Strawberries-and-Cream Pops

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Ok, I take back everything I said about turning on the oven during the summer being worth it. Being outside is unbearable as soon as you step out of the door. The only thing keeping me walking the dog is Pokémon Go. I just want to stay inside and lie on the couch and watch Netflix and read books all day long. At least, I think that’s what I want to do all day long, until my type A personality kicks in after about an hour and urges me to get up and go do something that’s somewhat productive. Like make popsicles with those super-ripe strawberries in the fridge.

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Over-ripe berries can be pretty gross if you were planning on eating them fresh. The strawberries get those little splotches on them; the blueberries wrinkle like fingers that have been in the pool too long; the raspberries practically liquify when you try to pick them up. However, as long as they haven’t passed over to the dark side and actually gone bad, they can still pack a lot of flavor. Just not a lot of texture. And this makes them perfect for whirring up into popsicles.

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I have tried many homemade fruit pops and never fallen in love with any of them. Here are my issues: if the recipe aims for a wholesome pop and hardly contains anything but fruit, I would rather just eat the fresh fruit than lick it in a frozen form. On the other hand, recipes that have too many other ingredients just dilute the flavor and don’t pack enough of a fruity wallop.

These pops were inspired by a Strawberry-Lime Ice Cream Pie published in Eating Well magazine; I had bookmarked it over a year ago but never made it, because I’m usually only cooking for two and need a party or a cookout to justify making a whole pie. The premise sounded pretty tasty though: strawberries puréed with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt, lime zest, and rum, piled into a graham cracker crust and topped with sliced berries. I wanted to take the same idea and make it into a single-serving popsicle.

Glancing over the recipe, it looked like it might not be strawberry-y enough, so I kept the amount of strawberries the same and cut back on everything else. I also reduced the strawberry purée into a delicious jammy goo just to be 100% certain that plenty of fruit flavor would come through. I removed the seeds with a fine sieve and used lime juice instead of lime zest because I didn’t want anything gritting up the texture. In the end, I got the creamy, tart, undeniably strawberry pop I’d be searching for. They are pretty sweet and fairly rich—it’s really more like ice cream on a stick than what I think of as a traditional popsicle—but they pair beautifully with lying on the couch and watching Netflix.

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Note: This is loosely adapted from Eating Well’s Strawberry-Lime Ice Cream Pie.



Strawberries-and-Cream Pops

make about 4 pops

  • 2 c. sliced ripe strawberries (about 3/4 of a 1 lb. clamshell pack)
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp. white rum
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt (I used full-fat)
  • 1/4 c. whipping cream
  1. In a small food processor, purée the strawberries until liquefied. Remove the seeds by straining the purée through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to remove as much liquid as possible.
  2. Place the strained purée, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer, then turn the heat to low / medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until thickened and jammy, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the lime juice, rum, vanilla extract, and yogurt to the strawberry purée. Whisk to combine well.
  4. In a medium bowl—preferably one with a spout—whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in half of the purée-yogurt mixture, and then fold in the rest of it. Stir with a whisk a few times if there are any lumps remaining—we’re not making a soufflé here; a few turns of the whisk isn’t going to ruin it.
  5. Pour into molds and freeze until solid. It helps to run hot water over the mold to loosen up the pops when you want to remove them.

 

 

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Baklava for Breakfast: Yogurt Bowl with Oranges, Pistachios, Walnuts, and Spiced Honey

I went to H-Mart the other day and geeked out because they were selling bags of blood oranges for $2.99. An entire 2 pounds of absolutely beautifully unblemished (albeit smallish) blood oranges for $2.99! I immediately grabbed a bag and put it in my basket. And then got home and had no idea what to do with them.

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Turns out that blood oranges are the fresh produce equivalent of high heels. I bought them because they were just too gorgeous to pass up, not because they were practical. I didn’t actually have a need for them. I was in love with the idea of them. When I got around to trying to use them, I had to admit that professionals make them look way sexier than I do.

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Despite its name being a blunt and obvious warning (hello, blood orange here), it’s still shockingly gory when you slice into one. The color and the juice make your cutting board look like a crime scene. I mean, red beets have nothing on these guys. And yet, I was still tempted to get past the mess and make something pretty with them. Haven’t you seen all of those Instagram photos where spectacular rainbows are made from translucent slices of winter citrus? (Yes, you have.)

These things are way too messy to eat out of hand, unless you don’t mind looking like you finger-painted with cherry Kool-Aid powder. Perhaps this is why I’ve seen plenty of drink and dessert recipes that call for blood orange juice, but not many that use the fresh fruit, which is what I wanted to do. Preferably over yogurt, because I could supreme the orange and mostly avoid the stained-hands problem. Also because a yogurt bowl with seasonal fruit sounded like a delicious way to get out of my cold-cereal breakfast rut.

