Articles tagged with: fresh


The Real Big Apple

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The Real Big Apple

The biggest apple ever?  I think so!  It more than fills my extended hand.  It's a doozy, anyway, and it makes me happy.

OK, of course New York City is the other big apple.  But this isn't about cities, it's about ranches and really big apples.

Where do your apples come from?  Seriously, where do they originate?  For that matter, who's tending the soil that grows any of the plants that you eat?  Where do those people live? 

My food people live all over the world.  Coffee from one place, grains from another, turkeys from somewhere else.  We all know it's pretty global when it comes to food these days.  Many of us are making an effort to pay attention to fair trade and organic and other values when we can.  I hereby acknowledge that paying attention to those things represents a level of privilege than many people do not have.

Because of the secondary costs of shipping food -- like apples -- around the world, it is worth thinking about our food choices and from whom and where they come.  We humans are connected and it does matter.  When apples come from New Zealand or blue berries come from South America, the pollution from that air or sea transport adds up and becomes a cost that the Earth bears.   

I’m no angel about all of this.  The berries I buy in winter don’t come from around here (the Southwest U.S.).  But I do make an effort to buy food grown or produced in the United States and even more locally when I can. 

That’s why I have to give a shout-out to this apple.  It came to me as a gift from a friend, Jeannie, who lives on a ranch in Northern New Mexico, a ranch that has apple trees at least 100 years old.  This apple, she promised, was perfect for pie.  There are many varieties of apples on that old ranch, names unknown, but they can be pegged for what they’re good for:  pie, fresh eating, or applesauce.   And Jeannie was right:  this apple is perfect for pie.

She gave me a whole, full bag of these apples:  what a beautiful bounty.  The actual big apple pictured above is going into my Red Hot Apple Pie this Thanksgiving.  I’m looking forward to sharing this new favorite recipe made with perfect pie apples.

In this season of thanks, my gratitude is especially for such a gift, such a reminder that the best can come from close by, that good apples made into a good pie can be the very essence of the season:  kindness, warmth, and home, shared with those we love.   

Whatever your version of a perfect big apple is this season, I hope you find it and celebrate it!  And, thanks for sharing, Jeannie!


Juicy News from the Pie Contest, NM State Fair

Best of Show Pie, Fresh Raspberry & Chocolate, 2014

People – Pie Pals, specifically – have been asking, “What happened?!” 

Let’s get to the juicy details!

New challenges emerged this year.  There were 17 categories, up from the previous 16.  The Home Arts Division decided that they would eliminate “Dutch Apple” (it was rolled into the “Nontraditional Apple” category) and they added “No Sugar” and “Citrus.”  Hmmmph!  Here I thought I’d won all of the categories (which I had until they changed things) and could just bake for fun.

I worked and worked on creating a great sugar-free pie.  I’m not willing to use those weird artificial sweeteners that often have a bitter after taste, so I focused on more natural ways to make things sweet. First it was the “Nutty Buddy” Pie, based on frozen bananas whirled with unsweetened chocolate, frozen, and topped with chopped peanuts.  Analysis:  terrible texture (icy, frozen shards).  Then it was on to the “Sweet Potato Sweetie Pie,” which used apple juice boiled down to a thick syrup as the sweetener.  I was looking for a soft, custard-like texture and, instead, got what would gag a dog (if I had one).  As one of my favorite pie testers, Jon, said with such understatement, “This doesn’t measure up.”

Ha!  The final entry was an apple pie, double crust, sweetened with raisins and condensed apple cider.  It was quite lovely, thick with apples and raisins, and I really liked the flavor – probably because I’ve cut down on sugar so much in the last few years.  The judge, however, said she was a little confused by the flavor – maybe too much cinnamon?  And she didn’t get that the raisins had been soaked in rum. 

Sugar-free Apple Pie  So…it didn’t win a ribbon.  But you know what?  I enjoyed it for the next several days!

Meanwhile, they were judging the peach pie category which had an unusually large number of entries this year.  Guess who won?  A Pie Pal, Havens!    Here’s a picture of her gorgeous lattice-top peach pie, and you can find the recipe ("Stars & Moon Peach Pie) on

Blue Ribbon Peach Pie

Then they judged the nontraditional apple pies.  And guess who won again?  Pie Pal Havens!  I’ll ask her to post on the web site the recipe she used for her winning Dutch applie pie along with a picture.

