Peach Cranberry Pie

This is a pie I made to get rid of some frozen fruit I had in my freezer, and I sort of made it up as I went. I didn’t decide until I tasted the finished product that I would share it here, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures.

When I was reading about how to make a peach pie, I learned that peaches (especially frozen ones) are a bit tricky – you either have to cook the water out, or add a lot thickeners such as corn starch or flour. Personally, I tend to prefer the cooking method as it also serves to concentrate the flavors. But I decided to still add some thickeners to keep it from weeping out water after cooking, which leads to a soggy crust.

I also added cranberries because I like their tartness and just to make this a little bit more of an Autumn flavor.

Anyway, it turned out stupid good, so I had to share (and also remember what I did!). Thank goodness I have two children with 0% body fat that I am always trying to fatten up to help me eat all this stuff or I would be in trouble.

And it’s good that I run for the same reason!

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Stupid Good Peach Cranberry Pie

The Crust

Make the Perfect Pie Crust from this recipe, and freeze half the recipe. Refrigerate the half you will use for at least 30 minutes prior to rolling out. You can refrigerate and roll out while the filling cooks.

Peach Cranberry Filling
2 quarts frozen peach slices
1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup cold water

Defrost the frozen peach slices in the microwave, then place in a large cooking pot. Add sugars and cinnamon and bring to a slow rolling boil. Rinse cranberries and add to the boiling peaches. Boil until mixture starts to thicken – about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While the filling cooks, and after the crust has refrigerated for about 30 minutes (or more), roll out the pie crust and place in the pie plate. Return to refrigerator until filling is ready.

After filling cooks for about 1 hour, dissolve corn starch in 1/4 cup cold water, add to the peaches and continue boiling on low heat about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and make the streusel topping.

Streusel Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using a pastry cutter (or your fingers) combine the above ingredients until the butter is well distributed throughout and there is no longer a lot of dry flour in the mixture. The mixture should stick together and look sort of chunky.

Assembling and Baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pie plate and crust from the refrigerator, and pour in the peach filling. Filling should fill the plate to a level about 1/4″ below the top of the plate. Don’t overfill the plate.

Sprinkle the streusel topping over the entire pie, covering all the filling, but mounded up somewhat in the middle. (It kind of flattens as it cooks).

Place the pie on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pie crust and streusel topping are golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before eating.

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Notice the small hole on the side of the pie? Some pie tasters had to pick a little bit off the side…

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All Pie’d Out

Tonight was the annual Book Fair and also the Pie and Cider Fundraiser for my older son’s elementary school. It also happened that I made Chicken Pot Pie for dinner. Naturally, in addition to dinner I did have to sample the dessert pies (apple and pumpkin) at the fundraiser. And now, much as I love pie, I can officially say I am all pie’d out for the night.

Of all the pies, I will say mine had the best crust. Pie crust can be tricky to make, but over the last couple of years I have figured out a basically foolproof recipe. People argue over whether a butter crust or an oil or lard crust is better. Butter crusts are supposed to be more flavorful and flakier, while oil/lard is easier to work with and crispier. My pie crust secret is not to choose between the two types of crust, but to combine the benefits of both – I do this by using butter AND oil in my crust. It always turns out really well.

Here is the recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie with Perfect Pie Crust.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled
4 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup ice water

Chicken Filling

2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 small onion, chopped small
2 small peeled potatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes
Flour to make a roux
Chicken broth
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
Salt, pepper and sage to taste
1/4 teaspoon thyme

Making the crust:

The crust must be made first and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

To make the dough for the crust, combine the flour and salt in a bowl (such as the bowl of a large stand mixer). Stir well.

Slice chilled butter into 1/4″ cubes

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Add cubed butter to the flour and salt mixture.

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Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, until the butter is in consistent pea-sized lumps.

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Use a mixer on slow speed to incorporate oil to the flour and butter mixture, then very slowly add chilled water. When dough balls up, turn off the mixer. It is very important not to overwork this dough. Visible chunks of butter are good – they will make the crust flaky.

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Remove dough to a floured board. With floured hands, lightly pat together the dough. Do not knead. Roll the dough ball into a cylindrical shape and cut in half. Roll both halves into a ball, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

At this point you can also freeze this dough for future use.

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To make the filling:

Cube 2 cups of cooked chicken in 1/2″ cubes and set aside.

Finely chop a small onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large sauté pan on medium low heat, and sauté the onions until translucent. Do not allow to brown.

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Cube 2 small potatoes in 1/2 inch cubes, and sauté with the onions.

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When onions and potatoes start to soften sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour to make a paste (technically, this paste is a roux).

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To the roux, add broth over low heat to make a thick gravy.

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When gravy has thickened, add in frozen vegetables. Mix well and reduce heat to low as you assemble the pie.

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Assembling the pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove one ball of pastry dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured board.

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Using a floured pastry roller, begin to roll out the dough ball until it is large enough to fit your pie plate (recipe easily fits a 9″ plate when rolled to about 1/8″).

