Life

Heartbroken And Without A Home

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Tree with a sail boat carving nailed to it at the first house.

Originally this post was stuffed full of wonderful photos I had taken of the new home we were in the process of purchasing. It was situated on 1.4 acres of land in Phoenix and we were so excited. A new home for Christmas and the bebe’s first Christmas to boot!

We sold our house in Gilbert, packed up all our belongings and hauled them to storage, moved into my parents living room with our Tuft & Needle mattress and a few boxes of our belongings for a couple weeks until we closed. And then the appraisal happened.

If you don’t know, the appraisal is the part of the home buying process where a 3rd party you hire comes and evaluates if the property is worth what you are paying for it. They save this inspection until last, and our sweet little house with the red door and the 1.4 acres of land appraised $30,000 less than what we were paying. The sellers didn’t want to drop the price, and asked us for a week to take all the bills for the money they had spent to remodel the house back to the appraiser to see if that would bring up the price. We saw this sinking ship before us and decided to jump back into the house hunting pool.

Quickly, we came upon another house. Back in the area we wanted to be in, and plenty large enough for us to grow into. There was no 1.4 acre lot, but we fell in love with the house and the neighborhood. And there was plenty of room for me to have some backyard chickens and citrus trees. And then the inspection happened.

A bunch of little things came up, but two big things, the pool they supposedly had replastered (unfortunately, it had not been and would have cost $6,000 to redo) and the roof, of which we needed a whole new one! We went back and asked for the $10,000 to re-roof a brand new house priced at the top of the market for the area. This afternoon they told us no way. We walked away.

To say we are crushed is an understatement. We had fallen in love with both houses. And now we have no home and no prospective home. To the greedy grinch house flippers of the world, I say bah-hum-bug! Do things the right way and make the house safe, then add some nice touches to it. Do a good job and people will pay you top dollar for the houses you rehab.

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Citrus tree at the first house. I love how it just popped out of the cement near the pool.

I honestly don’t know what we are going to do now. Retreat. Lick our wounds. Figure out a game plan. Head back out into the fray. There just seems to be nothing we like anywhere in the area we would like to be in (and it’s a rather large area). It’s discouraging, but I do believe we will be in the right place for us. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. Send us some good vibes and let me know in the comments below if you have a really insane house buying story. I could use some commiseration or a good laugh right about now.

And now for some food business…

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Peach crostada with an oat crumble. Eagerly awaiting peach season.

I’m looking forward to getting back into teaching some cooking classes, probably in the middle of the new year. I’m currently working on the curriculum for the classes. Every class I teach I learn something more I want to expand on or add or edit out.

I am searching for a great location to teach the classes, so let me know if you know of a great space or see anything while out and about.

I have also started to freelance again. The goal was always to get back into writing more, and now writing seems to fit into my schedule a little better than baking full-time.

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Lemon curd handpies. We teach handpies in our Pie Perfection class.

You may notice that everything on the Pistol Whipped Pastry website, with the exception of some apparel items, are listed as sold out. Since we just had a baby, and it’s her first Christmas, I am taking a break for the holidays. We will be updating the website with some old favorites, new products, and some new branding (woot woot!) come February.

Lets leave this kind of sad post on a happy note, and feel free to comment below with any of your holiday baking questions. I will be more than happy to take a little time in another post to try to answer and help you all out with your holiday baking projects.

Before we go, you should definitely go check out the interview I did recently with my friend Marlee for her blog, I Just Make Sandwiches, where I answer baking questions from her readers.

Lastly, send us some love and cross your fingers we find the right house soon, as I desperately need to have my own kitchen again. Bakers gotta bake. Am I right?

 

Pistol Whipped Pastry InstagramRachel Instagram | Pistol Whipped Pastry Facebook 

The Great Granola Bar Shipment

GranolaBars

 

It’s been a crazy week. We made, hand cut, wrapped, and labeled 6,300 granola bar samples. I am ever the optimist when putting together a project, but unfortunately, I grossly miscalculated how much time it would take to put this project together. Luckily, I have some amazing friends and a fantastic husband who all pitched in to help get the job done.

As we placed the last label and packed the last box, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I reveled in crossing the finish line by our new fire pit with a glass of wine, caramelized onion chicken breast, sautéed kale, fingerling potatoes and Mr. PC, before allowing the flood of new tasks lining up for this current week to infiltrate my mind.

