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Monday, December 27, 2010

Mourning my broken oven

I like baking.  That's why I have this baking/pie blog.  So it was a sad day a month ago when my oven refused to get hot.  My husband tried to fix it but it seems to have a bigger problem than he originally diagnosed, and now I have to wait for him to find time to dig into the oven and figure out how to get me back to baking.  It never really felt like Christmas when I couldn't bake any pies or the cookies we usually have.  I'm still in withdrawal.

My favorite kind of cooking next to baking is wok cooking.  So, since I can't bake I got the wok out and enjoyed making this dish for my family.

This recipe comes from a Weight Watchers cook book called "Take-Out Tonight!"  My family really likes it, try it and see what you think:

Spicy Orange Beef with Vegetables

3/4 pound beef top round, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup orange juice (fresh is best)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 pound fresh green beans, halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 carrot, cut into matchstick thin strips

  • Combine the beef, 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch, and the orange rind in a medium bowl; toss well to coat and set aside.  Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, the broth, the orange juice, soy sauce, sugar, and chili-garlic sauce or crushed red pepper in a small bowl; set aside.
  • Heat a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Swirl in two teaspoons of the canola oil, then add the beef.  Stir-fry until cooked through, 2-3 minutes; transfer to a plate.  Swirl the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, then add the ginger.  Stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds.  Add the green beans, red pepper and carrot.  Stir-fry until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the broth mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 1 minute.  Add the beef and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
  • Serve over hot cooked rice.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Comfort food - Butterscotch Pie

One Sunday we had the urge to have friends over for pie, so I scoured the pantry looking for ideas.  Since this was an unplanned pie occasion I didn't have anything special on hand but I did have all the staples.  Since I had some brown sugar I thought it would be fun to try a butterscotch pie.    This pie was sweet, smooth and rich, just right for a cold winter day.  My 9 year-old son was especially fond of this one, and gave it several "thumbs up".

Butterscotch Pie

9" baked pie crust

3/4 packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2-3/4 cup milk
3 egg  yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sweetened whipped cream

  • Combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan.  Whisk in the milk and egg yolks and cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken and boil.  Boil and stir for one minute.  
  • Remove from heat and whick in the butter a teaspoon at a time, and the vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.  
  • Pour the filling into the pie shell and smooth the top with a spoon.  Press a piece of plastic wrap over the filling to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate for at least several hours.
  • Top with sweetened whipped cream.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall is here and so is pumpkin pie

My brother sent me a link to a pumpkin pie recipe at the King Arthur Flour website, and when I looked at the recipe it looked so great that I had to give it a try.  There is a distinct possibility that this one will make it into the repertoire for Thanksgiving this year.
My husband didn't even try this pie, preferring to stick with the "regular" pumpkin pie I made instead. (He's not exactly the adventurous type when it comes to food).  Our more daring friends Mary and Curtis came over to give this new pie a try, and they gave it a thumbs up.  My son Ryan loved it too.  I thought it was delicious, and even better for breakfast the next day! King Arthur also gives a pie crust recipe with this recipe, but I used my normal pastry.  I really don't like the more "bready" pie crust that comes from using stuff like baking powder and vinegar in it.  Other than that, this is a great recipe!  Here's a link for Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Apple Blueberry Pie

A couple of weeks ago I decided to enter a pie in a pie contest at the Gardener's Market, just for fun.  It was advertised that it would be judged by "local pie lovers".  So I made a nice peach pie and took it on over.  It was fun to browse the market while waiting for the judging, and my children got to make some Halloween crafts.  Now, I didn't enter the contest because I was hell-bent on winning - which is a good thing because my pie won third prize.  But the funny thing was that the "pie" that won was a pumpkin cake which one judge said "tastes just like pumpkin pie".  You would think that "pie lovers" would know the difference between pie and something that "tastes like" pie, so that was funny.

We ran into our friends Jim and Eleanor at the market, and Jim tasted my pie.  He was kind enough to praise it, so the next day I made a pie for our families to share.  People who appreciate good pie are the ones most likely to get more of it!

I had some apples on hand, and remembered the blueberries in my freezer, so Jim and Eleanor got to try my first Apple Blueberry Pie. We all loved it with ice cream.  Here's the recipe:

Apple Blueberry Pie

1 double crust pastry dough
5 cups peeled and sliced apples
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Roll out half of pastry dough and line deep dish pie pan.
  • Mix together apples, half of the blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice.
  • Pour into pastry lined pie pan.
  • Sprinkle remaining blueberries on top.
  • Roll out remaining pastry and place on top of pie.  A lattice top is pretty on this pie.
  • Bake for 25 minutes.
  • Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees.
  • Bake an additional 40 minutes.
  • Let cool for an hour before slicing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


These are my husband's favorite cookies.  When I was a stay at home mom with a bunch of little kids, I actually baked these for him on a semi-regular basis.  They are fast and easy, the ingredients are always on hand, and kids love to help form the balls of dough and roll them in cinnamon-sugar.  The last few years my man has had a bit of a Snickerdoodle famine.  Once in a while he gets lucky when his darling daughter gets the urge to bake, but I have not provided him with a regular supply of his favorites for a long time.  Today I didn't have to go to work, and the changing leaves on the mountains outside my window put me in a fall-ish baking mood.  My husband has been out of town a lot lately too, so these make a pretty good welcome home.  The start aligned just right for me to bake Snickerdoodles and I can't wait to hand these over to him tonight!  Try these out:


1 -1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2- 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat 1-1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening and eggs with electric mixer.  Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

Shape dough into balls.  Mix 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.  Roll balls of dough in cinnamon-sugar.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet (I prefer stoneware cookie sheets).

