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Rhubarb sweetens dishes for summer

Once upon a time there was a little girl who thought that the funny red-colored celery-looking stuff in the refrigerator would be a great addition to a salad.

The 7-year-old was given the important task of helping her overworked mom put together dinner and wanting to make a splash, she threw in everything that she could find in the fridge. While the hard-cooked eggs and olives were a hit, the raw rhubarb, not so much.

Flash forward many years later and said little girl still likes to put rhubarb in whatever dish she can when she has the opportunity but never again in a salad.

Before we go any further with our foray into all things rhubarb, you need to know that as delicious as the stalks are, the roots and leaves will make you sick if you eat them. For this reason the fresh stuff (March through October is prime fresh rhubarb time) is usually sold with most, if not all, the leaves and roots cut off. Throughout the winter I make do with the frozen stuff and you just need to defrost it.

Also, rhubarb is acidic, so I recommend that you don’t use aluminum pots or pans.

Rhubarb and Custard Cream Bars

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup cold butter

Filling:

2 cups sugar

7 tablespoons flour

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 eggs, beaten

5 cups finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained

Topping:

2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set it aside. In a bowl, combine the 2 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Cut in 1 cup of butter until you’ve got small crumbs. Press the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Combine the 2 cups of sugar and 7 tablespoons of flour in a bowl. Add the eggs and cream; whisk to combine. Add the rhubarb and mix to combine. Pour the mixture over the baked crust and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until custard is set. Cool completely.

For the topping: While the bars are cooling, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor. Mix to combine and then, by hand, fold in the whipped cream. When the custard is cool spread the whipped cream mixture over the custard, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Cut into smaller pieces. Makes 24 pieces.

Rhubarb Muffins

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup oil or melted butter

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Topping:

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon melted margarine or butter

For the topping: In a bowl combine the sugar, brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and melted margarine. Set the mixture aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease (or use paper liners) 24 muffin cups and set the pan aside. In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, oil or butter, egg and vanilla. Whisk to combine and add the buttermilk, rhubarb and pecans. Mix to combine and set aside. In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the rhubarb mixture and mix just until the ingredients are combined; do not over mix. Fill the prepared muffin cups about 3/4 full of batter. Sprinkle the topping mixture over the muffins and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 24.

Rhubarb and Brown Sugar Chicken

6 to 8 chicken legs and thighs (not separated but skinned)

6 stalks of rhubarb, diced

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 cups of water

1/3 cup butter

Juice of one lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Pepper to taste

1/2 to 1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 to 1 tablespoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the rhubarb chunks, brown sugar, water and butter to a boil. Continue to boil until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and squeeze the juice of one lemon into it. Let sit to cool.

Remove the chicken from the oven and pour the rhubarb mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle the tops of the chicken with cinnamon and nutmeg. Continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Serves 8.

– Modified from About.com Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@frontier.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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