Tag Archives: pie

New year, new possibilities

Happy New Year! / ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

How do you feel about 2014? I’m excited. I like the number. My favorite numbers end in 4 and 8, so I already have a good feeling. Besides that, it’s just a big year! I graduate from college in May. MAY. Four months away. Uhh, when did that happen?! Just yesterday I was a homesick freshman, then a once-again actress sophomore, then abroad as a junior, and now…I don’t know what this year will bring me. And there’s something kind of terrifying but exhilarating about that.

The last sunset of the year. Hazy and subtle.

The last sunset of the year. Hazy and subtle.

I spent the end of the year with my family. My immediate family is the only one that lives in the Midwest- everyone else lives in in New York State (no, not the city). So between Christmas and the New Year is a very important time of year for us to get together and catch up. My dad’s family in particular has made New Year’s Eve THE family party of the year. And since I’d completely missed our summer reunions while I was working in Chile this year, I was especially excited to get back on the road.

A round of Mexican Train with my maternal grandparents. We play to win.

A round of Mexican Train with my maternal grandparents. We play to win.

It’s probably how I’ve been raised, but I’ve never been to into the kind of New Year’s where you get super dressed-up and spend all night drinking and dancing in a big party with lots of strangers. I prefer to drink and dance with those I love the most, and that’s my family.

My dad, uncle, and brother built a huge fire. They used up a whole cord of wood, and then some. It was freezing outside, but you couldn’t stand closer than a foot from the fire and have to shut your eyes from the heat.

Can you feel the heat? The picture doesn't do justice to its actual size.

Can you feel the heat? The picture doesn’t do justice to its actual size.

I made a chocolate cream slab pie, courtesy of How Sweet Eats. Jess is one of my favorite bloggers! And if you have questions or comments about her posts,  she’s pretty awesome about responding! If you’re looking for a dessert that will feed a crowd and impress them too, this is a good one to try.

Pre-made pie crust, rolled out to fit a 9 x 13 foil pan. It's a little bit broken, but it works.

Pre-made pie crust, rolled out to fit a 9 x 13 foil pan. It’s a little bit broken, but it works.

Chocolate pudding filling, from scratch. Don't let the boiling and the cheesy smell before the chocolate is added freak you out. It's okay. Just keep stirring it!

Chocolate pudding filling, from scratch. Don’t let the boiling and the cheesy smell before the chocolate is added freak you out. It’s okay. Just keep stirring it!

Ta-da! It was creamy and rich and not too sweet. If you want to get really fancy, use chocolate shavings, not sprinkles.

Ta-da! It was creamy and rich and not too sweet. If you want to get really fancy, use chocolate shavings, not sprinkles.

On New Year’s Day, it was brilliantly sunny, and I took a few trips down my aunt and uncle’s hill on the tobaggon. In an effort to avoid sledding into trees and pricklebushes, and away from a newly frozen lake, I wiped out every time.

The view from the top.

The view from the top.

We ate a lot of food in seven days. A lot. Of course I took pictures.

When in New York, get your fill of pizza and wings.

When in New York, get your fill of pizza and wings.

Ted's Fish Fry. A must-have when in the Capitol District.

Ted’s Fish Fry. A must-have when in the Capitol District.

On our second to last night, we made steak and boiled live lobsters. The salad makes us feel better about ourselves.

On our second to last night, we made steak and boiled live lobsters. The salad makes us feel better about ourselves.

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. The leftovers stayed at my aunt and uncle's house. I wish I'd remembered them.

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza. The leftovers stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house. I wish I’d remembered them.

I took the time that I had in the car on the way home allowed me to think about my resolutions for the year. I’m still deciding whether or not I want to call them “resolutions.” Another aunt is calling them “possibilities-” it’s a possibility and YOU have to make it happen! Tracy at Shutterbean is calling them intentions, which is another nice way to think of whatever else you want to do differently this year. I came up with three categories: physical, academic/professional, and spiritual/mental. I then decided on five resolutions/possibilities/intentions for each category, bringing me to a grand total of fifteen. Does that sound like a lot? I’m pretty sure that last year I had about four pages worth of resolutions last year. And I’m also pretty sure that I accomplished almost none of them. I’ve read in various places that it’s much easier and more beneficial to pick smaller, simpler goals rather than try to overhaul every aspect of your life starting on January 1st.

