Michigan Pasties

My husband and I went to Michigan for our summer vacation this year. In honor of his Michigan heritage and our trip, I wanted to post a Michigan favorite – pasties. It’s pronounced past-ee, not paste-y, a mistake this non-Michigander has made several times.

I’ve read that pasties were brought over to Michigan by Cornish miners who needed a portable lunch for their work in the mines. Rumor also has it that the original pasties were boiled, and the dough may not have been eaten but torn aside to get to the sweet and savory fillings within.

That last one sounds unsavory to me, so I’m sticking with baked pasties. Pasties also range in size from small, handheld versions to the size of dinner plates. The filling also changes from ground meat to diced meat, depending on whose recipe you use. I like to keep it simple – ground meat, diced veggies, and a little salt and pepper. Pasties are hearty and filling, so I keep mine on the smaller side. I dice the veggies small and precook the filling so the pasties don’t take as long to bake, and I can make sure all the sturdy root vegetables are tender. I make no claims that this recipe is “authentic” – I’m sure I’d get a lot of flack for the butter crust instead of using the traditional lard, and the veggies casually whirled in a food processor and then precooked. But this is works best in my kitchen, so I’m sticking with it.

This recipe makes a little extra filling than you’ll need for the amount of dough. I like to freeze the leftover filling as a reminder to make pasties again. If you want to eat like the miners, consider making fruit-filled hand pies to serve alongside the pasties and enjoy a meal you only need your hands to eat, plates and napkins optional.

Inspired by Michigan Tech University’s Original Pasty Recipe. Check out their page – they have lots of great pasty variations and history on the pasty.

Michigan Pasties

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 14 T. salted butter, cold
  • 8 T. ice cold water
  • For the filling:
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 large or 2 small potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 small rutabaga
  • Butter, optional

Instructions

  1. To make the dough, combine the flour and pinch of salt.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until pea-sized pieces of butter remain and all the flour is coated with butter. If you grab a handful of the flour and squeeze it, it should stay together in a clump.
  3. Add most of the ice water, and stir the dough together. Add more ice water as needed until a dough forms. I find that on humid days I need a little less water, and on dry days I need more.
  4. Divide the dough in half, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen for a few months.
  5. For the filling:
  6. Peel the carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga.
  7. Cut the vegetables into small dice. Or, if you want to save time, cut them into large cubes, and give them a quick whirl in your food processor like I did.
  8. Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Add the veggies and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the veggies are just becoming tender. Season with salt and pepper and taste filling. Adjust seasonings.
  10. Allow the filling to cool while you prepare the dough.
  11. When you're ready to use the dough, remove it from the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for a few moments. You can also give it a few hard whacks with your rolling pin to soften it. Sprinkle both sides of the dough with flour and roll out to 1/4-inch thick.
  12. Trace a circle 5" in diameter in the dough (I usually trace a small plate). Cut as many as you can, then gather the scraps and reroll the dough. Trace and cut more circles. I only roll the dough twice, because it gets stiffer and less tender the more you handle it.
  13. Repeat the rolling out and cutting circles process with the second disk of dough.
  14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  15. Put two to three tablespoons of filling on one side of the dough round. I use my 1/8 cup and heap it up a bit. Dot the top of the filling with a bit of butter if you desire. It's optional, but it tastes good.
  16. Moisten the outer edge of the dough round with a bit of water, then fold the dough in half, covering the filling.
  17. Crimp the edge closed with a fork or roll it up with your fingers.
  18. Cut a few slits in the top of pasty. (Alternatively, you can use a small cookie cutter to punch out a design in the top part of the dough before folding it over the filling.)
  19. Transfer for a parchment lined baking sheet. If the dough is hard to handle, or the pasties are difficult to move, put the dough rounds onto the baking tray and fill them there.
  20. When all of your pasties are filled, crimped closed, and steam vents are sliced in the tops, put them in the oven.
  21. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the they are golden brown.
  22. Let them cool a few moments, because the filling will be very hot. Enjoy!
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Pasties
Pasties

Make Your Own Yogurt At Home

Huh? You can make yogurt? That’s the typical response I get when I mention I make my own yogurt, coupled with a confused look. But do not fear, making yogurt at home is feasible. I’ll walk you through the steps and offer some tricks below.

