A Taste of Summer – Fresh Strawberry Pie

Last week I was able to purchase 2 flats of fresh, locally grown strawberries from Fresh Fork Market. I was able to order these a day in advance through the Fresh Fork Market Canning Club on Facebook. Normally our family goes strawberry picking at a local farm, but our schedule this year prevented this from happening. I was thrilled to still be able to enjoy fresh strawberries. In addition, from my 16 quarts of strawberries, I froze strawberries for smoothies year-round, made strawberry freezer jam for the year and froze a dozen pints of strawberry shortcake topping for great-tasting desserts in the middle of winter.

My first strawberry project involves making our favorite strawberry pie. We have one recipe we turn to every year. This recipe, given to me by my sister-in-law in 1988, includes a cookie-like crust you mix right in the pie pan. Here’s the basics if you want to try it:

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Mixing crust in pie plate

Pie Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 Tbsp. milk

Mix this together in a 9-inch pie plate ( I use a fork.) Press out with fingertips to form a crust. Prick with a fork. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 425 degrees.(15 minutes is usually enough.)  Cool.

Pie Filling

  • 1 cup water

    The filling mixture before I boiled it.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. white corn syrup
  • pinch of salt

While the pie crust is baking and cooling, boil these ingredients in a medium saucepan until the filling becomes clear and thick.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in 2 Tbsp. strawberry flavored gelatin.  Allow this to cool.

To cooled filling, add 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced in half.

Pour strawberry mixture into crust and refrigerate until completely cool and set.  Top with whipped topping and fresh strawberries if desired.   This pie is absolutely delicious – enjoy!

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Fresh Fork Market Week 3: Meet Kohlrabi

Today was a busy day as I tackled a paint job in the kitchen I have wanted to complete for a while. But I made sure to work Fresh Fork Market Week 3my project around my Fresh Fork Market pick-up at 3 p.m. I was eager to pick up my bag for the week and introduce myself to a new friend – my little green Kohlrabi.   I think it is the strangest looking vegetable I have ever met.  This odd little ball-shaped veggie has a few leaf sprigs popping out of the top, giving the illusion of an unkempt hairstyle.  The funny little wrinkles in the outer leaves almost create a mesmerizing facial expression.  How can I possibly eat something so cute!  If I drew two eyes and a nose,  I would have something closely resembling the infamous “Wilson” volleyball, the faithful companion of Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) in the movie “Cast Away”. (Can’t you see him looking at you in my picture?)  But alas,  I need to eat it, vitamins, fiber and all.  I am sure I will enjoy the taste and texture of whatever my kohlrabi turns into this week.

My kohlrabi was joined by a stunning bunch of green onions, some Swiss chard, two zucchini, gorgeous lettuce, collard greens, a quart of delicious red strawberries, and pork chops (not pictured).   In addition, I brought home some beef cubes for kabobs later this week,smoked kielbasa, a ham hock to use with my black beans (which I still need to cook up),  and 2 flats of strawberries for my once-a-year strawberry freezer frenzy (more on that later).

stir frySince my kitchen is in disarray due to my painting project and I am the only one home this evening, I needed dinner to be quick and easy.  First stop, the  Fresh Fork kielbasa.  Stir fry meals offer great flexibility with ingredients and flavors, so I opted to try a kielbasa stir fry tonight.  I sliced 1 smoked kielbasa into bite-size pieces and fried it in a skillet with a little oil.  Then I added a chopped green onion, half of a zucchini sliced thin, a finely chopped garlic scape from last week, and a little bit of carrot.  After stir frying  until the veggies were tender, I served this over a bed of basmati rice and added a salad of fresh lettuce greens topped with fresh strawberries,  finely chopped pecans and a drizzle of strawberry poppyseed dressing.   Dinner in 15 minutes – presto! Now if I could just get my painting project done as fast…

kiebasa rice dinner

 

Chorizo, Bok Choy and Scapes – Oh my!

chinese-bok-choy_19-107384  It is Tuesday afternoon and Week 2 of my Fresh Fork Market food  adventure is winding down as I anticipate picking up a new bag tomorrow.  A week ago I had never tasted chorizo – in fact, I had never heard of it before.   And bok choy? Well, several times I have glanced with fear and trembling at its lovely green leaves glazed with glistening dew in the produce section of the store , but intimidation always drove me and my shopping cart back to the safety of carrots and celery. But not this week! The Fresh Fork Market blog provides excellent ideas and recipes for using each week’s fresh ingredients – and they got me started on some creative thinking.  However, knowing the taste preferences of my family, I opted for a Sweet and Spicy Orange Chicken recipe I found at Baker Bettie’s website – you can check out her recipe at BakerBettie.com.   The only change I made was using hoisin sauce instead of the chili garlic sauce, since I was confident my family enjoyed this flavor. And I used finely chopped garlic scapes (from my FFM bag) instead of  minced garlic. Served over basmati rice, this made a delicious and healthy meal for us with a few leftovers as well.

