Yogurt Sundaes: A healthy treat!

I’ve been eating Yogurt Sundaes since I was a teenager.  This versatile bowlful of food can be a yummy breakfast, a light lunch, a late-night snack that keeps you full until morning (crucial for fighting pregnancy nausea!), or a satisfying treat when you want the fun of eating a sundae without the calories and sugar of ice cream with syrup.

Yogurt SundaeYou can make it any size, you can use any kind of fruit and any kind of (optional) crunchy stuff, and you certainly could make it look fancier than I did last night when I spontaneously decided to snap a photo.  I’m not big on appearances, and my 11-year-old food stylist was asleep!

This particular Yogurt Sundae was made with plain whole-milk yogurt, unsweetened organic applesauce, Cheerios, cinnamon, and allspice in a cereal bowl.  I did not add any sweetener, yet I thought it was pleasantly sweet.

Here’s what you need to make your own Yogurt Sundae:

  • Dish.  Choose one that will look pleasantly full with the amount of food you should be eating–if you feel like having a snack but aren’t all that hungry, use a small dish to avoid overeating.  You might want to use a proper sundae glass or other fancy dish to enhance your perception of enjoying a sweet treat.
  • Yogurt.  I recommend using plain yogurt and adding fruit, and sweetener if you must, rather than using flavored yogurt, which can contain more sugar than chocolate-caramel sauce!  The fruity stuff in fruit-flavored yogurts is more highly processed and therefore lower in vitamins and fiber than fresh fruit, frozen fruit, or even some canned fruits.  My very favorite yogurt is the whole-milk regular (not Greek) style from Trader Joe’s–it doesn’t taste sour or acidic at all.  (Yes, it does have cholesterol and saturated fat.  I eat very little meat and cheese, so I’m not worried about getting too much of those.)
  • Fruit.  You might dice a fresh peach or banana.  You might dice a fresh apple or pear and cook it quickly or keep it raw.  You might use cooked fruit that you made from odds-and-ends.  You might microwave some frozen berries.  You might open a can or jar of fruit–try to buy unsweetened or “packed in juice.”  Last night, we were out of fresh fruit but had an open jar of applesauce.
  • Crunchy stuff (optional).  I usually include some granola or other cereal–but I’m one of those strange people who thrives on carbs and stays slim.  Chopped nuts also make a great sundae topping!  If you want cereal but need to limit carbs, try sprinkling just a tablespoon on the top of your sundae.
  • Sweetener (optional).  Taste your sundae first to see if it’s sweet enough; you might be surprised.  Even if you drizzle it with maple syrup or sprinkle it with sugar, you’ll likely use a smaller amount than the added sugars in flavored yogurt or canned fruit packed in syrup!
  • Other toppings (optional).  Some fruits taste better with cinnamon, ginger, etc.  If you have a chocolate craving, try sprinkling on cocoa powder.  If you want to take this in a really healthy direction, sprinkle with ground flax seeds or wheat germ.  Maybe even put a cherry on top!
  • Spoon.

Think this is too healthy to satisfy you?  Try it as a breakfast first, then as a snack, and in a few years you might find yourself eating it for dessert as well as gradually decreasing the added sugar.  That’s what I did.

Visit Real Food Friday and the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more great recipes!

That Time I Drank 33-Year-Old Grape Juice

My family has an ancestral home, a place that’s been owned by our family ever since it was built in 1910.  It’s a large, elegant, three-story brick house on the main street of a pleasant town in Ohio.  My maternal grandmother grew up there, and although she itched to leave that town because of the stifling social climate, she enjoyed coming back to visit.  Her sister inherited the house and passed it on to her children.  My cousin-once-removed lives there alone now but cheerfully welcomes all of the extended family to big gatherings for special occasions and smaller visits whenever we’re in the area.

I was there for a medium-sized gathering in 1997.  My mother and her Japanese storytelling colleague were passing through Ohio on a tour and spending a weekend at the ancestral home, so my uncle and his two daughters came over from Indiana, and I took a bus from Pittsburgh.

