π r squared (but these pies are round)

Pardon my absenteeism lately – I don’t really have an excuse.  It’s spring, the time change has knocked me for a loop, and my creativity in the kitchen is severely stifled these days.  Otherwise, things are good.

Flowers are blooming, the weather is lovely, and we’ve started our summer garden.  We’ve expanded it by approximately 200 square feet, which means we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.  It also means (hopefully) that we’ll have a lot more food coming out of it this summer.  We’ll see.

I don’t have anything new to share with you, unfortunately, but in honor of national π day (March 14, i.e. 3.14), I thought I’d share some of my favorite pi(e) posts from days of yore.  I hope you enjoy some pie with your π.

One of my most popular posts to date: Shepherd’s Pie (also appropriate for St. Paddy’s Day on Saturday)

 In Celebration of a Life: Peanut Butter Pie

Dried Apple Slab Pie

This ridiculous chocolate pie

This nut tart, which is like a pi(e) – right?

Cherry Pie, to be shared.

Happy π Day!

The tart that replaced pecan pie in my Thanksgiving repertoire

As a child, I hated pecan pie.  I think it was because (as I’ve come to understand in my adult years) the filling was often overcooked to the point of being curdled.

There is a delicate balance in pecan pie, a fine line that bakers walk between silky smooth custard filling and curdled eggy mess.  I’ve encountered very few pecan pies in my life that have been perfectly silky smooth, and have only been able to personally achieve it once.

It really relies on the baker taking the pie out of the oven when the center is still almost liquid, and most home cooks (myself sometimes included) are wary of serving undercooked custard to their friends and family.

Luckily, I discovered a tart about six years ago that incorporates nuts without using an egg-based filling to hold them all together.  It was featured in the October 2004 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and I think it was the photo that really drew me in.  Those lovely green pistachios, suspended in creamy caramel, nestled tightly between chunks of walnut and slivers of almond, just spoke to me.  The combination of honey and rosewater in the caramel, and the orange zest in the crust, makes for a flavor profile reminiscent of baklava, but so much more complex.

Over the years, I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my tastes (I replaced the walnuts with cashews, and sometimes I use store-bought pie crusts that I roll orange zest into to mimic the original. You could also use your favorite short-crust recipe here), and it has become a staple of our Thanksgiving dessert table.  Since we’ve incorporated this tart into our menu, the pecan pie has sadly gone by the wayside.

This year, I almost forewent making it, simply because shelled pistachios were $1 an ounce at the grocery store.  It almost seemed ludicrous to spend that much money on a single ingredient.  I decided instead to buy unshelled pistachios and shell them myself.  It added 15 or 20 minutes to my prep time, and my fingertips are sore, but it was totally worth it.

Caramelized Pistachio, Cashew and Almond Tart
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Serves 8-10

2 store-bought pie crusts
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup toasted pistachios (I use salted)
3/4 cup toasted cashews (I use salted)
3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (unsalted)
1 1/2 teaspoons rose water

Begin by laying one of the pie-crust rounds on a floured surface.  Sprinkle the orange zest on top, and lay the second pie-crust round on top of the first.  Using a rolling pin, roll the crusts together until you can see the orange zest between showing through.  Place the rolled out crust into a 10-inch tart pan, fitting it against the bottom and sides.  Trim the excess dough, and place the tart shell in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Place cream, sugar, brown sugar and honey in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Continue to boil until mixture darkens and thickens slightly (Bon Appetit originally said for 4 minutes, but it usually takes me closer to 8 or 10 minutes).  Removed from the heat, add the nuts and the rose water.  Pour filling evenly into crust.

Bake tart until filling is caramel brown and bubbling all over.  Transfer to a rack to cool.


Pie Is Meant To Be Shared

After almost 30 years in the same house, my husband’s parents made the decision to pack up and move 600 miles south.  From northern Virginia to north-eastern Georgia; from the suburbs of D.C. to the suburbs of Atlanta.

It can’t have been an easy decision to make – to leave the place you’ve called home for three decades (longer, really, if you consider they lived in Maryland for a while before their time in Virginia) and relocate to a completely unfamiliar area.  I mean, we’re about an hour from them, and my husband’s brother and his family are also about an hour away, but they’re faced with making new friends and establishing new routines after thirty years of the familiar.  And despite the fact that they did it, in part, to be closer to their two oldest sons, to their grandchildren, a change like that can be daunting.

The moving truck came to their house on Thursday and loaded up all of their belongings.  Their plan was to leave early Friday morning and drive straight through, arriving sometime Friday evening.  The moving truck would arrive early Saturday morning to unload everything.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, and I knew that they would be exhausted when they got here – from the drive, from the general stress that moving can cause, and from the emotional fallout that can come with a change like this.

Here in the South, we have a tradition of bringing food to people in times of stress.  It’s our way of offering comfort, of helping to bear some of their burden, of nourishing them – both physically and emotionally.  When a baby is born, we bring meals to the parents so that they don’t have to worry with cooking during those sleep deprived first few weeks.  When there’s a death, we offer an assortment of funeral casseroles to sooth the grieving family.  Food is love, but it is also often the last thing people want to think about when faced with a stressful situation.

Given their time frame, I figured they wouldn’t really have time to go grocery shopping before breakfast on Saturday, so on Friday I drove out to their new house (don’t worry, I didn’t have to break in – we had a key) to make a special delivery. I put together a basket with an assortment of jams and jellies, a loaf of bread, some scones, and some fresh fruit.  I also wanted them to have a lunch or dinner option, so as I was making lasagna for our dinner on Thursday night, I put together a second pan to take to them on Friday.

