Art Schaaf practices deliberate acts of pieness. Schaaf, as head chef of the home he shares with his wife, Pam, has a passion for pie, and likes to make his creations both sweet and savory for friends and his blended family of four children and four grandchildren.
Schaaf is also a Vietnam War-era veteran, and on Nov. 11 he will join other Americans in commemorating Veterans Day. Schaaf says Americans can honor the sacrifice of veterans every day by being mindful of the freedoms they enjoy and showing respect for those in uniform.
Residence: Overland Park
Occupation: Program assistant and recruiter working with veterans
Special cooking interest: Pie guy
What does Veterans Day mean to you? There are a million ways people can volunteer to serve their community. But what distinguishes a veteran is that he or she raises a right hand, swearing an allegiance to protect our country, and the freedoms we enjoy.
I find that commitment is worthy of respect. I was eight years in active duty in the Army and 16 years in the reserves.
I work with veterans now, and coming back home can be difficult. In the armed forces, you are taught to pull your weight, do your job and don’t fall behind. There’s a real sense of camaraderie with your fellow soldiers, especially when you’re deployed.
It’s not that easy coming back into civilian life, so having support is important. Whenever I see soldiers, I always thank them for their service. It’s a simple thing, but it makes both you and the soldier feel good.
There’s a saying, “As American as apple pie…” Why pie? A pie is just a slice of home, no matter where you are, or where you live. My recipe for apple pie was passed on to me by my mother, Joan Schaaf Yommer. Apple pie is a favorite of mine, and we peel, core, slice and can our own apple pie filling and peaches for Christmas gifts.
When I go to farmers markets, the cost of a freshly baked pie is staggering to me. But I love to use fresh fruits and vegetables as much as I can during the growing season. We moved this spring but managed to get a garden in the ground. We also love to can our own salsa, using fresh tomatoes.
Did you grow these apples, too? This fall I took my wife, Pam, and our granddaughters, Ava (5) and Myla (4), apple picking. As it turned out, it was the first time apple picking for all three girls.
It was one of the finest days I can remember. We went to Cider Hill Family Orchard in Kansas City, Kan., and to say they were less than excited on the way out there is probably an understatement.
But once we got there, they plunged into the task with characteristic enthusiasm and joy as they alternately pulled and pushed a wagon that we loaded with a variety of apples. We ended up buying more apples than we intended, but we had an incredibly good time in a lovely setting.
There is a mystique that surrounds a homemade pie that can be intimidating. Any advice for the novice pie-maker? Pie isn’t perfect, but it’s meant to be shared. It’s also an alchemy of sorts. Flour isn’t good to eat on its own, but it’s essential to a good crust.
My mother is 84 years old and still lives in Topeka, where I was born and raised. When I make pie, it brings me back to my childhood, where we would all sit around the table, eating pie and drinking creamy coffee. We would listen to the adults talk and that creates a sense of community.
To be able to step outside of yourself — to show kindness and to be of service — can be a rare thing these days. But so many veterans show that value of service every day. Those are the values I want to pass along to my grandkids.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Joan’s Apple Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
For the crusts:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cold whole milk
For the filling:
6 large Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon apple pie spice
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoons
Vanilla ice cream for serving, optional
To make the crusts: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and salt together until combined. In a 1-cup glass measure, whisk oil and milk together.
Pour wet ingredients into the food processor and pulse until incorporated, or about 3 pulses.
Test dough by pinching it together: dough should be soft and hold its shape. If the dough feels dry and does not hold together, sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the dough and pulse 3 to 5 pulses, until desired consistency is achieved.
Divide dough evenly in half. Turn each piece of dough onto its own sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a 4-inch disc. Wrap each disc of dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
To assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove pie dough from refrigerator and place on countertop.
Meanwhile, make filling by mixing apples, apple pie spice, sugar and lemon juice together; set aside.
Roll out 1 disc of dough on a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin until it becomes a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Gently wrap pastry around rolling pin and unroll it into a glass 9-inch pie pan. Without stretching or making holes in the dough, ease pastry into pan. Allow pastry to spill over the sides of pie pan and prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork.
Carefully pour apple mixture into pie shell and evenly dot with butter pieces.
Roll out second disc of dough on a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin until it becomes a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Gently place pastry on top of pie pan and seal with bottom crust by making a fluted edge. Cut at least 2 vents into top crust, and using a pastry brush, top with milk and a sprinkling of sugar, if desired.
Bake for 18 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 40 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is hot and bubbling up.
Cool completely before cutting and serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Note: Place a baking sheet lined with foil under pie while it’s baking to catch any drips.
Per serving (based on 8): 477 calories (38 percent from fat), 20 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 72 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 331 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.