Veggie Burgers

For quite awhile I’ve been talking about trying to replicate the ”Impossible” burgers without all of the added ingredients like methylcellulose, yeast extract, gums, and an ingredient high in iron called ”heme,” the red ingredient that appears to make the impossible burger bleed. While there is heme in humans and animals, and it is in the meat products that we eat, the heme in the impossible burgers is genetically modified from soybean roots. If you’re interested in reading more about heme, and how and why it is incorporated into the impossible burger, I suggest you google it. But there are none of those ingredients in this recipe which I found in Food and Wine’s August issue. I mean, where would I find heme?? I must admit it was quite a process, and it is decidedly easier to take a package of ground beef out of your freezer. But, if you want a plant based burger without a lot of additives, that is healthy, and good for the environment, try this recipe. It made eight burgers. My husband and I each enjoyed a burger for lunch and I froze the other six in packages of two. My husband said they were alright. I really liked mine. And I would definitely make these again.

Ingredients:

4 cups of water

1 T plus 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided

1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley, rinsed

1 dried bay leaf

1 pound of fresh button mushrooms stemmed and quartered

2 T tamari or soy sauce

6 T plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 head of garlic halved crosswise

2 medium carrots peeled and shredded (about 3/4 cup)

2 small beets peeled and shredded (about 3/4 cup)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 can chickpeas (15 1/2 oz can), drained and rinsed

2/3 cup gluten-free or regular panko

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 T whole grain or dijon mustard

It expedites things to get all of your ingredients prepped and measured.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a medium saucepan bring 4 cups of water and 1 T of salt to a boil. Rinse the barley and add it to the water along with a bay leaf. Return to a boil. Simmer undisturbed for about 25 minutes until the barley is al dente. Drain, remove and discard the bayleaf, and allow the barley to cool for about 15 minutes.

While your barley is cooking toss together the mushrooms, tamari, 2 T of olive oil, pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt.

Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the garlic head halves on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil, wrap tightly and place on the baking sheet with the mushrooms.

Roast the mushrooms and garlic in the preheated oven until the mushrooms are browned and beginning to dry out, about 40 minutes. Stir twice during cook time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Unwrap the garlic and squeeze garlic cloves from the skins. Set the roasted garlic aside.

Transfer the cooled barley to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 15 pulses. Transfer the barley to a large bowl and add the beets, carrots, cumin, and paprika.

Transfer the roasted mushrooms to the food processor and pulse until finally chopped, about 10 pulses. Transfer mushrooms to barley mixture.

Add chickpeas to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 10 pulses. Measure out 1 cup of chopped chickpeas and transfer to the barley mixture.
Add the roasted garlic to the remaining chickpeas and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the chickpea and garlic mixture to the barley mixture.

Add the panko, walnuts, and mustard to the barley mixture and stir well.

Shape the mixture into eight patties, about 1/2 cup each. I used my ice cream scoop.
Heat two T of olive oil in a heavy, oven safe skillet. Add 4 patties and cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the seared patties to the oven. Bake patties at 400 until the tops and sides are crispy, about 10 minutes. If you want a cheese burger, add cheese during the last couple of minutes. Serve the patty on a bun with toppings of your choice.
I served our burgers up with mayo, lettuce, and red onion. I was wishing for a nice, thick slice of tomato. That would have made these just perfect.

NOTE: If you’re preparing two to four burgers at one time sear them in an oven safe skillet and transfer the skillet to the oven. If you are doing all eight burgers, bake them on a rimmed baking sheet. Remember there will be very little if any shrinkage as the patties cook.

I put six of the patties in packages of two and froze them. The recipe says they can e frozen for up to one month. Thaw frozen patties overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.

