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Pie lovers, unite

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National Pie Day warms winter freeze

By Greg Summers

If any American food deserves its own celebration, it’s pie. The American Pie Council has declared Jan. 23 as National Pie Day.

While Americans didn’t create the first pie (it’s believed the Egyptians did about 2000 B.C. before passing it on to the Greeks who spread it throughout the Roman Empire), it somehow evolved into our national dessert.

That’s strange considering that early pies were predominantly made from inedible rye crusts, goat cheese and honey.

But as the popularity of pie increased, so did the combinations.

By the 12th century, pies – predominantly made of meat for one-dish meals – had spread to England. At the time, the crust was called a “coffin.”

Most of these pies were strange concoctions compared to what we are used to today.

In many cases, the legs of small game and fowl used for fillings were left to hang outside the crust to create carrying handles.

According to pie history by the American Pie Council, fruit pies and tarts didn’t appear until the late 1500s.

In fact, English tradition credits the creation of the first cherry pie as a dessert  for Queen Elizabeth I.

When settlers left England for America, they brought their pie recipes with them, creating new dishes with the game, fowl and fruits and vegetables they found here. However, these first colonists did keep one English tradition, baking their pies in long, narrow pans called coffins.

And just like in Roman times, the crust was rarely eaten and was simply designed to hold the fillings together.

But when times got tough in the American Revolution, Continental soldiers in the field were so grateful to get their cold hands on hot pies, that everything was eaten except for the pan.

It became a favorite dish of these early Americans and still is today.

Perfect pie tips

– For optimum baking results, use a glass or dull-metal pie pan. Avoid shiny metal or disposable aluminum pans, which reflect heat and prevent crusts from browning. Dark pans may cause crusts to brown too much.

– To keep baked edges from getting too brown, cover the edges with foil after the first 15 minutes of baking. Use a 12-inch-square piece of foil. Cut out a 7-inch circle from the center, and gently fold the foil “ring” around the crust’s edge. Be careful: The pie will be hot!

– Use a hot oven temperature during the first 15 minutes of baking.

– Cool the pie on a wire rack to help prevent a soggy bottom. The rack helps air circulate.

To celebrate National Pie Day, here are two recipes you may want to try.

Light Georgia Pecan Pie is not only tasty, it’s also loaded with antioxidants.

A one-ounce serving of pecans contains 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc.

Pecans are also a good source of oleic acid, (which slows the development of heart disease) vitamin B1, thiamine, magnesium and protein.

Chili Cheese Dog Pot Pie is an easy-to-make kid pleaser that goes well with raw vegetables.

It’s also perfect for an at-home indoors tailgate party to watch the upcoming NFL conference championship games between the Jets and the Colts and Minnesota and New Orleans.

Light Georgia Pecan Pie

Pie ingredients

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup pecans

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell or prepared rolled pie dough (formed into a 9-inch pie pan)

Honey crunch topping ingredients

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons honey

1 cup pecan halves

Directions

– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

– In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, flour and vanilla extract until creamy. Stir in pecans. Pour into pie shell and bake 40-50 minutes or until pie is set.

– For topping, combine brown sugar, butter and honey in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until ingredients come to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir in pecan halves. Remove from heat.

– During the last five minutes of baking, remove pie from oven and spread topping evenly over top. Return to oven and broil until top is bubbly and golden brown. Watch carefully.

– Recipe from GeorgiaPecansFit.com

Chili Cheese Dog Pot Pie

Ingredients

2 cups biscuit baking mix

2/3 cup water

3 cups chili with beans

1 package Hillshire Farms Lil’ Smokies

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

– In a medium bowl, combine the biscuit mix and water to form a smooth dough. Set aside.

– Spread half the chili into the bottom of a 1.5 quart casserole dish. Make a layer of the lil’ smokies on top of the chili. Cover the layer with cheese, then top with the rest of the chili.

– On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the bicuit dough to a quarter-inch thickness. Place the dough over the contents of the dish and cut a few slits to vent steam. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes until crust is golden brown.

– Recipe from recipegoldmine.com