Judging a Pie Contest.
Plus the winning recipe!

When I was just a small wisp of a thing, I dreamed that one day I’d have a job I loved.  A job I would wear designing clothing to, which was fulfilling, paid scads of money,  and required that I drive a Porche like that girl who was a lawyer on the TV show Sisters did. That was the show where all the girls had boys names.

Clearly, as a child, I had no idea how to dream big.  Had I known how to dream the impossible dream I’d have dreamed I’d one day grow up to be a PIE JUDGE.

I do not have, nor do I want a Porche, but I can add pie judge to my hysterically long list of jobs.  Technically it wasn’t a job since I didn’t get paid but I did have to be there at a specific time, perform a required task and leave before everyone else got drunk and fell down.  If that doesn’t scream job I don’t know what does.

The pie judging was for the Marche Nocturne event I told you about last week.

There were 19 pies in total, but somehow when we got down to judging there were only 17 pies.   I’ve never met a food that could grow a set of legs like a pie.

I, along with my fellow judges, Lisa Picone and Jeff Goodes judged each pie according to 3 bits of criteria.  We scored each criteria out of 5, then totalled the marks.

1.  Appearance

2.  Crust

3.  Filling

I was impressed with the amount of men that entered the contest.  I was also impressed with the amount of bribing they attempted.


Lemon Meringue

Pie Contest 1
Pie Contest 2


Avocado Lime w/ coconut crust (Raw Foods Pie)

Pie Contest 3


Strawberry Rhubarb (lattice top)

Pie Contest 4
Pie Contest 5
Pie Contest 6


Blueberry Lavender Cream Pie

Pie Contest 7


The ribbons …

Pie Contest 8


… complete with picture of pies.

Pie Contest 9


The pies.  All of the pies. That’s a lotta pie.

Pie Contest 10


My fellow judges Lisa and Jeff. Two finer folks you never did meet.  

I should mention that they were a bit less um … discriminating … when it came to judging.

They were nicer.  I was a pie nazi.  I become a raging, exacting, maniacal person once you put a pie fork in my hand.

Pie Contest 12


Of the 17 pies, there were probably 6 or so Strawberry Rhubarb pies. It’s very difficult to taste that many Strawberry Rhubarb pies and have any of it make sense.  But the differences between them were amazing.  Some maintained their filling shape once you cut into them, others turned oozy and runny once you took out a slice.  Some had salty crusts, some were incredibly tart.

Other pies brought a tear to the eye.  For a variety of reasons.

Other than Strawberry Rhubarb pies there were a few cream pies and some really delicious flavour combinations.  Like the classic chocolate raspberry pie, which we deemed more of a tart.  And the raw avocado lime pie!  We all said a little prayer before trying that one.

17 pies and countless plates later we came up with our winner.  A unanimous decision.


A Strawberry Rhubarb pie with a GLUTEN FREE crust!

Pie Contest 13

Valerie’s gluten free crust was the best crust of the whole contest!


Second place went to a most surprising pie!  .  Not only was it a BOLD choice, it was really good!  Nice crust, fantastic filling, plus a well executed appearance.  AND it was a man-pie.


Raw Avocado Lime pie with coconut crust.

Pie Contest 14


Best of all … I have the recipe for you.  As it turns out the recipe was in the local paper the week before the pie contest so it wasn’t too hard to find for you.


[print_this]Island Lime Pie


Makes 12 servings

This dessert will keep for 10 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container or for up to 4 months in the freezer.

1 Coco-macadamia crust (recipe follows)

Lime slices and grated coconut, for garnish (optional)

For the mousse:

Flesh of 2 to 3 avocados

3/4 cup (180 mL) freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) agave nectar

1/2 tsp (2 mL) alcohol-free vanilla essence

For the frosting:

1/4 cup (60 mL) water (approx.)

1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly squeezed lime OR lemon juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) macadamia nuts

2 tsp (10 mL) agave nectar

1/4 tsp (1 mL) alcohol-free vanilla essence

1/8 tsp (. 5 mL) sea salt

1 tbsp (15 mL) coconut oil, melted


Coco-Macadamia Crust:

Makes 1 crust

This will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

1/2 cup (125 mL) macadamia nuts

1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut

2 ½ tbsp (37 mL) Date paste (recipe follows) or 3 chopped seedless dates

1/2 tsp (2 mL) alcohol-free vanilla essence

1/4 tsp (1 mL) sea salt

In a food processor, chop macadamia nuts into small pieces.