My great-aunt and great-uncle were still alive at that time.  They were the kind of people who like to save things.  Read more of this post

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

This recipe was in the cookbook that came with Daniel’s grandmother’s food processor, decades ago.  Daniel and I bought a used food processor shortly after we began living together 19 years ago, and when his grandmother heard about this, she insisted that we look through her recipes and copy some we’d like to try.  Next to this one, she had written, “DANIEL’S FAVORITE!!!!”  She was a very enthusiastic person, so Daniel’s first response to hearing about this was that he must have said he kind of liked this cake one time.  However, when I made it, he found that he really does like it a lot.

Now it’s his traditional birthday cake that I bake every February.  I try to make it the night before so that we can start eating it for birthday breakfast, because it is a coffee cake–it’s not super-duper-sweet, being almost half fruit, so it’s good for breakfast as well as dessert.  We’ve also made it in the summer when we find a good price on blueberries.

The original recipe called for white flour only.  We’ve tried substituting whole wheat flour for one-third of it, and that makes a healthier cake without any noticeable difference in taste or texture, so that’s how I’ve written the recipe.

I’ve never tried to make it without using the food processor, but I’m sure you could–just chop the nuts finely before you start mixing, and mix the batter in a bowl with a rubber scraper.

To make one 8″ square cake, you will need: Read more of this post

Bean Wraps with Smoked Gouda and Pineapple

Meatless MondayUPDATE: Eight months later, I’m sharing this recipe at Meatless Monday.  It’s a great quick meal at any time of year because all the ingredients are shelf-stable except for the cheese and wrapper; it doesn’t use fresh foods that are in season at a particular time of year–unless you live in pineapple country!

Don’t eat cheese?  Baked smoked tofu would be delicious in this, too.

Last Saturday, despite being extremely pregnant, I managed to attend and enjoy both a very nice birthday party at a nature reserve and the springtime celebration of the Edible Schoolyard at my son’s school–but then I was very tired.  On the way home from the school event, I asked nine-year-old Nicholas to help me think of something quick and easy we could make for dinner after I’d had some time to lie down.

He was eager to eat some of the smoked gouda cheese we had bought at Trader Joe’s on the way home from the birthday party.  (To my surprise, it cost only a little more than basic cheeses like cheddar at our supermarket.)  He also remembered that we’d bought tortillas….  “Let’s have a different flavor of bean burritos!”

I felt that cannellini beans (white kidney beans) would be the variety most likely to taste good with smoked gouda.  I thought some kind of fruit might be good with them, but we didn’t have apples or pears, hmmm…

Nicholas found a can of pineapple rings in the pantry and announced that he would grill them on the George Foreman grill.  This went well, although it was kind of smoky–we opened the window!  He used the drip tray to catch the juice that ran off, and used the sort of fingered spatula thing that comes with the grill to scrape off the blackened pineapple juice after each ring.  While he was doing that, I heated and seasoned the beans.

Our bean wraps were delicious!  Very savory, almost bacon-like flavor.  Here’s the recipe we invented!

To make 3 main-dish servings, you will need:

  • 2 cans or 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other mild-flavored beans)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • sea salt and white pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp. of each)
  • about 1/5 pound smoked gouda cheese
  • 3 large flour tortillas (Alternatively, I bet this would taste great wrapped in lettuce leaves, for a low-carb/gluten-free variant.)
  • 6 pineapple rings

Peel and slice the garlic.  Saute it in olive oil in a large skillet, not too hot.  Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans.  When garlic begins to brown, add beans, tarragon, salt, and pepper to skillet.  Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, dice the cheese, and grill the pineapple (or brown it in a smaller skillet or in the toaster-oven) if desired.

Sprinkle cheese over surface of beans.  Cover pan and turn off heat.  Warm the tortillas (or wash the lettuce).  Cut each pineapple ring in half.

Divide bean mixture evenly among wraps.  Arrange 4 half-rings of pineapple atop the beans in each wrap.  Wrap them up.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more great recipes! Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for lots of useful tips!

How to use long-frozen cookie dough

When my parents visited us the Christmas before last, my mother made her grandmother’s traditional animal cookies: a buttery dough that you roll out and cut with cookie cutters (they don’t have to be animal shapes, of course) and bake and frost.  The recipe makes a huge batch, so she divided it and froze two portions, and we made cookies from the rest.

My son Nicholas and I defrosted one blob of cookie dough last spring and baked cookies for church coffee hour.  But the other blob was still sitting in our freezer, 15 months later.  I was beginning to wonder if it was still good and how we might get around to baking some cookies, because I’m seven months pregnant and would like to be filling that freezer space with leftovers to eat postpartum, but I’m so tired so much of the time that rolling out cookies does not seem to be within my capabilities.

One evening last week, nine-year-old Nicholas ate a healthy dinner and then asked for a bowl of berries (we have a big bag of frozen organic mixed berries from Costco, which we’ve been defrosting in the microwave one serving at a time) with yogurt.  I had to tell him I had finished off the yogurt at breakfast.  He was upset.  Berries with milk would not be as good.  We did not have ice cream.  After a while he started asking for “a bready topping”.  No, NOT oatmeal!  Finally I thought of the cookie dough.

We removed the blob of dough from its plastic bag and put it on a plate in the microwave on “defrost” setting.  After 5 minutes the dough was workable.  We defrosted about 2 cups of berries, warming them just to the point where they weren’t stuck together or too icy to handle.  Nicholas formed the dough into 7 pancake-like circles and wrapped each one around a handful of berries.  We put the blobs in a baking pan, poked the tops with a fork, and baked at 350F until they were crusty on the outside, about 15 minutes.  They got larger and stuck together, but they were easy to separate with a spatula.

The result was a sort of dumpling that could be hand-held while eating.  They tasted great!  The cookie dough was sweet enough that the berries didn’t need additional sugar to taste like dessert.  The dough wasn’t stale or freezer-flavored at all.  (I’m impressed, given that our refrigerator+freezer malfunctioned for several months last year before we decided to replace it, so everything from the freezer got semi-thawed and refrozen at least once.)  A little bit of berry juice had leaked through the crust, but the dumplings weren’t soggy, probably because Nicholas ate the last layer of berries at the bottom of the bowl and most of the juice from thawing was down there.

Using the old cookie dough to make fruit dumplings worked for me!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more food-related articles!  Visit Fabulously Frugal Thursday for more ways to make the most of what you’ve got!

Baked Fish with Clementines

This recipe works with any citrus fruit, but I made it most recently with clementines because they seem especially abundant and affordable this winter, so we had bought a big box! It is a good way to use up clementines (or an orange or lemon, or probably it would work with limes or a grapefruit) that are getting kind of old for fresh eating but aren’t actually moldy or vinegary-smelling.

This recipe also works with either mild white fish or salmon. We usually eat it with rice and a green vegetable such as broccoli. I like to put my fish and vegetable on top of the rice and then spoon the sauce from the fish pan over the whole meal.

To make 3 main-dish servings, you will need:

  • 3 fish fillets (fresh, frozen, or thawed)
  • 2 clementines, 1 orange or lemon, or 1/4 cup frozen concentrated orange juice (scoop it out of the can and then mix up the rest of the juice for drinking)
  • 1/4 onion, or 1 green onion
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • butter to grease the baking pan

Consult fish packaging for appropriate oven temperature and baking time. Preheat oven.

Dice onion. (If green onion, use both white and green parts.) Cook onion and parsley in oil in a small pot until onion begins to brown.

Peel clementines and slice them horizontally (across the sections) about 1/4 inch thick. Remove any seeds.

Grease baking pan. Lay fish in it. Lay slices of clementines over the fish. Top with onion mixture. (If using concentrated juice, stir it into the onion mixture before spooning it over the fish.)

Bake until fish easily flakes apart when you poke it with a fork. Serve with some fruit on each portion.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more recipes!

