Rainy day minimalist

We’re finally getting a break from the torrent of rain, and it occurred to me I never once used an umbrella. Maybe one more thing we don’t need in retirement? As I see it, there are several options:

  • Stay home. This is the luxury of retirement. Crappy weather? Oopsie, I’m innie. If you have a television and stock a treasure trove of food, libations, puzzles and books, you should be fine riding out the storm. The cat and I like to play, “Stuck in a frozen cabin in the woods.”
  • Retirement-proof your hair. The reason many women avoid the rain is about hair or shoes. It seems to me most men don’t bother with umbrellas. It’s time to get over the hype your hair must be fixed, full, smooth and perfect. Let it go wild. My longish hair actually looks better with a little rain on it. Sort of the poor man’s French girl hair.
  • Dump the good shoes. In one of my last dressy work-related events before I retired, I wore silver Birkenstock sandals. In hindsight, I can see it was my way of saying, guess what? I’m retiring! These days, I have Merrell boots for big rain involving puddles. For modest sprinkles, Keen sandals (with or without socks) or just athletic shoes. Nothing bad will happen to them.
  • Wear a hat. Hats and dark glasses are God’s way of saying you look marvelous. No makeup required. No need to fix your hair. Just plop and go. Add sunglasses or tinted lenses for extra protection from critical observers. A brim keeps the rain off your glasses.
  • Get a raincoat. Or two. My fave is a real Scottish Mackintosh I bought when I still had cash flow. Coupled with a black Tilley hat, Dale says I look menacing. I also have a short rain jacket for sports and a knee-length Marmot for putzing around. Hoods are handy, depending on what type of hat you select. Big pockets are essential.
  • Ditch the handbag. That’s what pockets are for. Possible exceptions include an all-weather crossbody bag or my old favorite … the backpack purse! Coming back to a neighborhood near you soon.

Umbrellas are relatively cheap, so this isn’t a huge money saver, but it’s another foot forward on the minimalist path. The real pain of umbrellas is what to do with them when you arrive at your destination. Or how to carry one when you have other stuff to carry on the way to your destination.

Hands-free is better than dragging around an umbrella. Plus, you can run faster when the bad shit goes down.

As for the image above, I’ve been having fun with the free Android app Sketch Photo.

Pickled beet memories

Even though I grew up surrounded by California’s wondrous bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, my mother did not like to cook and thanked the Blessed Virgin Mary every day for packages and cans. And, of course, she was witness to the Miracle of Swanson TV Dinners.

I don’t think I tasted a fresh peach until high school. Potatoes were powdered out of a box or the small white ones out of a can. Believe it or not, when I joined the Army shortly after high school, I considered the mess hall fine dining.

Back in the day, Mom frequently served canned pickled beets. A lot of people say yuk to beets, but I loved them! Now I buy beets fresh at the store or the farmer’s market and pickle them myself. But it’s kind of a pain in the rear. Today I had the brilliant idea of making them in the Instant Pot.

The grocery store usually sells beets in little bundles of three. I actually wanted yellow beets, but I didn’t like the looks of them so went with red. Gave them a good rinse in the sink and then peeled and diced them raw. I would guess it was about two cups, which I tossed into the pot.

I checked several references for cook time and liquids and found inspiration at Plant Based Instant Pot. I decided on 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar.  Tossed that in the pot and added a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, a few allspice berries and one tablespoon of maple syrup.

Popped on the lid. Made sure the pressure valve was closed and pressed manual, high pressure for five minutes. It didn’t take long for the pot to come to pressure, so I’d say less than 10 minutes all together. When the timer went off, I very carefully released the pressure manually.

They’re in the fridge now, but I taste-tested, and they are delicious! Next time I might add a bit of sliced Maui onion. Maybe a Bay Leaf.

Yesterday was whole roast chicken with Dale’s Maine-style potato stuffing and steamed baby broccoli. We’re going with chicken sandwiches on sourdough for dinner tonight , so I thought some sort of dark red or green vegetable would be good on the side. I’ve been craving beets.

What a perfect use for the Instant Pot. I wonder what else we can pickle the same way. Ginger? Carrots?

By the way, I’m not completely dissing canned vegetables. You have to pick and choose. Beets and corn seem to survive nicely. To me, the worst canned vegetable is asparagus. But I bet you somebody out there has a happy canned asparagus memory, and they eat it to this day.

