Fruit on the go!

fruit snack So let’s close the week with a great tip for storing cut up apples.  K?  K!

If possible, put some fresh oranges on top of your apples.  The acid in the citrus will help keep the apples from turning so brown.  There.  Done.

Not quite.  Does anyone else find it disturbing that schools, nowadays, insists on “prepacked” food items rather than allowing fresh foods prepared at home?  I’ve seen kids at the after school program at my kids’ school who, rather than grab a fresh apple from the box, are handed their “sliced apples wrapped in cellophane which have been–I have no doubt–sprayed with a bleach solution or something similar to keep them from going off.”  Mmmm….!  Tasty chemicals with the added bonus of more trash for the landfill! 🙂

Why isn’t the bleach solution (or whatever they’ve used) listed on the packaging?  It’s because the lobbyists have found a loophole in the USDA regulations.  Since the treatment is part of the “process” and not an “ingredient” it does not have to be named.  Same applies to those weird like “bunny love” carrots that come in a bag.

Hate to be Debby-downer at the end of the week, but apparently I needed to get this off my chest.  There.  Done.  This time for the day.

Have a FRESH weekend everyone!

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Fruit Salad: Yummy! Yummy!

fruit salad

Here you see the remnants of my strawberries that taste great but are already turning soft (will have to talk with my farmers market vendor next week… just got these on Saturday!), my oranges that Rhea says have “too much white stuff around them” and some on-the-verge-of-banana-bread bananas.

And what does a economizing mama do with all the above ingredients?  Cut off the “white stuff,” sift through the berries and toss a few pieces of each banana–and then make a fruit salad, of course.

Served in the fanciest breakfast establishments, one would think that fruit salad is a tad high brow.  But I have my suspicions that people more along the lines of my frugal Grandma Millie came up with this concoction.

“What shall we do with all this fruit that has bad spots here and is starting to turn, ma’am?”

“Cut out the good pieces and put it in a pretty glass bowl.  And we shall call it: fruit salad!”

Many vendors at farmers markets have special buckets for people (yes–people like me) who are willing to cut out a spot here and overlook a mark there; and pay 1/3 the price of the pretty produce.  For example, I often purchase organic apples for $1.25 lb just because they aren’t picture perfect.  Then I chop’em up, throw out the few brown parts, and make apple sauce.

Beautiful, delicious, healthy, economical–these are some of my favorite things!

This Freaks Me Out

freak

I don’t like it when fruit looks manufactured.

My mom picked up this bag of oranges for me from a supermarket and I swear every single one of those suckers looks exactly the same.

We’re eating them–I’m not enough of a nut job to toss’em or anything like that.  They taste pretty good too (which is why we’re eating them) but they still freak me out.

These oranges have no seeds.  They are quintuplets of the weirdest kind, created to grow rapidly and equally enough to fit the exact same number in each bag.   Their skins are just a little too smooth, a little too shiny and a little too similar to one another.

These oranges may or many not have been grown with GMO’s.  I can’t know for certain though as my government feels this information isn’t relevant enough to share…

Personally, I prefer Mother Nature’s approach to fruit production which includes differences and imperfections.  Craggy skins, alternative sizes, shapes, shades–this stuff speaks to me.

We’ll eat these oranges this time, yes.  But THEY FREAK ME OUT.

Savory Crock Pot Ribs

crockpot ribs

Well you had to know this was coming.  I mean come on.  What kind of winter menu doesn’t include at least a few crock pot recipes?  Certainly not a menu from a born and bred Midwesterner!

I actually have two crock pots, thankyouverymuch.  One is a 4 quart (pictured here) and the other is about twice the size.  Sometimes I use them both at the same time and I don’t even have to defend myself because that is perfectly OK.

Crock pots/slow cookers have a reputation as being rather unsophisticated.  To this notion I say “pish-posh!”  Actually these gadgets are the hippest cooking tool in town as they allow on-the-go meal planners to prep in advance, walk away for many hours and then come back to a delicious meal and a kitchen that smells like heaven.  Cutting edge, baby.  That’s me.

One of my fave blogs is Crockpot 365 (featured along the sidebar to your right.)  Stephanie Odea has come a long way (I remember when her blog was ad. free) and business endeavors.  She totally cracks me up and tell me this: How can you not appreciate someone with an “unusual obsession with her crockpot but is OK with that?”

I like Stephanie’s recipes because she uses normal ingredients and always gives her family’s (and often friends’) honest verdicts of whatever she “crocked.”  Stephanie is also a believer in substituting or simply leaving out ingredients that she doesn’t have on hand (Amen sista!)

I do step away from some of the “not quite food” items that Crockpot 365 recipes list at times (condensed soups, soda, sometimes sauces) but as Stephanie would approve, I simply substitute or delete completely and happily get on with my life.

Today I am sharing one of my pork ribs recipes (not from Crockpot 365.)  I really should have called this recipe “This One Time” because I don’t really use a single recipe when I make ribs in the crock pot.  We like ours flavored with something sweet (honey, brown sugar) something tangy (balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, orange juice) and something salty (soy sauce, salt)  Feel free to put on your “Stephanie” and substitute away.  You can also check out Crockpot 365 for more delicious crocky fun.

AND… I’ll be Michelle-izing one Stephanie’s posts for my Feb. 26  Hometown Pasadena Mangiamo Post.  It’ll be tangy.  It’ll be easy.  It’ll be yum-ola.

But for now, I give you…

“This Time” Slow Cooker Ribs

Ingredients: 2 lbs. baby back pork short ribs, 3 garlic cloves, 1/4 chopped onion, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce, 1/3 cup honey, few dashes pepper, sliced oranges on top.

