Tag Archive: family

Brandied Apple Pie with Cinnamon Sugar Topping

I love to make homemade pies from scratch.  It’s a family tradition that started with my paternal grandmother.  She was a gifted pie baker and enjoyed making pies in her tiny kitchen.  More importantly, she wanted to share those pies with the people she loved.

I was lucky enough to be one of those people.  I always knew that there would be homemade pies waiting for me when we visited.  She would proudly announce that there “might be a little pie” moments after we walked through her front door.  A little pie meant that there would be at least three pies waiting for us that she had baked earlier that day.

Ironically, I found myself making three pies earlier this week. One was for my husband and children.  The second was for my parents.  The third was for dear friends who we count as family.

I don’t say that lightly:  they have become an important part of our family.  Making them a homemade pie seemed like the perfect way to ensure that they knew just how much we love them.  If we deem you as pie worthy, believe me, you’re family.

While I might make a chocolate cake or a batch of cookies for a casual friend of acquaintance, pie is reserved for those near and dear to my heart.  It’s not because I feel that pie making is a chore.  It’s quite the contrary.  I love making pie for someone I love just as much as my Grandmother did.  Making the pie for someone I love is as much a part of my mental ingredient list as anything else in the actual recipe.

I involve my two children in my pie making sessions. They gather to help me make the crust and the filling.  I allow them to flute the edge of each pie, literally leaving their mark on the dough and making it their own.

I can only hope that they will continue the family tradition of making a homemade pie for someone they love when they are grown.  If I’m lucky, they might even make one when I come to visit.  Maybe they’ll greet me by mentioning that there “might be a little pie”.

Brandied Apple Pie with Cinnamon Sugar Topping
makes one 9 inch pie

The cinnamon sugar topping for this pie was adapted from a pie recipe in Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me With Apples.  It develops a lovely, crunchy texture as the pie cools after baking.

To save time, I usually mix my pie crust in my food processor.  This recipe can be made in a bowl using a dough blender or a large fork.   Either way, the result will be a flaky, buttery crust that pairs deliciously with the apple filling.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter, cubed
4-6 Tablespoons ice water

1 pound apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thick slices
1 cup (192 grams) granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons tapioca
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon brandy

4 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the crust, place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the dry ingredients to combine.  Add the cubed butter and pulse until the butter has begun to incorporate into the flour and resembles small grains of rice.

With the motor running, add ice water one Tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a ball.  Take care not to over process the dough.  Over processing will help to develop the gluten in the flour and lead to a crust that is less flaky.  Remove the crust from the processor, shape into a flat disk, and place on a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate while the filling is prepared.

To prepare the apple filling, combine the apple slices, sugar, tapioca, cinnamon, lemon juice and brandy in a large bowl.  Mix gently to combine.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to catch any pie filling that may bubble over during baking.  Set aside.

To make the topping, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan.  Add the sugar, flour, and cinnamon and stir until fully incorporated.  Remove from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is completely smooth.  Set aside to cool.

Remove the chilled pie dough from the refrigerator.  Roll the crust into a smooth disk large enough to line the pie plate.  Rolling will be much easier if done on a well-floured surface or between two sheets of freezer paper or waxed paper.

Place the bottom crust in the pie plate, taking care not to stretch the dough.  By gently lifting the edges of the crust, the dough will naturally come to rest on the bottom of the pie plate without stretching.  Continue this technique around the perimeter of the pie plate.

Stir the prepared filling before gently placing it on top of the crust in the pie plate.  Evenly distribute the topping mixture over the apple filling using a spatula.  Alternately, the topping can be crumbled evenly over the surface of the pie using your fingers.

Place the pie on top of the prepared baking sheet and transfer to the preheated oven.  Bake for 10 minutes before reducing the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Continue to bake for 45 minutes or until the top crust is a beautiful, light golden brown.  Rotating the pie midway through the baking time will help to ensure that your pie is evenly browned.

Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Top with vanilla ice cream if desired.

To download a printable copy of this recipe, click the link below to open the PDF file.
Brandied Apple Pie with Cinnamon Sugar Topping

 

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    If you've been following this blog for very long, you know how much I love pie.  I was fortunate to grow up with a Grandmother who loved to bake pie.  She loved to serve me and the other members of our family one of her pies.  Now I find myself making homemade pies for my…
    Tags: pie, family, crust, recipe, making, farm, baking

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/09/brandied-apple-pie-with-cinnamon-sugar-topping/

A Handmade Life

Visitors to 1840 Farm often comment on the family heirlooms we have on display throughout the farmhouse.  The collection ranges from an antique oak wall phone and century old canister set in the kitchen to the handmade quilts that decorate the bedrooms and keep us warm during the cold winter months.