P.S. Apologies to my subscribers for the long gap between posts! Right after returning from our Christmas travels, my whole family was stricken with viral bronchitis. Although it will not harm the baby, my being pregnant has made the illness especially depleting for me, and I have spent more than two weeks mostly lying in bed coughing. I am finally getting better, and writing this post and the one that will go up tomorrow is my “work” for today to test whether I am able to return to my job tomorrow. I hope all my readers are having a healthier, happier new year than I have so far!

Easy Fresh Apple Yogurt

I’m finally beginning to feel a lot better and get back into being able to think about food! I’ve actually cooked several meals from scratch, without collapsing, in the last couple of weeks.

One of the oddities of this pregnancy is that I’m sometimes having a hard time with raw apples: Either they give me an acid stomach ache, or they make the back of my tongue sting.  However, our farm share gave us a lot of apples, and local organic apples are among the lowest-priced fruit in stores at this season, so we’ve consistently had apples sitting around the kitchen.  One evening I got inspired to make myself a delicious snack, with protein and calcium and fat to help me stay full overnight, that enables me to eat an apple without problems–and it’s ready before I can get excessively hungry!

To make one serving, you will need:

  • 1 large apple, or 2 small apples
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sorghum syrup, honey, or maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt

Remove the apple core and any weird rough sections of peel.  Dice apple into bite-size or smaller chunks.  Place in a microwave-safe, large cereal bowl.  (If you don’t want to use a microwave, you can cook the apple in a small pot on the stove and then put it into your bowl.)

Add all other ingredients except yogurt.

Cover the bowl with a plate or other suitable cover.  Microwave on full power for 1 minute.  Stir thoroughly.  Make sure apples are soft; if not, cook it a bit longer.

Add yogurt.  Mix it in.


Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop for more autumnal recipes!

An Abundance of Apples

Returning from a family vacation last Tuesday, waiting at a traffic light around the corner from our home, I glanced up and noticed many red apples decorating the trees at the edge of a neglected parking lot. This lot belonged to a restaurant that closed several years ago, and the building’s been vacant ever since. Nobody is using that parking lot. I doubt that anyone feels a sense of ownership about those apples. I’m almost certain that nobody would bother spraying pesticides on those trees, which means the apples are organic. FREE ORGANIC APPLES!!

I love saving money, and I love saving food from being wasted. Also, it was a nice day, and we were getting home with time to spare before dinner. As soon as we’d unloaded the car, my eight-year-old Nicholas and I walked over to the parking lot with a couple of bags and started picking apples.

We soon found that most of the apples were out of our reach. Read more…

Fast, Frugal, Fruit-Flavored Oatmeal (or, how to use up the jam stuck to the jar)

When a jar of jam is depleted to the point that it’s difficult to gather up enough jam for a sandwich or a slice of toast, it’s tempting to just chuck it.  If you’re going to recycle or reuse that jar, though, you need to remove every bit of jam…and if you’re removing it, you may as well eat it, especially if this is not really “jam” but expensive organic juice-sweetened fruit spread…so maybe you stick that jar back in the refrigerator and open a new one to use in your sandwich.  Pretty soon there are a lot of almost-empty jam jars taunting you about how you never get around to scraping them.

Years ago I read in The Tightwad Gazette that the solution to this problem was to fill the jar halfway with milk and shake it, creating tasty strawberry milk (or grape milk or boysenberry milk or whatever).  It sounds good, but I found that cold milk doesn’t dissolve much jam; you still have to scrape the jar, and even then the jam tends to settle to the bottom, so you’re drinking mildly strawberry-flavored milk and then having a lot of cold clots of jam slide into your mouth.  Not so great.

I have now found a solution to the jam-jar problem!

  • Boil some water in your electric kettle or other boiling device.
  • Put some quick-cooking oatmeal in a bowl.  I don’t like to measure stuff before breakfast, but I use about 1/2 cup.
  • Pour boiling water into the jar until it is half full.  Don’t fill it more because you need to leave room for steam.  Hold the jar with an oven mitt.  Put on the lid and shake until all jam is loosened.  Alternatively, leave the lid off and stir the water with a spoon or butter knife until all the jam comes off.
  • Using oven mitt, pour jam-water from jar over oatmeal.  Stir.  If oatmeal is not wet enough, add more water.
  • Optional: Add some dried fruit, some milk, or some fat (butter, flax seed oil, coconut oil) to the oatmeal.

