Dearest Michael,

“You’re a really great baker,” you said so matter of factly to me when we were driving somewhere the other day. You were actually driving as you have sort of become my driver since you have had your license. Not sure if this is something you enjoy as much as I do, but I must confess, I love being driven.

These words from son to mother are like the sound of my favorite cardinal in the morning. I love to bake, I am good at it and baking anything connects me to your great grandmother, Kitsie and the happier times with my own mother. It also reminds me of the strength and connection you and I have because of what I learned the sad and hard way in my relationship with Ann. Baking is a great connection. It is repairing and centering and filled with love. There is no anger in my kitchen, it is always a happy spot and a grounding one.

Anytime I am in the kitchen, this is my zen place. Pulling out pans and sticks of butter to prepare something for you or any guests gives me such a warm feeling in my heart. I hope that when you have your own kitchen, this feeling will always be your go to place anytime you feel anxious or may be overthinking something. The kitchen, like the garden always propels me into the present and before I know it, any worry has disappeared. Just pulling out a special pan, or a certain wooden spoon knowing the thousands of recipes it has stirred or held is enough to feel like I just did a yoga class.

As I thought about the next recipe this morning when I woke up at 3:30 am, besides the brownie recipe (which as you know cannot be made public and is in the vault until I exit), it would have to be the CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE recipe. There are some recipes that are made so often, you don’t even need the recipe. This one I have changed slightly from the original because I have made so many of them, I have discovered a better way to make them over the years.

This dessert is super easy especially if you use a store bought frozen pie crust. For some purist bakers, the thought of a frozen pie crust is counter intuitive, but I have yet to perfect an easy go to pie crust and this is a really awesome time saver. (Likely loaded with every preservative I am always barking about, but what the hell.) I always keep a few in the freezer, Grandma Ann turned me onto Oronoque Orchards Frozen Pie Crusts years before I got married like in 1985 or something. This was a time in my life when I should have been finishing college, but instead was living with a boyfriend, searching for some home life or stability that for some reason I didn’t think I could provide for myself. Thank goodness that silly notion has changed. I have evolved and so has this recipe as years of baking any one recipe does.

This pie recipe I found on the back of one of the hundreds of Nestle Chocolate Chip packages I have had as a baking staple in the kitchen for my entire life since my first apartment. Thank goodness for BJS because they sell the nuclear version of Nestle Chocolate Chips and I always have at least one but more often two in my pantry and or freezer. I hope that anytime you see the golden yellow package of Nestle Chocolate Chips in your adult life, it transports you to the smells and sweetness of our kitchen when you were younger.

CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE (original recipe taken from the back of a Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip package at least twenty five years ago. I have doubled this recipe but I wouldn’t suggest it for your first rodeo of baking it, you have to get to know its personality first before assuming that simple doubling is just multiplying by 2 in a baking recipe, it is not).

2 eggs

½ cup of flour

½ cup of sugar

½ cup of brown sugar

3/4 stick of butter melted (if for some reason you only have a ½ stick this has worked too, this is an area where precision doesn’t’ really matter as much.)

1 stick of butter softened (not melted-like the way it is softened in BLUEBERRY CAKE. This part of the butter ingredient requires the entire stick so no cutting corners on this part.)

1 C of Nestle Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (I have used Ghiradelli and other brands over the years, for some reason, this is the best for this recipe, maybe it is just tradition)

1 Oronoque Orchard Frozen Pie Crust — not deep dish, regular size.

(they come in a two pack, when you have one left, put it in a large Ziploc baggie and stick it back in the freezer for the next round. These crusts last “forever” see? Preservatives do have an occasional place in my life.

1 nice pie plate to put the piecrust in (keep the foil base on the shell and just insert the whole thing in the plate before baking, it looks better but it is also for the occasional spillage that occurs when it starts to bake).

Preheat oven to 325.

Put unfilled piecrust into oven while oven is preheating, this just softens it a bit before baking. Not totally necessary if you forget.

Melt 1 stick of butter and set aside

Beat eggs and the 1 stick of softened butter in a mixer or with a mixer until somewhat smooth. (hopefully you have my pink one and are enjoying its place in your kitchen.)

Add flour, brown sugar, regular sugar and melted butter and beat well until everything is nice and smooth. Go easy on the speed so everything doesn’t fly out.

Manually stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into pie shell and put on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. This is only necessary if the crust looks a little too full to avoid a mess in your oven.

Place in preheated oven and bake for almost an hour or until golden brown and not jiggly when you go to take it out.


the original recipe, but my improvement is way better, the pink kitchen aid mixer I hope never lands in Jays Junk and the nuclear package of chips (those are my feet)



If I close my eyes, I can see the almond color refrigerator. I think it was a side by side, but I can’t imagine it was in the late seventies. Like soldiers, there they stood at full attention, a line up of homemade frozen ice cream parfaits layered with homemade vanilla ice cream and homemade hot fudge sauce. They started and ended with the darkest of brown chocolate sauce waiting to be consumed by my grandfather or someone other than my diabetic grandmother who made them for “us.”

