Thursday, June 28, 2012

Strawberry Crepes with Grand Marnier Sour Cream Filling

Over the past few weeks, it has been extremely difficult to coax Matthew into his crib at night.  At the mention of "bedtime" he will immediately start running in the opposite direction, screaming his displeasure along with a nonsensical listing of his favorite playthings:  "No bed! Hungry! Monkey! Choo-Choo!  Pooh Bear!  Tigger!  Rabbit!  Mixer! No bed!"  We eventually have to just tackle him, scoop him up, plop him in his crib, say prayers while he convulses as if in pain, and then close the door and cross our fingers that all will be silent within five minutes.

Matthew pretending to sleep in an attempt to get out of going to bed.  Explain to me how that one works.  In case you were wondering, those sexy, hairy legs belong to my hottie of a husband. I am one lucky lady...yes indeedy!

After weeks of this routine, I was getting pretty sick of it.  Paul and I decided that perhaps we will try introducing Matthew to his "big boy bed," located in another bedroom down the hall.  Perhaps that would do the trick and make him more apt to go to bed.

The next night, we took Matthew upstairs and began reading him some books.  We then asked him if he would like to go to sleep in a different bed.  He was so excited!  We tucked him in under the covers, said prayers as he snuggled in with his monkey, and then turned off the lights and shut the door.  Five minutes later, as we sat on the couches in the living room downstairs, we heard a scurrying above our heads accompanied by the faint sound of Matthew whimpering.  I got up to head upstairs and heard the door of his room being flung open.  When I came upstairs, I found him in the baby's room attempting to climb into his crib while crying:  "Sleep! Sleep!"  I picked him up, placed him in his crib, and tucked him in.  He was asleep within two minutes.  Apparently he was NOT a big fan of his "big boy bed."

The next night, Matthew began to put up his usual fuss about bedtime.  However, as soon as I "suggested" that he sleep in his "big boy bed," his eyes immediately widened and he ran to his crib and allowed himself to be tucked in without another complaint.  So far, this little trick has worked for about 10 days in a row.  Bedtime has never been so easy.  Perhaps it is wrong to exploit our child's fear of sleeping anywhere else besides his crib, but if it affords us a few weeks of headache-free bedtimes, then so be it.  We'll deal with how to transition him to his new room another time.

Plus, if Matthew goes to bed on time, he wakes up happy.  And when he wakes up happy, I am more likely to feel like making him something special for breakfast, such as these Strawberry Crepes.  They are delicious and easy to make.  The batter can (and should!) be mixed up the night before.  I usually just combine everything with a blender and then stick the carafe in the refrigerator overnight.  The crepes are then cooked individually and stacked between pieces of wax paper or paper towels.  Each person can fill their crepes with the macerated strawberries and a delicious Grand Marnier sour cream as they desire.  These crepes are also delicious with a dollop of whipped cream or a drizzle of chocolate syrup.  One of my all-time favorite breakfasts, hands down!

Strawberry Crepes with Grand Marnier Sour Cream
adapted from Mark Bittman and Cook's Illustrated

For the Crepes:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon white sugar

For the Filling:
1 cup sour cream
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar (or more to taste)
2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
Powdered sugar, whipped cream, chocolate syrup (optional)

The night before you plan to make the crepes, combine all the ingredients in a blender and let it do its thing until everything is well combined and smooth (there should be NO lumps).  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, combine the sour cream, grand marnier, vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar in a small bowl.  Stir very well to combine and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Slice your strawberries and combine them with a few teaspoons of white sugar in a bowl.  Allow to macerate at room temperature, tossing occasionally, while you make the crepes.

Heat a 8 or 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Melt a little cold butter in the pan and swirl to coat.  Add about 1/2 cup (give or take, depending on the size of your pan) of the crepe batter and swirl the pan to coat evenly.  Allow to cook, without touching or fiddling with it, for about 1 minute, or until the bottom of the crepe is very lightly browned.  Using a wide spatula, flip quickly, and allow the crepe to cook for about 30 seconds more.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining crepe batter, stacking the cooked crepes on top of each other between sheets of wax paper.

