Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Recipes: Strawberries

Ahh strawberry season! Those wonderfully sweet, dark red, gorgeously plump berries. Can you tell I love strawberries? There's a strawberry farm about 20 minutes from our house. They farm 100 acres from which you can go, take a basket, and pick fresh strawberries right from the plants. At the end of August you can pick fresh raspberries and pumpkins in the fall. Strawberry picking starts mid-June, so I am anxiously awaiting the opening. That's what got me searching for strawberry recipes. Here are a few for you to enjoy!

Here are some tips from Thompson Strawberry Farm
  • Store berries in the coolest part of your home (refrigerator, basement, garage, floor, etc.)
  • Do not remove hulls before washing
  • Do not rinse off berries until you are ready to use them
  • Grade your berries - use ripest ones first

~ Amanda

Strawberry Salsa

2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint leaves
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

Combine oil, lime juice, vinegar, mint, cilantro, jalapeno, pepper and salt in medium bowl. Toss in strawberries, pineapple and onion. Serve over grilled chicken or pork. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Strawberry Blast

1 ripe banana
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh strawberries

Cover and blend until thick and smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Strawberry Pancake

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in each of two 9 inch pie plates in oven. Beat eggs with milk, flour, sugar and vanilla.Remove pie plates and pour half of batter into each plate; scatter with berries. Bake 20 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Makes 4 servings.

Strawberry Salad

4 cups torn salad greens
1 cup watercress
1 cup sliced, hulled strawberries
1/2 half of a small red onion, thinly sliced
Poppy seed Dressing (homemade or bought)
Edible flowers such as nasturtiums or chive blossoms

In a salad bowl, place greens, watercress, strawberries onion. Top with dressing and toss to coat. Garnish with edible flowers. Chive blossoms and nasturtiums are peppery in taste. If they are not available to you, fresh mint can be used for garnish. Caution: Be sure that all herbs and blossoms are free of pesticides.

Honey Lime Fruit Bowl

3 cups honeydew melon balls
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and left whole
3/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup flaked, toasted coconut

In a large bowl, combine melon balls and strawberries; refrigerate. In small bowl, combine honey and lime juice; blend. Just before serving, pour over fruit and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with coconut. To toast coconut: Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes or until golden brown. Spread on a cookie sheet. 12-16 servings.

Strawberry Squares

1 cup flour
1/2 cup crushed pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 cups sliced, hulled fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For crust, in a bowl combine flour, nuts and brown sugar. Add melted butter. Toss to combine. Spread in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Spread 2/3 of the crust mixture in a 13x9x2 pan. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup of the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Beat mixture well. In another bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the strawberry mixture. Transfer to prepared pan. Top with remaining crust mixture. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 9-12 servings. Garnish with additional berries if you wish.

Strawberry Jam

2 c Sugar
2 c Strawberries

Use large firm berries. Wash and hull the strawberries; then measure. Place a layer of berries in a kettle, then a layer of sugar until all ingredients are used. Let stand over night or until the sugar dissolves. Place on fire, bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let stand until the next day; then fill sterilized jelly glasses and seal.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

1 -1/2 pints fresh strawberries (may use frozen, let thaw and drain)
1 box Sure-Jell pectin
4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water

Rinse and hull strawberries, drain. Chop strawberries into small chunks and place in large bowl. Mash fruit with potato masher. Do not puree as jam is meant to have small chunks of fruit in it. Add 4 cups sugar to strawberries and mix well. Let set for 10 minutes.

Stir 1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin and 3/4 cup water into small pan. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir mixture for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Stir pectin mixture into strawberries until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour strawberry mixture into clean plastic containers and cover tightly with lids. Let set at room temperature for 24 hours. After 24 hours, refrigerate . Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and in freezer for up to one year. Just thaw jam in refrigerator to use.

These are just wonderful with fresh jam!

Strawberry Jam Turnovers

One 8-ounce package refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1/3 cup whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
1 egg white, beaten
confectioners' sugar

On cookie sheet, separate dough into 4 triangles; pinch seams closed. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon confectioners' sugar. Spoon 1/4 of the cream cheese and 1/4 of the preserves in the center of each rectangle. Brush edges with egg white. Fold corners to center; press. Brush tops with egg white. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in preheated 375 degree oven. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Serves: 4

We loved this on pancakes! She never made enough and her friends loved it as gifts.