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This is by far the largest order we have had, and yet when we are bogged down, we stray more to meals that are simple and fast. Usually a quick pop into a favorite restaurant or a jar of my family’s sauce that I’ve stocked up in the freezer tossed with some pasta and maybe a little protein and parm.

However, once we had finished, we turned our minds towards food. I wanted to sleep, and yet jump into my home kitchen and start making meals again. Meals I could linger over while sipping wine, nibbling on bits of veg while I chopped and tossed onto the pan for roasting.

PreppingAlmonds

In the interim, until I could get dinner on the table, we need something to snack on with our wine (for me) and bourbon – High West – with an ice sphere (for Mr. PC). Behold, a bulk bag of raw almonds and a garden lush with fresh rosemary. Massaged with a little olive oil, sprinkled with Maldon sea salt, and roasted till toasty. The perfect fireside snack, it is silly simple, but it was such a perfect nibble.

I love insanely thoughtful, simple, and delicious bar food, and these nuts are exactly what I want to graze on while have a leisurely drink by the fire with my hubs.

RosemaryRoastedAlmonds

Now, all I want to do is read the box of cookbooks that arrived on my doorstep in the middle of the great granola bar shipment, while eating roasted almonds.

Print

Salted Rosemary Roasted Almonds

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

1 1/2 # Almonds, Raw & Whole
2 TBSP. Olive Oil
3 Sprigs Rosemary, Fresh
Maldon Sea Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place almonds on a parchment lined sheet pan. Massage olive oil and rosemary (remove the leaves from the stem by holding the top in one hand and sliding your hand down the stem with the other hand) into almonds, coating all throughly. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Roast for 10 minutes, pushing nuts around, and rotating pan. Then roast for another 5-10 minutes, until slightly darker and slightly golden inside.

Remove and cool. Pile into a bowl and serve warm with your cocktail or adult beverage of choice.

 

Daydream Monday, anyone?

PWPplums

 

Summers in Arizona for restaurants and bakeries or any hospitality business here is slow. Super slow. I assumed this would give me time to relax, daydream, and plan for the upcoming season. Yeah, not so much. I have been consistently busy planning and plotting with the odd job here and there, that I feel like I haven’t been able to spend much time playing with all my new ideas.

Mondays are my creative days. Well, I do office work too, but I give myself space to write recipes, test recipes, and flip through my cookbooks and mags that are piling up on my desk, and finally organize the bobs and bits around my messy office.

Daydream Mondays allow for endless cups of coffee, slices of leftover dark chocolate cake for lunch, and wine time arriving whenever the day demands and permits. Bowls of sweet plum slices for snack while catching up on emails or sorting through boxes of baking tools that will be used and abused this upcoming season. I don’t have to be anywhere or have to meet any deadlines. The day takes shape however I need it to, plus it’s alone time in my home office and kitchen to be by myself.

It’s simple and not the break I had hoped for, but the business is growing and starting to find its shape, and I am so grateful for this progress.

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Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday to Williams-Sonoma Biltmore for the Artisan Market. We love being able to do these events and spread the word about what we are doing at Pistol Whipped Pastry.

Happy Monday, friends!

 

Rachel Ellrich Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, hangs out with her amazing husband, Mr. PC, and drinks copious amounts of Arizona wine. You can get more information about her pastry at http://www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or her Sugar Rush column on Phoenix New Times Chow Bella blog.

Soaked Oats

SoakedOatsFinished

 

My husband, Mr. PC, came home from work and announced that he would be participating in a lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks competition at work. I’ll admit that my first thought was “ughhhhhhhh!” We do really need to up our fitness game (from non-existent to actually doing some sort of physical activity), but honestly, like most people, we often find it challenging to find the time with our busy schedules.

Plus, we love good food, cocktails and wine, and often treat meals like great events, eating to our hearts content. The eating out or quick meals during the fast pace of the week often catch up to us with a snugging of our pants.

I love trying out new (or new to me) ideas that I feel will make my life a little healthier and a little easier. Enter this concept of soaked oats. I’ve been reading a lot about sprouting and soaking grains to make them more digestible, which also allows for the nutrients to be better absorbed by the body. I’ve heard a lot about overnight soaking of oats (hello muesli) and have always wondered if soaked oats taste better than the regular cooked version. Answer: yes!

