Whole Wheat Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

Rhubarb--just pickedI love strawberry-rhubarb anything.  As a Midwesterner, I know that’s a bit of a cliché. My New York City friends used to tease me about my folksy, Midwestern origins when, in an unguarded moment, I’d blurt out something like “Oh, don’t you wish we could eat some strawberry-rhubarb cobbler right now?!” “Oh yeah, gee whiz, that does sound mighty good,” they’d respond in their best Lake Wobegone accent.  But I can’t apologize.  People who live in USDA growing zone 7, don’t own a snow shovel, and take runs in Central Park in April wearing shorts, how can these people truly appreciate summer? As special as Christmas or Thanksgiving, summer for us in the Great Lakes IS A HOLIDAY—all 8 weeks of it; and as with all holidays, our summer has certain traditional, celebratory foods.

Strawberry-rhubarb cobbler is just the first of many in a parade of seasonal classics like corn on the cob, BLT’s, and brats on the grill.  When that sweet berry and the tart stem reach ripe perfection at the precisely the same time, you know summer has arrived.  Because Wisconsin has had a slow, wet and cold start to the season, you can still find plenty of strawberry and rhubarb at the farmers market.  Even if you don’t have time to bake a cobbler this weekend, buy the rhubarb and strawberries before time runs out.  It takes very little time to freeze these fruits, and then you can enjoy them even in the dead of winter.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler--plate

Wholesome, simple, sweet-tooth satisfying, America perfected rustic baked fruit desserts like cobbler.  It remains one of our few positive contributions to the global banquet.

Feel free to substitute other berries or fruits as they come into season; blueberry, peach and apple are classics.  Likewise the strawberry-rhubarb can be baked with a crisp topping with equally delicious results.  Check out Apple Crisp for the crisp topping recipe.Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler--dish

Whole Wheat Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: America
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: about 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB FILLING
  • 3 pints strawberries (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1 lbs. rhubarb thinly chopped (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • BISCUIT DOUGH COBBLER TOPPING
  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 ½ t baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 6 T cold butter cut into small chunks
  • ⅔ cup half & half or cream
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • BISCUIT DOUGH GLAZE
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 T half & half
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375◦ F.
  2. Butter an 8 or 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish (2 quart capacity).
  3. Mix the strawberry-rhubarb filling together and place in the bottom of the greased baking dish.
  4. Prepare the biscuit dough by first mixing the dry ingredients—flour, 3 T sugar, baking powder and salt.
  5. Next, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or using the food processor until it has a mealy texture.
  6. Combine the half & half with the vanilla and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir gently until just combined. DO NOT OVER STIR OR IT WILL BECOME TOUGH.
  7. Liberally flour a counter surface and pat dough out to ¼ inch thick with your hands.
  8. Use a knife or cookie cutters to cut into desired shapes like circles, triangles or stars. To make a lattice, cut into long strips and weave. The dough is sticky and easily breaks. Don’t worry over it; just cobble it together.
  9. Place the dough on top of the fruit filling. Do not completely cover the fruit or steam will not escape.
  10. Brush dough with half & half and sprinkle with sugar.
  11. Bake for about 45 minutes and allow to cool 15 minutes before serving with a side of whip cream or vanilla ice cream.

IMG_5127

Cooking with Kids:  My kids love to cut up produce.  They take this responsibility seriously and they should.  I’ve given them a knife!!  In this recipe,  I put them to work taking the stems off the strawberries.  If your little ones are between 4 – 11 years old, give them un-pointy steak knives and start teaching them very basic knife skills–especially tucking in the fingers that hold the fruit on the left hand (also known as the bear or tiger claw). Check out this video from the Rhyming Chef to see an entertaining demonstration. The steak knives can also cut the more tender stalks of rhubarb.  If you have lots of rhubarb to cut, have the kids do it in the food processor–loud noise, buttons to push, my kids never say no to helping with the food processor.  Un-fussy desserts like cobbler don’t require absolute precision so let the kids measure and teach them about fractions and measuring tools while you work.  They also love to stir the batter but don’t let them stir too much or the cobbler might turn out a bit tough.Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler--the girls eager to eat

Tips and Food Safety: If you have a sunny patch of land available, plant some rhubarb.  This perennial comes back year after year and adds beauty to the landscape with ruby red stems and elephant-ear sized leaves in deep green. Once you do have a patch of rhubarb, DON’T EAT THE LEAVES. They contain oxalic acid and other toxins. The stem, on the other hand, may be enjoyed anytime of the year not just spring—stems never contain toxins.