A few examples? My university hosts a half-marathon each year- and I’m going to run it! I also want to try Meatless Mondays, which I may step up to Meatless Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. I live by my planner to begin with, but I think I’m going to use it more wisely and try to schedule my work very specifically each day and each week. I have a thesis to write, and scheduling blocks of time for that, and blocks of time for all of my other work, will help me be more efficient and focused. My mental and spiritual goals include limiting Facebook time to just twice a day, visiting the Grotto on campus at least five times per week, and journaling every day, even if just for five minutes.

For physical goals, it’s about pushing my limits and working harder. For academic and professional goals, it’s about being more efficient and more successful, and avoiding those last-minute waves of work. For mental and spiritual goals, it’s about being more reflective and self-enforcing quiet time. Because you can make time for anything if you want to.

Do you have any resolutions? Any suggestions as to how you’ve found success with your resolutions in the past? Let me know in the comments! And if you’re new here, say hi!

If you’re in the US, and particularly in the Midwest, stay warm in this icebox. And please pray for those who are homeless or can’t stay cuddled up inside. If you’re in Chile or another region where it’s summer…just. Don’t even.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and may 2014 be your best year yet.

With love,

Gaby

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A marathon and a sprint

Well that was a fast two months since I last posted!

Hello everybody. How are you? I’m alive. And doing well. As I predicted, life got busy busy busy after that last post. There were essays to write and projects to present and life to be lived.

Summary:

I had a birthday! I wore a wool coat- the opposite of the shorts that I wore on my last birthday in Santiago. Despite it being a Monday, I was able to celebrate with a yummy dinner, a pisco cocktail (Peruvian, but you know what, it works), and trivia. It was everything I could have asked for a very unimportant birthday at the beginning of the week. There were no Taylor Swift songs involved, and I was quite happy about it. No photos- it seems like some of the most enjoyable nights are the ones that are the least documented.

After the birthday, there was Thanksgiving! Which of course meant that I got to go home and bake a bit. I arrived at home Tuesday night, and my baking ingredients were all ready to go. So I spent Wednesday throwing flour all over the place, and this was the result:

This was my second try at this pie crust. I threw the first one out. I didn't think this was a good sign for the rest of the day.

This was my second try at this pie crust. I threw the first one out. I didn’t think this was a good sign for the rest of the day.

This is the magic stuff.

This is the magic stuff.

Ready! I panicked for nothing. On the right is excess pie filling. I like to eat that for breakfast. With a side of real pie.

Ready! I panicked for nothing. On the right is excess pie filling. I like to eat that for breakfast. With a side of real pie.

I make the pumpkin pie mostly for myself. The real show-stopper is the apple pie.

This wasn't even all of the apples that I prepped for this pie. The rest I turned into an apple crisp.

This wasn’t even all of the apples that I prepped for this pie. The rest I turned into an apple crisp.

I seriously worried about the crust bursting and the pies overflowing into the oven. Why? Why does my mind work this way?

I seriously worried about the crust bursting and the pies overflowing into the oven. Why? Why does my mind work this way?

Turned out just fine. As always. And I could have fit the excess apples inside. Note to self: fruits cook down in heat. Duh...

Turned out just fine. As always. And I could have fit the excess apples inside. Note to self: fruit cooks down in heat. Duh…

Thanksgiving Day itself was lovely. My dad made an amazing dinner, and my mom and I were faithful sous chefs (okay, my mom was the sous chef, and the dishwasher. I mostly just took pictures and ate cheese and crackers.).

It's going to be an interesting Thanksgiving the first year that I try to reproduce this goodness. My standards are very high.

It’s going to be an interesting Thanksgiving the first year that I try to reproduce this goodness. My standards are very high.

Serving suggestion. Everything looks better with a filter on it, right?

Serving suggestion. Everything looks better with a filter on it, right?

The next morning, I ate pie for breakfast and drank way too much coffee. I ventured out at 4 AM for Black Friday shopping, then made a big second breakfast, and lazed the rest of the day away.

Because we didn't eat enough that weekend.

Because we didn’t eat enough that weekend.

And then I went back to school. I wrote a grant proposal to go back to Chile over winter break for thesis research. If I get it, my break will look something like this: home. Cookies. Christmas. New Year’s road trip. New York to Santiago. A week of Chilean summer. Back to winter. Unpack. Repack. Back to school.

If I don’t get the grant, my break will look like this: Cookies. Christmas. New Year’s road trip. Back home. More cookies. Sleep. Back to school.

Both of those possibilities sound pretty awesome, don’t you think?

