Adventures in Pi(e)-Making

Tomorrow is Pi(e) Day, and so I must do my nerdly patriotic duty and make pie. (Don’t tell anyone, but I also bought a pie because strawberry rhubarb pie is one of my weaknesses and that one feels out of my league at the moment.)

A link for a coconut custard pie crossed my path recently. Looked simple enough, so I googled other recipes for variations and found a few I could mix and match. I figured I’d bake two because I like to share.

It looked simple:

  1. Blind-bake the crust. Done. (I used pre-made crust – saves me time.)
  2. Toast the coconut flakes. Easy.
  3. Mix the filling. No problem!
  4. Pour it into the pie crusts. Well…

I mean, that’s not hard, but I had more filling than will fit into two 9-inch crusts, and this is where things started to get (literally) sticky. I did NOT overfill them. I feel like I need to say that up front, considering what happened next. One of the recipes I found recommended baking the pies on preheated cookie sheets, and I am SO glad I followed that advice. Advice I could have used: pour the filling into the pie crusts as close to the oven as you can possibly get to avoid carrying a pie full of liquid across the entire kitchen. I had the oven open, the rack out (mistake #2, although it was the lower rack and I don’t know what else I could have done), and I had banished Jack to the pantry. I didn’t drip any filling onto the kitchen floor, but lowering myself down to the level of the lower rack in the oven was not so successful. Yeah, that’s pie filling on the window in the oven door. Yes, that’s pie filling on the cookie sheet the pie is going to sit on. And no, the rack did not slide smoothly back into the oven, so yes, I lost even more pie filling to the cookie sheet as it jolted back into place. The second pie, going to the top rack, lost less filling. I got the oven closed.

THEN, as always happens with my cookie sheets in the oven, I heard a loud metal sound because my cookie sheets bend in the heat, and of COURSE they’re going to do it today. I turned the light on and looked through the cloudy pie-filling-covered oven window. The pie still had all of its filling, but it’s tilted dangerously to the back and super uneven now in the crust.

They’re both baking now, and what could have been a lovely smell of warm coconut is drowned out by the smell of burnt milk and eggs.

Update: out of the oven, they look okay, and the smell up close is much nicer.

Here’s the not-quite-as-filled one, with burnt filling all around.

Here’s the lopsided one.

Happy Pi(e) Day!

A big day

Today was full of firsts.  Well, two firsts.  But some days there are no firsts, so I’ll call two in one day a full day.

The first first was a first for me!  (I am reading WAY too much Dr. Seuss.)  I made custard!  For no reason and prompted by nothing at all!  And it’s good, if maybe a bit eggy.  I have no idea what made me think of it, but then I googled a few recipes, discovered I already had all the ingredients, found a recipe that did not assume I own custard cups, and boom.  An hour later, we had custard.

The second first (same as the – no, that doesn’t work) was a first for Jack.  I think he’s learning empathy!  Finally!  We went to the beach today with Emily and fam, and McKenna gotten bitten or stung by something.  It got her finger, and she was very upset for a while.  When she started crying, Jack looked around and said, “Baby!  Baby!” I may be projecting a little, but he sounded concerned.  Tonight, while reading before bed and then as he was falling asleep in the crib, we repeated this routine probably ten times: “Baby! Baby?” and he’d hold up his finger. “You mean McKenna and her finger?” Then a plaintive “Yup.” “She’s okay, I checked. Everyone is fine.” Then a satisfied “Yup.”

He cares! Or he’s at least remembering it and thinking about someone other than himself.  Still a first!


There are many many things about Jack that make us confident that he is truly our child, but yesterday we found one trait that made us question EVERYTHING.

On the spur of the moment, we went out for ice cream yesterday afternoon.  We met up with Emily, Sean, Graham, and McKenna, and after trying to go to Brickley’s (the GOOD local ice cream place that – whoops – is closed on Tuesdays), we went to Swirls and Scoops.  Some ice cream is better than no ice cream.  We got Jack his own small scoop of soft-serve chocolate.  Jack took a bite, but refused a second bite.  He reached for John’s vanilla-chocolate swirl, but when John offered him a bite of that, he refused it (vanilla, chocolate, AND the swirl).  I offered him my German chocolate cake ice cream, which did NOT taste like German chocolate cake but was otherwise acceptable, but he refused that, too.

