Rhubarb Strawberry Custard Pie

I’m currently in Portland visiting my cousin Kristin and her husband Dick. When I had booked my flight I mentioned that I’d love to cook for them while I was their guest

To my delight their neighbor had given them rhubarb from his magnificent garden and I offered to make my favorite Rhubarb Custard pie. They had beautiful strawberries and Dick asked if we could add those as well, absolutely!

Using my Mom’s Piecrust Recipe, Kristin and I made two 10 inch pie crusts. Twice, though that was not the plan. Chatting too much I botched one tiny step in the first batch and it was impossible to roll out. The second batch was perfect. Then onto the pie recipe:

Rhubarb Strawberry Custard Pie – recipe for one pie

  • 1 10 inch pie crust (unbaked)
  • 3 c Rhubarb – 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 c sliced strawberries
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 T milk
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 T cold butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the rhubarb and strawberries, spread over the pie crust.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, milk and nutmeg, pour over filling. Add the cold diced butter on the top.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet, then into the oven on the lowest rack (this helps to cook the crust on the bottom).  Bake for 35 minutes, remove and sprinkle sugar over the top of the pie. Place back in the oven, turning the pan 180 degrees to get even browning on the crust. Bake another 30 minutes watching for the crust to brown and remove to cool, the center of the pie will still be a bit jiggly. Cool at least 2 hours and then enjoy it!

Neiman Marcus Bars

Many years ago when Mom was living in Ft Myers Florida, Spence and I would visit her in the weeks just before and including Thanksgiving.  We always made a trip to nearby Sanibel and Captiva Islands, dropping Spence off at the pier near the lighthouse, armed with a cooler and his fishing gear. We went shopping.

I know, you’re thinking “I thought this was a recipe?”

Patience please, I’m getting there.

Our first stop was a favorite little art gallery. They happened to be holding their Holiday Open House which included lovely treats and wine. There were two selections on the dessert table that completely had us “over the moon”; one was Neiman Marcus Bars, the other – Kahlua Cake.  So enthusiastic were we that the owner said “write your address on the back of this business card and I’ll mail them to you” (this was in the olden days –  before email). We thought it was kind of her to offer and Mom promised to copy the recipes for me if she followed through. Within a few days, they  arrived in the mail and these recipes have become family favorites ever since. I promise to post the Kahlua Cake recipe in the near future.

Just out of the oven….yummo!

Neiman Marcus Bars

For the crust:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c chopped pecans

Mix together well and press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

For the topping:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb powdered sugar

Mix these ingredients well and pour over the top of the “crust” mixture, smooth out.  Sprinkle with 1/2 c chopped pecans and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Allow to cool completely and then cut into bars.  Enjoy!



Orange Carrot Zucchini Bread



I recently came up with this recipe after looking at Pinterest seeking a way to use both frozen shredded zucchini and a partial bag of carrots.  I found several recipes, each which had appeal – and took ideas from each.

After I made this bread, I shared it with my Mom and my lifelong BFF, both who gave it a big thumbs up.  It remains moist even after a few days, the orange zest and cinnamon giving it a delicious flavor, chopped walnuts adding texture and  the flecks of orange and green make it look festive.  I loved it so much that I made two loaves this morning to enjoy over Thanksgiving and the weekend.

Orange Carrot Zucchini Bread – makes 2 loaves

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3/4 c canola oil
  • 2/3 c orange juice
  • 1 1/2 c shredded zucchini – squeeze out any excess liquid
  • 1 1/2 c finely chopped carrots
  • 3 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 t orange zest
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat four eggs until they are a creamy yellow, add sugar and beat till blended, followed by oil, orange juice and orange zest.

Add all dry ingredients, blending as you go.  Fold in the zucchini, carrots and walnuts.

