Thursday, July 9, 2009

Friday Recipes: Cherries

It's cherry season! I love, love, love cherries. I have a neighbor just down the street with a small cherry tree and I'm just dying to pluck one off and pop it in my mouth. :) I've been poking around Old Fashioned Living, and over the years Brenda has really added a lot of cherry recipes. So if you are like me, and you love everything cherry, try some of these tasty treats on for size.

Sweet Cherry Jam

Wash, pit and finely chop enough cherries to equal 4 1/2 cups. The chopping can be done in a food processor. Put cherries into saucepan and add 6 1/4 cups sugar. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil and add 1 package of powdered pectin. Return to a rolling boil, and boil 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and skim off any foam with a spoon. Ladle into sterilized canning jars filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with flat lids then screw bands tightly. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Cherry Crisp

For filling, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Toss with 5 cups fresh, pitted cherries. Place mixture in an 8 X 1 1/2 inch round baking dish.

For topping, in a mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup regular rolled oats, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in 1/4 cup margarine or butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling.

Bake in a 375* oven for 30-35 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is golden. Serve warm with ice cream if desired. Serves 6.

Quick, Fresh Sweet Cherry Pie 

1 purchased double crust piecrust for 9" pie
4 cups washed, pitted sweet cherries
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 425*. Line a 9" pie pan with bottom piecrust. Stir together sugar and flour; mix with cherries. Turn into pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with top crust which has slits cut in it; seal and flute. Brush milk over top crust and sprinkle with a couple teaspoons of sugar. Bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust. *note be sure to place the pie pan on a cookie sheet to prevent oven spills.

Cherry tip: A fast easy way to pit cherries: hold the cherry between your thumb and index finger with stem end pointing towards a bowl and squeeze. The pit should pop out with some juice. Be sure to catch the flavorful juice to use in your recipes.

It was a bit stressful trying to keep up with everything and take care of the cherries, but it was all worth it in the end. We enjoyed luscious desserts, fresh fruit, but most importantly we were able to share our bountiful harvest!

Cherry Fruit Salad

2 cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted
1 small fresh pineapple, pared and cut into segments
1 orange, peeled and cut up
1/2 small honeydew melon, cut into spears
1/4 cup toasted almond slices

1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp. orange peel

Arrange fruit on serving dish, sprinkle with almonds. Serve with dressing. Serves 4. Dressing: Combine all but peel, blend until smooth. Sprinkle with orange peel.

Double Cherry Cornmeal Tea Bread

3 tbs. dried cherries
1 1/3 c. whole grain pastry flour
2/3 c. yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. plain low fat yogurt
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. grated orange or lemon zest
1 c. fresh cherries, pitted and quartered

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray. In small bowl combine the dried cherries with enough water to cover. Let sit for 10 min. or until soft. In a med. bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until blended. In another med. bowl whisk together sugar, yogurt, applesauce, butter, egg and citrus zest until well blended. Drain the dried cherries well and coarsely chop. Stir into the yogurt mixture in 2 additions, stirring just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 min. or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 min. Turn onto a rack and cool completely.

Cherry Scones

1/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup Half and Half -- plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

Soak cherries in hot water for 10 minutes and then drain and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk, sour cream, cream and extract. Add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Mix in the cherries and then knead the dough lightly on a floured surface just until dough can be handled. Shape dough into a ball and pat into a 6-inch circle on a greased baking sheet. Cut into six wedges and brush with beaten egg white and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cherry Cheese Spread

1 cup dried cherries
1 cup water
2- 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

In a small heavy pan simmer the dried cherries in water until water is reduced to about a tablespoon. Remove pan from the heat and cool. In a medium sized bowl, beat the remaining ingredients together with the cherries and water once they have cooled. Serve with scones or crackers.

Cherry Bread Puddings with Maple Glaze

Your guest will feel truly pampered when they are served their own tiny bread pudding, studded with cherries and topped with a sweet maple syrup glaze. And you can make them in your muffin pan. These little treats can be baked up to four hours ahead, or served warm from the oven. (Although, in testing these at home, I had no trouble finding takers for the "leftovers" even 2 days later!)

