Friday, October 11

This Land

I'm in the midst of big change.  Its times like these, emotions on overdrive, when I begin to wonder how we got here, and if this is the right place.  I spent six years after high school in college obtaining first bachelor then master degree, got married two weeks after I was finished, and had a baby just a few months after our first anniversary.  All good, positive milestones. But oh so fast. My husband was an advocate for me the entire time, though he stayed close to his family's dairy farm, working there while I traveled in pursuit of another degree.  So while I was moving and learning and growing all over the state, he was growing right at home. And I don't know how I missed it- that gypsy life I was leading couldn't continue with him at my side.

So we came home. And while it's good to be home,  there are times when I want to run. I often long to live in a place less rural, and more exciting.  I miss convenience of city life.  Like not having to drive a solid hour to the nearest Target or Starbucks.  And proximity to restaurants and urban entertainment. And how I've given up dreams of moving to beautiful places "just because" and starting our own life there because the family farm is here, not there.  I married a man who has an innate connection to this land, the one on which we live now.  The one hours from the nearest city, stores, coffee shops, good grocery stores and restaurants and shopping.  

So I've prayed.  To be humbled, to be less selfish, less needy, to want for less. To be happy where we are.  Because if not, I'll keep wanting for something beyond my needs.  This land, this rural land, is a gift.  It's a part of God's plan for us-- to slow down, raise our children in the place we were raised, be near our families, and have just enough.  

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect"  --Romans 12:2

So I've vowed to be grateful for this land, this place we call home.  Because it is beautiful.

And this, this is our home. 

I won't want for another place to live, and I'll thank God for this beautiful place he made, just for us. And the opportunity we have been granted here.  And see the bounty this land provides.  Because in this land resides our plan, written by God.  And in that, less is more.

Have a beautiful weekend,


Tuesday, October 8

Apple Pie: The All-Butter Kind

When Jesse and I were dating, which lasted from my high school years through college, I began my foodie ways.  I have Julia Child to thank-- this is years before our local cable company adopted the Food Network.  I remember watching her on PBS and feeling a connection to her:  I loved what that woman could do with food.

I began practicing some of her cooking skills in my Mom's kitchen, and I developed not only a love of cooking and baking, but an unbelievable respect for the art after several failed/missed attempts at recipes.  During my experimentation phase, I asked Jesse what he would like me to make.  His response, "Just make me a pie!"  Just make a pie?!  Just?! Like it's no big deal, an easy feat?!  That child was obviously spoiled by Grandmas who cooked and baked liked pros.  Just make a pie.  Well, the Julia Child inspiration in me got to work.  And I was terrible-- the dough was sticky, didn't roll out well, burnt in the oven, wasn't flaky, tasted okay.  The filling was runny, not sweet enough, never set, even after an entire day at room temperature.  So I left my pie making, for years.

But we went apple picking this Fall.  And again, my husband asked for a pie.  Now this is years later, and I decided it was worth tackling over again.  But not without a few lessons.  So I read.  Julia Child tips are obviously well played and completely worth following.  Minus the shortening one--mostly because I didn't have shortening the day I decided to try the pie, and also because we love butter.  So back to my Grandmother's old cookbook, and I discovered an all butter pie crust recipe.  So with only butter combined with the tips from Julia Child, I set out to make another pie.

And it was good, really good.  And it was pretty easy.

So I had to share this recipe, for anyone else who feels daunted by pie crust, but has some fresh fruit begging to be wrapped in a buttery, flaky pastry shell.  You can do this, and you can do this well.

Here are some of Julia's tips, I didn't follow them all, but I did use this one:

  • Use cold ingredients:  dice the butter while it's cold, then keep it refrigerated until using: keep it cold. Use ice water when it calls for water--put some ice cubes in your measuring cup until ready to use, then discard the ice just prior to using the water.  And don't handle the dough too much--the heat of your hands will warm the ingredients, and we want to keep them cold.  Chill the dough immediately after forming, for at least an hour, before rolling out and filling with fruit.  And lastly, bake the dough while it's still cold-- this is the secret to a flaky, yet all butter crust.  Cold butter in a hot oven.

And a few tips from my cookbook:

  • Preheat the oven first to 450F and lower the baking rack to the lowest position possible.  Preheat the oven with a cookie sheet (onto which you will place the pie plate during baking), so that it's already hot at the time of baking.
  • Brush an egg wash over the crust just before baking: I used 2 tblsp milk and 1 egg, whisked together.  Then sprinkle with sugar.  This tip=golden crust.
  • Lower the heat to 425F when placing the pie in the oven, and bake (lowest oven rack) for about 20 minutes, until top begins to brown/golden, then lower the oven temperature to 375F and continue baking for 30-35 minutes until crust is flaky and fruit is bubbly.

If these rules are followed, it's going to be a lovely pie baking experience!

