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A Handful Of Flour With Egg On A Rustic Kitchen

Secrets for the Perfect Pie Crust

by guest writer Jennifer Burcke
(from the Naturally holiday e-mag)

When asked to declare my favorite food to prepare and enjoy with my family, the answer is simple: pie. I love to make pie almost as much as I love to eat a delicious, flaky pie crust filled to the brim with the best of what the season has to offer. If I can share that pie with friends and family, then all the better.

I was blessed with a grandmother who was a gifted pie baker. When we visited her, she would always greet me with a warm embrace and then humbly proclaim, “There might be a little pie.” My feet could barely carry me fast enough to discover what sort of pie she had made in anticipation of our arrival. More often than not, she would delight with not one, but two or three freshly baked pies cooling on the counter.

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drying chilis

Dry Your Peppers with Ristras

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It’s that time of year, when there’s a chili in the air.

The ristra, a strand of dried peppers commonly seen in the New Mexico area, is a symbol of abundance and hospitality. This time of year, they decorate the walls and doorways of homes and restaurants as peppers air dry on strands of string or twine. Some say drying outside enhances the flavor, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.

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fried green tomato recipe

The Perfect Fried Green Tomatoes

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At some point in your area’s growing season, those tomatoes will stop turning red and stubbornly stick to a tart green. If that happens, don’t despair! You have at least three options for those little nightshades. You can fry them, pickle them or force them to ripen with newspaper. Here’s the best recipe I’ve found for frying. For best results, serve with a side of Pimento Cheese with Peppadew.

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Say goodbye to summer with turkey burgers

It’s a bittersweet time when summer ends. Those summer months are a blessing and a curse, but now the hot evenings, the mosquitoes, the sweat, and the sweet juicy tomatoes are all on the way out. What better way to say goodbye to short sleeves than with an end-of-summer cookout?

Gather your friends, grill up some fresh turkey burgers, open a can of light beer, we used Lost 40 Day Drinker, and pay your respects to the days of bright summer flavor. My good friend Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts in Little Rock shared a few secrets to turkey burgers, aioli and Italian salsa verde on the patio of his restaurant. As the chef at Big Orange, which specializes in classic and innovative burgers, he would know a thing or two about the subject. This menu serves six people, so keep that in mind when you’re making the invitation list. (Hint: Double it!)

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fermentation

Fermentation 101: Preserve Your Veggies and Your Health

Fermentation was the original way to preserve the harvest, and it’s very easy, said Cat Swenson, the fermenter-in-chief and managing partner of Great Ferments. It predates canning and pickling, and is even more fool-proof than those. People have been fermenting foods for 7,000 years under some very unsanitary conditions, she said with a laugh, and fermentation can preserve food for longer than you ever thought possible. (Look below to see Cat demonstrate her process to Allen. Or click here.)

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Garden Harvest Given to At-Risk Children

The cafeteria at Centers for Youth and Families overflows with organically grown tomatoes, peppers and more, and the staff barely has room for the harvest donation from Moss Mountain Farm. In the coming weeks, they’ll see even more produce arrive to provide nutritious meals for children in treatment and summer programs at Centers.

IMG_5208Moss Mountain Farm, owned by P. Allen Smith, has been fortunate enough to share its bounty with neighboring outreach programs. These hundreds of pounds of summer vegetables have been given to nonprofits in Little Rock and Conway. The Centers for Youth and Families was one location chosen to receive a donation because of a shared project to install a therapy garden on the campus. Centers for Youth and Families provides treatment for family issues and emotionally disturbed or at-risk youth in a residential setting, and studies have shown therapeutic gardening, sometimes called horticulture therapy, provides relief for stress and mental and developmental disabilities.

“On behalf of The Centers Foundation, it’s always an honor to receive donations from corporate and community partners like this, that will go on to benefit our children and youth. What makes this donation even more special is that it’s also symbolic of Centers for Youth & Families roots,” said Doug Stadter, president and CEO of Centers.  In 1884, Elizabeth Mitchell couldn’t bear the thought of children in need and began to taken them into her home. She quickly inspired others to do the same. Her actions led to the formation of the organization now known as Centers for Youth & Families. “More than 130 Years later, this is a great reminder of the importance of helping children and youth who need it the most,” Stadter added.

