Tag Archives: dried fruit

an attitude of gratitude (with lots of stuffing)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I have enjoyed games of SET and Boggle and we are now onto family scrabble. Its been a truly bountiful year and we feel quite blessed in our household.

After scaling down my Thanksgiving cooking projects, I put my energies into three dishes. I am providing links for two which were real crowd pleasers.

The stuffing and tart were both very yummy. I make a different stuffing every year. This year I chose something filled with more classic flavors. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made. The combination of flavors that really worked together was the apple cooking with the celery and then the sweet dried fruit (a fave flavor technique of mine, as seen by other posts) just spikes up the flavor another notch. First time using dried cherries and it won’t be the last. I added dried figs because I didn’t have dried apples. I also used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and did not really need to add any salt. But thank you NYT, I loved how this turned out and it was a real hit. It makes alot–easily ten cups if not more. I used organic vegetable broth from Whole Foods for $1.29.

The savory tart–I used a technique out of Provencal Light which says that the classic French Provencale tart also has you roast some garlic and then rub the juices of it on the tart dough before sticking in the oven. Definitely do this as a low cost flavor boost. I did splurge $1.99 for fresh thyme which was worth every penny. With frost and the patio herb gardening, we have lost our basil and most of our thyme so I bought. Otherwise, caramelizing onion is simply a delight. Its a very simple recipe and I felt that the flavors really took about 10 minutes after I turned off the stove. I did not add cheese. I also “cheated” and used ready made pie crust from Pillsbury ($2.50 on sale for two boxes (4 crusts). Here is a link to other savory tart recipes by Martha Stewart which look divine (and fun).

We also made the sweet potato and apple puree from a previous post. I will give it props for being very healthy–it used the basic flavor of the foods to derive the majority of the taste. But I must say, we needed more flavor, either in the form of brown suguar, cinnamon and nutmeg but otherwise, it was really quite pleasing. A much healthier alternative to candied yams, etc.  

Since its Thanksgiving I am forgoing nutritional analysis.
I am however updating this post to include cost per serving. Cost per serving for the bread and fruit serving is coming out to just under $0.90 cents a serving. The big splurge here was for the dried cherries. I included the cost of all ingredients.

Please let me know anything that you enjoyed, either making or eating!


Ode to the Fig

Recipes seem to be one of the areas where people’s creativities, passion, and energies are alive and well on the internet. Figs were kind of reintroduced to my life last summer when we went to visit our friends Lindsay and Derek in Atlanta (shout out, Hi!) and Lindsay baked us this beautiful cake full of figs picked ripe from a laden tree in her yard. Simple and extremely yummy. it does seem like God gave it a hefty dose of succulence…so, what is the best way to enjoy this fruit? There are seemingly endless ways. I did want to highlight a new blog on this site, called A Mingling of Tastes. I loved her post on the fig.

Fresh Figs from A Mingling of Tastes food blog

Fresh Figs from A Mingling of Tastes food blog

Well worth checking out–she has excellent pictures and steps for each process. She has three recipes to make up her self described menage a trois:

  • Fresh Figs
  • Fig and Goat Cheese Tart
  • Fig Pizza!

Now, I wanted to add my own recent experience. A little heat goes a long way to caramelize the insides and make something that could be a little dry become succulent and juicy. 🙂 I can also recommend making a potage with dried figs, using it with meat. For example, we made a thai massaman curry this week.

  • 1 can of massaman curry from the Asian store, it came with potatoes
  • Big chunks of chopped carrots
  • Potatoes in the same size (if the curry mix doesn’t come with it)
  • Dried figs cut in half
  • Chicken thighs, skinless
  • Simmer until cooked and serve over rice (we used brown basamati)

I am betting other vegetables like cauliflower or other dried fruit like apricots would work well in this too. I just let it simmer and simmer until the chicken was cooked and the carrots were tender. The flavors were highly complimentary. The potatoes soak up the heat of the curry which is helpful to our little tongues when eating. But the carrots and the figs add a sweetness. I was most pleased with the texture of the figs after cooking. I had dried figs which i had kept air tight for nearly a year! they were pretty dry and hard when i started. I managed to cut them. after steaming in the heat though, the insides were almost like a fig newton – dark, thick, sweet. Just a great play on flavors. So there you are, a wonderful job on fig from someone else’s blog and our own modest recipe at home this week. One note on the Massaman can of curry from the asian store though. it had a ton of oil. Much of it easily separated from the main mass of congealed spices which is the essence of the curry, so we ladled more than a half-cup out for our own sanity.

Price for this may take some figuring out. I made about 5 servings, not counting the rice. I think its probably under $2 a serving but will do the math and post it when I do!