Grease and flour two loaf pans. Pour the batter evenly between the pans, it will rise as it bakes.  Check after 45 minutes by testing with a toothpick, if not clean when tested, place back in oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Cool on a rack, loosen around the edges with a knife.  After cooling turn out of loaf pans and if completely cooled, wrap in foil or plastic wrap.


Mom’s Pie Crust Recipe – plus my Apple Crumb Pie Recipe

In an earlier post (or two) I’ve mentioned my Mom’s Pie Crust and how fabulous it is – it seriously could win awards.  For many years, she would come to Michigan in the summer (from Florida) and stay at either my sister’s home or ours – just a few minutes apart. While we were working, she would take a day and churn out as many pie shells as we could reasonably cram into our freezers, leaving at least one out for a pie that day.  When I would get down to that final frozen pie shell, I’d feel a bit of panic (kind of like when I see empty spots in my wine rack, but that’s another story).

Now that she’s moved back to live in Michigan, having a tutorial with the Pie Crust Master has been on my list.  Last Friday we made it happen, after all, if I’m the chef I claim to be – hadn’t I better learn to make Mom’s recipe?  Ingredients gathered, rolling pin and cover, pastry cloth and pastry blender assembled – we began.


Here’s both the recipe for the pie crust and my Apple Crumble Pie Recipe, in time for delicious Fall apples:

Mom’s Pie Crust 

  • 2 c unsifted unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 t salt

Stir together with a fork.  Remove 1/3 cup of flour mixture and set aside.

  • 1 c Crisco shortening

Add to the flour mixture with a pastry blender, until blended and crumbly but with no dry flour visible.


  • 1/4 c cold water

Add the water to the 1/3 cup of flour mixture that was set aside – using a fork stir it until well blended (a slurry).  Add this “slurry” to the flour/shortening mixture and stir with a light touch to mix thoroughly.


Flour your pastry cloth heavily as well as the covered rolling pin.  Use about half of the dough and form it into a round gently, getting flour on each side and edges. Pat down with your hand so that it is not a round ball, rather round and thick.  Now start rolling it out, working each direction in even strokes until it’s the desired thickness. Gently fold it in half and lift it into the pie plate, gently unfolding it.  Trim the edges, crimping them (flour your fingers) if desired.

This recipe makes 2 large pie crusts – possibly three if you use smaller pie tins.  These crusts freeze beautifully and I’ve had them in the freezer, in a freezer ziplock bag, for up to a year.

Apple Crumb Pie

  • 1 pie crust – unbaked
  • 3 lb McIntosh, Jonathon, Empire or your favorite cooking apple – I use 2 types
  • cinnamon
  • white sugar

Slice the apples, removing skin. Mix 1/2 c sugar and cinnamon – the amount is to your taste (we love cinnamon).  Fill the pie shell with 1/3 of the apples, sprinkle generously with the sugar mixture, add the next third and repeat until the pie is heaped with apples (they will cook down).  I tend to slice about half the apples, then start the filling process and slice more as needed based on the size of the pie plate. Top it with the Crumble Topping.

Crumble Topping

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 2 T cinnamon
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 3/4 c flour
  • dash of salt
It may be heaping but trust me, as the apples soften, it will come down.

Blend together with a pastry blender until crumbly (you may want to add a bit more flour). Pile it on top of the pie, pressing down gently and covering the entire top.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the pie plate on a large cookie sheet or pizza pan and put into the preheated oven on the BOTTOM shelf.  This is important as it will properly cook the bottom of the crust.  Bake until the top is starting to brown as well as the visible edges of the crust. Based on your oven and the depth of the pie, it may take more or less time – start watching it at 40 minutes, it may require another 5-15 minutes to look like this:


Cool completely, then slice and enjoy!


Lemon Angel Food Dessert

Are you looking for a new summer dessert recipe that’s sure to be a hit when entertaining? I’ve got one that I predict will become a favorite for your family and friends.

