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Rhubarb Sauce

Rhubarb often emerges from the ground when there is still a little snow left.  The vibrant contrast of curly, bright green leaves and ruby red stalks against a blanket of white spring snow inspires us to pick a few stalks to create this tasty sauce.  It is sweet and tart; you can increase the amount of sugar to taste.  Preparation time is about 20 minutes.

3 C rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 C brown sugar, or to taste
1/4 C water
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t vanilla extract

In a medium size sauce pan, combine the sugar, rhubarb, water and spices.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer about 10 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender and begins to fall apart.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Stir a little more to break up the rhubarb chunks and create a sauce-like consistency.

This sauce is quite versatile.  Serve it over waffles or pancakes.  Try it on your morning oatmeal.  An all-time favorite is to spoon it warm over homemade vanilla ice cream.  Yummy!  The recipe is easily doubled; it will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


Kale Chips

Here's a tasty answer to the question, "What can I do with all that kale I planted?". These chips are yummy, good for you, and easy to prepare.

1 bunch (about 12-14 stems) of kale
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash, de-stem and dry your kale; tear it into bite-size pieces.  Scatter on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edge of the chips are slightly browned.. Remove from the oven, cool and enjoy!  Yes, it's that simple.

Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Chili

8 oz ground beef or turkey
1 C chopped onion
1 small poblano pepper, chopped
1 T minced garlic
2 T chili powder
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black beans, red kidney beans or garbanzo beans
1 C solid pack pumpkin
2 t cumin (optional)
1 t chipotle powder (optional)

Brown the ground meat then add the onion, garlic and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.  Transfer the ground meat mixture to the slow-cooker, add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix.  Cook on medium heat for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours. (Alternative cooking method: Use a large skillet to brown meat, onion, garlic and pepper.  Add remaining ingredients to skillet and simmer for about 40 minutes.)  Garnish your tasty chili with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro, serve with a nice warm loaf of bread and enjoy!


Bacon & Eggs

6-8 eggs at room temperature
½ pound of cooked bacon, diced finely
¼ C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 scallions, sliced thinly (use the green parts too)
1 C diced cremini mushrooms
1 C finely chopped baby spinach
Salt & pepper to taste

Lightly oil a 12 muffin metal tin (Linda likes to use a little bacon grease rendered from cooking her bacon).  Generously beat eggs, then stir in remaining ingredients.  Divide among 12 cups in the tin.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until set.  Let cool for a few minutes before removing.  Garnish with more cheddar cheese and fresh chopped spinach, then serve.  Enjoy!


Chocolate Heaven

The perfect Valentine’s Day treat, these yummy, moist chocolate sweets are made in muffin tins for easy serving, cuteness and portion control (if you can limit yourself to just one).

6 oz dark chocolate, chopped (try Scharffenberger 60% cocoa)
¼ C unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 C granulated sugar
2 T whole wheat pastry flour
1 t vanilla extract
½ t ground cinnamon
2 t instant espresso powder
1/8 t salt

Butter 6 muffin cups and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slowly melt chocolate and butter in microwave on high at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval.  Cool until lukewarm, then stir in espresso powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolk and egg.  Add sugar and whisk again until well blended; mixture will be thick.  Fold eggs into chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, cinnamon and salt.  Add vanilla last. Mix well.

Divide mixture among prepared muffin cups and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Bake for 10-12 minutes. Centers will be jiggly when you remove them from the oven.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Run a butter knife around the edges to unmold an invert onto serving plates.  Dust with confectioners sugar and garnish with fresh raspberries or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!


Easy Zucchini Soup (adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)

This is a smooth and creamy soup that only takes about 30 minutes to make and serves 4 to 6 people.  Because everything gets pureed after the vegetables are soft, don't bother taking the time to chop everything finely; chunks will be perfect. If you prefer some chunks in your soup, buy an extra zucchini and saute it and add it to the soup during the final re-heating.

3 medium zucchini (cut into chunks - about 7 cups)
2 C stock or water
1 C chopped onion
1 1/2 t salt
3/4 C skim milk powder
black pepper to taste
pinch of celery seed if you have some on hand
1/2 t basil, or more if you really enjoy basil 
1/4 C sour cream or yogurt (low fat is okay, but avoid non-fat because it adds too much water)
Optional: Green onions, minced for a tasty garnish

Place first 4 ingredients listed above, zucchini through salt, into a saucepan and cook until zucchini is tender when pierced with a fork, but not mushy or flimsy. Transfer everything to a large bowl. Working in a couple of batches, add some of the powdered milk bit by bit as you puree the zucchini in blender or food processor. Don't bother trying to get equal amounts of the skim milk powder in each batch, it will all work out. (Note for the food processor: you just have to work fast so the liquid doesn't start seeping out of the bottom).  Return the puree to the pot. If you forgot to add in the powdered milk you can do so now, but you have to keep stirring forever to get rid of all the lumps. Heat the soup on medium, whisking in the remaining ingredients, pepper through sour cream/yogurt. Be careful not to let the soup boil or you will be sad. Serve when just hot enough, topping with the minced green onions if desired.  Enjoy!


