Project Food Blog {my chance at fame?}

Peaches and blueberries

Well, the posting may have been sparse around here this summer, that’s for sure.  But the autumn harvest is just revving up, and I’m itching to cook once more now that the temperature has dipped back into the realms of “bearable”.   Just in time since there’s a great food blogging contest just getting started.  I’ve officially thrown my hat into the ring for Foodbuzz.com’s “Project Food Blog” extravaganza.  This online contest is reminiscent of TV’s myriad of reality battle-it-out shows.  It should be fun and perhaps there will even be some drama (after all there are nearly 2000 bloggers competing)!  If nothing else, you’re assured there will be more frequent posting on this blog as long as I’m still in the running. 

My first official entry post will be put up this weekend.  However, I wanted to get the link to my contest profile posted so you could go snicker at it.  If you care to follow along with the entire contest, feel free to bookmark my profile as it will show my status and links to my entries.  All the entries will also be posted here on SFTF…they’ll be posted once a week now through December (or however long I last in the contest). 

I NEED YOUR HELP!  A critical part to the contest is getting people to vote for your entries.  If you’re a fan of my work here in SFTF (the recipes, the photos, the writing, the mission), please make a point of voting for each of my Project Food Blog entries.   That would really make my day!

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September 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm 10 comments

Summer Fruit Cobbler

Summer Fruit Cobbler

Just in time for Labor Day, a perfect classic fruit cobbler recipe!

Black Berries

Somehow this summer has completely blown past me.  How did I displace the entire month of August?!  For that matter, what about July and June?  I guess this is just what happens when you launch your own business and handle every aspect of it yourself.  It’s been a fun summer though, full of beautiful flowers and new friendships with the lovely folks that buy them.   And since I now spend two days a week selling my blooms at farmers markets, I’ve been getting quite the assortment of fresh seasonal fruit from other farmers to bring home.   These guys have the best peaches.  And these guys have the most amazing Asian pears.  And these guys have to-die-for black berries. 

Summer Fruit

I’m still growing nearly all my own vegetables, but fruit, particularly anything growing on trees, is tough to manage in pots on the deck so I depend on getting to know a few key fruit growers to be sure I stay fully stocked with nature’s candy.  There have been two notable growing- fruit-in-a-pot successes this season though.   There were a half dozen of the most darling and delicious miniature melons.  Little Gem is an heirloom variety that was quite happy to climb up the lattice around our deck and dangle delicate melons from the vines without fear of them falling from their own weight.  The taste was sweet and superb. 

Summer Fruit

The other success story was the blueberries.  Last year I put a blueberry bush (‘Bluegold’) in a very large pot on the deck and crossed my fingers that it would make it through the winter in one piece.  Not only did it survive, it thrived!   I picked gobs of perfect blue orbs off it over the course of late June and July.  I had to protect the bush from marauding birds and squirrels by fitting it with a custom-made “shower cap” (row cover fleece with an elastic band sown around the bottom so I could put the fleece over the bush and secure it with the elastic around the pot).  

Take a bite

The berries went into my breakfast yogurt and pancakes mostly.   But I did save a pint of them specially to make a wonderful summer fruit cobbler.  This is just the perfect thing for a relaxing backyard get-together…perhaps you’re having one of those real soon for Labor Day.  It should be mandatory to serve it with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I won’t go so far as to dictate your entire dessert menu.  Peaches are at their peak still, but local blue berries might be hard to find.  The recipe is really just a blueprint for a cobbler that will showcase any combination of fruits.  Just stroll through your local farmers market and pick out what looks the most tempting and juiciest.  You really can’t go wrong. 

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August 29, 2010 at 9:30 pm 12 comments

From the Archives: Summer Berry Pavolova

Summer Berry Pavlova
 

Years after this post was originally put up on the blog, I’m still as smitten with this pillowy dessert as ever!  My own blueberry bush, growing in a five-gallon pot on my deck, produced a bumper crop this year.  I knew I needed to pull up this recipe from the archives and show it to you again.  In addition to the blueberries, a neighboring gardener gifted me with beautiful and sweet raspberries and blackberries. And of course the eggs are farm fresh from free range chickens.   Delicious!  

