Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rhubarb Ginger Bars

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee."

~Emily Dickinson

I consider myself lucky. I have a friend who gives me rhubarb from his garden every spring.

Making a foil sling by having a foil overhang makes for easy cutting and removal later

So during wonderful and abundant times like these, I search for a good use of it.

cutting the butter into the crust/topping, you could make it easier on yourself by using a food processor

These bars are one excellent use!!!

They are buttery, slightly tart from the rhubarb and spicy from the crystalized ginger.

The crust ready for the oven

If you don't like ginger, don't worry. Don't use it. They will still be delicious.

Chopping up the rhubarb

Cinnamon can be substituted for the ground ginger, or just omit the spice altogether. And of course, omit the crystalized ginger.

I've labeled all of my dry goods in the pantry thanks to my handy label maker, a gift from my sister Melanie, Thanks Mel!

Chopping up the crystallized ginger

Rhubarb down

Topping down

The oats give the topping a nice texture and crunch.

Out of the oven

Oh yeah, buttery, rhubarb goodness

These are so good I think I will make them every Spring!

Another yummy rhubarb idea:

Rhubarb Nut Bread

Vintage cake stand with pink flowers  available at my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

Rhubarb Ginger Bars


1 1/2 cups (150 g.) quick-cooking, or old fashioned, oats

1 cup (100 g.) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (135 g.) brown sugar (packed)

3/4 cup, (1 1/2 sticks) (169 g.) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (68 g.) granulated sugar

 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cups (250 g.)
 chopped rhubarb

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped finely - optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4. Line a square 8 inch pan with heavy duty foil, extending the foil beyond the edges to create a "sling." You can also use parchment paper instead of foil.

In a large bowl add the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt and stir. Cut the butter into small cubes. Add the butter and cut it into the mixture using a pastry cutter or 2 knives until it resembles coarse crumbs. Or alternately, use a food processor to complete this task.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups (185 g.) of the oat mixture. Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the foil lined pan to make the crust. It might seem like a thick crust. Don't worry.

Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 40  minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the 2 tablespoons of flour, the granulated sugar and the ground ginger and mix together. Add the rhubarb and toss to coat.

When the crust is done, add the rhubarb mixture to the hot crust and spread evenly. Add the remaining oat mixture and sprinkle it on top. Sprinkle the crystallized ginger, if using, on top of topping.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.

Cool on a wire rack. When cool, remove bars by lifting foil from pan. Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container if not eating immediately.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Honeydew Ice

"Women, melons, and cheese should be chosen by weight."

-Spanish Proverb

Goodness it's been hot here! These 80 degrees F. (27 degrees C.) days are getting to me.

I saw these loose recipe cards in a free pile at a church sale and I rescued them.

I'm glad I did, because this really hits the spot on a warm day. Not exactly a recipe, more of an idea, or a reminder. "Hey remember that you can blend fruit, add sugar and freeze and it will be delicious?" "Oh, right, I forgot, thanks for the reminder." That's sort of the conversation I had in my mind about this.

Perhaps this is as much as a recipe as Paula Deen's English Peas. There is much controversy (and humor) about the simple recipe. For me and my honeydew ice, I'll risk the mocking

Cutting up the honeydew

Call it ice, call it granita, no matter. It's a great idea for any fruit on a hot day. Especially since it's so easy. The last thing anyone wants to do in the heat is cook, or do any work for that matter.

Blending it up to a puree

I like to relax in the heat with something frozen and cold.

Pour in a shallow dish

A little alcohol involved doesn't hurt either. Imagine a shot of Midori Melon liqueur poured over this, man my mouth is just watering thinking about it. (I would indulge my craving, but alas, no Midori in the house.)

Wait an hour, scrape it up while it's still in the freezer

Or some Sprite can be poured over for a delicious slushy-ish concoction.

Wait a little longer, scrape it up some more and it's ready!

However you eat this, plain or with accoutrement's it's absolutely perfect on a hot day.

A great new book I bought for quotes from the kitchen

The quote about melons at the top of this post is from this book I recently purchased called A Commonplace Book of Cookery: A Collection of Proverbs, Anecdotes, Opinions and Obscure Facts on Food, Drink, Cooks, Cooking, Dining, Diners & Dieters, dating from ancient times to the present. It's a fantastic book filled with great food quotes, which I love since I start each of my posts with a quote. I'm really loving this book.

Quilted bowls with Fleur De lis and flower details are available at my Etsy Shop, House Of Lucien.

