Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Pie: Fairytale vs Pie Pumpkin vs Libby vs Costco

The first Thanksgiving DH and I shared after we were married we observed as just the two of us. I made two pumpkin pies. DH questioned my sanity, "We're only two people. We don't need two pies." I informed him, "One pie for me and one for you." Despite his disbelief, I did eat that entire pie myself (and some of his) within about 24 hours. A serving of pumpkin pie for me is a quarter of the pie, for pumpkin pie is my favorite non-chocolate dessert. :)

Of course, I had to make pumpkin pie from my roasted pumpkin I was curious if the homemade pumpkin purees would yield a superior pie.

I began by thawing 2 cups of each of my pumpkin purees: "pie pumpkin" and fairytale. Then I removed 2 tablespoons from each to bring the total volume down to 15-oz. I mixed the extra tablespoons with a little powdered ginger and a little formula to make a tasty lunch for Little Hands.

Above is a picture of each of the purees I used. I used a can of Libby's as my tried-and-true control lest the other two be awful!

A point of clarification. This is Libby's canned pumpkin. It is not Libby's canned pumpkin pie mix.

I baked the pies with identical spicing and HEB crusts. As you can see, I had difficulties gauging when the two homemade pies were baked. The Libby's starts to freckle just a bit when it's perfect, yet neither they fairytale nor the pie pumpkin freckled. I pulled both pies when the fairytale lost it's gleam. The fairytale ended up slightly over-baked and the pie pumpkin embarrassingly over-baked. They still taste fine. The real sin of over-baking is the ugly, cracked surfaces.

One of our Thanksgiving guests surprised us by bringing a Costco pumpkin pie. There was no shortage of pie at our feast! The fairytale is the prettiest: a beautiful pumpkin orange. The pie pumpkin started out an ugly yellow, but baked up to be fairly identical in color the Libby's pumpkin. The Costco color was prettier than the Libby's, but not as stunning as the Fairytale.

I considered making a pie chart of pie consumption, but I'll spare you that geekiness :)

The fairytale slices are slightly sweeter than the rest. The other three pies were fairly indistinguishable in quality of taste; however, DH did note the Costco has a touch more salt in its recipe. I feel the guests tended toward the home roasted pumpkin pies because they were politely honoring the fact they were more work to make. (This was not a blind taste test.)

Overall, my opinions:

  • Fairytale yielded the tastiest and prettiest pie. However, those advantages were so slight that I would not recommend that route! I will probably roast my own fairytale pumpkin again next year, but only because that's my brand of crazy. I do not frown upon any pie from other sources.
  • Pie Pumpkin was identical to Libby's save for being slightly more yellow. It's not worth the effort at all.
  • Libby's is just as good as home roasted pumpkin. It's a darker color prior to baking; I'd guess that to be a result of the high temperatures required in canning.
  • Costco is just as good as Libby's, and it's a bigger pie. A Costco pie is completely the way to go if you're pressed for time, have a huge crowd, or don't enjoy baking pies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumpkin and Marscapone Roulade

This cake is homemade on an entirely new level of effort. A pumpkin jelly roll cake made from home-roasted fairytale pumpkin with a filling of homemade mascarpone and homemade candied ginger. This cake is decadent, sweet, creamy, and luscious.

I didn't set out to make a cake from scratch short of grinding the wheat, milking the cow, and obtaining the appropriate chemicals and processes to create baking soda. It kind of happened.

About a month ago I needed candied ginger for a berry cake. I was at a grocery store which doesn't sell candied ginger. Going to a second store with Little Hands wasn't an option, so I purchased half a pound of fresh ginger. Then I followed David Lebovitz's recipe on how to candy the ginger. The whole house smelled lovely. (That is, if you like the smell of ginger.) I frequently dipped a spoon into the syrup for a lick, and I wished there had been enough syrup to attempt to make a homemade ginger ale. The candied ginger itself? A lifetime supply considering I don't like it as a candy.

