Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to make a pre-baked crust that doesn't implode!

I have made the same pie crust recipe for years. I've had it since I was in High School when my pastor's wife gave it to me. But it's all vegetable shortening and recently I was pining for a recipe with butter in it. I found a great one that I would love to share. I will give the credit where it is due. It is from Cook's Country and it is really good. Here is their recipe for a double crust (top and bottom crust for a pie):

Makes enough for one 9-inch pie
  • 2 1/2cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
  • 2tablespoons sugar (I used white sugar)
  • 1teaspoon table salt (I used Kosher)
  • 8tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled (this is a 1/2 a cup)
  • 12tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
  • 6 - 8tablespoons ice water
  • 1. Process the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Scatter the shortening over the top and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds (see related Tip). Scatter the butter pieces over the top and, using short pulses, process the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Transfer to a bowl.
  • 2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. Stir and press the dough together, using a stiff rubber spatula until the dough sticks together. If the dough does not come together, stir in the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it does.
  • 3. Divide the dough into two even pieces and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let the chilled dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out and fitting it into a pie plate.
  • To Make Ahead
  • The dough can be refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Let the frozen dough thaw on the countertop until malleable before rolling.
    It worked just great and it was just the right amount of butter I was looking for. I didn't use a food processor but my hand cutter. The next problem was solving how to make a pre-baked crust for a refrigerated pie. My problem is that the edge of the crust would always implode, bubble and fold in on itself so that it left little room for the filling. Well, I finally got some great tips that worked perfectly. I want to pass those on to you! 
    First, follow the recipe above all the way through step 3 BUT before you put your dough in the pie pan, Take three pieces of foil (about 15" long) and lay them on top of each other. Put the whole thing in your pie pan and shape to the size of your pie pan. Press firmly. Let it come up and over a bit from the edge to accommodate your crust. Take it out. Soften some butter in your microwave and butter the bottom of your foil form. 
    After your dough is in your pie plate, prick the dough on the sides and bottom with a fork. (Don't worry, the holes close up during the baking process so your filling won't leak).
    Put the pan in your freezer for at least 30 minutes (longer if you have time). 
    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
    Quickly take your pie pan out of the freezer and put the foil form in it. Pressing the foil against your dough. Shape the top of the form so that it covers the top of your crust. 
    Bake for 20 minutes. 
    Take off the foil form. Press any puffed up areas with the back of a wooden spoon. Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes or until nice and golden brown. The more color your crust has, the more flavor it will impart to your pie. Careful, burnt is not flavorful. 
    Let it cool before filling. 

What in the world do we do with all these tomatoes?

It seems like every tomato in our garden ripened at the same time. We have had wave upon wave of tomatoes. Of course, we can't eat all of them. We gave as many away as we could. The rest got cut, cooked down a bit, added 1 Tbl. of Fruit Fresh to keep the color, pureed and frozen for future use. I've done this a few times and we have several plastic bags in the freezer. It's a great way to store tomatoes for future use and is a lot easier than canning. Should the world come to an end and all electricity cease, we will have to make a huge pot of tomato basil soup for the entire neighborhood. We'll deal with that if the time comes. In the meantime, I'm enjoying going to the freezer for a fresh alternative to a can of tomatoes. 

A ridiculous amount of ripe tomatoes

chopped and ready for cooking

I love my Oster hand blender. Be sure and turn
off the fire before using the blender. 

Pureed, cooled and ready for freezer bags. Using
small bags is the way to go. You can use just
one for when the recipe calls for a small amount or
 double up for soups.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Graduation Money Leis

Gail being her beautiful self
My sweet friends asked me to help put out food for their sons' graduations from High School. Being that they are both such dear friends and fellow homeschoolers, I was happy to help out. Of course, I had some suggestions. Hey, if it is worth doing it worth "overdoing"! Our mutual friend, Gail, was happy to pair up with me again (she did a wedding reception for a friend with me) and, as always, she did a phenomenal job on the food and on some fun decorating ideas.

Gail cut carrots with a Pampered Chef crinkle cutter
to resemble fries at our 50's diner themed table. 

Some of the graduates' family members and I put together these cute chocolate graduation caps. The instructions are all over the web. I ended up using "S'mores" chocolate squares from the Dollar Store (I also saw them at CVS). I also used Sour Straws cut up to resemble the tassle. It was sticky, but worked great. My only suggestion is to not put these candies on shish-k-bob skewers. They ended up getting hot and falling off. Put them on a platter only. Also, be sure and use a generous glob of royal icing between the mini peanut butter cup and the square. I ended up putting 1/4 a cup of cocoa in the royal icing mix to color and flavor the icing. That was the right call.

I really dug some cool Money Leis I saw on Pintrest. I think they would be really neat for a wedding or a birthday. I put my twist on them and they came out really well. It ended up being $25 in $1 bills. It looks like a lot more. You can also customize with your graduates favorite candy. Here are the steps to making it.

1. Cut a length of ribbon to make the necklace to tie everything on. It is blue in these pictures.

2. Fold the dollar bills in a fan and tie in the middle. I used $25 in $1 bills to make a large lei. You can put two $1 bills together in each fan bundle if you want to give more.

3. I found some tulle on a roll at the dollar store and cut them in squares to hold the candy. Put the candy in the middle of the square and tie them at the top with some curling ribbon.  

4. Alternate candy and dollar bills tied to the blue ribbon necklace.

5. Open out the dollar bills. This fills out the lei.

Finished Product!

A happy graduate

Another happy graduate

Another cute thing we did was a photo booth. I purchased a cardboard display board from Wal-Mart. It came in black, which was perfect. I printed out copies of the various car parts and accessories from online. My husband works for an engineering firm and they have a huge color plotter. They were generous enough to let us print out this cool background. Then we put a basket of dress up clothes. We had a photographer on hand. It was lots of fun and we put it right by the tables so it was part of our entertainment. Adults and kids alike got into it.

I got lots of ideas for my son's graduation in two years. It's going to be so much fun!

Friday, June 8, 2012

We are harvesting!


All that sweating is paying off! Check out this crop of tomatoes! And we gave a bunch away yesterday. See my little ripening cantaloupe... I have three more in the garden. Lots and lots of peppers are being harvested, but not nearly as many bellpeppers as I would like. It seems we never get enough.

I also tried my hand at some ball carrots. My gardening guru friend, Bonnie, thought we might get a better crop in the fall. I'm still thrilled to pick these round french carrots. They are so delicious too!

At the suggestion of Bonnie, I purchased some organic cow manure mixed with other organic compost called "Moo-Nure". I felt that my soil needed a little more nutrition to support all the veggies. Bonnie didn't think it would hurt. I added a trowel full to each square. A little more on my tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. I also am trying out some Ortho Elementals insecticide soap and Garden Disease Control. I think I got some sort of a fungus on my beans and basil. I am seeing new growth of leaves already. The stink bugs have declared my cherry tomato plant "Club Med". Seriously, I am seeing stink bugs do things on there that would make you blush. Ewwwww! My garlic pepper spray wasn't doing much good on these tough guys. I'll see what an insecticide soap will do.
Ortho Elementals Garden Disease ControlOrtho Elementals Insecticidal Soap

I tried out a new Ratatouille recipe. An all veggie meal (supplied from my garden) was so delicious on Sunday after church. You can see eggplant, squash & zucchini from our garden in the dish. At the bottom is a thick tomato sauce made from our garden tomatoes. I think I will try the canned tomato paste next time and see if there is a difference.

A huge bunch of Black Prince tomatoes


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