Produce & Pots and Pans – Beets!

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I have eaten beets throughout my life, but in my time as a cook, I don’t recall using beets fresh from the farm market. If I have attempted at some point in my life to prepare them for a meal,  they must’ve been such a disaster, I blocked it from my memory. ūüôā

‚ÄĘBeets are high in many vitamins and minerals. Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. …
‚ÄĘBeets cleanse the body. …
‚ÄĘBeets help your mental health. …
‚ÄĘBeets are used as a stomach acid tester. …
‚ÄĘBeets are a high source of energy.
~ Fullcircle.com

This week, when I saw a bundled bunch of beets in the farm market for a good price, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Beets are full of vitamins and minerals, and are something different to serve with meals…at least in our house. I often make RED BEET EGGS as a side dish, but use canned beets for that recipe.

Because I am sensitive to red food coloring, I wanted to try a red velvet cake recipe of some kind using the beets as the coloring agent. I found a link for a good Red Velvet Beet Cupcake. Yummy, Healthy Easy’s Blog – Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes. This recipe turns out well and has great directions for roasting the beets in the oven.

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I roasted an extra beet and devoured it when it was cool. Delicious! I will be roasting beets for our dinners in the near future.

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Roasted beets processed according to the cupcake recipe directions. What a yummy pink the beets created.

I modified the recipe a bit to suit what I had on hand, substituting cake flour, apple cider vinegar for white vinegar, sugar in place of stevia, and dark chocolate cocoa powder in place of regular. The use of the dark chocolate is probably why there is no trace of the red beet color in my cupcakes. I also did not use food coloring as this was the point in me using the red beets.

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Simple Cream Cheese/Sour Cream Frosting

  • One 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, such as Neufchatel
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

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Blend together with beaters until smooth. I like to refrigerate these cupcakes to keep the frosting fresh.

Delicious…give this recipe a try, easy and healthier than boxed cake mix.

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Produce – Charentais Melon

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“A Charentais melon is a type of cantaloupe melon, Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis. It is a small variety of melon, similar in flesh to cantaloupes, but with a more fragrant smell. It was developed in western France around 1920 as a more refined cantaloupe. Most are now produced in North Africa, with some limited production in the United States.” ~ Wikipedia

Cantaloupes are not a new type of produce for me, they have been a staple on my table for as long as I can remember, but The Charentais Melon is a new taste experience. The melon I recently bought might have been a tad under-ripe, but the flavor was wonderful. The color of the flesh was tantalizing, a deeper apricot color than the cantaloupes I often buy at this time of year. I really admire the appearance of this cantaloupe, and enjoyed cutting slices using the green stripes as a guide. Would I buy this cantaloupe variety again? You betcha’.

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Produce – Asian Pear

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Asian Pears are inexpensive and come wrapped in a lacy jacket. To me, they appear to be more like an odd apple than a pear. The taste, a mild pear flavor with the crispy, juicy texture of an apple, made for an enjoyable snack. The hardest part of eating the fruit was knowing for sure it was ripe. It never softened up like a Bartlett pear, nor put out a tantalizing scent. I finally searched for some information and found this little blurb: “Check the pear for a springy texture.” This advice proved to be reliable and the pear I chose to eat was indeed ripe. More information on Asian Pears can be found on: EHow – How to tell if an Asian Pear is ripe.

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My husband and I wondered if Asian Pears are the type used in fruit cocktail; the cubed pears in the canned fruit mix are usually very firm. Will I buy one again? Probably not. The flavor was not as nice as a perfectly ripe Bartlett, and the taste of an apple is also much better. I’ll stick to those two favorites and leave the Asian Pears in the grocer’s bin.

