I’ve heard it said you should treat yourself to at least 10 minutes outside every day to increase your general sense of “gosh I feel great.” Unfortunately, living in the Pacific Northwest can make you want to hole up for 5 months out of the year, hence, we don’t get a lot of outside time during the winter. But every so often, we Washingtonians wake up to a little winter sunshine. Case in point: Saturday afternoon. The place: Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, WA. The day: perfect.

Okay, I’ll admit the boyfriend was 20 minutes late to our picnic/wasn’t answering his phone so for all I knew he was in a ditch somewhere in great need of my onion soup. I later learned it was a misunderstanding in which he thought “meet me at the park” meant “I’ll meet you at your house.”

He’s lucky he’s so cute and that he happened to bring along a picnic basket filled with goodies, otherwise the silent treatment he experienced upon arrival may have lasted longer than 10 minutes.

But on to the lovely day…


…which began in tears.

Have you ever sliced 4 large yellow onions? Lucky me, I can now count myself among you teary-eyed cooks. Thank the dear Lord my mom bought a mandolin with her Bed Bath & Beyond store credit. Otherwise I would still be there crying into my vat of onions.

While those cooked themselves into a lather on the stove, I began work on my pint-sized pies. The dough had by now been chilling in the fridge. A quick word on that, you don’t necessarily need a food processor. You too can make pie crust Cuisinart-less America! See those 10 little appendages down there? Use those. Or, you can grab a $5 pastry cutter from Target like I did. Either one does the job just fine. But I guess if you have a fancy chop-chop machine you can use that too.

According to Amy from Eggs onSunday, the crust recipe heralds from Bon Appetit care of epicurious.com. Now I’m the type who loves the soft crust on the inside, but not necessarily the crusty bits around the edges. However, this recipe has me converted. It was so tasty and flaky, with just the right amount of sweet, that I ate the entire thing, edges and all. But back to the baking.

When cutting out the dough, I found it best to give each circle an extra stretch from the rolling pin. You need to make sure to have enough overhang so you can crimp your edges. Otherwise your little pie tops will pop right off. And, like Amy says, make sure to place your dough in every other muffin tin to ensure they don’t touch.

The filling was a simple mix of apples, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and a hint ofcardamom, because we all know how much I adore that spice. I’ll probably add more next time. Or perhaps replace cinnamon entirely with cardamom for a different take.

What I absolutely can’t wait for is summer when berries are back in season. My boyfriend and I already have plans to go picking. And oh the possibilities! Blackberry spice! Raspberry citrus! Strawberry rhubarb! I also want to try a lemon meringue variation. I digress.

It took me awhile to get the hang of crimping the crust edges (my first pie looked like a wee little man sat on it), but I like Amy’s technique. You hold the dough down with your left index and middle fingers, with your palm over the pie, and pull back while the index finger on your right hand tugs the dough between your two left fingers forward. Pretty as a picture.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my soup. The onions have been slowly softening this whole time. Once they were to my liking in went the wet ingredients. After that I let it come to a boil and voila! I was done.

Now the traditional thing to do is to toast some good, French bread, which you use to line the bottom of your soup bowls. You then ladle in soup, top it with cheese and pop it in the oven to cook for an additional 15 minutes. Sadly, my stove would not fit inside my cooler bag. However, the pot did.

So in it went with my pies, some bread, a box of Viennese sugar twists and a few kalamata olives, just because. As stated, the boyfriend was rather late. But all was shortly forgiven and we had the most splendid picnic.



Aren’t picnics a joy? You can just lay in the sun all day and eat. Plus, there’s people watching, which can be quite entertaining, especially in Washington during the first few 60 degree days. Nearly everyone wears shorts. I even saw a few kids in swim trunks. Too bad we were on our way out by then. I would have loved to have seen their excited dip followed by, what I’m sure was, a moment of silence and then the crazy scramble/scream as they ditched the icy Puget Sound. Maybe next time.

Sunnyside beach/park (the agreed upon term between the boyfriend and I. He insisted it was simply a “beach” and I said it was also a “park” since there was plenty of grass AND a jungle gym) is a perfect blend of everything you could want in a park. Green grass for picnicking, a beach for walking, rocks for skipping and a view to watch the sun set. Add to that some great food and a swell guy and you have one lovely little day.

~Brittni

Onion Soup
Adapted from Kathy Scott, a family friend

I love the little kismet moments that happen with these recipes. Take, for example, this soup. My mom likes to ask which recipes I will be cooking every week. I list them off and she makes little comments, remembering them from years ago. But this week, when I mentioned the onion soup she looked at me in shock and said, “not Kathy Scott’s onion soup?!” I glanced at the recipe card and it did indeed say “From the kitchen of…Kathy Scott.” My mom had just been talking about this particular soup the day before with a friend over lunch, though she hasn’t made it, nor eaten it, in over a decade. Coincidence? Nope, kismet.

You will need:
4 large onions, sliced thin
4 tbsp. butter
4 cans beef broth (approx. 60 ounces)
½ cup dry sherry
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
fresh ground pepper to taste
Gruyere or parmesan cheese, preferably shaved

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Melt your butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add your onions and cook until soft, about 20-25 minutes. Don’t rush them! Onions are patient souls and like to take their time.

Add the beef broth, sherry, Worcestershire sauce and stir. Shake in some pepper to your liking.

Bring to a boil and let cook 5 minutes.

While your soup is cooking, lightly toast thin slices of French bread. Place these in the bottom of your soup bowls. Ladle in the cooked soup. Place cheese on top.

Cook in your oven for 15 minutes.

Yield ~ 6 servings

Mini Apple Cup Pies
Adapted from Amy’s blog, Eggs on Sunday

These are adorable, miniature pies baked in muffin tins. Nothing more need be said. Their cute-factor alone speaks volumes.

For the crust you will need:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash
additional granulated sugar to sprinkle on the tops

For the filling you will need:
2 large apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
a few pinches of cardamom
2 tsp flour

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cubes of cold butter and combine with your fingers/pastry cutter/food processor until you get a coarse meal texture. Add the water and blend until clumps begin to form, or until you can pinch the dough and it holds together. If it looks a little dry, add a more water, 1-2 more tbsp. should do it.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half then gather each half into a ball. Flatten the balls into disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine your diced apples, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, cardamom and flour in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Lightly butter the insides and around the top rim of your muffin cups. Use every other muffin cup, not those immediately adjacent to one another, to insure the pies don’t touch (see picture above).

Take the first disk of dough and roll it out to about 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use the biscuit cutter (or a small bowl if all your cookie cutters are boxed away…) to cut out 6 circles. Repeat with the second disk of dough, so that you have 12 circles total. Give each circle an extra roll with your pin.

Make the cup pie bottoms by pressing 6 of the circles of dough down into the muffin cups, firmly pressing with your fingers to line the cup evenly (the dough will fold a bit on the sides, but just mold it with your fingers to follow the surface of the muffin cup.) Make sure you have some overhang for your pie tops to attach to.

Divide the apple filling among each of the cup pie bottoms, mounding it in each cup. And don’t skimp on the apples either, they cook down in the oven.

One by one, place the remaining 6 circles over each cup pie. Firmly press down all around the circle where it rests on the muffin pan, up to where the filling begins — you want to ensure the top crust has adhered to the bottom crust. Flute the edges with your fingers using your preferred method.

Using a small paring knife, cut slits in the tops of each of the pies. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.

Take the muffin pan out and let it the pies cool, in the pan, on the cooling rack for about 30 minutes, then remove them from the pan to cool the rest of the way on the rack.

Yield ~ 6 cup pies, with a little crust left over

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