Chocolate Pie (Oh, my!)

One of my goals for 2016 is to eat more pie.

Just kidding.

I have no plans to eat more pie. I have no plans to eat less pie either.

My parents gave me a deep pie dish for Christmas. And since I’ve also been hankering a chocolate pie, I consulted my favorite cooking site, Pioneer Woman. I hit the jackpot. (No surprise there!)

Here’s Ree’s Marlboro-Man-Approved Chocolate Pie recipe.

And here’s my finished product, (it’s not the best picture, but I didn’t want to breathe all over it trying to get a better one):

chocolate-pie_pioneer-woman_recipe

I haven’t sliced the pie yet, (it’s for New Year’s Day dinner), but I licked the spoon, the spatula, and the pan (because I have no shame). The pie filling is wonderful! Unless something happens, like I drop the pie plate getting it to where it’s going (which could totally happen), this is another successful Pioneer Woman recipe from start to finish.

Note: I used 6 ¼ ounces of Baker’s unsweetened (bittersweet) chocolate plus ¼ ounce of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate—because I got scared that it would be too bitter. Not that ¼ of an ounce would make much difference, but it appeased my neurosis. For the moment, anyway.

If “Eat Mor Choklit” is your motto for 2016, consider giving this pie a try!

Overnight Guests of Grantsville, Maryland

Less than three hours from the big city bustle of Baltimore and Washington DC, Grantsville is home to 1,000 residents and host to visitors seeking country respite.

Travelers are not strangers to this quiet, western Maryland town. In the 1800s, the area was a stagecoach stop along the National Road, a route which created a pass through the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio Valley westward. In those days, road-weary souls often stayed at The Casselman Inn—a National Register Historic Place that is still open to guests.

Although a new route (US 40) has long since replaced the Old National Road, the original route still passes through Grantsville—and passes by The Casselman Inn.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Inn recently with some of my family—partly in honor of my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary (wow, right?) and partly because of the town’s annual Christmas in the Village. … But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the Casselman.

Casselman_Inn_Exterior_2015

The Casselman Inn is second generation family-owned and operated.

Come on "inn" and I'll show you around.

Come on “inn” and I’ll show you around. (photo credit: Lisa Morrison)

Cassleman_2015_Parlor

The front parlor, with its deep window seats, is simple and charming.

Casselman_Dorsey_Suite

The Inn has been known by many names over the years, including Dorsey’s Inn. The two-room Dorsey Hotel Suite is the crown jewel of the Inn.

Casselman_Dorsey_Suite_2

One of the sitting areas in the Dorsey Suite.

Casselman_Dosey_Suite_2015-2

The Dorsey Suite mixes modern conveniences with antique elements.

Cassleman_Room_2015

The Inn offers two more rooms (such as this one), plus 40 rooms in the motor lodge next door.

Casselman_2015_Christmas-2

Christmastime is a great time to visit The Casselman Inn. — Grantsville, MD

About a quarter mile down the Pike is Penn Alps Restaurant and Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which hosts the annual Christmas in the Village (now in its 31st year), and features local artisans and their wares. Here are a few photos from this year’s event:

Penn_Alps_2015_Weaver

The circa 1776 Glotfelty House is now a weaver’s studio. (Hurry sundown for the lighting of the luminaries!)

Christmas_Pottery_Penn_Alps_2015

Looking through the window of Lynn Lais’ pottery studio, some of his lovely work is on display along the windowsill. Nary a year goes by that my parents don’t buy a piece or two from this talented potter. (In fact, that’s my Mom and my sister inside purchasing their pieces.)

PenAlps_Woodwork_2015

The woodturner’s studio, a circa 1913 schoolhouse, was bedecked in laser lights. Incidentally, I have an exquisite (and functional!) rolling pin from this artisan (Gene Gillespie) that features a multi-colored design of local and exotic woods.

Christmas_in-the_Village

Spruce Forest Artisan Village with all the luminaries lit.

Walking around the Village can work up an appetite. The adjacent Penn Alps Restaurant provides stick-to-your-ribs comfort food as well as lighter fare for those thus inclined. I wasn’t thus inclined. I savored every bite of my oh-so-tender hot roast beef sandwich, real mashed potatoes and gravy, and almost-as-good-as-Mom’s cup of German vegetable soup.

Penn_Alps_Tree_2015.jpg

I’ll spare you a food photo and show you the Christmas tree in the entry of Penn Alps Restaurant — Grantsville, MD

For the after-dinner sweet tooth, a little further down the Pike is the Hilltop Fruit Market. But don’t let the name fool you—it’s home to Candyland, too!

Grantsville_CandyLand

The Hilltop Fruit Market, home of the illustrious Candyland, is located along the National Pike in Grantsville, MD. (There are at least two more rows of candy not shown in this picture! Some of it is old fashioned candy or hard to find, or both!)

With visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, our sleep was sweet and we awoke to the smell of sticky buns baking and bacon crisping. Breakfast at The Cassleman Restaurant was free with our stay. I’m not sure which was more enjoyable, the food or the delightful conversation we had with the locals at a nearby table.