Eggs and Berries  

From the Archives  

There’s something magical about summer twilights.   And something even more magical about fresh blueberries on 4th of July celebration desserts.  I have many a fond memory of eating homemade ice cream topped with fresh blueberries and then running through dewy grass in the twilight with sparklers or chasing lightning bugs.    

Berries in a teacup  

I first came across fresh fruit pavlova while living in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  I can remember everything about the scene of my first bite – it was that delightful.  A crisp shell of a meringue with a melt-y middle topped with ever-so-slightly sweet fresh whipped cream and (for that first encounter) kiwis and blueberries spilling off the plate.   If ever the heavens should point a sunbeam directly on my head and issue forth an angelic chorus, it should have been at the moment of my first bite in that roadside Irish inn.     

Blueberries and Pavolova   

Since then, I’ve learned this dessert really hails from New Zealand and was named after a Russian ballerina so I think it classifies as an international dish even though there’s nothing regionally distinctive in its flavors.  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe directions.  It really is just a lot of mixing and that’s all.  These little puffs of marshmallow-y delight are well worth the 20 minutes of shouting required to be heard over the mixer.   

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August 1, 2010 at 10:32 am 18 comments

Homemade Cream Puffs

Homemade Cream puffs

I’m so sorry I left you without a recipe for such a long time!   Especially considering the last post was a tease for this amazing recipe I have for Homemade Cream Puffs filled with Rhubarb Mascarpone Filling.  Considering rhubarb season is long gone at this point in late July,  I think I’ll just see if I can convince you all to make these delectable airy puffs and fill them with ice cream instead.  I have another batch in the oven right now for just that purpose. 

Cream Puffs with Rhubarb Filling

It’s been so hot here in Philadelphia that I can’t really bear to cook much.  Work in the market garden is really playing me out too so it’s been tough to sit down in front of the computer without dozing off.  Explanations aside though, it’s about time I got this recipe posted.   I got a tutorial on making cream puffs from my mom a few months back.  I had never made them, thinking they must be really tricky and the privilege of a finely trained pastry chef.  Turns out, I couldn’t have been more off the mark.

Plain cream puffs

My mom apparently has known the secret to making a good batch of cream puffs for a long time.  In fact, she apparently used to make them a lot when she was still keeping chickens in our backyard.  I guess I was a little too young to remember.  In any case, the trick is to use old eggs.   Something about the aging of the proteins in the eggs helps make them more stable for holding air in the center of the puffs.  I’m no food chemist so I can’t really explain it well.  Just trust me when I say I’ve made several batches of these at this point and never once have I had one collapse on me.   As my mom recalls, cream puffs were simply a good way to use up those extra eggs from the hens that had been languishing in the fridge for too long.    

Filling the puffs

According to my mom, cream puffs were a very vogue vehicle for serving food at parties back in the day, both savory and sweet.  Make them tiny or make them big, you can fill them with chicken salad, egg salad, dressed baby greens, cold cuts, cheeses… or got the sweet way and fill with ice cream, chocolate mousse,  baked fruit, or even jam swirled into fresh whipped cream.   I’ll be taking a batch of both savory and sweet ones to a picnic in a few weeks.  It’s time cream puffs were back in style!

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July 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm 8 comments

Roasted Rhubarb & Cream

Rhubarb

It’s much too hot to cook right now.  Philadelphia is in the midst of yet another heat wave, this one the worst yet for the summer.   So, I thought I’d delve into my aging drafts pile and pull out something I made about a month ago when I could still look at the stove without cringing.   Sadly, rhubarb is out of season for most of us now, but you might still find a few stray stalks at the farmers market, or you can just bookmark this preparation to try next spring. 

