My dad says you can’t “quit” your team. Whatever team you cheer for, if you are true fan, it doesn’t matter how bad they do, how much they frustrate you, how much you want to hurl more than just a few choice words at the television set, you will love them always and forever. No matter what. They are in your blood. No. Matter. What.
This is a man who has spent his entire life devoted to a certain Chicago baseball team that shall remain nameless. Let me give you a hint…the last time this team won a World Series was in 1908. Yeah… I think he knows his stuff.
My dad has another team in his blood and it’s one we share. Easy to do, considering we are both very proud alumni of the same school – the University of Illinois! And we BLEED orange and blue!
Okay. I know, I know…so maybe there were a couple seasons here recently where they didn’t win a single conference game. Maybe they’re never ranked. Maybe there’s no national championships in the near future. There may not even be a cut rate bowl game in the immediate future….we haven’t opened Big Ten play yet this year.
Doesn’t matter. Still love them. Still tune in every Saturday without fail. Still wear my orange and blue loud and proud. No matter what! I just can’t help it!
When I was in school in Champaign, we always, ALWAYS, saw the game on Dad’s Day. Two Illini side by side (and Mom too! An Illini by association.) in the Horseshoe cheering on our boys in orange and blue. Dad and I always ended up hoarse from cheering.
So maybe we haven’t played the best ball in the last ten years (save for that AMAZING victory over Ohio State three years ago) but I think that is the BEST cheer in college sports. Not that I’m biased or anything.
Anyway, I put on my UIUC-issued thinking cap and got to brainstorming my football themed pie. Did I want it to be inspired by the school, the teams colors or a football experience I had there? Could I turn the night the fans turned on the Michigan marching band after a terrible call, grabbed a tuba and tried to drag it into the stands into a pie? Hmmm. That sounds like something… Or did I want it to be tailgate friendly, crowd friendly, or college kid friendly?
We don’t live in Illinois anymore and haven’t been back to campus is over two years (BOO!) so it’s not like we’re tailgating every weekend. And since I feel like a tiny, homesick Orange and Blue fish in a giant Black and Gold sea and was once booed at while wearing my Illini hoodie in the Wal-Mart by a guy in Hawkeyes cap, it’s not like we have throngs of fellow fans coming over to watch the game.
Man, it’s getting whiny and sad in here. I know what will help…PIE!
I decided to go with a pie inspired by the colors that always make me smile and remember good times…ORANGE AND BLUE. Nowhere are the colors orange and blue more prominent on t-shirts, in wigs and in crazy body paint than in Block I – the student cheering section at Illini home football games.
Here’s a couple collegiate fun facts for you – did you know, started in 1910, Block I is one of the oldest student cheering sections in the US? Did you know the practice of holding up colored cards to make words or pictures in the stands was done for the first time in 1926 by…you guessed it, Block I! Block I is all about camaraderie and tradition and so is the University. That’s why, my daddy and me (and my husband too), we are pretty darn proud to be able to say we’re a part of it.
So without further ado, I present my Block I Pie! A graham cracker crust filled with a creamy, no-bake ORANGE filling and topped with sweet BLUEberries. And orange and blue treat fit for any Illini fan. It’s easy to make and tastes amazing. I like the addition of a bit of cinnamon to my graham cracker crusts for an additional level of flavor, but feel free to leave it out if you’re not a fan. The filling tastes like a dreamsicle and the blueberries are the perfect accompaniment. A real WINNING combo!
A note on the recipe below. I found a no-bake cheesecake filling that sounded promising and could easily adapt into an orange flavor. Then I tried to halve it. Considering I have a degree from such a fine institution and everything, you would think I’d be handle that.
Well. Apparently not. Perhaps I skipped one too many math lectures in my time because I screwed up the proportions and ended up with filling that was a tad soft. I think I added too much juice. It firmed up just fine after a trip the freezer (and was subsequently fine stored in the fridge), but I’m going to share the full recipe below so that you don’t end up with mushy filling too. I’ll let you halve it on your own. Put those degrees to work, people!
Note that the full recipe will yield TWO 10-inch tarts or ONE 9-inch springform pan.
BLOCK I PIE (Recipe inspired by: Martha Stewart)
For the crust:
- 2 sleeves honey graham crackers (about 18 full crackers), crushed into fine crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, melted (more if needed)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cracker crumbs, cinnamon, sugar in a small bowl. Add butter and stir until crumbs are moistened. Pour crumbs into your pan of choice and firmly press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and set, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
For the orange cheesecake filling:
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 14-ounce can (1 1/4 cups) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Note: if making the full recipe in two tart pans, I would double this if you want to spread it on top of each one. If you’re just spooning it over the top of each slice, this is probably enough. This will also be enough topping to spread on 1 9-inch pie. Adjust to meet your needs!
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons of sugar (or more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until the berries reduce and thicken, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving or spreading on top of chilled pie. Garnish finished pie with whipped cream, orange zest and orange slices.