Garden fresh

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Who would have thought three weeks ago that I would be pulling fresh rhubarb out of the garden? Mark is so excited. I didn’t take the time to put any rhubarb up last year. I thought Mark wouldn’t notice. Every once in a while, he would casually mention how he was craving rhubarb jam. I would brush it off, hoping he would forget. Austin brought over a couple of bowls of jam he made to satisfy his dad’s cravings. I didn’t think spring would get here soon enough to start whipping up rhubarb treats and jam. Here are some recipes I am excited about eating in the next few weeks.
Of course, if the rhubarb is ready, that only means asparagus is right around the corner. I found my first two spears poking through the ground as I pulled away the residuals of last year’s crop.
I didn’t always like asparagus when I was growing up. My dad didn’t push us to eat it because that meant he would have less to eat. He was so sad the spring when we discovered how good asparagus tasted. My mom would serve creamed asparagus on toast for a meal. I brought that meal up north with me, and it has become one of Mark’s favorite spring meals as well.
A few years back, I was a dairy producer speak out volunteer. I was assigned to help cookbook author John Michael Lerma demonstrate recipes at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I was there to offer insight into the dairy industry and how to incorporate dairy products into diets. It was a blast. He even gave me an autographed cookbook. I’m sharing one that combines two of my favorite things to eat: asparagus and beef. Enjoy!

Rhubarb crumble
3 cups sliced rhubarb, fresh or frozen
1 cup cubed apple
1/2 to 1 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup quick cooking oats
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Combine rhubarb, apples and strawberries; spoon into a greased 8-inch baking dish. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over rhubarb mixture. Set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in brown sugar and oats. Sprinkle over rhubarb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or cold with a scoop of ice cream.

Rhubarb cherry pie
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb
16 ounces pitted tart red cherries, drained
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
4-5 drops red food coloring, optional
9-inch pastry for double-crust pie
In a mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, cherries, sugar, tapioca and food coloring; let stand 15 minutes. Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry; add filling. Top with lattice crust; flute edges. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is golden and filling is bubbling.

Pie crust
2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup cold milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
Add vinegar to cold milk and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Mix flour, sugar and salt together. Cut in Crisco then cut in cubed butter until crumbly. Add cold milk/vinegar and mix until absorbed. Divide into half. Makes two crusts. Roll out between sheets of wax paper. Make sure to dust with extra flour so it doesn’t stick.

Rhubarb dumplings
Sauce:
2 cups rhubarb, diced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
Dash of salt
3 cups water
Dumplings:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Mix the sauce ingredients together and bring them to a boil. Combine the dumpling ingredients in a bowl and drop dumplings onto the top of the rhubarb sauce. Continue boiling the mixture for five minutes uncovered; then cover and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Beef asparagus John Michael Lerma’s “Garden County”
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup beef broth or water, divided
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 pound top round steak, cut into bite-size cubes
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch slanting slices
1 large onion, cut into quarters and separated
In a small bowl, or measuring cup, mix cooking sauce by combining soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar and 1/2 cup beef broth or water. Set aside. Stir well before adding to meat and vegetables. Heat wok or deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When oil begins to heat, add garlic. Stir immediately and do not let garlic burn or brown as it will become bitter, about 30-60 seconds. Add beef and stir-fry until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove beef from pan. Add 2 tablespoons oil and heat. Add asparagus and onion and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add remaining beef broth or water, cover and cook for 3 minutes. This will steam the vegetables until crisp but tender. Return beef to pan. Add cooking sauce after you stir it one last time. Stir-fry all ingredients until sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Serve over rice.


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