Monday, May 30, 2011

A Pie in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush... Or Something Like That...

We had company for dinner last night and lo' I found I had a pound of rhubarb in the fridge.  It's hard for me to convey why I love rhubarb so much.  For one, after robins and crocuses, it's the first sign Spring is finally here.  Also, one of my earliest memories is of my Dad showing me the rhubarb plant in our side yard and giving me a taste of the sour stalk.  I'd pay money for a picture of my face that day...  Plus, it's a vegetable that you can put in a pie!  Nom!  This is a recipe I got off the Internet years ago and have nearly adulterated beyond recognition.  I've been on a diet lately (down 28 pounds, thank you very much!) so I don't know if this was so good because I've been off sugar for so long, or if it really is far and away the best pie ever invented, but I'm going for the second explanation...  This particular crust is a storebought abomination (and by abomination I mean full of chemicals, fat, and calories and totally worth it) but I do have a very good homemade crust I'll share one of these days.  (It's got cream cheese.  Dude.) Anyhoo, here's the original.  It came from a now-defunct website called and was demurely titled...

Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie VI

4 C rhubarb-sliced into 1/2 in. chunks.
1 1/2 C strawberries, sliced
2/3 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 t cinnamon
2 t butter
1 (9in.) double pie crust
extra sugar
Opt. 1 C sliced apples may be added and raspberries may be subbed for the strawberries

  • Combine fruit in a bowl.  Add sugar, flour, and cinnamon and stir into fruit.  Pour into unbaked pie crust and top with butter.  
  • Make lattice top crust if desired, or a regular plain top crust.  Brush crust with milk and sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, or until juices bubble up and appear thickened.
Yield: 8 servings (Or if you're me, 1 maybe 2...)


My substitutions/additions:
  • 1 small fuji apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 pt raspberries
  • 1 Cup sliced strawberries
  • I have also used blackberries and/or blueberries, though not in this pie.
  • I did not do the milk wash.  I was running short on time, and I really didn't care if it had a glaze or not.


With most fruit pies, you let the sugar sit on the fruit for a while to form a sort of gel.  This time, I didn't have a lot of time for the fruit to sit, so I let it sit while I got the crusts ready and the oven finished warming (5-10 minutes).  When I poured the filling into the crust, there was still a lot of loose flour and sugar mixture and I was a little worried.  It absolutely made no difference.  If anything, it was slightly less messy, but the taste was still fantastic.

This makes 1 deep-dish pie, or with an extra apple, 2 regular pies.


It is tart and sweet and so very, very good.  Serving it with ice cream is a must, though.  It cuts through some of the tartness.  I sent our guests home with pie and no ice cream and also never having had rhubarb pie before...  I am wondering what they thought of it...  But for us, who know the secret of the vanilla ice cream, this here pie's a keeper!

*Side note about rhubarb: If you don't already know, the leafy part of rhubarb is poisonous.  Most grocery stores and farmer's markets will have the greens stripped off already, but if you have some growing in your yard or get some from a friend, please only eat the stalk!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pasta with Lentils

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was steamed spinach, brown rice, lentils, and cottage cheese.  My Mom sent me a newspaper clipping with this and another lentil recipe on it while I was in college (where, unbeknownst to her, my favorite meal was Marshmallow Mateys).  She found it in our small-town newspaper which usually featured recipes full of meat and/or cream-of-something soup so when the exotic lentil got a mention, she clipped it right out!  Now that I'm in Mommy mode myself, though I do still have an appreciation for the marshmallow group, I'm favoring lentils for dinner again.  So when I dug this one out, I thought I'd give it a try for old time's sake.

The article is from the Jefferson Post in 1997 (probably a December issue judging by all the ads with Santa in them on the reverse side) written by Philomena Corradeno in her column, "The Chopping Block".

David Ruggerio, chef/owner of Le Chantilly, Pastis, and Chaz and Wilson Grill in New York City, in his "Little Italy Cookbook" (Artisan, 1997; $29.95), writes:
     "Among the many fascinating and quirky traditions Italian-Americans keep alive is the little-known practice of eating lentil soup on New Year's Eve at midnight while walking up and down the stairs."
     David has produced a delightful book of recipes and color photos that tickle the taste buds.  If you're tempted and want to eat lentil soup on the stairs, do it with his Pasta Lentiche, that is, Pasta with Lentils.  It's a hearty dish suitable for winter dinner...
Pasta with Lentils (Pasta Lentiche)
2 C lentils, rinsed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
1 tsp salt
6 C water or chicken stock
1 C ditali or other small pasta
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
Pecorino cheese, grated
     In deep saucepan, combine lentils, carrot, onion, celery, garlic, salt and water or chicken stock.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 minutes or until vegetables are barely tender.  Don't overcook.  Remove from heat; remove garlic and discard.
      Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain well and add to lentil mixture.  Mix well and add some fresh black pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and serve with grated cheese sprinkled on top.  Makes 4-6 servings. 
Note: Ruggerio's recipe calls for small green lentils, preferably Italian or French but these are not easily available in supermarkets and regular brown lentils will do as well.

