I talked about how we can be frugal shoppers and a conscientous consumers all rolled into one. You may lean more to one end of the spectrum or the other, but there is definitely room in the zoo for a happy combination of both.
In that post, I made the observation that, “Buying bum produce, no matter how cheap, is a waste of money.” Michael Pollan calls it “voting with your fork.” In other words, we send a message every time we buy food. Like most of you, I strive to buy quality produce in season. Generally this isn’t a problem.
No problem, that is, until those cartons of ridiculously red strawberries start rolling in from California. Oh! The temptation! The agony!
After a winter’s worth of bananas, apples, and oranges, my summer-produce-starved heart is craving flavor and color and variety. The Amnesia sets in. The self-control vanishes. I stack 9 pounds in my shopping cart. No joke. And… no surprise, they are hard and sour and bland. Oh! The disappointment! The regret!
Obviously, these sturdy-to-ship hybrids can’t compete with the flavorful strawberries that will start popping up in our local farm stands in June. Is there anything better than a vine-ripened Hood strawberry? A taste of heaven. (Granted, there is a big difference with California strawberries and California strawberries commercially grown to ship.) But wait! There is hope. Pureeing or baking fruit intensifies the flavor. Combining fruit with other ingredients makes it more interesting, especially when it’s not the peak of its season. Getting creative allows you to eat and actually enjoy those crazy California strawberries.
For the simplest solution: slice the strawberries, toss with a little sugar, and let them sit for 10-15 minutes to bring out the juice (the longer they sit, the softer they get). It’s called macerating. Serve these slightly sweetened berries with yogurt or layered with shortcake and whipped cream. Or… Toss whole strawberries in a smoothie or a milkshake. Make a syrup for your stack of pancakes or bowl of ice cream. Add them to rhubarb pie. Tuck them into sweet breads or muffins (recipe below).
For those of you looking to whip up more baked goods from scratch, muffins or quick breads are a great place to start. The ingredient list is basic, the steps are simple, and the results are popular. This muffin recipe is a good example. Try it as listed the first time, then make changes to suit your tastes. Try frozen blueberries or chopped strawberries. Omit the fruit and stir in chocolate chips instead. Combine cinnamon with diced, canned peaches. Substitute some applesauce for the butter. Quick breads and muffins are forgiving recipes, perfectly suited for different seasons and preferences.
Basic Fruit Muffins with Streusel
Yields 24 muffins
2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 c. berries or other fruit (fresh or frozen)
1 c. buttermilk (regular milk works fine)
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 t. lemon zest (optional)
Streusel Topping (optional, not pictured):
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 T. butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400. Coat muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper cups. Combine the streusel ingredients with a fork; set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Gently stir in the fruit.
- In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, butter, eggs, and zest. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
- Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Top muffins with the streusel mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
Now this is a sweet strawberry you can sink your teeth into.
A basic muffin pan is priceless and will last you for a very long time. Wilton makes a great one for just under $7.
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