I surveyed the kitchen for what else would work well with the blood oranges. In the fridge, we had pink Cara Cara oranges (thank you, Trader Joe’s). In the freezer: an arsenal of nuts (thanks again, TJ’s). In the liquor cabinet: orange flower water (thank you, husband who likes making fancy cocktails). I decided to go for baklava-inspired toppings: toasted pistachios and walnuts, and a honey drizzle with a little bit of orange water, cardamom, and cinnamon. No, there aren’t any phyllo crumbles, but it is a nice change from the typical yogurt bowl.

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Note: I call for roasting more nuts than you need because it’s a pain to roast just 2 tablespoons, and the extras will keep for a long time in a sealed jar. Also, adjust away. I recently discovered that I love mixing half plain yogurt with half vanilla because—for me—it makes the yogurt the perfect amount of barely-sweet for adding toppings. If you like your yogurt less sweet, use all plain; more sweet, use all vanilla. You could also increase or decrease the amount of honey.


serves 1; can easily be doubled, tripled, etc

  • 1/4 c. raw pistachios
  • 1/4 c. raw walnuts
  • about 1/3 c. (or 1/2 an individual-serving container) plain Greek yogurt (I’m partial to Fage 2%)
  • about 1/3 c. (or 1/2 an individual-serving container) vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 small blood orange
  • 1 small navel orange, I used pink Cara Cara
  • 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • the tiniest pinch of ground cinnamon
  • the tiniest pinch of ground cardamom
  • a tiny pinch of table salt
  • a few drops of orange flower water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roast the nuts until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool completely, and then chop. Transfer to an airtight container.
  2. Mix the yogurts together in a cereal bowl.
  3. Over another small bowl, supreme both of the oranges: First, trim the top and bottom. Next, cutting from top to bottom, trim all of the pith away. Finally, remove the sections by slicing next to each membrane; the sections should easily pop out. Remove any seeds you come across.
  4. Put the honey in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat it for 5 seconds or so, just long enough to get it thin and barely warm, which makes it easier to mix and pour. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and orange flower water. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
  5. If you want your yogurt to stay thicker, remove the orange segments from their bowl and place them on top of the yogurt. (And then drink the juice that collected at the bottom of the bowl! Yum!) If you like your yogurt thinner, just dump the orange slices and their accumulated juices on top of the yogurt. Top with 2 tablespoons of the chopped nuts, and drizzle with the honey.

 

 

French Yogurt Cake

I enjoy trying new recipes to a fault—I’ll frequently be tempted to make something new just to see what it’s like instead of repeating a dish that I’ve cooked before and know is good. This cake, though, is so easy and crowd-pleasing, I’ve made it four times in the last month: for a bake sale fundraiser, for students who earned best student or most improved during first quarter, for my aunt who let us crash at her place instead of having to stay at a hotel for a wedding, and once just for me. It is super simple and comes together in no time, plus—bonus!—it involves minimal dishwashing. You only use one bowl to mix it in, which is pretty great, but the real fun part is that you use the empty yogurt container to measure the other ingredients. Which also means that you have a cute little anecdote handy if you make it for someone else.

This type of cake is extremely common in France (for cooking at home, not for buying in stores—sort of like banana bread in the States). If you go to google.fr and start typing in “gâteau,” the first suggestion that pops up is not chocolate cake or birthday cake, but yogurt cake. This one is similar to a pound cake but not quite as dense: it’s definitely cake, not bread, but it could be eaten for a snack or even breakfast (hey, it’s just a muffin in a loaf form (we all know that muffins are cake for breakfast, right?)) rather than dessert because it doesn’t taste too heavy or sugary.

Add the flour, then the eggs. Looks wrong but works.

The size is also pretty perfect for those of you who, like me, would like to make desserts more often but have to wait for whole-family get-togethers to roll around before you can try out that ginger-mascarpone icebox cake that you’ve been eyeing for over a year now because there’s no real reason for you to make a 12-serving cake for just you and your spouse.

The only flavoring called for in the original recipe is lemon peel, but I have tried it with both lemon and orange, and I much prefer orange. It also calls for plain yogurt, which is impossible to find in a 4-ounce container, so I use vanilla instead. I have seen other versions that suggest adding a tablespoon or two of rum; I am sure you could adjust the flavoring with that or other types of spirits or extracts.

The original recipe also did not specify what size pan to use, so I went for the smaller of my loaf pans: an 8.5 x 4.5″ one. It was a good amount of batter for the pan, and the cake turned out nicely domed—when you cut it, the slice is more like a square than a flat, squat rectangle. Most American loaf-style recipes I have seen call for a 9 x 5″ pan, and although you could probably sub that size, I haven’t tried it. The cooking time would be shorter, and your cake would be wider and not as tall. 



Note:  Adapted from this recipe for gâteau au yaourt from marmiton.org. For the yogurt, Dannon Activia and Stonyfield YoBaby both come in 4-ounce containers with a vanilla option.


