Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Strawberry Pie

I grew up on an orchard in Wisconsin. We had 6,000 apple trees, 1,000 cherry trees, and a large strawberry patch. My parents still live there, but the orchard is no longer functioning and the trees are dying off slowly. We used to go to the farmer's market every Saturday and sell our fruit, as well as caramel apples, apple and cherry pies, and apple juice. The whole family would come together on Fridays to bake, pick fruit, and pack up the van. Most Saturday's I'd wake up early with my mom (think 4:00 AM) and help her set up our two-stall display at the local farmer's market. I'd help sell and I learned how to make change at an early age!

Okay, maybe not THAT early.

I'm also a pro at the secrets of pie making. Little good that does me now, though, not being allowed to eat flour. Within the past year, however, I have discovered THE gluten free flour substitute that has worked in every family recipe I have tried it in. (Dave claims he can taste a distinct "gluten free taste" when I use this flour, but for those of us who have forgotten what real food tastes like, this is really the best in taste and texture! Poor Dave, he's such a trooper!) It's called Jules' Gluten Free Flour. Trust me on this one, it's expensive, but worth it! (Bob's Red Mill GF Flour just doesn't cut it for me, even if it is available in bulk at Costco!.)

It's strawberry season (although the strawberry plant in my personal garden hasn't gotten that memo yet). This means that it's legal to buy cheap strawberries at the grocery store or farmer's market! Strawberries and watermelon should ALWAYS be saved for summer only! My mom used to make a melt-in-your-mouth strawberry pie. It's a pie served cold where the strawberries sit in a jello and the crust is white and crumbly. I gave my mom a call, and she read off the recipe to me over the phone. I didn't have kyro syrup (or at least I thought I didn't, I just found it in the back of the cupboard after the fact) so I substituted honey, which seemed more natural anyway, so I'm making that a permanent change in the recipe. The original recipe comes from my Aunt Diane. I will say that this pie is beautiful, but when it comes time to cut and serve it, it never ends up quite as organized on the plate!

Strawberry Pie

1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp milk (Lactaid worked)
1 1/2 c. flour (Jules' gluten free flour!)

1 c. sugar
1 c. cold water (take it from a gluten free girl, corn starch gets lumpy in warm water)
3 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp strawberry jello
1 lb fresh strawberries, cleaned and sliced

Preheat oven to 400. Mix first four crust ingredients until smooth. Add flour and mix again. Spread this out in a 9"X9" greased glass cake pan. Bake for only 5 minutes. Whisk first four ingredients of filling together over medium heat in a sauce pan. Stir constantly until thick and somewhat clear. Add jello and whisk. Let cool a bit while you clean and slice your strawberries. Pour the filling over the crust and place the strawberries on top. Refrigerate a few hours.



I've got two days left of teaching summer school (Intro meteorology) and then comes the big 4th of July weekend! Plans are still up in the air, but my cousin and her awesome husband and fun three kids are visiting Saturday and Sunday, so there has to be some grilling, fun desserts, and fireworks, right?

There's a good chance I might whip up some Dirt. Dirt is a fun dessert that I first remember eating in grade school where it was oh-so-fun to pretend I was actually eating dirt with real worms in it.

Dave has similar memories and got the recipe from his mom! Score! With her suggestions, I scaled back the original recipe to something a little less unhealthy (no butter, no cream cheese). I have made it for us a few times and I serve it in large wine glasses to class it up. A few weeks ago, though, we needed to bring a dessert to a big BBQ at our friends' house. I ran to the store and grabbed all of the Dirt ingredients, some small, clear plastic cups, and a package of gummy worms. The grocery store nearby has many gluten free choices, but Oreos are not one of them! (Kinnikinnick is the only brand I know of.) I bought some gluten free chocolate cookies, but having never used them before, bought Oreos for everyone else's Dirt. Of course I then forgot to make myself a cup and wasn't even able to taste my masterpiece! I just had to hope that it was edible! The Dirt was a huge hit, a few people went back for seconds, but it was funny how the worm was either loved or hated by the attendees of the BBQ. I think it really added a little extra fun by giving everyone their own glass.

I highly suggest doing this for any 4th of July picnic you may be attending!!!

1 package Oreos (gluten free)
16 oz. Cool Whip (lite is okay)
1 pack vanilla instant pudding
1 pack chocolate instant pudding
2 1/2 c. milk (lactaid works, soy milk didn't get along with the instant pudding)

1. Crush Oreos (I do this in a big ziplock and use my rolling pin)
2. Beat vanilla pudding for 2 minutes with 1 1/4 c. milk
3. Beat chocolate pudding for 2 minutes with 1 1/4 c. milk
4. Add half the Cool Whip to each pudding and fold in well
5. Layer in your favorite glass: Oreos, vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, Oreos, etc.
6. Chill for 1 hour or more (It really tastes better if you let the Oreos absorb that yummy pudding for a bit)
7. Top with a gummy worm, optional full Oreo, and make a cute sign labeling your tray "Dirt"

Be sure to bring spoons!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Baby blanket

One of my best friends from high school had a baby who just turned a year old! Just before she was born, I sent this to the mom-to-be. Turns out, she had it waiting for her when she got back from the hospital last June. I asked her cousin, another best friend from high school and my favorite blogger (NavyGirl), and her mom to get me the inside scoop on how the new mom was decorating her baby room. The new parents wanted the sex of the baby to be a surprise, so they picked a cute animal theme with blues, yellows, greens, and browns.

I went to Joann Fabrics and found the exact match to the animals she had in her theme. This is the monkey, elephant, giraffe, frog print you see here. I then built the rest of the blanket around that print. I grabbed some plaid baby-blue, solid yellow, yellow stripes, and green all in a soft flannel texture. I grabbed a relatively thin batting and yellow yarn. My blanky from childhood (and, embarrassingly, my favorite stuffed animal that still sleeps in my bed, a yellow bunny) had/has this same soft yellow look to it. I thought basing the blanket around the mainly yellow color would also keep the quilt from becoming irrelevant, should the baby be a girl. It was! I should tell you that I am awful at planning and really just went to Joann and put things together in my head on the spot. Sometimes this works, sometimes it leads to a waste of money and unused fabric.

Two weeks ago I took a trip to WI for a wedding where I got to see my good friend and her one-year old girl, who is practically a teenager when it comes to flip phones. Here she is playing with NavyGirl while I chatted with her mom.

I also got a chance to see my cousin Katie, who is due in a few months! She just finished painting her nursery and guess what the theme is? Luckily for me, I have leftovers in each of these colors. Hopefully I have the time to follow through and make her a similar, but unique blanket for her new baby, especially if she sees this!