Thanksgiving Pies

My Thanksgiving contributions to my in-laws celebration this year were in the form of two gluten-free pies.  If you’d rather have a gluten crust, read a previous post on the perfect pie crust.  Both the pumpkin pie and the pecan pie were made using the Williams-Sonoma gluten-free pie crust mix.  The maple vanilla real whipped cream added some extra oomph to these pies without extra work.  Recipes are at the bottom of this post.

This pros of this crust mix: easy to use, easy to follow directions, takes the guessing out of gluten-free substitutions.  The cons: stickier than normal pie dough and browns much more quickly, even with the use of foil or a pie crust shield during baking.  However, this crust is delicious and the fact that no one can even taste the difference between this and a real crust far outweighs the cons.  

Like I said, the real whipped cream is a breeze.  Simply whip the cream until stiff peaks are formed.  Then add sweeteners and/or flavors.  

Just be careful not to over whip the cream or you will achieve the final result of butter.  

Both of my pies were baked and cooling the day before Thanksgiving.  They looked so good it was a miracle they both made it to Thanksgiving untouched.

I made a pecan pie next.  I have no issues making this pie for others who appreciate it.  However, I am not a fan of it – far too much sugar in it for me.  It is always a good looking dessert with its pecan textures and lovely browned top.

With the extra crust dough I made a turkey for the top of the pecan pie.  I baked it in a separate baking sheet and simply added it on top of the pie when both were done baking and cooled.

The turkey’s legs did not survive the transfer from baking sheet to pie.  It certainly shows how much this gluten-free crust browns in the oven.  This pie even had a crust shield on for the entire duration of baking.

My contributions to my mom’s Thanksgiving came in the form of assisting in the making of lefse.  This Norwegian flat potato bread is a time-intensive delicacy that we make twice a year – Thanksgiving and at Christmas.  Read here for the full scoop on lefse.

Amidst all the bustle of Thanksgiving prep, we have made time to get Greta outdoors and on a few sled rides.  She is adjusting well to the colder climate of Iowa and sometimes even cries when it is time to come in!  
Pumpkin Pie – makes 1 pie (from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)
1. Prepare and roll out pastry for single crust pie.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry.  Trim and crimp edges as desired.  
2.  For filling, in a medium bowl combine: 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.  Add 2 eggs, beat lightly with a fork just until combined.  Gradually add 3/4 cup half-and-half; stir until combined.  
3.  Place prepared pie pan on oven rack.  To prevent over browning, cover edges in foil.  Carefully pour filling into prepared pie pan.  
4.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Remove foil (leave on for gluten-free crust).  Bake another 25 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cover and refrigerate within two hours.  
Maple Vanilla Whipped Cream 
1. Pour 8 ounces of cream into mixing stand bowl.  With egg beater attachment, beat until stiff peaks form.  Watch carefully and do not over beat, or butter will form.  
2.  Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon real maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to cream.  Beat for 30 more seconds.  Pour into serving bowl and use immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  
Pecan Pie – makes 1 pie (from Betters Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

1. Prepare and roll out pastry for single crust pie.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry.  Trim and crimp edges as desired.

2.  For filling combine: 3 slightly beaten eggs1 cup corn syrup2/3 cups sugar1/3 cup melted butter or margarine, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Mix well, stir in 1-1/2 cup pecan halves.

3.  Place prepared pie pan on oven rack.  To prevent over browning, cover edges in foil.  Carefully pour filling into prepared pie pan.

4.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Remove foil (leave on for gluten-free crust).  Bake another 20 to 25 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cover and refrigerate within two hours.

Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Rolls

We recently celebrated my dad’s birthday and I was instructed not to make anything for after his birthday dinner and he instead picked out cupcakes from The Bake Shoppe.  Everyone was pleased at this choice.  The morning after his birthday, my parents hosted a brunch at their house for the whole family and a family friend who happened to be in town.  For my dad’s birthday, I made him one of his favorite – cinnamon rolls.  I made the classic raisin version and this more Christmas-like version, cranberry-orange cinnamon rolls.  Scroll all the way down to the bottom for this recipe.

1. In a mixing stand combine: 2-1/4 cups flour and the yeast.  In a saucepan heat and stir milk, 1/3 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees) and butter almost melts; add to flour mixture along with the eggs.

Here the butter is just barely visible.  It is important not to overheat this mixture, as it will kill the yeast.  

Beat with dough hook on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl.  Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.  Stir, or beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible.

I used a dough hook and was able to mix in most of the flour, though my mixer looked like this. 

2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (should not be too sticky – 3 to 5 minutes total).

Dough before kneading – sticks to your hands and is not smooth.  

Shape dough into ball.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

Dough after kneading – smooth, elastic, and should not stick to hands easily.  

