Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Night Lights

You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If one carries many such memories into life, one is safe to the end of one's days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may be the means of saving us.

***From The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

Today it's a clear, crisp fall day. It's the kind of day where everything is more vibrant. Sunrises. The glad-to-be-home scent of an apple crisp baking. The triumphant blare of a marching band. The tartness of an apple. Even memories are more intense this time of year.

This time of the year I think of my Uncle Don. When I picture him, he's always smiling. Always. Uncle Don wore a megawatt smile, capable of brightening any room. Even as I write this and picture that grand smile, I smile. It's that powerful of a smile.

Every Friday evening in the fall, my Uncle Don and cousin Tim would pick me up and we'd go to the Pomona High School football game. While other kids played touch football or flitted about the concession stand, Tim and I were expected to watch the game. At halftime we would visit the concession stand for a bag of popcorn and Coke, and then we'd return to the game. Even if there was no doubt to the outcome of the game, we'd stay for the final tick of the clock.

I know that my words don't fully capture the memory, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I keep trying to find the right words. What really matters is that I'm still able to step into a fall evening, close my eyes, transport myself back in time, and linger a little longer with my Uncle Don.

clear eyes, full hearts can't lose,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sweet Flamiche with Summer Berries

In this autotuned, photoshopped world, I find myself gravitating to all that is real and natural. This is my approach to fruit. Like Eve, I enjoy my fruit simply plucked off the tree or the vine. Sure, nature's bounty is great in a pie, crisp, or cobbler, but I always feel like the natural flavor sometimes is lost in its marriage with sugar. This summer I searched for a fruit dessert that wouldn't have to share billing with sugar, and I think I found it in this sweet flamiche. Flamiche is a fancy word, but don't let it or the phyllo dough scare you away from trying this dessert. It's a light, creamy, custardy dessert whose sweetness comes from the fruit. This is a dessert that showcases the fruit, which is the way it should be.

Sweet Flamiche with Summer Berries

  • 1 ounce unsalted butter
  • 4 sheets of phyllo pastry
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 7 ounces mixed berries
  • confectioners' sugar, to serve or whipped cream
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need a heat-proof mixing bowl that will fit over a saucepan with the base of the bowl clear of the bottom of the pan. You will also need a small frying pan with an oven-proof handle.
  • Place the butter in a small bowl and melt in microwave. Use a pastry brush to lightly butter the inside of the frying pan.

  • Lay a sheet of phyllo pastry in the pan and brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet of pastry on top, but this time at an angle to the first sheet. brush with butter. Repeat with your remaining sheets. By laying each sheet at an angle to the previous one, you will make a rough star shape.

  • Bring some water to a simmer in the saucepan - enough to come close to the bottom of the heat-proof mixing bowl when you put it on top, but not actually to touch it.

  • Place the sugar and eggs in the mixing bowl and place over simmering water. Whisk the sugar and egg mixture over the heat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add half of the sour cream and whisk again, then add the remainder and whisk once more. Take the pan off the heat and carefully lift off the bowl.

  • Place the frying pan line with pastry over very low heat for 5-6 minutes, until the underneath is lightly browned - you can lift the edges gently with a spatula to check how it is doing.

  • Remove the pan from the heat, scatter the fruit over the pastry, and top with the egg mixture.

  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until the egg mixture has set.
  • Cool slightly and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving, or you can serve a dollop of whipped cream on each slice.

PS. . . The recipe called for creme fraiche, but since I didn't have any, I used sour cream. The reciple also called for a splash of kirsch. Since I had none, I omitted it. However, I can see the benefit of having a bottle of kirsch in my liquor cabinet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Truck Got Stuck

Once upon a time, I ate a lot of frozen burritos, listened to Def Leppard incessantly, and worked as a grunt on a ranch. My job as a ranch grunt was simple. Each day the rancher would grab a feed sack and scrawl a map, showing me the location of the thistles that dotted his pastures. Then I would take the map, hop in a truck, drive, find thistles, pull thistles, and properly dispose of them to prevent future propagation. I spent all summer doing this.

One day the rancher's map contained scribbles that indicated a marshy section of pasture. With the recent rains, he warned me that this section would be marshier than normal and that it might be a good idea to avoid the area. Detecting my youthful ignorance, he added that if I found myself driving through the marshy pasture that it would be a good idea to keep driving and to not stop because once I stopped I would probably be stuck.

