Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tips & Tricks for Perfect Pie Crust

I have a major sweet tooth. My favorite part of any meal is the dessert, and so my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is definitely the pie. I have been responsible for the pies in my family for a long time, and over the years I've been perfecting my crust. Here are  my favorite tips and tricks for a flaky and delicious homemade pie crust...

Double-Crust Recipe

3 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
10-15 tablespoons ice water

1. Use a mixture of butter and shortening.

I've found that a combination of half and half is the best both in terms of flavor and texture.

2. Make your dough in a food processor.

Five years ago, I would have never done this!! I was all about doing it by hand, using a fork. But honestly, the food processor is so much easier; it takes less time & energy and because it mixes everything more quickly, it's easier to keep your dough cold. Which leads to...

3. Chill all your ingredients first.

I place the flour, shortening, and butter in the food processor and then chill in the fridge for about 30-60 minutes first. Then, pulse together for 30 second intervals until it resembles cornmeal.

4. Add the water in slowly.

Next, add your ice water 2 tablespoons at a time, pulsing the dough in between each addition. Keep adding until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You'll need about 10-15 tablespoons.

5. Adjust ingredients.

Turn out your dough onto a floured counter. If it seems too crumbly, add a bit more water; if it seems too wet, add more flour. You want a dough that holds its shape well.

6. Chill again.

Divide the dough into two, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour before rolling it out (you can make the dough ahead and freeze too).

7. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment.

One issue that I always seem to run into is that I will roll out my dough, and then it sticks to the counter, or falls apart when I'm putting it into the pie pan. So I started rolling the dough out between parchment and it works really well! I outlined my pie plate on the top piece, so I had a guideline for rolling out the crust. Then, you can just unpeel the dough from the parchment after you transfer it to the pan.

Add your filling {for apple pie, my filling is 6 cups peeled & sliced Granny Smith apples + 2/3 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons flour + 1 teaspoon cinnamon}, then roll the top crust out using the same method. I like the press the edges of the top and bottom crust together with a fork, then trim the edges with a knife.

8. Make it pretty!

Honestly, I think pie looks good with just the plain crimped edges, but for Thanksgiving, I did a little fancier touch by adding leaves around the edge. I just rolled out my extra dough, cut out leaf shapes with a butter knife, and layered them on the edge.
The final step is brushing the top with an egg wash (just beat together an egg and a few tablespoons of water), which gives the pie a beautiful golden brown color.

9. Bake.

Bake at 400 degrees, covered with foil, for 25 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 25-35 minutes, until golden brown with a bubbly filling.




That's all I've got! And my little helper made you a delicious "flour pie" to enjoy as well :)
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

DIY Plaid Infinity Scarf

I am loving plaid lately! It seems like it is everywhere this year. I really wanted a plaid infinity scarf this fall, but I couldn't find what I was looking for in stores, so I decided to make my own. Seriously, this was the easiest DIY project ever, cost about $5 to make, and turned out so cute!! I actually ended up buying a bunch of different plaid fabrics and whipping up a bunch of these infinity scarves to give as Christmas gifts for the ladies in my family. I have a big family and the adults all draw names for Secret Santa, but I still like to give a little stocking stuffer type gift and these will be perfect.


All you need for these is 2 1/4 yards of plaid flannel fabric and basic sewing supplies. I like a longer, more generously sized scarf, so 2 1/4 yards was perfect (you'll cut that in half and get two scarves out of it). I used flannel shirting that I got at Joann.

First, press your fabric and cut in half lengthwise. Fold your fabric in half lengthwise again, pin, and sew along the long edge with a 1/2" seam.

Turn your fabric right side out. You should be left with a tube of fabric with both ends open. Match the ends and begin to sew the ends together to close; just match up as you sew. Keep going as far as you can on the machine; you should be left with about a 2" opening.

Now, you can either sew the rest with an outside seam on the sewing machine (I did this for my own scarf, since I figured I could put that seam on the inside where you wouldn't see it) or sew by hand (I did this for the gifts since it looks a bit more nicely finished). 

Voila, you're done!

I am so excited about how these turned out! Now I just have to figure out who gets what plaid...
I kept this one for myself!