Apple Pie with an All-Butter Crust

Apple Pie Filling
4 lbs of peeled, diced apples (recipe calls for Granny Smith- I used our freshly picked apples, type unknown)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
 1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

All-Butter Pie Dough
2 1/2 c flour (I used 1 1/2 c all purpose, 1 c white whole wheat flour)
2 sticks cold butter, diced
1 tblsp white sugar
1 tsp table salt
1/2 c ice cold water

Dice butter, return to refrigerator to chill.  Put ice cubes in water and set aside. Sift flour, salt and sugar together in large bowl (I like to use a wide bowl, it's easier to "cut" the butter).  Add diced butter and toss to coat with flour mixture, then, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until butter is the size of small peas--it's actually a quick process, and you don't want to over mix (those pieces of butter make all the difference in the baked crust).  Slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, add ice water (remove ice cubes) to flour/butter mixture, and quickly mix just until the dough begins to form (I needed the entire 1/2 c of water, but the recipe says you may not use it all),

 and turn onto a floured surface, quickly forming into 2 disks with hands.  Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least an hour, up to 1 week.

When the dough has chilled and the filling is prepared (above), preheat oven to 450F and place a cookie sheet on the lowest rack in the oven.  Roll each disk out on a floured surface until desired size (I trace the dough with the pie plate to determine proper size).

Fold in half or quarters to easily move dough into pie plate.  

Gently, using fingertips, move dough into the plate and press until fitted. Check out those specks of butter.

Fill with pie filling.

Repeat with other disk, to make a top crust for the pie, and place over, pinching the edges together to seal.  I'm no pro at this, but I don't mind a rustic, homemade looking crust.

After non-professional pie edge fluting is completed, cut two 1-inch slices at the top of the pie (for ventilation) or use a pie bird (I don't have one)!  Brush with an egg wash (I used 2 tblsp whole milk + 1 egg, beaten) and sprinkle with white sugar just before baking.

Turn oven temperature down to 425F and place pies onto the baking sheet, lowest oven rack setting, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust just begins to brown.  Then turn the heat down to 375F and continue baking, 30-35 more minutes, until golden brown.

Let rest until just warm, and enjoy! 

And pat yourself on the back, that's one tasty pie ;)


Sunday, October 6

The First October Weekend

Some weekends are just simply more productive than others.  This one, I'd have to say was less productive.  Not less enjoyable, but we just had fewer tasks to accomplish, so we took it easy.  Because this first weekend in October brought some beautiful weather, and some really memorable times with friends and family.

Molly is finally able to be trusted (at least for a few moments) with crayons.  I'm not sure if this is the norm for a toddler, but for the past year, she ate crayons.  I'm serious.  I would give a single crayon and paper, turn my head for a few seconds, and back to a mouthful of colored wax.  That girl.  I kept holding them from her, which I really hated, but even though they're labeled "non-toxic", I'm not sure that stuff is good for the bowels, you know?!  Either way, over the last few weeks, she has discovered the real potential of a crayon.  And she's loving it.  So coloring is one of our new favorite hobbies.  It's still very much a full-attention-from-Mom project, though, after the line of green I found in the hallway the other day...

It was back to the apple orchard Saturday!  We can't resist.  Not only does Molly love apple picking (and eating), but I'm really starting to enjoy it too.  We got some beauties, and couldn't have been prouder.  I've got 4 total pies under my belt thus far this Fall, and plenty more in the future.  The farm is always thankful for a warm pie, and we shared with Grandparents this weekend, too!  I'm working on a pie tutorial post, because I really want to share this recipe ;)

We got a few hours of dog-sitting in this weekend, too.  Molly's showing her amazing big sister/mothering/bossy capabilities with that little dog.  His name is Skippy, he's my sister's multipoo--which means he's an 11 pound, hypoallergenic, yipper.  He's amazingly gentle and doesn't bite or nip at Molly despite her constant drive to make him obey her.  She loved having him around.  As for Skippy, I'm not sure how he felt about the date...

I pulled the rest of the acorn squash out of the garden and gathered some fallen and silk leaves to decorate around the house, outside.  Molly and I really enjoyed collected acorns and leaves.  Plus, it was mostly a free collection, so that's always a win in my book.  Every time we walk out the door, she looks at the cart and says "so pretty, Mommy"!  I love the pride that fills inside her when she really helps with a project around here.

And we had a well overdue dinner with some great friends, sans kids.  This is not a regular happening for us, because we rarely do things without Molly.  But it was a great night.  I haven't laughed that hard in a while, and I do think laughing is good for the soul.  Good friends are really a gift, we all agreed to do this more often.  And Molly had fun playing for a few hours at my sister's house with her cousins.  It was truly a good night.

I've got a full week planned with my new position starting soon.  It's so bittersweet, but I know we've got God's support, and we're going to need it.  I am just not a fan of change.  But here we go.

Happy October,
it's going to be a month of great transition!