Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rhubarb Festival!

Oh yes. You're not dreaming. This is not a test. It really happened. An entire event dedicated to the wonders of rhubarb. And yours truly was there, at Fort Mandan's rhubarb festival in good 'ol Washburn, North Dakota.

That's me with Ben and our friend Shireen, soaking in the sun underneath the cottonwood trees. And see that foot in the corner? That's Clay Jenkinson's foot. Yes, THE award winning humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson that I hear on the radio every Sunday morning during The Thomas Jefferson Hour on Prairie Public, lying in the grass listening to the country band that was performing for the small crowd. He was the rhubarb tasting judge. I kinda sorta have a crush on him. I mean, smart AND likes rhubarb? What's not to like? I was too embarrassed to take a picture of him, so the foot will have to do.

This woman, bless her heart, dressed up as a prairie woman and made rhubarb pies in a cast iron Dutch oven over an open fire. I've never been so happy to live in the 21st century as watching her make pie over a fire on a hot summer day. No thank you.

And then there's this kid. Check out that smile. His rhubarb punch won a prize. There is all kinds of awesome going on in this photo, if you ask me.

For you NDers, you may have missed the rhubarb festival, but Fort Mandan is still worth the visit. Family friendly with the interpretive center and a gorgeous walking trail by the river, just pack a picnic basket, load up the van, and you've got a great day trip. Don't forget the camera!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Everyday Salad Dressing

The first salad of the season. Garden lettuce. Garden radishes. In the garden. Pure bliss.

No more soggy romaine-in-a-bag. No more $4 plastic bins of organic greens. For a few blissful months, I can just step out my backdoor with my garden shears and get greens as God intended them - fresh, delicate, with little bits of dirt still clinging to the leaves.

A simple post for a simple pleasure.

My Everyday Salad Dressing
Have a little jar and some oil and vinegar on hand? Then you have instant salad dressing, my friend. Actually, this is a vinaigrette, but let's forgo the tiny naming details, shall we? And please experiment with different quantities and types of oils and vinegars - walnut oil takes this simple dressing into another dimension.

3 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls. white wine vinegar
Optional add-ins: fresh black pepper; pinch of salt; 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard; a small spoonful of mayo, sour cream, Greek yogurt, or cream; a small pinch of sugar; chopped herbs (fresh or dried)

Add everything to a small jar, tighten the lid, and shake until mixed thoroughly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Betty's Better Butter Burgers

As a kid, I had a favorite tongue twister. Basically because it was the only tongue twister I could say.

Betty Botter bought a bit of butter for her batter
But she said, "This butter's bitter.
But a bit of better butter
That would make my batter better."
So 'twas better, Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

*crickets chirping*

Ok, there was no point to that, other than it was ringing in my head the entire time I was making these butter burgers.

What is a butter burger, you ask? Well...I'll give you two guesses.

Nope. Close, but not really.

Ding ding ding!

Basically, you take a burger and you add butter to it. Why would you do this, you ask? Well, first of all, artery-schmartery, it's fun to throw American Heart Association guidelines to the wind once in awhile.

Secondly, and more importantly, fat is flavor, and with ground venison being so lean (and even beef becoming increasingly leaner and leaner), the butter simulates some good old-fashioned fat marbling.

You can add butter to the meat two ways:

1) Just mix it in with the meat like we did

2) Wrap the meat around a pat of butter so it sits in the middle of the patty

Either way works. Figure about half a stick (4 Tbls.) per pound of ground meat. I highly recommend seasoning the meat with some Montreal Hamburger seasoning too (I think it's McCormick brand).

Or, if you really want a recipe to follow, click here.

Happy grilling!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

There are few things better than being a North Dakotan in June. Every June day is one of celebration. After the dark cold quiet winter months, June arrives and we wake up to a brightly lit sky, greet the warm breeze in the morning, welcome the chirping of the birds and the green spring grass. We plant gardens in hopeful optimism, join softball teams, fire up the grill, and launch our pontoons into the river. We pull our bikes down from the rafters in the garage, hang up baskets of petunias by the porch, walk to DQ for a treat after dinner, and stay up late, talking to the neighbors in the driveway as the sky grows dusky around 10 pm.

