My daughter and I crouched on our porch Monday, our hands covered in gloves. She loosened plants from their trays while I dug in the soil. Potting soil splattered around us, nature’s confetti decorating our small porch. Soon snap dragons and pansies and a creeping little white flower filled the pot.
In seasons past, we’ve dedicated our porch pots to tomatoes, peppers and other edible plants. We tended them eagerly, watching as they grew, flowered and developed fruit. But they never yielded much. By the end of summer each year, we were left wondering why they didn’t work.
Sometimes, you have to say enough already. And we have. We’re taking a different tactic this year: Making the porch pretty.
Sure, there’s a lonely tomato plant surrounded by basil seedlings in a pot and other herbs jockeying for space in another pot. But our new strawberry plant is joined by a purple flowering one. And the two other pots are quickly shaping up to be floral extravaganzas.
Even if the tomato and strawberry plant produce nothing, the flowers will yield a colorful, fragrant reward for us.
This year we also have a plot at the community garden for growing veggies, so we’re nothing giving up completely — just adjusting our tactics so the sourness of failed gardens past can be transformed into the sweetness of beauty emerging.
In the kitchen, I’ve been transforming a little sourness too — in the form of rhubarb, which is in season now. The edible stalks of rhubarb, a relative of buckwheat, are delightful chopped and used in a variety of ways from desserts to condiments.
Whether you’re dreaming of a strawberry rhubarb pie, some rhubarb-laced jam to put up or a rhubarb crisp, there’s so many ways to enjoy this short-seasoned vegetable. And yes, it’s a vegetable, although it’s often used in very fruit-like ways.
I love the flavor of rhubarb, particularly when paired with sweetness, like the white chocolate chips in this recipe. The juxtaposition of flavors gives these tender muffins a delightful sweet-tartness that’s perfect for a mid-spring breakfast.
How about you? What have you been cooking lately?
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup small diced fresh rhubarb (about ¼-inch to ½-inch pieces)
- ½ cup white chocolate chips
- coarse sugar (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-slot muffin tin with muffin liners. If using paper liners, spray each one lightly with cooking oil spray to prevent sticking. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and oil. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth, about 1 minute, and then let sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb and white chocolate chips.
- Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin liners. If desired, sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.
- Slide the muffin tin into the preheated oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins should come out cleanly.
- Remove from the oven. These can be enjoyed immediately, or stored in an airtight container for up to five days.