Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rhubarb Streusel Pie

Rhubarb Streusel Pie ::

This is it. The best rhubarb pie in the world. Did you hear me? THE. BEST. Perfect crust. Tangy-sweet rhubarb flavored with vanilla bean. Crumbly, crunchy, nutty streusel topping. This afternoon I'm planning to make my fourth in a span of two weeks, because if I'm with people, I need them to be eating this pie. And I need to be eating it. I ate almost the whole first one by myself.

I mean, I had help. A little. In the person of a tiny baby girl who is making her presence known more and more each day with kicks and jabs to my abdomen.

Little sister

I'm a late sharer of pregnancy news online. I so love telling people in person and seeing their reactions; hugs and squeals of excitement and actual congratulations are SO MUCH BETTER than Facebook likes and comments. When mostly everyone knows, and it's starting to be visible no matter what, then I finally share the news online. It's a girl, and she's healthy! I'm feeling great.

{Apparently, I like to announce I'm having baby girls by sharing recipes for pink vegetables. Last time, Radish Pickles! And more thoughts about the weighty responsibility of raising girls into women. Head over to check it out.}

Rhubarb season is just warming up in the Midwest, so you have plenty of time to get some reddish pink treasure from the farmers market and make yourself and those you love an amazing pie.

Rhubarb Streusel Pie ::

Rhubarb Streusel Pie

I always, always use Heidi Swanson's pie crust recipe, and it is amazing every time.

5 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)
3 tablespoons tapioca starch (corn starch will also work)

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Make the crust and refrigerate it until ready to use (making it a day ahead of time breaks up the effort required to make the pie, and ensures the crust is fully chilled - win-win).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the sugar in a small bowl with the vanilla bean (if using), and use your fingertips to rub the sugar along the inside of the vanilla bean, scraping out the seeds and distributing them through the sugar. (You could also do this ahead of time - the vanilla flavor will be more pronounced if you leave the vanilla bean in the sugar for a while.)

Place the chopped rhubarb in a large bowl with the vanilla sugar (or sugar and vanilla extract/paste) and tapioca starch and stir to combine. Set aside for about 15 minutes, while you prepare the crust and topping.

In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, salt and flour. Add the butter, and use your fingers to rub it into the sugar mixture until well-combined.

Roll out the crust and fit it into a pie plate. Decoratively crimp the edges, and pour the rhubarb filling into the crust, being sure to scrape all of the sugar and juice out of the bowl. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit (ahem, vegetable) filling and slide into the oven. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then decrease the heat to 350 and continue baking for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is bubbling, and the topping and crust are golden.

Cool at least 2 hours before slicing, and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

Ham and Asparagus Quiche ::

I just finished reading The Hound of Heaven at my Heels, a fictional version of the lost diary of the great poet Francis Thompson, "a heart-breaking and soul-lifting account of his spiritual, psychological, and physical regeneration. It is the story of a young man who finally finds his soul and his vocation." (<-- taken from the back cover of my edition)

It includes Thompson's poem, "Daisy," an ode to a little girl he met as he walked one day. From the preceding section: "I spoke to her gently; she confidently spoke of the flowers, the birds, and brothers and sisters--nothing, surely, to interest any man, yet I listened, enchanted. How simple and strange and wonderful and sweet. All this exquisiteness ordinary men take for granted, like the daisies they trample underfoot, knowing not what daisies are to him whose feet have wandered in grime." Isn't that just how we feel now, having lived through the cold and dark winter, just to see flowers and grass, and trees with leaves budding again?

A lot of adults are intimated by (or think they hate) poetry, and that's probably largely due to the way it's approached in school - not a lot of appreciation just for the beauty of it, and tons and tons of picking apart and analyzing. In the latest episode of my favorite podcast, Julie Bogart talked about her marvelous idea of poetry tea parties - weekly sessions with her kids in which they share tea and treats, and each one brings a poem to share. I am not not NOT wishing away these sweet toddler years, but oh my goodness. I can't wait for poetry tea parties to be a part of my life!

Ham and Asparagus Quiche ::

Here's the whole poem, if you want a little more to savor.


Where the thistle lists a purple crown
Six foot out of the turf,
And the harebell shakes on the windy hill--
O the breath of the distant sift!--

The hills look over on the South,
And southward dreams the sea;
And with the sea-breeze hand in hand
Came innocence and she.

