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Archive for May, 2012

This spring we caught the gardening bug.  Well, I caught the gardening bug, Danielle just re-potted a couple plants she already had.  I picked out a few packets of herb seeds and started growing them out on our little patio.  Since there are quite a few cats and squirrels running around our neighborhood, I’ve been looking for a way to get my little herbs off the ground.  I also looked for something that could serve as a sort of trellis for the ivy Danielle has.

I like the idea of using a chair as a plant stand/trellis and painting it a fun color. This article at Apartment Therapy featured a chair planter that was really inspiring.  I checked out Goodwill for old chairs that I could use for my project, but it was a new chair in the As Is section at Ikea that I ended up taking home.  The Ivar chair was 30% off of the retail price of $19.99 because it was missing packaging, and because it is an unfinished wood chair it was perfect for my project.  A tube of acrylic paint and an old t-shirt rounded out my supplies.

I wanted the paint job to look weathered, which is why I used cloth instead of a brush, and I was using a paint that was transparent enough to let the wood grain show through.  I think it turned out pretty good!  The bright color is also complimented by the colorful planters I picked up at Target to grow my herbs in.

After

Before (image from Ikea.com)

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Back home in Wisconsin our family ‘estate’ is just a couple miles away from the local pick-your-own berry farm.  I have a couple fond memories filling up a bucket with juicy strawberries as a kid with Grandma, or when Danielle and I decided to go picking a few years ago so we could make freezer jam and came home with about 10 extra pounds – oops, good thing they freeze well!  I know it will still be a few weeks until the strawberries are ready in Wisconsin, but we’ve hit the peak of Southern California’s year round season and the grocery stores around here have them on sale every other week.

While I am perfectly happy eating a bowl of whole strawberries, I wanted to try my hand at something “new” so I pulled out a couple of Grandma’s recipes and went to work making a fresh strawberry pie.  First we need something to put it in:

Grandma’s Perfect Pie Crust

  • 4 cups unsifted flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cup Crisco
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water

Mix together flour, sugar, salt and Crisco until crumbly.  Add egg, vinegar and water; mix well.

Grandma’s recipe claims this yields 7 crusts, but I don’t think we’ve ever gotten that many pies out of it.  Danielle guesses maybe Grandma was just better at rolling out the dough or something, but for us we can usually make three, maybe four, crusts from each batch.  If you’re not making four pies in a day, just divide the extra dough and pop it in the freezer for next time!   Once you’re pie shell is baked (at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes) it’s time to make the filling:

Fresh Berry Pie

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 box Jello (flavor matched to berries, so strawberry flavored for strawberries)
  • 1 quart berries
  • 8 or 9 inch baked pie shell

Bring water, sugar and cornstarch to a boil until thicker and clear.  Remove from heat.  Add Jello.  Add berries.  Pour into pie shell and refrigerate.  Serve with whipped cream topping.

The first time I tried this recipe I wasn’t sure how “clear” the mixture was supposed to get and kept cooking after it had thickened until it was too thick to mix the berries in and while it tasted okay, it wasn’t the prettiest pie to look at.  This time around I’ve learned my lesson and once the mixture had thickened I removed it from the heat.

As a bonus, I had quite a bit of extra dough that I decided to roll out and bake (about 6 minutes) in a cupcake pan for some “mini pies”.   The little shells with a spoonful of strawberries looked great and were perfect for serving as a quick and easy dessert, rather than slicing up the whole pie.

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