The collection isn’t limited to the farmhouse.  Our circa 1840 barn holds tools from grandfathers and great grandfathers alike as well as an antique garden spade that my grandmother used when planting her garden.  I have vivid memories of her well into her seventies with spade in hand, tending her tiny garden.  Now I find myself using it to do the same, producing food for my family’s table.

I also spend my mornings much like my great grandfather did, milking in the quiet of the barn.  True, he milked cows and we have dairy goats, but the task and reward are the same.  Spending a few moments at the milk stand provides my family with fresh milk and all the delicious recipes that follow.

Some of these heirlooms were given to me from family members after decades of use.  Others were handmade and given as gifts.  It doesn’t matter to me how they ended up here.  Somehow, they all seem to fit together.  They transform this house into our home and surround us with sweet memories of a time and place that might otherwise be forgotten.

My most treasured of these possessions have a few defining traits in common.  They have a meaningful purpose, they bear the imperfections that are the signature of a handmade item, and they have a history.  To me, their imperfections and past are what makes them so dear.

I’ve always had a love for the handmade.  Maybe it stems from the fact that I grew up with a mother who made me handmade items.  She would turn the smallest scrap of fabric into new clothes for a doll or part of a handmade costume.  While some people looked at these homemade items with disdain, I felt proud that she would make them for me.  Today, if she’s seated at her sewing machine I can be sure that she is hard at work making something that will make my children feel just as important as I always did.

My paternal grandmother sewed as a means of survival.  She had nine children and was a farmer’s wife.  Buying new clothes was not an option.  Instead, she used saved scraps of parchment to fashion her own patterns and make clothes for her family.  Later in life, she sewed for craft instead of utility.

She made each of her grandchildren a handmade quilt.  They were each made using scraps of fabric.  She hand stitched each square and embroidered each child’s name on the top with the date.

The quilt she made for me was completed during the year of America’s Bicentennial in 1976. The American celebration was certainly her inspiration for designing my quilt with a red, white, and blue theme.

Almost forty years later, I treasure that quilt because she made it with her own hands.  The stitches aren’t perfectly even.  The squares aren’t perfectly square.  Yet, to me, it is the imperfection, the proof of its handmade construction, and its history that make it irreplaceable.

My maternal grandmother was a seamstress by trade.  She worked in a dress factory adding beautifully fancy collars to dresses that her salary didn’t afford her the ability to purchase.  Instead, she also found herself sewing at home in order to make clothes for my mother’s wardrobe.

Later in life, she sewed as a hobby.  She made beautiful garments for me and doll clothes that showed the same precision and skill as a wedding dress.  Her stitches were even and the results were impeccable.  My daughter has enjoyed playing with her dolls and using the doll clothes that were made for me when I was her age.  I know that my Grandmother would have been proud to have her great granddaughter enjoying her handiwork three decades later.

I was incredibly lucky to be given another grandmother by marriage.  She embraced me as her own granddaughter and my life was made so much richer by having that experience.  On the occasion of the birth of my first child, she gave me the handmade quilt that had kept her babies warm decades earlier.

The nursery rhyme quilt shows the telltale signs of a blanket that was used instead of displayed, but is no less beautiful in my eyes.  Some of the stitching has worn from years of use, but that increases its value to me.  I can literally see the love in each worn, handmade stitch.

My great grandmother sewed in order to clothe her daughter and four sons.  She used a treadle machine and must have made countless repairs to the boy’s clothing through the years.  She was a dairy farmer’s wife and worked hard not to let anything go to waste.

In fact, she used bits of fabric to make coiled rugs for their farmhouse.  I can only imagine that she spent countless hours during the long New England winters wrapping the fabric and coiling it together before stitching it by hand.  It was a productive way to pass the time as my great grandfather read his farm journal and they listened to the radio.  Through hours of hard work, she turned hand me downs into something useful and necessary.  Those rugs kept the family’s feet off of the cold wooden floor of the farmhouse and gave purpose to fabric that would have otherwise been discarded.

