I love strawberries. Love, love, love them. Strawberries and asparagus are my two harbingers of spring. When you see them at the farmer’s markets, winter is over fo’ sho’. Like many of the most precious things in life, strawberries are fragile and temporary. Fresh strawberries are so far superior to their hard, dry grocery cousins that I will usually forego buying strawberries at the grocery and instead, wait until I can eat them to my heart’s content, fresh from the fields. But if you are eating (mostly) local as we are, how do you continue the strawberry love all year? There are lots of ways to preserve your berries so you have some wonderful flavor all winter long. Canning preserves, of course, is a great option, but don’t forget freezing and drying as well!
Your freezer is probably your most overlooked ally in reducing food waste and stalling the effects of time on your precious berries. Last year, we purchased a second freezer and we used it all summer to pack away berries, peaches, tomatoes, figs, corn, beans, okra–pretty much anything that was plentiful and at the peak of the season. Our freezer is running low now, but we’ve had a winter’s worth of wonderful meals and we’re getting ready to stock it up once again! With strawberries, you can make freezer jam or just freeze the whole berries for use later.
One of our favorite restaurants, Lucky 32, has a great Farm-to-Fork blog about preserving strawberries HERE. Check it out! I’m definitely trying the vinegar idea this year–not only does it sound delicious, it uses up those bruised berries that sometimes get put in the compost (well, not in our house–they usually end up in my mouth).
Here are some other ideas and resources:
Put ‘Em Up was my canning and preserving bible last summer. My copy is so dog-eared, stained and sticky that it’s a surprise I can still turn the pages. One aspect I really like is that her jam recipes use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is a bit more expensive, but allows you to decrease the amount of sugar you use without compromising the texture of the jam. I just ordered her new fruit book and can’t wait to try the recipes. Strawberries are so fresh and sweet, why mess them up with more sugar than needed? I love this book so much more than the Ball canning books because the recipes are creative and absolutely spot on with measurements. Also, she includes other preserving methods, such as drying and freezing, so if you don’t can, you can still find lots of useful ideas.
Consider buying a dehydrator. This is my summer project. Have you ever had dried strawberries??? Holy moly! They are amazing and last a good long while. Wonderful on cereal, in granola or just as a snack–nature’s candy, indeed! You can dry strawberries in your oven as well–just takes a little more attention on your part, but completely do-able!
Make fruit leather. Once you make homemade fruit leather, you will never touch that pre-packaged stuff from the grocery again. And you kids probably won’t want to either. We made homemade strawberry fruit leather last spring (read about it HERE)and we all agreed it was so strawberry-delicious that we needed to make more. Immediately. Except then, we ate all our strawberries. Oh, well, we will try again this year!
I’ll be sharing more of our berry recipes as we head into high season! I just need to remember to sock some away for November and December, when we are feeling deprived of fresh berries!
This is a repost from last spring because this pie is so wonderful!
I’ll just admit it. I am not so much a pie maker. Perfect crust tends to elude me, and the tops of my pies are usually cattywampus and slightly caved in. That’s ok with me, though–as long as they taste good. And the ice cream doesn’t seem to mind, either.
This pie is the last in my experiments with rhubarb. It was sticky, sweet, tart and perfect with vanilla ice cream (or soy cream). It puts to shame those imposter pies that beckon to you in the grocery with their too sweet filling and their bland crusts. I think strawberry rhubarb pie is just like spring–fresh, slightly awkward, and gone too soon. Yum.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (makes one pie)
- 2 pie crusts from your favorite recipe
- 3 cups fresh, organic or pesticide-free strawberries
- 2 1/2 cups washed and chopped rhubarb
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons quick cooking tapioca
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Zest and juice from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 egg white
- Organic turbinado sugar
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix berries, rhubarb, sugar, flour, tapioca, cinnamon, zest and lemon juice. Toss well and set aside.
- In a 9″ pie plate, unroll one of the pie crusts. Pat into the plate. Pour the berry mixture into the pie crust.
- Cut the butter into cubes and sprinkle on top of the berries.
- Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the edges of the pie crust with the egg wash.
- Top with the second pie crust. Crimp the edges of the pie and trim excess crust.
- Brush the egg wash over the pie crust. Cut slits in the top to vent steam. Sprinkle top with turbinado sugar.
- Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for 50 minutes more.
- Let cool and serve.
