Pink Pie

First things first, I promised a pie-follower that I would post the recipe for Good Pie. Here it is. Hope it works out for you!

Now on to today’s pie, Pink Lemonade Pie. We’ve got some fun stuff going on this weekend–company twice–so I wanted to make some yummy dessert that could be made in advance. This pie worked great. I love just being able to pull something out of the pantry or freezer and serve it up without any fuss.

I found the recipe online. I just don’t know what anyone does without the internet. We use it for everything around here.

Here’s what this tasty pie includes: a graham cracker crust, cream cheese, lemon extract, sweetened condensed milk, red food coloring and whipped topping.

The first thing I did was to make the graham cracker crust. I’ve only made one other one before, and the whole process brought up some wise words my Dad once said,

“Let your tools work for you.”

My Dad had tons of tools. Tiny tools, big tools, dangerous tools, homemade tools. The man could really make stuff work, and even when he didn’t have the right tools, he still found a way. But he took care of his tools. He didn’t leave them out, and when he sent one of us kids to fetch one, he usually knew right where it was.

Anyway, I started crushing up some graham crackers by hand when I thought, “DUH. You have a food processor.”

So I crushed up the crackers that way. Worked great. Use your tools!

I pressed the crumbs into a spring form pan with some butter and sugar. Hands, by the way, are the best tools for this job.

Then I mixed up the condensed milk, cream cheese, and lemon extract and added some red food coloring. This yielded the most gorgeous, creamy, pink stuff ever. I put the pie in the freezer and made the topping. All I did was to mix some food coloring into a tub of whipped cream. Then I spread it on the pie and sprinkled on some red sugar. That was it, and I put it back in the freezer.

I cannot wait to cut it, but I’m supposed to wait a day so it can harden, and I’ve learned my lesson on sloppy slices, so I’m waitin’.

Another tool I’m counting on is that spring form pan. My husband is really the master of it, because he is the Cheesecake King. He makes the most delicious cheesecake around, and somehow, it pops out of that pan perfectly every time. We’ll see if I’m as lucky when this pink confection springs forth tomorrow evening…I’ll try to remember to post a picture of the finished product.

A word about tools.

Most of us have plenty to work with,

but it seems like we just have to do it the hard way sometimes. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) just insist on doing stuff our own way, the hard way, the same old way, the stupid way. Often, if I just stop and think for a minute…pray for a minute…ask for help…look for tools…then it gets easier.

So a reminder to you and to me–Let your tools work for you.

 

National Pie Day!

I was so pleased to peruse Facebook this morning and to learn that today is

NATIONAL PIE DAY!

It really does exist!

http://www.piecouncil.org/Events/NationalPieDay/

I didn’t plan in advance to celebrate, because frankly, this was the first I’d heard about it. But you just can’t let something like that go on by without any attention, now can you? So I didn’t. I made a pie–Good Pie, to be exact. I’ve made one version of this pie before, but I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I improvised. Today, I happened to have everything; oats, dark corn syrup, sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter. It was a very simple pie to make. I just stirred everything up in one bowl and poured it into a store-bought crust. It cooked for 50 minutes and cooled for about an hour before my family shared it for dessert.

It doesn’t look like much when you’re stirring it up–sort of like cheap breakfast gone bad, but don’t be fooled. Simplicity works, apparently.

It came out smelling terrific and looking pretty good. Now, the slice was not so perfect-looking.

I don’t know what the heck happened, but it just did not come very agreeably out of the pie plate. Here’s the good news about Good Pie, though…

No big whoop.

Still tasted incredible. First, you get this crispy top crust stuff–a little bit like a cookie. Then, you taste a caramel-ish, creamy, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it kind of yumminess. Mmmmmm…..Everyone liked it a lot.

 

 

 

National Pie Day was a complete and wonderful accidental last-minute success.

That’ll preach for sure.

Celebrations don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be carefully planned out (though I’ve had some fun ones that were). If there’s something to celebrate–and let me tell you people, there’s something EVERY DAY to celebrate in this beautiful world–then just do it. Bake a cake. Whip up a pie. Use your crayons. Make up a song. Start hugging people. Dance with no music. Let out a WOO-HOO!

Do what you have to and get the message out there. Life is definitely something to celebrate.

I mean, gosh, think about all the stuff that people have said with just pie:

  • It’s your birthday!
  • I love you!
  • I’m so sorry.
  • You got a raise!
  • A new baby!
  • Will you marry me? (that really did happen to me, folks–key lime pie with a diamond ring :))
  • Look what I can do!
  • The blackberries are ripe!
  • It’s Christmas!
  • Grandma’s here!

