June 30th, 2011 § § permalink
Can you believe June is over? Really? I don’t like to complain about summer being 1/3 or so in the books, so instead I thought I’d share a few highlights from the month followed by another strawberry recipe. It’s a popsicle perfect for what’s shaping up to be a steamy 4th of July weekend.
1. Dinner on the Farm
June started with a visit to Crandall’s Garden Farme in Ramsey, MN, complete with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. Ended up with great posts on 20food.net about the event.
2. The Little Acre Grew and Grew and GrewAll of the garden space was planted by early June. It was a late start, but things have rebounded nicely. The Little Acre Garden Bag on our patio went from a few plants into a regular hedge! This weekend we’re hoping to harvest some snap peas out of it. The community garden plot looks just as good with cucumbers, tomatoes, and broccoli only a few weeks away.
3. A Visit to Miller Park
Last weekend the kitchen partner and I ventured to Milwaukee to take my grandma to her first Brewer Game at Miller Park. She’s faithfully listened to Bob Uecker call hundreds of games, but never saw the team play in their home stadium. The Twins could have had a bit better showing than an 11-1 loss, but we were glad that Grandma saw some home runs. We also snagged a few of the Wisconsin-famous Klement’s sausages (a local Milwaukee brand) at the ballpark and saw the classic sausage races. Cheers to all things great about baseball and summer.
4. Canning Rhubarb Ketchup
A few weekends ago I made a second batch of the rhubarb ketchup recipe, and this time busted out the canning equipment. I’m still a little shaky on my preserving skills, even though I have the taste part perfected. Remembering to leave headspace, to heat the lid, to wipe the jar, to tap out any air is overwhelming the first time. Either way, all of my jars sealed and are now in the pantry waiting for winter.
5. Planning for Yellowstone
Planning also began this month for our backpacking trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in September. 10 glorious days of vacation. 10 days of hiking new trails. 10,000 things to see and do. We’ve got all the guidebooks checked out from the library and we have our ears open for recommendations. It seems everyone who has been to Yellowstone has at least one place they list as top-notch.
6. Bread Machine Giveaway
Earlier this week, I had one of the luckiest days I’ve had in a while. Marisa from FoodinJars.com let me know I was the lucky winner in her Zojirushi Bread Machine giveaway on my way to work. I found $11 on the ground at the park in the afternoon. And when I got home, I had topped the 4,000 view mark on the blog, something I didn’t expect to happen at all in the first year, let alone the first three months. I should have bought a lottery ticket.
7. Strawberry Mint Popsicles
Here’s the last recipe I made in June, something to cool off in the mini-heat wave we’re having today. These are all-natural, no sugar added deliciousness. Strawberries and mint are a perfect match with the tangy yogurt. Need popsicle molds? Try these Tovolo Green Star Ice Pop Moldsor Tovolo Jewel Pops.
Strawberry Mint Popsicles
By Amy Sippl
4 C. strawberries, washed and quartered
1/2 C. plain, non-fat yogurt
2 tsp. fresh mint, chopped
1. Place strawberries, yogurt and mint in a food processor. Pulse for 20-30 seconds or until mixture is well-puréed. Add honey to sweeten to taste. (Some berries may not need as much sweetener, others may be a little tangy and need some more. I used about 1 Tbsp.) Pulse for 5-10 seconds more.
2. Pour into popsicle mold and freeze for 2-3 hours or until set.
June 27th, 2011 § § permalink
Finally made it out to the strawberry patch this weekend to treat myself to three flats of ripe red berries. Although the season has been slow to start, the strawberries we picked were large, juicy, and sweet. If you haven’t been out to the patch, it’s not too late. Many pick-your-own sites waited out the last week’s cool temps and rain to start picking. Most of our berries found their way to the freezer for this winter. 25 bags in total. It’s the easiest way to prepare a local smoothie (or daiquiri) in mid-February. Freezing strawberries is simple: thoroughly wash, remove tops, slice in half and pack in quart bags. Flatten the bags as much as possible and lay in a single layer in the freezer to speed up freezing.
I did save 3 pounds or so for playing around with this week. There are so many great strawberry recipes it can be hard to choose. I created this recipe with some of my favorites: sugar cookie crust, made-from-scratch cream filling with a hint of maple syrup, and fresh strawberries. Combine them in a tart pan for a simple and stunning dessert. Strawberries are some of the best local produce Minnesota offers, enjoy them while they are here!
Strawberry Maple Cream Tart
By Amy Sippl
For the Sugar Cookie Crust
1/2 C. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 1/4 C. flour
For the Maple Cream
4 egg yolks
2/3 C. sugar
1/4 C. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
3 C. milk
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 C. strawberries, sliced in 1/4″ pieces
1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Prepare an 11″ tart pan by lightly buttering sides.
2. Combine butter and brown sugar for crust in a bowl. Add flour and egg and blend just until it forms a dough. Gently press the crust into the tart pan, being sure to evenly spread dough across bottom and up the sides. Bake crust for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
3. While crust is baking, prepare cream filling. Beat egg yolks in a small bowl and place near your work area. In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. While continuing to stir, gently bring the solution to a boil and thicken over medium heat. Boil 1 minute and immediately remove from heat.
