A pie is born

It might not seem a great idea to make a pie while on vacation, away from the home kitchen, and one that I’ve never made before and was sure not to like. But I did.

At the beach, during a mostly rainy but relaxing week, my husband and number 1 pie-eater and I were discussing food. I was adding avodaco to my salad. He was not. Actually, he was making a face and dissing my avocado, which was perfectly ripened and delicious.

I asked what his problem was. He said he didn’t like the texture (smooth and creamy!) This made no sense to me so we discussed other “textured” foods and it turns out I like smooth and he likes lumpy food. Creamy vs chunky peanut butter. Nuts or no nuts in everything from banana bread to cookies to ice cream. Somehow the discussion led to coconut, and quickly to pie.

[You can guess: he likes coconut, I do not. Ick. The texture.]

Some background on my pies. I make the Crisco crust and an apple pie that is family-famous. I’d make one every day if the pie eaters could keep up. I considered opening a bakery instead of going to graduate school. This apple pie is completely from scratch. I can peel apples in one long stream of curly peel. I know the recipe so well I use it to explain limiting and excess reagents when I teach stoichiometry in my chemistry lectures. Oh, and the man who likes coconut eats my apple pie from the pan if nobody is looking.

I also make a strawberry rhubarb pie (disgusting, but for sibling birthday reasons, a yearly staple) that mimics the fame of my best husband’s mother, a legendary cook and baker. So in my heart, I know the strawberry rhubarb and apple pies are on the top of his pie list.

But there we were watching rain fall at the beach, discussing avocado vs coconut, and he remembered a delicious coconut cream pie from forty years ago, and I could tell by the smile and gleam in his eyes that he really wanted one. So I asked the pivotal question (and got a surprising answer).

I asked for a pie ranking. “What are your top three pies in order?”

With minimal think time he held up his hand, palm to the floor, above his head to visually demonstrate position and declared strawberry rhubarb in the prime spot (no surprise). He dropped his hand to the next level (he’s Italian; his hands talk) and declared coconut cream pie in second place. And broke my heart by declaring my apple pie in third place.


So, of course I had to learn to make the second place pie. I had to make him eat it in my presence.

I went to the store and learned shredded coconut comes in little bags just like chocolate chips. I went online and compared three recipes, and used this one. I used a premade graham cracker crust, low fat Cool Whip, learned how to toast the coconut on a cookie sheet (why?), and made the thing that day. I stirred my arm off for for 40 minutes over the not-quite-yet boiling custard as it thickened and I wondered why a box of pudding wouldn’t work. The pie shell was too small, so I made a consolation dessert with 3/4 cup of the custard (before the coconut was added!) on a bowl of chunky sliced strawberries, which I topped with Cool Whip (all for the cook).

It was a beautiful pie.

He LOVED it. Immortalized its position between strawberry rhubard and apple pie. The last slice was eaten from the pan.

And a beach pie tradition is born.



Who taught me to cook?

I just devoured a veggie and cheese Panini in about eight bites. I tried to slow down. I tried to savor it. I even tried to pause and take a picture of it. But it was too delicious for any of that nonsense.

As I sit and sigh in bliss, I’m thinking of the things I’ve learned to cook in my life. This veggie and cheese sandwich is my own invention–though it was modeled after a sandwich I had in a Nashville restaurant ten years ago. For many of the things I like to cook (and eat!), I remember the day and the responsible chef.

Kerry taught me how to make bread in ~1986.

Sue taught me how to hard boil an egg in ~1996.

Aunt Til taught me how to make genets and cannoli in ~2000.

Mom taught me how to make pie crust, and meatballs, and hot-air popcorn, and how to cut pizza with scissors in ~1975.

Gram taught me how NOT to make mashed potatoes in ~1970.

Cheryl and Wayne taught me how to make Low Country Boil in ~2010.

Paula Deen taught me how to make Buffalo Shrimp in ~2013.

John told me how to make easy bread in ~2013.

Amy Adams taught me how to grill mushrooms in butter in ~2009. (You too? Remember the movie?)


Veggie and Cheese Panini

2 slices sourdough bread

1 tbsp. butter

2 mushrooms sliced up

3 artichoke hearts chopped up

1 tbsp. chopped green onion

1 tbsp. hummus–any flavor you like

3 small slices cheddar cheese

2 slices feta cheese (or some crumbles)

Grill the mushrooms in melted butter. Slather hummus onto one slice of bread. Move the mushrooms over and put the other slice of bread in the pan. Place the cheddar cheese and green onions on it. Add the feta cheese and artichokes. Pile on the mushrooms. Cover with the hummus-bread. Turn the heat way down. (Sometimes I turn the heat off while I BUILD the sandwich.) After the bottom bread cooks a little, flip the whole thing over. Turn off the heat. Put the Panini press on (or cover the pan) and let all the cheese melt for about 5 minutes. OMG.


4 days, 4 parties, 40+ people, 4000 hugs

As a Christmas present last year, my brilliant husband decided to buy plane tickets to get our kids and our grandkids to NY to visit/meet their great-grandparents.

Our extended family on both sides of our marriage just survived shared the 4-day family reunion. Four houses hosted pizza parties, picnics, pool parties and a FIFA final/Beatles sing-a-long party. The food was incredible. The hugs and laughter priceless.

Mike counted more than 40 people with ages ranging from 10 months to 85 years. Folks traveled to upstate New York from Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, North Carolina, North Carolina (two different families–one a surprise!), South Carolina, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Long Island (yeah, yeah, I know it’s not a different state, but little Sarah and her mom drove both ways in one day).

We are home now and after some much needed deep sleep last night, we can look back on this very special four-day extravaganza and smile.

I considered posting pictures on Facebook but then I thought, Ew, Facebook, and remembered I have this lovely little oasis of web space right here to use however I like thanks to WordPress. So, without further ado (because we all just experienced a plethora of ado) here are some pics.

Yay! I get to meet Mommy’s family in NY!
Lea and J
J with Mommy
Grace and Kate
G with antikate
Grace and poppi
G on Poppi’s shoulder
Grace and Judy
G with Nena
Grace and Hannah 2
G with (2nd?) cousin after the surprise
Grace and Nanny
G with Nanny
Grace and Grandpa
G with Greatgrandpa
GG prepic
G with GG
J and Sarah
kissing cousins
That’s Aunt Kim’s hand and she’s saying, “Don’t eat the green part. Eat the red part.”
watermelon 2
Is he eating it right yet?
GG 2
GG with grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. (only 2 missing)
GG 6
Love. True love.

Just when you thought summer couldn’t get any better

Just when you thought summer couldn’t get any better

The blueberry patch opened today!

Summertime and the living is easy :):):):)

I hate blueberries (almost as much as peas), but I LOVE pickin’ ’em!

Sally met me at 7:30 in the am. We chatted for two hours and picked almost 10 pounds of blueberries.


Then I got home and started making the magic.

This one is called Sally’s Pie. This is how it looked before I put the crumbly buttered pecans on top.
The pastry recipe called for a separated egg. First attempt = fail.
Second attempt: success.
Shoulda’ used Mr. Egg Separator. He was watching the whole time.