Tuesday, May 31, 2011

apple pie

In an attempt to be a little less "in my head" this post is going to be about the apple pie I made for a dinner I went to at Coach Kyle's house. The dinner was chocked full of superfoods (salmon burgers with homegrown spinich, tomatoes, and a whole wheat bun, sweet potatoes, and tea) and delicious. Because I'm a real live grown up, and because I enjoy baking pies, I asked if I could bring one. I also wanted an excuse to use the new pie pan that Cara gave/made me. In the following post you'll find the recipe for the pie, as well as some pictures of the day!

The recipe for the crust and pie come from Ken Haedrich's excellent recipe book "Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie." Harvard Common Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.

First off, make your crust. Can be store bought, but I like to make my own:

  • 1 1/2 cups ap flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter (cun into 1/4-inch pieces)
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (I use the crisco sticks)
  • ~1/4 cup cold water
Combine the dry ingredients, then cut the butter and shortening into the mixture. I use a pastry blender but two forks works fine as well. You're looking for the fat to be pea-sized. Toss half the water over and mix with a fork. Add the rest a couple of tablespoons at a time. I have to use some extra water, just add a tablespoon at a time until you can pack it without it breaking apart. This time around I kneaded the dough a couple of times to activate a little of the gluten in the hope that it would roll out without cracking, which worked wonderfully. Don't overwork it or it'll be too tough. To be honest, the only way to get it right is to try it multiple times. Flatten into a disc about 3/4-in thick, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour (needs to be cool in order to roll out properly).

Now for the pie:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 7 cups pealed, cored, and sliced Granny Smith/Golden Delicious apples (for the pie pan Cara made me I used 4 apples, for my deep dish I use closer to 6)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I use a splash)
Crumb Topping:
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups ap flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Roll out the pastry. For this I lay it on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper and dust the top of the disc with flour, as well as my rolling pin. Starting in the middle of the pastry press out, letting up on the pressure as you get to the outside. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat until the pastry is large enough to fit into your pan and have some edge. This is what mine looked like when I got it into the pan:
Fold the overlapping pastry back into the pan, then pinch around the edges for a nice touch.

Put in the freezer for about fifteen minutes. While it's cooling preheat your oven to 400 and prepare your apples. Here are the tools I use for this part:
Medium knife, Oxo Potato Peeler, and Oxo Apple Divider
Peel your apples:

Then cut off the tops and bottoms. Divide the apples using the apple divider, then slice in half length-ways again. This should give you 16 slices per apple. Since the pie pan I was using was rather small I sliced in half the other way, giving 32 "chunks" per apple. When finished toss the slices in the lemon juice and combine the dry ingredients (sugar, corn starch, salt). Retrieve your pie crust from the freezer and put down one layer of apples and sprinkle with a tablespoon of the thickening mixture, and repeat until the pie is full (heaping). Place the full pie into the center rack of your pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. Again, combine the dry ingredients and mix in the melted butter. You can use your hands for this, though I mix it with a fork first because I don't like the feeling of butter on my hands. The topping should resemble small crumbs (go figure). After thirty minutes dump the topping onto the center of the pie and spread out:

Rotate 180 degrees, reduce heat to 375, and bake for another 35 minutes. You'll know it's done when the juices from the apple bubble thickly around the edge. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for at least an hour:

After that, walk down to a friends house and enjoy!

People seem to be astonished whenever I bake pies. I just want to say that it is quite easy, and anyone can do it. You're gonna get a little messy and your kitchen will be worse, but when you see the happy faces of your friends it's all worth it. Get to baking!
Oh, and thanks to Rob, Miss Lindsey, and Miss Justice for helping!

Monday, May 23, 2011


defintion: a statement expressing the essential nature of something.

from merriam-webster.com

This evening Rob and I went to The Listening Room Cafe here in Nashville to hear the Barber brothers play. They put on a phenominal show, and I'm super glad I went. The main problem I have with going to Jazz shows though is the fact that I don't understand Jazz music. I don't know where it's going, I don't know if what the guys on stage are doing is good, and I just generally don't get it. But I enjoy it. Listening to Jazz, for me, is a lot like talking to Ruben and Jael (hi-el) in Spanish. I know just enough to make fun of your mom, but past that I'm useless. Despite my lack of knowledge I still enjoy trying to talk some Spanish. And I still enjoy listening to really good Jazz musicians do their thing. 

While they were playing I was thinking about defining things. While at Belmont I had to take a class called Research Methods I. It's exactly what it sounds like: how to do research. And because I was a Psychology major, it was about how to do Psychology research. One of the first things we learned in RM was that in any experiment you need to have operational definitions for what you are researching. What do you mean by "social desirability?" If you are going to be trying to find out more about group dynamics, which ones will you be experimenting on and what is your definition of those dynamics? Without defining your terms, your experiment, you risk confusing the whole deal.

