Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fruit salsa

I’ve had so much fresh fruit in my house this summer that I thought it was the perfect time to try a fruit salsa recipe I’ve seen many times at allrecipes.com.

This summer at Bible school, the workers were treated to fruit salsa one night, and I loved it. I figured my readers would enjoy it as well, so I gave it a try.

Fruit salsa is basically a variety of fresh fruit cut into small pieces and mixed with a little sugar and fruit preserves. Most of us think spicy when we hear the name salsa, but there’s nothing spicy about it.

Fruit salsa’s ingredients can be adjusted according to your family’s tastes and to the fruit in season.

For my salsa, I used a cup of strawberries, a cup of blueberries, a gala apple and a kiwi. For the preserves, I chose peach. I made a small batch for just a few people and was finished with the recipe in less than 20 minutes.

I’ve read many versions of fruit salsa using a variety of fruits, including raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, mangoes, pears, oranges, bananas, pomegranates, nectarines, fresh peaches and frozen peaches, plums and grapes. Am I missing something?

You can also be adventurous with your preserve or jelly selection. Suggestions from those who have made salsa include orange marmalade; apricot, pineapple or blackberry preserves; strawberry or apple jelly; and even cranberry sauce!

This is a very pretty dish; I love the colors and textures. It would be a wonderful item for a party or shower and an equally good treat for a lunch box.

I served the salsa with Trader Joe’s cinnamon sugar pita chips. Stacy’s also makes cinnamon sugar pita chips. Allrecipes includes a recipe for homemade cinnamon tortilla chips, which I’ll include. I’ve made my own tortilla chips before, and they’re very good. But the store-bought pita chips are delicious and easy.

The next time I make this, I want to try it with a little bit of granola on top and skip the chips. It would also be delicious on pound cake.

If you love fruit, I think you’ll love this recipe!

Annie’s Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 2 golden delicious apples — peeled, cored and diced
  • 8 ounces raspberries
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar*
  • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor
  • 10 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, golden delicious apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter-flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

*Most reviewers cut back on the sugar in this recipe, and some eliminated it altogether.


Fruit Salsa
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 gala apple, cut into small pieces (I did not peel it)
  • 1 cup strawberries, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I will use less next time or might even eliminate)
  • 1 tablespoon peach preserves
Mix all ingredients and chill until ready to eat.

I served mine with store-bought cinnamon pita chips.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blueberry time

Lynn Kyle knows blueberries.

She picks them, she sells them and she cooks with them.

More than 30 years ago, Lynn’s dad, A.B. Tucker, planted five to six dozen blueberry bushes in the Buckhorn community. It was a hobby for him.

Lynn said he picked them each summer and sold them to the farmers market that used to be at the corner of N.C. 42 and Forest Hills Road.

The family always helped him out in the summer and took vacations on that blueberry money, she said.

Since the death of their parents, Lynn and her brothers have taken over the blueberry patch.

Lynn said the blueberries are totally organic and that no chemicals have ever been put on them. The bushes, which tower at 10 to 15 feet, have only been pruned a couple of times, she said.

There are several varieties of blueberries among the bushes, and Lynn and friend Lisa Lewis spend hours picking enough to sell for individual orders as well as at Wilson’s two farmers markets. Lynn said she and Lisa sell 60 to 70 quarts each time they set up at the markets. On Wednesday last week, they sold 62 quarts at the downtown market, which is open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 207 W. Green St. They also go to the market at the Wilson County Fairgrounds from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Lynn enjoys her time in the blueberry patch.

“My dad always said it was relaxing out there picking; it’s quiet and peaceful,” she said, adding she feels close to her mom and dad when she’s among those familiar bushes.

Lynn said the weather has been perfect for the blueberries this year, and they seem sweeter and plumper than in past seasons. She hopes they last until the end of July. Sometimes the season is longer, but this year they were ready a few weeks earlier than usual.

Lynn has a number of recipes for her blueberries, and she also puts them on salads, in smoothies and eats them with oatmeal.

She freezes them as well and pulls them out during the off season to enjoy them frozen.

“It’s a great snack,” she said.

One favorite dessert is what she calls blueberry bottom cupcakes. She mixes up a yellow cake mix by the box directions and stirs in up to three cups of blueberries before spooning the batter into cupcake holders. She said the simple recipe is delicious. She loves how the blueberries settle to the bottom of the cupcake.

