by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL's Everyday Chef. It is our third installment of the Eat Your Freezer Clean series, where we have helped you clean out and organize one of the most important tools in your kitchen, the freezer, as well as given you lots of ways to use up the veggies you might have had kicking around, looking lost and lonesome. This week, we are focusing on fruit; quick and nutritious ideas that work especially well with the types of fruit many of us tend to freeze - summer berries, sliced apples, that very ripe banana you threw in last summer when you were trying to keep the fruit flies at bay.
- Stovetop: Sliced and frozen, apples in your freezer are a time saver when you are looking to throw together a moist snacking cake or flaky pie, but these gems can also be simmered on the stove with a pinch of salt, cornstarch and sugar, a dash of cinnamon and a splash of water or orange juice to make a delicious topping for griddle cakes, sausages, yogurt, ice cream.
- Smoothies: Toss a few frozen slices in your next smoothie!
- Savory Sidedish: Apples and sweet potatoes or winter squash are a natural pairing. Toss frozen apples with cubed sweet potatoes of roughly the same thickness in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again with a tablespoon of olive or canola oil. Roast in an oven. Mouthwatering when roasted alongside pork chops or a tenderloin. Add a bit of fresh or dried rosemary for an additional kick of flavor.
Although not a local product, many folks love the banana for their sweetness and nutrition. When pureed, they give body to smoothies and moisten snacking cakes and breads nicely without additional oil or fat.
- Cold treats: Frozen whole in their skins, remove the blackened peel and use the flesh in smoothies or puree in a blender until creamy for banana ice cream.
- Bake: Use the frozen flesh in a whole grain banana bread that you will feed good about snacking on.
- Fruit syrups: Wonderfully simple to make. Use 4 parts fruit, 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. Simmer until everything is soft and cooked. Strain (optional) and bottle the syrup in a jar. Keep refrigerated and use in smoothies, on ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, in seltzer water, as a marinade and dressing with olive oil and vinegar.
- Sauce: Toss in a pot with a pinch of salt, a generous tablespoon of sugar and a sprinkle of cornstarch. Add a bit of water, about 2 tablespoons to a 1/4 cup, and simmer until the fruit is soft, but still intact.
- Smoothies: Frozen fruit means you do not need to add ice! Puree with fresh greens, herbs, juice or water and even some nuts and yogurt if you want to add protein.
- Yogurt pops: You need a freezer pop mold or ice cube trays and a food processor or blender. Puree 2 parts fruit, 2 parts yogurt and sweetener to taste (honey, maple syrup or cane sugar). Pour into molds or trays and freeze until firm.
OK, technically not a fruit, but it is one of the first things many of us in Vermont harvest from our gardens or find in the stores during spring and inevitably I usually have a bag or two left from last year. Can be cooked into sauce or syrup and added to a variety of baked goods. Remember the leaves are toxic, so be careful to use only the stems. If you have a green variety of rhubarb or just want to add a bit of sweetness and color, traditionally it pairs beautifully with strawberries, but I also love it with citrus and ginger.