Apples and Olives


, , ,

It’s not what you’re thinking.

This post is so named, not because I put olives in a pie. Olive oil would be a yes, but olives, nah…unless we’re talking empanadas, which we aren’t. Not today, at least.

It is so named because we had a Saturday back in October in which we* harvested our olive tree and with many extra hands, pitted, crushed, and after a series of interesting events which included the realization that a centrifuge was needed, came up with about half a bottle of olive oil.

Asterisk on the we*: while Levi led the olive brigade, I hung with Pippa and her second cousins, Kaelie Marie and Audrie OLIVE! And I made an apple pie so as to provide a more immediate reward for the monotonous labor taking place at our back table (thanks to Sam, Jeff, Martin, Jess, and Ben!).

I’d recently come into a stash of bison tallow and beef tallow (remember my claim in the last post, I have never bought lard. Still true.) You’ll notice in the photos of the crust (the last two photos in this post) that using half tallow, half butter in the pastry resulted in a somewhat cracked, harder pastry than usual. The flavor was very good, but the texture was nowhere near what a pork lard crust flakes like. As an aside, if you found this paragraph remotely interesting, you may enjoy this NY Times article about how various fats manifest in baked pastry (I did).

Lard vs. Tallow. Do you know what difference there is, if any? I didn’t. According to my research, they’re the same thing (animal fat) but the terminology has to do with the animal that the fat is derived from. Tallow usually means we’re talking beef/mutton/cowlike animals. Now you know! If you knew already, or have anything to add or any previous experience cooking with tallow, leave a comment; I’d love to learn more! Seems like tallow is much more rarely used for pie crust and more so used for frying foods or non-cooking-related enterprises such as soap-making or candle-making.

I hope you enjoy the following photos from a day filled with hard work and an education in olive oil making, all made enjoyable in the presence of family, friends, and feasting.
















, , , , , ,

While I have a few favorite scapegoats for the fact that for the past several years I’ve been hovering right around 150/300 pies completed from my Pie cookbook, my favorite favorite goes something like this.

“Well, I love using fruit that’s in season, and I’ve pretty much already made every fruit pie in the book…it’s all those chiffon and ice cream pies and so on that I never seem to get to…and it always seems like a waste to NOT make pie out of fruit I have around (DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN FIND LOGANBERRIES?!) so I end up just making up my own fruit pies. So, please believe me, I AM making pie, just not making progress towards my 300 pie goal.”

It is pretty accurate.

But, for this story, I am proud to say, that I found a never-before-made double crust fruit pie recipe in Pie for which I did not need to find loganberries or marionberries or any other such nonsense. Georgia Orcutt’s Thanksgiving Dried Fruit Pie. Yes, it contains only readily available dried fruits (Bing cherries, apples, prunes, and apricots), which get stewed and simmered back to life in a pot of apple cider before melding with walnuts, lemon juice, sugar, and butter to become a unique and quite delicious final showpiece.

Why, you may ask, did I need this particular pie to be a double crust fruit pie? Well, I had come into possession of some very high-quality lard, hand-rendered by friends, and Ken Haedrich, in his lard pie crust recipe, notes that lard is a particularly good choice for a double crusted fruit pie. With an ingredient on hand that produces an impossibly flaky and perfect crust, it would be a mistake to fiddle around with distractions like crumb or streusel toppings. Let the crust shine. The more of it, the better.


A word on lard. I have never bought it in a grocery store. I probably never will. I was a vegetarian for six years. I will probably never be a vegetarian again. All this is to say, I care deeply about my food, and I like to know where it comes from. And if you knew the pig, (or the bear, for that matter) and it’s been killed for meat, and the fat is available as another useful product, I’m all about using it to create something delicious that can be enjoyed and that will give nutrients to the eater. (The pig that provided this particular jar of lard was one was raised at nearby Apricot Lane Farms. Thanks and respect.) And speaking of apricots…

IMG_2754 2

You guys, now that I have a baby, it takes DAYS to make a pie. One to make crusts, one to prep ingredients, and one to hastily assemble it and get it in the oven before naptime’s over.


Here comes that apple cider action. About ten minutes of simmering on the stovetop and lots of stirring, and the dried fruit is nicely re-hydrated.


