Pie Crust Phobia

Yes, it’s true. In my entire life, I’ve only attempted to make a pie crust twice. Call it pie crust phobia if you will – but I’m scared to death of making a pie – fearful that the crust will be tough or too thick or thin, or…..whatever…

My Grandmom made terrific pies. She had this magic pastry cloth that she would get out of its special drawer and roll out the pie dough to perfection. When done, she’d fold up the magic cloth and back into the drawer it went. Did the thing ever get washed? Did the oils in the dough ever turn the cloth rancid? Not that I ever found out, but I have no such magic cloth and the thoughts of washing/not washing and rancidity run through my mind. Nope…I am not a pie maker.

That being said, I got the notion to make an honest to goodness chicken pot pie. From scratch….. meaning – pie crust. I have hundreds of pins on Pinterest about pies and pie crusts, but instead, I went to my culinary library and pulled my copy of The Southern Heritage: Pies and Pastry Cookbook (c. 1984) from the bookshelf. Voila ! A recipe for basic double-crust pastry. The game was on.

Basic Double-Crust Pastry from the Pies and Pastry Cookbook

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup shortening

5 to 6 tablespoons water

Combine flour and salt in medium mixing bowl, cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal. Sprinkle water evenly over surface, stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Shape dough into ball; chill.

So, I did all that, letting the dough chill for a couple of hours. I had leftover chicken from herbed chicken and dumplings from the night before. I had taken all the chicken off the bone along with the “gravy” that had resulted from cooking the dumplings. I peeled a couple of potatoes and cut them into bite-sized chunks, chopped 1/2 of an onion, and a carrot. I put the veggies on to boil while I prepared my casserole dish with the dough.

I took a knife and cut about 2/3 off the ball of dough. Now, remember – I don’t have a magic pastry cloth !!!!!  Instead, I put the dough between two sheets of waxed paper and rolled it out, lifting the top sheet to sprinkle a little flour over the surface as I went. Much to my amazement – it was actually working!!

I lifted the dough and fit it into my buttered casserole dish (to butter or not to butter was another question, but always err on the side of butter if you are in doubt!!). The dough fit nearly up the sides – it could have been rolled a wee bit more, but hey…. this is a big leap forward in my baking adventures.

I took the remaining 1/3 of the dough and rolled it for the top of the crust. Then I took the now boiling veggies off the stove and drained them. Mixed them in with the chicken and gravy and poured them into the casserole dish. I placed the top crust on, poked a few slits in the top crust for steam, and baked it at 350 F for 45 minutes. The result was a perfectly flaky top and bottom crust with a really tasty filling. If I had some frozen peas, I would have added them into the pie, but it was really fine just the way it was.

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I don’t know if I am completely cured of my pie crust phobia, but at least now, I feel a little less intimidated by the process. Who knows – it is getting to be apple season. Could there be an apple pie in my future?

 

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A Stunning Find

Nearly three years ago, I posted about a native crown jewel – the ladyslipper. Back then, I found a singular plant in bloom close to our new house in a part of the land that had been partially cleared. It bloomed that spring and I have not seen it since.

Today, my husband and I were taking a walk in the woods to check on some Virginia Bluebells that we planted by the creek. We continued to walk in the woods and came upon a stand of ladyslippers – perhaps a hundred in all. Some had already formed the flower and were getting ready to have its bloom emerge. Others were just popping out of the earth, but it was a stunning find. And I am so excited !!!

Bear Creek Lake State Park, located in the Cumberland State Forest, has a huge stand of the ladyslippers. So large that they hold an annual “Ladyslipper Walk” through the woods to gaze at the beauties. I am so pleased that our woods and its terroir provides a proper habitat for these lovely spring ladies. I’ll post pics when they are all in bloom.

New Beginnings – Farm Market Starts Anew

Tomorrow is a HUGE day for our local farmers who are members of the Heart of Virginia Farmers Market Association (HOVFMA). After months of being in limbo, the association is having a “Grand Re-Opening” at its new permanent location in the STEPS Centre parking lot. The market will have Spring/Summer hours of 8AM to 12 Noon.

Heart of Virginia Farmers Market Association

Heart of Virginia Farmers Market Association

Those of us within the association are counting on our faithful patrons in the Prince Edward County, VA region to continue to support us. It’s been very rewarding for all of us who vended out at The Farmer’s Daughters in Rice, VA to see the familiar faces and families drive out to Rice, VA to purchase our locally grown and prepared fresh foods. Indeed, on those cold days, that was the heartwarming we needed to keep us going !! We are truly thankful to all of you !!

The Heart of Virginia Farmers Market Association is hoping to grow with new vendors and local farmers joining us at our new venue. We invite those who want to join our efforts to provide locally produced foods to contact us by email at hovfma@gmail.com

A “Retro” Casserole !!

It’s been a long, cold winter for those of us on the East Coast – with Central Virginia getting more than its share of snow. Last night, with the threat of the Polar Vortex closing in on us once again, bringing chilling temps, I felt the need for some good ole comfort food – you know – that food that takes you on a walk down memory lane – sparking a mental picture of the family gathered together at the table enjoying that which was placed before them.

Incidentally, this one particular recipe that I was craving also fell into the “retro” category for me. And I’ll define “retro” as any recipe that contains the ingredient “can of mushroom soup.” LOL !!! So, as Stephan of SNL would say, “This casserole has EVERYTHING” – including that can of mushroom soup, ground beef, instant potatoes, ketchup and more. This recipe comes to me from my mom’s sister who used to serve it up quite regularly “back in the day.”

