Posts Tagged ‘pie’


Pumpkin Pie = Love

Monday, February 17th, 2014 by Susanne

I admit that I have a rather plentiful pantry at all times. I often have to remind myself that we don’t need to be prepared for the next natural disaster. But when I decided it needed to be cleaned up and organized, I discovered that I had 12 cans of canned pumpkin! My husband loves pumpkin pie, and so I always like to be prepared to put a pie in the oven, but finding that I had an entire case of canned pumpkin on hand was a bit embarrassing.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day last week, I decided that I would make him his favorite pie.  I know there are countless recipes for pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, etc., but my favorite recipe that I always come back to is the one on the Libby’s canned pumpkin label.  I like to make the crust from that recipe too. My favorite way to prepare the pie dough is to use a food processor.  It’s so easy!















I rolled out my dough using my new Casabella silicone mat.  I love how the mat just clings to the counter and doesn’t move around while I am rolling out my dough. Voila!















While I was measuring out the ingredients I realized that I was out of powdered ginger, so I decided to add some crystallized ginger I found in the pantry instead.

The hardest part about baking this pie was trying to keep it a secret from my husband.  The rich buttery aroma that wafted through the house while it was in the oven gave it away.  So, this pie didn’t quite make it to Valentine’s Day after all!















For the recipe, check out the link on the Libby’s website here. The Chopping Block has a pretty good version too, which actually calls for crystallized ginger.















For all your baking needs, come visit our bakeware sale at The Chopping Block.

All bakeware is currently 20% off through the month of February!

What special treats did you make for Valentine’s Day?  Please share them with me.

Susanne Wiesen's love of cooking started when she was 10 and her mom landed in the hospital, leaving nobody to prepare dinner at home. She has never looked back and enjoys experimenting in the kitchen for family and friends. She can usually be found with some knitting project in her lap and also enjoys reading, swimming, mountain biking and spending time in the great outdoors.


Brandied Cherries Come Full Circle

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Mario

Last fall I wrote a blog about preserving the deliciousness of summer cherries for use at a later date. Now, that time has come.

cherriesAfter initial inspection of the 12 pint jars of cherries I have in my fridge, I was excited to pop some open and make some cocktails.  To my dismay, the texture of the cherries was not at all what I was hoping for. The flavor was amazing, but they were very soft and a bit mushy. The liquid, mostly brandy and sugar, was also amazing, so I figured I had to do something to recoup this semi-disaster.

After a bit of research, I found that tart cherries would produce more of the result that I was after. But since it’s January, there are not any tart cherries hanging out at the grocery store waiting to take a plunge in some brandy.  However, I did find plenty of dried tart cherries, which turned out to be a fantastic solution to my brandied cherry woes.

Here is what I did:

I started by draining all of the sweet cherries from brandy that I had in my fridge, reserving both the cherries and the brandy.  I put a few bags of dried tart cherries in a medium sized stock pot and poured the brandy over them. I turned the heat on low and warmed them slowly over the low heat as to not lose any of the alcohol. In about 30 minutes, the dried cherries had plumped up with the brandy and were ready to go. I put them in jars again, covered them with the remaining brandy and back into the fridge they went. About a week later, I gave them a try and they were everything I wanted them to be.

So, what did I do with the remaining sweet cherries that I had?

doughI made a batch of The Chopping Block’s pie dough and lined a couple of pie tins with it. I took all of the cherries and tossed them with a bit of cornstarch, just enough to coat them, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cinnamon and poured them into my pie shells.  I dotted the top with a little butter and put another layer of dough on top of the pie. I sealed it all up, poked a few holes in the top and baked them in the oven at 375 for about 45 min. Voila!

I ended up with amazing pies that really did bring a bit of summer to this cold January as well as some delicious additions to a warming winter cocktail.

Have you ever had a kitchen experiment not turn out the way you wanted? How did you salvage it? Share your stories here.