Then I happened to roast my own fairytale pumpkin.. It yielded so much pumpkin that I set out to do something with the pumpkin. It just so happened that the Blue-Eyed Bakers posted a recipe called, Buche d'Halloween (aka Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream).

I happened to have pinned recipe for homemade marascapone and an appropriate amount of cream in the refridgerator. I made the cheese from scratch because it sounded interesting. (It was. I'll do it again in the future.)

The result was rich and creamy. It was a wonderful fall desert deviating from my tendencies toward pies and peppermint.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pureed Fairytale Pumpkin

I wanted to roast and puree a pumpkin for Little Hands. At Central Market I asked a produce stocker for tips on how to select a pie pumpkin. The staff at Central Market are fabulous - when you can find one; they really know their products. He gave me great advice on how to select a pumpkin, and then he suggested that what I really ought to try was the fairytale pumpkins. He said that they are sweeter than the little "pie pumpkins" we were looking at.

Did you know fairytale pumpkins are edible? I had thought that they were decorative pumpkins. I had expected them to be unappetizing like the pumpkins more commonly used for jack o' lanterns.

Fairytale pumpkins were $8 compared to the $2.50 for a pie pumpkin. I was relucant to pay that much for a pumpkin; Mama-hona kindly purchased me this beauty. This pumpkin is larger than I wanted because the pricing scheme was flat regardless of pumpkin size. I couldn't reach the smaller ones in the back of the stack, and the larger ones seemed enormous.

I followed the directions on how to roast a fairytale pumpkin this blog. Essentially: whack it up, clean it out, stick it in the oven at 400* for 2 and a half hours, puree it, drain it, et voila!

My notes to add.

  • The majority of my pumpkin was going into baking applications, so I wanted to get rid of as much water as possible. Unlike smaller squash, don't add water to the roasting pan. The liquids will be added back in at baking time; it is better to add liquid than have a soupy batter!
  • Cover the roasting pan in tin foil. Pumpkin is thick, so it needs all the help it can get!
  • Cut the pumpkin into smaller, even pieces. I unnecessarily followed the natural lines of the pumpkin and the larger pieces took 45 minutes longer to cook than the thinner pieces.

I squeezed the puree in a tea towel; the liquid was carrot-orange bright. Then I left puree in the fridge overnight to drain. The puree itself is a likewise happy, bright color.

Once I was happy with the consistancy, I divided it into 1 cup increments for freezing. One can of pumpkin is 2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons. Lucky Little Hands will get to eat the extra tablespoons :)

My ~24-lb pumpkin yielded a half gallon of pumpkin puree. In more useful statistics, a little over 4, 15-oz cans of pumpkin. That means for outright cost I broke about even if canned pumpkin isn't on sale. That's not counting the cost of running the oven for hours nor the value of my time.

For comparison, I also roasted what was labeled as a "pie pumpkin." By the time I got around to roasting it, it weighed a mere 6.5 pounds. I'm convinced it lost a few pounds while it spent two weeks as a "toy" in our living room. (So weight does not necessarily equal volume.) The pie pumpkin yielded 3 cups of puree.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Decoupaged Treat Box

October went into creative gridlock. In September I had several projects in progress, I added another work-in-progress to the pile, and I became overwhelmed and lost all creative motivation. When I had time to work on projects I instead squandered it cleaning my kitchen or, worse, playing games online.

A friend delivered a lovely, Halloween treat in a cute box. The treat was rapidly inhaled (yum). The box was cute. The trouble is I have a self-imposed rule, "All Autumn and Halloween decorations must fit in one file box." I wasn't yet willing to part with any of my current decorations to make room for the box.

My Seattle upbringing insisted that I somehow reuse the box.

