Monday, May 31, 2010

Rhubarb Crumb Bars

When we moved into our new home and began poking around our yard this spring, I realized we had rhubarb growing along one of the fences. Let me tell you - there was excitement.

Do you know what I did to that poor, unsuspecting rhubarb? I plucked it bare. The first thing I made was a rhubarb pie - a new recipe. Total fail. Must learn to stick with tried and true recipes. Second thing? These crumb bars. Definitely
not a total fail.

But then I realized
lifeless my rhubarb plant looked with no foliage, no ruby red stalks. Had I...maybe it was...we've been living here less than six months and already I've decimated something that's probably been living here longer than I've been alive?!?

Total panic and utter embarrassment ensued. My in laws are gardening pros. They are really going to notice this. Maybe if I just never mention rhubarb again, and if they ask how my rhubarb is doing I'll just make a quizzical face - like, what rhubarb?

Several afternoons ago, I hesitantly walked over to the where the plant had previously been flourishing. Leaves! Tightly furled and quite dark, very new looking and very relief-inducing leaves! I haven't killed my rhubarb!

My mother in law made these rhubarb crumb bars last year and we thought they were delicious, so I bookmarked the recipe.

Rhubarb may not be the most popular fruit (vegetable?) but these bars are really quite good. The cake is moist and tender and the streusel, well, who doesn't like streusel? The rhubarb itself lends a certain tartness to the bars that overall might just convince a person to give rhubarb a fighting chance.

Rhubarb Crumb Bars
Martha Stewart
Makes 16 squares

For the streusel:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for pan
1 cup flour, plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cake:
1/2 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8 inch square baking pan. Line with parchment leaving an overhang on two sides. Butter and flour parchment and pan, tapping out excess flour.

Make the streusel by whisking butter, brown sugar and salt. Add flour and stir with fork till large crumbs form. Refrigerate til ready to use.

In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.

Bake til golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 45-50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift out cake and cut into 16 bars.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Pasta Bolognese

My Mom clipped an article for me, out of a grocery store's magazine, probably late last summer. It was a reader submission section, where one could write a short piece sharing a food related memory. She suggested that I write something and send it in - why not, she said.

It's taken me this long to get around to it. I can be such a fabulous procrastinator when I want to, yes?


I've finally written a piece. And because I waited so long, it doesn't look like the magazine has this reader submitted section anymore. So I'm feeling rather like a balloon that's lost it's air.

you read my article? It's about the Bear, and an exciting milestone he conquered just the other day, and it was all because of some pasta bolognese...

"My son is two and a half years old. He's what some might call 'special needs' or 'challenged'; his main issue is hypopituitarism, which means his body does not produce certain necessary chemicals like yours and mine do.

Due to this deficiency, his development has been somewhat slower than typical kids his age so every milestone is celebrated because it's been achieved, rather than when he achieves it.

When he was born, all the doctors and specialists at the children's hospital insinuated that he would be extremely dependent. Possibly never walking or talking, blindness was a strong possibility and consuming anything other than pureed food wasn't even brought up because it was so far fetched, at that time.

Turns out the specialists were wrong.

Bear is progressing well. Very well, in fact. Yes, he's delayed. We're just fine with that - because he is progressing.

A few days ago the Bear hit a pretty big milestone, in our opinions, anyway. He ate his entire dinner, by himself, with his fingers.

Previously he'd point at his spoon, then at either myself or my husband, communicating that he wanted us to feed him.Not this time. He dug in with both hands and pasta bolognese spread far and wide.

I couldn't have been more excited to see bits of carrot and ground pork on my newly installed hardwood - not to mention every square inch of Bear's face, hair and (thankfully) his dark colored t shirt. I was cheering him on with every meaty handful. He was terribly encouraged by this and joined me in arms-raised excitement.

That pasta bolognese recipe is going down in the memory books as the meal that helped my son reach a long awaited milestone."

Oh! It tasted great too
. Both Matt and I prefer pasta sauces with more of a nod to tomato-y flavor rather than sauces with too much tomato flavor. We feel the tomato sauce should be a binder for the other ingredients, rather than the star of the show. This ragu is perfect for us.

The only adaptation I made to the recipe itself was using cream instead of milk. We also cooled the sauce after its two hour simmer (but before adding the cream) and then refrigerated it overnight - the next day we reheated it slowly and added the cream shortly before serving. Why? The both of us regularly comment on how certain foods taste better the next day and pasta sauce is definitely one of them!

This recipe makes a
lot of ragu. I halved the recipe and had enough sauce to make a big pot of pasta for our dinner, plus leftovers for the Bear and I as well as Matt's lunch the next day - and froze four cups for future meals.

Ragu alla Bolognese
Lemons & Anchovies

2 pounds ground pork

1 pound ground turkey

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

2 - 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup red wine or chicken stock, plus more if necessary

1/4 cup milk

grated Parmesan for serving

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

Place celery, carrot and onion in a food processor and pulse till finely chopped. Saute the vegetables in olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat for 6-7 minutes. Raise heat to high and add the ground meats. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, breaking up the meats as they cook.

When the meats become a light golden color (approximately 6-8 minutes), add the wine or chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan as it deglazes. Cook until the wine has almost reduced then add the tomato paste, tomatoes and more wine or stock if needed. Bring to a boil then simmer about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the milk during the last half hour of cooking.

At this time the sauce will be a medium thick consistency. If it's too dry, add more wine or stock. If it's not thick enough, allow to simmer longer to reduce and thicken.

Serve over your favorite pasta.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Crock Pot Lasagna

I love, no - I adore lasagna. It's one of my favorite comfort foods.

Two and sometimes three days a week I work till 8pm and have just a half an hour break in which to get things as ready as possible for Matt and the Bear to have dinner. We like meals that I can start simmering, baking or roasting during that half hour break, or ones that can be tossed in the crock pot earlier in the day. When this slow cooker lasagna recipe came up in my Reader, I knew it would make the menu for one of my work days.

This is Matt's favorite lasagna. He chooses this over the more labor intensive recipes I've made in the past, not because it's easier but because he actually likes this one better. It's simple, and it's delicious.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Delightfully Sweet who adapted it from Kraft Foods

1 lb. ground beef

1 26 ounce jarred or homemade pasta sauce

1 cup water

1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved, optional)

1 15 ounce container ricotta cheese

8 ounces shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon pepper

lasagna noodles (uncooked)

Brown meat in large skillet; drain. Stir in sauce and water.

In a separate bowl mix ricotta, 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, egg, pepper and parsley.

Spoon approximately 1 cup meat sauce into slow cooker; top with layers of noodles, broken to fit; and cheese mixture. Alternate cheese mixture and meat sauce ending with the meat sauce. Cover with lid.

Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; let stand, covered, 10 min. or until melted.

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