Fill each crepe with some strawberries, sour cream, and roll up.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and some additional strawberries and serve!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Green Salad with Strawberries, Prosciutto, and Sugared Almonds

Displayed in the picture above is the first salad that Matthew has ever eaten. Apparently, he really really likes arugula. He shunned his chicken and hotdog pieces in favor of THREE servings of this salad. It might have had something to do with me telling him that rabbits eat salad. Rabbits are his newest animal fascination. When we go for walks around our neighborhood at night, he keeps a sharp eye out for the little hopping critters). Also, he is really into the Winnie-the-Pooh movies and Rabbit happens to be his favorite character (much to Paul's chagrin: "Who chooses Rabbit over Tigger?!?!?").

Since Matthew was so awesome about eating his salad, he was rewarded with a WHOLE Popsicle after dinner. Normally we cut these in half for him. And I have to say, there is nothing cuter than watching him eat these things. He loves the taste of them so much, that he tries to eat it as fast as he can. However, the chill from the ice causes him to have a pained expression on his face the whole time he is working his way through the popsicle. I think he must have some conflicted feelings: Eating the popsicle is quite delicious while concurrently causing some pretty intense physical pain from the brain freeze.

It really should come as no surprise that Matthew ate so much of this stuff.  It is truly a delicious, beautiful salad. Sweet, salty, herbaceous, fruity, nutty. Wonderful. The perfect salad to take along to a picnic.

If you do not have prosciutto, you could easily fry up about 4 strips of bacon and then crumble it on top of the salad to incorporate that salty flavor. Next time, I might even add a pinch or two of cayenne or chili powder for an extra spicy kick.

Arugula Salad with Strawberries, Prosciutto, and Sugared Almonds
adapted from Cuisine at Home

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon shallots, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the Sugared Almonds:
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter:
3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt

For The Salad:
6 ounces arugula
6 ounces butter lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
4 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 cups strawberries, halved or quartered, depending on size

Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette and mix well.  Refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Saute almonds in butter over medium heat until golden. Off heat, add sugar and salt.

Toss arugula, butter lettuce, and strawberries with vinaigrette.

Garnish with prosciutto and almonds.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Duo of Strawberry Muffins

I know I have been bombarding this site with strawberry recipes recently. However, when one has nearly 8 quarts of big, beautiful berries quickly approaching the point of rotting, nothing can be done except to make lots of strawberry-studded treats!

I decided to make some strawberry-banana muffins for Matthew's playdate last week. I was so excited to whip this recipe up for the kiddos, imagining them chomping down on their sweet snack with glee as I whisked together the flour and salt. I was already hearing their angelic voices singing my praises, declaring my triumphant muffins "the best snack ever" as I carefully scooped the batter into each individual muffin cup and slid the pan in the oven.

Once the muffins had cooled substantially enough so that little mouths would not be burnt, I handed each child a muffin and eagerly waited for the imminent hums of approval.

Instead, I was handed back a mangled, half-eaten muffin by one of the little girls who immediately informed me: "I don't like it...there are mushy, yucky things in there!"

She meant the strawberries. The big, beautiful, juicy strawberries that this very same child had gleefully stuffed her face with along with her peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Apparently, when baked into a sweet, buttery cake, the strawberries took on a less appealing taste and texture.

I took a bite of the rejected muffin to see if I agreed with the child's assessment.

A peek inside the Strawberry-Banana Muffin.  Notice all the "yucky stuff."

And I have determined that she's absolutely crazy.

The muffins were delicious! They are just in need of a more refined palate to truly enjoy their lightly sweetened crumb. It just goes to show, when you are planning a snack for a group of picky eaters, you might as well save yourself some time and effort and just open a box of graham crackers.

At least Mr. Matthew thoroughly enjoyed his muffin...

I made another batch of strawberry muffins later that evening that included rolled oats, a bit of balsamic vinegar and black pepper. I liked those even more! They were really not too sweet and really accentuated the natural flavors of the strawberries. Simply lovely. I froze a big batch of those to enjoy for quick breakfasts on the go during the week. I might just have to make another batch once this batch disappear. They are fantastic!