Add coconut, date paste, vanilla and sea salt and blend to obtain an evenly consistent mixture that can be formed into a ball.


Date Paste

1/3rd cup (around 9 dates) fresh OR dried seedless dates

1/4 cup  water

Soak dates in water for at least 2 hours.  Apply pressure with another bowl or dish if necessary to keep dates under water.

Once dates are thoroughly softened put dates and water in food processor and combine until they form a paste.


Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate with crust.

Avocado mousse: In a food processor, combine avocados, lime juice, coconut butter, agave nectar and vanilla; blend to a smooth cream of even consistency. Pour into crust. Set aside at room temperature while preparing frosting.

Frosting: In a blender, combine water, lime juice, nuts, agave nectar, vanilla and sea salt. Blend to a smooth cream of even consistency. This can take several minutes. If needed, add 1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) more water. While blender is running, incorporate melted coconut oil.

Place mixture in a pastry bag with a narrow nozzle. Trace a spiral of frosting on pie from centre to rim of pie plate. With a chopstick, trace a dozen lines in frosting at regular intervals from centre to rim to resemble a spider web.

Before serving, garnish with lime slices and grated coconut, if desired.


And no.  I know what you’re all wondering.  There wasn’t a SINGLE true pie in the entire bunch.  Not one.  It was like some sort of True Pie revolt.  Speaking of revolting, I’m not sure if you’ve ever consumed 17 different pies in one sitting but I hadn’t.  It’s quite a culinary experience. Most confusing for my belly, but a whole lotta fun.

Dear little wisp of a thing Karen,

You won’t drive a Porche and you definitely won’t make scads of money.  But you’re going to love your job.


Older, wiser Karen



  1. Kat says:

    I realize this is old, but I had to go gluten free 6 years ago (& dairy free nearly 20yrs, so sad!) and last year I finally finagled a crust recipe. Doesn’t work for all pies, but will work for many different types. Here it is, crap! My phone is dying! Ok may have to add onto this later, I don’t remember what temperature it bakes at. Here’s what I do remember.

    1 1/2 cups fine almond meal
    (Up to) 1/4 cup sugar or sweetener of choice
    1/16 – 1/4 tsp (pink) salt – (Optional)
    1/4 – 1 tsp (total) of seasoning/spices. (Optional)
    (I like to add 1/4-1/2 tsp of cinnamon for example, feel free to add others, additionally, or instead of, or not at all.)
    Whisk these together.
    Melt 5 tbls of butter (or non dairy butter substance, or coconut oil).
    Pour this over dry ingredients, mix thoroughly.
    Should resemble graham cracker crust crumb at this point.
    Press into pie pan, and up sides of desired.

    Ok, my old phone with all my notes on it is going completely biserk, so I’m gonna say the temp is 375 fahrenheit. Even if it’s off a little it will still work, really. It was that or 425, never hurts to use a lower temp when in doubt though. At worst it may need a couple more minutes to bake.
    Ok, so, if your pie bakes for a long time, like a cheesecake (which CAN be made entirely from goat cheese with no cow dairy, if anyone is interested), then only parbake it for 5 minutes before adding the filling.
    For longer bake times, if you pressed the crust up the sides, check the edges for browning about 20minutes before the time is up to make sure it’s not burning. You can place foil around the edges at this point if the crust already looks done or is looking TOO done.

    For shorter bake times and no bake pies, parbake the crust for 10-20minutes, depending on how brown you want it.

    The almond flour can also be replaced with crushed gluten free cookie crumbs (like Pamela’s gingersnaps, Glutino “oreos”, or Enjoy Life sugar cookies. These are ones mom or I have tried. )

    Last time we used something like 6 sugar cookies and 4 gingersnaps, and added some (I’m not sure how much, 1/4-1/2cup maybe?) of the pumpkin pie filling, after mom had mixed all the pumpkin pie filling ingredients together, and parbaked it about 7minutes. It worked pretty good! I think we used about 1tbls each of date sugar and turbinado – for that particular mix of crust.

