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huskcherry

Introduce Yourself to Husk Cherries

By guest writer Jennifer Burcke
(taken from the October Naturally e-magazine)

I remember vividly the first time I tasted a husk cherry. It was more than a decade ago while shopping at the local farmers market with my young daughter. One of the farmers had a small basket of papery lantern shaped fruits on his table. I asked if they were tomatillos based on their appearance. He was happy to offer us a generous handful of husk cherries to taste while he told us all about these interesting fruits.

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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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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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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.

 

16_05041Blackberry Black Tea Popsicles
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.

 

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Farmers market oddities and how to use them

If you take your time to browse the farmers markets this summer, you might see a few things you’ve never tried before. Like a knobby circle of kohlrabi, or a strange looking lemon-shaped cucumber, or greens like watercress or Italian dandelion. Give them a shot! Make a resolution to try one new fruit or vegetable a week throughout the growing season, and see where it takes you. You never know! You might find a new favorite. Here’s a little background information on some of the more common oddities in the farmers market and a few ways to use them.

 

Kohlrabi:
KohlrabiA vegetable that’s a cross between broccoli stems and tender cabbage, the kohlrabi should be peeled first and foremost. Get that tough outer layer out of the way. Then try it raw. If that taste suits you, slice it thinly and add it to salads. If not, you can roast it with potatoes and other root veggies for a sweeter flavor. Or add to an omelet, a casserole, or any other dish with a medley of vegetables.

 

Lemon cucumber:
It may look like a lemon on the outside, but it’s still a cucumber on the inside. Don’t try to squeeze juice out of this one. Add it to your cucumber and tomato salad for an unexpected color variation on a standard Southern dish.

 

Watercress:
WatercressThis little green is growing in popularity. Known for its peppery flavor, watercress can punch up a salad or soup. Simply remove the thicker stems and sprinkle on top of your plate or bowl. Watercress might be best raw, but you can also add it to pizza or a hot sandwich with cheese. Treat it like peppery basil and you can’t go wrong.

 

Italian Dandelion:
Italian DandelionDandelion? That’s a weed! Not exactly. The leaves are similar, but this edible variety has deeper green coloring and is packed with nutrients. They can be bitter, so go carefully. Add it to fruit smoothies. Rinse, squeeze dry, then sauté with olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and maybe a shot of honey to mellow the flavor. Basically, you can use Italian dandelion anywhere you might use kale.

 

Leeks:
LeeksIf you’ve been eyeballing those leeks for awhile but you haven’t tried them yet, it’s time. I can understand the confusion. They look like green onions. What’s going on here? Yes, they’re related to onions and garlic, but the flavor is milder. Chop them up and add to salads and stews. Or try them in an omelet or frittata. Sauté in lemon juice and broth and serve with salmon. The possibilities are endless.

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Dad’s Day Beer Brunch Menu

Dad’s Day is on the horizon.
It’s time to celebrate the man who taught you to change a tire.
How to hang level photos.
How to pace yourself with alcoholic beverages.
How to avoid being electrocuted … just after you managed to accidentally shock yourself on an unsecured outlet.

Next weekend, return the favor and teach dad a thing or two – about brunch. Start with coffee. Brunch is about being civilized.

16_02926Then, take your cues from Little Rock’s rustic, man-centric Lost 40 Brewing Company and create a Beer Brunch for dad with dishes like Sausage and Grits, Beer-Battered Waffles, or Farmer’s Hash with roasted onions, potatoes, red bell and poblano peppers, white cheddar, breakfast sausage, topped with over-easy eggs.

Then, for the final flourish, introduce dad to the Brew-mosa (aka Beer-mosa). Basically, a light beer – Lost 40 uses its Day Drinker Belgian Blonde — mixed with orange juice.

Official Brew-mosa Recipe:
16_02911Pour beer into glass. Add orange juice to taste.

It may not be dad’s thing, but you weren’t really into shop class, either. And he’ll appreciate your efforts.

And check out our shop for gifts dad will love.

 

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