Hey, 2014, You Kinda Didn’t Suck

You guys. There is so much going on around here and I am a terrible blogger who has said NOTHING about it. Black belt test! Band and Chorus Concert! Christmas! I am going to make a real effort to blog about all of those thing SOON.

But for now? For now, it’s New Year’s Eve, 2014 has whisked past in a blur, and 2015 is almost upon me. There were certainly low spots in the year but there were a lot of good things, too. It was certainly no repeat of 2012. (THANK. GOD.)

The Bad

  • Scot had two surgeries and 4 hospitalizations in the space of 8 weeks this spring. It was unpleasant for all involved and left us with medical bills we’re still paying.
  • Jamie broke his left arm – both the ulna and radius – on Memorial Day weekend and spent the beginning of the summer in a cast. He healed up just fine, though, and we leveled up to Broken Bone Parenting.
  • Jamie’s transition to kindergarten and Liam’s transition to fourth grade weren’t the smoothest in all the land.
  • I got fat(ter).

The Good

  • I’m in school for medical coding and nearing completion of my certificate program. I’m hoping to job search in the fall of 2015 and I’m really looking forward to a new stage in my adult life.
  • Scot recovered from all the medical stuff in the spring and wasn’t penalized at work for his absences. In fact, his company was incredibly understanding. Given our recent history with this issue, it was a nice surprise.
  • We finally got approval for Scot to try Botox treatment for his migraines. He got his first treatment a couple of weeks ago and signs look promising for improvements in this area.
  • I wrote a bullet journal post that the internet seems to love. It hit Pinterest and it is consistently the most popular post on my blog. Seeing as there are only about 6 of you that consistently read this thing, that’s really weird to me. I didn’t write the post to get the traffic but Hi, Everyone! You’re all busily setting up your bullet journals for the new year if my stat page is any way to judge.
  • We and the kids had summer adventures galore and it was good fun.
  • We finally repainted Liam’s room to give him an older theme. He chose Star Wars (of course) and it looks fantastic. Now if only he would CLEAN it.
  • Jamie started kindergarten! School! Five days a week!
  • Liam kicked ass in third grade as an all-A student and is now in the groove with fourth grade.
  • I got to enjoy a real, honest-to-god, adult social life on a fairly regular basis. I have friends! And you like me! You really like me! (© Sally Field). I am so grateful to know and be friends with all of you.

I’m sure that 2015 will throw challenges our way – life always does – but I am hoping the “Good” list next year will be twice as long and the “Bad” list twice as short.

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The Best Pumpkin Pie Ever

I know I’m biased about this but, really, it’s the best pie ever. The recipe comes down from my Mormor and I have no idea where she got it to begin with. All I know is that every other pumpkin pie I’ve ever had has paled in comparison to this. And now I’m going to share it with you.

I am going to give you the recipes up front because I hate scrolling to the bottom of long picture filled recipe posts just to get to the freaking recipe. There will be plenty of pictures here but they’ll come AFTER the recipe.

Standard Pie Crust (courtesy of my trusty Betty Crocker ©1969)

8 or 9 inch 2 crust pie (because the filling makes 2 pies):

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 c. + 2 TBS shortening

4 to 5 TBS cold water.

Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Thoroughly cut in shortening with a pastry cutter (you can do this in a food processor if you prefer) until mixture looks mealy. Sprinkle in water 1 TBS at a time, mixing until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans the sides of the bowl. Gather dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie

1 – 28 oz can of pumpkin. PLAIN pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.

1.5 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cloves

6 eggs (I often use only 5.)

1 – 12 oz. can evaporated milk

Combine first 7 ingredients. Blend in eggs and milk. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Prepare for picture dump.

First of all, these are the only two implements you need to make pie crust, in my opinion. (Well, measuring cups/spoons, too, but that goes without saying when it comes to baking.)

Bowl and pastry cutter

Bowl and pastry cutter

So, you measure in your flour and salt and thoroughly mix them together. Then you’re going to measure out your shortening. I use Crisco in stick form so that makes it fairly easy for me.

IMG_6650

I use the handy measuring guide on the side.

 

Next, you cut that Crisco into chunks and put it in the bowl. (I cut over the bowl so it just falls into the flour mixture.)

Chunky flour

Chunky flour

Next, take your pastry cutter and start cutting the shortening into the flour. Just press the blades in over and over. You’ll occasionally have to clean excess shortening off the blades and keep going.

Part way there

Part way there

So, you’re going to keep cutting the shortening into the mix until you get a mealy texture that looks like this:

Perfect

Perfect

Next comes the water. A word about that – the water amount in the recipe is, honestly, merely a suggestion. It varies every single time you make a crust depending on ambient temperature and humidity so I never measure anymore, I go what looks and feels right. BUT, when I started out making crust, I always added water a tablespoon at a time until I got what I needed. It was almost always MORE than the recipe called for. Remember, too, that your water needs to be COLD.

