Posts tagged fruit

Fancify Friday: Carved orange elephants

Carved orange elephants

 

Meet Ed and Edward. That’s what my daughter named her carved orange creations. When I asked why, she looked at me liked I’d just asked why leaves are green. “Because they’re elephants, mom.” Well, that answers it.

 

When I was cleaning out some of my cookbooks the other day I stumbled on The Fine Art of Garnished, publishing date, 1978. My mother-in-law sent it to me awhile back and I haven’t had a chance–or the hutzpah–to give it a try. My youngest? Well, when she saw it as I was stacking up books she immediately started thumbing through it, planning out what we were going to try. Luckily, I talked her out of making the viking-inspired watermelon boat this time…

These elephants are actually easy to make–and don’t require a sharp knife. I was making an apple bird while my youngest settled on the Apple birdelephants. Well, you can see how my bird turned out (in my defense, it was a very, very small apple). But my daughter followed the instructions and stopped at two elephants just because we ran out of oranges.

 

How to make a carved orange elephant:

  • Find the end of the orange with a circle (where it was picked). Use a paring knife to cut a long “V” in the skin, going down from the circle. Gently pull the skin away from the pith.
  • Lay the “V” portion onto a cutting board (still attached to the orange) and then shape it into a trunk.
  • Use the paring knife to cut a circle on either side of the trunk for the ears. To do this, push the knife into the orange skin but not all the way through to the juicy part. Make a circle starting above the trunk and ending just below the trunk–it’s almost as if you were cutting a slice. Do not slice the circle all the way around. Repeat on the other side and then carefully pull the “ears” away from the base of the orange.
  • With toothpicks, secure grapes for the elephants’ “eyes” and gumdrops for their “feet.”
  • Add kiwi fruit “grass” (optional, but fun).
Ed, not to be confused with Edward the Elephant

Ed, not to be confused with Edward the Elephant

Child looking at carved orange

 

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Fancify Friday: Fruity fizzy drinks

Fruity drinksHere’s a quick way to add some ambiance to a family meal that you want to make a little special (and yes at my house it’s required that you say ambiance with a fake French accent–the worse it sounds, the better).

I have my kids cut up fruit into small pieces to put into water goblets. Add seltzer (or club soda) water and you’ve got a fancy, colorful drink.

I’ve found some kids are reluctant to try seltzer water (La Croix is my favorite). The sugarless, fizzy water is an acquired taste but it’s such a great replacement for soda it’s worth trying to get your kids to sample it.

 

How did I get my kids hooked on seltzer water? Well, I used to drink it all the time and my kids would ask for sips. At first they didn’t like it, but I kept drinking it. Fast forward several tries and my kids are regular seltzer drinkers.

 

If your kids tend to be especially picky, my suggestion is to mix half seltzer water with half juice. We’ve tried the half-half approach with apple, orange, lemonade, grape…and pretty much any other juice we might have on hand (tomato juice the big exception, of course).

 

Now, I haven’t mentioned the best part–once you’re kids have downed their drink they can eat the fruit. And the fruit will be “fizzified” (yes, it’s true we do make up words at our house). The carbonation in the drink works its way into the fruit giving it a bit of a bubble bite.

 

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Mini oatmeal peach crisps

Warm peach slices with a crumbly, buttery filling, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a summertime tradition growing up. Of course, I’ve got to continue that one! When I see peaches at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, I figure it’s peach crisp baking time. And I like to take it one step farther and make ‘em mini. You can still use a regular dutch oven or casserole dish, but for change I’ve included the instructions for using ramekins (sorry, using a muffin pan for this one is a no-go).

I looked through several recipes—and even tried one that literally fell flat—before deciding on the one below. In my mind, fruit crisp has to have oatmeal in it (that’s so you can eat it for breakfast on day #2 and feel like it’s nearly as healthy as oatmeal on its own). But most recipes relied just on oatmeal without including flour, which made for a less crisp crust.

Another point on the crust—I like to cut the butter in with a food processor versus doing it by hand. But the first time I added in all of the dry ingredients from the beginning, then my oatmeal was reduced to crumbs. Ditto for the nuts. To keep my oatmeal and nuts from disappearing, I processed the dry ingredients with the butter first then added in the oatmeal and nuts at the very end. Two pulses so the pieces are still chunky.

