Friday, March 18, 2016

Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe from Aunt Jessie

Once you taste the home made richness of this chocolate cream pie you'll never go back to instant pudding again. It's easy to make and well worth the time it takes.

Holidays were special times when our clan of cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings and parents gathered for a meal as a family. Preparations started before daylight for a full morning of cooking turkeys and baking cakes and pies. 
When it grew close to the lunch hour, we would gather around in the Florida room, lured in by the delicious aromas which wafted into the back yard where we were playing. The festive table was set with platters of every sort of food imaginable from roasted turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, salads, cranberry sauce, casserole dishes, and of course, an entire table dedicated to dessert.
There was a variety of cakes and pies including mincemeat pie, pecan and strawberry, but the chocolate cream pie was always my favorite and usually the first one to disappear. Thoughts of those times bring fond memories of those pies made from scratch by someone we love.
It's not hard to duplicate this homemade pie, whether using a store-bought crust or making your own. Cooking the filling takes about twenty-five minutes, during which you can bake the single pie crust and let it cool. Here's how to do it:

Pie Crust Dough Recipe for a One Crust Pie
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour; 1/3 cup of solid vegetable shortening (like Crisco) or butter; 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2-3 tablespoons of cold water.
Sift the flour and salt together into a mixing bowl. Using two knives (in crisscross fashion) or a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Slowly add the cold water, a little at a time, until the dough sticks together in a ball but is not sticky. More water or flour may be needed if the mix is too dry (add drops of water) or too sticky (add a little flour).
If you have time, refrigerate the dough for about an hour. This is usually not needed if the room temp is cool.
Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a circle one inch larger than the pan to allow for a fluted edge. I made a video for Instructions on forming the pie crust:

  1. Place the prepared dough into a deep-dish, 9 inch pie pan.
  2. Trim and fold under the excess edges of the dough as you work your way around the rim.
  3. Shape the edges into scallops by pressing the dough between two fingers and forming an indentation between them with the thumb of the other hand.
  4. Make sure there are no cracks or tears in the uncooked crust. If repair is needed, a drop of water or milk will help mending the cracks.
  5. Since the pie crust must be baked before adding the pudding, use a fork to prick tiny holes all around the edges and bottom of the crust. This allows steam to escape when baking.
  6. Bake the crust at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Ingredients and Instructions for the Chocolate Cream Pudding filling:

Ingredients: 2 cups of milk (regular or two percent), 1/4 cup of Corn Syrup, 4 Tablespoons of Corn Starch, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 egg yolks, 4 Tablespoons Hershey's powdered cocoa, 1 Tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract. 

Mix together about a half cup of the milk, all the sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch and cocoa in a medium sized, heavy-duty saucepan.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and add the yolks to the mixture and stir thoroughly with a whisk.

Add the rest of the milk and heat the mixture slowly over low to medium heat stirring constantly so it doesn't scorch. It may take between 11 and 15 minutes to reach a boil.

When the mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken, immediately remove it from the heat and add the butter and vanilla extract stirring until the butter melts.

Let the mixture cool before spooning it into the cooled, baked pie crust.

Refrigerate the pie for at least an hour before serving.

  • Be sure to watch the milk mixture carefully as it comes up to temperature and stir continuously.
  • Resist the temptation to raise the heat too high. Medium heat is best to avoid scorching the milk and sugar.
  • When the hot mixture starts bubbling up unexpectedly, take the pan off the heat.
  • Allow the pudding to cool completely before pouring it into the crust. This helps keep the crust from getting soggy.
  • If the pastry puffs up in places when baking, use a fork to prick the bubble and release the steam or the crust will bake in the raised shape.
Making homemade whipped cream is quick, easy and delicious. Or, if you like, you can use a prepared topping like Cool Whip or Ready Whip Whipped Cream.

This family recipe is one of my husband's all-time, most requested desserts.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Feral Cats in the Country - A Poem

Living out in the country brings in a variety of stray cats looking for food and shelter. The latest visitor is a feral cat we named Tiny.

Soft paws sneaking in the wood,
New cat in the neighborhood.
Bug filled droppings in the yard,
Life so far has been real hard.
Sensed the dogs but unafraid
Came inside the fence and laid
Bravely on the garden sill
Bearing only his good will.
Needs a place to eat and sleep
Away from wolves disguised as sheep
Who live to run and love the chase
Makes the woods a scary place.
Here he'll stay and share his fleas
Unprotected against disease.
One day soon he’ll see the vet
Secure his future as a pet.
Until then he runs to hide,
Watching me eyes open wide.
A bowl of food and water, too
Sending silent thanks to you.
This is Tiny

Monday, March 7, 2016

Easy Economical Chicken Casserole - Chicken Tetrazzini

Winner, winner, Chicken Dinner!
Casserole dishes are hearty and simple to make using ingredients you'll likely find in your pantry. Filled with chicken,  pasta and mushroom soup, this is a family favorite. Quick and economical, too.

As a mother of five children, my mother-in-law perfected the art of stretching a food budget. When it came to serving economical, hearty and simply delicious meals for her family, she was the queen.
Shortly after my marriage she sent a gift that would keep on giving for years: a care package with a recipe card along with the dry ingredients needed to prepare this dish. 
Baked Chicken Tetrazzini
Included was a glass, oven proof casserole dish, a box of spaghetti, Ritz crackers, a can of cooked boned chicken and a can of cream of mushroom soup. The remaining perishable ingredients were in the refrigerator: milk, butter and shredded cheese.
From those basic ingredients, I was able to create a casserole that I would make many times over the years. Here are the instructions and ingredients you'll need to make this dish. I hope you try this recipe out.
Use a baggie to crust the crackers.
1/2 Package of Spaghetti (8 oz.) Or substitute any other pasta that your family enjoys.
1 Cup of Cooked Shredded Chicken (Canned, baked, rotisserie style or turkey works, too.)
1 Can of Creamed Soup, Mushroom, Celery or Creamed Chicken
1 Cup of Milk or Chicken Broth or a combination with half of each
1/2 to 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Sleeve of Ritz Crackers (I've used crushed potato chips or other types of crackers) Crushed
2 Tablespoons of Butter for the top of the crust
  • Cook the spaghetti according to the directions until it's firm, not mushy. This is usually about nine minutes once the water comes to a boil.
  • Drain the pasta and pour it back into the warm pan.
  • Pour in half a cup of milk; add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Open the canned mushroom soup and stir it into the cooked spaghetti
  • Add about half a can of water.
  • Add the can of cooked chicken to the mixture and stir gently.
  • Pour the combination into a greased, oven-proof casserole dish
  • Grate some cheddar cheese over the top or use prepared shredded cheese if desired.
  • Top the casserole with a layer of crushed Ritz Crackers and dot the surface with a little butter.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees about thirty-five minutes or until bubbly.
Hot and Delicious!

The dish can be made with any pasta your family likes: Rotini or rigatoni, egg noodles or elbow macaroni. No matter what shape or brand of pasta you choose, the dish turns out delicious.
Any type of milk is fine to use: regular, two-percent, skim or fat-free. You can substitute chicken stock or evaporated milk with a little water added. 
Instead of mushroom soup, you can use cream of celery soup, cream of broccoli or cheese soup.
For a little color, I like to add about 1/4 cup of frozen green peas or carrots into the mixture before pouring it into the casserole dish to bake. You can spice it up as desired with garlic, onion salt, celery pieces, mushrooms or by adding a variety of leftover veggies.

Served with a cup of fresh fruit or a small salad, this makes a filling, economical meal.