"Easy as pie." Whoever came up with those words of wisdom clearly never baked a pie!

This time of year, I crave apple pie, and I thought about making an apple pie this past Saturday afternoon, but I just didn't feel like making it. Do you know why? Because making a pie is not easy!

Well, it's not really hard — it's more tedious than hard — but tedious is not easy, either.

First, you have to make the pie dough and let it chill while you peel and slice a lot of apples, then toss them with sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Then you have to roll out the dough; but first, you have to strew a lot of flour all over the counter so the dough doesn't stick. That'll be a lot of fun to clean up. Next, you have to pile the apples into the pie shell, roll out more dough, put it over the apples, crimp the edges and bake it.

While the pie bakes, you have to stick around and keep an eye on it. You set the timer. The timer goes off. You check the pie. The edges are getting too brown, you have to cover the edges with foil. You set the timer again. Timer goes off. You check the pie again. Not quite brown enough. Just a few more minutes. You set the timer again. You smell something burning. You check the pie. The juices are bubbling over onto the oven. The oven is smoking. That's it! ... This pie is done! You open the windows.

Oh yeah ... then there is the messy kitchen. You clean up.

Does that sound easy? No!

Is it worth it? For a homemade apple pie? Well, yeah!

But, "easy as pie?" I still don't get it ...

You know what I do when I want apple pie and I just don't feel like making an apple pie? I make baked apples.

EASIER-THAN-PIE BAKED APPLES

INGREDIENTS:

4 large firm apples

1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)     

2 Tbsp butter

3/4 cup boiling water

Variation: Chewy caramels

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Core the apples leaving the bottom 1/2 inch of the apples intact.

Place apples upright in a baking dish just big enough to hold them. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and nuts. Fill cored apples with mixture. Dot with butter.

Pour boiling water into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, basting once or twice, until the apples are just tender, but not mushy. Serve warm.

Variation: BAKED CARAMEL APPLES

After 20 minutes, put 2 or 3 caramels into each apple cavity and bake 10 minutes longer or until tender and caramels are melted.

Just like apple pie, baked apples are delicious topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a slice of cheddar cheese.