It’s NOVEMBER – Pie Time!

Get Ready for PIE – It’s NOVEMBER!

And That means: Pie Time!

Anytime is Pie Time … but especially as we head into November with Thanksgiving plans being made, thoughts of Pies – lots of pies – fill our heads!!

It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

Traditional is good . . . but little change-ups are fun.

Here are some simple and easy ways to ‘fancy up’ your favorite pies:

It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

Leaves: Roll your top crust to 1/4-inch thick. Use a real leaf as a guide, or freehand it, to cut out leaf shapes. With a toothpick or skewer, lightly etch a vein design into the top of each leaf. Starting from the outside edge of the pie, layer your leaves (overlapping them slightly) over the pie filling in concentric circles.(above-center)

Lattice: If you want to tackle lattice, roll out your top crust to 1/4-inch thick. Using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife, cut long, even strips of dough (I like to make mine about 1/2-inch wide). Continue until you’re out of dough. Place half of the strips horizontally across your pie filling with a 1/2 inch between each strip. Fold back every other strip halfway, and place a strip vertically down the pie (right up against where you’ve folded the strips back). Then swap the horizontal strips: unfold the folded ones, and fold back the others. Repeat, placing down another vertical strip, leaving 1/2 inch between each vertical strip, and fold and unfold the horizontal strips in the same way. Repeat, working outwards, until 1/2 of the pie is latticed. Then rotate your pie and do the same on the other half. Trim the edges of the crust. (above -lower left)

 Circles: Roll your top crust to 1/4-inch thick. Using the a pastry tip (substitute with a small cup or round object), cut holes all over the crust. Place the crust on top of the pie and seal the edges. (above-lower right)

Cut Out Double Crust Pie: Roll out pie dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out shapes from the dough. Working from the outside edge to the center, layer the dough pieces on top of the the pie filling, overlapping slightly. This is a simple and eye catching alternative to a standard double crust pie — and is far easier than lattice work. (not shown)

 Ruffled Phyllo Crust: Place a piece of phyllo onto a work surface. Brush with melted butter, and top with another piece of phyllo. Place the second piece slightly off kilter, so the edges don’t match up, and the points of the dough are askew from the first piece. Repeat until you’ve layered 7 pieces of dough. Transfer the dough to a pie plate, and crumple the overhang around the edge. From here, the crust can be blind baked or paired with a filling and baked. (center- top photo)

 Fancy, Fun, & EASY Edges:

It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

Braided Edge: Roll out pie dough scraps to 1/4-inch thick — it’s best to keep the piece of dough as long as possible. A standard pie 9″ pie pan is slightly more than 28 inches in circumference, so either go for it and roll out your dough to be about 29 inches long and make a single braid, or take a more sensible route and roll it out in two 15-inch sections to make two braids. Cut three long, thin strips (about 1/4 inch wide) using a chef’s knife or pastry wheel. Pinch three strips together at the top, and braid together. (above -top left)

It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

When the pieces are almost fully braided, pinch the ends together to seal. Hold the strand at both ends and stretch gently. Brush the edge of the crust lightly with water and press the braid (or braids) into the edge (if you made two braids, overlap the pieces slightly to achieve a seamless effect). This technique also works well with just two pieces of dough, twisted together.

Rounded Crimped Edge: You’ve mastered the classic crimped edge, which makes a fluted edge with points. With this new technique, the bowl of a spoon guides the finishing of the edge, making a slightly rounded, more fluid edge. (above-lower center)

It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

The larger the bowl of the spoon, the bigger the waves will be. Dip the bowl of the spoon lightly into flour and press it gently into the crust, moving outward and using your fingers to guide the outer edge. Repeat all the way around the crust.

Dotted Edge: Roll out pie dough scraps to 1/4-inch thick. Lightly flour a small circular cookie cutter (in a pinch, you can use a shot glass or even a bottle cap), and cut out enough circles to cover the entire edge of the pie. (above-top right)It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

Brush the edge of the crust with water, and lay the circles around the edge, overlapping slightly. Any shape can be used, just remember to keep the dough pieces small. Pieces that are too large are more likely to become misshapen in the oven.It's NOVEMBER - Pie Time!

and My Favorite change-up?

