Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Summer Pie is a gift

(Food52 Pie Crust)
Who doesn't love a delicious fresh baked pie? There are probably some who prefer cake but in our house we love pie. Especially rhubarb in any configuration. I set out to make just that recently and pulled out my mother-in-law Phyllis' pie crust recipe and realized I didn't have Crisco on hand so I Googled alternative choices and found Food52's vegan pie crust to be an almost exact match to Phyllis' but with coconut oil instead of Crisco. It went together easy and rolled out easy -win, win! My pie crusts, even using her recipe, have always been a little crumbly but something about the solid coconut oil helped my crust.  Now mind you mine is not as perfect as the picture above but I'm okay with that. 

The pie recipe I used came from Sweety Pies; an Uncommon collection of womanish observations with pie by Patty Pinner that I picked up from the book fair one year. Each pie recipe comes with a short story of history about the pie. Here is the recipe I used:

Miss Maude McCracken's Rhubarb Pie (103-104)

One 9-inch single layer pie crust; rimmed and crimped

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose (use unbleached) flour 

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup orange juice

2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 cups trimmed red rhubarb stalks, sliced 1 inch thick

Crumb Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Makes one 9-inch pie

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the crust and set aside.

Combine the sugar, flour, and cloves in a medium sized saucepan and whisk until well blended. Stir in the orange zest and juice, and the butter. Cook over low heat stirring, until thickened and bubbly, then add the rhubarb. Stir to coat the rhubarb, then remove from the heat and spoon the filling into the crust. Place in the oven and bake until the rhubarb is tender and the juices bubble, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, work it into the dry mixture until pea-sized crumbs form. 

Take the pie out of the oven and sprinkle evenly with the topping. Return to the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown, 10-15 minutes longer. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.  

{My pie}

You could serve it with a dollop of whip cream or ice cream but honestly it doesn't need anything else. Because I'd made the crust vegan I decided it was an easy switch to make the filling vegan as well by substituting the butter for vegan butter. Also I did not have an orange on hand that day so I used lemon zest instead of orange and in the topping I used brown sugar instead of white sugar (I use Turbinado sugar for white). The pie tasted delicious and the rhubarb was particularly TART! Maybe because I pulled it so late in the season? It was super vibrant red and I couldn't let it go to waste. The recipe was easy as...well, pie! I liked it so much that I tried it again. I whipped the pie crust out and added  sliced fresh Georgia peaches to two cups of rhubarb. Groovy Girl suggested the combo. I've never had a peach / rhubarb pie but I think it's going to be delicious. I'm waiting for this second pie to come out of the oven as I type. 

We ate half of the first pie ourselves and then last Sunday I took the other half down to our son in Cedar Rapids -  the empath who chooses vegan bc he cares deeply about the earth and the animals that inhabit it with us and because of this I am pushed to try new (vegan) recipes. He liked the pie. And it was good to sit for more than a minute to eat pie with him as we talked about life. When pie is shared you know the conversation is going to be relaxing and down-to-earth.  You don't rush through a piece of pie...

Other interesting recipe included in the Sweety Pie cookbook:

Carolyn Bennett's Grandmother's Key Lime Pie

Miss Claudette Cotton's White Potato Pie

Sister Curry's Orange Tang Pie

Mamie Short's Lemon Sponge Pie

Ava Joy's Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Sister Shirley Woods' Navy Bean Custard Pie

Miss Bradley's Cottage Cheese Pie

The list goes on and on and you get the idea. Let me know if you want to borrow the book...

I'm also reading the third GrishaVerse novel Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo as well as Neither Wolf nor Dog: on forgotten roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn. 

Peace and love as we get ready to close out July and head right into my birthday month!





Saturday, July 17, 2021

Storms

(The Patch)

What if today was the last day I saw my daughter? If she blew away or I blew away. Would she know how much I love her?

The dog sits on high alert trembling next to me. The sounds are shooting all around us. It's dark as dusk out even though it's only 4pm. 

I went down the wrong way on a one -way street last weekend and my mind keeps repeating this. Accidents happen so quickly.

I was hit once going through an intersection. T-boned they say, like the steak. Our Volkswagen Jetta station wagon tipped over and was pushed a foot or so up the street but the police issued me a ticket. They waited while I was in the emergency room. I'd just picked my daughter up from after school care at her school. She had blood on her arm and kept saying "It's my mommy's blood" after they pulled her out the back window. Scared and crying; "It's my mommy's blood" on repeat. 

