Lack of creativity…and an easy pie

It’s that time of year again… January is the most difficult month for those of us who need more than writing out a list of resolutions to get motivated and to keep everyday life from drowning our creativity. I suffer through long, gray, cold days trying to pretend I’m content. In part, I am very content to curl up with a cozy blanket, watch Netflix and knit away the long nights. For a little while… but sometime around mid January, this grows tiresome.

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Ms. Gilbert makes some astute observations. “All procrastination is fear. Anything you do that stops you from the work that is gnawing at you, the work that wants to be made through you, the creative project that is begging you to realize it…anything you do that blocks that is fear. It might look like fear, but fear also has a lot of shady disguises. It can show up as perfectionism, insecurity, guilt, procrastination…all of it is something you are too scared to do.”

So while we patiently wait out the dark days of winter, and contemplate our fears, let’s make some pie, shall we? When life gives you lemons, you know that old saying, and since it’s not exactly lemonade season around here, pie will have to do. And this easy as pie, pie seems appropriate.




Recipe: Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie

Bill calls this the easiest recipe in the world.
Makes one pie
For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
While the crust is cooling (it doesn’t need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

NOTES ON THIS LEMON PIE: Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie is based on a recipe for lemon pie, a staple of the North Carolina coast.

Courtesy of Katie Workman
There are days for cake, and days for ice cream and cookies. But every now and then, you crave a different kind of finish to a satisfying meal. Enter Atlantic Beach Pie, a salty and citrusy staple of the North Carolina coast. Katie Workman is the author of The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket. She says the Atlantic Beach Pie from Crook’s Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., is the best pie she’s ever had. She shared a recipe for the dish for All Things Considered’s Found Recipe series.
Workman describes Crook’s Corner as a “shrimp and grits, fried oysters and hush puppies kind of Southern food restaurant.” On one visit, she fondly remembers enjoying a particularly large spread. “We were having this amazing dinner, eating more than I think I’ve ever eaten in my entire life,” she says. “I had no intention of eating dessert, and then he sent out this pie.”
     Atlantic Beach Pie has a filling similar to those in key lime and lemon meringue pies, but Workman says the crust is what makes it special. “It’s this dense, crispy, thick, salty saltine crust, which is such an amazing balance to the tanginess and sweetness of the inside,” she says. She was smitten at first bite and describes a When Harry Met Sally moment upon tasting. “I think the only reaction I had was, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ For quite a while that was pretty much the only thing I could say,” she says. “I think I was under control but I was in sort of a fugue state, so I can’t be sure.” Bill Smith is the chef at Crook’s Corner. He doesn’t take credit for inventing the pie, which is often referred to as “lemon pie” on the North Carolina coast. In Smith’s version, whipped cream replaces meringue as the topping. There’s also a bit of lore that surrounds the dessert. “When we were growing up, everybody believed that … if you ate any kind of dessert after having seafood, you would drop dead sick,” he says. “The one exception was this lemon pie that all the fish restaurants along the coast served.”
     The appeal is in the pie’s simplicity. Smith jokes that it takes all of four seconds to make. In reality, it’s just 18 minutes to bake the crust and 16 minutes to cook the filling.
“You don’t have to wait for the crust to cool,” he says. “The only thing that takes any time is it has to cool enough when you’re done so you can cut it without making a mess. But it couldn’t be faster.”



Roasted Squash Soup

Squash soup is as fall as colorful leaves, apple cider, pumpkins. And even though the leaves have been blown by the wind into disorganized piles around the yard, pumpkins replaced with holly greens and lights, squash still holds an honored spot in our local grocery stores. As long as these fruit-like vegetables stick around, I will turn them into soup… Bwahaha



Roasted Delicata Squash Soup


3 to 4 pounds squash, peeled and seeded (I use Delicata, but if you can’t find that, Butternut works too)
2 yellow onions
2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored
3 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 teaspoon good curry powder

Scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced diagonally (sprinkled on top)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash, onions and apples in 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread it in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings to be sure there’s enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor.

Recipe slightly modified from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

Roasted Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Todays soup is Chicken with Wild Rice. This chunky, hearty, soul-warming soup is a family favorite.


Did you know that soup was one of the first fast foods? Since it can be stretched to feed as many as necessary, it’s a great choice when you’re not sure how many people will be stopping by to eat… add a few more splashes of broth here, more vegetables there… and voila! Bowls all around.

Roasted Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
(adapted from Cooking Light)


1 (6-oz) box long-grain and wild rice mix (such as Uncle Ben’s)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves, chopped
12 white button mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
32 oz fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
3 cups shredded roasted skinless chicken


1. Prepare rice according to package directions; set aside. Roast chicken, cool slightly, shred into bite size pieces; set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and next 4 ingredients (onion through mushrooms), and sauté for 6 minutes or until onion is tender. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Stir the flour, tarragon, and thyme into the onion mixture, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups water, sherry, broth, and evaporated milk; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until slightly thick. Stir in cooked rice and chicken; cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Yield: Approximately 8-10 servings.


Corn Chowder

This morning I received an email from a reader who very politely let me know I had left out potatoes in my list of ingredients when I posted this corn chowder recipe over on PortlandPeeps. My bad! Her message made me realize my omission of soups here on DecisiveCook. Soup is one of my favorites on cold winter days. Soups are the smoothies of winter. So many healthy ingredients can be added to one dish. You may just be looking for some hearty soup recipes for this holiday season, so I’ll be posting a few of my favorites.


Corn Chowder
(recipe slightly modified from Cooking Light Magazine)

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Medium sweet onions, diced
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 Teaspoon sweet paprika
4 Cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 pound small red potatoes
1 Celery rib, thinly sliced
1 Bay leaf
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Cups frozen corn kernels
5 Scallions, thinly sliced
1 Cup milk (or half and half if you want it richer)
1/4 Teaspoon dried thyme
A few dashes of cayenne pepper
Sour cream

1. In a large stockpot, combine the butter, olive oil, onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until the onions are tender but not brown, about 10 minutes or so. Sprinkle with the paprika, stir, and cook for a minute.

2. Add the vegetable broth, potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, sugar and pepper. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the corn and scallions and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Scoop out 2 cups of the chowder and set it aside. Puree the remainder (if you have an immersion blender, it comes in handy since you can puree directly in the pot of soup) and return it to the pot. Stir in the reserved chowder, milk, thyme and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Serve hot with a spoonful of sour cream on top.