And that chorizo?  My California sister-in-law told me she loves serving chorizo with some grilled veggies,potatoes and scrambled eggs.   Sounded like something I could handle!   I modified her idea just a bit, making Mexican Omelets for dinner instead. I fried the chorizo until crumbly, then stir-fried some sliced sweet peppers, a bit of onion and 2 garlic scapes.  Then I made a 3-egg omelet using the FFM eggs I had added to my bag last week.  Once the eggs were set, I layered small amounts of chorizo, veggies, a little shredded cheese, a dollop or two of sour cream, a drizzle of taco sauce and a pinch of fresh cilantro (also from my FFM bag) in the omelet. I folded over the top, let it heat through for a minute, then served it up with some of the organic corn chips and homemade quacamole I made, using the cilantro and salsa (also from my FFM bag) for flavoring.  The whole family loved this meal!

I don’t have pictures of these meals this week – our camera is on vacation with my husband who is speaking at a camp.  So you will have to use your imagination for now.  Also,  I am not planning to put every recipe in detail or printable form on my blog.  I prefer to create an “Idea Blog”, not a recipe blog.  So many fantastic recipe blogs already exist, so I am content to direct you to them.   Sometimes I just need an idea when trying something new–and I am thinking some of you might feel the same way.

Looks like this week’s bag involves more new challenges for me – Swiss chard, kohlrabi, and collard greens.  But not to fear – Fresh Fork Market already has me headed in the direction of a Kohlrabi, Radish and Green Onion Salad with a homemade dressing – yum!

 

 

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

It seems like summer has finally arrived when the first strawberries of the season appear.  I brought home 2 quarts of fresh picked strawberries with my weekly Fresh Fork Market bags Wednesday and wasted no time in making one of our family favorites: homemade strawberry frozen yogurt.  The ease and flavor of this recipe makes it my go-to frozen dish, especially with its versatility to adapt to peaches or other fresh fruits in season.  ice cream maker

My oldest son was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes at age 14, which necessitated an immediate change in our family’s food choices and a drastic change in my cooking habits.  Eleven years later, my son lives on his own but we continue to follow many of the same healthy food habits we learned at that time.  One of my small appliance purchases not long after his diagnosis was a Cuisinart 2 quart ice cream maker. We are an ice-cream-eating family and the Cuisinart allowed me to make delicious frozen treats my son could eat.  So here’s the recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yogurt, adapted from the original recipe found in Fantastic Foods With Splenda by Marlene Koch:

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, stemmed, washed and halved, partially frozen on cookie sheet 15 min.
  • 3/4 cup Splenda Granular*
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt *
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk

*I prefer to use a natural sweetener, or I will use vanilla yogurt instead of plain, such as the Snowville Creamery Vanilla Yogurt from Fresh Fork Market.  When I use vanilla yogurt I will stir in about 1/3+ cup sugar instead of the Splenda.  You can experiment to get your desired sweetness level with the sweetener of your choice.

To make the frozen yogurt: combine the yogurt, milk and sugar/natural sweetener in large bowl; add the berries that have been ???????????????????????????????partially frozen. (Sometimes I use 2 cups previously frozen strawberries and then stir in the remaining 2 cups fresh strawberries as the mixture freezes in the ice cream maker.  The frozen strawberries speed up the process in the ice cream maker.)  Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Serve immediately or place in containers and freeze for later use.  Ours never makes it to the freezer – we always clean out the bowl as soon as it is done!   This makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings.

???????????????????????????????I served this with a few Fresh Fork Market strawberries as a garnish.

This frozen yogurt will disappear right before your eyes!

I hope to share our family’s favorite strawberry pie recipe next week if I can get more  strawberries from Fresh Fork.  This  pie recipe includes a cookie-like crust you can make right in the pie plate = no rolling pin needed.  Now that’s easy!

