rhubarb season!

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the end result: scone-topped strawberry-rhubarb bake

every season brings delights, doubtless. in the fall i love making big dinners with starchy side dishes, baking cookies in the winter, and grilling in the summer. but i look forward to rhubarb every spring.

maybe because it’s so pretty. or looks like ruby celery. or because it’s delicious. or different. or that it seems uniquely american. whatever the reason is, i love working with it.

a major limiting factor to my experimentation these days is my little son. at nine months old he is into everything, and grabs faster than i can intercept! even with him in a sling, baking is a tough. he is curious about everything, and obsessed with food (like my husband and i)!

the little one is into everything!

the little one is into everything!

but, not wanting to be cheated out of rhubarb season, i tried to come up with something easier than a pie, and fast. so, i processed the rhubarb (i love to put it in a bright green bowl):

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and cooked it with:

.25 cup water | 3 tablespoons all purpose flour | .75 cup sugar

once it had reduced some, i added 2 lbs of strawberries and cooked it together:

SAMSUNGi love the fabulous color! it is such a delight to eat such pretty things! after cooking i put the whole mixture into a large roasting pan. then i mixed together my favorite go-to scone mix! (fisher fair scone mix has never let me down!) and dropped patted rounds of it on top. i got the idea from biscuit-topped chicken pie recipes.

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then i baked at 375 degrees until the rhubarb was bubbly and the scones were golden!

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okay, not the most elegant, not the most beautiful: but rustic, quick, easy and delicious. not overly sweet and suitable for breakfast (not just dessert!).

and my rhubarb mission: successfully completed!

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market dinner!

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there is something about an open air market. live music playing from the sidelines. crepes being cooked on hot griddles. the smell of pizza coming straight out of a mobile wood-fire grill. tulips in every color. dogs. babies in strollers. the laughter of little ones and those not-so-little alike.

i love a farmer’s market. there is just nothing else like it. my brother and sister (in law) were in town and we spent a morning full of unexpected, unfiltered, sunshine traversing the stalls of beautiful, local produce; amazing hand-crafted delights; delicious food and libations like hand-made sodas, hot donuts sizzling before our eyes-dusted with sugar and cinnamon, hot verachi pizza, mouth-watering caramels, heavenly jams; and fresh flowers from all over the state.

but i have to say that my favorite way to spend a sunday morning is to hit the tea shop or bakery, enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry or crepe, and peruse the market.

and if that’s my favorite way to spend a sunday morning, my favorite way to spend a sunday mid-afternoon is to prepare a delicious dinner from all the fabulous things i indulged in at the market. so the five of us (myself, husband, brother and sister in law, and 8 month old) walked the market up and down to see what looked yummy, and pulled a menu out of the stalls.

on our shopping list was wild-caught-never-frozen-alaska-salmon, a medley of hand-picked-dried winter mushrooms, fresh trofie pasta, peak-of-season asparagus, and up the street to cupcake royale for some dessert.

here is our april market dinner menu:

salmon grilled in foil with olive oil, dill and lemon

trofie pasta in a lemon-cream-mushroom sauce

broiled asparagus with lemon and olive-oil

it was simple, but delicious! the salmon was so lovely on its own, it really took very little preparation. my husband and his brother salt-and-peppered the fish and squeezed lemon on it. they drizzled oil and laid lemon slices and dill sprigs on top. they wrapped it in foil and put it in a low grill to cook slowly. we re-hydrated the mushrooms and started a sauce with butter, garlic, onions and lemon zest. we chopped the mushrooms up and sauteed the whole thing, then added it to a cream sauce made of a potato starch roux. my brother in law broiled the asparagus until crispy on the ends. we enjoyed it with a loaf of amazing, crusty bread.

it turned out to be one of the best meals we’d had in a long time. a bit of a splurge for us, but when one buys market fresh and local, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. the food is awesome on its own, and anyone can be a gourmet chef.

a mom’s reflection on a kid’s favorite food: mac & cheese!

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as a kid, like many of us, i’m sure, i would kill for a bowl of kraft macaroni and cheese. my korean mom didn’t grow up with it, and surely was horrified by it, but she loyally made it for me growing up. in fact, she packed a number of boxes of it for our 2 month trip to korea when i was five years old, surprising my little brother and me with it, since we missed “american” food.

annies_mac_and_cheeseonce i got older, and had some disposable income, i upgraded my mac & cheese choice to annie’s. i used to get the orange boxes of cheddar and shells, but then i think they must have hired someone who REALLY understands mac & cheese, because while the cheddar and shells were elegant and delicious, i did miss the bright orange (read: artificial) cheese sauce and the tube shaped noodles. there is just something about the way the sauce gets in there. and while my husband and i argue over the tube noodles vs. the shells, i have to admit, it’s a tasty step up from kraft.

at some point, i realized, i should learn how to make these foods–not just “make” them (ie: add milk, butter and stir the cheese sauce powder in). and that’s where beecher’s comes in. a_250x375beecher’s is a local cheese maker located in the historic market near my home. they have large vats of cheese and one can stop on the sloped sidewalk outside the shop and look in the windows to see the cheese being made. you can buy the cheese, now-a-days, in almost any grocery store around the area. they have delicious varieties of artisan cheese, but also a delicious selection of cheese curds, in particular, marinated in herbs and olive oil, which sustained me through my bout of gestational diabetes.

they also happen to make something known as the “world’s best macaroni and cheese,” which they sell out of their shop, piping hot, rich, gooey, and delicious. and now, this too, is available at local grocers, frozen. so, as you can see, i didn’t have a lot of motivation to learn to make a decent mac & cheese, with so many awesome choices at my fingertips.

one thing, though, the beecher’s mac & cheese is a little spendy — and my extra cash, these days, gets frittered away on things like diapers, wipes, and a never-ending array of baby accessories. and, additionally, another baby-related decision (the one where we have trouble trying to leave the house to be social) prompted an invitation to good friends of ours for dinner. and these friends happen to be big mac & cheese fans too. particularly beecher’s. and what could be better than red wine and mac & cheese on a nasty, cold, winter’s day?

so i had seen on pinterest a “beecher’s cheese sauce” recipe, which i had pinned who-knows-how-long-ago. i love pinterest. it’s great for new moms because we can express a sense of what we like and what we would like to do, without having to actually remember to do it now (or ever). so i spend some time surfing, pinning things that i hope i’ll do one day. so, i thought, why not start now?

mac-n-cheesei am happy to report that the cheese sauce turned out really quite well (as my friends can attest). and, i have to say, it was almost as easy as the kind out of the box…no joke! i mean, once you shred all the cheese (but that’s what family is for, right? i put my husband on cheese duty), you boil noodles, melt butter (and make a quick rue), add the milk, and the cheese, then add noodles! if you want to be fancy (and oh, we did), you can top with more cheese, or bread crumbs, and bake. we shaved on parmigiana cheese and baked the whole thing. we left a pitcher of hot cheese sauce on the side for people to add more, if they wanted.

so, now i’m a mom, and my kid is bound to like mac & cheese. i’m sure we’ll have our fair share of kraft, annie’s, and other boxed stuff, but at least i can say i can make it from scratch! and maybe my little one will like my homemade stuff best. though, as luck would have it, i imagine nothing can beat a bowl of kraft in the eyes of a little boy.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (½ stick)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 14 ounces Beecher’s Flagship Cheese, grated (about 3 ½ cups)
  • 2 ounces Beecher’s Just Jack cheese, grated (½ cup)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ -½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cook for 2 minutes.

Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.

Add the cheese, salt, chili powder, and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Recipe Details

Makes about 4 cups

Note: This sauce reheats nicely on the stove in a saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t scorch.

Servings: 8

Read more: http://www.thedailymeal.com/beecher-s-flagship-cheese-sauce#ixzz2FklVUY5W