Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Claire is back and she brought Strawberry Rhubarb Pie! Claire has never let us down in regards to summer delights, and this is the perfect dessert as we transition into the hot summer months. Let’s all take advantage of the farmers’ markets and roadside stands this weekend to pick up some fresh fruit and see what treats we can come up with. In the meantime, Claire has pie to share.

A little birdie has told me that it’s dessert week at Butcher Block Co. I know for a lot of people, that might conjure images of chocolates or cakes, but my favorite desserts are all fruit-based. Baked fruit, fresh fruit, whatever, I love it. We’re coming into fruit season now, and I can tell because giant, weathered rainbow umbrellas are popping up along roadsides over tables offering the best local summer produce at the best prices. We’re not quite at stone fruit season, but I am here for the early summer offerings, like strawberries and rhubarb. I love rhubarb, but like so many of the best foods, I didn’t appreciate it in my youth. I thought it was too tart, and also, it was a weird food that no one ever heard of and it looked like weird celery. When I was a kid, my mom would make rhubarb pie, and I would eat the crust and the ice cream and leave the filling. I was an idiot with bad taste; I always ordered the chicken sandwich in restaurants, which is why I didn’t discover how good hamburgers could be until I was well into my adulthood. But I digress.

When I was a teen, my dad actually planted some rhubarb in our front yard. I watched it grow from a little puff of leaves on slender pink stems into a giant, fan-leaved monster that threatened to take over the whole garden. By that time, like all teens, I still hadn’t completely grown out of my idiocy, but at least I had better taste. I started making a mess in the kitchen trying to copy my mom and grandma’s pies. I did apples in the fall, peach in late summer, and as the spring would start to turn hot, I did my part to rescue the garden from the encroaching rhubarb-pocalypse. Of course, as an obnoxious teen, I couldn’t stick to their tried-and true recipes. Instead, I stole all the newly-ripened strawberries from the tiny patch at the side of the house and put them into a pie with the rhubarb. It turned out awesome. It was like a revelation. My family never really came around to my side – old habits die hard, I guess.

For me, strawberry rhubarb pie is my absolute number one pie pick.

I don’t make a ton of pies anymore. It’s less fun when the mess is in my own kitchen and I can’t rely on my dad to come in behind me and start doing dishes. Also, I am a grown adult person, and I can’t just go around eating pies all the time. Still, when I see those umbrellas pop up along the roadsides, I know I have to do at least one strawberry rhubarb pie to bring me back to those flour-coated summer days in the kitchen, my dad buzzing around me with a sponge and the whole house smelling like heaven. Heading home from the grocery store last weekend, I saw one of those rainbow umbrellas, and I had to stop. Fifteen minutes later, I was at the kitchen table hulling the sweetest strawberries, the whole house already smelling like heaven.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
I don’t have my grandma’s recipe on hand anymore, so for this strawberry rhubarb pie, I used Deb Perelman’s recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, which of course turned out amazing, even though I over-cooked the filling a smidge in order to get a prettier color in the crust. I really like the way the tapioca thickened the juices without affecting the flavor at all. Then I figured, as long as I was committing sacrilege by deviating from my family’s recipe for the filling, I might as well go whole hog. Mom, you may want to stop reading here.

My grandma always made the same crust Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for every pie with just flour, salt, vegetable shortening, and a little hot water to bind it all together. It’s a great workhorse crust. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, but it’s reliable and simple to make, it works for a savory or sweet filling, and it’s what I grew up with, so it has always been my go-to. However, my mantra in the kitchen and in life is that the worst reason to do a thing is “because that’s how my parents always did it.” Plus, maybe I still have some of that obnoxious, rebellious teen in me. I decided to try my hand at an all butter crust for a change, and I am telling you, my eyes have been opened. It was flaky, rich, and as much the star of the dish as the incredible filling. After a perfect pie like this, I don’t think I could ever go back to shortening. Sorry not sorry, Grandma.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the spirit of dessert week, my husband and I have devoured nearly the entire glorious pie in the space of five days. I top each serving with some gently sweetened whipped cream, and I shamelessly lick the plate clean. What are you doing for dessert week? What is your quintessential summer dessert? Is it weird that I’m strongly considering making another strawberry rhubarb pie this weekend?

