ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

 Yes, yes, yes, it's another banana recipe.  You know I can't get enough of them.  But it has been awhile since I posted one.

My kids love chocolate chips thrown into most muffins and breads.  And I am happy to oblige.  Why not?  Especially with these - hello, whole wheat flour!  Whole wheat flour, and cinnamon chips (optional but amazing!), and chocolate chips and either rum or coconut extract?!  So awesome.  Either one adds a very subtle but yummo flavor everyone you know will love. 
 Put these in your "no fail" folder, your "crowd pleaser" bookmark.  Always, always, always a hit.  Perfect in any season, for any occasion.  So delicious.  And that's all I have to say about that.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (print recipe)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup mashed bananas, about 2 medium
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 to 1/4 butter rum or coconut flavor, optional
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans, optional
1 cup cinnamon chips, optional

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease 12 to 14 standard muffin cups.

2.  Beat the butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the banana, then the egg, flavorings, and milk.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and flours, stirring until smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips, nuts and cinnamon chips.

3.  Heap the thick batter into the prepared muffin cups, mounding them quite full; you'll make 14 muffins if you've used all three add-ins.  Bake the muffins 20 to 23 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.  Makes 12 to 14 muffins.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grapefruit Meringue Pie

 This was the final pie I made for Dessert Club.  I just love grapefruit!  (If you haven't tried my pink grapefruit sandwich cookies you are LAME!)  I also love lemon meringue pie - my all-time favorite from all pie occasions growing up, and into college, when the roommates were out on dates and my Saturday nights consisted of a trip to Frontier Pies and a date with the remote.

So I thought, why not grapefruit meringue?  Especially since I recently discovered a more mature way to make meringue, so it is more marshmallowy and less foamy (this recipe is done that way.)  So I Googled it, and naturally someone out there beat me to it - thanks to BakingBites for her awesome recipe contribution.

I loved this pie.  My brother Dave was slightly appalled that it wasn't more pink-grapefruit-colored.  But those in the know understand that lemon pie filling is not yellow from lemons; it's yellow from egg yolks.  And since this filling is made the same way, with the substitution of grapefruit juice for lemon juice, it, too, is yellow from egg yolks.  With an ever-so-slightly peachy tinge.  But if you add a drop or two of red food coloring, I bet you'd get it just the right pink...if you're into that kind of artificiality.

One last comment - as I got out the torch to toast this baby down, I told Dave I'd do half and he could do the other.  He shrugged and said he didn't need to.  Then he watched as I fired it up and gently browned it over.  I asked if he'd changed his mind. He said (of the torch), "It's like a gun!  And fire!  And pie!  All together!"  Turns out he did want a turn, imagine that.
 Grapefruit Meringue Pie (print recipe)

1 9-inch pie crust, prebaked (recipe here)

1 cup sugar
3 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp ap flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 tbsp grapefruit zest
3 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
2 tbsp butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1.  In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt and water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 3 minutes, until quite thick. In a small bowl, combine egg yolks with grapefruit juice and zest.

2.  Gradually temper eggs with about 1/2 cup of sugar mixture, drizzling in the hot mixture very slowly. Return saucepan to the heat and, whisking continuously, stream in grapefruit mixture. Add in butter and cook over medium-high heat for another 3 minutes.  Pour into prepared crust.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

3.  Once filling is cooled, preheat oven to 350F. (Note: browning the meringue can be done with a kitchen torch, instead of putting the pie in the oven.) 

4.  In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and turn heat to low.  In a large bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in cream of tartar and beat at high speed until egg whites reach soft peaks. Carefully and very slowly, with the mixer turned to medium, stream in sugar syrup and beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Spoon meringue onto pie filling and make sure to completely seal the edges or the meringue with the crust, leaving no filling exposed.

