The Power of Procrastination

Play-DohI’ve always said that a tight deadline can bring on some pretty creative ideas and for me procrastination is usually what creates the deadline. I’ve known I was going to a 4th of July potluck party today for about a week now but didn’t press myself to decided what to take until that tight deadline started showing it’s ugly head. OK, the deadline is here. “What are you going to take?” I ask myself. Well, I have lots of fruit that could be used in something. So I start thinking about the fruit, that leads to cobblers and then it hits me. What about the Berry and Peach Cobbler I make each year when I’m with my family at Packer Lake? “Perfect idea”, if I do say so myself. But instead of putting heart shaped pie crust pieces on top I’ll use stars. The problem is I don’t have a star cookie cutter. Or do I?

After fretting about the star cutter and wondering who I could borrow one from or where I could buy one on very short notice I remember where I might have one. So its off to my closet where some toys my grand children play with are stored to find the Play-Doh stuff and sure enough, there was a star cutter. Love it when it works out that way.

Berry and Peach Cobbler

Cookie cutter in hand. I’m back in the kitchen peeling peaches, mixing berries, sugar, lemon juice and tapioca. Now the fun part cutting stars from the pie dough (store bought this time but works just fine) and placing them on the fruit. A nice brushing of melted butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon and turbinado cane sugar and it’s into the oven and wait.

Here’s the final results and judging how incredible the house smelled this morning I can tell this is going to be a hit.

You can find the recipe for the Berry and Peach Cobbler here.

HAPPY 4TH EVERYONE!

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National Farmers Market Week

August 7 – 13, 2011

The Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America has proclaimed this week National Farmers Market Week.

If you’re interested in the proclamation’s formal wording. you can read it in it’s entirety on  the official USDA website,  2011 National Farmers Market Week Proclamation). There is also a great link to the National Farmers Market Search Engine and lots other links with data on Farmers Markets. But, information and data won’t inspire you like walking through and shopping at a local Farmers Market will.  Celebrate fresh and local fruits and veggies this week, visit a Farmers Market near you. You just may find out why visiting and shopping Farmers Markets is one of my favorite things to do whether I’m here at home or traveling.

If you’re looking for motivation beyond the need to shop for produce, here are a couple of past articles highlighting some of the markets I have visited while traveling. These articles will give you an idea of the diversity of Farmers Markets and why they are so much fun.

Astoria Sunday Market
Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market
Placerville Farmers Market
Kauai Sunshine Markets
Ocean Beach Farmers Market
Capay Valley Regional Farmers Market
Widnsor Farmers Market

If you don’t have time or desire to go to a Farmers Market why not have your fresh produce delivered to your door. You can find out more about Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) here.

Support local farmers and ranchers, buy direct!

 

Strawberries Have Been Consumed Since The Stone Age

Did you ever wonder where the strawberry originated? The Woodland Strawberry, (Fragaria vesca) it is said has been consumed by humans since the Stone Age. I really don’t want to think about how archaeologists figured that out but it is written that they did, so we’ll leave it at that. Evidently strawberries were first cultivated in ancient Persia. Seeds were traded along the Silk Road towards the Far East and into Europe where they were cultivated until the 18th century. These species were largely supplanted by cultivation of F. X ananassa over the last 250 years. Native American strawberries were enjoyed by early settlers in the eastern USA, and in the early 1800s, F. X ananassa cultivars were brought to America from Europe. Plants selected in Pajaro, California became the basis of the California industry sited near Watsonville, the main strawberry region in California. Today, strawberries are cultivated in 73 countries worldwide with the USA producing about 27%. California alone outproduces most other countries.

Even though Strawberries have been a favorite food of man for it looks like forever, strawberries are not one of my favorite fruits. But, sometimes they smell so good it’s hard to pass them up.  Such was the case Sunday when I purchased a beautiful basket of plump brightly colored, fragrant, organic strawberries at the Farmers’ Market. I also picked up a couple of lemons, some beautiful snap peas, a couple Fuji apples and some more Japanese sweet potatoes.