Yes, this is truly a time to celebrate. So quick. Make this and enjoy. Before June slips away.

Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
I just discovered the frozen desserts section in Gourmet Today. I hope my ice cream maker is ready for a workout. But this recipe is great, because no ice cream maker needed. And can someone please explain to me how Europeans can go without peanut butter? It's like a vitamin for me - I need my daily dose.

For chocolate layer
Vegetable oil for greasing pan
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts (4 oz)

For peanut butter layer
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not "natural")
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

For hot fudge sauce
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Make chocolate layer:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of foil to hang over 2 opposite ends of pan, and lightly brush foil (except overhang) with oil.

Melt chocolate with butter, sugar, and salt in a double boiler or a large metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, whisking occasionally, until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk in eggs and vanilla, then stir in peanuts.

Pour batter into baking pan and bake until set and edges are slightly puffed, about 15 minutes. Transfer cake in pan to a rack to cool completely.

Make peanut butter layer:
Beat cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioners sugar, and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined well, about 4 minutes.

Beat cream with vanilla in a bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until it just holds stiff peaks, then gently fold into peanut butter mixture until just combined.

Spread mixture evenly on top of chocolate layer and freeze, pan covered with foil, until firm, about 2 hours.

Make hot fudge sauce:
Bring cream, syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt, and chocolate to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in vanilla until incorporated. Cool sauce to warm.

To serve:
Carefully lift cake from pan by grasping overhang. Trim 1/4 inch from edges of cake and discard, then cut into 8 bars. Peel off foil and serve bars with sauce.

Cooks' notes:
Hot fudge sauce can be made 1 week ahead and cooled completely, then chilled in an airtight container or jar. Reheat before using. Leftover bars can be frozen, individually wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 4 days.

Drumroll, please!

Ok, the crappy thing about giveaways is that someone has to win. I mean, yay for the winner, but I hate for the rest of you to feel bad. If it's any consolation, I have an amazing summer dessert up my sleeve that I cannot wait to share with you. Think frozen gilded choco-lilies. More to come...

In the meantime, I popped by random.org's handy-dandy number generator (1-20, since we had 20 lovely commentors after my little man went to bed) to select a winner, and came up with: 8!

Cat said...
I came here so YOU would tell me what I can make for supper. I'm getting hungry.

Didn't mean to leave you hanging, Cat! But this brings me to one of my favorite reasons for blogging: happily encountering the amazing blogs of others.

Cat writes a blog called Bismarck Stories - I had never seen it until now, but I'm officially her newest fan. The pictures alone make it worth the visit. It's so...Bismarck. How's that for descriptive? Frankly, I just love the fact that she took her readers on a tour of the ladies bathroom at the State Capitol. See for yourself and click here (you'll have to scroll down a bit for the bathroom post).

Ok, enough of my billowing. Congrats Cat! Look for an email from yours truly. :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Little Retail Therapy Can't Hurt...

Is it time for a giveaway? Me thinks it's time for a giveaway.

Clearly, Ben thinks this is a good idea. Especially if this giveaway involves carrots. Which it doesn't. At least not this time. Sorry Ben.

CSN Stores, bless their hearts, likes the blog. I like their store and I like you too. There's a lot of like in the room right now. I'm getting a bad case of couch envy looking at their sectional sofas. If only my cozy little house weren't so...cozy. I'd sign right up for one of those. And their kitchen store...*drool*.

So how about a $60 gift certificate to CSN Stores? You can buy a whole lotta kitchen gear for $60. Or baby clothes. Or couches...ok, maybe not, but you could at least pick up a cushion or something.

Interested? Just leave a comment. Tell me what's for dinner tonight, your summer plans, your hopes and dreams for the future of our children...or just how much you'd like to have $60 for a little online shopping spree.

