Seasonal Swap: Rhubarb Vanilla Scones

Y’all know how I like to bake breakfast goodies for busy weekday mornings on Sunday nights. I hadn’t made anything for a couple weeks, forcing the Hubs to clean out the cache of waffles and pancakes that I freeze when there are leftovers from a batch.

Waffles freeze wonderfully, by the way. Pancakes? Nahtsamuch, the Hubs tells me.

So last Sunday, I was ready to bake something and I had some rhubarb that really needed used. I came up with a summer version of my favorite pumpkin scone recipe by swapping out the pumpkin with some rhubarb compote. I often turn fresh rhubarb into compote to spoon over plain or vanilla yogurt, so the swap for pumpkin in this recipe was super easy.

I think I might like these better than the pumpkin scones, actually.

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Rhubarb Vanilla Scones Makes 8

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour (or whole wheat or all purpose flour)
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 6 Tb cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup rhubarb compote (recipe below)
  • 1 tsp REAL vanilla extract (Don’t waste money on imitation. Ever.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tb cinnamon
  • 7 Tb sugar
  • 2 Tb milk
  • 1 Tb sanding or coarse sugar for dusting the tops (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg lightly and mix in the liquid ingredients. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Cut into the mixture until the butter is in pea-sized pieces with a pastry cutter (or two knives). Fold the wet ingredients mixture into the dry ingredients and flour mixture and mix until incorporated. The dough should be very dry and you’ll want to add some milk–but don’t. It should be a very dry dough, and if you just keep folding, it will eventually come together.

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Put a piece of parchment paper down on the counter large enough to pat out the dough and sprinkle generously with flour. Turn out the dough and pat it out to a circle about 1 inch thick. It should be about the size of a pie. Sprinkle the top with flour and cut into 8 pieces (like a pizza) with a pizza cutter. Place another piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and place pieces on it (I use a pie server to do this), spacing them about an inch apart. Sprinkle the sanding sugar on the tops if desired. Bake for 15 minutes until browned lightly around the edges.

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 Rhubarb Compote Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 pound rhubarb stalks, diced into 1/2 pieces
  • 1/3 cup sugar (you can add more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 Tb lemon juice

Add all ingredients to a medium sauce pan and cover. Cook on medium low heat until the rhubarb breaks down, about 20-ish minutes. Stir occasionally, to keep it from sticking. It should have a chunky applesauce consistency. You can freeze the leftover for another batch of scones or it’s great on plain yogurt.

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I’ve tried to use diced raw rhubarb in baked goods before, but it’s not as good. The compote is definitely the way to go. Rhubarb has a really tangy taste like granny smith apples, and when it’s raw, it’s even more pronounced. The vanilla definitely softens out the tang. Eat ’em with coffee and a spoon full of jam or fruit butter. They taste like straight-up farmers market in the summertime.

When Jimmy Comes To Town

Last week, Jimmy Buffett came to town. It’s like a holiday in my book.

And, everyone knows the best thing about a Buffett show (better than the show itself, really) is the tailgating. The group I go with has it down pat. The group is about 20 people, and we pot luck the food. There’s always quite a spread.

I wanted to bring a couple things that were Buffett-themed. I decided on gumbo, since it would be easy to feed a lot of people, and because of Jimmy Buffett’s song “I Will Play for Gumbo.”

I love cerole and cajun cookin. Who doesn’t? It’s genius. It’s making something delicious from of what is available, and feeding a lot of people on the cheap. This was not typical gumbo, though. I needed to make it thick, like a casserole, so it could be eaten easily on styrofoam plates at the tailgate. So, if you’re looking for authentic and classic gumbo, this is not your recipe.

“I Will Play For Gumbo” Casserole Serves 10

  • A whole box of rice (about 6 cups cooked)
  • 1 lb of U. S. wild-caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cups of shredded chicken (I used leftover smoked chicken)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of chicken or shrimp stock*
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 4 Tb flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more depending on your taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (more to taste if you use homemade stock)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • hot sauce

First get your roux started. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to get the lumps out so it is smooth and even. Turn the heat up to medium high. Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, celery and pepper.

