Handy Apple Chart

With all of the varieties available, shopping for apples can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when you need apples for a certain purpose.  Today, while grocery shopping, my store was doing an “apple tasting” and handing out these charts.  Handy!

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Apples are now in season.  In addition to tasting delicious, buying in-season produce is an easy way to save at the check-out, since supply and demand tells us that what’s more abundant is usually priced lower.

Especially in the fall, I eat at least one apple a day.  My favorite varieties for snacking are:  Honeycrisp, Jazz and Pink Lady.  (I sampled the Cameo apples at the grocery and they were pretty good, too!)

Note: Of course, for Weight Watchers followers, fresh fruit is 0P+.

 

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Go Blue!

In case you hadn’t yet heard, blueberries are (right now) at their peak. That means (right now) is the time to invest a (very little) effort, so that you’ll be able to enjoy these delicious and nutritious berries for months to come.

Freezing blueberries is a great way to preserve them. Frozen blueberries are quite versatile. They can be eaten straight out of the freezer for a cold treat. They can be thrown into a blender for smoothies. They can even be used for baking. (Think: homemade pancakes.)

By looking around, you may be able to purchase larger quantities of peak blueberries.  For example, my grocery sells 5-pound boxes and the farm stand that I frequent currently has 10-pound boxes.  So far this year, I’ve frozen 10 pounds, which equaled about two gallon zip-top bags.  (I plan to freeze another 10 pounds this weekend.)

You can either wash the berries before freezing, or you can wash after freezing but before using. I choose to wash them before freezing, because 1) I like to get the “work” over with and 2) I’m afraid that adding another step later would deter me from grabbing them as often.

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How to Freeze Blueberries:

  1. Rinse them in a colander and gently shake away excess water
  2. Spread onto a kitchen towel; discard any stems or damaged fruit
  3. (Optional) Cover with a second kitchen towel for a few minutes to absorb water from the tops
  4. Allow to air dry 15 – 30 minutes, until mostly dry
  5. Transfer to parchment-lined, rimmed baking trays and place into freezer
  6. After fruit is firm (not necessarily frozen solid), move to a zip-top freezer bag
  7. Put in freezer to enjoy later

That’s all there is to it!  It really is *that* easy.

Here are a few tips:

  • Set a timer to check the freezer beginning at around 30 minutes; leaving the berries in too long may cause them to shrivel a bit
  • Stand the zip-top bag up in the colander to keep it from tipping as it’s filled
  • Form a funnel with the parchment paper, to quickly transfer frozen berries to the bag
  • If you have a deep freezer, your blueberries will stay beautiful well into the winter… maybe even until spring

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Go Blue!

 

 

Strawberry Delight

We’ve just returned home from a whirlwind trip to Germany (hence my hiatus from the blog).  The trip amazing and I hope to write about a few facets in the upcoming weeks.  While away, the question lingering in my head: will I make it home in time to pick strawberries?  Thanks to the long cold winter delaying the plants, I did.

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The boys received a pass this year, but our daughter joined me.  (Note to self: convince boys to come next time for faster picking.)  Despite a brutal winter and lots of recent rain, the strawberries were gorgeous.  We managed to pick a small flat before the little one lost interest.  (The flat is obviously quite heavy.  LOL)

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Once home, the berries were washed, dried, and hulled.  One tray was prepared with parchment paper for freezing whole berries to be used for smoothies.  The remaining 10 cups were crushed with a potato masher and made into jam.  To my disappointment, I couldn’t find low sugar pectin in any stores.  Low sugar pectin is all natural, but allows you to simply use less sugar when making your jam.  I did use a recipe that calls for slightly less sugar than most recipes and it set up fine.

After the jam was finished, I took the additional step of canning six half pints.  What a joy it will be to pop open the jars during the winter.  It’ll be like a little taste of summer.

My go-to resource for making and canning strawberry jam is: http://www.pickyourown.org/strawberryjam.htm

Besides the obvious uses for homemade jam, a favorite of mine is swirling a dollop into Greek yogurt.  For Weight Watchers followers, a half of cup (113g) of Fage non-fat Greek yogurt is 2P+ and a tablespoon of jam (20g) is 1P+.  Packed with 11g of protein, it’s deliciously filling summertime (and beyond!) treat.

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Chicken Wrap: Lunch for 5P+

Previously, I’ve confessed my fondness for wraps.  They are quick, versatile and (with the type I buy) low in Points Plus.  I’ll throw almost anything into my wraps.

