Thursday, August 16, 2012

Joy in the Kitchen

I've always loved to cook, I won a dessert contest when I was 13.  I regularly ask for kitchen items for Christmas.  I have a very sincere belief that Paula Dean will call me one day and ask me to be a guest on her show.  It's going to happen...
Anyway, this week I've been spending a lot of my free time in the kitchen.  There is something very empowering and uplifting about having random ingredients come together to make something beautiful and delicious, and empowering and uplifting is exactly what I need right now.  So, I have put together 2 meals this week that have been absolutely wonderful, if I do say so myself, along with my award winning pie.  Tuesday night I made a very southern meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, butter beans (my second favorite food to hibachi), and buttermilk biscuits.  Tonight I made some very tasty shrimp and grits.  The grits exploded a bit in the kitchen, but after stirring in some monterey jack cheese and butter, it all turned out beautifully.  
The thing I love making the most, though is my grandma's peach pie.  I've learned to cook from my parents and grandparents, but I learned to bake from her.  She taught me tricks to make oatmeal raisin cookies crispy and delicious.  She taught me a foolproof way to measure shortening.  She taught me how to make the perfect meringue for a lemon meringue pie. And, she taught me how to make a pie crust that has made me permanently against frozen crusts.  I am so thankful for the time she invested in me growing up and for the memories in the kitchen I will always have.  Her recipe for a peach pie is the recipe I used for the dessert contest, so as much as I claim it as my own, my life would be a lot less sweet had she not passed it on to me.  Making a peach pie is a labor of love.  There have been several times I have had to go back to the beginning when I was so close to being finished.  But like lots of things in life, the time and love--even the frustration-- invested in it is completely worth it when you get end result.  
Tonight I am thankful for the lessons learned in the kitchen, about cooking and about life. 

Mary Ethel's Peach Pie
Crust (makes a top and bottom crust):
2 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening 
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp. ice cold water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until it forms pea-sized chunks.  Add cold water 1 Tbsp at a time.  Mix with fork until dough forms a ball (you'll likely need to use your hands).  Divide dough into 2 equal balls.  Press between hands to make two 5"-6" sheets.  Roll out dough and loosen carefully.  Place bottom crust in a greased pie pan.

4 cups peaches
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour

Mix sugar and flour.  Add peaches.  Pour filling into the pie pan and top with butter.  Place the top crust over filling.  (I like to sprinkle some sugar on top before baking).  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Then bake for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees. 

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