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Tomato-Peach-Mint Bruschetta

The devastating fires just 75 miles from here make thinking about recipes seem so insignificant. Yet we still fuel body and soul as we continue on.

End-of-summer golden tomatoes and peaches make this classic tomato-topped toast called Bruschetta. (Pronounced “broos KET tah”). I like mint instead of basil in this twist on the traditional tomato and garlic bruschetta. I skip the garlic although a garlic clove could be rubbed on the toast with a drizzle of olive oil.  And if you prefer to use basil, it’s the same family as mint and perfectly interchangeable in this recipe.

Olive oil adds the finishing caress to marry tomatoes and peaches with salty feta and fragrant mint.  If you’ve not combined tomatoes with peaches, try it, they’re botanical siblings anyway and the balance of acid and sugars work beautifully together.

I’m still getting red and yellow heirloom tomatoes in my weekly organic box from Riverdog Farm, and am the lucky recipient of my neighbor’s late-summer crop. If you can still get peaches in your area I hope they’re sweet like mine from the Central Valley. Or remember to try this recipe next season. Once you taste you won’t forget the flavors, I’m sure!

When I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) I learned about Lindsay Olive Oil, a buttery California olive oil from the folks we know of as a ripe olive company. They call it Buttery Extra Virgin, and it really is buttery. Drizzled on toast with a little salt instead of butter, it’s my new toast topper, and sometimes with orange marmalade too!

**I received conference discount from IFBC  in exchange for a blog post of my choice.

Tomato-Peach-Mint Bruschetta

Prepare Bruschetta in proportions to taste; serve immediately.

  • Dice tomatoes and peaches.
  • Place in a bowl with finely chopped fresh mint or basil.
  • Stir in crumbled feta cheese.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Season lightly with coarse salt if desired.
  • Spoon over toasted baguette or crusty bread.

 

Posted in Appetizers & Snacks, Rosie's Kitchen, Salads and Dressings | 4 Responses

Banana Avocado Muffins

Sub avocado for most of the oil for a boost of ‘good fat’ and fiber.

Why add mashed avocado to muffins? Because avocados are full of polyunsaturated fat (‘good fat’), are a good source of fiber (about 9 grams per avocado), are high in minerals and phytonutrients like Vitamin E, C, folate, magnesium, AND can replace other fat in baking as in this Avocado Banana Muffin. 

This was the first time I used avocado to reduce oil or butter in baking, though I like raisins and dates to reduce fat and sugar in Low-Fat Raisin Cookies, Cocoa-Coconut Cake, and Date-Apple Muffins. So I was intrigued with this muffin recipe from Avocados from Chile.

What did I think of the muffins and could I taste avocado? Avocados are so mild and buttery there was no discernible flavor over the banana and cinnamon. I’d make them again. But next time reduce the flour 1/4 cup, or use a little more avocado — yes really. They weren’t quite moist enough for me, though I confess it’s maybe because I used part whole wheat flour. (I tend to modify recipes!). Let me know what you think when you try it!

I learned a lot about Avocados from Chile* at the International Food Bloggers conference** in Sacramento last week. Aside from other ‘awesome avocado’ recipes on their website (like Avocado Chocolate Mousse, Avocado Green Goddess Dressing, and others), here’s some tips on ripening Haas avocados which is the darker thicker-skinned avocado we get in the U.S. from Chile, Mexico and California:

  • Bright green, firm to the touch ripen in 5-7 days at room temperature
  • Dark green and beginning to soften ripen in 2-5 days at room temperature
  • Ripe avocados from Chile will be very dark green, almost black. The stem end should give just slightly when it’s ready to eat
  • Speed up the ripening by putting in a closed paper bag with apples or kiwi – more the better
  • Refrigerate ripe avocados and eat within 2 days

*Avocado facts:

– Just under 100 Million pounds/year shipped from Chile to the U.S. fall through winter
– 300 Million pounds/year shipped from California throughout the U.S. from spring through fall
– 50 Million pounds/week shipped from Mexico to the U.S.

