Monday, May 31, 2010

Freezing Strawberries

We took the kids to Linvilla Farm to pick strawberries this weekend.  They weren't organic, but they assured us that they hadn't been sprayed for three months (since the berries were on the plants).  I'm not sure if we should have, but we decided to believe them.  So we picked about 15 pound of strawberries (not counting the pound or two that Jesse and Micah ate).  "Can I eat this one, Mommy?  I eat this one, Daddy?"  I called both of our moms and looked online, and this is what I did to freeze them.  I washed them and then lay them on towels to dry on the counter with the overhead fan on.  After a few hours, I put them on cookie sheets in the freezer.  Once they were frozen, I transferred them to bags.  Easy, schmeasy.  Now they're all set for strawberry milkshakes, additions to oatmeal and pancakes, and baking in the winter.  I promised myself I would freeze more than just peaches this year.  I got a little peached out this winter.  :)  We saved a bowl of strawberries for the rhubarb sauce that's on the stove as I type.  Our strawberry plants are producing about a quart a week, so we're enjoying the trickle of fresh berries, too, on cereal or pancakes, etc.

I read in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle how we are out of touch with the seasons because we just ship in whatever fruit and vegetables we want all year long.  And I must say, we have been making more of an effort to eat truly local produce as much as possible (as much as I felt up to pregnant and nauseated during the winter, and as much as I am up to now with having inadequately prepared last summer).  And that meant eating apples almost every day for the fall and winter and into the spring.  (We did eat some oranges--I tried to buy from Florida, since that's closer, California grapes, and bananas--not from the U.S., of course.)  Her point is that we truly appreciate strawberries, for example, when we only eat the local ones in season.  She also points out that if you really go gung ho on asparagus and strawberries and rhubarb in the spring, you won't need it the rest of the year.  I'm really finding that to be true.  We're fully entering into the produce (fruit especially) of each season and then we're ready for a break and to get excited about the next crop coming.  It's pretty fun!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hot? Who's Hot?

Well it may be 91 degrees in Philly, but if you've got a water table and an umbrella you're good to go!

Philadelphia Farmer's Market Schedule!

The Philadelphia Farmer's Market Schedule, for those who are interested (follow the link below):

The Food Trust - Headhouse Farmers' Market

Just wanted to get the schedule out there so we can all (well, us locals to Philly) be supporting our farmers!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Strawberries from the Garden

Micah and Jesse helped me pick 8 strawberries from our garden this afternoon.  That actually made a rather significant yield.  Added to the local strawberries I bought over the weekend, they made a lovely strawberry milkshake.  The family agreed that it was an amazing milkshake (Micah called it a miracle).  Here's the simple and extremely tasty recipe:
Strawberry Milkshake
Wash and trim a generous pint of strawberries (that's a little over 1/2 quart), then lay out on a plate to freeze.  Leave in the freezer at least an hour (I did more like 45 minutes, but they weren't frozen enough and I had to add more ice).  Put about one cup of whole milk and one cup of kefir (or plain yogurt) in the blender (do 2 cups milk if you're not using the yogurt).  Add the frozen berries.  Add a few ice cubes (or if your berries are really frozen you could skip the ice).  Add about 1/8 to 1/6 cup sugar (I used a little more than 1/6 of a cup because kefir is a little bitter and because I had to add a fair amount of ice--and it turned out very sweet.  If I'd planned ahead and had very frozen berries and been able to skip the ice I'd have used a little less.)  
Next for the raspberries!!!

32 Weeks and Counting . . .

So I'm 32 weeks--8 more weeks (give or take) to go.  I'm starting to think more and more about labor, partly because it was not so easy the last two times.  I read a book about hypnobirthing that had an interesting premise.  That extreme pain (apart from complications in pregnancy) can come from fear responses of the body.  So I'm going to try not to panic this time (fear has dominated my labors ever since things went south while I was in labor with Micah).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Welcome Spring!

