Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stupendous Shoo-fly Pie

I was dessert man for Thanksgiving. We always have two dinners - one with my mom's side of the family, and one with my dad's. For my mom's side, I just made a Pumpkin Roll and my uncle made pies. For my dad's, I made another Pumpkin Roll, a Caramel Apple Pie, and a Shoo-fly Pie (wet-bottom, of course). While my Caramel Apple Pie was freakin' delicious, I didn't have enough apples so it looked a little empty and sad. My Shoo-fly Pie, however, was perfect (if I do say so myself)!

I'm not really sure where this recipe came from. I'm thinking it's out of one of my great grandmother's cookbooks, but I'm not positive. Shoo-fly Pies are very PA Dutch. I love going to a new area of the world and having people ask me if there are actual flies in it. There are not, by the way. "Shoo-fly" comes from the pie being so sweet from the molasses and people having to shoo the flies away.

Anyway, here's my secret family recipe... possibly.... It might be from the internet somewhere... or a cookbook.... Dunno, but it's my recipe now!

Shoo-fly Pie

9" pie crust
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 C. warm water
1/2 C. molasses
1 C. flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine

- Chill crust for about an hour before use. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

-Stir together the 1/2 tsp. baking soda and the warm water. Add the molasses and stir until the mixture is slightly foamy. Pour molasses mixture into the pie crust.

-Mix together the flour, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda. With a pasty blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until very fine crumbs form. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the wet mixture in the crust. (The idea is that some of the liquid is soaked up, but the bottom will still be wetter than the top - "wet-bottom".)

-Immediately place in the oven and bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for about 40 minutes, or until the pie is set and crust is browned.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of Mice and Men

I went to see the stage adaptation of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men tonight. I said in my very first post that this blog would be partly about theatre... well for the past year, almost the only theatre I saw was when I was working. It's just not the same when you have to watch for ques, or keep a spotlight steady, or wrangle a hundred dancing children. Since Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books ever, and this stage version was amazing, I thought I'd share.

First of all, it was a free performance at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport, PA. So already it's awesome because it's free. To make it even better, the company was the National Players. ( Pretty legit.

The acting was great, for the most part. One of the guys (playing Whit) was the least convincing ranch hand ever... well, the least convincing straight ranch hand. The guy playing Slim would have been great if he would have spoken in his normal voice. He was obviously using his manly man acting voice. Other than that, the actors were entirely convincing. Lennie and George were especially great. George was pretty much exactly how I picture him in my head when I read the book. Lennie was adorable and played perfectly... which made it especially difficult to not sob at the end.

The sets were a little questionable. Everything was brown, and most of the costumes were brown. It was a little monotonous. The set did everything it needed to, though, and they used it well. It was mostly just burlap, crates, and 2x4s. The lighting was pretty incredible. Lots of up-lighting and side lights. There were 8 dark blue Parcans on on the second electric the whole time... which worked great for night scenes, but didn't make much sense for indoor and daytime scenes. That's probably the only lighting I would have changed... added some other colors, or just made them a more neutral color... I don't know, it just kind of bothered me.

I loved the script. It stuck to the book pretty accurately. I don't think they omitted anything, and actually added a little to some scenes... I think just to give Curley's dad and wife some more stage time. I was very pleasantly surprised that they didn't change anything. The only thing I didn't like about the staging is whenever a character left the scene, they didn't exit the stage... they just stood in the back and watched the action. It was a little distracting/weird/creepy. I'd like to hear the director's explanation.

Overall, I'd probably give it an 8 on a scale of 10. It was a wonderful production, with a wonderful cast. It would have been pretty impossible to get a full 10, because they would have had to let me design the set and lights... and have a hand in the directing... so an 8 from me is pretty amazing.

I would like to see more shows at the CAC. I'm pretty sure this is only the second time I've been there. If they ever hired anyone ever, I would work there in a heartbeat. It's a gorgeous space, and their tech seems pretty awesome. Maybe next time I see something there, I'll take a bunch of resumes and just give one to every employee I see. :-P

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Coconut Bar Pie"

Sorry my posting has been pretty erratic lately. I'm busy living my life of leisure. I'm working a few hours a week at the Campus, but mostly I watch Netflix and eat.

So how many of you tried the Coconut Bar Pie when Perkins still had it? It was probably the best pie I've ever had. Ever. Well, it was a limited time thing, so I decided to try to make my own version so I can have it whenever I want. I took bits and pieces from several other recipes, and combined them to make my own Coconut Bar Pie recipe.

