Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thinking about Pie

OK, I’m riffing on a recent post (see below) by a friend, but I found her thoughts with me this afternoon as I made pie dough for this week’s Thanksgiving festivities. As I happily measured and patted the stickiness that I hope to turn into two lovely pumpkin pies, I realized that my pie journey had been a long one and that, while my pastry skills are still just OK (and that I am, in turn, quite OK with OK), both my baking and my life skills have really changed since the dark days of the boxed Jiffy pie crust (baked with love and fun, but zero skill), frozen pie crusts (just yuck), and the gloppy par-baked goo that went right into the trash (looking back, no love for pie or self in that mess).

I have learned that making pie requires achieving some minimal inner peace and an acceptance of oneself. For me, I needed to accept my own imperfections, acknowledge I needed help, ask for that help, and then trust my own hands and instincts to make it happen. At the same time, I had to learn that pie dough is not perfection, a ragged mess might actually be a step in the right direction, mistakes can be fixed, and – at the end of the day – it’s just a pie crust.

Regardless of what experts will tell you about baking being a science (and it normally is), to make a pie crust, you need to surrender yourself to the Pastry Gods, take a breath, and go with what feels right, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time.

Here’s hoping that the lovely round discs in the fridge will turn into something tender and flaky for Thanksgiving.

For much more eloquent recent pie musings than mine:

Zen pie by Love and Onions -
My friend and pie teacher becomes the student.

GIVE THANKS! Caramel Mascarpone Pumpkin Pie by Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker
This will certainly be next year’s pumpkin pie filling attempt. Super-detailed photos and notes on from a professional baker on her version of pie dough take a lot of the mystery out of the process.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sautéed Honey Bananas

Faced with a number of bananas that appeared shortly before dinnertime (see previous post on the largesse of neighbors), I was inspired to make up come for dessert. I got to thinking back to my childhood and to fried or honey bananas, something a bit like this.

Dessert in restaurants was always special – our family might have eaten out often, but dessert was not a regular part of our dining experience. Once in a while, when I was truly lucky, we ate at a fancier-than-some Chinese restaurant and could order the banana dessert. I don’t remember its name, or really much more than that the bananas were fried, perhaps shocked in cold water, and coated in some very sticky honey. The insides were warm and gooey; the outsides were crisp and sweet. And my chocolate-preferring little self loved every fruity bite.

Without the energy to research this childhood treat, I threw some items together to make sautéed honey bananas:

Melt some butter in a non-stick frying pan, perhaps a tablespoon.
Let it melt (but I bet brown butter would be awesome).
Add a good amount of honey, a little cinnamon, and a smidge of nutmeg.
Let it all heat into a gooey sauce.
Add some halved and quartered bananas, heat them through for about 5 minutes and turn them to coat.
Serve warm in a bowl. Or over ice cream. Or under ice cream that’s been topped with homemade chocolate sauce…

Banana Nut Muffins

Long-awaited rainy day. Quiet with a kid off to a birthday party, and here I am avoiding most of the to-do list. Perhaps because of the bananas. A neighbor bought 40 (yes, 4-0, forty) pounds of bananas the other day for $2. We graciously accepted some of her frugal bounty.

Two days later, we've had banana-yogurt smoothies and sautéed honey bananas. And another pound still sat on the kitchen counter, begging to be useful. Well… there’s always the peel, freeze, and forget about them option.

Cool, wet weather and quiet afternoons tend to make me think about baking. For some reason, muffins have been on my mind. And then I thought, OK, muffins are quick and easy.

Presto! What I did with my weekend:

This recipe can be found in the Joy of Cooking as Banana-Nut Muffins. For giggles, I swapped out the AP flour for whole wheat pastry flour and the walnuts for toasted pecans. And since 3 people cannot (should not?) eat a dozen muffins within 24 hours, I used vegetable oil and baked in muffin liners to keep them a moist for at least a day or two. Leftovers will be frozen and, hopefully, not forgotten.

Monday, March 19, 2012

First Quarter Results

Sad fact: since going back to work, I sometimes think of my life in terms of fiscal years and quarters.

This year will end with my saying good-bye to my thirties and hello to whatever’s next. I have decided to take inspiration from myself – for a change – to celebrate my getting to the next birthday milestone. In the last year-and-a-half, I have more or less figured out the work-family balance and the kid-family balance and the PTA-volunteerism-balance and a few other balances that make sense for our family. Nowhere in there is a family-work-ME balance.

And so, slowly, 2012 will be a little bit about trying harder to find the time to do things for myself, be they for my health or sanity or sheer entertainment.

Approaching the end of the Q1, I have a list of what I’d like to do and some tentative results.

In no particular order:

1. Get a physical
2. Get a massage and facial
3. Get another massage. And maybe another facial...
4. Figure out how to bake a chewy chocolate cookies
5. Find a dermatologist and make appointment
6. Get a mammogram
7. Exercise more
8. Tweak my hair cut and color
9. Finally read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the Hunger Games
10. Get a second opinion on my eyesight, or lack thereof
11. Get away for a girls’ weekend

Results are in, and I have knocked off items 1 and 2, have concrete plans for 11, and am working on 7. Not too shabby, I think!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wherein we revisit my 2010 resolutions...

Hmmm...happy March!

Sometime in January, I belatedly thought to address my little note about why I even started this little blog.

So, here I am now, adding this little update for 2012: Still cooking, cleaning much less, exploring more via internet than anywhere else, but always attempting to nurture my family and trying to figure out when and how to say "no" to some of the demands on all of us.

I think the idea, two years ago, was to take some time for myself and explore what I do, try new things (like blogging and knitting), and maybe share it with a few interested parties.

I can report the knitting as a complete bust, but I am more mindful of cooking and trying new projects in the kitchen. And that the blog isn't complete, totally dead. Yet.