About Nana Clare

Cookie baker, brownie maker for 50 years. Mom to three, Nana to five. Married to Mr. Right for 36 years. I'm also a sister to seven women - no brothers - and daughter to parents who have been together for 64 years. I love to bake breads, cookies, muffins, rolls, bars and did I say cookies? I make all kinds of jams and jellies and have a killer hot fudge recipe that goes back several generations in my family. Paired with my husband's homemade ice cream it's always a winning combo. Oh Yes! I also enjoy making soups, stews, stir fries and other munchies. I worked full time when my children were young and discovered many short cuts so that I could still provide healthy meals (most of the time). Catholic for life and loving it. BA in theater and speech, costuming/ Broadcasting school graduate/ MS in journalism and mass communication, emphasis in public relations/ Graduate of the Institute for Children's Literature - beginning and advanced classes - yes, I love to learn. And a graduate of many decorative painting schools. See my page on decorative painting in my home.

Aunt Kitty’s Rhubarb Dessert

b serve with whipped creamSpring=rhubarb in the Midwest. It grows in ditches and gardens in abundance. I wonder sometimes if we enjoy foods because of the memories they evoke of childhood pleasures. If you didn’t have rhubarb as a child, would this doom you to shun it forever? I have a friend who was raised in the south and he has no appreciation for rhubarb. Of course, this particular friend also detests ginger, so I think it’s a personality flaw in him. Sorry friend. Really! Who doesn’t love a good ginger cookie? or ginger bread? or ginger muffins? Ohhh, I digress. If I don’t stop myself I’ll have the oven on making ginger cupcakes and this is about rhubarb.

Rhubarb is the long skinny vegetable with the huge poisonous leaves. Yes, vegetable. Cut it off about one inch below the leaves. And then sweeten either by pairing it with a sweet fruit, such as strawberries, peaches or cherries, or by adding a boatload of sugar. Or a combination.

During my Weight Watchers years we made a rhubarb sauce by steaming it on top of the stove with a touch of water and some cancer-causing sweetners. After eating, it left a bitter taste and a sense that it stripped the enamel off my teeth. I tried to tell myself I liked it, but the love affair was brief.

Last year I modified the old recipe and made a strawberry rhubarb sauce that was simple and used real sugar. Easier on the enamel and the pallate.

strawberry rhubarb sauce

strawberry rhubarb sauce

When I was first married, I polled relatives for their favorite rhubarb recipes. I faithfully tried each one. From cobblers to crunches to coffee cakes they were all delicious, but this one has remained one of my hubby’s top two choices. My Aunt Kitty is my father’s little sister. And I do mean little. She’s a petite 5 feet tall and weighs nothing. Her secret after birthing five children: she allows herself one chocolate from a quality box of chocolates after lunch each day. That is a habit I can embrace.

I have blogged about several other rhubarb recipes in the past, such as the Apple Cranberry Rhubarb Crunch with the oatmeal topping.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

And the Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler – my hubby’s favorite.

Aunt Kitty’s dessert has two layers – but don’t let that stop you. It goes together quickly with little clean up. (Just keeping it simple.) The bottom layer is a shortbread, which you bake first. The top layer is a custard, which tames the sharp rhubarb flavor, but doesn’t hide it.

You pour on the custard topping onto the bottom layer while it is hot and continue baking. It swells up and then deflates after it comes out of the oven which creates a crunchy, sweet topping, so it feels as if you have three layers. Let me explain.
b press crumbs into pan
Ingredients for Crust
1 cup flour of choice
5 Tbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
b whisk topping
Ingredients for Topping
2 eggs – beaten with a fork
1 1/2 cups sugar (or a bit less)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups rhubarb cut into 1″ pieces
b pour topping over hot crust

Directions -
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ (or 9″) square pan.
Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and sugar for the crust.
When it resembles crumbs, dump it into the greased pan.
Press the crumbs down until they are even. I use the bottom of a glass for this.
Bake the crust for 15 minutes. It will be very light in color.
b golden
While it is baking, mix the ingredients for the topping together in the same bowl.
Stir in the rhubarb last.
Pour the mixture over the hot crust and bake another 25 minutes.
This time the color will be golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream.
It will still be wonderful served cold, but warm is best.delicious

Mom’s Easy Pork Chops

My parents

My parents

My mother hated to cook. But she had eight daughters and a husband who liked regular meals, so you can see what a pickle she was in. She cultivated a rotation of meals that she could make without consulting a cookbook – or the stars. Some of them she found in the Peg Bracken “I Hate to Cook Book.” Others were trial and error. Or just error and error. The worst was called “family steak” and was a big slab of cow. I knew I would be sitting at the table a long time when we had family steak – or at least until I could coax Gunther, our German Shepherd to rescue me by eating the scraps I “dropped” into my lap.

However, the pork chops were much tastier, so I added them to my repertoire. Last week the hubby and I took my now widowed Dad up to his cabin deep in the woods of Wisconsin, tick capital of the world. Since it rained four out of five days, and there was no television, computer, wifi or phone, I cooked – and cooked. And then did dishes and cooked some more. Because I was in Mom’s kitchen, I made one of her recipes. Sorry I didn’t take a picture, but we were roughing it.

Mom’s Easy Pork Chops
4 pork chops
1 jar Ragu or favorite Italian sauce
1 onion – sliced
1 cup white rice (brown won’t work)
salt and pepper

Rub the chops with the salt and pepper and place in a 9 x 13 cake pan or something similar.
Place the onions over the chops.
Pour the sauce over the onions and pork chops.
Sprinkle the white rice into places where the sauce has puddled. Don’t leave naked rice on top of chops or it won’t cook.

Bake at 300 degrees F for about an hour. Make a salad and you are set!

So easy! I could feel Mom smiling down on us.

Easy Updated Breakfast Casserole

Ah weekends – time to relax, read, nap, ride bicycles, walk, pursue a hobby or catch a movie. Right?
Who am I kidding?

This is the time to clean and maintain our castles and stock the pantries with food. Hardly relaxing.
But wouldn’t it be nice to start with a good breakfast? If you are like me, weekends are the only time you really enjoy breakfast. Something besides my usual oatmeal or smoothie.

This is a new twist on a breakfast casserole I used to make years ago.

perfect breakfast

perfect breakfast

The difference is that I used to layer whole wheat bread in the bottom and along the sides. And getting the triangle of toast to sit still during baking was always an issue.

Now that several family members are sensitive to gluten (bread), I’ve swapped out shredded potatoes. I don’t have to balance them along the side of the pan and they are beloved by everyone in my family.(However, in the interest of full disclose, Vegans should now stop reading.) I found a variety in the store called Mr. Dell’s that have nothing but potatoes with a few onions and peppers. No preservatives. Personally, they’re a little short on the onions, but you can remedy that.
b line pan with potatoes
I make this up the night before, but you don’t have to. It helps the potatoes to thaw and decreases baking time. I have learned that it’s best to let the food spread out, so I use either an 8″ square pan or an 9″ x 13″ cake pan (for 8 eggs and a bit more milk and cheese.)

This would be perfect for Mother’s Day. Even if you are the mom and the cook, all you’ll have to do is bake it in the morning.
brown sausage
First, a word about the meat. Yes you can skip it. However, I have made it with Italian sausage, bacon and ground sausage. All with great results. Just make certain the meat is fully cooked before you put this together. Oh yes, I added chopped mushrooms to the ground sausage for this one and cooked them together, then drained the fat off.

Ingredients for Layered Breakfast Casserole
Butter to grease the pan
2 cups shredded potatoes (I use frozen)
12 oz cooked sausage or bacon crumbled, or kielbasa chopped into bite sizes
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
1 cup chopped spinach
Optional – frozen onions and peppers
6-8 eggs (remember to use a larger pan if you use 8 eggs)
1/2 cup milk of choice (almond milk works just as well.)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp white pepper (or black pepper if you prefer)
2 cups shredded cheese – I use Gouda or Cheddar or a mixture
b sprinkle spinach
Butter your pan on the bottom and sides.
Dump in the potatoes evenly over the bottom.
Sprinkle optional onions and peppers if you choose.
Sprinkle spinach.
In a bowl, crack the eggs and whisk with the milk and spices.
Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Do not stir.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and again, do not stir in.
egg over all
Cover with foil and leave overnight. You can bake right away, but it’s nice to have it all ready in the morning, so we pretend we are people of leisure.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F,
Bake covered about 20 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue baking until the eggs are set – another 15 – 20 minutes.
cheese on top
Meanwhile you can sit and sip tea and work the crossword puzzles.
Oh if there is any left, warm it in the microwave the next day or so. Delicious once again.
Mothers everywhere – you are welcome!and done

Spring Vegetable Medley

veggies on platterMedley – another name for “Hodgepodge” or “Motley” but far more polite. Hodgepodge sounds as if I dug in the back of the bottom shelf of the fridge and threw together whatever I found (which I did). Motley sounds as if they might not get along with each other, which wasn’t true. So I named this yummy side dish a medley. Sounds harmonious, melodious – and delicious, which it was. Spring Vegetable Medley – you can almost imagine the asparagus holding hands with the Brussels and dancing around the onion.

If you follow this blog, you know that I love Brussels sprouts. I have learned that if you boil them for just a minute you remove some of the bitterness. So do this before you cut them up. And before you stir fry them.

I’ve paired the bulging Brussels with spring asparagus and sweet onion. Simple. Nutritious. Almost vegetarianous. OR NOT. I turned to the dark side. Here in Iowa we love our bacon. The first time I made this I added the bacon in with the vegetables and they turned soggy. So this time, I cooked it first and set it aside. Much better.
bacon resting
Tip for cooking bacon: Take the package of bacon right out of the freezer and cut it across the rows into 1″ strips. Toss into a frying pan on medium-high heat. Stir away and the little pieces will separate themselves. You also won’t have to carefully pull each bacon strip away from the pack into the pan. This is faster and even the fatty pieces get brown and crispy. Use a bit as garnish and then store in the fridge for tossing on a salad or into eggs.
Ingredients for Spring Vegetable Medley
1 pound Brussels sprouts – washed and sliced
½ pound asparagus – cut into small pieces
½ sweet onion – diced
1 tbsp. butter or oil of choice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove crushed garlic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional – Bacon pieces for garnish
boil brussel sproutsDirections
Boil sprouts for one minute, then slice.
Cut off bottom 1/3 of asparagus and pitch or put into stock pot. Cut the rest into small pieces
Dice ½ of a sweet onion. (Store the rest in the freezer for next time.)
If you are using bacon, fry that first and remove from pan.
Clean pan and add whatever fat you are using.
Add onions first and let them caramelize for 4-5 minutes on medium-low heat.
chopped sproutsAdd Brussels and asparagus and the seasonings.
Stir fry about one minute.
b medley
Garnish with bacon, if you like. Sunflower seeds would work too.
Spring Vegetable Medley went together quickly and was just as good the next day warmed up for lunch.