Strawberry-Banana Muffins
adapted from Sunny Anderson

1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lemon, zested

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix together strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar. Let sit 15 minutes until strawberries give off juices.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed banana, eggs, oil, 1 cup sugar, strawberries, and lemon zest.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in blueberries and walnuts.

Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with a few crumbs but not wet, about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

Note:  Do not be afraid of the addition of balsamic vinegar and black pepper to this recipe.  It simply serves to enhance the strawberry flavors.  You really will not get a gigantic bite of pepper in the final product.  I promise.

1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 pound strawberries
2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the oats and plain yogurt together in a large bowl.

Rinse and core the strawberries. Roughly chop the strawberries (I cut them in quarters lengthwise and then make one or two crosswise cuts). You should have about 1 1/2 cups of chopped strawberries. Place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with white sugar and balsamic vinegar. Gently stir to coat the strawberries with the sugar and vinegar.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a 12-well muffin tin by coating with butter or lining with paper muffin cups.

Whisk together in a medium bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, finely ground black pepper, and cinnamon.

Add the eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract to the oatmeal and yogurt mixture. Stir until just incorporated.

Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the flour mixture into the oatmeal. Stir until just incorporated and the flour is moistened. Do not over-mix! Or your muffins will end up rubbery. The batter should be rather lumpy, not smooth.

Gently fold in the strawberries, including any of the sugary vinegary liquid the strawberries have been sitting in.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tin wells or cups. Bake until the tops are browned and the muffin bounces back when you gently press on the top with your fingertips, about 20 minutes. A bamboo or metal skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool for a couple minutes in the muffin tin before removing to serve.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

I know I've been posting a lot of baked oatmeal recipes, but we just love the stuff so much that I can't help but share some of the different variations we have been enjoying!  Matthew calls it "cake" because he loves it so much.  "Cake" is pretty much his word for anything delicious.  Sometimes, I find myself calling spaghetti or roast chicken "cake" just so I can get him to eat it.

Breakfast is pretty much the only meal of the day where we know Matthew will eat whatever is put in front of him.  He loves all kinds of breakfast foods.  Pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, name it, he will greedily gobble it down.

And this blueberry baked oatmeal was no exception.  Loaded with fresh lemon zest and two pints of blueberries, this is a breakfast that will turn your teeth blue.  But it will be worth it because it is refreshing, filling, and satisfying.  Add a little more sugar and you could almost serve it for dessert!

Baked Blueberry-Lemon Oatmeal
adapted slightly from Babble

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 8x8 square baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, salt, zest, and spice.  In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, and egg.

Spoon half the oat mixture into the baking dish, then half the blueberries.  Add the remaining oat mixture and scatter the remaining blueberries on top, pressing them slightly.  Pour the milk mixture over the whole pan and place in the oven.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the mixture is light golden brown along the edges and the center has set up.  Serve warm with milk!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD: French Strawberry Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie featured a recipe for a gorgeous, beautiful three-layer cake filled with sweetened strawberries and fresh whipped cream.  This cake was beautiful, refreshing and so much fun to make.

The cake layers were composed of a basic genoise batter which utilizes whipped egg whites to provide height.  The genoise was baked in a 9-inch springform pan, allowed to cool completely, and then split into three layers, topped with chopped fresh strawberries, and slathered with a lightly sweetened whipped cream.  The end result was not-too-sweet and the berries really were the star of the show.  I did branch a bit from the decorating technique detailed in the book, choosing instead to spread the whipped cream between the layers and on top of the cake, leaving the sides exposed.  I lined halved strawberries along the outer edges of the cake and filled the centers with the macerated berries and whipped cream.  Because I love the combination of kirsch and berries, I could not resist adding a few tablespoons to the macerated berries.  Divine!

I had a couple of college friends visiting and we devoured this cake between the six of us.  My husband did cut us some gigantic pieces, but the cake was really light, making it easy to consume a large portion.  Matthew loved it, declaring:  "Mommy!  It's good!"

If you would like to try making this excellent summertime dessert, our hosts for this week have the recipe posted on their blogs or pick up a copy of Baking with Julia.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Bacon Pizza

Strawberry Balsamic Bacon Pizza.  A gorgeous homemade pizza crust is topped with roasted chicken, bacon, cheese, a spicy-sweet strawberry sauce, and...yep...strawberries.  Sounds weird, right?  But this is hands down my new favorite pizza recipe.

Paul was very excited when he heard I was making pizza for dinner, but his enthusiasm quickly turned into apprehension when I told him we were having a strawberry pizza.

"So...we're like having strawberry version of one of those dessert pizzas on the Pizza Hut buffet?" he asked, without even trying to hide his disappointment.

"Not at all - it has a bacon and chicken on it too!"

That made him perk up a little.  Everything is better with bacon.

We really did not know what to expect with this pizza.  But the combination sounded interesting enough that I definitely wanted to give it a try.  Instead of your normal tomato-based sauce, the sauce for this pizza is composed of balsamic reduction, strawberry jam, and Siracha sauce.  Once everything is mixed together, the taste is reminiscent of a barbecue and Teriyaki sauce hybrid.  Very unique!

This makes a beautiful looking pizza.  And the taste?  Unbelievable.  Sweet, tangy, salty, and just a little bit of residual heat from the Siracha sauce made this one nice party for the taste buds.  The chopped strawberries and cilantro on top add just a touch of freshness.  I really consider this the perfect gourmet pizza.

And Paul and Matthew loved it as well!!  Give this a try for a unique twist on pizza night!

Strawberry Balsamic Bacon Pizza
adapted slightly from Annie's Eats

For the dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
1/2 cup good-quality strawberry jam
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons Siracha sauce

For the toppings:
1 cup shredded or diced cooked chicken
4-5 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
4 oz. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
2 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup strawberries, hulled and diced

To make the dough, place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix briefly to combine.  Mix the warm water and yeast in a small bowl until the yeast swells.  Add the oil and room-temperature water to the bowl with the yeast.  With the mixer set to low, slowly and steadily stream in the yeast mixture.  Once the dough comes together, turn off the mixer and switch to the dough hook.  Continue to knead the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.  Knead for about 30 seconds on a lightly floured countertop and form into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for the dough to double in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, make the sauce.  Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons.  Alternatively, if you already have a bottle of balsamic reduction on hand, you can skip this step and just use 2 tablespoons of that in the sauce recipe.  Whisk together the reduced balsamic vinegar, the strawberry jam, and the Siracha sauce.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Once the dough has doubled, gently deflate and turn out onto a lightly floured countertop.  Divide the dough in half.  Let the dough rest at least 10 minutes but no more than 30.  (If you are planning on only making one pizza, wrap the dough ball you do not plan on using with plastic wrap and then place in a ziploc bag.  You can freeze the dough for up to 1-2 months).

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone set on the middle rack for at least 20 minutes before baking.

Stretch/roll the dough into a 12-14 inch round pizza shape.  At this point, I usually like to place the pizza dough on a large sheet of parchment paper to help when transferring it to the pizza stone.  Spread the sauce over the entire surface, then sprinkle with the chicken, bacon, and sliced onion.  Cover with the cheeses.  Finish with the cilantro and chopped strawberries.

Using a large cutting board, transfer the pizza to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the cheese is melted.  Remove from the oven and let stand about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strawberry Crumb Bars

This past weekend, we ventured over to a nearby farm for our annual day of strawberry picking.  The berries were abundant and we walked away with over eight quarts of ripe, juicy, gorgeous red berries.  I am looking forward to all the strawberry goodies we will be making with these babies!

Matthew loved picking the strawberries.  He probably liked eating them a little bit more.  As we were sorting through the berries we brought home, we discovered that Matthew took a bite out of most of the berries he contributed to the basket.  Lovely.  He was also very disturbed by the hulls and insisted on ripping them off each berry he managed to wrap his chubby little hands around.  He was covered in bright red berry juice by the time we were through and I was nervous that the farm would charge us double based on how many berries Matthew probably consumed during the hour we were there.  Judging by the looks of him, he probably ate about two quarts worth.