Produce, Pots and Pans & Product – Plums, Cheesecake Cupcakes & Peas in a Pod

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The choices in the supermarket were slim this week for sampling a new fruit or vegetable. There were a few novelties such as dragonfruit, but at 7.99 each, I passed on this one. I chose instead yellow plums. I’ve eaten golden plums in the past, but these were a brilliant lemon yellow when I purchased them. I set them on my windowsill to wait for them to ripen. Little did I know they would sunbathe and “tan” to a beautiful coral color. The flavor was delicious, but since plums are rather an ordinary fruit I wanted to do something different with them. I decided to stew them down until just tender, caramelize them and sprinkle with coarse salt.

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I didn’t have a recipe to follow. I peeled the plums since they were imported (possible unknown pesticides) and sliced them. I added a bit of water to the saucepan and lightly simmered the fruit until they were barely soft. At this point I added brown sugar and cooked them until the water and sugar became syrupy. I turned the heat off and sprinkled with coarse salt and let everything cool.

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I decided to make my recipe for cheesecake cupcakes and place the cooled plums on top. The recipe calls for a vanilla wafer, but I used half an oreo, minus the cream, in the bottom of the cupcake liner. The recipe for cheesecake muffins follows:

CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

6 Oreos halved, cream removed
2 8 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
Fruit Preserves ( I used my carmalized plums)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in 12 regular sized muffin tins. Cover bottom with Oreo half. Combine cream cheese and sugar in bowl. Beat until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat again until blended and without lumps. Scoop into muffin tins. I use an ice cream scoop. Fill about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes…a few minutes longer if they are too loose in the middle. Chill in the fridge. Top with preserves.

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I also top with chocolate chips when hot. These melt and create a chocolate disc on top.

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These are super easy, delicious, and low in sugar. I can’t say they are low in calories, but they are VERY good!

The adorable Peas in a Pod Salt and Pepper Shakers in the first photograph in post can be found at Amazon.com. I bought several of them at Christmas and everyone who received a set loved it.

Produce – Savoy Cabbage

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My newest venture into the world of untried produce is Savoy Cabbage. I’ve seen this vegetable many times, but¬†choose instead¬†the well-known and less expensive generic cabbages. I realize I have probably unknowingly sampled Savoy cabbage in a restaurant or company dinner out, but I have not purchased or cooked one.

The cabbage itself is much prettier than its plainer cousin; the leaves are frilly and a beautiful lime green. I decided boiling or sauteing alone was out of the question and searched the Internet for an alternative. I didn’t find anything¬†outstanding so I added a hodgepodge of items from fridge and pantry and came up with my own version of a Dijon sauerkraut. I didn’t measure or¬†write down a recipe, but these are some of the items I added: half a can of beer, Dijon mustard, a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce, some sea salt, freshly ground pepper and herbs. I cooked everything in a saucepan until the cabbage was softened and the liquid condensed.

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The finished sauerkraut dish wasn’t very pretty; the presentation on par with the canned or bagged sauerkraut I often have on hand, but the taste was much more yummy. The Dijon mustard added substance and the beer gave the dish a surprising tang. Best of all, the homemade sauerkraut was delicious cold. I also appreciated the bigger pieces of cabbage compared to the stringy strands I find in a can.

The big question: Will I buy Savoy Cabbage again? Absolutely. I loved it.

“Like the rest of the cabbage family, savoy cabbage has high nutritional value. It is very low in calories, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It is a good source of dietary fiber, and protein. It is also rich in many vitamins and minerals, such as: Thiamine (B-1), folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, manganese, calcium, copper, phosphorous, and copper. They are also an excellent source of both Vitamins K and C. Each of the different types of cabbage have high nutritional value, as well as tremendous antioxidant and disease combating properties. These properties make cabbage one of the worlds healthiest foods.” ~ SavoyCabbage.org

Produce – Prickly Pear

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The prickly pear I sampled last week was a complete disappointment. I’m thankful I read Melanie Mendelson’s account of eating a prickly pear in her “Melanie Cooks” blog, How to eat a Prickly Pear, as her information was exactly what I experienced when I cut into my prickly pear.

