Strawberries Need I say more?


This past week wine club met.  It is hard for all of us to meet in the summer with vacations and busy schedules but half the group managed.

Pam brought dessert.  Don’t judge it by my photo. It was the most delicious strawberry tart.  The crust was flaky and divine.  The strawberries, one word yum.  She is sharing the story behind its conception and the recipe……

When life gives you lemons….. make strawberry pie.

If I ever get the privilege of returning to Provence, I truly believe I will bring an empty suitcase just to fill with their amazing confitures (jams).  You don’t taste sugar; you just taste the wonderful, picked at the precise moment, fruit from whence they came.  I’ve tried to find something close to that here at home, but nothing came close.  So, I decided to dust off my old Ball Blue Book and canning jars, and make some myself.  During peak strawberry season, I took off a day from work and picked strawberries – way too many strawberries, actually.  I only wanted 1 batch of jam so that I would be encouraged to jam my way through all of the summer fruits.  After the first batch which I made following the instructions in my trusty Blue Book (but adding low-sugar pectin and drastically cutting down on the sugar), I had 9 jars of exactly what I wanted – Spring in a jar.  Since that only used up half of my strawberries (I told you I got carried away), I decided to make another batch to give away.  This time I followed the instructions on the low-sugar pectin box to the letter, and the jam didn’t completely set.  That’s 8 jars of partially set jam.

I had planned on reprocessing the jam (Surejell has instructions on failed setting) but, before I could do that, I had a couple of guests over for a casual dinner which meant I suddenly needed a dessert.  My friends have heard me say over and over that ‘I can make something out of that’ so, with still more strawberries sitting in my refrigerator, I make strawberry tarts using the less-than-set jam as the liquid for the tarts.  It worked out so well that I used the same method the next weekend when the Wine Women got together.  So, when life gives you lemons in the form of unset jam, make strawberry pie!

Pam’s tried and true pie crust recipe:
2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur since it’s lower in protein and doesn’t get gummy)
2/3 cup shortening, cut into small chunks and chilled in the freezer for about 15 minutes
1 tsp. Salt
8 or so Tbls of cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Using a pastry blender or 2 knives (1 in each hand in kind of a scissor motion), cut the shortening into the flour until it’s pretty well distributed with some pea-sized chunks in with the smaller pieces.  Add 6 Tbls of water and toss with a butter knife (I find that it moistens the flour without yet making a dough).  Keep adding water 1 Tbls at a time until there’s no more un-moistened flour, then gather the moistened flour and need just enough to make a dough ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (can freeze up to 3 months and thaw when ready to use).

If your making a 1 crust pie or tart, you’ll only need half of the dough.  Roll out what you need and freeze the rest.
Variations: you can add fresh herbs like thyme to the flour to make a savory dough for something like a tomato tart, or you can add sugar to make a sweeter dough.

For the Strawberry tart:
Roll out half of a pie crust recipe to about 1/8 thick.  Line a tart pan with a removable bottom with the dough.  Cover with pie weights (or an old back of black beans which I use over and over), and bake at 425 degrees until set (about 15 minutes).  Remove the weights/beans, and back another 5 minutes to completely back the bottom.  If your sides have started to brown more than you like already, cover those with foil to ovoid over browning.  Cover the bottom with halved strawberries, and pour partially set strawberry jam (it took close to 2 8-ounce jars for my tart pan).  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until bubbling.  Let stand until room temperature to set the filling.

I served this with whipped cream with a pinch of dried cardamom.  I hope you like it!


It’s Not Easy Being a Green Drink

There is nothing a cocktail can’t fix.  That is what the napkin says and I believe it.  It was breakfast on our cabin weekend and to ensure the St Patrick’s Day festivities continued into Saturday, the midori mimosa was served. The ingredients are in the picture below.  So simple and yet so great.  You start with about 2 ounces of midori and about the same of orange juice.  Then you add about four ounces of champagne.

With that a breakfast casserole was served that contained shredded potatoes, corned beef, shredded onions and cabbage and of course eggs.  Why can’t breakfast always be this good?


Let’s Go Crazy with Toppings

So I promised that I would share some of the pizza ideas that we came up with at the cabin in honor of St Patrick’s Day.  The number one pizza was the Reuben since corned beef is the traditional food eaten on St Patrick’s day.  But from all the reading I have done this tradition started here in America. Irish did make corned beef but it wasn’t the traditional St Patrick’s day meal.  That tradition started here in America.  When the Irish immigrants came to America corned beef was a relatively less expensive meat and so a boiled dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes became the new tradition.

This pizza has sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, and swiss cheese and of course don’t forget some thousand Island dressing.  But the most important part of the pizza is of course the dough.  I am giving you the link to my blog post spotlighting Pam’s most amazing dough.  She substituted about 1/4 to 1/2 cup rye flour just to make it authentic but you can add as much or as little as you wish. The secret is the pizza crust.

Erin Go Braugh at the Cabin


Wine Women of West Virginia had their cabin weekend starting on St Patrick’s Day.  We unanimously agreed that we had to change our name. The reasoning behind the name change is we no longer just drink wine. To be honest we never just drank wine but our main focus was wine.  Our five year mission was to seek out new bottles of wine, to discover wines other than chardonnay and merlot, to boldly go where we had not gone before.  Ok so that sounds a little like Star Trek but it works.

So back to our name change. It is a work in progress.  I was thinking the Wise Women of West Virginia.  What do you all think?

