Winter Pie

It’s December! I absolutely love winter. I like seeing my breath create little clouds outside, and wearing hats, and the smell of crackling wood fires in crisp air, and drinking warm things whole wearing a onesie. And snow! Snow is simply magical. It seemed entirely appropriate to make an ode to snow pie for the first day of December, as it’s likely the most ‘snow’ I’ll see until we go to Colorado for the holidays.

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Speaking of holidays – Happy Thanksgiving!! I know it was last week, but if still feels appropriate to give a little grateful shout to all you pie loving people out there. I hope your Thanksgiving was full of loud family, hungry friends, and of course, PIE.

Even before pie became such a huge part of my life Thanksgiving had a special place in my heart. I love that the entire basis of the holiday is to love your friends and family, eat as much food as you can, and for at least twenty-four hours remind yourself what you have in your life to be grateful for.When I began the pursuit of pie I could never have imagined how huge and special Thanksgiving was going to feel and every year the holiday that I hold so dear has been more and more astounding. Because of pie I have been able to be a part of hundreds and hundreds of  your holiday dinners and I feel so incredibly awed and grateful for the chance to to be a delicious part of your family’s traditions. So, here’s a big ole THANK YOU FROM THE TOP OF MY LUNGS to all of you who have allowed me to be a part of your holidays.

I’m including a couple of links below because I also think that due to everyone falling into a deep, deep turkey induced coma, all too often the ‘giving’ part of Thanksgiving gets brushed aside and there are plenty of worthwhile organizations that would benefit from a generous and giving spirit.

Stand with Standing Rock – and for some historical context watch Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Planned Parenthood

American Civil Liberties Union

Happy Holidays friends in pie – and thank you again for letting me be a small part of your day of thanks and giving!!

the longest week

Last week was one of the longest weeks I’ve experienced and I know with absolute certainty that I will be one of the least affected when it all shakes out; because I am white, because I am straight, because I fall somewhere within the middle class. Do I think that the outcome of this election will have an adverse effect on my life and on my business? Absolutely. But, I could, with relative ease, put my head down, let the next four (or eight) years pass, and at the end of it I would still be a person of privilege. However, I happen to think that nothing about these next four or eight years should be easy.

Last Tuesday was a huge, and rather sickening reality check and as I watched the greatest con in my lifetime unfold in front of me I realized the depth of my complacency. At the end of the day I didn’t do enough and now we have a giant tangerine tinted turd as our president. (And believe me, if there is one thing I know to be true despite being in a bubble, it’s that Trump is a turd. Any person who bandies around hateful rhetoric, misogyny, bigotry, and racism with unparalleled ease is a turd and anyone who voted for him decided that his foul turdiness wasn’t a deal breaker.)

I’m not trying to make light of this because I do think Tuesday was a terrifying wake up call and a solid check on my own personal complacency. Which is why it’s time to step up and help focus the change that will inevitably happen over the next four (god forbid eight) years. I hope beyond hope that Trump figures out a way to actually help the working class to whom he glibly promised so much change and who upheld their half of the bargain and got him into office. However, I am also prepared to fight against the changes that I perceive as detrimental to our country. I will not normalize hate and I will not accept racism under the fancy title of white nationalism. I will however call my congressman. Constantly. I will make personal adjustments to my life to help slow climate change and stand behind those who are able to make larger changes. I will be a badass lady boss. I will be an ally. I will go to bat for a diverse and multicultural country. And I will utilize my privilege as opposed to using it as a shield.

None of this is new. I’m simply adding my voice.

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a crusty portrait in honor of Hills

 

City of the Big Shoulders

Slow moving as it sometimes seems, we are on the precipice of a big move. We’re headed to Cincinnati in the coming months and as I stand poised on the brink with my toes to the very edge, looking toward the next grand adventure, my brain is feeling somewhat nostalgic. Perhaps the boundless excitement surrounding the World Series has something to do with it or maybe the upcoming elections have me reminiscing on where I was eight years ago, but Chicago has been beckoning me to take a trip down memory lane… so I think I shall.

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Chicago was the first big dream that I had all on my own. Unlike my fellow acting and musical theatre compatriots at Ithaca College, I had no desire to move to New York City upon graduation. The lure of pounding the pavement, jumbo slices of the best pizza in the world, performing somewhere off off off, really far off Broadway, of basking in the glow of the city that never sleeps never called to me. But Chicago on the other hand… Chicago with its small theatres, adventurous improv scene, and undeniable wisdom of what actually belongs on a hot dog seemed like a place where I could envision becoming a grown up. So, several months after graduation with my last few tips from Taste of Thai in one hand and a hard earned acting degree in the other I made my way to Chicago where I promptly fell head over heels for the city of big shoulders.

