Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

My good friend bought a new house this year with ten acres of land. The property came with a tractor and also acres of strawberries. Her husband loves the tractor so much, he jokes that they bought a tractor and got some land for free. Boys and their toys! I prefer the strawberries myself. The most generous soul on the planet, my friend let her friends (including me, yay!) pick the berries and take them home for free. What an opportunity! If only my apartment freezer could hold more . . . oh well. I picked a good quantity of the large, red berries (although not so sweet this year, way too much rain) and enjoyed the sunshine with my friend. I took the berries home and de-stemmed the ones that escaped my fingers during the drive. I froze some in freezer bags, and also made a batch of my favorite freezer jam. Ok, so this jam includes sugar, which I am trying to avoid, but I just had to make it anyway. Everything in moderation, right? Sometimes I just need a piece of toast with homemade jam, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as I rush out the door. At least I can proudly say I made this jam myself, I even picked the berries myself.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Yields 5 (8oz) half pints

Buy the Ball brand No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin. The recipe is on the package!

4 cups crushed strawberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 package Ball No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin

Stir sugar and contents of package in a bowl until well blended. Stir in 4 cups of crushed fruit. Stir 3 minutes longer. Ladle jam into freezer jars and top with lids. Let stand until thickened, about 30 minutes.

My mom never buys jam, she just stocks her giant freezer full of homemade jam during the summer. Blackberry jam, strawberry jam, raspberry jam, jam from any kind of berry she can get for a reasonable price. As a child, I always hated helping Mom pick berries. The sun beating down on me as I squatted by the low plants (we always picked berries on the hottest day of the year), slowly filling the pint containers, my fingers stained with juice. I hated squishing the berries with sugar and feeling the dribbles of sugary juice hardening on my arms as I worked. Hot and sticky work. But even then, I knew the importance of this task. My summer labor filled a freezer full of berries and jams, ready for the rest of the year. When I moved out of my parents’ house eight years ago, I immediately started to miss the huge, icy, over-stuffed freezer in my parents’ garage. A little apartment freezer just doesn’t hold nearly as much. I drifted away from making my own products, and started to get lazy at meal time. Now, I am trying to return to my roots, and trying to keep my freezer full to bursting with as much as I possibly can. My next challenge (which scares me, I’ll admit!) canning!

A photo from work of a dessert using local strawberries. Not at all healthy, but definitely delicious! I threw some strawberries in a blender with mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar and some heavy cream. Super fast strawberry mousse in only a couple of minutes! You just have to watch it carefully, to make sure the cream doesn't overwhip, because then you would have sweet, strawberry-flavored butter!

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Pork tacos for my employees today. I insist on serving them pork even when I know plenty of leftovers always end up going to the mission on our donation days. I love pork so much, I can’t help but try to bring others to my side with a spicy, shredded pork taco, or a tender sandwich oozing barbecue sauce. Funny how many of them don’t eat “swine” (as my banquet manager says!). Religious, cultural or vegetarian reasons prevent so many people from partaking of my favorite meat. I try to share my love of pork with as many people as possible, but so many resist. I really don’t eat much meat, and except for a really great burger, I can usually do without cows. However, I can’t imagine life without a juicy, brined and seared pork tenderloin, still slightly pink on the inside. Whether sweet and salty, with a tart-sweet fruit sauce, salsa or chutney, or thinly sliced with homemade cilantro-lime aioli on a whole wheat roll, it always leaves my taste buds dancing. Most recently, my favorite cut of meat shared a plate with a fresh mango salsa and wonderfully quick couscous. A popular combination that I never tire of, though the type of fruit I use varies with the season. If you can find a local or organic pork tenderloin, grab it while you can, and enjoy one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Another version of pork tenderloin with mango salsa I did a couple of years ago. I told you I love this combination!

Maple Syrup Brine for Pork

1/4 cup real maple syrup

4 cups very cold water

1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine all ingredients, stirring well until salt is dissolved.

