Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Weekend

How did you spend your holiday weekend?

I spent mine surrounded by boys. As usual.
But I love boys, so that's okay.
We had a few girls too, but we were definitely outnumbered by the boys.

Here's what the boys were up to this weekend. We had....

...boys making pie...

Boys eating pie....

Boys carving turkey...

Boys wrastlin'.....

Boys target shooting....

Boys doing dishes.....

What the....?? Boys doing dishes!!!??

Boys playing computer games...

Boys playing card games...

And....boys tearing up the kitchen.

But yes, there were a few girls around.

But like I said...girls are outnumbered around here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I keep telling myself..."it's going to be good, it's going to be good.."

This was my farm kitchen this morning...

...And this is my kitchen this evening.

It will no longer be Provencal blue and yellow.
The blue matrix laminate counter-top is going away.
The ancient dime store stainless sink is being replaced, as well as the leaky faucet.

I was feeling a little sad about the tile.

I hand made this tile about fifteen years ago.
I rolled the clay out in sheets with a rolling pin. I cut the tiles with a straight edge. I decorated them with a squeeze bottle of slip. I installed the tiles myself. It was my first try at everything.
After removing them today, I decided to put the tiles away in a box for my progeny. Maybe someday, some grandchild or great grandchild will find a use for their ancestor's hand made tile.
Is that presumptuous of me?

And maybe someday, someone will volunteer to come and wash my floor and make it look pretty again.
Is that presumptuous of me?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for

a new grandbaby on the way,

being blessed with a thriving, successful new business despite a poor economy,

that all of my family is healthy,

that our son is coming home from South America very soon,

and for the continued American freedoms to have as many children as we desire, to educate them as we see best, to open and conduct a business as we can, to choose our preferred method of health care and to travel freely and without restriction. As well as so many other freedoms that we dare not take for granted.

I am also thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends through this crazy thing called "Blogging."

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving celebration with your loved ones!

And I am so thankful that my dishwasher works!

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You're Never Too Old!

Don-NY! Don-NY! Don-NY!

Woo! Hoo!

I loved how when he won, he immediately thought of his wife and carried her out on stage to share the victory. Great moment!

P.S. I was about ten when I listened to these all day! Knew every word.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cracked Wheat Dinner Rolls

Yum! Don't these look delicious? They are! Soft and fluffy, flavorful and buttery- with just a bit of bite from the cracked wheat. They satisfy any craving for carbs and it's difficult to stop eating them with just one.

These cracked wheat rolls are a staple on my holiday meal table. My family expects to see them Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We make little turkey sandwiches on these rolls with the leftovers from dinner. They are so easy to make they are positively fool proof. I think that means any fool can make them, or even if you fool around you can't mess them up. Or something. They were a big hit when I brought the recipe into the cafe where I baked last year. My friend uses them in her soup business. The photo is from when I made eight dozen for a fund raising event dinner. They really are a crowd pleaser.

I cut this recipe out of a Good Housekeeping magazine about twenty-five years ago when I was making my first full-out Thanksgiving dinner. I think most of what I made then came from Good Housekeeping. I guess I'm just like Grandma because I am still using that stained old clipped recipe.
I love these rolls because they are so easy to make. Here's the recipe:

¾ cup bulgar (cracked wheat)


1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 pkg. dry yeast (or 4 teas. yeast)

about 5 cups all purpose flour


1 egg

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat bulgar and ¾ cup water to boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes until water is absorbed. Stir to keep from scorching. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, yeast and 1 ¼ cups white flour. In a large glass measuring cup, heat 2 cups water and ½ cup butter in a microwave until very warm (120°-130°) Butter does not need to melt completely.
  3. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat liquid into dry ingredients just until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for two minutes occasionally scraping bowl. Beat in egg and ¾ cup flour to make a thick batter; continue beating two minutes, scraping bowl. Stir in cooled bulgar wheat and 2 ½ cups flour to make a soft dough.
  4. Knead dough in mixer or by hand until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep from sticking.. Shape dough into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl, turning dough over so top is greased. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (80° to 85°) until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
  5. Punch down dough. (At this point, dough can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to three days, punching down occasionally until ready to use.)
  6. Grease two 15 ½ “ by 10 ½ “ pans. Cut dough into 30 equal pieces (or smaller if desired), shape into balls and place in pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 425° F. Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Remove from pans and brush tops with melted butter.
I have made the dough ahead many times and refrigerated it until I wanted to bake them. When I do this the dough continues to rise in the refrigerator and needs to be punched down frequently in the first few hours. After refrigerating, the second rising in step 6 will take slightly longer.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pie Crust 101

Just in time for a Thanksgiving pie-a-palooza, here is a tutorial on making homemade pie crust.

