Category Archives: Seasonal

Hello, September

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September is a time of transition, as late Summer gives to an early Fall. Fruits like blackberries, raspberries and melons will still be available during this time. Be sure to check your local farmer’s markets, as harvest times tend to vary. Please note that this list will help you know when to look for what at markets near you. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of September,as the Summer is coming to a close.

September Fruits and Vegetables

Apples
Artichokes
Avocados
Blackberries
Blueberries
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Cauliflower
Carrots
Chile Peppers
Sweet Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Fennel
Figs
Grapes
Green Beans
Garlic
Horseradish
Leeks
Lettuce
Kale
Mushrooms
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Radishes
Raspberries
Red Onions
Spinach
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Fruit:
Figs!

 

 

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Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple, 2016.

Figs originated in Asia Minor and were brought over to America in the 16th century. Figs were historically used to sweeten dishes before refined sugar was an option, and they continue to be used in such a way in many parts of the world today.

While dried figs are available all year around, fresh figs are usually available in the summer and fall. They taste like a mellowed cross between a peach and a strawberry. Their unique texture, and ability to be simultaneously chewy, soft, and crunchy, is what makes fresh figs so appealing and popular.

Varieties of Figs

There are several different varieties of figs. They range in colour from green or greenish-red when ripe, to the deep purple that most people are familiar with.

The most commonly recognized varieties are: Black Mission figs, Brown Turkey figs, Adriatic figs, or Calimyrna figs. Taste-test each of them to determine which type suits your palate best.

 

 

What Goes Well With Figs?

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Fig Serving Ideas

Figs are commonly stuffed with a tart or blue cheese and wrapped with prosciutto to be served as an appetizer, but honeyed figs and roasted figs are wonderful with yogurt for a snack or for breakfast, or with panna cotta for dessert.

Figs can be made into a jam or a preserve that goes well with pastries, crackers, or toast.

When roasted or grilled, you can add figs to a salad for some sweetness and texture as well. Or if you’d like, bake a cake and gently press figs into the top. It’ll look impressive to see fig halves studded on top of the cake showing their beautiful jewelled centers.

 

 

How To Select and Store Figs

The best figs should be slightly wrinkled, yet still plump with a little bit of a bend at the stem. Figs that are too hard or too firm indicate that they were picked before they were ripe. Depending on the variety, they should have a deep colouring and a sweet smell to them. Any sour odor means you should put that fig down and exchange it for another.

Figs are very fragile, so look for “perfect” figs that aren’t too squishy, don’t have any splits, milky liquid at the stem, or the obvious: no mold.

Figs are best consumed within a couple days of purchasing. They can be kept in the fridge, unwashed for that time, but make sure to cover any foods that may give off an odor as the figs can absorb that smell from sitting in the fridge like milk.

If you do happen to have some unripe figs, store them at room temperature on the counter and they should soften and get a little sweeter. Note that figs do not ripen after they are picked, so avoid unripe figs if you want to have soft and sweet ones for eating fresh.

How To Prepare Figs

Figs are often made into preserves or dried to take advantage of their delicious flavour. However, fresh figs are delightful eaten out of hand given their soft, sweet flavour and chewy texture.

Roast Figs:
Figs can be roasted at 375°F with some red wine or liquor, sugar, and lemon zest, with the cut sides facing up or down in the pan. Cooking them facedown will make them softer, while they’ll be firmer if baked with cut side up. This is a great way to extend the shelf life, and when roasted they’re delicious in the morning with some yogurt, pancakes, or served as a snack with cheese and crackers.

Grilled Figs:
Preheat your charcoal or propane grill and brush a little olive oil on the figs. Grill until lightly charred. Serve in a salad or on some fresh bread topped with crumbled goat cheese.

Caramelized Figs:
You can make fruit brûlée as well. Halve the figs and sprinkle a little sugar on top (raw, brown, demerara, whichever you choose). Use a brulée torch (or your oven on broil, watching carefully) to melt the sugar until caramelized (not too burnt). Let harden and serve alone or with a little burrata or fresh mozzarella.

Stuffed Figs:
To create a sort of blooming flower or star, cut the fig as if you were cutting it into quarters, but leave a centimetre or so uncut. Pinch the bottom to squeeze the insides up a bit to make the cut tips spread out into a star. Stuff with whatever you like: chopped walnuts, gorgonzola or another favourite cheese, and/or a honey drizzle.

