Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie

What do you think is the most anticipated fresh produce of spring? Could it be asparagus? Or how about spinach? Both rank among the favorites of people in the Midwest.

For me, it’s all about rhubarb, as I imagine it is for most of the people who plan on attending University Lutheran Church’s annual Rhubarb Festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9.

By then, there’ll will plenty of rhubarb to go around. But for now, anyone who wants a tasty rhubarb dessert will have rely on what’s left in the freezer leftover from last summer.

And for those who do, here’s a recipe from the folks at Spice Islands  to try. The rest of you will have to wait at least a week or two.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced ½-inch thick
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 prepared pie crust, unbaked
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6tablespoons butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Gently combine strawberries, rhubarb, ½ cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, and almond extract. Spoon mixture into pie crust. Set aside.
Mix brown sugar, 1 cup flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over fruit pie; pat down topping gently with hands.
Place pie on baking sheet; bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Sausage Reuben Casserole

There are several things that separate good cooks from mediocre ones. For one thing, good cooks have an appropriate knowledge and use of spices (including salt). Another is that they don’t substitute just any old thing for an ingredient they may not have on hand.

For me, there is another characteristic of a good cook that tips the scale. A good cook is one who can make a tasty dish out of what they have in the kitchen cupboard, pantry, refrigerator or freezer.

The meal we’re having for supper tonight falls into the third category. I put together a casserole with items from all four of the above-mentioned places where food is stored.

From the freezer, I pulled out a ring of sausage. The pantry shelf yielded a quart of homemade sauerkraut and some cream of mushroom soup. In the cupboard, I discovered a package of egg noodles. And in the refrigerator, there was some Swiss cheese, mustard, milk, butter and onion.

Along with some rye that I picked up at the supermarket earlier in the day, those ingredients came together for a casserole, which would great for a potluck and that some might say resembles a Reuben, sans the pastrami or corned beef and Thousand Island dressing.

Sausage Reuben Casserole
1 8-ounce package egg noodles
2 13-ounce cans sauerkraut, drained
2 10¾-ounce cans condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 1/3 cups milk
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1½ pounds Polish sausage or kielbasa, halved and cut into ½-inch slices
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
½ cup soft rye bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Spread sauerkraut in a greased shallow 4-quart baking dish. Top with noodles. In a large bowl, combine the soup, milk, onion and mustard; pour over the noodles. Top with sausage; sprinkle with cheese.
Combine bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over the top. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving (1 cup): 341 calories, 21 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 72 milligrams cholesterol, 827 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams protein.

Ham Panini with Provolone and Caramelized Onions

Ham is probably one of  the most popular foods that people serve on Easter. And just like the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, there are always a lot of leftovers when it comes to ham.

We served a 9-pound ham Sunday, and as I suspected, we had a pile of meat left over, even after giving all of our guests some to take home. ( Leftover ham should be used with five days of serving.)

For starters, I plan on making some bean soup with the ham bone and some of the meat. After that, there might be a casserole in the making (ham and pasta go well together) and maybe an omelet with some cheese, peppers, mushrooms and onion.

But what I’m really looking forward to is a nice ham sandwich, using the following recipe that caught my attention today. Not only is the sandwich topped with some nice provolone cheese, it also has fried onions, avocado and mixed greens.

Ham Panini with Provolone and Caramelized Onions
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 16-ounces French baguette or other favorite bread
Mixed field greens
½ cup favorite condiment
½ pound thinly sliced leftover baked ham
4 slices provolone cheese (about ½ ounce each)
1 avocado, cut in half, pitted and sliced
1/8 teaspoon sea salt and garlic seasoning or favorite seasoning
Have ready a panini maker, grill pan or tabletop grill.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook until just beginning to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and continue cooking until onions are completely softened. Set aside.
Cut the bread into 4 even pieces. Spread 1 tablespoon of the ham sauce on each piece of bread. Top with some field greens, ham slices and 1 slice of cheese for each sandwich. Top with caramelized onions and avocado slices. Top with bread. Brush the bread all over with some olive oil and sprinkle with the sea salt and garlic seasoning. Place on the panini maker or tabletop grill and press down. Cook until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Remove and serve.
Yield: Serves 4 (large sandwiches).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 657 calories, 35 percent of calories from fat, 26 grams fat (8 grams saturatred), 76 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 891 milligrams sodium, 63 milligrams cholesterol, 136 milligrams calcium, 6 grams fiber.

