Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong that day.  It may sound overly dramatic but it certainly did feel that way.  As soon as Stanford unknowingly knocked down my tripod and my Canon crashed to the hardwood floor, my heart sank even deeper.  I helplessly yelled at Stanford while he fearfully retreated to his corner underneath the stairs.  He cowered and wondered what he could have possibly done wrong.   I honestly felt bad for the poor guy.  If there was someone who had to be blamed for what happened it should be me and not him.  It was one of those days when I hoped for a break but all I got was a bigger blow.

This past year has been extremely challenging.  Switching careers is tough, to say the least, but figuring out which path to take to get the balance between fulfillment and financial reward is even tougher.  Does such a balance exist, in the first place, I have always wondered.

There have been mornings — plenty, in fact — when I wake up feeling anxious and defeated by self-doubt.  I was never a cockeyed optimist, you know. I am the negative thinker who always sees the glass half empty.  With this gloomy outlook in life, you may wonder how I even survived this past year.  I owe everything to Dennis.  He is the optimist who sees the good in everything, even in cameras crashing to the floor.  He has this remarkable calming effect on me.  He never fails to encourage, always reminding me of my victories, however small, and constantly reassuring me that everything will be fine.  I simply can’t imagine going through what I have gone through without him and as I move forward I know everything will fall to its proper place.  For him, I am truly thankful.

Thanksgiving is Dennis’ favorite holiday — he loves turkey, with a side of stuffing balls of course, and he loves pumpkin pie.  There are three sweet things he just cannot live without: chocolate, peanut butter and pumpkin pie.  Dennis is the optimistic pie-maker in the family but this year I volunteered to bake his favorite pie from scratch.  It is my humble gesture of giving thanks for everything he has done.


Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Recipe by Alice Waters from The Art of Simple Food, makes one 9-inch pie

1 9-inch single pie crust
1 2-pound sweet pumpkin (Sugar Pie, Long Pie or Cinderella pumpkin varieties or butternut squash), equivalent to roughly 15 ounces (1-1/2 cups) pumpkin purée
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons flour
3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of fresh-ground black pepper
freshly whipped cream

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves cut side down on an oiled or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until the squash is tender throughout, about 45 minutes to one hour. The time will vary depending on the type of squash you have chosen. Remove from the oven, let cool, and then scoop the flesh from the peel. Purée in a food mill or mash with a spoon or potato masher.




Soften pie dough at room temperature. Roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pastry. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Line the shell with a piece of foil or parchment paper and fill with a layer of dried beans reserved for this purpose (or other pie weights). bake in a 375 degree F oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edge. Take the tart out of the oven; remove the foil and the weights. Return to the oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the tart is even light golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan whisk together 1/4 cup cream with the flour. Heat the mixture over low heat until it comes to a boil and thickens. Slowly whisk in the rest of the cream. Continue whisking until the mixture returns to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Measure 15 ounces of pumpkin purée. Whisk the purée and eggs together in a medium bowl. In another bowl combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir the sugar and spice mixture and the thickened cream into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour into the prebaked pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the center us almost set. If the edges are browning too quickly, fit a ring of foil around the rim. let cool completely on a rack before cutting.

Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Cooking Notes:

1.  Waters recommends using sweet pumpkin varieties like Sugar Pie, Long Pie, or Cinderella to make the pumpkin purée.  Most pumpkins are for carving, not for eating, and their flesh is too watery and flavorless to make a good purée, she writes.  Butternut squash can be used for the purée as well.

2. The time for baking squash will vary depending on the type and size.  I used a two-pound Sugar pie pumpkin and the baking time was 45 minutes.

3. Waters also suggests adding 1-1/2 teaspoons of brandy to the pumpkin filling.



Pie Dough Recipe
Recipe adapted from Irma Rombauer’s the Joy of Cooking, makes one 9-inch double crust

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled lard or vegetable shortening
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
6 Tbsp ice water

Sift the flour and salt together. Mix the chilled shortening and butter.

There are two steps in making pastry dough by hand. First, cut the fat into the dry ingredients and, second, bind the dough with water.

