Tag Archives: baking

Wednesday, again?

It’s blog day but it’s also pie day and I am exhausted. I only baked seventeen pies today. When I first took over the Thanksgiving pies for the big family gathering, I baked on Wednesday and on Thursday morning and I made up to thirty-two pies. My mom made the turkey and I just transported lots of pies from my house to hers. I have an amazing collection of Tupperware pie stackers.

My mom is gone now and my husband makes the turkey, so I don’t have access to the oven on Thanksgiving morning. That’s why Wednesday is pie day. I actually start Tuesday evening by making the filling for the eggnog pies. That needs to chill for a while and it’s also a pain to make, so I get it out of the way early. I was feeling lethargic yesterday, so I thought making that filling would feel like a chore, but it didn’t. As soon as I started putting ingredients in a pan, I could feel my shoulders start to relax. “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “this is pie-making. I like this.”

I am not good at many things, but I am good at making pies. It makes me happy, even when I make seventeen of them in a day. I get tired, but I have a good time. I still mix my pie crust by hand, in a stainless steel bowl, with a fork. These days, most folks who make pie crust from scratch use a food processor. Even Martha Stewart uses a food processor, but not releaf1954. I have to do it the old-fashioned way. This is a tradition and I don’t mess with tradition.

It also seems to be a tradition to start the day with a quick bowl of cereal and then try to get by on spare eggnog and coffee until all the pies are done. I guess that could be one reason I’m so tired. At least I came up with supper.

Pie scraps

Pie scraps with sugar and cinnamon


See?

Advertisements

Pie

I thought if there was one week in the year it would be impossible for me to put up a Wednesday blog post, it would be this week. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and today is my pie-baking day. I bake a lot of pies, so it’s a busy day. I spent my day transforming my dining room table from this:

My Painting Mess

My Painting Mess


To this:
Cleared Table

Cleared Table


And then to this:
Pies

Pies


Those are only some of the pies I baked today. At the time the picture was taken, there were already two in the refrigerator. There were also two in the oven and there were three I was still putting together. We host a big family gathering on Thanksgiving. This is still way more pie than we need. Why do I do it? I’m not quite sure. I just love pie and I became the family pie-baker while my mother was still hosting the gathering at her house. In those days, I would make up to thirty pies. I have cut back, now that mom is gone and there’s a turkey in my own oven on Thanksgiving morning.

My mom loved pie, too. That’s one reason I made so many. She wanted plenty of leftovers and I was happy to make them for her. I was happy to make them for everyone. My middle brother, also gone now, always used to take a pumpkin and a pecan home with him. Other siblings took other pies. Nieces and nephews got their favorites, too. Not as many go out the door whole any more, but I still send lots of pie home with relatives.

I also keep a few here in order to honor my favorite holiday tradition. Other people can go out shopping on Black Friday. I stay home and watch Christmas videos while eating leftover pie. I will start with Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas. My list always includes The Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppet Christmas Carol, too. Then I’ll probably run through a few other versions of A Christmas Carol, including the Albert Finney “Scrooge,” The Alistair Sim “Scrooge,” and the one from 1938 that’s full of Lockharts.

I have animated versions, too – Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Magoo’s Christmas Carol and the Disney one that’s so intense I won’t let small children watch it. I even have a version that’s a Western, starring Jack Palance. I am not kidding.

Do I like this story much? What can I say? I am just a sucker for redemption.

And pie.

A Cold Blog Day

I Sweated to the Oldies today. Are you impressed? If you are not impressed, then you don’t know how much I wanted to skip it this morning. It was twenty-seven degrees outside and I actually had to go outside while the temperature was still twenty-seven degrees. That was because my husband drives a Honda Odyssey that was involved in the recent airbag recall. He made the appointment to get it fixed before anyone knew that arctic cold would be invading Florida today. Since his vehicle was in the shop, I needed to drive him to work. It was either that or let him take my car to work and I did not want to be without a car all day, so I put on a whole lot of layers and I took my husband to work.

Well, technically, he drove, but I did drive myself home after he hopped out of my car and went in to his workplace. Okay, he didn’t hop. He doesn’t like his job that much; let’s be honest. After he trudged into the office, I drove myself home. The whole way there, I was arguing with the part of me that hates to exercise, who thought going out into the cold at the time we normally start the workout should be a good excuse to skip it. I wanted to skip it. I woke up depressed for no apparent reason and all I wanted to do when I got home was wrap myself in a blanket and drink warm beverages.

Instead, I took off my warm layers and I put on my workout clothes. Then I went to my living room and turned on my Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2 DVD and I sweated to those oldies. For a whole hour! Then I pumped my fist and said, “I win!”

Literally. I did that, in my living room, because I was so happy that the lethargy did not win. It was strong but I was stronger. I made a good choice on a bad day, and that turned it into a good day. I celebrated by baking a pie.

Acorn Squash Pie

Acorn Squash Pie


It’s an acorn squash pie. The recipe came from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, a book I fell in love with long before Martha Stewart became famous, built a media empire and served time for insider trading. She was just a caterer who wrote a book about entertaining and then wrote a book about pies. THE book about pies, the most beautiful book about pies ever written. This book is full of wonderful pie recipes, but the acorn squash pie is my favorite.

