Mom’s Easy No-Bake Strawberry Pie

Strawberry pie with recipe and old poloroids

Today’s Musings:
I left my mother in her home town of LaPorte, IN, safely nestled at the foot of her parents’ graves.  Yes, my heart still aches with loss, but it is tempered by the feeling of “rightness” in our actions of bringing her home, participating in a ceremony of honoring, and closing out her life’s final chapter.

Perhaps this is what is meant by “closure.”

In the airport, waiting for my flight home, I began thinking about ritual and why it’s an important vehicle to help transport us through life.  How can the simple process of taking someone’s ashes to another location, placing them in the ground and saying a few words (or, in this case, singing a song) make the world appear to realign itself?  It felt like I sent forth a giant mantra of “let all be well” to my mom and the earth and all the mysteries of life.

Still, I’m left asking, “why does it work; why is it important?”  Donna Henes says, “Ritual practice is as old as humanity, developing from people’s compelling need to understand and connect with the infinite, archetypal, unexplainable mysteries of life. Rituals offered our ancestors a glimpse of the divine order as well as a sense of belonging to something bigger. It’s a ceremony of sorts which begins with thought, purpose and an identified aim. Also, it’s not passive, but participatory. There is no way to benefit from a ritual by just watching it, or by reading or hearing about it. It must be experienced to be affective, or effective, for that matter.”

Maybe that’s why it works.  It allows us to take a bit of control. We are no longer solely being buffeted by the uncontrollable events around us; we are able to take this small ceremony and manage it, focus our attention to it, set an intention and participate towards its fruition.  I cannot control life and death, but I can control this.

The other ceremony that comes to my mind is one I participated in 25 years ago.  Up to that point, I had struggled with the repercussions of an abusive childhood. I had read books about forgiveness, I had journaled my anger and bitterness in hopes of releasing them, I had made excuses for the abusive behavior and I tried repressing the memories as well.  Nothing seemed to alleviate my pain until I found myself, during a vacation in Sedona, participating in a medicine wheel ceremony.  During that ceremony, I was given the gift of allowing myself to leave one large piece of “baggage” behind within the wheel.  At that spot, in the middle of Boyton Canyon, on the hot dusty ground, I set down my bag of anger, hurt, bitterness and grief  – and I never looked back.  I left my baggage in Sedona, the best luggage I could have ever lost on vacation.  Could I have done it without the medicine wheel, without the burning sage, without the ritual, without the intention? I hadn’t been able to before.

Rituals and ceremonies with honest, sincere intention seem to somehow place our personal, spinning world back on its axis. They are a bit of control in the uncontrollable world.

Today’s Recipe:
In general,  I’m known for multi-step, slightly complicated desserts.  Today, I’m sharing an easy one with you.  For each family-member’s birthday, another ritual, mom would make us our favorite dessert. When I was young,  I always requested this pie.  I remember “Happy Birthday” spelled out in slivered strawberries across the top.  Lucky for me,  my birthday falls around the beginning of strawberry season, ensuring peak flavor.


Mom’s Easy No-Bake Strawberry Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
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This is an easy, no-bake pie to make in Spring and Summer when strawberries are at their peak of flavor.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 graham crackers)
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz. mini marshmallows
  • ¼ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 4 cups (about 1 ½ lbs.) cleaned, hulled, and thickly sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream

Directions

  1. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press along bottom and sides of a 9” pie plate. Set aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt mini marshmallows and milk in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until marshmallows are completely melted.
  3. While marshmallow mixture cools slightly, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  4. Stir sliced strawberries into marshmallow mixture. Fold in whipped cream in four additions. Spoon filling into crust until pie is generously filled. Chill for at least 4 hours before enjoying.

Ben’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb Pie
I have a confession. I’ve never baked a strawberry rhubarb pie. Are you surprised? And if I’m being completely honest, until today, I’d never eaten one either. That’s a shame, I know now, since the strawberries’ sweetness marries quite perfectly with the tart rhubarb – and you can’t go wrong wrapping it all up in a flaky pastry crust (she says as she polishes off her second slice). I didn’t know. I blame this whole rhubarb ignorance tragedy on growing up in Southern California. Rhubarb needs a cold climate to grow, something not in abundance in the sunny state. Rhubarb pie isn’t that common here. Deep fried avocado on a stick? You bet! Rhubarb? Perhaps not. I also blame mom – I don’t think she was a fan of rhubarb, so it never graced our table.

My friend, Ben, recently declared it his favorite pie and asked me to make one a few months back. Frankly, I was a little daunted to work with rhubarb; hearing parts of it were poisonous. It’s actually quite straightforward – wash it, cut off the leaves (the poisonous part), trim the top and the bottom of the stalk to remove any dried, soggy or damaged bits and finally, on any larger stalks, remove any fibrous ribs with a paring knife (just like celery!).

Strawberries and Rhubarb – truly a quintessential combo. This first pie iteration was mine for testing, but needs no alterations. The next one is Ben’s.


Ben’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
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This crust is adapted from The Pioneer Woman and makes three thin crusts or two crusts with plenty of leftover dough for decorations (or a second crumb-topped pie).

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 5 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ½ inch thick slices (about 3 ½ cups)
  • 1 lbs. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 ½ cups)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
  • ¼ cup panko crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw sugar) or white sugar

Directions

  1. Chill butter and Crisco until very cold by placing both in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and Crisco to flour and pulse on/off until mixture resembles coarse meal (you can also combine the flour and fats using a pastry blender if you don’t want to drag out your processor – more effort, less clean-up). Scrape mixture into a large bowl, add egg mixture, and stir until combined. Don’t overwork dough.
  2. Separate the dough into thirds (If you prefer a more substantial crust, separate in half) and roll into balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and freeze for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill. (If you will be storing the dough in the freezer for a longer period, form dough into a disk and seal in a Ziplock bag. Thaw 15 minutes before using).
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb and strawberries and set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine sugars, zest, salt and tapioca. Set aside. (I keep sugar and fruit separate until the last minute to reduce the amount of accumulated juices)
  4. Preheat the oven to 400⁰. In between two sheets of waxed paper, roll out the bottom crust, starting at the center and working your way out into a 11” – 12” circle. Once the dough is the correct size, peel off the top layer of waxed paper and, using the bottom sheet, transfer the dough to a 9” pie pan. Flip the dough over, peel off the bottom sheet, and gently press the dough into the pan. Go around the pie pan tucking the dough to make a clean edge. Freeze until second crust is rolled out. Roll out the second crust into a 12” circle between two sheets of waxed paper and transfer to freezer until ready to use.
  5. Remove the bottom crust from the freezer. Sprinkle with panko crumbs (this helps avoid a soggy bottom crust). Combine reserved sugar/tapioca mixture with fruit, stir well, and mound filling inside bottom pie crust. Dot filling with bits of unsalted butter. Remove top crust from freezer. Peel off top sheet of waxed paper, flip crust on top of filling, and trim top pie dough so that overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only about 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp decoratively. Cut a few decorative vents on top of pie. Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350⁰ and bake for an additional 30 – 35 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. While warm pie is heaven, it’s important to let the pie fully cool giving the tapioca time to do its work or you’ll have a flash flood of filling. When fully cool, the juices gel.