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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #2 and Mini French Silk Pies

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Sometimes pampering is called for. And if you have a dessert with the words “French” and “silk” in the name, it probably falls in the category of pampering–as in rich and smooth and decadent.

But this week at Reading and Recipes we’re going to go you one better in the pampering department with your own personal dessert in these Mini French Silk Pies.

Now a slice of pie is great. Pie anytime, any way works for me. But there’s a problem with a slice of pie–the other guy or gal’s slice always looks bigger! So here you are with this yummy dessert in front of you, a rare and special treat; and all you can think of is that the person across the table got more than you. Kind of takes the fun out of eating that special treat.

But with these mini pies, you don’t have to worry about someone else getting more because you’ve got the whole pie! Now that’s what I call a special treat!

And that’s real pampering, R&R style!

mini french silk pies

Mini French Silk Pies

6 pre-made mini graham cracker crusts

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 pasteurized eggs, room temperature*

whipped cream for garnish

Unwrap the mini pie crusts and place on a cookie sheet. Set aside for now.

To make the filling, place the unsweetened chocolate into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power in 30 second intervals, until the chocolate is melted. Allow the chocolate to cool.

Meanwhile, add the butter to a mixing bowl and beat on high for 2-3 minutes, or until really fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla and cooled chocolate. Beat mixture another minute or two until ingredients are well incorporated and mixture is light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat on high for 2 minutes. Add the second egg and beat on high another two minutes. This is a lot of whipping and beating the ingredients, but it is the only way to get a fluffy filling! Scrape the sides of the bowl one last time and make sure all of the ingredients are well mixed. You know your filling is done when it is a very pale brown and not at all granular.

Divide the mixture between all 6 mini pie crusts and spread evenly. Refrigerate the pies for an hour. Serve chilled with a dollop of whipped cream or chocolate shavings. Cover and store leftover pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 mini pies.

*I recommend using pasteurized eggs since the eggs will not be cooked. Using pasteurized eggs reduces the risk of food-borne illness.

french silk pie

{Adapted from Pillsbury}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #2, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #2, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #27 and Apple Pie Smoothie

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Depending on where you live, fall may be making an early appearance or summer may be hanging on (or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is clinging or spring is getting started early). Wherever you live, mid-September is a time of transition–saying good-bye to one season, getting ready for the next.

And this week’s Apple Pie Smoothie is designed to ease you through that transition with its mix of subtle fruit flavors and a touch of sweetness for a filling and healthy snack. It’s cool and refreshing (if you’re caught in a heat wave) but also rich and energizing (if you’re experiencing a cold snap or–Heaven forbid!–a dusting of snow).

I also like to think of this as a tasty intro to apple season. You can sip on this smoothie and think of all the great ways you can prepare those crisp, fresh-picked apples starting to show up at the farmers’ markets.

Because mid-September is a time of transitions. And here at R&R we’re helping ease you through those changes!

apple pie breakfast Apple Pie Smoothie

1 frozen banana*

1 cup unsweetened applesauce or stewed apples

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup uncooked oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt or ice cream

1 handful of ice

apple pie smoothie

Add ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend on the highest speed for 30 seconds, or until ingredients are fully mixed. Serve immediately. If you desire, top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Makes 1 large smoothie, or two smaller smoothies.

*A fresh banana is fine too. Freezing the banana gives the smoothie a thicker texture.

apple pie smoothie drink

{Adapted from Gimme Some Oven}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #27 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #27, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #27, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #25 and Mini Strawberry Glazed Pies

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Kind of silly being nostalgic for spring with Labor Day weekend staring you in the face. This is the end of summer, or close to it. If you want to get nostalgic about a season, how about summer?

But no–this week at Reading and Recipes we’re looking all the way back to May: spring flowers blooming, leaves just starting to come out on the trees, and fresh strawberries in the fields waiting to be picked. These Mini Strawberry Glazed Pies are the essence of spring with their intense strawberry flavor in a compact single-serve packet. Just add a dollop of whipped cream and impress the heck out of your guests.

Or keep them all for yourself and make your tummy happy. I mean, we do have a long weekend staring us in the face. There’s one pie for Friday, one for Saturday, one for Sunday, and one for Monday. And who cares if it’s the traditional end of summer. With a bite of this pie in your mouth, it’s springtime year-round!

Happy Labor Day!

strawberry glazed pies

Mini Strawberry Glazed Pies

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1 pat unsalted butter

1 package mini graham cracker crusts (6 total)

mini strawberry glazed pies

To a large saucepan, add 1 cup strawberry slices, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and water. Mash the strawberries with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Heat ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to boil. Boil for a minute before removing from heat. Add butter and stir until completely melted. Set mixture aside to cool for 30 minutes.