Who is this child who doesn’t want ice cream on a hot day?  On one of our walks in the woods did I look away long enough for one of the fair folk to snatch him and replace him with one of their own?  (I don’t know why a fairy child wouldn’t like ice cream, though.)

Maybe – MAYBE – he’s refusing on principle.  He was promised the good stuff, and he will not accept an inferior product.

Supporting local small businesses

The easiest local business to support, in my humble opinion, is a bakery.  (I mean bookstore, but go with it.)  Luckily for me, a new one opened within walking distance, and oh man, it is GOOD.  Not so luckily, for me or for the baker, she opened up shop on campus right before everything shut down for the coronavirus.  Where she would normally have a customer base of hungry college students, she’s got practically no one since they stopped in-person classes in March, and URI is pretty much a commuter school.

I didn’t even know she was there until a week or two ago when one of my mom friends mentioned it.  I went last week to check it out and pick up a few things to sample and WOW.  I went back today for more.  So far, we have tried her peanut butter chocolate chip cookie (John said it was really good), her blueberry scones with a lime glaze (DELICIOUS), and her coconut butter bars.


When I went back today, I got TWO coconut butter bars so I don’t have to share one with John.  I also got a lemon blueberry scone, a slice of lemon blueberry pound cake, a piece of her Scottish shortbread, and a Neiman Marcus cookie.  That should hold us for a couple of days.

She is SUPER nice, and it is my mission to keep her in business.  Somehow.  Without eating my weight in coconut butter bars.


Today’s theme was “Empty out the freezer”.  In support of that goal, I made a berry pie for the very first time ever!  I bought a crust (let’s not be crazy here – I don’t have the time or inclination to experiment with crusts right now) and unloaded probably about half of the frozen fruit into it.  I had been warned by multiple recipes that using frozen fruit would add liquid to the pie, but those recipes didn’t prepare me for reality.  Folks, I made fruit soup in a pie crust.  It’s delicious fruit soup in a pie crust, don’t get me wrong.  But still, you can basically drink this pie.  Maybe it’ll firm up in the fridge.

Next up, frozen vegetables in a casserole!  It’s basically Thanksgiving’s green bean casserole, but with green beans, broccoli, peas, some cauliflower, and a few carrots.  And cheese.  And some sour cream added to the cream of mushroom soup.  I used almost all of my frozen vegetables, so it’s just as well that the glass pan I had available was the one a size up from 9×13.  (My 9×13 has the rest of the brownies in it.)  Guys, it’s so good.  And I made SO much, so yay leftovers!

The freezer is full again, but now at least there’s room for the ice cream (because pie), the frozen waffles (Jack loves them), and the popsicles (they’re going to blow his mind).

I have forgotten how to grill

I used to grill a lot.  There was one summer not that long ago when I grilled salmon several times a week.  Me, not John.  I knew how to do this.  But then I tried to grill chicken last week or so.  (Time has no meaning.)  It’s possible I’ve never grilled chicken before, but even so, how could it be this hard?  It took FOREVER.  Also, I set the chicken on fire.  Frequently.  It turned out fine, but I’m not eager to do that again.  (See fire and also forever.)

Then last week I tried salmon again.  Do you like your salmon blackened?  Into a crisp?  Mine was basically inedible because fire.  What the hell, man?  (I mean, I’m assuming I had the burners on too high.)

I’m just out of practice, right?  So I should practice.

Tonight, steak.  Me again – John has faith in me, and hey!  No disasters this time.  The asparagus came out fine (I didn’t lose any in the grill, either), and I basically did the whole five-minutes-per-side thing with the steaks over medium heat. Maybe 7 minutes on the second side.  They were on the rare side of medium, which is how we like them – not charred, not blackened, good without having to drown them in anything (I am just now remembering that I forgot to use the horseradish I put on the table), so maybe I just have to practice with chicken and fish.

