Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October has been a Wonder

Well, it's been an embarrassingly long time since I've last posted. I have not forgotten about you. I've just been preoccupied with my insane commute to school and my jujitsu training. Since my last post I've made the Vinegar Pie once (Notes from that venture will follow in a future post. My mother is keeping the photos hostage.) We've also had some guests from the Netherlands visit us at the Dojo, and I was kept busy with planning, entertaining, and training.

Today, I'm taking a breath. I'm house-sitting very close to my school, so my commute is easier and I have a kitchen to myself. I have a pumpkin roasting in the oven for pie, and another pumpkin on the counter waiting to go in. My best friend, Gamgee, mentioned that he loves cherry and pumpkin pies- but they have to be from scratch. Well, to me that is a challenge, and I gladly accepted. So, I picked up two little pie pumpkins and set out to find a method of cooking them for pies.

I found some instructions on EHow.

So far, so good! I'm going back to Momma's house on Sunday, so I'll pick up her recipe for pumpkin pie crust and finish this pie Monday.

Some time next week, I'll serve Gamgee and a couple other friends this pie with chocolate wine after a dinner of chicken marsala and mushroom stew. Yes, Gamgee is a lucky young man, and I think he knows it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Pie Saga - Part One

I have embarked on a new journey- a journey of pie.

It began Saturday, after an early dinner of shawarma with two of my closest friends. I shall introduce them to you as Killer Queen and the Doctor Esquire. The plan was to leave our lovely shawarma for a production of Twelfth Night in which Killer Queen's brother was starring. But before the play, Dr. Esq. decided to treat us girls to desert at Underbelly.
Underbelly is a relatively new restaurant in town- highbrow, very posh, don'cha know?- and home to the dubious character of Vinegar Pie. That pie was the sole reason Dr. Esq. wanted to go there. He seemed so happy, telling us about his secret treat as he watched our faces. We were surprised and wary. Vinegar is something for fish and dirty counter tops. Its wine gone wrong.
Its pie gone good.
The pie came and, while I was not impressed sufficiently to warrant the gold-gilded price tag, I was intrigued. It was yummy. Pale yellow colour, light flavour, smooth texture. I don't remember the crust, other than that it was good. I decided, looking at Dr Esq. in his sheer, bubbly, pie-induced happiness, that I had to make this pie. Moreover, I had to make it better.

That night, Dr. Esq. invited KQ and me to his family beach house with a couple of other friends for the 4th of July. Perfect. I had an occasion, a deadline, and promise of hungry guinea pigs. It was time for me to make some pie.

A quick foray to Pinterest showed me no one else seemed to even know of the pie. A quick trot to Google led me to a recipe from someone's grandmother and the late 1800's. 

I have no pictures of my own, unfortunately, but here is the link to the original vintage recipe.

The recipe is full of spice with a pastry crust and used cider vinegar. I was not up to the challenge of a pastry crust and, since I was house sitting that week and using someone else's pantry, I had no cider vinegar. Fortunately, I can improvise. Seasoned Rice vinegar was at my disposal and a full bag of amoretti cookies. These cookies would make my crust, which turned out beautifully. I couldn't find any ground cinnamon, coves, or nutmeg- only whole sticks and nuts. While the grinding of the spices was tedious (I used a microplane, and a spice-bottle and cutting board for mortar and pestle) I think it added to the flavour. It certainly made the kitchen smell intoxicatingly wonderful. To be fair, I must say here that Dr. Esq. helped microplane the cinnamon and that he did a wonderful job.

My two pies turned out more flat, lower to the crust, and darker than the Underbelly pie. They were more fragrant and a very different flavour- more spicy, darker, and still good. We ate some that night before it had completely set in the fridge.

The second pie, which I made for the 4th, we let chill completely. Unfortunately it partially un-set while waiting for us swimmers to tire of the sea. This made it kind of oily, but the flavour was still the same.
After everyone else had been dropped off at his or her own homes that evening, Dr. Esq. asked for another slice of the first pie that I had kept reserved in the refrigerator.

It was set, cold, and perfectly scrumptious.
We talked about various things that could be changed about the flavour and texture, but, in the end, he pointed out that he felt it was already good enough as is and that I was welcome to make some more for him anytime.