Where 'mid the gorse the raspberry
Red for the gather springs,
Two children did we stray and talk
Wise, idle, childish things.

She listened with big-lipped surprise,
Breast-deep mid flower and spine:
Her skin was like a grape whose veins
Run snow instead of wine.

She knew not those sweet words she spake,
Now knew her own sweet way;
But there's never a bird, so sweet a song
Thronged in whose throat that day.

Oh, there were flowers in Storrington
On the turf and on the spray;
But the sweetest flower on Sussex hills 
Was the Daisy-flower that day!

Her Beauty smoothed earth's furrowed face.
She gave me tokens three:--
A look, a word, of her winsome mouth,
And a wild raspberry.

A berry red, a guileless look,
A still word,--strings of sand!
And they made my wild, wild heart
Fly down to her little hand.

For standing artless as the air,
And candid as the skies,
She took the berries with her hand,
And the love with her sweet eyes.

The fairest things have fleetest end,
Their scent survives their close:
But the rose's scent is bitterness
To him that loved the rose.

She looked a little wistfully,
Then went her sunshine way:--
The sea's eye had a mist on it,
And the leaves fell from the day.

She went her unremembering way,
She went and left in me
The pang of all the partings gone,
And partings yet to be.

She left me marveling why my soul
Was sad that she was glad;
At all the sadness in the sweet,
The sweetness in the sad.

Still, still I seemed to see her, still
Look up with soft replies,
And take the berries with her hand,
And the love with her lovely eyes.

Nothing begins, nothing ends,
That is not paid with moan;
For we are born in other's pain,
And perish in our own.

Ham and Asparagus Quiche ::

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

I got a 10-pound ham for Easter dinner, and there were 3 adults and 1 toddler in attendance, so you can imagine that we have eaten a lot of ham lately. Let me be clear: this was totally intentional, and is in no way a complaint. I made the obligatory (and awesome) split pea soup, and lots of sandwiches, and lots of ham 'n' eggs, but this was my favorite use for the leftovers. Maybe because it's light and springy, or maybe because it can be eaten at any time of day, or maybe just because it was so delicious. Make it, and you can decide for yourself!

One 9-inch pie crust, store-bought or homemade (I always make this recipe)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper
1 cup cubed ham
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1-inch sections
4 ounces grated Swiss cheese
2 scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, half and half, and salt and pepper. Stir in the ham, asparagus, scallions, and cheese, and pour into the pie crust. Bake 50-60 minutes, until filling is set and golden at the edges. Allow to cool slightly (or completely) before slicing. Serve with a simple green salad, dressed with oil and vinegar or lemon juice.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beauty That Changes You (+ Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole)

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole ::

I am one of those people who keeps an absurd number of unread emails in my inbox. I scan the list of new messages, click open one or two that are actually personally relevant to me, and then just move on to something else. Mostly, the unread emails are promotions I'm not interested in, newsletters and notifications I don't remember signing up for, that kind of thing. But once in a while a message pops up from a voice that never fails to be uplifting and refreshing, and I find myself glad to see them, like having coffee with a good friend after a long time apart. The Blessed is She reflections. A notification from Sarah Mackenzie that a new episode of the Read Aloud Revival podcast is up! Anything, just anything from Tsh Oxenreider.

Lately, I've been working through Tsh's Upstream Field Guide: an online course "to help you discover who you are, find your life's purpose, and take daily action so that your life makes more sense." It is jam packed with great stuff - podcasts, downloads, Spotify playlists to get your journaling juices flowing. I have been enjoying every minute I spend with it, and loving the fact that I can do it at my own pace. One of the journal prompts asked me to list some things that I find beautiful, and it has really stuck in my brain. As I go about my days, I'll find myself thinking, There. There is something that is beautiful.

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole ::

In a homily last week, one of our parish priests reflected on the crucifixion. He knew an artist who tried to describe the balance of emotion that goes into a painting or other depiction of Christ's Passion. Pain, of course. Agony. But also ecstasy. Because He joyfully offered Himself on the cross, it was not only pain and suffering. He knew exactly what He was doing, and why. And for whom.


