Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wild Animals + Shirley Corriher's Touch-of-Grace Biscuits + Sausage & Kielbasa Soup Recipes

wild animals seem to be on my radar this week. Up at Snow Mountain Ranch we encountered a pair of foxes that were nearly as friendly as grumpy dogs. Outside of my window by my computer the fat squirrel and I eye each other, both waiting for the perfect moment to gather the grapes just at the moment when they are perfect and a few nights ago Larr, laying in bed watching the news, spied an unusual sight outside of our bedroom window.

At home I am often entertained by the squirrels who use the grape arbor by my window like a highway. Sometimes I they sit on a section by the window and smirk at the cats who are swishing their tails madly and making low, guttural noises in their direction. They don't usually give me the time of day, until it is time to start watching the grapes. Even as I type out this blog entry, I can smell them. It is a delicious aroma that makes my mouth water, even though I know that if I ate them now, the skins of the grapes would cause my mouth to it. Still. We are both waiting, hoping to beat out the other once the grapes are perfect.

A few nights ago Larr experienced a very different sighting. Our bedroom is on the second floor of our house and the addition stretches out from the house. As a result of that, there is a section of roof right outside of our bedroom window. While Larr was watching the news before going to bed, he heard a noise on the roof. Looking out, he expected to see Gorham, a local cat who is very friendly. Instead, he spied a rather large raccoon sauntering the roof like he was on a walkway during a pleasure walk. Now I think we know what trips the motion sensor lights so often.

It has been a bit colder these last two days, so I am Sausage and Cabbage soup, as well as homemade biscuits for dinner. I am posting the version of the recipe I made as I changed up the recipe I posted from the Cures.

Cabbage & Kielbasa Soup

1 large Red Onion, chopped
3 TBL. Olive Oil
2 tea. Garlic, minced
1 pnd Carrots, cut into coins
2 rings Kielbasa Sausage, cut into pieces or diced
1 med. Bunch of Fingerling Potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 head Cabbage, chopped
1 tea. Smoked Sweet Hungarian Paprika
1 tea. Nutmeg, ground
1 tea Celery Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste
Balsamic Vinegar, served as a condiment

Saute the onion and the kielbasa in hot oil in a soup pot until the onion is softened. Add in the garlic and saute a bit longer. Add the potatoes and stock. Simmer until the spices with the potatoes until they are cooked, about 30 min. Bring the soup to a boil and add the cabbage. Stir. Turn the heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes or more. The longer you simmer the soup, the more the cabbage will incorporate. If you make this in a crock pot, some of the cabbage will sort of dissolve or melt and begin to thicken the soup a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set out the balsamic vinegar so that it may be added for additional flavor, if desired. Serve with a nice bread, such as thick slices of French bread.

* I would have added caraway seeds, if I had any. I am also considering adding in apples.


Shirley Corriher's Touch-of-Grace Biscuits
borrowed and modified from 52Food

Note: Corriher, ever the scientist and tinkerer, published one version of this recipe in CookWise in 1997, and a fairly different one in BakeWise in 2008. We tried and loved both, the newer one edged out (she knows her tinkering).

Makes about 12-14 medium biscuits

Adapted slightly from BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking(Scribner, 2008)

Butter for greasing, or nonstick cooking spray
2 1/2 cups Flour (She actually prefers a combination of flours that I never have. You can see the less modified recipe here.)
1/6 tea Baking Soda
1 TBL Sugar
3 TBL. Shortening (I use butter flavored)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 - 1 1/4 cup buttermilk,(I actually use 3/4 cup Buttermilk and 1/2 cup Heavy Cream) or enough for dough to resemble cottage cheese (if you are not using low-protein flour, it will take more than 1 cup)
1 cup plain all-purpose flour, for shaping
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and arrange a shelf slightly below the center of the oven.

Butter an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work the shortening in with your fingers until there are no large lumps. (I do all of this in my food processor with a few quick pulses.) Gently stir in the cream, then some of the buttermilk until dough resembles wet cottage cheese. It should be a wet mess -- not soup, but cottage-cheese texture. (If you are not using a low-protein flour, this may take considerably more than 1 cup of buttermilk.) Let this sit for a few minutes, until the liquid has a chance to be absorbed.

