Archive for the ‘five on friday’ Category

Gooseberries and other Lesser Known Berries (and 5 links for Friday)

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Gooseberries are one of those things I don’t think to seek out at the market, but am always pleasantly surprised to find on the table when they arrive in early summer. What’s a gooseberry? I didn’t know myself until I spotted them at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market a few years ago. They are small round berries, related to the currant, that resemble a grape with stripes. They start off tart and green and and turn reddish purple and slightly sweet. They add a great tart balance with combined with sweeter berries in any of your favorite summer desserts. (I made a delish gooseberry-cherry clafoutis the summer before last.) This batch came from Black Rock Orchard in Pennsylvania, and I’ve heard reports of gooseberries across the northeast US. A local Twitter friend reports having them in her backyard growing up, which has me pondering adding them to our planned berry patch for next year.

While we’re on the subject of lesser known berries — those you may have grown up with but never see in a supermarket — we recently discovered that the mysterious berry-laden tree between our neighbor’s house and ours was a mulberry tree. I never realized we had mulberries around here, or that they grew on such tall trees. But a well-timed Washington Post article clarified the matter. I was spoiled growing up on a mountain in Oregon, where we routinely snacked on tiny tart red huckleberries, sweet thimbleberries and wild blackberries every summer. One regional berry you may hear a lot about if you torture yourself by following California food blogs, as I do, is the olallieberry. It was actually cultivated in Oregon (a relative of our beloved Marionberries), but I’ve yet to come across it.

Berries like these are one of the reasons we frequent farmers markets in the summer — aside from exposing our kids to unique berries they might never see otherwise, they also learn to appreciate seasonality and to savor the berries and fruits in their seasons. That’s not to say we never buy grapes in the winter, but they just taste so much better when they’re fresh and local.

Do you have a favorite regional berry from your childhood?

And now, five berry-themed links for your weekend enjoyment:

1. Gooseberry Ginger Jam from Doris and Jilly Cook

2. Mulberry Pie from Herban Lifestyle

3. Olallieberry Tart from Chez Pim

4. Vanilla Bean Marionberry Caramel Swirl Ice Cream (wow!) from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

5. Maple Huckleberry Coffee Cake from 101 Cookbooks

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade.

Strawberry Cupcakes (and 5 links for Friday)

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I probably don’t have to tell you it’s strawberry season — in fact, we’re getting down to the final weeks here in Virginia, and there were reports of the first cherries of the season at the FreshFarm Penn Quarter market yesterday. We had friends over last weekend and I wanted to make strawberry cupcakes for the kids. (Ok, for all of us.) I found this recipe using fresh berries from famed Sprinkles Cupcakery via Martha Stewart, and it turned out wonderfully. The frosting, a semi-cream cheese twist, is my new favorite frosting — the husband, who doesn’t typically like cream cheese or buttercream frostings, even approved. And of course the kids were big fans, too.

Recipe: Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
(Adapted from Sprinkles’ recipe; get the cupcake recipe at MarthaStewart.com.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 package), room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)

Instructions: Cream cream cheese and butter in mixer bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing on low at first, then medium until smooth. Add strawberry puree and vanilla and mix another minute. If your frosting is really soft (as tends to happen when working in a warm kitchen), chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so before frosting cupcakes. Makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes. Enjoy!

And now, a few links for your holiday weekend … have a great one!

1.  I’ve spotted a few spring panzanellas around the food blogs. Typically made with late summer’s ripe tomatoes, these versions use what’s in season today, like asparagus and arugula panzanella from In Jennie’s Kitchen and spring panzanella from Sassy Radish – perfect side dishes for Memorial Day cook-outs!

2. Speaking of cook-outs, Borderstan has a round-up of bbq-ready recipes from DC food bloggers.

3. If you’re running out of ideas for all that spring asparagus, here are Five Ways to Eat Asparagus from Food & Think at Smithsonian.com (including my crustless asparagus quiche).

4. It’s officially soft shell season here in the Chesapeake Bay region, and Coconut & Lime has a helpful tutorial for cleaning fresh crabs if you’re brave enough to cook them at home. (Buster’s Seafood at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market usually has them for sale this time of year.)

5. If you’re staying in town this holiday weekend, catch Chef José Andrés and his daughter Ines cooking another giant paella at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm market, 11am.

Fresh and Local at the Diner? (and 5 links for Friday)

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Last night I attended a blogger event* at the Silver Diner here in Arlington, part of a chain of 18 diners in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I got the invitation announcing their new “fresh and local” menu, but I couldn’t resist seeing what they were up to. Company founder Bob Gaiamo explained that past attempts to change menu items in response to diet trends received poor feedback, but that they now felt confident that diners are interested in healthy, local food — so much so, that they’re now willing to pay 50 cents more for an omelette made from better eggs.

Among the improvements: hormone-free dairy products, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from partially grassfed cows (in New Jersey), local in-season produce (today, strawberries and asparagus from Delaware), reducing high fructose corn syrup products, breads delivered daily from local bakeries, local wine and beer, and more lower-calorie and gluten-free menu options. They also have an extensive children’s menu which now includes whole wheat spaghetti, organic grilled cheese, and teriyaki salmon with brown rice. Now, when we go to a diner it’s usually to satisfy a grilled-cheese-and-milkshake craving, so it’s nice to know these items are improved, too.

