Rhubarb #4: Rhubarb and Blueberry Streusel Cake

It's staggering when you think about how far we've come in so little time.
Yeah, I know.  I've heard people making the same stupid comment more times than I care to even consider.  And in one sense it is a stupid comment.  What does that even mean?  'Progress', change has been happening steadily since history has been documented (arguably therefor it was going on before we began documenting), this we know.
However, when I think about the difference that 75 years has made in the way we eat, the way we think about food, the way we consume energy and goods... that's when my head starts to spin.  I could argue that the wars changed everything.  I could argue that cars and the switch from coal to oil changed everything.  Thing is though that everything changed... one way or another.

My Dad grew up on a farm outside of Belleville Ontario.  A little place called Thomasburg.  He was in high school before they got running water in the farm house.  In my Dad's day you had a big garden and you had the garden because you had a root cellar to fill and if you didn't fill the root cellar than you had to pray that you had friends that could help you out because at the grocery store there was maybe sugar and spices and then a few other things that were insanely expensive and that was it.... (yeah, I know that's a run on sentance).  You killed your own (you don't kill in the spring when babies have just been born - they'll have no mother to feed them) meat in the fall and stored it at the local butcher shop by renting freezer space.  Remember, no running water... and either no electricity or not enough money to use it for a chest freezer.
My Mom was a Minister's kid.  She moved from place to place in rural Ontario.  She also grew up with a garden, as much as they could establish with all the moving around that they did.  They also relied on parishioners to give them food from their gardens.  A bag of onions, a cabbage, potatoes, maybe even a chicken.  However, there were times when there just was not food.  No food!  Imagine.  Maybe it was a tough growing year.  Or it was either financially not feasible to buy the bulk of your food from a grocery store or the grocery store itself just didn't have the food.  Sometimes all they ate was onion sandwiches and boiled cabbage... because that's all there was.
Just recently, I've been reading phrases that go something like:  'There's nothing like sitting down to a locally sourced, home cooked dinner with friends and family.'  This is something we have to work towards now.  We have a new vocabulary for this kind of eating.  Less than fifty years ago once strawberry season was over you didn't get strawberries until.... next season.  Now, locally sourced is a big deal.  We have to look for it outside of the grocery store for the most part.  We don't really grow any of our own food.  We walk into a grocery store and buy most of our 'food' from a box with a list of ingredients and nutritional information on the side.  Home cooked is a subversive kind of thing when you consider that about 50 percent (yeah, I wrote that correctly) of the average household food budget is spent on fast food.  Fast food, not even 'sit-down-order-something-from-a-waiter-kind-of-place'.  We don't have to cook, some of us don't even know what a tomato looks like growing on the vine.
The disconnect is staggering when I stop and really ponder.  I'm sad that things are the way they are.  I hope that they change.  I hope that I can be a part of it in my own little way.  Somehow knowing makes a difference.

I made this cake with rhubarb from my back yard and frozen blueberries from last years harvest.  One small step.

Rhubarb and Blueberry Streusel Cake
adapted from Canadian Living

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (make it a generous one) chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup (generous) blueberries (fresh or frozen)

3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Grease and flour a 9 inch springform pan and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all the ingredients for the streusel and mix until it forms a crumb.  Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in another bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat together.  Add in the vanilla and mix well.
Add the flour and buttermilk alternately to the egg/butter mixture.   Begin and end with the flour.  Mix thoroughly after each addition.
Add the rhubarb to the batter and mix.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the blueberries on top of the batter.
Sprinkle the streusel on top of that.

Bake for about 1 hr and 10 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool for about 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

When I just can't sleep

I made this bread this afternoon.  It's rad.
I should be asleep (you might notice that this has happened before) but I'm not.
So, in my sleepless exhaustion, I've decided to write.  I got inspired by this post recently and thought it might be fun to give it a test drive here too.
So here are some random (and possibly incoherent due to the sleep situation) musings about ME.

