Steak and Ale Pie

The End of Week Twenty-Eight

The good news is, we're back on track with a bit of weight-loss. Victor is doing a bit better than me, but I'm not complaining. Anything in the negative bin is a win, as far as I'm concerned, and this isn't a competition between us to see who can lose the most the fastest. We're both down over 40 pounds since July. Not bad.

Our trainer is coming up with new and innovative ways to cause us pain, so we're both learning all about new muscle groups. Getting fit, anatomy lessons, pain relief... Fascinating stuff.

When not killing ourselves at the gym, we've discovered a new TV show. At any given moment I'm about 5 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to TV, movies, and books, so while I had vaguely heard of The Great British Bake Off, I pretty much dismissed it as another Iron Chef-type show. I'm not a huge fan of cooking competitions, but The Great British Bake Off has proved to be the exception to the rule.

We've seen two seasons, so far, and while we don't always agree with the judges decisions, really like the premise of the show - fairly ordinary people with pretty good skills making things the best they can. The vast variety of things they have to master is incredible. And we have our favorite bakers from the two series we have seen - Richard Burr from Season 5 (1 in the US) and Kimberley Wilson from Season 4 (2 in the US.) Both were finalists, neither won the championship, but both are fun, talented, and real - and who would have won had I been the judge!

I'm a baker, and I'm reasonably good - probably not top-notch competition good, but reasonably good - so it's been fun watching, figuring out what I would be doing, marveling at the things they have come up with - and knowing that much of what the judges are asking for is nigh-on impossible in the time frame given. I can only imagine the stress.

On the other hand, I have learned so much about where my own things go wrong and how I can make them better. I've been especially pleased with their bread baking and have picked up a few tricks to make sure they're consistent. And I've also been reintroduced to being a bit more precise in things. I've gotten lazy in my old age - it's time to tighten things up a bit - again.

It's really a good thing we didn't find this show a few years ago - we would have needed to lose a hundred pounds or more. Besides the breads, I constantly see things I'd love to make - Chelsea Buns, Swiss Rolls, Cream Cakes... Rich, ooey-gooey masterpieces that have a very limited place in our current dietary regime.

One thing that did intrigue me was hot water crust pastry. I have cooked flour in water and milk to make bread, but never to make a crust. I figured it was about time I did, so I headed off to Richard's website to see if he had a recipe. I found the perfect recipe for a Steak and Ale Pie - and went to work.

Since there is just the two of us - Nonna won't eat something like this - I started by halving his recipe. I then made individual pies because I had a feeling that if I just made one, we would eat the entire thing in one sitting. This forced us into portion control.

I did the recipe exactly as written - including using Old Speckled Hen Ale as he did in his recipe. It was on the shelf at the local Wegmans - go figure. I merely adjusted the baking time which I probably shouldn't have done. The crust wasn't quite as crisp as I think it should have been.

Steak and Ale Pie

But in the grand scheme of things, it was excellent! The filling was really rich and flavorful - one of the best beef dishes I've had in a long time. It was really simple but with a ton of flavor.

As I mentioned, I found the Old Speckled Hen Ale Richard used in his recipe and it had a ton of flavor, as well. It tasted like what a beer should taste like.

Since I had both dough and filling left over, I made a couple of little hand pies for lunches.

Steak and Ale Pies

We will be enjoying this meal for a few days!

We're going to start the next season of The Great British Bake Off tonight. I'm sure there will be more fun foods coming forth.

Thanks, Richard, for a great recipe!







Beef Pot Pies

Beef Pot Pies

What do ya do when you have leftover Boeuf Bourguignon?!? Why... make Beef Pot Pies, of course!

I love pot pies. I especially like a double-crusted pot pie, because I really like the crust. And... especially if your filling is already made - they're pretty easy to put together.

A while back, I popped into a kitchen shop across from the local farmer's market. I looked through the store to see what was new or interesting - and couldn't find anything to buy. We already have everything. Sad, but true.

Well... almost everything... I saw a couple of little pie plates that I thought might come in handy since we were just starting our new food regime. At $4.99 a piece, I bought 'em - and they have been in the cupboard ever since.

Today, I decided it was time to put them to use - and to break in our new food processor.