I'm pretty stoked because this is really the first recipe I've come up with on my own. I'm great at following recipes, but not at making them up. It turned out pretty great, so I'm totally impressed with myself. Now... I'm not sure if "Coconut Bar Pie" is copyrighted or anything by Perkins, so if it is, I'll probably change the name to Coconut Creme-Truffle Pie, since the chocolate layer is actually just a recipe for truffle filling. It's pretty amazing, not gonna lie.

Coconut Bar Pie


1 C. chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Chocolate Layer:
1/4 + 1/8 C. whipping cream (3/8 C. total)
1 Tbsp. butter
7 oz. chocolate chips, or chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 C. flaked coconut

Coconut Creme Layer:
Lg. package (5oz.) instant vanilla pudding
1 3/4 C. cold milk
1 1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 C. flaked coconut
1 container lite Cool Whip - thawed

Toasted Coconut


1. For the crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9" deep dish pie plate with cooking spray. Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter in a mixing bowl. Mix until the mixture is an even consistency (no lumps). Press crumb mixture into pie plate to form a crust. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Do not overbake - it will be too hard! Cool completely.

2. In a saucepan, heat whipping cream and butter over medium heat until just boiling. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate. Do not stir right away - just cover the pan and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Spread chocolate mixture into the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with 1/4 C. flaked coconut. Put in the fridge to let the chocolate set.

3. Whisk together the instant pudding, milk, and coconut extract until combined and thick. Stir in the 1/2 C. flaked coconut. Fold in half of the container of Cool Whip. Spread pudding mixture on top of the chocolate layer in the crust.

4. Top with the other half of the Cool Whip. To toast the coconut, spread a handful on a cookie sheet and put under the broiler in the oven until lightly browned. Keep an eye on it, it can burn quickly! Sprinkle toasted coconut on top, and refrigerate the pie until it's set.

Enjoy! It's delicious!

Hint: Take the pie out of the fridge half an hour or so before you plan to serve it. I learned the hard way that it's difficult to cut through the chocolate layer when it's still fridge-cold and solid!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicago - Part 3

This will be the final installation in my Chicago posts. I've been putting it off because it's been taking forever to load photos. :-P

Aaaaanyway, our final full day in the city started a little later than the last. We probably have many margs to thank for that. After we got going, we quickly found out that it was very cold, very wet, and very windy out. Boo. We sucked it up and headed to Navy Pier.

I kind of thought Navy Pier was like a boardwalk and everything would be outside. So we were pleasantly surprised when it was all inside. We even got a free coupon book for checking in on Facebook.

It was pretty awesome. There were tons of little souvenir shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. The first thing we did was, of course, get more Starbucks. We then did the Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze. I don't have any pictures because I was too busy hiding behind Marcy. It wasn't actually scary, but it had a haunted house vibe, and I kept expecting someone to jump out at me. It was loads of fun, and I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be on Navy Pier.

After the maze, we walked through the Stained Glass Museum, which I was pretty much enthralled with. My favorite piece was this one:

...which any Questionable Content fan will appreciate, because of this.

After wandering around the Pier for a couple of hours, we set off to find the original Pizzeria Uno. It was after the lunch rush, so we didn't even have to wait!

Instead of getting enough to feed an entire third world country again, we got individual-sized pizzas. I went with BBQ chicken deep dish pizza.

It was still way too much because it came with soup or salad and then, of course, we got dessert. It was as amazing as Giordano's, though!

After day two of way too much amazing Chicagoan food, we went to Sear's Tower... which is actually now Willis Tower. Apparently the name changes to whatever company is renting the most space in it. It was Sear's when they built it, now it's Willis - some financial company, and the guy said it would soon be United Tower, for United Airlines.

We got there (after only asking directions once), got our tickets, watched the little informative video, and went to the top - 103 stories high. It was rainy and windy and foggy, so the views weren't great, but it was still amazing.

There's also the Ledge - these little glass boxes that jut out from the side of the building, so when you step out into them, it feels like you're floating 103 stories up in the air.

It was an amazing experience... until we were almost ready to leave. Apparently the wind was so strong, they had to evacuate the top floors of the building. You could feel the whole structure swaying. There was so much movement, that we couldn't even use the regular elevator. The cables were swinging around and we probably would have plummeted to our deaths. Instead, they had to take everyone down in groups of about 35 in the freight elevator in the middle of the building. Let's just say it took forever, and no one was happy.