Lemony Honey Glazed Roasted Chicken

If you’ve used honey in the kitchen recently, you’re not alone. It’s becoming more and more popular with Americans these days. And it’s not just in the home where honey is popular. Seventy-two percent of retail bakers use honey in their products.

One of the reasons for honey’s popularity is that it’s so versatile. Honey can enrich a lot of foods. Just a teaspoon in a salad dressing or stir-fry can greatly enhance flavor. And used in a barbecue marinade for beef, pork and poultry, along with orange juice and teriyaki sauce (one of my favorites), honey can really star.

As I mentioned, baking is another area where honey shines. I recall years ago when a co-worker of mine, Jim Litzinger, had a honey operation. (North Dakota leads the nation in honey production.) I used to buy large, glass orange juice containers of honey from him, which Mom used in place of sugar in her tasty buns.

One of my favorite pastimes was to go to her house on the day she was baking buns and have some of them warm, right out of the oven, with a little butter. (This Easter, we’ll be having some with our ham dinner.)

Here is a roast chicken recipe with an Italian twist that shows the versatility of honey. Along with the meat’s natural juices, honey is used for basting.

Lemony Honey Glazed Roasted Chicken
1½ cups fresh lemon juice
1 3½ to 4 pound) whole roasting chicken
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs (or ½ tablespoon dried oregano and ½ tablespoon dried basil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup honey
Pour lemon juice in large bowl. Place chicken in juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Turn chicken over and let marinate an additional hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove chicken from marinate. Sprinkle on Italian herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Place thyme sprigs in cavity of chicken.
Place chicken breast side up on a rack in roasting pan. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and roast for an additional 30 minutes.
Heat honey and with pastry brush thoroughly coat chicken all over. Lower heat to 350 degrees. Continue to cook until well browned, about 45 minutes, occasionally basting chicken with the natural juices and recoating it with honey. Use a meat thermometer to make sure chicken is fully cooked, 170 degrees.
If desired, use gravy separator to remove fat from pan juices and ladle juice over brown rice.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per 4-ounce serving: 225 calories, 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 16 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, no dietary fiber, 76 milligrams sodium.

Glazed Ham with Steamed Cabbage

If you’re preparing ham for Easter dinner for family and/or friends, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by the National Pork Board, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they’ll be serving ham Sunday.

I really like ham, but about the only time we have it is at Easter. When I was growing up, we probably had ham more than that. My dad always like to make bean soup and, of course, ham is an essential ingredient in that.

I’m probably going to try my hand at some soup next week, since we’re having ham as well as baked potatoes, creamed corn, homemade buns and much more. I haven’t decided on how to cook the ham, but using a glaze is a possibility.

Here’s a glazed ham recipe along with a side I came across today, which will get a good look.

Ham with Jack Daniel’s Glaze
1 cup packed brown sugar
1¼ cups Jack Daniel’s (or other bourbon)
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ cup orange juice concentrate
1 shank-end cooked ham (7 to 9 pounds)
Whole cloves
Combine sugar, Jack Daniel’s, vinegar and orange juice concentrate in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Score the top of the ham in a diamond pattern, making cuts ½ inch deep and an inch apart. In the middle of each diamond, insert a clove. Place ham in a roasting pan and cook until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, about 1½ hours. During the last half hour of cooking, baste the ham with the glaze every 10 minutes or so, reserving some of the glaze.
Let ham rest at least 30 minutes before serving. Brush with reserved glaze, then slice.
Yield: Serves 10 to 12.
Note: The ham will cook quicker and more evenly if it’s at room temperature. Take it out of the refrigerator up to 2 hours before cooking. You also can use this glaze on a spiral-cut ham: Just follow the cooking instructions on the package.

Braised Cabbage
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium head cabbage, diced
1 8-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
In a large, wide saucepan (with a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat, saute onion and pepper in oil until they are translucent; they should not brown.
Add cabbage, tomatoes and red pepper. If there isn’t enough liquid in the pan so that about half the contents are submerged, add a few spoonfuls of water. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When liquid boils, cover pan and set aside for at least 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Country Pot Roast with Noodles

A pot roast with potatoes, carrots and gravy, and a home-baked dessert thrown in for good measure, is one of those Sunday dinner classics that brings back memories for a lot of people.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have a mom who was well-versed in cooking and baking, which meant we never went hungry around our house, especially when it came to Sunday dinner.

