Rhubarb Strawberry Jam

FullSizeRenderTart, tangy rhubarb makes a perfect fresh, summery jam, especially with a subtle hint of strawberry. So if you’ve got more rhubarb than you know what to do with, stir up a batch of this and give grape jelly a break from kitchen duty. I got this recipe from my friends Tom and Kim, who got the recipe from Tom’s mother, Clara. Clara immigrated to America as a young woman, so English wasn’t her first language. That’s why I smile when I read my copy of her neatly typed recipe, with sugar consistently spelled “suger.” And there’s another twist to this tale—I now work with Clara’s granddaughter, Lauren, and I love it when she shares memories of her “Oma,” who has since passed away.

I’m glad Clara shared this recipe with me 20+ years ago, because it’s become a favorite with my sons who prefer this over the sweeter berry jams. My Mom was kind enough to cut me a wheelbarrow full of rhubarb from her garden this year, as I’d used most of mine making rhubarb cake for parties. This recipe takes a whopping 18 cups of fresh rhubarb, but after soaking it in the sugar (or “suger”) overnight, it shrinks. (I don’t quite get the science of that…) Once you’ve done your overnight duty, this jam is a snap to make. You can freeze it or can it. My directions below are for canning it, which is my preference. And our favorite bread on which to slather this jam? Old Country Potato Dill Bread, previously posted.

Makes 12 pints

18 cups chopped rhubarb
5 cups granulated sugar
2 (6 ounce) packages of strawberry flavored Jell-O®

In large plastic bowl* combine chopped rhubarb and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let set overnight. Juices from the rhubarb will create a simple syrup from the sugar. (See “before” and “after” pictures below.)

Gather a dozen Kerr® or Ball® pint canning jars and wash in hot soapy water, or run through dishwasher. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to boil. Add a dozen fresh canning lids and rings to boiling water. Turn off heat, and let lids sit for 5 minutes in the hot water. Now your jars and lids are ready for canning.

Pour rhubarb and sugar syrup into large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring as it cooks. Stir in both packages of strawberry Jell-O and stir to combine. Remove from heat and use clean ladle to pour jam into prepared jars. Wipe rim of each jar with clean, wet rag to remove any excess jam from jar as it will prevent a clean seal. Top jar with clean, sterilized lid, and tightly screw on band. Invert jar. Repeat process with all 12 jars, turning all of them upside down once filled. Let sit for 5 minutes, then turn all of the jars right-side up and wait for them to “plink.” (As they seal, you will hear the sound of the lid creating a vacuum seal. It may take up to an hour for them to all seal.) Test the tops of jars by pressing lightly in center of lid. They are sealed when the center of lid stays down and doesn’t pop back up. Store in cool, dry place for up to a year.

NOTE: Metal bowls will react with the rhubarb, so it’s best to use a plastic bowl. I use the top of a cake carrier. It’s the perfect size for this amount of rhubarb, and since I never make and take cake, the poor container gets used for something, rather than being ignored and neglected in my basement.




IMG_0959With my fresh mini herb garden pots going wild, I’ve been looking for ways to use the abundance of mint threatening to take over the deck. The Good Earth restaurant makes a fabulous tabbouleh, and after ordering it recently, I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate at home. I tried Ina Garten’s recipe found on foodnetwork.com, and I liked her process, but found the recipe had too little bulghur in ratio to the herbs and tomatoes, too much pepper, waaaaaaay too much salt (even with using only 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt instead of the kosher salt she recommended*), and far too many scallions. Then I looked at Ellie Krieger’s recipe, and ended up using my own amounts based on the two recipes. Ina puts the dressing into the bulghur wheat while it’s soaking, and Ellie pours in on after the fact. I tried it Ina’s way, and it seemed to have great flavor, with my adjustments to amounts below. I’m sure it would work fine to add the dressing after soaking the wheat, too.

I know this traditional Lebanese dish usually has more herbs and less bulghur than you see here, but we preferred a little more of the ancient grain to temper all the mint and parsley. And my son Justin said that 1 cup mint was over-the-top, and I needed to back off a bit. I liked it, but I love mint so much I want to marry it, so take that into consideration.

