muffins

fresh rhubarb from our garden

Rhubarb Season!

When we first changed over pretty much our entire, limited backyard space into a raised bed garden about four years ago, two of our first choices for what to plant in the new garden were asparagus and rhubarb.  Both of these plants are perennial and take several years to become established in your garden before you can begin harvesting from them.  So we knew that we needed to plan ahead and get started right away if we wanted to eventually enjoy fresh asparagus and rhubarb from our garden.  After watching the plants grow and expand for the first two seasons (if you start them from seeds, you need to wait an additional year but we weren’t that patient!), we were finally able to cut off the first asparagus and rhubarb stalks last year.  Woohoo!  Super exciting!  (It’s the little things, right?)  In the meantime, we had been getting a good supply of rhubarb from both our CSA and from my grandma’s garden in Western PA.  So I already had lots of ideas about what to do with the rhubarb once I got it into the kitchen.  But, just in case you don’t have a pile of rhubarb recipes hanging around your kitchen…or you want some new ones to try this year….read on….

 

So what do you do with rhubarb anyway?  (For starters, don’t eat the leaves.  They are poisonous!)  I feel like rhubarb is one of those foods where you either love it or hate it.  I happen to love it.  But I admit that it has a very tart flavor that usually needs to be combined with something sweet to balance out the flavors.  If you’ve seen rhubarb at the grocery store or farmer’s market and wondered what in the world it could be used for…here are four of my favorite ways to use rhubarb in a recipe at this time of year.  Also, since rhubarb is only in season for a small percentage of the year, I usually take all that I can get and then chop up the extra and freeze it in quart-size Ziploc bags so that I can pull it out of the freezer and use it all year long in muffin or dessert recipes. 

 

Rhubarb Muffins: A classic favorite in our house.  (I actually have about four different rhubarb muffin recipes that I like to make so it was difficult to narrow it down to just one for this post!)

 

Rhubarb Sauce: Similar to applesauce but a bit more tart so it helps to serve it with something sweet, such as with ice cream for dessert or maybe in your oatmeal for breakfast with some sliced strawberries.  It comes from one of my all-time favorite seasonal cookbooks: Simply in Season, by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.  Also, this is another great example of a way to preserve your rhubarb for later in the year because it freezes very well.

 

Rhubarb Mint Iced Tea: A simple, refreshing recipe to make and keep in your fridge for when you want to cool down and relax after digging in the garden under the hot sun all afternoon.  Rhubarb is very high in vitamin C so you can consider this a yummy way to take your vitamins and stay healthy!

 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sangria: If you needed a reason to throw an early summer party or are looking for a recipe to make and bring to a Memorial Day party this weekend – here it is!  You have to try this recipe!

 

That’s it for now…I could have kept posting rhubarb recipes all day but I thought it best to control the madness.  If you have a favorite rhubarb recipe that is not included here, please share the love! 

I hope you enjoy this beautiful, rejuvenating time of year and try a new recipe or two!

 

Rhubarb Muffins
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  2. ¾ cup ground flax
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  7. 1 egg, beaten
  8. 1 cup yogurt
  9. ½-3/4 cup honey*
  10. ¼ cup applesauce
  11. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  12. 1 ½ cups rhubarb (fresh or frozen**), diced
  13. ½ cup nuts (pecans or walnuts), toasted and chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, add the wet ingredients (egg through vanilla) and whisk together. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in rhubarb and nuts. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups or liners.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *Sometimes I heat up the honey a bit first to allow it to flow more freely and combine better with the other wet ingredients.
  2. **If you are using frozen rhubarb, allow to thaw first and drain any excess liquid.
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Rhubarb Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups rhubarb
  2. ½ cup honey
  3. 1 Tablespoon tapioca
  4. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Let stand for 10 minutes or until some juice forms. Heat slowly to boiling. Cool and serve or store in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use.
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Rhubarb Mint Iced Tea
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Ingredients
  1. 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 3-inch lengths
  2. 8 cups water
  3. 1/3 cup honey
  4. 8 large sprigs mint, plus extra for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add mint sprigs and simmer for another 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and stir in honey to dissolve. Allow to cool. Serve over ice with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!
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Strawberry-Rhubarb Sangria
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup honey or maple syrup
  2. ½ cup water
  3. 2 rhubarb stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces
  4. ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  5. 1 orange, halved and sliced
  6. 2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  7. 1 bottle (750 ml) chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, combine honey or maple syrup with water. Bring to a boil and add rhubarb. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. (Transfer to a heatproof bowl, if necessary, to cool faster.)
  2. Meanwhile, in a pitcher or large bowl, combine orange juice, orange slices, and strawberries. To serve, add cooled rhubarb mixture, sparkling wine, and ice. Enjoy!
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homemade blueberry muffins and blueberry iced tea

Blueberry Season!