Yes, I had this pie in mind when I picked out the Sweet Dumpling squash and the Golden Acorn squash that appeared in my recent paintings. I’ll admit to a little pang when I plunged a knife into them, gutted them and cut them into chunks for steaming. I got over it. The pie is delicious.

Apple Season

Well, here I am, back in flat Florida and I never got a chance to paint while I was in North Carolina. The weather was only completely clear one day while we were there and we spent that day cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway, admiring the beautiful leaves. There was no time to set up in one place for hours and paint. I will keep that on my wish list for another trip.

I did paint today, though, and there is a North Carolina connection. We never go to North Carolina in October without visiting an apple orchard. Sometimes we visit more than one. This time, we went to our favorite, Justus Orchard in Hendersonville. We picked out a half-bushel of apples, a mixture of Arkansas Black, Mutsu and Pink Lady. I like my apples crisp and tart.

This morning, I took one of each and put them on a plate. I put the plate on a yellow cloth and then I painted my little still life. I like it.

Apples on a plate

Apples on a plate


The green one is the Mutsu. You can probably figure out the other two. While I was in the middle of painting this, my older daughter called. She wanted to come over and do some laundry. She wanted to bring my grandsons with her so we could do some thrift store shopping later. Thrift stores are great for finding inexpensive costume elements. Halloween is only nine days away, after all. I agreed to pick her up, but I told her I was in the middle of a painting and I needed to get right back to it as soon as we returned to my house. Fortunately, they only live five minutes away.

My grandsons were kind enough to leave me alone while I finished my painting. Then the younger one said he would like to paint, too. I offered him one of my itty bitty canvases, but he said he would rather have a “medium” one, meaning one the size of my apple painting. I found him an 8” x 10” and let him use the paint left on my palette.

KM picture

KM picture


He’s in a Halloween mood, so it’s a bit creepy, but I think it also has an innocent charm. He likes the pthalo blue as much as I do. He’s six years old, so he’s getting an early start with the fine art supplies. This particular grandson is the first person (besides myself) to own one of my paintings. He asked me for one months ago and chose my itty bitty snowman painting that I made when I went to North Carolina in March. He put it in his bedroom, near his pillow, to keep nightmares at bay. It makes me happy to know my little snowman is watching over him.

We went pumpkin shopping and thrift store shopping in the afternoon. I took them home when the laundry was all done and then I gathered the apples from my still life, plus a few more, and I made an apple pie.

Apple Pie

Apple Pie


I painted, I spent time with my grandsons and I baked. This has been a good day.

Blog Time Again?

Apparently, another whole week has gone by since I last blogged. How did that happen? I guess time flies when you’re trying to write a novel, get ready for Thanksgiving and also get ready to take the tie-dye to market. I believe I am now officially sorry I booked us into the market on Small Business Saturday. We never do the market on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We tried it the first year our local market opened and had the lowest sales of any day that year (well, that year so far; a December Saturday two weeks later when it rained all day was much worse, but that’s another story). We figured everyone was still in the big box stores or exhausted from Black Friday and decided never to do it again. We’d rather be eating leftover pie and watching Christmas videos.

That was several years ago, though, and Small Business Saturday has kind of turned into a thing since then. The market promised lots of promotion this year so we finally broke down and booked it again.

What were we thinking? Now we need to make lots of tie-dye during National Novel Writing Month. I was dyeing all day yesterday and then stayed up past my bed time adding two thousand words to my novel. Determined words. Desperate words.

And now, I’m about to do it again. I spent the day outside dyeing Christmas Tree T-shirts, Rainbow Hearts and Rainbow Rayon. All day long my inner critic was giving me a hard time about my novel, telling me it was worthless, hopeless and without any redeeming social value. Also lame. And, oh, by the way, I’m never going to find my place in this world and I’m going to die with all my songs still inside me. A real piece of work, my inner critic.

I vehemently disagreed, of course; I always do, but the fight makes me weary. I didn’t want to dye. I didn’t want to write a blog post. I didn’t want to add two thousand words to my worthless, hopeless, lame novel. I finished the things I needed to finish before dark and I came into the house to make the best possible use of the hours I had left before bed time. I needed to write a blog post and I needed to add to my word count, but I wasn’t feeling up to facing those tasks without doing something else to raise my spirits. Something that always works.

Hot apple pie

Hot apple pie

I baked a pie. I feel better. Now, on to my novel.

Cupcakes

This has been a week of post-vacation let-down and lethargy. We’ve had cold weather here in Florida, for the first time this season, and that makes me want to sit in a chair, wrapped up in a fleece blanket, drinking warm drinks and reading. It does not make me want to get up and do things. I’ve been a woman at rest and I have stayed at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Today, a nice outside force got me out of my chair.

