Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My American Pie

It's election day, people! I voted.  I'm not telling for whom, since it's none of your beeswax...but I'm American, you see, and it is my duty.  I got up, stuck my hair in a ponytail, slapped on a sports bra and some ill-fitting workout shorts, fed my kids some waffles, drove the boy to preschool and on the way home, decided to vote.  Margo was ready for a nap, but I'm an AMERICAN, and THAT is more important than naptime, people. 

Expecting to pop in and out, I wore not a sweatshirt, nor was my 15 month old wearing long sleaves or socks.  Baaaaad Mommy. It was about 59 degrees out.  We waited for 45 minutes...20 of which was indoors.  I've waited longer to get on Space Mountain so whatevs.  She lived. Texas has fancy-schmancy electronic voting!  It was quick once I got to my booth!  I needed a photo ID, which doesn't surprise me, although I suspect that could be illegal, but whatever.  It's a red state.  Gotta get used to stuff like this I guess. 
Margo was fairly cooperative and having gotten my duty out of the way so early in the morning, I decided it was an American Pie kind of day! 

Now, most people think American "apple" pie, but not me.  You see, I have not the patience to dick around with that little apple-corer-peeler jobbie that you clamp to your counter and crank away at.  I do not own one. I do not WANT one.  DON'T GET ME ONE.  By God, I'll send it straight to the Goodwill right after telling you how much I "love" it.  SO DON'T DO IT.  My good friend lent me hers once.  What a gigantic MESS that was.  Apple juice and pulp EVERYWHERE.  Sticky, sticky, sticky. Honestly, I could have done a faster, cleaner job over the sink with a Swiss peeler and some elbow grease.  But I digress...  When I think of American pie, I think of PUMPKIN PIE!
Who doesn't love a nice custardy slice of fresh pumpkin pie?  SO much easier to make.  Plus, with Thanksgiving on the way and Halloween a faint memory from a week ago, canned pumpkin is all over the grocery stores. 

My issues with pie crust continue however, in that lately, I've been feeling a bit chubby with my baking and eating practices...and with an upcoming and most certain to be indulgent trip to California on the calendar for Thanksgiving, I decided to lighten things up. 

Years ago, I was given a recipe by my Weight Watchers leader Mary Anne Benedetti, who has since moved on to greener pastures but still looks great.  She likes to cook and bake too, so there is no need to be skeptical.  This is the real deal, people.   It's a "Crustless" pumpkin pie.  It's also fat and cholesterol free and utterly AMAZING with a little fat free Cool Whip (I know, I know, BLASPHEMY!" on your slice.  It's always the SKINNY foodies that criticize things like fat free Cool Whip.  It has its place when you really need it.  I don't suggest you eat it as a meal replacement (DUH!), but when you're low on Points and want dessert, this makes a cracker-jack topping for few calories. 

I might also add that not needing to jimmy around with CRUST, makes this pie SO EASY!  You literally whisk everything in a bowl and dump it into a pie plate sprayed with cooking spray and bake it.  Not rocket science, people.  So go and make this.  It makes 6 generous servings.


1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground Ginger
1/4 tsp. Allspice
1/2 cup Egg Beaters (fat free egg substitute)
15 oz. can of Pumpkin Puree
12 oz. can of Fat Free Evaporated Milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a pie plate with PAM or other nonstick cooking spray.  Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Whisk in egg beaters, lightly beating it all together.  Whisk in pumpkin.  Lastly, whisk in evaporated milk until mixture looks uniform. 
Pour into prepared pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes @ 425 and THEN TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 350 degrees and continue baking for 40-50 minutes.  It should jiggle like jell-o when lightly shaken when it's done...NOT ripple like liquid.  Cool on a rack completely and then refrigerate it so it sets up. 

Here is the pie before baking.

Here is the pie AFTER baking.
Not too shabby, eh?  You'll never miss the crust or the fat.  It's just plain tasty.  I'm going to need something to nosh on anyways while my husband and I switch back and forth from channel to channel watching election coverage.  No matter what the outcome, at least I didn't have to worry about whether my crust was flaky enough!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Easy as pie...crust.