However, I am not into eating them cold. I just can’t get around the texture and temp combo. So, I do reheat my oats. I love that it makes a hearty, re-heatable breakfast that can be easily transported, and doesn’t have any preservatives. When I eat a breakfast like this, I don’t find myself snacking as much during the day.

I make a batch at the beginning of the week, stored in mason jars in the fridge, they are easy to pull for breakfast on the go (for me), or for Mr. PC to take to work.

I soak the oats overnight with water and organic (no-sugar added) apple juice. Reheated in the morning with a couple splashes of milk, then portioned out into jars, and stored in fridge. I reheat my oats each mornings with a bit more milk (use homemade almond milk, which is amazing), add in a touch of brown sugar or some homemade jam, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, a bit of quinoa leftover from dinner, coconut milk…options are endless.

Perhaps this will help until I can get back on that running regime.

Oats after soaking for 6 hours.
Oats after soaking for 6 hours.
Print

Soaked Oats

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

2 cups Apple Juice, Organic & No-Sugar Added
2 cups Water, Filtered
2 cups Rolled Oats, Organic (and if needed Gluten Free)
A pinch of Salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup Whole Milk, Organic (or Homemade Almond Milk)

If desired, you can add a multitude of items, here are some that we often add-in.
3 TBSP Wheat Bran (omit if Gluten Free)
1 tsp. Cinnamon, Ground
Handful of Cashews or Walnuts, Chopped
Handful of Dried Cherries or Dried Cranberries
Nut Butters
Hemp Seeds
Homemade Jam
Honey
Brown Sugar
Leftover Quinoa (I know this sounds odd, but with some raisins and a splash of milk, it's delicious!)

Directions:

In a large pot, bring water, apple juice and pinch of salt to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in oats. Cover and allow to sit overnight. (I don't refrigerate mine, but if it freaks you out to leave it at room temp, you can refrigerate.)

The next morning, heat up the oaks with 1/4 - 1/2 cup milk (or almond milk) (You can also, just portion into jars, and not reheat - this is how they are traditionally eaten, but I am not a fan of the texture/temp combination). Portion into containers (we use glass canning jars with the plastic BPA free lids) and stir in extras. Store in the fridge. Eat cold or reheat.

 

I store our oats in glass mason jars, ready to grab and go.
I store our oats in glass mason jars, ready to grab and go.

 

Rachel Ellrich Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, hangs out with her amazing husband, Mr. PC, and drinks copious amounts of Arizona wine. You can get more information about her pastry at http://www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or her Sugar Rush column on Phoenix New Times Chow Bella blog.

Wedding, House, And Building The Business

Dessert from our mini moon at Bourbon Steak.
Dessert from our mini moon at Bourbon Steak.

I married my love, Mr. PC. We tied the knot just over two months ago in a sunset ceremony surrounded by our family and close friends. While it was a beautiful day, we are still exhausted and attempting to recover.

I wish I could have spent more time with family and friends that came in from out of town. Everything went so quickly and the wedding day was a blur of hugs and quick conversations. I don’t feel like I was able to talk to everyone enough. Happily, I was able to at least speak with everyone who attended, but for me, it wasn’t enough. Now they are all home, we are moderately recovered, and I wish we had more time with our families and friends. Check out the lovely armadillo cake one of my best girlfriends made me over at my Sugar Rush column on Chow Bella.

Even though I was not allowed to make my own wedding cake, I still represented Pistol Whipped Pastry with some tasty cupcake treats for my family and friends to take with them as well as a dessert table at the rehearsal dinner. I wanted to give my out of town guests something from my bakery, plus, I love doing orders for dessert tables or dessert favors for weddings, and my wedding was no exception.

Cupcakes from our wedding.
Cupcakes from our wedding.

Of course, there is always drama when you put many different opinions into one space. I have chosen NOT to change my name at the present time. I like my name. I have a business and a career built on my name. Never did I think that it would matter to me, to change my name, until a couple months ago, when someone asked me if I was practicing signing my new name. I hemmed and hawed, caught off-guard at how much I didn’t want to change it. This has been my name for 31 years. I’m not ready to part with it just yet.

When we went to sign the marriage certificate after the wedding, the venerable female reverend told me that I HAD to change my name, because legally, my name is now that of my husband, and I could get into serious trouble with the law if caught with my maiden name on my license and social security card. My photographer frantically waved her hands and shook her head no behind the silver-haired reverend. It’s a great story to tell, and I eagerly wait being arrested by the police for not using my married name.

