Fruit leather

Day 16 of 196 – Corn and spinach pancakes

Day 16The end of corn season comes with some sadness but also with some relief: we have eaten lots of corn while it is fresh and sweet but we have also eaten lots of corn and are ready for a change to fall vegetables. I normally just throw the corn on the BBQ and we eat it plain or with a squeeze of lime and some chaat masala – a delicious mix of Indian spices that is tart, salty and a little spicy all at once. I had a couple of cobs left from my CSA box and was flipping through the newest Jamie Oliver cookbook when I came across a breakfast recipe for some corn pancakes. His version included some grilled banana and bacon but I decided to work with what I had on hand.

A quick scan of the fridge turned up some spinach, shallots and a block of soft tofu. I roasted off the corn and removed the kernels. I then sautéed some diced shallots and added in the corn, julienned the spinach and gave it a quick toss in the pan. I transferred all of this to a bowl and added a block of soft crumbled tofu (in place of the cottage cheese called for in the original recipe) and followed the rest of the recipe steps as written. I cooked these up and packed one lunch box with some pico de gallo and the other with some mango chutney for dipping. I added some colourful carrots and celery, a few orange slices and a roll of carrot and nectarine fruit leather.

Recipe – Apple, vanilla, cardamom and chia fruit leather

IMG_4767We went apple picking last week and picked tons of apples. Quite a few are a bit too tart to eat out of hand so I decided to make some fruit leather to make the most of them and it has been a hit.  I use the dehydrate setting on my oven, use a dehydrator if you have one, or just set your oven to about 175 degrees and wait for the magic to happen.

Ingredients for step one:

1 kilogram apples, cored and diced but skins on

12 dried apricots (add these if your apples are tart, if they are sweet you can leave them out)

1/2 cup of liquid – water, apple cider

1 cinnamon stick

Combine the four ingredients in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot and cook covered over medium heat until the apples are soft. This takes about 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and puree the apples and apricots. I use a food mill for this but you can easily use a hand blender or regular blender.  Return the apple sauce to the pot and over low heat, reduce the sauce until you have about 2 1/2 cups.  You can dehydrate this sauce or add extra flavours:

Ingredients for step two:

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp of ground vanilla bean (I buy this at a well stocked grocery store with a great natural foods section. If you cannot find it, vanilla extract would also impart a nice flavour)

1 Tbsp chia seeds

Add the salt, cardamom and vanilla bean to the apple sauce and stir well to distribute evenly.  Prepare two sheet pans with parchment or silicone non-stick baking liners (I use silpat liners) and spread about 1 1/4 cups of the sauce in an even layer on each baking sheet. Sprinkle the chia seeds over the top and put in the oven to dehydrate. Dehydration is a slow process so be patient. I check every hour or so to see how the fruit leather is forming. You know it is ready to come out of the oven when you can peel it up at the corner and it is generally dry looking on the surface.

Remove the leather from the oven and get two sheets of waxed paper ready. Peel the fruit leather up and lay it down, sticky side down (that will be the side that was face down on the baking sheet). Roll it up and slice into portions. This keeps in an air tight container at room temperature for a few weeks.  Yields about 18 pieces.

Day 22 of 196: Leftovers for lunch

20140926_013945186_iOSOur house, or rather, our front porch is the depot for our CSA. Each week a stack of bins of locally grown fruits and vegetables are dropped off and people come by on their way to pick up kids from school or the way home from work to pick up their bins. Once in a while, a bin goes unclaimed and the deal is that I can keep it, give it away or compost it at 6pm the following day. For a while, we had an extra bin every week and I was giving them away to my neighbours (you cannot imagine how quickly people respond to emails entitled “free organic fruits and vegetables”!) and then things were sorted out with the orders and all of the boxes were being collected. That was until this week, when once again there was an extra box. Late summer and early fall is when the boxes are biggest and full of my favourite produce – squash, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, apples, etc so I decided to keep this one for us and do a bunch of cooking and baking.

I thought a tray of beet chips would be a terrific addition to my kids’ lunches so I thinly sliced a few beets, tossed them into the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and let them roast. What I didn’t take into account was that the red beets had a much higher sugar content than the others so quickly burned and the others left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately the lot went into the compost and I will save the rest of the beets for another purpose.  The beets did look lovely on the tray before they went into the oven!

Fortunately things were more successful after the beets. Between the extra CSA bin and the one I get, I had 4 butternut squash on hand. We ate a couple in salads w mixed greens, mixed grains, dried fruit and a lemon vinaigrette. I also roasted and pureed one to fold into some polenta along with some smoked scamorza to make a comforting side dish. The recipe serves more than our family of 4 eats in a meal so I chilled the leftover polenta on a sheet pan and roasted little wedges of it for lunch.  The same evening, I made some chicken breasts using this method and one extra one for lunch. This made lunch quick and easy to assemble.20140930_221032451_iOS

Finally, we have a mountain of apples from our apple picking expedition. In the excitement of apple picking we picked too many apples (this happens every year – we never learn!) so I decided to make some fruit leather. My mother used to buy fruit leather for us from the health food store and refused to buy us the fruit (froot?) roll ups that all of our friends used to get in their lunches. Little did I know that I would eventually feed my kids in the same way! I cut up a dozen or so apples  – with skins intact-  and put them into a pot with a cinnamon stick and a splash of apple cider that we bought at the orchard while we were apple picking. I covered the pot and cooked it over medium heat for about 15 minutes. The apples were nice and soft at this point so I transferred them to my food mill and pureed them. The sauce was still a little thin for dehydrating so I cooked it down a bit more and then added some ground vanilla bean and some ground cardamom.  Finally, I spread all of this out on to 2 silpat non-stick baking sheet liners on cookie sheets, sprinkled on some chia seeds, and cooked them on the dehydrate setting on my oven. After about 3 hours the sauce had dehydrated and I could pull it up at the corner.  I pulled both sheets out of the oven and let them cook for a few minutes.  Once they had cooled off, I peeled off the entire sheet of fruit leather, placed it on a sheet of waxed paper and got some little hands to roll it up.  We cut the large sheet into smaller pieces and one went into each lunch. The resulting fruit leather is tart and flavourful with little crunchy chia seeds. Absolutely more delicious and healthier than anything I pled with my mother to buy for me when I was 8 years old!

20140930_213652753_iOSLunch for the 22nd day of school was three skewers of the leftover chicken, the polenta cut into stars and roasted until crispy, a little spinach salad with sweet mini peppers and amaranth sprouts, strawberries and grapes and the fruit leather. After disappointing my daughter with the gummy bears (she did manage to pull it together and eat them all remarkably) I also put in a few of the chocolate crispy pearls she requested for today originally. I am sure she will be pleased to find these tomorrow at lunch time!