If your house is cold, turn the oven on for 1 minute at 350 degrees, then turn off.  Place covered dough in oven to rise.  

3.  Punch down dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide in half.  Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly grease two 9×1-1/2 inch round baking pans or two baking sheets: set aside.  For filling, stir together the brown sugar, orange zest, 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon; cut in 1/3 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Roll each half of dough into a 12×8 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle filling over dough rectangles.  Sprinkle with dried cranberries.  Roll up each rectangle starting from the long side.  Seal seams.

Slice each roll into 12 pieces.  Place cut sides down in prepared pans or baking sheets.

Take care when sprinkling filling and slicing, otherwise you may end up with a couple of rolls lacking filling.  They are still good, just not as gooey.  

5. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise.  Chill for 2 to 24 hours.  Uncover, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  (Or to bake right away, don’t chill the dough.  Instead cover loosely; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes.)

6. Break any surface bubbles in the dough with a toothpick.  Brush tops of rolls with milk.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown (if necessary, cover rolls loosely with aluminum foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking).  Remove from oven.  Brush again with milk.  Cool for 1 minute.  Carefully invert rolls onto a wire rack.  Cool slightly.  Invert again onto serving platter.  Drizzle with orange glaze.

These rolls were a hit – we demolished all but a few by the end of brunch.

Greta and Eric sitting at the set table, eagerly awaiting rolls, eggs, bacon, and fruit.  It was a beautiful sunny and cold morning for a family brunch.

I particularly enjoyed the pineapple and pomegranate fruit salad.


Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Rolls – adapted from Better Homes & Gardens 

Prep: 45 minutes  Rise: 1 hour  Chill: 2 to 24 hours  Stand: 30 minutes  Bake: 20 minutes  Oven: 375 degrees  Makes: 24 rolls

Ingredients:
4-3/4 – 5-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 recipe orange glaze

1. In a mixing stand combine: 2-1/4 cups flour and the yeast.  In a saucepan heat and stir milk, 1/3 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees) and butter almost melts; add to flour mixture along with the eggs.  Beat with dough hook on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl.  Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.  Stir, or beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible.

2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead in enough of remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (should not be too sticky – 3 to 5 minutes total).  Shape dough into ball.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

3.  Punch down dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide in half.  Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly grease two 9×1-1/2 inch round baking pans or two baking sheets: set aside.  For filling, stir together the brown sugar, orange zest, 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon; cut in 1/3 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Roll each half of dough into a 12×8 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle filling over dough rectangles.  Sprinkle with dried cranberries.  Roll up each rectangle starting from the long side.  Seal seams.  Slice each roll into 12 pieces.  Place cut sides down in prepared pans or baking sheets.

5. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise.  Chill for 2 to 24 hours.  Uncover, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  (Or to bake right away, don’t chill the dough.  Instead cover loosely; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes.)

6. Break any surface bubbles in the dough with a toothpick.  Brush tops of rolls with milk.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown (if necessary, cover rolls loosely with aluminum foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking).  Remove from oven.  Brush again with milk.  Cool for 1 minute.  Carefully invert rolls onto a wire rack.  Cool slightly.  Invert again onto serving platter.  Drizzle with orange glaze.

Orange Glaze

In a small bowl, stir together 1-1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar and orange zest.  Slowly add enough orange juice (1-2 tablespoons) to reach a drizzling consistency.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

I can easily say that these are my favorite cookies of all time.  My grandmother always used to make a tin of these and keep them around for me during the holidays.  I can’t even tell you how many I would eat in a sitting – enough to get my daily dose of iron, I am sure.

I recently made a batch of them and they disappeared quite quickly – I had no idea they were one of Eric’s favorites too.  They make the most perfect ice cream sandwich cookie – I paired it with peppermint ice cream in this photo.

Molasses is what makes these cookies so delicious – it creates the chewy texture and the lovely flavor.

The other key to these cookies is not over baking them.  To keep the soft chewy texture I baked each batch for exactly 10 minutes.  Then, each batch cooled on the pans for 2 minutes and then transferred to a cutting board.  I used a cutting board to prevent breaking and bending of these bad boys – I need them whole to hold ice cream!

Pumpkin ice cream also creates a tasty festive pairing for these cookies.  These could be great pie alternatives (or additions, if you are like me!) for your Thanksgiving dessert.



Big Soft Ginger Cookies – from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, 1998.

1. In a medium bowl combine: 2-1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.

2. In a large mixing bowl or mixing stand, beat: 3/4 cup butter for 30 seconds.  Beat in 1 cup sugar. Add 1 egg and 1/4 cup molasses, beat well.  Stir flour into egg mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-1/2 inch balls, using about 1 heaping tablespoon for each.  Roll balls in 2 tablespoons sugar to coat.  Place dough balls about 2-1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until light brown and still puffed.  Do NOT over bake.  Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Makes 24 cookies.

