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Archive for July, 2010

My good friend bought a new house this year with ten acres of land. The property came with a tractor and also acres of strawberries. Her husband loves the tractor so much, he jokes that they bought a tractor and got some land for free. Boys and their toys! I prefer the strawberries myself. The most generous soul on the planet, my friend let her friends (including me, yay!) pick the berries and take them home for free. What an opportunity! If only my apartment freezer could hold more . . . oh well. I picked a good quantity of the large, red berries (although not so sweet this year, way too much rain) and enjoyed the sunshine with my friend. I took the berries home and de-stemmed the ones that escaped my fingers during the drive. I froze some in freezer bags, and also made a batch of my favorite freezer jam. Ok, so this jam includes sugar, which I am trying to avoid, but I just had to make it anyway. Everything in moderation, right? Sometimes I just need a piece of toast with homemade jam, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as I rush out the door. At least I can proudly say I made this jam myself, I even picked the berries myself.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Yields 5 (8oz) half pints

Buy the Ball brand No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin. The recipe is on the package!

4 cups crushed strawberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 package Ball No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin

Stir sugar and contents of package in a bowl until well blended. Stir in 4 cups of crushed fruit. Stir 3 minutes longer. Ladle jam into freezer jars and top with lids. Let stand until thickened, about 30 minutes.

My mom never buys jam, she just stocks her giant freezer full of homemade jam during the summer. Blackberry jam, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, jam from any kind of berry she can get for a reasonable price. As a child, I always hated helping Mom pick berries. The sun beating down on me as I squatted by the low plants (we always picked berries on the hottest day of the year), slowly filling the pint containers, my fingers stained with juice. I hated squishing the berries with sugar and feeling the dribbles of sugary juice hardening on my arms as I worked. Hot and sticky work. But even then, I knew the importance of this task. My summer labor filled a freezer full of berries and jams, ready for the rest of the year. When I moved out of my parents’ house eight years ago, I immediately started to miss the huge, icy, over-stuffed freezer in my parents’ garage. A little apartment freezer just doesn’t hold nearly as much. I drifted away from making my own products, and started to get lazy at meal time. Now, I am trying to return to my roots, and trying to keep my freezer full to bursting with as much as I possibly can. My next challenge (which scares me, I’ll admit!) canning!

A photo from work of a dessert using local strawberries. Not at all healthy, but definitely delicious! I threw some strawberries in a blender with mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar and some heavy cream. Super fast strawberry mousse in only a couple of minutes! You just have to watch it carefully, to make sure the cream doesn't overwhip, because then you would have sweet, strawberry-flavored butter!

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My sister, a vegetarian, loves the bean and cheese burritos we ate growing up. A flour tortilla spread with canned refried beans, sprinkled with grated Tillamook cheddar, micro waved for a minute and rolled up. An easy recipe even my sister can make! (Just kidding, Diana!) Very simple and ingenious, but I associate canned refried beans with the taste of vomit. I just can’t stand them. I also prefer to stay away from shortening-filled, white flour tortillas. I love corn tortillas, which typically consist of just corn masa, water and salt, but sometimes I just want a burrito.

I decided to try a fat-free whole wheat tortilla recipe with my kind of ingredient list: short! Just whole wheat pastry flour, water and sea salt. The fewer ingredients and steps included in the recipe, the more likely I am to try it. If you love store-bought white flour tortillas, this recipe may take some getting used to. I love the nutty taste of whole grain products; I will always choose whole grain over white when presented with an option. So, this recipe worked out perfectly for me. Simple, quick, easy and no added fat.

Finish off the tortilla with some of my favorite items: pinto beans, queso fresco, and avocado pico de gallo. A yummy, slightly more time-consuming version of the menu staple of my childhood. Not that time-consuming if you think ahead though! I soak the beans overnight, cook a large batch, and use them throughout the week in many applications. I can do that, because of my love of beans, but cooked beans also freeze well if your family or stomach complains of bean overload. The rest really comes together quickly, although I am less likely to attempt the long versions of these items during hot summer days. The less I turn on the oven or stove top, the better. Prepare for many blog posts involving green salads and fresh fruit during the summer!

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

Yields about 4 large tortillas

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions

In a large bowl combine the flour and 1/2  cup of water. Mix well. Add more water if needed, to get the mixture to a dough consistency. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is soft. Make it into balls (4 to 6 depending on size). Roll each ball out as flat as possible on a floured surface.  Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the rolled out tortilla to the pan and cook for about 45 seconds to 1 minute or until it is bubbling and starting to brown. Then turn it over and cook for another 45 seconds. Wrap each tortilla in a clean kitchen towel as soon as it comes out of the pan.  Serve immediately. These tortillas are better freshly cooked, they don’t reheat as well.

Fill with warm, cooked pinto beans, queso fresco and avocado pico de gallo. Enjoy!

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