Print This Recipe

Avocado Banana Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1 medium-large very ripe avocado (just over 1/2 cup mashed)
3 very ripe bananas (about 1 cup mashed)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or substitute 1 cup whole wheat for 1-1/4 cups of the all-purpose flour 
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnut or pecan pieces or halves

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Halve, pit and scoop out the flesh of the avocado. If there’s more than a gently rounded half cup, reserve the remainder for another use, or eat immediately.

Whisk together the avocado, banana, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Pour the avocado mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in walnuts or reserve and sprinkle on top of batter.

Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with paper muffin cups.  Divide the batter equally between the cups. Sprinkle the nuts over the batter (if not stirred in), and gently press down so they stick to the batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Photo by Rosie; Recipe adapted from Avocados from Chile

**I received conference discount from IFBC  in exchange for a blog post of my choice.

The batter isn’t green, but little flecks of avocado may show. That’s fine!

Posted in Breads, Rosie's Kitchen | Tagged | 6 Responses

My Practical Kitchen

You know how annoying it can be when you’re in the middle of cooking, reach for a whisk, and it gets tangled up with other utensils. Well, I have some tips to share from my ‘practical kitchen’ that might help you untangle and simplify your kitchen.

Having worked in the test kitchens at Del Monte headquarters in San Francisco for more than ten years, I learned some useful ways to organize and store foods, utensils, pots and pans et al. Adding to my college food lab training, I’ve applied those learnings to make my own kitchen practical and efficient.

So here are some of my favorites (13 in all), along with quick snapshots. If you have your own favorite kitchen tips, please share! Just leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

#1  Always store dried herbs and spices below the counter top where it’s cooler than an upper kitchen cupboard. Mine are placed sort-of alphabetically in a drawer. Frequently used ones are on top usually.

 

#2  Springy tongs take up a lot of room in drawers. Place them in empty rolls from bathroom tissues. (Sorry, I find counter-top utensil containers irritating.)

 

#3  Containers that store multiple ingredients (baking items in this case) make storage easier. Just grab the container rather than sifting through ten different items in the cupboard. Likewise, drawer dividers and/or utensil trays for drawers are a must-have in any kitchen to keep measuring spoons in one place, whisks side-by-side etc.

 

#4  These days it seems that grains, cocoa powder etc come in bags. For me, they are not convenient for storage. So if you still have original containers, reuse them.

 

#5  Honey getting low? Store it upside down in a ramekin for an easy squeeze.

 

#6  I still use original containers for some ingredients; they are more user-friendly compared to newer ones. Just transfer those seeds or spices from the new to the old.

 

#7  Toaster ovens seem to have a short-ish life span. Keep the pan that came with the oven you’re replacing. I’ve collected 3-4 which makes toasting nuts very efficient.

 

#8  I always toast more coconut (and other ingredients) than I need for a specific recipe, and store it in a below-the-counter cupboard or in the fridge. Yes, I’ve already used that coconut!

 

#9  Whether they’ll be re-used or recycled, stuff lightweight plastic produce bags in a sturdy plastic-wrap roll. Tidy storage!

 

#10  Notice how brown sugar gets hard even when wrapped tightly in its box? I have a jar that fits an entire box of brown sugar. Stays nice and spoon-able for a long time.

 

#11  Ever taste a tad of garlic or onion in that quick bread or cake? Keep separate wooden spoons just for baking sweets.

 

#12  Cotton bags are terrific to dry freshly-rinsed herbs or small salad greens. Whether you buy the bags at a cookware store or use an old cotton pillow case, they take up a lot less room than salad spinners and are much easier to clean.

 

#13 (a bakers dozen :o)  I freeze many ingredients ahead of time. So when figuring out what to have for dinner I don’t have to handle that chicken again or peel and chop ginger for stir-fry or…  See my previous post In Your Freezer and Ready to Go

Posted in Rita's Kitchen | 15 Responses

Really Good Low-fat Raisin Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Life is good with a raisin oatmeal cookie! These are wonderful after-school snack or take-along cookies made even better because they are very low in fat and sugar. A little yogurt and oil substitute for butter, and there’s not too much brown sugar. Nutritionals clock in at about half the fat and calories of most traditional raisin oatmeal cookies.  When I first tested this recipe Sun-Maid sent to me, called ‘Really Good Raisin Oatmeal Cookies’, I was surprised how ‘really good’ they were. I reduced the sugar a little and think they’re even better now. Get the recipe HERE.