Why did I title this “A marathon and a sprint?” Because since the last time I’ve posted, that is what things have felt like around here. It’s a marathon because I had to keep going, and it was a sprint because I had a lot to get done, in not a lot of time. It is finally slowing down to a jog, as I turn in final papers and finish up my holiday shopping (the Internet is amazing), and I’m hoping it will become a stroll by the time I come home next week. I am ready for the break. And I know that whatever this break is- whether it’s a nice jog through family parties and baking, or a pretty brisk run from the US to Santiago and back- it will be exactly what I need.

All right, I overdid the running metaphor there. Thanks for bearing with me. Maybe once my brain is a little more rested, you’ll get some more pictures of cookies, and some reflections on everything that has happened in the past year. Because 2013 has been a big one, hasn’t it? And I have a feeling that 2014 is going to give me even more.

With love,

Gaby

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Gracias

¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias! Happy Thanksgiving!

Pardon the belated Thanksgiving wishes. I did not have a long, work-free weekend like many weekends- well, I know a lot of American college kids were actually up to here with pre-finals work this weekend. But still. I had class on the third Thursday of November for the first time in my life. Like my host dad said, it was just another Thursday in Chile.

But we gringos made sure to celebrate. One of the guys was generous enough to offer his house for the evening. He bought us two turkeys and we contributed the rest of the food and drinks. I have to admit, I was doubtful. Everyone was incredibly busy that week with final exams and papers (because the school year has pretty much ended at my university here), and people were actually buying the ingredients for their dishes at 5 on Thursday afternoon. But not only did everyone contribute a dish, we had more than enough food, and it was all really delicious!

Of course, what was most important was that we were all together. I think for many of us it was our first Thanksgiving away from our families. I know that for me, the day was a little poignant, knowing my family was all together sharing the same meal we’ve had for years, and I was “missing out.” But once I was with all my friends, just sitting and talking and stuffing ourselves with food as the night got cooler, it really did feel like Thanksgiving.

Turkey, sweet carrots, gravy, homemade mac and cheese, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. There was also a salad, and fried ice cream with pumpkin bread and cinnamon rolls for dessert. It was delicious.

The aftermath. Believe it or not, two medium turkeys were just enough for around 20 people!

Oh, and the next day I baked up an apple pie. It was pretty spectacular.

Muy, muy rico.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I am thankful that I had a place to celebrate Thanksgiving with some really great people. I’m thankful that I came down here with such a good group. I’m thankful that I have a host family who makes me feel like one of their own. I’m thankful for all the love and support of my real family. I’m thankful for the Internet, because when people went abroad not that many years ago, they couldn’t keep in touch with their loved ones as easily as we can now. I’m thankful for my friends who have listened to all of my study abroad stories and have been there for me when it’s been hard. I’m thankful for a second summer. I’m thankful for for this opportunity to live in another country for five months. I’m thankful that I still have a little time left.

And I’m thankful for everyone who has read this blog! Your comments have been so appreciated. Thank you for letting me share my experience with you!

I’ve got just about two weeks left before I get on a plane to Miami once again. In that time, I am taking a trip, my first and only real big trip of the semester. It’s not actually that big of a trip. I’m going to the south of Chile, which I’ve heard is where I have to go to truly say that I’ve experience Chile. In the next week, I will be bussing around to Puerto Montt, the island of Chiloé, and Valdivia. I’ll probably be pretty disconnected except email and phone for that week. It’s going to be a lot of sightseeing kind of stuff: there’s a national park in Chiloé, a lot of historic architecture, yummy seafood, chocolate, and just general seeing another side of this big country of which I’ve seen so little. Hopefully I will have lots of good stories and photos for you when I come back!

And after that, maybe I’ll take a day at the beach, and then…a week. One more week.

Thank you for coming along for the ride, and thanks for waiting to see what happens next.

Chao chao! Cuídense mucho! (Take care!)

With love,

Gaby

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I need a salad.

I’ve had an eat weekend.

An “eat” day, week, or weekend is a term I think I first heard from Joy the Baker and Shutterbean on the Joy the Baker podcast. Basically, it’s a period of time in which you eat everything in sight, more or less. Most of that food is also what one would call indulgent.

It began Friday night, when I ate chips and salsa and frozen pizza and made scones with a friend of mine. Saturday included a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich for lunch, followed by a lavish dinner out with the family. When I say lavish, I mean multiple appetizers, bread, cream-based soup, scallops wrapped in bacon, pasta in beurre blanc (aka butter sauce), and three kinds of sorbet for dessert.