Toasted Marshmallow:  Try an easy (and delicious) alternative to meringue — marshmallow topping! Cook 1 1/3 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a small saucepan until it reaches 250 degrees (measure with a candy thermometer). In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the cooked sugar and water to the stand mixer, and whip the heck out of it until it gets fluffy and triples in size. From there? Mound it on the top of your favorite pie and toast to perfection in the oven or with a torch. (top photo- lower left) .

Make it a  “S’Mores Pie” —  Use a graham cracker crust with the chocolate filling and Toasted Marshmallow ‘meringue’!



Adapted from Food52: 9 Ways to Fancy Up Your Pies

Easy-to-Eat Pumpkins and Ghosts

Happy Halloween!

These Easy-to-Eat Pumpkins and Ghosts are perfect for anytime during Halloween Fun. Easy-to-make and Healthy, too!

Easy-Eat Pumpkins and Ghosts

Elegant Entrée of Poached Salmon

Attractive, Delicious, and Healthy too!Elegant Entrée of Poached Salmon

This elegant entrée of Poached Salmon with Broccoli Rabe and Pea Shoot Coulis was just what I was looking for and it satisfied my taste buds perfectly!

I already had a couple of lovely Salmon filets and was wondering how to prepare them.  The Broccoli Rabe and Pea Shoots, both looking very fresh and ‘green’ at the market, had already tempted me and were awaiting their turn at the table. Not intending to use them all together initially, when I came across this recipe, I was intrigued as well as delighted. I just needed the mushrooms and I was ready to make this elegant entree of poached salmon for an attractive, delicious and healthy meal!

Here is the recipe. It might seem intimidating at first, but follow it through and you will be rewarded! (By the way… I puréed the pea shoots so had a thicker coulis and I used less than 2 cups of oil for the salmon – I think my results were delicious!)

Elegant Entrée of Poached Salmon

Serving Size: 4


  • 4 Fresh salmon filets, skin on
  • 6-8 cups Olive oil
  • 10 ounces Broccoli rabe
  • Mushroom jus
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted butter
  • Pea shoot coulis
  • For the Mushroom Jus
  • 2 cups Crimini mushrooms, slices thinly
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup Shallots, minced
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1/2 cup White wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 4 tablespoons Sherry wine
  • For the Pea Shoot Coulis
  • 8 ounces Pea shoots
  • 1/2 cup Chicken stock


    First make the Mushroom Jus
  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a lid. Add the shallots and cook on high until slightly browned, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook at high heat until the mushrooms become browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Once the mushrooms are cooked down, add the water and both wines. Stir and cover. Allow the mixture to cook, covered, at a simmer for 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. While the jus is cooking, prepare an ice bath. Set a bowl in the ice bath and put a strainer over the bowl.
  5. After the mushrooms have finished cooking, strain the liquid into the bowl in the ice bath and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste. Discard the solids. After the jus has come to room temperature, place covered in a fridge.
  6. Next make the Pea Shoot Coulis
  7. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Set a cold water bath aside with a strainer submerged in the water.
  8. Once boiling, add a generous pinch or so of salt. Set a few pea shoots aside for garnishing. Add 1/3 of the remaining pea shoots to the boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the shoots are tender.
  9. With slotted spoon, remove the shoots from the boiling water and place into the water bath. Add the remaining pea shoots in two separate additions.
  10. Once the shoots have cooled, raise the strainer out of the ice bath and squeeze them gently to remove excess water.
  11. Place the shoots into a bowl and add the chicken stock. With an emersion blender (or a regular blender) liquify the shoots.
  12. Run the liquid through a fine sieve into another bowl.
  13. Place the bowl, covered, in the fridge.
  14. For the Salmon
  15. Preheat an oven to 225 degrees. Measure the height of the salmon to determine how high the oil needs to be to cover the filets (6-8 cups). Fill a cast iron skillet (or any ovenproof pan) with oil slightly over the height of the salmon.
  16. Heat the oil to 120 degrees on a cooktop and add the filets to the oil, making sure they are covered completely.
  17. Place the skillet or pan into the oven and allow to cook for approximately 25 minutes, until the white fat from the salmon begins to come to the surface.
  18. For the Finish
  19. When the salmon has 12 minutes to go, add 1/2 cup of the mushroom jus to a saucepan and bring to simmer on high.
  20. In a separate saucepan, add the coulis and bring to a simmer.
  21. Add the broccoli rabe and the 2 TB butter to the jus and cook on high, basting to broccoli often, until the stems are tender, but still crunchy, about 8 minutes. At the same time, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to the coulis and allow to melt. Salt to taste and set aside.
  22. Once the broccoli rabe is cooked, place in a dish and cover with foil. ( The salmon should be about done in the oven).
  23. Add another 1/4 cup of the jus to the saucepan and bring to a simmer at medium. Bring the salmon out of the oven and place it into the pan, skin side down.
  24. Cook the salmon skin side down lightly for a minute or so, basting the top with the jus. Flip the salmon and allow to cook briefly, until the top has a nice golden brown color, about 2 minutes. Remove the skin and set the filets in a dish and cover. Season with salt to taste.
  25. To Serve
  26. Add the coulis to a plate and allow to spread around. Place the broccoli rabe down, about 8 per person. Place the salmon on the broccoli and garnish with the leftover pea shoots. Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from Food52’s recipe for Olive Oil Poached Salmon. See their recipe here.



