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Rhubarb – Enjoy An Old-Fashioned Taste

When I went through the checkout line in the grocery store the other day with a bag of fresh rhubarb stalks the clerk looked puzzled.

“Where did you get the pretty pink celery?” she asked.

Rhubarb, or pie plant as we called it in the Midwest, was once a much-anticipated sign of spring. Today's younger generation, sad to say, has never heard it, let alone tasted it.

When I was growing up rhubarb was looked upon as something of a spring tonic. The first bubbly hot rhubarb cobbler of the season was, in fact, a long-awaited culinary treat.

Don't despair – it's not too late to introduce your family to the old-fashioned but delicious taste of rhubarb. Today's recipes offer a variety of choices: Rhubarb Crumble, Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake, Rhubarb Dumplings.

RHUBARB CRUMBLE

3 c. sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, 1 c. cubed peeled apple, 1/2-1 c. sliced strawberries, 1/3 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 4 T. butter or margarine, 2/3 c. packed brown sugar, 2/3 c. quick cooking oats, vanilla ice cream

Combine rhubarb, apples and strawberries; spoon into a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over rhubarb mixture. Set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in brown sugar and oats. Sprinkle over rhubarb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or cold with a scoop of ice cream if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COFFEE CAKE

filling: 3 c. sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, 1 qt. fresh strawberries, mashed, 2 T. fresh lemon juice, 1 c. sugar, 1/3 c. cornstarch

cake: 3 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 c. butter or margarine, cut into pieces, 1-1/2 c. buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla

topping: 1/4 c. butter or margarine, 3/4 c. flour, 3/4 c. sugar

In a large saucepan combine rhubarb, strawberries and lemon juice. Cover and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes. Combine sugar and cornstarch; stir into saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened; remove from heat and set aside. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat buttermilk, eggs and vanilla; stir into crumb mixture. Spread half of the batter evenly into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Carefully spread filling on top. Drop remaining batter by tablespoonfuls over filling. For topping, melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; stir in flour and sugar until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter. Lay foil on lower rack to catch any juicy fruit spillovers. Place coffee cake on middle rack; bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into squares. Makes 16-10 servings.

RHUBARB DUMPLINGS

sauce: 1-1/2 c. sugar, 1 T. flour, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1-1/2 c. water, 1/3 c. butter or margarine, 1 tsp. vanilla, red food coloring, optional

dough: 2 c. flour, 2 T. sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2-1/2 T. cold butter or margarine, 3/4 c. milk

filling: 2 T. butter or margarine, 2 c. finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir in water; add butter. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and, if desired, enough food coloring to tint sauce a deep pink; set aside. For dough, in a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and mix quickly. Do not over mix. Gather dough into a ball and roll out on a floured surface into a 12 x 9-inch rectangle. Spread with softened butter; arrange rhubarb on top. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over rhubarb. Roll up from the long side and place on a cutting board, seam side down. Cut roll into 12 slices. Arrange slices, cut side up, in a greased 12 x 9-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 servings.