Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars (and an unexpected nomination)

straw rhubarb title

Did you know that I am a finalist for “Best Mom Blogger” in Washington Family Magazine’s 2014 “Best For Families” Awards?  Yeah, that took me by surprise, too.  While I am honored to be in the ranks alongside The Bloggess, The Pioneer Woman, Honest Toddler, and Momastery (the winner)…as you may or may not have noticed, I am not a mom.  Nor do I plan on becoming one anytime soon.  No babies, thank you very much.

The WFM’s “Best For Families” Awards span a huge amount of categories, covering all facets of family life.  My company is eligible for several of these categories, and have won the awards in the past (and we won this year, hurray!)  However, gathering the votes is based primarily on a huge write-in paper ballot (as the WFM’s online ballot is notoriously finicky).  We often make these paper ballots available to our friends, family, and customers if they would like to fill one out.  And my mother did just that.  And her friends did just that.  And (possibly) my friends did just that.  Since a certain percentage of these ballots must be filled out to make the ballot valid, we are often spent picking one another brains–“Has anyone gone to an allergist?”  “Anybody know a good tutoring service?”–to fill in enough categories.  This reason is why my boss and other members of our staff have been nominated for several odd categories: “Best Interior Designer”, “Best Electrician”, “Local Hero”, “Person You Wish Would Run For Preseident”.  Blanks needed filling, and people got a little silly.  I suppose now it is my turn.  As the only blogger some of my acquaintances know, presumably the “Mom” part of the category was ignored..  (Thanks, Mom.)  To wind down this story, if, by some coincidence, you have found your way here through the WFM’s BFF Awards, I am sorry to disappoint you on the lack of “Mom” status.  I can offer you delicious gluten-free food, but no commiseration or celebration of life’s joys with little ones.  Wait!  I have a dog…does that count?

straw rhubarb bars pan side

Finalist-status aside, M and I are on the road again, taking a meandering route down to North Carolina for his nephew’s birthday.  We’ll spend a few days at the beach on our way down.  This will be our last chance to get away before our work schedules return full swing.  It’ll be nice to meander and take our time as we go down the coast.  If the weather holds, we will try to get out to kayak!  I went kayaking for the first time on our cruise in January and loved it!  M has been kayaking since he was young, so it would be great to have a chance to go out again.  M’s nephew is having a water party.  With five year olds as the main attendees, I expect a lot of chaotic fun!  North Carolina also means a visit to Saxapahaw, our favorite tiny strip of town.  After coffee, we will poke around the general store to see if we can find any fun local products.  This time, finally, we will be prepared with a cooler for transport back home.  Last trip, I was a little concerned for the local steaks that we found.  They had been frozen, so they just barely made it home while still cold…

straw rhubarb bars cut

Many, many weeks ago, before camp, I mentioned some rhubarb bars.  They are made with the same base crust and crumble as my Caramel-Oat Cookie Bars, with the gooey caramel replaced with soft, sweet strawberry-rhubarb fruit filling.  You might be able to snap up the last stalks of rhubarb before the season ends, but you can also replace it with more strawberries, or another kind of fruit.  Without the tangy rhubarb to balance the sweetness, you may find you want to exclude the sugar in the filling as well. These are perfect when served warm with a spoonful or two of vanilla ice cream!

straw rhubarb bars topview

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars

Serves: 15-24 (depending on cut size) | Prep Time: 15 min. | Cook time: 30 min.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and prepare the base according to recipe directions.  For easy removal, line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, and allow the edges to lay up the sides of the pan.

While the cookie base is cooking, combine the diced fruit and sprinkle with remaining ingredients.   Stir to combine and let mixture sit until the bar base is removed from the oven.  Allow the base to cool for five minutes, then spread the fruit mixture evenly over the base.  Sprinkle with reserved crumble topping.

Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and the crumble is golden.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then slice into bars.  Allow to cool completely.  Bars can be stored in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


A Quick Pumpkin Smoothie

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My breakfasts are pretty routine, but certainly driven by the season.  Summer=cold breakfast, winter=hot breakfast.  Fall and spring get a little muddled. While eggs of some kind are always an option (I think I ordered eggs and fries 90% of the times that we visited the after-9pm eatery on campus during my college years–no meal is better at 1am), but eggs do take a little bit more cook time.  This is mostly due to the fact that we do not own a toaster.  Since we freeze our GF bread, thawing and toasting is pretty much a requirement.  Also, the last thing I want to do is start off my morning with multiple dirty pans.  So eggs require shifts: toast, then bacon or sausage if we want, then eggs in the same pan; and these shifts take just a minute or two more than I can spare on most days.  Oatmeal can easily be changed up with different add-ins, keeping breakfast interesting.  I don’t often have cold cereal in the house, but if we have it, it works on the fly.  Though I almost always prefer a hot breakfast, I can sometimes manage a cold one if it is served alongside hot coffee.  I need something hot to eat/drink in the mornings, even in the blazing summer.  When I can manage a cold breakfast, yogurt and smoothies are my favorite.  I can occasionally pack some spinach into my smoothies, but my poor, little 5-year-old magic bullet blender has certainly seen better days.  Of late, I’m usually left with diced spinach in some fruit goop.  Not especially appetizing.  I have had great success with avocado and cucumber smoothies, but I haven’t taken the time to snap a photo.  Lately though, if I am looking for some vegetable matter blended into breakfast, it is coming in squash and sweet potato form.  I’ve already baked both into muffins.  When I can put the same with some milk, spices, grains, nuts, and seeds, and have it taste eerily like a dessert: game on.  This smoothie, just like every other pumpkin smoothie on the web, taste like pumpkin pie.  But, this has the award for being one of the only smoothies containing oats or nuts that I have found palatable.  I’m not big on graininess that usually accompanies these ingredients as they enter the smoothie realm.  Here, both ingredients contribute the “crust” flavor, and, when well-blended, boost the thick, creamy texture of this drink.