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The “trinity” in creole cookin – onion, celery, bell pepper.

  Saute the trinity until the vegetables begin to soften up a bit. Add the minced garlic and saute a few more minutes. Turn the heat down to low to keep the pot hot but make sure not to burn the onions or garlic. Remember to stir your roux every few minutes so that it doesn’t burn. Many purists believe roux should be constantly stirred–and that probably does yield a better result, but I didn’t have an extra 45 minutes to do that. Once your roux gets to be a nice even brown (about the color of peanut butter), it’s ready.

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Not the best picture, but it should be the color of peanut butter.

 Add the roux to the pot with the vegetables. Stir well to get it evenly distributed. Add the chicken pieces, tomatoes and juice and stock, and stir well to keep the roux from being in globs. Bring the heat back up to medium and bring to a boil. Add the spices and simmer gently until the mixture thickens and liquid evaporates, about 25 or 30 minutes. Add the shrimp for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking time, and cook until the shrimp begin to turn pink. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp, as they will cook a few more minutes in the pot once you remove it from the heat. Add the rice and stir well. Adjust seasoning.

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I poured my gumbo into a 9X13 casserole dish. I mentioned that I wanted it to be thicker than a traditional gumbo, which is more soupy. This was much easier to eat at the tailgate than soup would have been. Serve with hot sauce and file powder (if desired).

You could add sliced smoked sausage to this gumbo when you add the chicken. I just didn’t have any and didn’t want to make a trip to the store.

Making your own shrimp stock is a no brainer. It’s about the easiest thing ever, and it’s like a secret ingredient–imparting subtle seafood flavor to all kinds of dishes without being too fishy.

Shrimp Stock Makes 2-3 cups

  • shells and tails from 1 lb shrimp
  • bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine all in a saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit. Strain the shells and tails out through a fine mesh sieve or jelly bag.

I’ll spare the innocent by NOT posting any photos of the tailgate itself. It’s usually better to keep Buffett tailgating and concert photos from going public!

What’s the big deal about grass-fed beef?

So the Hubs and I were talking about stopping at a new place to eat we’ve noticed on an upcoming road trip. Recently, a new truck-stop went in on Interstate 79 (sounds classy, right) and they built a Moe’s Southwest Grill inside.

We’ve never paid it it much attention, but a friend of ours stopped there and raved about the food–and the fact that the menu proudly features hormone-free and grass-fed meat. Really?!? That’s definitely not the norm around here.

I did some “recon” on the menu on their website. I was impressed by their “Food Mission.” All of their dairy items like sour cream and cheese are made without growth hormones.

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I am so excited about this. And I stopped to think for a second. Other people that eat there might not get so excited about it. They might ask “What’s the big deal about grass-fed beef?”

There are a bunch of reasons to et excited about grass-fed beef. Here’s my top four reasons:

1. TASTE – This is the number one reason in my book. Even if you don’t consider yourself an “environmentalist,” I’ll bet you like tasty beef. The taste of grass-fed beef is different than conventional beef. The first time I tasted it, I thought it tasted like super beef. Really beefy. Beefy beefy beef. I like it so much better.

If you’ve never tried it, get a steak from the farmers market or at the grocery store if they carry it. Marinate it in a marinade of equal parts fat and acid (like olive oil and red wine) and some aromatics like garlic or rosemary, some salt and pepper, and grill it. You won’t be sorry.

2. It’s better for you. Conventional beef is fed corn. And cows weren’t designed to eat corn. They cannot digest it very easily. So, they stay sick. And that means they get a steady supplement of antibiotics with their corn feed. Did you know that about 70% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to livestock being raised for our food? This is completely outrageous! So, when you eat conventionally raised beef, you are getting trace amounts of antibiotics, too. No thanks! Not all grass-fed beef is anti-biotic free, but chances are that beef was raised with fewer antibiotics because it wasn’t as sick as beef that ate corn.

