Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

One of my first visits to the local Farmer’s market this year yielded a bunch of rhubarb. I do not often cook with rhubarb, but I like to buy a little bit of everything from the market to support the farmers. I remember growing up and having a small bunch of rhubarb growing in our small back yard, and I remember eating it raw, and recalling the tart flavor and the texture being somewhat similar to celery.  With that said, I wanted to use the rhubarb and pair it with a bunch of strawberries I had, and that’s when I thought of creating a jam.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

The great thing, besides how awesome the flavor is, about this recipe is that it is so easy to make, and I did not find anyone that did not fall in love with it. It’s a great use of rhubarb during the late spring time.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, chopped, hulls removed
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested

Start by adding the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and water into a sauce pot on medium heat. Cook until the fruit begins to break down and all of the juices begin to extract from the fruit, about 25 minutes or so. Using a stick blender, blend the mixture. I like the stick blender because you do not have to strain anything or pour it into a blender.

rhubarb-strawberry-jam-ingredients

Once blended, reduce the heat, and add in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir. Continue to cook until the jam thickens. I typically measure the thickness by running a wood spoon in the jam and seeing how well it sticks to the spoon. Once thickened, remove the jam from the heat, and let cool on the stove.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam Recipe

Once cooled, pour into a large mason jar, and place in the refrigerator. My wife and kids loved this jam, and heck, so did I. I’m not much into sweet stuff, but this was a bit addicting. I should say my friends and neighbors loved the rhubarb and strawberry jam as well. You can can this if you are into canning, however I just placed in the mason jar. It lasted for several weeks.

One of the uses beyond spreading this on toast or peanut butter sandwiches was to spread it on some brie cheese and warm it in the oven until the cheese starts to melt. I served that with some chopped apples for an appetizer. It was heavenly. If you are looking for ways to use rhubarb, give this one a shot.

Crock-Pot Caramelized Onions

Sometimes I think what the heck would we do if we did not own a Crock-Pot, or slow cooker, if you will. The Crock-Pot is a thing of beauty and has helped me so many times throughout the year, especially during the work week. I typically use the slow cooker to break down beef, or chicken, or really anything I will not have time to make when I return home from work. Recently I smoked a pork shoulder, and decided that after 5 hours on the smoker, that I would place it in the slow cooker, and continue to render that should down. Let me tell you, it was delicious! As I was cleaning out the Crock-Pot, I noticed some onions I had, and decided that I would try tossing those in the slow cooker, and see if they would caramelize over time. They did, and let me tell you, they rocked. Super simple, and one that you can set and forget.

Crock-Pot Caramelized Onions

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Spanish Onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 4 sprigs of Thyme

Add everything to the Crock-Pot. Cover, and set on low heat. Cook for 18-24 hours, or until the onions are nice and caramelized. Stir a few hours into the cooking process to get the oil, butter, and seasoning incorporated.

crockpot-caramelized-onions-ingredients

The end result is nothing short of amazing. The onions yield nearly three cups of deliciousness. I’ve been using these in stuffed mushrooms, and pizzas. The great thing I love about caramelized onions is that you can essentially use them in everything from omelettes, sandwiches, and pizzas. Give these a shot next time you want to caramelize onions.

How to use Caramelized Onions

Trader Joe’s – Poutine Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I was never a fan of Trader Joe’s. I remember when family members would make a trek to one store, nearby downtown Milwaukee, and as we recently had one built not too far from where we currently live. I’ve been there, once, and bought random frozen products, only to be nearly disappointed every time I tried one of their products. I’ve asked my coworkers who live near the downtown location, and they also did not believe the hype. They’ve stated (and others) there are a couple of things that they did like about some of their stuff, including some of the jarred salsas, frozen Indian food, and wine specials. That is about it. Regardless, during last year’s Christmas season, my colleague gave me and my coworker a bag of Trader Joe’s poutine, yep, that’s how we roll in our office. Months later, I figured I would give these a try. As much as I love poutine, and I’ve made it before back in 2007, as well as put a twist on a chicken satay poutine (which rocked  by the way), who could go wrong, right?