4. Slowly stir 1 cup of the boiling solution into the egg yolks. When well combined, pour the egg yolks back into the saucepan. Bring the entire mixture back to a boil for another minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted and maple syrup.
5. Pour cream into cooled tart crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until well chilled. Top with strawberries and serve chilled.
June 25th, 2011 § § permalink
This week the folks at The Heavy Table came out with their 2011 Upper Midwest Pie Tasting, a glimpse at the best local pies in the region. Minnesota is well represented on the list including, Key’s Cafe and The Turtle Bread Company. The top pie goes to the Stockholm Pie Company‘s Cherry Berry Pie in Stockholm, WI. If you’re driving around the state this summer, check out this list to find the best slice. And as pie season takes off in the coming weeks, there’s some great tips (like avoiding overly-sweet or artificial flavors in your filling) in the article for making your own pie a blue-ribbon winner.
Hop on over and celebrate Pie Week at The Heavy Table:
June 24th, 2011 § § permalink
I have had a serious case of kitchen un-inspiration this week. When you’re documenting food, the problem goes beyond just writer’s block. You have to first motivate yourself to cook something, photograph something, write about this something, and then make it all appealing to someone else. Any hiccup in the supply chain threatens the chances of worthwhile content. This week, troubles fell mostly in the motivation to cook. Meals this week were basic: cooked vegetables with a side of cooked vegetables. Tasty, but no dramatic flair.
But then I stumbled on a vegetables episode of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. My adopted kitchen godmother steps in and solves the inspiration troubles with my favorite line of the show: “I suppose how much butter you add…depends on how you feel about butter,” (followed by a massive dab of butter dropped in the pan). One vegetable they prepared inspired me to get out of my kitchen funk and get into a seasonal vegetable ready now: peas.
The Farmers’ Market Peas are easiest to find at the farmers’ market; nearly every produce vendor has them available this time of year. Expect to buy in 1 lb. quantities or if you’re ambitious grab a larger peck-size bucket for freezing.
Carman Berry Farm located in Wadena, MN roughly 170 miles north of St. Paul
Although you might have to catch this pick-your-own pea patch on the way up to the cabin, they are one of the few places Minnesota Grown lists in the state. With the strawberries ready at Carman also you could double-up on early summer treats!
Grow your own
As long as you select the correct variety for your space, peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden. We even have a bush-type snap pea in our Little Acre container garden. It’s not too late to grow peas this season yet either! Many gardeners will harvest a crop in the cooler late-summer soils. Check out the U of M Extension office for more info.
How to Buy Peas
At the farmers’ market you will find peas in three common forms: snap peas (non-edible pods), snow peas (edible pods), and pea shoots. Snap peas require shucking the peas from the pods, and are great for classic pea dishes like the one I’ve included below. Snow pea varieties are terrific raw on salads or generously added to stir fry. Pea shoots are the most uncommon form, but yet one of the tastiest. Pea shoots are the young pea plant that can be substituted as a green in salads and sandwiches, or used in stir fries like Bok choy. My nephews like them best dipped in a little ranch dressing! Look for large peas with even, spring green color. If buying snap peas, avoid any that seem bulging or overgrown–the peas will likely be starchy and bitter. When you shuck them, place in a bowl of water; the peas that are high in sugar (tastier) will float while the older, bitter peas will sink. Save the sweeter ones for eating raw and use the rest in this recipe:
Steamed Peas with Soy Sauce
2 C. snap peas, shucked and washed
1 Tbsp. butter (or more depending on how you feel about butter)
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. soy sauce
1. Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan with a tight-fitting lid. Place cover on and pan over medium heat. Every 2-3 minutes, gently shake the pan to stir the peas (this avoids letting steam escape and searing the peas to the bottom of the pan). Cook for 8-9 minutes until the peas are tender.
June 21st, 2011 § § permalink
Had an unexpected day off today and I took full advantage. Sometimes cancellations and schedule changes can really bend me out of shape, but sometimes they are a welcomed surprise and a chance for extra time in my apron. I sent the kitchen partner off to work, turned the John Denver channel on Pandora and made a Rhubarb Cobbler recipe from a recent post on The Pioneer Woman. All by 8:00. I wont bother to re-write the recipe since my only substitution was 1 C. of whole wheat bread flour for 1 C. of the all-purpose. Here’s the link: Rhubarb Cobbler
The tangy pink rhubarb with crunchy top served warm with ice cream was the perfect breakfast. Hey…Don’t judge. We all need ice cream for breakfast now and again!
My only trouble with this recipe was the excess topping mixture I had left. My baking dish was likely a little smaller than used in the original recipe, or I chose not to top it as heavily. Not wanting to waste (almost half was left!), I used the dough as the shell for Mini-Rhubarb Tarts topped with a whole walnut. It’s an adaptation of my Strawberry Jam Mini-Tarts.