Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Strawberry Picking

On Saturday morning, James, my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and I drove to a nearby farm to pick strawberries.  

I had never been to this farm before, but it was beautiful!
The weather was pretty damp, but we had a great time.

Natalie wore her strawberry-picking outfit--for the first and maybe last time!  She LOVES strawberries and was covered in them by the time we left.

 The strawberry plants were gorgeous (love the little blooms!) and there were so many berries. 

It didn't take any time to fill up three buckets (almost 18 pounds!) with perfectly ripe berries.

(Hi James!)


 Perfect little rows.  I would love to grow strawberries at home one day.

The owner told us that our weather has been perfect for strawberries this year.  I might even make it up there again before the picking season is finished.

The farm also has peaches and apples.  I'm sure we'll be back for both of those!

We took home several boxes of berries and got started on jam.  We used a simple recipe that I've seen in a lot of different places on the internet.  I have a Ball book that belonged to James's grandmother, so I will be getting that out soon (I just didn't plan ahead this time!).  

First, we washed and hulled the berries (about 2 quarts).  We took some advice to heart and bought one of the hulling tools.  Worked great!

Next, we mashed them.  We couldn't get the consistency quite right, so we used an immersion blender to break the berries up a little more.

Then, we added 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of pectin (just the classic powdered kind, like this).  Bring it up to a boil at this point, and then add 7 cups (!!!) of sugar.  Return to a boil and boil rapidly for one minute.  

(The shot below is before the "rapid bowl" stage threw nearly half of the jam on us and the floor!)

Things were a little hectic for us, so I didn't get many good pictures.  We definitely have a few areas for improvement (it's a lot easier to stir if you don't let your spoon fall in the pot and we weren't so good with the timing of heating the jars versus finishing the jam), but I think we learned a lot and should have the hang of it by next time.  

Finally, skim the foam off the top of the jam before adding to jars (leaving 1/4 inch head space) and processing for 10 minutes.  

We bought four of the Ball half-pint jars on the left above, but we actually preferred the jars on the right (I think they were the Wal-Mart store brand).  The Ball jars might be easier once we get the hang of it a little more, but they were harder for us to work with this time.   (I apologize for the terrible photo.  I haven't gotten home early enough this week to catch daylight!)

I had never canned before and was actually pretty nervous about it, but it went so well!  All of our jars (8 half-pints) sealed without any issues.  We were talking in the living room when we heard the first few lids pop.  What a great sound!

I made biscuits Sunday morning and can't wait to try it on a PB&J!  I'm already looking forward to my next canning weekend.  

Do you can?  Any favorite recipes?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekend with the Family

Friday night, James and I relaxed at home after a long work week.  We found a pretty good beer selection at a place near our office, so we picked up a few new things to try and then played video games into the evening.  It's a good thing, too, because the rest of the weekend I didn't get a bit of rest!

Saturday morning I got up early and started on my extensive weekend menu.  I was in charge of our Mother's Day lunch. These are some of my favorite types of meals to plan because I get to think about cute packaging and everything is expected to be at room temperature (or cool) so I don't have to worry about getting several things hot at once. I also get to have a little more fun with the menu because I'm not worried about having meat (NOT my forte) or something "manly."
Our menu:
Tomato and Mozzerella Tart with Garlic-Basil Crust (from here)
Broccoli Salad (I'll share the recipe soon)
Strawberry and Cream Cheese Bread (recipe here)
Mrs. Wilson's Rosemary Lemonade (James Farmer's recipe)

That afternoon, we went to my cousin's house for a birthday party.  There was a great turnout and we had so much fun hanging out with family.  The food was delicious, too, and I loved taking pictures of all of the neat little corners of her home and backyard.

This rose bush was actually planted from a clipping of my great-great-grandmother's plant!

Couldn't resist a shot of the back of this dress!

On Sunday morning, I packed everything up and we ate at Nana's.  I hope she'll let me share photos of her entire home at some point, but for the time being here is a quick look at her precious patio. I was hungry and forgot to take many photos of our actual lunch!

(That's my niece Natalie--love a baby Lilly!)
After lunch, my Nana, mom, sister, niece, and I went to a Spring Home Tour in Edgemont, party of the Park Hill section of North Little Rock. The tour was a self-guided walk through five homes in the historic area of North Little Rock. The first and last homes were my favorites.  
First, the Hiawatha Daniels house.  

The outside was really cute, but hid the huge addition that nearly doubled the size of the home.  

