Roasted Rhubarb with Orange, Ginger, and Clove

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Hi! It’s been awhile.

Sometimes we take breaks from certain things in our lives because we want to devote our time to other endeavors. Sometimes we go on hiatus for unintentional reasons. Life happens, and we naturally gravitate towards other matters in our lives that are (or seem to be) more pressing.

My break from blogging was an unintentional one. I so badly wanted to blog, but I’ve been devoting my time to co-chairing the 60th New England Book Show. After 10 months of planning, it’s finally going to happen next week on May 9th. If you’re in the New England area and love books, I encourage you to come!

After the book show is done, I’ll be devoting time to writing and branching out of my comfort zone in that arena. One way I like to practice straying away from what I know is to cook with ingredients I’ve never used before in my kitchen.

One such ingredient…rhubarb!

Surprising, right? I’ve had countless strawberry rhubarb pies, rhubarb cakes, and strawberry rhubarb jam, but I’ve never tried cooking the vegetable on my own.

Here’s what I know about confronting something new:

  1. It can be scary. (“What if I fall flat on my face?”)
  2. It can be exhilarating. (“What if this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me?”)
  3. Whether the predominant feeling skews towards fear or excitement, facing the unknown will, undoubtedly, teach you something valuable and make you a stronger person in some way.

The predominant feeling I felt towards those rhubarb stalks sitting on my kitchen counter absolutely skewed towards excitement. I know I love rhubarb. I also know rhubarb pairs well with sweeter ingredients since its sourness creates a balance of flavor.

“So,” I thought, “Let’s dive in!”

Roasted Rhubarb with Orange, Ginger, and Clove

  • 6 stalks rhubarb, cut on the diagonal in two inch pieces (If you buy rhubarb with the leaves attached, throw those leaves away! They are poisonous!)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I find this amount achieves the perfect balance of sweet and sour. ½ cup sugar works, but it makes the rhubarb almost too sweet.)
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry jam
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 10 whole cloves
  • seeds from ½ vanilla bean
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash rhubarb stalks and cut on the diagonal into two-inch long pieces. Place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add sugar, strawberry jam, orange zest, grated ginger, cloves, and vanilla bean seeds to the bowl.
  4. Mix it all together!
  5. Let the rhubarb mixture sit for 15 minutes so that the rhubarb begins to release some of its juices.
  6. Place the rhubarb in an 8” by 8” square baking dish and roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. The rhubarb should be fork tender, practically pulling apart.
  7. Let cool.

I took one bite of this roasted rhubarb, and I did a little dance in my studio kitchen. The spicy ginger, the simultaneous sweet/sour flavor of the sugared rhubarb, the bright kick of orange zest, and the warm clove all melded together at once on my tongue. Enjoy this beautiful concoction over tangy, plain Greek yogurt and granola or vanilla ice cream.

Baking with rhubarb for the first time has made me a better, more knowledgeable cook. Whether you’re facing a new ingredient, a new feeling, or a new life situation, try to embrace that unknown and all the lessons you will learn from that experience with kindness and gentleness towards yourself.

Have a wonderful week, friends, and go bake some rhubarb!

 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Today is election day. Today marks a pivotal point in our country’s history. A new chapter is about to begin, and many of us are worried about what the outcome will be this evening.

Before I continue, I urge everyone to vote. Please. We have the incredible right in the United States to make our voices heard. Exercise this right. Do your part to ensure this country goes in the right direction.

Now, because this day is going to be filled with so much apprehension and anxiety, I want to talk about spreading the love.

From an early age, I saw gifts of food as gifts of love. My Mom would bake banana bread or lemon bread for new neighbors to welcome them. She learned this ritual from my great grandmother. During the Depression, my great grandmother “Bunna” would not only make food for her five children, but she would also cook meals for those around her who could not put food on their table that day.

Have you heard of the five love languages? They are quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. We all have our favorite ways of giving and receiving love, and those ways can be placed in one or more of these categories.

