Strong Arms for Kids

 
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Continuing a bit with the strawberry theme, I made this rich chilled strawberry dessert.  I have seriously waited almost a year to make this recipe.  I found this recipe off of one of my favorite food blogs Diet, Dessert, and Dogs right after strawberry season ended last year in Japan.  And, unlike in the United States, once a season ends in Japan, there is no finding that fruit again until the following year.  So finally, strawberry season is upon us again and I was able to make this dessert.  It was worth the wait!

( I didn't make the crisps but I thought I would add it in the recipe because they sound really good)
 
 1. 2 pounds strawberries, hulled, 1.5 pounds coarsely chopped, 1/2 pound chopped

       2. 1/2 cup sugar

       3. 1 Cinnamon Stick

       4. 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg

       5. Black Pepper (more or less to taste, I had mine kind of spicy)

       6. 1 Teaspoon Orange zest

       7. 1/2 Teaspoon grated Fresh Ginger

       8. 1/2 Cup Orange Juice

       9. 1 Cup Water

      10. 4 Tablespoons chopped Fresh Mint Leaves.

 
    For the Cream:

       1. 1 Cup Greek Yogurt (If you are not using Greek Yogurt, Strain & Drain Regular Plain Yogurt, to get rid of all the liquid & make it thick)[ You are free to use Whipped Cream/Regular Cream or Sour Cream, this is a healthier version & really it was good too]

       2. 3 Tablespoons of Sugar

       3. 20 -25 Very Finely Chopped Fresh Mint Leaves

    For the Crisp:

       1. 1/2 Cup Almonds, Toasted & Roughly Crushed

       2. 1/2 Cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips


    Preparation:

 
    Set aside the 1/2 lb chopped strawberries till ready to assemble.

 
    Combine 1.5 lbs of Strawberries, with orange juice, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, sugar, orange zest, ginger & the mint leaves in a pan.

 
    Put the pan on the stove & simmer the berry mixture for about 25 minutes, till the strawberry releases all the juice. The mix will get slightly thick, the strawberries will be limp. The liquid should not get thick & syrupy.


    Prepare an ice bath. Pour the above mixture in a container & quickly put the container in the ice bath. Stir it for about 10 minutes till the mixture is chilled.


    Remove the Cinnamon Stick. Puree the Berry Mix & Strain.  The texture & consistency of the soup should be like a regular tomato soup, not gooey thick. Chill the Soup.

 
    Preparing the Cream:

 
    Process the Sugar & the Mint Leaves to  form something like a thick, coarse paste. I used a rolling pin & crushed everything together.. It was easy & took only a couple of minutes.


    Add this to the Yogurt, & whisk till it combines well & the yogurt is creamy & smooth. Chill.

 
    Preparing the Crisps:

    In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave (or on a water bath if you prefer).  Stir in all the roughly crushed Almonds, but  about 1.5 Tablespoons.


    Put a sheet of parchment paper on a plate. Spread out thinly the Chocolate & the Nut mix. I spread it out in a rough uneven circle, like a very thin cookie.  Sprinkle the rest of the crushed Almonds on this & lightly press with the back of the spoon. Put it in the refrigerator till the chocolate hardens.


 
 
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No matter what, I can't make a good glaze or a nice icing.  I actually think its subconscious because all that goes into icings and glazes are things like sugar, and butter, and I just can't consciously make foods whose main ingredients are sugar and butter without trying my best to make it somehow a little healthy.  And that's where the problems arise, I reckon.  If anyone knows how to successfully make icings or glazes without making them completely unhealthy, please send the recipes my way.  Anyway, this time, I did follow the recipe, word for word, for the glaze, but I was still frustrated with the outcome, but then thinking about it later, I think that's maybe the way they were supposed to look.  I just had in my mind, this picture of a beautifully gleaming white glaze drizzled across the cookies.  But they got rave reviews anyway, and I am definitely a believer that flavor and nutrition, by far, surpass the importance of appearance.

I found this recipe on the food blog Bread & Honey.  She adapted it from another website and I followed the recipe exactly.  It really didn't need any changing.  Great recipe and your house really does smell so good while baking them.

Glazed Apple Cookies
Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
1 cup raisins (I used golden)
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Beat butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and blend thoroughly.
Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Stir half the dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, apple and raisins, then stir in remaining half of dry ingredients and milk. Mix well.
Drop from tablespoon 1 1/2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies to racks and while still warm, spread with glaze.
To make Glaze: Combine powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and enough cream to make glaze of spreading consistency. Beat until smooth. Spread on warm cookies.
 
 
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When life gives you apples, you should be so thankful.  There are endless possibilities for the apple.  To finish off the bag of Cortlands I hand-picked in New Paltz, NY, I decided to make this Spiced Apple Ginger bread.  I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite blogs eCurry, and she adapted the recipe from the blog Food & Fun, which is a new one for me.  I love finding new food blogs to explore.  With every bite, there are different surprises of flavors that pop into your mouth.  This bread is full of all sorts of spices and they all go so well together.  Here is my adapted version of the recipe.  And yes, the photos are back!  It felt so good to bring my camera back out again. 

Spiced Apple Ginger Bread

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  2. 1/2 cup oil
  3. 1/4 cup soymilk
  4. 1/4 cup orange juice
  5. 1 eggs
  6. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  7. 1 tsp. vanilla
  8. 1.5 cups sweet apples – shredded or chopped finely
  9. 1/2 cup Prunes – chopped
  10. 4 tablespoons grated ginger
  11. 2 tablespoons orange peels roughly chopped
  12. 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, toasted
  13. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  14. 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  15. 3/4 tsp baking soda
  16. 1/2 tsp salt
  17. 1 cup finely chopped Pecans
Preparation:
Combine and set aside the oil, soymilk, orange juice, eggs, ginger, sugar, and vanilla.

