Monday, December 12, 2016

Cran-Raspberry Lacroix Holiday Punch

'Tis the season for lots of parties! One thing I've found when hosting holiday gatherings is small touches can do a lot to up your game. Enter: This punch.

When you're having big groups of people over, it's good to have a variety of options for those who have different dietary restrictions and concerns. Obviously, the only way to completely ensure you're serving the right foods to your friends and family is to text every single person on the guest list and ask if there's anything they can't or won't eat. But, when you're having a larger get-together, it's nearly impossible to contact everyone and perfectly accommodate their food needs. I mean, it is possible. But then you wouldn't have had time to binge Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life for the second time this month.

So here's my solution: I play it safe. I try to go with the most wow-worthy, clean ingredients that pack a punch — and YES, that pun was intended. (Do you feel like I'm about to start talking about Lacroix? I might be about to start talking about Lacroix...)

Okay, you guessed it. Lacroix is the not-so-secret ingredient in this holiday concoction! In my humble option, the absolute worst thing at parties is punch that tastes like melted sherbet. So instead of buying a bunch of sugary mixers and adding in a dessert, try this recipe instead:

Single Serving
- 8 oz. Cran-Raspberry LaCroix (3/4 of a can)
- 4 oz. Cranberry Juice
- Splash of Orange Juice
- Garnish with orange slice, frozen cranberries (to keep it chilly!) and rosemary

For a Punch Bowl
- 8 cans LaCroix
- 1 46 oz. jug of Cranberry Juice
- 1/2 cup Orange Juice
- Garnish with orange slice, frozen cranberries (to keep it chilly!) and rosemary

The best thing about this punch is you'll still feel great after drinking 10-12 glasses of it! Don't ask me how I know...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Spiced Apple and Pear Pie

People. We've got PIES today. Well, OK, just one pie — but if you're looking for pies (plural), I can point you in the right direction.

My friend, Stephanie, is kitchen queen extraordinaire, and she's been one of my dearest pals since college. Steph is one of those people who is gifted at everything, and she's still sweet and incredibly gracious. Trust me, I have hard evidence from the one time we tried to do kickboxing together.

Serious paragraph: Springfield, MO (where we live) is home to some great nonprofits including iPour Life, which has what they call a "10x10" women's empowerment program in Korah, Ethiopia. The women who live in Korah have leprosy or a HIV diagnosis, and they're at risk of losing their children. The goal of the program is to train women in different skills and business knowledge, so they can sustain themselves and provide for their families. You can learn more about the program, including why it's called 10x10, here.

And where does Stephanie come in? Glad you asked! She's baking pies to support a trip she's taking in June. She'll be on the ground in Korah to encourage these women and aid them with home repairs. Stephanie is baking up a storm to support her trip, so if you're into women's empowerment (or if you're shamelessly into pie), head over to for more!

AND if that wasn't all enough, Stephanie is going to share her pie recipe here today! Here we go:

Dough Ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced 1 large egg
- 3 to 4 tablespoons very cold water

Dough Directions:
- Put flour, sugar, and salt into a large food processor bowl and pulse to combine. Cut cold butter into - 1 inch cubes and put into processor with dry ingredients. Pulse processor until the dough resembles coarse dough (like cornmeal with only small, pea-sized pieces of butter left).
- Beat the egg with 3 tablespoons of the water; then drizzle it evenly over the dough in the processor. Pulse the dough just until it begins to hold together. If you need to, you can add about 2 tablespoons of ice water to get the dough to come together.
- Take the dough out of the food processor and mold into one large ball. Divide the dough in half and flatten into 2 discs. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (The dough can also be frozen for 2 months and defrost the dough in the fridge overnight.)

Filling Ingredients (Recipe adapted from The Food Network):
- 1/2 lemon
- 3 pounds baking apples, such as Golden Delicious, Cortland, or Mutsu (about 6 apples) 1 1/2 pounds baking pears, such as Bosc or firm Bartletts (about 3 pears)
- 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, beaten

Filling Directions:
- Finely grate the lemon zest and set it aside.
- Peel, core, and then slice both the apple and pear into 1⁄2 inch slices.
- Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit, then toss fruit with the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, salt and nutmeg.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fruit and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves and juices simmer, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until the fruit softens and the juices evaporate some, about 10 minutes.
- Evenly mix the flour into the fruit; then cook about a minute more to thicken the juices slightly. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest; and remove from the heat. (The filling should resemble a tight compote.) Cool completely.

Form the Pie:
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
- Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Roll one disk of dough into an 11 to 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to 9-inch glass pie pan by rolling the dough up around your rolling pin and then unrolling across the pie pan. Then, trim the dough so it hangs about 1/2-inch over the edge of the pan.
- Fill the crust with the prepared fruit so it mounds slightly in the center. Roll the remaining dough into a 12-inch circle. Brush the rim of the crust already in the pan with some of the egg.
- To make a lattice top, cut the flattened dough into 8-10 strips, about 1 inch wide. Carefully layer about 4-5 strips of dough across the top of the filled pie. Then, carefully begin crossing the remaining strips above and under the pre-laid strips until it creates a lattice with about 2 inch gaps between all strips. Trim the dough strips until they match the length of the bottom crust. Press the lattice ends to the bottom crust and use a little egg to seal.
- For a regular pie top, roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll it over the fruit so it hangs over the edge of the pie pan by about 1/2-inch. Trim crust if needed, reserving the scraps for decorations or for patching, if needed. Fold the top crust edge under the bottom one, then press the edges together to seal. Cut trimmed scraps into designs if desired and set aside. Flute the crust by pressing a finger into the crust against the other hand's index finger and thumb to make an even impression. Repeat every 1/2 inch around the pie to create a ruffled edge (see photo). Cut a few small steam vents in the top of the dough.
- Brush the top of the pie with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
- Place the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees, and bake until the crust is golden brown (about 50 minutes).
- If the edges begin to brown too quickly, put a piece of aluminum foil around the edges to cover while the rest of the pie cooks.
- Once the pie is golden brown and cooked through, take the pie out of the oven and cool it on a rack.
Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with ice cream. (Always with ice cream.)

So, clearly, it's a lot of work! But if you have the patience and stick with it, it's SO worth your efforts. Plus, the best part is if you live in Springfield, you can just buy one from Steph! Not only will you have a great pie, but you'll be supporting women in Ethiopia — sounds like a win-win to me!

Pie, guys!