Connecticut - ______________ Pudding

Connecticut - _______________ Pudding

Let's start this "post" off with a game!  

See if you can guess the ingredient (and missing word above) from these pictures: 

Did you get it?  

Yep - Grape-Nuts cereal is the key ingredient in the sweet I am featuring for Connecticut - Grape-Nut Pudding! 

Grape-Nut Pudding is a regional favorite in New England.  As you can imagine, a lot of foods that are traditional in New England have ties to Colonial America and are not specific to one particular state within the region.  I thought it was important to feature a pudding for New England and since Connecticut is our first N.E. state, I chose Grape-Nut Pudding.  

A few puddings seem to have roots in New England - Indian Pudding, Hasty Pudding and Grape-Nut Pudding.  I was most curious about Grape-Nut Pudding and wanted to see how this “uber-healthy” cereal could be worked into a dessert.    

Suspended or Settled?
A point of dispute and personal preference seems to be whether the grape-nuts should be suspended throughout the pudding or settled onto the bottom of the pudding to form a crust.  

I decided that I wanted to have Grape-Nuts in each and every bite of my pudding, so I’m a member of the “suspended” camp and found a technique to ensure the cereal didn’t settle to the bottom.  More on that below... 

Where do you look for a tried and true New England recipe?  Why Yankee Magazine of course!  Apparently this was the first published recipe for this homemade favorite.  


Last but not least...

We can’t do a recipe for The Nutmeg State without some Nutmeg now can we?!

1 quart milk, scalded
1 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
4 large eggs
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (to butter casserole dish)
Whole Nutmeg

❉  Heat oven to 350℉
❉  Scald milk (heat until it is steaming, but not boiling)
❉  Place Grape-Nuts in medium bowl and pour scalded milk over cereal.  Let sit 5 minutes.

❉  In a second bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and salt 
❉  Add egg mixture to Grape-Nut mixture and stir well.  
Note:  the recipe didn’t say to do this, but I tempered my egg mixture before adding it to the milk & Grape-Nuts.  Just add a small amount of your warm milk to the egg mixture to raise the temperature of the eggs before you pour it into the hot milk.  This will prevent any of your eggs from scrambling.  Which would be gross.  
❉  Pour into a buttered 2 quart casserole dish.
❉  Generously grate nutmeg over the top (don’t be shy, this is the Nutmeg State after all!) 

❉  Place casserole dish into a deep roasting pan.  Place in oven then pour water into roasting pan, enough to reach halfway up the side of the casserole.  
❉  Bake 45 - 60 minutes, until almost set in the center (very slight jiggle).

Keep ‘em Separated
If you are like me and want Grape-Nuts in every bite, follow this tip I read from a 93 year old New England native:  Once the pudding is in the oven, stir it twice during the first 20 minutes of baking.  It works!  

This pudding is best served warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!  Very simple, homey and comforting.  


Colorado - Seasonal Skip

Colorado - Seasonal Skip

The key ingredient in Colorado’s State Sweet is out of season right now, so we will revisit Colorado this summer!  Stay tuned - you might be surprised what fruit will be featured!


California - Avocado Pie

California - Avocado Pie

Ok everyone, time to be open minded!

California produces so many great fruits - grapes, dates, oranges, figs, kiwi, persimmons, pineapples, avocado - that it was hard to decide which fruit to feature in their state sweet.  Wait, did she say avocado is a fruit?!

Yes, avocado is indeed a fruit and comes from the Lauraceae family.  It’s probably no surprise to you that California produces 90% of the avocados grown in the United States.   I’ve always associated Avocado with California so I was pleased to find that there is in fact a dessert featuring this creamy, green vegetable fruit - Avocado Pie!

A Retro Recipe
I haven’t been able to nail down an exact date when this green pie was invented, but the nature of the recipe leads me to believe it probably made it’s debut in the 1950’s - 1960’s (graham cracker crust + gelatin + sweetened condensed milk + refrigerator = retro homemade goodness)!

I was able to locate several Avocado Pie recipes and many of them sounded like a Key Lime Pie recipe with a smidge of Avocado.  If I’m going to make an Avocado Pie, I want the Avocado to be the star, so I found a recipe that calls for 3 avocados.  

The Supporting Cast

The Recipe
9 inch Graham Cracker pie crust
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 medium Haas avocados, mashed
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream

❉  Combine lime juice, lemon juice and unflavored gelatin in small bowl and let stand 4 - 5 minutes or until softened
❉  In a large bowl of food processor combine gelatin mixture, mashed avocados, sweetened condensed milk and process until smooth
❉  Pour into prepared pie shell
❉  Refrigerate at least 2 hours until firm
❉  In small bowl, whip heavy cream and sour cream together until stiff peaks form
❉  Top pie with whipped cream and serve

So Simple!
Look at that fun green color!  Reminds me of Kermit!