We almost always had a big meal at midday or shortly thereafter, which featured either a beef or pork roast or fried chicken, and all the rest of the aforementioned goodies. I’m still a big fan of Sunday dinner. And a roast with all the fixings is remains a favorite.

Recently, I came across a pot roast recipe, which Linda Cicero of the Miami Herald featured in her “Cook’s Corner” column. The pot roast with noodles recipe dates back to 1973.

Cicero’s readers were exuberant when talking about the recipe, which originated in McCall’s Great American Recipes collection. One remembered the pot roast “made the best gravy.” Cicero agreed, saying the gravy had “a  kick of Worcestershire and a nice balance of seasoning.”

Country Pot Roast with Noodles
5- to 6-lb beef blade bone chuck roast
¼ cup flour (plus 2 tablespoons to thicken pan juices)
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons salad oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
12 small carrots, pared (about 1 pound)
1 8-ounce package wide noodles
Wipe roast with damp paper towels. Combine ¼ cup flour, salt and pepper; use to coat roast. In hot oil in large skillet, over medium heat, brown roast well on all sides (about 20 minutes in all). Add onion, celery, and garlic; saute until golden. Add tomato juice, ¼ cup water, Worcestershire and oregano. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered and turning meat once, for 2 hours. Add carrots; simmer 30 minutes longer, or until meat and carrots are tender.
Meanwhile, cook noodles as package label directs; drain.
Transfer roast and carrots to heated serving platter. Surround with noodles. Keep warm. Pour pan drippings into 2-cup measure. Skim off fat, and discard. Add water to liquid to make 1½ cups. Return to pan.
In small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons flour with 2 tablespoons water until smooth. Stir into pan juices. Bring to boiling, stirring; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve with roast. Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 607 calories, 25 percent of calories from fat, 16.5 grams fat (4.8 grams saturated, 5.9 grams monounsaturated), 231 milligrams cholesterol, 73.8 grams protein, 37.3 grams carbohydrates, 3.5 grams fiber, 1,036 milligrams sodium.

Spicy Apricot-Glazed Chicken

It’s hard to resist cooking on the grill when the temperatures head north of 60. And this spring, there already have been several days when the weather has cooperated, which is nice since I’m not one of those who grill year-round.

Luckily this past winter, there were a few days when the weather was nice enough for me to fire up the old barbecue, so I didn’t get too rusty. And now that we’ve apparently turned the corner weather-wise, I can foresee a whole lot of grillin’ going on.

Just this past weekend, we had some tasty elk/beef burgers and potatoes cooked on the grill. And about two weeks ago, we feasted on some marinated pheasant, duck and sharp–tailed grouse.

Now, a nice recipe has come my attention that has me contemplating another round soon. It’s for glazed chicken breasts, which are one the most popular foods to grill. The glaze is made with apricot preserves or jam, which is handy because we just happen to have some that we canned last year.

Chicken Thighs with Spicy Apricot Glaze
8 small chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup apricot or peach preserves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
Preheat the grill to medium-high for direct heat. Coat the grill rack with a flavorless oil, such as canola. Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, stir apricot preserves, red wine vinegar, olive oil, jalapeño, garlic and red pepper flakes. Heat until melted.
Remove 2 tablespoons of the apricot glaze and add to chicken thighs in the bowl. Toss to coat thighs. Set remaining glaze aside.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and place on the grill, skin- side down. Grill until you get nice grill marks on the skin side. Turn over and brush with some of the glaze. Close the lid on the grill and grill until the thighs are cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes depending on how big the thighs are. Baste occasionally with more of the glaze if desired.
The thighs are done when the internal temperature of the thickest part is 165 to 170 degrees.
Remove the chicken thighs from the grill and transfer to a serving platter. Pour remaining glaze over the chicken and sprinkle with green onions and garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Note: You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, if desired. They will take about half the time to grill over direct heat.
Yield Serves 4 (2 thighs each).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 423 calories, 44 percent of calories from fat, 21 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 40 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 260 milligrams sodium, 96 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.