By Heidi A. Funkhouser 2016-01-25 22:16:05
WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD, THE WORD “STONE” IS RARELY PART OF THE CONVERSATION (unless you’re doing an education activity with the children’s literature classic Stone Soup). Similarly, you really don’t want to hear references linking school food and “pits,” right? But in this edition of “Food Focus,” we’re gonna do just that! This month, we’re taking a hard look at stone fruits. These are the fruits that contain a large, solid pit, or “stone,” at the center that serves as the fruit’s seed. Most stone fruits belong to the Prunus family of fruit trees, which tend to be found in warmer climates of the world and are often susceptible to injury from colder temperatures. (Exceptions to the rule include northern Michigan’s cherry orchards.) You’ll discover this family of fruits provides a delightful and delectable harvest from June through September, producing versatile crops that can be grilled, sautéed, poached, baked, broiled and glazed. Menuing one or more stone fruits in your school offerings may add that extra dimension you—and your student customers—have been seeking. In this article, we offer an overview of six popular varieties, featuring a few juicy details about each that are intended to inspire your recipe and menu planning and allow you to share with kids through your nutrition education efforts. APRICOTS Apricots are reported to have originated in China, but when it comes to production in the United States, California is king. In 1792, in an area south of San Francisco, the first major production of apricots was recorded and now, more than 95% of the apricots grown in the country hail from the Golden State. Apricots boast a sweet flavor that’s similar to plums. The pale orange fruit contains a wealth of vitamins A, C and E, as well as dietary fiber and potassium. Some folks like to snack on dried apricots, and although the drying process of fruit degrades its content of water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C, other nutrients actually become more concentrated. Consequently, a dried apricot provides higher levels of most nutrients, ounce for ounce, than its fresh counterpart. It also offers an excellent source of fiber. In fact, according to USDA, a half-cup serving of dried apricots provides 19% of your daily fiber needs! When selecting an apricot, look for a fairly firm, plump fruit with a color that ranges from orange-yellow to a pale orange. To enjoy their best flavor, apricots should be eaten when they are soft to the touch and juicy. But if you can’t get to them right away, store the apricots in the refrigerator to keep them over-ripening. If you want to savor the flavor of fresh apricots long after the end of the growing season, cut the fruit in half and place on a baking sheet and then stick them in the freezer. Once frozen, they can then be packed in individual plastic freezer bags. CHERRIES When it comes to cherries, you have two primary varieties to choose from: tart cherries (also called sour cherries) and sweet cherries (you might have seen the dark, dark red Bing cherries in mid-summer months). Tart cherries are much more readily available processed, dried, frozen or as juice, while sweet cherries are typically consumed fresh. The tart taste is an indication of the amount of anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid, which offer antioxidant benefits) found in the fruit. These flavonoid compounds are behind the sourness, red color and potential health-promoting properties, which include reducing muscle soreness after exercise, easing arthritis pain and enhancing heart health. Fun fact: Tart cherries also contain melatonin, a natural hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycle. Montmorency tart cherries are a variety most commonly grown in the United States and Canada. The name comes from a valley in the northern suburbs of Paris, France, where tart cherries were first cultivated in the 18th century. Currently, more than 94% of Montmorency tart cherries eaten in this country are grown here. In fact, Traverse City, Mich., is considered the “Cherry Capital of the World,” while other Montmorency tart cherry-producing states include New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. When it comes to sweet cherries, you’ll find they are grown mainly in California, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, with the Bing variety being the one most produced in the United States. It is believed that Bing cherries were named for a Manchurian Chinese foreman, Ah Bing, who in the mid-1800s worked in the family fruit orchards of Oregon horticulturist Seth Lewelling. In addition to being sweet and low in calories, cherries are high in anti-oxidants and are thought to help sufferers of arthritis and gout. When you are in the produce section of the supermarket, look for sweet cherries that are firm and plump without soft areas and with their stems firmly in place. Keeping cherries cold is the key to maintaining their freshness. Cherries will lose their quality and freshness at room temperature. Wash them with cold water just before eating, but avoid washing them prior to storage, as moisture can be absorbed where the stem meets the fruit and lead to splits or spoilage. Cherries also can be frozen—pit them or leave them whole with the stems intact. Spread the fruit in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until firm and then place in a bag or container. NECTARINES With its smooth skin, the nectarine is sometimes referred to as a “shaved peach” or a “fuzz-less peach.” Actually, nectarines and peaches are the same species, even though they are regarded commercially as different