Saturday, September 17

When "disaster" Strikes

Before I left for grad school, my grandparents came down for a brief visit and my sister and her husband came up as well. I love when lots of people visit because it gives me an excuse to bake something. Because I'm missing the American autumn (and the apple pie that goes with it) I decided to make a Dutch Apple pie from a recipe I found on Epicurious (originally from Bon Appetit). I made my own crust because a) I like to make my own crust and b) I haven't perfected making my own crust yet. I think I make it TOO wet, because rolling it out when it's too dry is such a hassle. It has to be the perfect consistency, and I just haven't managed to get it right yet. And then I couldn't find my go-to crust recipe, so I used another crust recipe from my pumpkin pie that I'd never tried before (because I like my other crust recipe). 

This recipe had 10 tablespoons of butter in it. TABLESPOONS. TEN! That is a crap-ton of butter. Particular when you add the 3 melted into apple-spice mixture and the 7 cut into the streusel topping. This was not a heart-healthy pie, people. 

What transpired next is a perfect illustration of why you should always ALWAYS put a clean sheet tray on the rack underneath the one you'll place your pastry/buttergasm on. Which, thankfully, I did. Of course, it would've helped if I placed it just right. Because not 3 minutes into the first stage of pie-baking (at 400 degrees F), I smelled smoke and immediately opened all the windows and doors. And I caught it before my mom even smelled anything (I think working in a restaurant made my nose more sensitive, but that's just a theory).

But what can you do? There's no major damage to the pie itself, but the butter is just bubbling around the sides of the crust like a reverse Vesuvius. And the only thing you really can do is just wing it. I (carefully) wiped up the sides of the pie plate as best I could with a sponge, left the oven door open until it stopped smoking (mind you: if there is FIRE, keep the door CLOSED and turn the oven off. The lower amount of oxygen should lessen/put out the fire) and spent the rest of the baking time periodically running a spatula around the crevice between the pie and the plate to stem the tide.

The point is this: recipes are really sort of suggestions, ultimately. Read the comments. Had I not read the comments, I would have assumed that the pie needed the full time written on the recipe, rather than HALF of that (I went about an hour and 20 minutes). And when you see that the crust is browned and the crumble topping looks nice and toasty, turn the oven down, timer be-damned. When you think the pie should be done, pull it out and stick a knife into the apples to see if they're done (you should be able to stick the knife in easily, but they should hold their shape [if it's headed toward applesauce consistency, aka almost fuzzy looking, you've gone too far]).

And for the love of God, don't walk away from a new recipe. Don't assume that everything will be fine. Keep an eye on it, peek in on it, sniff the air. Even on your old standbys. Because shit happens, and it's a little different every time. And had I walked away to do something else I would've ended up wielding a fire extinguisher rather than a sponge. 

And that would've sucked, because it was a damn tasty pie. I made it with just Granny Smiths and it wasn't too tart, the oat topping was delicious, and it held its shape really well (the only way I can think to describe it is that the apples didn't splooge out everywhere, which is kinda gross but true.) 

Tuesday, August 30

O Pioneer!

O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!
Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress,
(bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang'd and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon'd
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call-hark! how loud and clear I hear it
Swift! to the head of the army!-swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers! 

(excerpts from Pioneers! O Pioneers! by Walt Whitman)

recipe source: The Pioneer Woman

Friday, August 26

Recipe Book

So, as I get ready to move I am attempting to compile a boatload of recipes to take with me. Recipes that are delicious, healthy, and inexpensive to make. Quite the tall order, I know.

But my question is this? How do you organize your recipes, and with what system? My mom puts print-outs in a binder, organized by appetizers, desserts, soups, but also by proteins.

I know some people prefer a recipe box, others just pull recipes up on their computer . . . I never know what will be the most efficient when it comes to the actual cooking.

Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, June 2

Wave of the Future

Michelle Obama is really doing the nutritional/organic/healthy food world a solid, I have to say. She has spearheaded the fight against obesity with aplomb, and with a grace and sensitivity that many lack. Beyond the garden at the White House, the bee hives, and her awesome Move Your Body campaign, today Mrs. Obama (along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin) unveiled the lasted diagram for nutritional information, an unspeakably huge part of the fight against obesity. Portion sizes in America have gone out of control-huge and as we all know (but sometimes can't do much to help) we're eating, mostly, all the wrong things.

Ladies and gents, it is time to kiss that old food pyramid good-bye! We now have myPlate, a much more straight-forward concept of a dinner plate and its appropriate portions (half fruits and veggies, a quarter protein and a quarter grains, with a small side circle of dairy). Though not totally fool-proof (because I can seriously mound up my grains . . . and lets not forget the mountain o' mashers from Close Encounter of the Third Kind) it does translate much easier than the pyramid ever did . . . for children AND adults.


news source: The New York Times

Thursday, May 19

Food for Thought

Through my daily internet meandering (I should be reading for school . . .) I stumbled upon The Elephant Journal, a yoga/meditation/food/lifestyle arena that seems really interesting as I putter around the site. Most interesting, I think, is an interview with  Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma which, full disclosure, I have yet to read (but it's been on my radar for awhile). 

Walk the Talkshow: Michael Pollan from Alex King & Mito Media on Vimeo.

And check out The Elephant Journal here

Tuesday, May 10

Start it Young

At the risk of sounding preachy (again) the most important thing we can do is educate our kids on how important our environment is, and how important healthy eating is. If we instill these practices at an early age, simply through it being the only way we live (organic food is just what you eat, you just turn off the lights when you leave the room, etc) then kids are MUCH more likely to make it a habit through life. My cousin works at this awesome goal, going into classrooms to teach kids about the environment with fun activities.

Another way is just through movies, tv shows. Shows like David the Gnome when I was growing up, and my favorite environmental movie of all time, Ferngully. The original, not the sequel, is best in my opinion, and Avatar is great too, with the added bonus of teaching kids about respecting other people's cultures/appearance, etc. It just might not be quite as age appropriate as Ferngully.

This film might also be the reason why I secretly hope that someone will call me a "bodacious babe." But that's neither here nor there.

Thursday, May 5

If I had a goat, this would get it

A few weeks ago my mother told me about a segment in one of her morning news' shows (I don't remember which one), that basically said that organic food is expensive, so THESE are the ones you need to focus on. Good idea in theory, EXCEPT: they basically said that with eggs and milk, you can't taste or see any sort of difference, so go with the cheaper non-organic option.

Going organic is NOT really about taste. I mean, it's a fantastic off-shoot that is 100% true, organic food just tastes better, but the main thing is that organic food doesn't contain harmful pesticides, and isn't biologically tampered with (hormones, frog DNA, etc. I'm not a scientist, I don't know the facts, but what I know freaks me out).

FURTHERMORE, break a non-organic egg next to an organic egg and there IS a visible difference. The yolk is so much brighter, tastes SO much creamier. Switching to organic egg changed my life, in terms of consuming eggs.

Also, organic milk tastes better, lasts longer, is actually probably safer because it's ultra-pasturized, and doesn't have creepy chemicals in it (minus fortified vitamin D and DHA omega-3)

So, basically, whichever morning show this is is full of crap.

BUT, I do agree that organic food IS unfortunately, really expensive and going whole hog on the organic food thing is quite the financial commitment.

According to, the Environmental Working Group has listed 12 food items that absolutely should be bought organic. These foods have no inedible peel (i.e. melons, bananas, etc) and therefore absorb the chemicals and pesticides right into the flesh. As they say on greenissexy, these chemicals are designed to stick no matter what, so no amount of scrubbing/peeling will get it off. Here is, as they say, the Dirty Dozen:

-Bell Peppers
-Leafy Greens
-Grapes (imported)

Just something to consider the next time you go grocery shopping (hopefully with reusable shopping bags in tow!)