This is a versatile dish. It can be served as an appetizer along with toasted pita triangles and spicy hummus, and some sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Or it can be a salad or side to a meal. Shred or cube some grilled chicken into the bowl, and it’s a meal. The ease of the dish, plus the fresh herbs, make it perfect for warm weather, no matter which part it plays in your meal.

*NOTE: I did some research on kosher salt/sea salt/table salt, and found that you need more kosher or sea salt than table salt if substituting one for the other in a recipe. See this handy conversion chart for your own reference.

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cups bulghur wheat
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2–1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2–3 tablespoons mined red onion
2–3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and lemon zest. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. (You can also just pour the boiling water over the bulghur, and add the dressing ingredients later.)

Add the mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, chives, and the pepper; mix well. Season with salt, if necessary; cover and refrigerate. Flavor improves if the tabbouleh is made a few hours ahead of serving time.

Crunchy Cauliflower and Pea Salad

IMG_0963Trying to get kids—or picky adults—to eat their veggies? This crunchy salad loaded with fresh cauliflower, celery, and peas might just convert some veggie-haters into lovers. Ranch is the base of the dressing, and then there’s bacon…so I rest my case. I think I got this super easy recipe from a women’s magazine ad promoting Ranch dressing, from when Ranch was new player on the food scene (80’s or 90’s?). I will say that the cashews are delicious in the salad, but if you’re not going to consume the whole bowl in one sitting, they soften and take on the texture of mushrooms by the next day. So only add the cashews to the amount of salad you think will be eaten first time around. Otherwise, the salad is fine leftover the next day!

This is a nice year-round recipe, as the ingredients are available any time. It’s especially good with spring and summer menus, as a side to grilled meat, burgers, or brats, and even better if you’re bored with beans and slaw. And as excited as we Midwesterners are about summer when the first blades of green grass appear, we do get to that point. Am I right, people?

Serves 6-8

10 ounces fresh shelled peas, or frozen
2-3 cups fresh cauliflower florets, in bite-size pieces
1 cup diced celery
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced scallions
6-8 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup cashew halves

For dressing

1 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove fresh garlic, minced

If using frozen peas, rinse in cold water in strainer, and allow to drain. In large bowl, combine cauliflower, celery, red pepper, and scallions. Once peas are drained, add those as well.

In medium bowl, combine Ranch dressing, sour cream, Dijon, and garlic. Beat with wire whisk until dressing and sour cream are smooth. Pour over vegetables, and toss to combines. Add crumbled bacon and toss again. Add cashews just before serving.

NOTE: If using a gluten-free Ranch option, this recipe is gluten-free. Leave out nuts if you’ve got nut-allergy folks in your circles, and it tastes just fine without them. The bacon gives it enough flavor so you won’t really miss the cashews. The bacon also removes it from the vegetarian dish category…sorry.

Raspberry-Rhubarb Slab Pie

FullSizeRenderWhen my rhubarb plant got beaten up in a fierce summer storm, I needed to get creative in the kitchen and use it or lose it. Browsing online, I came across this raspberry and rhubarb dessert (from tasteofhome.com) that sounded like a fun departure from my usual go-to rhubarb recipes. Plus, I’ve never made a pie crust—unless we did a pastry session in 7th grade foods class. Who can remember? At any rate, I thought I should get outside my baked-goods comfort zone and challenge myself a little.

Whoever coined the phrase “easy as pie” was on drugs. What’s so “easy” about PIE??? I followed the instructions for making the pastry, and got ready to roll out the dough. The directions were to roll it out between layers of waxed paper, but it was too flimsy and the dough was slipping all over the counter and the flour was flying. So I switched to floured parchment paper, and that worked a little better, but it was still no picnic. (That’s another expression I don’t get… Doesn’t making a full meal to bring on a picnic rank up there in culinary challenges? I find it exhausting.)

