Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

  Wishing you and your family a joyful holiday filled with love.

Thank you for your friendship and taking the time to visit this past year.  

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  

Justus, Andrea, Jillian and Rosetta

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homemade Whipped Cream

 Just a little post to follow up yesterday's pumpkin pie recipe, here's the recipe for making homemade whipped cream.  Making your own whipped cream is so easy, quick, and tastes a thousand times better than anything store bought! 

 Begin by pouring heavy whipping cream in the bowl of your stand mixer, or in a mixing bowl if you are using a hand mixer.  You can find heavy whipping cream in the dairy section at the grocery store, right next to the milk and half and half.

Turn your mixer on high speed and whip the cream.  You'll notice little frothy bubbles right away.  It's tempting to walk away from the mixer, but stay nearby, because you want to turn the mixer off at the right time.  If you keep whipping, you'll end up with something resembling butter before you know it! 

 Turn the mixer off immediately when you notice soft peaks forming.  It's time to add the sweetener and again, you don't want to overmix. 

 I typically add a little vanilla extract...

...and some granulated sugar.  I use just a little sugar because I like the whipped cream to complement the dessert, not overpower it.  However, that's just my own opinion... you can always add more sweetener if that's your preference. 

 Turn your mixer back on just briefly on low speed to mix in the sugar and vanilla.  You may want to use a spatula beforehand to immerse the sugar and vanilla in the cream.  Whip it just long enough to form peaks again. If you place your finger on the cream, the indentation will remain.  

Use a spatula to transfer the cream from the mixing bowl to a serving bowl.  Melt in your mouth! 

Another option for a sweetener is using maple syrup instead of granulated sugar.  This is how I sweetened the cream for the pumpkin pie and the maple flavor was delicious. 

Homemade whipped cream complements so many desserts... pies, cobblers, crisps, even just fresh berries.  Give it a try - you will never be able to buy store bought whipped cream again!

This recipe can easily be doubled, halved, etc.  The whipped cream also refrigerates well, so you can definitely make this a few hours beforehand.
Homemade Whipped Cream Ingredients
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
(Yields almost 1 cup)

Maple Flavored Whipped cream Ingredients
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
(Yields almost 1 cup)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baking a Pumpkin Pie

 Thanksgiving must be nearly here - this past weekend I was positively craving a pumpkin pie!   It was a cold afternoon and nothing sounded better than a little baking in the warm kitchen, so I whipped up this pie.  It was so tasty I had to make another one (this time with pictures) because I wanted to share the recipe just in case you were needing a pie recipe for the holidays!

 I had intended simply posting the recipe, but I took some photos along the way of preparing the pie crust and thought I might include them as well, just in case it might inspire somebody to try making their own! (Although I'll give you fair warning - I am not a pie crust perfectionist!)

Making your own pie crust is a little daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's so easy and delicious you won't want to buy another pie crust again!  I still use my grandma's recipe for a butter crust (you can read that story here) and love how this turns out every time. 

The mistake I made again and again when I first began making my own pie crusts was adding too much water.  After combining the butter and flour, I would pour the water in and I always felt like it was never enough because the dough was not sticky.  After a lot of trial and error, I've found the best thing to do before adding any additional water is to scoop that dough out of the bowl with your hands to see if you can squeeze it into a ball that stays together.  If you can, you're good to go!  You can see in the photo above that there is still crumbly dough in the bottom of the bowl, but you can finish forming everything together once you pour the dough out to roll it. 

 It will take a little bit of patting to get the dough formed into a round disk. Just keep working it until it comes together enough to roll it out.  Make sure you have a little flour under the dough surface and on top of the dough so that it will not stick to the rolling pin or the countertop when you begin to roll it out. 

 As you're rolling out the dough, roll from the center outward, moving the disk around so that it continues to hold its circular shape. 

 A good way to tell if your crust is the right size is to position your pie plate face down onto the dough. 

 When I move the crust to my pie plate, I follow a trick learned from my grandma.  Fold the crust in half and then unfold it once you've set the crust in the pie plate. 

 Trim any excess off with a knife, and if you have any bare spots you can just take that excess dough and use it to fill in.  I leave just a tad excess (see above picture, right side) and then tuck the dough under (above picture, left side) so that it's flush with the edge of the plate.  That makes a little thicker edge to work with! 

 Now it's time to flute the crust - always the fun part!  (I pinch between my thumb and index finger.)  Once you've gotten to this stage, place the pie crust in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.  And don't forget to preheat your oven! 

The filling is so simple.  Combine all your ingredients, except for the half and half.  Pour the half and half in last and whisk together. 

 Remove the pie crust from the fridge and pour the filling in. 

 Now here's another wonderful trick I learned from my grandma. Place the rack in the oven so it's just one level below the center before placing your pie in the oven.  (I would have taken a picture of my oven to show you, but honestly, I would be embarrassed to show how dirty it is!)  The main purpose of this is to create a crispier crust underneath the filling, but it has an added bonus.  I've noticed when I bake my pie like this, the top crust doesn't brown as quickly, many times eliminating the need to cover the edges with foil.  Still, keep an eye on it towards the end. 

 When you remove the pie from the oven, the filling should be set around the edges, but soft in the center.  It will all firm as it cools. 