 

 

Fresh Fork Market: Week 2

I have to admit, I felt like a kid going Christmas shopping this afternoon – I couldn’t wait to get to my Fresh Fork Market pick-up to get my bag of great food and see what other goodies they had waiting for us! I had received the email yesterday telling us what the contents of this week’s bag would be, and I got a bit nervous as there were several items I have never used before, and a few I didn’t even recognize.  But one goal I have is to learn to cook and eat differently, so I shall not shrink from this new challenge! I visited the Fresh Fork website last evening (www.freshforkmarket.com) and ordered some additional items for the week.  Here is what I came home with today:

  • 1 # chorizo ( a seasoned ground pork with a Mexican flare, I think)
  • 1 bag corn crackers (organic, non-GMO ingredients)???????????????????????????????
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 pint fresh salsa
  • 1 sleeve bok choy
  • 1 quart strawberries

I see a Mexican night in our immediate future – can’t wait to dip into that fresh salsa!

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My add-on items came to $45 and included the following:

  • 2 loaves of wheat bread (1 for the freezer to serve later in the week)
  • 1 24 oz. vanilla yogurt (loved this for breakfast all week)
  • 1 package barbecue shredded chicken
  • 1 lb ground beef (my daughter begged for a repeat of the cheeseburgers from last week)
  • 1 smoked cheddar cheese cube
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 quart strawberries (I forgot to put 1 of the strawberry quarts in my first picture)

So for $70, I think I have meals for my family for the next week, with the help of a few extras from the grocery store.  Here’s my basic plan:

Wednesday: Tomato-Basil Linguine with Roasted Heirloom Tomato Sauce (didn’t get to use this from last week, plans changed)

Thursday: Mexican Night – using the chorizo, cilantro, salsa, corn crackers, lettuce = taco salad or something similar (still have some organic black beans from last week I might use in here somehow)

Friday:  Cheeseburgers, per daughter’s request (thinking of shredding some smoked cheddar and mixing it in before grilling)

Saturday:  BBQ Chicken, do something with garlic scapes – I hear they are wonderful!

Monday: Strawberry-Spinach Salad with cheese and crackers on the side

Tuesday:  Something with the bok choy – will have to figure that out…

This week’s FFM email listing the bag contents also included several recipes for this week’s items, so I will be looking at these very closely.   The email also explained how the spring harvest is coming in slowly due to a cold spring season and other variables, making it difficult for them to stock the bags with as much variety as they might like.   No problems here – this variety looks great and is more interesting than anything I have purchased at the grocery store in recent history.  Thanks, Fresh Fork Market, for making cooking interesting again!   Oh, and as a PS:  I lost 2 lbs this week, without even thinking about it – had so much healthy stuff to try out I didn’t even miss the potato chips!

Happy munching on that bok choy —  will post pic/recipe, whether it is a success or failure – stay tuned!

Fresh Ideas for Fresh Foods

Since Wednesday, when I brought home my first Fresh Fork Market bag,  I have had a lovely frozen pasture-fed young chicken staring at me from my fridge. While I am not intimidated by a whole chicken, I usually use them for soup.  But the long hard Cleveland winter of 2014 included one too many batches of chicken noodle soup for me.  I needed to come up with another chicken plan. Fresh Fork Market recipe to the rescue! On their website (www.freshforkmarket.com) I found a plan for using a whole chicken in several meals for a week.

The chicken-for-a-week plan begins with roasting the chicken. I followed the recipe ???????????????????????????????instructions exactly – well, almost. Instead of softening the butter, for unknown reasons I melted it in the microwave. So much for spreading an herb butter under the chicken skin. I put my melted butter in the fridge, hoping it would harden up quickly while I chopped the veggies. A few minutes later, not much progress on that butter. I needed to keep things moving, so I opted to use some minced garlic, dried basil and dried Italian seasoning (not in the recipe) to make a very soft paste with my now semi-melted butter. Using the back of a large spoon, I was able to spread this under the chicken skin. In about 20 minutes’ time, I had this “spring chicken” ready for roasting.

While the chicken was in the oven, I did a little gardening, a load of laundry and even took a 15 minute power nap – no time wasted there! A little over 3 hours later, with the house smelling wonderful,  I pulled this juicy, tender chicken from the oven. Removing the legs cooked chickenand wings and slicing the chicken breast was a breeze and are now ready for a quick dinner and some chicken salad for a lunch. The bones and carcass will be used to make chicken stock tomorrow, which will go in my freezer for later use. (This is all explained on the FFM instruction/recipe sheet.) Not bad for about 30 minutes of actual work!

On a side note: Last evening, using the fresh  strawberries from my FFM bag, I made my daughter’s favorite summer bedtime snack – Strawberry Watermelon Slush. I’ve been making this refreshing easy recipe for so long I don’t even know where it came from.   Here’s the simple details if you want to give it a try:

  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced in halfyummy-strawberries_2753390
  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1/3 cup sugar or other natural sweetener
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (I prefer fresh squeezed)
  • 2 cups ice, crushed if possible

Process the first four ingredients in a blender until very smooth.

