Thanksgiving…at least 72 points…

Our Thanksgiving was lovely. We had the usual menu: turkey, potatoes, green bean casserole, dressing, and some other yummy stuff. For dessert, my husband requested Key Lime Pie. So I made him this star-topped key lime pie. He’s a star. And he deserves whatever pie he wants.

 

 

It was delicious, but we were all so full we could barely eat it. What a day of bounty, abundance, plenty. We had a good time with family around the table. Look at these cool place cards our daughter made:

I like the idea of place cards. Besides fulfilling my OCD needs of knowing where everyone will be, I like the message they send.

Here you go. 
Here’s your spot.
It’s only for you.
You are special.
No one can fill this spot except for you!
 

If only we’d try hard to make others feel this way all the time when they’re with us.

It is a good day to be thankful. Today, we did not work hard. We did not waste time worrying. We had enough. We took time to work on a puzzle, to laugh together, to read the paper, and to watch a parade. We took time to be still.

Still.

Still.

Still.

“Now stand still and see this great thing which the Lord will do in front of your eyes.”

1 Samuel 12:16

That verse is about some folks who did something dumb and were about to get in trouble for it. Which isn’t too far off from some days I’ve seen. But that’s not what it really meant to me today.

Today, on a day of Thanksgiving, my heart just saw these words:

Now stand still and see.

OK. I will. Seems to me that so much beauty and wonder is going on all around us. We just won’t stand still long enough to see. To pay attention. To listen. To keep from doing something dumb. To enjoy. To see a great thing.

My husband and I ended the day with a game of Scrabble. We played with our 7-year-old son, who had been waiting–seriously, for hours–to play the game with us. It just took us a while to get still enough to play it with him. Here’s the Thanksgiving board I spelled out before we played.

When we went around the Thanksgiving table to tell things we were thankful for, my daughter said, “this beautiful fall we’ve had.”

My son said, “BACON.”

I have to agree wholeheartedly with both of them.

And I am thankful for stillness.

Stand still.

Still.

Lollipop, lollipop–Oh lolly, lolly, lolly–LOLLIPOP!

I decided to make some teeny tiny pies on sticks. Lollipop Pies. If there’s anything cuter than that, I don’t know what it is. I stole the idea from a cooking channel show about pie. What a fun project for a cool fall evening!

I had some homemade crust in the fridge from the other night, so I rolled it out to cut some small circles.I love a little biscuit cutter. It reminds me of the tiny biscuits that my mom used to put on top of her pork chop pie. The biscuits were pretty much my favorite part of that casserole. They were gooey on the bottom and crusty on top. Perfect.

I whipped up a small batch of filling from some berries I had on hand. I just added some sugar and a tad of cornstarch. After reading about these little pies online, I followed the advice of many by only putting a couple of berries in each pie.

Next, I set about doing the cutest little crimping ever. I just used one of the lollipop sticks as a crimper. I found the sticks at Hobby Lobby. Don’t forget to put a stick inside the pop BEFORE you start crimping. Almost forgot mine. Also, crimp carefully–that fruit juice really wants to escape.

Lastly, I brushed them all with egg wash, sprinkled them with sugar and baked them for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.

At the same time, I baked up the leftovers into this precious little Double Angel Pie. I had exactly enough crust left to hold this berry filling and to make two tiny angels for the top.

Made me think of the time my good friend, Becky, and I stomped grapes at the Biltmore Winery. Good times. Making a fool of myself with good friends is a favorite pastime. 🙂

These little angels weren’t stomping anything, but they looked sweet on the little pie.

Back to Lollipop Pies:

Not bad for a first attempt! They are so cute! I am going to run a few more tests to figure out what other tiny fillings I can stuff into that small crust. I’m thinking chocolate or pumpkin…We’ll see. Anyway, lots of fun. I dipped one into some whipped cream. Yum.

I’ll keep you posted on more tiny pies, and Thanksgiving’s only a week away, so you KNOW they’ll be some pie action around here.

 

Please don’t throw me in that briar patch!

Fish gotta swim

Birds gotta fly

I gotta have

My hands in a pie….

Can’t help it. I whipped up a few pie crusts tonight. I had stuff to think about, and pie-making is the ultimate in cheap therapy. Making those homemade crusts just might be one of my favorite parts of the whole process.

