Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

My grandmother- or as we called her, Grammy- loved rhubarb. When I was a child, I never understood the appeal of it. I thought it tasted a little sour and the texture reminded me of snot (nice visual, I know). Time changes things, though, and now I have grown to love rhubarb, especially with strawberries.

My mom made this strawberry rhubarb pie for our cookout we had over the Memorial Day weekend. She used the rhubarb from her little garden and some strawberries from a local market. With a buttery crumb topping and a dollop of homemade ice cream, it was simply scrumptious. There wasn’t a crumb left.

Later that weekend, after things had quieted down, we built a fire on the beach and watched the stars. I thought about the last time I had taken time to stargaze. I honestly couldn’t remember, but I was taken back to summer vacations we spent in Canada with my grandparents. The stars are still the same as they were back then when Grammy and Dadsey were living and my parents’ crows feet weren’t as defined as they are now. Rhubarb was grown in Grammy’s garden just like my mom (and now I) grow it today. It’s strange that even as life moves on, some things stay the same. I guess, in a way, it’s comforting too.

Either way, I think of Grammy every time I have rhubarb. And I know she would have loved this pie. :)

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
  • 1 9-inch single pie crust (homemade or store bought)

For the topping:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cold butter

Directions

1. Roll out pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness and carefully drape and press into 9 inch pie dish.Chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

2. Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla and mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into unbaked pie shell.

3. To make the topping, combine oats, flour, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Mix with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly and uniform. Sprinkle evenly over fruit filling.

4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F bake for 35 minutes or until lightly brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.

Source: All Recipes, pie crust- Martha Stewart

Foodbuzz 24 x 24: Weekend at the Lake

Foodbuzz 24×24 is a monthly event in which 24 featured publishers are selected to create a meal sponsored by Foodbuzz, all within 24 hours of each other, and then write a blogpost documenting it. This month I was happy to find out that my proposal was accepted. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Memorial Day weekend than to showcase a family get together at Lake Erie

Ohio isn’t known to be a vacation hotspot. We have long and gray winters, lots of flat terrain, and horrible sports teams (except those Buckeyes)! However, there are a few precious months between May and early September when the sun stays shining and several members of my mom’s side of the family flock to Port Clinton, OH. This seasonal town is right along Lake Erie and about a twenty minute drive from Cedar Point. Sure, Lake Erie is a little bit murky at times and the algae bloom can get on your nerves, but we view it as our personal paradise.

I think my great aunt Rosemary and uncle Loren were the first to get a vacation spot at the lake several decades ago; and we all loved it so much that we just couldn’t stay away. Today the O’Neill clan seems to have taken over the area- just like the zebra mussels that have infiltrated Lake Erie (though, I like to think of us as slightly less invasive- but the jury is still out). ;)

We usually get together on the 3 big holidays of the summer- Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. This year, my parents hosted the first big soiree of the season at their cottage.

With this meal I wanted to honor our rich family tradition with several family-favorite recipes. I also wanted to showcase some of the delicious local Ohio produce that is starting to come into season. Most of all, I wanted to document how wonderful of a family I have; and, although we are far from perfect, I couldn’t be more thankful for these wonderful people.

The dinner menu included:

  • Uncle Don’s Lake Erie perch and walleye with Aunt Molly’s tartar sauce and lemon aioli sauce
  • Cousin Becky’s barbecued pulled pork sliders
  • Hot dogs on the grill
  • Mom’s baked beans
  • Grammy’s cole slaw
  • Aunt Dodo’s deviled eggs
  • Cousin Meg’s German potato salad
  • Robert’s hot carrots
  • My canned pickles (from last summer)
  • Cousin Becky’s potato salad
  • Cousin Jean’s buffalo chicken dip
  • Pasta salad (not sure who brought that, but it was great!)
  • Cousin Julie’s fruit kabobs
  • Bootstrap cousin Mary’s guacamole

The dessert menu included:

  • Mom’s mile-high strawberry pie
  • Grammy’s strawberry rhubarb pie
  • Mom’s rhubarb pie
  • Mom’s Coconut cream pie
  • Mom’s Butterscotch cream pie
  • Chocolate cream puffs
  • Robert’s homemade ice cream with homemade hot fudge and caramel sauce
  • Cousin Carrie’s crayon cookies
  • Rice Krispie treat pops