5.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned.  (Or brown with a kitchen torch.) Makes 1 pie

Recipe adapted from

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blackberry French Toast Casserole

 A few weeks ago I made "Breakfast for Dinner" for my Dinner Swap meal.   So the weekend before, I tried two different baked French toast recipes to see which to use.  They were both actually good, but I found this one easier to multiply.  And I used my FAVORITE blackberry jam, which really makes the dish.  Little bursts of creamy cream cheese, good French bread, a little nutmeg and cinnamon all come together to make a mouthwatering breakfast...any time of day.
Blackberry French Toast Casserole (print recipe)
1 cup blackberry jam
1 (12-oz.) French bread loaf, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Whipped cream for serving, optional

1.  Cook jam in a small saucepan over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.

2.  Place half of bread cubes in bottom of a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Top with cream cheese cubes, and drizzle with melted jam.  Top with remaining bread cubes.

3.  Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.  Pour over bread mixture, pressing slightly to get each bread cube soaked.  Sprinkle brown sugar over top.  Cover tightly and refrigerate 8 to 24 hours.

4.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake, covered, 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until bread is golden brown and mixture is set.  Serve warm alone or with whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, November 2009

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Derby Pie

This was my personal FAVORITE pie from Pies & Tarts night, and not just because I made it!  I talked to Dave the morning of Dessert Club and told him the pies I was making.  He had made his pear-raspberry pie the night before and had it with him at work, but he wished he had had time to make this Derby Pie as well.  I told him to send me the recipe; if I had all the ingredients I could make a crust ahead of time and we could make the pie together when he came over after work, a few hours before Dessert Club.

Here's the story of how Dave got the recipe, in his own words:
So my friend John Alexander has been searching lo these many years for the perfect pecan pie. He has tried many recipes, but none quite measured up to what he wanted the pie to taste like. One day the story of his pie quest came up within hearing of Anne. Now Anne is Kentucky born and raised, and she came into his office and said to John "Have you tried Derby Pie"?  John's eyebrows raised, and he picked up his phone and called me into his office. Upon hearing that it was not only a pecan pie but a Chocolate pecan pie, together we pressured Anne into agreeing to make us a Derby Pie, which she did, and John's long search for the perfect pecan-based pie was over. Of course, the week following Anne's pie, we pressured John into making it and so got to enjoy it all over again.  A few months later John was on vacation in Utah (from England - backwards, right?) and emailed me in desperation - "Do you have the Derby Pie recipe? I really want to make it but I don't have it on my email that I can get to from here!" - I put him in touch with Anne's husband on Facebook so John could introduce Derby Pie into his native Utah.   My price for hooking him up in his hour of need? You guessed it - my own copy of the Derby Pie recipe.   That's the story of our pie.   I'm sure Anne could tell you a better story about its Kentucky heritage or whatever, but that's how it came to me.
Luckily, VGP and Dessert Club are non-profit situations, or else we could get sued for using the name, "Derby Pie."  Apparently it is a registered trademark of Kern's Kitchen in Prospect, Kentucky, and they have sued to protect its copyright at least 25 times since 1968.  See here

I think it's a catchy name but I don't really care what we call it.  "Slice of Heaven" works for me.  It smells like chocolate chip cookies while baking, probably because it has all the best ingredients from those - brown sugar, chocolate, nuts and vanilla.  I never cared for pecan pie when I was younger.  Then I went to Canada and discovered sugar pie and butter tarts, which are basically pecan pie without pecans.  Then my palate matured and I started to like pecans.  And of course chocolate makes everything better.  I don't know about you folks, but thanks to Kern's Kitchen and Dave's friends Anne and John, I have now got a new Thanksgiving tradition.
Derby Pie (print recipe)
One unbaked 9-inch pie shell
4 eggs
1 stick melted butter
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup white corn syrup (Karo)
1 cup pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk eggs. In a small bowl or pan (whatever you melted the butter in), mix the flour and melted butter with a fork until there are no lumps. 

2.  Into the whisked eggs, stir in sugars, vanilla, syrup, and butter-flour mixture. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into an uncooked 9" pie crust.  Try to spread the chocolate chips evenly around the pie; the pecans will take care of themselves. Once they float to the top, if it looks like there are lots of empty spots, you could add more pecans so the top is covered well. Just make sure you get the pecans completely coated with the filling mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and 20 minutes, or until the pie doesn't jiggle like jello when you shake it.

