Cooking for the Love of It

I love to cook .   I recently saw a survey that said people now spend more on dining out than at the grocery.   It is something I have a hard time getting my head around.   I think it is so because I not only love to cook, I love to feed people.    To me cooking is part art, and part escape.  Definitely an expression of love.  When I cook I get to vicariously by making a meal go to other places and make things that I might never get a chance to taste otherwise.  Today I had a roast and a busy schedule full of work,so I wanted a recipe that I could crock pot this and turn it into something fun.   I went  online and sought out a  new recipe using the ingredients I have on hand.    I found a recipe that I truly wondered how it would turn out, time was running out and because I had everything I went with it.   My rule of thumb is the first time  on any recipe is by the book, so I did just that.   By lunch time   I  had decided that pie was in order  to go with my roast dinner and put together a cherry pie.

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My baking creation today, cherry pie.

Tonight when RangerSir got home he was greeted by the smells of our crock pot roast and his eyes feasted on a cherry pie worthy of Instagram.    I put a dinner feast  on the table worthy of the love for RangerSir.

Patience and the Pie Lady

I have been making pies for Thanksgiving for years.   When I used to host Thanksgiving I would make upwards of 10 pies that my guests could pick from not only for dinner, but to take home, or if they were staying for future meals over the weekend.    Now that I no longer host dinner, I have been bringing pie for years to dinner that RangerSir and I attend.

To some pie making would be chore, a challenge, or something that you pick up from the local store or bakery.   For me baking pie is a favorite creative pastime.   I would rather make pie than any other sweet or dessert.   My Grandma Virtue was known for the pies she made when worked at the county home years ago.   My Aunt Leola always had pie with awesome flaky crust when we stopped to visit her and Uncle Sherm after a pilgrimage to visit the folks in Illinois.   So though I can’t remember sitting with either of them to learn about pie making I think I come by this talent honestly.

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RangerSir rolls out his pie crust

This year I nearly cut the tip of my thumb off and ended up in the emergency room.   I have been since been told to keep it clean and dry, and to function without a thumb, until it heals up some.    This has kept me from all sorts of things including pie making.

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He has it right and is putting it in the pan.

RangerSir, who enjoys cooking/baking, stepped up to the plate telling me he would learn to make pies.    It took a great deal of self-control and patience to not cuff him along side the head, while telling him pie crust is an art, and not as easy as they make it in the cookbook.  How did I tell him that making pies was a quiet time I reflected on Thanksgivings of past, and who we had been with and who was now missing.  It was my time and my art.   Yet  I agreed to help him through the process to make our pies for Thanksgiving.

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Adding the cherry pie filling.

Now the test of patience was on not only for him who thought I should leave him to his own devices, but also for me to not get caught up in what I was missing out.  How do you explain to someone what the mixture looks like when cutting in the fat to the flour or how much water you add to the crust, when I know it is right by touch?   He was a bit of a saint when he begrudgingly stepped back when I said can I touch it so I could put my good hand in to feel the pastry for just a few seconds and pronounce it right, even if we had put in twice as much water as the recipe called for.  We made two pies last night and I thought my hair  would catch on fire from my brain cells scrambling as he rolled out the dough “all wrong”, but overnight the pastry fairies worked in his brain and he was doing it exactly as I wanted the next morning when we made the last pie. He was a bit miffed when I told him we were mixing up two pie recipes to make this year’s mandatory chocolate pie, but he went along without complaint.    Though to him making a three-layer chocolate pie was unnecessary, but when the sprinkles went on in the end, he was pleased with his results.   We worked together as I coached him on the art of lattice pie and that it really was necessary on a cherry pie.

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He is a darn good lattice top maker.

The pies are all done now.   They look absolutely perfect.  Though we have not tested them out the crust looks flaky and is perfectly brown.   It was a trial, but also a reflection on how we can work together and support one another.   I asked him if I could take pictures and blog about the pie making.    He agreed knowing that I would not share this with the world if I wasn’t thrilled with the end.   He had my back on pie making and I was his partner into new territory.

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Here they are the pies ready to take to Thanksgiving dinner.   

 

 

Pumpkin Pie Update

I did not try to pass my from scratch pumpkin pie off on my friends as the same they always had, but instead asked them what they thought of it.  Different good, different bad,  or heck I can’t tell the difference, so why bother.

To keep this on the level playing field I used my favorite recipe the one on the canned Libby’s pumpkin label.   I really think their use of can milk makes it least likely to curdle.   I used my standard pie crust as well.

Before baking it, I can tell you that my 15 ounces of pumpkin was not as orange as Libby’s.   Mine was like pudding compared to the stuff from the can which holds shape like jellied cranberries.   I was worried, was it too moist?  They both were silky smooth.