Pizza Crust

Who doesn’t love pizza? I think it’s one of almost everyone’s favorites and there is no end to the combination of toppings you can use. Several weeks ago we were in Munising in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and I enjoyed a wood fired Savory Blueberry Pizza with mozzarella cheese, bleu cheese, ham, bacon, onion, and blueberries topped with a blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. It was delicious! They also offered a pimento cheese, jalapeño, and bologna pizza and a fig and pig to name just a few. Last night I made a pizza that I found in Cuisine at Home that starred roasted potato, garlic, rosemary, broccolini, leeks, and gruyere cheese. My husband’s favorite pizza needs lots of tomato sauce, and preferably some meat, although we do enjoy a good veggie pizza. Regardless of the toppings, a good pizza, in my opinion, begins with a good crust. I prefer a thinner, crispy crust. I don’t want to feel like I ate a loaf of bread after a couple slices of pizza. Several people have asked me to share my crust recipe and this is my favorite place for sharing. I have no idea where this recipe originated, but I’ve used it for years.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups room temperature water

2 T olive oil

2 1/4 tsp (one packet) instant yeast

1 tsp salt

1 T sugar or honey

3 1/4 cups AP flour and more for kneading

1/4 cup cornmeal

Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and cornmeal. I use instant yeast because it can just be mixed in with the other dry ingredients and doesn’t need to bloom in water. Make a well in the center and add the sugar or honey, water, and olive oil. Stir well with a wooden spoon and turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface to knead. Knead for 5-7 minutes. As you’re kneading you may need to add additional flour. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky. If you prefer, you can use a stand mixer with a bread hook to mix and knead your dough.

Once you’ve kneaded the dough return it to a bowl that has been lightly brushed with olive oil. Flip the dough over once coating both sides, cover with a clean dishtowel, and put in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour. While your dough is rising preheat your oven to 450 with your pizza stone on the middle rack.
Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Shape each into a ball and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. Put one of the dough balls onto a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with PAM. Place a second piece of parchment that has also been sprayed with PAM over the top and roll into your desired shape. Mine never seems to be round but the shape really isn’t important.

Use a fork to make pinpricks in the dough. This prevents the crust from bubbling up when you par-bake it. Cover with a dishtowel and let the dough sit for another 15 minutes. Transfer the crust on the parchment to the preheated pizza stone, and allow it to bake for 5-6 minutes. This helps to keep the crust from getting soggy, particularly with a saucy pizza. Remove the par-baked crust from the oven and add all of your toppings.

These were the toppings on the potato and broccolini pizza. The little balls are fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.

Slice. Enjoy.

NOTE: Occasionally I add some dry herbs like oregano or basil to the dry ingredients in the crust. This recipe makes two crusts. You can divide the recipe in half or refrigerate half for another time. Or just make two pizzas. Last night I rolled the second crust out and transferred it to a pizza pan still on the parchment and put it in the refrigerator. The plan is to make a traditional pizza in the next few days.

Earlier this year one of my pandemic purchases was a baking steel that I ordered from King Arthur. I absolutely love it, and use it always when I make pizza. A pizza stone works great as well. If you have neither, just use your favorite pizza pan. You’ll still get a great pie.

Air Fryer Chicken

I frequently see memes on line asking who survived the pandemic without getting pregnant, divorced, or buying an air-fryer. I’m still married, definitely not pregnant, but I did buy an air-fryer and I love it. Aside from grilling hotdogs, heating frozen snacks, and making nice, crispy homemade french fries without deep frying it performs many other functions very well. It is great for roasting peppers, vegetables in general, and does a great job on chicken. An air-fryer is pretty much an amped up convection oven that sits on your countertop. They work on the same principal. Also great on hot summer days when you don’t want to turn on the air conditioning.

My friend Jane came across a recipe for cooking a whole chicken in the air-fryer using a great seasoning mix. I used it on a whole chicken that I spatchcocked out of necessity because my hen couldn’t sit upright in my air-fryer. Spatchcocking is simply the technique of cutting out the backbone (I use my Pampered Chef kitchen shears), opening the chicken up and flattening it. Be sure to save the backbone for making broth. A spatchcocked chicken cooks faster and more evenly whether you’re doing it on a grill, in the oven, or in the air-fryer. What makes this recipe is the seasoning. I’ve done whole chickens and I’ve also done just skin on, bone in chicken thighs, because we both prefer the dark meat. I misplaced the recipe after I used it the first time, but now I’ll know exactly where to find it.

Ingredients:

2 T avocado oil

1 T salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp thyme

This spice blend is the perfect amount for a whole chicken. If you are doing ”parts” use less and store the remainder away in a sealed container.

Rub the avocado oil on both sides of the chicken.