And yet, I still want to make some adjustments.
I need to work on the crust, either by finding a cookie recipe to use specifically for this pie or by learning how to make a pastry crust.
I also want to tweak the flavour, experiment with fruit, extracts, and different vinegars. 
Changing up the texture is my main goal. I want the pie to stand taller and be smoother on the tongue. 
I will record the progress of my journey here, but for now, I sit here on a couch, nursing a sunburn with a tall mug of tea and a thin slice of Vinegar Pie.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Awaiting Summer

Summer teases me. It's almost Summer heat outside, classes are over, and I have so many plans of things to do. But Finals are still clinging with sharpened claws around my grey matter and Summer will not come.

Perhaps this is revenge for all the years I've said that I don't like Summer. It's hot. Too hot. Ridiculously hot. I can look forward to triple digits for my July birthday, consistently.

But I've found a new way to beat the heat, and it's cheaper and healthier than ice cream.

I've ended up calling it Ice-Not-Cream. It has three ingredients: Banana, Peanut Butter, and Nutcao.

That's it.

I made this for work one day, but I was not able to be there when they served it. The next day, at a luncheon for the Theology department at school, one of my employers complemented me on it and continued chatting it up to the professors around us.

Later one of the guests from work that had had some came up to me and told me how great it was.
One of my co-workers did the same.

A week later, I was at a staff luncheon and my co-workers and employers brought it up again.

It's really good.

I wanted to make this because one of my co-workers and a few of our guests can't have dairy and we had planned to serve ice cream. I wanted everyone to have something creamy and cold, so I whipped this up from a recipe I found through Pinterest.

Here's the original link:

(Ignore the coffee pot in the corner. We've never used it once at work.)

First, Slice bananas and freeze them. It's best if they are frozen completely solid, not just frosty or sightly hardened. The more frozen, the better.

Second, dump the frozen banana slices into a food processor and blend.

If you froze your slices enough, the bananas will go from chunks to gravel to marshmallow fluff. If you didn't, they will go from chunks to chunky slime to marshmallow fluff. It'll still work, but you'll spend some time looking at it during the slime-stage wondering if it will ever appear as appetizing as you're told it should be- like I did.

Now comes the spontaneous part. Once you have your cold marshmallow-fluff-ed bananas, dump in some Nutcao and Peanut Butter. Or not. Use what ever kind of nut-butter or chocolate substance you want or don't want. And, use how ever much of it you so desire. For 4 1/2 pounds of bananas, I used about four tablespoons each of Nutcao and creamy Peanut Butter. It's completely up to you.


Let me give you one piece of advise that I figured out the hard way. Do NOT freeze this after it is made. Because it's made of solids, not liquids, it cannot melt. But it can harden and become impossible to scoop. Keep it in the refrigerator.
If you want to keep it for a very long time, maybe you can store it in the freezer and thaw when you're ready to serve. I just haven't tested it yet. So if any of you try storing this Ice-Not-Cream in the freezer, let me know how that goes!

I have some bananas sliced in the freezer for the family right now. They should be very happy later today.

As for the garden, it's all still growing. The plums are even bigger on the tree. My loquat seed disappeared, unfortunately. I went out one day to find its pot empty. I'm still not really sure what happened. But I had picked up three more seeds from the side walk, so I planted two of them and kept one in reserve.
I also found an avocado tree, about a foot tall, sprouting from the family compost bin. It, and two others that I found as I dug around, are in pots on the front porch for protection.
Our Gardenia from our paternal grandmother is booming and bending under its own weight. I crawled under its branches and layered a couple.
Someday, when I have my own yard (or at least a door step with room for pots) I hope I can keep these plants with me. I want to keep something to care for and something green and full of life.

Until that day, I mind the bananas.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Easter is here. The largest, most important feast in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, I haven't done much to celebrate it. Lent came and went and, while I was sure to give it a passing nod in observing mandatory days of fasting and abstinence, I barely did anything else. Usually, I sacrifice some activity or object to help focus on my spiritual growth. Or, I've added a prayer to my days during the season. This year I did neither. I chose to neglect that part of my life. Most people I know would excuse me. I am a full time college student and part time employee. My brother has cancer. I have a lot on my plate. But, as I see it, that means that I needed Lent. I didn't need to abandon myself to my troubles and distractions. I needed to take that season to empty myself and focus my attention on G-d. Now Easter is here, and I wasn't ready.

