Back to the Basics: Homemade Whipped Cream and Pie Dough

There is no dessert more classic at Thanksgiving than a pie, and no better topping for a pie than whipped cream. As many of us will soon be indulging in our favorite holiday desserts, I thought I would share a couple of recipes to help put your pies over the top.

It never fails to surprise me how many people can’t (or don’t…or won’t) make their own whipped cream. It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made and only requires ONE ingredient. It tastes much better than store bought whipped cream, and though I haven’t compared the prices, a container of heavy whipping cream is pretty cheap. If you can make a pie, I promise you, you can make homemade whipped cream.

While really, all that’s necessary is heavy whipping cream, it’s common to sprinkle in a little sugar to sweeten up the taste. Sometimes, I switch it up a bit and use maple syrup instead of sugar, or maybe add some vanilla or a splash of bourbon, but really, a classic sugar/cream whipped cream is hard to beat.

If you have a stand mixer, this is seriously the easiest recipe in the world. Just put your cream and sugar in your mixing bowl, turn your mixer on high, and in about two to three minutes, you’ll have yourself a glorious bowl of whipped cream. If you don’t have a stand mixer, a hand mixer works great as well. It might take a few minutes longer, and it’ll help if you freeze your bowl and beaters for about 15 minutes before you start, but that is still a pretty simple recipe if you ask me.

If you are whipping by hand, you rock! You deserve a big spoonful of cream (and maybe a shot of bourbon) once you are done. If you choose this route, you’ll certainly want to stick your bowl and beaters in the freezer for a few minutes before you start. It’ll help you out and cool you down while you work.

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Homemade Whipped Cream

yields 1 1/2 – 2 cups whipped cream

Ingredients 

2 tbsp sugar

1 c heavy whipping cream

Directions

Whisk together cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form.


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Though slightly harder and a little more work, homemade pie dough is another simple recipe that every cook should know how to make. You have to plan a bit ahead on this one as your dough needs time to chill, but if truly in a hurry, a freezer usually helps to do the trick. Most recipes will ask you to chill your dough in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour (I recommend this as well), but I’ve been in a cinch a time or two where chilling my dough in the freezer for 30 minutes worked.

Unlike whipped cream, there’s a bit of a deeper science to creating a great pie dough, so I will let the professionals walk you through this one. For galettes and tarts, I enjoy Bon Appétit’s Basic Tart Dough, and for flaky pies, I favor Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough all the way. If you are into graham cracker crusts, ole Deb Perelman also has a great recipe for that. It’s my favorite for cheesecakes and pumpkin pies!

As you prepare your desserts this holiday season, I encourage you to give your own whipped cream and pie crust a try. Intimated by the dough? Start small with the cream. It’ll put your dish over the top and leave your guests hungry for more. If you feel a bit nervous about making your own pie dough, Christmas is still a month away. That leaves you plenty of time to practice!

Bon appétit and happy Thanksgiving!

Mexican Meatball Soup

When we lived in Boston, good Mexican food was hard to come by. It took over a year for us to find anywhere worth driving to (it was a ways out from the city center) and it wasn’t until the night before we left town that we finally found an authentic taco joint. We craved it often and were so rarely satisfied. We missed pitchers of beer and spicy salsa with bottomless baskets of chips. We longed for Mexican white cheese dip and I always failed miserably at making my own. Each time we would head home to Arkansas, barbecue and Mexican food were always on the top of our list. We’d eat until we were miserable, but it was worth it every time.

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Now that we are in Texas, we have access to more Mexican restaurants than we could ever try in a lifetime. There are probably at least 10 trucks and restaurants just on our block, and a thousand more scattered about the city. The grocery store located just down the street greets you with colorful aguas frescas, and there are peppers there that I dare not try to identify. I love the Mexican culture that’s prominent across Texas and the delicious culinary inspiration that it brings.

This recipe comes from a new friend of mine who can cook Mexican food with the best of them. As we chatted about the weather turning cooler she made mention of one of her favorite Mexican soups. “I’d love for you to teach me how to make it,” I told her, and that is just what she did.

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Silvia, who was born in Mexico, has been eating this soup for her entire life. Her grandmother would make it when she would visit her in Tijuana, and she grew up eating her mother’s rendition in her home in Los Angeles where she grew up. Now that she’s in Texas, she cooks it for her fiancé and for lucky friends like me.