Cut half of the shortening mixture into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or work it in lightly with the tips of your fingers until it has the consistency of cornmeal. Work it in lightly and do not overwork the dough because it will become dense and greasy. Cut the second half of the shortening mixture into the dough until it is pea-sized. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can use a fork. Leave it in firm, separate pieces, some fine and crumblike and the rest the size of peas.

Sprinkle the dough with ice water. Blend the water gently into the dough until it just holds together. You may lift the ingredients with a fork, allowing the moisture to spread. If necessary add another teaspoon to a tablespoon of ice water to hold the ingredients together. It is important to add only enough water to make the dough hold together but be careful not to put so much as to cause excessive gluten to develop, which would make the pie crust hard or chewy and breadlike. As a rule of thumb, the flour and fat mixture should be moistened only to the point where it forms small balls that hold together when pressed with your fingers.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Chilling the dough up to 12 hours tenderizes it, helps keep it from shrinking during baking, and makes it easier to handle. If the dough has been chilled longer than 30 minutes, let it stand until it feels firm yet pliable, like modeling clay, when pressed. If it is too cold, the dough will crack around the edges when rolled.


Making freshly whipped cream, adapted from Irma Rombauer’s the Joy of Cooking

1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

Beat the whipped cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters at high or medium-high speed until thickened. Add sugar and vanilla and beat to the desired consistency.


Year after year, Dennis and I make Thanksgiving the same exact way. We celebrate with roast turkey and a spread of stuffing balls, mashed potato and gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie for dessert. I hope this finds you and your family well on this delicious American holiday.


Thanksgiving Turkey Stuffing Balls Recipe

Shaping stuffing into balls roughly the size of a kid’s clenched fist is plain genius. It has the perfect crunch-to-moisture ratio. It’s lightly toasted on the outside but inside it’s wonderfully moist. These almost famous balls have been featured in KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleiman. Check out the link and listen to my interview about my first Thanksgiving and these beguiling balls.


Sweet Potato CasseroleSweet Potato Casserole Recipe

The taste of sweet potato shines in this simple New York Times recipe for sweet potato casserole. Sweet potato is topped not with cloyingly sweet marshmallow but with butter, brown sugar, and crunchy pecans.

  • http://www.lavieenroute.com Annelies

    I love the authenticity of this post: the difficulty of the year, the person who has made it better and from that a pie to express love and gratitude. That is a truly wonderful thanksgiving message. Also I love that shot of the different parts of the pumpkin. Thoughtful and interesting!

  • http://www.junbelen.com Jun Belen

    Thank you, Annelies for your thoughtful note. It has been a very challenging year but there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’m glad you loved the pumpkin collage. I think it’s cool, if I can say so myself!

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • http://crumpetsandcakes.blogspot.com/ M.

    what a beautiful way of showing someone your appreciation,
    great post!

  • http://www.adventuresofanamateurfoodie.com moowiesqrd

    I’m changing careers, too (or trying to, at least), so I know how upending, terrifying, and crazy it feels. It can feel like you’re on a never-ending roller coaster. I also have a D. of my own… one who relentlessly drags me from the dark depths that I plummet into occasionally. So, cheers to the men and dogs in our lives who make the bad days better. That gorgeous pie certainly says thanks in a big way! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • http://www.kitchencorners.com Damaris @Kitchen Corners

    long live good relationships where one balances the other one out. sorry to hear about your camera but so happy that you’re still blogging your beautiful pictures and wonderful recipes.

  • http://clubdinein.wordpress.com/ Club Dine In!

    Beautiful story. I can relate to you, as I decided to change career directions and am usually the anxious one in the relationship. I think I have found the pumpkin pie recipe I’ve been searching for! Would a Fairy Tale Pumpkin work?

  • http://togetherinfood.wordpress.com/ Stephanie M.

    Thank you for being so honest in sharing your experiences this year! As someone who quit her job in January to take a year off and figure out what’s next, I can relate. And on the food, I don’t even like pumpkin pie but your photos are so gorgeous that they make me want to eat it. :-)

  • http://www.moonglowgardens.wordpress.com Annapet

    Oh, Jun, with your talent you can reinvent yourself many different ways. Plus you have Dennis and Stanford at your side. Great team.