Recipe from Anne from Kentucky

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blueberry-Cherry Pie

 Just LOOK at this gorgeous flaky perfect crust (in such a cute pan!) with just a hint of deep purple goodness dribbling out.  And inside was, well, just see for yourself at the end.  Everything the perfect presentation promised.  If you've got cherry pie lovers coming for Thanksgiving, why not throw them a curve ball?  Sometimes purists need to chill.  This pie is sooo good they might not even notice!
 Blueberry-Cherry Pie (print recipe)
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts OR one recipe all-butter crust (below)
1/2 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T lemon juice
1 (21-ounce) can "Lite" cherry pie filling (if you use regular, decrease sugar slightly)
4 cups frozen blueberries
1 1/2 T butter, shaved
1 egg white
1 tsp water
2 tsp sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Press one of the pie crusts into a 9-inch pie plate.  In a large bowl, stir together sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon.  Stir in the lemon juice, cherry pie filling and blueberries.  Spoon into the pie crust.  Top with shaved butter and then the second pie crust.  Press the edges to seal.  Flute the edges or press with the tines of a fork. 

2.  In a cup, whisk together the egg white and water with a fork.  Brush over the top of the pie, then sprinkle with 2 tsp sugar.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until crust is golden brown.  Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they appear to be getting too dark.  Cool for at least 2 hours.

Butter Flaky Pie Crust

Makes ONE 9-inch crust (so double it for a double crust pie like above)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

1.  In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

2.  Roll dough out to fit a 9-inch pie plate.  Place crust in pie plate.  Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
Recipes adapted from via Dessert Club member J.M.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cranberry Cream Pie

 Here's one of the pies I made for Dessert Club.  In choosing my pies, rather than browsing recipes like I usually do, I thought first, "What kind of pie do I want to eat?"  Then went looking for a recipe.

I already have a great crust from Baking Illustrated, so check.  Then I remembered a disappointing pear-cranberry pie I made last year and I thought, yeah, I still really want a great cranberry pie for my repertoire.  (I knew Dave was making pear raspberry so pear was covered.)  I didn't want cranberry-sauce-in-a-crust, but I still wanted cranberry.  I mentioned this to Dave in one of our pie powow sessions and he said he just happened to have the thing.  One of his cookbooks that they have liked had a Cranberry Cream Pie, and in Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly, Joan Aller said this was a standout star on her Thanksgiving table.   
 I loved the beautiful simplicity of it - cranberries, sugar, and a little white custard.  Not only is it holiday-gorgeous (and I love that little sugary crust on top), but it is just-tart-just-sweet enough, a little creamy, and Dave liked that the cranberries remain mostly whole, so you can create your own perfect bite (with a little extra whipped cream if you need it.)  So whether it's Thanksgiving, Lefse Day (a post-Thanksgiving tradition in our family), St. Lucia Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's, the Super Bowl or even Groundhog's Day, you have plenty of chances to thrill your friends and family with this out-of-the-ordinary holiday pie.
 Cranberry Cream Pie (print recipe)

One unbaked 9-inch single pie crust
Fresh or frozen cranberries (about one 12-ounce bag, rinsed and picked over)
1 cup sugar, DIVIDED
1 heaping Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg white
1 cup heavy cream

1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Spread a thick layer of cranberries in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.  This comes to about a handful less than a full 12-ounce bag.  Cover the cranberries with 1/3 cup sugar.  (Or use all the cranberries and a little more sugar.)

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and the flour.  In another medium bowl, beat the egg white until stiff peaks form, then fold it into the sugar mixture.  Slowly stir in the cream until fully incorporated. 

3.  Pour the cream mixture over the cranberries (they will float to the top.)  Bake the pie at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for about 40 minutes more until the custard is set.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Recipe from Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia by Joan E. Aller

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