Seared Maple Pork Tenderloin

Yields about 4 servings

1 pkg pork tenderloin (about 2 lbs)

1 recipe Maple Syrup Brine

olive oil

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place the pork in a large container and cover with the brine. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours, but no more than 12 hours. More than this will cause a chewy texture and an ultra-salty piece of pork.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the pork from the brine and dry it off gently with paper towels. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large, oven-proof  sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan. Make sure the pan is very hot, it should be almost smoking, but not quite. Add the pork gently, with tongs, being careful not to splash any oil. Leave it along for a couple of minutes, until you can start to see the pork browning. You want a nice, golden brown color. Flip the pork carefully, and cook the other sides until it is evenly browned. Place the pan in the preheated oven, and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees. I prefer my pork still slightly pink in the middle, but not bloody. Let the pork rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute. Serve immediately.

I like to turn any leftovers into sandwiches, with homemade aioli or barbecue sauce and any veggies I have lying around. Just thinly slice the meat and serve any way you wish. Also great in tacos!

Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and small diced

2 tsp cilantro, minced

2 Tbsp red onion, minced

1/2 ea jalapeño, minced

1/2 tsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately.

Also great with pineapple instead of mango, or add some red bell pepper or cucumber, or anything else that sounds good to you! Have fun and experiment.

And an appetizer version I made at work with cranberry chutney.

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A month straight of Oregon rain really starts to get depressing after a while. I actually love the rain (as long as I’m not stuck walking in it!), a good thing considering where I live. I can’t stand hot weather, and the more rain I see, the longer I get to avoid hot, sweaty, sleepless nights. But, after a dreary May filled with windstorms and flooding, the sun finally burned through the clouds and even I rejoiced.  I ignored the pile of soaked socks in the laundry basket and skipped past the sink of dirty dishes. I could not stay inside on such a lovely day. No, today needed celebration, sun and food. Time for a picnic. The refrigerator still bulged with leftovers from the Mexican fiesta we threw for my boyfriend’s family, so I decided on a menu not involving the traditional sandwiches and salads. I grabbed as many ingredients from the refrigerator as I could, and chopped them up into a couple different salsas. A bag of organic corn chips, a couple of bottles of water, and a picnic table next to the river completed the meal. We feasted on avocado pico de gallo, mango-radish salsa, tomato-cucumber salad, and slices of juicy mango. Yes, my boyfriend asked for meat as I pulled the food from the cooler, but as he polished off the last salsa-topped chip, he admitted he did not even have room for a chicken wing. The sun continued to shine as we walked along the river and as I took some time to photograph the nature around me. A wonderful day, a wonderful meal, and a small dent in the products in the refrigerator. A very productive and mood-lifting day!

Avocado Pico de Gallo

Yields about 3 cups

1 avocado, peeled and small diced

4 roma tomatoes, cored and small diced

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/2 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed and minced

2 Tbsp minced cilantro

1 tsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately.

Mango-Radish Salsa

1 mango, peeled, and small diced

4 large radishes, stemmed and small diced

2 Tbsp minced red onion

2 tsp minced cilantro

1/2 jalapeño, minced

1/2 tsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately.

I added 1 diced roma tomato to this when I made it, but I prefer it without. I just needed to use up some tomatoes fast!