Kitchenaid Food Processor

Our close-to-25-year-old cobalt blue Kitchenaid food processor finally bit the dust. Or, rather, the work bowl did - and they don't make them, anymore. I did my online search looking for a replacement, but to no avail. Time to bite the bullet and get a new one. It's another Kitchenaid - still my preferred brand - and it has a few bells and whistles the old one didn't - including an adjustable slicing disk. I tend to use my mandoline for precision slicing, but... what the heck. The downside to the new one is the base is lighter than the old one, so it doesn't sit as steady - it bounced around a bit with the frozen butter for the pie crust. But... the price was right, so I'll cope.

The crust came out perfect. I have to admit I do have pie crust down to a science. Light, flaky, and buttery - just as a crust should be. I play around with sometimes using vodka and sometimes not. This was one of the not times. For pie pies, I will often use 1/3 cup of pastry flour with 2 cups Italian "00" - or all-purpose. Tonight, I used all Italian "00" I also added a pinch of sugar. When making a crust for a sweet filling I'll usually add a couple of tablespoons. Sugar helps with tenderness.

Pie Crust

  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 sticks butter, frozen
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Using a food processor, add flours, salt, and sugar. Pulse to mix.

Chop up frozen butter and add. Pulse until butter is incorporated and mixture looks grainy.

Slowly add ice water and pulse until mixed.

Turn out onto counter. Press and form mixture into two disks . Wrap in plastic and refrigerate about an hour to allow the flour to properly absorb the water and to relax the gluten.

Roll out crust and place in pie plate. Crimp edges and fill.

Beef Pot Pies

I cut it in half and froze part. The other half I made into 2 small bottom and 2 smaller top crusts. They went into the 'fridge for an hour.

I rolled the crusts out, fitted them into the little pie plates, and then filled them with the cold beef filling. On went the top crust, brushed with egg and sprinkled with Maldon salt - I hafta use this stuff up, somehow...

I put them back into the 'fridge to get nice and cold before going into a preheated 425°F oven for 30 minutes.

They were actually too big for either of us to finish, although we did put a good dent into them. The beef was just too good - and even better that last night after spending the night in the 'fridge.

The rest, as they say, is history.



Cherry Crumb Pie

It may seem early for cherries, but after tasting some this morning, I knew they were coming home with me!

It seems I haven't made a cherry pie in a while - or, I didn't blog about it. That's a possibility, albeit remote, since any time I make a cherry pie I have to casually mention how I won 2nd Place in the Cherry Pie Cook-Off at the Cherry Festival in San Leandro back in 2000. No brag. Just fact.

So... armed with my trusty cherry pitter, I went to work.

It didn't take long to pit 2 pounds of cherries, and I hardly ate any at all whilst doing it!

Then it was mix the cherries with a splash of kirsch, sugar, and tapioca - and a bit of vanilla.

I had a crust in the freezer left from another baking project, so I rolled it out...

And filled it with those luscious cherries.

Then I made the crumb topping with butter, flour, oats, and just a pinch of cinnamon...

That went on the top and into the oven.

Less than an hour later... Perfection!

I'm not sure this one is enter-into-a-contest-worthy, but it's pretty darned good.

Cherry Crumb Pie


  • pastry for single crust pie
  • 2 lbs cherries, pitted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp kirsch
  • 2 1/2 tbsp instant tapioca
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt


  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • pinch cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll out crust and fit into pie pan. Flute edges and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix pitted cherries with sugar, tapioca, kirsch, vanilla, and salt. Let sit, stirring occasionally, for about an hour for tapioca to set.

Place in pie shell.

Make topping. Mix flour, sugar, oats, and a pinch of cinnamon. Stir in butter.

Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and bake another 20 or so minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.

Not bad at all for a spur of the moment creation!




Berry Custard Birthday Pie

It's Birthday Cake time - which, this year, means a pie.

I was perusing recipes in my Mom's Cook Books and the pies kept jumping out at me. I finally decided that a pie was it - and a creamy pie was really it! Creamy turned into custard, and an assortment of frozen berries made it a berry custard pie. Simple, eh?!?

Pies have a long tradition in my family for birthday cake substitutions. My birthday pie was Pineapple Cream Meringue. I think I may have to make myself one on the next birthday.

But I digress...

This is a quick and easy recipe that requires no blind baking or pre-cooking of the filling - but is just loaded with flavor. You can switch out the frozen berries for any fruit you want. Anything will work!

Berry Custard Birthday Pie

  • 2 cups mixed berries - or fruit of choice (I used a bag of frozen mixed berries, thawed)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • pinch salt
  • pie crust for single pie

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough and place in pie plate. Crimp edges and refrigerate until filling is done.

Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add eggs, vanilla, and cream, and mix well.

Evenly spread fruit over bottom of crust. Pour custard over fruit.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until pie is set.

Cool and then refrigerate before serving.





Pumpkin Pie

I mentioned in the post that the Ricetta Maiorchino I made the other night was on the dry side. It was fine a few hours after coming out of the oven, but yesterday morning, it was Gobi Desert Dry.

It still had a good flavor, but it was seriously suck-the-moisture-out-of-your-mouth dry.

Being my mother's son, there was no way I was going to just throw it out - it was a dessert, after all! Time to get creative. I started thinking of what one can do with cake crumbs... when I worked at the Donut Center years ago, we ground up stale donuts for our bear claws and other danish pastries - but I wasn't about to make danish. Trifle, tiramisu, cobbler with a cake-crumb topping... more ambitious than I was feeling. As I was blankly staring into the cupboard, I saw a can of pumpkin - and a pie was born!

If you can make a crust out of cookie crumbs, you can make a crust out of cake crumbs, says I!

I took some of the cake and placed it in the food processor and when it was nice and crumbly, added some melted butter. Pressed it into the pie plate and added a basic pumpkin filling.

Into the oven.

It came out great! The crust held together and was solid but soft - a nice contrast to a traditional pie. And it had a great flavor.

My you-never-know-when-it's-going-to-hit frugality was a success. It's always fun to see when money is no object but $1.29 is too much to pay for something. I offer no explanations or excuses - it just is when it is.

And this is one of those times I'm glad it was.




Chocolate and Sour Cherry Torta

Easter treat that deserved a post of its own!


  • 1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces plus more for greasing pan


  • 3 large eggs
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%), finely chopped
  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • ⅓ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups sour cherries in syrup, drained (from 24-ounce jar)
  • 1 bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving

For Crust: Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process for a few seconds to combine. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add 3 tablespoons ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds. Turn out dough onto a work surface; flatten to form a disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day before using.

Heat oven to 350º with rack in middle. Grease the 9-inch springform pan with butter, then dust with flour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round. Fit crust into pan. Chill in refrigerator until ready to fill.


For Filling: Separate eggs, placing 3 yolks in one bowl and 2 whites in another (save remaining white for another use). In a heatproof bowl in a microwave oven, heat chopped chocolate at medium power at 15-second intervals, stirring between intervals, until melted, about 1½ minutes; set aside to cool. In the bowl of a food processor, combine almonds, flour and salt; pulse until mixture resembles fine flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat together butter and 7 tablespoons sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With machine running, add egg yolks one at a time, incorporating between additions. In a slow and steady stream, add melted chocolate. Reduce speed to low, then add almond flour, mixing just until incorporated.


Fold in half the cherries. In a large, clean bowl, beat together egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until shiny, soft peaks form.


Gently but thoroughly fold whites into chocolate mixture. Spread remaining cherries in bottom of prepared crust, then pour in batter.


Bake until filling is puffed and just set, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Let cake cool completely.

Just before serving cake, hold chocolate bar with a paper towel. Pass a vegetable peeler over the side of the bar to create shavings. Pile shavings on top of cake. Dust with cocoa.

Strawberry Pie

It's not often that produce makes me stop in my tracks, nowadays. In a former life, I was a specialty produce buyer for a gourmet food distributor and at 4am, you'd find me at the produce market at SFO looking for new and unique - or just stellar - produce. It was the mid-'80s and fresh produce was being rediscovered. Baby vegetables, exotic greens, kiwis flown in from New Zealand at a dollar a piece...

It was great fun and a great education. I learned so much from so many people - and ate and ate and ate. I've never been a vegetarian, never wanted to be a vegetarian, but I have a great respect for Mother Nature's Bounty. It's one of the reasons I love Europe so much - they have a totally different respect for food and the earth that we lack here in the states.

So here it is 30 years later and I'm out in 'burbia walking through the grocery store and my eyes zero in on a basket of strawberries that were some of the most perfect-looking berries I've seen since I was a wee tyke. Not only did they look perfect, they smelled perfect - like strawberries that wanted to be eaten right this moment.

The two-pound box went right into the basket.

I could have just hulled them and eaten them out-of-hand, but that wouldn't be me. My modus operandi is to take the healthiest thing I can find and add whipping cream.

It's an art. What can I say?


And add whipping cream, I did. And a bit of booze, because... well... I can.