I did manage to make chocolates for my siblings' Easter Baskets on Good Friday, after confession. My dad wrangled all the kids out of the house for several hours. Except one. Brother Aang (battling cancer, thus bald, thus named Aang) stayed in a secluded part of the house and watched Andy Griffith shows with mom.
I found my recipe from Pinterest. It was originaly for chocolate eggs. I, however, didn't have egg-shaped molds. The author of the recipe says that eggs can be made without the molds by shaping the filling with your hands. This is not so. I made lumps. Lumps of yummyness, yes. But not eggs of yummyness, as I was hoping.

Here is the Recipe, taken from the Instructables I found on Pinterest. Check out the original site for pictures to help you on your own epic quest for the home made cream egg.

  • 170g (1/2 cup) light corn syrup (or golden syrup if you're across the pond)
  • 58g (1/4 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 375g (3 cups) confectioner's powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • yellow food coloring
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips
Cream together the corn syrup, butter and vanilla.
Sift in the confectioner's powdered sugar and beat until incorporated.
Take out about a third of the filling and stir in some yellow food coloring.
Put the two bowls in the fridge, as they're easier to work with once they're set.
Make little yolk balls out of the yellow mixture.  Place them on some parchment. Put them back in the fridge or even the freezer to firm up.When the yolks are set up, you can start embedding them in the whites.  Scoop an amount of white filling out and flatten it into a circle.  Place the yolk ball inside, and wrap the white around it. Stick it in the fridge.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in short bursts in the microwave.
Either dip fillings into the chocolate with a fork and let set on parchment, or skewer the fillings and dip them that way

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Well begun is half done

Dear Saints Augustine and Claire, look down upon this blog. Bless its readers and its author. Protect it from trite quarrels, useless gossip, and poor grammar. May it be inspiring, helpful, and well written. Amen.

This is the blog of a twenty-something university student with the best student job and a bad commute. I am poor, nerdy, and live at home as the oldest of six children. All my siblings also live at home. It is a full house.

My jobs are to study (for which I pay too much), bake (for which I am paid barely enough), and help out with the family and clean my room (for which I am paid nothing, but am supposed to gain peace as I go along). I study Jujitsu and Pinterest. I write or read all the time, unless I have an assignment involving either activity for a class.

I am in a love-hate relationship with my current environment; Houston, Texas and the surrounding area. Today, we're ok. The weather is beautiful and I'm at home for the Easter break. Today, I am free to run around our yard, search the plum tree for plums, plant random things, and untangle our fig tree from its "protective" netting.

This is the first year the plum tree has born anymore than a couple of fruit. There are twelve green globes each the size of my thumb nail. Twelve! The birds may have a field day once they ripen, but they'll have to race me to get to the fruit.

I've planted a loquat seed in a little plastic pot. I picked up the seed from the side walk on the way home from school. In nearly every neighborhood in Houston, there is at least one loquat tree, and they are all bearing the most fragrant orange fruit. My university is nearly surrounded. My own little seed will take 8 to 10 years before it bears any fruit of its own. I'll be thirty. I have something new  to look forward to.

We have two fig trees: one from my maternal grandmother and one from my paternal grandmother. The fig from the paternal side is little and barren, refusing to send out new shoots. The fig from my mother's side is huge- a little bigger than a Smart car- and sending out new shoots like crazy. Every year, we cover it in a net to protect its yield from the birds. It is sending new shoots through the net. I spent half an hour this afternoon folding leaves the size of tea saucers and pulling them back through holes the size of nickles. Many leaves I can't reach, or the stems have already grown too thick and stiff to be pulled back. Dad and I are going to have a fun time getting the net off once the season is over, but at least we won't have to race the birds.

I am eagerly awaiting the progression of the season, enjoying the days before the air is too hot, and happy. I have so much to do with my hands and my head, so much that I can give and so much that I can make. This beautiful has made me so aware of that fact that it makes it hard for me to settle down and do any of those things.
I have sewing projects, cooking projects, gardening projects, craft projects (school projects, that I would rather not think about), and writing projects. The days are full. But I hate to cram things I love. I want to do, not be done.
So, here I go! Off my butt and off my mom's pc to do something worth doing.