Fig Tips

Cook your figs into jam, preserve, or roast with honey for a sweet spread or treat.

Figs are quite mellow in flavour, but cooking or drizzling them with honey, balsamic vinegar, or warm spices enhances their natural sweetness.

Be sure to enjoy your figs within a couple days because they are highly perishable.

 

Fig Nutrition

According to the Canadian Nutrient File, figs are extremely nutrient dense. They have high potassium and fiber content which is reported to help combat heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. On top of that, they’re rich in antioxidants — both in their fresh and dried form (albeit higher in antioxidants in dried form). Per 100 gram serving (about 2 figs), figs contain 12% of your daily fiber, 6% manganese, 7% potassium, 4% magnesium, 4% calcium and 2% iron.

Source:
Produce Made Simple: Figs (2016) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed September 1, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/figs/

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Hello, August!

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Late summer eating offers an amazing variety of delicious produce.

Exact crop availability and harvest times vary year-to-year, of course, and this list will help you know when to look for what at markets near you. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of August, before the summer season is over.

August Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus
Avocados
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cauliflower
Carrots
Cherries
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Leeks
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peaches
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Fruit: 

Peaches!

There is nothing better than biting into a fresh, juicy peach that is so ripe you need a napkin in your other hand. August is National Peach Month and you are sure to find delicious, in-season peaches at the grocery store  all month long.

Peaches are reminiscent of summer no matter what time of the year you enjoy them. Their unique, fuzzy skin and soft, sweet flesh distinguishes them from their cousin, the nectarine.

Peaches are often seen in crisps, cobblers and pies, but remember that peaches are delicious in more than just dessert recipes. Try tossing them in a salad for a lovely addition of color, taste and texture. You can also enjoy them lightly grilled or blended into your favorite barbecue sauce.

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Photo Credit: National Arbor Day Foundation.

Varieties of Peaches

There are two main types of peaches available today: Semi-freestone and Freestone.

  • Freestone peaches will have a stone or pit that will easily fall from the fruit, and are usually the ones you’ll find at your grocery store or farmer’s market.  They are available from Ontario from mid-August to the end of September.  These are a great choice for eating out of hand and for preserving.
  • Semi-freestone peaches have flesh that partially clings to the pit. These peaches are excellent for eating out-of-hand. They are available from Ontario from mid-July to mid-August.

You may also spot donut peaches. This heirloom variety is short, flat and white-fleshed with a lower acidity level than traditional peaches.

Clingstone peaches, as their name indicates, have pits that cling to the fruit. These are not usually available at retail and are more often used for commercial purposes such as canned peaches and jams.

What Goes Well With Peaches?

Herbs & Spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, mint, basil, ginger, honey, tarragon, rosemary, and lemongrass

Produce: berries, lemon, arugula, tomato, fennel, endive, grapes, lime, greens, other stone fruits like nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums

Dairy & Other:, buttermilk, butter, bourbon, brandy, butter, cream, ice cream, mascarpone cheese, vinegar, wine, sugar, and yogurt

Savory: pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pork, pesto, prosciutto, and poultry

Peach Serving Ideas

The best way to enjoy a fresh peach on its own. . .  just take a bite.And  there are so many other ways to enjoy peaches, too!

Here are some ways to use one of Mother Nature’s desserts in your everyday cooking:

  • Bake them with some cinnamon and sugar in a peach pie, peach cobbler, or crisp. You can also grill or roast them to be served in a salad, or with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese.
  • Slice some peaches over cottage cheese and add some chopped walnuts and honey on top for a mid-day snack.
  • Slice peaches into rings and grill for a few minutes on each side. Serve with fish, chicken or over a summer salad.
  • Crumble some graham crackers in a bowl. Slice peaches and lay over graham crackers. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cool whip and some cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg for a sweet dessert.
  • Slice a crusty baguette into two thin pieces. Lay sliced Gruyere cheese, ham, peaches and arugula in between slices and toast for a sweet and savory Panini.
  • Top your oatmeal with fresh peach slices, almond slivers, plain yogurt and a little brown sugar for a delicious breakfast.
  • Blend peaches with strawberries, bananas, ice, skim milk and wheat germ for a fruity smoothie on-the-go.
  • To enjoy the fresh taste of ripe peaches in the winter months, preserve them in a jam, or sliced in a mason jar with syrup. Substitute the apricots for peaches in this easy no-cook jam recipe!
  • Try using peaches to create an irresistible sauce for chicken wings. Or turn it into a salsa to top tacos or pork tenderloin.