I’m gonna make a couple of cheese pies in the morning for a breakfast at our daughter’s school. I forgot that cheese pies make their own crusts, so there I was….with crust. Couldn’t be helped.

Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the story of Brer Rabbit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br’er_Rabbit

It’s not considered very politically correct these days, but my Dad really liked the story. In a nutshell, Brer Rabbit pleads not to be thrown into the briar patch, but it’s really what he wants all along. He was a trickster for sure. I think my Dad appreciated how sly the rabbit was…he was a rather sly old dude himself at times.

I thought of him when I saw the brand name of the main ingredient for tonight’s pie: Shoofly Pie.

So when my daughter needed two pies for school and one for her art class Friday afternoon…Please, please don’t make me bake pies! I’m not foolin’ anybody near as well as that rabbit. I’m hooked. Throw me on in.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been around molasses. I know my mom used it for baking, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been close by.

Stinky.

I mean the stuff smells kinda nasty. On the bottle, it is described as “unsulfered.” I have no idea what that means, but…P.U. I also was reminded of how the phrase “slow as molasses” came to be. After carefully measuring the black, sludgy liquid into a liquid measure, I had to use a spatula to “hurry” it out of there. Taking its time. Please don’t pour me into that pie!

The filling had molasses, brown sugar, boiling water (to dissolve the sugar), vanilla, and baking soda, which turned out to be the most exciting ingredient. When I put that 1/2 tsp of baking soda into the hot filling, it sizzled and bubbled like a party was goin’ on in there. Then it settled down and just looked like a black stinky swimming pool.

After I poured the filling into the chilled homemade crust, I put the butter crumble on top. The recipe said not to tamp it down, so I didn’t. Not that I could have if I’d wanted to–the stuff just sorta sank in the stink pool and eventually built up on top. Then it baked for 10 minutes at one temperature and 25 minutes at another.

It really was science in the kitchen, because I couldn’t believe that it turned into an actual pie. The crust did not really behave–it kinda fell in a bit. But it turned out, somehow. It even produced a very nice slice.You’re supposed to wait until it “cools thoroughly” to cut it. You may realize by now that I have a bit of a waiting issue…so I didn’t wait, and it still worked. I recently watched a great new show on the food channel entitled “For the Love of Pie!” It’s a very good show, and I will record all the upcoming episodes. It’s full of pie bakers and lots of good ideas. Anyway, one shop specialized in Shoofly Pie, and a customer of theirs described this pie as “tasting a slice of American history.”

I tasted it. Don’t know much about history. Let’s just say it has a very specific flavor. Has anyone else tasted Shoofly Pie? I’m curious about your reaction.

I mean, I just don’t know about it. Somebody please come over here and taste it tomorrow. I tasted it naked and with whipped cream (the PIE was naked, that is) and I just can’t make up my mind.

Shoo.

Shoo Fly.

Shoo Fly Pie.

Hmm.

Enough about that. Something caught my eye as I was cleaning up the kitchen tonight. Here it is. It’s on the bottom of one of those throw-away pans you use to take a casserole to someone. Don’t know why, but that pan was preachin’ to me tonight.

Support the bottom.

Now, I know this is true for cooking pies, big heavy turkeys and other stuff with hot scalding liquid in a cheapo pan.

We all know it’s true for panty hose and carrying babies.

And we’ve all seen what can happen if you don’t “support the bottom.” Someone or something’s gonna get burned, or dropped, or at the very least–look horrible.

True in life, you know. Not much is gonna happen for any of us if we’re not supported. Sure, we can make it through, but the end results are always so much better with support. We’ve all seen what happens when people are not supported. They get burned. They feel dropped. They look (and feel) horrible.

I’ve been in both places and you probably have, too. I’ve been the one to need support. Without it, I would have splashed all over the place–truly a “hot mess.” I’ve also been blessed to be the supporter a few times.

I’ve found that holding a person up in a time of need does not make my emotional “arms” tired–only stronger.

Be a supporter. If you can possibly help it, don’t let anyone feel dropped, burned, or horrible. It does us all good to take our eyes off of ourselves for a while and seek out others who need us.

And when you feel yourself starting to spill over the edges, let someone support you. It will make you both stronger.

 

T.S.S. Pie

Today’s pie is a Bananaganache Pie. It is like a banana cream pie, but the crust (homemade, by the way!) is coated with chocolate ganache.

