Posts Tagged ‘great pie recipes’


Rick and I try to slip out for a “date night” every week or two. Not that we don’t see enough of each other, we do, but date night is more about quality time than quantity. Usually this involves dinner or a movie. Cats not welcome in public venues, this leaves Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, to fend for herself. Boo came by her name honestly due of her innate fear of nearly everything from artichokes to zeppelins. Being alone, looms right at the top of her extensive “things I am afraid of” list. Usually she can be found cowering under our bed when we arrive home from a night out poised for impending disaster. As mentioned in my previous blog we adopted another kitty several years ago to provide some feline companionship, but Boo definitely didn’t want to share the spotlight. After a year we were forced to lick our wounds (literally), and hoist the white flag. Each time the two “ladies” (and I use the term loosely) saw each other the claws were out and the gloves off. In the end we found a loving home for our newest addition returning the cat count in our house to a contented one.

Date night this week was the movies. I haven’t seen a really great film in a while. Unfortunately, after seeing this one that status remains in tact. This was a Star Wars sequel. The only thing I wish I’d brought to improve the viewing was a pillow and a blanket. Rick loves Star Wars and has seen every follow up effort after the original but this one meandered about like a drunk on the freeway dangerously close to falling on its face.

Recently the owners remodeled the theater where the movie was playing. The updates were well received around town so I was curious to see what improvements had been made. Rumor had it (it is a small town so any news is big news) a bar/restaurant had been added serving beer, wine and bar food such as hot pretzels and pizza. Wow cocktails and a movie. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy a cocktail now and again. However, drinking before a movie (particularly the stinker we just saw) would result in me slumped over in my chair sucking air by the time the previews were over. As an aside I remember a business when I was living in Washington state who’s sign red “Drugs and Videos”. Turned out it was a pharmacy and a movie rental combined, but the sign led you in other directions.

Going to the movies is far different now then when I was a kid. There were three theaters in the town In So Cal where I went to high school. One was a newer building on spread out over a single level, with the other two massive old-style theaters replete with red velvet curtains, balconies and ornate columned walls. Double features were included in the price of ticket back then. Sandwiched in between films cartoons were played, or in my mother’s era “newsreels”, leaving patrons time for a bathroom run or to pick up another box of Junior Mints at the snack bar.

Both of the older theaters as I said had first floor and balcony seating. Balconies were reserved for overflow seating for particularly popular movies and necking for any movie. Aside from regular theaters, drive-ins were dotted all over the area. Teenagers and families gathered around the speakers on Friday and Saturday nights to enjoy some cardboard pizza from the snack bar or to share a picnic in their car. Children played in the playground until the sun went down and teens steamed up windows in the back rows.

Personally I was forbidden from going on a date to the drive-in. To be honest what I was supposed to do and what I actually did were not always in direct alignment. Drive-ins were cheap entertainment for kids relying on part-time jobs or allowances to pay for a date. At $1.75 a carload if you crammed several kids in the trunk it proved very cost effective entertainment.

Once I got married and had my own children we often piled them in the old yellow station wagon dressed in their Dr. Denton’s and sat through a double feature at the drive-in about five miles from our house. To be honest as a young mother with two toddlers I rarely made it through the second movie but it was a cheap date for us and fun for the little ones. Now I think what drive-ins remain serve mainly to house weekend swap meets but back then they were the place to be.

Rick and I often go to a matinee these days. The last time we were there he commented on the sea of gray heads lined up in the seats in the front of us. I didn’t want to point out they were for the most part in the same generation as us but the thought crossed my mind.

Fads come and fads go. The old makes way for the new. I don’t see many young faces buying a ticket to see a movie nowadays. Perhaps they go to the later viewings? My guess is they are catching their movies on line or on their devices rather than at the theater.

An old dog at heart, I still like the smell of popcorn and the lights dimming before the feature begins to play on the big screen.

This pie is so yummy and quick to pull together. Use store bought pie crust to save time. I do like this recipe for crust if you’re in the mood. I found it in a Taste of Home cookbook years ago and for someone not adept at making crust, this one works for me. Another tip from a great baker I met along the way. Use high quality vanilla when baking. There is a difference.

Triple Berry Pie

Double Crust Pie Shell

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
4-5 Tbsp. milk

Combine flour and salt in small bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like course crumbs. Sprinkle with vinegar. Gradually add milk tossing with a fork until a ball forms. Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Divide pastry in half leaving one ball slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger of the two to fit 9″-10″ pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim to rim. Brush bottom of shell with 1 Tbsp. water whisked with 1 egg white. Reserve the rest.

