Rhubarb Time!

May 23rd, 2018

Have I mentioned lately that I LOVE rhubarb—and that my new book, Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb is coming out on Saturday?

I know I have—but I have to share another recipe here this week in anticipation of the book’s release!

I made these muffins twice this week, first on CT Style in New Haven, Connecticut, and then with my regular crew on Mass Appeal.

I’m suggesting that you watch the CT Style version because if you watch it you’ll see my nephew Michael. Michael has been acting as my intern for the past week and a half and will be with me through the book launch on Saturday.

He has helped me pack and mail books, pick rhubarb, weed the herb garden, move stuff around to prepare the house for the big day, and of course cook and cook and cook.

I have a feeling the other high-school seniors in his class have more traditional internships (without a lot of chopping or harvesting). The internship is supposed to show him what the business life of the person he is shadowing is like, however—and my business life is basically my personal life.

I guess there are worse lessons to learn than that!

Meanwhile, I am grateful for Michael. He is a teenager, and I am a set-in-her-ways slightly older person. So we have had a few tussles over priorities. We have basically had a wonderful time, however. And I’m very proud of him.

I can’t figure out how to embed the video below so that it fits exactly on my blog—but I’m still trying to embed it. You may also watch it by clicking on this link.

Happy rhubarb season! Thanks to all of you who have ordered my book. And if you haven’t yet done so, I’ll be happy to inscribe a copy for you. Here’s how to order.

Rhubarb Sugar-Top Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped rhubarb (fairly small pieces work best)
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
sanding sugar (or regular sugar if that’s all you have) as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the rhubarb in the confectioner’s sugar and set it aside. Melt the butter, and set it aside as well.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the melted butter, followed by the sugared rhubarb. Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to spoon the batter into lined muffin tins. Sprinkle sugar generously on top.

Bake until the muffins begin to brown on top and pass the toothpick test, 20 to 25 minutes. (If you want mini muffins, they may take a little less time.) Makes 12 to 36 muffins, depending on the size of your muffin tins.

This recipe recipe may be doubled.

We’ll Always Have Paris

May 11th, 2018

My mother (the farthest person to the right) and her friends at the French House at Mount Holyoke College in 1939.

On Mother’s Day—and on many other days of the year—I think fondly of my late mother. I often cook something she enjoyed making and eating.

When I was planning today’s Mother’s Day appearance on Mass Appeal, I thought of my mother’s love of Paris, a love she passed on to me, and decided to make crêpes. This classic Parisian street food can be savory or sweet.

I’m not the world’s best crêpe maker. My crêpes aren’t perfectly flat and even. They are good enough, however—and they’re delicious!

My mother first fell in love with Paris and France on a trip there after her freshman year at Mount Holyoke, escorted (along with several other students) by a professor and his wife.

She happily went back to Paris for her junior year abroad, acquiring such a flawless Parisian accent that she was mistaken for a Frenchwoman. (My French was pretty darn good, but French people always knew I was American.) And she returned again and again throughout her life.

Here’s a paragraph she wrote in a diary in 1953, when she visited the city as a young mother and went to see a play at the Comédie-Française:

During the intermission I wandered into the lobby and delighted my soul further as I looked out through the colonnades at the fountains in front. I felt as tho I were re-finding Paris as I had loved it! And the life—the magnetic life of the city as I saw it again wandering through the streets, the narrow streets thronged with shops and people.

I like to think that my crêpes would have delighted her soul, too! I can’t replicate those shops and people, but I like to think that I can recreate a little taste of Paris in her honor.

Making the crêpes on Mass Appeal didn’t go QUITE as planned. Live TV is live TV. I had an egg mishap, and I never got to turn the darn things on camera. We had fun anyway—and the end product was delicious.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Classic Savory or Sweet Crêpes

Ingredients:

for the crêpes:

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
more butter as needed

for the fillings:

lots of butter
grated Gruyère or Jarlsberg cheese OR lemon juice and sugar

Instructions:

Place the eggs in a blender, and blend them to mix them. Add the milk, salt, and flour, and blend again on low speed. Blend in the melted butter.

Cover your blender bowl, and let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes before making the crêpes.

When you are ready to cook, melt a small amount of butter in an 8-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Spread the butter around with a pastry brush or a paper towel.

Pour a few tablespoons of batter into the middle of the pan. Swirl the pan around to distribute the batter as well as you can into an even, flat pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the bottom is light brown and the edges left up easily; then flip the crêpe and let it cook on the other side.

Remove the crêpe from the pan, and let it cool on a plate or rack. Continue until you have used up your batter.

