National Pie Day

Last week was National Pie Week. I’m not sure who decides on these sorts of things but I feel that we should honor their choice and properly celebrate said weeks. The only problem with Pie Week is that it falls in July, which those in the Mid-West know, is a hot sticky mess and my steadfast rule has always been no pie in the summer. Which is sad given the bounty of fresh fruit, but it’s not worth the tears and frustration that come from fighting a crust in sauna of a kitchen. But Thursday night, with the mercury pushing 85 degrees in the kitchen I decided to chance it.

National Pie Day 2012

I am crazy, I will freely admit it, but this time I had a plan. We had recently been to visit Matt’s grandparents and they have a second kitchen in their basement. I was marveling at how convenient it would be in the summer when it dawned on me that I have a basement. And while not equipped with a fridge, sink and full size stove it does have many flat surfaces on which I could set a cutting board and roll out a crust. So off I went toting my cutting board, rolling pin, bench scraper and dish of flour down to the cool depths below. I set up shop on top of the dryer and got to rolling. A quick pass in the freezer when I came back up yielded a pretty manageable crust.

For the filling I opted to make the blueberry pie I’d made last year to rave reviews. It derives from the Cooks Illustrated, as it seems so many of my dessert recipes do, and it doesn’t fail to deliver. There is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved with fruit pies. You don’t want them to be runny and dissolve into a soupy mess but you DO NOT want the jello-esque consistency that results from too much thickener. Perfection is achieved by taking a few extra steps. First you grind up instant tapioca, which is an excellent reason to clean out the coffee grinder that might not have been cleaned since that last time you made said pie… Then you peel a granny smith apple, shred it with the large holes on your box grater and wring out all the moisture with a tea towel. You will be amazed at all the liquid that comes out and you’re left with fairly dry apple shards. The natural pectin in the apple flesh when paired with the scant amount of tapioca yield a pie that does not need a serrated knife to cut but will keep it’s shape in the pan!

National Pie Day 2012… at 6pm

The pie, which I was able to cut into 16 pieces, made the rounds at work, did a quick pit stop at the fabric store and then found it’s way home to Matt. I’m not convinced that pie making needs to happen in the heat of summer, but I am willing to call this attempt a success.

Tailgating Take 1

We’ve been bitten by the soccer bug around here. It started innocently enough last summer but has manifested into a full blown obsession this year. And as far as an obsession goes it’s not too bad. We leave the house, we socialize, even make NEW friends, support a local team and have an excuse to try all those grilling recipes we’ve been hoarding over the winter!

And more importantly it’s an excuse to tailgate. I’m not sure I’d ever been to a tailgate before we started going to Sporting KC games but I’m hooked now. It’s like you get to put on a little dinner party for you and your friends every game but you don’t have to worry if you have enough chairs because a cooler doubles nicely has a bench!

This past week we went fairly traditional with burgers and hotdogs. There was even an attempt make my own hamburger buns after sampling what the grocery store had to offer. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Light Brioche Buns and they tasted marvelous and the texture was pretty spot on. The only problem was that I let them rise a smidge too long and they became one homogenous roll. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will place the formed rolls on TWO parchment lined sheets and heavily coat the plastic wrap with cooking spray. I lightly sprayed mine and seriously deflated the rolls while trying to remove it.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Our burger ‘recipe’ is pretty simple, but with a splash of ketchup and a crisp pickle it hits the spot. I’m not sure where the grated onion idea came from, I think Rachael Ray deserves the credit here, but it allows you to use a lower fat content beef while still retaining moisture!

1lb ground sirloin (we used 90%)
1/2 an onion grated on the small side of a box grater, it will end up being very pulpy
1 t pepper
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t worcestershire sauce

Mix it all together with your hands, but try not to over work it or the beef gets tough. Form into 4oz patties about 3/4 inch thick. To keep the centers from puffing up while cooking use a spoon to make a little divot in the middle.

Matt didn’t want all the charcoal to go to waste so we went looking for grill able sides. We found a recipe for garlic and rosemary infused new potatoes. With a little guidance from Cooks Illustrated we halved, skewered, marinated and par cooked red potatoes in the microwave. Then we just tossed them on the grill to finish cooking.