We hit the ground running after the wedding. Pistol Whipped Pastry is taking off and I am thrilled. Crazy busy. Somedays, I wish I could clone myself, but I am really excited about all the progress. We are booking events left and right, and I am getting to work with so many amazing people. Check out the new line of gluten free pastries I am doing at Kaleidoscope Juice. I’m writing for some fabulous publications, and being extended some amazing writing opportunities that I can not wait to share with you all.We bought a house in December, you know, because we haven’t done enough this year, yet. Life is good.

The recovery process after a wedding seems to involve the regaining of one’s appetite. I feel like I didn’t eat for about a month prior and during the wedding. My trainer was amazed at how quickly I was losing weight. “No appetite,” was not her favorite response. However, we are making up for it now, by eating good food.

It’s like I hit Suzie Homemaker mode this weekend, roasting a chicken, then making stock from the remains. Homemade chicken soup. Apples for applesauce gurgling away in cider on the stove. The windows opened. Prepping dinners for the week. It was the first time in a couple weeks I had cooked a homemade meal, and it was fully relaxing. As much as I love the precision and measurements of pastry, I equally love the dash-here-and-pinch-there of savory cooking as well.

Chicken soup, pink lady applesauce, and new wine glasses.
Chicken soup, pink lady applesauce, and new wine glasses.

I make chicken stock quite a bit, since I typically roast a chicken about every other week. I throw the whole chicken carcass into the stock pot, fill with water till just covered. Add a couple chopped carrots, some celery, an onion, a bay leaf, salt and pepper, and simmer for about 4 hours. Make sure to skim off and discard the foam as it collects on the surface.

I strain my stock through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve. Store in deli containers in the freezer for use whenever needed.

With the proliferation of kale and other hearty leafy greens popping up from our local farmers, I have been chopping and tossing those greens in near the end of the soup making process.

Our new house is perfect. It’s exactly the amount of space we needed and in a great area, that is up-and-coming. I finally have a dedicated office to house my books, Pistol Whipped Pastry gear, and all the great photography gear & props I have been collecting.

I am loving the blank slate that is before me, daydreaming up how I want to decorate. I have already procured some paint samples, and have a pinterest board full of creative DIY ideas of how I want to organize and create my perfect workspace.

Over the next month I will be working on putting together my office space, and sharing it with you here. The challenge I am facing is the need for a lot of storage, but I don’t want it to look like I work in a storage room or a closet. With a growing collection of cookbooks and vintage cake stands, I want to be able to display them, but not feel overwhelmed in the small space.

OfficeBefore

I guess it’s time to open a bottle of wine and start painting the walls. Do people have such things as painting parties? Hmmm…

Seasons of Change or Change of Seasons

The past few months have been busy. The past few weeks have been insane! My latest and greatest news is that Pistol Whipped Pastry, my pastry business, is up and running!

website

 

We are generating interest and picking up some great clients, plus placing PWP products on the shelves at some fabulous local stores. PWP is looking at getting into some of the farmers markets soon. I will keep you updated on where you can grab some tasty PWP treats, and we hope to see you there.

PWPcollage

 

Mr. P.C. and I are in full wedding swing. That means eating better, which isn’t hard to do with all the gorgeous veg and fruit coming up at the farmers markets. I sat by the open window this weekend, and ate a pound of strawberries. The ruby strawberries were intended for a tart (err, eating better means fruit on your tart, right?), but once I bit into one, I knew they wouldn’t make it to my pastry.

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I have more strawberries coming this week, but this time, I will attempt to resist, so that PWP strawberry jam doesn’t suffer.

Are you enjoying the strawberries coming in? How are you eating them?

 

A Birthday and a Tart

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I turned 30 this month. When I confessed my hesitance for this birthday, most of my friends rolled their eyes and told me how much better my 30’s would be. “But I thought I’d have done more at this point in my life,” I whined. They’d shake their heads and sip their drinks.

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I couldn’t ask for better friends, who have shown me love all month long, and helped me celebrate a big moment in my life. Dinners and drinks, laughs and putting all the big dreams I have for this year out to others, letting them help boost them up with positivity.

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For my actual birthday dinner, I wanted to do all family dishes, that meant something to me. There was genuine love and multiple helpings. At the end of the day, comfort food, comforts all. My friends appreciated the love and the generational hands that passed the knowledge down.

