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Plum Pocket Pies

10 Oct

I was lovingly gifted with a box of fresh plums from Seth’s parents on our recent trip up to Idaho. I have to be honest and say that normally I’m not a huge fan of plums and I didn’t know what I was going to do with all of them. But, Seth’s mom insisted that plum pies were delicious so I figured I’d start there and see what happened. I’m not really sure how I came upon the pocket pie idea, but once I saw it, I had to get me one. There are several varieties available, but I chose the Nordic Ware Pocket Pie Crimper because it featured metal hinges instead of plastic, and was very affordable at about $12. I do have to say I didn’t press down on the handles (just pushed on the edges) as they didn’t provide enough pressure and felt a bit flimsy, but other than that I was very happy with it. These pies turned out so delicious, I can’t wait to see what other concoctions I can create!

plum pocket pies

  • 1/3 cup sugar (plus additional for sprinkling)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups diced plums (approximately 10 small plums)
  • 1 package Pillsbury Refrigerated 9″ Pie Crusts (2 crusts)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add diced plums and toss gently to coat; set aside.

Using the back of the pie press, cut 2 circles out of each crust. Combine the scraps and roll out into another circle and cut with the pie press, giving you 3 total rounds per pie crust. One at a time, place each round on the indented side of the pie press and place 1/4 cup of the plum mixture in the center (I used an ice cream-sized scoop). Use a pastry brush to coat the edge of the crust on one side with beaten egg. Carefully fold the press together, evening out the layer of plums as necessary. Press tightly to seal and remove pie to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining rounds.

Brush the tops of each pie with beaten egg and  sprinkle with sugar. Cut two 1-inch slits in the top to vent. Bake for 20-25 minutes until pies are golden brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and serve.

Makes 6 pocket pies

Adapted from Home is Where the Boat Is


Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: Over $100

9 Dec

Have you got a lot of cash or just want to get your special someone something that’ll rock their world? I guarantee any of these gifts will invoke a squee of delight followed by a smothering of kisses. Even if your cook is a man.

KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer

Price: ($320)

This may be the most desired item of any cook. Hell, I HAVE one and I still want one! KitchenAid mixers are so durable and will perform any task you put in front of them whether it be mixing stiff cookie dough, kneading bread dough, or whipping egg whites. The other great thing about these mixers is that they have tons of attachments available such as food slicers/shredders, juicers, meat grinders, and even an icecream maker! The thing that always draws me in is all the colors that are available. You’ll want to keep the color of your cook’s kitchen in mind, but try and get one of these babies in one of the fun colors. I can’t decide which one I like best… orange, blue, red… beautiful! Also, there are several models of KitchenAid mixers available and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The base price for their Classic 4 1/2 qt. model is $180.


KitchenAid 12-Cup Food Processor

Price: $170

I honestly didn’t know how much I’d actually use a food processor. Imagine my surprise when it became my most favorite appliance. I like this thing even more than my KitchenAid mixer. I use it for everything! Making dips, shredding cheese, slicing potatoes and carrots, crushing graham crackers,  making pie crust… and the list keeps going. I don’t know what I did without this thing. The great thing about this particular model is it comes with a mini bowl and blade which is great when you only need to process a small amount and/or the main bowl is dirty! Did I mention I love this thing?


Anolon Titanium 10-Piece Nonstick Cookware Set

Price: $260

I have had this particular set of pans for about 5 years now and it’s still going strong. I use every piece in the set on a regular basis. My favorite piece is probably the sauté pan. It works great for one-dish meals and it’s huge! The great thing about these pans is they’re oven safe so you can use one pan for the whole cooking process. I’ve used only wood and plastic utensils while cooking with these and the nonstick coating is still going strong.