Bake 10 minutes if using metal cookie sheets, 12 minutes if using stoneware.  Cookies should be slightly puffed and mostly set.  Don't overcook these or they'll end up hard and dry.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fresh, juicy, tree-ripened....Peaches!

Shortly after we built our house ten years ago, I bought a little peach tree and had my husband plant it in the corner of the back yard.  I had heard on a radio gardening show that peaches don't fare well in the extreme winters we have in the far north of Utah, but I love peaches so much that I wanted to try anyway.  Until last year the little tree never produced more than a handful of peaches (but they were always juicy and delicious).  Last summer we got quite a few, but grasshoppers and wasps attacked them before we got many.  But this year.....THIS year was THE year for my little tree!  The branches were so overburdened with fruit that they bowed all the way to the ground.  My 8 year-old son picked some peaches one Saturday, a few days later I picked more, and the tree was still covered. Since birds ate all the fruit off my pie cherry tree and neighbor kids took all the apples off my two dwarf trees I had to make the most of the peaches!

So, I canned peaches and made peach jam for the very first time.  It was time consuming, but I'm proud of those lovely jars.

I still had lots of peaches, which I used to make two fresh peach pies.  There are lots of fresh peach pie recipes out there that use Jello or other artificial ingredients.  Those may be okay if you're using peaches that are less then perfect.  But for juicy peaches that came straight off the tree that isn't good enough.  I used an all natural recipe that really takes advantage of the ripe peach flavor.  The only thing is, you'll want to serve this pie the day it's made.  Otherwise the juicy peaches cause the filling to break down and it can get a little soggy by the next day.  Don't worry, you might want to eat the whole thing by yourself.

Fresh Peach Pie

1 baked pie crust (I used a deep dish pan in order to enjoy more peaches per piece!)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cups peaches, pureed (I used a potato masher.  If you have a food processor you can use that)
1 teaspoon almond extract
Peeled and sliced fresh peaches - the amount depends on the size of your pie pans.  For a 9 inch pie you'll need about 5 cups
2 cups whipping cream, whipped and sweetened

Combine the sugar, water, cornstarch, butter and pureed peaches in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil until thick, about two minutes.  Cool completely.

Add almond extract.  Stir in the sliced peaches, then pour into the baked pie crust.  Top with the fresh whipped cream and refrigerate just until the pie is chilled.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Baking is my therapy

When I started this blog I had big plans to bake a new and different pie every week. I forgot that I have a life with a husband, seven children, parents, siblings, a grandson and paid employment.  Not to mention other hobbies and interests.  So, the pie a week goal hasn't happened consistently.  But I'm trying.  I do get a lot of enjoyment out of baking - whether it's pie or cookies or bread.  Turning some flour and miscellaneous other ingredients into a thing of beauty and deliciousness is really satisfying.  I'm glad my mother gave me the freedom and confidence to play in the kitchen and start learning cooking and baking, and I'm glad my husband and children have been willing to try anything I baked over the years.  I also have great friends and neighbors who have willingly eaten my baking efforts.  Now fall is creeping on and I'm getting excited about baking again.  I've also cut back from working full-time to working half-time, so hopefully I'll have a little more time to play in the kitchen.  In addition to more pies I want to bake bread more often.  What else should I try out this fall and winter?

Peaches off the tree in my yard will be made into a pie or two soon!  I'll show you the results and share the recipe.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Champagne Grape Pie

Belonging to a produce co-op has given us the opportunity to save money on fresh fruits and veggies while we also increase the amount of these foods that we eat, but the best part is that we have received foods that we probably would not have tried otherwise.  It's so easy to get into a rut with fruits and vegetables, always eating the same old thing. We've also had chances to try new varieties of the standard foods we've always bought - this week it was a kind of grape we've never had: "Champagne Grapes".  Oh my goodness, these things are DELICIOUS!

I usually suspect smallish grapes of being overly tart, but that is definitely not the case with Champagne grapes.  They are smaller than the grapes we usually eat, perhaps the size of beads or pearls, but they are also sweeter than the grapes we normally find in the supermarket.

This weekend we decided to invite our neighbor Kim over for a visit since her husband was out on the road driving truck.  I got out a pie cookbook to look for ideas using whatever I had on hand, and was surprised to find a recipe for Champagne Grape Pie!  Naturally, I had to try this one out.  The recipe is from the book Pie by Ken Haedrich.

