Culinary Cousins: Dutch Apple Pie

Fall means apples. Thanksgiving means pie. I was a little down for the count this year, but that didn’t prevent me from baking up a bevy of desserts.

Very little stands between me and my kitchen. Especially when sugar, butter and flour are involved.

Read all about it: Dutch Apple Pie

Dutch Apple Pie at


Culinary Cousins: Vegetarian Moussaka

I’ve been on a cooking spree as of late, which accounts for two — yes, two! — posts this week from me on Culinary Cousins. Plus, Jessica and family were on vacation, so I had to keep the fires burning over there.

Even though I’ve been cheating on my vegetarianism with beef lately, I found a great recipe for vegetarian moussaka that satisfied my tummy and my insatiable need for Greek food.

Read all about it: Vegetarian Moussaka


Cooking Spree: Mini Oreo cheesecakes

Every morning I get an email from Foodimentary that informs me of the national food of the day and regales me with key moments in food history. By pure coincidence, today is National Oreo Day — the very day I planned to tell you about my latest cooking spree using, what else, Oreos.

Only I cheated.

The real Oreos weird me out a bit. What is in that creamy vanilla center, exactly? Besides harsh chemicals and toxic substances. I mean, probably.

But let me not get ahead of myself. To the beginning.

I hate to waste food. I’ve likely told you about this before. It just pains me to leave a box or pint or bunch or basket of anything unused, or worse, to throw it away. A few months ago, I was at Trader Joe’s, and I spied a box of the elusive Joe-Joe’s. That’s the TJ answer to Oreos. To me, they were only a figment — the top item everyone raves about, but the most impossible one to find. At my stores, they’re almost always sold out. So, in the interest of belonging and being part of the in crowd, I bought a box. I liked them — the cookie is chocolate-y and the creamy center is ultra vanilla-y. They’re very good — but I just couldn’t finish a whole box.

What to do. What to do. Continue reading

Obsessions: Pinning!

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a true obsession. But it’s back. The grip has once again taken hold.

I. can’t. stop. pinning.

On Pinterest, that is.

I remember the exact moment I learned of this thing called Pinterest. I was at a holiday party, and one of the girls was trying to describe to us how to tie a winter scarf in some innovative way she’d seen online.

“Wait,” she said, and sat down at the computer to pull up the photo entitled “50 ways to tie a scarf.”

We oohed and aahhed and gazed at the screen in amazement.

“It’s on Pinterest,” she explained.

And so began my downfall.

After waiting a couple of weeks to “be invited” after requesting access to the site, I signed on. And once I got the iPhone it was all over — I can pin from anywhere. In line at the grocery store. While watching television. Before going to bed. At my desk. At a stoplight. During dinner. In the middle of a conversation. (No, I really was looking up that website while I was talking to you. I promise. Sort of. Ok, not really.)

What is this whole Pinterest thing, you may be asking yourself?

Such goodness awaits you! And you don’t even know!

Pinterest is an online bulletin board of sorts — where you can electronically “pin” your “interests” from websites and from other users. Like Facebook and Twitter, you “follow” people, so you can review pins from your friends or others you’ve decided to follow. Or you can break off on your own like a rebel and “explore” what other Pinterest users may have found. Or you can even be a trailblazer and pin your own items from websites you visit — if the site doesn’t already have a built-in Pinterest button to make that easy, you can download a “Pin it!” item that goes into your browser menu. Makes it a snap.

Well, you won’t believe the cool stuff I’ve found. Great photographs of places I want to travel, neat ideas for craft and DIY projects, all kinds of inspiration in home decor, and food. THE FOOD! Seriously beautiful food porn photos of delectable sweets, creative appetizers, refreshing drinks, luscious entrees and inventive casserole and crock pot creations.

Here are a few of my recent Pinterest favorites:

  1. Cupcake liners as drink covers: punch a hole in a cupcake liner, turn upside down, stick a straw through and, voila!, you protect your drinks from bugs during outside, summer parties. Well, duh. Sometimes Pinterest can make me feel so stupid.
  2. Mexican casserole: Mix together some cream cheese, salsa verde, rice, canned beans and chicken, roll up in tortillas, cover in more salsa verde and cheese, then bake. Crazy delicious.
  3. Organize your drawers: double fold t-shirts and pants, and stack them vertically to save space and allow you to see what you own. Again, duh. I actually did this in my drawers, and my life will never be the same. No more rifling through a 10-layer deep pile of t-shirts to find the one I sort of remember wearing last summer.
  4. Fantastically breathtaking photos, of my favorite places, or places I want to see.
  5. And, the best for last. Mongolian Beef: in the style of P.F. Chang’s, this dish has only a few ingredients, was a cinch to make and is literally one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. It’s ridiculous. I froze then slightly thawed my meat so I could shave off the thinnest pieces. Try it, you won’t be sorry.

Then there’s so much else that awaits. Like red velvet cheesecake brownies, nutella hot chocolate, salted caramel cheesecake and this incredible chocolate cake concoction.

Bestill my heart.

**Beware of spam, it’s on Pinterest too. If you click through to a website and it looks funny, it was probably a dummy photo to lure you to some spammish website. Quickly close.

Buttermilk Pie: The Experiment, Part II

It’s been busy days here around Constitution Lane, but I realized I need to tell you about the second part of my buttermilk pie baking experiment!

I’m always on the hunt for a good pie crust recipe — and nothing but homemade will do. If you’ve ever read the label on those ready-made, refrigerated crusts at the grocery, you’d probably join me in that. Handmade pie crust does require more labor and time, but not as much as you think. Plus, the finished product isn’t even comparable to crust in a box, and making it by hand lets you work out some aggression and build some arm strength. Always a positive.

I confess that pie isn’t really my go-to dessert — I’m much more of a cake (and frosting!) girl — but I bake a few at Thanksgiving and call on the same pie crust recipes when I make quiche to use up fresh vegetables. I’ve encountered a lot of different pie crust recipes in my time, with all manner of butter-shortening combinations. I find vegetable shortening to be kind of icky in its slick, opaque greasiness, and I just don’t feel right about using it in my food. But pie crust experts will tell you it’s a necessity for proper crust flakiness. Okay, okay. In my last few pie bakings, I’ve used shortening but always very sparingly. I reduce it to a tablespoon or two and make up the rest with butter. I know, I’m so rebellious.

The recipe I used last Thanksgiving was the best yet, and I was prepared to let that be the end all, be all. Until I read about the vodka pie crust.
Keep reading »

Buttermilk Pie: The Experiment, Part I

I’ve been catching up on episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” this week, which always makes me think of my own roots and family history. The truth is I couldn’t be more southern. My mom was raised in the lowcountry of South Carolina, and my maternal roots go several centuries deep in Savannah. My dad is from the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, and we can trace my paternal ancestry back to colonial times in eastern North Carolina and Virginia. I was raised near Charlotte, N.C. — so, like my mom says, we haven’t moved very far.

My exposure to the cuisine of the South while I was growing up included staple recipes that had been in my family and the classics we ate in family-run restaurants. I grew to love food that most southern families have enjoyed for centuries: puckeringly sweet iced tea, fresh figs off the tree, blackberries on the vine and homegrown, road stand vegetables like deep, red tomatoes and fuzzy, tender, juicy peaches. In the fall we picked up pecans under the ancient tree that canopied my grandparents’ backyard and cracked and shelled them inside by the fire. At home we ate fried quail or fish with grits for breakfast, country-style steak with rice, chicken bog, boiled peanuts, slow-cooked collard greens, red velvet and caramel cakes … the list goes on.
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