Roll out second shell to fit over top of the first. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


2 1/2 cups blueberries, sorted and any stems removed
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cups blackberries
3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg white
2 tbsp. water

Place berries in large mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over berries. Using your hands gently turn until well coated. Pour into prepared shell.

Lay top pastry over berry mix. Press and seal edges with bottom shell. Trim as needed. Cut four slits in center to vent. Brush top with remaining egg white/water mixture.

Bake for 50 mins. or until browned and bubbly.

Cook on wire rack.

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finalSaturday we were invited to a friend’s milestone birthday party. The location, our old stomping grounds, took us an hour and a half to get to. It was a particularly gorgeous summer day so we enjoyed the drive, our time at the party with old friends, and the return trip. On the way back up the hill towards home a huge plume of smoke, not visible when we left, loomed beyond the mountains. A stab of fear nibbled at the back of my neck. Summer is not our friend here in parched Northern California this year. The tree roots are reaching out for water and the ground is easy prey for a stray spark or a carelessly tossed cigarette. Very unnerving. For me, I will be glad when summer closes her books for 2015 come fall. Hopefully the much touted El Nino will swoop down with a vengeance and bring us the much-needed water we are waiting for. Unfortunately an onslaught of rain in drought areas brings with it the threat of flash flooding and landslides, but our reservoirs and springs are dangerously low so this will have to be the bad with the good to bring our water levels back up to where they should be.

It is now nearly six days into the fire and containment is at 50%. The exhausted firefighters are working in steep terrain and the temps today are threatening to soar up above 100 degrees in Sacramento for the third day in a row. Whew. Suddenly I am restless and yearning for a vacation. Definitely I’m putting this on the calendar some time this year. Our last real vacation was too far back to remember.

This week is one of those frustrating weeks where no matter what I am doing, things seem to go south. Perhaps it is that I have my fingers in too many pies at the moment. I can hear my grandmother cautioning me “it is better to do one thing well, than many things poorly”. Ah yes. Well, Gam, here I am busily doing a lot of things half assed. I’m sure you’d be proud. Actually my grandmother would never have said ass, not even if referring to a donkey. Never did I know her to swear, in my presence at least. When totally frustrated she simply said, “mercy”. That’s telling them, Gam.

Sometimes swearing just comes naturally. When you’ve stubbed your toe and stars are dancing in front of your eyes, “darn it” doesn’t seem to adequately cover the situation. I try to use foul language sparingly but every once in a while when the situation dictates my mouth embarks on a rampage without me.

Truth is I love language, foul or not. Sometimes I cringe when I hear it butchered. I can’t figure out when it began but new words or phrases are becoming the norm such as “I seen it” or “tooken”. Tooken is now in the dictionary from what I understand. It is described as a non-standard version of took or taken. “Mercy”, as Gam would put it.

Grammar and spelling are not emphasized as they once were in schools. Not in school myself for some time, this is second-hand information. However, I believe it to be fairly accurate. With the advent of texting, new words, abbreviated words, and a specific texting language have emerged. Certainly geography is not pushed either, or at least not in one of my grandchildren’s school. I asked him if he new where British Columbia was during a discussion of a visit to the province. His response was “north of the U.S”. Pleased he was correct, he went on to call it a state rather than a province and was totally unaware there were any more provinces other than British Columbia existing in Canada. Sigh. Thankfully, most of the world has already been explored so this generation won’t be taxed with taking out any expeditions to discover new lands any time soon. Unless, of course, it involves space exploration and hopefully someone will have included a GPS or Mapquest directions on where to go once the moon is in the rear mirror.

Someone asked me once if I would go on a space ship if the price of a ticket was included in the invitation. Nope. Not because I don’t have the nerve, the interest, or the curiosity. Claustrophobic people are not a welcome inclusion on any trip involving closed doors with no escape. Trust me on this. Back a few years I was far worse. There were times when flying often for my job I had to suppress the urge when the doors were closed to run screaming down the center aisle of the plane screaming “stop this thing, I have to get off”! The first, and might I say last, time I went on Space Mountain at Disneyland I was so freaked out by the time I got off I wished fervently Walt had thought to include bars in his plans for Main Street along with ice cream parlours. Another time in the park I went in to see Captain EO in 3D with Michael Jackson. Doors closed all around me. Darkness descended and suddenly things were flying in my face and my overstimulated mind began screaming “RUN, SAVE YOURSELF!”. Probably I was one of the few people visiting the attraction who left in the middle of the show. Thankfully, a Disney elf took pity on me and got me out a door before I went postal.