The next hurdle was trying to get the dough evenly distributed—equal thickness, and sorta in a rectangular shape. After 3 hours (or so it seemed) of huffing and puffing, I did finally get the bottom piece rolled and ready for the fruit filling. But then I had to do it again for the top! Ugh. I just about stabbed myself with the rolling pin. The end result was quite tasty, but I don’t think I’ll be winning any ribbons at the Fair in my lifetime.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it an 8. I loved the sweet-tart combination of the raspberry and rhubarb, and it was a nice change of pace from strawberry-rhubarb. It would be a fabulous treat to bring to a potluck, as it serves two dozen. I also liked that it was slimmer than a piece of pie, and the crust to fruit-filling ratio was perfect. Had my crust not been so tough, it would have been a perfect dessert. Next time, I’ll buy the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts* and save my sanity.

Makes 18-24 servings

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons 2% milk
1 egg yolk
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
5 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed and drained
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained


1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 to 6 teaspoons 2% milk

 In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Whisk 3/4 cup milk and the egg yolk; gradually add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Divide dough into two portions so that one is slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Roll out larger portion of dough between two large sheets of lightly floured parchment paper into an 18″x13″ rectangle. Transfer to an ungreased 15″x10″x1″ baking pan. Press onto the bottom and up sides of pan. Trim pastry to edges of pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add raspberries and rhubarb, tossing to coat. Spoon into pastry. Roll out remaining dough and place over filling. Fold bottom pastry over edge of top pastry; seal with a fork. Prick top with a fork.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve a drizzling consistency; drizzle over pie. Cut pie into squares. Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream.

NOTE: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

* Pillsbury also makes a gluten-free refrigerated pie crust option.

Wheatgrass Pots

IMG_0800“Grass” and “pot” in one blog title—I’m just asking for some serious ribbing from my offspring with this post. But the teasing will be worth it, cause I love these charming little winter wheatgrass table toppers. The first image shows grass seeds that were grown indoors for 2 weeks, and have been trimmed once to even out the wheatgrass growth. Before I show other photos, let me give you instructions for growing these. It’s not hard, but you have to plan ahead a couple weeks if you want these on your table for a specific event. Some people love to have wheatgrass on hand to throw in smoothies, or to juice and drink just plain. My reason for growing it was for the pop of bright green on the table, and not for nutritional benefits. I don’t think my husband would tolerate me putting grass in his food. If he knew, that is.

For wheatgrass pots

Terra cotta pots
(I used 5″ azalea or orchid pots, which are more squat than other pots, and give more surface area for growing grass.)
Terra cotta saucers to fit pots
Potting soil (with peat moss and vermiculite, etc.)
Winter wheatgrass seeds
Large clear plastic bags
Twist ties

Loosely cover hole in bottom of terra cotta pot with a stone or shard of broken pot. This will keep the dirt from leaking out when watering the pots. Add dirt to pot to about 1-inch from top. Sprinkle generous amount of seeds onto dirt, covering 75-85% of surface. You do not want area completely covered with seeds or they will choke each other out. But a decent amount of seed is needed, or the grown grass will be sparse. Top the seeds with a sprinkling of dirt, just enough to cover the seeds, about 1/4-inch.

IMG_0734Water the pots and let them drain in the sink for a bit. Put pots on saucers, then fit clear plastic bag over top of pot and saucer, fill with air, and secure bag with twist tie. Make sure bag is loose to allow for sprouting of grass. Place in sunny spot. Bag will create a mini-terrarium, and these will not need water until the grass is a few inches long, about 7-10 days.

Condensation will form on the top of the plastic, as you can see in the photo. (You can’t really see it, but the grass seed has sprouted and is almost ready to be uncovered.) Once most of the wheatgrass has sprouted and is about 3-inches tall, you can uncover the pots and leave them in a sunny spot to continue filling out. At about 14 days you will probably want to trim the grass evenly. This is the point the pots should be ready for displaying on your table or counter top. Water the pots every couple of days, when the dirt feels dry on top. The grass tends to start dying off about 4 weeks after seeds were started, probably because it gets root-bound in small containers.

