Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Day: Be-Bop-A-Re-Bop Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

Thursday is Earth Day.  I've been thinking a lot about Earth Day this year, partly because there are so many events in our region to commemorate it (we attended one today at Basil Bandwagon, where Ian got to pet an alpaca, check out books from the Bookmobile, make a newspaper pot for a small basil plant, and color a "reduce, reuse, recycle" poster).  But I've also been reflecting on the changes I've tried to make in my life over the past year to live more mindfully and sustainably.  Earth Day empowers us to make better choices; it reminds us that even one person can make a difference.  It's a day that is about life and living (which helps keep things in perspective for me when I feel like dwelling on IF, which I'll probably do in my post tomorrow).

Certainly, I recycle even more than I used to; it's become a compulsion.  We already had among the least amount of garbage on our block, but now I find myself reusing aluminum foil, recycling toilet paper rolls, and packing things in repurposed containers rather than in plastic bags.  I try to choose products that have a smaller environmental impact: less packaging, fewer harmful chemicals.  Most recently, I've started eating a lot less meat, and when I do eat and cook it, trying to make sure that the animals are humanely raised.  And since I do most of the cooking, this means that my family is eating less meat, too, though the boys seem to need ham in their diets, for some inexplicable reason.

This year, I'd like to try to eat more locally.  We eat a lot of bananas, frozen vegetables, and things that are out of season.  Some of this is probably hard to avoid, given that I don't can things in the summer and that I know that frozen vegetables retain more nutrients than the non-local things I might get in the store.  But we could do some of it better, too.  If I ate more locally, maybe I'd avoid eating sugar altogether in favor of honey from one of the terrific apiaries we have nearby in Milford.  Perhaps being a locavore will come even more easily to us once our CSA shares start coming.

One thing I did do right last year was to freeze rhubarb.  We've had a rhubarb plant in the back yard for a few years now, and last year it produced a bumper crop.  I scoured the web for information, and there seemed to be agreement about freezing, as long as you were going to use it in baked goods or sauces where texture wouldn't matter.  I've been using it periodically throughout the winter, and it's been so nice to taste spring and summer when you least expect it.  And whenever I use it, I find myself humming that song about rhubarb pie from A Prairie Home Companion.  It so happens that tonight Steve and I actually got to see a live production of PHC at the NJPAC, and I came home thinking that I really ought to bake.

Tomorrow we have visitors coming from Vermont: a fellow blogger and her family, who happen to be in town.  Though I have no idea whether they'll actually want to eat, or whether they will have eaten already, I wanted to bake something for them, to celebrate their visit.  And it seemed right, it being the week of Earth Day, to return to the bounty from last year's organic garden in my very own back yard.  These are not vegan, as some of my baking is, because the buttery flavor really goes nicely with the cardamom, but you could substitute for the egg and the butter to make the more earth-friendly.  Be-Bop-A-Re-Bop Rhubarb Muffins, it is.  Happy Earth Day!

Rhubarb Cardamom-Streusel Muffins

For the streusel:

6 T. all-purpose flour
3 T. turbinado sugar
1/2 t. cardamom
1/8 t. salt
2 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the muffins:

1 1/2 c. diced rhubarb (about 8 ounces)
3/4 c. turbinado sugar 
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground cardamom
2 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 T. light olive oil
1 large egg
1 t.vanilla extract
3/4 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt

For the streusel:
Whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Add butter and combine with your fingers, rubbing the butter into the flour until mostly incorporated but some small pieces remain. (The streusel is ready when it holds together in large clumps when squeezed—it will still be fairly dry.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the muffins:

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 12-well muffin tin with butter or line it with paper cupcake liners.

Toss rhubarb with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl and set aside. Let sit until rhubarb releases some juice, about 5 minutes.

Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl until evenly combined. Place remaining 1/2 cup sugar, butter, olive oil, egg, vanilla, and yogurt in a separate medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until combined, about 25 to 30 strokes. Stir in rhubarb, about another 10 to 15 strokes. (The mixture will be thick.)

Place a rounded 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin well (the wells will be full) and evenly sprinkle streusel over top (I always end up with extra). Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool 15 minutes in the pan. Remove from the pan and serve warm or let cool to room temperature.
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  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe, looks delicious! My mom is visiting & was just saying yesterday she had frozen some rhubarb from last year that she was thinking of baking with she's got a new recipe to try!

  2. They were delicious! We loved them!!!


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