I have simplified this recipe a little, because in the cookbook he goes through all sorts of steps about chilling the pie dough and freezing the pie shell and stuff like that which I never do and do not find necessary.  My pie crust is nice and tender and flaky without going through all that foolishness, so I don't see any point in typing all that up.  If you're gentle with your pastry dough you don't need all those extra steps.  Here's my easier version of the recipe.


1 recipe double crust pastry
4 cups champagne grapes, stemmed
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
coarse or sanding sugar

  • Combine the grapes, sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl.  Mix well and set aside to juice.
  • Prepare pastry and roll out half.  Line a standard 9-inch pie pan with the pastry.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Stir the cornstarch into the filling, then turn the filling into the pie shell, smoothing the top with a spoon.  Roll out remaining pastry and put on top of the pie.  Trim and flute the edges.  Brush the top with ice water and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Cut steam vents into the top of the pie.
  • Place the pie in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees and cook an additional 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
We thought this pie was great topped with sweetened whipped cream.  I'm sure it would be fabulous with ice cream too!  We all liked this pie...Eight year-old Ryan devoured two pieces!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The great pie crust debate

I recently realized that I've been making pies for about 35 years.  That's a long time - especially considering that I don't feel old enough to have done anything for 35 years!  I first started wanting to learn when I was in junior high school.  I watched my mom make pies, and I remember a friend of hers giving me a formal pie making lesson (I still remember how impressed I was that Carole used ice water in her pastry dough, and I have done the same ever since - it does make a difference in getting a flaky crust!)  From there, pie making took some trial and error and a lot of practice.  (I don't remember anybody ever complaining about the pie making practice.)  Through the years I developed a pie crust recipe preference.

Many people like the "no fail" pie dough recipes that use an egg and vinegar.  It's true that almost anybody can make an acceptable crust with this method.  It's the kind of pie crust that is usually found in restaurant pies.  But I don't love the flavor or texture of it - it seems a little "bready" to me.

Using lard is an old fashioned favorite.  I've used it and I've tasted the pie crust other people have made with lard. It's pretty easy to get a tender pie crust with lard, but I think it has a nasty aftertaste and leaves an oily mouth feel.  So even though my mother keeps telling me that I should use lard, and apparently even tells other people she thinks I should use lard (I guess my flaky pie crust isn't acceptable, LOL) I prefer to have a pie crust that tastes good.

I use pure vegetable shortening in my pie crust.  This is NOT a health food.  Pie is a treat and not an every day food.  But pure vegetable shortening in a traditional pastry recipe makes a tender and flaky pie crust that is hard to beat.  It takes a bit more skill and practice than the vinegar recipe or using lard, but it's got a nicer texture and better flavor so it's definitely worth it!  And, of course, nobody minds eating the results of a few pie making practice sessions!

I will post step-by-step pastry making directions when I get some time.  Do you have an opinion about what makes a good pie crust?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Another reason to have leftover pastry dough

A while ago I posted how my mother used pastry scraps to make pie crust cookies.  My childhood memories of Mom making pie center on enjoying those pastry morsels.  My husband also remembers his mother making pie, and her use of the extra dough.  Now, if he sees the scraps first he makes these "railroad tunnels" that his mother made for him.  I love seeing him wield a rolling pin, and these are delicious (if he decides to share!)

All you do to make these is roll out the leftover pie dough into a rectangle, spread with softened butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Then cut into strips and roll up cinnamon roll style.  These usually bake in the oven along with a pie - they aren't too picky about exact time and temperature - just make sure you watch them because there's not much sadder than burning something that should be this yummy.  My dear husband doesn't mind eating these raw though :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just Peachy

Sometimes you just can't beat doing things the old-fashioned, basic way.  That's how I feel about peach pie.  Peaches usually speak for themselves and don't need a lot of fancy ingredients to compete with them in a pie. When I got a case of peaches with our produce co-op basket this week, I was excited to make the first peach pie of the season.  I knew just who we needed to invite over for the peach pie too.  Ken is an attorney who is kind enough to volunteer his time in the court where I work, and has been a big help to me there - he has also told me that his favorite kind of pie is peach.  So Ken and his wife Kristen and their adorable little children came over to share this pie.  Our faithful friends Mary and Curtis dropped in and had a slice of pie with ice cream too.  Before our guests arrived, my 16 year-old daughter sneaked a taste of the pie and said it was the most amazing pie she had ever eaten.  That made all my time peeling and slicing peaches totally worth it!  I made this pie on a very hot afternoon, which made me feel crazy for turning on the oven, but we completely enjoyed visiting on the porch as the evening cooled down.  Try making this pie - I think you'll love it too!

Peach Pie

Pastry for a double-crust deep dish pie

3/4-1 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
5 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
Juice of one half lemon or lime
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out half of pastry and put into pie pan.  Roll out other half of pastry and set aside.

Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl and add the lemon or lime juice to the fruit.  Mix together the dry ingredients and carefully stir in to the peaches.  Pour peaches in to the pastry lined pie pan and top with the butter (cut into small pieces).  Place top pastry over the pie and trim and flute the edges.  Cut vents in the top crust.  Brush top with ice water then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar if desired.

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes, or until peaches are tender and crust is browned.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fresh Blueberry Pie!

