Somewhat Muddled Musings

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday's Food Report

Sweet Potato Pie ala Alton Brown

Now, I'll start by saying....I really do cook other things other than AB's stuff. Granted, we love him, love his technique, and so far, we've loved everything we've tried (though the green been casserole can use some extra..more on that, later). But I have to say, as a pie newbie, I was really happy with how this came out. I made it for Thanksgiving at my Dad's, and was justifiably out shined by my sister-in-laws Pumpkin Cheesecake (which I'll hopefully be able to copy soon!), but I was still really pleased with this pie. I haven't made a pie in fifteen years or so. And while I'd love to say that I mastered the art of pastry dough, I did use a store bought pie dough

Alton Brown's Sweet Potato Pie


  • 1 pound 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed, steamed
  • 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup packed, dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 5 egg yolks
  • Salt
  • 1 (9-inch) deep dish, frozen pie shell
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Special equipment: steamer basket


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer basket into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Mash with potato masher and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment. Add yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt, to taste, and beat until well combined. Pour this batter into the pie shell and place onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches 165 to 180 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Keep refrigerated after cooling.

My Notes:

I did not need to toast the pecans - they toast fine in the oven on their own.

Deep Dish pie crust is important. The shallower pie crusts won't hold the filling.

This pie was done in 40 min in my oven to 172 degrees. I'm so glad I was checking on the crust often enough to catch this. If I had waited, it would've been overdone. I did not need to cover my pie crust a all - it didn't burn or even get overly brown in that 40 min.

This is a yummy pie, and a much leaner version of the typical sweet potato pie. It got 2 thumbs up from my boys, which is always a great measuring device for my cooking!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Monday and Thursday are muffin days at our house. Muffins can be a really hearty, healthy food at breakfast time as well as a quick snack. I usually try to make a double batch on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning that will last us both days. If I can get in a full triple batch, I freeze the excess for use on a week I want a baking break!

We're on a fall fruit/veg. kick at our house right. Fall is our favorite time of the year, and the smells and colors just make us hungry and want to eat well! So, we mixed two of our favorite flavors in this yummy, moist, kid-friendly muffin!


preheat oven to 350

2 1/2 C flour (I do 1/2 white 1/2 whole wheat)
3/4 C Sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C wheat germ*
1/4 C ground flax seed*

2 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/4 C applesauce (you can use the full 1/2 C oil, but I prefer to cut some calories and add a little more nutrition with this great substitution)
2 C peeled, finely chopped apples
1C finely chopped walnuts would be a great addition!

(*these are constant companions to our baked items, you can omit)

Mix dry ingredients with a whisk.
Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
Add wet to dry (the muffin method!) and stir until just moistened (too long and you bring those ugly glutens to the mix which gives you tough muffins).
Stir in apples (and nuts if you're using them).

Spoon batter into a greased muffin tin or line with paper. Baking time is determined by the size muffin you are baking, your oven and how many you put in. We used standard muffin tins that were finished in about 20 min. Check often.

These freeze really well in a zip top bag with all the air removed (using a straw inserted into the top of the mostly sealed zip top bag and remove the air, then quickly seal).

You can add a streusel topping to these by combing 2 TB AP flour, 1/4C sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 2 TB butter and then sprinkling over the top of the muffins before baking, but I honestly think they're better being naked!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes from the kitchen of Chef Connor

My favorite taste is Cinnamon Apple. It should be the 5th taste in front of that poser umami. There's something about fall that makes me want to eat apple cinnamon cardboard because it's just that good.

We happened upon a great sale on Honeycrisp apples this week, and I bought a ton, so we've been on a cooking lark this week using them up. Muffins and pancakes are the easiest way to do this for us.


2 C instant pancake mix (we happen to use the Alton Brown mix that I make up in bulk, but Jiffy or Bisquik will work)
2 C grated apples
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of clove
1.5 C water (you'll want to eyeball this as the batter can be soupy if you have really juicy apples)
1/4 C wheat germ*
1/4 C flax seed *
finely chopped nuts would be another great addition
*these can be omitted, we just tend to toss them into just about everything. Be sure to adjust liquid accordingly if you're using them.

Mix all ingredients for no more than 30 seconds..and walk away. Really. This is like any quick bread mix and over mixing will cause glutens to form in the batter which make them rubbery and tough, which are NOT good eats! (is that I have to credit it to AB every time I type it?) Letting it set and absorb the liquid instead of stirring it to death is a good thing.This is about the time I get the stove top heating, get plates and drink going, etc.

Use a 1/4 C measuring device to plop down pancakes on a hot griddle pan. Turn when surface becomes dull and bubbles are setting on the surface.

Serve with sliced apples and warm maple syrup!

This was today's home ec lesson at instruments! We learned to use a peeler and a grater without cutting all the skin off our knuckles!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Pumpkin Day at our house!

(Get ready - it's a long one)

First off, let me wish everyone a Happy All Saint's Day!

While the rest of the US and other countries celebrate Halloween, it turned out to be pumpkin day at our household. Once the boys were up, we made Pumpkin pancakes!

I adapted these from Alton Brown's Instant Pancake Mix:


  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix. Use the mix within 3 months.


  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups "Instant" Pancake Mix, recipe above
  • 1 can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 TB pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg*)

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out.

"Walk away - just walk away"- AB (seriously, at this point, just let the batter rest for about 10 min while you heat the pan, etc.

We do 1/3 C dollops onto the non-stick griddle, wait til the pancake is dull, and bubbles are formed around the edges, flip, cook and serve immediate. This usually gets us more than the original 12 pancakes, enough for all of us and a few leftover for snacking later. Serve with warm maple syrup!

*a word about nutmeg. I grew up on spice by the jar, and never knew things really did taste better when you ground them from fresh. Get nutmeg berries and use a grating plane to freshly great nutmeg for your dishes - it's like the difference between wood pulp and wonderful flavor - it does make a big difference.

Dinner was a Jack-o-lantern pizza pie from Papa Murphy's (borrowing photo from their site here)

How to carve a pumpkin with power tools!
Our little guy is all about Domo right now, so Dad thought it'd be a great idea to carve a Jack-o-Domo. We found a pattern through Think Geek, and we got to work.
(but make sure you make really icky faces pulling out the pumpkin guts!)

Then - set the man on the gourd with some power tools! Let the surgery begin!

It's ALIVE! (sort of?)

Then...Connor's best friend moved back into town yesterday, and we went on a candy hunt with their family and here are the boys - Dread Pirate Aiden, Luke Potter, and Connor-won Kenobi

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How we do Chores

Admittedly, I'm not a good housekeeper. It's a real struggle for me. Even in the summers when we aren't doing school, when I don't have the excuse of a packed schedule, I'm just not a great housekeeper. I have every intention of keeping my not-so-elaborate schedule going that I created with the help of a yahoo group years and years ago. But I'm that person scrambling when company comes calling. I try, but I'm rarely successful at keeping a clean and tidy house. There are times when I'm close to taming that monster, more often, though, I'm not.

However, I'm determined to help train up the boys in being helpers in the family because they are a part of this family, and it helps me out (and eventually their wives). It's part of their Royal Ambassador pledge to keep themselves clean in body and mind, and it's my duty to train them up in those ways. So...we do chore charts. This happens to be a recurring subject with so many moms that I know, so I thought I'd share what we do. My oldest is 10, my youngest is 6 if it helps in figuring out what they've been assigned to do. We change up the chore schedule about every six months to give the youngest new chores he can now accomplish and even out workloads or add new skills.

click on photo for digital element credits

The boys seem to really like this version, and it's easy for them to find their names and get going on their day. The job jar is full of assorted jobs that add a bit of spice to their day since they never know what they're going to get. They can also use the job jar to earn extra money during the week. We don't pay for chores to be done because that what we do being a part of the family. But they can earn extra money for doing extra chores. Always amazing how much more gets done when there's a new Star Wars toy coming out!

If you digital scrapbook or have access to a photo editing program that allows you to use .tiff or psd files (layered files), you can download a copy of the undecorated template for this chart here:

Now - to just go and create one for myself :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hangin' with Alton Brown

So, looks like the first post to the new blog is going to be all about Alton Brown. I didn't recreate the blog for it, but never got around to finishing it and posting before our trip, so here goes! (and yes, this is going to be kind of bear with me - trying to get all the memories down before I get the scrap pages done later).

October 17-18, 2009. Our family trip to Austin, Texas to meet Alton Brown, and a few friends along the way.

We have been watching Good Eats on Food Network forever. We found this guy who was seriously funny (used all the same media references we loved - movies, Monty Python, books, etc., ) and used science to explain food - not just pour and dump recipe lists). The show wasn't about cooking, it was about the science of cooking - thus we were hooked.

Flash forward many years later when we FINALLY had a chance to meet up with him. He's just released Good Eats: The Early Years (the 3.8 tomb of food science goodness that has to be serious because it's so heavy, right?), and was doing a book signing at Book People / Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. We found out, and immediately planned our weekend!

First, we met up with some of my digital scrapbooking friends from Central Texas from Sweet Shoppe Designs!


We had a great visit @ Might T Fine Burgers and the kids had a blast playing while we sat and gabbed. The husbands were sweet and chatted and watched kids so we could 'play'.

Then, we're off to Austin! Denise (DistyD from Good Eats Fan Page) had called to say that they were giving out wristbands to AB's signing early, so we hooked it to Austin (with a small side trip to track down elusive Transformer toys for Russ), pulled up to Book People and found out we'd gotten the LAST red group wristbands (red group was the first group). PHEW!

Checked into Embassy Suites, scoped out our room and got settled with laptop up and ready, boys playing contentedly on furniture and found the wardrobe....could it be?!


Nah - just a wardobe.

Turns out, the three families having traveled from Dallas ended up staying at the same hotel w/o planning it - so I popped downstairs to meet Denise (DitsyD) and Marie (Coppertop) and her daughter had arrived.

We planned to go to Threadgills in Austin for dinner. I had the Grilled Ahi Tuna Salad (THE BEST SALAD EVER!) : Char-grilled Ahi tuna on fresh baby spinach with feta cheese, toasted almonds and dried cranberries, finished with pineapple pico and served a red wine vinegrette which was wonderful!

Russ had fried oysters, fries and garlic cheese grits (which, surprisingly were pretty good!)
Aiden had grilled cheese (surprised?) and Connor chose Chicken Fried Steak, cole slaw and a dinner salad with jalepeno ranch dressing. He was REALLY disappointed that the chicken fried steak, wasn't chicken, but really chewy and tough beef that was not Good Eats.

We ended the night with a 'midnight' swim at 9pm along with Denise's husband and daughter.

Oct. 18 - ALTON DAY!
After a morning spent in front of the mirror trying to hide my racoon sunburn from the previous day (and lemme tell you, for a girl who doesn't wear makeup, it was sure lucky that I tossed at least some base and blush in to my bag when I was packing...while not the best makeup for covering things up, it sure helped even out the least a tad), we headed down to breakfast where we met up with Dan (DanC) and his son Patrick to finish off the Briner group for the day (the Good Eats Fan Page name for members). Dan had already been by Whole Foods early that morning to check on lines, and there hadn't been any, so we were trying to strategically plan our morning while just enjoying each other's company. We all planned on meeting up at about 10, so Dan took off to do some shopping while the rest of us headed up to pack and check out.

We got to Whole Foods at 10 to find that there was no one in line which we found really odd. We went upstairs to the plaza level and saw that they were beginning to set up for the day, and were told to go back downstairs to wait (and my knees were NOT happy about that). We were planning on just wandering and shopping, but I went ahead and got in line behind a family who had driven in that morning, hoping that we had gotten the place right. In about ten minutes, a longish line had begun to form, but we still weren't sure if this was the right place. I called the group to come on by to check in, and by the time Denise and Marie had arrived, the line was beginning to get long. Russ and the boys had already wandered off in search of Turkey Eggs and whatever other treats they could find. Then, one of those official type folks came to the top of the stairs and said come on up! Turns out, we were in exactly the right place! The couple in front of us had just purchased their books/wristbands that morning, and were told to wait in another area, while our group was escorted to the front of the line! It was SO strange to be first in line (and quite exciting!)

We just spent the time chatting about stuff. We were then moved to another queue area to wait out the last hour....and the excitement was building! I had butterflies in my stomach at this point, and Russ was excited, too, but much better at holding it in.

Hey - there's AB!

After setting himself up, he said, 'Come Forth'...and we did.