Lynn is sharing two recipes today. One is a blueberry cheesecake recipe she adapted.

“When I made it, I, as usual, did not read all the directions, just mixed everything together,” she said. “The pie was supposed to be layered, not totally mixed together and put in the shell.”

Apparently her son, Trevor, preferred it that way because when she made it the correct way this year, layered, he told her he liked the old way better!

“So I played around and changed the original recipe to be better than the mistake one!”She’s also sharing her mom’s blueberry cobbler recipe, which only has a few ingredients.

Lynn said she’s well aware of the nutritional value of blueberries. According to a N.C. Department of Agriculture website, blueberries contain vitamins A and C as well as iron, potassium and magnesium. They are also a good source of fiber and carbohydrates and contain just 42 calories per half-cup serving.

Blueberry Cheesecake
  • 1 9-inch size deep dish baked pie shell or 2 regular size baked pie shells (I’ve also made it with 2 graham cracker crusts)*
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 package cream cheese instant pudding
  • 1 cup 2 percent milk
  • 1 package (8-ounce size) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 to 12 oz. whipped topping
Simmer 2 cups berries with the water for 3 or 4 minutes. Mash berries with potato masher. Add combined sugar and cornstarch to the cooking fruit. Continue cooking until syrup is thick, stirring constantly. When about thickened, remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 cups berries. Set aside to cool.

Combine cream cheese pudding and milk. Beat until smooth. Add softened cream cheese and powered sugar. Continue beating until creamy and smooth. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping. When berries are cooled, pour into cream cheese, pudding and cool whip mixture. Pour into pie shells, top with remaining cool whip. Refrigerate until chilled. Enjoy!

*This recipe is also very good made without a crust, served more like a pudding with whipped topping.

Lynn Kyle

Charlotte’s Cobbler
  • 1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice (undrained)
  • 1 quart blueberries
  • 1 box dry yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Pour in crushed pineapple and spread over bottom of dish. Cover with blueberries.

Sprinkle yellow cake mix over the fruit and top with drizzled butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. If the cake mix still has dry places 10 to 15 minutes into the baking process, move the mix around a little with a knife so it mixes with the melted butter.

Lynn Kyle

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'No Whine with Dinner'

Cooking for picky eaters has its challenges.

There are those who won’t eat casseroles, don’t like nuts, refuse to taste anything with mayonnaise or think a food that even resembles a green vegetable is gross.

So what’s a parent to do in order to provide healthy meals for the family (including the picky eaters) that they will eat?

Registered dietitians Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex have published a delightful book, “No Whine With Dinner,” that I have enjoyed reading and cooking from since I borrowed it from the Wilson County Public Library. Weiss and Bissex have a popular Website, MealMakeoverMoms.com and blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen.

The authors have adapted and created recipes in a way that should appeal to the picky-eater’s senses.

I’ve enjoyed reading through this book and the comments on how the recipe was developed and how it was received. I’ve found a number of recipes I want to try, including hooray for hamburger soup, buttery brown sugar carrots and chocolaty pumpkin bars.

I’ve already made peanut butter power cookies, a very good soft cookie made with wheat flour and very little oil.

Later, I tried honey mustard chicken bites. The chicken was also delicious, but I must admit that my granddaughter would not eat them because she detected the honey mustard taste. The rest of us loved them, however.

In addition to the recipes and commentary in “No Whine With Dinner,” there’s a section at the end of the book that includes comments from 50 moms on how they get their picky eaters to try new foods. I enjoyed reading these suggestions as well, some of which I’ve tried myself!

This cookbook is a nice addition to a cookbook collection, especially for those of us who cook for children. And it’s especially nice when you can read it first from the library.

Peanut Butter Power Cookies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or coat two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, chocolate chips, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the sugar, peanut butter, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until well blended, about two minutes. At low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Scoop the dough by slightly rounded tablespoons into 11/2-inch “blobs,” and place on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake, one sheet at a time, about 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown (when done, the cookies will be about 21/2 inches in diameter). Cool for five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring the cookies to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Makes 3 dozen.

*I was out of ground flaxseed and don’t keep wheat germ so I omitted this ingredient.

