I've started, deleted and restarted this post about a dozen times. I haven't written anything in the past month because, contrived as it sounds, life got in the way. Every time I sat down at the computer to type up a recipe, it suddenly seemed easier to make a cup of tea and watch Gilmore Girls instead. And so I would close the laptop and let Netflix take me away to Stars Hollow.
Cooking and baking are usually stress relievers for me but I've had such little energy after long work days that the task of preparing even a simple salad seemed overwhelming. I began consuming ridiculous amounts of fast food, quickly becoming 'The Chocolate Glazed Girl' at my local Krispy Kreme. (It's literally across the street from my house. What other choice did I have?)
Naturally, I became sluggish, my sweater dresses became tighter and more ill-fitting by the day and I was disappointed every time I walked by a mirror.
And so a diet was deemed necessary. The first order of business was cutting back my coffee intake which resulted in two days of intense migraines that were only dulled by a combination of Excedrin, 30-minute steam showers and 7 p.m. bedtimes. (And lots of puppy kisses. I can't deny Nurse Maple's excellent bedside manner.)
I forbade myself from eating fast food or anything fried, and restocked the fridge and pantry with healthier choices. (Shout out to Pepperidge Farm, whose Cinnamon Sugar Sweet Crisps got me through some dark times this week.) I'd hate to jinx it but four pounds melted away in one week simply by cutting the coffee and McDonald's out of my routine.
Of course woman cannot survive on rice cakes alone, so I treated myself to an old favorite on Sunday night - Shepherd's Pie.
This is the most decadent thing I've made since starting my diet, if you can consider a meat pie decadent. I used lean ground beef and fat free sour cream for the potatoes - healthier choices than I would've made a few weeks ago.
It wasn't exactly gourmet, but after a week of whole wheat toast, fruit smoothies and spinach salads, this pie tasted like triumph.
This simple meat pie can be altered to
include whatever vegetables or ground meat
you like. Serve with gravy and a bowl of veggie
soup for the ultimate winter comfort food.
deep-dish pie dish
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen kernel corn
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream (I use fat free but any kind will do)
1/2 cup milk (I use 2% but any kind will do)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup brown gravy, plus more for serving
9-inch pie crust (Pillsbury refrigerated crusts work wonderfully)
salt & pepper to taste
Season the ground beef and lamb with paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Brown the meat in a skillet and cook through. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat into small, evenly-sized pieces. Drain the grease, then set the meat aside in a covered storage container.
Add olive oil to the same pan and saute the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the peas, corn and garlic, and cook until fully thawed, about 3 minutes. Set the veggies aside in a covered storage container.
For the mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes and chop them into 1-inch cubes. Add to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the water and place the potatoes back into the pot. Add the sour cream, milk and butter, and mash to desired texture. (I use an old-fashioned hand masher, then transfer to my Kitchenaid mixer and whip on high speed until smooth and fluffy.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the brown gravy as per the directions on the package. You'll need at least one cup, plus more for serving so two packages may be necessary, depending on the amount each package yields.
To assemble the pie: place the pie crust in the bottom of a deep pie dish. Add the veggies in an even layer. Next, add the beef in an even layer. Pour one cup of gravy over the top of the beef. Next, add the mashed potatoes in large spoonfuls. Gently smooth with a rubber spatula. To form peaks, make a series of quick, shallow judo chops to the mashed potatoes with the rubber spatula. Finish with salt and pepper.
Bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The tips of the peaks should be browned. Serve with more brown gravy.
During a recent dental cleaning, I learned that I'm a tooth grinder.
Technically speaking, I suffer from severe bruxism. But I prefer to think of myself as one of Maurice Sendak's wild things, gnashing my terrible teeth:
"When he came to the place
where the wild things are,
they roared their terrible roars
and gnashed their terrible teeth
and rolled their terrible eyes
and showed their terrible claws
till Max said, 'Be still' . . . "
- Where the Wild Things Are
Despite my fondness for classic childhood literature, this tooth grinding business is actually quite painful. It's a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety that inadvertently causes migraines, jaw pain and tooth fractures.
Of course there's nothing a tooth grinder wants to do more, when given the unsettling news that she'll need to be fitted for a custom mouthguard, than grind her teeth.
While I await a quote from my insurance company, I've been instructed to pinpoint and eliminate major stressors in my life.
Now seems as good a time as any to plan a getaway.