What tremendous beauty there is in such a sacrifice; a willing self-donation. Joy and love transform pain into beauty.

All through this week, I expect to find myself dissolving into tears as I witness - again - so many stunning displays of a love that transforms, that heals, that saves. In yesterday's Gospel reading, a woman pours out a liter of costly oil - a LITER! - on Jesus' feet, and dries them with her hair. How can you witness an act of such bold humility and striking sacrifice, and come away unchanged? Imagine the smell in that house - filled with that fragrance. Imagine the gasps of those watching, the tears on Mary's face as she loved Jesus with abandon. Let this beauty sit in your soul and change you.

Mary Anoints Jesus

This Holy Week, I decided to dedicate myself to decluttering, sprucing up, and using up the food that's in our house - preparing our home and our hearts for a big celebration. As I realize what a huge task I've embarked upon, I'm starting to think toward next Lent - maybe a big de-clutter in the kitchen during the first week of Lent, and then meal-planning to use up what's there, in an effort to simplify, save money, and be a good steward of the generous gifts God has given me. We are still using up things and eating up leftovers this week (gotta make room for a feast!), and this "unstuffed" cabbage was a great, easy way to do it. Hope you enjoy it!

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole ::

Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole

1/2 head cabbage, shredded
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter a 9x13 (or equivalent) baking dish. Toss the cabbage with a teaspoon of salt, and let it sit while you prepare the filling.

Sauté bacon until crispy. Pour off excess fat, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan. Add the beef to the pan and brown it, breaking it up as you go. Add onion, garlic, and seasonings and cook 3-5 more minutes, until onions are beginning to soften. Stir in tomato paste and wine. Remove pan from heat, and stir in the yogurt.

Spread half the cabbage in the buttered dish, and top with beef. Repeat with remaining cabbage and beef. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Maple Tapping at Growing Legacy Farm

A couple of weeks ago, I saw that Dwija and her family were tapping the maple trees at their new house. Never one to miss an opportunity to engage in a seasonal activity, I decided to do a little investigating into our options for seeing a maple-tapping, sap-boiling operation. By investigating, I mean that while we were in Traverse City last week, I asked my mom if her friends, who own a farm nearby, tapped maples. They do! They were doing it last week, and invited us to come by and check it out.

Fred and Barb Weber started Growing Legacy Farm seven years ago because they wanted to give their grandchildren the opportunity to see where their food came from, to live close to the land, and to be in community with family all the time. They started small, raising broiler chickens, and more recently purchased their current farm, where they have been expanding and improving every year, adding goats, more chickens, a no-till vegetable and herb garden, and grass-fed cattle. They converted their farmhouse so that they have semi-private residences (they live downstairs while their kids and grandkids live upstairs), and their passion for what their doing, not to mention the joy they are experiencing in living out this particular dream just radiates from them.


When we arrived on the farm, we were welcomed inside for a brief history, and then Fred took us on a little tour of the farm while Barb stayed inside to finish baking bread. First we visited the chicken coop, where the girls were chattering happily and staying warm. We saw the goats, then walked across a field to the main attraction: the maples! They have 40 or 50 trees tapped this year, each outfitted with plastic tube that diverts sap into buckets. The sap looks just like water, and we all dipped our fingers in for a taste, which was like barely maple-scented water. Not sticky at all!






After we collected a bit of sap, we brought it back to where they boil it down to make syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup! After a pass through a filter, we added our freshly-gathered sap to the boiler, took a peek at the blazing wood fire they use to heat it, and then headed inside for a little taste of last year's finished product.



On the way, my sister took Anne to the chicken coop to collect some eggs! Anne was absolutely delighted, and proudly brought her little bucket of eggs to show us all.


It was a fantastic outing, and we're looking forward to coming back when the farming season is in full swing. If you're in Northern Michigan and you're looking for sustainably-raised meat and eggs, please check out Growing Legacy Farm!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Guinness Chocolate Cake ::

Laetare! With three weeks left until Easter, we get a little taste of rejoicing, like a runner eating one of those sugary gel packs during a race, to give them a boost toward the finish. We also, handily, got a little taste of spring weather to get us through whatever the late-winter lion is going to throw at us. All the snow has melted in Chicago (miracle!), and GREEN THINGS ARE GROWING OUT OF THE GROUND. Toddlers are getting reacquainted with things like fresh air and dirt. The world is a nice place to be in again.