Baking was essentially the same.   Same time.   Looked essentially the same.

Taste test was fun because my friends have not problem being brutally honest.   No one wants their chief pie baker to get a swollen head.    Here is what was decided:

  • Libby’s pumpkin pie really only tastes like the spices you put in it, the cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.   The homemade had another pumpkin squash taste.  Not bad, but definitely different.   Most everyone thought it was kind of cool to definitely have a taste of pumpkin in their pie.
  • The homemade was not as sweet as Libby’s.  Whatever secret hybrid that the Libby’s people use it is sweeter than the sweet pie pumpkin variety I got.   If you have a massive sweet tooth this could be a problem.
  • Texture was the biggest difference. Using the canned pumpkin you get something like a pumpkin flan or custard, more gelatinous.    With the homemade pumpkin despite it having been run through the food processor and appearing to be the same as the can it did not cook up the same.   It wasn’t gritting or anything like that with it.   The best way we could come up to explain it was can pumpkin was like skim milk, and the homemade was like whole milk.   There was something more substantial about it in the mouth, but you really can not explain it.

The from scratch pumpkin pie from  was different, but still to the group a pumpkin pie.   It wasn’t lot a lot of work and if I have pumpkins I will definitely do it again.

The Pie Baker

Oh She Glows Blog is full of great instructions and photos.

I have loved to bake pies all my life.   I would rather bake a pie than any other dessert or sweet.    I have tried all sorts of pies over the years.   I honestly have not single favorite pie, and  I am always trying something new.  I love them all, old recipes and new recipes alike.

Last year my experimental recipe  was a pecan pie that used real maple syrup. I was trying to find something that made a great pecan pie without ending up with a gooey sweet filling.    It was a great result much richer and smoother than my traditional pecan pie.   It was definitely a keeper.

This year I happened to have two sugar pumpkins on hand and decided to try my hand at homemade pumpkin pie.   I remember as a kid my mother once had done this and the pumpkin was very moist and it present problems.    Like everyone today, I went to the internet looking for an option that looked promising.  The first thing that I found out is that the pumpkin in the can is likely not pumpkin, but some other kind of squash.   Now my interest was definitely piqued. Was there a difference if I used real pumpkin?  Will anyone notice?  I found an option that looked good on the Oh She Glows blog.   I have finished roasting my pumpkins, run them through the food processor until smooth as anything you will find on the grocery shelf.   I put it in a food mill and let the excess water drain out; lesson learned from my mother.  It now sits in my refrigerator ready for pie baking tomorrow.

I will post again later after the pie has been baked and ate by the family.   The other pies I am bake this year besides pumpkin is the requisite chocolate, an apple and a banana cream.

Make Do Cooking

Today was a holiday for my husband and me.   We spent the day putsing around the house.   Smoke blew in from a forest fire from who knows where and we knocked off early, both feeling a little under the weather.   There has been lots of crud going around my husband’s office and the kind of smoke we had today can make anyone feel poorly.   We had planned on having a nice dinner, but it quickly seemed to both of us that comfort food was more in order.

I pulled things out of my refrigerator to make beef vegetable noodle soup.    I was making it home-made, using the make-do philosophy.   I think sometimes that kind of cooking is a lost art.   The art of cooking from scratch, making do with what you have on hand.   I had some left over short ribs, I had made in the slow cooker yesterday.   I threw the meat from the ribs in a pan along with some water, a diced potato  half a carrot sliced, and a small  handful of bow tie pasta.    While boiling away I sauteed a little onion and celery until they were clear and added that to the boiling veggies.   Next I found a couple of tomatoes that were ready to be used and chopped them and poured them on top of the boiling mixture.   It was now evident that my water was boiling away, so I pulled out the last of some V8 and found some gravy that we had made from the drippings last night.   Both went in the soup.   I found one collard green left in the refrig and pulled it out and chopped a little into the soup.  Everything fresh I had on hand was in the soup, but it still did not say vegetable to me.   Off to the freezer; there I found corn, peas and beans.   I took a small handful of each and add the three to my soup and cooked until they were done.   Ta’Da.   Soup was on.

Before we could sit down and eat soup, my husband got a call  to report to work.   It seems there is another forest fire tonight.  I quickly heated up a wide mouth thermos and filled it with my soup.   I am not sure when he will get to it, but I hope it is still warm.   No matter what I am sure that my make-do soup will hit the spot.  He will miss out on dessert though as it was still in the oven…creamy pear pie.  He was bemoaning the fact that he was going to get none of that.  This is a late season fire, let’s hope in spite of the dry weather it doesn’t go crazy and he can be home soon and enjoy his pie.