Le Creuset 7 1/2 Qt. Dutch Oven

Price: $260

Oh man, nothing…NOTHING makes my heart sing like this Le Creuset pot. Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I’ve got my cast iron skillets but have yet to add one of these babies to my collection. And at $260 I’m sure you can guess why. But, if you’ve got the extra dough, I can guarantee you this would definitely be a winning gift. Like the KitchenAid mixers these pots come in a myriad of colors and sizes. They are incredibly sturdy and anyone who has had the pleasure of cooking with cast iron knows how well they hold their heat. This thing will last forever and is definitely worth the investment.


Shun Santoku 7″ Knife

Price: $130

I’ve had this knife for 5 years now and I still love it. It is so sharp and cuts through potatoes like butter. The D-shaped handle is comfortable to hold and the thin blade makes chopping and dicing so easy. Plus, look at this thing… isn’t it so incredibly beautiful? I love to just look at it! In fact, get an extra one to frame and hang on the wall. It’s art!  If you have more money than you know what to do with, go ahead and splurge on their 23-piece Megablock Knife Set with Bamboo Block  for $2,000. Just don’t put these in the dishwasher or I’ll beat you myself.


Well, that’s it folks. If you’ve still got money left after all that, you’ll just have to go buy a Lamborghini or something. Let me know if you decide to get any of these items for your cook and how they like them (I mean the cheap stuff too!). Good luck!

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: $100 or less

8 Dec

Stainless Steel Measuring Cups (Set of 8 ) 

Price: $55

I know. $55 for a set of measuring cups sounds crazy, but hear me out. This set of measuring cups is the only one I could find with all of the criteria I would like in a set of measuring cups. First, it has to be stainless steel with the measurements stamped into the metal. I have a plastic set of measuring cups with the measurements printed on them and they are almost unreadable now.  Also, I’m not sure why this is, but 90% of the measuring cup sets out there are only 4 pieces: 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, & 1/4 cup. HELLO? What about the 2/3 cup and 3/4 cup sizes?! Why is it so hard to find a set with these measurements included? I use mine all the time! And if your cook is anything like me, they only have one of each of these measurement sizes and  they’re always dirty! Ok so last criteria is, there has to be a smooth transition from the cup to the handle… no little notches where extra flour and such can gather. Believe me, I looked high and low and this is the only set I found that had everything I wanted. If you can find another cheaper one, be my guest.


Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” 2-Volume Boxed Set: Deluxe Edition

Price: $65

I saw this set at Barnes and Noble the other day and immediately began to covet. The Mastering the Art of French Cooking books are a staple in any cook’s  collection and this particular set is definitely a beautiful option. If your chef doesn’t have these books and you’re a little short on funds, there are less fancy versions available including this hardcover set for $56 and these paperback versions (Volume 1 $20 and Volume 2 $20) for a total of $40.


Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Price: $58

These Oxo bowls are not only beautiful, but also very functional. They have a rubber coating on the outside that keeps the bowls from sliding around, a common problem with regular stainless bowls. These clean up easily and are extremely durable, plus the 3 different sizes allow them to be used for every kitchen need. Don’t have the cash for these bowls? Don’t worry! Oxo also makes a very nice 3 piece set of plastic bowls for just $25.


Personalized Cake Pan Set from ‘The Cake Pan Lady’

Price: $64


I originally saw these pans on The Pioneer Woman’s website. I immediately loved them. The great thing about these pans is how high quality they are. It’s very rare to find a cake pan with a matching metal lid these days. Plus, there are so many cute designs to choose from and they’re personalized! You can choose the color you want (black, blue, green, red, and natural aluminum), how you want the name printed, and what picture you would like. And it’s easily identifiable at a potluck! You can get both a 9×13″ cake pan and 9×9″ brownie pan for a total of $64, or get them separately for $33 (cake pan) and $31 (brownie pan). So cute! 


Magnetic Spice Tins

Price: $75 for 25 tins

Ok so you can buy these tins individually for $3. However, if your cook is anything like me, they have about a billion spice jars. I have 28 at the moment and I could buy 15 more without batting an eyelash. I keep my spice jars on the side of the fridge next to the stove, but you could also mount them to a sheet of metal on the wall. They look so beautiful and make spices much more organized and easy to find. Plus, they make some cute spice jar labels to go with them!

