Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rhubarb Berry Red Wine Parfaits and a #Whole Foods #Giveaway

They say Spring has sprung and it is true that my tulips are up and my lilacs are blooming-but here in Colorado it is still snowing. March was terrific and now it is April and though there have been a few good weekends, I am ready to feel May. Thank goodness that Whole Foods has me featuring rhubarb. I had to laugh though. After looking at the recipes I've posted this month 4 out of 6  are pink or red. Maybe that is the color of spring?

Rhubarb is a vegetable, in case you were wondering, and one I first had a taste of a few years ago. Though my mother periodically stole our neighbor's rhubarb, I never remember eating it. She stewed it-that I know-and maybe the thought of stew turned me off. But as my mother might say, I've now become a grown up, and eating rhubarb is one of my more pleasant adult experiences. After all, I recently discovered borscht and that was pretty good too!

Rhubarb can be made into wine or drunk as a cordial and even made into pickles, but generally I've found rhubarb in pies mixed with strawberries. Rhubarb has a tart, but likeable taste, and pairs well with berries of all kinds. Last year I made some outstanding rhubarb bars, but this year after baking so much for Passover, I just wasn't in the mood for more. Hence I decided to stew my rhubarb-shocker of shockers!

Stew though really does send off the wrong connotation, because rhubarb cooks very fast. Don't leave it alone because by the time you've let the dogs out, your rhubarb could be stewed into mush. Just sayin'. I barely made it back in time. I decided to cook mine with a few other berries because I had some leftover from Passover and I also had some red wine that needed a home. Yes, red wine works quite nicely, but you could use orange juice or water or pomegranate juice. After the fruit was cooked I strained it and boiled the liquid down into a lovely rhubarb syrup. Manservant is already eyeing it for cocktails, which sounds pretty good to me.

Not knowing how Manservant would go for rhubarb compote plopped into a bowl, I decided to layer this into parfait glasses; because everything looks good in a parfait glass. Well, it does. And Manservant ate it quite heartily and was quite happy to have spied two more in the fridge. Truth is this makes a pretty healthy dessert and one that would work well for breakfast, too. Leave off the whipped cream if you must, but hey, one does put whipped cream on pancakes and waffles, do they not?

To gild the lily, I decided to buy some ready made shortbread cookies from the cookie box at Whole Foods. That cookie box spells danger in my book. At our Whole Foods they had some blueberry short breads and some lemon lavender. Yeah-you know I bought both. And then I gave them a little powdered sugar frosting mixed with some rhubarb bitters, that Manservant keeps on hand. What a nice little bite to have with a gorgeous parfait. Last but not least I used my favorite Noosa yogurt flavor of strawberry rhubarb, to layer these with. Frankly, Noosa yogurt could be dessert all by itself. Love this stuff!

Yes, rhubarb tastes great. It also makes the house smell like spring which we sure could use a little more of  around here!

Whole Foods is giving away 1 $25 gift card to help fill your basket. This post is sponsored by Whole Foods but all opinions are mine. Open only to US residents. No compensation has been given, but products have been provided. Giveaway closes on May 30, 2016Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator. 
How to Enter:
· Enter once by leaving me a comment and telling me your favorite way to use rhubarb-or not.
· Enter twice by subscribing to This is How I Cook
· Enter again by following me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

Rhubarb Berry Red Wine Parfaits
Makes 4
Time to Make: About 20 minutes
2 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces (Did you know that the color of the rhubarb does not affect the taste?)
1 lb strawberries, hulled and cut in half
6 oz raspberries
1/2 - 3/4 c sugar
1/2 c red wine
1/4 t cinnamon
1 star anise (optional)

1 container of Noosa yogurt (strawberry rhubarb or the honey would be great, too)

8 short bread cookies
1/2 c powdered sugar
8 drops of rhubarb bitters (optional)
2-3 T milk or pomegranate juice

Whipped Cream

Heat rhubarb and berries with red wine, sugar, cinnamon and star anise and cook for about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is soft and berries have released their juices.

Separate fruit from juice and continue simmering juice until thickened and syrupy. I ended up with about a cup of syrup.

Combine powdered sugar, bitters and milk or juice and whisk until glaze has formed. Ice cookies. I sprinkled a some crushed dried strawberries on top, but you could use lavender or colorful sugar. Let dry on a rack.

