Two Iowans out East
Pie from way back in the memories

My family has not been a pie making family. We were more of a get the ice cream from the freezer type of family (my mom does make a wicked cheesecake though, and we do know how to make brownies and cookies). For a long time, I thought I was impartial to pie, we usually made it at home with frozen crust from the store (sorry mom but I have been enlightened and that is not the way to a good pie). N’s family however are big pie people, like N can be a pie snob, especially about crusts. So when we make pie it’s from scratch.

Pie from scratch, yummy!

There are a couple pies I remember from my younger days where the filling was so good that you still wanted to eat the pie, even though it was in terrible crust. Those were applesauce rhubarb pie with gramma Hazel and sour cream raisin from grandma Dee (which to me means that people in Kansas must really like pie and not make it so much down south, both those grandma’s are great grandma’s on my Dad’s side).

N is the one to form the crust to the plate, I have little skill/patience for that part.

I promise to someday post about gramma Hazel’s pie, but right now I really wanted that sour cream raisin pie. I only remember having Grandma Dee’s a couple times as a kid but it was so wonderful that it stuck in my memory bank for later. So when I saw this recipe, I thought I would just add raisins and get the same awesome I had as a kid. Which I did, plus I remember my mom and Grandma (the grandma who was Dee’s daughter btw) lamenting that they couldn’t duplicate Dee’s pie because sour cream nowadays is thickened and not actually soured cream. I think the buttermilk custard aspect that is stolen here from Heidi resolves that weirdness that the pie had when mom made it after Dee was gone and we just couldn’t get the same custard-like texture.

I also made this awesome cake, to use up most of the extra whites.

Recipe (adapted slightly from Heidi of 101 cookbooks):

Grandma Dee’s Raisin custard pie


crust (I halved what Heidi had since I only wanted a single crust)

1/3 cup rye flour (you can totally use all purpose instead)

3/4 cup all purpose

pinch salt

1 (8 Tbsp) stick salted butter

cold water


2 Tbsp brown sugar

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup flour

2/3 cup maple syrup, grade B is best it has the most flavor esp. for baking (please use REAL maple syrup, after moving out east I have been converted and cannot stand anything else)

2 cups buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

scant 1/2 tsp sea salt

generous 1/3 of a cup of raisins, divided into two portions (also make sure they aren’t all stuck together)


For the crust I used this method, I’ll just let you head there, she has some great videos. Once your crust is mixed and chilled, roll it into a circle dusting with flour as needed (it doesn’t have to be perfect) until you get roughly 11-12 inches diameter so that you have the needed hangover for the sides. Set this into your pie plate and cut the crust around the edges, using the overhang to fill in any cracks. Fancy the crust however you like (we aren’t too fussy here) and prick the crust a few times with a fork. line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans (we use dry beans, these beans will never be cooked, they are forever used for blind baking pie crusts). Bake 20 minutes at 375, until just beginning to color, remove the beans/weights and bake another 10 minutes until golden.

The pie is full of beans! (make sure to use the paper, N didn’t do this the first time we blind baked a pie crust and had to hand pick the beans out of the half-baked crust, not the most fun ever)

While the crust is blind baking combine the 1st 3 filling ingredients until all the flour is combined, a whisk may be a good idea. Then add the other ingredients, except the raisins. Pour this custard filling into the blind baked pie shell and bake at 325 (note the temp change!!!) be careful transferring the filled pie back to the oven that you don’t spill any (it’s best to have it on a baking sheet just in case). This will bake for about an hour till the custard is set and doesn’t jiggle much if at all when you gently shake the pie plate). The trick with the raisins is to add them in two portions during the baking of the custard, this allows them to fall within the baking custard such that they aren’t all at the bottom of the pie, so I just sprinkle them in at a couple of random times while the filling is baking (as you see in the pictures below our pie looks slightly pox-marked, I waited a little too late into the baking and the custard had formed its skin on top, so make sure you add your raisins earlier in the baking time so they actual sink in at least a little).

Not the most photogenic pie but totally tasty!

Recipes from others

But I did manage to photograph the croutons that I’m not blogging about until I make tomato soup again…

Lately for some reason I’ve been averse to actually getting the camera out and taking pics of anything. Add to that the fact that most of what I’ve been making is either from some other blog or already on this one, I figured I would let you know what we’ve been eating lately so you can eat such awesome food too!

made lots of this bread from this here blog you are reading, and this one too (I used half buckwheat flour, very tasty, I think all buckwheat would work but I haven’t tried it yet so I make no promises)

this crisp, plus cranberries with the apples

made this cake (only with cranberries and added some cinnamon and orange peel to the batter)

this Indian dish, which I have loved before and found much easier to make than anticipated

these rice balls, minus the almonds and plus some cilantro, which I am sharing with my friend who had her baby last week!

