Strawberry-Rhubard Buckle

Happy 4th of July! Always a fun weekend of friends, family, festivities and of course, fabulous food. The past few years I’ve celebrated by making a cherry-themed dessert; usually this is when I first see sour cherries at the farmers’ market and can’t wait to play with them. This year, the growing season is a bit behind schedule so while there weren’t any sour cherries to be found, the rhubarb was still going strong.

I’ve actually baked with rhubarb more this year than I ever have before. It’s been a recurring item in my CSA (community supported agriculture from Harvest Moon Farms) for three weeks running, not to mention the two weeks prior that I bought rhubarb at the market.

With all that rhubarb, I’ve almost run out of things to do with it. I made a rhubarb cake-pie, rhubarb tart and roasted rhubarb, and then finally this week a strawberry rhubarb buckle.

I used my favorite white peach and blueberry buckle recipe as a base but used strawberries, rhubarb and ginger as the main ingredients. Strawberries and rhubarb are classic combination, and the two types of ginger (ground and crystallized) add a bit of a kick to the buckle and help soften both the tartness of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the batter. If you’re not a ginger fan, go ahead and cut back the amounts a bit, but I’d still recommend leaving some in for a fun contrast in flavors.

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Spring Frittata

For years now I’ve been making this frittata, or at least a version of it. I’m not much of a brunch person myself, but in those instances in which I need to whip up something delicious for a group, as I just did for Mother’s Day, this is one of my go-to recipes.

What I love most about making a frittata is, that unlike most other breakfast dishes, you’re not making it to order. It’s cooked in one big skillet (I love my cast iron skillet for this) mostly on the stove, then finished in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes. I serve it straight from the skillet – it’s so easy and practically makes enough to feed an army. There’s no need to be off to the side flipping pancakes or making individual omelettes when you could make this frittata instead.

And even better, it works perfectly with whatever great vegetables are in season. It’s still in the 40′s here in Chicago, so needless to say, our growing season hasn’t really kicked off yet. But I did find asparagus, shitake mushrooms, spinach and Spring onions at the farmers’ market, which made for a delicious combination in this frittata.

Here’s the recipe, which was adapted from Bon Appetit, but I find it best to use as a guide – substitute or swap out any of the ingredients for whatever you have on hand.

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Avocado Deviled Eggs

Last Sunday, I spent the day helping my mom prepare for our family’s Passover Seder. She was expecting 30 guests and had been working hard for a week to make all the traditional foods. I was helping by making this delicious Dark Chocolate Torte, always a hit, and a salad (because if I don’t make it, no one will eat anything green), and by keeping her company in the kitchen.

As we worked on our various dishes, one thing remained constant: my mom kept making batches upon batches of hard-boiled eggs. It’s a traditional food that goes on the Seder plate, and my family loves them so she makes dozens extra.

This led to the same discussion we have every year – why can’t I make some of those 60+ hardboiled eggs deviled? And better yet, if I’m making deviled eggs, why not make them with avocado?

As it turns out, there are quite a few reasons why, but unfortunately I didn’t know most of this until it was too late. Two main ingredients in many deviled egg recipes are mayonnaise and mustard, both of which present a bit of a problem. As it turns out, most store-bought mayos are made from soybean oil, a Passover no-no (soybeans are a legume). To get around this hurdle, use Kosher for Passover mayo or make your own from scratch.

The mustard presents a more difficult obstacle, and one I don’t really have a solution to. As I found out on Friday, five days too late, mustard is also a no-no because it comes from mustard seeds, and you can’t have seeds for Passover. Oops.

I know I’m writing this like I didn’t know those things, but that’s because I didn’t. This knowledge came from many calls and texts to friends over the past week. I even tried searching for a Kosher for Passover app for my iPhone and couldn’t find one – come on developers, I’m counting on this for next year!

Despite all the challenges, I did make the deviled eggs and they really were fantastic! A friend had recommended trying an avocado deviled egg, and I figured, why not? It adds more creaminess and fat to the filling that’s already made from of egg yolks and mayonnaise (which is made from more egg yolks and oil). Not to mention, the subtle flavor of the avocado is really rather refreshing, and it was amusing watching my non-adventurous extended family hesitate before trying the green eggs, then dig in and ask for another.

I used this recipe as a guide as I didn’t measure most of the ingredients, but rather adjusted and added by taste. For 18 eggs, I used two avocados, a nice amount of mayo, probably a few teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1 small onion and 2 small celery stalks. I also added in fresh lemon juice and topped some of the eggs with a pinch of chili powder.

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Mussels, a Simple and Delicious Treat

Sometimes the simplest joys are the greatest. Take today, a dreary rainy/sleety rare Monday off work. My big plans for the day were to clean my apartment, go to the bank, make a return at Home Depot and do a bit of grocery shopping on the way back. So exciting, right? Except that it kind of was, but only in a way a true foodie could appreciate.

As I passed by the seafood counter at my local Whole Foods on steroids, a bag of shiny black mussels caught my eye. I love mussels but rarely make them. In fact, I don’t think I’ve made them since taking advanced fish in culinary school (and yes, that’s a real class that I had nightmares about for months after completing). But today I was being called to them; I just had to buy some.

I bought one pound, which seemed like the right amount for me to enjoy for a late lunch, and grabbed a bottle of Spanish dry white wine that a sales associate recommended along with some fresh thyme and a small baguette. It had been so long since I made this that I couldn’t remember exactly what to put in the broth, but that seemed like the right place to start.

When I got home I consulted a few of my favorite cookbooks and found two recipes similar to what I remembered, one in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table and the other in an old notebook from class, both emulating the traditional method for steaming mussels that resulted in a delicious and super simple dish.

One thing I wanted to point out was that I didn’t use any pepper in the mussels. Not using pepper on shellfish isĀ  one of thoseĀ  ingrained lessons from that same advanced fish class that gave me nightmares, and one I still follow to a tee.

The only place I went wrong was that I didn’t toast the baguette. I was so eager to eat that I let that part go. Please don’t make the same mistake – toast your bread and use it sop up all the delicious broth!

Here’s how I made Super Simple Steamed Mussels:

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Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

Even if your favorite team isn’t in the Super Bowl this year (that’s right, Bears, I’m talking about you), it’s still fun to get together with friends to watch the big game – and the big commercials!

Always a great calorie fest with everything from guacamole to Lou Malnati’s pizzas, I try to have some fun with what I bring to the Super Bowl table. Last year it was these delicious Savory French Toast Bites and the year before it was the Homemade Hostess Cupcakes, which are always a huge hit. This year it’s Bourbon Caramel Popcorn, which I first made just over a month ago for a New Years Eve party and knew instantly it would need to make a game day reappearance.

The recipe is actually quite simple, it just takes a few steps to make individual parts before it all comes together. But in the end, you have a crunchy, sweet and salty treat with the subtle flavor of bourbon. Try it and you’ll see how addicting this popcorn is!

Tell me what you made for your game day celebration or your favorite snack to enjoy as you watch the new commercials!

Here’s the recipe for Bourbon Caramel Popcorn:

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