Years pass. Has the storm passed? The dog is calmer listening to Alexa's piano selections. I refuse to turn on the television just to hear all the flashing weather reports. I can hear it outside. I refuse to go to the basement also although I did go down just to take the laundry out. There are no comfy spots to relax with the scared dog and the old dog so I'm upstairs in the family room. Listening to the rain come down hard and the wind blowing the trees on the side of the house. 

I was in another accident years ago in my 20s. It was dusk and an elderly man stopped confused by the red turn light even though he was in the lane with a green light. It was an icy Minnesota winter night and four cars behind him slide into each other, boom, boom, boom, boom on the bumpers. No one was hurt although I think the man's ego was severely bruised. 

Clear across town my daughter texts "on my way home" through the torrential rain and I think about the water rising on the roads and the teen drivers all leaving the water park. I would ask her to stay put but I know she is anxious to be home, here with me on the sofa with the dogs listening to piano muzak. 

I see my Prius in the dark driveway getting a free carwash. I'm still thinking about the tall trees that surround the house, most of the time like a protective forest but now like a timber ready to take us out. 

Driving doesn't look safe as I check the front window, water filling the roadway as cars swoosh their way through. 

What if today was the last day I saw my daughter? If she blew away or I blew away. Would she know how much I love her?

I recently read a stream-of-conscience novel and I wanted to try that style of writing as an experiment. We had heavy storms the other night with  49 tornadoes touching down in this area. I wrote this in the dark with a flashlight in the back of an old book because I didn’t want to disturb the shaking dog. Enjoy.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Bestseller Diverse Books for everyone


Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley  took my breath away. I was mesmerized by the young protagonist Daunis, her family & friends and simultaneously pulled into the romantic relationship with Jamie plus the mystery of drugs surfacing around the tribe. I have a deep respect for Native life and enjoyed all the history, traditions, and language that Boulley sprinkled generously throughout the story. I think this is an amazing debut by an author who had the idea at 18 and held on to that idea for many years. Bravo for this  book the world should read. I was very excited to hear that the Obamas are helping to launch this as a Netflix series. I would love for a second in the series to follow Daunis on the next part of her journey because I'd like to hang out with her more. I can see why Reese picked this as one of her club's summer reads.


The Other Black Girl written by Zakiya Dalila Harris is such a brilliant concept and because of that cool idea, which I will not share with you because it will ruin the surprises in store, it will make a fabulous series on Hulu.  What I don't understand is why an editor didn't correct some of the glaring issues? This book sold for a million dollars (literally WTF?) at auction. Everywhere I turn there are positive reviews except one that doesn't mention the actual writing as well.  Little discrepancies, changes in narration, unnecessary chapters that pop up, and so much extra description really surprised me. There are many good moments but I just couldn't wrap my head around why this book is getting so much attention. It's the idea that's interesting but the writing didn't follow through and I wanted to edit this and tie up a few loose ends. 

I read both books back to back and while one left me in awe the other left me scratching my head. Please read both and let me know your thoughts. 


Now I'm reading The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd for July book club and am enjoying the story of Eliza Lucas as she makes her way handling her father's plantations at a time when ladies were to be needlepointing not planting and cultivating.  She is a pioneer in many things she takes on in the 1700s including treating her father's enslaved people with consideration as she attempts to grow indigo to create dye using their expertise. 

Picked up more than a peck of peaches recently and in order to keep up I've shared and baked a little. These peach muffins from Inspired Taste are simple to make and delicious to eat. I made this peach crumble which was  perfect with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  I hope everyone survived the 4th and are prepared to fully enjoy the rest of July because summer is cruising fast into ...(BTS) can't say it yet. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

It's flying by...

It's the last day of June which means tomorrow begins July.  Summer is what's flying by ... I am working hard on appreciating every day whether I'm alone working on homework, writing, reading, or cooking in my kitchen or if I'm hanging out with family it's all good. I just always want more...

While I was in Rochester a week or so ago my step-mother sent me home with a bag filled with really good chocolate chip cookies and we ate those, loved having them around for an easy snack or dessert. Then I had to make more...have I mentioned that we are working out a LOT this summer! And not just our arm muscles. I browsed through Jenny Rosenstrach's cookbook to find a recipe and decided to try this one switching out the candy for straight up chips.

