Fresh Picked Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Warm, but overcast, yesterday was the perfect day for strawberry picking with my family. Highland Farms in West Chester, PA is the place to go for all sorts of fruit picking throughout the year. The scent of strawberries was in the air as we approached the field.

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photo by Caitlin

Do your littles watch the show Daniel Tiger? Annabelle loves the animated Mr. Rodgers version and on one episode Daniel and his friends go “fruit-picking”. My Annabelle could not wait to try it. She ate as much as she picked and was covered in warm strawberry juice by the time we were done. Want to have some fun? Go pick some berries!

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photo by Caitlin

Fresh picked berries are at their peak of sweetness compared to the more tart berries found in the grocery store, so less sugar is needed for the perfect pie. Make sure your filling is really bubbling (see video below) before you pull it from the oven to insure all the juices gel and don’t leave a soupy mess when the pie is cut. If the crust edge is over-browning then cover it with a pie shield or foil.

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Find a pie dough recipe here. It’s my favorite go to recipe and enough for a double crust, so wrap and freeze half of it for another time or just bake two pies.

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best baking buddy ever

Fresh Picked Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie dough for a single crust pie

2 tablespoons gingersnap crumbs

Crisp Topping

½ cup all purpose flour

¼  cup brown sugar

¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into cubes

Filling

4 cups of fresh picked strawberries, slice large ones in half

2 cups sliced (1/2-inch thick) fresh picked rhubarb

2 tablespons heavy cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sugar

¼ cup all purpose flour

Heat oven to 400F. Line 9-inch pie plate with dough. Trim and flute edge.  (Roll out dough scraps and cut shapes for decoration. Sprinkle shapes with sugar, if desired.)

Sprinkle cookie crumbs over bottom of pie shell and chill while preparing topping and filling. For topping: combine all ingredients in a bowl working the butter into the dry ingredients until clumps form. Chill it. For Filling: Place berries and rhubarb in a large bowl. Drizzle with heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla; gently toss to coat. Add sugar and flour; toss again. Spoon into pie shell. Sprinkle crisp mixture over the top. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until pie is bubbling and crust and topping are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature or serve just slightly warm. 

 

 

The Power of a “Pick Me Up”

decadent without the guilt

decadent without the guilt

Just a simple poem to end 2014 and ring in the new year. I read it whenever I need a little “pick me up”. Thank you, Susan for thinking of Will when you first read this poem and for sharing it with me. It’s perfect. Peace and hope for 2015.

“The Biography”

Do not judge a biography by its length

Nor by the number of pages in it

Judge it by the richness of its contents

Sometimes those unfinished are among the most poignant…

Do not judge a song by its duration

Nor by the number of its notes

Judge it by the way it touches and lifts the soul

Sometimes those unfinished are among the most beautiful…

And when something has enriched your life

And when its melody lingers on within your heart

Is it unfinished?

Or is it endless?

~author unknown

Matino family rallied before William went to Afghanistan

Matino family rallied before William went to Afghanistan

And now for another “pick me up” better known as tiramisu. Countless variations on tiramisu exists. This recipe of mine always gets rave reviews and is SO easy to make. No one will believe it is low in fat. Beware: This is an adult dessert with a bit of a savory edge from the bitter-sweet espresso syrup. I find the soft lady fingers at Trader Joe’s. They fit perfectly in an 8-inch square pan. The Greek yogurt pudding mix is new to me and I love it. I found it in the regular grocery store right next to all the other pudding/jello mixes.

luscious layers

luscious layers

No Fat, No Fuss, No Foolin' Tiramisu

Espresso Syrup1-1/4 cups hot water

2-1/2 Tbsp instant espresso coffee

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp orange flavored liqueur or orange juice

use regular vanilla if you can't find this

use regular vanilla if you can’t find this

Filling

1 (4 serving) package instant Greek Yogurt vanilla pudding mix

1½ cups skim milk (fat-free)

12 ounces (1 ½ packages) Neufchatel or fat-free cream cheese, softened

½ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt (use Fage brand)

1 (8 oz) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed

1 (4.75 oz) soft lady fingers (or use angel food cake)

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1-pint fresh strawberries, sliced

torpedo shaped strawberries from Florida-super sweet

torpedo shaped strawberries from Florida-super sweet

To prepare espresso syrup: combine all ingredients, stirring, until sugar is dissolved; set aside.