Combine the salt and pepper and spices and sprinkle generously on both sides of the chicken.
Preheat your air-fryer. I used the high temp grill setting on mine. Each brand of air-fryer has different function settings and temperature settings. Once the air-fryer reaches temperature add the chicken skin side down.

Cook for 7-8 minutes before turning. For a whole chicken cook for 20-25 minutes before turning. Total cook time for parts is 10-12 minutes, 30-35 for a whole spatchcocked chicken. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 so it’s best to use an instant read thermometer to ensure your chicken has reached a safe temp.

The chicken remains juicy on the inside and the skin crisps up beautifully. I served ours last night with a salad, smashed sweet potato and broccolini.

Enjoy!

NOTE: Refer to the instructions/recipes provided with your air-fryer. You’ll find recommended cook times for all kinds of dishes. Air-fryers vary and as I mentioned earlier, have different function settings and temperature settings. My air-fryer is a Ninja.

If you survived the pandemic WITHOUT buying an air-fryer, this seasoning mix will probably work just as well in your regular oven!

This recipe reminded me of one I’ve had in my little recipe book for who knows how many years. It’s written in my daughter’s handwriting and it’s title ”Old People Chicken.” Ingredients include 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup sweet paprika, 2 T fresh ground black pepper, and 2 T oregano. The recipes have a similar flavor profile. My Christmas cookie baking friend and I have a cookie recipe (that we only used once) titled ”Old Lady Cookies,” also written in my daughter’s handwriting. Seeing a theme here.

Pizza Sauce

Sunday of this week I canned two bushels of tomatoes, some diced and some stewed yielding 92 pints. Yesterday I turned a half bushel of roma (plum) tomatoes into pizza sauce. The roma tomatoes make great sauce because they are a nice meaty tomato with less seeds. I also find them a bit easier to peel. A half bushel of tomatoes fits perfectly in my large canning kettle. Since it takes several hours of simmering for the tomatoes to cook down, in my kitchen it is only practical to do a half bushel at a time. We eat a lot of dishes with tomatoes throughout the year and home-canned tomatoes and sauces taste so good! I wish I could say the tomatoes all came from our garden, but living in a forest doesn’t allow for enough sun to grow produce. There are several nice farm markets in our area that sell Michigan produce so they are my go to.

The first job is getting the tomatoes ready for saucing. That’s the worst part! They need to be cored, peeled, and diced. If you haven’t peeled tomatoes before you want to wash and core them first. Have a large pot of simmering water ready and put several tomatoes in for a couple minutes. Remove the tomatoes to an ice water bath, slide the skins off, and dice. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

Ingredients:

1 bushel of roma tomatoes peeled and diced

2 large onions (about 4 cups) diced

2 heads of garlic peeled

4-5 carrots finely diced

1/2 cup olive oil

3 T dried basil

3 T dried oregano

Red pepper flakes to taste

Salt to taste

Add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and garlic cloves to the kettle and cook over medium heat until they are softened but not browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Add your spices and a generous amount of salt.
Mix well and simmer away. Stir often to make sure there is no scorching on the bottom of your pan. After about an hour of simmering and stirring use an immersion blender to break up the tomatoes and vegetables.
Continue simmering until your sauce reaches the desired consistency. It took about 4 hours for my sauce. I used the immersion blender several more times after the initial mix to make sure all of the tomatoes were broken down. Sample your sauce during the cooking process and add more seasoning or salt to taste.

Once your sauce has reached the desired consistency you will want to start the canning process. Make sure that all of your jars have been washed with hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher. Put your jars and lids in the hot water bath and begin filling your hot jars with the hot sauce, adding 1/4 tsp of citric acid per pint. Process your jars in the hot water bath for 35 minutes. Remove the jars to a heavy towel and allow them to cool completely, best overnight. Repeat until all of your sauce has been jarred and processed. Once the jars have cooled I remove the rings and shelve them.

Since there was some sauce left in my kettle we had pizza for dinner last night.

I like a thin, crispy crust. Pizza toppings included italian sausage, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and peperoncini. Homemade crust, homemade sauce…doesn’t get much better.

NOTE: The ingredients in this sauce are definitely not limited to pizza. The sauce can be used in all kinds of applications including pasta dishes, on a meatloaf, or chicken or eggplant Parmesan. Also, you can modify the spices per your personal preference. The carrots in this recipe help to thicken the sauce, and also add some sweetness without the addition of sugar. And maybe eating more pizza will help your eyesight. 🙂

There was one special, heart shaped tomato in this peck!