And a million more. Don’t waste a single opportunity to celebrate. Pie Day, Friday, or any day at all…

CELEBRATE!

For the Cog in the Wheel

I found this old cookbook in my kitchen cabinet. It was published in the late 1930’s, obviously by some sorority. I’m not sure who gave it to me, but I love a retro cookbook. The way the recipes are written really tells a story about the times. Take today’s recipe for Chocolate Pie. Thanks to Dorothy of Ohio, it was a thorough ingredients list. The only question I had was this: What do you mean by beaten egg whites? Beaten for a little while? Beaten to a pulp? Beaten until frothy? Creamy? Stiff peaks? Apparently, all women in 1939 knew everything there was to know about egg whites. Hmmm.

SPECIFICS, Dorothy! Please!

I just interpreted it as “for a little while.” It seemed to work OK, although folding it in didn’t turn out exactly like I’d expected. I am also very curious about the cinnamon. I’ve never used it in a chocolate pie, but I’m counting on Dorothy to come through with something delicious.

Today has really been a day of wishing for specifics. We’ve got a few things up in the air around here, and it sure would be nice if a very specific “recipe” would fall out of the sky to tell us what to do. We’ve had some crazy weather for a southern winter, but so far, no life recipes. Oh well….

We’ll just have to wing it. I guess in life, you just follow whatever directions you have and then hope for the best. If something flops, you just try something else. What more can you do?

As a planner, list maker, and control freak, this part of life ticks me off. I just wanna know what’s gonna happen.

Well, tough.

So on this what-the-heck-is-going-on-in-the-world kind of day, I made a pie for someone who always knows what’s going on–or at least is awesome at making the rest of us believe she does. She’s the cog in the wheel. You probably know someone like her. The Help Desk. The Answer Station. The One Who Knows What To Do. The One We’re Lost Without. The You-Have-No-Idea-How-Much-This-Person-Does-Around-Here lady. And I appreciate all that she does.

Earlier this week, this wonderful cog friend of mine threw out this wonderful question,

“Whose butt do we have to kiss to get a pie around here?”

Now, you might find that a little direct, but I find it stupendous. If you want something, just say so! She did. She’s a woman who’s always doing what others need, so I was thrilled to hear her ask for something she wanted.

Therefore, a chocolate pie is coming her way tomorrow morning. It came out looking pretty tasty. The good news for me is, if it’s not good, I blame Dorothy. SPECIFICS, PLEASE!

Pie: Check

I am a list maker. I make lists of things to do, things I’ve done, longterm projects, groceries, people to contact, and on and on. Lists really do help me organize my thoughts and tasks, but most of all

I like checking stuff off.

I even use a list-making app called “Daily Deeds” to have another place to check stuff off. Why this obsession with check marks? Truth is, I’m kind of a control freak, and I like to keep track of what’s been accomplished. Also, when the magnitude or volume of jobs becomes seemingly insurmountable, I can sometimes find comfort in looking back over what I’ve gotten done.

One of the things I did this week was to make a 40th birthday pie for a friend of mine. She’s a great lady who does a lot of great stuff for her family, her community, and her church. Besides all that, I just turned 40, and I remember the distinct feeling of deserving a reward for getting there; a trophy, a plaque, a certificate….I guess a pie will do.

I baked a Chocolate Cherry Pie, which is very similar to a cherry ganache pie that I’ve made in the past. I chose this one because when I asked my friend what kind of pie she liked, she said, “chocolate’s always good…or cherry…” So I made both in one pie!

One of the things on my baking wish list is a double boiler. During the days when I was baking one or more pies every day, I used a makeshift one two or three times a week. I made it work, but it drove me nuts. The bowl was too big, the pot was too small, and I was too high maintenance. All that to say, lately, I’ve been melting stuff in the microwave. That’s how THIS awesomeness happened:

That’s right folks: BACON IN CHOCOLATE. I know it’s not an original idea, but it was so tasty. I had already gotten the pie ready to go in the oven, and there was leftover chocolate, and it was breakfast time, so….I “repurposed leftover ingredients.” Scrumptious.

The pie looked pretty tidy as I put it in the oven–the “40” was just right. Then I baked it, and it accidentally became a symbol of how time changes things. 40…just a little “cracked.” 🙂

So the pie was checked off my list. I delivered it to my friend, who enjoyed it later that evening and declared that the chocolate inside was “the bomb.” The chocolate was merely chocolate chips, half and half, and vanilla. I’m glad that it was good.

