Spring Equals…Pie?

Like most things, you can take the girl away from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the girl (or some such thing).  Growing up on a big farm, there are so many things that are part of my “hard wiring” that sometimes I have to think for a bit as to why I automatically do “x” versus “y”.  Pie is one of them.

Just south of Wilbur, Washington is the farm I grew up on.  We were real  farmers which means my dad was no agri-businessman nor was he a “hobby farmer”.  Nope.  It was a living, breathing farm with all the poop and bugs that go along with all those cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, and horses.  But there was also a big garden.  With an asparagus forest I used to hide in as a little girl.  And a rhubarb patch the size of Texas.  Or at least a rhubarb bed shaded by a Russian olive tree big enough for a little girl to dream of taking a road out of Wilbur and into someplace bigger and different.

I’m not saying growing up on a farm was a bad thing.  Because it wasn’t.  It just was often a hard thing.  Because farming doesn’t stop for Saturday morning cartoons or vacations.  All those crops and critters need attention and all the time.  And since there wasn’t an army of helpers scurrying about accomplishing all the tasks related to poop and bugs and all those dang critters, I learned at an early age how to do many things.  Like make a pie crust as well as bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy.

Spring heralds the beginning of the rhubarb season in my childhood memories as well as my dessert table on occasion.  This predilection causes my strawberry-rhubarb pie loving husband to be in pig-heaven every once in a while.  But growing up, we didn’t eat strawberry-rhubarb pie and we didn’t can vats of stewed rhubarb.  Because we made and ate tons of Rhubarb Pineapple pie.  And if you make and eat tons of Rhubarb Pineapple pie, chances are, you might want go hang out in the rhubarb patch dreaming of what the bright lights of New York City look like while waiting for the baby stalks to get big enough to make another pie.  (For the record, the lights of New York City are pretty much like London’s or Paris’ or even Seattle’s.  Bright.  And there will be times when even the most bright-lights-big-city-nights loving farm girl needs to play in the dirt.  Hence, I have 3 garden beds in my city back yard.)

So if your springtime bounty includes some rhubarb, or if you are in the mood to be tempted, here’s a little slice of my childhood fresh from my kitchen to yours.  Enjoy!

ps.  this is NOT the recipe I made for the first time when I was six.  That recipe was lost along with every other blooming thing when my parents’ suffered a house fire.  No one was permanently hurt, but the need for lost “things” will be permanently with our family every time we go to decorate the Christmas tree or make a pie.

Rhubarb Pineapple Pie

1 10″ double pastry recipe (There are lots of great recipes out there – just don’t over work your dough & they are all good.  Even store-bought pie crust turns out just fine.)

3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1″ dice

1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained (you don’t have to drain it dry, just drain off excessive juice)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix eggs, sugar, flour and salt until smooth.  Add pineapple and rhubarb.  Pour into prepared pie pan.  Cover with remaining pastry dough.  Cut steam vents in top crust, brush with milk (or cream) and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce oven to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  If the edges brown too quickly, cover with foil.

NOTE:  I am a “pantser” when it comes to baking, so this is a close approximation to what I did the other day for the delish pie I made to celebrate my dear sister’s fabulous spring.  For example, I drain the pineapple, but I can’t give you an exact amount of fluid you need to drain off – just until it stops running off and is more of a drip now and then. And I like to err on the side of more rhubarb than less.  In fact, I usually use more like 4 or 5 cups.  But I don’t really measure them.  I just use as many stalks as I have.  Also, I add an additional egg if the batter looks thin.  It should have a molasses consistency versus maple syrup consistency.  Oh, and I always put a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch any spill overs.  Love me, love my wacky way of making pie.

Serve it just warm so it has a lovely aroma and is set.  Or for breakfast with coffee, which is my dad’s favorite way.

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Have Yerself a Dirty Banana!

I thought that you all might need a little pick-me up after all the ardors of the weekend.  Right?  You’re tuckered out from all those household chores you put off until the weekend like 18 loads of laundry?  Yeah, me too.

So, let’s get ourselves in a better place…at least in our minds.

First, you must remember to make your life smell like the tropics.  I’m fond of dabbing a bit of Hawaiian Tropical sunscreen behind my ears – especially right before my dear hubby comes home from work.  I’ve found that nothing sets the mood like sun tan lotion.  I mean, how can you take a whiff of that and not be in the mood?  For…something.  Typically, it has the reverse effect on me and I want to slip into a muu-muu and eat an extra, extra-large serving of ice cream, but I’m wacky like that.  But then, you already knew that.

Okay, so now that you and all within smell of you are at least drumming up the scent of the beach, let me continue to set the tone with this picture of a perfect beach just begging you to go for a dip.  Leave your footprints in the sand.  Pretend you have no responsibilities, no mortgage, no in-box, no box of out-grown clothes lurking under your bed demanding you hit the gym more often than the all-you-can-eat buffet.  Yeah, that kind of place. You know the kind of place – the one you catch a glimpse of in a magazine and hope to god and all that is good to have just one chance to see if beach sand that white feels like sugar when you walk in it.  How am I doing?  Do you have this in mind yet?  Can you feel the sand between your toes?  Feel the ocean breeze?  Okay, that is most excellent!

