Fresh Blueberry Season

The first question is always, where can I go to pick blueberries? Then, where is the BEST place to pick blueberries? Later, how many blueberries should I pick?

And those questions lead to a whole slew of other questions, like What do I do with all these blueberries??? How do I use ALL THESE blueberries???? What can I make with all these blueberries? How do I store the blueberries? How do I make jam with the blueberries? And if you’re like me, that’s just the beginning of all the questions.

handful of blueberries

This post will take a stab at STARTING to answer some of these questions.

Where can I pick my own blueberries? Over the years I’ve found that the very best way to find the best u-pick places is to ask around. Word of mouth usually means a lot more in this business than a lot of advertising.

U-Pick Blueberries

Here is a link to a listing of u-pick farms in Appalachia.

Here is a link to a site called Pick Your Own. You can search for your state and your specific area for u-pick farms. This site also has some great recipes on it, so take a few minutes to poke around on it. You’ll be glad you did.

Where is the BEST place to pick blueberries? Like I just said, ask around. The topic of U-pick farms is often a subject that most people have clear opinions on. My personal favorite is in western Michigan off the Shelby Road: Andrews U-pick.

ripening blueberries

How many blueberries should I pick? Well, how many can you afford to pick? Picking blueberries is like picking summer. There is nothing quite like eating blueberries that I picked in August…in the middle of January! It really helps to have an idea what blueberries are selling for in your local grocery store. You don’t want to pay MORE than that to pick your own unless you’re going for the experience. For the last several years, I’ve paid $1.50/lb at Andrew’s U-pick.

bucket of blueberries

What do I do with all these blueberries? Other than eating and eating and eating….

You can freeze blueberries. This year, I should end up with about 100 pounds of blueberries in my freezer. Blueberries are such GOOD food, loaded with anti-oxidents and other good things.

You can make Blueberry Jam. I personally like to make blueberry jam with no added pectin. Here is another no-pectin recipe for berry jam.

Here are a couple of my favorite blueberry treats:

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Blueberry Sausage Breakfast Cake

 

Blueberry Crumble

Fresh Fruit Pie

and even

Salmon Wellington with White wine-balsamic vinegar-blueberry reduction

There’s really no end to the many ways you can use fresh or frozen blueberries. This is one food you want to stockpile, and because they freeze so well, you CAN stockpile.

Blueberries on the bush

Barb

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More on Pressed Sandwiches

I know that I’ve already written about pressed sandwiches here but I can’t resist coming back to fill you in on some of the culinary research we’ve been doing this summer on the topic of pressed sandwiches. We’ve taken the concept and…well….PRESSED it even further!

This summer we are very nearly empty-nesters so I’ve introduced the sandwich press as a way to manage the leftovers! I can’t stand to throw food away and it’s been too hot to enjoy cooking, so I’ve PRESSED the sandwich press into service. (Oh man, I’m just killing myself here with the puns.)

These sandwiches have been really remarkable and I can’t resist passing along the love.

What an amazing pressed sandwich

Pressed Sandwiches to Make You Drool

Last night’s sandwiches included the following:

  • grilled pesto chicken (chicken marinated in yogurt and pesto)
  • grilled zucchini and crookneck squash
  • thinly sliced onions (red onions are best)
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • sliced pepperjack cheese and extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • leaves of fresh basil
  • bacon strips, cooked
  • some kind of sauce (if you like mayo best, then use that. I used a bacon horseradish sour cream last night. We also love Caesar dressing as the spread on our pressed sandwiches.)
  • ciabatta
  • sliced heirloom tomatoes
I started by slicing the ciabatta the long, flat way and spreading it with the bacon horseradish sour cream. (You can use mayonnaise or Caesar dressing or whatever you prefer.)
Then I sprinkled grated parmesan on one side. On the other side I layered the sliced chicken, grilled squash, slices of cheese, thinly sliced onions, a layer of fresh basil leaves and slices of bacon.
Building an amazing pressed sandwichSandwich ready to be pressed
I had to be very careful not to lose stuff out the side when I put the two halves of the sandwich together and put them on the sandwich press. This very FAT sandwich did press down to a size that was easily devoured, by the way.
Amazing sandwich in the press
We’ve decided that part of what we like about these pressed sandwiches is that the bread becomes crispy and crunchy while the insides of the sandwich becomes melty. We DO always add the tomatoes after we’ve pressed the sandwiches because adding them earlier would make the sandwich too soggy.
These were, hands down, the best pressed sandwiches thus far. I love that I can use up my leftovers in a way that tastes even more amazing than they did the first time around.
An amazing pressed sandwich
Are you asking, “What do I do if I don’t own a sandwich press?” Well, other than rushing right out to buy a sandwich press (and I don’t ever really recommend impulse buys like that) there are ways to make pressed sandwiches on the burner. I have used cast iron pans to make pressed sandwiches. You start by heating both cast iron pans and then you put the sandwich between them. The bottom pan is still on the burner so it continues to heat. Weight down the top pan with something heavy–anything from a large rock to another pan filled with water. You’ll need to flip the sandwich so that both sides gets thoroughly heated and crisped.
Late-breaking news: My dear friend, Tamara just happened to mention her BELGIAN WAFFLE MAKER (!) for making pressed sandwiches! This is a perfectly brilliant idea and I’m delighted to have yet another trick in my bag o’ tricks!
This is, by far, the best way to use up summer leftovers!
Barb

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Gourmet Chicken and Red Pepper Quesadillas

This week I needed something fast and easy for dinner and this was the happy result: Grilled Chicken and Red Pepper Quesadillas. In case you are unsure how to pronounce the word, quesadilla, it’s easy: CASE-uh-DEE-uh. If you’re going to order this in a restaurant sometime or serve it to guests, it’s VERY important that you pronounce it correctly, lest someone snicker.

stack of chicken and pepper quesadillas

As with many of my quick and easy dinner, this one started with leftovers. This dinner only has six ingredients; isn’t there a TV show that forces cooks to do things like that?

Grilled Chicken and Red Pepper Quesadillas

  • 1 ½ pounds grilled boneless, skinless breast, sliced into ½ inch strips and divided into 4 equal portions
  • about 2 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into strips and sauteed
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced and sauteed
  • about 4 T. Caesar salad dressing
  • 16 small flour tortillas

I would first like to point out that this was a landmark meal for me because I only cooked for four people. It’s been years and years since I’ve intentionally only cooked dinner for four eaters!

Start by sauteing the pepper and onion together until the onion is getting translucent and the pepper is still just barely crunchy. I shook the salt shaker over the pan while the veggies were cooking  just to bring out the flavors a little more. When you’re done, divide them into four equal portions.

onions and peppers for chicken quesadillas

Toss the chicken strips with the Caesar dressing. This little detail is actually the key to taking these from plain-jane quesadillas into the realm of amazing.

Heat a large skillet on a medium-low burner; place two tortillas on the skillet. Spread ¼ c. shredded cheese on each tortilla. Then layer the chicken and the pepper and onion. Put a second tortilla on the top of each quesadilla. Tortillas will scorch easily so watch them closely. When the bottoms look to be getting brown and a little crispy, carefully flip the quesadillas and brown the second side. The goal is to melt the cheese inside the quesadillas. If the tortillas are browning too quickly, turn your burner down.

chicken on the quesadillaquesadillas browning on the skillet

My true confession is that I always manage to burn at least one set of quesadillas just a little, so don’t be discouraged if that happens to you. MY problem is that I get to talking….

I sliced the small quesadillas in half and stacked them on a plate to serve them. If you use much larger tortillas, which is perfectly workable, increase the ingredients proportionally. The quesadilla wedges also make great appetizers to serve guests before a Mexican feast. Of course leaving the meat off these quesadillas will also please your vegetarian eaters.

more chicken quesadillas

Some of you kind readers may have wondered where we’ve been lately and that’s a good question. A week and a half ago, I saw my oldest son married off, I hosted many, many, many relatives and friends for many, many, many meals. It was a wonderful time that we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives, but there was NO time for writing blog posts! Over the next few weeks I hope to be able to catch up and share some of the amazing food we had and our firsthand experience of catering a rehearsal dinner for 70. It ROCKED.

Laura, who joined us for the wedding, is also in the middle of moving across the country (like ALL the way across!) and she’s just days away from Truck Day when it’s time to load the truck and roll out. She clearly hasn’t has time to write blog posts either. But we’re both optimistic. I don’t expect that like won’t be busy but hopefully not THIS busy the rest of the summer!

Meanwhile, I invite you to browse some of our different categories for idea as summer produce starts gracing your kitchen. It’s Farmer’s Market time and the produce looks more beautiful than ever.

Barb

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Greek Pizza — a homemade pizza recipe to love

Pizza. It always comes back to homemade pizza. A meteor could be racing towards earth, everyone could be in panicked crisis Armageddon mode, and my youngest son, Michael, and I will be in the kitchen thinking of the next great variation on our homemade pizza. This week’s variation is Greek pizza and it was a huge hit with the rest of the family.

This new recipe was a happy accident that involved, as it so often does, leftovers. We had a huge bowl of leftover Greek Salad. Greek Salad almost never holds up very well as leftovers so we knew we needed extra creativity. This pizza was actually Michael’s idea.

We started by turning the leftover Greek Salad into the pizza sauce. We put the following into a blender:

  • about 4 c. leftover Greek Salad
  • 1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 c. sundried tomatoes

We blended this until it was smooth and the texture of pizza sauce.

Greek Salad sauce

We made a batch of sourdough pizza crust and spread it out very, very thin.

Greek Pizza

We topped this amazing pizza with the following ingredients:

  • 2/3 c. Greek Salad sauce, spread on the crust at about the thickness of regular pizza sauce
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • six slices of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped coarsely

Greek pizza assembledGreek Pizza

Bake pizza on a preheated pizza stone in a preheated 450° oven until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is crispy and golden brown.

Greek pizza hot out of the oven

We topped this pizza with very thinly sliced fresh tomatoes after it came out of the oven and this was just delicious. The thinner you can get the crust on this pizza, the better. I also think that adding artichoke hearts might be tasty. You can also keep this pizza vegetarian by eliminating the bacon. I will say, though, that the bacon adds just the right flavor to this pizza.

Now, if I didn’t have leftover Greek Salad on hand, I would make a sauce out of the ingredients IN that Greek Salad because it was THAT good. And now I’m thinking about leftover Caesar salad and what kind of sauce THAT might make…..

Slice of Greek Pizza

Barb

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Tuscan-style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans

I have another recipe for you from one of the MOPS moms that I have the privilege of hanging out with on Tuesdays. This delicious recipe for Tuscan-style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans comes from our fearless MOPS leader, Amber.

Tuscan Style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of boneless chicken breast
  • ½ teaspoon of kosher salt ( I use sea salt)
  • ¼ teaspoons of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup of dry white wine
  • 1 bag fresh baby spinach leaves (5-6 oz)
  • 1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 1 14.5 oz can of Italian style diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 4oz fresh mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat large sauté pan on medium-high 2-3 minutes.  Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Place oil in pan; swirl to coat.  Arrange chicken and cook 3-4 minutes on one side or until lightly browned.
  3. Turn chicken and add remaining ingredients and cook 4-5 min or until chicken is done. Meanwhile, slice mozzarella cheese thinly. 
  4. Remove pan from heat.  Top chicken with cheese slices; cover and let stand for 2-3 minutes or until cheese melts.  Serve over the beans.

Italian Sautéed Beans

  • ½ cup roasted red peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves
  • 2 19 oz cans of Cannellini Beans (drained and rinsed)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • 3 fresh basil leaves (optional)

 

  1. Preheat large sauté pan on medium 2-3 minutes.  Cut peppers into ¼ inch slices.
  2. Place oil in pan; swirl to coat.  Crush garlic, using garlic press.  Stir in peppers and remaining ingredients; cook 8-10 minutes until beans are thoroughly heated.

I love talking food with Amber. As you can see from this recipe, this woman knows good food!

This week I hope to post several more recipe favorites from my favorite MOPS moms. Stay tuned!

Barb

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