Strawberry Syrup

8 cup. strawberries, crushed
1/4 cup. lemon juice
3 cups. sugar
1 cup. corn syrup
Requires: 3 hot sterilized pint jars

Place strawberries in a 4 to 6 quart pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Pour berries into a damp jelly bag set over a bowl covered with a double thickness of cheesecloth. (To keep cheesecloth from slipping, fasten with clip clothespins to rim of bowl.) Let juice drip for at least 2 hours. There will be 3 to 4 cups of juice. Return juice to pot and combine with remaining ingredients. Stir constantly and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Boil 1 minute. Pour syrup into 3 hot sterilized pint jars, leaving 1" headspace. Wipe rim of jar with damp cloth. Attach lid. Process in water bath for 10 minutes. Recipe can be halved and refrigerated without processing, when used within a few weeks.

Grandma made her own "biscuit mix" for this recipe but I kinda re-wrote it for convince. I make my own mix and use it....but I shared that before. Grandma loved cardamom and to me this is the secret of this recipe. I love it!

Strawberry Cobbler

4 cup. sliced strawberries
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3/4-1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. corn starch
2 cups buttermilk biscuit mix
3 tablespoons butter melted
1/2 cup. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cardamon

Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and corn starch in saucepan. Heat and stir until boiling and thickened. Pour into an 8" square baking dish. Combine next 5 ingredients for dumpling batter, and drop by tablespoons onto strawberry mixture. Combine sugar and cardamon and sprinkle over top. Bake at given temperature about 25 minutes, or until dumplings are done. Serves six.

Country Cake With Strawberries And Whipped Cream

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cornstarch, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the 3/4 cup of sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the sour cream, the orange and lemon zests and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla and beat until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes before turning it out onto the rack to cool completely.

Beat the cream with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla until soft peaks form.

Slice the cake in half horizontally. Spread most of the whipped cream over the cut side of the bottom cake half. Layer most of the sliced strawberries on top. Replace the top half of the cake and garnish with the remaining whipped cream and strawberries. make ahead The cake can be frozen for up to 1 month. Let it cool completely before wrapping in plastic and then foil. The assembled cake can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead.

Teatime Smoothie

1 cup cold strong Irish Breakfast or other black tea
1 cup frozen blueberries, raspberries or strawberries
1/2 cup apple juice or other 100% juice
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp. honey

In blender or food processor combine tea, blueberries, juice, yogurt and honey. Blend on high speed until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Strawberry Iced Tea

1 pint fresh strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cups boiling water
5 tea bags-green or black tea
1 can (12 ounces) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 quart sparkling water, or seltzer

Clean and trim the strawberries. Place them in a bowl with the sugar-mix to coat and set aside. Steep the tea bags with the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and cool. Stir the cooled tea into the strawberry mixture. Add the lemonade. Place in a large pitcher and chill. Before serving stir in the seltzer and pour over ice cubes in pretty glasses. Makes 12 servings.

Strawberry Lemonade

3 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 cups fresh (or frozen) strawberries
1 cup lemon juice

Heat water and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved; let cool then chill. Puree berries in blender or food processor; combine with water-sugar mixture. Add lemon juice. Serve over ice. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

And here's a bonus recipe from Thompson's!

Thompson Strawberry Bread

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup Quick Oats
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups crushed strawberries

Beat eggs and sugar, add oil and vanilla. Mix in flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Add strawberries and mix well. Pour into two greased and floured 4" X 8" bread loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

There are quite a few more strawberry recipes here on Heeman's and a ton more on Annie's Recipes and Alicia's Recipes

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Reusing Denim

I have 4 kids, 3 boys and a girl. The two younger boys wear holes through their blue jeans before they even outgrow them. Sure, you can cut those jeans into shorts, but what do you do with the legs you cut off? There are only so many pairs of cut off shorts that you need though, so what else can you do with those remaining pairs that aren't worthy of the donation pile?

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

QUILT: Cut the good parts of the denim clothing into four inch squares. Sew together to form a quilt. I did this and made a "rag" quilt. I sewed the quilt and left the denim seams on the outside of the quilt. Washed and dried for a little fraying and bam .. one Christmas gift was finished.

PURSE: Turn the jeans (I used shorts) to the inside and sew just below the bottom at the beginning of the legs. I sewed a few times for extra reinforcing. Sew on a strap using the waistband from another pair of jeans. Lace a belt or use ribbon through the beltloops to draw closed. I also put a strip of Velcro on the inside of mine to keep shut.

PILLOWS: I made "butt" pillows for our van the same basic way the purse is made. Except you need to close the entire top with Velcro. Put a ready made pillow form in and you can unvelcro for easy cleaning. Just toss in the washer. I used an old pillow as the pillow form and had no cost at all for my pillows.

