Friday, September 10, 2010

Just Another Apple Pie Recipe

The Apple
Photo taken by digicla, at

It turns our that my oldest son, a senior in high school this year, has decided to take a "Foods" class.  It's not like he doesn't know how to cook, I think he figured it would be an easy A.  So with all the recipe books in our house, instead of just opening one, he approached me after school today with a request for apple pie.

Of course it couldn't be the cheapie-cheater pie recipe that simply consists of a frozen pre-made crust and canned, mushy, lifeless apples suspended in a clear, flavorless glue-like substance called pie filling, so here goes - the apple pie recipe that I use each fall for the annual Our Savior's Fall Bake Sale.

There are two ways this pie can be made:  with streusel topping, or a two-crust version (crust on top and bottom).  If a one crust, streusel top is what you prefer, either roll out both halves of the pie crust & freeze one so it's ready to go at a later date or just double the apple filling and streusel and bake two pies.  Pie is a great thing to share. 

This crust recipe will make a double (or two single) crust 8 or 9 inch pie(s).

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup water

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Add water, sprinkling in a little at a time, tossing lightly with a fork.  When all the water's been mixed in, work dough into a firm ball.

Now here's a little trick for perfect pie crust that doesn't stick to the pastry board: 
Divide dough into two equal parts.  Shape each part into a round ball.  Place one ball at a time between two large sheets of wax or parchment paper, and roll out evenly into a 1/8" think circle.  Peel off the top sheet of paper, and tip the pan upside down on top of the pie crust.  Flip both together and remove the remaining sheet of paper.  Press the dough into the pan, trim the edges evenly, with a little crust dough hanging over the edge.  For a one-crust pie, roll the excess dough instead of trimming it and flute the edges of the crust by working your way around the edge of the pan, pinching the dough as you go to form a twisted rope or zigzag pattern.

For a double-crust pie, roll the second half of the dough out flat between the two pieces of paper and set aside until the pie filling has been added.  After filling has been added, moisten the edge of the bottom crust, carefully peel the paper away from the top crust and lift onto the filled pie.  Trim excess dough so that it hangs about 1/2" over the edge.  Roll that hanging dough under the edge of the bottom crust and flute.  Prick the top crust with a fork. 
(For a decorative touch, cut small shapes in the top crust before removing the 2nd sheet of paper.  A very sharp, pointed knife will work well for this.  If you don't want to waste the dough, layer the cut-outs on blanks spots on top of the pie.)

6 large baking apples
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter (margarine is ok)

Peel, core and slice apples, and put in the prepared bottom pie crust.  Mix the sugar, flour and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the apples.

If you are going for the two-crust version, this is where you add the top crust, seal and flute it.  For a beautiful, sparkly top crust, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.  Regardless of which crust variation you prefer, I find it best to divide some tin foil into 6" strips and wrap those around the outer edges of the crust so the edges don't get too dark.

Streusel Topping (undoubtedly my favorite):
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
dash salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine

Combine all ingredients except butter.  Once those are mixed well, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the pie, right up to the edges of the crust.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Once again, regardless of which crust variation you prefer, I find it best to divide some tin foil into 6" strips and wrap those around the outer edges of the crust so the edges don't get too dark.

I'm on a pie roll now, I hope you all like pie.  I realized I only have one other apple recipe here as of today, so I will have to add a few more for good measure.  After all, baking season is pretty much here, and the apple orchards will be busy soon!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Full-Time Blogger?

If my full-time job was inhibiting my blogging (which, yes, it was), I guess I have no excuses anymore.  I was fired from my "real" job last Tuesday, or should I say, the job I get paid for, anyway. 

I still have my blogging and my garden and my family to take care of, and my sewing and my Etsy store...  whoever said that stay at home moms ("SAHM's") don't have full-time jobs had no idea what they were saying.  It's just easier to be a better wife & mom, I think - and this is my own humble opinion - when you don't have a "real" 40-hour-plus-per-week job in the rat-race.  Now I will be able to focus my attention better on things that are more important.