So, the most obvious solution is update it to the upcoming season and regift it :)

  1. Take one cute, but out of season box. If applicable, remove the ribbon by unknotting one side. Place on a protected surface. I just used a paper bag cut open and placed over the carpet. (My kitchen table is currently buried under those gridlocked projects.)
  2. Use decoupage glue (e.g. Mod Podge) to adhere scraps of wrapping paper to the box. I used 3x3-inch squares torn into three pieces, 1x1-inch pieces, and selectively cut large pieces. First I used the torn pieces at random to coat the entire box. The torn look permitted me to mold paper around the curves without carefully tracing and crafting larger panel pieces. I then used my small squares to patch over anything I considered a mistake. Finally, I glue down a few snowmen which I had carefully cut out of the wrapping paper. Yup, I can't just do "glue down random bits of torn paper," there has to be a precise method to my brand of madness.
  3. Wait for the box to dry. Stab a toothpick through the ribbon holes. Thread the ribbon and tie a knot in the end.

All in all I'm pretty pleased with my little box. It was a fast project to restore my sense of project accomplishment. My intent was to regift the box in the upcoming season; however, in the past 24 hours it's become a good home for my camera. And when you have a baby you know you need a camera immediately at hand at all times.

How do you get yourself out of creative gridlock?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fruit and Vegetable Purees III

I have been making baby food for Little Hands about every two weeks. It has just worked out that way. When Little Hands starts to run out, I make more. This past week we went on an excursion to buy more produce for him to eat. I came home with carrots, sweet potatoes (twice as much as before), a purple sweet potato (because it sounded neat), a peach, pears, an acorn squash, and green beans. Sadly, the peach molded on the counter in the two days it took me to go from shopping to food creation.

Little Hands inspects the quality of my work on foods I don't consider a choking hazard. (This carrot was cut in half before being put in the oven.)

The lower rack of my oven is filled with carrots, sweet potatoes, the purple sweet potato, and a couple of russets for dinner for DH and me.

The upper rack contains the pears and acorn squash. I started off the oven at 350* for the 45 min and then at 400* for another 25 minutes. The pears were done in about 15 minutes. The carrots in for 45 min. And everything else for the full 70 minutes.

Meanwhile, I cooked the green beans on the stove in about an inch of water. My last steaming basket rusted and I vowed to buy a silicone one, but I have yet to find a silicone steaming basket I like.

I thought roasted carrots would be a nice flavor variation for Little Hands who doesn't have many flavors available to him. The end product isn't to my liking. The roasted carrots were much drier than I had anticipated - they were quite dehydrated by the time they became fork-tender. Thus I had to add a lot of thinning water, and I still had very little produce from one pound of carrots vs steaming. (I don't have numbers on this claim. Just observation.) I also had to keep the oven at a much lower temperature for longer than I would have preferred. In the future, I'll stick to steaming carrots.


  • The top left is the green beans. I didn't make many as some people complain frozen green bean puree becomes gritty. This is a test batch.
  • The next down are the roasted carrots.
  • The four black-ish blocks are the purple sweet potato. I chose the smallest potato available and didn't try to hard to squeeze every ounce out of the potato when I saw how intense the color is! My small taste of purple sweet potato seemed more floral than regular sweet potato. If Little Hands loves it, I'll probably make more. The intent of this was just for amusement's sake.
  • The lower left is the acorn squash. Little Hands approves of acorn squash on most days. In this picture, a third of the bag had already been consumed.
  • Top right corner are the baked pears. They are quite sweet and have a strong pear taste to them. Little Hands hasn't been much interested in eating them unless they're mixed in with his oatmeal.
  • Bottom right are two bags of sweet potato. Little Hands has started to get bored with it, but he's still eating the supply steadily.

Curiously, Little Hands has started to favor the Butternut Squash. He was so disinterested before that I didn't bother to make any this time!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fruit and Vegetable Purees II

Little hands speed through his first batch of sweet potato, so I set out to make him a second batch. This time I documented the process.

I decided since I was heating up the oven I might as well make Little Hand's next food, apples, while I was at it. I chose Braeburn apples because they would handle the baking process well. Little Hands thinks they're too tart, so next time I may try Fujis.

prepare sweet potatoes

Prepare the sweet potatoes: wash, pierce, and wrap in foil. Note I made the mistake of piercing through the foil. This left me digging out four bits of foil out of every potato. I've never noticed this in my own baked potatoes (oops), but it caught my Mama eye in the finishing steps.

prepare apples

Prepare the apples: core the apples, place in a pan with 1" of water. We don't own an apple corer, so DH used a metal teaspoon to core the apples for me.


