Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mom's Delectable Pumpkin Pie

Hello everyone - I'm Tina Vozick, aka teevoz - Paul and I have been together since 1968, married since 1976. (I was, of course, a child bride.) Our two kids, now grown, will attest that he knows a lot about food, but other than toast, a boiled egg, and chicken nuggets, he's really not the one you want to cook for the family. So I'll be chiming in from time to time here with some recipes and other thoughts about food, broadly interpreted.

I'll start with a great recipe. We have some lactose-intolerant family members, so a few Thanksgivings ago I was looking for a non-dairy recipe for pumpkin pie, and found this gem - now it's my recommendation for anyone who wants a smooth and creamy treat, easy to make, whether or not you can eat dairy products. I think it's even better than traditional pumpkin pie recipes.


3/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
or you can substitute pumpkin pie spice for the ginger, nutmeg & cloves
1 tablespoon of maple syrup or 1/4 tsp maple extract (optional)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, just plain old pumpkin)
1-1/4 cups soy milk (10 oz.) - plain or vanilla is even better
2 large eggs

I use a store-bought 10” graham cracker crust, the one that says “2 extra slices” – if you use a 9” graham cracker crust you’ll have a little filling left over that you can do in individual small graham cracker crusts. Or you can make a crumb crust yourself - or if you're really adventurous, a pastry crust. I'm not that adventurous, and the graham cracker crust is delicious.

1. In a large bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Add pumpkin, soy milk, maple syrup and eggs; whisk until well blended - by hand or electric beater. Pour mixture into crust in pan.

2. Set pie on bottom rack of a pre-heated 425° regular (not microwave!) oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350°; continue baking until center of pie is just set, about 40 minutes longer. The center should be set, but still jiggle when you give it a shake. To keep the pie from overcooking or the crust burning, turn off the oven, open it, but leave the pie inside to cool: it will continue to cook. After about 20 minutes, take it out of the oven to finish cooling.

3. Set pie on a rack until cool, at least 2 hours. After serving, chill the rest of the pie, airtight, if there's any left. I never have this problem. You could serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on top if you need the dairy fix.

Don't worry if the top of the pie cracks - it always does. But if you're the type of neatnik who wants an uncracked top, try this tip - my daughter said she read that if you put a pan of hot water at the bottom of the oven on a rack below your pie, the steam allows the pie to stay moist while it still cooks and will prevent the cracking. I must say, I'm both skeptical and unsure of why anyone cares if the pie cracks, but give it a whirl and let me know if it works!

I should also mention that you don't have to slavishly follow the quantities - especially the spices and the amount of sugar - you can adjust it to your taste. This is a pretty forgiving recipe, my favorite kind.

I know, it's not Thanksgiving. But trust me, you'll love this pie any time of year, and it is fast and easy to boot.

Bon appetit... and let me know here how it comes out!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dark Pretzels

PL here ...

You've probably heard that pretzels were invented by a monk in the early dark ages - to reward children for learning their lessons - and fashioned to symbolize arms folded in prayer. But there's no real proof of that, and besides, that's not the reason I love pretzels. As with all things food and drink, for me to key inducement is they taste great and/or are good for you, in some combination.

Now, I like my popcorn and potato chips, too, and will probably be posting little reflections on them, here, sooner or later, but the the fact that I'm writing about pretzels first may tell you something.

And of all the many pretzels, there is one kind that I hold high above all others: the Pennsylvania Dutch extra dark, with low sodium, if possible.

The Dutch actually is comes from Deutch, as in German, and with Pennsylvania in front of it we're talking about the Amish and their brethen who live near Lancaster, as well as Ohio and other places with farms. My family and I have had more than a handful of unique, once-in-a-lifetime food from that area - strawberries that we picked, apricots which had just been picked from a nearby tree - these were the best we ever ate, and remind me to write about them, if I don't soon.

We first saw the dark PA Dutch pretzels in the Bird-in-Hand Farmer's Market a few miles east of Lancaster. We loved them, bought at least a dozen bags to bring back home to New York, and did that for several years, increasing the number of bags each time. That Farmer's Market is open all year around, and also has some great cheeses and other goodies, and one or two times we even drove there in the winter to get our pretzels.

But the bag I have in front of me was purchased in a Mrs. Green's on Central Avenue in Westchester. It's not the same company that made the Bird-in-Hand bags - this one is "Happy Herbert's" - but the pretzels are just as good.

Crisp, the surface has the just the right resistance, and the inside tastes and feels just right on your tongue. So good, you won't even want to dilute the experience by putting the pretzel in a dip. Plus, they're great for watching your favorite television, which can be good for you, too.