Arrange mini crusts on a cookie sheet. Divide remaining cup of sliced strawberries between crusts. Pour cooled strawberry glaze over fresh strawberries. Serve pies immediately, with a dollop of whipped cream. Cover and store any remaining pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 mini pies.

strawberry glazed pie

{Family recipe}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #25 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #25, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #25, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #16 and Rustic Brown Sugar Cherry Tarts

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If you’re like me, you are intimidated by the idea of making a pie.

And the anxiety is all tied to the challenge of making the crust. The thought of getting the dough exactly the right consistency, rolling it out between sheets of wax paper, transferring it to the pie plate, getting it centered in the pie plate, distributing it around the pie plate, and all without tearing it–AARGH: I’m having a panic attack just thinking about it.

And that’s too bad, since eating pie is as pleasurable as making it is miserable.

Now let’s calm down.

Take a few deep cleansing breaths, put on that ocean-waves relax mix your roommate gave you a few years ago, and throw back a couple shots of your favorite 80-proof spirits.

Then take a look at this week’s recipe–Rustic Brown Sugar Cherry Tarts. This recipe is for those who suffer from PTSD–that is, Pie Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Once you’re in a relaxed state of mind, just toss the crust ingredients together, chill for a little while, then roll it out on a cookie sheet. No wax paper, no transfer, no making it look cute in that stupid fluted deep-dish pie plate. Just a flat circle, filling in the middle, roll up the edges, and bake. No mess, no stress.

And the results are . . . Well, you give it a try and let us know. Chances are you’ll have a whole new outlook on making pies after having fun with these Rustic Brown Sugar Cherry Tarts.

rustic cherry tart

Rustic Brown Sugar Cherry Tarts

For the crust:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

2 Tablespoons cold water

For the cherry filling:

2 cups chopped pitted sweet cherries

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 egg, beaten

brown sugar cherry tarts

To make the crust, add the flour, salt, and granulated sugar to a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix ingredients. Add the cold butter to the food processor. Pulse until a grainy mixture is achieved. Add the cold water and pulse until the mixture just comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor, form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

When you are ready to make the tarts, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the chopped cherries with the brown sugar and the cornstarch.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Siplat mat, and lightly flour the surface. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into two balls. Roll each ball into an 8 inch circle directly on the parchment paper. Divide the cherry mixture and pile the cherries into the middle of each round of dough. Gently fold the border of the dough over the cherries, pleating and pressing the dough together as you go. Brush the dough with the beaten egg and lightly sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake the tarts for 25-28 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cherries are tender. Remove the tarts from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 2 tarts.

rustic brown sugar cherry tarts

{Adapted from Chocolate with Grace}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #16 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #16, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #16, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #34 and Mini Chocolate Pies

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Did you ever have a special treat when you were a kid? O.K., so you’re still a kid. Do you have a special treat now, one that just the thought of puts a smile on your face?

Well, for me that treat is chocolate pie. It’s not that chocolate pie is the richest or most decadent or exotic or flavorful dessert I’ve ever had. Far from it. Nor is it exactly a comfort dessert (bread pudding would fill that bill for me).

But there’s something about chocolate pie that makes me all happy inside, and that’s before I eat it!

And it seems to us here at Reading and Recipes that we all need something to put a smile on our faces as we slog through these last weeks of a too long winter. Or for y’all in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe you’re worn out by a long and too hot summer! Or maybe you’re feeling the blahs in the lull between Valentine’s Day and Saint Patty’s. Or a crunch at work. Or mid-terms at school. Or the kids are home sick (now hey, these chocolate pies will put a smile on their faces!).

Whatever your doldrums, chocolate pie is the cure. You don’t even have to eat them.

(But go ahead and eat one. You need the boost.)

mini chocolate cream pies

Mini Chocolate Pies

1 package mini graham cracker crusts (6 total)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups milk*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

whipped topping

mini chocolate cream pie

Over a small pan, sift together the granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the milk until no clumps remain. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low and whisk mixture for another minute, until it becomes glossy and thickened. Remove the mixture from the stove and stir in the vanilla extract and butter.

Divide the pudding between the six graham cracker crusts. Put the mini pies on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap, ensuring to press plastic wrap directly onto pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. When ready to serve, remove the pies from the refrigerator and garnish with whipped topping.

Makes 6 mini pies.