Is anything more beautiful (ok, foodwise) than fresh strawberries, green onions, and baby radishes and turnips?  We just tried Chestnut Hill farmer's market for the first time today.  I'm becoming a farmer's market junkie on weekends.  It's all I want to do.  Owen's being a terrific sport about it.  He knows once the local weekday ones open we'll be able to do something different occasionally on weekends.  Um, like take care of a newborn, I guess.  :)

Boys in Bunk Beds

Micah and Jesse are thrilled to be big boys in their bunk beds--not exactly sleeping quite as much because it's still too exciting . . .

Beach in a Bag

This is a less than impressive craft idea, but it was fun for the kids to make and got them excited for the beach!  My oldest son wanted me to think of a craft, and for whatever reason I came up with this.  We took a small amount of sand from our sandbox and then put it into ziploc bags.  Each child chose a color of food dye and we put in a few drops to make red and yellow sand.  I sent Micah into the backyard to pick sea shells out of the sandbox (we always stick some in there when we get back from the beach each year) and find some seed pods or pinecones.  We added these.  Then I gave them each a cork and a pile of noodles and beans (the noodles and beans are less thematic, but they were thrilled to color the noodles with markers and pretend that they were little crabs or sea dwelling I-don't-know-whats).  I then sealed the bags and put packaging tape on them. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stir Fry Brainstorming/Garden Clean-up

So I needed to thin some radishes, pull broccoli rabe that was spindly and bolting, pull out last year's kale to make room for squash, and I pulled a pea shoot and a few arugula plants.  I washed and trimmed everything into bite-sized pieces and have them with a little water in a bowl.  I'm thinking of adding some tomatoes, asparagus (both local, yeah!), cashews, spring onions, sesame seeds, chicken . . . and making a stir-fry to serve over rice noodles.  And I have bean sprouts growing on my windowsill I can put in.  Ooo, and I have a few leftover mushrooms.  If anyone can think of anything else, let me know for next time!  :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Finally!  Local fruit besides apples!  Well, what is rhubarb?  Does it count as a fruit?  With enough honey and sugar and strawberry added, it sure tastes like fruit.  So I wanted to use rhubarb, honey, a tiny bit of sugar, tapioca starch to thicken, and to stir in strawberries at the end.  But I couldn't find a recipe for rhubarb sauce with all of those ingredients (why are so many people hung up on pie?), so I got some basic ideas from talking to my mom; remembered what my friend, Juliane, told me about stirring in the strawberries at the end; looked online at Cat's Kitchen website (, and then did a little improvisation.  Here's the final product.  I'm halving the recipe, assuming that most people won't be starting with 5 lbs of rhubarb.

Rhubarb Sauce
Cut 2 1/2 lbs rhubarb stems into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices (after washing stalks and removing all leaf, which is poisonous).  Put in pot and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar (or skip it and add more honey at the end) and just a little bit of water in the bottom of the pot.  Simmer for 45 min. or an hour (until the pieces start to fall apart when you stir).  Add about a cup of cut up strawberries (or raspberries).  Stir in some tapioca flour/starch (or corn starch), a teaspoon or so.  Next time I actually will try mixing it with a little bit of water first so I won't get clumps in it.  Add about 1 generous cup of honey or however much sugar or honey you need to until it tastes really good and not like a vegetable.  (Actually, if you're using sugar, you can add it right from the beginning.  I mostly just used honey and added it at the end.)  It's really good.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Guess What? Philly's zone 6.

Just in case anyone is counting on this blog's accuracy . . .

While I initially saw Philadelphia listed as zone 5b, I have recently found that Morris Arboretum (in Chestnut Hill) lists itself as zone 6.  So get those tomatoes in!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pumpkin Breakfast Muffins

So I had leftover frozen pumpkin to use up from my freezer.  And I wanted to make a healthy breakfast muffin out of it.  I couldn't really find one I thought fit the bill.  The closest I found was actually a cupcake recipe on Wellsphere:  Original pumpkin cupcake/muffin recipe

What I made was actually . . .   (approximately . . . )

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 24 muffin tins and a little loaf pan.

2 cups pumpkin
4 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
2 large mashed bananas
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix above ingredients first.  Then add:

3 cups ground whole grains (you could use whatever flour you want, I imagine)
1/2 cup flaxmeal (approx.)
4 teaspoons baking powder
about 4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir, then add 1 cup chopped walnuts.  Spoon batter into cups and put leftover in mini-loaf pan.  Muffins take about 25 min. to bake, and the loaf may take a little longer.  Test with knife or toothpick.
I think if I make them again I will add raisins or dates.  I would also consider experimenting with a little applesauce.  If anyone does anything different with these or has a similar recipe, please post under comments!  My measurements are mostly approximations, I should add as a disclaimer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Whale Show

Micah and Jesse wanted to make a movie and put in on the computer.  It's very short and pretty family friendly, though it gets a PG rating for slight violence.  Enjoy the show!

Click on the link below:
Micah and Jesse's Whale Show

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Summer Home Haircuts

So, I need to add a picture of Jesse to be fair, but I thought I should post a picture of today's biggest accomplishment, summer haircuts for the boys.  It took forever, their hair was so long and thick, but hopefully this will last them until the fall (their dad won't think so, but I'm sure I'll think they're good to go.  Plus I'll be giving birth in July, so we should just be glad we snuck in this haircut in time.  :)  Some minor touchups are still needed.  Thank goodness they have a little wave to their hair to hide errors.  I just have to get good before they get to grade school.

Homemade Iced Tea Recipe

In case anyone gets a craving for some good ole homemade iced tea and doesn't know how to make it, here's one way:

Boil about 2 cups of water on the stove.  Let sit at least 15 minutes.  Add 5 green tea bags and 3 black tea bags (or 4 of each if you prefer).  Get a gallon pitcher and add 2/3 cup of sugar.  Pour in the tea mixture (I like to add water and squeeze out the tea bags several times into the pitcher to make it stronger).  Fill water up to the top of the pitcher.  Squeeze in the juice of one lemon.  Add a few sprigs of mint if you have them growing in your backyard (optional).  Chill and serve.
I use Celestial Seasonings decaf green tea because they:
  • Use all natural ingredients
  • Engage in ethical trade for their tea
  • Don't use bleach in their tea bags
  • Don't use strings in their tea bags or wrap them (to eliminate waste)
  • Use recycled paper boxes
I actually just signed up to get them through Amazon subscription for cheaper (6 boxes of 40 bags at a time).  I use Tetley black decaf tea for no impressive reasons.  They do not do most of the above listed impressive things.  My husband grew up drinking Tetley iced tea and believes it is the black tea, that is the only reason for that.

Natural Homemade Cleaning Spray

This recipe is from Sophie Uliano's Gorgeously Green book (mentioned on Earth Day on this blog).  I use this in my kitchen, but plan to use it in the bathroom, too, when my store-bought natural cleaner runs out there.  (The store-bought one is citrus-based, and I've actually heard that you need to avoid pine and citrus oils on high smog days because they combine with ozone to create formaldehyde, so I'll have to phase it out as summer gets smoggier anyway.)

Ingredients for All-purpose Cleaner:

32-ounce plastic spray bottle

2 cups water
1⁄2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure castile soap (peppermint is my favorite)
3⁄4 cup hydrogen peroxide
20 drops tea tree oil (sold at Trader Joe's)
20 drops of lavender or lemongrass essential oil (optional)

Either put this in a bottle that isn't see through or store somewhere dark because of the hydrogen peroxide.  I don't always add the essential oil at the end, though those are anti-bacterial and make it smell better.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dinner Tonight

I was excited.  Between the local grass-fed beef burgers, fries made from local potatoes, and the toppings (sauted mushrooms, lettuce, and greenhouse local tomatoes) all local . . . the only "grocery store" parts of the meal were the ketchup (I toyed with the idea of making some but ran out of time), mayo, and wheat rolls.  It was pretty cool.  We've been doing really well at Clark Park on Saturday mornings lately, they have a great selection, and I've been getting a lot of things from a farmer that lives near my parents. 
Can't wait for the farmer's markets to open closer to my house!