and tonight for dinner we are having these, with green tomato salsa from last summer

We would never actually give her away, but she does love boxes

Some up coming posts:

-a tutorial on making your own veggie/chicken/whatever stock

-a foccacia bread with sweet pickled grapes and rosemary (I’ll have the recipe for the bread and the pickles)

-a riff on this pie (but if I told you what we did different I would have nothing to blog about ;)

-pork chops with cauliflower pickles (we had this the other night, so next time we make it I’ll remember to take pics)

-tomato soup and homemade croutons (again, when I remember to take pics you will see a recipe)

and things that involve food from the garden, the radishes are getting some real leaves and the peas are getting going. The lettuce is frustrating me, it’s still really small, but a lot of the brassicas (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc) have at least sprouted.

So stay tuned!

Dog salad and cat boxes

Just thought I would share a couple funny stories and pics of our pets.

Dog salad

Anytime we buy salad mixes or spinach or other greens you remove stems from, there is always a dog salad.

Cats love boxes

And our cat, Maggie (often called maggle may), is so fancy she must have two boxes to sit in at once. Because sometimes one box just isn’t enough.

Lentil soup for an expectant friend

The recipe for the cracker bread we had with it is here.

One of my friends and her spouse are about to have their first child! And before they do I wanted to help stock their fridge with some healthy vegetarian meals for after their baby arrives. I was in the mood for a lentil soup last week and this one that I saw a while ago struck my fancy, sort of.

This is not exactly the same as that soup. I did use the same type of lentils, but I also sauteed some portabella mushrooms in with the onion at the start, and I used spinach instead of other more soup ready greens. I also was way to lazy to make the yogurt topping stuff, but I thought it was awesome and I hope they do too as they adjust to life as three! 

Mmmm, Mushrooms…

I pulled some of the mushrooms out for N and I to eat, yummm


Serves 6 (N and I ate this for two meals and I still had enough to freeze for my friend and her family)


1 onion, rough diced

3 portabella mushrooms, rough chopped

olive oil

2 cups beluga lentils

1 large can crushed tomatoes

3-5 cups water

2 cups (packed) fresh spinach

Not quite cooked yet, the lentils would be a bit like chewy rocks.


Heat the onion in your soup pot with a generous coating of olive oil until sweated and translucent. Add the mushrooms and a bit more oil and stir to combine, let sit in the pot over medium heat with the lid on the get the mushrooms to cook through a little. Once they are cooked through add the can of tomatoes, lentils, and water. Maintain on medium heat until the lentils are cooked through, if the soup starts to get too thick add more water. After the lentils are thoroughly cooked add the spinach on top and cover to wilt the spinach a bit. Mix the spinach in and enjoy!

Asparagus Salad (and another reason why N should start blogging with me)

It’s asparagus season!!! I love asparagus and always feel a little bad buying it, back in Iowa we had a couple of asparagus patches on my parents farm so throughout the spring we had plenty of asparagus. It was always the very best because we literally picked it a few minutes before it met its fate in the pan, oven, or salad that it was destined to. So far N and I haven’t planted any asparagus, but its high on the list of perennial additions to the garden for next year (along with rhubarb, raspberries, sorrel, grapes…).

The measuring cup on the left is full of the hard ends of the stems, we freeze them and I use them when making veggie stock.

When its on sale at our food co-op I usually can’t resist buying some. Last time I bought asparagus we did this with it and we declared it our favorite way to cook asparagus. This last time N was hogging the grill a bit more than usual so I decided to use up some other things that were needing to be consumed and make this salad. It’s simple and DELICIOUS! (And unlike the last recipe it doesn’t suffer from any pregnancy related taste weirdness, N loved it just as much as I did!)

As you can tell from the photo we had this with Connie’s cabbage salad and the best beef brisket ever! Which is why I think N needs to start at least writing his recipes and taking pictures, then I could blog more of his grill adventures!

Recipe: serves 4 (we had that night and the next day with leftovers)

1 lbs asparagus

1/2 medium red onion, finely diced

1 large handful cherry tomatoes (ours were a mix of types but plain red ones would work just as well)

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice

pinch of salt and pepper


Wash the veg and chop to desired size, combine with oil and juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and devour!

Now just toss it all together and dig in!

Versatile casserole base

Probably not the most beautiful food, but it was quite tasty!

Like I mentioned yesterday, this is more of a method/my own math when making a random casserole from what’s on hand than it is a specific recipe. See I’ve done this a few different ways over the years. A few times I remember: one with leftover roasted rabbit, hot peppers, muenster cheese, and quinoa (or was it rice, I don’t remember) which I thought was just another casserole, but Connie (N’s mom) thought was like the best casserole ever, “I should enter it in a contest this fall”, etc. Also, a total failure at this casserole with chicken, broccoli, couscous, and (brace yourselves) blue cheese, not my most shining culinary achievement (I actually told N he didn’t have to eat it, and he didn’t).