IMG_5200Centers believes the garden project would greatly benefit its patients, and while planning for that project continues, the Acre Garden at Moss Mountain Farm overflowed with a summer harvest of Bonnie Plants and those grown from Sakata Seeds. The farm produced crates and crates of Juliet, Yellow Jubilee and Sungold tomatoes as well as Banana and Yes to Yellow peppers, among others. The cafeteria at Centers proved to be the ideal landing spot for the farm’s harvest. And this donation will have the dual purpose of prepping the staff at Centers for an influx of fresh produce from its on-site gardens once the project is completed.  Smith and his farm plan to continue weekly donations as long as the harvest allows.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Moss Mountain Farm Foundation, children in our residential treatment program, emergency shelter and summer program are enjoying farm fresh, organic produce this summer,” said Stadter. “Providing a nutritious diet and teaching our kids the importance and fun of healthy eating is an essential part of our work at Centers for Youth & Families. We’re grateful to P. Allen Smith and the Moss Mountain Farm Foundation for being such a great partner in our efforts to build happier and healthier children, families, and communities across Arkansas.”

In addition to Centers, Moss Mountain Farm’s Acre Garden also supplied 125 lbs of fresh tomatoes, peppers and okra to St. Peters Food Pantry in Conway.

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Make Your Coffee with Cold Brew-sion

The idea of hot coffee in the middle of summer is not appealing at all. However, with a little bit of planning, you can enjoy the smooth taste of cold-brewed coffee. It’s all the caffeine, with less acidity. I actually look forward to summer and the opportunity to make it!

Our friends at Westrock Coffee have shared a very detailed method for cold brewed coffee on their blog, and their method guarantees the very best flavor out of the beans. We can attest to their passion for coffee. (More on that below.)

However, sometimes I don’t have the usual implements and need a cold-brew alternative! So, I’ve discovered a few simple methods for cold brewed coffee for those on the go.

Big Batch of Cold-Brew:
1. Finely grind 1 cup of beans.
2. Add to a pitcher with a tight-fitting lid. Then add 4 cups of room temperature water. Attach lid securely. This prevents refrigerator flavors from affecting your cold brew.
3. Let sit overnight, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
4. Strain the mixture through a filter.
5. This mix will be concentrated. I typically put it in a mason jar with a lid, and dilute it in my cup each morning with more water and ice to taste. Add milk and sugar, if you like. And you’re ready to go!

This method makes about 5 to 7 servings!

 

No Filter, Small-Batch Method:
For this, you’ll need a ceramic teapot with a strainer.
1. Grind a handful or two of beans.
2. Add to the mesh strainer section of your teapot.
3. Fill with water. Cover the end of the teapot with a plastic baggy or a dish towel to keep refrigerator flavors out of your coffee.
4. Set it in the fridge overnight.
5. Wake up and pour coffee into your mug. This will be fairly concentrated, so add water to taste. Then add ice and milk and sugar, if you’re so inclined.

 

 

Westrock CoffeeI can’t help but recommend Westrock Coffee for your home brew. It’s what we drink in my office because of Westrock’s passion for coffee and commitment to fair-trade practices. The company improves the lives of the farmers they partner with by paying them a fair price for their coffee as well as offering training and support to increase yields. And I’m grateful for the ability to enjoy a great cup of coffee and help others at the same time.

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Master the Mason Jar Dessert

15_12573Mason jars might be the most useful item in your kitchen, and it seems like the internet – we’re looking at you, Pinterest – keeps finding new uses for them! Some of the trends we’ve seen include, packing a salad lunch, creating luminaries and, of course, desserts. They’re the perfect size for single-serving parfaits, puddings and pies.

Because mason jars are made to withstand high heat in the canning process, they can also be used for baking everything from cobblers to cupcakes.