Finally, they got around to judging the “Fruit Pie” category.  It catches everything that doesn’t fit in one of the other fruit groupings.  That’s where I entered my raspberry chocolate creation.  And I say creation because this is a recipe I made up 25 years ago.  That was the first blue ribbon pie I ever made! 

It’s a labor of love, for sure.  The crisp crust holds a thin layer of chocolate buttercream (like dark chocolate butter frosting), then there is a double layer of fresh raspberries covered by a lush, scarlet-red raspberry glaze.  Small chocolate cream swirls around the inside edge of the crust made it all come together. 

So the two judges tasted a sliver of the raspberry pie and also someone’s pineapple pie and all of the others in this category.  As usual, I watched to see if their expressions gave away their impressions.  They did not.  I tried to remember to breathe.  They lifted each of the slices to check the bottom and see if the crust was properly browned.  They pinched off bits of crust to check for flavor and flakiness.  They tasted the fillings each one more time. 

Finally it was time to announce the winners in this category.  One judge took the microphone and started, “Third place goes to…” while the other judge lifted my pie.  My heart sank.  “No, not that one!” the announcer corrected.  Whew.  They discussed and displayed the third place and second place winners.  And then judge #2 held up my pie while judge #1 pronounced it to be “perfection.”  Yay!  A blue ribbon in the “Fruit Pie” category!  I could breathe again.

Near the end of the pie contest, all of the blue ribbon pies (one from each of the 17 categories) compete against each other for “Best of Show.”  All 6 of the judges circle up and compare notes on their favorites among those 17 pies.  They go back and forth, a little more tasting, a lot of kibitzing, and finally one of them takes the mic again.  Guess what?  They agreed on the raspberry pie!! 

Raspberry Chocolate Pie

So, there you go.  Well, actually, there we went.  We, friends and I, took the remainder of that pie outside and ate it up.  We sat at a shady picnic table on a sunny September afternoon, forks, little plates and bottles of cold water at the ready.  We also ate up most of the peach pie and the Dutch apple and some of the sugar-free apple.  Does life get any better than moments like this? 

Special thanks to Havens, Jon, Patty and Carla for making the day even sweeter than the pie.

Cheers & love from Rebecca, your Pie Pal

P.S.  The recipe will be posted soon under Scarlet Raspberry Pie.






Pie in the Sky

High Hopes

Pie in the Sky

Sometimes we have high hopes:  We see things going our way, see ourselves being successful and having fun.  We hold thoughts of what could happen that would be really cool.  The hopes may be a little out there, really high, but we hope anyway!  Why not?

Check out this “pie in the sky” slice.  I had very high hopes for this pie.  People often ask me what my favorite pie is and, without hesitation, I always answer “fresh peach.”  Oh, those ripe, flavorful peaches, dripping with sweet juices, all wrapped in flaky pastry, baked into round deliciousness.

Serenading some peaches recently, I was attempting to seduce them into a perfect pie as I peeled and sliced them with love and anticipation.  They were ripe. They smelled good!  They had good texture.  Yay!  The crust came together easily.  I even made a lattice crust, which I think is perfect because it lets you see the juices bubbling and the pretty blush color of the peaches.  First peach pie of the season.  I could hardly wait.

Ever have times like that -- where you are happy with the doing, with the expected outcome, with yourself?  Fun in the present moment with an eye on what’s ahead.

Well, then, you also know how things turn out sometimes:  not at all like you expected.  As so it was with this.  It looked inviting, complete with tiny pockets of peach juice sweetened and thickened, peeking through the lattice as expected.  The underside was golden brown.  I let it cool, waiting for the moment when I could finally have some with a little cup of espresso.  It was awful. 

What happened?  This is “gakky,” my inner critic said.  Too much tapioca and sugar, I am sure.  But the main thing was that the peaches had so little flavor. That was the deal-breaker.  I nearly cried with disappointment as I put most of it down the garbage disposal, not even sharing it with trusted pie tasters nearby.

What’s up with fruit these days?  Am I the only one consistently frustrated by the lack of flavor in store-bought fruit?  It’s starting to get depressing.  And I’m not just talking about everyday big grocery stores.  The same tastelessness applies to fruit from most high-end grocery stores as well, with the exception of some produce from the co-op.  But that’s really expensive, even for those of us dedicated to spending more of our shopping dollars at locally owned stores that pay their employees living wages and that provide high quality food.