Radish thinnings are super cute, and tasty they have a similar spicy bite to them once they were in the casserole

This most recent time was a mash up of things I had bought intending to make lasagne which never happened and we needed to use up the cheese (riccotta and grated parmesean), what grain cooks really fast/least effort on my part (bulgar wheat), what veggies do we have around (frozen cauliflower, which i later realized meant i neglected some celery that is wilting in the fridge even now), and seasonings and other requirements to make it all work. And of course the garden thinnings that I talked about yesterday (Make sure to be extra diligent/retentive about getting them clean and dirt free, I once made N an omelette with edible weeds from the garden and he said “It’s good, but are weeds always so gritty?” clearly I should have washed them more,oops).

Cauliflower and radish sprouts drying out a bit

By and large, the basic ratio of ingredients always works for us to make a decent casserole for dinner (except for the chicken-couscous-blue cheese fiasco) and we usually have lunch for the two of us the next day (I’m sure in a few years when there are more mouths I will have to up the size and we won’t have leftovers). So here it is:

Casserole a billion ways

Serves 4-6 (sometimes we get two days worth of lunch)


3 cups cooked grain or small pasta (this most recent time it was bulgar, other things that work: couscous, rice, quinoa, barley, orzo, etc)

3 eggs

1 lb shredded cheese (this most recent time: parm and riccotta, others that work, cheddar, muenster, colby, basically any common milder cheese; again I do not recommend blue, that was the straw that broke the back in the fiasco)

2 cups chopped veggies (most recently: cauliflower, but sweet or hot peppers, summer squash, celery, etc.)

1 medium onion (I know this is a veggie, but it always goes in, its like its own category)

1-2 cups meat *optional but you could use whatever is leftover

Seasonings to taste (this last time I used dried chives, thyme, oregano, and celery seed, there was also some roasted garlic and coarse dijon mustard, which went awesome with the radish sprouts. *N’s disclaimer: earlier this week Erin said a bacon, peanut butter, pickle sandwich sounded good, thus Erin’s palate is hormone altered and this seasoning mix may not appeal to many. *Erin’s disclaimer: even though he may be right, it was still good, he ate it for dinner and for lunch the next day…)

The moment when you should have realized you needed a bigger bowl but were too stubborn, it just barely fit with the remaining ingredients

Mix together everything, reserving about 1/4 to 1/3 of the cheese for a topping. place in a casserole dish top with remaining cheese and bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Also keep in mind what flavors you are working with and season things for your own liking. Enjoy!

Garden thinnings

Spring is here, and the peas are sprouting!

If you live in New England (or most of the US for that matter) we are having an unseasonably warm spring. Here for instance a couple weeks ago we had such a hot spell that N and I got our spring planting started early (and by early I mean probably at least a month early).

This is the garlic, which was planted last fall, but would NOT normally be this big yet, wow!

We planted radishes, lettuce, swiss chard (also more elegantly called seven-color silverbeet, but I always feel like that’s a mouthful), peas, japanese red mustard, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale.

Tiny lettuce

So far the lettuce, radishes, chard, and peas have sprouted, and the radishes already needed thinning. For any of you who haven’t grown radishes (or other food) before here is a brief description of thinning:

Before thinning: way too many in one spot (my fault completely)

For a variety of reasons including laziness on the part of the planter (me), crop security, washout from watering and other factors, you end up with areas in the beds with a lot of sprouts, way more sprouts than could ever grow in that space. That’s when you need to thin them out, which is just going through and choosing the best sprout within the area one sprout needs and pulling out all the rest.

After thinning: much tidier and now everyone left will live to happy big radish size, then I’ll eat’em!

So that’s exactly what I did the other day, it was sunny, not too warm, not too cold and the soil was dry so i didn’t have to worry about compacting the soil with my adventures.

The pea trellis broke on a windy day, N’s going to fix it this weekend (I hope).

The best part, with many thinnings, you can eat them (which make sense since you would eat the final plant anyway, right?). What to do with these wonderful thinnings? Well, if you aren’t a pregnant lady you can always put them in a salad or sandwich (appparently, at least according to some of the mandatory propaganda they give you at the doctor since they come from dirt you aren’t supposed to eat them when preggers since they don’t get cooked, where do they thing the rest of your food comes from like lettuce and the actual radish that the thinning would have become? I think I’ll ask my midwife if that advice makes any sense next time she is here for an appointment).

Tizzy found gardening (actually he was mole hunting, unsuccessfully, while I was gardening) exhausting

Anyway, tomorrows post has a simple casserole starting point (very versatile, think similar to the fridge soup post) that we used ours in, so come back tomorrow for a look at what we made with the thinnings!