When I moved into my first apartment, an incredibly small but lovely one bedroom in Lincoln Square with a funky old fashioned bathroom and a shoebox of a kitchen, I put a huge map of the city on my wall and determined that I would make Chicago mine. A few months after moving there I sold my car, bought a monthly CTA pass and a used bike and from that moment on I felt unstoppable. I rode my bike everywhere during the glorious summer and fall months and navigated the ‘L’ during the bitterly cold winter months. It was the very first time I was actually on my own and though I often worked relentlessly in the way that only someone in their twenties can, I eventually figured out my city. I definitely had my ups and downs and I vividly remember having to walk two miles in the pouring rain after an exhausting rehearsal one night, thinking “what is my life?” But I got there.

I had a favorite Thai spot, a favorite coffee shop, a favorite dive bar, AND I lived down the street from the world’s most glorious diner, Jeri’s. I knew how to get virtually anywhere in the city, I learned how to bike aggressively and only got doored once. I saw baseball games at the famed Wrigley Field and I voted for a President who also considered Chicago to be his home. I found my theatre family in Dog and Pony Theatre Company, was part of a two person comedy show, made the front page of the Chicago Tribune Arts section (for a paper puppet production of Peter Pan), played endless games of Mexican Train dominoes, and drunkenly gave myself horrible bangs in Chicago. I fell in love with my best friend while introducing him to my city and together we started thinking of a new future. When it came time to leave I dreamed and schemed my way into the next grand adventure and was only able to leave because I had lived the hell out of Chicago for five incredible years; it was the city that shaped me.

My time in Chicago was the fully realized version of that long ago, college dream and as we head into this new chapter of our lives I have big expectations. It’s time to put a new map on the wall and go about making Cincinnati home!

But also… and perhaps more importantly… GO CUBS!!!

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Look at how fiercely I’m cheering for the Cubs against another nefarious Ohio baseball team!! (this is clearly during the terrible bang phase) GO CUBS GO!!

best of the best

Friends in pie, the content of this blog post is at least a year old and therefore should probably be considered old news, BUT I was diligently typing up my business plan and realized while reviewing my various accomplishments and accolades that I completely forgot about this little nugget of wonderfulness. Every year Food and Wine comes out with a Best of the Best Cookbook featuring their all time favorite cookbooks of the year and it just so happens that MY COOKBOOK, Teeny’s Tour of Pie, with it’s scrumptious pies and delightfully quirky, heartfelt stories was chosen as one of the best cookbooks of 2014!! Ridiculously old news, right? To be fair F&W’s Best of the Best didn’t come out until the following year, so it’s only slightly old and I figured any reason to shine some sparkly spotlight on my favorite cookbook, especially with the holidays coming up (*hint hint* it makes the perfect gift*), was a good reason.

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Look at that full page pie lady pic taken by the stunningly talented Katie Parra

I share the cookbook stage with some stellar company including The Kitchn Cookbook, My Paris Kitchen (by David Lebovitz!!), Plenty More, and Prune (by Gabrielle Hamilton whose memoir I just read and loved).  The Teeny Pies section covers bourbon bacon pecan, strawberry rhubarb custard, coconut cream, espresso french silk with blackberry compote, and a new, never before revealed, roasted corn and tomato tarts! How lovely is that?

So, this post has been a long time coming but somehow still pretty exhilarating. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that I actually wrote a cookbook … one of the best cookbooks, apparently … and I’ll always be endlessly proud to show it off every once in a while. If you’re looking for gifty ideas for the upcoming holidays may I suggest a combo cookbook deal (Best of the Best and Teeny’s Tour of Pie) + pie pan? In the meantime, let’s just swoon over the fact that Food & Wine sent me mail!!

 

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Pie from a Pumpkin

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[ A Fall Haiku ] Pumpkin in a patch, You thought you’d be a lantern, Now you are a pie.

Six years ago I peered into a CSA veggie box from Irv and Shelly in Chicago, Illinois and as I caught sight of a tiny pie pumpkin my life was unalterably turned toward a future of lady baking. Aaron and I took one look at that orange orb of destiny and knew the only thing to do was to make a pie. We paired our roasted pumpkin with copious amounts of cream, honey, cinnamon and a hint of ginger, whisked our ingredients into a dreamy swirl of fall flavors, and together we baked our very first pumpkin pie.

