Category Archives: Fruit

Papaya and lime smoothie

Here’s another of my running-driven smoothie recipes. A bit lighter than the mango smoothie from a couple of weeks back, this smoothie is great to sip and rehydrate with–I like to make it for the afternoon following a long morning run, when it’s important to replenish all the lost sweat, but drinking JUST water starts getting a little old. The cucumber breaks the sweetness of the papaya, keeping the flavor fairly mild, and a twist of lime juice add a nice touch of acidity to the mix.

I would NOT recommend this smoothie as a candidate for beefing up with protein powder–the thick texture of the protein powder will quickly overwhelm the mild flavors of the smoothie.

Papaya and lime smoothie
serves 2

Ingredients
one small (~1 lb fruit) papaya
one cucumber
Juice of one lime
2 c. cold water

Method
Remove the skin and seeds from both the papaya and cucumber, and cut into rough chunks. Place into a food processor or blender with the lime juice and 1 c. water. Blend until smooth. Add additional water as needed, until desired consistency is achieved.

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Low sugar baking #2: End of summer plum cake

I’ve been spurred out of my posting lethargy by the realization that this recipe will soon be out of season (may be on its way out right now, even). Last Saturday morning I went out with a friend along a nearby run/bike/hike trail and it was starting to feel decidedly fall-like–gray sky and a tinge of moisture in the air. But enough of the weather. Plums.

This recipe evolved from a wonderful pear cake recipe that I first discovered several years ago. I started off by tweaking the batter (wheat germ! less sugar! maybe some other things…), but stuck with the original fruit of pears. This year, when plums started showing up at the market, it occurred to me that they might be a perfect substitute for pears. When I went back to look up the original pear cake recipe while writing this post, I saw that it has started life as a plum cake, so…there you go. Plums are indeed, substitutable for pears, in some instances. I changed up the spices I had been using a little too, adding a little of the mixed spice (aka Christmas pudding spice) that M. loves. Most of the sweetness in this cake comes from the plum juice seeping into the batter as it bakes, and the batter itself has just a few spoonfuls of sugar. While I normally shy away from the idea of labeling sweet baked goods as “healthy enough for breakfast”, I think this recipe comes pretty darned close.

After I made this plum cake for the first time last month, I realized it was M.’s total first exposure, as he’d somehow missed all the previous pear versions. He sometimes objects to the use of whole wheat flour, so I thought he might dismiss this cake as a little too healthy. Fortunately, my fears turned out to be baseless–maybe the mixed spice?

Lower Sugar Plum Cake
makes one shallow 10″ cake

Ingredients
1/2 c. unsalted butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 eggs
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/2 tsp mixed spice* (see note below)
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
12 plums or Italian prunes, halved and pits removed

*Mixed spice is fairly similar to pumpkin pie spice, so you could substitute in a pinch. To make your own, combine a 3:3:2:1:1:1:1 ratio of allspice, nutmeg, mace, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and coriander.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350F, lightly grease and flour a 10″ tart pan.

2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and milk. Gently beat the eggs into the mixture.

3. Combine the flour, wheat germ, mixed spice, baking powder, and salt.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3-4 batches. The batter should be fairly thick and even semi-solid.

5. Pour batter into tart pan and press fruit into the top of the batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until cake is browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.

Sugar-free chocolate banana pie

Anyone who’s seen me cook from a recipe can attest that I am always making substitutions. Especially when I get it into my head that I want to make something now. So it was with this chocolate banana pie. I had just gotten a copy of the Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook and was flipping through it. A picture of chocolate hazelnut mini-tarts caught my eye and I just had to make them. Except that I was out of hazelnuts, I wasn’t quite sure where to find coconut butter locally, and (perhaps most crucially), there was no chocolate in the studio. Cocoa powder only. And a bowl of bananas. Not to be denied my desire for a chocolate dessert, I started experimenting.

In the end, the crust in this pie is a fairly close copy of the one used in the inspiration recipe, a mix of walnuts and coconut flour. I used a fresh apple instead of applesauce, and added a little orange zest to brighten things up. This crust is a little finer and lighter than the coarse ground almond crust I have used for tarts in the past (such as last summer’s recurring peach and blackberry), it tastes less obviously “alternative”, which may or may not matter to you. I was initially a little concerned about using walnuts in the crust–I thought there might be a bit of an aftertaste. However, multiple rounds of baking have laid my fears to rest.

The filling for this pie is incredibly easy: just dump everything in the food processor and go. The result is creamy, dark, and chocolatey. It sets up very quickly also, making this a great semi-last minute dessert (assuming, of course, that you have all the ingredients to hand!).

Chocolate Banana Pie
Makes 1 10″ tart, enough for 6-8

Crust
1 c. walnuts
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 apple, cored and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
grated zest of 1 orange

Filling
4 bananas, peeled and cut into 1-2″ pieces
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 1/4 c. almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a food processor, combine the walnuts and coconut flour. Process to a fine meal. Add the apple, coconut oil, and orange zest, and process until the mixture has reached a uniform consistency. The result should be a slightly moist dough.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Press crust into a 10″ tart pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the banana filling.

3. Combine all filling ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Depending on the size of your bananas, you may wish to add up to 1/4 c. additional almond milk.

4. Pour the filling into the crust and spread evenly. Place in refrigerator and leave for at least 15 minutes to allow filling to firm up.

