Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Willow & Cricket Wednesday - 8/20

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fresh Strawberry Pie {Recipe}

Making my Dad a strawberry pie for Father's Day is becoming a regular tradition.  Two years ago, I made him this baked strawberry pie.  Last year it was a strawberry meringue pie.  After getting one baked and one fresh, Dad said he like the fresh kind better.   I have to say, I agree.

So this year, the search was on to find another fresh strawberry pie.  Brown Eyed Baker to the rescue!  I have actually made this pie twice and the recipe below is with my minor modifications.  And since I am not great at making pie crusts, I just went with store bought and it was still delicious.  So if you are like me and have a tough time with pie crusts, don't feel bad about going with store bought.

The Father's Day Pie was a huge hit and according to my mother, he only let her have one piece.  Upon that news we made him another one for his birthday and he was so excited to see the candles in his birthday pie.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Source:  Brown Eyed Baker

1 frozen pie crust

For Filling:
4 pints (about 4 pounds) fresh strawberries, gently rinsed and dried, hulled
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons pectin for low-sugar recipes(make sure it says for low/no sugar on the container or box)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Prepare pie crust according to package instructions
To make the Filling
  • Select 6-7 ounces misshapen, underripe, or otherwise unattractive berries, halving those that are large.
  • In a food processor, puree the berries.
  • Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, Sure-Jell, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  • Stir in the berry puree, making sure to scrape the corners of the pan.
  • Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, and bring to a full boil.
  • Boil, stirring consistently to prevent scorching, for 2 minutes to ensure that the cornstarch is fully cooked (mixture will appear light and frothy when it first reaches a boil, then will darken and thicken as it cooks).
  • Remove from heat.
  • Stir in lemon juice.
  • Let cool to room temperature.
  • Check the remaining berries and measure out 3 pounds of the reddest and prettiest ones; halving only extra-large berries.
  • Add the berries to the pot wit the the glaze and fold gently with a rubber spatula until the berries are evenly coated.
  • Pour the berries into the pie shell, piling into a mound.
  • Turn any cut sides face face down so all you see is the outsides of the berries.
  • Arrange the berries so that holes are filled and the mound looks attractive. 
  • Refrigerate pie until chilled, about 2 hours. 
  • Serve within 5 hours of chilling.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Menu Plan - Week of August 17

This week's menu plan is a boring one.

A is leaving to go back to his mother's house.  We did lots of entertaining at the end of the week and over the weekend so will be subsisting on leftovers for most of the week.  But it will clean out the fridge and freezer!

Sunday:  Pool Party at my Aunt and Uncle's house

Monday:  Forage in the Fridge

Tuesday:  Forage in the Fridge

Wednesday:  Forage in the Fridge

Thursday:  BBQ Chicken, salad, quinoa/rice medley

Friday:  Pork Milanese, brown rice, salad

Saturday:  Forage in the Fridge

Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Backyard Update - New Entertaining Spaces {Before and After}

Last summer we decided that we needed a better back yard.  Not because it is small but because it wasn't very good for entertaining.  We had a patio and a deck but not space for both seating and dining and a grill.  After brainstorming for a bit, we came up with a plan.  The first part of the plan was to add more and better entertaining space.

First up, remove the rickety railing on the existing deck and replace it with something that was up to code (and wouldn't collapse if someone leaned on it).  Then, add a step up deck, or patio deck as I call it, to the other side of the patio.

Here are some old photos from when we moved in.  The railing on the deck is less than 3 feet high and moved when you leaned on it.  Not exactly conducive to feeling safe.  

Here is another view of the rickety railing.

And that little deck to the right of the photo was off our master bedroom.  It was only about 4 feet by 6 feet.  Not exactly a spot for doing anything but standing there.

Since these are pretty big projects and not something we wanted to tackle ourselves, we hired this out. I asked around at work and got a great recommendation from one of my colleagues.  Dave the Fireman.  He is a full time fireman who does work like this on the side.  We were so happy with the result.  We have referred him to several other people, who are also very happy with his work. I am so happy we found him!

First up, our new "step up deck" off our bedroom.  It is glorious! So much space! 

It runs right into our patio.  So nice!
Here is the new railing on the existing deck.

Here is a view of the the whole back of the house.

We have almost 65 feet x 12 feet of entertaining space.  When it was all done we weren't quite sure how we were going to fill it all up.  

But don't worry, we have managed to make some progress on that front.  I will be sharing some patio lights, a fountain, patio furniture and a dining space.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Willow & Cricket Wednesday - 8/13

I was playing around with my "Nifty Fifty" lens and got some good shots of our dynamic duo.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fresh Strawberry Mini Muffins {Recipe}

Back in June, D and I went strawberry picking.  This is the 4th year we have picked at this farm and we now make it a priority to get there and pick a bunch of berries every Spring.  This year's haul was almost 20 lbs.  We would have picked more but our backs and knees just couldn't take it.  Next year we are bringing 2 gallon buckets to sit on like we saw some others doing.

If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen this photo of the fields that we were picking at.  

 In addition to freezing a bunch for smoothies, I was perusing Pinterest to see what possible tasty treats we may need to make.  So many possibilities but in the end, I decided that these mini muffins were one of the delicious treats treats we needed to make.  Plus, doesn't everything taste better when it is mini? 

Fresh Strawberry Mini Muffins
Modified from Flavor Mosaic

    1 egg
    1 cup white sugar
    1/3 cup applesauce
    1/3 cup  skim milk
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 cup fresh strawberries, chopped into small pieces
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    Spray muffin tins with baking spray.
    In a large mixing bowl, add the egg and sugar and mix on low until combined.
    Add in vegetable oil, milk, vanilla, continue mixing on low.
    Mix 1-1/2 cups flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
    Slowly add to liquid mixture until combined.
    In a small bowl, toss strawberries with 2 tablespoons of flour to coat.
    Manually fold in Strawberries into the batter.
    Fill mini muffin cups about 1/2 full.
    Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.

These were delicious and the perfect accompaniment to our morning cup of coffee.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Menu Plan for the Week of 8/10


Time for this week's menu plan.  We have been slacking on this over the summer but A is with us this week so we definitely have to make a plan since we are pretty busy with activities and family coming over. 

Sunday:  This one is A's pick so we are having Surf and Turf - steak and crab legs, baked potato, cole slaw, corn on the cob with al fresco dining on the deck. 
Monday:  Parmesan Sage Pork Chops, salad, new potatoes

Tuesday:  Forage in the Fridge (D and A will be out of town) so this pretty much means I will eating microwave popcorn, Diet Coke and string cheese for dinner.  :)

Wednesday:  Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas, salad, Spanish rice

Thursday:  Ground turkey Stuffed shells (modified from this recipe), salad

Friday:  Forage in the Fridge (aka leftover night)

Saturday:  Burgers and brats.  D has a great cheese stuffed burger recipe.

I am also planning on making some blueberry coffee cake and maybe some blueberry ice cream since we went blueberry picking yesterday.