Bake in a 400* F oven. The apples will be done in about 30 minutes: fragrant, fork-tender, and the skin is dark. Reserve the apple baking liquid for thinning. The sweet potatoes will be done when they're squishy; about 1 hour. (In this picture you may or may not notice that I tossed some potatoes in for DH and myself.)

kidco food mill

I initially took my Kidco Food Mill to the apples, but that was a lot of work and it was just creating a standard applesauce texture.

immersion blender

So I had DH take the immersion blender to them instead. Same texture. Much faster. Add water from the baking pan as necessary to aid the blender. Use the same liquid to thin the applesauce to the desired viscosity.

prepare for freezing

Measure out the sauce for freezing. Most people seem to use an ice cube tray. I like the perfect, 1/2-oz squares this Wilton brownie bites silicone pan makes.

baked sweet potato

Remove the peel of the sweet potatoes. Then prepare in the same fashion as the apples, adding your choice liquid for thinning. I tend to thin my baby food as little as possible in favor of controlling the viscosity after thawing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vegetable Purees

Here's my first set of baby purees: steamed carrots, steamed peas, baked sweet potato, and baked butternut squash. Silly me thought I wanted to purchase spaghetti squash, I purchased what looked right without reading its sticker, and it turned out to be I wanted butternust squash and I purchased butternut squash. That's a case of two wrongs do make a right :) Little hands likes carrots and peas, loooooves sweet potato, and neither likes nor dislikes butternut squash.

The blog was fairly silent this week because my mother-in-law was in town and we worked on making something big together. I'll get it posted once it is finished!

Monday, September 24, 2012

International Book Week

Supposedly the last week of September is International Book Week. Facebook has been abound with the instructions, "It's international book week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the title. Copy the rules as part of your status."

Reading may not count as creation per se, but it is part of Little Hand's daily experience. He needs down time before his morning nap, so we read. Right now we read That's Not My Truck published by Usborne and Fuzzy Bugs by David A Carter. Little Hands particularly adores the "feathery bug." We're just days away from having those feathers ripped right off the page and eatten. After we read those two books, Little Hands gnaws on a chew toy while I delve into one of my own books.

Here's a sampling of the books that are in my reading pile and the books I in varying states of reading scattered around the house. I'm pretty heavy on the reference books right now.

"Just the mention of fats and carbohydrates is enough to send many people into the depths of despair -- it's that difficult to think about these two nutrients as being a neccessity in a healthy diet." The Wholesome Baby Food Guide by Maggie Meade

"This is not the reality for most new moms!" Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year by Rallie McAllister and Jennifer Bright Reich

"It is calculated that every dollar does at least twenty-five dollar's worth of work in a single year, and I have known it to do more than that in a single week." Gospel Standards compiled by G Homer Durham

"Raskolnikov went on puzzling, 'but how can he help me now?'" Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

"But to catch all those dirty diapers, you'll need a diaper pail designed to whisk away and store the evidence (and odor)." What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway

"Share." Baby Sign Language Basics by Monta Z Briant

"This is the time when a unique sign, significant to him and understood by you, may well prove to be more effective and much easier to learn because he will be able to relate to its significance." Sigh Language for Babies and Toddlers by Christopher Brown and John Clements

"Add cooked spahgetti to sauce." Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg

"But there were two difficulties in the way of marriage into the County families." Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

"Each variation has its own advantages: a block may be easily removed when the chocolate is tempered, while chips cool the chocolate more rapidly." Chocolate & Confections by Peter P Greweling

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dribble Bibs

Little Hands needed dribble bibs, and I wasn't happy with the low absorbency of the commercially available bibs. This pattern was a very simple trace-and-create job. Fussing with the bias tape all around those corners, however, was not simple. I made three bibs for Little Hands and one for another baby, but ended my plans to future bibs. Now that I have a few geeky bibs for my little 'un, I'd rather devote my time towards other projects than this one.

