Posts Tagged ‘favorite fall foods’

Suffering and Raspberry Pie

September 4, 2009

“Raspberry pie.  Mmmmm. This is why we suffer.”  My husband smiled in agreement and offered no sound, but for the ping of a fork deliberately released, quiet chewing and the delicate sound of savoring as his tongue pressed the roof of his mouth and coaxed the tastes to linger a little longer.  Luscious berries, buttery crust and the crescendos of tart and sour are a symphony of textures and tastes beyond compare. 

Although I detest self-disclosure or public confessional, the contrast of suffering and a perfect raspberry pie speaks to the power of this simple and elegant dessert.  I live in Northern Minnesota, where snow is harvested by the feet, cold is measured below zero and times occur when warmth cannot be obtained, even indoors.  Summer comes in July and leaves at the beginning of September before giving way to a rainy cold fall.  This leaves just enough time to get everything repaired and secured for the next winter. ‘Why do we continue to live here?’  This is a conversation I’ve had countless times with perfect strangers huddled under four layers of clothing, teeth chattering. So began the list of ‘Why we suffer.’

This part of the country offers some spectacular treats for those willing to endure the brutal extremes of the environment.  The Northern lights, deer and fawn grazing the back yard almost daily, bunnies too numerous to name, yesterday a black bear perched at the top of a tree and the occasional fiesty racoon are part of our urban family and on the list of  good reasons for ‘why we suffer.’    Nothing, but nothing beats the raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and rhubarb that grow in this region.  They are the unexpected gifts that gently persuade the people to inhabit this unconquered real estate. So out of this bountiful gift was born an elegant dessert– Raspberry Pie.

The simplicity of the ingredients calls out to the least experienced cook:  raspberries, brown sugar, corn starch, lemon peel–add crust.  Sigh.  The truth is that you don’t have to be a suffering Minnesotan to make such a culinary delight.  Thanks to the interstate trucking system and Pillsbury pie crust, you don’t even have to travel, learn to make grandma’s crust or become a food snob to enjoy.  This is the recipe: 

2 1/2 cups raspberries

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

lemon zest

 2 Tbs butter

1 egg white mixed with 1 tsp water

Toss berries, sugar, cornstarch, a dash of salt and lemon zest  in a bowl.  Prepare crust according to package directions or use grandma’s crust recipe.  When the bottom crust is in place, brush with egg white, then pour fruit mixture into the crust. Cut butter into small squares and place all over the top of the pie before adding the top crust.  I prefer a lattice pie design for my raspberry pies.  Tip: Begin the lattice design with a giant x in the middle and it goes much smoother.  Usually, I take a little extra pie crust and cut out a heart for the top of the pie.  After all, love is the secret ingredient.

As you are scrambling to take advantage of the last fresh fruits and vegetables of the season, don’t forget to include plans to bake a fresh Raspberry Pie.  There is no excuse–even if you are not a foodie.  For me, these last freshly baked raspberry pies are a necessity–my early reward for suffering yet another cold Minnesotan winter.

Warm Cinnamony Buttery Banana Nut Muffin Oatmeal

August 10, 2009

My husband and I consume approximately 150 bowls of oatmeal a year, each. It is my all-time hands-down favorite breakfast food for flavor, fullness and nutrition. Naysayers, or in my case, “house guests” have entered my kitchen and poo-pooed the very idea of receiving a freshly prepared piping hot bowl of oatmeal.

“No thank you,” they say in their most naive and misinformed way, “I’ll just have some coffee.”
No, no, no. I resist the urge to argue, to persuade, to conjole.  None of it ever works. Instead I tempt them…
“I bet you have never had banana-nut-muffin oatmeal.”
“Nana nut oatmeal?” They say in an intrigued and small-child voice longing for it to be true like, “friendly pony,”  “fat-free icecream,” or “tax incentive.”

It is not their fault. Oatmeal has been slandered in the media, ignored by hollywood trend setters and quite frankly destroyed by well-intending mothers. Yes, I said it. ‘It’s mom’s fault.’ The public has been lied to and the only recollection of oatmeal they have is of an orphan’s mushy meal or the sad pre-packaged bowls of a working-parents childhood.

“Yes,” I coo careful not to spook them, “…warm, cinnamony, buttery banana nut muffin oatmeal.” I comfort them, pour them a cup coffee and serve them,  in their own words, “the best oatmeal ever.” What’s the secret?  How could oatmeal go unnoticed, unrecognized and under appreciated for so long?

First, you must buy the correct oatmeal. Quaker Oats “Old Fashioned” oatmeal is the only kind. Next, follow package directions:   for example, one portion combines 1/2 cup oats, 1 cup boiling water and a dash of salt. The oatmeal needs to boil for approximately 5 minutes. During this five minutes magic can happen. Throw a non-stick skillet on medium and toast some walnuts quickly. Mash a ripened banana, then mix it into the oatmeal with cinnamon. Once the water has boiled off remove oatmeal from heat, add a bit of vanilla extract, ladle into bowl, top with a bit of butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, cover with toasted walnuts and then add a little half and half to the edge of the bowl. The smell of cinamon permeates the kitchen and a piping hot breakfast snakes at the air making your toes twitch on cool tile in anticipation. That is the perfect banana nut muffin oatmeal.  Now, I am trusting you to use the sugar and big fat items in small portions. Add them at end to control the amount and keep things reasonable. Now, that your tummy is happy, here is the really good news.

Oatmeal can fight cancer, reduce bad cholesterol, reduce your likelihood to get heart disease, make you feel full longer and is a good source of protein. Remember to be creative with the oatmeal. Some of my favorite combinations are: green apple and pecans; banana and peanut butter; cranberries,apricots and almonds.  The dried fruits expand when you add them to the boiling water in the last five minutes and help to complete your masterpiece.
Now you know better, live better with flavorful, nutritious, piping hot oatmeal. 

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