I have just learned the easiest way to freeze blueberries. In the past I washed the berries, drained them, laid them out on cookie sheets in the freezer to freeze individually, then put the frozen berries into freezer bags. LONG PROCESS.

Recently, T and I picked berries at Evergreen Berry Farm in Watertown, CT. We picked on the bushes that were NOT sprayed- as there are areas of the field that never seem to need protection from insects and some that do. Interesting permaculture conundrum there….

As we were leaving T noticed a sign with freezing instructions as follows (so easy):

Put your fresh-picked berries into freezer bags and put in freezer. When you want to use the berries remove from freezer and rinse.  

Strawberry Shortcake

June 19, 2011

Perfect treat for Father’s Day- I’ve just picked 4 quarts of organic strawberries at McEnroe’s Farm up in Amenia, NY. Tough picking because they’ve let the weeds grow up- so there were thistles to wrestle with (ouch) and slim pickings because this is only their first week of picking. So I was a bit early. Hope my dear friend, T, will go with me later in the week or even next week. No matter, I’ve frozen 3 quarts (for sorbet and the winter) and will use the rest for shortcake topping and for snacking. They are very sweet!

I have tried a new vanilla muffin recipe from food.com. It only makes 9 (really, I tried to stretch it but 9 it is) muffins/cupcakes so you might like to make more, these are going to go fast in my house. I also used a gluten free flour mix instead of all the separate flours. 22 minutes in the oven was perfect time. The recipe also has chocolate frosting. I am not going to make that. I will make strawberry topping, see below.

  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Serves: 9, Yield: 9 Cupcakes

Ingredients

◦                                  2/3 cup soymilk

◦                                  1/4 cup canola oil

◦                                  3/4 cup agave nectar

◦                                  2 teaspoons vanilla extract

◦                                  1/4 teaspoon almond extract

◦                                  1 1/2 cups gluten free flour

◦                                  1 teaspoon baking powder

◦                                  1/2 teaspoon baking soda

◦                                  1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions (adapted from food.com):

Preheat oven to 325°F;

Line muffin pan with 9 Liners and fill 3 remaining muffin cups with a little bit of water.

 Mix together soy milk, canola oil, vanilla and almond extract and agave nectar.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt one by one and mix for 1-2 minutes. Mixture will be thin.

Fill 9 muffin cups approximately 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 1 hour to allow agave to set.

Serve with 2 cups strawberries halved and cooked with 1 T maple syrup or honey, 1 cup water and 2 T arrowroot powder on low flame, stir until thickened;

Garnish with fresh berries and whipped tofu cream topping (1/2 cake organic tofu, 2 T tahini, 1 T agave syrup (or to desired sweetness) , pinch salt, 2 T grapeseed oil blend until smooth and creamy.

Mango Pico de Gallo

June 7, 2011

My dear friend, T, invited me over for a fish taco dinner party on Sunday night. I asked if I could bring something and she requested Pico de gallo. I don’t know what it is, even- but gather that it’s what I call salsa and it goes on the fish. Pico de gallo in Spanish means rooster’s beak–whatever–and can be made as a fruit salad with chili and other spices sprinkled on the top, or as a raw condiment like a chutney made with vegetables. In the US we think of salsa as a chutney of diced tomatoes, maybe avocado, peppers, definitely a spicy jalapeno, lime juice, salt and often my unfavorite green, cilantro, sprinkled in so I cannot pick it out. I’ve had salsa made from peaches and also mangos as well as watermelon! I decided to be creative and make it up.

I had a few very ripe mangos on hand, went down to the store and bought 1 plum tomato, 1 red pepper and a green jalapeno, 1 lime. I also had a few little red onions left from last year and lots of fresh parsley in my garden, so I set about to make up a simple but yummy Pico de Gallo for our fish tacos.

Dice small 1/4 cup red onion

Dice 1/2 red pepper (remove the seeds and extra skin inside, first)

Dice 1 small plum tomato

Chop very fine- 1 small hot pepper of your choice (keep 1/2 T aside in case it is a very hot pepper or people want something like the beak of a rooster pico….)

Peel and Dice 1/2 cup ripe mango

Chop large handful of parsley  very fine

Toss all the vegetables along with

1/2-1 t seasalt to taste

Add juice of 1 lime (or more to taste)

I garnished with chive flowers (you can see on at the top of photo, above) I broke up a few flowers and sprinkled in the salsa, too. It was very yummy.

The dinner also included watermelon gazpacho, fresh picked garden salad with oil and salt dressing, sweet and spicy beans and rice, guacamole (with the dreaded cilantro), spicy tilapia, rice and corn tacos, my Pico de G and T’s special gluten-free banana cake. Delish.

Here it is before the parsley was added. Still beautiful!

 

Recently I was driving and talking on the phone (hands-free) with my dearest friend, T. Somewhere shortly into our conversation I could hear her connection getting bad as she was driving in the rain and clearly getting out of range of a cell tower. Then, predictably, the called was dropped.

(Dropped calls are annoying but a fact of life. My friend K is very patient with me when I am on my cellphone because I live in a rural area with poor cell coverage and she is Chicago where there is probably too much. When we are disconnected I call her back when I get into range.)

Giving T time to move back into range, I think I phoned her back, or maybe she phoned me…hmmm.

We laughed about the call drop and then T pronounced the following edict: Whoever initiates the call, calls back. No matter what. And that’s her new rule.

When two people converse it is a mutual agreement to converse. So it stands to reason that when this protocol is employed everyone needs to agree as well. So, of course, I agree, it makes sense not to exchange calls and messages back and forth. Then I had thoughts like: how about when I phone her back and she is still out of range? Is it then her turn to phone me back? Or is the responsibility all with me? In my family usually whoever drops the call calls back when they have service. So now I’ll have to remember whose protocol is whose.

I appreciate that T has brought this up and I am curious about this so I have been cruising the internet reading about cellphone etiquette. There are many “rules” out there concerning ringtones, where it is cool and uncool to have conversations, volume of conversations and more. Here are some funny and thoughtful ideas as well as some of my input (5 and 6) on dropped call etiquette:

1. Some dropped calls are on purpose! Have you ever just hung up because you didn’t want to speak to someone? People do! Check out some of the responses at sodahead.com.

2. Have you done this: “What? Can’t hear you? You’re breaking up….” and then hang up? People do that, too, and even talk about it online….So how can you be sure someone hasn’t just hung up on you? There is even “fake an excuse” software out there.

3. There are many online references to the “Scoville Protocol” which is whoever dropped the call, phones back. I tend to like this one. You usually know if you dropped the call, don’t you? I found references to smartphones that know they’ve dropped a call and can redial the last number. Get the App called AutoRedial 1.0 or RedialOn for Blackberry.

4. There are also many references to what I now call the “T Protocol”: whoever initiated the call, calls back. People online have even claimed it as their original idea!

5. True confession: Sometimes I don’t remember who called whom. (Forgive me if I don’t call back, friends.)

6. If you are talking to my 96-year-old cousin or my father, you will always call them back, please, no matter who initiated the call.

7. I found this excellent and anonymous comment online: “There is perhaps one exception; if both are fairly certain that one of them is known to have a less expensive way of returning the call, then a few extra moments should be left reserved to give them an opportunity to do so.”

8. And, this from wired.com, “So what should you do if a spotty patch of cell coverage lops off the call before the closing bookend? (“Well, I really should get going. I’m trying to …”) Even if there’s not much left to say, the redial button is obligatory. Otherwise, the likely effect is either confusion (think colleagues or grandparents) or insult (think boss or boyfriend). “Communication is not just about accomplishing tasks,” says Scripps College of Communication dean Gregory Shepherd. “It’s about managing relationships.” So call back to say good-bye, even if you had them at hello … hello?”

Dave Delaney from davemadethat.com states: “He who called returns the call.” Wisegeek.com also has a great deal to say about cellphone etiquette.

And, of course, a dropped call joke: “I was talking to you when the call dropped. I do not know where to pick up…. We just had a cellular moment.”

Who says that Josh Spear is the only cool hunter. I wandered into the Spotted Magpie a few weeks ago while moseying down Oxford St, heading back to Sydney. (See tall building in background? That’s Sydney..Australia. Note also the car driving on the left side of the road? Okay then.)

With a sign like this, the store could be anything.

Outside the door there are rolls and rolls of oilcloth, one more fun and fabulous than the next. And inside is a collection of whimsical, practical, deco, retro and joyful new and not-so-new decorative items for the home.

After chatting with the owner, Mary, for a minute I recognized and American twange (yep, Ohio..) behind her Aussie accent.

Great store, creative owner who is also an interior designer- well, duh!  She can decorate my house- fun, fun, fun! My friend, T, would get a real kick out of this store. Mary says:

“The idea behind Magpie is that, like a bird, we collect things here and there to create our own unique nest. We normally don’t go into it with a big master plan – we pick up things along the way, we bring back souvenirs from when we travel, we collect mementos from our lives, and are given, for better or worse, things that reflect the taste of those we love.”

I bought a little oilcloth apron as a house gift for Lela (2 years old). Too cute:

 

Feeling Crummy

December 10, 2010

Some of my friends are feeling crummy; sore throat or body aches, chills-  Well, it is cold/virus season, the weather is freeeeezing here in Connecticut, and it is easy to get run down. It’s a stressful time of year physically and emotionally and we need to take care of ourselves. When the sun sets so early, I just want to put on my pajamas and snuggle down with a book. It’s dark and cold and I wish I could just hybernate but I’ve had to do a lot of running around and now I’m feeling crummy, too. I really don’t want to get sick because then my good friend, Teresa won’t want to come over for tea.

So, I have boiled up one of my favorite and yummy natural home remedies.

Elderberry Tea

Loaded with antioxidant quercetin, elderberry has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.

You can find elderberry in jams, teas and black elderberry syrup. It’s sweet and great for sick children (and grownups, too). Take 1 to 2 teaspoons four times a day for three to four days when feeling sick. Sipping elderberry tea can also soothe flu symptoms. From Oodora.com

Also, from healthandnutritiontips.com:

“The tea is made from the dried flowers of the plant. To brew tea you need about 5 grams (2/10 of an ounce) of dried flowers per cup of water. The flowers should be steeped in boiling water for at least 10, and preferably 15, minutes. Unless you don’t mind flower petals between your teeth, the liquid should be strained before consuming, or simply place the petals in a tea strainer. If you pick your own flowers, do so when they are in full bloom, and let them dry in the sun. They will store well in an airtight bag or other airtight container. Some elderberry tea drinkers like to mix it with peppermint tea. Otherwise you can add honey or lemon to taste.”

I like to boil the dried berries: 1/2 cup berries boiled with some ginger in 6 cups of water for 20 minutes. Sweeten to taste. YUM!

Next summer I will have my own Elderberries to pick. And, as my kids say: BOOM!


New Gadget

September 22, 2010

Go Go Gadget: VEGGIECHOP™

This is my kinda gadget. No motor, easy to clean. Check out the Chef’n VeggieChop™:

How is it possible to chop large pieces of vegetables or fruit, nuts, herbs, boneless meats—or even ice—by hand? What makes creating fresh salsas and pestos simple, with a just few pulls of a handle? Answer: The VeggiChop™


T is going to love this!!

You can buy from Isabellacatalog.com