Pumpkin Pie

In which we all sit around and eat fruit pie together.

It was Thanksgiving a long, long time ago.  DSCN3247There was the Thanksgiving where my brother-in-law’s friend discovered the song “Alice’s Restaurant.”  I think every time he opened his mouth for that visit, the first word that came out was “Kid…”.  If you know the song, you’ll know how this was said.  If you don’t, I suggest looking it up.

There was the Thanksgiving when my brother’s brought a friend home from college.  Throughout the meal, he was very quiet until we got dessert.  Suddenly, in a loud voice he exclaimed “This is really nice…(pause).  All of us sitting around…(pause).  Eating fruit pie together.” It was so unexpected and prompted questions about whether or not this was normal.  For us, it most definitely was. DSCN3221For me, Thanksgiving has always been a pie holiday.  Sure, there may be other desserts, but they don’t count the same way pie does.  March 14th seems like less of a pie holiday than Thanksgiving.  It’s tradition to leave the table, stomach groaning only to be lured back by someone bringing out the pie.

In my family, we always used fresh whipped cream to top the pie.  Lightly sweetened, perhaps with some vanilla in it, sometimes a little spiked.  DSCN3343It took a me a long time to appreciate pumpkin pie.  It always smelled so good and I loved all the flavors (despite my rant against pumpkin pie spice when it was apple season), but the texture was never my thing.  It was too soft, too slimy, too spongy, something.  I knew that I was bucking tradition by not eating it, but my mom made such wonderful other pies.  I have fond memories of a black bottomed pecan pie.

Had I not had a kid that loves pumpkin pie more than anything, I might’ve continued to have my pie holiday not including the classic.  Since being a mom I’ve made at least one pumpkin pie a year, it’s always been eaten.  There came a time when I couldn’t resist the smells and I started to take just one bite of someone else’s pie because I just needed those flavors in my mouth.  I’m now up to eating a whole small slice by myself.  DSCN3249This recipe for pumpkin pie is my go to.  I found it in my great-grandma’s box of recipes and included it in the book I made for my grandma.  It makes a heavily spiced thin pie filling.

Pumpkin Pie
For 2 pies

1 cup sugar
2 TB flour
2 eggs
2 cups pumpkin
1 TB cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp ginger

(Because a list of ingredients isn’t an actual recipe for most people, mix all of the ingredients together, add about a cup and a half of milk. Pour the filling into a pie crust and bake at around 375 for about 50 minutes or until set.)



Champion Apple Pie

In which I have a very sweet helper.

Champion Apple Pie is as American as Rocky…

We are the Champions…of Apple Pie.

Since I have already admitted my struggles with pie crust, I could brag about the champion I am for successfully recreating this apple pie, but I won’t.  Because truthfully, the pie crust was nearly the undoing of me.  You may notice that this pie crust is exactly the same pie crust as the pie crust I used for the Cherry Meringue Pie, with one exception.  It uses lard instead of butter.  I don’t know why this made everything so flippin’ difficult.  Maybe it was because I made it on a different day, maybe my cup of lard was a little short.  Maybe one of the tablespoons of milk wasn’t completely full.  (I sort of feel like I’m reciting my own personal “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”) For whatever reason, my pie crust was dry.  When I tried to roll it out, it crumbled.  The edges cracked and split.  I knew how to troubleshoot, of course, but I still got mad.  I added a bit of extra water and it ended up smooth.  It’s not that I don’t know what to do to fix it, it’s that I just can’t seem to get to the point where I can enjoy the process. DSCN3243I think I compare myself to my mom.  She always makes beautiful pie crusts.

Despite my irritation at the pie crust, I remember that when I was young, my mom used to let me crimp the pie crust.  She showed me multiple ways to make a beautiful decorative edge by pinching, by spreading my fingers and poking another finger between them, by using a fork to create a criss-cross pattern.  But the most important part was that she actually let me help.  So I got over myself and when my darling little daughter came over and wanted to help, I spread my fingers out on the edge of the pie crust and helped guide her little finger in between mine to create a fluted edge.  DSCN3246It’s that moment that made this more of a champion apple pie than the fact that I was able to solve my pie crust issues.

Speaking of cheese…I did take a slice of cheddar and melt it over a leftover slab of this pie.  Delicious.DSCN3241Atypically, this pie does not call for any pie spices.  Not a drop of cinnamon in the whole thing.  It is still delicious.  Maybe it’s because I picked the apples myself and froze them.  Maybe because the recipe won some award or other.  But I’m guessing it has a lot to do with those sweet little fingers poking through mine to create the gorgeous crust.Champion Apple Pie


Cherry Meringue Pie

In which I prove why George Washington would NOT have cut down a cherry tree.

After teasing my family and friends with tantalizing photos of pie for Thanksgiving and because I am in a generous mood, I decided I would share my pie recipes this week.  Some of you will have seen this picture:  Thanksgiving PiesThe cherry meringue pie is the one on the top.  It is one of the best pies I’ve ever put into my mouth.  I feel like there should be some sort of fanfare before I give you the recipe for this fantastic thing.

