Tag Archives: spices

The Curious Case of the Spinach Dip…and Pi(e) Day 2.0

So…Friday I curled my hair and the social media world freaked out a little and then I technically crashed a birthday party.

At said party, there was a variety of snack foods…including spinach dip that tasted *exactly* like French onion soup (holla at my cousin Kirstin!). I was at a table with a tattooed gentleman from Florida who had previously run into the place, yelling, “I just saw My Bloody Valentine in 3-D and it was awesome!”

As we sat there making small talk, I said, “My goodness! This tastes exactly like French onion soup!”

He tried it, agreed, and said, “Maybe it’s the cheese.”

I gently suggested it probably *wasn’t* as cheese tends to have more of a universal taste…but my best guess was it was onions and/or spices. Then along came a lady who said she thought it was Lipton onion soup mix. Mystery solved? I thought about conducting an experiment this weekend…but, alas, time flew by…and dip and French onion soup seemed kind of dangerous to have on hand anyway.

This birthday venue — Choice Kitchen & Cocktails — *also* happens to be the place where I believe I will be hosting a pre-Pi(e) Day party on March 13 (March 14 is 3.14 — get it?). So…mark your calendars!

Choice is perhaps a little further away (for most) than Greenwich Village Bistro, but there’s a lot more room and there’s a private bar and a fireplace and a giant TV where I could have a pie photo slideshow and include fun pie facts…and who knows what!

I get the feeling this Pi(e) Day will have a much different feel than last time. And then that’s it until at least July 22 (22/7), so…all aboard!

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Filed under birthdays, Food Network, holidays, parties, pie

Delicious Mayhem.

I make more to-do lists than I, well, know what to do with. It sort of makes me feel better to start off a day knowing what I *have* to do and what I *should* do so I can adjust accordingly to try to squeeze in as much stuff as humanly possible.

The last two weeks have been doozies. Don’t get me wrong — I’m really happy to be so busy…but filling in for publications in New York and London meant I was working some pretty zany hours. So…believe me when I say that blogging about preparations for National Pie Day (and the day itself!) was on my list allll week. Unfortunately, I just haven’t gotten to it until now.

So, without further ado…let’s pick up where I left off:

Day #3 of Pie Week.

This was officially Pickle Pie Day. I wanted to do the cobbler as well, but I didn’t take the peaches out of the freezer to defrost early enough…

After everything, I gotta say pickle pie looked a LOT like pumpkin pie. It was well-received by everyone who tried it (and I baked 14 pies for them…so it damn well should have been, or they really *would* have been some ungrateful bastids [me with a Boston accent]). It had sort of a gooey middle part…so I guess I didn’t cook it long enough…but the top sure looked done and I didn’t want to risk burning it. (In fact, several people asked what the middle layer *was* and I had to confess that it was all the same thing…) It would be interesting to try again, I suppose…though there weren’t a lot of recipes out there for this thing. Not a single one in any of my pie books…though I guess that isn’t all that surprising.

By Day #4, things were really getting serious. Only one more day until the *actual* Pie Day. I was up at 4:30 to write about European retail asset management…which was a good thing as I had a LOT of baking to do.

First thing? The cobbler that didn’t happen the night before. And I cranked that sucker out in no time.

I *finally* used the Sur La Table gift card Auntie Leslie gave me for Christmas 2007 to purchase a fluted pastry wheel (When I told Carmen I had to go to Sur La Table to buy a fluted pastry wheel, she got that look she gets when I am speaking Greek to her. Oh, how different we are…and yet I love that ridiculous broad.) as I kind of love lattice crusts…and the first lattice crust I attempted was this summer for a housewarming party but I just used a knife and I felt it was missing a certain je nais se quois. With the pastry wheel, however, the strips were almost perfect (Carmen would say, “Perfecto”) except that one was *slightly* thinner than the others. I decided that would be the strip that went in the center and I could pretend that it was some sort of purposeful artistic move.