No more fast food.  I think it's okay every now and then if you are on the go and have no other alternative, but it's really not good for you.  I really don't care for the expense of it, either - when I consider that for the $25 it would cost to feed my family at a fast food restaurant, I can purchase a roast, a bag of potatoes, some carrots and onions and a gallon of milk and still have over $5.00 change left in my pocket.

The focus of my writing here in the past was food, and recipes that anyone can make on a budget.  That focus will continue to remain, and as I am more driven to save my own money and make our family budget stretch a little further, I will be sharing everything I can since I will now have more time to do so.

The second day I was home, unemployed, was far from the depressed muck-on-the-couch with a bag of chocolate chips and a bottle of wine one might expect from someone who'd just been fired from their job.  My garden will expand to three times its size by the time I'm done.  It's already doubled with the help of my youngest son.  In addition to the tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, rhubarb, spinach, lettuce, carrots, onions, peas and beans we had already growing in the garden, we turned up another 15 x 15 plot and planted more beans, peas, radishes and peppers.  My son dug another 12 x 2 strip along the fenced dog kennel and we planted wax beans there.  Today we'll be putting in another plot for corn, pumpkins and cantelope. 

The more I plant, the less grass we'll have to mow.  I really can't see the downside to that!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lasagna From a Jar...

Well, the sauce is, anyway.  And my family loves this one - so what the heck, I will share this one any day since it's so awesome.

This recipe will make enough for a 9"x13" pan, and there may be enough ingredients to put a couple layers in a small 8"x8" pan, too.  It varies at my house, depending on whether or not my kids are sneaking noodles behind my back.  I've never figured out what exactly the appeal is in regard to plain lasagna noodles, but everyone fights over a leftover noodle if there is one.

2 - 32oz. jars Ragu Garden Style spaghetti sauce (I like the chunky sauce, it adds some nice veggie texture to the lasagna)

2 lbs. hamburger, browned (I usually chop this with my spatula as I'm browning, so the chunks of meat are fairly small - the sauce spreads more evenly this way)

1 box of lasagna noodles, cooked till al dente (should still be firm, not mushy!)

1 lb. shredded cheddar

1 lb. shredded mozzarella

1/4 - 1/3 cup grated parmesan

16 oz. Ricotta cheese for layering, if you like it

Mix spaghetti sauce with browned hamburger and heat through until hot.
spoon a small amount into the bottom of the pan so the first layer of noodles don't stick, then lay the first 4 noodles lengthwise in the bottom of the pan.  Spoon an even layer of sauce over the noodles, then sprinkle about 1/2 cup each of the cheddar and mozzarella (and some ricotta if you want) over the sauce.  Add the next layer of noodles, then repeat the steps until you run out of room or ingredients.  On the last layer of noodles, spoon sauce and remaining cheddar & mozzarella.  Top with parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and return to oven for 15 minutes longer.  If you are going to heat up a loaf of french bread, now's the time to put that in the oven, too. 

When you remove the lasagna from the oven, it should stand for about 10 minutes or so before cutting.  That's a great time to pull together a quick mixed green salad and pour drinks.

If there's enough ingredients left over for a small pan, that can easily go into the freezer for a heat & eat meal later on when you don't have the time to cook.  This recipe can be divided in half for a smaller pan, or just make the entire thing and put some in the freezer for a rainy day.  The leftovers are almost better the next day on this one - your coworkers will be jealous when they see what you've got for lunch!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On Chocolate, or "The Chocolate Swizzle Stick that Broke the Mama Camel's Back"

What on earth has become of DOVE® Promises? The wrappers, which used to be printed with sweet little sayings like, 

"Go to your happy place"
"Smile, people will wonder what you're up to"

are now quoting random people that must've emailed the Mars Candy Company. Now the messages on the inside of the wrapper spew crap such as

"follow your heart, it's never wrong," or

"if you fall down seven times, get up eight."

