Easy, Creamy Asparagus Soup.

Here in NJ we’ve had a bumper crop of asparagus this year…thank goodness!  For those who are wondering what to do with these gems besides grilling or adding to omelets and stir fries, try having the kiddos help make a batch of this light and delicious ASPARAGUS SOUP.  It is so easy, you will have it ready in about 30 minutes.

Dice up about 1 pound of asparagus.  Set aside.

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In a 2 quart pot, saute diced leeks or onions in olive oil until  wilted.  Add 2 Cups water or vegetable broth (if you use the broth, no need to add salt), thyme, one Bay Leaf, the asparagus.  Cook about 15 minutes or until tender.

2017-05-31 19.55.57   Remove the Bay Leaf, add 1 Cup of milk.  Pour mixture into a food processor and PUREE until smooth.  Add a dash of nutmeg and serve with asparagus spear as garnish.

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I told you it was easy!  You can freeze leftovers to enjoy throughout the summer.

 

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Memorial Day Activities

Since Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer, that usually means more time outdoors and lots of outdoor eating. If you’re going to a picnic this weekend, here are a few simple games, activities and food ideas to help win the day.                      patriotic-dove

MAKE PATRIOTIC NECKLACES using red, white, and blue straws cut into one inch sections. String them onto a piece of yarn and everyone looks ready for a parade or backyard barbeque.

Try frozen STRAWBERRY POPS to cool off after a fun day in the sun. Wash and remove the stems from a quart of strawberries. Toss them in a blender and add a splash of orange or grape juice.  Puree until smooth. Pour into small paper cups. Place a popsicle stick in each one and freeze until firm. Peel away the paper and they’re ready to eat.

At the next family reunion, have the kids dress up in red, white, and blue and have a backyard parade. You can decorate wagons and bikes, and play some peppy marching band music to add to the festivities. Adults can join in and everyone can “perform” by doing whatever they’re good at: acrobatics, card tricks, puppet show, singing, dancing, telling corny jokes.  Getting everyone – young and old – involved adds to the fun.

Happy Memorial Day.

It’s That Time Again: Farmer’s Market Season is Here!

Today I received one of my favorite e-mail messages: Local Organic Strawberries are here.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting these treasures right off the vines, you are missing one of nature’s most perfect culinary creations. Yes, you can buy organic strawberries in the grocery store. They’re fine…in a pinch.  But, if you can find local organic berries, walk, run, drive, fly to get them.  The season is short, so don’t wait.

 

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Now that even most urban areas have community gardens, the opportunities to “eat local” are better than ever. There are approximately 8,700 farmer’s markets nationwide. To find a market in your area visit: http://www.localharvest.org

If you’d like to try planting your own organic strawberries from starter seeds or kits:

Strawberries

 

Mother’s Day Treats: Fast, Easy, and Tasty.

Here is a simple and nutritious sweet treat the kids can make for MOM on Mother’s Day or for any time you want to WOW someone with a TASTE SENSATION for little effort.

CREAM CHEESE STUFFED DATES are sooo easy.  All you need are some whole dates and cream cheese.  Slit open the dates length wise to remove the pit.  (see photo 1) 

Photo 1

Photo 1

Fill the opening with cream cheese and serve!  This not too sweet, but satisfying dessert will be a hit with Mom and the kids as well.  Doesn’t everything taste better with cheese?   2015-04-18 03.21.43

 

Serve a few with a cup of tea.  You can also try spreading other fillings  such as peanut or almond butter.  They make great party food as well.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

Spring Flavors Feature Earthy Delights by Marilyn Ostermiller

Spring awakens fruits and vegetables from their slumber, providing us with local produce that’s crisp, colorful and bursting with flavor. Locally grown asparagus, sweet peas, scallions and rhubarb are the seasonal treats I most anticipate when visiting farmers markets or pick-your-own farms.   asparagus

 If you’re looking forward to spring produce, check with your state Department of Agriculture for an approximate arrival date. The list New Jersey posts is an example. http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/availability.html

 Fresh radishes, strawberries or spinach is a treat, but it’s also fun to incorporate them in your cooking. I especially like to prepare a quiche for spring brunch or lunch that incorporates asparagus, green onions and mushrooms. Recipes for spring quiche abound. Basically, you prepare a pie crust, or — my personal favorite — buy it frozen. Then find a basic recipe online that incorporates a mild grated cheese, eggs and milk or cream. Chop a cup or more of spring vegetables and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of a mild shredded cheese on the bottom crust of a 9-inch pie shell, add the vegetables, pour the egg mixture over it and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until the mixture sets. Let it rest for five minutes, slice and enjoy warm. A simple salad and crostini or soup fill out your meal.  getPart

 About the time rhubarb is ripe, I start thinking about a pudding my great aunt from Denmark fed me when I was a child. This recipe comes close to the flavor and texture I remember. The Danish name for it is Rabarbergrod.

                rhubarbClean and cut 1 pound of rhubarb into small pieces and cook together with 2 1/2 cups of water 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add 2/3 cup granulated sugar when almost done cooking.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed first with a little cold water. Heat and stir until thickened and clear. Stir a few times while cooling. Makes 4 cups. Add a few drops of red food color for a brighter color. Serve chilled.