I do love Disneyland. Many fond memories were created there when I was young. My son and his brood are going next week. He told me he could go on a cruise for the cost of three days in the park. Wow. I remember, dating myself again, when tickets were lettered A-E and you could do the whole park for $30 a person. To say it’s been a while since I’ve been there would be underlined by the fact I wasn’t aware there was a California side to the park. This is where they’ll be staying. He said the hotel spared no expense in making you feel your money is well spent even including luggage tags with Mickey’s visage on the front. What a great marketing idea. Little touches like that ease the pain a bit. A check would ease it more.

At any rate, in spite of the soaring temps I baked a pie. It was at 4:30 a.m. so much cooler that time of day. This is an old recipe from Rick’s first restaurant. Definitely has a yum factor.

1Brandy Alexander Pie

1 graham cracker pie crust, baked and cooled
3 eggs, separated
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/8 cup brandy
1/2 cup creme de cacao
1 cup heavy cream, beaten
Whipped Cream

Pour water in medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top. Add 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and 3 egg yolks. Stir to mix well. Over lo heat cook and stir until mixture thickens. Do not boil.

Stir in brandy and creme de cacao. Chill over bowl of ice until mixture mounds slightly.

Beat egg whites until glossy. Beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff. Fold into thickened gelatin mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Spoon into crust and chill for several hours. Top with more whipped cream and raspberries.

Graham Cracker Crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 Tbsp. melted butter

Mix ingredients well together. Press into bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake for 8 mins. Cool on wire rack.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

The big game is over. The chicken wings have settled nicely on my hips and traces of deviled egg linger on my game shirt. Another football season is essentially laid to rest. What a game it was. Seattle literally took the ball and ran with it, leaving the Denver Broncos to dust themselves off, practice sticking their chins out and wonder what the heck just happened.

There were too many cringe worthy moments to list in one short blog. At some points I found myself shading my eyes with my grease smeared fingers, finding it too painful to watch the screen. From the first snap to the seemingly endless beating throughout the game, it almost seemed as if Denver was thinking, “Oh, did you want this ball? Here you go.”, and handed it over.

Got me to thinking it must be horrific to find yourself at a huge game like that and unable to perform. Once a mindset is established and you’re tumbling in that whirlpool of mistakes, it is difficult to right yourself and find your center again. In this case, finding the center simply never seemed to happen for Payton Manning. Ugh. Then you have the morning after, with all the newscasters ripping you to shreds and newspapers publishing the routing. Time to paint on a fake moustache and move to Mozambique.

I don’t know about you, but when faced with someone having an embarrassing moment, I find it difficult to look. Perhaps it is because I find myself constantly involved in something mortifying so can easily whip up some empathy for others in the same position.

In the 1980’s I attended a work-enforced class on communication. Each class was broken up into groups of about thirty. The company, a huge campus type corporation numbering about 5,000, was seeking to bring all its employees up to speed on public speaking and interpersonal relations. It was a misery. Seeking to mesh the different groups together we were separated as best as possible from our immediate work groups and comfort zones and tossed in largely with people we didn’t know, making an uncomfortable situation much more so.

On the first day we were broken up into pairs. Our first assignment was to stand facing one another. One was “yes” and the other “no”. Yes began by quietly saying just that, to which no was to respond in kind. All good. Then, yes was to take it up a notch and get slightly more forceful and louder to which no would respond. In the end thirty adults were standing in a conference room screaming yes and no at one another and watching blood pressures soar. I must admit it was an interesting experiment in communicating with one another. It didn’t matter what we were saying, it was how we were saying it. I found by the time we were asked to cease and desist I was thinking about jumping my “no” in the parking lot after class and beating her about the head with the manual.

On the second day of five, we gathered in front of the instructor who was now armed with a video camera. Oh, goody. It wasn’t enough we had to humiliate ourselves, now they were going to capture the moment in film. Definitely, I needed to hone up my resume. Told to get in a long line, one at a time we were asked to run up in front of the camera and make total asses of ourselves. Sounds easy, yes? We’ve all done it a million times without even trying. Funny how difficult this becomes with thirty eyes watching you and a camera rolling. Gave me some understanding of why actors make the big bucks. Vice presidents were hopping around like bunnies, district managers pulling at the sides of their mouths while sticking their tongues out, and HR guru’s making pig faces. I wish I had sneaked a camera in myself that day, there was big money to be made.

Once we had suitably humbled ourselves, we were taken to a local mall by bus. There we were asked to stop people passing by and ask completely ridiculous questions with obvious answers, like “have you seen my shoes?”, when they were settled in quite nicely over our socks on our feet, or approach the cashier at McDonald’s and order won-tons with a side of shrimp fried rice.

