Our CSA is starting next week and I’m so excited. I feel like a got a head start last week though, picking up produce from Mosby Farm who donates ingredients for the Healthy Cooking on a Tight Budget Program. I LOVE Mosby and totally need to make a video about them sometime. Not only do they donate all the produce ingredients I need for each class, they also donate large quantities of the produce they have an abundance of to raffle off to class participants. Last week, we got lots of rhubarb to send participants home with, and Facebook was filled with their excited updates about making this lovely rhubarb crisp recipe over the weekend.Rhubarb is a plant with a long history. The earliest records of rhubarb use date all the way back to ancient China when it was used for medicinal purposes. One of the most unique qualities of rhubarb is that it is a vegetable that is used like a fruit, typically in pies and other rhubarb dessert recipes.
Rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it grows year after year. That makes it pretty affordable because it doesn’t need to have seeds collected and replanted each year. The Pacific Northwest has the perfect climate for growing rhubarb, in fact the town right next to us, Sumner, is the rhubarb pie capital of the world! They say that the majority of the rhubarb bought all over the US is from the Sumner area.
Rhubarb is high in Calcium and Vitamin C and has some fiber. It’s also low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar. Though rhubarb has pretty good nutritional value, it’s difficult to find healthy rhubarb recipes. Because rhubarb is SO tart (you’d never want to eat it on its own), most recipes add a TON of sugar to counteract its pucker power.
This rhubarb cobbler or crisp recipe uses the classic pairing of rhubarb and strawberries. In last week’s cooking class we talked about hulling strawberries. You can use one of those handy dandy little strawberry toppers, they work great but you don’t really need one. I often just use a knife to cut a V into the top and remove the cap. One class participant shared a technique I hadn’t hear of before, she uses the potato eye tip on a vegetable peeler! It’s tough to do on softer berries but works great for firm ones. How do you remove your strawberry caps?
Now, in addition to using less sugar than typically used in rhubarb recipes, I increased the health value of the recipe by using fresh ground whole white wheat flour and sucanat.
Sucanat is dehydrated cane juice. Unlike white or brown sugar, it is unrefined and unprocessed. It retains the molasses so has a molasses taste which gives some great flavor in addition to sweetness. I’ve read a lot of conflicting claims on the health and nutritional benefits of sucanat, so I’m not going to make any claims here other than what both sides confirm as fact. Sucanat is the most natural form of sugar and is organic. It’s also the only “alternative” sweetener that can be substituted one for one with granulated sugar. It contains small amounts of various vitamins and quite a bit of potassium. It also has less sucrose than refined white sugar.
You need to grind it a little in a coffee grinder or food processor to make it the same texture, but if a recipe calls for half a cup of granulated sugar, you can substitute half a cup of sucanat. Or if a recipe calls for brown sugar you can substitute it as is.
Sucanat is more expensive than white sugar, a 2 lb bag costs me $6 at Azure Standard. But as I move toward trying to remove all processed foods from our daily diet, it’s a price that’s worth paying. We don’t use a lot of sugar, but I like knowing that when I do it’s a natural form.
Now I’ve got several other easy rhubarb recipes (with pictures of course!) including a cherry rhubarb recipe for skillet pie, a very rustic dessert, and a strawberry rhubarb recipe for jam. But this is definitely the healthiest one I’ve posted so far. In the recipe below I’ve used sucanat and fresh ground flour, but include the less healthy substitutes. Even if you use all purpose flour and white and brown sugars, this is still much healthier for you than most desserts.
To make a gluten free crisp, you can leave the filling as is, but need to use a gluten free crumble topping. I have tried the topping by my friend Shauna and it’s fantastic.
- 2 cups chopped rhubarb
- 4 cups hulled and halved strawberries
- 1/2 cup finely ground sucanat (or granulated sugar)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 TBS cornstarch
- 9 TBS butter at room temperature, divided
- 130 grams (1 cup) fresh ground soft white wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
- 1/2 cup oats (quick oats are fine)
- 1/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and use 1 TBS butter to grease a 9×13 baking dish
- In a large bowl, mix together the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, kosher salt and cornstarch. Pour into the greased baking dish.
- In another bowl, cut the remaining butter into the flour oats and brown sugar.
- Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake about 30 minutes until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.
- Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.
Approximate cost/serving: This is pretty affordable when rhubarb and strawberries are in season. I got both fruits for just $4, the remaining ingredients I buy in bulk so this was a $5 dessert. It can feed anywhere from 8 (man sized portions) to 16 (my sized portions) for dessert, so anywhere from 31 cents to 63 cents a serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: While this is meatless, there is butter so it’s not vegan. If you need a gluten free topping, use Gluten Free Girl’s crumble topping.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 317mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information is an estimate only.