Before I froze my plethora of blueberries, I had to make a pie (of course).  I used an old-fashioned recipe from a 1950's cookbook.  Next time I'll add a couple tablespoons of instant tapioca because the blueberries made so much juice that the flour the recipe calls for just couldn't thicken it all.  I sprinkled course sugar on top.  Doesn't that make it pretty?  The pie was great with vanilla bean ice cream and since blueberries are on the "super foods" list you can eat this without guilt!

Here's the recipe (as I made it, but, again, I think this pie can use a some instant tapioca to thicken up the juices a bit):

Fresh Blueberry Pie

Pastry for double crust pie
3/4 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
 1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out pastry and line deep pie pan with pastry.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then fold in the lemon juice and berries. Pour into the pastry lined pie pan.  Dot with the butter, then top with pastry and cut vents (or make a lattice top).  Brush the top crust with cold water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Let cool before serving.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blueberry muffins

Bright and early this morning we picked up our produce basket, and a case of blueberries.  I'm not completely sure what I was thinking when I ordered all those berries, but I was blinded by the "good price".  So as soon as we got home I made blueberry muffins and they were definitely a great way to start a Saturday.  I will obviously be making blueberry pie, then freezing a bunch of berries.  Stay tuned for more blueberry goodies....and in the meantime try these muffins.  They are the easiest thing to make and really yummy.

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (may use all one kind of flour)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and well drained or 3/4 cup canned blueberries, rinsed and well drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together all ingredients except the berries with a pastry blender or large fork.  Stir only until the ingredients are blended, do not over-mix.  Fold in the berries.  Put into 12 greased or lined muffin cups.

Bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve hot with butter.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lime pie and Quilting

My husband has enjoyed working for a dynamic manager for the past few years, and was sad when she decided to pursue another career opportunity back East.  She's a big Wizard of Oz fan, so it seemed natural to make her a Wizard of Oz quilt for her farewell gift.  When I volunteered to make the quilt it seemed like I had plenty of time to get it done, but the month of June whizzed by and suddenly I had only a few days left before she would be leaving - and the quilt was pieced but not quilted.  My wonderful friend Mary volunteered to help me with the stitching, and we ended up having a nice time quilting in the shade on a perfect summer day.  To "sweeten" the deal, I made a cool and refreshing frozen lime pie for us to enjoy when we took a break (and to keep our husbands occupied).  We all liked this pie, although the girls thought it was best when it was mostly thawed.  The men didn't let it sit around long enough to find out if they liked it thawed.  Give this one a try - you don't even have to make pastry!

Lime Freeze Pie

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages  Neufchatel Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 (3 ounce) package lime gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 (8 ounce) tub light whipped topping, thawed

  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed pretzels
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter; press into bottom of springform pan or pie pan.

Beat Neufchatel cheese and 1/4 cup sugar with mixer until blended. Add dry gelatin mix, zest and juice; mix well.
Fold in whipped topping and pour into prepared pan. 
Freeze 3 hours or until firm.  Let t stand at room temperature 15 min. to soften slightly before cutting to serve.  Top with sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Coconut Cream Pie!

A couple of weeks ago at work, we had a pie from a popular restaurant in the area.  A few people were raving about the coconut cream pie (which was apparently made by throwing some cookie crumbs in the bottom of a pie pan then filling it with a mixture of cool whip and instant pudding then topping with a bit of toasted coconut).  I boasted that I can make a better coconut cream pie.  That kind of bragging didn't go over so well with Paul.  He challenged me to put my money where my mouth today I took a homemade REAL coconut cream pie to work and asked people to give it a try and let me know if they voted it better than the pie from the Maddox restaurant.  I almost didn't make it to the break room in time to get a picture of this pie!  The judge emailed me that the pie was "excellent", and a couple of people called me "evil", so I think this one is indeed a winner.  It takes a little time to make, but it is definitely worth it.

Coconut Cream Pie

Baked pastry for 9-10 inch pie
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup sweetened whipped cream

  • Beat egg yolks with a fork or a whisk in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Mis together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan.  Gradually stir in the milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it gets thick and boils.  Boil and stir one minutes.
  • Gradually stir at least half of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, then stir back into the hot mixture in the saucepan.  Boil and stir for one minute, then remove from the heat.  Stir in the butter, vanilla, almond extract and 3/4 cup of the coconut.  Pour into the pie crust.  Press plastic wrap or waxed paper onto the filling to prevent a though layer from forming on top.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow it to set.
  • Remove the plastic wrap or waxed paper and top the pie with the sweetened whipped cream.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup coconut.  You may toast the coconut before topping the pie, if desired.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blackberry and Apple

We got a treasure in our produce basket this week:  blackberries!  So naturally I needed to make a pie with blackberries in it.  Our neighbors, Dave and Katie, came over with their kids to try it out.  Sadly, Katie didn't get much because the men were so eager for seconds (so I owe her more pie!)  Everybody gave this pie a "thumbs up"!