Since I was a stupid kid who ate frozen burritos and listened to Def Leppard, I failed to follow his advice and I found myself stuck. I walked to the nearest farm house to call for a tow. On the walk, I pondered my stupidity and the significance of momentum.

I now thinking about the significance of momentum as I try to move this blog forward. If I ever get invited to be part of a panel discussion on blogging, I would tell my fellow bloggers to never stop blogging because once you stop it's difficult to get going again.

I've decided to keep moving forward, hoping I can sustain my momentum. I hope to move towards a blog that is less about food and more about Kansas and my memories of my time in this great state.

rollin', rollin' keep those doggies rollin'

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vaulted Memories

Someday I will be an old man. I will wear cowboy boots with my shorts and I'll blither blather about past meals. I'll begin all of my stories, "One time I ate (fill in the blank). I'll talk Delta tamales, beer mimosas, fried pies, oysters, piles of crawfish, schnapps, goulash, sausage, onion burgers, bowls of whipped butter, and on and on and on. Some people will look at me strangely Some will ignore me and walk away. Some will listen, but they will doubt me. For those doubters, I will say, "Check out my blog." There I will offer evidence of past repasts, like the meals I experienced on a recent trip along the Lake Superior coast of Minnesota.

At Russ Kendall's Smokehouse in Knife River, I ate smoked white fish, the North Shore's equivalent of BBQ.

At the Duluth Grill I ate cinnamon roll French toast, and the pasty pictured below:

A mandatory stop along the North Shore is Betty's Pies. We stopped twice. The second trip I slurped a shake that contained an entire slice of key lime pie.

I ate peach caprese at the New Scenic Cafe.

I slurped another malt at The Portland Malt Shoppe in Duluth.

I ate a plate of corned beef hash at Hell's Kitchen.

We stopped in the town of Hinkley, where we ate at Cassidy's Restaurant. I ate a meatloaf sandwich smothered in gravy.

They had a read station with seven kinds of bread, and (drum roll)
two big bowls of whipped butter.
I finished the meal with one of these giant cinnamon rolls (only a $1.49).

I didn't eat one of the caramel pecan rolls because that would have been gluttonous.
These are just a few of the meals I enjoyed.

some will simply understand,

PS. . . Next year I want to participate in a Minnesota meat raffle.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Famers' Market Treasures: Onions from ?????

I had no intention of buying onions at the farmers' market on Saturday, but the smelled lured me. Most people would describe the wild, pungent odor as unappealing, but the scent of onions reminds me of earth and my childhood. A time when my hair was bleached blonde because I didn't come inside until the street lights glowed. A time when I tugged wild onions from the dirt and that earthly scent covered me head to toe and I didn't mind what others thought of that. I'm reminded of a time when I measured the productivity of a day by the dirt ring that remained in the tub after a bath.

forever young,

ps. . . I don't remember the name of the farmer I purchased the onions from, but I will find out and update that info.

The onions contributed to a wonderful stir-fry.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Quintessentially Lawrence: Drivable Art

Too cold to start a fire
I'm burning diesel, burning dinosaur bones
I'll take the river down to still water
And ride a pack of dogsI'm gonna break
I'm gonna break my
I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run

***"Rusty Cage" by Soundgarden

Three weeks ago my mood was soured, so I went to the library to sweeten my disposition. I found a little sugar in the parking lot. This made my day:

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Blonde and Blue-Eyed Bringer of Truth

En route to the camping site, we traveled through Commerce, Oklahoma, the hometown of Mickey Mantle. Of course I stopped to snap a few pictures.

I stood in Commerce and read the the following poem from

Kansas poet
BH Fairchild, I though about Mr. Mantle.

"Body and Soul"
by BH Fairchild

Half-numb, guzzling bourbon and Coke from coffee mugs,
our fathers fall in love with their own stories, nuzzling
the facts but mauling the truth, and my friend’s father begins
to lay out with the slow ease of a blues ballad a story
about sandlot baseball in Commerce, Oklahoma decades ago.

These were men’s teams, grown men, some in their thirties
and forties who worked together in zinc mines or on oil rigs,
sweat and khaki and long beers after work, steel guitar music
whanging in their ears, little white rent houses to return to
where their wives complained about money and broken Kenmores
and then said the hell with it and sang Body and Soul
in the bathtub and later that evening with the kids asleep
lay in bed stroking their husband’s wrist tattoo and smoking
Chesterfields from a fresh pack until everything was O.K.
Well, you get the idea. Life goes on, the next day is Sunday,
another ball game, and the other team shows up one man short.