First let me say, I LOVE PINTEREST. If you’ve ever looked at my Pinterest profile (@spencesgirlblog) you’ll see that I spend a great deal of time there, at least 80% of my boards are recipes. I subscribe to numerous foodie magazines and own so many cookbooks that when I redid my kitchen a few years ago, I designed it to showcase my collection.

That said, I still keep a recipe box of those great recipes that are from family and friends – old school, right? And this summer, I’ve been craving some retro-type desserts and my recipe box yielded some treasures. This dessert is easy, light and refreshing with similarities to tiramisu’s or trifles. I made it recently for a big family dinner and got rave reviews.

My Recipe Box

Lemon Angel Food Dessert    serves 12-16

I love my juicer and microplane….

For the custard:

  • 6 egg yolks – lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • juice from 4 lemons
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1 T unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 c ice water

In a saucepan, blend the eggs yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Cook over medium heat – stirring constantly until it begins to thicken. Add the gelatin to the ice water, stir together and set aside. Once the custard starts to thicken, remove from heat and add the gelatin/water mix.  Stir well and set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 3/4 c sugar

Beat the egg whites until thick, begin adding the sugar a bit at a time.

It will look like this……

In a 9×13 pan, break up a store-bought Angel Food Cake.

Easy right?
Easy right?
Just break it up by hand...
Just break it up by hand…

Fold the lemon custard together gently with the egg white mixture. Pour over the top of the cake, “blanketing” the top.  Refrigerate for several hours and serve chilled.  While this is good for several days, it rarely lasts that long and just a personal note, it’s great for breakfast!


White Chocolate Praline Bread Pudding


This is a recipe that I’ve come up with after having White Chocolate Bread Pudding at a little restaurant called Paw Paw’s Kajun Kitchen in Sevierville Tennessee last year.  We had gorged on all-you-can-eat crawfish (flown in that morning) while on vacation and were chatting with the owner who does all the cooking.  A charming southern gal, originally from New Orleans, she asked if we’d saved room for dessert.  “Not even if it was free” (my typical reply when I’m stuffed) but she seemed disappointed and tempted us with “not even for my White Chocolate Bread Pudding?”

She had my attention and I couldn’t imagine not trying it! I was in heaven.  It was so good I took a second order to go. Past the midday rush, she sat down and told me her secret was not just the white chocolate sauce but to include white chocolate in the bread/custard mixture.  I vowed to re-create this amazing dessert.

After searching for recipes, I’ve come up with my take on it adding a little twist – a praline pecan topping.  The recipe for the White Chocolate Sauce follows.

White Chocolate Praline Bread Pudding            serves 8-12

Bread Pudding:

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 c milk
  • 6 c cubed white bread – crusts removed (I use whatever stale bread that I have frozen – italian, french etc.)
  • 1/2 c Ghirardelli Classic White Chocolate Chips

Praline Topping:

  • 1/4 c brown sugar (packed)
  • 3-4 T butter
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans


After cubing bread, set aside in a large mixing bowl.  Next – and this is important, beat the 4 eggs in a separate bowl for 7-10 minutes (this does matter – it almost gives it a souffle quality, trust me).

Set a timer for the 7-10 minutes of whipping time!

Continue beating while you add the sugar and milk until blended.  Pour over the bread and fold in repeatedly – pushing down the cubes so all the bread is soaked, set aside for 15 minutes (I give at least two more good stirs during this time).


In a small saute pan, melt the butter, add the brown sugar followed by the pecans.  Stir together on a low heat for 10 minutes, bubbling but with care not to burn.

Back to the bread mixture, stir in the white chocolate chips.  Setting your oven at 350 degrees, butter an 8×8 pan and spoon the bread pudding mixture into the pan (there will be some liquid that hasn’t absorbed into the bread).  Use a spatula or spoon to press it evenly across the top and into the corners.


Using a small spoon, drop the praline pecans evenly over the top of the pudding.


Bake for 50 minutes.  You’ll notice that it rises, like a souffle (it will come down a bit as it cools).



