Foodie Firsts: A Trifecta of Firsts All Wrapped Up In One Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create re-occurring feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Are you ready for the ultimate Foodie Firsts column?  I managed to hit several firsts for me in a single dish.  I tried new ingredients (two of them!), baked something I’ve never baked before, and ate something I’ve never eaten before.

Wild, right?

What can I say?  I guess sometimes I just like to go big in the kitchen.

ramekins with topping

So I am presenting to you today a simply satisfying and relatively healthy strawberry-rhubarb crisp (gluten free and vegan, of course).  I do realize that such a dish may be considered plain and common, but it may surprise some folks that I had never actually eaten a fruit crisp before.  I swear to this on my favorite wooden spoon.

For many, MANY years of my life, I lived by three food rules:

1)      Nothing that comes from the sea or ocean

2)      No warm beverages

3)      No cooked fruit

You might know me well enough to know by now that #1 still stands (since I’m vegetarian), but #2 and #3 have gone out the window – happily out the window.  I’m not even sure why or when I developed these rules, but we can all see their ridiculousness, right?  How I lasted so many years without coffee is positively baffling.

Fruit in colander

My decision to get over that last rule was only further validated by this crisp.  I knew straightaway that my first crisp should include rhubarb (I’ve extolled its wonderfulness before).  The trick, of course, was that most of my hoarded recipes were not gluten free, so I needed to ensure to find or adapt one for my needs.

Fortunately for me, I case across this recipe on the Gluten Free Goddess’ blog which uses . . . wait for it . . . quinoa flakes in place of more traditional oats.  Now, I can eat gluten free oats, but this substitution was very appealing.  I had procured a package of quinoa flakes a few weeks ago when I spotted them on sale, but hadn’t touched them since placing them in my pantry.  Now, just like that, they had a purpose.

Then, to make things even wilder, I decided to test out stevia as a sweetener – another ingredient I had not used before.

New ingredients.  New dish.  New dietary needs met.

And so, the baking commenced.

ramekins without topping

What resulted was a lovely, simple crisp incorporating a few of my favorite ingredients (rhubarb, hazelnuts, cinnamon), which was perfect for eating straight out of the oven, or topped off with a scoop of ice cream (I like So Delicious French Vanilla Soy Ice Cream).

I will say that, being new to the flavors of stevia, I found it to have just a tad bit of bitterness that I didn’t love and I might consider using half stevia, half other sweetener in the future just to tone that down a bit.  Although the soy ice cream toned that down, too!  The quinoa flakes worked beautifully and I’m most excited to use them again.

ramekin up close

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  If you like a very sweet crisp, this isn’t it – so add additional sweetener prior to baking.  Alternatively, you can also drizzle the cooked crisp with maple syrup or agave – a touch that I found delicious.

Lessons Learned:  Just because a belief or practice has served you well (or at least you think it has) for a number of years, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so.  By letting go of my food rule around cooked fruit (which for so long I thought was shielding me from mushy and unpleasant eats) I have opened the door to dozens of new experiences and flavors for me to try.  I know that they may not all be perfection, but I’m pretty confident that it will pay off with huge, delicious dividends in the long run.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 5-6

Adapted from the Gluten Free Goddess

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries, tops cut off and chopped
  • 3 medium-large stalks of rhubarb, split vertically and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • ¾ cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup millet flour
  • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • ½ tspn powdered stevia (or equivalent ½ cup sugar/dry sweetener of preference)
  • ½ tspn cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn vanilla extract
  • 3 tblspns coconut oil, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 6 small ramekins or an 8-inch square baking dish by spraying with cooking spray.
  2. Combine chopped fruit in a bowl.  Add agave and toss to coat.  Distribute evenly in ramekins, or spread across your square baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine quinoa flakes, millet flour, hazelnuts, stevia, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk together.
  4. Add melted coconut oil and vanilla extract to bowl with the quinoa/flour mixture.  Work together (I suggest using your hands), to incorporate the oil and vanilla well.  The mixture should become crumbly and slightly moist.  Distribute this topping over your ramekins or your baking dish evenly.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven.  Eat warm or store in the refrigerator, covered, for a couple of days (rewarming if desired).  Serve as is or with agave, ice cream, yogurt, or coconut cream as possible toppings.

Apple-Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam

If you were to ask me what my favorite vegetable is, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with an answer.  I’m a big fan of veggies and am not likely to turn many of them away.  But there is one vegetable (that doesn’t even really feel like a vegetable – it feels more like a fruit if you ask me) that probably generates a particular kind of excitement in me that others can’t match.

chopped rhubarb and apples 2 - edited

I’m talking about you, Rhubarb.

Mmmmm. . . rhubarb.

I suppose the reason that it excites me so is that it comes and goes so quickly.  It’s that whole limited supply, time-constrained marketing ploy that Mother Nature clearly figured out long before the fancy advertising executives did.

Plus, it’s delicious, so it has that going for it.

rhubarb cooking down - edited

Rhubarb fascinates me, actually.  It’s beautiful.  Really truly beautiful.  The tall stalks are lovely and when you chop them up, the layers of color inside create an ombre effect that is so visually stimulating.  I love how it’s so firm in its raw state, but cooks and bakes up softly with ease.

This year, I have decided I need to stock up and freeze some rhubarb so that I can enjoy it for months to come, but for right now, I made jam.  Instead of going the traditional route, combining rhubarb with strawberries (which also would have been great, I’m sure), I decided to combine my rhubarb with apples and whip up a satisfying spread that delivers just a touch of sweetness to whatever it graces.

view from top into jar 2 - edited

Enjoy.

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Apple-Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam jam in jar 3 - edited

Makes 1 – 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 cup apple, unpeeled, chopped (I used a Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup sugar or sugar alternative of your choice
  • ¼ tspn ground ginger
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method:

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine all ingredients over med-high heat.  Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to low-medium, so that it simmers gently.  Cook, stirring frequently and skimming off any foam that may develop on the top.  Using the back of your spoon or a potato masher, break up the chunks of rhubarb and apple as they soften and break down.  The jam is ready when it has become thick and viscous enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat.  Pour into a glass jar and let sit, uncovered at room temperature until cool.  The jam will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.