How to use an alarm clock

Everybody has an opinion, but I was shocked to see retirement advice stating it’s important to establish a routine by getting up with an alarm every morning and filling your day with activity. I was going to leave a comment, but this particular site doesn’t enable comments. Here’s my comment:

Are you smoking crack?

Seriously, that is the dumbest advice I’ve ever heard. Dumber than even the new Abby, who hardly ever gets it right, in my opinion. The old Abby had her act together.

Back to the subject of sleep. The author says once you’re retired and don’t use an alarm, your whole day might be spent in bed or on the couch watching TV or on the porch watching the world go by.

I imagine there are retirees who might spend 30 or 40 years working their butts off and then suddenly decide to squander the rest of their lives doing nothing, but no, I really can’t imagine that. Even in my quest to be less productive, I have many interests, and well, shit must be done.

My body wakes up naturally around 6:30 a.m. I read the news and do the NY Times mini puzzle from under the covers, which by the way, is an art form. Bad things happen if you press too hard on the back of the phone. Most mornings I choose not to get up until around 7 a.m. I pack a lot into my days, but I go for the late start and ease in slowly.

The blur of breakfast and lunch can be problematic if you’re not careful, but retirement meal clash can be avoided with proper management.

Waking up without an alarm is one of the greatest joys retirement brings. I waited my whole life for this. While there’s no shame in getting up early to be productive if that’s how you roll, I’m here to say you can ignore all the advice if you like. Not everyone needs a routine. You don’t have to be productive. You can do what you want. You can sleep in.

During my last few years on the job, I had a long commute and got up every morning at 4 a.m. I don’t miss it. In fact, I was thinking the other day about what I do miss from work, and it was hard to even make a list.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Room service! A tiny moment of pure joy after a long day of business travel and painful encounters with disagreeable executives. So, yeah, I miss room service, but I could probably get Dale to pretend.

I only set an alarm if I absolutely positively have to be somewhere early, and these days, that usually means golf. Alarm clocks are also good to make sure you don’t overdo it on a nap. 

Simple needs, easily met

Tuesday is my favorite day of the week because it’s Chopped night on TV. I could watch it for hours. OK, I do watch it for hours.

I’m kind of a complicated person, and I’ve often joked my goal is simple needs, easily met. Sadly, I’m usually all about complex needs that are difficult to meet. Cooking in retirement puts me closer to my goal.

The slab pies continue to fascinate. I wrote author Cathy Barrow asking about reducing the size, and she said the recipes aren’t designed for round pies. She uses 1/4 sheet pans. I happened to notice 1/8 sheet pans do exist, and she agreed they would be perfect for her pies. Either cut the recipe in half and make one, or make two and freeze one.

I got my 1/8 sheet pans in the mail yesterday, and I’m at it again. This time it’s Cowboy Beef Stew Slab Pie with lard crust. I guess the “cowboy” comes from Ancho chili powder and coffee. Not that lard is a health food, but it’s not as bad as you think.

So many things to love about retirement, but cooking has to be among my favorites. I have more time to pay attention to what’s going on in the world, and it seems to me the world has gone crazy. The kitchen is my shelter from the storm. Something about chopping, mixing, weighing, baking, roasting, stirring and browning mellows me out. Plus, we eat well!

It’s a good thing my other favorite hobbies involve exercise.

I’ll try not to beat the slab pie drum again, but I did want to share an update about downsizing. The author provides metric weights for all ingredients, and I’ve found that to be super-helpful for cutting the recipes in half.

For example, the full recipe calls for 1/4 cup or 30 grams of all-purpose flour. I don’t have an 1/8 cup measure, but our digital scale does metric, so I just weigh 15 grams. Most of the crust recipes include versions for both one and two-crust pies, and the one-crust recipe is perfect for a two-crust pie made in a 1/8 sheet pan. Wow, say that fast three times in a row.

Cathy also tells you what steps can be completed in advance. I made the crust today – the dough rests in the refrigerator overnight. I also made the filling, as her pies call for chilled crust and chilled filling. The filling will also rest in the refrigerator overnight. Tomorrow, all I have to do is roll out dough and make pie! Splitting up tasks is also easier on the dishwasher.

The weather is cold by California standards, certainly by my standards, and it’s supposed to rain hard tomorrow. Crusty beefy pie sounds perfect to me.

Dale’s on tap to cook this evening. He’s making a breaded pork cutlet known at our house as Schnitzel on a Stick. It’s basically a pounded-out pork schnitzel made from a bone-in chop. Side dishes are steamed spinach and maybe some pan-fried potatoes (bratkartoffeln).