Mario Scordato is the Culinary Training Manager and a Chef Instructor at The Chopping Block. In addition to teaching, he is responsible for overseeing the training of all chefs and class assistants, as well as the scheduling of the culinary staff. Mario is an accomplished Sushi Chef of over 12 years, working both in Denver and Chicago, but his food interests and kitchen prowess don’t stop there. He grew up in a fairly traditional Italian family and has not lost his love for true rustic Italian fare. Mario has spent many an hour in several butcher shops perfecting his skills in butchery and charcuterie. When not in the kitchen, chances are that Mario is in the shop creating and working on his custom line of knives.


Falling for Fall

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by Andrea L

I am really excited, okay almost delirious, about fall. Here are just some of the things I love about fall: cozy sweaters, the fact my Starbucks order turns from boring iced coffee to pumpkin lattes, crispy days, burning candles and finally getting back into the kitchen!

I started cooking again a couple of weeks ago. Usually during the summer, I avoid my kitchen because it is too hot. Instead, I turn to gallons of ice cream and seasonal fruits and vegetables for my sustenance.

frenchovenThis fall will be even better since I now have a Le Creuset French Oven.  As I pondered over what to make on a crispy day last week, I decided to give some sausage soup a shot AND make the sausage from scratch.  My mom used to make this for me a lot as a kid, however, her idea of making sausage was rolling ground hamburger into round balls and adding Quaker oats. It was gross, but bless her for trying. So, I decided to jazz up her recipe a bit and came up with my take on it.

A couple things to remember about making sausage: you will need some fat. In this case, I used pork fat and ground it up with my Kitchenaid meat attachment.  Mix about ½ cup of pork fat to 2 cups ground pork and add spices. I use salt, pepper, cinnamon, coriander and cumin. Then bake off, and voila! The soup is really easy to make and is pretty healthy, too.

soup2Sausage Soup

  • 5 cups water
  • 3 large white potatoes, (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, undrained
  • 3/4 cup sliced olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon aniseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lbs sausage
  1. Cook hot and sweet sausages in a Dutch oven over medium heat, breaking them up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain fat.
  2. Stir in water, potatoes, celery, zucchini, onion, tomatoes with their juices, beans, olives, garlic, aniseed and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Now, for dessert. I am inspired, no obsessed is more like it, with all things pumpkin.  I love this time of year because it is perfectly acceptable to put pumpkin flavoring in just about anything from coffee to cake! So, I was inspired to try some Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta. I love this dessert: it is easy, cheap, and so yummy. I was the kind of kid that used to eat the entire 6 pack of Jell-O pudding packs my mom used to get, so my love of custards began as a young child.  If you want a new twist on something pumpkin-licous, I encourage you to try this recipe.

soupPumpkin Pie Panna Cotta

  •  1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (an 8-ounce container) sour cream
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin (could be roasted sweet squash, like Kabocha, or butternut, or canned pumpkin)

1. Put the cold water in a small cup, and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, warm the cream with the sugar, salt, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla over medium-high heat. Do not let it boil. Whisk in the gelatin until thoroughly dissolved. Take the cream off the heat and cool about 5 minutes.

2. Put the sour cream and pumpkin puree in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream, a little at a time, until it is smooth. Taste the mixture for sweetness; it may need another teaspoon of sugar. Turn the panna cotta into a serving bowl, or 8 2/3-cup ramekins, custard cups, or coffee cups. Fill each one about three-quarters full with the cream. Chill 4-8 hours.

Now that the seasons are changing and the sweaters and scarves will soon come out, I encourage you to get in the kitchen and start experimenting. What are some of your favorite fall recipes?


Andrea Larson is a lover of all things food and wine. She is a culinary graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago and has worked at such local restaurants as Uncommon Ground, Spring and Custom House. Currently she is working on her local dream of eating her way around Chicago and probably spends more money on dining out than she should!


Preserving Summer for Warming Winter Cocktails

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 by Mario

I have been enjoying good whiskey and bourbon lately more than I have in the past. I have become partial to the “Old Fashioned” which is a cocktail comprised of bourbon (or even better with rye whiskey), simple syrup, a dash of orange bitters and a large strip of orange zest. One very common addition to this delicious cocktail is a brandied cherry (or five of them!), and in my humble opinion, this is what makes this cocktail fantastic.

rawcherriesI went on a search high and low at large and small gourmet groceries, high-end liquor stores and any other place that I thought might carry brandied cherries. Much to my surprise, they were very hard to find, very expensive, and at the end of the day… not as good as I had hoped. I spoke to several of the bartenders and waitstaff of the establishments that I have been enjoying a good cocktail at and asked where they were getting their brandied cherries. Once again, to my surprise, they were all making them in house. I thought this was a fantastic idea that I should be doing at home too.

