Patterson California is known as the apricot capitol of the world. To celebrate the city’s stardom, every year the city crowns a new apricot princess in the downtown square. The orchards in spring are quite and impressive sight. The luminescent green underfoot the lacy canopy of blossoms reminded me of the cherry lane to Green Gables in the movie “Anne of Green Gables”. I was heartbroken a few years ago when progress swept up the orchard near the city center and planted a Walgreens on the corner.
The apricot harvest is at its peak right now. Apricots blossom early spring/late winter. But the fruit does not appear until July – August. Apricots were first discovered 4000 years ago in the mountains of China. Exports trickled into the Mediterranean and across Europe. The Spanish explores brought the apricot to California in the 18th century where they continue to flourish. The apricot’s beta-carotene orange coloring marks it high in iron, fiber and vitamin A. Medicinally apricots were once used with honey to reduce fever. The leaves can be applied to scabs, sunburn, and eczema to relieve itchiness.
The sweet tart flavor of apricots goes with just about everything from herbs to meats to salads.
Source: Cooking Light
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine apricot preserves, red wine vinegar, oil, and garlic in a small bowl, stirring well.
Prepare grill for indirect grilling. If using a gas grill, heat one side to medium-high and leave one side with no heat. If using a charcoal grill, arrange hot coals on one side of charcoal grate, leaving the other side empty.
Let chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Place chicken, meaty sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray over direct heat; grill 5 minutes or until browned.
Turn chicken over; baste with apricot mixture. Grill 5 minutes over direct heat or until browned. Turn chicken over, moving it over indirect heat; baste with apricot mixture. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Turn chicken over; baste with apricot mixture. Cook 20 minutes or until done.
– Asian Glazed Grilled Chicken: Combine 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, 1 teaspoon sambal oelek (or other hot chile sauce), and 3 minced garlic cloves, stirring well until blended. Baste chicken with hoisin mixture after each turn.
– To roast in the oven bake at 350 degrees. Follow the directions listed above.
When I was a youth I loved scavenger hunts. The hunts involved having to bag of road kill, singing in a public place, or visiting a shop or spooky cemetery in the dark for the next clue. It was pretty outrageous. My little ones mirror my enthusiasm for scavenger hunts. Our hunts are a bit more tame such collecting a purple flower or black bobby pin.
Scavenger hunts are a great learning tool for preschoolers. Send them off looking for 1 worm, 2 pebbles, 3 flowers, 4 leaves, and so on up to 5 or 10. When the kids were little I drew pictures to illustrate the article to be found on a large sheet of paper. As they found the items they taped them to the paper next to the picture.
Lately the kids have been fascinated with taking pictures and movies using the camera. Why not turn it into a game.
1. Make a list of items such as objects or places. Work as a team or separate into groups depending on the number of cameras available. Take stills of each object.
Here are some suggestions to add to the list:
Picture of a team
An ant hill
Roadside memorial or shrine
Types of food
2. Organize the photos to make a movie or collage. If there are multiple teams hold an art exhibit or screening to judge the best works of art. Offer rewards based on the most comical, serious, original, ect.
– This concept may also be used to illustrate the various elements of photography: warmth, strong, light, shadows, lines, and so on.
– For a fine art rendition try to find examples of Abstract, Deco, Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, Renaissance, in addition to depictions of famous artists.
My summer canning is done. The pantry is stocked. I love seeing the jars sitting on the pantry shelf. It is a nice warm homey feeling. What is even better is being able to walk outside and pick the fruit from vines in the backyard. I was lazy this year and did not even attempt to garden. The planters I put together last winter are hidden in a torrent of weeds. While mine is a sad story some of my friends have had a wealth of garden gifts to enjoy this summer.
Strawberries are an amazingly versatile plant. At our last home we used strawberry plants as ground cover. They spread like mad in the couple of years after we planted them. Generally strawberries do not last a day around here. When there are a few stragglers the day after they are either pureed into a smoothie or chopped and used in a salad. I love the combination of salt feta cheese with the sweet strawberry. If feta is too salty try using goat cheese.
Serves: 6-8 generously
1 bag baby spring mix salad greens
1/2 bag Arugula
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
6 fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup crumbled traditional Feta cheese
Mix the arugula and salad greens together in a large bowl.
Evenly top the salad greens with the cucumbers, then onion slices, followed by the strawberries. Sprinkle with Feta cheese.
Toss with vinaigrette immediately before serving onto plates.
This week’s post is a guest post by my niece Alexis Morris. Alexis made this lip smacking sandwich all by herself. We love to support the youngsters for their culinary ingenuity.
Sandwiches can be a healthy snack for starving after school bodies. Add some leafy lettuce for extra beneficial vitamins and minerals. Many children who refuse to eat a bowl of salad will tolerate a single leaf in a sandwich. Choose a darker leafier head such as red tip or romaine. The wholesome fiber found in whole grain breads minus all the artificial fillers fills the kids bellies and the zero or low sugar does not leave them craving more sugar.
The Alexis Delux:
Two slices whole wheat bread
1 slice provolone cheese
2 slices black forrest ham
Spread slices of bread with a thin mayo. Layer one slice of bread with cheese, ham, and then lettuce.
Serve with a side of pringles chips and a glass of orange juice.
Photo Source: Better Homes and Gardens
The first time I had a strawberry daiquiri was down in the Florida Keys. My best friend’s family invited me to tag along on their family trip that year. We were young teenagers at the time. The excitement unbearable. We thought we were so cool to hang out in the spa sipping a glass of non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri.
The original daiquiri is believed to have originated in Cuba in the early 1900’s. The concoction combined three of the country’s largest exports: rum, sugar and lime juice. The modern day American strawberry daiquiri incorporates blended ice. Although daiquiri connoisseurs believe the classic slushy strays too far from its roots. The preferred method for rum purists is shaken not stirred.