Strawberry Pie


  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup - butter, melted


  • 6 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup grenadine liqueur


  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp grenadine liqueur

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For crust:

Butter a deep-dish 9" pie dish. Mix walnuts, cookie crumbs, and sugar in processor and chop until finely ground. Add melted butter and mix until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of prepared pie dish.

Bake crust until set, about 12 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

For filling:

Place 2 1/2 cups strawberries in medium saucepan. Mash strawberries with potato masher until chunky. Add sugar, cornstarch, and grenadine.

Stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils and thickens, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl. Cool to room temperature. Stir in remaining 3 1/2 cups strawberries and grated orange peel. Mound filling in crust. Chill pie until cold and set, at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

For topping:

Whip cream with a couple tablespoons of sugar and a couple tablespoons of grenadine liqueur until stiff peaks form. Spread over filling. Top with reserved strawberries.

There's not a lot of liquid for the amount of corn starch, so it gets really, really thick. It will loosen a bit when you stir in the rest of the strawberries after it cools, but you need it really thick to hold together when you slice it.


Ooey-gooey perfection.

I used some fairly plain Italian cookies we had in the house, but you can use just about anything from vanilla wafers to graham crackers - or even mix it up and go chocolate - maybe even paint the cooled crust with melted chocolate before adding the strawberry filling.

Have fun with it. It's pie. It won't be bad no matter what you do!

Strawberry Pie


Strawberries have been looking good. It seems to be kinda early in the season, for me, but...  good berries are good berries. I don't know if the heat and drought in California are responsible, but here I am buying strawberries the first week in May.

I was hankerin' for a pie, so I thought I'd try my hand at a strawberry pie. I hadn't made one in years, but that never seems to stop me.

I just reworked the basic cherry pie I've made in the past - and seriously underestimated the amount of liquid the strawberries vs cherries would produce.

It was a bit of a runny pie.

I'm not posting a recipe because what I did really didn't come together all that well - although it did taste really good. Hell... How could it not with 2 pounds of sweet strawberries in it?!?


It's not a good picture, either, but what the hell. We ate it all!


Fried Apple Pie

We have a work party coming up next week and I need to come up with a dessert for the Party Hearty Dessert Table. We thought it would be fun to have a bit of a dessert throw-down. I work with some pretty clever and creative folks, so I really need to think outside of the [Pillsbury Cake] box on this one.

It's a simple contest - no rules, no categories. Bring anything you want. You don't even have to make it, yourself. No rules.

But not having any rules or categories means that anything goes. And if anything goes, well... one needs to be a bit over-the-top if one wants to win.

Victor told me I should just make a pie - because he likes my pies. I like my pies, too - but this is war. Sorta.

On the other hand, I actually do make a fairly decent pie - and even won a 2nd Place in a Cherry Pie contest once upon a time... so... I started thinking about what I could do do make it award-worthy. I took a concept from my days at UCSF - If we fry it, they'll buy it - and the Fried Apple Pie was born.

The concept is pretty simple. Roll out your pie dough, add scoops of filling, cover with another crust, cut, crimp, and fry.

I didn't want it overly-sweet because I thought it would need a sugar-drizzle for looks when it was done. I also wanted to use one of the liqueurs we brought back from Sicily. No rules means it's fair game to use ingredients not readily available to the other entrants. There are moments when I have no morals or scruples, whatsoever. This is about fame and glory, after all...


Apples blended with a cinnamon liqueur... How could it be bad?!?

It couldn't. And it wasn't. They came out awesome! Totally freaking awesome.


But even though Victor and Nonna both loved them, I'm not sure if they're totally award-winning awesome and not just merely really freakin' good. This is tough. Low as they may be, I do have standards and if I'm going to throw morals and scruples to the wind it had better be a pretty heavy wind.

Dilemma, dilemma...

So I'm going to have to think about this. I still have three days before the event - that's plenty of time to completely over-complicate this and drive Victor crazy. And in the meantime, we have a pretty awesome dessert to finish up!

Fried Apple Pie

  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 2 braeburn apples
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp Cannella - cinnamon liqueur
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg - for sealing
  • oil for frying

Make crusts - or buy them if you must - and roll into two equally-sized rectangles.

Peel and slice apples and cut to about a 1/4" dice. Mix in the liqueur and then the sugar, flour, butter, and pinch of salt.

Place small scoops of filling evenly-spaced along the first piece of dough in neat rows. The neat rows are important.

