Don’t Judge A Pie By It’s Name

Oatmeal pie?  That was the question in my head the first time I was offered a piece of oatmeal pie.   The only oatmeal pie I knew about came in a cellophane wrapper inside a Little Debbie’s box.  Who makes an actual pie out of oatmeal?

I had my first taste of this yummy dessert many years ago.  We were just finishing up a delicious meal at my husband’s family home, and his mother was standing at the end of the table, slicing into a dark crusty pie.  If there had been another choice available as well, I might never have eaten oatmeal pie.  But rather than go without dessert (who does that?), I graciously accepted this odd concoction of oats and coconut.

I had grown up on “traditional” desserts, like boxed chocolate cake.  And boxed brownies.  Or Red jello with a strained can of fruit cocktail dumped in — always floating to the top.  On some occasions, my mother switched it up, and added sliced bananas to the red jello.  And if it was a special day, both fruit cocktail and bananas were floating in the red wiggly bowl.

Any homemade pie was worth trying in my book.

The pie resembles a pecan pie with toasty coconut adorning the top rather than pecan halves.   I personally have always thought we could get a lot more people to try oatmeal pie if we just renamed it, Toasted Coconut Pie.  Because, truly, that is what it is.

And it is yumm-my.  The common first reaction after one’s first bite is, “mmm mmm”.

Now years later (never you-mind how many), this oatmeal pie is on every holiday table in my home.  It is often made in tandem with a cherry pie because there is always crust left over after assembling the cherry pie. With that extra dough, I am able to make a one-crust pie, and oatmeal pie has been the most requested pie by my husband and children.

This pie is so simple to make, and it uses common ingredients that most of us keep in
our pantry all the time, like eggs, milk, oatmeal, and coconut.   The recipe does include corn syrup. If you dislike that ingredient, you could possibly try a substitution, like additional sugar, honey or molasses.  I have not tried any substitutions, so if you do, please let me know how your pie turns out.  I’d love to hear about it.













After you whip of these few staples, the pie bakes for about 50 minutes.  During baking, the yooey-gooey ingredients all go to the bottom, and the coconut and oats rise to the top and turn into a divine toasted topping.    The trick is to wait for the toasty part, but take the pie out before it gets overdone.  The pie is ready when it is brown and bubbly yet still a bit jiggly in the center.   It will continue to bake and set while it cools out of the oven.

I am delighted to add this recipe to my legacy collection.   A recipe card with Oatmeal Pie written across the top could easily be tossed and forgotten.

Who makes a pie out of oatmeal?  

However, I don’t think that will happen with this pie.  Not only do my kids have the memory of eating it at our house as well as Gramma’s, but one look at this messy card, and they will know it’s a keeper.





Jon’s Mom’s Oatmeal Pie

3/4 cup Quick Oats

3/4 cup Corn syrup

3/4 cup Milk

1/3 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 cup Butter, melted

1 cup Coconut Flakes

3 Eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 unbaked pie shell

Simply mix all ingredients together, and pour into an unbaked pie shell.  

Bam!  You’re done.  

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.  Everyone’s oven temp is different; adjust accordingly.  Pie is done when brown and toasty yet still has just a bit of a slight jiggle in center.


Incredible Red Velvet Happy Birthday Cake

IMG_1750This decadent Red Velvet Cake was a family tradition in my husband’s home.  As he grew up, his mother baked this yummy treat for every family member’s  birthday.  Every year. Same cake. And after one bite, I knew why it was everyone’s favorite.   It is moist and full of body and texture.  It is delicious.


I have continued the tradition of Red Velvet Cake for the birthdays in our home.   It is a tricky cake to master, and it took a few “it’s ok” cakes to get to the “wow, this is SO good” cake.   As our kids grew older, they were given their choice of any baked good for their birthday.  Cherry pie won out a few times, but on most of their birthdays, red cake was in the oven.

One of the challenges when making this cake?   Red food coloring may end up on your hands, counter and just about everything else in your kitchen.   Sometimes I am surprised where I find a splash or two long after the bowls and cake pans are washed.

My recipe card is a little embarrassing as the years of baking are evident.  I would make a new card, however, my daughters like the splattered and bent card and all it’s messiness.  They say it holds value to them just the way it is.  Memories in every drop of red food color.  I love that.  So the card always gets tucked back into my recipe box, waiting for the next birthday.  However, I have actually made some changes to the recipe ingredients over the years. The original recipe called for shortening in both the cake and the frosting.  I now substitute butter and am very happy with the results.

The frosting itself is a bit unusual as it is made with flour and granulated sugar; an odd combination for an icing.  It takes lots and lots of beating.   And then some more.  The result is a light, fluffy melt-in-your-mouth perfection.





Baking a cake from scratch is an act of love.  It takes time and patience and a bit of expertise, but the homemade confection is worth the effort.  I love that Jon’s mom started this tradition and I can now pass this recipe along to my daughters.  I hope they bake it for their kids.  And during the mixing and frosting (and cleaning up drops of color), they can share the legacy of the Red Velvet Cake.



 Jon’s Mom’s Red Velvet Cake

1/2 cup butter

1 plus 1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

2 oz. red food coloring

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 plus 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon soda

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time, beating after each one.  Set aside.  In another bowl, sift together flour, salt and cocoa.   Hold vinegar, soda and vanilla until end of mixing.   Now begin adding dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk and food coloring to sugar mixture, ending with the dry ingredients — the total mixing time should not extend past 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla.  In a small cup, mix the vinegar and soda together; add to batter at end and fold in — do not beat.   Pour into two 8 inch pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Fluff Frosting

1 cup milk

1/4 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, mix flour and milk.  Cook until it is thick.  Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally to keep from getting lumpy.  While flour mixture cools, beat sugar and butter at high speed until sugar almost dissolves.  This takes quite a bit of mixing — but it is worth it!  Once sugar is close to dissolving and flour mixture is cool, combine the two into the mixing bowl.  Add vanilla and continue to beat until light and fluffy.   Frost the cooled baked layers of cake — and enjoy!  Yum


Treasured Holiday Recipes Are Flavored with Memories

I call this category, Legacy recipes, because I think there are delicious foods that you love to eat….again and again.  Those recipes that are handed down from generation to generation and shared with close friends.  They are often written on old index cards and stowed carefully into the recipe box.  In my house, those cards are usually torn, smudged and barely legible, but it doesn’t ingrid3matter because I’ve made the recipes so often, I know them by heart.   Yes, these foods are cherished because they are delectable, but many times the love for the recipe comes from the memory it stirs within us.  I recently asked a dear friend if she had any recipes that she would call legacies, foods she loves not only because of their flavor, but because of the memories they bring back to her.  She immediately said, ‘Yes!’  Here is her story and legacy recipe.   Please welcome Ingrid Lochamire.

Vallie’s Trifle, a Cherished Memory  by Ingrid Lochamire

So many memories are associated with good food. One of my most treasured memories and a favorite recipe are both rooted in a visit to an island across the Atlantic.

Thirty years ago, I spent Christmas in England with my long-time pen pal and friend, Valerie Cross Surrey. I was pregnant with my first child and, though this was my second trip to England to see Valli, I was especially excited to spend this holiday in her home. Our first trip to England had been all about sight-seeing – London , Southampton, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Birmingham. This trip was all about family – hers and my new one.

I was 12 years old when I “met” Vallie through a school friend who had a British pen pal. Over the next decade, Vallie and I wrote faithfully about school, pets, movies, books, and later about boyfriends, careers and future plans. The blue tissue airmail forms of our day flew back and forth across the ocean. We were truly best friends, though we had never met. So, when Vallie and her boyfriend, Chris, began planning their wedding, it seemed natural that it would take place in the U.S. I made arrangements for a wedding on the beach at New Smyrna in Florida. We picked Vallie and Chris up at the airport in New York City and drove down the coast to the beach and our hotel. Vallie and I shopped for the perfect sundress for the ceremony, we bought a bunch of flowers and, barefoot, she and Chris were married on the beach on a beautiful June morning.

Val and ChrisVallie and Chris visited us several times over the years, including the year after our son was born. The pair loved adventure and they adored one another. Often, they would fly to the states for ski vacations in Colorado or for getaways in Florida, or they would take long vacations on the Mediterranean. Chris owned a business that sold “garden” houses (porches and screen houses) and Vallie worked for an attorney in Southampton. Vallie and Chris agreed there wasn’t room in their busy lives for children, though they loved their own nieces and nephews and our sons.