Spread the plain all-purpose flour (not self-rising) out on a plate or pie pan. With a medium (about 2 inches, #30) ice cream scoop or spoon, place three or four scoops of dough well apart in the flour. Sprinkle flour over each. Flour your hands. Turn a dough ball in the flour to coat, pick it up, and gently shape it into a round, shaking off the excess flour as you work. Place this biscuit in the prepared pan. Coat each dough ball in the same way and place each shaped biscuit scrunched up against its neighbor so that the biscuits rise up and don't spread out. Continue scooping and shaping until all dough is used.

Place the pan on the arranged shelf in the oven. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Brush with the melted butter. Invert onto one plate, then back onto another. With a knife or spatula, cut quickly between biscuits to make them easy to remove. Serve immediately. "Butter 'em while they're hot." Note: Do not use self-rising flour for shaping, as the leavener will give a bitter taste to the outside of the biscuits.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Snow Mountain Ranch - Reflections on Previous Trips

I write this sitting at a table by The Buckboard, a tiny general store and cafe outside of the guest relations building for Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park. It is the annual weekend for the families of AVS to gather and have fun. We rent a large reunion cabin with many bedroom, a few bunk beds, lots of couches, a large fireplace and a nice kitchen with double appliances.
I’ve made this trip almost countless times, but this time it is different from any other. This time I traveled alone. Instead of listening to my family, or to the music the kids have picked out, or to the stories the kids and their friends tell each other, I am listening to Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine (Apr 2, 2013), a sequel to a memoir I read about a mother and daughter. In many ways this trip is bittersweet.
Driving up the mountain, the van is slower than it used to be, just like me, but we are both happy to make the journey. The aspen leaves have been turning a bright golden yellow hue and must be at their peak as they shimmer an almost unreal color of nearly neon yellow gold. Other aspens stand amongst them in a more stately. calm shade of red. If I had not been wanting to get up the mountain before dark, I would have stop to take some photos. I figure those can be taken tomorrow.

Going up Berthoud Pass from Denver the I think about time I took Ellie and Kohlton sledding at the top of the pass. They took a few epic lines down the mountain and ended up many more hairpin curves farther than I had expected. It was a fine adventure for them and I was happy to witness it, even from the distance of a driver not taking part. I think about the photograph of Ethan in his team uniform as he squats near a small mountain stream. It was taken on the way home after he and our friend, Greg, had raced at Winter Park in the Epic Singletrack Series. Snapshots like those play like short films in my head, preserving the time, the memory and my feelings. Coming back down the other side of the mountain, I am reminded of the trips on the road from the many times we went to Snow Mountain Ranch for bike camp or races. I think about the time when the kids were 13 and ten. We raced down the road next to the cars that held their team mates, both sets of kids making faces, silly noises and gestures. It was a full and wild time that I felt, even then, to be privileged to be part of. I think about the many times on that road when we were on our way to go camping the night before a race, of the time that a bear came knocking at the tent of one of our companions and I slept through most if it. I think about sitting around the small camp fires, enjoying s’mores and singing songs - as many as we could remember the words for. I think about the times when the drive home was silent because the kids were exhausted from the effort they put into their races. I think about the year that I visited the llama farm and brought home hand-dyed fibers that I later knit into a hat or the time when I escaped with a group of other kid-free mothers to sneak off to the hot springs less than a half hour away. That adventure felt so decadent at the time.

I also reflected on the place I am in my life now. The kids are nearly grown. Ellie and Kohlton have already spent the day up here because they can now drive themselves. Ethan is back on the boat working as the engineer, readying the boat for transit to San Diego. As I think about my life, I also listen to the book about a mother and adult daughter’s journey on an international scavenger hunt. Their first stop is in China, a place I plan to visit at some point in my life. I think about what my life will be like sans the nearly constant attachment to my children. It makes me feel both sad, and excited to launch that new journey for myself.

As I turn into the Snow Mountain Ranch property I realize that the state of the grounds is akin to a metaphor for my own adult life. When we first began to come to Snow Mountain Ranch we would turn off of the highway onto a thin, dirt road that was cut through a green, lush, dense forest of towering trees. After driving through that fragrant tunnel we would emerge into a new world where everyone felt safe, happy and ready for fun. Many years later there was a pine beetle infestation that felled most of the forest. For two years the entrance was like going through a bone yard of a long lost magical era. At times my life has felt the same. But time marches on, those trees were cut down and repurposed. Now there is a forest in miniature where the trees are much shorter than I and sport a bright, hopeful green.