Sewn Paper Cards – Playing Card & North Carolina Theme

I’ve been working on more sewn paper cards this week.  I added in some scrap booking paper, but I am still using old books and the interior print from envelopes – the blue North Carolina came from our old credit union’s mailed statements.  That is one problem with being into collage – you save too many scraps.  I have my scraps organized into file folders and in a plastic tub for easier access.  

The card symbols were inspired by the pages of an old bridge book – I just love the mix of text and card suits.  The Crisco pie ad, on the right, is from an old advertising book I found at an antique book shop in Greensboro – it’s a treasure trove of card possibilities.

These are heading off in the mail this week for a friend’s birthday.  I just love making things and passing them on to others.  I have to, otherwise my house would be full to the gills by now.  So friends, say mercy when you’ve had enough and say more if you’ve not had enough.

Golf Baby Art

Whew!  It’s been a while since I completed an artwork that wasn’t a demonstration artwork for my classroom.  This piece was created for friends who had their baby back in August.  I know, I am behind, right?  Mom and dad both like retro themes and golf – so there you have the theme.  You can check out the cutie on her blog, at Iowa Girl Eats

 They started off as three paintings of retro golf apparel.  (I’m thinking tweed bike ride theme may need to be next on my list).  I sat around on this for quite some time, trying to figure out what on earth to do for a background.

I had been playing around with different papers, making small weavings, when I realized the weavings could work as a paper collage stand-in for fabric.  After all, the Scots invented golf and they also have some pretty amazing plaids.

 Paper weaving isn’t too bad, you just need patience.  A paper cutter is also a big bonus.

The final two backgrounds were draws with oil pastels (above) and painted with watercolor with added magazine collage for texture.

Pumpkin Pie Granola

This weekend was a weekend for resting and recuperating from colds, in our household.  However, that does not mean a break from baking, cooking, or projects.  I happened to have all of the ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Granola sitting around my kitchen and thus, this tasty creation was born.  The entire family loves to eat is dry as a snack, or on plain yogurt for breakfast.  I have a sneaking suspicion another batch will be made shortly, as it seems to be disappearing quickly.

 Granola is a great way to eat oats.  I personally love oatmeal, but Greta isn’t so fond of the texture.  Granola is perfect due to its crunchiness.

I swapped the normal cooking oil for two tablespoons of coconut oil.  This heavenly smelling oil remains solid, if your house is cool, until you heat it up.

 I had a couple small pumpkins that I will be using to roast, so I saved the seeds to add into the granola.  Just simply put the seeds into a colander and rinse well.  Then, add the raw seeds to the granola before baking.  I love making pumpkin seeds, but cannot bring myself to eat them by themselves – I find they are much better when added to other recipes.

 Golden raisins add a little chewy texture to this granola.  If you like them softer, add them after baking.  If you like your raisins slightly chewy and drier, add them before baking.

The pumpkin puree seems like it should make the granola too mushy, but trust me, after the correct baking time and cool down, it lends just the right amount of flavor without being too soggy.  The pumpkin pie spice is also a must – it will make your entire house smell autumnal-like and enticing.

It was such a beautiful weekend that Greta and I headed outdoors to spend some time time with her visiting cousins.  We took a stroll on the trail outside my in-laws’ house down to the park.  

Greta and Brownie were both a big help in the yard with leaf clean-up.  I wasn’t too much of a help either though, as I kept snapping photos.

Pumpkin Pie Granola

1. In a large bowl mix: 2 cups oats, 1 cup pumpkin seeds, and 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ.  Stir together 2 tablespoons coconut oil and 1/2 cup maple syrup; add to oat mixture.  Stir together: 1/2 cup pumpkin puree and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice; add to oat mixture.

2. Spread evenly onto a well-greased, large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes,or until lightly browned, stirring after 20 minutes.  Spread onto large pieces foil or large plates to cool, breaking up clumps.

Eric Carle App for Kids

This is an older photo I took of Greta when we were back in Greensboro.  The look on her face and the grip in her white little knuckles, made the determination palpable during this painting session.  She has always loved to paint and manages to make the most beautiful abstract artworks that I wish I were able to create myself.  How is it that children can make the most simply beautiful lines and smears of color, and yet, when I sit down with the intent to make an abstract image, I struggle?  Too much pressure and knowledge, I think.  I find myself referring to this Picasso quote more and more as I watch her grow, and as I have made the shift to teaching elementary art.  
(Our favorite finger paints!)
As her interests grow, she has discovered chalk, finger painting, gel window clings, stickers, and coloring books.  It’s funny, coloring books used to be the evil anti-art thing that I had very few of growing up.  In our shifting world the new evil anti-art thing tend to be screen time.  Eric and I limit Greta’s screen time to 10 minutes, at the most during any given day.  There a few art apps she really enjoys, but we still monitor her usage at all times.  I am still amazed that she can unlock my phone, activate the camera on my phone, and take photos.  You can probably guess what this mama uses her phone most for most often.  
Due to her savvy phone skills, I end up with a lot of selfies like this one.  Although many end up as just a smear of her skin color. 

