Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recipes for a Pie-making Protege

Three Thanksgivings ago I coached oldest daughter to her first made-it-completely-by-herself pie; she is a quick study.

And two years ago, she baked all the our traditional pies single handed:

Sweet Potato Pie, Pecan Pie, and Apple Pie

This Thanksgiving she finds her far from home, staying on campus over the holiday, and invited to her violin teacher's home for Thanksgiving dinner; so, she thinks she may make a pie for her friends. Here are recipes you requested, Oldest Daughter, and we'll be thinking of you as we make the same pies half a world away.

You'll find the pie crust recipe here: Canola Oil Pie Crust

Sweet Potato -or- Pumpkin Pie Filling~

1 16 oz can pumpkin pack or 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon*
1/2 tsp ground ginger*
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg*
1/2 tsp salt
* use 2 tsp of the spice mix I sent you

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into a prepared pie crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.

Apple Pie with Crumb Topping~

6-8 large Granny Smith apples (about 10 cups)
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon*
1/2 tsp nutmeg*
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
*Hmm, even though it has ginger, you could try using the pumpkin pie spices I sent--2 tsp for one pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel, core, and thinkly slice the apples. Toss them in the sugar/spice/salt mixture, coating them well. Pile them into a prepared pie crust. Top with crumb topping and place in the oven. Bake 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and bake about 40 minutes longer--or until the apples are tender when pierced with a fork.

Hint: Place pie on a baking/cookie sheet before placing in the oven in case bubbling apple goodness spills over from the pie pan.

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) butter, chilled

Mix the sugar and flour until blended. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

And a Soundtrack I Wish I Were Hearing Live...

Oldest Daughter's string quartet will play Mozart's String Quartet No. 15 in D Minor, K. 421, I. Allegro in Oberlin Conservatory's Honors Recital this evening and I'm feeling a little mopey as all I have to listen to is the YouTube recording of someone else playing.

Oldest Daughter is also spending lots of time--much more time than she'd like--in the orchestra pit as Oberlin's voice department presents its annual opera performance. I've gathered that "opera duty", required once or twice during the undergraduate years, is somewhat like a musical jury duty. This being Oldest Daughter's second stint of opera duty in two years, she will be exempted from this obligation her final two years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Soundtrack for a Senior Year

This is a qualified apologia for not allowing children to quit music lessons, particularly if they show any hint of musical ability. Active Son would have quit playing piano several times over if we had let him, but mean old parents that we are, we didn't. (I told him that if he could produce even one adult that said they were glad their mom let them quit piano then maybe, just maybe I would listen to his pleas to quit. He never did find one.) It gets worse. We made him sit for piano exams, endure a theory course, and "pushed" him to play for people. I guess our strategy could have back-fired, but knowing this particular son as we did, we sensed that it wouldn't.

Our long term goal was never to produce a concert pianist or the like, but to give Active Son a gift, albeit a gift for which he would have to work diligently, that he could enjoy throughout his life, and in turn, a gift that he could give to others.

The two YouTube recordings are pieces that Active Son is working on for his senior recital--he isn't the musician in these videos; he says he still has lots of work to do but I think the pieces are sounding pretty good. Good enough to inspire me to write this apologia and good enough for Artist Son to break into spontaneous applause when Active Son finished practicing the Rondo Capriccioso this afternoon.

But what makes my heart sing (and my heart sings much better than my voice) more than hearing Active Son play these beautiful pieces is watching him enjoy playing the piano and keyboard with other musicians in their youth band and to hear him tell his older sister that he is looking forward to jamming with her and his brother when she is home for Christmas.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Best (Easy) Appetizer Ever~Garlic Feta Spread

It's not fancy but it's good. I know it's good because every time I make it people ask for the recipe. I took it to a party tonight and four people asked me for the recipe. I only take credit for recognizing a great recipe when I see one.

There are various online recipes for this great spread; here is how I make it:

Garlic Feta Spread

8 oz (225 g) feta cheese
8 oz (225 g) cream cheese
1 scant cup sour cream
approximately 3 cloves garlic, minced (depends on how spicy you like it and how big your cloves are)
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and cream together. I use a whisk to break up the feta chunks. Tonight I piped it onto small crackers using a icing bag/decorating tip but usually I just spread it on crackers and serve. Delicious, and so easy.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jerusalem Doors~The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb site, located a few blocks from Damascus Gate, is the more contemporary Protestant alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as the location where Jesus was buried and resurrected on the third day.

Door to the Garden

From a Brief History on the Garden Tomb website: "As early as 1842 a German Theologian named Otto Thenius proposed the idea that the outcropping of rock known today as "Skull Hill" could possibly be significant in the identification of the site of the crucifixion." This site is now a bus station, with the walled garden backing up against it.

In 1867, an ancient Jewish tomb was discovered near Skull Hill, adding to the speculation that this was the location of Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Furthermore, a cistern and wine press discovered near the tomb seemed to indicate that the tomb was located in the garden of a wealthy Jew--Joseph of Arimathea perhaps? Perhaps. But even the articulate, Christian guides working in the garden are careful to note that no one really knows if this is the tomb of Jesus.

Doorway of a (the?) tomb

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Quilt as Metaphor

Just before heading back to school this fall, Oldest Daughter casually mentioned that she needed another blanket for her dorm bed this winter. And I casually responded that I would make her a quilt, reminded that I had intended to make her a quilt of recycled denim when she went off to college, but somehow never did. I planned to make this quilt and send it with a dear friend who was traveling to the States the first week of October.

The next couple of weeks found me working purposefully and unrelentingly on this quilt; though I used to sew frequently, I hadn't worked on a sewing project in years, many years. I had a small stash of recyclable denim but needed more, so for a couple of weeks rose early on Friday morning and headed to Amman's used clothing market to hunt for just the right jeans. Besides traditional blue I found pink (two identical pairs!) and turquoise jeans. The purple fabric is from a men's cotton shirt.

Sometime around the second week of working on this quilt, en route for the second time to the used clothing market, I realized that my crafting of this quilt had gone beyond enjoying-a-new-creative-outlet to near-obsession level. What was up with this?? Once I began thinking about it it didn't take me long to realize that this quilt was a metaphor for my mother love for Oldest Daughter, a surrounding, protecting love, and a love still being perfected and righted by a gracious and loving Heavenly Father.

And here is a glimpse into God's beautiful providence: soon after Oldest Daughter arrived back on campus, pressures came to bear on her that caused my mother's heart to ache. I was challenged by the irony of the word "mother" being contained in the word "smother" as God gently, though painfully began working on my smother love, refining it into a more fitting mother love. (With three more children to send off into the world, something tells me God will have more refining to do in the future.)

I stitched and prayed, stitched and prayed, thanking God for his loving care of me, giving this quilting project as a gift to me so that I could give Oldest Daughter a tangible gift of my mother love at this particular time, reminding her that she is ever surrounded by my love and prayers, and for his loving care of Oldest Daughter, strengthening her in all Truth to bear the pressures that had come her way.