After escaping an untimely death, we headed back to the hostel before our show that night. I had been planning on going to the Lincoln Park Zoo, but it was way too cold and wet. We went back to the room to recover and dry off a little before heading to Trick or Teets. It was a Halloween burlesque-parody. So there was no actual stripping, just lots of sex jokes and crude songs. It was hilarious! I would totally go back to see it again.

After the show, we hit a bar on the way back to the train. It was a sports bar, and they were doing airline trivia. Not really my cup of tea, but it was warm and they had alcohol. We also passed this place...

It was very confusing. It says it's a watch and clock repair place... but there were a bunch of neon beer signs in the windows. I still don't know if it was actually a bar, or what....

After getting back to the hostel area, we found a nice warm, homey Irish pub with $2 drinks. We had more than enough to warm us up, then went in search of a Chicago-style hot dog. I'm glad we drank first because I don't think I could have eaten one sober. A Chicago-style hot dog is a char-grilled hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with relish, mustard, onion, pickled peppers, celery salt, tomato slices, and a dill pickle spear.

I was so far gone, it was actually pretty good. I had to have one while I was in Chicago!

The next day, we headed home around 10AM. The car even started on the first try. Leaving the city, we drove along Lake Michigan for awhile and it looked like the ocean. The waves were huge from the storms the day before.

Overall, I'm kind of in love with Chicago. I think it's earned 3rd place on my favorite cities list... behind New York and London, of course. While I am not a fan of the 10 to 11-hour drive, I will definitely go back someday, hopefully fairly soon!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicago - Part 2

So our first full day in the city started pretty early since we'd called it quits early the night before. We decided to head down to the Art Institute area. I wanted to explore the Institute and the Shedd Aquarium, as well as see the "Bean" and Buckingham Fountain. All of which were pretty much in the same area.

Since the Art Institute didn't open until 10:30AM, we found the Cloud Gate Sculpture, a.k.a the "Bean" first.

It's pretty awesome. I could probably amuse myself for hours trying to get pictures of reflections.

After the Bean, we saw a Starbucks across the street, so we went for some coffee. I should have kept a latte count during the trip, because I took in more caffeine in those four days than I usually do in a month! Fresh from our coffee fix, we headed back past the Institute since they still weren't open at this point, and found Buckingham Fountain.

I'm sure it's very pretty, but unfortunately it had been drained for the winter. We did get our first glimpse of Lake Michigan, though!

By this time, the Art Institute was open, so we made our way back.

It was actually super amazing. We saw works by Picasso, Dali, Monet, Van Gogh, Hopper, Wood, and a bunch of other amazing artists. Apparently there were some paintings by Degas somewhere, but we couldn't find them. I think my favorite, though, was A Sunday on la Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat.

We spent a few hours at the Art Institute and saw everything from paintings, to sculpture, to kimonos, to WWII Soviet propaganda posters. If I lived in Chicago, I would totally cough up the $80 for a membership, just to go and stare at masterpieces whenever I want.

After the Art Institute, we went for lunch. We ended up at Giordano's for our first taste of Chicago stuffed pizza. We ordered a medium for the two of us, which was a huuuuge mistake. One piece was enough to fill anyone up, and we each had to eat four because we were walking around the city and couldn't take leftovers with us. It was amazing, but waaaay too much.

Despite being stuffed to the point of not being able to breathe, we also each had a cannoli before heading to the Shedd Aquarium.

We didn't realize the aquarium closed at 5PM, and it was already about 3:30PM when we got inside, so we just did the $8 main floor admission. So we didn't get to see the dolphins or whales or the jellyfish exhibit, but just the main floor was awesome, and I love aquariums!

Also at the aquarium, there were some awesome views of Lake Michigan.

Since that was our last stop for the day, we made our way back to the hostel to get ready for our show that night. It was Woman School - based on a Moliere play. When we got there, however, we were the only audience members. Since it was just us, they decided to cancel the performance. They offered to move our tickets to another night, and/or give us lots more tickets for our friends, but since we were only in town for one more day and had tickets to another show, we had to ask for a refund. I felt bad since they were obviously a small, struggling theatre company, but I needed my $20 more than they did.

In lieu of our show, we went out drinking. We hit a tequila bar/Mexican restaurant first and split a pitcher of delicious margs, and then had a sangria a piece. We then ventured out and hit a few other bars before heading back to the hostel for the night.