A Year of Picnics


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  • Oh what lovely company to find several of my bookshellip
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Honey Pie, for Pi Day

Honey PieHoney Pie 2

Right this minute, the entire mid-Altantic and northeast regions of the U.S. are getting hammered by a blizzard. Even here in our forested western North Carolina cove, there are blustery winds and tiny snowflakes tossing every which way. Spring might be slated for a mere week from now, but winter is definitely giving us a last hurrah.

Today, though, is all about pie, or Pi, as it were. As defined by Wikipedia “The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi” (/paɪ/).” And because I love a good pun, and cheekiness in general, what better way to celebrate math, and pie, and the intersection of mid-March (3/14) with almost spring than to bake. Amiright?

To that end, I present you with my recipe for Honey Pie. Sweet without being cloyingly so, this is the kind of pie that you bake, and then, poof, it disappears. You, and those in your home, will keep creeping back for additional slices and bites and before you know it, the pie has been completely consumed. I guarantee it. It’s that good. And, because hope always springs eternal, as it were, we topped the pie with forsythia and quince blooms from our yard (both of which are edible), and fried sage leaves, for a bit of spring cheer.

Happy Pi day, happy Pie Day, happy almost-spring, and happy Wednesday!

ALSO: Spring-y pies from years past:

Carrot Pie
Strawberry Crumble-Top Pie


Honey Pie (from A Year Of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies, Ashley English, Lark Books, 2012)
Given a good supply of available nectar, honeybees will have honey ready to harvest in late spring. This custard-based pie showcases honey’s ambrosial qualities with every bite. Incredibly easy to make, this pie would make a wonderful gift for your own “Sweetie.” If you want to really guild the lily, serve a slice with a small glass of honey mead.
Makes: One 9-inch pie.

You will need:
½ recipe Basic Pie Dough (recipe below)

-1 cup whole milk
-4 large eggs, room temperature
-1/2 cup honey
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-Pinch of salt
-Nutmeg, freshly grated

Prepare the crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of your pie pan.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust 6-7 times with a fork, then place the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Line the piecrust with parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, then remove from the oven, leaving the oven at 400 degrees F. Remove the dried beans or pie weights and parchment paper from the crust, and cool it completely before filling.

Prepare the filling:
Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Watch carefully and remove the pan from the heat just before bubbles begin forming on the surface of the milk. Set aside. Whisk the eggs, honey, vanilla, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add the warmed milk to the egg mixture slowly, whisking in a bit at a time before adding more. Once all of the milk is added to the egg mixture, whisk thoroughly to ensure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Assemble the pie:
Pour the filling mixture into the prepared crust, and then grate fresh nutmeg liberally over the surface.
Place the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Cool at least 1 hour before serving.


Basic Pie Dough
Makes 2 pie dough disks

You Will Need:
-2½ cups all-purpose flour
-1¼ teaspoons salt
-1 cup butter, chilled and cubed
-¾ cup ice water

To Make: 
Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (you should still have rather large bits of butter when you’re done). Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Stir with a mixing spoon until the dough starts to clump.

Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface, and fold it together into itself using your hands. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky. Cut the dough in half and shape into two balls. Wrap each dough ball in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Proceed according to the recipe instructions. Alternately, store the dough disks in an airtight container or zippered freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months (you’ll need to move the dough out of the freezer and into the refrigerator 24 hours before you plan to use it).

What I’m Digging

Pisgah late February 2017
It is late February, and I have the door open. That bears repeating-it is February, 2/3rd’s of the way through winter, and it’s warm enough both inside the house and outside of it that I can comfortably keep the door open to enjoy the fragrance of the forest, the abundant birdsong, and not have to keep getting up to let the cats and dogs in and out. It is strange, and disconcerting, and also very welcome, all at once.

