Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christine's Party

Christine is turning six! I can't believe how fast time has flown. Since her birthday is on Thanksgiving this year, we did her party on Saturday. She wanted a holiday themed party. Happy birthday Christine we love you!!

The lighting isn't so great, but still a happy birthday to Christine.

Because she has so many more boy friends than girl friends, a simple game of tossing balloons turns into...

A balloon punching fight. Just remember, it's not wrong to hit if you do it with a balloon.

Pin the star on the tree.

The craft/party favor with our cute gingerbread friends.

Blowing out the candles on her pumpkin pie. She decided that she didn't want birthday cake, she wanted pie. Hey, I'd rather have pie too.

This was my most favorite of all of her gifts. Becky, you rock.

You see, she has already lost two pairs at school (with one being recovered). Although, now she wants to take both of her pairs to school, in case she loses one. Fat chance, love.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Flaky Cream Cheese Pastry Dough

Cream cheese pastry is rich and tangy, and it seems to turn out tender and flaky no matter what. This recipe can be doubled and used to make a covered or lattice-top pie.

1 cup plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
1 tbs white sugar or 2 tbs powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
6 tbs cold unsalted butter
3 oz cold cream cheese
2-3 tbs cold heavy cream

Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut butter and cream cheese into ¼-inch pieces and add to flour mix. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter and cream cheese into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Drizzle the cream over the top. Cut with blade side of a rubber spatula or stir with a fork until the dough begins to gather into moist clumps. Press the dough into a flat disk, wrap rightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to two days.

Deluxe Butter Pastry Dough

This dough is richer in fat than ordinary flaky pastry and so, is softer and more difficult to handle, but it yields a tender, flaky crust with great butter flavor. While it is possible to make this dough with butter only, a small amount of shortening makes it flakier without interfering with the buttery taste. When you’re working with the butter, work quickly or the dough will become greasy. If you notice the butter starting to melt, chill the dough until the butter becomes firm again. Since this dough tends to puff out of shape during baking, you should not use it to make a crust with a tightly fluted or braided edge or a lattice top (I do a simple finger crimped edge). If you need only a single pie or tart crust, decrease all ingredients by half or freeze half the dough for another pie.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
⅓ cup plus 3 tablespoon ice water; divided

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the flour sugar and salt with a rubber spatula. Working quickly to prevent softening, cut butter into ¼-inch pieces. Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or two knives, chop the butter into pea-sized pieces. With a few quick swipes of the pastry blender, cut the shortening into large chunks and distribute throughout the bowl. Continue to chop with the pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Do not let the mixture soften and begin to clump; it must remain dry and powdery. Drizzle ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon of the ice water over the flour and fat mixture. Cut with the blade side of the rubber spatula until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula. If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of ice water over the top. Cut in the water, then press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling. The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.

Blueberry Pie

If you are making a lattice top, use the greater amount of cornstarch suggested to prevent a watery filling from bubbling over the strips. Taste the berries before beginning to determine how much sugar to use.

Pastry Dough (I used flaky cream cheese pastry dough, doubled)
5 cups blueberries, picked over
¾ to 1 cup sugar
3 ½-4 tbs quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch (use cornstarch for lattice pie)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
⅛ tsp salt
1-2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Roll half the dough into a 13-inch round, fit it into a 9-inch pie pan, and trim the overhanging dough to ¾ inch all around. Refrigerate. Roll the other half of the dough into a 12-inch round for the top crust and refrigerate it. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425. Combine the berries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, zest, and salt in a large bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring gently. Pour the mixture into the bottom crust and dot with butter. Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water. Cover with the top crust or lattice, then seal the edge, trim, and crimp or flute. If using a closed top crust, cut steam vents. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Slip a baking sheet beneath it, reduce the oven temperature to 350, and bake until thick juices bubble through the vents, 25-35 minutes more. Let cool completely on a rack. The pie is best the day it is baked, but it can be stored at room temperature for up to one day.

