Monthly Archives: September 2013

Grandma’s Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Rhubarb upside down browns on top, but creamy and sweet on the bottom

Rhubarb upside down browns on top, but creamy and sweet on the bottom

Growing up in Wisconsin, I thought that rhubarb was just one of those plants that everyone had in the yard, like grass.  We had a huge rhubarb plant, as did my grandma.  Both my mom and my grandma used to make this cake in the summer to take advantage of the fresh rhubarb.  And then we would cut up and freeze rhubarb in 2c baggies so we could have it all winter.  Everyone loves it.  Everyone.  This is quite possibly the moistest cake ever.  And the other perfect part – it is crazy easy.  It really is in my head as a list of ingredients, not as a recipe at all.

The rhubarb, sugar and cream make a sweet layer that will end up on the bottom of the cake

The rhubarb, sugar and cream make a sweet layer that will end up on the bottom of the cake


I have used it as a go-to for entertaining since it is summery and looks light, although it is rich and very satisfying.  Arvind loves this cake.  And he definitely a chocolate guy.  The first time I made this, I don’t think he walked through the kitchen without taking a few bites.   The poor guy has been traveling for work a lot and we’re visiting friends this weekend, so I decided to pull a little rhubarb out of the freezer to make him this treat.  So, I know it isn’t prime rhubarb season, you still can get a few stalks out of your garden.  And if you have a few extra, cut them up for the middle of the winter as well!

Grandma’s Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

2 c sliced rhubarb
2 c sugar
2 c heavy cream (the one pint sized container)
1 yellow cake mix

The additional ingredients listed on the yellow cake mix (eggs, oil, water, etc)

Mix the rhubarb, sugar and cream together.  In a separate bowl, mix the cake according to the package.  Pour cake batter into a greased 13 x 9.  Stir up the rhubarb mixture and pour over the batter.  Ease the rhubarb into the corners of batter (it will fall through to the bottom).  Bake according to the package, until done.  I usually have to add 10-15 extra min to get it to be done.  To serve, flip pieces to be rhubarb-side up.

The rhubarb mixture will fall through the cake batter as it cooks.  Just try to make sure the rhubarb spread out throughout the pan

The rhubarb mixture will fall through the cake batter as it cooks. Just try to make sure the rhubarb spread out throughout the pan



Corn! 2 Ways to Enjoy Fresh Corn (That isn’t corn on the cob)

Creamed Corn that is guilt-free!

Creamed Corn that is guilt-free!

Corn Casserole - all sorts of yumminess

Corn Casserole – all sorts of yumminess

It is corn season.  And like any self-respecting Midwesterner, that means I’m drawn to the large pick-up trucks full of sweet corn stationed on county roads, parking lots and farmers markets.  We’ve had plenty of grilled corn and boiled corn on the cob, but sometimes you want to mix it up.  Or I have overbought in my excitement about yummy corn and realize I need to do something with it while it is still all fresh and juicy.  Here are 2 recipes to use up yummy corn and mix it up a bit.

The first recipe is for creamed corn.  I know you are picturing that little can of creamed corn from your childhood.  This is anything but that.  Think more adult, more flavorful and best of all – nearly fat free!  I whip up a batch of this and use about half for the following casserole recipe.  But Arvind and I fight each other for the last drop of this one!

The second recipe you may already have.  Perhaps written on the back of an envelope or a scrap of paper stuck in with the rest of your recipes. It is the corn casserole you make with the Jiffy cornbread mix.  Super easy!  Almost no measuring involved.  It is juicier than cornbread, but more solid that creamed corn.

If you still have more corn after this, save some for the winter. I grill corn, cut it off the cob and then put it in freezer bags.  In the winter when I’m making something that calls for frozen corn, I have some all ready to go!

If you now have cornbread on the brain, I would recommend this recipe for quite possibly the very best corn bread ever.   Personally, I only make ¼ of the maple butter and serve that on the side.  And I have made it in a 9×9 pan or doubled the recipe and put it in a 13×9 pan.

If you want to see any of the pictures more closely, just click on them.

