Happy 4th of July! This week my inbox was flooded with recipes for foods in every shade of red, white, and blue, but one in particular caught my eye. It was a blueberry and strawberry rhubarb pie that resembled a flag. The recipe was from Tiny Pies in Austin. I haven’t previously been there, but you can bet I will be sure to stop by on my next visit to Austin!
I adapted the recipe slightly, and used all strawberries instead of a mix of strawberries and rhubarb, because I couldn’t find rhubarb anywhere. It was fun to make, easy as pie really.
For blueberry filling: In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, and cornstarch. Add sugar mixture to blueberries and mix gently until thoroughly combined.
For strawberry filling: In a medium bowl, combine strawberries and orange juice. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, and cornstarch. Add sugar mixture to strawberries and mix gently until thoroughly combined.
Place one pie crust in a 9" pie pan. Add blueberry filling to left corner of pie, then add strawberry filling to remaining area. Cut stars out of half of the second pie crust using a small star cookie cutter, and cut free-hand wavy stripes out the remaining pie crust. Add stars on top of blueberry filling, add stripes on top of strawberry filling.
Bake until fruit is juicy and bubbling, and crust is light golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool, allowing fruit juices to thicken.
I used pastry cutters to keep the filling in place, but it really wasn’t necessary
Stars and stripes
My lovely assistant
I also made some Rice Krispie Treats for the holiday:
See the red and blue cereal? That’s Fruity Pebbles. While I sat waiting for a batch of muffins the other morning, I sorted out blue and red ones for my special treats. Pretty sure I’m gonna want those 20 minutes back at the end of my life. Especially since my dog Jasper ate most of them off the counter when no one was looking. He apparently confused Rice Krispie Treats with Dog Treats.
This darkroom timer was an estate sale find. It looked vintage to me, but I was surprised to find you can still purchase these new for about $200. I thought it would make an awesome kitchen timer.
Tick tick tick. Like every year, the month of May has felt like one big countdown to the last day of school. This year is a little different, in that in a few hours my son will “graduate” from middle school. In my day, you “finished” middle school, as required by the state, and went to high school. My children, however, have “graduated” from day care, elementary school, and now middle school. The graduation ceremonies have become more elaborate with each level of education, and today’s festivities are no exception, beginning with the ceremony and ending with an over-the-top party put together by a bunch of well-meaning helicopter parents.
So as of 5:00 today, I will have two high-schoolers. I haven’t enjoyed the middle school years, and hated them when I was a middle-schooler. I always said that if I was given the opportunity to live to 100, but as a condition I had to repeat being 13, I would have to turn it down. Yet, as I picked my son up at school yesterday, I realized that maybe I’m not quite as ready for this as I thought I was. It won’t be long now before when people ask me if I have kids, I’ll say, “Yes, but they’re grown.”
For now, though, I’m looking forward to the summer break from homework, uniforms, packing school lunches, early mornings, practices, rehearsals, concerts, game schedules, school projects, and exams. May is always hectic, with all of the year-end activities and final exams. This time of year it’s hard for me to find time to do anything, much less cook.
Sometimes, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I can be a little snobbish. With a few exceptions (for example, salsa and Rao’s marinara sauce), I prefer homemade. When I was home for over a month with my broken ankle, I watched a lot of daytime Food Network, and Sandra Lee was one of the daytime regulars. Oh, how I hated her show! I called it Sandra Lee Semi-Insane, and if I ever use the word “tablescape” in a sentence, please shoot me. The show reinforced my commitment to cooking from scratch. So when I see a cake recipe with 2 or 3 ingredients, and one of those ingredients is a cake mix, I usually ignore it. But then my friend Linda offered me a slice of a cake made with just two ingredients — canned pineapple and angel food cake mix. It was warm out of the oven and it was delicious.
The beginning of an easy and delicious cake
So I searched for the recipe on the interwebs and found it on about a million sites. Where have I been? There were lots of variations, too — add shredded coconut, rum or vanilla extract, lots of frosting ideas. Several people mentioned to mix it in a large bowl because the batter “expands.” They were not kidding! I think you could probably strap a few boxes of angel food cake mix to yourself and use them as a personal flotation device.
What makes angel food cake mix foam up like crazy? Sodium lauryl sulfate is the secret ingredient.
A whipping aid? Oh please! I’ll show you a whipping aid! According to my research, sodium lauryl sulfate is the same ingredient found in soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste that makes them foam up.
Inspired by the darkroom timer and the ticking of the middle school clock, I made the cake with canned pineapple, angel food cake mix, and 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut. You can use other fruits (like frozen blueberries), but the acid in the pineapple reacts with the leaveners to help the cake rise — the other fruits will result in a much flatter cake. The cake came out perfect, and my husband loved it. It’s fine on its own, but is even better with a dollop of whipped topping. Yep, I’m keeping a box of angel food cake mix in the pantry — right next to the Ghirardelli brownie mix!