Defeating Pie Crust (and a mention of my favorite soup)

Pie is an excellent way to bribe/thank people.  It’s delicious, homey, and pretty much everyone likes it.  And while store-bought pies are rather…..meh (with a few exceptions), homemade pie are pretty darn wonderful.  However there is a problem: the crust.

I really enjoy double-crusted pie (three-berry pie is a favorite of Kyle, who is usually the person that I am bribing/thanking because he owns every useful tool that I need to borrow AND has a truck).  However, that means there is TWICE as much crust to roll out.  And while I do use store-bought crusts from time to time, if I’m going to make someone a homemade pie, it will be completely homemade.  But making pie crusts has left me in tears on a bad day and on a good day…well….. there’s usually an extra glass of wine involved.

But this past weekend, procrastination saved the day!

I reread SmittenKitchen’s post on pie crust.  And while I thought I had been following it pretty well, my results were not good.  But I decided to try, try again.  I did make a few changes.  First, I chilled my dough on the top shelf of the fridge (where it is coolest) to the point that I could see tiny ice crystals.  (This is where the procrastination came in.  I was NOT looking forward to rolling out the dough, so instead of chilling one hour, the dough chilled about four hours.)  Next, I learned that far too much flour is just enough.  I always feel like I’m going to mess up the composition of the dough by using so much flour, but that really only applies to mixing, not to rolling out.

Finally, my favorite cheats: a beer glass and silicon mats.  wpid-IMG_20130324_155948.jpg

My rolling pin had a flaw in the wood that caused everything to stick.  I threw it out but neglected to get another one.  So I used a beer glass instead and I’ve decided that I really don’t want to use anything else.  The glass is smooth and, if I’m paying attention, I can catch the dough sticking long before I end up tearing the whole lot.  (Generously powdering the dough with flour prevents almost all sticking.)  The curve of the glass makes it much easier to roll out dough in the shape that you desire.  Plus, if the dough cracks near the edge, you can roll the glass in a way that encourages the dough to go back together.

Next, silicon mats.  Years ago, my friend Shawn (who is a wonderful baker) gave me some silicone bake wear.  After getting over my initial “Huh?  But…it’s….squishy!,” I found that I enjoyed using it.  After much frustration with pie crust stuck to the counter, a light-bulb went off and I dug the mats out of the cupboard.  Instead of trying to pick up the crust, it’s much easier to just slide my hands under the mats and then move the crust to the pan.  Even if the crust sticks, I can slowly peel the mat away and prevent tears.  Huzzah!

At the end of the project, I had two pies (though one was slightly over-baked, but don’t worry, Kyle got the good one) and I still had enough sanity/patience/whatever to make eggplant soupwpid-IMG_20130324_173932.jpg I made a veggie version, using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and it was just as good, if not better.  It’s not hard to leave out the cream if you want a vegan version (which is also tasty).  I’m also very bad about using up garlic cloves so I’ve switch to using the ginormous jar ‘o chopped up garlic from Costco.  Instead of roasting a head of garlic, I make a little tinfoil cup, spoon in a bunch of garlic, drizzle the top with olive oil and roast away.  The consistency is a bit different, but taste is just the same.  Finally, I refuse move soup to a blender only to put it back in the pot.  It’s messy and I mostly end up burning myself.  So I got rid of the traditional blender and use a stick blender instead.  Much, much easier.   And while I don’t really like anything that smacks of gadget in the kitchen, between making soup and jam, the stick blender has earned it’s place.

Book Review: The Secrets of Happy Families

Several times in the past year, I have voiced concern about raising children and have been met with the words and attitude of “you’ll figure it out” or “you’ll know what to do.” I take issue with the idea that people somehow instinctively/magically know how to interact with their children.  We learn from our parents, teachers, and others.  It’s no surprise that we open our mouths only to hear our parents’ words come out (while I don’t have children, this happened terribly often while I was teaching).  Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing parents.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do a few things differently.

Recently, I finished reading  The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.  I picked up the book after I heard an interview with the author on NPR.  The author didn’t research families due to the fact that there are not a lot of studies on how happyfamilies work.  However, there is a lot of information on group dynamics in the military, business, sports, etc.  and this is where he drew his information.  From there, he applied the techniques to his own family.  Some worked, some didn’t (which isn’t terribly surprising).  And while the techniques aren’t particularly earth-shattering (he summarizes a lot of other books), the application to the family system is certainly interesting.

