It’s the End of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Like Comfort Food

So, we’ve reached the end of the world… again. With such a traumatic event coming I feel it only fitting that we end it on a good note — with comfort food. Soup, crusty bread and cookies seem like a fitting end to me. We’re short on time, so let’s just get to the cooking:

 

Poblano Corn Chowder w/ Smoked Sausage

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1 lb. smoked sausage, diced 1/4″-1/2″
2 c milk
1-1/2 c water
1/2 large Spanish Onion, diced 1/4″ (about 1 c)
4 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced 1/4″ (about 3 c)
4 c cold water
6 ears corn or 4 c frozen corn
3 poblanos, diced 1/4″ (about 1-1/2 c)
1 T kosher salt
1 T paprika (smoked or sweet)
1 T italian seasoning herbs
2 T all-purpose flour
2 T potato flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/3 c fresh cilantro, minced (optional)
shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

 

NOTE: Put diced potatoes in the 4 cups of cold water to prevent them from changing color until you are ready to add them to the soup.

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and cut the cobs into thirds. Blanch the corn kernels. If you are using frozen corn you can skip the blanching.

  • Blanch the Corn Kernels: Prepare a large bowl of ice water (only fill about half way). Fill a large pot about half way up with water and set on the stove on high heat (if you have a pasta insert that would make this much easier). When the water is boiling, add a large handful of salt (about 2-3 T). Add the corn kernels. After about three minutes the water will start boiling again and the kernels will look bright yellow. Remove the kernels from the boiling water (using either a slotted spoon or the pasta pot insert) and dunk into the ice water to stop the corn from cooking and cool it down. After about 1-1/2 minutes, remove the corn from the cold water and set aside. Discard the water in the pot and the bowl.

If using corn ears: cut each corn cob into three pieces.

In a 2 qt. saucepan, add the 2 c milk and 1-1/2 c water. Add corn cob pieces (if using) and warm milk on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the smoked sausage to a large (4 qt) soup pot. Turn the heat to medium-low and render the fat slowly.

  • Render the Sausage Fat: You’ll want to do this slowly so you get rid of most of the fat. Move the sausage around the pan so all sides of the diced sausage comes in contact with the pan. The idea is to make sure the fond (stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan) stays brown and doesn’t get “blackened.” So, after about 10-15 minutes when you see a layer of fat in the bottom of the pan, set a strainer over a bowl and drain the oil from the sausage so the fond can stick to the pan. Add the sausage back to the pan and continue rendering the fat. Discard the oil from the first rendering. When the bottom of the pan is covered in the browned fond, drain through the strainer and set the sausage aside.

Raise the heat to medium and add diced onions, poblanos and potatoes to the pot. Add 1 tsp salt.

Add the 3 cups of water to the milk/water/corn cob pot.

Move the vegetables around the pan with a spatula. Use the spatula to scrape the fond off the bottom of the pot as the liquid from the vegetables helps loosen it.

When the vegetables have given off all their liquid and start sticking to the bottom of the pot (about 10 minutes or more depending on the vegetables), add the smoked paprika, italian seasoning herbs and flour. Stir everything for about two minutes to make sure the flour is cooked.

Add the corn kernels and stir to combine.

If there is a skin on the warm milk/water mixture, remove it. Add the warm milk & water mixture (and corn cobs if using) to the vegetables.

Add the sausage and let cook covered for 10 minutes.

Test the corn and potatoes for doneness.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve with toasted (rosemary-olive oil) bread. Put minced cilantro & cheddar cheese in bowls on the table to allow people to add to their own taste.

 

 

Freekeh-ing out before the storm

I feel the need to try any and every new grain that I hear about. I wish I could say it is because grains are healthy, but it really is just that I like trying to cook something new. And because I’m addicted to rice and know I need to diversify. Which was why when I saw a box of Freekeh in Whole Foods, I bought it before I had any idea what it was. I put it in a container in the pantry and waited for inspiration to strike. It took the odd but true combination of House Hunters International and Hurricane Sandy.

Now most people think, “A storm is coming, gotta get French Toast supplies.” I think, “A storm is coming, gotta roast a chicken.” For me, a roast chicken is always the start of an easy fall into a rabbit hole of recipe ideas. As part of the requisite storm war chest, I had already baked some multigrain bread to go with my slow baked apple butter so chicken sandwiches sounded like a good idea too.