To drink? Dale just loaded the kegerator with Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery.

All that and Chopped. Clean jammies. A cozy fire. Perhaps a cat in the lap. Did I say simple needs, easily met?

Is it too late to start running?

Have you thought about running? As in actually propelling your body down the street in a moderate jog? The benefits are big, and it may not be too late to start.

I ran a bit in the 70s and early 80s but gave it up for walking by the time I turned 30. I simply didn’t enjoy running all that much. Walking has been good for me physically and mentally.

For a year or so now, I’ve had this urge to run. I’ll be out walking, and all of the sudden, I think, “Wow, it might feel good to run.” It’s not about losing weight or becoming super-fit. All of the sudden, it just sounded like fun.

Yet, I resisted. Why start now in my 60s, when walking seems to be fine? I started reading and found some interesting articles on the benefits of running, especially as we age. The most startling study found running might actually be good for your knees. In terms of bone density, running beats walking hands-down.

I finally decided to make the leap. I thought, well, I’ll alternate walking 30 seconds and then running 30 seconds. The first steps were wobbly at best – I wasn’t sure my ankles would hold me up! It felt weird to put that kind of pressure on my body.

Even for walking, I wear Hoka One One super-cushioned shoes, as I have bulging discs and other back maladies associated with age. I wear the Bondi 6. The shoes felt good, and once I got running, my ankles were functional. I completed a mile doing the walk-run.

Gradually, I increased to 1 minute of walking and 1 minute of running. And then I worked my way up to running a mile non-stop. I don’t want to screw this up, so I’m taking it slow.

After years of hating running, I can’t wait to do it again. I like the way the way running makes me feel. It’s a level of endurance hard to achieve through walking, unless you do lots of it. It’s winter now, and I love the way running warms me up fast. I can walk for an hour and never feel warm.

By retirement age, most of us have physical limitations. I say move if you’re able, as much as you’re able. Including physical movement in our daily lives enhances health and well-being. It’s great to run, work out at the gym and play sports, but walking, housework, yard work and cooking count, too.

From everything I’ve read, walking is nearly as beneficial as running, but you have to do more of it. We’re retired now, so walking more shouldn’t be a problem, right? I plan to continue my long walks, but I like these little walk-runs and want to gradually increase the running time. Here’s a good article from Consumer Reports on running versus walking.

The most comprehensive argument for running comes from no other than Runner’s World. The article focuses on running to look and feel younger and covers benefits to the heart, muscles, brain and immune system. The article speculates running 2 ½ hours per week total reaps all the rewards to be reaped. This article from the New York Times suggests 2 hours of running per week adds seven years to your life.

Will our aging backs, knees and other mysterious parts hold up to running? I find the body to be remarkably delicate and resilient at the same time. The key to running at this age or maybe any age is to ease in slowly and monitor your body carefully.

It’s exciting to be 63 years old and completely surprised by the spontaneous urge to run. I’m going for it.

Passport to beer

When it comes to beer, I’m no Brett Kavanaugh, but I do enjoy a brew or two. Many years ago, I drank Milwaukee’s Best Light, which was the cheapest beer available. I’d invite friends over and offer them a beer. Everyone was like, um, no thanks. Dale said it was time to upgrade my beer.

I switched to Bud Light, and that was my beer of choice for years. After living in Germany and collecting those gorgeous steins, it’s safe to say I love regular beer, but I believed it was fattening, so I mostly stuck with lights. About 10 years ago a friend suggested if I really truly loved beer, I should consider drinking the real thing.

Real beer has barley, hops, water and yeast. No corn syrup, no rice.

Not that beer is a health food, but one does one’s best to heighten the pleasure and minimize the downside. Lots of commercially brewed beer includes corn syrup and/or rice.

Of course, I did not watch the Super Bowel, but I saw commercials for Bud Light bragging about not using corn syrup like Coors Light and Miller Lite. I think they all use rice. Not like it’s poison or anything, but I have come to appreciate the taste and quality of “clean” beer.

Dale was morally opposed to light beer anyway, so my switch was good news for him. We started buying microbrews, and there was no turning back. The interesting thing is I did not gain weight when I switched to the heartier beers. Maybe because you drink less of it? Or maybe light beer is like diet soda and can actually make you gain weight?

If I wanted a light mass-produced beer these days, I would go for Amstel Light, which is tasty and seems devoid of extra stuff.