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Need some simple, yummy Christmas cookies to make for your holiday cookie exchange? Or just to have on hand because, well, Christmas cookies are delicious? Sarah has an easy, tasty recipe to share with us today that will surely please a crowd.

In my experience, there are two kinds of people who bake. People who love to bake, and people who wish it wasn’t quite so… involved. The holiday season brings with it the anticipated (or dreaded) holiday parties and cookie exchanges. I, for one love any chance to be a little extra festive and fancy (and enjoy a few cocktails, clearly), but I also want an “easy” button.

Today’s recipe—Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies—is a little less involved than other Christmas cookies I’ve made, and the end result tastes great!

This recipe was a challenge for me, because I love to tweak things I already know, and I knew this recipe was good using lemon juice and lemon zest. I also had a dark red cherry liqueur on-hand. And it’s the Christmas season… I really wanted these to be pink cookies with green lime zest on top, but we don’t always get everything we want from Santa, either. The cherry flavor from the cherry liqueur is much more subtle than you think it will be in the finished product, and the dough soaks it right up, so feel free to use a heavy hand.

Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • Cherry liqueur (approximately 5/8 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

-Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. This will be a crumbly mixture with a clump of butter and cream cheese stuck to your mixer paddle. Don’t panic.

-Add the egg. Hooray for egg! This will give you something more akin to a standard cookie’s wet ingredient mixture.

-Add the cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

-Add the flour and cherry liqueur alternately. Mix half a cup of flour into your wet mixture and turn your mixer on for a moment to combine. This will get crumbly. Stop your mixer and add 2 tablespoons of cherry liqueur, then turn your mixer back on to combine. Repeat until you’ve added 2 ½ cups of flour and then balanced it out with cherry liqueur.

-This is an opportunity to either chill your dough, or the start of the period of time where you need to work quickly. Use your hands to form balls of dough about ½ an inch to 1 inch in size (I am terrible at uniform cookie sizes), and space about an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. I am a big fan of shortcuts in the kitchen, but my best tip today is to use the biggest baking sheet that will fit in your oven, so you’ll be making fewer batches of these bad boys.

-Bake 8-10 minutes at 350°.

These cookies beg for some sugar, and maybe some citrus, so you have two (easy!) options to finish them. The first is to top them with powdered sugar and lemon or lime zest. This takes seconds, looks nice, and adds a hit of sweetness. I used my zester to sift the powdered sugar, since I don’t own a sieve. Scoop a small spoonful onto the backside of your zester, holding it horizontally over your cookies. Tap the side of the zester lightly and voilà! Rinse your zester and grate some lemon (or lime—green for Christmas!) zest on top.

Your second option is to make a glaze. This is going to require some time to dry, and may make transporting the finished product more difficult. However, a glaze adds a massive hit of sugar, which is beneficial to a more muffin-y cookie. Mix half a tablespoon of milk with half a tablespoon of your flavoring of choice—lemon juice or cherry liqueur are good choices in this instance. Add confectioner’s sugar bit by bit until you have a dippable consistency (about ¾ of a cup). Dunk the tops of your (cooled!) cookies in the glaze and let dry on a rack or plate before storing (or snacking—or not, I can’t tell you how to live your best life!).

These Christmas cookies are not pink. They are not super sweet. They do not punch you in the face with bold cherry flavor. But they do have a very moist, dense consistency thanks to the cream cheese. And with a glaze or dusting of powdered sugar on top, they are a perfectly balanced bite that you and your cookie exchange participants will enjoy sharing while celebrating the holidays. Happy everything to you and yours!

Baked Apples – The Taste of Autumn

Baked Apples – The Taste of Autumn

My only encounters with baked apples have been on camping trips, when we would wrap stuffed apples in foil and throw them in the fire. While delicious, they were quite messy…and there was no ice cream, so really what’s the point? I like Claire’s approach better, as it involves staying indoors and using real plates. And these baked apples just look SO GOOD! They are the perfect way to ease into Fall baking. Let’s get to it. Claire, usher us into Autumn with your spectacular baked apples!