It was five days I wish to forget. I learned as the end result of my time there, though something might feel horribly embarrassing at the time it is occurring,  in the scheme of things it’s but a grain of sand in a massive litter box of human error. The mantra with the instructors was, “what’s the worst that can happen”?  I never utter those words, there’s usually a natural disaster immediately following. After completing the course, I did find I could speak more comfortably in front of large groups of people without having to picture them all naked, not always the best way to proceed.

Thinking back I remember some embarrassing moments I shared with other humans. There was the gentlemen who taught an afternoon seminar I attended on fund raising with a sheet of toilet paper plastered to the seat of his pants. A young woman who walked through a huge room of fully occupied drafting tables with a toilet seat cover and her skirt tucked into her nylons. Certainly as evidenced by this blog, I’ve got stories of my own to tell.

In my twenties my husband bought me a new car, a Toyota, Corolla. My commute took me about an hour and fifteen minutes from home, so in an effort to make me road ready in an emergency we had a weekend short course on how the engine worked, changing the oil, and finally changing a tire, something I’d never done before. Fine, but aren’t men for that?

Back then I showed up for work in the morning in a dress or a suit and heels. Women didn’t have the choices they have today. Pants were only allowed in coordinated pants suits, the worst fashion statement since Nehru jackets. At any rate, after work I was on the middle leg of my trip which took me through an industrial area. As if preordained my left rear tire blew. Limping to the curb, I surveyed the damage and popped the trunk, thinking “I’ve got this”. Ah, pride does goest before the fall”.

In heels and a fitted skirt it was significantly more challenging to get the jack working, maintain some decorum, and remove the flat tire. Somehow I did it, attracting a lot of attention from passing traffic. Placing the new spare where the blown tire had been, I turned to retrieve the lug nuts. The car, seeming to sense this was not going to end well, removed itself from the jack and captured the brand new tire hostage as it leaned on one side slicing a large gash in the rubber. Sigh.

A truck driver pulled over behind me. Scratching his head (why are people always doing that in my presence?) he approached me cautiously, at first standing and staring at the carnage without speaking. Finally he asked me what I thought I was doing. Hmmmmm. Well, obviously I’m changing a tire. In the end I learned a good lesson. If you do it wrong the first time, you won’t be asked to do it again. Haven’t changed a tire since.

I got this recipe from a southern cookbook my mother brought back from her visit to Savannah. How I would love to go there someday and see that irrepressibly romantic city for myself.  This reminds me a bit of a poor man’s pecan pie. Particularly delicious warmed with a large helping of freshly whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sweet chocolate.

Cobblestone Pie

1  8″ pastry shell, unbaked
1 ripe banana, sliced thin
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 6 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice banana. Place of bottom of uncooked pastry shell.

Combine sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, pecans, and chocolate morsels. Mix well to blend. Turn into unbaked pastry shell on top of sliced banana. Bake for 35 mins. Remove from oven and coat top with caramel ice cream topping. Serve with whipped cream.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Okay, I’ve had enough of this heat. Reminds me of my Arkansas days held captive inside sharing space with the dripping swamp cooler praying for the grid to hold until the sun went down. Thank heavens the 100 plus temps moved east before I marinated in my own juices. What did people do back in the day? Maybe it wasn’t as hot before we declared war on the ozone. Imagine crossing the country in covered wagons with no protection from the elements beyond a wide-brimmed gingham hat. Spending endless days travailing rough terrain shrouded in layers of heavy clothing and leather boots, with your life depending on the pH balance not being off at the next watering hole. Throw in a few bands of marauding Indians and a couple of incurable diseases, and you had the perfect storm. They were a strong backed bunch those early settlers. There were no “birthing centers” on the trail, no epidurals. Women delivered children alfresco or in the back of a dusty wagon. Hardships most of us can’t, nor choose to, imagine. Today we think we’re suffering when our cell phone reception goes dark.

Thank God for A/C. Our air conditioning is peculiar here. Downstairs you could safely hang a side of beef. Upstairs, warmer. I suppose because it has less insulation from the sun than the lower level. Fortunately, we have excellent ceiling fans. In the kitchen, cold air comes out from beneath the cupboards but there is no visible vent. Either they built the cabinets over the vent or we’re having tactile hallucinations. Hmmmm. On the news last week they showed someone frying eggs on the sidewalk in Death Valley. There were visitors there, some with the intention of doing a run of some type. Why would anyone choose to go there during a heat wave? Is there something lacking in the name itself not providing enough information on why to avoid the area any time of the year, but particularly when the heat soars? Run??? Are you kidding? I guess it takes a lot of different colored squares to make a quilt.