Oh my ganache!

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Anyway, my soundtrack for baking this evening was “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” featuring Yo-Yo Ma and some of his fiddle buddies. Excellent music for baking, driving, dinner or whatever. Good for thinking, too.

After pre-baking a homemade crust (side note: margarine is NOT the same as butter. Duh.), I made a chocolate ganache with semi-sweet baking chocolate and half and half. Then I spread that awesome stuff on the bottom of the crust and put it in the freezer to stiffen up a bit.

Next, I lined the bottom with sliced bananas. If you’re ever wondering what to do with extra banana slices, dropping them into leftover chocolate ganache is an excellent idea. Just sayin’.

The pie’s filling goes on top of all that. It’s made of banana pudding, whipped cream, and some cream cheese–all blended together. Thick and tasty.

On top of THAT, I placed more sliced bananas. Finally, I added chocolate shavings and whipped cream, just to increase the awesomeness.

It sure did look cool. I hope it will be tasty. And I wish it was magical.

But it’s not.

Today, I’m thinking of some friends of ours–doesn’t matter which ones–that have had a loss this year. It was a terrible, tragic loss–death of a loved one. It wasn’t fair. It didn’t seem right. We all were filled with questions–I’m sure especially them.

It sucked.

I’m thinking about them because the holidays are upon us. It’s almost Thanksgiving. First Thanksgiving without their loved one.

Maybe you know someone like them. Lost a daughter, a father, a classmate, a son, a friend, an unborn child, a spouse.

It’s been well over a year since my Dad left this Earth. I’m not sad for him–not a bit. His work is done. And most of the time, I can think of him and smile.

But sometimes, the grief is so BIG.

It STILL sucks.

Now, I know that’s not very diplomatic-sounding or ladylike or any of that, but it’s the inspiration for today’s pie. I’m taking pie to my friends to say, “This still sucks. And you can feel whatever you want about it.”

I’ve been around a lot of well-meaning folks who want to tell grieving people how to feel.

You should feel thankful–he’s in a better place.

You should rejoice–her pain is over.

You should look to God–He has a reason for this.

Yeah. Well.

Don’t “should” on yourself.

Or on me, thank you very much.

I’m sure many of you can relate. When you have lost someone you love, you don’t want anyone telling you what to do or feel. Even now–when I SHOULD perhaps feel better about my Dad–I miss him. So there.

If you know someone this holiday season who just doesn’t want to be thankful on Thanksgiving, or who doesn’t feel like celebrating at Christmas time–just let them feel what they want. Grief changes, yes, but I’m not convinced it ever goes completely away.

Pray for them. Sit with them. Be there.

Today’s pie is Bananaganache, but I’m really calling it T.S.S. Pie.

This Still Sucks Pie.

Because it does. And that’s OK.

Wagon Pie

I can quit any time I want….really!

Or so I thought. At 5:30 this morning, I fell off the wagon–or got back on, depending how you look at it. I woke up thinking about pie. It didn’t help that Daylight Savings Time was this weekend, which I think is a crazy idea. Here’s my alternative plan: Wake up when it’s light. Go to bed when it’s dark. Duh.

Anyway, my addicted brain started making a list of justifications:

1. I never made a pie for Ruthie’s Language Arts teacher.

2. I have that one stray crust left.

3. We’ll never eat all those apples.

4. I’m up early anyway.

And the list goes on. The truth?

I accidentally got addicted to baking pies. Woops.

I guess there are worse things to get hooked on. Can’t see the harm in it. Besides, there are so many people who deserve pie! So I started baking at 5:45.

Today’s pie is for Mrs. Carter. She encourages my kid in language arts each day. I’m thankful for her, and so is my daughter. So she deserves today’s Apple Pear Crumb Pie.

It’s just apples and pears and cinnamon, oh my! Well–and flour and sugar, too. I did only have the one crust, so I made a crumble for the top.

And speaking of addicting, the familiar pie-baking smell that filled my house just filled my soul at the same time. Smells like home around here.

They say it takes 21 days to form a real habit. Turns out, 40 days works, too. 

One of the things I’m hoping to practice as a 40-year-old is more of this “fearless trying.” I tried pies, even though I never had and didn’t know how. This weekend, I tried spaghetti squash, which was delicious. I just bravely brought it home and figured it out.

You could do the same thing with squash or anything else.