Well, it’s eighty-three degrees in the shade today, and California is still on fire, but I am ninety-three percent sure that I felt a cool, cool, autumn breeze last week, so I am already gearing up for fall. I am packing up my summer wardrobe, planning my Halloween costume, and breaking out the knitting needles for sweater season. Just joking; this is California. I just wear all dresses all year. I also plan my Halloween costume and knit year-round, obviously. I’m not joking about the breeze, though. I have lived here long enough to know that one cool week means nothing, except that we’re about to have another month of dry, relentless heat. In fact, in my experience, the first week of October has a habit of being the most unbearably hot week all year. All that aside, I am ready for fall, whether Mother Nature likes it or not.

Across our great nation, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks are ushering in the autumn with pumpkin spice everything, but for my money, the most supreme fall fruit is still the apple. Whether pressed into cider or baked into pie, the combination of apple and cinnamon is distinctly, undeniably autumnal. Now, my grandmother taught me well and I make a damn good pie crust. Still, sometimes I find myself in a bit of a time crunch and have to turn out something delicious and impressive in a third the time of a pie. In a case like that, I will choose to forego the rolling and chilling and latticework and egg wash and skip right to the bake.

This very hot autumn, my go-to dessert is baked apples and vanilla ice cream.

  • 4 large Honeycrisp or other good baking apples
  • 1/3 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped very fine

Preheat your oven to 375°. Using a sharp paring knife and a spoon, hollow out the cores of the apples, leaving just enough at the bottom to form a basin. In a medium bowl, mix together the rest of your ingredients. Fill each apple to the top with the spice mixture and place them in a baking dish. Pour half a cup of water into the bottom of the baking dish and bake for one hour until the apples are soft.

Baked Apples

Let the baked apples cool slightly. With a slotted spoon, gently lift each one into its own bowl or plate and top it with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream. These evoke all the comforting warmth of an apple pie without the fuss of the crust, and, as a bonus, they will make your home smell like heaven. For as simple as these treats are to make, they really make a stunning dessert, and a quintessentially autumnal crowd-pleaser.

Baked Apples

Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

It’s been a while since I blogged a recipe to our readers. Thankfully we have Claire and Sarah to do most of the food blogs for us, because they LOVE to cook.  I, however, really don’t love cooking or baking. I’m not sure why. Maybe because as a kid about 12 years old, it was my job to make dinner! We were given a day of the week, and it was our responsibility to plan and prepare the meal for the family. My divorced mom had 5 kids living at home at the time (seven kids total), so it was a very smart, strategic move on her part. While I was proud of what I learned to make…lasagna, meatloaf, spaghetti…I always felt like it was a chore. But luckily, I married a guy who is simply fabulous in the kitchen! He does nearly all of the cooking, AND he has taught me how to simplify recipes, and to enjoy the process as much as the end result. So once again, he has helped me come up with a recipe idea for our Butcher Block Co. Blog!

For our walnut-themed week, I’m making easy, delicious Walnut Banana Bread! It’s timed perfectly for you foodies out there, because Saturday is also National Banana Lovers Day!

So what makes this recipe easy?  Buy Trader Joe’s boxed Banana Bread Mix and a bag of Walnut halves.

What makes this recipe unique?  Roast the walnuts, use frozen bananas, add vanilla, orange and almond extract, and add chocolate chips (of course)!

For those of you who know what you’re doing in the kitchen, you can probably stop reading now and go make this walnut banana bread.  For the rest of you, there are a few helpful tips and adjustments to the recipe that are required to pull this off successfully, so read on…

Ingredients

walnut banana bread ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Banana Bread Mix
  • Walnut Halves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • * 1/4 cup water (not the 3/4 cup noted on the box)
  • *1/4 tsp orange extract
  • *1/4 tsp almond extract
  • *1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 * frozen bananas (in the peel works best)
  • * = adjustments to the recipe

Directions

walnuts Slightly roast the walnut halves in a dry fry pan on medium to high heat.  Walnuts are done when they just begin to darken slightly AND you get a waft of nutty, earthy smell off of them.  This should take no more than 10 minutes.  Do not let them burn.  Roasting will take the bitterness out of the walnut. Then chop them to the desired size. I used my handy John Boos Herb Board and Mezzaluna Knife for this. Yah!

Follow the directions on the banana bread box.  Whisk wet ingredients together then add the dry mix to the wet and blend with a spoon until just mixed.

