Fresh food and summer fun for you and your family…and I conquered Calamari!

Farmer’s Markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and local farms are just some ways to can enjoy fresh produce, meats, seafood and dairy, this summer.  Going with your family can be an enjoyable way to spend a summer day and get kids excited about food.

I love going to the Farmer’s Market with my family. Walking around different stands, sampling products and buying fun new vegetables and cheeses to enjoy is relaxing. Many markets have music and activities for kids. Here is a link to find a Farmer’s Market near you. http://www.massfarmersmarkets.org/There is pretty much one every day somewhere within driving distance.  Last summer I enjoyed the Wilmington Farmer’s Market (Corner of Middlesex Avenue & School Street, Sundays 10:30 – 1:30 June 17 – September 30, 2012). The Marblehead Farmer’s Market (Marblehead Veterans Middle School rear field off Vine Street, Saturdays, 9 :00 to 12:00 June 9 – November 17) is small but a fun place to pick up some fruit and baked goods for a little picnic on the coast for a day trip. I hope to check out some other markets with my family and friends this summer. There are also many during the week.  I have heard great things about the Lexington Farmer’s Market (Corner of Mass Ave and Woburn and Fletcher, Tuesdays, 2:00 – 6:30, May 30 – October 30). If you’re traveling this summer outside of Massachusetts check out this national directory to find a farmer’s where you are going, http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/. It is a fun place to grab a picnic lunch and really get into the local scene of your vacation destination.
What is a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture. It is a way for you to buy a “share” of a local farm and get great produce all summer (some all year round).  This is a great way to support local farmers and have lots of fresh delicious produce to cook with. Usually you go to pick it up at a specific location once a week or every other week. To find a CSA near you, visit:  http://www.nofamass.org/programs/csa/csa.php. If you are daunted by this and are afraid you might have too many vegetables to use up in one week, split a share with a friend or neighbor and take turns going to pick it up.
Another way to support your local farms and get some entertainment out of it for your children is to visit one. You can go to a working farm for a tour or go to a pick-your-own farm to gather strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and whatever else is in season. To find farm to visit, see the link above for CSA’s. Many offer tours. Here is a link to pick your own farms in the area: http://www.pickyourown.org/massbluerasp.htm. Also check out http://northshorekid.com/category/directory/parks-recreation/farm/pick-your-own/blueberries-pyoNorth shore kid’s blog for more information, as pickyourown.org can be spotty with information. 
Here is a link for what is in season now and throughout the year, wherever you may travel: http://www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php  and here is the link for MA: http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/get_fresh_seasons.htm)
Regardless of where you get your fresh vegetables this summer (getting them at Stop and Shop or local farm stand like Calareso’s in Reading, http://www.calaresosfarmstand.com/, is ok of course!) here is one example of a fun summer menu:
Roasted Corn on the Cob, Mixed Potato Salad and Boerewors inspired Cheese Burgers with Strawberry Ice Cream
Corn: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Shuck corn. Place corn right on oven rack and roast for about 20 minutes and serve. Yes, that simple.  Serve with butter and salt.
Mixed Potato Salad:  Peel and dice the same amount of sweet potatoes and white or yellow potatoes. Boil in salted water until fork tender. Drain and cool. While potatoes are cooling, mix about 4 parts Miracle Whip or mayo to 1 part Dijon mustard (adjust amounts depending on your taste).  Add potatoes to dressing mixture and add salt or pepper to your taste. You can add scallions, onions, shallots or celery if you like.
Boerewors inspired Cheese burgers: Boerewors is a South African sausage that I LOVE! I haven’t been able to find it yet around here, so I have found ways to recreate the flavor. Mix 1.5lb ground beef and 1.5lb ground pork with about a ¼ cup of milk, 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, 2 eggs, salt, lemon pepper, 2 tsp ground cloves, 2 Tbsp ground coriander, and ½ cup of finely diced cooked vegetables (I use leftover what ever I have on hand, eggplant and onions or carrots and zucchini) .  Tip: always cook a small patty of your ground meat mixture and taste it for seasoning before making burgers. Once it tastes the way you want, make patties and separate them with wax paper and refrigerate until you are ready to grill. Let them come to room temp before grilling.
Serve with your favorite cheese and toppings. Chutney is a fun condiment to use with this burger. 
Easiest Strawberry (or whatever berry you like) ice cream (requires ice cream machine):  Based on http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-eggless-strawberry-ice-cream/

