Category Archives: Urban Homesteading

Apple Wood Smoked Salmon from the Master (and Father’s Day Gift Ideas)

If you have seen the post on home smoked salmon, then you might remember my Uncle Bobby was the inspiration and originator of smoking salmon on the PK Arkansas Cooker (aka the “Bobby Grill.”) He recently sent me a picture of three pounds of apple wood smoked salmon.

Apple Wood Smoked Salmon

Yum, right?

He shared, “Twenty minutes soaking in rum, four hours curing in salt & brown sugar, thirty minutes cooking in apple wood smoke, three weeks eating.” Bobby added his latest tweak for perfecting home smoked salmon: “I buy these large three-pound fillets which have fat parts and skinny parts. I separate them with a knife (that’s why there are four pieces) and the skinny parts smoke for twenty minutes and the fat part for thirty.” Papa Bird prefers the skinny parts. Although a large piece of salmon was pretty in this post, the skinny fillets get more of the rub and smoke flavor. But, could be personal preference…

You can read the full details of how to smoke salmon here. And with Father’s Day around the corner (June 21st), is there a grill master in your life that might enjoy a classic 50’s style grill/smoker that does both indirect and direct cooking? (Note, I am not affiliated in any way with the grill maker. I do receive small percentages of purchases on Amazon, but since they have literally millions of products, be confident that I only mention ones I truly recommend.)


7 Ways to Celebrate Strawberry Season

To celebrate Papa Bird’s birthday this year, the four of us went strawberry picking again. Strawberries are in peak season and are super sweet. We picked a flat of strawberries and enjoyed them every which way in the week that followed. Here is a round-up of ways to celebrate strawberry season.

organic u-pick strawberries from suisie's farm

First: Go strawberry picking!

strawberry picking at suzie's farm

Susie’s Farm is still our favorite place to pick. The berries are organic and a super sweet variety (Albion.) The above flat was $36. We also met up with some of Little Bird’s friends since she was a little baby. My mama tribe has such a close place in my heart. We are all so busy these days, so it was nice to reconnect with a few.

My heart just about melted seeing Little Bird running with two of her friends… and “Littler Bird” chasing after them.

2. Strawberry, Dark Chocolate and Brie Grilled Cheese

strawberry, dark chocolate and brie grilled cheese

Melt a little butter on a griddle or pan, add bread layered with thick slices of brie cheese, sliced strawberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Top with another piece of bread, flip and enjoy the messy, gooey, tangy warmth.

 

3. Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

strawberry balsamic pizza

The farm stand at Suzie’s had par-baked flatbread from Sadie Rose, which made me think semi-homemade pizza would be an easy dinner. I didn’t yet have the strawberry jam made, but inspired by the recipe in the link, I cooked down a cup of ripe strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sriracha for the sauce. Yum!

4. Top and fill a cake with strawberries

chocolate cake with strawberries

Little Bird loves baking as much as me. For Papa Bird’s birthday we made a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting. Can you guess how old he turned? The filling was strawberry jam and whipped cream. Other cakes just begging for strawberries: Baby Bird’s Healthy Smash Cake, and Tres Leches.

5. Strawberry Shortcake and (healthier) Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait with Very Vanilla Pudding

We took slightly sugared, sliced strawberries up to my sister’s along with shortcakes and cream. It was easy to assemble traditional strawberry shortcakes and a sweet way to celebrate my niece’s birthday.

For a slightly healthier take, try this parfait version which features vanilla chia pudding. If you are mindful of the sugar you add, it easily doubles as both breakfast and dessert.

 

 

6. low-sugar strawberry jam

canning strawberry jamSugar helps fruit break down and get softer, but is not necessary for preserving. If you cook the fruit long enough, it will still get soft. You can also use honey, or another sweetener. Pectin isn’t needed, either! Using super sweet berries, all you need is a little lemon juice. This year I overcame my fear of my steam canner, and canned for the first time.

7. green strawberry pickles

green strawberry picklesIf you love the idea of adding home-fermented foods to your diet, green strawberry pickles are an easy way to start. My kids like them, too.

Here’s a bonus way to try them: Strawberry Salmon Salad with Green Strawberry Pickles.

Canning the pickles and jam is a classic way to extend strawberry season. Having produce preserved is a great way to enjoy produce at its peak all year round.

How do you like to enjoy strawberry season?

Please share your ideas and link your recipes in the comments!

 

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd

Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd

baby bird picking meyer lemonsI have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd over blueberry pancakes

Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3.5 cups
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup honey
  • 8 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
  2. Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
  3. Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
  5. Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
  6. Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
  7. Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
Notes
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.

meyer lemon curd ingredientsGet all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!

