Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cat Scratchers

So, new house = new cat problems. Almost right away, my youngest cat took to scratching the posts of the upstairs stairwell. Eek!! A renter's nightmare is their pets ruining the place, especially so soon after moving in!

So, I decided to buy an upright scratching post so she'd fill her need of scratching upright, but not on the house. Luckily, Petco was having a sale of buy one get one FREE! This lovely post was $17.99 and was made of sisal and seagrass. How eco-friendly!!

However, it was not liked. The base was so small that it'd tip over every time she'd start scratching. The last thing I needed was for her to become scared of her scratching post!! I researched online for some solutions and found NOTHING!! Luckily, I then stumbled across a link on how to make your own cardboard scratching posts. Both kitties LOVE their cardboard scratchers and then I had a genius idea. I'd make the bottom larger by making a cardboard scratching post on bottom! I knew it would help the post seem more familiar. So, I got out my hot glue gun and scavenged some boxes from the discarded moving box pile!

It was definitely a labor of love. This took me several days, several dozen glue sticks and the development of a bruise on my thumb pad due to cutting boxes with scissors. But, it was a success!! The base is much wider, and heavier now. My deviant kitty is now scratching this post all the time and I haven't heard any scratching on the stairs!!!! Now, do I go ahead and give the other post the same treatment?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer Harvest Pie

1 zucchini, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 handful basil, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp ground chipotle or cayenne
2 pie crusts (preferably biscuit crust)

1) Preheat the oven to 350F.  Prepare a pie plate by buttering the surface and laying one crust in the bottom.
2) In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (but not the pie crust!!).
3) Pour the mixture into the pie plate.  Top with the second pie crust, crimping the edges to seal the pie. Cut slits into the top crust and brush with melted butter.
4) Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Review:  This was AWESOME!!!  Apparently corn and tomato pie is an end of season favorite.  There's a nursery down the street from me that sells the pie.  I found a recipe for this pie and tweaked it to include my zucchini.  My garden is no longer producing, thanks to the tropical storms Irene and Lee.  The basil turned black, the tomatoes fell off the vine (those that didn't were pecked by the yellow jackets) and the zucchini was flattened by the wind.  The zucchini and tomatoes were the last to be salvaged before the storm.  The tomatoes were perfect, so it was very disappointing that I won't be able to harvest any more!!  And I was only able to salvage one handful of basil.  The corn was just regular frozen corn from the store.  But, it all came together in one savory dish!  And, I doubled this, so I have filling in the freezer to make again in the future.  Yum!!

Adapted from:

Biscuit Crust

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 Tbs butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup milk

1) Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor.
2) Add the butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal.
3) Add the milk and pulse until it forms a dough.
4) Split the dough in half and roll out each on a well floured surface one at a time.
5) When baking this pie crust, brush the top with melted butter or an egg wash, slit some holes in it and bake as per the pie instructions.  If baking at 350F for longer than 20-30 minutes, you can loosely cover the top with foil for all but the last 20 minutes to keep it from getting too dark.

Review: This recipes makes 2 crusts, so it's perfect for savory dishes that need a top crust!

Adapted from:

Spiced Apple Bars

4 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups apples (cored, peeled and diced)

1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a 9x13 pan by buttering the bottom and sides.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice).
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (egg, buter, vanilla and milk).
4) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix in the fruit.
5) Bake for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool before serving.

Review:  I had lots of leftover apples from making pie this weekend.  I wanted to make apple bread, but found I did not have vegetable oil in the house.  I googled recipes for bread that didn't use oil.  I found a recipe for "quick bread."  The name was quite a misnomer!  I tweaked it to use more fruit than it called for (as I had lots of apples) and made it in a flat pan, as I knew the extra fruit would not be conducive to rising in a loaf pan.  It turned out juuuuuust fine!  Though, this is best served with butter slathered on it.  Yum!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Apple Pie

I have a new quest to make more pies.  I received all sorts of pie related gifts for my birthday (yay!!) and had an opportunity to bring pie to a family function today.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to try a new fancy flavor, as I know my nieces aren't fond of crazy gourmet flavors.  So, apple pie it was!  I bought a bag of Macintosh apples from the grocery store, though they are local New York grown apples.  Therefore, they were small and I ended up coring, peeling and slicing apples for an hour!

I also tweaked my homemade crust recipe, as I don't like using vegetable shortening.  I substituted butter, after researching if it would work with butter instead.  I got a yes, but no further tips.  My recipe calls for refrigerating the dough for 4 hours.  I did, but when it's made with butter . . .  yeah, I had two solid balls of crust dough.  Ug.  I popped them in the microwave for 30 seconds and cursed myself for not thinking the plan through.  If I use butter, I no longer need to refrigerate the dough.

As for the pie itself, I seem to have significant difficulty following recipes for apple pie.  I have a basic recipe that I use, so that I don't forget essential things like lemon juice and flour.  I also reference it to know what temp to use and how long to bake the pie.  The rest I make up as I go along.  So, this pie was made using apples, brown sugar (brownulated - an interesting concept), cinnamon, allspice, ground clove, agave syrup, butter, flour and lemon juice.  I didn't even measure the ingredients, just adding amounts that looked right.

But, it seemed to work out fine.  Everyone raved about the pie and there were absolutely no leftovers!!