Making your own sauce is not difficult. If you have the time and the inclination you’ll be glad that you did.

Roasted Feta and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Quite awhile ago my daughter made this dish and sent me the recipe. Not sure of the source, but since she sent it, I’ve seen similar recipes in several places. I passed the recipe on to my friend Jane and she has made it several times. Last night was my first time, and we absolutely loved it. I made it with penne pasta, but my daughter and friend Jane have been spiraling zucchini and they made it with zoodles. This is certainly the time of year for gardens full of zucchini, but when I decided this was going to be dinner I had none. This recipe is SO easy, and everyone, of course, loves pasta. This will definitely be on our menu again. Next time I will try the zoodles.

Ingredients:

8 oz block of Greek feta

2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes

1 or 2 shallots sliced

4-5 cloves of garlic minced

6 T of olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes (I used Aleppo flakes)

1 tsp dried thyme

Fresh basil chiffonade

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Slice and dice the shallots and garlic.

In a medium size bowl combine the tomatoes with the shallots and garlic, 4 T of olive oil, salt, pepper flakes, and thyme.

Pour the tomato mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Nestle the block of feta in the center and drizzle with the remaining 2 T of olive oil.

Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes until the top of the feta is golden and the tomatoes are bursting. While your tomatoes and feta are roasting, prepare your pasta according to the package instructions or spiralize your zucchini. Reserve 1/2 cup of your pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking and the cheese and tomatoes are roasting, make yourself a cocktail.

I made myself a Kentucky Mule. Two ounces of bourbon, one tablespoon of fresh squeezed lime juice, and a 6 oz bottle of ginger beer…garnished with a sprig of mint and a slice of lime. Now, back to preparing dinner.

Remove the tomatoes and cheese from the oven and stir to combine.

Add the pasta or zoodles.
Continue stirring to combine and add the reserved pasta water.
Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil. I like to say chiffonade because it sounds so fancy but really, just roll a few fresh basil leaves together and, using a sharp knife, slice them very thin.

Serve with a nice green salad and some crusty bread. A vegetarian meal you will enjoy over and over again.

NOTE: You can alter the spices based on your personal taste. Also, the amount of garlic you use. We love lots of garlic. Other veggies could also be added during the roasting process like mushrooms, sweet peppers, or diced zucchini or summer squash.

Aleppo pepper flakes have a moderate heat level with the taste being similar to the ancho chili. I prefer Aleppo flakes over the hotter variety.

And, if you’re so inclined, enjoy a Kentucky Mule.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

I am a big King Arthur fan. Not the King Arthur of medieval legend, but the King Arthur Baking Company. They are an employee owned company that was founded in 1790, originated in Boston, and is now based in Norwich Vermont. In the late 1800s one of the early owners attended a performance of the musical, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, inspiring them to name their new product, King Arthur Flour. This employee owned company has been named One of the Best Places to Work in Vermont every year since the inception of the award in 2006. I love their recipes, their products, and their bakeware. During this pandemic I have ordered soooo many new pieces of baking equipment, the latest being two tea loaf pans. These loaf pans are ceramic. They are longer and narrower so the slices are the perfect size. Apparently the perfect size for afternoon tea.

As soon as my pans arrived I looked up a recipe for Lemon Bread and got busy. Poppyseeds were optional in the recipe, but I think they’re a great addition. Interesting factoid, it takes about 3,300 poppy seeds to make up a gram, and between 1 and 2 million seeds to make up a pound. They are also rich in thiamine but I don’t know how much you’d have to eat to get your daily requirement. When I was still working and eating lunch out, I frequently met friends at a favorite department store restaurant. This bread reminds me of the lemon poppy seed muffins they served in the Cortland Room with a slice of their classic quiche Lorraine. My Jackson Michigan friends will remember. This bread recipe is from the King.

Bread Ingredients:

1 cup (198g) sugar

1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil

3 T lemon zest

1/4 cup (58g) lemon juice

3/4 cup (170g) buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 T baking powder

1 T poppy seeds

2 1/2 cups (300g) flour

Lemon Glaze and Lemon Butter Ingredients:

1/2 cup (116g) lemon juice

2/3 cup (132g) sugar

8 T (113g) butter

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, beat together the buttermilk and the eggs.

