Tuesday, 30 August 2011

That's Amore, eh?


When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
That's amore

 
There are a lot of pies happening in this house today, and let me tell you, that's amore.  As in, that's not necessarily the food of love, but definitely a labor of love on my part.

I don't like making pies.

If you were to invite me to a potluck meal and if you asked me to bake a cake, I'd say "sure!"  If you asked me if it would be a bother to make a cheesecake, I'd say "not at ALL!  What kind would you like?"  If you asked for a trifle, or a batch of cookies, or a tiramisu, or a layered jello dessert, or any such similar dessert option, I'd be delighted. 

However, if you asked me to bring a pie, I'd cry for mommy.

I CAN bake pies.  I know HOW to make pies.  I'm even pretty good at pies.  But I don't like making pies.

I think pies are high maintenance, really.  All that "make sure your ingredients are chilled" and "only add enough liquid until it just comes together" and "don't handle the dough too much or it will be tough" - I don't know.  That seems kinda high maintenance to me.  There is no mercy with pie.  No leniency that "if your ingredients aren't chilled it will all work out".  No casual "add about 1 cup of liquid".  Nope.  Just rules, rules, rules, and you never know when you've crossed the line of too much liquid or handling or whatever until it's too late!!!  Yeesh.  I don't mind sticking to the rules in pretty much anything in life, but I don't like crossing that invisible line without knowing it.  It's like the police officer who gives you a speeding ticket and tells you "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, we changed the speed limit on this road but we didn't put up the sign but you get the ticket even though you didn't know you were speeding."  That's the same notion with pie crust.  "Your pie crust is a complete failure because you added too much liquid and rolled it out too vigorously, but there's really no way to know that you added too much liquid or rolled it out too much until you sit down to taste it."  WOW!  Is that ever a lot of pressure to work under.  And I don't like pressure.

Oh I know, there are some pie crust professionals out there.  You're laughing at me right now, because there probably IS some way of getting the feel for pie crust.  But frankly, I'm not interested because there is only one pie per year that I have to make and that's Peach Pie. 

And that's what got me going on this pie theme today.  The summer cannot pass by without one good feed of Peach Pie.  I stumbled on the recipe quite a few years ago and, I don't know, it beckons to me every summer.  A summer without Peach Pie is an opportunity wasted and that's a pressure I admittedly bow to pretty well every summer.

So, to make a long story longer, I bought my peaches on Friday and determined to make my pie during this week.  Then my parents decided to come and visit me, they'll be here tomorrow.  Then, on Sunday, I cooked a turkey.  A big turkey.  And then the whole pie thing just went silly on me.

My (short) Pie To-Do List This Morning:
1.  Make a Peach Pie sometime.
2.  Make a Peach Pie for Mom and Dad's visit on Wednesday.
3.  Decide what to serve Mom and Dad for dinner on Wednesday.  (think, think, think - leftover turkey...)
4.  Decide that if I'm going to make Peach Pie for Mom and Dad's visit on Wednesday, I could try making a turkey pot pie for their dinner on Wednesday as well.
5.  Realize that I will need to make a full batch of pie crust.
6.  Hmm, if I have to cut up all of that turkey for the turkey pot pie, I may as well cut some up and make something for supper tonight.  Hey how about.....
7.  BBQ chicken (TURKEY) pizza!!!
8.  Make pizza dough and let it rise.
9.  Make big batch of pie crust.  Chill.
10.  Cut up turkey.  Set aside.
11.  Mix up ingredients for turkey pot pie filling.  Set aside.
12.  Peel peaches and mix up filling ingredients, getting it all wrong because I mis-read the instructions.
13.  Go to Wal-Mart with Ben to pick something up.  Oh, never mind, that's got nothing to do with pie.
14.  Roll out pizza dough and finish assembling the toppings, enlisting help from hubby, because, after all, this pie thing is getting demanding.
15.  Put the pizza pie in the oven.  One for adults, one for kids.
16.  Roll out the pie crust and fill it with the now-watery peach pie filling.
17.  Take the pizza out of the oven.  Call the family.
18.  Put the Peach Pie in to the oven which is too hot, and realize that the filling will likely run all over the bottom of the oven, but it's too hot to fiddle with a tin foil "catcher".
19.  Sit down, realizing that I don't feel like eating pizza pie or anything, for that matter.

