Monday, May 27, 2013

Grandma Viola's Rhubarb Dessert

I grew up with all sorts of rhubarb treats. Crisp, cake, jam, you name it. But I didn't enjoy the tastiest of rhubarb delights until I got married and my husband asked if I'd make the dessert his Grandma Viola always made. I tracked down the recipe from her which was a combination of some really old recipes to yield the most buttery crisp crust, the most delicious custardy filling and most gravity-defying meringue. Here's the masterpiece that has been passed down. We are lucky to enjoy this at least once every spring. It's hard, but be sure to let it cool completely. The filling needs to cool so the rhubarb is not tart and the custard doesn't ooze. The meringue sinks a little but gets those yummy little drops of sugar resting on it. Once it's cool, the meringue pulls in from the sides of the pan, you'll know it's ready to eat.

Grandma Viola's Rhubarb Dessert
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 t. salt
4 T. sugar
2 c. all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together as you would a pie crust, with an electric mixer or a pastry cutter. Press into a 9 x13 pan on the bottom and up the sides just a little. Bake for 15 minutes.

6 cups chopped rhubarb
6 egg yolks beaten (reserve egg whites for the meringue)
2 c. white sugar
6 T. all purpose flour
2/3 c. heavy cream

Mix filling and let set while crust is baking. When crust is done, pour filling evenly onto crust. Bake 60 minutes. When there's about 15 minutes left of the baking time, start the meringue.

6 egg whites
3/4 c. sugar, added to eggs 1 T. at a time.
2 t. vanilla extract

With an electric stand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. While beating add 1 T. of sugar at a time until all is added. Add vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. When filling bake time is done, top with meringue. Bake until meringue is starting to get golden brown, about 12 minutes.

COOL COMPLETELY. Cut into squares and enjoy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ryan's Best Gumbo

I could be wrong in calling this gumbo, but it's what we call this spicy Cajun dish. We don't have a lot of authentic Cajun food available to us here in this corner of Minnesota so we have to improvise a bit and make our own. We tried a lot of recipes and ended up just creating our own. My husband is the master of this dish but I can do a pretty mean imitation of his masterpiece. It starts out with a roux and as my husband says you need to 'stir and cook the roux until it smells like burnt popcorn.' For sausage, again our favorite comes from Schmidt's Meat Market in Nicollet, Minnesota. Nice heat and the distinct Schmidt's smoky flavor.

Ryan's Best Gumbo
1 stick of butter or 1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. all purpose flour
3 stalks celery cut up
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 T. minced garlic
2 quarts chicken broth
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 c. Cajun seasoning (see recipe below)
1 bag frozen cut okra
1 lb. smoked andouille sausage cut into 1" pieces
1 lb. 51-60 shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat and add flour to create a roux. Stir constantly until brown and bubbly. Stir in celery, onion, pepper to coat with roux and saute vegetables for 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir in. Add chicken broth, tomatoes and Cajun seasoning. Stir in okra. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring often. Stir in sausage and shrimp. Cook about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the meats are heated through. Serve over white rice seasoned with parsley and chicken bouillon. Be sure to serve with Bogie's Sweet Corn Bread posted earlier on the blog.
Optional: 1 lb. chicken breast grilled and chopped into 1" pieces can be added with the meats.

Cajun Seasoning 
(makes 1/4 cup)
2 t. salt
2 t. garlic powder
2-1/2 t. Hungarian paprika
1 t. ground black pepper
1 t. onion powder
1 t. cayenne pepper (more if you like some heat)
1-1/4 t. dried oregano
1-1/4 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. red pepper flakes (optional, more if you like extra heat)
Stir to combine.  Use immediately or store in an airtight container

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bogie's Sweet Corn Bread

My family loves corn bread. We didn't love it until we found the right recipe. You know corn bread is usually a little dry and needs lots of butter to help it out. Well when I landed on the right recipe, we knew it was a winner. The German Shorthair Pointer (GSP) we had at the time was named Bogie. He loved two things: popcorn and corn bread. We made him corn bread for a birthday 'cake' when he was a pup. We like to remember that since Bogie's been gone for over 4 years. The recipe still has 'Bogie's Favorite' written on it. Our current GSP is named Buddy and he loves corn bread just as much as Bogie did. We love it a lot too. My daughter asks for it often, especially with gumbo; she loves the shrimp. I highly recommend making it with home-cut frozen sweet corn instead of store-bought if you can. It's the only kind of sweet corn we eat. I can't speak for the taste of this corn bread with anything else, though I imagine it is still pretty good.

