Graham Cracker Pudding Cake

No special occasion in my family would be complete without my Nana Alice’s Pudding Pie, with its graham cracker crust and layers of vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, whipped topping, and chocolate jimmies.  It is cold, creamy and delicious.

This Graham Cracker Pudding Cake pays humble homage to Pudding Pie.  Graham crackers line the bottom of a baking dish and are covered with pudding.  The layers are repeated until a final layer of graham crackers is covered in a smooth and shiny chocolate ganache icing.

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“Pie in the Sky” Thanksgiving Fundraiser

This year I am very excited to participate in the Community Servings “Pie in the Sky” annual Thanksgiving fundraiser.

Community Servings is a wonderful organization that provides free home-delivered meals and nutrition programs to Eastern Massachusetts residents in need – specifically homebound individuals and families struggling with HIV/AIDS, cancer or another life-threatening illnesses that has caused them to be too sick to shop or cook for themselves.

Now in its 18th year, “Pie in the Sky” gives caring neighbors the opportunity to purchase a pie that has been artfully baked by one of Boston’s best restaurants, bakeries, caterers and hotels for your Thanksgiving table.  These businesses donate thousands of pies each year, that volunteers like me then sell for $25 each.  Your $25 provides a week’s worth of hearty home-delivered meals to a Community Servings’ client…and a tasty Thanksgiving treat to you!

Last night Jessica O. and I went to the Pie Seller Kickoff Party at Rocca in the South End to pick up our volunteer materials and sample some delicious cocktails. I had the Burnt Orange and Cranberry Pie martini.  Who isn’t a sucker for drinks in a mason jar?

Jessica tried the Maker’s Maple Walnut Old Fashioned.  I tried a sip, but man…I just don’t like whiskey.

The posters for the campaign are charming and eye-catching.  We were all given buttons featuring the trademark slice of pumpkin pie and the slogan “The Secret Ingredient Is You”. 

Here’s how it all works:

  1. Purchase your pie!  You can choose from apple, pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, or diabetic apple.  You can also choose to donate a pie, or purchase a special Raffle Apple Pie for $75.  This pie enters you to win a variety of great raffle prizes.  The link to the prizes isn’t working right now, but I will provide the details ASAP.
  2. Local restaurants, bakeries, caterers and hotels get busy baking your pies.
  3. The thousands of pies are picked up by volunteers and brought to be organized at “Pie Central” in Boston (see below).
  4. The pies are then shipped to over 50 local distribution points in Boston and the surrounding suburbs to be picked up by you the day before Thanksgiving, or delivered by me if you are in my family.
  5. You get to enjoy a delicious pie in your mouth and belly on Thanksgiving, but also a warm feeling in your heart because your contribution is helping feed those in need.

Here is a view of “Pie Central” from last year’s event:

I will be putting the “Pie in the Sky” logo on the right hand side of my blog for the next few weeks that will take you right to my fundraising page with Community Servings.  I know money is tight these days and we all participate in many charity opportunities throughout the year, so I appreciate you even taking the time to read this.

I take it for granted sometimes that if something bad ever happened to me or someone close to me, there would be an army of friends and family to swoop in and provide the most basic of essentials….food, clothing, shelter, kindness, and support.  Community Servings makes sure those of us that don’t have that army are still provided with nourishing and delicious meals, human contact, and the knowledge that others care.

Click here to read a wonderful little feature on a Community Servings driver, Bobcat Smith.

Opportunities really are everywhere to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

The secret ingredient is you!

Thanks, everyone!

Brooklyn in October

Yes, I had a great time in Brooklyn last weekend. 

John’s friend Matt lives in Williamsburg, and my friends Kayte and Sam live on the edge of Park Slope.  John’s brother Matt and his girlfriend Melissa (who serves double duty as one of my best friends and former roommates) also just moved to Park Slope in August and we had yet to see their new place, so they were kind enough to put us up!

We took the bus down from Boston when John got out of work on Saturday, which was nice because it meant I got to spend the day cleaning and baking.  In addition to the Pop-Tarts I made a batch of gluten free cookies for Kayte using the King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Cookie Mix.  I added in chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, and seasonal M&M’s.  I had never had a gluten free cookie before, but they were pretty good! 

One of my favorite parts of any journey is the “getting there” part…the car ride, bus ride, or plane ride.  I love planning my iPod playlists, reading material, and snacks.  This time I knew I wanted to make sandwiches, so I got some Iggy’s rolls at the farmer’s market in the morning and made veggie subs using fake turkey deli slices and sharp cheddar.  Yum.  I packed some back issues of Cooking Light and a Linwood Barclay mystery from the library and was good to go.