Darn  pie.

Well, it's too late.  I did it.  I made the pies.  I smell the Peach Pie baking right now, and it smells pretty good.  And I'll survive getting the rest of the turkey pot pie together tomorrow. 

But don't count on getting any pie from me again, until, oh say, about next summer when peaches are in season again.  And if you ever DO get a pie from me, be assured, it is a labor of love.....amore!!   It could be one of my highest expressions of affection for you because there's no way I'd do that pie thing just for fun. 

I close, making the most of this day, having sprinkled my face generously with a dash of flour, singing along with Dean Martin "When the moon hits your eye, like a big-a pizza pie, That's amore!!!"  Can't you picture it?!!  ;)


PEACH PIE

10 fresh peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter

Pastry for a double crust pie..

1.  Mix flour, sugar and butter into crumb stage.
2.  Place one crust in the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate.  Line the shell with some sliced peaches.  Sprinkle some of the butter mixture on top of the peaches, then put more peaches on top of the crumb mixture.  Continue layering until both the peaches and crumbs are gone.
3.  Top with second layer of pie crust, either in lattice strips, or with a full layer of crust, venting the shell.
4.  Brush small amount of coffee cream on the top crust and sprinkle a small amount of sugar on top.
5.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until crust is golden.  Allow pie to cool before slicing.






Monday, 29 August 2011

Another "First" Under Our Belts

Well, we did it.  We got the kids back to school for another year.  Another "first day" in the new classroom, with the new teacher, with the new grouping of kids. 

Andrew is in Grade 7 this year so he moved to a new wing of the school where he will have a locker and a bit more recess freedom than previously.  A mother can only worry just a bit about that freedom.  I mean, really?  Do we really want to give Jr. High kids more freedom?  I tease.  Andrew is ready for it; hope the other Grade 7's are as well.  And, for heaven sakes, I hope he remembers his combination for his locker.

Ben has moved into Grade 5 and has a teacher that Andrew never had, so it will be a welcome adventure to become acquainted with her.  Two of Ben's most loyal friends are in his classroom; that makes me very happy.

Our family tradition has always been for both Dean and I to go with the boys on their first day of school to find out who their teachers are, who is in their class, etc.  It's been a chance to visit with other parents and to get a wee taste of that first day of school excitement.

This year, we were not invited to come.  Our presence was not desired.  Not even a little bit. 

Yup, they're growing up. 

But we went anyway, we just made it a very quick trip.  Quick glance at Ben's class list, said good-bye, and then moved on.  Went inside to find which classroom Andrew was in (were we truly the only Grade 7/8 parents that did that?  Maybe we ARE geeks), did not even look his way (or at least he didn't catch me). Shook hands with the principal, introduced ourselves to A's teacher, talked about how Andrew is one year away from being the Senior class of the school, shook our heads at that thought....and left.

Okay, just one very, teeny tiny, small lump in my throat.

I always do that.  I feel sad on the first day of school.  It isn't just that I'm having separation issues.  Frankly, this year, I was quite happy to have them return to school.  But it's the marking of another milestone, another year under their belts, one more step away towards adulthood, one more step away from mom.  Those are healthy steps.  I'm glad my boys are capable, well developed kids who can grow up and step away from us.  That is a good thing!  But that doesn't mean it doesn't catch me every now and then.

So, I find myself doing what I love to do on the first day of school - planning what to feed those boys when they get home!  I love to honor this day, this day of "firsts" for them, with familiar smells and tastes of home.  As if they would forget that quickly?!!  I'm thinking about Texas brownies for their after school snack and spaghetti & shrimp for supper.