For $15 each, we purchased beer passports, which encourage people to get out and visit local breweries. There are more than 70! Each brewery stamps its section of the passport, and after four stamps, you get a bottle opener. Sixteen stamps, and you get a pint glass. Fill up the passport, and they create a custom map documenting your travels.

So far, we have three stamps. We went to one brewery not far from our home and the other two within a 30-minute drive. Our practice to date has been to arrive around 2 p.m. and have one beer each. The breweries were great, the beer was delicious and we enjoyed talking to other beer aficionados. Our passports were quite the hit with some, although others were familiar with the program and have already filled up the pages.

While your area may not have a passport program, I’ll bet you have a good selection of local breweries. If you like beer, I encourage you to visit. Most have sampler glasses, and I was also surprised to see a good selection of beer in the 4 percent ABV range, which is quite nice for an afternoon beer. Another little retirement pleasure!

By the way, I totally get it if microbrews aren’t your thing. Beer preferences are often a mishmash of taste, culture, brand loyalty and memories. Do you have a favorite beer? What makes it special to you?

Super Bowel Sunday

It’s a windy, rainy day and a good one for hanging out in the kitchen. The weather report said occasional rain, but so far it has been occasionally raining steadily since last night. Oh, yeah, I forgot. It’s the Super Bowel. I hate football, so nothing there for me.

I was thinking this morning how much I love being retired and having the opportunity to cook from scratch and eat great food that doesn’t come out of a box. In the ongoing adventures of my cooking life:

  • I’ve temporarily stopped making yogurt. Two batches in a row failed, so I decided to take a break. I’m enjoying whole milk European-style yogurt from Straus Family Creamery. No thickeners or stabilizers or any of that weird stuff. The yogurt is advertised as pourable. I add fruit and homemade granola, and it works just fine for me.
  • Yesterday I made Butter Mochi. I had never heard of it, but a friend sent me the recipe, and I’ve been itching to try it. Wow! So unusual, but right up my alley. I like chocolate, but my tastes in food lean blonde. Butter, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel. Luckily, we have neighbors who will eat anything we give them, so it’s not hanging around pointing a gun at our heads. I think it would be a nice dessert for an outdoor barbecue party.
  • I bought the slab pie book. Today I am making chicken pot pie with leftover roasted chicken. I made the all-butter crust that worked so well last time, but I only made enough for one crust. I divided it in half and will make two small free-form rustic pies. The dough is resting in the fridge now. I’m cutting the filling by half, but I suspect there will still be too much, so I’ll freeze the rest. I love the recipes from this book, and it just doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to downsize. We shall see.
  • The Instant Pot is primed to make chicken stock, using up the frozen chicken carcasses we saved from previous roast chickens. I’m waiting on grocery boy to get back from the store with the leeks I need for the chicken pot pie. Seemed less wasteful to use some of those instead of onions in the stock. The stock takes about an hour in the Instant Pot.
  • Cannabis tincture! I am almost out of the batch I made last year. I’m using the Magical Butter Machine. You just add 1 ounce of decarboxylated cannabis and 2 cups of 190 proof Everclear. Set the temperature, push the timer button and four hours later, I have tincture. It’s cycling through now, and the machine makes the strangest noises, but it’s easy and safe.

Let me say a few words about tincture. As I’ve written before, I was not using cannabis while I was working. I had a mastectomy shortly before I retired and experienced neuropathic pain throughout the scarred area. The first thing I tried was Kikoko tea, which is a low-dose cannabis product. I love it. I wouldn’t say the tea cured the pain, but I felt really good and didn’t notice the pain. I started reading up on other cannabis products to see if I could get the same results cheaper.

Enter tincture. Tincture is either made with alcohol or glycerin. You can put a few drops under the tongue for quick results, although the alcohol-based tincture burns. That’s why I mix it in juice. Or you can even add it to a spoon of honey. It takes longer to feel the effects, and it does go through your liver, but the alcohol content is quite minimal, so I don’t worry about it.

I started with a few drops and added a drop a day until I got the right dosage. I was not seeking a high. I just wanted that pleasant feeling that starts when I feel myself starting to smile. One does build up a tolerance over time. After a year of one dropperful in the morning with my juice, I gradually increased to two dropperfuls. I think that’s about ½ teaspoon.

Tincture, to me, is nothing short of a miracle. I feel happier than I have maybe in my whole life. Granted, some of that is being retired, but I can feel the difference if I miss my dose. I tend to be very anxious about everything, and a small dose of tincture daily keeps those demons at bay. My neuropathic pain is almost non-existent. Some of that can be attributed to the cannabis cream I use as well.

