One of the rooms I always miss the most when we travel away from home is my kitchen. I miss the space of it, and the light coming in through the windows in the morning; I miss how I feel when I'm in the kitchen, cooking up food for my family, or making myself the first pot of coffee in the morning. At our house the kitchen is very much the heart of the home. I felt this the minute we first saw the house. I didn't care that the walls were covered in 1960s flowery wallpaper, or that we'd have to replace the appliances immediately, they were that bad, or that there were brass knobs on the cabinets. I loved the space, and the light, and the sense that this was a place where good things could happen, and where everyone would want to be. And everyone does, most of the time. You can run through our kitchen, as the kids do constantly, from the dining room and into the hall and around again, in a loop. T. likes to sit at the kitchen table and color or draw, or she'll sit on the end of the counter and help me cook. It's outdated, our kitchen, but I love it. It's the heart of it that matters, anyway, and its heart is sound and good. ******* We had company on Tuesday and I wanted to make a dessert from scratch, instead of putting out some leftover Christmas cookies, or my coveted box of chocolate covered dried cherries a friend recently sent to us. But after days in a row of eating Christmas cookies, and chocolates, and drinking sweet wines and eggnog, I wanted something different, something with fresh fruit (well, chocolate-covered cherries are sort of healthy, aren't they?), something that I could at least pretend was healthy. I wanted something that was homey, and would fill the house with the quintessential cozy smell: baked apples. I wanted an apple pie. I've tried different apple pie recipes over the years, and always settled on a traditional two-crust pie, with lots of granny smiths oozing their juices and mingling with the brown sugar and cinnamon--it seems sacrilege, really, to tamper with just pure apples and spices and butter. But a couple of years ago a friend made a divine apple crumble, and when it came time for me to make another apple pie, I wondered what it would be like to cover the pie with a crumble topping, instead of the traditional crust. The results were divine. An apple crumb pie is not as pretty to look at as a two-crust pie, but its heart is sound, and good, and oozing with buttery, sweet goodness--the kind of pie that brings you back to the kitchen for a second piece. Most Amazing Apple Crumb Pie (You can make your own favorite crust recipe, or use a ready-made refrigerated crust, which is what I did) Filling: 8 apples of your choice--I used granny smiths. 3/4 cup sugar 2 tbsp flour 1/2 to 1 tbsp cinnamon dash of nutmeg dash of allspice 2 tbsp (add after you pour the apples into the crust) Crumb topping: 1 cup flour 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup butter For the filling: peel, core, and slice the apples into a large bowl. Add the sugar, flour, and spices. Let the apple mixture rest for 15 minutes, while you mix the crumb topping. Place apples in the pie shell and dab the butter on top. Crumb topping: combine sugar and flour. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until there is a pebble-like consistency. Pat the crumb topping on the apple pie. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.