The first thing you need to do to make this pie is really get in the right frame of mind.  I do this by waking myself up at 2 AM on Tuesday in a panic realizing that if I want pie for Thursday afternoon, I better get to the grocery store when I get home from work and spend Tuesday evening making pie crusts because I need to spend Wednesday evening and Thursday morning making pies if I want to serve pie for dessert on Thanksgiving.

I have a love/hate relationship with making pie crust.  I discussed my flaws in pastry crust with a friend of mine that used to be be a pastry chef.  She suggested that perhaps my issue was that I was trying to roll the dough when it was too cold.  I let it warm up a bit this time and had pretty good luck rolling things out this time.  The edges still cracked more than I liked and I had to do some repair work, but overall, once I talked myself into actually making the pies, the crust turned out beautifully.Pie Crust (2)I just made this pie crust in my food processor.  I didn’t feel like getting my hands in it.  Not that it really mattered because by the time I got everything kneaded and in the fridge, my hands were covered in dough anyway.

For the record, you really can make this pie in one day.  You can even make it in a couple of hours if you use a pre-made crust and your cherries aren’t frozen in a block of 8 cups.  I just do things the hard way. DSCN3345.JPG

I had some issues getting decent pictures of the finished product on a plate.  There were hungry mouths and whiskey slush involved.

Use tart cherries for this.  It provides a nice contrast to the meringue.  The meringue is cooked all the way through.  Think schaumtorte instead of lemon meringue.  It has a slightly sweet delicate crispness.

We ended up having some leftovers, but only because there were 2 other pies and a cake to choose from for dessert.  The boys opted to eat leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast, so when my friends came over after Black Friday shopping, there was still enough for them to try it.  My neighbor also got a small piece.

The pie is so good, it’s totally worth all the self-created drama it took to make it.  Actually, the filling and the meringue are totally simple to make.  If it wasn’t for my pie crust paralysis, I might make this until all my cherries are gone.  Maybe my relationship with pie crust will improve and it will seem like less effort to create this little bit of perfection.

Cherry Meringue Pie

1 cup cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cup juice
1 TB cornstarch

Make meringue with whites of 2 eggs, ½ cup sugar.  Put on top to bake with pie.  Bake in a slow oven one hour. (A slow oven is between 300 and 325, I used 325 for the first 45 minutes or so and turned it down to 300 because I didn’t want to give my crust too much color.)

Mama’s Apple Pecan Pie

In which I bake a pie.

Nicholas requested an Apple Pecan pie for his birthday.  At first it was a pumpkin, apple, pecan pie, or pumpkin pecan.  I started suspecting him of just throwing things out there to see what he could get away with asking.  Finally he settled on Apple Pecan.  He had also requested chicken pot pie as an entree.  That kid loves pie so much we call him 3.14.  (not really).

He also loves his birthday.  He starts getting excited about a month before.  He counts down and after we get through Caroline’s birthday, he is nearly intolerable until his is over.  I use the opportunity to relay his birth story to him.  The day before I start out with “x number of years ago, I woke up at 6 AM and was sure that I was having a baby that day.  I knew it could be a while so I went into work about 45 minutes away from home.”  Around 10 AM, I tell him that my friends at work convinced me to go to the hospital.  Throughout the day I update him on what was happening.  I tell him about making dinner (black bean and corn pasta salad) and going to watch the Elvis impersonator up the street.  I tell him how we went and hung out with some of our friends, during all of which I was contracting.  I tell him how at around 10 PM we finally got to the hospital and then relay all of the events up to the emergency C-section the next morning (so much for my knowing that he was going to be born the morning before) and my first impressions of him. He loves the story almost as much as he loves pie.DSCN2726To make this pie I used a pie crust leftover from when I made Shrimp and Olive Pie.  The recipe said the No-Fail Pie crust was good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so planning ahead (or laziness in not making another pie during that time period) meant I had pie crust ready to go.  The apples on the trees were ripe, so that was taken care of.  I assembled the pie without any problems.  It’s easy.  However, I did have a bit of a problem when it came to baking the pie.  The recipe says to bake until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.  That never happened.

I had just enough time to bake the pie for the recommended amount of time before our friends came over and we went to an escape room.  But the pie was still unset in the middle.  I turned the oven off and figured that the heat may continue to cook the pie without burning it and that perhaps when we got home, it would be done.  I tested it when we got home, but the knife didn’t come out clean.  I restarted the oven, put foil around the crust so it wouldn’t burn, and baked it longer.  The middle of the pie looked set, but the knife still had stuff on it when I stuck it into the pie.