You may fill your crêpes to make them either savory or sweet. For savory crêpes (known as galettes), melt butter in an 8- or 10-inch nonstick frying pan. Spread it around as you did for the crêpes. Place 1 crêpe on the pan, let it cook for a few seconds in the butter, and then flip it over. Sprinkle grated cheese on top, and let it melt for a minute or so; then fold the crêpe over the cheese to make a half circle. Cook until the cheese melts; then remove the galette from the heat. Repeat with the remaining crêpes.

The process for making sweet crêpes is similar, but instead of putting cheese on the inside you will sprinkle sugar and a small amount of lemon juice inside each crêpe.

Makes about 10 crêpes.

And now the videos:

Tinky Starts the Crêpes on Mass Appeal

Tinky Finishes the Crêpes (more or less)

 

Coming VERY, VERY SOON!

May 4th, 2018

My new book comes out on May 26!

I will have copies next week. (I can’t wait!) If you have enjoyed this free blog over the years, please support me by purchasing a copy. If you really can’t stand rhubarb (surely not!), please consider asking your local library to order the book.

I know not everyone is a rhubarb lover–but I think everyone should be. Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb features not just recipes that have appeared on these pages but also a lot of brand-new unusual and usual recipes, from rhubarb pizza to coconut-rhubarb pie.

So … please order now! It is available from me in hardcover and from Amazon in kindle format. (It’s also available on Amazon in hardcover, but I make very little money that way–and I ship for free and autograph books. So please order from me.)

Here are the links:

Buy the book.

Buy the kindle.

If you are local to me (western Massachusetts) and would like to come to an event, those are detailed on my website I will be speaking at lots of bookstores and libraries–and will host the launch, the Hawley Rhubarb Matinee.

Thank you!

Warmth and Cider High on a Hill

April 25th, 2018

High on a hill on Reynolds Road in Shelburne, Massachusetts, Wheel-View Farm enjoys a stunning view. The farm house and much of the land have been in Carolyn Wheeler’s family since 1896, although she and her husband John have added to their property over the years.

Originally a dairy farm, Wheel-View now sells mostly beef, fruit, maple products, and hard and sweet cider. When I visited last fall, the Wheelers were getting ready for Cider Days. Cider season is, of course, over—but we’re still enjoying (if that’s the word) cool weather so it FEELS like cider season.

I was fortunate enough to be able to watch John Wheeler press fresh cider—and to taste his product. The Wheelers have a small but efficient cider-pressing system they purchased from OESCO in Conway, Massachusetts. John explained that the press was discovered in Italy, where it is used to press grapes for wine.

The pressing has two stages. First, John feeds fresh, crisp apples into an electric grinder. When I visited he was using a blend of Golden Delicious, Macoun, and Liberty varieties.

Next, the ground apples are transferred to a round press with a “bladder” in the middle. The press is powered by water from a garden hose. The water fills and expands the bladder, pushing the apple pieces out to the edges of the press. Holes in the sides allow the cider to flow out in a waterfall.

When the cider has finished flowing, the dry leftover pulp becomes a treat for the Wheelers’ cattle. It is the only thing the cattle eat other than grass and hay from their own pasture.

Nothing is wasted—and the cider has a deep, rich flavor. It was without doubt the best cider I have ever had. It tasted just like apples. I love apples.

After the pressing, Carolyn Wheeler took me to her cider tasting room, which opened in 2016.

Designed by Carolyn in an old outbuilding, the large, wood-paneled room welcomes visitors who want to buy cider or beef, as well as those who want to try a glass of hard or sweet cider on the spot along with a snack.

The tasting room is also a museum of sorts. Carolyn has filled it with antiques and collectibles from the farm’s past, including many pieces of household and farm equipment. As a music lover, I enjoyed testing her player piano and listening to “The Happy Wanderer” on her family’s Victrola.

The bill of sale for the Victrola hangs on the wall behind the record player. “My family never threw anything out,” Carolyn said with a smile as she pointed to the receipt.

The Wheelers have welcomed a number of groups to the tasting room and the farm, from school (and college) students to the members of senior centers and granges in the area. Their visitors are encouraged to try to identify the uses of the pieces of farm equipment on display.

The Wheelers are retired educators. They view Wheel-View not just as a source of food but also as a source of information about farming practices in the past and present. As they look toward the future, Carolyn told me, they hope the farm can be maintained as some kind of educational center.

Meanwhile, the pair are making the most of their life as farmers. They have recently revived a traditional New England apple product John Wheeler’s grandmother used to enjoy, cider syrup (also known as boiled cider).

This is cider boiled down to concentrate the flavor. The pair sell it in three flavors: plain cider syrup, cider syrup mixed with maple, and cinnamon cider syrup.

