Friday, July 19, 2013

Check my fruit basket

Oh, summertime... The sun is up, the heat is high, and you want to spend time outside enjoying the outdoors while you can. So you grab your sunscreen lotion and a six pack of beer, and head out to enjoy yourself, and to bask in the sun. However, as obvious at it may seem, we forget that it is extremely important to keep ourselves hydrated to withstand the heat and be able to keep up with our lives. If you have some sense of what's good for you, you are not counting on soda or beer to keep you hydrated. Soda and beer bring way too many empty calories (no useful nutritional value) and if you count on them to quench your thirst, you'll be consuming, again, way too many calories. Beer can actually dehydrate you. Diet pop isn't any better. What it lacks in calories it overdoes in artificial ingredients; ingredients your body won't recognize as natural and will have a hard time deciding what to do with (like artificial sweeteners actually making you hungrier).

Water is always your best option to keep you well hydrated. It can be drunk, of course, but it can also be eaten, and I'm not talking about my nasty ice crunching habit. Fruits are full of water so eating fruit will also bring some H2O 2 U. In fact, some fruits, like WATERmelons, are mostly water. Additionally, they are the original multivitamin packs. Fruits provide us with fiber, oils, minerals and vitamins, and other nutrients your body needs to keep you running smoothly, and to keep you away from the doctor. The more diversified your fruit intake is, the more likely it is that you are getting a well rounded nutrition (and a less rounded belly).

You know you can grab a peach and eat it. It's not rocket science; you don't need me or anyone giving you advice on the matter. However, if you find yourself trying to sneak a fruit here and there, or trying to use it as an ingredient in something you are making, it's ok to allow others to give you some advice. As I was eating my cactus pears and my peaches, I thought it would be fun to come up with easy ways to consume all that other fruit I bought at the market. I'll tell you in advance I really loved everything I made. Nothing was too fancy. And that's exactly what I was going for: things I could prepare with ingredients I already had, and that were simple enough that I could make them before or after work. I'll share 6 fruity recipes that are triple threats: simple, nutritious and delicious. They are listed from super easy, to less easy. But once again, none of them are really difficult.


1. No brainer: squeeze it real good

I'll be honest: I'm not that into grapefruits, which is why I've had a couple that have been hanging around for a couple of weeks. I knew I was not gonna eat them, so I decided to make a refreshing juice. I squeezed the grapefruits, and an orange. I added water and brown sugar. Easy. I added some ice and I was ready to kick the heat in the butt!

On the road shortcut

1 1/2 grapefruits
1 orange
2 cups of water
4 teaspoons of brown sugar

Squeeze the fruits. Add the water and sugar. Stir.


2. No jelly for my toast, I have my own.

Jellies, jams and preserves can be very tasty and bring you most of the nutrients of the whole fruits. However, they are loaded with refined sugar. All this preserved fruits exist because in the past fresh fruit was not available during the winter. Now we do (although they are not nearly as good), and we have plenty of access to fresh fruit during the summer. Take advantage and eat some fresh fruit instead. To top my Finnish rye toast I used fat free cottage cheese, and blueberries I partially squeezed with honey and some lemon juice.

On the road shortcut
Blueberry smash
1 cup blueberries
1 teaspoon of honey
1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice

Mix and mash with a fork for 2-3 minutes, or until it reaches the desired consistency.

A slice of toast (Finnish rye)
2 teaspoons of fat free cottage cheese
2 teaspoons blueberry smash


3. Quick and easy exchange: toss that salad

When I want a quick and simple salad, I just use lettuce, tomatoes and onions. (Hey, I can hear you saying "bo-ring". Stop it.) Even though tomatoes are technically fruits, I wanted an even more refreshing flavor for a hot-summer side salad. I substituted the tomatoes for apricots. Then I made a dressing using walnut oil, grapefruit juice, and honey. I couldn't stop eating it. I had an extra serving and ate it as dessert.
On the road shorcut
Half head of lettuce
6 sliced and cored apricots
1/2 red onion, sliced

Add all of the components to a salad bowl.

1 tablespoon walnut oil
Juice of 1/2 grapefruit
2 teaspoons of honey
Mix all the ingredients. Taste to make sure the oil is not overpowering your dressing. You may want to add more juice or honey if it's too walnut-ly. You can substitute the walnut oil for your favorite oil.

Add the dressing to the salad bowl and toss.

4. Got 10 minutes? Spike that breakfast

I always have breakfast. One of my favorite breakfast foods is oatmeal; I love oatmeal. The key of eating oatmeal often is adding a twist here and there every time you make it so it doesn't get boring. I cook my instant oatmeal in milk to add protein and flavors. This time the add-ins were slivers of almonds and dried cherries. I added almond extract, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt to deepen the flavors and upgrade my oatmeal from good to awesome.

On the road shortcut
2 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup dry cherries
1/4 cup almond slivers
A dash of cinnamon
A pinch of salt
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup instant oatmeal

Add the milk, dry cherries, almond slivers, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, and almond extract to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat to its lowest and add the oatmeal. Stir often while it thickens to the desired consistency. For me, those are an additional 2-3 minutes but it ranges from 1-6 minutes or so.

5. Bored of your sandwich? Upgrade to a fruity bread

Bread is so good. However, eating white bread most of the time deprives your body from the whole nutrition present in the whole grain. Whole wheat bread can provide that, adding much needed fiber to our diets. But if you are tired of having plain whole wheat bread try adding some nuts and fruits to add new flavor dimensions, plus more and diverse nutrients.  I baked this whole wheat bread using walnuts and dried black currants in the dough. If you are not willing to make your own bread, just check your local bakery or supermarket for interesting and healthy breads.

On the road shortcut
Yeast prep
1/4 cup milk at 90F
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package of yeast
1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten

Mix all the ingredients and let the yeast get active. It will take about 5-10 minutes. The mixture will thicken and get bubbly. 

Bread mix
1 cup of water at 90F
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried black currants
Prepped yeast

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of the bread machine and bake according to the manufacturer's instructions.

6. Indulge sensibly; fruits can be dessert, or part of it

Easy and simple desserts using fruits can be awesome, and very rewarding. Even if you are indulging, eating a bit more sugar than you should, a fruit dessert brings additional micro nutrients than plain pastries won't. I saw an awesome recipe for a blueberry pie I wanted to make. I removed the crust so it was just a cooked parfait of blueberries, custard and meringue. You can visit the Taste of home website and check the original recipe as well. 

On the road shortcut
Blueberry layer
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup orange juice

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Stir in blueberries and orange juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Cover and set aside.

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in milk until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature without stirring; set aside.
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

In a large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved.

Assembling the whole thing
Pour blueberry mixture into 4 ramekins. Top with custard. Spread meringue evenly over filling. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

No comments:

Post a Comment