Loving Fruit is Hard in Winter

Winter is a hard time for fruit lovers. Seems like it’s apples, bananas, and oranges for the next few months. It’s hard to be excited with such a limited palette, the same thing over and over every day starts to feel like drudgery.

Well…sort of. There is a little more variety out there if you look. Also, oranges are only a small portion of citrus fruits. Don’t forget:

  • Grapefruits
  • Clementines
  • Tangerines
  • Satsumas
  • Pomelos
  • Blood oranges
  • Lemons/limes

I love citrus because it comes in a handy, durable carrying case that you just peel off when you’re ready to eat. (downside: you have to wash your hands when you’re done. NBD) Although, for some reason, I can’t eat a grapefruit in any way except with a spoon after slicing it in half. It’s just not satisfying any other way for me! Also try out a pomelo sometime, it’s rumored to be like a grapefruit only sweeter and milder.

Apples have to be chosen carefully, but there are SO many varieties. Avoid the mushy nasty ones, like red or yellow delicious. Also the bitter ones like granny smith. I recommend honey crisp, fuji, or opal varieties. Jazz or pink lady can occasionally be nice too.

Pears have such a similarity to apples for me (round-ish, smooth, sweet, fruity!) that they hardly seem much different during the long winter months. However, you can do cool stuff with pears like making pear and parsnip soup! Pears come in a wide variety as well – here are 10 types of pears, maybe pick up a different variety every week and do a taste test.

Grapes are also supposed to be in season, and red, green and black varieties all have their own flavor. I avoid anything not specifically labelled as seedless – ain’t nobody got time for seeds! I like to grab a handful of grapes and munch them while I’m working.

And then there are the exotic fruits – pomegranates, kiwis, passion fruit, cranberries, persimmons (early winter only, sadly). Personally, kiwis taste like heaven to me. I will happily eat kiwis all year round – I slice them in half and eat each half with a spoon. Two or three in a row. Yum!

You may have to go out of your way and check out the 99 Ranch (if you’re in CA) or other specialist grocery, but winter is a good time for seeking out variety – what else you gonna do if you love fruit?

Quick Dinner

Last night I was on my own for dinner and didn’t want to spend too much time on it so I did one of my quick meals. I put a can of water-based soup (in this case, chicken noodle) in a pan on the stove, then I grabbed all of the bags of frozen veggies in the fridge and put a little bit of each one in the pan with the soup – chopped spinach, peas and corn. I was mightily tempted by the lima beans, but I suspect that they require longer cooking than the others and I was in a hurry so I left them out. I threw in some Worcestershire sauce and some spices and when it was hot, it was ready!

Chicken noodle soup is 70 cal/serving, with 2.5 servings in the can, so approximately 175 calories there. I put in maybe a cup of spinach (negligible calories) and probably 2 tables spoons each of corn and peas, so that was a very filling meal for less than 250 calories.

Water-based soup in a can is a great meal for weight management. And chopped spinach in a bag – brilliant! Obviously I’d prefer a homemade soup, but sometimes you don’t have a whole chicken and several hours on hand, and doctoring up a pre-made base is easy.

Eggplants Stuffed with Cheese

I managed to get to work today for training, but I’m not pushing it by planning to exercise. That can wait until tomorrow as my body is still recovering from the food poisoning I had over the weekend. Tonight I’m just relaxing at home and making one of my favorite dishes – Eggplants Stuffed with Cheese.

  • 2 large eggplants (maybe 100 cal each)
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped (100 cal)
  • 1 egg (90 cal)
  • 6 ounces of grated cheese (about 80 cal/ounce, so 480 total)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper (or other type of pepper you like)
  • Pinch of salt
  • A little butter to grease the pan

(Note: These taste great with any kind of cheese, in my experience. I usually use an Irish cheddar for this recipe when I make it, but somebody(looks meaningfully at cute husband) ate the cheese I bought for making it so I’m using feta, which is all we have on hand. I’ve never used feta before, so this will be an experiment.)