I didn’t have time or ingredients to make another pie and I didn’t want to ruin Nick’s birthday, so I evaluated the entire situation and came to the conclusion that the pie was actually done, the eggs were cooked, it was fine.  The knife was never going to come out clean, despite the pie being done.  The crust was darker than I would’ve liked, the edges were more caramelized than I would’ve liked, but whipped cream hides a multitude of sins.  DSCN2729This pie was incredible.  It had all of the richness of pecan pie with a slightly oozy texture.  The tartness of the apples cut through it just enough.  The leftovers would have easily been gobbled up, but Nicholas wanted to share a slice with his dad.  I don’t exactly understand how the mix-up happened, but his dad ended up with close to half a pie which he declared to be fantastic.

This recipe is one to hang onto.  Mama's Apple Pecan Pie

Birthday Edition: Shrimp and Olive Pie

In which I invent a recipe to make sure the birthday girl gets exactly what she wants.

You asked for it and here it is.

Eating dinner the other night, we asked the kids what they would like to eat for their birthdays.  This year, I was going to be making them whatever they wanted instead of going out for it.  We discussed the merits of this favorite dish and that one.  Nicholas mentioned having a pie birthday.  Nothing but different types of pie all day long.  Including chicken pot pie, apple pie, and pizza pie.  Miles wants red beans and rice.  Caroline’s favorite foods are shrimp and olives, but she thought having pie seemed like a really good idea, so jokingly I suggested she have shrimp and olive pie.

I should’ve realized that she was going to latch onto the idea and not let it go.  It’s the sort of girl she is.  The problem is, I don’t know that I have ever heard of shrimp and olive pie.  I threw those exact words into Google, hoping there would be a brilliant recipe.  There wasn’t.  I asked some friends and relatives and mostly got “ew” as an answer with a few helpful suggestions.  It was edging nearer and nearer to the date and I still hadn’t had a brilliant inspiring flash as to how this was going to work.  Even more so, one brother declared he hated shrimp, one brother hates olives, John is not a fan of olives, but I wasn’t planning on cooking more than one meal.  I just don’t do that.

One day, while in the shower, washing my hair, I had the brilliant realization that Mediterranean cuisine had to include shrimp and olives.  Right?  I consulted my Mediterranean cookbook for confirmation.  I didn’t look up pie recipes, just recipes that used both shrimp and olives.  I found nothing.  I found fish recipes that used olives.  Seafood is seafood, right?  But at least now I had an idea.

I could see it all in a tomato based sauce, except I don’t think the kids would appreciate that.  So I re-evaluated, again.

I was stuck on the idea of a potpie.  I found a recipe in Great-Grandma’s book for Never Fail Pie Crust.  It’s exactly what I needed because I can make pie crust that tastes delicious, but always have trouble rolling it out.  Every pie I make has a patchwork crust. I made the pie crust.  It was easy.  I divided it into 4 pieces and threw them in the fridge.  I didn’t think it was going to win me points on the Great British Baking show, but it seemed to be a pretty decent pie crust.  Malleable, decent texture, you know, the stuff you look for in a pie crust.  I could immediately tell that it would be much easier to roll out than other pie crust.  As long as I floured my counter and rolling pin properly, it didn’t seem like this was going to be a terrible mess.

Now I was just down to the filling.  I started with some onions because onions go into these sorts of things.  I chopped them up and started sauteing them as I contemplated the contents of my fridge and freezer.  I found a bag of frozen vegetables from Trader Joe’s.  Misto Alla Griglia.  It was a mixture of marinated and grilled eggplant, red peppers, and zucchini.  I had been contemplating just putting some random herbs from the garden into the pie, but this made it much easier.  I chopped those up into bitty pieces and threw them in with the onions.  When that was all nice and the onions were tender, I threw in some flour and stirred.  I added a generous splash or 6 of white wine, a bit more butter and realized that I hadn’t added the olives. I was wondering if it was a good idea to just chop them up and add them to the crust, but realized the birthday girl would not recognize them as olives, so I threw big pieces into the sauce.  I added some milk to make everything creamy, added my shrimp, threw it all in the pie crust, put the top crust on after rolling out with some Romano cheese (inspired by Beverly Goldberg’s Shrimp Parm) and baked until it looked done.


I don’t have an exact recipe for anything except the pie crust.  It’s just not the way I cook.

The question is then, is this good?  Should I try this at home?  Yes, please do.  I was the only one that ate leftovers.  The crust didn’t microwave well, but as a concept this worked out really well.  Despite everyone claiming to dislike one or more of the ingredients in the dish, everyone ate it without complaining.  I could easily see it made more like any British fish pie recipe with some peas and thyme.  I recommend not using pre-cooked shrimp because it overcooks during the length of time it needs to be in the oven.

Never Fail Pie Crust

Mix together in a large bowl:
4 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
1 T sugar
1 1/2 cup lard or shortening

Mix well, then add:
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup of cold water
1 T vinegar

Blend well, roll out.  Makes 4 single crusts or 2 double crusts.  Keeps 2  weeks in refrigerator.