Add the ice and blend until ice chunks are gone.  Serve immediately in beverage glasses.

Garnish with a sliced strawberry if desired. Now that makes it feel like a Cleveland summer!

The Great Food Experiment

Today officially began The Great Food Experiment I have embarked on with Fresh Fork Market (www.freshforkmarket.com) for the next 22 weeks. Having fresh veggies, cheese and wheat bread on hand is motivation to consume them while at their peak of freshness.  My sister-in-law is visiting for a few days and loves to eat healthy foods, so I knew she would be willing to try anything I cooked. So here is where my food journey took me today:

Breakfast:  Vanilla yogurt with some fresh strawberries (both from FFM), along with a piece of wheat toast lightly buttered. I have to tell you, the wheat bread I purchased from the Fresh Fork Market truck on a whim yesterday is by far the softest, most flavorful wheat bread I have ever tasted!  Some wheat breads can be dense and a bit chewy, which is not my preference in breads. The ingredients for this bread are amazingly simple. I have a feeling this will become a regular on my weekly list.??????????????????????????????? The vanilla yogurt from Fresh Fork was delicious also.

Lunch:  Since the weather was a bit cooler today, it provided the perfect opportunity to try a soup recipe. I knew I needed to use the kale but didn’t see my family eating this in a salad just yet. So I found a recipe at Health.com (www.health.com) called Two-Bean Soup with Kale.  This ???????????????????????????????took about 30 minutes of prep time, including chopping the veggies, but I could begin cooking the soup while I was chopping, so it didn’t seem to take long at all. This vegetarian soup was filling and flavorful, though next time I would add a little more garlic and a bit more herbs for seasoning. I also ended up with about a quart of leftovers which will store well in the freezer. (By the way, I had a piece of that yummy wheat bread for lunch too!)

Dinner: Our plans changed for Friday evening, so I made the pizza tonight. I made a homemade pizza crust using the Betty Crocker pizza crust recipe I have used for years-only I added 1 cup of the whole wheat flour that came in my FFM bag yesterday. After baking only the crust for about 7 minutes, I removed it from the oven and brushed it with a little olive oil. I had already opened my jar of roasted cherry tomatoes and pureed ???????????????????????????????about 1/2 the jar for a little bit of sauce, which I spread sparingly over the olive oiled crust. Next I sprinkled it with the fresh mozzarella I got yesterday, which I had shredded. Then I spooned the remaining un-pureed roasted cherry tomatoes on top of the cheese, added a touch of freshly ground pepper and topped it off with some fresh basil and oregano from my garden. After baking it for seven more minutes,we were pulling out this gourmet-looking pizza, feeling like we were eating at an expensive pizza place.  Oh what fun!

I am not sure all of my recipe attempts in my Great Food Experiment will be this successful, but at least it was a good Day #1 – and I’m already looking forward to seeing what will be in my Fresh Fork Market bag next week!

CSA Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of a new adventure in food for me. Earlier this spring I committed to being part of a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Essentially this is an agreement which exists between a group of local farmers and a group of local citizens. I agree to pay them for what they provide and they agree to supply me with locally grown produce, meats, cheeses and other items every week. It is a win-win for the consumer who wants to eat healthy food from local sources and for the local farmer/merchant who either cannot or does not want to complete with the large food conglomerates that largely control the grocery store market of America.

I have come close to doing a CSA for the past three summers. I have also talked myself out of it for the past three summers. What if all I ever get are bags of cabbage and onions?  What if I get stuff I don’t know how to prepare? This spring, however, I found a CSA with a little different twist – the Fresh Fork Market (www.freshforkmarket.com). This CSA works with several local farmers and is thus able to provide a greater assortment of foods as well as additional items from local merchants that can be purchased with a weekly membership. The price is reasonable, the pick-up locations are convenient and the website has great resources – no more excuses for me. For the next 22 Wednesdays I will pick up a bag of fresh local food in Brecksville between 3-6 p.m. I still might get stuff I don’t know how to prepare, but their website is full of ideas. I have a hunch some of you share in my uncertainties, so I am going to post my experiences with this CSA so you can come to your own conclusions about whether this could work for you.