Recipe

Tweaked from The American’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons flour

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant)

¼ cup almonds

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

About 10 peaches

Blueberries or blackberries (optional; I had some handy so I threw ‘em in)

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Place the peaches in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

    Found this little pot with a lid on sale--perfect for mini foods

  2. Allow the peaches to sit in the hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Pour out the hot water and rinse the peaches with cold water.
  3. Peel the skins off the peaches, remove the pits, and then slice into ¼” pieces. Place the pieces into a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch and cinnamon.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. In a food processor place the flour, sugars, salt. Pulse twice. Add the butter in pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs.
  6. Place the oatmeal and almonds into the butter mixture and pulse twice to four times (you don’t want to pulverize the nuts and oatmeal just break them up slightly).
  7. Lightly grease a 9” casserole pan or dutch oven (preferred). Place the peach slices into the pan and then add the butter mixture on top.

To make ‘em mini

  1. Grease one 7-ounce ramekin per peach.
  2. Distribute peach slices into ramekins (keep in mind the peaches will shrink by almost half when cooking so this will seem full but they’ll go down–promise). Toss the berries on top.
  3. Carefully top each ramekin with crumb mixture, pressing it down as you go.
  4. Bake on a cookie sheet (I overfilled one and it bubbled over but it still tasted good).
  5. Serve to smiling kids.
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Fruity animal mini popsicles

After finding each of my kids digging through the freezer looking for the yogurt popsicles I made last week (they’re all gone), I thought I’ve gotta to make more of these. But instead of yogurt I poked around the kitchen for ideas. My inspiration? Yet again leftovers, along with some candy-making molds from a friend.

The fruit. Yes, leftovers inspire me. Whenever I have fruit that goes uneaten or is a little on the squishy side, I chop it up and save it in the freezer. I toss it into sauces (savory and sweet), swirl it into smoothies, make fruit leather, and now use it in popsicles.

The molds. I’ve never used candy molds before, but since I don’t have popsicle makers or ice cube trays, I figure these would do the trick. I did notice the that molds don’t seem to like the cold. Next time, I’d take out the fruitsicles as soon as they became solid instead of letting them sit. The molds cracked a little bit on the edges but not so much that I couldn’t use them again. The molds happened to be of turtles. Why turtles? I have no idea. You could also follow the same technique though from the yogurt popsicles–no candy molds required.

The recipe. Simple, I thawed frozen strawberries and raspberries in the microwave (you could also let them just come to room temperature on their own), added 2 Tablespoons of water per one cup of fruit (you could also use fruit juice) then poured it into the molds. Instead of popsicle sticks, I used little swords (maybe it was the hot temperatures outside but I was feeling silly; paper popsicle sticks are fine too). So here are our turtle pops. My girls liked playing with these as much as eating them.

Looking for more ideas? Check out these for summer fun with a twist. As part of the Motherboard crew I’ve been clicking through for inspiration myself–I’m going to have to try the tweak on picnics by doing an after dinner dessert mixed in with some stargazing.

Your turn–care to share any ideas for summer fun you’re planning on trying out as the temperatures rise?

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5 minute yogurt popsicles

It started with leftover yogurt no one seemed to be eating and blueberries that were getting squishy. How to get my kids to eat the yogurt–and clean out my fridge? Popsicles!

I combined equal parts yogurt and fresh berries in a blender, drizzled in a tablespoon of agave (honey is fine too) then poured the mixture into little party cups (that hold about 2 1/2 tablespoons). My youngest was in charge of getting the popsicle sticks to stay upright. On their own the sticks fell so I had her poke the stick through a blueberry to give it enough stability to stay upright.

My kids thought this was the coolest thing ever. They’re already planning new flavor combos and asking to try out new fruits. My middle daughter wants to use the sticks to make frozen fruit kabobs.

To make your yogurt popsicles combine 2:1 parts of your favorite yogurt flavor, or plain, with fruit (thawed frozen fruit or bananas work well). You can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or honey too. I don’t like to use popsicle molds. First, because I don’t have any and second, I like keeping frozen treats small. I find my kids are more willing to try something new if it’s kid-sized. For my batch of 8 small popsicles I used two 8-ounce blueberry yogurt cartons and 1 cup blueberries.

These are perfect summer-time treats, but if you’re looking to bring more colors of the season into your home (not just on your child’s popsicles) check-out these decorating ideas from Motherboard. As part of the MB crew, I’ve been checking out their recent articles.

Your turn–what kind of yogurt popsicle flavors would you like to try?

(I just discovered that my local grocers carries dried edible flowers you can buy in handfuls…lilac strawberry anyone?)

