Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Rhubarb is one of my first food memories. I feel that I’m in an exclusive club when it comes to knowing what rhubarb is and how to use it. (I say this lightheartedly) I find it a privilege to have the opportunity to explain to anyone who may be interested, what the tart vegetable is which resembles celery, but gleams a vibrant pinkish-red color. These tall stalks with large green elephant ear looking leaves (don’t eat them, they’re toxic) grew next to the old, red painted shed in the backyard of the house I grew up in, in Northeast Wisconsin. I was blessed with their presence again in college, when I identified these perennial springtime plants growing in our backyard. I could always rely on finding local rhubarb to add to a berry pie, make into jam or combine with strawberries to transform into a tasty crisp. My mom was the one who introduced me to freshly made warm rhubarb jam spread across crispy saltine crackers, which is one of my fondest childhood food memories.

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When the rhubarb was ready to harvest, we knew warmer temperatures were on their way. Rhubarb season would run roughly from May-June, which meant this was the first “fruit” dessert of the season. When I moved to Virginia and now North Carolina, I rely on the local grocery store to supply all the rhubarb to satisfy my annual craving. I’m on a mission to figure out a way to grow this cool weather plant myself, as I know it can be done in NC. Last summer I found a farmer who grew rhubarb in Columbus County, which is even further south. You can hold me to it…I am growing my own rhubarb and will post an article next spring to prove it!

Out of all of the desserts that rhubarb can be transformed into it, my favorite, hands down, is Strawberry Rhurbarb Pie. I’ve used the same combination of recipes ever since I started making the pie in college, tweaking as I see fit. As it’s deemed my favorite springtime dessert, I needed to make it to celebrate graduation from grad school this past May.  Luckily, the stalks appeared on grocery store shelves just in time.

I may have been naive thinking that I was one of the only people who looked forward to this divine combination, filling the space between two flaky crusts. Come to find out, today, June 9th, is National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day. In celebration and in honor of this Northern classic that words cannot describe, I share my recipe with you.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Inspired by Betty Crocker’s Cookbook 2005 Edition & Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 12th Edition- Rhubarb Pie recipes and Pastry for Double-Crust (Two-Crust) Pie recipe

Ingredients:

Pie crust (Makes two 9-inch crusts):

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup Organic All Vegetable Shortening (butter or lard should work just as well)

8 tablespoons cold water

Filling:

1 1/2 cups cane sugar

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups 1/2-inch pieces rhubarb

3 cups sliced strawberries

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°F. (If refrigerating the dough, wait to turn oven on until ready to bake the pie)

Pie crust:

Whisk flours and salt in medium bowl until well blended. Add fat.

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Use a pastry blender to cut in the fat until the mixture consists of “pea-size” pieces.

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Sprinkle water over the mixture, one tablespoon at a time. Toss with fork and press down, pushing dough to one side of the bowl. Do this until dough is moistened.

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Using your hands, divide dough in half and form each half into a ball. Gently press dough down on floured surface, shaping into two rounds. Optional: Wrap each round in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes to firm up the dough.

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Using a floured rolling pin, roll out one dough round on a lightly floured surface, making the pastry about 2 inches larger than your 9-inch pie plate. Transfer the pastry by gently rolling it around the lightly floured rolling pin and unroll in pie plate. Be careful not to stretch it. Roll out second dough round or wait to roll out until the filling has been made.

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Filling:

Whisk sugar, flour and cinnamon together in large bowl. Add in rhubarb and strawberries and gently stir with wooden spoon until well combined.

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Pour filling into pie crust. Scrape bowl with spatula to make sure you don’t waste any of this nectarous fruit filling.

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Finish rolling out the second dough round, making it the same size as the first. Use your floured rolling pin to wrap dough around and gently fold dough in half. Fold in half again. Using a knife, make slits through all layers of dough to let steam pass through.

IMG_1803Transfer to fruit filled pie plate and open carefully. Make sure it is aligned properly. Fold top pastry over and around bottom pastry, lifting up slightly to create a crust along the rim of the pie plate. Trim excess dough if needed. Using your thumbs, press edges together to form creases and seal the pastry.

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Cover crust with foil to prevent over-browning. Optional: brush top crust with egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon and/or sugar.