So, what did I pick up today? I pre-selected the “Small Omnivore” bag for each week, which is generally designed for a family of 4 or less and includes meat. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available, as is a “Large Omnivore” bag, etc.  Here’s what came in my Fresh Fork Market bag for about $25:

  • ???????????????????????????????1 whole chicken, pasture-fed
  • 1 dozen organic eggs
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 1 bag of pea shoots
  • 2 lbs. organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 lbs. organic black beans

Each week Fresh Fork Market has add-ons that can be ordered in advance and picked up with your regular bag.  Here are the items I added on this week:

  • ???????????????????????????????1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 lb. sausage-bacon breakfast patties
  • 1 lb. smoked turkey slices
  • 1 lb. fresh tomato-basil linguine
  • 24 oz. vanilla yogurt
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1 jar roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 jar heirloom tomato sauce
  • 1 quart strawberries

The total cost of these add-on items was $50.  So my total cost for this week was $75. When I arrived at the pick-up point, I paid for a loaf of homemade wheat bread as I had run out of bread today.

Because Fresh Fork Market sends out an email a few days before pick-up each week, I was able to make a menu in advance and then add on what I knew I would use. So here’s my menu for this next week.

  1. Wednesday: Burgers and a salad (using pea shoots with the lettuce)
  2. Thursday: Kale and Bean Soup for lunch, Roast Chicken for dinner
  3. Friday: Homemade pizza using the mozzarella and roasted cherry tomatoes
  4. Saturday:  Black Bean Enchiladas
  5. Monday: Breakfast for dinner – Eggs with the sausage patties
  6. Tuesday:  Linguini with the Heirloom tomato sauce with a side salad

(Lest you worry that we starve on Sundays – we usually eat out! )

Stay tuned for updates on whether my recipes and cooking skills work to make the most of this week’s products.  On to making my first salad with pea shoots – who knew you could eat those?!

A Country Girl in the City

This morning I scored big in my gardening project.  Having purchased seed potatoes a few weeks ago, I have been eagerly SONY DSCanticipating planting them.  After viewing several YouTube videos on the subject of growing potatoes in containers, I set out on a quest for burlap bags for just this purpose.  An online search revealed only rather expensive options.  So I headed over to the Wilson Feed Mill on Canal Rd. and discovered they sell burlap bags for $2.  After purchasing five bags,  I headed home, ready to fill the bags with dirt and get my Yukon Golds and Red Pontiacs started for the season.

I don’t live in the country.  In fact, our house sits on approximately one-quarter of an acre in a suburb of Cleveland, so gardening space is at a premium and livestock is out of the question.  My small garden is slowly creeping into more of the backyard as our kids have gotten older and need less outdoor space for toys.  I have warned my husband that someday he might come home and have no backyard left,  reminding him that then he wouldn’t have to mow it anymore!

Even though I don’t live in the country,  sometimes I feel like a country girl at heart.  My grandparents were cattle farmers, my uncle’s family are hog farmers.  I spent many a summer day in the barn, the fields, the creek, the flower garden, the granary, the milk house.  I helped Grandma take the milk and cat food out to the barn and watched her fill the large rubber black bowls with it as multiple cats mysteriously emerged from hay bales or the barn loft where they dutifully fulfilled their task of keeping the mice population under control.  I caught crawdads in the creek, rode the tractor with Grandpa, ran old field corn through the hand-cranked corn husker in the granary, played hide-and-seek in the barn and milk house. I got muddy, silly, itchy, dirty, and tired all in one day-and it was great.

So how do you know if you are a country girl at heart?  Here are a few considerations:

You might be a country girl if you would rather play in the dirt than go shopping.

You might be a country girl if your kids don’t have any room to play in the backyard because you turned it into a vegetable garden.

You might be a country girl if you dress up when required but would rather live in your blue jeans and boots.

You might be a country girl if you own a canner, a dehydrator and multiple gardening gadgets.

You might be a country girl if you dream all winter of being able to use your canner, dehydrator and garden gadgets next year.

You might be a country girl if you avoid grocery stores and look for farm stands on the side of the road.

You might be a country girl if you get more excited about getting seeds in the mail than getting a check in the mail.

You might be a country girl if you love the smell of fresh-plowed fields fertilized with manure.

You might be a country girl if you wish you owned a few chickens instead of a few cats.

You might be a country girl if you drool over farmstead real estate instead of a fancy new house.

You might be a country girl if you would rather have a tractor in a barn than another car in the garage.

I have no expectations of a life in the country being in my future.  But this doesn’t keep me from digging in the dirt, getting excited about simple things, and learning to live somewhat self-sufficiently.  You might even find me occasionally catching crawdads in the creek – hope you will join me!