And since it was Saint Patrick’s Day I thought was should have a little green on our menu and opted for a mint layered brownie after seeing Marta’s post! I used my go-to one bowl brownie, layered with my standard buttercream doctored up with mint extract and green food coloring. The final layer was a rich semisweet ganache!

Minty Brownies

Paired with some beverages and lovely company the first tailgate of the season was a success!

Please excuse the quality of the photos, I quickly snapped them with my phone as we were hustling out the door!

New Christmas Stockings

I have had the same stocking since I was born. It is very detailed with a mohair bearded Santa and my name stitched into the top. It was a beautiful work of art but time has not been kind to it. Years of crayons and cinnamon bears have stretched the yarn and it seems that moths have been snacking indiscriminately.

Chirstmas morning

Please disregard the bangs, it’s my understanding that they were the result of a few minutes left to my own devices behind the rocking chair.

So it was time to find a new place for Santa to hide his treats. And since all the stockings have to match everyone got a new one! Which is especially nice for Matt since he had been using an actual sock. My knitting skills are pretty basic, I know how to caste on, so recreating an elaborate santa with a hat and bells was out of the question. I choose felt as my medium, cut some snowflakes, added a few polka dots and a quick run through the sewing machine and this was the result…

Felt StockingsFelt Stockings

I was so happy with the finished product that I thought this year everyone could use a cute new felt stocking and have listed them in my Etsy shop!

French Silk Pie

I will admit that come Turkey day turkey is at the bottom of my list. When there are creamy mashed potatoes, perfectly caramelized sweet potatoes and stuffing with Walnut-Sage bread the bird takes the back seat. However all of these delicacies are really there to set the stage for the pie. Now I have found a pumpkin pie recipe that is pretty good, the secret is yams cooked down with the pumpkin prior to sliding into the shell. But pumpkin, much like carrot cake, does not seem festive enough for a holiday. So at times I’ve made pecan pie, though never meeting the bar set by Aunt Lulu’s pecan pie.

So this year I thought I would try something different for those of us who find pumpkin little lacking. The obvious choice was chocolate and I remembered a Cook’s Country episode a few weeks back where Bridget made a lovely French Silk pie. So in an effort to not have disaster the day before Thanksgiving I decided a test run was in order. Armed with heavy whipping cream and bittersweet chocolate I dove in, albeit a little late in the evening. The smell alone was divine and the swipes from the spatula were enough to convince me to stay up until the pie was set.

So at midnight we pulled out the pie server and let me tell you it was worth staying up past my bedtime. It was creamy and airy with the perfect cocoa flavor. Not overly sweet and certainly different than the Village Inn version I’ve been known to turn to in a pinch/crisis.

French Silk Pie

I can happily report that much like chocolate birthday cake this too can be sampled with your morning coffee. I was about to wrap up the remaining portion to take to work when Matt made a valid point about monitoring the pies longevity and freshness. So in the fridge it sits, getting suspiciously smaller every time I open the door.

Tis the season… for PIE

I have a pretty strict rule that I do not turn on the oven in the summer, especially this summer. So we have been pretty light on baked goods around here, sure there were the occasional spoon cookies (no bake cookies) and plenty of ice-cream to go around but no cakes or cookies or pies. This is a little sad given all the wonderful summer berries but I am not willing to roast for pie, even warm bubbly blackberry peach pie.

However the wonderful mood enhancing fall weather has arrived and with it came the desire to bake. It just so happened a coworker was celebrating their birthday last week and I used it as an excuse to whip up an apple pie.

I admit I was a little rusty, the crust a little thicker then I like, but minimal swearing during the process. I used the Cook’s Illustrated No Fail pie crust, the one with vodka, and loosely followed their basic apple pie recipe. It went over well, just a small sliver made it’s way back home for Matt.

1st Pie of the Season

So here is to pie season.Orchard season. And weather that doesn’t hurt!

And since we’re talking about seasons I suppose we could talk about the holiday season. For once I actually got my act together and made stockings. A few are at Made and hopefully I will get some listed in my shop this week.

