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Cherry Pie is My Mom’s Pie

9 Aug

Cherry Pie

Sour cherry pie is my mom’s pie. Long before pie was my thing, my mom was filling the freezer with cherry pies. I didn’t even like them until well into my adulthood and don’t remember my mom making any other fruit pies. “Why can’t you make apple?” I protested.

My parents have lived in their 100-something year-old Sears catalog (no joke!) farmhouse bungalow since I was 13. We had previously lived in a townhouse with generous but communal green space when my parents bought this very simple and outdated—it didn’t have a shower or a dishwasher—house. It had a barn and a chicken coop on two acres with a creek as the western property line and was surrounded by hundreds of acres of grape farms.

I don’t remember if the fruit trees were there when we moved in or if my parents planted them along with the ambitiously large gardens we had in those early years. The peach and apple trees were never all that successful. But every year in July, the cherry tree would be heavy with tart red berries and my mom and I were charged with harvesting and pitting the juicy fruit before the birds gorged themselves.

I was a typical teen girl with wildly undulating emotions, most of which manifested as angsty resentment toward my mom. I didn’t like cherry pie and her cherry-pie-making was obviously [insert eye roll] another example of her egregious lack of regard for me; so looking back I imagine that I made the chore pretty unpleasant for my mother. I hated the bugs that the bright fragrant berries attracted, and I hated the sticky crimson juice that ran down my arms as we picked and pitted them. Continue reading

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Raspberry Peach Pie

13 Jul

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The Republican National Convention is about to invade my city in a matter of days.  Politics is in the air and I want to crawl under my bed and hide.  It’s my least favorite subject and I avoid it at all costs.

I’m the mushy middle.  Hopelessly moderate on just about everything political and non-political.

Parenting – I have no strong feelings about organic/BPA/homemade baby food/disposable diapers/sleep schedules….I’m over here like, do your best people.

Food – Equal opportunity eater.  I see the value in organic but I also see the price tag. I would love to eat only local, but I also need to feed my kids and be out the door in 30 minutes. Trader Joe’s will have to do because the lettuce I bought at the farmers’ market is starting to wilt and I didn’t purchase local meat because we had to go straight from the market to baseball.

Philanthropic causes – If you are a cheerleader by nature like me, then you can’t pick just one!  How I wish I had a cause that I was 100% passionate about.  One that I volunteered for and spent my time raising awareness and funds for. But Miss Moderate over here supports everything a little bit, “likes” it on Facebook and sends $100 donations here and there to worthy efforts.

Diet and Exercise – I run…a little bit.  I do yoga…sometimes.  I did the 10 Day Detox…for four days.  I eat clean…when I feel like it. I’ll limit my sugar intake…tomorrow. Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Clean – where is the label for people like me that just do what feels right?  Oh wait, that’s emotional eaters.

All hope is not lost. There are a handful of unrelated things that I am 100% passionate about and do not waiver.

Women – Anything having to do with women, women’s health, women’s equality. You won’t be able to rip me out of my firmly planted views of the importance of raising up women in all facets here in our country and across the globe. The health of women’s lives in any given society (education, physical health, employment, etc.) is indicative of the health of that society as a whole.  See, I have soap box tendencies.

Dancing – I don’t care what I look like or who is watching.  I can’t stop myself.  I’m that sweaty, ridiculous dancer cutting it up to “It Takes Two” on the dance floor. I don’t just sometimes dance.  I always dance. Not matter what.

Pie – What is it about me and pie?  I can’t shake it!  I could talk about it forever!  I find so much value in this highly coveted pastry. I am nowhere near as passionate about cake and cookies.  I’m back in the moderate category when it comes to those.  But pie, the holy grail of baking challenges, is my passion.

And with that, I give you the must-eat pie of the summer.  No moderate opinions on this one.  Raspberry Peach Pie is summer in a crust. Continue reading

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Perfected

29 Jun

Rhubarb

Strawberry rhubarb pie is MY pie.  The one that I would choose over all others.  The one that I wait 10 months out of the year for and spend the other two hoarding rhubarb as if the apocalypse is upon us. I grow it, I buy it, I steal it from neighbors’ yards.  Nothing stands between me and rhubarb in these late spring and early summer months.

Strawberry rhubarb is also the pie that carries the most memories for me.  My grandmother made it and my recipe is a variation of hers.  For some reason, pie gets more street credit if it comes from a grandmother.  Add to that a Hungarian immigrant grandmother (though strawberry rhubarb has nothing to do with Hungary) and you have a legit legacy happening there. It’s become my mission to perfect this pie.

Truth be told, the original recipe was better in my memories.  It needed a little enhancement, so I have spent the past few years adjusting the recipe in the hopes of perfection.  The one thing standing in my way was the inevitable juice factor – my pie was delicious but habitually runny.  I had almost resigned to the fact that it was just going to be this way until a happy little accident happened to me last week.

