Natalie’s 21st/Four and Twenty Blackbirds


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Happy birthday to my beautiful little Natalie!

Your last birthday was one of my favorite days in recent memory. We had a delicious brunch at Le Salbuen, and then after I stopped to visit my Nana at the rehabilitation center (she had fallen the week before) and sneak her some blueberry peach pie, we were off to NYC! I remember how hot and sweaty of a day it was…quintessential July East Coast weather. We made it to one of my ultimate pie destinations in Brooklyn, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and ordered six pieces for five of us. One of each flavor, naturally. The lavender honey pie changed my life forever. You would later paint me a beautiful painting inspired by the picture below of all the pie slices on the table. We sat outside at Sycamore Bar and Flower Shop and you were given a birthday flower as we left. These activities were all my ideas, places I had been wanting to visit, and you were just so happy to do them on your birthday. This is one of the things I love about you; your sweet excitement over just being with friends and your enthusiasm for most things, whether it’s painting a porch, teaching children about the Bible, wandering and laughing. You are so good at showing up with no other agenda but joy.

We ate dinner-Italian-I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, where some more friends joined us. At Rockwood City Music Hall we heard versions of “Valerie” by two bands, then found ourselves sitting in a pedestrian street eating ice cream sandwiches from The Meatball Shop. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Enjoy the memories and I hope this year is full of even more beauty and wonder for you. xx

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Pie for a 19-year-old


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Some things about our trips to Minnesota are pretty standard.

Uncle Joe takes us to the best fishing spots.


Levi and I catch fish. (This was a particularly successful day.)


Aunt Sarah cleans our fishes in anticipation of fish dinner.



Grandmom leads fish dinner preparations, breading the filets perfectly. My mouth is literally watering just looking at these pictures.



Levi and I sneak away to the Brookside Tavern (the only bar in Marine-on-St. Croix, next to the only gas station and across from the only general store) for glasses of Farm Girl.


Sometimes, depending on the time of year, we get to do things that are out-of-the-ordinary. This year we happened to visit in mid-August, right around my cousin Matt’s 19th birthday.

Now, Matt has plenty of his own summertime/cabin rituals. One place he can very predictably found for at least part of every day is on the couch, reading voraciously.


Matt also has traditions that he plans out in advance and shares with us during our visits; these include bonfires complete with Reese’s S’mores and scary stories (which he retells with much suspenseful inflection and an impressive memory for detail), movie nights, and of course, trips to the (only) ice cream store. He is a remarkably thoughtful host.


Truth be told, Matt has been a long-time supporter of my pies, whether or not they are specifically referred to as his birthday pie. But this one really WAS a birthday pie. You can tell by the 19 on top.


Although I have already baked my way through so many of the fruit pies in the Pie cookbook, I was luckily able to find and prepare this lovely new specimen for Matt’s birthday festivities: Deep-Dish Blackberry-Peach Double-Crust Pie.


There were several fun new pie tricks to try in the making of this recipe. For one, the peaches are called upon for blanching. I hadn’t blanched peaches before. I’m not much of a blancher in general.

Jury’s still out on how useful that was, as I’m pretty handy with a paring knife, and I think I could have peeled the peaches in far less time than it took to boil the water, try to determine when the peaches were actually finished (although Ken does give very good, clear directions on the process) and then scrape off the remaining skin as not all of it really came off nicely. Either way, it was fun to try a different method-and I can definitely see how, when executed properly, blanching could cut back on wasting delicious bits of fruit that might be cut off with a knife.


Another of the fun new tricks: freshly grated nutmeg. I’m rather ashamed to say that this was new to me. I apologize for dashing your visions of me happily grating whole nutmeg tendrils into every pie filling that had ever called for nutmeg. I usually just shake it out of a jar. But Grandmom had a whole nutmeg and a cute teeny nutmeg grater at her house and once I saw this, I knew it was meant to be. Fresh nutmeg, you smell so good.

Have you ever thought about what a funny word “nutmeg” is?


Add some freshly grated lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, butter, and cornstarch and you’ve got a pie fit for a 19-year-old.


We won’t be together for Matt’s 20th birthday this summer, but I look forward to a visit next week that will hopefully include all of our favorite cousin traditions…including pie!

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Grandmother’s Chocolate Angel Pie


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Goal: Catch up on stories from last summer before embarking on this summer’s adventures. Okay. Go.

Our last visit to Minnesota was in August. We’re going again in exactly one week. I can’t wait. Last August’s trip was wonderful, but bittersweet. My Granddad passed away a year ago, and it makes me sad that I will never fish with him again, or do the Bible readings with him again, or hear his funny songs again. But, as my dad said at the funeral, Granddad believed in a hope that was reasonable: the resurrection. God created us with the ability to reason and created a world full of order and beauty for us to all marvel at. So, “why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?” as Paul asks in Acts. We will see Granddad again soon.


