Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

As you may have noticed, our posting has been down (way down) this month. We will both be sharing some big updates soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you, May has been busy!

We moved (still in Charlottesville) from an apartment to a house–a gradual move that has taken a solid month to complete. We took a weekend trip to Savannah. We hosted a small dinner party at the new house. We’ve had family in town, and we’ve been spent time with friends. Through all of this, I’ve barely had time to cook, let alone blog.

But this weekend, as we finished moving the last of the stuff out of the apartment and made dinner plans with friends, I felt the familiar itch, and knew that I had to make something “blog-worthy.” Knew that I had to find time to do more than throw together a salad or some pasta; to take and edit photos; and to sit down to write about what I had made, about this busy month of May.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

Though the City Market opens in April, May is the month when Virginia’s bounty truly begins to roll in. Greens become more abundant; spring carrots and spicy radishes appear. And then, the magic begins–it’s strawberry season!

Beautiful local strawberries!

Beautiful local strawberries!

And, alongside those beautiful, sugar sweet strawberries, there is rhubarb.

Though of course I had heard of it, I’m not sure I’d actually ever had rhubarb until last summer, when I made my first strawberry rhubarb crisp.

In the past two years or so, as I have begun to explore gardening, joined a CSA, and started to frequent the City Market, I have learned more and more about what vegetables actually look like while growing in the earth. Today I find that there is something about being able to identify a plant as “vegetable” that is incredibly satisfying to me. Vegetables often grow in surprisingly delightful ways–from the fact that the little yellow flowers on my tomato plants become beautiful red fruits, to the delicate and pungent garlic scapes that spring up from hard neck garlic plants, to being able to identify kale or chard as such when I see it used in decorative pots, it’s such fun to know what these plants are and to see the miracle of growing food in action.

So, back to rhubarb.

Rhubarb stalks

Rhubarb stalks

This vegetable looks a lot like Swiss Chard, but with a heartier stalk that can range from very green to very red. Locally, the stalks I have found have been very green with only a hint of red, though I have seen vibrantly red-pink stalks on other people’s Instagram feeds. On its own, rhubarb is incredibly tart, and frankly, not too enjoyable. It needs some TLC in the form of sweetener, and pairs perfectly with its seasonal pal, strawberry.

strawberry-rhubarb

Strawberry and rhubarb–a perfect match

I have been aching to make something strawberry rhubarb for weeks, and so, on Sunday, when I knew we would be going to dinner at a friends house, I jumped on the opportunity to make this cake, inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Though the cake is perfectly delicious as is, it took everything in me to not make this cake with buckwheat flour. After all, buckwheat and rhubarb come from the same family, and really, how perfect would that have been?!

But I was sharing this cake with friends, friends who I knew would appreciate my cake more if it was not made with the “weird” ingredients that I love to use.

Cake!

Cake!

This cake was enjoyed at the end of a perfect summer meal – carnitas tacos, eaten on the roof top terrace of our friends apartment, on Sunday night of a 3 day weekend, with friends who have quickly become our “go-to” group. We shared food, wine, beer, and lots and lots of laughter.

A perfect start to the summer.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Snack Cake

Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 large stalks of Rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 + 2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (not non-fat)

Crumb

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Yum!

Yum!

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or a nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper, extending the lengths up two sides.

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar and set aside. Beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at at time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Whisk together flour, baking powder, table salt and ground ginger together in a small bowl. Add one-third of this mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the sour cream, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined.

Dollop batter into the prepared pan, then use a spatula to spread the cake into an even, thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer.

Stir together the crumb mixture, first whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, and then stirring in the melted butter with a fork. Scatter the crumb mixture evenly over the strawberry rhubarb layer. Bake cake in preheated oven for about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. It will be golden on top. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Use the parchment “sling” to remove the cake from the pan. Cut into 2-inch squares. Store tightly covered in the fridge, no more than 5 days.

Perfect as a dessert or snack

Perfect as a dessert or snack

Make this cake and share it with friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did – I know Sarah did!

-L

Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes I think I am the human incarnation of the Cookie Monster. “Me want cookie” all the time.

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I don’t just like eating cookies, I like baking them. They don’t take much time, but keep me occupied for long enough to clear my head. My mind has been racing for the past few weeks as I completed another round of auditions, accepted a new job offer, and re-entered the dating scene. All of these experiences and changes have given me lots to think about… and stress about… so I needed to zone out for a bit!

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Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery has an incredible Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip cookie. I like to pretend it is healthy (duh… oats and wheatgerm are good for you!), even though it’s loaded with sugar and is about the size of my hand. For my cookie therapy Monday afternoon, I decided to re-create this tantalizing treat.

After a successful first experience baking with coconut oil a couple weeks ago, I decided to use coconut oil instead of butter. The combination of coconut oil and wheatgerm gave the cookies a delicious nutty taste. Whole wheat flour, a dash of cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla extract added more complexity. This is possibly my new favorite cookie recipe!

