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.
4 tips for a successful Fourth of July barbecue
The Fourth of July is an ideal occasion to host a backyard barbecue. Here are four tips to ensure the day is a success.
1. Start planning early
Hosting a barbecue isn’t complicated, but waiting until the last minute to get organized can be stressful. A to-do list will ensure you don’t forget to pick up ice for the drink cooler or top up on fuel for the grill. If guests are bringing side dishes, preemptive planning can help you avoid ending up with four macaroni salads.
2. Get creative with colors
3. Keep the menu simple
Set out chips and dip for guests to snack on before you fire up the barbecue. Complement the traditional meat options with grilled asparagus, corn on the cob, or vegetable skewers. Remember, simple doesn’t have to mean boring. You can make the meal interactive with a build-your-own burger, nacho, or sundae bar.
4. Remember to relax
Independence Day is about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks by assigning someone to the grill or asking guests to contribute a salad or dessert. Once everyone has a plate full of food, be sure to raise a glass to family and country.
Ideally, your barbecue should start in the early afternoon so you and your guests can make the most of a sunny day and still have time to go watch a fireworks display in the evening.
How to make homemade ice pops
Do you want to make your own ice pops? It’s easier than you think. Here’s how.
Use your favorite drink
To ensure you like the flavor of your ice pops, use a beverage you enjoy. Fruit juices, smoothies, drinkable yogurts, and flavored teas are all great options. If you’re a coffee-lover, use cold-brew coffee or dissolve instant coffee crystals in cream or milk. If the liquid isn’t pre-sweetened, you can add maple syrup, honey, or sugar.
Mix and match flavors
To make your ice pops even more interesting, layer two or more different flavors. You can do this by partially filling the ice pop molds with one flavor and letting it freeze for about an hour before pouring in the next one.
Add whole berries, slices of fruit or even candy to your ice pops. You can show off these treats by using a translucent liquid as the base. Alternatively, make these ingredients a surprise by concealing them in yogurt or an opaque drink.
To ensure your ice pops freeze all the way through, leave them in the freezer for at least eight hours. Run the mold under hot water for a few seconds before removing your ice pop to make sure it comes out in one piece.
Ice pop molds come in an assortment of shapes and can be made of plastic, silicone or stainless steel. If you shop around, you’re sure to find one you like.
4 types of picnic food that are sure to please
Are you planning a picnic? Whether you’re headed to the beach, park, or wilderness, packing a lunch to eat outdoors is a must. Here are four types of food you can eat pretty much anywhere.
1. Sandwiches. Compact and easy to make, sandwiches are the perfect picnic food. Swap your regular bread for bagels, tortillas, croissants, or French baguettes, and fill them with your choice of deli meats, spreads, and grilled veggies. Serve with chips and raw vegetables.
2. Finger foods. Pack an assortment of snack foods and let everyone choose what they want to eat. For adults, consider bringing olives, nuts, soft cheeses, pâtés, dips, crackers, and crusty bread. If you’re picnicking with children, think veggie sticks, hummus, mild cheeses, tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole.
3. Handheld foods. Foods that don’t require utensils or plates are ideal for a picnic. Think cold pizza squares, individual quiches, spring rolls, or small, savory tarts. Sushi is also a great choice, provided you have a way to keep it cool and fresh until you reach your destination.
4. Salads. There are countless varieties of salad, and most of them are ideal for a picnic. Prepare or buy a pasta, bean, rice, quinoa, or potato salad. If you opt for leafy greens instead, pack the dressing separately to ensure the ingredients stay crunchy and fresh.
Once you’ve decided on your main course, be sure to pack your beverage of choice and one or more desserts.
Grilled fruit: 5 tips for a perfect sear
Indulging in fresh, local fruit is one of the pleasures of summer. Grilling them, however, amplifies their inherent sweetness and flavor while adding a seductively smoky taste. Here are five tips for grilling them.
1. Choose firm fruit. Grill firm-fleshed fruit like peaches, avocados, melons, pineapples, pears, and apples. Save soft and overripe fruit for other purposes.