Apple-Blackberry Pie

Pastry for a double crust pie
1 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons instant tapioca
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fresh blackberries
3 cups peeled and sliced apples
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

  • Mix together the sugar, tapioca, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the berries and apples to the bowl and gently stir to cover with the sugar mixture, being careful not to break up the blackberries.  Set aside for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Line pie pan with half the rolled out pastry, and spoon the fruit into the pan.  Dot with the butter and cover with the top pastry.  Crimp edges and cut vents into the crust.  I like to brush the top with ice water then sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn oven down to 375 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes more (until juices are bubbling and apples are tender).
  • Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  We loved this pie with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Berries and chocolate - doesn't get better than this!

A couple of years ago one of my sons brought me a little box for Mother's Day that contained some absolutely delectable chocolate covered strawberries.  What a treat!  Chocolate and berries is one of those classic food combinations that almost everybody likes.  Everybody who tried this berry and chocolate pie really liked it, although my husband said the chocolate was a little "too rich".  (Too rich?  What the heck is that?)  We served it topped with sweetened whipped cream.  Try it out if you can handle the richness!

Patriotic Pie

1 baked pie crust (I used a deep pie pan, but would have been better off with a "regular" one - the recipe didn't fill this up well)
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Whole strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, rinsed and stems removed
2 tablespoons red currant jelly

Combine the chocolate and butter in a saucepan.  Heat and stir over medium-low heat until melted.  Add cream cheese and orange juice.  Heat and stir until combined.  Remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar.  Spread in the baked pastry shell.  Arrange whole strawberries and other berries on filling, placing strawberries stem ends down.  Melt jelly and brush over the berries.  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

Let pie stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  Top with sweetened whipped cream.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another kind of rhubarb pie!

Last week my cousin Lori's daughter, Heather, posted on Facebook that she had made her favorite rhubarb pie - Sour Cream Rhubarb.  I had never heard of this one so I was excited to try it after Heather was kind enough to share her recipe.  We had some new friends as well as some of our long-time favorite friends over, and everybody said they liked this pie. Fortunately these were all people who "appreciate" rhubarb.  If you are a rhubarb fan, you need to try this easy pie.  Rhubarb is at it's peak right now.

Heather's Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie

1 pie shell
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
1-1/2 cup sugar
4 cups chopped rhubarb
Berries if desired (I replaced 1 cup of rhubarb with 1 cup of chopped strawberries)

Pour rhubarb into the crust (along with berries if you are using them).  Mix the other ingredients well, then pour over the rhubarb.

Make topping by combining:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
cinnamon to taste

Cover the top of the pie with the topping.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350 degrees and cook 30-40 minutes more until golden brown and not too jiggly in the middle.  Allow to cool.  This pie is extra great topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rhubarb custard pie

When we built our house 10 years ago, we brought along some rhubarb from my parents' house.  They got the rhubarb from my grandmother many years ago.  Grandma probably got it from a relative before her.  This rhubarb is an heirloom.  When we did some other construction in the back yard a few years later the rhubarb sort of got run over into stubble and I thought it was gone for good.  But the next spring it was back and has thrived ever since.  We've given a lot of this plant away for others to grow, so we don't quite have the huge "hedge" of rhubarb we had for a while, but we definitely have all we need to keep enjoying it all spring. 

My mom and grandma have made a rhubarb custard pie which has been popular in the family over the years, but  I never really cared for it.  This week after my husband and I had each invited people over for pie without the other knowing about it, I thought I better make two pies to be safe, so started looking for a new version of rhubarb pie so we could have some variety.  I found this rhubarb custard recipe, which looked super easy (and it was!) so gave it a try.  I really liked it too!  It turns out that neither of the families we had invited showed up, so we called Curtis and Mary and Mitch and Chass and they were happy to come over and help us eat this pie and a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb Custard Pie

1 unbaked single pie crust
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter, cut into chunks

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Mix rhubarb, sugar, flour, salt and nutmeg together.  Set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk the eggs and milk together in a separate bowl.  Combine with the fruit mixture.  Dump into the pie shell and dot with butter.
  • Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until pie is set.
  • Serve this pie either slightly warm, at room temperature or chilled.  Top with sweetened whipped cream.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Strawberry-rhubarb pie

I know spring has really arrived when the rhubarb in my garden gets ready for it's first harvest.  The rhubarb was just in time for Mother's Day this year, so I made strawberry-rhubarb pie for my mom.  The rest of the family got to have some too.  I used a recipe from the cookbook "Pie" by Ken Haedrich, although I don't use all the steps he does (he refrigerates or freezes his pastry dough, but I skip these steps because I don't think it's necessary if you handle the dough with care).  This pie got high marks from the 10 people I served on Mother's Day.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Pie

1 unbaked deep dish pie crust
3 cups fresh rhubarb stalks sliced 1/2 inch thick
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups hulled and halved fresh strawberries
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

Cornmeal Crumb Topping
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into chunks

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine the rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Toss well to mix, then set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Add the strawberries and tapioca to the bowl and toss well.  Scrape the filling into the pie shell.  Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the topping.  Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix with a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor).  Once the mixture resembles fine crumbs, rub between your fingers to make large buttery crumbs.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees.  Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them evenly over the surface with your hands.  Tamp them down gently.  Return the pie to the oven and bake until the juices bubble thickly around the edge, 30 - 40 minutes.
  • Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.  This pie is great served slightly warm with vanilla ice cream.
  • It's a good idea to put a large aluminum baking sheet under this pie while baking, as it is beautifully juicy and sometimes bubbles over.

