Thursday, November 29, 2012

Let the Carbo Loading Begin!

Tonight for dinner I ate pasta with peas, pesto, parmesan, and a pegg.

 Because on Saturday I'll be wearing this. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chocolate Pie Perfection

So there are pies, and then there's Grandma Clayton's chocolate pie.  This pie is in a class of its own.  If you want to impress someone, bake this pie.  Its beauty will overwhelm them so much that they will eat the pie out of the palm of your hand.  I have alluded to this pie before here and  herebut never the recipe.  I make it fairly often (lots of people to impress!), but I always feel stressed because everything has to come together simultaneously, and someone has a generally proclivity to stress out. (Who, me?)  

Over Thanksgiving, in addition to doing some crafting, we did some baking. I manned the pies, and miraculously, I stayed out of the weeds and managed to take some pictures of the process.  I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you try out the recipe.  You will need a baked and cooled pie crust. My mom made and froze a pie crust a few days before I arrived. I baked it for 15 minutes at 400 the morning of.  You can use my pie crust recipe here or buy a crust from the freezer section.  

Step 1: Take a deep breath. Prepare for perfection. Preheat the oven to 350. Also, put all your dry ingredients in the iron skillet. (Did I tell you this is a one-pot pie? Well, except for the meringue and pie crust pots, it is!) Dry ingredients are sugar, cocoa, flour, and corn starch. 

Step 2: Stir dry ingredients together in the dry skillet. Might get a bit dusty. 

Step 3: Add in the liquid ingredients (milk, egg yolks, butter and vanilla) and turn the heat up to the medium / medium-high range. Find your favorite whisk.

Step 4: Stir, stir, and stir some more. As it heats up, it will thicken. Clayton family lore tells of a pie my grandmother had to strain because it had so many lumps. If you stir (and stir like you mean it), you should avoid lumps, but know that if it does get lumpy, the pie can be saved.  Just find your favorite strainer. 

Step 5: Once it has the thickness of pudding, remove it from the heat and immediately start working on the meringue. You don't want the filling to get too cold. 

Step 6: Beat three (or four if you want mile-high meringue) egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer, hand mixer, or if you're as strong as an ox, a whisk.  My Aunt Jane (strong as an ox) uses a snowshoe whisk like this.  Just be sure to stretch your whisking muscles first. 

I prefer a hand mixer.  I'm not strong as an ox, and I'm apt to overmix if I use my KitchenAid.  Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then add in sugar gradually.  Once it is glossy, stiff in vanilla. You can also add in a couple tablespoons of ice water now to prevent the meringue from weeping.  (Beads of water will form on the surface of the meringue the longer it sits out.)

Step 7: Return the filling to heat for a minute and stir it to get out any last minute lumps. Fill the baked and cooled pie crust with the filling. 

It looks really dark because I used dark chocolate cocoa. I recommend the original variety though.
Step 8: Top the pie crust with the meringue. Make sure to have a good seal between the meringue and pie crust. Artfully create peaks in the meringue with a spatula. This is my second favorite part of baking this pie. 

Step 8: Bake in the 350 pre-heated oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until it looks like the most perfect pie. 

Step 9: Pose with your pie. Required. 

Step 10: Slice, admire, and enjoy! This is my first favorite part of baking this pie. 

Here's the recipe: 

1 baked and cooled pie shell

For the filling: 
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T flour
3 T cornstarch
4 T cocoa (I prefer milk chocolate over special dark.)
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
2 T butter
1 t vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients in a dry skillet. Add in milk, egg yolks, and butter, and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add in vanilla. 

For the meringue: 
3 egg whites (I sometimes use 4 for extra meringue.)
1/4 t cream of tarter
4 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff. Add sugar by the tablespoonful and continue to beat until it is stiff and glossy. Stir in vanilla. 

To finish: 
Pour the filling in the pie shell, top with the meringue, and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until it's golden. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Note Card Embellishments

I've had several recent occasions to send cards to friends, and so I decided to pattiwagon these plain note cards.  (Side note: Did you know that pattiwagon is a verb?)  I got the idea from Spoonful of Sugar.  I used fabric (with interfacing ironed to the backside) for the whale and heart, and the penguin and pear are painted paper glued to muslin fabric.  I cut out the design and then sewed it straight onto the card.  Couldn't be any easier, and I love the way they turned out. 

I leave today for a Florida Thanksgiving. These are just a few of my favorite things about Thanksgiving (in no particular order): 

1. Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers. From Publix.

2. The stuffing. To be more precise, mining the stuffing for the sausage crumbles.  
3. The stuffing sandwich. What could be better on a sandwich than more bread?
4. College basketball. Which I will be watching live this year at the Old Spice Tournament in Orlando, cheering on my second favorite Wildcats
5. The banter. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Variegated Socks

It took me eight years to complete the right sock. And then it took me two weeks (and the complete first season of Girls) to complete the left one.

"Really? What's that you say? They don't match?"

"I hadn't noticed." 