On a side note, I laughed at how much the book brought to mind Game of Thrones.  The ideas of family crests, mottoes, and physical trials isn’t something that I expected in a modern book about families.

Essentially, this book is a long list of ideas to draw from.  Not all of them will work and that’s okay.  But here are a few of my favorites….

  • At any time during an argument, it is okay to call a time-out if you need to calm down.
  • Family meeting should not only focus on what needs to be better, but also what is going well.
  • Talking to kids about sex in a way that is non-taboo

Overall, the book emphasizes the idea that if something isn’t working, try something else.  Sounds simple, but it is terribly easy to fall back on behavior that is known.  Worth a read.




A friend of mine is currently taking a sculpting class and a few of the major themes have been “time” and “change.”  This came to mind as I was cleaning off the table.  I love flowers in the house so I tend to keep them far past their prime.  In spite of the fact that the water is murky and the blooms wilted, I still like this bouquet.  And I certainly like it better than the nearly static plastic alternative.

It’s a process

I’m starting to rework this blog.  I started it as a way to keep in touch with family and friends during my time abroad.  I closed it down not too long after I came home.  But even though I’m not traveling as much anymore, I still have things that I’d like to share.  So I’m sorting through my old posts and trying to figure out what I want to keep and what I want to toss.   There will be more to come, but please bear with me.

It’s also a pleasant way to help me sort out my own head.  We all have different versions of ourselves in different times in our lives.  From when I graduated high school until the time I graduate college, I only had one definite goal: live abroad.  (One of the many reasons that I ended up with a degree in English.)  After I accomplished that goal, I came home to be closer to family and figure out what the next step would be.  There were two things that helped me decide the next direction.  First, was Darwin.  He’s an academic adviser that I consider myself fortunate to have met.  It’s one thing when your mom tells you that you can be anything you want when you grow up.  It’s a completely different ballgame when a stranger (who is known for his blunt honesty) says it.  (I had/have a habit of selling myself short.)   Books also helped me in deciding what career to pursue.  When packing up my books to move home, I noticed that a large portion of my books related to the field of health.  So after wavering between nursing, PT, and PA, I finally decided to try for med school.  I take the MCAT in two and a half months.

And while this was all going on, I got married.  Which surprised pretty much everyone, from what I can tell.  I was okay with the idea of being on my own and I’m okay with the idea of being on a team.  More on that at a later date.

My point is that I’m a different version of myself.  For the past few years, I was the action-adventure version.  And to be honest, I miss her sometimes. And while I don’t always recognize the person that I am, most days I still like who I am.  My Korean language skills have atrophied and I don’t feel quite as brave as I used to, but I still love a myriad of other things in my life.  I treasure being able to go home and cook a meal for my parents.  I love car trips with my spouse.  And I really enjoy sitting at home with a cat on my lap and a dog on my feet.


The things I never think about

I am a woman.  When I walk across a parking lot, I am on alert for suspicious characters. I hold my keys a certain way, ready just in case.  I never park beside vans.  When I order a drink at a bar, I watch (out of habit) as it’s prepared.  I hold my hand over my drink or press my thumb over the top of the beer bottle.  I have done this so many times, it is second nature.

I am on guard when alone with any man.  If I am raped, chances are it will be by someone that I know.  If I am raped, I will likely not report it.  There will be too much humiliation from everyone knowing what has happened to me.  It will be portrayed as my fault because of the way I dressed, if I drank alcohol, and if I wanted it to happen. My friends have joked that the ONLY way they would report a rape was if it occurred when they were coming out of church, dressed in very concealing clothing, there were witnesses, the perp was a stranger, and they were over eighty years old.

I have been harassed and assaulted in public venues.  When I confronted the offending party, I was told that I was “asking for it” because of my clothes, my eyes, and even the way my body is shaped.  Only once has a by stander intervened on my behalf.

In a relationship, I am expected to set the limits.  As one guy explained it to me, “Men are the gas and women are the brakes.”

I’m average.  These things have managed to blend into the background.  They are things I never think about.

I have a week-long training at work.  We talked about the relevancy our movement to end violence against women.  We asked the men, “What things do you do in your daily life to protect yourself against violent women?”  We asked the women, “What things do you do in your daily life to protect yourself against violent men?”  Sadly, there’s an enormous difference in the answers.  Sadly, the movement is still VERY much relevant today.