I got to thinking about those daily (and weekly, and monthly) to-do lists I love to make and I asked myself this question:

Do all these little things-to-do add up to accomplishing my BIG things-to-do?

Sometimes.

It’s worth inspecting the list, though. Sure, there are mundane tasks that must be done, but I’ve started adding other stuff to my list. For example, it’s hard to check off CARE MORE FOR OTHERS, but it’s not so tough to check off SEND A CARD TO SOMEONE. I’ll never check off BE A BETTER MOM, but I have checked off PLAY A BOARD GAME. Difficult to check off: BE HEALTHIER. Easier: WALK TO THE MAILBOX. And while I’ll probably never check off BE A BETTER FRIEND, today I can check off: MAKE A PIE.

So make a list. Check it twice. Celebrate what’s checked. And what’s not checked? Don’t give up. Make it smaller. Divide it up. Ask for help. OR….decide that it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway. One thing’s for sure–I’ve found that people always make time for what matters most to them.

Look at your list. Does it show what matters to you?

Butterfingers and Onions

Yesterday, I dropped by the grocery store to get coffee creamer. There are a lot of things we can do without around here, but we’re serious about waking up and having what we need for coffee. I only needed a couple of things–didn’t want to do any big grocery shopping because it just wasn’t time in the budget. So I purposefully walked quickly through the store, pretending to have blinders on. Doesn’t matter if it’s a good deal if you don’t need it or don’t need to spend the money. This is such a hard rule for me.

Anyway, despite my efforts, the daggone store had BIG bags of Butterfinger bite-sized candy bars buy-one-get-one-free. Now, I especially love this store because they don’t make you buy two, so essentially, you get a half-price item. Sometimes I even have a coupon or two. Love a cheap deal. So I HAD to get the candy. Therefore, I HAD to make Butterfinger Pie last night. I had all the other ingredients already, so I made it last night and put it in the freezer.

The pie is in a graham cracker crust. I didn’t actually have a recipe, but here’s what I did. I filled the pre-made crust with microwave ganache. That is to say, I melted some chocolate chips and a little half and half in the microwave and stirred. Then I poured it into the crust. Today, when we tasted the pie, this step turned out to be one of the most essential for contributing awesomeness.

Then I chopped up a few of the Butterfinger bars. I did some quality control tasting–they passed for sure.

Next, I covered the chocolate layer with lots of Butterfinger crumbles.

The last step was the filling. Here’s what I had, so I mixed it together: About 8 ounces of Cool Whip, 4 ounces of cream cheese, more chopped up Butterfingers. I spread that filling on top of the chocolate and crumbles. Finally, I added a zig zag of Hershey’s syrup.

Me, my husband, and a good friend of mine tasted it after lunch today. Aside from the fact that it was as hard as a carp when I took it out of the freezer(note to self: thaw 15-20 minutes first next time), that stuff was AWESOME. That chocolate layer in the bottom was firm and chocolatey. The filling was wonderfully creamy and sweet. I would definitely make this pie again.

BEFORE we ate the Butterfinger Pie, we all enjoyed the Pie-day Friday Spectacular that was a…wait for it….

Onion Bacon Havarti Tarty Party!

As you may remember, I have been trying to work on pies and tarts that include savory ingredients, and today’s Onion Bacon Havarti Tart hit it out of the park, in my opinion. I used the same free-form tart shape that I used last week, but with different ingredients. I researched a few onion tart recipes, but I didn’t really like everything about any one of them. For starters, even though I know that good ingredients cost more, I just couldn’t afford to pay what some certain hunks of cheese cost. So I got a “lesser” hunk, if you will. Still tasted awesome.

First of all, I followed one of my main rules of entertaining: In case the food sucks, make the table pretty. Very reassuring to an amateur baker indeed.

Next, let’s talk about onions. Sniff…I used white onions. Sniff….I don’t remember if they were Spanish, or sweet, or sniff…what. But MAN, my eyes were cryin’! I chopped about 8-10 small and medium onions. No finger cuts this time! When I finally got them into the skillet, I had to go wipe my eyes, blow my nose, and wash my hands. Sniff…STRONG.

Anyway, they had to cook for a good 30 minutes in a bit of butter and olive oil so that they could get sweet and tender and a little brown. While they cooked, I prepared to round crusts with havarti cheese and BACON. *pause to think about how you love bacon*

Then I brushed the edge of the crusts with egg.

I added the following to the cooked onions: salt, pepper, nutmeg, rosemary, and garlic. Just a little bit of each. Also, I added about 2 TPSP of sour cream, because I had it, and because it added to the richness of the tart.Then I loaded up the two tarts with the cooked onions and put a bunch more havarti on top. I turned the edges up, brushed on more egg, and baked them at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.