We'll wrap it up Wednesday night at 9 pm, I'll announce the randomly selected winner by the end of the week. Good luck, my lovely readers!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In Celebration of Simplicity

Cheese. Radish. Buttered bread. A small glass of beer. I nearly cried from the simple beauty of it, sitting in a rustic cabin in a forest next to a lake in northern Manitoba, savoring each morsel as others may savor filet mignon.

We took our annual Canadian fishing trip last week (me and my scheduled posts, so tricky, I know) and the theme of the trip, at least for me, was earnest simplicity.

We slowed down.

We breathed fresh pine-scented air.

We disconnected from technology and reconnected with family.

We took many, many walks on dirt roads.

We jumped on the bed.

We played cards.

We gave the baby a bath in the cooler.

We fished (and ate a lot of fish, too).

We watched the sky - never growing completely dark, just dimming before morning.

As you make your summer plans, here's hoping you take a moment to enjoy the simple things, which most often turn out to be the best things. Happy summer!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Graham Crackers

I know what you're thinking. 'Oh, she made homemade graham crackers for her child. How sweet, in an utterly control-freak-over-her-kid's-diet kind of way...'

I'm not that kind of Mom. Yes, I have those tendencies, buying local/organic, pureeing fresh vegetables, pooh-poohing puffed or processed stuff. But in reality, sometimes a handful of baby Cheetoes helps us all get through the day. In fact, last Friday baby had french fries and a KFC biscuit for dinner.

Bad mommy? It's not an everyday thing, so no apologies from me.

But these graham crackers...I should tell you that I made them for Ben. He is becoming quite the graham cracker connoisseur, you know. But I have to be honest. I made them for me. Just me.

I just really like graham crackers - the mild sweetness, the wheatiness, the texture, it's all just so right. When I saw Smitten Kitchen post about them, I was fascinated by the idea of making my own. Gourmet Today has a recipe that's mostly whole wheat flour, so I went with that one instead of SK's - so yummy. Almost like a crispy just-sweet-enough cinnamon cookie.

Of course, I still had to share them with my graham cracker expert. He approved.

Graham Crackers
Straight out of Gourmet Today. After Ben went to bed, I kicked back in my yoga pants with a glass of cold milk, a stack of these graham crackers, and a chick flick (don't you just want to live forever in Meryl Streep's kitchen/bathtub/garden/bakery in It's Complicated? But the scene where it was SO FUN to make chocolate croissants at 2 am with Steve Martin...that was pushing it). Highly recommeded - the crackers, I mean, not really the movie.

2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbls. cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbls. molasses
2 Tbls. honey
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 stick (8 Tbls.) cold butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 c. cold water

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except butter and water, pulsing until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle water over mixture and pulse until dough forms a ball, about 30 seconds.

Divide dough in half. Roll out one piece between two sheets of parchment paper into a 15x10" rectangle and put on a large baking sheet. Repeat with second piece of dough. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Put racks in upper and lower thirds of over and preheat to 350 degrees.

Remove top sheets of parchment from dough. Using a knife or pizza cutter, trim edges of dough and cut into squares or rectangles (do not separate pieces). Prick each piece several times with a fork and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 15-20 mins. Transfer crackers, on parchment paper, to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Venison Steak

How to win the heart of a carnivore:

1. Get red meat
2. Marinate meat in bbq sauce
3. Wrap bbq-soaked meat in thickly sliced bacon
4. Grill low and slow
5. Soak in the praise

So my carnivore didn't kiss my feet after this meal...but it was pretty darn close. If my feet weren't all dirty from wearing sandals in the garden, I think I he would've puckered up.

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Venison Steak
Adapted from AllRecipes, of course you can substitute beef - but this is Rhubarb and Venison, after all. What were you expecting?

2 lbs. venison steak, cut into 3-4" pieces
BBQ sauce of your choosing
1 lb. thickly sliced bacon

Marinate steak in bbq sauce for at least two hours in the fridge. Remove meat from marinade and wrap meat with bacon, securing with toothpicks. Heat grill on medium-low and carefully place meat on grill (the fat from the bacon may make the grill flare up, so be careful). Cover the grill and cook until bacon starts to get black markings and steak is done to your liking.