photo 1

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie 

Serves: 1 | Prep: 2-3 minutes | Cook: —

  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin, frozen*
  • 3/4 c. milk or yogurt (non-dairy is fine)**
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 1-2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1-3 tsp honey, agave, sugar, maple syrup or molasses (my favorites here), to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp. chopped pecans, optional
  • 2-4 Tbsp. GF rolled or instant oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger, ground
  • dash turmeric***
  • dash salt
  • ice cubes*

*A frozen element creates that frothy delicious texture I’m looking for in smoothie.  If the pumpkin is frozen, you will not need the ice cubes.  Vice versa, add the ice if you pumpkin is refrigerated or at room temperature.

**Using yogurt will create a much thicker smoothie.  You may have to add some liquid (water or milk) to thin to your desired consistency.

***I am working on sneaking more turmeric into my diet in every possible way–so whenever a recipe calls for ginger, I add a dash or two of turmeric as well.

Add ingredients to blender in order listed.  Blend well, pulsing several times then blending for 1-3 minutes until smooth.  If intolerant to oats, replace with additional half Tablespoon of flax seed and additional teaspoon chia seed.   Blend well, then allow smoothie to rest for 5 minutes, then blend again for 30 seconds.  The flax seed and chia seeds will help to thicken the smoothie without oats.


photo 3


Pumpkin Scone Clones (Gluten-free & Whole-Grain)

Fall is my favorite season.  By August, I’m done with sweltering heat, longing for cool breezes, jeans, boots, and sweaters.  I will always choose a hot drink over something iced, which can be slightly difficult on summer mornings when the last thing I need is any more cause for rising temperatures.  But I can’t help it.  Hot coffee is so much better than iced.  I am also utterly in love with fall flavors.  Squash, apples, slow-simmered soups, tender braised meat, and the wonderful mix of spices that accompany the season.  There’s another fact: I will always pick herbs and spices or fruity or sweet flavors.  Non-mint candy canes are an abomination.    Fruit-flavored gumdrops, a disappointment.

What was equally a disappointment was that we were halfway through October and I had yet to make anything with pumpkin in it.  I know, it’s a craze, but it’s one in which I wholeheartedly take part.  As of October 20th, the closest brush I’d had was a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte.  (Yes, this post is a long time coming.)  So, when I found myself with close to an entire day off, in addition to making a shawarma-inspired meal to last all week, I dug out my pumpkin and set to work adapting Karina’s pumpkin scones.  Before I swore off gluten, especially in my junior year of college when a Starbucks opened on campus and ran 24 hours a day through weekends and finals weeks, Starbucks’ pumpkin scones were a veritable treasure.  You had to be there when they were stocked for a chance to grab one.

After going gluten-free, these were a seasonal longing, filed away and forgotten all summer until I would spy the first batch laid out in the pastry case window.  Te spicy, sweet support for the wonderful pumpkin flavor has been elusive, but now, after seeing several gluten-full copycat versions on Pinterest, I went in search of a gluten-free version to start from.  I’ve had very little experience with scones.  Luckily, Karina was there to rescue me.  I love that her version starts with sorghum and millet flour, both hearty and whole-grained.  I, obviously, have de-veganified her recipe and fiddled with some spices and flavorings, as well as mixing up my own version of glaze.

If you are looking for a vegan recipe, or to sub out a particular additional allergen (milk, eggs, etc) I would highly recommend jumping over to her recipe.

 

Gluten-Free (& Whole Grain) Pumpkin Scones (copycat recipe)

For the Scones

Adapted from Karina at glutenfreegoddess’ recipe

  • 1 cup (sweet, white) sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 5 Tbsp dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 7 Tbsp butter (cold)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (make sure you get plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp buttermilk

For the base icing

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp whipping cream, half&half, or milk
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup

For the spiced icing

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch each: nutmeg, ginger, cloves
  • 2 tsp whipping cream, half&half, or milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9″ pie plate or a 9×9 pan and line with parchment paper.  Mix all the dry ingredients (flours, spices, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and sugar) in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.  Add diced cubes of butter and cut in with a pastry cutter, two butter knives, or press and break cubes with your fingers until the mixture looks like cornmeal (I favor the hand method, since I do not have a pastry cutter).  Add the wet ingredients (pumpkin, egg, buttermilk, and maple syrup).  Beat the mixture until it begins to hold together in a mass.  It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.  Spread the dough into prepared pan (I used a square pan to make mini scones).  With a sharp knife, cut into four even squares, and cut each of those squares into four triangles.  If using a pie pan, cut into 6 sections for large scones.  Brush the tops with milk and, if desired, sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until the tops are beginning to brown.  Halfway through, I ran my knife along the seams again, as the scones were rising and blending together.  Allow to cool before removing from pan.

When scones have cooled, mix the two separate icings.  The base icing should be liquid enough to be brushed or poured onto the scones.  The spiced icing can be drizzled from a fork or place into a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off to be piped on.  Allow icing to set.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.