A reason to have left over pastry dough

It seems to be impossible to make exactly the right amount of pastry, no matter what size pie pans I use, so it's always necessary to use that extra dough.  When I was a kid my mother would roll out the leftovers, cut it in to strips then bake it with a dusting of sugar.  We called these "pie crust cookies".  After I got married my husband took over the dough, making what his mother called "rail road tunnels".  This entails spreading the dough with softened butter and cinnamon sugar, then rolling it up in a tube and slicing it up like cinnamon rolls before baking.  Both of these make great little treats for the kids while they wait for the actual pie to be ready.  Two of my daughters recently spent a weekend together and made pie, and they invented a new pie crust cookie.  I made their new cookie out of the extra dough when I made pie today - it's a combination of each of their grandmothers' tasty treats.  After rolling out the pastry I spread it with softened butter, then I cut it up into squares (my daughters used a biscuit cutter to make round cookies but I didn't want to have to handle the dough any more or have any waste) and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  These lasted about 30 seconds after coming out of the oven.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New quilt skills

In April I had a great time at a one day quilt retreat.  I signed up for two classes, to learn new techniques that I had never tried before.  It was a lot of fun learning to make a Dresden Plate and the Cathedral Window quilt blocks.  Even more fun was spending the day with my mom and my wonderful friends Lisa and Mary.  The Dresden Plate we made during the retreat had a bunch of embroidery in the center circle, which made it take longer to complete, but overall it was fun to make and a lot easier than it looks with the technique we learned.  Cathedral Window involves a lot of handwork, and at this point I'm just going to make a pillow, but I think it would be fun to make a whole quilt some day.  I'll add it to my growing list.  Check out how pretty both of these quilt blocks are.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I've been out of town and not cooking (nice!)  This weekend I hope to do something delicious with rhubarb.  In the meantime, I recommend this blog: realfoodisgoodfood.  I may be slightly biased because it's my daughter's blog, but I think it's worth anybody's time to look at the delicious and healthy recipes there.  Plus, it will help you get in a healthier mindset about food - so you won't have to feel guilty about indulging in pie now and than.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pineapple Mango Pie

I have determined that my family members are not big mango eaters.  We got some Mexican mangoes from the produce co-op two weeks ago, and only one had been eaten by last night.  At this point these things needed to be used.  I also had a pineapple sitting on the counter that I'd been too lazy to cut up and it wasn't getting any younger either, so it was time to do a tropical pie.  I went to to search for a pie recipe using mango and pineapple and found this lovely pie.  It called for crushed pineapple, but I used chopped up fresh pineapple instead.  I can't imagine that canned pineapple would have been as good - the "real" bites of pineapple in this pie were yummy!  The whole family enjoyed this pie for a Monday night treat (well, I saved mine for Tuesday morning breakfast).

Pineapple-Mango Pie

4-5 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 fresh pineapple, cut into tidbits or chunks
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons apple juice
5 Tablespoons instant tapioca
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
1 recipe of pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie

  • Mix the fruit, sugars, juice and tapioca together.  Let stand in bowl for 20 minutes (this is the time to make the pastry).
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Pour filling into the unbaked pie shell, and dot with butter.  Cover with top crust and seal edges.  Cut slits in top of outer crust.
  • This pie will be juicy and may bubble over, so place it in the oven on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or until bubbles burst slowly and the crust is light golden brown.  Let pie cool, and serve at room temperature.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thanks, Grandma

My Grandma Sorenson was amazing.  She gave up a business school scholarship to marry a farmer right after high school, and started a life of cooking for the farmhands....and she became a wonderful cook and baker.  She was also a beautiful seamstress.  She became famous (at least in the family) for her fabulous bread and pies.  When my mother was in high school, Grandpa was involved in a farming accident and wasn't expected to be able to walk again.  So they had to move to the city so Grandpa could get medical care, and Grandma went back to school and went to work to support the family.  (Grandpa was pretty amazing himself, and DID walk again with the help of a cane.)  In 1995 Grandma gave me one of her favorite bread cookbooks and sort of passed the torch to me.  This was a great vote of confidence, so I've tried to make bread every so often since then (it was the same year I graduated from college and I've worked full-time since then so time to make bread has been a bit hard to find at times).  I had a relaxing Sunday this week, so I pulled out Grandma's cookbook and made a couple of loaves from my favorite bread recipe.  I appreciate the legacy my grandma left of taking pride in homemaking, and her example that women can be skilled homemakers as well as smart and successful in the workplace.

This bread has great flavor and I love it's soft texture.  I used quick rise yeast (which cut rising times in half) and baked it in my favorite ceramic bread pans.

