Will work for macaroons

Working from home definitely has its advantages.  The commute’s a snap, for one thing, and I can set my own hours, wear my pajamas all day, and skive off to the movies mid-morning while everyone else is stuck at their desks.  (Not that I ever do, mind you, but I could if I wanted to.)

It definitely has its disadvantages too, though.  For one thing, it can get pretty quiet around here, even though our Shetland sheepdogs are good company.

Office colleagues Bonnie & Billie

Plus, the boss is a slave driver.  Man, does she crack that whip!  What’s that, you say?  I’m the boss, so I have no one to blame but myself?  Um, I guess you have a point there…

Once in a while my mean old boss cuts me some slack and tells me to go have fun.  One of my favorite things to do in this case is have friends over for lunch.  It gives me an excuse to clean the house, for one thing, plus I love to cook.  And it’s always nice to have a reason to use my favorite pink china I inherited from my mother.

Today I made pumpkin soup, perfect for a chilly November day, and to go with it we had sourdough rolls, sparkling cranberry juice, and my friend Susan brought a delicious salad, while my other friend Sue (yep, two Susans–isn’t that funny?!) brought MACAROONS.

I am a sucker for anything coconut.

Especially yummy little cookies like these.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  Sue gave me the recipe, which is super-simple.  I can’t wait to whip up a batch myself!

COCONUT MACAROONS

1 14-oz. pkg.  shredded & sweetened coconut (5-1/3 cups)

2/3 cup sugar

6 T. flour

¼ tsp. salt

4 egg whites

1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325.  Combine coconut, sugar, flour and salt in large bowl. Stir egg whites and extract together, then add to coconut mixture and stir until blended.

Using a cookie dough scoop or spoon, scoop coconut mixture into 1 T. size mounds, 2 inches apart, onto greased and lightly floured baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper).

Bake for 20 minutes or until edges look golden brown and lightly toasted. Transfer from baking sheet to wire racks and cool completely.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

 

Happy National Pie Day!

It’s that time of year again — my favorite minor holiday — yes, you guessed it, NATIONAL PIE DAY!

No, not THAT kind of pi, silly — THIS kind of pie:

Next to homemade bread, pie is my favorite thing to bake.  I like just about any kind, too–apple pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, coconut cream pie–you name it, I’ll be sitting at the table, fork in hand, ready for my slice.

I love pie so much that I named two of my books after it:

Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote last year about this wonderful holiday, and my mother.  Enjoy!  I’m off to bake a pie (marionberry this year, in case you’re wondering)…

 

Happiness in a cup

I admit it.

I’m a bit of a cocoa freak.

There’s nothing I love better than a good cup of hot chocolate!  Especially on a cold day like this one.  And especially when I’m writing.

My sister sent me the BEST PRESENT this week to cheer me up (I get a little cranky when I’m on deadline):  a kilo-sized bag of Callebaut cocoa.  Mmmm.  Bliss!  Especially when I froth the milk first, the way I did here (that’s foam, not whipped cream, believe it or not), and sprinkle it with a little cinnamon and nutmeg.

What’s your favorite hot drink?

 

 

National Pie Day

It’s time to bust out those rolling pins, America!

I just love living in a country that sets aside a day each year to celebrate my favorite dessert.

What could possibly be better than pie? Not that I don’t love cake, cookies, cupcakes, candy, and sugar in all its many wondrous forms, but there’s something special about pie.  For one thing, it’s, well, baked into our history. Humans were making pies as early as 9500 B.C., when those clever Egyptians wrapped honey in an oatmeal crust.

Pie is baked into my family’s history, too.  I come from a long line of great pie bakers — and pie eaters.  I remember my mother telling me of the day she left Canada for “the Boston States,” as Nova Scotians used to call New England.  It was a big step for a small-town girl fresh out of nursing school, and as she boarded the train in Halifax that would carry her into her future, she was filled with mixed emotions: excitement, trepidation, self-doubt.  My grandmother saw her off at the station with homemade goodies to keep her well-fortified until she reached her destination:  a Thermos of beef stew, oatmeal bread, and apple pie, her favorite dessert.

I don’t know if the apple pie had anything to do with it, but my mother survived the journey and flourished in her new job in Connecticut.  On her days off, she’d board another train — this one bound for New York City, where she’d shop a little, explore a little, buy herself a ticket to a Broadway play, and then take herself out to lunch someplace fancy — I remember her mentioning Sardi’s as being one of her favorite spots.  And yes, she’d have pie for dessert.

Marie MacDougall Vogel (left) in Times Square, circa 1955

Isn’t she something?

Gotta love those white gloves.

And so, in honor of National Pie Day, and in honor of my darling mother, here’s the Frederick family’s favorite recipe for apple pie!

FRENCH APPLE PIE

Unbaked pie shell

6-7 cups tart apples (we use Granny Smith’s), peeled, cored, and sliced paper thin

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

A little extra butter for dotting on the apples

Topping:

½ c. butter

½ c. brown sugar

1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 425.  Roll out pie crust and pat it into pie plate.  Crimp edge.

In a large bowl, mix sliced apples with sugar and spices.  Pile into prepared crust and dot with half a dozen or so thin slices of butter.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and brown sugar, then add flour, working it in until the mixture begins to come together and the crumbles are about the size of peas.  Sprinkle over pie.  Cover loosely with tinfoil (this prevents the crust from burning) and bake at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  (Yes, it needs to bake that long!)  It’s a good idea to either cover the rack you’re baking it on with foil, or place the pie plate onto a cookie sheet or something to catch any drips.

Remove foil.  If topping is golden brown, pie is done.  If not, let it cook without the foil for another five minutes or so.

Cool and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

Be still, my pie-loving heart

Sunday afternoons chez Frederick means two things — reading the Sunday paper over lunch, and later, at some point, a nap.

I haven’t gotten to the nap part yet, but I just finished the Sunday paper, and in case you missed this week’s Parade magazine, here’s a link to a fun article for fellow pie-lovers by Jane and Michael Stern, two of my favorite foodies.  What’s not to love about a couple who met a Yale, and have spent the last 25 years driving around America in search of good food?  Someday, I want to go on a road trip with those two.  Preferably next time they decide to head off and sniff out more of America’s greatest pies…

Pie chart, anyone?

Pie-of-the-month club – Jennifer Ward

On the menu for this fine Friday … drumroll, please … Jennifer Ward!  Please join me in welcoming Jen to the pie-of-the-month club.

Children's author Jennifer Ward

What have you been cooking up for readers, Jen?  Please tell us about your new book, and how it came about.

With pleasure!  It’s a zany and delicious picture book called THERE WAS AN OLD MONKEY WHO SWALLOWED A FROG (Marshall Cavendish).  Steve Gray illustrated it.  It’s a spoof on the traditional song, “I Know an  Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” only this modern re-take is set in the jungle with one very hungry monkey.

This is my second collaboration with Steve Gray.  We have a companion book titled, THERE WAS A COYOTE WHO  SWALLOWED A FLEA that is set in the desert.

Sounds fun!   I loved COYOTE, and can’t  wait to read this one.  How about your favorite pie-in-the-sky moment as a writer?  Have you ever had one of those “I never dreamed it would really happen to me” moments?

I feel blessed to have experienced many pie-in-the-sky moments in this line of work.  However, I would have to say the ultimate delicacy I’ve experienced would be that my very first manuscript  was accepted by the very first publisher it was offered to.  I suppose you could say I took the microwave route to getting published vs. the traditional, slow-cooking oven route…

Has there ever been a moment in your career when you had to eat humble pie?

Indeed there has been!  I recall doing my very first newspaper interview, a lovely three-page, full-color spread for a major city newspaper.  Being naive, I divulged information to the journalist following the interview, thinking it was off-the-record, including large subsidiary sales numbers for one of my books.  That content made its way into the article, and my publisher gave me a “hand-slap” of sorts, which felt like getting a pie in the face, for sure!

Now let’s REALLY talk pie.  What’s your favorite kind?  Do you have a favorite pie memory?  How about the recipe you’re sharing – can you give us a little background on it?

My favorite is coconut cream pie.  Mmmmm…just LOVE it!  I think the monkey in my new book would go ape over it, too!  I connect pies with special holidays and celebrations, so they’re a very “happy” food memory for me .
One of my sisters is a pastry chef/baker, so she’s the primary baker in the family. However, here’s an easy-as-pie recipe some of your readers may enjoy trying:

JENNIFER WARD’S COCONUT CREAM PIE

1 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 C whole milk
3 egg yolks
2 T. butter
1.5 tsp. vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes
1 baked and cooled 9 inch pie shell
Fresh whipped cream to top pie

Combine sugar, flour, salt, and milk in a saucepan over medium heat;.  Stir until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat to low and cook an additional two minutes.  Remove from heat.
Separate the egg yolks from whites and beat the egg yolks slightly.   Stir one cup of the hot mixture into yolks, then add it all to the saucepan and bring the entire mixture to a gentle boil. Cook and stir for two minutes  and then remove from heat.

Finally, add the butter, vanilla, and coconut to the hot mixture and stir.  Pour the hot filling into the baked pie crust. Cool.  When pie is completely cool, top with whip cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes.

Coconut cream is my favorite, too, and this recipe looks yummy.  Thanks, Jen!

This post is part of an ongoing celebration for a pair of pie-related books that I have coming out later this year (Babyberry Pie and Pies & Prejudice learn more here).  You can also read about fellow “pie-of-the-month club” selections Jane Kurtz, Toni Buzzeo, and Lisa Schroeder.  Be sure and drop back by again soon, because throughout 2010 I’ll be serving up more stellar books by some of my favorite authors and illustrators.  Oh, and pie is on the menu, too, of course.   Pie is ALWAYS on the menu here on my blog.  Enjoy!

National Pie Day

You’ve got to love a country that sets aside a whole day on the calendar to celebrate dessert.  Yes, my fellow Americans, it’s that time of year again — get out your rolling pins and let the flour fly!

Pie just happens to be my favorite dessert of all time.  I love ’em all — apple, pumpkin, cherry, lemon meringue, blueberry, marionberry (a Northwest specialty).  My favorites, though, are strawberry-rhubarb and coconut cream.  Mmmm.

And since it’s National Pie Day, I figured this would be the perfect time to announce two forthcoming books for 2010 which, coincidentally, are both pie-related.  What can I say?  I must have been piestruck when I picked up my pen…

Drumroll, please:

My first picture book!  And no, as you can see, I did not illustrate it (I can’t even draw stick figures).  The sublime Ms. Amy Schwartz did.  Wait until you see what she has in store — I’m absolutely head-over-heels in love with her artwork.  As a writer, handing over one’s manuscript to an illustrator is akin to handing over your newborn to a babysitter the first time you venture back out into the world.  Let’s just say there’s some trepidation involved.  With Amy, though, I hit the jackpot, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with her vision for my story.

Babyberry Pie will be published next fall by Harcourt.

The second book in my pie-a-palooza of a fall lineup is the fourth installment of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series.  The cover is almost-but-not-quite-ready-for-prime-time (check back here in a few days).  The title tells it all, though.  Pies & Prejudice hits the shelves in September, and I’ll bet you can guess what the book club will be reading this time around!

All this talk of pies is making me hungry.  Fortunately, there’s one waiting for me in the kitchen.

Coconut Cream Pie

Years ago, I coaxed one of the waitresses at Heather’s Cafe in Cannon Beach, Oregon, into sharing the restaurant’s recipe for coconut cream pie.  The cafe, alas, is no longer in business, but its memory lingers on in this sweet treat.  Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Cream Pie
Heather’s Cafe — Cannon Beach, Oregon

1 c. heavy cream
3 c. milk (don’t use less than 2%)
1-1/4 c. sugar
6 egg yolks
4 T. cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 T. vanilla
1 T. butter
3-4 cups coconut
Baked pie crust
Whipped cream

In a bowl, mix 1/2 c. milk, salt, egg yolks, and cornstarch.

Bring remaining cream, milk, and sugar to a gentle boil.  Pour a bit slowly into the egg mixture, stir, then slowly pour egg mixture back into the heated milk (the point here is to avoid scrambled eggs).  Return to medium low heat and stir until thickened and boiling (small bubbles, not full rolling boil).  Boil for about four minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.  Add 3 cups coconut (more or less, depending on your preference).  Cool.  Pour into baked and cooled pie crust.  Top with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.

Happy National Pie Day!

Good neighbors and good eggs

Dahilas 1Seventeen years ago this week we moved from Boston to Portland, Oregon, a place we’d never even visited before.  We’d had it with the East Coast rat race — not to mention a two-hour commute each day — and were ready to light out for the territories.

We’ve never looked back.

We landed in a ’50s ranch tucked away in a quiet little neighborhood ten minutes from downtown.  From my kitchen window I can see my neighbor’s barn and tidy home, part of the original dahlia farm from which our small subdivision was fashioned.  I was reminded of this last night when my husband and I took our dog for a walk.  It was twilight, and suddenly the air was alight with swallows.  We stood and watched them dipping and wheeling in their graceful airborne dance.  Then just as suddenly, they were gone.

Swallows’ Haven Farm is long gone, too, but my neighbor honors its memory by growing dahlias of her own.  Come winter, she’ll dig up the tubers and store them in the original bulb house with its wall lined with wooden drawers, but now, in late summer, her garden is alive with color.  She plants dozens of varieties and produces dazzling bouquets, many of which, like this one on my breakfast table this morning , make it across the back fence to our house.  So do vegetables of all varieties, and now that she’s added her own flock of chickens, so do fresh eggs.  It’s like having our own private farmer’s market. 

Her chickens arrived just as we were saying goodbye to ours (see my related post “End of an era“), so the eggs have been especially welcome.  I bake fresh bread each week for my family, and I give her a loaf in exchange for a dozen.  It’s an arrangement that makes everybody happy. 

But then, who wouldn’t be happy, living next door to such a wonderful neighbor — and such a good egg?

It’s reigning Julia

2009_julie_and_julia_001Just in the door from seeing “Julie & Julia” — in a word, divine!  Meryl Streep is amazing; they might as well just hand her the Academy Award right now.  Stanley Tucci more than held his own, and Amy Adams was adorable as always.

The HP (Handsome Prince, my mother’s code name for my husband) took me out for French fries afterwards — Five Guys, of course, he knows me well.  OK, so a patio table on a sidewalk in Beaverton, Oregon isn’t quite the same as a corner booth in a bistro in Paris, France.  We pretended to be Paul and Julia anyway…