Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do You Eat 5 a Day?

Summer is the easiest time to make sure you are getting the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day. This is the time of year when we have sweet corn for dinner almost everyday for 6 weeks. The local sweet corn has arrived at all the farmer's markets. Up til now the best sweet corn we had was from Indiana. I'm trying new ways to serve it this year not just buttered. Old Bay seasoning is an interesting new taste.

There are still some local berries available but the local strawberries are gone for another year. Their sweet strawberry flavor is so different from the Driscoll berries available year round it's hard to describe. Berries are high in fiber, Vitamin C and antioxidants. Store fresh berries in the refrigerator and rinse just before eating. They spoil quickly if you rinse them any sooner.

Locally grown melons are also sweet, juicy and refreshing now. To find a ripe melon examine the stem end. It should be smooth and show that the fruit was ripe and ready to fall of the vine. I always allow cantaloupe and muskmelons a day or two on the kitchen counter to ripen.

Fresh tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and lycopene. All they need is a little salt and a few basil leaves. I also like just a few drops of balsamic vinegar to bring out their sweetness. Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes for the best flavor.

Practice now to eat five fruits and vegetables a day as a part of a healthy diet. It's much more challenging in the winter!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taste of the Twin Cities

Tuesday night was the Taste of the Twin Cities, an official Aquatennial event. It was held at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis, a restored train station. We've gone the last several years. Its a great way to spend an evening with friends and try some trendy food.

The Twin Cities Originals, a group of local restaurants, is the sponsor. There were 20 restaurants that served little bites of their food. Actually this year, there were 6 small sandwiches. We wondered if it was related to the economy- bread being relatively cheap.

Some of my favorites: New Orleans style BBQ shrimp with garlic toast; Poached shrimp on crispy wonton with red curry sauce; Beef en croute with mushroom mousse; mini salmon burgers with garlic aioli; Caribbean smoked duck potsticker with green papaya slaw.

I must admit I did enjoy the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting- nothing unique just yummy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Make the Most of Summer Strawberries

On Saturday I did a demo at the Mill City Museum featuring fresh strawberries. It was Ice Cream and Cake day at the Mill City Farmers' Market and they were focused on summer berries. The Museum is a sponser of the farmers' market and was promoting the same theme. The fresh strawberry season is pretty much over in Minnesota but we still had some sweet berries for the demo.

Here's the recipe for the Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting that was part of the demo and used to top Basic Butter Cake from Baking Basics and Beyond.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting

3 cups finely chopped strawberries
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. framboise, optional
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whipping cream

Mix the strawberries with the sugar and framboise in a medium bowl and let stand 15 minutes. Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually beat in the whipping cream on low. Beat with whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form. Beat in strawberries.

Spread the frosting on top and sides of cake. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Smokin' Babyback Ribs

For the first time the other day I smoked some ribs. It was an adventure and much easier that I expected. First I bought a "smoker box"- actually a small metal box to hold the soaked hickory wood chips. The smoker box goes directly on the heat source, a gas burner in this case.

I rubbed the ribs with a spicy rub and refrigerated them overnight. The ribs were place over indirect heat in my grill and cooked and smoked for 1 1/2 hours. I'd turn them once or twice the next time as a had some "burnt ends" but some people prefer their ribs that way.

The ribs had a delicious smoky flavor with a mild spiciness and we dipped them in our favorite barbecue sauce' Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue from Kansas City.

You can do this without a smoker box. Just place the soaked wood chips in a disposable baking loaf pan and poke several holes in the pan.

When the wood chips are burnt to ashes add some more wet chips. I'll do this again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cake and Berries

Here's the link to the Mill city Farmer's Market web site. On July 18 I am doing a baking demo at the Mill City Museum at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. as part of the Farmer's Market Celebration. At the market web site you can also check out what local organic produce is available this week.


I will be baking a basic yellow cake from scratch and frosting it with a heavenly rich and berry-full frosting. Actually I'll probably bake miniature cupcakes as they make perfect bite-size samples.

In addition I'll show how to make shortcake and top it with luscious summer berries. It's the peak of the berry season and we'll have strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Everyone is always surprised with how easy it is to make a shortcake. Of course, we'll finish with a fluffy mound of whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tips for Summer Grilling

All of us pull out the grill and use it more often in the summer. Unfortunately the high heat from grilling can char or blacken meats forming carcinogens(cancer causing compounds). As the fat in meat melts and drips onto the coals, this also produces unhealthy compounds.

There are several ways to enjoy the ease and flavor impact of char-grilled foods while minimizing these dangers. Nutritionists suggest marinating meats and useing smaller cuts of meat that cook more quickly. Turn the meat often with tongs so that the surface doesn't become as hot. Don't pierce the meat with a fork because in addition to causing juices to run out, the dripping juices cause flare ups.

Nutritionists have found that marinades or meat rubs containing rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and parsley contain antioxidants that help decrease the carcinogens.

Add fresh herbs, citrus and chiles to rubs, sauces and marinade for flavor. In this way you can also use less salt, another healthy benefit.