Now for the frozen bananas.  Living in Arizona, I find that bananas turn really fast, so we have a freezer full of brown bananas at all times.  Just toss them in the freezer, peels and all, and they are always on hand for baking and making shakes! So now, grab your frozen bananas and defrost them in the microwave just until soft.  Squeeze the banana out of the peel into a bowl and mash them slightly with a fork.  Add them to the mixture. mix walnut banana bread

Add chocolate chips and your chopped, roasted walnuts and fold together. Pour into lightly greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for *50 minutes (instead of the recommended 40 minutes).

Cool.  Slice.  Eat.  Repeat.

Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

Final walnut banana bread

Printer-friendly recipe:Easy, Delicious Walnut Banana Bread

 

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

There’s still a little time left for some summer fun! We’ve been compiling recipes and ideas for a few years now, and we figure it’s the perfect time to share the summer fun with you.

Adult or kid (or kid at heart!), there’s something for everyone in this summer fun roundup!

First and foremost, get a batch of Boozy Poptails in the freezer right away. These adults-only frozen pops will surely get you through the last few weeks of summer!

Poptails Done

If that booze gets you feeling nostalgic, come share your childhood summer fun memories with us here.

Doing any camping this summer? Or attending a bonfire? Sarah’s fire pies are a definite must!

Campfire Pies summer fun

Another fun way to eat outdoors is having a build-your-own kabob party! Everyone gets exactly what they want all grilled to perfection!

If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, Claire’s grilled salad brings the best of summer onto your plate.

Grilled Salad

Or if the heat is just too unbearable, stick with something delicious that you don’t even have to cook! Ceviche tacos make for the perfect dish on a hot day – no grill required!

The very best way to finish off summer is with the most refreshingly delicious dessert: homemade mint ice cream. Can you think of anything better? I sure can’t!

Mint Ice Cream

What are your go-to meals and activities for summer fun? Share with us!

 

 

Poptails – Boozy Frozen Pops for Grownups

Poptails – Boozy Frozen Pops for Grownups

Poptails! If you don’t know what that means, Claire is here to explain, and save your face from melting this summer. I can’t believe this never occurred to me. After all, I enjoy booze quite a bit, and I really hate being hot. This is only natural. Let’s join Claire for some grownups-only frozen treats!

Summer has officially begun. The temperatures are reaching record highs, and my air conditioning has been running at full tilt. I could go on about it, but frankly, even I am getting pretty sick of hearing myself talk about the weather. It’s time to accept the seasonal realities of my life here and just thank my lucky stars that I don’t live in Phoenix, where I hear it has reached nearly 120°F. In any case, even though it’s becoming increasingly hard to avoid talking about it, this post is not going to be entirely about the heat, as I have actual things going on in my life this week.

On Friday, my husband Pier underwent a little surgical procedure that has had him laid up for the past week. He can’t lift anything over 8 pounds, so I’ve been helping him settle into a couch nest during the day with a little bed tray table and his lap-top, and distracting the cats from trying to climb into his lap every 20 minutes. He isn’t in a ton of pain, but the Tylenol and bags of frozen peas he’s been using don’t quite cover the discomfort, so I’ve decided to add booze to his regimen. Over the weekend, it was easy; we just drank margaritas and watched movies and played card games. Now that the work week is back on, though, I’m not home during the day, and he’s not quite as comfortable with drinking all day by himself. Luckily, I have concocted a brilliant triple-threat plan to tackle the heat, the pain, and the day-drinking stigma with one solid blow:

Frozen pop cocktails. Or POPTAILS, because who doesn’t like a good portmanteau?

A simple google search will yield dozens of recipes for alcoholic pops, and it can be fun to get a little fancy with it, but in my experience, a recipe isn’t always necessary. The rules to poptails are simple and few. 1) If it tastes great as a cocktail, chances are good that it will taste great as a poptail. 2) If you want a solid pop, your mix cannot exceed 20% alcohol. Not that a boozy slush treat isn’t also good, but it’s not quite the same experience. 3) Frozen pop molds are also fun, but not always necessary. A disposable plastic cup actually makes a great mold, and all it takes is a little push on the bottom to free the poptails from the cups. With these rules in mind, I set out to the grocery store to find things that I thought would taste good with booze in them.

