Peach Pie

When NanaPapaAuntMaggie&Evelyn came to visit, we were wanting to watch some Downton Abbey re-runs on PBS. The PBS station in Pittsburgh was playing those re-runs but the PBS station in DC was playing The Great British Baking Show. I had never seen it. I loved it!

One night shortly after their visit I went to the bathroom before Sean and I settled into TV for the night, and I came back to find The Great British Baking Show all cued up on Netflix! I skipped to the family room, hugged and kissed my husband, and have been delighting in the show ever since. We watch a lot of Sean shows. I mostly like them, but I just don’t have a lot of shows that make sense to watch with Sean (I spare him the torture of RHONYC…it’s kind of embarrassing that I love that show anyway).

It just so happened that the day Beth sent me the peach pie recipe (because even though I had been instructed to get it, I totally forgot to take the picture myself) was the day we watched the pie episode from season 2!

They kept talking about soggy bottoms on this episode so I was curious. How does one avoid this? I want to be really clear here that Beth doesn’t have a soggy bottom. She makes a perfect pie. Really. But I had no idea this was a thing and that there were tactics to conquer it! So I wanted to try a few things. Plus, this recipe is border-line written like a technical challenge.

How do you slice the peaches? How much butter are we dotting? Are you mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl first? 15-30 minutes on 400 is a huge range! Unlike the technical challenge, our recipe’s author was very helpful. She got us through it.

First, this is how you slice the peaches. This is not how I would have done it. Sean knew and did a lot of this part.

Actually, Sean did a lot. It was funny how I had to come home with this recipe like I would be in charge of making this all happen, but he really did a lot. Wes helped too. And then made lemonade out of our left over lemons.

Beth told us she only used 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of sugar, and we went with 1/2. Sean stuck a teaspoon of cinnamon in, and I totally forgot the butter. So we did play with the recipe a bit. Then to combat the soggy bottom I did an egg wash on the bottom crust layer before the filling went in and stuck a baking stone into the oven as it preheated and put the pie plate on that. Both were tips I sort of picked up during The Great British Baking Show but confirmed here.

I will also admit that I did not make my own crust this time. I know. I bought one in case my second attempt at the cherry pie crust didn’t work. Since we had it I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Definitely would not have scored very high in the technical challenge with that cracked crust. The bottom crust was also not perfect. It wouldn’t say it was soggy, but it wasn’t the perfect golden firm bottom I’ve seen on the show. I’m still very curious about how to achieve the perfect bottom crust. Anyway, not a bad looking first attempt at this very important pie recipe.

I’m itching to do more baking out of my comfort zone. I want to try macaroons, but also think having some madeleines made for Madeline’s first birthday would be fun. I also have an email with bread baking tips from my Uncle Don. He makes great bread, which he shared with us at Deep Creek. I’m so intimated by yeast.

July 4th

How was your 4th? Ours was very quiet and I’m still going to write this post as a holiday post, but it was more just like a regular weekend night over here.

Sean made burgers for our July 4th feast. He grinds his own meat and for this burger we have ribs, hanger steak, and veal. If you have the time and desire to grind your own meat I highly recommend it! It makes a big difference.

And while he did that the rest of us were playing chase and investigating boxes….

fishing off the stairs….

(Do you see Madeline trying to climb up the stairs down there?! Yeah, we need to find that baby gate again.)

and building pirate ships/voyager boats (voyager as in Moana).

This was the first day of Madeline’s Hand Foot and Mouth, although I didn’t realize it was Hand Foot and Mouth. We thought it was a fever and some other rash. It always amazes me how curious and active socks kids can be. We had initially intended for everyone to have burgers, but because of her fever Madeline went to bed and we had burgers with just Wes.

I had meant to make a cherry pie for the 4th, but it didn’t work out. I’ll keep it short but between cutting my finger while making my first round of pie dough and a sick kid, the pie didn’t happen until Friday.

Pie crust is something I would really like to master. I did okay this time but added too much water. And obviously burnt my crust. We used these canned cherries and are a favorite among Sean’s family and you can’t get here on the East Coast, so Rich and Beth brought some to us!

