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An easier crust

I work for a very small non-profit with  a personnel policy that is ad hoc at best.  After sitting at my desk alone for an hour and a half I realized that just maybe we recognized today as a holiday (we don’t recognize a lot of holidays, so it’s unusual at best to have the day off).  Once confirmed I headed home to spend this snowy day baking.

I have a bag of mealy apples sitting around, so I decided that an apple pie is in order.  Apple pie is pretty simple to make, aside from the crust.  If you can perfect the art of a good pie crust though, it is super brag worthy and impressive!  I have used the following recipe for a while now, it’s the easiest crust recipe I’ve encountered.  You can use a food processor or a good blender.  I have a Ninja blender, which I love.  If you’re in the market for a blender, I highly recommend it, and it’s less than $100 at Bed, Bath and Beyond if you use your giant blue 20% coupon, so it won’t break the bank.  My Ninja is different than the link above, I couldn’t find the model I have, but I assume they all work great.

This recipe is good for a 9 inch lattice pie.

Food Processor Pie Crust

  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Divide the butter into 6 tablespoons and 3 tablespoons and cut up into cubes.  Freeze the 3 tablespoons and refrigerate the 6 tablespoons for at least 30 minutes.  Combine the flour, salt and baking powder and freeze for 30 minutes.

Place flour mixture in food processor (I use my blender) and pulse to mix.  Add the 6 tablespoons refrigerated butter and pulse about 6 times, until it resembles a course meal.

I like to get all my ingredients ready and set up so I can quickly process the dough.

I like to get all my ingredients ready and set up so I can quickly process the dough.

This is what the dough looks like when I say "coarse meal."  This is before processing the frozen butter.

This is what the dough looks like when I say “coarse meal.” This is before processing the frozen butter.

Add the frozen butter and pulse briefly until frozen butter is the size of peas.

Add vinegar and ice water and pulse 6 times.  It will still be very crumbly but hold together when you pinch it.  Divide dough into 1/3 and 2/3, work into balls and flatten into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.  It’s important not to work the dough too much, you don’t want to melt the butter.  The chunks of butter is what makes the crust flakey.

This is the final dough, with the frozen butter processed.  Note how crumbly it still is.

This is the final dough, with the frozen butter processed. Note how crumbly it still is.

Work that crumbly dough into 1/3 and 2/3 discs and throw in the fridge.

Work that crumbly dough into 1/3 and 2/3 discs and throw in the fridge.

Prepare pie filling (recipe below) and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out the 2/3 dough disc to to fit the bottom of your pie plate and roll out the 1/3 disc and cut into strips. I usually have to smush together leftover bits and pieces, refrigerate and re-roll to get enough dough to make enough strips.  I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated way, but I make do.

If your dough cracks around the sides, just smush together with your fingers.

If your dough cracks around the sides, just smush together with your fingers.

Flour your work surface and rolling pin liberally, this stuff sticks!

Flour your work surface and rolling pin liberally, this stuff sticks!

Add pie mixture and and create your lattice over the top.  If your strips fall apart, wet your fingers a little and smush together.

Almost done!

Almost done!

Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Let it cool for a couple of hours.

Apple Pie Filling

  • 6-7 cups thinly sliced apples
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (I sometimes leave this out if I find I don’t have nutmeg)
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and place in prepared pie crust. Most apple pie recipes call for a mixture of tart and sweet apples.  I use whatever I have lying around, or in my backyard (I have an apple tree, no idea what type of apples, but they are pretty sweet).

Voila!  Maybe not the best looking pie, but man is it tasty!

Voila! Maybe not the best looking pie, but man is it tasty!

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Crockpot Cashew Chicken

I have a love-hate relationship with crockpot recipes.  They seem so convenient, and the idea of coming home to a fully cooked meal sounds great, but nine times out of ten there’s more work than I realize going into them.  Aside from the cutting and chopping, usually you have to brown the meat, then there’s the cooking times.  If you work full-time it’s difficult to do a crockpot meal that cooks for less than 9 hours (unless you have a crockpot with a timer, fancy pants).   For this reason, I do my crockpot recipes on the weekend.  This recipe that I found on Pinterest came from Key Ingredient.

Cashew Chicken

  • 2 lbs Chicken, cut up into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup cashews

Coat chicken in flour and brown in the oil.  Put chicken in crockpot, combine the rest of the ingredients except for the cashews and pour over the chicken.  Cook for 3-4 hours on low, stir in cashews and serve.

If you don’t have rice wine vinegar you can sub apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.  I also like to put more cashews in than the recipe calls for.

Served over rice with some grilled veggies as a side.

Served over rice with some grilled veggies as a side.

I love this recipe!  It’s a crowd pleaser, total comfort food and great when reheated.  There isn’t a lot to it, not a ton of prep work, other than browning the chicken.  This one is in my regular rotation.

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Pregnancy Products

Companies like to create all types of stupid sh*t marketed to pregnant women.  Being as I have limited disposable income and live in the middle of nowhere, this keeps me from buying tons of said stupid pregnancy sh*t.  I make do.