Our five year mission was a success.  We found many, many, many wines that we liked and have a list of ones we love. In the coming posts I will spotlight the really good ones. But women can not live by bread and wine alone.  So we have a new mission to create drinks with spirits and when I say spirits I mean vodka, gin and whiskey!  Some of those drinks were introduced this weekend.  The theme was green.  It’s not easy being green and it’s not easy making green drinks that taste good but I do believe our resident bartenders came up with two very good ones which I will share in a later post.

Aside from drinking being at the cabin helps all of us fill our energy tanks.  Mine was exceptionally low.  But as we drove up the mountain, I could feel the tension draining.  For me there is nothing that compares to the energy the mountains hold.  Being March the weather was very unsettled.  One day it snowed which made my heart sing.  Looking out onto the tree lined mountains I watched the snow gently falling.  The smell of the air was crisp.  I think snow smells great.  People think I am crazy when I say that but when it snows the air just smells different. Whatever, I loved it.  We made a fire and sat around and laughed with a glass of wine in our hand.  So Great.

One thing that was a little disappointing was that Saturday steak night was canceled due to rain.  Torrential ran so lighting a fire in the fire pit was so out of the question.  But we did manage to have our Friday Pizza night and there were some new and fantastic pizza creations.  I will need to pull together the ingredients and share.

Super Bowl Sunday


It is Superbowl Sunday. In my house Super Bowl Sunday rates right up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas morning.  Part of the whole Super Bowl experience is of course the food.  Originally I was going to make loaded nachos. I changed my mind. I am a Gemini so I can do that.

In my head I heard the wine club’s resident pizza maker Pam.  What she said to me was make a nacho pizza.

It just so happens I had pizza dough in my fridge.  I also had velveeta, salsa, ground beef, peppers, cheddar/jack cheese and lime tortilla chips. I sauteed the ground beef and then I combined the velveeta with the salsa.  I cooked the crust until it started to brown and then I spread the melted velveeta/salsa.  Next came the ground beef, peppers and finally I topped it with the shredded cheddar jack cheese.  I put it back into the oven and baked it till the cheese was melted and the toppings were hot.  The last thing was crushed lime tortilla chips which I crushed and added after the pizza came out of the oven. It gave the pizza a little something something.

Pizza is so forgiving. You just go with your gut and create your pie.  No recipe needed.  My kind of cooking. It was really good!

Thanks Pam.  It was great talking in my head with you.  I think you would be proud of the final product.

Let me know what foods you had super bowl Sunday. I love trying new things.


An Unusual Side

onionsBy know I hope you have seen the other sides that were posted.  Pam has decided to weigh in with one of her own and here it is:

This may be one of the more unusual side dishes for the holidays, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.  It goes well with poultry or beef and will surely get your guests wondering where onions have been all of these holidays.  I adapted this recipe from Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American cookbook.

Ragout of Onions
Serves 4-6
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 stick butter for the bread crumbs
1 stick butter for the onions
2 cups very small onions, blanched and peeled
4 large yellow onions, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin
2 Tbls. flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste (personally, I think more is better with this dish)
1/2 cup good brown gravy
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard (such as Grey Poupon)
Fry the bread crumbs in the pan with the butter.  Cook just until they are golden brown, stirring all the while.  Remove from heat.
Melt the butter in a large skillet and add both kinds of onions.  When they are a light brown, sprinkle with the flour and stir until the flour thickens the dish a bit.  Add the salt, pepper, brown gravy, and mustard.  Bring to a simmer.  At this point, you can make 1 day ahead; cover bread crumbs and onions separately and refrigerate.  Reheat in a 300 or 350 degree oven (depending on what your other dishes require) until warmed through, about 15 minutes.  Serve with the bread crumbs on top.  If you reheated the dish, add the bread crumbs to the dish after it has warmed through and heat in the oven another 5 minutes.

On the Side from our Navy Mom


Growing up the number one requested side dish at our Thanksgiving table was Green Bean Casserole.  The tradition continued in my family and when it was my turn to host it was of course on our table.  It is still a family favorite.

It always amazes me how a dish with such few ingredients tastes so good.  In case you don’t know the history of the green bean casserole here it is.  Campbell’s soup company had a test kitchen in Camden, NJ. Dorcas Reilly was a home economist who worked there. In 1955 she started playing with ingredients and the casserole was born. Campbell Foods estimates that 40% of its Cream of Mushroom soup is purchased to make the green bean casserole.

Here is one of Mary Ellen’s favorite sides  “My personal favorite and several family members love the traditional Green Bean Casserole (mushroom soup & crunchy onions on top) but we’re adding roasted sweet potatoes this year as I love them and it’s so easy! Toss cubed sweet potatoes in a tsp of olive oil and salt/pepper and bake for 45 minutes on a baking rack (don’t bake on a I’ve used the butter infused oil but will experiment with other flavored oils this year.”

Just so that everyone has the original Green Bean Casserole recipe, see below:

  • 1 can Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup orCampbell’s® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup orCampbell’s® Healthy Request® Condensed Healthy Request® Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2cup milk
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 1 1/3 cups French’s® French Fried Onions

Just mix it all together  (but save 2/3 of the French Fried onion aside to sprinkle on top) in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and cook at 325 for 25 minutes or until casserole is hot and bubbly.  Top with remaining onions.

If your family is like mine there will be no leftovers.

It would be really great to hear what side dishes you serve at your Thanksgiving meal and if you serve green bean casserole?

The other question I have is if you ever have green bean casserole at another meal other than Thanksgiving?