Also, grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 fats than regular beef. Omega-3 fats are the fats that are good for you–the kind that help you have a healthy heart, brain and skin. Everyone is talking about how great omega-3s are for us now. Turns out that the cow’s health isn’t the only thing that eating corn negatively affects.

So, even if you’re not into being “green”, there are a couple reasons to seek out grass-fed beef when you can get it. And feel a little better about eating at Moe’s than Taco Bell.

3. Grass-fed beef is easier on the environment than conventionally raised beef. The environmental impacts associated with feed lot beef (that’s how most of the beef raised for food in the U.S. is raised) are another reason to choose grass-fed.A couple weeks ago, a National Geographic photographer was arrested for taking aerial pictures of a feed lot in Kansas.(Click the link and scroll down to the photo he took)  The beef industry doesn’t want consumers to know how their steaks are raised. If you’ve never seen it, let me describe it. Hundreds of cows are crammed onto a square piece of land with no grass. The ground is just covered in mud and cow poop. And the cows have to live most of their lives in those conditions. When it’s feeding time, corn laced with antibiotics and hormones (to make the cows grow faster) is pushed down a chute for the cows to eat. They spend their days like this. Just eating constantly, pooping and walking around in it. Feed lots stretch for miles in Midwestern states. And, aside from the property that is destroyed by housing the cows, acres and acres of corn are raised to feed the cows. And this just isn’t any corn. It’s GMO corn. So, farmers can spray herbicide and pesticide on the corn since it’s GMO corn. Which destroys the land the corn is raised on (and surrounding land).

It doesn’t just stop there. Because of feed lots in the Midwest, there is now a huge algae “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the country’s largest fisheries. Because of the rainwater that runs off  the land where feed lots are located is so high in waste and chemicals from raising the cattle that when that water makes it to the Mississippi Delta and into the Gulf of Mexico, it creates conditions perfect for algae in open water. It is so bad now that the algae dead zone has created conditions in the Gulf of Mexico that will not support fish in places.

4. It’s easier on the cows themselves. Think about it, cows are animals that historically have grazed on grass in fields. Their bodies are uniquely built to digest grass and convert it to energy. Corn is different. They can digest it, but not very well. And because of the extra burden a steady diet of corn puts on their bodies, and the filthy conditions they live in in feed lots, the operations that produce these cattle must give them huge doses of antibiotics just to keep them from succumbing to sickness. In addition to the continual sickness they experience in feedlots, they cannot engage in their natural instincts to graze because there is only mud around them. So, they spend their days standing around in muck eating food that makes them sick.

If one of those four reasons isn’t enough to for someone who’s never had grass-fed beef to give it a try, I don’t know what might convince them. Sure, it’s a little more expensive than conventionally raised beef, but it’s not something that I mind paying because I can feel confident that it’s better quality beef. It’s great that restaurants like Moe’s are starting to understand that quality ingredients matter. And consumers can feel good about making a decision to support rtailers that offer meat that is humanely raised.

Salsa bar? Don't mind if I do!

Salsa bar? Don’t mind if I do!

PROJECT RECIPE: Food Babe’s Mexican Pizza

I adore The Food Babe.

Never heard of her? Let me turn you on! Go to her blog ASAP. She has so much helpful info on being healthy. It runs the gamut. From avoiding GMOs to picking the right sunscreen. One of my favorite posts she has written was on how to eat healthy when you travel. I have looked over that one the past couple times I’ve gone on vacation.

I’ve made a few of the recipes on her blog since I’ve been following, and last week, I tried another, Mexican Pizza.

It did not disappoint. Of course, I wasn’t worried that it would, though.

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PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper! It was so easy to make. This is a great dinner for those hectic evenings when you are thinking about picking up take out. This is SO much better for you. Healthy, fast and cheap. It’s a no-brainer!

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have sprouted corn tortillas. I had flour tortillas. I omitted the slices of jalepeno, too. I also used queso fresco instead of goat cheese.

These Mexican pizzas were so filling and tasty. They are practically a superfood on their own with black beans and avocados on them.

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I’m a huge fan of her Thai Rice Bowl, too. That stuff is seriously addicting. I could eat it by the bowl full.