Today’s “fearless” feat? Mammogram. First one ever. Do I think it’ll be as rewarding and fun as baking pies? Probably not. Necessary? Without a doubt.

Today is the very first day my insurance would pay for a mammogram. So I’m getting one. Cancer took my Dad. I’ll be darned if it sneaks up on me.

So, I’m off to deliver a pie.

What will you fearlessly try today?

62, 63……40! Arms open wide!

Well, folks. My iphone app says this:

Event: Turning 40

Happening NOW.

It’s here. It’s the eve of my 40th birthday, and tomorrow, I’m not planning on baking any pies. But today, I baked two new ones. They were selected solely on the basis of what I already had in my pantry and fridge. After baking them both, I have ONE egg left in my house. Makes a baker sweaty….

Before I share those, here’s a slice of yesterday’s Banoffee Pie. It was super delicious, and I won’t tell you how much I’ve had….I will make this one again for sure.

The first pie today was Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, whose recipe I found in my PIE cookbook. I have really enjoyed that “delightful pastry tome,” as the cover calls it. It had lots of cookie ingredients in a regular pie shell; eggs, butter, flour, milk, 2 kinds of sugar, vanilla, and chocolate chips. The only thing I left out was walnuts. I don’t love ’em that much, and I’d always prefer a cookie without nuts, so I just didn’t add them. I added some extra chocolate chips instead. Besides, my husband’s allergic to walnuts.

It was very easy to make–only took me about 10 minutes to mix everything together and get it in the crust. It did bake for a full hour, and the book said not to worry about the top crust looking quite brown, so I didn’t.The crust got a little wonky on the edges, but I don’t think that will impact the taste. Who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies?

Pie #63 was a Fluffly Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie. I found the recipe on the back of the paper stuck in a store bought pie pan. Amazingly, I had exactly enough cream cheese to put this one together. I was glad to find one more can of pumpkin in my pantry, too. I’ll have to replace that one, because we always make pumpkin muffins for breakfast on Thanksgiving, and it’ll be here before you know it.

We’re saving the pies for tomorrow evening, when a few friends are coming over to watch a movie. Can’t wait to celebrate–with pie!

If you had told me on September 24, when I baked that first peach pie, that I would bake 63 pies by November 4, I’m not sure I’d have believed you. Crazy. Will I stop baking them now? Probably not. You might not see pie every day in my house, but now it will be a welcome guest. The holidays are coming–great excuse for more pie!

What have I learned in 40 days (plus a few) of pie baking?

  1. Food can definitely be art.
  2. Sometimes, you must slow down and concentrate to do something properly.
  3. Even when you mess up, something good can happen.
  4. Some things are worth the wait.
  5. Some things aren’t.
  6. Paying attention to details matters–sometimes.
  7. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
  8. Everyone likes gifts, and people should give more of them.
  9. Gifts don’t always cost money.
  10. Pie–like life–is so good, but it’s even better shared with others.
Lastly, I will share this lovely sentiment from a birthday card I got in the mail today:
She laughs in the face of birthdays.
She basks in the light of her candles.
She welcomes the years with arms open wide.
 

That’s my plan for now…to welcome the years with arms open wide.

Oh, how sweet the light of day,
And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!
Even if you live a long time,don’t take a single day for granted.Take delight in each light-filled hour.”

Ecclesiastes 11:7-8

(The Message)

Banoffee Pie

Baker’s lesson of the day: if you try to lick yummy stuff out of a measuring cup, you WILL get it on your nose. Use your finger.

What I was trying to lick out of this measuring cup was the delicious toffee sauce needed for today’s Banoffee Pie. This pie was a special request from Christie–she told me where to find the recipe and everything, so I had to try it.

I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce the name until I read all of the ingredients: Bananas + Toffee = Banoffee Pie. I prepared a graham cracker crust using my awesome food processor. That’s the only way to go when it comes to getting graham crackers finely crushed. This recipe called for a spring form pan. We have several of those, because I happen to be married to the Cheesecake King. Hang around for the holidays, and maybe you’ll get to taste one of those beautiful, delicious creations.

Anyway, the crust hung out in the refrigerator while I prepared the toffee sauce. This required sugar and water, lots of watching and “swirling” the pot, and then butter and sweetened condensed milk. I really did poor what I needed into the crust before I “cleaned up” the measuring cup. As I ran upstairs to let my hubby have a taste, I immediately started thinking of other stuff I could dump that toffee sauce on. He’s allergic to bananas, so we’re gonna think of something else awesome to dump it on–or either just eat it out of the pot. Whatever. It’s just really awesome sauce.