And here’s the regularly scheduled Trader Joe’s product plug you have come to love and expect from


Walnuts coming in for the win.


As I was rolling out this crust I was immensely pleased with the texture and knew it was going to turn out great. And that’s saying something. As Levi will attest to, even though I’ve made hundreds of pies at this point, I usually utter a few deprecating comments during the baking process (“This isn’t sticking together the way I want it to.” “It’s a little overdone.” “I should have left that in the oven for another five minutes.”) Silly, but true. Usually when I taste the pie I sheepishly agree that it’s totally fine (no, usually more than fine). Anyway…total confidence this time.


I texted the picture of the finished pie to our friends Johnny and Andy (the gifters of the lard) and told them I had made them a pie-o-nara pie and that they needed to come over and have some. They did, although it was later discovered that pie-o-nara was lost in translation/texting. Say it out loud. What do you think it means?

I updated the spelling of this made up word in the name of the post. Pieyonara. Sayonara. I think it’s more accurate. For a made up word. Johnny and Andy are heading out to some beautiful parts of the West and Southwest in their amazing renovated van for the first half of the year, so this pie was a little farewell for now.



More about Dried Fruit Pie. This pie is hearty and filling, truly a meal in and of itself. Ken Haedrich’s description speaks of the pie being present in Georgia Orcutt’s family’s Thanksgiving weekend pie buffet (in other words, they have a table of pies laid out that are available all weekend, and that can be eaten at any time, even for breakfast. Doesn’t that sound like a great tradition?)

This pie goes well with wine. Or, slightly warmed, with tea or coffee, in the morning.

Andy is a stellar hand model.


Happy New Year to all, and have a beautiful day.

The More, the Merrier


, , , , ,

Good morning my friends,

I am honored to have been recently featured on my friend Jolie’s blog, The Forgetful Files. Jolie is a freelance writer (currently working on a novel), a mom of five, and generally amazing human being. I highly recommend checking her blog out if you enjoy tales of real life family adventures (and foibles, as Jolie puts it!)

This weekend I’ll be baking up some Five Spice Pear-Apple Pies in Jars, and one will be heading towards Mark Ishman from Texas, whose little rhyming ditty of a comment on Jolie’s post Pie Giveaway Time made him a winner! (Check out all the comments on this post, there are several poetic gems present.) For the recipe, read the Sweet As Pie Winner follow up post.

Since my sleeves will be rolled up to bake and I’ll be braving the post office during Holiday season ANYWAY, I’ve decided: The More, the Merrier. Here’s another chance to win a Pie-in-a-Jar! Any comments left on this post before Friday (December 13th) at 9 pm PST/12 am EST will be put into a vessel (likely a pie jar) and a name drawn at random…for winner #2!

For fun…in your comment, will you please tell me either 1) your favorite pie 2) a pie you baked or ate for Thanksgiving 3) a pie you plan to bake or eat this holiday season (presumed Five Spice Pear-Apple Pie excluded ;)) 

Here’s a picture of the fourth pie – the apple pie – that my family ate this Thanksgiving week (is it cheating that my mom made it, not me?)


I look forward to hearing from you and selecting a second Pie-in-a-Jar Giveaway Winner!

Happy Holidays, be easy on yourself, and get enough rest! ❤

Old Favorites


, , , , , ,

Dear friends,

I have new stories to share. Stories about olive harvesting with toddlers and bison lard pie crusts. Stories about champagne grapes, Minnesota fall fruit bounties, family bonds (biological and otherwise), fake Instagram celebrity chefs, first birthday parties, National Park excursions. We’ll get there. For now, suffice it to say: I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving, and I’m eager to know what pies you ate this weekend. Please tell me in a comment on this post!

We just got back from visiting my parents in Georgia for Thanksgiving, and I am not ashamed or embarrassed to report that we ate at least one piece of pie per day for six days in a row (four pies to four adults and one baby, so, a pretty reasonable ratio). This time I didn’t knock out any new recipes from Pie (Ken Haedrich’s exhaustive cookbook, which I’m baking my way through; you can see my progress in the Pie Gallery). I chose instead to revisit a few old favorites.

Maple Pecan Pie: Maybe because my dad’s always been partial to a pecan pie, this is the third Georgia Thanksgiving that the Maple Pecan has made an appearance; I’ve also baked this one for my work team, to much approval.