  2. Nicola Cunha says:

    How was the blueberry lavender pie? Sounds like a nice combo


  3. Sarah A says:

    What a fun job! I can’t wait to try to avocado lime pie, I never would have thought to try that combination. I was already planning to make pie this week (apple & strawberry rhubarb) but perhaps my planned fillings have just changed! Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Sara says:

    I do believe you are the Simon Cowell of pies. :)

  5. Susan says:

    I have spent a lovely afternoon reading your blog archives after stumbling upon it on Pinterest. You are a fabulous writer and very entertaining.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Susan! I remember when the same thing happened to me reading The Pioneer Woman a few years ago. I’m very glad you found my site. ~ karen!

  6. carol says:

    Love you, Karen, but that recipe looks gah-ross.

  7. Jeannie B says:

    Well, after thinking about pie all day, I decided to make one for supper.Filling was blueberry, rhubarb and strawberry with a buttery sweet crust. Free form and rustic. Served with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Totally delicious. If it wasn’t for your blog Karen, I wouldn’t have made it. And the house is still cool, despite the heat outside. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      All this pie talk and I’m actually starting to crave it. All I have are some frozen mini goat’s cheese tarts in my freezer. I wonder what they’d be like with ice cream. ~ karen!

  8. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    A True Pie Revolt..lol..I hope you have informed him of this..17 pies in one sitting..sounds like a dreamy kind of day to me..Dear Wispy Little Karen..please listen to Older, Wiser Karen..she’s gonna take you to a good place..

  9. nancy says:

    I am going to make that lime avocado pie for sho. But, ooh you gave me a turn when the mousse recipe started with “flesh”. That crust is a lot of work, I might skip that and have pudding with frosting. I live in Seattle so I am sure there is coconut butter at every corner store. And lard, I remember when McDonald’s was a scourge on the earth cause they used beef tallow and lard for their fries. Now, everyone wants a lard connection. This weekend, I spent 6 bucks on fries cooked in lard and covered with a Bechamel/blue cheese/bacon gravy with lotsa garlic and a little bit of green onions. They are 1st on the True Fries list. And re: agave nectar, I was big into that until I read this: http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad, I also read it was high in arsenic, but who knows. Can’t believe everything you read.
    One last comment, once I made apple pie and tasted the raw apples mixed with cinnamon and sugar, well, what’s the point of cooking them? So delicious raw!!!!

  10. Zoe says:

    I’d like to echo all the gluten-free crust pie requests :)

    Thanks muchly!

  11. Dagmar says:

    Thank you Laura…uhm, Karen, too.

  12. jess says:

    Oh Karen, please do the world of us deprived gluten free eaters a big favor and GET that receipe. You are already a semi-hero with the sock iPhone holder, but this will really put you up there. Please do a whole blog about it so I don’t miss it. Bread and such is no longer fun now that I must eat gluten free

  13. Jeannie B says:

    Karen those pies all look so delicious. The only pies that I’ve made lately, are chocolate custard in a graham wafer crust and an ice cream pie, with a rice Krispie crust.. For fruit pies, I used to thilnk the vegetable shortening was healthier than lard, but now, that’s not the case. So, now I go half butter and half shortening . It’s way to hot to turn the oven on, but perhaps when it’s a bit cooler, I’ll make a “rustic” pie. One crust on a cookie sheet wrapped around fruit. And served with French Vanilla ice cream. AND whatever happened to raisin pie? When I was a kid, my mom used to make raisin pie. But, her apple was my favourite. A number of years ago, we had guests from England. It was October and I made a delicious pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. They thought it was disgusting. And they were MY relatives.

  14. cred says:

    thanks for the avocado lime pie recipe- will definitely try. My dude is going paleo for awhile and I need some new dishes.

  15. Laura Bee says:

    You have the best job(s)!
    Now I want pie. I still have elderberries in my freezer from last summer. Today’s the day!

  16. Brenda J. Moore says:

    My “EX” M.I.L. aka Attila, made an incredible, beautiful cherry pie…pits and all. Too much trouble to take them out before hand.
    Needless to say, “EX” was the only road to travel!!

  17. Ruth says:

    Clearly, my island is not the one that inspired the recipe, because some of these ingredients are totally foreign to me. What on earth is coconut butter?