Our "Spaghetti and Shrimp" supper was Dean's brain child, inspired by some Food Network Show several years ago.  It has become our favorite go-to comfort food meal.  I think it's the smell of the sauteing garlic that draws everyone in.  The following is less a recipe, and more a ? procedure ? directive ? 

Spaghetti and Shrimp a la Dynna

Cook enough spaghetti to feed your family.  Simple enough?

While the spaghetti is cooking, saute 4, 5 (6, 7, 8 ??) cloves of garlic, finely minced, in several tablespoons of olive oil.  Really, several tablespoons.  Don't skimp!

When the garlic is soft, add in a generous handful of bacon pieces (not the crunchy artificial bacon bits, but the bits of real bacon, or else use leftovers of bacon from breakfast, ha ha, like there ever is any) and let them cook together.  Sprinkle in a couple of pinches of crushed red pepper flakes.

Add in a shrimp ring and saute until the shrimp are pink and curled.

To the drained spaghetti, add in the entire contents of the garlic pan (i.e. do NOT drain the olive oil off) and toss.  There is no "sauce" for this pasta - the oil mixture will distribute through the pasta and lightly coat it.  And that's all the sauce you need.  If the pasta looks a bit dry, add a bit more olive oil directly to the pasta and toss some more.

Sprinkle with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese; grate some fresh pepper on top of that and serve it up.  Mmm.  Comfort food at its' best!

I'm willing to bet that this will be a meal that the boys will be cooking for themselves when they get their first apartment.  And I'm willing to bet that there just may be more than one teeny weeny lump in my throat on that occasion.  But maybe they'll invite me for supper?

Monday, 15 August 2011

To A Summer Friend

To a summer friend....

I want you to know that I realize that the summer is coming to a close, and we are probably both a little disappointed in the results of our summer relationship opportunities.

I know that, given where we live, we only have limited opportunity to be together and that we need to make the most of the summer months, but I think the reality is that we both let each other down this year.  Sorry to say that.

If I could get inside your head, I expect you'd tell me that I wasn't there when you needed me most.  And I'd have to say, you're probably right.  I was busy.  I'm sorry.  I didn't make the time for you.  Other things got in the way.  And I'm sure you feel neglected.  I see it when I look at you.  You don't have to say a word.

And me, well, I think you could have done better, too.  It doesn't seem like you are very interested in giving me much in return either.  Your efforts seem half hearted, in comparison to what I've come to expect from you.

We've been friends for so long.  Why, getting to spend time with you in the summer goes back a long, long time.  We've been at this for many years.  And I've always said, if we can't do this summer thing right, then we shouldn't do it at all.  I'm starting to wonder if we should meet up again next summer?  We're taking chances here.  I don't want either one of us to be let down again.

Hmmm....

This is awkward.  I don't like the silence I'm getting from you.

Hello?  Hello?????











This is the conversation that my vegetable garden and I had this afternoon.

It was intense.

Really, the amount of vegetables that is has produced for me is, well, somewhat embarrassing.  Tomatoes the size of plums.  Corn plants that don't even reach my shoulders, that have the tiniest of cobs.  Peas came and went and have now rotted; kaput. Beans that, well, are doing their bean thing - growing and giving and then stopping, as only beans do.

However, on the other hand, there are beautiful cucumbers and blossoms that show promise of exceeding my expectations if the season holds, tasty potatoes that can't be beat, beets (pardon the homonym segue) that are gorgeous, begging to be made into beet pickles and Nana's borscht.  Onions growing bigger than they have for the last several years.  And zucchini, well, how shall we describe the zucchini?  My mind is already sorting through the file folders of zucchini recipes and wondering who else would like some!

I accept full responsibility for the nasty condition of my yard this year and I do extend the heartiest of apologies to my neighbors who have to look at the eye-sore that it has been.  I'm truly embarrassed.

However, the choice was: 
      a) Stay home and garden all summer long.
      b) Go on the trip of a life time, plus fit in a few other lovely excursions on my days off.

We chose "B".

Which determined that:
      c)  My yard and garden got left in the dust, so to speak.