Specialty drinks included:

My Aunt Khaki found our cute old picnic basket and some flowering chives

MUncle Don was the fish fryer for the evening

Aunt Molly brought Grammy’s cole slaw

The dinner spread and our Ohio pride

Mom’s lemon aioli and Molly’s tartar sauce

The dessert table

Mom and her cream puffs

The Rice Krispie treat pops were a hit with Paige :)

Robert’s family’s ice cream was scrumptious and universally devoured

It’s not a party without some bean bag

Aunt Molly’s mojitos- delicious and deceivingly powerful

Our dog, Athena, was exhausted after playing nonstop fetch in the lake. It was great! :)

It was a beautiful day and a fantastic way to kick off summer 2012. A huge thanks to my parents and my Aunt Khaki for all of their hard work and help and thanks to all the O’Neills for coming over! Recipes to come in the coming weeks.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta Vegetable Sauce

Do you ever go to the grocery store and buy lots and lots of produce, thinking of all the grandiose plans you have in store for it only to find that once crisp cucumber lying limp in the bottom of the crisper a week later? I do that. More than I care to admit and I always tell myself that I will get better.

On the drive home the night that I made this, I was really trying to talk myself into just stopping to pick something up for dinner. Unfortunately, I knew there was a heap of vegetables in my fridge just about to turn a little too ripe. It really made no sense economically not to try to find a way to use it up. Especially since I just recently lost temporary control of my will to not spend money at Target (or Tar-jhey as we like to say when we’re feeling fancy).

The end result was this pasta dish. Throwing whatever you can find in your fridge into pasta usually seems to work and it’s a really versatile and simple way to use up ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. The ricotta added a slight richness to the dish and the fresh lemon juice and basil added great freshness. Basil just epitomizes summertime and it is making me look oh so forward to using it all the time in the coming months.

Robert was a little insecure when he saw this was a vegetarian dish, so I made sure to throw the remaining leftover porkchop on the side for him to calm his nerves. He’s a trooper. :)

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta Vegetable Sauce

  • 1 12 oz box whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (plus more for garnish if desired)
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions

1. Place about one quart of water and about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (still slightly firm, but not hard). Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the rest of the water. Set the pasta aside.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the peppers, shallots, and tomatoes. Saute until tender. Add in the minced garlic and cook just until lightly brown. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Remove from heat.

3. To the vegetables, add the ricotta, pasta water, and lemon juice. Carefully stir or whisk until smooth. Carefully add in the cooked pasta and toss until all pasta is coated. Stir in fresh chopped basil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Source: Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats

Macadamia Nut Shortbread

Maybe I should be more afraid of butter. Sure, it’s on the enemy list of cardiologists or dietitians around, but my philosophy is that if you’re going to eat a cookie, it might as well be the real thing. As the weather gets warmer, and I start to unpack our summer clothes, I know butter will likely (okay hopefully) take more of a backseat on our menu. But, really, if you’re gonna indulge- choose a little butter. It’s the same thing with cheese. Fat-free cheese is just wrong. Now to just find the right balance. ;)

I made these macadamia nut shortbread as a party favor for my friend, Chelsea’s, bridal shower two weeks ago. Shortbread is a type of cookie made without leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder, eggs) and with lots of butter. I baked them a week in advance, froze them, and then packaged them two days before the shower. They stayed perfectly fresh and I received a lot of great reviews. If you’re looking for a crispy, buttery, and special cookie, these shortbread are a perfect choice. They are a great blend of salty and sweet and are scrumptious with a cup of coffee.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Macadamia Nut Shortbread

Yield: About 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups salted dry-roasted macadamia nuts
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

2. Place macadamia nuts in a 4-sided sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, but keep the oven on. Allow the nuts to cool slightly and then coarsely chop.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt until combined well. Stir in flour, nuts, and chocolate and gently stir with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Gently pat the dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Score into 20 squares with tip of a knife. Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes, then carefully cut into squares with a sharp knife while the shortbread is still warm (cookies may crumble a little bit). Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Source: Gourmet

Food Memory Friday: Dining with Khaki

There was a fair amount of time while I was growing up when none of my mother’s immediate family lived in Ohio. However, for a short three years, my Aunt Khaki and cousin Camille lived only 10 minutes from us in adorable house; and, looking back, it was some of the most fun and memorable years of my childhood.

