Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pantry Basic Recipes 2 (or A Good Pie Crust)

Over the years I've gotten away from doing pie crusts.  I just hadn't had good luck with gluten free crusts which is amusing since gluten causes problems in crusts.  But since I was on the experiment spree I decided to try again.  I started with this base recipe and made a few changes.


The changes are shown below.  I used my own flour mix and I've broken it down here so that you can make just enough for the recipe.  I really, really hate having leftovers of custom mixes that I may not use again so I'm not going to do it to you.

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tapioca flour
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp potato starch
  • 1/2 c. sorghum flour
  • 1/2 c. garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Instant ClearJel (optional; not packed in a gluten-free facility)
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tbsp lard
  • 1 Tbsp Spectrum butter flavor shortening
  • 1 1/2 tsp Egg Replace mixed with 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar

  • I used lard rather than butter because of Munchkin's allergies.  And because my best pie crusts in the past occurred when using animal fats.  I only used the Spectrum in this recipe because I didn't have enough lard on hand.  (I ended up making a double batch.)

    The crust came out good if not quite as flaky as I prefer.  I plan to try to fix that next time by rolling the crust, then folding it over and rolling again.  If I do this a few times it should have the effect I like.  And while Munchkin didn't like the pie I made with this, he did like the crust.  So I'll be using this one again with another pie this week.

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Basic Pantry Recipes 1

    With my back and neck acting up I've had to find something indoors to keep me moving.  Add to that the addition of lots of pumpkins and I decided to explore finding pie recipes that are Munchkin safe. 

    The first challenge was the old staple - pumpkin pie.  To get started I needed to make safe versions of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.

    To be honest, while both took most of a day to make, they were very easy to make.  And next time I'll pull out the small crockpots which will free up my stove.

    For evaporated milk, I took 3 cups of the So Delicious Coconut Milk and put it in a small pot on the stovetop.  I started with the temp at 4 and when it heated enough that I could see the heat coming off I turned it down to three.  I stirred it at random throughout the day to keep it from separating.

    For the sweetened condensed milk I used 4 cups of the So Delicious Coconut Milk along with a 3/4 cup of sugar.   I mixed those together in another small pot and followed the same temperature and stirring guidelines.  When it was done I added 1 tsp of vanilla.  This seemed to come out a little thin but after sitting in the fridge it thickened.

    And the final ingredient was a new one.  I made vanilla paste.  I used the recipe at the link below.  At first I wasn't impressed.  Now that it's had a week in the cabinet and thickened, well I'm impressed.  It has worked well in all the recipes I tried it in.  I will still be making vanilla extract but I will make this each time I use up a bottle.  The paste will definitely be used in a few recipes.  The only change I'm considering is making the new batches with honey instead of agave.

    So with all the basics on hand, I pulled out the Libby's pie recipe and started experimenting.  Since I was making all of the ingredients I split the recipe into quarters.  And I had four failures.  It seems that while Egg Replacer is good in a lot of recipes, pumpkin pie is one of those recipes that it doesn't do much for.  In all but one the batter tasted wonderful but it just didn't set up.  In the one I had added tapioca flour and it set up better but the body was still "wet".

    So I checked the website for Egg Replacer custards, a lot of them had thickeners added.  So I went searching for GF, DF pumpkin pie recipes.  Google can be a great friend when recipe hunting.

    Oh my there are definitely a variety of recipes out there.  I found three that had a lot of high ratings.  And after years of running across weird tasting duds that only one or two folks like, I look for lots of ratings.  Anyways, given what I had on hand, I went with the recipe from Karina at Gluten Free Goddess.  Not to mention that I also haven't had a fail yet from her recipes.  Here's the link:  http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2008/10/vegan-pumpkin-pie-worthy-of.html

    I used sorghum flour and my own pumpkin spice mix.  Oh, and I used the So Delicious Coconut Milk, not canned milk.  And lastly, I used arrowroot starch rather than tapioca starch.  That's just a personal preference.  It came out perfect.  No crust needed and it tasted as good as any we've had.  I can taste the sorghum but it blends so well with the pumpkin that it actually just tastes like a pie with crust.  A good, non smooshy, crust.