Finally, combine all of the dry ingredients and whisk to mix evenly.

Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture alternately to the sugar/oil mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. When everything is incorporated, pour the batter into the prepared pan. I line my pan with parchment paper and spray with Pam for baking. The overhanging parchment paper makes it easy to lift the bread out of the pan for slicing once it has cooled.

Bake for 50-60 minutes if you are using a standard loaf pan, 40-45 minutes with the tea loaf pan. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

While your bread is baking make your glaze. Whisk together 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice with 2/3 cup of sugar, and microwave on high for 30 seconds to dissolve the sugar. A little longer if necessary. Brush half of the mixture on the bread as it cools.

To make the lemon butter, pour the other half of the lemon sugar mixture into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid has a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Whip the syrup with 1 stick of room temperature butter. Chill and spread on lemon bread.

Once the bread has cooled, slice and enjoy!

The bread is very moist, and the glaze and lemon butter accentuate the lemony taste. A little bit tart, a little bit sweet.

NOTE: It wasn’t until I started baking the sour dough breads that I started weighing out most of my ingredients. King Arthur recipes always include measurements and weights. Several cookbooks I’ve looked through for baked goods recipes use only weights.

The poppy seeds were optional in the original recipe and can be omitted if you choose.

Eggplant Rollups

One of our favorite dishes is eggplant Parmesan. Eggplant is really very versatile and is used in a number of cuisines. It takes on the flavors of whatever ingredients it’s been cooked with. It is a great source of vitamins and minerals and fiber. And it’s low in calories (until you bread it and fry it and cover it with sauce and cheese). For all the vegetable haters out there, eggplant is actually a fruit. According to Wikipedia, the eggplant is not only a fruit, it is a berry.

If you google eggplant recipes you will find an infinite number of ways to prepare it. It’s great grilled, baked, fried, or roasted. It can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, an entree, or you can use it in place of pasta in a lasagna. Raw, the flesh is spongy and soft, and when it’s cooked it is deliciously creamy and tender. Several years ago, before it closed, I regularly shopped at a gourmet shop called Blackberry Rose. The owner told me how to prepare eggplant rollups stuffed with angel hair pasta tossed in a light tomato sauce and then topped with a sweet chili sauce before baking. I need to try that again sometime soon. It was delicious! These rollups are stuffed with ground beef, ground pork, or sausage, and then baked much like eggplant Parmesan.

It is not necessary to peel eggplant. If you are going to be frying eggplant it is best to slice it, generously salt it, and place it in a colander to drain for 30 minutes or so. Then rinse the eggplant and gently pat it dry. This prevents the eggplant from absorbing too much of the oil as it’s fried.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

2 eggs

2 T of olive oil

1 pound of ground beef, ground pork, or sausage

1 small onion grated

1/2 sweet bell pepper finely diced

Salt and pepper

Tomato sauce of your choosing (homemade or prepared)

Mozzarella cheese

Making lengthwise cuts, use a mandolin to get nice thin slices of the eggplant.

Put your eggplant slices in a colander, salt them, and set them in the sink to drain. In the meantime, prepare your stuffing for the roll ups. If you are using links of sausage remove the casings and add the grated onion and minced sweet peppers. If you are using ground beef or ground pork. in addition to the onion and peppers, you will want to add some garlic powder, Italian seasonings, and salt and pepper.

Once the eggplant has drained, rinse it and pat it dry. Whisk the eggs. Brush a heavy skillet with a light coating of olive oil. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg and cook them over medium high heat, two to thee minutes per side. Set the cooked slices aside and continue until all of the slices are browned. They should be soft and pliable, easy to roll.

Preheat the oven to 350. Once all of the eggplant slices are done begin making your rollups. Place a light coating of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Take approximately two tablespoons of the meat mixture and place it on the widest end of the eggplant slice and roll.

Place the rollups, seam side down, in the casserole dish.

Top the rollups with additional sauce, sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the cheese is golden.

Cooked to perfection. Serve with the pasta of your choosing and a side salad. Some crusty bread and Chianti would also be nice.

Enjoy!