No regrets.

None.

Nadda.

Maybe I'll garden better when I retire.

Or....maybe I'll travel more when I retire.

Or....maybe I'll assign the boys garden duty AND go travelling without them.

Or....maybe that garden site would be a lovely spot for a garage.

Or....maybe I'll just see what comes next summer, plant again in faith, stay home just a wee bit more than I did this year for the sake of my sanity (good heavens, that is a true statement), and meet my garden relationship somewhere in the middle.

All I know is that, tonight, for supper, I will peel 4 cobs of corn that I just picked at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, then I might dig a couple of hills of potatoes at around 5:00 p.m.  After that, I'll probably wash up a couple of tomatoes that ripened on the vine that literally fell into my hands at around 1:00, peel one "Super 8" cucumber that I twisted off the vine at 1:45, pull a small onion at the last minute, and mix that all together into a lovely fresh salad with mayo with a few pinches of dillweed that volunteers to grow every year.  After supper, we might dish up some vanilla ice cream and slice up a few fresh strawberries that I found peeking out from underneath the ever-bearing strawberry plants, and when they say "ever-bearing", that is a promise you can take to the bank.

That, my friend, is a recipe for good eating that I am willing to make again, and again.

Kissy-kissy, sweet garden friend.  I remain...

Your Faithful Summer Friend

(and that's a promise!)

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Dichotomy of Camping

Well, well, our final summer adventure has ended.  We finished our annual week-long trek to Emerald Lake in our tent trailer, situated in E2, thank you very much, our favorite camping spot on the campground due to it's lack of neighbors.  I so like not having neighbors when we camp.  This little site is stuck out there by itself, surrounded by bush, one that you're likely to drive right on by, unless you know what you're looking for.  And that's how we like it.  Come in and visit if you're invited, kindly walk on by if you're not!

We had a good week.  The weather was good, except a wild storm Saturday night.  We had a nice combination of visitors and time alone.  I loaded up the Kobo with lots of good books and managed to finish....(ahem)....one book.....I over-planned and under-read!  Lots of good visiting with our friends.  The kids swam and tubed and went knee-boarding.  I actually beat Dean at a game of Scrabble.  (Huh?)  We sat by the campfire a lot, and drank campfire coffee and took turns cooking some pretty fabulous meals. 

I think I'm getting over the "this place is so beautiful, I hate to leave" mentality that hounded me for the first several years of our trips there.  Now I hate to leave, but it's because we're parting with good friends.  Our time there with them has become very special, and we miss them when we leave.  And I see that as a "good thing" to quote Ms. Stewart.

On arriving home I started to giggle at some of the opposing thoughts that cross my mind as the week progresses.  Here's a few samples of the things that go through my mind:

Day 1 - "I'm going to do a lot of walking while we're here, and maybe get in better shape.  Hey, I might even drop a couple of pounds!  Right on!"
       Day 3 - "I'm going to have ice cream twice a day and I don't care WHAT it does to me.  Hard, flavored ice cream in the afternoon, soft ice cream in the evening.  It's essential!"

Day 1 - "I am SO happy to be here in my little tent trailer.  I don't care HOW humble it is.  It's ours.  And that's all we need.  A bigger trailer/cabin would just give me a bigger headache.  Thank you Lord, for my tent trailer!!!"
       Day 6 - "Oh, I hate this rain...I don't care what we have to do, next year we're buying a BIG trailer.  On the other hand, the cabin down the road there can't be worth much more than $250,000.00 - think of all the winter vacations we could spend here.  Yup, we'll dump the tent trailer and get into something FAR more appropriate.  I've had enough of tenting."

Day 3 - "I can't believe what a great tan I'm getting!  Just look under my watch strap, you'll just SEE how brown I am!  Can't wait to show this tan off!"
      Day 4 - "Who am I kidding?  I'm not going to take my watch off to show off my tan lines....?!?!?"

