Sunday, June 11, 2017

May Retrospective

I only read one book during the entire month of May. It seems that up until May I had been reading between four to six books a month. So I have been hoping to publish a May/June retrospective that would have about ten books to report. I am not thinking that will happen at this point, but I guess we'll see. I have been saying that May is, second only to December, the busiest month of the year. But I almost wonder if it isn't second to December. Or maybe it's just because December has a happy ending. There's Christmas, there's New Year's Eve, there's rest, and the hope of a happy new year. May arguably also has a happy ending. I am just not a fan of summer. But for those who are, May ends in Memorial Day cookouts and the hope of many more summer gatherings for the coming months. 

We had two gatherings in our home over Memorial Day Weekend. I was super excited for the break from school, from work, from baseball, and from George's preaching engagements. He is back at the preaching and I am grateful, but it was nice to have a Sunday off. We used the extra time to have company! 

The first night we had a crowd of eleven. We had burgers with Mexican sides, which I always think is sort of a fun combo. First off, we had chips and salsa and homemade guacamole. We also had Annie's sangria. I have been loving her recipe for years, but realized when I made it this last time that I have never posted it myself. I am remedying that today. I also made a couple of Mexican-like sides. For the first time in a while, I made corn and black bean salad, which some people enjoy scooping up with chips and others eating with a fork as a side. The other side I made was a new favorite of mine. I have been making it since last year and it's high time I posted it as well. I first had it at my friend Heather's house late last spring. I don't really think of watermelon with fondness- I could just kind of take it or leave it, and would usually leave it. But this salad is a dynamite way to use watermelon. It makes me a watermelon lover!

Annie's Sangria

1 bottle of red wine (Annie notes that she uses cheap cabernet so I always get Two Buck Chuck)
2 oranges; one slices, one juiced
1 lemon, sliced
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. triple sec (Annie says she originally made this was Grand Marnier, but triple sec is more economical and just as tasty)

- Muddle sugar and citrus slices in pitcher for 30 seconds
- Stir in juice, triple sec, and wine
- Refrigerate for at least two hours- ideally six to eight

Iowa Girl Eats' Mojito Fruit Salad

4 c. chopped watermelon
1 lb. strawberries, chopped 
6 oz. raspberries
6 oz. blueberries 
1/4 c. packed mint, chopped
1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
3T powdered sugar 

- Combine fruit and mint
- In a separate bowl, combine lime juice and sugar
- Drizzle juice mixture over fruit and mix
- Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving

The next group we had was a group of ten. I made a pork butt in the crock pot and sliced the rest of my watermelon, opened a bag of chips and a carton of dip from our local dairy and called it good! I spent a little time on a dessert though. It was worth it! One of the girls from the first group brought me a big freezer bag full of rhubarb harvested from her garden. I had never cooked with rhubarb before and had only even eaten it a couple of different times with mixed feelings. Rhubarb plants need an extended period of temperatures below 40 to produce stems, so it is not typically grown in the South so I never had it growing up. The first time I had it was after we moved to St. Louis. It is very tart and can be a little whoa. But I decided that Ina lives up North and usually knows what's up so I looked for one of her recipes using rhubarb. As usual, she did not disappoint me. Her recipe has enough sweetness to keep the rhubarb from overwhelming the dish, and the oat topping adds a pleasant texture that stands up well to the tanginess of the rhubarb and is preferable to a pastry that tends to get lost in the soupy sweetness of baked fruits. Strawberry rhubarb pies are popular up here, but for me, the crisp is definitely the way to go with this particular... I want to say fruit, but I'm pretty sure it's a vegetable! 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

4 c. chopped fresh rhubarb
4 c. chopped fresh strawberries
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 T cornstarch
1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. quick cooking (not instant) oats
12T cold unsalted butter, diced
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

- toss rhubarb, strawberries, and 3/4c. sugar in a large bowl
- in a measuring cup, dissolve cornstarch into orange juice and mix into fruit
- pour mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish
- mix remaining 3/4c. sugar, flour, brown sugar, salt, and oats and cut butter into mixture to make crumbles
- sprinkle crumbles over top of fruit and bake for 1 hour at 350
- serve with vanilla ice cream

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