Peanut Butter & Jam Breakfast Bars

If it weren’t for peanut butter, I might not have made it past 5 feet.  As a notorious fussy eater, I engaged in a 15 year eating jag consuming a daily peanut butter-jam sandwich for lunch from toddlerhood until college. I found most other healthy foods revolting.  My mother looks for audiences to share the stories which best illustrate my former fussy self, but only if I am also a member of the audience—like the time I made a spectacle of gagging on ham at a formal dinner or the time I scraped half-eaten stew back into the pot at our pastor’s home before anyone could stop me.

She must find it particularly galling that I later became not only an adventurous eater but also a nutrition and culinary educator who teaches parents how to raise healthy eaters.  So I  submit to her small revenge, and not a Mother’s Day passes when I don’t sincerely apologize for these childhood transgressions.  She says she forgives but clearly she doesn’t forget.

Peanut butter spared me a lifetime of short jokes and step-stool fetching.  Perhaps because of this, my love affair with this supreme legume continues. So when I began thinking of a DIY breakfast bar to avoid buying the exorbitantly priced “all-natural” ones at the supermarket, my thoughts turned to peanut butter. Jam made the short list too not only for the classic taste combination but also to clear my pantry of it’s jam surplus.  (Jam making season is around the corner though in Wisconsin it doesn’t feel like it.)

Peanut Butter & Jam Breakfast BarsThis recipe is dead simple, contains wholesome and nutritious ingredients (mind you, I didn’t say low-calorie) including, of course, peanut butter–that protein-rich legume chock-full of heart healthy fats.  So enjoy! You just saved 5 bucks as you passed the breakfast bar aisle at the supermarket, and now it’s… peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time.

Peanut Butter & Jam Breakfast Bars
Author: 
Recipe type: Baked Treats
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 20 bars
 
This makes a tasty breakfast bar or mid-day snack. Each square is about 90 calories, the same as store-bought varieties but at a fraction of the cost and multiple times better. Soy butter makes a fine substitute for the peanut allergic.
Ingredients
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ t kosher salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¼ cup quick oats
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ cup 100% all natural peanut butter (no palm oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup jam or jelly
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350◦F. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” pan.
  2. In an up-right mixer or using a fork, mix the first 5 ingredients together (butter, sugar, oats, flour, salt).
  3. Remove 1 cup (loosely packed) of the combined ingredients and set aside—this will be the crumble topping.
  4. Now add the remaining 5 ingredients (baking powder, oats, flour, peanut butter, and egg) and thoroughly mix together.
  5. Pat the dough into the 8 x8 pan.
  6. Spread the jam evenly on top of the dough, careful not to touch the edge of the pan with the jam as it will burn.
  7. Evenly sprinkle the reserve crumble topping over the jam.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into 20 even pieces.

Cooking with Kids:  Simple baking projects like this can and should be entirely executed by the kids.  Have them do the measuring and mixing.  Take the time to teach them about fractions while you work.

Storing:  Double or even triple the recipe, bake it, and store the surplus in the freezer.  It doesn’t take much more time, and now you have a supply of wholesome breakfast bars to last the next couple of weeks.

.

 

Whole Grain Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp--ServedI easily succumb to the temptation of sweet treats particularly baked goods.  My daughters share this weakness, though they naturally gravitate to candy.   My husband is the exception, and despite his relentless admonishments, we eat a sweet treat nearly every night after dinner—not a lot but something.  The meal just doesn’t feel complete without it.

Though I love bakery treats, I have limited talent for the art of baking, and that is purposeful. As a limited resource, I have only so much time to dedicate to cooking.  If I’m doing my best to create whole-food, plant-based meals every day that are not only healthy but enjoyable to eat, well then sweet treats have to take a backseat. Moreover, let’s say that I did regularly bake.  Who would eat it?  Not my children.  I am a responsible parent, and would limit their intake.  Not my sweet-toothless husband.  That leaves me, standing alone in my pantry, quietly cramming cookies in my mouth while my children call out, “What are you doing in there, Mama?”  I’ve been down that road to Weight Watchers more than once.

When I do find the time to make desserts, I incorporate the foods we need for good health too—fruits, legumes and whole grains.  I don’t delude myself.  Even though they they are made with whole foods, they remain desserts—hard-to-resist, calorie-dense, goodies made with butter and sugar.  Eating a lot of them will make you fat.

Some of you may poo-poo my sweet treat philosophy.  You’re thinking, “Just let cake be cake, and healthy foods be damned at dessert-time.”  But cake is too easy to come by, and I eat enough of it without going out of my way.   My own cooking efforts have to go toward the goal of including at least 8 – 12 serving of fruits and vegetables in our diet every day. This adds a challenging new dimension to the art of creating sweet treats. While I want them to be healthy, taste is essential. Nothing leaves me feeling more cheated than eating a grainy, tasteless food masquerading as a sweet treat.