Apricot Almond Layer Cake

Let’s Eat CAKE!

Apricot Almond Layer Cake

Apricot Almond Layer Cake  Apricot Almond Layer Cake is a rich, elegant dessert or ‘sweet treat’ to serve with tea.  At first, I described it as just  ‘good’ . . . but not ‘wow’.  The  second day it was a little better, even though the meringue gets a bit soft (mine was soft and chewy to begin with).  Overall the flavors blend together nicely, especially the second day. Even after a few days (yes – it lasted that long….quite rich so serving slices were small) it was still attractive to serve and tasted good. Apricot Almond Layer Cake

The photo accompanying the recipe shows a bright orange ‘apricot’ colored layer.Apricot Almond Layer Cake Since I used non-sulfured apricots, so they were dark to begin with.  I think the bright orange apricots might turn dark after cooking into the compote anyway, so would not maintain the pretty bright orange as in the photo! (as in so many published recipes, the photo was probably photo-shopped or un-cooked apricots were used). The flavor is subtle and very nice. I think I might use the ‘compote’ for other recipes such as with waffles, pancakes, or even French Toast; or possibly paired with cheese and crackers!

The Almond-Crunch was a fascinating process and works really well. Apricot Almond Layer Cake I recommend it for any recipe with ‘nut-crunch’ or ‘praline’ type additions or toppings!! I’m also thinking topping for ice-cream or perhaps lovely pumpkin pie?

The recipe seemed to make a large volume of meringue. Even after carefully drawing out the circles and piling on the fluffy meringue, I had lots left, so I daubed on some smaller circles. Another idea for this dessert – making individual servings!

Apricot Almond Layer Cake




Apricot Almond Layer Cake




Get the recipe: Apricot Almond Layer Cake





Scandinavia Baltic Cruise Conclusion

Scandinavia -Baltic Cruise


We were so fortunate to be able to take our Baltic cruise, spend time together and see things we had only read about in history books or seen on the travel channel.

Here are a couple of pictures we purchased . . .

Scandinavia-Baltic Cruise Concluded

  A picture of Stockholm at Sunset

and the magnificent Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg.

Scandinavia-Baltic Cruise Conclusion

We wish you all the vacation of your dreams

Guest Author: Vicki L

Last Stop: Belgium -Cruising Scandinavia

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise

Belgium  – Our Last Stop   


Our Scandinavian-Baltic cruise concluded with a stop in Belgium.

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium We spent the morning of our final destination, Belgium, visiting Flanders Field, near Eiper (or Ypres in French). This town is so old it was destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It was again reduced to rubble during WWI. This area was a crucial battle sight between Germany and France. Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried in Tyne Cot (just one of many cemeteries here).

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

The afternoon was spent in Bruges – probably my favorite of the medieval towns. Even the rainy day couldn’t spoil this treasure! The chocolate we purchased did not make it back home -we knew it would melt!

