I have a confession.

Five years ago, I wrote about my family heirloom rhubarb plants and my family’s coveted rhubarb crunch recipe. But…it has probably been five years since I made that delightfully sweet dessert.

Since then, my food tastes have changed—sometimes by choice, sometimes by chance. I was diagnosed with PCOS, which means that I watch my sugar and carb intake. Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), which has taught me to studiously track what I put in my mouth and how it makes me feel. Desserts like rhubarb crunch do not make me feel good.

Don’t get me wrong, though; I haven’t become a strict special-diet eater. I occasionally indulge (see: homemade Kouign-amann). But the amount of green things and protein consumed at my kitchen table has dramatically increased thanks to Terry Wahls’ writing and the plethora of Paleo cookbooks that talk about inflammation and the body (Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo is a good primer for people very new to autoimmune conditions).

Many of these books talk about giving things up, though, which is why I practically swooned when food editor Amanda M. Faison dropped a copy of Boulder-based Elana Amsterdam’s Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry on my desk. Like me, Amsterdam has MS and, like me, she’s keen on finding better ways to deliver the foods and flavors she loves to the table. (Her take on cauliflower rice has become a staple in my house.)

I was particularly intrigued by her recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Coconut Topping, which uses no added sugar and uses flax seed meal in the crust. I vowed that I’d make it as soon as the first spring rhubarb stalks popped up in my yard this year.

After reading the ingredients list, I knew that this recipe would bear little resemblance to the sugary-sweet dessert I’d grown up with. And it didn’t—in the best of ways. Gone was the pucker-up sweetness of the filling. Instead, a combo of strawberries, rhubarb, arrowroot powder, and orange juice created a semi-sweet mixture topped with a just-crispy-enough and hearty topping. (Next time, I’ll add nuts for more crunch.) Instead of missing what I shouldn’t have, I found myself craving what I could. Meaning that while I’ll still fondly remember my childhood dish, this semi-Paleo family just inherited a new heirloom recipe for rhubarb crisp. I guess that means it is time to go harvest some more spring stalks.

Bonus: In this month’s issue, Faison wrote about Shari Koolik Leidich’s Two Moms in the Raw cookbook. Lafayette-based Leidich, who also has MS, founded a healthy snack company of the same name nearly 10 years ago. While her recipes are perfect for someone like me, they will also appeal to anyone interested in approachable, healthy food. In addition to the Maple-Walnut “Baklava” Salmon recipe (get it here), I can’t wait to cook the Roasty-Toasty Brussels Sprouts with Flaxseeds and Za’atar Roasted Cauliflower.

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Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.