fruits. The early history of the nectarine is unclear. Its first recorded mention in English is from 1616, but the fruit was likely grown much earlier in central and Eastern Asia. Similarly, sources differ on the date of their introduction to the United States, but Colonial-era newspapers cite references to nectarines being grown here prior to the Revolutionary War. You can expect that most nectarines will be slightly smaller and sweeter than a typical peach, and the lack of “fuzz” makes its skin more of a reddish color—and one more susceptible to easy bruising. There are many types of nectarines on the commercial market today. You can find both freestone varieties (in which the flesh of the fruit separates easily from the pit) and the clingstone (for which the flesh adheres tightly to the pit) type. No matter which type you choose, look for nectarines that give way slightly to your touch. Avoid very hard nectarines, as those are unlikely to ripen properly once they have been picked. The best way to ripen those that have been brought to market slightly early is to place them in a paper bag at room temperature until they give way to gentle pressure along the seam of the fruit. Once they are ripe, nectarines should be used right away—or refrigerated for only a few days. They are most often used in fruit salads, desserts, jellies, jams and chutneys, as well as enjoyed fresh and whole. Like most of their stone fruit cousins, nectarines are low in calories and full of vitamins and fiber, as well as antioxidants. PEACHES You might think of the state of Georgia when you think of peaches—after all, it is known as the “Peach State,” given the importance the fruit has played in its agricultural economy. But actually Georgia is third among 23 states in U.S. peach production. California is number one. If you’ve driven south on Interstate 85 between North Carolina and Atlanta (or watched Season One of “House of Cards”), then you’ve likely seen “The Peachoid,” a notably shaped 135-foot water tower in Gaffney, S.C., that marks South Carolina’s prominence as the second-largest peach growing state in the country. Peaches are available in both white-and yellow-flesh varieties. In the United States, yellow-fleshed peaches are the most common, having a balanced flavor of sweet and tangy. Peaches with white flesh are most often found in Asian countries, although there has been a growing demand for them in this country. Both feature the presence of a soft fuzz on the skin, which is one of the fruit’s defining traits. Like its sister fruit, the nectarine, peaches are low in calories and contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Peaches certainly are enjoyed fresh and whole, as well as diced in a light syrup or juice. In recipes, they are often used in a variety of desserts, like the ever-popular Peach Cobbler or drinks (think refreshing peach smoothies!). Peaches also marry well in savory dishes, such as chicken and pork. Youngsters might shy away from the texture of the fruit’s fuzzy skin—but many will develop a taste for it with repeated exposure. If you do choose to remove the skin of a fresh peach, score a small cross at the base end of the fruit using a knife. Dip it in boiling water just for 30 seconds and immediately immerse it in cold water to cool quickly. This will allow the skin to peel away easily from the point of the cross cuts. PLUMS When it comes to plums, there are two major types: European plums and Japanese plums. Both varieties are grown in this country. Many popular types of European plums are elongated in shape, and blue or purple in color, although other colors, such as light green, are available, as well. European plums are usually eaten fresh, but can be menued in salads and desserts. Japanese plums are usually round or heart-shaped, and they come in a range of colors from greenish-yellow to black. In general, plum fruit ranges from sweet to tart, with the skin itself being particularly tart. In the United States, plums are often processed into a puree that is used commercially and by individual cooks for baby food and baked goods. Plums also are fermented as alcoholic beverages. But one of the most well-known applications is the dried plum, aka the prune! Prunes typically come from the European varieties, as Japanese plums are generally unsuitable for drying, because they don’t contain enough sugar or skin thickness to make a satisfactory prune. Prunes are also sweet and juicy and contain several antioxidants that help in maintaining heart health. Both plums and prunes are known for their natural laxative effect due to various compounds present in the fruits, including their dietary fiber. This quality has presented a marketing challenge for producers and processors who want to expand consumption beyond those with digestive challenges. Thus, you’ll see increased references to “dried plums,” rather than “prunes.” Indeed, the California Dried Plums Board will have you thinking about this fruit in a whole new light. Its website (www.californiadriedplums.org) offers a wide selection of recipes using dried plums in ways you likely have never imagined, including Plum Good Sticky Buns, Dried Plum Ravioli with Sage Butter and Apple Crumble Coffee Cake with Dried Plums. A Season of Stones It may be February now, but before you know it, stone fruits will be in season. Now that you know a little bit more about them, are you ready to use them in some new and exciting ways? These fruits are often interchangeable in recipes, so experiment and have fun. Try an apricot smoothie or a nectarine cobbler, for example. Getting to the heart of these luscious fruits may give you a whole new appreciation for them—and greater tolerance for removing their stones! CURIOUS MONKEY SMOOTHIE YIELD: 16 servings PER SERVING: 220 cal., 1 g fat, 5 g pro., 48 g carb., 3 g fiber, 55 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN: 1⁄2 cup fruit, 1-oz.