How To Select and Store Peaches

Peaches range in color and can be anywhere from light pink and cream to a reddish-yellow. The blush or color of a peach does not indicate ripeness, but is a way of identifying the variety. Be sure to avoid those that have any green coloring or soft spots.  When selecting peaches, look for fruit that feels heavy for their size, and that have a creamy or yellow background.

Don’t be afraid to buy peaches that are firm. To ripen peaches, place them in loosely closed paper bag.  Leave them on your kitchen counter (at room temperature and out of direct sunlight) for a few days.  If you really want to speed up the process, add an apple to the bag. Don’t use a plastic bag as this will trap moisture and can cause premature decay.

When your peaches are ripe, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, or in their original plastic clamshell packaging, and they will last for up to five to seven days.  Peaches are ripe when give slightly to pressure and have a sweet aroma.

If you buy a container full of peaches, we recommend opening it when you get home to sort according to ripeness. Enjoy those that are already ripe, first!

To Freeze Peaches, peel and pit them, then cut into slices or cubes. Make a simple sugar syrup and submerge them in a plastic container. Alternatively, add some orange juice to keep them from drying out. Pack tightly into plastic containers, leaving 1-inch (2.5-cm) air space at top. Top with a crumpled sheet of wax paper and seal tightly. Frozen peaches can be stored for one year. Watch this fun segment featuring Mairlyn Smith.

To prevent browning, simply coat sliced peaches with lemon juice immediately after slicing. Another solution is to dip the slices into water that has a squeeze of lemon.

 

How To Prepare Peaches

Wash peaches just before you are ready to use them. Washing them in advance will only make them spoil faster.

To remove the pit, cut your peach lengthwise around the stone (follow the natural indent on the peach) and gently twist both halves in opposite directions to separate them. If the peach is of the freestone variety, the stone will pop out easily.

Peeling stone fruits is a breeze. With a small knife, score an “x” on the bottom of the peach, then place in boiling water for 30 seconds and transfer them to an ice bath (to stop the cooking process). Their skins should slip off easily. After peeling, immediately return them to the ice bath to prevent discoloration.

Peach Tips

  • Top Tip! For the most flavor, peaches are best enjoyed ripe, at room temperature.

  • Peaches will discolour quickly after being cut, so if you aren’t combining them with something acidic, such as lemon juice or salad dressing, quickly dip the fruit in water with a squeeze of lemon and drain well.
  • Sniff a peach for ripeness. If they are ripe, they will  smell sweet.
  • Grill peaches to caramelize the natural sugars in the fruit. Cut a ripe peach in half and remove the pit. Grill over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side to emphasize the caramelized flavor.
  • Peaches add great natural sweetness to smoothies, oatmeal, etc.

Peaches Nutrition

Peaches are good sources of lycopene and lutein, similar to tomatoes. The lutein gives peaches their red and orange color and lycopene is especially beneficial in fighting cancer and preventing heart disease.

Did you know that 1 medium peach (98 g) contain a great number of your daily-recommended intake of nutrients: 11% of Vitamin C, 4% of fibre (1.9 g), 5% of potassium, 4% of Vitamin A, and 3% of copper.

 

 

Sources:
August Produce Spotlight: Peaches. (2011). Healthy Schools Campaign. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://healthyschoolscampaign.org/uncategorized/august-produce-spotlight-peaches-6539/

Produce Made Simple: Peaches. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/peaches/

Heirloom Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie

 

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Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck, 2013

Southern Living Magazine raised the ante on classic tomato pie with a sour cream crust studded with bacon, layers of colorful tomatoes, and plenty of cheese and herbs to tie it all together. Nobody wants a soggy tomato pie, so for best results, seed the tomatoes and drain the slices before baking.This recipe is a bit time consuming and may take up to three hours to prepare,  but it is sure worth the effort!