    Alcohol-free vanilla essence? It exists!!!! I have been trying to find one for ages and all I wound up with is the wary glances of shop owners who apparently thought I fell from outer space. I need this in my life…. *sigh*

    Would the crust be totally messed up if I used almonds instead of the ‘had-to-be-Googled’ macadamia nuts? (I want to try the crust for a different kind of ‘un-true’ pie)

    • cred says:

      Hi Ruth,

      I’ve made raw crusts from almonds but macadamia nuts are creamier. Better to soak the almonds in water overnight, then drain and grind to make them less grainy. Raw foodists soak nuts to release the enzyme inhibitor that they believe makes them harder to digest (no idea if this is true but soaking makes the almonds softer for grinding).

  18. Trissi V. says:

    Why does the winner have a red ribbon and second place a blue ribbon? I only ask because I am use to seeing the blue ribbon as the winner (first place) and red ribbon indicating the runner up (second place). White ribbons are third and yellow is fourth.

    What’s up with that?

    Also…after seeing Alton Brown avocado “Good Eats” episode and dismissing avocado in dessert (he made frosting or a cake and I thought it was just weird), I think I am going to have to try the Raw Avocado Lime Pie.

  19. Johan says:

    First of all let me say I am enjoying your blog but I am jealous of your recent role as a pie judge! Seriously, how does one land a gig like that?! Okay, maybe you are famous and everything, and have your OWN blog, but I believe I have a lot more forks-on experience when it comes to matters of pie.
    I agree with Kristin’s post and throw another vote for peach pie. Problem is peach season is short so one must gorge to make the best of it.

    My rules of pie –
    1. crusts may never be exactly the same twice; even if you use the same recipe. Just accept it and move on.

    2. never, ever, ever, used canned filling unless there is nothing else left on the planet and you need a pie fix. Apples that remain crunchy when cooked at 400 degrees for 45 minutes are right.

    3. Vanilla ice cream is mandatory for fresh fruit pies. Besides, it’s dairy, it’s good for you!

    4. Pudding in a pie shell is a waste of a good crust. Why bother?

    5. Never offer guests seconds if the pie is exceptional.

    I have more but I have to get back to my real job; the one that doesn’t include tasting pies. Keep up the funny and informational entries Karen.

  20. jan says:

    If I were your father-in-law I would definitely make rhubarb pie a true pie but not strawberry-rhubarb. Strawberries, though I do like them, RUIN a good rhubarb pie!!! IMHO

    • Cat says:

      I agree. Rhubarb is called “pie plant” for a reason. Strawberries, however, have no place a cooked pie.
      Although I’m sure there’s a way to make it work (maybe with pre-roasted just-picked strawberries?), it’s still just trying to mash an extra fruit into something that’s beautiful and perfect all on it’s own.

  21. Janet says:

    Looks to me like you’d better track down that gluten-free crust recipe…the pie natives sound restless.

  22. Kristin says:

    I just read your Pumpkin Pie vs. Pumpkin Pie entry, and I want to suggest using acorn squash instead of pumpkin. I usually find it’s easier to handle and more flavorful than pumpkin for making pumpkin pie (although it does perjure the pie and undermine its veracity.) I also put a bit of molasses in my pumpkin (squash) pie, and a little extra ginger.

    My best friend (since we were about 9) is a pie bigot. She maintains there are “only two pies”: Apple and pumpkin. I tried to get her to try a nice sour cherry pie I had made one day, and she almost refused to eat it, until I realized she thought cherry pie was made from maraschino cherries! I disabused her of this, and now she grudgingly tastes my pies, but still prefers apple and pumpkin. I rib her about it, especially when summer is here and apples and pumpkins are out of season!

    Hey, how come there were no peach pies in that contest?

  23. Auntiepatch says:

    I use coconut oil but what is coconut butter?

    • cred says:

      I can only answer from my experience since this isn’t set in stone. I find that coconut butter is used to refer to coconut oil. Since coconut oil is solid at room temp, it is described as butter.
      To make things confusing, there is just coconut oil which has been refined and has no odour (good for frying) and then virgin coconut oil which still smells/tastes like coconut- better for desserts and recipes where a coconut taste is okay.
      To further confuse the matter, there is coconut cream. Coconut cream is not like coconut milk (which is very creamy) as you might expect but is sold as a solid block and is 100% macerated coconut and hard packed. I have used it in place of coconut milk as directed but find the tiny bits of coconut off-putting where I want a creamy texture.
      I’m going to try this recipe using virgin coconut oil. Here’s hoping I know what I’m talking about.