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Today, it was leftover chicken (3 ounces for 3P+) from the whole chicken I baked yesterday, along with some mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and spicy mustard (all 0P+).  With carrots, a mini-cucumber and a side of my favorite veggie dip (30g for 1P+), it was a satisfying lunch… high in protein, low in carbs and enough fruits and veggies to make me feel full.

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This lighter lunch left room later in the day for the obligatory post-Easter Peeps.  In case you’re wondering, 5 Peeps for 4P+….

Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables.  I love that its arrival marks the beginning of spring produce!

This veggie is packed with antioxidants, fiber and nutrients, including vitamins A and K, B vitamins and folate.  The bonus is that it’s easy to prepare.  You can roast, grill or boil it in mere minutes.

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When asparagus arrives home from the grocery, I like to give the ends a quick trim and place the cut ends in a shallow bowl of water, then put it in the refrigerator.  When it’s time to cook the asparagus, rinse the stalks then snap off the hard ends.  As demonstrated by my trusty kitchen assistant, the thick, hard ends will snap off in the right location automatically.

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My quick, go-to preparation method is to bring a couple inches of salted water to boil in a skillet, then add the asparagus and simmer until al dente (cooked, but still firm to the bite), about 4-5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a plate.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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Asparagus turns bright green as it cooks.  It’s as delicious as it is vibrant.

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When I made this asparagus, I laid it out for the photograph and went about making dinner.  Before I knew it, each and every stalk was gone.  The kids and their friends grabbed them as if they were Twizzlers on the counter.  Our preschooler even said, “I like asparagus.  I want my body to grown big and strong.”  Sweet girl.

Chobani Simply 100 Greek Yogurt

I’m a big fan of Greek yogurt.  It’s high in protein, which helps keep your full longer.  And it’s a great source of calcium, potassium, zinc, as well as vitamins B6 and B12.  The texture is thick, creamy and seemingly indulgent.

At any given time, we have wide array of brands and flavors in our refrigerator.  Large tubs of plain, non-fat Fage, Chobani Champion tubes for the kids’ lunch boxes and flavored, single-serving containers from any number of companies for snacks.

Previously, I had checked out the nutrition label Chobani single-serving containers and, frankly, wasn’t impressed.  Recently, however, new packaging caught my attention.  Maybe I missed them before, or maybe they’re new, but Chobani has a line called “Simply 100.”

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The vanilla variety boasts:

  • 100 calories
  • 12g protein
  • 5g fiber (20% of the recommended daily value)
  • 7g sugar (only about 1g more than a same size of Fage’s plain non-fat)
  • 0g fat
  • Natural ingredients

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My store carries four varieties: Blueberry, Vanilla, Back Cherry and Pineapple.  Apparently, they also make Strawberry and Peach.  The packaging is quite similar to their “regular” single-serving containers, so select carefully.  Thus far, I’ve sampled the blueberry and vanilla, and give them both a thumbs up!

Note for Weight Watchers followers: according to my scanner, all four varieties are 2P+ each.

It’s Official: Oranges are in Season

The start of the citrus season is (finally!) here.  For me, citrus fruits are a bright spot in the cold, long winter months, and they make a daily appearance on my family’s table.

The Navel variety is the probably most well known type of orange.  But did you know how it got its name?  It’s because the blossom end of a Navel orange resembles a belly button.  See….

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This variety of orange is praised for its sweet taste.  If you don’t mind getting your hands juicy, simply peel the rind and then divide the fruit along the natural segmentation.  I prefer to quarter the orange then cut it away from the rind though.

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Navel oranges are quite versatile.  My favorite uses are:

  • Cut into bite-size pieces for on top of salads
  • Squeezed to make orange juice
  • For my late-afternoon snack (0P+), with a small piece of cheese (1P+) and a cup of coffee (0P+)
  • Quartered in my kids’ lunch boxes (with the rind partially separated, for easy peeling by little hands)
  • Next to eggs and toast for breakfast
  • I could go on and on….

And because I love useless facts, here are some about the Navel orange:

  • The first Navel orange was grown on a Brazilian plantation in 1820
  • The variety is the result of a  mutation that causes an undeveloped “twin” orange to grow inside the blossom end
  • Since Navel oranges are seedless, all trees are propagated through cuttings, so essentially every orange can be traced back to that original tree
  • A single Navel orange contains 137% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C
  • And of course, if you’re a Weight Watchers follower, fresh oranges are 0P+

So, if you haven’t sampled this season’s crop, don’t delay.  There’s no time like the present!