Sean and I want to start a social media network called “Instagross” where people post their real life pictures of the burnt crusts and sloppy plating. I love the inspiration I can get on Instagram but am so tired of the perfection. Just post some burnt crushes already! I should probably just get off of it, huh?

Anyway, happy belated 4th! Hope you saw some fireworks! I think we are still many years away from going to see fireworks, but that is something I look forward to. I’ll just keep practicing my pie crust until then.

Second Date Salmon

I search “second date salmon” on this blog pretty often and it always surprises me that I come up with nothing.  Second date salmon is our special occasion go-to.  We make it for anniversaries, birthdays, and for friends when we entertained at night more.  So when I requested it for my birthday the other week and again searched “second date salmon” and again was surprised it wasn’t already recorded here, I decided to remedy the situation.

On our second date, Sean suggested we tour the Embassies.  They have an open house day every year.  What a great suggestion, I thought.  Who is this guy?  We did that for a little bit.  It wasn’t quite as fun as we hoped but we weren’t ready for the date to end so we played pool.

We played best out of three, maybe, and the loser had to cook dinner.  Sean lost.  Sean’s really good at pool.  He will not admit to swinging the game.  Sean’s really good at pool.

So we went to Whole Foods where, without looking at his phone once or skipping a beat or displaying any hesitation, he pulls all of these ingredients into his basket.  Who is this guy?

Sean worked at a restaurant called TenPenh in college.  TenPenh was so great.  I went there with my parents during a restaurant week and had my first experience with Som.  The three of us picked very different dishes and that Som picked the exact right one for all of us!  It was amazing!  Anyway, Sean ate their salmon dish and wanted to recreate it at home.  So he worked at it and worked at it and finally got it.  To be fair he’s still working on it.  He switched from green beans on the side to baby bok choy not that long ago.

So on our second date we eat this very delicious and amazing dish that Sean whips up without ever looking at a recipe.  Who is this guy?

The man I get to call my husband now.  Who makes this really great dish twice or three times a year.  It’s my favorite food ritual in our family.

Second date salmon is wasabi mashed potatoes, spicy Szechuwan baby bok choy (but originally green beans), salmon, and hoisin butter sauce.  Garnished with as many black and white sesame seeds and chives as your heart desires (and in Sean’s case, that’s a lot).

Birthday Cake!

IMG_1572June 2nd was my birthday.  I’m 34 this year.  At some point in my childhood my mom started to make me Lady Diana’s birthday cake for my birthday.  I must have already declared a love for strawberries and she must have found the recipe in a magazine and decided to give it a try and a tradition was born!

Happy Birthday!

From my count, this is me on my 10th birthday.  This birthday party was very memorable to me.  It was just maybe three or four of my friends and we had a tea party with ginger ale as tea, grenadine as cream, and cherries as sugar.  My mom is so clever!  I remember making the invitations with her using lace as a stencil for one side.  I also really loved this outfit (that skirt was perfect for twirling), and I think this was my last birthday in this house.

I haven’t had this cake in a really long time.  I tried to make it last year during a naptime.  It seems pretty obvious when reading the instructions, but I missed that I should have used the whisk attachment instead of the paddle attachment for the cake part and totally messed this cake up.  I must have had a long week or just really wanted to eat this cake because I remember being very, very devastated that it didn’t work out.  But I tried again this year.  I was worried to let Wes help me because I didn’t want another year to go by without this cake, but we did it together.

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Sometimes baking with Wes is more successful than other times.  He dropped a whole egg on the floor this time.  This was still a successful baking session overall, and while cleaning up an egg in the grand scheme of life is such a small thing, it doesn’t take away from the frustration in that moment.  But the cake turned out this year!

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This was the first time in Wes’s lifetime that I made a whole cake for a birthday.  So I got to introduce him to the joy that is cake for breakfast!  I love birthday cake for breakfast.  It’s definitely one of the best things about a birthday.

Lady Diana’s birthday is July 1 and she would have turned 56 this year.  I’m not sure you need an excuse to make this cake, but if you’re looking for one that’s as good as any.

Strawberry Picking

Wes and I went strawberry picking last Friday with our friends Erin and Eilley.  I was so excited to go because Daniel Tiger goes strawberry picking in an episode and Wes really likes strawberries.  Wes was pretty excited to go until he fully understood the conditions.  Unfortunately it rained most of the week leading up to this outing and it was very, very muddy.

