Another Use For Abundant Fruit

Bake with it!

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In the summer we had a lot of fruit. If we wanted something sweet, that’s what was available. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, cherries, then apples. While the fruit is at its’ peak you have to figure out a way to use it before it goes bad. Mom did a lot of canning and freezing. Sometimes the fruit, sometimes as jam or jelly.

When she got close to the end of the fruit she’d sometimes save the last cup or two and bake with it. Strawberry shortcake, apple crisp, berry or peach cobbler, all made appearances on the dinner table. As we got older she didn’t do so much canning, mostly freezing, and she turned to canned pie filling for a few recipes. Cherry squares was on those recipes. I love tart cherries, so anything with tart cherries is a hit for me. Now, though, pie filling in a can is a bit too sweet for me. Plus, there’s that whole pesky diabetes thing. I bet this recipe could easily be made without the pie filling. I’ve found canned tart cherries without sugar that could work. I would drain the juice into a small pan, add a bit of sugar, and heat it up to thicken it. Maybe add a bit of cornstarch or tapioca pearls to help. The other choice would be fresh cherries, pitted and halved, then macerated with a bit of sugar, citrus juice and zest. Actually, any berry would work that way too. Have fun with this Cherry Squares recipe, experiment and make it your own.

I Guess I’m Looking Forward to Fall

apples are good all the time

I keep finding mom’s apple recipes and I can’t wait to share them. Mom and Dad made a trip to the apple orchard quite a few years in a row. I don’t remember going very often with them. Maybe it was too much hassle, maybe we complained about picking apples, who knows. But, they’d come home with a bushel or two or different types of apples. She made applesauce, apple crisp, and, less frequently, she would make apple nut squares.

There’s not a lot of sugar in this recipe, that’s part of what I like about it. Most of the flavor comes from the type of apples you use. Pick a nice tart variety, that taste comes through best. Combined with the nuts, you get the sweet/tart of the baked apple and a bit of salt just to round out the flavor. I’m sure you could substitute your favorite nut instead of walnuts. Although I’d probably stick with walnuts or pecans. Almonds may be too mild and get lost, while peanuts my overpower the apples. Although… peanut butter and apples taste good together, so it could work.

Sometimes the Bananas Don’t Get Eaten

what to do with extra bananas

I tend to buy bananas when I find them for a good price. Generally, they get eaten. But, sometimes they get overlooked in favor of something sweet. So, I end up with bananas that are too ripe to eat. Or, sometimes you find bananas in the store, on the clearance shelf because they’re overripe. And they’re cheap!

These overripe bananas are the secret ingredient for making the best banana nut bread ever. If you only have one or two, put them in the freezer. Save them until you get enough to make 2, 3 or 4 loaves. Because, believe me, you’re going to want to have more than just one loaf. And, this banana nut bread freezes really well. Just double wrap it in foil before you put it in the freezer. Don’t forget to label it so you can tell the difference between it and your date nut bread. As you approach holidays or family get-togethers you can make this bread ahead of time and freeze it. Take it out to thaw the night before, or maybe early in the morning of the holiday, and by dinner time it’s ready to enjoy.

This is another family favorite, and was one of many treats that we looked forward to. It makes a great gift to take when visiting too. You’ll want to have a loaf or two in your freezer for last minute desserts. Personally, I like it lightly toasted with a little butter for breakfast.

Every Sweet Needs a Little Tart

my favorite dessert for summer

The local strawberry season is over but you can still find them in the grocery store. When you find them on sale it’s a good time to make pie. The one taste combination that still speaks of hot summer days and playing in the sand is strawberries combined with rhubarb.

I love the tartness of rhubarb. It such a good counterpoint to the sweetness of strawberries. Lately, I’ve seen rhubarb combined with other fruits as well. I haven’t taken the time to try those combinations yet because strawberry with rhubarb just seems like the perfect blending of opposites.