I started making yogurt when I lived in Texas, and I haven’t stopped. For me, homemade yogurt has a much better flavor and texture. I like that there are no fillers or additives to thicken it, just good old bacteria doing their fermenting job. I strain my yogurt to get thicker, Greek-style yogurt.

Homemade yogurt is one of my favorite summer breakfast dishes because it’s cold, and I can mix in all the fruit I want. Top it with a drizzle of honey, a splash of vanilla extract, and maybe some homemade granola. Mmm, I’m getting hungry just writing about it.

Yogurt with blueberries

The Basics

You will need a large pot with a lid, a thermometer, and a spoon. Having a good thermometer is an important part of the process (something like this would be great!), because the temperature of the milk matters. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that. The right temperature means the between delicious yogurt and funny-smelling milk.

For ingredients, you need milk and a yogurt starter. I use whole milk, because I like the extra milk fat gives the yogurt a great texture and balances the tart flavor.

Yogurt starters come in a few different forms. The easiest one, and the one I buy, is a cup of plain yogurt from the grocery store. Fage Total is my personal favorite, because it’s full-fat yogurt. There are lots of freeze-dried yogurt starters on the market, too. They come in packets or bottles, and you can get various strains or cultures for your yogurt. As I was researching this article, I even found vegan starter culture for non-dairy milk. I’ve never made non-dairy yogurt, and I don’t know if the same rules apply, but I’m sure you can find more info on the internet. Because I have experience using store-bought yogurt as my starter, that’s what I’ll be referring to here. If you purchase a freeze-dried culture,  follow the directions for best results.

So, get out your pot and lid, and get out your milk and yogurt. I usually make yogurt with a gallon of milk, but you can make more of less, depending on your needs. The minimum ratio is 2 T. of yogurt to 1 quart of milk. When I make a gallon, I use the entire 6 oz. cup of Fage yogurt in a gallon of milk (about 9 T.). I’ve also used a 6 oz. cup in a half gallon of milk, too. You can add extra yogurt, but 2 T. per quart is the smallest amount you should use.

Got all that? Pot with lid, thermometer, spoon. Milk of your choice and a cup of plain yogurt from the store.

Yogurt with blueberries

Making Yogurt

Now comes the fun part, putting it all together. Get out all your supplies and ingredients, including the cup of yogurt. It can sit on the counter and come to room temperature while you do this next step.

Pour your milk into your pot, and set it over medium heat. Stick the thermometer in the milk. Now, there are two routes you can go from here. The first is to heat the milk to 180F and then letting it cool back down to 110F-115F, which is the temperature where you’ll add the starter. This can take a bit of time, especially for the milk to cool down. This does produce thicker yogurt (you can read more about the process here).  Personally, I get frustrated with how long this takes and usually forget to check on the milk until it’s back down to room temperature, so I only heat the milk to 110F-115F.

Whether you take your milk up to 180F or only to 115F, the next step is to add the yogurt starter. The temperature range is narrow – the milk needs to be between 110F and 115F (I aim for 115F). Hotter, and it’s going to kill the bacteria. Cooler, and the bacteria won’t ferment properly and eat up the lactose.

I normally temper the yogurt by taking a spoonful of milk and stirring it into the yogurt, then pouring the mixture back into the pot. Mix the yogurt in, put the lid on the pot, and set the pot somewhere warm to rest for a minimum of four hours. The yogurt shouldn’t be moved or stirred for those first four hours. Set it somewhere and forget about it.

There are lots of ideas on where to set your yogurt. In the ideal place, the yogurt will not be disturbed, and the temperature will remain between 100F-115F without going over. I usually prep the milk and yogurt before bed and then leave it to ferment in my oven with the oven light left on overnight. Other times, I’ve set the covered pot out in direct sunlight on a 100-degree day. I’ve also had success wrapping the pot in some towels warm from the dryer and setting it in an insulated cooler to keep warm. The garage on a hot day is another great place for a pot of yogurt to sit. Warm and undisturbed, those are your goals.

