Archives For November 2011

…and how NOT to make a pie crust.

Last month I got some pumpkins to pretty up my porch. Three of them were pie pumpkins. I thought from the very moment I spotted them that maybe, someday, one of them could fulfill a destiny higher than mere decoration. Maybe one of them could become a pie.

Yesterday was that day, my friends. I arrived home from work with an uncanny surge of energy and motivation. First, I scrubbed my kitchen clean. It had been collecting dust and grease and–dare I say it–pet hair, for longer than I care to publicly admit. I showed that magic eraser who was boss and an hour or so later my kitchen was sparkling.

Then, I got down to research. I discovered these very detailed instructions on making pumpkin pie from scratch and felt empowered. My goal was to not have to go to the store, and this recipe offered a substitution for the only ingredient I didn’t have (evaporated milk), as well as instructions for whipping up a pie crust. Sold.

First step: prepare the pumpkin.

I used a serrated knife to saw it in half.

Then an ice cream scoop to scrape out all the seeds and gunk.

I saved the seeds just in case I felt motivated enough to roast them later (spoiler: I didn’t).

With my pumpkin halves reduced to a shell of their former selves, I cut out the stem and sliced the halves up into smaller pieces, then put them in a covered bowl with a bit of water.

The directions said to microwave the pumpkin for  fifteen minutes, so I took this opportunity to get started on the crust. I got out all my baking supplies and apparatus.

Pistachio loves to observe goings-on in the kitchen, but she isn’t allowed on the counters. So she sits in a barstool and watches me work. I think it’s adorable.

The directions were a little manic, but from what I figured I was supposed to combine flour, sugar, and shortening in my food processor, then let ‘er rip for about 15 seconds. I was so proud when this yielded pretty little pea-gravel-looking clumps. I felt like that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Then the recipe started talking about adding a little water to make a dough, but I was confused because it also called for cold butter but never told me when or how to add it. So I decided to add half a stick or so of cold butter and 1/4 cup of water at the same time to the food processor. If you’ve ever made pie crust before, I feel like you already know that this did not go well. The water made it turn into a giant ball of dough before the butter could be mixed in. I knew I messed up and was so panicked trying to figure out how to fix it that I didn’t even take any pictures. I fished the butter and the dough out of the food processor and started trying to mash it together with my hands on a piece of wax paper. I knew with every squeeze of dough in my fist I was crushing the possibility of words like “light and flaky” ever being used to describe my pie crust, but I felt it had to be done. Once it seemed like the butter was at least sort of incorporated I wrapped the whole thing up in wax paper and stuck it in the freezer. I figured no further harm could come to it in there and I could pretend like the whole thing hadn’t even happened until I needed the crust again later.

Back to the pumpkin…it came out of the microwave looking like this.

It was really easy to use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh right out of the skins. After I got them all scooped out I put the good stuff in the food processor and ended up with the warm, smooth, pumpkiny goodness you see below.

This is where it got easy. As in, where a normal person who bought a crust and a can of pumpkin filling  from a store would be just getting started. I added sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger. The only spice called for by the recipe that I didn’t have was allspice, and I figured it wouldn’t be the end of the world to just leave it out.

Next, I added some regular ‘ol milk, four eggs, and vanilla.

And mixed. Around this time I was looking over at my stand mixer and wondering why I hadn’t just put it to use for the first time in, oh, about six months or so, but I’d already gotten this bowl dirty so I just went with it. It was really runny, but the recipe said that was to be expected.

And at this point I couldn’t ignore the crust situation any longer. I took it out of the freezer and slapped it down on a fresh piece of wax paper. I tried to use my rolling pin to roll it out but it was just too sticky. I resorted instead to patting it out with my hands until it was roughly roundish.

Then I plopped it in a pie dish and shaped it some more with my fingers. I was shocked, shocked to realize that it actually didn’t look all that bad.

I poured my filling into the crust and, as the recipe predicted, had slightly more filling than would fit in the pie. I poured the excess into muffin tins to make crustless mini-pies. I forgot to grease them first, but I figured even if they stuck it was better than letting the filling go to waste.

After an hour in the oven, I had this notvery photogenic but extremely delicious-smelling result.

Turns out it didn’t matter that I forgot to grease the muffin tins, because Nick was eating them straight out of the pan with a spoon before the pie had even cooled enough to cut.

We didn’t have any whipped cream on hand, but Nick had the genius idea to eat our pie “à la mode” with frozen yogurt (Blue Bunny Caramel Praline Crunch). It was crazy delicious.

So, I don’t know if a pie pumpkin is any cheaper than a can of pumpkin pie filling, and it certainly didn’t save me any time to do things this way, and I can’t say that this particular pie was, you know, amazingly delicious in comparison to pie made from a can, but it was kind of fun to be able to use a pumpkin for decoration and then turn it into dessert. And even the crust didn’t turn out disgusting or anything. I’m not a big crust person anyway and always leave the last little bit at the back of the slice, but Nick stole that last little piece off my plate and ate it so I guess it couldn’t have been all that bad. My favorite part of this pie is that I made it entirely out of stuff I already had. Can’t beat that.

p.s. if you’d like to try this at home, here’s the recipe I used again

I’ve had an extra dishwasher sitting in my front room for, like, two weeks. Nick and I decided to try to install it ourselves last weekend, but it was over before it even started when we saw that there was baseboard covering the bottom panel. Nick was doubtful of his ability to successfully switch the appliances out anyway, and the extra challenge of removing and reinstalling baseboard was just too much for him to bear. (read all about it here and here)

Well, lucky for us, my sweet sister read that post and talker her handy dandy boyfriend into helping us out. Thank goodness for family, right? Shannon and Josh came over last night to get ‘er done. And to thank Josh I promised not to post any unflattering pictures of him on the internet.

