Caramelized Rhubarb & Strawberry Crisp

Rhubarb, I find is one of those thing people either love or not. I like it, in fact I used to pluck it from the garden as a kid, peel the curly red strings and carry around a little bowl of sugar for dipping to gnaw on it raw.

There is something about the tart and sweet combination. That must be why strawberries love it too. The two are a traditional summer combination however, the problem I usually find is that people cook rhubarb to death, stewing it, leaving it a limp, stringy mess.

Rhubarb doesn’t need any water added when it’s cooked. Like most things from the garden, rhubarb is full of juice. All it needs is a spot of sugar and a bit of heat to pull out those juices and soften the rhubarb. Just a little brown sugar coats and creates a great, caramelized sweetness for the tart fruit. Add some berries and you’ve got yourself a fresher twist on an already classic dessert.


1 1/2 Cups Rhubarb
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Cups Strawberries


1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Oatmeal (Whole)
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Margarine
pinch of salt

Wash and trim the ends from the rhubarb. Chop stalks into 3/4″ pieces.
Add the rhubarb to a medium sized saucepan. Sprinkle over the 1/4 Cup of brown sugar and bring flame to a medium setting.
Stir occasionally to coat the rhubarb as the sugar melts and to keep it from sticking until the rhubarb begins to release it’s juices.
Simmer to soften, about 10 minutes.
Once the rhubarb is fork tender, add the strawberries.
Simmer for another 5 minutes or until everything is just softened (not mushy) and juicy.
In the meantime, in a medium bowl, add the margarine, oats, flour, brown sugar and salt.
Mix everything with a fork until well combined.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a short baking dish (7″x4″ x2″deep), add the fruit and cover it evenly with the topping mixture.
Bake for 18 – 20 minutes.

Nana’s Apron

I’m sure it’s been said about a thousand times by cooks and food lovers, but if I have to give credit to the one person who introduced me to food, slow food and how to enjoy cooking it, that person would have to be my Nana.

One of my earliest memories is of her rocking me in a chair singing “This Old Man” and “How Much Is That Dog”. It’s not so much the songs but the smell that triggers the moment. My Nana had always worn a pleasant aroma of cookie dough and Clorox.

Even well into her eighties, she was either baking or cleaning something up. So for the years when my brother and I would spend weeks at a time through various school vacations, I was naturally drawn to her. I would follow her around as she did her countless daily chores hoping that she would let me help. Most of the time she would tell me how I wouldn’t like it and that it would be more fun to play outside. Really she probably wanted remove the half sized me, to just get the job done. However, telling me I wouldn’t like it is likely what got me to stick around, that and I know that she would eventually move into the kitchen.

Baking is where I was invited to help, promoted by a chair to sous chef. Swearing by cleanliness, my dirty kid hands had to be washed and my hair pulled back – usually with a purple hairnet once intended for nighttime curlers, I’m sure. As I stood atop my furniture at the other side of the kitchen, I was adorned with The Apron.
The Apron didn’t stand out, although I always thought it was pretty. It was very colourful and had flowers – it was the seventies after all.

With my sleeves rolled and my uniform in place, I was ready to create and learn. Together, she introduced me to the fundamentals of cooking, let me flip (& drop) my first pancake, taught me the word impetuous and how to bake bread – slowly. She let me scrape my knuckles on a grater, use a real sifter and whip cream with an egg beater all before I could ride a bike. She helped form my greatest likes and my chosen careers, it’s just that these days, she can’t remember doing it.

How magical it was when one day my young daughter received a small package in the mail. Too young to read her full name, or ride her bicycle to the post office, she opened it with almost as much glee and anticipation as I had.

My Nana had found something she wasn’t using. My delighted daughter tugged out a little faded, but still colourful apron for her to help me cook. In the note Nana said she thought it might be a perfect fit.

She couldn’t have been more right.
I found this homemade apron and I hold it tight. Like memories, it’s a little faded, but I treasure it. Nana recently passed away and watching her diminish from Alzheimers was more than heartbreaking. Not only did she slowly forget me and my kids, she forgot she ever loved to cook and how great she was. It’s a treasure that I learned so much from her that I can hopefully pass along, not only to my children but through my work writing and developing recipes.