    Unfortunately, Munchkin doesn't like the texture.  Well, unfortunately for him and for my diet.  The texture is no different that regular pumpkin pie, it's just a Munchkin issue.  So I'll be stashing this recipe back to try again next year to see if he changes his mind.  Meanwhile, I have pumpkin pie to eat.  And it lets me stick with his diet, which is just fine.

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    A New Trick

    Now for the past few days the pain up and down my spine and arm has been both getting better and worse.  The sharp, make you want to cry pain has faded but the steady throbbing pain has increased.  Yup.  So much fun.  And the arnica works wonders for it.  But I'm taking a lot of arnica just to keep it to a dull throb.  And new pain is showing up because of how I've adapted my movements to compensate for the original pain.  Yuppers, the fun of muscular and skeletal pain teaming up.  Today I figured out a much more affordable way to handle it.  And, surprisingly, it works really, really well for me.

    Most folks who have kids have heard about putting Vicks Vaporub on their feet and then covering the feet with warm socks.  I've used it for my Munchkin many times.  And once or twice for myself.

    So this morning I had a brain storm.  Instead of Vicks, I used Tiger Balm.  There are no words for the relief.  The pain is not completely gone, which is good, because I will still get warnings about bad movements.  But it is down to the dull throb that I can handle.  In addition, it allows me to move without the "compensation" movements for one area or another.  This will allow all the muscles to settle down.  Even better, one treatment was good for 4 hours for me.  

    Feeling sooooo much better. 

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Bits and Pieces

    Not a lot of changes here. 

    I am still not doing garden stuff.  One of the indoor tasks I decided to complete was the installation of some addition lighting in my kitchen.  It's been on hold for a few years because I keep getting told that "someone" will come up and wire it to function from a light switch.  I finally decided to stop waiting and to put it up myself.  I can live with the loss of the outlet.  The lack of light in certain areas has been driving me crazy though.  So I got a light hung over the sink and a set of halogen pucks lights put up under the cabinets.

    Apparently putting up the halogens was the last straw for the nerve in my neck.  I didn't pick up on any warning signs while doing the installation but within two hours I could barely use the arm for the pain.  After a long convoluted "adventure", I finally got some arnica.  I spent one day taking enough that I couldn't feel the pain at all.  That was heavenly.  Now I'm taking just enough to dull the pain, yet still allow me to feel if I'm doing something with that arm that I shouldn't.  But I have lighting!  And it's wonderful.  The halogen pucks put out a lot more light than the little LED pucks I tried. 

    The light over the sink is a lantern style with amber glass and I absolutely love the effect.  I can see clearly to do the dishes but the light spread through the room has a lovely tint.  And I don't know what memory it triggers, but that light causes an automatic calming effect on my system.  I'm guessing it's a childhood memory trigger of somewhere we used to go with my grandparents.  Either way, it's nice.

    I'm without a vehicle this week as my van is at the repair shop.  All of us, including the mechanic, are hoping that this is the last repair for quite a while.  The front seal will be replaced as well as the timing belt.

    For now, I'm working on curriculum materials and computer stuff.  I still have to be careful since even that seems to get the nerve really irritated.  But I am getting a lot done.  And realizing a lot of things.  A few days ago I found an old computer backup.  Since I was looking for some materials I designed back then, I got it all unzipped so I could look through it.  After all was said and done I found myself deleting tons of materials regarding IEPs, meetings, training, etc.  And smiling because even the challenge of creating our curriculum and making it adaptable for my son doesn't cause the level of stress that was associated with all of that stuff.

    I'm also getting basic housework caught up on, including laundry.  But the new lessons/issues regarding laundry are a whole post by themselves.

    And lastly, I've given in a scheduled a doctor's appointment.  That led to a whole round of fun when it turned out that they had mistakenly received a notice telling them that I was changing my primary physician.  Not that I wouldn't, if I could find a better one that accepted my insurance.  But the doctor's office that did it isn't any better and I only went to see them once.  My choice was an alternate doctor or the ER, so I chose the alternate doctor.  After a couple of hours that mess was straightened out, but it was too late for me to get an appointment before I lost the van for this week.  So the appointment is Friday.  Hopefully we can get everything handled in one visit but I doubt it.  The broken toe will require an X-ray at the least and probably a referral to another doctor.  Oh well.  I might as well get it all taken care of since I'm going to go in.