Five-Spice Winter Squash Pie: Butternut squash available from the garden made this seasonally-appropriate pie an obvious choice. And a word about five-spice powder; seriously an underused and underrated ingredient, in my opinion. I just love the little licorice shout out (fennel and star anise are two of the five spices). I say that as someone who loves all things licorice, but for those of you on the other side of the licorice fence, fear not; the flavor doesn’t seem to be strong enough to chase away licorice haters (after all, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper round out the blend).


That’s two, but I did mention a total of four pies earlier. My mom made an apple pie with an olive oil crust earlier in the week. We also enjoyed a pumpkin pie (pictured above) made with a recipe from my great-Aunt Sally, who we recently said goodbye to. The traditional apple and pumpkin pies alongside the slightly more jazzy pies mentioned above made for a very well-rounded line-up.


Happy holiday season to all, and don’t forget to share what kinds of pie made your Thanksgiving lineup in the comments! Talk to you soon.


Dragonfruit Sea Creature Angel Pie


, , , , , ,

Angel Pie with Berries, Cream, and Custard is the “real” name of the showstopper featured in this blog post, but Dragonfruit Sea Creature Angel Pie is so much more descriptive and enticing, don’t you think? Let me show you how it was done.

First, let’s define “angel pie”. I’m still trying to figure out what the technical difference is between an angel pie and a pavlova…both feature a large meringue base as the main event. From what I have seen, angel pies typically are filled with a cream filling (like my Grandmother’s Chocolate Angel Pie) while pavlovas feature mainly fruit. This particular angel pie is meant to be filled with both whipped cream and fruit and topped with a sweet Creme Anglaise sauce made with lots of egg yolks (genius, when you need so many whites for the meringue!)


During our 8 month stay in Los Angeles, I only made one “new” pie from Ken Haedrich’s cookbook Pie while AT our apartment (the others were all made during travels). There’s something poetic about an angel pie living on in memory as the pie of the City of Angels.


The meringue is shown above, ready to be baked low and slow. Forming a shape out of meringue, even if it’s just a basic bowl shape, is something I find tricky yet enjoyable. The texture is just so wild. It’s hard to believe that egg, sugar, and cream of tartar can turn into this pliable, bouncy, expansive substance. I also pretended that I was on The Great British Bake-Off while I was preparing this base. Paul Hollywood probably wouldn’t have been pleased with my final product, as there was a slightly visible hairline fracture, but I was pleased enough.

IMG_6509 2.jpg

As usual, my biggest pie-making challenge is timing. I rarely leave hours in between stages of baking as suggested, as the need to eat the pie always seems pressing…but I let this base cool as long as humanly possible before filling and decorating.

IMG_6510 2.jpg

As far as the decorating, I can take very little, if any, credit. This pie was for our dear friend Matt’s birthday. He had been visiting us in LA for a week and we made the pie on the last night of his stay (which we wished we could extend indefinitely/forever). Matt is one of my top pie sous chefs, a sculptor, and a lover of whales and giant squids, so naturally he set to work carving intricate sea creatures out of dragonfruit purchased from the Japanese market across the way.



Another artistic touch by Matt…halving blackberries to line the pie’s border. Excellent.


Here we see the pie really coming together–the basin has been filled with homemade whipped cream, waves of berries are crashing from within, extending over the shore, and a dragonfruit sea turtle surfaces for a quick hello.


Finished creation featuring four sea creature friends: a whale, a turtle, a seahorse, and a starfish.


I am not embarrassed to report that the four people eating pie that night (I’m not counting the baby-Levi’s mom helped us out, his dad having decided that chocolate ice cream from Salt and Straw was more his speed than Dragonfruit Sea Creature Angel Pie) decided to simply quarter the whole thing and FULLY consumed it in one sitting. All that was left over was some of the Creme Anglaise, which I totally forgot to take pictures of, but which we did enjoy drizzled onto our pie quarters, as well as on Matt’s birthday breakfast pancakes the next morning.