We LOVE blueberries in our family!  In fact, our boys eat so many blueberries at a time that my grandmother often teases them that their noses are turning blue.  When they were younger, that would actually send them running to the bathroom mirror to see if their nose was in fact a crazy shade of blue!  I grew up picking blueberries every summer at my grandparents’ house and at my aunt and uncle’s blueberry farm.  I enjoy eating blueberries by the handful, as well as in everything from oatmeal and muffins to pies and yogurt.  The past few years, we have been lucky enough to receive cartons of blueberries each summer from my parents who had about ten blueberry bushes in their backyard and had more berries than they could eat.  Now that they have moved to be closer to us (well, closer to their grandkids, really…who are we kidding?) we are working on growing some cuttings from their old house into blueberry bushes of our own

In the meantime, I found a fabulous local farm that sells pick-your-own blueberries for $1.50/lb!  So the boys and I (with the help of my mom on one of the trips) spent a couple of mornings picking blueberries at this farm with the intention of freezing most of them for colder weather and using the rest in recipes.  Of course, bucketloads of the blueberries never made it past the waiting mouths of my three hungry boys but, in my eyes, that is a perfectly acceptable exchange for their helpful hands at the blueberry farm and in the kitchen!  Besides, as one other mother of four older children mentioned to me across the branches of a blueberry bush laden with berries, by the time they reach the ages of 10 or 12, they will be out-picking (and out-eating) me and all of these summer trips to pick-your-own farms will have paid off! 

Speaking of blueberry picking, my parents came up with a brilliant idea for hands-free blueberry collecting, meaning that you have two hands free for faster picking.  We took empty plastic milk jugs and cut a large whole in the top, leaving the handle intact on the side.  Then we put a belt through the handle and buckled the belt around our waist (belt loops not necessary).  The novelty of the invention was enough to interest the kids and they all picked more than ever before! 

ready for blueberry picking!

ready for blueberry picking!

So, on our second trip to the blueberry farm, the boys and I were chatting as we were picking and I asked them if there was anything special they would like to do with the blueberries that were filling up their milk jugs.  Our oldest son told me that he would like to make some blueberry muffins that are safe for him to eat (we recently found out that he is allergic to wheat and dairy).  Our middle son told me that he would like to make blueberry tea.  Hmmm…blueberry tea?  Well, you may have heard of this before but, in all my years of trying new and different recipes, I had never before made or seen a recipe for blueberry tea.  But I assured him that I would find a recipe (thank goodness for the Internet!) and that we would make blueberry tea together with his blueberries.  Our youngest son never stopped shoving blueberries in his mouth long enough to give me an answer to my question.  Ah well, two out of three is not bad!  And besides, two years old is the magical age where they still believe you when you tell them that their nose is turning blue!

I’m happy to say that we did indeed come up with a way to make wheat-free, dairy-free blueberry muffins, as well as a delicious homemade blueberry iced tea.  Below are both of the yummy recipes, as well as a short video of our oldest son enjoying his tea and muffin.  I love blueberry season!!

 

Blueberry Muffins
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 c gluten-free flour (or you could use all wheat flour)
  2. 1 cup oat flour (or you could use all wheat flour)
  3. 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  4. 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 9 Tablespoons ground flax
  8. 3/4 cup honey
  9. 2 cups yogurt (we used coconut yogurt)
  10. 1/2 cup milk (we used rice milk)
  11. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  12. 1 large egg
  13. 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine the flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground flax in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. In a separate bowl, combine the honey, yogurt, milk, vanilla, and egg, stirring with the whisk. Add this liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until moist. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon into muffin cups. (We use the silicone muffin cups but, otherwise, you may need to grease your pans first. If you are making this recipe dairy-free, you can use coconut oil, olive oil, or lard to grease the pans in place of butter.)
  3. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes and remove to cool completely on a wire rack. (Or eat them while they are still warm like we did!)
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Blueberry Iced Tea
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Ingredients
  1. 12 large sprigs of mint
  2. 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen)
  3. 1/2 cup honey
  4. 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Boil 6 cups of water in a large saucepan. Turn off heat and add the mint. Cover and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Remove mint. Place 1 cup of the tea in a blender along with the blueberries. Puree and then strain the mixture back into the rest of the tea through a fine mesh strainer. Stir in the honey until dissolved. Add the fresh lemon juice. Serve over ice cubes with a slice of lemon. (Or you could go a step further and freeze a small slice of lemon in your ice cube trays along with the water and then serve the tea over a lemon-flavored ice cube. Yum!)
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