I spent a week with my family in Tennessee at the end of September/beginning of October. It was my first time being there during the work-week in ages, and I worked from my childhood home about half-time and spent the other half getting in some hard-core family time.
On one of my last days there, I decided to make Joy the Baker and King Arthur Flour’s Apple Pie Biscuits from the September Baking Bootcamp. It was so fun to have my mom and sister join me in staging food to make good-looking photos (I normally get the eye roll and “Can’t I eat this yet?” from H). Also, since her recipe makes 12 biscuits, it was probably good that I made them for my family of four instead of just for me and H here in Chicago.
One thing that is too funny not to mention, is that when I went to the store I purchased EIGHT APPLES to use in this recipe. Which was kind of overkill since it only requires one apple. One apple, guys. [Pro tip: read your recipe before you go grocery shopping for ingredients!]
I don’t like apple pie (chunky cooked apples are the worst!) but I really loved these biscuits! I think the difference is that the apples are sliced v-e-r-y thin and they get cooked very thoroughly, almost like a warm biscuit topped with chunky apple jelly.
I had a great time following Joy the Baker’s recipe when I made these with my family, but when I wanted to recreate for H and me on Saturday morning, I took the lazy way out and they were still quite yummy. Here’s what I did:
- Slice and cook your apple slices in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. (My apples were a bit thicker and so less delicious because my mom is much better at slicing than I am. Just saying.)
- Make biscuit dough however you normally do. I used self-rising flour and shortening, but if you are a Bisquick person then follow your heart! Make the amount of biscuits you need for the number of people eating breakfast with you.
- Roll out your dough, put the apples on half of it, fold it over and pinch the edges. Cut into squares, egg wash, sprinkle, and bake!
It’s basically the same as Joy’s recipe, but since I had done it once before and I wasn’t competing for King Arthur goodies (we are King Arthur Flour snobs in this family so we took that recipe SERIOUSLY), I didn’t stress so much about doing it perfectly. These biscuits feel a little less high-maintenance and a bit more “me.” And either way you decide to make them, they are delicious.
Sometimes you just need pie.
Well, let me rephrase that: there are moments in my life where I have a sudden and uncontrollable urge for pie. I’m not sure it happens to other people quite like that, but it absolutely happens to me.
Last Sunday, after the guys ran the marathon, and while we were entertaining my inlaws, it happened. I needed a pie.
I didn’t exactly have time to go to the grocery store, and I didn’t exactly have the energy to make a pie, but I did it anyway, because it was an E-M-E-R-G-E-N-C-Y.
The requirements for this pie were A) not too hard and B) made from ingredients I had in the pantry.
Emergency Chocolate Pie
Here’s what I did:
You have to make the crust first, and I know it sounds hard but it isn’t – IF you have a food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor I have no idea how to make pie crust and I’m very sorry.)
PIE DOUGH. Grab your food processor and throw in 1 and ½ cups flour, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1/3 c. shortening. Pulse until pea-sized balls form. Grab a small cup of ice water and your tablespoon, and get ready to move fast. Press “ON” and quickly drizzle (sorry that’s an oxymoron I know) 4-5 Tablespoons of ice water in until it turns into dough. Press “OFF” as soon as it is dough. It takes about 45 seconds and yes, it is seriously that easy.
PREP CRUST. The way you prepare your crust depends on what type of filling you will use: hot or cold. If you choose a filing that requires baking, your crust is ready. If you choose a filling that does not require baking, you need to bake your crust. I chose a pudding base so I had to bake:
(a) poke fork-holes all along the bottom of the pie crust with (you guessed it) a fork,
(b) line the crust with two sheets of aluminum foil,
(c) fill that foil up with dry beans,
(d) bake at 450 for 8 minutes,
(e) remove foil and beans and bake for another 6 minutes.
Let it cool before you fill it with pudding, but the dough is currently ready for consumption.
PREP FILLING. Because emergency pie requires that you have all ingredients on hand, I recommend this pie recipe from the Pioneer Woman. I used skim milk and it was fine. Two tips for making this recipe:
- It is probably more delicious if you use whole milk but I used skim anyway. I’d personally rather save the calories and eat two slices of skim milk pie.
- Add cinnamon and cocoa powder to the pudding at the end. It makes it rich and slightly spicy.
FOUR HOURS?!?! This is emergency pie. Four hours of chill time is unacceptable. Once I stirred in the extra flavorings (see up there^^) I put the entire pot of chocolate pie pudding into an ice bath. In my huge, deep skillet I put two handfuls of ice cubes, about two inches of water, and set my hot pudding pot in the middle. I poured in a bit more water so that the ice water came up along the sides of the pudding pot without getting inside the pot. Then I spent 10 minutes stirring my pudding while it was in the ice bath. It chilled it very quickly, so when I poured it into the crust it was pretty well cooled. We sliced and ate after only two hours of refrigeration and it was delicious.
Is this pie beautiful? No. Is this pie something I would typically photograph and instagram and brag about? No. Well, probably – I mean, I did make this pie from scratch. While my inlaws were visiting. After waking up at 6:00 AM and biking six miles and dealing with crazy marathon crowds. That’s pretty impressive.