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Drape the first crust over the pie plate. Roll out the second dough ball in the same way and set aside while you fill the pie.

Spread the cubed chicken evenly over the bottom crust in the pie plate. Over the top of that, pour and evenly spread the vegetable/gravy filling. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste.

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Drape the top crust over the top of the filling. Fold back the crust 1/3 at a time to expose the bottom crust edge and brush it with water using a pastry brush. Fold the top crust back down to cover and repeat two more times, press the edges together to seal the pie.

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Cut off the excess crust – you can set this aside to roll out and make apple dumplings if you have enough left over. Use a fork to make a decorative edge. Poke some holes in the top and place in a 350 degree oven.

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Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

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Serves 4 – 6 people who like pie.

Slow and Steady…blah blah blah

According to MapMyRun, last week I ran 14.3 miles, which is the most mileage I’ve managed to run since I got hurt. I also hiked about 5 miles in Lord Hill Park with the hubby and kids so all told I put in quite a few miles last week. And there are a couple of mile runs I didn’t log, done mainly to warm up for strength training.

I’ve been pretty good since July about adding on miles slowly, and not worrying about speed. Taking things slow is actually pretty hard for me because I am a competitive person. Not saying I’m fast – but I am that person who normally runs a 10 minute mile, but if someone goes by me at a 9:30, I hustle it up just to pass, then I go hide behind a bush.

Oh, and I’m also sort of obsessive by nature. So doing the boring work of just building the base and putting in the miles, when I see people training for the distances I’d like to be able to run, running at speeds I wish I could achieve…it’s like torture sometimes. It takes discipline NOT to pile on more miles, not to sneak in the speed work, but just to keep it slow and steady and stick to the plan.

My goal right now is to get consistent 4 runs a week (3 treadmill, 1 road) and bring my mileage up to about 16 – 20 miles a week and stay there through the winter. I am mostly focusing on building my base, getting my body ready to handle the increased mileage I hope to add in the spring.

But now that I have said all that – I actually DID start doing a little speed work again. I think it’s okay – I’m only going to work on it one day a week and I do feel a lot stronger since I’ve been doing more strength training. I think it’s okay but I hope that is not just my pre-race ambition talking. Since I have the Snohomish River Run at the end of the month, I can already feel myself getting antsy about it, hating the feeling that I could run faster had I not gotten injured, and wanting to make a sort of last ditch effort to “pick up the plow” and run at a pace I may or may not be ready for. So I’m doing it a little bit, but being careful to pay attention to how I am feeling and dial back if necessary.

With these things in mind, yesterday was my first official speed workout. I did 4 miles on the treadmill, including 4×800 at a 10, 9:30, 9 and 8:30 pace with 200 meters walking/slow jogging between. I fell apart on the last one so I guess that is the threshold right now – I could run that fast if I was being chased by tigers, but otherwise, it is not a level of effort I can (or want to) sustain. As far as a potential race pace for Snohomish, I’d be happy if I could just get anywhere close to a 10 minute mile pace.

Could I finish 10k in an hour? I guess we’ll find out in 18 days.

Banana Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Nutella

Today we were having trouble with one of our cars, so going to the gym to work out wasn’t really possible. Evidently it needs a new starter, so we were down to one car. I did my long run yesterday, so it was supposed to be a recovery day anyway. However, when I don’t go to the gym I need to find something to do to keep Oleg (and myself) entertained. He likes helping with baking, so I decided to bake up some muffins. I had some old bananas around that were just right for making banana muffins, so I decided to go with that, with a few special tweaks. For instance we don’t put nuts in muffins – we put chocolate chips. Because they are better that way.

By the way, did you know that you can store overripe bananas in the freezer? It’s true. They always seem to go bad one or two at a time and you usually need 3 or 4 for baking. Just freeze them as they go bad and use them for muffins or banana bread once you have enough.

These are the muffins we made and they are every bit as ridiculously awesome as the name suggests.

Banana Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Nutella

Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour (1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup white)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
4 overripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Add Ins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Nutella

Ready? Let’s go. Gather your ingredients.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl (I actually just used a large measuring cup), stir together the dry ingredients until they are well mixed. Set aside. Oleg wants you to know he was in charge of this part. He did a very good job.

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In a large bowl (I just throw everything into the bowl of a large stand mixer), pour in and mix together the wet ingredients.

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When all wet ingredients are incorporated, slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

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Stir in the chocolate chips.

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Grease a muffin tin with butter. Kids can help with this part.

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Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, filling each cup about 1/2 full (should fill all cups of one muffin tin). When tins are filled, scoop a small dollop of Nutella (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) onto the top of each muffin batter.

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Swirl a toothpick around in the Nutella and batter to give a marbled effect.

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Bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean (a little Nutella may stick, but the batter should not). Makes 12 muffins.

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Oleg gives these his seal of approval. You can trust him. Not only is he an excellent baking assistant, he’s also a noted connoisseur of baked goods. His first English word was “cookie,” after all.