My older daughter and her sons came over to make Halloween cupcakes. I provided the space to work and the basic ingredients. She brought over her favorite mixer, plus a big collection of food colorings and sprinkles. She also brought her i-Pad, her i-Home and her Halloween playlist. There were lots of songs from Creature Feature and Voltaire on that list, but she also had classics like Monster Mash and the Purple People Eater. We were dancing all over the kitchen while we were making cupcakes. When it was time to do the Time Warp, we formed a line. I have never actually mastered the Time Warp – I was busy raising children when The Rocky Horror Picture Show was building its cult following – but I had fun trying it with my daughter and my five-year-old grandson.

My fourteen-year-old grandson was in the living room with his Granddaddy, watching the Jaguars lose again and coming into the kitchen from time to time to see if the cupcakes were ready to eat yet. I think I have at least a couple of readers who are not from the United States, so I will explain that the Jaguars are the local football team and, so far this year, they have a perfect record. They have lost every single game. There’s been some discussion in the sports pages about whether or not they might just be the worst team in the history of the National Football League. My husband is a loyal fan and cheers them on from his recliner every week, but I’m thinking they might as well try for worst team ever. At least then they’d be the best at being the worst. Go for the title, Jaguars!

The kitchen was more fun than the living room. While the cupcakes were cooling, my daughter made frosting and divided it into five small bowls. Then she started adding food coloring. We ended up with white, black, purple, green and orange. She put some of the frosting into plastic bags and snipped one corner of each bag so she could squirt the frosting out and add detail to her cupcakes.

Fun with frosting

Fun with frosting

Things looked pretty messy while all this was going on. I think there may still be some orange frosting on my kitchen wall, but we made some lovely, creepy cupcakes. My daughter gets credit for all the ones that were obviously done by an artist. I could try to blame the messy ones on the five-year-old and you’d probably believe me, but the truth is, I did those.

Finished cupcakes

Finished cupcakes

The hardest part? Keeping the boys from eating any of them before we could photograph all of them. The ugliest one is not here. That one went into the five-year-old before the picture was taken. Use your imagination.

Birthday Baking

The holiday season has arrived. In my family, it starts in September, with three birthdays. My son was born on the 6th, my oldest grandson on the 12th and my youngest grandson on the 13th. That made this past week a very busy baking week. My son’s favorite dessert is pumpkin pie. I’ve been baking up to a dozen pumpkin pies every Thanksgiving for years, so those were easy-peasy. I baked two for my son’s birthday, so he could share one and pig out on the other one. I think a person should have the option of pigging out on his birthday.

My oldest grandson requested a chocolate cake. I don’t have as much experience with cakes as I do with pies, but there’s a great recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa can, so that was pretty easy, too. I didn’t get a chance to taste it because the boy managed to catch a cold for his birthday. He wasn’t up to a family gathering, so I sent the cake to his house, along with his present – books. I love having a teen-aged grandson who wants books for his birthday.

My youngest grandson just turned one. His mother (my younger daughter) was planning a big party, scheduled for this past Saturday. I’d heard that a professional was going to make the cake, so I was off the hook. Thursday evening, I got a phone call from my daughter, who wanted to know how much notice I would need to make a fancy cake. “A lot!” I said.

“Oh. Then never mind,” she said.

“What?” I said.

Before this conversation was over, I had agreed to make a cake for my grandson’s party. A TARDIS cake. My daughter and her husband are huge fans of Doctor Who. They were given a Doctor Who themed baby shower before my grandson was born. After driving through a nasty thunderstorm on the way to that shower and on the way to the hospital the day he was born and on the way home after he was born, I started calling him Stormageddon (an obscure reference for the faithful). His nursery has TARDIS curtains and his crib has a TARDIS dust ruffle. Of course they wanted a TARDIS cake for the baby’s first birthday. Their original plans fell through, and I was drafted to make it.

Fortunately, I did have some back-up – my older daughter. I was prepared to try the cake myself if I had to, but I was reasonably certain the baby’s aunt would be willing to help. This is a woman who once decorated a cake to look like a human cell for a school project. If she could manage all the parts of a cell, including (but not limited to) nucleus, mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum, I was pretty sure she would rise to the TARDIS challenge.

Happily, I was right. All I had to do was the baking. Whew!

I used the recipe from the back of the Hershey’s can again, doubled so we would have enough for a 9”x 13” pan (the basic TARDIS), a 9”x 9” pan (spare parts), and a dozen wibbly wobbly, timey wimey cupcakes, just to make sure there would be enough cake for everyone at the party. I baked the cakes on Friday and put the flat ones in the refrigerator because all the online sources said a chilled cake is easier to cut. My older daughter, at great personal sacrifice (she is not a morning person), agreed to set an alarm and get up early on Saturday to turn the cakes into a TARDIS in time for the 2:30 party.

It was quite an adventure. My older daughter is going to read this blog and think I left out all the interesting parts, like my frosting fiasco and my trip to the store for more cocoa after my cupcake failure, but the end result of all the drama was a very recognizable TARDIS and a successful party.

TARDIS cake

TARDIS cake

Oh, and a small bow tie cake for the birthday boy.

Bow tie cake

Bow tie cake

Because bow ties are cool.