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I have a buddy; we have a system. A kind of, I love you, you’re perfect to me, let me support you as you strive to be the healthiest you, kind of a deal. Here’s the thing, I get a tonne of exercise, but I suck at doing core. I’m tall, and I have hyper mobile joints, and doing core and strength exercises regularly is super important for supporting my floppy joints and keeping me injury free and moving. My buddy is a human kinetics graduate, and every day after I’ve done my core exercises (which take me about 10 – 30 minutes and I am managing to do 5-6 days a week), I send her a quick email and tell her what I’ve done. Sometimes, like when my neck spazzes out and I can’t keep up with my normal core work, I email and ask for suggestions for alternative things I can do so I can keep going (I’m lucky to have TWO buddies I can ask this of, both super knowledgeable and quick to help).

My buddy is trying to eat in a way that keeps her well fueled for her very active days, and helps her to be the healthiest her. My buddy’s buddy (that’s me!) is a nutrition graduate, and every day at the end of the day my buddy emails me a food diary, which I scan, and often give a thumbs up to, maybe ask a few questions, and occasionally offer a suggestion or two. It’s a buddy system. It works. Do you have a buddy? And a system? What helps you be the healthiest you?

One day last week I was scanning my buddy’s food diary and I noticed she had rhubarb listed for breakfast. I wanted to know more about that so we sent a few quick emails back and forth. As soon as I read rhubarb and breakfast together my brain was all, ‘Rhubarb smoothie! Make a rhubarb smoothie!’ Okay, then. I thought back to this Martha Stewart recipe I had made a while back for a rhubarb tart with vanilla poached rhubarb. It was a good start but used an obscene amount of sugar, and wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. My buddy told me she had made no (added) sugar stewed rhubarb using equal parts of rhubarb, apple, and water. That got the wheels turning. I used mostly rhubarb, a little apple, a vanilla bean, and the teensiest amount of agave nectar* to just barely sweeten it. Bingo.

This stewed rhubarb really is, as I said, just barely sweet. My mom was fond of making stewed rhubarb and trying to feed it to us for dessert as kids, which we were having none of. If someone had put a bowl of my stewed rhubarb in front of 10 year old me I would have gone running to my mom’s version like it was a sugary oasis. But, this is exactly what I was after, and I used it in two ways; first in a smoothie (pictured above) with stewed rhubarb, frozen banana, plain yoghurt, and flax seeds; then, for a working brunch of buckwheat crepes, freshly made lemony ricotta, stewed rhubarb, and a drizzle of honey butter (pictured below). Paul and I finished off the batch spooned over cold vanilla iced cream. It was stellar.

Stewed Rhubarb with Vanilla Bean Recipe:

I limited the amount of apple I used in this recipe because I didn’t want the apple flavour to take over. For sweeter results you can increase the apple and decrease the rhubarb, up to a 50 / 50 ratio. You can also obviously add more sweetener if just barely sweet isn’t your thing, but bear in mind that when you have this stewed rhubarb with something else that is sweeter, like a frozen banana or a drizzle of honey butter, it offsets the tartness of the rhubarb really nicely. Even Paul, who has a capacity for consuming sweetness far and beyond mine, was eating stewed rhubarb out of the bowl straight up.

Recipe inspired by my buddy, and Martha Stewart

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4 cups (about 500g) rhubarb, diced into good sized chunks

1 cup (about 120g) diced apple, in smaller chunks

1 1/2 cups water

1 vanilla bean, split in half, seeds and pods

2 Tbsp agave nectar* or other sweetener

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Place rhubarb, apples, and sweetener into a medium pot with a lid. Split the vanilla bean in half and use a sharp knife to scrape the seeds out of the middle. Place the seeds and pod halves into the pot, and then pour water over the top. Place the pot, uncovered, over high heat and allow water to come to a boil. Once boiling turn off the heat, and cover the pot with the lid. Wait 20 minutes. Remove the lid and give the pot a stir. The rhubarb should be soft, and breaking down a little bit. Allow to cool. Store stewed rhubarb in the fridge in an airtight container. Leave the vanilla pods in if you want to increase the vanilla flavour, as I did.

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Rhubarb Smoothie Recipe:

1 cup cooled stewed rhubarb

1 banana, preferably frozen, cut into chunks

1/2 cup plain yoghurt

1 Tbsp flax seeds

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Place ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy and well combined. Enjoy!

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Buckwheat Crepes with Lemony Ricotta, Stewed Rhubarb, and Honey Butter Recipe:

buckwheat crepes (I used this recipe)

fresh ricotta 

zest of one lemon

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp salted butter

stewed rhubarb with vanilla bean

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First make your ricotta. For this brunch I used 2 L of whole milk and 1/3 cup of vinegar and it made plenty (there were two of us, and there was lots left over) but you could make a whole batch and use the leftovers for something else. Toss the fresh ricotta with lemon zest, and set in the fridge to cool. Break it up with a whisk or a fork just before using.

Next make your honey butter. Simply melt the honey and butter together in a small pot. Whisk, and set aside to cool. It may separate upon cooling, just whisk again or reheat before using.

Now make your crepes. I followed David’s directions (except that I did not allow the batter to rest overnight, just for about an hour in the fridge) and they came out great. I didn’t find them particularly buckwheaty, so I’m going to play around with the ratio of flours a bit next time. Pro tip – chill the batter in a jug with a spout, then you can simply pour the batter right onto your skillet when you’re making crepes. Makes for less mess.

Set up an assembly station with crepes, stewed rhubarb, lemony ricotta, and honey butter. Go to town making your delicious crepes.

Know what you’re eating: what’s good about this? **note – what’s good about this is for the stewed rhubarb recipe only** An Apple a day keeps the doctor away! Apple is a good source of fiber, and vitamin C. The nutrients in apples are concentrated skin, so buy organic, give them a good wash, and keep the skin on whenever possible. Did you know that rhubarb is actually a vegetable? It is a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, and also contains calcium.

*Agave nectar?!  But Katie, didn’t you *just* post an article about how agave nectar isn’t the healthy natural sweeter it has been touted to be? Indeed, I did. Two days ago. A bit of a planning fail on my part, I guess, but here’s the thing; I bought a small bottle of agave for a recipe some time ago and I still have plenty of it left. That recipe (which I do plan on posting) uses only 1 Tbsp of agave, this one uses 2 Tbsp. I do plan on finishing the bottle off, but I don’t plan on replacing it. Everything in moderation, right? And no one, least of all me,  is perfect. Use agave if you have it, or replace the agave in this recipe with another sweetener. Honey would do just fine, as would plain old table sugar.

Do ahead: stewed rhubarb can be made in advance and kept, once cooled, in an air tight container in the fridge, for about a week. You can also freeze it to keep much longer.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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