While you’re getting this yummy cookie recipe, check out nutrition information from RaisinYourNutrition. There is a very good article with the latest news about eggs and health; another about ‘good foods vs. bad foods‘ and the confusion with gluten-free foods; and the new food labeling law which was supposed to go into affect in 2018.  The current government administration has delayed it, but many companies are moving forward anyway so you’ll be seeing the  new label on food packages soon.  It’s all good, and will make it easier to compare foods and decipher labels.

Really Good Low-Fat Raisin Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

Recipe makes one 9×13-inch pan; 20 bars.

Calories 126; Protein 2g; Fat 2g (Sat. Fat 0.1g); Carbohydrate 26g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 126mg

Posted in Desserts, Rosie's Kitchen | 2 Responses

Mango Tango Ice Pops

A refreshing, ice-y treat before summer ends? I shared this last August, and just had to again. Rummy-yummy and super easy, my adult popsicles are great for parties, picnics, barbecues, beach bashes – you name it. Tropical fruits are perfect partners with rum and Angostura orange bitters. And of course, fruit adds a healthy punch. The Zipzicle ice pop sleeves make these an especially fun and portable treat. A cooler with plenty of ice is all you need to take them on a picnic or to the backyard.

The pops may be made well in advance – ready to go when you are. I made so many of these last summer when I was testing, that I still have some in my freezer! And they’re still very slurpable :o)  Leave out the rum if you want a frozen fruit treat for youngsters.

If you’re a Manhattan drinker like Rosie and her dad, Ralph, try Rosie’s Tropical Manhattan Pops below. Rosie and Ralph were taste-testers for the Mango Tango Pops, then tried their favorite Manhattan in a pop.  Let us know which variation you like best! We like both 🙂

Print This Recipe

Mango Tango Ice Pops

Prep time: 15 minutes if using pre-cut fruit     Freeze time: 2-3 hours

Makes 12 ice pops (4 cups puree)

1/2     cup Angostura® 7-Year Caribbean Rum (4 oz.)
1/4     tsp. Angostura® Orange Bitters
3        cups diced* ripe mango (about 16 oz.)
3        cups diced fresh pineapple (about 16 oz.)
12      Zipzicle® ice pop sleeves*
Funnel with 1/2” opening at the bottom

Measure rum in a liquid measuring cup; stir in orange bitters and set aside.

Place diced mango in blender container. Add half the rum mixture; cover and blend until smooth. If needed, stop blender and stir fruit a bit. When fruit is smooth, pour into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or a pitcher with a spout. Repeat with pineapple and remaining rum-bitters mix. Add to pureed mango, stirring well.

Open ice pop sleeves. With the funnel, fill one at a time, stopping at the fill line. Seal and place upright in a tall container.* When all are filled, freeze for 2-3 hours or until frozen.

To serve, place frozen pops with ice in an ice bucket or cooler.* Frozen pops open easily if you wrap your hand around the pop for a minute. Then open the top and push up from the bottom.

* Kitchen Notes:

  • Sweetness depends on the ripeness of the fruit; really ripe fruit makes a sweeter pop.
  • The puree does not have to be perfectly smooth; small chunks are okay if they’ll fit through the funnel.
  • Puree may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
  • It’s ok to lay pops down to freeze; the shape will be a bit flat rather than round. When serving, ice is not needed to surround the frozen pops if served within 5 minutes or so.
  • Zipzicle sleeves can be purchased on Amazon. And at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Cost Plus/World Market; call first to confirm.


Tropical Cherry Manhattan Pops

1/2 cup Bourbon
1/4 cup Sweet Vermouth
1/4 teaspoon Angostura Aromatic Bitters
3 cups canned cherries in light syrup, drained (about 16 oz.)
3 cups diced fresh pineapple (about 16 oz.)