This weekend we were privileged to be part of the baptism of our friends' brand-new baby son, and I thought how right the timing felt - another little taste of joy this weekend, along with a renewal of the promises we made at our own baptism. Do you reject Satan? YES! Do you believe in God? YES!


We also brought some dinner over to other friends who just had a baby. I gave them really overcooked corned beef and cabbage! Aren't I nice? I felt bad until I realized I also brought cake. See? That's why you bring cake! Even better if it's dark, dense, beer-infused chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I like how the frosting looks (like the frothy head of a pint), but I think I prefer the cake without. It's just so moist and perfect on its own!

Guinness Chocolate Cake ::

Guinness Chocolate Cake

(12 servings)

For the cake:

1 cup Guinness
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small slices
3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line with parchment paper, and butter the paper.

In a wide, shallow saucepan over medium heat, heat up the beer and butter until the butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs, and vanilla until smooth; add to beer mixture and whisk to combine. Add the flour and baking soda and whisk until incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 45-60 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched, and the sides are beginning to come away from the pan.

Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. While the cake cools, make the frosting. Whip the cream cheese until smooth, then add the sugar. Whip to combine, and then add the cream and whip again until fluffy and spreadable. When the cake is completely cool, remove it to a cake plate, and top with the frosting. The white topping resembles the frothy head on a pint of Guinness. Sláinte!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lovely Links {3.13.15}

2013 spring annuals

Seven lovely links to take you into the weekend! Enjoy!
  • I tend to fill up my life with noise, intentionally or not, and this post made me a leeeetle squirmy: On avoiding self-reflection, at The Art of Simple.

For more 7 Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Multigrain Pancakes

I have a friend I met when Anne was just about 2 weeks old - the first time I went to our parish's playgroup. Her younger daughter was 5 weeks old at the time, so those girls have been friends almost from birth, which I think is kind of amazing.

buddies (almost) from birth

We spend a lot of time together. Like, a lot. And when we're not together, we talk almost every day, at least once. She only lives 6 blocks away, and because her husband also has a very demanding job, we have established a wonderful tradition of coming together for "family dinners" on most of the nights when both husbands have to be away for dinner for whatever reason.

Cinnamon Apples aspiring food blogger
{After she helped me make the apples and batter and then saw me run over to the good light to take a photo, she ran over to her play kitchen, grabbed a pan and said, "Can you take a smile of my dinner?" Aspiring food blogger right here.}

These dinners are complete sanity-savers for me. The girls play, and we usually sip a glass of wine and talk while we cook.

Paradise Island

The reason this kind of community is so important to me is that food was not meant to be enjoyed alone. And during those weeks when my husband's work keeps him away during most of my waking hours, elevating my dinner conversation beyond what a 2-year-old is capable of is nothing short of miraculous.

Pancakes Pancakes!

Like the loaves and the fishes, sharing multiplies. It multiplies our gratefulness for the food we have, our ability to see what's right in front of us, our awareness of the presence of the Spirit in our lives.

Apple Cinnamon Multigrain Pancakes ::

Community like this is rare in the world we live in. So tonight, after a rough week of surviving, I rolled up my sleeves and made pancakes and said a prayer of thanks from my heart.


Apple Cinnamon Multigrain Pancakes

For the apples:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the pancakes:
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup amaranth flour
1/3 cup rye flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon, and toss together. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5-6 minutes, until the apples are soft but not falling apart, and the sugar and butter are sticky and caramelized. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl, then pour wet into dry and whisk together. Set aside for 10-15 minutes if possible, just to allow the batter to bubble and develop a bit. I think this makes for puffier pancakes.

Preheat an electric griddle to 350 degrees, or set up a skillet over a medium flame. Not too hot, or the outsides will burn before the insides get done! When the pan is hot, rub butter all over, and then scoop the batter in 1/4- to 1/3-cup servings. (I made some little silver-dollars for the kids, some of whom sometimes scream when I cut their food.) In about a minute, spoon some of the cinnamon-apples onto the top, and then when the underside is golden (2-3 minutes total), flip! Cook another minute or two and repeat until batter is gone. Serve topped with butter and extra apples or maple syrup.