Monday, May 23, 2011


crimson red stalks of this crisp, tart, flavorful vegetable are creeping into our lives. rhubarb is quite the mid-western tradition. it's rich history is one of crisps, pies, & crumbles. every child has endured rhubarb sauce and rhubarb bars. i remember my grandmother handing us little dishes of sugar, straight-up, to dip our stalks of fresh picked rhubarb into. not everyone is a fan. not everyone is celebrating. soon, we will all be deeply engulfed by the masses of rhubarb that folks kindly, but concerningly bring us, free of charge, by the armloads.

i would just like to share a few comforting ideas. if i can bring calm and peace to even a few folks, or if i could regenerate a new generation of thinking about this bumper crop, i will feel a little more at ease. rhubarb is magnificent paired with a multitude of ingredients. fresh ginger, vanilla beans, black pepper and pinot noir are spectacular rhubarb companions. fresh berries add a helping hand, and even fresh rose petals, orange zest, and cornmeal can liven up the unrulely rhubarb. armed with this insight, you can turn the standard rhubarb fair into rhubarb wonders!

rhubarb compote & jams are much better when a splash of pinot noir and a vanilla bean are added during the cooking down process. the vanilla bean makes the rhubarb gentle and kind, while the pinot noir adds depth and excitement and rounds out the flavors. spoon your wonderful compotes over homemade shortcakes or slather into warm crepes and top with a dollop of honey- greek yogurt. your rhubarb dissing days are over! when making rhubarb chutney, don't forget the fresh ginger. rhubarb and ginger are friends, and they shine together in chutneys. grilled pork chops nestled in warm rhubarb chutney- can your day get any better?

crisps & crumbles are perfect vehicles for rhubarb. often rhubarb is rightly paired with fresh spring berries such as strawberries and raspberries. if you still have a few blueberries from last picking season tucked away in your freezer, they too would love to share in the crisp and crumble fun. i've included a crisp/ crumble recipe for you to experiment with. crisps & crumbles are perfect when thrown together at the last minute with simple ingredients that are on hand. fresh rose petals from your garden would add a fragrant and lovely touch. make sure you are only using fresh, organically grown roses. roses from a florist are typically sprayed and treated to preserve their freshness. orange zest mingles greatly in the crisp & crumble mixture too!

a few last minute rhubarb ideas: thinly shave fresh rhubarb and ginger over beef at the very end of cooking. it will sort of melt and meld into the beef adding a unique and tasty flavor. try whipping up a simple rhubarb dressing for a fresh spring greens salad. whirl fresh rhubarb, olive oil, red wine vinegar and a hearty amount of black pepper and smoked sea salt in a blender. pair with the beautiful bunches of watercress that just arrived at the co-op. yum-o!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
a few twists of fresh cracked pepper
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 lb. fresh strawberries, halved or quartered
12 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup pinot noir

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 9x9 square baking dish.

Combine the flours, pine nuts, oats, sugar, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Stir in the butter until crumbles occur. Set aside.

Make the filling by whisking together the cornstarch and sugar in a large bowl. Add the strawberries and rhubarb, and toss until evenly coated. Wait a few minutes, add the wine, and toss again. Transfer the filling to the prepared pan,crumble the topping across the top of the filling- make sure you have big and small bits.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is deeply golden brwon and the fruit juices are vigorously bubbling. You'll want to let things cool slightly before serving. Top with a dollop of honey-greek yogurt or maybe some ginger ice cream....

*you can substitute spelt or maybe buckwheat flour for the wholewheat flour. brown sugar would probably add a lovely flavor instead of the natural cane sugar. play, play,play!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


it has come to my attention that people have been consuming more and more eggs. maybe it's the increase in price of grass fed beef, pork, and chicken that has caused all the rage. maybe it's the amazing versatility of the egg. maybe it's the availability of more and more locally raised eggs. you have to admit it, when the neighbors bring you fresh eggs from their coop, they taste one million times better than conventional eggs from the grocery store. whatever the case, eggs are great.

humans have probably been eating eggs for millennia. they are high in omegas, a great source of protien, contain lots of vitamins and minerals, and they supply all essential amino acids for humans. The diet of the laying hens can greatly affect the nutritional quality of the eggs. For instance, chicken eggs that are especially high in omega 3 fatty acids are produced by feeding laying hens a diet containing polyunsaturated fats and kelp meal. Pasture raised free-range hens which forage largely for their own food also tend to produce eggs with higher nutritional quality in having less cholesterol and fats while being several times higher in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids than standard factory eggs.

armed with a dozen eggs fresh from a neighborhood coop i set out to make breakfast for my parents and family whom were up for a visit this weekend. there are dozens of dishes that i have made that feature the humble, yet wonderful egg. the 'iron-chef' scramble is one of my favorites. pretend that you are a featured guest on the 'iron chef' television show (it helps that we don't have television, so our imaginations soar for this event). your secret ingredient is the egg. you have only whats in the fridge to work with. now go!

typically ninja skills and a sharp knife are crucial here. i found half a slab of smoked bacon, a bundle of swiss chard, baby swiss cheese, and various herbs. it was go time. i made quick work of the bacon, roughly chopped and sauted, it was the base. i strained off most of the fat, but left a little in the pan for which i sauted and wilted the swiss chard. then i whisked up those beautiful, amber yolked eggs with a bit of cream, a few pinched of thyme, fresh cracked pepper, and smoked sea salt then added it to the bacon and swiis chard. i then scrambled as i had never scrambled before. once the eggs were almost cooked through, i topped with grated baby swiss, through the pan in the oven to melt the cheese and finish cooking the eggs. the end result was spectacular. paired with fresh fruit and java, and our sunny morning was inviting a picnic breakfast out on the deck.

get your 'iron chef' on! egg scrambles are not only exciting, but entertaining too. and what better way to use up those half bundles of fresh produce that were maybe going to make it into a soup at best. eggs are often overlooked and under utilized, so make room for them in a meal or two this week. throw a lightly poached egg on top a fresh greens salad for an extra protein boost. add a couple of hard boiled eggs in your brief case for a snack. eggs are incredible and very very edible. belly up!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

spring onions

my grandpa is 82 years old- give or take a few years. he has spend a large portion of his life traveling. he started his gypsy life as a riding performer on his motorcycle. have you ever seen those fellas who ride their motorcycles speedily in circles in a metal, circular cage? that was my gramps. he was a whippersnapper to say the least. he then traveled about the world while working for the navy. from my understanding, he has been to several european countries, but probably not under the best of circumstances. he came back to the states after ww2. somewhere in those travels, my grandmother entered the scene, and gave the gift of gardening and really good food.

my daughter and i took a little road trip this weekend to rural wisconsin, where we met up with my gramps. he was in wisconsin for a little visit after a long drive from mission texas. i grew up in rural wisconsin, along with my parents, siblings, lots of cool aunts and uncles, and my grandparents. my gramps really doesn't get along with the winter months anymore, so for decades he has escaped to his second home in texas. while my grandparents were in wisconsin, my grandmother had established an extraordinary garden. fresh produce from gram's garden was a summer staple. as a child i spent a great deal of time weeding the garden at my grandmother's side, grazing my way across the garden. my grandpa would always try to convince my brother's and i to eat the spring onions, which were always too sassy for our young pallets to endure. my grams took the gardening with her when she was in texas for the winter months and grew various chilies and citrus fruits. no matter where my grandmother was, she was sure to have something growing.

this weekend, my gramps came with armloads of citrus fruits from his texas crop. he also had a small handful of those spring green onions from my grandmother's garden in wisconsin. i happily ate the spring onions with him this year. of coarse i then wandered into that part of my brain that thinks about food 100% of the time, and i started putting together options for those sassy spring onions. instantly, spring onion oil came to mind. macerate those onions with some great olive oil, season lightly with sea salt, dried chilis, and maybe a shot of lemon juice or zest. drizzle on everything. it would make a great flavor booster for soups, risottos, pastas, and a fried egg sandwich with grilled bacon and roasted tomatoes. belly up!

Monday, May 9, 2011

gila wilderness granola

a few months ago during the dog days of march, i found myself soaking in natural hot springs in the gila wilderness of new mexico. it was awesome to say the least. i was proposed to on top of a mountain- which contributed ridiculous amounts of joy. i backpacked, soaked, meandered, and soaked some more. the temperature in the gila wilderness changes quite dramatically when transitioning from day to night. the daytime sun was perfect for adventuring, while as the evening snuck in, so did very cool temperatures. besides the early morning soaks in natural hot springs to get us going in the morning, we also relied on granola. if there is ever an adventure to be had, you can pretty much guarantee that i will have some sort of food association to go along with it. this time it's granola. i am not the kind of person who likes to buy granola. i'm the kind of person who likes to make it. so as we started planning our trip, i started planning food.

i like the idea of throwing in a variety of ingredients to maximize the amount of energy and nutrition out of our granola. i usually throw in flaxseeds or flaxseed meal for an extra omega boost. i also prefer to make granola, which will be eaten while backpacking, a heartier variety by throwing in a lot of seeds and nuts. there are so many varieties you can make. a few flavor combos that i like are; apricot and almond, cashews and fresh dates, & cranberries and walnuts. granola is super easy to make. you can adjust the ingredient list to your preference. behind every face is a different variety of granola. here's the recipe for our gila wilderness granola:

6 cups oats
2 cups almonds, chopped
2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup flaxseeds
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup sunflower or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, coconut, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and brown sugar. In a seperate bowl, combine the maple syrup or honey, sunflower or canola oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes to acheive an even color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before storing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

food is a doorway....

...pick your passion- mine is food- and use it as your's a doorway into understanding the world you live in- getting inside of people, places, and cultures....eating is the most prevalent shared activity that happens to every single living being on earth. you cannot live without eating and drinking. -lynne rossetto kasper

i will proudly admit that i make dinner nearly every night that my daughter is with me. in our house we take playtime, nap time, and eating very seriously. i love watching my daughter out of the corner of my eye, peeking from behind me to see what exactly is going on with that marinated chicken. i love it when she sneaks handful after handful of the perfectly julienne peppers that are sitting on the cutting board. i love that she secretly eats the organic butter straight-up, hold the bread. mostly i love watching her eat. the way she dives into her gorgonzola mashed potatoes. how she disregards her spoon altogether when she is power eating peas. i have even seen her eat whole cucumbers as though they were apples.

last night adalin was leaning on the open fridge door, pondering its contents, before declaring the need for a snack. the contents of our fridge vary, but last night there was a bowl of freshly made cookie dough waiting to be baked. i imagined addie diving in face first. instead she reached for cheese. food is a doorway into understanding the world in which we live. food helps people connect. without food, my daughter and i would not spend an hour or so every night hassling each other as dinner was being prepared. i would never have guessed that cheese would be the snack choice of a hungry 3 year old, when cookie dough was readily available. i would never know about gooey geysers, unicorns that eat rainbows, or penguino the penguin over our dinner time chats. in our busy lives, filled with busy days, i highly suggest indulging in food. not just food, but also the process of preparing it. think of italian mamas making homemade pasta as they sit around drinking table wine and relentlessly gossip and laugh. these are the moments. live them.