Still have a bunch of cash burning a hole in your pocket? Don’t worry, we’ve got a motherload of fabulous gifts over $100 coming up next!

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: $50 or less

8 Dec

Got a few extra bucks to spend on your foodie? Any of these things are sure to be a winner!


America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

Price: $30


10 years of America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes and product ratings at my fingertips? Yes please! There aren’t too many physical cookbooks I’d buy these days, but this one is definitely worth the purchase. Step-by-step illustrations and detailed instructions are definitely worth having in the kitchen whether you’re making one of these recipes, or just need the information as a reference for some other culinary endeavor. A great staple for any cook.


Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Subscription or Online Membership

Price: $25 and $35, respectively

Ok, I know I’m obsessed with America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated. I can’t help it! They’re awesome! Their recipes always turn out great and it’s nice to be able to buy kitchen equipment that has been tested and approved of by professionals. Either one of these options will give your cook access to all these wonderful recipes and information.


Unicorn 6″ Keytop Peppermill

Price: $36

Every cook needs a good peppermill.  However, a good peppermill is actually really hard to find. This little guy has become one of my favorite things. It grinds pepper quickly, uniformly, and is adjustable. And with the keytop it’s easy to turn. Unicorn does make other models that are bigger if you think your cook needs more pepper, but this one works great for me and isn’t so big that it gets in the way when I’m cooking. Plus it’s got the stamp of approval from America’s Test Kitchen!


Cuisinart Immersion Hand Blender

Price: $30


A hand blender is something I always saw as a gimmicky kitchen tool until I received one as a gift. I didn’t take mine out of the box for a long time and when I finally did, I wondered why I hadn’t used it before. These things are awesome for so many things. I use mine to whip up small batches of whipped cream or to puree hot soup (so much nicer than blending batches separately and less dangerous). A hand blender also works well for making smoothies, salsa, and dips. Plus the blade end easily detaches and is dishwasher safe! 


 Victorinox Fibrox 12-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife

Price: $35

This is another equipment recommendation from America’s Test Kitchen. They deemed this the best slicing knife. Typically used to slice roasts, turkey, ham, and other pieces of meat, this knife is long enough to cut through large pieces in one stroke. It is also flexible enough to easily produce thin slices. A slicing knife is definitely a must-have for any chef and I’m sure this one won’t disappoint.


Oxo Good Grips Digital Kitchen Scale

Price: $35

No, this isn’t used for dietary purposes (although it could be). This is for measuring ingredients, such as flour, for baking. Why painstakingly measure out 6 cups of flour for that loaf of bread when you can just weigh it? How many ounces of pasta are left in that box? How much cheese is in that block? There are so many ways this little scale can help eliminate mistakes and speed up the cooking process. And once again, it’s recommended by America’s Test Kitchen! (pretend to be shocked)


Are you a little short on cash? How about some of these ideas for $25 or less? Even shorter on cash? Take a look at these items for $10 or less! Have more money than you know what to do with? Stay tuned for more ideas under $100!

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: $25 or Less

4 Dec

Lemon Squeezer and/or Lime Squeezer

Price: $13


This is another frequently used item in my kitchen. I technically have the smaller “lime” version of the one shown. If I were to do it again I’d get the lemon squeezer because it could fit both lemons and limes. Anyway, this squeezer works so effortlessly and is fast and simple to use. Be careful though because these types of citrus juicers aren’t all built equal. Some of them are made of plastic and are not of very high quality. Stick with the one shown here, or at least make sure the one you buy is a solidly built metal model.


Adjust-A-Cup Measuring Cup

Price: $16

I have been coveting one of these babies ever since the day I saw Alton Brown using one on Good Eats. They especially excel at measuring sticky ingredients such as peanut butter, corn syrup, and honey. I believe this 2-cup measure is the largest available, but they do make models for small measurements (i.e. tablespoons, etc.) which are under $10.