Nutrition Information per Serving (1 cookie): 120 calories, 6g fat (1g saturated, 3g monounsaturated, 0.3g omega-3), 90mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g protein.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tomatoes and zucchini

We have certainly enjoyed the season’s produce at my house this summer — eating fresh peaches, blueberries, tomatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers, zucchini and snap beans.

I’ve bought produce at both of Wilson’s farmers markets, and we’ve appreciated the kindness of neighbors and friends who have shared the bounty of their gardens with us. It’s a good thing they like to share because our puny little backyard garden was a complete failure this summer.

Some of the vegetables and fruits have been prepared the traditional way for dinner at our house these last few weeks, but I’ve also been trying a few new things. One of my favorites — and my husband’s as well — is a layered vegetable dish that combines ripe tomatoes and zucchini. The dish reminds Reggie and me of a very favorite dish — tomato pie. But this recipe comes without the pie crust, which only adds fat and calories as we all know! (That being said, I’m including the tomato pie recipe here again because it is just so very delicious.)

This new super-easy vegetable dish can be adapted to your own tastes, but I used Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese with the casserole I made and added fresh basil to my layers. Instead of a heavy crust, I sprinkled Italian bread crumbs on my layers.

The preparation time for tomato zucchini bake is quick and basically involves slicing tomatoes, zucchini and sweet onions then layering those ingredients with a little salt, pepper, oregano and cheese. Don’t go heavy on the cheese; the vegetables are the star of this dish!

But I will say that the browned mozzarella is absolutely delicious to me!

You can make enough for just one person, or bring out the big casserole dish and make a large casserole for a crowd. As long as you have the tomatoes and zucchini, you’re good to go.

I’m glad I made enough for leftovers the next day because they were delicious as well!

Lisa’s Tomato Pie
  • One frozen or refrigerated pie crust
  • 3 to 4 medium, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions
  • Olive oil
  • 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used reduced fat)
Slice tomatoes and season with salt and pepper; drain juice for an hour or so before using.*

Cook pie crust for 10 minutes at temperature recommended on package. Prick the crust before baking.

While the crust is cooking, saute onions in a little olive oil.

Once crust is cooked, remove from oven (adjusting oven temperature to 375 degrees) and sprinkle a little of the Parmesan cheese on the crust. (Keep in mind that the Parmesan cheese will also be used in the pie’s layers, so don’t use too much.)

Layer tomato slices over cheese. Add a layer of basil, sautéed onions and a little oregano. Repeat layer, omitting basil this time.

Mix mayonnaise and Mozzarella cheese and spread on top of pie. Top with remaining Parmesan.

Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until top is lightly browned and juice is beginning to bubble through.

Let sit for 20 minutes before cutting.

* Here’s how I drained my tomatoes: I cut the tomatoes into relatively thin slices, not paper thin, but thin. I placed them on a cooling rack that I positioned inside a jelly roll pan to catch the juice. Then I sprinkled salt and pepper on the tomato slices and let them drain. After an hour or so, I put the tomato slices on paper towels to soak up more liquid. If you only seasoned one side of your tomato, be careful to place it seasoned-side up on the paper towels so the salt and pepper won’t rub off. Quite a bit of liquid was removed from my tomatoes, and my pie was certainly not runny. But I also waited to cut the pie until it had cooled for at least 15-20 minutes, based on a reviewer’s suggestion, which also helped it firm up. For the other dish in today’s paper, I just placed the tomatoes between layers of paper towels to soak up the liquid.

Tomato and Zucchini Bake

I’m not putting specific amounts for this recipe because it can be adjusted based on how much you need. I used two medium to large tomatoes and two small to medium zucchinis and made 4-6 servings. I probably used less than a cup of Mozzarella cheese and maybe 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan.
  • Tomatoes, sliced
  • Zucchini, sliced
  • Vidalia or sweet onions, sliced
  • Butter for sauteeing onions
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano (or Italian seasoning if you prefer it)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Italian bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place tomatoes on paper towels and blot to dry or layer between paper towels to soak up extra liquid. While they dry, sautee onions in a little butter.

In a casserole dish, layer tomatoes, overlapping, zucchini slices and sauteed onions. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper as well as oregano. If you have fresh basil, add a chopped leaf or two to the layer. Top with a sprinkling of cheeses and bread crumbs. Do not use too much cheese or bread crumbs. These ingredients are supposed to enhance the vegetables, not overpower them. Repeat layers at least once.

Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden brown and casserole is cooked through.