(Confession — we ordered pizza for dinner because after surviving that crazy day and making this pie? I was exhausted.)
Thanksgiving is my favorite. I love cooking up a big meal and I love eating it. If you’ve never done the whole thing yourself, getting everything ready to eat at the same time can be a challenge. So, I’m posting my method for you. This isn’t necessarily a good method and certainly not the only method, but it has worked for me for three years running. We sometimes change up the vegetables and desserts, but the method and the core menu stays basically the same from year to year.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts with Figs and Bacon
Caramel-Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake
For the most part, I follow Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe for Turkey — with two big changes that will make your life easier and your turkey tastier. First, no one has herbes de provence, I don’t even know what that is. I melt up some butter and stir in dried rosemary and dried parsley. Second, I don’t have a rack for my roasting pan. Well, to be more accurate, I threw away the rack that came with my roasting pan. Instead, I use whole carrots as my rack. Peel your carrots, chop off the ends, and place them in the bottom of your roasting pan. It’s like building a raft for your turkey to fjord the river. It makes your turkey and your gravy extra delicious, and I personally could eat those carrots forever.
Dressing is personal. I like mine the way my mom makes it, so I do nothing to make it different or fancy. I think my mom’s dressing is perfect. And let me say right now — this is NOT stuffing. To make it, simply mix together the following ingredients and bake them at 350*F until done. You’re going to want to use the largest bowl you own.
- two round cake pans of cornbread
- six to ten crackers (i like whole wheat off-brand Ritz crackers, she uses Saltines)
- three celery stalks and 3/4 of a medium onion, previously sautéed in butter until soft
- one can
condensedevaporated milk (thanks Mom)
- one can cream of chicken
- approximately 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (more of less depending on how it looks)
- a mountain of poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper
- two eggs — or maybe four. I used two and it tasted fine.
Roast your sweet potatoes in the oven while your turkey is cooking so you can just mash them up and spice them when you are ready. Easy peasy.
Good green beans should cook with a little water and a little butter for about an hour. A little longer if you’re using frozen green beans from your parents’ garden like I did. Salt and pepper at the end.
This year H added Brussels sprouts to our menu and he made them himself. He loves them. Basically, chop up and cook bacon, then add sprouts, then add figs (dried but fresh if you have them in season, we’ve done both) when they are almost done. Salt and pepper at the end.
Cranberry sauce can be simple or complicated or from a can. I like it every way. For years I would only eat the canned kind, and I enjoyed slicing it along the lines of the can so it was perfectly straight. Now I eat all kinds. This year I used the recipe of my dear friend and it was great, adding walnuts and orange zest. The basics of homemade cranberry sauce are cranberries, a little water, white sugar, and orange zest. Just Google any which recipe: if it has those ingredients in some combination, I’m sure it will be delicious.
For dessert, we made pumpkin cheesecake according to this recipe. It was easy and delicious and you should try it if you want something low-key but nice looking. The caramel made it more fancy but it was pretty great tasting without it. I subbed in low-fat cream cheese for regular and it still tasted great.
The easiest way to make thanksgiving ready to eat on-time is to give yourself a schedule. Here’s my cooking schedule so you can see what I mean. When making your own schedule, the most important thing to remember is that your oven can only be one temperature at a time.
This plan prepares a full dinner to eat at 5:00 p.m. If you’d rather have a noon-ish meal, just make your dessert and cranberry sauce the day before and move the rest to the morning. That’s going to require an early wake up. Also, this plan assumes you’ve made the cornbread for your dressing in advance.
7:00 a.m. Take the butter and cream cheese out of the fridge. Make coffee, watch some tv, eat breakfast, enjoy the quiet while everyone else sleeps.
9:00 a.m. Take your turkey out of the fridge.
9:05 a.m. Make your dessert (it needs to cool for several hours in the refrigerator).
9:45 a.m. Throw your cranberry sauce together so it can chill in the fridge too.
BREAK TIME: Use this time to do the dishes, pull down ingredients, send someone to market for anything you’ve forgotten and/or frantically Google substitutes for ingredients since stores
are should be closed.
11:30 a.m. Prep your turkey. Pre-heat the oven to 400*F, unwrap the turkey and give it a good rinse, inside and out. Make sure you pull out the bits — there should be a bag of gross stuff and a neck. I let the neck cook in the pan with the turkey but toss the rest because who are we kidding, that’s gross.
12:30 p.m. Turkey goes in the oven. Your turkey should be stuffed with chunks of onion, lemon, and orange and covered in butter, herbs, and lots of salt and pepper. Don’t forget to stuff the butter mixture under the skin on top of the meat. Follow Giada’s cooking instructions but take it out a little early if the thermometer says you can.
BREAK TIME: You’ll have to check your turkey every now and then but warm some cider and watch a movie, or put someone else on turkey watch and go for a walk.
3:30 p.m. Green beans go on the stove.
3:35 p.m. Stir up your dressing, pour into pan(s), set aside.
4:15 p.m. Dressing goes in the oven. Sweet potatoes can come out.
4:20 p.m. (or when cool enough to touch) Peel skins off sweet potatoes, throw in mixer, blend up with milk/butter/spices.
