23 May 2012

Chocolate-Rhubarb Muffins (or fun with rhubarb, part 3)

Are you getting sick of my muffins yet?  They're so great, though, because you can put some reasonably healthy ingredients in them, eat them on the run, have them for breakfast or dessert, and they freeze and thaw so easily.  Have I won you over yet?  If not, fine.  More muffins for me.

Chocolate-Rhubarb Muffins

Makes about 20

2 cups chopped rhubarb
½ cup white sugar
¾ c. plain yogurt
½ c. milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup white flout
1 cup wheat flour
½ cup rolled oats (not instant)
¼ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 325°F.  Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups.

In a large bowl, combine rhubarb and white sugar; stir and allow to sit 10 minutes.  Add the yogurt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and brown sugar and mix, making sure eggs yolks are broken and evenly distributed.  Stir in all remaining ingredients and pour equal amounts into each baking cup in the muffin tin(s)  ( had to spill over into a second tin.  Bake at 325°F 20 minutes of until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

These are great with peanut butter, or for a more savory option, cream cheese or goat cheese.  

18 May 2012

Fresh Green Pasta Salad

I made this on a lark when I was pressed for time and ingredients and had promised a pasta salad for a gathering.  Now I can't get enough of it!   With a nod to spring (peas) and my favorite snack, guacamole, you might find it's worth rotating into your potluck repertoire.

Fresh Green Pasta Salad

Serves 6

1 pound pasta shells
1 ripe avocado
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, sliced (green and white parts)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (thaw if frozen)
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
salt and black pepper to taste

In well-salted water, cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.  When it is done, drain in a colander and run under cool water to stop the cooking process.

While pasta cooks, combine avocado, lime juice, and garlic in a medium bowl.  Mash until smooth (you can also use a food processor for this), then fold in yogurt, cilantro, and green onions.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.

16 May 2012

Fun with Rhubarb, Part 2

I was touched by your enthusiasm for my first Fun with Rhubarb post (I'm wondering what fanciful compositions it may have inspired), and so I reward you with booze!  Well, actually, it's a beautiful, perfect simple syrup you can use in booze, or you can pour it on ice cream, yogurt, or mix with soda water for the kiddies and recovering alcoholics at your parties.  I, however, love this with gin and a little DRY cucumber soda over ice.

Rhubarb-Lime Syrup

4 large (1 pound) rhubarb stalks, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar2 cups water4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste

Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan. Stir well, and leave for 45 minutes or so (unheated), stirring now and then.
Add the water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb starts to break down. Carefully strain into a bowl through a fine strainer. Transfer back to the saucepan, stir in the lime juice, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer over medium heat for another 15 minutes or until the syrup has reduced quite a bit and thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

11 May 2012

Fun with Rhubarb, part 1

Thanks to an unseasonably warm spring in the Rockies, my yard is already overrun with rhubarb.  I make the same pie over and over every year (recipe below), but I just hate making crust.  And while rhubarb pie is about the easiest pie you can make (and that's pretty damn easy), I am not ashamed to admit that I am lazy enough to go looking for an even easier alternative.  Great news!  It's a cobbler.  You will always have the ingredients on hand, and you can't screw this up.  Enjoy.

Scandinavian Rhubarb Crumble

Serves 8 or so

4-5 large stalks of rhubarb (about 1 pound), cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

In a greased baking dish, combine the chopped rhubarb and sugar.  Allow to sit 10 minutes.  Stir in the flour, cardamom, and cloves.

Then, in a medium mixing bowl, combine:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granola (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup milk (any kind)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir thoroughly and pour over rhubarb, spreading evenly to cover with the batter.

Cover the dish with foil and bake in an oven at 350F for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You say you want a traditional pie?  Fine. Here it is, care of Grandma Riner:

Catherine's Classic Rhubarb Pie

Serves 8

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
pinch salt
4-5 large rhubarb stalks, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 pie crusts (pre-made is fine)

In a large mixing bowl, combine rhubarb and sugar.  Allow to sit 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven for 425F. Grease a pie pan and fill with one pie crust and prick all around with a fork.  Bake in the oven 10 minutes or until it starts to dry out a little.

Add the flour and salt to the rhubarb and combine thoroughly.  Pour rhubarb mixture into the pre-baked pie crust, scatter the butter pieces on top, and place the other pie crust on top of the whole thing.  Crimp the edges shut, cut a little vent hole into the middle of the top crust, and bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden.  Allow to col thoroughly before serving.

04 May 2012

California Burritos

When I lived in Bloomington, Indiana as a student, there was an old Victorian house downtown which had been chopped up and converted into several things--bizarre toy shop, coffee shop employing the most heavily pierced and tattooed people in Monroe County (god, I loved that place), and a goofy burrito place run by a clingy middle-aged woman.  All they had in there was burritos, which the clingy middle-aged woman owner called "California style". Having never visited the great state at that point in my life, I had no idea what she meant; I think now that California style generally means there are a lot of vegetables in it.  The burritos were overpriced and not terribly flavorful (Ha! Maybe that's the California style!), but the formula she used was revolutionary to me: basically equal parts grains,vegetables, and meat.  She didn't offer much in the way of condiments (nor did she season her ingredients before heating them in the microwave), and that was the problem, but the basic model allows for a wonderful amount of creativity.  I recalled that place a few weeks ago when I was trying to use up leftover rice, tortillas, and veggies (you could call the mushrooms the "meat" in this recipe, I guess). And then I remembered the time I brought my dad in there and she unabashedly hit on him all through our meal, and I was glad I would never have to go there again.

California-style Burritos

Serves 4

4 large burrito-style flour tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
4 oz. dried shitake mushrooms
½ yellow onion, chopped
1 small yellow crookneck (summer) squash, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large jalapeno, minced
1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup cooked brown rice, whole wheat couscous, or quinoa
Bottled green salsa
¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
6 oz. crumbled queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese
Plain Greek-style yogurt

Soak the shitake mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes or until they are pliable.  Squeeze out excess moisture and give them a rough chop.  You can save the soaking liquid for soup (freeze if you’re not using it within the week).

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil and sauté the onion, mushrooms, squash, and jalapeno.  Cook until soft (about 10 minutes), then add the garlic and spinach.  Cook another minute, until garlic is fragrant and spinach begins to wilt, and then turn off heat.

To build burritos, place equal amounts of rice, mushroom mixture, and cilantro along one side of each tortilla.  Top with salsa, cheese, and yogurt, tuck the ends up over the filling, and roll into a burrito shape.