A Summer Beach Picnic + Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust!

Some of early summer’s star produce comes together beautifully in this perfectly balanced Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust.

This Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust is the perfect dessert recipe for any beach picnic, BBQ or fancy dinner party!
Photo: Meg Sorel

As someone who left a sufficiently cushy job in the corporate world to become self-employed, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “Do you ever miss being in an office with coworkers?” And my answer is always, “Honestly, no.” Sure, the self-employed world can be lonely at times, but I consider myself AMAZINGLY lucky to have found a solid group of like-minded ladies (and yes, even some men) who have also set out on their own and forged a path for themselves in the world of entrepreneurship, specifically in the food, beverage and entertaining bizzes.

Recently, a few of us got together to kick off summer with a beautifully styled beach picnic featuring some incredibly delicious food and wine. Since I’ve been itching to refine my pie-making skills, I offered to bring one showcasing some of my favorite fruits of the season thus, this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust was born.

A fun and fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with a flaky amaretto crust. The perfect summer dessert!
Photo: Meg Sorel

Here’s what everyone else brought/contributed (with live links to their posts/websites!)

Le Petit Chef

Denisse is a private chef and food photographer based here in Santa Barbara and brought the most refreshing Poached Lobster Salad with Peaches, Shaved Fennel and White Corn and delectable Crab Toasts with Heirloom Tomato & Charred Scallion Aioli.

The Oyster Tin

Jamie (also a private chef) just started this “micro-shuckery” here in SB and, let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted these oysters. She brought both raw and BBQ oysters to our little picnic and the BBQ sauce on the cooked ones was just insane!

FOLD

Not only does Viktoriya make some of the most beautiful table linens, she’s also a pro at food and prop styling, She made our entire picnic set-up look like a dream…I only wish I could bring her (and her beautiful napkins and tablecloths) along with me for every picnic I go on!

Wander & Wine

If you plan to serve wine at any get-together you’re hosting, you’ll want to invite Hana-Lee. She chose the perfect wines to pair with each of our dishes. I couldn’t believe what a perfect match the Riverbench Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine was for my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

Meg Sorel Photography

Even though she stepped in for another photographer at the last minute, Meg was an absolute dream to work with and captured all of the beautiful images you see here and on the others’ posts.

Seafood, pie, wine and friends. What more can you ask for with a summer beach picnic?
Photo: Meg Sorel

Okay, now back to this pie. First, raise your hand if you (like me) are totally intimidated by pie-making because of the difficulty of making pie dough, rolling it out and then not only getting it to fit just right in your pie plate but also baking it to a beautiful golden brown in perfect synchronization to whatever filling you put inside.

Well, I’m here to tell you good news and bad news:

First, the bad news – it is hard. And it’s most likely not going to be perfect on your first attempt. You will most likely need to refine your practice in order to get it “just right.”

Next, the good news – it gets easier! Practice makes perfect. Once you find a recipe you like and practice it a time or two, you start to get a better feel for how it should look, feel, etc. I’m happy to say that, now that I have a basic pie crust recipe that I feel totally confident in, I’ll be making so many more pies and, after trying this recipe, I hope you will, too!

This Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust is the perfect finish to any 4th of July picnic or summer BBQ!
Photo: Meg Sorel
A picture perfect summer beach picnic with seafood, pie, wine and great friends!
Photo: Meg Sorel

There are just a couple of little secrets I want to let you in on that make this “not-your-average” Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe:

  1. It’s a fairly popular notion that adding chilled vodka to your pie dough (instead of water) will make it extra tender and flaky due to the alcohol dissolving during the cooking process. You know I’m all about using booze when needed, but for this recipe you’ll find me subbing in amaretto for the vodka, adding that slight nuttiness that goes perfectly with the rest of the components of the pie. For all other aspects of the dough, I turned to my favorite Model Bakery (affiliate link) recipe as a guide – I knew they wouldn’t let me down!
  2. Although the ingredients for the filling are all pretty typical, there is one ingredient that may look a little odd – balsamic vinegar. I added this to bring depth and a slight tang to the filling that pair perfectly with all the almond notes tied in throughout.

I have to say, for being such a novice in this particular aspect of baking, this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust was a pretty huge hit.

