Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mini Apple Pies

I've always been intimated by making pie - and it seems I'm not the only one. Despite my successes and near-successes with yeasted doughs, I let myself be intimidated by other people's accounts of finicky pie dough, not-cold-enough butter, and the shortening vs butter dilemna. Well a couple weeks ago, my cooking-project partner Elizabeth came over so we could test out making apple pie from scratch and work down my store of local apples. Once we had everything together, I remembered that I don't actually own a pie tin, but no problem - mini-pies it would be, baked in a muffin tin!

I followed the sage advice from Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust 102 tutorial, along with Brooklyn Farmhouse's method for making mini-pies. I highly recommend Smitten Kitchen's recipe since the dough came together quickly in my food processor, was surprisingly easy to handle, and didn't tear while rolling it out at all. Most importantly, the finished pie crust was deliciously tender and flaky! We did have quite a bit of leftover dough, however, which I saved in the fridge to make a delicious free-form apple tart later that week. I have an inkling this dough would be great for empanadas too - hopefully that will be my next big kitchen adventure now that I've overcome my fear and conquered pie dough.

Brooklyn Farmhouse recommends cutting out 4-inch circles for the base of each mini pie and 3-inch circles for each top, but that seemed too small for my muffin tin, so we roughly cut circles of dough that were probably about an inch larger. You don't need special cookie cutters for this - just find glasses or jars that are approximately 4 or 5 inches in diameter.

I left the pie filling to Elizabeth since she's made pies before. she peeled and sliced 3 apples, and then combined it with a little sugar, a little lemon juice, fall spices like cinnamon and ginger, and a sprinkling of flour in place of cornstarch. (Elizabeth, if I'm remembering this wrong, please let me know!)

The best part of the night, aside from chatting, was feasting on the final product: warm mini apple pie topped with Elizabeth's homemade butter pecan ice cream and a drizzle of local apple liquer. It truly tasted like a restaurant-quality dessert and each serving of mini-pie was the perfect portion for each person. These would be a hit at any classy fall dinner party.

As for our project, in case you are curious, it has gone on hold since life has been busy and we are reevaluating our roll-out plan. But the best part so far has just been getting to cook fun new foods with a friend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Passing it around the Playground

Ms. JC of Mystic Domestica was gracious enough to tag me with a fun questionnaire, so I'm playing along.

First I must give a caveat...I don't really believe in owning books and DVDs. I would much rather borrow them from the library or the internet and save the space in my apartment, the money in my wallet, and the resources from the earth. With that said...

1. What books are on your favorite shelf?
Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, cookbooks (see below), travel guides to Buenos Aires and Belgium, a couple music history books from college, and a couple books of piano sheet music I rarely play. I wish I still had my copy of The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin.

2. What DVDs are on your favorite shelf?
None, see above.

3. What are your two favorite cookbooks?
My food bible, The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters; and the book that taught me how to bake bread, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book

4. Select 1-3 recipes you would cook for your special guests.
Bruschetta to start; Pizza to continue with my love for Italian food, bread, and tomatoes; and German chocolate cupcakes for dessert.

5. What will we be drinking?
Red wine, white wine, growlers of beer, and as the night wears on and we start to make bad choices, bourbon from the bottle.

And 5 random facts:
I'm going to spice it up and make it five guilty secrets:

1. I am a sucker for highly processed snacks such as Cheez Its and M&Ms when someone puts them in front of me.
2. I am obsessed with weddings even though I wish I could stop the crazy
3. I am a feminist throwback who wishes I could stay home and cook all day
4. I often contemplate how much easier life would be without a dog or two
5. I sometimes go days without showering due to laziness

I don't like picking out favorites, so if you're reading this and would like to answer the questionnaire, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Member

Tonight, I have my first work shift at the Park Slope Food Coop. That's right, a couple weeks ago I joined the coop, now that I live in the neighborhood. It's a grocery store that stocks all-natural, organic, and local products and is almost fully staffed by its members. All 14,000 members are owners (by paying an investment fee and getting to vote on store decisions), workers (by working a shift every four weeks), and shoppers. And because the organization is just out to break even, most items are way cheaper than at regular supermarkets.

And the BEST part is that I can fill a shopping cart, and a worker will walk with me and the cart back to my apartment to unload, and then the worker will return the cart for me. How AWESOME is that? Because one of things I hate about grocery shopping in New York City is overloading my arms and back with as many bags as I can carry and then schlepping it home. We used to make monthly car trips to Fairway in Red Hook for grocery needs that can't be met at the farmers market, but now that we don't have a car anymore, the coop is perfect. Tonight I learn how to be a cashier. Wish me luck!

photo via flickr

Thursday, October 8, 2009

To Do: Fall

Inspired by Sara's list of 30 quintessential fall activities over at Pink of Perfection, I thought it might help me organize the plans and ideas swirling around my head if I made my own lists of fall activities: things I hope to accomplish; food I'd like to put away for the winter or make while it's in season; and things I'd like to to remember to do to enjoy the season while it lasts. As you can see, I was also inspired by Rachel's post on Heart of Light this week advocating for relishing the moments in each season. I hope to make To Do Lists a common feature here as I continually struggle to keep afloat with all there is to do, feel, experience, and achieve in life.