Supply List

Method for Sewists

  1. Trace a bib on tissue paper. I tweaked the design to be a bit larger.
  2. Cut out two layers of pretty fabric; make certain they're opposites! And one layer of absorbent liner. My terry cloth really makes this to be extremely absorbent, but it also makes for a bulkier bib. Little Hands has not complained about the bulk, and I like the extra absorbency.
  3. Prepare bias tape. I used only a 1/4 yard of fabric with 1.5" strips and had plenty for two bibs. Of course, your yardage will vary depending on the circumference of the bib pattern you use.
  4. Cut hook tape and loop fabric to size. Stitch hook to the neck loop end of one piece of fabric. Stitch loop to the bib body of the other piece of fabric. This step is really why I even bother writing out these directions. On my first attempt I forgot to attach the side of the hook and loop that isn't attached by the bias tape.
  5. Layer fabrics and attach bias tape.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Pan Organizer


This (recreated) utter mess is what my pans cabinet looked like before this project. The cabinet is in a great location, but I own too many pans for the small space. Unfortunately, all my other cabinets were too far away or even smaller, and the kitchen design isn't conducive to hanging the pans from the ceiling or a wall.

The solution I liked best was the Maple Racks from the Container Store. Those racks what they use to organize their in-store products. I already utilize the similar 4-Sort Dividers to organize my baking pans.

Sadly, those maple sorters aren't the correct dimensions for my cabinets, pan heights, and quantity of pans.

Happily, the construction is pretty obvious: wood + holes + dowels.

This is the solution which DH and I designed. It isn't as elegant as the store-bought version, but it does the job better. I measured the cabinet. DH went to Home Depot, selected the wood, and had them cut it to size. (We lack the equipment to cut it ourselves.) I then measured the height from counter-to-handle-arch of each pan. Using those measurements, I marked where I wanted each dowel to be located; you can still see those penciled notes on the wood itself. DH drilled holes through the first board, cut the dowels to height, stuck 'em in, et voila.

Our original intent was to use nails and glue to affix the two boards and all the dowels into a solid form. Then I might have painted it.

The reality is that this project was started when I was 9 months pregnant and couldn't stand the pan disarray anymore. The supplies were purchased then, but they sat in the garage until Little Hands was 2 months old. At that time, I was frustrated enough with the project to move it forward, but I was too exhausted to add in the finishing steps. I'll admit I now don't have much intent on prettying up the rack because it's functional and it's hidden in a cabinet anyway.


Ta-daaaa. This is how my cabinet looks now. It's wonderful to not have to get on the floor and dig to find a particular pan. It's also wonderful to not have to figure out how to shove a pan into the cabinet without it scratching another or falling out.

Want to implement this idea in your own kitchen? Don't forget to pin it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Butterscotch Sauce

This rich, butterscotch sauce is sweet and buttery. Once you try this easy recipe you won't go back to purchasing butterscotch topping in a jar. Serve on brownies or with ice cream or with both. DH and I like to put the sauce directly on a brownie in a simple-syrup fashion.

Butterscotch Sauce Recipe by David Lebovitz

Makes: 1 cup sauce

Prep Time: negligible

Cook Time: 10 minutes


  • 4 tablespoons (55 g) salted butter
  • 1 cup (180 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml), plus 6 tablespoons (90 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. In a wide saucepan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and the 1/4 cup of heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high. When the mixture starts bubbling, stop stirring. Let the mixture cook at a bubbling simmer for three minutes. Tweak the heat every now and then to keep the bubbling consistent.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 6 tablespoons of cream. Let cool, then stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. Serve warm.
  5. Store in sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Reheat the sauce over low heat.
Like this recipe? Don't forget to pin it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Stained Glass Art Panel

This little beauty of aqua, red, and blue was made back in July in an "Art Strip Workshop" at Blue Moon Glassworks in Austin, Texas. It's a quick, three hour class which doesn't even take the time to cement this piece. I'm assured it's such a small thing at only 3-inches wide and about 2-feet tall that it doesn't need the structural rigidity cementing would give it. Well, that and cementing takes a lot mess and time.