Here's one of the popular snacks that we made for the crowd.

Ginger Spiced Nuts and Chex Mix

½ cup Sugar
1 tea. Ginger, ground
½ tea. Red Pepper or Cayenne Pepper, ground
½ cup Butter, melted
2 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Wheat Chex
2 cups Mixed Nuts
2 cups Pecans
2 cups Cranberries
2 cups Raisins
¼ cup Crystallized Ginger, chopped

Mix the Chex and nuts together, set aside. Stir the ginger and red pepper/cayenne into the melted butter.

Stir the butter and spice mix into the nut and Chex mix. Stir to combine. Stir in the sugar to evenly coat the mix.

Now you can

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Paper Flowers for Artistic Friends

Earlier this summer I made a few new friends with an artistic bent when I attended the Encaustics workshop at Anderson Ranch. In an effort to keep those connections going and to sort of help make creating art more of a priority for myself, I set up a small exchange of art through the mail. Afterall, who doesn't love getting fun mail in their mailboxes?
I had intended to make small bit of true art, but my life has been as such lately that settling in and making that kind of art was not possible. However, making paper flowers was and it was a lot of fun. So, I made a small bouquet of flowers for each person. I carefully packaged them with colored tissue paper and notes. I made the outside of the box beautiful as well with the hopes that receiving such items would bring them joy.

The boxes were supposed to be delivered on Saturday or Monday, but due to the size of the boxes, they were sent to their work locations. I have not heard anything back from them, so I am worried that they were delayed. I doubt they were lost. I look forward to receiving confirmation that they were received.

Now I am onto figuring out what to make for the next exchange.

Today has also been a very big day. Ethan returned to the west coast and is back on the boat. He will not be back until Christmas. It will be very weird to have Thanksgiving without him. We have not had that in 21 years. My students also staged a protest and walk-out in support and a show of concern with issues that are going on in my school district. I spent the day fielding questions about the issues and working hard to present documents that support both sides of each issue so that the students are informed enough to make their own choices on each topic. I think I may need a nap before I prepare dinner. I think it is going to have to be something easy and quick for dinner tonight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Emily Comes to Visit - Chatting & Snacking

When Larr and I had dinner at Cascades, inside of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, I started my meal with a charcuterie, cheese and fruit plate. It was so much fun to eat that I decided that I wanted to create something similar for Ethan when he came home. Ethan has been home for a while, so I was just waiting for the right night to fix up this treat.

On Wednesday I had jury duty and got out a bit early, so I decided to make a nice meal. Ethan called me that afternoon to let me know that Emily, his good friend and favorite chef from the boat, was in town. He asked if she could join us and of course the answer was, "yes, of course." So I set to work gathering the fun food and putting together a nice presentation. I always think of my friend, Natalie, when I do this kind of thing. She creates such treats for me often and with such lovely little bowls. Some time I will do this for her.
I enjoyed getting a chance to meet Emily in person and hear here stories of life on the boat. Since it is really just life to them, it was hard for them to come up with very many stories. Still, I liked hear about how the galley kitchen is set up, how she plans for, shops for and cooks for the crew. Ethan tells me that being the ship's cook is the hardest job on the boat.
I picked up most of the fresh stuff from Whole Foods where the produce guy and I tasted things to seek out the most interesting and in season varieties of fruits. I especially loved the Thomas Concord grapes. I also really like the figs, but everyone else was less thrilled about them. The mango was the best I have ever had.

Then I made my way over to the cheese and meat counter where the guys there let me have samples and offered suggestions. I told them about my plans and they were very enthusiastic assistants in putting together a great spread.

Emily told me a story about Ethan making breakfast on the boat one morning. On the days that Emily has off, other crew members have to step up to take her place for a meal and cook. Ethan has always loved to make breakfast, so he volunteered to take a shift. Emily explained that he would be making a fairly straightforward breakfast of eggs, toast, etc. She also handed him some cans of crescent rolls and told him to make them. He had never seen them so he cracked the can open. unwound the dough and seperated out the triangles. He then layed them out on a pan and cooked them until they were baked. He thought that it was a bit odd that they did not puff up. Later he learned that the triangles of dough were supposed to be rolled up and formed into crescents. Johan, the first mate, loved them. He told Ethan that his triangle toast was a lovely vessil to relay his marmalade to his mouth. Emily had to giggle at that a bit. The next time that someone was needed to take over a breakfast shift, Johan smiled and nudged Ethan to get him to volunteer as he wanted more triangle toast.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Lovely Fall Day + Green Chile Posole, Split Pea & Flaken Soup, Rosemary Lamb Kofte With Creamed Corn, Milk Stout Cupcakes

Yesterday was a lovely fall day. The trees are turning and we had a low key day.