Our correspondence became less frequent, but we still maintained contact and talked occasionally on the telephone. My husband and I visited Vallie and Chris in 1980 and returned again three years later to celebrate Christmas with them.

In December 1983, between my bouts with morning sickness and exhaustion, we participated in all the traditions surrounding a typical British Christmas. On Christmas morning, after a breakfast of fruit and coffee, Vallie and I went to work preparing dinner. The table was laid with her best dishes, flowers and “crackers” – a party favor in a paper cylinder that, when pulled from each end, pops open to reveal a paper crown, a British saying or joke and a small gift.

Our meal included a beautiful turkey with Yorkshire pudding and prawns (shrimp), roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts and mince pie. But the highlight of that meal for me was a dessert I had discovered on our first trip to England in Vallie’s hometown, Northampton – Trifle. In honor of our first visit, Vallie’s mother had created this beautiful dish with rich cream, sponge cake, jellie, brandy and fruit. I loved it, so Vallie wrote down the recipe along with tips as to which are the most traditional ingredients (there are many versions of this dish) and gave it to me on Christmas day.131213_0005

Our British Christmas was memorable in many ways – the food, music, pub visits and walks through the Black Forest come to mind nearly every time I make Vallie’s Trifle. It was wonderful to bask in the love Vallie and Chris showered on one another and on us, and to laugh and joke about the differences in our cultures.

Some 15 years later, we would lose Vallie to cancer. After her death, her husband, Chris, sent me a long letter telling me how much Vallie loved us and what a precious gift our friendship had been to her. In the letter were pages of photographs of Vallie. In them, Vallie is joyful, playful and beautiful as always.

I’ll think of Vallie and our British Christmas as I prepare Trifle for my family on Christmas Eve. Some favorite recipes are treasured because they taste wonderful. This one is a double treasure because of the memories it holds. Enjoy.

Vallie’s English Trifle

Sponge or pound cake (I use a large loaf of Pepperidge Farm’s frozen pound cake, thawed)

Strawberry or raspberry jam

¼ cup brandy (optional)

Canned or fresh peaches, sliced

Other fresh fruit as desired

Custard (I use one box of Jello Americana Custard. Homemade is wonderful, too!)

Fresh whipping cream, whipped and sweetened according to directions (Not Cool Whip)

This dish is beautiful when prepared in a clear glass pedestal bowl.

Prepare the custard and set it aside to cool. Slice the cake into ½ inch slices. Spread the jam on pieces and sandwich them. Line the bowl with the slices, covering the bottom and coming up the sides. Pour the brandy or an equal amount of fruit juice over the slices. Layer the peaches over the cake. At this point, I sometimes add bananas, berries or other fruit.

Once the custard has cooled but not set, pour it over the fruit. Refrigerate until the custard is set. Prepare the whipping cream. After custard is set, spread whipping cream over the custard layer. I like to garnish the top of the cream with shaved chocolate or toasted almond slivers.

Ingrid Lochamire lives on a farm in northern Indiana where she raised and homeschooled four boys. She is a partner in her husband’s business and a former newspaper reporter. Now an empty-nester, Ingrid works part-time for a domestic violence agency and enjoys volunteering at her church, knitting, reading and posting regularly on her blog, Reflections on the Journey @

The Perfect Cheese Ball

This cheese ball recipe is from an old friend and is super easy.  The card in my recipe box is filled out in her handwriting.  I like that — makes me think of her every time I make this special treat.

It has become a favorite in our house around the holidays.  You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry.   It can be made well in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or for several months in the freezer.

The recipe makes two cheese balls — one for yourself and one for a friend.  I like to wrap it securely in saran wrap and then gift-wrap in cellophane for a festive touch.  Add a cute little appetizer knife and a box of crackers and it makes a darling hostess gift.  perfect cheeseball

The Perfect Cheeseball

2 packages Cream Cheese, softened

3 cups shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

1 Tablespoon Pimento, chopped

1 Tablespoon Onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon Green Pepper, finely chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

1 1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

Dash of Salt and Pepper

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Pecans, finely chopped

Mix the two cheeses well (clean ring-free hands work best).  Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Divide into two balls and roll in chopped pecans to cover.   It is better with age — so make it a few days before needed.  Yum!

Making Pie — The Secret is not in the recipe

Eating well is certainly a part of my days well lived so I decided to share some of my favorite recipes and how they became my favorites.  I can hear my husband saying, ‘but you don’t really like to cook’.    The truth is I do like to cook, but I don’t like to plan my menus.   Due to poor planning, cooking often becomes a chore (maybe that will be the topic of another post).  Once I have the ingredients and recipe in hand, I rather enjoy being in the kitchen.  And most things I cook are tasty.  But I’ll admit, there is a good percentage of the population that IS a better cook than I am.  That said, I do have a few specialties in my recipe box.

20121106_112239I am a good pie baker.  I love to bake pies.   When someone tells me they are not too fond of pie, I think possibly they have never really tasted pie as it was meant to be.  I have yet to eat any pie at a restaurant that compares to a pie baked to perfection by a good pie baker.  And I live in the heart of an Amish community.  There are about a dozen pies on the menu of every restaurant in town.  And I don’t care for any of them.   Like some people are picky about their coffee, I’m picky about my pie.

Pies are easy to bake.  The recipes are usually simple enough.  However, one of the secrets to pie baking is having a tutor in the kitchen the first time you bake one.   Pastry crust is hard to learn from a cookbook.  Even though the recipes are pretty straight forward, it is hard to convey on paper how the dough is suppose feel in your hands before its ready to go into the pan.  Having someone stand over your shoulder and coach you step by step ensures that you have the right “feel” for the crust.  With a thin flaky crust, you are well on your way to a fabulous dessert.

My pastry tutor was an 18-year-old friend from work.   We were both newly married women, and I challenged her when she told me she could bake good pies.  Heaven knows I was struggling to put anything edible on the table at that point.  My husb20130712_135743and still turns his nose up at Tuna Noodle Casserole almost 40 years later (I guess one cannot live on tuna alone).  At the challenge, my friend extended an invitation to a Saturday baking day at her home.   She let me do the mixing, rolling and pinching, but she guided me through every step.  After the dishes were done, and the pies had cooled, we sat down to the most delicious dessert I had ever eaten — and I had baked it!  The rest is history.  It’s like the age-old lesson, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.  Yep, I learned to “fish” that day. 

If you have never attempted pie baking, I wish someone could be there in your kitchen with you .  They could help pick through the fresh cherries to “get all the pits”.  They could watch as you cut a signature design into the top crust to allow thcherriese filling to vent.  You could take turns watching through the oven door as the crust browns and the filling begins to bubble (that’s how you know its done).

As you will see, there is nothing special about the recipe I use for cherry pie.  It’s the one found in your Gramma’s cookbook.  I am grateful for that dear friend who passed along her knowledge of pie baking.  I have since taught my daughters.  The secret is in the lesson.

Pastry Crust for a two crust pie
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup ice water (scant)

Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl.  With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the size of peas.  Then work the mixture between your fingers until all the butter is worked into the flour.  Add the ice water, and with a fork, quickly mix into the flour until a dough is formed.  The less you work with the dough at this point, the better the crust will be.  Divide the dough into two pieces.  On a floured surface, roll the dough into a disk the size of your hand.  Pick up the dough and turn it over, dusting it again with flour.  Continue to roll until thin.  Place in bottom of 9 inch pie plate.  Roll out the other dough in the same manner.  After filling the pie with your fruit and glaze, place the other piece of pastry on top.  Trim the edge and pinch edges together.  Cut a pretty design in top crust to allow filling to allow steam to escape.  You may brush the crust with an egg wash if you desire a darker, crustier top crust.

Cherry Filling
3 cups fresh sour cherries;  you can use frozen, thawed and drained very well
1 1/2 cups sugar – divided
3-4 Tablespoons Cornstarch
3/4 cup cherry juice
2 Tablespoons butter

Pick through cherries to remove all pits.  Put 3/4 cup of the sugar into a medium sauce pan.  Add the cornstarch and mix well.  Pour the cherry juice over sugar and stir; heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Bring to boil and then cook for one additional minute.  The cornstarch will lose it’s milky look and become a “clear” glaze.  It will be very thick at this point.  Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar.  Combine cherries and glaze.   Fill pastry shell and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is hot and bubbly.  Makes one 9 inch pie.cherry pie

“You should be able to pick up a good piece of pie and eat it with your fingers” — my dad (he loved a good a pie too)