Sunday, August 29, 2010

Michigan Pasties

I've been so busy of late, but started getting the itch to post something after watching Jamie at Home on the Cooking ChannelJamie Oliver isn't usually my cup of tea, but today, while torturing me with Strawberries...he was my man.

Instead of blogging about something super yummy-licious today (focus....), I think I'll let you in on a little secret. It's such a  well kept secret that only all my friends, family and neighbors know...The Queen has no clothes!  That's right, I'm not perfect.  Shocking isn't it?  Did stock in smelling salts just rise?

On invitation from a friend, a group of us went up to Michigan for a weekend of fishing and relaxing. 
We had a blast, I couldn't have imagined another outcome.  It was a wonderful mix of friends and ideal setting.
While vacationing years ago in MI,  I remember purchasing and loving sandwichy/pastry-like creations called "Pasties".  A Pasty (pronounced past-ee) is kinda like a hand pie without the sweet interior.  It will have, usually, a meat which is ground, cubed or shredded and a variety of vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, rutabaga and onion.  If you travel the state enough, especially the Upper Peninsula, you will find that everyone has their own version. 
The versions I purchased to share with you were basically a Breakfast Pasty, which consisted of sausage, egg, potatoes and a Beef Pasty, which had ground beef, potatoes, carrots and onions.
Deciding that I had to try these at home, I ran to the Internet to see what "stuffings" people favored.  It wasn't very helpful.  I came to conclusion that it was pretty basic and you added what you liked, although rutabaga, did show up an awful lot in the variations.
Armed with a basic knowledge (I knew how it should taste) and a spirit of adventure, I set out.

Basic Pie Crust
(this is one I've used for 25 years (shudder), don't ask where I found it...it's been too long)
2 c. flour
1 t. salt
3/4 c. shortening (substituting 1/2 butter would probably be yummy)
5 or 6 T. water

Mix your flour and salt, cut in the shortening, add water and knead.
Cover or wrap in plastic, to prevent drying, and set aside.
Makes enough for 4-5 Pasties

Pasty
1 lb. hamburger
5 small carrots, diced (I used baby carrots from the garden)
1/2 c. onion, diced (give or take...I think I may have gave)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large potato, diced
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper



Once you've done all the vegetable chopping just mix everything together, like you would a meatloaf.  Really, a meatloaf stuffing might be really nice!
Now take the pie crust you've set aside and divide it into 4 or 5 equal pieces and roll each piece out into a circle.  Somewhere between 7-9 inches seemed to work for me.
Now comes the tricky part...getting the hamburger mixture in there and sealing the edges...
Depending on how big you've rolled your pastry, I'd put in around 3/4 - 1 cup of filling.  Place the filling on one half of the pastry circle.
(Uh-oh, did you notice this pastry circle isn't so perfect?...Pity the Queen...)
Now fold the 'empty' half of the pastry over the filling and crimp with a fork to seal the edges. Pierce with a fork to vent.
Bake at  350 degrees for one hour.
Here's what you get....
It looks a LOT like a meatloaf to me....

There are a bunch of notes to follow....here goes....
1.  I would try slicing my potatoes, carrots, etc.  I think they would 'lay' better in the filling.
2.  I would try using leftover roast beef or shredded chicken breast.
3.  I would try adding tomatoes, or tomato paste/sauce to combat dryness.
4.  I would make them smaller.  These were really big and took two sittings to eat.
5.  I would brush the pastry with egg before baking, so when you hold them they aren't so 'flaky'.
6.  I would roll the ends, similar to a pie crust, instead of crimping. The crimping was 
     extremely crumbly and would not hold up well traveling (which is really what these hand pies 
     are meant for).  Make sure you adjust your filling positioning on the crust if you decide to 
     roll instead of crimp.
7.  If you do crimp the ends, moisten the edges of the crust all 'round so they stick together better.  
     Think pie crust 101, it'll be fine.
8.  Try the two crust method.  Similar to making a pie, you'll have a bottom crust, filling placed 
     in the middle of that, then place another circle of crust over the top and roll or crimp the edges
     to seal.  I am personally going to try this next time!
9.  Last, and maybe most important...let them cool a little before diving in!  They are very hot when 
     they come out of the oven.  Or, better yet, eat them cold the next day!  I actually thought 
     they were tastier and easier to handle!  

I told you there were a ton of notes!!  This was a trial and error for me and I must say...my efforts didn't taste horrible,  just not what I was hoping for.

I stated in my profile that this blog was about what was happening in my life, the good, the bad and the boring.  This was a little of all three, and most especially not one of my better experiments. But what's life without failure?  The Queen indeed has no clothes, and today she is not ashamed.  She shared something new and gave ideas as to how to improve on her failure.  That's what queens friends do. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This Land Was Made for You and Me

When I sat down to type tonight, that's all that came to mind...the lyrics from This Land is Your Land.  I feel like I've crossed country so many times in the last few months that it's beginning to feel "okay".  That is a scary statement when you consider how terrified I am of flying.

The love of family is a powerful and wonderful thing.  The draw is so strong, so Salmon-like (is this how they feel during spawning?), it's irresistible...the need to be with loved ones.  Sometimes the loved ones are drawn to you, you to them, or sometimes you clash in the middle trying to reach each other.  That's how my little adventure went last week...clashing in the middle. 

