Homecoming Dessert - Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Usually a springtime dessert, we found crisp fresh rhubarb and sweet strawberries to fulfill another "special request" from our son upon his return from two weeks in the Adirondacks in late August. This pie requires pre-cooking half of the strawberries and rhubarb in order to reduce the liquid and intensify the flavor, but it is another easy recipe and one that really pleases.

Cut and hull 5 c. strawberries. Cut 3 c. rhubarb into 1/2" pieces. Divide in half. Mash and cook one half of the fruit mixture in a non-stick saucepan with 1 c. granulated sugar, 1 tbsp. lemon zest, and 1 tbsp. Cointreau or Grand Marnier liqueur. Reduce until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Cut fresh rhubarb into 1/2" pieces
Cut and hull fresh berries
Reduce 1/2 strawberry/rhubarb mixture

In separate bowl, combine rest of strawberries and rhubarb, 3 tbsp. Minute Tapioca mix, 1 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg, 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest, 1 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice, 2 c. granulated sugar.  Add cooked berries, and mix to combine.
Combine and mix all
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. (Time-saving tip: Use refrigerated pie crust, available in the dairy section at your grocer.) Or make your own!! Dot top of berry mixture with 2 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces.  Cover with top crust, crimp and cut vents. Make an aluminum foil collar around pie and place all onto cookie sheet.

Form a collar with aluminum foil

Bake at 425 for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees and cook for 30-45 minutes longer, until fruit filling is bubbling and crust is a golden brown.

Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Fantastic accompaniment:  Hagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream and a few fresh berries on the side.  A wonderful way to welcome your loved ones home!

Mrs. Crawfords' Pizza Chicken

Here's a dinner winner with adults and kids alike -- "Mrs. Crawford's Pizza Chicken," so named by our son's childhood friend, Matthew, who chose it as one of his favorite meals at the tender age of five.  It's easy to make, delicious, loaded with protein, healthy, and economical, and stretches to a special next-day lunch.

Matthew, now all grown up, recently spent a year teaching in China. Upon his return, we invited him and his family for a reunion dinner of Pizza Chicken, and a sent him home with a doggie bag! Served with a bucatelli or long fusilli pasta, it's just the thing for a cool autumn night!

Pound thinly sliced chicken breasts to even thickness. Dredge with flour, salt and pepper. 
Dredge in flour

Dip in an egg wash (one-two eggs, 1/4 cup milk, beaten lightly with a fork).
Dip in egg and milk mixture
Then press into seasoned bread crumbs (your own, or Progresso Italian.) Add grated parmesan cheese and finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley to the breadcrumbs for extra flavor.
Press breasts into seasoned breadcrumbs

Place on plate for a few minutes to set

Heat a few tablespoons butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan and, in batches, sauté each thin breast on both sides, until golden brown.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté breasts in olive oil and butter

Use your own rich and thick tomato sauce
Place in baking dish lined with a light covering of tomato sauce, covering each breast with slice of mozzarella, freshly chopped sweet basil and a little more tomato sauce. Do not cover completely with tomato sauce. 
Cover with freshly chopped basil and sauce

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until bubbly and browned on top. (At this point, can be stored in refrigerator for one day, or frozen up to one month. If you store or freeze, let casserole come to room temperature before baking.)

Serve with fusilli or bucatelli pasta, red wine and crusty Italian bread. Mangia bené!