Get a firm hold of the cob and cut off the kernels

Get a firm hold of the cob and cut off the kernels

Creamed Corn
4-5 ears of corn, kernels cut off (see picture for how)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans fat-free evaporated milk
¼ c whole wheat flour (all-purpose is OK too)

Cut the corn off the cob.  There are different schools of thought on how to do this.  I find holding the cob flat on a cutting board and cutting along the length of it, then rotating a little and repeating works well.  When I’m done, I go around the corn looking for stray pieces.

Creamed corn as it thickens

Creamed corn as it thickens

Mix the corn, salt, sugar, pepper butter and 1 can of milk in a skillet.  Pour about 1/3-1/2 of the milk in from the second can in as well.  The mix the flour into the remaining milk until it is fairly smooth.  Add that into the corn as well.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasssionally.  When it comes to a boil, stir constantly until it is as thick as you’d like it to be.  Turn off heat and serve or use in the following recipe.

Corn Casserole
2-3 ears of corn corn
2 c creamed corn (see above)
1 (8-ounce) package Jiffy corn muffin mix
8 oz container (1 cup) sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Have at those cobs to get all the corn off of them

Have at those cobs to get all the corn off of them

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 13” x 9” pan.  Cut the corn off of the cob.  Mix everything together and put in 13 x 9.  Bake for 45 min until starts to brown on top.

The casserole before it goes in the oven.  (See above when when it is done)

The casserole before it goes in the oven. (See above when when it is done)

Lamb (or Beef!) Tagine with Herbed Couscous

Lamb tagine with herbed couscous and grilled eggplant

Lamb tagine with herbed couscous and grilled eggplant

Sorry it has been such a long break in writing, but we’re selling our house and I feel like I’ve been banished from my kitchen!  However, I did sneak in to make some lamb tagine recently and took some pictures of it.  Don’t like lamb?  See below for substituting beef!  For you moms who are dealing with hungry kids and no time for cooking, this nice thing about this one is you pop it in the crockpot in the morning and have dinner when you get home from work.  Disclaimer: that does mean some work the night before.

I learned how to make chicken at a Moroccan cooking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill.  It is my go-to for company that I want to impress.  This is its sister – lamb tagine.  The secret is that isn’t all that hard to make and you can do it all ahead.  It is all about cooking it low and slow.  Since lamb takes a long time to cook, I usually get it to the point where it needs to simmer the night before.  I pop it in a crock pot and put it in the fridge until the next morning.   The lamb/beef needs to go all day in the crock pot so it is just fall apart tender.  The bonus is that it gives all the other flavors plenty of time to meld together into the ultimate comfort food.  If you are entertaining, no need to keep running in the kitchen or worry if your guests are late.  This is the most forgiving recipe ever.

Prepping your ingredients makes it easier

Prepping your ingredients makes it easier

We love lamb, but if that is not your thing, you can substitute in beer.  I would recommend cuts that are meant for stewing since you also want the beef to cook for a good long time.  The main thing you are looking for are tougher cuts of meats that turn tender and delicious with cooking for a long time.  Look for Chuck, Chuck Shoulder, Chuck Roast, Chuck-Eye Roast, Top Chuck, Bottom Round Roast, Bottom Eye Roast, Rump Roast, Eye Round Roast, Top Round, Round Tip Roast, Pot Roast, Stew Meat.  The beautiful thing about these meats is that they are cheaper than fancier cuts.  Also, cut down on your prep time by picking out your package of meat and then bring it up to the meat counter.  They can cut it up for you in a machine in back.  Tell them you want large pieces since they will shrink with all that cooking.

If you are not familiar with tagine flavors, it is a Moroccan method of cooking meat.  Tagine is actually a kind of pot that is shallow with a tall cone with a point on top.  The steam circulates during cooking making the meat tender.  In this recipe, the crockpot fills in nicely.  The flavors are a mix of turmeric, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, saffron, ginger and cardamon.  The dish is a mix of meat, tomatoes, chickpeas and dried apricots, so there is a great mix of textures as well.  You can swap in or out anything into it.  Sweet potatoes are good and any other veg that can handle long-term cooking.

I find that prepping this one is helpful.  It tends to go more quickly than you think, so having the onions, garlic and fruit cut up and ready to go makes life easier.

Serve it with the herbed couscous, the recipe follows.