I think I should say that I made a lot of bad pie before I began making good pie. I understand the difficulties that cooks have with pie crust. I've had them too.

I grew up eating lots and lots of pie, some of it good and some of it not so good. I saw people making pie, my parents and grandmother, but none of them actually demonstrated the technique to me. Maybe they expected it to be in my blood. But I suspect they never had an actual lesson and maybe had a few years of struggle on the learning curve too. Needless to say, I spent many years struggling with dry crusts that would tear and fall apart. I eventually gave up and gave in to Pillsbury All-ready Pie Crusts. I know this is a common story. Now that we have ready made food in every grocery store, it's easy and convenient to give up on the homemade. But as with so many other products from the kitchen, no store-bought pie tastes as good as a homemade pie. Pie is worth the time to learn how to do right.

Two crust pies are more dependent on good technique than a good recipe. I have a method for making crust that takes the swearing and tears out of the job. I have taught many beginning pie makers this technique, as well as my children. It works!

First of all I think it is important to understand what makes a crust tender and flaky and how it becomes dry and tough. Pie crust should have a ratio of about 2.5 parts of flour to 1 part of fat. This fat can be butter, shortening, lard, oil or any combination of those to equal 1 part. When cold fat is cut into the flour so that the fat bits are still large, basically making the mixture like cookie crumbs, those bits of fat will melt when baked and leave pockets of space in the dough and that creates the flakiness in the crust. If the dough is overworked or the fat is warm and the flour becomes absorbed into it, making a closer association between the flour and fat molecules, the dough can get tough. Also the technique for rolling is very important. If the dough is rolled out on a flour covered surface and more and more flour is added as people tend to do if they are having problems with dough sticking, soon the dough has absorbed more flour and there no longer is a 2.5 to 1 ratio of flour to fat. That larger amount of flour will make the dough dry and tough. When you eat the pie you will be chipping a tooth on the edges of pie crust. Rolling the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper or waxed paper makes the dough easy to handle and a breeze to transfer to the pie dish. No sticking or fighting with tearing dough.

Let's make pie!

First we'll start with the basic pie dough recipe.
Since I'm lazy, I use a food processor.
Measure out two and a half cups of all purpose flour, one teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of sugar.

To this is added one cup of fat. The fat can be butter, shortening, lard or oil or any combination of those equaling one cup. DO NOT USE butter flavored shortening. It is from the devil. It tastes like nasty fake butter. It's gross and disgusting and very bad for your health. If you use it, don't blame me if your pie comes out horrible.

Pulse the processor until the butter is cut into the flour and resembles coarse crumbs. If a processor is not available this can be done the old fashioned way with a pastry cutter or even just forks and knives to cut in the fat. The pastry may even come out flakier since the butter bits will not be as fine as the processor makes.

Pastry cutters

Add 1/4 cup of cold water. Run the food processor until the dough sticks together and begins to form a ball. Depending on the humidity and other factors with the flour, it may be necessary to add another tablespoon or so of water. Use your hands to mix the dough if you are not using a food processor. Work quickly so that the warmth of your hands doesn't melt the butter and make the dough sticky.

Shape the dough into two equal sized discs. At this point the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen for future use. It's always nice to have some dough in the freezer for those times when you want to throw a pie or a quiche together. Half the work is already done!

That was the recipe, now for the technique!

Here is my easy-as-pie parchment paper method for rolling out pie dough. Not only does parchment paper make the dough easy to roll and handle, there is much less mess than the old flour board way. Alyssa and I made hundreds of apple turnovers with this method. I couldn't even dream of doing that job without parchment paper.

And by the way, if anyone from the health department is looking at this...yes, I have my food handler's card and I know the rules about having hair tied up in the kitchen. But it's my blog and my pie and I'll have my hair the way I want to, thankyouverymuch.

Because I had trouble uploading this video onto Blogger, I had to divide it into two parts and do some awkward editing. So sorry about that.