M&M Cookies
Reprinted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
Makes 24 cookies (I doubled it)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup good-quality chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
2 1.69-ounce bags M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (from JR: It was somewhat life-changing when I found out whisking was just as effective as sifting, so that’s what I usually do.) In a separate bowl and using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Using a handheld mixer, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture gradually until all the dry mixture has been worked into the batter.

Fold in the chocolate chips, and using two spoons, scoop small rounds of dough onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Pour the M&Ms into as many bowls as you have kids (it’s important for each helper to have his or her own bowl) and ask them to stick the candies into the dough rounds until they are all gone. (Sometimes I use my fingers to make the balls rounder on top—it makes for prettier cookies.)

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack.  

Jenny uses this recipe as a fun activity for kids which my kids loved to do also when they were younger. I did not have any kid assistance but I handled it well on my own and then my husband arrived home and he did a great job of tasting and/or stealing cookies.  We all loved how the brown sugar became like a caramel base in the cookie. Will make again.  Now onto yoga...


Work-outs - Me and  (Yoga w/) Adriene have kept our yoga dates ALL through June and I am pleased as a puppy dog that I've followed through and had fun with this as a personal challenge. If you ever thought you might add a little yoga into your life this is the yogi to watch. She is funny, quirky, and gets deep into the feel of yoga.  I hope to continue this through July and August. Her YouTube channel has a variety of styles and times. If you only have 15 minutes she's got you.  Love in, Love out...


I've also done a good amount of reading for pleasure in-between homework assignments and yoga time.  I've read 5 elementary - middle school fiction & graphic novels and my favorites were The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy and Three Keys by Kelly Yang. Both tell great stories about being true to yourself as you struggle to get through school, friends, and all that life can throw at you even as a young person. I highly recommend both of these stories. 



Now are you ready for July?







Sunday, June 20, 2021

We all need to connect


Happy Papa's Day to everyone out there who takes their parenting job seriously. There are a lot of deadbeat dads out there but I'd say most are trying to do their best. I salute you. My dad was a good dad when I was growing up, he cared and was a good listener, and he often offered solid advice. He was not perfect by any means. He was a writer who always had a cigarette in his hand and life often beat him down. That's him above with 3-year-old Tristan in the Grand Canyon. 

My husband is a caring, funny father because he likes to entertain his three children and loves to tell stories. Groovy Girl is off to work today at the water park and Kaylee is out there in Brooklyn living her cool life. She sent a lovely handwritten letter that he opened this morning. Tristan surprised Greg by showing up in person. He works a lot and Sunday is his one major day to rest and recuperate yet he made the hour drive to show up. Luckily I had a heads-up that he might show up and I whipped together this potato breakfast scramble so we could eat together. This is a recipe I found a year ago on Instagram from vegan influencer Tabitha Brown and I love that she seemingly throws easy, on-hand ingredients together to make comfort food. She has a calm spirit and a sense of humor just like my yoga guide Adriene. 

There is so much good stuff out there and even though I miss my dad I have lots of other dad-like influencers that I have come to rely on. My dad's friend Marv, my friend Mike W., Rocky P. and Steve T. who died just a few months ago are all people who are just a bit older and have that dad wisdom that we all could use now and again. My brother, even though he is younger, is someone I can rely on for help. We all need people to care about us, to listen, and offer free good advice. Be a dad to someone. 

I also made a non-vegan breakfast that we scarfed up earlier, that should have been served to friends but the timing just didn't work out. It was delicious; like having your eggs and toast in one. I loved that I could put it altogether last night and then bake it this morning. I sprinkled bacon on half of it instead of using sausage so that the vegetarian (me) in the house could enjoy it. And the father in this house loves the bacon! And I shook up two Bloody Mary's too. Oh, yeah, summertime brunch. 

Enjoy. Hug all your people.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Summer food and a few books

 I am loving my solitude this summer. Groovy Girl goes off to work at the water park and the husband goes off to make a movie or direct a show and I have the day to myself. I have been to work several times and it is so quiet there that it is easy to get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. I am almost finished with inventory for the year. My goal for meals is to have something ready for my two worker bees; it's the least I can do for them after they've labored out there in the world especially the teenager as she is out in the hot sun for a good 9 hours.  I want to have good food ready for them. 

I made this vegan corn chowder  even though it is way before sweet corn season but I had a large bag of white corn in the freezer and soup to me is always good even on hot days. I am in the process of making this pasta dish tonight with fresh cut basil from my garden. I roasted some broccoli and I put together a fresh salad using greens a friend who shared part of her CSA for the week.  I'm looking for easy meals that I can put together and they can eat late when they come through the door.  Easy for me, easy for them. 

