Apple Annie’s Produce Extravaganza!

Me

Me

This weekend my sister and I took a trip out to Apple Annie’s which is an orchard and produce farm about 90 minutes out of Tucson.  You would think that having lived my entire life in the area and a large portion or it considerably closer to Apple Annie’s than I am now that I would have been before but sad to say this was my first visit.  And let me tell you both of us were like kids in a candy store!

My Sister

My Sister

I will not share the exact amount that was spent but our haul was magnificent with several projects in mind.  One of which, and the most important one, is the apple butter of our youth.   Apple Annie’s is divided into two main areas.  There are their orchards which consist of many varieties of apples, a few varieties of pears and peaches.  Also, located at the orchard is the gift shop and bakery where they have several varieties of apple pies, apple bread, fudge and canned goods galore.  On this trip we picked over 30 lbs of apples including golden delicious, Rome beauties and granny smiths and then over 20 lbs of absolutely beautiful Asian pears.  Of course we couldn’t leave without getting a pie, some bread, fudge and the fresh apple cider needed for the apple butter (ok, ok I know this part wasn’t exactly healthy but you can’t be good ALL the time).

Apple Orchard

Next we headed over to the produce stand where they have fields of you-pick vegetables of all sorts along with the biggest pumpkin patch I have ever seen and a very large corn maze.  Yet again we went a bit over board on the veggies but they all looked so wonderful we couldn’t resist. I got acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, pickling cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, patty pan squash (the perfect size for stuffing), sweet corn, jalapeños, a regular pumpkin and a pie pumpkin.  It was a very “fruitful” visit to the farm and we are both looking forward to all the things that we will be making, enjoying and sharing with friends and family.  So to each of you I say visit your local orchards, produce stands, farmers markets and you-picks to get some fresh local yumminess and more importantly make some memories 🙂

Apples and Asian Pears

Apples and Asian Pears

Veggies

Veggies

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Another use for oatmeal

It’s that time of year, and I don’t mean Fall.  I mean bug season.  Now I know everyone suffers from mosquito bites and the like and they are unpleasant for everyone, but for me they can be a huge issue.  Apparently, I am highly allergic to them because instead of your average bite I end up with gigantic, red, itchy and sometimes painful welts that can last weeks before finally disappearing completely.  This year I thought I was getting off easy as I hadn’t had many bites and I even bragged about it at a party on Saturday (normally I am prime fodder for the little blood suckers).  Bragging was apparently my downfall because I woke up Monday morning and glanced in the mirror, then took a longer look in the mirror and low and behold I had about 20 large itchy welts all over my back.  Tonight I decided that I needed something a bit more soothing than the game of human twister and anti-itch cream that I have been playing the last few days so I took a trip to Pinterest.  I decided what is more soothing than an oatmeal bath and since I was in a hurry and limited on supplies I looked for the simplest variation I could find.  I settled on one that was only a combination of oatmeal and coconut oil.  You simply blend the oatmeal and oil in the blendr.  The original page called for 1 cup of oatmeal and 1 tbsp. of coconut oil.  I ended up cutting this in half and here is why.  Did you know that your blender bottom will fit a standard mason jar (this won’t work with the wide-mouth jars)?!?!  Since I only had 8 oz jars available 1 cup just wasn’t going to work so I did half.  Now not only did I not have to use my gigantic blender for a small amount but my oatmeal bath is made and already in its own storage container!  Once it is blended into a fine powder you just add 2 heaping tbsp. to your hot bath and enjoy.  I’m feeling more relaxed and less itchy already and have learned my lesson about bragging.

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What to do with 22 lbs of peaches?

As I posted in my first blog I decided to get a peach add-on with my bountiful basket which means 22 lbs of peaches.  Then the question was. what in the world do I do with 22 lbs of peaches?  Well here is how it went 🙂

1) Refrigerator Oatmeal two ways (vanilla peach and peach almond)

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In a pint glass jar add the following

  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats1
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp chia seed
  • 1/4 tsp extract (either vanilla or almond)
  • 1 tsp agave syrup

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Mix the ingredients in the jar well and then add peaches and invert until fruit is mixed in.  Refrigerate over night or up to 4 days and enjoy!

2) Make fruit leathers

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First you need to peel your peaches.  To do this you will put them in boiling water for two minutes.  Then you will transfer to an ice water bath.  You will then be able to easily pull the skins off.  After you have peeled, pitted and diced your peaches you will throw them in a blender with 1 tbsp. lemon juice and a half tbsp. agave syrup.  You will need 1 1/2 cups of pureed fruit per leather which was roughly two and a half peaches.  After greasing your insert, I used coconut oil spray, you will pour in your fruit and spread evenly.  Dehydration will range from 4-7 hours.  As a variation for my second fruit leather I did half peach and half blueberry which turned out absolutely amazing.  The blueberry version did take longer to dry and was slightly stickier than the straight peach.

3) Dehydrated Peach Chips

DSC00643After you have peeled your peaches you will cut in half and remove the pit.  Then using a mandolin slice your halves into quarter inch slices and put them into a bowl of water with a fruit preserver (lemon juice, citric acid or ascorbic acid).  This will prevent the fruit from browning.  Then layer in your dehydrating trays and dry.  Store in an airtight jar.  DSC00677

4) Canned Honey-Cinnamon Peaches

nekkid peaches

nekkid peaches

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I found this recipe for Simple Honey-Cinnamon Peaches on Pinterest.  This was my first foray into canning and for the most part I did fine but there were a few mishaps… (Mom, I know you are reading this but don’t freak out as you can see that your stove survived intact and unharmed)  Please be aware that water and honey goes from not boiling to boiling in an instant.  Not only that, but once it boils it foams…. excessively…. everywhere!  Now normally this is not an issue but when you are on a glass top stove with almost every burner occupied, one with a 21 quart pot of water and canning jars, it can become an issue.  After airing out the house (I did NOT set the smoke detector off btw) and removing everything from the stove and cleaning up I restarted the process, this time keeping a close eye on the honey solution, and everything went without a hitch.  First canning run was a success and all of the jars sealed!