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I hate peeling. Anything. Anything at all. I will cut up fruits, veggies and meats all day long, but I cannot stand peeling. Not a great thing, considering my profession. Dishwashers and prep cooks peel for me at work. But who peels at home? Well, usually, no one. I buy mostly Yukon gold potatoes and use them skin-on, the same for apples, pears, and almost anything else. Even carrots I cut up to use in stocks or sauces, peel on. Most of the nutrients reside on the outer surfaces of produce anyway, so my laziness translates into more nutrition for me! Yay! I really do prefer the taste and texture of fruits and vegetables with the peel on, in most instances. But, through experimentation I found one item in which the peel only takes away from the result. Applesauce. I do not mean the nasty baby food purée sold in jars on supermarket shelves. Gross. I mean homemade, tart and chunky applesauce with just the right amount of cinnamon. Unsweetened and untouched by chemical processes. If only someone would peel the apples for me. A freezer full of homemade applesauce waiting for me year-round? Heaven. I remember helping my mom with this freezer staple on sweltering summer and early fall days. Fine, “helping”. My definition of help included whining about how much I hated peeling apples, moping, and taking early tasters from the finished batches. Mom did not especially appreciate this kind of help. She told me if I wanted to snack, to make my own applesauce and not eat the batches she just slaved over. She also reminded me of how much I enjoyed eating the applesauce on my pancakes, waffles and french toast during the winter months. If I wanted to partake of those treats in the season where produce only comes from the grocery store, I must help her. I grudgingly agreed, and proceeded to sulk as I peeled endless mounds of green, red and yellow fruit. I appreciated all this effort when breakfast time arrived, and a pile of oatmeal pancakes topped with applesauce appeared on the table. Just hard to remember when elbow deep in apple peelings. Mom always microwaved the batches, but I remember how many boil-over issues this caused, which also led to the dreaded microwave cleaning. Ever tried to scrub cooked-on apple bits from the inside of a box? I do not recommend it. I prefer the stove top version. More time-consuming, but less mess. I love this applesauce stirred into oatmeal, as a sweetener for granola, with yogurt, breakfast foods (as mentioned before), topped with toasted nuts or simply by the spoonful. Not even close to the store-bought version, and outside of the peeling, very easy as well.

Cinnamon Applesauce

Yields 4 servings (If you can share!)

4 ea apples (I used organic Fuji apples, but almost any tart apple works. Combinations work best. Granny Smith, Gravenstein, etc. Just please do not use Red Delicious. More like Red Flavorless)

1 cup water

1 tsp cinnamon

Peel and quarter the apples. Core the quarters and cut each quarter into four pieces. Add apple pieces to a large pot. Add water and cook covered over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples soften and mush when stirred. Add more water if necessary. The cooking process can take up to an hour and a half, just be patient and keep and eye on the pot. Add the cinnamon and stir well. Remove from heat, cool slightly and serve immediately. The applesauce can also be made in large batches and refrigerated or frozen. Great to make when apples are plentiful in the summer and fall.

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Frozen Monkey Food

I love ice cream. Way too much. I can’t help it. I love  the creamy consistency, the tongue-coating richness of the cream and eggs, the way the flavors intensify as it slowly melts on my tongue. I can savor it slowly, or eat it quickly, guiltily, chewing each mouthful while keeping an eye out for witnesses. I cannot keep any in my freezer, or it will call to me all day while I am at work. “Sarah, come and eat me, I taste so good.  My magical powers will erase every bit of depression from your day.” My mouth waters and I start day dreaming of dark chocolate, fragrant mint, soothing vanilla, brownie bits, fudge swirls . . . I get off track and drift into a dream world of low-productivity. Best to keep temptation far away from me. But what about when (not if!) the ice cream cravings attack me? I need a solution. Something creamy, sweet and cold. Something to satisfy my cravings, without side tracking me from my goal of healthy eating. The answer: Banana Ice Cream. Not really ice cream, closer to sorbet. But, close enough to ice cream to replace the calorie-filled evil banished from my freezer.

Banana Ice Cream

All you really need is a blender, a freezer, and bananas. Feel free to improvise off of this “recipe”. I am sure cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice, lime juice, nutmeg, etc . . . would all work great in addition to the basic banana. Freeze however many bananas you would like to purée. I recommend peeling the bananas first, then laying them on a cookie sheet so no banana touches any other banana. Then freeze them. At this point, you can put them in Ziploc bags or freezer containers, and save them for banana bread, muffins, cake, or ice cream. Or, you can remove them from the freezer and let them thaw just long enough so they do not completely pulverize your blender. They should still be plenty cold, and icy, but not rock hard. Add them to the blender and purée. You can add some liquid if the bananas don’t want to behave. Water, milk, soy milk, juice, etc . . . Puree until smooth and serve immediately. You can freeze it if you want a firmer consistency, but come on, who can wait when an ice cream craving strikes? No added sugar, or fat, just naturally sweet fruit and a little man-made power.

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