Thursday, February 16, 2012
"Piepalooza" to Benefit Perry Nursery School
The Perry Nursery School is hosting its annual fundraising party and silent auction - "Piepalooza" this year, complete with a contest for "best tasting pie" - on March 14 at Washtenaw Community College. And I am thrilled to announce that I've been invited to be a judge at the competition! As they say, it's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it. Happily, one of those somebodies is lil' ol' me.
Perry has been serving at-risk preschoolers since 1934, offering these adorable kids "future academic and social success while providing their parents opportunities for professional, personal, and parental growth." In other words, they don't just teach the kids the letters of the alphabet and how to play well with others; at Perry the entire family is welcomed and cared for, served in a variety of ways to help ease the stresses that they face from low incomes, single parenthood, and other factors.
Now, of course, we all know that March 14 is Pi Day because it's 3.14! Could this be a more perfect day to celebrate both the beauty of pie and the fabulous work that Perry does in taking care of its students and their families?
There are three categories in the "Best Tasting Pie" contest, if you want to submit an entry for my fellow judges and me to taste at the competition. (You can click here for more information about how to do this, because pre-registration is required.)
- Best Tasting Fruit Pie
- Best Tasting Cream/Custard/Meringue/Chiffon Pie
- Best Tasting "Other" Pie - any pie that doesn't fit into the first two categories. No meat pies, please.
In addition to the pie competition that you - yes, you! - can enter, there will also be lots of other entertainment at the party: delicious appetizers and finger foods provided by the culinary arts students at Washtenaw Community College, beer and wine, Perry's famous silent auction (everything from antiques to entertainment to gift baskets and more), a tag team pie eating competition, a pie walk featuring Zingerman's pies as prizes, a baking demonstration by French pie expert Brigitte Romero, raffles ... an entire evening of festivity!
When I went to visit the school recently, a beautiful little blonde girl came up to hug me for no reason other than sweetness; she didn't say one word, but she did smile and show me the gap where she'd just lost her first tooth. Perry provides her, and all of her friends at the school, with so many benefits: year-round education with extended childcare hours, a 1:8 teacher-to-student ratio, sliding scale tuition, family support services, two meals and an afternoon snack each day, an emergency pantry, assistance with English as a second language (many students speak Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and other languages at home), a social worker and speech therapist on-site, and so much more. It is an amazing place with such dedicated staff! Whether you buy a ticket or bring a pie, just be sure to join me in supporting such a good cause.
Since I'll be tasting all the pies rather than competing with my own entry, I thought I'd at least offer some inspiration for everyone else. I baked this for my parents awhile ago, and my father said it was the best pie he'd ever eaten; considering that he's had nearly 85 years in which to sample the competition, I'd say he's a pretty good authority.
But if you think you've got a pie that's even better, be sure to register for the contest at Piepalooza and let me try it!
Cherry Almond Streusel Pie
1 9" deep dish pie crust in pan
4 cups tart cherries
1/8 cup reserved cherry juice or water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup cookie crumbs (I used Nilla wafers)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350F. Place pie pan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, combine cherries, cherry juice, sugar, cornstarch, and almond extract; pour into the pie crust. Dot with butter.
In the same bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, brown sugar, ground almonds, cinnamon, and sliced almonds; stir in the melted butter and spread over the cherries.
Bake for 1 hour, until the topping is golden and the filling is starting to bubble up.
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