Trader Joe's Poutine - Product Review

While looking at the bag, I had to somewhat drool. If you never had poutine, you are essentially getting french fries, drizzled or soaked in great gravy, and smothered with cheese curds. It’s pretty awesome. So when I opened the bag, I got a frozen packet of gravy, a frozen packet of cheese curds, and frozen french fries. Directions were simple, bake the fries until done, and simmer the two packets in hot water until cooked through.

Trader Joe's Poutine

When everything is ready, go ahead and assemble. I laid out the cooked fries, which looked good, onto a serving plate, then cut open the bag of gravy and curds. I squeezed the gravy all over the fries, and layered on the curds.

I then dug in. My first bite was just OK, second bite, less then OK, and it seemed to hang at that point from there on out. In all honesty, I was tasting every bite as though I was doing a product review. The fries were just OK, maybe slightly less than OK. I had to add salt, even though there was gravy and curds to be dealt with. The cheese curds kind of freaked me out to the point where I no longer wanted to eat them. Granted, the cheese curds had a great squeak to them, as every good cheese curd should, but the texture was totally off, and that is when the squeak freaked me out. I did not even want to look at the ingredients, or better yet what the hell that squeak was.

Overall, I would not purchase a bag of Trader Joe’s Poutine again, but I was appreciative of my colleague giving us the bag as a gift during that time. It really confirmed why I do not shop at Trader Joe’s, and I will continue to not believe the hype. If you are wanting poutine, make your own. You know what you are getting, and putting into your dish. Have you tried this product, and if so, what were your thoughts?

Bacon Fried Rice

One of my kids favorite recipes is fried rice. I think that even at a very early age, my father-in-law had served it up for breakfast to him while they watched him while we were at work. Yes, I’m talking like two years old or something of that nature. Let’s just say he was young. But at that age, that food stuck in his head, that’s what fried rice can do to someone. Since then, he has come a long way in terms of exploring food. He is big into smoked meats such as ribs, brisket, and chicken, and lots of other things. Let’s just say he is no longer a chicken tender and french fry kid. With that said, one of his favorite dishes is bacon fried rice, so much that he makes requests for it. I’m down with that because this is a great opportunity to get vegetables into this rice, along with eggs (that he hates), that he devours it all up. That is called winning.

Bacon Fried Rice

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Jasmine, or long grain rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 5 slices of Nueske’s Bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 whole carrots, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp Red Boat Fish Sauce or Three Crabs Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp chili oil, optional
  • additional water

Start by making your rice. I use a rice cooker, and to that I add the rice to the rice pot, and rinse several times in cold water until the runs clear. Drain and add equal parts of water. Cover, and turn on the rice cooker until it is finished. I love the rice cooker.

Now I do this the same day, and the trick to making fried rice the same day is to make sure the rice gets dry. I accomplish this by removing the cooked rice onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, fanning it out, and letting it sit on the counter for several hours. Otherwise, let the rice cool, store in the refrigerator and use the following day.

Make sure you have prepared the remaining ingredients.

Heat a large wok on medium heat. Add in the diced bacon, and cooked until slightly crisp. Keep the bacon fat in the wok, along with the bacon. Next toss in the garlic and shallot and cook for about 40 seconds or so. Add in about two tablespoons of butter and your chili oil. Stir, then toss in the carrots.  Add in about 2 tablespoons of water. Stir.

How to make bacon fried rice

Turn up the heat.

Add in the beaten eggs, and stir, ensuring the the eggs are thinned out and cooked. Using your spatula, break up the eggs into pieces.

Toss in your rice, and begin breaking that up, using your spatula, and scraping underneath the rice in the wok. Use your wok master skills and wok like you mean it. Toss in the fish sauce, cracked black pepper, and soy sauce. Keep woking, aggressively under high heat until you get a nice light crust on the rice.

Serve immediately.

The result is an awesome bacon fried rice. You get the great smokiness from the bacon, and when everything is mixed together, well, let’s just say it’s awesome, and perfect for breakfast as well. Hope you enjoy!