It’s a simple soup, and really, the ingredients are rather basic. Feeling a bit surprised by this, I had to ask what exactly made it Mexican. “It’s just a soup that we eat in Mexican homes,” I was told. At first, I was a little let down by this answer. I was secretly waiting for that “special ingredient,” the exotic flavor that made it truly Mexican, but as we sat down for dinner, I realized that her answer couldn’t have been anymore perfect. It’s not just the ingredients in a recipe that make it regionally authentic, it’s how you eat it and how you share it that’s important. Happy for the reminder, I finished off my last meatball, feeling glad for new friendships, and full and comforted from this tasty soup.

Like any good cook preparing a family recipe, Silvia did not measure anything out. I jotted notes as we went along, but really, they are only guesstimates. Take these notes for what they’re worth, and have fun using your imagination along the way!

¡Buen provecho!

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Mexican Meatball Soup

Serves 4

5 cups water

4 Roma tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

1 lb ground beef

2 tbsp rice

1 egg

2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1 tsp cumin

1 quarter of a large white or yellow onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 zucchinis, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large potato, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tbsp olive oil

s&p

lime

tapatío hot sauce

In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté onion in olive oil until soft. Meanwhile, blend tomatoes, garlic, water, and a good pinch of salt until smooth. Poor broth into pot, add carrots, zucchini, and potatoes, and bring to a low simmer.

While your broth simmers, mix together ground beef, cumin, mint, egg, rice and salt and pepper in a large bowl. With your hands,  pack meat into 1-inch balls. Gently place into your broth.

Cover pot and simmer soup until vegetables are tender and the meat is cooked through, about 25-35 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and more cumin if desired. Serve with lime wedges, Tapatío hot sauce, and a side of charred tortillas.

 

Blueberry-Lemon Drop Biscuits

Though the first day of autumn falls on Tuesday of next week, here in Texas the air is still warm and wet. I see pictures from friends scattered around the country, sipping warm beverages and baking pumpkin treats. My friends in Boston are pulling out their sweaters, while I am here in Austin wearing shorts and a tank.

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Early last week the temps reached 100, but to my great surprise, Saturday was a chilly, 66 degrees. Imagine the joy for this girl who loves fall, as I got to wear pants AND long sleeves, and snuggle on the couch with open windows, and a cool, crisp breeze. I baked pumpkin-pecan muffins and simmered a pot of French onion soup, and though it was grey and dreary outdoors, I declared the weather to be perfect, a tease of fall and a break from the heat. Though Sunday wasn’t as cool, it only reached a humid 78. It wasn’t perfect, but still a welcome change from the high temps we had experienced all week.

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While I am longing for the weather to consistently be a little more reminiscent of fall, I am accepting it for what it is and learning to make due. Instead of baking with squashes and spices and whipping up hearty comfort foods, I am celebrating a few more weeks of summer with berries, and citrus and light, refreshing bites.

These biscuits were the perfect treat earlier this week, when I longed to bake, but needed something light to eat. Though I was craving roasted squash and a creamy hot chocolate, it was 87 degrees outside, and slightly warm in our apartment. The cold flour and butter smashed between my fingertips was soothing and therapeutic. The sweet smell of lemon lingered in the air refreshing my senses, while the butter in the oven sizzled, oozing from the biscuits.

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This recipe is very similar to that of a scone, just minus the egg and a little less butter. While I love a good scone, sometimes it’s hard to get them just right. If the shape isn’t funky, the texture is all off. I like my scones to be crumbly, but some recipes make them way too dry, and then there are those recipes where you wonder if you accidentally made muffins, as your final product is much too moist. Biscuits, in my opinion, are usually much easier, and while I love a good flaky, perfectly rounded, buttery disc of dough, drop biscuits are a cinch and take very little work. They are incredibly versatile and are great both savory and sweet. I make buttered biscuits for dinner often, but sometimes like to add fruit and enjoy them as a breakfast treat. The hubs enjoys them with coffee, I like them with tea. Either way, eat them warm out of the oven, for breakfast, or in my case, as a tasty afternoon snack.

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Blueberry-Lemon Drop Biscuits 

yields 8 biscuits 

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tbsp sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter

3/4 – 1 cup milk

1 cup blueberries

zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I like to use my fingers so that I can make sure the butter is well blended. If your butter isn’t blended well, the consistency of the biscuits will fall flat.

Mix in your lemon zest before slowly mixing in your milk. Use only 3/4 a cup for a dryer biscuit, or a full cup if you prefer a slightly moister biscuit. Gently fold in your blueberries.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons into 8 mounds on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until set and lightly brown. Sprinkle each mound with a pinch of sugar (preferably coarse or raw), and cool on a wire rack.

