Trifling a Strawberry Moon

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Up here in the North it’s strawberry season! And what a wonder to have a full “Strawberry” moon coincide with the Summer Solstice! According to Martha White’s recount of the Old Famer’s Almanac, “From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.” That means when I am not eating strawberries, I work on the annual “Burdock Eradication Program,” thin the carrots and beets and plant a few of each for good measure!

Fruit trifles became a mainstay of farmhouse life last summer as the individual mason jar 1/2 pint servings are easy to store for a fancy dessert when company arrives. These I made with a gluten free granola crunched pie crust crumble that is AMAZING! It’s both delicious and easy to prepare. There are three components to this dessert: crunchy crumble, lemon minted cream cheese, and strawberries. Layer them together for a fresh and delicious summer dessert.

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The Strawberry Moon rose late last night and was just setting as I awoke at about 5:30 today.

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Gluten Free Granola Infused Pie Crust Crumble

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Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:

  • 4 packages cream cheese
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large lemon zested
  • 1 large lemon juiced
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 handful fresh mint

Directions: In a food processor, mix all of the ingredients except the whipping cream. You may need to push the cream off the sides of the bowl once or twice. Then add whipping cream and run processor until blended.

Note: I’m not one for sweet desserts, so you may want to add more honey or sugar.

Strawberry Filling: Simply mix about a pound of strawberries with a tablespoon of sugar or honey. In this recipe, I pulsed the berries and honey in a food processor just until they were slightly chopped.

Crumble Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 1 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • dash salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut chilled butter into chunks. Mix dry ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients with the butter and vanilla until combined. Spread on parchment and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. When the crumble cools, you will want to break it into smaller pieces.

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Plum Galette

Do you ever wonder what happened to good old-fashioned pie? Do you occasionally crave it, then find the slice that sits in front of you to be woefully inadequate? What happened to that thick slice of pie chock full of fresh fruit with a richly flavored, not-too-dry yet flaky crust?  I sometimes dream of that pie, but so often forget it can’t be found in a bakery. We can all find lots of mediocre pie at chain restaurants and grocery stores but if you want to find the real thing, you might be looking forever. Perhaps some nice old Finish lady in Northern Minnesota could hook you up, but if you’re looking in a store or pastry shop, you’re probably out of luck. I feel bad for kids these days because I don’t think they’ll ever know what pie really is. There is just something about old-fashioned pie that can’t be replicated in the bakery kitchen.

Having grown up with a nice old Finish lady to show me the ropes, there are a few things I know. First, butter is a must. I am a practicing vegan except when it comes to pie – no margarine allowed. The dough has to be cold, cold, cold so leave it in the fridge for a good long rest before you roll it. And finally, don’t roll your crust too thin. It’s just a beautiful thing to eat a slice of pie from tip to crust – to end with a generous chunk of flaky dough lightly kissed with caramelized fruit juices and sugar. Mmm mmm!

I know that one problem with pie is that it seems too difficult. So many of us just don’t have the time anymore, so I made a galette instead of pie. Galette is a fairly easy alternative allowing for free form rather than fussing with a pie pan and crimping edges. Fortunately, with a galette, we still get that old-fashioned sense of the pie!

Ingredients:

Crust: For a really clear and easy-to-follow recipe, see Elise’s directions at Simply Recipes.

Filling:

  • 6 red plums
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1 beaten egg
  • turbinado sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the plums either into small chunks or thin slices. Place them in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add flour, sugar, nutmeg and lemon juice and mix.
  4. Roll out the pie crust to about 1/8 inch and place on parchment covered cookie sheet.
  5. pour plum mixture into center of pie crust. Push all the plums together into a tidy flat circle.
  6. Fold the pie crust up over the plums crimping the dough where it doubles over itself.
  7. Brush the dough with the egg wash and then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes until the dough is browned.

Strawberry Crusted Mojito Pie

Looks good, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t!

The kitchen gods appear to be out to get me today, and because of that I suffered a few minor disasters: I blew out the blender, cut the tip of my finger off, felt tired while cooking, served food cold that was meant to be hot, and to top it all off, my never-fails Mexican Montage all tasted, um I’m not sure the word…weird. Everything just tasted strange. Old-hat menu items came out tasting funky. I was feeling in a funk. Did the food pick up on that? I thought it might just be me and my taste buds, so I checked with Jeff and he agreed, “Yeah, everything was just okay!” Confirmed.