I loved the historic detailed and art collection throughout.

The back of the house had amazing views (you can see the Little Rock skyline in the background).  And the backyard?  I can totally imagine a wedding out there!  (The tent, car, etc. are remaining from a Gatsby party the night before).

I loved this little bathroom.  It was attached to the daughter's bedroom and had the cutest details like that light fixture and original tile.

Second was the T. Wade Jeffries house.  

I fell for the rock, colonial-style exterior.

And this beautiful spiral staircase right in the entry.

The master bathroom was being renovated.  They had opened up a wall into the attic and left the brick chimney exposed.  That was one of my favorite details on the entire tour.

The other bathroom had fantastic tile and the cutest glass doorknob!

It also had a fantastic back yard with the original goldfish pond.  The water was tinted blue--which we were told was to prevent the white fish from getting sunburned!  

Third was the new construction.  I only got one photo of the outside because it was very crowded.  It was built on the site of a historic home that had been on the National Register before it was entirely burned in the last month of a complete renovation.

Next, we toured the First Kirby home. This house is also called "The Round House" or "Boat House" because of it's shape.

The current owner was in the living room telling guests about how the original owner had installed the wood floors with his eleven-year-old daughter.  They soaked the planks in water until they could curve them to fit the rounded walls.

The kitchen cabinets (and lots of other features in the home--including the master bed!) were custom builds.  The cabinets had roll tops because standard cabinets and drawers would not work for the round rooms.

We finished our tour at the Justin Matthews, Jr. House. This one was undergoing a renovation so we were only able to tour a few rooms on the first floor. I would love to go back in a couple of years and see it all finished up.  

This home was absolutely beautiful. The front had a huge wraparound porch. I can totally imagine throwing dinner parties there.

The front entrance had a beautiful blue ceiling and arched doorways and windows.

The hallway was breathtaking. I would probably spend my whole day there if I could. Fabulous.

And the vintage Fiesta collection!
Sunday night we had supper at my sister and brother-in-law's house. He grilled steaks, onions, and squash. James baked French bread (amazing!) and I brought brownies and honey vanilla frozen custard. The brownie recipe is one of my go-to dessert recipes. It's fairly easy and always a hit. I'll share that recipe soon, too. I found the frozen custard recipe online, but I honestly can't remember where!
It was a great weekend, but I feel like I am just now recovering and it's already Saturday night again!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Opening Weekend

During the first weekend of May every year, Conway, Arkansas hosts Toad Suck Daze.  It includes concerts, a toad race, a beauty pageant, an antique car show, and a fair downtown.  We went on Friday night to try to avoid some of the crowds, but ended up going back on Saturday afternoon with my family, too.

I saw this sign for Fried Kool-Aid and quickly forgot about the funnel cake I had my eye on.  I have to admit, the green sugar on top was really cute, but honestly, I wish I had just gotten the funnel cake.

The "fried Kool-Aid" was basically just a little Kool-Aid powder mixed in with funnel cake batter, fried in little fitters, and stuck on a stick. The first bite was good, but the fritters weren't cooked all the way through and the flavor didn't do much for me. It was a fun treat to try, though! We ran into some old friends and were able to catch up a little, which was nice, too.

On Saturday, we went back with my parents, sister, and niece. It was unseasonably cold this weekend (we actually set cold temperature records!) so we bundled up. James got fried Oreos
(he LOVES those things and orders them whenever he has the chance).  

My mom, sister, and I shared fried cookie dough.  Seriously might have been the best thing I've ever eaten.  The dough was frozen before it was fried, so it was the perfect texture and temperature as soon as it was handed to us.  I could have eaten five I think.

Saturday morning was also the opening weekend of the Little Rock Farmer's Market. James and I went downtown with my parents to the River Market where it's held. We had never been before and were really pleasantly surprised by the selection. We picked up some purple hull peas, tomatoes, okra, and mint. My parents got some cherry jam (Dad's favorite) and the cutest little new potatoes. I can't wait for everything to come into season.

 After that, we had lunch at The Flying Saucer just down the street.

Their beer selection is awesome and the food is pretty good, too. We all got some variation of a bratwurst and I'm a huge fan of their German potato salad, so I got some of that, too.

I got the Atlas IPA from Marshall Brewing out of Tulsa.  Yum!

Sunday night, I cooked up some fried green tomatoes and purple hull peas to have with our Kentucky hot browns and mint juleps in honor of the Derby. :)  I would absolutely love to go one day.  Have you ever been?