Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red: Fruit Bowl Rejects

 I love fruit, I really do, but if you stayed with us for a few days or weeks you might notice that there are always one or two runt fruit neglected in the fruit bowl. I am not sure how it happens, and it doesn't seem to be caused by the initial appearance of the fruit, but slowly, after an apple or pear has been sitting just longer than it should have, both of us lose all desire to eat the given fruit and the remaining ones sit until they're ugly.
My solution to this problem is to cook that fruit! Usually into a breakfast food. In the past couple of weeks our hot cereal has contained both spiced apples and pears, and in the past I have put an old apple or two into a soup with wonderful reviews from tasters. Bananas usually end up in bread or peeled, in the freezer, waiting to become smoothies.
   The last time I had extra granny smith apples around, however, I really wanted to do something memorable and scrumptious, so my vote was muffins. And cranberries. I have had a magnetic attraction to cranberries all my life, and I just love eating them any way I you will see as our red series progresses. When I was little, my grandmother always bought two kinds of canned cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving: jelly and whole berry. I usually ate most of the can of whole berry myself, until grandma began making the cranberry sauce homemade each year as her contribution. How could I go back after tasting that freshness? I now make cranberry sauce for myself multiple times a year to eat on my yogurt, in sandwiches with peanut butter, on toast, or just on a spoon.
    Cranberries are not only beautiful, tart and magical, but they are also recommended to help maintain your urinary tract health. (This is where I took a ten minute detour from writing to explore the Ocean Spray website and its recipes.) And did you know that Wisconsin, and not New England, is the world's top cranberry producing region? I didn't realize how much less popular cranberries would be after moving away from those places. But alas.

To make these even more red you can use red skinned apples, but choose a tart, firm variety if you can. Do not use red delicious. Actually, a large portion of fruit bowl neglect can be avoided if you just don't buy red delicious in the first place. If you have neither apples nor cranberries, you can substitute just about any non-citrus fruit into this recipe, but if they are frozen do not defrost them before baking or they will taste funny and  you will end up covered in goopy muffin. This was the first time I used cupcake wrappers on muffins, and I recommend it particularly because the high fruit content makes these a little...not crumbly, but having more perforations lets say.
Best Ever Apples-Cranberry Muffins  yield 12 muffins
(Based on Best Ever Muffins by Better Homes and Gardens)
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 well beaten egg
3/4 cup milk (or yogurt and a tiny bit of water)
1/3 cup salad oil or melted shortening
1/2 cup diced tart apple (cut to berry size)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed (do not defrost if frozen)

Sift dry ingredients into bowl; make well in center. Combine egg, milk, and oil. Add all at once to dry ingredients. Stir quickly just until dry ingredients are moistened. Add fruit and gently mix until just combined, do not overbeat. Fill greased muffin (or cupcake wrappers) pans 2/3 full. Bake at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes (at a slightly lower temperature if you or your oven tend to overbake things).



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