Tiny pies!

I had one little ball of dough left over from making my strawberry-rhubarb pie, so I decided to experiment with some little pies baked in a muffin tin. I’d seen it on notmartha before, so I knew it was possible.

For the filling I just mixed some diced strawberries with white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch until it looked about the right consistency. I rolled out the dough with my hands instead of a rolling pin because at that thinness it was really sticking to the rolling pin.

The bottom line is, when you’re making a “pie” that small, it’s a lot harder to make it look good. The dough tears, your fingers are too big to shape it correctly… But overall I think they turned out great. I cut out some little heart shapes and made some little lattices. Then topped it with sugar in the raw.

I think they baked about 20 minutes at 375.

The best part? It’s hard to overdo it when your pie is tee-tiny. Even if you had two it still wouldn’t be much.

I’m a legit gardener (thanks, rain)

Earlier this spring I planted a little flower garden on the side of our house. Thanks to Mike’s mom’s help last year, I had a pretty good idea how to do it. And it wasn’t rocket science — I just bought some pretty annuals, dug some holes, planted the plants and let Mike cover it all with mulch. I did have to water it a few times when we had some parched days. But soon enough we had more rain than we could handle, and those little plants took off.

Now I’ve got cosmos, vinca, and these pretty pink and white flowers from last year.

But what really excites me are the roses. They were already planted by previous tenants and then thoroughly abandoned. I finally got a clue and pruned them a few weeks ago, and then nervously awaited for the stubs of branches to grow back. And would you believe it, they did!

I got my first roses this week. They’re tiny, but pretty. And after tearing some of what I like to call “viny shit” out of the plants on the side of the house, they may actually start to bloom, too.

AND, I didn’t take a picture of this, but I believe a perennial we planted last year is blooming. It started as a very weed-like group of leaves, but I just had a feeling it was supposed to be there, so I didn’t rip it out.

Yup, I am pretty much ready for my green thumb now.

Tofu-Wild Rice Casserole

Over the weekend my sister graduated from college, and after the sweltering ceremony we all headed to a big buffet, which blessedly had plenty of vegetarian food. The very last item was a casserole made with different kinds of rice, tofu cubes, onions and red peppers. And even though it had been languishing there for a while by the time I got to it, I really liked it. So I tried to make it.

We have an abundance of wild rice in our cupboard, thanks to a few trips to northern Minnesota. I always forget it’s back there in a giant sealed jar, just waiting to be enjoyed, if only the cook had the patience to wait 45 minutes for it.

Fortunately, my experiment with this recipe — baking it in the oven with vegetable broth — worked beautifully. And it kept me from worrying about what stage of boiling over my pot was in.

It’s kind of hard to write this up as an exact recipe, so I’ll just tell you what I did.

I put a cup of brown rice and 3/4 cup of wild rice in a 9X13 casserole dish. Then I added about three cups of vegetable broth and a tablespoon of butter. I covered it up with foil and put it in a 375-degree oven to bake. I sauteed about half an onion and half a red pepper (cut into strips) in a little oil on the stovetop until the onions turned translucent. Then I set them aside and fried some tofu rectangles (maybe an inch and a half long and 1/4-inch thick) in more oil. After about 45 minutes, I added the onions, peppers and tofu to the rice, and about a cup more broth. I baked it all another 45 minutes, then seasoned it with salt and pepper and called it a casserole. It still seemed to be lacking something in flavor, so I added a little more butter and salt at the end. Overall, it was really delicious, and full of healthy grains and tofu.

Did I have pie afterwards? Of course.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This pie is a thing of beauty.

I couldn’t even eat a piece after I made it last night because it was too pretty to cut.

The recipe is from a recent post on Smitten Kitchen. The writer talks about how pies can “smell fear,” which I think is hilarious and true. I’ve only made pie crust by myself once before, and it actually went really well. But this time, using the food processor, everything clumped all together, and I think my ingredients were too warm. When I tried to arrange the lattice strips, a lot of them broke, so there was no chance I was going to get an actual weave out of it. Still, I think it turned out to be a damn good pie.

Maybe today I can bring myself to eat it. If I have to.

Oops, I screwed up the recipe

I must have been a little out of it today. I was cooking dinner after helping a co-worker move boxes in the heat, and I partially screwed up the rhubarb muffins I was working on. (Rhubarb muffins, by the way, are amazing.) I had everything stirred up, muffin tin filled with batter and just had to add the cinnamon-sugar topping. I mixed up the ingredients, sprinkled a little bit on each muffin. Then turned to put something in the microwave for the other recipe I was working on (veggie burritos) and discovered the little dish of butter that was supposed to mix into the cinnamon-sugar. Nice.

So I poured a teeny bit of butter on top of each muffin thinking it might somehow blend together. But when I pulled them out of the oven they were basically muffins with cinnamon-sugar spilling over the edges and a strangle looking brown spot in the middle of each one.

Fortunately, this didn’t affect the taste in any way, and we gobbled them up in a matter of seconds. I just felt really dumb for leaving out that step, and for the fact that only four of them turned out right. I had already had to improvise about half a cup of buttermilk and half a cup of whole wheat flour I didn’t have. But I guess that’s what I love about cooking — you can change the recipe, you can improvise when you’re down an ingredient or two, and if the stars are aligned, you can still come out with a pan full of tasty muffins. The burritos, despite being baked in the wrong size pan, were good, too.

Loving: lemon ice cubes

This is a genius idea. I probably should have thought of it.

I was browsing old blog posts (as I am far behind reading anyone’s blog but my own lately) and I found this little gem via notmartha. When you have extra lemons (and I always seem to have at least 8 extra lemons when I buy a bag of them for something), cut them into wedges and put them in the freezer. Next time you’re having a glass of water or tea, just pop one in your glass. You get the lemony flavor and the cooling properties. I love it.

Plus, if you really needed a lemon to cook with you could probably thaw a wedge or two or nuke it for a few seconds.