This time of year we are getting into the tail end of cherry season and what better way to keep warm on an impending winter evening than enjoying a good cocktail with a summer fruit that you preserved yourself, especially when it is so darn easy. I am a fan of cherries to begin with, as I have been known to eat a whole bag of them in one sitting, but I am always sad when they start to disappear for the season from the farmer’s markets and produce sections.  Now I can have cherries year round, granted I don’t think I will be eating a whole jar of them, but they do make a great cocktail and satiate my desire for a sweet fruit in the middle of winter.

Here is the recipe that I have developed for the best Brandied Cherries ever! This recipe can also be easily doubled and tripled if you have the time to pit all of those cherries. I personally did eight pounds of cherries this year and bought myself an early Christmas present…  a cherry pitter.

Mario’s Brandied Cherries

cherries2lb          washed and pitted sweet cherries, such as bing cherries

1 Cup     water or a mix of water and the juice of the cherries from pitting them.

½ Cup    light brown sugar, packed

½ Cup    turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

2 Cups   brandy, don’t get something really expensive, but make sure it is of good quality.

A cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves

A couple of mason jars and lids

Start by placing the water, sugars and spices in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugars.  Turn off the heat and add the brandy, stir to incorporate.

Place the pitted cherries into mason jars, packing them in as tightly as possible without crushing them.  Pour the warm brandy sugar mixture into the jars to completely cover the cherries.  Place the lids on and let sit at room temperature until cool.  Refrigerate and anxiously wait for at least 2 weeks to enjoy them.  They will last in the refrigerator for at least 4 months, if you have them that long!

I am also starting to find other uses for these other than just elevating your favorite whiskey cocktail.  They make an awesome cherry pie and if you save the liquid, you have an amazing cherry infused brandy that you can use to mix into your own cocktail creations.

Are there any fun things that you like to make with Brandied Cherries?


Mario Scordato is the Culinary Training Manager and a Chef Instructor at The Chopping Block. In addition to teaching, he is responsible for overseeing the training of all chefs and class assistants, as well as the scheduling of the culinary staff. Mario is an accomplished Sushi Chef of over 12 years, working both in Denver and Chicago, but his food interests and kitchen prowess don’t stop there. He grew up in a fairly traditional Italian family and has not lost his love for true rustic Italian fare. Mario has spent many an hour in several butcher shops perfecting his skills in butchery and charcuterie. When not in the kitchen, chances are that Mario is in the shop creating and working on his custom line of knives.


I Have a New Favorite Class

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 by Michele

I recently taught Pie and Tart Boot Camp and it has moved to the number one spot on my “Favorite Classes to Teach” list.

IMG_2110It’s a question that I get often from my students. They are always curious as to which class to take next. The Chopping Block’s class calendar offers a wide variety of options to choose from, from different cuisines and techniques to special skill sets and intensive Boot Camps.

I enjoy any class where we spend more time in the kitchen preparing a few more recipes than usual and the opportunity to really dissect the subject matter. Ask any Chef’s Assistant if I like to talk in class and you will get a resounding “YES”. I talk almost to a fault.

doughAnd pie dough happens to be my wheelhouse. In all its simplicity, it really is about the preparation and handling of the dough. But it does make all the difference. In this class, we execute recipes that straddle the worlds of sweet and savory.  Banana Cream pie with just a hint of rum. Chicken Pot Pie that we enjoy for lunch. The students get to stuff their take home bakery boxes with Pecan Chocolate Tartlets and Apple Crostata. They also get to make their own pie dough and take it home. We have plenty of time to discuss the finer points of making the dough and how to handle it with ease and sophistication. I love this class!

Sorry Laminated Doughs (my previous #1 class).

What’s your favorite class?