I can see for miles and miles


For someone who professes to love Indian food (that would be me), it sure did take me a long time to try cooking it myself.  To be fair (to myself), I’m not exactly an enthusiastic cook.  I would much prefer Indian takeout but the nearest one is not that near.

I found an instant pot recipe for butter chicken, had almost all of the ingredients (I had to make two minor substitutions – so minor they basically don’t count), and it turned out pretty well!  I am super excited about the leftovers.

I took zero pictures because by the time it was ready, I was hungry.  Also, you know, it looked like tomato sauce and chicken over rice.  Oh, yeah, I made basmati rice in our rice cooker, which hasn’t seen the outside of the cabinet in, let’s see, when did Corey and Christine give us that instant pot?

My horizons, they are expanding.  Figuratively speaking.

I can also leap tall buildings in a single bound

I have put Jack down for real, honest-to-god, SOLID naps for THREE days in a row!  I did it, I am awesome, and I am for real doing the Carlton dance (which, ahem, I have learned since that video call with Corey and Mel).  (For those wondering, I did an approximation of the Kevin Bacon Footloose dance instead.)

For my next feat, I will turn a toddler into a blueberry.  He is HOOVERING blueberries lately.

Worth it

This is a completely obvious observation to make, but whole milk yogurt is DELICIOUS.  (I originally typed “whole fat yogurt”, and well, yeah.)  I bought a big container of Nature’s Promise Organic Whole Milk Yogurt (vanilla) to share with Jack – we’ll mix in fruit and granola (granola for me, anyway), and it’ll be great.


My lunch today was a small bowl of yogurt, granola, and blueberries, and it was oh so good.

Lemon bars – an update

I finished eating the lemon deliciousness off the top of the lemon bars, and then John took a pickaxe to the crust and managed to get the majority of it free, and guys?  IT IS LEMONY SHORTBREAD AND IT IS SO GOOD I AM AMAZING AND I SHOULD BAKE EVERYTHING.

That is all.

Half-birthdays – a wonderful excuse to eat cake

For John’s half-birthday on Monday, I made him us (let’s be real here) a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and topped it with peanut butter cups.  No baking disasters to report – just yummy yummy chocolate cake.  The frosting was a bit much.  Bonus: the house smelled like chocolate cake for a few hours.

We (I) sang happy half-birthday to John, which he insists wasn’t necessary, but hey – whose fake holiday does he think this is?  We gave Jack three bites of cake, hoping we weren’t dooming ourselves to a toddler on a sugar-high with even that little bit, but he went to bed okay.  Poor exhausted baby – without his nap, he’s awake for 12 hours in a row every day now.

I baked cement

I got this new lotion that smells like the best, creamiest, sweetest lemon dessert you can imagine, and every time I use it, I want to eat my hands.

I don’t really want to eat my hands, so I started looking up lemon desserts, and what the hell?  They’re so complicated!  Or they require kitchen tools I do not have or kitchen skills I have not acquired.  So when I saw a baking mix for lemon bars at the store, I grabbed it.  It said it had real lemons in there somewhere and only needed a little butter, two eggs, and some water.  I make and enjoy lots of things out of boxed baking mixes – how could I go wrong?

I don’t know how I went wrong, although I have some suspicions. First, there’s the flour mix and the butter.  Melt the butter, combine it with the flour mix to make a crumbly dough.  It was super crumbly, like I’m not sure butter actually got to all of the flour mix.  Suspicion number one: maybe it needed a little more butter, and maybe I should have been smart enough to know by looking at what I had in the bowl.

Second, press the dough firmly into the bottom of a greased pan.  I did that, pretty darn firmly, maybe too firmly as an overreaction to the dry crumbliness of the dough.  Suspicion number two: pressed too firmly.

Third, bake the dough by itself for 12-14 minutes.  I know my oven bakes fast (runs hot?), so I typically pull anything I’m baking out before the time on the box/recipe.  I went for 11 minutes this time.  No idea here.  Suspicion number three: 11 minutes in my oven is still too long for this mix.