1 sweet French baguette, a day or two old
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
2 cups whole milk (do not use low fat)
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 powdered sugar
3 TBSP. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Butter a 12-cup (non-stick) muffin pan. Slice the baguette into 24, 1/2 inch, slices. Place two slices in each muffin cup, trimming if needed to get them to sit flat in the cup. Sprinkle a few cherries around and between the slices. In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Cook on medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the milk starts to simmer (bubbles form on the side of the pan).

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs. SLOWLY add the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain the custard to remove any cooked egg particles and to ensure a smooth custard. If you have a large measuring cup, transfer the custard into it for easy pouring of the puddings.

Pour the custard over the bread in each muffin cup, filling the cups about half full. Pour a second time, letting the bread absorb the first pour briefly. Continue until all of the custard is evenly distributed over the 12 cups. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the bread is lightly browned.

While the puddings are baking, stir together the maple glaze and set aside.

Remove and let stand for 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently loosen the puddings and slide them out, inverting them onto a large plate. Top each with the glaze. Some of it will run off. Then remove the puddings to a serving platter and enjoy.

If you are interested, here's a great article on Growing Flowering Cherry Trees

Thrifty Thursday: Make Your Own Applesauce

I guess the most frugal way to make applesauce is if you have apple trees growing on your property. However, if you don't, and you happen to have some apples that are getting past their prime, this is a great way to make use of them. If you are using a sweet variety, like Red or Yellow Delicious, then you won't even need to add sugar!

There are a couple of ways to make applesauce, I'll give you the two basic methods, stovetop and slow cooker. There are also varied opinions on whether or not to peel and core the apples. Some people do and other don't. If you choose not to peel and core, you will need to push the finished product through a sieve to eliminate the seeds and skin.

Peel and core the apples, then cut into quarters for small apples, eighths for large apples. Put the core and peels in your compost pile or throw them out for the birds. You can eat the peels if you like!

Put one inch of water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Fill the saucepan with apples,cover with lid, and turn the flame on high. When the mixture is really going turn the flame down to medium high and cook until the apples are soft. If you used a sweet variety you will not need to add sugar. After removing from heat, add cinnamon and mash with a potato masher. You can also run the mixture through a blender or food processor. Add sugar if desired.

Add 8-10 peeled and cored apples to the crock along with 1/2 cup of water and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. If you are using a less sweet variety or just enjoy your applesauce on the sweeter side, add 1/2 to 1 cup sugar. You can always add sugar and spices after your applesauce has finished cooking.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours. 

I'm not going to give you any advice on how to can your applesauce. Years ago a method was used to can produce that is no longer considered safe. Therefore, follow the manufacturer's directions for your canning equipment for best results. 

The University of Minnesota Extension has a page on Safe Home Canning here. Additionally, here is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning from Penn State.

If you aren't interested in making a huge batch of applesauce for canning, etc, and if you are someone that prefers a solid recipe with measurements, here's one that will yield 4 servings:

Homemade Applesauce

4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat, combine all ingredients. Cover pot and cook for several minutes until the mixture gets going, then reduce heat to medium for 15-20, or until the apples are soft. Let the mixture cool then mash.

Now that you have made your applesauce, you'll probably be looking for ways to use it or enjoy it. Here are some recipes to help you with that!

See more frugal ideas by visiting Thrifty Thursday.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reader's Questions: Garden Help

Plants are like people: they're all different and a little bit strange. ~John Kehoe

Today I have more great gardening questions from reader's.