I can’t help but smile every time I think about Dragonfruit Sea Creature Angel Pie. Thanks Matt for the ways in which you light up our life. ❤

Vine and Fig Tree Pie


, , ,

Today is my best friend’s birthday! While we aren’t able to celebrate together in person this year, I’m having a great time looking back at some beautiful memories from her 30th with us last year (hashtag Maggie’s West Coast Birthday Weekend #MWCBW). California’s Central Coast has grown to become a place close to my heart for the wildflowers, the gnarled Live Oaks, the morning mist, and the sometimes sunny oceanside afternoons, and we were so blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate Maggie against that backdrop. In honor of May 3rd, I’m sharing my favorite photos from a magical few days one year ago in which Levi, Maggie, inner circle friend Wendy, and I attended the Cambria Ollalieberry festival, drank rosé on Gaviota Beach, sung from booklets made for the occasion around a campfire (and outside a tipi), witnessed strangers’ bachelor and bachelorette parties collide at a sour beer pub in Morro Bay, picked samples of aromatic wild plants while trying not to get blown off the cliffs at Montaña de Oro state park, enjoyed the kitties, doggies, horses, chickens, and parakeets on our AirBnb host’s Arroyo Grande acreage, and just generally basked in the delights of long and real friendships.

Maggie and I made a Grape and Fig Pie to bring with us on our glamping* trip. The olive oil crust we decided to use in order to make the pie completely vegan for our friend Wendy was a plot twist that turned out to really enhance the strong Mediterranean flavor of the pie and I would make this change again without hesitation. A few other notes about this pie: it’s made using dried black mission figs but fresh grapes, and is recommended (by Ken, officially, as well as by myself) to be served with sweetened mascarpone cheese (recipe also from the Pie cookbook).

Here, then, are a few photos of the pie, and many more of #MWCBW. Maggie, have the best 31st ever! You know how much I love you.

*If you’re intrigued, I can’t recommend visiting Ben and Laura’s property enough. Here is one of their AirBnB listings!IMG_3627IMG_3632.JPGIMG_3634IMG_3637.JPGIMG_3639.JPGIMG_3641.JPGIMG_0448.JPGIMG_0473.JPGIMG_0438.JPGIMG_0400.JPGIMG_0310.JPGIMG_0334.JPGIMG_0350.JPGIMG_0355.JPGIMG_0375.JPGIMG_0376.JPGIMG_0382.JPGIMG_0472IMG_0427.JPGIMG_0429.JPGIMG_0465.JPGIMG_3667IMG_0372IMG_0485.JPGIMG_0368.JPGIMG_0451.JPGIMG_0455.JPGIMG_0450.JPGIMG_0378.JPGIMG_0395.JPG

Pi Daze


, , , , , ,

Hi friends, I thought I’d write you a nice post right after Pi Day this year to share how we celebrated, but then my (very new) MacBook started doing this cute thing where it would randomly turn CAPS LOCK on internally by itself and refuse to turn it off, making it impossible to type ANYTHING THAT DIDN”T LOOK RIDICULOUS and locking me out when I would try to restart the laptop because it didn’t recognize the password (since it was wrong, being in CAPS, naturally…) Happily it has just returned from Apple with a new keyboard and we’re on our way again here!

Levi and I have been living in a 735 sq. ft apartment in downtown Los Angeles between Little Tokyo and the Arts District since this past September. It’s been a great experience for a number of reasons. Living in a city can be exciting; there’s so much to see and do and most importantly EAT. We have been able to spend more time together just as the two of us, as a couple, and really feel like best friends more than ever. And we have absolutely loved the opportunity to attend a small Spanish-speaking church in Koreatown regularly. My Spanish still isn’t what I ultimately hope it will be, but the members of the ecclesia are great about helping me practice and speaking slowly when we talk!

We have also been able to host visitors in our new place–though it’s small, our couch is comfortable and our spirits are willing. For their Spring Break this year, we were able to have my cousins Leanna and Daniel and friends Ari and Mara with us. It is pretty cool when your cousins who are ten years younger than you actually want to spring break near/with you, I have to say. The day they arrived we had a plethora of visiting friends at church downtown!


On the Wednesday of the Spring Breakers, 3/14 (we all know the significance of this day by now I should hope), I was realizing that I had yet to make a new pie from the Pie cookbook in our DTLA apartment (I’ve made new ones during this year, like Cherry Custard Pie, Maria’s Double Crust Walnut Pie, and New Hampshire Raspberry and Red Currant Pie, but all while traveling). This was a serious issue, especially as I had the audacity to bring my “Fresh Baked Pies Made Daily” sign downtown with us to hang in my kitchen.