And last, but not least, there was cherry pie – delicate short crust filled with pitted sweet cherries and natural sugar cane, dotted with just a bit of butter, and enrobed with another layer of crust.

Baked until golden brown and bubbly, I guess it was my way of letting them know just how happy we are that they’ve chosen to move closer to us.  That we recognize the huge step they’ve taken, the things they’ve left behind, and that we welcome them with open arms.  Can you really bake that much meaning into one little cherry pie?  I think you can.

You see, the thing about pie is that it’s meant to be shared.  Sure, you can make individual pies, hand pies, mini pies, whathaveyou. But essentially, and at its core, pie is meant to be shared.  You take a lovely, whole pie, and you slice it up and you sit down at the table, and you share.  And you don’t just share the food, but you share words and stories.  You share life over pie.  So this pie – this beautifully imperfect cherry pie – was more than just food.  Because today, when we went and visited them after their exhausting 14-hour drive and their early morning truck delivery, we sat down with my husband’s parents in their new home and we shared their new life with them over pie.

Cherry Pie
prep time: 20 minutes
bake time: 50 minutes
serves: 8-10


  • 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, frozen
  • 6 tablespoons ice water


  • 5 cups bing cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup natural sugar cane
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 450F
  2. Place the flours, honey granules and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine
  3. Cut the frozen butter into small pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal
  4. Slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball.
  5. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Combine the cherries, natural cane sugar, corn starch and vanilla.
  7. Roll out half the dough and press into a 9-inch pie pan (it’s very delicate, so work quickly and carefully).
  8. Pour the filling into the pan.
  9. Roll out second crust and place on top of filling.  Fold edges of top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp.  Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.
  10. Bake at 450F for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 350F and bake for 40-50 minutes more – until crust is brown and filling is bubbly.
  11. Allow to cool before serving.
  12. Share and enjoy!

In Celebration of a Life: Peanut Butter Pie

There’s this strange and wonderful thing called the internet.  On it, you can read the news, catch up with friends, share your thoughts on the day, and find up to the minute tidbits about just about anyone.  It’s really a marvelous and scary place sometimes.The other day, I was doing a little bit of all those things.  I found myself on Twitter, which I use infrequently at best, and this tweet came across my screen.  It was from a fellow blogger – many of you probably saw the same tweet, in fact.  It was from Jennifer Perillo, she of In Jennie’s Kitchen, and it read “He’s gone.  And my heart is shattered in a million pieces.”

I don’t know Jennifer.  I’ve never met her.  I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while now, and I read her blog.  I know that she and I are about the same age, we both have two small children, and we both love our husbands dearly.  I know that she works hard to feed her family healthfully and sustainably.  That’s about all, though.  We’re not friends in even the remotest sense of the word.  But when that tweet rolled across my screen, my heart broke for her.  I didn’t even know what it meant at the time, but I knew it must have been something terrible.

Later that day, or maybe early the next, I learned that Jennie’s husband had died suddenly of a heart attack.  And I watched as a virtual community gathered to show their support.  And I marveled at the strength of a woman who could take time during mourning to post this video, and then this beautiful tribute, in memory of her husband.In the second post, Jennie asked that everyone reading make a peanut butter pie, her husband’s favorite, in celebration of his life.  It’s a fitting exercise for a community who came together through food, and a it’s amazing to see the number of people who’ve signed up to participate on the facebook event page.  I’m sure most of them are like me – we don’t know Jennie, but we want her to know that she and her girls are thought of and supported during this difficult time. And that the memory of her husband, and the love they shared, will not be forgotten.

The night that first tweet came across my screen, I was struck to my core by the tenuous nature of life.  I hugged my boys extra long when I put them to bed, and I made it a point to tell my husband how much I loved him before we said good night.  The truth is, we never know what tomorrow, or even later today, may bring.

Peanut butter and chocolate is also my husband’s favorite flavor combination.  He could eat an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups in one sitting if I’d let him.  We’re headed to an end-of-summer pool/dinner party with some friends tonight, so I thought it only appropriate that I make these little peanut butter pies in mason jars to share with everyone.  They were made, after all, in celebration of life.

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

yields: 12 servings


  • 8 oz. chocolate wafer cookies
  • 4 oz. butter, melted
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  1. Place the cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to create crumbs.
  2. Turn the food processor on and pour the melted butter through the feed tube
  3. Spoon three heaping teaspoons of the crumb mixture into 4-oz. mason jars – there should be enough crumbs to do 12 small jars.
  4. Press the crumb mixture int the bottom of the jar with your thumb.  Refrigerate to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
  6. Once crust has set, spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate into each jar and sprinkle chopped peanuts on top.  Refrigerate to set.
  7. Combine the peanut butter and mascarpone cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high to combine.
  8. Slowly add the powdered sugar.
  9. Stir in half the whipped cream, just to loosen the peanut butter mixture.  Carefully fold in the remaining cream, creating a mousse-like filling.
  10. Place the filling in a zip-top bag fitted with a 1-inch star piping tip.  Pipe the mousse into the mason jars.
  11. Sprinkle with chocolate chips to garnish.
  12. Enjoy!

Hug your families, and tell them that you love them every day.

Thank you, Jennifer Perillo, for inviting us to celebrate with you.