Spring produce is becoming more and more plentiful as the weather gets warmer. Here are a few recipes using rhubarb, kale, spinach, arugula, cantaloupe, avocado, strawberries, and blueberries.

Spring produce is becoming more and more plentiful as the weather gets warmer. Here are a few recipes using rhubarb, kale, spinach, arugula, cantaloupe, avocado, strawberries, and blueberries.

Kale is a member of the cabbage family and is at its best in cooler weather; the season runs from October to spring. Choose dark firm leaves to cook with. It is packed with beta-carotene and other antioxidants. It goes well in salads, soups, casseroles, and cooked dishes, and may be prepared by itself with a little olive oil and lemon juice. For easy cooking preparation remove ribs, cut or tear into half-inch strips, boil for 20 minutes in salted water or chicken broth until tender and add 1-teaspoon lemon juice, if desired.

Rhubarb was always served in my home when I was young as a sign that spring was here. It is full of Vitamin C and E and works as a laxative if you eat a lot of it. When purchasing, choose firm bright red stalks, it also comes in other colors.  When cooking it add a little sugar to sweeten the taste. It goes well in sauces, tarts, pies, and/or just cooked plain with a little sugar. I like to combine it with strawberries or raspberries when making a sauce, tart or a pie.

Spring baby arugula has such a nice nutty and buttery taste to it and makes delicious salads. If the leaves are a little bitter combine them with baby spinach or Bibb lettuce leaves. A strawberry salad dressing is an excellent combination.



Arugula -Strawberry Salad with Feta Cheese

4        cups arugula, tear into bite size pieces, if baby arugula don’t tear up

2        cups baby spring spinach leaves, stems removed

1        pint fresh chilled strawberries, sliced lengthwise

½ (one half) cup dried cranberries

½ (one half) cup lightly toasted walnut pieces

½ (one half) cup Feta cheese, crumbled

Strawberry dressing

Strawberry Dressing

This recipe may be doubled.

8        strawberries, sliced and mascerated with sugar, mashed

2        teaspoons granulated sugar

1        tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl place sliced strawberries, sprinkle with granulated sugar, let sit for about 5 minutes. Mash with a potato masher, whisk together with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Chill.


In a large clear glass salad bowl toss together arugula, spinach, cranberries, walnuts and Feta cheese. When ready to serve top with strawberry slices then have each diner serve their own dressing.


Kale Salad

8        cups coarsely chopped kale, rib removed

½ (one third) cup shaved Parmesan cheese or grated cheese

1/3 (one third) cup sliced almonds, toasted

1        small Vidalia onion, thinly sliced into rings then cut in half

3        tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2        teaspoons lemon zest

¼ (one fourth) cup EVOO, olive oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large salad bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper, to taste, until well blended. Add kale and toss to coat. Add toasted almonds and Parmesan cheese, and sliced onion, toss together to mix well.

Shrimp with Bibb Lettuce, and Cantaloupe

Serves 2

12      ounces medium to large fresh shrimp, cooked and shelled

½ (one half) a ripe cantaloupe, seeded and cut into thin slices

½ (one half) seedless English cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise

6        tablespoons orange juice

4        tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

8        Bibb lettuce leaves, torn into 1-inch pieces

4        tablespoons toasted Pine nuts (optional)

Rinse off whole cantaloupe, pat dry with paper towels. Cut in half, seed and peel, slice into ½ (one half) inch slices.

Toss together in a large bowl shrimp, cucumber, Bibb lettuce pieces, and Pine nuts. On individual salad plates arrange cantaloupe slices like a fan, top with shrimp mixture. In a cup whisk together orange juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle over salads.


Baked Cherry Tomatoes with Spinach and Cheese

24      ounces cherry tomatoes or Campari tomatoes, cut in half crosswise

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

3        cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

¼ (one fourth) cup fresh flat parsley, chopped

1        tablespoon sweet dried basil

1        medium Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped

2-3     tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

1        cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

¼ (one fourth) cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour oil into a 9 x 13 inch broiler-proof baking dish. Add tomatoes and turn to coat with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss together with parsley, basil, spinach, and cheeses. Bake tomatoes until just plump and shiny, but not split, and cheese is a light golden brown about 8 to 10 minutes. Broil for 2 minutes to turn cheese a golden brown and tomatoes begin to split. Serve hot.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce over Cream Parfaits

Use wine glasses or parfait dishes for this recipe for a pretty presentation.  Serves 6


2        pints fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into ½ (one half ) inch slices, reserve 6                                 large strawberries for topping

4        stalks of fresh rhubarb, cut into ½ (one half) inch pieces

½ (one half) cup granulated sugar, more if desired for sweetness

2        teaspoons lemon or orange juice

¼ (one fourth) teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a saucepan combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, and lemon or orange juice. Cook over medium heat about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, bring to a slight boil, lower heat and simmer until fruit is almost dissolved. Stir in cinnamon and heat for 2 more minutes, then remove and set aside. Whisk fruit mixture, let cool then cover and refrigerate.

Cream Mixture

1 ½ (one and one half) cups heavy cream

¾ (three fourths) cup granulated sugar

1        8-ounce container sour cream

2        teaspoons vanilla extract

1        teaspoon almond extract (Optional)

1 ½ (one and one half) teaspoons unflavored gelatin

In a saucepan heat cream and sugar on medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside.

 In another small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over ½ (one half) cup cold water and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Heat over medium heat until gelatin dissolves stirring. Stir gelatin mixture into cream mixture. Transfer to a larger bowl, then stir in sour cream, almond extract, and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for about 1-hour.

Using 6 wine glasses or parfait dishes, divide cream mixture evenly among the glasses. Cover each one and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight until mixture is set. When ready to serve spoon rhubarb-strawberry sauce over top of each one and garnish with a sliced strawberry fanned out, sprinkle with a little sugar, if deisred.


Avocado Slices with Strawberries and Blueberries

Serves 4

2        large ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into ½ (one half) inch slices

2        teaspoons lemon or lime juice

1        pint fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into ½ (one half) inch slices

1        pint fresh blueberries

2        teaspoons granulated sugar

¼ (one fourth) cup fresh cilantro finely chopped


Poppy seed or Ranch salad dressing

On 4 individual salad plates in a fan shape place avocado slices around plates, using ½ (one half) avocado for each plate. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning. In a bowl toss together blueberries and sliced strawberries, toss together with 2 teaspoons granulated sugar and chopped cilantro. Divide evenly and spoon on top of avocado slices. Drizzle with salad dressing.

Poppy Seed Dressing and/or with Strawberries

1/3 (one third) cup granulated sugar

1/3 (one third) cup white vinegar

Pinch of salt

½ (one half) teaspoon onion powder

1        cup canola oil

1        tablespoon olive oil

1-2     tablespoons poppy seeds

6 strawberries (Optional)

In a blender combine sugar, vinegar, salt and onion powder, blend for 20 seconds. Gradually add oil in a slow steady stream and blend on high for 10 seconds. If desired add strawberries and blend. Stir in poppy seeds, cover and refrigerate.


Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler

1        cup all-purpose flour

3        tablespoons brown sugar

1 ½ (one and one half) teaspoons baking powder

½ (one half) teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ (one fourth) cup butter

¼ (one fourth) cup pecans, finely chopped

4        cups fresh rhubarb, cut into ½ (one half) inch pieces

3        cups fresh strawberries sliced into ½ (one half) inch slices

1        tablespoon lemon or orange juice

1        small green apple, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 ½ (one and one half) cups granulated sugar

1        tablespoon cornstarch

1        egg

¼ (one fourth) cup milk

Ice cream or whipped cream, for garnish


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, pecans, and cinnamon. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.


In a saucepan combine rhubarb, strawberries, apple, and 1 ½ (one and one half) cups sugar, cornstarch, lemon or orange juice, and ¼ (one fourth) cup water. Let stand for 10 minutes then cook on medium heat, stir and cook until thickened and bubbly. Keep filling hot.

In a small bowl whisk together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just to moisten.

Pour filling into a 2-quart casserole baking dish. Using a spoon drop topping into small mounds on top of filling.

Bake cobbler in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into topping comes out clean, may be served warm or chilled. Top with ice cream or whipped cream.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.


Topsail Senior Center Cookbook has arrived

The Topsail Center has published a very beautiful and interesting cookbook, Hook, Line and Topsail Seniors, with 300 delightful recipes, from appetizers to salads, entrees, seafood, and oh, so many delicious desserts.  The books are being sold for $10.00 at the Senior Center on Highway 17 with the proceeds going to the needy of the area.  They make wonderful gifts for Mother’s Day or any other occasion.

Enclosed in the cookbook are recipes from Former Governor Bev Perdue and Former NC House Representative Carolyn Justice, and there are a number of new recipes from Hope Cusick.  I have tried recipes from both of our guest submitters and they are very tasty and easy to make. — Hope