Making tasty fruit-flavored oatmeal and getting the jar clean without wasting water works for me!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Fabulously Frugal Thursday for other waste-reducing tips!

Pumpkin Burritos

It may seem somewhat obvious that, if you can make Butternut Squash Burritos from the same recipe as Sweet Potato Burritos, you could also make Pumpkin Burritos.  But if you’re among the many people desperately searching the Internet this month for new and different ways to serve the remains of your jack o’lantern, it might not occur to you to search for squash or sweet potato recipes as well, or you might be nervous about modifying those recipes to use pumpkin.

Daniel made Pumpkin Burritos for us last night, so we can assure you that this recipe works!  To convert our pumpkin into pumpkin puree, we used these instructions as a guide, but we were not starting with a small pie pumpkin like they recommend; our son had begged for a big pumpkin to decorate our porch this Halloween, and I bought one that must have weighed 25 pounds before we scooped it out.  After being carved and displayed for two weeks, it was a bit moldy on the inside, but I couldn’t help seeing it as $7 worth of food–and I suspected it would make a lot more pumpkin puree than the 3 cans we could buy for $7.50.  I sliced the pumpkin into wedges with a cleaver, then used a paring knife to cut off all surfaces that had been exposed to the air; there were only a few spots where I had to dig deeper to remove yuckiness.  Daniel baked it in the oven as directed–microwaving would have been more complicated because we had so much pumpkin it would have had to be in 3 or 4 batches in the microwave.  We got about 11 cups of finished puree, and it tastes fine, at least as good as the canned stuff.

For each burrito, you will need: Read more…

What to Serve for Coffee Hour

Many places of worship, and a lot of non-religious organizations, have a “coffee hour” or “fellowship time” or some other name for “when we all mill around and have a little something to eat and drink.”  At our church, this is a particularly vital time.  Many interesting conversations happen, friendships are formed, and plans for activities are worked out during coffee hour.  We’re really into food, too, especially healthy and/or unusual food, and we have a lot of people in the parish who enjoy cooking–but we don’t get competitive about it.  Coffee hour is not a time to outdo each other with as-seen-in-glossy-magazines fancy cuisine, just a time to share some good food.

I’ve been to a lot of churches where the food served alongside coffee is always super-sweet stuff like cookies and donuts.  I appreciate a treat, sure, but with my metabolism, a cup of coffee plus a snack of white sugar, white flour, and vegetable oil leads to a carbohydrate/caffeine buzz that feels a little scary while it’s happening (I can lose my temper quickly in that state!) and even worse when it drops me suddenly, hungry and shaking, just about the time I get home.  A coffee hour that follows a late-morning event is being served around lunchtime, when most people’s stomachs are pretty empty, and then it may take a while to get home and cook lunch . . . so it’s better to serve food with some protein and/or fiber so it digests more slowly.  Remember that it’s not a sit-down meal, though!  You want to serve finger foods that aren’t too messy to eat off a napkin or small plate while standing.  To allow for various tastes, provide at least two kinds of food, and if you know that someone in your group is allergic to a food (or abstains from a certain food for some other reason), bring a food that is free of the allergen and label it accordingly.  Because people do like sweets and may feel annoyed if the refreshments seem “too healthy”, serve something that’s at least somewhat sweet–but it doesn’t have to be nutritionally bankrupt!–and also something savory, creating an appealing variety of foods.

My seven-year-old Nicholas and I have a lot of experience serving coffee hour!  All his life we’ve taken several turns a year to bring the food, set up, and clean up.  Nicholas gradually has become more and more helpful, and these days he does nearly half the work of choosing serving plates, arranging food on them, filling the cream pitcher and ice-water pitchers (or sometimes we make lemonade), and getting out the napkins and sugar bowl and coffee-stirring spoons and coffee cups and water glasses and, if needed, small plates and/or forks and/or serving utensils.  (We always use real dishes; it’s easy now that our church has a dishwasher, but even when I had to hand-wash, it didn’t take a whole lot of time.)

