Reviews

Tanaka Farms: Let me take you down to Strawberry Fields

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The best Foodventures are always the unexpected ones. Even more surprising was that my latest one was found around my old college stomping grounds of Irvine, California. (GO ANTEATERS!)

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Per my sister T‘s suggestion, we grabbed some of the kids and headed over to Tanaka Farms—a lush 30 acre farm nestled in Irvine that produces amazing fruits and vegetables.

Founded by Teruo Tanaka,  Tanaka Farms is family owned and operated and has been in existence for over 100 years. The farm “strives to provide quality produce and to educate the community on the values of healthy eating“. The family also practices organic farming methods.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The produce at Tanaka Farms are grown using a “companion planting” method. By this, different produce are planted together as the chemicals each of the varietals naturally produce allow each other to thrive. For example, strawberry plants are grown together with Maui onions. Guess this is a perfect (and natural) example of how opposites can attract 🙂

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

In addition to having a produce stand filled with fresh products, Tanaka Farms offers farm tours. Tours typically include a 75 minute wagon ride around the land which is pulled by a tractor. Throughout the ride, the wagon stops and guests are able to try freshly picked vegetables!

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Our veggie “tasting menu” for the day included wax beans, green beans, celery, green onions, and carrots. Here is my sis, P, with a bundle of green onions.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The tour is an AMAZING way to educate kids about how produce is grown and to encourage them to eat their veggies. Check out Stephanie, Maya, and Nina showing off their tasty wax beans.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The last portion of the tour was my favorite—STRAWBERRY TIME! Since we took the tour during Strawberry season, guests are allowed off the wagons to pick and enjoy delicious and gorgeous strawberries! We had 15 minutes to fill our 1-pound baskets and eat as many strawberries as we liked!

Not going to lie…..I’m pretty sure I inhaled almost a pound of strawberries myself in addition to packing my basket. And I don’t have the least bit of remorse as they were some of the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted! So sweet and juicy!

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Here is my sis, T, and nieces Maya and Nina feverishly filling their baskets.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Nina, Maya, and Stephanie with their prized Strawberries.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Strawberry tours begin mid-March and run through June. Watermelon tours begin in July and end in late August. Pumpkin Patch tours start at the end of September and conclude on Halloween. For more information on tours and to find out about their Cookout Tours, click here.

We were incredibly lucky as it was a gorgeous, sunny California day. We had a fantastic time at Tanaka Farms and loved that it’s so conveniently accessible. The kids enjoyed trying out new produce, learning about crops, riding in the wagon, and of course—indulging in the amazing strawberries.

On top of all of those things, I loved that we were supporting a family owned operation of 4 generations of Japanese Americans. They run the farm on little government assistance but are committed, nonetheless,  to cultivating quality produce while educating the community. That, dear friends, is truly commendable.

But even if Tanaka Farms isn’t near you, I urge you to go out and find some farms near you—I am sure one is closer than you think! 🙂

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

And if you haven’t guessed already, the next few posts will be ALL about strawberries. If you had tasted how exquisite they were, you would be whipping out all of your strawberry recipes, too!

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Thanks for reading!

Tanaka Farms
5380 3/4 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
Office: (949)653-2100
Produce Stand: (949)653-2100  ext. 203
Reservations: (949)653-2100  ext. 204

And just because I was singing this the entire time we were there……

Desserts/Pastries

Strawberry Cupcakes and a Surprise 70th Birthday Party

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

The month of May has always been busy for my family — completely filled with TONS of birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.

This May in particular marked a milestone for our family as our parents turned 70! And although our mom is no longer with us we wanted to be sure to have a big celebration for our dad.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This past weekend, my siblings and I successfully threw a surprise birthday party for our dad filled with tons of family, delish food, and good times. Needless to say, Dad was pretty darn surprised when he opened the door to what he thought was going to be a small birthday dinner at my sister’s place. It took him a few minutes to realize that the house filled with people were there to celebrate his birthday!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

As one of the desserts for the night, I decided to bake Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cupcakes. They have been on my “must try” list for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity to give them a roll.

Truth be told, the cupcake itself was just “ok”. But the frosting was TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!! As in OH….MY….GAWD!

It was the first time I had made a true Swiss meringue buttercream and was a bit thrown off at how long it took to make—at least 30 minutes!!! But my patience truly paid off because after one taste, I was in heaven. The texture was so beautifully smooth and silky and it literally tasted like a Strawberry Shake!!! Not the least bit overly sweet and absolutely delicious. All night long I kept on saying, “It tastes like an In-N-Out Strawberry Shake!” Clearly, the cupcake is just a vessel for this amazing buttercream.

If you do decide to give this buttercream a whirl, be sure to take your time with it. Some reviewers say that their buttercream looked curdled or didn’t come together. Luckily I didn’t have this issue but I believe you’ve just got to be patient and definitely use room temperature butter. When all else fails—keep on whipping it!

And on another note, I would be scolded if I didn’t disclose that my sister was the one who added the strawberries on top! 🙂

As for Dad, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. After so many years of taking care of his family, it was nice to have a shindig just for him. In fact, he told everyone he cannot wait to see what we do for his 71st birthday!!!! 🙂

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!


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Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
From Martha Stewart
Makes 34 Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour, (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries, plus small strawberries for garnish

Buttercream:
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1¼  cups sugar
1½ cups unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1½ cups fresh strawberries, pureed

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions alternating with the milk, mixing each addition just until incorporated.  Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula. Divide the batter between the paper liners, filling each about ¾-full.  Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream.  Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Switch to a paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add strawberry puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Fill a piping bag with a fitted tip. Pipe on the buttercream on top of cooled cupcakes. Garnish with fresh strawberry slices.

 Note: For these cuppies, I used an open-star Wilton 4B Tip to pipe the buttercream. I also chose to use a slightly larger than standard cupcake liner for a fuller look. As a result I increased the baking time by 2-3 minutes.

Drinks

Fresh Strawberry Mojito


Fresh Strawberry Mojito

 

The beautiful warm weather always makes me want to be outdoors basking in the sun. I’m a sun driven gal—through and through.

And how better to enjoy the sunny warmth than with a delicious and pretty cocktail?

 

Fresh Strawberry Mojito

 

Mojitos are one of my favorite adult beverages but I rarely order them when I’m out because I’m rather particular on how they’re prepared. Most places skimp on the mint and limes——–and without enough, you’re pretty much drinking spiked-flavored-water. Bleh!

But when done correctly, Mojitos are just divine. Super herbaceous and refreshing.

 

Fresh Strawberry Mojito

I picked up a carton of fresh strawberries while I was at my farmers market and thought they would be a perfect addition to my beloved cocktail. The fruitiness of the berries paired beautifully with the mint and citrus.

The measurements below are my suggested amounts according to how I like my Mojitos. But if you like things sweeter or prefer more strawberries, adjust to your fancy.  🙂

Cheers!

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Fresh Strawberry Mojito
Serves 1

Ingredients:

15-20 Fresh Mint Leaves
¼ Cup Fresh Strawberries, diced
1 Whole Lime, cut into small wedges
1 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Ounces Light Rum
6 Ounces Club Soda
1-2 Cups Crushed Ice

In a cocktail shaker, thoroughly muddle the mint leaves, limes and sugar. Add strawberries and crush.  Add rum and fill the shaker with ice. Vigorously shake and strain the liquids into a tall glass filled with ice. Top off glass with club soda. Garnish with strawberry slices, lime wedges, and mint leaves. Enjoy!