These days, I find myself sitting at my sewing machine, wrapping strips of repurposed fabric around cotton cording before coiling the wrapped cord into a handmade basket.  It’s a tradition that connects me to my mother and grandmothers and all the generations of my family that came before me.  I can’t help but think of them as I listen to the hum of the sewing machine and watch each basket take shape.

There is something about taking discarded fabric and breathing new life into it that feeds my soul.  As I tear the strips by hand and carefully wrap them around the cotton cording, I am carrying on the tradition of my great grandmother.  I am giving my past a purpose and creating something that can serve a meaningful purpose in someone else’s life.

Some may think that a simple piece of fabric held together with a strand of thread can’t possibly hold such immense power.  I disagree.  My bicentennial quilt is priceless to me in the same way that the tailored doll clothes are priceless to my daughter.  While they are merely fabric and thread, they are an intimate connection to a loved one that lives on in our hearts and is kept close at hand every time we feel the fabric between our fingers.

The generations of my family past and present hold together the fabric of my life.  They inspire and encourage me each day to continue living and writing at the intersection of family, food, and farming at 1840 Farm.  Together, we are stitching together the memories that make our handmade life.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/08/a-handmade-life/

Nearly Wordless Wednesday – Maple Syrup Edition

Yesterday we took a culinary road trip to a sugar shack owned by dear friends.  They shared their delicious syrup as well as years of knowledge.  We learned all about the collection of sap and the painstaking work of transforming it lovingly into maple syrup.  We watched as gallons of liquid boiled rapidly and the fire blazed below.  The steam rose constantly to allow excess moisture to evaporate away from the sap until beautiful amber syrup remained.

As a special bonus, we were treated to maple sugar on snow.  Syrup warmed to the correct temperature was ladled over freshly gathered snow.  We twirled it loose with forks and ate it while it was still warm.

It was a delicious way to spend a beautiful sunny day.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/03/nearly-wordless-wednesday-maple-syrup-edition/

Too Good Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

As a general rule, I might be insulted if someone tasted food that I had prepared and promptly announced that it was “too delicious” for me to have made.  I might grab said item away from the offending party and refuse to share any more with them.  I might, but last weekend was the exception to this rule.

The reason was simple.  My son had made the comment.  No, I didn’t merely write it off as the musings of a five-year old.  It was much sweeter than that.  It was all about a young boy and his love of his Dad.

To put it simply, my son loves the chocolate chip cookies that Daddy makes for him.  They are one of the few baked items that he comes running into our farmhouse kitchen for.  I’ve already written about his strict views on his Grandmother’s sugar cookies.  I guess, upon further review, that he has very specific cookie tastes.

Last Saturday, he made a request that just couldn’t be fulfilled.  He wanted to play with Dad after dinner and also wanted to have the previously mentioned chocolate chip cookies for bedtime snack.  It seems like a simple enough request, especially when you’re five.  Unfortunately, there are only so many minutes in the brief time between dinner and bedtime snack.  Someone had to step in.  It seemed like it might as well be me.

So, I did my best and decided to change the method of making his beloved cookies in order to meet our time constraints.  I used a food processor instead of a mixer.  I made the whole batch in a pan instead of dropping individual balls of dough on the cookie sheets to bake.  The pan of food processor chocolate chip cookies was in the oven in less than ten minutes.  They baked while I cleaned up the dinner dishes and the boys had their quality time together.

By the time the cookies had cooled, it was time for bedtime snack.  We topped the warm cookies with a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream.  My son couldn’t wait to sit down and take the first bite.

He loved it.  He proclaimed for all of us gathered at the table that Daddy always made the best cookies.  My husband told him that I had actually made these cookies using the same recipe that he usually followed.  My son stopped for a moment to take in the information.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mom, I know that you didn’t really make these.  Your cookies are always good, but these are too good.  They’re so good that they have to be Daddy’s cookies.”

I could have been offended.  I could have put up an argument.  I could have stormed into the kitchen and claimed the entire pan of cookies as my own.  Instead, I smiled and tried to capture the moment in my memory forever.  How could I be upset?  Here sat my son enjoying a homemade snack and proclaiming that it was too good to be made by anyone but his Dad.