For people who are curious about cannabis but don’t want to smoke it, I highly recommend tincture. Dispensaries sell it – if you live in a state where they have dispensaries. It’s worth getting a medical recommendation if that’s what it takes to purchase cannabis legally where you live.

Passenger seat drivers

Everyone said just wait until retirement, when you’ll be spending all your time together driving each other nuts. There’s some truth to the prophecy, but we’ve been working our way through it and doing quite nicely. The driving part is where we get into trouble.

Much of our marital success can be attributed to spending time away from each other. Our love of food and cooking puts us in the kitchen a lot but not usually together. I do most of the housework, so there’s a fun solo activity for me. Dale tends to the yard, barely, but I’m still giving him points for keeping me out of it. I play golf and am sucked down that shame spiral two to three days a week.

All that aside, we are emotionally attached at the core and cannot imagine the day when one of us has to go it alone. But the truth is, we actually don’t need much togetherness. Maybe it’s the secret to our 40-year marriage. We each have our own interests, sometimes they align, and if they don’t, we meet up for happy hour in the living room and swap stories.

But then there are the together days. A trip to the market, the library or a local winery. Road trips. This is where driving issues emerge, and I’m the first one to admit I’m a huge part of the problem. It’s not that I’m a better driver, it’s that I’m a terrible passenger seat driver.

Why would you park in that spot when there’s a better one over there?

Slow down! It’s not a race.

Are you sure you parked inside the lines?

Watch out – there’s a car in the next lane!

Something’s going on up ahead – you’d better slow down.

Oh, don’t turn left here. Go up to the next light, where there’s an arrow.

I can drive if you want to just drink your coffee and relax.

In all fairness to me, his sister confidentially shared she was riding with him, he was going kind of fast down the hill outside our neighborhood, and he cried out, “Wheeee!” all the way to the bottom.

I do trust Dale’s driving. It’s mostly my neurosis at play, but wheeee goes against all I stand for when it comes to interacting with a motorized vehicle. Still, I have worked hard to zip it, and Dale agrees I am much better. Now, if I start to say something, I catch myself and stop. Unless, of course, it’s a speak up or die kind of thing.

This morning’s paper had a column on driving with one finger on the wheel – one of Dale’s signature moves. I use one finger, too, but it’s the middle one, pointed straight up.

I hate being a harpy, but then I believe every bridge, every overpass, every onramp, is an invitation to death. I marked up the article when I was done with that section and left it there. Came upstairs and sat down at my computer, when I heard this big laugh. I said, “What’s so funny?” He said, “Oh, the subtle message. Thanks.”

You’re welcome! That’s retirement, I thought, just trying to live through it.

Can you be bad at art?

Earlier this month, I decided to explore my inner artist. While I am creative in the sense I write and cook, I have never given visual art much of a go. I don’t read the comics, because I don’t relate to the images. I’m a word girl.

I started with a simple decoupage project to make coasters out of stone tiles. Coasters with inspirational quotes, because I’m a word girl. I was talking with my neighbor and said I was experimenting with art. I mentioned the coasters, and she said, “Oh, you mean crafts.”

That seemed a bit pretentious to me, the differentiation between arts and crafts, but whatever. I plodded on. All but one of my coasters is in the trash, and the other one is headed there soon. I don’t like the way the coasters look, and they don’t even come close to what I imagined in my head. However, I enjoyed the effort and am not quitting on decoupage just yet.

My next stop was a two-day class in making clay masks. The class was offered at a nearby arts center, and it was part of a grant supporting art therapy for women veterans. I’m a veteran, so the class was free. Nothing to lose, right?

Well, not so fast. I didn’t feel comfortable as a veteran or as an aspiring artist. The other women were a lot younger and have stayed connected to various veteran’s organizations. I got out in 1977 and never looked back. The women veterans I know got jobs with defense contractors and built high-profile careers.

These women didn’t have jobs and spent their days tending to husbands and children and juggling appointments at the VA hospital. I did my best to listen, contribute and be supportive. Three of us had bouts with breast cancer, and on a break, we compared scars. One woman told me she was 100 percent disabled from PTSD resulting from MST. I asked, “What’s MST?”

Military Sexual Trauma.

It’s heartbreaking to see such vibrant women defined by the bad things that happened to them. But here they were. Making art. Laughing and telling their stories. It wasn’t my community, but I was glad these veterans found theirs and were so open about their experiences. I was also happy they were good at art. I mean, somebody has to be, right?