If using frozen berries, be sure that they are individually frozen or dry-packed, meaning that they have been processed without sugar and come in loose pieces rather than a block. Before measuring, be sure to knock off any clinging ice, but do not thaw. Toss the still-frozen fruit with the other ingredients, using the maximum amount of thickening called for, and spoon the filling into the crust at once, without the usual 15-minute standing time. If the fruit is allowed to thaw, it will release a flood of juice and make the crust soggy. Do not glaze the top crust with sugar or egg. Bake the pie at 400 for 50 minutes; then slip a baking sheet beneath it and bake at 350 until thick juices bubble through the vents, 25 to 40 minutes more. The pie I brought hadn’t baked for long enough (hence the blueberry syrup instead of gel). I baked it for 30 minutes (after the initial 50 minutes). When I baked the second pie, I let it bake for the full 40 minutes (plus the initial 50 minutes), and the juices set much better.

Apple Pie With Streusel topping

Golden Delicious apples work well in this pie because they retain their texture and do not flood the pie with juice. I like the flavor of Gala and Fuji better though. If you have access to fresh apples, they usually make the very best pie. The apples need to be sliced about ¼ inch thick, measured at the thicker end. If the slices are thinner, the filling is apt to turn mushy; if thicker, the pie will not hold together when cut. Resist the temptation to add other spices or flavorings. A hint of cinnamon is all that is needed.

Pastry Dough
2 ½ pounds apples (5 to 6 medium-large, measuring 6 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Streusel Topping
⅔cup all-purpose flour
⅔cup packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
2. Roll the dough into a 13-inch round, fit it into a 9-inch pie pan, trim the edges and crimp. Refrigerate.
3. Peel, core, and slice apples a little thicker than ¼ inch. Combine the apples with the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring several times, so that the apples soften slightly and will better fit into the crust.
4. Pour the mixture into the crust and gently level with the back of a spoon. Dot the top with the butter pieces.
5. Blend the streusel ingredients with a fork or pulse in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spread topping over apples, making sure to cover all.
6. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Slip a baking sheet beneath it; reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F, and bake until the fruit feels just tender when a knife or skewer is poked through, 25 to 35 minutes more.
For the filling to thicken properly, the pie must cool completely on a rack, 3 to 4 hours. If you wish to serve the pie warm, place it in a 350˚F oven for about 15 minutes. The pie is best the day it is baked, but it can be kept for 2 to 3 days on the counter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Susie's Potato Bacon Soup

½ onion, chopped
8 oz bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 potatoes, cubed
2 cups water
1 can evaporated milk
3 tbs Butter Buds
¼ tsp salt
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Cook potatoes and onion in water until tender. Don’t drain the water.

2. Slightly mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Add evaporated milk, Butter Buds,
bacon, and salt. Add milk to thin it if needed.

3. After it has cooled slightly, stir in cheese. Garnish the soup with grated cheese on top.

I love this soup. I always double it, because it is never enough. Here are some tweaks that I've made. Be sure that the potatoes are Russets. I've tried other varieties, and none do the job like a plain Jane Russet potato. I cook the bacon in the same pot as I make the soup in. I use pepper bacon (Daleys from Costco is the best ever). It adds a lot more flavor than regular bacon. Even after draining the grease from the pot, you're still left with some bacon flavored pepper flakes. I have also added a couple of cups of frozen broccoli, peas, and cauliflower, (just to make me feel better about all of that cheese and bacon). Broccoli is by far my favorite addition. Thanks for the recipe Susie!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

3 c pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2-1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce to taste
1/2 tsp. garlic powder or to taste
1/2 tsp. onion powder or to taste
Little salt

Take seeds out of pumpkin and wash thoroughly. Lay on towel to dry (overnight is best). Mix butter, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt together. Stir together with seeds until all seeds are well covered. Lay out single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Taste after 1 hour 15 minutes, it doesn’t take long for the seeds to burn.

It's probably a little late in the year to post these, but they are so yummy, so remember them for next year!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go Pokes!

Notice the shirt.

He always sings raggy music to his cattle as he swings
Back and forward in his saddle on a horse (pretty good horse!)
He's a syncopated gaiter
And you ought to hear the meter to the roar of his repeater
How they run (yes run!)
When they hear him come, because the western folks all know,
He's a high fallutin', rootin' tootin'
Son of a gun from old Wyoming
Ragtime Cowboy, (talk about your cowboy), Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

Because it's almost Thanksgiving

I thought I should finally upload the pictures from Halloween since it is nearly Thanksgiving!

