The Pie Notes

A celebration of life with a touch of sweetness

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Gardens, Farmer’s Markets, and Sweet Peach Hand Pies

Aren’t peaches the perfect summer fruit?

They are sweet and incredibly refreshing, especially after working in a garden.

During my little Auburn vacation, I went to SpringHouse to help out in the culinary garden on-site. Matthew goes there every week to  assist the gardener and he invited me to tag along.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Surprisingly not too hot (probably due to the sprinklers soaking us from head to toe) and clear blue skies.

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Pre-gardening Matthew

All of the vegetables are grown organically, so naturally there is quite a bit of work to accomplish.

We weeded, picked more red onions than you could ever imagine, and staked tomato plants.

Somewhere in between I got attacked by giant ants. I threw off my gloves and ran towards the sprinkler…the sprinkler that was moving in a circular motion. I tried not to get right on front of the stream of water, so I ended up running around the bed of eggplant chasing it while swatting at my arms.

Not my best idea.

I got all of them off eventually, but let’s just say they left their mark on me.

All of that aside, I absolutely love gardening. There’s something about pulling your food out of the ground or picking it off the vine that is so comforting and rewarding.

Plus, it tastes worlds better than the stuff in the grocery store.

They grow black cherry tomatoes there, and a couple weeks before Matthew had called me just to tell me how delicious they are.

He plucked a perfectly ripe one off the vine for me and I was immediately hooked. Best tomato I’ve ever tasted. It’s sweet and plump and juicy, and the color is a deep deep purple.

After our gardening adventures, we headed back to Auburn, but not before stopping at a roadside stand to buy a few peaches to snack on.

We ravenously pulled them out of the bag. I had one, Matthew had five.

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Post-gardening Matthew

They hit the spot.

And our shirts were completely covered in peach juice. Were we complaining? Nope.

Fast forward to last week. The Auburn Farmer’s Market happens every Thursday during the summer and I had never been! I was planning on making roasted chicken thighs with roasted vegetables for dinner, so I needed some fresh local ingredients to make it even better.

We got new potatoes, the most beautiful onions I’ve ever seen, a green bell pepper, and black cherry tomatoes. For the salad, we found bibb lettuce, cucumbers, and microgreens which really sent it over the top.

And of course, we got distracted by all of the sweets.

My sister Sarah had told us about Cindy Cakes a couple weeks ago, saying it was the best pound cake she’s ever had. We took her word for it and bought a peach pound cake. We ended up slicing it and warming it up on a cast iron skillet. The sugars caramelized and a yummy crust formed. Perfect with a cup of coffee.

We also picked up a bag of kettle corn–sweet and smoky–and a couple individual pies that were very tasty.

And in true Matthew/Anna Claire style, we got a couple Chilton County peaches to snack on in the car.

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Post-farmer’s market Matthew

I just realized how many pictures I take of him while he’s in the driver’s seat…

That was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had in Auburn. There’s nothing quite like the charm of a farmer’s market, and the opportunity to meet the people behind your food is special. If you have some extra time in your day, stop by and support your local farmers. It’s so important that they have a community to back them up.

And your tastebuds will thank you profusely.

In the spirit of local ingredients and portable snacks, I’ve decided to experiment with some hand pies. Never heard of such a thing? Take a look at my previous post and scroll down to the dessert section of our SpringHouse meal.

Since the peaches have been so wonderfully delicious lately, I made some peach hand pies.

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If you like flaky crust, this is the dessert for you.

Every bite has buttery crust and ooey gooey sweet peachy filling.

I can’t stress this enough–buy fresh, good quality peaches! Every time I have used Chilton County peaches from the farmer’s market, I’ve had good luck. You’re taking a risk if you use anything else.

These are good at room temperature, but even better when warmed up in the toaster oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It’s the perfect summer bite–go try one at Copper Kettle Tea Bar this week!

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Peach filling adapted from Bakerella

Our Dinner at SpringHouse

My favorite restaurants have definitely changed over the years.

First it was Chuck e Cheese. My 4th birthday was there, along with Sarah’s 7th birthday. (We’re only three years and one day apart!) So of course, it was my childhood fav.

Then it was Olive Garden, because, well, they have tiramisu. And giant salads. And the Tour of Italy. All of which I can eat in one sitting. I simply must have Italian roots–that’s the only explanation for my Italian obsession.

Next came Maggiano’s in Nashville a few years ago. When Sarah and I visited with our Aunt Debbie, I was in heaven. Lots of bread (half of which I stuck in my purse when we left) and so much pasta. And the best part? With some of the menu options you get a FREE MEAL TO TAKE HOME. We were all over that. Hence, my favorite for years.

In high school I was a member of the Interact club which is involved with the Rotary Club of Foley. Every Friday we were invited to attend their meetings at the Gift Horse Restaurant. Let me put it to you simply: If you live in Southern Alabama and haven’t been there to eat, you are missing out. The second you walk in you’re transported back in time. And the food. Oh, the food.

