fruit -> fruit flies

This month I've put myself on a mostly vegan diet, which has meant giving up some things I really like to eat, like, um, meat and dairy.  Although it's a bit drastic, it's the best way I know to cut high-fat and in general junk food out of my diet.  What this has meant, however, is that I've been eating a hefty quantity of fruits and vegetables.

I love this time of year because I can go to the farmers' market and to the grocery store and find peaches, berries, cherries, asparagus, zucchini, and so on for low prices.  What I don't love about this time of year is the hitchhikers that come along with the produce I purchase.  Yes, this is the time of year when fruit flies buzz all around my kitchen.  Well, not just my kitchen, but the kitchens of all produce-buying people in the area.  When I first moved here, I was shocked by the number of flies that hovered around even a very clean kitchen, so I did some research and came up with the following solution, which I will share in case anyone is interested.

1. Put your produce in the refrigerator.  I know this is not ideal, but as long as it's sitting out, flies will be attracted to it, and will lay eggs in it too.
2. Make a trap.  I use a shallow plastic cup with some cider vinegar in it (shown to the right).  The cup is covered with plastic wrap with a few holes in it.  The flies, attracted to the vinegar, climb into the cup and are too dumb to find their way out.

Keep in mind, for this to work, your kitchen has to be clean.  That means no fruit peels in an open garbage can, or other things the flies will be more attracted to.

Among other things, this also meant that I had to quickly put away the cookies I made this week, although the recipe recommends freezing them to keep them fresh, so I don't have a problem with it.

107. Blueberry Bonanza Bars
I'm not so sure about the bonanza part, but I like these bar cookies.  In this recipe, a pre-cooked crust filled with ground up toasted almonds is topped with blueberry jam and almond-coconut granola.  My cookbook instructed me to mix the crust exclusively in my food processor.  For me, this was impossible, as I only have a 3-cup KitchenAid, so I did all the necessary food processing in smaller batches.  I also had to make my own granola, which was a successful first for me.  The recipe I followed (on the same page as the cookie recipe) yielded about 2C too much granola, so I've been enjoying it for breakfast.

These cookies are better than I expected.  The toasted almonds have a pretty strong flavor, and they keep the blueberry jam from being too overwhelming - this was a big concern of mine, because I'm not a big fan of blueberry jam, and think that I might use apricot preserves instead if I repeat this recipe.  The granola on top provides a nice texture, because no fruit bar is complete without a crumbly topping.

Ok, that's it for tonight.  I've got to clean my kitchen so that more fruit flies can die.


Wishing for beach time

It has been so ridiculously hot this summer, and I guess I can't complain too much because most of the US (and several places in the Northern Hemisphere, or so I've heard) has been just as hot.  It's very expensive to run the air conditioner, but too humid to leave it off, so I just sit here and think about my weekend on Lake Huron, and the wonderful way the lake cools down the surrounding area....  When I was home I could sail all day, when on shore it was 95˚F, and never be too warm (the water was a nice 65˚F).

All those thoughts about the beach and Lake Huron in general got me thinking about the Port Huron to Mackinac Race, which is the biggest thing to happen in Port Huron, and probably the biggest thing to happen every year on my mom's side of the family.  The race started last Saturday, and my uncle's sailboat made it to the island this morning, winning first place in its class.  Hooray and congratulations!

106. Sand Tarts
In honor of the race, and because it's about time I got around to this recipe, I made what my cookbook calls Sand Tarts.  These are dense sugar cookies flavored with lemon zest, then topped with cinnamon sugar and sliced almonds.

When I first tried one of these, I was unimpressed by its lack of texture, but after they had the chance to cool down, the cookies became a little more crisp, which I think suits the sandy appearance nicely.  The lemon zest is also great - it isn't overwhelming, and is definitely the kind of flavor that refreshes on a hot day (in contrast to nuts or chocolate which seem to be more fall/winter flavors).  The almonds are just there for show, so that the cookies can resemble sand dollars.

All things said, this was an easy recipe, with the added bonus of a nice presentation.  The one thing I did note in my cookbook, however, is that it calls for altogether too much cinnamon sugar (I found I had 1/3C left over after dumping as much as I could on the cookies).  I guess I'll be eating cinnamon oatmeal once all the heat breaks.


Eating the elephant one bite at a time...

I always thought that it would be very easy to keep a beautifully clean apartment once I started living by myself.  Perhaps if I were still on an undergraduate schedule (that is, one with longer vacations), I could set aside a whole day every month to thoroughly clean everything.  Such a day is impossible on my current schedule, so I think I may need to give myself a piece-by-piece cleaning schedule and just do some 30 minutes of work every day.  While I don't like the thought of this, I like the dirt and dust less, so we'll have to see if I can have my apartment nice and clean by the weekend.

A part of this problem that doesn't allow me large blocks of time to clean is that I've been spending a lot of time at the gym this summer, particularly in the outdoor pool.  My summer goal is to swim 3 miles every week.  I haven't kept to this perfectly, partly because it took me a couple weeks to get back to my usual pace and distance, and partly due to traveling a little, but I hope I can fit in another 17 miles before the fall semester begins.  Or, of course, I could try to push a little harder and swim more than one mile each time I go to the pool...

In the meantime, I keep chipping away at my cookie project:

105. Vanilla Malted Cookies
Here is another simple but impressive cookie.  Basically, malted milk powder and vanilla seeds are added to a very buttery dough, which is shot out of a cookie gun to result in a product that my advisor thought were store-bought.

Vanilla seeds are altogether too expensive, so I added 1.5t vanilla extract instead.  I suppose that, for a particularly discerning palate, there is a difference in taste, but I don't really expect that kind of refined taste in the non-bakers with whom I share these cookies.

Nevertheless, the vanilla flavor is strong, and the malted milk gives the cookies a rich caramel flavor, and they disappeared so quickly that I can only suppose that my coworkers liked them very much.  I'm also a big fan of using the cookie gun - oh, okay, so it's actually a cookie press - because it's so much easier than using cookie cutters.  It's kind of a shame that only a couple recipes in my book call for such a device.


Baking by the Lake

I went home last weekend, and so spent at least half of my Fourth of July weekend on Lake Huron.  That meant swimming and sailing and trying very hard not to get a sunburn (I succeeded! But I got a dozen mosquito bites instead).

Since Phil is allergic to cats, and my dad's house is full of cats, we stayed at my grandparents' house.  I love their house, it's beautiful, and my Grandma Carol is probably the best cook I know.  She's very good about feeding many people for every meal, and now that my grandfather has to avoid gluten she has expanded her repertoire to include more interesting foods (which tend to be the same kinds of foods I eat but no one else in my family has ever heard of).  I would be willing to blame my propensity for kitchen adventures almost entirely on her influence.  She was very happy to facilitate my out-of-town baking, and thus the following blondies were made (in her convection oven.  I am so jealous).

104. Raspberry Almond Blondies
I have been looking forward to these for a long time.  Raspberries are, by far, my favorite fruit, and they've finally become a little bit less expensive.  This recipe was particularly ideal for this past weekend as the only extra ingredients (i.e. things you wouldn't find in most pantries) were the berries, which were strewn on top of the batter, and the sliced almonds, which were both mixed into and scattered on top of the batter.
Although the raspberries made me very happy, I'm not sure that I was entirely impressed with this recipe.  It seemed like the almonds weren't a very good fit with the raspberries, and there wasn't significant flavor aside from those same berries.  I think I probably would have liked these with a little bit of white chocolate mixed in to make the blondie batter a little more rich.  I suspect that might give a nicer contrast, rather than just an excuse to eat raspberries (which I will do with no excuse at all).


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