On My Plate: Strawberry Season

It’s strawberry season! I included a pot of strawberries in our garden plans for this year, but so far no berries. Luckily, there are tons of farm stands and local businesses with delicious strawberries for sale this time of year. My favorite place to get strawberries is about a half-hour drive from St. Louis in Belleville, Illinois at the cutest place ever, Eckert’s. Eckert’s is a family-run orchard business, and it is a must-go destination if you’re looking for great food, lots of fun and the experience of getting to see where your food actually comes from.

Eckert’s slogan is “Always in Season” because they have several varieties of fruit that you can come and pick yourself year-round. I love going to pick peaches and blackberries in the summer, apples and pumpkins in the fall, and strawberries in the spring. The restaurant is full of yummy, affordable chow, and the country store next-door has awesome local meat, great cheeses, and a bakery that will absolutely blow your mind.

On Saturday my friends Valerie, Sarah and I ventured to Eckert’s to pick our own strawberries. My goal was to pick 30 pounds. Last year we got around 16 lbs and The Hubs and I wished we had picked more. With our homesteading journey of dehydrating, canning, freezing, etc, we realized having a few more pounds definitely couldn’t hurt. Plus, Eckert’s had lowered their picking prices to $.99 a pound – which is unbeatable.

After picking for about an hour I had three flats relatively full and I was so excited. There is something very gratifying about going out and gathering your own food. It also makes you appreciate the time and effort that goes in to growing the food, as well. When I weighed my flats I was surprised to learn that I only had 19 pounds! But oh well, next year I know to fill the flats up even more. Besides, it’s not like 19 pounds wasn’t plenty.

Here is what we have made so far with our berries:

•    Strawberry Jam (recipe below)
•    Strawberry Fruit Leather
•    Frozen strawberries (for later use in smoothies, ice cream, etc)
•    Strawberry/mango/kiwi popsicles
•    Strawberry breakfast quinoa (recipe below)
•    Strawberry mango salsa
•    Strawberry margaritas
•    We gave some to friends
•    We’ve snacked on a ton

And we’ve got a few pounds left still!

Homemade Strawberry Jam Recipe:

I wanted to make jam for the first time ever, but I didn’t want to make something that was full of pectin and granulated sugar. After a quick Google search I found a recipe that called for only two ingredients – strawberries and honey. So last night our friends Kara and Tyler came over to help us make the jam! What resulted was a lot of fun and the best strawberry jam I’ve ever had. Here’s the recipe:

7 lbs of strawberries (cut off the tops and halve the berries)
2 lbs of raw honey

Add the berries and honey together in a pressure cooker (or a big pot on the stove) and boil/cook the heck out of the mixture until the temp reaches between 210-220 degrees. Remove from heat and let cool just a bit (until steam stops). Use an immersion blender to blend up any chunks of strawberry (though most of it cooks down). Add to a glass container while hot and then throw in the fridge. The jam sets really nicely and tastes AMAZING!

 The Hubs put the jam on his toast and absolutely loved it. I brought some to work and we’ve been putting it on the baked goods Sarah and Valerie made from their strawberries (strawberry white chocolate mini muffins and gluten-free strawberry cake). I also enjoy just eating it with a spoon.

Here are a few things to chew on this week:

Food: You know I’m a huge fan of quinoa, but of all the times I have used the complete protein delight I have never made it for breakfast. So twice this week I whipped up two new quinoa recipes at home for the most important meal of the day. The first was a chocolate quinoa that I paired with a banana – it was delicious! Here is the recipe:

For 1 serving: Boil 1/4 cup raw quinoa (I used white) in a mix of 1/2 cup almond milk (I used coconut flavored unsweetened almond milk) and 1/4 cup water. Once it boils, reduce to simmer and cover for about 15-20 min, and stir occasionally, until liquid is absorbed by quinoa. Then transfer to a bowl and mix with 1 tsp cocoa powder (unsweetened) and 1 tsp honey. Easy peasy!

Next I made the same recipe, only sans the cocoa powder and I replaced the bananas with strawberries. You can make one serving or a big batch and reheat throughout the week. I’m all about guilt-free breakfasts that keep you full for a long time. Plus, it’s easy to make, so why not give it a try?

As a side note, my friend Kara made a quinoa breakfast using red and white quinoa, cinnamon, 1% milk, honey and apples. She brought me some to try and it was incredible. That’s the great thing about quinoa – it’s so versatile!

Health: The Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, has posed a challenge to all Missourians called 100 Missouri Miles. Starting on June 1, 2013, the Governor and his wife are challenging Missourians to complete “100 Missouri Miles” of physical activity by the end of the year. Whether it is running, walking, biking, paddling, or rolling, everyone can participate and it all counts. The Governor says that this initiative is a great opportunity to promote Missouri’s proud outdoor heritage, improve health and, – best of all – have fun with family and friends. He also mentions that Missouri was named the “Best Trails State” by American Trails earlier this year. I personally think the challenge is a great idea and attainable. You can learn more and log your miles (like I’m doing) here: 100 Missouri Miles

Homestead: The garden is really coming along. With all of the recent rain we’ve noticed a lot of activity in the two beds we’ve planted so far. The lettuce, carrots and garlic are popping up nicely, and the green onion is shooting right up. Our mint, basil, and tomato plants are taking off, too. Once the garden is in full swing I might just sit outside and eat all day. Sounds like a plan to me!

Chicken update: The girls moved in to their new brooder! They still have to be inside for a few weeks, but they were ready to get bigger digs. The Hubs added a perch for them to roost on. So far Edi is really enjoying being atop the perch, but Patsy isn’t quite ready. She’ll get there! Also it looks like these two girls will make up our entire flock, as the other eggs that were incubating didn’t make it. Sad, but hey, that’s nature for ya. Besides, I think we’ll have plenty of work, fun and eggs with these two ladies.

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