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Natural and Neutral Thanksgiving Table

This year, we are hosting Thanksgiving here at our house for the first time. Actually, this is my first time ever hosting Thanksgiving; wish me luck! Circumstances worked out this year that my parents are coming to visit, and my in-laws will also be joining us. Just a small group of the six of us, plus the girls, far less intimidating than the usual dinner for 25+ that my mom hosts!

I did still want to set a beautiful table, something nice and cozy and warm, but still festive. I sewed the gold plaid napkins on the table several years ago from some clearance fabric, and they inspired the rest of the table. I just used my favorite neutrals, with a bit of fall color mixed in. I used lots of different textures with a burlap runner, white placemats, white candleholders, white pumpkins, dried wheat, some dried hydrangea, green apples, and some beautiful sugar maple leaves. The leaves are my favorite part of the whole table; I love the color of the sugar maples in fall and I stopped by the side of the road to get these leaves since we don't have any maple trees in our yard.


I made a quick little menu on some kraft paper wrapped around some branches. I'm so excited for Thanksgiving food! And pie!




 Thank you so much for stopping by!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chicken and Dumplings

We got our first dusting of snow here last night, and today is a cold, gray day: the perfect day to share my recipe for my favorite comfort food ever, chicken and dumplings. This is exactly what I want to eat in cold weather, out of a mug with a big spoon, in a cozy sweater and leggings, curled up by the fire. {except I don't have a fireplace, but everything else}. I make my chicken and dumplings with lots of veggies mixed with the chicken, so it's truly a one-pot meal. It's also great with Thanksgiving coming up; this recipe calls for cooked chicken, so it would be a fabulous way to use leftover turkey too.
Don't let from scratch intimidate you either; I do tend to make this as a Sunday dinner, since it needs some time to simmer, but it doesn't need babysitting, just some time. The dumplings are easy too, just mix, then drop them on to the stew (no rolling required here).


Chicken and Dumplings From Scratch

Makes 6 generous servings
1 1/2 pounds cooked, shredded chicken breast *see note
3 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
3 celery ribs, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup apple cider
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb frozen peas
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
For Dumplings:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
*Note: I just use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cook them in my slow cooker with some water, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, on high for about 3-4 hours, then shred. You could also use a rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken or turkey.
1. Heat the 3 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven or covered pot over medium low. Add the onions, celery, and carrots; cook for 8-10 minutes until onions are translucent.
2. Sprinkle the 1/3 cup flour over the veggies and stir; cook 1 minute. Stir in the apple cider, scraping up the bottom of the pot; bring to simmer and cook 1-2 minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken and chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring everything to a boil; lower heat to medium low, and simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the dumplings: whisk together the 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Microwave the milk and butter together (I just use a glass measuring cup) for about 1-2 minutes to melt the butter. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.
4. Stir in the peas and parsley into the chicken.
5. Use a spoon to drop golf-ball size dumplings on top of the stew. Cover and cook over medium-low until dumplings are cooked through, about 25 minutes (dumplings will not brown).


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little Pumpkin First Birthday

So, obviously I took a longer break from this blog than I anticipated over the past year, but life got busy and something had to go, so this blog was it. I really did miss having this outlet though, so I'm excited to get back to it.
Today I'm posting Claire's first birthday party last month! One of her nicknames is Pumpkin, so with an October birthday, a little pumpkin theme seemed perfect. I decided to stick with more muted colors, with pale orange, peach, and pink mixed in to make it girly. We hosted the party at my sister and brother-in-law's house back in Texas, so since I didn't have tons of time to set up and had to cart everything down on the plane, I kept things pretty simple. I'm still really happy with how it turned out.
I added some simple d├ęcor to the mantel. The banner has all of Claire's monthly photos from her first year; it is amazing how much she has grown.

We had the party at 10:30 AM, so I served brunch food. The menu was: grilled vegetable quiche, tomato goat cheese quiche, bacon, fall salad with pecans, apples, bleu cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette, fresh fruit, pumpkin muffins, cheddar biscuits, and pecan kringle.

The dessert table was my favorite part of the party. The fabric banner was very simple to make and I think it makes the table.

Of course, the girls' outfits had to coordinate with the party decor. Everyone does that, right?

Claire's birthday was a bit of a bittersweet milestone for me- it feels like the year just flew by. I think that's a second baby thing, because it did some seem that fast the first time! And I can't believe Allie will be THREE in January (I have some ideas going for that party already...)
Thanks for stopping by!