The strawberry season is at a close here in the valley. The farm stand’s daily rations are diminishing more and more each day. On the way home from our last outing of the summer we stopped by the stand to stock up on strawberries. Taking a cue from my Aunt Ruth I chopped some up to freeze. They will be great in a smoothie or as a topping over cake. We made another batch of strawberry jam. The last of the strawberries were made into various treats for my daughter’s strawberry tea party. There were strawberry shortcake cookies, crepes with strawberry cream cheese and chocolate sauce, tuna tea sandwiches, and a strawberry daiquiri.
Source: Ariane Hundt (Personal Trainer and Nutritionist)
5 ounces water
6-8 ice cubes
3 tablespoons sugar, or sweeten to taste
Mix ingredients in blender. Serve in individuals glasses with a garnish of strawberry and whipped cream.
– Replace sugar with honey or agave syrup
– Add a shot of lime juice or grapefruit juice
Photo: Property of the CupcakeProject.com
When my oldest child was about to start kindergarten I had not begun to think about the yearly rites of passage. I was too consumed with the swirling emotions of sending my baby off to all day kindergarten. Stephen delightedly recalled memories of school clothes shopping and the first day of school photo. The mention of school shopping sent my mind back to the Saw Grass Mills Mall in South Florida. Who could ever forget retail bliss a mile long. As I reminisced a little while longer I remembered a few of the odious haunts of the 80’s I chose to leave buried in the past. The K-Swiss sneakers from 10th grade were not so embarrassing as the white Reebok high-tops I had to have in 9th grade and the orange neon pleather purse I just could not live without in 6th grade. Just Scary.
This year our daughter is about to embark on her first year in Kindergarten. In keeping with our newly found family traditions she got a new backpack, a lunch box, and a new coat in addition to several new outfits. When the big day arrives we will take the much anticipated “first day of school” snapshot. To let her know we are thinking of her she will find a special note attached to a yummy (but healthy) treat inside her lunch pail. That night the dinner menu is kids choice (within reason). It is always nice to have a relaxing comforting meal at the end of a high anxiety day.
The following is a list of fun ways to help motivate the kids in preparing them for back to school.
This week my son requested pound cake for dessert. I was surprised to find I have yet to post the recipe for my Aunt’s Sour Cream Pound Cake. My Aunt always had a round of her famous sour cream pound cake tucked away under the lid of the stainless steel cake dome. I know I gush a lot over my great Aunt Ruth. She is an amazing woman. She is a strong classy lady with loads of common sense wisdom.
My Aunt Ruth can farm and hunt with the best of tom boys; yet, she can don a gown and ballroom dance with a regal air. She has the purest heart. She never gossips or speaks ill of anyone. She believes in the saying “if you can’t say something nice do not say anything at all.” So you will find she does not talk too much. When she does she has so many adventurous stories to tell. My Great Aunt Ruth was unable to have children of her own but she was a loving mother to many. You can’t help but love her. She has an infectious smile with a down to earth personality. She is the most amazing cook too. Her meals are simple. No fluff. Just simple fresh ingredients.
My Aunt Ruth always served her pound cake with fresh chopped strawberries. The strawberries were tossed with sugar to draw out the juices to create a syrup. She always had pint sized containers of fresh picked strawberries and blueberries in the freezer ready to top pound cake or be made into a cobbler.
Pound cakes get their name from the weight of the ingredients used: a pound of butter, a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs. Always try to use the freshest good quality ingredients when preparing pound cake. Because pound cake gets the majority of its flavor from the butter there is no substitute for real butter. Use a low protein flour such as Pillsbury or a cake flour to keep the crumb tender.
Pound cakes do not use baking powder to give them rise. Instead they rely on the power of eggs and whipped air incorporated into the batter during the creaming and addition of the eggs. Over mixing the batter can result in a dense crumbly cake rather than a lighter moist version. In this recipe the butter, butter-sugar mixture, dry ingredients and egg whites are all whipped separately before combining them. It is equally important to mix each stage properly.
2 sticks butter, room temperature but still cool
2 3/4 cup sugar
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, room temperature but still cool
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon flavoring (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom, sides and cone of a 10-inch tube pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar; cream until light colored and fluffy. About 5-7 minutes.
**Do not stop beating sugar and butter too early. Continue beating until the mixture is light in color and fluffy not stiff and dull.**
Whip egg whites until just stiff. (about 2-3 minutes with a mixer) Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, alternating egg yolk then some egg white.
**Do not over mix each addition. Mix in each egg addition just until the color of the egg yolk or egg white disappears.**
In a small bowl sift the flour, salt and baking soda. Using a large spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture alternating sour cream then flour; mixing until just combined. Add the vanilla and lemon; fold in until incorporated.
Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
To serve: top cake with glaze and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or omit the glaze and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with sliced berries, ice cream or whipped cream.
Glaze: Beat the following ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
8 ounce package cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 box powder sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
— Try to use a lighter aluminum tube pan. The darker pans tend to darken the sides and bottom of the cake more.
— Bake by instinct not time. Watch the cake at about the 1 hour mark. Test for doneness by pressing on the top. If it feels firm and bounces back the cake may be done. If it jiggles or feels fragile under pressure it is not done.
— If the cake is browning too fast cover the top with aluminum foil and place pan on a baking sheet. This will insulate the cake from further direct heat.
— Weather and ovens vary the end result of baked goods.
— There is no substitute for lemon extract. Lemon juice contains acids while the extract has more of an essential oil base. You could try a tablespoon of lemon zest, if in a pinch, added to the glaze.
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