Pyrex 1 Quart Measuring Cup

Price: $12

You can never go wrong buying anything Pyrex, especially a liquid measuring cup. This is another one of the frequently used items in my kitchen. I have both a 4 cup (quart) size and 2 cup size and use both of them frequently. If your favorite cook makes a lot of soups and stews, this one will come in very handy. The 2 cup size is great for smaller measurements and goes down to 1/4 cup and is less than $10.


Wustof Come-Apart Kitchen Shears

Price: $18


I’ve had a pair of these babies for several years now and absolutely love them. They are incredibly sharp and durable. The best part is, the blades easily separate for cleaning! Everybody needs a pair of good quality kitchen shears.


Mircoplane Zester/Grater

Price: $15

 There is nothing better for zesting citrus fruits than a microplaner. These things are super sharp and stay that way. They are also wonderful for grating hard cheeses such as parmesan and romano. Oh, and this particular model comes in several colors. Don’t get black. It’s boring and is much harder to find in a drawer.


Bamboo In-Drawer Knife Block

Price: $22


If you don’t have a whole lot of counter space, this in-drawer knife block is your best friend. This block is very low profile and fits into small drawers. I personally have several knives that I bought separately and thus came with no block at all. This block is great because it keeps the knives separated in the drawer and fits all different sizes and varieties of knives. Finally my knives are organized!


 Stainless Steel Magnetic Knife Bar

Price: $20


Another great option for organizing knives is a magnetic knife strip. This is so convenient especially for knives that are used frequently. This particular strip is capable of holding knives that are quite heavy with no problem. They are traditionally mounted horizontally on the wall, but I have mounted this strip vertically on the side of a cabinet and it worked great too! This model is 15 inches long, but there are longer ones available for a few extra bucks.


Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Price: $24

This is my most favorite pan hands-down. So much so, that it lives on top of my stove.  I use it for EVERYTHING and is one of the best culinary gifts I’ve ever received. If you want to splurge, get the matching lid.

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life: $10 or Less

3 Dec

Let’s say you have a friend or family member or spouse who loves to cook. This should be all of you. Let’s say some occasion is coming up for which you would like to get this person a gift… be it a birthday, Christmas, or whatever. If you don’t cook or are just a dabbler in this area, you probably have no idea what sort of gift to get this person. Well, you have an idea, but chances are it’s not a good idea. Let ME, an expert help you out. Here’s some gift suggestions that any cook worth their weight in cheese would love.

This first group of items are $10 or less which make them perfect for stocking stuffers or just  little ‘thank-you’ gifts. Keep in mind that some of these things can actually be found cheaper, depending on where you shop. Follow along this coming week to see more gift ideas in every price range!

Trudeau Pot Clip Spoon Rest

Price: $8

I currently have two of these little guys and love them. It’s nice to be able to leave a wooden spoon dangling over a pot instead of messing up the counter. I do wish they had a larger size for wider handles (think pancake turners), but these are still nice for most everything. I think I use mine most to hold a dripping measuring cup over a bowl of waffle or pancake batter.

Bamboo Wooden Kitchen Utensil Set

Price: $10

A cook can never have too many wooden spoons, especially because they tend to break on occasion. It is not hard to find bamboo or wood spoon sets like this one which include several different shapes of spoons at a very low price. If you can, find spoons with larger handles such as these to alleviate hand cramping while stirring. My personal favorites are the 3 spoons on the left.


Mini Glass Prep Bowls

Price: $9 for 4 bowls

I wasn’t sure if I’d actually use these bowls when I got them, but I love them! I use them all the time to pre-measure spices and such when I’m cooking. It definitely makes prep work much more fun. These also work very well for dipping sauces and salad dressings.


Olive Oil Bottle

Price: $9

This is probably one of the most frequently used items in my kitchen. I’m pretty sure it gets used every single day. It is so easy and convenient to just grab the olive oil bottle next to the stove, make a quick turn around the pan and cook whatever I need to. In fact I’m sure I could use more of these babies for other things such as balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil. Plus they look so beautiful sitting on the counter!