These are the moments that lifelong memories are made of.  I don’t intend to stand in the way of a boy and a happy moment shared with his Dad.  I do intend to make sure that I make these cookies for him any time he wants them.  If he thinks that his Dad made them, I’ll simply smile.  I’ll know that decades from now he’ll remember Daddy’s chocolate chip cookies that were too good to be made by mom.  In my opinion, that’s a family food memory too good to miss being a part of.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
These cookies can go from raw ingredients to baking in the oven in less than ten minutes.  They are delicious served warm topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups (300 grams) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Place butter, brown sugar, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until mixture is smooth and creamy.  Add eggs and process until well incorporated.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips and process just until combined.  Resist the temptation to overmix the batter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.  Serve warm.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2011/06/too-good-chocolate-chip-cookie-bars/

A Dirty Job for Everyone

The Hoophouse at 1840 Farm

Life here at 1840 Farm can get pretty dirty.  Spring has only been here for a few weeks, yet the never-ending trail of garden soil has already started to appear in our mudroom. I’ll spend ten minutes every evening from now until winter trying to clean up the dirt before it ends up all over the rest of the house.  Believe me,  I don’t mind at all.  Dirt on the mudroom floor means that winter has finally ended, spring is here, and summer will be sure to follow.

Summer is my favorite season.  It brings with it long days spent outside working and playing.  It means that we will end our days dirty from the work required to tend our extensive vegetable garden, fruit orchard, and flock of heritage chickens.  We’ll eat lunch outside next to our circa 1840 barn while we listen to the cacophony of chicken sounds coming from our coop.

It won’t be long until we have tired muscles and blisters from the farm chores and unending list of construction projects.  In fact, we’re hoping that a new hoophouse we’re building will extend our growing season past the 90 days that Mother Nature gives us in New England.  With any luck, we’ll be dragging garden soil into the mudroom every month of the year.

Who am I kidding?  I’ve got the sore muscles already and I’ve already applied bandages to blisters on my daughter’s hands.  I spent yesterday using a sledgehammer to drive 30 inch rebar into the ground to stabilize our new hoophouse.  Thor may be playing at a theater near you, but we’re playing Thor right here at 1840 Farm.  He has a stone hammer, we’ve got a sledge.  True, he has fancy superhero garb and a Norse god for a dad, but  I’m not jealous.  I’ve got over a hundred heirloom tomatoes seedlings getting ready for a warm spot in the hoophouse and a dad who helped me build it.  Thor’s got nothing on me.

So why do we work this hard?  Simple.  We know that by growing and preparing our own food, we can stay connected to what we eat every day.  No, we can’t produce everything that we eat, but we can try to come a little closer every year.  Last year, we added chickens  to the farm and now I can’t imagine buying eggs at the grocery store.  In fact, we’re looking to add a few more hens to our flock just so we can make sure that we always have enough fresh eggs right outside our farmhouse door.  Still, other people struggle to understand what we are doing.  If only we had someone who could try to explain it to them.

Enter Mike Rowe.  You know him, the man who makes learning about the Dirty Jobs that people in this country do everyday seem fun.  The man behind Mike Rowe Works and all the resources that go with it.  Well, he did something remarkable last week.  He spoke before a Senate panel.  I’m guessing that most of us wouldn’t consider speaking to the Senate as fun.  I’m also guessing that after it was all said and done, we’d probably leave the Capitol feeling a little dirty.  Mike seems like just the guy for this job.

Mike Rowe Testifying Before the United States Senate

Mike testified before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.  The transcript of his speech is equal parts autobiography and a call to arms.  The video is even more inspiring.  I can’t remember the last time I listened to someone speaking in Washington, DC who I thought was making sense.  Oh, that’s right, it was last week during the Future of Food Conference.  Allow me to rephrase:  I don’t remember the last time a government official said something that made sense.  Clearly we have the wrong people sitting on the high and mighty side of the chamber.

Mike Rowe’s speech was well delivered and in my opinion, right on the money.  He eloquently described how our society has gradually downplayed the value of real work.  He spoke of his grandfather and a generation that knew how to fix things even if it wasn’t their profession.  I remember those days when the neighborhood mothers and fathers all had their talents and they were called upon when needed.  We knew that Mr. Smith could help fix your lawn mower and that he might call up and ask if my father could help install a new light fixture or repair drywall.  One mother was the best seamstress while my mother might be asked for gardening advice.  Everyone had something to contribute and in the end, everyone ended up the better for it.  Now we ask neighbors if they know someone who is a good electrician or handyman.  We rarely even think to try to make the repair ourselves or ask someone to teach us how to do it.