A couple of years after Research Methods I had to take a Servant Leadership class for my Christian Leadership minor (if I had to do it again I'd have a Math minor, fyi). The whole focus of this class was, appropriatly enough, on what servant leadership was. The idea of servant leadership was never defined because our professor theorized that we would be better off by being open-ended with this. But because it was never defined any discussion (argument) always ended with, "well that's not my definition of servant leadership." Some class members were operating off a different defintion of servant leadership than other members. And this undercut our ability to come to conclusions about anything. We left the class with the same amount of knowledge about servant leadership as when we went in, we'd just written a couple of papers and done a presentation to make our professer feel better. And to get the grade.

The most popular form of definition in our day and age may just be the DTR. The "define the relationship" talk. Every relationship needs definition. But most don't need whole conversations about it. The relationship is defined as we relate to each other. When we go out we learn things about each other. I learn if I can cuss around you, you learn that I'm ok with sharing a drink. There don't need to be entire conversations focused on these things, except when the relationship is sped up. When it's a friendship this rarely happens, especially between guys. But when it's a dating relationship, or when you don't want it to be one, the DTR comes out. "What is this? What do we want it to be? Where is it going?" All these questions, and more, are asked and answered. Definition in a relationship leads to either commitment or a parting of ways. It can only stay nebulous for so long, especially when things are moving quickly. 

When it comes right down to it we all crave definition in our lives. One of the biggest questions we face is "Who am I?" We can be defined by our faith, religion, occupation, vocation, relationships, family, etc. Any number of these things can show people who we are. But if we don't know who "I" am, who "I" am becoming, than we can't even think about life moving forward. We need to know ourselves before we can really start relating to other people. We need to define who we are.


Monday, May 16, 2011

blogging about facebook is so right now

Growing up I’m sure you had the same experience I had: I would get a new toy for Christmas, or my birthday, or Easter and proceed to get very excited. Then Sam came along and wanted a try, and because it was new I didn’t want to let him. But what did Mom say?

“You need to share with your brother!”

This pattern went on for the rest of my childhood and continues today. Except that now I genuinely enjoy sharing with people. When Janet broke up with me a couple years back I bought myself a Playstation 3. It just so happened that I got full time at Harvest Hands around that same time, which justified the $400 purchase (At least in my mind). I bought the PS3 for the sake of two games: God of War III and Final Fantasy XIII. But then I bought another controller and Army of Two, so Cory and I could play a game together. After that LittleBigPlanet was purchased for the same reason. Then two more controllers and ModNation Racers were “picked up.” As you can probably tell, I bought them because I wanted to play with other people. When I go home to KC I’ll bring the PS3 along so that I can play with Sam, or Blokus with Dad. Though if you’ve never played LittleBigPlanet with my Dad you should, because it’s a hoot.

Last week I was thinking about Facebook and why I facebook so much. The first thought was that I like knowing what other people are up to, partly because I want to see if my life is any better than theirs. I want to be in the know, I want to see what my “friends” have been up to. That way when we actually talk, face to face I mean, we have something to talk about. “I saw on facebook that you bought a new puppy!” “So tell me about this new job.” “You’ve been out of the country for six months, what’s the deal with that?”

But there’s another reason why, I think, we do it. Whenever you post something on facebook you have to click a button before it goes up. That button is blue with white letters and says “share.” Share a picture, a thought, a note, a website, a game, anything. We aren’t built to live these lives we live alone. We are designed to be together. There are very few solitary animals out there. Let me give you an example:

While walking through Bricktown in Oklahoma City with Cara we spotted some mallards at the riverwalk. We stopped to look at them (mostly because I think ducks are funny and they make me laugh) and something caught my eye. For each hen there was an accompanying drake. They were paddling along together in pairs. There was the odd duck out every now than then, but the majority of these mallards were paired off.

I don’t bring this up to propose that because ducks like to be together so should we. I just think that if God is who we say He is, than how could His character not shine through his creation. I don’t know if God specifically created mallards. I don’t even know how He created us. But I do know that in any act of creation the spirit of the creator shines through. For good or bad. We are, I believe, created in the image of God. God is a spirit, we have spirits. We are not created to be alone. We were made to be in community with God, and with each other. So this sharing that we do on facebook is born from a desire we have within us to be connected to each other. We write our thoughts, post funny pictures, and show who we are because we want to be united with a fellow man. I probably check facebook too often and call you not nearly often enough. In the future I hope to change that. But who knows, perhaps the person that I present on facebook and in this blog will be the person that you have a conversation with one day.


