Thursday, May 17, 2012


In an effort to eat locally, organically, and as natural as possible, we occasionally go to great lengths to acquire our food. Spring means strawberries, and we LOVE strawberries.

Last weekend, we made the hour-long trek to a tiny, family farm north of Cincinnati to pick delicious (un-sprayed) strawberries. I planned to pick 10 pounds, but we just found so many beautiful berries that this quickly turned into 20!!

After several hours of picking, a picnic lunch, and a stop by the store for supplies we were ready for the second part of this adventure. Preservation. My list of canning ideas is endless and I couldn't wait to get started on these berries.

First up, Strawberry Lemon Marmalade! Hubby and S get to work cutting up the berries and slicing lemons, while I prep the canner and jars.

For the jam, I decided to make my own pectin from tart apples. This made for the most delicious strawberry jam I have ever tasted!

After 2 days of back-breaking work (seriously, I am now seeing a chiropractor!) we finished our strawberry project!! We ended up with Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Lemon Marmalade, Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate, Maple Strawberry Smooch, chocolate dipped strawberries, and a huge 2 gallon freezer bag full of berries. YUM!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Yesterday, I discovered that I have 3 mulberry trees in my back yard! I've never eaten, or even seen, mulberries before so this was a very exciting discovery. I did some research (of course) and decided that today we would make our first attempt at collecting them. 

We set a sheet down on the ground below the tree and proceeded to shake, shake, shake.
It's raining berries!

The sweet smell of spring

Honey likes it too!

I can't let you be fooled into thinking this didn't happen...

We ended up with about 3 cups of mulberries. What should we do with them? 
We are fans of muffins in our house and I love to make a bunch and freeze them for later for a quick breakfast or a sweet-tooth fix that isn't TOO unhealthy. 

I doubled the recipe, and as usual, you can always use different ingredients if that's what you prefer. 

Mulberry Muffins
2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown or raw sugar (I used half brown, half succanat)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
3/4 cup mulberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a muffin pan.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, milk, butter, egg and almond extract. Stir in flour mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in mulberries. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
Makes about a dozen muffins

Being my first attempt at using mulberries, I tried to run them through the food mill to remove the tiny stems. This didn't seem to be working, and I read that you could just eat the stems anyway.

They are delicious.

I see a lot of mulberries in my future since those trees are loaded and should be harvested every few days. Who doesn't love free food?!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Garden Fail

I have a habit of starting seeds for the garden and immediately leaving town for several days. This past February, I did this and my husband overwatered my seedlings, leaving me with moldy seed starting trays when I returned. Last week, I started my later-season crops and left the week-old seedling with my husband again... You guessed it, They died. This time, he underwatered them in an effort not to overwater. I hope I still have time to get them going before harvest!


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hamburger Helper

I love cooking. I cook mostly from scratch, which started due to Scarlett's food intolerances and grew into a way of life. On occasion, I try to recreate convenience foods and it's always a toss up whether it will be a success.

I have recently decided that we will consume even less meat than we already were, cutting back to maybe once or twice a month. Using up the meat in the freezer may be setting my husband up for a let-down, but that's what I'm doing. Tonight's menu was "Hamburger Helper" and green beans from our CSA last year. The beans have been in our freezer since last July and need to be eaten before they start rolling in again!  

I am still very much in the process of teaching myself to cook. There is typically at least one disaster and we often eat meals that aren't so tasty. Last night's dinner was no different in that aspect. Suddenly, in the middle of the recipe, I realize that the rest of the ingredients are not going to fit into the skillet I've chosen... oops!

After switching skillets, I completed the meal and it ended up being delicious (which is good since there is enough for leftovers and we only refuse leftovers if the meal is awful!)


  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, large ones cut in half
  • 1 large onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound 90%-lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles, (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

    1. Fit a food processor with the steel blade attachment. With the motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and process until minced, then add carrots and mushrooms and process until finely chopped. Turn it off, add onion, and pulse until roughly chopped.
    2. Cook beef in a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften and the mushrooms release their juices, 5 to 7 minutes.
    3. Stir in water, 1 1/2 cups broth, noodles and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
    4. Whisk flour with the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl until smooth; stir into the hamburger mixture. Stir in the sour cream. Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. 

    Friday, April 27, 2012

    Tunes and Blooms

    Every year, the Cincinnati Zoo hosts a Spring concert series called Tunes and Blooms. They offer free live music, food, beer, and flower bulbs from the gardens for sale. We made it out for the final show of the year last night and it will definitely be added to our annual calendar.

    Enjoying live music has always been a part of my life, and since becoming a mother to a very sensitive little girl, it's something that I have really missed. She had a great time and I enjoyed the evening with friends, couldn't ask for anything more!

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Fruit on the Homestead

    For a biologist, I have always had a pretty brown thumb. I do have a houseplant that is 12 years old and finally looking like it's not going to die, but for the most part I am a plant killer. As I've grown more concerned with where my food comes from, I decided to try my hand at gardening. Last year I began my gardening venture with a container garden full of vegetables, herbs, and even fruits. I succeeded! My hubby does not share my desires for a farm, but he does allow for some fairly extravagant urban gardening.

    Last year I started my fruit collection with 2 blueberry bushes and a strawberry plant. The glorious thing about most fruit plants is that they are perennial, meaning they return year after year. This year, I have tripled the fruit plants and we should be eating fine here in a few years (the downside being that it takes several years to produce fruit). 

    Since we are currently renting, all of my gardening efforts are in containers. Our fruit from last year has returned already and is in full bloom!

     The 2 blueberry bushes are loving life in their 5-gallon pickle buckets. We didn't get any berries last year, and I honestly don't expect any until at least next year. We'll see!

    The everbearing strawberry plant came back in full force so I repotted a few of the 'babies' into a new pot. Already seeing some tiny berries on there.

    I bought a thornless blackberry bush locally and it's doing great. I would love to buy several more of these, but we only have so much room on our tiny deck and blackberries are not our favorite berry.

    I placed an online order (first time ordering plants) and was surprised at what I received as a 'raspberry plant'. Clearly we will not have raspberries any time soon! I plan to buy a bushier, green one locally before too long.

    I got really brave with my order and decided to get some fruit trees. These will live indoors in the winter and outdoors in the summer, if they live....

    Dwarf Meyer Lemon is growing well

    This Dwarf Banana Plant is awesome! About once a week it puts out another GIANT leaf. It's very drippy and the leaves are always full of water droplets. I have yet to research why, but it seems very happy in our upstairs window. Can't wait to see it in action outside.

    Dwarf Everbearing Fig Tree. I don't expect to see figs for a decade, but at least I got it started!

    Today I went to a local store to buy another raspberry bush and came home with 3 trees! We knew we would put fruit trees in our yard when we bought a house, but why wait? It takes so long to bear fruit, that I will let them go in containers until the time comes. 

    Dwarf Yellow Delicious Apple

    And since apple trees require a pollinator, a dwarf red delicious

    And Scarlett's pick: A Dwarf Elberta Peach

    The possibilities are endless, and so is my madness! Eventually, I'd love to add pear trees, cherry trees, grapevines, an arctic kiwi, and anything else I may find interesting. I also just started 4 different types of melon seeds today, so we'll see if that produces anything. I had no luck with the melons last year but it was good practice. Can you tell I love fruit?!