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Happy National Pie Day: Our 10 Favorite Pie Recipes

@Guycooking: I used to see the recipe for Mock Apple Pie all the time and wonder why anyone needed a pie made with Ritz when apples always seem to be plentiful. (My guess is that it was created for someone who liked apples but was allergic to them..) I haven't seen it in some time, though, so I think it's gone to the recipe graveyard...

Anyway, I did make the Mock Apple Pie a while ago, as a joke. My sister in law was also intrigued (and puzzled) by this recipe, and one day I quipped I'd have to make her one. Being that SIL has had some bad experiences with food, I knew she'd have to be gently coaxed into eating such a thing.

One night, the Mock Apple Pie was presented at a family dinner (I was asked to make a dessert, and did make another, more delectable one, as well). When asked what was for dessert, I said I had brownies and also a "special pie". To which SIL asked, "What IS special pie?" I told her she'd have to try a piece. So the mock apple pie was sliced and given to all who wanted some. (I even put a dollop of whipped cream atop each slice.)

On first glance, it did look similar to an apple pie. It tasted similar to an apple pie. It was the texture, however, that really perplexed everyone, especially my SIL. "It tastes like apple pie, but I can't figure out what this is!" she said. I had to keep a straight face for a few minutes, then revealed my little secret. Needless to say, everyone had a good laugh, opted to eat the brownies, with this becoming yet another funny family story. (And no, I have not made another one since.)

William-Sonoma gift card.

I just picked up two cans of mulling spice on sale last weekend (I think it was $3 a can, a nice-sized tin; one for me and one for a friend). Lucky you to have all those gift cards handy!

Making Fried Chicken for the first time

I swear by the Laurie Colwin recipe (from her book "Home Cooking") which is very easy:

*chicken should be put in a dish covered with a little milk (to keep flour coating on). Let chicken stand at room temperature
*flour should be put in a deep, wide bowl with salt, pepper, and a bit of paprika added
*coat chicken by placing a few pieces at a time in bowl and packing on flour. Let chicken sit until oil is heated.
*she recommends a chicken fryer (a steep-sided pan with domed top); I have used my wok pan (an All Clad wok/pan with domed top) with great results.
*a combination of three parts vegetable or canola oil (Wesson) with one part light sesame oil is recommended
*oil should come up to just under halfway mark of pan; heat it slowly until a piece of skewered bread fries as soon as you dip it (if it fries up, you're ready).
*Put in as many pieces as will fit (it's okay to crowd a little). Turn down heat at once and cover pan. About six minutes or so per side, but dark meat may require a bit more time. Turn over only once.
*Use sharp fork as a tester; when chicken slips off fork, it is done. At this point, take off cover, turn up heat, and fry until chicken is dark honey in color. Set on a platter and put in warm oven until reay to serve.

We Tried Ben and Jerry's New Schweddy Balls Flavor

Tried it at a local B&J shop; it was good, not great, so I doubt I'll be getting it again anytime soon. Have to admit the name does make me laugh like a 12 y.o. -- if I recall, there were some parents getting their proverbial panties in a knot about Schweddy Balls when it was introduced. (People just need to lighten up a bit!)

10 Cranberry Dessert Recipes We Love

Cranberries are wonderful -- I have several recipes which incorporate cranberries, including one for quick bread, one for a coffee cake (however, this recipe calls for canned whole cranberries), and a cookie one similar to the one posted (mine is from Bon Appetit and also includes white chocolate chips and uses craisins, although fresh cranberries may be used as well). It's also helpful to stock up on a bag or two of fresh cranberries when they go on sale during Thanksgiving (they can be frozen for up to a year, I believe).

We Try Every Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory

Getting hungry just looking at these; it's been some time since I've had a slice from the Cheesecake Factory. (And I envy those of you who had to cover this assignment.) For those who are obsessing over the caloric/fat intake: why not just share it with someone else? (I do admit these are nice-sized portions, but I have been a bit piggy on occasion and have had no qualms about having a full slice all for myself.)

What Happens When You Order Every Mix-In at Cold Stone Creamery?

Thanks for sharing -- wonder what one would call a mix-in creation using everything in the mix-in pile, "The Glutton"? :) Seriously, though, Cold Stone is an occasional treat for me. The ice cream itself is okay, which is why you really need those mix-ins. (Also a bit too pricey, if you ask me.) There's also another mix-in chain here in NJ, Maggie Moo's, although it's been some time since I've visited one. (My favorite ice cream shops are either Ben & Jerry's for the old-fashioned, flavored, scoopable stuff, or Dairy Queen for when I crave soft-serve ice cream.)

Stocking The Bar: Which Bottles Are Essential To You?