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Watermelon limeade

Mmmm...watermelon + lime

Lemonade needs an update. Playing around with some different variations of lemonade I happened on one my kids loved–lime with watermelon. Okay, I need to back up a bit. Full disclosure here: I had some watermelon leftover that was getting a bit mushy but I didn’t want to toss it. So instead I made it into ice cubes. Yes, I believe leftovers inspire creativity!

The temperatures hit 95 here the other day–with a dose of humidity so my kids were more than willing to give this flavor combo a try.

Here’s how to put it together:

  1. Put watermelon chunks into the blender. Puree.
  2. Strain the watermelon liquid to remove seeds.
  3. Pour the puree into an ice tray or another container to freeze. I lined a bowl with a baggie to make a ice disk and then I placed a little umbrella in it just for fun. (I also saved a bit of the watermelon juice to stir into the limeade so that you don’t have to wait until your ice cube thaws before you get the flavor.)
  4. Make a pitcher of limeade. You can use concentrate or make your own using fresh, squeezed limes + water + a bit of sugar (if my husband’s anywhere nearby this is his job–he’s the limeade master)
  5. Once the watermelon is frozen, add it to a glass filled with limeade and enjoy.

After you’re done making your watermelon limeade, check out these ideas for summer fun from Motherboard. I want to try out the backyard Iron Chef competition with friends.

Your turn–what are you looking forward to most about summer eats?

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Why aren’t you eating…kumquats

Nagami kumquats

Kum-what? I let my 13-year-old chose something new for us to try in the produce section. Her find–kumquats. As you can see from the picture, they look like oranges in the shape of a grape. But apparently there’s a debate as to whether they belong in the citrus family or deserve their own designation. I say kumquats are in a category all their own.

They taste exactly the reverse of what you’d expect (and you eat them whole). The sweet outside rind encases the wickedly sour fruit inside. It was fun to watch my kids give ‘em a try. My middle daughter kept asking, “Are you sure you eat the skin too?” It wasn’t until she bit in that the sour punch hit her. Instant pucker face.

You can eat kumquats like you would grapes (although 2 or 3 and I’d had enough sourness) and/or experiment with them to add a sweet-sour taste to different dishes. To use them in other dishes, cut them in half and remove the seeds then add them to a blender to create a puree. My puree went into some kumquat cookies (I’ll pass along the recipe next week), but if you had any leftover–which I didn’t–I was thinking you could freeze them in small packets and use them to add a zing to barbecue sauce, a viniagrette, so many possibilities. Now I just need to get more kumquats!

You can thank China for the kumquat. Their name means, “golden orange,” and they’re often given as gifts around the Lunar New Year since they symbolize prosperity. In the U.S., there are generally two varieties, the Nagami, which I tried, and  the sweeter, juicier, rounder, Marumi. Doing a little research, I found there are also several kumquat hybrids, like the Limequat–you guessed it: lime + kumquat; and the Calamondin–stumped? tangerine + kumquat. I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled (sorry, couldn’t resist the lame pun) to find the hybrids.

Your turn–Ever tried a kumquat? Did you like it?

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Easy fruit leather

Fruit leathers are so easy to make I wish I would have tried ‘em sooner! I looked through recipe after recipe to figure out my own version.

Here’s what I wanted:

1)No cooking

2)No sugar (I like ‘em tart)

3)Fast

Here’s what I learned:

1)Part of the reason you have to cook the fruit beforehand is to make it smooth and to dissolve the sugar. Cutting out the sugar helped eliminate one reason to cook. The next? A smooth consistency. A hint from purchased fruit leathers helped solve that: apple sauce (that’s my interpretation for the first ingredient–no matter the flavor it’s always ‘apple puree concentrate’). Using apple sauce makes the leathers smoother and cuts the cost. You’re going to need 5-7 cups of pureed something, mixing apple sauce with strawberries cut the amount of fresh fruit I needed.

2)Instead of sugar some recipes use honey. I wanted another option so I tried agave. It worked perfectly. (I also added in a squeeze or two of lemon juice for a sour punch.)

3)Well, there’s no real way to make fruit leathers fast. Prep fast, yes. Actual drying, nope. I did decide to up the temperature from 140 degrees (that’s what I saw listed again and again) to 170, which seemed to maybe trim the time a bit, but count on this recipe taking the better part of the day (or two). Unattended, mind you.

Basic Steps

Step #1 Cut fruit

Step #2

You need 4-5 cups for roll-ups (pictured) or 6-7 cups for thicker leathers (which will take longer to cook). I used half apple sauce, half cut up strawberries, and I recommend a 1:1 ratio.