One line of Mike Rowe’s testimony really stuck with me.  “And still, we talk about millions of “shovel ready” jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.”  He’s right.  We don’t encourage people to pick up a shovel or anything else that might require getting their hands dirty.  We’ve chosen as a society to pretend that getting dirty isn’t a requirement of life.  Along the way, I think we lost a little something.  We became distant and disconnected from the work that makes our lives possible.  Maybe that’s why these types of jobs are now regarded with so little value.  It’s hard to value something that you chose to pretend isn’t there.

Why don’t we value hard work anymore?  I’m not sure.  I know that we used to.  In fact, my grandparents and great grandparents all worked hard and weren’t afraid to get dirty.  They spent their days tending things and making things.  They knew how to fix things.  They came home at the end of the day dirty with a sense of satisfaction.

I don’t know how we can return to a society that values dirty jobs like farming.  I have a hard time believing that the Senate will be able to affect much change in this department.  I have a distinct feeling that they are even more disconnected from the real working public than the rest of us.  I certainly don’t intend to wait around for them to “help” me figure out what I can do.

I intend to do my part right here at 1840 Farm.  I will happily pick up a shovel and get dirty.  While I’m at it, I’ll teach my two children to do the same.  I’ll encourage them to learn to fix or build something.  I’ll consider it a success when they end the day with dirt under their fingernails.  We’ll get dirty together and with any luck, we’ll end our days with a deep sense of satisfaction.

I’ll know that I’m doing something right when it is necessary for them to take a shower at the end of the day before I can even consider sitting at the dinner table with them.  We’ll sit together as a family around our farmhouse table and eat something that we grew ourselves.  We’ll connect with our food, our family, our lives, and our farm.  Maybe I’ll even leave the dirt on the mudroom floor until tomorrow.  After all, a little dirt never hurt anybody.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2011/05/a-dirty-job-for-everyone/

Pancake Night

I was drinking a cup of coffee yesterday morning while reading the news headlines on my laptop.  Among the news, I saw a tagline proclaiming that it was National Pancake Day.  I was intrigued.  I like pancakes.  I clicked on the headline and prepared to read a story full of homey touches about making pancakes.

Instead, I ended up in what seemed like an infomercial for IHOP.  Apparently, “national” meant that a national chain of restaurants had decided to give away pancakes.  There were no homey touches.  In fact, this so-called holiday didn’t involve a home at all.  I was beginning to compose a post in my head to register my unhappiness with what I perceived as a completely contrived moment of pancake marketing.

Luckily, I continued to read and learned that IHOP’s National Pancake Day is a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network.  The complimentary pancakes come with the request for a charitable donation.  I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I should always finish my coffee before doing anything that involves brain power early in the morning.  Why the sudden change of heart?  I have a vivid memory of being a parent sitting at the bedside of my child in a Children’s Miracle Network hospital.  Believe me, that memory is much stronger than my opinion regarding pancakes.  Suddenly I was on the National Pancake Day bandwagon.

How could we celebrate the moment at 1840 Farm without the potential allergic reaction and high blood sugar that would certainly follow a trip to a pancake house?  The answer was simple:  make pancakes for dinner.  I started to gather ingredients while the children debated the merits of banana versus blueberry.  Banana was the clear winner.  Now all that was left was the mixing and flipping.  The griddle waits for no one.

As usual, the pancakes didn’t linger on our plates.  My son had to be cut off and reminded that there would be pancakes waiting for him tomorrow morning for breakfast.  Smiles slowly spread across my children’s faces as they excused themselves from the dinner table.  They both voiced their opinion that we should have pancake night more often.  I had to agree.

I’m sorry IHOP.  Continue on with National Pancake Day.  I will happily support any day that involves raising money for a deserving charity and puts a smile on my children’s faces.  In the end, pancakes really do deserve their own holiday.  Pancake night at 1840 Farm seems like a good start.

1840 Farm Pancakes
serves 6 – 8

This pancake base has been a family favorite for years.  We  typically dress them with banana slices or blueberries grown on our farm, but they would be delicious topped with your favorite pancake companion.

    

240 grams (2 cups) King Arthur White Wheat Flour
60 grams (5 Tablespoons) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 ounces plain yogurt
15 ounces skim milk
1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large bananas, sliced thinly
  

maple syrup and butter for serving

 

 

 

Lightly coat a griddle or cast iron skillet with a neutral tasting oil like safflower or canola.  Heat griddle or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Meanwhile, combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Beat eggs in a medium bowl before adding yogurt, milk, vinegar, and vanilla extract.  Whisk until smooth.  Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add the prepared liquid ingredients.  Gently whisk until the mixture is well combined and no lumps appear.

