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.

Apples

Beets

Broccoli

Brussel sprouts

Carrots

Cauliflower

Feijoa

Grapefruit

Kiwis

Lemons

Mushrooms

Oranges

Pears

Pomegranates

Potatoes

Scallions

Spinach

Sweet potatoes

Swiss chard

Tangelos

Tangerines

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.