Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Rustic Tarts with Whipped Cream Frosting

I spotted some beautiful looking rhubarb the other day at a farm, and bought some to make some strawberry rhubarb pie with.  After careful consideration, however, I decided to make something a little smaller since Clint has never had rhubarb anything, and I knew I couldn't eat a whole pie by myself if he didn't like it.  So, this recipe from Dinner With Julie provided the inspiration for my tarts.  I used different crust than she did, since I have a good recipe from the 1950 Betty Crocker's Cook Book for homemade pie crust that is pretty simple.  Also, I adjusted Julie's recipe to correspond with the amount of strawberries and rhubarb that I had on hand.  Then, I topped it off with whipped cream frosting - Delicious!

Pie Crust (one 8 or 9 inch crust):

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
2 tbs water

Mix salt and flour.  Cut in half the butter until mixture looks like meal.  Cut in second half of butter until mixture looks like big peas.  Sprinkle with water one tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with forrk until all the flour is moistened.  Gather dough together into a ball.  I usually have to add in another tablespoon of water, and it still seems really dry, but when you start to gather it up into a ball, it will turn into pie crust dough, I promise!  Roll out on lightly floured surface.  Cut into several smaller circles.

Strawberry Rhubarb Filling:
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 egg beaten (optional)
sugar or coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)

In large bowl, mix strawberries and rhubarb.  In a small bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch until lump-less.  Toss sugar and cornstarch with strawberries and rhubarb until coated.

Put a spoonful of strawberry rhubarb filling in the middle of each pie crust circle, leaving about an inch of empty pie crust all the way around.  Fold the pie crust over the filling to create an edge.

If you want, brush the edge with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 or until fruit is tender and crust is golden.

Whipped Cream Frosting:

(You definitely don't need this much frosting for the tarts, but the extra always gets eaten around here as a topping for . . . well, anything sweet!)

1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

Place the mixing bowl, whisk, cream cheese and heavy cream in the freezer for about ten minutes to chill.

With the whisk attachment, mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.  While the cream cheese mixture is still beating, slowly add in the heavy cream.  Continue beating until it holds a stiff peak.

You can use it right away, but the flavor is better if it's allowed to mellow a while, or even overnight.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Strawberries Galore!

We have had such a late season here in the valley that we have finally finished putting up the last of this years strawberries (I think).  We have about 12 quarts of whole frozen strawberries, 8 pints of freezer jam, 12 half pints of strawberry vanilla jam, and 2 pints of strawberry syrup.  Plus, we've eaten plenty of fresh strawberries with cream and I made some rustic strawberry rhubarb tarts (recipe coming).  Yum!

Most of our strawberries came from our CSA at Hentze Family Farm, just outstide Junction City, but we also did some u-pick at an organic co-op, and got one flat from a couple kids selling from their family farm.

We like to freeze berries whole so that we can use them in smoothies throughout the year.  We spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and pop them into the freezer that way.  When they're frozen solid, we bag them up.  That way, they're frozen individually, not in a giant clump.

Fresh Strawberries with Cream

This is the best whipped cream frosting recipe.  It tastes like fresh whipped cream but is sturdy enough to pipe onto a cake and won't droop overnight.  In fact, I used it on Clint's birthday cake and it stayed stiff for a few days (in the fridge) until we finished the cake.  It does taste best after allowing to mellow for a while in the fridge, though. (Recipe Coming Soon).

For the strawberry vanilla jam, I just added 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract in as part of the required amount of strawberries in a normal cooked strawberry jam recipe.  It jelled up nicely and tastes amazing!  For the freezer jam, we just do the low sugar box of pectin (the pink box) and follow the freezer jam recipe that comes with it.  The syrup was supposed to be jam without pectin, but I couldn't get it up to the required 220 degrees, so I put it in jars and called it syrup when it didn't jell up.  Oh well!  I'm sure it will still taste good : )


This post submitted to the Homestead Barn Hop.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday Threads - Embellished Onsie

I've had a design in my mind for a while that I thought would look just adorable on a simple white shirt or onsie for a baby.  So, when my nephew turned one earlier this year, I knew exactly what I was going to make for him.  Also, a friend of mine just had a baby shower, so I whipped up another one for her. 