They say, we’re one man short, but can we use this boy,
he’s only fifteen years old, and at least he’ll make a game.
They take a look at the kid, muscular and kind of knowing
the way he holds his glove, with the shoulders loose,
the thick neck, but then with that boy’s face under
a clump of angelic blonde hair, and say, oh, hell, sure,
let’s play ball. So it all begins, the men loosening up,
joking about the fat catcher’s sex life, it’s so bad
last night he had to hump his wife, that sort of thing,
pairing off into little games of catch that heat up into
throwing matches, the smack of the fungo bat, lazy jogging
into right field, big smiles and arcs of tobacco juice,
and the talk that gives a cool, easy feeling to the air,
talk among men normally silent, normally brittle and a little
angry with the empty promise of their lives. But they chatter
and say rock and fire, babe, easy out, and go right ahead
and pitch to the boy, but nothing fancy, just hard fastballs
right around the belt, and the kid takes the first two
but on the third pops the bat around so quick and sure
that they pause a moment before turning around to watch
the ball still rising and finally dropping far beyond
the abandoned tractor that marks left field. Holy shit.

They’re pretty quiet watching him round the bases,
but then, what the hell, the kid knows how to hit a ball,
so what, let’s play some goddamned baseball here.
And so it goes. The next time up, the boy gets a look
at a very nifty low curve, then a slider, and the next one
is the curve again, and he sends it over the Allis Chalmers,
high and big and sweet. The left field just stands there, frozen.

As if this isn’t enough, the next time up he bats left-handed.
They can’t believe it, and the pitcher, a tall, mean-faced
man from Okarche who just doesn’t give a shit anyway
because his wife ran off two years ago leaving him with
three little ones and a rusted-out Dodge with a cracked block,
leans in hard, looking at the fat catcher like he was the sonofabitch
who ran off with his wife, leans in and throws something
out of the dark, green hell of forbidden fastballs, something
that comes in at the knees and then leaps viciously towards
the kid’s elbow. He swings exactly the way he did right-handed
and they all turn like a chorus line toward deep right field
where the ball loses itself in sagebrush and the sad burnt
dust of dustbowl Oklahoma. It is something to see.

But why make a long story long: runs pile up on both sides,
the boy comes around five times, and five times the pitcher
is cursing both God and His mother as his chew of tobacco sours
into something resembling horse piss, and a ragged and bruised
Spalding baseball disappears into the far horizon. Goodnight,
Irene. They have lost the game and some painful side bets
and they have been suckered. And it means nothing to them
though it should to you when they are told the boy’s name is
Mickey Mantle. And that’s the story, and those are the facts.

But the facts are not the truth. I think, though, as I scan
the faces of these old men now lost in the innings of their youth,
it lying there in the weeds behind that Allis Chalmers
just waiting for the obvious question to be asked: why, oh
why in hell didn’t they just throw around the kid, walk him,
after he hit the third homer? Anybody would have,
especially nine men with disappointed wives and dirty socks
and diminishing expectations for whom winning at anything
meant everything. Men who knew how to play the game,
who had talent when the other team had nothing except this ringer
who without a pitch to hit was meaningless, and they could go home
with their little two-dollar side bets and stride into the house
singing If You’ve Got the Money, Honey, I’ve Got the Time
with a bottle of Southern Comfort under their arms and grab
Dixie or May Ella up and dance across the gray linoleum
as if it were V-Day all over again. But they did not
And they did not because they were men, and this was a boy.

And they did not because sometimes after making love,
after smoking their Chesterfields in the cool silence and
listening to the big bands on the radio that sounded so glamorous,
so distant, they glanced over at their wives and noticed the lines
growing heavier around the eyes and mouth, felt what their wives
felt: that Les Brown and Glenn Miller and all those dancing couples
and in fact all possibility of human gaiety and light-heartedness
were as far away and unreachable as Times Square or the Avalon
ballroom. They did not because of the gray linoleum lying there
in the half-dark, the free calendar from the local mortuary
that said one day was pretty much like another, the work gloves
looped over the doorknob like dead squirrels. And they did not
because they had gone through a depression and a war that had left
them with the idea that being a man in the eyes of their fathers
and everyone else had cost them just too goddamn much to lay it
at the feet of a fifteen year-old-boy. And so they did not walk him,
and lost, but at least had some ragged remnant of themselves
to take back home. But there is one thing more, though it is not
a fact.

