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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Littlest Pastry Chef

I remember standing on a step stool at the end of the counter watching my granny make pies, cookies and other tasty goodies. Hopefully my kids carry the same happy memories of creating delicious treats.
Keeli had a great time playing with a small handful of left over pie crust dough, a bowl of flour and the rolling pin for nearly an hour after our project was completed. She thinks the cinnamon sugar cookies we make from the remaining crust dough were "hers."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pie Anyone?

Rick proudly proclaims that his Grandma Bert makes the best apple pie in the world. And, wasn't I suprised to learn that she takes them out of the freezer, bakes and enjoys them.

They aren't mass produced and boxed. They are homemade pies. She just freezes them to allow us to enjoy them year round.

It has become a tradition for us to spend a weekend or two making pies for the freezer to provide a few sweet things for the winter months. We started with these lovely apples. They are a hybrid variety of the traditional Golden Delicious apple and were available at a nice price at the farmers market.
Next we prepare the pie crust using Grandma Bert's not so secret recipe. This crust is heavy, flaky and sweet, perfect for fruit pies.

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups shortening
2 Tbps. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
Roughly mix the dry ingredients together and cut in shortening.
In a small bowl mix together 3/4 cup lukewarm water, 1 large egg, 1 Tbsp. vinegar.
Make a bowl in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in liquid. Fold together until a stiff dough forms.
This recipe makes enough for 5 individual crusts and can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen until needed.

Now we are ready for the fun stuff. Peeling and coring all in a twist. The kids really enjoy this part. We peeled at least 15 pounds of apples.

Then, we sliced them into smaller pieces, added some sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter for the perfect pie filling.
Then, we put the tops on. The girls got fancy with a couple of the pies using apple cookie cutters. Most of our pies are just plain, functional and tasty. This pie will reside on the bottom shelf of the freezer with its brothers in a nice plastic bag.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

For the Love of Pears

The farmer's market has been a treasure trove of fresh fruit. We have purchased four 20-pound boxes of pears from a Wenatchee area orchardist. For the first few days they have this vibrant green color.
We place them on newspapers in the cool, semi-dark basement and one week later they are this beautiful, ripe yellow. Some have a nice touch of salmon pink to their skin.
Then, it's peeling, paring, cleaning and packing. After about a half hour in the canner, we have some lovely fruit to enjoy later this winter.

I also had to spend part of the day "reprocessing" a batch of jelly that didn't set. I've never made jelly before on my own, we're usually the types to enjoy strawberry and raspberry freezer jam. But, this year I wanted to make jelly. The juice for this jelly is 50% sour cherry and 50% plum. It came out a really pretty color.
On a crazy side note, does anyone else think that once you halve a pear the seeds and core resemble popular drawings of aliens? Those little seeds look like their almond shaped solid colored eyes and the core is sort of tapered to the bottom like a chin. Too strange, or maybe I've been in the kitchen too long.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Sweetness Factor

Sweet corn...this will be yummy in our tummies during the winter months.
We were recently invited to pick sweet corn from a local organically managed field. The corn has fantastic flavor (I sampled far too much while processing) and every ear was full of yellow, plump, juicy kernels.

All our little pickers were out in the field pulling ears from the corn stalks. Of course, one picker did the majority of the work in the field, but he doesn't complain too much and works relatively cheap.

After about two hours of picking and building a pile of corn in our truck bed, we headed for home - where my work would begin.

I spent two days blanching, cutting, freezing and vacuum packing corn for our freezer. Corn is one of the few things I refuse to preserve by canning. Canned corn isn't as visually appealing or as tasty as frozen corn.
We can't wait to enjoy it as a simple side dish with melted butter and in Mexican corn bread and corn chowder and meatball soup and corn pudding and ... ...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Old Time Threshing

We commonly see all sorts of harvesting equipment from potato and onion diggers to grain combines and manual laborers who pick the fruit and other vegetables we enjoy.

Sunday we had a rare treat. We came upon an old time threshing, complete with steam engine, threshing machine and cut and bundled wheat.

Threshing means: to separate seed from (a harvested plant) mechanically. The word "thresh" is actually Old English and Old German and dates back to before the 12th century.

The Case steam engine is connected to the threshing maching with a wide belt. Workers took bundled wheat from a flatbed trailer and loaded it into the threshing machine.

This machine takes the grain from this:

to this:

We all had a great time enjoying the heat, dust, flying chaf and noise.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Perfect 3

Happy Birthday to Keeli! She turns 3 today.
We spent the Labor Day holiday at the aquatic center, one of Keeli's favorite places. She was actually born on Labor Day, delivered just minutes before midnight making herself a holiday baby.
She is growing up to be a fantastic little girl. Her favorite toys are her half dozen baby dolls, Tatum's too small clogging shoes and anyone's cell phone. She enjoys eating broccoli, steak and anything made with chocolate. She is still petite. She weighs 24 pounds and wears a size 2T clothing and 7 shoes. Obviously all the steak and chocolate isn't going directly to her waistline!

Happy Birthday to our littlest girly girl!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Day of School ... Remembered

Tatum was asked to write a short paragraph about her favorite part of her first day of third grade. It went as follows (her spelling, grammar and puncutation were left unchecked):

"Seeng my friends and seeng the greates teacher in the world!! Anoter is getting to work on math and sience. Plus the plaing on the play ground with my friends!! :) and seing my 1st grade and 2nd grade teachers. and getting back on the bus and paing fund games in miss.skidmores class."

I remember 3rd grade. It was down a set of red stairs in the basement of the school building, right next to the principal's office and across the hallway from the boiler room. Mrs. Farnam was my teacher and she liked to hug her students. She posted poems for us to memorize and recite before the entire class. We used stick pins to attach our papers in the upper left hand corner rather than staples. We learned cursive, but could not write with ink pens. Our windows looked out onto the playground and we longed to go outside and play when we saw the legs of other students running by enjoying their recess.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday Golf

We spent our Sunday afternoon at the minigolf course. Tatum and Rikard take this game very seriously - they try their darn-dest to get a better score than their dad.

Despite their fierce concentration and choosing balls in their favorite colors, Tatum and Rikard's scores were both 100+. They did keep the ball in play, but those uphill ramps really mess with their judgement on how hard/soft to putt.
There isn't a true snack bar at the minigolf park, just a couple vending machines. The soda machine must be nearly 40 years old, it screams of the late 1960s. We skipped the soda and went straight to Dairy Queen for ice cream treats.

At home, it was time to make dinner. This is our fantastic Sunday chicken dinner, a butterfly chicken cooked on the barbecue with some special south of the border spices.