Chicken & Stuffing Casserole   

This recipe is a real crowd pleaser that you can even assemble a day ahead, refrigerate and have ready to pop in the oven after a busy day at work or running errands.  This dish also reheats really well in the microwave, so the leftovers won’t last long!

2 ½ to 3 lbs. cooked chicken, taken off the bones (you can pick up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or if you cook your own, use the resulting broth to make a nice pot of chicken noodle soup!)
2  10¾ oz. cans cream of chicken soup
1 10¾ oz. can chicken broth
8 oz. sliced Swiss cheese with big holes
2 cups of stuffing mix (smaller pieces like those in Stove Top Stuffing work better than stuffing with larger bread cubes)

6 Tbsp. (¾ stick) margarine (if you use stuffing with larger bread cubes, you will want to use a full stick of margarine)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Separate cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces and lay evenly throughout the bottom of an ungreased 9” x 13” pan.  Cover the chicken pieces with slices of Swiss cheese.  In a separate bowl, whisk together both cans of soup and the can of broth, then pour the mixture over the cheese so it covers the cheese and seeps through its holes.  Melt margarine in a saucepan and then mix in the stuffing.  Once the stuffing has absorbed the margarine completely, sprinkle the stuffing evenly over the chicken, cheese and soup mixture in the pan.  Bake uncovered for 1 hour (or for 1 hour and 15 minutes if you prepare the dish ahead of time and it is coming cold out of the fridge) and serve immediately with a salad - enjoy!

Caramel Sauce

Whip up this creamy topping in the microwave to make summer treats special without heating up the kitchen.  Recipe can be cut in half.

1 bag caramels (42 pieces)
3 oz. cream cheese (block)
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla

Place caramels in a microwave safe bowl and zap at full power in 30 second increments, stirring occasionally.  Longer periods of zapping may cause the caramels to scorch and ruin the sauce. When caramels are not quite melted, add the cream cheese and continue zapping until fully melted. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla.

Slow-Cooker Machaca (Mexican Shredded Beef)

1 large red onion, chopped
1.5 pounds flank steak, cut crosswise into 4 pieces
1 T chili powder
1 T ancho chili powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 T fresh lime juice
1/2 C fresh cilantro, chopped
8 corn tortillas

Toss 3/4 of the onion, the beef and the spices into the crockpot and stir together.  Cook covered until the meat is tender and shreds easily, 7-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high.  When beef has 25 minutes left to cook, add the rest of onion, lime juice, 1/4 t each salt and pepper, and the cilantro.  Use two forks to shred the beef then stir it into the cooking liquid.  Serve with tortillas, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and salsa.

Taco Soup

An incredibly easy and delicious recipe that is a nice alternative to chili.  Makes a large pot and the leftovers freeze for another day.

1 lb. ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
2 packets taco seasoning (mild or medium)
2 C water
2 packets Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (original flavor)
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney or canellini beans
1 can shoepeg corn (a white sweetcorn, can substitute regular corn)
1 can mexicorn (combo of whole kernel corn, red and green peppers)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 - 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

Brown the turkey, then put all of the ingredients listed above into a large pot and simmer for at least one hour.  Serve with grated cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.


Quick & Savory Summer Salad

3 C mixed lettuces torn into bite size pieces
1 red pear, cored and sliced thinly
3 T crumbled blue cheese
1/2 C of toasted walnuts

Vinaigrette dressing:

4 T olive oil
1 T cider vinegar
1/2 t Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1 clove minced or crushed garlic  


Chicken Crockpot Stew with Mushrooms

1/2 oz package dried porcini mushrooms
6 lbs chicken thighs (with skin is better)
2 T vegetable oil
1 small diced onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C dry white wine
1/2 C canned crushed tomatoes
12 oz white mushrooms, sliced

Soak the dried porcini in 1-1/2 C warm water. They will need to soak at least 1/2 hour; overnight is not too long. Strain and save the soak water to add to the stew.

Put the oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high. Brown the chicken pieces in batches to prevent crowding, and put them in the crockpot.

Cook the onion in the frying pan till it starts to brown. Add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add the wine and let it bubble as you scrape the residue off the pan with a spatula. Add the contents of the pan to the slow cooker.

Add the porcini, their soak water, and the tomatoes to the crockpot. Cook till done-- about 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

Serve with polenta or crusty bread, and a salad on the side. Any leftovers can be frozen.

Katie's Peach Upside-Down Cake

 (adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, 11th edition) 

2 lbs sliced peaches. If peaches are not in season, defrosted frozen peaches work fine (much better than "fresh" peaches from far away.)

Melt  ¼ lb. butter in a 10" cast iron skillet.

Mix in 1 C. brown sugar and spread evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle some pecans on too if you like.

Arrange the peach slices on top.

Preheat the oven to 400°

Stir together:
1 1/2 C. whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 C. sugar.
Mix together:
1 beaten egg
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. melted butter

Stir wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Pour over the peaches. Bake about 35 minutes, till the top is brown and crusty. While it is still hot, flip it out onto a serving plate so the peaches are facing up. Serve as is or top with whipped cream.

You can vary this with different fruits and nuts: apples and walnuts, cherries and almonds, pineapple, apricots...

BBQ Chicken Kabobs
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" pieces
2 C pineapple chunks, canned or fresh
1 each, red & green pepper cut into 1" pieces
1/2 C of your favorite red BBQ sauce
3 Tbs of orange juice concentrate
8-10 metal or wooden skewers
If using wooden skewers soak in warm water for 15 minutes before using. Mix sauce and orange juice. Spear chicken, pineapple, & peppers onto skewers. Baste skewers with sauce as you grill for 10-12 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Grilled Marinated Pork Tenderloin

1-2 T ground black pepper
1-2 T dried rosemary, chopped or ground
1-2 T dried sage
2 T mayonnaise
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced

Combine the above and rub onto the tenderloin. Marinate for 10 minutes-2 days. Grill the tenderloin till done. (About 35 minutes over indirect heat with the cover on works for a Weber kettle.)


Crock Pot Spareribs

Here's a great recipe that you can start in the morning, let cook all day while you sew, then serve up with crusty bread and a big salad at dinnertime. Your house will smell great and your family and friends will ask for it often!

3 to 4 lbs. spareribs
2 T. brown sugar
1 clove garlic
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 large onion, diced
1 C. diced celery
2 T. butter
2 C. beef stock OR 2 bullion cubes dissolved in 2 C. boiling water
1 C. diced green pepper
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 C. canned tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Cut ribs into serving size pieces; rub with cut side of garlic clove. Roast uncovered in shallow baking pan on 400° for 15 minutes. Turn and brown other side.Drain fat and put ribs in crock pot.Brown onion in butter, add it and all remaining ingredients to crock pot.Cover and cook on low (240°) for 6 - 8 hours.
If you prefer a thickened sauce, dissolve 2 T. cornstarch in small amount of cold water. Stir into pot.
Cover and cook on high (350°) another 10 - 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Pasta with Zucchini and Basil
1 lb. fresh zucchini
olive oil, about 2 T
3 T butter
1 t flour dissolved in 1/3 C milk
1 egg yolk (optional), beaten with a fork
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 C freshly grated romano cheese
2/3 C fresh basil leaves, torn into smallish pieces,
OR 2/3 C chopped parsley
1 lb. pasta

Start the pasta water.

Wash the zucchini well and slice it into thin (1/8"-1/4") slices the long
way. Coat the slices lightly with olive oil and sear in a very hot dry skillet or griddle. The zucchini should be cooked until they are brown, limp, and have given up much of their moisture. Cut the cooked zucchini slices into matchsticks.

Finish assembling the rest of the ingredients and cook the pasta. When the pasta is almost cooked, put 2 T of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the flour and milk mixture, a little at a time.

Cook, stirring constantly, for half a minute. Add the zucchini strips and cook for a minute more, turning the zucchini over to coat thoroughly.
Remove from heat and vigorously stir in the remaining 1 T of butter and the egg yolk.

Toss the cooked drained pasta with the sauce, stir in the grated cheeses, stir in the basil, and serve immediately.

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.


Aztec Salad
3 C cooked rice-cold (leftovers work great)
1 12-16 oz pkg of frozen corn (3-4 ears of cooked fresh corn off the cob)
1 16 oz. can of black beans (drained)
1 C diced sweet red pepper or a mixture of green, red, yellow or orange
1 C diced red onion
1/4 C rice wine vinegar

Season to taste with Mexican seasoning and chopped cilantro.
Combine everything in one big bowl & serve. Can be made a day ahead and tastes even better left over. Keep cold.


Not Your Average Pasta Salad
1 lb. tri colored pasta, any shape, cooked and drained.
1 can of black beans drained
1 red onion, sliced
1-2 green, red, yellow or orange peppers diced
1 C crumbled feta cheese
chopped cilantro to taste
1 handful cherry tomatoes
1/2 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Combine all: top with almonds, sunflower seeds or chopped peanuts
Note: I throw in whatever is ripe in the garden, thinly sliced squashes, fresh peas, asparagus, cooked beets, raw baby beans, etc.


Spinach Strudel

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1 med red onion - diced
12 oz of ricotta cheese
1 c. of mozzarella cheese - shredded
2 c. of feta cheese - crumbled
1/4 c. of fresh dill weed - chopped
2 10 oz bags of fresh spinach - washed & stemmed
chopped garlic
olive oil
phyllo dough
parmesan cheese

Gently sauté spinach with a little garlic & olive oil. Squeeze moisture out. in a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients and season with salt & pepper to taste. Combine mixture with spinach and divide into two equal parts & set aside.

Lay one sheet phyllo dough down and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Repeat until you have four layers. Take one of the two parts of filling and lay out at the bottom of the layered phyllo dough. Starting at the bottom of the sheet and roll the phyllo and filling creating a long roll. brush with melted butter & sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place on baking sheet seam side down. Repeat using four more phyllo dough sheets and second part of the filling.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool slightly before cutting & serving.


Plum Crisp

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Place in an 8"x11" pan:

6 cups of pitted, quartered, fresh Italian prune plums.

Blend gently with a pastry blender or the fingertips:
3/4 cup flour,
3/4 cup packed brown sugar,
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter,
1/4 teaspoon salt,
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Spread this crumbly mixture over the plums. Bake about 35 minutes.

It's even better topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Gaelic Garlic Soup with Tomato Pesto

1-16oz. can whole tomatoes
1-16oz. can tomato juice
6 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C. carrots, sliced
1 C. potatoes, chunked
1 t. dried basil
1/2 C. peas or green beans (frozen is okay)
1 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 C. cabbage, shredded
1 C. broken and cooked flat noodles, linguine or tortellini
1½ quarts water
salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Pesto:
6 oz. can tomato paste
10 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 C. grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1/3 C. pure olive oil
1/4 C. dried basil

Start soup by slowly sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add water, tomato juice, tomatoes (crush slightly) and vegetables. Bring to boil, lower heat and cook until all vegetables are tender. Add noodles.

Pesto: Add garlic and basil to tomato paste. Mix in cheese and olive oil. Mix well. Will keep in refrigerator for a month. Add a dollop of pesto to each bowl of soup at serving time.


Quick and Easy Roast Chicken

Here's a simple recipe for roast chicken that puts a satisfying meal on the table in just under an hour. Put some potatoes in to bake too, toss a salad and put your feet up with your newest quilting book while dinner cooks.

One 3-4 lb. chicken
A heavy, ovenproof skillet - cast iron is ideal
Salt (optional) and pepper

Set your oven rack to its lowest position.
Place the skillet on the rack and preheat the oven to 450º. While the oven and pan are heating, put some salt and pepper on the chicken.

When the oven is ready, put the chicken, breast-up, in the hot skillet. Cook for 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 155º. Take the chicken out and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Two of many possible variations:
1) Put black pepper, salt, and rosemary on and in the chicken. Put 4 whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic in the chicken.
2) Put salt and pepper on the chicken. Put a small chopped carrot, a chopped stalk of celery, and a chopped onion in the chicken.1-16oz. can whole tomatoes


Cherry Scones....So good, you may have to make a second batch for everyone else.

Merrie adapted this recipe from One Bite Won't Kill You by Ann Hodgman.

They were a big hit among her partners during our January car trip to Ohio.

1 C dried cherries or other dried fruit of your choice
8 T (1 stick) butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 C heavy cream
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp vanilla
3T sugar
additional sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking
powder, soda, and salt. Cut in butter using on/off
pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Dribble in the vanilla and cream. Dough will be
sticky. Cover work surface liberally with sugar, dump
out dough and knead in cherries. Pat into a circle
3/4" thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Place them on a lightly
buttered cookie sheet, about 1" apart.

Bake for 20 minutes.