I settled on Bittersweet Chocolate Turtle Pie for our Pi Day celebration. Ken’s description of this one suggests “Serve this kid-pleaser for a pajama party,” and while they’re not kids anymore, a week of six people in a one-room apartment is basically a non-stop pajama party come to think of it. I baked the pie in a beautiful dish that the “kids” brought to me carefully stowed in their luggage-a belated Christmas gift from my Aunt Ruthanne!

Here is the progression of the Turtle Pie:

1. New empty beautiful pie dish!


2. Homemade Graham Cracker Crust


3. Bottom is covered with a layer of toasted pecans.


4. Layer of pre-bought caramel sauce that you’re a little embarrassed of but it was really hard to find a normal bag of caramels to melt down for a homemade sauce anywhere in or near Little Tokyo.


5. Whipped cream cheese with some added vanilla and powdered sugar gets “spread” on as the next layer as best as possible.


6. Best part…lots of bittersweet chocolate whipped cream gets piled over the top, covering the messy layers beneath.


7. Prior to serving, the pie is decorated with whipped cream, and makes a statement about the importance of the day if/when appropriate.


We wrapped up in blankets and took our Pi Day celebration up to our rooftop, where we could enjoy a stunning view of downtown between bites of pie!


I’m quite behind on sharing the pies I baked last year and wanted to take this opportunity to time travel quickly back to Pi Day 2017, when I made a Tyler Pie to bring to one of my school sites in Orange County. I had no idea what a Tyler Pie entailed before I made it, and I’m guessing you probably don’t either. Apparently it is named after John Tyler, the 10th president (maybe he had a sweet tooth?) and it is essential a sweet custard pie with a caramelly flavor (in keeping with the theme of caramelly pies for Pi Day, it seems).

Tyler Pie is very easy to make. If you can melt a bunch of butter in a pot with cream and brown sugar and salt, you can make a Tyler Pie.


(There are some other steps too…mixing and adding a few dry ingredients and spices, and whisking eggs, but yeah. It’s kind of a no-brainer. And it tastes as good as you would expect, given that the starting point is a stick of melted butter.)


Thanks for reading and happy Spring or Fall, depending on what part of the world you’re reading from. ❤

Pregnancy Pies


, , ,

By this past Christmastime, I had moved fully into maternity jeans and baby Gelineau was rolling with multiple nicknames. We know she is a girl now, but at the time we weren’t sure, so we bounced back and forth between Geliniño, Geliniña (we hope she’ll learn Spanish) and Jelly Baby, once I found out that those were a thing.


We were blessed to be able to spend time back on the East Coast this holiday season. Besides the obvious joys of Christmas with friends and relatives, we also had a beautiful wedding to attend on the 28th of December (officiate, in Levi’s case) and my younger cousin Daniel put on the saving name of Christ through baptism on Christmas Eve. Amazing!

On Sunday morning, before the baptism, my “Aunt” Chris walked into church carrying a picture perfect pie festooned with red ribbon. I assumed it was part of the morning refreshments that would be served in between Sunday School and the Memorial Service (“Coffee And” as it’s called in New Jersey), but instead she handed it to me, saying, “Congrats, Honey. I made you a pregnancy pie.”


The “pregnancy pie” turned out to be Aunt Chris’ specialty: a fresh cranberry and walnut filled pie with a gooey, sugary layer right above the filling and below the top crust. I have no idea how to make it. I’ve never made a pie like it. It’s super magical.


Being a known pie baker, there’s always something very special about when someone else makes you a pie. ❤


As it turns out, even when you’re pregnant, it’s not in good taste to eat a pie by yourself. We were able to share it over the most hilarious round of Saboteur I’ve ever played. Hilarity largely thanks to cousin Nate and his wild accusations.


Our Christmas Eve pie had been lovingly provided, and it was my turn to make a pie for Christmas Day. I decided to go with Cherry Custard Pie for this occasion, knowing that there were lots of good, fresh, backyard eggs to be found at my Uncle Alan and Aunt Ruthanne’s house.