Matt and Melissa’s apartment was beautiful – very sunny and cozy with lots of historical detail and charm, which was enhanced by their mostly midcentury-inspired decor.  There is nothing more homey to me than tall bookshelves filled with volumes and mementos that actually represent the people living there.  Also, we got to sleep on their Amazing Aerobed.  It has a built-in inflatable headboard.  I don’t know how I missed getting a photo of it.

On Sunday I was delighted to make a return trip to Four and Twenty Blackbirds.  Kayte brought me there in July during my last visit, and I loved everything about it, from the décor to the pie to the friendly staff.  This time there were gourds on the table.  I am a sucker for gourds.

By the time we arrived it was late in the day and they only had one kind of pie left – Fresh Fig.  I enjoy fig, but this was some serious pie with large chunks of fruit.  I certainly loved the delicious crust and cinnamony, gooey filling around the figs, though…and I was glad to get any pie at all because 5 minutes after we sat down they were sold out!


How cute are Sam and Kayte?  Love them.

Matt and Melissa hosted a taco dinner on Sunday night, and we all caught up on some trash TV before heading out for the evening.  It just felt right…

We headed over to Williamsburg to meet up with Matt and our friend Mikey, who was also visiting.  Hours later at our final bar of the night there was a photobooth, and for $3 a strip and with many drinks behind us, we really went for it.

1.  Me & Melissa  2. John solo  3. John & his brother Matt  4.  Matty A, me & John

There were more, but these were the ones Melissa and I made it home with.  Just priceless.  I can’t wait to look at these when I am very old.

On Monday, Matt and Melissa brought John and I to check out Brooklyn Bridge park.  The city has done an amazing job renovating and landscaping the area (I didn’t see it before but it looks lovely now!) which gave us great views of the bridge, the Manhattan skyline, and the wee Statue of Liberty off in the distance.  I can’t believe I was in a tank top in mid-October!

Before heading back we stopped for a drink at the outdoor Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar, then it was back on the bus, where John promptly fell asleep on me while I listened to 4 hours of RadioLab repeats (best podcast ever). 

I couldn’t have asked for a better time…and as usual, we are already planning our next visits!

That’s okay, right guys?

(Special thanks to Matt for providing me with a loaner camera for the weekend when I left mine in my apartment!  Yay Matt!)

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

This past weekend I went to Brooklyn (not NYC…Brooklyn) to visit my beloved Kayte (and Sam!) in their new place.  I had the best time.  We had no agenda and less than 48 hours together, but managed to accomplish an amazing amount of eating, drinking, and walking everywhere while sweating profusely…but it was a great time, and it was great to see Kayte.

I lied…there was actually one thing on our agenda.  PIE.  Kayte told me about a pie place in her neighborhood that had just opened up in April and had pie to die for.  That place was Four and Twenty Blackbirds.  Since I have been on a major pie kick lately I thought I thought it only fair that I share this latest chapter in ALL THINGS PIE 2010.  We stopped in on Saturday…and went back for breakfast on Sunday.  The bakery/cafe is beautiful, with tin-tiled walls and ceilings, hardwood floors and lots of sunshine.  The pies of the day are written on the chalkboard, along with drinks and some other traditional cafe fare like scones, sweet breads, and their unique spin on “Egg in a Nest”.  The shop is owned and operated by two South Dakota sisters, and I am a sucker for sister business ventures (especially bakery-themed ones) since Courtney and I often joke we should do the same thing.

Saturday’s pie slices were berry crumble and apple ginger.  Kayte was a good sport about all of my picture-taking…even when it meant she had to wait to eat.

Sunday’s slices were blueberry lavender and salted caramel apple (double blog reference there).

The Egg in a Nest was not the “toast with a hole with egg in it” that I was expecting.  Instead it was like a delicious sweet biscuit wrapped in a soufflé-like egg and cheese puff.  Delightful.

The crusts were buttery and flaky.  The fruits were flavorful and fresh.  The ginger had bite.  With teeth.  The girl behind the counter recognized us on Sunday and had great feather earrings.  I will absolutely go back here every time I visit going forward.  Their pies change with the seasons and I want to try them all.

For further reading visit their writeup on Serious Eats.

Or better yet, visit them and taste for yourself!  They are located at 439 3rd Ave in Brooklyn and they are doing it right.