Cooking with Kids: Apple Love Pie & Garlic Toast

When I was a girl I wanted an Easy Bake Oven so badly. My mother just said, “here, you can cook with a real oven.” And then she helped me make cookies. That began my love of baking and it lit my sweet tooth on fire. So when my son wanted an Easy Bake Oven, I guided him to cook for real.

We cook a lot in our household. And it’s natural that our son wants to cook too. I’ve always included him when he was interested, letting him peel carrots, helping him make “stew,” and just letting him create “concoctions” with our amply stocked spice cabinet. I’ve even used a box cake (dare I say it out loud) so that he can say he did it all by himself.

Today he really wanted to cook and create. He announced his after school snack should be garlic toast. So we made garlic toast.

 

He wanted to cook more, and I had several apples that needed to be used. He wanted to make a pie, but halfway through, he said he wanted to make cut-out cookies.

We came up with the best of both worlds by making a pastry top with cut-out heart shapes. We called it our Apple Love Pie. (Complete with the pie bird.)

Apple Love Pie

 

St. Mary’s Sausagefest

Out here in north Texas, when the Fall hits we get to take our choice of festivals every weekend.  From cooking competitions to fundraisers and heritage celebrations, we get a decent selection of weekend activities within  a quick drive for just about anyone in all of the north part of the state.  One of the best you can find is right in Young County held every second full weekend in November.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church started making homemade sausage in the 1970’s after one of their parishioners who had a German family recipe for sausage came up with the idea for a fundraiser.  Originally, they harvested the pork in the local fields as hog hunters would provide the meat.  As it grew, though, the church had to go to a more reliable source of pork.  Decades later, the annual fundraiser lives strong, and the entire church turns out to lend a hand to pull off the impressive event.  The church will feed 1,200-1,500 people hundreds of pounds of homemade sausage made over a weekend.  Named “Sausagefest” (funny name acknowledged), folks from all over flock to the church to eat lunch on Sunday and buy the uncooked sausage for their freezer so they can have it all year long (or at least until summer when they run out). Here’s a little tour behind the scenes.

The week before the festival, the pork roasts arrive in boxes.

The roasts are then taken out of the boxes and cut up into small chunks by volunteers.

The church has a large commercial kitchen in its annex where all the magic occurs.

The chunks of pork are loaded into large tubs, which are stored in a refrigerated storage container, retrofit with a large air conditioner.

The chunks are then fed thru a commercial grinder not once but twice.  The pork is dusted with the special secret seasonings that includes cayenne pepper and garlic before the first grind.  The smell is overpowering when you walk into the kitchen.

There’s a guard over the grinder to avoid injury.

The pork after the first grind:

And after the second grind:

And here’s the grind:

Then the casings have to be filled.  What are casings?  Well…if you don’t know, it’s probably best I don’t explain it.  Let’s just say that the sausage is all natural.  The casings are soaked in warm water:

Then loaded onto PVC pipes so they are easier to push onto the sausage filler…

And then the casings are filled.

The sausage filler is pretty ingenious.  You load the barrel with the the ground pork

Which is powered by a water hose attached to a water faucet outside.  It’s a pretty cool system…the pressure on the water builds up, you slowly release the water into the barrel and the sausage shoots out of the cap:

The casing is loaded on the spout and the pressure inflates the casings with delicious spiced pork.

Want to see it in action?  Check it:

The sausage is then moved to tubs…

…and then hung in the refrigerated storage container to cure for a couple days before it’s cooked.  The sausage is hung on 1″x1″ boards that run the width of the container.

Outside the kitchen is a commercial smoker with 12 rotating racks.  On Sunday morning, the sausage will go on and given the perfect combo of heat and Texas smoke from wood cut down and seasoned locally, usually a combo of oak and mesquite.

And lo, we have sausage.

It’s a delicious bite all the way thru with the perfect blend of spice and flavor.  The ladies in the church also make a special secret recipe of sweet mustard, as well as fresh cobblers for the crowd.

And there you have it…St. Mary’s Sausagefest. You don’t want to miss it.