      • Stephanie says:

        Coconut BUTTER is whole coconut flesh that is ground up until, well, buttery in the way a nut butter is buttery. Look for it at the kind of places raw foodies shop (i.e., a health food store). Artisana is a good brand. Be prepared for sticker shock. If you need to make a substitution, use a combination of shredded, unsweetened coconut and coconut oil and run that food processor until it’s smoking. Substituting straight coconut oil will be far too greasy.

    • Cat says:

      Coconut butter is pulverized coconut flesh. It’s sometimes called “coconut manna” as well, but that term seems to be phasing out. It’s butter in the same sense as peanut butter or apple butter.

  24. Hope says:

    Before our absolute need to go Gluten Free I recieved the best pie crust recipe ever from secret sources in my husband’s home town. They know REAL pie there! (Lard and 1 egg for 6 crusts was the secret)…anyhow….Now i have tried a variety of crusts which range from plain hard to cardboard. Yuk!
    I would also prostrate myself and grovel for that recipe. Tell her people are DESPERATE to taste a flaky, lovely crust again that all of my family will happily eat!
    Maybe she has a philanthropic heart!

  25. Susan says:

    Please…pretty please…any chance of getting the recipe for the gluten free strawberry rhubarb crust? The coco-macadamia crust sounds delish but with a lot of ingredients not normally in my cupboard.
    Grovel if you must but GET THAT RECIPE! Unless, of course, the lady is planning to go into the gluten free pie business in which case I volunteer to be her east coast distributor.

  26. Jane says:

    Any chance of getting the gluten-free pastry recipe? I have a daughter-in-law and 2 close friends who are gluten-free and would love a good pastry recipe for when they visit!

  27. Bonnie says:

    Dear wispy Karen,

    I have just found the answer to question 2 on Wikipedia. Yes, in Canada you award a blue ribbon to second place. I also found that in the UK, a blue ribbon can be the symbol of testicular cancer awareness. Who knew?

    Knowledgeable Bonnie

  28. Bonnie says:

    Dear wispy Karen,

    I have two questions:
    1. Can you get us the recipe for that amazing, gluten free crust?
    2. Is it a Canadian thing that first place gets a red ribbon and second place a blue? We have the opposite here in the U.S., so I am just wondering.

    I love pie. I even bought a pie maker and take little pies to work to give away. You do have a great job!

    Bulky Bonnie

    • Karen says:

      Bonnie – Yes, blue ribbons as 1st prize is an American thing, and a red ribbon for first is Canadian. ~ karen!

  29. Amanda says:

    Any chance you got Valerie’s gluten free pie crust recipe? I’ve been trying to find a good one and have yet to do so. I miss eating pie!

    • Karen says:

      Amanda – I tried to contact Valerie for her pie crust recipe for this post but I’ve been having trouble getting ahold of her. I’ll continue to try! ~ karen

      • Amanda says:

        You’re the best!

      • sera says:

        Me too! I want that gluten-free pie crust recipe!
        There are so many gluten-free pie crust suggestions, but if it has your no. 1 pie stamp of approval, I would definitely consider that one a step up!

        Although, I think I’m going to have to make this raw pie too!

        • Suzanne in Austin, Texas says:

          I would love to have the GF crust recipe too. Thanks for a lovely post Karen once again!

  30. Diana says:

    what about the Pie with the Baiser-Crust. i love baiser! Please describe the tast in all variations of words..

  31. Dagmar says:

    Since obviously I am only older, bot not yet wiser, in the culinary sense anyway, could you explain to me Karen, what is considered a TRUE pie? Just wondering in case I am ever asked at a fancy dinner party? Thanks. BTW, your first blog on the Marche Nocturne, was just breath-taking.

  32. Susan Dulley says:

    First of all, that fact that you remember “The Sisters”, is amazing. I would have never guessed you to be that … Ok, I won’t say it. I did love that show though. About the pies. I know that we are all concerned with fat and always trying to eat healthier, for the most part. However, the best pie crust I have ever eaten, and I do mean the best, was made with lard. And…it was made by a man person. My mother and my maternal grandmother were excellent cooks and even though their pies were fantastic, they did not even come close to being as perfectly delicious as the pie that was made for me, by a gentleman. Do you suppose that could have had anything to do with it? Nope, it was just plain delicious! Read about the train wreck, all of Canada will be in my prayers.

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