The chicken was butterflied and roasting in the oven and for some reason a recent episode of House Hunters International came to mind. A grandmother was sitting at the head of a table with her family and watching them all eat the meal she made. One of the things on the table was Freekeh. The house hunter said they ate it just like rice. So I reached into the cabinet and pulled out the Freekeh. The box said to use 5 cups of water for 1 cup of Freekeh. I scoffed and decided to try my “Foolproof rice method” and was surprised to find that it worked.

The “sad” moment of the evening was when the Freekeh was on the stove, the bread was cooling, the kale was in the container ready to be moved to the fridge and I heard the oven timer beep.  I was looking around the kitchen completely confused.  What else could I possibly have made that would be beeping?  Ah yes…. the chicken.

Freekeh

Freekeh

1 T olive oil
1-1/2 c Freekeh
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
3-1/2 c chicken/vegetable stock or water

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, test the heat in the pan by dropping a few drops of water into the pan. When the water curls up into balls and dances over the surface of the pan, add the oil. Swirl pan to distribute the oil over the bottom of the pan. Add the Freekeh. Stir to coat with oil and toast the Freekeh. The freekeh will brown a bit. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Add garlic purée and stir to coat the Freekeh. Add salt and pepper and smoked paprika. Stir to coat. Add stock or water. Leave to cook until the liquid level is about 1/4″ below the top of the grains. Cover sauce pan and turn off the heat under the pot but leave it on the burner. Leave to cook for at least 20 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed.

 

 

 

 

Hot & Fresh Out The Oven

I have a weekly schedule to make sure I bake. Every week I make chocolate chip w/ nut cookies, sourdough bread and muffins. (The Hubs & Kid may be spoiled.) Baking helps keep me (relatively) sane and relaxed. Since I have an odd version of a sweet tooth (I like sweets that aren’t too sweet), I am also picky about my sweets. And since I also like to pretend that my sweets can be healthy, I load them up with whole grains, coconut oil and sugar alternatives. I can’t get used to the taste of any of the stevia or other branded sugar alternatives so it’s usually honey/maple syrup/golden syrup.

So, when Wednesday (muffin day) came around again and the banana pile was still pretty high, it looked like banana muffins were the way to go. The kid takes these muffins to school for breakfast and I have a fear of causing someone’s child to have an allergic reaction to nuts. So, feel free to use nuts instead of the dried cherries. Actually, any kind of dried fruit should work well in this. Oh and BTW: these fill the muffin cups right to the top.

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats, ground fine in blender OR 1 cup oat flour
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup ripe mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F.

Add muffin liners to a 12-muffin pan.

In a medium size bowl, whisk to blend oat flour, flour, dried cherries, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, eggs, banana and vanilla. Stir in sour cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients gently. Try not to over-mix.

Spoon mixture into muffin pan.

Bake for 25-30 mins or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Cool in muffin pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.

Remove muffins from pan. Cool muffins on cooling rack until ready to eat.

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Of Soup and Spices

It’s fall and soup season again. So, if I see vegetables in the fridge for more than a day, I’m tempted to turn it into soup. This week the lucky contestants were cauliflower and leftover baked potato wedges. Now, I like puréed soups and The Hubs likes chunky soups. So, I’m going to write this one out so you can do this soup either way with a few modifications.

I was in a spice mood when I started making this soup. This is one of those soups where I just open up the spice drawer and just start pulling out anything that sounds interesting. It probably helped that I’d been talking to my mom the day before about a doctor who wrote a cookbook and was pushing spices like turmeric, mustard, sesame, etc. etc. Of course, I am also completely hooked on making my own bread since I found HFCS on the list of ingredients of bread I was about to buy. And I figured I needed something else to do with the 12 pounds of honey I bought. (…Don’t ask) So, I figured soup would be the best thing to dip my bread into.

 

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Curried Cauliflower-Potato Soup
(Makes 4 quarts)

1/4 c curry powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 large spanish onion, minced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 large heads cauliflower
2 quarts potatoes, baked
1 can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

Chunky Soup:

NOTE: cut cauliflower & potatoes into 1/2″ pieces. (Make it look pretty).