I'm still adding items to my Etsy shop. It was my plan to get the banner up at my shop, finish those type of details then announce it here and say something like, "O.K.! It's perfect! Everyone go look at my shiny new Etsy Shop! Maybe that day will come, but for now I'm still working on it. By the time I'm done I'll have well over 100 items and I'll have a beautiful banner. But I still invite you to visit. I am really proud of the items I offer, they are wonderful vintage housewares. I do free gift wrapping with fabulous ribbon, (I actually enjoy gift wrapping and I sort of collect beautiful ribbon.) And I'm happy to enclose a message from the sender to the recipient. I make it easy to send a gift to someone you love. (Or don't love, that's o.k. too.)

Honeydew Ice

This can be made with any fruit, really. Recently I've done this with strawberries (I strain it to remove the seeds after blended,) papaya (with lots of lime juice) cantelope and pineapple.  basically if I have fruit in the fridge, I blend it and freeze it in this manner. I just taste it after blending and add sweetner to taste.


One honeydew melon- seeds removed and cubed

1/3- 2/3 rds a cup (80 ml - 160 ml) of Honey - or you can use sugar if you prefer- the amount will be determined by your taste as well as how sweet your fruit is.

Juice of one lime

Shots of Midori Melon liqueur- Optional

Sprite- Optional


Blend the honeydew melon cubes in a blender till it's very pureed, a few minutes. Add the lime juice and honey (or sugar) (start with the lesser amount, then taste it and see if it's sweet enough for your taste, if not add more till it's as sweet as you like,) Blend well again.

Pour into a shallow container (I used a 9x13 pan) and place in the freezer.

After about an hour in the freezer, scrape it with a fork. 30 minutes later scrape it again. Keep scraping at 30 minute intervals until it's as frozen as you want it. Scoop it up in bowls and serve.

Alternately, scoop it up into wine glasses or another type of glass and pour either a shot of Midori, melon liqueur (or whatever kind of liqueur you choose)  over it, or you can pour sprite over it for a sophisticated kind of slushy.

If it gets too hard in the freezer, just set it out on the counter to thaw for 10 minutes or until it's soft enough to scoop.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Breakfast Apple Pie

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe."

- Carl Sagan

It's 7 o'clock at night and there's nothing to eat! I thought. I needed ideas. I wanted something different. I had been craving fruit, but the only fresh fruit in the house was a few lone apples, almost past their prime.

chopping the walnuts

Luckily I picked up this peculiar cookbook from the 80's entitled, "Where's Mom Now That I Need Her- Surviving Away From Home." It was still sitting on the counter, not yet put away in it's place on the shelf, since I had just purchased it a few days earlier.

apples down, starting to add the topping

 This is a cute and clever cookbook meant for those just moving away from home with hardly an idea how to cook, or take care of themselves for that matter.

ready for the oven

The book covers a lot. In addition to being a cookbook, it teaches you things like how to read labels and how to save on energy costs. It even lets you know how to make everything from drain cleaner to ant killer with every day household ingredients.

The recipes are simple, as they should be. But not boring, like I anticipated.

Our free range chickens on the left sharing a nibble with a deer on the right. In the middle is the windmill my husband made.

This recipe for example. What a splendid idea! Breakfast apple pie. I love it! I did change so much about the recipe that it is no longer recognizable. Theirs has biscuit mix, mine doesn't. Mine has oats, theirs doesn't, and the list goes on.

I could only hope that it would turn out well with all the changes. Yes, hurray! It did. Very well indeed. It's a moist nutty cake with oats and brown sugar, topped with apples and cinnamon. This would be great served at brunch with other savory items like an omelet and some bacon.

Or eat it alone as your dinner like I did. Still delicious, easy and heartwarming.

Breakfast Apple Pie

General idea from "Where's Mom Now That I Need Her" by Betty Rae Frandsen, Kathryn J. Frandsen and Kent P. Frandsen

This recipe by me, Melissa aka The Alchemist


For the pie

1 egg

4 Tablespoons cooking oil, (vegetable oil, or grape seed oil, something with a neutral taste)

1 cup (237 ml) milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup (75 g.) brown sugar

1 cup (100 g.) flour

1/2 cup oats (50 g.) (quick or old fashioned, don't use instant)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2  tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup (50 g.) chopped walnuts, or pecans - unsalted

For the Topping

2 large apples - peeled and sliced

4 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter cut in small pieces


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, 190 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 5.

In a large bowl beat the egg with a whisk. Add the oil, milk and vanilla and whisk together. Add the brown sugar and whisk again. In another medium size bowl add the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and whisk together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix with a whisk or a wooden spoon until blended. Stir in the chopped nuts.

Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl for the topping, set aside.

Grease a 9 inch pie plate, and have your apples sliced and topping ready.

Pour the pie batter into the greased pie plate. Add the apple slices decoratively slightly overlapping in a circle and then arrange more in the middle.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon and brown sugar topping. Dot the butter in small pieces around the top of the apples.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 - 50 minutes, until a knife poked in the center comes out clean.

