Dried (Methley) Plums

Belltown Hill Orchards in Glastonbury, Connecticut grows a plum called Methley. It is my favorite plum. I use it to make some very tasty vanilla plum jam. When I’ve used up my energy making jam, I turn to my dehydrator and 12 hours later we have chewy little morsels that are sweet as well as a bit sour. They are heaven.

The best part is that the fruit does not need to be peeled. I just cut out the pit, and chop the plum into quarters.

Next, they are lined up on the tray and dehydrated for about 12 hours at 135 degrees.

They taste like candy. Really good candy that is all natural and perfectly delicious. Finding homemade snacks that taste as good as, if not better than, chemical-laden grocery store goodies always feels like a tiny victory for my family.

Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. Try your best to share.

They will keep for months if they are properly dried.

Freeze those blueberries!!!

Is it just me, or is spending a sunny morning picking blueberries with kids one of the funnest family activities ever? We saved up 10 trays of fresh blueberries last year and ran out in the middle of the winter. I’m going for 20 trays this year – at least. The fact that we have an extra large freezer in the garage allows me to stockpile.

Just in case you didn’t already know, blueberries are really easy to freeze. They are in many ways my favorite berry because they are so sturdy, versatile, and downright tasty. Freshly picked berries  that have never been refrigerated are my idea of heaven. But in the middle of winter I also love having the fixings for smoothies, pies, muffins, syrup, and blueberry compote at the ready. Whenever I pull some out of the freezer, the kids insist on having a few to snack on right away.

All you need to do to freeze them is lay them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Make sure they are dry. Make some room in your freezer and let them freeze for at least 4 hours. They freeze relatively quickly. But I usually forget about them and leave them overnight.

After the berries are frozen, transfer them to a gallon-sized airtight bag squeezing out all the excess air you can before sealing it completely. There are fancy gadgets and tools that can remove all the air. But that’s not necessary for blueberries. They’ll be fine.

Et viola! You’ve got yourself some frozen goodness. Put the bag back in the freezer where it will be waiting for you patiently.

Here in the Northeast, most pick-your-own farms grow a wide variety of berries that produce all the way into the fall. So get out there and get pickin’!

Banana with Chocolate Syrup

One of the most popular categories on Fix Me A Snack is “10 Minutes or Less“.  Those of us who do not like to spend our entire lives in the kitchen, appreciate a little inspiration in the realm of  quick healthy snacks for kids.

This is a snack we used to eat all the time, but it’s fallen by the wayside lately. Bananas with chocolate syrup and sprinkles was always a winner. Maybe we need to bring it back.

Also, I must show you a picture I found that my youngest drew a couple years ago. It’s the family in the kitchen. I love it. Can you tell I’m feeling a little nostalgic today? When they were babies the older moms always told me they would grow up so quickly and I didn’t believe them one bit. They were right, of course. Wah.

Dried Nectarines

To know Belltown Hill Orchards is to love the back corner of their farm store. During the summer, the shelves are loaded with baskets full of seconds that are a fraction of the usual price. The greedy home preserver in me always opts to get too much while visions of tarts and jams dance in my head.

Fresh nectarines are one of my favorites. They are easily my favorite stone fruit. All the brilliant sweetness of a peach without the medical aftertaste or the too-thick fuzzy skin.

Drying nectarines is super easy. The key is to cut along the crease and twist the fruit away from the pit. Slice, arrange on a tray, and dehydrate for 8 to 12 hours.

Store in an airtight container. Nibble on them in the dead of winter. Smile.

Frosty Rainbow Bits

I don’t know about you, but in the Northeast things have been getting pretty toasty lately. We’ve been lessening the blow by eating as many local strawberries as possible and lounging excessively.

The picture of the precious little frozen fruit bits above was taken last year. In a couple weeks it will be reappearing in our freezer. It was a delightful little healthy snack for the kids last year. Nothing beats a frozen treat on a hot summer day. And this one has no added sugar or anything other than fruity goodness. It looks like I used green apples, blueberries, raspberries, nectarine, and sweet plum.

The only problem with this snack is that it requires a little planning in advance as the fruit needs at least four hours, preferably over night, to harden. Spread them out on a tray in a single layer and place the tray in your freezer. After the fruit  freezes completely, store it in an airtight container.

Also, I wouldn’t feed this to a kid under three years old. The young ones should probably stick with larger frozen items like chocolate-covered banana pops, orangsicles, or frozen fruit on a stick.

Rhubarb Black Raspberry Compote

We saw some lightening bugs flying around last night. This morning I spied a couple of them hitched to each other on the window. It feels like late spring has skipped directly into summer around here. If you’re like me and still have some frozen fruit you put up last summer that needs to get used up, look no further. Compote is the way to go.

Rhubarb Black Raspberry Compote Recipe

3 cups chopped frozen rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups frozen black raspberries
1/4 cup Cointreau

Place rhubarb and sugar in a medium pan and cook over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes until the rhubarb is thawed. Add raspberries and stir for 3 minutes until thawed.

