No Place Like Home

Visits to North Carolina are quick and to the point, event-driven, and filled with obligation (not that we mind, of course). So much so that we often times forget that NC was at one time home to us, and not just our parents and friends.

A couple of weekends ago, we remembered.


Even though home for now is in Chicago, North Carolina was where I learned to ride a bike, where my feet trudged through the sand and shells every summer of my childhood while looking for sand dollars and conchs, where I fell in and out of love with boys, and where I learned that life is what you make it, wherever you make it. It’s who we make it with that counts.

You reach a point where you think all of your friends are married, and then you reach a point where they all start their own families. We keep realizing that it isn’t as uniform as it seems – they’re still getting married (hence this past trip), they’re still having or not having kids, and sadly some are parting ways – for better or worse isn’t always as easy as it seems, it appears.


Sometimes we realize that we’ve grown apart – perhaps it’s the distance, or the difference in career choices (or lack thereof), or maybe we just mature at different rates (some of us, ahem, more slowly than others). Either way, we’re still friends, and that’s what counts.

I can’t say if we’ll ever live in NC again. Shoot, I can’t even say where we’ll be in two or five or ten years, for that matter. But what I can say is that, while home is wherever we choose to settle down for the time being, North Carolina will always be home-home. It will always be special for that reason and so many more, and we will always look forward to the visits back – even those visits when we say goodbye to someone we love – because it’s those visits that count.

This recent weekend was one of those trips – another wedding, another visit with our respective families, and another drive or two between Raleigh and Greensboro. This time, we stayed until Monday, catching an early flight home just in time for the work week. It’s something I think we’ll make a new tradition, as we found ourselves with an extra day – a “freebie” of sorts.

We finally got to eat at The Pit, a lauded spot for eastern-NC BBQ, and for the first time in 8 years, we wandered through our old campus, reminiscing on things that were the same, all the while remarking about all those that were different. We met up with more of the fam and people-watched at the State Fair while eating fried cookie dough and the best ice cream around – from our alma mater itself. We spent time with some of the kids, who seem to grow in feet rather than inches. I had dinner with friends. We drove past our old apartments, old dormitories, old hang-outs.


We saw Autumn in the South – leaves falling, crackling beneath our feet, reminding us once again, that this – North Carolina – is home-home. There’s no place quite like it, and that’s what counts.

Apple Hand-Pies
chiknpastry recipe, makes 6 pies

time commitment: ~2 hours (most of which is inactive time)
other: dough freezes easily. to use frozen dough, let sit in fridge overnight to thaw.

don’t get me wrong – I love fried treats from the fair, but one can only eat so much in one month, right?! these hand pies are baked instead, but they’re just as charming. the dough makes enough for two pie crusts, so you can save 1/2 of it, or double the filling for double the hand pies. i like the idea of getting another pie dough out of my efforts, so I freeze the other half for later.

the crust is very similar to other crusts I’ve used before, but I swapped out half of the AP flour for spelt flour for a whole grain twist and a nuttier flavor. the shortening has also been reduced a tad.

printable version

ingredients
crust
1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 c spelt flour
1 T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 stick (8 T or 1/2 c) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 T (1/4 c) chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
up to 1/2 c ice water

filling
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into small cubes
3 T agave nectar
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 t lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
turbinado, or “raw” sugar, optional

instructions
crust
pulse flours, sugar, and salt in a food processor to blend. Add butter and shortening and pulse repeatedly until small pea-size clumps form. Add 1/2 of ice water and pulse until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. (alternatively, this can be done by hand or using a pastry blender, but it’s gonna take longer!) Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until needed. (You can keep it in the fridge for 2 days, or even freeze it and let thaw overnight. But, let it sit out for a few minutes to soften before you are ready to roll it out.)

filling
combine all ingredients (apple through lemon juice) for filling. cook over med-hi heat in a small saucepan until some of the liquid dissolves and the apples cook but remain crunchy. remove from heat and cool completely.