Dieting affordably with flavor

The NYT article on dieting deliciously made me realize that the other aspect of dieting that can seem brutal is the cost. Some people feel, especially at the start, that they need to lean on commercial products–like Jenny Craig meals, special shakes, etc. I can’t knock them since everyone needs to do what’s right for them. But for me, those pre-packaged meals were very expensive and ridiculous when I started realizing that it wasn’t complicated to make them. Processed anything for the most part comes with its own set of demons! So if you are going to diet deliciously, what are some tips for dieting affordably?

The first one that comes to mind is to use plenty of flavor to keep meals yummy and to keep the diet motivating. Most flavor is affordable. I am going to start a short list quickly and then come back to this post.
$ Growing herbs. Whether in pots or on the ground, I have found growing thyme, oregano, basil and mint is a great way to get flavor naturally and freely in meals. These particular herbs are cheap to buy and easy to grow. They are tenacious! Must head basil continously though. I have also experienced eating micro-grated herbs and was surprised at the explosion of flavor in my mouth.

$ Use citris. I can typically get a bunch of limes for $1. Same with lemons though they are slightly more expensive.

$ Nuts. I thought pine nuts were not affordable until I found Whole Foods bulk section. I get roughly a fist-ful and keep it as stock around the house to throw in here and there (store in refrigerator for longer periods). Toasting just a bunch and to put in a salad is priceless! Similarly, now I buy halved pieces of walnuts and slivered almonds from the same bulk section. If I buy a quarter pound or so, that is typically sufficient and no more than between $2 to $5 each. Not bad considering I can stretch it out quite a bit using as sprinkles in oatmeal and salads and to punch up a baked good here and there.

$Spices, in bulk if possible. Whole Foods used to have spices in bulk. It was awesome, because I could literally just get a wee portion of a spice for a particularly recipe if needed, without needing to invest in an expensive bottle of something that would sit on myself. (Shout out to Erin for pointing it out to me). I once got something like a one-quarter or half-pound bag of FRESH ground cardamon there for maybe a buck or two and I am only at the end of it like four years later. and I use that stuff alot!! Sadly, they seem to have done away with it. Ethnic grocery stores should also offer cheaper prices on spices. I will have to do some research to get the facts to you but in the past I have noticed that whole peppercorns (black) are much cheaper in the indian grocery store. Some spices have shot up in price so have gone over to the “investment” category. For these, just buy them and have them in stock. I don’t buy anything in those little bottles anymore at the grocery store. Whole cinnamon sticks instead of ground. I use a simple coffee bean grounder as a separate spice grinder (thanks Mom!). Fast, easy to clean. oh, and definitely get a mortar and pestle. My friends always tease me the amount of spices i have!

o A favorite spice is ground, roasted cumin. Basically I roast a bunch of cumin on a stove top. The smell is worth it alone. Then I take the hot cumin seeds and grind them in my grinder. That’s it. Then I put the whole thing in my spice container. This grounded spice immediately jazzes up sliced fruit. (In fact my husband and I enjoy making a simple pear and avocado salad with toasted cumin, lemon or lime juice, and a little bit of salt as a favorite weekend breakfast pairing).

$ Trader Joes pure vanilla extract. Seems cheaper to me than at the grocery store. To research.

$Vinegars. I use Trader Joes Balsamic Vinegar for good quality and low price. I use this on everything to meats to fish to salads.

$Fresh chile peppers. The little green ones, for the Indian palate. 🙂 I freeze these since I don’t go through them as quickly as a traditional Indian household. Cut them and heat them in oil prior to adding the food and you get great sizzle and spice.

$Sliced black olives. Also, great flavor! and affordable from Trader Joes. They have a little can of sliced olives so they stay ready for me when i need them. I believe they are kept in water only. I will check that and the price and repost. I can add olives to pasta sauces, salads, even meats such as chicken nicoise.

$ Shallots. Cheap as long as you don’t get these from Whole Foods! 🙂 but can serve as a great base and flavor for most sides and entrees.

$ Stevia. I don’t think this is for everyone’s liking but its a must have in my dieting plan. My body does best when its not beset with sugar. Stevia is ground up from tree bark that is naturally sweet. It does not have the molecular structure of sugar so is not absorbed or digested in the way sugar is. I use the powder form from Trader Joes and use it in my tea, coffee and oatmeal. I sometimes even use it in baking. Its $6.99 for 315 servings, coming out to two cents a serving.

$ Dried fruit. Dried fruit such as apricots, apple rings, pineapples and figs are great flavorings in both meats and baked goods. Now, they are sugary but at least they are natural sugars. I love how they moisten and plump up while cooking. I use them in my Thanksgiving stuffings too. That reminds me. I also love having a stash of dried cranberries around. They are great in salads and even with white meats like chicken and pork. Dried cranberries come sweetended and unsweetended. Unsweetened is healthier but I have not yet figured out how to use them well as flavor. I get dried fruit from Whole Foods Bulk food section whenever possible. Again, I just buy a little bit so that each purchase is usually under a dollar!

Yes, these are all tried and true items in my pantry. What works for you? I promise to update with actual prices soon.