In a separate pot warm the stock over medium-low heat. Add coriander, cumin, sesame seeds & mustard seeds to a stock pot and turn to medium heat. When you start smelling all the spices (the whole spices may start popping), grind the spices in a spice grinder or leave whole. Add the minced onions, garbanzo beans and olive oil. Add the curry, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Stir the onions and beans occasionally until the onions are translucent and the spices are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic & stir the ingredients until you can smell the garlic. Add the cauliflower florets and cubed potatoes. Turn to coat with the spices. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Cover the pot and let cook until the cauliflower is soft enough that you can put a sharp knife through it easily. Add more stock as needed to get to desired brothyness (it’s a word now…). Add more salt & pepper as needed. Serve with buttered multigrain bread w/ apple butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Puréed Soup

NOTE: Cut the cauliflower & potatoes any way you like. It’ll look the same in the end.

In a separate pot warm the stock over medium-low heat. Add curry, coriander, cumin, sesame seeds & mustard seeds to a stock pot and turn to medium heat. When you start smelling all the spices (the whole spices may start popping), add the minced onions, garbanzo beans and olive oil. Add the smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Leave the onions and beans to cook in the spices, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the spices are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic & stir the ingredients until you can smell the garlic. Add the cauliflower and potatoes. Turn to coat with the spices. Add 1 quart of the stock. Cover the pot and let cook until the cauliflower is soft enough that you can put a fork through it easily. Purée in batches in a blender or in the pot with a hand blender. Add more stock as needed to get to desired consistency. Add more salt & pepper as needed. Serve with buttered multigrain bread w/ apple butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Freezer Waffles

I’ve been buying frozen waffles for The Kid for months when I had time to shop and coupons to cover them.  They were organic and multi-grain, etc. etc. so needless to say they weren’t particularly inexpensive.  This week, I finished the last box of waffles.  I was talking to the Bestie and she said she just makes waffles and freezes them for my goddaughter and I was inspired to give it a try.  I tried a mix and didn’t really like it so I’ve been putting off looking for a new one.  Due to time restraints, I’ve been shopping mostly in bulk online.  (Subscribe & Save is my version of a personal shopper.)  Unfortunately, bulk shopping makes trying out recipes easier than trying out mixes.

Of course, today, I also realized that I needed to feed my multi-grain sourdough starter (I’ll discuss this adventure later).  Which means I had to take out a cup of sourdough starter.  I still have bread from last week’s feeding. So, since I have a completely sappy inability to throw out any of the sourdough, I had to figure out something to do with it.  What can I say… I’ve become attached to my sourdough starter.  If I feed something/someone on a regular basis I tend to get attached.  I knew the risks when I ordered the sourdough starter… so this is not a surprise for me or anyone who knows me.

 

Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles
(makes 4 Belgian Waffles)

Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup dried buttermilk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup coconut oil
4 eggs (separate the egg whites from the egg yolks)
1-1/2  cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

NOTE: If you have an 8-cup glass measuring cup this is the ideal “medium size bowl” so you can see if something is really doubled.

In a medium size bowl, add the starter, warm water, buttermilk powder, salt, sugar and coconut oil.  Whisk to blend.  Whisk in the flour.  Whisk the egg yolks then add to the flour mixture.  Leave the flour mixture to sit until it doubles in volume.  This may take an hour depending on how warm it is in the kitchen.  (Check on it earlier if it’s warm and check on it later if it’s cool in the kitchen).  Leave the egg whites covered on the counter until they reach room temperature.

When the dough is doubled, preheat the waffle iron.

Beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks. (Turn the beaters upside down.  If the point stands up, It’s ready.  If it falls limply to the side, keep on beating).  Add the vanilla and about a third of the egg whites to the dough using a whisk.  When the egg whites and vanilla are incorporated, add the remaining egg whites to the dough.  You want to add the egg whites without deflating them.  So, use the whisk to fold the egg whites into the dough slowly.

Every waffle iron differs so you’ll need to check the instructions on your waffle iron to determine how to make your waffles.

If serving, hold the finished waffles in a 200F oven until you are ready to go to the table.

If freezing, let waffles cool on a cooling rack then store in plastic bags freezer.  Toast from frozen when ready to serve.