Bogie's Sweet Corn Bread
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. granulated white sugar
1/2 c. yellow corn meal
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1-1/8 c. milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 T. butter, melted
1 c. sweet corn kernels, thawed and drained if frozen

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8" square glass baking pan. Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter in a small bowl. Mix well. Stir in corn. Add to flour mixture and stir until just blended. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Edges will be golden brown and crispy. Makes about 12 squares. Serve with honey if desired.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mom's Asparagus Ham Crepes

My mom made these crepes every spring when I was a kid. They are such a delightful way to usher in the first tastes of spring. Asparagus and chives. We look forward to eating these in my house just once every spring. We don't have an asparagus patch of our own, but we get asparagus from my husband's parents. This spring we got the mother lode so I was able to really stuff the crepes full of asparagus. What a treat. I changed the sauce recipe which originally called for heavy cream. It is much lighter with skim milk or your favorite milk substitute and allows you to eat more than one. This dish is in my top five favorite recipes. It's that good. I hope you enjoy it.

Asparagus Ham Crepes

Basic crepes:
Makes 12-16
2 c. all purpose flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. milk
1 c. water
5 T. vegetable oil plus extra for the pan
8-9 inch crepe pan

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and a little of the milk. Gradually blend in the flour. Whisk together the remaining milk, the measured water, and oil and stir this into the flour mixture. Leave to stand 30 minutes.

Heat the crepe pan. Brush with oil and add 3 T. batter tilting the pan to coat it with the batter in a circular shape. Cook for 1 minute, turn, and cook the second side until golden brown. Prepare all crepes.

12 slices of Swiss cheese (big slices to fill length of crepe)
12 slices of ham (if small overlap two slices for each so you'd need 24)
36 spears of asparagus, or more if they are small or thin (I used about 6 small spears per crepe)

Prepare a 9x13 glass pan and a 9x9 glass pan with a little pan spray or oil. To assemble, make a layer ham first, then top with a slice of cheese, then add 3 slices of asparagus on top. Roll into a log (ham will be on the outside.) Roll your ham log in the crepe and place in the glass pan. The large pan holds 8 crepes and the small pan holds 4.

8 oz. package of fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
6 T.  butter
1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 c. water
4 t. instant chicken bouillon
2/3 c. skim milk or substitute
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese or Daiya cheddar shreds
1/4 c. chopped fresh chives

Sauté mushrooms in butter. Stir flour into the water until smooth. Add this to the mushrooms. Stir in bouillon and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat. Stir in the milk, cheese and about half of the chives. Cook on low heat until thickened. Pour over the crepes and sprinkle with the remaining chives. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. Serve.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cauliflower Fritters

A friend gave me a nice cauliflower before leaving for vacation. She wasn't able to use it and didn't want it to go to waste. With such a gift, I just had to find something new to make. It was a little smaller, organic cauliflower so not large enough for curry or soup. So I looked around for some ideas. I found some cauliflower pancake and croquet recipes but none of them matched the ingredients I had at home. So from my research this recipe was inspired. I am not sure if it's a true fritter; I just like the sound of Cauliflower Fritter. And as a bonus, I was able to use fresh chives from my humble downtown garden. These fritters turned out great. Cauliflower once again a big hit at dinner! My daughter enjoyed them with ranch but my husband and I ate them plain. I will definitely make these again.

Cauliflower Fritters

1 small head of cauliflower
1/2 c. water
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c. plain bread crumbs
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 T. fresh chopped chives
vegetable oil

Cut the cauliflower into small pieces. Add to a pan with the water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Make sure you don't boil it out of water but if there is extra and the cauliflower is soft, just drain it. Smash the cauliflower to a pulp. Stir in 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and the chives. Add the egg and stir. Using an ice cream scoop with a thumb lever, scoop out a flattened ball of cauliflower. Release it into your hand and firm into a ball. Roll in bread crumbs and set on a plate. Do this with all the cauliflower. Put just enough oil in a saute pan to cover the bottom about 1/4 inch. Add the fritters to the hot oil and after about a minute, flatten the fritter with your spatula. Cook a little longer and flip until both sides are golden brown. About 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bill Holm's Jiaozi: Chinese Dumplings

Okay. This is my recipe for jiaozi, traditional Chinese dumplings. This is a really difficult recipe for me to write down. I learned how to make these dumplings from Bill Holm and Marcy Brekken who learned it from students in Xi'an, China when they both taught there in the 1980's. I took a Chinese Literature class from Bill as a freshman at SMSU. Part of the experience was to learn how to make jiaozi at Bill's house, complete with Tsingtao and orange soda. It was a great time and cemented my love for this place where I now work. For the recipe, I have estimated the measurements as close as I can, particularly the ginger. I use lots of ginger. I get the Gourmet Garden stuff and used a half a tube last time I made these. This batch of filling uses just about one and a half packages of store-bought wonton wrappers. You could use 2 packages by using less filling in each one, but I like my jiaozi plump. We have tried all sorts of folding and wrapping methods, but if you can get the wrapper to bunch up together tightly, you'll have less sloppy wrapper floating in your pot. You want them to come out looking like little brains. In a good way.  It's a kitchen intense meal and your guests should be in the kitchen wrapping and eating with you. So you assemble, boil, serve and eat in one continuous event. That's part of the fun. My husband ate jiaozi in China and said, from firsthand experience, that they tasted exactly the same as mine. Or the other way around. I have to say that this is by far my favorite meal of all time. That's saying something because I have a lot of 'one of my favorite' meals. I am drooling over this post and I just ate these a couple of days ago. They are so good. I hoped to write the recipe so that it is simple to do. No skill for dough making, no fancy folding techniques. I hope you enjoy them.

(Chinese Dumplings)
1 lb. ground pork, unseasoned
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 can mini shrimp or about 1 cup of small shrimp chopped finely
1/4 c. minced scallions
3 c. chopped bok choy
4 T. crushed ginger (this is an estimate. I might actually use more than 4T)
2 eggs beaten
2 T. soy sauce
A splash of rice wine vinegar
2 packages of wonton wrappers

Combine all ingredients [except wrappers] in a large bowl and allow to chill for at least an hour. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon of filling on wonton wrap, wet the edges of the wrapper with water and pinch the edges of the wrapper shut. (This is important or your dumplings will fall apart.) 

Place about 15-20 jiaozi in the boiling water, depending on the size of your pot. You can add with a slotted spoon so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan and stir them around a little. Boil 10-15 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. I was taught that the dumplings should rise and fall in the water three times and then they are ready. I estimated this at 10-15 minutes. You can check one by cutting it open. Of course you'll have to eat it. Boil all the dumplings this way. Serve with dipping sauce and chopsticks.


1 c. soy sauce
1/2 tsp* hot pepper sauce, chili paste, or Chinese hot oil (such as China Bowl Select)

1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 T. finely chopped scallions
1 T. minced ginger
1/2 T. minced garlic

a splash of sesame oil
a splash of Thai fish sauce
*depending on your heat preference

Combine ingredients and provide each guest with an individual bowl to dip in. This meal is meant to be enjoyed with others, to celebrate, to participate in the making and to relish in the eating. 

Some notes: If you are very ambitious you can make your own dough for wrapping, but I like using the wonton wrappers so guests can easily participate and not struggle with rolling and folding dough.  Also, these may be pan fried for a crispy texture. I like boiling them. It concentrates your attention on the filling and the dipping sauce and not the fried wrapper. Plus it seems a bit healthier and not as filling (which means you can eat more without feeling too badly about it.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Slim's Last Chance Chili Verde (aka Incredible Hulk Chili)