NOTE: On one occasion I tried dipping the eggplant slices in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before frying. While this works great when you’re making eggplant Parmesan, it makes the eggplant difficult to roll up.

When using sweet or hot Italian sausage to fill these rollups no additional seasoning is necessary. If you’re using ground beef or ground pork you’ll want to kick up the flavor with more herbs and spices.

From one medium eggplant I got 13 slices and I used one pound of sausage to fill them.

Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

Not only is it asparagus season in Michigan, it is also rhubarb season. Did you know that, although it is most typically used in pies and bars and other sweet dishes, rhubarb is actually a vegetable? I have lots of positive rhubarb associations. My grandmother used to make a rhubarb soup and served it over rice pudding (riisipuuro). After raspberry, my Dad’s favorite pie was strawberry rhubarb. And, as a child, I remember picking a stalk of rhubarb and eating it with salt. In Finland, tender sticks of rhubarb dipped in sugar, are a common and affordable sweet treat for children. Rhubarb is also used to make sima, a Finnish wine. Another interesting factoid…in the UK, the first rhubarb of the season is harvested by candlelight in forcing sheds where all other light is excluded, a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk. Rhubarb varies in color from dark red, to pink, to light green. I have always been told that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, although in all of my years of watching true murder shows on tv, I have yet to learn of anyone meeting their demise by being fed rhubarb leaves.

It is not yet strawberry season here in Michigan, but these bars would undoubtedly be even better with sweet Michigan berries.

Ingredients:

2 cups of diced rhubarb

2 cups of diced strawberries

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)

1/2 cup sugar

2 T corn starch

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1 1/2 cups old fashion oats

1 cup brown sugar

12 T unsalted butter melted

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Once you have diced and measured 2 cups each of rhubarb and strawberries combine them, along with the lemon juice, in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the fruit is tender, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the fruits (and vegetables) are cooking, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Once the rhubarb is tender, stir in the sugar and cornstarch and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool down while you prepare the base and topping.

Preheat your oven to 350. In a large bowl measure out the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.

Add the melted butter and vanilla. Use a wooden spoon or a hand mixer on low speed to combine all the ingredients.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups for the topping and press the remaining oat and flour mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with parchment.

Spread the strawberry rhubarb mixture over the base.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of the flour and oat mixture over the filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Once they’ve cooled, cut and enjoy just as is or with a dollop of whipping cream or ice cream. You get both the sweet and tart flavors in these bars.

Enjoy!

NOTE: I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make these using a combination of raspberries and rhubarb or rhubarb on its own. If you use rhubarb without the berries taste test after cooking and adding sugar. Add additional sugar if necessary.

Asparagus, Shrimp and Lemon Pasta

Due to technical difficulties beyond my control I have not blogged any recipes for quite awhile. Hopefully I’m back in working order and can carry on. My absence certainly isn’t due to my not cooking or baking. Every so often our local newspaper publishes recipes, and my husband found one that he thought looked good. Hint, hint. We love asparagus and who doesn’t love pasta?? It is asparagus season in Michigan and the recipe was provided by the Michigan Asparagus Council. (I had no idea there was an Asparagus Council, but now I know). I made some modifications to the original published recipe, the most significant being the addition of grilled shrimp. Not only did this dish present beautifully, it tasted great. I will definitely make it again.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound uncooked shrimp

1 T olive oil

8 oz fettuccine or linguine

1 pound of asparagus

4 T butter

4-5 garlic cloves minced

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup pasta liquid

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)

zest of one lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of cherry tomatoes halved

In a large heavy skillet heat the olive oil and 1 T of butter over medium high heat. Sear the shrimp until they turn pink, about 1 minute per side. Remove the shrimp from the skillet and set aside.

Fill a large pot with water that has been generously salted and cook your pasta according to package instructions. The original recipe called for fettuccine but I substituted linguine based on what was available in my pantry. While the pasta is cooking chop your asparagus into bite size pieces and mince the garlic.

Heat 2 T of butter in the skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic for about 1 minute. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is tender.

Once the asparagus has cooked remove it from the pan. Set aside along with the grilled shrimp.

Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet along with the heavy cream. Simmer gently until the cream thickens.

Once the cream has thickened add the pasta directly from the pot (do not drain) into the cream. Add additional pasta water until you have the desired sauce consistency.