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I was preparing a dessert that called for rhubarb to be coated in sugar. Somewhere along the way I didn’t get past this step and bailed on my plans for that particular dessert.  A couple of hours later I decided to make a pie and found that the sugar had helped release much of the water from the rhubarb.  I proceeded with my pie to find that it was PERFECT.  I’m not kidding – compact, beautiful and not runny at all!  This was too good to be true.

I made pie again my usual way.  Delicious but runny.

I made pie again the new way letting the rhubarb sit in sugar ahead of time. Delicious and NOT RUNNY!

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People, I have put the final piece of the puzzle together and I give you the best strawberry rhubarb pie recipe. Continue reading

Fall Harvest Handpies

4 Oct

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I purposely don’t spend much time scouring the internet for recipes.  I feel like they hinder my creativity by planting preconceived ideas in my head.  That’s kind of the way I feel about toys for my kids – we don’t have many because I’d prefer that they figure out how to play with something by using their imagination rather than be handed a toy that does the work for them.  I use recipes for inspiration once I’m already on to an idea; particularly if the recipe is unusual.  I let my imagination dictate what my next endeavor is going to be, and this pie was probably the most fun I have had trying to make my crazy ideas come to fruition.  This is a chronology of what happens when I wake up and decide I have a fixin’ for something…

Let me start by saying, this recipe was developed with A LOT of love and A LOT of dreams of what I wanted it to be.  These pies were inspired by the influences of my favorite things starting with a reader of my blog.  He told me about a recipe his grandmother used to make that was a minced mixture of apples, walnuts, raisins, spices – probably a version of a type of mincemeat pie. Continue reading

Strawberry Muffin Tin Pies

4 Aug

The Wallpaper Factor

I saw an article recently about a woman who wore a hidden camera to show how many times she received harassment from men in a day.  The article brought back a memory of some advice I received from an elderly woman not too long ago.

Before I go any further, let me be the first to acknowledge that there is an entire spectrum of uninvited harassment that women receive from a basic hello to lewd comments and gestures.  And there is also an entire spectrum of feelings that women exhibit in response to these from indifference to discomfort and many times fear.  AND, since I am putting out all the necessary qualifications I need to in order to go on about my random thoughts, let me also acknowledge that cat calling and harassment can happen to anyone from anyone regardless of gender.  There.

Anyways… I’m not gonna lie, I don’t mind the basic, non-threatening holler or comment from random strangers.  I find them to be a mini-self esteem boost and actually appreciate someone taking notice.  I realize that the impetus of the comments has absolutely nothing to do with me.  They are just attention seeking behaviors that would be thrown at any woman standing on the sidewalk at that moment.  But since said man took the liberty to extend his holler, glance or compliment, I will take the liberty to interpret it how I want to and decide that yes, I am awesome and I do look hot today.

Several months ago, I was walking to a restaurant with an elderly woman who I admire very much.  She’s a class act and has been at the forefront of some of the major arts and social movements in Cleveland. In 1961,  she was the first woman to walk through the front doors of the oldest social club in Cleveland (est. 1872) that until then had been  exclusively men.  On that walk to the restaurant, I was the recipient of a very loud and animated compliment from a man passing by.  I mentioned to this woman that I was always conflicted on how to respond in these moments.  She stopped walking, looked straight at me and said, “You say thank you.” Continue reading

Peach Sour Cherry Pie (in a jar!)

29 Jun

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I don’t regard myself as an entertainer.  I lack the skill or the energy to plan parties with thematic decor, parchment wrapped mini sandwiches, and coordinating signs on chalk boards.  In fact, I get very overwhelmed when I see blog posts or magazine articles telling me how easy it is to create the perfect summer gathering.  I’m drawn to them.  Oh, I am.  They entice me with pictures of outdoor rugs, strings of lanterns and pretty jugs of water with various vegetables or fruit in them.  I have party envy for those who seem to effortlessly create these picture perfect experiences.

But I don’t want that necessarily.  I want people.  Skip the details and give me people – lots of people.  People from different places in my life who can intersect and meet each other.  People who are not like me, who have different jobs, interesting hobbies.  People who will allow me the honor of hosting them and graciously accept our invitation to come and be home.  I don’t entertain – I gather.  I bring together my life of people and fill my home with their voices, their laughter, their families.  Friends are fed and children are adored while having backyard adventures and making messes that sometimes leave behind a memory of them in a stain on the rug or a fingerprint on the wall.  I love that.

A house turns into a home when you USE it.  Fill it to the brim, put the kitchen on overdrive, drag out the extra chairs, bang on the piano, play in the yard, toast to good friends and turn up the music.