Fourth, pour the lemon/egg/water mix on top of the hot crust and bake for another 24-26 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.  I pulled it out of the oven around 22 minutes.  I don’t think I screwed anything up at this step.

Cool, then chill, then eat.  Eating is where I realized I have a problem.  The knife will not cut through the crust to the bottom of the pan.  It just won’t, and if I try any harder, I’ll cut up my pan.  If I really work at it, I can get a very light layer of crust to come up under the lemon topping, but that’s as far as I can go.

The result is that I’m eating chilled lemon topping.  That part is delicious, so it’s hitting the lemon dessert spot, but I’m not up for chiseling the crust out of that pan.  Once I’m done with the topping, I’ll have to see if I can dissolve it in the sink.  Otherwise I’ll have to throw out the pan.

No more moo goo gai pan

Our Chinese restaurant is closing as of tomorrow (Monday) because of the virus, which is terrible for them and both bad and not-so-bad for us.

For them: I don’t know if they’re closing because they can’t afford to stay open or if they don’t have the staff to stay open.  Neither option is good, and I can’t even hope it’s one or the other.

For us: well, no more ordering Chinese food for a while.

  • The bad: No more Chinese food for the foreseeable future.  There’s only one other Chinese takeout place nearby, and it’s not as good.
  • The not-so-bad: NO MORE CHINESE FOOD FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.  Considering how prone to ordering (and then eating) everything in sight I am when it comes to Chinese food, this can only be a good thing for my overall health.

All three of us enjoyed our last Chinese takeout meal FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUT-sorry.  Jack happily ate what we ate and then guzzled down a full cup of water.

I miss cheese

We think Jack may have a sensitivity to milk, so I eliminated dairy from my diet 11 days ago.  (I meant to start 13 days ago, but I kept forgetting and doing stupid things like eating ice cream that first day and chicken corn chowder (heavy on cream and cheese) the second day.)  I THINK we’re seeing an improvement in Jack, but it’s hard to tell – is it really better?  Did I screw up again mid-week?  (Yes.)  Is it possible that it’s just his immature digestive system acting up and it seems better now because he’s growing?  I have no idea.  Also, I’ve done my googling (naturally), and if he is sensitive to milk, it’s pretty mild and thank goodness for that.  A serious sensitivity would be much more unpleasant for him.

Anyway, being dairy-free SUCKS and that’s with me only eliminating the obvious stuff – no milk, no butter, no cheese, no sour cream.  Ugh, no cream cheese.  I’m not going full vegan and avoiding baked goods or fully cooked things that might have had dairy in them.  I did miss having tea and cereal, so I’m trying almond milk.  It’s….okay.  I do NOT recommend drinking it straight.  I tried it with chocolate cake – that’s a big no.  (The cake is a big yes.)  But in cereal, it’s great.  I pretty much couldn’t tell it wasn’t regular milk with either Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios.  In tea, the jury is still out.  This is my second try with Yorkshire tea, and I’m not wild about it, but I used it in French Vanilla tea yesterday, and it was great.

What I really want is to go back to my normal diet, but I’m not sure how to approach that.  If Jack were to show no improvement, then yay I can eat what I want, but the poor baby is still in distress.  If Jack shows improvement, then either he’s sensitive to dairy and I should stay off it for at least a few months or dairy has nothing to do with it and he’s just maturing.  I have no way to tell without testing by introducing dairy again, which might make Jack very uncomfortable again.

Yeah, yeah, the responsible thing to do is continue to avoid dairy.  Boo responsibility.

Now, to thank you all for your patience, here is a picture of Jack from when he was one week old.

I have many many many more pictures, and now that I have solved (John has solved) my picture problem, I will be uploading more.  I just don’t have them on my computer yet.  Jack is sleeping and my phone is providing white noise, so I don’t want to take it away to get the pictures.