My substitutions/additions:
  • I used whole wheat macaroni.  I know it's not as fancy as whatever a ditali is, but it's what I had in the pantry.
  • I didn't use a red onion, which would have been prettier...
  • I used 3 C water and 3 C vegetable stock.
  • I wish I'd read the note before I made this, I actually had some French lentils in the pantry and it would have made quite a difference in the flavor and consistency.  

Review: My Mom used to make something exactly like this out of leftovers.  Who knew?  My Mom, a bon vivant!  Overall, it's fine.  I wouldn't pay gourmet prices for it, but it's a quick, healthy recipe, so I'll keep it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Halibut for the Heck-of-it...

 As the chief cook and veggie washer in the CotC household, I find the best thing about fish is how quickly it cooks up.  I snagged this recipe off the Net one day when I bought some halibut on sale.  I didn't write down all the instructions, so I had to guess what I was supposed to do this time.  I know.  I did myself a favor there...  It's a very simple recipe using mostly things you probably already have in the pantry.

Broiled Halibut

2 lbs halibut
1 large lemon
olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs dill weed
broil 15-20 minutes

That's all I have.  So this is what I did:
Poured juice of 1 lemon over fish, then drizzle of olive oil.  Then, I sprinkled the salt, garlic powder, and dill seed over the fish and popped it in the broiler.  What I probably should have done: combine juice of 1 lemon with olive oil and dry ingredients to make a marinade.  Pour that over the fish and broil it.  Maybe top with a lemon slice...

My substitutions/additions:
  • I only used 1 lb of halibut (have you seen the price of halibut these days?  Yeesh!)
  • I used dill seed instead of dill weed.  The meat-eaters liked it with the seed.  It might be nice to see the little green dill fronds on top during service, though.

DH doesn't like fish if it isn't salmon, but he liked this!  Mr. 5 thought it was too "spicy."  Not sure if he was talking about the garlic or the lemon, but he liked the fish part.  He just didn't eat the top.  (That's why I think it was supposed to be a marinade instead of a crust.)  Even Mr. 3 ate it!  I served it with a spinach salad and sweet potato puree.  Keeping this one, but tweaking my technique...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles...

When I dug this recipe out of the box I was so excited.  No cane sugar, lots of fiber, relatively low calories... It came off a box of Back to Nature Oat Bran Flakes cereal many years ago.  I don't know how to begin to tell you how I messed these up.  So many ways, really. 
  • First off, I couldn't be bothered to find the actual measuring spoons so I guesstimated using silverware even though I knew better.  Bad.
  • Apparently "Back to Nature" used to be a generic brand at some store I shopped at in CA and is either no longer in existence or at least not in WA so I subbed Nature's Path Flax Plus Multibran flakes.  I don't know how different the two are.  Bad?
  • I used 1/2 C raisins instead of choosing the optional full cup of dates.  Bad. 
  • I used the wrong kind of dates.  I used the chopped and floured dates, but should have used the kid of dates you have to pit.  Bad. 
The end result was bad cookies that were also yucky and not very good.

Back to Nature Date-Oat Bran Cookies
1 C Back to Nature Oat Bran Flakes
1/2 C dates
1/2 C raisins (may use only dates if desired)
2 egg whites, unbeaten
4 egg whites, beaten
2 T honey
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking powder

     Chop Oat Bran flakes in a blender or food processor.  Blend in dates and 2 egg whites until dates are well mashed.  Place date mixture in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
     Beat 4 egg whites in an electric mixer until foamy.  Gradually beat in honey and vanilla and continue beating until whites are thick and shiny.  Mix together cinnamon, flour, and baking powder.  Reduce speed and lightly fold dry ingredients into whites.  Stir 1/2 of the egg white mixture into the date mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining egg white mixture.  Drop by spoonfuls onto two non-stick cookie sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until light brown. 
     Makes 30-36 cookies.

My substitutions/additions:
Aside from all the subsitutions I made that may or may not have led to this recipe's ultimate demise, I used one whole egg instead of the two egg whites.  I hate to waste eggs.  If that was wrong, it was the least of this recipe's problems. 

They turned out more like bread instead of cookies, all you could taste was cereal and raisins.  They also didn't make nearly 36.  I got about 27.  They don't take anywhere near 20 minutes to bake either, so I burned the bottoms on the first batch.  Also, this recipe doesn't say anything about greasing the pans.  Dear friends, please grease your pans.  Even though these were a spectacular fail, I am going to try them again.  Do things properly before I totally chuck it.  They also need maybe oatmeal or nuts to give them a little more texture.  That said, the boys love them.  I think they're hard up for cookies in this house.  But at least they've not gone to waste.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mayo-esque

I'm taking a cue from Martha Stewart here, and posting a Mexican-ish recipe.  Well, actually, a lovely pair of recipes I hadn't tried until tonight.  Apart, they're just two shy, unassuming recipes.  But put them together and something magical happens...  They complete eachother... Birds begin to sing... The grass becomes greener... The world...dramatic pause...more beautiful... OK, it's not really that good, but really, they are much better together.

The cornbread recipe is from an Alber's Cornmeal box and the soup recipe came from the inside label on a Rosarita refried beans can that I had actually clipped for the recipe on the outside label.  As such, it is missing a few instructions and one ingredient so I had to guess a bit.

Also, for the record, it drives me crazy to read recipes online in which the reviewers say, "Oh, I subbed peanut butter for mayonnaise and onions for sugar and this recipe was absolutely horrible!"  I am totally that person on these recipes.  Partly by accident, and partly because I thought I knew better.  Yeah, I know... I know... *sigh...*

Cornbread Mexicana
4 Tbs butter or margarine, melted
1/4 C finely diced onion
1/2 C (4 oz can) Ortega Diced Green Chiles
2 Tablespoons diced pimento
1 C canned, drained or frozen corn
1 1/2 C Albers Yellow Corn Meal
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 C (2 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 C carnation evaportated milk
1/3 C water
1 egg, lightly beaten

Pour 1 T butter into medium skillet; add onion, green chiles and  pimento.  Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until onion is tender.  Add corn; cook for 1 minute.
Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and cheddar cheese in medium bowl; mix well.  Combine remaining melted butter, evaporated milk, water and egg in small bowl; mix well.  Add milk mixture and cooked vegetables to flour mixture; stir just until blended.  Pour into well-greased 8-inch-square pan.
Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve warm.

Variation: Increase cheese to 1 C (4 oz), evaporated milk to 1 C and water to 1/2 C.  Prepare as above.  Pour into well-greased 9-inch-square pan and bake as above.

My substitutions/additions
  • I used Bob's Red Mill corn meal.
  • I subbed a jalapeno pepper for the can of chilies.  Didn't add the slightest bit of heat.
  • I hate pimento, but for your sake I put red bell pepper in to make a nicer picture.  Are you happy?  You better be...
  • I didn't have evaporated milk even though I thought I had it in the pantry (dang) so I used regular ol' skim milk.
  • I used 2 Tbs melted butter in the mix and a spray of olive oil to saute the veggies.
  • I used wheat flour.

Not much on its own.  Kinda mushy and bland.  Boy 1 didn't like it and Boy 2 didn't touch it.  But wait...

Mexican Peasant Soup
 Ingredients Needed:
2 t Wesson Oil
3/4 C each chopped onion, celery, and green bell pepper
1/4 t each garlic powder, ground black pepper, and (?)
3 C vegetable broth
1 (16 oz) can Rosarita Vegetarian Refried Beans
tortilla chips and Ceddar cheese (optional)
Steps to Prepare:
Heat oil in large skillet, cook vegetables over medium heat until (?)
Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer 10 minutes.  To serve s(?) into serving dishes; top with tortilla chops and sprinkle w(?)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Makes 4 servings

My substitutions/additions:
  • I went out on a limb and assumed they wanted 1/4 t salt, though chili powder would have been a good guess, too.
  • I heated the veggies until heated though, but the recipe probably called for them to be soft since it only calls for 10 minutes simmer time.  I simmered way longer than 10 minutes.
  • I also assume you're supposed to spoon the soup into bowls and top with chips and cheese...
Not bad.  Hubby called it "Mexican in a bowl."  Probably great with tortilla chips in it.  Boy 1 liked it, Boy 2 a no go (big surprise).  BUT when you crumble the cornbread into it, it's a whole new ballgame!  They compliment eachother wonderfully.  Might be nice with a tad of sour cream, too.  They're both keepers, and I'll probably staple them together.
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