A perfect piece of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust is just what you need to cap off a summer meal.
Photo: Meg Sorel

It’s also perfectly portable which makes it a great dish to contribute to any 4th of July celebrations you may be attending this week.

Read on for the recipe!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 20 mins
Chilling time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 50 mins
 

Some of early summer’s star produce comes together beautifully in this perfectly balanced dessert that's perfect for any warm weather get-together.

Course: Dessert
Keyword: pie, rhubarb, strawberry, summer
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 669 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter-flavored shortening, cut into cubes (Can use regular shortening too)
  • 1/4 cup amaretto, chilled
For the filling:
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 cups sliced)
  • 2 stalks rhubarb, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
For the streusel:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, crumbled
Instructions
  1. Begin making the dough at least an hour or two before you plan on baking your pie. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. 

  2. Next, using a pastry blender, cut in both the butter and shortening until dough is blended but crumbly with some pea-sized pieces. 

  3. Slowly mix in the amaretto using a fork until a loose dough begins to form.

  4. Using your hands, shape the dough into a thick disk. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or even overnight.

  5. To make the filling, combine strawberries, rhubarb, balsamic vinegar, sugar and flour in a large bowl. Mix until the fruit is evenly coated with the sugar, flour and vinegar. Refrigerate until you’re ready to bake your pie.

  6. Finally, assemble the streusel topping. Mix together all streusel ingredients in a medium bowl, using your fingers as needed to break up the butter pieces and make the mixture even and crumbly.

  7. Pull out your refrigerated pie dough about 15 minutes before you’re ready to start baking. This will allow it to come back down to room temperature a bit and make it easier to roll out. Once your dough is at a “roll-able” temperature, roll it into an approximately 13-inch circle and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. You may need to trim some edges and work the dough a bit once it’s in the pan to get the crust as uniform as possible. Crimp the ends as desired and then freeze for 15-30 minutes.

  8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove your crust from the freezer and pour in the filling, then top with the streusel. 

  9. Bake pie in your 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also at this point I recommend putting on a pie shield or covering the edges of your crust with foil to prevent it from burning. Bake pie at this new reduced temperature for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Let cool before serving (preferably with vanilla ice cream!)

 

THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé

Yupppp…I’ve gone and done it.

THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé is the perfect cocktail for any summer get-together, BBQ or pool party!

And just in time for #nationalroséday! Yes, it’s a thing and yes, it’s tomorrow! So I hope you’re ready to make some of THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé to celebrate. I’ve got my blender ready and my watermelon in the freezer. This weekend is looking reallllll good.

I realize I may be a little late jumping on the frozé bandwagon, but since I was preggo last summer and couldn’t partake in the boozy fad as it took America by storm, cut me a little slack, will ya? I actually just had my first taste of this hip adult slushie a couple of weeks ago (which was, TBH, just so-so) but then I tasted it again when we got back to Santa Barbara and MAN did it blow me away. I guess the moral of my story is, you never know what you’re going to get, so if you want to guarantee yourself some tasty frozé, make your own recipe! And make my own recipe I did.

A frosty glass of THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé is the only cocktail you'll need all summer!

Chances are, if you’ve seen frozé being served somewhere, it’s being poured out of one of those fancy freezer machines. You’re also probably quite aware that alcohol does not freeze completely. Now, both of these factors alone are enough to discourage anyone from attempting to make their own frozé (um, yes, I’m well aware that the average joe does not have a freezer machine in their kitchen), but I have the magic answer for you, and that answer is frozen watermelon and a high-powered blender.

That’s right, we’re going to use frozen watermelon and blend it up real nice to give it that frozé feeling, without shelling out the serious dough for a freezer machine or watering down our beverage with silly ice cubes.

Watermelon, rosé and Aperol – that’s all we need to get this party started! I hope you’re as ready as I am.

All you need is just three ingredients to make THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé a part of your summer cocktail rotation!

Okay, enough building this up. Let’s get to the good stuff. THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé can’t wait any longer.

There’s really not much more to tell, because this recipe is just THAT easy, but I’ll walk you through it anyway. You’re only going to need three ingredients and one handy-dandy blender. Oh, and lots of friends because this recipe makes about 6 servings. You’ve been warned!

