All about the pie!

What is Thanksgiving without pie?  This year, I held back and only made four… because mom was making several and we’re eating at her place.  A treat, since it’s the first holiday season they are living in California!

This picture includes this year’s cast of crusts:

  • Pineapple-coconut – a family favorite, and mom’s recipe
  • Peach… because peach. But I add nutmeg, and that adds a whole ‘nother layer of deliciousness.
  • Pumpkin. No messin’ with a classic!
  • Blackberry. But not just any blackberry: It’s a deep dish blackberry lime pie that gets a hint of allspice. Amazing!  My favorite, which I make as often as I have an excuse to make pie.

So, in addition, mom made grandpas cherry pie – a staple around our house which will someday have it’s very own post. And at least two more deserts… It was a pie-stravaganza! Look out for more thanksgiving posts!

I have friends who celebrate birthdays with pie, instead of cake.  (I have smart friends.) What are your favorite pies? Other pie traditions in your household?  Any great tricks for crust? Share in the comments!

Harvest Bounty: Zucchini and Basil

There’s nothing like fresh produce from your own garden. This year, I managed to gather a fair number of zucchinis, and decided this afternoon to make some pesto and to put my new zoodler to good use.


What’s your favorite dish to make with giant zukes?  Do you make pesto?

Plum Buckle

This sweet yummy cake-like batter is a perfect compliment to tart summer plums, and this was just the trick for using up a brown-paper-bag-full of plums I received from a neighbor. A tender not-quite-cake bakes itself up and around a thick layer of fresh plums. Streusel topping adds another layer of flavor and texture. And what better to do with the product of plums-from-a-friend than to share it with friends!?  Add a little vanilla ice cream, and it was a big hit at game night!


  • 7 cups pitted and quartered plums
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon spice to taste – I like nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice; some recipes call for cinnamon.

wp_20150717_21_54_22_proLayer your plums into the bottom of a prepared baking dish.  I used my spring-form pan, buttered.  In a large bowl, cream the butter with sugar until smooth. Add in eggs one at a time, then flour, baking powder, and salt. Once this comes together, mix in the milk and vanilla extract to make a smooth somewhat thin batter. Pour this over your pretty layered plums.

You can make a crumble by mixing 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of butter, 1/4 cup of flour, and cinnamon together in a bowl which you can then sprinkle over the batter to give a nice crunch top.  As you can see, my batter bubbled right on through my crumble, and that was just fine with me: Tasty!

Like all cakes of this type, a clean toothpick inserted in the center somewhere around the 40 minute mark should come out roughly clean – if not, leave it in a bit longer. Should be a dense, moist sponge – almost like a British pudding.


Caramelized Apple Tarte Tatin

Tonight, we had dinner with a long-time friend and colleague of E’s at a neighborhood gem, Chez Maman.  Let me tell you, if you haven’t tried this place it’s a local must-visit.  Great French food, casual as French places go, and delish.  This was our first visit since Chez Papa closed and Chez Maman moved up the Hill – and as usual, we were not disappointed.  Want to learn more?

The Tarte Tatin is an upside-down pastry in which the fruit are caramelized in butter and sugar before the tart is baked.  Think pineapple upsidedown cake, but stepped up a notch in class and sophistication.  As you can see from the picture, this is all you could want in a single-serving tarte tatin: buttery pastry topped with a mountain of tender caramelized apples and garnished with fresh whipped crème and a spring of mint, sitting next to a perfect swirl of thick creamy vanilla ice cream.  Très délicieux!


What are your local French places like?  Share links in the comments!


Three Twins: A blossoming addiction

Here in the Bay Area, there are an amazing array of producers and purveyors of deliciousness of all varieties.  We really are spoiled with amazing food.

When I first arrived in SF, I discovered that I, once again, have access to my all-time favorite ice-cream: Tillamook’s peanut butter chocolate.  I inherited this love from my brother, and suffered for years without any Tillamook while living in the Midwest.

When it comes to ice cream, I have found a new favorite: Three Twin’s Cardamom.  Now, before you call me crazy because you’ve never heard of a spice like this in ice cream, just think about the loveliness of vanilla – and imagine it with a subtle spicy kick.  Like the nutmeg in my peach pie… Mmm. The smell of cardamom wafts from the container, no matter how hard-frozen the quart. Their tagline is “making inconceivably delicious ice cream” and I couldn’t agree more.  You would be hard-pressed to have conceived of a creamier, more delicious frozen treat.  While the Cardamom is my most favorite, the Lemon Cookie might just be the second best ice cream I have ever bought from a store in my life. Three Twins tends to be a little thinner than a Ben and Jerry’s, less heavy than Haagan Das, but with lemon flavor, as with cardamom, that lighter consistency is perfect.  They also have a glorious salted caramel, that is as balanced a blend of salt and sweet as can be had.  You can see plainly that we also like the mocha around here – since it’s one of my closest friend’s favorite flavors, I add it to my basket from time to time just to keep it around for afternoons like this one where you just need a little scoop. And a kit kat.