We were all delighted with the taste. I served it with some fruit and the delicious Pinot Grigio that my friend brought over. I have no idea if that was supposed to be paired with what I served, and besides, we were making generous use of the “five o’clock somewhere” rule. In my book, it all went perfectly together.

But none of it was a delicious as the company! What a blessing it is to have a good friend who loves you no matter what! And even better, to have a husband who gets along with my friends and doesn’t “go hide” when they come around. The conversation was easy and we would’ve talked all afternoon, but our kids would eventually come home :). When my friend left, I couldn’t help be feel grateful for such a terrific start to the weekend.

Here’s hoping you’ll make your next meal a party. It won’t matter what you serve. It’s all about the company and the attitude.

Remember, every day is worth celebrating!

 

 

Son of a Cheeseburger!

That’s what I’m claiming I exclaimed when I cut my finger chopping an onion today. I don’t chop very often, and somehow, I’ve NEVER cut my finger in all my 40 years. Today was the day. It was a very tiny cut–barely worth a band-aid–but it was on the end of my finger where it’s tender and besides, I like Spongebob.

I happened to have a real onion in my pantry, which is rare. I’ve always been a user of fake little dehydrated onions or maybe frozen ones, but today, I decided to be a chopper. Well apparently, my Dad was right–no good deed goes unpunished. Just kidding. Sort of.

In my mind, it really was a good deed. I’ve mentioned before how I’m trying to gradually (and I mean gradually like a snail who’s had a few drinks on his way to a salt lick) move away from so much processed food. I was about to fix up a box of Hamburger Helper when I decided, “Hey–why not make something that’s not quite as processed?” So I whipped up a Cheeseburger Pie. The only thing in it that comes from a box is 1/2 cup of Bisquick.

I browned some lean ground beef with that precious onion. I confess that I was thinking to myself, “If one of my kids starts to pick the onion out of this pie….

“Boom! Straight to the moon.”

I’m pleased to report that no one did.

I resisted the urge to add green or red peppers. I love them, but they weren’t in the recipe, and wasn’t going to push my luck with the picker-outers. Besides, I was not a fan of chopping by this point. I did add one magical ingredient that causes all who behold it to shout its name with glee…

BACON!

That’s right. A few slices of bacon on top made it very appealing to everyone in my family–even before the first bite. Yes, I realize that meat is processed, but it doesn’t come from a box, right?

This yummy pie included that 1/2 cup of Bisquick, 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, one PRECIOUS onion, and about a cup of cheddar cheese. Oh yeah, and BACON! Woot!

 

So the slice came out beautifully, too. The pie was exactly enough for our family of four. My husband and I each had 1/2 of the last slice.
I love a dish that is just the right size with no leftovers. The only thing we ate with it were some beautiful, sweet cherries. This left room for a dessert of ice cream which, I confess, was from a box. 🙂

 

My Mom used to make tons of stuff with Bisquick. It was great for magically holding together all manner of ingredients, both sweet and savory. I’m sure this little pie wouldn’t have fed our family of seven, but she also had a gift for making a little food go a long way. No one went hungry, that’s for sure.

Today’s pie experience was far from perfect, especially with that chopping debacle, but I read a great quote today:

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

So true. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and I do a lot of criticizing of myself and others (sorry, others) when things aren’t just right. A lesson to myself: Good really can be good enough. It’s OK to cut your finger. To use something out of a box. To forget stuff. To not reach every goal.

Trying to do good IS good. So there.

Good!

Friday Pie-Day: Freeform Vegetable Tart

It’s a new year! To save my wallet and my waistband, I decided to bake pies a little less frequently, but FRIDAY seems like a great day to bake pie.

A good friend of mine came over for lunch today. I got a great deal on some delicious veggies from a local market. We both love veggies, so I decided to make a veggie pie. Now you know I must love this friend of mine, ’cause I CHOPPED and chopped and chopped veggies for her. I don’t have sharp knives (because of my lazy problem where I put them all in the dishwasher), but I managed to chop lots of zucchini, yellow squash, shallots, mushrooms, and peppers for my Freeform Vegetable Tart.

I prepared a couple of store-bought pie shells by laying them out on parchment paper and sprinkling them generously with feta cheese. I love feta cheese. I pretty much love all cheese, but feta is right up there near the top of my yumminess list. The recipe called for store-bought crusts, and they really did behave perfectly and held together in a freeform form. “Freeform form” sounds ridiculous…

Anyway, the veggies you saw in the skillet above were pre-cooking. I read in several cooking articles about how vegetables can be even juicier than fruit, so it is important to pre-cook them for pies/tarts. While they were cooking, I added salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic. I gotta tell ya, my house smelled fantastic by this time.

