I don’t have too much to say other than it’s high time we had some more oatmeal-type recipes on this site.

Isn’t that introduction enough?

I probably eat oatmeal at least 4 days out of 7 each week. It’s a bit of a combination of 1) it’s easy and 2) it’s healthy. Most days though, I dig into the store-bought packets, but every once and a while I like to make a nice batch of small-sized oatmeals because let’s face it – anything you make at home just tastes better. Oatmeal isn’t any different. Plus, a recipe for oatmeal is sorta like a recipe for granola bars – you can modify it almost any way you want and it will still taste good, so that way you never get bored with the same ol’ thing every single morning.

I get that some of you just don’t like oatmeal. That’s fine, I suppose, but I’ve always been an oatmeal-kinda person. For some, the texture is just too gooey, which never makes sense, because those same people seem to just love grits. For others, it just isn’t their thing. But for me? Breakfast is one of those times that I really just can’t be bothered to whip up fancy stuff.

Plus, I like to start my day eating decent ingredients, even if I end it by shoving a bowl of ramen into my face.

In my land, that’s called balance. And last time I checked, a little balance in life is never a bad thing.

Baked Fruit & Nut Oatmeal
adapted from Inquiring Chef via Pinterest; makes 8 individual servings

time commitment: 45 minutes

printable version

1 & 1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c nuts, coarsely chopped (I’ve used walnuts and almonds)
1 & 1/2 c fresh or frozen fruit (I’ve used frozen blueberries and fresh strawberries)
1 & 1/2 c milk (any type; I’ve used soy and almond milk with good results)
1 large egg (lightly beaten)
2 T honey or any other sweetener
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small bowl combine the oatmeal, nuts, and fruit. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, honey, cinnamon, and salt until well combined.

Fill 8 small oven-safe containers (or an 8×8 baking dish) evenly with the oatmeal mixture. Pour the liquid evenly over the oats in each of the containers.

Place the containers on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the oats are crisp and golden.

Allow the oatmeal to cool slightly and serve warm.

Still Memorable

One year ago, I was sitting in a small corporate apartment in Cupertino, California, scanning Craigslist for a home in San Francisco. My husband had been here for two months already, having landed his dream job. The cats were here and getting settled, enjoying a little more sunlight than what was typical for Chicago this time of the year. Things were changing much more quickly than we had intended, that’s for sure.

But all that being said, I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. It was that “pee in your pants kind of excited” – know what I mean?! And one year later, I know for sure it was the best decision ever.

I think I knew that the second he accepted his job. I think I knew the year before that we could live in California. And ironically enough, after reading back through a past trip to wine country, I laughed at the fact that I’d suggested it then. Clearly, this was all meant to be.

And don’t get me wrong – I love North Carolina and I love Chicago. But this is home now. Sure, there have been adjustments made along the way. We’re outdoors more, we commute longer, we spend more money on wine, and we never ever worry about snow. We also miss many folks who are now even farther away, including our family. We see them all less than we’d like, but we try to make up for it in phone calls and internet face time and email. It’s not the same, but it is a good effort, and we get by with it.

This pudding is similar in that respect. It is a somewhat last-minute adjustment. I’d planned on making a roasted banana pudding for dessert this past Valentines day, but as per usual Whole Foods seemed to only carry ultra unripened ‘naners. So instead of making lackluster ‘naner puddin’, I picked up some strawberries instead, since they seem to always be in season out here. Hopefully they’ll be coming to a market near you soon, too.

With a couple of necessary changes, the puddin’ turned out to be pretty awesome, maybe even better than what I’d planned, when it came down to it. It’s a good example of how not going off of what’s written on paper worked – how taking a chance paid off in the end. And now, it’s not the same as hopping off to California, but it’s still memorable nonetheless.

Basil Balsamic Strawberry Pudding
inspired by Cooking Light; serves 4

time commitment: 2 hours (1 hour is for chilling the pudding)

printable version

1.5 lbs fresh strawberries, cut into thin slices
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 c skim milk
1/3 c sugar, divided
1/4 c basil, whole
1 T arrowroot powder or cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 T butter
1 t vanilla extract
6 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed
18 vanilla wafers, divided

pre-heat oven to 350.

Place strawberries on a sheet pan and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

Combine milk and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Add basil.

Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Gradually add hot milk mixture (removing basil beforehand) to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add half of the cooled strawberries, butter, and vanilla, stirring until butter melts. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture comes to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Fold half of whipped topping into pudding.

Spread 1/8 of the custard into the bottom of four single serving dishes or glasses. Top each with 2 vanilla wafers and distribute half of the remaining strawberries on top. Spoon the rest of the custard into the dishes over strawberries. Repeat procedure with 2 more wafers in each dish followed by the remaining strawberries. Distribute the remaining half of whipped topping evenly over the top of each. Crush remaining 2 wafers; sprinkle over top. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chilled.

Simply Refreshing

Years go by pretty quickly if you aren’t careful. Before you know it, you’ve been married for 5 years, and while it doesn’t sound like an extra-long time, it probably is when measured against marriages these days that last a year or two or often times much less, if you’re counting those drunken Vegas ventures.

Anniversaries for us usually equate to spending a quiet night together, just the two of us: dinner, a movie (that I always fall asleep to), and a card. We aren’t big gifters, but we acknowledge the day and make sure we’re extra-nice to one another. You know – no screaming or food fights or whatnot.

Since 5 years seemed like a bigger “accomplishment” than the prior 4, we once had big plans of spending a couple of weeks back in Italy – a week in Florence and perhaps another week north, somewhere a little more secluded than the moped-ridden streets of our favorite city. It seemed appropriate since we’d met there 10 years ago this summer, appropriate and we are long overdue for an international trip. But stuff happened, ya know? We moved across the country, we got new jobs which means limited vacation, and I must admit – we live in a pretty cool new area, so we weren’t that crazy about a big trip right now anyways.

So the Italian countryside got, well, the boot. But never fear – we still have plans for the ‘big event’. Last night, we bought lightbulbs from Home Depot, and that started off our wild and crazy weekend. But for serious, I did get some gorgeous strawberry-colored flowers, which is always fun in an office full of girls. I think we’ll take it easy on today, our actual anniversary, but first thing Saturday we’re headed to Sonoma where we’ll do none other than one of our favorite things: drink wine. We also have reservations at a fancy restaurant, and for the second time, we’ll see just how easy it is to hop into the car and head to wine country.

But at the end of the day, I’m just thankful to be married to this guy. Yes, he stresses over lightbulbs and yes, he plays video games with headphones on, but aside from those minor details, he’s nothing short of awesome. And being married to someone like that, for 5 years and hopefully 5,000 more, is easy to explain: it’s just refreshing, plain and simple.

Strawberry Soda
makes just enough for 2

printable version

time commitment: 5 minutes

8 strawberries
2 sprigs of fresh mint
juice from 1/2 of a small orange
2 T raw sugar (turbinado)
1 can club soda

in a large glass or shaker, combine strawberries through sugar. using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed together. add a couple of ice cubes and the can of club soda (if you don’t have enough room for the whole can, just add what you can) and stir until drink is cold.

pour drink through a strainer into two tall glasses, and if you have more club soda, feel free to add the rest here, tossing in an ice cube if needed. voila!

Better Late Than Never

Man, long weekends really do fly by, don’t they? For those of us with so-called regular 8-5’s, a standard Saturday-Sunday weekend never seems like long enough – no matter how much you like your job. For whatever reason, the few and far between holiday ‘long weekends’ never seem much better, once it’s all said and done.

Except for this weekend – we seemed to cram quite a bit o’ fun into those three days; a tradition I think I can stick to easily, quite honestly.

The weekend started off with a trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market with Chris and my fellow SF transplant via Chicago friend, Judy. While I do adore Chicago’s Green City Market, I have to vote for SF’s markets, hands down, but given the plethora of fresh produce in these parts it’d be hard not to. For starters, I found a stand indoors that specializes in mushrooms and guess what they also brought on the field trip to the market – ramps! Holy hell it took a lot for me to hold it together, but I did – just barely.

Needless to say, ramps were purchased and grilled this weekend. But also! There are fresh oysters at the end of a mere 60-minute line. You don’t get that at most markets, do ya? Probably overpriced, but totally worth it that day.

Saturday ended with an x-box date with Jennifer & Jon (laugh it up, but it is totally awesome), and Sunday was pretty much grill/beer/friends fest. Also, a lot of youtube videos. There was plenty of solid food that will be discussed in a matter of time, but at the forefront of my mind is ice cream.

Oh, right. Saturday also consisted of a trip to The Haight, and Ben & Jerry’s. But that’s not the ice cream that’s on my mind, you see.

It seems I’m grabbing up all of Spring’s produce at the last minute: ramps, strawberries, rhubarb, even fava beans. I figure: better late than never, right? Things stick around a little bit longer out here, and I had to remind myself that even though the produce is more prevalent, it will eventually run out – even here. I got lucky with the ramps, and the rhubarb doesn’t seem to be quite as abundant as I’d expected, either.

Nonetheless, find some I did, and with it I put the ol’ ice cream maker to work for the first time this year. Eating homemade ice cream always leaves me feeling a little bit sheepish, kicking myself in the ass for not making more frozen treats than I do.

Because when your holiday Monday is spent by taking a 2-hour bike trip through the park and to the beach (the beach!) and back, finished off by lounging in the park with a husband, a magazine, and a beer, there’s only one thing that’s missing from that equation, and that’s a pint of fresh, homemade ice cream.

Strawberry-Basil-Rhubarb Ice Cream
adapted from Cooking Light, May 2010; serves 8

time commitment: less than 1 hour for preparing ice cream + at least 8 hours to freeze afterwards

printable version

2 1/2 c reduced fat milk
3/4 c half-and-half
1 handful of fresh basil (~1/2 c)
1 c sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
3 stalks of rhubarb
1/3 c Malbec or other red wine
1 lb fresh chopped strawberries

Combine milk, half-and-half, and basil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat milk mixture to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Combine 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until pale yellow. Remove basil and gradually add half of hot milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour the egg yolk mixture into pan with remaining milk mixture; cook over medium-low heat until a thermometer registers 160° (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 20 minutes or until custard cools completely, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, rhubarb, and wine in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and liquid is syrupy. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Combine rhubarb mixture and strawberries in a blender; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with a wooden spoon; discard solids. Stir rhubarb mixture into custard mixture.

Pour custard into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Sweet as Sugar

I grew up in a relatively small town in Eastern North Carolina. But we had plenty of stoplights, a shopping mall, and before too long, Walmart. It didn’t seem small at the time, but as I moved from there to Raleigh and then to Chicago, I realized the difference in volumes.

My dad (or ‘pops’ as I’ve called him since my brother and I dubbed that his name as teenagers) is from an even smaller town. If my hometown is a chromosome, his would be but a single gene on one. Chicago? An entire cell or two or three. Beulaville, North Carolina: one (no wait, two) stoplights, two grocery stores (one family-run), and as many tractors as there are cars – you have to pull over when you see them as, rather than the way pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, and buses share the roads in Chicago, the tractors have the right of way here. Always.

And I say here, because I’m here now (or was, for most of this week). It’s rare for me to spend more than a few short hours in this town; we visit at Christmas, a visit constituting one of many short visits with friends and family. But now I’m here for my pops – his mom is very sick. My gramma – she’s 94.8 years old – she’d be a fierce 95 next month, but that accomplishment would be the result of a miracle, and only that – has been in poor health for a number of years. Declining mental status due to Alzheimers disease, near-blindness due to macular degeneration, and near-deafness due to what I’d assume is just pure ‘oldness’, she has been fighting for her life in this way for almost eight years now. And no matter how sick she is, she has always, instead of complaining about her own ailments, worried about those around her. “Did you eat lunch?”, she’ll ask, and repeatedly. “Are you too hot? too cold?”; it never ceases to amaze me. She never ceases to amaze me.