On this particular trip, in the day and half we spent alone together, I asked my Grandmom to sit with me for a couple hours and let me record some of her stories…about growing up on a farm in Vermont, moving to the Midwest as a young woman, becoming a chemist during a time when women simply didn’t do that, being asked on lots of dates (as being practically the only woman at her workplace put her in a good position for!), meeting and marrying my Granddad and learning the Bible together. If you didn’t know this about my grandmother, she still volunteers at a nature center and does pond walks for children. She also spent many years volunteering at the Minnesota Science Museum; seeing the latest exhibit there was always a highlight of my childhood visits (okay, and my adult ones–who are we kidding here?) Of course, she is also a pie-maker extraordinaire. I am so thankful for the legacy that she and Granddad are leaving for our family.


Once again, we visited Minnesota at the wrong time of year to pick the ever-elusive red currants and make a pie out of them. Nonetheless, there were plenty of pie opportunities. One that I had been meaning to pursue for some time was a legendary recipe I had heard stories about but had never tasted myself; Grandmother’s Chocolate Angel Pie. My cousins and aunts and uncles had long talked about this wondrous concoction and I knew that I wanted…no, needed…to learn how to make it in order to continue climbing the ladder to Pie Mastery. It was the next achievement to unlock.


Grandmom didn’t have a recipe written down for this pie, per se. She uses elements of a recipe for Chocolate Dream Pie that she got from her roommate’s aunt when she was young Marie Gerdon and had just moved to Michigan from Vermont (the aunt was a high school Home Ec teacher). She also referred to a recipe for an unbaked Chocolate Cream Pie from the Joy of Cooking, as well as a pamphlet from the 60’s entitled “Betty Crocker’s Merry Makings: Fine Foods for Happy Entertaining”.

This pie comes together quickly and is fun to make. Although it requires the use of an oven, the temperature never gets set higher to 300 degrees, so it’s a good summertime choice if you’re trying to avoid heating your house up. The final result is very yummy…a slightly chewy, nut-studded layer of meringue crust filled with light whipped chocolate cream…and I think you should all try it. So much so that I took detailed notes and am writing up the recipe below. After all, pie is meant to be shared.


Grandmother’s Chocolate Angel Pie

Preheat Oven to 300 degrees F.

For Meringue Pie Shell:

2 egg whites (beat until shiny with electric mixer)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar (add to egg whites while beating)

1/2 tsp vanilla (add to egg whites while beating)

1/2 cup sugar (slowly add and gradually beat in. Turn off beaters.)

1/2 cup pecans (gently fold into egg white mixture)

Use a spatula (we used a spoon and our fingers!) to round the meringue into a pie shell (in a pie dish). It should touch the top rim of the pie dish all the way around. Bake for 55 minutes, making sure it doesn’t get too brown (rotate the dish halfway through baking).

For Chocolate Cream Filling:

1 4 oz. bar of baker’s chocolate (Grandmom uses German’s Chocolate Baking Bar, 48% cacao)

Melt chocolate. If using a microwave, melt on high for 30 seconds, stir, microwave for 30 seconds more, stir, and continue heating and stirring in 10 second increments until the chocolate is completely melted.

Whip 1 cup of whipping/heavy cream and fold in the melted chocolate. Spread chocolate cream in cooled pie shell. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Pinnacle Pie


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In the past, I’ve demonstrated to you time and time again the merits of pie-in-a-jar. It can pass airport security checks, it travels securely to faraway bake sales, it can be mailed to Australia with no incidents whatever. Just in case you were looking for another reason to add to your mental list of “Why Pie-in-a-Jar is Truly Awesome,” I’ve got you covered.

Pie-in-a-Jar can climb mountains.


We had the privilege of visiting Pinnacles National Park this weekend, with the added privilege of Allyn and Ali’s company and conversation along the way. I highly recommend catching up with a friend you haven’t seen for nine years/making a new friend while walking for five hours. A lot of territory can be covered, literally and figuratively.

Along with other feats of Creation, we encountered talus caves, a nocturnal red frog, an exalted reservoir, Mariposa lilies, monkey flowers, and FOUR CALIFORNIA CONDORS. I’m still a little bit giddy just thinking about how incredible the views were from the tops of the pinnacles the park is named after. No wonder the condors love it up there.





All this beauty aside, let us turn now to a matter of practicality. To paraphrase what Ali said so wisely, one of the best parts of hiking is snack breaks. Which brings us back to our strawberry rhubarb pies-in-jars. I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of eating pie on a pinnacle?

