Monday, November 29, 2010

Prizewinning Persimmon Pecan Pie

Well, it was actually Persimmon Cranberry Pecan Pie but that would have ruined the alliteration...

We've been drowning in Fuyu persimmons lately.  And I haven't shared even the teensiest little bit of our numerous persimmon experiments with you.  But don't worry, that will soon be remedied, I promise!

We weren't quite sure what to do with Fuyu persimmons.  They are the type that are non-astringent (they don't pucker your mouth) and never get soft.  We were told by native Californians that we should eat them like apples.  So our next thought was, If they are like apples, why not make sauce out of them, especially since we have SOOOO many of them!  So we did.  And we were surprised to find that it tasted like squash!  VERY VERY SWEET squash!

Now... what should we do with our SWEET squash-tasting persimmon sauce?  Make pies of course!  So I started experimenting with different "pumpkin" persimmon pie recipes.  I took a persimmon tangerine (It was Barry's idea to add the tangerines and it was perfect!  I didn't have quite enough filling and they bulked it up plus added a nice citrus burst in every bite!) pie to potluck and everyone loved it.  The next week I took a persimmon cranberry crisp and that was also well received.

It was at about this point when one of the church members asked me to make him a pie to take to a Senior fundraising event.  I told him I would, but I first let him know that it was going to be an experiment - because I don't know how to bake any other way.  ;)  I had been fiddling with an idea that I wanted to try out.  A few months ago a friend of mine made a pumpkin chai pecan bundt cake.  It was WONDERFUL, but more pie/pudding like than cake like.  So I decided I wanted to try to adapt it into a pie recipe.  But instead of using pumpkin, I decided to use persimmons!

So that's how it all started.  I made a trial run with mini pies in our muffin tin when company came over on friday night.  They were a success so I figured it would be good enough to send with the church member.

It wasn't until later that I found out that the reason the church member had requested a pie was because there was going to be a pie contest.  And lo and behold, my grand experiment got 2nd place!

Here are the general directions and recipe suggestions.  I know it's not like a normal recipe.  But then, I don't claim to be a normal cook so.... :)

Persimmon Sauce
Cook down a bunch of peeled and chopped fuyu persimmons.  Then place them through a strainer to make a sauce.  Add a couple glugs of lemon juice and throw in some pumpkin pie spices.

Filling Recipe
Cook about 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries on the stove with either a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and a few teaspoons of chai spice OR a few tablespoons of already sweetened Chai Spiced Tea mix.  Mix the cranberries into 4-5 cups of your persimmon sauce.  Add 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch and 3-4 tablespoons tapioca powder.  You can also add up to a cup of flour and a little baking powder.  I can't remember if I did this or not.  I think I didn't on the test run and did on the real thing....  So they both probably work! :)  Add a dash of salt and mix together.  Pour into already prepared pie crust of your choice.

Pecan topping
Chop 1 cup of pecans and place on stove in the same pot that your cranberries were in.  Add some more chai spice mix and add a few tablespoons of margarine.  Once the pecans are all thoroughly covered and warm, take off the stove and cover pie with them.  Place cranberries around the edge for a pretty touch!

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Take on Black Friday

I have never, NEVER, gone Black Friday shopping - unless it was accidentally, before I realized that there was such a thing as Black Friday.  Sure, there are great sales, but I know what all the stores know - and that is that they are still making big bucks off of their "sales".  Because you'll probably end up buying something that's NOT on sale and spending lots of money in the store anyway!  So I CERTAINLY wasn't planning to go shopping today, especially since my unemployed newly-wed budget isn't too spending friendly these days.

But as I was trying to think of something fun to do with my friend Elissa, who is down here for the holiday, I thought of an idea.  I certainly didn't want to go normal shopping.  I don't like to do that very often even when I DO have money!  But what about going to a thrift store?  Not only do they have great prices already, but maybe, just maybe, they would have some type of a Black Friday sale going on and we'd get a double mark down!

 So we went.  Even Elissa, who doesn't like shopping that much and was still feeling weak from being sick.  And sure enough: we arrived to see a big "50% off everything" sign at the front. We loaded our shopping cart with probably over 50 items to try on.  Then we conveniently didn't notice the "3 item limit" sign in the only changing room (I promise, we really didn't notice!  At least not until we were at least 3/4ths of the way through!)  We both walked out with 4 or 5 items that cost under $10 for each of us.

So, in mentally calculating my savings, I estimated the following about my purchase (which consisted of a really nice pair of jeans, 2 pair of brand name, almost new PJ pants, and a dressy top):
  • Total Original Price if bought new: >$110.00
  • Total Thrift Store price if no sale: $16.00
  • Actual Total Price @ 50% off: $8.00

Plus, there were no crazy lines, pushing, shoving, or mobs - thrift store goers are much more polite than that!

Conclusion: I'm still not a Black Friday shopper.  But Thrift Stores are definitely the way to go if you do decide to put down your hard-earned $$ on the day-after-Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Playing Catch Up

I've been taking tons of pictures lately and there are a lot of blogs on the back burner.  But here is a collection of pictures that I took one morning when the sun was lighting everything with that late-sunday-morning-goodness type of a glow.

Our neighbor has a Yellow Lab named "Sammy".  He's sooo sweet and keeps me company while baking or working on my computer.  He often comes over to our door and looks in longingly, as if asking to be part of the family.  He will nudge the door to see if it's completely closed and if it's not, he'll poke his head in, his dark brown eyes begging admittance. :)

These next few are more creative/artistic/abstract than anything else.  I noticed that our wall of windows creates a number of reflections if one of the doors is open.  This is a picture of probably 4 or 5 reflections all working together to create a "maze of mirrors" type effect.

A reflection of the backyard on a window/door looking in to our kitchen.

Sunlit handle with sunray reflections on the window.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I hate stuffing" (and other ruminations about thanksgiving, food, and family)

As in, Thanksgiving stuffing. Yep, you heard me right, I really, really don't like that infamous Thanksgiving favorite composed of mushy bread mixed with vegetables (usually celery.  ugh...) and then baked to a crisp.  Maybe it's the fact that vegetarians normally try to showcase it on it's own, whereas it's meant to be stuffed in something, like a turkey, perhaps.

Now, you're probably saying, "But she just hasn't tried my stuffing yet."  Well, you may be right, but I haven't found one I've liked yet.  Give me Sour-cream Gluten ANY day!

What?  What is Sour-cream Gluten you ask?  You mean you haven't heard of it?!  Well, I must remedy that post-haste!  It is only THE BEST THANKSGIVING MEAL YOU COULD EVER MAKE!  That's right, the BEST!

My first memories of Sour-cream gluten are at my Grandpa and Grandma Kurtz's house in Walla Walla, WA.  Because, don'tcha know, Sour-cream Gluten is a Kurtz family tradition.  And when I say tradition, I mean tra-di-tion!  I mean, seriously, my Grandma would start at least a week in advance.  Why?  Because she was souring the cream, of course!  She was a die-hard, that's for sure!  But boy-oh-boy, that Sour-cream Gluten was the most divine stuff you could ever eat!  Chewy, tender gluten steaks drowning in the world's creamiest, tangiest (in the best way possible), most delectable gravy ever!  Spoon that over fluffy mashed potatoes with a side of peas and cranberry sauce, and I promise you'll think you're eating inside the pearly gates!

Later memories of Sour-cream gluten involve begging and begging my mom to make it at EVERY POSSIBLE holiday!  My mom, the ultimate experimenter in the kitchen, shortened the whole process to make it more user friendly (I mean, for real, souring your own cream??  The already soured stuff works just as well, I promise!) and turning out the most amazing versions, albeit not necessarily according to the age-old recipe.  I remember Joel, Mom, and I hovered around the stove, spoons dipping in over and over again, because it was just that good!  Joel: "It needs more LEMON JUICE!"  Me: "It needs more SOUR CREAM!"  Mom: "Donnnnnnnnnn, it's time to eeeeeat!"  Ahh, such good times.  I would inevitably eat the leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and supper until it was gone.  I just wanted to enjoy the goodness as much as I could!

Then there was the time Joel was in Ethiopia.  Mom and I made the meal all alone, with me adding in extra squirts of lemon juice in Joel's honor.  But then Joel wrote back about how he had managed to concoct a version of Sour-cream Gluten using expired tins of..... (wait for it).... BABY FORMULA!!!!!!  That's right, he is momma's boy through and through - always finding ways to make do with what's available!

