Planning and Playing in Charlottesville

2012-04-03_15-58-40_95

It has been a little while since I have done a wedding planning update. I’m not ready to share all the fun details quite yet, but I wanted to show you some of the things we have been up to. The wedding is just over 6 weeks away (aaahhhh!) and we have been spending a lot of time in Albemarle and Nelson counties, planning, making decisions, and putting the finishing touches on our wedding details.

One of the more interesting tasks was our pie tasting with Lynnette from Family Ties & Pies, who will be making the pies for our dessert table. I have mentioned before that we are planning a seasonal meal for our reception that will incorporate as many local ingredients as possible. For dessert, we have opted to do assorted pies instead of a large decorated cake.

2012-08-23_19-02-26_465

We are thrilled that Lynnette uses a lot of local ingredients in her pies and tries to make them a tad healthier by substituting natural sweeteners in place of refined sugars. The tasting got us really excited and committed to the dessert plan. When my Dad sent me this great article last week, I felt even more strongly that we had made the right decision!

2012-08-23_19-17-00_859

I don’t know (and frankly don’t care) if anyone else will be missing the wedding cake, but we are absolutely sure that we will not miss it one bit.

Resampled_2012-09-01_12-53-42_829

Last weekend I had my hair test in Crozet along with a few other meetings and had to spend Friday night out near Charlottesville. I was able to convince some friends to join me over the holiday weekend, and we rented a cabin in Afton for two nights.

Resampled_2012-09-01_08-07-02_156

It is amazing how two nights can feel like four or five when you don’t have TV or Internet access. It was positively blissful and exactly the recharge that I needed. I enjoyed my morning coffee with a fantastic view and the sounds of nature all around me, and spent my evenings playing games in the cabin and roasting marshmallows around the outdoor fire pit.

Resampled_2012-09-01_11-50-24_113

We even squeezed in a hike at Crabtree Falls to work off the beer we drank on Friday night. I did not get the full benefit of the activity because I had to stop about two-thirds of the way up, turn around, hike back down and head to the cabin to shower and get out the door for an appointment. Although I missed the view from the top this time, I am still grateful to have had the opportunity to get out there on a beautiful morning.

Resampled_2012-09-01_12-08-26_652

We met up with friends later at one of our favorite spots, Blue Mountain Brewery, for an early dinner.

Resampled_2012-09-01_17-01-46_302

The veggie pizza was delicious, as always, and of course we had to get a sampler flight and some growler fills while we were there.

Resampled_2012-09-01_17-08-39_284

Most of our recent trips to Charlottesville and Afton have been very rushed. I was really happy that we had the chance to stop and smell the roses (or hops as the case may be) this time around. My next visit is in a week, and then again the week after that. By the time I walk down the aisle in October, I’ll almost feel like a local!

Resampled_2012-09-01_16-55-12_453

When I returned to Richmond from this last trip, I had about 36 hours to unpack, do laundry, tie up some loose ends at home, and repack for a weeklong business trip. Luckily, I managed to get the last of the wedding invitations out before I hit the road again.

2012-09-03_17-36-29_337(1)

45 Days!

Veggie Pot Pie

Today the temperature dropped 25 degrees in less than 12 hours.

I woke up this morning in the midst of a tornado warning with rain smacking into the glass window panes behind my head and the apartment building doors slamming into the building at the whim of the winds that gusted for hours. When my alarm went off, I wanted nothing more than to stay curled up in my bed under 4 layers of blankets and listen to the sound of the rain.

But I had to go to work. Work wasn’t so great today and then I came home to some bad news. It was the kind of day that made me wish even more that I had stayed in bed.

I went back out in the cold and windy night to pick up groceries. Because the only thing that could fix a day like today is homemade comfort food, packed with hearty vegetables and peppered with the excitement of trying something new.

This evening I made my first pot pie. And a vegetarian one at that!

Have you seen the movie Waitress? It is a cute little story about a waitress at a small-town diner who bakes all of her emotions into pies. Every time she needs to get something off her chest, she bakes a pie and its ingredients reflect her mood. Here is the trailer:

Tonight I’m calling this “I-never-should-have-gotten-out-of-bed-and-now-all-I-have-to-keep-me-warm-is-a-big-plate-of-vegetables-in-a-flaky-crust” pie.

The experiment went well and the pie did indeed warm me to my core. Although as soon as I put food on the table, I was quickly reminded that I also have both a hungry boyfriend and a curious cat to keep me warm. 🙂

I and my non-feline companion enjoyed big plates of this hearty pie.

We didn’t even miss the chicken because it was overflowing with so many tasty vegetables right from the start.