Life Happens… And so do quick meals…

I have a rolling list on my phone (and fridge) of every meal that The Kid and I eat in the week (I used to pack lunches for The Hubs but it got confusing so he handles his breakfast & lunch himself). I have this week’s menu complete and I am starting to figure out next week. Yes, it’s true, I have meal planning OCD. I used to think I was crazy, but thankfully, my Bestie assures me that she has a list too. It’s the only way we know exactly what we need to have available in the fridge (either buy it on the way home or defrost it ahead of time) and how we manage to keep food on the table and lunch in the lunch boxes. No one seems to care how food gets to the table, but they surely want to know what happened when it doesn’t get there. And this is how I ended up standing over the stove at 6am Monday morning cooking coconut rice so it would be ready for me in the evening so I could give I could make something for The Kid’s lunch for Tuesday (how’s that for a breadcrumb trail…lol)

The coconut rice is of course simple. I make my rice using my Foolproof Method but substitute the oil with coconut oil, and substitute the water with a mixture of 1 can of coconut milk and enough chicken stock to make 4 cups. This is of course for 2 cups of uncooked rice. When it’s cooked transfer the rice to a storage container & put it in the fridge. (Feel free to race off to daycare drop-off & work like I did when you’re done.)

I’ve found that my “fried rice” recipes work best with rice that isn’t freshly made. You can use freshly made rice, but I’ve found that the cold rice doesn’t absorb the oil like fresh rice would and you maintain a much better texture with individual grains of rice.

So, fast forward to the evening and I leave work an hour and a half late. I have half an hour before I have to pick up The Kid and nothing else ready in the house for his or my lunch tomorrow. Ooops!!!

Now as luck would have it I had just roasted some red peppers over the weekend, we had steamed snow peas for dinner last Friday, I had a butterflied chicken with two breasts and a thigh left (save the thigh for something else) and two containers of fresh cremini mushrooms. There was no time to cut onions (it was a miracle i sliced through the mushrooms as fast as I did without causing myself harm) and I also had to set up my coffee and The Kid’s breakfast and sippy cups on top of everything else so… trusty roasted garlic purée to the rescue. If I had more time to make it I would have added 1 cup of minced onions.

This is a cut as you go recipe so if you prefer to get everything sliced up before you start expect to stand around in some parts. It was all done and under a lid in less than half an hour, but I apologize since I was trying to beat the clock I can’t give you individual times for everything, just the visual cues.

Chicken & Mushroom Turmeric Fried Rice
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2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 (8 oz.) containers cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin
1 cup minced onions, optional
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp roasted garlic purée
1 roasted red pepper (skins & seeds removed), minced
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1-1/2 cups snow peas, cooked or defrosted from frozen, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock/drippings
Coconut Rice
1 tbsp salt

You’ll need a very large skillet. If you don’t have one (or aren’t feeding a child with an appetite far beyond his years….) Halve the recipe and use a normal skillet.

Get the skillet on the stove over medium heat before you start doing anything else. You want the pot really hot to caramelize (not steam) the mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms while the pan is heating up. You know the pan is ready if you drop a few small droplets of water in the dry pan (no oil yet until the pan passes the test) and the water droplet dances around the pan. Then add the oil followed quickly by the mushrooms. Spread the mushrooms around and go start cutting up everything else. Leave the mushrooms alone until you start seeing them turn a caramel color and start to curl. Then, move them around the pan so the get coated in oil. (If you are adding onions this is the place to do it. Let the onions get just a little browned, but not burnt.) When the mushrooms look wilted and caramelized, add minced roasted red peppers, garlic purée, turmeric, and smoked paprika. Move everything around the pan. The spices should begin to stick. Add the chicken and coat with the spiced mushroom mixture. Next add the chicken stock/drippings and scrape up the all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the corn and peas. Finally, add the coconut rice. You will likely need to use your hands to break up the rice to get everything mixed together. When everything is mixed, turn the heat to low, cover and leave for at least half an hour for the rice to warm through and the favors to meld.

