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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rhubarb Banana Muffins


I feel compelled to say this at some point in every rhubarb season: I don't get the mystique of rhubarb! When young, I absolutely hated it, even as everyone else seemed ecstatic over this advent of spring ingredient for pies, breads, etc. Now, I just mostly avoid it, a fairly easy thing for one not given to many sweets. However, it is frugal (as with most Midwesterners with a yard, I have some hearty plants that need no care at all) and well-liked by others, so I continue to find ways to include it in my springtime menus.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to bake some muffins for a brunch meeting. The backyard rhubarb was producing well and there were some bananas softening rapidly on the counter, so it seemed like a time to consider something combining the two. But would they work well together?

One of the things I have learned in this internet age is to do some online searching if I am thinking of trying something that seems just a little off the wall. Fortunately, a quick search for "rhubarb banana recipe" came up with hundreds of sites, many with rave reviews and no "what were you thinking" comments in view.

Most of the recipes were pretty standard muffins, so it looked like this would be a good place to play with some healthy ingredients as well.  The final recipe was relatively low fat and at least a little less sugar-y than so many rhubarb recipes,  so these could almost be considered healthy, as least as compared to so many of the cupcakes masquerading as muffins these days.

As a final flourish, I tried a topping I'd been thinking of, and it turned out to be as quick and tasty as I thought. It should work well for lots of muffins, quick breads, even some spice or carrot-type cakes.

Bottom line: the muffins were a hit the first time they were served and got some enthusiastic thumbs up from the grandchildren test kitchen the second time around. Who knows, maybe I could even learn to like this rhubarb recipe! Hope you enjoy them too.

Rhubarb Banana Muffins

1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c (6 oz) vanilla yogurt
2/3 c mashed very ripe banana (about one large--or two that have turned so squishy you have to cut a lot out!)
1/4 c melted butter
1 egg
3/4 c "old-fashioned" rolled oats (see NOTE)
1 3/4 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t soda
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t cardamom (optional)
2 c finely chopped rhubarb

1.  Combine the first seven ingredients (sugars, yogurt, banana, butter, egg, and oats) and allow to sit about ten to twenty minutes, until the oats are well softened.
2.  Sift the dry ingredients together and add alternately with the rhubarb to the first mixture.
3.  Spoon batter into well-oiled muffin pans. Depending on the size of your pans, this will make 15 to 18 muffins.
4.  Spread with topping, as directed below, and bake at 375 degrees about 18 to 20 minutes, until the center of a muffin springs back when you touch it lightly. Allow to cool for just a minute or two before removing from the pans.


NOTE: The "old fashioned" oats will give a little more texture to your muffins, but, if you don't have them, regular quick oatmeal (but not the instant kind) can be substituted.

Nut Crisp Topping

2 T melted butter
1/3 to 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
sugar and cinnamon ("recipe" below)

Melt the butter in a one cup measuring cup or other small bowl. Toss the walnuts in the butter so they are evenly coated.
Spread the nuts evenly on the muffins. (Clean fingers are probably the very best tool for spreading these quickly!)
Sprinkle each muffin generously with sugar and cinnamon.

Sugar and Cinnamon

Mix up a batch of this and keep on hand for cinnamon rolls, topping muffins like these, or for a quick spread on buttered toast or fresh out of the oven bread. It can be a good topping for a peanut butter sandwich instead of jam, with a lot less sugar used too.

1 c sugar
1 to 3 T cinnamon, to taste (my preference is that you can never have too much cinnamon!)

Combine the ingredients and mix well.

The best stirrer for this is a table knife, and it is a fun activity for kids if you do the combining in a large glass container. The patterns as the cinnamon is swirled in can be pretty fascinating--even for adults! With a tight top, this will keep as well on the shelf as sugar. (As shown in the photo below, I just mix mine in a large cinnamon container, making sure to label carefully.)







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