My mother plans to visit the end of this month. I adore the woman but it is always a little off-putting no matter your age when your mother comes to stay. To begin with, she has a fear of heights. Not a slight trepidation about being in high places, but a full on terror of it. Once as a teen while driving down the coast of California along the beautiful, but cliff hanging, expanse of California Highway known as Hwy. 1, Mother was reduced to a blubbering fetal mass on the floor of the car. She simultaneously keened and prayed while describing loudly and in great detail how she was going to end my step-father’s existence on this earth if he didn’t find a way off that road (preferably inland although I believe for a moment he was weighing the alternative). For a woman of such ladylike demeanor under normal circumstances, this definitely offered a character alternative none of us wished to see again. That incident served to fully cement my belief her fears were certainly real enough to her. Should the movie rights ever be obtained, we’re looking to Linda Blair for the part of my Mother. We are not planning a repeat trip to the coast during this visit, but ours is a mountain setting. The driveway is at such a down slant it should work nicely as a slalom run in the winter. At our other house, having only a slightly sloped driveway, she chose instead to walk down the stairs to our door, rather than remaining in the car on the way in. Here we may have to resort to either blindfolding her and airlifting her in or whipping up a batch of pre-cocktail hour Manhattans to coax her down.

Fear, whether imagined or real, seems acutely so to the person experiencing it. I have compassion for those suffering from phobias as I entertain a healthy fear of bees. One lone bee flying around me in a closed room will have me dancing Gangnam style in a matter of seconds. There was a huge wasp in the kitchen this morning. I used a half a can of hair spray to put it down. It took twenty minutes to clean the sticky off the window but that wasp is not returning to the nest any time soon. Sorry, it had to be done.

There are a number of unusual phobias which make my aversion to bees seem somewhat more tolerable. Ablutophobics, for example, have a fear of washing. These are not people you want to find yourself seated next to in a crowded stadium on a blistering day. Some phobics harbor a fear of coming home, while others, sitting on the opposite fence, fear going out. Sleep can be terrifying for somniphobics, associating it somehow with death or dying, while hair scares the hide off of hypertrichophobics. There is even a phobia for cell phone users who panic when their devices are of range. Odd what recipes our mind cooks up for us in its intricate inner kitchens.

Getting Mother here also poses another issue. It is a three and a half hour drive which she can no longer manage. There is train service to and from this area to San Jose, or light rail. Definitely a possible option. The downside being you can only bring carry on luggage and that with limitations. Mother dedicates one bag to shoes and another to handbags, so this may not be a viable solution. I have made the drive sooooo many times over the past few years it holds little interest for me these days. Too much traffic and not much to see but asphalt, cars and buildings. Other than that some of my family members and friends live in the area, and San Francisco is nearly my favorite city (of those I’ve visited, naturally), I might not drive there again. Ah well, this too will iron out but these are my less than pressing dilemmas for today.

I have been getting myself in my usual messes over the past couple of weeks, which I will relate in my next blog. We’ve been gone most days trying to fill out the holes in some of our rooms. Shopping, a frustrating experience for me on any given day, has been particularly frustrating on these trips. We have visited every furniture store within an hour’s drive and can’t seem to find two chairs that one could actually sit in for over three minutes without incurring permanent spinal injury. Have they stopped making easy chairs? They look pretty but when you sit down your spinal cord shoots up through your brain. Not good, not good at all. So for now we have couch, but are chairless. It isn’t pretty.

This pie is so good, I can’t think of adjectives to describe it. Ah yes, refreshing, oh, I already used that. Um, tart and creamy with delicious berries and beautiful on the plate. Give it a try. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. A form of this was handed down to me so cannot give credit to the originator, but they did a nice job. Have a great day!

Refreshing Lemonade Pie

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup finely crushed walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
7 Tbsp. melted butter


2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk, cold
1 6 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate (keep frozen)


1 cup raspberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup blueberries
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl mix together graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Press firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie dish. Bake for 10 mins. until light golden brown. Cool completely.

Place medium mixing bowl in the refrigerator until cold.

Remove bowl from refrigerator. For the filling, whip cream on high in chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine condensed milk and frozen lemonade. Mix well. Fold gently into whipped cream. Pour into prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Mix together raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hr. before serving.

Remove pie from freezer 15 mins. before getting ready to plate. Spoon berries over top.

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