Weekday winter smoothie (vegan)

During November and December I find I have to make a little more effort to maintain a healthy equilibrium. Even though winters in the Bay Area are mild, there’s no denying that they are still the darkest and coldest time of the (local) year. Last winter, between moving further north and starting a new job/office with less natural light exposure, winter hit me pretty hard. I started a few new habits to help me through, and I’m working to pick them up again this year. One of these habits? Making a green smoothie part of my daily routine:

weekday winter smoothie
Yeah, that’s right. My boyfriend makes me origami roses. Get jealous.

I know, smoothies seem like summer food. But I find a green smoothie habit actually benefits me more during the winter. In the summer, I’m just generally more likely to be eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, and more of them in raw form, so a smoothie is a drop in a bucket. In the winter, I tend more towards cooked and starchier vegetables (not to mention that my officemates are more likely to be bringing in a box of fudge than the overflow from their vegetable garden or backyard orchard to share).

Since it’s the winter, common fruit smoothie add-ins like berries or peaches are not all that readily available (and in either fresh or frozen form, expensive!), so I’ve been going more seasonal and using a mix of a granny smith apple and a navel orange, both of which are currently cheap and plentiful in our area. Then the fancier ingredients: spinach (and soon kale from the patio!), protein powder, and flax meal. Plus a touch of vanilla, because why not? On a 1 to 10 scale of sweetness, with 0 being not at all sweet and 10 being a lump of pure sugar, I’d rate this smoothie perhaps a 4. It feels like drinking health (in a good way!).

weekday winter smoothie

For years, I’ve been using “milk” of some kind in my smoothies. Recently I’ve decided to stop. Why? Because for me, one of the big benefits of a spinach and orange combination is the boost to my iron intake. However, calcium can inhibit iron absorption (though more recent research says maybe not), and most milk alternatives are fortified with…calcium. Why spend money on fancier and supposedly “healthier” foods if the health benefits potentially cancel each other out, right?

Winter weekday smoothie
makes ~30 oz

Ingredients
1 c. water
3-4 c. spinach
1 apple (I like granny smith best)
1 navel orange
3 T hemp protein powder
2 T golden flax meal
1-2 drops vanilla extract

Method
1. In a blender, or food processor fitted with the metal S-blade, process the spinach with 1/2 c. water until it has at least halved in volume.

2. Add the remaining water, apple, orange, protein powder, flax meal, and vanilla. Blend for at least 30 seconds. Blending longer will produce a smoother end result, but if you’re like me you probably get impatient also!

3. Pour into a quart jar or glasses. Can be drunk immediately or refrigerated overnight. I usually make mine the night before while I’m getting dinner together, then bring it to work the next morning for drinking.

Nut-stuffed Baked Apples (vegan-izable, gluten free)

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Last weekend, I went to the market and bought a bag full of Granny Smith apples to make today’s recipe. Then I went to the library and finally jumped on the Nigel Slater bandwagon, checking out a copy of Ripe. I’ve been seeing references to Slater around the blogosphere (Lottie+Doof seems to be particularly, and charmingly, in love with him), and when I noticed that he authored a good many of the recipes I was bookmarking over on BBC food, well…it just seemed like a sign.

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Despite what that last paragraph may have you thinking, this post is actually not about something I baked from Ripe. Nope, on Saturday afternoon I first got busy in the kitchen. Then I sat down to peruse my new literary/culinary find while the heavenly smells of apples baking slowly filled the air around me. For those of you unfamiliar, Ripe is a cookbook devoted to fruit (plus a nut or two). Each chapter is devoted to a different fruit, and the chapters proceed alphabetically. Meaning that I was reading about apples and smelling them at the same time. When the apples came out of the oven, I paused reading long enough to snap a few photos, then switched over to reading about apples while eating one. And the very first recipe I turned to when I sat back down at the table with my baked apple? Why, one for baked apples, of course. As food experiences go, it was bordering on the profound.

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My version of baked apples was conceived as an attempt to make a “healthy” alternative to the apple pie my father bakes on special occasions, something suitable for more regular consumption. I skip the pastry crust and leave the apples whole, coring them and stuffing with a spiced blend of almonds and walnuts. For those of you used to seeing apples spiced with cinnamon, the choice of cloves may seem a little odd. It’s taken straight from the recipe Dad uses, out of his classic 1970’s era copy of Cookery the Australian Way, and should be tried at least once. If you aren’t sold, you can go back to cinnamon. But I bet you won’t want to go back.

P.S. Ripe so far looks absolutely amazing and I am just itching to try some of the recipes. Perhaps this weekend I’ll buy another bagful of apples to experiment with.

Nut stuffed baked apples
makes 8 apples

Ingredients
8 Granny Smith or other tart cooking apples
3 tbsp coconut oil (for a vegan version) or butter
1/2 c. raw almonds
1/4 c. walnuts
1/4 tsp. cloves

Method

1. Using a small paring knife, cut a cone out of the top of each apple, then cut out the core and seeds, leaving a small hole all the way through:

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2. Start oven pre-heating to 400F. Place 1/4 c. almonds in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Process to a fine meal, then add the remaining 1/4 c. almonds and 1/4 c. walnuts. Pulse 4-5 times, coarsely chopping the just added nuts.

3. In a small, microwave safe bowl, microwave the coconut oil/butter for 20-40 seconds, until melted. Stir in the cloves. Add the nuts to the oil/butter and clove mixture, and stir until evenly incorporated.

4. Arrange the apples in a baking dish. You can also place each apple in a muffin tin, or get fancy and use individual little ramekins. Spoon the nut mixture into the hollowed out cores of the apples.

5. Bake for 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of the apples and the desired level of softness. We generally like them super soft and will bake for around 35 minutes, but I’ve had large apples need a little longer. Remove apples from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.