This is best served warm the same day it's made.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Strawberry Crumb Cake

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."

-Audrey Hepburn 1929-1993, Actress

I've been away, but baby I'm back. It's spring and I've been busy with spring time happenings. Gardening, cleaning and new adventures abound. Plus I've got a new endeavor I'm working on, but more on that later. Now for this delicious spring time dessert, strawberry crumb cake.

Gorgeous strawberries

I saw this recipe on Food and Wine and I was smitten. I love any crisp/cobbler/brown betty/slump, all of it, I'll take it. Yes please. Sign me up. Warm fruit with topping, I'm there. So as you can see, I was excited to try this one.

cut berries waiting to be utilized

Even though generally I love warm fruit with topping, warm strawberries alone I wasn't so sure about. I make fruit crisp all the time, in fact Any Fruit Crisp is what I called it, boasting about how you can use any fruit you'd like. And in fact I have even eaten it with strawberries alone, (somehow I feel strawberries with rhubarb is a whole different ball game) and remained on the fence. There's something about fresh strawberries that is so perfect. How can you mess with perfection?

macerating the berries

Then I read the description of this recipe on Food and Wine where the author of the recipe, Gerard Craft cooks the strawberries till their "warm and jammy." Warm and jammy? Are you kidding me? I love strawberry jam and make it often. So when you put it like that. Sold.

Before spreading on the cake batter.- note- my cake batter is so yellow because I have free range chickens who lay eggs with a bright orange yolk. If you get eggs from the grocery, yours won't be so bright yellow, FYI.

First you start with strawberries, lots of them. Three pounds to be exact. Macerate the berries, add some cake batter then to top things off you add a sweet crumbly topping. I was skeptical if that extra step of adding the crumb topping was going to make all that much of a difference. But I discovered oh, it does.

spreading on the cake batter

The strawberry portion of this cake isn't all that sweet. Sweet enough, don't get me wrong, it is a dessert. But when paired with the cake and crumb topping it is divine. A symphony all playing together to create a lovely dessert that is better than the ingredients alone.

added the crumb topping, now headed for the oven

This dessert is incredibly delicious. In fact my husband who doesn't really eat dessert, ate this and after one bite said, "this is good", took one more bite and said, "this is really good", another bite, another exclamation of it's goodness, till the whole bowl was gone.

Straight from the oven, warm and jammy indeed.

The new endeavor I mentioned earlier, is that I've started my own Etsy shop! I'm pretty excited about it. I will sell vintage dishes and housewares. Even though they are considered vintage, many are timeless. I've been collecting vintage serving ware and dishes of all kinds for years. In fact I bought my first set of dishes at a second hand store in Big Bear, California while vacationing long before I had my own kitchen to use them. I fell in love with them and had to buy them. I don't know what comes over me. I feel like it's my duty to rescue them. I still do that, search and rescue. Now I have a place to share my findings so I can keep collecting. I'm still adding items to my shop, so it's not finished, I am just starting. To get a sneak peek, my Etsy shop is called, House of Lucien. (Lucien is my precious little papillon.)

Strawberry Crumb Cake

This can also be made with a combination of raspberries, blackberries or blueberries.

adapted from Food and Wine, recipe by Gerard Craft



3 lbs fresh strawberries, (approx. 8 cups or 1 1/2 kilos) hulled and halved

1/2 cup (100 g,) sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tablespoons of water

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out, or substitute 2 or 3 tsp. of vanilla extract

For Crumb Topping

1/2 cup (75 g.) lightly packed light brown sugar *note- if you don't have brown sugar either make your own by mixing some white sugar with a little molasses, or you can substitute white sugar, although the flavor of the topping will be better with brown.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (60 g,) flour

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For Cake

2 1/4 (225 g.) cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) (8 Tablespoons) (113 g.) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups (250 g.) sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup (6 oz.) (177 ml) buttermilk *note- if you don't keep buttermilk in the house just use some soured milk by taking regular milk and adding a Tablespoon or 2 of lemon juice or vinegar and let it sit for 15 minutes.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 4.

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch slurry and vanilla seeds or vanilla extract, and let stand until the berries release some of their juices, about 30 minutes. Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish set on a sturdy baking sheet.

Make the crumb topping. Place all crumb topping ingredients in a medium bowl, use a fork to mash all ingredients together until the butter has mashed up with the other ingredients enough where pea sized pieces of crumb topping appear. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. Using a hand held electric mixer, or use a stand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in another large bowl and whisk well. Scrape down the bowl and add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions alternating with the buttermilk or soured milk, if using.

Spoon the batter over the fruit, smoothing the battter to the edges. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling, the crumb topping is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve the crumb cake warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.