Hubby and I have been itching to move back to the United States for some time now, so we've decided to combine a much-needed vacation with a research trip. We've rented a cottage near Burlington, Vermont - complete with a creek, horse pasture and covered bridge - for a week in mid-September. During that time we'll be a) relaxing, and b) checking out the area to see if it strikes a chord with us.
Here are some photos of the beautiful property we'll be renting:
We have another month and a half to go, which actually seems like an eternity now that I say it aloud (cue the tooth grinding!) but soon enough Hubby, Maple and I will be lying on a blanket alongside the creek, enjoying a glass of wine and watching the leaves fall.
This Wild Thing can hardly wait.
Rustic Blueberry Galette
Galette is a French word for a freeform pastry. In this recipe,
it's basically a pie whose bottom crust is folded over the top
in random pleats. It's also an excellent de-stressor
when served alongside vanilla ice cream.
a 12-inch pie crust (I purchased a Pillsbury refrigerated 9-inch crust and simply rolled it out)
3 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
egg wash (1 large egg whisked together with 1 teaspoon water)
confectioner's sugar, for finishing
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together blueberries, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, salt, and granulated sugar in a large bowl until combined.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pie dough out into a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the pastry round to the center of the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Spoon the blueberry filling into the center of the dough, leaving a 1 & 1/2 inch border around the edge.
Fold the edges of the dough over the filling in small sections, pinching the dough tightly together at the folds to form pleats. The center should be open, like in the above photos.
Place the baking sheet with the pastry on it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove from the freezer and dot the blueberry filling with the butter pieces.
Brush the pastry with the egg wash, then bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or at room temperature with whipped cream.
It would have been pitch black outside, if not for the flashlight I was carrying.
I was visiting my parents in southwest Florida for the week. Parker and I were taking our before-bed stroll around the block, when I heard the distinct click-clack of a dog's nails on the pavement behind us.
Fear overcame me but I turned around. And that was when I met Dobby.
He followed me home that night and, five years later, he still lives with my parents. He, the stray Jack russell who never strayed from us. He trusted me that night and has put all of his nervous, confused energy into loving us. He is undeniably family.
But now he's sick. That 20-pound bundle of excitement, who works so hard every day to be patient and calm and good, has had chemicals injected into his body routinely over the past year in a vain effort to kill the cancer on his face.
It isn't fair. It's never fair with dogs, whom I believe are the most holy and innocent of souls on this earth. They are godly in their resilience, saintly in their ability to forgive and move on.
This blueberry pie has nothing to do with Dobby, except that I've been especially sad this week thinking about his circumstances. And when I'm down, I bake. So I baked this pie with a heavy heart, thinking about my buddy Dobs, praying that we'll miraculously get another five years with him.
Blueberry-Peach Ginger Pie
I got carried away with the lattice topping and made the strips too thin.
They couldn't support the bulbousness of the blueberries and crumbled
to pieces each time I cut a slice. So to maintain the integrity of the pie,
I recommend simply laying a second pie crust over the fruit filling,
crimping the edges and cutting a few slits for ventilation.
2 uncooked pie crusts (I followed Martha Stewart's Perfect Pie Crust recipe but there's nothing wrong with purchasing Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts from the grocery store. They're a great option if you're looking to save time.)
6 cups blueberries
4 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Make the pie crust or pull the pre-made dough out of the fridge. Line a deep-dish pie plate with one of the crusts. Make sure there's a bit of crust hanging over the edge (about half an inch).
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, brown sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of this mixture over the bottom of the pie crust to prevent it from becoming soggy while baking.
In a large bowl, toss the blueberries and peaches with the sugar/cornstarch mixture, lemon juice and ginger. Stir gently until everything is coated evenly.
Pour filling into bottom crust. Place your top crust over the filling. Press the edges of both crusts together and fold the overhang under itself; press to seal. Using your thumb and forefinger, crimp the edges. Cut a few slits in top of pie to let steam escape.
* If you'd like to create a lattice top, this video explains it very simply. And this website shows how to braid the crust like I did.
For the egg wash, whisk together 1 egg and 1/2 cup of cold water to create an egg wash. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top of the crust.
Line a large cookie sheet with tin foil and place the pie in the center. Loosely wrap the foil around the crust to create a tent. This is optional but will prevent the crust from potentially burning while baking.
Bake for 30 minutes at 450F, then remove the foil and place back on the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 60 - 70 minutes at 375F or until the pie is golden brown and the berries are bubbly.
Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, at least 6 hours. This pie will reach its peak flavor after 24 hours, so the longer you can leave it to rest, the better.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.