spring

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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April snow showers

April Snow Showers

Spring is (supposedly) in full swing now, even though it is snowing outside as I type this post (does this sound familiar?).  I had the opportunity to attend a Native American storytelling session at my son’s kindergarten class this past week and one of the stories was about the annual battle between Old Man Winter and Young Man Spring.  The moral of the story was that these two mythical creatures have a hard-fought battle at this time every year and, although we never know how long the battle will last, we do know that Young Man Spring will always eventually defeat Old Man Winter.  This year, it seemed that Young Man Spring was set to have an early win back in March.  But, right about now, it is apparent that Old Man Winter is fighting hard and holding on longer than usual.  Come on, Spring!  We are all routing for you down here under this blanket of snow!  Don’t let us down!

 

But, regardless of April snow showers, our little homestead is marching forward with our annual spring activities, as well as a new one for us – baby chicks! 

baby Barred Plymouth Rock chicks

We have had layer chickens (Rhode Island Reds from a local place called Moyers Chicks) for the past 4 years but we have always gotten them as pullets, which are like teenage chickens – typically about 18-20 weeks old at the time you get them and should start laying eggs within the next 4-6 weeks after arrival.  While that has worked out well in the past, we thought it might be fun to try something new this year.  So we went online to a website called mypetchicken.com and ordered 9 female chicks of the Barred Plymouth Rock breed to be delivered to us in the mail when they were only one day old.  This particular breed is known to be tolerant of the cold weather and fairly docile around little humans and also a productive egg layer.  Perfect for us!  Also, they are super cute!  Right now, they look like little black fluff balls and will grow up to be pretty good looking as well, with a black and white checkered look.  So we have the 9 of those little gals set up in a cardboard box in the living room for now – with access to chick starter feed and water, and a heat lamp to keep it at about 95 degrees. (And I’d just like to point out that these new additions to our flock bring the female-to-male ratio on our homestead up to 23-to-5.  Yay for the girls!  If only one of the other females around here were interested in curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine and talking through our problems together…)

 

In addition to the baby chicks, the kids are also keeping a close eye on their Easter caterpillars that have gorged themselves for the past 2 weeks and are now all tucked away in their chrysalis and awaiting the moment when they will emerge as beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. 

painted lady caterpillars in chrysalis form

 

Another fun spring activity is planting seeds that will eventually be transferred outside when (if?) it ever gets warm enough to support plant life!  This year, the kids planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, basil, and parsley and have been monitoring the tiny plots of soil daily to check the soil for water and to thin out the sprouts as they overcrowd the egg cartons where they are growing and competing for water and sunshine.  They also helped Joe to plant a bunch of flower seeds indoors in the hopes that we can transfer them outside and attract more beneficial pollinators to our little corner of the woods. 

 April 2016 sowing flower seeds indoors

 

Lastly, we bred the rabbits on March 16 and so are expecting two kits of bunnies to arrive around April 15.  Hopefully we will have news of them soon.  I don’t know about you but I find this time of year so exciting and encouraging when I look around to hunt for signs of spring and new life and am happily rewarded with splashes of color in our otherwise drab and dreary looking forest and the sound of songbirds returning to the trees and the anticipation of new babies on the way!  Life is good!