Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pie oh Pie

Its always interesting to make a pie in my house.  My brother gets angry if I mess with that which he loves.  And for my picky brother to love any food is saying something.  So when I became a vegetarian and discovered the dark secrets inside my Mom's preferred Pillsbury Frozen Pie Crusts (they stick lard in those poor crusts, lard!)  It's sad really.  When my brother discovered that I would be changing his pie, the fear of homemade pie crusts was funny really, he was a bit displeased.  However I think I won him over.... mostly.

Its my Mom's filling, she makes it, she changes it, she is in charge of it.  My responsibility begins and ends with the dough.  It is possible for me to make the filling, but it is also time consuming, trying not to cut yourself takes time.  The filling is excellent.  Many people make almost cloyingly sweet fillings, whereas this is a bit like sweeter applesauce.  Not thin bland applesauce, but a thick, chunky applesauce, one that is full of sweet spice. 

Everyone, my Mom included, is frightened of pie crust.  I understand why, I've had a few fail before, however if you pay attention to what you are doing then all should be well.  

So I have step by step pictures for you, the recipe is courtesy of my favorite- The New Best Recipe
Though beware, it only makes one crust, and this my brother's favorite demands 2 crusts, though deep dish is good as well :)

Here is the recipe for the dough first:
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons (half a stick) cold butter
  • 4-5 tablespoons of very cold water, however you may need more to pull the dough together

Mix all your dry ingredients first, I use a food processor, but a simple bowl and spatula will work just fine.
Then you want to add in your shortening, followed by the butter, either pulsing in between the additions, or use your fingers to the point where you have gravel. Dump it into a bowl if you used the processor, otherwise start slowly stirring in the water, make sure it is frigid.  

Then push the dough, dividing evenly if you made a double batch, on cling wrap, wrap it up and place it in the fridge.  Keep it in there for anywhere from an hour to 2 days, but it must stay in for the full hour.  

Then get ready to roll!

Just make sure you have plenty of flour on hand.  Make certain everything is covered in flour, your hands, the rolling pin, the board (or counter top as my case is), and have plenty to drop onto any overly sticky parts of your dough!

(my Mom's hands as she crimps the edges, mine are always ugly)

Now the filling is simple:
  • Enough apples (any sort) to fill the pie twice as high as you think you ought to, they shrink in the oven
  • Nutmeg
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • All Spice
  • Or you could just use apple pie spice, your choice
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
All ratios are up to you, how sweet, how spicy, what makes it better for you.

No pie is perfect, patching is not looked down upon, unless trying to impress Grandma, then perfection may be best, however taste is all that really matters!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Simple Pasta

I was starving the other night, with a ton of home work.  Life (and blogging) will be better when I don't have school.  Summer is looking great right about now.  Summer includes the farmer's market, berry picking, and free time!  So please, bare with me until summer.  For in the summer I won't throw together ingredients and call it dinner.  However, this actually came out really good so I figured I'd post it.

Cook down some onion and garlic in olive oil, add a can of tomatoes, melt feta cheese.  Add some Parmesan and half and half to cut down on the grainy texture that the feta will leave.  You'll still have the texture, but it will be less severe.  If you like that then ignore the Parmesan and half and half, if you don't or you want to cut down the strength of the feta then go right ahead.  Adding as much or as little as you please. Add some pasta, whatever you have on hand works, and dinner is ready.  It took me 15 minutes or so.  Perfect for a rushed day, with a ton of work still to do.

Happy Birthday Haley

A month ago today was my friend Haley's birthday.  So a month ago yesterday I was baking cupcakes.  I wanted to take her favorite flavors and make them into a cupcake, so I took the idea of her favorite things- peanut butter and chocolate- and they became cupcakes.  I was designing the idea for it in math class... so I had to be sneaky, otherwise she would figure out what I was doing since we have class together.  My math teacher wouldn't be inordinately pleased if she realized what I had been doing either.  Of course all my sneaking was for nothing, because I couldn't remember if she preferred chocolate or yellow cake so I had to ask her... thus basically telling her she was getting birthday cupcakes.

I used my favorite yellow cake recipe, and converted it to cupcake form.  I swirled peanut butter into the cupcakes before I baked them as well.  So you may want to add a bit more flour to the batter to make up for the added liquid, it just depends on recipe you favor.  I used the one from The New Best Recipe from America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated, my favorite/go to cookbook.  Its huge, a bit pricey, but amazing!  However I hate to make people feel pressured, so use your go to recipe for these cupcakes, and I'll stick with mine.

The frosting is simple.  Just melt chocolate, add peanut butter and about 1/4 cup of corn starch and stir!  And stir some more.  Still more... you may be tempted to add more corn starch until it thickens, but then you have a corn starch flavor lingering in your mouth after eating the cupcake.  Which, and if you've never experienced this flavor allow me to tell you, is never pleasant.  So stir, and resist the urge to add to much corn starch.  I made about a cup to a cup and a half of frosting, so if you are making a huge batch of cupcakes then go ahead and double the 'recipe'... if not, please be sparing with the cornstarch.