 (Truly, is there a lovelier sight than a pie cooling on your counter top, filling your house with the scent of fall?  (smile) ) 

 One more thing!  While you pie is cooling, it is so, so easy to whip up some homemade whipped cream!  All you do is pour the desired amount of heavy whipping cream into your mixer (or you could use a handheld mixer) and whip until it resembles whipped cream.  (Keep in mind that a little cream goes a long way!)   Add the sweetener (just a little bit) and/or vanilla extract last and just briefly mix together.  (I used maple syrup as my sweetener - yum!) 

Confession... my very favorite "sweet" is homemade whipped cream.  I can literally eat it plain! 

 This pie is so delicious.  It's just a traditional pumpkin pie, but I love the spices, the texture, the crust...

 For Thanksgiving at my in-laws this year, I'm bringing rolls, cranberry sauce and a dessert.  I haven't decided on a dessert yet, but I'm definitely leaning towards this pumpkin pie (even after making it twice this week - ha)!  Hope you enjoy!

My Grandma's All Butter Pie Crust Recipe
 (makes a single pie crust)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1/4 cup cold water

Combine flour and salt.  Cut butter into small pieces and add to flour with either a pastry blender or your fingers until blended and fine textured.  Add 1/4 cup cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, while mixing with a fork until it can be squeezed together into a ball.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface for a pie plate and place inside (fold in half and lay over the plate, and then unfold).  Trim edges, tuck excess under and flute.   

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

One 9" single pie crust (recipe above)
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
2 large eggs
3/4 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup half and half

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Refrigerate your pie crust, prepared in a pie plate, while you make the filling.

In a bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.  Pour in half and half and whisk until mixture is smooth.  Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust.

Adjust your oven rack so it's slightly below the middle.  Place pie in oven and bake for 15 minutes (at 425 degrees).  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes.  The filling will be set around the edges, but soft in the center.  Remove the pie from the oven and cool. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Living Room this Fall

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like incorporating your own style into your home can be a tricky thing.  As we've gradually worked on our home the four years we've lived here, I've tried to consider the era of the house, what is functional, what is comfortable, what is within our budget, and also what appeals to my own style.  

What is my style?  I don't really know if it's something I can define.  I just know I love it when our home feels warm, comfortable, definitely cozy, but pretty too.  I like to incorporate things that are special and have meaning.  I don't mind taking my time, waiting for just the right piece or for inspiration to strike, even if it means living with a blank wall for a while. 

A home is a place where memories are made with family and friends, it's a place to rest, a place to laugh, it's a haven and so much more.  So I think ultimately it shouldn't matter what is popular, or what style is trendy, it's creating a home that is comfortable to live in.  It's creating a home that works for you or your family.   It's creating a place that you look forward to coming home to. 

 I think all these thoughts come to mind with our living room in particular, because this room has definitely proved to be the most challenging.  I know I've said this before, but the wood walls are something I've grown to love.  Along the way I've tried to figure out ways to lighten the room while retaining their originality and still creating a room that we love spending time in. My main goal, especially as time has evolved, is to create a living room that we can relax and have fun in, but a space that also cleans up well and easily. 

 Most recently Justus built a new coffee table and end table for the living room.  My reasoning for this was I wanted a coffee table that was just the right height for coloring and for propping feet on.  I wanted an additional place where we could store things like puzzles, toys and coloring books.  The end table was a bonus.  Once Justus built the coffee table, we both agreed that a matching end table is just what the living room needed. 

 Every basket and box in this room serves a purpose.  The majority of the girls' toys are kept in their rooms, but their favorites are all stored in the living room.  For instance, the old wooden box holds toys and the basket sitting on top of the table holds crayons (safe from Huck, our poodle that loves the taste of crayons).   

 I purposely left everything in the living room just how it looks on a daily basis, magazines and all.  I do think it's possible to have a room that is functional as well as pretty.  True, we do have a few rules in place, like the girls eat only in the kitchen or dining room, but they also roll all over the rug after they've been playing outside, draw and color at the coffee table, and have toys scattered every which way throughout the day. But we can also zip through the room and have it straightened and clean in no time. 

After Justus finished the tables, I was anxious to find some baskets that fit just right.  I measured and measured, searched many places, and in the end went with a couple baskets from Pottery Barn (I had a coupon and they were on sale, so they ended up being very affordable!).  They were each a different style, but made from the same material.  I love them, and this one that fits in the end table is perfect for storing coloring books, drawing paper, and a few small toys. 

 This pillow cover was a fall splurge from Ann's shop.   Believe it or not, pillow covers are one of the few things I can actually sew, but the other pillow covers in our living room that have come from Ann have stayed so nice that I really like to buy them from her.  Plus her fabric choices are superb!  

 The only other change I've made recently is I finally filled the blank spot on the wall above the sofa.  Last week I finally got the girls put in their pretty dresses and we went to the farm to get some fall photos.  Then a few days later I was at Target and just happened to see this frame on clearance.  I was so excited - it was just perfect for this spot! 

(The mat is actually a linen fabric - love!)  

We all love our new coffee table!  It has gotten so much use already... it's a place to set books and magazines, but also a great footrest and "table" for the girls. (You can read about the building/finish of the tables here.)

It's always a nice feeling to have a room feel complete.  We spend a lot of time here, and I love that it's a room that works for every member of our family! It's truly a living room!

Especially for these two little girls and this one big pup! 

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