Homebrew: Just the Beginning

Tonight we started our first batch of homebrew beer. Actually my Husband and his Runnin’ Buddy started it. I took pictures and smelled the aromas.

It’s a complicated process that requires specialty equipment and ingredients. Fortunately Runnin’ Buddy and my Husband went on a man-date Monday to get the necessary supplies. Runnin’ Buddy’s daddy-in-law provided the equipment.

The process of making homebrew beer goes through several phases and takes about a month, for the shortest cycle and up to two years.

The smells of the ingredients and brewing process itself constantly reminded me of feeding cattle in the winter while gnawing on a cowcake cube. The malt extract and the milled grain smell remarkably like finishing feed for cattle. (it’s the same stuff).


Through the process, we all kept talking about how people figured out how to make beer. Considering all the sanitation we did in a modern kitchen, I can’t imagine how the monks did it.

I wonder how many people got sick or died from drinking bad beer? And who thought of adding hops? Back in the dark ages someone figured out that hops was a natural preservative. So it makes sense to add it to the brew, but who knew? By the way, hops are part of the cannabis plant family, a curious fact indeed.

We’ll be posting more about the steps and process to making your own homebrew. Being the foodies we are, I’m not surprised we are attempting this. But unless you have a burning desire and a good friend who will loan you the equipment, it’s not for the faint of wallet or novice in the kitchen.

I can’t wait until next month when we can uncork our own bottles of brew. More fun to come from Arcadia. But for now, we have a wort in the closet, fermenting. (I hope we can find the vacuum). The step-by-step recipe will be on Its way to a blog post soon.

Americone Dream

Any of you Jon Stewart fans will know that Stephen Colbert comes on right after the Daily Show.

Colbert is rather sardonic but also can explain lots of complicated political scenarios with humor. Lately he’s been on the super PAC loophole, which allows campaign contributions to political candidates with total anonymity and no limits. Great campaign finance reforms :-/

A few nights ago I was watching The Colbert Report. He announced his new revenue generator to fund his super PAC.

Colbert has his very own Ben & Jerry’s flavor: Americone Dream.
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Thursday night we ran out of milk and laundry detergent. So I went to my local Wally world — our Walmart is pretty hit or miss but I happened to be in the ice cream aisle (shocker).

And there it was … Americone Dream. it is delicious!!!

And Stephen Colbert is very funny. But the calorie content is not! (but it was worth every bite!

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Victual Files: Another Hole in the Wall

If you weren’t going to Newcastle, Texas, you probably wouldn’t have much of a reason to be there. It’s up on the tip of the rolling plains where the hill country turns into dusty west Texas. Around 1950, the town had about 1,500 people living in it, and was a thriving coal mining community. However, they long-ago closed the coal mine, and since there’s not a railroad anywhere close the town’s citizens are mainly those who either are from Newcastle or whose parents and grandparents are from Newcastle. They sit below 500 these days on total population, however something very magical happens in the Fall in that part of the world.

The deer hunters converge.

You see, along with sparse population comes wide open range, and it just so happens that the nearby Brazos River makes for some of the best deer hunting in all of north Texas. At one point in the last century, the area was also known for its incredible dove and quail hunting. However, due to environmental changes, the dove population tends to wain from year to year, and the Bobwhite quail population is close to 25% of what it was just 50 years ago.

Nonetheless, on weekends in the Fall (aside from some of the best 6-man football in the region), you’ll find the town almost doubled in size with four wheel drive trucks, ATV’s, feed corn, and camoflauge from head to toe. You can buy beer and liquor from the stores, and the gas at the gas station is some of the cheapest around. If you venture into Jerry’s Meat Market on the corner of 380 and 380, you can get incredible cuts of beef ribeye steaks, marbled to perfection and cut in the butcher room in the back.

However, across the road there sits a red building that locals know as the local eatin’ joint, and visitors know as the home of the best damn hamburger on Earth. This is: Another Hole in the Wall.

