Earlier this week, Jim wrote a wonderful tribute to his mother with her strawberry pie recipe. Today I am sharing a recipe of my mother’s, baklava.
I have sweet memories of cooking this dessert with my mom. After making it by myself for the first time I can see why she needed the extra set of hands. The phyllo dough in the recipe is quite thin and dries so quickly. It can be quite challenging if you do not have a cooking partner. The aroma of cinnamon and cloves filled the air as it was baking in the oven and instantly I had memories of my mom making this on special occasions. Although sometimes she made it just because I requested it, thereby making it a special occasion! My mom, like many others, would do anything for me and I am so grateful she filled my life with all the memories of crafting and cooking together.
Mom didn’t cook a lot, but when she did it was fantastic! She was a very picky eater so everything she made was kid-friendly. Her most loved recipes were rotisserie chicken, dumpling soup, pork egg rolls, homemade alfredo pizza, rumaki, and of course my personal favorite, baklava. I think she would have cooked more if it didn’t create such a mess. She might have been on to something, as my syrup for topping the baklava boiled over creating the most ridiculous sticky situation!
This day five years ago I lost this amazing woman. Even before she became sick about four and a half years prior, I often thought to myself there is just no way I could handle it if anything happened to her. I need her, but as time moves on and new joys come into my life my heart is healing. It has been years since I have even tasted baklava. The first bite brought me to back to days of her and I together at home, and on a day like today I needed that. This Mother’s Day, do something special with your family, and maybe make it an extra special occasion by sharing in some homemade baklava.
If you look up the definition of Mother in Webster’s Dictionary, you simply get “female parent”. However, anyone who grew up with a caring and wonderful mother as Jena and I both did, would think that definition is ridiculous. Our mothers were so much more than that. So much so, that as a tribute to them both, Jena and I have decided to dedicate the most of April and May to them as well as every other mom who makes a difference out there. We are both writing separate articles about our moms, and including one of our favorite recipes of theirs. I was lucky enough to go first. So, without further ado, here’s a tribute to my mom Phyllis Jean Rude, who was my mom.
Phyllis Rude was not unlike many mothers of her generation. She was a stay at home mom, who raised my sister and myself with a lot of love. She didn’t have to be a stay at home mom. After all, she graduated near the top of her class from Marquette University as one of only a handful of women who graduated in the school of business. She was extremely smart and was well on her way to a professional career when she decided to trade her professional aspirations when she gave birth to my sister and I.
Growing up with a mother like mine was a joy. She was always there for me. She made us breakfast in the morning, she would see me off to school and make us lunch and dinner. Her cooking was almost always homemade. I remember her spending hours scouring through magazines. She’d cut out the ones that she liked and put them in file folders to be made another day. It was funny, because she usually made the same things over and over, so I’m not sure when she planned on making any of those recipes she cut out. There was one dessert that she made that I was always really excited about. Her fresh strawberry pie. Being a mother of the 50’s and 60’s meant she was barraged with convenience foods such as Campbell’s Soup, Hamburger Helper, Sloppy Joe Mix and the ever popular Jello. What made her fresh strawberry pie recipe so wonderful was the effort. Today you can buy fresh strawberries year round. They are bright red, big and often very good. However, back then, the only time she made that strawberry pie was during strawberry season, which was usually about three weeks to a month long. During that time, she would go out to the strawberry farm and pick quart after quart of the most incredibly juicy and sweet berries you can imagine. Since the strawberries were a seasonal and vine ripened fruit, there was literally only a day or two between when they were picked to when they had to be eaten or frozen, or the berries would get too soft or spoiled to eat. This meant that there were literally only three to four times a year that we would get that pie.
My moms strawberry pie wasn’t anything special in terms of the recipe itself. After all, everyone made it back then. I’m pretty sure Jello developed the recipe and thanks to good marketing and word of mouth, Jello sold a lot of product to moms looking for an alternate use to that jiggly gelatin dessert. It’s basically fresh berries in a graham cracker or pastry crust, with a syrupy strawberry jello mixture spooned over the top and refrigerated. I’m not a huge jello fan today, but as a kid, that pie was as close to heaven as I could imagine. I would eat three slices in a sitting with no problem. She’d make one, and it would be gone as soon as it was firm enough to cut. I remember sitting in the kitchen and watching her make that pie. She’s come home with the sun warmed berries. She’d immediately wash and stem them and start making the pie. She would keep enough berries for a pie and freeze the rest. I of course would be right next to her eating them as fast as she was stemming them. She would often say “if only you enjoyed picking them nearly as much as you do eating them.” She was right. I hated picking strawberries. All that crouching and looking under the leaves to find the hidden berries. I was often invited to help pick, but almost always declined in favor of playing with my friends. Why not, I got the berries and the pie anyway.
When the berries were stemmed, dried and ready, she would make the strawberry glaze, which was nothing more than water, sugar and cornstarch cooked in a saucepan, then strawberry jello mix stirred in and cooled until it was just thick enough to coat the berries. She said that if the mixture wasn’t the correct thickness or was too warm, it would soak into the crust and make a mess. There was no room for error with this pie. The pie was then refrigerated until the jello was firm. I think she used the graham cracker crust because she was sick of spending the time to make a pastry crust only to have me devour the pie in less than thirty minutes. I don’t blame her. Cool Whip was the topping of choice, but I usually didn’t need it. Heck, I didn’t need the plate. I’d eat it right out of the pie plate if she let me. She never did. Something about “other people” wanting some. Whatever!
I always smile inside remembering the many fleeting fresh produce treats of my childhood. However, the one that I am most fond of is that fresh strawberry pie. Because it was made with local berries picked at their peak. Mom would work hard to gather those berries, wash them, and spend time making those pies because she knew I loved them. As she got older, the number of pies she made dwindled. However, every time she made one, an boyish excitement was renewed. Last year I made her a fresh strawberry pie using the same berries from the same local farm. I didn’t pick them, because I hate picking strawberries, but they were just as good. There was a lump in my throat as I gave her that pie, because I realized I was now playing the part she had so many times over the years. That was the last strawberry pie we shared, and like all those of my childhood, I will always remember it fondly. She passed away last October, so this year will be the first Mother’s Day without her. She was a great mom who could have been anything she wanted to be. She chose to be a mother and I will always be eternally grateful for that sacrifice and for everything she taught me. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there who make all those wonderful memories for your kids. You deserve more than a day. Until next time, remember to cook with love and live to cook.
This classic strawberry pie is best when using farm fresh strawberries in season. You can substitute a fresh strawberry puree made with fresh strawberries and unflavored gelatin in place of the Jello.
Author: Little Rusted Ladle
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8 servings
1½ c. Graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 Qts. Fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and cut in half lengthwise.
1½ C. Water
¾ C. Granulated cane sugar
2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Pkg. (3ozs.) Strawberry Jello mix
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter and str until moistened. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 10" tart pan. Use a flat glass to make it even in thickness.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, finely chop 1 cup of strawberries and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, then add Jello mix and reserved chopped strawberries. Remove from heat and let cool until slightly thickened but still liquid.
Place strawberries cut side down side by side in bottom of cooled crust making one layer. Spoon half of the strawberry mixture over strawberries, making sure to cover all the berries.
Layer remaining strawberries over sauce and finish by spooning remaining sauce over berries.
Place level in a refrigerator until strawberry mixture has stiffened. Serve.
I am still way too into shabby chic — more then I should be. But hey, Its Mother’s Day. If there is ever a time to embrace it’s now. I want to share my sweet little table scape design along with a delicious healthy recipe. Avocados are wonderful used in decor and well as desserts. Try this Avocado and Key Lime Chia Pudding but don’t throw out the skins. Avocado skins when mixed with water over a low heat make the most rustic pink colorant.
We used the dip dye technique on a burlap table runner and found fantastic ombre results.
1. Start by adding the skins of two avocados to three cups of water over low heat for 1 hour.
2. Cut piece of burlap to desired length and width.
3. Roll the burlap and stick one end in for 3-6 hours.
4. Air dry.
One lesson I learned from my Mom is that you can never have too much dinnerware. The eclectic floral plates were collected from antique stores and estate sales around the state. We kept the centerpieces simple by casually laying roses down the center of our tattered barn wood table.
Enjoy the outdoors this Mother’s Day and treat your Mom to a rustic picnic in the woods!
It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about the crazy love hungry birds chirping like crazy first thing in the morning, which now comes earlier thanks to that big glowing orb in the sky rising earlier every day. I’m talking about champagne mango season. With tulips blooming and the trees getting ready to explode with foliage, one can’t help but be happy. This winter was not a bad one for us midwesterners, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t ready for nature to pull out it’s full box of crayons and start coloring away the drabness of winter gray. A few years ago, we posted our article on champagne mangoes called Champagne Mangoes – Tis The Season, which of course I recommend you revisit. I often look back at our old articles for reference. I really liked that article because it was so beautiful. It was fresh, light and beautiful thanks to Jena’s ability to capture that perfect moment. Champagne mangoes lift my spirits because they are so wonderfully sweet and so beautiful.
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I thought we should offer up a quick recipe for you to try that mom just might enjoy on her special day. It’s called a Champagne Mango Mint Smoothie/Cocktail. Yes, you guessed it, this fresh and healthy eye opener can become an eye closer if you add rum or vodka. Not to say I recommend you get mom drunk on her special day, but let’s be honest, Mother’s Day usually involves mom still doing the lions share of work that day. So, she can have the healthy version in the morning when you make her breakfast in bed. Then make her the high octane version at night when she’s had enough of us and just wants a cool spring libation while reflecting on the headaches we caused her. So, go out buy some of these golden gems of spring. Put them in salads, smoothies, or add them to sauces. They are a great gift of nature. See you soon.
Sometimes what’s old is actually new. I realized this recently, when I needed to find an old waffle maker for a photo shoot. The shot needed was a packaging shot for a sausage company. The layouts required square waffles shown in the back of a plate. Sounds easy enough right? Well, the next time you are in the store, try to find square waffles. They’re non- existent. So, I’ll just make my own, right? Not so fast. All waffle makers these days make big, Belgian style waffles that are not exactly low profile. This brings me back to the old is new comment above. The only way I was going to create a square waffle that wasn’t huge, was to find an old waffle maker like mom or grandma used to use. These older waffle makers made skinnier, square waffles. I have very fond memories of the waffles made from these old waffle makers. Thin waffles, topped with gobs of butter and rivers of maple syrup. Yum, I can almost taste them. Where was I going to get one of these though? My search led me to a great consignment store in Janesville called Carousel Consignments. After a little searching, I found not one, not two, but three very old electric waffle makers that made nice, thin waffles. The best part is they were $7.00 each. I didn’t end up needing any of these waffle makers for the shoot, but I was keeping them anyway. You never know when you might want a thinner, square waffle for a special blog article recipe.
I have a tendency to go on binges. I am now officially in a waffle making binge. After using those old waffle makers, I realized that they are perfect for making a variety of dishes that require a thinner waffle. For example, waffles make great bread substitutes when making sandwiches. Especially when making breakfast sandwiches like the Ultimate Waffle Sandwich shown here. I’ve been making my kids waffle sandwiches since they were kids. Their go to is Eggo waffles with a thin omelet, sausage, cheese and maple syrup. They are really good, but for this ultimate waffle sandwich I needed to kick it up a notch as Emeril would say. So, in addition to the normal ingredients, I thought adding sliced jalapenos to the waffles for a sassy kick might be nice, and adding hash browns to the sandwich would add a little more crunch. The addition of smoked bacon seemed like a no brainer, and creamy havarti instead of American cheese felt a little more grown up. My kids like store bought syrup, but I chose uncle Bernie’s maple syrup because there was no way I was using that stuff called maple flavored syrup.
These were all good choices for additions. The end result was an old is new waffle sandwich that combines waffles made in a 1948 waffle maker with jalapeno, egg, hash browns, sausage, bacon, cheese and maple syrup. With breakfast this good, I may just have one for lunch and dinner too. Waffles are not just for breakfast anymore. Check out our quick video on Facebook that shows how to use these old waffle makers to create cute little waffle canapés perfect for a creative appetizer. Try your own creative options using the old waffle and share them in the comments below. Until next time, remember to cook with love and live to cook.
Waffles are awesome. So is bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausage and cheese. Combine them and add some jalapeño to the waffle batter and you have what we call the Ultimate Jalapeño Waffle Sandwich.
Author: Little Rusted Ladle
Recipe type: Breakfast
1 C. Pancake and baking mix
⅔ C. Milk
1 Tbsp. Vegetable oil
5 Lg. Eggs, divided
1 Ea. Fresh jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
4 fresh breakfast sausage patties
1 C. Frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
4 slices havarti cheese
4 Strips Bacon, cooked
Pre-heat a waffle iron on high.
In a medium size bowl, combine baking mix, milk, vegetable oil and one of the eggs. Stir until mixture is combined, but still slightly lumpy.
Spray waffle iron with non-stick spray. Place 4-5 slices of jalapeño on each waffle pattern. Pour enough batter over jalapeños to barely cover the bottom of the waffle iron. Close lid and cook for 3-4 minutes or until waffles are golden brown.
Carefully remove waffles from the waffle iron with a fork. Set aside. Repeat process until all waffle batter is gone. Reserve 4 waffles for the sandwiches and freeze or eat any remaining waffles.
While waffles are cooking, combine two sausage patties together and form into a large patty. Repeat with remaining patties. Fry sausage patties in a non-stick skillet until browned and cooked through. Leave grease in pan and keep pan hot to use for hash browns. Drain sausage on paper towels, then keep warm until ready to assemble.
Cook hash browns in the skillet used to cook sausages over medium heat until golden brown and crispy (about 15 minutes).
In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Pour half of eggs into a large custard cup or microwave safe dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until eggs are set. Set aside and keep warm until ready to assemble. Repeat process with remaining eggs.
Place cooked sausage patties on two cooked waffles.
Place one cooked egg patty on each sausage patty.
Place half of hash browns over eggs, then place cheese slices over hash browns.
Top with 2 strips of bacon and remaining waffle.
Warm sandwiches in a oven preheated to 250 degrees. Serve when heated through.