5) Freeze your peaches for future smoothies

When freezing any fruit you want to make sure that you are cutting into small pieces and that you are putting them on a flat surface and that your pieces aren’t touching.  This will prevent the accumulation of ice crystals in your fruit by letting all pieces freeze at a faster rate.  After they have frozen through you can then remove and put in a plastic bag.  For this I used some of the left over peeled peaches from the canning.  Now you have a bag of delicious peaches to throw in your smoothies.

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6) Brown Sugar Baked Peaches a la mode

(have to have at least one dessert!)

DSC00656For this recipe I simply took a peeled peach, halved it and removed the pit.  I then placed the peaches in a baking dish and added a pat of Brummel and Brown into the pit indentation and then topped them with some brown sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until warmed through and sugar has melted and caramelized.  Put warm peach in a bowl and add some vanilla ice cream (low-fat slow churned of course!)

7) And don’t forget the best way… eating it as is with the juices dripping down your arm!

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So when life gives you 22 lbs of peaches make sure that you enjoy them and that all you are left with is…

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The pits 🙂

“Basket” Stew

It’s been a week since I got my basket and now I’m in a rush to use up what is left.  What better dish to use fresh veggies in than a nice stew.  For stew you will need a meat, some veggies, broth, wine and spices.  These items can be any combination you desire or whatever you happen to have in your fridge.  I decided to go with a beef stew using the leftover veggies from my last basket.  This included mushrooms, cauliflower and green beans, then I added non-basket items of onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, carrots and extra mushrooms (yum!).  First you will need to brown your meat with a little olive oil.  You can coat the meat in either some four or corn starch and this will help with thickening up your stew.  After the meat is browed you will add your seasonings.  I used herbs de province but you could use an Italian blend or any herbs that you are partial to.  *** A note on herbs – if you are not cooking in your own kitchen with your own herbs please double check the top style of your container or you may end up with a very herby stew (yes, as you can guess this did occur)*** Next you will add your wine, I used Lambrusco, to deglaze your pan making sure to get up all the crunchy bits from the bottom of your pan.  Don’t forget that it is absolutely necessary to sample the wine just to ensure that it’s ok.  After this it’s time to add your veggies and sauté them for a few minutes.  Add your stock, some additional wine and then cover and simmer for about an hour or until veggies are tender and liquid has begun to thicken.  If your stew is too thin for your taste you can use a slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken it up a bit.  And lastly, enjoy! (possibly with another sampling of wine)  🙂DSC00652

Squash “Noodles”

Like all foodies I love a good kitchen gadget, especially one that helps me incorporate more vegetables into my meal.  My newest is a spiral slicer which creates long, delicious ribbons of the firm veggie of your choice.

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So far I have made “noodles”  with zucchini, carrot and tonight was yellow squash (have to utilize the basket goods whenever you can :))  There are many things that you can do with the noodles.  You could eat them raw and dress them with a vinaigrette (for example cucumbers in a rice vinegar and sesame dressing would be amazing) or you can steam, boil, sauté or even roast them.  Normally I mix them in with regular pasta to fill it out, add more fiber and sneak in those veggies.  To do this you will boil your pasta as directed and then add your veggie ribbons the last two or three minutes with the pasta (carrots I usually do for three and squash around two).  After I drain the pasta I usually mix it with a jarred spaghetti sauce and sometimes add in some extras like sautéed mushrooms.  Tonight I went for a quick and healthy version of chicken parmesan by topping my sauced pasta with a frozen, lightly breaded chicken breast and a sprinkle of cheese.  I have the GEFU Spirelli Spiral Cutter but there are several other brands on the market.  With so many possibilities expect to see veggie ribbons play a roll in future blogs!

healthy chicken parmesan with yellow squash noodles

healthy chicken parmesan with yellow squash noodles

Basket Day!!!!

One of my favorite resources for healthy motivation is Bountiful Baskets.  If you are not sure what this is then you are definitely missing out!  It’s a food co-op that allows you to get a variety of fruits and vegetables for a super reasonable price.  Along with a regular basket there are also add-ons that you can opt for like cases of fruits and vegetables, breads, wraps, themed packages (like Asian, Mexican, Italian and herbs) and much more.  One of my favorite parts of participating is that you never know what you are going to get!  It’s a culinary surprise every week you participate and will sometimes open you to product that you have never tried or even though of trying.  Since it is a co-op you are requested to volunteer on occasion but even this is a great opportunity to give back, meet people and sometimes exchange ideas for how to use your basket items.  If you are interested in trying out this great program visit bountifulbaskets.org and see if it is available in your area.

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Today’s basket was exceptional!  The basket itself had pineapples, peaches, cantaloupes, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, mushrooms, cauliflower, a cucumber, green beans and yellow squash.  In addition to the normal basket I also got an add-on of a case of Utah Peaches.

I’m especially excited about this basket and add-on because the peaches prompted me to buy a food dehydrator so that I can dehydrate some of them.  I also plan on trying the cantaloupe and pineapple this way but that will be something for a different post 🙂

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