Remove from heat and stir in Cointreau. Serve warm over vanilla ice cream or cool with yogurt. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 2 cups
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Eton Mess On A Stick

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Eton Mess (a traditional English dessert consisting of strawberries, whipped cream, and crushed meringues) is my kids’ new favorite reason for livin’/snack. This afternoon they were happily introduced to meringues. Then we smashed them into bits! It was great.

I even put them to work making their own snack. Here they are whipping some cream and smashing meringues.

They are very focused.

But the pay-off for all their hard work is deemed worth it.

A sure sign that a snack is a winner is when my children, who are usually nice enough to humor me, refuse to stop eating so I can take a couple photos. [/donotprint]

Eton Mess On A Stick Recipe

This recipe actually works best with huge industrial-strength California strawberries. The beefy berries hold their own on skewers better than I imagine delicate local berries would. They also have more square footage for the whipped cream and meringue to cling to. For the meringues I took the easy route and used Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues, but feel free to make your own, especially if you have a ton of egg whites and sugar waiting to be used.

1 pound strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 medium meringue cookies

Pour the cream and vanilla into a small bowl. Whip the cream mixture until peaks form. Set aside.

Place the meringues in a sandwich bag or under a towel and gently smash the cookies into tiny bits with the flat side of a meat tenderizer.

Stab the berries with a small bamboo skewer. (Cut off the pointy tips if your little ones can’t be trusted not to poke themselves in the eye.) Dip the berries into the crushed meringues, the whipped cream, and then maybe the crushed meringues one more time. Consume immediately.

Yield: 3 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes

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Salted Apple

The other day my 5-year-old started an unsolicited brainstorming session concerning what she would be having for snack that afternoon.

“Apples with… salt mama! Ha! Let’s make that!” she said jokingly. And I said, “I think that’s actually something people do eat sometimes. Wanna try it?”

And, of course, she said “YES!” So I bought out a tiny bowl with some kosher salt and viola!

She liked it. She loves salt almost as much as she loves sugar. My other kid was not a fan though. Can’t win ’em all. My husband thinks I’m a loser for publishing this since he’s been “eating apples like that for years“. But I’d never heard of it until I met him.

In other news…

We have sprouts. Not just any sprouts either. This is the precious Lemon Basil, the herb to end all herbs. It’s the whole reason I’m starting everything from seed. I couldn’t find it at my local nurseries last year. I hope it’s a strong little plant because I have no idea what I’m doing.

The Big Rainbow tomato sprouts emerged today too. These will produce giant yellow heirloom tomatoes with red stripes. I’m salivating as I type this. Get crackin’ little plant!

In case you hadn’t noticed I’m a little giddy over the coming of spring. I can’t help it. There’s no one happier than a New Englander when spring finally arrives.

Also, in case you were wondering, the chicks are doing their best to take over the basement.

You know it’s time to move them out into larger quarters in the garage when they jump right out of the bin and roost proudly on the edge. I’m already afraid this one is a rooster because she is so brazen and ready to take on the world.

Oh, and one more thing…

If you’re looking for the best Double Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe ever, I’ve got a lead for you. This blessed cookie was made from a recipe in Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. It’s brilliant. It’s more of a brownie than a cookie. I think I’m going to need to own a copy of the book soon because the recipe for Swedish Oatmeal Hardtack is also excellent. And the recipe/tutorial devoted to pie crust is one of the best I’ve seen.

 

Shiny Happy People

Here’s another one to add to the simple yet brilliant category. My five-year-old thinks they’re the bee’s knees. Any snack that can momentarily distract her from her seemingly constant fixation on sugar is a winner in my book.

I think I’m going to save you from my blather and not post a recipe for this one. It’s obvious from the picture right? All you need is a slice of apple, peanut butter, and raisins and you’re good to go. I do the apple and peanut butter prep and let the child go to town with the raisins. We really know how to live it up here.

These remind me of Apple Flying Saucers which I wrote a recipe for back in 2009.

Warm Applesauce with Butter

[donotprint]If you haven’t eaten this little snack, you haven’t lived. Perhaps slaving over homemade applesauce makes it taste better than it really is. Probably not though. I think it is a fabulously simple, smooth, and supreme snack. Every time I cook up some homemade applesauce, a little bowl of this stuff is in order.

The applesauce is pink because a) I am rad, and b) I cook the apples with the skins on and run them through my super food mill removing said skins after they have left behind some of their color molecules.

I’m positively loopy from trying to wrap my head around back-to-school. I forget every year what a sea of paperwork there is to deal with and how many different adjustments need to be made to every aspect of our lives. It’s nuts.

How’s everyone else doing with the craziness? Or maybe I shouldn’t even be asking. I figure you were nice enough to read about my big problems, I should reciprocate. But really I wish we were all talking about amazing fiction we’ve read recently. Or the price of tea in China. Anything but School and Kids.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the applesauce waiting to go into the canner. Isn’t it lovely?

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Warm Applesauce with Butter Recipe

Of course, you could easily make this recipe from store-bought applesauce that you’ve heated up. Maybe that would be cheating, but I certainly would have no problem with it.

1/2 cup warm unsweetened applesauce
1 small pat of butter
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
Sprinkle of brown sugar. or a drizzle of honey, or maple syrup

In a small bowl, top the applesauce with the butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Serve.

Yield: one serving
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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