is that I like this dish. I have a bad history with French toast (a church camp experience in which I was forced to play dizzy dodgeball in the summer heat after eating a ton of it along with chocolate milk=bad idea), and I generally dislike pancakes. Yes, I dislike – and have even used the term hate – pancakes. But since Matthew and I have been together, I’ve developed a more open mind toward them. On a recent trip, I even ate them twice! This breakfast dish reminded me of pancakes, but was so much more hearty and nowhere near as mushy as pancakes can be. It was like perfectly fluffy pancakes with a soft, yet firm, sugar-dusted exterior. Altogether, if I gave this dish a grade, it would definitely be A+.