A Taco Recipe + A Fun Announcement

A little more than a year ago a dear friend of mine told me about a blog that she thought I might like. Always eager for new blogs to read, I clicked the link and starting navigating through the site. I read a few posts and clicked around through the archives–post after post, it was like they were all written for me. By the time I was done, I had happily clicked “follow.” I was delighted to have found a new blog to love, and grateful for the find. 

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The Graduate Wife is the name of that blog, and it is a wonderful resource for women (and sometimes men!) like myself who are supporting a husband or significant other during their academic career.  It’s full of great stories, recipes, and tips to help women through the journey. It has provided me with encouragement on some of my hardest days, and with joy on the happier ones. 

If you haven’t guessed my announcement just yet, here it is: I’ll be making an appearance on this wonderful site from time to time, offering a bit of advice that I have picked up along the way, and sharing stories from my journey thus far.  

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If you are a graduate wife, I encourage you to follow the blog, and even if you’re not, I suggest following it anyway, because really, who doesn’t love a good story? 

For the recipe and to learn more about the blog, please visit http://www.thegraduatewife.com

Hello From Texas

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It has been a busy and eventful summer and I have much to report, but for now, I wanted to drop a quick line from my new home state of Texas!

It has been six days since we rolled into Austin, but we’ve yet to explore much of this great city besides taking multiple trips to IKEA and Target. We’ve spent days rummaging through boxes, building furniture, and trying to add some flare to our cute new home. We are 70% there I would say, but it still feels like we have weeks of work to go.

Our apartment complex sits right on the Colorado River, or Ladybird Lake as it’s called around here, staring straight at the downtown skyline and offering us a river view that can’t be beat.  We are walking distance to some great restaurants and bars, and are just a short car or bike ride away from the city’s best parks and grocery stores. There are a couple of great food trucks parked right next door, one that even sells kale chips and local kombucha. I am grateful for the find as our pantry is pretty desolate and I am always in search for a good snack…

The hubs heads to campus today to nail down school logisitcs before classes start later this month. He’s excited and ready, though I know he is enjoying a few weeks off before his program begins.  Meanwhile, I’m decorating, writing, and actively looking for work. I’m browsing the web and flipping through photos in search for the perfect pictures and artwork to hang on our walls, and reading up on Texas crops learning the dos and don’ts of planting in this incredibly hot state.

We are eager to get out and explore, but I am proud with the amount of work we’ve accomplished thus far. It’s hot here, like 107 degrees at 7:00 at night hot, so I currently don’t have a lot of motivation to head outside. For now, I am enjoying the sunshine through our windows, staying cool with the breeze of a fan, decorating our new space, and making #101 feel more like home.

Until next time!

A Weekend in Naples, Florida

As we count down the days until we move to Austin, every moment spent with family is especially important. Summer is flying by and before we know it, the air will turn crisp and the leaves will start to fall. The hubs will start his Ph.D, and our next chapter of life will begin.

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We moved out of #408 two weeks ago and settled back into the little nook that we first called home. Like this time last year, we are back to living out of backpacks and embracing a nomadic lifestyle. After just few short days of moving out of our humble abode, we packed our bags and boarded a plane for Florida, where we met 90% of the Terminella clan for a few days of R&R.  

We arrived in Naples late last Saturday afternoon, happily greeted by my parents, and eager for a beverage that was frosty and tropical. After checking into our sweet little cottage, we set out to explore the property grounds, mango infusion in hand. We enjoyed dinner overlooking the harbor and chit chat with my sun kissed cousins. We were glad to be on vacation, and even happier to be there with the ones that we love.

Sunday greeted us with a boat ride and breakfast on a private island, a morning that was easily the highlight of our trip. We weaved through the streams carved into the tropical forest, and awed over the structure of the tangled trees and shrubs of the lush mangroves. We sipped our mimosas and watched dolphins swim by as we breathed in the salty sea air and journeyed to our final destination.

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The hubs and I were thrilled to be alone on an island, eager to get lost and nap in a hammock under the sun. Developed and equipped to host large parties, I don’t think we could have gotten lost even if we tried, but nonetheless, it was gorgeous and quiet and the perfect place for our vacation to begin.

We ate sea salt bagels and just picked pineapple and mangos. They tasted like candy and were out of this world. I kicked fallen coconuts that sat by my feet, and dipped my toes in the calm warm waters as they gently rolled onto the shore.