Eggplants

Soon to be boiling away

Set the oven to 400 deg F. Wash the eggplants and remove the stalk ends. Half fill a large sauce pan with water, add a dash of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then carefully add the eggplants and cook for ~5 to 10 minutes, until they feel tender.  Take them out and let them cool on a cutting board.

Once they’re cool, split them in half lengthwise and cut the flesh out with a sharp knife (be very careful not to pierce the skin and cut your fingers!) I leave about a 1/4″ of flesh in the skins to give them some shape.

Skins ready to be filled

Throw the flesh into a food processor until it’s mashed up good, then mix in the onion, egg, grated cheese, parsley and some salt and pepper. I use a spoon to mix it all up because the time I used my hands I discovered that this mixture is very acidic. Ow!

Arrange the skins in a lightly greased baking pan. Fill each one with an equal amount of the filling and bake for 30-40 minutes until they’re golden brown.

This is not a quick recipe, it’s probably the most complicated, time-consuming thing I ever cook, what with the boiling and the cooling and the chopping and then the baking and all. I got this recipe from a book called Vegetarian Dishes of the World by Rose Elliot. The first time I made it, the confirmed meat-eater I served it to asked where I’d gotten the ground beef I’d used for the filling. I’ve served this since to many omnivores and never once has one of them complained about rabbit food. The book recommends serving it with a tomato sauce, which would probably work great, although I’ve never found it needs anything. I also use plenty of salt because I think it brings out the flavor very well. Tonight I shook on some Marash Pepper Flakes instead of black pepper (which I couldn’t find because I don’t use the kitchen that often and my husband is out) – which is a new pepper we’ve been using recently to great effect. I’ve experimented with different herbs, cheeses and veggies with this recipe- I’ve never had it be anything but tasty.

Calories per stuffed half is about 220. With a salad, one stuffed eggplant half makes a filling, supportive dinner.

Eggplants Stuffed with Cheese

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

You really should not take cooking or recipe advice from me. I’m a survival cook, not an artist. I cook when I have no other choice, but since all the things I cook are things I can eat, I’m going to post a few of my go-to recipes, on the theory that sometimes much better cooks than I (that’s you…that’s everyone) get into a rut and who knows when a suggestion from out of the blue will inspire a thought which will cause you to make something delicious, or at least experiment a bit.

Tonight I was on my own for dinner so I made stuffed portabella mushrooms. I took 3 medium-sized portabells (I bought the biggest ones I could find, but they weren’t that big). I grabbed some spinach I had leftover from a salad on Monday, a can of tomatoes which had been sitting open yet untouched for a couple of days in my refrigerator (husbands are mysterious creatures) and a cube of feta cheese.

So, ingredients:

  • 3-4 portabella mushrooms (22 calories each)
  • a handful of spinach (calories = negligible)
  • 3-4 oz feta cheese (80 cal/oz)
  • 1 can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (50 cal per 1/3 can)

    SImple ingredients

    Not much to it!

I pulled the stems off the mushrooms and chopped them up into little bits, then I dumped in 3/7ths of the cube of feta (I approximate, but the package said there were 7 servings at 80 cal/serving, and for convenience of calculating the calories, I wanted to keep things nice and even) and then I chopped up a couple handfuls of the spinachand I crumbled those things all together in a bowl and shoved it evenly into my 3 mushroom caps. Then I dumped the tomatos (150 cal/can) over each of the stuffed mushrooms to keep the spinach from drying out too much in the oven and put the pan into a 375* F oven for 25 minutes.

Delicious, about 150 calories each, full of cheesy and veggie goodness. I won’t eat all 3 tonight, I’ll probably eat one of these with some roast turkey (we roasted a turkey breast Monday night and have been nibbling away at convenient lean protein all week). The others will make a lunch each for me and the man for tomorrow.

Here they are about to go into the oven, one without the tomato sauce so you can see the mixture of spinach, mushroom stem, and feta cheese. They look pretty much the same when they come out.

One without the tomato sauce so you can see the mixture

Ready for the oven