2. Skewer small fruit. Use wooden or metal skewers if you want to grill small fruit such as strawberries or smaller pieces of large fruit. This will ensure they don’t fall into the fire. A perforated grill basket works too.
3. Cut thick slices. Melons and pineapples should be sliced into thick rounds or wedges. Peaches, mangoes, and other smaller fruit are best cut in half. When possible, keep the skin on and grill flesh side down.
4. Season the fruit. Before placing fruit on the grill, coat them with brown rum, melted butter or vegetable oil. Also, brush them a few times with your coating of choice while they’re cooking. To enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit, you can sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar or drizzle them with honey beforehand.
5. Grill one side only. This will ensure the fruit has caramelized exteriors and juicy interiors. For best results, grill them over high heat for three to four minutes without moving them.
Grilled fruit can be enjoyed alone or with your favorite meal. Alternatively, you can use them as a garnish for summer cocktails or a topping on vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt.
5 ways to make your weekend waffles better
Served sweet or salty, with maple syrup or cheese and herbs, waffles are a weekend breakfast tradition for many. Here are five ways to make your next batch even better.
1. Replace the milk
For waffles with a crunchy crust and a tender interior, replace the milk with water. Or use a carbonated drink like soda water or even beer or sparkling wine. The bubbles from these liquids add air to the batter, making your waffles extra light and fluffy.
2. Whip your egg whites
Another way to make waffles fluffier is to beat the egg whites first. Separate them from their yolks and whip them until they form stiff, white peaks. Then, incorporate the egg yolks according to the recipe and gently fold the whites into the mixture last.
3. Don’t mix too much
It’s tempting to beat your waffle batter until it’s perfectly smooth but don’t. Instead, stir it until the flour is just incorporated and there are still some lumps. This will make your waffles airier.
4. Grease the iron
Unless you have a non-stick waffle iron, make sure the plates are sufficiently oiled. This will guarantee that your waffles don’t stick and prevent them from being too dry. You can use a cooking spray or simply brush melted butter or vegetable oil onto the plates.
5. Preheat the iron
Putting your waffle batter on an iron that isn’t hot enough will yield soggy, undercooked waffles. Most irons will have a light that indicates when it’s hot enough, but if yours doesn’t, spray a few drops of water onto the plates with your fingers. If they steam and sizzle, the iron’s ready.
Finally, make sure to leave the waffle in the iron until it’s fully cooked. If your iron doesn’t have a light or make a sound that indicates when the waffle is done, pay attention to the steam coming from the iron. When it stops steaming, the waffle is done.
7 types of burger for your next barbecue
The humble hamburger is a summertime staple, and though there’s nothing wrong with an all-beef patty on a sesame seed bun, there’s more than one way to give your burgers a boost. Here’s how to take your patties from average to extraordinary using a variety of meats.
1. Beef. The flavor of the beef is enhanced by onions and garlic. Add an unexpected twist to these burgers by topping them with grilled Italian sausage or mixing finely chopped chorizo right into the patties.
2. Lamb. This earthy meat makes great hamburgers. To enhance their flavor, top lamb burgers with bacon, goat cheese, lime juice, or fresh mint leaves.
3. Bison. Leaner and more tender than beef, bison has a slightly sweet taste that isn’t gamey. It’s best enjoyed seasoned with just a few herbs and spices.
4. Pork. This versatile meat complements a variety of ingredients. Add ginger and soy sauce to your patties for an Asian-inspired twist or use Cajun spices and grill them over charcoal for a smoky flavor.
5. Veal. This meat makes juicy patties that can be seasoned with almost anything. The mild taste of the veal is enhanced by fresh herbs and melted cheese.
6. Fish or seafood. Salmon, tuna, cod, and even shellfish like lobster and crab put a lighter twist on traditional meat burgers. You can simply grill filets instead of patties or bread your seafood of choice and pan fry it until it’s crispy.
7. Poultry. Chicken, turkey, and even duck make great burgers. You can season them any way you like or bread the patties for a bit of crunch.
No matter what type of meat you use, be sure to avoid overhandling it while forming the patties. Overmanipulating the meat can alter the texture of your finished burgers.