After a year of attending Waseda University in Tokyo, my middle daughter finally came home.  It was a wonderful experience for her and her second year long exchange to Japan....wonderful for her....agonizing for me.  We decided that since my husband had a business trip to San Diego, we would all plan to meet at LAX and have a nice little reunion vacation.  So we coordinated all our flights and descended on LA, 4 flights, 4 people, all aiming for one poor airport in California and after a half a day of gathering the troops from the different concourses, we were together.
 While waiting an hour and a half at the international gate for my daughter to clear customs, I talked to another waiting parent whose son was on the same flight.  I couldn't help thinking I'd seen him somewhere before.  I took a double-take when we first spoke...and I now believe I had seen him before...in the movies.  I'm pretty sure he's played supporting roles as bad guys.  His face and voice were sooo familiar and though he'd shaved his head, I can picture him playing the part.  It was a very nice 45 minutes of conversation and fun way to start things off.


As for the rest of our trip...I'm honestly at a bit of a loss where to start, so I think I may do a pictorial tour for you.  With your indulgence...a quick cop-out will now begin...
On the Santa Ana Freeway, otherwise known as Interstate 5 heading south toward San Diego!

The Pacific Ocean north of San Diego.

The locals amusing our friend from Japan...

First day's outing to Old Town San Diego.  Can you say sunburn???

15 minute Shakespeare on the green at Old Town.  We loved these guys!  They were fun AND funny!   Five stars!  or...Five stares....


 MTS or the Trolley Service we used to get around.  It was so easy and convenient!

We were able to see a Padres baseball game at Petco Park while we were there.  It was so much fun!  The stands were nearly full, except for some of the upper sections and...the Padres won!  (Sorry Pirates.)
Our last day in San Diego we took a Trolley Tour and pit stopped at the USS Midway for a few hours.  It was fascinating.  If you ever get the chance...do it!!!!  
Also...not to neglect the trolley...It is a wonderful way to see a lot of San Diego in a very short period!  We ran out of time near the end of the trip and the tour provided a way of seeing everything we wouldn't have had time to otherwise. 


Can you guess?  Who can go to SoCal and not visit Disneyland...
(a special thanks to cousin S. W., we had sooo much fun!)

One of my personal favorite areas in Disneyland?...Toon Town...  Doesn't the sky in the photo on the left look like a part of the painted backdrop?  It was amazing.
Last one...promise...  Disney at night. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
While it may seem I've lost sight of my original posting intent...family...I don't think I have.  You see, while you don't see their faces here, they were with me every step of the way, including my daughter's friend, who is now our friend.  I would have crawled over broken glass to reach my daughter and with my bad knees...it feels as if I very nearly did.  The universe spins around them and when one is missing from the family circle, the sun shining in that universe is slightly dimmer.  I know you feel the same about your kin and life is lived better with them.  I thank God on high for mine daily.
My girl is home now, for as long as I can nail her down, and we'll get into each other's hair and drive each other nuts along the way, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
The Sappy (as usual),
 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Quick Steel Cut Oats

Thought I'd share my favorite breakfast of late...Steel Cut Oats.
As you can see, Steel Cut Oats are produced by taking the whole oat grains and pretty much "cutting" or chopping them, usually in half or thirds.  Normally the grain is rolled or cooked and rolled to get what most people are used to buying in the big Quaker tubs.  These gems are hard little bits and not at all-l-l-l-l suitable for making oatmeal cookies...unless you want to break a tooth....or are Jaws...

The directions on the package calls for a 30 minute cook time, but I've figured out a way to cut that down to about 10 minutes and it doesn't require baking, a crock pot, or a thermos.

Here's the process...
(Click here for printable version of recipe)
For one serving, measure out 1/4 c steel cut oats.  I like to give them a good rinse, just swish them around in a bowl and drain a couple times, then add around 1 cup water and let it sit overnight.  Sound familiar?  It's a lot like soaking beans!
 I do it right in the cereal bowl I plan to use the next morning.  It's just less mess that way.
In the morning you're going to drain the water and this is what you'll see...
See how they've kind of swelled up and "popped" a little?  This is what is going to make the process really speedy!
Now, put the oats and 3/4 c. water in a small saucepan on your stove top,
bring to a boil and reduce to a medium flame/heat.
Now it's a matter of not letting it stick to the pan.  Just stir it every so often in the first couple minutes, but near the end, as it thickens, I'd stay on top of it.  It won't take long....
I like mine nice and thick, so my oats usually take about 8-10 minutes to cook.  I suppose if you want it a little sloppier, you could do this in 6-7 minutes.

Now all you need to do is put it back in your rinsed out cereal bowl and add 1/2 T. maple syrup,
and instead of milk, I splurge and add some Half and Half....I know, I know....but I can't help myself....
...it's soooo good.  Maybe it's my Irish lineage, but I could eat this everyday.  Seriously.

If you try this, I think you'll be in for a pleasant surprise.  It's chewy, substantial and could be switched up in any number of ways, this is just my current favorite.

A healthy heart to all!