APRON: Use a pair of overalls for this project. Cut the seams of the legs apart and then sew both of the front legs together and then both of the back legs together. Slip over you head for a great apron. You can also use as a great overall dress. Quick and easy.

NECK ROLL PILLOW: Cut off one of the legs at the crotch. Cut the other end off at the length you want the pillow to be, so you're left with a 'tube' of denim open at both ends. At this point you could use some fabric paints to add designs. Then wash the fabric a couple of times and put them through the dryer. This will help make the ends frayed in a more natural (and easier!) way than doing it by hand. Once it's done, all you have to do is stuff the tube, and tie off each end with ribbon, kind of like a Tootsie Roll! If you're using cotton stuffing - stuff it good and full, because it will settle with use. You can even stuff it with what's left of your jeans, if you don't mind it being harder than an average pillow.

Here are a few other projects you might like:

Denim Diary for Girls
Braided Denim Rug
Denim Christmas Stocking

Here are a couple blue jean projects I made for Kaboose this year!

Denim iPod Holder
Denim Bible Cover

To see some other great frugal tips, visit Thrifty Thursday. Have a great Thursday!

~ Amanda

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Readers' Questions and Answers

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains. One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness. ~Adeline Knapp

Sorry for my lateness today. It was my daughter's 3rd grade field day and picnic. The weather was perfect and the kids had a blast!

I have in my back yard purple nightshade and have been unable to get rid of it---have tried digging it out but the rootsare very long and strong, don't like to use poison stuff so I was wondering if there is anything else some one could recommend. ~Helen

What's happening is that little pieces of the root, or rhizome is getting left underground and they sprout. Nightshade roots break very easily. Try again to get every bit of the roots-and then remove EVERY part of the plant as well, to a waste bin where nothing will be left behind. Then the area where you dug them up can be covered by black plastic, which may kill anything that is left. Once you've done this, then next season or in the fall, plant hardy native plants that will take over where the nightshade had been. I've had it too so I know what you mean about those roots! As a last resort, Round Up used in the early spring may do the trick too. As I was doing some research, I found a great page with pictures of toxic plants:

How can I keep squirrels from eating oranges on my trees? ~Pat

Living in the Midwest, I've never grown orange trees, and I did some looking but couldn't find anything specifically on keeping the squirrels from the oranges, but I did find a good repellent spray you can make on your own. I'd try spraying it on the branches. Does anyone else have an idea?

Squirrel Repellant Spray

1 oz. Murphy's Oil Soap
1 oz. any brand hot sauce (cayenne type sauce)
1/2 Tbs. cayenne pepper

Mix this together carefully (watch your eyes and wash your hands well afterwards). Place it in a 22 ounce spray bottle and fill half way with water--shake to mix, then fill it the rest of the way with more water. Spray around area where the squirrels are doing damage.

I live in Indiana on a dirt road. The city was kind enough to grade our ditches leaving a steep grade that is hard to mow. Is there an ivy or something that grows low to the ground that will keep out the grass and weeds and still live through the dust generated by cars going down the road? ~Melissa

There are a lot of choices for slopes, depending on your climate and if it's full sun or shade. Some of the ones that are favorites and have a reputation for being tough are ivy varieties like Hedera Helix 'Glacier', which is variegated and will eventually cover the slope. Sedum is another tough ground cover with many different varieties.It should also do well. Daylilies, Hemerocallis, will also do fine on a slope because they are deep rooted and they will actually help the soil against some erosion. I would ask around to friends and family to see if they need some divided. The tough, classic orange variety is perfect for this and multiplies rapidly. The slope is going to get dusty, but using these types of ground covers you should be able to make it look nice and the lilies will add color.

We have tips on growing old fashioned morning glories:


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The How To of Peeling Hard Boiled Eggs

Just when I thought I had heard all the different ways to cool and peel perfect hard boiled eggs, I find yet another way in a cookbook I was perusing. There's even that wacky "blow the egg out of the shell method" and it actually does work! I've done it several times, though I don't know how your guests would feel about it. I'll share that here too.

Shake the Shells Off
So okay, I am pretty impressed with this one. There's a video on You Tube that shows how it's done, but basically you cook the eggs, then run them under cold water. Keep the eggs in about an inch of cold water in a container that has a lid. Place the lid on the container and shake the container vigorously. Shake it to the left, the right, and up and down. Remove the lid, and like magic, the shells are off of the eggs!

Roll, Dip & Slip
Cook eggs and cool in cold water. Crack the egg shell at each end by tapping the egg onto the counter. be sure to crush the air bubble at the large end of the egg. Place the egg on its side on the counter and roll forward for one full turn keeping the palm of your hand firmly down on the top of the egg. Place the egg into a bowl of warm water. The entire shell will slip right off.