Then somehow the day got away from me. I had some deadlines, sure, but I don’t know what else happened because all of a sudden it was super-late. I was *supposed* to go to a taping of the Daily Show, but I had to be a jerk and write the guy and ask him if he’d hate me if I bailed out. He understood…but then I felt guilty, so I decided to add a banana cream pie to my list to make it up to him. (Which I ended up making around 2:00 am because I am crazy…and then I was up again at 5 [oops — overslept a little] to write about asset management again…and Thain had just been forced to resign, so every paper in America had something to say about it and it was a loooong one to summarize. [As Franimate would say: le sigh.])

Both the chocolate cream pie and the banana cream pie required making my own pudding. It’s safe to say I’ve never made so much pudding in my whole damn life. And — you know what? It’s good stuff. And it’s not even that hard. I don’t know why I don’t ever think to make it when I’m not making a pie. Eggs, cream, cream of tartar…maybe some vanilla? Cook on stove. Strain. Bada boom.

Even though I was making it to make it up to the guy (who then bailed on *me* on Pie Day because he had a headache…making me feel very much like a husband in a bygone era who just asked his wife if she was in the mood) and there really was no pressure in real life, I guess I felt some in my head…and the crust was an absolute disaster. I used way too many graham crackers and not enough bananas or butter…and so even though I tried to push the crust up the sides of the springform pan, it just sort of sunk into the middle and was really, really ugly. Obviously I was able to cover it up with pudding…but I knew that super-ugly crust was there underneath. (One of the first Pie Day revelers told me this pie looked like papier mache. And one of the guests who *followed* brought me half a springform pan that had been sitting in his office — dirty, mind you — for over a year…and was missing its bottom. “Hey!” I said. “Where’s the rest of it?” To which one of our *other* coworkers said, “I told you she’d notice.”)

I also squeezed in the American Pie Council’s January Pie o’ the Month on Day 4 — chocolate chip bourbon pecan. The recipe distinctly said to bake it for 30 minutes and that it would continue to bake after it was removed from the oven. However…I think I should have left it in longer because it was one goopy pie. I also needed but a tablespoon of bourbon…and now I basically have a whole damn bottle of Jim Beam left (and am sounding kind of like my grandma…aww…).

Day #5 — PIE DAY! — began just like the others: at 4:30ish with some asset management. Then, sweet potato. Which is super-easy. I already had half a crust left over from the night before. I rolled it out, zapped my sweet potatoes, scooped them out and into my Cuisinart along with the rest of the stuff. Baked. Voila.

Then I sort of got carried away with last-minute details…I had to make cards for each pie (as opposed to saying over and over and over again, “That one is…”) and I had to get *dressed* and all those other pesky things that I didn’t especially have time for during the week. So…the peanut butter pies were sort of an after thought. (Oops.) I’ve made this recipe about a thousand times (a lot of old coworkers are fans of this one…despite the recent scare that led one smartass friend to suggest the “fun” name for this pie — as I promised in my Top Ten list — should be “Salmonella Surprise”)…and I always remember it yielding enough for two pies, but this time the filling seemed kind of wimpy. Carmen was due over early with PBR to settle the ol’ nerves, but she left her green card application until the *very* last minute (ay, chica, when will you ever learn??) and so there was some panic about that as I changed my clothes and straightened my hair. I *also* wanted to decorate the peanut butter pies with peanuts (but was careful not to turn them into boobs…as I accidentally did for one of my coworkers once)…and Carmen and I were hungry, so I told her she could eat some nuts and she reached for the jar, but I thought she was going to take them directly off the pie…and so I was sort of horrified and she laughed and said she’s not *that* uncouth.

Then she called a car service…and it was off to the races. And as we sat in the car, surrounded by pies, I said, “You know what? I think this is the most outlandish thing I have ever done.”

And she agreed.

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Filed under bananas, chocolate, gadgets, holidays, peanut butter, pickles, pie, pudding

Juneau Beer, Mexican Thingamajigs, Spice Advice, Unspeakable Cookies, Christmas Eve Empanadas & Potatoes From the Lonestar State

Well…now that the Huffington Post action may have cooled off for a while, I suppose I should return to the blog that bears *my* name.

I just got back from Arizona…where there were plenty of blog-worthy topics.