Fruit is a natural solution.  It’s nature’s candy. I make apple crisp a lot and have for years.  The prep work takes only a few minutes with the right tools, it’s chock full of apples, and no-one feels cheated when served a warm, fresh from-the-oven helping of apple crisp topped with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple Crisp
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8
 
Pears, peaches, and cherries also work nicely in this recipe. Serve it with a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ pounds apples, cored and peeled
  • 1 T lemon juice (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Lightly butter an 11” x 7” (8 cup) baking dish and preheat oven to 375◦ F.
  2. Core and peel the apples; toss with lemon juice and dried fruit; and place in the baking dish.
  3. Cut the butter into small chunks.
  4. Using a food processor or fork or hands, cut the butter into the rest of the dry ingredients until it is just combined. (It should look lumpy and crumbly).
  5. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the apples and bake until the apples are tender and the crisp is crisp—about 50 minutes.

Cooking with Kids:

Apple Crisp Prep--Pealing Apples

This may be one of the easiest, no-fuss, no-danger recipes to make with your kids.  Invest in an apple peeler if you don’t have one.  Kids never tire of using that gadget.

Officially, to make the crumble, you should not use your hands to cut the butter into the dry ingredients as the heat from your hands will melt the butter. I ignore this rule as the kids love to use their hands. Just don’t let them do it for too long and start with ice cold butter. I haven’t noticed any difference in crisp mixed with a fork or hands.

Apple Crisp Ingredients--All   Apple Crisp Ingredients--ButterApple Crisp Prep--Nutmeg2

The girls made this recipe with me just supervising and setting up.

Apple Crisp Prep--Making Topping

Apple Crisp--Before Baking

The crisp before placing it in the oven.

 

 

 

Sweet & Savory Whole Wheat Crepes

I love crepes.  Versatile, elegant, and quick, they can be used for breakfast, dessert or dinner.

If you make them with whole grains, (and you all know my point of view on whole grains), they are not only delicious but good for you.

Sweet & Savory Whole Wheat Crepes
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish, Breakfast, or Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 10 crepes
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 T butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Additional butter for skillet
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender; pulse for 5 seconds until blended; allow batter to rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 48 hours. (This is important if you want a crepe with a silky texture).
  2. Heat a 10-inch Teflon non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and grease with a bit of butter. Ladle about ¼ cup of batter in the hot pan and swirl until the bottom is thinly and evenly coated. Cook until the batter sets and the edges become golden—less than 1 minute. Flip and cook another 15 seconds. Lay on a rack. Repeat until all are cooked.
Notes
*Sweet Variation: Add 2 T sugar or honey *Savory Variation: Add ¼ t salt Preparation Tips: Only use whole wheat pastry flour. Bread flour or regular whole wheat flour will produce a tougher crepe. Flipping the crepe in the air is easier than using a spatula—try it. If you made your crepes in advance, wrap them in a damp paper towel and again in a tea towel and microwave briefly—about 2 seconds per crepe.

Storing: Stack crepes once they’ve cooled and store them in an air-tight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.  To freeze, stack them with wax paper between each crepe, and place them in an air-tight freezer bag in the freezer for up to 2 months

Stuffings and Toppings: The other half of the fun.  You don’t have to do much to make them tasty.  My children love to top them with a squirt of lemon followed with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Savory Ham & Spinach

Filling for savory or plain crepes       Yield: 3 cups

    • 1 T olive oil

    • 3 oz. ham, chopped

    • 1 small onion, chopped

    • 1clove garlic, minced

    • 6 – 8 cups chopped spinach

    • 1/2 cup grated cheese, try gouda, Swiss or gruyere

    • 1/4 cup chopped herbs like dill (optional)

    • 1/4 cup half & half or cream

    • Salt & pepper to taste

    • 6 – 8 plain or savory crepes for stuffing

Directions

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet.  Add onions, a little salt, and ham and sauté until onions are glassy.  Add garlic and sauté another minute.  Next add spinach and cook until barely wilted.  Add cream and grated cheese and continue to scook on medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.  Add pepper and more salt if needed.

To Assemble: Add about 1/2 cup to each crepe, roll and serve. Or place in a baking pan, cover with grated cheese and bake at 325 F for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Simple Strawberry Compote

Filling for sweet or plain crepes    Yield: 4 cups

  •  2 pints strawberries, sliced

  • 3 T sugar

  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

  • Garnish with whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce

Directions

In a sauce pan, add all ingredients and cook over medium heat until sauce thickens.  Ladle over crepe, garnish and serve.