If you don’t have access to Three Twins, you might just have to find an excuse to visit somewhere they sell it. Seriously.  It’s that good.

I’m sure I’ll write a future post about another neighborhood favorite: Humphry Slocomb….


What’s your favorite local creamery, or flavor?  Tag them in the comments!


Porch Supper

After a long day, it’s nice to come home to a quiet dinner with a loved one.  When the weather is like it was today, it practically begs for porch supper.

Dried Apple Pie

This recipe is so so so good.  And so easy.  You’ll want one before you’re done reading – and the good news: You can make your own!

Here’s what you’re going for:wp_20150329_042


And here’s how you get there:

wp_20150329_017-2I make my pastry from the Housekeeping in Old Virginia book, because it’s so darn fun to read.

  • 3 cups dried apples
  • 2 12 cups apple cider, or orange juice
  • your favorite recipe for pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon – I use a lot less, since it’s not my favorite.
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 14 teaspoon nutmeg – my favorite, so I use more!  And I add allspice, too.  And cloves if I feel like it.
  • 14 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat juice or cider to a boil and pour over dried apples; let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Cook apples in juice for 10 to 15 minutes or till tender.
  3. Stir remaining ingredients together.
  4. Add to apples and mix well.
  5. Put prepared pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan.
  6. Pour prepared apple mixture into crust.
  7. Top with 2nd crust.
  8. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or till done.

Hand-made pasta

There is nothing like the chewy deliciousness of thick home-made pasta.  If you’ve never had pasta that didn’t come dried in a box from a store, you are missing out!  Fortunately, there is an easy remedy: Make some!

I’m not Italian, but I have somehow inherited a love for all foods italienne.  If it comes with red sauce over pasta, especially baked with cheese on top, I’m in.  I also realize this fondness adds to my waistline, so I try not to do pasta too often.  One way I stick to that rule goal is by choosing homemade over store-bought. It’s a little more work, but oh, so worth it!

Tonight’s pasta adventures began when I was poking around online and found a pasta drying rack. This one, to be exact. I was in the mood for chewy-salty-hearty-goodness, and had all the ingredients…

Egg – one egg is about 1/3 of a cup.
Flour – one cup gets you close to the right consistency: you want the pasta dough sticky, not dry.
Salt – a pinch
Water – a splash, if you need it, which will depend on your weather, preferences and practice.

wp_20141031_005-2Egg + flour + salt + hands to massage it all together + a touch of water if needed = pasta dough.

Yes, like most other foods, pasta is far easier to make than manufacturers would have you believe.  It’s simple and wholesome and delicious, and you can make it yourself fairly quickly. And it’s fun!  You can do this in a bowl, but traditionally, you put a pile of flour on the rolling surface, mound it up and then crack an egg into a little hollow on the top – think Volcano shape – salt on the egg, and massage away.  Be sure to remove any rings or other jewelry you might be wearing, or you’ll find yourself soaking pasta out of teeny crevices days later.  Go ahead; ask me how I know this!

Once you have mixed together the ingredients and formed your dough, knead it for 3-5 minutes and then let it rest a few minutes.  Usually, this gives me long enough to wash up a bit and put away the various things I’ve pulled out of the cupboards. Or it gives you time to get out and set up your pasta roller.

On a lightly floured surface – say, my kitchen island – roll out your dough ball with a lightly floured rolling pin.  Or a wine bottle works, in a pinch – wrap in saran to keep the label ink from sticking.  Or simply press it flat and thin with your hands.  It’s better to roll so you can get a consistent thickness – or rather thinness – but if not, lumpy homemade pasta is still delicious.

Now, if you have a pasta machine, you get to play with it!  Prepare for multiple passes and readjusting your levers several times until you get what you want.  If you over work your pasta dough it will get a little tougher/rubberier, but really don’t worry.  It will still taste good and you’ll know for next time.  If you don’t have a machine, just roll it out and slice it thin.  A pizza cutter works, or even just a knife.  Aim for keeping the now-noodles the same thickness simply  because consistent size/shape helps cooking consistency.

I use my pasta tree, once I’ve cut my pasta, to keep it from sticking together in a steamy puddle.  Then, in small batches, drop it into rapidly boiling salted water.  When it floats to the top, it’s done and I pull it with a slotted spoon. Be aware that your noodles with grow in the water, so don’t plan for angel hair your first time…  Think pappardelle or tagliatelle your first try.

wp_20141031_012-2Here’s what I wound up with for my dinner: A nice hand-cut fettuccine which I covered with a yummy sausage-onion-and-tomato sauce I sautéed up while the water boiled and the pasta dough rested.