It’s October which means all sorts of pumpkin varieties are storming the the grocery store shelves and farmer’s market stalls. Pumpkin patches and orchards everywhere are irresistible with promise of hot apple cider, decadent donuts sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and  miles upon miles of bakeable, carvable, decorate-able pumpkins. Fairytale pumpkins are alluring with their orangish blue hue and their idyllic Cinderella carriage shape; they are sweet to the point of almost not needing sugar and they are one of the few pumpkins that don’t become stringy after baking. Peanut pumpkins are fun with their skin looking as though they’ve been decorated with empty peanut shells, which, in actuality, are sugar deposits making for another naturally sweet baking option. And then there are the sugar pie pumpkins; tiny, sweet pumpkins promising just the right amount of pumpkin puree for a single pie.

Don’t ignore the call. Get yourself a pumpkin and start roasting. Munch on pumpkin seeds while your house fills with the unbelievably delicious smell of fall. Eat slices of pie with your morning coffee or after dinner with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Fall is is here to stay, so start making perfect pies.

Teeny Pies Pumpkin Pie:

1 small pie pumpkin                                                                                                                                         3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                                                                  1/4 teaspoon salt                                                                                                                                           1/2 teaspoon ground ginger                                                                                                                           4 large eggs                                                                                                                                                         1 cup honey (local if you have it)                                                                                                                   1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream                                                                                                                    pie dough for one bottom crust

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position.

2. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon (and save them for roasting, duh), lightly doil the cut surface, and place the halves cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the pumpkin until it’s tender and easily pierced by a fork, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes.

3. Using your fingers remove the pumpkin peel, which will have pulled away from the flesh and should be very easy to take off. Place the roasted pumpkin in a food processor and puree until smooth.

4. Place 2 cups of the pumpkin puree in a large bowl, add the cinnamon, salt, and ginger, and stir until everything is combined.

5. Add the honey and the cream to the mixture and whisk gently until everything is incorporated. Add the eggs and whisk until everything is combined and the pumpkin mixture is smooth.

6. Prepare the crust: Place the dough disk on a floured work surface and with a floured rolling pin roll it into a rough 11-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lay the crust into a 9-inch pie dish, gently press it in, and trim any excess dough from the edge with a paring knife, being sure to leave a 3/4 inch overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough under itself and crimp.

7. Set the crust on a rimmed baking sheet before giving the filling one final stir and pouring it into the crust. Bake until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Mamma Pie

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Hi friends in pie. It may feel as though we made our epic announcement two weeks ago and then fell off the face of the earth, but in reality we made our epic announcement two weeks ago and then we just got really busy! We’ve made several visits to our potential neighborhoods to check out the pie climate, I’ve been chatting with pie professionals across the country,  we’re back on blogging track, and Mamma Pie is in town for a lovely, lengthy visit. How excellent is the month of October so far?

As we move past our initial announcement of Cincinnati being our final city choice we now have the delightful task of deciding where we want to live (and eventually decide where we want to open the shop as well … but that’s a little further down the line). I think best case scenario, we choose to live in a neighborhood that we absolutely fall in love with and then in a little while, once we’ve thoroughly introduced Teeny Pies to the city, we open the shop in that same neighborhood. The worst case scenario is that we choose to live in a neighborhood that we absolutely fall in love with and then because of currently unknown extenuating circumstances we open the shop in a different neighborhood that we also love deeply. And if that’s the worst case scenario, then I’m pretty sure I’m winning. Our top two life neighborhoods are Northside and Covington and our top three pie shop neighborhoods are Northside, Covington, and Findlay Market. We spent the last two weekends traipsing around each of the potential pie hotspots with our families, peering into houses, supporting the local retail, and imagining life there. It’s been a delight and to say I’m excited and ready to dive right in is an understatement. I’m ready to buy a house, rent a building, and start slinging pie … Aaron and Mamma Pie have to constantly remind me that there’s no rush, and it’s better to do it right, and I’m going to want to think long and hard about the next few life changes, and all I hear is blah, blah, wait, blah, don’t rush, blah, blah. What I’m saying is, let’s buy a mansion because I’m ready.

Since no one will let me just buy a house online I’ve been taking Mamma Pie around Danville and showing her all of our summertime-livin’ sights. We did our laundry at the laundromat/tanning salon, visited the doll-house museum, she helped me finish my constellation quilt, we had an extensive conversation about what to look for when considering which mansion to buy, had lunch in covington, are going to the horse races on Friday and today we are making pie, because … duh.

I love baking with my mom, and obviously making pie with her is the ultimate flour-filled day. She just has a certain knack that I have tried to emulate throughout my ongoing pie adventures. She’s the one that taught me to try and try again, that practice makes perfect, and if and when the time comes that you’re insanely frustrated because nothing is going right, to toss it out and start fresh. I grew up watching her and her mom put together family meals, grow epic gardens, can and pickle themselves silly, and bake the perfect pies. Without knowing I would end up in the world of professional food I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be able to make stock from leftover bones, I wanted to someday have my own epic garden, I wanted to have a million recipes in my head, and I wanted to be able to make the perfect pie at a moments notice. And here we are, roasting a pumpkin that I grew in my not-quite-so-epic-but-still-lovely garden and whipping up the perfect pumpkin pie at a moments notice. I am truly my mother’s daughter and I couldn’t be more pleased. Happy fall everyone, I hope your lives are full of cider, light sweaters, roasty pumpkin seeds and the perfect pie.

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(look at this solid and incredibly miniature pie making scene we encountered in a dollhouse kitchen! … those apple cores tho.)

 

The moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Friends in pie, I know we’ve been very elusive this summer as we try and decide where we were moving this fall and I just wanted to thank you for your patience and support. It’s been an outstanding and necessary summer of weighing the potentials of Denver, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati against each other but it’s high time to finally announce (through pie, of course) our city pick!!

IMG_20160928_111532.jpgWE’RE MOVING TO CINCINNATI!

I have to say I’m beyond excited to have finally made a choice AND such a stellar choice at that. For obvious reasons (like family, hometown pride, mountains) it didn’t always feel like an easy decision, but it is without a doubt the right move for us. What I have planned for Teeny Pies doesn’t actually exist in Cincy yet, which means I get to build the very first pie empire that the city has ever seen. It doesn’t get much better than that and I cannot wait to leap onto the small business scene and knock everyone’s socks off!

Because of Cincinnati’s proximity to our current Kentucky life we plan on taking our time moving north but once there I have every intention of diving right in! The idea is to develop a few strong wholesale partnerships straight off the bat in order to get the Teeny Pies brand out there while we search for the right space and gather an unbeatable team of bakers, baristas, and pie lovers. There are sure to be a lot of changes in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back regularly as we move forward. Again, thank you to everyone who made this choice impossibly hard and decidedly wonderful! Cincinnati, here we come!!

Six years of Septembers

Friends in pie, it’s mid-September; the leaves are at the very beginning of their glorious reveal, the evenings have a distinct chill, and in the wee hours of the morning I can hear wild turkeys clucking and calling their way toward breakfast. Fall is a wonderfully nostalgic season for me as I’ve come to realize that as the days get shorter I have a tendency to make large life choices… as though I can’t bear to let the season have all the fun.

Six years ago I peered into a magical CSA veggie box and gazed unwittingly onto my future. The world’s most perfect pie pumpkin gazed back with a knowing tilt to its stem and an unabashed wink in its eye. I fell in love that fall. Roasting pumpkins, swirling honey, whipping endless clouds of whipped cream, warming frozen hands with mugs full of spiced cider and whiskey laced hot toddies, dancing in the kitchen in my stocking feet with a boy I was falling head over heels for, and dreaming and scheming my way toward a pie filled adventure.

Five years ago I pushed my way through a set of doors that said ‘Bakers Only Please’ for the very first time. I spent a year earning my place among fierce, loyal and endlessly inspiring lady bakers and at the end of that year found my life entirely full. I accumulated mentors who were also friends, callouses that only a well worn rolling pin could make, the ability to deadlift a fifty pound bag of flour with ease, and a notebook full of recipes that I’d dreamed up.

Four years ago I published a book. In all of my dreaming and scheming I had never once thought about the possibility of someone recognizing that this pursuit of passion was worthy of being shared, shouted about, and enveloped within the extraordinary pages of an actual book. All my life I have consumed books because they are as essential to my well being as breathing, so the fact that there is a book out there with my name on it still leaves me giddy with boundless amazement.

Three years ago I was ‘pee-your-pants-and-then-hyperventilate’ scared out of my mind as I signed the lease to my shared kitchen space and experienced my very first week of owning and operating Teeny Pies. Rather than having to earn a place, I found myself on equal footing with other founders, fellow makers and dream followers. I was a boss, able to commiserate with crappy weather, slow markets, and confounding customers as well as celebrate the absolute exhilaration of selling out, signing on a new wholesale account, and hiring help for the first time. I honed my craft, created a brand, made hundreds upon hundreds of pies and then sold them to people who loved them, who had opinions about them, who anticipated them, who made space in their budgets (and stomachs) for them. I may have made them with my own two hands, but those pie loving people were the first people who made Teeny Pies a business in real life.

So, here we are. Six years of saying yes, of working endlessly hard, of taking huge and intimidating leaps of faith, and I can’t help but revel in the wonderful adventure of it all. It’s September again, which means it’s time to make some changes.

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Pop-Culture Pies

Hi pie friends! Remember when I posted a picture of this crazy, excellent pie?

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Well, you weren’t the only ones to notice the awesomeness of my pie mind! FYI, which is a network within A&E, (not the acronym for For Your Information … although it is… just not this time) loved the pie so much that they hired me straightaway to do a pop-culture pie series. So, I wracked my brain for the most pop-cultureish things I could think of, I visited the website People.com for the very first time, got the most recent copy of Entertainment Magazine, and then I asked my friends, because let’s face it … I’m not, nor have I ever really been exactly up to speed on all things POP and my friends are way cooler than I am.

I developed six stellar pop-culture concepts and recipe tested my tushy off before I flew to NYC to film just outside of the city at this absolutely stunning house in New Paltz, New York. Any pictures I could have taken of Stone House would have paled in comparison to the pictures on their website, so click on that link and definitely check out the space! They do both events and vacation rentals. The kitchen was gorgeous and by gorgeous I mean my DREAM KITCHEN. They had a huge farmhouse sink and a rather epic gas range with stunning stonework, straight out of a move. And let me tell you if I could have soaked in that tub upstairs for four days straight I would have been one happy baker. Pruney, but oh so happy.

However, I had to bake!! My flight into New York was delayed all day long due to weather which meant that any and all prep time was slowly disappearing as I twiddled my thumbs at the airport. Thankfully, I had an awesome baker, Ashley Holt, from Sugar Monster, crushing the prep long before I arrived. Earlier in the week, I had sent along a list of ingredients, plus all the recipes and an outline of what all of the mise en place trays should look like and she make short work of a hugely extensive job.

The shoot itself took twenty hours!! Because we only had one day to shoot six different pies we started at 7am and didn’t finish until 3am. It was a bit slow at first as the team and I tried to feel each other out. After the first two pies we finally found our rhythm and sailed through the last 4 … and when I say sailed, I definitely mean that they didn’t take quite as long, because filming the creation of pop-culture pies is no joke. I was up to my elbows in flour for twenty hours straight and I just kept thanking my lucky stars that I came from a theatre background and am used to standing for hours, doing the same thing over and over (tech, anyone). Not to mention that I am essentially able make pie with my eyes closed at this point.Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I’m a pie genius. A very humble, beautiful, smart, funny, (and don’t forget hip) pie genius.

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So, head on over to FYI and watch my pie series, POP CULTURE PIES .. by genius pie baker, TEENY PIES!!

 

Change is in the air

This past weekend we went to the magical wedding of our two dear friends, Adria and Amy. Their love is a love that I admire so completely; it’s a love that reminds me to love harder, fiercer, and better every single day. It was a dreamy wedding. The ceremony was warm and romantic and so utterly them that we couldn’t help but be swept up in that lovely glowy feeling that was radiating from the happiest two people in the room. The food was wildly delicious and, in true Pennington Lee fashion, we were given the recipes for everything on the table. Dessert and dancing, a lot of dancing, capped off an altogether spectacular wedding and catapulted our friends into their first day of being Mrs. and Mrs.

I love weddings, and weddings with both old friends and new acquaintances are particularly nice.  We get to hear of old friends strating grand new adventures, we get to commiserate and compliment, break bread together, raise a glass, and at the end of the night we get to dance like crazy together. It was fun to see everyone’s shining faces and rather startling to realize that everyone seems to be going through a certain amount of transition right now. The weekend was filled with tales of starting new ventures, saying goodbye to old loves, falling head over heels for the first time, finding a new pace to life, and feeling stuck and dreaming up grand plans for how to fix it. It was altogether wonderful to realize that Aaron and I aren’t alone with our large and looming life changes.

Maybe it’s just what happens as you wind your way into your thirties; the inevitable growing pains as we figure out what the heck we want our lives to look like. Maybe after years of summer vacation and back to school Septembers, fall feels as though it’s full of potential. The air gets crisp enough to pull us out of our summer stupors, the days begin to shorten  which in turn prompts us to wake up earlier and finish faster, our languid pace quickens, and it really does feel as though change is in the air. Our madcap lives continue, the next adventure is upon us and we will be all the better for it.

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(Photo by: Kristen Magee)