French Yogurt Cake

makes one 8.5″ x 4.5″ loaf cake

  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • one 4-oz. container vanilla yogurt, at room temperature for an hour
  • 1/2 container vegetable oil
  • 2 containers sugar
  • 3 containers flour
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature for an hour
  • 1 orange, zested
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Lightly butter a 8.5 x 4.5″ loaf pan, line it with parchment paper so it overhangs the long sides by about 1/2″, and lightly butter the paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the baking powder and yogurt. Add all of the other ingredients in the order listed, whisking to incorporate after each one. (You will have to rinse and dry the yogurt container in between measuring the oil and the sugar.)
  3. Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake until done, about 50 minutes.
  4. Cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the ends and remove the cake from the pan by grabbing and lifting the parchment paper. Let cool completely before slicing.

First Post: Yogurt with Sautéed Apples and Spiced Pecans

 

I rediscovered a bag of apples in the basement a few days ago. They were leftover from an apple-picking / winery-visiting afternoon in September. At first, I left the bag on the kitchen table, and I would grab one to have with lunch every day. After I finished the ones that met my apples-eaten-fresh-must-be-crisp standards, the rest of them just kept sitting there, taking up space on the kitchen table. At some point, we had friends over—which is the only time our house ever gets cleaned—and I put the apples in the basement to get them out of the way. And then I forgot about them for a month or so.

These were sad, wrinkly apples. They were super soft, which is how I like my cookies, but not my raw fruit. They weighed next to nothing because they were so dried up.

Wrinkly apples

With the salvageable ones, which were all Golden Delicious, making applesauce didn’t sound that appealing, and I wasn’t sure they would make a very tasty pie. Sautéing them to use as a yogurt topping sounded like a winner though. In general, I think real fruit mixed into plain or vanilla yogurt is way better than flavored yogurt. I’ve done the real-fruit-and-yogurt combo with juicier fruits like raw berries, but never with apples. Also, I have tried some apple-cinnamon flavored yogurts, and I always wish they tasted more like apple and less like cinnamon.

I didn’t want the apples to be overly sweet or buttery, because I was looking for something that would be more like a breakfast and less like a dessert, something I could eat on a weekday and not feel like I was indulging (too much). I also found that cooking the apples for a really long time gave the most concentrated flavor and the best textural contrast because they almost got a little chewy—if I didn’t cook them long enough, it just tasted like applesauce mixed into yogurt: mush and mush.

Lastly, I wanted to add nuts, for protein and for crunch. I tried adding toasted plain pecans, which were good, but chopped-up candied pecans were even better, and also added an extra boost of cinnamon-y deliciousness.


 

This is definitely a sweeter breakfast, and I did like it best with vanilla yogurt, but you could use plain yogurt or plain toasted pecans (or any other nut) to make it less sweet. I don’t call for much cinnamon in the apples because there is also some cinnamon in the spiced nuts, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the apple flavor. If you prefer more cinnamon or if you use plain nuts, you could increase the cinnamon in the apples. You can also scale back the apple recipe for one serving–just use 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar per apple, and cinnamon and lemon juice to taste.

 

Yogurt with Sautéed Apples with Spiced Pecans

Sautéed Apples:

serves 4

  • 4 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 cooking apples (peeling optional; I kept it on)
  • healthy pinch of table salt
  • 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Set a large, 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter.
  2. Cut each apple into quarters and core them. Slice lengthwise again (so you have 8 slices per apple), and chop crosswise into about 1/8″ wide slices.
  3. Add the apples to the butter, then sprinkle with the brown sugar and the pinch of salt.
  4. Sauté over medium-low for about 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. The heat should be low enough that you really don’t need to pay that much attention to them. 30 minutes is a long time if you’re just staring at the pan. It’s a perfect time to do something like get caught up your Serial podcast, which is what I did.
  5. After 30 minutes, turn the heat up to medium, and sauté for another 15 or 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and quite shrunken. (My 4 apples shrunk down to less than 2 cups.) Stir more occasionally to avoid burning.
  6. When the apples are brown to your liking, remove from heat, and stir in the cinnamon and the lemon juice.
  7. Let cool, then serve over plain or vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with a couple of tablespoons of chopped spiced pecans (see recipe below).

 

Spiced Pecans:

yields about 2 cups

This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s sugar-and-spice candied nuts, which was adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country. Note: You will only use about 1/4 of the egg mixture. The original recipe calls for 1 egg white for 16 oz. of nuts, and I scaled it down to 4 oz. of nuts, partly because even just 4 oz. will make way more than you need for 4 servings of yogurt topping, and partly because they are really snackable and I didn’t want to be tempted to chow down on a pound of spiced nuts. Trying to measure out 1/4 of an egg white seemed like an exercise in futility, so just use what you need and dump the rest. And no, I’m not going to make a post on what to do with 3/4 of a leftover egg white that’s been mixed with water.

  • 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch each of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg
  • 1 egg white, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 4 oz. pecan halves (about 1 cup)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300º, and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Mix together both sugars, the salt, and all the spices until no longer lumpy.
  3. Beat or whisk together the egg white and water until frothy.
  4. Add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pecans, until they are just coated.
  5. Add the sugar and spice mixture to the pecans, and toss until evenly coated. It is going to look like more coating than is necessary, but it works.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.