Summertime… Yeah it’s Summertime… Having some Pesto

I’ve been busy beyond my normal level of busy in the past few months, so I’ve been a bit neglectful.  I apologize, but here me out: Hubs had a crazy grad school schedule despite graduating in May (lol) then he started a new job then a new new job. I became Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified and sifted through massive convoluted Access Database code to rehab a poor database. We got rid of our pool which had reached the put up or shut up moment in its life. I redesigned all our garden beds and have officially decided to convert the garden to a fully edible landscape.  Forgiven? (I’m going to assume someone said yes…)

So, as I sat at work this afternoon dreaming of dinner I kept thinking about the basil plants that were getting too big and would be in danger of bolting soon.  Oh and what was I going to do with all that tarragon?  Well, I wanted a caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella & basil, but I had too much basil for a delicate preparation. I figured a semi-warm summer afternoon would be the perfect time to make the season’s first batch of garden fresh Pesto. So, pesto with a tomato mozzarella salad was the final decision

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Pesto Shells

Basil-Tarragon Pesto Shells w/ Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Garlic Spread on Toasted Bread

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

1 cup mozzarella balls, bite size, sliced in half
1-1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

About an hour before you are going to eat…. In a glass bowl with a cover (or you can just cover with plastic wrap) place mozzarella balls & tomatoes. Grate garlic cloves on a fine grater or use a garlic press. Add the garlic to the tomato mixture with a pinch of salt.  Cover & set aside. Every 10 minutes or so, shake the bowl so the juices get distributed evenly. Right before serving add white wine vinegar and shake again.

Basil-Tarragon Pesto

1 lb. pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups Basil leaves (not packed)
2 cups tarragon leaves (not packed)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon. small, juiced

Put the pine nuts in the pot that you plan to cook your pasta (…unless you have a free dishwasher on staff). Turn the heat to medium-low. You are going to toast the pine nuts in the pot so keep sniffing the air until you start to smell the toasted popcorn-like smell and the pine nuts are just starting to brown.  I wish I could tell you how long it takes, but I keep my pine nuts in the freezer so times vary for me.

NOTE: Pine nuts have low self-esteem. If you look away they will burn. Keep an eye on them and move them around the pan with a wooden spoon every few minutes or so until they are ready.

Take the pine nuts out of the pan and set aside.  Add the water to the pot to boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

NOTE: You can use any pasta you want for this, but I figured shells would be easier for The Kid to pick up with the halved tomatoes.

Add the garlic to your food processor while it’s running. When all the garlic is chopped (and pressed against the side of the food processor), add the pine nuts. Stop the food processor and add  the Parmesan cheese, the basil & tarragon leaves and a pinch of salt. Process until it starts forming what looks like a ball rolling around the processor. Start pouring in the olive oil slowly. Watch carefully. You only want to add enough oil to stop the “ball” from rolling around the food processor. (You are going to use pasta water later to thin it down to the exact consistency you want. So, don’t add all the oil if you don’t need it).  Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, process, then begin the test & adjust.  Taste for more lemon juice, salt, etc.  Adjust as needed.

Add the pesto to the dish you plan to serve the pasta in. When the pasta is cooked, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pesto and stir them together. (I think it’s easier to add the pasta to the pesto with a slotted spoon or spider than to drain the whole thing in a colander first.)  After you mix the pasta & pesto, add some of the pasta water if you want thinner pesto.  Adjust to your taste.

Serve immediately topped with the tomato-mozzarella salad and toasted bread topped with some warmed Roasted Garlic Mayo

 

Strawberries — Grow Your Own (Part 2)

Continued from Strawberries — Grow Your Own (Part 1)

 

Where were we?  Oh right… we covered June-bearing vs. Ever-bearing and Size.  Now for the last major question:

Strawberry Pot with Mignonette Strawberries & Cuban Oregano

Container or garden. Strawberry pots are iconic. They don’t make it easy to water the strawberries, but they look cool and they make harvesting the strawberries really easy. Of course you don’t have to use a strawberry pot. You can use any pot you want. If you use pots you will need to take the containers indoors during the winter. Planting the strawberries in the ground lets you regrow the strawberries each year.  If you are growing in the ground then you’ll want to get the bare root plants.  It’s less expensive that way, but you have to make sure that you plant it so the line where the roots meet the bottom of the plant is directly in line with the soil.   Some growers recommend snipping off all the strawberry flowers for the first year so the roots grow stronger.  I usually put the plants in the pots and the bare roots in the ground so I know which is which the first year.  Most of the plants you buy are second year plants so I eat those and snip off all the flowers on the ones I put in the ground.  At the end of the season, you will need to either plant the ones you had in pots in the ground to overwinter or take them inside.  They most likely won’t survive a winter in the pots.