Ground Beef Casserole

Ground Beef Casserole

She always called it “Ground Beef Casserole,” but most would put it in the “Shepherd’s Pie” category, I think. No matter what its name, it sure tastes good on a cold winter’s eve!

Ground Beef Casserole (serves 6-8)

1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or turkey, chicken or soy protein)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp butter or veg oil
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbl ketchup
3/4 cup beef broth
1 can mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
salt, pepper

TOPPING: (*)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups instant potatoes
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

For Casserole:
In skillet, add butter or oil if using. When butter is melted, add onions and saute until soft. Remove and set aside. Add ground beef (or other protein of choice) to skillet and brown.

While beef is browning, mix remaining casserole ingredients together in large bowl. Add onions and the browned ground beef. Stir to combine and pour into baking dish (I think mine was a 2 qt dish).

For Topping:
In small bowl, combine flour and baking powder, stirring to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

In small bowl, or measuring cup, break eggs and mix lightly. Set aside.

In medium saucepan, heat water, butter, milk until butter is melted. Add salt and stir to combine. Remove from heat and mix in instant potatoes. Add the flour/baking powder mixture and mix in thoroughly. Take a small portion of the potato mixture and add to the eggs to temper the eggs somewhat (the potato mixture is pretty hot – adding the eggs without the tempering could cook them). Add the tempered eggs to the potato mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon the potato mixture over the ground beef in the casserole dish.

Place casserole in pre-heated oven and bake 25-30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and ground beef mixture is bubbly. Serve immediately.

(*) I haven’t tried it, but I suppose you could experiment by using 2 cups of regular mashed potatoes instead of the instant ones. In that case, just move on to the additions of the eggs, flour and baking powder.

Taste of Farmville

Well, Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you’ve all recovered from the busy holiday season and have settled into 2014 with the best of resolutions! LOL… That’s not something that I normally indulge in – New Year’s resolutions, that is – but this year, I’ve resolved to learn how to pull a perfect shot from my home espresso machine and perfect latte art. I figure that’s a year’s worth of learning for me!

Last week, Bellington Farm, LLC, was a participant in the 10th Annual Taste of Farmville. It was our first time at this event and we were told to expect 800 guests. We planned, and made, 500+ decorated sugar cookies and 120 mini scones with mini chips.

Decorated Sugar Cookies for Taste of Farmville

Decorated Sugar Cookies for Taste of Farmville

Mini Cream Scones

Mini Cream Scones

Chris Brochon, from WFLO Radio was there as a participant as well. WFLO was serving assorted hot beverages, including Russian Tea. We had quite the tea party going, with people sipping tea and munching mini scones! It was great fun and the mini scones disappeared like hot cakes. Next year, we’ll be sure to have plenty more on hand for the event.

Our decorated sugar cookies received rave reviews with many people saying they were “just too pretty to eat,” but no one seemed to be disinclined to eat them! The time at the Taste of Farmville flew by as we handed out hundreds of the cookies. The folks at the Farmville Herald stopped by too, to take a picture of us which was posted on their website.

So, a good time was had by all. The money raised for the Rotary Club will be used to fund a number of worthy projects in the area and we were proud to be a part of this successful fund raising event.

In Memory

Those of you who read this blog know that I generally like to keep things light, always trying to add a touch of humor to my posts. Today, however, will be a departure from the typical as my high school classmates and I are saddened by the loss of a witty, wonderful friend who lost in her battle with breast cancer.

While great strides have been made to improve early detection and prolong life through treatment, we are not quite there yet as far as shedding the world of this illness. As a result, we lose far too many dear friends and loved ones to breast cancer. My mother lost her life to this disease in 1996. As a result, our family events, gatherings and holidays are lessened by her absence. My family is keenly aware of the need for early detection of breast cancer, the dangers of late detection, and the sadness that comes when a loved one falls to this illness.

Several weeks ago, a Breast Cancer Awareness Masquerade Ball was held in the Town of Farmville, Va. Spearheaded by a team of volunteers from Caryn’s Bridal, this ball was a tremendous success, raising nearly $15,000 for a clinic to provide mammograms for women. I was proud to be a sponsor for this event, and made 150 handcrafted Pink Ribbon sugar cookies for the attendees. I commend the staff, volunteers, and sponsors who worked so hard to make this event possible. And I look forward to being a sponsor next year as well !!

So, today, I am posting this picture of my sugar cookies in honor of a friend and classmate. RIP Genie.

Pink Ribbons for Genie

Pink Ribbons for Genie

Halloween Cookie Pops

Halloween Cookie Pop

Halloween Cookie Pop

Had some fun yesterday at the Farmville Area Farm Market ! We only have a couple of market days left before Halloween, so I decided to jump in early to start the fun by turning sugar cookie rounds into cookie pops!

Pumpkin Cookie Pop

Pumpkin Cookie Pop

I started by flooding royal icing onto the cookies and let it harden overnight. Then I piped my “spooky” Halloween spider webs, etc., onto half of the cookies and let that harden as well. Next, I piped the icing onto the backs of the undecorated cookies and attached the cookie sticks. I piped more icing (to the level of the sticks) and attached the top cookie. After they had hardened, I couldn’t leave them alone – I went ahead and piped some very simple designs on the “back” cookies, too. Now I had two sides to dry, so I put them in containers upright to let them dry.

Once they were dried, I cut a hole in the bottom of my cookie bag and slid the cookie in, stick first, and tied the top. Added some orange and black ribbons and we were ready to hit the farm market !! Trick or Treat, ya’ll !!

Spider Web Cookie Pop

Spider Web Cookie Pop