RECIPE BY SOUTHERN LIVING
June 2013

Serves 6 to 8 

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
2 1/4 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour , such as White Lily®
1 cup cold butter, cut up
8 cooked bacon slices, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream

For Filling :
2 3/4 pounds assorted large heirloom tomatoes, divided (*See Cook’s Notes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

Directions:
Prepare Crust: Place flour in bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer; cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles small peas. Chill 10 minutes.

Add bacon to flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Gradually add sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Spoon mixture onto a heavily floured surface; sprinkle lightly with flour, and knead 3 or 4 times, adding more flour as needed. Roll to a 13-inch round. Gently place dough in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with 2-inch sides and a removable bottom. Press dough into pan; trim off excess dough along edges. Chill 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare Filling: Cut 2 pounds of tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Stir together Cheddar cheese, next 10 ingredients, and remaining 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl until combined.

Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread 1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust; layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows. Spread with 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture. Cut remaining 3/4 lb. tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange on top of pie.

Bake at 425° for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil during last 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 1 to 2 hours before serving.

 

*Cook’s Notes:
To learn more about how to seed and drain tomatoes, please see Tori Avey’s tutorial at the following link: How to Seed Tomatoes

And a method is briefly outlined below:

  1. Place your tomato on a cutting board, stem side facing up.
  2. Roll the tomato sideways so the stem faces to the right, and cut the tomato down the center “equator” line into two halves.
  3. Use a small spoon or a quarter spoon melon baller to scoop the tomato seeds and any tough white core out of the four seed cavities. Discard the seeds.

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Hello, July!

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Yes, Summer is in full swing and so are the many colorful fruits and vegetables that you will be able to find at your local farmers markets and grocery stores. And there is enough different types of produce for every palette, with many that can be eaten raw. So you don’t always have to turn on the stove. Peaches, Nectarines, Avocados, Tomatoes, and Corn are abound and the perfect produce for backyard barbecues as the vibrant tantalizing offerings make excellent desserts and side dishes. It is also the perfect time for canning tomatoes and peppers so that you can savor the taste of the Summer season during the coming Winter months. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of July, while they last.

July Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blueberries
Cabbage
Cantaloupes
Cherries
Corn
Crenshaw Melons
Cucumbers
Figs
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Lemons
Limes
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Produce: Heirloom Tomatoes!

The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit/berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in western South America.

Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas.

The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word “tomate”, from which the English word tomato derived. Its use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico.The Spanish discovered the tomato from their contact with the Aztec peoples during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, then brought it to Europe, and, from there, to other parts of the European colonized world during the 16th century.

And then there are the Heirloom tomatoes which are also called heritage tomato in the UK, are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomatoes. According to tomato experts, heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and less disease resistance than hybrids bred to resist against specific diseases. They are grown for a variety of reasons, such as for food, historical interest and having access to wider varieties.

For the most past, heirloom tomatoes have been around for a hundred years or more . However, he definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, but unlike commercial hybrids, all are self-fertile varieties that have bred true for 40 years or more and have passed on the saved seeds from one generation to another, by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste.

Heirloom tomatoes are absolutely beautiful and are always stunning when served. With so many different colors and subtle flavor differences, heirloom tomatoes are perfect for dishes that feature tomato flavor. Numerous varieties of heirloom tomato are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year.

While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables as an ingredient or side dish for savory meals. Because of their versatility, heirloom tomatoes can be consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. Heirlooms are such a staple in global cuisine where they can be used as tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, as a base for salsa, or in a curry; there is nothing better than dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a creamy bowl of tomato soup or slicing them and eating them fresh on a sandwich.

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Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest , 2016

Varieties

Heirloom tomato cultivars can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. They can be brown, purple, green, pink, yellow, orange, striped, and of course, red. They come in different shapes and sizes as well: round, oval, ribbed, and squat. Each tomato will develop in its own way to become naturally unique! Some heirloom cultivars can be prone to cracking or lack of disease resistance. As with most garden plants, cultivars can be acclimated over several gardening seasons to thrive in a geographical location through careful selection and seed saving.

Some of the most famous examples include San Marzano, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Gardener’s Delight, Marglobe, Lollypop, Yellow Pear, Silvery Fir Tree, Hillbilly, Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Neville Tomatos, Mr. Stripey, Costoluto Genovese, Pruden’s Purple, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Garden Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Cherry, Red Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry, and Three Sisters.

What Goes Well With Heirloom Tomatoes?