Oh, sure…there’s a drive thru if you are picking up groceries for the family after church on Sunday, but you’ll want to go in to experience what AHitW is all about. In addition to their hamburgers, they have a yearly Big Buck competition and a longest turkey beard competition. Adorning the walls are pictures from previous years; a “yearbook” of sorts showing trophys pre-mount of all the harvested deer and turkeys from the local hunts.

Understand that this isn’t the place to go for a prom date. It’s good food, good company, and all within the close confines of your friendly Newcastle neighbors.

You want coffee? Serve yourself. Cups are on the wall.

You want tea or cokes? The owner, Bob, offers that, too. He will refill your tea glass for you, but it’s all unsweet so you have to spice it up yourself. Cokes are charged by the can, and they have three or four different types of “cokes” here. (In Texas, any type of soda is a “coke”. We often ask, “What sorta coke you want? Dr. Pepper?” )

Bob will even sit with you to discuss OU football or the Cowboys, but if you don’t like cigarette smoke, I suggest you sit along the edges or even the front area. This is his restaurant, and by gawd he’s going to have a cigarette while he’s working.  You can always get your order to go if the smoke bothers you that much, but it’s worth the pain to have this food served right off the grill.

Another Hole in the Wall is named as such because it was the 2nd location of a restaurant in nearby Graham called Hole in the Wall. The owner opened this location in Newcastle, however the original Hole in the Wall is long gone and all that’s left is the sequel. The be frank, the Newcastle location was always the better of the two. When you walk in, you get a menu with an angry looking character on it. Now, AHitW is world famous for its Hog Burger. The Hog is the unofficial mascot, which you’ll find on both the menu and t-shirts available behind the counter.

There’s a daily special along with a list of different regular menu items. Breakfast is served early, and lunch and dinner menus are the same. You can even get a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, but as the menu warns, it’s $21.49 and takes up to 30 minutes to prepare. I’m sure it’s good.

Above the front desk, you’ll see Bob’s wedding photo and his prized Sooner gear. He lets Aggies, Raiders, and Longhorns eat there, but he’ll make sure you remember who won the most recent game.

Aside from the charm and décor, we are here for the food. I mentioned earlier that the burgers are the best on the planet. That’s no hyperbole…they are the best. They are all made to order per your specification, and aren’t stuck on the grill until you order them. In addition, you can get fries, but what you want are the “house chips”: thinly sliced potatoes, fried to a crisp. They are incredible. I think I could eat an entire bucket of these things before I gave up.

If you are hungry, get the mini-cheeseburger. If you are really hungry, get the regular cheeseburger. If you think you are a man, get the Piglet (which is what we are having today). You think you are a badass? Get the Hog. The Piglet is the mini version of the Hog, but you’ll feel your cholesterol and blood sugar spike after eating either one.

This is the Piglet with house chips:

It’s a regular hamburger with bacon, cheese, and a thick slice of grilled ham. A true “ham burger”. Those delicious chips:

I take my Piglet with mayo and all the vege.

This thing is massive, and it’s the smaller version of their famous burger. If you can get your hands around it, you may have to give it a squeeze to get it into your mouth.

I like to take some of the ketchup on the table and squirt it on to my chips, then dab a little of the ketchup onto the burger.

I’m telling you…this is the best burger you can find. There is no better burger than this thing.

For the little guy, he gets the mini with fries:

…and shows his appreciation with a hearty single Gigger. You’ll notice Bob in the background having a smoke and watching TV:

That, my friends and fellow Arcadians, is what small town is all about. Good food, good company, and an experience you won’t soon forget.

Another Hole in the Wall Café

510 Houston St

Newcastle, Texas

Pizza Pie

A good homemade pizza pie is a wonderful thing. This is not Viktor’s Special, but it’s my special version and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:

1 ¾ to 2 C. bread flour (plus more for kneading)

¾ C. Warm water (110 degrees)

¼ C. Olive oil

1 Tsp Rapid rise yeast

1 Tbs Honey or sugar

1 Tsp Salt

Add yeast to the warm water, add the sugar/honey. Give it a stir and let it stand for a couple minutes. It should be foamy and opaque after a few minutes. Mix the flour and salt together and set aside. (All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour.)