So, what are you pasta tricks and tips?  Share your pics with me in the comments!



Peanut Butter Cookies

My sister Tina was a beautiful, kind, sweet woman with the most infectious laughter.  When something struck her as funny, she would giggle, and then laugh and it would evolve into an uproarious guffaw/snort that got everyone around her giggling, too.  We lost her far too soon, but she left her mark in ways large and small.  My favorite thing to do when I miss my sister is make her special peanut butter cookie recipe.

This is the easiest cookie you’ll ever make.  And, for my friends with health issues and gluten intolerance, it’s a go-to party/gift staple; No flour!  Here’s the basic recipe.  You should definitely make it like this first, because you won’t believe it works until you try it for yourself.  Ready?

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Yes, that’s really it!

Thoroughly mix ingredients in a bowl.  Roll into a small-ish ball – or whatever size makes you happy.  Evenly space the balls on a lined or prepared cookie sheet.  Smash with a fork.  And, as they say in my old cookbooks: Bake in a medium oven until done. (That means roughly 325 for roughly 8-10 minutes, but could be different depending on your oven/climate/etc.) I tend to take my cookies out at just under-done and leave them to cool on the sheet for a minute, or if I use parchment – like in the picture – I just lift the parchment off the pan and place it on the cool tile counter. Today, I also made banana bread – look for my other post for more on that.

Usually, I use crunchy peanut butter, but whatever you have on hand will work. Now comes the fun part!  You can substitute almond butter and brown sugar, season with nutmeg for a wonderful fall treat.  Or swap out some of the peanut butter for nuttella and add a small handful of chopped walnuts for a fudgy treat.  Try pecan butter and maple syrup!  Try Cashew butter and toss in some dried tropical fruit!  Really, you can endlessly recreate this basic recipe – all flour-free.

I can’t wait to see what combinations you try – please share in the comments!

Tea Towels & Bread Sacks

Do you love linens as much as I do?  The feel of a thick, cotton, jacquard tea towel just cannot be beat.  And they are so pretty – I just love kitchen towels.  I have loads of them, and by loads I mean laundry loads… Ha!

In my opinion, a lovely jacquard tea towel makes the absolute BEST gift wrapping!  Fortunately, I have a friend or two who agre…  I have gotten them from Sur La Table.  I have them from Anthropologie.  I even order them from Amazon, like these. And these. And maybe this one.  But the best ones I have are hand-me-downs and special gifts from friends.

I still use – every day – a set of three that were hand-me-downs from a girlfriend who got them as hand-me-downs from her sister.  This is why I love them – and why I’m willing to spend the money to buy good quality towels:  They last.  They work.  They stay pretty.

Beyond jacquard, however, the most special kitchen gift from a friend is this incredibly lovely and colorful set of fabric kitchen bags.  I’m super lucky to have a fabulous redheaded quilter for one of my bffs.  She zipped me up some handy dandy kitchen bags on her handy dandy sewing machine, and I love ’em!  Sized like a standard bread bag, they were made simply from a folded fat quarter (or equivalent from her stash) and they’re useful for all sorts of stuff.  I use them instead of plastic bags for produce from the farmers market.  They help keep greens and root veg just right in the fridge.  I also use them for packing up picnic gear – they’re great double-purpose bag/towels when out for an afternoon at Stern Grove or Hardly Strictly.  She let me pick out some of my favorite fabrics from her quilt pile, so sorry but you just can’t get these anywhere else.


To make your own, simply snag a fat quarter (May I suggest Spool, or your own local quilt shop!?), fold over a nice quarter inch hem and sew a straight line.  Then, fold it in half with the nice side in and the newly hemmed edge at the top, and stich down the long side and back across the bottom.  Just don’t close the top!  That’s it.  Super easy.  But you can’t have mine.

If all my waxing poetic about jacquard has you ready for an upgrade, hop on over to my blog shop.  I love my tea towels so much that I’ve put together a bunch of really pretty jacquard towels there.  I tend to stay in the yellow family, but I went to town with all sorts of colors for you to choose from .  Let me know which ones you get!


Bagel for breakfast

In my little neighborhood, it would be easy to walk to more than a dozen coffee shops and pay $8-10 for an egg-and-cheese bagel.  Instead, this morning, I made myself a coffee in my favorite mug – it was made for me many years ago as a gift for my 18th birthday by my dear friend Linea at her pottery studio in Port Townsend.  Then, I scrambled up a farmers market egg, toasted up a lovely asiago cheese bagel from my local Costco, and had a nice bite to eat down in my garden.

What’s your favorite weekend morning breakfast?