While the bustle of busy-ness has its place, (indeed, those who made our stay memorable were working quite hard to do so!), there is much to be said for slowing down and savoring the moment. This Christmas, I hope you are able to slow down and enjoy the season. (In fact, I hope that I am able to slow down and enjoy the season!) And for those, like Charlie Brown, who find themselves asking, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”, this scene along Main Street in Grantsville beautifully depicts the reason for Christmas:

Grantsville_Nativity_Scene

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” — Luke 2:11

Big Taste: Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

I hope you had a wonderful Easter! (And if you follow a church calendar in which Easter Sunday marks just the beginning of the Easter season—a fifty-day period that spans the observance of Jesus’ resurrection, His ascension to Heaven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit upon Christians on the Day of Pentecost—then I hope this season has begun with great joy.)

I’ve been craving cupcakes lately, so I decided to make some in celebration of Easter Day. I searched the ‘Interwebs’ for a scaled-down recipe and found a promising Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes recipe at a deliciously appealing website called celebratingsweets.com. The recipe yielded five (5) cupcakes.

Whipping up the batter was straightforward, and the cupcakes baked in about 17 minutes for me. The icing came together in less than five minutes, resulting in a smooth and creamy consistency. (Oh yes, I licked the beaters. And scraped the icing bowl clean, too.)

small-batch_vanilla_cupcakes_2015

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes (recipe by celebratingsweets.com).

My photo doesn’t do them justice—food photography is not my forte, but I’m willing to work on it one delicious treat at a time.

This Little Piggy: Thanksgiving Traditions & A Psalm

Traditions. Most families have them. Especially when it comes to holidays. My family included.

Nary a Thanksgiving went by, growing up, when we didn’t have Shoo Fly Pie. Mom would get out the worn notecard with the recipe written in Grandma Sullivan’s hand and work her magic.

Shoo Fly Pie is an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. It’s kind of like pecan pie—but without the nuts—and sawdust pie—but without the dryness. Okay, maybe that didn’t sound too appetizing. Let me try this again: baked into a flaky pie crust is a gooey bottom of molasses goodness topped with moist, brown sugar cakiness and mingled with the spiciness of cloves and cinnamon.

As much as I like Shoo Fly Pie, it’s a bit of a bother to me. Why? Because whenever I make it, it doesn’t turn out quite like “tradition.” Something always goes wrong. Always.

Twenty years ago, I put my first Shoo Fly Pie into the gas oven at my St. John’s Wood apartment in Richmond. I waited. And waited. An hour later, despite heat, the pie was just as jiggly as when I put it in. The mysterious failure haunted me for years. I’ve since mastered brownies, cakes, and other pies, but not Shoo Fly Pie.

Two years ago, I made a Shoo Fly Pie…and even blogged about it. The pie looked beautiful; but as it was cooling and my post was hot off the press, I opened my microwave to find the melted stick of butter that should have been inside the pie. Fortunately, I had used butter-flavored Crisco, so it was actually quite edible. Yet it fell short of tradition.

Grandma Sullivan's Shoo Fly Pie, a Thanksgiving favorite in my family.

(The late) Grandma Sullivan’s Shoo Fly Pie is a Thanksgiving favorite in my family. Shoo Fly Pie is open to interpretation. There are wet-bottom versions and dry-bottom versions. My family’s recipe is a combination of the two—a wet bottom layer with a moist, cake-like (not powdered) consistency throughout and on top. Pictured here is my 2012 attempt—the one where I forgot the butter. Sigh.

A bit down, but not out, I baked a Shoo Fly Pie for Thanksgiving this year. And (again!) something went wrong. Very wrong. Within two minutes of putting the pie gingerly into the oven, I heard a sizzling sound. The pie was spilling over my fluted crust like water over a dam. The oven was filling with smoke. I got creative with the crust, which stopped the deluge but did nothing to quench the brown sugar that was bubbling and burning on the oven floor. I simultaneously scraped the oven clean and baked the pie. (Do not try this at home.) An hour later, a version of Shoo Fly Pie stared up at me from a cooling rack. All in all, it again looked quite edible. How it tastes remains to be seen.

shoofly_pie

My 2014 version of Shoo Fly Pie, with the doctored up crust. (Double sigh.) But the brown goo around the edges has me hopeful that I achieved the proper balance of wetness, moist cake, and spices.

A bit glum but ever determined, I then rolled out the remaining pie dough and made piggies. That’s another family tradition—a way to use the scraps of dough when making pie crusts. I slathered the dough with butter, sprinkled it with sugar and cinnamon, rolled it into a loaf, and cut it into pieces. Baked at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, the result was a plate full of cinnamon pigtails. Piggies. 

cinnamon-piggiesPies and piggies are perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving treats and traditions. But things (and this post) need not end there. And so I leave you with a psalm for giving thanks. It’s the second psalm that I memorized as a little girl, and it’s my favorite.

Psalm 100: 1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

*- A blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours. -*