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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Easy Strawberry Shortcake from Your Small Kitchen Garden

This is a robust display of strawberries in my meager deck planters. I look forward to the year when I finally create a large strawberry planting bed that produces the entire 40 or so quarts of berries we typically consume in June.

My small kitchen garden produces a mere handful of strawberries each year. That’s because I have a few planters each holding three or four strawberry plants. Eventually, I’ll add a generous raised bed bursting with strawberry plants but for now I satisfy my cravings with berries I buy from other local growers.

Yesterday, I saw on sale at the farmers’ market strawberries that had travelled from Lancaster… only sixty miles south. My planters sport a half dozen green berries that may be ready to pick in another week. These events spurred me finally to produce a video I shot last spring: How to make real strawberry shortcake.

What I mean by Real Strawberry Shortcake

At decent restaurants, I’ve seen pound cake with sweetened strawberries listed as “Strawberry Shortcake.” At grocery stores, I’ve seen sponge cake labeled as “Shortcake” and displayed next to fresh strawberries. I’ve had visitors who assured me they were quite familiar with strawberry shortcake… but who had never even seen a classic, traditional shortcake. Sure, all those strawberry/cake combinations are tasty… but they’re not really strawberry shortcake.

When strawberries are in season, a large serving of strawberry shortcake makes a delicious, well-balanced meal. I recommend that you not make shortcake with strawberries that grew more than sixty miles from your home; they’re just not as good.

A true shortcake is a lot like a biscuit: a little flour, shortening, and leavening: the same ingredients you might use to make pancakes from scratch. Of course, biscuit-making involves cutting the shortening into the flour, rolling out dough, and cutting rounds for the baking pan.

I’ve reduced making my own shortcake to a very simple procedure that eliminates cutting in shortening, rolling dough, and cutting out rounds with a cookie cutter. The approach I use doesn’t make a perfectly flaky biscuit, but the dessert isn’t strawberry biscuits, and the only complaints I’ve received about them is that I make the servings too large.

Actually, three or four times a year when local strawberries are available, I serve nothing but strawberry shortcake for dinner. To those who complain about the sizes of the servings, I apologize. Don’t mess up the part you’re not going to eat; I’ll deal with it, thank you.

Here is my video production of how to make the strawberry shortcake you’ll eat if you visit in June at Your Small Kitchen Garden. It’s just over eight minutes long. If you try making shortcake this way, please let me know how you like it:


Other ways to prepare and serve strawberries:

  • Coconut Waffle With Mango and Strawberry « Laila Blog’s – but for some reason i always have it as a dessert well im not much of a breakfast person anyway but i absolutely love this recipe its very fruity and very flavorful and quiet easy to make. Start by peeling the mangoes and cutting it into cubes. Start making the waffles by pouring the mixture into the waffle machine.

  • Strawberry Pickle – My husband has been asking me when I am going to post his strange and innovative strawberry pickle recipe in our blog. We came up with the competition to create a uniquely delicious recipe using strawberries as a feature ingredient. …

  • Quick & EASY Strawberry Dumplings | Inspirational Ingredients – 31 Subscribe Socialize on Facebook” title=”Subscribe & Socialize on Facebook” style=”opacity: 0. Posted in Dessert, Easy, Half-way Homemade, Recipes, Spring, Sweets | Tags: Bisquick, Dessert, Easy, Quick, Recipe, Recipes, Strawberry, Sweets 3 Responses to Quick d=http%3A%2F%2F1. This is an excellent recipe! I’ll be sure to tell my wife about it.

  • Recipe: Balsamic strawberries – I first bumped into balsamic strawberries at a summer food festival in Edmonton half a decade ago. A local restaurant, now sadly departed, was serving up this unlikely combination with a dollop of mascarpone, a trio of flavours that I …


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Visit the PA Farm Show

Sure, you can see fresh produce all winter in any local grocery store… but can you see vegetables that have been awarded blue ribbons?

Winter owns central Pennsylvania, but even for a kitchen gardener there is respite: The Pennsylvania Farm Show opens to the public in Harrisburg on January 9. I wrote several posts about the 2009 Farm Show in Your Small Kitchen Garden last January. It won’t look much different this year… and that’s a good thing.