In another bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, Cumin Seeds (toast them in a pan for a few minutes until they are aromatic), baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to oil mixture gradually. Next add the apples, prunes, orange peels and nuts.

Grease one loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake at 325 deg F for 70-80 mins.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan after switching off the oven, then let it cool completely on a wire rack.
 
 
I just went apple picking for the first time in my life the other day, near New Paltz, New York.  It was so much fun using the stick with the cup on the end of it, but I got a stomachache afterward from eating so many apples.  And for some strange reason, there were still raspberries around for the picking, so this gave me the opportunity to make my absolute most favorite applesauce recipe in the WORLD, and of course, I had to share it. 

Raspberry Applesauce

apples ( I used Cortlands), peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes
4 strips of lemon rind
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup water
Raspberries

Put all the ingredients, except the raspberries, into a big pot on a medium flame.  Once the apples are halfway done (about 10-15 minutes), add the raspberries and continue cooking until the apples are completely cooked.  Then you have the choice whether you want to blend the applesauce to have it smooth, or keep it chunky.  I used a hand blender and blended just slightly and kept it a little chunky.  You absolutely have to make this recipe if you are lucky enough for life to give you apples.

I used to make this recipe in Japan, when I was desperate for a taste from home, but with apples costing, at least, a dollar a piece and frozen raspberries about four dollars a bag, one batch would cost about $10.  So I only made it on rare occasions. 
 
 
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I have a confession to make...I have no idea what buttermilk is, or for that matter, what it would be in Japanese, or even if it exists here.  It definitely didn't exist in the last place I lived (Nicaragua), so I started using yogurt in place of buttermilk, when its called for in recipes.  It sounds much healthier, as well.  I also have another confession, most of the time that I bake something, I don't taste it, so have no idea about the outcome of most of my baking recipes, except for what other people tell me.  There is, at least, always one person who will be blatantly honest with me about my baking (if it isn't completely obvious that it was a disaster).  My host mom in Nicaragua was an excellent critic.  She may have never tasted any of the treats that I used to make, before in her life, but that never stopped her from giving her honest opinions about my food, and of course, always adding her advice on how to make it better next time.  Thanks Maritza.  I wish I had a digital camera then, to document all the fun of baking in huge adobe ovens.  Well I have graduated to a convection oven now, which is tricky in its own way, also.  But, I am getting better.  This banana bread looked beautiful, but my third and final confession for this entry is that this bread is not at all good for you, so I didn't taste it.  Everyone seemed to enjoy, though.  And that's what really matters. Most people aren't a freak, like I am.  I got the basic recipe for this banana bread from an amazing baking blog called: The Knead for Bread  http://www.thekneadforbread.com/ but made some changes of my own.  This is a great website for all sorts of different breads.  I also made her Kiwi Banana Bread, which my new food critic told me was better than this Chocolate Banana Bread.  So you may want to check that one out, as well.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup powdered cocoa
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • extra 1/4 cup of yogurt
Prep all your ingredients ahead of time, this will help to make sure you have everything you need and to make things move faster. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Using a wire whisk mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl peel and mash your very ripe bananas. Add in the eggs, butter, vanilla and 1 cup of yogurt. Mix together with a wire whisk till well blended. Add in the white and brown sugar to the liquid mixture; stir till well blended. Now, separate the flour mixture into two bowls (make sure there are equal amounts in each bowl, use a measuring cup to separate). In one of the bowls add in cocoa powder and blend with a wire whisk. Take the banana mixture and separate into two bowls again (make sure there are equal amounts, use a measuring cup to separate). In the bowl that is going into the chocolate flour mixture add an extra 1/4 cup of yogurt and stir. Add the banana mixture into each bowl of flour. Now, mix each bowl just till blended. Add the chocolate chips into the chocolate bowl. Prepare into 5x9 loaf pans with a little shortening. Add a little of each mixture into pans being sure to alternate each mixture. Before putting in the oven, slice some fresh banana slices and put them on top of the loaves.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If you are using a heat thermometer you want it to read between 180F to 185F. Allow to cool in the loaf pans for 10 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack.

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$5 for a mango!!! What a deal!!! Ishigaki is exploding with mangoes this year.  And now that I have lived here for two years, I honestly believe that $5 is super cheap for mangoes (yes, that is the price for just one mango).  But luckily, I also have great friends, and was gifted a bunch of mangoes.  So now with a surplus of mangoes, I can't let them go bad, so I tried out a few different recipe ideas using mangoes.  Normally, I feel like mangoes are a perfect food, and are only ruined by changing them in any way, but honestly, most of the mangoes here lack flavor (don't get me wrong they are still delicious) but I don't feel as bad putting them in recipes.  Here are two different mango desserts, I have made in the past week.  Both are good for you, but once I start eating them, I have a problem stopping and unfortunately, even though they are healthy for you, they both have a lot of calories.

Avocado Mango Mousse w/ chopped Pistachios

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Next time I would use less avocado and more mango.  But besides that, this was a really delicious dessert.

1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1 block silken tofu
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla

Add all the ingredients to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Put in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour.  Serve with chopped pistachios.

Chocolate Mousse with Avocado and Mango

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For this mousse, I probably would have not added any tofu, and only used the mango and avocado, but since I had some tofu to use up, I had no choice but to add it.  Its still good and gives it some extra protein, but I would have liked a stronger mango flavor in the mousse.  So the choice is yours.

1 large mango
1 small avocado
1 block silken tofu (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Let chill for at least 30 minutes.
 

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