To make parfaits:
Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Place about 1-2 T of rhubarb syrup in bottom of glass. Top with 2 T of yogurt. Top that with 2-3 T of fruit. (You will have some leftover to top your pancakes with the next morning!) Top that with whipped cream and garnish with a spring of thyme. Serve with cookies.

More to Try:
Rhubarb Black Pepper Shortbread Bars
Strawberry Spiral Biscuit Pie
Raspberry Crumble Tart
Whole Foods Rhubarb Recipes

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to Make Rosewater Meringues

Meringues are not usually in my repertoire but somehow Passover makes them magically appear. And they are magic; light and airy; and in this case-pink. Because there is no flour, they are perfect for Passover. Just a hint of food coloring and a smidgen of rosewater brings out the best in these cookies. They'd be magical with berries, but in this case I served them on their own. Well. Not quite on their own. I kind of went over the top this year when it came to desserts. We had the macaroons, a new Francois Payard chocolate version, and a chocolate nut fudge cookie. Then there was the matzoh toffee and the home made marshmallows and the chocolate raspberry cake and last but not least-Ilse's mocha nut cake. Oh yeah-there was a side of berries, too. There was so much I almost forgot them!

My brother Mark joined us this year, Zoe and the boyfriend came, and a few extra visitors. We were 10-which was a nice size- and we all managed to fit on the deck while it was still glorious outside. Our menu was delectable and there were a few small changes from last year.

To tell you the truth-I am exhausted. I spent the week cooking before everyone got here and then it went way too fast. Believe it or not, I actually hired someone to help do the dishes. That did not go so well. After picking him up from the bus stop and carefully going through what he should do-he said he was experienced- I sent him home after 4 hours of nothing. It drove me crazy just knowing he was in my kitchen doing nothing.

He did not know how to keep a surface clean, or wash a dish. He did not know how to drop matzoh balls into the soup. He was slicing strawberries with a chef's knife on my good china plate. Every time I came in the kitchen to see how things were going, he was in the bathroom. After 4 hours of this I asked him if he was OK, where upon he mentioned that he was having bad gas. True story, folks! I then said I didn't feel things were going so good and said enough was enough. He then went to sit on our front stoop until the taxi came and didn't. Manservant ended up driving him home which took an hour back and forth. Zoe helped with the dishes. In spite of this we had a lovely Seder-and all was good! 

I have been sending these cookies off to all parts of Denver and of course, Philly. I can't have them in my house any more. The cakes are almost gone, but they were almost gone when everyone departed. In three days we made 6 trips to the airport. That was a lot, but if my other brother came I'd be happy to make it six, and if Alex came, I'd be happy to make it eight. Just sayin'.

And one more thing, before this week escapes. Look who has been in our life for a year now. Geordie is all grown up in size, but he's still a puppy at heart. I think he stole everyone's heart, too! He had a special treat of Jewish brisket and chopped liver in honor of the occasion! 

Every Passover I think I am celebrating the egg, instead of celebrating freedom.  I believe I used about 4 dozen eggs in this menu! I do have a few yolks left and the dogs are quite happy about that! These meringues are pretty, easy to make and quite delicious. I guess one can say that pink was the color of the day! 

Rosewater Meringues
Makes About 24
Time to Make: About 2 hours including baking time
From: Adapted from Food with Friends
4 egg whites
1/2 sugar
1 c powdered sugar
1 t rosewater
4 drops red food coloring
Pinch of salt
Organic Rose Petals for Garnish (I used rose tea petals)
Preheat oven to 225. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites at high speed until slightly frothy. Continue to whisk at medium high speed, adding the sugar 1 T at a time. Add the powdered sugar in the same manner, but you may want to drape a clean dish towel over the top of the mixer, to keep your counters from looking like it snowed. After all  sugars have been added, add the rosewater, food coloring and salt and turn the mixer to high. Whisk on high until the mixture is glossy and stiff peaks have formed. 

Using 2 spoons- one to scoop and the other to shape the meringues-form 1 T sized mounds. The cookies do not need much room between them, as they don't expand. Dust each meringue with a few rose petals. Bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on a wire rack and serve immediately. (As you can see I only added the rosewater to half the mixture. The white meringue were made with vanilla.)