Also, try to disregard the hooligans causing a ruckus in the background. We're making pie here!

Use your favorite pie filling recipe. Here is what I used for my apple pie:

5 cups peeled, sliced baking apples
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon (we like lots of cinnamon)
1/2 teaspooon nutmeg
the juice of half a small lemon (2 teaspoons) it'll add sparkle to the pie
4 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces and placed on the top of the apples

Finish the pie by brushing an egg wash over the crust. This is one whole egg beaten with a teaspoon of water. It gives the crust an appetizing shiny appearance and helps it to brown nicely. Sprinkle sugar on this if you like the extra crunch and calories.

Bake the pie in a hot oven, 425 degrees, until the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cover lightly with foil and turn the oven down to 350. Continue baking until the filling is bubbling in the center.

If you've been intimidated by pie crust, I hope you'll try this and let me know how your pie turns out!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Successful Pie Making Class

Hopefully, after tonight, there will be a few more families enjoying homemade pie on Thanksgiving.

Tonight another group of delightful women gathered to learn the easy parchment technique for rolling homemade pie crusts and making delicious flaky pie.

We began the evening eating some apple pie, still warm from my oven.

After I demonstrated the parchment method for rolling pie dough the girls got busy making their own pies.

The next generation got an early start!

As soon as I figure out how to get the video off my new camera, I will post a demonstration here.
I intended to have that up right away so that anyone who wanted to try it would have time to practice before Thanksgiving, but...I can't get the video demo loaded, so stay tuned if you want to learn how easy pie can be and I'll have it here soon.

These girls will tell you that this technique takes all the blood, sweat and tears out of making homemade crust.

Food, Inc.

This movie has already been out and somehow I missed it. I'm quite sure it never made it to my town so how wide of a distribution did it get?

I really want to see it! Maybe everyone should so we can get motivated for some real and long term changes for the better. There is no doubt in my own mind from the reading and research I have done that the disease epidemics we have (diabetes, asthma, cancer, heart disease) are caused by the abysmal American diet of factory produced food. To turn around the trends from disease to abundant health and longevity, we need better food and more nutritious diets. Almost too simple to be true.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

That's my girl.

This girl knows how to bake!

And how to take a good photo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Glass Fusing Workshop

When I was in Switzerland last September spending a week with girlfriends we did lots of sight-seeing, dining, touring, and shopping. But we also did some projects together.

These girls, sisters and sister-in-laws, (and one came from a family just oozing with arts and craft genes in their blood. The sister-in-laws, not having the same blood, didn't share the enthusiasm for arts and crafts but they were very good sports and went along for the ride with the projects that were planned for our week together.

One of those projects was glass fusing.
The Master Craftswoman and most gifted artist was also our host for the week and she planned this project at a workshop in the Swiss village where she lives.

I know a number of glass-fusing artists here at home but I have never actually tried it myself so it was a treat in every way. Doing something new and spending time with the girls.

One of the girls pointed out later that these projects we did were the only time in our whirlwind week that we were able to sit together (usually for several hours) working on our projects and just having quiet time with each other.

Kind of like the women's quilting bees in days of yore. Without all the town gossip.

And in the end we had some pretty special "souveniers" to take home. Remembrances of our time together.

And each finished work was so unique and different from the others.
This was Ruth's. So feminine.



Mary's (the pilot...note the airplane)



And mine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

He must have had some wicked garlic breath...

I've been successfully planting garlic for a couple years now. Successful until this year when I discovered in the spring that some kinda underground varmint had gorged all winter on the garlic I had planted. The two hundred or so cloves I had put in the ground last fall were gone and there were plenty of tunnels in the raised bed to let me know how they disappeared.

Needless to say, I was very hesitant to plant the garlic again this year thinking it would just end up being another buffet for the garden intruder who also, by the way, ate my lilies until I started wrapping them with chicken wire before planting.

Mr. Dirtywrench came to the rescue by digging back the soil in the bed and stapling in some woven wire to keep the varmint out.

The soil was so nice and fluffy afterwards.

Instead of spending $5 a pound for seed garlic at the garden center, I just bought a bag of culinary garlic at Costco.
Same thing. Better price.

But for the cost of that woven wire, I could have bought a whole lotta ready to eat garlic and skipped the planting and weeding and harvesting part.

But I like to do things the hard way.