Mother of Pearls & an Emerald

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Pearls Garden Update-First tomato harvested! July 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — motherofpearls @ 7:12 pm

Big excitement here tonight! Our girl ceremoniously harvested our first tomato of the season, beautiful Plum variety. She was so excited, you would have thought it was Christmas. She was also the first one to notice that there is some slight blushing on the Sweet 100’s today. It won’t be long until we’re swimming in tomatoes.

 

Blueberry Picking was a huge hit & Blueberry-Ricotta Squares recipe July 18, 2008

Filed under: Fun,Kids in the Kitchen,Recipes — motherofpearls @ 8:12 pm
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Today, we went blueberry picking for the first time ever. The Pearls adore blueberries, so I warned the lady at the counter that she might want to weigh them before and after and just add the difference to my bill! It was a really long drive and very hot/humid out, but our oldest Pearl proved to be the hardest worker there! While her cousins largely spent the time whining in the shade sucking down juice boxes, our girl picked and picked blueberries until her little bucket was full! She kept repeating her mantra, “There’s nothing like a fresh blueberry, is there?” When all was said and done, she’d picked almost two pounds to my almost 5 pounds! Not to be outdone, our son most certainly ate his weight in blueberries! He never had any blueberries in his bucket for long. I had to draw the line at him scooping handfuls out of my bucket, otherwise we’d never have any to take home.

So our girl was so proud of her haul, she immediately wanted to cook something with her stash! We opted first for this Blueberry-Ricotta Squares recipe that we got in a flyer at the Berry Farm. It looked so different than anything I’ve made before with the Ricotta and I had plenty of it in the fridge from South Beach Phase One.

Blueberry Ricotta Squares
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 tsp Watkins Vanilla
1 1/2 cups blueberries
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp Watkins Vanilla

In a small mixing bowl, combine first 8 ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for a minute. Pour batter into a greased 9x9x2 baking pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle blueberries over batter.

In mixing bowl, lightly beat 2 eggs with a fork. Add ricotta, sugar and vanilla, beat until combined. Spoon mixture over blueberries and spread evenly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool. Cut into 16 squares. Store bars covered in refrigerator.

This turned out delicious and delicately sweet and was a cross between a custard-like texture & a blueberry muffin all in one.

This was such a fun family time, I’m sure we’ll plan to do this each year and pick enough to freeze for the year. Aside from eating a bunch, we hope to make some blueberry pancakes, muffins, and perhaps this Crunchy Panko Fruit Cobbler from, yes again, King Arthur! I was very intrigued by this one, having never seen Panko used in a dessert before.

 

Pearls' Garden Update, Basil Pesto & Another King Arthur Flour recipe Homerun

Filed under: Garden,Products,Recipes — motherofpearls @ 7:44 pm
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A quick garden update: there is the slightest of orange blush on a few of our Roma tomatoes! It can’t be far off now for sweet juicy tomatoes. We can hardly wait!

We harvested some of our basil yesterday, since it was beginning to flower. I’ve never made Pesto before, but found this terrific website & recipe complete with lovely photos for Basil Pesto at Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases blog. It turned out perfectly. We hope to use some on a Pesto Pizza.

And we were planning on grilling cheeseburgers last night (a Pearls favorite!), so we tried out another recipe for homemade “Beautiful Burger buns”from King Arthur Flour’s website. They are super easy to make, especially if you have a bread machine. All you do is combine all the recipe ingredients in the order as called for by your machine and use the dough cycle. After the cycle is complete, remove the dough, punch down, form into 8 rounds, and allow to rise under a damp towel until you’re ready to bake them. Try these, you’ll never want to go back to the store-bought, loaded with preservatives variety buns! And a thank you to PJ Hamel, test baker from King Arthur Flour, for your kind comments on our blog and the wonderful responsiveness to customers that your company demonstrates.

We made these with half White Whole Wheat and half Bread Flour and also added the vital wheat gluten again. Father of Pearls declared these a resounding “excellent”! These were so good even the next day, steamed a bit, and used for sandwich buns.