Our home bar is simple but stocked with the following: vodka, rum (currently I have our standard Bacardi White, along with a coconut-flavored I tried with my Christmas coquito recipe), bourbon, tequila (a good-quality reposado --we are staying away from the cheap crap), and a single-malt scotch. Mixers/liqueur on hand include triple sec, vermouth (both sweet and dry), creme de menthe (not a necessity, but left over from a previous Christmas recipe), anisette, and limoncello. We usually have gin, although neither my husband nor I touch the stuff (we have guests who do on occasion). Additionally, we also have a few bottles of red and white wine, a bottle of port, and two bottles of prosecco left over from the holidays. (I prefer prosecco to champagne, and the price tag is also bearable.)

Also an important part of our bar: a cocktail shaker and a Mr. Boston's guide (although we do go online to look up cocktails if they're not listed).

Cakespy: Homemade Starbucks-Style Cranberry Bliss Bars

Would love to make these; I did sample one from Starbucks and it was love at first bite. And I usually don't wax rhapsodic about most commercially-made goods.

Wake and Bake: Peanut Butter Sesame Breakfast Bars

These sound great; however, the link to the recipe doesn't work. Could someone at Serious Eats fix this, please, or redirect me elsewhere? Many thanks!

Taste Test: Eggnog

I used to like prepackaged eggnog (must've been a local dairy, like Farmland), provided it was doctored up with Southern Comfort. Once I was turned onto coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog-type drink) a number of years back, I can't drink anything else.

Room temp butter - what type of storage?

Didn't know one could do this -- good to know. I'm not sure I'd leave butter out at room temperature if it was warmer outside. (I have a ceramic dish with cover, so I guess that's good.)

New Cheerios Flavors: Multi Grain Peanut Butter and Dulce de Leche

Has anyone tried the Apple and Cinnamon Cheerios? I'd imagine they're somewhat similar to Apple Jacks,. maybe a tad less sweet. (My 8 y.o. seems to like them, although she also likes the other varieties of Cheerios, including Honey Nut and Multigrain, and the original "yellow box" variety.)

I think I'll pass on the peanut butter and dulce de leche flavors, however.

5 Songs About Drinking Beer

Here's one (about lousy beer) by David Johansen,which he covered during his Buster Poindexter era. Enjoy!

How do you save money at the grocery store? Coupons?

I do what my parents always did: plan a weekly menu (also handy to have an idea as to what I should make most nights). From there, I will look at the weekly flyer from my supermarket as inspiration (for meal ideas based on weekly specials, and/or to replenish my pantry). I do clip coupons, but most of the time, I come up short, as I don't buy a ton of papers, nor do I use many of the items being couponed. Store brands do work in many cases, and on occasion, I do supplement from other places (Trader Joe's, Fairway, ethnic markets) as needed. Additionally, there are great stock-up sales this time of year: Shop Rite has been holding a "Can Can" sale ever January -- a good time to buy things like canned beans, broths, tuna, and tomatoes, for instance.

What are your favorite brands of Slivovitz?

Dear God...whenever I hear the word "slivovitz," I think back to the Christmas party my husband (then-boyfriend) and his former roommate threw way back. A good friend of his brought some slivovitz to the party (from a trip he took to the Czech Republic that summer), which resulted in almost all the guests getting pretty loaded after one shot, and clearing out pronto. I wound up passing out, fully dressed, including shoes, and having a horrendous hangover the next day, as did my husband. The lights were still on, the front door of his apartment was still open. Slivovitz: never again!

Thin is now IN, Holidays are OUT

It always seems to be a big push for compensating against holiday overindulgence every January, with the plethora of dieting/fitness club ads. Most people start out with great intentions, then the motivation goes away, only to return the same time next year. It's a pretty insidious thing, and I bet the so-called "diet" companies are in cahoots with the snack industry folks, as you'll be getting the barrage of snack ideas for the "Big Game" at month's end, not to mention the upcoming chocolate orgies for Valentine's Day and Easter...

I did a great job getting back into shape last year (lost about 40 lbs., but continued to eat well, albeit in moderation, along with returning to a regular fitness routine). However, I knew the Christmas/New Year season would result in my slipping a bit, and I allowed myself to, with minimal damage, and enjoying all my favorite holiday treats (hey, I'm only human, and I freely admit to enjoying food).

Just wondering, do you feel okay eating alone at a restaurant?

Maybe I'm odd, but whenever I used to travel for business, it was nice to get out and have a meal solo at a restaurant, rather than order an overpriced, mediocre dinner from the hotel's room service menu (althought it would do fine if it was a late night and I was truly famished). Bringing a good book/magazine always helps, and in some cases, I would prefer to be seated at the bar, so as not to feel too lonesome, and to enjoy my meal without feeling I was "hogging" valuable table space for a duo or trio.