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The Adventure Zone

My basic running routine is running on the treadmill 2 or 3 days a week at my local YMCA, with one long outdoor run on the weekend. This is basically for child care reasons. The Y has free child care but I have to stay inside the building, therefore, the majority of running has to be done indoors. They have a big indoor jungle gym called the Adventure Zone where my younger son Oleg plays while I work out. Therefore, we call going to workout “going to the Adventure Zone,” which makes it all sound fun and exciting (and less like I am pawning him off on the nice ladies so I can run).

This arrangement works out pretty well, even if it is slightly less thrilling than the title of this post would suggest. Oleg has a good time there, makes friends and gets some energy out. I get a little time alone (albeit around a bunch of other people) and get my run on. I still would prefer being outside most days, but this time of year it takes the sting out of being stuck on the treadmill when I look out the window and see heavy grey clouds, and rain, and wind. Although today was actually pretty nice – windy and cool, but sunny. But for most of the last couple of weeks the weather has been crap, which makes being a hamster on a wheel seem less tedious.

I usually try to do various things to keep my interest level up while I am on the treadmill. Sometimes I try to work on speed a bit, other times I might focus on form, and sometimes I just do a boring run where I hold the same pace the whole time. Zzzzzz…anyway, I usually try to keep my brain engaged somehow.

Today I worked a bit on form, wearing the Merrell barefoot glove shoes that I have, and also ran some tempo pace pick ups. I can’t hold any kind of pace for a very long time in these shoes – my feet get too tired. You are supposed to land more forward on the balls of your feet rather than pounding down on your heels, which is what I typically do. Since I am hoping to work up to the half and then full marathon distance within a year, I am hoping doing some runs in these a couple times a week will help me to get a bit lighter on my feet and improve form so I can stay injury free.

I like the barefoot shoes a lot, I like how they make me feel more engaged with what my body is doing. But I don’t think I would try to run very far in them – it would probably take years to improve my foot strike enough to where that wouldn’t be colossally stupid. But, I figure I can run a few miles a week in them to sort of change things up and maybe get some incremental form improvement out of it. And that would be a good thing.

I also worked a bit on keeping my legs a bit wider apart, so between the two, it was actually quite difficult to do at the pace I was running. I am definitely feeling it now in my feet and ankles, as well as my hips. No pain, just that feeling when your body lets you know you were doing something different.

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Do you run on the treadmill? What do you do to keep it interesting?

A Big Accomplishment for a Small Person – and I Ran

Tuesdays are crazy around here. Both boys have swimming at separate times, plus one has soccer practice and usually about 2 hours of homework (yes, in first grade. Poor guy!). By the end of the day we are all pretty much just running on fumes.

Oleg is currently in preschool in the afternoons (or Pre-K as he will strongly remind you), and still at nearly 5 years old is good for a 2 or 3 hour nap on most afternoons when we can fit it in. Because of these reasons, he takes his swim lesson in the morning. This is usually right in the middle of the time when I work out, so I have to work around it.

On the subject of Oleg’s swimming, I have to laugh, because for a year he has been enrolled in Pike level at our local Y. I think he’s on his 4th or 5th time through the class. This is because although he loves to swim it’s been a struggle for him to get his body and his brain all wrapped around the actual act of swimming. He just could not physically do it. Also, when we had him in afternoon lessons, he would be so freaked out by the noise level in the pool that he would basically be mentally out to lunch the entire time. So, we kept enrolling in Pike and he would pick up one or two skills each time but was just not ready to pass on to the next level.

We think learning to swim is important as a safety precaution, so we figured we’d just keep trying until he got it. Well, finally, one year later, he is getting it. It helps that at the end of August we went to DisneyWorld, where he got to spend an hour or two in the pool every day. But also, he is physically more coordinated and mentally starting to make connections he couldn’t before. And finally, the morning lessons are quiet enough that he is more able to focus and stay calm. So finally after a year of doing “Chicken-airplane-rocket” at the Pike level, he gets to move up to Eel. It’s a big accomplishment for the little guy.

Usually, during swim lessons is when I try to do my running. I get to kill two birds with one stone – I am not there at the lesson to draw Oleg’s attention away from his teacher, and I get the run done at the same time. But yesterday I decided to watch the lesson instead. This meant that when the lesson was done I had to rush to get the running done and didn’t have much time for strength work. So I decided to make it as good of a run as I could, and do a longer strength workout today.

It turned out to be a good run. This includes warm up and cool down and so the pace was pretty good.

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After the run, I did leg and core strengthening. That meant that today, I needed to mainly focus on arms, shoulders, and hips. Plus core which is kind of a daily thing. So that’s what I did – and not much more, because Oleg really needed a nap today, due to waking up at 2, 4 and 6 am, and being crabby as a result. He is normally a good sleeper, but being enrolled in school, swimming and soccer is probably about one thing more than he can really handle, so he has been getting very tired. And when he gets tired, he doesn’t sleep as well. Which is kind of counterintuitive, but that seems to be the deal with kids sometimes.