He started by removing the baseboard and shoe moulding. He made it look so quick and effortless that I didn’t even get a picture before he had already moved on to removing the dishwasher panel!

Once he got everything disconnected down below, he removed the screws securing the dishwasher to a strip of wood below the countertop. Oops, looks like Nick and I forgot to run and empty the dishwasher before they came over!

With everything disconnected, Josh started shimmying it outta there.

This seemed like a good time to empty it, something Nick could help with!

Josh had to do some more shimmying and finagling to get it out. I think things were complicated by our unlevel floors. Also, if you’re trying this at home, you may want to have some towels or a shop vac handy. When Josh disconnected the water line we had some leakage and the little stream of water traveled all the way to the dining room before we could get it under control. Once we had all the water on the floor sucked/sopped up, Josh used the shop vac to suck any remaining water from the line.

He eventually got it out, revealing kelly green walls behind (just like the patch of wall revealed when I removed the cabinets in my laundry room). Why anyone would have painted the walls this color is beyond me.

Nick and Josh hauled the new dishwasher in from across the house and Josh got right to work hooking up all the doodads.

With everything hooked up, he just had to slide her on in. There was some drama with getting everything all lined up and level, but we got it worked out.

Here she is all ready to go! And a sink full of dishes just waiting for their chance to give her a test run.

Our baseboards were still bare, though, and that just wouldn’t do. Josh measured and marked them, then took them outside to make some quick cuts.

And reinstalled them with a nail gun. He made it look so easy. Nick and I probably would’ve gotten a divorce over this. Just kidding. Except not really. It would have been a major undertaking for us.

He cut a scrap piece of wood I had in my stash to size and used it to help get a snug fit. Once I paint it white I’m sure it’ll blend right in. Add that to my list of unfinished projects.

Ta-da!!!!

The whole operation took about two hours. Nick and I loaded and ran the dishwasher right after they left and are proud to say that our dishes came out 100% cleaner than before. Seriously, they sparkle. Success! I am so, so thankful that Josh and Shannon came over to help us. There were so many little snags throughout the process, like the leaking water line and the unlevel floors, that would have totally just thrown Nick and I for a loop. We might not have even been speaking to each other anymore by the time we got the old dishwasher out, then we probably would’ve been so frustrated we just left a big empty hole instead of taking on the Herculean task of installing the new one. I told Josh he saved our marriage and was only half kidding.

I wanted to take a picture of Shannon and Josh together last night, but Josh said he hadn’t shaved in a week and said I could photograph him working as long as I didn’t show his hairy face. So here’s a picture of them at our wedding two years ago instead.

Aren’t they cute? They’re my DIY guardian angels. Thanks again, Shannon and Josh!

I am super good at starting projects, not so great at finishing them.

Did you think that I finished the wing chairs and forgot to tell you? Oh no, they’ve just been sitting like this for the last two months.

And even though I’d done the backs already, they need to be redone. I tried to reuse the original materials but it just didn’t work out. I need to make a cardboard template to use instead.

Remember when I made over all those chairs for my dining room? One of the chairs had a mate that lived in the office, but when I swiped a wooden chair from the table to use at my new sewing desk the twins were reunited. The only problem is that I never finished chair #2. I need more linen for the seat and one of these days I’ll get around to covering those rough edges with trim.

Back in July I added shelves to my laundry room and painted the walls blue. What I didn’t show  you was the complete disregard I had for cutting in.

And I didn’t even bother painting the edges around the washer and dryer. My plan was to repaint all the trim and save myself some energy by only pulling the washer and dryer out once. Ha!

Things are far from perfect around here, as you can see. I think that unfinished projects are worse than the ones that are never started. Some of these things are just so hard for me to finish, though. I really, really hate painting straight edges. I’m terrible at it and I’d rather pull my own teeth out with a pair of pliers. The wing chairs are hard for me to finish because they require teaching myself a number of new and scary things: how to sew piping, construct a box cushion, and insert  a zipper. I got partway through with cushion cover #1 before I pooped myself out. Now I’ve lost my momentum.

I know from experience that it’s incredibly satisfying to finally finish something that you’ve been feeling guilty about for weeks or months. I just need a little push in the right direction to get me started. Or maybe some extra cash to hire someone to paint all those edges.

Hopefully one of these days I’ll pull myself out of my productivity slump in time to crank out some holiday crafts. Maybe getting my decorations out after Thanksgiving will help? Here are some projects I’ve got in mind, if I ever get around to it.

I searched and searched to find out where this image came from. I think it’s from a Spanish magazine. The description on Pinterest said that these are lightbulbs wrapped in twine to look like pears! I’m kind of obsessed with the idea.

Maybe I’ve shown you these letters before. I can’t remember. But I’m sooooo doing them. I’m thinking maybe “Joy” for Christmas? They’re made with wood letters and quarters!

via

And this! This! Branches sprayed with glitter. I die.

via

I’m dreaming of a stress-free Christmas, but the only thing I’ve done so far is set a budget. I don’t even have a single gift idea. I’m trying not to panic, but I know that I need to get started. The big day is only 26 days away!