At any rate, get over to her site now and check out the Mexican Pizza. If you’re new to the eating healthy game, this website is a great place to get your bearings when it comes to knowing what products and companies to trust, GMOs, juicing, etc. I highly recommend her!

PROJECT RECIPE Odds and Ends

This week, I have a couple odds and ends I’m going to wrap into one post for PROJECT RECIPE since they weren’t a big meal.

First, for breakfast this week, I made a batch of Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. I got the recipe from Kris Carr’s website. If you’ve never heard of Kris Carr, go to her website RIGHT NOW. She is awesome. A couple years ago, she was diagnosed with inoperable and incurable (but slow growing) stage 4 cancer. Rather than treat the diagnosis like a death sentence like most people facing those grim prospects probably would, she decided to live life like every day could be your last, because to her, it literally could be. She’s such an inspiration. And she’s managing her illness through her diet, something that I think all of us could do more of to live better, whether we have sickness or not.

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Here’s the shot of my Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. It was a reader-submitted recipe, and I have to say, it’s right on.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: keeper!

The recipe makes enough for 3 servings. I just reheated it the two mornings after I made it, which was really nice for cutting down on my time in the mornings. It wasn’t super sweet at all. You’ll notice I sprinkled about 1 teaspoon of raw mascavo sugar over mine, and it was perfect.

How I changed the recipe: I substituted unsweetened almond milk for the coconut milk because that’s what I had on hand.

I think I overcooked it a little. It was hard for me to gauge the doneness since I usually make 1 serving at a time.

This week I also made Hibiscus Popsicles from the Stay At Stove Dad blog. That blog is adorable, by the way. I printed this recipe a while back and didn’t make them because I don’t have any popsicle molds. I was telling my mom how I wanted some the other day, and that same day, she spotted some at the Dollar Store! Ask and ye shall receive! I thought my nieces might be coming to our house with my inlaws for dinner, so I wanted to make these for them, but our plans fell through.

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I’m not sure they would have liked them anyway. They are made from hibiscus tea, and although they’re red and lemony, they still taste a lot like tea. Which is fine with me. I liked them.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: keeper!

I like these, especially for kids, because there’s no artificial colors or sweeteners here–a particularly nice alternative to petroleum-based Red 40 dye. I try to avoid artificial food dyes AT ALL COSTS, and it’s never a problem for me. But I know that little kids (and I don’t even have any) like bright, exciting foods, which Red-40 delivers. I think if I tinker around with this recipe a little, it will be more popsicle-y tasting and my nieces might like them.

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I’m enjoying this batch all to myself though.

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have fresh ginger, so I used about 1/2 tsp of ground dried ginger. I also omitted the lemon juice because I was afraid it would make it to sour. I think it would have helped, though.

Strawberry Shiraz Preserves and Homemade Apple Pectin

It’s a sad day when I buy a bottle of wine that I don’t like.

Good thing I stumbled on this recipe for Strawberry Pinot Noir Preserves from The Local Kitchen. (But I had shiraz instead of pinot noir.) It’s like strawberry jam went away to finishing school or something. Kinda high-brow, right?

I really love strawberries. But after reading story after story about how bad conventionally raised strawberries are, I don’t buy them anymore unless they’re organic or I know the farmer that grew them and know how he or she grows them. Strawberries are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, which is a guideline for what produce has the highest level of pesticide residue and should be bought organically.

The interesting thing about this recipe is that it uses homemade apple pectin stock. I’ve been wanting to try making my own pectin from apple leavings for the past few years, since I started canning apples and am left with a pile of peels and cores to compost. Last year, I saved them in a big bowl and threw it in the freezer for, oh…  about seven months. Last week, I finally got around to making pectin from them. The process was super easy, but time consuming. I encourage anybody who cans apples to do this.

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I boiled down the peels and leavings in my crockpot in some water. Then I poured the liquid through a jelly bag to strain it. You basically leave it in a covered container in the fridge for about 2 days to let all the sediment settle to the bottom. Then you carefully ladle out the liquid not disturbing the sediment into a stock pot and boil down to concentrate it. It was easy.