Add batter to griddle or skillet using ladle.  Allow bubbles to appear throughout the pancake before adding banana slices.  Turn pancake and cook on second side until lightly browned.  Top pancakes with butter and maple syrup.  Serve warm.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2011/03/pancake-night/

A Stylish Blogger Award For Me?

Really?  Someone I don’t know just gave me a Stylish Blogger Award.  A total stranger.  I won’t lie to you.  It hasn’t made me any less happy about it.  Who cares if I don’t know Betsy from A Plateful of Happiness?  I do know a few things about her.  She writes a blog that I enjoy reading.  She lives in one of my favorite towns – Lexington, Massachusetts.  She likes to collect cookbooks.  I think I like her already.  The fact that she chose to bestow an award on me is purely a bonus.

As is the tradition with acceptance speeches, I feel the need to thank a few people.  Yes, I know that I’m not at the Oscars.  How do I know?  Simple.  I’m wearing my fuzzy slippers and sitting at the computer with my dog Pete.  I know that information doesn’t conjure a terribly stylish mental image, but there’s no point in pretending to be something I’m not, which in this case, is a person wearing uncomfortable footwear.  I am willing to bet that if you watch the actual Oscars, you’ll see at least one star who looks like they would rather be at home in their fuzzy slippers spending a little quality time with their loyal canine companion.

Enough already.  On to my brief acceptance speech which I promise will not require Bill Conti to play me off the stage with  his orchestral stylings.  I would like to thank my family who tolerates me typing away on the keyboard telling my stories even if no one else in the universe might read them.  I would like to thank the someones who have read them and left me such wonderful comments.  I would also like to thank Betsy for giving me the award.

I understand that this honor comes with a few rules that I intend to follow in the spirit of the award.  They are as follows:

Thank the person who has given you the award
No problem there.  I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to the lost art of the thank you.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my children and wait for the collective groan to erupt as they explain my rule about not being able to spend gift money until the thank you card is in the mail.  Anyway, you get the picture.  The thank you was taken care of as soon as I got the nod.

Share seven things about yourself
Wow-what to share?  Well, here are a few things that you might not know about me from reading this blog during the past months:

1.  I used to cook for pure pleasure.  The richer and more decadent the better.  I can remember Sundays spent making cakes with ten different components from scratch.  I was blissfully unaware that I would find myself cooking with a food scale and calculator a few short years later.

2. Today, I cook with a purpose.  I am the head cook for a household that includes a marathon runner who always seems to be in training for another long run, a child with Type 1 Diabetes, and a child with multiple food allergies.  I spend a lot of time researching recipes, trying out substitutions that don’t sacrifice flavor, and calculating the complete nutritional profiles for everything we eat.  Really, I’m cooking and baking at the crossroads of great taste and food awareness.  I guess it’s a good thing that I like a challenge.

3.  I have a profound weakness for good wine, good coffee, and anything that I can eat straight from our garden.  My winners in each category would be a great Shiraz, a fresh cup of Jamaica Blue Mountain, and a Purple Calabash heirloom tomato still warm from the sun.

4.  If I won the lottery, I would buy a small house in Portland, Maine.  No, I wouldn’t leave 1840 Farm, but I’d have a nice place to pass the time when my gardening duties didn’t call.  In spite of my lottery winnings, I’d still eat on the cheap at my favorite places:  Micucci’s, Otto’s Pizza, Duckfat, Dean’s Sweets, and Bard Coffee.  Alright, so I’d treat myself to a fantastic dinner at Fore Street when the mood struck me.  I’d also spend a lot of my winnings on great wine from Old Port Wine Merchants.  Ah, to dream.

