Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Apple Pie

This past weekend I made my first apple pie!  Yes, I am an American and I love to cook and I just now baked my first apple pie.  I had always been a little intimidated of the making of fruit pies.  I think it was mostly the crust that scared me, so I always made these apple pie squares instead.  But my parents were coming to town, and my dad and Caleb love apple pie.  So an apple pie it was!  And really, it was so much simpler than I anticipated.  I had made the pie dough ahead of time, so while dinner was in the oven on Friday night, I peeled and sliced all the apples and my mom rolled out the dough.  I had made homemade vanilla ice cream earlier in the week, and really - it doesn't get much better than a warm slice of apple pie with fresh vanilla ice cream.

Apple Pie
double crust pie dough (recipe below)
5-6 medium/large Granny Smith apples (about 2.5 lbs), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pie dough into approximately a 12-inch round.  (Keep the other half of the pie dough chilled for now.)  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Position an oven rack in the upper-middle position.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples, sugars, flour, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Toss well to combine.  When the bottom crust is finished chilling, pour the apple mixture and accumulated juices into the bottom pie crust and use a spatula to even the top out slightly.  Dot the surface of the apples with the pieces of cold butter.  Roll out the remaining pie dough on a floured work surface into approximately a 10-inch round.  Place over the apple mixture, and then fold the excess pie crust from the bottom pie crust over the top pie crust, and crimp to seal.

Place a baking sheet on the lower oven rack.  Place the pie on the upper rack and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 45-55 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

source: recipe from annies eats, originally from williams sonoma & martha stewart

Basic Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp very cold water

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix briefly to blend. Add in the butter pieces and mix on medium-low speed to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand and the largest butter pieces are not much bigger than peas.  Mix in the cold water on low speed just until the dough comes together (you may not use all the water).

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  (This dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)  Remove from refrigerator.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Use as directed in your desired pie recipe.

*Yields one 9-inch pie crust, so double the recipe for a double crust pie

source: recipe from annies eats, originally from williams sonoma

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Weekend

The weekends are always too short, don't you think?  We started off Friday with my parents rolling into town right before I got home from work.  We ate dinner and made apple pie and talked and ate apple pie, enjoying just being together.  Saturday morning we rose bright and early to go cheer Caleb on in the half marathon!  It was so fun to catch glimpses of him throughout the course and encourage him as he ran.  This was his first half marathon, and he finished in 1:37:04!  I am so incredibly proud of him:) He was worn out after the race so the afternoon was pretty low-key with a little shopping, a quick Starbucks run, and my parents' first rides in our little green MG.  Saturday night's dinner was a group effort and we were able to enjoy what might be the last of the eating-dinner-outside weather of the year.  We had a really good visit with my parents and are thankful for the time we were able to spend with them.  How did you spend your weekend?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Feeling Like Fall

Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it this year.  The temperatures the past few weeks have dropped significantly in the morning (though by noon it's still been in the 70s-80s!), which makes leaving for work in the morning definitely feel like fall.  The leaves have been at their peak this past week, and I can't help but exclaim "look at those leaves!" like every time we drive by a tree.  I just can't get enough of all of the beauty that is fall.  I'm looking forward to another beautiful fall weekend - one that promises a homemade apple pie and a visit with my parents.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Time I Tried A Pinterest Diet

Y'all - I tried a diet I found on Pinterest.  Pinterest!  I'm embarrassed to even admit this, but this blog is not about sharing only my finer moments.  So this "military diet" that I found claims you can lose 10 pounds in three days by following a weird meal plan with no snacks in between.  Some of these meals even included ice cream and hot dogs (hello dream diet!).  I knew it sounded really whack but thought if it actually worked I could drop a few pounds and it would motivate me to eat healthier and drop a few more.  Here's how it went down:

Day 1 Breakfast: 1/2 a grapefruit, toast with 2 Tbsp of peanut butter, green tea

The green tea clearly did not live up to my routine morning cup of pumpkin spice coffee, heavy on the cream.  I started off my Monday grumpy and groggy - I knew it was going to be a long day!  I was hungry about 9:45 wishing I could have a morning snack.  Instead I drank another 16 ounces of water and went to the bathroom two more times.

Day 1 Lunch:  2 oz chicken, 1/4 cup yogurt with 1/2 tsp flax seed, green tea

I was so hungry by the time I ate lunch that I scarfed it down and forgot to take a picture.  But imagine like 9 teeny tiny pieces of grilled chicken and about three spoonfuls of yogurt.  I was still starving when my lunch was gone.  From about 1:30 on, every time I got up from my desk I was lightheaded.  I started developing a migraine that worsened as the day went on.  I was feeling so faint I could barely concentrate on work.  By the time I got home I was way past the point of hungry and just felt sick.

Day 1 Dinner:  3 oz chicken, 1 cup green beans, 1/2 banana, small apple, 1 cup vanilla ice cream

I was so impatient to hurry up and eat that I undercooked the green beans.  They tasted like they were straight up from the dirt (do green beans even grow in the dirt? whatever).  The chicken was good, but once I finished it I really wanted something more than just fruit.  This was the most food I had been allowed to eat all day but it just wasn't satisfying.  Caleb kept telling me to just can the diet and how it wasn't healthy and wasn't worth it for me to be miserable.  So, I quit!  My name is Sherri Lynn and I am a diet quitter.  The last diet I was going to try was a cleanse (yikes, that I also found on Pinterest!), and I chickened out the day before I started.  