This year we're scattered all over the globe.  Joel is in Sudan, and I hope for his sake that he's able to scrounge up some more tins of baby formula from somewhere!  Mom and Dad are in Massachusetts, and my Father informs me that he is going to work all of Thanksgiving.  If Mom has anything to say about it, that probably won't happen.... Barry and I are in California, planning to go hiking and backpacking (and studying, of course) for our thanksgiving break.

Will there be Sour-cream gluten for any of us?  Well, that's still to be determined.  Because, to be honest, as amazing as Sour-cream Gluten is, it's more about who you're eating it with than the actual meal itself.  This post is not really about my extreme dislike for stuffing, or my intense love affair with Sour-cream Gluten.  It's about so much more than that.

So are you just dieing for the recipe??  Well, I'll have to give it to you later.  Because, for one, I haven't gotten it from my mom yet.  And two, it changes all the time, depending on where we are and what ingredients we have.  And three, it involves a brother named Joel, a Mom named Janie, and a Dad named Donovan.  If those three ingredients are missing, it's just not quite the same.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Autumn in SoCal

Two weekends ago we decided to go to outdoor church with Advent Hope.  One of my friends had picked out the spot near a beautiful canyon creek/river.  As we drove into the mountains, it was so incredible to watch the landscape go from dusty brown to brilliant fall colors as we increased in elevation.  In some places, it almost felt like we were back East.  I tried to be good and didn't request that we stop every time a scene called out for a picture (especially during the drive... the little towns were SO beautiful!).  But here are a few from our hike that afternoon.

Ok, so it's still pretty brown.  But look at all that ORANGE! :)

My favorite:

That evening we were heading up to our regular church with a few friends and we were presented with a stunning stormcloud sunset.  The smog really enhances the colors :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The road less traveled

Here's a list of 16 National Parks that are less-known.  And did you know that all National Parks are free on November 11??  Pretty cool, I'd say.

I've been to 2 of the parks on the list, both of them during our drive out here to Loma Linda.  But I'm definitely looking forward to going to more, especially with our parks pass.  I love places that aren't well known.  What about you?  Have you been to any on the "unknown" parks list?

Friday, November 05, 2010

On the Bench

My brother is in Sudan working on a myriad of jobs that God has sent his way, including building missionary homes, planting gardens, preaching sermons, giving Bible studies, and leading a choir.  I am here in Southern California, looking for a job. Looking, looking, and more looking.  Oh sure, I bake a lot too.  And I run.  And I try to be encouraging to Barry and those around me.  And I've tried to find some ministries to get involved in: tutoring, prayer group, Bible study, etc.  But it's not always easy to see that each of these is just as much a part of God's plan as what my brother is doing.

But don't get me wrong, I haven't been bowed over in discouragement.  Yes, there are episodes of frustration, when I just can't see what the point of all this might be.  But I know deep down that there have been huge blessings from my lack of a job, and that God is still leading.  He led me to get married, after all, and He's led us here.  And I know He is still leading.  I trust that.

Because my brother is in Sudan, my mom has been following every piece of news item and/or blog about the area that she can get her hands on.  She found out that there are some other Christian missionaries in Mundri and that led to her discovery of a blog which she shared with me.  It's about two doctors and their family who are missionaries to Uganda and who are associated with the same group of missionaries who are in Mundri, Sudan (World Harvest Missions).  The missionary family is currently taking a break here in the US before returning to the field, and the mother/wife wrote a profound blog today that I wanted to share a part of.  It hits home to where I'm at right now and to where I know several of my friends are at as well.
I like being on the mission field too, in the game so to speak, running hard and working hard, right in the middle of the action around the ball.  But I've been subbed out, and I'm sitting on the bench.  
So what does a good bench-warmer do?  First, I think, trust the Coach, who sees which players are tired, or about to be injured, or are dragging down the team's play, and need a rest.  Second, cheer.  When my kids are subbed out, they are still fully in the game, pulling for the team.  Luke in particular impresses me in his all-out loyalty, as happy for a team mate's score as his own.  
...I'm not a leader any more, but I want to be a good bench player.  One who cheers on the other players, who cares about the game, who is ready with the water bottle or pats on the back to strengthen the starters as they take a brief rest, who trusts this out-of-the-action assignment and waits patiently, who does some warm-up exercises and stays ready to go back in.  Because the only point of being on the bench is that one is waiting on the Coach, in faith.  Not very glorious, but a lot of the Bible is about waiting.  From the bench.
You can read the full blog here.