*Be sure to use dairy milk. (I used 1% in this recipe.) Using non-dairy milk, such as almond or soy milk, will result in a filling that does not thicken properly.

chocolate cream pie

{Adapted from Dessert for Two}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #34 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #34, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #34, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #28 and Mini Apple Pies

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One of the great good fortunes of contemporary shoppers is that they can find fresh crisp and juicy apples all year round. This wasn’t always the case. I had an uncle that owned an orchard in New England and he was lucky if he could keep his apples fresh into the late fall–and only then at the considerable trouble of storing the apples in special sealed lockers. Nowadays you go to the grocery store and there are a half-dozen varieties of beautiful apples waiting for you to hand-pick as many or as few as you need, maybe a little more expensive than my uncle’s apples but–hey–nothing is free.

And fresh apples year-round means you can do apple desserts year-round. So to give us a little break from the drudgery of winter, turn our thoughts (however briefly) toward the bright sunshine of summer or the beautiful colors of fall, we’re offering Mini Apple Pies as this mid-January recipe. Not only are these pies easy to make and yummy to eat, they’re also cute and a little offbeat in their muffin-tin, single-serving size.

So have some fun and turn your thoughts to fairer weather and give thanks for the modern food-supply chain that gives you fresh apples in the dead of winter.

And if you want a unique dessert for next week’s Super Bowl Buffet, consider making a double batch of these gems. Your guests will love them and maybe even think they’re at a summer picnic or fall jamboree rather than a Super Bowl Party–at least till they start showing the ads.

mini apple streusel pies

Mini Apple Pies 

Mini Pies:

1 pre-made pie crust

1 cup diced, peeled apples (such as Granny Smith)

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Streusel Topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons oats

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

mini apple pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cupcake pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

Unroll pre-made pie crust. Using a 3-inch round cookie cuter or glass, cut 6 circles out of the dough. Return the remaining dough to the refrigerator for another use. Place each of the 6 rounds into the prepared cupcake pan, pressing each round into the bottom and up the sides of each opening.

In a mixing bowl, combine the rest of the pie ingredients (diced apples, granulated sugar, flour, and cinnamon). Divide this mixture between the 6 crusts. Using the same bowl, make the streusel topping by combining the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Mix in melted butter until the topping becomes crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over each of the 6 mini pies.

Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the pies become golden brown. Remove the mini pies from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing to serving plates. Serve warm. Cover and store any leftover pies in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 mini pies.

mini apple pies

{Adapted from Center Cut Cook}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #28 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #28, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #28, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #10 and Apple Pie Bars

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Everyone loves apple pie, right? Well, most everyone–there may be one or two people out there that don’t like it.

But perhaps those who don’t like it feel that way because the crust is too hard to make or too flaky or too doughy, or the filling is runny and that makes it hard to cut and serve and eat.

Well, here at Reading and Recipes, we want everyone to be happy. And what better way to start than to come up with an apple pie recipe that is easy to make, easy to serve, easy to eat, and easy to store. Enter (drum roll, please) Apple Pie Bars!

With the start of fall just around the corner, fresh-picked apples are starting to flood the farmer’s markets and the grocery stores. And it’s time to incorporate this wonderful year-round fruit that is perfectly suited for fall into our menus.

So why not start with these Apple Pie Bars? Whether you’re an apple-pie fanatic or one of those rare apple-pie avoiders, we think this recipe is well-timed and right up your alley. So give it a try to see what you think.

Oh, and Happy Fall! (Or Happy Spring to our Southern Hemisphere followers. You’ll like these Apple Pie Bars too–spring or fall!)

apple pie bars

Apple Pie Bars

For the crust:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

For the filling:

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

2 firm apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (such as Granny Smith)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the topping:

1/2 cup oats

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold

sauteed apples

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Make the crust by beating together the butter and granulated sugar. Once this mixture is well combined and fluffy, slowly mix in the flour and salt until all of the ingredients come together. Press this mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake the crust in preheated oven for 13-16 minutes, or until the crust starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the crust is baking, make the filling by adding the butter and brown sugar to a skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and mixed with the brown sugar, add the sliced apples and cinnamon. Continue to cook over medium heat until the apples are tender and caramelized, or about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the topping by combining the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into this mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives until the butter is about the size of peas and mixed throughout.

Once all of the layers are prepared, assemble the bars by spreading the apple filling over top of the baked crust. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the apple layer, and gently press it into the apples. Bake the bars in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the topping turns golden brown. Remove the bars from the oven and let cool completely before cutting.

Makes 4-6 bars.

apple pie bar

{Adapted from My Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #10 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #10, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #10, text © Jeffrey Anderson