Why did this happen to me? Are they using some kind of strange gas in the trucks that transport from California? Is it that I am picking up on the regional flavor of California March Fresh (apparently not a good flavor)? Is it that the produce I used was not organic? Something I did only for purposes of convenience, and apparently a BIG mistake! What happened? Did the food turn out mediocre because I was having an off day, or was it the produce?

The best thing on the menu was dessert. We enjoyed Strawberry Crusted Mojito Ice Cream Cake, but even that suffered the day’s revenge of the kitchen gods! My strawberry crust was too crumbly, and the whipped cream topping (omitted from the picture) looked brown. How do I appease the gods? What have I done wrong?

Strawberry Crusted Mojito Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 quarts Alden’s Organic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs. Creme de Menthe
  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, roasted, salted and crushed

Directions: Let the ice cream and the lemonade concentrate soften a bit before you take this on unless you want to blow out your blender motor. Place the lemonade concentrate in the blender first followed by the mint, lime zest, creme de menthe and ice cream. Pulse the ingredients until it looks like a malt.

Pour the mixture into a bundt pan and freeze. Allow the pie to set up for about an hour and then add the strawberry crust. Pulse the frozen strawberries in the food processor and then spread on top of the ice cream layer. Let the pie freeze for at least six hours.

To remove the ice cream cake from the bundt pan, immerse for a few seconds in a bowl filled with hot water, then place a serving plate on top of the bundt pan and flip it over. Allow the cake to firm another hour in the freezer before serving. Serve topped with toasted coconut and roasted pistachios.

Chestnut Crabby Crisp

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What a lovely little blushing princess is this! She’s called the Chestnut Crab, about the size of  a golf ball, just sweet and tart enough for a demure little nibble, with a finish reminiscent of childhood in the tree. The Chestnut is flying off the shelves of your local co-op because folks like Dan Walsh know their pleasures.

You may have met Dan and his family if you visited the Kingfield Farmer’s Market. The Walsh family spends their summer tending heirloom tomatoes, the early spring tapping maple trees and for a few Sundays in the summer, Kingfield can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Dan’s wife, Kathleen is a co-worker of mine – a fellow teacher extraordinaire!

Well, a few weeks back, Dan informed me that the Chestnuts had arrived and I had better hurry if I wanted to indulge. Chestnuts you say…what exactly is the chestnut? He explained simply that they are one of the only edible crab apples and are quite delicious little delicacies. Well, of course, being the (clear throat here) foodie that I am, I suddenly had an urgent need to acquire some Chestnut Crabs, so off to the co-op I went.

Lo and behold, Dan was right. There, amidst the apples was a small section with a tag labeled, “Chestnut Crabs,” but there were no tiny lovelies to be had, boo hoo. I immediately inquired as to their whereabouts and was quickly reassured that they were just coming out of the cooler! Whew. Once the box of little crabbies was wheeled to the produce section, I had my pick. I packaged my two pounds and off I went to make a pie…

Four weeks later…

Apple pie turned to apple crisp! It’s Wednesday after all, I have the math tests yet to correct this evening, report cards are waiting in the wings, and a mock-up of this week’s art lesson is pounding on the door – not to mention that I better get started thinking about next week, or I’ll be planning lessons all weekend.

Yes, I am busy, but not without a little creative energy. Tonight’s apple crisp has a few surprises. First and foremost it is sweetened entirely with the Walsh family maple syrup from the spring of 2009. The demure little Chestnut Crabs also share their quarters with a large diced beet, some blueberries from last summer, a little amaretto glaze and chopped almonds to top it off. Not your average crisp. This one is hearty and not too sweet.

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Chestnut Crabby Crisp – Ingredients

Filling:

  • 2 pounds Chestnut Crabs, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup roasted beets, diced
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. Amaretto

Topping:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 6 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

Coring the Chestnuts is a pain. I tried the old-fashioned method of quartering and cutting out the seeds, and figured that would have taken me until tomorrow. Next I tried the apple cutter, but the skins are too tough to break through. So, I ended up cutting the bottoms off the little apples and that way they went right through the apple slicer. Check it out.