So now, grab yerself a towel, find a lounge chair or shady spot or whatever and get something to read.  You know, like a trashy romance novel that you’d die if the GUYS at the gym ever caught you reading.  Yep.  The scene is nearly perfect.  The only thing missing is a nice frosty Dirty Banana to sweeten the deal.  Enjoy!

Wait! It Can’t Be Christmas in 10 Days!

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling woefully unprepared for this next big day circled on my calendar.  Ufdah, there is just no way I am prepared for Christmas this year.  Especially since I haven’t baked a single Christmas Cookie.  What is that saying about the fun and games at my house these days?  A whole lot, let me tell you.

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Fall Tastes Like Ginger

 

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Kristina's Gingered Pumpkin Muffins

The rain has started in earnest around here which is a necessary thing, but makes me want to curl up with a blankie and something warm and tasty.  Like a chai and a muffin.  I think muffins are the perfect food because you can hide a whole lotta healthiness in a seemingly decadent little bundle of joy.  Plus, natural portion control – something I often need help with achieving.  So, if you are needing your house to seem all cozy or your tummy is just needing a hug from the inside, or if you are like me and like a muffin with a warm beverage, this is just the ticket.

 

I love ginger in its many incarnations – sweet, savory, what-have-you.  It adds a sweet kind of pizzazz to a food that I enjoy.  Of course, I love spicy foods, so for some who like a bland existence,  you probably don’t want to come to dinner at my house.   But what with the weather being so crap-tastic, I decided to whip up some Gingered Pumpkin Muffins last night.  It was an inspired idea, let me tell you.

A word of “warning” from me to you.  I break a whole lotta rules when I bake.  It is my nature; sorry, I really can’t help it.  But there are a few places I try to never deviate – and the basic chemical properties needed for leavening are front and central.  So, the following is the basic concept of these muffins, but I’m known for throwing in some sultans one time or swapping pecans for the walnuts, or whatever.  I think of cooking and baking as ways of expressing my more creative side.  So just as long as you don’t monkey about with whatever makes it rise or take out all the fat, I figure you just can’t go wrong.

Kristina’s Gingered Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/2 tps nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp ground ginger

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

2 Tblsp minced candied ginger

In a bowl, sift the flours, salt, sugar, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin, butter, eggs, water and spices.  Add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.  Fold in candied ginger and nuts.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350 (F) degree oven.  Muffins are ready when an inserted toothpick is moist but not wet.  Cool on rack.  Makes 12 muffins.

*Notes:  One large can of pumpkin has 3 cups of pumpkin puree in it.  I use muffin/cupcake liners that I spray with Pam and one recipe makes 12 nice large muffins.  Enjoy!

Cooking Is Magic

Although I am a trained teacher, I do not teach my kiddos.  At least not in the formal sense.  There are no “skill and drill” moments in my home, no peppering their days with flashcards and worksheets.  I figure I only get them as little kiddos once and I’m going to enjoy them.

But what I do do with my kids is play with them.  Teaching kiddos card games and making crafts, those are all skills that make those synaptic responses just go whiz-bang.  And, of course, I read to them.  But my favorite thing to do with my kiddos is cook with them.  Talk about a thematic gold mine.  In one batch of banana bread you can talk about all kinds of stuff:  science, math, geography, spelling, you name it.

So, making focaccia for dinner last night was yet another great chance to turn my little kiddos into the next generation’s scientists or geographers or what-have-you.

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I Am a Killer of Sea Kittens

First off, who the hell decided to start calling fish sea kittens?  PETA’s web site asks us if we’d still order fish sticks if they were call sea kitten sticks.  Hmm, I don’t know, do they come with tartar sauce?  Yes, I really like fish (actually, to watch and to eat) but I hate that every damn thing in our world is so politicized.  Some say it’s all in the name of raising awareness.  Others would say it’s just the side effect of a strong political action group.  All I can say is that I’m feeling some serious guilt these days and I’m needing someone  or something to help allay it.

I have become a murderer.

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And The Doctor Said To Avoid Stress

So, it’s only been like 3 months, but I finally went to the doctor.  I’ve been coping with this weird rash on my lower eyelid for awhile, but today I found a new spot it had spread to and the sum total was a whole lotta itching, so off to the doctor I went.

And my diagnosis?  Eczema.  And the treatment?  In addition to hydrocortisone and moisturizers such as Cetaphil, “try to avoid stress in your life.”

Oh, that is easy.  Basically I just got told that this itchy, spreading thing I have on my face is not curable and that I have it in one of the more unfortunate places to get it, but I should make changes in my life to have a more stress-less life.

Okay, so if I were to leave my husband, three kids, pets, job, and all responsibilities, plus live in something akin to a nunnery, I can see this skin curse perhaps leaving me.  And since all that is likely to happen sometime in my current lifetime, I should have this little eczema issue cleared up in no time.

I can feel my blood pressure raising and my stress level hiking just thinking about trying to not itch the damn stuff.  This keeps up and my whole face should be covered by the time I get the last kiddo through high school graduation.  I tell you, I think I may be a poster child for what not to do.

On that note, I’m going to go reapply my potions and lotions.  And maybe actually try to do something stress relieving, like meditate.  Or have a pomegranate margarita.

Pomegranate Margaritas

1 shot tequilla

1 shot triple sec

1 shot margarita mix

1 shot pomegranate juice

Shake over ice, pour into glass and begin forgetting about one’s stressful lifestyle.  At least until somebody needs a diaper change or a bandaid or some such thing.