This blog has languished during my move to Wisconsin. My new job, quite honestly, has been kicking my ass, with long hours and a lengthy commute from G.’s house to our office in Milwaukee. I hope that will get better soon when I move into a condo in the city.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing only enough cooking to get by and using as much as possible from our freezer, which is still well-stocked thanks to the past two years of gardening.
This year’s garden has me worried. We’ve had enough rain to break the drought, but it’s so cold that just about the only thing growing is rhubarb and a tiny bit of lettuce in our hoop house. The rhubarb looks awesome though. The plants are big and bushy, with stalks that are ready to cut.
I harvested some yesterday and made a rhubarb pudding cake with a recipe from Kim Ode’s Rhubarb Renaissance, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It reminds me of a kind of upside-down strawberry shortcake, with rhubarb compote on the bottom covered by a moist cake with crunchy top.
G., who is still slightly suspicious of rhubarb, wanted to taste mine before he committed to a serving, but then he ate two. Here’s the recipe:
Rhubarb Pudding Cake
5 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sugar (the recipe calls for granulated, but I used brown)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind
1 1/4 cups boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Spread rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in the melted butter, milk, egg and vanilla. This makes a thick batter. Drop spoonfuls on top of the rhubarb and smooth it out.
In another bowl, combine the 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, cardamom and lemon rind. Mix it, and then sprinkle it evenly on top of the batter.
Gently pour the boiling water over the whole thing.
Bake the cake for 50 minutes and then let it cool for 20 minutes before serving. It should still be warm.
This will be my last blog post from Chicago. We are unhooking my Internet connection today and returning the equipment. The movers come this week.
I made muffins this morning to use the last of my butter and sugar. As you know, I’ve been trying for weeks to use up the food in my freezer and cabinets so that I would have less to move. I’ve gotten the volume down a lot, but I still have an interesting array of supplies. This morning, I found frozen cranberries, dried orange peel and Grand Marnier to use in my moving muffins.
Cranberry and Grand Marnier Muffins
6 ounces all-purpose flour
2 ounces whole wheat flour
4 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter (4 ounces)
8 ounces milk
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 cup frozen cranberries
Combine the dried orange peel and milk in a microwave-safe cup. Heat the milk for about one minute so that it is warm. Let the milk sit for 10 minutes or so, so that the orange peel steeps.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
Melt the butter. Beat in the eggs. Pour the milk through a strainer to remove the orange peel. Beat the milk into the butter and eggs. Add the Grand Marnier.
Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until it is smooth and not lumpy. I do this by hand to avoid over-mixing. Add the cranberries and stir them in.
Spoon the batter into a greased muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for about 22 minutes. My oven in Chicago runs hot, so you might have to go a bit longer.
This makes a dozen muffins.
I have been trying hard to use up the food in my freezer and cabinets before my upcoming move to Wisconsin. One of the items that had been sitting around a while was a 2-cup bag of kamut, an ancient whole grain.
I ordered it from a farm in Iowa on a whim, and then I was kind of like, “OK, what do I do with this?” But after reading a few articles about grain salads, I felt confident about coming up with one.
I bought a rotisserie chicken and some celery for crunch. I had dried cherries and sunflower seeds that I needed to use up, so those went in. I used peach vinegar because I had it, but anything fruity would probably do.
And you could always change up the cheese if you are like G. and think blue cheese is foul. Actually, part of why I used it in this recipe is because I rarely use it anything he would eat.
This salad has been my lunch this week. It keeps well.
Kamut, Chicken and Cherry Salad
1 cup kamut, cooked
2 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup white peach vinegar (or any other flavor you like)
1/4 cup olive oil
To cook the kamut, place 3 cups of water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the grain and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The grain will still have texture and be chewy, but not hard. Drain off the excess water.
Let the kamut cool, and then combine it in a bowl with the chicken, celery, cherries, sunflower seeds and blue cheese.
To make a vinaigrette, stir the vinegar while you pour in the oil. Technically, you want a 2:1 oil to vinegar ratio, but I like a more even split. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss.
This will easily feed four and you’ll likely have leftovers. The kamut is very filling.
The time has come for G. and I to make a big effort to consume the butternut squash that we have in cold storage. He knocked himself out last summer watering the plants amid the drought in our area (and in most of the country). It would be a shame to waste it, and we recently pulled out one squash that had started to rot. So, we need to eat the rest before they go the same way.
To that end, I recently made on of my favorite winter dishes. It’s essentially a recipe from Martha Rose Shulman, with a few ingredients _ like olives _ left out because G. doesn’t like them.
Also, Martha’s recipe has long, detailed instructions. I throw everything in my slow cooker, go to work, and when I come home, dinner is done.
Spanish Stew with Chicken and Butternut Squash
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Roughly 28 ounces of frozen tomatoes, thawed and run through the food processor OR 2-3 cups of plain tomato sauce
6 to 8 skinned chicken legs and/or thighs (you can use boneless
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup raisins
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
I took a bit of a break from cooking after our pie party. G. and I went out some, and then I had company and we went out some more. I’ve also been trying to use up what’s in my freezer before I move, and that’s led to even less cooking.
But I was at the grocery store a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist buying a couple of Meyer lemons. I had read about them in cookbooks and magazines but never tried one until this winter, in part because I didn’t have a decent grocery store in my neighborhood in Chicago until last fall. My mom thinks they taste like a cross between an orange and a lemon, but I definitely taste more lemon than orange. They’re just a funny lemon.
I thought it would be great to make a version of my grandmom’s lemon cream pie with them, but then after all the pie we’ve had lately, I thought maybe I should give it a rest. Specifically, I thought I should give the crust a rest because I’m supposed to limit my consumption of refined, white flour.
I eventually decided to just make the pie filling and bake it in a water bath as a custard. I do this a lot with pumpkin pie filling, and this worked out just as well. It makes a light, tart dessert, which would be refreshing after a heavy meal.
Meyer lemon custard
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 Meyer lemons
1 tablespoon butter
2 large eggs
7/8 cup milk
Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg whites and set aside.
Mix the sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour.
Grate the rind of 1 lemon. Set it aside. Squeeze the juice from both lemons. Set it aside.
Mix the rind, lemon juice, butter, egg yolks and milk.
Fold in the egg whites.
Pour the batter into four lightly greased ramekins. Place those in a baking dish and fill 2/3 of the way up the sides with water.
Try baking it at 300 degrees for 45-50 minutes. The center should be just a bit jiggly. It will firm up as the pudding cools.
The night that newspaper columnist Pauline Phillips died, my mom sent me an email: I am making meatloaf in honor of Dear Abby.
What she meant was that she was making Ann Landers’ meatloaf. Phillips was better known as Dear Abby, and Ann Landers (real name: Eppie Lederer) was her twin — something that did not prevent a fierce competition between the two advice columnists.
Landers made a mean meatloaf, the recipe for which she printed several times in her column over several decades. My mom got it from a friend who saved a copy the last time it was published.
As an aside, Landers died in 2002, which was the year Dear Abby’s daughter took over her column. Phillips was 94 when she died Jan. 16.
And so, on the night that Dear Abby died, my mom made her sister’s meatloaf in her honor.
She made it again last weekend when she was visiting me. We were having nine for dinner: Me, my mom, G., my stepsister and her family, and a couple of friends. That also was the night of our pie party, so we needed a relatively simple dinner that we could get on the table and clean up before all the guests arrived. Meatloaf, baked potatoes and a salad that my friend brought were just the ticket.
G. was in heaven. I don’t cook a lot of beef, so he looks forward to my mom’s visits, and her meatloaf — Ann Landers’ meatloaf — is a favorite. He had two helpings, which distressed me a little because I knew we were all about to consume an obscene amount of pie.
G. came through it OK but swears he is going to start cutting back.
In getting ready for the dinner, I realized I hadn’t ever posted the recipe on this blog, which has become my go-to way for saving recipes because I can search for them by keyword. Otherwise, I have to sort through bins of paper copies, which greatly reduces the chances that I’ll find what I’m looking for.
I’m posting the recipe now for the next time I want it, which may be when I’ll be able to get a photograph. The meatloaf we made last weekend was eaten before I even thought about taking its picture.
Ann Landers’ Meatloaf
2 pounds ground round beef
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
3/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Accent seasoning
1/2 cup warm water
1 package Lipton dry onion soup mix
8 ounces tomato sauce
Mix all the ingredients together except the tomato sauce, and shape the meat into a loaf. Put the loaf in a baking pan, and top it with the tomato sauce.
If you want, you can lay a couple of pieces of bacon over the loaf first, and then pour on the tomato sauce. My mom does that.
Bake the meatloaf at 350 degrees for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.
We had a pie party on Saturday: 30 adults, 3 children and 19 pies.
I got the idea from an article in Bon Appetit magazine last summer. At first, I thought the party would be small, but then G. and I kept thinking of more friends we wanted to invite. It grew, and it grew awesome.
I also decided to put my own twist on Bon Appetit’s idea and turn the party into a contest. After everyone sampled the pies, they voted on their two favorites. The winners were a perfect pecan pie made by my friend Paul and a grasshopper pie from my friend Mike.
The kids really liked the bright green grasshopper pie, and my mom remarked on that.
“It has alcohol in it,” Mike said.
“Oh!” my mom exclaimed. Later, she told me, “No wonder they liked it. They were all over the dance floor.”
I made a blueberry pie, which my friend Andale said was very good.
“I would have even voted for it,” he said. “But then there was your momma’s pie.”
She made a banana cream pie, and at the end of the night, when people were taking slices home, Andale scooped up the last two pieces.
“Your momma,” he said, shaking his head.
She does rock. And so, for you, my dear readers, here is my mom’s recipe:
Banana Cream Pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or 3 tablespoons cornstarch)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg yolks
Keebler Graham Cracker Crumb Crust
Heavy cream whipped with sugar and vanilla
Slightly beat the 3 egg yolks and set aside.
Combine the sugar, flour and salt in a sauce pan. Gradually stir in the milk. Cook it over a medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Cook 2 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat.
Next, stir a small amount of the milk mixture into the egg yolks. Add that mixture back into the original hot mixture and cook it for 2 minutes stirring constantly.
Remove the hot mixture from the heat, and add butter and vanilla. Let it cool, forming a custard.
Next, make the pie shell according to the directions on the Keebler package. Bake it at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Slice the bananas, and place the slices in the bottom of the shell.
Pour the cooled custard into the baked pie shell and over the sliced bananas.
Beat the heavy cream, adding sugar and vanilla to taste. Use the whipped cream to top the pie.