After they cooked about 10 minutes, I dumped them onto a tray covered with paper towels. They needed to drain a little and cool down to about room temperature. Then I lined them up all fancy-like on those tart shells. It’s important to leave about two inches all the way around so that you have something to “form” when you close up the tart.

Here’s how they looked before I put them in the oven. I brushed egg wash on the shell edge before I pushed it up around the vegetables. I also brushed it on the outside of the shell after it was folded up. This really paid off by giving it a lovely golden brown color when it baked.

It baked for about 50 minutes at 400 degrees. Then I moved the tarts to a cooling rack–I left them on the parchment paper, which helped me slide them off the pan.

As soon as they hit the rack, I sprinkled more feta cheese on the top of each tart. If feta cheese is good, then MORE feta cheese is even better, right?

I’d set the table kinda nicely. I figured that if the tart wasn’t that great, maybe the table setting would compensate somehow. It looked nice, but it didn’t matter.

That tart tasted incredible.

My friend and my hubby enjoyed it with me, and we all had seconds. And frankly, I can’t wait for leftovers.

It came out in pretty good slices. And, considering it was “freeform,” it didn’t look sloppy or anything.

I really enjoyed making and eating the tart, but it also accomplished a few other things:

1. We didn’t eat out. I’ve decided to try to eat out less, and I really enjoyed having someone over. Besides, it’s a great reason to clean up!

2. I shopped at a new, cheaper grocery store. It wasn’t my favorite, but they really did have good deals. I’m not SUCH a princess that I can’t go somewhere different now and then.

3. I ate more vegetables. As a family, we want to move (however gradually) away from so much processed stuff. I hope we’ll be able to make more and more progress in this area as the year goes on.

4. I tried something I’d never tried before. Trying new things makes my brain work better. No doubt about it.

Try something new today.You might surprise yourself!

Resolution Pie

This morning, I was awakened by the bells of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. We’ve lived adjacent to their property for 10 years now, and today marks the first time those beautiful bells have woken me up. It was a gorgeous welcome to this new year. The bells were the only sound I could hear, and they broke through the stillness to say, “Rejoice! It’s time to begin.” I’m takin’ it as a good sign.

Don’t let those carrots in the photo above frighten you. I can’t think of anything I want LESS in a pie today than carrots. Everyone’s blogging and Facebooking and Tweeting about getting fit, and sure, I’ve got some healthy goals, too, but today’s pie is a sweet pie. It’s called

If-You’re-Doing-Something-Right-Keep-Doing-It Apple Pie.

Someone asked me to bring a pie for dessert today to follow the greens and black-eyed peas (which I love, by the way), and it didn’t take me long to decide on apple. Apple pie’s delicious, I had apples, so there.

I did get some new tools for Christmas, thanks to sweet family members.

A new apron, a cool crust cutter, a y-peeler, and a pretty red pie plate all helped me with my apple pie today. All of them seemed to work great. I need to practice a bit on that peeler, but it definitely allows for more fruit in the pie–the paring knife method I used before really cut too deep and wasted apples.

But the filling’s the same: apples, cinnamon, sugar, salt, corn starch. Works every time.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I’m not saying there is never room for change or improvement, but if you’re doing something right, keep doing it. And you are doing something right. Everybody gets down sometimes. We’ve all had days when we feel like everything goes poorly–like everything we touch turns to…well…something we didn’t want it to turn to.

But many, many days are very good. And many, many people are very good. Including you. Don’t forget it.

New Year’s Day is traditionally a time of beating ourselves up disguised as “resolutions.” Again, if you’re a good goal-maker, keep at it. Some people really get things done that way. I’ve met a few goals and I’ve fallen short of a few (okay, more than a few). But don’t spend today thinking of all the things you didn’t do last year. Here’s your challenge:

Before you make any goals or resolutions for 2012, first make a list of what you did RIGHT in 2011. I know, I know….we’re to be humble and never toot our own horns, right? NO. Sure, bragging’s not fun to listen to, but I think it’s healthy from time to time to say to yourself, “Hey! I’m alright. Look at what I’ve done so far–this definitely means I can accomplish stuff. What next?”

So start blowin’ that horn

and make the list. 10 things  you did right. This year, do those 10 things again and add 10 more.

‘Cause you’re alright. Don’t forget it.

Here’s wishing you and yours a year full of good days, good people, and love! Happy New Year!