>20 Pies in 2018 (and why setting goals is a bad idea)

I made more than 20 pies in about 40 weeks. I didn’t set a goal. I didn’t feel bad when I didn’t have time to bake or blog. I simply enjoyed baking and sharing these beauties, while messing up and learning.

In other decades of my life I have set goals–to train for a half marathon, to plan a new course, to lose weight, to finish a first draft of a novel. Routine and habits help me eat the elephant. But in every case, after days and weeks of making myself do the thing I used to enjoy, I’d hit a time when I just didn’t feel like doing the thing, but I’d kick myself into guilt for not doing it, and then feel bad about myself while I was doing it. In the end I always felt good that the thing got done, the elephant eaten, and all that jazz. There was just no need to make myself feel bad about something I was supposed to enjoy.

So, with this series of pies, I found my way to have a hobby that I love without feeling bad about the time it takes from my obligations. Sharing the pictures, the fun, the mistakes, the mess, and the taste of these pies from SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR was a highlight of my 2018 year. Here are my pies, and if you keep scrolling, I added a set of favorite pictures and bloopers.

When it can’t get any worse, you might as well smile and eat some pie.

I got a new cookbook yesterday as a gift from my daughter. It’s a bread cookbook, so someday soon stop by for a peek at Bread 1.0.


Pie 20.0

Pie 20.0

This is it. The absolute end of my pie blogging. (I think.)

Pie 20.0 is the first pie in my beloved SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook (so I made it last) and it’s called “Sweet Victory Pie.” I made this cherry delight because of its beautiful lattice crust and to bring to a party where the hostess said not to bring anything. When I’m the hostess and I say that to my guests, I mean it. Other hostesses say don’t bring anything but hope you’ll bring something. Turns out this hostess was in my club and she really didn’t need (or want) me to bring anything. (Remind me next year, ok? ‘Cause I’ll forget.)

The double crust dough was the normal recipe, made ahead and chilled in round disks. If I read ahead I would have seen a square disk would’ve been smarter. Next time.

The filling was just cherries and starch and sugar. I used frozen cherries because it’s December. They look kinda’ like meatballs, don’t they? I had a pot of meatballs and sauce going on the stove. Luckily, I didn’t mix them up. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson from Big Guy Strawberry Pie–I didn’t cook down the fruit and this one came out soupy, too. There’s only one slice left, so my pie eater has not become a connoisseur. Good thing.

I’d never made a lattice crust before. The directions had some laid-back comment about just cutting random widths, straight or curvy, just WTH… or be more precise, depending on your personality. Right. Just chilling in the kitchen. They suggested cutting 8 slices from a 10 inch square, and said the slices should be 1.5 inches wide. Apparently math is hard for laid-back folk: 10 divided by 1.5 will not produce 8 lattice pieces. I got out my tape measure and slide rule and pencil and paper, my pizza cutter and straight edge and log chart, and I measured my little engineer heart out.

I whipped the egg with water and brushed it on. Then I sprinkled on way too much of the expensive sugar. I’m just chill that way.


I baked Pie 20.0 for a very long time. She came out pretty–I did hold her sideways over the sink to drain out a flood of juice. (Another benefit of the open lattice, dear novice bakers. I threw myself on the sword for you again)–and tasted fantastic with coffee.



My first children’s book is available in time for Christmas!

I LIKE TREES LIKE THESE is full of glorious images and playful verse to delight young readers and old tree-huggers (like you and me).


Published by LMNO Press and available on Amazon.

P.S. If your initials are S.D. or J.M., check your mailbox for your absolutely-hot-off-the-press first-edition-ever copy. It is printing right this minute and on the way!

Pie 18.0

Pie 18.0

Let’s cheer up this black Friday. The turkey drippings and butter have been wiped up, the pies cut, and the Alka Seltzer and Pepto consumed. We slept off whatever we overdrank or ate. Coffee pot is gurgling, dear husband (DH) still snoozing, and it’s time to blog a pie.

Pie 18.0, chosen by my DH and called “Life’s a Rocky Road Macadamia Mousse Pies” on page 141 in the SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook, was constructed in three dozen easy to follow steps side-by-side with Pie 19.0 (coming soon). I told you I can juggle.

First step: SHOP. Publix had everything I needed, including (to my delight) a dozen 4 ounce jelly jars.


Second step: CHOP. Macadamia nuts are soft. I chopped a couple of cups to begin the mess.