Tomatoes go well with almost anything! Of course, tomatoes are especially delicious when paired with Italian flavors like oregano, balsamic vinegar, capers, olive oil, garlic, bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese. Also enjoy with Parmesan cheese, basil, bacon, rice, mushrooms, pasta, onion, avocado, crusty breads, strawberries, chickpeas, eggs, fennel, parsley, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Enjoy ripe tomatoes by eating them fresh in salads and sandwiches or kick it up a notch and try halving them and grilling them on the BBQ, or stuffing them with rice, cheese and herbs and roasting them!

Enjoy fresh tomatoes topped with salt and pepper along side your eggs and bacon in the morning.

Make your own fresh salsa to serve along tortillas or on baked potatoes.

Chop tomatoes and add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion to make a perfect bruschetta topping for a baguette.

How To Select and Store Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes that are brightly hued, plump and without bruises or blemishes are best. They should be firm, but not rock hard and have a nice, earthy tomato-y smell. They should be heavy for their size, as ripe tomatoes will have more water content.

Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion. Avoid storing tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavor!

 

How To Prepare Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are extremely versatile since they can be eaten fresh, in sauces, soup, salad, or even stir-fry. Wash tomatoes in cold water and remove any stickers from the grocery store.

To prepare tomato slices for sandwiches, slice them horizontally with a very sharp knife. Dull knives may squish tomatoes instead of cleanly slicing through the skin.

For soups or sauces, you may want to remove the tomato skin by first scoring the bottom of the tomato with an “X”, then blanching in boiling water quickly for about 30 seconds. Remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Once blanched, the tomato skins loosen and are easily peeled off; now they’re ready for use in sauces or soup!

For salad (or even stir fry), slice the tomatoes in half vertically and cut the stem out by slicing a V around the hard part of the stem. Continue to slice in wedges, perfect for eating on their own, in salad, or tossing in the last couple minutes of cooking a stir-fry.

Showcase different heirloom tomato color, size, and flavor in different applications. Fresh is great to show off those beautiful striped tomatoes, but heirloom tomato sauces can showcase different shades and colors of the heirloom tomatoes so well.

Heirloom Tomatoes Tips

Balance the natural acidity of tomato in recipes with either a pinch of salt or sugar or even a bit of baking soda, especially in soup. If you’re making tomato soup, it’s always a fun chemical reaction to share with the kids: let them sprinkle in baking soda and stir it in to see it bubble and foam!

Be sure to watch for bruises or holes in your tomatoes as they will decay quickly. Avoid these ones at the grocery store.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes in the summer, preserve them by canning. Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious after the season.

Tomatoes carry a lot of juice, which can cause a soggy sandwich – especially if you don’t eat it right away. To prevent this, bring tomatoes in a separate container and put them on your sandwich right before eating. For salads, add them at the end to prevent them from diluting the dressing.

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Sources:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). “English definition of ‘tomato’ “. Cambridge University Press. 2015. Date Accessed June 5 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tomato?a=british

Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, CA, US: Stanford University Press.

Produce Made Simple: Heirloom Tomatoes. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/heirloom-tomatoes/

Smith, A. F. (1994). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. Columbia SC, US: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-000-6.

Solanaceae Source (2011). “Phylogeny“. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.
http://solanaceaesource.org/content/phylogeny-0

Hello, June

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The warm weather is here!

Fruits  and vegetables abound with all  the brillance of the sunny warmth all around beginning in June. Summer produce begins to sprout and before you know it, all types of berries are showing up in your local farmers markets,  reaching their peak in flavor and with the season comes blueberries, strawberries, black berries and stone fruits like cherries.

So , I am sure that you are wondering what  you can  expect to find in your local supermarkets and  grocery store shelves and what can you make with it? Well, here is a list I have put together that can help you break out of your cooking rut using  fresh fruits and vegetables in their peak season!

Also note that buying locally sourced produce is easier on your wallet and it  helps the local economy as well.

June Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cabbage
Carrots
Cherries
Corn
Cucumber
Fava Beans
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Kiwi
Leeks
Mangoes
Nectarines
Peaches
Peas
Radishes
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Spinach
Strawberries
Sorrel
Watermelon
Yellow Squash
Zucchini
 

This Month’s Featured Fruit: Blueberries

Blueberries are here! Those plump little berries are packed full of antioxidants and they are  delicious, nutritious and oh so  versatile. They’re naturally fat-free, high in vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant. We love them in cereals, salads, sauces, as toppings and by the handful.Blueberries pair marvelously with lemon flavor (juice and zest). Think of a refreshing blueberry lavender lemonade for sipping in the hammock. As with all berries, buy organic if possible to avoid pesticide exposure. 

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Photo Credit: Fitness Republic , 2017

Blueberry Varieties

Throughout the year, we typically see the beautiful, plump cultivated blueberries we’re most familiar with. However, in the summer it’s easy to spot smaller wild blueberries popping up in the market.

The main difference between wild and cultivated blueberries is found in their size: cultivated blueberries are typically larger than wild blueberries. Which means, since most of a blueberry’s antioxidants and other health benefits are found in the skin, per cup there will be more skin of wild blueberries than cultivated ones, due to their size.

However, it’s important to note that both varieties of blueberries are delicious, healthy and a nutritional powerhouse that belongs in everyone’s diet.

While we love to take advantage of the short season of wild blueberries and enthusiastically devour them in the summer, we also are happy to enjoy the cultivated ones year round.

What Goes Well With Blueberries?

Produce: bananas, lemon, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, mango, spinach, lemon, lime, watermelon, beets, orange, kiwi, and coconut

Herbs, Spices & Sweets: cinnamon, ginger, honey, maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla, mint, and basil

Savory: oatmeal, granola, almonds, walnuts, pork, cornmeal, and chicken

Dairy: cream cheese, sour cream, crème fraîche, cream, yogurt, mascarpone, goat cheese, ricotta, and buttermilk

How To Select and Store Blueberries

Choose blueberries that are firm and have a lively, uniform blue colour. Avoid berries that are dull in color or soft and watery in texture (as the presence of moisture will cause them to decay).

Give the container a shake to see whether the berries move freely. If they don’t, this may be a sign that they are soft and damaged, or worse, moldy.

Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator. Here, they will keep for up to three days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Blueberries are extremely easy to freeze and store for future use. To do so, buy them in abundance in the summer and freeze them for a batch of Sunday blueberry pancakes or to stuff into muffins throughout the year. To freeze, wash blueberries and remove any stems and spoiled blueberries. Arrange on a clean tea towel to gently blot dry. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and flash freeze the cleaned and dried blueberries until frozen. Transfer to an airtight container and use within 8 months.

How To Prepare Blueberries

Your berries should not be washed until you are ready to eat them, as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skin from spoiling. Fresh berries are very fragile. They should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently pat them dry.  You can also spin them dry in salad spinner.

Blueberry Tips

  • Before storing, remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling.
  • Like other tender fruit, blueberries have a natural bloom or slight white coating. The plant produces this in order to protect the fruit, so wait to wash your berries until you are ready to enjoy them.
  • Freeze blueberries on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer them to a re-sealable bag or container. This keeps them from sticking together.
  • Add frozen blueberries to a smoothie, yogurt, oatmeal, muffins, pancakes etc.
  • When shopping in the store, give the container of fresh berries a shake to see whether they move freely. If they don’t, this may be a sign that they are soft and damaged or moldy.
  • Wash your blueberries in a salad spinner to keep them intact while drying them at the same time.

Serving Ideas

Everybody knows that blueberry muffins are a perfect morning food, but don’t forget that blueberry pancakes or blueberry sauce on waffles can bring breakfast to a whole new level. This vegan blueberry lemon loaf is also a great treat in the morning if you need a pick-me-up!

Blueberries are also classic in pies and cobblers. Blueberries and lemons are a match made in heaven beneath a blanket of oat streusel or biscuits. Top with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream for a decadent spin on this dish.

Add blueberries to your favorite greens like kale or spinach and pair with some salty cheese like feta to have a delicious and complex textured saladGrilled peaches and blueberries tossed in vinaigrette are also delicious, while this simple yet tasty blueberry, walnut, and Manchego cheese salad is great for a quick side dish.

For a spin on your traditional bruschetta, try this gorgeous blueberry and beet bruschetta at your next gathering. It will be sure to wow your guests with its striking color and flavor.

After a long week, wind down with some blueberry mojitos. Muddle blueberries with mint to get extra flavor and a beautiful hue to your drink.