Over time, I’ve come to find that I give love through acts of service—specifically when I cook for others. If I cook for you, I’m sending my love to you. The top way I receive love is through words of affirmation. So, if I cook for you, and then you tell me you like what I made, the love comes full circle!

So, where do banana chocolate chip muffins fit into this reflection? It all starts with my Mom’s recipe for banana bread, the bread that she would make and give to others as an act of service, love, and kindness. I adapted that recipe to make muffins—a very portable breakfast staple and the perfect way to make anyone’s morning special.

Bake these muffins. Wake up tomorrow morning. Have a few with a cup of coffee or tea. Bask in the sunshine that is this election being o-v-e-r. Give some of these muffins away out of love. Because, boy, do we need more love right about now.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (equal to a half stick) melted butter
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mash the bananas well.
  4. In a third bowl, whisk the egg and sugar until light yellow.
  5. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and bananas to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix well.
  6. Add the flour mixture and mix with a spoon until just incorporated. Don’t overly mix!
  7. Add the chocolate chips and stir until just incorporated.
  8. Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups. Spoon the batter into each cup until it’s about 2/3 full.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes. Check the muffins with a toothpick—if it comes out cleanly, the muffins are done.

French Toast Oatmeal

Before we get into the goodness the title of this post suggests, I’d like to start off with a much-needed life update.

I graduate with my Master’s in May, and that means it’s thesis time. Forty pages in, and I’m marching along. Digital marketing is such an analytical yet creative industry. You interpret data, yes, but you also have to imagine the needs and typical lifestyle of a user on your site or digital apps. While I was an English major in college, both of my Physics professors said I should be a physicist. One of them even wanted me to be a Physics TA and teach it! I love that mixture of objectivity and subjectivity. You can find this marrying of objective and subjective in cooking. There are some elements of the craft that you must follow, through and through, like don’t ever substitute baking soda with baking powder. Food is scientific. On the other hand, taste depends on an individual’s palate. Food is creative, too.

America’s Test Kitchen is treating me well, too! I love working as a Web Editorial Intern. I’m writing their Facebook posts and some Pinterest pins. My blog series on the America’s Test Kitchen Feed is launching March 6th. So exciting! It’s called “#ATKVeg Better Together,” based on The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. I’ll be highlighting unique flavor combinations in some of the book’s recipes, reflecting on each ingredient before showing how they are the perfect match. My first post involves Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple. How do goat cheese, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper taste together? Find out next Friday the 6th!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple
Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and Maple

Lastly, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, so I was out of town all last week. She inspired me immensely. I’ll have much more to say about her in a forthcoming post, a tribute to her and the glorious ice cream sundaes we always made together.


Now, for the goods.

Yesterday was my first day with no plans or obligations in a very long time. So, I thought I’d treat myself to a nice breakfast—something sweet but healthy. I craved two things: french toast and oatmeal. Having both would mean a carb overload. What to do? Fuse them together!

French Toast Oatmeal with Dried Apricots and Cranberries
French Toast Oatmeal with Dried Apricots and Cranberries

French Toast Oatmeal

Serves 1

  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (these cook up far quicker when you’re in a pinch, but steel cut oats would be lovely if you have time. Just remember that the ratio of milk/water to oats will be different with the steel cut variety. Follow the package’s instructions.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dried fruit of your choice (I love dried apricots and cranberries. Golden raisins are wonderful. Add as much or as little as you like.)

Note: While I did not add this yesterday, I think a little orange zest would be a fantastic addition. Try it and let me know what you think!

1. Put the oats and milk into a medium pot.

2. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and dried fruit. Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated.

3. Wait until the milk begins to boil on the sides, about 2 minutes. Start stirring more frequently to prevent the oatmeal from sticking on the bottom. Once the mixture starts mildly boiling, cook until oats are tender and reach desired consistency, about 5 minutes. I love my oatmeal nice and thick, but you may like yours more liquid-y.

