Fresh Strawberries and Cream Bread

Strawberries and Cream Bread

Strawberries and Cream Bread

I have posted this recipe before, but have been getting requests for it, so I thought it was worth posting again.

This is one of my favorite quick breads. Tender  and full of the sweet taste of fresh strawberries.  The batter will be very thick- don’t worry- it is supposed to be that way. When it cooks, the juices from the fresh berries keeps it moist. I always end up making a double batch, one to eat fresh and one to give as a gift or freeze. It is fine just the way it is for dessert, or top slices with ice cream, whipped cream or some melted chocolate.

Strawberries and Cream Bread

1 ¾ c. flour

½ t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

½ t. each  cinnamon and nutmeg

½ c. butter, at room temperature

¾ c. sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

½ c. sour cream, room temperature

1 t. vanilla

1 c. fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped*

¾ c. chopped nuts, optional

 

Grease an 8×4 inch loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Set aside. In small bowl beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat 1 minute. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just moistened. Fold in strawberries and nuts and place batter in prepared pan. Bake 60-65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf. Freezes well.

*  frozen berries are not recommended in this bread.

Creamy Corn Salad

Creamy Corn Salad

Creamy Corn Salad

Corn salads are a great way to enjoy sweet corn with your summer meals. They are nice to take along for picnics, too. This is one of my favorites. There are just a few ingredients, but they work really well together. I am perfectly happy using corn that was boiled or steamed, but this salad tastes even better with corn that was cooked on the grill. Sometimes I’ll add some cooked chicken or shrimp and turn this salad into a main dish. Perfect for a hot day.

 

Creamy Corn Salad

½ c. mayo

4 T. lemon juice

2 t. prepared mustard

1 t. sugar

2 c. cooked corn, cut from the cob

3 green onions, sliced thin

¼ c. chopped sweet pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Combine all ingredients in bowl and stir well. Chill several hours or overnight. Serves 4.

 

Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

I cook with beets all year long. In cooler weather, I will make a beet soup. This time of year I really enjoy them is salads. I love the bright color and earthy flavor. This simple preparation makes them perfect to add to salads, or to enjoy on their own. They will keep in the fridge for weeks and make a nice side for summer dinners. I sometimes serve these with cheese and crackers as an appetizer. I cooked my beets by just boiling them whole until tender, but you can also roast them. Once cooked, just let them cool a little and slip off the skins. Then just dice them up and add the dressing. They will taste better after a few days in the fridge. It gives the dressing a chance to get into the beets and onion and give them that pickled flavor. Feel free to add other seasonings. I had some fresh dill, so that is what I used.

 

Pickled Beets 

2 lbs. beets, greens trimmed off, leaving 1 inch of the stem

1 red onion, peeled and sliced thin

1 c. cider vinegar

1/2 c. sugar- more or less to suit your taste*

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T. fresh dill snipped, or 1 t. dried

2 t. salt

1 t. fresh ground pepper

1/2 t. celery seed

dash of hot sauce

Cook beets whole until tender. I boiled my beets for about 35 minutes- they were kind of big. You could roast them, if you prefer. Place in cold water for 5 minutes, then remove from the water and slip off the skins. They usually come off easily, but you might have to peel them. Dice into 1/2 -inch cubes and place in a bowl. Add the onion. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the beets. Stir to combine, cover and place in fridge. These are ready to eat in a couple of days. Keep for weeks.

*You can also omit the sugar altogether- they will be very tart- but still tasty.

Marinated Mushrooms

Marinated Mushrooms

Marinated Mushrooms

I love mushrooms. Fresh in salads, sauteed, in soups. Pretty much any way you can imagine. I really like to make a big batch of marinated mushrooms this time of year. They keep for weeks and make a great snack on a hot day. I also like to serve them with assorted cheeses as a quick appetizer. These are also nice to pack for picnics and cookouts. Once you get all the ingredients together and pop them in the fridge. It takes a few days for them to get to the perfect, sort of fresh pickled stage, but I find myself eating a few even the next day. Sometimes I add cherry tomatoes to the mix, too. I add the tomatoes just a couple of hours before serving.

 

 

Marinated Mushrooms

 

Marinade:

½ c. olive oil

1c. vinegar, cider or red wine vinegar preferred

1/3 c. sugar, or to taste

¼ c. water

1 t. salt

1 t. dried minced garlic

2 T. dried mixed herbs, I used my own Italian blend

 

1-2 lbs. mushrooms

 

Mix marinade and set aside. Wash and trim mushrooms and cut into halves, if needed. Place in a bowl and pour over the marinade. The marinade does not have to cover them completely. The marinade will draw moisture out of them.  Cover and refrigerate for at least a few days for best flavor. Stir them once a day.

To serve: Drain mushrooms and serve as is, or add olives, artichoke hearts, cheese cubes and smoked meats for an antipasto. I’ve also known people to serve them with crusty bread.

Picnic Food Safety

macaroni saladWith picnic and cook out season in full force-I thought it would be a good time to post some tips to keep your picnic safe.

 

Common Picnic Problems

Besides ants, the biggest concern at a picnic should be food safety.  While most of us know to keep cold foods cold, and hot food hot, there are some basic things we should all do to insure a safe, happy day.

Away from home and refrigeration, it is can be tricky to keep foods cold until ready to serve. Bring plenty of ice and coolers for all perishable food. Keep food cold until you are ready to cook or eat it. Get food back into coolers as soon as everyone has finished eating.

Package raw meats extra carefully.  Raw meat juices, spilling on salads, will make them inedible. Pack raw meats separately if you can, or on the bottom of the cooler in a leak-proof container. You might also consider bringing meats like burgers frozen to thaw on the grill or in the cooler. Smoked meats are safer than their non-smoked counterparts but both types can spoil. The ideal is to have one cooler only for raw meats.

Don’t make burgers on site. Outdoor prep is always tricky. Better to form burgers at home, where you can wash all surfaces, as well as your hands, thoroughly. If you  make them there- bring disposable gloves and a lightweight cutting board to work on.

Never use ice for drinks that have been in contact with raw meat, or even if any raw meats have been stored in the ice. Keep beverage ice in its own cooler, or keep it bagged to insure it is clean and safe.

Solid blocks of ice melt more slowly than cubes and make good cooler inserts for long, hot summer days. Also, keep coolers in the shade to offset the power of the sun.

Meat should be cooked thoroughly and ground meat is always more at risk for contamination. Make sure your fire is hot enough. Allow for chilly, windy days and pack extra coals or other fuel, to keep the fire hot throughout the cooking process.

Make sure you don’t put cooked meats on the tray that the raw meat was on. Also have different prepping and serving utensils for both the raw and cooked meats.

You can also precook meats (like chicken pieces or ribs), cool and chill until ready for dinner. Then just heat them up over the coals. This way you don’t have the worry of bringing along raw meats and you’ll spend less time cooking and more time having fun.

Mayo is not the evil purveyor of bacteria some people think. Mayo from a fresh jar, can actually retard the growth of bacteria. This does not mean you can leave the potato salad in the trunk for 3 hours because it has mayo in it. It just means that mayonnaise is not the culprit for food spoilage- bad handling was likely the cause.

While 2 hours is the maximum for food to be left out before being refrigerated again, use common sense. Obviously, on a 95 degree day that time is much shorter. Rather than one big bowl of pasta salad, bring several smaller ones that you can switch out. That way you always have cold salad that is safe. And bring plenty of serving spoons. It does no good to swap out the bowls of pasta salad for a fresh bowl, if you keep using the same serving spoon. Try to stay in the shade, too. Bringing some sort of canopy can keep food cooler than sitting in direct sunlight.

I am a big believer in a good hand washing being the best way to clean your hands- but you might not have running water where you are. Hand sanitizers are great when you don’t have hand washing as an option. I also bring a package of sanitizing wipes, in case a surface needs cleaning up, too.

If it is a hot day- you might want to have a large container, filled with ice, that you can put the bowls of salad into, to keep them colder. That way the salads are surrounded by the ice and stay cold a lot longer. You can use a small baby pool. I like to use a container designed for under the bed storage. Nice size.

In the end, it is about using common sense, and copious amounts of ice. Remember, that if you lose track of time, forget to put something back in the cooler or leave something in the trunk, it is always better to play it safe. When in doubt-throw it out.

 

Picnic Quiches

Picnic Quiches

Picnic Quiches

These tiny quiches pack a lot of flavor. They are also a great take along for picnics and cook outs. Since you can eat them hot or cold, they make a nice food for road trips, too. The quiche recipe is made up of three parts- the crust, the filling and the custard. They are baked in muffins tins and each recipe makes a dozen. I have two crust recipes- including a gluten free crust that is made from rice and zucchini. There are three filling choices, but you can get creative and make a number of different variations. The custard is pretty straightforward- half and half, eggs and seasonings. I make a couple of batches at a time and then freeze some for later.

 

Picnic Quiches

 

 Crust options

Rice Zucchini Crust (Gluten free)

1½ c. shredded zucchini

1¼ c. cooked rice (white or brown)

1 egg

¼ c. Parmesan cheese

 

 

Crouton Crust

3½ c. garlic-cheese croutons, about 5 oz., ground

1/3 c. melted butter

 

Fillings:

 

 Mushroom and Onion

1 medium onion, chopped

Oil

8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

3-4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed fine

In skillet cook onion in oil until lightly browned. Add mushroom and cook until mushrooms are golden. Cool and combine with cheese before using.

 

Spinach and Bacon

12 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled

10 oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

4 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded

Combine all ingredients. Set aside until ready to use.

 

Confetti

 

1 ear corn, cooked and kernel cut off the cob- about ½ cup

½ c. mined fresh sweet pepper

¼ c. chopped green onion

4 oz. shredded cheese- I like a sharp cheddar in this filling

 

 

 Custard:

 

1c. half and half

3 eggs

½ t. each basil and salt

1/8 t. each garlic powder, pepper and paprika

 

Directions

Grease 12 muffin cups (3 inch). Prepare crust of your choice by mixing crust ingredients together. Pat 2 tablespoons of the crust mixture into each muffin cup. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool before filling. While baking and cooling crusts, prepare filling of your choice and make the custard.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of filling over each cooled crust. Spoon about 3-4 tablespoons of the custard over the filling. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire racks, chill completely before packing for your picnic.

 

A Trio of Potato Salads

Just in Thyme Potato Salad

Just in Thyme Potato Salad

I love potato salad. Actually, I love potatoes pretty much any way they are prepared. With so many cookouts and picnics, you can never have enough potato salad recipes, right? I am sharing three of my favorite potato salad recipes. The first one is really simple, enhanced with fresh thyme leaves. Thyme really pairs well with the potatoes. The second one uses some of my fresh basil in a pesto sauce that is tossed with the potatoes. Who says pesto is just for pasta? The third salad is the way I remember my Mom making potato salad. She never wrote down her recipe, but I think I got it right.

Just in Thyme Potato Salad

With my herb garden growing like crazy right now I thought this was the perfect dish to make. This salad can be served warm or cold and goes well with so many dishes. I find when I have leftovers, I’ll even brown it in a skillet and serve it like hash browns with eggs for breakfast.

2 lbs. boiling potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces*
½ c. olive oil
¼ c. red wine vinegar
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes until tender. Drain and toss with the rest of the ingredients and serve right away or chill to serve later. Serves 6-8.

* You can really use any potato you like. I often bake the potatoes whole and then peel and cut up. Cook them any way you prefer.

Pesto Potato Salad

This salad always makes me think of a warm summer day. I think it’s because of the basil. During the summer, my driveway is lined with pots of basil. I cook with it almost every day. Pesto can be used in a lot of different dishes beyond pasta. Here I’ve paired it up with potatoes. The combination works great together. I always freeze extra basil so I can enjoy it year round.

2 lbs. Boiling potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 c. basil leaves
3 T. pine nuts
3 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

Cook potatoes until tender. Cool. In blender combine remaining ingredients, except 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts. Pour blended mixture over potatoes and sprinkle with the reserved nuts. Chill. Serves 6-8.

 

 

Mom’s Mustard Potato Salad

When I was a kid I did not like the taste of mustard- except in this recipe. It adds such a wonderful flavor.

4 lbs. potatoes- I used Klondike Rose and I did not peel them

4 hard cooked eggs, peeled and chopped

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped, optional

1 c. mayo- maybe a little less

1/4 c. prepared mustard- I like a grainy brown mustard

salt and pepper to taste

dash of hot sauce

Bake whole potatoes until tender and allow to cool. Cube potatoes into large bowl and combine with remaining ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 8.

 

 

 

Pesto Potato Salad

Pesto Potato Salad

Mustard Potato Salad

Mustard Potato Salad

Coconut Orange Cupcakes

Coconut Orange Cupcakes

Coconut Orange Cupcakes

This is a great dessert to take along on picnics, when the weather might be too warm for frosted treats.  A cupcake without frosting? Well, if it is this Coconut Orange Cupcake you will never miss it. The cupcake batter is made with orange juice and enriched with vanilla chips and mandarin oranges. Before baking a slightly sweet coconut and butter mixture is sprinkled on the top. The end result is a cupcake with a toasted coconut topping and enough flavor and moisture to carry the day without frosting.  They are also very simple to make. You can have the batter mixed and ready in the time it takes to preheat the oven.

Coconut Orange Cupcakes

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup oil, I use a light flavored olive oil

2 eggs

1 cup orange juice

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup diced fresh oranges

1 cup vanilla or white baking chips

TOPPING:

1 cup flaked coconut

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and orange juice; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; stir into orange juice mixture just until moistened. Fold in oranges and chips. Fill 24 greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over cupcakes. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 24.

 

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence

I like making my own herb and spice blends. It gives me the chance to use my own fresh seasonings and to make them to suit my taste. Since I harvested lavender today, I will be making a batch of Herbes de Provence soon. Herbes De Provence is a blend of thyme, basil, bay leaves, lavender, savory and rosemary. It had a rich, almost floral  flavor that goes well with lamb, beef, pork, duck and fish. I use a mix of both fresh and dried herbs, so it will be stored in the freezer. Dried herbs can also be used, if you prefer to  store it at room temp. The amounts in the recipe are based on using dried herbs. I have included the amounts of fresh herbs you would use instead.

 

With the last batch I made, I used some of the Herbes de Provence on a lamb roast. It was for a dinner with friends. My friend, Amy, really loves this seasoning blend. I always share some with her when I make it.

 

I rubbed the Herbes de Provence all over the lamb roast before roasting. I also added some pink salt. The lamb came out great and was a big hit.

 

Lamb roast with Herbes de Provence

Lamb roast with Herbes de Provence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbes de Provence

1 T. thyme, or 2 T. fresh

1 T. rosemary or 2 T. fresh

1 T. savory or 2 T. fresh

2 t. basil or 2 T. fresh

1 t. lavender or 1 T. fresh

2 bay leaves

Blend fresh or dried herbs until bay leaves are powdered. Rub this mixture on grilled meats, roasts, chicken, or fish. If using fresh herbs, make small amounts and freeze what is unused.

Homemade Strawberry Liqueur

Strawberry Liqueur

Strawberry Liqueur

With strawberries at their peak I have been eating them every day. I have been enjoying them in desserts and salads. I will be making strawberry jam and freezing berries, too. Another way to preserve strawberries is by making a liqueur with them.  It is pretty simple. Just combine berries with vodka and a small amount of powdered sugar. I use half gallon canning jars for this, but you could use any food safe container with a tight fitting lid. Let the mixture steep long enough for the berries to infuse the alcohol with their flavor. You can sweeten it later on, or even leave it unsweetened, if you prefer. I like to sip the liqueur as is, or serve on the rocks with a splash of club soda.

Strawberry Liqueur

 

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

3 T. powdered sugar

3 c. vodka

1 c. simple syrup*

Sprinkle powdered sugar over berries and let dissolve. Pour over vodka and let steep 2 weeks. Crush berries and strain then filter. Add sugar syrup and mature 1 week. Makes 5 cups.

 

*Simple syrup is made from 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cool. You will have 1 cup of syrup. You can sweeten your liqueur with honey, if you prefer. Watch when you substitute honey for sugar, as it is sweeter and stronger flavored. Better to use orange or clover honey. Add to suit your taste.

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