I just finished tweaking this painting in Photoshop to remove the gray overcast (from photographing it at night) and brighten the colors. Ah, that’s much better.
What’s a holiday celebration without a great dessert? Whenever we have family gatherings someone inevitably asks me to bring a homemade apple pie. I have to admit I do make a mean apple pie–it’s my most requested dessert recipe. So with Christmas only two weeks away (can you believe it?), I thought I’d share my apple pie recipe for folks who are looking for a really special holiday dessert.
There are Three Secrets to Making a Great Apple Pie:
- To make a balanced pie filling–one that’s not too sweet, too sour, too mushy, or too firm–use a variety of apples.
- To make a flaky pie crust avoid over-handling the dough.
- To make a super easy top crust, use crumb a topping.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons ice water (avoid adding additional water)
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter until the shortening pieces resemble small peas. Add ice water and stir to combine (use your hands if you prefer). Do not over mix, over work, or over stretch the dough when fitting it into the pan or it will shrink during baking and become tough. Form the dough into a ball and roll it between two sheets of waxed paper (this keeps your counters and roller clean and no additional flour is necessary). Fold the dough into quarters. Place on top of the baking dish; unfold. Turn raw edges under. Crimp edges between your thumb and fore fingers or use a fork. Bake the crust, unfilled, at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until it is lightly browned. (This pre-baking step keeps the bottom crust from becoming soggy.) Cool slightly before filling.
- 8 apples peeled, cored, and sliced (2 Granny Smith, 2 Golden Delicious, 2 Braeburn, 2 Jonagold)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
Combine apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate several hours (or overnight). Using a slotted spoon (you only need a small amount of juice), spoon into prepared pie crust.
French Apple Pie Crumb Topping:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 cup flour
Mix all ingredients into pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle over top of pie. Make at 350 degrees for 40 minutes (or until the apples are soft and the crust and pie crumbs are golden brown.
Thank you for all the wonderful holiday wishes. My daughter and I enjoyed a cozy, peaceful candlelight dinner for two.
We feasted on roast chicken, cornbread stuffing, green beans, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato casserole (my favorite). What a memorable day.
For dessert, my daughter requested homemade apple pie. She helped me prepare and serve the entire meal.
How was your holiday?
Thankful for my beautiful daughter, my delightful pups, and for John of Four Seasons AC and heating who came over at 5:00 am on Thanksgiving Day to fix my furnace so my daughter and I can enjoy our Thanksgiving Day feast in comfort. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you, John! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Hi everybody. How’s the weather in your area? It’s seriously cold here today. The temperature is below freezing and the wind is blowing like crazy. It feels more like mid winter than fall. So I thought I’d make some soup for lunch to chase the chill away. And this recipe for Philly Cheesesteak soup that I found in the Foot Network Magazine fit the bill perfectly–after I tweaked the ingredients to improve the flavor and eliminated a few unnecessary steps to speed preparation.
If you love Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, then you’ll love this rich, cheesy soup. I served it with a tossed salad, crusty bread, and iced tea.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce
8 cups chicken broth
2 hoagie rolls, cut into cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
1 pound shaved beef steak or roast beef (I used Steak-Umm frozen sliced beef)
1/4 cup jarred sliced pepperoncini
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for topping
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery seeds, and garlic; cook for 3 minutes. Add the flour, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce; cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cheddar and provolone cheese and slowly whisk into the soup until melted. Pour the soup in batches into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot and simmer on low.
Meanwhile, toss the bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes; set aside.
While the croutons are baking, cook the frozen beef slices in a large skillet until browned. Stir in the pepperoncini and parsley then season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls; top with the beef, croutons, and more parsley.
Create a Winter Woodland Holiday
I posted these photos of Anthropologie’s gorgeous winter owl holiday theme last January just after the holidays–I know, brilliant, right?–so the photos didn’t spark much interest. I also posted them on Pinterest without much response. But this year my Pinterest followers are re-pinning my winter owl theme photos like crazy, so I thought I’d share them again this year–only this time I’d share them before Christmas.
Winter owls nestled in branches. This would be so easy to recreate at home.
Perched high on a wall made of wood, on a wooden fireplace mantel, or nestled on top of a stack of firewood.
Perched on a swing made from a birch tree branch and suspended from the ceiling with fishing line–or simply perched on a wooden shelf. Don’t forget to paint some snowflakes on nearby window panes to play up the rustic, wintery feel.
Add a mason jar chandelier flecked with snow and filled with candles and bits of nature like pine cones, pine needles, or acorns.
Tie the mason jars with simple twine and hang them from the ceiling. How lovely. Play it safe and use flameless tealight candles.
Add some old books covered with snow and cranberries. Stack them on a table near a fireplace to get this warm, glowing light and encourage your guests to curl up with a good book. How simple and lovely is this?
Where to Find Winter Owls
You can find winter owls everywhere this holiday season. I saw them this weekend at Target and Pier 1 Imports while I was out shopping with my sister. I’ve also seen them in Pottery Barn’s holiday catalog. Pick some up winter owls and enjoy a winter woodland holiday.
How does a summer porch featuring purple wicker chairs, hot pink and white outdoor carpets, and pillows in shades of orange, lime, and grape transition into a lush retreat for fall? Fantastically!
Am I right?
I’m still having a love affair with my purple porch furniture, so I’m keeping it purple through fall and winter. So how do you transition a summer porch featuring purple wicker chairs, hot pink and white chevron rugs, and pillows in shades of orange, lime, and magenta into a lush fall retreat?
I began by switching out the bright summer pillows with these fun plaid pillows in shades of cranberry, eggplant, gold, and taupe.
Then I layered on the texture with lumbar pillows covered in cranberry corduroy for extra comfort and warmth.
I switched out the hot pink and white chevron rugs for these rich gem tone rugs. I couldn’t find outdoor rugs in the colors I desired so I settled on these bathroom rugs.
Yep, bathroom rugs!
Just because they’re called bathroom rugs doesn’t mean they have to be used in a bathroom. I’ve used bathroom rugs on my winter porch over the years. They wear like troopers, can be thrown in the washer and dryer, and the rubber backing keeps them in place on windy days.
I couldn’t let go of my purple front door, either. Nope, not yet. So I switched out the brightly colored summer wreath with this fall arrangement in shades of rust, orange, and gold (another creation by my friend Tonya at TwoInspireYou).
It looks amazing on a purple door, doesn’t it?
And the burgundy welcome mat? You guessed it. It’s a bath mat.
For extra color I added these fun flower arrangements in pumpkin containers that I picked up on sale at Michael’s Craft Store. The resin pumpkins (also from Michael’s) look real from the street and withstand the cold temperatures all season long. There will be no rotten pumpkins on my porch to clean up!
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed my front porch makeover. Weather permitting, I’ll be sipping pumpkin lattes here and planning my Christmas porch makeover which will feature this custom designed holiday wreath (also by my friend Tonya at TwoInspireYou).
I can’t wait to bling out my porch for Christmas. Have a great day, everyone.
Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice
One of my favorite fall drinks is a Starbucks caramel apple spice. My daughter and I fell in love with this warm, spicy drink several years ago when we were commuting together on a drizzly fall day. Traffic was slow and we were cold and frustrated, so we stopped by a Starbucks drive-through window and decided to give this drink a try. It was love at first sip–so warm and soothing–a perfect pick-me-up on a dreary day.
It’s funny how a simple act like stopping for a warm drink on a dreary day can etch such a pleasant memory in your mind that you find yourself craving the same drink on cold, rainy days like today. Luckily you can easily recreate this delicious drink at home. Here’s how:
- 1 cup apple juice
- 2 pumps of Starbucks Cinnamon Dulce syrup (you can purchase a bottle with a pump dispenser at your local Starbucks shop or buy it online at http://www.starbucks.com)
- Canned whipped cream
- Caramel syrup
- Nutmeg (optional)
Microwave the apple juice in a microwave-safe mug for 1.5 minutes. Add two pumps of Starbucks Cinnamon Dulce syrup; stir to combine. Top with whipped cream. Drizzle caramel sauce on top. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if desired.
This makes a delicious treat anytime, but I generally serve this as quick a late-night dessert. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
I hope everyone enjoyed the long holiday weekend. It went by way too fast and I didn’t accomplish everything that I had planned to do. But I managed to squeeze in a brief painting session this afternoon. Fall is the perfect time to plant tulips, and these Angelique tulips would look fabulous in my spring garden. Now all I need to do is find the time and energy to plant some before winter sets in.
Today is a spectacular fall day with crystal clear blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s–not too hot, not too cold–just the way I like it. The leaves are just beginning to change colors and I can’t wait to see the show. All this fall goodness got me in the mood to paint something with a fall theme, so I whipped up this colorful fall fairy complete with a magic wand and pumpkins just waiting to be turned into Cinderalla’s coach. Now All she needs is some white mice to be turned into horses, and away she’ll go to meet prince charming.
This painting is based on a tutorial in Linda Ravenscroft’s book, The Fairy Artist’s Figure Drawing Bible. I’ve learned so many new painting techniques from the tutorials in this book. It was definitely money well spent.