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Lately, I have had a fun run of good luck in recipe contests. This recipe for SKILLET ROASTED SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER RED LENTIL PENNE took an honorable mention in the Explore Cuisine contest and this recipe, SALTED CHOCOLATE PEAR POUND CAKE, won the dessert category in USA Pears. Finally, my entry into the Coast Packing Company #lardlovers contest took a second place. Here is the recipe.

From Coast Packing: This Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake recipe, submitted by Lisa Keys of Kennett Square, Penn. took second place in our 3rd Annual #LardLovers Recipe Contest. The contest drew homegrown recipes — savory and sweet alike — from around the country. Her winning cake has a nice overall balance of sweet and tart. It is easy to make with readily accessible ingredients. And it can be made with or without a cast iron pan and still achieve great results!

Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake

  • ½ cup lard
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 5 fresh or frozen large strawberries, stemmed, sliced in half
  • 3 cups diced fresh rhubarb
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sweetened whipped cream

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F. In a 10-inch oven-safe skillet (I use cast iron), over low heat, melt ¼ cup of lard. Add ½ cup of brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon; mix and spread evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat. Place 5 strawberry halves, cut side up, around the center of the skillet. Place remaining strawberry halves around them toward the edge of the skillet. Sprinkle rhubarb evenly over the skillet. In large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and remaining ½ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; blend well. Melt remaining ¼ cup of lard and add it along with the buttermilk, egg and ½ teaspoon of vanilla to dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with an electric mixture until well mixed. Pour and spread batter evenly over fruit in skillet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. If cake is getting too brown then cover loosely with foil during last 5 minutes of baking time. Cool cake for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge and then inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish as desired.

I am so very grateful to the sponsors who run a good recipe contest with real food experts testing and mulling over the results. I just love being in the mix. I always feel quite lucky and proud to make the top 3.

Poppy Seed Cookies Transformation

Not long ago my friend, Steven, told me he was impressed by how I chose to transform my pain rather than transmit it. Not being the deep thinker that he is I have been reflecting on his comment ever since. The blog has certainly been a sacred space to share pain. A room built on grief, but filled with joy, peace and quiet. We are never not broken, but true strength and courage is never about wholeness. It is the ability to face the darkness, adapt and shine a positive light that honors the dear departed. How else could one celebrate a son so loved? 

Baking is a lot like grief. A process with good days and bad. A transformation through fire. A healthy annihilation of ingredients that are broken down and come back stronger. Love made edible…and that has made all the difference.

Today’s recipe celebrates a lovely mom named Linda. Her daughter, Lauren, took the time to privately correspond with me soon after finding the blog last month. Lauren’s letter certainly helps me understand what Steven was trying to tell me. Here is what she wrote: 

Dear Lisa, 

I came across your blog as I have also turned to cooking/baking as a therapeutic way to deal with grief. I lost my mother in January unexpectedly and tragically. My son (her only grandchild) was 8 months old at the time. It has been heartbreaking. I wept when reading that you lost your son (any mother’s greatest fear) but I am so inspired by your journey through grief and finding a healing path that involves celebrating his life through baking! 

I wanted to reach out and say thank you so much for sharing such a raw and vulnerable part of you. I know you have touched many lives through your work. 

Warmly,

Lauren
 

I wanted to know more about Lauren’s mom. In the words of her sweet daughter:

My mom shared joy and love through food, both cooking and baking. I will cherish memories of time spent in the kitchen together cooking up a feast for family and friends. I saved many of her cookbooks and kitchen items to remind me of her and to feel her presence with me when I cook/bake. 

Linda and her grandson

Yes, to feel her presence. Thank you, Lauren, for celebrating your mom on Good Grief Cook. It’s an honor to share one of her favorite recipes. Here is the precious recipe in Linda’s hand-writing. (If you follow the blog you know how much I treasure anything hand-written).

The cookie batter is very thin. I was worried, but the transformation works. These are perfectly crisp, slightly sweet and with lovely layers of flavor. Baking them to the darker golden brown is the way to a crispy cookie. Bake slightly less if you prefer to mold or transform them hot off the baking sheet. I used a level teaspoon for the small crisps and a level tablespoon for the dessert platter size.

Poppy Seed Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup ice water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon grated lemon rind

¼ cup poppy seeds

Heat oven 325F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. In bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, oil, water, vanilla, almond extract, lemon rind and poppy seeds; blend well. Drop by level teaspoons (small cookies) or level tablespoons (large cookies) on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2-inches apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a darker golden brown for crisp cookies. While cookies are warm, using a thin spatula, transfer them to a cooling rack. Makes about 5 to 6 dozen cookies.