Can I confess to you that I am a Pinterest freak? I mean, yes, I realize that Pinterest features a lot of made up stuff that most of us will never do because we are busy having actual lives, but really. I’m like a moth to a flame. Occasionally, I will actually try to tackle a craft/home improvement/gardening/deep cleaning project, but mostly I just like to look at the pretty pictures. Guilty pleasures, I know. Sometimes those photos are accurate portrayals of what recipes will really look like, but often “they’ve had work done.”
Not so with this recipe. When I saw a photo of this dish from Give Me Some Oven, I thought no way will the real dish look so vibrant and lovely. I was all prepared for something less than stellar, and was pleasantly surprised when I ended up with something that looked like the photo! Thank you, Give Me Some Oven! I think it is one of my new favorite dishes. Healthy, vegetarian, easy to make and so darn pretty to look at, this recipe is a winner all around. In fact, the Give Me Some Oven site is full of rainbow recipes and they all look amazing so check out her site and get cooking!
The original recipe is HERE. I did some make some changes. I used my Spicy Peanut Sauce instead of the peanut sauce in the recipe. Mine is not sweet and has more kick to it. If you are making this dish for little ones (or family with a sweet tooth), I would use the original peanut sauce recipe. I did make it and it’s delicious, but I like more sass and less sweet–just a personal preference. I also used some fresh, local vegetables like local early garlic, local spring onion and sugar snap peas instead of edamame. You could really use whatever you want as long as you balance out the colors! I also used fresh rice noodles instead of pasta and that worked well, so if you’re gluten free, no worries!
The trick to this dish is to do all of your vegetable prep ahead. Once you start cooking, you have about 5-7 minutes until dinner is on the table, so have everything ready to go before you heat your pan. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
Rainbow Peanut Noodles (Serves 3-4)
Spicy Peanut Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
- 4 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
- 1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp. sriracha chili paste
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1/2cup olive oil (you could also use peanut oil)
- Kosher salt and ground pepper
- 12 ounces fresh rice noodles (or pasta)
- 1/2 head of organic purple cabbage, washed, drained and shredded
- 2 small bulbs of fresh, organic spring garlic (or 1 garlic clove), minced
- 1 pint fresh sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed
- 2 organic carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
- 1 yellow and 1 red bell pepper, washed, trimmed and sliced very thin
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Optional toppings: peanuts, sesame seeds, chopped scallions
- Combine all ingredients for peanut sauce in a blender or the bowl of an immersion blender. Blend together until creamy and set aside.
- Heat water for the noodles. When water boils, cook the rice noodles for 1 minute. Set aside.
- Heat coconut oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium high heat.
- Saute the rainbow vegetables for 3-4 minutes, tossing frequently. Turn off heat.
- Add noodles and 1/2 of peanut sauce to the vegetables in the pan and stir to combine.
- Serve immediately with toppings of your choice!
Spring is here, and in North Carolina that means one thing–the return of the dastardly yellow pine pollen. It coats everything in its smothering path. Cars. Sidewalks. Window screens. Our cat. When we finally have rain, the roads feature yellow rivers of stormwater. Lakes start to resemble chemical waste spill sites. Our dog (a hound mix) lives for sniffing everything, so she spends about a quarter of her waking hours sneezing. In my book, there is little to celebrate about this crazy tree sex business. Except aspargus.
Yellow pine pollen season, while annoying, is a visual marker of the seasonal change from winter to spring. It also means fresh, local asparagus is due at the farmer’s markets, and that is definitely something to celebrate. I love fresh asparagus in stir fry, steamed or sauteed. But my favorite way to eat asparagus is to roast the spears with a little olive oil and salt. Simple and easy. If we eat outside on the deck, they also get a slight dusting of pollen, but we won’t complain.
This bowl meal is easy to put together and is really delicious. If you haven’t tried making cauliflower rice, give it a go–it is very easy and a great, grain-free substitute for rice. The eggs give this dish some needed protein, but you could replace them with sautéed tofu for a vegan meal as well. We are hearty eaters, so this recipe fed two of us, but you could add more vegetables and stretch it out to four servings (it could also serve four if you have lighter appetites than we have!).
Spring is here! Clean off the deck furniture, wash off the pollen and enjoy a fresh season of delicious fruits and vegetables!
Asparagus and Cauliflower Rice Bowl
Serves two hungry adults
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
4 farm eggs
1 tablespoon coconut oil
4 tablespoons homemade vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Trim the asparagus stem ends, removing the tough bottom 2 inches, if necessary. Add asparagus to the baking sheet.
Add the cut bell pepper to the baking sheet.
Toss the asparagus and pepper with the olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange vegetables in an even layer.
Roast vegetables for about 10 minutes or until your desired level of roasting.
While vegetables are roasting, wash the cauliflower and trim the florets of the stem and leaves.
Add cauliflower florets to the bowl of a food processor (you may need to do this in two batches).
Process the florets on low until the cauliflower is in rice-sized pieces (about 30 seconds or so).
Heat he coconut oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook for 7-8 minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked and slightly soft, but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Remove vegetables from the oven and keep warm.
In a small skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and cook the eggs until your desired doneness (I like the yolks to be a bit runny).
Assemble your bowls by dividing up your cauliflower rice, topping that with the asparagus and peppers, and topping all of that with the eggs.
Drizzle the bowls with the dressing and a bit of grated cheese.
Yes, we love our Power Bowls. Easy to pull together and super healthy, these entree salads are a delicious option for busy weeknights. Now that fresh lettuce and other produce is coming to market, these bowls of goodness are also a terrific way to feature local, seasonal foods!
This bowl has all the amazing flavor of our favorite southwest dishes without the fat and salt. The cumin rice is delicious, but you could substitute cilantro if that works for you! We used grilled, spice-rubbed chicken, local lettuce and baby spinach, local corn from our freezer and fresh, local hothouse cherry tomatoes. You can add a dressing if you like, but the creaminess of the guacamole was enough that I didn’t miss having salad dressing.
Take this for a spin, add what works for you and enjoy the Power Bowl!
Southwest Power Bowls (serves 4)
8 cups fresh lettuce, kale, baby spinach or other greens
2 cups cumin rice (cooked rice mixed with salt, garlic powder and cumin, to taste)
2 cups cooked chicken (we used grilled, spice-rubbed chicken)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernals
1 can organic black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 cup shredded low fat Mexican cheese
1 cup guacamole or 2 mashed avocados
Line 4 large bowls with the greens, making a small well in the center of each bowl.
In the well, add 1/2 cup of rice to each bowl.
Around the rice, arrange equal measures of the remaining ingredients.
Sing with me…
I like big bowls and I cannot lie,
We running mothers can’t deny
When a meal has power and yummy, yummy taste
And helps you trim your waist
We feel young!
Apologies to Sir Mix a Lot. Truly. And to you, because now you will have Baby Got Back stuck in your brain for some time.
But back to big bowls. Big bowls of happy, healthy goodness have our tastebuds singing these days. These one bowl power meals are super hot on the west coast and I can see why. They are healthy, easy to make and the delicious combinations are endless. This power bowl was based on a meal I had at Panera recently and it was a hit with everyone! It uses roasted chicken, hummus, cucumber and a nice helping of ancient grains to give us a terrific protein boost with a fresh taste. Just what we need to help get our spring miles in now that the weather is warming up.
Try this and adapt it to your taste preferences. We’ll add more bowls as we create them!
Chicken Hummus Power Bowls (serves 4)
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
8 cups fresh greens (baby spinach, baby kale, fresh lettuce)
2 cups cooked ancient grains, quinoa, sprouted rice or other high protein grain
1 cucumber, washed and sliced
1 tomato, washed, cored and chopped
1 cup washed and chopped sugar snap peas
1 cup hummus
Assemble the dish in four large salad bowls (we use the ginormous, restaurant sized bowls, but this will work in whatever you have).
First, divide the greens between the four bowls, making a little well in the center for the grains.
Next add the warm or cold grains to the center of the bowl.
Working your way around the bowl, add each of the remaining ingredients except the lemon.
Lastly, cut each lemon in half and add a lemon half to each bowl. Serve immediately.
Squeeze lemon over the bowl and dig in!
Are you sick of winter? Our winter here in NC has been pretty mild, but that point from late January to late February is a big ol’ grumpy time for me. Much of the northeast is seeing record snowfall, and for me at least, that means oatmeal. Not those dusty packets of super sweet instant oats, but rich, hearty toasted oats. Toasted oats? Yes, indeed!
Sometimes I read foodie articles and marvel at my own lack of creativity or insight. I read an article recently that revolutionized my oatmeal making, and I kept thinking, “why didn’t this occur to me?”. The article asked why, when we toast rice and other grains prior to cooking, we don’t ever toast our steel cut oats before making oatmeal. Toasting brings out wonderful flavor in nuts and grains–what would risotto be if we didn’t toast the arborio rice prior to adding the stock? I know right?
I decided a dark, cold, rainy morning was a good time to experiment with this technique. I don’t think I will ever make oatmeal another way again. Oh. My. Goodness. Toasting the steel cut oats gives the oatmeal an amazing depth of flavor and a wonderful nuttiness. And since grumpy winter mornings call for going a little over the top with our breakfast, I added some cinnamon and almond butter to the oatmeal for a protein-packed, super healthy start to the day. This is crazy delicious. I want to eat this all the time.
So go ahead, toast your oats! Let me know what you think. I think you will never look at oatmeal the same way again!
Toasted Oats with Cinnamon Almond Butter (makes 4 servings)
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon almond butter per serving
- Cinnamon, to taste
- Pinch of kosher or sea salt
- In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted and just foamy.
- Add the oats and stir well. Continue to cook the oats, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. The oats should darken slightly and give off a wonderful, nutty aroma.
- Add the water and continue cooking and stirring for about 30 minutes or until the oatmeal is to your desired consistency (I like mine very thick, so I cooked it for 40 minutes).
- Plate the oatmeal in serving bowls or mugs. Add one tablespoon of almond butter, a little pinch of salt, and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
- Stir and serve immediately.
NOTE: You can freeze the oatmeal in greased muffin tins, giving you servings ready to heat in the morning. Also, this oatmeal will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Assumptions. I know better than to make them, yet I still do. Before we started eating local, the winter farmer’s market (in my mind) was a place of leftover collard greens, cabbage and sweet potatoes. Sad. Lonely. Bereft of good eats. I should just give up and head to the grocery store, right? Wrong!
Visiting our winter farmer’s markets always amazes me and disproves my assumptions. At least in NC, there are lots of great foods waiting for us at our local markets.
Not only is the State Farmer’s Market busy, but I am really amazed at the variety of fresh vegetables and fruit (apples) that were still available. Thanks to a very mild winter (at least in NC), farmers are still growing and harvesting white potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (mostly locally grown hothouse), salad greens, turnips, kale, spinach, green peppers, apples, fresh beans, broccoli, collard greens, beets and more. And the prices were definitely lower than the grocery stores on just about everything.
I was glad to find Scott Smith of Heaven On Earthorganic farm at the market. He was awesome! He and his wife have a farm outside of Wilmington and they love organic farming. Farmer Scott let me taste test my way though his vegetable stand so I could discover the difference between dino kale and curly kale (dino kale is thicker and spicier), how turnip greens with a little bit of yellow (from frost) are sweeter than the bright green leaves (the frost brings the sugar to the tips of the leaves) and more.
In the end, I did buy vegetables, including the dino kale (the name alone makes it interesting). Scott suggested that the dino kale makes terrific kale chips, something I had heard of, but hadn’t tried before. OH. MY. GOODNESS. They were devoured by my family and my pre-teen daughter (who eats vegetables grudgingly) decided they were amazing. Light, crispy and salty, these are the perfect antitode to potato chips. The recipe is below.
- 1 bunch fresh kale (we used dino kale, but any kind would work)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. vinegar (we used balsamic)
- Kosher salt to taste (we used about 1 Tbsp.)
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Wash and dry the kale.
- Cut off the lower woody stems and compost.
- Cut the kale into pieces about the size of potato chips (2-4″ or so).
- In a bowl (or a plastic bag, if you don’t want your hands oily) put the chopped kale and add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.
- Toss the greens with the oil until leaves are covered. (If you use the bag, massage the bag until the leaves are covered).
- Add the vinegar and toss again to coat.
- If needed, add the remaining Tbsp. olive oil (depending on the thickness of the leaves, you might not need this).
- Carefull place leaves on an oven safe baking rack or on a cookie sheet (I used a rack). Don’t overlap leaves.
- Sprinkle leaves with salt.
- Put rack/baking sheet in the oven and roast leaves for 20-30 minutes (this will depend on how thick your leaves are, so check on them after 20 min.)
- Remove from oven and enjoy immediately!
Is there a culinary Easy Button? I mean, one that doesn’t involve pizza delivery? Because some nights, I just want things to be easy. If I have to defrost or measure, it’s too much work. Do you have those nights? I’m guessing it’s not just me. This recipe is becoming one of my “go to” meals for those nights. You only need one pan, a cutting board, a knife, a spoon and a spatula. And the whole dish cooks in about 20 minutes. What’s not to love?