5.  I’m a fairly good cake decorator.  I took the requisite classes before the food bombshells listed in number 2 came knocking on my door.  I can make you a cake whether it be covered in buttercream, fondant, or even gumpaste flowers that look like they belong in an art gallery.  I had great designs on using these skills to build a small business.  Lucky for me, they have served me well over the past few years when cakes from the local bakery would translate to a birthday spent in the emergency room with Epi-pens in hand.  Instead, we’ve had three-dimensional cakes in the shape of pink poodles, dinosaurs, polar bears, The Black Stallion novel, a flying Ford Anglia inspired by the Harry Potter series, and even a Golden Laced Wyandotte chicken.
Pink Poodle Cake at 1840 Farm Polar Bear Cake at 1840 Farm Flying Ford Anglia Cake at 1840 Farm Golden Laced Wyandotte Chicken Cake at 1840 Farm

6.  I’m a vegetarian.  The most common question I get is “Why?”  Simple.  I watched Food, Inc.  I read Eating Animals.  That was it for me.  So now I find myself a person who raises chickens but doesn’t eat chickens.  Have I lost you yet?

7.  I am a homeschooling mom.  I am trying to teach my children how to read, write, and do arithmetic, but also that life can be your classroom if you allow it to.  I want them to keep learning long after their school years are behind them.  I hope that they will never stop being students of all things food whether it be how to grow a better tomato or how to make the perfect cheesecake.  Mostly, I want them to understand how important it is to be connected to the food that finds its way onto your dinner plate.

Share 15 blogs that you enjoy reading
This is the easy part.  I enjoy so many that I’ve done my best to come up with my top fifteen.  I haven’t included A Plateful of Happiness as I have already told you that I enjoy reading Betsy’s blog.  Here they are in no particular order.

1.   The Screen Porch – This site is brimming with beautiful photos and wonderful writing about all things food.  Written by a fellow French Fridays with Dorie member.
2.   Vegan Dad – If you don’t eat meat, this site is a must for incredible recipes for all sorts of meat substitutes.  It also features a lot of great bread baking entries with recipes and very illustrative photos.
3.   Ozark Homesteader - This blog is full of interesting posts which cover cooking, gardening, and all sorts of other life topics.
4.   Orangette – Molly’s blog is full of great writing from the author of one of my favorite food themed books:  A Homemade Life.  If you love food and have ever experienced the loss of a loved one, this is a must read.
5.   Dorie Greenspan – Dorie’s site includes wonderful recipes.  Try the punitions and you’ll be hooked.
8.   Rabeleis fine books on food & drink – Who wouldn’t love a bookstore that only carries books about food and drink?  It doesn’t hurt that it is right next door to my favorite chocolate shop in the whole world, the aforementioned Dean’s Sweets, makers of peanut free, nut free, absolutely delicious chocolates.
9.   Simple Scratch Cooking – This blog delivers on its promise and offers an unending supply of simple, delicious recipes.
10.  Six Until Me – A great site to bookmark if you or a loved one fights the good fight with Type 1 Diabetes each day.
11.  5 Second Rule – I love the artistic food photographs that accompany the recipes on this site.
12.  Allergic Girl – If you or a loved one lives with food allergies, this site offers a wealth of information.  Sloane has been living with food allergies for several years and writes very eloquently about her experience.
13.  Bittersweet – This site provided a lot of useful tips and recipes during our egg-allergy years.
14.  Steph’s Bite by Bite – Steph cooks, bakes, writes, and trains for marathons.  Gee, it sounds a lot like what goes on out our house except that I leave the running to my husband.
15.  Salt – I enjoy reading the detailed recipes on this site and love the step by step photos.

Notify the bloggers from your list of fifteen that you have passed along the xx award to them
In my opinion, this is the easiest part of this process.  I get to make the day of fifteen other bloggers.

Thanks again to Betsy for sharing this award with me.  I had received a rejection letter for a writing assignment earlier in the day and was feeling a little sorry for myself.  It saved me to hear from her and learn that my writing had brightened her day.  Now she knows that her writing has returned the favor.  Lucky me, now I’m off to let fifteen bloggers know that I think that they are stylish.  Hopefully they won’t hold my fuzzy slippers against me.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2011/02/a-stylish-blogger-award-for-me/

Of Cupcakes and Decades

Yesterday was a special day at 1840 Farm.  Without getting into too much detail, I will tell you that we found ourselves in the midst of a birthday.  A birthday that involves a child and the celebration of a decade gone by.

I’m not sure where the time went.  I won’t allow myself to wallow in sentimentality or triteness here.  I’m already doing that in my head.  In any case, it has happened.  The days led to weeks, then months, then years.  And here we stand, looking back on the last decade wondering how we got here.

Birthdays are all about throwing caution to the wind and celebrating the moment, even more so when a child is involved.  This one seemed like the perfect opportunity to head into the kitchen with my kids in tow to bake something.  The birthday girl likes vanilla bean cupcakes, so they came up the winner.