So start adding the water a tablespoon at a time and mixing it in with a spoon.

Getting there. Needs more water.

Getting there. Needs more water.

You’ll get to a point where the dough mixture starts to self-clean the sides of the bowl. STOP MIXING. Take the spoon out and get your hands IN. Gather the dough into a ball. It doesn’t have to look pretty. It doesn’t need to be kneaded or worked anymore (DON’T DO THIS, you will get tough, gross crust).

Done!

Done!

Dump the ball of dough onto some cling film, wrap it up, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. This will firm up the shortening in it, helping you to end up with nice flaky crust. It also makes the raw dough a bit easer to work with.

The next step is to mix up the filling. With pumpkin pie you can use a mixer or your can use a hand whisk. It’s really simple, just follow the directions up at the top of the post.

A couple of notes on the filling – because I can no longer buy certain ingredients in the proportions that my Mormor did, I end up making two pies because doubling the recipe means a much easier time of mixing ingredients. You can certainly halve the recipe and make one regular (non-deep dish) pie. You can make a deep dish pie as well, you just need slightly different proportions on both filling and crust. Please ask if you want those proportions!

Now the time has come to assemble the pie. Remove the dough from the fridge, cut it in half, return half to the fridge, and form the other half into a flattened ball of dough.

Like so

Like so

You’ll notice that it has a slightly marbled appearance. This is good! It means you didn’t overwork your dough and it will come out flakey in the end. The marbling is the shortening; as the pie bakes the shortening melts faster than the rest of the pie cooks which then forms air pockets within the crust. Those air pockets are what make flakey, delicious, oh-so-scrumptious crust.

Make sure your work surface, the dough and your rolling pin are well floured and then roll the dough out into an approximate circle large enough to fit in your pie plate.

Voila!

Voila!

Once again, it’s not perfect. It only approximates a circle. The edges are rough. Whatever you do, DO NOT ball it up and start again. If it cracks, leave it alone. No matter how ugly it looks you roll it out ONCE and ONCE ONLY. Otherwise you’re going to lose all of the flakiness you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Next, carefully fold the rolled out dough in half and then in half the other way so you end up with a triangle of crust that you can easily lift into the pie plate.

This way the crust won't tear when you move it.

This way the crust won’t tear when you move it.

Move it into the pie plate and gently unfold it. If you have a few cracks or tears just press them back together as best you can. No one will care or even notice. Then trim off the excess.

Placed and trimmed

Placed and trimmed

You can leave the crust like this if you wish (but maybe trim it more nicely than I did!) our you can pinch the edges between your first two fingers and your thumb to crimp it and make it pretty.

pinchingpie

Do this all the way around the edge and you get this:

IMG_6665

Ready for filling

At this point, I set the first pie aside, take the remaining dough out of the fridge, and repeat the whole process with that.

Once you have your two pie plates prepared, pour half of the pie filling into each. It’ll look like this:

Ready for baking!

Ready for baking!

If you’re smarter than I am, you’ll wrap the edge of the pie plate in a strip of tinfoil so that the edges of the crust don’t get overdone. I forgot this time around.

Pop both pies in the oven at 400 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes. When a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, they’re done. Allow them to cool before eating or storing.

Now, I am an overachiever so I decorate the tops of my pumpkin pies and I’m going to show you how. Remember that extra dough you trimmed off both the pies? Don’t throw it out! Save it for this. No one cares if the decorations are super perfectly flakey so I ball that extra dough up, roll it out one more time, and cut out decorations. I have a pie topper with two sides for cutting out decorative pie crusts.

Apples on one side, leaves on the other.

Apples on one side, leaves on the other.

I use this for decorations or, when making a two crust pie, I use it to cut the top crust into a decorative pattern.

This time, however, I went full nerd and pulled out our Star Wars Cookie Cutters. I made YODA PIE.

Y-O-D-A

Y-O-D-A

The cutter both cuts the shape and stamps the design in the center. You just push down on that button on the top to press the design in. They don’t work especially well for cookies because you can’t use them for any cookie that has a rising agent in it. Once the cookie rises, you lose all design. I rarely bake rise-less cookies. BUT! They sure do work on pie crust!

In order to decorate the pies, bake them for 35 minutes. Then, pull them out and lay the decoration of your choice on the top of the pies in whatever configuration you want. This way, the pie has set up some already so the decorations don’t sink in and they won’t get overdone by cooking for 50 full minutes. Then return the pies to the oven for the remaining 10-15 minutes of baking time.

I just pull the oven rack out , place the decorations, then push it back in.

I just pull the oven rack out , place the decorations, then push it back in.

When all is baked and done, you’ll have this!

IMG_6675

Or this if you aren't a total nerd.

Or this if you aren’t a total nerd.

And that, dear readers, is how you ROCK a pumpkin pie!