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Category Archives: Mint

Slaving and Salivating over Strawberries

Freshly made freezer jam/sauce, along with tonight’s strawberry harvest

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and rather than sitting in traffic on I-75 with the rest of southeastern Michigan, Bill and I have decided to have a “stay-cation.”  I’m thinking we may regret this decision in the next few days, as temperatures are supposed to be in the 80s and 90s, and a cabin on the lake would be much more pleasant than our sweltering sun-drenched backyard.  But, alas, the decision has been made.  Our exciting plans include lots of sweating profusely, venturing into Detroit to visit Historic Fort Wayne and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and trying desperately to keep up with our strawberry crop.

Thanks to an often summer-like spring, our strawberries came in several weeks earlier than usual.  They are in full force now, and a disproportionately large amount of my time has been devoted to picking, coring, and rinsing them….and using them up before they go bad.  But I don’t mind too much because they are oh so tasty!

Besides munching on them with a sprinkle of sugar, here is what we have made so far: Strawberry spinach salad, a pitcher of strawberry mojitos, strawberry-topped vanilla bean ice cream, strawberry smoothies, homemade strawberry banana “ice cream,” and several jars of freezer jam.

My improvised recipe for the smoothies consists of throwing a handful of fresh strawberries into my Magic Bullet blender along with half of a container of Greek yogurt, some crushed ice, milk (Lactaid), and a spoonful of my last jar of freezer jam from 2010.  Sometimes it’s refreshing to drink lunch from a straw, as I did today.

With the hot weather upon us, I’m thankful that I also recently discovered a quick and easy way to make a creamy frozen treat that is very similar in taste and texture to ice cream. Simply slice up a very ripe banana, freeze the pieces, and then purée them to a smooth consistency. Again, I use the Magic Bullet.  It’s the most healthy and natural ice cream you’ll ever have!  A few days ago, I did the banana thing and added in some fresh strawberries.  It had a great flavor, but  it was a tiny bit soupy due to the juiciness of the berries.  Next time, I’ll freeze the strawberries a bit and see if that will make a difference.

Speaking of juicy….my freezer jam is refusing to set up properly.  I followed the recipe in the Sure Jell package to a tee, but after the requisite 24 hours on the kitchen counter it’s not at all firm.  Not sure what went wrong.  The thing I love about freezer jam, though, is that if it turns out runny, it is still perfect for spooning over pancakes, waffles, crepes, ice cream, or adding into smoothies!

 

Cold Cucumber Mint Soup–What a Cool First Course!

This past spring, Bill and I went on our first cruise ever–to the Bahamas.  Besides being on a cruise ship, other things that we experienced for the first time on that vacation included:

  • A 19 hour trip from Detroit to Miami.  No, we did not drive.  We flew.
  • A Miami bar tab totaling $47.86.  For two mojitos.
  • Sleeping in a room the size of a cigar box.  At least it had a balcony!
  • Huddling inside a covered pavilion at a “resort” that had seen its heyday in the 1960s, while a violent tropical storm raged outside and blasted open several sets of French doors.
  • The extremely fun water park at the gorgeously impressive Atlantis Resort
  • Drambuie liqueur–particularly liked by Bill
  • Salsa dance lessons–not so much liked by Bill
  • Towels folded into animal shapes
  • Chilled soups served as appetizers

Each evening in the ship’s main dining rooms, a different chilled soup was featured.  How summer-y and refreshing!  I tried one every day and was hooked.  Although I cannot remember the exact names, I know that at least one of them was cucumber based.  So, when I plucked the cucumber equivalent of a monster zucchini from our garden, I decided to look online and see if I could find a tasty sounding recipe for a chilled cucumber soup.

The recipe that I chose also contains fresh mint leaves–which we grow–and dry mustard.  Based on some of the reviews, I substituted Dijon mustard for the dry stuff because it’s what I had on hand.  I love that it uses Greek yogurt, so it has a decent amount of protein.  It also called for five cucumbers, but since mine was the size of a 3-year-old child’s arm, I just used the one.   The soup was very pretty and delicious, but Bill and I found that the chopped mint leaf added in at the end created an unappealing texture.  So, I put the leftovers back in the blender and pureed it all together–much better!  I did not add the additional finely diced cucumber either, since I wanted a smooth soup.  (I forgot to snap a picture of it until it was almost gone, which is why the bowl looks barely filled in the photo.)

Here’s the link to the recipe:

COLD CUCUMBER MINT SOUP

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cold-Cucumber-Mint-Soup-12490

Just Another Manic Rum Day

Strawberry Mojito

Ah, Monday.  It should be a new beginning, a fresh start, a day to get our week started on the right foot.  But it doesn’t always work out that way.  Sometimes just thinking about the responsibilities of week ahead overwhelms us and puts us in a foul mood.  If that’s you today, well then, it’s time to turn things around.  If you’re feeling like you’re muddling through this Monday, I invite you to do some muddling this evening, too.  I’m talking about plucking some mint leaves from the garden and making mojitos to relax you and lift your spirits (no pun intended)!  And if you are having a good day, a mojito is just the thing to keep it going strong.

We are big fans of rum at our house.  We are also big fans of travel.  So our trip to Puerto Rico a couple of years ago was a perfect match.  While we were there, we sampled different kinds of rum and enjoyed muchos mojitos.  Mint just happens to be a plentiful perennial herb in our garden, so we have been making mojitos at home each summer since then–a much cheaper alternative to paying several bucks for one at a bar or flying to Puerto Rico.  When the strawberries or raspberries are in season, we toss some in for a fresh twist on a classic.

Detailed below is the way that our resident bartender (Bill) brings a taste of the islands to our humble backyard.  Enjoy your Mojito Monday!

BASIC MINT MOJITO

Ingredients for one drink:

  • 12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 lime, rinsed, and cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 1/2 fluid oz white rum
  • 1/4 cup club soda
  • Ice

Directions:

1.  Squeeze the juice of a lime wedge into a sturdy 16 ounce glass.  Add the mint leaves.  Muddle lime juice and mint to break up mint leaves.*   Toss in the rind of the lime.

2.  Add the sugar, and squeeze in the juice of two more lime wedges.  Muddle again to help dissolve the sugar, and then put in the squeezed lime rinds.

3.  Pour in the rum, and stir or muddle to further dissolve the sugar.

4.  Fill glass with ice, and then add club soda.  Give a final stir, taste it, and add more sugar, mint or rum to suit your preference.  Pop in a straw and garnish with remaining lime wedge.

*NOTE:  When making a drink, muddling means to squish the ingredients together to break them up.  We got our muddling instrument last summer when Bacardi was attaching a free one to each bottle.  Needless to say, we ended up with several.  If you do not have something to use for muddling, you could improvise by smashing the ingredients with a detached beater of an electric mixer.

BERRY TASTY ADDITIONS

For a strawberry or raspberry mojito, use about 1/4 cup of berries–hull and halve strawberries.  Muddle half of the berries at the beginning with the mint leaves, and the other half after adding the sugar.

Click BASIC MINT MOJITO for a printable PDF of this recipe.