I found this treasured recipe in Mom’s files. The filling is just right, plenty of tartness to cut the sweetness of the berries, and just enough sweetness to offset the tart of the rhubarb. I don’t remember mom making pie though. I remember it being made into cobbler. That’s my favorite, because I like my mom’s biscuit recipe better than I like pie crust. Just follow the strawberry rhubarb pie instructions for the filling. Pour it into a 9 x 13 baking dish and top with the baking powder biscuit recipe. I follow the baking instructions for the biscuits and my cobbler is done when the biscuits are done cooking. Top with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy!

If It’s Oatmeal, It’s Healthy, Right?

I like oatmeal, for breakfast and in cake

Now that I’m working on getting healthy one of my favorite breakfasts is a bowl of oatmeal. There’s a lot of different things you can do with oatmeal, you never have to eat the same thing twice in one week. And you can make it taste sweet without adding sugars, which is why it’s starring regularly in my breakfast bowl.

Most of the time I’ve been pretty good at keeping my food in the low carb category, but sometimes I get cravings. The big problem is when those cravings are for something sweet. Generally, fruit will satisfy me. As I have gotten used to eating this way I’m finding that there are a lot of ways to get a taste of sweetness without resorting to processed sugars. I’ve also found that when I make sure to flavor my food with spices and/or herbs I get less cravings and I am more satisfied with the smaller portions I eat.

However, I’m having a problem. And that problem is my mom’s oatmeal cake. I’ve been able to resist a lot of my mom’s recipes but this one keeps calling me. This cake is moist, a little buttery, and has that almost caramel taste that comes from brown sugar. I’m going to need to make this pretty soon to keep my sanity. I have two choices to help me keep my sugar readings relatively low. Either I keep the recipe as it is and instead of cake, make it into mini muffins(pre-portioned already, easier to just have a small amount) or I need to experiment with cutting back on the sugar. I don’t want to use a sugar substitute, that never tastes right to me and ends up making me want real sugar instead. I think a lot of recipes we make can have the sugar cut back and still taste very good. I believe this is another recipe I need to experiment with.

Kids in the Kitchen

when we helped mom in the kitchen

I grew up in a pretty big family. My mom had kids underfoot for quite a few years. When she needed to make something that was time consuming she got some extra pairs of hands to help. We were especially eager to help when the job included sweet ingredients that we hoped she would give us a sample of when we finished up.

That’s how I learned to make sweet rolls, bread, and butter ball coffee cake. I’ve seen a lot of versions of the coffee cake, usually called monkey bread, or pull-apart bread, but they all seem overly sweet to me. What I really like about mom’s version is that it’s sweet but not overpoweringly so. I want to try to make some new versions of this with different flavors. What do you think of candied ginger, or orange rind, or perhaps a little cocoa, sugar, and chopped almonds? And there are so many kinds of dried fruit available now, I’m sure it could be customized to any family’s tastes. By the way, it works quite well in a bundt pan if you don’t have a tube pan.

Recipe Cards and Memories

mom’s recipes pull me back in time

Still digging through mom’s recipes. I put them on my computer so they’re easier to post here, but as I work my way through them I’m picturing the recipe cards that she worked from for so many years. Written in her dainty, impeccable handwriting, the cards were worn, and spotted with stains from the ingredients of the recipe. I don’t know where those cards are now, but mom spent some time rewriting her recipes in a notebook. That’s where I got them, except for the ones she read me over the phone when I needed to know how to make something.

One of my most vivid memories is coming in the front door of her house (it opened up into a foyer and then you stepped into the kitchen) after a tiring day and being greeted with the smell of something freshly cooked. I think the memories I treasure most are when I was still in school. Early fall, a weekend trip to an apple orchard, and soon I would enter the kitchen to the smell of apple crisp. I’m not a big fan of apple pie because I’m not a big fan of pie crust. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve run across pie crusts that I enjoy. But apple crisp gives you all the goodness of fresh apples with just a little sweetness and spice topped with crumbly oatmeal, almost like a soft granola.

I’m thrilled to rediscover this recipe, in particular because I’m pretty sure I can revamp it slightly and make it more friendly to my new way of eating. The right apples need less sugar, and so will the topping. I’ll be sure to post my results after I run them past my family.