Allow it to cool for at least 45 minutes.  When ready to serve, top each serving with the White Chocolate Sauce (recipe below) and enjoy.  If you don’t finish this the first night, refrigerate it, then re-warm it for about 20 seconds in the microwave.


White Chocolate Sauce

  • 1/2 c half and half (or cream)
  • 1 T butter
  • 8 oz Ghiradelli Classic White Chocolate Chips

Heat the half and half (do not boil), when it begins to bubble, remove from heat whisking in the butter and white chocolate.  Set aside and cover until you’re ready to serve.  This stores nicely in the refrigerator and stays liquid, just a bit thicker.

Apple Crisp

Serves 4-6
For the topping:
1 stick very soft butter
1 c flour
1 c light brown sugar
1 t salt
For the base:
7-8 c sliced or chopped apples – recommend 2 types, I like McIntosh and Empire
1/4 c cinnamon
1/4 c sugar
2 T butter
Combine the flour, brown sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the dry ingredients into the butter for the topping, until well mixed and crumbly. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. In a deep souffle dish (or casserole) you will be layering the apples – a cup or two of apples, followed by sprinkling a tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat – more apples, more cinnamon sugar. Use all the cinnamon sugar. This will seem like a lot of apples but as it cooks down, the volume will drop by half. Put the topping over the apple mixture, covering completely, pressing down if necessary. Take the two tablespoons of butter and cut into several pieces – place on top of the topping.

Before baking (and this is a full size souffle dish even though it looks like an individual crock)
Before baking (and this is a full size souffle dish -even though it looks like an individual crock)

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until browned and crisp. Cool for one hour and serve.

After baking
After baking

Note from Chef Laura: I make this all the time from memory. I posted a picture on my blog titled Oh Yum. I was immediately asked for the recipe. So today, I made myself write down what I was doing while doing it and voila! A recipe. That said, use more apples if you wish, I recommend good cooking apples. And if I’m honest, I may have downplayed the cinnamon. I grew up with a mom who doubled the cinnamon in every recipe she ever prepared and you could safely do that here. It’s great alone or served warm with vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

Most Delicious Ever Carrot Cake

I’ve taken my favorite go-to carrot cake recipe and modified it after our trip to Sedona.  At a little gem in Oak Creek Canyon called the Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market we had arguably the most decadent, scrumptious carrot cake muffins in a courtyard garden where you could enjoy a cup of soup, sandwich, glass of wine or bottle of beer with a treat from their bakery.  It was so amazing in fact that after our accidental discovery we purposely went there as we left Sedona.  This time I noted every nuance that made them so delicious.  This is something I frequently do; my journey through life is fueled by my passion for food.  And I’m darn successful at identifying, then re-creating the food that inspired me.  So, now I’m sharing my recipe with you.  Enjoy!

1 1/2 c canola oil
1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs, well-beaten
3 c grated carrots
1/2 c diced pineapple
1/2 c coconut
2 c flour
1/2 t salt
2 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
2 t allspice
1 c walnuts – toasted (this is important)
1 t vanilla extract

Cream together oil and sugar.  Fold in eggs, followed by carrots, pineapple and coconut.  In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Blend dry mixture into carrot mixture, blending well.  Once blended, add the nuts and vanilla.   Grease and sugar two 8 x 8 pans.   Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Cool before frosting.


1/2 c melted butter
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
2 c sifted powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Whip butter and cream cheese with sugar.  Add vanilla, mix well at high speed until smooth.  Spread on cake. Top with 1/2 c coarse chopped, toasted walnuts.

Serves 24 (or less if you cut big pieces). Chef Laura’s note: I use two 8×8 pans since the uncut cake stays moister longer.  You could do cupcakes, bake in two loaf pans or a 10×14 pan, just tweak the time baked.  Also, you can use pecans if you prefer them to walnuts, just toast them first, trust me!

Most Delicious Ever Carrot Cake
Most Delicious Ever Carrot Cake