Whole Wheat Bread from The Book of Bread  by Judith & Evan Jones

Makes 2 8-inch loaves

1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup honey, molasses, brown sugar, or combination
1 tablespoon course salt or 2 teaspoons table salt
2-3 cups white flour, preferably unbleached
3 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water.  Warm half the milk and stir in the butter, sweetener, and salt.  Add remaining milk and when cool to the touch combine with the dissolved yeast.  Add 2 cups of the white flour, the whole wheat flour, and the wheat germ; blend thoroughly.

Turn out on a floured surface; let rest while you clean and grease the bowl.  Knead the dough about 10 minutes, adding as much white four as necessary to keep dough from sticking.  When it is smooth and elastic, return the dough to the greased bowl.  Let rise in a draft-free place, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled in bulk - about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down, knead 1 minute, then shape into 2 loaves and put in greased 8-inch bread pans.  Cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes, until dough just swells over top of pans.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven 10 minutes, turn heat to 350 degrees, and bake 25 minutes longer, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Cool on racks.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


When I picked up my basket of produce from the co-op this morning, I felt somewhat guilty when I saw that we got strawberries again.  I still had an almost full container of strawberries and blackberries from last week!  I got home and opened the refrigerator and also found some blueberries that were about to go past their prime.  I don't know how this happened.  How could we not eat these beauties for a week...or two...?  I couldn't let this situation continue, so of course I made a pie.  I enjoy making fresh strawberry pie that is "all natural" - none of that packaged "goo" that the grocery stores sell and restaurants use.  That stuff is a nasty way to ruin perfectly lovely berries. No - the berries in a good fresh berry pie just need to be held together with a bit of sweetened, mashed berries.  I used my tried and true fresh strawberry pie recipe but tossed in a few blueberries and the half pint of blackberries as well.

Tonight our friends Curtis and Mary dropped by, so of course we invited them to try out this pie.  Mary loved it and named it "Triple Berry Pie".  It was great with sweetened whipped cream on top. (I hear vanilla ice cream was good with it too.)  My son and my husband may have had more than one piece.  Give it a try and see what you think.

Triple Berry Pie

1 9-inch baked pie shell

You need a total of about 4 cups of berries.  The combination of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries is very nice.

1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch

  • Wash, drain and hull the berries and set them aside.
  • Mash about 1 cup of strawberries with a potato masher until well juiced, making about 1-1/2 cups of pulpy liquid.  Put them into a medium saucepan and stir in the sugar and cornstarch.  Cook over medium-low heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Boil and stir 1 minute, until thickened.  Cool.
  • Toss berries together and pile into pie shell.
  • Pour the cooked mixture over the berries in the pie shell, covering the top of all the berries.
  • Chill at least two hours, then serve topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hawaiian Dream Cream Pie

I've had this recipe on hold for a week like this one, when I didn't take the time to bake a pie.  I made bunny cakes for the extended family Easter gathering but neglected to take any pictures.  Maybe next year I'll post how to make these cute Easter cakes.  For now I'll share the recipe I made up for the pie we named "Hawaiian Dream Cream Pie".

My son Trevor is a stage technician, and has enjoyed working at the Sundance Film Festival.  Before he left for a couple of weeks of rubbing elbows with celebrities in January, he brought his wife over for some pie.  It was another of those pie occasions when I scoped out the fridge and pantry to see what I had to work with before deciding what kind of pie to make (I think the "Dream" part came into the name because the paradise of Hawaii really did feel like a dream during the cold and dark of January).  I ended up inventing this one and Trevor and Christi rated it highly, so here's the recipe:

Hawaiian Dream Cream Pie

Baked pastry for one crust pie (9 or 10 inch)
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla (Mexican preferred)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 - 2 bananas
8 oz can crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup sweetened whipped cream
maraschino cherries (optional)

  • Beat the egg yolks with a fork in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan then gradually stir in the milk.  Cook on medium, stirring constantly, until it boils.  Boil and stir for one minute.
  • Stir half the milk mixture gradually into the egg yolks, then stir it all back into the hot mixture in the pan. Boil and stir one minute, then remove from heat.  Stir in the butter, vanilla and coconut.  Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the mixture and let cool.
  • Slice the banana into the bottom of the pie shell, then pour the pudding mixture over the top.
  • Refrigerate the pie, with plastic wrap covering it (to avoid forming a "skin") until set.
  • Carefully spread pineapple over the top of the pie, then cover with whipped cream.
  • Let chill until completely set (several hours is best).
  • Garnish with cherries if desired.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bread day - plus a bonus

Today was a lovely spring day - which somehow put me in the mood to make bread.  I had intentions of making bread regularly during the winter, when it's actually nice to use my oven more, but somehow the weekends kept getting away from me and it never happened.  So today I got out the whole wheat flour and made a couple of loaves.  I really liked the flavor of the this bread, and it cuts like a dream without falling apart.  I can't wait to have a piece of whole wheat toast before work on  Monday (if I can keep the second loaf from disappearing tomorrow!)  This recipe came from my friend Lisa's son-in-law, John.  He does a lot of baking and came up with this as his "ideal" whole wheat bread recipe.  We like it!