Here is a fun little look back at our strawberry picking adventures through the years:

Summer 2010


Summer 2011

Summer 2012

So sad to see my baby so big.  I do not realize how much he has grown until I look back at where he was this time last year.  At the same time, he is so much fun right now.  I love running around with him and making him laugh.  His speech is taking off to at a rather alarming rate.  Yesterday, we were walking past a small Methodist church located near our neighborhood and he pointed his little finger at the cross and said:  "Church! Jesus!"  That was a proud Mommy moment.  Whenever we go to church, I explain to Matthew that we are going to see Jesus and I guess that concept is finally starting to sink in!

Anyway, after picking all the strawberries, we immediately set out to make one of our favorite summer snacks:  Strawberry Crumb Bars.  This recipe was actually developed by Paul and I after testing a couple different recipes for various fruit crumb bars over the past couple years.  We tried various recipes for blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry crumb bars.  We combined all the elements that we enjoyed in all those recipes and adapted for the high water content of strawberries and came up with this recipe.  The end result is a delicious, buttery cookie bar that is incredibly difficult to resist.  Seriously, half the pan was gone as soon as these came out of the oven.  And the smell of them baking is intoxicating.  I plan on making many, many pans of these to freeze for Paul's lunches (or midnight snacks!).

Give these a try and don't skip on the white chocolate even if you're a white chocolate hater.  Its flavor is a subtle complement to the berries.

Strawberry Crumb Bars
Nistler Family Original

2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3-4 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2-3/4 cup white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.

Measure the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt, and 1/3 cup white chocolate into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine, about 30 seconds.  Add the chilled butter and continue to pulse until coarse crumbs remain.

Press half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Pre-bake the crust for 15-20 minutes or until firm, light golden, and fragrant.  While the crust bakes, toss the sliced berries with the cornstarch.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with the sliced berries.  Try to get the strawberries into a single, even layer (if you can!).  Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the berries.  Sprinkle with the remaining white chocolate and return the pan to the oven.  Bake until the top is lightly browned and the berries are bubbly, about 20 minutes longer.

Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rhubarb Buckle

When Paul and I went out to lunch following the closing on our new home, one of the first things we discussed was where we wanted to plant rhubarb.  After spending part of this week getting rid of the fire pit that the previous homeowners had installed in the backyard, we are ready to plant a little garden which will include several rhubarb plants.  Paul and I adore rhubarb.  We both grew up with rhubarb plants in our backyards and always looked forward to springtime when those ruby red stalks would be harvested for pies, cobblers, and jams.  We want our kids to enjoy rhubarb as much as we did.

However, we have to wait about five years until we can harvest our little rhubarb plant.  In the meantime, I hope the gazillion rabbits we have prancing around the area do not gang up on our fledgling plant.  Maybe we should put Matthew to work and have him stand guard over it with his BB gun.

While rhubarb is commonly paired with a sweeter fruit, like strawberries, to offset its tart nature, Paul and I actually prefer desserts in which the rhubarb flavor is allowed to shine.  While perusing the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living while waiting to see my dermatologist (gotta get those moles checked once a year, ya know!), I saw a recipe for rhubarb buckle that looked absolutely incredible.  I have made my fair share of blueberry buckles in the past, but had never thought to ever use rhubarb.  What a brilliant idea!  Annoying as she is, Martha Stewart does have some pretty fabulous ideas.

Normally, I try to reserve desserts for Sundays, birthdays, feast days and anniversaries.  However, I really wanted to make this cake TODAY.  I looked at my liturgical calendar and saw that today is the feast day of Saint William of York.  I have never heard of him before, but we are going to celebrate his sainthood with some rhubarb buckle!

A fluffy lemon-kissed cake topped with macerated pieces of rhubarb and sprinkled with a crumb topping that bakes up into a perfect hand-held dessert, perfect for an early summer picnic.  The cake was a breeze to put together.  Seriously, the most trying part was zesting the lemon (I always manage to get lemon juice in my eye!).  The aroma that filled our home was so intoxicating, we had a hard time waiting for it to cool before sampling a slice.  It was worth the wait.

If you have any spare rhubarb, take a break from the pies and crisps and make a buckle instead!

Rhubarb Buckle
barely adapted from Martha Stewart Living (May 2012)

For the Cake:
1 pound plus 10 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
Zest of one lemon
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

For the Crumb Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center position. Coat two 9-inch square cake pans with cooking spray, and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Stir together rhubarb and 1 cup sugar; set aside to macerate.

Whisk together flour, bak ing powder, and salt. Beat together butter, remaining cup sugar, and the lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Make the crumb topping: Stir together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add melted butter; stir to combine.

Divide batter between pans. Top with rhubarb mixture, and sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until golden on top and cooked through, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool completely in pans on wire racks, then lift cakes from pans using parchment. Remove parchment. Before serving, cut buckle into 2-inch squares.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our Starving Child

Lately, I have been paranoid that people may begin to suspect that I do not feed my child.  These fears are not unfounded.  With the way Matthew has been acting in public lately, I would not be surprised if I did receive a critical stare or two from passing strangers.  Most of the time, Matthew is an excellent companion when it comes to running errands.  As we move from store to store, he is perfectly content to be at my side, chatting away as usual about puppies, rabbits, or any of his other current favorite topics of conversation.  However, lately that has all changed.  When we are at the grocery store, Matthew will oftentimes start whining nonstop:  “Hungry!  Hungry!  Huuuuuunnnnnnngrrrry!”  We will pass the produce section where there are piles and piles of different varieties of apples, which are Matthew’s favorite fruit, and he will start listing to one side of the cart, his arm outstretched in a desperate attempt to snatch a piece of the fruit:  “Please?  Please?  Hungry!  Apple! Apple!” I do appreciate his love for fresh produce, but seriously.

Paul and Matthew hammering away at our kitchen chairs during the move.
Paul and I took Matthew to a furniture store the other day to choose a new bookcase for the office.  As we were consulting with the salesman, I noticed that Matthew was missing.  I immediately went searching for him and found him sitting on one of the chairs in a display dining room.  In his hand was a plastic piece of fruit that had been on display in a silver bowl in the center of the table.  He had taken a bite out of it and was chewing away with a rather disconcerted look on his face that said: “Why does this apple taste so funny?”  I noticed that the apple was not the only thing Matthew had sampled.  There was also a fake bread loaf, a banana, and a pear with little tiny bite marks on them scattered on the table.  And people were definitely staring at him, feeling sorry for my poor son who was so hungry that he had to resort to eating fake fruit to settle his stomach.  A lady who had been watching him nearby approached me and suggested that I might take him to the doctor as the paint on the plastic fruit was probably toxic.  Maybe I’m a horrible parent, but I just shrugged off this suggestion.  It’s been a little over a week and Matthew is still alive and kicking.  No harm done.

Despite what appearances may suggest, we do feed Matthew.  And Matthew does eat.  A lot.  In fact, last Sunday Paul and I had planned on making scrambled eggs for breakfast.  However, we had failed to check how many eggs we had left in our refrigerator and discovered a little too late that only four remained.  We scrambled them up and divided them evenly between Matthew and ourselves.  Matthew gobbled his down instantaneously and asked for more.  So, Paul and I scraped our portions of the eggs onto his plate and let him eat the rest.  We had to settle for English muffins and jam for breakfast.  

Speaking of breakfast, as I have mentioned before Matthew adores baked oatmeal.  Recently, Paul has declared this Banana-Nut Oatmeal his favorite.  Unlike the other versions of baked oatmeal I have made in the past, this recipe incorporates very little liquid and some oil which makes the final product emulate the taste and texture of a granola.  This recipe feeds a crowd.  I normally bake a big batch of it on Sunday night for us to have for breakfast all week long.  With the price of breakfast cereal continuing to rise, this is a much more economical option for us!

Banana-Nut Baked Oatmeal
adapted from Allrecipes

1/2 cup canola oil (you may substitute half with applesauce)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
3 bananas, chopped finely
1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar.  Whisk in the egg and milk.  Add the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir vigorously to combine.  Add in banana and give the whole thing another good stir.  Add in the oats and walnuts and stir well to combine.  

Pour into a 8x8 pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the mixture is no longer jiggly and is browned on top.  Serve immediately or let cool completely on a wire rack before covering and refrigerating.