Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Muffins (Vegan!)

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Do you ever have those moments when you finally realize something that should have been obvious to you for a long time, and you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this before?”

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That is exactly how I feel about strawberries, green apples, and rhubarb. In this in-between season, why not bring the best of the fall and the best of the spring together, in one delicious “tweasonal” snack? One day it’s fifty degrees and the next day it’s eighty – why not embrace the seasonal identity crisis in your kitchen as well? Strawberry and rhubarb is a tried and true pairing, but apple and rhubarb? That is a little less common. However I feel that the vibrant green stalk of the rhubarb has been trying to tell me something for years.

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Plays well with others. . . particularly with strawberries and Granny Smith apples. Because cramming three flavors into one muffin wasn’t enough of a challenge, I opted to make these vegan as well. I have made vegan cookies and breads before, but I believe these are my first vegan muffins. Non-dairy milk and a flax egg work wonders.

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If you have never made a flax egg before, do not be intimidated.

First, grind whole flax seeds into a fine powder. I use my coffee grinder for this step. The oils in flax are very temperamental and ground flax meal can go rancid quickly, so I always keep the seeds whole then grind them immediately before using in a recipe.

Second, mix 1 part flax seed meal to 3 parts water. Stir with a fork or whisk to combine. This recipe calls for two flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax + 6 Tbsp water).

Third, refrigerate for 15 minutes to achieve the consistency displayed below. This ingredient is a binder, so it needs to stick. When it has set up enough, you can turn a container of flax eggs on its side and the contents don’t spill out.

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Another unexpected part of these delicious muffins is the whole strawberry hiding in the middle of each one. I folded chopped apples and rhubarb into the muffin batter, then I sliced the tops off of twelve strawberries.

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After filling the muffin tins halfway, I shoved a whole strawberry into the middle of each tin, then topped off with some batter. As the muffins bake, the strawberry juice starts to leak out into the muffins, and when you bite into one, the whole strawberry center is like a fresh jam filling. I really should try this with peanut butter muffins, right?

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Some of the strawberries couldn’t stay hidden, and they chose to leak sweet strawberry lava out of the tops of the muffins. They look exactly how they are: irresistibly delicious.

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Vegan Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Muffins

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh ground flax meal
  • 3 ounces water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of peeled, chopped apple (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 12 small strawberries, tops removed

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine flax meal and water, refrigerate for 15 minutes. The result is a “flax egg.”
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients: flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients: flax egg, oil, applesauce, vanilla, non-dairy milk, and vinegar. Stir until mixed.
  5. Add wet ingredients to large bowl and stir to combine with dry ingredients, until just moistened. Make sure all flour is incorporated.
  6. Fold in apple and rhubarb.
  7. Grease or line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each cavity halfway with batter. Place one strawberry inside each cavity, then top with more batter until filled.
  8. Bake muffins in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the largest muffin comes out clean.

Note: if vegan isn’t your thing, you may substitute 2 eggs, beaten, for the flax eggs, and 1 cup buttermilk for the non-dairy milk and vinegar.

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Is it Spring time yet?!

Farmers Market 09.24.11

This week I had the opportunity to volunteer at my local farmers’ market. I have written before about my CSA membership with Victory Farms and how I aim to visit their stand at the South of the James market or Byrd House market weekly. This Saturday was the first time I was able to experience the farm stand from the other side of the table and I loved it!

It was a dreary, rainy Saturday morning but a lot of people came out to get their fresh, local produce. It was crazy to see how quickly everything flew off the tables and into people’s baskets. It really reinforced for me the importance of getting to those markets bright and early to get the best of the bounty. My favorite part about working the market stand was answering food preparation questions. So many people asked how to prepare the veggies we were selling and I was delighted to offer suggestions and tell stories about my experiences. . . go figure! I was also able to go shopping during a lull in the action and I brought home a great selection of fresh food.

  • Basil
  • Salad mix
  • Poblano peppers
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Arugula
  • Watermelon radishes
  • Lacinato kale

How awesome are these watermelon radishes? They are seriously so pretty, inside and out.

I also picked up this one eggplant because I simply had to. I buy Chinese eggplants often, but I have never seen anything like this.

We have had a lot of rain here lately and on one rainy night last week I decided to rent the movie Monsoon Wedding per the suggestion of a close friend of mine, Rachael Ray. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend that you pick it up. It was wonderful. If you have seen it, then you are probably familiar with a certain wedding planner who has an affinity for marigolds. This character is stringing marigold garlands throughout the film, and he has an odd habit of spontaneously chomping down on a single delicate marigold flower and slowly chewing it while he thinks. I noticed a similar occurrence when I glanced over at a Victory Farms employee who was staring into the rainy distance and eating a whole bright red Carmen pepper, biting from bottom to stem. I love how much these people enjoy their veggies. It’s fantastic!

After making suggestions to market-goers all morning on Saturday, I find myself in a bit of a quandary of my own. I bought a bushel of apples last weekend to split with two coworkers and I can’t decide what to do with my share.

There were 115 apples in this box, which left me with 38 apples for myself. I have eaten a few but I still have almost 15 pounds of apples in my fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike. Do I make pies, applesauce, apple juice, apple butter, or something else? I think I will freeze some for apple cinnamon smoothies but I still need suggestions on the best use of my huge stash. Please leave a comment if you have a good recipe or idea.

September

I have always loved the time of year when summer turns to fall. Perhaps it is because I was a bookworm who looked forward to the beginning of the school year, or maybe it is because my frizz-prone hair prefers cooler, less humid weather. I think it is mostly because the fall signified new beginnings for me: the first day of school, the start of soccer season, and the initial stocking my closet with cardigans, heavier fabrics, and fall boots. Ever since I started cooking for myself it has meant simmering soups, roasting vegetables, and heating oatmeal loaded with seasonal fruits and nuts.

I gave the blog a little facelift to celebrate the season. These three crisp apples make me think of all things fall. We are not finished with summer yet – mosquitoes are dive-bombing me as I type this while sitting on my balcony with a hot cup of coffee, and I have twelve fresh tomatoes from two coworkers’ gardens on my kitchen counter – but I can feel that fall is almost here. Last week I draped a backup cardigan on the back of my desk chair and I bought ten pounds of spaghetti squash and three pounds of butternut squash for roasting and soup-making.

Every morning as I walk to my car, caffeine-deprived and bleary-eyed, it feels a tad chillier. A deep breath taken as the sun rises over the city feels a little more cool and clear. Every sip of my cappuccino is a bit warmer than the last, and every sunset comes a minute earlier each day. It is almost fall and I love that my favorite season is right around the corner. It is the perfect time to try something new, so expect a flurry of recipes and ingredients as I embrace the most uncertain and adventurous time of year.