Pie crust is a pastry that seems simple to make because so many people make it...like chocolate chip cookies.  Well, I'm here to tell you it isn't.  There's an art to it, a certain "something".
Pie crust is something someone SHOWS you how to make....you grandma, your auntie, your momma.  Not me. 
My mom showed me where the refrigerated Pillsbury section of the grocery store was. 
Then she showed me where the frozen Mrs.Smith's pies were in the freezer section and said, "No one can tell the difference". 
Ahhh!  Family Tradition!  Doesn't it warm your heart? HA!
SO I never learned to make a good crust.  I always overworked it or the ingredients weren't cold enough.  Sheeeeeesh!  Drama for yo' momma!  No wonder she never learned either!
The truth of the matter is, MOST people don't give a rat's ass about where the pie came from...especially at holidays where there is so much food that even though the attendance of the pie is "required", no one really CARES where it came from.  The pumpkin pie is HERE!  We can start Thanksgiving now!  Oh thank GOD!  Then it hardly gets eaten because everyone ate too much turkey.
The exception to this was last Thanksgiving.  I shudder to think about it.
You see, my attempts at pie crust had previously been heavy handed and unfortunate in their results.  SO, as a dutiful child, I bought my pie crust at the grocery store...PILLSBURY, baby!  We were visiting my husband's family in Louisiana and I was to have my FIRST Cajun Thanksgiving at my brother in law's house! Turducken! Boudin! Mmmmmm!  We were staying at my father-in-law's house, there was a kitchen so....I volunteered to make a couple of pies.  One was pumpkin...it's the EASIEST pie to make.  Here I am, in a strange house, with minimal baking equipment, taking care of a 2 year old, and 3 month old infant, so HEY! I'll make pies too!  WHY NOT!?  Lack of sleep makes you delusional.
Fast forward to later that day, when we are at Thanksgiving.  The fellas are watching football, my son is playing with his cousin, the baby is getting passed around...and Southern women are eating my pie.
"Ohh! Did you make this crust!?", they say enthusiastically and expectantly, as it is common knowledge that I enjoy baking. 
"No", I said.  "I had to use Pillsbury". 

Oh. no. I. di'int.

I did NOT just tell these Southern woman the truth that I used a premade crust.  *sigh*.  Yes, I did.  STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!  DUMB! DUMB! DUMB! They smiled as if they understood, but then as we stood there "eating" the pie, I began to notice them eyeing it like there was a turd on the plate.  I excused myself to go "feed the baby", but I knew what they were going to do. 
THEY LEFT THE CRUST. They did.  I saw it.  They didn't eat it after I told them I hadn't made it myself.  I was humiliated.  I was.  I was mortified, humiliated, embarrassed.  I know a lot of people just don't eat the crust because A) it's caloric and B) isn't ever as good as the filling...but they had just ASKED ME about the level of deliciousness to expect.  I let them down.  I screwed their Thanksgiving pie up.  I RUINED Cajun Thanksgiving.  OK, maybe that's an over dramatization.  But I did feel bad.  I vowed to learn to make pie crust from scratch. 

So here we are, almost a year later. I had been pouring over the November issue of Martha Stewart Living and there it was: PIE CRUST 101.  The skies parted and the angels began to sing!!!  HERE was my answer!  So I made her crust.  It was an ALL BUTTER crust, made in the food processor (my kind of recipe!) with frozen butter!  Smart! Smart! Smart!  Oh Martha, how I love thee!  As I made the dough it looked EXACTLY like the pictures!  Maybe I CAN make crust after all! 
Then it all came crashing down...
My pie plate was too big.  It's a large, heavy, purple, ceramic Chantal pie plate that I just like the look of.  The crust was too small to reach the top!  I then downshifted and crimped it lower in the plate.  I blind baked it (covered it in foil with pie weights on top) and proceeded to make the filling. 
I chose a Honey Pecan Pie because ever since they mentioned it on an episode of Duck Dynasty, I just HAD to make it. You can find the recipe HERE
My second calamity of the day was that the filling of the pie left nearly 2 inches of crust above it!  So once again, my pie plate is just too damn big!  I just need a REGULAR pie plate, apparently.
I baked it off and served it at room temp with whipped cream.  It was REALLY delicious.  The filling was, that is.  The crust had a nice buttery flavor and wasn't the worst crust I had ever made, but it wasn't really flaky.  Next time, I think I'm going to go 50/50 butter and shortening and see how that turns out.  I like the taste of the butter but it's common knowledge that shortening makes a flakier crust.
So here's my pie. 

My sweet husband thought it was awesome and ate 2 huge slices.  The honey gives it a really nice and complex flavor.  I may never go back to other sugars for pecan pie again! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

We love our bread, we love our butter...but most of all, we love EACHOTHER

My son, Jasper, is 3 1/2.  He's a picky eater...always has been.  My friends have endured my meltdowns about his selective palate and it's been a long road for me since I love to cook and bake.  I have friends with worse problems...but when your child refuses your food repeatedly...be it healthy, or unhealthy, delicious or marginal, it evokes this sensation of panic within your psyche of motherhood that I can't even begin to DESCRIBE.  As an epicurean, it's downright insulting! As his mother, it is my job to feed, to nourish, to provide.  When he does all but give you the finger in response to your offerings, it can seriously be maddening!  Three years of this.  Mixed in with that for fun, I had another kid...a daughter...who got jarred food instead of homemade because my self esteem couldn't take it anymore!  Well, more like I got a clue and I realized that my child needed to be held more than she needed me standing over my Cuisinart, swearing because I undercooked what was in there and it wouldn't get smooth enough.  She was higher maintenence and she just needed me in other capacities.  She is healthy and happy....Ohhhhhhh.....NOW I GET IT!
Feeding children isn't always sunshine, rainbows and effing YoBaby commercials! Food can evoke issues in a lot of people (me).  We are a nation of eaters.  I am an eater.  I've struggled with my weight for YEARS...not because I didn't know what I SHOULD be eating, but rather because what I SHOULDN'T tastes better in my most vulnerable hours.  Take a number, right?  Right.  We do our best with what we've got.  I've since learned to check my ego at the door when it comes to feeding my kids...for the most part.  Nobody's perfect.  Fortunately my son and I do share one thing in common..we both love dark chocolate...bittersweet preferably.  60-72% cacao is typically his favorite.  HE IS MINE AFTERALL! Oh wait, what did I say about checking my ego? Ha ha...oh yeah...back to the nobody's perfect line, people.
At the end of the day, it's all about the connections you make with one another.  I used to think it was about making organic, homemade babyfood concoctions to "expand his palate".  Now it's about making a mess in the kitchen together, or teaming up to make his baby sister laugh.  That's the stuff of love.  THAT'S what he'll remember and take with him to his own family.
Today, after an exhausting day of family fun at the pumpkin patch/hillbilly Disneyland, my husband and I decided to order a pizza instead of cook.  We all sat at the table together and I slid a slice of pepperoni pie onto Jasper's Lightening McQueen plate.  He then picked up his plastic cup of milk, holding it up as if he were toasting and recited his preschool mealtime mantra:
"We love our bread, we love our butter. But most of all, we love EACHOTHER. Bon appetite...now we can eat".

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quintessential Quince Tart: The Making Of...pics!

Here are the pics of the process results. It was great and tremendous fun! It was sooooo delicious. It was orangey and spiced and quince-a-licious. The crust was...amazing. I'm pretty stoked with myself. What's next?

Quest for Quince 2012

Welcome to my first installation of "Sugar Coated".  I'm a mom that moved to Texas from California this summer and find myself home a lot with my children and I'm slowly losing my mind.  I had a lot of longtime friends back in CA and it's hard to start over.  You see, I never invisioned myself as a SAHM (stay at home mom).  I used to be a work-a-holic with a pastry certificate and a business degree now I wipe butts and sing "Wheels on the Bus".  I love my kids and my husband more than words can say, but I firmly believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is showing them that YOU are a person with interests and dreams too so that they have the EXAMPLE and courage to pursue what makes them tick. 
I can do both. 
I can be a bomb-diggedy mom (BDM) and persue my other passions. 
SO here I am.  I've always loved to write.  I'm no Shakespeare or anything but hey, you don't have to read this if you don't want to.  It's a free country.  I love to bake.  I love my kids...so sometimes, I'll let them help.  Won't THAT be interesting!? lol  SO I'm gonna write about the WHOLE MESS OF IT ALL!!  Baking, cooking, mothering, sometimes all at the same time!
So let's get on with my latest project, shall we? 
Hang on to your hats and glasses, folks....

Now, those of you who know me, know that I recently read "Bread and Chocolate: My Food Life In and Around San Francisco" by Fran Gage, a well known baker, writer and foodie in the Bay Area.

Her chapter on the illusive quince fruit captivated me. I've had this book for 10 years and finally read it.  I was so curious about the quince tarts Fran made in her old San Francisco (it burned down) bakery, that I wrote her asking for the recipe.  Boy did she deliver!  I was tickled pink!  OMG, did I just say "tickled pink"? *sigh* whatever.  At any rate, I've never EATEN quince (to my  knowledge) nor did I know what it looked like or where to get one, despite my pastry schooling.  So I hit the local stores,ethnic and otherwise and wound up, after quite the calamity, at regular old stupid Kroger.  They had them.  So I bought 8.  Quite a commitment since i only needed three (1 1/2 lbs) for the tart.  If it works out, I'm gonna try my hand at making some marmalade methinks.  I was hung up on the fact that they were pineapple quince which supposedly don't taste as good as the Smyrna variety.  Good friggin' LUCK finding anything THAT exotic in Katy, TX. I was lucky to even find the pineapple ones.  Plus, the fruit is mixed with orange and spices in the filling which are domineering flavors.

SO began the baking process Sunday night.  I read through the recipe...which is TOTALLY unlike me and I used to get BUSTED nonstop in pastry school for not reading the recipe through and scrambling to get my shit together at the last minute.  People can change, right?  Right.
Come to find out that this tart is a SAHM's DREAM!!!! 
This tart can be made in steps that don't require a lot of time or attention!...which is awesomesauce because I have a 3 year old and 14 month old and I can never do any ONE thing for too long as I get pulled in various directions throughout the day!  IT WAS MEANT TO BE, PEOPLE!!! 

SO far, I've made the filling and the dough.  Now I have to motivate to combine the two into a tart and bake it off.  Stay tuned, folks, because I tasted the cooked filling and it is delish! Now I have to figure out how to upload phone pics on this bad boy so as to make this blog more interesting!
To be continued...