Strawberry Milk

Strawberry MilkMilking It
My kids give me a hard time because I watch a lot of the History Channel. (Ummm…hello? History major?) To be fair, I do watch a lot of the History Channel. One of my favorite shows is The Food That Built America, which looks into the history behind the foods we eat. And, it’s perfect for me for obvious reasons. It combines my love of history with my other love, food. If you haven’t seen it, take a minute and search it out. The show is fascinating. Who knew Cheetos were invented because the U.S. government had too much powdered cheese left over after WWII? Or that Hershey’s tastes the way it does because they actually burn the milk a little? Mind blown, people…

This curiosity about food can get me into trouble when I am surfing food blogs looking for interesting things. Case in point, this recipe for Strawberry Milk. I love the Smitten Kitchen blog almost as much as I love the cookbooks. And, while scrolling through the site one day I was drawn to this recipe at first because I was horrified. To me, strawberry milk means strawberry Nesquick—which is a memory from my childhood I would rather forget. So, like a bad accident on the highway, I couldn’t help but click on the link to gawk at it and see what this was all about.

I’m not sure what it was that made me uncomfortable about this recipe. Maybe it’s the idea of the acid in the strawberries reacting with the milk? I’m not totally sure but upon further inspection, I realized that this recipe in no way resembles the alarming neon pink beverage of my youth. If anything, this recipe reminds me of a more liquefied version of a smoothie or a Kefir.

Because of the addition of buttermilk, the strawberry milk is not super-sweet. And, since it has to sit overnight in the fridge, it’s not a bad option for a quick (not that one!) and tasty breakfast on the go. I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical. (And, the kids were somewhat concerned.) But, I found after tasting it that I just kept going back for more. The good news is that it’s all natural, though there is a decent amount of sugar.

If you are a lover of all things strawberry and dairy (ice cream, milkshakes, yogurt, etc.), or are just looking for something different to brighten up your summer day, give this treat a try. I’m thinking of turning this into frozen popsicles. We’ll see how that goes.

Strawberry Milk Recipe
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Strawberry milk is wonderful with breakfast. So, start this recipe the afternoon or evening before. You can macerate the strawberries in the fridge for a few hours before mixing the Strawberry Milk. It sits overnight in the fridge so the flavors can steep and deepen. Read more…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups

Mini Berry Meringue CupsBaking Hot Summer
Today is the last day of school—and the official first day of summer if you ask any kid. The trials of distance learning via Zoom can now make way for better things like the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck and days at the pool. For us, the last day of school also marks the beginning of the calorically perilous time known as Sophie Baking Season.

When there are no classes to attend or homework to be done, my daughter heads to the kitchen to fill her days. For her brothers, this means that there is a better than average chance that they will be eating something for lunch that is not a bowl of cereal. Biscuit sandwiches are one of her go-tos as are any Asian dumplings. But, while there are always exceptions, nine times out of ten, when Sophie is in the kitchen she’s baking something sweet. This makes this time of year a killer on your calorie count. Her weapon of choice? Cookies…

It would be bad enough if she was going with a classic chocolate chip. Because, how can you possibly pass up a chocolate chip cookie? But Soph likes a challenge. Her favorite things to make are French Macarons. And, she’s pretty much mastered them. A friend of the family has even commissioned a few dozen for their graduation party this weekend. (We’ve been in a constant state of taste testing for the past couple of weeks. I know. Oh, the humanity!) If macarons are her first love, meringues would be a very close second.

It makes sense if you think about it. Both desserts require a meringue to make them. The execution is just different. These lighter-than-air treats are so good that you may start with one…but before you know it you have eaten an entire handful. And, with the flavor possibilities being endless—and tested frequently—there’s always seems to be at least a handful available for consumption. (Along with an equal number of dirty dishes and bowls!)

To give the family a break, I have issued her a challenge. Instead of her usual espresso or vanilla flavored favorites, can she use the same meringue to make me some Mini Berry Meringue Cups that I can fill with fresh berries as a lovely and somewhat elegant end to a nice summer dinner? If you have ever eaten a Pavlova, this is essentially that, just made smaller with berries and whipped cream on top. Of course you could always just make the big one to make life a bit easier. And hey, if it breaks you just bust the rest of it up and make a meringue trifle…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups with Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Melon Seed Horchata

Horchata de Melon RecipeThe Pecking Order
I knew when I planted my garden this year I was probably just starting the next campaign in the war for supremacy over my chicken. But, I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. Alas, my hopes were dashed. Let me explain…

Anytime we plant in the garden—be it fruits, vegetables, or flowers—we have to figure out how best to keep our remaining chicken from eating everything. Turtle, the chicken named for the ruff of feathers around her neck, is the last remaining member of our flock. She has survived numerous racoon and neighborhood dog attacks. She methodically took out a few of her own personal rivals during her meteoric rise to the top of the pecking order…to the point that she is now the lone survivor. With people though, she is skittish but sweet and will squat down in front of you to get some petting attention. Turtle is actually fun to have around, until she tries to eat my tomatoes. Things get real when she goes after my tomatoes.

The last time we had a big garden, Turtle took out everything. Not just the veggies on the vine, but the vines themselves. So this year, we planted everything in an area she can’t get to. And, so far so good.

However, over the weekend I planted my melon patch. The melon patch is the only area that is in the chicken hazard zone and I had not yet figured out how I was going to chicken-proof it. Sure enough, not quite an hour after planting my cantaloupes and watermelons, there she is taking a dirt bath in the turned-over soil after having pecked at the leaves of the plants themselves. I was livid. Mostly at myself for believing I could actually grow a garden without her interference this year. Thankfully, we had some extra chicken wire hanging around and managed to make a temporary solution to keep her away.

The good news is that I think the plants will survive. I am looking forward to sweet melons this summer—especially for the recipe below. It’s the perfect way to use the seeds that would normally be thrown away. And, since it is Cinco de Mayo and the melons in the market are actually getting better, it is a great option for tonight’s fiesta. The recipe is from the book The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. It’s a must have for your Mexican cooking library…

Melon Seed Horchata Recipe
Adapted from The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy
Yields one serving

This is a great way to use the seeds of a cantaloupe—a part you would normally be discarding. And, it makes a tasty and refreshing drink.

Read more…

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and TarragonThe Vegetable Diaries
Spring break is here—which means it’s time to plant a veggie garden. I’m very excited. I haven’t had a true garden for many years. There have been too many other activities getting in the way of being able to take care of the plants. So, I am beyond motivated.

A few weeks ago I started my seeds. And, we had way too many cubic yards of good planting soil delivered that we used to fill our planter boxes. (I totally over-ordered.)

The waiting has been the hardest part. As a rule, you’re not supposed to plant until the temps stay above 50 degrees—and my patience has been running thin. I tend to jump the gun, usually planting a week or two too early. I showed better restraint this year. I did get the peas in the ground early though, mainly because they like the cold. But, I also chose a variety that is frost-resistant…just in case.

The recent weather has been great. But, the mornings have been a bit chilly. I am crossing my fingers that we are done with the frost. As of this post, all of my tomatoes are in the ground as well as the beans and peppers, both the bells and the spicier versions. I have been growing strawberries in my greenhouse which have recently exploded with so many berries. So, that’s some tastiness to look forward to. My peach tree is also showing significant signs of life.

I am experimenting with grow bags this year and I have to report that so far things are going well. I planted potatoes in them which are super easy to grow. And, from the looks of them, potatoes love grow bags. Grow bags are a great, inexpensive option for those who don’t have the space to have big planters. A friend of mine has had success growing tomatoes in grow bags. So, apartment dwellers take heart, you have options beyond a wine barrel or bulky planters.

With everything in the ground all that is left is the waiting. The peas will probably be the first to produce anything in great numbers. There’s nothing better than fresh peas right out of their pod. Although fresh picked corn on the cob might be a close second…and then there are the tomatoes. It’s great to have options!

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon Recipe
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings

This is the ultimate salad for pea-lovers. It showcases three kinds of peas plus pea shoots—which are delicious if you have never tried them! Read more…