Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Our food as it grows

My husband and I have been married for nearly a decade in a half.  From that first year, when we planted upwards of 10 Roma tomatoes and a half dozen cayenne pepper plants, oblivious to the sheer volume that would result, we've always had a food garden.  We've made mistakes along the way (and still do), had some hits and misses (still do) and have found great delight in sharing it all with our two children.

There are some things that we plant every year.  Tomatoes are a must, though we plant fewer of them now than that first year (mind you, we've still got 6 plants going right now).  Peppers have never done well for us, but we continue to try, and this year it looks like we may have some success.  Green beans are popular "yard snacks" with the kids.  And our 6 year old son insists that we plant soy beans, which are a favourite of his.  We grew some lovely lemon cucumbers last year, and this year we're trying some conventional ones.  And I've had more success with lettuce as well this season.  Hooray for the cool, wet weather, I guess.

Speaking of which, that same lettuce loving weather has taken its toll on our beans, peas, radishes and beets (which are another crop I always try to grow and never seem to see success with).  Of the 20-30 snap peas I planted, only 4 came up, and those have been rather pathetic producers.  The snow peas are doing better, but the plants seem rather spindly and don't look terribly productive.  The green bush beans didn't germinate well, and are starting to look rather lace-like with their bug eaten leaves.  The soy beans look fairly resilient.  I have high hopes for them.

The one thing that does not struggle in our garden is raspberries.  Oh me, oh my do they do well!  I suspect they are plotting world domination.  We've dug out copious runners once already, and have twice as many to still remove.  They are an "ever bearing" variety, and this year's first flush looks like it's going to be a bumper crop.

We often try at least one new thing each year.  A few years ago (again at our son's request) we tried eggplant.  They did quite well, but we don't eat enough to really make having them worth it.  This year it's kale.  As with our tomatoes and hot pepper (and the seeds for our soy beans and sweet peppers) these lovely plants came from Tree and Twig.  OT, but you know how some people are in an animal shelter, when they want to take home every cute thing they see?  I get that way when I visit Linda's wonderful farm.  Hence the reason why I have 6 tomato plants, which will produce more fresh fruits than the kids and I will eat (no worries - I'll be roasting and freezing them, I'm sure).  Anyway, now I have four beautiful kale plants and no clue what to do with them.  LOL  I'm looking forward to trying some new recipes, and getting suggestions from the Twitterverse.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Of strawberries and artichokes

I am happy to say that strawberry season has arrived, pretty much right on time, in spite of the marked lack of a real Spring this year.  So far (this week) I've purchased and used/consumed nearly 5 quarts of these red jewels.  I've made strawberry sauce, strawberry vinegar, strawberry gelato and these lovely strawberry marshmallows...
I made them for a friend's bridal shower and they were quite a hit.  I'd made them once before, a few years ago, and when I saw the strawberries at the market, I knew what I had to do with them.  I'd considered strawberry cupcakes, but I think I really do prefer candy making to baking for events and holidays.  I adapted the recipe from an episode of Ricardo and Friends on Food Network Canada...


  • 2 envelopes gelatin
  • 1/2 cup strawberry puree*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch


  1. Line a 20-cm (8-inch) square dish with plastic wrap and oil lightly.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the sugar and cornstarch together. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin on the strawberry purée. Let soften for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the strawberry mixture and corn syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (you could do it with a hand mixer, but your arm may fall off first).  Beat on high until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and forms stiff peaks, about 15 - 20 minutes, wiping the bowl occasionally with a damp cold cloth to help remove the heat. Spread evenly in the dish and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 3 hours.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Lightly dust a clean surface with the icing sugar mixture. Unmould the marshmallow. Using a knife with a lightly oiled blade, cut the marshmallow into 4-cm (1 1/2-inch) squares. Roll each square in the icing sugar mixture in the bowl. Shake off any excess. Place the marshmallows on the cookie sheet and let warm to room temperature. If necessary, roll a second time in the icing sugar mixture.
  7. The marshmallows can be stored for several days at room temperature, though excess icing sugar may crust on the bottoms.
  8. * For 125 ml (1/2 cup) of strawberry purée, process and strain about 180 ml (3/4 cup) fresh strawberries. If desired, use raspberry or peach or mango purée instead (I'm contemplating cherry)
For some strange reason my father has requested that we all go to their house for Father's Day this year.  It's a bit odd, since we always just celebrate it in our own way.  But my dad's work schedule has been weird lately and dinners are out of the question.  So my darling husband agreed that we should go.  Mom asked me to bake a cake, but not chocolate because apparently my nephew doesn't like it (I saw him being born, so I know he's related to his mother and myself... must come from his dad's side).  I settled on a white cake, and decided to turn the leftover egg yolks into the aforementioned strawberry gelato.  I cranked out one batch last night and then my ice cream machine overheated while I tempted fate by trying to freeze the second batch right away.  At least it's not fried.  I'll toss the chamber back in the freezer today and make the rest tomorrow or Friday.

Are we tired of strawberries yet?  Nope.  This weekend I plan on making two batches of jam!  I made 8-10 jars last year and they were gone by December (Little Mister is a big fan).  So this year I'm making twice as much.  Hopefully that lasts until next June.  LOL

On a different (and, in my opinion less tasty) note, I saw some artichokes in the grocery store yesterday that looked nice.  They were big, and on impulse I bought two.  There are a few things that I've always wanted to try for myself but have yet to cook, like risotto.  And artichokes.  I've heard a lot of buzz about them and how wonderful they are and how they're totally worth the work.  I should have taken it as a sign when I went to put the bag on the scanner and one of the little spines cut my finger open.

Following these instructions I prepped the thistles and discovered that I needed a bigger pot.  They were larger than they seemed in the store.  That problem solved, I set about preparing the rest of dinner, and some garlic butter to dip the cooked monster flowers in.  When they were ready, I pulled off a leaf and, careful to not drip butter on myself, scraped the meager flesh off between my teeth.  I was.... underwhelmed.  The flavour was a bit like a bitter potato, with a similar texture.  I ate some more.  Then I dipped some in Baba Ganouj.  Much better!  Probably because all I could taste was the garlicky eggplant dip.  I tore off the remaining leaves, scooped out the hairy choke and tried some of the heart.  Meh.  Boring, really.  Not worth the effort.

But I can say that I've cooked and eaten them, and cross them off my culinary bucket list.