Almost Famous Traditions

While they occur all year long, there is nothing like the end of the year’s traditions to tug at a person’s heartstrings. Which is odd when you think about it. Lots of folks have a tradition relating to say, the Fourth of July, but few get choked up about going to a certain park, eating certain foods, and watching certain lights. But make that the end of December and folks get all the “feels” about doing basically the same thing indoors.

I, of course, am speaking of myself mostly.

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Stronger and a Little Taller

As I stood in my kitchen this morning, up to the elbows in fondant, one thought grabbed me and attempted to shake a wee bit of sense into my head. “Why the hell do I do these things to myself?” Who in their right mind always has to prove themselves worthy, over and over and over? Oh yeah, me. I know that this compulsion of mine stems from my relationship with my dad and yet its really all about me. Not him, me. You know how folks use “it’s complicated” to explain their relationships? Yeah, that’s me and my dad. I love him, really I do. Or I should say I love the bits and pieces of moments of my life that connect with him at his best. That Dad, at those moments? I love him to pieces. All those other bits and pieces though, those times when he was harsh and judgmental and never proud of me, they sometimes feel as if they just might end up killing me bit by bit.

So there I am, mixing up my first batch of fondant ever and this image of footsteps in the snow suddenly fills my mind’s eye. It is a white dough in a white bowl, sprinkled with white confectioner’s sugar. All that white, looking like snow.

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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.

No Bell Curve For Me!

In addition to this weekend’s Easter festivities, we also celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday.  (I shall not mention how many candles were present.  Because, really, that isn’t the important part of a birthday – it’s the celebration part that matters!)  And since I don’t do things half-way (never one to be in the midst of the bell curve), I decided I would make something yummy for her birthday.  Yes, I could just pick up something from the store, but that would be too average.  And that’s not where I fall on the bell curve.

I think it might be best for all parties if I explain that bell curve statement.

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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!

Today’s Tasty Tidbit: Chocolate “World Peace” Cookies

I found this recipe a few years ago while looking for a new Christmas cookie.  I wish I could say I invented them, but alas, all I can do is post it for your gastronomic pleasure.  There is absolutely nothing better than a few of these with a cup of good coffee.  Try these and I’m sure  you’ll agree.

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