Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

I’m ahead of my usual backwards curve this year. “Not with The Messy Apron!” you cry in outrage. “You’re hardly posting at all!” Well, you’re correct on that one, smarty pants, but I’m doing all right with my garden. I’ve got pretty much all of the seeds and plants that I planned to plant in the ground. Now, I have to wait for something to happen, however, which isn’t my strong suit.

But I never have to wait for rhubarb. In fact, I don’t have to do anything at all for rhubarb. I didn’t even have to plant the stuff. It came with the house and yard. An upper Midwestern property bonus that’s so ubiquitous, it’s like the Combat game cartridge that came with every Atari 2600. (Yes, I’m that old.)

Anyway, I have lots of rhubarb, and I’ve had it for most of the month of May, and I could be really lazy and yet, there it still was. The only effort involves going into the back yard with a chef’s knife and whacking off a few stalks to turn into dessert.

And this is a delicious rhubarb dessert. It’s a crisp (or a crumble if you prefer) with graham crackers in the crust. I added strawberries to mine because I happened to have some decent ones on hand, but it could be all rhubarb and still be great. The topping is thick and fairly sweet, which contrasts with the juicy filling both in flavor and texture. Since rhubarb is very sour, I like the extra sweetness, and since rhubarb bakes up quite soft and syrupy in a filling, I like the crispy crust to provide satisfying crunch as well as soak up some of the juice.

The graham crackers in the topping are what made me try this variation on a fairly classic spring dessert. The original recipe had breadcrumbs with the graham crackers, which is rather old fashioned (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I replaced them with oats (old fashioned oats as a matter of fact.) I liked the wholesome heartiness they provide. And, it seems I’m putting oats in just about everything else these days (take these muffins for instance). Good for me, I suppose.

I really like this sweet and tart dessert, especially served a bit warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream just beginning to melt into it. You could certainly play around with both the filling and the topping, swapping different fruits for the strawberries, or going with straight rhubarb, and different grains, flours, or nuts into the crust. This newly arrived season of fruit desserts promises to be quite delicious! Especially with the added bonus of effortless rhubarb.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Graham Cracker Topping
Based on a recipe in Midwest Living magazine

The strawberries are optional in this recipe. You could replace them with 2 cups additional rhubarb.

For the topping:
5 graham crackers
¾ cup chopped pecans
1 cup regular oats
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup melted unsalted butter

For the filling:
4 cups chopped fresh (or frozen) rhubarb
2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter or spray with cooking spray a 2-quart casserole dish. Set aside.

2. To make the topping: place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor. Process to coarse crumbs. Add the pecans, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pulse to combine. Pour in the melted butter and pulse until well moistened and crumbly. Set aside.

3. To make the filling: in a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, cornstarch and granulated sugar. Toss together until the fruit is well and evenly coated with the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into the prepared casserole dish.

4. Cover the fruit with the graham cracker mixture, spreading it evenly over the top.

5. Bake at 375 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is browned and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack about 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes about 6 servings.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Well, I really didn’t intend to be away for two months. I suppose I could give you a bunch of lame excuses, but what does it matter. There were muffins. Muffins are good.

I made these so long ago that I can’t remember for sure why I chose to put oatmeal in blueberry muffins. I think I wanted oatmeal muffins, but I also wanted simple blueberry muffins. Sometimes compromise is so good, I wonder why everybody in the world doesn’t do it all the time!

These muffins are moist and dense without being heavy. The blueberries give what they always give to muffins: a burst of juicy fruitiness. The oatmeal tastes hearty and wholesome, and gives the muffins a less cake-like texture than they would have with flour alone. The muffins really were like portable breakfast, and a halfway healthy one at that.

I’d like to promise that I’ll be here more often in the months to come. I’ve promised myself that very thing, and if I can put together some recipes that are as simple and delicious as this one, it should be easy to keep that promise. Wish me luck with that!

Coming soon: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Cheesy Spring Vegetable and Noodle Casserole

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Based on a recipe in The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

1 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup regular rolled oats
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with cupcake liners. Set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the 1 tablespoon flour and blueberries. Toss to coat. Set aside.

3. Combine the 1 ¼ cup flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.

4. In another medium-size bowl, combine the egg and the melted butter. Whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the yogurt, milk and vanilla extract.

5. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Gently stir in the flour-coated blueberries.

6. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin pan. Bake at 400 F about 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.

7. Cool the muffins in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let stand until cool enough to eat. Keep leftovers in an airtight container or wrap well and freeze.

Makes 12 muffins

Another recipe like this one: Blueberry Coconut Muffins