I was cleaning out the freezer the other day, freeing up space in anticipation of another summer’s bounty, when I realized that it was Friday night. Let me repeat that. It was Friday night and I was cleaning out the freezer. And I was perfectly happy, content. It doesn’t seem like too long ago when this would not have happened. If I was cleaning the freezer on a Friday night, it meant that I had spilled something and was hurrying to clean it up before it became a huge frozen mess.

Fridays were for doing things, fun things like going out to eat, hanging out with friends, maybe taking in a movie or, I don’t know, going bowling. Now, here I was, at home on a Friday night, cleaning out the freezer.

I realize that those activities have been for me, whether by decree or a personal safety choice, curtailed as of late. Maybe if there weren’t a global pandemic, I wouldn’t be home on a Friday night, cleaning out the freezer. I don’t know. What I do know is that it feels okay. I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on anything, don’t feel the need to go out and hoot and holler and push the boundaries and test the limits and howl at the moon and shake my fist at the darkness and declare that I am here and I am alive and the world is just going to have to deal with it because I am not going anywhere.

No, I am content to just stay at home on a Friday night and clean out the freezer.

I suppose most of you have come to the same conclusion as I did that Friday night. I’m getting old. Yes, slowing down and spending more time with myself lately has amplified all the little signs that tell me I’m not as young as I used to be. The length of time it takes to fully wake up in the morning when I used to just spring out of bed. The “oof” sounds I make when I sit down or stand up (or make any other kind of movement) that used to be funny because, ha-ha, I sound just like my dad, are now a regular occurrence and, ha-ha, I really do sound just like my dad. I guess I am starting to feel my age a bit.

My father has always been a barometer, of sorts, for me. As long as he doesn’t seem old to me, I can’t be that old. It’s flawed logic, I know, but it kind of makes sense. I recently went to visit my parents and we were discussing winter and how they were managing. My dad told me that he would shovel out the drive and then one of the neighbors would come with his plow and push that snow back behind the garage. He said that this man plowed a lot of the older people out completely because a lot of them couldn’t shovel anymore. My mom pointed out that these “older people” were in their 70s. My dad is 86. I hope when I get to be his age, I can be the guy who refers to people 10 years younger than me as “older people.”

When I got to the bottom of the freezer, I found a gigantic bag of frozen apples. The memories of fall fruit stands came flooding back. What was I thinking, buying and freezing all these apples? Apparently, apple pie. It was written right on the bag. I think I’m going to get a little crazy with these apples and make flaky, delicious, and fully portable hand pies. The recipe follows, hope you enjoy it.

Apple Hand Pies

Pie Dough

2 ½ C. flour

1 ¼ t. sugar

½ t. salt

2 sticks butter, cut into ¼ inch slices

2 T. half and half

¼ C. ice water

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. using a pastry blender or 2 knives (or pulse in a food processor), cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle the liquids on top and begin to stir with a wooden spoon or your bare hands. Add more liquid if necessary to make the dough hold together. It will be quite flaky, press until it becomes a ball and discard any bits that don’t stick. Divide the dough into two equal balls and press or roll each ball into an inch thick disk, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

Cream Cheese Filling

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

⅓ C. sugar

zest of ½ lemon

¼ t. lemon extract

1 ½ T. beaten egg (½ egg)

½ t. lemon juice

Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Apple Filling

2 C. frozen (or fresh) apple, diced

¼ C. sugar

1 T. lemon juice

2 T. flour

Just before you are ready to assemble pies, toss together all ingredients in a small bowl, making sure ingredients are evenly dispersed.

Vanilla-Cinnamon Glaze

¾ C. powdered sugar

1-2 T. milk

1 t. vanilla extract

1 t. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. If glaze seems too thick, add a little more milk. Too thin? Add more powdered sugar.

To assemble pies:

half and half, in a small bowl for brushing

raw or dusting sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove pie crust disks from the refrigerator and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Press them with your hands to make them a little more pliable. On a floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll out a circle about ⅛ inch thick. Repeat with the other disk. Trim off any ragged edges on your dough circles and reserve to patch any holes in your crust. Cut each circle into 4 equal wedges. In the middle and slightly toward the back edge of each wedge, place first one tablespoon of cream cheese filling then one tablespoon apple filling. Brush all edges with half and half and fold so that the edge corners meet and a smaller wedge is formed. If filling seeps out, push back in what you can and wipe the rest clean. Crimp the edges of the pie with a fork. Brush pie liberally with half and half. Cut 3-4 small slits in the top of the pie. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment (baking) paper. Repeat the process for the rest of the pies. Reserve any leftover filling for another use (Muffins anyone?) Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating pans after 12 minutes. Crust should be starting to turn golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool 10 minutes, drizzle with vanilla-cinnamon glaze, if desired.

Bruce Wallis is a chef, educator, and food nerd at The Leelanau School. You can reach him at brucejwallis@gmail.com.

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