assembly
roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round (as i said above, i freeze the other round for later). using a 4 7/16″ pastry cutter (or whatever size you want, really; can also use a plate if you don’t have a pastry cutter), cut as many disks as possible, then repeat the process by rolling out unused dough until you have 6. you may need to chill the dough again if it gets too warm.

position rack in lower third of oven. measure out a heaping tablespoon onto one side of each round (total amount is somewhere between 1-1.5 T). brush entire edge of each round with beaten egg, fold half of dough over to make a half-moon shape, and press edges together. seal edges using the back of a fork. move to baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

preheat oven to 400. brush entire top of each pie with egg, and sprinkle with raw sugar, if using. bake @400 for 20-25 minutes. remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before digging in!

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I Am Thankful

7

I am thankful for my sister. She says what she is thankful for every day on facebook. She also likes Meatloaf. And since I enjoy her facebook gig, I’m going to try to catch up with her.

I am thankful for _____.

the guy upstairs pounding down the long hallway and the puppy downstairs yipping through the night.

mullets. Even if you have to drive to a Rush concert in Ohio to see them in the midwest. That don’t make no sense….

good mullet

the drool on my pillow. That means I had some good sleepin’ last night.

my father-in-law, who just had two knees replaced! He is one crazy mo-fo.

my mommy. today is her birthday. she’s getting old younger by the year.

my washing machine, even though it has started to tear my clothes. I will give it the boot soon. Love ‘Black Friday’ deals.

apple pie, with cranberries! If you behave, I’ll post the recipe below…

apple-cranberry pie filling

good wine; I only wish I had barrels of it and not bottles. *sigh*

wine barrels

my friends, some of my favorite people on earth. They also like to eat. A lot.

Thanksgiving 2008

my husband, as he is only very occasionally annoying but usually cute and delightful. Wait… is he trying to take off his wedding ring here? I guess there’s no better time than when you have balloons on your head and are in the midst of the famous “fist dance”…

Chris - New Year's

my cats, who can sleep standing up. that is so cool. and mine has great teeth. see? Thanks, Lindsay, for this lovely picture!

Tangerine

Rock Band. We love you, xbox game. Look how serious we are. Every. Year.

Rock Band 2007Rock Band 2008Rock Band 2009


knife skillz. that first turkey we made in 2004 was a massacre.

bad turkey carving 2004

and last but certainly not least, leftovers. we will eat you up like there’s no tomorrow. we always do.


Thanksgiving 2008 spread

Cranberry-Apple Crumble Pie
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; serves 8

printable recipe

You didn’t think I’d leave you with no recipe did you? Sure, Thanksgiving is officially over, BUT that never means that you can’t make more pie. You’re probably running low anyway, right? And this here pie is a great version of apple pie and a great way to use any leftover cranberries. Sweet and tart. That’s my kinda pie.

ingredients
pastry dough
1 1/2 c ap flour
3/4 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 T vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3-4 T ice water

crumble topping
3/4 c ap flour
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c pecans, coarsely chopped

fruit filling
2 lb mixed apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
8 oz fresh cranberries (or frozen, unthawed)
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
3 T ap flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

instructions
make pastry: blend flour, butter, shortening, and salt into bowl with fingertips or pastry cutter (or by pulsing in a food processor a few times) just until mix resembles coarse meal with some rough clumps. drizzle 3 T ice water and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. squeeze a portion, and if dough doesn’t clump together, add another T water. don’t overwork the dough! turn out dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and gather dough into round disk. cover with wrap and place in fridge for an hour.

make crumble topping: stir together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. blend in butter with fingertips until large clumps form, then stir in pecans. chill until ready to use.

make fruit filling:  stir together apples, cranberries, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl.

assemble pie: preheat oven to 425 F with rack in lower third. roll out dough on lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round, then fit gently into pie plate. trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhand, then fold and crimp. transfer fruit filling to pie shell. loosely cover with foil and bake until apples droop slightly, about 30 minutes. reduce oven to 375 F. sprinkle crumble topping over filling is bubbling, and apples are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.