My visits to my grandmother’s house, (my mother’s mother who we called Kitsie) from the time she and my grandfather lived on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston, Mass to her basement apartment in Newton were some of the best memories of my young life. I was so fortunate to have a loving, kind relationship and a lengthy one with both sets of my grandparents. I have written about them many times and the positive influence they have had in my life. My grandparents still have this influence in me even though only one of the four of them is still alive.

My grandmother’s voices are in my head in my daily life especially when I am in the kitchen. From the type of sponge I use to wash dishes (Dobie, unless our friend Kalman comes for a visit from Israel or I go there, then he brings these amazing silver toned scrubbers) the way I clean as I go, wiping counter tops down, washing the dishes so there isn’t a big mess as I prepare my meal. The way I grocery shop driving to a variety of little stores to buy specific things, Persimmon Provision in Barrington for meat, Fruitland or Decastros for my fruits and vegetables, Green Grocer for the organic staples; Venda Ravioli for Italian goodness and so on; this is all when I have the time to do this. When it comes to food, I usually make the time because my grandmother taught me that food is love and love is worth the drive. When I don’t have the time to drive everywhere, I go to Whole Foods, the little one on the East Side, but my preference is always the small privately owned stores where I can talk to Champ, the butcher or Harold the fruit guy and find out about their kids and their lives. Like her mother, my mother did this too and though I dreaded the outings when I was a child, my memories of the experience are really special. Little did I know that these shopping excursions would be forming my foundation in the kitchen and my love to cook.

My aunt Kiley and I used to make fun of all of the driving to these small stores my grandmother would do. But like most traits we laughed about in our youth, I find myself mirroring many of the same ones in my fifties. This feels like I am honoring my grandmother and it comforts me.

Kitsie taught herself to cook as she was the generation that witnessed the first cooking show of the mother of all cooking shows, Julia Child. There was never a stick of margarine in the house, never processed food. Kitsie’s nemesis was sweets. She was always watching her blood sugar on one hand and cooking elaborate sugar laden desserts with the other.

Like a stunning bottle of red wine on a perfect cool fall evening, sometimes Kitsie’s desserts cannot be replicated. This is likely because of the experience surrounding the dessert, the smell of her house, the conversations in the kitchen, and the dishes they were served in. She always made chocolate chip cookies and put them in the freezer. Not only can I taste the frozen cookie as I think about them, I can see my entire being standing in the kitchen, opening the freezer door, reaching into it and pulling one out. I can almost smell Kitsie’s kitchen and like the movie, Back to the Future, I am transported back in time and it feels lovely and safe.

Grandmothers have this magical force especially when they are the good kinds of grandmothers. Many of my close friends have really spectacular loving relationships with their mothers, but didn’t know their grandmothers on that level. I was the opposite and though the pain of not having that type of depth of a relationship with my own mother, my grandparents on both sides served up a plate of delicious love and divine intervention with their examples and their hearts. Food was one of those ways. The action of the recipe and the preparation rather than the voice of it became the ripple effect in its omnipresent force in my life. It still is every time I pull out the hand typed HOT FUDGE SAUCE recipe that Kitsie created on one of about two hundred index cards for my twenty-first birthday because I asked for them. I have two full boxes of these vary worn cards and they all smell like butter, aka my grandmother’s kitchen.

Every time I whip up a batch of the gritty deep chocolate recipe and pass on a jarful to my friends, I pass on her torch, honoring how much she was a great example to me without even trying. I also whole-heartedly share the recipe because everyone needs a batch of homemade hot fudge sauce every once in a while.

Though this recipe is called Chocolate Sauce, i have always referred to it as Hot Fudge Sauce and even though this says margarine, it is a lie, Kitsie never used it. Her recipes assumed lots, like mixing things and temperatures and knowing that bitter chocolate means bitter sweet chocolate. They were also a bit contradictory: “stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil” and the ending with “Don not let it boil.” Translation? Cook over low heat and just cook it until it smells delicious and thickens. 1 square bittersweet melted with 1/4 cup butter, 1 and 1/4 cups of cocoa, 3/4 cups sugar, 1/2 cup evaporated milk. (you know the old school kind in the can.) This freezes perfectly and it also doubles and triples easily.
The box of recipes Kitsie hand typed for me before computers, spell check and backspacing; and all of the ingredients except for the stick of butter because I realized that I am out. If you use the Ghirardelli, it is 2 squares not one since their squares are much thinner than the old fashioned Bakers brand. Carnation makes smaller cans which serve this recipe well if you are only making one batch, this can makes 2 1/2 batches. I usually keep all of this on hand to whip up a batch at the blink of an eye.