Aside from the frozen watermelon, you’ll need a bottle of your favorite rosé and about a cup of Aperol. Sure, you could leave the Aperol out if you’re a purist, but I love the bitter kick it gives to an otherwise sweet drink – plus another hit of bright red color.

THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé | CaliGirlCooking.com

Once you have all of the ingredients thrown into your blender, you’ll want to whir it up and serve it immediately. THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé is best served poolside, lakeside, beachside, or basking under the sun in your favorite hammock or lounge chair.

Oh, and on #nationalroséday 😉

THE MOST Refreshing Watermelon Aperol Frozé
Prep Time
15 mins
Freezer Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

An easy-to-make recipe for the hip new boozy adult beverage, utilizing just three ingredients and one high-powered blender!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 6 drinks
Calories: 269 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 8 cups cubed watermelon, frozen (about 1 small seedless watermelon)
  • 2 1/2 cups rosé
  • 1 cup Aperol
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If mixture seems to runny, place in freezer for about 15 minutes to freeze into a more slushie-like texture.

  2. Garnish with a slice of watermelon, if desired.

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers

Our answer to the sweltering long weekend ahead right here.

These Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are incredibly refreshing and can be made into a cocktail or mocktail!

Hi! How are you all doing? Are you sweating it out in the heat like we are here in California or getting drenched by the record rains we’re having in other parts of the country? My thoughts are with all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and I pray that you find yourselves safe and dry very soon. I’m amazed by the outpouring of love and support I’ve seen for Texas coming in from all over the world, and it makes me happy to see that there can be such kindness and humanity in today’s otherwise crazy world.

Whether you’re doing your best to get in some sort of body of water (and out of the heat) or avoid any sort of water altogether because you’ve seen way too much of it this past week, these Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are for you. They’re refreshing and hydrating for those of us who need relief from the heat, and they’re healthy and uplifting for those of us who need a welcome respite from the rain and bad weather.

I talked the other week about how some of my OG flavor combinations (think your favorite Lip Smackers from when you were, like, eight) have been guiding recent mocktails I’ve created. First there was this Kiwi Coconut Cooler initially inspired by my one-time strawberry-kiwi obsession, and now we’re bringing back the cucumber-melon combo with these Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers!

An overhead shot of super refreshing Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers. Perfect for the end of summer!

I guess you could also say my recent mocktail creations have been guided by whatever fruits I can make fresh juice out of without a juicer, since at the moment we don’t have the luxury of enough space to fit a fancy juicer (or any other appliance, for that matter) in our tiny little kitchen. For that reason, easily puree-able fruits with minimal seeds have been my go-to in this time of non-alcoholic need 😛

To get started making these Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers, you’ll first want to get a hold of some of the finest cantaloupe and seedless watermelon available. You won’t need the whole fruits to make the two servings this recipe yields, but I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding a way to eat up any leftovers.

You’ll also want to track down some nice, crispy cucumbers. These add such a refreshing kick to the drink that if you close your eyes while you’re sipping you might just think you’re enjoying a relaxing spa day.

A Mixed Melon Cucumber Cooler is the perfect way to kick off a long, sunny weekend.

Simply toss these three ingredients together in a blender, along with a fresh squeeze of lime to give it some tang, and give it a nice whir to make your juice. It will turn out a little on the thicker side (like a purée), but have no fear because we’re going to top our mocktails off with a nice little splash of sparkling water. If you’re looking for even more flavor, you could even use a lightly flavored sparkling water such as La Croix or Spindrift. Creative license is yours!

And since we only add a touch of cucumber to the juice (compared to how much watermelon and cantaloupe we’re using) we add some fresh cucumber slices to our glasses to further enhance that spa-like flavor.

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are hydrating and refreshing. Add some vodka or gin for an extra kick!

Oh, and I almost forgot. If you’re still on the booze train, add some gin or vodka to your Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers to really knock it out of the park this weekend!

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers
Prep Time
10 mins
 

The perfect, refreshing warm weather mocktail - loads of fresh melon punctuated by a hint of cucumber. Add vodka or gin to make it boozy!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 drinks
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed cantaloupe
  • 3 inch piece of cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks, plus extra slices for garnish
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Club soda
Instructions
  1. Combine watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber and lime juice in a blender and pulse until a thick juice forms. 

  2. Fill two glasses with ice and divide the juice evenly among the two glasses. 

  3. Top each glass with sparkling water and slide a few extra cucumber slices down the inside of the glass for added flavor. Enjoy!

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers | CaliGirlCooking.com

Kiwi Coconut Cooler

Hooraaaay for Fridaaaay!

This Kiwi Coconut Cooler is the perfect, refreshing mocktail with a fun hit of color!

And for delicious kiwi-flavored beverages like this Kiwi Coconut Cooler. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this post today, I hope it’s that kiwi purėe is a fantastic, highly underutilized addition to any cocktail or mocktail. Talk about drinking the rainbow!

I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s a little tricky to continue coming up with fun, new, innovative drink recipes every week, especially when I’m on the no-drinking train (just a few more months!) But if nothing else, I’ve learned that there are almost just as many options for nonalcoholic drinks as there are alcoholic ones, and it’s been pretty darn fun to get creative and see what I can come up with.

My inspiration for a kiwi-based drink initially came from those OG Snapple juices (do they even exist anymore?) I haven’t seen one in ages, but for some reason I kept thinking about the strawberry-kiwi flavored one and whether or not I could make a more natural, less artificially-sweetened version from fresh fruits.

So, I set out to make a kiwi-strawberry mocktail, but once I took inventory of everything I had on hand in my kitchen to make a delicious beverage, I realized I had pulled out a bunch more tropical, coconut-y flavors. Plus, I didn’t want to mess up the color of that vibrant green purėe by trying to muddle in some fresh strawberries. I knew that clear, only slightly cloudy coconut water and milky orgeat would do the trick for not only preserving that bright green color but perhaps even magnifying it. And hey, the taste combo isn’t bad either!

A Kiwi Coconut Cooler is the perfect special, healthy drink for any night of the week.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t own a juicer, so I have to get creative when I’m mixing up my own fresh fruit juices. For the kiwis, I found that my immersion blender did just the trick to get a nice, juicy purėe that would be easily sippable. I had initially thought I would need to strain out the seeds and other pulp, but everything broke down beautifully and I decided there was something kinda fun about those little black flecks suspended in the drink.

Aside from a boatload of fresh kiwis, the only ingredients you’ll need in order to have a Kiwi Coconut Cooler in your hand in no time are the aforementioned coconut water and orgeat, plus a splash of club soda. Oh, and I couldn’t leave out the strawberries completely, so I threw some on for garnish.

If you’ve had a long week and are currently fortunate enough to partake in boozy beverages, I highly recommend the addition of some white rum to this already tropical-vibe inspiring drink. It’ll get you in summer weekend relaxation mode in no time at all and itching to jump in the pool.

As for my weekend, my mom is coming to town to celebrate my niece’s birthday, and we’ve got a Saturday girls’ brunch date planned which I’m pretty darn excited for. Other than that, we’ll just be continuing to get our house organized and finding places for all of the things we’re acquiring for baby. I can’t believe my due date is just nine weeks away! Nesting mode has finally set in and I’m excited for my travel schedule to die down a bit so I can focus on really getting ready and finding some time to RELAX and enjoy these last few weeks of us being a family of two (well, three with our fur baby.)

Kiwi Coconut Coolers are a fun treat for kids and adults alike!

What are your plans for the weekend? Hoping they involve a Kiwi Coconut Cooler or two!

Kiwi Coconut Cooler
Prep Time
10 mins
 

A vibrant, refreshing cocktail featuring fresh kiwi puree and hydrating coconut water - it tastes just like the tropics! Add rum to make it boozy 😉

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 cocktails
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 6 kiwis, peeled and purėed with an immersion blender to make about 10 ounces juice
  • 2 ounces orgeat
  • 4 ounces coconut water
  • Club soda, to top
  • Kiwi wheel and fresh strawberry, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Divide kiwi purėe evenly between two tallboy glasses. Add 1 ounce orgeat and 2 ounces coconut water to each glass and stir. 