Create a well in the bottom of the bowl with the flour. Add the water mixture and oil. Mix together until the dough comes together. Add more flour if needed. Tonight I started with 1 ¾ flour but added ½ cup more because it was a really humid day here and my dough was too sticky otherwise.

Turn it out and knead for a few minutes. Pizza dough should be on the wet and sticky side.

Form into a ball and grease bowl well with more olive oil. Toss the dough in the bowl to coat with oil. Put the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. I like to heat my oven up to about 150 degrees, then turn it off to let it start to cool, then I put the dough in to rise.

After it has risen, punch down and add a tablespoon or so of flour to the dough and knead lightly for a few turns inside the bowl. Get your oven going again by preheating it to 475 degrees. (note that my pizza stone is already in the oven here). if you don’t have a pizza stone, no problem. You can bake your pizza on a cookie sheet or pizza pan instead.

Pull out onto a large piece of cling wrap (I stitch two pieces together with the seam in the middle). Dust the top of the dough with flour. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the dough and flip to the parchment side—cling-wrap side up. Add a little more flour if needed. Roll the dough out to a 14-inch round or larger. When you are happy with the shape and thickness of the pizza crust, leave it to rest for at least 10 minutes.

This pizza pan has been through it all. I bought this when I was in college and moved into an apartment for the first time. I didn’t have anything that resembled a cookie sheet or pizza pan. I couldn’t afford both so I got this so it could do double duty. It has been one of the cheapest and handiest of kitchen utilities. 20 years later I’m still using it almost daily to make everything from cinnamon toast to biscuits. I’m about to use it in place of a pizza peel (that’s one of those wooden paddle-looking-things with a long handle – the pizza bakers slide pies in and out of the wood burning ovens with the peel.)

Slide the pan (or cookie sheet) under the dough and beneath the parchment. This is how we’re getting the dough onto the pizza stone. Remember pizza dough is sticky and once the pie is loaded up, it’s heavy. After you get it on the pan, take the cling wrap off. Ta-dah.

Now we’re ready to put on the toppings. Use your favorite bottled sauce or you can make a quickie sauce. Spread the sauce around. Add the meat of choice (or not). Here I’m using pepperoni and sausage. No need to brown the sausage prior, it will thoroughly cook in the overall process. Add your veggies. In this pie, I’m adding green and black olives with orange bell pepper. It’s really about what you like at this point. If you want to skip the whole thing you can. Top with mozzarella cheese.


Slide the pizza onto the stone inside the oven. The parchment can go right on top of the pizza stone.  (I only have 2 hands so, that was impossible to capture in photos. Sorry, y’all)

Look, Elvis Parsley is watching the pizza cook.

OMG! I have died and gone to pizza heaven. And, Yes! It is worth it to make your very own homemade pizza pie.

Pizza heaven!

Quickie Pizza Sauce

This is one of the most ridiculous little recipes, but it works so well. I developed it out of necessity. I was hosting a small party once and pizza was to be the appetizer and, well, I thought I had jarred pizza sauce, but didn’t, and it was too late for a last-minute grocery run. So I improvised and it worked. I got tons of compliments on the sauce. (Pizza recipe.)

Ingredients:

1 small can tomato sauce

1-3 Tbs Italian season mix

1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced or run thru a garlic press (or 1 tsp of ground if you don’t have fresh)

1 squirt of Anchovy paste

1 Tbs sugar

2 Tbs Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper

Throw it all together and give it a stir. Feel free to ad lib here. If you don’t like or have any of the ingredients, don’t use it. Or if you want to make a substitution, do it. Dried Italian parsley works well if you don’t have an Italian herb blend. You can add more or less of anything or you could add something extra or completely different.

But please do try the anchovy paste … it adds a depth of flavor that will astonish you. It only takes a small squirt, about a ½ tsp. IMHO, it’s what makes the sauce.

Ta-dah! It’s really tasty and so easy. Use with your favorite pizza recipe.