It was simple entertaining: mason jars filled with candles, rustic rounds of sourdough kneaded by my hands, family recipe for saccarine pickles, a small pot of my clementine marmalade, overflowing bowls of cinnamon bourbon pecans, a multitude of cheese, the family sauce with bison meatballs, spicy salmon, roasted veg, our now 4th generation family cake called ‘mush cake,’ and cake plates overflowing with my cupcakes.

Wine filled glasses, cupcake wrappers and crumbs litter plates and napkins, while conversation filled the empty spaces. An obscene number of wine bottles start to line the counter.

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This month, I’ve been working on a few new projects complete with new recipes, and in doing so, feeding myself some delicious food (think about the 3 rounds of sourdough now sitting on my counter, goodbye waistline!). One of the recipes I’ve been tweaking and falling in love with are these apple tarts. The crumble sprinkled on top is hearty, and after a day of pinches each time I passed the prep table, I was in need of another batch. Whoops!

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The apples are Arkansas Blacks from the farmers market and they are perfect for these tarts. The texture reminds me a bit of a McIntosh, and the skin is a deep purple, that is almost black. Topped off with crumble and some creme fraiche swirled with maple syrup. A last taste of fall here in the desert as we slip into spring. I eat the test tarts warm from the oven, straight off the sheet pan.

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All-in-all, a great birthday month. Happy Birthday to my fellow, Aquarians! I hope you enjoy these tarts as much as I do.

**Update: I just got the okay to release some good news, right before I was about to hit send on this post. I will be a Season 6 Blogger on Molly Mahar’s fabulous site Stratejoy, with 6 other amazing women!

Please check us out soon, over on Stratejoy.

Print

Apple Tarts with Crumble and Maple Creme Fraiche

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

    Crumble:

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Sugar, Light Brown
4 oz. Butter, Unsalted, Cold and Cut into Cubes
1/2 tsp Sea Salt, Fine
1/2 tsp. Fall Spice
1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 cup Whole Flax Seeds

    Apple Tarts:

For the pie dough:
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Sugar, Granulated
1 tsp. Sea Salt, Fine
1 cup Butter, Unsalted, Cold and Cut into Cubes
3/4 cup - 1 cup Water, Ice Cold
1/2 each Zest of Citrus

    For the assembly of Apple Tarts:

3-4 Apples (Your choice!)
3-4 oz Butter, Unsalted, Browned
Fall spice mixed with Sugar, Granulated

    To serve:

Creme Fraiche
Good Maple Syrup

Directions:

    Crumble:

Place flour, sugar, butter, salt, fall spice and ginger into a food processor. Pulse till combined. Dump onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan. Mix in the whole flax seeds. Bake at 375 degrees, flipping with a spatula, every 5-6 minutes till golden brown (roughly around 15-20 minutes).

    Apple Tarts:

Place the AP and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, citrus zest and butter into the food processor. Pulse till butter is incorporated and about pea-sized. Slowly add the water till the dough comes together. Don't over process, you don't want to build too much gluten. Place in a ziploc bag or plastic wrap and allow to rest/chill in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out and using a larger bowl or plate as a stencil, cut a circle out. If the dough gets too soft, place it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.
Place first dough round on a parchment lined sheet pan. Paint a little brown butter onto the round (not too much, you don't want it pooling). Sprinkle some of the fall spice-sugar mixture on the round.
Slice the apples. I like to cut in half and remove the core, then slice each half. I do thin slices so that they will bend as I arrange them in the tart.

I layer a few apples on the bottom, in the center of the dough round, then fold the edges of the dough around/up to create a shell.
To create my apple layers: I place down apples, a brushing of brown butter, and then sprinkle fall spice-sugar. After I have folded the edges of the dough up, I brush them with some brown butter and sprinkle with fall spice-sugar. I then try to almost create a flower with the apple halves, off-setting the overlapping halves. I still continue to do the layering with the apple slices, brown butter, and fall spice-sugar.

Continue assembling the rest of the tarts, and make sure to do the assembly on the parchment lined sheet pan, so that you don't have to move your tarts after they are assembled.
Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is golden brown.

To assemble:
Sprinkle warm apple tarts with crumble, and drizzle with maple swirled creme fraiche. Stuff yourself with apple goodness.

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