1.  I pee fast.  Really fast.  I'm in and out in no time.  My friends are shocked and YES, I do wash my hands... damn people.
2.  I'm reading this right now.  And though it's terribly depressing I'm only just halfway through and I hope that it gets... well, maybe not happier but more hopeful... because next I'm reading this and I'm not sure that it's going to be a step up on the 'happy' metre.
3.   I eat my food in shifts.  Salad first... like an hour before kinda first.  French fries before anything else on the plate (they're small and get cold fast, and once they're cold the grease just doesn't taste the same).
4.  I hate heels.
5.  When I was a kid and doing skating lessons I was terrified (beyond terrified really) of the Zamboni.  I would slowly but decidedly skate backwards away from the class and towards to exit before the class was over as soon as the gates opened for the machine to start.  Never really have gotten over that.
6.  I read my books in the order that I received them.  Look, even I think that's weird.  There it is though, I feel completely out of sorts if I mix it up.  Magazines don't count.
7.  I hate it when people post a salad on their blog.  I've been holding that one in for a long time and it feels really good to get it off my chest.  It doesn't mean that I don't like the blog, I just think that posting a salad is lame.
8.  Sometimes when I'm at work and just in my studio doing computer crap I put on music videos on Youtube and turn the volume wayyyyyy up.  It feels badass.
9.  I do my best not to be perceived as a 'girlie' girl or as a tourist... ever.
10.  I run.  A lot. To work.  It's sweaty but running 8.5 k to work feels badass too.  I like that.
11.  I prefer beer over wine (red only please) and champagne trumps the lot.  Veuve Cliquot - there is no other.
12.  I hate talking on the phone and I also think that texting is a pain in the ass but I'll gladly do it if it means I don't have to talk on the phone.
13.  I think tattoos are hot but not the stupid-ass butterfly-on-my-shoulder and tiny-flower-over-my-butt things.  I like the stuff that clears out your bank account and crawls up your neck and down your arms and looks nasty.  That's hot.
14.  I probably cuss too much, although I don't do it on my blog because I don't want to come off offending any of my readers (I love all twenty of you that much).  Left to my own devices though, it would be bad and my favourite blogs are pretty fresh.
I wasn't going to post all this crap because I really didn't think that anybody would be into reading random crap about me.  But now I'm thinking that I should just put it out there.  Like some sort of liberation act or something.  And yeah, it's kinda my own therapy/I'm-really-a-self-absorbed-ego-maniac thing.
Here's a picture of me that my kid took - after not getting enough sleep... I like it.  That doesn't happen often... so I'm sharing.

Spring Asparagus, Spinach and Rice Casserole

It's in the air right now.  It's palpable.  You can slice it with a knife.
We are all waiting right now.  It's almost the end of school.  The high school boys at my school are already done and writing exams.  Another gr. 12 class is graduating (I'll miss these ones - they're a nice group of guys).  The elementary's are in school for another week or so and we're just putting in time.  These guys are ready to go.
At home, we are waiting too.  Waiting for school to finish.  Waiting for some fun to begin.  Waiting for the garden to grow.  Waiting for visits from far away friends.  Waiting for my BFF to get home from her vacation.

We are also waiting for a new season to kick in as well.  Summer temperatures are not quite here yet.  The spring garden season is beginning to ebb now.  Fiddleheads... done.  Rhubarb... done.  Garlic Scapes... almost done.  This will be my last week for asparagus and what a run we've had.  I've got another bunch to go so I'll be coming up with another recipe but this one turned out very nicely.  It's like the harvest lull before the storm.  My beans and tomatoes (let's please not talk about my stupid-ass carrot and zucchini seed fiasco) and going crazy so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it turns into real food at some point in the near future.  If I can get tomatoes, beans, herbs and raspberries from my garden this year I will be happy enough.

So I plan.  My summer reading list.  Summer concerts.  Getting ready to start training for an October marathon.  Getting summer camps down (just one happening this summer so it's easy).  What I'm going to do with all my beans and tomatoes (yeah, right).