In those three years, Camille, Selby, and I took ballet and jazz classes (that really paid off for us ;) ),  we broke one of my Aunt Khaki’s favorite vases and successfully glued it back together with Elmer’s glue (she wouldn’t discover it had broken for several months ), and we went camping (where I wet my sleeping bag and subsequently ended up spilling over into my sister’s).  We had Easter Egg Hunts, sleepovers, and we went to movies and high school plays. And, of course, we fought; but we usually made up.

We spent a lot of time together and, although it was only for a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, I will always treasure those years above others. Camille was like our other sister and my Aunt Khaki was our second mom.

As a result, it’s always a special occasion when we get together (as it is with all of our extended family since we don’t get to see each other often). My Aunt Khaki and my mom were in town this week and it was so nice to get a chance to be together. Even more glorious, Khaki made delicious dinners for us twice this past week. I forgot how nice it is to have prepared food waiting when you get home from work. She even packed my lunch. How sweet is that? :)

On Wednesday she prepared a delicious spring salad with fresh fruit and walnut-crusted baked goat cheese along with a crusty baguette and handmade passion fruit truffles- it was truly scrumptrulescent.

Then, on Thursday, I came home to a lighter take on chili bowls with a delicious salad and fresh garlic bread. I could get used to my own personal chef.

And… some lovely fresh peonies as well…

Thank you, Aunt Khaki, for delicious food and fun conversation, as always.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Strawberry Pineapple Jam

My mom always made her own jam while we were growing up- blackberry, red raspberry, pepper jelly, strawberry. You name it. She is quite an ambitious woman. I took for granted the luxury of having stores of delicious jam at my fingertips, and especially realized this when I left for college and was stuck with cafeteria stuff.

Because I apparently wasn’t a very good helper to my mom, I always assumed making jam was  a seriously complicated and time-consuming task; and while it does take a little planning, I was pretty pleased with the fact that it isn’t as arduous an undertaking as I had previously thought.

You need very few ingredients- fruit, Sure-Jell pectin, and sugar. And it turns out that the Sure-Jell box has several ratios for different fruit jams on a sheet inside the package. Each fruit has different pectin levels that help the jam mixture set and, as I am in no way an expert in this arena, it was nice that all of that work was done for me.

Another perk, is that this jam didn’t need to be placed in a canner to achieve the seal on the jars. My mom told me about an easy trick in which you screw the lid and seal on, flip the jar over, and allow it to set for several hours. I let my jam set overnight and every single jar sealed perfectly. Excellent.

With strawberry season almost into full swing, this jam would be a delicious and great way to use up some of spring and summer’s bounty. And it makes  a great shower favor as well! :)

Strawberry Pineapple Jam

Ingredients

  • 3 cups clean and hulled strawberries, crushed
  • 2 cups pineapple, finely chopped
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar

Directions

1. Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

2. Measureexactly 3 cups crushed strawberries and 2 cups chopped pineapple into a large 6-8 quart pot.

3. Stir pectin into prepared fruit in pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat (it shouldn’t stop bubbling when boiled), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Carefully stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil approximately 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken on the spoon or when it thickens when placed in a small bowl over ice water.  Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

4.  Ladle the jam immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims with a wet washcloth to remove any jam on the outside of the jars. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Immediately turn the jars over and allow to set for several hours. The lids should seal with this method (you shouldn’t be able to spring back the lid with your finger). If it hasn’t sealed it must be stored in the refrigerator. Eat immediately or store sealed jars for several months.

Source: SURE-JELL

Chelsea’s Bridal Shower

(photo courtesy of Joanne)

Last weekend I helped throw a bridal shower for one of my very dearest friends, Chelsea. Chelsea and I met while in grad school and became very close on our carpools to and from class. She is one of the hardest working, most beautiful people I know and I am so honored to be part of her upcoming wedding in Maui this July.