Little Rock’s renowned South on Main restaurant has a mouth-watering menu of seasonal mason jar desserts, and Chef Matt Bell and his team have reached Mason Jar Expert Level. Some of the restaurant’s most popular desserts are banana pudding, berry cobblers, bread pudding and s’mores. He has some tips for creating your own desserts at home and says the process is fairly simple. All you need are basic ingredients and the right ratios.

“For cobblers, we basically make a cobbler filling with berries, sugar, cornstarch, then put that in a jar,” he said. “For the topping, we use our biscuit dough and put a little on the top of each jar, sprinkle it with sugar in the raw, and bake it.”

Though mason jars generally do well with baking, as a precautionary measure, his chefs put the filled jars in a deep pan and add water to buffer the heat and prevent the jars from cracking.

“You want to use a water bath, like you’re making custard,” he said. “It’s not so much for the dessert, but it’s to protect the jars. They’re made to be heated, but it’s a step we like to take.”

He’s also had success using the mason jars to make cakes.

“Yes, you’ve got to compensate for the cake rising,” he said. “The guideline would be to fill it like you’d fill a muffin tin. Don’t fill it to the top, or it’s gonna go all over. Usually when we do cakes, we fill them halfway, and when it cooks, it picks up another third of the space. So when it’s done, it’s three-fourths full give or take, and then we’ll top it with buttercream or a cream cheese frosting or something like that.”

When layering desserts like puddings and parfaits, he has a certain ratio he likes to hit.

15_12589“I like to have three layers of filling and two layers of the crunch, whatever it might be,” he said. “So, for the s’mores jars, we’ll start with the fluff and do a layer of graham cracker and chocolate, and another layer of fluff and graham cracker and chocolate, and finish with the fluff.”

He says a dish like banana pudding would work the same way: “Start with pudding, then add vanilla wafers, pudding, wafers, and finish with pudding. It almost doesn’t matter the size of the jar, but we feel like, for texture and consistency, it works best if you have three of the filing and two of the crunch, crumble, cookie, whatever it might be.”

Two layers of crunchy stuff, three layers of sweet fluff. Got it.

He also loves the to-go aspect of mason jar desserts. Put a lid on it, and send it home with guests. He says the layers don’t tend to shift much once they’re in place.

“If you’re hosting a party, and you want to send someone home with something, what an awesome takeaway,” he said. “Here’s a cobbler, lid’s on it, heat it up tomorrow and have it.”
We agree.

Try this recipe for Mason Jar Pumpkin Smores to get started.
You might also try our Orange Marmalade Cake,
Pecan Praline Bread Pudding
Or Texas Peach Cobbler

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What’s the Fig Idea? Find out in the summer e-mag

The summer issue of our Naturally magazine is full of recipes, architecture, DIYs and more. Be inspired to party with sweet figgy bourbon cocktails, spicy green beans and sunny, heat-hardy flowers that will brighten up your home all summer.

In this issue, learn how easy it is to grow and harvest your own baby broccoli, get a peek into an historic piece of architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and learn how to make the most of your water feature. Click below to start reading!

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Fresh Iced Tea Popsicle Recipes

Our episode, featuring a trip to Charleston, S.C., brought us to the only tea plantation in the United States. Tea is so Southern and so delicious, and we got a closer look at how it’s grown and processed on the plantation. And we’re so thankful tea is still around. We can’t get enough of it, iced or hot!

This episode and the heat of summer, prompted a search of the internet for iced tea popsicles. We were inspired by some light and healthy recipes online, especially those using fresh fruit and one with matcha, a green tea super food. These two recipes were tested and approved in our kitchen.

Matcha and Milk Popsicles
3 cups almond milk
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp matcha green tea powder
Zest of 1 lemon

Mix ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Fill molds with mixture and freeze until completely frozen, 3 to 4 hours.

 

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3 cups black tea
2 tbs honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pint blackberries

Reserve 1/4 blackberries. Mix all other ingredients until smooth in a blender.  Divide remaining berries between molds and top with tea mixture.