Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie

It's always sounded sort of yummy to me, but I am typically not enamored of Southern cooking.

Enter my darling Matt, who took me out to the Delta Cafe and Bar in Portland, OR.

I am suddenly in LOVE with Southern food, and my interest in Sweet Potato Pie is renewed.

Given the opportunity, when I am stressed, I cook.  It doesn't matter so much what it is, as long as it's for someone else.  I've had a lot to be stressed about this week.  Well, maybe the last few weeks, or months.  It all hit me as much too hard to deal with yesterday.  An open to close shift and too many days in a row at work, lots of the little "things" that get in the way of life, and to top it off, a mass text from my dad notifying me that my grandma was headed for an emergency surgery.  Prognosis?  Not good.  Likely that either the surgery would kill her, or the infection would.  No option to leave work, so I needed something to focus on so I wouldn't cry. Unfortunately work was slow, painfully so.  So I baked.

Started out with the crust.  Making it by hand takes focus and hard work, good for time spent thinking, or not thinking, whichever you choose.

In a large mixing bowl, combine approximately 5 cups white flour,
                                                                       1 pound real butter, (softened)
                                                                       1/2 cup white sugar,
                                                                       2 teaspoons salt
Mixture will be dry, but hold together if squeezed hard. Works best if you mix with clean hands,
or a fork, otherwise you over-manipulate it.  If it's not dry, add more flour, a little at a time.

Slowly sprinkle water, one teaspoon at a time, over the mixture until you can form a large ball.
It will still be dry, and will break apart rather than stretch apart if you try to split it.

On a well-floured surface, roll it out to the desired size and thickness.  I suggest a quarter inch
thickness, as this crust is really yummy (think butter shortbread), and will add another flavor
dimension to whatever you use it for.

Bake at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, or until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven
fill with your favorite pie filling.  You don't need to worry about foiling the edges of this crust,
unless your pie of choice requires over an hour of baking time.

Then I made the filling.  Never having made Sweet Potato Pie, (and I haven't a clue why I continue to capitalize the term...), it was an experiment, and luckily, one that turned out quite successfully.

In a large mixing bowl, cream approximately 2 pounds baked sweet potato,
                                                                   1 pound real butter, (softened)
                                                                   1 cup white sugar,
                                                                   1 cup brown sugar,
                                                                   2 tablespoons ground cinnamon,
                                                                   1 tablespoon ground nutmeg,
                                                                   1 teaspoon Anaheim chili powder

Once mixture is smooth and well incorporated, add 4 eggs, mixing well after adding each egg.

Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the
center comes out nearly clean.  This Sweet Potato Pie filling rises akin to a souffle, but will settle
a bit as it cools.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whip cream, or just eat on its own.

I doubt that this will pass muster if any of you reading are a true Southern chef, but it made a passable pie, tasted amazing, and the primary ingredient was sweet potatoes, so I'm calling it Sweet Potato Pie.

Some of you can attest to the means by which I cook and bake, so the measurements listed above are my best approximations.  You should get an incredibly yummy pie out of the deal, but if my measurements fail you, let me know.  I'll make it again and pay more attention to the amounts needed.

Oh, and I got a Christmas miracle a bit early, my grandma came through her surgery and off the ventilator sooner than anyone thought she would.  She's in pain, and still sick, but lucid and alert.  Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.


PS ~  Pie filling recipe makes enough for two 9 inch pies.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Nanny Nightmare

How in the world is a middle-income family supposed to pay for childcare?  No matter how I arrange the numbers, it always comes down to either eating, or paying for daycare.  We make "too much" money to qualify for state-funded daycare or assistance programs, and the cheap daycare centers are scary!

So far we've resorted to juggling family members and the occasional unlicensed nanny, but that juggling act causes no end of stress.  And now that both Johnny and I's schedules have changed, the availability of the sitters we did have doesn't match our current needs.

I'd love to do some sort of childcare exchange, but I work so many hours it's hardly plausible, I feel awful always asking a friend to watch Caelan for free, and I feel even worse about the pitiful amount of money I'm able to offer even an occasional babysitter.

Waking up every night from the same nanny nightmare is no fun at all.

Until I find a solution....


PS ~ Christina McGee!  Get your rear in gear and move back to Washington!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pretty, Pretty Pictures

Finally put some of Caelan's photos in frames today.  Went to hang them up and discovered that there are no hanging apparatus on these particular frames...   So now I just have stacks of framed photos on my table.  Not enough surfaces to place them all, so I think I'll be purchasing some museum putty or something to that effect. 

If you are looking to get photos taken of your little one or family, I highly recommend Deb Rumpza Photography.  (Email me for contact info.)  The day of the shoot, Caelan was extra contrary.  She didn't want to wear the outfits I brought, she didn't want to smile, she didn't want to hold the green parasol, she didn't want me to do her hair, and on and on.  Deb managed to capture every bit of attitude and nuanced expression; her photos are a perfect snapshot of Caelan, and she got her to smile!  I cannot wait to have her do some family portraits.  These are a few of my favorites, but it is hard to choose, they all are amazing!

More tomorrow :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Salted Caramel Popcorn

Well I've been horridly neglectful of my blog lately, but I'm turning over a new leaf.  Once a day, new habit to form :)

In a sort of reverse honor of the "Game on" inspiration for my new habit, here is my newly developed Salted Caramel Popcorn recipe.

    8oz Real Butter
    1.5lbs Light Brown Sugar
    1/4 cup 2% Milk
    1-3.5oz bag Microwave Popcorn, your favorite variety will do
    Sea Salt

Butter a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt, set aside.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Add brown sugar and bring to a boil.  While waiting for it to come to a boil, pop corn, and put off to the side in a large bowl.  Once butter and sugar mixture is boiling, add milk.  Boil until caramel hits soft ball stage.  Mixing after each addition, pour caramel over popcorn in small amounts until all popcorn is evenly coated.  Spread popcorn over buttered and salted parchment paper in a thin, even layer.  Let come to room temperature and ENJOY!

  Another installment coming tomorrow :)