Favorite Eggnog?

I must be among the few eggnog fans -- most people seem to be turned off by it (probably because it is not clear, and tends to be full of fattening stuff). I used to buy the premade eggnogs (some are better than others) and doctor them up with some Southern Comfort. However, I was turned onto coquito a number of years ago, and have been making my own ever since. (My sister-in-law in particular loves it, so at least I have someone to share it with.) I am actually contemplating making it with coconut rum this year -- has anyone else ever tried that?

A Sandwich a Day: The Bobbie at Capriotti's in Wilmington, DE

Didn't know this even had a name. I just thought it was something special that I cobble together with Thanksgiving leftovers every year (although not on the same type of bread). Only a few months until we'll be doing this at home!

Put your shopping carts back where they belong, Please!

One of my big pet peeves, esp. at supermarkets with ample corrals in which to return carts. I always make an effort to (a) return cart to the corral; (b) offer cart to an incoming shopper (thus killing two birds with one stone) or (c) offer cart to one of the cart collection guys when they're making the rounds.

Leaving shopping carts in parking spaces smacks of laziness. I can cut a break for the elderly/disabled/parents with very young kids, but other shoppers just blithely unload, dump cart in the most convenient spot (as opposed to walking 25 feet to a corral, God forbid), and drive off with nary a thought. I also don't appreciate having a new(ish) car get damaged as a result of someone else's carelessness. So I do my best to make sure the same doesn't happen to someone else's car.

I used to go to a local supermarket (which has recently closed) and my big peeve was the lack of corrals. One would have to walk over to the front of the supermarket to return the cart to its front-of-store corral. I felt that caused a number of problems, including a glut of carts within the parking lot, and a tendency for the carts to be stolen (I'd always see the telltale blue carts in odd places, including the banks of the river near the store.) Unless it was really inconvenient (bad weather, small child in car), I did make the walk to/from the corral, which was about 100 or so feet away from where I parked.

With regard to the "they need jobs" rationale: my SIL used that line years ago when I had accompanied her on a shopping trip. I was about to return a cart to the corral, but she said I should leave it. "You're taking away someone else's job," she said. (Although her intent was not altruistic.)

And yes, this isn't a direct food-related topic. For many of us, however, having to drive to a supermarket, park one's car (if one is fortunate to find an available, convenient space immediately), get cart, shop, then return to car, and unload is a weekly ritual that can be either pleasant or a pain in the rear. (Much as I don't enjoy food shopping, I don't feel ready to go the Peapod route anytime soon.) If we could all learn to be considerate of one another, the experience wouldn't be as aggravating as it could be.

Do You Remember Hojo's?

I used to frequent the HoJo's adjacent to Route 87 in Yonkers, NY. Also a big fan of the fried clams -- probably the one entree I ate there on a regular basis. HoJo's was nothing fancy, just a good family restaurant. I was also fond of their sundaes (esp. the Fudge-ana, I think it was called) but Friendly's soon became a favorite for that (but with much slower service).

My sister and I were also members of the HoJo's Birthday club. Having a joint birthday, we were able to have a few birthday parties there. And maybe I'm in the minority here, but I liked the coconut-frosted birthday cake (although I remember the cake being yellow, not chocolate).

Breakfast Burritos.. Do they Exist on the East Coast?

Of course they exist on the East Coast; one can go to most any Mexican or Tex/Mex restaurant and find these on the brunch menu. I've been making my own for years (scrambled eggs, refried beans or leftover cooked beans, salsa, shredded cheese, avocado all wrapped into a burrito, warmed, then topped with more salsa and a little sour cream. Not a bad way to have breakfast!

The Food Lab: A Better Way to Caramelize Onions (Plus, French Onion Dip!)

I've gone this route on a couple of occasions to make a homemade onion dip: caramelizing the onions (and resisting temptation to eat them beforehand), then combining with sour cream/mayo and other seasonings. I think I had an Alton Brown recipe.

The result? People didn't seem to be into homemade onion dip the way they would had I put out a commercial dip (like Helluva Good, which is better, marginally, than the Lipton Soup California Dip of my childhood). And yet they'll eat other "from scratch"-type dips I've prepared (a spinach dip I make from a Cook's recipe; homemade guacamole; black bean dip, and a few others). Maybe I'll try it again when the mood strikes, but opt for the mediocre but familiar. Go figure!

Wine Pairing: What To Drink with Chili

And why not -- much as we think about a beer/chili pairing, a good, full-bodied wine (such as a Shiraz or Zinfandel) work just fine for me as well.

@inlucern: my husband likes to do that, too (add a bit of wine to his chili). And it goes without saying that if the wine's not good enough for the cook, it's not good enough for the chili (or whatever you're adding it to ;))


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