At this point, I ran to the store to get whipping cream and more bananas. I also had to get the propane tank filled–one of the things I love about fall is a fire in the fireplace, and I’m lost without the gas starter.

The sauce has to sit in the crust, in the fridge, for at least an hour anyway.

When I got back, I whipped up the heavy cream, sliced some bananas, and put the pie together. Not too difficult at all. I’ll have to let you know if it comes out of that spring form pan without exploding. But even if it doesn’t, I bet it’s gonna taste great!

Best news of all? There was some more of that magic toffee sauce left. I dumped it on a banana and added some chocolate. Heavenly.

That makes 61 pies. I’m planning on baking several tomorrow–not sure if I wanna bake any on Friday. My husband’s taking the day off to escort his favorite Pie Lady around town.

Here’s a famous pie rhyme for you….

Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair;
Said Simple Simon to the pieman “Let me taste your ware”
Said the pieman to Simple Simon “Show me first your penny”
Said Simple Simon to the pieman “Sir, I have not any!”

Simple Simon went a-fishing for to catch a whale;
All the water he had got was in his mother’s pail.
Simple Simon went to look if plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much which made poor Simon whistle.
He went for water in a sieve but soon it all fell through;
And now poor Simple Simon bids you all “Adieu”

Chess, anyone?

I never really learned how to play chess. It’s sort of an embarrassing confession for someone in a pleasantly nerdy family such as mine. I know there are kings and pawns, and I know you can move in different ways than in checkers. My daughter and my husband know how to play, and I think I need to add learning this game to my to-do list. My brain could use the challenge. I started thinking about the game as I baked today’s pie, Chocolate Chess Pie.

Why is it called “chess” pie anyway? I looked it up, and here’s what Wikipedia says:

“The pie seems to have no relation to the game of chess, which has led to much speculation as to the origin of this term. Some theorize that the name of the pie traces back to its ancestral England, where the dessert perhaps evolved from a similar cheese tart, in which the archaic “cheese” was used to describe pies of the same consistency even without that particular ingredient present in the recipe. In North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery, Elizabeth Hedgecock Sparks argues that the name derives from Chester. There is also a theory that the word “chess” pie comes from the piece of furniture that was common in the early South called a pie chest or pie safe. Chess pie may have been called chest pie at first, because it held up well in the pie chest. Another theory is that it was originally called “just pie” because it was so simple and plain, and slang or accent morphed it to “chess.””

Hey! We had a pie safe growing up. It was white with a tin front–had the little holes punched in the front (I’m guessing for proper ventilation). It stayed downstairs in our house and my Dad kept some of his stuff in it. I think that thing is still in Mom’s garage.

I tend to believe the last explanation. It’s “just pie.” If you say it just right, “just pie” quickly turns to “chess pie.” Even though that’s probably what happened, I do tend to disagree with the phrase “just pie.”

What do you mean, just pie?

I’ve baked 60 pies as of today, and I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as “just pie.” Each pie came with a challenge, a story, a process, a reward…and so much to think about. Just pie. No way.

This chocolate chess pie had sugar, cocoa, evaporated milk, vanilla, and eggs. It was simple to make, and I used a store-bought crust because I am pooped out from Halloween last night.

As I mixed the ingredients, I thought of my dear friend, Karen, who makes a mean chocolate pie. It’s her specialty, in my opinion.

I’ve known Karen since 1989. She’s known me for more birthdays than anybody I hang out with these days–except for my Mom and siblings. We’ve been college roommates (that’s how we met so long ago) matrons of honor, godparents, church staffers, party people, go-to-lunchers, listeners, call-when-you-can’t-tell-anyone-else-ers, consolers, celebrators, criers, helpers, tell-the-truthers, neighbors, laughers, sense-talkers, huggers, Virginians, come-to-the-hospital-right-now-ers, Georgians and so much more together. To say that we are “just friends” would be the same as saying “just pie.” I treasure the friendship we’ve built over the last 22 years, and I’m looking forward to being old ladies together. Thanks for everything, K.

Only 2 more days for being 39 years old. Gotta go….lots to do!