I have made a few purchases, here’s what has and hasn’t worked for me.

Belly Bands

BeBand

Is this woman even pregnant?

I got the Target version, BeBand, one white and one black.  The premise is simple, and great in theory. Rather than buying maternity pants, slip these bad boys on over your unbuttoned pants and you’re good to go!  Didn’t really work that way.  They rolled down, you could see the unbuttoned pants through the belly band, they were uncomfortable and I was constantly tugging at them.  I will try again with them when I’m post partum, but I wouldn’t recommend them.  I also tried the ole ponytail holder through the button, that didn’t work out too well for me either.

Bio-Oil

At about $28 a bottle, it's a little on the pricier side of life.

At about $28 a bottle, it’s a little on the pricier side of life.

At the beginning of my pregnancy I was terrified of stretch marks and wanted to do whatever I could to prevent them (I’ve since moved past my fear and realize that I will most likely get them, no big deal).  Everyone and their cousin said to get Bio-Oil.  I used it through one bottle.  I don’t have any stretch marks, but I’ve since learned that they are entirely genetic and probably wouldn’t appear until the very end of my pregnancy, if not after giving birth.  Bio-Oil is fine, the smell was innocuous enough, it didn’t stain my clothing, but I don’t know if it did anything.  Kind of expensive too, I’ve since switched over to regular ole lotion.  I think the oil/lotion on the belly and breasts help more with itching than anything.  And there will be itching.

Pre-Natal Yoga

While not a product, pre-natal yoga is something that I purchased strictly for pregnancy and I love it!  I was never into yoga pre-pregnancy, as I have the flexibility of a 90 year old man and felt insecure in classes I have taken, instructors seemed to spend a good chunk of the class correcting whatever I was doing wrong.  At any rate, I do yoga once a week for an hour and a half.  Not a ton of time, but I do think it has helped me remain relatively ache-free and mobile during my pregnancy.  At the very least it is a super relaxing time that I set aside for me and my baby where I can just concentrate on my body and relaxing.  I’m a yoga convert and plan on continuing post partum.  It’s also a great way to meet other pregnant women, especially if you live in a rural area with not a lot of resources.  I take my classes at the hospital, and I am getting reimbursed for the classes through my health insurance.  CALL YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER when you find out you are pregnant.  I have Blue Cross Blue Shield and they have a fantastic program for pregnant women, Better Beginnings, that provides all types of resources, reimbursements and free stuff.  I never knew about it until I called to see what my maternity benefits were, they don’t exactly advertise it.

Maternity Bras

Now that Giselle is done with VS, she should really look into Fruit of the Loom.

Now that Giselle is done with VS, she should really look into Fruit of the Loom.

Bras are expensive.  I own dozens of bras but only wear a handful of my tried and true (kind of like jeans).  Your breasts will change throughout your pregnancy, so your bras are going to have to change.  Being as there are no stores nearby to try on multiple bras, I would have to order online, which I just can’t do with a bra.  Rather than spend a ton of money and time finding maternity bras, I bought a bunch of Fruit of the Loom sports bras in larger sizes, and they have worked out great.  Are they flattering?  No.  Are the comfortable?  Heck yeah.  Cheap?  Heck yeah.  Save your money, don’t buy expensive bras that might only last a couple months.

Eucerin Redness Relief

There's a whole line, I didn't bother with it, just use the lotion.

There’s a whole line, I didn’t bother with it, just use the lotion.

Oh, that pregnancy glow.  And by glow I mean rosacea.  I got it pretty bad during my pregnancy.  Multiple people told me to go to the dermatologist to get a prescription for Finacea, however I didn’t have rosacea before my pregnancy, so I’m going to bank on it going away after I give birth.  Instead I started using Eucerin Redness Relief Daily lotion. It is tinged green, akin to a mint green, and it does make a difference.  It doesn’t do anything to heal the redness and bumps, but it does minimize the look of it quite a bit.  I use this and then put some primer and then Clinique BB cream on top (and if I’m feeling fancy some contour, highlighter and powder) and I do look good.  I get lots of compliments about my pregnancy skin, little do they know I’m wearing a metric crap ton more makeup than usual! Magic!

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Kielbasa Pasta

This recipe I found on Pinterest I made originally when my Dad was visiting.   I wanted to make something “dude friendly” with ingredients I had on hand.  And yes, I tend to have kielbasa on hand (insert joke here), don’t judge me, it’s a super food*.

The original recipe  is from Budget Bytes, they call it Creamy Spinach and Sausage Pasta. I don’t know why they call it “creamy,” as there isn’t a cream sauce, just some cheese sprinkled on top.  It would make more sense to call it Cheesy Spinach and Sausage Pasta.  Semantics.  I used kielbasa instead of sausage and doubled the amount used (because one can never have enough kielbasa in their life). I also used pepper jack cheese to spice things up a bit more.  It was gooood.  The men were pleased, I was pleased.  I just made this again for dinner last night.  For your viewing pleasure…

Kielbasa Pasta, nature's super food.

Kielbasa Pasta, nature’s super food.

*Kielbasa is totally not a super food, I made that up.