A Caprese salad is typically prepared using a few high quality ingredients like fresh mozzarella, tasty tomatoes and fresh basil. Seasoned only with good quality olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, it’s as delicious as it is simple. Try giving it a little extra boost of flavor and color  with fresh blueberries .

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Source:

Produce Made Simple: Blueberries. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.  https://producemadesimple.ca/blueberries/ 

Hello, May!

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Hello-May.-On-pic-of-girl-writting-on-blank-paper-with-flowers-on-the-side

What’s in season right now, this month? For starters, lettuces, turnip greens, kale, and possibly some root vegetables like fennel and onions are signatures of Spring. You’re also likely to see strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus, and okra. Check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of May.

May Fruits and Vegetables

Artichokes
Apricots
Arugula
Asparagus
Basil
Beets
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Collard Greens
Cauliflower
Chard
Cherries
Garlic
Green Garlic
Garlic Scapes
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Mustard Greens
Okra
Peas
Radishes
Rhubarb
Scallions
Spinach
Strawberries
Sugar Peas
Snap Peas
Swiss Chard
Turnips
Turnip Greens

Hello, March

Hello-March.jpg

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables for March

Listed below is a broad range of beautiful fruits and  vegetables that are available right now, as well as tips on how to prepare them.

Arugula
Asparagus
Avocados
Beets
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chives
Collards
Endive
Garlic
Grapefruit
Guavas
Kumquats
Leeks
Lemons
Limes
Mandarins
Mint
Onions
Oranges
Parsley
Parsnips
Potatoes
Radishes
Rhubarb
Rutabaga
Strawberries
Tangerines
Turnips
Spinach
Walnuts

ASPARAGUSimage3-web.jpg
Asparagus is a perennial favorite and is really only worth eating in the springtime. And since asparagus season comes around for a few short weeks every spring try to enjoy this delicious vegetable while it lasts! The fresh flavor of asparagus purchased at the farmers market is at its best when prepared simply.  It can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted and sauteed. Think beyond drenching it i Hollandaise sauce. It’s lovely with lemon and mint. Shaved asparagus is great in salads and roasted asparagus makes a perfect springtime side dish, whether it is at a barbecue or a formal dinner.

Photo Credit: SouthwestJournal.com, 2017

 

 

CITRUS FRUITS
Citrus fruits like grapefruits, lemons, limes oranges, tangerines and mandarins show up citrusevery year when the sky goes gray and we are all in desperate need of some bright color on our plates during our winter meals and continues to grace our dinner tables right through spring.  Now is the best time where you can find a great selection of citrus fruits in you local  grocery stores and super markets right now. Why not use real lemon juice to make your favorite salad dressing, it tastes so fresh and the light acidity will make a salad sing!

 

 

PARSNIPS
Parsnips are root vegetables that look like off-white carrots with parsley-like, leafy tops.Parsnips-58371ca43df78c6f6a3688e9 Unsurprisingly, they’re related to both carrots and parsley. Parsnips are usually served roasted or cooked, but can also be eaten raw.

Look for bright, very firm, relatively smooth parsnips. They should, like most fruits and vegetables, feel heavy for their size. This tip is particularly important when choosing parsnips, since they can get dried out or turn extra woody if not properly stored.If you’re lucky enough to buy parsnips with their greens still attached, the greens should look fresh and moist. Remove the greens when you get them home for longer storage.

Store the parsnips chilled and loosely wrapped in plastic. Fresh parsnips will last a week or two properly stored.

When cooked until tender parsnips have a lovely, starchy texture that works beautifully roasted or added to soups and stews. Add parsnips the same way you would add carrots or potatoes to stews, knowing that they’ll have a nuttier flavor than carrots and a sweeter, more distinctive, and less starchy flavor than potatoes.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Vegetable Medley

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Photo Credit: Cooktop Cove, 2016

I absolutely L-O-V-E Brussels sprouts!

Most people do not and the lovely little vegetable has a bad reputation for being the least tasty among pick eaters. But I have found that when you find the right way to cook them they are actually incredibly delicious!