After the fermentation, remove the lid and check on the yogurt. If it’s set up properly, it will look different – the liquid will be thicker, and the whey may begin to separate out. It will smell a little tangier, like yogurt. I find that the longer I let it sit (over 12 hours) the thicker it gets and the more the whey naturally separates from the yogurt. I find it easier to strain this way, so I like to let my yogurt sit for about 12 hours. This is where the cooked method has an advantage – the yogurt will set up more firmly in four hours than it will if the milk is only heated to 115F.

You have a just made your own yogurt. Congratulations!

You can eat it just like this, or you can strain some of the whey out to create thicker yogurt. If you strain it for too long, you’ve got yogurt cheese (which I’ve accidentally made on several occasions). The easiest way I’ve found to strain yogurt is a fine mesh grain bag for home brewing. I tried cheesecloth, but trying to pick the cheesecloth up and pour the yogurt into a storage container made a giant mess. The finer mesh of the grain bag holds the yogurt better. I place my chinois in the sink, line it with the grain bag, and pour the yogurt in. The whey runs down the drain, and I can let it drain for as long as I want. If you have a strainer that fits over your sink, that’s another great option. Otherwise, set a colander over a large bowl to catch the whey.

If the yogurt’s texture is uneven (sometimes it can look a bit grainy), run a whisk through it or stick it in a mixer and whisk with the whisk attachment. This really evens out the look. I’ve never noticed a difference in the taste or mouthfeel, so I usually skip this step because I don’t want to wash another dish.  Then, pour your yogurt into a container and store it in the refrigerator.

You can flavor the entire batch of yogurt, but I prefer to add things as I eat it. Honey is a great addition, and I like to play around with various flavored extracts. Lemon curd is another delicious treat to stir into yogurt.

Do you make yogurt? What are your favorite yogurt flavors? Tell us in the comments.

Make Your Own Yogurt
Make Your Own Yogurt

Clean Out the Fridge Mac and Cheese

I love cheese. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods, and I like trying different types. Some day, I want to do a cheese tasting vacation through Switzerland. Because I buy and eat a lot of cheese, I find my cheese drawer overflowing with small, leftover portions. I like to turn them into a quick, clean-out-the-fridge mac and cheese.

Continue “Clean Out the Fridge Mac and Cheese”

Spray Paint Magic – Ceiling Fan Transformation

When we first moved into our house there wasn’t a single ceiling fan installed. Being that we live in Florida we knew something had to change because it gets hot and the electric bill get’s crazy high. It really shocked me when we went to our local home improvement stores and we had trouble finding a ceiling fan for under a $100. With the steep price and the number of room in our house I knew it was time to get crafty! My parents were upgrading the ceiling fans at their place so I got the out casts and decided to get to work on making them look sparkly new for our house. Continue “Spray Paint Magic – Ceiling Fan Transformation”

3 Ways to Save Even More on Ikea!

  1. As Is Section – This has to be my favorite part of Ikea. The As Is section is comprised of items that have been returned, floor samples, damaged items and discontinued items. The deals that can be found here are incredible at times. I found my office desk in there for $9.99! This desk was originally $150 so despite it have a good sized dent on the back of the desk I scooped it up without much thought. I will say typically the savings you find in the As Is section are only a savings up to 50%. I have noticed that if items are unbuilt and still in their boxes with damage that is when you find the deep discounts. Now the sign located outside of the section says that there is no bargaining however, we have found there is some wiggle room with that. We bought a sofa recently that was only marked down 40% percent and we got them to come down to 50%. I have heard from the associates that they are allowed to come down to 50% but anything greater than that a manager would need to do it.
  2. Ikea Family Card – Is a powerful card and it comes at no cost to you! You can signup online at Ikea.com or at in store kiosk. So you may be asking what perks does this card give me? Well the list is a long one!  Every month Ikea release special discounts available to Ikea Family Card holder only. Be on the lookout for their monthly emails or the signs posted on the select items in store. Monday through Friday you can pickup a free coffee or tea with your membership card. The Ikea Family Card also qualifies you for an extra 30 minutes of time in the child care center, Småland. You get an extended 90 price protection on your purchases with the Family Card, so if the price of an item you purchase drop within 90 days you can return to store for a refund of the difference. Lastly, every time you purchase something and have your Ikea Family Card scanned you are entered into a drawing for a $100 Ikea Gift Card!
  3. Craigslist – I never make a furniture purchase without scoping out our local craigslist first. People are constantly have moving sales and we are within a hour of a major university that has college kids dumping furniture at the end of every semester! We have found so many amazing deals on bookcases, outdoor patio furniture, ect. I can’t stress enough how great it is to have Craigslist in your savings tool bag!