A Few More To Try:
Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Rosewater

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Honey Crunch Matzoh Brittle and 18 Other Passover Favorites

Here in Denver April showers seems to mean April snow. As I stare out my window at my just flowered apple tree, which is now drenched in cold wet snow, I'm reminded of past Passovers where it beautifully graced my entry. This year I don't think that will be the case, though it is forecast to be in the 70's on Friday. Alas, I don't think this tree will be springing back. Well, at least the house smells like chicken soup and we are warm inside. But oh-the poor apple tree.

This year I tried a quick new snack that reminds me a lot of honey covered granola only better. No oats-only matzoh farfel-which is really just a fancy name for crumbled matzoh. Feel free to crumble your own matzoh or crumbled saltines would most likely taste great, too. Now that I've made this I see a myriad of possibilities by embellishing this with dried fruits, salted peanuts, a chocolate drizzle, extra salt, and who knows what, but that will have to wait for a later date.

This is a quick microwave recipe that I found in the back of the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook that I wrote about not to long ago. I think you'll like it, even if you don't keep Passover. It makes the perfect snack for those drives to Grandma's when the kids are  hungry and you know dinner will awhile in coming. It made the perfect snack for Manservant who loves the honey taste. It could become quite addicting but I hid it in the recesses of my just cleaned pantry. Hope I can find it again when everyone-well, almost everyone- arrives on Friday.

Check it out and check out some of my other Passover faves that I conveniently put in one spot. Have a great holiday and happy eating!

Chicken Marbella will be on my table this year. My pictures are atrocious as this is one of the first recipes I ever posted. Just click on the link and you will see what I mean!

Matzoh Grilled Cheese with Basil (You need this for the next day!)

Macaroons 1 (I make these every year!)

Honey Crunch Matzoh Brittle
Makes 1 about 10 x 15 pan
Time to Make: About 15 minutes
4 T butter
1/2 c honey
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
3 c matzoh farfel or broken matzoh or saltines
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/2 c pecan halves or walnuts
Line a 10 x 15" pan with parchment paper. Combine butter, honey, sugar, and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high until boiling and golden about 5-6 minutes, stirring after 2 1/2 minutes. Stir in matzoh pieces and nuts. Microwave about 4-5 minutes longer or until everything is golden. Stir after 2 1/2 minutes. To test if this is ready have a cold glass of water handy. Drop a small spoonful into water. If it is ready, it will turn crisp. Transfer mixture to baking sheet and let it cool for a few minutes. With wet hands, firmly press down into an even layer. Let stand until firm, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Radish Crostini with Lemon Cheese Spread and #SqueakyBean #BeanAcres

It isn't often that I'm sent home from a dinner party with gorgeous red radishes. Well, like never.

 And it isn't often I've eaten in a greenhouse while outside there is still snow on the ground. Nor is it often that while eating in a greenhouse I get to listen to some of my favorite tunes from Hall and Oates. Click here if you want to hum along with me. (Just can't get them out of my head.) And last but not least, it isn't often I'm greeted by a man wearing a suit imprinted with vegetables.

 But then this is  the magic of Johnny Beans and Josh Olsen of Squeaky Bean at Bean Acres. Just like fresh beans squeak when you bite into them, fresh veggies will have you squeakin' about how good they are.

Growing up in the middle of corn and soybean country might lead you to believe that I had lots of fresh veggies on my plate. Yes, there were farm stands that we often perused, but I only remember walking away with fresh corn, fresh apples and bunches of gladiolus. Oh, yeah. Sometimes we had fresh green beans, but that was about it. Somehow though when I ventured off to college I ended up in the environmental program at ASU, where I lasted for one year, before heading up to Fort Collins. At ASU, I took a gardening class where we each had our own irrigated plot in the middle of the desert, and were able to grow whatever we wanted. I loved the feeling of getting out to an open space, the smell of the dirt and fresh air, the sun burning; and even though it is hard working in a garden all day; the sense of accomplishment and peace. Way better than weeding a yard.

So it was with excitement that I looked forward to the dinner at Bean Acres. I've had the pleasure of eating at Squeaky Bean in LoDo and though it was a few years ago, I still remember the fabulous experience we had. I remember a dish of carrots prepared countless ways on one plate, which told me way back then that Squeaky Bean took their food seriously. And now I find out just how serious they really do. When they say farm to table- they mean from their own farm to table, and eating at Bean Acres we were able to see just that.

Bean Acres is a year round farm and greenhouse operation in partnership with Warren Tech High School in Lakewood, CO. Oh, how I would have loved attending a high school like this when I was younger. Josh Olsen, co-founder of Squeaky Bean, after not having enough room to grow his greens behind the old Squeaky Bean restaurant, expanded in 2011 and developed Bean Acres which now spans three acres, two 6,000 square foot greenhouses, and grows over 24 varieties of non GMO vegetables, herbs and fruit. Not only that, but they are growing human beans, too!

Students at Warren Tech are not only future farmers,  perhaps aspiring chefs, but they are also part of a program called S2TEM-science, sustainability, technology, education and math. Their curriculum includes classes on vegetable and fruit preservation, restaurant farming, propagation, sustainable irrigation and a slew of others. Sure beats shop and home ec - which was all we had in my day. Culinary students also volunteer to help serve, clean up, plan and cook, not because they have to, but because they want to. At least that's what I observed. Additionally, Squeaky Bean helps provide fresh produce to other restaurants in the area and also has a stand at the Union Station Farmer's Market. If there is any leftover produce or scrap, it is quickly composted to be reused again in this cycle of transFarmative cuisine.

Dinner began with a colorful and tasty radish crostini. 

Beautiful breakfast radishes, (yes, I ate my gift the next day) of which I could not find any at my local Whole Foods, were mild and crunchy, sat on a "frosting" of very fresh butter. After a tour of Bean Acres and having time to develop a healthy appetite, they were the perfect appetizer to start our dinner experience.

 Mocktails were served with each course and though we couldn't get the real thing-being on school property and all-they were designed by Jack Bethel who believes there is a drink for ever disposition. My fave was a mixture of arugula, cilantro and soda. Sounds odd, but Jack's s custom mocktails were creative and should be bottled!

The family style menu was veggie-centric. It was veggie good. It was the first day of Spring and what a welcome we gave it. Bean Acres has a few more dinners coming up. Priced at $60/per person they are a fun way to remind us where our food comes from. Farm to table takes on special meaning here. Johnny and Josh remind us to give thanks for the bounty each and every day. They not only support and help train students, they also feed 3,000 homeless and hungry people every Thanksgiving. If that's not enough, they support countless benefits and events each year. Transformative or transFarmative? What ever you call it - they make my dreams come true!

Radishes are a veggie I've always loved. My mother always bought them and they always appeared sliced on our Iceberg lettuce salads. Yeah, that's the way we rolled back in the early 70's when romaine was yet to appear and baby lettuce was unheard of. Spinach came in plastic bags and so did icicle radishes that I can't even find today. Oh, I loved those! That may have been my first taste of something spicy because those little icicles sure could  kick.

So it is that I felt compelled to conjure up my own radish sandwich. After all, this was one veggie even my Manservant eats. It is however really weird that he picks them off  his salad but heartily eats them on bread! My radish crostini sit on a bed of lemon flavored goat's cheese. They are fresh, but rustic, savory and spicy, colorful and've got the picture. Since I quickly ate all of the breakfast radishes I was sent home with, I found a watermelon radish and used that instead. The mint tastes extraordinary with the radishes as does lemon.

 Radish Crostini with Lemon Cheese Spread
Makes 8 large slices
Time to Make: About 20 minutes
2 oz feta cheese
8 oz goat cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 T of lemon oil (I love Agrumato. Pricey, but worth it.)
1 T of chopped garlic chives or scallions

1 watermelon radish
4 grocery store variety radishes
1 T of chopped mint and 8 whole mint leaves
8 slices of hearty whole grain bread, brushed with 1 T of olive oil and grilled on one side
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper

In a food processor, combine both cheeses, zest, lemon juice, lemon oil and chives. Pulse until well mixed.

Slice radishes very thin. I used a mandolin. Watch your fingers. Don't ask!

Spread cheese evenly on toasted bread. Top with radishes. Garnish with mint and chives. Drizzle with a bit more oil. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and a bit of fresh black pepper. Eat with a glass of My Essential Rose in your other hand. Remember Spring and be thankful.