I stood in the kitchen and watched as my children cracked eggs, creamed butter and sugar, and reveled in the excitement that is a child’s birthday.  I didn’t see birthday excitement on the ingredient listing for the recipe, but I can assure you that a heaping cup full went into these cupcakes.  They laughed as they measured and mixed.  Yes, flour became airborne and dusted the counter.  No, I didn’t care.  This wasn’t an activity meant for neatness.   It’s almost impossible to truly celebrate the moment while tidying up the kitchen counters as if Martha Stewart might be dropping by.

As the cupcakes baked in the oven, we moved on to frosting.  My daughter requested a cream cheese version.  My son insisted that it be pink in honor of his sister’s favorite color.  A very big concession from a boy whose favorite colors are anything dark without so much as a hint of a “girly” color.

And so it was.  Pink cream cheese frosting along with a few other colors including dark chocolate brown.  As soon as they were finished being used, the beaters were licked until they were shiny and bare.  Cupcakes cooled on their racks while I cleaned up the last remnants of our baking celebration.  In short order, it was time to frost the cupcakes and taste them just to make sure that they were worthy of our big birthday celebration.

The cupcakes received the seal of approval from the birthday girl.  As my children ate their cupcakes, my daughter marveled at how pretty the frosting was.  My son predictably ate the top half of the cupcake with its frosting and then announced that he was too full to finish the plain cake.  Then he told me, as only a young boy could, that, “Cupcakes taste better when you make them with someone and for someone.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Today reinforced what I knew before the last decade had even begun.  The kitchen is simply a room in your house unless you fill it with the people who matter most to you.  Baking and cooking can be transformed from a daily chore into a true labor of love if done correctly.  And by correctly, I don’t mean precise measurements and intricate preparations.  I mean music playing overhead mixing with laughter in the air while you and yours plan, discuss, prepare, and enjoy food together.  Over the years, I have found creative ways to substitute and modify countless recipes, but there is no substitute for the experience that is cooking and eating together.

It is a mystery what the next decade will bring for my family or yours.  What I do know is that time is always ticking and it won’t be long until we will all be looking back on another ten years gone by.  I’ll blink and another decade will need to be celebrated.

I don’t know who originally stated that “time flies when you are having fun.”  Whoever they were, they were right.  Maybe that’s why these last ten years have passed by so quickly.  I am having fun.  I’m in the kitchen with my family.

I have to agree with the sage wisdom of a five-year old on this topic.  Food does taste better when you make it with someone and for someone.  Try it yourself.  Gather together in your kitchen with someone near and dear to you and make something.  Anything.  You won’t be sorry.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

These cupcakes are moist and dense, perfect for providing a place for your favorite frosting to land.  If you have buttermilk on hand, it can be substituted for the skim milk and apple cider vinegar mixture.  These cupcakes are not overly sweet.  That is my preference when I know that sweet frosting will accompany them.  If you prefer a sweet cupcake, the amount of sugar called for in the recipe can be doubled without adversely affecting the cake’s texture.

12 ounces butter or margarine, room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur white wheat flour
1 cup All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
7 1/2 ounces skim milk
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners or arrange silicone cupcake liners on baking sheets.  In medium bowl, combine dry ingredients: flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In small bowl, combine milk and apple cider vinegar.

In large bowl, cream sugar and butter using stand or handheld mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until completely incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.  Add the combined dry ingredients and milk mixture  alternately, beginning and ending with the dry.  Mix until just combined.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before embellishing with frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 3 cups

This frosting is a delicious addition to cupcakes or cakes.  It is firm enough to hold its place on baked goods and lends a creamy texture to anything it is served with.  The cream cheese allows it to stay slightly softer than a traditional buttercream, making it less than ideal for detailed piping work.

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 ounces butter or margarine sticks, room temperature
4 ounces Spectrum organic non-hydrogenated shortening
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
16 ounces powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter or margarine, and shortening in a large bowl.  Using a mixer on medium speed, cream the ingredients together until smooth.  Add vanilla extract and mix to combine.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar.  Mix until frosting is completely smooth.

Color frosting as desired and decorate cupcakes.  Unused frosting can be stored covered in the refrigerator for 7 days.

Download the free 1840 Farm Cupcake Wrapper Template to help dress up your beautiful cupcakes!

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2011/02/of-cupcakes-and-decades/