Poptails

I started with fancy-pants juices. Naked and Odwalla and Bolthouse Farms make nice, thick juices that are packed with fruit, so they have a lot of flavor. A little vodka or rum would be easily disguised under the richness of one of those, so I picked out a couple of options. Next, I picked up some sweet tea, because I know my man is a sucker for an Arnold Palmer, and I happen to have a bottle of homemade limoncello in my liquor cabinet. As I headed away from the juice aisle, I caught a whiff of the bulk coffee section, and my next poptail idea hit me. My favorite wake-up drink is coffee heavily spiked with Bailey’s Irish cream, so that was a no-brainer right there. Lastly, a couple of summers ago, I ran across this recipe for creamy margarita pops, and I’ve been dying to try them out ever since, so I grabbed a bag of limes and some plastic cups.

Poptails

With the exception of the margarita poptails, I didn’t use any recipes, so I just measured out at least one cup of base beverage to one quarter cup of alcohol for each mixture. I ended up mixing strawberry banana juice with tequila, mango juice with vodka, coffee with Bailey’s, and sweet tea with limoncello. The two juice mixtures turned out ok, but next time I try those, I’ll dial the alcohol back a little further, because they did not freeze very well. Even after 24 hours in the freezer, they were still a little soft. The other two flavors froze perfectly, and Pier even texted me at work today to tell me how much he enjoyed the Arnold Palmer-pop. The margarita pops also turned out fabulous, and fully worth the time I spent juicing my 10 limes.

Poptails Done

These treats are super fun to come home to after work, and super fun to eat all day while you sit on the couch playing video games. Ten out of ten, would recommend. I’m already scanning the door of my fridge for more poptions.

 

Pick Your Favorite Dessert Recipes From Our Dessert Cart!

Pick Your Favorite Dessert Recipes From Our Dessert Cart!

We have featured many amazing dessert recipes over the years, so in honor of Dessert Week at Butcher Block Co., we’re compiling some of our favorites in this Dessert Cart! From super simple to fancy, campfire-friendly to refreshingly cool, we’ve got you covered.

So gather ’round our dessert cart, sample whatever looks tasty, and leave with a few new favorite dessert recipes to try at home!

First up is from one of our most popular posts, which is understandable because it is AMAZING (I even made it myself last Father’s Day, and it turned out perfectly!). Claire’s Key Lime Pie is the stuff dreams are made of..just look at this!

Key Lime Pie

If you’re looking for something a little less labor intensive, this Icebox Cake is one of the easiest dessert recipes you can put together, and it turns out stunningly beautiful. No one will suspect the simplicity of this recipe!

Dessert Recipes

Speaking of easy, how about an ice cream recipe with only two base ingredients that doesn’t require an ice cream maker?! Alicia’s Easy Homemade Ice Cream fits the bill and will quickly become a summer staple in your family.

Homemade Ice Cream

Did that ice cream pique your interest? Looking for something a little more challenging? There is nothing that will cool you down in the summer better than mint ice cream. Claire’s Homemade Mint Ice Cream might take a little more skill in the kitchen, but it is well worth the extra effort. Refreshing mint and a buttery texture will make this one of your new favorite dessert recipes!

Mint Ice Cream Now, if you want to get out of the kitchen this summer, Sarah comes to the rescue with delicious and fun Campfire Pies! Your filling options are endless, so everyone in the family can customize their dessert to their own tastes.

Dessert recipes

What are your favorite dessert recipes? Are you inspired to try something new this summer?

Homemade Mint Ice Cream – A Refreshing Dessert

Homemade Mint Ice Cream – A Refreshing Dessert

Mint ice cream is probably the single most refreshing thing I can think of on a hot day. Since today happens to be one of those days, this post couldn’t have come at a better time! Honestly, though, is there ever a bad time for mint ice cream?? Claire is here to cool us off from the inside out with her fabulous homemade mint ice cream. Let’s get churning, Claire!