I never intended to go months without blogging. I also equally never intended to experience the sort of challenging pregnancies that I do. We make our plans, and then we see where they go, right? Such is life. I love being a mother. I love the challenges it  presents and the rewards it offers more than any other work I do. That said, I don’t have easy pregnancies. This one in particular, at 40, has presented even more uphill climbs than my first, when I was 34. Though I am active and spry, a pregnancy at 40 is simply different. I move more slowly, I started showing earlier. Oh, and I groan like I have never groaned and moaned before in my life.

But, BUT, here I am, at 22 weeks, with a very active, very wiggly, very kicky little boy growing. It is both a comfort and a totally strange thing to have another life present inside of you, to have your own body serve as host to another’s. I met with a doula yesterday, my dear friend Sabrina. We didn’t use a doula with Huxley, but relied on our midwives for the entire birthing process. This go-round, I’ll be using the obstetrician who saved my life after Huxley was born (you can read the entire riveting experience here) for all of my ob/gyn needs.

But, as I age, and being a ferociously independent person my entire life (some might say stubborn…this might be true…), I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help. In fact, it’s necessary on occasion to actively solicit it. With this birth, I’m asking for help. For myself, for Glenn, and for Huxley, and Sabrina is the ideal person to offer it. She is wise and kind and empathic and comforting and lightening bolt smart, all at once. We chatted over tea yesterday afternoon at Dobra while our husbands and sons played together at a local park. Then we all went out for fried chicken. I left our time together feeling held, and supported, and acknowledged in a way I didn’t feel with my first pregnancy. Having an advocate, in the role a doula functions in, is a serious gift, to ourselves and to those we love.

In other, non-baby news, here’s a little smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention recently:

*A dear friend of ours passed away this week. He was, without question, one of the kindest people I have ever known. As my friend Nicole put it, “there are those people who light up a room, and those who light up the world.” If you feel so led, you can read his obituary here and consider a donation.

*This cast iron teapot warmer would be a lovely way to keep your Darjeeling toasty.

*Curious to check out this pack of all-natural food coloring with the season of egg-dyeing drawing closer.

*Came across a wintersweet plant several weeks ago. It had the most ambrosial aroma, much like honeysuckle, and there it was, blooming, in winter! Thinking of getting one for here in the cove.

*Like this small roundup from A Cup Of Jo of great podcasts to check out.

*It’s seed-staring time. Here’s a helpful guide for getting started.

*We’ve been trying to increase our intake of fermented foods here at home. Thinking of giving this kraut a go.

*Are you on Instagram? I love it. While I’ve been AWOL here since October, I’m there on the regular. Some of my favorite accounts to follow are Rudy Jude, Fox Meets Bear, House Inhabit, Floret Flower, Circle Of Pines, and Little Green Shed.

*Been exploring the world of face masks. Love this book for homemade ideas and this off-the-shelf tube.

*For reasons I can’t really explain, I’ve had Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band on my mind lately. I have no clue why. These things happen, and I try not to fight them. I was practically reared on Bob Seeger, The Eagles, and early Rod Stewart. Maybe it’s my childhood resurfacing while I’m pregnant. Who knows. I love Bob Seeger the way folks love Christmas. He’s kind of my litmus test for friendships. If you can’t hang with Bob, I don’t know if we can hang. I’m only kind of kidding there. Who couldn’t like this crooning?!

Alright, friends. A cold, wet front is moving in. I’ve got warm P.G. Tips in my mug, beeswax candles lit, a kick in my belly, and love for you in my heart.

Whatever you do this weekend, wherever you go, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!!!

*Glenn took this image of Mt. Pisgah yesterday afternoon from the top of our road. Looking more and more like spring everyday. 

Pie In the Sky

north-carolina-apple-pienorth-carolina-apple-pie-3 pie12
I try not to have favorites. I really do. Putting that qualifier-“favorite”-on anything puts undo pressure on both myself and on the object of my attention. Favorite songs, favorite movies, favorite restaurants; it’s all just a seriously slippery slope from adulation to expectation. That said, I really do think apples are my favorite fruit. I can’t help it. If my family had a coat of arms, I think apples would be on them.