Because it would not be me. Oh, I know all the talk. You don’t learn to play a violin by picking it up once. There’s no such thing as artistic talent. You either do art or you don’t.

All I know is my mask looked awful, and it got worse by the minute. I thought paint would help, but that was the beginning of the end. There was no rhyme or reason to the colors I picked. Toward the finale, I was just slapping paint on there, whatever color was left, eager to be done with it.

Go me – I finished first! The teacher will now put the masks in his kiln, and I guess we go back in a couple of weeks to pick them up. I don’t even want mine, but maybe it will serve some yet undisclosed purpose.

I suppose it was good to get outside my comfort zone, but honestly, I did not enjoy myself. I don’t have a deep appreciation of art in general. There was a little gallery adjacent to the workshop, and they invited me to look around since I was (of course) the first one there, but I could not have been less interested. Try as I might to change, I think I’m still all about starting and finishing tasks subsequently evaluated on the basis of perfection.

Hearing about the terrible experiences of these women veterans depressed me. I know. That is so self-absorbed. One of the women who had worked for the VA said she quit because it was too depressing, and she often sat crying with the veterans who came in for help.

The women and their stories left a mark on me. Maybe that’s why I was supposed to attend this class. It wasn’t necessarily good for my mood, but it was probably good for my soul.

At the end of the day, I don’t think art is my thing. Maybe my neighbor was right. I’m more likely to enjoy making crafts. Something that has a purpose – not just art for art’s sake. I know arts and crafts take practice and patience, but I do feel bad that so far, I suck at it.

On the other hand, I’m glad I opened my eyes to the possibility of creating something crafty or artistic, if there is indeed a difference.

My first slab pie

Although I don’t make dessert pies often, Dale and I both adore savory pies. There’s one with fresh summer tomatoes and basil with cheddar cheese in a biscuit crust. Oh, and the recipe from an old Gourmet magazine for broccoli and sausage pie with Swiss cheese and a whole wheat crust topped with sesame seeds.

My most important rule for pie making? Never trim the excess crust – just bulk it up so there’s more.

As a crust fanatic, I’ve made my share of winners and losers. I enjoy making pie dough, but there is nothing worse than screwing it up. I’ve done reasonably well since I abandoned fancy and reverted back to my old recipe with Crisco. But I’m all about continuous improvement.

I read about a new cookbook by Cathy Barrow: Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies. At first, it didn’t appeal to me, because slab pies are big, and there’s just two of us. But then I saw the book at the library, and I had nothing to lose by checking it out.

What a unique and well-done book! I curled up on the couch and read it from front to back. She talks about pie crust in ways I have never heard it discussed. She’s an excellent writer, who explains the art of making good pies in easy-to-understand language.

Cathy includes great ideas for substituting ingredients and tips for making it ahead, which simplifies the process … because as you know, I’m retired and quite busy! She also tells you how to freeze it and how to reheat it. Stuff you want to know but cookbook authors rarely tell you.

Oh, and it turns out crust is not just flour and shortening. Recipes include cream cheese crust, caramelized onion crust, rye crust and a host of press-in crusts using crackers, cornbread, potatoes and more. The book is really a crust-lover’s dream. My only complaint is that she says to trim the excess.

Slab pies look huge, but when I saw they were made in ¼ sheet pans, it seemed less daunting. I started with Curried Chicken Pie with All-Butter Crust. The filling includes chicken, cauliflower, carrots and sugar snap peas. This is the first time I made a successful all-butter crust, and it was the first time I put the pie pan on top of a pizza stone in the oven.

I have some things to learn about rolling the dough for this new shape, but is that not a beautiful pie?

Beautiful and delicious. We’re having it again tonight. I assume it’s only a matter of time before I break down and buy the book. If you love pie, I encourage you to explore this book. I learned so much and can’t wait to try another recipe.

Maybe Poblano and Chorizo Slab Pie with a Hash Brown Crust?

Postscript: For second-night dinner, we found ourselves raiding the corners because … well … more crust. Then we had a whole middle to deal with, and that leads to the only downside of these pies. They are big. Even if you freeze the leftovers, it’s more pie than we need.

I’m still going to get the book. The recipes and instructions are fantastic, and I believe I can tinker with quantities to make a smaller round pie or even individual rustic pies, the kind where you just flap the dough over the filling. But if you have more people to feed, go for the slab!