After lunch I spent some time browsing through recipes and found a clipping for Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries. The clipping touted the cake as the perfect foundation for unstructured strawberry shortcake so I decided to give it a try thinking it might be the perfect dessert for Mother’s Day.

Cornmeal Cake with Strawberries

Unsalted butter and cornmeal for preparing the pan

1 ¼ cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour

6 Tablespoons yellow cornmeal

2 Teaspoons baking powder

¼ Teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 Teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ cup milk (I used soy as that’s what I had on hand)

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9” round or square pan with 2-inch sides, then dust with cornmeal, shaking out excess.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

Using an electric mixer beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually and beat, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice, until creamy and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon zest.

Combine milk and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with milk. Beat just until blended, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake until top is golden brown and firm to the touch, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack, then reinvert onto another rack. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving dish.

Hull two baskets strawberries. Put half of them in a large bowl and crush with a potato masher. Slice the remaining strawberries and add to the bowl. Sweeten to taste with sugar. Add enough lemon juice to give the mixture a refreshing tart edge. Cover and Chill.

Just before serving, whip 1 cup heavy cream to soft peaks with 2 Teaspoons sugar. I flavored this with a touch of brandy.

To serve spoon berry mixture into shallow bowls, top with cake, whipped cream and a little more of the berry mixture. Serve immediately. Serves up to 8.

I really liked this cake. It’s not too sweet and has a really nice texture. I also think replacing the lemon with orange with work well. This would be a nice cake to eat along with any berry mixture.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Last Year’s Valentine’s Day Recipe Revisited

I love this recipe but it’s not easy to get macadamia nuts and for most of us they’re not local. So I thought I’d try it substituting toasted almonds, which, for me, are local. I really liked how it turned out, which is no surprise since I love the combination of dark chocolate and almonds.  Just ask See\’s Candies they can tell you that out of all they wonderful candies they offer the one I buy most often is their dark chocolate covered almonds. Simply delicious.

If you’re looking for something special to make for Valentines or any special day give this a try. It’s not only yummy it’s very easy to make.

Macadamia Heaven - A Valentine From Me To You! This is, far and away, my favorite Valentines’ Day dessert. It’s a luscious combination of dense chocolate cake studded with chopped roasted macadamia nuts, topped with a semi-sweet chocolate ganache, and all sitting atop a beautiful raspberry coulis. It might look complicated but it’s quite easy to prepare and more than easy to enjoy. Happy Valentines Day! MACADAMIA HEAVEN Cake ¾ cup roasted macadamia nuts 1 tablespoon flour 8 oz. semi-sweet cho … Read More

via Anniespickns’s Blog

A Holiday Wish and More

May the wonder of the season bring

peace and joy

to you and your loved ones

this holiday season and throughout the new year!

If you have read my blog before you know I love to research different fruits and vegetables that I find at the Farmers’ Market. I love learning not only about how to eat or cook them but about where they originated and how they came to the US, so I guess it really isn’t a surprise that just as I was about to post this photo and holiday wish, I thought, I wonder why we associate the poinsettia with the Christmas holiday season. So to satisfy my curiosity I did a quick little search and here are the results.

The Christmas Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as poinsettia or noche buena, is a species of flowering plant indigenous to Mexico and Central America. The name “poinsettia” is after Joel Roberts Poinsett,  the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl=residue, and xochitl=flower) meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil.” The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve. In Spain it is known as “Flor de Pascua”, meaning Easter Flower. In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as “Crown of the Andes”.

The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.

More on this beautiful plant, including misconceptions about it’s toxicity, can be found at Wikipedia.com.

Your Farmers’ Market is a great place to do holiday gift shopping!

These are just a couple of ideas I found while walking through my Farmers’ Market today.  Many markets have hand crafted items and some even feature live and fresh cut Christmas Trees during December.

Beautiful holiday wreaths.

Gift baskets of herbs and edible flowers.

Personal products with an herbal touch.

Almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios; natural, spiced, salted, unsalted, and candied.

Jams, jellies, special sauces, local honey, olive oil and dried herb mixes

Natural soaps and lotions.

What ideas for gift giving did you find at your Farmers’ Market?