The only thing better than eating a handful of berries bought from the store is noshing on some you picked yourself. Here are just a few reasons to load the family into the car and head to your local u-pick berry farm.
1. Enjoy time outside. There’s nothing better than spending a day outdoors with your family. Pack a lunch and make a day of it. Just don’t forget your hats and sunscreen.
2. Teach kids where food comes from. Picking their own berries teaches your children that food doesn’t come from the grocery store.
3. Support local agriculture. Supporting a local farm means that your hard-earned cash goes toward supporting a local family instead of lining a corporation’s coffers.
4. Get the freshest berries. When you pick your own berries, they go from the plant to your plate in a matter of hours — or minutes!
In addition to picking berries, be sure to discover your local farm’s freshly made pies, jams and juices. You can also buy extra fruit by the basket to freeze and enjoy later or to make your own preserves.
Maple-glazed barbecue ribs
What’s the secret behind these succulent and tender ribs? Using two cooking methods and a delicious homemade barbecue sauce.
Start to finish: 10 hours (30 minutes active)
• 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
• 1/2 onion, diced
• 1 cup chili sauce
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 teaspoon garlic salt
• 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
• 1 teaspoon fancy molasses
• 2 racks baby back ribs (about 1-1/2 pounds each)
• 2 tablespoons onion powder
• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 tablespoon pepper
1. In a small pot, cook the onion in the butter over medium heat until soft.
2. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Set aside.
1. Cut each rack in half. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and rub the resulting mixture evenly over the ribs.
2. Cook the ribs in the slow cooker on high for 30 minutes. Switch to low for another 6 to 8 hours. The ribs will be very tender after cooking, so remove them carefully to keep them in one piece.
3. Preheat the barbecue to medium heat.
4. Brush the ribs with the barbecue sauce, and grill for 4 to 5 minutes a side, brushing on more sauce as desired, and serve.
While many people insist that removing the membrane is necessary, keep it on for this recipe. It’ll prevent the racks from falling apart in the slow cooker.
Fun facts about strawberries
Did you know that botanically speaking, strawberries aren’t really berries at all? In fact, because they’re derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, they’re classified as aggregate fruits. Here are some other things you might not know about strawberries.
• They’re part of the rose family. Strawberries are members of the Rosaceae plant family. Just like roses, strawberries are perennials. However, they’ll only bear fruit for about three years.
• They’re packed with health benefits. Besides their high levels of vitamins and antioxidants, strawberries contain an abundance of healthy nitrates, which have been shown to increase oxygen and blood flow to the muscles.
• They were cultivated for medicinal purposes. Ancient Romans are thought to have used strawberries to treat everything from melancholy to inflammation and throat infections.
• They were once used for bathing. Madame Tallien, a prominent member of Napoleon Bonaparte’s court, was famous for bathing in the juice of strawberries. It took 22 pounds of the fruit to fill her basin.
• They’re one of America’s most loved fruits. On average, people in the U.S. eat three-and-a-half pounds of fresh strawberries a year.
Of course, the most fabulous thing of all about strawberries is eating them. Whether fresh, baked or preserved, be sure to get your fill this summer.
Cool summer combo for hot days
Hanging out by the pool on hot summer days calls for some cool summer recipes.
Here’s just the ticket:
Spicy Perspective has a great recipe for strawberry smoothies that are easy to make poolside with just a few fresh ingredients and an electric blender. Love from the Oven, meanwhile, provides a summer pasta salad recipe that can be made the night before and served quickly so that you won’t miss any time sunbathing or swimming!
Here’s how to make one version of these summer delights.
Simple strawberry smoothies
3 cups frozen strawberries
1.5 cups milk, any fat content
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1. Place the frozen strawberries, jam, and milk into the blender.
2. Secure the lid.
3. Puree until smooth.
That’s it! Garnish with fresh fruit if desired!
Summer Pasta Salad
2 cups pasta such as rotini, fusilli, penne or farfalle, uncooked
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
6 oz. chopped cooked chicken or turkey breast (approximately two small chicken breasts)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato cut into chunks
1 cup chopped or grated carrots
1/2 cup prepared Italian dressing mix – or try sweet Italian from bottle or jar
4 oz. Kraft cheddar cheese cubes
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup kraft shredded Italian five cheese blend
Optional: A few fresh herbs such as basil for garnish
1. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the cooking water for the last 2 min. of the pasta cooking time; drain and rinse with cold water.
