Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apple Pie, My Way

Our youngest son came home for dinner last week and it was a good excuse to make a family favorite, apple pie. I love to make pies, especially fruit pies, and have been making them forever. When I was in high school, a girlfriend and I tried to make a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin, not canned. We didn't know what we were doing. Let's just say it was inedible:) A few years later, another friend and I wanted to try making pies using lard. Very good. I was getting pretty good at this.

Fast forward 35 years. I have been using the same method for pie crusts all these years and they turn out tender, rich, and very flaky. My family raves about my pies and Justin even wanted me to make some for his wedding reception. But I don't make pie crusts the traditional way.

 I start making the filling using one of these gadgets. Have you tried one? They are fun to use and fun to eat the skinny peelings.

I got mine as a Christmas gift a few years ago, and can't believe I had ever lived without one.

After peeling a bunch of apples, (combining several varieties is nice) I add about 3/4 cup of sugar, lots of cinnamon and a little ground cloves. I'm not much of a fan of ginger with my apples.

Now I start on the crust. Two cups flour for a double crust pie, and about 2/3 cups shortening, and some salt. I don't measure these, but you need enough shortening to make a flaky crust. I know some people use butter, but mine turns out better with the shortening. Cut in until crumbly.

Now I add water, a little at a time, using a fork to gently mix it in. After a few times you get a feeling for how much water to add. It shouldn't be too dry or too wet or you have problems rolling it out. The main thing is to not work it too much. As in, no mixing, kneading or anything else. This will create a tough crust and nobody wants that!

Now very gently make a ball with half of the dough and shape it smooth. And here is where I do things different, I Don't Chill the Dough! I just roll it out using enough flour to keep it from sticking to the counter and rolling pin. Sometimes I have to lift up a section of the dough to add flour. The rolling is also done gently. No rolling back and forth.

I fold the crust in half and then half again and put in the pie dish. Unfold and cut off extra. Fill with apples and dot with butter. Do it again with the rest of the dough, but leave some extra around the sides. Tuck under and pinch to seam it. Don't forget to make vents! That will make the dough tough also. Sometimes I sprinkle some sugar on the top, but usually I forget.

I bake my pies at 350 degrees until I think they're done. I have never used a timer for anything. Don't know why. I also cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil to catch the drips. This saves a lot of cleanup time.


I forgot to take a picture until the pie was almost gone. I got the last piece. Yeah!

I just read about pie baking in the newest BHG, and it was all about chilling everything- the bowls, the flour(!) and the dough. Maybe I'm lazy or just impatient, but I think my pies are just fine at room temperature. Or warm, right out of the oven, with ice cream:)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Interesting Weekend

 Before the rain started on Saturday we were doing some touch up painting around the windows and front door. And looking at all that white paint I noticed quite a few new "floaters" in my right eye. Now, I've had floaters for awhile, more in the last two years. So I was just irritated to get so many more. Then when I went inside where it was darker, I noticed these light flashes in the corner of my eye. Not good! My eye doctor had warned me about this.

I was able to get in touch with him, even though he was out of town, and he said I could go to the emergency room or just lay down and he would see me early Monday morning. Rick was more worried than I was, but I decided to wait. And after a million pictures to my dilated eye, I was told I had a PVD (posterior vitreous detachment). Not sight-threatening and fairly common in people over 50. Another fun advantage to getting older!

It took forever for my eye to un-dilate. I went to work looking like an alien:) I couldn't see well and the younger women I work with kept asking me if I was OK. (The doctor said I shouldn't lift anything over 5 pounds.) I have to go back to see him in a month, there is still a chance of a tear in the retina. Yikes!

The weekend wasn't a total waste. We went to my girlfriends' house for dinner. They had their granddaughter with them, and Andrew, Alison and Tad came too, so we got to see the two babies play together. And Linda made 5 different kinds of soup! She cooks once a week because they both work and commute. She is the best cook and we all ate too much.

So except for seeing spiders and gnats all the time (the floaters) I'm doing alright. The house is decorated for fall, the house trim is painted, and now that the rain has stopped I can get the gardens cleaned up for winter.
Fun times!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Witch's Hat Swap

I participated in another fun swap hosted by Vivian of We were supposed to make or decorate a witch's hat and fill it with goodies. I love crafting for Halloween so I had no problem coming up with ideas and items. My partner, Lisa  has received her package, so I can show what I sent her.

I started with a paper mache hat from HL, then painted and glittered it. I gathered some crepe paper and hot glued it and various artificial pumpkins, berries and ribbon to the brim. You can't see it, but I added an orange spider to the side.

I included several handmade pieces. I have been making cross stitch ornaments lately. I thought Liza might like this little pumpkin.

  A little bottle cap pin cushion with Halloween pins:

 It's sitting on a box I covered in Graphic 45 paper and filled with German scrap, felt leaves, and other embellishments.

I also added a boo banner, several types of ribbons wound on a vintage spool, and an owl stamp.

I can't wait to get my box of goodies from Lisa. I can tell from her blog that she's a very talented crafter.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Flora and Fauna

Before the frost last week I spent some time harvesting herbs for drying. I especially like to dry thyme, dill, parsley, and oregano. I use sage during the holidays, but my plants stay green enough to harvest fresh. And my bay and rosemary plants comes inside, so I always have leaves for soups and roasts. 

I hang bundles of a single herb to dry. This usually takes about 2 weeks. Sometimes I use the food dehydrator, but this time I didn't. Then I cut off all the stems, and pack the leaves into our cute little Krupp electric mill.

A few seconds of processing and I have nice fine, dried herbs for use this winter. Just like so many things, herbs are better fresh or fresh-dried from the garden.

This is really parsley, I swear!
 And now for the fauna portion of my post. Every day we walk through the herb garden, enjoying the scents and flowers, and always on the lookout for the caterpillars that appear this time of year.
Swallowtails lay their eggs on parsley, dill and fennel, which the larvae feed on. Since we enjoy these critters, we plant enough for everyone. But this year I have only seen one or two very tiny caterpillar.  It might be because of the very dry summer.

But we have seen an abundance of these guys:

In the last week we have seen so many praying mantises in our backyard. They are everywhere! And it's weird, because we haven't seen any for many years. But after living in the country for so many years, I've learned that there is a cycle to these things. Next year, it will be something else that is abundant. I just hope it isn't earwig beetles!

I know they're "good bugs", but they are kind of creepy:)