When I see my friend’s father staring hard into the bottomless
well of home plate as Mantle’s fifth homer heads toward Arkansas,
I know that this man with the half-orphaned children and
worthless Dodge has also encountered for the first and possibly
only time the vast gap between talent and genius, has seen
as few have in the harsh light of an Oklahoma Sunday, the blonde
and blue-eyed bringer of truth, who will not easily be forgiven.

What a great poem! Mr. Fairchild works some magic with words.

bring the truth,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Fistful of Dynamite

Mr. Crankypants has been rattling his cage more than usual, so we put a 2nd padlock on it. He's wound tight. He's like a stick of dynamite in a Sergio Leone movie.

The other day I was driving up on campus and Mr. Crankypants was in the passenger seat. We're stopped at the crosswalk and this college student - talking on his cell phone, eating an apple, and listening to his Ipod - leisurely crossed in front of us. The kid was more intent on talking and eating rather than crossing. When Mr. Crankypants saw that the kid was wearing flip flop when the temperature was in the 40's, that was the straw that broke the llama's back. Mr. Crankypants threw a vicious elbow into my ribs, and snarled, "Hit the son of a bitch!"

Then he rolled down the window, pounded the side of the car, and screamed, "Hey! We're driving here!"

In his sleep, Mr. CP's been mumbling something about John Boehner's country-club tan. I don't know what that's all about, and I have no intention of asking Mr. CP about it.

With him being gloom and impending doom, I've decided to take him on vacation. I'm taking him camping, where he'll sip whiskey, eat cabbage bombs, and sleep underneath the stars. There he will live an idyllic existence free of idiots, politics, and absurdness. I'm hoping that the stick of dynamite will be reduced to a mere firecracker.

We'll send you dispatches from the road.

chompin' on a bit I just can't spit,


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Holding It Together with Gardening

I come from a long line of gardeners, so my summer childhood scrapbook is filled thick with the following snapshots:

  • sitting underneath my grandparents' car port snapping green beans.

  • digging potatoes

  • My Uncle Raymond dropping by our house sharing the bounty from his garden

  • zucchini, zucchini, zucchini, zucchini, and zucchini

  • rhubarb

  • snakes in the strawberry patches

  • eating a jalapeno in my Uncle Don's garden and sprinting toward the water spigot to attempt to cool the burn

  • standing in the garden with a salt shaker and eating tomatoes off the vine

  • riding in the back of a pickup as a it crosses the creek (pronounced "crick") on my way to my grandparents' garden (Once upon a time people rode in the beds of pickups)
With the exception of a few herbs I grow to use in my cooking, I don't keep a garden. I think a lot about what is lost because I don't garden, and it makes me sad. Lately my daughter has asked if we can plant a small garden. It makes me happy to think that this urge to garden might be in her DNA. Maybe she and I need to break ground on this project as a way to reconnect with those relatives from my past.

With these thoughts and memories pinballing in my head, I reflected on the following passage from Ted Kooser's wonderful book Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps:

According to the TV weathermen-all smiles at six this morning- today is to be one of the "top ten days of the year!" He was exclaiming his own prediction of good weather, of course, but most of us among his early morning viewers are hoping that this will be top ten day of the year in ways other than that. I for one am hoping that it will be among the top ten days for making a few pints of applesauce from our bruised and wormy windfalls and also among the top ten days for gluing together my late mother's cutting board, which during the past week split in half and by so doing opened a crack in my heart, into which a good deal of syrupy sentiment trickled.

Mother would never have paid "good money", as she would have said, for a gourmet cutting board, heavy and thick as a layer cake and cleverly fitted together from finely planed strips of chocolate-dark and sugar-light hardwoods. No, her cutting board was three short pieces of one-by-four pine, glued together into a surface about the size of a piece of typewriter paper. She probably bought it at a yard sale. On this crude table, which over the years turned roast beef brown from the oil of store brand cheese and the juice from whatever fruit was on sale, was inscribed her kitchen's history, scored into the surface by a dull paring knife with the rivets gone from one side of the handle. There are chapters on flaky pie dough, thick egg noodles, and round steak hammered to a pulp.

When she died by sister and I were dividing her few belongings, I kept mother's cutting board. At the time I didn't have a sentimental attachment to it, but I thought my wife and I might be able to make some use of it. I hold on to nearly everything that comes my way.