The grand buffet holds everything from pasta salads and deviled eggs to hot entrees including fried chicken, sweet potato casserole, seafood gumbo, macaroni and cheese, famous fried biscuits, and, my all-time favorite: apple cheese.

Scared at the thought of such a side dish? Don’t be. I can’t keep track of how many times I have insisted that my friends and family try it. It is just that good.

Needless to say, The Gift Horse will always hold a special place in my heart, and will always be considered one of my favorites.

This past semester has caused me to add to my list.

Enter SpringHouse in Alexander City, AL (aka Lake Martin).

Let me just walk you through our meal from last week.

We ordered for appetizers lima beans with buttermilk aioli, cornbread crumbled over the top, and fresh dill along with an oven roasted tomato topped with goat cheese and crispy breadcrumbs. Unfortunately we were too hungry to even think about taking pictures.

For our entrees I ordered this fresh, beautiful, vibrant dish of vegetables (which is so unlike me–I usually prefer meat with my dinner), but I knew that it would be perfect.

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And it was.

I don’t know what my favorite component was…possibly the zucchini gratin, creamed corn, carrots, crowder peas, lightly pickled cucumbers, cornbread…such a hard decision.

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Have you ever considered the thought of eating stingray?

We hadn’t, either.

Our waiter was pretty convincing, so Matthew ordered it.

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No kidding, it was the best fish I’ve ever tasted.

And that squash was perfection.

I need to stop writing about this…my mouth is watering.

Next came dessert, which did not disappoint.

Matthew ordered the blueberry handpie with lemon curd ice cream.

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He stuck his fork in it and I yelled, “STOP! I have to take a picture of it!”

It’s just so beautiful. The crust was flaky and the blueberry filling was warm and sweet and tart.

And to finish, one of the best desserts I’ve ever ordered–ever–was the ice cream sandwich.

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This isn’t your ordinary ice cream sandwich.

Butter pecan cookies (thin, sweet and salty, slightly chewy) held together a thick layer of peach ice cream. That was the best ice cream I’ve ever had, as well. It tasted like I was eating a peach. The freshness was unbelievable.

Yes, I ate every bit of it.

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We were too eager to take a picture beforehand, so this is the “happy tummy” picture in the car.

Luckily, we went with our friends Kathryn and Chris back in May and managed to capture the beautiful views.

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The rolling hills make my heart happy.

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We’re SpringHouse believers! Are you?

Look Mom, We Made a Cookbook!

Wow, it’s been a whole year since I’ve posted. At least I have something to show for it.

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Last semester in my History of the Book in Theory and Practice course at Auburn we learned everything from how to tell which country a book was printed in by its font to the methods of using InDesign to create a quality artifact. Needless to say, I was in heaven from August to December. For the second half of the semester, my group chose three 19th century texts from Special Collections in Auburn University’s Library (two cookbooks and one etiquette book) and made a modern printed edition. The picture above is a photo of the printed copy, and below you can find the complete digital copy in PDF format. Although it’s not side-by-side pages, you can still get a feel for it. We had a wonderful time creating this from start to finish, and I truly can’t wait for the opportunity to do this again!

A Lady’s Table

Thanks to my fellow group members: Jordan Hays, Beth Lingerfelt, Anna Parsons, and Savannah Downey

And to my professors that made this possible: Dr. Emily Friedman and Dr. Derek Ross

Lovely Lavender

Summer weather is just around the corner, but summer break is definitely here! It has been a nice change of pace not having to focus on schoolwork, but rather on, well, life. And life currently includes working – a.k.a. BAKING! I have learned so much in just a matter of a couple months, and I am so thankful to start applying the tricks and techniques that we use in the bakery setting to my own kitchen.

It’s a blessing sent from heaven.

Needless to say, I love my job. And an added bonus is that my sister Sarah is working with me! We have a great time together listening to Michael Bublé Pandora radio and whipping up more breads and cupcakes than we can count on our hands. I promise my baked goods taste better when there is big band music in the background.

Speaking of Michael…I will be seeing him in concert in Memphis this summer with my brother, Robert! I am beyond excited. Sibling bonding time at its finest. Maybe he’ll let me play all of my swing CDs during the drive up there….whatcha say, Rob?

Back on track: Food.

Actually, let me detour again.

Robert built us a raised flower bed a few weeks ago for us to grow some herbs, and they are really coming to life!

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Especially that parsley.

Mom and I went a little crazy the last time I was home at the farmer’s market. She equipped me with all of these wonderfully aromatic herbs, and they have certainly been making our spaghetti taste extra delicious.

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I definitely need to put the lavender on the bottom right in a larger pot and let it spread its wings! Or roots, rather.

 

I thought it was about time to make something sweet out of the herbs. That explosion of peppermint will be utilized soon, but for today…..

how do lavender cookies sound?

As this post’s title suggests, the chopped fresh lavender leaves make these cookies quite lovely.

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Perfect for a little tea party.

Or just a Thursday afternoon with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea and a book! That’s my kind of day off.

You may be uneasy about lavender, or anything green in your cookie. Be not afraid, my friend. All it does is add a delicate floral aroma, and a bit more interest to what would otherwise be a plain sugar cookie (which would work with this recipe also).