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This is Wes giving me a status report on the mud before we even got to the worst part.

Honestly I didn’t think Wes minded mud.  So I learned an important lesson about my son’s preferences.  He HATES mud.  Or, he hates mud when he’s wearing the only water/all-purpose summer shoe I have for him, Natives, which have small holes in them.  I tried to talk about what happened on our car ride home and I feel clear it was the shoes but unclear of the specific details surrounding the problem of the mud and shoes combination.  I think the holes might be it.  I think he needs rain boots for a future activity like this.

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Wes did pick some berries.  When he was standing in a less muddy spot, I think he enjoyed finding the red berries and putting them in his basket.  If it weren’t so muddy, I can imagine him getting really into it.  But this time there was a lot of crying about mud.

Initially I tried to talk him through the mud and explain where he should step so he could enjoy this outing more.  I gave up when nothing seemed to work and told him (in a kind way) to stand in the grass if he didn’t want to be in the mud.  Because I didn’t drive an hour to go home after 10 minutes with two strawberries.  So he stood in the grass.  He also explored the grassy area and watched the big kids and ate maybe a few too many strawberries before we paid for them.  He was pretty patient while I kept picking.  I had a lot of fun and was so happy with my full bucket!  Thanks for your patience, Wes.

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Can you spot him?

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See that sweet cheese face again?  My friend Erin took this picture and when she sent she commented that it almost looks like he had a good time.  So don’t let the sweet cheese face fool you.  (He also looks 5 here, right?!)

Erin sent me the recipe she planned to make with her strawberries, Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins.  They looked so good that we made a batch too!  I made ours mini muffins so I could freeze them and use them for Wes’s breakfasts.  They are delicious!  I substituted one cup of all-purpose flour of a cup of whole wheat flour but kept everything the same.  Erin told me she was planning to swap in applesauce for the oil.  We both opted for mini chocolate chips instead of regular chocolate chips.  You could maybe half the amount of chocolate chips if you were looking for a little more strawberry flavor.  Personally, I will probably always make these will a full cup because that’s what’s important to me.  Just some ideas for you if you decide to give these a try yourself.

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Cracking eggs is Wes’s favorite!  Some shells usually need to be rescued but cracking eggs makes him so happy!  (Oh, and he wiped his eggy hands on his white shirt, in case you’re wondering about that outfit change.)

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Not surprisingly, they are the new breakfast favorite.  They are a very tasty muffin, so I do recommend them if you’re looking to do something with your strawberries.  And next year I’ll watch the weather more closely and plan our strawberry picking outing for a dry week.

Family Dinner

I’ve been waiting for and worrying about family dinners pretty much all of Wes’s life.  Family dinners are so critical, every article seems to shout.  The root of so many important life skills!  But my child needs to start his bedtime process at 6:30 p.m. (6:00 p.m. if there’s a bath involved!).  I can’t eat dinner every night at 5:30 p.m., especially if Sean’s not home yet.  But we’ve had a shift!  Wes seems to be ready for a 7:30 p.m. bedtime which means everything shifts up half an hour.  I probably won’t eat with him on weeknights, but we can have weekend family dinners at home!  We’re so excited!  A few Sundays ago we had our first in house family dinner and we did it in true Sean fashion.  With homemade ravioli that also involved roasting a pie pumpkin for the filling.

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Sometimes I play with image order to better tell my story, but this is exactly how things happened.  Sean worked the whole time, but Wes would work a little, play a little, work a little, play a little.  And there were times where things got a little tough with a small child running around the kitchen, but overall it was lots of fun.  We played a Frank Sinatra Pandora station to fit with out Italian theme, and Wes and I occasionally danced to keep little fingers away from Daddy’s projects.

Luckily we had brunch with a friend earlier in the day and we mentioned our pasta making.  She asked us about our flour and told us we really needed semolina in order to be successful.  So even though we were already pushing nap time at the end of brunch, we made a quick detour and found both semolina and “00” flour, which was the flour Sean’s recipe called for.  We only used semolina this time and we really happy with the dough.  Next time we’ll try “00” and see what that does.

img_7053img_7058img_7065Very sadly, the only person that liked our pumpkin ravioli with sage butter sauce was me.  Sean ate his but wished he’d gone with a different filling.  Wes is just a toddler and food can be so hit or miss for him.  At least he tried it, I guess.  It can be so hard not to make the dinner table a battleground when so much love and effort goes into the food.  We didn’t fight, but it didn’t take away from the disappointment that he barely touched it.