Kitchen Gardener’s Haven

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is all about agriculture. Sure, there’s a preponderance of exhibits and competitions involving farming: tractors, horse livestock trailers, cultivators, and harvesters. There are horses, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, sheep, goats, and pigs… there are even llamas. If none of these appeal to you; if you’re interested only on growing and eating your own produce; the PA Farm Show still delivers.

You’ll find exhibits of gorgeous vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, and nuts. You’ll find honey products and demonstrations by apiarists. You’ll find gardening gear and supplies, exhibits of cut flowers and potted plants, and even “box gardens;” table-top displays assembled to resemble full-sized courtyards and backyard patios.

At the 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show, there were dozens of tiny gardens planted in wooden boxes. It’s a compelling idea: can a landscaper create a miniature yard or courtyard using live plants, and pass it off as a full-sized garden in photos or video?

Food at the Farm Show

For a kitchen gardener, gardening and produce aren’t the whole story. The Pennsylvania Farm Show understand this and includes exhibits and vendors of all kinds of cooking-related products. You’ll find terrific cookware, hundreds of bottles sauces and seasonings, and a whole bunch of free samples of foods you might want to use in your own kitchen.

Even if your garden has suffered because of a pesky wabbit, it’s hard not to enjoy a stroll among the rabbit cages at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. This rabbit looked capable of devouring a 14 foot row of carrots in a single sitting.

The Farm Show has a Kitchen Stage where area chefs and culinary students perform cooking demonstrations… and even Iron-Chef-style cooking competitions. You can relax and leave the kitchen stage area with ideas to apply in your own kitchen.

Finally, the food court at the Pennsylvania Farm Show features food that’s produced in Pennsylvania: Honey ice cream and waffles; potato donuts, fries, and baked potatoes; milkshakes, ice cream, and fried mozzarella… the list is too big to include all of it here. I like to grab good eats at the food court and carry them to one of the livestock arenas where I can enjoy a horse show or competition while munching the local fare.

Join me at the Farm Show

I’ll be at the Pennsylvania Farm Show the afternoon of Tuesday, January 12. I expect to attend at least one other day as well… and I’d love to have company. So, if you have any interest in meeting up at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, please contact me. Use this blog’s Contact Us form, or send a tweet to @cityslipper.

Did I mention? IT’S FREE! There’s no charge to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show, though to park anywhere near it, you’ll pay $10 per car… so take a family of five (or a bunch of friends), and get a day’s entertainment for $2 per person.

Follow this link to the full schedule of Pennsylvania Farm Show events.

More information from the PA Farm Show:

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Plenty of Peppers? Make Gumbo

I’ve heard many kitchen gardeners ask, “I have a lot of peppers this year. Any ideas for how to use them?” One of my favorite uses for peppers is to cook them up in gumbo.

My small kitchen garden produced a lot of peppers this year. Mostly, I harvested Hungarian banana peppers, but I also enjoyed a variety of bell peppers and a handful of jalapeno peppers. Apparently, a lot of other kitchen gardeners enjoyed similar successes because one question I’ve heard often is, “What should I do with all my peppers?”

Make Gumbo, is my favorite reply. Making a vat of gumbo won’t put a noticeable dent in a surplus of peppers, but it will make for some great eating. Gumbo is a vegetable-laden, thick broth, usually including some type of meat such as chicken, sausage, or seafood. Common in the southern United States and nearly non-existent in the northern states, Gumbo comes in two distinct varieties… though there may be as many recipes as there are people cooking the stuff.

Gumbo with okra

Overgrown Okra

I don’t grow okra because, sadly, I gag when I try to eat it. Fortunately, I found a lovely photo of okra pods on When you cut these pods into sections and cook them in your soup, the pods soften up, become slimy, and thicken the broth.

This is a bit of a guess, but I imagine most people make gumbo using okra as the thickener. Okra is a plant with big leaves and gorgeous flowers, and it produces fruits that look vaguely like pods of a milkweed plant.

When you cut Okra pods into sections and boil them in water or stock, they break down into what most people describe as slime. The slime, of course, is thicker than water, so by using okra in soup, you make the soup thicken.

I’ve had okra-thickened gumbo several times, and, sadly, each time I had a very powerful gag response to its consistency. I can’t even comment on its flavor because I was so focused on the gag response that I recall little else about it.