Follow directions for preparing Mango Tango Pops.
Tropical Manhattan Pops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Appetizers & Snacks, Desserts, Rita's Kitchen | 7 Responses

Golden Fruit Salsa-Chutney

Fruit salsa, chutney – or can it be a sundae topping?  Take your pick! It’s ‘golden’ any way you serve it. Sweet-tangy golden raisins and summer fruits – peaches, nectarines, strawberries, apricots, and a zing of crystallized ginger.

I created this fresh fruit salsa as a Sun-Maid ice cream sundae topping or fruit salad.  I popped the leftovers in the fridge then forgot about it over the weekend. On Monday, after the fruit macerated further, I thought it looked like chutney. So why not try it with grilled chicken? It’s perfect! The fruits had time to soften and make a chutney-like salsa. I’m adding this one to my grilled chicken repertoire. Let me know if you do!

When freshly made, it’s divine over ice cream or as a simple fruit salad. See my Sun-Maid post for the recipe and as a Sundae!

Serving suggestions either freshly made or after a day or two in the fridge:

  • Breakfast or snack with plain yogurt
  • Over vanilla ice cream for a yummy fresh dessert
  • Over salt and pepper seasoned grilled chicken or pork
  • Dip for salted tortilla chips

 

Posted in Desserts, Entrees, Rosie's Kitchen | 4 Responses

Black Bean, Corn & Red Pepper Salsa

This refreshing twist on salsa is perfect for summer. Tasty, a bit crunchy and good for you (aside from the chips, of course). A yummy way to eat your veggies. For the corn, leftover cooked corn-on-the-cob is perfect. Just slice it off the cob and separate the kernels.
Tostitos brand “Scoops” are my favorite for this salsa. The scoops make nice mini cups that keep the salsa from jumping onto your lap (or floor). I pop the entire salsa-filled scoop into my mouth! Yumm.

Print This Recipe
Black Bean, Corn & Red Pepper Salsa

1/4     cup Nakano seasoned rice vinegar
1         Tbsp. olive oil
1/2     tsp. each chili powder and ground cumin
1/4     tsp. hot pepper sauce
1         jalapeno, seeded and minced
1        clove garlic, minced
1        can (15-16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1        cup frozen corn, thawed or canned corn, drained*
1        cup diced red bell pepper
1/4    cup finely chopped red onion
2-3    Tbsp. chopped cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine rice vinegar, olive oil, chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, jalapeno and garlic; stir well. Add remaining ingredients, toss gently. Serve with tortilla chips or my fav, Tostitos Scoops. Salsa keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. Bring to room temperature to serve.

* Kitchen Notes
For the corn, leftover cooked corn-on-the-cob is prefect. Just slice it off the cob and separate the kernels.
– Because this is not traditional salsa, I place a teaspoon in the serving bowl and stir the salsa a bit before spooning it into my Tostito scoop. The stir adds more of the juices to the scoop (or tortilla chip!).
– Double the recipe to serve more than six people.
– Here’s Rosie’s version: She tossed the salsa with cooked quinoa-grain blend from Trader Joe’s, and served over greens with juicy heirloom tomatoes:

Rita developed this recipe for Nakano many years ago! And still makes it regularly.

 

Posted in Appetizers & Snacks, Rita's Kitchen, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

English Muffin Bread – perfect for Summer

Summer bread baking – why not? Use your microwave! No hot oven needed. It sounded ludicrous when a colleague mentioned a Fleischmann’s yeast recipe, developed probably in the ‘70s when microwave ovens were the most revolutionary kitchen appliance around.

The recipe is English Muffin bread. A simple, hand-stirred dough that rises in 45-60 minutes in a glass loaf pan, then ‘bakes’ 7 minutes in the microwave. No kidding, that simple. Rita made it during our record heat. Now she’s hooked, and she’s the non-baker between us!  And on a hot day, unless you’ve cranked-up the AC, your kitchen is likely the perfect proofing temperature. The dough rises quickly with a boost of baking soda that adds extra bubbles which translates to butter-soaking nooks and crannies for English Muffin toast.

Yes, since it’s English muffin bread, it’s best toasted. That’s where browning and crispness happens, just like traditional English muffins. There are umpteen variations you can make from cheesy-savory to dried fruit and nuts (see below). Create your own, I think you’ll love it!