Trader Joe’s pulled through again; while the pie instructions let the baker know that it is acceptable to use either canned sweet cherries or fresh sweet cherries, I was very pleased with their JARRED Dark Morello Cherries that I’m not sure why I’m advertising to you now because I’ll bet they’re only stocked around Christmas time. (I could be wrong. You should still try to find them if you want to.) The recipe doesn’t say this explicitly, but I would imagine frozen cherries would be a bad idea and make little pools of water amongst the custard. You’ll see what I mean shortly.


This recipe also calls for an optional addition of kirsch, Grand Marnier, or triple sec. No one wants to buy bottles of those things unless they’re already hanging around, am I right? But since there was Kijafa on hand, I threw a splash of that in instead. (The only reason I’ve even heard the word Kijafa before? Our favorite pancake house in NJ has Cherry Kijafa Crepes on the menu, and it’s been my cousin Leanna’s go-to order since she was little. I’m thinking she has tried to replicate them at home? This is at least a feasible explanation for having this very obscure tipple on hand.)

Here’s the really fun part of this recipe. After filling the crust with custard, the cherries get dropped in evenly, gently, throughout the whole pie! The effect is awesome.


Once the pie has been thoroughly polka-dotted with cherries, it’s baked until set (like any custard pie), cooled, and chilled.


We woke up on Christmas morning to snow (albeit light), which is always the dream. Christmas was spent trying to eat as much delicious antipasti as humanly possible and playing Family Feud (at which Nana was not half bad).


Oh, and naps. Holidays are for naps too.



Thanks for keeping up, friends. See you soon.

The Sweeny Family Gives Thanks


, , , , ,

Here is the original Norm and Marie Sweeny family, some years ago, bundled up for the snow and clearly in their element.


In 2017, the Sweeny family celebrated many milestones including Grandmother’s 90th birthday, Aunt Susan’s 60th birthday, Mom and Dad’s 30th anniversary, Alex and Levi’s 30th birthdays, and Matt’s 21st birthday. We were happy to be able to gather in Illinois to share a Thanksgiving weekend of celebrations together!

The family has grown over the years, as you can see…the photo below is even missing 4.5 grandchildren/great-grandchildren who couldn’t make the trip out from California.


Although many delicious desserts and savory items were made and consumed as part of the festivities, for the purposes of the blog I will naturally focus on the pie I baked for Thanksgiving: Maria’s Double Crust Walnut Pie. This pie is unique on several accounts, but, like many good things, begins with a bunch of butter.


Maria must be a special lady, because she has a special pie crust recipe in Pie to be used with this very special and delicious recipe: Maria’s Shortbread Pie Pastry. It contains much more sugar than a typical crust, as well as an egg and lemon zest. In fact, the crust has about the same number of ingredients that the pie filling does. Due to the egg, the crust has a heartier, sturdier texture than average.


Part of the uniqueness of this pie is that is meant to be baked in a springform pan. However, my aunt did not have a springform pan at her home (nor do I have one at mine–we’re more of a pie than a cake family clearly) so I slightly adapted the plan and used a deep dish pie pan. The recipe gives direction to add “ropes” of dough to the inside of the pan as pictured before pressing the dough flatly up against the sides of the pan. As far as I could tell, this just served to form a thicker pastry around the edges and hold the pie together more concretely. And the crust is such a delicious and important part of this dessert. I think it’s a good move.


The pie filling is made from walnuts that get boiled with sugar and water and added to honey and cream. Nothing to object to there. The top crust is brushed with an egg glaze, and the final result is drool-inducing.


If there was such a thing as Baklava Pie, this would be it. (Confusing picture below, that’s pumpkin pie on the plate there, also delicious, just not matching.)


In this shot here you can see the true decadence of the filling.


This pie is one of several to date that fall into the category of, “I don’t care if I still have roughly 150 pie recipes left in my cookbook and I probably won’t finish this project until I’m 53, this is a pie I would make again and again because it’s just that good.”

I’m sharing a few more pictures from the Sweeny family Thanksgiving weekend below. Enjoy and have a beautiful week!

Thanksgiving FeastIMG_5750.jpg

Cousin Alex’s Bacon-Wrapped DuckIMG_5748.jpg

When you turn 90 you get two cakes.IMG_2137.JPG

A little help with the candles!IMG_2134

Unwrapping a birthday birthstone gift. IMG_2153.JPG

Matt, the Jenga Master.IMG_2122

Adventure Awaits


, ,

Dear Friends,

It has been a while, and I have so much to share. This post will be a little longer than usual, will contain more photos than usual (Iceland is just too beautiful) and even contains some exciting life updates, so please do stick around if you have a few moments to spare. As always, thanks for visiting.

I can’t say that I went on a four-day trip to Iceland planning on baking a pie there. It happened something like this.

Levi and I flew to Iceland and met up with Maggie and José. It felt like the dead of night when we landed at 4:00 am and the sun wouldn’t rise until nearly 10. We sort of functioned (and I sort of napped) until the Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik opened up and served us pancakes.


The rest of the day is a blur of alternating sleepy road tripping (thanks to Levi for being our non-sleepy driver) and cold, windy, breathtakingly beautiful scenery breaks. I’ll include several more photos at the end of this post. In the meantime, would you just look at these horses?! ❤


One of our missions for this first long day was to stock groceries, mainly breakfasts for the next several days at our AirBnB. I went to peruse the fruit selection in the store, thinking perhaps that a pie might be feasible…maybe an apple pie, something really simple…and that was when I saw these beauties.


At long last, I had found the elusive fresh red currant! I knew instantly which pie I would make.  It was one that I’d had my eye on during many summer visits to Minnesota, where it seemed like the currants at the local farm were always either almost ripe enough, or the growing season had just ended. A massive frustration in my pie-making career…and now, the red currants had found me–in Iceland, of all places! It was time to make New Hampshire Raspberry and Red Currant Pie.

The team helped me to assemble everything else I would need, including a lemon, red currant jelly, raspberries, and Icelandic butter. (As an aside, I could write an entire blog post just about how good Icelandic butter is.)


Pie-making commenced the following morning with berry-sorting and pastry-forming. It was a Monday, and I was just over ten weeks pregnant with our first baby. Until I hit the ten-week mark on the day before we flew to Iceland, I’d been struggling pretty hard with nausea, exhaustion, and lack of motivation to do much of anything, let alone bake a pie. Given that context, this experience, and really the whole vacation, felt like a small – no, a large – miracle. I was so grateful.


I’m fifteen weeks pregnant now, due in mid-June, and my belly isn’t quite as tiny as it is in the photo above. As our baby grows and I talk to her/him more and more I am also growing more and more excited for the adventure that awaits. I look forward to showing this new little person how beautiful the world can be, how to have faith when things are scary, and how much they are loved–by Levi and I, by our incredible friends and family, by God the Creator and Jesus the Savior.

(Insert sappy family photo here.)


(I also can’t wait to tell baby about the great adventures they had in Iceland while still in the womb. Seriously. This baby is well-traveled already.)

Okay, back to pie.


José had never made a pie before and was a devoted sous-chef/student throughout the making of the red currant pie. We still haven’t quite determined the best Spanish word for pie, so we went with “pastel”.


While this recipe calls for a cream cheese pastry (and I do love Ken’s cream cheese pastry), in order to cut down on ingredient waste and grocery shopping bill I decided to use only the decadent Icelandic butter I spoke of earlier. I have struggled in the past making pie crust in other countries, as I find the flour and fat often don’t combine the way I’m used to with U.S. products, and I sometimes find myself with an overly sticky pastry. This time, the dough turned rock hard (it had been in the fridge during the day while we were out tromping around glaciers) and wouldn’t thaw enough to be rolled for about an hour. #icelandproblems


José has been writing “Amigos 2017” or some variation of this on cakes all year and I think he was excited to be able to write it on a pie for the first time. “Amigos J, L, M, J”. Unsurprisingly he put himself last. He is that kind of a person.


This sounds too poetic to be true, but after we chilled the finished pastel in nature’s icebox (our deck) for about half an hour, we ate this perfectly sour-sweet treat under the green glow of the Northern Lights. It was a night I will never forget for as long as I live.

I always say that pie is for sharing, and it’s definitely for sharing when you’re only baking for 4.1 people. We left a large slice for our AirBnB hosts and I was even able to wrap up a few pieces and smuggle them back to Chicago, our next stop, where we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. Everyone was able to have one or two bites!

IMG_5711 2.jpgIMG_2044.JPG

A little more of Iceland–just because.