Archive for September, 2015

Busy Week!

September 24, 2015

We started this week with a little bit of medical “stuff.”  My DH got a partial cornea transplant.  I didn’t know they do partials.  But, apparently, implanting a certain kind of cell (and, presumably removing the bad versions of said cells) causes corneas to kind of regenerate, and eventually vision improves.  He had to go this route when it became apparent that his cataract surgery, while successful, wasn’t going to give him acceptable vision.

So…it’s done.  And we wait.  He’s being a good patient.

In the meantime, I’m beginning to think about autumn.  We have fairly decent fall color around here.  Certainly nothing like the Northeast, but a helluva lot better than Texas.  I’ve been interested in seeing Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas during the fall, but just haven’t made it happen.  It’s not a long drive at all.  Looks like it’s worth it to me!

petit jean in autumn

Isn’t that pretty!?  I am really wanting to get back into camping, but we’re a long way from being there.  At least we have the truck now.  Who knows when we will add a little travel trailer.  Until that day, we do what we can do.  I’m thinking maybe,  just maybe, a yurt would feel sorta like camping.  They have them at Petit Jean.

petit jean yurt

Or…a cozy cabin with a fireplace.  Two of their cabins are dog-friendly, too!  It’s a thought.  But, they’re kind of pricey.  Nice, though.

petit jean cabins

The least expensive housing option (other than a tent or travel trailer) is to stay in the lodge.  It’s not half bad, either.

lodge lobby

Who knows.  This may not happen.  But, if I don’t do some exploring it certainly won’t.  I think I could handle a long weekend at Petit Jean!

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My Mom Didn’t Make Apple Pie

September 13, 2015

applepie

Up until yesterday, I pretty much didn’t either.  I’ve tried.  And failed miserably.  But, the planets aligned, I had a couple of new recipes to try.  And it worked!  Beautifully.  Now, this pie may not LOOK flawless, but let me tell you!  The taste and texture are perfect.   Just look at that flaky crust!

applepieslice

I’m going to include the recipes I used, but I have to say that the technique is the most important part of the whole thing – especially for the crust.  It was the second time I have used this crust technique.  The first time resulted in a dough that was extremely difficult to handle.  Tasted great…but the effort wasn’t worth the outcome.  So, I tweaked it, kept the same basic technique, and boy am I happy with the result.  I didn’t take pictures during the pie crust mixing.  I wish I had.  You’ll just have to use your imagination.  I got the basic recipe somewhere on the internet (can’t recall where) but it was so far from where I wanted to be that it doesn’t really matter anyway.  Here’s where I ended up:

NOT MY MAMA’S APPLE PIE

All-Purpose Flour – 333 grams
Crisco – 88 grams
Butter – 88 grams
1 tsp salt
1/3 Cup Ice Water, plus maybe a little more…just depends on the flour and weather

Pull out about 1/3 of the flour and set it aside.  Place the fats, 2/3 of the flour and the salt in a food processor and whirl it around until you’ve got a paste that makes a ball.  You really want this mixed well.  I know…I know.  This flies in the face of every piecrust making guru out there.  But, trust me.  It works.  Now…take the 1/3 remaining flour, dump that on top of the paste.  Pulse…don’t whirl…for four or five pulses…until the mixture is broken up and in chunks approximately pea-size and smaller.  It’s not rocket science.  You’re just trying to get the dry flour to break up the glob of paste.  Dump the chunky mixture out on a big sheet of parchment paper, aluminum foil or the like.  I guess this could be done in a large bowl, but paper on the countertop always works best for me.  Sprinkle all but a couple of tablespoons of the water over the top.  Start bringing the mixture together, molding it softly with your hands.  You may need to sprinkle in a little (or a lot) more water.  Just go slowly.  Once you get a cohesive blend, you’ve gone far enough.  Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.

When the crust dough is sufficiently chilled, mix up the pie ingredients:

Peel and slice THINLY – enough Granny Smith Apples to measure 6 cups

Sprinkle with approximately 1 TBS lemon juice.

Toss the apples and lemon juice so that the apples are well coated.  This helps prevent ugly oxidation of the apples and adds a bright taste.

In another bowl mix together:

3/4 Cup brown sugar
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 Tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Have ready 2 TBS Butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Divide the dough into two portions.  Roll out into a rough circle and line a glass pie pan with one of the dough circles.  Mix the apples and the sugar mixture together and pile it in the pie pan, mounding gently in the center.  Break the butter into small chunks and dot it all over the top of the apples.  Use more if you wish.  The more the merrier!  Top the apples with the second dough circle and use your favorite crimping method to finish the edge.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned.    You’ll have the best apple pie you ever tasted.  Promise!

Just a note or two…I pretty much gave up measuring by volume years ago.  For accuracy and repeatability, there’s no other way to go than measuring in grams.  Kitchen scales are really affordable and make a huge difference in the outcome, once you convert.  The biggest secret to the flaky pie crust, I believe, is the technique.  So, if you don’t have a scale and don’t want to get one, just use your favorite crust recipe and mix it according the the directions here.  It’s revolutionary.  And makes a world of difference.

I feel that I have never cut my apples thin enough in the past.  These were sliced between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick, leaning toward thinner rather than thicker.  I haven’t run into a too-crispy apple yet.  And, speaking of apples, I’m convinced Granny Smith is the only way to go for apple pie.  So tart, firm and tasty, they’re inexpensive and available everywhere.  What’s not to love?

Try this pie.  I’ll bet you’ll love it, too!

Alabama Quickie

September 10, 2015

love bugs

We made a quick trip down to Fairhope, Alabama to visit my husband’s brother and our coastal extended family.  We had a lovely time.  The weather was terrific (as long as humidity isn’t part of the discussion), we got lots of visiting in, saw some sights and ate lots of good food.  We were joined at one of our meals by these “love bugs.”  We were pretty close to the Florida border at that point.  I have some vivid memories of driving through bazillions of these things back in the day when I was a Floridian.  I could have gone the rest of my life without being reminded of them.  We let them continue their amorous activities.  Because we’re nice.

Our lunch took place at Lulu’s, a riverside establishment owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister.  Lunch was good – the best gumbo of the trip – and the view was pleasant.

lulus

I have sort of gotten over my lust for other people’s boats, thank goodness.  I did say, “sort of.”  Somehow, I always end up at the marina.

marina at lulus

We went over to Orange Beach (I think) and walked out on the fishing pier.  I have so many photos of my husband gazing out over a watery horizon.  He loves it so!  I kinda like it, too.

jack on fishing pier

orange beach

There weren’t nearly as many people on the beach as I expected.  It was actually quite nice.  I wonder if they would have been in the water, had they seen the dozen or more sharks we saw while walking out on the pier (from which this photo was taken).

The next morning we drove out to the Grand Hotel in Fairhope and got a little classic Spanish Moss exposure.  I was warned not to touch the stuff.  Apparently, it’s chock full of chiggers!

spanish moss

brothers

The “boys” found a little time to chat, and I found a little time to take a few photos, most of which were pretty ordinary.  I got one palm tree shot that I’ve run through some painting apps and will turn into framed art.  Soon, I hope.  I like it a lot.

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