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Once you get all the fruit sliced, dump it into a 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle it with the amaretto and pour the maple syrup over the top.

Mix the crisp topping ingredients in a bowl. The oil and syrup should make the topping stick together slightly. Spread this out over the fruit and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. I found out that Chestnut Crabs remain pretty crunchy after baking and so this dish turns out to be pretty hearty – perhaps a good breakfast meal. Enjoy.

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Spiced Coconut Fudge

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I adore coconut. I love chocolate. I am crazy about almonds. I am one of the few who relish over an Almond Joy candy bar. So, I figure, if I make coconut fudge with chocolate and almonds for dessert Saturday night, I’ll get to eat the pieces rejected by coconut dislikers! They don’t know what they are missing!

This is a three-part layered concoction. First you make the coconut fudge, then you toast the almonds and when the whole thing is ready to assemble, you melt the chocolate. Line a pan with parchment and stack the stuff. After it cools, cut the fudge into squares and serve. Watch out! It’s super sweet.

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Spiced Coconut Fudge Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 bar semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted

Directions: Place evaporated milk, coconut, sugar, vanilla and spices in a sauce pan on low heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is fairly thick. Stir in 2 Tbs. of butter and turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Once it has cooled to room temperature, you want to give it a good mixing until it is thick and shiny looking.

Meanwhile toast the almonds in a shallow pan on medium heat. Keep them moving so they don’t burn and pour them out onto a plate once you are able to see that they are beginning to brown.

This recipe fits a small square pan 8 x 8 or so and you’ll need to line it with parchment paper. I lined my pans north – south, east – west and left some parchment sticking up so it will be easy to pull the fudge out to cut.

Melt the chocolate on medium heat in the microwave. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t begin to boil or burn. Once it is hot add the other Tbs. of butter and mix it into the chocolate.

Now you are ready to assemble. Pour the coconut fudge into the bottom of the pans and flatten with a spatula. Next drizzle or spread the chocolate over the fudge. Last, cover with toasted almonds. Use the spatula to flatten the top and press the almonds into the mix a little so they don’t fall off the top when the fudge is cut into squares.

Love Men. Love Chocolate. Love Brownies.

Love Men. Love Chocolate. Love Brownies.

Jeff’s brownies – adapted from Brooke’s Best Bombshell Brownies

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The five things my husband loves best: ketchup, brownies, Max, Me and bikes. I know, you are all asking, “But what about the veggie burgers?” Well, Jeff’s answer to that would be, “They are just the vehicle for ketchup!” His food fetishes have always surprised me, but he was vegetarian when I met him, so I knew he would have an open mind! His culinary palate has expanded since he met me, as has mine! One thing we have in common is a love for good dark chocolate, morning coffee and brownies that stick to the teeth. This recipe is not for milk chocolate lovers, and it’s best to eat when you are willing to stay up for a few hours because these brownies will give you a jolt! Sorry vegan friends, they are unfortunately full of dairy products, but I would love to see a play on this recipe without the cow or hen involved.

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Jeff grew up with a chef father, a baker mom and a family restaurant. He knows his way around the kitchen, but rarely cooks. He made these brownies a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe how fabulous they were. I don’t bake because I can’t have sweets around – I will eat them until they are gone, and then experience life-threatening guilt! Since Jeff doesn’t cook very often, I can legitimize the occasional pan of brownies. He usually eats at least 3/4 of them within 12 hours, so I don’t have to feel too bad for myself.

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I love this man’s hands!

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Still-life in the kitchen with man brownies! Chocolate on the butcher block is often what one finds in a vegetarian household!

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, melted

3 cups white sugar

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. salt

3 ounces chopped unsweetened baking chocolate

2 Tbs. fresh ground coffee

Directions:

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.

2. Combine the melted butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Use a hand mixer moving from low speed to full throttle as quickly as possible to beat the eggs in one at a time mixing well each time.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture – add little by little the whole while running the hand mixer – full throttle! Hand fold in the chopped chocolate chunks and ground coffee. Spread into prepared baking dish.

4. Bake 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.