 Despite their bright colors, it isn’t always easy to convince children to try fresh vegetables. A book that some parents found helpful is Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids by Michelle Olivier. It’s a collection of recipes that offers bite-sized combinations of fruit and vegetables by season to prepare for school lunches. Published by Sonoma Press, it is available at Amazon.com

 Please consider leaving a comment about your favorite spring fruit or vegetable and how you prepare it.

Marilyn Ostermiller

 Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Celebrate National Pistachio Day.

Today is NATIONAL PISTACHIO DAY. Why not snack on a handful while you learn a bit about this amazing nut.   The following information was provided by:  http://www.foodreference.com/html/a-pistachios-208a.html

A Brief History of Pistachios

Pistachio Nuts are native to the Middle East. Archeological evidence in Turkey suggests that humans were enjoying them as early as 7,000 B.C. Pistachios spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, quickly becoming a treasured delicacy among royalty, travelers and common folk alike.

pistachios

The pistachio has been used as a dyeing agent and a folk remedy for ailments ranging from toothaches to sclerosis of the liver. The pistachio’s high nutritional value and long storage life made it perfect for travel among early explorers and traders. Along with almonds, pistachios were frequently carried by travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West.

Pistachios in the U.S.

Originally imported in the 1880s for Americans of Middle Eastern descent, pistachios were first introduced to the rest of America as a snack food some 50 years later. Sold in vending machines across the United States, these imported nuts were usually dyed red to mask imperfections and to draw attention from passersby.

Pistachio trees were planted experimentally in California beginning in the early 1930s.  By the 1960s, commercial cultivation of pistachios had expanded across California’s arid Central Valley. Today, California is the second largest producer of pistachios worldwide, boasting more than 100,000 acres of pistachio orchards and producing in excess of 300 million pounds of pistachios a year, with California accounting for about 98 percent of domestic production.

pistachio trees

One ounce – a handful – of pistachios provide lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and 12% of the daily fiber needed by healthy adults. There are lots of ways to enjoy them: as a snack right out of the bag, sprinkled onto a salad for extra crunch, in ice cream, in pudding, in muffins and cakes.  PISTACHIOS are one of Nature’s perfect foods in a nifty package.

Here are some popular books for children that feature this amazing nut:

The Pistachio Prescription  by Paula Danziger   

The Pistachio Prescription

The Adventure of Pistachio Mustachio Paperback – Large Print, July 19, 2016

What’s your favorite way to eat PISTACHIOS?

For additional information visit – pistachiohealth.com

Finding Comfort in Winter Foods by Marilyn Ostermiller

Come January, when rich holiday treats are but a sweet memory, I take comfort in baking runzas, one of the hearty, yet simple foods, of my European heritage. Runzas are pockets of bread dough stuffed with a savory mixture of ground beef, onions and cabbage. The scent of bread dough rising and the hash simmering on the stove, the flavors melding, put me in mind of Grandma cooking in her kitchen.

Runzas are thought to have originated in Russia in the early 1800s and spread to Germany. Handheld and portable, they are similar to Italian stromboli, Greek pirouskia and Indian samosas. German Immigrants brought the runza recipe with them to the United States, but the sandwiches aren’t well known outside of Nebraska, where the Runza Hut chain has most of its restaurants. The recipe I reach for on Saturday afternoons in winter is from a cookbook published in 1976 by the Federated Woman’s Club in my hometown, Bellevue, NE.

 Runzas:         Ingredients

Dough*                                                           Hamburger Filling

2 cups very warm water                       1 1/2 pounds ground beef

2 packages active dry yeast                 1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup granulated sugar                      3 cups shredded cabbage

1 1/2 tsp. salt                                       1/2 cup water

1 egg                                                    1 1/2 tsp. salt

4 Tblsp. melted butter, cooled 1/2 tsp. black pepper

6 1/2 cups flour                                   dash of Tabasco

* Use prepared bread dough instead, if you prefer. Two loaves should be enough.

Directions: Mix very warm water, yeast, sugar, salt and stir until dissolved. (This process is known as proofing the yeast. If you aren’t familiar with it, the information is easy to find online.)

Add egg and butter. Stir in flour. Put dough in a covered bowl, greased with vegetable oil, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, brown ground beef, and onion. Drain grease.  Add cabbage, seasonings, and water. Simmer 15 minutes and cool.  Punch down the dough and roll it out in an oblong about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 squares. Spoon a few tablespoons of the meat mixture in the middle of each square of dough. Pull the four corners of the dough up over the meat mixture and press the edges together. (Some cooks favor a round bun; others, an oblong.) Place the filled buns on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Runza Huts serve French fries or onion rings on the side, but, in keeping with the comfort food theme, I make a broth-based mushroom soup to accompany my hot sandwiches. This recipe is easy to make at the same time as the runzas. http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/broth-based-mushroom-soup-super-simple-413306

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.