Green Pepper and Sausage Hash Browns

FullSizeRender-2Sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. Like doctoring up a package of Simply Potatoes plain shredded hash browns with a couple vegetables, and some meat, and calling it a done! My friend Marylee put me onto this brunch or brinner (breakfast for dinner…) side dish, and we love it for a quick after-church-on-Sunday meal with some cheesy scrambled eggs and fruit. You can use half a Kielbasa sausage ring, or a couple links of Andouille—anything will do, as long as it’s meaty and chock full of flavor. Just make sure you grab your biggest skillet or griddle to give the potatoes a chance to brown up nice and crispy. The more surface area, the better!

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 (20-ounce) package Simply Potatoes shredded hash browns
½ of a Kielbasa sausage ring, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Heat oil on high in large skillet or griddle. Add onion, and cook until translucent. Add green peppers, and sauté and stir for a minute. Add hash browns, let sit to brown for a bit, then use large spatula to flip sections of browned potatoes over, and stir until most of potatoes are golden. Add in sausage, and continue to cook and stir until potatoes are desired crispiness. Serve.

Green Tea Pound Cake

This moist cake tastes like pound cake, but there’s not a trace of butter used in the batter. The surprising green hue comes from matcha green tea powder, which has very little flavor component to it—at least the powder I used wasn’t terribly potent. And why was I testing a cake recipe using green tea powder? Here’s the back story. 
Hosting students from other countries has expanded our culinary tastes, encouraging us to try all sorts of unique foods. We’ve grown especially close to one of our students, Kana Miyamoto, from Japan. She loved that she got to stay in the home of a foodie, and we loved that she was game to try everything we offered her! After her last visit, she sent me a box full of food-related items unique to Japan. I’ll need a translator to figure out what some of the packets are… But there was a bag of matcha green tea powder that had some English on it, so I searched online to find something to do with it. A cake similar to this is posted on several sites, so I’m not sure of the recipe’s origin. 
As for “selling” this recipe, don’t know quite what to say. My co-workers said “it tastes like pound cake” as they gobbled it up. I offered it with Reddi-Wip® as a topping, because, well, whipped cream makes everything better. It was good, and I’ll make it again, maybe increasing the amount of matcha. As I said earlier, the green tea powder didn’t have much flavor, and my cake wasn’t as green as others pictured online. Given that it uses olive oil and Greek yogurt, it’s a slightly healthier version of the traditional pound cake.* Slightly. So play the “it’s good for you” card when you serve this to guests. That always works, right?
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
1 cup Greek yogurt
cups sugar
3 eggs (room temperature)
½ cups olive oil (either regular or extra virgin)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½-1 teaspoon almond extract (depending on how much almond flavor you want!)
Powdered sugar for dusting cake
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Prepare a 10-cup Bundt pan by spraying it with Pam, or greasing and flouring the pan. In medium bowl, combine the flour, matcha powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt and sugar until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the olive oil and vanilla, and combine. Gradually add in the flour mixture until blended. Add the remaining flour and fold just until combined. Don’t overmix.
Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Let sit for 15 minutes and then invert onto serving plate and let sit until completely cool. Sift powder sugar on top of the cake and enjoy!
*NOTE: I’ve read that pound cake got it’s name because it originally used a pound each of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oat Bars

The sweet-tart combo of strawberries and rhubarb is to die for, in my humble opinion. And since my rhubarb is threatening to take over the world this spring, I’m trying to find new and creative ways to use it up. When I saw a recipe on Better Homes & Garden’s website for bars using my favorite fruit duo, I said, “I’m in!” Then once I started perusing the recipe, I realized 1) the pan/batch was waaaaaaay too small to serve my family or co-workers, and 2) it looked strikingly similar to my blueberry breakfast bars previously posted! (Which DOES make a large enough batch to serve my family or co-workers…)

So I kinda combined my blueberry bar recipe with the BH&G recipe, and I think we’ve got us a winner here, people! Rhubarb is a little more finicky fruit than the berries, though. So it took a little trial and error to get it simmered the right length of time, and make sure the sugar ratio was on point. Now I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is bake up a batch!

Makes 15 bars

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups all-purpose flour*
¾ cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease an 11″x17″ pan with butter and set aside. In large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine. Add melted butter and stir until all of oat mixture is combined with butter. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Press remaining oat mixture in bottom of prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

While crust is baking, combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, water, and ginger in large saucepan and heat on high. Once mixture starts to boil, turn to medium and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Rhubarb should start breaking up, and it should thicken up. Add strawberries and return heat to high. Once it starts to boil again, turn down to medium and simmer for 3-5 minutes. In small bowl or cup, combine cornstarch and water. Drizzle in to rhubarb and strawberries and stir until mixture thickens up a bit. Pour on top of baked crust and sprinkle with reserved oat crumbs. Bake for additional 30** minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

*NOTE: I’ve started using Costco’s Ultragrain flour, which is a non-GMO flour and may be tolerable to those who are sensitive to gluten. But it’s not for those with celiac disease!