That’s the before and after of Wes’s plate.  I know you doesn’t look it, but he did it the tiniest amount.

I’m still calling this a success!  Because not only did it happen, but I’m already thinking, why did you worry about the lack of family dinners?  Of course Wes wasn’t going to go to bed at 6:30 forever, and, no, he’s not ruined because he missed two years of family dinners!

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

Sunday was National Ice Cream Day, did you know?  I love a random National Something Day.  I’m trying to remember to mark these random National Something Days on my calendar so we can celebrate them each year now that Wes is here.  (We didn’t celebrate this year but I know we will eventually celebrate National Hotdog Day on June 14th and we’ll also figure out how to make Read Across America Day on March 2nd fun in our house.)

So in honor of National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, Wes and I made some!  We made this recipe for Honey Peach Ice Cream from Yummy Toddler Food.

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I’m sure you have all kinds of thoughts about the fact that he’s naked and the burner’s on.  That’s okay.  We talked about this a lot and no one was burned.

Wes and I have baked together three times (I’m deciding ice cream making counts as baking here).  It is a real lesson in patience.  What I thought was going to be a lesson in patience for him, turned out to be very much a lesson in patience for me.  Sean made him a tower for helping in the kitchen, and Wes really enjoys seeing what’s happening and helping with the mixing and the dumping and the button pushing.

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Button pushing is definitely the best part.  I have learned in our short time baking together that things involving the food processor are a much, much better experience for us than things involving just a bowl and spoon.  Because Wes wants to do it and everything goes everywhere when there’s a bowl and a spoon.

We cooked our peaches before nap time and churned our ice cream after.

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Sneaking a taste!

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Then it was barely ready in time for an after dinner treat, but we had some anyway.  This is not the ice cream of your life.  Even with the extra honey, this is nowhere near sweet enough for me, and I wish I got more peach flavor.  Also, because I worked with a toddler I went too slow and our final result is too icy/crumbly.  But it doesn’t matter because Wes likes eating and he really liked helping.  And while it is stressful, I really like doing things like this with him.

Now go mark your calendars so you’re ready next year!

A Lesson in Popovers

During Aunt Annie’s party during our 4th of July weekend, my mom mentioned that Aunt Annie would be making popovers on Sunday morning and that hers are the best.  I almost let the team down and let my sleepiness get the better of me, but I made it and made several batches of popovers with Aunt Annie.

In my first popover post, I mentioned that Daisy Nana, the former authority on popovers in our family, used custard cups for her popovers.  So does Aunt Annie.  Aside from custard cups, there are four key things Aunt Annie does differently than I did when I made mine:

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1) she really, really makes sure her cups are greased so the popovers don’t have to be carved out with a knife,

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2) she uses a ratio of 1:1:3, meaning 1 cup flower, 1 cup milk, and 3 eggs,

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3) she uses the hot oven method,

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4) she taps the popovers before officially pulling them out of the oven to make sure they sound hollow and therefore aren’t too doughy.

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The results were wonderful!  That third egg really made a difference!  We let these popovers cook for 35 minutes, and Sean and I agreed they were great.  We drove home on Sunday after this lesson and later that evening I got a call from Aunt Annie.  She asked if our drive was fine but she really was calling because she wanted to make sure I knew 45 minutes probably would have been better.  How cute is that?

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I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but we moved a bit when I was a kid.  While I didn’t cook with Aunt Annie growing up, I spent a lot of time in this kitchen because we’d have our meals at the table in it.  Aunt Annie and Uncle Mark have done a lot of work to their house, but, aside form the oven (I think), this kitchen has been the same as long as I can remember.  So I love this kitchen.

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Maggie is currently avoiding dairy, and Maggie love, loves popovers.  She made a batch with almond milk and it turned out perfect!  So if you’re also avoiding dairy, fear not!  You too can have popovers!