Print This Recipe

Microwave English Muffin Bread
Makes 1 loaf, about 16-20 slices. Recipe can be doubled. Bake one pan at a time.
Adapted from Fleischmann’s Yeast recipe, shared by Wolf Appliance

Butter and cornmeal for pan
2-3/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached, or part whole wheat flour (see variations below)
1  package yeast (.25 oz.), undissolved
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk (2% or whole)
1/4 cup water
See suggestions for flavor variations below

Grease an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch glass loaf pan. Sprinkle bottom and sides with cornmeal; set aside.

Combine 2 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Stir well.

Combine milk and water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave about 1 minute on high until warm to the touch (105°F-110°F). Add to the dry ingredients with choice of nuts, dried fruit or cheese  if desired; stir well.

Stir in remaining 3/4 cup flour, to make a stiff moist dough. Transfer to prepared pan.

Cover with a dry towel and let rise in a warm place 45-60 minutes, or until it reaches nearly to the top of the pan. Microwave on high power 7 to 8 minutes.  Bread will not brown but will rise a little more and top will be dry. If you have an instant read thermometer, center should be at least 200F.

Let rest 5 minutes in pan. Run a knife around edge and turn out. Cool completely before slicing about 1/2-inch thick. Wrap loaf or slices in plastic bag; keep at room temp 2-3 days. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage. Toast directly from refrigerator or freezer.

Ready to rise in cornmeal  dusted pan.

Nearly to top after rising 45-60 minutes.

All done! This loaf is orange zest and golden raisins.

Variations:
Whole Wheat or White: 
Use about 1:1  white and whole wheat flour. The recipe is flexible; use a little more or less whole wheat if you like. And try rye too!
Dried Fruit & Nut:  Your choice of about 1/3 cup raisins, dried cherries, currants, diced apricots and 1/4 cup chopped nuts.
Orange & Walnut with Golden Raisins:  Add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest, 1/3 cup golden raisins and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts.
Cheddar Cheese:  Add 3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese.
Sour Cream & Chive:
  Replace 1/4 cup of the milk with 1/4 cup sour cream; add 1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or freeze-dried.
Garlic:  Add 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley.

Rita’s Whole Wheat Raisin

Rosie’s Cheese loaf, and Whole Wheat Raisin

 

 

Posted in Breads, Rosie's Kitchen | 8 Responses

Dried Fruit & Nut Crisps

Bake your own crackers! As simple as slice ‘n bake cookies but more wholesome. Packed with dried apricots, raisins, pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and no added fat, these crackers are as easy as baking a quick bread then slicing and toasting.

 

For the recipe, jump on over to RaisinYourNutrition for step-by-step instructions. Let me know how your  home-baked crackers venture turns out!

Click here for the recipe.

Recipe and photos by Rosie

Posted in Appetizers & Snacks, Breads, Rosie's Kitchen | 7 Responses

Hydroponic Herbs

Perhaps you’ve noticed Living Herbs in your local grocery store. They’ve become quite popular — as have hydroponic herbs. They are super handy to have especially during chilly months or if you’re not inclined to plant and grow your own herbs.

My Mountain View CA farmers market has a delicious variety of hydroponic herbs. I use the basil regularly. It sits on my window sill, ready to pluck the leaves for bruschetta or add to my chilled asparagus salad.* Convenient!

Hydroponic herbs last for weeks. They come in plastic pouches of sorts, along with their wet roots. To keep the herbs fresh, place them in a large glass (or vase, as I do) and fill with water to the top of the roots. No need to change the water, just keep the roots submerged. As the days go by, the roots won’t look as appealing as the photo above, but that doesn’t affect the flavor or vibrancy of the herb.  Note: If you need lots of herbs, basil pesto for instance, buy big bunches of regular basil.

And now hydroponic herbs are table-side in a Chicago restaurant!

  farmers market hydroponic herbs

*  To make my Italian-style asparagus salad (or broccoli salad or…),
click on Veggie Ice Plunge here.

 

Posted in Rita's Kitchen, Salads and Dressings | 4 Responses
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