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Rhubarb Bars

When we first moved into our home it was the beginning of Winter, so Spring was pretty exciting because we had never seen the yard in full bloom and we had no idea what we had, flora wise.  One of the first things to arrive was rhubarb, and I will readily admit I had NO idea what it was when it started growing.  Look at it, it’s like a rotten tomato, can you blame my confusion?

Weeding is not really my forte.

Weeding is not really my forte.

At any rate, I had a ton of rhubarb, and I had never cooked with rhubarb before, so I searched on Pinterest and found this pinned recipe from Lara Ferroni’s blog: Rhubarb Bars.  I chose this recipe because look how gorgeous:

The recipe was a lot of work, it’s actually a two part recipe (one for the curd and another for the bars) and it didn’t come out nearly as beautiful as the pictures on the website (Lara Ferroni is a food photographer, so it would be hard to compete).  I admit I cheated some and added food coloring to the curd.  If you enjoy the art of cooking, you’ll like making these.  If you’re cooking just to get to the final product, maaaybe skip this one.

Sorry for the lack of pics of my final product, I made them before the blog.  There was a lot of work involved, and I ended up with a lot of curd (which I really didn’t know what to do with, honestly, what do you do with curd). The bars were delicious, and pretty impressive.  This is a great recipe if you have time (and rhubarb) on your hands. I would consider it a success!

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Pinterest, I can’t quit you.

Like many “hip” things, I was totally late to the Pinterest party, I’m not an early adopter of anything (if it wasn’t for my work providing a cell phone I would still have a flip phone).  I’m also pretty sure Pinterest isn’t “hip,” nor is the use of the word “hip.”  Mind you, I have raised the roof within the past year, I’m not exactly cutting edge or “with it.”  Excuse my excessive use of quotation marks, I swear I don’t do the air quotation marks when I talk.  Get off my lawn.

I digress.  I have spent countless hours, that otherwise would have been spent watching tv, pinning.  Actually I pin while I watch tv, so that’s not correct, I’m a multi-tasker, I get things done (Americorps style – certain people will get that reference).

Pinterest has brought me many delicious recipes that are in my rotation, as well as some total bombs.  Don’t trust people when they say the recipe is “the most amazing, husband pleasing recipe EVARRR,” it never is, and you shouldn’t base your recipe choices by what’s going to please your man the most.  In my experience, if it has bacon wrapped in meat, wrapped in bacon, it will please your man.  The equation is that simple.

I will be posting my favorite (and least favorite recipes) up in here, so keep coming back to see what I’ve done next!

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What I’ve learned in my 8 months of pregnancy

Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that everyone has an opinion, and as the saying goes, opinions are like buttholes (you get where I’m going with this).  You want to see hatred, judgement and anger?  Tell someone you are thinking of one of the following: epidural, pain-free birthing, disposable diapering, formula feeding…and the big one…circumcision.  Better yet, post about it on The Bump messageboards if you really hate yourself and want to be dragged through the mud.

It’s your body, your baby and your decision.  I’ve found the best way to approach everything is to do your research, and keep that research and your decision to yourself (and your partner).

With that being said, here’s my advice for a newly pregnant gal:

Stop people in their tracks when they want to tell you about their 52 hour labor, 7 inch tear, traumatic birth and the rectum splitting poop the next day.  Ladies always follow that up with “well, once your baby is there it’s all worth it and you forget about the pain.”  First off, you obviously did not forget about the pain because you told me every gory and horrific detail, vividly.  Secondly, as a first time mom I have no frame of reference in terms of the love of the baby wiping out the traumatic birth.  Right now, all I’m thinking about is how many stitches I’m going to have in my grundle.  Just don’t listen to it.  Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, ask friends to share their wonderful birthing experiences (some ladies have them, I swear), go online and google pleasant birth experiences, they’re out there.

If you aren’t ready to hear opinions that are different than your own, don’t ask.  That goes for names especially.  Our baby’s name, Thomas Patrick, is traditional and has familial meaning, so I’m fine with sharing, but if you plan on naming your baby something like Tempeh Sage, or you “misspell” a common name (Britneigh) you might hear some dissent.  This goes for outside of parenting though, don’t ask questions if you’re not ready to hear every answer under the sun.  Otherwise you’re just compliment fishing.

I haven’t gotten a lot of parenting advice (yet), but my husband has, which at first I thought was weird, but then realized I only work with 3 other people, and my husband, as a teacher, works with a ton of women, so, there’s that.  Take it with a grain of salt, smile and nod.

Enjoy it!  This is the one time in your life when you can eat foods you might not have ever considered because of their caloric/fat/sugar content (I went through a box of Golden Grahams in two days).  You can take naps, people carry stuff for you, offer you their seat.  You’re basically treated like an elderly person, which is pretty effing awesome, if you ask me.  I know, you’re not supposed to “eat whatever you want,” but there’s more leeway as a pregnant gal.  It’s nice.  Oh and the best part?  Taking a few months off of constantly sucking it in (you know what iI’m talking about).  And there’s the whole baby thing as well.  I’ll let you know how all of that works out.