Alpine Strawberry Plant in Hanging Container

So, despite all the info, the best thing to do is a little of everything. You should get both June-bearing and Ever-bearing so you have a constant supply and a big bounty in the summer. You should get both big and teeny so you can eat fresh & dip in chocolate and also make preserves & sauces. And lastly you should put some strawberries in the ground and pots.  I get my strawberries online from either Burpee or Gurneys.  Burpee has a great variety of teeny strawberry plants (the white and yellow ones are shockingly good).  And Gurneys has one called the “Whopper” that should make amazing strawberry shortcakes.  I’m trying it out this year and will let you know how they do and taste.  And most important: try a few different varieties.  They don’t all taste the same so feel free to just toss plants you don’t like and try a new variety.

Early warning: Squirrels and birds love strawberries so you may need to protect your strawberries with a net so you don’t lose your harvest. Of course, they are a good scape goat when you get in the house with no strawberries and everyone wants to know why there isn’t enough for them…

Strawberries — Grow Your Own Organic (Part 1)

I (like most people who aren’t allergic) love strawberries. I used to buy huge 2lb containers of them every week.  So, when I read a while back about how many chemicals are used to grow them commercially, it really hurt me to stop. I switched to organic only and of course, I started growing my own again.

There are three main things you need to figure out if you want to grow strawberries.

  • Ever-bearing or June-bearing
  • Size
  • Containers or garden

June-bearing strawberries come in all at once during the summer and are fantastic for having big bowls of strawberries or having enough to freeze or make preserves. Ever-bearing are good for having strawberries “year-round”.  Well sort of… They wouldn’t survive outside in northeast weather so I generally keep a few ever-bearing plants on a windowsill indoors through the winter so I can get an organic fresh strawberry in the winter. When you buy your strawberry plants make sure you either have your phone to check the type online if you are in a store.  If you are buying mail order then it should tell you in the description.  Do not buy strawberry plants that just say, “Strawberries.” You need to know the variety and the bearing type.

Strawberry Shortcake (yes, I made it)

Size matters in strawberries. Everyone loves the classic huge strawberry (because they’re good), but the teeny strawberry is the true joy of growing your own. The big strawberry is great for fresh eating, strawberry shortcakes or dipping in chocolate. The teeny strawberry has a more intense strawberry flavor than the big ones.  The teeny ones are best picked ripe but don’t ship well which is why you will rarely find it fresh in the supermarket, but you may find some at a farmers’ market.  If you want to add strawberry flavor to something, use the teeny strawberries.  Oh, and if you want something amazing you can sub in the teeny strawberries for blueberries in muffins. So good!!

Wow… this is getting long quick… I’ll post the second half later today.

The Winter That Wasn’t

Well, it’s been an interesting month… The oven has gone on the fritz and has left me to the mercy of the oven thermometer to determine the actual oven temp. The Hubs went to China and South Korea with his fellow grad school students where he had lots of food adventures. He will, of course, be starting guest posts about his food adventures soon. And, the weather has decided to tempt me into planting out of season, but I’m not falling for it. I did manage to get a lot of spring veggie planting done so far. So, there are a lot of seedlings popping out of the ground. Oh, and as with every spring, I’m currently obsessed with salads.

So far I’ve planted:
Agretti
Fava beans
Kale
Saltwort
Spinach
Peas
Radish
Carrots
Pak Choi
Epazote
Watercress
Beets
Belgian Endive
Lettuce

I’m starting to move some of the seedlings I started inside to the “greenhouse” stand I have outside. So now I have more room to transplant the other seedlings which I’m very excited to say includes passion fruit seedlings that I grew from the seeds of a passion fruit I got at the supermarket. I’m hoping this will give me a good haul of plants this season and summer, but since the weather has as much of a role to play as everything else I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.

Of all the seeds I planted outside, the one I’m most excited about is the Agretti. It’s an Italian bitter green that I can’t find much info about. I was on the email list for an Italian seed company and when I saw the word rare in the description I had to buy it. I will admit (unapologetically) to having a seed collection that numbers in the hundreds. If I have never heard of something I am compelled to buy it. Or if there is a new variety like the purple tomato. The best information I have so far is that it is best to treat it simply with olive oil like you would broccoli raab.

So I continue my kitchen and garden adventures where we left off…