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium






Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium











Guest Author: Vicki L

Copenhagen Denmark – Cruising Scandinavia

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Copenhagen, Denmark


Our trip was winding down by the time we got to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

What a beautiful city. It was so clean.  I think the reason is that there is such a huge tax (50-100%) on private vehicles, so most people walk or ride bicycles. There are around 550,000 people in Copenhagen and over 680,000 registered bicycles!!

 We passed the 370 year old Stock Exchange building on our river cruise and saw some other beautiful buildings and fountains.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

On our city tour, we saw Amalienborg – the quartet of palaces (really fairly small ones) that house the Queen, her 2 sons and their families and the guest palace.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

 And, no visit would be complete without seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid in the harbor.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

        Guest Author: Vicki L

Pretty Party Cake – Let’s Eat Cake!

Let’s Eat Cake!

Pretty Party Cake for any Celebration


Pretty Party Cake - Let's Eat Cake!

This was a yummy cake and it was easy to make.

I see us making this cake often.

I liked that the two layers are each made separately so I didn’t have to try to cut them straight! Or fill each pan evenly.   Thankfully I read the directions all the way through before beginning the  recipe, so I was aware that the amounts were per layer.  I think it would be fun to add a third layer, which would be easy to do with the recipe measurements as they are.Pretty Party Cake - Let's Eat Cake!


IPretty Party Cake - Let's Eat Cake! did not follow the recipe for all of the frosting. The recipe has you make one frosting for the base and another for the decorative flowers but I would have to buy 3 bags of powdered sugar and 2# of butter.Pretty Party Cake - Let's Eat Cake!


So instead I made the base frosting following the recipe. Then I added some more powdered sugar to make it thicker and colored it for the flowers. We pressed them on wax paper and put them in the freezer because our room temperature was warm. It worked perfectly. There was still left over frosting after we made the flowers and left per flowers (we didn’t put all the flowers we made on the cake).  They make a yummy- cool sweet treat right out of the freezer.

Pretty Party Cake - Let's Eat Cake!

I was also concerned with 2 sticks of butter in the frosting so I compared other buttercream frosting recipes. They all had the same amount of powdered sugar but much less butter and milk. I think that is what makes this one so good and not too sweet.

My hubby has requested this to be his next birthday cake.

I’d say it say it was a big hit! Recipe: Two Layer Cake


Stockholm, Sweden – Cruising Scandinavia


Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

 Stockholm, Sweden – Water Tour

After the tours over the previous few days, we were tired of seeing museums and churches;  so in Stockholm, Sweden, we enjoyed a leisurely boat cruise through the harbor area and the adjacent lake —  Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia

 — which involved trips through the locks Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia – my first time doing something like that.  Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia
Beautiful waterfront views surrounded the area.
We passed by the Parliament and where the Nobel Prizes are awarded – both right on the water!
Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia
Guest Author: Vicki L

Dragon Fruit


Bright pink “Dragon Fruit” is an intriguing produce that has started showing up in local grocery stores.Dragon Fruit

I saw Dragon Fruit for the first time last year.  Even at the $9.99 price per pound, which seemed outrageous to me, I was intrigued.

When I saw this fruit again – in abundance –  in the markets in San Francisco’s China Town (and for a much lower -more reasonable price)  I decided I needed to give it a try.Dragon Fruit

Dragon Fruit

This exotic fruit MIGHT be worth the price, right?! I chose a small specimen -partly to save money, but also because- I might not like it and it might not be worth the price.

Dragon Fruit

It is easy to work with – peeling, scooping or dicing; and a very pretty pink to add to a salad or over yogurt etc.

Dragon Fruit

Other than the bright pretty pink color, I am not impressed! The flavor is mild and nothing to sing about. The texture is something akin to a dense kiwi.  In my opinion, unless it proves to have super nutritious powers, it isn’t worth adding to anything – especially at the going rate. Perhaps if the price comes down –a lot! it might be fun. . .




But here is some interesting information on this strange -looking exotic “Dragon” fruit:

It is also known as Pitaya or Pitaha.  It is the fruit of several cactus species.  There are three varieties: a red-skinned with pink flesh; red-skinned with white  flesh  and  yellow-skin with white flesh.

Dragon Fruit Dragon Fruit