Sunday, May 20, 2012

Easy Rhubarb-Cherry Crisp

Another week of kitchen re-do! We have about half of the cabinets in. The walls are  all destructed and reconstructed, mudded and textured, primed and ready for paint. The recessed lights are in and wires are waiting for the other light fixtures. The floors will get sanded and stained in a few days and so I am busy packing up everything in the dining room.

However, we had to take a break to celebrate birthdays. My husband and son both had birthdays this week.  Their birthdays are one day apart. The day before my son was born, we were on our way on a surprise party for my husband but we ended up going to the hospital instead - surprise!

Anyway, one of my husband’s favorite dessert is Rhubarb crisp. Now I know that some of you, looking at the photos of my kitchen, might question my sanity trying to cook in there. But I found some rhubarb at the store and so I had to try!  I usually make it with strawberries but I did not fancy doing too much washing and chopping and I had something that inspired a short cut so I thought I would try an easy quick take on Rhubarb crisp. I decided to try it with cherry pie filling in a can. I know, it is not the way we usually like to do things for birthdays and such but sometimes it comes in handy to use a can of something .Especially since fresh cherries were $7 a pound!!! And I could not find any corn starch or tapioca, which I like to use to thicken rhubarb crisp up a  bit so I hoped pie filling would do the trick. I was also, low on white sugar but I had a jar of strawberry preserves (jam) so I used them in this. I found a half bag of dried cherries so I threw them in too. I am not sure if it was just the pie filling or the preserves or what,  but this turned out so nice and thick and bubbly! I don’t like when the crisp is too liquid-y and this one was perfect.

So here is my…"ah let’s see what I have left around here to throw in" rhubarb crisp! This is all very adaptable to whatever you would like or have on hand.

Easy Rhubarb-cherry Crisp

5-6 cups of thinly sliced rhubarb, more or less
21 oz can cherry pie filling
1 1/4 cup fresh cherries or ¾ cup dried cherries soaked in a bit of water or juice ( or substitute another can if you like or skip it altogether)
2/3 cup strawberry, cherry or  berry preserves- the “all fruit”, made with juice kind is good, but regular is fine.*

1/3 cup sugar

Topping :
1 – 1 ½ cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
½ - 2/3 cup butter, unsalted, room temp
2/3 cup oats
½ cup chopped pecans, optional

*If you prefer not to use preserves you may substitute the same amount of  extra sugar. You may add a bit of vanilla or almond extract if you like but it was plenty flavorful without it.
Preheat oven to 350 and place fruit in oven while you make topping…about 10 minutes. You may skip this step but I think it helps the rhubarb to soften and everything to meld.

In a large rectangular baking dish layer cherry filling, rhubarb, preserves, dried or fresh pitted cherries. Mix a bit to incorporate each throughout. 
Using two table knives in a cutting motion, cut in sugar flour and butter. Add oats and nuts. Mix well and sprinkle over fruit.
Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes
Serve warm with ice cream or cooled with whipped cream.

Here are a couple pictures from the Birthday celebration. We went out to dinner and then on a walk along the river.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Barley, Beef and Mushroom Soup - My last dinner on the old stove

I cooked my last dinner on our old stove this weekend. We took the stove out on friday. I did not cook a gourmet feast, since we were pretty busy with the remodel but I made an old family favorite…Barley soup with beef and mushroom. It was finally a bit cooler this week and soup sounded good to us. This is a great soup with beef or as barley mushroom soup without the beef. But we needed the protein so I added stew meat. 

An update on the kitchen. ~While we have had more than a few snags and complications, the kitchen has been mostly dismantled and three of the new
cabinets are installed.

We had lots of help this week, including our friends Julian, Ally, Steven and Chris.
 My husband got the recessed lights in, along with some rewiring and junction boxes added.  The soffit was redone. We had someone come in to help with dry wall finishing but I sort of wish we had done it ourselves as it needs to be fixed up quite a bit. Tomorrow we get the island installed. It is coming along!

This week was also time to celebrate many graduations. I was not able to get to all of the parties, just too much going on, but we did celebrate with quite a few friends. Congrats to all the graduates out there!

Three generations times two. My mom and daughter and I with my friend, her mom and daughter.
And of course, we took some time off for Mother’s Day. My daughter cooked the whole family a wonderful meal at her apartment.

She and my son bought my mom and I a bird bath, which was something I've been wanting. Now I can retire the pie tin with a rock in the middle of it. :-)

All in all, it has been a pretty good week, if I ignore the ½ inch of dust re-accumulating all over the house and the boxes everywhere. Everything is in disarray and we never know quite where we will plug in the coffee pot each morning. I am very thankful we have a big laundry room off the kitchen complete with cabinets, counters and a sink.

This is a good process to go through. It reminds me that challenges can be overcome, we can make do without things we think are so important and that my husband is a genius when it comes to making things work

This week we will take out the other cabinets with the oven and microwave so making dinner will involve more creativity. I will have a grill, an elecritric skillet and a crockpot. We have several invites from friends  and there is always going out to eat! We have a huge number of restaurants here. A while back, I heard that we had more restaurants per capita than all but one other place but I don't know if that is true or not. Still there are many restaurants here and a few I would love to try! 
Here is my Barley soup recipe. I know the photo of it does not look so great but I hope you will try it out if you like old fashioned hearty soups!

  Barley, Beef and Mushroom Soup

Cooking time about  1 ½ -2 hours

1 ½ to 2 lbs. beef for stew, lean, cut in small pieces

 2    Tbsp.  Canola or Olive Oil, more as needed

 1    large Onion, Diced

  2    Medium Potatoes, white, red or russet, peeled and diced

8-10 oz  Fresh White Mushrooms – Cleaned,

  2     Garlic Cloves, Pressed

1            Tsp marjoram and/or thyme or herb blend

1-2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

1 tsp pepper, to taste

Dash or two of hot sauce, optional

  1 ¼ Cup  Barley (I like Pearl Barley, but regular is fine if cooked longer)

1 cup white wine, optional- may sub another cup broth or water

 5-6 cups  Beef Broth* prefer low sodium or home made

 1  cup  Water, or more or less as needed 

1    Bay Leaf

 1/2  Cup  Milk, if desired or just add extra water if needed

*You may use less broth and more water or use vegetable broth
Make sure the beef is dry and cut into very small, uniform pieces . Heat large 5 quart or so pan and add canola oil. Once the oil is heated, add beef and let it cook until first side is nicely browned, only a few minutes. Turn to another side until most of the beef is browned. While beef is browning, dice the onion. Chop potato into small pieces.  Mince mushrooms into very small pieces OR you could just slice them if you prefer.

Once the beef is just browned, remove it to a bowl and cover. In the same pan, add a bit more oil and onions. Slowly cook onions until turning a bit golden, about 8 minutes. Then add potatoes, garlic, mushrooms and seasoning. and mix everything well. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add beef back in with wine, and about 5 cups broth and 1 cup water. You may add more liquid now or add it in later, as needed but, do not add milk now.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low simmer. Keep stove on low and cover pot. stirring occasionally  and checking on liquid level. If it begins to look too thick, add more broth or water. I almost always add another cup while it cooks.
Let this simmer for about 1 hour but it may take 1 ½ if the pieces of meat and potato are larger. It is done when meat is tender and potatoes and barley are soft. Remove bay leaf and add milk, if you want to use it. I often skip the milk.  Heat on low for 4 minutes.  Do not boil after milk is added.

Serving Size : 8-10. Makes great left overs! May be frozen.