 Lamb (or Beef) Tagine

Brown the lamb in small batches so you get a nice crust on the meat

Brown the lamb in small batches so you get a nice crust on the meat

Vegetable or olive oil for sautéing
Half of boneless leg of lamb, about 2 pounds, or similar cut*, large cubes, or 2 pounds (approximately) of beef – see note above for appropriate cuts.
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Ras el Hanout**
2 large pinch of saffron soaked in 1/2 c warm water
2 cinnamon stick
2- 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
2- 15 oz can of chickpeas
1 c apricots cut into strips (any dried fruit works, just go with what you like)

* I get our lamb at Costco.  A boneless leg of lamb is huge, so I cut it in half and freeze it.  Cut it into larger cubes – about 2″ cubes is great.
*  Ras el Hanout is a Moroccan spice.  The recipe follows or you can buy it online.  I like Saffron Restaurant’s version of it.  It is a Moroccan restaurant in Minneapolis that sells their spices online (although be sure to get their Ras el Hanout and not the tagine spice.  The Ras el Hanout is better).  Williams Sonoma also makes one, but they have redone theirs since I last bought it.  Premade ones are expensive, but you generally get a lot in a package and you’ll

Use the onions (and their juices) to pull up the tasty bits attached to the pan

Use the onions (and their juices) to pull up the tasty bits attached to the pan

spend more buying all the ingredients to make it yourself if you don’t have most of it on hand already.  For those of you with big spice racks, make it from what you’ve got!

Cut and dry the meat with paper towels.  You want to make sure the lamb is as dry as possible.  Season with salt and pepper (I usually just season the side that is exposed to me, then make sure that gets put down in the pan, then season the other side once the meat is already cooking).

Heat 2 T of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy frying or braising pan, ideally avoid non-stick pans since it is hard to get a nice crust with those.  “Sticky” pans are much better for this.  Add lamb to the pan spaced out so the pieces don’t touch each other.  You’ll .  You may need to do this in 2-3 batches.  Brown the meat – high heat, no stirring for a few minutes per side.  Set the cooked meat aside and do the next batch.  Add oil as necessary.

Add a little more oil to the pan if needed and onions until they just start carmelizing.  While they are cooking, use a wooden spoon to pull up all the baked-on fond, the bits of meat that carmelized to the pan.  Add in the garlic and cook for 30 sec.  Add in the ras el hanout and cook for another 30 sec.  Add in the saffron in water, cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chickpeas and apricots.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.

The onion-tomato-chickpea-apricot mixture in the crockpot before adding in the lamb

The onion-tomato-chickpea-apricot mixture in the crockpot before adding in the lamb

Put the whole mixture into the crockpot and add in the meat.  Stir to combine.  If you are doing this the night before, put it all in the fridge.  (It can be stored in whatever fits in your fridge, just get it in the crockpot before starting up again.  Put the crockpot on high until the whole mixture simmers (starting to bubble on the edges).  This should not take more than half and hour, if that.  Turn down to low and forget about it.  For at least 8 hours.  Ideally a good 12 hours.

Serve with herbed couscous (recipe below).

Ras el Hanout

1-1/4 tsp allspice
2 tsp ground nutmeg
20 threads of saffron, crumbled
1/2 T black pepper
1/2 T ground mace
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 T ground cardamom
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric

Combine in an airtight container.

Herbed couscous

This is another winner from my Moroccan cooking class.  Couscous has to be one of the easiest foods to make.  This recipe jazzes it up to make it into a dish.  I do not always buy all the herbs and sometimes just sub out if I have other herbs on hand.  I check out what else I have in the fridge from other recipes and throw that in.   The onion, broth and lemon juice ensure no matter what else you do, it will be good.  If you do the full recipe, you are in for a really great treat!

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 T olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
2 c beef broth (chicken works too)
1-10 oz box of couscous (1-1/2 c)
¾ tsp salt, to taste
½ c chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
½ c chopped basil
1/3 c chopped mint
1-2 T lemon juice

Heat 1 T of the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and let caramelize, stirring occasionally.  Add in garlic and cook for 30 sec.

Add in broth, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Stir in the couscouse, cover and remove from heat.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, stir in herbs, 1 T of lemon juice and 1 T olive oil.  Taste to make sure it has the right lemon/olive oil/salt/pepper that you like.  Serve nice and hot.