Leading up to the Pietopia event, I am going to share with you the six semi-finalists pies and their stories. The semi-finalists were the entries that made it from round one (the food-writer judges round) and have passed along to round two (the baker-judges). All the stories this year were absolutely fantastic! And it was a really tough decision for all the judges. As I post these pies and you read through the stories, I’m interested to know what you think about the food-memory-communication connection. How would you describe your life through taste? The pies take on a whole new flavor if you decide to make them–because you know you are tasting not just food, but someone’s story. Let me know if you do!

These pies represent a different type of nourishment we all need, something I call Primary Food. Primary food feeds us on a deeper level and includes our relationships, careers, and even spirituality. We can eat as healthy as we want, never skipping greens, and always getting the correct amount of vitamins and minerals each day. But if we are unhappy in our jobs or our relationships, the rest of our lives can be colored by those situations making us feel both physically and mentally drained. Having fun, enjoying your life, and those you spend it with are essential to feeling and being our best! What’s your primary food like?

There are at least 70 sextillion stars in the observable universe. Most stars are between 1 billion and 10 billion years old. This boggles my mind.

Though I often daydream about being an astronaut, my job has nothing to do with space, or stars, or even science. I’m a project manager at a nonprofit. In my job I deal with details. Thinking about the vastness of the universe provides a little perspective when I get bogged down in the minutiae of my work. In recent years, I’ve developed insomnia – specifically, the kind where you can’t stay asleep. On nights when I find myself wide awake at 4:00am, I sometimes try to imagine the entire universe in my mind’s eye. I start with a mental image of me lying in my bed. Then, like a camera lens, I zoom out to my apartment, my street, city, country, planet, and on and on, until I’ve zoomed out as far as my brain can possibly comprehend. It has the opposite of the intended effect. Instead of feeling sleepy, my heart starts to beat faster. It’s the most thrilling feeling I can create for myself – imagining the scope of everything.

This pie represents the delicious feeling of being so very small, and the wonder I feel when I consider everything we don’t yet know about the universe. The ginger snap crust is unexpected and hot, like a star. The creamy filling is like the band of light in the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The sweetness of the caramel entwined with the richness of the bittersweet chocolate remind me of the choices I’ve made – I love what I do, but part of me will always wonder what other, more extra-terrestrial, paths I might have taken.

galaxy pie

Galaxy Pie Recipe

# Stellar Gluten – free Ginger Snap Crust


  • 2 cups ground gluten-free ginger snap cookies (around 40 cookies) (Trader Joe’s brand are the
  • best!)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Pulse the cookies and sugar in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Slowly add the melted butter until moist clumps form.
  • Press the mixture into a lightly greased pie plate.
  • Bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Cool, like the crust of a newly-formed planet.

# Cosmic Cream Cheese Filling


  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk


  • Whip cream until it forms stiff peaks.
  • In a separate bowl, beat together cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until smooth.
  • Mix whipped cream with cream cheese mixture.
  • Pour the cream cheese filling into pie crust, almost to the top.
  • Freeze for at least 4 hours.–
  • Remove the pie at least 20 minutes before you serve it.


Make the sauces on the stove

# Caramel Swirl


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


  • Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  • Slowly (and carefully) add the cream and the vanilla. Simmer until the sauce is smooth and thick.

# Bittersweet Chocolate Swirl


  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • Slowly melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water.
  • Stir in sour cream, sugars and heavy cream.
  • When fully blended, stir in vanilla.

When the caramel and chocolate sauces are still warm, but not hot, drizzle in a swirled pattern over the cream cheese mixture.

Throw a few pieces of a broken toffee bar on top if you like, to represent the randomness of the universe.

Galaxy Pie, by Tricia Martin