Somehow I've ended up with more dried fruit than planned, and it's getting a little old and turning dark. Here's a new way to use it: a sugar-free caramel sauce! Well, "sugar free" doesn't actually mean really all-sugar-free, BUT... all the sugar in this is naturally occurring in the fruit. So it's no-sugar-added caramel sauce. Unless you're a sugar addict, in which case you could add as much more sugar as you like! This is a sauce to spoon, not to pour. If you'd like it pourable, add more milk or some liquid honey or maple syrup until it's the consistency you want.
Next post will be for a rich, creamy, healthy no-bake New York style cheesecake, using this caramel sauce in the filling as the sweetener.
Fruit-sweetened Caramel Sauce
15 pitted dates (about 110g or 4 oz.)
1 to 1½ c. milk, any kind (I used coconut milk)
¼ c. melted browned butter or ghee, optional but helps give a caramel-y flavor
1/16 tsp. salt
Blend until smooth, starting with the lower amount of milk; add more only if needed. Makes about 1 1/2 - 2 cups. If you don’t have a powerful blender, soak the dates overnight in the milk or simmer them together for 10 minutes, then puree. If you prefer it sweeter, add a little honey, brown sugar, or stevia.
Try other dried fruits. Peach is good. Pear has naturally caramel undertones and would be delicious with a dash of cinnamon or coriander.
Why is it almost Taco Salad? Because there's no tostada or chips with it. If you want full-blown Taco Salad, just add some. Pretend they're corn-chip croutons. I didn't use those because of a sudden urge to make roasted potatoes and didn't want a lot more carbohydrates in the meal. Besides, if I opened a bag of chips, the whole thing would disappear, and that's anywhere from $1- 2.50, depending on if we're using cheap tortilla chips or Fritos. The potatoes, as our carb, cost about $ .50 instead. Yum.
½ lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. tomato powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt to taste
1 head of lettuce (or a half head each Iceburg and red leaf lettuce)
½ green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ c. shredded cheese
1 tomato, cut in wedges
Optional: thin-sliced onion, sliced avocado, jicama cubes, cooked black beans, drained canned corn, canned green chilies....
Cook the beef until browned. Meanwhile, wash and chop lettuce and veggies. Put the lettuce in, then add the vegetables and most of the cheese; mix slightly. When the burger is done, drain off grease, then add tomato powder and chili powder. Stir to coat, taste and add salt if needed. Spread out the meat on a plate to cool more quickly. When it’s cool, top the salad with it and the remaining cheese.
My family thought it was good without salad dressing, but if you want something to drizzle on top, Ranch is a good choice- especially if you mix a little chili powder into it-, OR this:
Creamy Garlic Dressing:
¼ c. plain yogurt or sour cream
1 Tbsp. water or milk
½ tsp. garlic powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. dried parsley, optional, if you want it to look prettier
Whisk until smooth.
Serve with oregano-roasted potato wedges and vegetable sticks.
Who couldn't use another recipe for zucchini right about now?
This year I really HAVE seen cardboard boxes with a "FREE ZUCCHINI" sign written in permanent marker, along the side of the road.
As you can see, this we're not talking about zucchini CAKE... these are tender, flavorful pan-fried morsels, related to crab cakes. Without the crab. There's an endless variety of ways to make these, this particular batch has a Southwestern flair, served with a creamy cilantro-scented Lime Chipotle sauce. We had them for dinner last night and had leftovers. They would make a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken or beef, but I served them as a meatless main dish.
This afternoon about 4:00 I suddenly remembered them again- and promptly finished off the last couple of them for a snack. YUM! (Actually, I took a couple over to a neighbor, who immediately asked for the recipe.)
This is a pretty big batch, I think it made about eighteen 3-inch cakes. Feel free to cut the recipe in half. You can always make the full batch, though, and freeze extras. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes to reheat and recrisp, or toast in a toaster oven. See below for the recipe.
I got a plainer version originally from JustPutzing.com
, though her version was tweaked from one on TheLife'sAmbrosia.com
Neither one of those used corn. I like it for the sweet flavor it adds, along with some non-squishy texture, but you can certainly leave it out. If you do, you'll only need 2 eggs.
Feel free to add in different spices, use different kinds of cheese (the original used Parmesan, in half the amount), or serve with different sauces. Ranch dip would be delicious. So would honey mustard. I intend the next batch to resemble crab cakes even more- I'll add Old Bay to them, a little finely-grated onion, add maybe a teaspoon of honey for a hint of sweetness, and serve with tartar sauce.