My husband Pier has a serious sweet tooth. When we first met, I was trying to quit smoking. Seeing how hard I was struggling, he tried to give up candy out of solidarity, but he failed almost daily. A plate of cookies here, a bag of candy there, doughnuts for breakfast, ice cream for dinner. It’s lucky for him his job has him doing hard manual labor, or he would be as fat as I am. Cut to seven years later, and I’ve long since given up cigarettes, but he still can’t go a day without a good sugar buzz. Not that I’m exactly guilt free; I’m what you might call an enabler. I have replaced my nicotine cravings with a desperate need to watch people enjoy foods that I have created, so there is always something sweet around the house for Pier. That way, we can both get our fix.

In the fall, it’s cookies and pies, and in the winter, sweet quick breads and cakes. It’s technically spring time now, and, I want desperately to be making shortcake and berry tarts, but I just can’t bring myself turn on the oven. Two weeks ago, I said that it was the perfect weather for grilling because it wasn’t too hot yet. One week ago, Mother Gaia read my post and decided to take it as a challenge. Suddenly, it’s summer three weeks early, and I am not into it. I suppose spring came early here, so it follows that summer would be hot on its tail, but I’m just not ready. With the California sun raining on my spring parade, I have eschewed all baked goods for a chillier option. I only want to eat cold foods that will make me cold and remind me of the good old days three weeks ago, back when I was cold. I officially declare this summer Ice Cream Season.

Pier’s favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chip. I love mint too, but I think chocolate in mint ice cream detracts from the refreshing nature of the mint.

Since it’s basically impossible to find mint ice cream without chocolate in it, and since homemade ice cream is about a million times better than grocery store ice cream, I have learned how to make my own mint ice cream.

So, when I was in the grocery store last week seeking a brief respite from the heat, and I caught a whiff of fresh mint from clear on the other side of the produce department, I knew how I would be kicking off Ice Cream Season.

Mint Ice Cream

Mint Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 bunches of fresh mint leaves
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Put the cream and milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring it just to a simmer. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t scald. When bubbles start to come up, remove the pan from heat and add the mint leaves. Cover the pot and allow the mint to steep for two hours. In another saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar over medium heat until they are fluffy and pale, and then strain the cream into the eggs mixture, using the back of a spoon to press on the mint leaves so all the cream and minty flavor gets into the pot. Whisk until fully combined, and then cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the custard reaches 170°F, or until a finger swiped across the back of a spoon leaves a clean line. Add the salt to taste.

Mint Ice Cream

Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or Tupperware, and cover it. Set the custard in an ice bath until it reaches a temperature of about 40°F, about 3 to 4 hours. If you’re not in a big hurry, you can also just set the container in the fridge to cool overnight. When the custard is fully cooled, pour it into an ice cream maker to churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s done, pour the churned mint ice cream into an air tight container and set it in the freezer. Ideally, it should chill there for a full 4 hours before you try to serve it, but I can almost never wait that long. The texture is so creamy and buttery, and the mint flavor is so cooling and pleasant, I’m sure you’ll want to dive right in, too. I also put some fresh blackberries in the freezer while my ice cream set, and they really worked well with the mint.

Well, I know what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. What are your plans for the summer?

Printer-friendly recipe: Homemade Mint Ice Cream

Campfire Pies for Outdoor Fun

Campfire Pies for Outdoor Fun

I’m predicting this summer’s food trend is going to be campfire pies. I really want this to be true, at least… Campfire pies are so beautifully simple and remind me of childhood. I had completely forgotten the magic of campfire pies when Sarah mentioned them a while back, but now she has me on a mission. This is going to be the best summer. You should get on the campfire pie train, too. I promise they will make all your outdoor fun even better, and with Memorial Day coming up, you’ve only got a little time left to get your supplies. Sarah is here with all the details to get us started. Let’s make some pies!

Oh, Memorial Day weekend. That extra day off of work that feels desperately needed as you gear up for summer, the chance to get away for a weekend, the cookouts. The cookouts. My favorite thing about the holiday weekend is naturally food-inspired.

For the past ten years, my husband and his friends have been going to a cabin in a nearby state park to celebrate Memorial Day weekend. Due to us being a number of people spread out over the state, we have a Google Drive spreadsheet that goes back several years, listing who brings what. This, guys, is an excellent idea.  The cabin trip is the best kind of tradition – over the years we’ve rented boats, hiked, gone swimming, played games, played putt-putt, and gotten ice cream. Every year we add new things to do, but a few mainstays never change. One of these is the cooking out.