And we have used it, nearly every day. It is my generation's time to slice store brand cheddar on it and dice the sale carrots and core whatever poor apples might fall from our trees. And I am going to make applesauce today not so much because I like applesauce but because it would please Mother- and, for that matter, her mother and her mother's mother- to know I don't intend to let those miserable little windfalls go to waste.

So, on this top ten day, the first thing I am going to do is to carry the halves of my mother's cutting board down to my shop in the barn and glue them together. And then I'm going to clamp them to dry - clamp them with heavy iron pipe clamps, tightly, so tightly my fingers hurt twisting the handles, because there is so much I want to hold together.

I love the last sentence.

plow to the end of the row,


Monday, April 4, 2011

South Wind People

Kansas is named after the Kansa Indians, whose name means "people of the south wind." As yesterday's blast furnace, southern wind, stirred whitecaps on farm ponds and rocketed temperature into the low 90's, I was reminded of the aptness of my state's name.

Before the wind wreaked havoc on my weekend, I enjoyed a beautiful Saturday afternoon walking the Kansas River levee trail. The river is the main attraction.

However, after about a mile into the walk, the cottonwoods blocked my view of the river, so I set my eyes on other sights:

Which one of these items did I really want to bring home?

the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,

Friday, April 1, 2011

Poem in my Pocket: I Believe by Jim Harrison

April is National Poetry Month. For me every month is National Poetry Month, but my fire for poetry burns much hotter in April. Last year I celebrated Nation Poetry Month by spotlighting some poems on this blog, but I also tried to spread my passion for poetry in more conventional ways. For example last year, I participated in Poem In Your Pocket Day (I know this sounds odd, but I like odd), where I carried the following poem in my pocket and shared it others:

I Believe

I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across the lake

in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools,

the overgrown path to the creek, raw garlic,

used tires, taverns, saloons, bars, gallons of red wine,

abandoned farmhouses, stunted lilac groves,

gravel roads that end, brush piles, thickets, girls

who haven't quite gone totally wild, river eddies,

leaky wooden boats, the smell of used engine oil,

turbulent rivers, lakes without cottages lost in the woods,

the primrose growing out of a cow skull, the thousands

of birds I've talked to all of my life, the dogs

that talked back, the Chihuahuan ravens that follow

me on long walks. The rattler escaping the cold hose,

the fluttering unknown gods that I nearly see

from the left corner of my blind eye, struggling

to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot.

I don't know what everything in the above poem means. Experience and age are probably essential to completely understand everything.

However, I do know this: Everyone needs to carry a poem around with them that states his/her beliefs. The words should be original, not phrases cut and pasted from some pop cultural artifact or something processed and sold. The words should be real and true and sincere and unabashed. The words should steer clear of politics and religion because those well-worn sentiments are best suited for bumper stickers and protest signs. I don't know if I can write something like this, but I'm going to try and when I finish, I'll fold it up and place it right next to my organ donor card.

There ain't no money in poetry; that's what sets the poet free,


PS. Poem In Your Pocket Day is April 14th, so start selecting your poem today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Starry Nights & Wauneta, Nebraska

I grew up in Pomona, Kansas, a town of around 1,500 or so. Due to Pomona's small size, we did most of our shopping and business in Ottawa, which was ten miles to the east.

When I was about five, my grandparents asked me if I wanted to go to Otta-Way with them. I loved go anywhere with my grandparents, but I was especially excited about this trip because I'd never been to Otta-Way. We headed east, and eventually we arrived in Ottawa, and I thought: Gee, Ottawa must be on the way to Otta-Way. Then we pulled into the parking lot of Town and Country in Ottawa, and I realized that Ottawa and Otta-Way were the same town. I didn't say anything to my grandparents, but I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to go somewhere new.

To this day, I still get excited to visit a town for the first time. I have an old Rand-McNally atlas where I highlight all the roads I've traveled in this life.

I've also started taking pictures of towns I visit. I need to do it more often, but it really increases the time it takes to get from point A to point B. Last week I sorted through some old photos I found of Wauneta, Nebraska. I remember going there to drop off my father-in-law's truck, so the damage done during a recent hail storm could be repaired. While I waited I snapped a few photos from the parking lot of the body shop.

There's nothing spectacular about the photos, but I still like them. I like the big sky. I think about how it would be great to spend part of my evening drinking at the Good Times Bar in Wauneta and how it would feel to step out of the bar to experience that big starry sky. That's gotta be something.

the road goes on forever,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dog of the South

I'm currently reading The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. Most of you probably know Mr. Portis as the author of True Grit, but I'm quickly learning that he has other books that are worth reading. The Dog of the South is a story of man who's tracking down his wife who has left him for another man. It's that simple. There are no subplots or literary posing. It's simply a quirky romp that is one part Hunter S. Thompson, one part No Country for Old Men and one part Coen brothers. If you like road books, absurd humor, and the subversive, you'll like this book. If you don't like any of these, I'm OK with that.

Since this is a food blog, I thought I would share a food-related passage. It occurs early in the story when the narrator dines at a Texas restaurant that is run by a couple from North Dakota. He's skeptical of their ability to serve a good chicken-fried steak.

You can usually count on a pretty good chicken-fried steak in Texas, if not a chicken-fried chicken, but I didn't like this setup. All afternoon I had been thinking about one of those steaks, with white gravy and a lot of black pepper, and now I was afraid these people from Fargo would bring me a prefabricated vealette pattie instead of fresh meat. I ordered roast beef and I told the waitress I wanted plenty of gristle and would like for the meat to be gray with an iridescent rainbow sheen. She was not in the mood for teasing being preoccupied with some private distress like the others. She brought me a plate of fish sticks and the smallest portion of coleslaw I've never seen. It was in a paper nut cup. I didn't say anything because they have a rough job. Those waitresses are on their feet all day, and they never get a raise and they never get a vacation until they quit. The menu was complete fiction. She was serving the fish sticks to everybody, and not a uniform count either.

I hate menus that are mere fiction. I hate the prefab, frozen, deep-fat fried CFS. Give me a hand-pounded, hand-breaded, never-frozen,, cook-in-a-skillet, chicken fried steak. The same goes for a pork tenderloin sandwich. Oh, and please hold the canned gravy. It's tough to find a good chicken fried steak in Kansas, but I hear they have a good one at the Leon Cafe in Leon, KS. That's just hearsay though.

This passage made me think of this scene from the movie Five Easy Pieces:

the dude abides,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ginger-Peach Hand Pies

I've written about my struggles with baking pastries and how I usually defer this type of baking to the experts. Since I usually leave the pastry baking to my wife, I've never baked a pie in my life, which is a damn shame considering how much I love pie. I'm the guy who rarely eats dessert at restaurants because I'm too cheap and I often consider the calories, but if I see pie on the menu, I suspend all rationale thought.

Monday I decided to confront my fears, expand my culinary repertoire, and attempt to bake a pie to celebrate National Pi Day. While pi and pie have very little in common, it's impossible to hear pi and not think of apple pie with a big dollop of ice cream.

Since I believe in taking baby steps, I used some of last summer's frozen peaches, I also used frozen pie dough and I baked little hand pies rather than a whole pie.

There are two things you need to know about hand pies: First, when you pull these cuties from the oven allow them to cool completely. Biting into a hot pie will place your taste buds on injured reserve for several weeks. I speak from experience. In fact, biting into a molten pie is such a severe form of torture that even Dick Cheney wouldn't condone its use.

Second, hand pie is not a sexual euphenism, so get your mind out of the gutter. Although I never want to hear my daughter utter the following: "After the game I gave Bubba a little hand pie."

I used frozen pie dough for my recipe, but feel free to make your own dough. Below is the recipe for the filling.

Ginger-Peach Hand Pies

Pie Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 cups peeled and pitted ripe peaches cut into bite-size chunks.
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoon freshly chopped ginger
  1. Combine the peaches and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 4 minutes.
  2. In a separate small bowl, mix the orange juice, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Add to the peaches. Add ginger. Increase the heat and continue to cook, stirring, until thickened and clear, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add nutmeg. Let cool.
  3. Note: I made tiny pies, but if you want to make just four large pies, this would much easier. Spooning the filling into little pies of dough proved to be quite difficult. Divide dough into four equal pieces and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Spoon cooled filling over half of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the edge. Moisten the edge of the pastry with a finger, then fold the empty half over the filling. Press the edges together with a fork. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate while you make the remaining pies, putting each on the sheet as it is assembled. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Remove the sheet from the refrigerator and brush each pie with a little milk. sprinkle with granulated sugar, then poke the surface of each pie 2-3 times with a fork to make steam vents. Place the sheet on the center oven rack and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperate to 375 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. If necessary for even browning, rotate the sheet 180 degrees, so that the side that faced the back of the oven now faces forward, about 10 minutes before the pies are done.
  5. Transfer the pies to a wire rack and let cool before you enjoy them.