4:30 p.m. Make Brussels sprouts and gravy. You’ll need someone on gravy stir-duty so you can do both things at once.
5:00 p.m. Everything is ready and you can eat!
Good luck with your Thanksgiving cooking adventures — whether it’s one traditional dish for a pot luck or the entire meal for your extended family, I hope you have a wonderful turkey day!
- Please, Lord have mercy, for all the treasures in this world and the next, please stop making us sing-a-long to the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of service. It is terrible. No one can sing it — not even your best choir members — and it goes on FOREVER. Trust me, I’m an expert on these things.
- When I have a baby I am going to dress it in a Superman costume on Easter Sunday. Because seriously, that was awesome. Way to go, America. You never cease to amaze me.
- I think I’m going to go shopping for my own striped tights to wear with a coordinating polka-dot dress. Kids are styling these days.
- Reese’s has these new peanut butter eggs that are INCREDIBLE. Make time tomorrow morning to purchase every single remaining peanut butter egg (of any size, really, but the small ones are surprisingly wonderful) on clearance at your local CVS/Rite-Aid.
- The best church to go to is the one where your best friends are.
Thanks guys for a wonderful worship
service and great lunch-time company.
I don’t know what we would do
I didn’t take any pictures on Thanksgiving Day.
We had 2.8 beautiful meals on the big day and several more the rest of the week, played corn-hole like champions, rummaged our parents’ garages for tools to “chop wood” so we could build fires and make s’mores. It was, honestly, wonderful. I’ve always been one to say “oh, we are too [fill in the blank] to have those picture-perfect holidays like you see in the movies,” and to be honest, we are, but it was about as great as I could have imagined.
I took a few pictures on Friday afternoon when I went with H’s family to choose a Christmas tree. We have a few glamour shots (see below) but, weirdly, I never got a photo of the tree we chose, other than a quick snapshot of H and his dad carrying the tree to the car. In case you are wondering, the men in our family carry chopped-down-Christmas-trees like the men in the mafia carry dead bodies: one at the head and another at the feet.
The drive back was slow due to traffic, but happily uneventful, and we are back in DC working all day and, unfortunately for H, doing a lot of homework at night. I’ve ordered a few more Christmas gifts that should be arriving soon, and am very excited to be entering prime J-O-Y territory and hope that I can keep the Christmas spirit going even if we hit a few rough patches along the way.
I spent the evening getting the
house apartment ready for decorating, which will probably happen on Friday evening while H is at the UT-Georgetown basketball game. I mean, I can save a few ornaments for him to place on the tree when he gets in, but is H interested in my obsessive-compulsive approach to hiding the cords between the light bulbs in the Christmas tree branches? Not at all. [You do understand, don’t you, that Christmas tree lights should look like they are growing right out of the tree, and that the women in my family will stop at N-O-T-H-I-N-G to ensure that everyone believes God miraculously placed glowing lights in our holiday decorations, no electricity required.]
It has been a tumultuous but quite lovely year thus far. Here’s to finishing it out with a bang, and showing those Mayans who knows what about calendaring.
Wow, blogging every day is pretty hard. There’s your regular old nothing-to-write-about days, but there are also other days: days where people take precedence over typing and suddenly it is past your bedtime and you still haven’t made the cranberry sauce for the next day’s Thanksgiving Potluck at work. So today, this is all I have for you: a pot over medium-high heat with 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, and one cup of water.
It must be something about being a Christian in the South, but we love our holiday eats. And I’m not sure if Christians just love pork or are somehow unconsciously sticking it to the Jews, but our most religious days tend to involve ham.
This year I honestly forgot we were approaching Easter until Cadbury eggs started popping up everywhere. We have not been in church on a regular basis because apparently getting an MBA requires that you attend meetings at school from 11 to 3 most Sundays. (This scheduling snafu has also made weekend road trips out of the question. Sigh.)
But, once the date was firmly established in my mind, the grocery shopping began. I’m much more of a martha [stewart] than a mary,* and I spent the entire day cooking up a storm for H and a few friends we are having over to eat with us after church.
Let me tell you, this is going to be one hell of an Easter lunch. Are you even allowed to say that?
- Ham. Obviously, and my ham is awesome. According to H, it is 10% of what made him marry me. According to me, I’m pretty sure I had that in the bag way before I made him his first vintage ham, but I’ll take the compliments where I get them.
- Deviled eggs. Just the regular kind.
Banana pudding. It was my first time making it and it looks delicious! Can’t wait to taste it.
Sweet tea. This is actually the first pitcher we’ve made since getting married, I think. H had to use the broomstick to get the pitcher from “storage” (a.k.a. the area on top of the cabinet hanging above the refrigerator).
Tomorrow we’ll add green beans and sweet potatoes. My friend Katherine is bringing rolls and M&S (our camping friends) are bringing salad. I’m really excited to have an afternoon with some really fantastic people, and to actually get to church and have H’s attention for an entire Sunday.
*This is a religious joke, so if you don’t get it just google “Mary and Martha” and I’m sure wikipedia or biblegateway.com or something can fill you right in.
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