I think the moral of this story is to stay away from diets that you find on Pinterest.  Also, just eat healthily and exercise.

P.S.  I did lose 2.7 pounds that day!  But duh, if you starve yourself of course you'll lose weight.  Totally not worth it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Weekend

This past weekend was filled with much-needed rest.  I have really been dragging lately, so we spent a lot of our weekend at home.  We watched Downton Abbey, ate soup, read, and then I did all of the necessary weekend items like laundry, ironing, grocery shopping.  We did take time on Saturday to get out:  I headed to Asheville to meet up with a good friend of mine, and Caleb went to the Euro Fest Car show at BMW.  Caleb looked at cars while we spent the day shopping and eating our way around Asheville.  If you're planning a trip there in the near future, I highly recommend French Broad Chocolates and Tupelo Honey Cafe.  How was your weekend?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weekend Breakfast Ideas

My breakfasts during the week consist of a green smoothie that I throw down while I'm emptying the dishwasher/blogging/packing my lunch.  It's the farthest thing from a relaxing meal, so I love the idea of a slower paced, slightly more decadent breakfast on the weekend.  These are a few of the ones that have caught my eye recently. I've already made the lemon poppyseed pancakes and the baked french toast, and both were recipes I will make again. Here's to a wonderful week, filled with leisurely breakfasts!  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Finally...


...got an iPhone!  When I went in for my upgrade, the Verizon guy called my old phone a dinosaur--which it was.  It feels good to finally join the 21st century of smart phones.

So!  What apps do you recommend?  I'm on instagram but I want to know what other apps you love!  Hope you're having a great week - we've almost made it to the weekend! xx

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

I don't even know where to start with these bars.  They were even tastier than I expected them to be:  a chocolate shortbread crust, chocolate chips and a layer of pecan pie filling, and then pecans and coconut on top.  Hello delicious!  If you're looking for a way to vamp up the traditional pecan pie for Thanksgiving, here's a recipe for you to try!  Happy Tuesday!

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
3 cups pecan halves and pieces
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line bottom and sides of a 9x13" pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2-3 inches to extend over sides.  Lightly grease foil.

Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cold butter, and cocoa in food processor 5 or 6 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Press mixture on bottom and 3/4-inch up sides of prepared pan.

Bake crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust.  Cool completely on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, and bourbon until smooth.  Stir in the coconut and pecans, and spoon into the cooled crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and set.  Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour).  Chill 1 hour.  Lift baked bars from pan, using foil sides as handles.  Transfer to a cutting board; cut into bars.  Store in airtight container in the fridge.  Makes about 2 dozen bars.

*Note: I halved this recipe, and it turned out just fine.  I used an 8x8" pan and used the same baking times as in the above recipe.  To halve the eggs, beat three eggs in a small bowl, and then pour half of the beaten egg mixture into the recipe.

source:  recipe from Southern Living, September 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Weekend

This past weekend was all about delicious food.  Caleb's parents were with us for the weekend, and we truly ate our way through the visit.  Friday night started with homemade Indian food and pecan pie bars (recipe coming soon!) on the back porch until it got too chilly to be outside any longer.  Saturday we headed downtown for our fall festival with the other 150,000 people expected to attend throughout the weekend.  Local restaurants set up tents and you just spend the day eating, people watching, and listening to the bands.  Some of the delicious food we consumed included shrimp & grits, pumpkin cheesecake, lobster mac & cheese, mini cupcakes (salted caramel & chocolate for me), Jack Daniels pecan pie, wings, and ribs.  The food was SO good.  Saturday night led us to our favorite local BBQ place, our favorite used bookstore, and then back home for some football.  It was a glorious weekend and sadly I probably have an extra pound to show for it.

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Addition to the Kitchen

Look what arrived in the mail last week!  I have been wanting this little beauty for years!  I always imagined my kitchen would be complete once I had a turquoise Le Creuset Dutch oven and a red Kitchenaid...I guess I have arrived:) I am looking forward to putting this thing to good use this fall and winter.

What are your go-to soup/chili/stew recipes?  I'm ready to find some new favorites!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Oatmeal Carmelitas

These might be the most delicious bars you can make with the least amount of effort.  When I needed to make a dessert in college, I would make these bars.  And if an overtired college student with a understocked kitchen and pantry can whip these bad boys out, then you know they're easy!  Happy Monday!

Oatmeal Carmelitas
2 cups + 3 Tbsp flour
2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 jar Smuckers caramel topping (about 1 cup)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.  Beat 2 cups flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, baking soda, and salt on low speed until crumbly.  Reserve about 3 cups of crumbs for topping.  Press other half of crumbs into the bottom of the greased pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir caramel topping and 3 Tbsp flour until blended.  Once the crust is done baking, sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over baked base.  Drizzle evenly with the caramel mixture; sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over top. Bake 18-22 minutes longer, or until golden brown.  Cool completely in pan for one hour.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours or until filling is set.  Cut into bars and store in refrigerator.