Apricot Couscous Pie

This was one of the pies I made for last night’s Pie Night. It’s delicious. Recipe adapted from Icebox Pies, which Sharon gave me last year. It’s turned out to be quite the excellent pie book.


  • 3 cups half and half
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup couscous
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 crumb crust
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  1. lightly beat egg yolks
  2. chop dried apricots finely
  3. combine half and half, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan
  4. bring pot just to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low
  5. slowly drizzle about 1/2 cup of the half and half mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly
  6. whisk the egg yolks into the saucepan
  7. add the couscous, dried apricots, and nutmeg and stir to combine
  8. simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and almost all the liquid has been absorbed (about 5 to 7 minutes)
  9. remove the pan from the heat
  10. stir in the vanilla
  11. scrape the mixture into the crumb crust
  12. in a food processor, process the apricot preserves until smooth
  13. spread the preserves over the pie with a spatula
  14. wrap in plastic wrap
  15. refrigerate at least 3 hours

No photos, because I didn’t have space on the memory card for my camera.

Shrimp and Stuffing Bake

Back to cooking some new things for me. This one is based off a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles (page 105 if you care). Other than the soup, little else is pre-made.

The recipe calls for frozen or fresh medium shrimp, but I prefer smaller shrimp in dishes. So I got canned since I didn’t see any of the small shrimp in the freezer. The downside is there’s a lot of salt in canned shrimp. I figure boiling the shrimp removes some of the salt though. I also avoided the condensed soup in the recipe because the only condensed version of cream of celery at Whole Foods was super high in salt. If I remember correctly, it was about 33% U.S. R.D.A. per serving. So I got an uncondensed kind and used a little bit more. It was pretty thick stuff, so I only increased the amount used by a couple of ounces over the book’s recipe. I bought bread made in store, which unfortunately doesn’t list the sodium content. It is the third ingredient on the list though. I’m thinking the sodium I don’t know about in the bread is balanced somewhat by the amount of sodium taken out by boiling the shrimp.

  • 12 oz. canned shrimp (1980 mg sodium)
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ½ large onion
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • about 12 ounces creamy celery soup (720 mg sodium)
  • ¼ cup milk (32 mg sodium)
  • ½ teaspoon sage
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • dash of pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 oz. crusty bread loaf
  1. Cut bread into cubes/small chunks
  2. Bake bread at 350° for 15 to 25 minutes to dry it out/firm it up
  3. Boil shrimp for about 3 minutes (if fresh/frozen, until they are opaque)
  4. Chop the celery
  5. Chop the onion
  6. Cook celery and onion in butter until tender (can use the same as the shrimp)
  7. Add soup, milk, sage, thyme (crush first), and pepper
  8. Beat eggs
  9. Add eggs to the concoction
  10. Mix well
  11. Fold in bread chunks
  12. Fold in shrimp
  13. Transfer to 1.5 quart casserole dish
  14. Bake covered for 30 minutes at 350°
  15. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  16. Let it cool.

Pretty tasty is the result. About 4 servings. About 690 mg sodium per serving, done my way.

Also, now I know basically how to make stuffing. Can’t say it tastes a whole lot better than boxed though, which is cheaper. This has less salt. Without the shrimp the price might be comparable and the salt in this really a lot less.

And yeah, I know I’ve been harping on the salt a lot lately. It’s been one year today since my grandfather died, and I’m basically of the opinion that a high salt diet was the proximate cause of his heart attacks in the last year. The doctors told him on a couple of E.R. visits that salt intake was what caused his shortness of breath that prompted the 911 call. Can’t know what would have been; without the salt it might have been just as bad. Still, I owe it to myself to make these changes now rather than when I have heart problems at 83.

Vodka sauce

Yesterday I made a pasta sauce not from a jar for the first time ever. I’d planned on making it on Monday, but what with my thumb getting partially removed and the last dish lasting longer than I expected…

Since my basic cookbooks don’t have a vodka sauce recipe in them, I turned to the internet. AllRecipes.com had a vodka sauce recipe, and that’s what I started with. Steps below are how I made it, which is not exactly what was in the linked recipe.

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ pound prosciutto
  • 3 heaping teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • One 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15 ounce can no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. chop prosciutto
  2. chop parsley
  3. chop basil
  4. heat olive oil in a large pan
  5. sauté prosciutto, garlic, parsley, and basil until prosciutto is evenly brown
  6. add vodka
  7. simmer 10 minutes
  8. add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 1 cup water
  9. simmer 15 minutes
  10. add cream
  11. cook 2 minutes

I’m guessing it’ll make six servings. Four so far, and it looks like about two are left.

The sauce was thinner than I expected. Next time I’ll just omit the cup of water. And drop the prosciutto down to a quarter or half pound at most. Normally I’d have used no salt added diced tomatoes too, but when I was poor last month, Deirdre was kind enough to donate a can of diced tomatoes to me. This kind would actually qualify as low-sodium under F.D.A. rules, but when you add it all up it’s still quite a lot.