2. Toss chicken, tomatoes, carrots, dressing, cheddar cheese and olives in large bowl. Add pasta mixture; mix lightly.
3. Sprinkle with shredded Italian cheese.
If not serving immediately, store in refrigerator. The pasta cools and flavors blend overnight, if you make ahead.
Lobster mac and cheese
Take advantage of lobster season with this high-end take on the ultimate comfort food: mac and cheese!
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
• 2 cups milk
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon mustard powder
• 1-1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, divided
• 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 17 ounces cooked lobster meat, diced
• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
• Fresh parsley
1. Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat the milk in a small pot over low heat. Take care not to let it boil.
3. In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and then cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Add the milk and continue whisking until it reaches a thick and creamy consistency (about 5 minutes).
4. Add the spices, 1 cup of the Gruyère and 1/2 cup of the sharp cheddar to the mixture and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the remaining cheese together and set aside.
5. Remove the cheese sauce from the heat. Add the lobster meat and macaroni. Stir well to combine. Adjust seasoning as desired.
6. In a small, non-stick pan, toast the breadcrumbs until golden. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
7. Put the macaroni mixture into an oven-safe dish. Spread the remaining grated cheese on top, covering the whole surface. Dust the breadcrumbs on top of the cheese.
8. Set your oven to the lowest broil setting. Place the dish in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and nicely browned.
9. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve.
The macaroni in this recipe can be substituted with any short pasta including fusilli, penne or shells.
4 delicious ways to enjoy asparagus
Whether it’s green, white or purple, asparagus is a delicacy best indulged in when it’s in season — during mid to late spring. Take advantage of the availability of asparagus this month by incorporating it into all of your favorite dishes. Here are four great ways to prepare it.
1. Grilled. Toss your asparagus in olive oil, season it with salt and pepper and then grill it on your barbecue. Place the spears across the grill grates, or use a grill basket so you don’t lose any.
2. Roasted. Baking or roasting asparagus in a hot oven allows the sugars within to caramelize, thereby enhancing the latent flavors.
3. Blanched. Simmer your asparagus in boiling water for a few minutes. Once the spears are sufficiently cooked, remove and then plunge them in ice water. You can now serve your blanched asparagus on a crudités platter, or use them later in other recipes.
4. Pickled. Put the asparagus in a jar with green onions and brine made of water, salt and sugar. After a few days, you’ll have a delicious snack that keeps for months.
What to pair with asparagus
Asparagus is a great addition to many dishes. Add it to a salad, include it in a risotto or try it as a pizza topping. For a sophisticated side dish, top with Parmesan cheese, slivered almonds or balsamic vinegar.
Asparagus has a limited local growing season, so don’t miss out on indulging in this delicious veggie while it’s fresh.
Did you know?
White asparagus isn’t a genetically modified variety of green asparagus. Instead, the pale hue is induced by shielding young asparagus shoots from the sun. Typically, farmers pile soil over the emerging spears, which prevents them from photosynthesizing and turning green. Purple asparagus, on the other hand, is a genetic variety, but the violet color dissolves once the vegetable is cooked.
The difference between male and female lobsters
Served hot out of the shell or in your favorite recipe, lobster is a mild and slightly sweet delicacy to be savored and enjoyed. But did you know that some shellfish aficionados claim that female lobsters are superior to males?
One reason for this is that female lobsters produce roe. Also called coral, lobster eggs are dark green but turn a brilliant red when cooked and are considered a gourmet food item.
Additionally, female lobsters have wider, fleshier tails than males. While the tail meat doesn’t have a distinct taste, many prefer its texture and its appeal in terms of plate presentation.
Identifying the sex of your lobster
Under their tails, all lobsters have small appendages, called pleopods, or swimmeretes, which help them to swim. On a female, these limbs are soft and feathery, while on a male, they’re hard and bony.
Male versus female lobsters
Which lobster you choose is a matter of personal taste. If you prefer claw meat, go for a male. If you favor tail meat or love the roe, a female is the best option. No matter your preference, you’re certainly in store for a decadent and luxurious meal.