This is a typical Montana Halloween. Coats are always a part of the costume. These pictures are of the kids getting ready to go to the trunk or treat at the church.

Michael always carves the pumpkins with the girls. He will draw a variety of faces on a paper and let them choose which face will be carved on their pumpkins. Emma liked pulling the pieces out as Michael finished them. Christine finally was brave enough this year to help clean out her pumpkin. We had to convince her that she didn't need to wash her hands after every dip inside.

Christine's vampire pumpkin.

Emma's happy pumpkin. Side note: For some reason, my daredevil wants nothing to do with anything scary. She gets frightened very easily. Still no fear of physical danger though!

The finished products. The girls also got to paint pumpkins at a flower shop this year. Definitely something that we'll do next year (sorry, I forgot to take pictures).

The actual day of Halloween was beautiful! Now you can see that we have a nice witch and a scary witch. They wanted the same costume; it's all in the perception.

We went to Boo at the Zoo this year and Michael's mom and step dad were able to come with us. We all had a great time trick or treating at the zoo and seeing the animals.

They can't all seem to smile at the same time, so use your imagination to make this become one picture. Jacob was a perfect Tigger this year. He loves to growl and will growl at you if you growl first. He growled all day long, so cute!

We ended up with way too much candy, and then my parents brought up these from my grandma. Ever since I was little, when we trick or treated at my grandma's she would send us home with a gallon sized bag of candy. I still get a bag every year! The more that is added to my family, the bigger our payout. There are now four bags that come to our house. Luckily my mom was able to convince my grandma that Jacob isn't old enough for a bag, not even a little one, and no, he doesn't need cookies grandma - he doesn't even have teeth yet!

Anyway, all in all, a good Halloween. Except for one thing, we didn't get any trick or treaters! My father-in-law lives in an alley, and he even got some. As Michael put it, "Why did they skip the place with all of the cute pumpkins out front and go to the creepy old guy's place without any decorations?" Maybe next year.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spaghetti with Tomato Garlic Cream Sauce

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups milk
4 tbs butter
salt & pepper to taste
3 cups diced tomatoes*
18 oz pasta**

1. In a medium sauce pan, sauté garlic in butter over medium heat until very lightly browned. Watch carefully, this will burn fast.

2. Add flour and cook for 5 minutes. The roux should be a light golden brown.

3. Add tomatoes, milk, salt, and pepper. Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. Serve over pasta.

*If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, this takes 2 of the 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes. I like to use Italian style (with basil, oregano, etc.)

**I have used quite a few varieties of pasta. If you use a tube or curly shaped pasta,
you’ll only need a pound of pasta.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Few Isms

Just thought I'd write down these things before I forget them.

Christine while walking to school: Uh-oh mom, they broke their car. I can see the inside of it, and look at the outside! It's all wrinkled! (As we walked by a car that had damage to its front end).

Emma: Mom, who has sparkles on their noses? Does daddy have sparkles on his nose?
Me: No, I don't know anyone who has sparkles on their nose.
Emma: Uh-huh, Colin has sparkles on his nose and they're brown.
Me: Oh! You must mean freckles.
Emma: Yeah, sparkles.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

2 c sugar
½ c softened butter
½ c shortening
1 c sour cream
3 eggs
5 ½ c flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl cream sugar, butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, and eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated.

Add remaining ingredients and beat at low speed until soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 1-2 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 350. On a well floured surface, roll dough to ¼ - inch thickness. Cut out cookies with cutters. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Remove cookies from cookie sheet after 2 minutes and place on cooling rack. Allow cookies to cool, then frost. Let frosting set before storing.

Notes: For best results, keep extra dough in fridge while rolling. If you have a silicone mat, no flour is needed when rolling. Parchment paper or silicone mat placed on cookie sheet produces best results. The frosting below is some of the best cream cheese frosting ever. It goes great with these cookies.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

11 oz softened cream cheese
⅓ c softened butter
4 ½ c sifted powdered sugar
2 tsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest

Beat cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl; gradually beat in sugar. Beat in juice, vanilla, and zest until fluffy.