Dried Fruit and Nuts = Healthy Fruit-nut Bars

A post, last month, by David Lebovitz caught my eye. It was called Fruitcake Bars. While I’m not a fan of conventional Fruitcake I do like breads that incorporate dried fruits and nuts and this particular recipe was mostly dates, which I love and toasted nuts, which I also love. It sounded incredibly easy and I had all the ingredients so I gave it a try. After I tried it the first time, and loved it, I tried it again using a little different combination for both the fruit and nuts. Here’s the basic recipe for what I now call Fruit-nut Bars:

Grease two small loaf pans and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325° F and position the rack in the center of the oven.

Chop 2 cups of toasted nuts. To toast the nuts bake them for about 10 minutes at 350°, or until just starting to brown. I used walnuts and pecans this time.  Chop 2 1/2 cups dried fruit. I used dates, apricots and cranberries.

In a large bowl, toss together 6 tablespoons almond flour (or wheat flour), 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 6 tablespoons packed, light or dark brown sugar, the nuts and dried fruit. Use your fingers to mix, separating any pieces sticking together.

Beat 1 large egg with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, then mix it with the fruit and nut mixture until every-thing’s coated.

Spread the mixture into greased baking pans and press gently to even out. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the tops are golden brown and have pulled away just-slightly from the sides of the pan Cool on racks, in the pans. Remove from pans when completely cool.

A heavy sharp knife, such as a bread knife, is best for cutting the Fruitcake. It can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, if it lasts that long. Mine were usually gone in one to two days. Individual cakes can be wrapped in plastic. Try serving slices with Mascarpone. It’s delicious.  I have plans to make a slightly different version again next week. Depends on what fruits and nuts I have on hand or what interesting fruit I find at the market this weekend.  They’re a nice snack to have around. Healthy too.

When you’re shopping at the Farmers’ Market purchase: dried fruits, nuts, and eggs. Some markets will also have almond flour.

The miracle of winter.

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”
–   Barbara Winkler

May your holidays be filled with dreams and miracles.

Got Rainbow Carrots?

We got these beautiful Rainbow carrots at the Davis Farmers’ Market on Saturday. Had some for dinner that evening. CRISP, SWEET AND BEAUTIFUL! If you haven’t tried them, you definitely should. I’ll definitely be buying them again.

Don’t miss this weekend’s Farmers’ Market!

The weather is going to be great this weekend. Do yourself a favor and skip that trip to the mall. Instead, pack up the family and head out to your local Farmers’ Market. The markets will be bursting with entertainment, tasty food, fresh produce and lots of holiday gift selections. Check out my November 18, 2009 and December 10, 2009 posts if you need more inspiration. Annie and her basket will be there. I hope you will too.

Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables that you will find at most Northern California Farmers’ Markets this weekend.




Brussel sprouts














Sweet potatoes

Swiss chard



Winter squash

Why does fresh produce from the Farmers’ Market taste so good?

Here’s a great little article I came across this evening that I thought I’d like to share with you.

What determines food quality?

SFGate City Brights Blog by Dave Stockdale, Sustainability Honcho

Dave Stockdale’s shopping decisions are based not only on price, but also on environmental, regional economics and social concerns, and finally, on value. One big part of value, for him, is quality. As his parents told him, and mine told me, you get what you pay for.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/stockdale/detail??blogid=105&entry_id=53386#ixzz0Zuh9JWTeWhat determines food quality?

Thank you, Dave. I couldn’t agree with you more.

French Butter Pears

I bought these beautiful French Butter pears at the downtown Sacramento Farmers’ Market last week from the same rancher that I bought the Seckle pears from, Hood Ranch. Considered an heirloom variety, these pears, also known as Buerre Hardy, originated in France around 1820. They grow well here in Northern California and Oregon.

Considered one of the best tasting varieties, they are sweet, smooth-textured and very juicy. You can use them as a cooking pear, sliced fresh into salads, served with cheese as an appetizer or, just eaten out of hand.