Question: who decided that an entree featuring bacon needed pasta topped in butter sauce as a side? Also: what human eats the appetizers AND the bread basket? This human, I suppose.

So Sunday morning rolls around, and I’m still a little full from last night, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve got my mind set on baking biscuits.

Biscuits are a standard item that I strongly suggest all of you include in your repertoire. They are seriously so easy and quick. Biscuits belong with every meal: with jam, butter, or honey for breakfast; as a sandwich for lunch; and with stews and soups for dinner. I got my recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook and used the buttermilk variation on the baking powder biscuits.

Why buttermilk, and what should you do if you don’t have it? Read here.

Look familiar?

It looks a lot like scone dough, doesn’t it? They’re almost the same thing. It’s important not to over mix biscuit dough so that you don’t get rid of the air sitting around inside of it. Baking powder, baking soda, and buttermilk are reacting to create some really great, fluffy texture. When I cut this dough into rounds, I could hear a squishy, deflating sound. That is a good sound.

Little pillows of heaven.

See how they’re already a little puffed up? That’s a good sign.

Glory.

Let me illustrate this airy, flaky thing for you:

Nailed it.

Just one more picture in case you haven’t been convinced to make these yet:

Breakfast? I think yes.

So, with two of those slathered in butter and honey sitting in my stomach, we went off to church. And then we went to an Indian restaurant for lunch. It was buffet style- of course. I managed to get in a plate chock full of rice, naan, and curries before my stomach said, “Please stop.” And then I snuck in a mango lassi, mango ice cream, and a gulab jamun. And THEN my stomach finally said, “Please stop NOW.”

Naturally, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to shake myself out of a food coma and make a strawberry pie.

Yeah, I made a pie. I made this pie, from Brown Eyed Baker. Someone remind me to follow this blog more often. This is the second pie I’ve made from her site, and I’ve had bonkers success both times. Coincidentally, both pies are adaptations of Cook’s Illustrated recipes. Cook’s Illustrated is an excellent resource. They test and re-test their recipes until they get things exactly right. It may seem like more work, but trust me, it’s reliable and worth the effort to follow their methods.

I did the crust from scratch. Hate me if you want, but you should get on this bandwagon too. From-scratch crust is not as hard as you think it is, and the results really do blow storebought crust out of the water.

Went in there without a hitch.

Just so you know: pie crusts often require chilling in between steps. Unless you have all day to work on a pie, I’d suggest you make the disk and chill it overnight, and finish it off when you’re ready to bake a day or two later. I had to chill this crust three times: once as a disk to firm it up; then in the plate like above; and then after I fluted it, like below.

Just trying to make it look pretty.

This pie crust really shrunk after baking, but don’t worry, it’s going to do that anyways.

Flaky and buttery.

But this pie is really all about the strawberries.

This is about the twentieth photo I’ve taken of strawberries recently.

The recipe calls for three whole pounds of strawberries. No skimping here, kids. It really takes three pounds. Get them at a good price at a farmers’ market, or hit up the store when there’s a sale.

There are two parts to the filling: glaze and raw strawberries. Puree the strawberries by themselves in a food processor:

I was half-tempted to add a banana and some ice and call it a smoothie.

Then, cook these at a full boil with cornstarch, low-sugar recipe Sure-Jell, sugar, and salt. Cornstarch and Sure-Jell are thickeners. They will help hold the filling together so it doesn’t completely fall out of the pie. Stir that mixture constantly: don’t leave it unattended, or it will scorch and stick to the pan.

Let this mixture cool, and then toss in the remaining two pounds of strawberries until they are evenly coated. Dump into the cooled pie crust, make it look pretty, and let it chill in the fridge until it’s set a little bit- at least a couple of hours, but not overnight.

Disclaimer: I hated the lighting in my kitchen for these photos.

And another shot:

Glossy. And tall.

I suggest you serve this with a little whipped cream. I do not recommend ice cream, because the point is to let the strawberries shine. Is the pie time-consuming? Yes. It really is. But this is a winner for the way it highlights the fruit as simply but as stunningly as possible.

Every positive dessert-related adjective belongs here.

I stuck that landing.

It will probably be a few days until you see more food on this blog. Can you blame me? I’ve got plenty of other things to talk about, though. So please stay tuned!

Comment and say hi, friends!

With love,

Gaby

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