Next, I made a cookie dough, and baked 50 macadamia chocolate cookies. The chocolate was supposed to be white, but I used semi-sweet regular old chips. Only 15 cookies were actually needed for the “pies” so the cookie jar is full. DH declared them “really good” so the cookie recipe is on my short list now.

The cookies cooled, got crumbled, pulsed in the ancient blender and met up with some melted butter before they were squished in the bottom of the little jelly jars and baked for a few minutes.

I do try to use only the finest ingredients, but I am inherently frugal (aka cheap). I could not resist this grandiose claim on the cheapest vanilla bottle, reassuring me I wasn’t purchasing mere brown water.


I’d like to add that my novels are presented by special request and are excellent quality products. Just FYI. In case you needed reassurance before spending a week reading them. They are not merely brown water either. But, really, why can’t authors self-promote when it’s acceptable (and even effective) for cheap vanilla distributors to do so? My books cost less than a bottle of brown water, they took decades to write, were revised and polished dozens of times, and painstakingly proofread and tweaked. And I can’t even claim they are excellent quality products? So silly.

OK, down from my soapbox now. The air was cool and refreshing up there. Read on if you will.

The filling had a whipped component folded into a creamy white chocolate concoction. Absolutely dreamy, but ruined (to my taste) by introduction of more chopped nuts. I might be nuts, but I don’t like ’em.

This white fluffiness got spooned over the double-baked cookie bottom in each jar. More crushed cookies and nuts were sprinkled on top. The jars were sealed closed and stored in the fridge.


We took a few jars to a dessert gathering after Thanksgiving dinner. They were a hit. Another win in the record book of my virtual bakery.


Pies 18.0 and 19.0 were created in parallel. That means I chopped nuts and sliced bananas in a concerted fashion. (My orgo students know “concerted” means “at the same time” and can imagine what my transition state looked like.) Alas, although I can make two concerted pies, I cannot blog them in unison. Pie 19.0, pending permission from two bakers/sisters/photographers, is coming soon. You won’t want to miss that story–it will be high quality as promised in black and while indelible ink, just like that indisputable non-fiction claim on the vanilla bottle.


Pie 17.0

Pie 17.0

Back to savory! I know–you’re surprised. Why would I go back and try a savory pie after the Jerk Chicken debacle? Here’s the secret: I wanted to squeeze mashed potatoes out of my new frosting bag.

Bring on Pie 17.0, “Lost Shepherd’s Pie,” a concoction that started with complex mashed potatoes and ended with a meat base that looked like the child of sloppy joes and meatloaf, but with richer flavors for the nose and pallet. I loved this pie.

I do enjoy peeling. I like to use my little paring knife to try to make one long peel. My daughters have tried to convince me to move on to one of those scraping peelers. It’s just not the same feeling of accomplishment to have a pile of a thousand scraps instead of my long and twirly peels.

Chopping onions is also quite fun. I hardly cried at all. Tonight when I make my Thanksgiving stuffing, I’ll chop another onion. It’s good to plan your life around happy moments, to anticipate them as I do the chopping of my next onion. BTW, the chopped onion did not go into the potatoes. I just couldn’t wait to show it to you.

The cooked potatoes were hand-mashed and mixed. The recipe warned against beating them with a mixer because they’d become too gooey. I followed the directions like a good little cook, but next time I’m going for the creamy mashed potato option. Read on and you’ll understand why.

I made this pie in the morning. Mashed potatoes for breakfast. Yum.

The meat cooked slowly in many stages in my favorite pan. This pan and I go back more than 30 years. In fact, I’ve probably cooked more than 6000 (>30 x 365 / 2) dinners in this pan. Twice during the cooking process, I thought “That’s it. I ruined my pan. I’ll never get this dried goop off.” But then the magician recipe writers saved the day. At one point the directions told me to add red wine. It acted like a perfect solvent and swiped the bottom of the pan to shiny silver (and made a sauce or gravy). And right at the end, I had to add a bit of A1 sauce. I wondered why it had to be added at the very end. The bottom of the pan had once again looked hopeless, but the A1 wiped it clean. Amazing. I have used a bit of water in the past to moisten dried out concoctions. From now on, it’ll be wine and A1.

The meat layer went into the lightly greased dish first.


The potatoes were piped on top. I spent some brain waves choosing the frosting tip. I used the one in the middle. I also used my paring knife a couple dozen times during the potato piping to unclog chunks of potato lumps from the tip. So, yeah, next time I’m whipping those mashed potatoes with the electric beater.

A delicious savory pie. She surprised me with her beauty and deliciousness.


Pies 18.0 and 19.0 will commence today in my sunny kitchen, concurrently. Don’t worry. I can juggle.