Adding to the love, the Swiss chard in our garden is going berzerk. Swiss chard is super easy to grow, pretty to look at with its multicolored stems and it keeps growing even after you cut it. Did I mention it’s a super food? Yep, it sure is. It’s a miracle plant, I tell you. If you have a little patch of soil or a raised bed, I highly recommend growing these greens.
A note about fungi. This recipe uses mushrooms, which I know are a controversial vegetable (or fungus?). Regardless, people either love them or hate them. I personally love them, Ellie hates them. If you have haters in your family, just substitute something else for the mushrooms. Red bell peppers would be good, especially if they are roasted. Or even white beans. Go crazy!
One thing you should not skimp on with this recipe are the eggs. Eggs are a centerpiece in this dish, so use the best, freshest eggs possible. You can cook the eggs to your preference, but I like the yolks runny–they become magic with the greens. This is one good place to use those $4.00/dozen farm eggs because you will really taste the difference.
Swiss Chard with Mushrooms and Eggs (serves 2)
- 1 bunch Swiss Chard, rinsed well to remove any sand
- 1 organic yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- 4 fresh eggs
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
- Trim the stems off the Swiss chard and dice into similar sizes to the onion. Add chopped stems to the onion.
- In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chard stems. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft and stems have started to soften. Stir well. Season to taste.
- Add mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 2 minute, stirring well to keep vegetables from getting too brown.
- Chop the Swiss chard leaves and add to the pan. Keep turning the greens with the other vegetables until the greens are coated with olive oil and juices. Saute until the greens are wilted. Reduce heat to medium/low
- Take your spoon and flatten the greens and veggies. Make four depressions in the greens.
- Crack one egg into each depression. Season top with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 2 minutes, until eggs are opaque and set, but yolks are still runny.
- Remove from heat and use a spatula to divide the pan of greens in half. Lift greens carefully with eggs intact and plate.
- Serve immediately.
We are big fans of pizza in our house. Homemade pizza is very easy to make, economical and gives you a great way to use up small amounts of leftover meat or vegetables in the refrigerator. I love to try new pizza combinations, although this is not always popular in our house. Sometimes you just want what’s familiar. This pizza was terrific–I will definitely make it again!
In full disclosure, this pizza elicited more teen jokes than any other meal I’ve prepared. Trying to be “artsy,” I made a flower design with the sage leaves. My daughter thought it looked like a marijuana leaf. I’m always glad to be the source of amusement. And really, no more trips to Spencer’s Novelty Shop. Really.
This pizza is super tasty and full of fall flavor. It involves no illegal substances, although pumpkin is so addictive this time of year, it probably should require a driver’s license to purchase. We used a spicy chicken sausage, but I think an Italian sausage or sage sausage would be pretty terrific as well. Or even soyrizo if you are going meatless. I replaced our usual mozzarella with a blend of Swiss and Gruyère cheese–I think those cheeses taste great with the sage and pumpkin (and they melt beautifully).
I used organic canned pumpkin for this recipe because it is already cooked and it is very thick with little residual moisture. If you use fresh pumpkin, make sure you cook it down to a very thick paste or your pizza dough will be quite soggy (I made that mistake with butternut squash once and it was not good).
Pumpkin, Sausage and Sage Pizza (makes 1 pizza)
- 1 whole wheat pizza crust (recipe HERE)
- 8-10 fresh, organic sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb. local, spicy link sausage, casing removed
- 1 organic yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin
- 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 cup organic pumpkin puree
- 2 cups grated Swiss and Gruyère cheeses
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- In a medium skillet or saute pan, heat the olive oil to medium high.
- When oil is hot, add the sage leaves and fry them for about 90 seconds per side or until they are crispy, but not browned. Remove sage leaves to a paper towel to drain.
- Add the sausage to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the sausage until no longer pink, breaking up any large clumps with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Remove the sausage from the pan to a colander or paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Add onion and garlic to the pan with the drippings and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and starts to caramelize a bit. Remove the onion and garlic to a small bowl.
- Assemble the pizza by stretching the dough (my pizzas are never round–more like rounded rectangles) onto a flour dusted baking sheet or pizza stone.
- Top the dough with the pumpkin, spreading it across the dough, leaving a 1-2″ crust around the edges.
- Sprinkle the onions and garlic over the pumpkin.
- Crumble up 2-3 sage leaves and sprinkle them over the onions.
- Top the onions with the crumbled and drained sausage.
- Cover the whole thing with cheese.
- Arrange the remaining sage leaves into a flower that will be completely misinterpreted by your family.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until cheese is just browned and bubbly.
- Cut the pizza and serve immediately.