After the typical, "Hi, I'm Alton.", he said he'd hoped that we'd not been waiting long. I quipped, "only about 45 hours". He stopped...looked up at me with the queerest look.
When he looked over at Russ for confirmation he said "Nah, not really, we got right in", and I burst out laughing.
AB said " could've played that, you got me."

He signed our book, looked up at
each of us, saw Connor and said, "Hey that's a cool shirt you've got there. Do you want me to sign it?" (WELL SURE!) "Back here so you can't see what I'm signing." Connor threw Russ a questioning look and Russ told him "He's probably writing 'Kick Me' back there", and Alton chuckled, "No, I'm not I promise."

...and so did Aiden

At that point, we said our thanks, and Connor remembered his question (we all got a little lost with our agreed upon script once AB asked about signing Connor's shirt, so Russ never got a chance to thank him for how much he's inspired us...and inspired Russ along his weight loss journey - some of those 114 lbs so far are due to AB). So Connor asked if AB ever watched Phineas & Ferb, to which AB replied with a guarded, "Sometimes, not religiously or anything, why?" Russ explained how we'd noticed his, 'Whatcha Cookin'? sing-song question to all the cheftestants on The Next Iron Chef's first episode, w
ith the same inflection and cadence Isabella says "Whatcha doin?" on the cartoon. He did say, 'Yeah, I might have borrowed that" with a bit of a smirk on his face. Of course, that made Connor like him even more knowing he probably watches it with his daughter, too - makes him one of the cool adults. Russ said a hearty thank you and shook AB's hand, and we were off.

Dan was the good Briner and remembered to ask Alton about creating a full length DVD of the Good Eats Live show in Atlanta (instead of the kind of messy TV 30 min version that Food Network did), and AB confirmed that there would be a Director's Cut version coming out in the near future, as well as a soundtrack of the music on Itunes since Patrick Belden's music was one of the best things about the show (Patrick is the awesome talent behind all the theme music of Good Eats and Feasting on Asphalt).

Russ had walked off to the side with the boys trying to leave, and I was standing taking video for Dan and Denise's family, and looked over at Dan and said how cool it was that his son had gotten a pick of Dan/Alton, so Dan said...C'mon! I tried getting Russ' attention, but he couldn't hear me, so we snuck back to where Alton was while he was waiting for the next fan to walk up and took a couple of shots with Alton and me. It was advertised as a no-pose photo event, but AB was very gracious to do it for me.

While Dan seemed to be fiddling with the camera (which turned out to be taking multiple shots to make sure he got a good one for me), Aiden saw what was going on, and ran over to sneak into the shots, too!

After a bit of decompressing together, Dan (Mr. Security Risk himself) and Marie's families headed off to Lockhart, Texas for some good BBQ, while Denise's family and ourselves headed into Whole Food to do some last minute lunch shopping before heading back to our respective homes.

All in all, it was a great time. We had a great weekend, getting away from home, meeting new friends, and meeting up with Alton - one of our favorite tv people ever. All that build up over the last month was gone in a flash, but we're still so glad we went and enjoyed ourselves. Aiden thought it was much too short (as did we all) and wanted to hang out with Alton for awhile (as did we all). We had hoped, earlier, that AB might do a wee little talk beforehand, but it just wasn't a good venue for even a few words to the crowd with the way they had it set up. Russ felt like AB was in great form, and seems in person just like the guy we've gotten to know on TV (sounds just like him, too - no weird vocal editing stuff to mar it up), and was very genuine during his time with us - no haughty TV personality stuff going on there. Knowing that there are at least two more books coming out and numerous speaking engagements in the works, we might get a chance to see him in that format down the road. Until then, we'll rely on YouTube LOL.

Thanks to the Denise/Bob for the dinner shots (and extra shots of us with AB), the Bookpeople guy for the AB shots of my family, and DanC for the shots of AB and me (and Aiden).

And sweetie, thanks so much for being just as psyched (but much more composed) and wanting to do this trip, too. It made it all the more special to do it as a family!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Introducing My Family!

I wanted to start a personal blog again to record our family's journeys. We have so much fun homeschooling and doing all the other geeky stuff we do, and this is a great way to get it down to share with our family, to help me remember for our scrapbook pages, and to share with anyone who is interested.'s to us!