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In June I had all kinds of gorgeous, berry delicious recipes picked out to make while strawberries were in season, sadly though life was hectic and I never made it to our local patch this year.

Strawberry picking is a tradition in our family that I’ve always looked forward to. The best part of being in the patch is popping that very first plump, juicy berry into your mouth and tasting that off-the-vine freshness that comes with picking your own. It sure motivates you to get picking and fill that basket so you can bring more of that berry goodness home with you.

Recipes abound for these ruby-red beauties and the possibilities they bring to the table are endless.  One of the ways I’ve been eating them since the spring is in a goat cheese and spinach salad that I truly love.

For this salad, one of the things I really concentrated on, was the dressing. I wanted to come up with something that was light, summer-y, full of good-for-you ingredients and the most important thing – great berry flavour.  Nothing artificial. I wanted to compliment the spinach and goat cheese with a berry-bursting freshness — the same freshness found in berry patches across Ontario.

Each year, I usually make strawberry jam as a way of capturing and enjoying those delicious berries all year-long. One of the jams I make is a no-cook strawberry freezer jam which is basically a mixture of freshly crushed berries, sugar, pectin and lemon juice.  The jam is not cooked but poured directly into jars and kept in the freezer until I need it. Because it doesn’t go through a long cooking process, the jam is bright red, sweet and full of delicious berry flavour.

I had some in the freezer that hadn’t set all that well, so I’d been saving it to serve as a topping over ice cream. Then I thought, what better way to bring that berry-freshness to the dressing than to use my runny strawberry freezer jam. It would work perfectly as a base for a salad dressing.

I added a little olive oil to thin it out, apple cider vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice for a little flavour contrast, and some poppy seeds for crunch.  This is now one of our all-time favourite dressings and it has everyone helping themselves to seconds of vitamin-packed spinach and strawberries. It takes just a couple of minutes to put together, and brings one of the freshest tasting dressings right to your table, so you can enjoy summer all year-long.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Serves 6

6 cups spinach, washed

2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered

4 – 5 ounces goat cheese

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped

Method

1. Wash and dry spinach leaves and remove longs stems if necessary.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Wash strawberries, remove stems and cut into quarters. Place berries on top of spinach.

3. Crumble goat cheese into bite-size chunks and place on top of berries and spinach followed by the almonds.

4.  Make the dressing.

Perfect Summer Preserve Strawberry Dressing

1/2 cup strawberry freezer jam

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Method

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir with a whisk for 30 seconds until incorporated or place all the ingredients in a mason jar fitted with a lid and shake for 15 seconds.

Pour over your salad and enjoy!

Any left over dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

If you don’t have strawberry freezer jam, you can easily substitute any favourite strawberry preserves.

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I had some brown rice left over from last night’s dinner, so here’s what we had for lunch today.

It was beautiful and delicious.

And if I’d thought about it, I would have added some goat cheese.

This rice pilaf is a simple summer favourite that really sings.

By itself or with a skewer of grilled shrimp or chicken.

Or a few pieces of goat cheese.

In fact it’ll compliment just about any grilled meat you fancy.

Perfect for your next potluck/barbecue, picnic or cookout. It’s seriously good and good for you!

Here’s the recipe.

Almond Apricot Brown Rice Pilaf

Serves 4 for lunch, 16 as part of a potluck

4 cups brown rice, cooked

1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup pistachios, slightly chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup roasted almonds

1 cup baby spinach (or a generous handful)

Dressing

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon curry powder

pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl, add apricots, pistachios and red onion to the rice.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, curry powder, and salt. You can also add these ingredients to a glass jar with the lid on and shake it for about 15 seconds.

3. Pour the dressing over the rice mixture and toss. When completely cool, sprinkle with parsley, spinach and almonds.

4. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour before serving.

Notes:

The brown rice can be substituted with quinoa or barley with delicious results.

The ingredients can be prepared in advance, but toss in the spinach, pistachios, almonds and dressing just before serving.

Serve this with some sliced nectarines, a skewer of shrimp or chicken or a few pieces of goat cheese for a delicious lunch that’s nutritious and makes a beautiful presentation.

This makes a delightful side when paired with grilled chops, steak, chicken or sausage.

The dressing is minimal.  If you like a lot of dressing, you may want to double the dressing ingredients. Extra dressing can be drizzled on any leftovers the following day just to freshen it up.

As if that’s possible.

Leftovers, that is.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Last week I posted a recipe for Italian Stuffed Mushrooms and I promised a follow-up post to let you know how I used up my leftover mushroom stuffing mix to make a quick and delicious lunch idea.  But first, there’s something I want to show you.

The other day, while in the barn, I couldn’t help but snap this picture. Look at those eyelashes. Are they not the most beautiful lashes you’ve ever seen? Maybelline wants you baby.

So after everyone in our house had eaten as many stuffed mushrooms as they could possibly eat, there was still a substantial bowl of stuffing mix sitting in the fridge and it kept calling out to me every time I opened the door.  

It got to the point where I just couldn’t take it any more and so I made these Cheesy Italian Naan breads for lunch. It’s a great way to use up any leftover stuffed mushroom filling.

Here’s how it’s done.

Preheat your oven to 350 °F. Pull out some Naan bread ( I buy mine from the local grocery store in the bread section but if you have trouble finding it, any type of flat bread will work) and place it on a greased baking sheet. Cover the Naan bread with shredded mozzarella cheese followed by the Italian stuffed mushroom filling. Sprinkle with some chopped Italian parsley. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes or until slightly golden.

 

I ate mine piled high with English cucumbers for a refreshing crunch. This was quick, easy and delicious.  And that’s just the kind of lunch I love.

Cheesy Italian Naan

Naan Bread (any flavour)

Pam cooking spray

Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Italian stuffed mushroom filling (recipe found here)

sprigs of Italian parsley

Method

Preheat your oven to 350 °F. Place the Naan bread on a  greased baking sheet. Cover the Naan bread with mozzarella cheese followed by the Italian stuffed mushroom filling. Sprinkle with some chopped Italian parsley. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes or until slightly golden. Allow to cool and serve warm.

Notes

I love recipes that are versatile and this one is definitely versatile.

How many Naan breads you can make depends on how much of your Italian mushroom filling you have left over.  I was able to make 4.

You could make the Italian Stuffed Mushroom filling just so that you could have these cheesy Naan’s. The only difference is you would need 4-5 mushrooms to chop and saute with all of the other ingredients instead of 40. It would make approximately 8-10 cheesy Naan breads.

Another idea I had … I know stop already. Instead of filling mushrooms …  how about filling zucchini?  Hmmm. Anyone who grows zucchini know’s you can never have enough zucchini ideas.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. 

Jackie

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Calling all mushroom lovers. Ovvvv–er here!

 

One of the things I absolutely love to eat are appetizers.  They’re so cute and so flavourful and of course, so little, that you have to have more than just one, or even two and well, dog-gone-it, sometimes 3 or 4.  Well the great thing about these little appetizers, is that they are almost all vegetables, so I’m giving you permission to have as many as you like and there’s absolutely no guilt involved.  None. Eat as many as your little heart desires.

The thing I like about this combination of flavours is its freshness.  It doesn’t leave a heavy aftertaste, nor does it make you feel like you’ve over-indulged.  It delivers a light, flavourful mouthful with every bite that will have your family and friends coming back for more. Served at a party, as an appetizer, these yummy little morsels are sure to get polished off.

Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

4 strips bacon, diced

1/4 cup (50 ml) ground pork

30 – 40 medium to large fresh mushrooms

1 cup (250 ml) onion and garlic salad croutons, crushed

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1/2 yellow pepper, finely diced

1/4 cup  (50 ml) grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons (25 ml) minced fresh parsley

1-1/2 teaspoons (6 ml) minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Method

1. In a large skillet, cook pork, drain fat and pat with a paper towel.  Chop finely with a knife or a hand-held blender and set aside. In the same skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, until crisp.  Remove to paper towels; pat dry, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings.

 

2. Remove stems from mushrooms; set caps aside. Finely chop half of the stems (save the remaining for another use).  Add chopped stems to bacon drippings; saute for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat. 

3. Mix mushroom stems with crushed croutons, cheeses, tomato, pepper, cooked ham, bacon, parsley and oregano.

4. Firmly stuff crouton mixture into mushroom caps. Place on a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 425 °F for 12-15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

Adapted from Taste of Home Magazine 2011

Notes

I filled a combination of 40 medium to large mushrooms and still ended up with enough filling left over for a great lunch idea which I’ll be posting here later in the week. In the meantime, here’s a handy little tip I found over at Farm Boy to keep mushrooms fresh.

What’s the best way to keep Mushrooms fresh?
Once you’ve purchased mushrooms loose or in a package, keep them in a paper bag to ensure freshness. This allows the mushrooms to breathe better and stay fresher longer so they retain their firm, tasty shape. Do not store them in plastic bags since plastics non-porous nature causes faster deterioration and loss of flavour while cooking. Stored properly, mushrooms should keep for several days. It doesn’t matter what size of mushrooms you pick. Size isn’t a sign of quality or age. Large ones are great for stuffing and smaller ones for marinating. Medium mushrooms are perfect for anything.

 

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One potato, two potato.

My dear friends, please forgive me, but this is my second potato recipe  in 

just over a week and I’m not done yet.  The thing is, I’m making a lot of  them

these days and they’re so yummy, that I just have to share them here with

you.  It’s all white and winter-y here in Ontario, so I’m fixated on warm, stick-

to-your ribs, comfort foods and potatoes keep making the menu.

When you think of all the ways that you can prepare potatoes, it makes

you realize what a versatile vegetable they are.  Whether in soups, stews,

casseroles, bread, rolls, pancakes (yum, LOVE potato pancakes), baked,

boiled, or roasted  ~ you’ve gotta admit, potatoes are pretty awesome. 

What I like about THESE potatoes is they’re crispy outside followed by a soft

and yummy inside. Par-boiling makes all the difference. It releases the starch

before you bake them in the oven, jump-starting the crisping process.  By

tossing them vigorously with garlic, salt and olive oil, for one to two minutes,

the water evaporates quickly and you get a nice starchy coating all over,

which gets all nice and crispy in the oven. Just look at all that yummy garlic,

olive oil and starchy coating.

Yukon Gold potatoes offer the best results for this recipe.  They ensure an

even crispiness outside and a silky-smooth inside – everytime. It’s also

important to get the pan good and hot before you put them in the oven in

order to achieve that crispness and golden colour. Chopped garlic is optional,

but if you like garlic, be sure to mix it in, as it adds another flavour dimension. 

 

Placing the sliced potatoes in a single layer, flat on the baking sheet, achieves

a warm, golden color and a nice, even crispness. Take them out of the oven

after 15 – 20 minutes, when you’ve got a nice crispy brown all around the

edges, and give them a good flip.

 

Back in the oven for 10 more minutes and voila, gorgeous crispy, baked

potatoes. Sprinkle them with a little salt and some ground pepper and you will

eat well, my friend.

These potatoes are great.

for breakfast.

for lunch.

for dinner.

They’re really quick and they fill people up.

They’re delicious! 

They BAKE in the oven, while you’re busy with other things. (Like taking

pictures of things baking in the oven).

They’re self-sufficient – which is awesome.You only need to flip them ONCE,

not a gazillion times like the fry pan method. I love self-sufficient food.  

Things, or people.

They free up your stove top. You can never have enough stove top.

They’re versatile. 

Here are just a few flavour combinations you can try.

Serve them with eggs, for a hearty, country-style breakfast.

 

Dip them in sour cream, apple sauce and then sprinkle them with a wee bit of

chili powder.

 Mmmm … can you say delicious?

  

For those who recently accepted my invitation to follow this blog, and for all

of your encouragement and fantastic advice,  thank you from the bottom of

my heart. I look forward to sharing more posts about our life here in the

country, the foods we love and the everyday adventures we encounter while

raising a family on a working farm in Ontario. From my table to yours, I hope

you’re having an awesome, super delicious day. 

Love, Jackie

This Sweet Wife

Here’s the recipe:

Crispy Roasted Potatoes

Adapted from: The Best of America’s Test Kitchen

2 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 medium)

rinsed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds.  For the photos, my

potatoes were peeled; you can do either peeled or unpeeled.

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Method

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on

the rack, and heat the oven to 400°F (200° C).  Place the potatoes and 1

tablespoon salt in a Dutch oven and add cold water to cover the potatoes by 1-

inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and gently simmer

until the exteriors of the potatoes have softened but the centers offer

resistance when pierced with a paring knife, about 5 minutes.  Drain the

potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.  Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons

of the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Using a rubber spatula, toss

to combine.  Drizzle the potatoes with 2 tablespoons more oil and 1/2

teaspoon salt and continue to toss vigorously until the exteriors of the potato

slices are coated with a starchy paste, 1 to 2 minutes.

 

2. Working quickly, remove the baking sheet from the oven and drizzle the

remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the surface. Carefully transfer the potatoes

to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer (skin side up if an end

piece).  Bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are golden brown and crisp, 15

to 20 minutes.

 

3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula and

tongs, loosen the potatoes from the baking sheet andcarefully flip each slice. 

Continue to roast potatoes until the second side is golden and crisp, 10 to 15

minutes longer, rotating the baking sheet as needed to ensure the potatoes

brown evenly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

 

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My husband’s mom could always make a really good biscuit.  Still does. So could my grandmother. Effortlessly.  I, on the other hand, could not.  I tried. Lord knows, I tried. But more often than not, I failed miserably. I’m not going to tell you how long it took me to make a biscuit worth eating. Let’s just say it was a long time.

Okay. It was a very long time. 

So, if you’re like me and you have a little trouble with things now and again (like me). Don’t give up.  Keep trying.

 

Here’s the recipe.

Good luck!

Cheesy Biscuit Squares

 2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons (20 ml) baking powder

1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar

1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt

1 cup (4-ounces) cheddar cheese

1/4 cup (125 ml) shortening

3/4 cup (3-ounces) plus 1 tablespoon milk

Dill Butter

1/4 cup (125 ml) butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) dill weed

1/8 teaspoon (1 ml) garlic salt

Method

1.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Stir in

the cheese.  Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in

milk just until moistened.

2.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll out into a 3/4-inch thick square.

Cut into 12 squares.  Place 1/8-inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

3.  Bake at 400°F (200°C) or until golden brown. Combine dill butter

ingredients; brush over hot biscuits.  Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

 

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Stir in the

cheese.  Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Stir in milk just until moistened and gather in a ball.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out into 3/4-inch thick squares.

You don’t want to squish the dough down really hard.  Just ever so lightly.

Cut into 9 or 12 squares, depending on how big you want ’em.

I made 12, but feel free to make 9, if you want ’em bigger.

You’ve gotta admit … these are pretty.

And so are these.

Place onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 400° F ( 200°C) for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 1 dozen.

Serve your biscuits warm with butter or honey.

Dip ’em in your soup or your chilli and eat ’em in a hurry.

That way you won’t have to refrigerate the leftovers.

If you’re a dilly kinda girl, and you’d like some dilly biscuits, combine 1/2

teaspoon of dill weed and 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt with 1/4 cup melted butter

and brush over the hot biscuits.

Cheesy biscuits with dill are great served with seafood.

These are yummy! I hope you enjoy ’em.

This Sweet Wife

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These potatoes are yummy and delicious.

And who doesn’t like cheese and bacon?

If you’re looking for great side to dress up a quick meal, these mashed spuds

are sure to fit the bill.  And if you have to feed the neighbours, (which

sometimes happens on a farm), they can easily be doubled or tripled for a

crowd.

Sour Cream Potatoes

2 1/2 lbs. medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 cup (250 ml) sour cream

1/4 cup (50 ml) milk

2 tablespoons (25 ml) butter, melted

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheese, divided

5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

2 cloves garlic, with ends cut off

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

1/8 tsp (1 ml) pepper

 

Method

1. Boil your potatoes and cloves of garlic in a large pot of cold water. Reduce

the heat once it starts to boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the

potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife. 

2. While the potatoes are simmering, heat the milk and butter in a small

saucepan until boiling.

3. When the garlic and potatoes are tender, drain and return them to the pot.

4. Mash the potatoes and garlic. Add the milk and butter, sour cream, 1 cup

(4 oz.) of cheese, salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Spoon into a greased

2-qt. baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese and crumbled bacon.

3. Bake uncovered, at 350° F(180 °C)  for 30-35 minutes or until heated

through.

 

Quite simply, these potatoes really dress up a meal without a lot of fuss.

They’re great for filling famished farmboys and anyone who just needs to be

fed. Scoop up a helping of these savory flavours and you’ll be all warm and

happy.

And your neighbours will love you for it.

If you have neighbours who don’t love you, (though I don’t know how that

could be), just bring them some of these and then they’ll love you too.

From my table to yours, I hope you have a really wonderful day!

This Sweet Wife

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