To prepare filling, in medium bowl, beat pudding mix and milk for 2 minutes; let set 5 minutes. In large bowl, using same beaters, beat cream cheese and yogurt until smooth. Add pudding mixture and whipped topping; blend well.

Using half of the lady fingers, one at a time, quickly dip into espresso syrup. Place in a single layer over the bottom of an 8-inch square serving dish. Pour half the filling mixture over the top smoothing with a spatula. Evenly dust top with 1/2 tablespoon of cocoa. Slice strawberries and arrange in a single layer on top of cocoa.

Repeat layers using remaining lady fingers, espresso, filling and cocoa.

Cover and chill. In small saucepan, over medium heat, reduce remaining espresso mixture by half—it will be syrupy and quite bitter-sweet. To serve, drizzle a small amount of the espresso syrup on serving plate. Top with a portion of tiramisu. Garnish with additional fresh berries.

lady fingers

Birthday, Basil & Cheesecake, Oh, My!

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

It was 11 years ago, on her 18th birthday, when I presented Caitlin with 18 hand-written love letters. It was an annual event for me to write my baby girl a letter on July 14th and stash it away in a “treasure box”. Now, as she was leaving the nest, it was time for my first-born to have them. Hopefully, seeing herself through a loving mother’s eyes and remembering all the goodness she had brought to our family would give her strength and wisdom as she set off on her own.

Cait & Sam graduate

Cait & Sam graduate

As parents, Bill and I could not have been more proud when Caitlin graduated with honors in economics from Wake Forest University. Wow!-we thought, money well-spent. She was on her way to her first big job in Philadelphia and the huge responsibility of seriously paying her own bills (woohoo!) Pretty sure there were times when she wished she was back in college, but she perseveres receiving promotion after promotion. Hello Ms Marketing Director.

marriage

And then came marriage and one of the happiest days of our lives. Hello, Mrs. Pemberton. Tomorrow she turns 29 and I realize I owe her way more than a love letter, but that is between me and her.

love my baby girl

love my baby girl

I will, however, share with you her favorite dessert which is cheesecake. Inspired by the plentiful basil in my garden and the juiciest, ripest strawberries ever this recipe is cause for celebration. Happy Birthday dear Caitlin!

cheesecake

Basil Infused Strawberry Cheesecake

1-cup heavy cream

8 fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Crust

1 cup crushed chocolate cookie crumbs (18 Nabisco Chocolate Wafer cookies)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs

1 pound fresh strawberries (reserve 9 berries for garnish and puree the rest)

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

Heat oven to 325F. In a microwave safe measuring cup heat heavy cream on HIGH for 1 minute. Bruise basil leaves lightly with your fingers and submerge in hot cream; set aside to steep. Mix cookie crumbs, sugar and butter until crumbly; press over bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan; bake 8 minutes. Cool on wire rack. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, strawberry puree (you should have about 1 cup), vanilla, ¼ cup of basil infused heavy cream (cover and refrigerate the remaining basil-cream mixture) and yogurt until well mixed. Pour batter into crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until center is just set. Do not over bake. Cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator to chill completely. Run a knife around the pan sides. Remove sides of pan. Remove basil from chilled cream. Add powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixture to stiff peaks. Garnish top of cheesecake with basil-whipped cream, reserved strawberries and basil sprigs, if desired.

Tips:

#1 place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl of your food processor before securing the top to keep the top from getting dirty (since I hate washing the top)

#2 use a flat bottom cup to pat the crumb crust into place and the back of a spoon to smooth around the edge