Southwestern Zucchini Cakes
1 lb. zucchini (3 small)
1 cup corn kernels (I used canned, then drained them well)
1 c. shredded mild white cheese (I used Havarti 'cause I found it for $2/lb)
2 Tbsp. salsa if you have it around (OK without but good for color)
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or other crumbs- bread, cracker, gluten-free, etc)
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. chili powder (to taste)
3 medium to large eggs, beaten
3-4 Tbsp. cooking oil
Shred the zucchini on fine or medium holes. Grab a handful, hold it over a plate or bowl, and squeeze hard to remove excess liquid. Put the squeezed zucchini in a mixing bowl, and repeat with all the zucchini.
Stir in the corn, cheese, salsa, bread crumbs, salt, and chili powder. Taste and add more of whatever you think it needs. Stir in the eggs, cover, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. (You can skip this step, but this gives the mixture time to bind together, as the egg soaks into the crumbs. This makes them much easier to form and flip. While it chills, make the sauce below.)
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to it. When oil is nearly smoking, scoop 3-4 Tbsp of the zucchini mixture into the pan, then flatten to about three inches across. Repeat with as many as will fit in the pan with about 1" between them. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until golden.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan before starting the next panful.
Makes about 18. Serve warm or room temperature.
Creamy Chipotle Sauce (adapted from America's Test Kitchen)
Note: Chipotle is smoked jalapeno pepper. I don't have any on hand, so I came up with a similar flavor with what I DID have, though it wasn't nearly as hot. If you like more heat, add a little cayenne or red pepper flakes. If you happen to have canned chipotle around, use 1-2 tsp., minced, in place of chili powder and Liquid Smoke)
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. sour cream (I didn't have this, either- use plain yogurt, or like I did, thick kefir)
1-2 tsp. chili powder (to taste- my kids were happy with just 1 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder, or one minced clove fresh garlic
2 drops Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 drops lime essential oil if you have it
Stir together. Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes to blend the flavors.
Makes about 1/4 cup.
If you double the recipe, you can have leftovers to change into a fabulous salad dressing: Thin down with a little water or lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
What is marinara sauce, you ask?
Call it spaghetti sauce. Or a dip for fried mozzarella cheese sticks, breadsticks, or calzones. It's a sauce for pan-fried cutlets. Or pizza sauce. It's just a spiced, meatless red sauce. Stir in some cooked hamburger to make a meaty spaghetti sauce, or simmer meatballs in it until they're tender. Try it instead of mayonnaise and mustard on a sandwich, on seafood, or over some grilled slabs of zucchini. It's very versatile, and very easy!
Do you want all fresh ingredients, or all pantry ingredients? Take your pick! This is especially delicious if you use fresh garden tomatoes.
If using fresh herbs, you’ll need three times as much, i.e., 3 tsp. (1 Tbsp.) fresh oregano leaves.
14-oz can crushed or diced tomatoes, OR 2 (8 oz.) cans of tomato sauce, OR 1 lb. pureed, or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes
1 (6-8) oz can sliced mushrooms, or 4-8 oz. fresh (optional but adds depth and ‘umami’)
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. each thyme and basil, if you have them
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder (or 1-4 minced garlic cloves)
pepper to taste
Stir everything together, simmer for 15 minutes if you want the flavors to blend well.
You can also add a dash of cayenne, or red pepper flakes, Tabasco sauce or whatever else smells good with it. I like to add a few crushed fennel seeds to it because it adds to the aroma. The cafeteria I worked at in college made it that way...
Would you like some super-easy guacamole to put on top of your cheap homemade burritos
? Here's a recipe you can make with your eyes closed!
Don't skip using the citrus juice or vinegar; the acidity prevents the avocado from turning brown (oxidation).
1 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice,
OR 1 Tbsp. vinegar and 1 drop lime or lemon essential oil
Salt to taste
chili powder to taste (optional)
Mash the avocado with the juice. Sprinkle with salt.
You can jazz this up many ways: other flavor options are to stir in chopped or pureed tomato or onion, a little salsa, mixed in diced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, or some sour cream.
This can also be made into an easy salad dressing: increase juice to 2 Tbsp and stir in 3 Tbsp. olive oil. To make it even creamier- and lighter-, puree this along with a medium-sized cucumber. A big handful of cilantro added before blending provides a nice flavor boost. If the dressing is too thick, add more lime/lemon juice and oil.