 
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mashed fresh strawberries (or whatever berries you have on hand. Even frozen berries that have been mashed).
  • 1-2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional for a twist)
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, strawberries, and food coloring. Pour the mixture into the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
The number  of recipes out there for fresh summer cooking are endless! Caprese Salad, peas, lettuce, zucchini and more. Here some links to some more veggie recipes: http://www.mass.gov/agr/markets/farmersmarkets/resources_consumers_recipes.htm
 
Enjoy the amazing farms and markets this summer. The kids will love it and you will love the food. Maybe you will even get your kids to eat a vegetable! 
Cooking Bucket List Update: I’ve conquered fresh calamari! I can cross that off my cooking bucket list!  I made fried calamari that everyone in my family ate. Very easy. Just chop the squid tubes and dredge with  flour mixture (flour, salt, lemon pepper, thyme and oregano) and fry in vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes or until gold brown. Drain on paper towel and serve with lemon. We ate it with caprese salad and some leftover mixed potato salad for dinner Sunday night.

Easy comfort food

Continuing with my “choose your own adventure” meals, today I’m writing about comfort food. Comfort food is different for each person. It is whatever food is soul satisfying to you. For some its fried food, a good steak, chicken pot pie or pizza. I am a meat and potatoes girl! With veggies on the side now for the kids 🙂

Whether you are cooking pork, beef or chicken, this recipe works well.

Ingredients:

Coriander

Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Worcestershire sauce
Vinegar (Balsamic, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar – whatever you have on hand)
Soy sauce

Olive oil (when searing meat and making marinade)
Butter (optional, add to finish gravy)
Onion powder (optional, or chopped onion, caramelized onions, shallots – whatever you have)
Cornstarch/flour (optional, depending if you like a thicker sauce/gravy)
Chicken Stock/Beef stock (optional, if you want to mellow out the flavor a little. I keep bouillon cubes on hand, so I can make as many cups as a I need of stock).

I used these ingredients the other night to make an easy version of chicken pot pie.

First you start a basic rue, which I learned how to do a couple of years ago for making mac-n-cheese. Melt butter in large sauce pan and then whisk in an equal amount of flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. I think it did about a 1/3 of a cup of each here. Then add a couple of cups of chicken stock and keep adding if too thick. Continue whisking. Add in about a palm full of coriander, ½ teaspoon minced garlic, 2-3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 3 Tablespoons vinegar, 3 Tablespoons soy sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Toss in 2 handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables, let cook for a few minutes. Then toss in leftover chicken that has been cubed or shredded (I used the Garlic chicken I made the night before). Take a can of biscuit dough (I used Pillsbury) and peel each biscuit in half and bake in the oven (I baked it directly on top of the sauce and it didn’t cook through, so this way will work much better!). After baked, place on top of chicken, vegetable and sauce mixture and serve! I kept a couple of biscuits aside and filled them with some extra chicken + frozen veggies that I thawed separately in the microwave, and then cooked them. These were great little pockets for the boys to pick up and eat. Much less messy than the pot pie would have been!

You can also use these ingredients to make a marinade. To marinade steak, pour equal parts Worcestershire sauce, vinegar (balsamic or red wine vinegar is best here), soy sauce and olive oil into a large Ziploc bag. Add a couple of tablespoons of coriander, a teaspoon of minced garlic and a ¼ teaspoon pepper. Close bag and shake (make sure its closed!) or massage with your hand. Insert steaks and make sure covered. Marinade at least 4 hours, but can do it over night.

I used this on Father’s day with petit sirloin (seared on the indoor grill and then baked at 400 degrees for 7 minutes for rare to medium rare). I served the steak with a sweet potato salad (bake equal amounts of sweet potatoes and white or yellow potatoes, cube, mix with miracle whip, mustard, salt and pepper) and roasted corn on the cob.

These ingredients are very versatile. You can use them as I have mentioned above to make a thick gravy for chick pot pie or a marinade for steak. Most often however, I use the dry spices on pork, beef or chicken and then use the wet ingredients to make a braising liquid. I usually prep dinner while the kids are taking their afternoon nap and braising takes 2-3 hours, so it is perfect timing for getting the food on the table for dinner. Sear the meat + then pour in braising liquid (1 part Worcestershire sauce, 1 part vinegar, 1 part soy sauce and 2 parts beef or chicken broth, a couple of tablespoons of coriander, a teaspoon of minced garlic and a ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt.) Cover and put in low oven (around 275/300) for a couple of hours. When done (use a meat thermometer) take meat out to rest and add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to a mug and pour in some of the braising liquid and mix together, then add back to the saucepan and rest of braising liquid and bring to a boil. Taste and add more spices as you need. Finish off with a pat of butter and take off heat for the perfect gravy!