Gumbo with roux

About when I experienced gumbo made with okra, I also happened to have visited New Orleans and eaten at K-Paul’s. The flavors of my meal at K-Paul’s were unique and exciting and I became a fan of Paul Prudhomme, the restaurant’s founder and namesake.

Happily, I got a copy of his cookbook, and read large chunks of it to gain an understanding of Louisiana- and Cajun-style cooking. That cookbook explained how to make gumbo using roux rather than okra as a thickener.

It’s been a long time since I’ve followed Prudhomme’s recipe to make gumbo, but the method I use strongly resembles what I learned from Prudhomme’s cookbook. It’s a big job, so when I make any, I make a vat of it. We eat gumbo for many dinners and lunches over the course of a week or two.

The Secret to Great Gumbo

Gumbo: Chunks of chicken and sausage in a thick broth churning with vegetables and served over rice. Use up some peppers from your small kitchen garden; make gumbo.

I’m convinced that the most important component of great gumbo is the roux. At its simplest, roux is a mixture of oil and flour—usually a one-to-one mix. When you combine white flour and vegetable oil, you produce a white or slightly yellow roux. Cook the roux, and the flour browns… the longer you cook it, the darker brown it becomes. As the roux cooks, you’ll see it gradually turn from white to tan to peanut butter brown. After that, it darkens to the color of milk chocolate and it even begins to redden a bit. Cook it too long, and it’ll burn, turning black. If you’re careless, some will burn to the bottom of the pan and produce black specks which altogether ruin the flavor.

A light roux will thicken gumbo without adding much flavor. However, a dark roux adds an indescribable nuttiness to the soup. While I recall cooking the roux on high heat for many years, I once discovered it cooks just fine on medium heat, and the slower cooking speed gives me freedom to turn my back on it from time-to-time with little threat of it burning.

Gumbo Tips

I’ve embedded a video of me making gumbo that explains every step. To keep it short, I omitted a lot of commentary. Here are a few things that are good to know:

  • Andouille sausage is a hot, smoked sausage native to Cajun country. I can buy it locally for about twice what other sausage costs… some day I’ll try making my own. In the meantime, I’m too cheap to pay so much for ground meat, so I use hot Italian sausage in my Gumbo. This works particularly well if I slow cook it on my grill with some kind of hardwood to add smoke.
  • Green and red peppers don’t add significant heat to the gumbo unless you leave the seeds in… but that’s a rather imprecise way to control heat. After you’ve finished the gumbo, let it simmer for five minutes or so, then taste. If the seasoning isn’t fiery enough for you, add more cayenne pepper, stir it in, and give it a few more minutes on the heat.
  • I used to use a few cloves of garlic in my gumbo, but I eventually discovered that garlic gives me heartburn. Use some if you want; peal the cloves and toss them in the food processor with your other vegetables.
  • A meat grinder works about as well as a food processor. Cut up the carrots and celery into small pieces so they don’t stall the mechanism… but you can put all of the vegetables through a meat grinder if you prefer that over a food processor.
  • Sometimes my family fishes a disproportionate amount of “goodies” out of the gumbo (sausage and chicken), eventually leaving only broth in the pot. If this happens I re-heat the gumbo to a boil and add more sausage (and sometimes chicken), giving the vat several more days of usefulness.

Please enjoy the video:


Here are some other approaches to making gumbo that might appeal to you (including one that uses okra):

  • Shrimp Gumbo Soup – Add in about 2/3 of the can of broth, the can of Chicken Gumbo (NO additional water) and chopped tomato. Cover and bring to a slow boil. Add in the raw shrimp, cover and cook for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. …

  • National Gumbo Day!: Andouille Sausage and Chicken Gumbo – This recipe is truly at its best when prepared 24 hours ahead of serving time. Simply reheat the gumbo on the stove for several hours on the day of serving. This technique allows for all of the flavors to combine and marry together – a …

  • louisiana chicken gumbo – 1/4 cup flour 1 tsp salt 1 3 lb chicken cut into 8 pieces 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 1/2 cup chopped onion 1 cup chopped celery 1 cup chopped green onion 3 cloves garlic; mashed 1 quart chicken broth 2 cup canned whole tomatoes in juice; …

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