The firepit outside our cabin gets heavy use year after year. The first night of our trip is always dedicated to campfire pies. Consider the grilled cheese sandwich. Buttered bread, hot skillet, melty cheese. Yes? Now add the satisfaction of cooking those suckers outside on the coals of your bonfire and a fun gadget (I love fun gadgets). To make campfire pies, you will need a pie iron. I recommend having two for maximum production efficiency. You have a few options based on how you like your sandwiches. If you don’t like crust, go for one of the round pie irons, but be warned! These result in smaller pies, and you can’t stuff them as full. For bigger pies that include crust, go with this guy. Your campfire will need to have some decent coals – I recommend waiting at least half an hour after starting your fire to begin cooking.

Campfire pies are endlessly customizable and the perfect addition to your outdoor fun!

You can basically make any kind of sandwich or sweet pie with these babies. I’ve gone grilled cheese, hot ham and cheese, any kind of dessert pie you can think of, and even ooey gooey brownies (oh yes!). Sandwiches are pretty easy – some element of sauce and/or cheese is necessary to hold your pie together and give it a lot of flavor. Dessert is pretty much anything your heart desires that fits between two pieces of bread. Pie filling of any kind, pudding if you’re feeling a chocolate pie. The best dessert I’ve had is the aforementioned ooey gooey brownie, which is brownie batter poured straight into the pie iron, no bread required. Cooked correctly, you’ll open your pie iron to a molten chocolate mess that is absolutely delicious (add marshmallows for a s’mores-ey kick). Today, we’ll be making pizza pies with cherry pies for dessert.

Ingredients:

  • Stick of butter
  • Bread (go white bread, here)
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzerella cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Cherry pie filling

-Preheat your pie irons. Once your bonfire has some coals, position your (closed) pie iron against them to get the metal hot. It doesn’t need to be screamin’ hot, but a little preheat will help your buttering game.

-Butter! This is what gives your campfire pies that delicious sear. There are two opinions on buttering- butter your bread, or butter the pie irons. I find you use less butter (and can therefore make more pies!) when you butter the pie irons. So unwrap the end of a stick of butter and rub it on each pan of your open pie iron. Enjoy the sizzle.

-Position your bread, being careful not to burn yourself. Add pizza sauce, a good handful of mozzarella cheese, and some pepperonis. You can load up both sides of your bead if you like, but while that results in mega-flavor, it can also make your pies burst open like a hot pizza roll when you bite into it. One side of toppings is sufficient.

Campfire pies

-Close your pie iron. Many come with latches, but they can be difficult to open when your pie is done if you’re not keen on burning yourself or your food. Make sure your pie iron closes completely, or you’ll be picking ash out of your food.

-Position your pie iron on your coals. This cooktime is tricky, because it depends on how hot your coals are. After 5-8 minutes, pull your iron out of the flame, find a decent light source, and, while holding your pie iron parallel to the ground, open one side to check the doneness. You want to lift the side of the iron that has been sitting on the coals, since that is the part that has been cooking. If you have a nice grilled cheese sandwich-style sear, close your iron, and put it back on the coals on the other side.

-Once your pie is done, things get slightly tricky. Have a plate ready on a flat surface. Hold your pie iron over the plate, and open both sides slowly to pop out your sandwich.

Campfire Pies

-When it’s dessert time, butter your pie iron.

-Position your bread, then add a few spoonfuls of pie filling.

-The cooktime is about the same, maybe a little less. Be sure to check it often and flip halfway through.

-Enjoy your dessert!

Campfire Pies

One safety note: Be very, very, very careful where you place your pie irons while they are still hot but not in use! Campfires generally take place in the dark, and pie irons unfortunately do not glow in the dark or light up. My group of friends has resorted to a designated pie iron area, where all pie irons live if they are not on the fire being used. Trust me, you do not want to add a hospital visit to your fun holiday weekend because someone burned themselves badly. And it should go without saying that children should be very carefully supervised while using pie irons. To be safe, the wooden handles are the only portion of the pie iron that should be considered safe to touch.

Do you have any Memorial Day weekend traditions? What kind of campfire pie are you most excited to try first?