Reading my mind

John and I bought olive oil when we went to the store the other night, and I expressed regret that we can’t just buy Wegmans extra virgin olive oil like we used to.  We’ve been not so lucky at picking out other relatively inexpensive olive oils over the last few years.  (There are a lot of really boring olive oils out there, and some of the more exciting ones aren’t great for general use.  I feel like Goldilocks.)  We have a Wegmans within reach, if you consider an hour and 15 minutes one-way to be within reach.  I don’t.  I actually considered asking Emily to buy us some so John could bring it back this weekend when he drives up with our stuff from the storage unit.  We picked something since we’ll need it this week, I don’t remember which brand, and shortly after we got home, John said, “I think we owe my mom a really big thank you.”  Of course we do, for any number of things, so I asked for a few more details in my own articulate fashion. “Huh?”

She gave us a housewarming basket with a bunch of traditional housewarming gifts, all with their own meanings, and one of the items is olive oil (“May you be blessed with health and well-being”).  WEGMANS OLIVE OIL.


All is well with the world.



At least I didn’t burn the house down

I have run out of patience for my coworkers in the past, so I’m hesitant to call this a pregnancy symptom, but I’m pretty much calling EVERYthing a pregnancy symptom nowadays, so maybe…?

Anyway, just about everyone at work sucks today. Nearly every person I spoke to asked stupid questions or had us rehash decisions that had been made weeks ago or couldn’t follow basic instructions or figure out logical next steps on their own.  I spent much of the day really really really annoyed.

Then work ended and I mostly got over it.  But then I did another thing that I’m pretty sure I can blame entirely on pregnancy brain.  I made dinner tonight, and John came downstairs, went into the kitchen.  The ravioli was draining in the sink, the salad was in a bowl…”Did you make sauce?”

Uhhhh…you mean the sauce that’s still in the jar in the cabinet?  Because by “make”, we mean “heat up”.  Let’s not kid ourselves about how I cook.  “How about we do the olive oil and parmesan thing instead?”  So not a disaster by any definition, but certainly a slip of the brain.

Eating is hard

This whole I-need-to-eat-every-two-hours-or-else-I-get-faint-and-cranky thing is getting OLD.  And it doesn’t seem to matter how much or how little I eat for dinner or how early or late I eat dinner, I always go to bed feeling bloated and gross.  During the day, I feel okay except that I haven’t mastered snacking (so, not bloated and gross, but hungry/faint/generally ugh).  Hold on – announcement:


Thank you.  I have the internet, I have my What to Expect book, I have info from the doctor.  I’m just bad at it right now.  But I’m trying.  Today, I went to the store at lunchtime and stocked up.  I have fruit (strawberries, raspberries, bananas, although the bananas aren’t even close to ripe yet), yogurt, granola, two kinds of granola bars, and applesauce.  I already had plenty of bread and crackers and peanut butter, and I’m not in the mood for carrots or celery or whatever, so I didn’t get those today.  I think what I’m missing are nuts, like almonds or something.  Ooooh, wait.   I have creme brulee almonds.  Does the creme brulee flavoring undo the nutritional value of the almonds?  I’m going with no.

Let’s review today:

Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter (usually I slice banana on top, but I was out)

Late morning snack: hard-boiled egg

Just prior to and after my lunchtime workout (and while grocery shopping): granola bar

Lunch: Yogurt (fruit-on-the-bottom) and granola

Snack: Applesauce

Right now: Hungry and cranky and mildly headache-y because my applesauce was gone over two hours ago and I was stuck on a client meeting and applesauce isn’t a very filling snack to begin with and I NEED TO EAT RIGHT NOW.

Weekending right

I am the valedictorian of weekend breakfasts.  Lately, anyway.  Last weekend, I had this OHMYGODSOGOOD deep dish cinnamon french toast with fresh fruit and whipped cream at a restaurant in East Greenwich (we were checking out the town).  It was basically a piece of bread pudding with fruit and whipped cream.  SO.  GOOD.  That was Saturday.  Sunday, we had breakfast at home, so we made french toast ourselves with big slabs of bread and strawberries and raspberries and whipped cream.  It wasn’t the same as the day before, but it was nearly as good.