After a big gathering, I love to wake up early and sneak downstairs to an empty house.  I sit in the dining room, pairing my coffee with left over dessert, and think of how just hours ago the place was plastered with cups, dishes and remnants of the dinner that fed our friends.  There’s an energy in the room, and I swear that I hear sounds ringing because that’s what happens when a house turns into a home.  Voices stick to the wall, laughter floats into the ceiling and friends are no longer guests, they are family. Continue reading

Apple Raspberry Rhubarb Pie

11 May

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From This Mom To Her Village:

Mother’s Day feels like a very linear holiday for a role that is so dynamic.  I celebrate my mom, my kids celebrate me, and so on.  We go to brunch and plant flowers in a domino effect of celebration and admiration for our respective mothers and mothers’ mothers.  To me, Mother’s Day is less about an individual called a “mother” and more about the act of “mothering.”  The verb is more dynamic and to me, captures what raising children and frankly, raising each other, is all about.  For one to be a mother, you need a community of mothering that surrounds you.  This community reinforces the values you are imparting to your children and slowly weaves a world outside of your nuclear family for them to venture out into.

I know I’m THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (see!), but I didn’t get that way overnight and not without a lot, and I mean A LOT, of help.  There is an entire village around me that has helped mold me into the mother my kids perceive me to be. On Mother’s Day, this mother needs to thank her village for allowing her to be the mother she is trying to be. Continue reading

The Unexpected Side of Pie

28 Jan

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And she learned to make pie and lived happily ever after.  The end.

That’s is exactly how I expected this blog to go.  It was going to be about my year of pie, how I learned to make it and offer tips and tricks for others aspiring to become competent pie makers.

What I didn’t expect was my public confession that the blog was disguising a broken heart over a fourth miscarriage that exhausted my mind and extinguished my dreams of a third child. I didn’t expect that my blog would become an occasional outlet to express my thoughts about fertility and loss and that strangers would find me and leave comments or messages of support and gratitude for providing a positive, honest outlook on a very delicate topic.  The unexpected side of pie was that it provided healing not just for me, but countless others.

What I didn’t expect was that a wonderful woman from Sugarland Texas would send me the cookbook she made with her mother, entitled none other than Pie Eyed.  That a short email friendship with a fellow baking enthusiast would result in a gift that is so special and dear to me.  The unexpected side of pie was that it allowed two strangers in two different states the opportunity to bake the same recipes and share with each other a piece of their lives.

What I didn’t expect was that I would chat with a man in California about his lemon trees, that people from 61 different countries would read my blog, that more than 15,000 visits would be logged (14,000 of which I’m certain are my mother) and that I would reconnect with childhood teachers and friends.  I didn’t anticipate that pie would evolve into an offering of gratitude and create a bridge for me to cross into the lives of people such as Ednia Eason, homeless families and even the oil change guy. The unexpected side of pie was that it gave me a portal to the world from my small town Cleveland kitchen.

That’s exactly how I did NOT expect this blog to go.

And she learned to make pie and lived happily ever after knowing that the unexpected side of pie is in the story that unfolds after it comes out of the oven.  The end.

Continue reading

Peach Pie

14 Jul


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Peaches and dreams. That about sums up my experience making this pie. What was intended to be a simple summer pie ended up being a catalyst for summoning some of the best summer memories. As I was preparing my peaches, my mind wandered to the summer I spent working at a local road side fruit stand.

Pa’s Produce was located under a big tent across from a busy gas station at the edge of my small town. I spent that summer learning how to pick the ripest honeydew, stacking watermelons, and unloading boxes upon boxes of sweet corn. When it was time for southern peaches, the owner would hop in her big white pick-up truck and drive through the night to Georgia to pick up cases of peaches. We’d report to the tent and help her unload while word spread that the peaches had arrived. This was the height of the summer – those peaches were amazing. I’d stand at the table, opening the white cases branded with a big Georgia peach, taking each one out by hand so as not to cause any bruising. The smell was intoxicating and the taste was unlike any peach I have had since. Continue reading

The question I couldn’t answer (and strawberry rhubarb pie!)

1 Jun

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I was in hibernation for the winter. Like the flower bulbs snuggled into the dirt now making their way to the surface, my random thoughts and interest in pie are making their way back to the pages of this blog.

My team at work just finished reading Lean In by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Women, work and the will to lead. No loaded topics there. Surprisingly, Sandberg’s message didn’t resonate with me as I had expected. The conversation about women in the workplace is very real and always worth having, but the honest truth is that I found myself a bit exhausted of the discussion. That being said, I did take away a very important insight that helped me address something I’ve been wrestling with for years.

The opening chapter asked a very simple question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Continue reading