Celebrating Presidents’ Day with Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

Celebrating Presidents’ Day with Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

Presidents’ Day is right around the corner, and we’ve got the best treat for you! Not that there’s ever a bad time for cake, but Presidents’ Day is the perfect excuse to whip up this masterpiece that Claire is about to share with us (we definitely trust Claire’s cake-making abilities).  It looks SO GOOD. Go ahead and veto any other dessert plans you’ve got for this long weekend, because Claire has issued an executive order to make Abe Lincoln’s favorite cake! Give us cake, Claire, or I’ll keep making terrible presidential puns!

It’s time for another installment of “What’s the Weather Like at Claire’s?” Well, I’ll tell you; it’s just beautiful. When my mom comes to visit, it always rains. She came out here for Christmas and stayed for a few weeks to escape the Michigan winter, so of course it rained the whole time. But now, she’s gone home, and the rain is gone with her, and spring has decided to come early. I don’t think we’re quite ready to see the rain go, but I’m never one to sniff at a sunny day. At the very least, we’ll have a nice few weeks of green everywhere before the summer hits and it all turns brown again. More importantly, though, while my mom was out here, she bought me my first Bundt pan! Even though I think Bundt cakes are pretty boring, I’ve been itching to use my pan since I got it, and I thought I’d share the experience with you.

Thanks to my job at the bank, I get to take advantage of bank holidays, and oddly enough, my new Bundt pan got me thinking about this next one. Even though I’m pretty sure Presidents’ Day is actually our nation’s commemoration of George Washington’s birth, I’ve always had a sweet spot for Abe Lincoln, and his birthday is coming up on the 12th, so I’m focusing on that one instead.

I’ve had this cake recipe bookmarked for a couple of years, and I can’t think of a more appropriate time to bust it out than Presidents’ Day.

The story behind this cake, as I understand it, is that Mary Todd baked it for Abraham during their courtship, and he liked it so much, she continued to make it for him throughout their marriage. The Lincoln Home Museum’s website claims that it was Honest Abe’s favorite dessert, but the origin story for the recipe varies depending on who tells it, which sort of suggests to me that it might not be true. Be that as it may, it is a charming story, and it has convinced me to make a cake that looks sort of boring on paper, but actually surprised me in real life, so I choose to believe in it.

Mary Todd Lincoln is often portrayed by historians as some kind of ball-busting, crazy she-devil, but the more I think about it, the more I assume that that’s only because she was a smart, go-getter of a lady in a time when it was very unpopular for ladies to be smart or go-getters. Other accounts depict her as a tender and loving wife, supportive of her husband from the rocky start to his legal career and through his war-torn presidency. While I baked, I imagined Mary Todd Lincoln in the kitchen at the White House, baking sweets for her sweet, and that idea is pretty charming too.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

(Recipe from Lincoln’s Table by Donna D. McCreary, adapted by Janice Cooke Newman)

  • 1 cup of almond meal, packed and slightly heaping
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectionary sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan. Don’t be like me; tap out most of the flour so your cake doesn’t have a film over it when it comes out of the pan. Sift flour and baking powder 3 times. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until it is fluffy. Carefully add the flour mixture to the butter in three parts, alternating with the milk. Stir in almond meal and vanilla, and beat well. Your batter will be pretty thick at this point.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then very gently fold them into the batter. Don’t rush this process and stir all the air out of the eggs. You want to fold until they are just incorporated, so the batter is light and airy. Pour it into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Presidents' Day Cake

Turn the cake out on a wire rack and cool. When it’s completely cool, sift confectionery sugar over the top to make it pretty. I served my cake with a small scoop of plain, sweet cream ice cream and rhubarb preserves, but cut fruit and cream or a simple glaze or icing would be lovely as well.

Presidents' Day Cake

This cake is exceptionally moist and flavorful. The crust on the outside makes for a great bite against the soft, gently sweet crumb inside. It was a much better cake than I expected, though I admit, I had set my expectations low. Like Mary Todd, I now think Bundt cakes have been falsely given a bum rap. This cake is a perfect food analogy for Mary Todd; a hard exterior, but tender and sweet inside. This Presidents’ Day, let’s forget about George Washington and instead think about Abe, taking a break from drafting the Emancipation Proclamation, lovingly holding his wife’s hand, and telling her, “Mary, this is your best cake yet!”

Presidents' Day Cake