Hostess Gifts and Mini Apple Pies
Tis the season for holiday parties. When making plans to attend one, consider bringing a hostess gift. This tradition seems to be quickly becoming a thing of the past, but I want to encourage people to keep this old fashioned tradition alive.
Years ago I found this book Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Guide to Etiquette (copyright 1952), at a garage sale. Amy suggests:
“throughout the year, if you go often, take an occasional gift. This gift need never be elaborate or expensive. In fact, if it is obviously beyond your means it will embarrass everyone.”
She goes on to make several suggestions, such as flowers, plants for the garden, chocolates, specialty wine, gourmet foods, an apron, stationary (people actually wrote things called “letters” in those days), ash trays (remember it was the 50’s!), or a “gay book of matches in quantity, with the covers initialed”. I read this book just for kicks when I have the time. :)
Anything goes when it comes to these little treasures, but some more up-to-date suggestions are locally grown anything (honey, fruits, nuts, cheeses), a bottle of homemade jam or something you’ve canned, a plant cutting you’ve started, coffees or teas with mugs, soaps or compact sized skin products, candles….the list is literally endless. Just wrap it up pretty and it’s sure to be appreciated.
This year I hosted our family Thanksgiving feast and was thrilled to receive a gift basket containing a variety of pretty seasonal fruits. Another basket was filled with local goodies like speciality garlic olive oil, kiwi lemon jam, homemade cranberry bread, and apple butter, all locally produced from the area where our guests lived. What a thoughtful way to express thanks for opening my home for the holidays!
These beautiful pink apples were in the fruit basket, and I decided to turn them into apple pie for my devotion/dessert time before rehearsal with my music team. You may not think it’s possible to make dessert for 8 people with just 3 apples, but I’m going to show you how to do it- with leftovers!
Knowing I had so little fruit to work with, I decided to make miniature hand pies, so a smaller amount of fruit would stretch a long way. I started by peeling and chopping the apples into small bite sized chunks. To this I added a scoop (about 1/4 cup packed) of brown sugar, plus some shakes of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Go easy on the last two, but use the cinnamon liberally. I also added a couple spoonfuls (teaspoons) or flour to thicken.
Because this is a “quick” recipe, I used these pre-made pie crusts. Just unroll and bake like the label says! You may balk at my not making homemade pie crust, but I’m here to tell you these taste a whole lot better than anything I’ve made from scratch and they’re so much easier. I’ve been asked more than once for my pie crust recipe! For some reason I just have never mastered rolling out the perfect pie dough. Actually I know the reason… I’ve just never spent time practicing.
Since these are mini’s, I cut each dough round into four sections, giving me 8 pies.
I placed a scoop of apples a little to one side of each piece.
Then folded it over, covering the fruit.
At first I tried crimping the edges, but it didn’t look that nice.
So I did the rest with fork tines, sealing the edges. Believe it or not, I actually had enough leftover apple mixture to make a couple more if I had wanted them.
I cut a small slit at the top of each mini pie for venting, placed them all on parchment paper, brushed them with an egg white, and sprinkled raw sugar on top for a pretty sparkle. Then I baked them at 350 for about 20 minutes.
They turned a nice golden brown on top, and the small apple chunks cooked quickly into soft, thick bubbling sweetness. After cooling I packed them into my trusty Longerberger cake basket in two layers and took them to rehearsal, safe and sound.
The best part was that they made my entire car smell like apple pie! They were also a real hit with the team. You really can make dessert for 8 with 3 apples!
Recipe: Chicken Hand Pies
I am so ready for fall and cooler weather! This recipe screams it and is the ultimate comfort food for me. Find all information on this recipe at sophistimom.
Chicken Hand Pies
- 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 14 ounce (400mL) can low sodium chicken stock
- 1 bouillon cube (I actually prefer Better than Bouillon–just use a tablespoon)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- pastry dough (recipe follows)
- 1 egg, plus a teaspoon of water, beaten
1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes are tender to the point of a knife. Drain and set aside. While the potatoes cook, set a large skillet over medium low heat and add in the olive oil, onion, celery, and carrots. Cook until onions are very tender, about 12-15 minutes.
2. Melt butter into the mixture and stir in flour. Let cook for 2 minutes or so, just to let the flour taste cook out. Pour in about half of the can of chicken stock. Add the bouillon and potatoes. Let simmer a few minutes and taste for flavor. Add salt and pepper if needed. Add in chicken and simmer until cooked through. The mixture should be thick, but not too dry. Add more chicken stock until you achieve the desired consistency (I used the whole can). Store mixture in refrigerator until ready to use (the pies are easier to make if the filling is cold).
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (220 degrees celsius). Place a piece of parchment paper in a baking sheet and set aside. Roll out the pastry dough on a floured board into an 18×22 inch rectangle (don’t measure! just guess). Cut in half, and then cut each half in thirds, to make 6 equal smaller rectangles.
4. Spoon 1/4 cup (about 4 tablespoons) of the chicken mixture onto one of the rectangles of dough, placing it slightly off center. Wet the edges of the dough with a pastry brush and water, and fold the longer end of the pastry up and over the filling. Press the dough down to seal it, and then crimp with the edges of a fork. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Make two incisions in the top of the pastry with a sharp knife, and brush with the beaten egg and water. Repeat with remaining 5 pastries. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed.
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1 stick (112g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1/3 cup ice cold water
1. In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add in the butter, and pulse a few times until the mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse meal. Combine the egg and water in a container (remove all ice pieces). While the processor is running, pour the water/egg mixture in and pulse until mixture just comes together.
2. Pour mixture out onto a floured board and knead a few times to bring all the ingredients together. Dough can be rolled out immediately, or it can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.