Our girls

I've browsed through a new cookbook, The Fresh Egg Cookbook, that my friend MK gave me. She is honestly one of the best gift givers. She went to the Decorah Seed Saver store and found this cookbook for me in celebration of the beautiful chickens that grace my back yard. There are some really good recipes in here as well as chicken tips. We are on our fourth round of chicken parenting and we love it! They are quirky characters that roam our backyard and provide us with eggs. 


I finished the first, Shadow and Bone, in the GrishaVerse trilogy today which was recommended to me be  a family of former students. I have to pace myself though before I start the second one. My mother-in-law recommended How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior and I picked it up yesterday from the library. Before all that I finished my Book of the Month Club May pick; Things we lost to the water by Eric Nguyen, which was a very compelling story of immigration, New Orleans, Vietnam, and Hurricane Katrina.  

You may wonder if I am getting ANY homework done...?


Monday, June 7, 2021

It's over (for now)


I'm not talking about the pandemic naturally but the 2020-2021 school year. What am I going to do with all this time on my hands now, you ask...? People have this assumption that teachers sit by a pool and day drink through the summer.  That may be how some educators spend their time and it doesn't really matter. I would love to be that free! 

My time will be spent doing homework for two classes from Advancement Courses. One is on kindness and the other is on questioning. Lots of homework, lots of thinking, lots of writing. Hopefully I'll have great finished products and plenty of new learning. I am looking for new skills to get me through the next 8+ years of teaching! 


I am also doing something totally new this summer-I'm going to have our Hansen Library open five times during the summer. I'm excited about this new challenge and also fighting the urge to cancel it. As a teacher-librarian I love my students and I love my books! It's like I've created my own living nightmare and I shake myself awake only to find out that all the books have gone missing.  Ugh. But it's going to be okay because they're just books and their kids! It's all part of the deal. A few missing books won't hurt.  

I have a lot of summer reading to do as well; books on my nightstand, dresser, bookshelves, etc that have been waiting to be read and books that I need to read for school for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards. 

I've made a promise to myself and others that I will complete 13 writing pieces this summer and I'm going to work on that as well. I have far more than thirteen so it's just a matter of picking and editing. I will crack open a bottle of champagne when this becomes a reality because it's about time. 

Throw in a vacation and a few road trips and that about sums up my summer.  I promise I still have time for day drinking by the water-a lake preferably!  What about you?




Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorable Memorial Weekend

{Minimalist Baker}
I love a good three day weekend! I've accomplished quite a few things over the last three days but the best parts were several social occasions seeing friends and hugging people in my circle. We had an engagement party last night and a graduation party today. We also had lunch with friends on their patio. I made these strawberry rhubarb margaritas for the occasion. The recipe is from Minimalist Baker and they were delicious, so refreshing and tart.  

Last week I tried a new recipe because I just couldn't figure out what to make for dinner. We recently have had a lot of pasta and I'd made tacos and salmon other days so I just was looking for something different to try. A friend from school mentioned that she'd made lentil sloppy joes and so I searched and found a vegan recipe to try. I made them on Friday night and I loved them. Because of Groovy Girl's tomato allergy I switched out the cans of tomato and used one 28-oz can of pumpkin. I feel like I could add in sweet potato to replace tomatoes as well. I had lovely brioche buns that I broiled in the oven first because I like them a little crispy/crunchy. Both my husband and I loved them and GG, well, she was not quite as in love because it had onions (next time I would make sure to really dice up the onions) but she ate it. I liked that it was a super easy slow cooker recipe that I put together and it was done in about 3 hours. Here is the recipe I used from Yummy Mummy Kitchen and here is another one I plan to try next time from again the amazing Minimalist Baker.  



I did do some gardening this weekend as well, channeling my lovely Grandma Bruch. I think of her so much as I cook and plant as those are two areas she excelled at in life. She loved geraniums and irises and planted lots of vegetables. My love of rhubarb comes from her as she had a several large plants and did a lot of baking and jam making with the stalks. She was an amazing and wonderful grandma and I miss her very much. I'm glad my son was able to spend so much time with her and I'm sad that she never met my daughter. I can still hear her voice calling my name. I wish she and I could play one more game of spite and malice, our family card game. I can still hear my dad's voice as well and I wish I could play one more game of backgammon with him. 

How did you spend your weekend?