Of course after I add the writing, and have finished with my frosting.  In fact I'm preparing to put the frosting in the fridge, I realize Haley wasn't turning 18......... she was turning 17........  That cupcake got extra frosting........

Haley is 17!

Carrot and Parsnip Soup

I made this ages ago, when it was freezing and all I wanted was some hot soup! Unfortunately I've been busy lately so any one who actually looks to see what I'm up to is getting things a bit belatedly.... I decided to make this particular soup that day because my Dad had missed his mashed parsnips and carrots at Thanksgiving since the rest of us can't stand it.  So the dish was vetoed this year.  However I felt bad for him and decided to refresh the flavors a bit, and make the texture more to my liking.  And that's why this soup over any other.  Despite these being two of my least favorite vegetables, the soup itself was very good! Earthy and strong, with a bit of a kick from the vast amounts of Italian seasoning I used.  This is my adaption of the Vegetarian Times Creamy Carrot and Parsnip Soup from the January February 2012 magazine, which I some how got back in December...

I've changed the recipe a bit, because I don't like the taste of carrots that much.  So I wanted a bit more of the herb, fresh taste of the parsnips.  Thus, fewer carrots then the original recipe called for, more parsnips, and stronger herbs.

So here's my recipe:

Olive oil
2 large carrots
3 large parsnips
1 onion
4 cups of a vegetable broth
2 cups of water
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Cook the parsnips, carrots and onion on a high heat for 10 or so minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes and seasoning.
Cover and bring it all to a boil.
Take half of the mixture and puree it, either a blender or a food processor works fine.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and then serve it up and enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pasta with Acorn Squash

This was fantastic.  A simple egg pasta with a sweet, and savory sauce.  It has taken me ages to get this up, but this was my thanksgiving meal.  I had a few other side dishes, but this was my main dish.  The pasta was simply pasta and eggs, blended in the food processor, then placed in the fridge for an hour.  I rolled out the dough, and I cut it in crazy rectangles.  I put it in my water and let it cook for a bit.  The acorn squash roasted away in the oven for 30 minutes.  While this was going I took some butter and garlic, let it go in my pan until it was filling the kitchen with its wonderful smells.  I scrapped squash out and added it to the pan.  Then I thinned it out with half and half and some veggie broth.

I drained the pasta and combined it with the squash in the pan.  After allowing them to come together, I added salt and pepper to season, and then some freshly ground nutmeg on top.

It may be one of my new favorites, though I will say that I will probably thin the sauce a bit more next time.  I would give you my actual measurements, but I have no idea what they are.... sorry.  I don't tend to measure unless I'm following a recipe or baking.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

So I just made a really amazing soup.  But before I say whats in it, readers must promise that they will be open minded.  That's all I ask, you don't get to say its gross or anything.  So my ingredients were butternut squash, red pepper, garlic, red onion, veggie stock, and..... soft tofu!  Sorry to any of you tofu haters but that is an ingredient.  And not only was it a good choice on my part, it made the soup fantastic!  I refused to tell Pere what was in it until after he tasted it, because I knew if I told him ahead of time he never would have tried with the open mind I know is necessary for those who don't understand tofu, or as in his case, those who have been subjected to my tofu creations in the past.  This is the first time I've cooked with tofu and actually loved what I made, so I'm really excited, and Pere was willing to taste it.  It isn't often that I experiment with a new dish and I love it right away.  But for once I lucked out.  Not that I wouldn't change it, because I will when I make it in the future, but it was good.

Olive Oil
Half a Red Onion
2 large cloves of garlic
4 cups of Veggie Stock, I used store bought but whatever you feel like
A Whole Butternut Squash, cut in chunks
One Diced Red Pepper
A container of Tofu, Soft
Chili Powder (optional)

I used a large pot, the wonderful red Le Crueset, and added a healthy amount of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then I added my chopped onion and let them go until translucent.  Next the garlic until it made for a wonderful pervading smell in my kitchen.  Then I poured in my stock, all of it, followed by the squash.  Add the red pepper, cover and let simmer on high for a good 15 minutes or until the squash is nice and soft.  While that's  happening take the tofu, after draining a good portion of the water, and crumple it into the blender.  Pulse until its smooth.  Then combine it with the soup.  Continue to let that cook for another 5 minutes.  Then pour all of it into the blender, do it in 2 batches if your blender isn't large enough, and pulse until smooth.  Once the mixture is creamy pour it back into the pot, washing it out first if you so choose.  At this point you want to leave it on a low heat for 20 minutes.  However if you think that the mixture is to thick add more stock until you get your desired texture.  If you want a bit of crunch add some fried onions or have a good thick piece of sourdough bread with the soup.  I hope you enjoy!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sad Facts of Life

Its bad that the most exciting part of my day is when I spend 2 hours talking to my Muslim friends about vegetarianism versus picky omnivores.  And then I have to admit they have points.  But nothing really matters in that regard because I still haven't had meat in a year and a half.  So no one can say I'm not doing anything with my free time, I do tons with it.  Like blog about things that no one will actually read.  But that's ok, this is for me after all, not anyone else.