Friday, May 1, 2009

Pie Heaven in Fredericksburg

On National Pie Day, each January - and on other special occasions - visitors to Fredericksburg Pie Company may enjoy a sample plate of their favorite made-from-scratch pies while sitting in the tiny dining area up front. It's a tough choice with up to 20 different pies on-hand.

During our visit to the shop owner, Charlotte Freeborn, served five varieties in small cups. There was just enough to get a good taste of each offering. Sweet-tart orange bourbon pecan pie and silky ancho chocolate with whipped cream and a bit of heat were my favorites. We also tried creamy buttermilk pie, key lime coconut atop a dark chocolate crust and tangy key lime pie.

Freeborn and her son begin baking at 6:30 a.m. each day. On Saturdays they close when the last pie is gone. The Freeborns take great pride in their traditional pie crust, which takes two days and includes both butter and shortening to assure great flavor and flakiness. They also make all of their fillings from scratch. And folks who are watching their sugar need not worry; the pair makes apple, blueberry, cherry and peach pies without any of that sweet stuff.

Leave some time to browse after you've indulged your sweet tooth because there's more to Fredericksburg Pie Company than pie. The Freeborns sell finished quilts and all of the tools necessary for this craft, vintage crocks, glassware, furniture, linens and pictures, and a selection of cooking and other books. You'll also want to hurry back for another slice.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blue Alfredo with Chicken and Artichokes

I was determined to eat lunch at home today, despite the fact that our refrigerator is growing quite bare in preparation for our trip next week. I foraged until I found one lonely artichoke heart, some unseasoned pre-cooked chicken from several days ago, a few garlic cloves, fresh-grated Parmesan and blue cheese. And the milk needed to be used up because it was nearing the expiration date. After I found 1 1/2 boxes of pasta in my cupboard, the wheels started turning.

On this cool, rainy, and gray day, how could I satisfy my tastebuds without spending a dime? What I ended up with was a rich (tho' not too rich) and satisfying pasta sauce that is definitely worth a repeat - maybe even for company!

Blue Alfredo with Chicken and Artichokes
Makes one large serving

1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 artichoke hearts, finely diced
1/2 cup cooked chicken, finely diced
1 tablespoon blue cheese crumbles

cooked pasta

Saute garlic in butter over medium high heat, until it browns slightly; 1-2 minutes. Add flour and stir together until smooth. Stir in milk continuously until a thickened sauce emerges - about 5-7 minutes. Add Parmesan and stir until melted. Stir in artichoke hearts and chicken. Pour over cooked pasta and top with blue cheese. Serve with fresh green beans or a crisp salad.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Drying Cranberries - Not!

I've been thinking about 'road food' a lot lately as I anticipate a solo trip in a couple of weeks while researching for a book. It seems the easiest place to contain my costs is through what I spend on food - which means the more snacks I can bring along or buy in a grocery store, the less I'll spend between meals. All of which led to my attempt at creating a healthy snack. While 'spring cleaning' in my freezer I found cranberries left over from the fall. Then I browsed the Internet for about 15 minutes to get some tips on making 'dried cranberries.'
First I washed and sorted the berries, throwing out about 1/4 of them because they were too mushy. As I sorted, I got a big pot on the stove and when it reached a rolling boil threw the berries in until they popped open. About five minutes later I drained the berries, spread them on a foil-covered cookie sheet and set them in an oven preheated to about 150 degrees.

But the process went downhill after that. One Internet source estimated they would take 'a long time' to dry to the correct texture. After a few hours I took them out to find smooshed, unappetizing stuff without a hint of sweetness, and was grateful I could simply throw away foil rather than scrape them off of my good baking pan underneath. There are plenty of ways to use cranberries, but I think I'll buy mine for snacking next time.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Award-Winning Weaving in Chimayo, NM

As we pull into the gravel driveway, skeins of freshly dyed yarn drip and dry in the sun. We have just arrived at Centinela Traditional Arts in tiny Chimayo, New Mexico, a local 'industry' that includes 10 cottage and five consignment weavers.

Irvin and Lisa Trujillo opened the business in 1982 and Irvin continued a weaving tradition followed by his family since 1775. He began weaving Chimayo blankets in 1965, following his father, Jacobo's philosphy to make weavings that are one-of-a-kind. Over the years, Centinela Traditional Arts has expanded its inventory to include clothing, rugs, purses, and pillows. But the Trujillos still use natural dyes for their blankets and Irvin dyes all yarn used by 10 weavers.

He also frequently teaches other weavers. Both Lisa and Irvin's work has been shown in and collected by musuems throughout the country and also has gained an international reputation - with clients that have included Ralph Lauren and Japanese customers. And, in 2007, Irvin was named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow.

As we return to the car, the yarn on the clotheslines has stopped dripping. Before long, each brilliant strand will find its way into the capable hands and artistic creations of a Chimayo weaver.