Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry heaven

I love strawberry season! Granted this post is a bit late, strawberries stopped being in season about a month ago, but my excuse is legitimate: we just moved into a new house. Now that the boxes are mostly unpacked and the the house is liveable I feel that it's ok to go back and relive that wonderful window of time when strawberries were cheap and delicious.

I was lucky enough to get to a U-pick during those few weeks and pick about 9 quarts of fresh strawberries. I froze most of them to use in smoothies and desserts this winter, but I also made a few simple recipes with some of the fresh ones. Oh and we ate a bunch. Nature's candy!
Many people like to make jam, but we're not big jam-eaters, and my husband prefers raspberry so I didn't bother with the sticky hassle this year.

Two things I made with my fresh strawberries were strawberry syrup and strawberry frozen yogurt. With the syrup I struck out on my own and tried my own recipe, which is good, but when used to flavour water the pulp sinks to the bottom of the glass. I should probably follow a recipe next time, but they all require that you cook the strawberries and I simply prefer the taste of fresh ones.

Strawberry Syrup Recipe

- 3 cups strawberries, washed and chopped
- 3/4 cup white sugar (+/- to taste)
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Using a food processor (or blender if you don't have one) purée the strawberries until smooth. Add sugar and lemon juice and blend well. Store in an easily pourable glass container. I use an old maple syrup bottle. Use on ice cream, in yogurt or to spritz up sparkling water or plain water (be sure to stir well before drinking!) Will keep in the fridge for a month or so.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe

- 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and chopped
- 1 cup plain yogurt (homemade? :)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup

Again, using a food processor purée the strawberries until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in yogurt and maple syrup. If you don't have an ice cream machine you can just use a glass or ceramic bowl and place mixture in the freezer. Take it out every 15 min or so and stir well until the it reaches the desired consistency.

We have a great ice cream maker that just stirs the mixture constantly in a water-filled bowl that is pre-frozen. It's great for making any kind of ice cream that we are creative enough to come up with!

This frozen yogurt is very flavourful and light, perfect for a hot summer day!

To freeze strawberries, I just wash them, cut off the tops and place them whole in freezer bags. You can also quarter them, depending on what you hope to use them for. Even though preserving this many strawberries can be a lot of work and will leave your hands and nails stained red, it is worth it when you get to enjoy a delicious strawberry-banana smoothie during a snowstorm in February!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rhubarb Crisp

If you live in the Maritimes, it's likely you've had your share of rhubarb desserts - rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, even rhubarb punch. It seems that our climate is ideally suited for growing massive amounts of rhubarb for the entire growing season, forcing cooks to come up with ways to consume or preserve the annual rhubarb harvest. For those who run out of ideas, a cop out is to give away batches of fresh rhubarb, delegating the task of using it up to someone else who may not be sick of rhubarb yet. For example, the other day I came home to find that a Sobeys bag full of rhubarb stalks had mysteriously appeared at my door. I never did ask, but I suspect my mother. She has been making rhubarb crisps up the wazoo, varying them by adding strawberries or raspberries. Truthfully you can almost always count on a crisp for dessert when having dinner at their house this time of year. While I enjoy her version of the dessert, she does tend to try to make it a healthy dessert, meaning it's a bit dry and sometimes not quite sweet enough.

I've tried making crisps before, but never hit on the right balance of ingredients for a crunchy but sweet crisp and fruit combination.
Faced with this bag of rhubarb on my kitchen table, I decided to set out to find a rhubarb crisp recipe that I would enjoy making and eating. The secret of a good crisp is butter to make it moist and sugar to cut the tang of the rhubarb. Really, if you're making a dessert, make it a GOOD dessert! Eat healthy food the rest of the day and enjoy a small portion of a really delicious (and often unhealthy) dessert.
I found this recipe on the Toronto Start website, and honestly it was so good I could have eaten the whole pan. I've made a few tweaks, added some spice and reduced some sugar, but kept the gist of it.

Rhubarb Crisp Recipe
This recipe calls for a 8x8 pan, but I made it in a 9x13 and it turned out quite nicely. If you want a thicker crisp, use the smaller pan

1-1/2 lb rhubarb, washed, trimmed, cut in 1/2-inch dice (about 6 cups)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup butter, melted



In large bowl, toss rhubarb, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Transfer to lightly greased 8-inch square baking pan.

For topping, toss together flour, sugar and oats. Drizzle in butter. Mix well with fork. Sprinkle over rhubarb mixture.

Bake in preheated 375F oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

~~~ Stay tuned for more ways to enjoy rhubarb! ~~~