Blowing the Egg from the Shell
When I first saw this I watched it over and over, and then of course I had to try it myself! Though I must not be as big a blowhard as this guy, so it took me 2-3 times before my egg came out, but it did! However, not sure if your guests would appreciate this method. ;) Here's the video for this method.

Peel off a little of the shell and membrane, just enough to gently insert a teaspoon, with the bowl facing the egg. Run the spoon around the curve of the egg, and it will pop right out.

What's your method?

Join me for Kitchen Tip Tuesday over at Tammy's blog. Read the other kitchen tips there as well!

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Garden Tidbits

Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than Emperor's. ~Mary Cantwell

Gardening is in full swing for everyone, though we have still had some chilly nights here in Michigan. My tomato seedlings are doing well, and I'll be moving them outside this week or next. I have more June garden tidbits today:

-Even if you don't normally place your houseplants outside during the summer, watch the weather reports and place them outside during a warm, gentle rain. It will wash off the dust and give them a nice shower.

-Once your bearded iris has stopped blooming remove the flower stock/seed pods so the plants energy can focus on the roots instead of seed production. If your irises are 3 years old or older you may want to consider dividing them. I have instructions on planting and dividing here:

-Blossom end rot isn't uncommon in tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables. Prevention involves watering your plants evenly and on a regular basis. If you let them dry out too much, then soak them, they may get it. Plan a watering schedule and try to stick to it.

-Believe it or not, you really should be planning for your spring garden, if you want less work that is, and a good soil to plant in next season. There is a technique known as "soil solarization" that works really well during the hot months of June and July. The area must receive full sun for it to work the best. Determine where you want to place a new bed, or extend one you already have. Pull up the larger weeds that you can grab--and rototill the area so it works it up about 8 inches deep. Water the area VERY well, and place clear plastic over the entire area--tack it down with stakes (tent stakes work great) or large rocks. You can leave this on and remove it next spring OR to really get it going, remove it in a month, and rototill again. Place the plastic on again and keep it there till spring.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Special: Reader's Questions

May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights. ~Peter Loewer

I missed last Monday's blog but had some questions and answers to share, so I thought I would make up for it today when I had a little quiet time to myself.

Kammi needs tips for growing in sandy soil and she also found an ant colony next to her strawberries and needs advice on getting rid of them.

Sandy soil can be amended pretty easily, and everything I came across said once this was done you can grow just about anything. So what can you add to sandy soil? The best things are well-rotted compost or manure (not fresh), pine park humus, composted leaf mold or peat moss. If you think your soil is too acidic add some lime with those things too. A few weeks ago I was reading an article about a couple who moved into a dry, infertile desert area, and by bringing in top soil, adding compost and using raised beds they were able to grow anything they wanted to! Oh, and you should also mulch well when the soil is sandy because the soil dries out faster.

I think ants are harder to get rid of then the sandy soil is to fix! Next time try planting mint with the strawberries--they work well together and the mint is suppose to repel ants. Also, doing some research it seems that strawberries might attract aphids, which in turn attract ants. You might try a soap spray as mentioned last week and see if the ants go away. Also, if you see the ant nest itself try pouring boiling water slowly into the nest. You'll have to dig up the one strawberry plant that is over the nest, but the boiling water should help. These are some of organic methods to try, since it seems like chemicals wouldn't be a good idea on edible plants.

My husband just brought home a coleus and gardenia plant for the yard, do you know how much watering and sunlight they may use? ~Robin

Gardenias should be planted in good, fertile soil in a partially shady area. They are fairly picky about temperatures. For the plant to form buds they need night temperatures of 60 degrees or so, and about 10 degrees higher during the day.

Coleus plants are grown for the foliage and it's much brighter and more colorful if they are planted in partial shade. They need to be kept watered, but not soggy. Also it's very important that you pinch off any flowers that start to form.

I have African Violet plants, they grow and bloom nice, but 2 of the plants look like they are growing up and not out like the other ones. I have them in a long pot with another violet and it's growing flat or out. It also looks like you can see the root on top of the soil. What can I do about this, is it normal? ~Ruth

Violets, like a lot of other flowering plants, need to be repotted once or twice a year with fresh soil and a pot that is just slightly bigger. Violets don't like too much space around them or under the roots. Make sure you cover the bare part of the stem-the part that looks almost woody-with soil. That may be Ruth is talking about when she says it's root is on top of the soil. I have an article with pictures on how to repot violets here: