grandma's pumpkin pie

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year for a small group of family and I haven't done it in ages. My first time cooking the whole shebang on my own was about 15 years ago when David and I were newly dating. I enthusiastically volunteered to make dinner for about 8 people, including his Mom who was flying in from Connecticut and who I had only met once before (no pressure).

My out-of-state Dad (a cook extraordinaire) wasn't attending, so he'd sent me detailed step-by-step instructions (complete with diagrams) on recipe cards; his mother's recipes that he'd scrawled out in his jagged handwriting. I followed his instructions to the letter, prepping as much as possible the day before. I had picked up our fresh turkey and per his instructions, was preparing to rinse it, dry it well, then salt it overnight.

I didn't get around to unwrapping the turkey until quite late and needed to enlist David's help in lifting the behemoth. After which, we sliced open its plastic covering. The bird slid out into the sink along with a gush of pink fluid. We looked at each other in horror. We were in WAY over our heads. After I shimmied the bird's legs out of their plastic handcuffs, I pried open the icy cavity and stopped cold.

What was nowhere to be found on my recipe cards (or diagrams) was any information about removing the creepiest thing in THE ENTIRE WORLD. Despite the late hour, I didn't think twice before calling my Dad in Colorado and waking him up.
"Hi Honey. Is everything ok?" he answered.
"UM…..not really," I said. "What the CREEPS is this bony penis thing inside the turkey???"
 "Oh, that's just the neck." he said.
"Just the neck? JUST THE NECK?! First of all it's TEN INCHES LONG," I said, "Secondly, they cut it off and stick it inside of itself? That's horrifying."
 "Don't worry. You just remove that." he said.
"Oh. Ok. Thanks for telling me NOW."
"This wasn't on the recipe cards!" I shouted.
"Dad? Are you there?" I think he fell back asleep for a second.
"I'm here." 
 "Ok. Hold on the line while I do it."
At this point David, who'd been standing slack-jawed during this mess, bolted and feigned deaf when I continued attempts to make him my accomplice. I finally pinched the meaty neck between a few (hundred) paper towels and made record time to the garbage.
"You also gotta get the organs out." said Dad.
Oh, joy. 
"There's more?! ORGANS?! WHY WASN'T ANY OF THIS ON THE CARDS?!!" I said, "I don't think my heart can take it."
"That's a coincidence because I think one of the organs is a heart."
Somehow I managed to hold down my dinner and finish the turkey autopsy. The next day went off without too many hitches and that Thanksgiving turkey was probably the best one I've ever made. Holiday success!*

You know what's WAY easier than raw-turkey-part analysis/removal? Pumpkin pie.


Grandma's Pumpkin Pie
makes 1 pie

There are no bells and whistles here. This was my sweet Grandma's recipe that I've made just a dash spicier over the years. It's pretty basic but pretty freaking delicious. This amount of filling is perfect for a 9.5" pie. If your pie pan is smaller, you'll have a bit of filling left over.

1 recipe pie crust (note: If you wanna go from scratch, I love Deb's all-butter recipe on Smitten Kitchen but no one will complain/even notice if you pick one up in the frozen section of Whole Foods. It's already fluted in the tin and everything. They taste amazing and have no creepy ingredients. No one needs to know:))
3 large eggs, beaten
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 t kosher salt
2 t pumpkin pie spice (buy pre-mixed or make your own)

If you don't do the Whole Foods shuffle, make your pie crust and let it chill for at least 1 hour (it can live in the fridge for a few days, otherwise freeze it). After it's rolled out and placed in the dish, chill again in the fridge for 15 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 400F. Now you're going to blind bake your crust (this just means pre-baking with no filling inside so it won't become soggy on the bottom). Line your dough with foil, pressing it lightly over the entire bottom of the crust. Cover the sides and edges gently too, then top the foil with pie weights (or uncooked rice or beans). Stick in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake another 5-10 minutes or until the crust is golden. Take out and set aside.

While your crust is cooking, make your filling: combine the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, evaporated milk, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Stir until well mixed. Pour into the warm, pre-baked pie crust and bake for 10 minutes at 400F (keep it on that rimmed baking sheet in case of spills!), then turn the oven down to 300F and continue baking about 30-40 more minutes. Check as you go. When you lightly jostle the baking sheet, you want the edges to be set but the very center to be wiggly. The pie will keep cooking as it cools and will set beautifully in a few hours at room temperature. I always like to make these the day before.

Serve with fresh soft-whipped cream sweetened with a dash of maple syrup and vanilla.


*Except when later that same weekend, we went out to breakfast and after I'd finished my eggs, I leaned over to pick at David's plate. His Mom clocked this, looked at her son and shook her thumb at me. "Well, she can really put it away, can't she?" I was horrified even though she to this day insists it was a complement.

P.S. I'm so grateful for you! Happy Thanksgiving!

Korean Spa 101

Monday, November 25, 2013

Good Monday Morning to you, lovely readers:)

I submitted a comedic essay to the Huffington Post and was lucky enough to have it published this morning!

I hope you check it out and enjoy…………….

Korean Spa 101: Therein Lies the Rub



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A couple weeks ago we took a trip to New England to visit DP's family and snuck in a 48-hour NYC prequel. It nearly coincided with our wedding anniversary (12 years!!) so we took the opportunity to celebrate lots. It was really special. Although I cannot believe how much and how often we ate in the name of being married. 

I love love graffiti <3


Breakfast at Locanda Verde in the Greenwich Hotel was one of the best I've ever had...

(I'm still dreaming about this sheep's milk ricotta with lavender honey and toast!)

You & Me should go here!

Wallpaper people at The Standard Hotel

How freaking inviting does this cafe look on a sunny fall day (This is also The Standard)??

The next day the skies were SO blue and cloudless!

Central Park stroll…

Hard to imagine a grumpy bubble maker but this guy was not nearly as bubbly as his bubbles:)

Cafe Gitane on Elizabeth Street is a new fave! We had iced tea under these umbrellas...

Fall fleurs

Rainy ride

Grand Central Station has always rendered me a blatant tourist, even when I lived there. It's impossible to not stare at the ceiling with mouth agape. Isn't it staggeringly gorgeous?? We took a train from here up to Connecticut farmland. More pics of that to come:) Spoiler alert: there will be chickens.


P.S. Some other awesome places we found this trip:

60 Thompson for a perfectly sized SoHo hotel with comfy beds and great service
Piccola Cucina for amazingly authentic Sicilian in SoHo
David Burke Kitchen at THE JAMES was crazy decadent and delicious
Whynot for coffee and wine in the West Village
Organic Avenue for great juice
Erica Weiner  for vintage and vintage-inspired jewelry that feels surprisingly fresh

P.P.S. My last NYC visit!

P.P.P.S. I like you.

wink if you hate green beans!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ok, feeding her whole ones was a bit ballsy.

Happy Monday:)

experience becoming

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

As an actress, my day-to-day job is auditioning. For each one, I spend time and energy preparing for it, dressing for it, thinking about it, driving to it, waiting for it. And then I go in and perform, give it my all, be as present as I can be, spend time (hopefully) collaborating with the casting director or director or producer(s), feel pretty good (hopefully) about what I did and then leave. Often to never hear another word about it. Imagine a life of job interviews where you have to bare your soul in all manner of vulnerabilities and almost never get the job.

After almost two decades of this you'd think I'd have it down.

I have learned something though that I continue to keep learning: If I felt good about what I did in the room and felt good that I got to express myself that particular day doing my version of that particular role? That needs to be enough. No matter what they thought of me, no matter if they thought I was or wasn't "right". Especially if I'm seeking peace and happiness in my life. Look, is it always *enough*? No. But it should be and it's worth working on. 

You don't get a phone call after an audition unless you get the job (read: result) but if I only counted the roles I booked as my successes, I'd be a ginormous failure. This sometimes makes for uneasy cocktail party conversation when people ask what I've been up to lately ("Umauditioning lots and working on letting them go afterward…?") It's so freaking easier to have a concise sound-bite-y THING to answer in those moments, something that people can quickly understand. Even better if it sounds successful. People want results at cocktail parties (and it's not easy to talk about the exploration of oneself while juggling a glass of merlot and a chicken skewer). 

We are so conditioned to define our success/creativity/worthiness by others. Either by comparing ourselves to them or by giving in to what they think of us (cocktail parties included). What a revolutionary notion to cultivate an inner knowing instead. It takes the emphasis off the result and puts it on the process. And then there are way more things to celebrate along the way instead of merely the End All Be All Result. This is not an original idea (even I've said it beforebut there is so much momentum in the collective consciousness that I feel it bears repeating. Often. Joy in the journey, people! 

But then, hey, sometimes I get the job (result!), and the shooting part is a let down. Or let's say it's great and I enjoy the journey of shooting it (result!) and feel super accomplished (result!) then learn that the show gets cancelled before it airs. See? there is no scenario where this journey thing doesn't apply. If a girl wearing a bikini on a new CBS comedy falls in the forest and no one is there to watch TV did it ever happen? Yes! It happened. And I have to choose to believe that I'm better for the experience of it all. 

So. Here I was pondering all this. And then I came across this wonderful letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote and I think/hope you will enjoy it as much as I did/do/will forever………….

In 2006, a group of students from Ms. Lockwood's class at Xavier High School were given an assignment to write a persuasive letter to their favorite author, asking them to visit their class. Five of them chose Kurt Vonnegut. This was their only reply:

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School,

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana. 

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.

Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

Here's to soul growth! And to becoming! And to the Mystery of it all! And to more meaningful cocktail parties!


{thanks to Shoko for bringing this to my attention! And also to letters of note}
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