I have to admit, I think the second one turned out cuter than the first. I guess that's what happens when you have a little practice under your belt!

All you'd need is a blank onsie (of any colour), some embroidery floss (I used brown and green), and a needle.

I started with the middle seed, to make sure the design would be centered.

Then, to make sure my spacing would be even between all the seeds, I used my fingers to measure where the top of each seed would go in relation to the middle seed.

First the left. . .

Then the right. . . Notice how all the seeds are a little different?  That's a product of being hand made without a pattern.  I think it's part of the charm.

Once all the seeds and their roots were done, I switched to the green thread to do the progressive leaves.

The lettering is the most intimidating part for me.  Especially the lowercase ones - they're just so curvy!  Again, I started in the middle, to make sure it would all line up alright in the end.

I went toward the right, because that's how I write (like much of the english-writing world, I'm guessing).  That way, too, I only had to cut the thread a minimum number of times.

Then I went back to the middle "a" and worked my way toward the left to make sure the spacing was correct as I went.

The finished product!  I think it's pretty darn cute.  I think next time I make one, though, I'm going to do the embroidery on a square of non-knitted material to combat the wrinkling effect the stitching has on it.  Then, I'll just sew the whole square onto the onsie.  I think it would look pretty cute on a contrasting coloured background. . . Maybe blue for boys or pink for girls.  OR!  Light green or brown to compliment the colour theme already established.  Of course, plain white would work just as well. . . but with contrasting thread to really make the square an element of the design.

Anyway!  I think I might have gotten a little carried away there!  Hope you enjoyed the design!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Earth Construction Techniques

As promised, I will share some of what I did in school with everyone.  I thought it would be fun to start off with a multi-weekend class I took last spring.  We had a visiting professor from South America who knew a lot about earth construction techniques, so he led a small class in building three different types of walls:  rammed earth, wattle-and-daub, and adobe.

I only got pictures on the last day of class, so I can only show you the finished products, but let me tell you, it was fun!  I think the most fun part (other than seeing the finished product) was mixing the dirt, sand, straw, and water with our feet.  It was really cold at first, but then your feet got numb, so it was fine.

We left a portion of each wall unfinished so later admirer's could see how they were constructed. 

Finishing up the adobe wall.
See how big the adobe blocks are!

The adobe was the neatest, I think.  We had to make the bricks and let them cure for a few weeks before we could assemble them into a wall.  The wall is two adobe bricks thick and then is covered with a layer of mud.  If this were actually an adobe building, it would need to be re-coated with mud every year to keep it from disintigrating.  With how thick it is, and the insulating properties of dirt, adobe structures are very good at staying cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather.  No wonder it was so common in the Southwestern desert!

Putting the last coat of lime plaster over the wattle and daub wall.
This wall was both the rammed earth wall (the lower portion, without the lime plaster), and the wattle and daub wall (the upper part, with they grey lime plaster).  Wattle and daub is the technique that the early pilgrims primarliy used when they arrived in the U.S.  It basically is a web of sticks woven togther and then plastered with several coats of mud.  By using lime on the last coat, we hoped to prolong the life of our wattle and daub wall because like adobe, without regular re-plasterings of mud, it will eventually disintigrate.  Infact, that is exactly the problem the pilgrims were having with the harsh New England weather.  The driving winds and rains would literally tear the walls apart, prompting the pilgrims to cover their walls with wood clapboards, thus creating the type of house you think of when you think about early America.

The finished rammed earth and wattle and daub wall,
with the layers revealed.

Rammed earth is another technique that has been used a lot over the ages and is the one that is really making a comeback in popular architecture today because it is easily mixed with concrete to make a structure that is up to code.  Rick Joy is probably the most well-known architect that employs rammed earth.