    Truthfully, it's been a topsy turvy week but we are doing good.  Hopefully, by the end of this week, we will be doing great.  And even better, if things go right, by next week I'll be back on track for getting the garden cleaned up and prepped for next year.  So I'm keeping fingers crossed for good things coming our way.

    Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    End of Season..

    For most folks who garden, it's the end of season.  A lot of my friends and acquaintances gave up on their gardens about two weeks ago when we had our first frost.  I've been debating on over winter garden and may still do it if I can find garlic and onion bulbs.

    But for me, the frost was just the start of another part of gardening.  It is time to prep the beds for next year.  And move those beds that need to be moved.  And add another bed.  Oh, and make sure to grab that last harvest.  So that is what I've been doing, in increments, because somehow I irritated both my lower back and my shoulders at the same time.  In truth, I did it so severely yesterday that there were debates as to whether home treatments would work or if I needed to go to the emergency room.  But since I know that almost all the treatments that an ER could offer won't work for me, I won the argument.  The trade off is that I most likely won't be doing anymore garden work this week.  But I do have a friend's son who is willing to barter his labor for some of my canning, so he is coming over to finish the bed that I was in the middle of filling with compost.  Next week I will move on.

    Since I can't work in the garden, I've been working, carefully, in the house.  I got certain freezer groceries repacked into the sizes that we use.  And I worked on lesson plans, and lessons.  I've also been doing laundry.  And making large batches of our taco seasoning, with dried herbs and peppers from the garden.  I processed 15 pie pumpkins into puree.  And I have about 100 more to go.  Getting those pumpkins is why I was in so much pain yesterday.  But since my garden produced no winter squash this year, I am immensely grateful for the gift of pumpkins.  I got lots of lovely vines, but no squashes.  Tomorrow I will can some chicken breasts, and maybe if I'm not too sore, do some more pumpkin.

    I also received the gift of a new dining room table and chairs - in white.  I love them but if I want the chairs to last I'm going to have to make chair covers.  I've already made a plastic cover for my boy's seat and made the patterns for the cloth covers.  I've also cut one of them out.  But the hours at the sewing machine will have to wait, just like the garden, because it has the same effect on my back and shoulders.  The covers will be a really light cream color, which yes will get dirty like the white, but can be pulled off and washed in the machine.  I will also be making a set in a light sage green if I've got enough of that fabric.  Or at least a couple of spares.

    I also receive a few other surprises.  The worst is that Murphy is still playing.  My van is still leaking oil.  This time the leak is from a front seal on the shaft for the timing belt.  This of course resulted in a face palm moment with lots of head shaking.  But it is what it is.  The mechanic is giving us a discount on this repair because he feels that he should have found it when they were doing the last repair.  Since I don't know this vehicle's engine very well I can't comment on that but I'm grateful for it regardless.  On the positive side, the timing belt will be replaced since the old one will have to come off anyways to do the repair.  We don't know when, or if, the existing belt was ever replaced so this is somewhat reassuring.

    But the others have been positive.  A friend who was helping her son move brought me his old computer chair.  It has a few issues but nothing that I couldn't fix.  I took the arms off because one was broken beyond repair.  And since the original fabric cover is tearing in areas, I will be making a cover for it.  Because it has wheels my son keeps snagging it to roll around the living room in.  It's cute to watch.  And he fully understands that he has to surrender it when I need it.  But he sure enjoys those moments that it is his.

    That same friend is "clearing out" her excess sewing stuff, so she brought me a big bag of upholstery fabrics.  There looks to be enough of one of them to recover the couch cushions.  And enough of another matching fabric to recover the two chairs' cushions.  So that is the project in line after the covers for the dining room chairs are done.  This project will actually be two fold.  First I will use some plain sheets to make a plain covered cushion.  Then I will use the upholstery fabric to make a removable cushion cover.  This will make it a whole lot easier to take care of messes and spills.  I've got some experimenting to do regarding a protective layer though.  I'm not sure if I'm going to add a plastic layer or just do a really, really good coat of the water resistant upholstery spray. 

    The other part to this is that I will be learning just how they made the spring cushions that are the bottom cushions.  I will be taking lots of pictures of them as I work on them.  The reason for this is to see if I can make a set for the two chairs.  Those chairs used to have spring cushions but a family member decided to replace them with 4" foam.  I'm going to try to restore them if possible.

    So, it is the end of one season and the start of another.  And things are, hopefully, looking up.