I adapted a recipe from allrecipes to get to the one I have copied below. I highly recommend that you make this for someone you love (or all for yourself) sometime soon. I think I overestimated my vegetable measurements because when I cooked this recipe it filled a 2-quart round baking dish plus a small Pyrex dish. Thank goodness I had extra pie crust – we got an extra half of a pie rather unexpectedly!

Veggie Pot Pie


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb yellow squash, cut into small chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 4-6 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1/2 inch pieces (I used canned organic cut green beans this time but use fresh if you can get them)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (at least)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 recipe pastry for double-crust pie

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook onions, squash, and garlic in oil for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in carrots, potatoes, and celery. Stir in broccoli, green beans, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are barely tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, soy sauce, and 1/4 cup warm water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Stir into vegetables, and cook until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
  4. Roll out 1/2 of the dough to line an 11×7 inch baking dish. Pour the filling into the pastry lined dish. Roll out remaining dough, arrange over the filling, and seal and flute the edges.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown.

Have a terrific end of the week. Just two days left until the last outdoor SOTJ market for 2010 – it really is getting cold! Guess you know where I will be this Saturday morning, possibly bundled up and probably beaming.

Stay warm!

 

Baking FAIL Turned Happy Hour

So a few weeks ago I attended my first Pampered Chef party, and my loot recently arrived! The arrival of my Pampered Chef goodies coincided with a large purchase from the farmers’ market that happened to include a large quantity of peaches. I do not bake often because I don’t really have a knack for it, but I was itching to use my new measuring spoons and cooling racks last weekend. I have had a few baking successes in the past, notably fresh peach scones and chocolate drizzled cranberry almond biscotti. Go figure, my baking triumphs have all occurred with foods traditionally paired with coffee or tea – coincidence?

I should have used the peaches to make fresh peach scones.

But I had been thinking about bourbon peach hand pies from Smitten Kitchen.

I decided to just go for it.

The recipe presented various challenges, including several chilling cycles that required me to return the ingredients or the dough to the refrigerator or freezer before proceeding with the recipe. It also called for tools that I do not own, so I had to improvise. Being an occasional baker, I am used to substituting some tools for other tools. On more than one occasion, I have rolled out dough with a wax paper covered wine bottle because I don’t own a rolling pin.
Everything was going great with my new measuring spoons.

I mixed together the first few ingredients and cut LOTS of butter into LOTS of small pieces.

This is going to be good.

The recipe required that I put the bowl of dry ingredients and the bowl of butter in the freezer. This of course required a total rearrangement of my freezer. If your freezer is anything like mine, there is no way you have room for two mixing bowls without doing a little rearranging. I eventually got them to fit.

Have you ever tried cutting butter into flour without a pastry blender? How about cutting frozen butter into frozen flour without a pastry blender?

You do it with two butter knives and it takes eons. I had to pull a stool up to the kitchen counter about halfway through because I thought my legs would give out. I finally finished cutting in the butter and added the liquid ingredients to form a dough. Now we’re getting somewhere!

After an hour in the refrigerator, the cold dough came out and on to my large cutting board. I started to roll it out with a wine bottle and I ran into problems. No matter how much flour I used, I could not get the dough rolled out without it sticking to everything. I rolled, gathered into a ball, and re-rolled. Over and over again. I couldn’t get it right. It was now late and I was tired and I gave up. I re-rolled the dough into a ball and put it in the freezer. The recipe said it would keep for a month. Maybe I will try again later.

So at about 10:00 PM, much to mine and Kyle’s dismay, I decided we were not having bourbon peach hand pies for dessert. Luckily I had another idea. This one had been waiting in the beer fridge just for this occasion.

Enter Southern Tier Crème Brulee Stout.

When you can’t eat dessert, why not drink it instead?

This imperial milk stout is dark black with a tan head and smells overwhelmingly like vanilla beans. Once I got used to the vanilla, I picked up on the caramel. It was not a caramel syrup smell or a caramel candy smell. It smelled very much like burnt sugar and definitely prepped me for the crème brulee taste of this beer. One sip and I was definitely aware that I was drinking dessert. This might be the sweetest beer I have ever tasted. It is dark, rich, and tastes like vanilla caramel sugary milky goodness. I was happy to split this bottle with Kyle because I don’t think I could drink a full one myself.

I don’t know if I will pick this one up again, but it is worth a first try. If you are a crème brulee fan and a beer fan, I think you should taste it, if only to marvel at how spot-on Southern Tier is with the taste of this beer. Now I know that when my own dessert experiments don’t turn out, I can count on this brewery to serve up a successful one in a bottle.