Beat the egg, and with a pastry brush, brush between the scoops of filling in both directions, making sure to get the edges, as well.

Carefully cover with the second piece of dough. Press firmly along the edges of each pie and cut with a fluted pastry cutter or pizza wheel. Or use a sharp knife.

To cook... in a small pan heat about 3" of oil to 360°F. Carefully add 2 pies and cook about 4 minutes, or until crispy-browned. Place on rack to drain and continue with the rest.

When cool, mix a bit of powdered sugar with milk and a splash of vanilla and drizzle over.

So... I just ate another one - totally for research purposes - and I'm beginning to think maybe they are award-worthy...

And maybe if I made them smaller...

Stay tuned.

Blueberry Peach Pie


I had planned to make a blueberry caramel the other day, based on the raspberry caramel I made last week. Notice I said planned. I didn't make it. I also had a half-dozen peaches that needed eating.

Now... I could have made a simple fruit salad and left it at that - but to paraphrase Tina Turner... we never ever do nothing nice and easy... It was time to bake a pie.

I thought of several possibilities, from crumb-top to lattice-topped to a biscuit-topped cobbler, but in the end, a traditional pie won out. A not overly-sweet traditional pie, I might add. I like my sweets, no question about it, but with fresh fruit, I want to taste the fruit. If it's good, it's sweet enough, already. And if it's not good, no amount of sugar is going to make it better.

I made my standard pie crust and while it was relaxing in the refrigerator, I went to work on the filling.

I did a quick blanch-and-peel on the peaches and cut them into fairly thick slices. Ofttimes I will leave fruit unpeeled because I actually like the taste and texture of the peel, but this time around I went for it. I used a mixture of brown and white sugar and a bit of vanilla. No other spices. Feel free to add what you like, but I thought the fruit was too good to mask.

Pie Dough

for a double crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 lb butter, frozen
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp ice water
  • 3 tbsp chilled vodka

Using a food processor, add flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to mix.

Chop up frozen butter and add. Pulse until butter is incorporated and mixture looks grainy.

Slowly add ice water and vodka. Pulse until mixed.

Turn out onto counter. Press and form mixture into 2 disks . Wrap in plastic and refrigerate about an hour to allow the flour to properly absorb the water and to relax the gluten.

Roll out crust and place in pie plate. Crimp edges and fill.

It really does make a difference refrigerating the pie dough. I usually end up pulling it out at 30 minutes, but an hour is best.

Today, I made a goodly amount of filling because I was using up what I had in the house and I was using a 10' deep pie plate. And I used it all. The pie bubbled over, but I had placed it on a sheet pan, so it was not a problem. You can definitely get by with less. Adjust sugars and flour, accordingly.

Blueberry Peach Pie

  • 6 medium peaches
  • 1 1/2 lbs blueberries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt

Peel and thickly-slice peaches. With clean hands, gently mix in blueberries and remaining ingredients until well-blended.

Pile into prepared pie shell and cover with second crust. Crimp edges to seal and cut steam vents into top.

Place into a preheated 425° oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and bake an additional 50 minutes - or until crust is browned and filling is bubbling and cooked.

Cool completely before cutting.


This went over well. Really well.

When I was a little kid my grandmother would occasionally give me a piece of homemade peach pie and vanilla ice cream for breakfast. It wasn't all of the time and she rationalized that it really was no different than a peach danish and a glass of milk.

I'm thinkin' grandma would approve if I had a piece of this tomorrow morning...





Apple Sour Cream Streusel Pie


Of all the pies I have made in my life, I don't think I've ever made a sour cream apple pie. Until today. I now have a new favorite pie.

Granted, just about any pie I happen to be eating is my favorite pie of the moment, but this one really is special. I'm impressed.

It's put together differently than I usually do, and since the recipe stated "thinly-sliced tart apples" I used my mandoline to get a thin, uniform cut on all of them. A winner.

Everything about this pie worked - from the flaky crust to the still-crisp but fully-cooked apples. The only thing I might change next time I make it - and I will make it again - will be to crumble the butter into the streusel a bit more and add a few more walnuts. But it was prit-near perfect the way it was.


Flaky Pastry for Pie Crusts

adapted from Frog Commissary Cookbook

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp lard and butter mix (equal parts of both)
  • 2 tbsp ice water

Place flour, butter, lard, and salt on counter. Cut butter and lard into flour until ity is coarse and crumbly. Add 2 tbsp water and mix well. Gather into a ball and roll into a 12" circle. Place in pie plate and crimp edges.