Salt content:

  • Prosciutto: 7680 mg
  • Diced tomatoes: 1540 mg
  • No salt added tomato sauce: 70 mg
  • Cream: 160 mg

Total sodium: 9450 mg
Per serving: 1575 mg

That does not include the pasta. Definitely up there in salt. Cutting down the prosciutto will cut a lot from that. Not sure if there are lower salt prosciuttos out there.

Cheesy Sausage and Rice Bake

I promised to write about what I cook in an effort to cook more. But I didn’t promise this would be stuff you’d want to eat.

The recipe comes from the Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles. It turned out pretty tasty, though a little saltier than I was expecting. I should find out if any of the local butchers do a low salt bulk sausage. Doctor told me I was to watch my salt. I don’t like to be rigid about it, but seeing Gramps ingest salt licks when he was supposed to watch his salt too, and end up in the hospital for it, has been illuminating.

Recipe is how I made it, not exactly how it is in the cookbook.

  • 1 lb. bulk sausage
  • ½ small onion
  • 3 cups crisp rice cereal
  • ¼ cup rice
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup soy milk
  • 1½ teaspoons butter
  1. Cook rice.
  2. Chop the onion.
  3. Shred the cheese.
  4. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 325°.
  6. Cook sausage and onion over medium heat.
  7. Combine 2½ cups of the cereal with the rice.
  8. Spread the rice mix on the bottom of the casserole dish.
  9. Spread sausage and onion over the rice.
  10. Spread the cheese over the sausage.
  11. Mix the soup, eggs, and soy milk.
  12. Pour eggs etc. over everything else.
  13. Melt the butter.
  14. Mix butter with last ½ cup of cereal.
  15. Sprinkle cereal over the top of the casserole.
  16. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
Cheesy sausage and rice bake
Cheesy sausage and rice bake

Edited to add: Daniel suggests in the comments on LJ that most of the salt comes from the soup. Not exactly true, though that is biggest single contributor of sodium. I’m pretty good about checking sodium content of the foods I buy and got the cream of celery soup that had the lowest sodium content of any of that kind of soup at Fred Meyer.

Here’s the sodium contributions to this dish, taken from the nutrition labels:

1025 mg soup
900 mg sausage
720 mg cheese
640 mg cereal
210 mg eggs
24 mg soy milk
2 mg unsalted butter

3521 mg total sodium
586 mg sodium per serving

Shoe Peg Corn

Got this recipe from my cousin’s wife, Leah. Essentially, this is homemade creamed corn. But it’s way better, and super easy.

  • 4 cans corn, drained (white corn suggested)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 8 oz. block cream cheese
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  1. preheat oven to 375°
  2. soften butter in microwave (or leave butter on counter to soften ahead of time)
  3. dice jalapeño finely (or use pre-diced canned jalapeño, though not as good)
  4. combine butter and cream cheese well
  5. add corn
  6. add jalapeño
  7. mix well
  8. bake in 9 in. by 13 in. pan for 30 to 35 minutes

homemade creamed corn

Chicken and Almond Soup

I made this soup last week when I was staying over at my grandparents’ place. Gramps is supposed to be on a cardiac diet, so most boxed meals and canned soups are out. But soup made from scratch can be prepared without salt frequently, so I brought over The Ultimate Soup Bible to pick through. Nothing too fancy, cause my grandparents aren’t fancy eaters. And with a small kitchen and old equipment, I wouldn’t be able to complete a lot of fancy steps.

Recipe is what I made, not what’s in the book.

  • 6 tablespoons margarine (I would have used butter, but that’s what they have)
  • 1 medium leek
  • ¾ teaspoon fresh ginger
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond butter
  • 1 medium carrot
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1½ cup frozen cooked chicken
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup cream
  1. Melt the margarine in a dutch oven kind of pan
  2. Chop the leek
  3. Chop the ginger
  4. Sauté the leek and ginger until it turns soft
  5. Lower heat
  6. Chop the carrot
  7. Add almond butter, carrot, peas, and chicken, and ½ cup of water
  8. Cook until everything is cooked/not frozen
  9. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes
  10. Transfer mixture to blender
  11. Add 1½ cups water
  12. Process for about 90 seconds
  13. Pour back into pan
  14. Bring to boil while stirring
  15. Lower heat
  16. Stir in cream
  17. Stir in chopped cilantro

This was super super tasty.

Acelmo’s Spanish Rice

In my quest to find more rice recipes (cause I have a giant bag of rice and it’s cheap), I tried this recipe for Spanish rice from Greg Atkinson’s West Coast Cooking. Really easy, fresh ingredients, pretty tasty.

  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Rinse the rice several times in cold water
  2. Let rice drain in strainer
  3. Chop the onion
  4. Cut the tomato up
  5. Put tomato, onion, garlic and oregano in a blender
  6. Puree
  7. Remove mixture from blender when the blade just spins through the tomato chunks
  8. Put mixture in food processor and/or chop stuff by hand until the chunks are much smaller
  9. Put mixture back into blender
  10. Puree vegetables until they are liquefied
  11. Add water to make 4 cups total liquid
  12. Pour vegetable liquid into 3 quart saucepan
  13. Add salt and bay leaf
  14. Bring liquid to boil
  15. Add rice to saucepan
  16. Reduce heat to low and cover
  17. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes until liquid is absorbed
  18. Remove lid, stir, and let stand

Carmelized Onion Pie

I took this recipe for a carmelized onion tart from The Pie and Pastry Bible and modified it a bit to make it a bit easier. I don’t own a tart shell, so I just used a shallow pie plate. I also didn’t use any of the fancier pie crust recipes the author suggested. Just a plain old whole wheat pastry flour, unsalted butter, and chilled water pie crust. As always, recipe below is what I did, not exactly what’s in the cookbook.

  • Single shell pie crust
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 medium sweet onions
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • ½ ounce Gruyère cheese
  • pitted Manzanilla olives
  1. Pre-bake the pie crust
  2. Lightly beat egg white
  3. While still warm, brush the crust with egg white
  4. Peel and thinly slice onions
  5. In skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over low heat
  6. Add onions
  7. Sprinkle onions with sugar, salt, and pepper
  8. Cover and cook without stirring on lowest possible heat 45 minutes
  9. Shred Gruyère cheese finely
  10. Preheat oven to 400°
  11. Raise heat on onions to medium
  12. Stir and cook onions until all liquid has evaporated and they are golden
  13. Turn heat to low
  14. Add garlic and thyme
  15. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes
  16. Fill pie shell with onion mixture
  17. Sprinkle with Gruyère cheese
  18. Place olives on top
  19. Bake for 20 minutes or so (until cheese is melted and top is brown)

The result was heavenly. Several folks told me it was the best of the 20 or so pies we had at the last Pie Night. It might become one of my staple pies. Easy to make and so very very tasty.

Coconut Pie

This recipe comes from Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook, which I picked up for free outside Michael’s Books in Bellingham. It worked out pretty good, though I might do something slightly different next time. Instead of coconut flakes, I might use shredded coconut. Since coconut doesn’t soften too much during the cooking, it resulted in kind of a crunchy/fibrous texture. That was minor though. Turned out to be an excellent pie, and pretty easy to make.

As always, recipe is how I made it, not exactly how it appears in the cookbook.

  • unbaked 9 inch pie shell
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1½ cups flaked coconut
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Combine 2 egg whites, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, sugar, coconut, milk, and butter.
  2. Cook over hot (not boiling) water in a double boiler for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly.
  3. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. Beat 2 egg whites just until stiff (but not too stiff). I’ve never been able to beat egg whites to stiffness anyway, so this wasn’t a problem.
  5. Fold beaten egg whites into coconut mixture.
  6. Pour into pie shell.
  7. Bake at 450° for 30 to 40 minutes, or until filling is firm in the center.
  8. Cool and let it set.
  9. Put pie in refrigerator overnight and serve cold.

No pictures of my finished work this time.


A couple of months ago, I tried out a pastitsio recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles. Looking at the index, I realized the cookbook had a different recipe for pastitsio 60 pages earlier. That’s my one gripe about the cookbook; it doesn’t group similar recipes very well. There’s five or six mac and cheese recipes scattered throughout. Why not put them all together? Anyhow, the other pastitsio recipe had fewer pre-made ingredients, so I decided I would try it. It’s better.

The following is my attempt.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded Romano cheese
  1. Chop onion
  2. Cook beef and onion until meat is browned and onion is tender
  3. Drain
  4. Add tomato sauce, sherry, and cinnamon to meat and onions
  5. Heat until bubbling
  6. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes
  7. Cook penne pasta according to directions
  8. Lightly beat 2 eggs
  9. Toss cooked pasta with eggs and 2 tablespoons of butter
  10. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat
  11. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth
  12. Add milk (slowly)
  13. Cook until mixture is thick
  14. Lightly beat 2 eggs
  15. Stir mixture into the eggs
  16. (make sure meat, pasta, and sauce are all finished)
  17. Preheat oven to 350°
  18. Grease a 3 quart casserole dish
  19. Spread half the pasta in dish
  20. Spread half the meat sauce over the pasta
  21. Spread 1/3 of the cheese over the pasta
  22. Spread remaining pasta on top of cheese
  23. Spread remaining meat sauce over the pasta
  24. Spread 1/3 of the cheese over the pasta
  25. Pour white sauce evenly over cheese
  26. Spread remaining cheese on top
  27. Cover and bake for 20 minutes
  28. Remove cover and bake for additional 15 minutes
  29. Let stand for 15 minutes to cool and set