UPDATE : Magical Pans

Those of you who have had the privilege of attending a potluck where Matt’s mom was in attendance undoubtedly know the magic of the Scotcharoo. It’s similar to a rice crispy treat but with peanut butter, chocolate, butterscotch and a little magic. They are crisp and chewy, sweet and salty, melt in your mouth wonderful. And luckily for me there always seems to be a pan on the counter when we come home.

The recipe came from a cereal box years ago and has been a staple of family gatherings ever since. In what I choose to view as a stamp of approval Matt’s mom gave me the recipe awhile back. And I have made them on a few occasions, but they never taste quite right. They are good and the batch disappears much too quickly, but they are missing something I can’t quite put my finger on.

Magic Pan

Enter the pan. Through a little sleuthing I have come to realize it’s the pan the Scotcharoos are made in that makes the difference. My pans are new(ish) and glass and don’t have the seasoning required for excellent Scotcharoos. So I have been on the lookout for an aged metal pan, preferably one with a snap on lid to keep them fresh. As a semi frequent auction goer I thought finding one would be fairly easy. Every auction has a couple boxes filled with pots and pans, and even 9×13 metal cake pans, but they never have their lids. Finally at an auction this weekend I found one! Slightly dented and with enough crosshatch marks in the bottom to know it has been well used. However the torrential downpour almost got the better of me, but I braved nature and stood outside with my dinky travel umbrella in order to bid my $1.00.

So all that’s left is to pick up a box of rice crispies and hope that magic will do its part.

UPDATE : While I am not a professional, though Matt is a lifelong connoisseur, I think these were pretty close to the real deal. A little tougher then I would like, but I think that came from over boiling the sugar mixture. The pan pulled through wonderfully! Some were packaged up and taken away and far too many were left here… for us to eat. I think that a few more trial batches will be required! And I have yet to test if they mail well, any volunteers?


Labels & Cards… a Process

So with the name came the new site, new business cards, new labels and a pretty new stamp! I knew that I wanted the new logo on all these items in some form but it took quite a bit of trial and error I found the look I wanted.

The business cards were fairly straight forward once I decided to orientate them vertically instead of horizontally. The real drama came when I tried to get them printed. I really wanted to go with an Etsy vendor, but struck out on a number of attempts. Then I was in a time crunch and went with an office box store and it was a disaster. The printing was not evenly spaced, the ink was the wrong color, the paper was too flimsy and the edges on 1/3 of the cards looked as though they had been smacked with a hammer. Finally I went to a local store, that aside from their inconvenient hours, was amazing. The people were friendly and easy to work with, even though my order was probably their smallest to date.

New Business cards

For the labels the problem was not the vendor, I knew that I would go with JenniferJewels, I have used her in the past and am always thrilled with her work. The hang up was the design because the sky is the limit with Jennifer. She can do any size or color, you can choose sew in or iron on. Once I inverted the design the rest was just tweaking the proportions and sizing.

New label design!

The stamp was something new this time around. I had previously gone with a customized embossing plate, but it was a little limiting and cumbersome. This time around I decided to have a rubber stamp made. I went though the same shop that made my business cards and once I brush up on my inking skills it will be perfect!


A Trip to Home Fabrics

This store has been on my radar for a few weeks, but I just hadn’t had the chance to make a trip to Kansas City to check it out. Now that I have I think I need to go once a week just to make sure there is nothing new I need.

While the website looks a little sketchy and the stores location leaves a bit to be desired, unless you have a craving for butter laden Fazoli’s breadsticks, I can assure you that a trip is well worth your while. A side note for those in the area that might be planning a trip, there are TWO Metcalf Avenues that run parallel to each other, you want to take the Eastern one, trust me.

But back to the business at hand. I did not see a fabric over $7.99 a yard. And they had hundreds of bolts of decorator fabric, in any color/print imaginable, including some patterns I have seen recently in local shops. The real bargain came from the clearance fabrics which were $2.00 a yard. Yes $2 for 1944 square inches of fabric, that makes each square inch of fabric .001 cents, they are basically giving it away.

Home Fabrics

I did show some restraint and only purchased 9 yards. Five of which I am hoping inspire me to finish decorating the bedroom. I am unsure of what I will do with all the fabrics but I’m sure i will find a project or two to start.