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The fruit was a gorgeous color and had a bit of a sweet scent. I also could see why Melanie said she wouldn’t buy another one; the fruit was FULL of seeds.

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I scooped out a bit of flesh with the tip of the spoon. I found it uneatable. The half teaspoon measure of fruit was filled with six seeds, maybe more.

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I won’t be buying this fruit again, but I will try growing a prickly pear plant from the seeds to have something to show for the $1.49 I paid for it. The recommended way to start these seeds is to soak in citrus juice first to break down the hard shell.

Produce – Carambola

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In my continuing quest to try new produce, both vegetable and fruit, this week I chose the Carambola or Starfruit.

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What I loved about star fruit: The fragrance was amazing. I had a hard time bringing myself to slice and eat the fruit; I didn’t want to give up smelling the soft, flowery scent. The preparation was minimal. I washed the outer skin, sliced and ate. They are unique in appearance when sliced and live up to their name. Oh my! The taste…so unique, very tropical…absolutely delicious. I have a very picky husband, and even he liked the starfruit. A bonus: The seeds can be planted and grown. Hooray!

What I disliked: NOTHING, absolutely nothing.

Will I buy one again? I can’t wait to go to the supermarket today and buy one…or maybe two!

I have probably eaten¬†starfruit¬†in restaurant fruit salads, and I have possibly bought one, way, way in the past…but it is new to me now. I’m thrilled with the taste and only wish I had made it a habit to eat starfruit decades ago.

 

“Carambola, also known as starfruit, is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The fruit is popular throughout Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and parts of East Asia. The tree is also cultivated throughout non-indigenous tropical areas, such as in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southern United States.
The fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides (usually five but can sometimes vary); in cross-section, it resembles a star, hence its name. The entire fruit is edible and is usually eaten out of hand. They may also be used in cooking and can be made into relishes, preserves, and juice drinks.

Carambola is rich in antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C; and low in sugar, sodium, and acid. It is also a potent source of both primary and secondary polyphenolic antioxidants” ~ Wikipedia

Star fruit seeds soaking in lime juice.
Star fruit seeds soaking in lime juice.

I came upon a good tip to follow when planting seeds collected from fruits. Often, in nature, the fruit is eaten and the seeds pass through the system of the animal ingesting it. This helps remove the hard, outer coat of the seed. To duplicate this process soak the fruit seeds in the juice of a lemon or lime overnight. What a great idea!

How to Grow Star Fruit From Seed.

Produce – Belgian Endive

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When I shop in my local grocery store or farmer’s market, I often notice interesting produce I haven’t bought, or, to my knowledge, experienced. I am committed to changing my shopping and eating habits. My goal is to sample every strange and exotic fruit and vegetable I can find for sale in the coming year.

I started my quest with Belgian Endives. I’m pretty sure that at one time or another, in a restaurant or someone’s home, I have probably eaten a Belgian Endive, but I am also sure I have never purchased one. I remedied the situation this week and bought one.

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I “Googled” Belgian endive and found plenty of information on the vegetable. One of my favorite articles was the Top Ten Ways to Use a Belgian Endive. I chose the easy way out with the endive and cut it into strips to add to my turkey and arugula sandwich. I also tasted it alone and unadorned, and found it has a delicious appeal. I will definitely be buying more Belgian endive in the future.

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Produce – Garden Harvesting/Appaloosa Bean

My gardens are beginning to produce large amounts of vegetables. I am¬†gloriously happy as I pick the fruits of my labor and place them in my trug¬†basket. I have many cucumbers, squash, tomatoes (the ones the squirrels don’t eat) herbs and a new bush bean¬†called Appaloosa Beans.

I let these beans become completely dry on the bush. I only grew a few since it was something I hadn’t tried in the past. I am very pleased with the look of the bean. I don’t have enough to make a bean dish with them so¬†I am going to save them and use them as the star attraction in winter soups and stews.