Can you think of anything I might be missing? What's on your fall to-do list?

To Do
* bring the hardy plants inside
* make my Halloween costume ended up opting out of Halloween
* knit a scarf started a scarf
* fall cleaning and reorganizing
* put the air conditioner in storage
* buy new stockings and boots (old ones don't fit well)
* mend sweaters
* Thanksgiving menu planning - no thanksgiving to plan yet again :-(

To Make in the Kitchen
* hang herbs to dry
* buy the last of the berries on sale at the farmers market to freeze - guess I missed this already
* turn the basil plant into pesto - already used up all the basil
* applesauce
* apple pie
* granola
* fresh baked bread
* roast sugar pumpkins into puree for baking
* chocolate chip pumpkin muffins made chocolate chip pumpkin blondies, but i wasn't happy with them
* carrot cake
* crockpot chili
* butternut squash ravioli with sage and butter sauce
* squash and bean casserole

To Enjoy
* chai tea
* cider donuts
* pumpkin carving - guess I'm not doing this one this year
* apple picking
* mulled cider
* hard cider
* red wine instead of white
* wearing fuzzy socks
* taking hot showers
* hiking in the turning leaves
* crisp bike rides
* summery produce while it lasts think tomatoes, zucchini, corn...this year I refuse to start cooking with squash until the summer's bounty disappears

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


During our stay upstate we also made a visit to Bobolink Dairy. My sister Lisa is a sometimes employee of Bobolink depending on her ever fluctuating schedule, but even though the farm is only 10 minutes from my parents' house I'd never been to see her there before. A small dairy operation offering grass-fed Jersey cows milk cheese and artisan bread, Bobolink has an onsite store open to visitors and brings their goods to farmers markets in New York City and the surrounding area. I bought some cheese and veal (which I left in my parents freezer, doh!), poked my head into their bakery, and we said hi to the pigs.

I <3 supporting small sustainable farms. When I heard from Lisa and her friend about getting to spend the day kneading and baking bread covered in flour, and about the delicious communal feasts featuring the farm's own meat, and about living in an old farmhouse surrounded by grassy fields... it momentarily made me want to be an intern. Until I remembered I wouldn't like waking up early or manual labor or getting up close and personal with large animals. Have you ever wanted to work on a farm?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apple Picking

On the last weekend of September, I escaped the city for my parents' home upstate, with dogs and friends in tow. Apple picking was first on the agenda, but we surprisingly managed to fit in a number of other quintissential fall activitities: farmers market shopping, wine tasting at a vineyard, an easy hike, a corn maze, lounging on the deck, a big birthday dinner at home for my sister, and drinks at the local bar. We also started filming a little apple themed movie while at the orchard.

Every year I hit up Ochs Orchard for our apples, because I think it has a great view and it's less crowded than some of the other several orchards in town. It's easy to walk deep into the orchard and not be disturbed by another soul for a while. This year I was surprised to realize that many of the apples were coated in a film that must be pesticides. I will be looking for more natural orchard next year...

I brought home a haul of 13 or so apples and used a couple of them already in an easy-peasy chocolate chip apple cake for company last Friday night. A few are destined for applesauce and a few more for those apple pie tests that we actually haven't gotten around to yet. Send me your favorite apple recipes! I think it would be fun to hear them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Peeks into the New Place

Although living in an old brownstone comes with the headaches of a decaying building, it also offers charming details like...

Molding and wainscotting

(Horribly stuck) pocket doors

Tin tile (or is it molding meant to look like tin?) ceiling. And the fireplace is defunct but we'll have a mantel for hanging Christmas stockings this year!

Reveling in built-in and open shelving

I wanted this kitchen cart ($25 on craigslist, doesn't get better than that!) so bad that after a failed attempt to fit it in a car, I walked it over a mile home.

Then there are more recent additions, like a wall of forest wallpaper

After my previous bedroom, which was a huge all purpose sort of room, I'm loving this cozy little cavelike bedroom that's only for sleeping.

The bathroom is a work in progress and the tub needs cleaning so bad I haven't showered there in over a week.

In fact the whole place needs cleaning and I'm procrastinating right now...

Friday, October 2, 2009

A New Project

My friend Elizabeth and I share a common love for both cooking and planning events. So in a flash of brilliance last month, I came up with the perfect project for us to take on together. It's a way to build our cooking skills and hosting skills and to dip our toes into the food world in a nonthreatening way. It also gives me something tangible to direct my rabid planning energies on. We're currently in the planning phase, so all will be revealed at a later date. But this photo gives a peek into our culinary experimentation process, with more experimentation and preparation to come this weekend. This weekend: make applesauce, mustard, and possibly pie dough.

Although it may take longer than I thought to get this off the ground properly, it at least feels like I'm moving forward and taking a step toward figuring out what I want to do with my life. Are any of you taking on new challenges and exploring new dreams lately?