Have you ever looked at the gourmet syrups on the store shelf? Have they sounded delicious, but cost more than you're willing- or able- to spend?
Start with one jar-- any size-- of jam, jelly, or preserves. Scoop into a bowl, then fill the now-empty jar about halfway full with water; use a little less if the jam was runny, a little more if it's very thick. Add about 1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice for each 1-2 cups you now have, to perk up the flavor (optional but good). Whisk together until evenly mixed. Serve warm.
18 ounces of jam will yield 26-28 ounces of syrup.
You can use any kind, homemade or storebought, including the ones made with no added sugar. It's a handy way to use up jam or jelly when you've made/bought way more than y
We've tried blackberry, rhubarb, apricot, elderberry, black currant, blueberry, cherry...
next maybe I'll pull out a jar of lemon-honey marmalade. That should be fantastic with blueberry pancakes!
My vivacious 86-year-old grandmother bottles pineapple on a regular basis- has since before I was born- since she lives near a plentiful source. She is one of those people who knows how to make anything
out of anything
and waste precious little to none of it. As she ate some of my fresh pineapple salad
earlier this week, she related how she'd been teaching my cousin to bottle fruit. I was intrigued with what she told me about using the peel and cores. Growing up, we kids used to always chew up the cores, which are admittedly tough and less flavorful, but we could only handle a few before the acids started hurting our mouths. See the slideshow above to learn what she does with them.
Once you've cut the pineapple into wedges, free of cores and peels, it's ready to cut into whatever size you want. You can then bottle it, freeze it, or use it right away. Like all cut fruit, it has a relatively short refrigerator life.
A local store (Winco) has fresh pineapples for $. 99 apiece. What a treat! They always remind me of watching my grandmother and aunts bottle jar after jar of pineapple in a hot kitchen. The smell carried clear outside the house, and we grandchildren would sit, watching and chewing on pineapple cores until our tongues hurt. There was also the time the caramel smell of baked pineapple wafted out of my great-grandmother's attached apartment... after shopping, she'd set her pineapples on top of the the cooktop, and somehow it got turned on.
Anyway, I made this salad for a family get-together yesterday; my grandparents were in town. The tartness of the strawberries is tamed by the super-sweet pineapple, as well as the honey in the dressing, and the lime accents the bright flavors. Banana tames the intensity just enough.Pineapple-Strawberry-Banana Salad with Lime-poppyseed dressing
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
8 drops lime essential oil, or 1 Tbsp. finely shredded lime zest
1 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice (I used one lime ice cube
Whisk together and set aside.Fruit:
1fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. strawberries, sliced
Put in a large bowl, pour dressing over; stir and fold gently to coat. Other fruits to use, either in addition to the bananas or instead of them, could include apples, pears, or mango.
Have you ever made tartar sauce? It's simple, delicious, and has only the ingredients YOU put in it! (No questionable preservatives, etc.)
Homemade Tartar Sauce
½ c. mayonnaise
1 T. chopped pickles (or use pickle relish)
1 T. minced onion
1 T. lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
This is best if chilled at least 30 minutes, but still good if eaten right away. Makes about 2/3 cup.
Now, how often do you really use all of that tartar sauce? You can stir it with a couple boiled and cubed potatoes, to make it into potato salad, or try this.....
Second-Day Tartar Sauce- Ranch Dip!
To a half batch of tartar sauce (about 1/3 cup), add
1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. onion powder (recipe here)
1 ½ tsp. minced chives
a dash of garlic powder, opt.
There were NO leftovers this time. :D
I've seen mango salsa before, or peach salsa, but it had never occured to me to try adding fruit to regular salsa.
Try it, you'll like it!
Pico de Gallo
16 oz. jar salsa (mild, medium, hot, whatever you prefer)
1 large apple, diced
4 drops lime essential oil OR use the juice and zest of one fresh lime
Stir together, and use as any salsa.
Peach or mango can be used in place of the apple. Other fruits could be good, too- strawberry, raspberry, pear, ...
The idea came from a recipe forTangy Lemon Coconut Salad
. The recipe was a tad too complicated for dinner that night, plus I had no fresh tomatoes. I pulled out a jar of salsa, added the recipe ingredients that weren't already in the salsa, and put it with the salad. It was amazing!