I'm pretty pleased with the piece. When I walked into the class I hadn't the slightest notion what the panel I would walk out with would look like. The student seated directly across from me was a lefty, and the way that the workstations were designed meant that our work spaces occupied the exact same square footage. She started building first, so that gave me a good 40 minutes to play with design and colors. (Albeit it also meant that I was rushed through my own build. I'd already taken a class working with lead before, so it wasn't detrimental.)

Now I just need to aquire a hook and chain so that I can hang it up!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Caraway Pot Roast

This roast beef dish is savory, tangy, and - most importantly - easy to create. The apple is a surprising touch and its tartness compliments the roast. You can cook this immediately or you can prepared it in advance and freeze it until you need a day off from cooking. I took a knife to my roast and divided it into two meals.

Caraway Pot Roast

adapted from Once-a-Month-Cooking by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson

serves 4

Prep Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 to 12 hours

To prepare and freeze:

  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 1/2 pound roast beef, fat trimmed
  • 15-oz Libby's Bavarian Style Kraut, drained
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

To finish and serve:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 granny smith apples, grated
  • 16-oz wide egg noodles


  1. Place all ingredients except water, apples, and noodles in bag and seal well. Freeze.
  2. Thaw and put into Crock-Pot. Add water, cover, and turn on low for 6 to 8 hours. (12 hours if not thawed.)
  3. Shred the meat in the juice. Grate apples and put on top meat. Serve on cooked noodles.
  4. Are you interested in this recipe? Don't forget to pin it!

Supply Purchasing Philosophy

When purchasing supplies I have a basic hierarchy of preferences on where to obtain goods. First, the local stores that make Austin the unique place it is. Second, regional and national chains which have a presence in Austin. Third, the ethereal Internet from whence nearly anything can be obtained.

Local Shops

I love local shops. I consider them to have a more thoughtful selection than their big box counterparts, and I find I like a higher percentage of their stock compared to a chain store. Their prices are likewise higher, but the quality also tends to be higher as well. I like to keep my money local: support local people who in turn can then spend the money locally. It's also nice to be able to chat with people who love their stores and the art or craft their store supplies. The downside is that I have yet to ever leave a local store without a plan to visit a larger store to find the reminder of the supplies I need.

Regional and National Chains

Entities with the ability to purchase in large quantities and afford huge retail spaces have the advantage of being able to keep a large variety and quantity of stock. Their offers of coupons and sales are enticing. It's also nice to go to a store and be certain they'll likely have the tool I need. The trade off for a large stock at a low price is a sacrifice of knowledgeable employees and quality of goods.

The Internet

I believe the availability of online shopping is revitalizing the world of makers. When I can't find a specialty item locally, there is often someone on the internet who can provide exactly what I want. It's also incredible that with 2-day shipping I often what I need can often arrive on my doorstep before I have time or energy to go shopping with Little Hands. The great disadvantage is not being able to see and handle the product in person prior to purchase.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hello, World

I open a new blog. It seems appropriate as I have a different life from my last blog. Now, I'm a 30-something at-home mother in Texas. Then, I was a 20-something student in Utah. The struggles and challenges now are very different. The things I want to talk about are different: good bye thesis, hello poopy diapers. Don't worry, I don't actually want to talk about poopy diapers. (Though sometimes it seems the only notable part of my day is how many I changed and how they looked.)

A challenge of my new position in life is a sense of accomplishment. Every day is filled with a seemingly endless repetition of sameness, and at the end of the day it often feels I've done nothing save for keep my child alive for one more day.

So that is what my new blog shall be. A celebration of the things I create and complete. Topics will likely include home organization, cooking, and sewing. Much of my inspiration will derive from things I've pinned.