Since pears don’t ripen well on the tree, they will benefit from a few days of being stored on your countertop. Just stand them upright on a kitchen towel until they are slightly soft to the touch. Ripe pears should be stored in the refrigerator for no more than a day or two.

So, now you know about the French Butter pear. Now, let’s talk about a nice way to use them in a recipe. Since it’s been pretty wet and cold out I thought that a nice grilled pear and cheese sandwich would be good for lunch. In checking around, I found a recipe in the Williams-Sonoma collection. This one was a little more complex than I wanted so, I just used it as a model.

Here’s my version: Slice up the pear, remove the seeds and peel (you can also leave it on), and sauté it in a little butter until slightly softened. Spread butter on one side of two slices of bread. I used sliced sourdough. On the un-buttered side, place the sautéed pears and some slices of Brie. Top with the other slice of bread and grill in a fry pan until browned, and the cheese is melted.

Wonderful lunch.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

I recently found this article in The Huffington Post. It’s a good guide to winter vegetables having both pictures and recipes.

Winter Veggies at the Farmers Market

The Huffington Post 12/13/09

It’s easy to get stuck in a cooking rut of using the same ingredients and the same recipes again and again. If you shop at your local farmers’ market, however, you have a great opportunity to try something new. Most people think farmer’s markets are only for summer, but there are many that are open year round and offer great winter produce. Buy some fresh, seasonal produce and discover delicious new flavors. Here, our some picks for wonderful winter vegetables, complete with recipes you can make tonight.

Fresh – a film by ana Sofia joanes

If you’re serious about what you eat, what you feed your family, you’ll be interested in this movie. These farmers, and others show us there is another way, a better way to raise our food. A way that is better for humans, better for animals, and better for the land.

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

You can learn more about FRESH and, watch trailers of the movie here.

Doing too much can cause . . .

You know those days. You are trying to squeeze everything into one day. You can do it. No problem, Right?

So, the other day I was getting a recipe together for an upcoming potluck, making pie for a dinner date that evening and prepping for a recipe that I just had to try called Fruitcake Bars (more on these later), from a David Lebovitz blog. Everything is going well. Potluck recipe prep is done. Pumpkin pie (the same I highlighted recently) is in the oven. Now I’m gathering the ingredients for the Fruitcake Bars; chopped dried fruit, roasted walnuts, almond flour, baking soda, baking power, eggs. Eggs! All of a sudden it dawns on me that I didn’t add the eggs to the pumpkin pie, the same pie that has been in the oven for at least 20 minutes. This is not good news. What do I do now? Well, I have two options. Option 1: Remove the partially baked pie from the oven and throw the whole thing out and start again OR, Option 2, add the eggs now and continue cooking the pie. I chose option 2. I beat the eggs well and then carefully mixed them back into the filling, which was still in the crust. Then I said a little blessing, and put the pie back in the oven. When the timer went off I checked the pie and it definitely needed more time, so I added 10 minutes. Checked it again, and then added another 10 minutes. Done just right and it looked pretty darned good considering.  The final test came that night after diner when I cut into it and served it with a nice dollop of whipped cream spiced up with a little Grand Marnier. It was perfectly yummy and not bad looking either. Sometimes, what seems like a disaster turns out to not be as bad as we imagine. Or, sometimes we just get lucky.

Davis Farmers’ Market Free Holiday Gift Basket Central

I headed out early Saturday morning, across the causeway through the cold tule fog, to the Davis Farmers’ Market. It certainly was dreary out  but, I was feeling great and  in a holiday shopping mood. The market was already a buzz with lots of shoppers when I arrived. I chose Davis because I can’t think of another market in my area that has the variety they have; great fruit and produce, fresh seafood and meats, baked items, dried fruits, honey,  herbs, plants and flowers, just to name a few. Then, there are the crafts. Everything from ceramics, clothing, dolls, fabric arts, jewelry and metal works to woodwork and candles. And, finally there are the Socio-Political Community Groups. Don’t be put off by this title. There are some wonderful groups representing some very worthy and important causes. Grant High School’s Eat From The Garden Salsa was one  of these groups. I’ll tell you about them a little later. If all of that isn’t enough to peak your interest here’s something that might.  They have a service, at the market,  they call “Gift Basket Central”. This great idea lets you shop the market for the items you want, then you take them to the Gift Basket Central tent, located in the middle of the market by the deck under the big Oak tree, where they wrap them for free. Now that’s service.

I’ll have to admit there is another reason I chose Davis. I lived in Davis for many years and during that time I shopped the Davis Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning.  It’s also a place where I have always done part of my holiday shopping. So, this year was no different. Here is just a sampling of some of the places I shopped. For obvious reasons I can’t tell you everything but here’s some tips I can share.

English Hills Soap Company
Oh, what beautiful products they have. They are all  hand crafted and natural as can be. The soaps and skin care products are all made from goat milk and are available in various fragrances, including my favorite Plumeria. They also have fragrance-free. They’re gift baskets are really nice.

Fiddyment Farms
Wow, where to start, these guys have the greatest gourmet pistachios. They come in savory and sweet flavors as well as lightly salted and salt free. They also have pistachio butter and my favorite the Butter Toffee Kernels. If they don’t have what you’re looking for at the market, you can order from their website.

Good Humus
I have been shopping for holiday gifts from Good Humus for as long as I can remember. I love their beautiful handmade wreaths and the lavender wands. They also make some of the best homemade jams, jellies and syrups. Try the Nectarine Ginger Jam. It’s great brushed on grilled chicken or spooned onto hot buttery biscuits. They also have some very nice herbal teas as well as a variety of dried fruits and herbs.

Towani Organic Farms
Check out the unique herbal wreaths here. I know that this picture doesn’t do justice to their products but it gives you a visual of what to look for. Through my years of shopping at this market Towani Organic Farm is one of the farmers I have always frequented. Their quality is outstanding and their wreaths are beautiful and last for a very long time.

BJ & Leslie Nursery
Another of my favorite stops. They have the best deals on plants. Right now, the cyclamen and the azaleas are really great, and the Christmas cactus is worth a look too.

Yolo Bulb Farm
This is where I get my quince fix. Last year I bought a jar of quince conserve to try and I loved it. So ,I was hopeful that they would have some again this year. Guess what. They did. They also had quince jelly as well as other varieties of jams and jellies. They are also have a new label and name, D Madison & Daughters. Very nice.  Check out their fabric arts too. They’re beautifully crafted.
A couple more stops I want to mention because they not only offered nice products but the money went for a good cause. They are part of the Socio-Political Community Groups I mentioned before.

The first one is Grant High School\’s Eat From The Garden project. This is a terrific program that is teaching students how to create healthy, sustainable communities. The salsa themed baskets come three sizes and range in price from $18 to $32. They also sell individual jars of salsa in Traditional and Spicy Peach flavors. I bought the Traditional Salsa. Had some on Sunday and it’s yummy. Down the way a bit was another nice product being offered for a worthy cause. The children from Pioneer Elementary School in Davis made some delightful rosemary wreaths and are selling them for $5.

The Davis Farmers’ Market is open Saturday’s from 8 AM till 1 PM. I love to go early. Sometimes I order some breakfast or I buy a special coffee and pastry then, I take a few minutes to sit and listen to some of the musical entertainment and people watch before I head out to shop. If you’re a late riser,  you’ll probably want to arrive later and shop the market first.  Then, maybe have some lunch before you head home. There are lots of choices for breakfast, lunch or just a snack so explore your options.

If you don’t have anything planned for Saturday, why not drive over to Davis and explore their Farmers’ Market. I just might see you there.