I’m going to share our menu for coffee hour this past Sunday, and then I’ll list a few other foods that have been popular at other coffee hours.  Read more…

Spaghetti Sauce, September 16 Version (with apple!)

This most recent in my series of spaghetti sauce recipes is good for “Guess the Mystery Ingredient” if you like to play that game.  I added the apple, and added it early in the cooking process, because I was concerned that the mostly-green pepper would give this sauce a sharp, tangy flavor.  I have disliked green peppers since my first pregnancy (when they invariably gave me stomachaches) because of that sharpness, so when we get a green pepper in our farm share I set it out at room temperature and hope it ripens to another, sweeter color.  Sometimes they do; sometimes they just start to shrivel up and need to be used.  This one got about halfway.  Cooking green pepper for a good long time, especially in oil, also helps to mellow its flavor and acidity.

But the apple really did the trick!  I think this is my tastiest sauce in a while.  The onion, pepper, apple, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and basil all came from the farm, so this is a seasonal Pennsylvania recipe!  (The kale also was from the farm, actually, back in June, when we froze some of it to use later.)

Here are the instructions/ingredients/method for approximately reproducing this batch of sauce: Read more…

Dining at The Purple Tulip

Our son Nicholas is almost seven years old and has three possible careers in mind: railroad engineer, teacher, and waiter.  This last interest has increased in the past year, and at dinnertime he sometimes wants to pretend our home is a restaurant.  He got particularly elaborate during my mother’s summer visit and named his restaurant The Purple Tulip after a ballpoint pen with duct-tape flower that she brought him.

It’s an elegant sort of restaurant where the customers wait on a sofa until led to a table by a very polite waiter with a towel over his arm.  The menu varies from day to day; the waiter always recommends the special, and we always enjoy it.  The waiter brings in the dishes from the kitchen.  Sometimes we dine by candlelight or with music.  Daniel and I enjoy going to The Purple Tulip for a romantic date.  Read more…

Raisin Bran Bread, Revised Recipe

Two years ago, I developed a recipe for Raisin Bran Bread to use up a bulk purchase of raisin bran cereal whose flakes were so big and hard and rough that it was painful to eat!  We love the bread, so I actually bought more of that aggressive raisin bran whenever Costco issued a coupon, so that I could make more Raisin Bran Bread.

After a while, though, I began questioning whether it really made sense to buy a processed product as an ingredient when I could instead be using the main ingredients from which raisin bran cereal is made, leaving out the preservatives and such.  It probably would be less expensive, too, given the low price of bulk wheat bran at our food co-op.

So, I once again mustered my nengkan, guessed at the proportions of ingredients to use, threw in some extra nutritiousness, tweaked it a bit more when it seemed too wet . . . and produced three yummalicious loaves!  I think it’s even better than my earlier recipe.  I have been eating at least two slices a day all week, and I’m not tired of it yet! Read more…

Cranberry Bread Without Sugar?

This is not a recipe. It is a story of a recipe that does taste very different if you forget to put in the sugar, but the result is still edible!

I have made the Cranberry Orange Bread from the 1968 Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (snag this one if you see it in a yard sale!) many times. I’ve often made it with just 1/2 cup of sugar instead of 3/4, but I never left out all the sugar before! It was an accident. And I had made three loaves. And I served some to a guest before I had tried any myself. Ack!

But he liked it. Daniel also liked it but noticed it tasted different. Only six-year-old Nicholas did not like it enough to eat it, and it took him a few bites to decide. I knew after my first bite what had happened . . . but the answer was obvious: If it’s not sweet enough for you, put some honey on it. Easy and delicious!

We were eating it for dessert, so we did want it to be sweet. In other bread roles–like a sandwich or a side dish for chili–unsweetened cranberry orange bread may be just the thing. Cranberries get a lot sweeter when baked, and between the orange peel and orange juice there’s orangey sweetness too. I substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour in the recipe, which makes a substantial bread.

