November 19,22006

I love to cook.

I don’t get much of a chance to do it, because I always thought I was the only one who would eat what I ate. Chris is very finicky, to my thinking. He doesn’t appreciate the experimental.

But this is Thanksgiving, and officially the time to cook and bake. I’ve been longing to make a pie for weeks now. A good pie is a glorious thing. In fact, I had expressed my longing for piemaing at work and the we all had talked about favorite pies. Rhubarb was a favorite, and also very tart fruit pies. I told them of my walnut pie, which is a regional innovation.

However, our cupboards were bare, and we had to go shopping.

“We have to stock up. Lots of things will be on sale.” I told Chris.

“I think you’re wrong. I don’t rememer things being on sale for Thanksgiving.”

“YOU are wrong. I know for sure that things will be on sale. The will have the buy-one-get-one-free sale on things like sugar and flour.”

Chris thought that stocking up on sugar and flour was a bad idea. He hardly ever uses flour.

In the store, I was checking on the sugar and flour prices, but he was scoping out the mixes. He has a thing for Betty Crocker. He likes to look at all the pictures of delcious things and think about eating them. He does the same with the dessert menu at restaurants. But the fact is, he seldom eats them.

There were a lot of mixes on sale. He came back over to the cart with a mix for cinnamon coffee cake.

“Baby, you don’t need a mix for coffee cake! That’s very easy to make. I could make you one, if you really want one.”

“But..” he looked at the picture on the package. “It wouldn’t have cinnamon.”

He’s adorable.

So back at the house, I had some baking projects to do.

To my dismay, I had misplaced my holy cooking book, “The Joy of Cooking.” I know it’s here somewhere, but I can’t find it.

Well, no problem. I have the internet! Coffee cakes should be easy to find.

It turns out that internet recipes for cinnamon coffee cakes favor ingredients like sour cream, buttermilk and apples. Didn’t pick those up at the store. They also like nuts, which is anathema for my sweetheart. THIS at least I have learned in our time together.It took me into page three of the search results to find an appropriate recipe.

When I mixed it up, and I make twice as much streusel as they called for, because I love Chris and he loves streusel. I made him watch as I sprinkled the streusel on, so he could appreciate what I was doing.

It came out pretty good.
coffeecake smal.jpg

Of course, while the cake was baking, I began to work on the pie.

Pies are a glorious food. Really and truly. On the whole, they are ridiculously simple to make. Except for the crust. But many people choose to have a premade crust, so that takes care of that.

If you ever want to impress someone with cooking skills you don’t think you have, make a pie with a premade crust. Pies are only a half a tick more difficult than instant pudding. I mean, geez! You just mix up about 4 ingredients, pour it into a pie crust and cook it. WAY easy.

But, I am not satisfied with premade crusts. I want a little challenge in all this. I want to master the crust.

The last pie I made was lemon meringue, last december. And the crust was too tough.

I hoped to do better with this iternation. I wanted to use my grandmother’s pie crust recipe.

My grandmother died during the holidays of 1995. Mom was called to the hospital before she died, and she asked me to come with her. We were able to be with Grandma in her last few days.

I had not grown up near my grandmother. I just didn’t know her that well.

But after she had passed we were eating holiday leftovers at my aunt’s house, . I was munching on this key lime cheesecake pie.

I exclaimed: “This crust is really good!”

My cousin, who had always grown up around my grandmother, looked at me incredulously. “Yeah,” she said, “That’s grandma’s pie crust. Didn’t you know she was famous for her crust?”

Yes, actually, I had heard that. But, I’d never had a chance to taste it. It was only a posthuous pie that let me know.

So, I looked up grandma’s pie crust recipe. It was a very different concept from the recipe of the former failed crust attempt.

I mixed up a walnut pie, using the recipe on the back of the Karo syrup bottle. I made two changes:
1. I used walnuts instead of pecans
2. I splashed in a little brandy. Brandy is very yummy.

Walnut pie was introduced to my family by my sister-in-law Karen. Her grandmother’s best friend had a walnut tree in the front yard. As Karen said, “That’s a lot of walnuts. You come up with as many ways to use walnuts as you can. Therefore: Walnut pie.”

But I like it for it’s own sake. Plus, Walnus are cheaper than pecans. And it’s unusual, so it makes me feel cool and creative.

Karen always used the half walnuts, but one year I could only find chopped walnuts for sale, and I like how that ended up looking. So now I always use the chopped walnuts.

Here, dear readers, is the resultant pie:


Now, that was not enough. I wanted to make cranberry sauce for the dinner. My brother Mark is an excellent cooker of cranberry sauce. Therefore, I am sad when we must resort to canned cranberry sauce.

HOWEVER. Chris’s grandmother has a doctor’s injunction against seeds. But, I thought…I can strain out the seeds an make a cranberry jelly, instead of a cranberry sauce.

All I have to do is cook up the cranberries and then strain them through a cloth to get the juice and keep the seeds out.

I love cooking fresh cranberries. The skins POP when they are boiling. It’s cool.

Straining the pulp was a bit harder than I thought. Probably because I was impatient and did not wait for the cranberry mush to cool. This is what it looked like when I was done:

That’s the strained part, not the jelly part. The jelly part is jelling in the fridge. It may need to be put back on the stove with some cornstarch. We’ll see.

But that was what I did all night. I love to cook, but I’m pretty tired after that.

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