Once your grass is grown, you can jazz these up a bit. The first time I grew wheatgrass was for my son’s wedding. We grew a couple dozen 8.5″ pots of grass indoors, and used them on the tables at his summer wedding reception. My daughter-in-law hand-lettered numbers onto cute little signs to stick in each pot, but I don’t seem to have a picture of the finished product. (In know, I know…bad mother-in-law!) Oh, they were darling! And they fit our frugal-wedding budget—roughly $5 per centerpiece.

Then I grew these one spring when my youngest son was drumming up clients for his lawn mowing business. I made signs that said, “Mitchell won’t KEEP OFF THE GRASS. He’s ready to mow your lawn for you…” with his contact information at bottom. I cut out the signs and glued them to corrugate (one of my favorite crafting materials), and stuck a bamboo skewer in the signs. (You have to be sure the channels for the corrugate are running straight up and down on the signs in order for the skewer system to work, so double-check corrugate direction before gluing the signs down. Learned that the hard way.) We brought these to his current clients, and those who had expressed interest in his services. I’m sure these—as well as his magnetic personality—helped secure a couple extra clients that year.

The versatility of the sign-on-a-stick is shown in other pictures. There’s an example of a birthday party centerpiece using the three little pots, breaking up “birth” and “day,” because after all, you are celebrating the day of one’s birth, right? You could also do a sign with a poetic saying like the Maya Angelou quote here, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” I personally couldn’t get away with this. There’s too much testosterone around my table for me to indulge in feminine whimsy. But go ahead and try an idea like this in YOUR home!




Marynona’s Rhubarb Cake

IMG_0826My mother-in-law was one of those women who turned all the food she touched into culinary gold. This rhubarb cake was one of her masterpieces—a simple, sweet and tangy dessert that’s a perfect finish to any summer meal. When she moved to Florida, she missed making this treat, as rhubarb doesn’t like the heat in the southern states. So I always tried to make it for her when she came up for a visit. It was the least I could do, since she shared the recipe with me! Now, savoring this treat is nostalgic for us, as my mother-in-law passed away a couple years ago. Two of my sons like grandma’s cake recipe so much they request it on their birthdays each year, over chocolate cake—which makes me question if they are truly my offspring. The appeal of this particular recipe is the moist, velvety texture of the cake, which it gets from the addition of sour milk as well as the rhubarb. 

Serves 8-12


1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup sour milk (or purchased buttermilk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped rhubarb


1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. To make sour milk, put 1 tablespoon white vinegar in glass measuring cup. Add milk to 1 cup line. Stir, and set aside for 15-30 minutes to allow milk to sour. (Best to use 1%, 2%, or whole milk. There needs to be some fat in the milk to curdle.) Prepare 3-quart rectangular glass baking dish* by coating with shortening, and sprinkling with sparse amount of flour. Remove excess flour from pan. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment, cream together shortening and brown sugar. Add egg, and cream again. Add sour milk and vanilla, and stir. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir again until all ingredients are combined. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to creamed shortening and sugar mixture, stirring on low until all flour is incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer and fold rhubarb into batter with rubber scraper or large wooden spoon. Pour batter into prepared baking pan.

In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of cake batter. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched gently in center. Cool on wire rack for 30-60 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla or strawberry ice cream, if desired.

*NOTE: You need to bake this cake in a glass dish, as the acid from the rhubarb will eat into the finish of metal pans, and can given the cake an unpleasant metallic flavor, in addition to ruining your pans.

Flower Power

tissue flowers IMG_0115Cheap can be chic. Trust me—I’ve done dozens of table tops on “we have no budget,” and sometimes the lack of funds forces creativity where a big budget wouldn’t have. Here’s an example of some items I’ve mixed and matched for use on several different occasions, and they might spur you on to other ingenious ideas. To start with, the photo at right shows a tissue paper flower centerpiece made with materials I had on hand. Supplies needed and how-to details below.