 

Great Whole Grain Bread Bake-off with Vital Wheat Gluten & King Arthur Flour July 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — motherofpearls @ 1:10 pm

Every since we received our bread machine for a wedding present, we’ve enjoyed making homemade bread. There’s nothing like the smell and taste of it! After doing South Beach phase one, I am so ready to resume some bread making. However, I really want to hone my skills with whole grain breads. Whole grains prove a particular challenge in that they don’t rise or have the light texture quite like a white bread will & often require some added assistance to make a terrific loaf. A good friend, Kristine, has started a “Best Bread Bake-off” on her family blog to record her adventures in bread making & keep track of the winners, so I figure we’d join her in her quest!

One of the first requirements for bread making is using the best of ingredients. A few years back, some good friends in a cooking group introduced me to the wonders of King Arthur Flour and I’ve been a convert ever since. King Arthur Flour is America’s oldest flour company, circa 1790, or when George Washington was elected president! Two of my favorite products are the Unbleached Bread Flour and their White Whole Wheat Flour. Their White Whole Wheat (WWW) is the most amazing product when you want the goodness of whole grains, but don’t want the heavier taste, color & texture of regular Whole Grain Flour. Typically, I substitute 1/2 or more of flour recipes with WWW now. The King Arthur website has the most amazing repository of recipes, cooking tips and a terrific cookbook I’ve checked out at the library numerous times, but really want to purchase, King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking. Their catalog is a joy to pour through and I anxiously await each new edition.

That’s where I first read about vital Wheat Gluten and decided to give it a try. It’s available in many supermarkets and health food markets (I actually found mine at the Super Walmart.) It is a baker’s secret to amazingly light textured breada which can become quite dense with the addition of whole wheat and other grains.

My first experiment with it turned out really well and yielded a big, crusty loaf that was tender and chewy inside. I would definitely recommend using it in your whole grain baking. Here is a favorite recipe to try:

Kristine’s Honey Oat Bread

1 c. warm water
1/4 c. honey
2 T vegetable oil
1 t salt
3 c. white bread flour (I used equal parts bread flour and white whole wheat.)
1/2 c. raw oatmeal
2 t. yeast
Make in the breadmaker on “white” setting and “light” crust. Enjoy!

And finally a quick note about properly measuring flour that I never knew about or followed. From the KA book, I learned that you should not scoop flour directly from the cannister into your measuring cup. This will result in too much flour as you’ve packed it in there. Instead you want to aerate the flour first, by whisking or just stirring it up. Then take a smaller measuring scoop and spoon it into your measuring cup. Then take a knife and level it off gently. Tests showed that improperly measuring flour can result in 25% more flour in your recipe. I definitely think this has made a difference in my baked goods!

 

Never a Dull Moment!

Filed under: Uncategorized — motherofpearls @ 12:22 pm

Well, it was bound to happen with a super active & daring little boy like ours… Our very first trip to the ER yielded a fractured wrist from a tumble off the couch. He has what’s called a Torus Buckle, a minor and apparently very common childhood injury. Didn’t make us feel any better to hear that, but he was the bravest ‘lil man in the ER. Everyone commented on how sweet he was. The Peds ER was filled that night, and they ministered to him in a makeshift bed in a ‘lil Red Radio Flyer Wagon. He got a wagon ride and a popsicle on his way out! He got his actual cast today, bright neon green! Can’t imagine all the attention he’s going to get over the next few weeks. I have sat in amazement as I’ve watched him be so strong & brave, much stronger than his Mommy that’s for sure! Kids are so amazingly resilient.
Case in point:

 

Pearls' Garden Update-How Does Your Garden Grow? July 8, 2008

Filed under: Garden — motherofpearls @ 3:48 pm
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A busy holiday weekend & a feverish Pearl left me with little time to update here! And the pictures I snapped last week of the garden were already far outdated. Things are really starting to flourish out there, although we’re still very impatient for the first harvest! We did harvest some fresh dill that we made with it a tasty sauce for salmon. Here are the new pictures snapped today:
TomatoesTomatoes
Herbs, Peppers, Cauliflower

Green Beans & Edanames (the first planting didn’t come up too well, so we replanted & now there are tons!)

Squash

Here is a sneak peek at some “first fruits”/blooms


Stay tuned for more updates.