For one, I was thrilled to find Alaskan Amber at a saloon outside of the Grand Canyon. I admit my love for this beer stems partially from nostalgia…but I haven’t really seen it outside of Alaska (natch) or Seattle, so I was super-excited to find it elsewhere. (Although I was hoping maybe there’d be a place in NY that serves it, too…and found that some guy tried it at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino in Vegas. But, sadly, it appears the stuff isn’t in the actual New York, New York…at least not on tap.)

We also went to a Mexican restaurant in Tucson that served carne seca (“dry meat”)…which tasted a lot like beef jerky (although a quick Google search reveals that a lot of people feel this way and I was in no way insightful). The restaurant was *also* home of the USA Today Chimichanga…which I thought was kind of an amusing name even though it was only because USA Today said it was a really good chimichanga. (And this place in Tucson is also allegedly the home of the chimichanga itself? )

And…this year was exciting because my mother actually asked my advice about pumpkin pie spice! She needed ginger and wanted to know if I thought she could fake it with pumpkin pie spice. (My answer, not surprisingly, was no.) She ended up buying a little baggie of ginger at the grocery store that has good produce…and where a woman offered me a sample of vegan ice cream and I obviously got a little thrill.

We also made the Sweet Potato Queens‘ cat shit cookies. This is one of my mother’s favorite recipes…possibly because it requires no baking. It also yields a hearty cookie that’ll give you a good chocolate fix. Which is probably why the Queens like it, too.

And…instead of more traditional Christmas Eve tamales, I made Christmas Eve empanadas. I couldn’t tell whether my dad actually liked them, but that recipe is still one of my favorites. We used puff pastry instead of empanada dough…so they looked kind of turnover-ish. But my dad’s a big guy (over the 200 pound weight limit and so we couldn’t ride mules into the Grand Canyon!)…so it’s okay that they blew up into these big, huge things in the oven.

We *also* made Texas Potatoes for Christmas…which is one of the dishes in the family recipe book my aunt pulled together a number of Christmases ago…but I’ve never tried. It has always *sounded* really good…so I’m glad I finally got to try them. But…don’t know if it was because my mom used real potatoes instead of frozen hash browns or because she used healthy cream of chicken/mushroom (I think it was chicken) soup…but it wasn’t *quite* as spectaculuar as I had hoped it would be. I mean, it was pretty good…but I didn’t see God.

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Filed under Alaska, blogs, cookies, entrees, holidays

The Year of Sweet Potato? And What’s Ground Mace?

I’ve been really into Twitter lately and I’m afraid my blog is suffering — whatever baking news I spy more often than not gets slapped up on Twitter before I have time to flesh it out here.

But! I suppose real-life baking episodes will always have a home here. So…this is the perfect venue to say that I’m still planning to make sweet potato pie this week (even though I am also freelancing for FundFire and Ignites Europe and I am supposed to write some real estate press releases on top of my Martha gig…oy) in honor of both Obama and my friend Matt’s birthday. (He had *said* he wanted pumpkin…but I asked how he felt about sweet potato as I feel like I have to make one now that Obama is President-Elect and he said that would be fine. [By the by, I also still have a lot of damn apples.])

But…sweet potato pie is not something I grew up with…so I went to Epicurious and found this: Sweet Potato Pie. 4 forks! And 98% would make it again. So…sounds good. But…ground mace? I had never heard of that. Thankfully, McCormick has an encyclopedia on its Web site: Mace, Ground.

They’ve opened a lot of grocery stores in my neighborhood lately…so I hope I won’t have any trouble finding it. (But you know what I did have trouble finding in my neighborhood today? Carpeted cat toys. My poor cat is not dealing well with being by himself all day…so I figured it would be good to get him something he can climb on. But they’re so expensive! So…I may have to endure the humiliation of hauling one of those things home on the Subway from a big box store…)

So…I think Thursday will be a sweet potato kind of night as my work for Ignites Europe will be done by then. I will also be able to use those crust leaf cut-outs my mom bought me last year. I haven’t used those since *last* Thanksgiving…and seem to recall there was some sort of trick you had to do to make them look particularly leafy. Hmm…

Coincidentally…I am still not sure what’s on tap for *this* Thanksgiving…or what kind of pie I will make. Maybe this will be the year of sweet potato?

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Filed under birthdays, Brooklyn, pie, pumpkins