I decided to make individual sized pies instead of the 9 inch pie.  I was purchasing pre-made graham cracker crusts anyway so I thought these would be cute!

I was able to get 12 small pies from this recipe.

Call me crazy...
But I really liked this pie!  I enjoyed the citrus tang but really loved the fresh avocado flavor.    I felt like I was playing a trick on my taste buds giving them a sweet avocado experience instead of the spicy - guacamole - avocado taste they have become so accustomed too.  Despite having an entire can of sweetened condensed milk, the pie is not overly sweet.  The whipped cream / sour cream topping provides an additional tangy note so I recommend adding some 10x when you make the topping.

Guess what else? 
Avocados are always in season, so you can make these little cuties anytime your heart desires!

Thanks for being open minded!  

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry

Jennifer Beamer
This sounds delicious!!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 11:56 AM
Would love to try it!!! Looks yummy!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 01:27 PM

Arizona - Prickly Pear Preserves

Arizona - Prickly Pear Preserves

Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon state and is our first visit to America’s South West  - land of red rocks, desert sands, and cactus.  I have never been to Arizona, but from what I hear, cactus are as common as pine trees are in Georgia, so it’s not surprising that one particular type of cactus has found it’s way into the kitchen - the Prickly Pear. 

To my knowledge, you can’t cook with pine cones, but the industrious people of the South West and Arizona, have found several ways to use the fruits abundantly produced by the Opuntia Cactus - better known as the Prickly Pear Cactus.  

One Versatile "Pear"
Before we get to the edible application, I thought you might be interested to know some other interesting uses for the “fruit” of this cactus:
❉  medicinal treatments (rich in Vitamin C, calcium and potassium)
❉  as an intoxicant in Mexican culture
❉  dye production (just ask my cutting board about this)
❉  as an additive in plaster or stucco!  

And you said this is edible?!
Hard to believe after reading that, but yes - the Prickly Pear is safe to eat!  Not in the traditional way you would pick up an apple or banana and eat it, but after some prep work, you can in fact use Prickly Pear in food.  

One of my dear friends spends several months each year in Arizona, and she said it is very common to see Prickly Pear Margaritas and Lemonades as well as Prickly Pear candies and jelly.  

Let’s make Preserves! 
Once I discovered that I could purchase Prickly Pear all the way over here on the east coast, I decided it would be fun to make Prickly Pear Preserves! 
You may have seen Prickly Pear in your grocery store produce department and wondered “what in the world is that odd looking thing?” 

The external spines (prickles?) have been removed from the pears before they get to the produce department but a tough outer skin still needs to be removed before they can be used.  Simply blanch the pears to get the skin off. 

Once the skin is removed, you can see the beautiful fuchsia flesh and understand how this could be utilized in dye production. 


The Recipe
12 Prickly Pears
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp orange juice
1/4 of an orange, diced small
1/2 package of pectin 

Getting your Prickly Pears Preserve Ready (say that 10 times fast)
Once you have removed the skin from the Prickly Pears, there is still some work to do before they are ready to be preserved.  The recipe I used said “cut the pears in half, scoop out the seeds and put seeds to the side.”  In my mind, I was picturing something similar to a papaya or cantaloupe and thought I would simply scoop out the seeds and have a nice piece of flesh ready to cut up.  Not so my friends!  

Instead, the seeds are in fact dispersed throughout a rather large center core with only a small, thin layer of seed free flesh.  

I found the easiest way to remove the seeds was to put the core (on the right in the picture above) into the food processor, puree it and then put the juice through a sieve to strain out the seeds.  

Preserve Time 
Once you have your Prickly Pear puree and pieces of fruit, you’re ready to cook the preserves.   

❉  Place Prickly Pear pieces, water and sugar in a saucepan
❉  Add prickly pear puree, citrus juices and orange pieces to saucepan and stir to combine
❉  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until the preserves has thickened and the liquid has reduced
❉  If you want a very firm set, add the pectin to the preserves, but the preserves will set nicely without it 
❉  Pour into sterilized jars and seal

How does it taste? 
Prickly Pear has a unique taste, but if I were to describe it I would say it tastes like a combination of watermelon, strawberries and blackberries.  I decided to make preserves instead of jelly because I prefer having texture and larger pieces of fruit and the prickly pear softened nicely during cooking.  

Notes & Disclaimer 
This was my first time making homemade preserves, and my preserves did not set up as firm as I had expected.  In my next venture - Prickly Pear or other fruit, I think I will use the recipe included with the pectin to see if it gives a firmer final product.  

The original recipe also called for 24 Prickly Pears.  Since Prickly Pear are not growing freely where I live, and were $2 a piece at A&P, I decided to cut the recipe in half.  

I’m glad that I was able to learn more about the Prickly Pear and experience cooking with cactus fruit!  

Well, that completes all of the “A” states!  Up next - California!