    Your post is so timely not only because it’s Thanksgiving. Hindi kami uuwi and I’m actually going to prep and cook a Thanksgiving dinner! Thank you!

  • MissTdJ

    What a sweet & heartfelt dedication to Dennis. Just, beautiful.

  • http://dishbytrish.com Trish

    Sorry to hear about your camera crashing to the floor :0 Your pumpkin pie looks like the real deal, a true pumpkin pie. How is Alice Waters’ cookbook? If the rest of the recipes are as good as this one I might have to get it. Hi to Dennis for me. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • http://trissalicious.com Trissa

    Hay naku Jun – this year must have been very stressful for you but I would have never guessed it because your blog is just so beautiful and when I come here I just think it’s a very happy place with your beautiful pics and great recipes. I know how you have felt about Stanford – I have two labs that are constantly knocking down things with their tails! Please tell Dennis for me that I think he is a great guy. He truly deserves this beautiul pie.

  • http://lindsaymeyer.wordpress.com Lindsay

    Hang in there. I was in your shoes at this time last year. There was an article in the WSJ today about the power of being thankful. This post demonstrates that you understand that even amidst hardship, keeping everything in perspective is what’s most important.

    Have a great holiday!

  • Mary

    Love this post, Jun – and the links to your previous ones (switching careers/Julia Child. I would have never guessed you as “a negative thinker who always sees the glass half empty.” What I love about following your Twitter feed is that you lift people – and inspire with your thoughts, photos and blog posts. Thank you! I hope our paths cross one day – and not just in the Twittersphere. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Dennis and Stanford.

  • http://www.thelittlefoodie.com Mariko

    You have amazing talent. I think you need not worry, but i understand self doubt. It’s good you have someone who holds you up. It’s probably the best quality to have when all is said and done.

  • http://whenadobometfeijoada.blogspot.com CarolineAdobo

    It’s great to know that with every little (good or not-so-good) thing that life throws on us, all along we know we have someone we can depend on. For this reason I am thankful as well. :)
    Hope you, Dennis and Stanford have a beautiful holiday this Thanksgiving.

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  • http://shutterboo.com Brooke

    Jun – I tell myself I’m realistic because pessimistic sounds so negative. I’m sorry to hear about your camera… but does this mean that something even better can come along?

  • http://www.junbelen.com Jun Belen

    Ladies, thank you very much for all your lovely notes. I am thankful for all of you for following Jun-Blog. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  • http://psychosomaticaddictinsane.wordpress.com iya

    kalabasa pudding ang katapat nito sa nanay ko! :p

    happy thanksgiving, jun! :D

  • http://spicygreenmango.blogspot.com Spicy Green Mango

    Jun-all the best of luck in pursuing your passion! There’s plenty of thanks to be had and I’m very happy that Dennis is there to bring smiles to your face :)

  • http://lemonsandanchovies.wordpress.com/ Jean

    Jun, it takes a lot of courage to step out of a comfort zone and embark on something new. In the end, your passion and dedication will reward you–I know it!

    Your pumpkin pie is a true beauty and I would bet that Dennis is equally thankful to have you in his life. Not just for making the pumpkin pie or the turkey stuffing balls for him but for everything else. :-) Glad to have met you both and I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful.

  • http://www.sippitysup.com sippitysup

    Sweet remarks. Terrific photos, and delicious pie. That’s a glass overflowing in my book. GREG

  • http://torontogirlwest.com Toronto Girl West

    As a recent reader I had no idea of the changes you had made this year. But you know what? I commend you for them.

    There’s something to be said of the person that steps out and dares to take control of their own happiness. That person is brave. And I applaud him.

  • http://www.authenticsuburbangourmet.blogspot.com Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Jun – what a heartfelt post! I bet Stanford deep down felt bad for what he had done, although certainly not on purpose. Hope your camera survived. I think that both you and Dennis are lucky to have one another and sounds like you balance one another. By the way, the pie looks divine! Say hello to Dennis! :)

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  • http://foodhoe.com foodhoe

    hope your camera is okay and stanford too… I love the art of simple cooking, haven’t tried any of the desserts, your pie is gorgeous and looks so delicious! I’m so impressed that you made your pumpkin puree…

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