John's Whole Wheat Bread
2 1/4 cup hot water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons yeast
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup canola oil

  • Combine 1/2 cup hot water and 2 teaspoons sugar.  Mix until the sugar is dissolved.  Add yeast and stir until wet.  Let stand for 10 minutes in a dark place.
  • Add 2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 cups warm water to the yeast mixture.  Stir vigorously for several minutes.  Cover and let stand in a warm place for 2 hours or more.
  • Add the salt, honey, lemon juice, oil and remaining 1/4 cup water.  Stir in 2 more cups of flour before deciding how much more flour to add Add just enough flour to make the dough firm but somewhat sticky (It won't stick to your hands when tossing dough from hand to hand, but it will if it's in one hand too long).
  • Knead the dough at least 10 minutes, until smooth.
  • Let rise in greased bowl until doubled. Cover with a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Punch the dough down to remove air bubbles.
  • Divide dough in half and place in two greased bread pans.  Let rise until double.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until done.  Remove from pans and place on cooling rack.
While I was cleaning up the kitchen and waiting for my loaves to rise, I noticed that I had a couple of sorry looking bananas that needed to be made into banana bread.  But once I mushed them up to put into the banana bread batter there really wasn't enough.  Fearing that too little banana would result in dry bread I scoured the pantry for something else to add, and settled on a can of crushed pineapple.  I added some drained pineapple to the banana in the bread - and the results were great.  I would do this again ON PURPOSE.  

Finally, I realized that Easter is only a week away and I didn't have my Easter dish towel made so I sewed up the cute little guy you see in the picture by the banana/pineapple bread mini-loaf.  Forgive the "hoop" marks on there, I took the picture as soon as I got the bunny's face embroidered on.  Have a fantastic Easter!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I found my thrill...

Delicious blueberry pie! Since blueberries came in the produce co-op and my dad recently gave me a bunch of cream cheese (he's the king of finding great deals on stuff) it was necessary for me to make this pie.  Miss "Anti-blueberries" in my family actually ate a piece (although she left the blueberries on her plate).  I thought this pie was scrumptious and it was GONE fast, everybody loved eating it while watching the Academy Awards.  Here's the recipe:

Blueberry-Sour Cream Pie

1 deep dish baked pie crust - either pastry or graham cracker

Fruit layer:
One bag frozen blueberries or 1 pound fresh blueberries, set aside some fresh berries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Cream layer:
8-ounce cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Mix together the blueberries and lemon juice in a medium pan.  Cover and cook over medium low heat until the blueberries are simmering in their own liquid.  Stir in the granulated sugar and cornstarch and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.  It should be quite thick.  Stir in the vanilla and let the mixture cool for at least 20 minutes before spooning into the pie crust.  If you have more fresh berries, sprinkle a few on top.
2.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Beat the cream cheese, sugars and lemon zest with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth.  Add the sour cream and vanilla and blend until smooth.  Spoon over the chilled blueberry layer and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In a pickle

I belong to a produce co-op, which is a lot of fun and gets more fruits and veggies into our house.  I never know what we'll be getting.  Most of the fruit in the Fruits of the Forest pie came from the food co-op, so you can see that we get some nice variety.  Last week my basket included a bunch of cucumbers.  My family is not a big cuke eating crowd so I decided to try my hand at making some pickles for the first time.  I had to go out and buy some jars, and figured I'd get 2 or  3 jars of pickles out of this pile of cucumbers. I chose a recipe for sliced sandwich pickles that could be done within an hour...that's what fits into my schedule.  Well, somehow once they are sliced the cukes sort of shrunk or something - and they all fit into ONE pint jar!  I went ahead and made the liquid and poured it in the jar and processed that lonely jar.  My first pickles! I don't know what they'll taste like but they look kind of nice, and were easy to make.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fruits of the interesting forest....

On Sunday I thought some of my "adult" children would stop by, so definitely had pie plans.  Unfortunately they changed their plans.  I went forward with the pie anyway.  I found this recipe called "Fruits of the Forest" pie and already had almost all the ingredients on hand.  It's an interesting variety of fruit and I can't imagine where the forest would be that contains all these fruits, but I'd love to visit!  My 16 year-old daughter said she didn't like it after taking a bit of her brother's pie, but she was already  prejudiced because it looked purple (because of the blueberries) and she said she hates purple food.  Everybody else LOVED it.  My dear husband ate about half the pie over the course of two days.  I will definitely make this one again. (It was especially great served warm with vanilla ice cream).

Fruits of the Forest Pie

1 double-crust recipe of pie pastry (for deep dish pie pan)
2 peaches or one small can of sliced peaches, sliced more thinly
1 pear, peeled and sliced
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup pineapple, fresh or canned chunks (I used fresh! Yummy!)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
3 Tablespoons cornstarch

  • Prepare the pastry and line a deep dish pan with pastry.
  • In a large bowl combine the fruit with 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice and spices.  Set aside for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the remaining 3 tablespoons fo sugar and the cornstarch together in a small bowl, then stir into the mixture of fruit.
  • Pour the fruit into the pastry-lined pie pan and top with pastry.  Flute the edges and cut vents into the top pastry.  I like to brush the top with ice water (left over from making the pastry) then sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake pie for 30 minutes.  Then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes more.
  • Let cool a little before serving, or serve at room temperature.