Because the wedding will be in Hawaii and because Chelsea adores brunch, her sister (Lela) and I came up with a Hawaiian brunch theme. We threw the shower at the clubhouse where Chelsea lives and we had about 20 guests attend on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon.

The menu included:

  • Mini Crab and Asiago quiche
  • Mini Asparagus and Gruyere quiche
  • Bacon
  • Herbed Breakfast Potatoes
  • Assorted breads from Great Harvest
  • Tropical Fruit Salad
  • Mini Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits
  • Hawaiian Sunrise Granola
  • Passion Fruit Cream Puffs
  • Pineapple Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
  • The Chelsea Cocktail (sparkling wine, Chambord, pineapple juice, mango passion fruit juice)
  • Coffee, tea, and juice

Favors: Macadamia Nut Shortbread, Pineapple Strawberry Jame

The spread (photo courtesy of Joanne)

I made menu cards to go with cardstock and Martha Stewart stickers (photo courtesy of Joanne).

Linda’s beautiful fruit salad (photo courtesy of Joanne).

I borrowed mini parfait glasses from my friend, Jess, for the yogurt. I love the look of individual servings with these cute cups (photo courtesy of Joanne).

Aunt Khaki gave me the idea of using freeze-dried passion fruit powder to add a Hawaiian punch to the cream puffs . This was probably my favorite menu item (photo courtesy of Joanne).

Robert helped me make a homemade cupcake tower (idea from Annie’s Eats). The orange royal icing flowers were from my friend Jess’s previous cake endeavor and made a great cupcake garnish (photo courtesy of Joanne).

The gorgeous bride-to-be and her namesake cocktail. Seriously, she is supermodel beautiful.

Favors include macadamia nut shortbread and homemade pineapple-strawberry jam (photos courtesy of Joanne).

Joanne made this pretty floral centerpiece- it looked just like a real cake!

Game leader and sister extraordinaire, Lela.

(photo courtesy of Joanne)

Colin (son of Chelsea’s coworker) is the cutest, most well-mannered three year old I have ever met. What a charmer! How could you say no to that face?

Congratulations, Chelsea! We love you. You will be a stunning Hawaiian bride (photo courtesy of Joanne).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

cheesecake

 

Updated Photo 8/21/14

I made this cheesecake for my brother-in-law, Kenny’s, birthday last week. Young Ken turned 23 and has evolved into a self-proclaimed “non-dessert lover.” A bit strange, even freakish, if you ask me. Nonetheless, he does still hold a special place in his heart for cheesecake. So, I forced him to choose a birthday cheesecake I could make for him, and he requested chocolate peanut butter.

I did some research online and found this recipe from Taste of Home. It got great reviews and I made a few minor changes to it- like using homemade fudge instead of store bought, upping the Oreo amount in the crust, and being more liberal with the Reese cups (because how could that ever be a bad thing?).

Unfortunately, the day the cheesecake was served I was out of town attending one of my dear friend’s bridal showers and I didn’t get a chance to get a good picture of it pre-feast. Robert’s family and extended family were in town that day and I came home to find only a small sliver left. It was a success. I will definitely be making this dessert again, most likely for special occasions or after I’ve burned thousands of calories. ;)

If you’re looking for a true crowd-pleaser, look no further.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Yield: 14-16 servings

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed Oreos
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (doesn’t go in crust)

For the filling:

  • 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup hot fudge
  • 16-20 mini peanut butter cupcakes, chopped

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar, cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan. Cover the outer bottom and sides of the pan with tin foil (to prevent water in water bath from seeping into crust in later steps).
  • Place on a baking sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  •  In a microwave-safe bowl, heat peanut butter on high for 30 seconds or until softened. Spread evenly over the crust. Top with hot fudge and about 1/2 cup chopped peanut butter cups.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour 1 cup into a bowl; set aside. Pour remaining filling over peanut butter/fudge layer.
  • Using 1/4 cup warmed fudge, fold into reserved cream cheese mixture. Carefully pour and spread over filling.
  • Place pan in a pan or pot with about 1 inch deep water to prevent the cake from cracking while baking. Carefully place in the oven. Bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
  • Spread remaining hot fudge over cheesecake. Garnish with peanut butter cups. Refrigerate overnight before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers.

Source: Taste of Home