Thankful things and the pie-making process

Mike and I had a great Thanksgiving and were especially grateful for the long weekend following it!

All right.  Here we go on things I’m thankful for, in no particular order (I know some people try to make these lists in priority order or in alphabetical order or whatever, but I am really not up to that level of organization.  I actually feel pretty good about just making the list at all.  😉

Piper: As I mentioned in the last post, she’s been a sick little cat recently, which has definitely made me more affectionate and appreciative of her.  I’m also probably spoiling her a bunch now too.  *sigh*  Oh, well.  I like to think she deserves it.  😉  She’s very intuitive, affectionate when the occasion calls for it, annoyed and short-tempered when the occasion calls for it, and 100% honest about her feelings always.

Mike: Seriously, this guy is it.  He’s smart, philosophical, open-minded, honest to an absolute fault, funny, cute, very kind to all animals, thoughtful, musical, and very handy with everything mechanical and electrical.

Family: Obviously we don’t see family very often because we’re so far away, but it’s always a blessing to know that both Mike’s and my families are supportive and always available!

CSA Produce: Seriously, every year I do this CSA produce thing, I get better at it.  This year I wasn’t stumped with any of the ingredients I got and I felt like I was much less wasteful in previous years.  And it was always so refreshing to get a fresh load of produce every week.  It kept me cooking all summer long!  The CSA just ended last week, and I’m not really sure how to stay on the cooking wagon now.  Hopefully my new cookbooks will help!

New Cookbooks: I went to an author book-signing event at a cookbook store a few blocks from our house, and that was so inspiring!  I bought that cook’s cookbook and then I also bought a vegan cookbook that I am loving!  Since cooking and eating end up being every day occurrences, anything that gets me more excited about cooking is a good thing!

A New House: This time last year Mike and I were still renting and, as nice as that was, it’s nicer to have our own space that we actually own.  We are also thankful to have found a place in a neighborhood that’s really difficult to buy in.

Friends: It feels like a lot of the time that Mike and I have put in getting to know people over our five years in Seattle has really paid off in terms of a lot of good friends.  Most weekends we’re getting together with one friend or another, and we feel very grateful for that network of people to socialize with!

Jobs: Mike and I both currently have jobs that we feel satisfaction in, and we both work in pretty good teams and get along well with our coworkers.

God: I have been blessed in many ways and feel like God continues to lead Mike and me in our paths in this strange place called Earth in this strange thing called life.  I feel very fortunate in that!

Cute Dogs: It literally makes my day every time I see a cute dog.  The other day Mike and I were in a sock store (yes, the whole store is actually dedicated to selling socks… it’s really the best store ever), and I saw a guy there with two keeshonds.  I had to say ‘hi’ of course, and he even let me take a picture of them.  So sweet!  So cute!  I love dogs!  And cats.  And most other animals really.

Pot Racks: Mike put up a pot/pan rack in the kitchen shortly after we moved in, and it is the BEST!  I’ve never had one before, but now when I want a pot or a pan I literally just reach over to the rack and pull off the one I want… no more digging through cupboards trying to find the right pan which might be under five other pans.  Revolutionary to cooking, for sure!

Learning: Both Mike and I have been learning a lot at our new jobs this year, and that’s awesome.  That was really what we both switched jobs hoping to accomplish, so it’s wonderful to see that playing out.

Lots of things to be thankful for in 2015!

And now let’s talk about other things.  Specifically pie-baking kinds of things.  I actually made a pie for the Thanksgiving potluck at our neighbors, but I feel like, as with so many things I do, it was an adventure.

Let’s start with the basics.  My first thought was that I would make my Grandma’s apple pie.  Aside from being amazing, there’s something cool about bringing a third-generation recipe apple pie to a potluck, right?  I emailed my mom over the weekend asking for the recipe and I received this email back:

I’d be happy to send you Grandma’s apple pie recipe, except that she never used a recipe.  I can tell you about how I make mine, based on what she did, though.  (I don’t really have a recipe, either.  🙂 )

This is the problem with coming from a long line of excellent bakers.  No one has a recipe.  Recipes are for people who don’t know what they’re doing (like me).  My mom proceeded to give me some basic instructions which may or may not have included such phrases as “1/4 cup of flour (about, depending on how juicy the apples are….more or less)” and “a generous amount of cinnamon”.  Unfortunately those measurements mean nothing to me.  If there’s not a ‘generous’ scoop I can fill up and dump in the pie, it’s really a no-go from my perspective.  And what exactly is or isn’t a ‘juicy’ apple?  Aren’t they all kind of juicy?  Plus, my mom and grandma’s “recipe” has a top crust, which I was a little unsure about.  Bottom crusts are easier because if they crumble, worst case you can just mash them onto the bottom of the pie plate.  Top crusts actually have to stay together enough to place them across the entire top of the pie.  So I turned to the internet and found a recipe for an apple crumble pie.  I was a little iffy on it because it called for using canola oil instead of shortening or butter, but what do I know?  Maybe everyone was using canola oil these days and butter was so twentieth century.  On Tuesday I went to the grocery store and got all the ingredients for the apple crumble pie.  I was feeling pretty good about things until I talked to a friend at work who’s a great baker and who was coincidentally also making a pie for Thanksgiving.

“You’ll be fine,” he assured me.  “As long as you chill the shortening or butter before you roll up the pie crust you can’t go wrong.”  So… he and my mom both use shortening for pie crusts.  Maybe no one does use canola oil and I just had some weird rogue allrecipes.com recipe.  By the time I got home I had decided I couldn’t possibly make a pie using canola oil.  Fortunately, allrecipes.com, as if knowing my plight, sent me a ‘Thanksgiving recipes’ email that included a highly rated 4.5 star caramel apple pie.

Done.  I headed out to the store again and got the ingredients for the new pie (which included butter so I immediately felt better).  I also, fortunately remembered that I didn’t have a pie tin, so I got one of those while I was there as well.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I had a pastry cutter either, but they didn’t have any of those at the grocery store so I figured I’d make do with what I had.  After I got home I dug out my rolling pin (that I don’t think I have used in the past, oh, ten or so years) and looked for a pastry cutter.  As it turned out,  I didn’t have a pastry cutter.  I had something that looked kind of, sort of similar, but it was a microplaner for cutting herbs.  If you were ever wondering if you can replace a pastry cutter with a microplaner, you can’t.  I tried.  Enough said.

My first act towards actually making the pie crust was spilling flour on the floor.  Not a very propitious beginning, but oh well.  At this point I was committed.  I cut up my chilled butter as small as seemed reasonable and mixed up the pie crust.  It was a kind of long process.  I belatedly realized that the recipe I was using suggested pulsing the dough using a food processor (which I don’t have) so I had to make do with a fork.  When I added all the chilled liquid to the dry dough, I stared at the pathetically small pile of liquid in disbelief as I started attacking it with a fork to mix it in.  Well, that wasn’t working.  It vaguely reminded me of meatloaf.  There never seems to be enough liquid in the meatloaf either until I start mixing it with my hands.  Well, that gave me an idea and ten minutes I had a good pile of well-mixed dough and very buttery hands.  I put the dough in the fridge to chill for the day with a feeling of satisfaction.  I was going to let it chill all day and then make the pie in the evening.

That evening I realized I had made a generic pie crust recipe, which included the crust for both the top and the bottom.  I actually figured that was ok.  That way I had a ‘back-up’ crust.  If I screwed up the first one I had another set of dough on deck.  I chopped the dough in half with a knife and then took the larger of the two halves for my bottom crust.  I attacked it with the rolling pin.  And realized that it was WAY too hard to roll out!  How do people do this?  I had to basically mash the mound down into a flatter pancake before I could even start rolling it out.  Maybe it was because I chilled it all day?  However, (surprisingly?) I got something that looked remarkably like a bottom pie crust after awhile.  I had totally watched my mom often enough to know to fold the crust in half, and then lift it up over the pie plate and then unfold it and tuck it around.  Things were going really well.  Too well, really.  I was suddenly filled with doubt.  Was my crust too thick?  Is that why it rolled out without cracking or crumbling?  Because it was too thick?  Well, too late to do anything about it now.

A pie crust!  Well, the bottom part at least...

A pie crust! Well, the bottom part at least…

Now was the time to make the ‘caramely’ stuff to pour over the apples in the pie.  Basically sugar and butter melted with a little cinnamon.  I got that started on the stove.

Now was the time to peel, core, and slice a bunch of apples.  So somehow I was really fast at peeling, coring, and slicing apples, and it felt like second nature.  Have I done this before??  I always eat apples whole and never peel them, so I’m not sure how I would know how to do this… but regardless, that part went fast.  Then I went back to my recipe.  My original plan had been to make a crumble top even though the allrecipes recipe I was using called for a lattice top.  The way I figured it, from a risk perspective, crumble tops are low risk, full pie crust tops are medium risk, and lattice tops are high risk.  However I did have a hunk of dough left over for another pie crust, and rolling out the bottom pie crust hadn’t been too bad.  What the heck.  I grabbed my floury rolling pin again, accidentally dumping a fresh cup of flour on the floor.  *Sigh* Oh well.  Time to clean up the floor and then try the top pie crust.  Halfway through rolling out the top pie crust I just decided to make it a lattice top.  Why not live a little dangerously right?

In progress...

Who needs a pasty cutter when you’ve got a PIZZA CUTTER?  That thing cut through the dough like it was butter.  Actually the crust is almost entirely made out of butter so that is a really accurate simile.

 

Yeah, strips aren't so bad

Yeah, strips aren’t so bad

 

Now the caramel-y stuff on top.  I spilled one drop of caramel topping.  Sure beats the whole cup of flour I spilled.

Now the caramel-y stuff on top. I spilled one drop of caramel topping. It sure beat the whole cup of flour I spilled.  Clearly my kitchen skills were improving towards the end.

 

Ta-da!  A pie.  Because no one has probably ever seen one before and will be super excited about this picture

Ta-da! A finished pie. Because probably no one has ever seen one and will be super excited about this picture

 

Surprisingly, the pie crust itself turned out great!  The part that didn’t turn out as great was the pie filling.  It tasted good but was too runny.  Probably my apples were too juicy or something.  Clearly I don’t have this pie thing fully figured out yet!

Thanksgiving Day was fun!  Saturday morning I prepped the brussels sprouts with the shallot and balsamic sauce I was putting over them.  Then I headed to the yoga studio where I’m now a sub teacher, because they had a bunch of their teachers participating in their special Thanksgiving Day gratitude class, and I helped perform adjustments during the class.  It was a great class!  Full of energy and full of people!  I also got to meet most of the other instructors there, which was great.  Then I got back, got cleaned up, roasted the brussels sprouts, and headed over to our neighbors’ house.  They had quite a few people over so it made for a good group.  Everyone brought good food, and I overate the cranberry sauce because it was sooo good!  But then regretted it for the next day and a half since my stomach really can’t take as much sugar as I’m sure was in there.  Fortunately my stomach felt pretty good in time for teaching yoga on Sunday morning, and that was the main thing I cared about.  After all the bustle leading up to Thanksgiving, Mike and I were both happy to just enjoy a relaxing, laid-back rest of our weekend.  Although we just started watching Man in the High Castle, a new Amazon prime show, and it is WAY intense.  We watched several episodes of that, so I guess we technically didn’t have the most relaxing possible weekend, but it was intense in a good way.  🙂

I feel like I’ve already talked a lot, so I’ll save some things to say for my next blog post, but I’ll leave you with two of the best things I saw this week… super cute-animal related, so if you can’t stand looking at cute animals you should probably skip the links.  😉  Happy Thanksgiving!

Adorable parent/baby animal pictures

Kitten meets a bunny – And why is that bunny shuffling instead of hopping?  He looks absolutely adorable, but I thought bunnies hopped??

P.S. I went through all the pictures on my phone and apparently I have no pictures of Mike or me over Thanksgiving.  Apparently my picture-taking priorities were as follows:

  1. Pie-making process
  2. Everything else

And I guess I never got as far as ‘everything else’.

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving and took significantly more pictures of friends and loved ones than I did!

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2 Comments

Filed under Cats, Cooking, CSA, Food, Life in Seattle, Seattle, Thankful Things Thursday, Thanksgiving, Winter, Yoga

2 responses to “Thankful things and the pie-making process

  1. Jim Armantrout

    Just noticed the raindrops on the website. Did you recently add them? Love Dad

    • They’re actually snowflakes… I didn’t add them. WordPress adds them automatically (I think on the first day of December or the day after Thanksgiving or something). I could specifically shut them off if I wanted to, though, but I kind of like them. This is about as much ‘snow’ as I want this holiday season. 😉 Love, Karena

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