The rest of the day was spent at the pool with my two favorite little boys in the whole entire world. My nephew Ethan is like a little firecracker, with his huge personality and his nonstop energy. Luca, the newest member of the Terminella family, is cuddly and sweet and a little bundle of love. This auntie’s heart was happy as she played with her boys, glad for the moments that I soon won’t easily have.

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Our second full day was nearly as exciting as the first as I headed out to sea to wet and hook and line. The hubs, pops, brother and I enjoyed a rainy morning on the ocean, casting a line and reeling in fish. The sea was rough and the conditions weren’t ideal, but we reeled in a few winners as well as a small shark. Though a tad bit sea sick, I enjoyed those moments on the ocean, surrounded by the men that I love the most.

On our third and last full day there, we said goodbye to some of our family, and enjoyed the rest of the day just husband and wife. We read for hours by the pool and even took a trip to the spa. We ate oysters and crabs for dinner and watched the sunset from the pier. We sipped some bubbly before we went to bed, grateful for the one on one time that lately we’ve seemed not to have.

The last day of our trip came far too fast, but we enjoyed every hour that we had before we boarded our plane. We rested on the beach with dear family members, sipping pina coladas and playing in the ocean with my aunts and cousins. We headed to the airport late that afternoon, sad to leave, but happy to have had a few days away.

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We headed back to work early the next day, eager to complete projects and tie up loose ends before we leave. On Wednesday, we will depart for Wyoming to enjoy a week in the Rockies, exploring the magic of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We will return at the end of the month, just a few days before leaving for Austin, happy and sad, and likely somewhere in between. Though we are not eager to say goodbye, we are anxious and excited for what’s next to come.

Until next time!

It was nearly four years ago that my mister asked me to become a misses, and just over three when I finally said I do. While most days feel like our wedding could have been just last weekend, reality tells us something different and the calendar shows us three years.

We celebrated our third wedding anniversary on May 26th, memorial day weekend. The perfect weekend for a wedding anniversary,  but also not so much. It’s great having your anniversary fall on a long weekend, but traveling  around a holiday can sometimes be nuts. I think that the pros certainly outweigh the cons though, especially if it means getting away for a few days with the one that you love the most.

To celebrate our special occasion, we unplugged from our busy schedules  and headed south for a weekend of us. We spent day one of our trip in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, trying our luck digging for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park.  Murfreesboro is an eclectic little town, and there’s really not much there to do,  besides digging in the dirt for diamonds, of course.

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digging

While digging in the dirt might not sound like much fun, the history of the park is actually pretty interesting.  For many years, Arkansas was the only place where diamonds had naturally been discovered in the United States. After two sizable stones were found on the now park grounds in 1906, Murfreesboro quickly became the home of America’s first diamond rush.

While Arkansas is no longer the only state where diamonds have been discovered, it is still the only state that allows visitors to search for a diamond of their own. We didn’t leave with a diamond that day, but we did walk away with a few other fun looking stones. I was so hopeful as a park worker studied our loot. I crossed my fingers tight hoping that maybe we had found ourselves a fancy little anniversary gift, or maybe another trip to Europe. Supposedly, it’s almost daily that someone takes a diamond home, and occasionally, there are those lucky few who find something really worth writing home about. There was a 40.23 carat diamond found there once, a just a few weeks ago, a local found himself a 6.19 carat gem worth keeping. If only we could have been that lucky…

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camp

We found ourselves bored after just one hour (some diamond hunters we are, huh?), and headed back to our quirky little camp sight. As everything within an hour’s drive was already full, we settled in at a strange little place, spending our night hanging out with geese and peacocks, sleeping inside of a giant, air conditioned teepee. While the peacock roosting next to our teepee seriously creeped me out, our night was comfortable, and there wasn’t much to complain about. We were right on a river and were able to fish, and enjoyed the peace and quiet that camping tends to bring.

As the second day of our trip rolled around, we checked out of our teepee and headed up north.We spent our Memorial Day wandering around Hot Springs, enjoying the beautiful Garvan Gardens, and the quirky downtown. We relaxed at our lovely bed and breakfast, sipping on wine and munching on cheese, and enjoyed a late dinner on the patio, celebrating three awesome years of marriage.

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downtown

Our trip was simple and quick, but it was just what we needed. Our days before and after were busy, and we really needed that time alone. Anniversaries don’t have to be extravagant affairs, but I do think it’s important to stop and recognize what accomplishments that they are. I look forward to what our fourth year of marriage will bring, and to the memories we will add to this great chapter of life.