Rhubarb Bars

I love spring vegetables.  Maybe it’s just from living in the northern parts of the United States and having frozen and canned vegetables all winter long… When spring arrives and the first few signs of vegetables sprout through the ground, I get excited to start using them in my cooking.  As I clear out the last few vegetables from winter in the freezer, I start to put together my spring dessert recipes as well.  And, with summer, it’s nice to brighten up the work day, reward friends who help me move, and use some fresh vegetables.

At my parents home growing up, we almost always had rhubarb readily available.  If you’ve seen it out in the wild, or in someone’s garden, you know that it looks somewhat similar to swiss chard.  However, this vegetable has poisonous leaves.  The stalks, though, when cooked have an amazing color and flavor.  At the Fisher’s Club, Alice makes World-Famous Rhubarb Pie, as you’ve maybe heard referenced on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion shows.  In my house, we’ve often made rhubarb jam or rhubarb bars.

Well, to bring some sweet treats into work, I decided to make Rhubarb Bars for my colleagues.

I generally start the filling before I mix the crust.  To do so, you need to chop the rhubarb:

This is what it looks like when the filling starts cooking on the stove:

Rhubarb Bars
Filling:
4 c chopped rhubarb
1 ½ c sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
¼ c water
Cook filling until fibers break down and sauce thickens to a jelly or jam consistency.  Add 1 tsp vanilla.

Crust:
1 ½ c oatmeal
1 c margarine
1 c brown sugar
½ tsp soda
1 ½ c flour
Mix together all ingredients in crust until crumbly.  Put ¾ of the crust into a 9×13 pan.  Pour rhubarb mixture over the crust.  Sprinkle remaining crumbs over filling and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

I Bought a House!

Earlier today I wrote a big check, shook some hands, and took ownership of my first house.  I have lived in a variety of locations over the past six years, at least four other locations, and have finally gotten to a point where I’ve decided I like the campus, I like the community, and I will have at least a few years in this place.  So, earlier this spring I started looking around, fell in love with a couple of different houses, and my second time trying to make an offer on a house, had one accepted and today was able to sign on the house.  The last couple of weeks have been filled with packing, and next weekend my parents will come to help me move the big things, but today and throughout the next week will be spent moving boxes and small furniture to the place.  I have to admit, I have been spending lots of time packing and thinking about how to arrange furniture in different locations.

The next few Wordless Wednesdays will no doubt have lots of pictures of the decorating, but for now, I thought I’d share my news!

O’Henry Bars

With the summer brings lots of changes to campus.  We are renovating the Student Center for the next two years, although they started about a week ago and also changing food service providers.  While I am really excited to have Bon Appetit serving our meals on campus next year — they have a mission and philosophy which aligns with my own ideas about food at the moment — the last few weeks have been also provided some moments where we reminisce about the foods we will miss with our current food service provider.  One of the things they do best are desserts.  For some reason unbeknownst to me (they haven’t grown on me yet), there are a bar that is called the O’Henry Bar, which is supposed to mirror the O’Henry candybar.  Staff and students alike go crazy for these bars.  Even though I don’t necessarily love them, I didn’t think they could be that difficult to make on our own.  Last weekend I tried and the results went over pretty well.  Using a recipe I found in a Catholic Daughters of America cookbook, here’s the recipe:
O’Henry Bars
4 c quick-cooking oatmeal
1 c butter (I used margarine)
1 c brown sugar
½ c sugar
Mix oatmeal, butter, and sugars together and pat into a jelly-roll pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

While it is baking, melt 1 c chocolate chips and 1 c peanut butter on the stovetop.  Frost bars while they are still hot.

Penne, Spinach, Asparagus, and Cashew Salad

It’s been the first week of summer here on campus.  With commencement last weekend, now we are celebrating the summer by writing annual reports, cleaning our offices, and developing programs we dreamed of doing this year and are excited to have in place for next year.  Yesterday, our division had some great end-of-year celebrating by spending the afternoon doing a service project in Cedar Rapids.  After it was over, we had a potluck and as I’m doing another round of preparing to move, I planned my contribution by looking at what was left in my pantry!  I made Penne, Spinach & Asparagus Salad, a recipe I found on the Epicurious site, originally from Bon Appetit magazine.  I love asparagus, almost as much as I love other springtime flavors, so before it’s out of season, I thought I should take advantage of cooking with this spring vegetable!
Penne, Spinach, Asparagus, and Cashew Salad
1 ½ lb asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ lb whole wheat penne
1 Tbsp plus ½ c olive oil
¾ c sliced green onions
6 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 oz baby spinach
1 c salted, roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
Cook asparagus in large pot of boiled salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to small bowl.  Coo.  Add pasta to same pot and cook until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to very large bowl.  Toss with 1 Tbsp oil.  Cool.
Blend ½ c oil, green onions, vinegar and soy sauce in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Pour over pasta.  Add asparagus, spinach and cashews; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

Frittata!

Earlier this spring, I had my parents visiting for the weekend.  Often times when they come to visit, we end up going out to eat, but this time, I wanted to cook for them.  So, as often is the case, especially lately, I began perusing the internet, searching for the perfect breakfast to make for them.  I came across this frittata on Skinnytaste.com and with so many different vegetables starting to come into season, I am looking forward to trying it again.
The recipe suggests caramelizing the vegetables in a skillet and also baking the frittata in that skillet.  I don’t have a skillet I can put into the oven, so instead I put it all into a pie plate and baked it that way.  I didn’t take any photos — Skinnytaste has some good photos on its web site.
Check out the recipe below.

Caramelized Onion, Red Pepper, and Zucchini Frittata (modified slightly from Skinnytaste.com)
1 red onion, sliced or diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, diced or chopped into matchsticks
8 eggs
¼ c grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp olive oil or butter
steak shaker or your favorite seasoning blend
Preheat oven to 350.
Over medium-low heat, heat oil in a skillet.  Stir in onion and cook until starting to caramelize.  Add peppers, to soften.  Add zucchini and start to sweat out the zucchini.  Season with seasoning salt and cook a few more minutes, until all vegetables are softened and slightly caramelized.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, cheese, and additional seasoning salt.
Pour vegetables into a glass pie plate and spread to fill the plate.  Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the vegetables.  Bake in the oven 15-20 minutes, until frittata and egg are cooked to your liking.
Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

It also reheats nicely.