IMG_0703Let’s start with the base to this theme. I purchased 1 1/4 yards each of the red and white geometric print, and the mini-floral teal print. I quartered the yardage to make four napkins of each print, then rolled the edges and hemmed them. I also bought 1 1/3 yards of daisies with bright-colored centers on a teal background. This piece I left whole, just trimming the yardage as necessary to create a perfect square, then rolled and hemmed the edges. (These fabrics were all found at Jo-Ann’s—during a sale, of course.) This square can go over a solid white tablecloth, or a mini-checked lime gingham, or just about anything that coordinates. It was much cheaper than buying a full-size tablecloth, and adds a pop of color when laid diagonally on a round or rectangular table. (Unfortunately, a couple napkins fell into bleach in my laundry room sink, so they’re ombré now—white on the edges, gradually moving into teal floral. But ombré is super hot now, right? Ugh.) The plates pictured here are Fiesta—turquoise (purchased recently) and cinnabar (a discontinued color bought several years ago).

The other element to this decor scheme, was a vase of tissue paper flowers (pictured above and below). I made these using tissue paper I keep on hand for stuffing gift bags. With no money allotted for centerpieces for a ladies tea event at church, I cut organic shapes from tissue, and scrunched and taped the pieces with floral tape onto green floral wire. I started with a fringe of tissue for the “poppies,” then added overlapping petals, pleating at the base of each petal, and rolling them onto the stems with the floral tape. Then I wrapped the stems in floral tape to give them some heft. The pom-pom flowers were just large fringe pieces cut and twirled onto the floral wire stems. You could also do this by pleating the tissue like shown on this HGTV video of “how to make a tissue pom pom“. The leaves are just two leaf shapes cut from tissue, with the floral wire running down the center between the two pieces. I glued these together with one of my son’s left over glue sticks (which fortunately hadn’t dried out yet). The wire helps to be able to shape the leaf when putting it in an arrangement. I tried to do other types of flowers, too, but these were the only ones fit for public viewing. My attempts at daffodils and tulips were pathetic.

flowers and banner IMG_0202I added some orange “poppies” to the mix for a summer bridal shower, and used the square daisy print on the table top again (not visible in this image). Cut from simple construction paper, the ubiquitous pendant banner pieces were tied together with twine. Hand-lettering is not my forte, so I ran off the letters needed in black, 220+ point type on my home printer, cut out the letters with an X-Acto, and glued them on the triangles with the aforementioned glue stick.

Then I think I used these flowers and the table topper again for my Dad’s 80th birthday party. OK, now I’m starting to sound just plain miserly… (But no worries. Dad took no offense to the pre-used adornments—he wouldn’t notice “decor” if it bit him in the behind.*) At any rate, if you happen to stumble across a versatile decorating scheme like this one, don’t be afraid to re-use elements of it, mixing and matching to suite your celebration.

*For those of you concerned I’m sounding disrespectful to my father, be assured I say this with the utmost love. I 100% guarantee he said “Get outta here,” with a big grin on his face when he read this.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

IMG_0748Crisp, crumble, cobbler…what’s the difference? Researching this question, I got as many different answers as there are names for baked pastry-topped fruit desserts. Here’s the general consensus: cobblers have biscuits on top, and crisps and crumbles have similar streusel toppings. But crisps usually have oats, whereas crumbles have flour and no oats. (Huffington Post flips this difference in an article they published, but my cookbooks and other online sources are consistent with a crisp including oats not vice versa, so I’m sticking with that.) However, “crisp” and “crumble” have come to be used interchangeably in recipes, oats or not. Whew!

Here’s another recipe for the previously promised rhubarb-o-rama. Nothing beats the pairing of tart rhubarb and sweet strawberries, and since they both pop up in spring, how perfect is that? You’ll have to limit your enjoyment of this dish to when these fruits are fresh, because you can’t sneak in frozen fruit—the water content is too high and you’ll get a pile of mush. Rhubarb needs some prep to get it ready for baking, so this isn’t quite as quick as a crisp made from apples or peaches or berries. Serve with a dollop of real vanilla bean ice cream or heavy cream, and your guests will be oohing and aahing and asking for more.