Hide Away Your Cat Litter Box and the Stink

Everyone loves cats but no one loves the litter box stink. We have quite a few cats in our house so I needed to find a place to hide the litter box so it was out of sight and smell. I kept seeing all these great wooden litter box hide aways but they were priced way out of our budget, some costing over $100!

So I got crafty and decided to convert our cabinet in our entry way into my own little hide away for a litter box. I already had everything I needed with the exception of a tension rod which I picked up at Walmart for under $5.

Best of all our cats love it! This is our biggest box and it gets the most traffic out of any of the boxes we have setup for them.
Continue “Hide Away Your Cat Litter Box and the Stink”

The Magic of Saving with Ebates

Ebates has turned out to me a huge money saver for our family. I will admit that I was skeptical at first, I mean who else is going to pay you money to shop?!? I signed up last October and have already gotten $45 back in cold hard cash! Their program is very simple; it requires minimal work from you in order to get that quarterly cash back check in the mail.

How do you save money with Ebates

How does Ebates work? First you need to setup an account by going here. Once you have an account created you can start shopping! Ebates has partnered with over 1,800 stores, so odds are most if not all of the places you currently shop with online will be a partner. It’s important that every time you want to purchase online you go to Ebates first and click the start shopping link of the store. There are a couple of ways you can find a store. First, you could just type the store you are looking for into the search bar. Second, you could click the “All Stores” link in the top navigation and scroll through their list of all their options. Third, you could simply use one of the featured store links on the homepage. Below is example of a couple options I could use if I wanted to shop at Kohls and earn cash back.

 

find store on ebates
You can search for your favorite stores on eBays or use the quick links on their homepage.

 

Ways to maximize you Ebates cash back

If you want to maximize your savings it’s best to sign up for Ebates’ emails. Every day Ebates has what they’ve dubbed the daily double. A daily double is when the percentage of cash back is double the typical amount. Taking advantage of the daily double is always a great time to maximize your savings. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no guarantee that the percentage back for any store will stay the same. Keep in mind, Ebates is constantly changing their percent back and there are even times when store will stop having a percent back all together.

Examples of big cash back savings on Ebates

Where do I save the most? Good question! I find that I save the biggest at Petco; we have quite a few cats in our household and they are always in need of food and litter. If you sign up for the Petco Pals program you can combine big savings from Petco with savings from Ebates (I have seen 6% back at Petco before!). As a result, stacking Petco sales, Petco’s Pals 5% back program and Ebates can really cut down the costs of your furry household members!

 

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

5 Ways to Save While Dining at Disney World

  1. Tables in Wonderland – Save 20% on your meal! Yup, you heard me right, getting a Tables in Wonderland card will save you 20% off food and alcohol but it does come at a price. At the time of writing this article the price stands at $175 for Florida Residents and $150 for Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members. At the steep price of this discount card it really only makes sense for those who are going to spend over $875/$750 respectively. There are more than a 100 Disney dining locations that accept this discount and the complete list can be found on Disney’s official website here. If you really want to eat on a dime at Disney you would use this discount at their participating counter service options. Some these counter service locations include, Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom or Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation.
  2. Passholder Discount – My personal favorite is to use this discount when buy a bottle drink inside retail locations; I avoid buying drinks at cart locations whenever possible. Being a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder also gets you 10% at several locations mostly during lunch hours and even sometimes during dinner! For a full list of the 2016 dining discounts and details visit here.
  3. D23 Member Discounts – Gold Members ($79.99/year) receive a few different discounts throughout the parks. Discounts for 2016 include 20% off at the House of Blues Orlando and $1 off a sundae at Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.
  4. Sharing is Caring – Chris and I have found that splitting things like a soda at quick service location often adds up to a big savings over time.
  5. Earl of Sandwich – You might be wondering why I am including a stand alone restaurant. Earl of Sandwich is by far the cheapest meal I have ever paid for at Disney. Depending on the sandwich you order it will set you back around $8. If I use my annual passholder discount I can save an extra 10%.