MARCUS – Produce it and put it on the table.
Eva Henderson said she’s been a long-time advocate for growing what you feed your family.
“I guess you might say it’s part of my family’s history,” she said. “I always cooked with my mom and grandmother and Mother had a big garden.”
For Henderson, cooking meant making everything from scratch.
“And at times, I’d get to spend a little time with Grandma Hazel, and that’s also the way she cooked,” Henderson said.
A recipe for rhubarb cake is a hold-over from that time.
“It’s an old-fashioned kind of recipe and an easy one,” she said. “And if you don’t have sour milk, use the old-fashioned way of just adding vinegar to regular milk.”
She advised following the recipe and when the batter is in the pan, sprinkle brown topping on top and stick in the oven.
“Everyone in our family has enjoyed it.”
The family includes her husband, Mike, an agronomist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service, in Sioux City; and daughters, Sarah, 20, attending Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwill, Oklahoma; Dawn, 18, a freshman at Iowa State University; and Leah, 15, a sophomore at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn High School.
Daughter Sarah is giving her mother a special opportunity to share her baking skills. In July, Henderson will be digging out special cake ingredients for Sarah’s wedding reception.
Henderson has a rhubarb-strawberry soft-set jam recipe that she said is another favorite.
“Spring and rhubarb have always seemed to go together,” she said. “Rhubarb is something fresh to eat in the spring. It has a unique flavor, not just sweet, but with a tartness to it. Spring just makes wanting a rhubarb treat all that much stronger.”
But Henderson, who considers herself fortunate to be able to rely on her farmyard-type rhubarb plants, has this advice for someone wanting to start a patch.
“What it takes is a well-drained and rich soil,” she said. “Always remember that it doesn’t like to sit where it has wet feet.”
“Also consider it’s a plant that likes a full sun,” Henderson added. “And, once it gets growing be careful when and how you pull the rhubarb stems.”
She also said not to overdo it, noting that she prefers pulling the stems when they reach approximately eight inches. There’s also little to no harvesting after June, when summer temperatures heat up.
However, she said, if there’s new stems appearing in the fall when temperatures cool down, a second cutting is possible.
Strawberries are another of Henderson’s favorite spring foods.
Due to her garden’s high tunnel, which starts her growing season early, she has already harvested strawberries, radishes, onions and asparagus.
“I try to make as many homemade things as I can,” Henderson said.
This goes for items that aren’t even made in her farm garden, such as wheat flour bread. It’s made with winter wheat direct from combines in Oklahoma’s Panhandle and milled in her kitchen.
Besides cook and gardener, Henderson assists with herding the farm’s meat-producing Boer goats.
The first of what is now a 21-head herd was purchased in 2008 as a first-year 4-H project for the Henderson daughters.
They will remain project animals through Leah’s tenure with the Cherokee County Tilden Tillers 4-H Club.
Grandma’s rhubarb cake
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Mix well, add 1 egg and mix again
1 cup sour milk (or yogurt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
Stir to combine and add 2 cups diced rhubarb.
Put into greased 9-by-13-inch greased pan.
Streusel topping for cake
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons melted butter
Mix well and sprinkle over cake batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until toothpick tests clean when put in center of cake.
Easy rhubarb-strawberry freezer jam
6 cups rhubarb
3 cups sugar
1 3-ounce package strawberry Jell-O
Boil rhubarb and sugar for 15 minutes. Add Jell-O and stir to dissolve. Put in jars.
Cool and store in freezer. This is a soft-set jam and can also be used as a topping for ice cream, angel food cake or other desserts as desired.
Nut-topped strawberry-rhubarb muffins
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
3/4 cup diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter (or oil)
Combine first six ingredients.
In another bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk (or yogurt) and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients until moistened.
Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.
Fill greased or paper-line muffin cuts 2/3 full.
Combine pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon and cut into butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs and sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean.
Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack and serve.
If using frozen rhubarb measure rhubarb while frozen then completely drain in colander but do not press out moisture.
(Note: Henderson freezes 1 cup chopped strawberries and 3/4 cup diced rhubarb for this recipe. She thaws them just enough to separate pieces and stirs them as normal. This results, however, in a little longer baking time, she said.)
1 cup rhubarb (diced)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Cook in sauce pan. Stir in 1 3 oz. strawberry Jell-O until dissolved.
Add 1/2 cup ice water and chill until partially gelled. Whip with mixer.
Prepare 1/2 package of whipped topping and fold into mixture and pour into serving bowl.
Chill until set.
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