Lately, Greta’s been busy making digital artworks with The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends Sticker Book, which is based on the art and characters of Eric Carle.  At $1.99 it is a deal!  She made this illustration the other morning.  The fun part about this app is the ability to choose objects and characters and stick them onto a background.  There are 57 different stickers and 5 backgrounds to choose from.  Greta loves the different sounds that accompany each sticker and loves to do silly things like place frogs on top of cakes.

DIY Charging Station

Update: now that I no longer need a bedside organizer hanging on the wall due to lack of space for a nightstand, I have repurposed this letter holder as a cell phone charging station.  Click on the link to see the previous blog entry on this organizer for another fun and cheap way to stay organized.  I originally found this desk caddy for $8 at a discount store, but you can find the white version of my desk caddy here.
.

Eric had the brilliant idea to install an outlet with USB chargers in our dining room/kitchen area.  This is a high traffic area and so naturally devices are likely to be charging at any given time.  It was a simple and quick install that took little to no skills or time.

The letter organizer is simply screwed into the wall a few inches from the outlet.  It does a nice job corralling devices, cords, pens, and other important items.  Other bonus – this is completely out of my young daughter’s reach.

Birthday Weekend

This is what 31 looks like.  Happy, stable, healthy, and in a good place.  I’d say I enjoy my 30s even more than my 20s.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I seem to be less affected by little things now.   Maybe that’s G’s influence on me.  Eric picked out that amber necklace for my birthday – he did well!

We kicked off an entire weekend of birthday fun by dinner at Mullet’s downtown.  Can we say amazing and my kind of place?  I had the fried bluegill poboy and it was perfect for a Friday night celebration dinner.  I absolutely love pub and bar food, what can I say?  After Mullet’s, we headed to Creme Cupcake and Dessert for solid and liquid desserts.  This pumpkin bread pudding was to die for.  I will figure out how to make it, promise.

Saturday was a gorgeous day out – we spent part of the day chopping wood for our fireplace and part of it just sitting around with family. 

My mom made a beautiful cake – yellow with chocolate chips (a frequent request from my childhood) with chocolate leaves, a squirrel, and acorn decorations.  Squirrels are my thing – it was a recurring motif this birthday and every birthday before it.  If you know me, you may ask about it.

It was lovely outside that we decided to get our annual family photos taken.  Greta was enthralled with the milkweed seed pods and spent a good while blowing the seeds all over the field.  She was content until she managed to get a clump in her mouth – poor thing!

Sunday afternoon we ended the birthday weekend-long bash with an Iowa Wild hockey game with friends.  I’m feeling particularly lucky and grateful this year.  Here’s to good times in Iowa!

DIY Place Mats

I have been working on some fun and easy sewing projects here lately.  These four place mats come from some remnant fabric I had with Thanksgiving themes.  I am anticipating a new dining room table (in the style of the computer table) in the somewhat near future, so I opted for place mats instead of a table cloth.  I love these place mats because they took little time and are fun and whimsical, in other words uneven, no measuring required edges.

 I started with two rectangles, the lighter fabric being smaller, and the print larger.

Next, I set my iron to high and began pressing edges.  The first thing to do was to fold the printed edge over once and press.  Repeat on the other three sides.

Step two was to fold the printed edge over a second time, so that it overlapped the solid fabric.  Then press and pin.  This creates the edge that will not fray and can be easily sewn.  Repeat on the other three sides.
 

I had a few scraps of fabric left over, and so I decided to make them into accents.  I pressed all four edges, as shown above, and then pinned them in place.  I used one per place mat with random placement.

The final steps were sewing everything in place.  I did not use a specific seam width, as my edges varied in size.  However, I did stay along the edge of my printed fabric so that the chance of sewing the two pieces of fabric together were greater.  Also, this would give some consistency in the seams, since the size was not dependable.  

Four quick seams on my patches and the place mat was done.  All in all, this project took maybe two hours – from cutting, to pressing, to sewing.  

My four finished place mats are on the table.  I made them larger, to accommodate my soon-to-be-larger table.  Now I just have to get Eric going on that with all the extra time he is soon to have.