Chili Verde served over cheese quesadillas.
My husband was having a chili cook-off at his office. He was looking for something 'different' to make so he could stand out from the ground beef-tomato-bean chili recipes that he expected others would enter in the contest. We searched all over for chili recipes. White chicken chili, buffalo chili, meatless chili. We settled on trying this highly rated recipe from Guy Fieri's show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food Network. I confess we don't have cable, but when we did, I was prone to passing a lot of hours watching Food Network. This recipe was labeled intermediate and  3+ hours of prep time. You are forewarned. Make a day of it. It is totally worth it. We made the recipe pretty much as written except we didn't use oil to make the masa roux, we just used some of the chili liquid. It didn't seem to need more fat at that point. This is a great green chili out of the bowl or as a sauce. You can put it on anything really, it is that good. It has a lot of peppers of different varieties but it's not hot. My 8-year-old daughter enjoyed it. We'll be making it again and again. We call it the Incredible Hulk Chili. It's green, bold and AWESOME! And, by the way, it won the chili cook-off contest. All credit goes to Slim's Last Chance of Seattle for sharing this recipe. Just be sure to set aside an afternoon to make it. It's labor intensive, but a labor of love. Beautiful green, spicy love.

Slim's Last Chance Chili Verde (aka Incredible Hulk Chili)

Olive oil
5 cups diced onion
1/2 cup chopped garlic
1/3 cup chopped serrano peppers  (about 6 peppers)
1/3 cup chopped jalapeno peppers (about 4 peppers)
5 pounds cubed pork shoulder, cut into about 1" chunks
1 quart chicken broth
20 Anaheim peppers (yes, 20)
15 tomatillos (we used 20 because they were a little on the small side)
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (check for stems if you purchase at the local ethnic food market)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt (I make my own chicken broth strong so I omit the salt here)
1/2 cup corn flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1/2 cup of olive oil. Stir in the onion, garlic, serrano and jalapeno peppers and cook until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the pork shoulder in a LARGE heavy bottomed pot, coated with oil (2-3T.), over medium heat and sear until well browned on all sides. Deglaze with the chicken broth, and then add sauteed onions and peppers. Turn heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the Anaheim peppers on a sheet pan.

Peel the outer paper skins off the tomatillos, then coat with olive oil and place on another sheet pan. Place both pans in the preheated oven and roast until the peppers are nicely charred and the tomatillos are soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove pans from the oven and place the peppers in a plastic bag to let them steam for 5 minutes.

Peel and seed peppers, and then puree them with the tomatillos in a food processor. Add the puree to the pork mixture, stir, and then let simmer on low heat.

Combine the garlic powder, black pepper, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, ground coriander and salt  in a small bowl, then add to pork mixture and stir well.

In a small saute pan, mix 1/2 cup olive oil (We used some of the liquid in the pot) with the corn flour, stirring over low heat for 2 minutes to make a masa roux.

Let the chili mixture simmer for approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours on medium-low heat, or until pork is nice and tender. Then stir in masa roux and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve in a bowl, with corn tortillas, over enchiladas, quesadillas, or any other way you might use green chili. It's fabulous anyway you eat it.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Big Boss Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. You have to try many to find one that makes cookies just the way you like them. I found a classic recipe that I modified a bit to make big cookies that are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. These are like coffee shop cookies at you would pay $1.50 to buy. Use an old fashioned thumb lever ice cream scoop. It holds 4 tablespoons of dough when you press it flat on the side of the bowl and doing so yields 24 super size, big boss cookies. I use a half sheet baking pan, and it fits 8 cookies perfectly.

Big Boss Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. butter (or 1 stick butter and 1/2 c. butter flavor Crisco)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. hot water
1/2 t. salt
12 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. Hershey's toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together the butter/shortening with the sugars. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in the hot water. Add to dough along with the salt. Mix thoroughly then add the flour. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits. Use a standard size, thumb lever, ice cream scooper (56mm/4T size) to drop flattened scoops onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Do not use dark pans. Do not flatten the dough. Bake 15-16 minutes until edges are nicely browned. Refrigerate dough while the first pans bake. If the dough rests on the counter the cookies flatten out too much and get crispy... unless you like them that way. Cool cookies on the pan slightly and remove from pan to a baking rack. Toffee can get stuck to the pan if you wait too long. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.