4. Pour into a bowl and enjoy. I recommend topping the oatmeal with real maple syrup, à la french toast!

Honey Lime Watermelon Fizz

Hello! I hope you all are staying warm and dry this winter season. If you’ve seen the news, you know that winter has been especially brutal in Boston. I’ve almost fallen into ten foot snow piles multiple times. A kind stranger even helped hold me up to prevent a wipeout. With an additional two feet of snow expected this weekend, we are all wishing for the warm, sunny days of summer. This morning, I decided to make a drink that would transport me to the beach with one sip.

Honey Lime Watermelon Fizz
Honey Lime Watermelon Fizz

Refreshing watermelon mixes perfectly with brightness from freshly squeezed lime juice and a hint of sweetness from honey. Add seltzer water for the ultimate finishing touch.

Honey Lime Watermelon Fizz

  • 2 cups fresh watermelon, diced into cubes
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 cup seltzer water (I used cranberry lime seltzer)

1. Dice fresh watermelon into cubes (or you can buy watermelon already cubed). Add the watermelon to the blender.

2. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the blender.

3. Add 2 teaspoons of honey to the blender. You can add more or less depending on how much sweetness you prefer.

4. Blend until the watermelon is fully pureed.

5. Pour the mixture into a glass and add seltzer water to your taste. I added about 1 cup!

Note: I used an immersion blender for this recipe. One of my Christmas presents was this KitchenAid beauty that comes with a blending jar (among other things)! 

The drink may naturally separate, like this:

Watermelon Fizz Naturally Separating

Just take a spoon and mix it together again if this is bothersome to you.

Quick, easy, refreshing, and healthy. Close your eyes and imagine that spring and summer sunshine!

Cinnamon Ginger Crumpet French Toast

I love nothing more on a weekend morning than sleeping in and creating an amazing breakfast. Who doesn’t? Sometimes I’m in the mood for a savory meal – say, an omelet or scrambled eggs with sage breakfast sausage and buttered toast. Other times I just want to indulge my sweet tooth and experiment with pancakes or french toast. My favorite pancake experiment to date is cocoa pancakes stuffed with ricotta and orange marmalade (a post for another day!). My french toast needed a boost, however. The choice of bread is pivotal. I’ve tried making french toast with the Pepperidge Farm soft oatmeal bread I use for sandwiches sometimes, and that just never satisfies me. The bread needs to be fuller-bodied, denser, more flavorful, and more absorbable.

Then I had an “ah-ha” moment. Crumpets. That’s it!

I remember these gems from my six weeks studying abroad in England at Oxford University. This breakfast bread is sponge-like, with holes perfect for absorbing a spiced egg and milk mixture. I was also inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe for savory eggy crumpets. Trader Joe’s sells plain and cinnamon flavored crumpets. I recommend buying the cinnamon ones, but if you have a favorite crumpet brand, then by all means use those!

Crumpet French Toast
Crumpet French Toast

Cinnamon Ginger Crumpet French Toast (for two, or one if you’re really hungry)

  • 4 plain or cinnamon crumpets
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of milk (approximately…better to start with less milk than too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • butter for cooking

1. Crack two eggs into a bowl and add the three tablespoons of milk. See if this is enough milk for your mixture. Remember, you can always add more, but subtracting is near impossible when cooking. Beat the eggs and milk together with a whisk or a fork until combined.

2. Now it’s time to add your spices. I unabashedly shake the spices into my egg mixture, to be honest. Who wants bland french toast? No one. The answer is no one. My measurements up above are, again, approximations. If you like more spice, then please add more!

3. Mix the spices in with the eggs and milk until just combined. You don’t want egg whites separating, but you also don’t want an over-beaten mixture.

4. Warm up your pan while you soak the crumpets. Take one crumpet at a time and submerge it in your egg/milk/spice mixture. Make sure that both sides get covered. Leave it to soak for about 1 minute. Crumpets will absorb more quickly than you realize.

5. Butter the portion of the pan where the crumpet will be placed. Place the soaked crumpet in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the side is browned to your liking. Butter the pan again when you flip the crumpet over and cook for the same amount of time.