French Rolling Pin

Price: $7

These rolling pins work so much better than the traditional ones with the handles. It is much easier to roll out pie doughs and such that are circular shapes. If you get one of these make sure there is a long straight portion in the middle with the tapers just on the ends. Some of these pins start to taper very close to the center and that’s no good. This is a great rolling pin and cheap to boot!

Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons

Price: $10

 I don’t care how many sets of measuring spoons you have, you can always use at least one more. There are a couple of great things about this set in particular. Not only does it come with the standard 1 tbsp, 1 tsp, 1/2 tsp, and 1/4 tsp sizes, it also includes the ever elusive 3/4 tsp and 1/8 tsp sizes. This set is also great because it is stainless steel. Which means it’ll last forever. The measurements are also stamped into the metal so it will never rub off. I also like these measuring spoons because they have a lower profile so they fit into the slim openings of spice jars and such. Plus, they look so pretty!

Next in line… Gifts for UNDER $25!

I Can Vouch for That: Part 2

20 Jun

A few months ago I did a post about products and things I liked. Seems you people like that sort of thing so I’m gonna do it again! I don’t think I got quite as crazy as I did last time, but this is all real good stuff. You need all of it. Here goes….

Windex Multi-Surface Vinegar Cleaner: I like this because I can use it for just about everything, including the kitchen counters. I COULD make my own cleaner using vinegar and such, but it stinks… so I buy this! It’s reasonably priced.

Cast Iron Cookware: This item was introduced to me by my friends, Heidi & Paul. Paul especially is big on cooking and loved his cast iron pans. So what did they do? They got me one for my birthday! I use this thing almost every single day. It is a great size, heats evenly, and is unbeatable when it comes to browning. I’ve used it for sauteing onions, grilling steaks and salmon, and for pretty much anything else I can fit into it. It’s oven safe and easy to clean and has a nice tight-fitting lid to go with it. When I get more room in my kitchen I’m going to add a few more of these babies.

Bottled minced/ground garlic and ginger: I love this stuff. Yes, I do have a garlic press but sometimes I’m just too lazy to peel ten million cloves of garlic. The ginger is a real time saver too. I’ve only bought fresh ginger once and it was the last time. I don’t think the flavor is noticeably compromised, it’s way better than dried stuff, and it’s just as fast to use!

Pampered Chef Bag Clips: My mom bought me a bag of clips from the Pampered Chef a few years ago and I love them. I always wished I had more, but for some reason never actually bought any. Recently my mom went to another Pampered Chef party and bought me some more! Yeah! I think they came in a bag of 10 or so in varying sizes. I thought I was set for life. But, I found that I kept grabbing them out of the drawer all the time to use on yet another open bag and what do you know? I ran out AGAIN! I could have 100 of these and use them all up! Anyway, they are very secure so I like them better than regular chip clips, and I haven’t had any of them break on me.

Frozen Chopped Onions: Holy crap, these are my most favorite. Frozen chopped onions? Hello! Awesome. They taste as good as fresh and all the prep work is already done! It saves time and my eyes don’t hurt for hours from chopping onions. I think they’re around $2 a bag which to me is worth it.
Now, as an addition to the things I like, I’m going to add a few things that I tried and DIDN’T like. See? Aren’t I so generous by saving you all from wasting money on crappy stuff?

The Big Red X List

X Silicone Bread Pan: I love silicone stuff. I have a silicone basting brush and spatulas. However, silicone bread pans really suck. I bought this bread pan a few years ago and it’s the worst kitchen related item I think I’ve ever had. The silicone thing was what drew me in… who wouldn’t want their bread to come out of the pan easier? While I’m sure other silicone pans work fine, the one for bread does not. The material isn’t strong enough to hold its shape for bread. The sides bulge out and make the loaf look really dumb. Plus, I don’t think the bread baked as well as is does in a regular bread pan.

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