Directions: mix liquids (including honey) and drizzle over meat.  Add rest of ingredients placing the oranges last on top.  The liquid didn’t cover all the meat, so part way through I flipped the ribs over.  Not necessary; just tried it.  Cook in a 4 quart crock pot on low for 4-6 hours or until done.  Serve with rice which is perfect for the extra broth.  Yum!

Note: I don’t always use oranges, but my mom’s tree is still producing prolifically so I pretty much don’t make anything around her without them these days…

Something Blue

something blue

Fruits and Vegetables.  We should all be eating more fruits and vegetables.  I’m assuming this sounds familiar to pretty much everyone reading this blog–if not every person reading any blog.
 
In season right now at my local farmer’s market are Bosc pears that we are totally diggin’ at my house.  Their brown skins make them an exotic addition to the fruit bowl.  Here in sunny southern California even these kiwis are locally grown.  You can get oranges at the farmers market too, but I don’t have to because my mom/neighbor has a tree with prolific amounts of delicious oranges.  Lucky us!
 
Every morning we begin our breakfast with fruit of some kind.  We prefer fresh but are not opposed to an occasional canned pineapple, peach or pears (in its own juice.)

Because I’m a time economizer, I’ve developed the format you see pictured above.  Step 1: Mommy cuts fruit on cutting board.  Step 2: Cutting board is placed on table for mass consumption.  Step 3: Three kids and husband have at it.  Step 4: Mommy–or sometimes Daddy :)–clean up said cutting board.
 
My two girls volunteered as hand models in the photo above–they were so excited to “show everyone how we do it at our house.”  I tried to get a shot that didn’t include the atrocious blue nail polish you see (thanks, Catalina, for the birthday party nail salon!) but couldn’t. 

But then I figured hey, this isn’t the Pottery Barn catalog.  Blue nails and all, here we are eating breakfast at my house.  Have a great day!

Winter Salad

I know I use the word “love” excessively when I talk about food, but, well, I really do love a good salad!

In my humble opinion, a “good” salad should contain a variety of textures and colors and be filled with seasonal produce, when possible, that combine to make interesting and varied flavors.  If you are looking for the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing, you can stop reading this post now.  If you’d like to tantalize your taste buds (oh my!) and whip up something delicious and nutritious, keep reading…

For a southern Californian, it is easy to make fresh salads year round.  But what’s a meal maker to do if it’s January and one happens to live in, for example, Otisville, MI?  Don’t despair, Michigander amigas!   It is still possible to make a decent winter salad, even if you live in the temporary tundra.  You likely won’t be hitting the farmers market this weekend like I will, but I think you’ll find most of my suggestions at super market near you.

If I use leafy greens, I always start with something dark.  For this salad I used spinach.  You know those fancy restaurants that serve salad sculptures precariously balanced on plates with artsy looking leaves and stalks so large that even a muppet could fit in his mouth?  I hate that.  I like my salad to be easily poppable into my mouth.  You can use a knife or, my fave time saver, poultry shears.  Snip, snip, done!

cutting greens

I chopped up some carrots, celery, cucumbers and then cabbage.  I especially like the striking contrast between the bright white-ish cabbage and the dark spinach.  I do say it is a quite a nice visual, don’t you agree, Dah-ling? (see photo below)

In the summer, there’s nothing (NOTHING) better than a ripe red tomato in a salad.  But in the winter there’s nothing (NOTHING) more disappointing than a white, cakey tomato in a salad.  Don’t do it!  Yes, you need something acidic to make your salad truly del-ish, but there are many better winter options than a lackluster tomato! Even with So-Cal’s year round produce scene, options are still seasonal.   Try a tart apple, fresh or canned sliced pears, or what I used in this bowl of yum: some fresh oranges.

Another winter salad secret of mine is craisins.  Yum!!!  These tart and tangy little garnet gems (they seriously do look like jewels, don’t they?) are the perfect complement to my almost-done masterpiece.

craisins

My kids are well-trained (hello–I hope so!) to eat a good salad, but prefer it without cheese or red onion.  So I usually toss theirs with a balsamic vinaigrette, serve them, and then add the rest for the grownups.  I adore thinly sliced red onion in pretty much any kind of salad, and I also like a dash of cheese.  In this salad I used a mild and salty crumbled feta.  Parmesan or goat cheese could also have worked.   If I use pears, I sometimes like a mild blue cheese.

People who enjoy my salads often get annoyed when they discover that I usually mix the dressing right on top as I go.  “How can I recreate that Michelle!?”  I like a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, sugar, sometimes mustard, sometimes honey, sometimes apple cider vinegar, sometimes celery salt…  (Sorry.  That’s not helpful; it’s annoying.  I think you get the picture…)

I promise to post some actual salad dressing recipes soon.  Honestly, though, when you’ve got so much good stuff in your bowl, a simple vinegar and oil (my general go-to) dressing from a bottle can do just fine too.

Drum roll please… Tah-dah!

salad

Some tips: Add the juice from oranges or pears to the dressing: yum!  This salad was served as part of a meal, but you can make your salad the main dish by adding some protein and maybe some bread or crackers on the side.  My preferred protein pals include chopped chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans or fresh nuts (walnuts, pecans=smile.)  Candied nuts taste marvy, but pack on the calories, so I usually just use plain.

Get creative with your salads.  My mom likes chopped cauliflower and broccoli in hers.  Sometimes we don’t even include lettuce or other leafy greens.  Gasp!  I know.  Shocking.