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 | By Michelle Difranco

A Birthday to Remember

The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

We’ve all been there. We’ve forgotten a friend’s or loved one’s birthday at one time or another. But what if that person in your life is a parent or a spouse?

One year, I came pretty close to forgetting my husband’s birthday. I was completely aware of it leading up to the day. But our family has so many birthdays in the month of September that it’s hard to remember them all! On the morning of my husband’s birthday, my memory lapsed, and I didn’t realize it until several hours after he had left for work. I had only a few hours to do something really special before he came home.

My husband is not a big fan of cake with frosting, but he loves homemade fruit pies. With the prep of cutting fruit and kneading and rolling out a homemade crust, this can be a laborious endeavor. A homemade pie was not going to happen. I improvised and decided on a crostata – a rustic dessert that is essentially the same but comes together in half the time. And it lends itself to his Italian roots. Win-win.  

There’s also another important birthday in September: Our Blessed Mother’s! The feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Nativity is celebrated on Sept. 8. And as important as it is to recognize and celebrate a spouse’s birthday, it is also beautiful and important to celebrate the day of Our Lady’s birth.

While what we think of as a birthday cake did not exist in ancient Judea, fruit was a common source of food during the time of Christ. So this rustic crostata dessert that saved me on my husband’s birthday would be perfect for the occasion of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

There are only three birthdays celebrated in the Catholic Church. The births of our Lord, St. John the Baptist and our Blessed Mother. On this special day in September, pray a rosary and sing Marian hymns, and prepare a special dessert to honor her.

Don’t forget. It’s Sept. 8.

Rustic Apple Blueberry Crostata

(serves 6)

  • 1 store-bought refrigerated piecrust (or homemade)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (cored, peeled and thinly sliced)
  • cups blueberries
  • ¼ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg white plus 1 teaspoon water (whisked)
  • Coarse sugar (or regular granulated)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Unroll the piecrust on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the sliced apples and blueberries and gently combine until the fruit is completely coated with mixture.

Spoon the fruit mixture in the middle of the pie crust, leaving two inches uncovered. Fold the edges of crust over the filling, leaving the center uncovered. Gently press the overlapping crust to seal. Brush the folded crust with the egg wash and then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and apples are tender. Delicious served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.