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Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 5+ dozen cookies

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheatgerm
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease large baking sheets and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, wheatgerm, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and set aside. In another large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugars together with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the oat mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch rounds and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake on center rack for 12 minutes. Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Unless you have a lot of people to share these with, I recommend halving the recipe. Having 5 dozen delicious cookies on my hands is really challenging my self-control! I’ve split the remaining cookies into packs of 6 to give to friends/co-workers/random strangers tomorrow.

What are your favorite cookies?

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Since Easter is right around the corner, I busted out my bunny apron while I was baking and included it in my photos. As you may notice, this is the same apron Lindsey used in the Buckwheat Granola post. Shout out to Mama T, the giver of the bunny aprons!

Happy Eating!

-C

Luscious Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

I spend a majority of my time with fellow twenty-something artists.  We have interesting conversations, go see the wonderful cultural offerings in the city, and offer moral support when we feel creatively blocked.  We are also frequently strapped for cash.  For this reason, we tend to give each other edible gifts, rather than dishing out precious dough for a nice store bought present.

A good friend got a group together for birthday drinks the other night.  I didn’t want to arrive empty handed, so I decided to bake her a little something.  I ended up making some zesty lemon bars, per her request.

Mmmhmm

Mmmhmm

Shockingly, I had never made lemon bars before!  I once made lemon bars from a mix that Mom had, but I don’t count them.  This recipe was really simple, and the result is delicious!  The only adjustment I made was adding a bit of whole wheat flour to the crust, which, honestly was because I ran out of all-purpose flour.  I recommend the change, though.

Lemons

Lemons

Lemon Bars

Recipe from The New Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens

Makes 20 bar cookies

For crust:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

For filling:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the 1/4 cup of sugar, and beat until combined.  Beat in the flour until mixture is crumbly.  Press into a 8x8x2in baking dish, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Bake until golden, 15-18 minutes.

Prepared crust layer

Prepared crust layer

While the crust is baking, combine eggs, sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and baking powder.  Beat until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

Pour filling mixture over hot baked layer and return to oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges and set in the center.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Sift powdered sugar over the top, if desired.  Cut into 20 bars.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

While digging out my apron, I also come across a package of doilies.  I was so excited to be able to present my bars on something prettier than just a tupperware container!  I’m trying not to read into the fact that I had doilies lying around… What a little housewife (minus the whole husband thing)!

Notice the doilies!

Notice the doilies!

The bars were quite a hit.  We were also lucky enough to have a batch of brownies, provided by another friend.  We were that super cool group with homemade goods at the bar.  We got a few dirty looks, but I prefer to think people were just jealous.

I’ll need to remember these next time I feel like baking, but don’t want chocolate (it happens once in a blue moon).  They were smooth, sweet, and tangy!  Yum!

Happy eating!

-C

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

I love biscotti as an afternoon or after dinner snack, especially with a latte or a glass of almond milk. I went through a phase when I lived in New York where I ate biscotti on pretty much a daily basis. Trader Joe’s makes a tasty chocolate dipped variety, and almost every coffee shop sells biscotti. But I had never made my own until this weekend.

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Biscotti are twice-baked cookies. If you sample them after the first phase of baking, they taste just like a typical crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie. The second phase of baking makes them super crunchy and perfect for dipping.

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to learn more about the ingredients I use, my first rule is “no assumptions.” I will not assume I know about an ingredient, but rather, I will research all key ingredients to really learn about them.

For example, I know that pistachios are those little green nuts that typically come in shells (unless you have bulk bins that sell them already shelled!), and are lower in fat than other nuts. But how do they grow? What vitamins and minerals do they contain?

Pistachios

Lovely pistachios

Pistachio: Cultivated in California, Turkey, Italy, and Iran, pistachios are an important culinary nut that has been used for thousands of years, as far back as 6750 BC. In the U.S, pistachios have been cultivated as a commercial crop since the 1930s. The pistachio nuts we eat are the seed of the plant, contained within the hard, whitish/beige shell of the fruit. When the fruit ripens, it splits open, revealing the seed. Compared to other nuts, pistachios have one of the highest amounts of protein and fiber. They also contain important vitamins and minerals including copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin A, thiamine, and Vitamin B-6.

cherries

Chewy cherries

Dried Cherry: The cherry tree was named after the Turkish town of Cesarus, and is said to date back to 300 BC. Cherries come in two varieties: sweet and sour, both of which can be dried and eaten as a snack or used in baked goods. The red pigment in cherries, anthocyanin, is being studied for its antioxidant properties.

A perfect pair

A perfect pair

I was surprised to see that Culinary Artistry does not list cherries and pistachios as a common flavor pairing. In my opinion, they are quite a complimentary pair.

In addition to the lovely flavor combination of pistachios and cherries, these biscotti have a hint of orange due to a little bit of zest added to the batter. I love the subtle complexity that this hint of citrus provides. It keeps the biscotti feeling light and refreshing, while the whole wheat flour and oats also ensure that they are slightly heartier and more filling than the average baked good.

biscotti

Ready to be baked again!

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1  cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons orange zest (I used clementines)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios
Biscotti!

Biscotti!

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with  parchment paper. Combine first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted  with a paddle. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl,  whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients. Add egg mixture to flour mixture;  beat on low speed until combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Fold in cherries and  pistachios.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; divide in half.  Using floured hands, shape each dough half into a 16″-long log. Brush off excess  flour; transfer logs to prepared sheet, spaced 5″ apart. Flatten each log into a  2″-wide strip. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until browned and set,  about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to  250° and arrange 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom  third.
  • Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer  biscotti to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut each strip diagonally  into 2/3″-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking  sheets.
  • Bake biscotti, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until crisp, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks; let cool.
Tasty treats

Tasty treats

My only complaint against homemade biscotti is that they have to bake for quite a long time, so you have to plan ahead when making them. However, the hands on work is simple, so they’re perfect for making on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I’ll be making more soon, potentially dipped in chocolate ;-).

Do you like biscotti? Any favorite flavors or drinks to dip them into?

-L

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WIAW–What I Ate Over the Holidays

While Lindsey and I were on hiatus for the holidays, I was shockingly lazy.  In a week and a half, my only exercise was one (ONE!) walk.  My usual physical activity was replaced by lots of kitchen activity!  For this WIAW post, I’m sharing some of the best dishes I made and ate while on vacation.

After my matinee performance on Christmas Eve, I hopped on a plane to Southern California to spend Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and parents.  Shortly after walking in the door, my uncle handed me a Cranberry, Gingerly cocktail.  YUM!  I have a bit of a ginger obsession, so this delightful concoction with ginger beer, ground ginger, and a garnish of crystallized ginger was right up my alley.  It was also a fun, festive shade of red.

Great way to kick off the break!

Great way to kick off the break!

Christmas morning began with coffee and mimosas.  After opening presents, we sat down for an delicious brunch.  My mom and aunt had prepared a Sausage, Fontina, and Bell Pepper Strata the night before, so we just had to pull it out of the refrigerator and bake it in the morning.  The creamy fontina cheese balanced the spicy Italian sausage wonderfully.  It was a delicious, savory dish.

Sausage Strata

Sausage Strata

We can’t have savory without sweet, so we also prepared Maple-Poached Pears with Ricotta and Pistachios.  These tasty pears could be served as a dessert as well.  They were so good!  The crunch of the pistachios was a nice contrast to the soft pears, and the ricotta kept the dish from being too sweet.  I will definitely make these again.

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

With beautiful food and beautiful weather, our table for Christmas Brunch looked lovely!

The table

The table

My main contribution to Christmas Dinner was a Gingerbread Layer Cake with Candied Kumquats.  I think I may need to bake this cake annually.  It looked great, and tasted even better.  The cake was moist and full of flavor.  The spices came through nicely.  The cream cheese frosting included a bit of caramel, so it ended up being a lovely cream color.  It was a sweet and creamy,  and complemented the ginger and molasses flavor of the cake well.  The candied kumquats were difficult to prepare (Thanks Mom and Aunt Kris!), but were delicious!  We used the leftover kumquats to top off a fruit salad the following morning.

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

My parents and I came home to Texas a few days after Christmas, and were later met by my sisters and their husbands.  Before they arrived, I met some old friends for a coffee date.  Someday I want to be able to make latte art that looks this good!  Props to the baristas at Buon Giorno for making this lovely latte.

Soy Latte

Soy Latte

The first morning the whole family was home, we did Christmas Round 2, complete with another Christmas brunch.  We prepared another strata, this time using broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms, and bacon.  We served a fruit salad and sweet breads with it.  Lindsey and I each prepared a bread the evening before.  She made Banana Bread, and I made Spiced Pumpkin Bread, which I modified to make a bundt instead of 2 loaves.

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

That evening we had a blast at our annual holiday party.  As usual, we prepared Caprese Sticks for our guests to munch on.

Platter of Caprese Sticks

Platter of Caprese Sticks

The full spread for the party

The full spread for the party

We enjoyed leftovers and what Lindsey referred to as “the obligatory Mexican meal” for the next couple days.  The last night the sisters were in town, we had a special New Year’s Eve dinner.  Lindsey made a delicious Roasted Parsnip Soup with Walnut Pesto for the first course.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

We also ate roasted chicken with mushroom gravy, roasted vegetables, and a potato medley with rosemary.

First course

First course

I had so much fun with my family, and loved having the opportunity to cook together again!  It was the perfect way to wrap up the rollercoaster year of 2012.  I look forward to sharing more good food with good friends in 2013!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Happy Eating and Happy New Year!

-C