Here’s Aunt Annie’s recipe:

1 cup flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 400.  Mix all ingredients together and pour batter into very, very well greased custard cups or muffin tins.  Aunt Annie does Crisco with flour.  Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, but check about about 35-40 minutes to see if the popovers sound hollow when tapped.  When ready, serve hot.

I have some experimenting to do myself now that I know I should have given these guys an extra 10 minutes!

Dinner Party

Dinner party 012Occasionally Sean will whip up a special meal for just us two, but he really likes it best when his audience is more than just one (and a biased one at that).  The last time we had someone over for dinner was January, so he was really itching to cook something big and elaborate.  So he was in his element and really happy to host some friends this past Saturday.

Last June when we visited my cousin, Nicole, and her boyfriend, Frankie, they were kind enough to give us a cookbook from étoile.  Sean pulled out what felt like half our collection of cookbooks to prepare for this event, but it was the étoile cookbook he ended up using exclusively for his dinner plan.  And planned he did!Dinner party 021

I’m sure it would be helpful here to talk about how he planned, and the strategies cooks who know what they’re doing use to time their meals properly, but I have no idea how that magic works.  Sometimes I ask Sean questions as I prepare for a blog post, but an interview with him slipped my mind this time.  I just know that for this dinner Sean timed everything exactly right.  He usually gets it pretty close but this time really was magic and seemingly easy.

Dinner party 022Not pictured here on our makeshift bar is my sparkling cider.  That stuff is delicious.  Do you remember?  If it’s been awhile, you should go get yourself some.  Celebrate hump day this week with a glass of sparkling.  It’s going to make your week better, I promise.

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When Sean’s family threw a recipe shower for me as a bride-to-be I walked away with probably four different recipes for spiced nuts.  They’re big fans.  I’m a convert now, too.Dinner party 027

I was nervous for Sean when he said he wanted to do a Parmesan soufflé.  I’ve never made a soufflé before and they seem difficult and fragile.  Sean did two test runs leading up to our party, and this third one was wonderful!  Way to conquer soufflé, Fave!

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We finished with braised veal cheeks with celery root puree.  Have you ever seen a celery root?  They are weird and much larger than I ever expected was necessary to grow celery stalks.

The food was good, the company was better, and Aiden even let these strangers pet him!  A big success all around.  And I think Sean’s itch was just made itchier, really.

Popovers

Remember back in February when I lamented not paying more attention to my mom making popovers?  Well, I finally made steps towards mastering the popover, with my mom’s help.  Last week she sent an email to my sister, one of her brothers, and me with an article about popovers and a recipe.  “We should make them in honor of Daisy Nana this weekend!” she wrote.  So I did!

Daisy Nana was my mother’s grandmother.  I don’t know how my other family members remember her, but I remember her as someone who started the love of popovers in our family and created the fear of the double-ding bats in small misbehaving children.  (No, I don’t know what the double-ding bats are and I think the point is the idea of them is scary enough that you want to be so good that you never have to know.)

Popovers were a special occasion breakfast in my family.  Mostly for Maggie’s birthday but also for the occasional holiday or special visitor.  For being a special occasion breakfast, they are super easy!

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There’s a hot oven method and a cold oven method to popovers.  Daisy Nana, my mom, and the recipe my mom sent all use the cold oven method.  Daisy Nana’s recipe was so close to the recipe in the article so I just used the recipe in the article.  I liked that the article called for an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  We like our salt in our household.  There were a few other differences between the two recipes.  First, Daisy Nana turned her oven down to 350 degrees for the last five minutes and this recipe called for the oven to remain at 450 degrees for the last five minutes.  Second, Daisy Nana used custard cups but I used muffin tins.  My mom uses muffin tins, too.

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Doesn’t all the sunshine in these photos make you so happy?  Oh, Spring, keep doing your best to get here and stay here!

I was pretty happy with the way these turned out, although they didn’t really pop.  I need more practice.  The next time I make popovers, I’m going to follow Daisy Nana’s approach to oven temperature, but stick with the extra salt and muffin tins.  Here’s her recipe:

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together and pour batter into greased custard cups or muffin tin.  Place in a cold oven.  Bake at 450 for 25 minutes.  Reduce eat to 350 for 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Puncture to let steam escape.  Serve hot.