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Blooms and Spoons

Rhubarb Coconut Muffins

Blooms and SpoonsWe’re in that blustery part of spring here in Calgary — in the span of ten minutes, we can have rain, snow, hail, and brilliant sunshine. The jackrabbits are still caught between their winter white and warm-weather brown, and the early spring bulbs are just poking up out of the soil and readying themselves for their short, beautiful show. It’s a crazy, changeable time, but I always look forward to it. 

One of the very best parts of spring is when the rhubarb is ready for harvest, but I still have to be patient a little while longer and simply dream ... These Rhubarb Coconut Muffins are a great way to enjoy those tangy-tart stalks once they’re finally ready. 

Rhubarb Coconut Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with baking parchment cups. 

Mix together in one large bowl:

• 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon coconut extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• Pinch of salt

Fold in:

• 2 cups fresh chopped rhubarb

Pour into prepared tin.

Sprinkle with coconut sugar (as little or as much as you like, or omit entirely).

Bake for 25 minutes, or until done.

Rhubarb S

Spinach in Coconut Milk

Blooms and SpoonsWe're still fighting the bitter cold here in southern Alberta; it's been too nasty to get out and enjoy all the snow! This is definitely the time of year when a person craves a little comfort food, and this recipe hits the spot. Plus it's really quick to make, so it's a good choice if you're rushing to bring something to the table after a long day. It pairs nicely with baked chicken or fish or cooked lentils.

Spinach in Coconut Milk

1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add:

• 2 black cardamom pods
• 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 1/4 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped.

2. Heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add:

• 3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and torn in half
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 can coconut milk.

3. Stir. Cover the skillet with a lid. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for about 5 minutes, until spinach is wilted.

4. Remove the cardamom pods and discard.

5. Serve over hot cooked rice.

If you don’t like spinach, you could substitute Swiss chard (remove the ribs) or collard greens.

Spinach

Roasted Parsnips with Lovage Pesto

Blooms and SpoonsIt is frosty cold here in southern Alberta, and there is fresh snow on the ground!  I’m already thinking back with longing to the warm days of summer. The lovage is long finished here for the season, but some of you south of us may still have it growing like crazy in your garden. Here’s a good way to use up this robustly-flavored herb, paired with sweet, autumn parsnips.

Roasted Parsnips with Lovage Pesto

1. First, roast the parsnips. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a piece of baking parchment over a large baking sheet.

2. Wash, trim, and peel 5 or 6 medium parsnips, and slice into medallions on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle over with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

3. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and turn the parsnips over with a spatula. Return them to the oven and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender.

4. While the parsnips are roasting, prepare the pesto by blending the following ingredients together:

• 2-1/2 cups fresh lovage leaves, washed
• zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1 garlic clove (this is a lot of garlic, so if you don’t care for it, use less or omit)
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• pinch of salt
• 3 tablespoons chopped almonds or pine nuts, if desired
• olive oil — add just a bit to begin with, then add more as needed. The pesto should be thick but spreadable.

5. Spoon a small amount of pesto over the roasted parsnips and serve as a delicious side dish!

Fresh lovage herb

Pumpkin Pancakes

Blooms and SpoonsAt the risk of jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon — but, ‘tis the season! — I had a little bit of pumpkin puree left over from two batches of muffins I had baked. It was not enough to make more baked goods, but it was the perfect amount for these delicious fluffy pancakes.

Pumpkin Pancakes Recipe

Yield: 6 large pancakes

Ingredients:

• 3/4 cup millet flour
• 1/4 cup oat flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• pinch of salt
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
• 3/4 cup buttermilk

Instructions:

1. Mix all ingredients (in the order given) in a large batter bowl.

2. Pour batter in three batches of two cakes each onto a hot, oiled skillet. Cook cakes for 2 minutes per side.

3. Serve with your favorite toppings (like freshly whipped cream or a drizzle of homemade cranberry sauce!).

Pumpkin (2)

Green Beans With Chervil

Blooms and SpoonsBrrr … the mornings are getting brisk here in Calgary! We’ve been under a frost warning for the past couple of nights, and the vegetable garden is nearly finished for the year. One of my best performing herbs this gardening season has been chervil. If you’re not familiar with this pretty, feathery-leaved herb, it tastes a bit like anise and it’s a perfect complement to fresh green beans in this recipe.

Green Beans with Chervil

• 4 cups green beans, ends trimmed
• 1/4 cup fresh chervil leaves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
• Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Steam the green beans with water in a rice cooker or in a saucepan.

2. Drain the water from the beans, and place them in a large bowl.

3. Top with the other ingredients.  Mix well and serve immediately. 

Fresh chervil herb

Preserving Strawberries by Drying

Blooms and SpoonsWhile the best way to enjoy strawberries is fresh out of the garden, if you have a large harvest, preserving them becomes a practical way to keep them for future use. Drying them is an easy way to enjoy that amazing sweet strawberry flavor well after they’ve been picked.

I don’t have a dehydrator, so I used my oven to do the job — there is a bit of an issue with this in that even at such a low temperature, it can warm up the kitchen, and if you’re already baking in summer heat, it isn’t really feasible. As well, a dehydrator will consume less energy than an oven will. If your climate isn’t humid, you could dry your strawberries in the sun — it will take much more time but the idea is still the same. But if heat isn't an issue, oven drying is a relatively quick method to dry fruit.

Dried Strawberries (Oven Method)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a large baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment.

Wash strawberries well and hull them. Cut large strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on the size (the smaller the pieces, the faster they will dry). Place the strawberries on the parchment.

Bake in the oven for up to 4 hours. Check the berries after 2 hours and make sure they are drying evenly. Turn the tray around if the berries seem to be baking more on one side than the other.

If, after 4 hours, the strawberries still aren’t dry, keep baking for more time, checking often, until they lose their residual moisture. Remove them from the oven and allow them to thoroughly cool before storing them in an airtight container.

You can follow the same procedure for peaches, too!  Just make sure they are cut in small pieces before drying.

Fresh garden strawberries

Rhubarb Oatmeal Cake

Blooms and SpoonsDespite the dry spring here in Calgary, the rhubarb plants are still producing like crazy! I don’t mind at all - in my opinion, you can never have too much of such a good thing. This flourless cake is one way we’ve been using up some of the delicious bounty: 

Rhubarb Oatmeal Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In a 9-inch square cake pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter.

Stir in:

2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

In the meantime, prepare the batter. Sift together in a medium bowl:

1-1/4 cups oatmeal, ground (use a food processor to achieve a fine, flour-like consistency)
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

In a large, separate bowl, cream:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Add:

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add sifted dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternately with:

3/4 cup milk (you can use almond milk if you prefer). 

Make 3 dry and 2 liquid additions, stirring after each. Turn batter into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! 

Rhubarb in the Spring Garden