Monday, May 16, 2011

Continuous effort is the key to unlocking our potential

“The term “latchkey kid” refers to unsupervised youngsters who care for themselves before or after school, on weekends, and during holidays while their parents work. They commonly carry house keys to let themselves in and out of their homes.”

I was a latchkey kid.   I had a single working mother who didn’t get home for hours after I got home from school; leaving me to fend for myself much of the time.  I learned at a relatively young age to take care of myself.  Being forced, as a young kid, to have responsibilities and be responsible for myself wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I did my own laundry, made most of my own meals and did chores around the house . . . all unsupervised.  I may have been bored at times but I don’t ever remember being lonely.  I could very well amuse myself . . . and this was well before computers and video games, too.  Amazing, huh?

One thing I did more often than I care to admit was to forget or misplace my house key.  Keep in mind that I lived in a very rural part of Pennsylvania, which means that going to a friend’s house until my mom got home wasn’t a viable alternative.  This was also before cell phones.  So that meant that I had to find a way into the house or be stuck outside for hours.  I was a little kid not a mailman, so I didn’t do the rain or snow or dark of night thing. 

You’d think I would have thought to hide the key somewhere on the property . . . that would have been the smart thing to do.  We lived on over an acre of land on the top of a mountain . . . there was no shortage of places to stash a key.  

Too often, I’d get off the school bus and realize that I didn’t have my key.  If I was lucky someone would have forgotten to lock a door or a window and I would be able to get inside . . . no fuss, no muss.  I was unlucky more often than not.  Somehow I figured out that if I jiggled one of the basement windows the latch on the lock would eventually disengage and I’d be able to open the window and slide in.  That’s how I usually got in.  There was one time that the lock wouldn’t budge . . . no matter how hard I tried.  I remember it was cold and raining that day so staying outside wasn’t an option.  I had to get inside.  I started to panic and began to push on the window with my feet . . . it didn’t occur to me that I’d probably break the glass . . . which, of course, is exactly what happened.  

I unlocked the window from the outside and slid inside onto the glass strewn workbench that was under the window.    I didn't know what to do, but one thing I wasn't about to do was tell my mom.  I would have been punished for forgetting my key . . . again . . . and I probably would have gotten a spanking for breaking the window.  So, with a great sense of self preservation, I didn't tell.  It was easily several months later . . . well into the summer . . . before she noticed.  She never suspected me and I’m pretty sure this is the first I've ever spoken of it.  Thankfully, she doesn't read my blog . . . I think she still might give me a spanking if she found out.


Beef Pot Pie

I use this soup recipe as a base for my stew. After I package and freeze most of the soup, I add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and peas.

To thicken the broth: make a slurry of cold water and flour – 1 cup water to 2 tbsp four. Stir in the slurry and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer until thickened.

Prepare your pie crust using the recipe below.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Line a 9 inch pie plate with one of the pie crusts. 

Place the beef mixture into the pie crust and then cover with the other pie crust. 

Bake in a preheated oven until the crust is golden brown; about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl; stir to mix. Add butter and mix until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough doesn't hold together, add a little more water and mix again.

Remove dough from the bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.

Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.

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