Carolyn showed off the syrup’s versatility for me in a sweet-and-savory slow-cooker pot roast that also featured Wheel-View Farm’s beef. I made it on Mass Appeal this week, along with my grandmother’s chocolate cake. (My TV appearance coincided with what would have been her—gasp!—129th birthday.)

Wheel-View Farm’s cider tasting room is open most weekends, although would-be visitors are encouraged to call or check the farm’s website before venturing forth.

By the way, as I mention in the second video below, I’ll be teaching a free recipe-writing workshop on Sunday, May 6, as part of ArtWeek here in Massachusetts. This week celebrates arts of all sorts and features hundreds of events, many of which are free. If you’re in the neighborhood and are thinking of writing up a recipe or two (for publication, or even just for friends a family members), I hope you’ll come. Preregistration is required, but that’s not hard to do. Here are the details.

Wheel-View Farm Cider-Syrup Pot Roast

Ingredients:

3 to 4 pounds beef roast (I used chuck)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 dash nutmeg
pepper to taste (3/4 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup catsup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup cider syrup or cider-maple syrup

Instructions:

Place the roast in a slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients and spread them on top of the beef. Cook for 6 to 8 hours on high. There is no need to add water; the roast makes its own gravy. You may also cook it on high for 1/2 hour and then let the beef cook overnight on low.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, place the beef in a covered pan and spread the sauce on top; then place it in a preheated 500-degree oven. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cook for several hours or overnight. (I haven’t tried this method, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t work!)

When the beef has finished cooking, remove it from the pot, cut it up if necessary (it mostly just falls apart), and return it to the sauce.

Serves 6 to 8.


And now the videos:


Tinky Makes Wheel-View Farm Cider-Syrup Pot Roast


Tinky Makes Her Grandmother’s Chocolate Cake

Eggscitement

April 12th, 2018

Eggs from the Chickens at Hawlemont School

We are only just now beginning to enjoy spring weather here in western Massachusetts. For the first ten days of this month, snow fell daily—not in great quantities, but enough to remind country dwellers that spring arrives when it wants to and has very little respect for paper calendars.

Despite the nippy weather and the lingering snow showers, it’s hard not to notice that the days are getting longer and the sun is getting higher in the sky. I’m still eating a lot of soup—I love soup year round—but I’m also starting to cook lighter fare.

Nothing is lighter or more seasonally appropriate than eggs. As I said when I returned to Mass Appeal this week and focused on those oval sources of protein, I’m humbled by eggs. They really are a miracle food.

On a philosophical level, eggs represent both the miracle of life and the complicated history of evolution. (The question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, has been debated for thousands of years.)

On a culinary level, eggs are nothing short of amazing. That something so small can fluff up into something so big always delights me, surprises me, and tickles my fancy.

Eggs are also easy to work with. The two recipes I made on TV both took very little time and very little skill to put together. They were showy nevertheless.

First, Lauren Zenzie joined me to make an old family favorite, an almost cheese soufflé, which my sometime neighbor Roy Lewis has dubbed “”Pseufflé.” I have shared that recipe elsewhere on this blog, but I encourage you to watch the video anyway.

Please note that you should NOT push the soufflé down with a spatula the way Lauren did when I was getting the finished product out of the oven! (I should have warned her not to do this, but I didn’t think to, and the soufflé we made together didn’t rise at all.)

Danny New then helped me throw together a bright, tasty orange angel pudding. Everyone seemed to enjoy eating both dishes.

It was great being back with my friends. Snow or no snow, they made me feel that spring had arrived!

By the way, the eggs I used this week came from the wonderful agriculture program at my local elementary school, Hawlemont School in Charlemont, Massachusetts.

Orange Angel Pudding

Ingredients:

6 eggs, divided
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup orange juice
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
2 pinches salt
1 envelope gelatin
1/2 large (or 1 small) angel food cake, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cream, whipped and flavored with vanilla (or Grand Marnier or Cointreau!)

Instructions:

Whisk together the egg yolks, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the orange juice, the zest and 1 pinch of salt. Cook over a double boiler until the mixture thickens and coats a spoon. (This took me about 10 minutes.) Remove the mixture from the heat. Dissolve the gelatin in about 1/3 cup of cold water, and stir it into the egg-yolk mixture.

Beat together the egg whites, the remaining sugar, and the remaining salt until stiff. Fold the whites gently into the custard mixture. Line a springform pan with waxed paper or parchment, and alternate the custard and the cake in it beginning and ending with custard.

Chill the mixture for 24 hours. Unmold the pudding, and cover it with whipped cream. If you want to make your life easier, forget the springform, and do the layering in a trifle bowl; you may serve the pudding right out of that. Serves 8 to 10.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Almost Cheese Souffle


Tinky Makes Orange Angel Pudding