Larr and Ethan went on a walk over Loveland Pass. Once they were done with the hike, they drove down into South Park and back home, going past George Town.

Kohlton finally got his truck all in order, so Ellie and Kohlton did a bit of shopping on their own. Then they hung out here and we went to the thrift store to consider Halloween costume options. They are as of yet undecided. For a while they were going to be Batman and Wonder Woman. Then they considered being Jay and Daisy from Great Gatsby, or Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Nothing really seemed to fit the bill.
They did find a costume for Remmie at Target. He will be a linebarker.
We regrouped and had dinner. I made Lamb Kofte and served it with homemade creamed corn with lime and mashed potatoes. It was a hit. Then we had a fire and relaxed. I loved sitting together, relaxing, knitting while Kohlton played the guitar.


Green Chile Posole
via: Tasting Colorado by Michele Morris

4-5 pnd Pork Should Roast
5 TB Mesquite Liquid Smoke (I will use the liquid smoke from William-Somona, my favorite)
1 tea. Salt
2 tea. Cumin, ground
1 tea. Coriander, ground
2 tea. Chili Powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Spear the roast all over with the fork. Place the roast on two layers of foil. Combine the spices and liquid smoke. Rub the mixture all over the roast. Seal the roast in the first layer of foil and then the second layer of foil.

Place 1" of water in a broiler pan. Place the roast in the broiler pan with water and cook for 3 hours.

Remove the roast from the oven. Let it cool in the foil. Shred or cut into bite size pieces. Discard the fat.

14 oz. Beef Stock
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 can of 28 oz. Hominy, drained
4 oz. Tomatillos, pureed
28 oz. Tomatoes, Mexican Stewed
3 bunches Scallion, finely chopped
1 tea. Cumin, ground
Salt and Pepper
28 oz. Green Enchilada Sauce
1/2 pound Roasted Chile Peppers

Place the cooked pork in a stock pot. Add everything but the cheese. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour. Top with cheese before serving.

Via: Wall Street Journal, recipe by Jesse Schenker

Active Time: ½ hours Total Time: 3 hours Serves: 6-8

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 pounds marrow bones (I could not get this, so I used soup bones instead)
2 pounds beef flanken or short ribs
2 Spanish onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 pounds carrots, chopped into 1-inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 pound green split peas
½ pound barley
5 cups beef stock
3 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Croutons for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make spice sachet: Place peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme on a cheesecloth square, gather ends and tie closed with kitchen string.

2. Roast marrow bones: Place 1 tablespoon oil and marrow bones in a large, lidded, heavy stockpot or Dutch oven. Toss bones to coat with oil. Roast in oven until golden, 30-45 minutes. Carefully remove pot from oven and place on stove top. Remove marrow bones and set aside.

3. Sear ribs: Season ribs with salt. Add remaining oil to stockpot and set over high heat. Once hot, add ribs to pot and sear on all sides, 12-15 minutes total. Remove meat and set aside.

4. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic to pot, stir and cook until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fully incorporated, 1-2 minutes more. Return marrow bones and ribs to pot. Add red wine and deglaze pot by scraping browned bits off bottom. Add spice sachet, split peas, barley and enough beef stock to cover marrow bones and ribs. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

5. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer until meat is tender and falls off the bone, about 2 hours. Remove all bones and sachet. Season soup with salt to taste. Before serving, stir in fresh dill and parsley. Garnish with croutons, if you like.