Sorry, Dearie - I've followed my own heart several times. Most of the time it's wrong. And that last one doesn't even make sense. I fall down seven times, I get up seven times. These people can't do simple math and we are quoting them across America. What's even worse is that I've heard that they have been or soon will be putting Martha Stewart's tips inside the wrappers. What the...?!? No, I'm not cutting your little marshmallows into bunny shapes for your cocoa. Talk about a waste of time and marshmallows

I don't want to be told that I must inspire others to do their best so that they will do their best. I'm a mom. I have three teenagers. I know this already. Most of my life is already dedicated to being a living example for my children. Frankly, I'm getting really tired of being the dependable, responsible one.

What I need is a break. I need to take my "me" time every so often. Even if it is just a quick 5 minutes of silence where I go to my happy place with my two little squares of melt-in-your-mouth bliss. After I'm left with nothing but the urge to brush the sugar off my teeth and a bit of regret when I realize I probably just negated that 15-minute power walk after my lunch break, I don't want to have even more thoughts zooming through my brain that focus on how I can do yet more for everyone else around me. Call me selfish, but that doesn't exactly make my 5-minute chocolate break into "me" time.

What I really could use is a wrapper that opens up into a coupon for maid service, Martha, you are more than welcome to step in at this point and organize my home. Oh, by the way, don't forget - you will have to talk my husband into moving the over-sized sectional away from the wall because it hasn't been vaccuumed back there for about six months. I know that if I can't move that sucker, there's no way you will. Good luck with that. And after I've fallen down seven times from exhaustion after working fulltime, going to school part-time and still managing to do the grocery shopping, bill-paying, checkbook balancing and the occasional meal-cooking, I could really use a $50 coupon for a spa day to pick me back up again. Now that's what they should print on the inside of those DOVE® wrappers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Our Relationships With Food

As you may know, in case you've read any of my other blogs, I've gone back to school.  This semester's focus in my writing class is on a topic that might interest readers of this blog:  FOOD.

Yes, this topic does seem rather broad, so what we're really looking at are people's realtionships with food.  I will admit I've learned a lot from the documentaries we've had to watch as research.  Some of it makes me want to turn our entire .28 acre lot into an organic garden, especially after learning more about the ways big agribusinesses have been chemically and genetically modifying our food.  If you want to learn more, just pick up or rent a copy of the documentaries The Future of Food, The World According to Monsanto, or Super Size Me.  You might not want to eat before watching these films.  There are plenty more films on this, which I may reference as I get a chance to watch them.

On that note, I've got some space near a south-facing window that I think I going to use to get my garden seedlings started.  It's warming up here in Minnesota - it's even over 40 degrees F. here today (yay!) and I'm really itching to get my garden started after seeing all the horrible things that are happening to our food supply.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Intentions, and Ramen Noodle Florentine

I've always got the best intentions and grand plans for my blog.  Truth be told, I ran out of gumption, time & sanity during this Christmas baking season to get all of the recipes published that I wanted to.  But who says I can't keep going anyway?  It may seem like a bit out of season, but I will probably keep posting my "Christmas" recipes anyway.  At least until the snow melts.

I started back to school on Monday the 11th.  Yes, I believe I am certifiably insane.  My full-time job (my "real job") has been getting busier lately, and if it's any indication of the way our economy is headed, HALLELUJAH!  Even though that means that there will be less time for blogging and everything else that's not supposed to be considered my "top priority".

If you read this blog regularly, you've probably noticed I haven't been here as often lately.  I've also neglected stopping by the Blogger Coffee Shop.  I do miss out on some things, regretably - however I will still post here as I get time.  Hopefully it will be more often than not.

For now,  here's a quick way I have found to dress up the simplest of side dishes:  Ramen Noodles.  This one's for the college crowd, whether you are eating Ramen Noodles because of budget or time constraints, it can get pretty old just adding water and the flavor packet.  If you aren't doing the school thing and just want to try something new, don't feel left out - anyone can make this one!

Ramen Noodle Florentine

Prepare Ramen according to directions.  Use at least 1/2 the flavor packet or more - to taste.
If you like spinach, add a few leaves of fresh spinach or about 1/4 frozen while cooking.  When the noodles are done, drain off most of the broth, add 2 Tablespoons sour cream, garlic powder to taste and a few shakes of Parmesan cheese (about 2 Tbsp).

Serve alone or with chicken - grilled or broiled is good, chicken from a can will work, too.