No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.

Click here to pin this recipe on Pinterest.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd from @BabyBirdsFarm

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Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

Eggplants are peaking right now, in our garden and in the markets, so I wanted to share a round up of quality eggplant recipes to inspire you! Here’s a tip for picking a great eggplant at the farmer’s market or store: find one that is relatively heavy for its size. It will have less seeds and more delicious flesh. Papa Bird (our family’s resident farmer) says homegrown eggplants are ready to pick when you push in with your thumb and it leaves an imprint. He recently put up a shade barrier to protect our growing eggplant from the strong San Diego sun. For more tips on cooking eggplant, check out this post.

Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM BABY BIRDS FARM

Some of my family’s favorite, “regular rotation” recipes highlight eggplant.

  1. Baba Ganoush: a garlicky dip, similar to hummus, and delicious with veggies to dip. Makes great baby food, too!

lamb, eggplant and pomegranate moussaka

  1. Pomegranate, Eggplant and Lamb Moussaka (above): a layered dish that is sweet and savory and spiced with cardamom and cinnamon.

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Maria Nasir of foodaholic is a Pakistani home cook and caterer turned international food blogging star. She has lot’s of delicious eggplant recipes from around the world. But this kid-friendly appetizer caught my eye:

  1. Eggplant Roll Ups: kid-friendly but with a delicious vinaigrette to please picky foodie parents.

 nam prik noom thai green curry

Another international blogger I follow, Azlin Bloor of Lin’s food, recently shared the above treat featuring aubergine (eggplant with a British accent):

  1. Nam Prik Noom (Thai Green Chilli Sauce)

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM FAMILY SPICE

Laura of Family Spice features eggplant in both Italian and Persian-inspired dishes.

roasted eggplant parm sandwich

  1. Roasted Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich from Laura of Family Spice (above): a nice, non-fried version of an eggplant parm.
  1. Pickled Eggplant and Vegetables with Pomegranate (torshi-yeh bademjan va anar): I have never even thought of using this combination of flavors and I am dying to try it.

Persian Eggplant Stew

  1. Persian Eggplant Stew (Khoreshteh Qiemeh Bademjoon) (pictured above).

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM SIMMWORKS FAMILY BLOG

Danielle of Simmworks Family Blog makes a lot of delicious family meals that are often quick and easy for busy families – without sacrificing taste.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

  1. Baked Eggplant Parmesan: an easy family dinner that will please adults and kids.
  1. Eggplant French Bread Pizza: simple, with just a few ingredients and perfect for lunch.

For even more eggplant ideas:

10 Fantastic Eggplant Recipes from Simmworks Family Blog.

Mint Julep Kale Krunchies

Summer in San Diego means the Del Mar Racetrack is open and an abundance of mint in our garden. Both were the inspiration for “mint julep” kale krunchies, our latest variation on kale chips. Using the same technique and creamy cashew base as my Cilantro Lime Kale Chips, these kale crunchies are flavored with the summer drink ingredients. Yes, even a splash of bourbon.

Mint Julep Kale Krunchies

Mint Julep Kale Chips Recipe

  • 1 head of kale
  • 3/4 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for at least one hour, then drained
  • handful of fresh mint, washed
  • 1-2 tablespoons of agave or coconut nectar
  • 1 teaspoon of bourbon (optional but fun)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
  • a little water, if needed, to process in the blender

1. Wash the kale in cold water. Holding the end of the stem in one hand, firmly and quickly slide your other hand down the center rib. The leaves should tear off of the rib in one move. Dry the kale very well and rip any large pieces into smaller bits.

Or – Purchase a bag of kale pre-washed and cut. Just make sure to remove the thick center ribs as they do not dehydrate well. (Little Bird likes to help rip and sort the kale.)

2. Blend the rest of the ingredients in a small food processor, like a Magic Bullet, or blender. If the blender struggles, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, until it blends well. Blend at highest speed until smooth, scraping down the sides at least once. Keep in mind the more water you add, the longer the chips will take to dry out in the oven.

3. Preheat oven to 200° F. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, massage the “sauce” into the kale. Then spread it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake for 45 minutes or so, checking and gently stirring the kale occasionally, until it is dried but not overly toasted.

For step by step photos of how to make kale chips, please see my previous recipes for Easy Homemade Kale Chips and Cilantro Lime Kale Chips.

Enjoying the Mint Julep Kale Crunchies with the eponymous drink is optional, but highly recommended!