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I got about 5 cups of stock. I might have boiled it down a little too much. But that just concentrates the pectin more for when you make jelly or jam. Definitely err on the side of too concentrated. You can either freeze it (leave extra headspace) or can it.

I’m tickled to death about having homemade pectin for basically free. Powdered pectin is expensive, yo. And who knows what it’s made out of.

So, I got onto the task of making the jam. This was also a multi-day process. First I mixed the berries, wine and sugar and a little bit of lemon juice in a bowl and put it in the fridge to macerate over night. After hanging out in the fridge overnight, the next day, I took the mixture out and boiled in for 15 minutes. Then, put the mixture back in the fridge overnight.

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IMG_3384The next day, you’re ready to can. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the liquid pectin. I used my candy thermometer for about the second time ever here, so I was excited. Boil at the “gel” stage for 20 minutes.

A word now about liquid pectin… Canning recipes that call for liquid pectin are different from ones that call for powdered pectin. You cannot interchange them because the process is different. So don’t try it. Just trust me.

This smelled amazing while it was cooking. I think it was the best use of a $2 bottle of wine ever. But, I only got 2 pints out of the recipe. I was kinda bummed about that since I snuck a taste after I filled the jars, and this stuff is wonderful.

The whole process of this post took me like a week by the time I made the pectin and the preserves. But it was worth it. It wasn’t hard at all, just a lot of waiting time. And now I have enough liquid pectin to last me for a summers’ worth of canning jam and jelly. And some fancy-pants strawberry preserves.

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PROJECT RECIPE: Whole Wheat “Pop Tarts”

I am constantly searching for recipes to shake up the weekday breakfast routine at my house. It has to be something you can eat on the way out the door and something the Hubs likes. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with berry muffins and quick bread.

Some time last year, I found a couple recipes for homemade toaster pastries, aka “Pop Tarts.” I remember thinking that it would be a great way to move all the jam I seem to pile up every summer. One of the recipes I found was from one of my all-time favorite food blogs, 100 Days of Real Food. I’ve recommended Lisa’s blog to at least a dozen people. She shows us that even if you’re a novice when it comes to eating natural whole foods, it’s not hard, even if you have two small children. I’ve never met her or her kids, but I only hope that many people take her advice to heart and we can raise a generation of eaters that demand good whole foods. It gives me hope that somehow we can turn the tide on childhood obesity and chronic disease brought on by our “SAD” lifestyle. Fittingly, “SAD” stands for Standard American Diet.

Ok, back to the recipe. I hate this, but…

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: This recipe is NOT a keeper. The Hubs tried one this morning, and I think he finished it out of concern for my feelings, but these weren’t a hit at all.

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But, here are a couple disclaimers. First, my whole wheat flour is more coarse that what you buy at the local grocery store because I get it from a mill that still uses a creek to and a huge stone to make flour. It really has a lot of texture, which is great for making quick breads, but not smooth pastries like pies. Secondly, the recipe uses a food processor to make the dough. I don’t have a food processor. I make my pie dough (this is basically a pie dough) by hand with a pastry cutter. Making it with a food processor is exponentially easier than making it by hand. I had trouble with this dough from the get go, and I think it would have turned out better had I used exclusively all-purpose flour and, I’m sure using a food processor yields better results.

When I was mixing up the dough, it seemed like there was too much butter in them. It could have been that my flour didn’t blend well (because of it’s coarseness). And when I baked them, I was sure there was too much butter in the recipe, since it ran out of the pastries and kinda pooled around them. They never really got crispy and flaky, even after baking them for longer than stated.

How I changed the recipe as written: I subbed half of the whole wheat for regular (stone ground sifted) flour because my flour is so coarse.

I’m not done toying around with this concept. I do think I’ll try these again, but I’ll use a regular pie crust recipe and add a little sugar to the dough.

Like I said, I absolutely love this blog. It is a great resource for all sorts of info on eating healthy. I especially like her recommendations on what kind pantry staples she buys. And she has some great posts about packing lunches for school children to take to school. Please go check it out and see what you can learn!