This weekend, breakfast both days was cereal, but we got the good cereal.  A box of Lucky Charms, a box of Golden Grahams, and a box of Cocoa Puffs, plus a gallon of milk, and we were set.  And happy.  And somehow, even after two days of cereal in front of the TV, we still have cereal left in all three boxes.  Maybe we’ll have cereal for dinner, too.

It’s Pi(e) Day!

I had strawberry rhubarb pie for the second time in my life a few weeks ago (it was DELICIOUS), and I bought more to celebrate today’s most circular of days and it is finally time for me to tell the story of the first time I ever tried strawberry rhubarb pie, which was only 10 months ago.

The story starts with crab legs.  (The best stories about pie start with crab legs.)  Last May, when John and I went to Seattle to see U2, one of the few things I REALLY wanted before we left town again was crab legs.  I had the second best crab legs of my life the first time I went to Seattle (early 2003), and I wanted those again.  (The first best crab legs of my life were in Alaska, also early 2003.)

The Sunday morning we were there, the morning of the concert, also, coincidentally, Mother’s Day, we were driving around and exploring, and I was googling seafood restaurants to track down crab legs.  We found a place to have lunch with a lake view, lots of seafood, and Alaskan King crab legs on the menu online.  Done.  So we got there, we got seated, it was lovely, and I noticed there weren’t any crab legs on the menu.

Well, crap.  The waiter came by, and I so-very-nicely explained my predicament.  I really didn’t want to be a bother, but if they HAVE crab legs, would it be possible for me to order them?  The waiter was really nice and said he’d find out.  I was totally prepared to order something else if they didn’t have crab legs, and I’m pretty sure I said that to him.  I promise was being nice.  I would never be the evil diner.

Anyway, he came back after a while and said they DO have crab legs, but they’re frozen – is that okay?  Sure!  That’ll be fine!  So off he goes.  And then we waited.  We were fine – we had an appetizer – but the waiter seemed nervous.  No, really, we’re fine!  Then we waited some more.  The waiter came back, all apologetic, because the kitchen had prepared the Dungeness crab for me (whole crab) instead.  But they could still do the crab legs if I didn’t mind waiting a little longer!  Yes, please, I’m happy to wait.

So we waited.  And then the manager came by, clearly worried that we were getting annoyed.  We SO weren’t, but she wanted to give us a free desert anyway, and who were we to turn that down?  And THAT’s when we decided to try the strawberry rhubarb crumble or cobbler or pie or whatever it was.  AND HOLY CRAP IT WAS AMAZING.

(My crab legs were also delicious and HUGE and exactly what I wanted and yay for that restaurant in Seattle and of COURSE we expressed our appreciation because we are good customers.)

So then a couple of weeks ago…oh, right –  it was my birthday weekend.  I wanted pie, and we couldn’t decide what kind of pie, so we bought a strawberry rhubarb pie and an apple pie.  Both were SO GOOD – our local grocery store bakery makes DAMN GOOD PIE.

Of course, two pies at once for two people was a little excessive, so for Pi(e) Day, we limited ourselves to ONE pie, the strawberry rhubarb pie, and we are looking forward to eating it with delicious vanilla ice cream melting all over it.

There will be pie tonight!

An apology is warranted

I am not a pizza snob.  I love pizza of all kinds, from all places.  I don’t love all toppings, but that’s my own personal taste – I don’t care what you put on your pizza.

So we went out to a pizza place last night, and for the first time, I’m questioning whether what we had was really pizza.  I mean, it came out on pizza dough.  It was round (not a requirement, but a helpful visual indicator).  It was flat.  It had crust.  But instead of sauce and cheese, it had mashed potatoes, bacon, and scallions.  That’s it.  It was good, to be sure, but was it pizza?

I’m on the fence.  It certainly didn’t scratch my pizza itch (we’re ordering more traditional pizza tonight), but who am I to say it can’t be called pizza?

Mashed potato pizza, I’m sorry I questioned your bona fides.  I apologize for repeatedly telling John today that you weren’t pizza.  I didn’t mean it.  It was only so I could justify having pizza again for dinner tonight.

I am ashamed.