**Next time I make these, I may try baking these 40 minutes once crust is topped with fruit. Rhubarb seems to require a longer baking time than berries, peaches, pears, etc. I was concerned about the top burning if I did them longer than 30 minutes, but I think they would have been fine.

Swedish Pancakes

FullSizeRenderEvery culture has some version of the French crêpe, even the Swedes. When my son’s friend Karl dropped in with some lingonberry sauce* made from fresh Swedish lingonberries, we thought we better whip up a batch of the crepe-like Swedish pancakes to try the sauce. Recipes for these light pancakes abound in cookbooks and online, so I don’t quite know who to credit for it. This one is similar to the Easy Swedish Pancakes from, but I found that batter a little too thin and therefore doubled the flour. It also needed more salt than called for. Top with anything from maple syrup, to apple sauce, to strawberries and whipped cream—just about any fruit pairs perfectly with these pancakes. I’d love to hear what ratio of eggs, milk, and flour some of YOU true Swedes use for this Scandinavian staple…maybe make ’em for Father’s Day and post a comment.

Makes 10-12 pancakes


4 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping suggestions

Lingonberry jam
Sliced strawberries
Sliced bananas
Powdered sugar
Whipping cream

In large bowl, beat eggs with wire whisk. Add milk and butter, and whisk again. Sprinkle flour, sugar, and salt over egg mixture, and beat with whisk until smooth.

Heat non-stick skillet to medium heat. Brush a little butter on hot pan. Pour 1/3 cup batter into pan, and rotate to coat bottom of pan. Once edges of batter are dry, flip to cook reverse side. Flip pancake onto plate. Fold into quarters and top with lingonberries or fruit. Add powdered sugar or whipping cream.

*I was a little confused when Karl said his neighbor had made the lingonberry sauce he brought over. Last I checked, lingonberries don’t grow in Minnesota, or any bordering state for that matter! Turns out they had picked fresh lingonberries while vacationing in Sweden, and made it into the sauce. If you don’t have a friend that brings you fresh lingonberry sauce, IKEA sells “Sylt Lingon” (lingonberry jam), and so do most high-end grocery stores, like Lunds & Byerly’s or Kowalskis.

Date and Prune Quick Bread

Date-Prune-Bread3-IMG_0644Quick breads are a good way to include fruits, nuts, and herbs in your baked goods, and are called “quick” because they use a leavening agent (baking powder or soda) instead of yeast to rise the dough. No lengthy proofing and punching involved! But you remembered that little factoid from Home Ec classes, right? This bread is loaded with dried fruits, and fills the kitchen with a wonderful, homey aroma when baking. I was reminded about this recipe by my friend and fellow blogger Addis (Ethiomama), who remembered having this at a party we hosted six months ago! It’s that good. We’d served a platter of homemade quick breads and cheeses, and this one was the show stopper. The recipe is from a Lunds and Byerly’s issue of “Real Food” (Winter 2013), and I make it just as the author Serena Bass instructs, except for switching pecans for the suggested walnuts. I also found I had to bake my bread 10-15 minutes longer in order for it to be done in the center. That time adjustment is reflected below.

The sweetness of the bread makes a nice contrast to a goat cheese or other strong, pungent cheese, if you want to pair it with something. It’s great at a brunch, or for bringing as a hostess gift. It will keep for up to two weeks in the frig (if it lasts that long), but it doesn’t freeze well. I’ve kept it out on the counter for the two or three days it takes to consume a loaf, and that’s worked well. Wrap in wax paper or parchment paper once cooled, and then use foil on top of that for a tighter seal. The recipe author says to never use foil right against the bread.

Makes 1 loaf

1 cup dates, cut in thirds (or dried, chopped dates)
1 cup prunes, cut in thirds
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted (at 350° Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then chopped)

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″x5″x4″ loaf pan with butter, then line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place dates, prunes, raisins, and baking soda in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over the dried fruits. Mix together and let sit for no less than 1 hour, and up to 2 hours.

In electric mixer bowl, cream butter, add sugar, and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat another 2 minutes. Slowly add flour and stir until incorporated. Add in fruit and stir slowly to combine. Stir in nuts by hand. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 70-80 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out dry. Cool in pan. Remove from pan and peel off parchment paper. Slice, and eat!