Also, do you readers wonder if I bring pie everywhere I go just so I have a reason to tell a story about it on my blog? I wonder that too sometimes. I like to think that the answer is no, that it just happens organically this way, but I’ll ponder the question some more and get back to you. For now, lay all doubts aside and enjoy these last few pictures of happy people and pie in the middle of nowhere.


Macadamia Magnificence


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Pi Day comes but once a year, but if you’re lucky enough to teach at my school, Pi Day lasts an entire week each March. Good stuff.

Following in the footsteps of many worthy predecessors (such as 2015’s Avocado Cream Cheese and 2014’s Coconut Cream) was a pie I had been excited to make for a long time, due to my great love of the main ingredient: Niel’s Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Cream Pie.


One time, I was working late and a coworker had recently returned from Hawaii and generously brought eight tins of flavored macadamia nuts back with her. She left them in the kitchen, and I knew others had at least gotten the opportunity to try them that day. So uh after everyone else went home I took it upon myself to polish off the remainder.



Oh, there are almonds in the crust. I love you too, almonds. But you’re not as much of a novelty so I didn’t stuff as many of you in my face while I was baking this pie.


Nutty pastry crusts (recipe in Ken’s book) are very very delicious things and can be made with a variety of nuts…other pies in my past have called for walnuts, or peanuts. The almond crust here really adds to the level of Specialness of this pie. Only thing to really note about nutty crusts is that they do tend to be much trickier to work with. Don’t be surprised if the crust doesn’t hold together as well as a typical pastry does when you roll it out, and if small cracks form in the bottom as it pre-bakes.


Case in point. Don’t worry, you’ll never notice-the filling is never runny enough to sneak down into that crack. Plus, the next step is to cover the bottom of the crust with chopped macadamia nuggets anyway.


The chocolate cream pie filling goes on top of the macs. A layer of plastic wrap smoothed over the top prevents a skin from forming when it’s refrigerated.


Once the pie is refrigerated for hours, it’s completed with a layer of whipped cream and topped with more marvelous macadamias. Et voilà!


Like most of Ken’s pies, this one had all the flavor you could ever hope for and a subtle, not sickly, sweetness. This is helpful when you’re trying to eat multiple slices of pie at 10:45 am while also avoiding sugar crashes and stomachaches as much as humanly possible.

There are always so many delicious options.



This post has been brought to you by circles, the Hawaiian islands, Trader Joe’s, and coral fingernail polish.

Looking Forward, Looking Back



There are only nine weeks left in the school year for my students, and eleven for myself. I’m already looking forward to summer weeks and pies I’ll be baking in our little New Jersey cabin home.


I’m also looking forward to another year of serving at Operation Onesimus. When I went through the program as a teenager, I consumed many a slice of delicious homemade pie or square of cobbler made by the loving hands of those who cooked for my peers and I. I consider it a massive privilege to be able to carry on the pie torch, as it were.

(To read more about Operation Onesimus, what it is, what it means, and how pie has been involved, check out these posts from the ol’ blog archives.)




As I’ve been thinking about and planning for our program this year, I came to the realization that I never shared with you a really awesome collection of photos that Levi took for me one crazy, humid summer night on Schooley’s Mountain when we all had pie for a nighttime snack. To be honest, I don’t even remember what kind of pie this was, other than that it was my own recipe, and it involved blueberries upon blueberries. They were on sale. (It took four pies to feed everyone.)

Enjoy the look back, and for those of you who are planning to attend Onesimus this summer, the look forward!

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I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.

(Philemon 4)

Where to Begin?


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Hi friends! I’ve been busy. Life is so sweet. Our friends have been getting married, having very hard times, getting sick, needing help, moving houses, having babies, needing encouragement. This year, I’ve been better at listening to and playing meaningful music, going to yoga classes, and reading books but worse at keeping up with my pie blog and learning Spanish. Everything goes through its cycles.

It’s in the height of California springtime now. IMG_7941

I recently bought a sign from my good friend Emily to hang in our bedroom. It says “Life is hard, God is good.” I want that to be my new answer every time someone asks me how I am.

Since I don’t have very much time tonight, I’ll just start with a small little post.

I saw this new product at Trader Joe’s. (So far, not unusual.)


I thought I’d better test it out and let you all know whether it’s worth buying for yourself. The first thing I noticed was that there is NO corn syrup in the ingredient list. If you’ve made pecan pie before you’ll know that this is truly unusual. I don’t imbibe corn syrup too often in my life, but I will make an exception for pecan and certain other pies, as it’s hard to get the hallmark gooey texture without it. That being said, the best pecan pie I ever had was this one, made with maple syrup…and so I was excited to try another non-corn-syrupy variety.

When I lack the time to refrigerate my crust before rolling it out, I love breaking out this really nice pie crust recipe that uses no butter or shortening, only oil and cold water. This is the crust my mom uses, and we got it from a dear Schooley’s Mountain sister.


The ingredients in the Trader Joe’s jarred filling (cause I know you wanna know what IS in it, not just what isn’t) are cane sugar, water, pecans, brown sugar, bourbon, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cream of tartar, salt and citric acid.


To make the pie filling, you just mix the jarred filling with four eggs and some melted butter. Easy peasy. So far, so good!


So far, still good. Like, really good. The smell at this point=fantastic.


Overall comments: Great flavor. Would buy again. Ease of baking worth every penny. Filling cracked apart more than I would have wanted. You CAN taste the bourbon. Slightly sweet for my tastes-I’m used to the super low sugar content of Ken’s recipes at this point-but definitely not egregiously slow. High quality vanilla ice cream should go on top. 8/10

Optional: Share with super squirrelly, dessert-crazy little girls.

An Heirloom Pie


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Two years ago, I was given this recipe for a Cranberry Pear Pie by my friend Marilyn. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to make it, but make it I did for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, and I want to say a great big thank you to you now, Marilyn. Thank you so much for sharing your special recipe! Everyone who tried the pie was absolutely delighted with it.

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The method of assembling the filling of this pie was the reverse of what I’m used to. Usually I start with the fruit in a bowl and add sugar, lemon, spices, and later on (after the fruit has had a chance to juice) the thickener, whether it’s cornstarch, tapioca, or flour. For Marilyn’s Cranberry Pear Pie, start by mixing together the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt) and then mixing in lemon juice, cranberry sauce, and finally the pears, gently. For pears, this makes so much sense; it’s better that they weren’t stirred around so much but were just coated in all the other ingredients before being tucked into the pie. If you try this pie yourself, please do use absolutely beautiful, flavorful, perfectly ripe pears as I had the fortune of using. (Here I go with my advertising again, but mine were Trader Joe’s Organic D’Anjou.)

Marilyn, since we share some family members, I was excited to let my aunt and your granddaughter Jenna and my cousin and your great-granddaughter Kylie know that this pie I had made was from your recipe.




I hope all of your holidays were wonderful, with full plates and full hearts! As always, thanks for reading.

Let Us Give Thanks


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Once again our glad thankgivings
Rise before our Fathers’s throne,
As we try to count the blessings
Of the year so swiftly flown.

So begins the poem “Let Us Give Thanks” by A. B. Simpson. Here we are again, two days before Thanksgiving, and I have two questions for all of you. 1. What have you been blessed by this year? 2. What pie are you making for Thanksgiving? Leave a response to these questions as a comment on this post and you’ll have a chance to receive a copy of my little booklet Love in a Crust in the mail.

I’m going to be making a Cranberry Pear Pie myself, from a recipe that my sweet older sister Marilyn gave me several autumns ago and I still haven’t tried! Very much looking forward to it.

As for what I’ve been blessed by this year, I hardly know where to begin. I will say that I am constantly amazed at the love God shows to me in the form of my fellow humans and that I’d have to count my family and friends at the very top of my blessings list.

Now, if you haven’t settled on a pie recipe for Thursday yet and are looking for something a little different but decidedly fall-ish, and if you have Ken’s Pie cookbook, may I suggest to you this absolutely delectable Cinnamon Applesauce Pie? It’s simple as anything, with a richer-than-you-would expect filling full of eggs and spices.


I got to make this pie for our friends Ben, Leah, and Jamil, when they visited us at the beginning of October. There’s Ben (he and Leah came all the way from England to visit), Jamil inspecting our wooden fruit bowl…he made the beautiful cutting board the pie is resting on, so he’s always looking for new woodworking ideas…Dante, our 18-year-old friend who is living with us for the school year, and Ricardo, another young friend from our LA church.

Another blessing for the list: having a home to share.


The list continues. For the oak trees, for the vineyards, for the sun and the occasional rain, for time spent in meaningful conversation, for God, who “has put gladness in my heart, more than when the grain and the new wine are increased,” as Psalm 4 says. It is through Him that all of these other blessings have such value.

We got to enjoy these blessings with our friends during their visit: here are a few pictures from a vineyard tour that we took part in (Saarloos and Sons Co. in Los Olivos).


While we love to “count the blessings”,
Grateful for the year that’s gone,
Faith would sweep a wider vision,
Hope would gaze yet further on.

For the signals all around us
Seem with one accord to say,
“Christ is coming soon to bring us
Earth’s last, best Thanksgiving Day!”

Levi, this poem is especially for you. Thank you for sharing your newfound love of poetry with me this year! You can read the whole poem here: