Getting rid of fruit flies

Got fruit flies buzzing about your kitchen? Although they seem to come out of nowhere, in fact they breed in moist environments such as ripe or rotting fruits or vegetables, damp dish cloths, and juice spills. The kitchen is usually the hot spot for fruit fly activity.

Here are some ways to prevent an infestation.

What should you do if you already have them?

My friend Carol recently shared a method she’d learned for getting rid of the pesky critters. You get them drunk……and then they drown! What a way to go!

Here’s what you do……

Pour a small amount of red wine in a little bowl. Into that put a bit of dish soap. Set out the bowl. Now wait. The fruit flies will be attracted by the scent of the wine, but when they alight on it to partake, they’ll stick to the detergent in the wine. And drown. (I’m not usually one to wish ill on anyone, but in this case……YES!!)

Check out this link for additional ways to get rid of fruit flies, more tips on preventing them in the first place, and an lovely enlarged image of the insect. (The latter may drive you to drink!)

Muffins pack a triple apricot flavour punch

Dried apricot, apricot nectar and apricot jam make these apricot muffins flavour-full!

These muffins are full of apricot flavour and a surprise centre!

It may not be the season for fresh apricots in wintry southern Ontario, but you can make muffins that are ripe with the sunny flavour of apricots by using dried apricots and apricot nectar in the muffin batter, and apricot jam as the sweet surprise centre!

Enjoy!

Apricot Flavour-Full Muffins

(Makes 12)

1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
3/4 cup (175 mL) finely chopped dried apricots
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) baking soda
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter or hard margarine, softened
2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup (125 mL) apricot nectar
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) apricot jam

Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray or lightly grease with cooking oil.

Pour boiling water over apricots in small heatproof bowl. Let stand 10 minutes until softened.

Meanwhile, measure flour, nuts, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl; stir. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. Add egg; beat well. Add apricot nectar, milk and lemon juice; stir to combine. Pour mixture into well in dry ingredients.

Drain apricots; add to well. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups half full with batter. Make a small dent in the batter in each cup with the back of a spoon. Spoon 2 teaspoons (10 mL) jam into each dent. Spoon remaining batter over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until muffins are firm to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let stand in pan for 5 minutes before removing muffins to cool on a wire rack.

Tip
* Use peach or raspberry jam, or marmalade instead of apricot jam.

Recipe Source: Mostly Muffins by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2006

Asian pears and caramelized walnuts top simple salad

spring-mix-salad-with-candied-walnuts-and-pear-apples

Spring Mix Salad with Asian Pears and Caramelized Walnuts

This salad would make a tasty starter for any meal. Its great taste belies its simplicity.

You can vary some of the ingredients to suit your personal preference:

  • instead of Asian pears, try pears or apples
  • substitute blue cheese, chevre or Parmesan cheese for smoked Gouda
  • Honey-Dijon dressing can replace Raspberry Vinaigrette

I use Kraft Raspberry Vinaigrette as the dressing, but you can prepare your own from scratch, if you like. The caramelized walnuts will need to be made in advance.

Spring Mix Salad with Asian Pears and Caramelized Walnuts
(Makes 6 servings)

6 cups (1.5 L) spring mix lettuce
2 unpeeled Asian pears*, thinly sliced
Grated smoked Gouda cheese
Caramelized walnuts (see recipe below)
Raspberry Vinaigrette

Divide lettuce on 6 salad plates. Arrange Asian pear slices over top. Sprinkle cheese and walnuts over Asian pears. Drizzle Raspberry Vinaigrette lightly over top.

To make Caramelized Walnuts: In a small saucepan, combine 2 teaspoons (10 mL) butter or hard margarine, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey, and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground allspice. Heat over medium heat, stirring until butter is melted. Add 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) walnut pieces. Stir until bubbling and golden. Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Let stand until cool, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough for about 12 individual salads.

* Asian pears (also known as Chinese pears, Japanese pears, Ya pears, and apple pears) can be round or pear-shaped in appearance, and yellow to yellow-green in colour. They are firm and ready to eat when purchased. No ripening period necessary! Asian pears have a crisp texture and are juicy, with a sweet-tart, apple-pear flavour. They will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple months.

The apple of my eye?

Honeycrisp Apples

Honeycrisp Apples

Have you tasted a Honeycrisp apple yet? You’d remember if you had.

If you bite into the cream-coloured flesh of a Honeycrisp, you’ll find a very crisp, very juicy texture and a tart/honey-sweet flavour. Developed from a 1960 cross of Macoun and Honeygold apples by the University of Minnesota and introduced to consumers in 1991 (how come I didn’t discover them until last year??), this mottled red and yellow coloured apple has become a favourite eating apple with many consumers, including me!

Want to learn more about Honeycrisps and other types of apples? Check out the Ontario Apple Growers’ web site.

Wondering where the lemons are?

If you’ve looked for lemon juice in your local grocery store recently, you may have come up empty-handed. A shortage of lemons used to make bottled lemon juice started with a poor growing season in Europe last fall. That was followed by bad weather including a late frost in the southern lemon-growing regions of the world.

The demand for lemon juice is now greater than the supply. Translation: Good luck finding bottled lemon juice! The lemons that are available have been saved to sell whole rather than being squeezed to make juice.

Although I usually prefer to use whole lemons when I need a little lemon juice, occasionally the convenience of bottled lemon juice wins out. Guess there will be no option for a while but to ‘put the squeeze on’!

Blueberry Freezer Jam: a labour-less project for Labour Day

It’s closing in on the last few hours of a long weekend. Today – the first Monday in September – is Labour Day. For most people the day is simply a holiday. A day off from work. No matter how much one enjoys their job, an extra long weekend is a good thing!

Here in Ontario, school starts tomorrow. So today is also one last chance to get ready for the “new year”, as anyone connected to the school system typically views the beginning of September.

Personally, I tried to do as little as possible this Labour Day, mostly because I’m lazy, but also because the next few months are my busiest time of year at work. Rest while you can, I figure. And so I did.

In between the resting, I did manage to whip up a small batch of blueberry freezer jam. Making freezer jam can not, in any conceivable way, be considered work. It’s way too easy. Check out the recipe below and you’ll see what I mean.

I used sweetener (SPLENDA) to make the jam because I had some in the cupboard and because I’d never made jam using a sweetener before. It worked just fine. After licking the spoon I used to stir the jam, I’d give two thumbs up for the jam’s flavour and consistency. (The real test will come tomorrow morning when I sample the jam on my breakfast bagel!)

If you’re looking for jam and jelly recipes, including freezer recipes and some using sweeteners, try the following web sites:
* SPLENDA
* Bernardin – look under Recipes, then under “Jams, Jellies & Other Fruit Spreads” or “Reduced Sugar or Salt Recipes”
* Kraft Foods

Blueberry Freezer Jam

Blueberry Freezer Jam
(Makes about 4-1/2 cups/1.125 L)

4 cups (1 L) crushed blueberries (about 4 pints/2 L)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely grated orange or lemon rind
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) SPLENDA (No Calorie Sweetener) or granulated sugar
1 pouch (45 g) freezer jam pectin

Wash and rinse five 1 cup (250 mL) mason jars and lids.

Pulse blueberries in a food processor (do not puree until smooth) or crush blueberries by hand. Measure 4 cups (1 L) crushed blueberries into a saucepan. Stir in grated orange or lemon rind.

Heat blueberries on stovetop, stirring frequently just until they come to a boil. (This step is not essential but heating the berries intensifies their colour and flavour and soften the skins so the jam spreads smoothly.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine pectin and SPLENDA or sugar until well blended. Add fruit mixture to pectin and sweetener or sugar mixture; stir for 3 minutes.

Ladle jam into jars, filling to about 1/2-inch (1 cm) from the top of the jars. Wipe rims of jars with a clean cloth, removing any spilled jam. Cover jars securely with lids. Let jars stand until jam has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.

Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream – something to scream about?

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.

As much as I love ice cream, it’s not something I tend to scream about.

I scream while riding rollercoasters. (Jump aboard the Millenium Force at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio and you’ll likely agree that full-blown hysteria including top-of-the-lung screaming is perfectly acceptable behaviour before, during and after the ride! Apparently, riding the Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland (just north of Toronto) also produces high-pitched screeching. I haven’t yet experienced this particular fear-inducing ride.)

Snakes and creepy-looking bugs also make me scream. (Did you hear about the woman in Montreal who found a python under her bed earlier this week? I had to stifle a scream just hearing the terrifying tale on the radio.)

I scream – inwardly, mind you, so as not to alarm my co-workers – when I inadvertently delete something or forget to save something on my computer and there’s no “undo” feature available to retrieve what I’ve lost.

I’d probably scream if I won the lottery. (Guess I’d have to buy lottery tickets for that to be a possibility!

Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream

But let’s talk ice cream, which according to that old familiar rhyme from childhood (I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream) is supposed to incite cries of joy!

Creamy textured homemade Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream with its sweet, perfumed flavour is definitely worth at least a loud “yahoo” or two.

If you’re the lucky owner of an ice cream maker, you’ll know that the warm days of summer are perfect for enjoying homemade ice cream.

Actually, I take that back. There’s never a bad time to savour a batch of homemade ice cream or another frozen concoction such as gelato or sorbet.

So then! Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream. Strawberries you probably know all about, but are you wondering what lychees are and whether they should be added to the list of things to scream about? Rest assured they are in no way related to leeches, although lychee is pronounced ‘LEEchee’. It can be spelled ‘litchi’.

A lychee is a small fruit with a rough, reddish shell. The flesh is creamy white, juicy and sweet, and it surrounds a seed or pit. To eat lychees, you peel them and remove the seed. Eat them as is or add them to salads or desserts.

I tend to purchase canned lychees as they’re already peeled and seeded. And, I am lazy.

This recipe calls for superfine sugar. This is a quick dissolving sugar also known as berry sugar, fruit sugar, castor sugar or instant dissolving sugar. If you wish, you can make superfine sugar by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for 15 seconds.

I have a dual canister Cuisinart yogurt-ice cream-sorbet maker. It makes one or two quarts (1 or 2 L) of ice cream. This Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream recipe makes 8 cups (2 L) of ice cream. Once the churning/freezing cycle was completed (this took about 15 minutes in my machine), the canisters were full – to the brim – with ice cream.

If your machine has a single 4 cup (1 L) canister, halve the ingredients.

Freeze homemade ice cream in a tightly-sealed container for up to a couple weeks.

Be sure to freeze homemade ice cream with a tight-fitting lid to prevent freezer burn and an ‘off’ flavour. Label the container so it’s contents don’t become mystery food.

Although this ice cream tastes great even before “ripening” in the freezer for a few hours, some time in the freezer will further improve the flavour. It’s best to enjoy homemade ice cream within a couple weeks. (Now there’s a problem. Not!)

Strawberry Lychee Ice Cream
Makes 8 cups (2 L)

2 cups (500 mL) strawberries
3/4 cup (180 mL) superfine sugar
1 can (530 mL/20 ounces) canned lychees in syrup (about 2 cups)
2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream (36% butterfat)
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
6 egg yolks

Hull and roughly chop strawberries; place in a bowl along with any juices. Stir in 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the sugar and set aside for 30 minutes.

Drain and finely chop lychees, reserving 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the syrup. Set lychees and syrup aside.

Place cream, milk and remaining sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook for a few minutes until sugar dissolves and mixture is just about to boil. Remove from the heat.

Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl or 8 cup (2 L) measuring cup. Whisk in 1/4 cup (60 mL) of the hot milk mixture until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk mixture, then return mixture to saucepan and stir constantly over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes. Do not allow this custard mixture to boil. (To test if the mixture coats the back of a spoon, place a spoon in the mixture. Remove and run your finger through the middle of the custard. If a clear path is left and the custard left on the spoon does not run, the mixture is ready.) Do not allow the custard mixture to boil.

Strain through a fine sieve and set custard aside to cool, stirring occasionally. (If desired, cover and refrigerate overnight.)

Gently stir strawberries and strawberry juice, lychees, and lychee syrup into custard. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Alternately, transfer to a shallow metal tray and freeze, whisking every couple hours until frozen and creamy.)

Pack ice cream into container(s). Cover tightly, label and freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight before serving.

Allow ice cream to soften at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Iced – 180 very cool concoctions by Jane Lawson, Thunder Bay Press, 2006

Smoooothies!

Berry Banana Smoothies

When it’s too hot to cook, a thick, smooth, cold, creamy beverage can fill me up and chill me down – all at the same time!

I’ve always got the basic ingredients to make smoothies (frozen fruit and ice cream, yogurt or sherbet) in my freezer. Fresh fruit can also be used to make these creamy smooth beverages, but for a really frosty, thick drink, I prefer frozen fruit. You can freeze fruits like berries and peaches during the summer and fall when they’re in season so you have them on hand year round. Or, you can purchase bags of prepared frozen fruits.

Since I always seem to buy too many bananas and their yellow skins darken and flesh softens before we get around to eating the bunch, those that have ripened beyond my preference automatically go into the freezer. To make it easier and less messy to use them later in smoothies (or baking), and to keep them from turning brown, before they get added to the large resealable bag of frozen bananas in my freezer, I peel them and wrap each one individually in a small piece of plastic wrap.

Frozen yogurt, sherbet or ice cream will also help add thickness to a smoothie. If you don’t have any of these options on hand, but you have some yogurt in your fridge, place the required amount in a plastic container and put it in the freezer until it’s firm (about 4 hours), stirring occasionally.

You almost can’t go wrong blending ingredients to make a smoothie. And experimenting is half the fun!

Here’s the recipe for a smoothie I enjoyed last week while sitting on our deck – book in one hand, beverage in the other! (I used the last few blueberries from last season to make the smoothies.)

Berry Banana Smoothie
(Makes 2 servings)

2 cups (500 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) orange sherbet
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries or strawberries
1 frozen banana, cut into pieces

In a blender, combine milk, sherbet, berries and banana. Process until smooth. Pour into two tall glasses. Serve with a straw.

Variation: Instead of orange sherbet, try another fruit-flavoured sherbet or vanilla or fruit-flavoured frozen yogurt. Vanilla ice cream can be substituted too.)

Removing strawberry caps and hulls in a pinch

A strawberry huller efficiently removes the fruit's stem and green cap.

If you want to remove strawberry caps and hulls quickly and cleanly, I recommend investing a buck or two in a strawberry huller. This small inexpensive kitchen tool, rather like a fat tweezer, will pinch off the green tops of strawberries efficiently so you don’t waste fruit or stain your fingers.

I use mine when I’m facing a large batch of strawberries that need hulling, or even just a few berries, probably because the little tool works well and is fun to use!

You should be able to find a huller almost wherever kitchen tools are sold.

Celebrating with red and white foods on Canada Day

Tomorrow is Canada Day, a celebration of the nation’s 141st birthday. There will be much flag-waving and expressions of patriotic sentiments. The colours de jour will be red and white.

If you want to inject some patriotic zeal into your July 1st menu, consider the colour palate of the foods you plan to serve. It’s not too difficult to include some red and white foods. If you’re a little more adventurous, try creating an entire meal of just red and white foods. Think tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, spaghetti and meat sauce, bruschetta, barbecued ribs, strawberry shortcake, whipped cream, sour cream, cream cheese, red potatoes, mozzarella cheese, angel food cake, and on and on.

A simple red and white appetizer or snack can be made quickly by creating tiny kabobs of pesto-marinated mini-mini bocconcini and grape or cherry tomatoes. Mini-mini bocconcini are small balls of buffalo mozzarella. They can be found in tubs in the deli area of most major grocery stores. If you can’t find the mini-mini variety, purchase mini bocconcini and slice them into quarters or cut large balls of bocconcini into small pieces.

To make the kebabs, marinate the bocconcini in a couple spoonfuls of homemade or prepared pesto for at least 15 minutes, then poke a toothpick into a bocconcini and a grape or cherry tomato. If you use halved grape or cherry tomatoes, the kabobs will be able to stand and you can arrange them upright on a plate. These little mouthfuls are colourful, flavourful and make up very quickly, leaving you lots of time to enjoy Canada Day festivities and fireworks.

Ontario strawberries!

I was finally able to get my hands on some good-looking, sweet-smelling, fresh-tasting Ontario strawberries, so they’ll be on the menu in our house tomorrow. We’ll enjoy some berries fresh, then maybe in the strawberry-rhubarb sauce that follows, served over cake or ice cream. I’ve also bought ingredients to make strawberry ice cream, which would be served, of course, with fresh sliced strawberries.

Hmmmm…..since strawberry season is so short, we just might have to have both desserts!

Angel Food Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
(Makes 12 servings)

Twelve individual mini angel food cake rounds, sponge cake flans or shortcakes can be used instead of the angel food cake slices.

3 cups (750 mL) sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (cut in 1/2-inch/1 cm slices)
3/4 cup (175 mL) sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) water
2 cups (500 mL) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 angel food cake (cut into 12 slices)
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture just comes to a boil (about 7 or 8 minutes). Reduce heat to low; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender (6 to 8 minutes). Let cool.

Just before serving, stir in strawberries. Top each slice of cake with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream and about 1/4 cup (50 mL) strawberry rhubarb sauce.