Monday, May 9, 2011

spiritual life and brushing teeth

If you ever want to know how I'm doing spiritually, just ask if I've brushed my teeth.

When I was young my mom would make me brush my teeth because she loved me. And because I was a child I didn't want to brush my teeth. I would even go so far as to get the toothbrush wet and stick it in my mouth. But I wasn't going to use toothpaste! Because then I would be giving in. To this day I still resist when people try to tell me that I will like something. I want to be my own person and am afraid that if I like it, that will give them the power to "make" me like other things. I realize how silly (and even neurotic) this sounds so I resist the urge too dislike merely because someone told me otherwise, but it is still a challenge sometimes.

I don't know how you are experiencing the first statement I made, so let me elaborate. I find that I am very bad at compartmentalizing my life. I let things affect me. When I found out my ex was dating again I had a bad day at work.. When I got chewed out at work because I wasn't doing a good enough job I had a bad night at home. When Cory and I sat out on the porch and smoked and talked the next day was great. When I figured out that I liked this girl I took vacation, hopped on the motorcycle, and drove to Oklahoma to see her. I don't do a good job at taking my feelings and keeping them in one part of my life. I find that when the dishes are done I can think more clearly. When my room is clean I can relax more. When the sun is shining and white cumulus clouds are floating lazily by I get happy.

While doing research for a paper I wrote in high school on George Washington I read something that stuck with me: Washington knew that every part of his life was connected. There were no such things as "secret sins." This is why he tried to live a virtuous life. The book gave Bill Clinton as an example of how things have changed. Now people think that what other people don't know won't hurt them. That they can live one way in one area of their life and a different way in another.

I have found that if I am taking care of myself spiritually, spending focused time with God, that changes the way I live my life. I have a desire to take care of myself. I want to get out of bed and go for a run, take a shower, brush my teeth. As silly as it may sound when I am not putting forth any effort to seek out the Lord I tend to also not put forth any effort to take care of me. As I write this down it seems so obvious. Of course this is the way it is.


Monday, May 2, 2011

state of the blog address

Thank you for reading my thoughts. A couple of weeks ago my blog hit 1,000 pageviews. And unless my Mom and Grandma are hitting the refresh button alot, that means more people are reading than just them. It means more than you will know that not only are you reading, but a number of you are responding. When I first started writing in this I didn't know what it would look like, but I am glad that it has turned into some more "real" contact between you and I. Keep sharing your thoughts with me as I am with you, and if you do it in a blog shoot me the address and I'll follow along.

Besides thanking you I also wanted to clarify the purpose of why I'm doing this. When I tell people that I am writing in a blog the typical response is "why?" And that why carries with it the thought "that's super-lame that he's doing that. Doesn't he have anything better to do with his time?" And to answer that question: it could be a little lame, and no I really don't. Besides work and studying for the GRE my time is blissfully empty. Let me try to pursuade you that it isn't super-lame. Though I'm assuming that if you're reading this you don't think that.

The first reason why I spend my time writing in this blog is that it acts as a "have to do" part of my life. Besides work there isn't much that I absolutely have to do intellectually. I spent four years in college writing papers, taking tests, and working with groups. And now I find myself not doing any of those things. So Rob suggested that I start writing in a blog to keep my mind turning over and I took him up on that. These "papers" aren't so much a public forum as a personal outlet for my sometimes disorganized thoughts. The fact that people get to read them just keeps me accountable to continue to write them.

The second reason I write in this blog is related to one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors:

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one." - C.S. Lewis

I firmly believe that while we are all special and unique like little snowflakes. But we also have a whole lot in common with each other. So the second reason I write in this blog is to share my thoughts with you and see if they stick because that's what you've been thinking. The main reason why I said that I was afraid to go bald was because it is a crazy thought. But everyone has those crazy thoughts. I don't for one minute think that I'm special enough to be the only person in the whole world to think things that are downright silly. Being afraid that I'll never get a date because I'm getting bald is downright silly. But you might be thinking the same thing, or you might be thinking that no one will ever understand your love for a certain type of pens. Or the fact that you sleep with a teddy bear even though you're a 24 year old. Or that you enjoy making pies but don't really like them. Or that all you want to be when you grow up is content (and able to travel with people you love).

So the main reason I write in this blog is because I hope that by doing so you won't feel like you're alone. The first night I came to Nashville after graduation and Brookwoods was the single saddest night of my life, because while I was surrounded by people I felt more incredibly alone than ever. And if I can help any one person while they are going through that, I want to.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your responses.