Raspberry Summer Soda

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I make homemade soda pop year round.  In the summertime, I try to use fresh fruit and in the winter I have used cranberries, citrus, even pumpkin!   Today’s soda is a fresh organic raspberry and I like to mix it with a little pure lemon juice for a raspberry lemon fizz.   It’s super easy – here’s the process and you can substitute almost any fruit – just take care not to throw in the pits as some are toxic.

Raspberry Soda

2 C Sugar
2 C Water
1 C Fresh Raspberries

Bring to boil sugar, water and raspberries.   Boil for at least 3 minutes.   For every minute you boil longer than 3, your simple syrup will thicken.  So – if you want pancake syrup instead – which I highly recommend – boil for several minutes longer.   After syrup has cooled enough, pour into waiting jar and cool completely.   We like ours to be lightly flavored and for a half gallon pitcher, I use half cup of syrup, half cup of lemon and fizzy water for the rest.   You can change it up to your tastes — we bought a soda water maker and we use it almost daily.

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Raspberry simple syrup ready for water….

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Full boil…

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With many fruits (rhubarb, strawberry) I simply leave the fruit in the syrup.  However, with raspberries it is important to strain because of the seeds.   Pouring quickly through a sieve will accomplish this – and then I throw a few fresh raspberries in the syrup jar for fruity goodness!

Rhubarb Streusel Breakfast Cake

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This is a beautiful and simple cake I often make in the morning in springtime.   It takes only minutes to assemble and can also be made with whole wheat flour.   Perfect for those few stalks of rhubarb leftover from a pie.  I find one large stalk of rhubarb is typically about 3/4 – 1 C chopped.

Rhubarb Streusel Breakfast Cake

¾ C light brown sugar, packed

¾ C sugar

½ C Butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 C milk

2 C Flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ C chopped Rhubarb

Topping:

2/3 C whole oats

2/3 C brown sugar

1/3 C Flour

4 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.   Grease with shortening and then flour two loaf pans.   Cream butter & sugars until light & fluffy.   Add vanilla, egg and milk.   Blend.   In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.   Chop Rhubarb into 1/2″ bits and toss with dry ingredients.   Mix dry and wet ingredients until just blended.    Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over the top of loaves.   Bake 350 for 35 – 40 minutes.

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Chopped Rhubarb, typically I slice the rhubarb lengthwise once or twice depending on the stalk, and then chop in 1/2 – 3/4″ bits

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Floured Rhubarb – coat all the pieces and then mix quickly with wet ingredients, taking care not to overmix

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Loaf pans with cake, streusel topping added and ready to bake

Junuary Rhubarb Icebox Pie with Gingersnap Crust

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Historically icebox pies were the best pie for hot days of summer when one doesn’t want to light the oven.   It rarely gets very hot in Seattle (certainly not in the middle of Junuary) and when it does, I get up early to bake.   But I love icebox pies!  This one is my own recipe and it is also typically my first seasonal summer pie.   This pie is also easily made gluten free with GF gingersnaps and oats.

Junuary Rhubarb Icebox Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Gingersnap Crust

1/2 C Gingersnaps
1 C Oats
1/2 C Almond Flour (you can also use traditional but the almond gives it a nice balance – it is available at Trader Joe’s)
5T Butter, melted
2 T Brown sugar

Heat oven to 375.  Place gingersnaps, almond flour, oats and brown sugar in a Cuisinart (alternately, you can crush in a large bowl by pushing against the side with a glass jar).    Pulse until combined.   Pour into a bowl, add 5 T melted butter.  Mix gently with finger tips until it comes together, press into a pie pan and bake 8 – 10 minutes at 375.   Set aside to cool.

Filling
5 C chopped Rhubarb
1/2 – 2/3 C strawberries (optional)
1 C Sugar
1/4 C Water
1/4 C Corn Starch

Mix 1/4 C water and 1/4 C Corn starch thoroughly in a small cup as a corn starch slurry, and set aside.   Chop rhubarb and place into a medium sized heavy pan on the stove top, with sugar.   Bring to a boil.  When rhubarb mixture is boiling and broken down completely, drizzly corn starch slurry while still mixing.  It will pull together, and continue to cook / stir for another 1 – 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.    At this point, you may add some chopped strawberries and mix them in.  I actually like rhubarb without strawberries, but they do add a pop of sweetness and color.

Pour your filling into the prepared crust.  Put in the fridge (icebox!) for 4 – 5 hours.  Top with large dollop of real whip cream.

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Rhubarb, chopped with sugar ready to cook

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Rhubarb, finished cooking and ready to fill the gingersnap crust

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Optional but relentlessly cheerful spring strawberries

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Filled pie shell, ready to cool

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Decisions, decisions!

ribbonsw-polaThe Washington State Fair announces the Home Arts contests in the Spring.   Perhaps due to the re-branding, I was hoping for some more interesting contests this year.  The Brown & Haley Almond Roca contest I entered last year for the 100th anniversary, with “Brown and Haley Mile High Whoopie Pies“.   I wonder:  Why are they recycling that contest?   **  Note: I did not place in that contest.  I had a perfect score in all categories EXCEPT ‘ease of preparation’ where I was marked down significantly to 5/15.  I’m not so much on the ‘ease of preparation’ in contests, evidently. **

I will be entering the cake contest, as the “Special Best Cake” award remains elusive.  I took a a 2nd place ribbon last year in the Special Best Cake award, with my Old Fashioned Spiced Peach Layer Cake.  With that particular cake, I also was awarded a category blue ribbon first place, and then the ‘best in all categories’ gold ribbon – determined by comparing technical scores for all cake blue ribbons.   After interviewing several “Fair Ladies” — you know, the ladies who fuss around with exhibits and work at the fair — I came to an understanding about the ribbons.  “Special Best Cake” is a complete Judge’s Choice award.   I would like to have that Special Best Cake Award blue ribbon before I die.

It will be hard to top last year, the peach cake was delightful and well-received.   But I am giving it a try this year with a new inspiration on a popular old cake.  I will be starting as a base with the recipe in a cookbook my Grandfather gifted my Grandmother when he was 24 and she 22.

I may also enter a pie.  The pie contests are a problematic because the sponsor for the pie contest is Pillsbury and a requirement is one must use Pillsbury ready-made pastry.    There is a berry pie contest that does not require ready made, and I will probably enter it and perhaps bring blueberries home from Maine.