Another plus? You don’t even have to get your electric mixer out to do this dessert—a couple bowls and spoons are all that’s needed. This topping comes from a recipe clipped out of Family Fun magazine many moons ago. I use this on a multitude of fruit combinations, depending on what’s in season. (Sugar and fruit amounts need to vary depending on the fruits, so I’ll post some of those combos later.) Took me a while to come up with the right ratios of sugar, rhubarb, and strawberries, so I’ve saved you all that hassle. Sweet, huh?

Serves 8-12

Fruit base

6 cups chopped (1/2″ pieces) fresh rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
2 – 16 ounce containers or 5-6 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4-1/2 cup all-purpose flour


2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl, add rhubarb and sugar. Stir to combine. Let stand for 1 hour. Add in sliced strawberries. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup flour, and stir. If mixture is still too soupy, add additional 1/4 cup flour and stir again.

Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit.* Grease 9″x13″ or other 3 quart baking dish. Pour prepared strawberry-rhubarb mixture into pan. In medium mixing bowl, add oats, sugar, flour, and spices, and stir to combine. Pour melted butter over oats and toss until butter is incorporated. Sprinkle oat mixture over fruit and bake uncovered in preheated oven for 1 hour. Let cool 10-15 minutes so rhubarb juices set before serving.

*NOTE: You can also bake this dish at 375° Fahrenheit for 30 minutes if you’re in a rush, and it’ll be just as tasty.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

IMG_0618This fresh and healthy Asian salad is perfect for a warm weather lunch, brunch, or served alongside whatever is on your grill for dinner. My sister Susan brought it to a party recently, and it was a hit. She found the recipe on allrecipes.com, but changed it considerably. The original calls for five, count ’em FIVE cloves of garlic, which is way too much raw garlic for a salad. She subbed in soy sauce for fish sauce as she didn’t have the fish sauce on hand, and added bell pepper, snow pea pods, and red cabbage to the vegetable mix. She said she’s also included edamame (boil according to package instruction then chill) when she’s made it previously. The drizzle of toasted sesame oil at the end was also her addition. Isn’t she clever? We thought so!

Serves 6-8

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
4 leaves Napa cabbage, julienned
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, ends cut off
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup salted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Combine the minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce (or soy sauce, and sugar; stir well. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break the rice noodles in half and add them to the pot; boil them for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse the noodles with cold water until they have cooled. Let them drain again.
Combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, Napa cabbage, bell pepper, red cabbage, sugar snap peas, and mint in a large serving bowl. Toss well; drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Toss again and serve the salad garnished with the peanuts.
(NOTE: if using a gluten-free soy sauce, this recipe would be gluten-free.)

Springtime Table

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is…”

SpringTableBirdsIf you’re looking for a touch of springtime on your table, here’s an idea for a little inspiration. If I hadn’t already eaten all the Cadbury Milk Chocolate bird eggs (I got addicted to this Easter), I’d recreate the look to get a close-up shot of some of the fun details. But alas, those delicious little morsels are long gone. The sweet mini-nests and life-like birds came from a craft store, probably Michael’s or maybe even Frank’s (remember Frank’s?)—I’ve had them a long time, but love the touch of whimsy they add to a table setting.

Three yards of buffalo check upholstery fabric in taupe from JoAnn’s make up the tablecloth (purchased during 50% off sale, of course). Neutral napkins in sand from Pier One are super versatile for any theme, but work well with the soft palette here. Candy bracelets from Walmart (in store as well as online) make inexpensive napkin rings. Pint-sized Ball ® jars are used for drinking glasses, with gray stripe straws for sipping. Burlap is hot in home decor, so you can find that pretty much anywhere. I got a couple yards from JoAnn’s, and cut a strip off for a runner, then pulled some strands off each edge to finish it up—no sewing needed!

So now that I’ve got you thinking spring, let me share the rest of the poem started above. My Dad used to recite this to me and my sisters when we were little girls:

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is. They fly so high, so high, so high, and they drop white-wash in my eye. But I don’t worry, I don’t cry. I’m just glad that cows don’t fly.”