  2. Fill each glass to the top with ice, then top up with a splash of club soda. 

  3. Garnish each glass with a kiwi slice and strawberry to serve.

Kiwi Coconut Cooler | CaliGirlCooking.com

Upside Down Pluot Cobbler

Humpday happiness right here ↓

Hot Upside Down Pluot Cobbler fresh out of the oven and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I mean, who doesn’t need an Upside Down Pluot Cobbler to help get them through the week? I, for one, can tell you that I REALLY wish the fam and I hadn’t scarfed down this entire dessert in one sitting so I could still be enjoying a piece as I write this, but at least I came home to Santa Barbara with two bags full of stone fruits from my in-laws’ garden, so there will be another cobbler in my very near future. I hope the same is true for you!

I was actually inspired to make a cobbler by a peach one my mother-in-law made for us a couple of weeks ago. We walked into the house after a long day of travel and it smelled heavenly in there, and as soon as I took a bite I knew exactly why. It was the perfect mix of soft, crunchy, sweet and doughy and, although this isn’t her recipe here, this Upside Down Pluot Cobbler is equally as delicious, especially with the boatload of fresh pluots they gave me straight from their backyard.

I had never made a cobbler before, but after tasting my MIL’s, I knew I was up for the challenge. I wanted to keep it easy for this first go-around, so I trolled the Internet for a bit of inspiration. I really liked the idea of dumping everything – fruit topping and biscuit topping – into a baking dish at once and baking it altogether. Of course, I also had to make it photogenic, and I’d say this upside-down technique – with the pluots peeking through the center of the batter – did the trick!

A sweet, fruity filling peaks through the center of this Upside Down Pluot Cobbler.

My main inspiration for the biscuit-like batter came from this Paula Deen recipe for Peach Cobbler. But of course I couldn’t make it #basic and had to sprinkle drops of marzipan throughout. That extra kick of almond flavor compliments the pluots perfectly and is a welcome surprise when you bite into the finished product.

For the pluot filling, I simmered the fresh fruit over the stove with some sugar and water, plus a good dose of cornstarch to make the filling extra-syrupy and thick, perfect for oozing throughout the batter as the cobbler cooks.

For baking, first spread the biscuit batter throughout the pan (don’t forget the marzipan!), then carefully dump in the simmered pluots. The fruit may seem completely covered at first but have no fear, as your Upside Down Pluot Cobbler bakes, the pluots will peak through, just enough to give you a good little tease of the delicious tastes to come.

This one-dish Upside Down Pluot Cobbler is the perfect end-of-summer treat!

Of course, no cobbler of any kind, and especially no Upside Down Pluot Cobbler, should be served without some high-quality fresh vanilla ice cream, so be sure you have some on-hand before you embark on your little baking journey.

And don’t be shy to swap in other stone fruits for the pluots – nectarines, peaches and the like will all still pair beautifully with the marzipan, depending on what you happen to have on hand in your kitchen right now.

A serving of this Upside Down Pluot Cobbler will turn any week around!

With less than an hour of baking time and a list of ingredients you can easily find at any grocery store, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be whipping up an Upside Down Pluot Cobbler this very evening. Not only is it mind-blowingly delicious but, with many schools starting up again next week, it’s the perfect treat to cap off a summer well-spent. Here’s to an ultimate end-of-summer treat!

Upside Down Pluot Cobbler
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
55 mins
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
 

This summer stone fruit cobbler has a wonderfully sweet and crunchy dough and a thick, oozy filling of perfectly ripe pluots. 

Course: Dessert
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the pluot filling:
  • 1 1/2 pounds pluots (about 6-8), pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the biscuit batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon for greasing baking dish
  • 3 ounces marzipan
  • Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12- by 8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon melted butter and set aside.

  2. First, make the pluot filling. Combine pluots, sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until pluots break down and begin to form a syrupy mixture, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in cornstarch, breaking up any large clumps. Set aside while you make the batter.

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the self-rising flour, almond meal, sugar, milk and ¼ cup melted butter.

  4. Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish. Break marzipan into small balls and sprinkle over the top of the batter. 

  5. Next, pour in the pluot filling so that it fairly evenly spreads throughout the batter, but is a bit more condensed in the center. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes, or until the top of the cobbler is a beautiful golden brown. 

  6. Cool just slightly before serving with vanilla ice cream. 

Upside Down Pluot Cobbler | CaliGirlCooking.com