Despite the lack of color concert here, they feel very good on my marathon-training beleaguered feet. And they're my first pair of socks, so I'm quite the proud knitter right now. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Carrot Cake Protein Pancakes

If you love to eat pancakes but don't necessarily like what weekly (bi-weekly? daily?) pancakes do to your waistline, then you must try protein pancakes.  Specifically, you must try these protein pancakes.  I made Hummingbird Protein Pancakes a few months back, and they were good, but in a healthy way.  These are good, in an IHOP way.  And they contain no flour, no oil, and very little refined sugar.  They are thicker and fluffier than the hummingbird version.  My best sales pitch is that I just devoured them.  Have at it! 

1 cup old fashioned oats
2 egg whites
1 overripe banana, mashed
1/2 t baking powder
1 t honey
1 carrot, shredded (I used four baby carrots.)
1/2 T crystalized ginger, finely chopped (This is where the sugar enters the recipe. Use 1 t ground ginger instead, if you wish.)
sprinkle of cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a food processor and puree until it's a little thicker than pancake batter. Cook in lightly greased skillet on medium / medium high heat. 

No need for syrup here. I topped mine with Greek yogurt, honey, and a bit more ginger. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My One and Only Vegetable Soup

What better way to spend Halloween than an 8 mile run (in costume, no less!) and a bowl of vegetable soup? 
Keyboard Cat is finally incarnate!

This vegetable beef soup is a favorite in the Clayton household.  In fact, it's the only vegetable soup I've ever made.  You won't even find the search keywords "vegetable+soup+recipe" in my internet history.  I see no reason to mess with a good thing.  It has the following features: 

1. tastiness
2. ease of preparation
3. healthiness
4. freeze-ability
5. a secret ingredient - how fun and clandestine!

What more could you want? 

The only downfall is that it takes two days. The first day, you'll cook the beef. I crock-potted mine the night before while I slept, but you can also cook it in the oven for a few hours. You could also have pot roast, and then plan to make soup with the leftovers. Plan-overs - a bit too clever for me. 

So, on with the recipe: 

Part One: The Roast

Put a 2 lb roast in the crock pot and cover with V8. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. If you're not down with the CP, cook it in the oven. First, heat 1 t oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the meat on the stove. Then put it in a baking dish and cover with the V8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. 

Part Two: The Soup
(Detailed recipe below. Let's just look at some pictures now.)

Start off by sweating onions and celery in olive oil in a BIG pot. 

 Then add potatoes, carrots, and limas...

Add water and two vegetable bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes. 

Then add in everything else (except the secret ingredient). That includes the cooled beef, cut into cubes, the precious beef juice, barley, corn, beans, tomato juice, and crushed tomatoes, along with oregano and pesto. 

Did you freeze corn??? If you did, put it to good use in this soup! Also, notice the canning camp tomato juice and crushed tomatoes. This is reason #283 why we spend three days sweating it out in a Kentucky kitchen. 

Stir everything together, bring it back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. 

Now it's time for the secret ingredient..........PESTO! Preferably homemade (tends to have less oil), but store-bought works fine. The pesto definitely adds a je ne sais quoi to the flavor of the soup, and once you start adding it, you'll know when it's missing. 

Stir in the pesto, and enjoy bowl after bowl after bowl after bowl. And if you only want to enjoy bowl after bowl, freeze the rest. But make sure you pick out all the potatoes before freezing. They tend to get really mushing after defrosting. 

Here's the recipe in a more user-friendly format. 


  • 1.5-2 lb chuck or shoulder roast
  • 4-5 six oz cans of spicy V8
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 4 c water
  • 1 c frozen fordhook lima beans
  • 1 c frozen corn (or canned)
  • 2 T uncooked barley
  • 1 - 15oz can beans (garbanzos, cannellini, red beans, black-eyed peas, or a mixture - essentially 2 cups of cooked beans) (I like a mixture of garbanzos and kidney.)
  • 1 qt tomato juice
  • 1 - 15oz can crushed tomatoes
  • meat juice from the pot roast
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t rosemary
  • 1-2 T pesto

Day 1
Crock Pot Method: Put the roast in the crock pot and cover with 2-3 cans of V8. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. Take the meat out and refrigerate to cool. Also, save the precious juices. Put those in a tupperware container in the fridge as well to cool.
Oven Method: Heat 1 t oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the meat on the stove. Then put it in a baking dish and cover with 2-3 cans of V8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Take the roast out and refrigerate to cool. Save the juices here as well. Cool those in a tupperware container. 

Day 2
  1. Once the meat is cool, cut it up into bite-sized pieces. Skim off any congealed fat from the beef juices. 
  2. Sweat the onions and celery in olive oil in a big pot until soft. 
  3. Add carrot, potato, lima beans, water, and bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients (except the pesto). Don't forget the beef juices! Turn up the heat.
  5. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. 
  6. Stir in pesto before serving. 

This is a soup that just keeps getting better, so if you can stand it, let it sit on the stove for a while. Happy souping!