Will Snapdragons really reseed themselves? I live in California where the winters are incredibly mild so many annuals do reseed themselves. Should I just let the plant go or should I pull off those little pods that you say are full of seeds and then plant those? ~Jacqui near Monterey

Snapdragons really do reseed, and should where you are too if you let the seedpods form--which are the little pods--or you can collect the pods when they start turning brown and dry them in a basket, then plant them. Don't put the green pods in anything sealed or plastic because they will mold. What I do is snip off the pods til at least the end of August and then I leave them alone to dry on the plant and reseed. I do this because each plant will basically stop blooming if you don't cut off the seedpods, and snapdragons will bloom right up until cold weather, so I deadhead them until the end of summer. The only thing negative I can say about letting them reseed is that they pop up all over and the colors are always a surprise. I don't mind though because they are so easy to thin out where I don't want them.

Could you tell me why my Hydrangea bush never seems to make flowers. It flowered the first year and that was it. ~Rosie

There are a few things that could be causing this. One thing that could have happened was that you had a late frost and it damaged the buds development. The growth should come from the old wood--if your bush has bare branches, and the growth is coming up from the roots only--there has most likely been winter damage.

Pruning at the wrong time can hinder blossoms too. Only prune your hydrangea BEFORE the end of July. No later or you may be cutting off the next springs buds.

Make sure your hydrangea has 4-6 hours of sun--not too much shade. Do not give it fertilizer high in nitrogen either.

I must mention that sometimes we are given, or buy, a plant from the florist section of a store, and it MAY not be appropriate for your zone. When buying plants it's better to buy from where they can tell you the zone requirements. Try the things I mentioned and hopefully your hydrangea will bloom next year!

I bought monkshood, but have since learned just how toxic it is and want to remove it from my garden--safely. Do you have any ideas? ~Rebecca M.

It is highly toxic, but removing it really shouldn't be a problem. Wear gloves and dig it out, then dispose of it in the garbage. All parts of the plant contain the poison Aconitine, which is toxic to humans and animals. The root is especially poisonous. Oddly, when dried, some animals can eat it safely, and it's been used in herbal medicine as well. Wearing gloves when digging it out should be all you need to do.

On OFL we have tomato harvest tips and recipes:


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Tips: Tea Time Etiquette

Ellen Easton is a contributing writer for Old Fashioned Living. She is the author of Tea Travels™, Tea Parties and Good $ense For $uccess™. Below are some great tea time etiquette questions and answers from Ellen I thought you would enjoy.

1. Does one drink tea or take tea?

One drinks tea. During the Victorian era, the term to take tea was used by the lower classes and considered a vulgar expression by the upper classes.

2. Why is the shape of a teapot different from a coffee or chocolate pot?

The teapot is designed with a lower rounded body to insure the tea leaves have the proper room for expansion during the infusion process. The lower placement of the spout on the vessel allows for the tea to be poured without interfering with the leaves.

3. What is the correct placement of the teapot on the table?

The spout of the teapot and the tea kettle faces the hostess or pourer.

4. Are tea urns used for brewing or infusing tea?

No. Tea urns were designed to heat and hold hot water for larger quantities of water. Their function was the same as a tea kettle.Ideally, one would dispense the hot water from the urn into the teapot. "Bring the pot to the Kettle, not the kettle to the pot."

5. How does a teacup differ from a coffee or chocolate cup?

Traditionally a cup equals four ounces. However, the time of day and the beverage served will dictate the proper size of the service piece. Except for demitasse cups, which are served half full, all other cups are served three quarters full. A teacup is 3 1/4" to 3 3/4" in diameter and 2" to 2 1/2" in height. the companion saucer ranges from 5 1/4" to 5 5/8" across. A teacup is shallow and wider than a coffee or chocolate cup, giving the beverage a chance to temper before drinking.

6. What is a moustache cup?

A moustache cup is a nineteenth century variation of the teacup created in England by Harvey Adams. It is designed with a slit ledge projecting from the front side of the rim, allowing the tea to flow through while a gentleman's moustache remains dry resting on the top lip.

7. Why in older pictures of tea settings are spoons placed across the top of a teacup?

Tea was very expensive during the early years of its popularity. As such,the actual tea wares were small in size. There was no room for a teaspoon to rest on the saucer. A guest rested their teaspoon on top of their teacup as an indication they had had sufficient tea. This was a signal to the hostess to stop pouring tea. Today, to indicate the same signal, due to the larger size of the teacup and saucer, the proper placement of the spoon would be across the top of your saucer, not the cup.

8. What is a tea plate?

Native to England and Europe, tea plates were customized to hold a teacup without a saucer.The plate was embedded with a shallow well to secure the teacup. The foods and tea were served together on one plate. When one is using separate tea service pieces the customary size today is either a salad/dessert plate of seven to eight inches or a bread and butter plate of six to seven inches.

9. Where does the expression "not my cup of tea" come from?

To refer to one as "not my cup of tea" derives from the fifteenth century Japanese Teaism. "No tea to him." As one "insusceptible to the seriocomic interests of the personal drama." It is used to describe those one does not care for.

10. How is a traditional English trifle made?

Ruth Darley's advice, whether made from scratch or not, for an easy and quick English trifle recipe. Preferably set in a large footed bowl, alternate layers of the following ingredients: sponge or pound cake moistened with Sherry, egg custard or pudding, sliced strawberries, whipped cream and slivered almonds, repeat layers until bowl is filled. Fruit juice may be substituted for Sherry. Custard and pudding flavors may be changed to taste as well as seasonal berries.

11. When drinking tea does one lift the teacup and saucer or just the teacup?

If one is seated at a table, the proper manner to drink tea is to raise the teacup only,placing it back into the saucer in between sips.

If you are at a buffet tea, hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap.

In either event, never wave or hold your tea cup in the air.

12. What are the proper protocols for wearing gloves at an afternoon tea?

The protocols for wearing gloves are the same, whether one is attending an afternoon tea or any other event where foods and beverages are served.

While gloves are often highly designed with decorations and adornments, their sole purpose is to cover and protect ones hands from the elements.

When greeting another, remove the glove from the right hand, place the removed glove in your left hand and shake hands skin to skin.

It is improper to dine with ones gloves on. Remove your gloves before sitting down to dine. The exception is for long, formal gloves with buttons at the wrist. It is acceptable to unbutton, remove ones fingers and hands and fold back, to the wrist ,the lower portion of the glove without removing the upper portion from your arm. If the gloves have no wrist buttons, the gloves should be removed in their entirety before dining.

Wishing you happy Tea Travels! (TM)

More of Ellen's Articles:
Planning a Tea Menu
A Spring Tea Menu
Tea and Silver
Tea at the Holidays
Understanding Tea Time Service
The Afternoon Tea Gown
The History of Chocolate
A Summer Rose Tea
Etiquette Faux Pas

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July Garden Tidbits: Veggies and More

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar. ~Bradley Miller

I don't know about where you live but our weather has been crazy! We had several days of high humidity last week where it was close to 100 F., then it cooled off and barely made it into the 60's. I had to watch my beds carefully where I'd sowed seeds because even with some rain, they dried out quickly. If you have areas of your landscape that are in full sun and in wide open spaces they made need to be watered more often in windy, dry weather, but more sheltered areas, especially in partial shade, can often be left alone.

Even in the north you can still sow seeds of vegetables that will have time to grow, such as beans, cucumbers, squash, carrots, radishes, and greens. You'll want to look for vegetables, herbs, flowers etc that will mature in 60 days or less. Keep the seeds watered well as per the instructions on the seed packets. It's especially important when the days are hot and windy.

From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office: *Cutting flowers is best done with sharp shears or a knife which will help avoid injury to the growing plant. A slanting cut will expose a larger absorbing surface to water and will prevent the base of the stem from resting on the bottom of the vase. It is best to carry a bucket of water to the garden for collecting flowers, rather than a cutting basket.

This time of year we mainly stay concerned about our plants in the garden, but shrubs also need care. If you receive less than an inch of rain in a two week period and the temperatures have passed 85 degrees, then they probably need a drink. It's better to water deeply, which will encourage roots to grow deep. It's healthier for the shrub. Using a sprinkler you can set out a rain gauge or a tin can and water until you have 2-3 inches of water collected.

OFL has tips on controlling those pesky Japanese Beetles: