Strawberry Adventure ’11

Yesterday, my sister, nephew and I went strawberry picking. Since we’ve moved back to Columbus, we had to find a new spot. After some research, we decided on going to Mitchell’s Berry Farm in Plain City, Ohio. And I must say, we weren’t disappointed. We spent about 90 minutes picking in one of their fields and we came back with over 20lbs of beautiful, delicious berries.

We came back home and started canning. We decided to make twice the amount of jam as last year, it is the only jam that my nephew will eat, so we divided it into two batches. We put up a total of 32 jelly jars (8 oz) and two pint jars since we ran out of the smaller ones. Plenty of jammy goodness to get us through until next year. (I’m going to share the recipe we used and the process in a future post.)

In addition to the jam, we made some strawberry ice cream, a strawberry smoothie for Luke and daiquiris for my sister and myself to celebrate the fruits of our labor.

Say hello to Chopper

Please say hello to “Chopper’ the latest member of my kitchen appliance family. Chopper, formally known as the Cuisnart Elite Food Processor, happily arrived at the house yesterday by way of a Williams-Sonoma gift certificate. I plan on putting Chopper to work slicing vegetables, making piecrust, and shredding cheese, vegetables, nuts and chocolate. Cooking is going to be a lot more fun, and less labor-intensive, with Chopper around.

I’ve got the blues: Albert Collins

There has never been and may never be again a bluesman quite like Albert Collins. Born on October 1, 1932, in Leona, Texas, Collins was deeply influenced by T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker and Gatemouth Brown, Collins absorbed the sounds of Mississippi, Chicago, and especially Texas. He had many nicknames such as "The Ice Man", "The Master of the Telecaster" and "The Razor Blade.” Some of you might remember him for his cameo appearance in the film “Adventures in Babysitting” he insisted to Elisabeth Shue that "nobody leaves this place without singin’ the blues", forcing the children to improvise a song before escaping.

Collins was known not only for the quantity of quality blues music that he put out throughout his career that has inspired so many other blues musicians, (Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Sheperd, John Mayer, and Frank Zappa just to name a few) but also for his live performances, where he would frequently come down from the stage, attached to his amplifier with a very long cord, and mingle with the audience whilst still playing. He was known to leave clubs while still playing, and continue to play outside on the sidewalk, even boarding a city bus in Chicago while playing, outside of a club called Biddy Mulligan’s (the bus driver stayed at the bus stop until Collins got off).

*Click to full post for sound clip*

Apple Slushie

Yes, this is a picture of the amazing apple slushie. For those of you who haven’t had this dreamy concoction, it is freshly pressed apple cider that is thown into a slushie machine. Truly nectar of the gods. I dream about them all year long, but only have one at Sunrise Orchards while attending the Gays Mills Apple Festival. It is well worth the trip for you to come out and try one. Trust me.

Homemade Pesto

I have a ton of basil still and I don’t want it to go to waste before the frost kills it, so I decided to make some pesto for dinner last night. This is by far the easiest thing to make, I have no idea why anyone would buy pesto at the store. The great thing is that you can whip it up in a minute. It stores fresh in the fridge for about a week or so. You can also freeze it, I suggest using an ice cube tray for pre-measured portions.

Homemade Pesto

2 C loosely packed cups fresh basil
1/2 tsp clove of garlic (or more to taste)
2 tb pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
pinch of salt.

Combine basil with salt, garlic, nuts, cheese, and half of the olive oil into a food processor or blender. Process, stop to scrape sides and then add the rest of the oil gradually. Add more oil if you would like a thinner consistency.

Serve over pasta and enjoy!

Behold: The Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger

The past few weeks I’ve been telling everyone about our trip to the Wisconsin State Fair. Specifically, all the crazy food we tried. Here’s the question that everyone asks “Sam, what the heck is a Krispy Kreme Cheeseburger? . . . . Well here it is.

**Please note that I didn’t eat this thing, only the hubby. I’m happy to report that he’s still alive and in good health after eating it.

Food on a Stick

A list of things we had at the Wisconsin State Fair:

1. Corndog w/ mustard
2. Cornbread-battered deep fried cheese on a stick
3. Spiral-cut salt and vinegar potato chips on a stick
4. Beer
5. Bottled water
6. Sno Cone
7. Corn on the cob
8. Deep fried s’more on a stick
9. Chocolate covered bacon on a stick
10. Krispy Creme Cheeseburger
11. Sprecher’s Rootbeer
12. Deep fried PB & J on a stick
13. Cotton Candy
14. Creampuffs


I love me some pickles. Dill, bread & butter, gherkins, you name it. I’ve had it in my mind to attempt to make my own pickles for quite some time. So when I saw some Kirby cucumbers at the farmer’s market this weekend, I picked up some. (About five pounds worth) After researching different pickling recipes, I decided to try out two different recipes: Garlic Dill and Spicy Bread & Butter.

The Garlic Dill recipe is the traditional method where it is pickled in jars that go through the water bath canning process. I’ll have to wait a few weeks to try them, but from how they looked/smelled I think they’ll turn out great. Here’s the recipe I used:

Garlic Dill Pickles
Makes approximately 8 pints (total yield varies depending on size of cucumbers)
2 overflowing quarts of pickling cucumbers, sliced into fat coins*
4 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
6 tablespoons pickling salt
16 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (2 teaspoons total)
1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (8 teaspoons total)
½ teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (4 teaspoons total)

Wash and slice the cucumbers.
In a large sauce pot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.
Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don’t want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tight.
Pour the brine into the jar, leaving ½ inch headspace.
Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
When 10 minutes are up, promptly remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool on the countertop. When the jars are cool, check the seals (by pushing/tapping on the lid).
Pickles can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

*I use slices because I find that they are easiest to pack into jars. However, you could also choose to make spears, halves or pickle the cucumbers whole.

The other recipe that I used was for Spicy Bread & Butter pickles. These have a sweet yet tart, taste that ends with a spicy finish. Deelicious! They are a bit easier to make, since you do not have to deal with the water bath part, but they don’t last as long. I made a small batch of these, since I am the only pickle lover in the house. Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Bread & Butter Pickles
Makes 4 cups of pickles, filling a 1-quart jar
1 pound cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick — “pickling” or kirby cucumbers work best here
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pickling salt
1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (if ground, use 1 teaspoon)

In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Mix well. Cover the mixture with ice. Let stand at room temperature for two hours. In a pot, bring sugar, vinegar and spices to a boil. Drain cucumbers and onions. Add to vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. You can store the pickles in an airtight container for up to three weeks in the fridge. They will begin tasting pickled in just a couple hours.

Berry Blue

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any u-pick places for blueberries here in Wisconsin, so last week I stopped at the Brennan’s and picked up a 10lb box of Michigan blueberries. I froze about 4 quarts and then made some blueberry crisp and still have about a pint leftover to snack on in the fridge, so I would estimate I got about 12 pints in the box. The price worked out to be just under two dollars a pint! That is awesome because I regularly see them selling in the grocery for about $4 a pint.

I’m planning on using them to make Shawn’s grandma’s recipe for blueberry pie, for blue berry muffins and pancakes, and also to make smoothies along with the strawberries. I’m not going to make blueberry jam because neither Shawn or I are fans, but I am considering making some red raspberry preserves when they come into season.

I am really starting to wish that I had a chest freezer, its getting a little crowded in the fridge freezer right now!

Cucumber Water

Welcome to my latest summertime obsession: cucumber-infused water. Every sip is like an instant trip to a day spa. Cool, refreshing, delicious. . . and so easy to make!

1. Peel and dice one cucumber
2. Dump cucumber bits into pitcher. I use a two quart size, but whatever you have on hand will work just fine.
3. Fill up pitcher with water. Tap, bottled, or spring water if you feel fancy.
4. Chill pitcher in fridge for about four hours. The longer you let it sit, the more flavorful it becomes.
5. Pour over ice and chill out!