Day 2 - 8:30 a.m. "I'm so glad we bought all this wood.  We're going to have a camp fire EVERY NIGHT!!  And roast marshmallows, make smores, pop popcorn, drink hot chocolate.  Let's do it all!"
     Day 2 - 9:30 p.m. "Yaaawwwnnn.  Fire?  No thanks.  I'm too tired."

Day 1 - "Let's splurge and take a bunch of junk food.  That's the fun thing to eat while we're at the beach!"
     Day 6 - "Ugh,  chips again?  I need REAL food....gross..."

Day 3 - "I just LOVE being one with nature!  Hello squirrels!  Hello birds!  You're beautiful!"
     Day 5 - "HELP!!!!    THERE'S A FROG IN THE SHOWER!!!!!!!!!!!"

Day 2 - "I can't wait to try out this new recipe!  I'm going to save this supper for the end of the week and we'll all REALLY enjoy this meal that we've never tried before!"
     Day 7 - (five minutes before supper) - "I don't think we're going to like this.....and the cooler is       empty....help."

Oh boy.  You might be laughing at me, but it's true.  Every statement is true.  I'm blushing.

But I am glad that we can escape the usual for a little bit.  A change is so refreshing.  It challenges us, helps us see things with fresh eyes.  We dream a little, escape reality for a while, but we land back on our feet without any major damage, other than a bit of sand in our swimsuit.  I am a firm believer in the joys of camping.  I have never regretted a minute that we've spent camping nor a dollar that it has cost us.  Excellent investment on both sides. 

I DID make a meal at the lake that was previously untried.  And I DID serve it on the last night that we were there.  However, we DID like it (except one young diner, who shall remain nameless, who said, and I quote: "I'm being good, because I'm eating it even though I don't really like it!"  She's so very sweet; I love her spirit, even though she didn't like my supper.  ;)

I've made Pulled Pork many times before but Dean and I were treated to some Pulled Pork earlier in the summer that went far beyond the tastiness that I had previously achieved.  We did some research, and came up with something closer to the (new) goal of flavor that we were exposed to.  The only disclaimer that I can insert here is that the "best" Pulled Pork that we've eaten was made by folks from the Carolinas, and was prepared for 24 hours in a smoker, so I don't think that I will ever achieve the exact same results in a slow cooker.  The recipe that I'm sharing today comes fairly close, but a really good Pulled Pork is probably one shrouded in family secrets and there's probably some mystery ingredient that people "accidentally" forget to share in a recipe.  But that's okay.  Maybe mine will be MY family's favorite.

With great thanks to the Pioneer Woman and her fabulous cookbook, here is:

Spicy Pulled Pork

5-7 pound pork shoulder
1 whole onion, cut in quarters
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 - 2 Tbsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke* (aha!  the missing ingredient!  I'm told, though, that if you add too much, it will be too salty)

Combine everything from the onions through the white wine vinegar in a food processor and pulse until combined.  (I did this step at home and put it in a jar in the cooler to use several days later).  When ready to cook, add the teaspoon of liquid smoke to the paste and rub it all in to the pork shoulder.  Place pork and all sauce ingredients into a slow cooker and let it cook on LOW for as long as possible.  (I meant to cook mine overnight at the lake but there was an unfortunate extension cord *woops*.  Mine probably cooked for a total of 8 - 12 hours.  Who knows, really?  I was at the lake.  There was no clock on the wall to check cooking times.)  Drain excess liquids off the pork about halfway through and re-add as necessary to keep it from drying out.  When ready to serve, shred with a fork.  Some of the previously drained liquids can be added back to the pork after it is shredded.  Can also be served with BBQ sauce.  I like to serve it on a bun with coleslaw on the side, but that's just me!

Or, eat it with ketchup, if you are one young diner who didn't really like it,who shall still remain unnamed.  ;)

One final camping dichotomy for ya, from my heart...

Day 1 - "Good-bye Prince Albert. See ya later.  Glad to see you behind me.  Boy, do I need a break from you."
      Day 7 - "Hi P.A.!!!!  Nice to be back HOME!!!!"


Good night, from E2!!!