The food may not be perfect — they use soybean oil for frying — but I applaud their effort to provide cleaner, healthier food. The dishes we sampled — from salads to salmon sliders, burgers and pasta — were quite flavorful, and a far cry from your typical greasy diner foods. And more changes are in store: they’ll be getting nitrate-free bacon in a few months, looking to host farmers markets in front of their restaurants, and trying to improve other ingredients over time.

Now on to our regularly scheduled links for the weekend…

1. We’ll be exploring our new neighborhood’s many dining options at the Taste of Arlington on Sunday.

2. It’s also the Loudoun County Farm Tour weekend — and many u-pick strawberry fields are open for business!

3. Nancy, the local mama behind Learning As I Go, is also writing about nature finds over at The Magnifying Glass. This week, she tips us off to a place to go fossil hunting in Maryland — this is definitely going on our summer adventure to do list!

4. My favorite tweet-of-the-week:

@JoshViertel: Kraft asks us to “join the home farming movement.” http://bit.ly/9hrMl5 Sorta like me asking them to “join the cheese wiz movement”

5. And last, should you wind up with an abundance of strawberries after the weekend, try Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Strawberry Preserves with Mint and Black Pepper. Yum!

* Disclosure: I received a free meal at the Silver Diner to learn about the new menu. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Win for Healthy Schools in DC (and 5 links for Friday)

Friday, May 7th, 2010

jamie oliver food revolutionFirst, some good news: Earlier this week, the DC City Council unanimously approved the “Healthy Schools Act.” The measure creates strong nutrition and exercise standards in a city with one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the country. Among the highlights, the new legislation will:

  • Mandate lower-calorie, lower-fat nutrition guidelines be met;
  • Triple the amount of exercise school children get in physical ed;
  • Provide free breakfast in the classroom for high-poverty schools;
  • Establish a farm-to-school program and provide extra funds to encourage schools to source local and organic produce;
  • Establish a school garden program.

This is clearly a huge win for all involved (kudos to  Councilmember Mary Cheh, the sponsor, the DC Farm to School Network, and others!) and a good example for other school districts around the country. The only downside is that the legislation did not include an effort to curb sugar. Read more about the sugar-laden DC school meals at the Better DC School Food blog (caution: you may get sugar shock simply from viewing the breakfast pictures), and read Marion Nestle’s take on the issue here.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign Jamie Oliver’s petition supporting better school food for kids.


And now, some more links for your weekend reading:

  1. On the subject of Jamie Oliver, are you all following 30 Days to a Food Revolution over at the W.H.O.L.E. Gang? Lots of helpful information and tips for anyone looking to clean up their diets.
  2. It’s rhubarb season at the farmers market! Check out the drool-worthy assortment of recipes over at food52 for inspiration. On my list: Rhubarb Curd Bars, one of the finalists by local foodie Rivka of Not Derby Pie.
  3. Speaking of local foodies, check out the pictures from opening day at the Farmers Market by the White House by Adventures in Shaw. (And no, I didn’t make it over for some of Chef Jose Andres’ legendary giant paella — bummer!)
  4. If you needed more enticement to head out to the farmers market for fresh strawberries (here in DC anyway, apologies to those further north!), La Vida Locavore reports that California has given preliminary approval to a pesticide (methyl iodide) that is used to induce cancer in labs, and causes miscarriages. Please, please, buy organic strawberries!
  5. On a lighter note, if you’re making strawberry shortcake for a mother in your life this weekend, check out Rick Bayless’ Strawberry Tres Leches Shortcake for a new spin. Yum!

Grow Green for Earth Week (5 links for Friday)

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

I have a special Earth Week-themed collection of links to share today, but first a few pieces of personal news. I was too wrapped up in bake sale prep last week to share this with you all, but I’m thrilled that FoodieTots was listed on Babble.com’s Top 50 Mom Food Bloggers list! If you haven’t already, check out the full list for more great blogs to follow.

And, I have also been selected as a featured contributor at TheMushroomChannel.com. I’m really excited to share my love for healthy cooking with a great group of fellow fungi-lovers — so stay tuned for my first post over there in a couple weeks.

And now for our regularly scheduled links for your weekend reading. This week marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. For those of us who try to make every day Earth Day, here are five links to help you Grow Green:

  1. Pamela at Red, White & Grew has a registry of gardening bloggers by state, perfect to find local inspiration or someone to call on for advice if you’re a rookie gardener like me.
  2. If you don’t have space for a kitchen garden, You Grow Girl shares how to grow salad-ready microgreens on your kitchen windowsill.
  3. Growing green indoors can help improve your home’s indoor air quality. Find tips for selecting the right houseplants at Simple Organic.
  4. Putting more green on kids’ lunch plates — through school gardens and a farm-to-school program — is just one goal of the DC Healthy Schools Act, which is headed for a final vote by the full DC City Council on May 4. If you live in the District, read more from the DC Farm to School Network and please contact your council member today. (And forward to anyone else you know in DC!)
  5. I love love love this idea for a “Home for Wayward Weeds” from Laura at Chicken Counting. The foodie tot is so excited about his new gardening tools that he constantly wants to dig, rake and pick — this is perfect to keep him busy and our young seedlings protected!

And a bonus #6. Katie at goodLife {eats} put together a great list of Mother’s Day gift ideas for edible gardening, and is giving away a set of her selections, too.