Here’s why everybody should work with English-learning kindergarteners, first, and second graders at least once in their lives:
This week, during kindergarten reading, I was modeling a worksheet on which the kids had to read a short word and then draw a picture of what they read. I pointed to the first word: fat. I led the kids in sounding it out, “ffffffff……..aaaaaaaaa…….tttttttt” and then proceeded to draw a crude Michelin man in the box next to the word – bubble head, bubble arms, bubble body, bubble legs. I scanned the room to see who was tracking with me, and I saw a big smile of understanding spread across Abdullahi’s face. Generally a really quiet kid, he said, “Fat! Thas jus like my dad!” Completely delighted with his own comprehension. What made this even funnier for me is that I had just met his dad last week at conferences, and indeed, he was a man of rotund proportions.
And then there was Thursday. I was working with a group of second graders on reading and understanding a paragraph about jellyfish. They were particularly interested in the fact that when a jellyfish stings another creature, the creature can be temporarily paralyzed or frozen. Amran raised her hand and asked, in all sincerity, “Ms. Liz, if another jellyfish comes and stings the frozen animal again, does it unfreeze, like in freeze tag?” I could see the wheels of logic spinning furiously in her head. I turned my head and pretended to cough as my shoulders shook with laughter, and then, once composed, I acknowledged the great thinking behind her question before explaining that no, jellyfish paralysis does not work like freeze tag.
These are the reasons I love my job. But I’ll be honest. The day after spring break, I sat down with my school calendar and counted the days left until my due date (30 as of this post!). All teachers do this every year, starting at some point when the weather gets nice enough to remind us of summer. But this year, the idea of resting (and not herding around twenty kindergartners like so many unruly cats) has seemed especially appealing as the baby grows and my energy wanes.
Part of it is our early start time. We show up at 7:00 a.m., and the kids start coming in at 7:15. This is why there is only one other special breakfast post on this entire blog. I’m not what you would call a “morning person,” and so weekday breakfasts for me generally consist of yogurt and granola that I throw in a tupperware or a piece of bread slathered in peanut butter.
So I look forward to coming summer days when I have time to make fun breakfasts like these muffins (because of course, I’ll have tons of time to bake for fun once this baby’s born…right?). But seriously, any homemade muffin makes breakfast seem like a special occasion, and these rhubarb muffins, so easy to make, are no exception. They taste like spring has sprung with bits of chopped rhubarb, all tart and fresh and balanced out by a healthy dose of crumble topping made of sugar, butter, flour, and cinnamon. They stay really moist with the use of plain yogurt, and are made with wheat flour, which makes them feel healthy enough to eat two at a time. They’re soft and fluffy and the perfect thing for a slow spring morning, with a cup of coffee in hand.
So whether or not rhubarb is starting to pop up at your local farmers’ market, or you’re just using up last year’s chest freezer rations of this spectacular vegetable, make these muffins up and eat them up on your next special breakfast morning….or this weekend, whichever comes first.
(recipe adapted from Simply in Season)
(yields 16 muffins)
I adapted this recipe in a just a couple of ways. First, this time I used frozen rhubarb that I had thawed rather than fresh. I've made these muffins both ways in the past few years and notice no difference in the rhubarb's taste and texture. Second, I doubled the crumble topping. It's just so good that you want each bite of your muffin to have some of it, and doubling it does just that.
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. flour (you can use all wheat flour if desired)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used yogurt)
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. fresh or thawed rhubarb, diced
1/2 c. nuts, chopped (I used pecans. Toasted nuts would be even better.)
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. flour
Preheat oven to 375*.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt.
In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients (yogurt, brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla) together until thoroughly combined.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just moistened. Then stir in the rhubarb and nuts.
Thoroughly grease your muffin tins, and then fill each muffin cup to about 2/3 full with the batter.
Combine crumble topping ingredients, and use your fingers to sprinkle a good pinch of it over each muffin.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Eat at least one warm. You won't regret it.