Well, I’ve renewed my commitment to shopping for fruit at the farmers’ markets in town, even though I am so NOT a morning person and you have to get there early for the best selections.  I’ll go for the peaches, raspberries, apricots and rhubarb.  I’ll go for the zucchini, too, and the greens and peppers.  Kale?  Not so much.  But whatever I get there, it’s got to be better than whatever was shipped 900 miles or more to get here.  If I only get to make one really good peach pie per year, using peaches from a nearby backyard or farm, then so it is.

I’m keeping my “pie in the sky” hopes.  I’m willing to try and have things not turn out the way I’d hoped, and then try again another time with a new version.  We all need hope! 

Keep baking, friends, and share your current version of good summer pie here .  Because we all need good pie, really good pie.



A Festival for Bread!

How great is that?!

Bread Festival, Paris

The aroma of bread, freshly baked and warm, was wafting from a huge white tent right next to Notre Dame in Paris.  That scent, even more than my curiosity, pulled me into “La Fête du Pain,” the festival of bread.  Where else but France, where bread is so fundamental, a cornerstone of the diet? Served at every meal in generous quantities, bread is one delicious business!

Their bread is delicate, flavorful, needing no spread of any kind.   It stands very well on its own.  Indeed, it is considered rude, gauche even, to ask for butter.

bagettesbakingedSo there was the white tent, beckoning.  I succumbed to the lure and became engulfed in the world of French baking.  Ovens lined the entire back wall of the long space and we, the hungry admirers, could watch baguettes turning golden.  We moved along the other side of the tent, with dozens of bakers busy at work in between:  kneading dough, rolling dough, shaping dough, tending the rising, tending the baking – all oblivious to those of us gawking and drooling nearby.

As we moved along the aisle, windows to the left revealed the spires of the famous cathedral, yet we couldn’t help but give our real attention to other chefs pitting cherries, peeling applies, sprinkling cinnamon, and stirring crème Anglaise.    Tarts and pastries were underway and coming out of the next set of ovens.  Oh, be still my heart.  I want that, and that, and that!pastriesed

Finally the counter for viewing the results of all that pastry pampering and an opportunity for making a purchase.  How to choose?  Will it be the apricot turnover, the apple galette, a slice of the raspberry tart or a whole loaf of fresh bread?   What would you choose?

InsideLaFeteedI chose an authentic community event.  The day was a national holiday in France and between the natives and the tourists, Paris was swarming.  The line to get into Notre Dame was 4 people wide and a quarter mile long, winding past the grandstands and down a narrow street.  Cathedrals are important places of worship, art and history and, at that moment, a festival full of life and vibrancy was more attractive.  “La Fête du Pain” was about something essential and universal, something humans make with love and creativity in the present moment to share with others.  

Choosing to live life in the present, whether it’s at a festival in the park or a walk with a loved one down one’s own street, is a way to acknowledge how grateful we are for life, how wonderful it is to be breathing and living today.  May your days be filled with such choices, and with the aroma of fresh, warm bread.


Rebecca, Pie Pal #1



Pinwheel Peach Pie!

Summer Joy

Pinwheel Peach Pie!

We had peach abundance last week.  You, too?  Sweet, ripe ones all over the place.  What can you do?  Make jam?  Sure.  But that's pure joy.

I used the "I'd Give the Moon and Stars" peach pie recipe and changed the top crust, creating "pinwheels" out of dough, cinnamon and sugar.*  Loved the way they looked, kind of like Ferris Wheels, which really remind me of summer.  There was one in Porland, Oregon, I got to ride recently and it was spectacular:  we went around and around as the city lights came on and the sunset twinkled pink on the river.  I was giddy!

Try your hand at making this pie.  As always, it's not how it looks that  matters.  It's how it makes you feel.

Hope you're feeling peachy keen!  Your Pie Pal, Rebecca

*Just roll the dough out into more of a square.  Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and roll it up.  Slice into 1/2" rolls and flatten them with your fingers.  Place on the unbaked pie filling and sprinkle with sugar crystals.  Voila!  Pinwheels for yor pie.


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