Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Almond Streusel

I love participating in recipe swaps or themed cooking/baking groups.  They make you think outside your norm and try out recipes you wouldn't have though to try.  This was my first time participating in the What's Baking group, which gives a theme and sends you off on your way to create whatever you want from there.  This month's theme was Spring Produce.  One thing that jumped out at me from the list I found online was rhubarb.  It was something that I had always heard about, but never tried.  Going with my trend of trying out new foods, I set out to find something appealing using rhubarb.  I turned to my fancy shmancy Craft of Baking and found a recipe for Pear & Concord Grape crisp with Marcona Almond Streusel, which had ways to vary it for each season.  The spring ingredients were strawberry and rhubarb.  Sounded good to me!

I had seen rhubarb at my local market, so I knew I could get that.  What I didn't realize until I was at ShopRite was that marcona almonds are different than regular almonds (apparently they're sweeter).  I couldn't find them, so I just bought the store-brand chopped almonds from the baking aisle.  Still tasted good to me! (***Update: I later found marcona almonds at Costco as well as a local gourmet market)

Now, I usually am convinced at some point in my cooking/baking that I've screwed something up and it will all turn out terrible.  Well, I start getting everything ready, I wash and slice the strawberries, wash and dice the rhubarb, toss them in a bowl, grab my 1/3 cup measuring scoop, stick it in the flour and dump the flour on the fruit.  Then I stood there frozen as I realize the 1/3 cup measurement was for sugar, not the flour.  I was only supposed to use 1 tablespoon of flour!  So I quickly rinse off all the flour from the fruit (trying to not make paper mache in the meantime), wash the bowl and then slowly and carefully add  the sugar and the small amount of flour I was supposed to use in the first place.  This may have affected how much juice ran out of the fruit in the end, but thankfully I hadn't made this before, so I couldn't tell the difference.  I also didn't use the exact measurements of the fruit.  I had purchased 2 rhubarb stalks (is that what they're called??) which came out to about 3 1/2 cups diced, and the package of strawberries came to just over 2 cups, so the total amount was the same, but it was a slightly different proportion.

The crisp came out delicious, and turns out, I actually really like rhubarb!  I think this may go under my "quick and easy (as long as I don't mess it up again) desserts".  I'm planning on trying other seasonal variations as well!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Almond Streusel (slightly adapted from The Craft of Baking)


4 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups hulled and halved fresh strawberries
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (4oz) chopped almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted


- In a large bowl, mix together the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and flour.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature until juices begin to draw out from the fruit, about 30 minutes.
- Combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, almonds, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Mix just to combine.
- Add the butter and mix just until the streusel comes together.
- Spread onto a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour the fruit and juices into an 8-inch square baking dish.
- Crumble the streusel with your fingers to top the fruit.
- Place the baking dish on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake, rotating the sheet half-way through, until fruit is tender, the juices are bubbling and thickened, and the topping is browned, about 40 minutes.
- Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let the crisp cook for at least 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penne alla Vodka

Each day, when I look at the Blog Update thread on the What's Cooking board, I basically drool over each picture and recipe, bookmarking many to be tried in my kitchen.  When this one popped up from Laura, I knew it was one that would have to be tried in our home.  While my husband and I have varying opinions on what goes on top of our pasta (he's a tomato sauce guy and I'd rather have a little oil, garlic and dash of salt), we both agree that vodka sauce is delicious.  I had made some homemade pasta (light wheat pasta, using my KitchenAid pasta press - a wedding gift my husband didn't think I'd ever use, but I've definitely proved him wrong!), and I had leftovers which I had frozen a few nights earlier.  So this seemed like the right time to try this recipe out.

The recipe was pretty simple to make, though I was a little pressed for time due to a little mix up with another recipe I was trying out just before, so I started making this sauce forgetting to prep everything (rookie mistake, I know!) so as I realized I needed to cut up some garlic, the onions ended up getting a tiny bit burned.  But, in the end, I don't think it mattered much.  The end result was delicious and I would definitely make this again.  It doesn't take too long, even with a little prep time (which I'll remember to use wisely next time!), so it's something that I can whip up after work and still eat at a relatively normal hour.  And honestly, aside from the 1/2 cup of heavy cream, the sauce doesn't really have anything unhealthy in it!

Penne alla Vodka (from Tide and Thyme)

1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 small onion minced (about 1/4 c)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 C vodka
1/2 C heavy cream
1 lb penne pasta
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan for serving


- Puree half of the tomatoes in food processor until smooth. 

- Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, discarding cores.
- Combine pureed tomatoes and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
- Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until simmering.
- Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around the edges, about three minutes.
- Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt.
- Remove pan from heat and add vodka.
- Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous.
- Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
- Add pasta sauce to penne pasta that has been cooked to al dente.
- Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, top with parmesan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baked Zucchini Chips

A few weeks ago, we were making sweet potato burgers and I wanted a side dish for it that was quick, easy and healthy.  As I wandered through my local market I came across the zucchini and thought 'what about making some sort of chip?!'.  As per my usual, I pulled out my phone, googled "zucchini chips" and this page popped up.  Sounded like exactly what I was looking for!  Since it said "seasoned breadcrumbs" I decided on some with garlic & herbs seasoning.  The chips were pretty easy to make, though mine didn't turn out ultra-crispy.  But they were pretty delicious.  The recipe says it yields 4 servings, using 2 medium zucchinis.  My husband and I cleaned the plate between the two of us.  But, they're pretty healthy, so we didn't feel too bad about it afterwards!

Baked Zucchini Chips (from

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg whites

- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). 
- In one small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, pepper and Parmesan cheese.
- Place the egg whites in a separate bowl.
- Dip zucchini slices into the egg whites, then coat the breadcrumb mixture.
- Place on a greased baking sheet. 
- Bake for 5 minutes in the preheated oven, then turn over and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pesto Chicken Rolls

My husband came home from the store the other day with thin-sliced chicken breasts.  In the past I've sliced them up and cooked them with a little ground ginger and teriyaki sauce, but I wanted to do something different.  As I was on my way home last night thinking of what to make for dinner, the chicken entered my mind and I thought 'what if I put something on it, like maybe pesto, and rolled it up?!'  So I did a little googling and came across some recipes.  Of course, most pesto has parmesan cheese in it, so I knew I had to improvise to make this a kosher meal.  A little more googling of 'dairy-free pesto' followed, I made a stop at the store for some basil and pine nuts, and I had the makings of a delicious dinner!

This recipe even allowed me to use my immersion blender for the first time, which I've been meaning to use since we received it last fall.  The pesto was super easy to make (put ingredients into blending cup, blend, add garlic, blend, add oil while blending, done!).  The prep time ended up being about 40 minutes, which included unpacking my blender, so next time it will probably take me less than 30.

I put the rolls on top of pasta, which I had mixed with a little oil and salt for a bit of flavor and a delicious dinner was served!!

Dairy-Free Pesto (from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom)

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (more or less, to taste)
1/2 tsp. sea salt

- In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves with the nuts, lemon juice and sea salt.  Pulse a few times until mixture is reduced in volume and the mixture is well incorporated.
- Add the garlic and pulse a few times more.
- Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the blender or food processor is running, stop to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Taste.  Add more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.

          Chicken Pesto Rolls (slightly adapted from Taste of Home Cooking)

          - Spread each thin sliced chicken breast with a scoop of pesto to within 1/2 in. of the edges.
          - Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side; secure with a toothpick or small metal skewer.
           - Place chicken in a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. 
          - Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-35 minutes or meat is no longer pink.
          - Remove toothpicks or skewers. Serve warm as a main course.