To that end, I thought I’d share with you a few of my apple pie recipes from A Year Of Pies. Featured on two websites, the North Carolina periodical Our State and the Canadian blog The Art of Doing Stuff, don’t be surprised if you find yourself professing hyperbolic fruit preferences yourself.

*Chai Spice Apple Pie

*Brandy & Spice Apple Hand Pies

And for those of you looking to step up your pie dough-making skills, check out this post I did on crafting perfect pie dough on Design Sponge several years ago.

What about you? Have a beloved apple recipe? I’d love to hear about it!

What I’m Digging


Happy weekend, friends! It was 48 degrees here last night. There are five apple pies cooling on my counter, all for a pie walk to be held during the Michaelmas festival up at The Learning Village in a few hours. There is hot coffee in my mug, warm socks on my feet, and a mess of decorative gourds and pumpkins in front of me (insider tip=amazing selection and prices at the wholesale section of the Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market!). In short, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and all of my summer grumps have passed and I am beyond happy.

This week saw the beginning of the photo program for my southern foods book (out in 2018 with Roost). The dynamic duo husband-and-wife team of Johnny and Charlotte Autry, alongside their skilled assistant Kali, styled and photographed with grace and ease the dishes that Glenn and I cooked in the kitchen. Our porch was transformed into a photo site, and our dining room became the holding ground for the most beautiful selection of props I’ve ever seen. This is the 10th book I’ve done, and I still find myself transfixed by watching this part of the process, when the ideas become manifest.

In other non-cookbook news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this recently:

*Tis the time for saving seeds. Here’s a great tutorial on how to do so.

*My friend Sabrina turned me on to Amrita Aromatics. I haven’t purchased any yet, but I’m so intrigued!

*Janet Kent at Medicine County Herbs and Becky Beyers of Blood & Spicebush are local herbalists with incredible insights.

*A lunar embroidery kit from local artisan Cozy Blue.

*Homemade Sambuca, oh yes!

*Do you locals know about Living Web Farms? Their class roster looks phenomenal, as does their Fall Harvest Feast & Farm Storytelling dinner on November 15th.

*Cooler weather can translate to dry skin. I slather myself in Skyline Dairy’s Lemongrass & Vanilla goat milk lotion and keep my skin supple all cold weather season-long.

*Few things go better with cool weather than steaming mugs of chai. Here’s my go-to recipe.

*Huxley and I have been getting our Pep Rally on.  “I’m bout to whip it, whip it like potato salad.”

Time to go put on some flannel and wool socks and head up the mountain. Come on out and join us at the Michaelmas festival if you’re so inclined. Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!!!!

Cold Weather Wellness

I just checked the extended forecast, and, after Sunday, the next stretch of days in western North Carolina will all have high temperatures in the 70’s. AT LONG LAST! It’s no secret that hot, humid weather and I aren’t exactly tight buds. But, farewell to all that. Helloooooooooo to cardigans, knee high socks, hot tea, and sniffles!

That’s right, the most wonderful time of the year is also often the sickest time of the year for many, myself included. Over the years, though, I’ve wised up, and created a home apothecary of easily crafted remedies for bolstering winter wellness. I’ve shared them here before in the past, but the season is anew, and I wanted to share them with you again here today.

For my Elderberry & Honey Syrup, visit Design Sponge (I used to have a regular column there called “Small Measures” and it’s rife with nifty little DIY projects for home and body; also, I just wrote “nifty”, thereby 100% ensuring that I am my father’s daughter-if I say “dungarees,” though, I might need an intervention).

For my Fire Cider, visit Smoky Mountain Living (where I have a regular bi-monthly column). This is best made a month before you need it, so I’d suggest gathering up ingredients over the weekend and get yours going.

What about you? Have any homemade remedies for cold weather wellness you’d like to share? I’d love to learn about them. Wishing you and yours abundant health and a glorious autumn. Salut!

//Photo credits: Images 1 & 2 by Jen CK Jacobs, Image 3 by Meg Reilley//