6. Repeat the process for the rest of the crumpets.

I added maple syrup and fresh raspberries to my plate for a refreshing finish. Let me know if you have ever used crumpets this way or if you have another favorite french toast bread. Happy experimenting!

Mushroom, Cipollini Onion, Asiago Cheese, and Crispy Prosciutto Quiche

After cooking the traditional dishes of Thanksgiving, what do I want to do? Experiment in the kitchen and make something new! Sometimes I make the most lasting memories in the kitchen from trying something completely different. Every time I think about that one night I attempted to make blueberry cottage cheese pancakes…oh goodness, I can’t stop laughing. What a mess in my skillet. However, failing in the kitchen is a wonderful, beautiful thing because you learn so much from making the mistake(s). You either have to eat that mess you made, or you throw it out in disgust and resort to grilled cheese for dinner (which has happened before!). I will not pretend that I am a “perfect” chef, so I will share my experiments with you, telling you what really works and what needs improvement.

I made quiche with my friend and her family recently. It came out quite well, with bacon, marinated artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onion, and gruyere cheese. I wanted to recreate it in my little studio kitchen with the ingredients I had on hand. That’s the fabulous thing about quiche – you can put practically any combination of meats and vegetables in it!

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Quiche (with mushrooms, cipollini onions, asiago cheese, and crispy prosciutto)

  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 4 eggs (3 for inside the quiche, 1 for the egg wash on the pie crust)
  • 1 cup of milk (you can add heavy cream, but I used 1% milk and it worked perfectly)
  • 1 cup of asiago cheese, grated (you can use any kind of cheese you wish, like gruyere or cheddar)
  • 5 medium sized baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 cipollini onions (you can use 1 small onion or a few shallots instead)
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, diced
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chopped fresh parsley to taste

1. Thaw the frozen pie crust and pre-bake according to the package’s instructions. Before you put the pie crust in the oven, crack and beat one egg in a bowl and brush some of the egg onto the crust. This will prevent the quiche crust from getting soggy. Note: I tried using Trader Joes’s frozen pie crust. The crust tasted fine, but the texture turned out far more crumbly than I expected. Pillsbury is always a safe bet, and I may use that next time. If you have the time and the recipe to make your own pie crust, by all means, use that! 

2. While the pre-baked pie crust cools, prepare the ingredients for the filling and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a cheese grater and grate about a cup of asiago cheese. Shredding your own cheese has its perks. I heard once that packaged shredded cheese can have preservatives that allow it to stay intact and not stick to the other pieces of cheese. While that cheese still melts just fine, hand shredding your cheese will allow it to melt even better.

3. Chop your mushrooms and onion and saute in a pan with a little olive oil until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have released and soaked up their water (about 5-10 minutes). You can add seasoning here (I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder), or wait until you mix everything together.

4. Put the mushrooms and onions in a bowl to cool. Chop your prosciutto into small pieces (the size is up to you, but I cut slices about an inch long and a half inch wide). Saute the prosciutto pieces in a pan for about 2-4 minutes until the meat is fragrant and crispy. Transfer that to a bowl.

5. Next, crack three eggs into your mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of milk and beat the mixture until the eggs are fully incorporated with the milk.

6. Add the sautéed mushrooms, onions, and prosciutto. Add 1/2 cup of the asiago cheese and mix.

7. If you haven’t added any seasoning yet, do so now. I also added a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley here for some color and fresh herb flavor.

8. Pour the egg mixture into your pie pan with the pre-baked crust. Take the remaining 1/2 cup of asiago cheese and sprinkle over the top.

9. Put the quiche in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes (the deeper the pan, the longer it will need to cook). Insert a toothpick into the middle of the quiche to test for doneness – if it’s clean, it’s good to go. Note: I do not own a special pie pan or quiche pan, so instead I used a square pyrex pan on hand. A traditional pie or quiche pan is less deep and will only need to cook for about 20 minutes. 

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The filling came out so well! Next time I will use a different pie crust that won’t crumble so much on me. What are your favorite fillings for quiche? I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe more.