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Every night this week has felt pretty much like summer and with the crazy long daylight hours that we have in Indiana, we have been spending plenty of evenings in our outdoor living room, or, during our first summer here, our only living room.
 
The first summer that we lived in our house, we had no furniture. Well, that isn’t completely accurate, all of our furniture was in our garage while we spent countless hours installing hardwood flooring. It was one of those Murphy’s Law projects that should have been done in a week or two, but in reality took about six months.
  
When we first bought our house, we  didn’t plan to change the floor at all, but almost immediately we realized that the carpeting smelled awful. Even after shampooing and deodorizing, the smell was completely overpowering. It quickly became apparent that our floor had been doubling for a litter box.

 

No problem, just tear out the carpet and nail down hardwood, right? Riiiight. That’s what we thought this first day when we had our flooring “breathing” to adjust to the humidity.

In reality, we had to chip away sections of tile floor, pry up soggy particle board, removed sweet 1970’s parque, remove a few hundred square feet of perfectly good hardwood, then finally, after numerous trips to the dump, we could…

…wait for it…

…install and level plywood. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? Did I mention that I was still working in Memphis five days per week?

Chris did his best to work on the floor while I was gone, but between that project and our massive lawn to mow, it was a Herculean juggling act. As summer came to a close and it began to get too chilly for me to appreciate the comfort of our outdoor living room, we were finally able to move into our house for real.

We still like to relax on our back porch, and while I don’t think we will ever again do so with the frequency that we did that summer, I still enjoy grilling extravaganzas like the one we had last Sunday. 

Sunday’s all-grill dinner was topped off with none other than a grilled dessert. I’m a huge fan of grilled fruit and this may be my favorite. It had the sweetness of dried fruit, but was juicy like the real deal. An added bonus is that Chris, our house grill master, does the cooking when I come up with (almost) all-grill dinners.

Adapted from Skinny Chef.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp adobo paste from canned chipotles in adobo
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe mangos, peeled, cut into 1-inch thick slices

Directions:

  • Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, boil for several minutes until in reduces by half.
  • Mix in olive oil, adobo paste, and salt.
  • Marinate the mango slices in the balsamic sauce for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  • Heat a grill over medium-high heat.
  • Grill the mango in a grill basket, turning once, until browned and slightly softened, about 5 minutes total.
  • Serve warm or cold, it is excellent both ways.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~113 , Fat ~ 3.7g, Carbohydrates ~ 21.6g, Protein ~ 0.5g

I am an habitual lazy eater/grocery shopper. There. I said it.

I consistently list the same items on my grocery list from week to week then expect myself to suddenly morph them into a different meal than usual. Sounds reasonable enough, right?

Sometimes it works out, sometimes it has me running to the store on my way home from work for emergency fresh sage. This time it decidedly worked out.

Not exactly your typical quesadilla, but these things are good! In fact, they are good enough to have for dinner, lunch, then dinner again!

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Ingredients:

  • 1  tbsp  Dijon mustard
  • 2  tsp  apple cider (I just used apple cider vinegar.)
  • 3  (10-inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 3  ounces  Brie cheese cut into small slices
  • 1  Fuji apple, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3  cups  spinach
  • 3/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Combine mustard and cider vinegar in a small bowl; stir well.
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  • Spread each tortilla with about 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard mixture.
  • Place 1 tortilla, mustard side up, in pan.
  • Arrange one-third of cheese slices over half of tortilla; cook 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt.
  • Arrange one-third of apple slices over cheese; top with 1 cup spinach.
  • Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Fold tortilla in half; press gently with a spatula.
  • Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  • Remove from pan.
  • Repeat procedure twice with remaining 2 tortillas.
  • Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges.

Servings ~ 3
Calories ~ 248, Fat ~ 12 g, Carbohydrates ~ 32 g, Protein ~ 17 g

Can you guess what my CSA gave me today?

That’s right, watermelon!

Last time we got watermelon I ended up eating the entire thing myself. It was huge and I didn’t know if I could do it, but I polished that sucker off! (See Chris, I told you so!)

This time I decided to get a bit more creative with the watermelon in hopes that I will get some help eating it. (Hint! Hint!)

Anyway, watermelon salad is great on a hot summer evening (it sounds weird to say that in September). My watermelon salad was cool and refreshing enough to eat outside in spite of the 90 degree temperatures.

Can you see a theme here? I have been feeling pressure to use our back porch now that I know that summer is ending. It is funny how easy it is to say ‘Nah, it’s too hot tonight.’ when you have two months of summer left, but suddenly when you only have a few precious weeks of nice weather left there is no ‘too hot’.

I hope you’re making the most of yours also!

Adapted from: Good Life Eats and Bon Appetit.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups watermelon, chopped
  • 8 oz fat free feta
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mint, finely chopped

Directions:

  • Combine ingredients.
  • Serve cold.

Servings ~ 4 (This really depends, but we tend to eat huge servings of things at Duke’s House.)
Calories ~ 165, Fat ~ 1 g, Carbohydrates ~ 28 g, Protein ~ 14 g

Apple and Pear Chips is kind of a misnomer here. I set out to make apple and pear chips, but only ended up with apple chips. I debated changing the name of the post, but the pear chips will be excellent also, so I decided to just run with it!