Add the asparagus, shrimp, lemon juice and zest, and the shredded Parmesan cheese and toss. Allow all of the ingredients to simmer a couple of minutes in the sauce. This will help the pasta absorb some of the sauce and rewarm the shrimp and asparagus.

To add a little more color and because we love tomatoes, I sliced about a cup of cherry tomatoes and added them to the skillet just before serving.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with a little more grated Parmesan cheese, and serve. Enjoy! We have leftovers for another dinner.

NOTE: I cooked the shrimp with tails on but before adding the shrimp back into the pasta I removed them. Much more enjoyable when you don’t have to remove them while you’re eating.

Add a little extra pasta water to your leftovers before refrigerating (if you have leftovers). This helps when you’re reheating the dish.

I would say that this recipe will give you healthy portions for four people.

Borscht

A few days ago we got the little glossy magazine that our electric company sends out each month. The magazine always includes some recipes that people have submitted. This issue was all soup recipes, and one of them was for Ukrainian Borscht. My husband frequently mentions that he enjoyed borscht growing up. This is new to my wheel house, but I love beets and all of the other ingredients in the soup so I decided to try it. I found a recipe in one of my Jewish cookbooks, googled more recipes, and finally came up with a meld of several recipes including the borscht in our electric company magazine. I called my sister-in-law to see if she remembered how my mother-in-law made hers, but she said, at the time, she didn’t take an interest in the cooking. I think we all wish we had taken more interest and made notes on how our mothers and grandmothers prepared some of our favorite dishes. Borscht is a sour soup common to Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is often liked to Jews, the group that first brought it to this country from Europe. Borscht comes directly from Yiddish as the dish was first popularized here by Yiddish speaking Ashkenazi Jews. I don’t find mine to be very sour so I did a little research to see where the “sour” comes from in the references. Apparently the tart taste is traditionally obtained by adding beet sour to the soup. And beet sour is made by covering sliced beets with lukewarm preboiled water and allowing bacteria to ferment some of the sugars. The liquid becomes viscous. This process takes 2-5 days. The liquid is then strained and added to the soup near the end of the cooking time so as to not let the sour dissipate. No beet sour in my soup, and my mother-in-law probably did not use it either. Instead I added the juice of one lemon.

The soup can be served hot or cold, and the list of accompaniments is seemingly endless…from rye bread to hard boiled eggs, to boiled potatoes, to pierogis. This soup can be made vegetarian by using a vegetable broth, or by preparing a broth with beef, pork, fish, or a bone broth. Polish Christmas Eve borscht is ladled over dumplings made from pasta dough and filled with meat. Russian borscht might be served with round, cheese-filled tarts or small pancakes with cheese mixed into the batter. In East Slavic countries “memorial borscht” is served as the first course of funeral dinners. So many traditions are associated with this dish and several ethnic groups claim this as their own national dish. The history of borscht, as well as many other ethnic dishes that have been around for centuries, is very interesting.

I made a meat broth for my soup base by cooking pork ribs with half of a large onion (skin on), carrots, celery, and bay leaves. The broth simmered for a couple of hours. I strained the broth, shredded the meat, and discarded the vegetables. You can choose to use canned meat or vegetable broth or make your own.

Ingredients:

8 cups of broth

5-6 medium size beets peeled and diced

1 large onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1-2 carrots shredded

2 potatoes peeled and diced

1/2 head of green cabbage shredded

3 T tomato paste

2 T of butter

Juice of 1 lemon

2 T sugar (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Peel and dice the beets. I wore disposable gloves. You might want to also.

Shred the carrot and dice the onion and mince the garlic.

In a fry pan over medium heat melt 2 T of butter and sweat the carrots, onion, and garlic.

Peel, dice, and rinse the potatoes and shred the cabbage.

Using a large soup pot or a Dutch oven, begin heating your broth over medium heat. Add the shredded meat (if you’re using) and all of the vegetables.

Bring the soup to a boil, reduced the heat, and cover and simmer for about an hour or until all of the vegetables are tender. Add the sugar and lemon juice.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill.

NOTE: You can substitute cider or wine vinegar for the lemon juice. As mentioned, any kind of broth will work including a vegetable broth. Some of the recipes I reviewed suggested shredding the beets but I like more texture in my soups.