And here I am, typing on a tiny iPhone (no computers for miles, it seems) at her bedside, watching her sleep, occasionally waking for moments at a time but never once taking food nor drink, nor has she for six days now. Her heart is the culprit now – she’s had a bad heart ever since my grandpa had a stroke thirteen years ago – she almost beat him to the grave then, dying of what we would have considered a broken heart. But she forged ahead, and she beat the odds back then. I don’t think we will be so lucky this time.

They say an adequately-nourished person can live at least two weeks without food or water (many even longer, depending on a number of factors). I don’t consider my gramma adequately-nourished by a long stretch, especially now with her frail body, porcelain-appearing even. A China Doll, but more beautiful with silky soft almost-white hair and eyes that speak nothing but innocence, love, and selflessness. And strong as an ox – she would outlive someone twice her size and with optimal heart function. And so even still, one week into this horrible part of her life, she amazes us – and only by continuing to breathe.

Instead and soon, she will be the lucky one. Whatever is waiting for her on the other side, be it her husband, parents, all of her siblings, my brother, all of them or even not nary a soul, she will finally find out. No matter what, she’ll be happy because she is always content with what she has. Or will have, that is.

What I wouldn’t do for another one of her home-cooked meals – her fried chicken, biscuits, cream corn and those sugar-laden strawberries alongside my very favorite pound cake. I would rewind fifteen years if I could, just to savor it all again, just to see her cooking, moving, talking, and truly living. Breathing, with purpose.

But instead, I can attempt to recreate those memories through food. I’ll start simple here, with those strawberries that I so sneakily ate, spoonful after spoonful while the rest of the family talked in the living room. So sweet, so perfect, so full of sustenance. Come to think of it, it’s no wonder I love them so, for they remind me so clearly of her.

Gramma’s Sugared Strawberries

printable version

2 lb washed & hulled strawberries, sliced into chunks
1/3 c sugar
juice of 1 lemon or 2 T water

in a medium bowl, combine strawberries, sugar, and juice. let sit for a few hours or overnight.

Daddy Doesn’t Always Know Best

strawberry scones
So many childhood details have slipped my mind over the years. Clearly, I’m not an old bag or anything, but it’s obviously hard to keep all these details inside one tiny little noggin’. I do however, remember a lot – some things are more relevant than others. I remember my sister (she is 12 years older than I) dressing me up in all of her’s or mom’s outfits. I felt like a supermodel wearing “fancy” clothes despite them dragging the floor and in all honesty, making a little 7 year old look rather frumpy. I also remember the swing set out back, amidst all the dog poo, that was adjacent to the Weeping Willow tree. We’d swing on that thing till the sun went down and the fireflies flittered about, or until the meatloaf was ready.

One of my favorite memories is about breakfast. My parents were in no way shape or form gourmet chefs – our suppers (Southern for dinner) were fairly consistent from week to week (meatloaf, fried chicken, etc) and our breakfasts were no exception. But I remember them, not because of what type of food was served or what cooking technique was used, but because of the memories those breakfasts evoked: memories of sleepovers and of waking up at noon to a friend at my side and fresh-cooked bacon wafting into the room, despite the blanket placed under the door to muffle the smell of smoke that we just swore our parents never noticed.

fresh strawberries

My dad methodically cooked our first meal of the day every Saturday & Sunday morning. Like me, he loved to sleep in on the weekends, and so breakfast was served around 10-11. Perfect for me and my friends, waking up closer to noon. Occasionally some scrambled eggs would pop up on the menu, but most days all we craved was the samich: plain white bread (no, none of the whole-grain or wheat breads we all eat today), a piece or two of American cheese (yes, the packaged Kraft slices), a pan-fried egg w/ extra pepper, and bacon. I can’t explain it. Those sandwiches – there was something about them that was so simple, but so good and so perfect at the same time.

My dad fussed at me once when he visited because I bought the wrong bread; he looked at me and said, “what’s this?”. I won’t tell you what he said when he saw that I’d also purchased turkey bacon.

chopped strawberries

My dad is really swell. He doesn’t make me breakfast every morning like he used to, but now he calls me every week. Every Sunday at 4:50 PM, which is right before 6 for him and prior to his supper-fixin’, my phone rings without fail. I try to keep my phone out, but I must admit I don’t get to it, or hear it, every week. I should be better about it – I know in a weird way it’s the highlight of his week. And I should be better. I will. He called once when I was smack dab in the middle of making these here scones. And I’d missed his call the week before and knew I just had to pick up, despite my urge to let it ring and save my butter from becoming less-than-chilled.

He said the usual: “Hey Hev, whatcha doin’?”. “Hey pop. I’m makin’ scones”. “What? Sconies? What’s that?!”. “No – scoooooones. They’re like biscuits, but less flaky and a tad bit sweeter”. “Never heard of em’. They don’t sound too good to me”.

fresh strawberry scones

I didn’t tell you my dad is the king of the Picky Eating Kingdom. He is a thoroughbred Southern man who hates collards and everything else that’s green. He even hates our green wall in our living room. He eats fried eggs & potatoes, BBQ’d and fried chicken, and rare steak with A1 and Heinz 57. He does not experiment with food. At all.

So don’t listen to him when he sasses the ‘sconies’. Especially these sconies. I’ve made scones a couple of times before and they truly are divine. The recipe below is pretty standard and works every time to produce that perfectly just-flaky, just-sweet, just-crumby vibe. [But on the real – they are nothing compared to biscuits.] I’m sorry for sharing these when strawberry season is on the out – I’m sure you can substitute some other in-season berries and if you insist, frozen strawberries. Shoot, you may have frozen some from early Summer anyway. Me? I made a whole batch of these here scones, took out two, and (I swear) froze the rest. I’ve been thinking about them every since, and I’m taking them out this weekend for the in-laws’ visit. I can’t wait.

Strawberry Scones
Adapted from Adventures in Shaw; makes ~12

printable recipe

1 cup strawberries, hulled and small diced
3 cups AP flour (oops. I only had 1, so I used that, 1 cup bread flour, and 1 cup cake flour)
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, cubed and chilled
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, optional, for eggwash

Preheat to 400 F and line baking sheet w/ parchment paper.

Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl (include sugar, even though it’s a “wet” ingredient). Add butter and work into dry (with hands, pastry blender, two knives, or food processor) until mixture is crumbly, but butter is pea-sized or a bit smaller. Dry off strawberries and fold into mixture, gently. Add buttermilk and stir gently until a dense dough is formed.

Transfer to floured surface and knead (a tiny bit) until dough is uniformed. Roll out dough, with hands, until it’s about an inch thick. Cut dough however you want (I like to cut like pizza but leave it together somewhat; you can cut with cookie cutter too in traditional circles). If dough is warm and butter appears to have melted, put the dough in the fridge or freezer to cool the dough & butter before baking, otherwise the butter will sorta melt out. You want it cold!! Before baking, beat egg in small dish and brush top with egg wash. You can also use milk for a less shiny coat. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

One Pie is Never Enough

lemon tart

I’m not sure what led me to make a tart for Battle Strawberry. It was clearly poor planning on my part. Although I should insert here, that I used to be a really good, I mean really really good, planner. I just plan a lot less now than I used to. Ask Chris, and he might tell you that it’s utterly frustrating. But that’s because he pretends to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants-kinda-guy and in the past has gotten away with that by hiding behind my organization. Well now, now he whines because we don’t plan, or at least we don’t plan as good as “we” used to.

Don’t let that confuse you – I will glady admit that one of my best traits is (well, are) multi-tasking, organizing, and planning. That may be one of the many reasons why I love cooking so darn much – if you make anything crazier than pasta you have to think a little about what you’re doing. And menu planning? Good times. Nothing’s more exciting than a trip to the g-store (which by the way I am just dying to hit up the new Whole Foods). Is that lame? Well, whatever. I’ve been lame before, but only a couple of times.

But when I was deciding what to make for the Iron Chef party, I forgot that this week in school was “tart & pie week”. I also forgot that I’d be eating a (frozen) goat cheese & asparagus quiche I made a couple weeks ago for lunch all week. You may be wondering what the real problem is here. tsk tsk. There isn’t one, really. It’s just that almost every meal this week (and snack) is in “pie-form”. I suppose it’s just plain weird is what it is. And it’s a lot of butter… especially before a beach weekend. Yikes!

asparagus quiche

It all started with the strawberry tart on Saturday. [Did I mention this was a second place winner next to the first place pizza I made?!] And Monday, that was really the beginning of the end. We made little key lime mini-pies, and we made our dough for the cherry pie and lemon meringue tarts that we finished on Tuesday. I’ve had the quiche for lunch for the last 4 days, and snacked on the tart for lunch one day (okay, you got me – two days). Fortunately, Chris’ coworkers love my baking class, and they gladly ate the pie and mini-pies.

mini key lime pies

If that wasn’t enough, I made another pie last night. But not to worry – I wasn’t craving pie or anything. My coworker’s boyfriend was in surgery earlier this week, and I got word that key lime pie is his favorite. Well, I’d already sent the minis from class with Chris. I had no choice but to whip one up at home. No choice at all.

Luckily, I do love pie. And they really are easy to throw together. If you’re scurred, you can buy the pre-made shells, but they aren’t gonna be as flaky or as tasty as what you can make at home. You could always go for a graham cracker shell (or any other cookie crumb), which is just the crumb, a little sugar, and melted butter. Easy peezy. But seriously, if you’re making a regular pie crust, just make sure you don’t overmix, hence melt, the fat (butter or shortening) and when you roll out, make sure your rolling pin and surface are well-floured. Other than those minor challenges, you are practically dumping fruit into a pan and baking. The end result: a delightfully flaky, buttery crust underneath a myriad of possibilities – sweet or savory – warm or cold – streusel topping, naked, or pie shell.

Really – what is better than pie?

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart w/ Balsamic-Thyme Glaze

serves 6-8

printable recipe

Pâte Brisée shell
1 1/4 cups AP flour (+ flour for rolling)
8 T butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t sugar
2-4 t ice water, very cold

filling & glaze
2 lbs strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 T orange zest, divided
8 oz mascarpone cheese
4 oz ricotta cheese (or 12 oz mascarpone & no ricotta)
1 t lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 T balsamic vinegar

1. cut butter into cubes and put in freezer until ready to use

2. In food processor (or by hand), mix flour, salt, sugar together. Cut in butter until pea-sized – pulsing. Add in water, by pulsing, until mixture starts to clump together.

3. Remove dough from processor and place on clean surface. Roll into mound and place in fridge covered with plastic wrap for ~30 minutes. You should still see specks of butter in the dough.

4. Combine strawberries, 1/2 of orange zest, sugar. Macerate in fridge for ~30 minutes.

5. Mix cheese, confectioners sugar, other 1/2 of zest, lemon juice, vanilla. Refrigerate until needed.

6. Preheat oven to 375. Take dough out of fridge and let sit ~5 minutes. Flour surface and roll dough into 12 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Gently fold in half and onto the roller. Place atop pie plate/tin and unfold onto other half.

7. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork multiple times. Cover with parchment paper or tin foil and place pie weights, dry beans, (or spare change, which is what I use) atop and bake about 15 minutes. Remove weights and paper. Bake bare for another ~20.

8. Drain macerated strawberries, and put juice in small saucepan. Add balsamic vinegar and thyme and bring to boil over med-hi, reduce to syrupy consistency and let cool.

9. Once tart is cooled, spread mascarpone mixture over bottom. Top with strawberries. With brush, spread balsamic glaze atop strawberries.

Classic Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Professional Baking, 5th Edition; serves 6-8

4 oz graham cracker crumbs
2 oz sugar
2 oz melted butter

1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
5 oz key lime juice or lime juice (freshly squeezed, but bottled works too)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
whipped cream, optional


Preheat to 350. Mix sugar and crumbs in bowl. Add butter and mix with hands until all is wet. Press into sprayed pie plate/tin, and press up the sides. Use another shell to place on top to even out the mixture. Bake alone for 4 minutes.

Mix milk with lightly beaten eggs. Add in juice. If you want color, add food color too. Pour into baked shell and bake for 20-25 minutes, until “jiggly but firm”. Let cool. Add whipped cream, if using.