I like these because they are soft and incredibly tender, but they hold their shape well and will store nicely. If you want you can substitute the fresh leaves for dried leaves, lemon zest, or even leave them out if you don’t have any. I’d just add a bit more vanilla extract to give it some flavor. Play around with it! It’s a great basic recipe!

And here it is:

Lovely Lavender Cookies

If anyone has recipes or ideas for cooking or baking with herbs, please let me know! It is so satisfying walking into my backyard and cutting those beautiful leaves, then making something delicious out of them. As I mentioned before, I need to use that peppermint soon or it might explode!

You enjoy the rest of your day, and whip these up. It will relax you. Lavender has that effect on us, right?

 

 

Let Them Eat Cake

Tomorrow, April 8th, is a special day for two amazing gals – Kayla and Kathryn!

Little Miss Kayla is simply the funniest person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Her presence alone puts a smile on everyone’s face, and I just love being around her! We met through Food Science at Auburn, and I’m sure she will go on to do great things in the field.

And Kathryn, what can I say. She is lovely. We are in the Trinity college group together, and she is also president of the Auburn Swing Dance Association. Her passion for swing dancing is literally contagious. She has taught me SO much the past few months. I just adore Kathryn, her sweet demeanor, and her c-c-c-curly hair!

Here’s a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to both of these awesome girls!

Last Friday, our Food Science friends, Emma and Richelle, threw Kayla a surprise birthday party. I was so happy to bake the cake for her! Which flavor you ask?

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White Wedding Cake allllll the way.

I discovered Recipe Girl’s version a couple years ago and instantly fell in love. I think it’s impossible to mess it up, and delicious success is just about 40 minutes away. And the best part – it uses a boxed mix as the base with a variety of other ingredients to enhance the flavor. Trust me, I’m not one to use those often, but it is worth it here.

You will go crazy over this cake because it is incredibly easy to prepare (just throw everything into one bowl and mix), bakes to a substantial yet light consistency, and is a definite crowd-pleaser! Think about it. Not everyone likes strawberry or chocolate (even though the latter is beyond my comprehension). Chances are, the delectable simplicity of white wedding cake will go over quite well at your next shindig.

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Photo creds: Emma Williams

Kinda like this one!

Check out the recipe here and the perfect buttercream frosting here!

If cakes aren’t your thing, make cupcakes instead! This recipe will make 36 of them. Try not to eat all of them by yourself…harness your self-control. You’ll need it!

And handy documents for you:

White Wedding Cake

Buttercream Frosting

May I Say…

I’m glad to be here.

And I’m so very glad you’re reading this.

This crisp autumn day in Auburn has inspired me, bringing peace, focus, and contentment in my life. So what do we do when those three things are dwelling within us?

We make pie!

The no-bake version to be exact. “It just has to be pumpkin,” I told myself. But then my little chocolate conscience convinced me otherwise. I honestly felt like I was cheating on chocolate. That simply cannot happen.

So, I compromised with that naughty conscience.

Chocolate pumpkin pie.

But then, as I eagerly opened the door to go grocery shopping, I was caught by that wonderful breeze flowing through the house, softly picking up the ends of my hair (which would usually anger me–wind and my c-c-c-curly hair do not mix). I felt as if I was letting down the season as a whole. Chocolate pumpkin pie was simply not “fall-y” enough.

Chocolate pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust.

Voilà. You’re welcome, November.

My soul was finally at peace again.

Here’s the recipe. Now would be a good time to mention I name all my pies. Some funny, some heartfelt, some downright ridiculous.

No-Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

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This pie shall be named The Pumpkins and Puns Pie.

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 ¾ cups gingersnap crumbs

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Whipped topping, for serving

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Seal several gingersnaps inside a large Ziploc bag. Grab a rolling pin. Think about anything negative in your life. It could be paying taxes, telemarketers, drivers who fail to use blinkers, etc. For me, it’s analytic trigonometry at 8 A.M. every morning. Think of your chosen frustration, and whack those crunchy cookies like there’s no tomorrow. And when you think you’re done, don’t stop. Fine crumbs are the goal.

Take several deep sighs of relief. Besides, taxes aren’t until next spring. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crumbs and dry ingredients. Now add that melted butter and stir. If the mixture isn’t holding together when you squeeze it, add a tiny bit of water at a time until you reach the right consistency.

Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch pie plate, pressing evenly to cover the bottom and sides. Don’t worry about perfection. Stick it in the freezer for around 10 minutes to let it relax. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until your house smells like gingersnap goodness. Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. This is incredibly easy.

Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor (I used a Ninja blender). Blend until smooth. Done. (Unless you prefer some more sugar after tasting it.) Just don’t forget about that whipped cream you’ll be topping it with.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust, and pop it in the fridge for 3 hours. Overnight would be good, too.

Before serving, top with the whipped cream and maybe a few gingersnap crumbles. Enjoy, and happy fall!

Filling adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Gingersnap crust adapted from Martha Stewart

Word Document:

No Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

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