If you want, use your food processor to cut the fat into the flour. It's easier.



Apple Sour Cream Streusel Pie

adapted from Frog Commissary Cookbook

Streusel Topping:

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick cold butter
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped walnuts


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups thinly-sliced tart apples

Putting it together:


Combine sugars, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Toss with walnuts. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Preheat oven to 350°. Line 9" pie plate with pie dough. Mix together flour, sugar, and eggs. Add the sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon rind. Mix well.

Stir in the apple slices, making sure to coat them all well. Place in the pie shell and bake in lower third of oven about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with streusel topping. Return pie to oven and continue baking for another 30 minutes.

Cool completely before serving.

This is another recipe that took a couple of extra steps but was so worth it.

It really is restaurant-quality food you can make at home.

I'm old enough to remember when folks had dinner parties and they spent most of the day cooking and making desserts from scratch. No one would have dreamed of buying frozen pre-made appetizers and dinner most definitely would not have come out of a box. Today, it's all about "convenience" - which translates to overly-processed-soy-lecithin-and-carrageenan-laced franken-food. An organic Pop Tart is still a nutritionally unsound food choice.

So I have my new friend, and I plan on making a few more of the recipes. The salad dressings, alone are worth the price of the book. And home-made avocado mayonnaise!

I'm going to have me some fun!



Pre-Thanksgiving Cookery

It's beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving!

This is without doubt, my most favorite holiday. Massive quantities of food. No presents, no drama - just food.  Perfect.

We actually started the cooking a couple of days ago with an Egg Nog Cheesecake. Yeah - sounds pretty outrageous, eh?!?  I'll get a picture and the recipe posted this weekend.  It needs the final egg nog and whipped cream topping...  I mean...  I could take a picture right now but...  I'll wait until it's done...

Yesterday I made pie dough.  Today we baked pies.  I've been making the same pie dough forever and I find it infinitely easier than trying to unfold or unroll something from the frozen food section of the store.  Any time I've gotten a pre-made crust I've ended up having to do something with them, anyway.  Might as well start off with real butter and go for it.


Pie Dough

for a double crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 lb butter, frozen
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Using a food processor, add flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to mix.

Chop up frozen butter and add. Pulse until butter is incorporated and mixture looks grainy.

Slowly add ice water and pulse until mixed.

Turn out onto counter. Press and form mixture into 2 disks . Wrap in plastic and refrigerate about an hour to allow the flour to properly absorb the water and to relax the gluten.

Roll out crust and place in pie plate. Crimp edges and fill.


The Pumpkin Pies were our basic add-a-bit-of-maple-syrup recipe.  It really adds a nice touch.

Pumpkin Pie

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups - or 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked 10″ pie shell
  • Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 425°. Beat eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and spices in large bowl. Add pumpkin amd mix well. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425° F. for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Top with whipped cream before serving.

And then the nut and cranberry pie...

Four Nut Cranberry Pie

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Lyle's syrup - or light corn syrup
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out pie crust and place in deep-dish pie plate. Gently press into place. Fold overhang under crust and crimp edges. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Line pie crust with foil and fill with beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue baking until crust just begins to color, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, toast nuts until just golden, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Mix brown sugar, light corn syrup, butter, eggs, molasses, vanilla and salt. Stir in toasted nuts and cranberries. Pour filing into prepared crust. Bake until center of filling is set, about 45 minutes.

Cool and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Crostatas are pies that you make on a cookie sheet instead of a pie plate.  They're super-easy because they're free-form. And no matter how they look - it's how they're supposed to look.  I've made variations on a crostata for years.  You can go crazy with it adding nuts, raisins, and such or keep it simple as I did, today.  I did use a splash of Amaro Massagli a liquore from Lucca we brought back from vacation.

Pear Crostata

  • 4 pears, peeled, cored and cubed
  • splash liquore of choice
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 oz butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400°.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Roll dough out to about a 13" circle and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pile pear mixture into center of dough and bring dough up over the filling.

Bake about 35 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

The Pumpkin Cake is a take on the cake I made last week - without the cranberries.  I split the layers and filled them with leftover pumpkin mousse I made for Leah's baby shower.  The Pumpkin Mousse was really just pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger folded into whipped cream.  Really basic but also really yummy.

I know this holiday intimidates the hell out of some people, but I just can't think of a way to have more fun!

Happy Thanksgiving!