I can’t believe that I had never made these before. It was super easy, although a bit time consuming, and they taste amazing. Think guilt free bites of apple pie with the crisp of a potato chip. Mmmm! I ended up making apple chips twice this weekend and each time they only lasted for a few hours in Duke’s Kitchen.

I think it would be interesting to try this recipe out with nutmeg instead of ginger, but the ginger flavored apple chips were so tasty that I didn’t want to mess with the recipe right away.

Adapted from The Washington Post.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sweetener of your choice (I used Splenda, sugar, brown sugar, or another sweetener would work.)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 2 medium sized apples
  • 2 medium sized pears

Directions:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a shallow dish, combine the sweetener, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.
  • Cut a thin slice from the bottom of the fruit to form a flat surface, then place the fruit cut side down on a cutting board.
  • Using a small sharp knife, place a knife at the top of the fruit and slice downward vertically to make 1/16-inch thick slices, working your way in toward the core. As the core appears, turn the fruit. Repeat on all sides.
  • Dip the slices in the sugar mixture, turning to coat each side.
  • Place the slices about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 35 minutes.
  • Turn the slices and bake for about 40 more minutes.
  • The slices should become crisp when set aside to cool for several minutes.
  • If some of the apple slices are thicker than 1/16 inch, they may not become completely crisp, the thicker slices may need to be baked for a few additional minutes.
  • Set aside to cool completely.

Servings ~ 2
Calories ~ 130, Fat ~ 1 g, Carbohydrates ~ 34 g, Protein ~ 1 g

You would never believe this, but I have a ton of peaches to use up again! Surprise!

Once again, I am on a mission to eat my peaches in meals rather than desserts. Don’t get me wrong, I like dessert. The problem is that I like it a little bit too much. I can’t be trusted with it.

Today’s lunch was a wonderful salad with baby spinach, peach slices, scallions, bleu cheese, and grilled chicken with a simple white balsamic viniagrette. Next time I will grill the peaches, but I was a bit time constrained because I went home and made this during my lunch break.

Ingredients:

  • Salad
    • 3 cups baby spinach
    • 1 peach, peeled (do not peel if you are grilling the peaches) and sliced
    • 3 oz grilled chicken, sliced
    • 3 scallions, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 oz bleu cheese
  • Dressing
    • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  • If grilling peaches, slice peaches in half and remove the pit. Grill peaches over a medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side. Slice after grilling.
  • Arrange salad contents in a bowl.
  • In a seperate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together with a fork.
  • Drizzle dressing over salad.
  • Enjoy!

Servings ~ 1
Calories ~ 317, Fat ~ 14 g, Carbohydrates ~ 21 g, Protein ~ 30 g

I have been a bad blogger lately.

As I ramp up my running miles for marathon training, running and sleeping have taken precedence over cooking. This means that I have been eating a lot of CSA fruits and veggies raw. Fortunately Branny has come to the rescue again!

These quesadillas were quick and easy to make and tasted wonderful. As Chris and I joke “Gouda is good-a”. Hah. We’re not very funny.

More tasty gouda creations coming soon! We have abandoned our queso fresco and, in one cheesy buying spree, we have moved on to more indulgent cheese. There was no way that we could have stuck with the low-budget cheese forever.

Adapted from Branny Boils Over.

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 peaches, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 large Vidalia onions
  • 2 1/4 oz shredded gouda cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  • Thinly slice onions, then sauté over a medium heat in olive oil.
  • Peal and thinly slice the peaches and shred cheese while the onions are cooking.
  • Divide ingredients evenly among the tortillas, spreading them over one half of each tortilla.
  • Cook quesadillas individually in a skillet lightly sprayed by olive oil. Place the first tortilla in the pan flat. After cooking for several minutes, fold the tortilla in half to cover the fillings. Cook for several more minutes, then flip it to cook the other side. Ideally both sides should be lightly golden brown.
  • Cut into several sections and serve warm. I served mine with some guacamole.

Servings ~ 4
Calories ~ 198, Fat ~ 11 g, Carbohydrates ~ 19 g, Protein ~ 12 g

After making a huge bowl of peach salsa, Chris and I needed to get busy eating peach salsa like nobody’s business.

Putting the peach salsa on tacos over shrimp seemed like a no-brainer.

Not only was this a super tasty meal, it was pretty healthy, and even quick and easy to make. This one is likely to go into our regular rotation!

Incidentally, the leftover peach salsa is also really good as a topping for cottage cheese. Does anyone else regularly eat salsas on cottage cheese?

Chris and I were debating the salsa on cottage cheese thing over lunch today as we each scarfed some down. We both did it before we met, but I am convinced it is out of the norm. He is convinced that it is commonplace. What do you think?

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. salad shrimp w/o tail
  • cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups (about 4 servings) peach salsa
  • olive oil spray

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to broil.
  • Cook shrimp, I defrosted pre-cooked frozen shrimp by steaming them.
  • Spray tortillas with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt and place them in the oven. Heat tortillas in oven until they are pliable.
  • Shred cabbage and set aside.
  • Drain shrimp, then season to taste with cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Assemble tacos with cabbage, shrimp, then salsa on top.
  • Other tasty toppings might include sour cream, hot sauce, or guacamole.

Servings ~ 2
Calories ~ 350, Fat ~ 5 g, Carbohydrates ~ 51 g, Protein ~ 29 g