Step #2 Blend fruit

Easy, peasy. I squeezed in a bit of agave, fresh lemon juice, tasted, tweaked, done.

Step #3 Pour fruit

Line a cookie pan with parchment (over the edges). Pour.

Step #4 Bake fruit

10-12 hours at 170. Yup, it takes time, the edges will cook faster then the center, so you can cut them off as they finish, feel with your fingers if the fruit is at the right leathery consistency for your taste. I let mine cook over a couple days so that I never left the oven on unattended.

That’s it. I kept the parchment on the leathers so they were easier to pack in lunches. These leathers were a hit with my kids–my middle daughter who doesn’t like strawberries or apple sauce (but strangely enough loves cut apple slices) downed half the pan and was the first to ask me to make more. My oven has been on non-stop since.

Along with fruit leathers, I’ve been thinking about healthy habits for my family with summer around the corner–I found these over on Motherboard.

Your turn–what are your favorite healthy snacks? Habits?

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Calzones take two–dessert raspberry ricotta

What to do with a little extra dough?

When we made calzones the other day, I had that thought. Usually, I just roll out the leftover dough, throw on a little butter, cheese and garlic and have breadsticks for the kids. The breadsticks are tasty, for sure, but I was in the mood for something different.

Something sweet.

I rummaged through the refrigerator for ideas, here’s what I came up with–raspberry ricotta calzones. I mixed about 1/4 cup ricotta, a teaspoon or two of sugar, 1/8-1/4 cup of fresh raspberries and then stuffed the one calzone just as you would with the savory variety. Next time I’d also either add a few chocolate chunks or a healthy helping of fresh lemon zest. You can also brush the filled calzone with a little milk or heavy cream and a sprinkling of raw sugar before baking. Serve warm, leftovers will get soggy.

We split one calzone among the five of us to sample. If I were to make this for guests, I would make small, mini-calzones instead of large ones. I’d say a successful experiment!

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Zingy Orange Cookies

I’ve been using the same lemon cookie recipe for years—and my kids have liked them. But then a friend dropped by her version of lemon cookies and my kids were hooked. Seriously. Even my middle child requested, yup, lemon cookies instead of chocolate chip when I asked her a few weeks back what kind of cookies she wanted. I thought I’d perfected her recipe until she dropped by the cookies again (isn’t it nice to have friends that bring you cookies?!). This time the cookies were bursting with a buzzy, sweet-tart orange flavor instead of just lemon. Orange cookies. I was impressed with her improvisation, and then she let me in on a secret—her husband decided to make the cookies and opted for orange instead of lemon.

Let me just say, I love pretty much any kind of cookie, but these ones taste like a yummy version of an orange breakfast roll. When we had a busy weekend, my mom would buy those refrigerated, canned orange rolls, you know the ones that pop when you undo the paper? They always seemed to turn out either underdone or burnt, but top it with some of the gooey orange cream cheese frosting and you didn’t care. These cookies channel all that orange gooeyness, but have a tastier, chewier texture (I mean, you can’t escape that processed flavor when your baked goods come popping out of a can!).

Along with packing a punch of orange flavor, these cookies are perfect for summer. Who wants a heavy chocolate chip cookie—or even oatmeal—when the weather is getting warmer and warmer? But orange cookies…yeah, you better make a double batch!

Recipe
Prep time: 30 minutes (+ cook time about 1 hour)
Servings: 20 cookies

Ingredients
Cookies

2 Cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice (or 1 ½ tablespoons orange + ½ Tablespoon lemon)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon almond extract

Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons orange zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tablespoon milk or heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (you can refrigerate the dough for about an hour, but the cookies turn out well either way). In a large mixing bowl add the butter and then blend in the sugar at high speed with a handheld mixer. Whip until fully incorporated, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, blend. Mix in the extract and the fresh orange juice.

In another mixing bowl, stir all the dry ingredients until combined. Add the zest. Put the mixer on low speed and then gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.

Lightly grease a baking pan and add the dough by the spoonful (about 1 ½ Tablespoon in size). Bake for about 9 to 11 minutes or until just barely golden around the edges. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan before removing them.

Once the cookies are cool, mix the glaze. Add all of the glaze ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until the ingredients are blended and the glaze is thick. Using a spoon add about ½ teaspoon glaze to each cookie. Let the glaze set for at least 30 minutes or more before serving.

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