Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Comforts of Home + {Penne with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Cream}

Penne with Asparagus and Mushrooms ::

We were away from home visiting family in Michigan for almost a week leading up to Memorial Day. I always forget how exhausting it can be to parent on location. Maybe it's just the inflexible, hormonal pregnant lady talking, but it's hard. We have wonderful families who love us and do everything they can to help out and make sure we're happy. And we always have a great time! But by the end of a longer trip, I am just aching to sleep in my own bed, walk out onto my own street, and settle back into my own routines.

Anne on the boat, Memorial Day 2015

A basic and foundational part of the way I live out my vocation is the ability (and responsibility!) to feed my family three delicious, nutritious meals a day. Away from my natural habitat, or otherwise deprived of this basic task, I sometimes feel like a castaway.


When I have to forage in a foreign fridge for my sustenance and my family's, it's amazing how quickly I realize that my idea of "staples" is not the same as anyone else's. Please don't misunderstand me: I don't mean to judge other people's choices. I would never expect someone else to have a fridge stocked just like mine would be. People prioritize differently, have different preferences and needs, and buy their food accordingly. But anyone knows that opening someone else's fridge can feel like walking on a strange planet. We have the industrial food revolution to thank for this dizzying variety of possible food choices, and sometimes I wonder if we would be better off without quite so many. But I digress.

Here are some of our family's basic everyday necessities:

Half and half (for my coffee)
Whole milk
Plain, full-fat yogurt
Honey and/or maple syrup
Olive oil

The fresh fruits and vegetables change from month to month as the seasons change, but we almost always have those things on hand on any given day, and we use them up quickly. What things would you add? What does your list look like?

Spring salad ::

I'm so glad that the season of deciding what to eat based on what's at the market is back. It is infinitely more fun for me to cook this way, not to mention much more fun to eat. Here's an easy dish I made for friends a couple of weeks ago, based on what I could get at the market that weekend.

Penne with Asparagus and Mushrooms ::

Penne with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Cream

1 pound penne
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1.5-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 package chicken sausages, split in half and sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
zest of one lemon

Cook the penne in boiling, well-salted water. About a minute before the pasta is done, toss in the chopped asparagus. Drain and set aside, saving a bit of the starchy pasta water in case the sauce needs thinning.

In a wide, shallow saucepan or skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and taking on an attractive brown color, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the sausages and cook about 5-6 minutes, until nicely browned on the sides.

Add the wine and scrape up all the delicious cooked-on goodies from the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced slightly, 3-4 minutes. Add the cream and cheese, and stir to combine well. Stir in the hot pasta and asparagus, adding a splash of pasta water if the sauce seems too thick. Cook for a minute or two, tossing well to allow the sauce to thoroughly coat the pasta. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest.

Serve with a simple green salad and crusty bread.

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.