You know, I guess there is a recipe I developed from this experience:

Cranberry Bread Yogurt Sundae

Place a slab of warm cranberry orange bread without sugar in a shallow dish. Butter it. Spread honey on it. Put a scoop of plain yogurt next to it or on top of it. Eat with a spoon.

Yum! It works for me! I have not done the math, though, to find out if there is more sugar per serving in a layer of honey than there would be in a serving of the bread made with sugar . . . but if you bake it unsweetened, at least you are aware of how much sweetness you’re adding and can adjust it.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering: The big bag of cranberries currently being sold at Costco for $5 contains just over 11 cups, once they are sliced.  I like to slice them all at once using my food processor (phenomenally less tedious than slicing each cranberry by hand!!) and freeze whatever I’m not going to use immediately in 3-cup or 4-cup batches for future bouts of cranberry bread.  In this case, I put the extra fraction of a cup in a glass jar in the refrigerator to be used in my next batch of cooked fruit.

Homemade Frozen Shredded Vegetables

Like reusing glass jars, this is an idea I’ve mentioned before that has increased its importance in my day-to-day life to the point that it deserves its own article!

When you have more of a vegetable than you can eat before it goes bad, clean and shred the extra all at once, put measured portions into small bags, and freeze it.  Now you have convenient quantities to use in future recipes!  Depending on the cooking technique, you may not even have to thaw them before using.  You’ll save time, compared to cutting up fresh vegetables in a bunch of separate sessions.  You’ll save money, compared to wasting fresh produce or buying more expensive pre-sliced frozen vegetables.  Read more…

Fruit Labels, Jar Labels, Six-Packs, Environment, and Health

You know those annoying little stickers that are on most fruits you can buy individually in supermarkets?  The ones that are so thin and so well-glued that they’re often impossible to remove without gouging a hole in your fruit?  Yeah, I always knew they were evil.  In addition to being annoying on edible-skinned fruits, if a sticker is left on the peel you remove from a fruit and put into the compost, it never biodegrades (that’s how I first realized they’re made of plastic, not paper) and becomes an annoying bit of garbage to pick out of the nice rich soil in the compost bin a few months later.

What’s more, I just learned today that fruit stickers create a significant problem when they get into the water treatment system Read more…

Things Not To Do: Cooked Fruit Edition

Don’t cook cantaloupe.

Most other kinds of fruit can be cooked and will still taste good, maybe even better.  Cooking is an ideal way to use scraps or fruit that’s too old to eat fresh. But not if it’s cantaloupe.

Cooking makes cantaloupe fragrant in a bad way.  It doesn’t smell like food anymore.  It’s like some kind of cloying perfume or big show-offy flower.

In addition, cooking makes the texture of cantaloupe soft, icky, almost slimy.  The mouth-feel combined with the overripe smell is guaranteed to set off primitive reflexes deep in the brain that scream, “This food is no longer safe to eat!!”

Even if you mix it with other fruits, cooked cantaloupe is hard to gag down.  I can believe that it might be possible to take it in an edible direction by cooking it with a lot of spices and onions and things, but I am not willing to experiment.  Unless you have a really promising-sounding recipe from someone you trust not to be a practical joker, I repeat, do not cook cantaloupe.  Ewww.


UPDATE: Maybe this recipe for Sunshine Bread will work!  I haven’t yet tried it myself, but the author and some commenters say it’s delicious!

Apricot Lentil Soup

Meatless MondayReal Food Friday

This is one of our favorite soups in the fall and winter! It’s famous at our church’s Lenten soup supper. It has a really pleasant, interesting flavor that’s not too sweet and fruity. Most people want to know what’s in it but can’t guess that it’s apricots, so it’s perfect for “Guess the Mystery Ingredient” if you like to play that game.  It’s easy to make and inexpensive. Read more…

Tangy Honey-Apricot Tofu

This recipe is unusual among my tofu ideas: It’s Chinese-flavored but contains no soy sauce, onion, or garlic!  Its sweetness makes a nice contrast with something salty or spicy.  Try it in a Tofu-Soba Supper (or over rice) with Salty String Beans. Read more…