Traditionally Brussels sprouts have been boiled, since time in memorial and crispy-balsamic-brussels-sprouts-2this method of cooking diminishes their flavor, making them soggy and without texture. So I roast mine instead and this method of cooking totally elevates the lowly sprout to new heights. Yes! Roasting them gives the sprouts a delicious crispy texture and an awesome flavor. They are a very savory vegetable though, which is why in this recipe they were paired with red apples to give them with a little sweetness and baby Yukon Gold potatoes so that you have a wonderful range of flavors with each fork full.

This recipe is just in time for during the winter doldrums!

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 pound baby Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half*
2 Red Delicious apples, medium diced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced into a paste
7 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, small diced
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1½ teaspoons salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
Drizzle of olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish
1/2 cup cashews, roasted and roughly chopped, for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400º F.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together except, parsley and cashews.

Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Spread the Brussels sprouts mixture on top. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are browned in spots and the other vegetables are tender and crispy around the edges.

Remove the Brussels sprouts from oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish the vegetables with a sprinkling of parsley and cashews, if desired and serve immediately.

 

Cook’s Notes:
*You can use any full sized potatoes that you desire, just cut them into a medium sized diced.

 

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Thank you so much!

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Hello, February!

hello feb.jpg

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables for February

 

Listed below is a broad range of beautiful vegetables that are available right now, as well as tips on how to prepare them. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to skip the peas and corn in the frozen section of the grocery store and pick up one of these seasonal vegetables instead.

Arugula
Asparagus
Beets
Bok choy
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Carrots
Celery
Cilantro
Clementines
Dill
Endive
Fennel
Grapefruit
Kale
Lemons
Lettuce
Leeks
Oranges
Onions
Parsnips
Pears
Radicchio
Shallots
Sweet Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Tangelos
Tangerines
Turnips
Rhubarb

BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Brussels sprouts are the small, nutty members of the cabbage family. They are wonderful roasted, shaved, or on their own as a filling, flavorful side dish.crispy-balsamic-brussels-sprouts-2.jpg

 

CABBAGE
Iredgrncabbagex-56a495175f9b58b7d0d7ae20.jpgf you are eating on a budget, cabbage might be the best bargain out there and it still is extremely easy to come by in the middle of winter. It also tastes just as great as it did in October, making it a prime candidate for winter eating.

 

 

WINTER GREENS
Kale, Collards, Radicchio, Endive, and Chard are some of the greens that shine during the winter months. Take advantage of their amazingly unique flavors and textures by enjoying them raw or cooked.

 

BEETS
beets.jpgNot every one will jump up and down with excitement in eating beets. From a healthy viewpoint, beet roots contain valuable nutrients that may help lower your blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost your stamina, and support detoxification. Try adding beet roots raw to salads or as part of your vegetable juice; beet greens can be sautéed with spinach or Swiss chard. I hope that beets are making their way into your kitchen more frequently.

Chicken Cacciatore

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This version of the hunter style chicken will surely satisfy you soul on a cold winter’s day! Instead of the traditional bell peppers, carrots, fennel and celery were added to give this dish a another taste and also a twist of lemon at the end of cooking, makes it special too. For a heartier fare, serve this main course dish over polenta, pasta or mashed potatoes.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
8 Chicken Drumsticks*
8 Chicken Thighs*
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch celery, sliced, leaves reserved
2 carrots, sliced*
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced*
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons roasted garlic
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine (or water)
One 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1 bunch fresh thyme
4 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 º F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat and add the olive oil, heating until the oil is shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, turning once until well browned on both side, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a clean plate. Add celery, carrots, fennel, onion and garlic to the Dutch oven. Cook vegetables over high heat until the caramelize, stirring to prevent sticking. Add tomato paste and sauce and saute the mixture for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and using a wooden spoons, scrape the fond (brown bits) from the bottom of the pot.

Add the tomatoes, thyme, parsley and stock to the pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and place it in the oven, in the center of the rack.

Bake until the chicken is tender as it falls away from the bones, 45 to 60 minutes.

To serve, remove the thyme and parsley and discard. Toss the celery leaves with the lemon juice. Divide the stew evenly among warmed wide shallow bowls and top with celery leaves. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:
*Some substitutions can be made with this dish to suit your needs and what may be in the pantry or on hand in your kitchen.

Six to seven chicken quarters can be used instead of separated legs and thighs, which would be more economical and budget friendly.

Instead of fennel, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds serves as a great replacement.

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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