Asparagus, Spinach and Rice Casserole
serves 6

2 bunches of asparagus, hard ends snapped of and then cut in half (like cutting down a tree)
1 onion
1/4 cup of garlic scapes, chopped OR 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bunch of spinach (at least 4 cups), roughly chopped
2 cups rice
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, chopped
dash of cayenne (or pepper sauce)
dash of mustard powder
salt just to taste
3/4 cup Parmesan shredded
1/2 sour cream

First saute the asparagus in a little oil for about 6 - 7 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat a large pot or dutch oven and add some oil (2 - 3 tbsp).  Throw in the onion and garlic scapes.  Saute those in the oil for about 5 - 7 minutes or until the onion is limp beginning to caramelize.
Add in the  Rice and swish the rice in the oil and veggies until the rice is nicely coated.  Add in the veggie broth and mix.  Cook for about 6 minutes over med/low heat.
Remove from the heat and add in the herbs, mustard powder, pepper sauce (if you are me) and salt.  Mix well.
Add in a 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese and all the sour cream.  Mix well.
Pour the rice mixture into a largish baking dish.
Arrange the sauteed asparagus over the top of the rice mixture.  Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 25 min or until the parmesan is just beginning to brown.
Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday Night Cake with a weird pudding icing

I think it's funny that an food author would call his book 'Baked'.
Why? You ask...
Honestly, what's the first thing you think of?  I would half expect to see a few recipes suggesting that the butter or oil be cooked together with some 'herbs' before adding to the cookies or brownies.
Alas, no such recipe exists in this book.  I bought it.  I looked.
I have some strong opinions regarding the legalisation of said 'herbs' for various reasons which I won't get into just now.  Suffice it to say that I really don't think it's a big deal and that I would definitely consider baking with 'herbs' - I wonder if I could post that recipe?  A time and place for everything... does that make me the consummate hippie... whatever, I can handle it.

So although the book didn't contain recipes with 'herbs' it did have plenty of recipes with chocolate.  Not just chocolate though which is even better.  I definitely appreciate chocolate but I have to admit that I'm moving away from it a little as my dessert of choice, well honestly I'm moving away from desserts in general.  Chocolate though can be a little overdone and even badly done.
This cake turned out surprisingly well.  I would recommend setting the iced cake in the fridge for a bit though if you want to dig in the same day.  Also, we all agreed that it tasted better the next day.  Definitely worth it though and very easy.
Baked (giggle) does have a rather nice collection of baking and I'm looking forward to trying out more of these recipes.  The Buckeyes that I posted earlier in the year were also from this book.  Ugh... those damn buckeyes.  I can still remember trying to dip those stupid things without them dropping into the melted chocolate and kids smeared with chocolate and smiles... ugh!  Arguably, if I had been baked it would have made the whole situation very funny and might have caused me to consider making them again sometime...

Sunday Night Cake
adapted only slightly from Baked Explorations (which unfortunately has nothing to do with pot)

1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1 cup boiling water
3 oz good quality unsweetened chocolate chunks
6 tbsp (3/8 ths of a cup) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line or grease and flour a 9 inch square pan and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.
Beat together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Add in the vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour.
Pour the batter into the square pan and bake for about 35 minutes (just under in my oven) or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and cocoa powder in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add in the chopped chocolate and pour the boiling water over everything.  Let it sit for about 30 seconds or so and then whisk until everything gets all melted.
Turn on the heat to medium or so and whisk continuously for about 5 minutes or until the stuff begins to thicken.  Remove from the heat and whisk or beat vigorously until the steam escapes and it's room temperature.  Add in the butter and continue beating/whisking for another 3 minutes or so (longer if you want it fluffier).
Frost the top of the cooled cake and chill for a few minutes to set the frosting.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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  • Naparima Girls High School Cookbook
  • The Silver Palate Cookbook
  • More-with-Less Cookbook
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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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