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Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and bake another 20-30 minutes or until top pastry is golden and filling is bubbling. Let pie cool on wire rack for at least 2 hours to set before serving. Serve by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Holidays in NYC…Day 2

We woke up to bright sunshine on Saturday morning and were happy to start our day. Having one full day in NYC, we compromised and set out to explore, starting with our walk to Central Park. The wind let us know its presence as we followed the crowd to the skating rink, admiring the skyscrapers towering above us. We walked through a corner of the park, and realized how its 6.1 mile loop would be more than a breath of fresh air. Carriage rides, ice skating and a hot chocolate stand were a few of the sights that took the chill from the air, offering the city’s holiday spirit.

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As it neared lunch time, we tested our navigation skills and hopped onto the subway to head down and experience the culture of NYU and Union Square. We wandered the streets for a cozy eatery and stumbled across just what we needed, a Roman restaurant named Lupa Osteria Romana. While waiting for a table, we browsed the wine menu and chose an enticing Caraffina Di Vino Rosso.

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We didn’t mind waiting while we immersed ourselves in the savory aromas of the kitchen and were warmed by the friendliness of the staff. Once we were seated, appetizers such as Lingua (beef tongue), Prosciutto and marinated olives were ordered. We smiled and embraced the delicate textures and magnificent flavors of these fine hors d’oeuvres.

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For my main dish, I chose the Sabato special, the Heritage Pork Porterhouse.  This tender and juicy cut of meat was exactly what my palate desired. Topped with gorgeous, deep green kale and sweet butternut squash this meal was hands-down my favorite of the city. I would recommend anyone to seek out this warm and sustainable restaurant nestled in the heart of NYU.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening wandering the streets and holiday markets surrounding Union Square. It was soon time to enjoy our final meal in the big city. Friend of a Farmer in Gramercy Park was another spectacular find with a menu of local meat, seafood and veggies. This restaurant felt more like a home as its dark wood and wallpapered panels, candle lit tables and warm fireplaces surrounded us. Baskets with colorful vegetables greeted us at the top of the stairs while we settled in to enjoy yet another exceptional meal. The chef’s special of grilled grouper with steamed vegetables was my choice for the evening.

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To wrap up the night, we hailed a cab to take in the energy at Times Square. For most of us, it was our first experience to the notorious New Year’s Eve destination. We took a few minutes to embrace the sights and sounds of the enormous screens, bright lights, yellow taxis and tourists photographing this iconic attraction.

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On Sunday we packed up and made our way to Macy’s Herald’s Square just before claiming our seats on the train for our ride home.

Visiting New York City during the holidays was surely an experience to remember. I am thankful for good friends who I joined in sampling….ok, perhaps indulging, in the local cuisine. It is great to know that a city full of energy, phenomenal food and astounding sites is just a train ride away. Cheers to a spectacular weekend in the Big Apple!

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Holidays in NYC

Here we are, in the 3rd week of January and the New Year is well upon us. We have taken down our Christmas decorations and have stored them as the joy and excitement we experienced with our friends and family just 4 weeks ago, is in our distant past. The holidays bring with them lights, energy, travel and good food. Why not experience this all year round?

New York City is one of those cities where the energy fills the air no matter what time of year or what temperature. I was lucky enough to be able to experience this glamorous city during the holidays with great company.

Our three-day weekend started out with a six-hour train ride to the Big Apple. When we arrived at Penn Station, we were greeted with the hustle and bustle of the city, along with rain and cold temps. A little rain didn’t stop us as we made our way to the hotel, and then headed out to explore the city.

Our first destination was Rockefeller Plaza. As we rounded the corner with our umbrellas in hand, the brightly lit tree brought a smile to my face. We ventured into a wine bar, located right across from the tree in Rockefeller Plaza called Morrell Wine Bar and Cafe. As we browsed the enormous wine list, I settled on a glass of fruit forward French wine from Côtes du Rhône. A warm plate of olives and shaved Brussels sprouts with Applewood smoked bacon were a magnificent treat as we planned our Saturday itinerary.

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Our next stop was to Tiffany’s…. Need I say more? Although a few pieces were quite tempting, simply observing the gems was quite the experience.

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To end the evening, we headed over to Radio City Music Hall, where we had tickets for the 9:30pm showing of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Believe me, it absolutely was a spectacular show! The Rockettes, alongside the parade of wooden soldiers, the telling of the Christmas Story with live camels and donkeys and 3D glasses, what more could one ask for?  It truly was an unforgettable experience inside this iconic music hall.

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Stay tuned for day 2 adventures!

Welcoming the New Year

Friends,

It’s that time of year again, as we reflect on the past twelve months and look to a new year filled with aspiring dreams, determined goals and unwavering hopes. Some make New Year’s resolutions; others make a new bucket list. Whatever your New Year’s ritual may be, remember the here and now. Take in Pema Chödrön’s words: “We’ve never experienced this very moment before, and the next moment will not be the same as the one we are in now.” We don’t have to wait until the ball drops in order to experience our excitement, hopes and dreams for life in the New Year.

You may be reading this post for the first time, but realize you are reading for the first time, in this moment. Take a minute to look around the room. You are observing your surroundings for the first time, in this moment, even if you’ve been in this very spot a hundred times before. Notice the colors of the computer, the desk, the chair, the paint on the walls of the room. Are you drinking or eating anything? What are the flavors you are sensing? This moment is its own and will not be like any other.

As we embark on our new adventures as well as our daily routines, pause for a second, and remember this is the first time. Once we start to develop a thought pattern which promotes thinking and feeling in the moment, our mentality of how we should act or what we should say, disappears. A sense of freedom and energy passes through us for a second at first, and overtime will lengthen. We learn from the past and dream about the future, however, we live in the present. Embrace the moment, it as it is like no other. Cheers in welcoming 2014!

Gratefulness

What a wonderful time of year, when the leaves are showing us their brilliant colors and reminding us that they too have a routine to follow. Here in North Carolina, we may see our first frost, yet have a weekend of 70 degree days. Those are the days I yearn for, as the sun warms my face and arms just enough to feel comfortable, not too hot or too cold. It’s the weather that we need to dress in layers for.Walking out of the sun and into the shade, you’ll most likely feel the autumn chill sweep through you.The turning leaves are the first glimpse for what’s to come. Hot tea becomes a necessity rather than an option. Fall squashes fill the farmer’s market stands and supermarket shelves to be purchased and made into velvety soups. One might save the squash’s seeds to plant for next fall’s harvest or choose to eagerly clean the seeds to roast for a crunchy, salty treat.

November also brings around my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I may be biased, as November is also my birth month. However, this gives me more to be thankful for.As we enter the holiday season and the nights are lengthening, there’s warmth in the air by the glowing decorations and lights being hung on the streets and in stores.This season lasts for 8 weeks at most. What a time to live in the present.

Turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie ring a bell in our minds that for this one day, we are able to relax with friends and family. We get to ooh and ahh at the floats in the Macy’s day parade as we prepare our feast to have later that day. The NFL football game may also be watched while sipping crisp beverages. After grace is said, and before we sink our teeth into this marvelous meal, pause for a minute. Think about the smell that’s looming in the dining room air. Look at the deep red hue of the cranberry sauce, the golden breast of the turkey. Taste the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the caramelizationof the Brussels sprouts.  How do these flavors meld together with each other and pair with your pint of autumn ale or glass of Beaujolais wine?

 Thanksgiving is a day where the meal is meant to be savored, talked about, reminisced about from years prior. It is a day where we publicly acknowledge what we are grateful for. It’s a time to look at the past year and reflect. We tend to save these reflections and public acknowledgements of gratefulness for only the holiday season. In order to embrace life, we need to make this a daily routine. This may mean pausing for a minute during lunch or the work day, reflecting or meditating in the evening, or simply tasting the flavors of our food at our meals.

 As we move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, take a minute to feel the chill in the air, and appreciate it. Smile when we have to put on our boots, jackets and mittens. The earth is letting us know it’s time to look inward and appreciate what we have. Hold a warm mug of soup in your hands, sip on it, knowing it’s warming your body and mind. We have ever so much to be grateful for, take the time to enjoy every bite and appreciate the people you share this moment with.