Other Spring Foods:
Roasted Carrot Dip with Hazelnut and Raisin Topping
Grilled Icelandic Lamb Chops with Honey Herb ChimiChurri
Sweet Pea, Mango and Mint Salad
Berries with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper

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Well 'cause you, 
You make my dreams come true, oh yeah
Well well you, ooo ooo
You make my dreams come true, whoa yeah music, if you will 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Beet Borscht Soup from The Old Country

I don't know what made me make this blazing red beet borscht. As a child I turned my nose up at it. I don't even recall a spoonful of this passing through my lips or even close to them. Heaven forbid. It is only in my adult years that I discovered that beets are pretty good. Yes they are very red, but they are pretty good and very pretty in all their colorful forms, be it  gold or candy striped. Maybe it is nostalgia that made me make this. Maybe I just had to see for myself what this borscht was all about. I will always recall the jar of borscht  from Manischewitz,   kept in our fridge, specifically reserved for when my father came home for lunch; not that any of us kids would touch it. He ceremoniously poured it into a bowl and topped it with a dollop of sour cream and slurped away while reading the Chicago Tribune.

I'm not sure I've told you that my father came from Lithuania in 1938 when he was 7 years old, aboard the Normandy, with his parents, brother and sister, while narrowly escaping the demise of their village. Most of the family was not so lucky. My father is from the OLD Country-as he puts it- where I guess they eat food like red borscht. And potatoes. And cabbage. And bread. And had no toys! (So my father always told us.) As a child I thought Lithuania must be a very cold place, because when I stared at the family passport photo, everyone wore heavy coats. They came to Ellis Island in August when wearing a coat must have made them quite hot, so then I presume they ate their borscht cold-because borscht can be had both ways. Neither was very appealing, to say the least, when I was a wee one.

My mother told me that she used to prepare borscht for my father using meat-probably short ribs or brisket-but my mother always had a thing for short ribs. She told me she actually copied the recipe down from a Time Life cookbook that had gorgeous photos and at the time was too expensive for her to buy. Now I am curious what this book may have looked like, so I'll have to peruse Amazon and see if I can snag a few copies.

So I made this borscht while baking hamentaschen, which makes me quite the Bubby, I think. Even though I am far from being a Bubby; though my own Bubby had I believe- about 8 grand kids at my age-the oldest being moi. I never ate her borscht either-but I do remember eating sugar cubes that were hiding in her cupboard. While I was making this borscht Manservant poked his head in and said that it looks like I was making peasant food. Well...borscht is peasant food. It contains cabbage and potatoes and onions and yeah-beets. I asked if he'd like a spoonful and he politely replied, " That's OK. I'll pass". Ah, I thought-more for me- which is what my mother probably said years ago.

And so it is, I made my first bowl of borscht. I still can't imagine eating it cold, but nothing beats a bowl of hot borscht on a cold day. I may not be from the Old Country, but I'm proud to say that peasant food or not, those Bubbies way back when, knew what they were doing. Using whatever staples were available to them, they came up with a soup that has withstood time. Thank goodness I've finally made it. I hope my kids don't wait so long.

Beet Borscht Soup
Serves 4-6
Time to Make: About 30 minutes prep and 75 minutes for soup to cook
Adapted From: The Community Table
1 t caraway seeds (optional)
1 lb beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1-1/1/2 t kosher salt
4-5 c chicken stock or veggie stock
1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes-cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 c chopped red onions
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick half moons
2 c chopped green cabbage
1-2 T chopped fresh dill
1-1 1/2 T cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 T of honey or to taste
1 1/4 c tomato puree
1 T raisins-optional
Freshly Ground black pepper
Sour Cream or Yogurt
Chopped Fresh Dill
If you are using the caraway, toast it in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly colored. Set aside. (I don't like caraway, so I don't use it.)

In a large heavy bottomed pot, combine beets and 1/2 t salt with 4 c of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer until the veggies are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer veggies to a medium bowl and set aside. Reserve cooking liquid.

In a heavy bottomed soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat with oil and saute one minute. Add the caraway-if using-1/2 t salt and saute until onions are translucent about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and cabbage. Add reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the reserved potatoes and beets, dill to taste, vinegar to taste, lemon juice, honey, tomato puree and raisins, if using. Season with salt and pepper.

Uncover the pot and simmer slowly for 30-40 minutes. Add more stock if mixture gets too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more vinegar to taste. Serve in bowls, with a big hunk of bread and garnish with sour cream and dill.

More to try:
Chicken Soup Chicken
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs
Matzoh Ball Soup
Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole
Flourless, Gluten Free Passover Fudge Cake

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