Chopped rhubarb

Roasted Rhubarb & Cream is really rather divine.  I made it a few times while my rhubarb plants were pumping out the tender red stalks.  Each time I tweaked the recipe until I came up with this final version.  And it’s not just the taste that had me smitten.  Something about pouring that heavy cool cream over the steaming garnet rhubarb with flecks of vanilla bean is, well, very sensual.

Cream over roasted rhubarb

Tasty in its own right, eaten with a spoon while it’s still warm, this concoction can also be blended to create a creamy sweet sauce or filling, thinned to the desired consistency with more or less cream.  I’ll show you next time how I used it to fill fluffy homemade cream puffs…. oh, what a tantalizing tease!

Rhubarb Cream Puffs

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July 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm 11 comments

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Strawberries

Strawberry season was a glorious one this year, starting early and lasting a long time.   From the very first quart of local strawberries I saw  – or rather smelled – in early May, I vowed to savor them more than ever.  Somehow  that sweet ripe fragrance got in my nose and stayed there, keeping the craving constant for these morsels of juicy ruby heaven.   I never did get my fill, even after more than a dozen quarts! 

Quarts of strawberries

While it was a bit expensive buying my strawberries from fellow vendors at the farmers market, I felt it was a worthwhile indulgence for fresh eating, particularly after a long hot day of selling my flowers.  I wasn’t quite willing to fork over more than $6 a quart (really) to make my annual stash of strawberry jam though so I wait until I visited my parents in rural central Pennsylvania to stop by a nearby produce farm that had generous quarts of super-ripe berries for a mere three bucks.   I greedily grabbed five quarts, though only four somehow ended up in Philly after the three hour drive back.  Musta been a hole in the car console or maybe a stow away squirrel on board…

Strawberry Before and After

In any case, to send off strawberry season in style, I made a luscious batch of jam scented with a vanilla bean and cooked to a perfect consistency.   Jam making really is quite easy, especially when you have a simple recipe that doesn’t require that dreaded pack of pectin that never seems to be on city store shelves.   If you haven’t tried making your own homemade jam or jelly before (by the way, jam in chunky, jelly is strained to be smooth), this is the perfect one to try since it’s really very simple.  The only trick to making sure the jam thickens is to let it boil vigorously, which means you’ll be needing a very large pot to keep it from spilling over and making a mess of your stove. 

Jam on toast

Slathered on a fresh thick slice of bread from a loaf given to me by another farmers market vendor,  I decided strawberry season wasn’t really ending after all.  This jam is so full of fresh berry flavor, I’ll feel like I’m eating a ripe strawberry when I crack open a jar in December. 

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June 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm 20 comments

Homemade Herbal Lemonade

Homemade Herbal Lemonade

The heat is on, woowhee!   Really, it’s the humidity that’s pumping here in Philly right now.  I was wringing my clothes out this morning in the garden.   Still, a quick chug out of my icy jug of Homemade Herbal Lemonade was so cool and delicious that I was able to keep at the weeding for five whole hours!   Well, I did take a break to pick some blueberries and raspberries somewhere in the middle there…recipes to come for those.  In any case, this is a mighty refreshing beverage to have on hand on a hot summer day. 

Homemade Herbal Lemonade

If (when) I get married, I think I’d like to have one of my close friends make several dozen of these beautiful bottles of lemonade to have scattered around in ice-filled tin tubs and on the long communal tables laid out with a farm fresh feast {I guess I’d better buy stock in a lemon company that year}.  There’s just something about the way these jars gather condensation in the heat that makes me want to pour a glass and kick back with my flip flops off and the skirt of my sundress hiked up just a little higher.  A jar would make a great addition to a picnic basket for an outdoor concert in the park or a drive-in movie.  Bonus: add a shot of vanilla vodka and get a nice little buzz with your cool down.  Perfect for a sultry summer night. 

Lemons and a bottle

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June 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm 46 comments

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