Rosemary Lamb Kofte With Creamed Corn
via: Wall Street Journal, recipe by Jessica Koslow
Time: 30 minutes Serves: 4

Lamb Kofte -
2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
2 teaspoons toasted coriander seeds
2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1½ pounds ground lamb
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper, optional (4 parts sweet paprika and 1 part cayenne)
8 thick rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped from half of each

Creamed Corn with Lime -

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Kernels from 4 large ears corn
½ cup cream
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sumac, optional (sub. lemon juice, if needed)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use a mortar and pestle or grinder to grind toasted spices to a fine powder. Transfer powder to a large bowl. Add paprika, 1 tablespoon salt, cayenne, garlic, lamb and 1 teaspoon Aleppo, if using, to spice mix and stir to combine.

2. Make kofte: Evenly divide seasoned lamb into 8 parts. Mold lamb around portions of rosemary sprigs stripped of leaves to form uniform cylinders.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once hot, lay 4 skewers into pan and cook until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer skewers to a paper-towel-lined plate. Wipe pan clean, add remaining oil and repeat with remaining skewers.

4. Place browned kofte skewers on a baking sheet and transfer to oven. Roast until center of meat is just a touch pink, about 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in corn and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium and stir in cream, remaining Aleppo, if using, lime zest and sumac, if using. Sauté until cream thickens and kernels are tender, about 4 minutes. Off heat, season corn with lime juice and salt to taste.

6. To serve, divide corn among 4 plates and top each serving with 2 kofte skewers.

** Cook's Thesaurus (see below) says that a good substitute for aleppo is 4 parts sweet paprika and 1 part cayenne. I find this resource very helpful, in general. Link: http://www.foodsubs.com/SpiceME.html

Milk Stout Cupcakes
via: Tasting Colorado by Michele Morris

3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Flour
1 tea. Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
12 oz. Milk Stout Beer (Left hand Brewery)
1/2 cup Butter, melted
1 TB Vanilla
3 Eggs
8 oz. Sour Cream

8 oz. Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 pnd Powdered Sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the muffin tin with either cupcake liners, or by buttering and flouring the cups.

Combine the cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda and salt (I omit the salt).
Whisk the beer, melted butter and vanilla. Add each of the three eggs one by one. Add the sour cream. Blend this into the dry mixture gently. Be careful to not over mix.

Fill the muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.

To make the frosting, beat the powdered sugar into the cream cheese.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Anticipation of Fall - Making Caramel Apples, Pumpkin Bread + Cabbage & Kielbasa Soup Recipes + Fun Video

Late last week it was a tad bit cold. In the mountains they even got an inch of snow. This put Ellie and I into a Fall kind of mood. She and Kohlton decided they would welcome the new season with a bit of caramel apple creations.
Ellie tried out and liked these new little balls of caramel. I was skeptical, but I am now won over. I thought the caramel would be weird since it can be thinned with water. I like the fact that we no longer the tedious job of unwrapping small square caramels.
Ellie also assembled some fun toppings.
Kohlton had never made caramel apples, so Ellie taught him and he picked it up quickly.

Pumpkin Quick Bread

1 1/2 cups Pumpkin Puree
3/4 cup Applesauce
1 3/4 cups Sugar
3 eggs
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
3/4 tsp Ground Allspice
3/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
Cooking Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, applesuace, sugar, and eggs until well-incorporated. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Gradually pour into the pumpkin batter a little bit at a time, stirring after each addition until the mixture is well-blended. Be careful to not over
mix the batter.

Divide batter evenly between the loaf pans and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Allow to cool completely in pans before removing the bread. Run a knife around the edges of the bread in the pan to loosen. Store any remaining bread in plastic wrap.


Last night we hung out with the Cure family and had a casual meal to go along with our visiting. They thought the Cabbage and Kielbasa soup was humble, I thought it was delicious:

Cabbage & Kielbasa Soup
Via: The Cure Family

1 large Yellow Onion, chopped
3 TBL. Olive Oil
1 ring (about 1 1/2 pound) Kielbasa Sausage ring, cut into pieces or diced
2 large Potatoes, or 6 New Red Potatoes, cubed
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 head Cabbage, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute the onion and the kielbasa in hot oil in a soup pot until the onion is softened. Add the potatoes and stock. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 30 min. Bring the soup to a boil and add the cabbage. Stir. Turn the heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes or more. The longer you simmer the soup, the more the cabbage will incorporate. If you make this in a crock pot, some of the cabbage will sort of dissolve or melt and begin to thicken the soup a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a nice bread, such as thick slices of French bread.

I will add:
chopped apple
beer (maybe)

And finally, a little English Teacher fun:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cooking with my kids, "The Hundred Foot Journey" + Rio Muffins Recipe

Last night I went to see "The Hundred Foot Journey." It is the story of a young Indian boy whose family opens an Indian restaurant in France. The young man, Hassan, has a rare talent for cooking and a love for the process. The movie is about how he blossoms into a remarkable chef in adulthood. It is also about making connections with those who you love, and memories of the past, through food. It was a wonderful movie. I will have to buy it once it comes out on DVD. I have included the trailer below, should you like to view it.

I am thankful that I have been able to create similar connections with my own kids. Ethan loves to cook. Ellie loves to bake and make desserts. She is rapidly picking up cooking as well. It is gratifying to watch them work their own magic in the kitchen; it is wonderful to see how they imbue their personalities in the foods they create.

Ethan collects food, spice and recipes where ever he goes. When he went to Jamaica when he was 15, he brought back a suitcase half full of spices and candy. When he was working construction, he picked up a few great recipes from a few of the people he worked with. One of them, Rio Muffins, has become a family favorite. In fact, when Larr was making a calendar list of things Ethan needed to get done while he is at home, Larr listed "make Rio Muffins" every day. I've shared that recipe below.

Ellie loves to bake. She especially loves to make beautiful cakes. If you read my blog on a regular basis, you will have seen some of her recent, amazing creations. I am always eager to see what she will create next. I am so thankful to be able to witness her creative journey. I enjoy buying tools and supplies so that she has many options at the ready.

Ellie also appreciates a well presented meal. Sometimes this inspires me to take more care with presentation than I might do when I am more rushed, busy or distracted.

I am also thankful that both of my children have well defined palettes and that they can give me reliable, specific feedback on recipes that I try out. I love trying new recipes and so there are many opportunities to refine, modify or adapt recipes. Larr likes to eat, but he says that food is food and he rarely offers suggestions.

The movie also made me weep a bit. I found myself in the father's shoes, watching and struggling a bit with letting our young ones move on into adulthood. I am happy for them, but sad for my lose.

Preparing Bacon in the Oven

Line a baking sheet with foil.

Arrange the bacon slices on the foil and place the baking sheet on the center rack of a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 400°F.

Come back 15 to 20 minutes later. The timing on the bacon has to do with how thick the bacon is and how crispy you like it to be. As soon as the bacon is golden brown, remove it from the oven.

Rio Muffins

1 English Muffin, lightly toasted
Raspberry Jam
2-3 pc. Crispy Bacon
1 slice Cheddar Cheese (we prefer the sharp cheddar for this recipe)
1 Sunny Side Up or Fried Egg
Yellow Mustard, to taste

While the egg is cooking, put a generous amount of raspberry jam on the top muffin and yellow mustard on the bottom muffin. Place the egg on the bottom muffin. Top with the cheese and bacon. Place the top muffin with raspberry jam on top and enjoy right away.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Celebrating Ethan's 21st Birthday with a Party and Five Kinds of Pie + Lots of Pie Recipes

Ethan came home about a week ago. We were all so excited to see him! We thought it would be nice to throw him a birthday party. Ethan loves a big party and thankfully we had lots of friends who joined us.
His friends from his construction job, brothers Josh and Austin, were so happy to have a chance to hang out with Ethan. They really miss him a ton. They tried to talk him into coming back to work construction again. I think Ethan might have been a little tempted.
Our usual crowd was happy to share food, grill, party and gab.

When I asked him what he wanted to eat at his party, he answered, "Five kinds of pie, please." And so we had pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, apple caramel pie and butterscotch meringue pie. My, I started making the crusts on Friday evening and then finished them on Saturday. People enjoyed the pies. It made me pleased.

I started with the crusts. I love the Flaky Crust found in Cookwise by Shirley Corriher. (It is a really excellent book, especially if you are interested in food science.)

Flaky Pie Crust
by Shirley Corriher (I have written the instructions in my own words, not hers.)

1/2 tea Salt (omit if you are using salted butter)
1/3 cup Icy Cold Water
1/2 pound (2 sticks) Butter, cut into cubes
11 oz. (about 2 cups) Flour, all purpose
Parchment Paper
2 1/2 cups Rice, dry

Dissolve the salt in the water. Place the flour and the cubed butter in a food processor and process until it looks a bit like sand. Be careful not to over-process. Add in 4-5 TBL of extremely cold water and pulse until the water is beginning to absorb.

I wipe down the surface where I am going to roll out the dough with a damp cloth. Top that with waxed paper. The damp table/counter surface will make it cling. Dump the mixture onto the waxed paper and knead the crumbly mess into dough. Once it is beginning to form a dough, pat it out with the heel of your hand and then cover it with waxed paper. Roll out with a rolling pin until it is the desired thickness.

If you have time, you can place it in the refrigerator so allow the butter to get cold again. This will result in more flake in your crust. Transfer to the pie pan, trim and crimp to make a nice edge.

If you need to pre-bake the crust, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a piece of cooking parchment in the pan and pour in the rice. This will weigh the crust down and prevent bubble from forming in your crust. Bake it for about 20 minutes, or until it is very lightly browned on the edges. Remove from the oven, remove the parchment and the rice.

Apple with with Caramel Sauce
modified from: Allrecipes.com

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

1/2 cup unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tbl. Cinnamon, ground
1 tea. Allspice, ground
1/2 tea. Nutmeg, ground
1/4 tea. Clove, , ground
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
6 - 8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced
2 TBL. Butter, cold and in thin chunks of very small slices

Make the caramel syrup:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar, brown sugar and spices bring to a gentle boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer until it is thickened into a syrup and all of the sugars are melted. Be sure to stir often. Once this is done, stir half of the syrup in with the apples in a bowl. Mix gently to distribute the caramel sauce.

Assemble the pie:
Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with the spiced apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the remaining syrup over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off. Dot the open spaces of the lattice with small bits of butter.

Bake the Pie:
Bake for about 45-minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees F (175 degrees). About 10 minutes before the pie is done, sprinkle a little bit of extra cinnamon and sugar on top of the crust for a nice presentation.

Cherry Pie
via: America's Test Kitchen, also found on KCTE

6 cups pitted sweet cherries or 6 cups pitted frozen cherries
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 small lemon, zested to yield 1 teaspoon zest and juiced to yield 2 teaspoons juice
1⁄8 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon brandy (I omitted this and used 1 tea. Almond Extract instead)
1-2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Toss fruit with sugar, lemon juice and zest, spices, almond extract, brandy, and tapioca; let stand for 15 minutes.
Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into pie shell. Scatter butter pieces over fruit. Refrigerate until ready to top with remaining dough.
Place pie on baking sheet; bake until top crust is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer.

Pumpkin Pie, Basic
via: Libby's (slightly modified)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
1 pre-baked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Turn off the oven and let the pie cool slowly. (Cooling too quickly is what causes a pie to crack.)
Pecan Pie

Butterscotch Pie with Meringue Topping
Butterscotch filling recipe via: Midwest Living

Soft Meringue via:Cookwise by Shirley Corriher

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups whipping cream
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare Baked Pastry Shell. Set shell aside.

For filling: In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and the 1/4 cup butter. Cook and stir over low heat until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, the flour and cornstarch. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir until combined. Gradually stir in whipping cream. Return saucepan to heat. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks with a fork. Gradually stir about 1 cup of the hot filling into yolks. Add yolk mixture to saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in the 3 tablespoons butter and vanilla. Pour filling into the Baked Pastry Shell. Cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

Soft Meringue

6 Egg White
1 tea. Cream of Tartar

12 TBL. Powdered Sugar

Make sure that the beaters and the bowl are very clean. Use a cooper bowl, if possible. Whip the egg whites until they are just beginning to form soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar at this time. It will help stabilize the egg whites.

In a small glass bowl, such as a ramakin, add 1/3 cup of cold water to 1 TBL. of cornstarch. Stir to mix and heat to thick. Beat this into the egg white peaks gently. This will prevent the meringue from shrinking.

Place on top of the cooled butterscotch pie. I use a wide rubber spatula to form gently peaks. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes, or until there are nicely browned tips on the meringue.

Preparing Bacon in the Oven

Line a baking sheet with foil.

Arrange the bacon slices on the foil and place the baking sheet on the center rack of a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 400°F.

Come back 15 to 20 minutes later. The timing on the bacon has to do with how thick the bacon is and how crispy you like it to be. As soon as the bacon is golden brown, remove it from the oven.

Rio Muffins