-eq. meat alternate INGREDIENTS Apricot halves, canned, unpeeled, drained—4 lbs. Bananas, mashed—4 lbs. Lowfat vanilla yogurt*—8 lbs. DIRECTIONS 1) Chill drained fruit several hours or overnight under refrigeration. 2) Place fruit in large capacity blender (or prepare in batches). 3) Blend on high speed 1 minute. Stop blender; stir with spatula. Continue to blend until smooth. Measure to verify that pureeing has resulted in 8 cups of fruit. Puree additional fruit if necessary. 4) Whisk puree and yogurt together in a large mixing bowl until smooth. 5) Portion into serving cups and cover. Serve chilled. Smoothies may be refrigerated overnight. 6) Garnish with an additional banana slice dipped in lemon juice and patted dry, if desired. • Notes: Yoplait® ParfaitPro® Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt can be used in this recipe. According to the recipe source, peaches can be substituted for apricots. Recipe and photo: General Mills Convenience & Foodservice, www.generalmillscf.com Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.facebook.com/evolutionofthelunchlady, @chefsharonsns KICKIN’ CHICKEN WRAP YIELD: 100 servings (1 wrap each) PER SERVING: 433 cal., 17 g fat, 25 g pro., 47 g carb., 6.7 g fiber, 832 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN: 2-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 2.5-oz.-eq. grain*, 5⁄8 cup fruit, 3⁄4 cup vegetable INGREDIENTS Diced chicken, cooked—12 1⁄2 lbs. Cherries, canned, tart, pitted—2 3 ⁄4 No. 10 can Lettuce, raw—6 1⁄2 lbs. Celery, raw—16 lbs. Mayonnaise, reduced-fat—3 qts. Dried cranberries—7 1⁄4 lbs. Tarragon, dried—1⁄2 cup Salt—2 tsp. Pepper—2 tsp. Whole-grain tortillas, 10-in.—100 DIRECTIONS 1) Drain the cherries. Chop the lettuce, and chop the celery into small pieces. 2) In a large bowl or mixer, combine chicken, cherries, celery, mayonnaise, tarragon, salt and pepper. Mix well. 3) Place 2⁄3 cup of the chicken salad and a 1⁄2 cup of romaine lettuce in the center of each tortilla and wrap. Store in the refrigerator. Serve chilled. • Notes: According to the recipe source, it’s recommended that schools measure the total weight of chicken salad and divide by the number of servings to determine accurate portion sizes. Grain credit may vary based on tortilla brand used. Recipe: Idaho Department of Education Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.facebook.com/evolutionofthelunchlady, @chefsharonsns KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • It’s an easy recipe to make and tasted great. We substituted the cherries with dried cranberries, because that is what we had on hand. The only problem with this recipe is it had a lot of celery. We made it with half the celery and it was still a lot. • We had to modify this recipe slightly. We do not have any sour tart cherries from our commodity broker, so we added more cranberries. The real flavor for this wrap comes from the dried tarragon, which we grow on our school farm. • Doing half chopped cabbage and half romaine lettuce added texture and crunch, along with the celery. We reduced the dried cranberries to 2 1⁄2 pounds for cost. • We modified this by serving it on a bed of lettuce with whole grain-rich flatbread (which we toasted). It was a nice presentation and a great grab-and-go option. PEACHES ‘N’ CREAM WAFFLE DUNKERS YIELD: 50 servings (1⁄2 cup peaches ‘n’ cream, 1⁄4 cup diced peaches, 2 waffle sticks) PER SERVING: 366 cal., 6.7 g fat, 11.7 g pro., 66 g carb., 6 g fiber, 396 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN: 1-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1 1⁄2-oz.-eq. grain*, 1⁄2 cup fruit INGREDIENTS Vanilla yogurt, lowfat—200 ozs. Peaches, canned, drained—200 ozs., divided Cream cheese, fat-free, softened—50 ozs. Waffle sticks, whole-grain—72 ozs. (100 each) Pan-release spray—to coat Cinnamon sugar—15 ozs. DIRECTIONS 1) In a food processor or mixer, whip the cream cheese, and then blend the yogurt and 100 ozs. of peaches until smooth, to make the “peaches ‘n’ cream.” Refrigerate until service. 2) Coat the waffle sticks on both sides with pan-release spray and place on a sheet pan. 3) Dust both sides with cinnamon sugar. 4) Toast waffle sticks at 350°F for 7 minutes in a conventional oven or 325°F for five minutes in a convection oven. Heat based on waffles package directions. Temperature and time may vary. 5) Serve a heaping 1⁄2 cup of peaches ‘n’ cream topped with 1⁄4 cup diced peaches with 2 waffle sticks. • Notes: According to the recipe source, other canned fruits can be used, such as pears, mandarin oranges or pineapple, in place of the peaches. Additionally, Greek yogurt can be substituted for regular yogurt. Grain credit may vary based on brand of waffle sticks used. Recipe and photo: National Dairy Council, www.usdairy.com Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.facebook.com/evolutionofthelunchlady, @chefsharonsns KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • If you don’t have access to a blender or food processor, peach yogurt can be substituted for the cream cheese, yogurt and peach cream. • I usually steam waffles so they are fluffy, but for this recipe, I toasted the waffles a little longer than normal, so they didn’t get soggy. • The recipe also works as a parfait with the waffle sticks or French toast sticks on the side. • Use a demo plate to show the kids how to layer the waffles, cream and peaches together. Mmm…we eat with our eyes first! AVOCADO CHICKEN SALAD FLATBREAD SANDWICH YIELD: 48 servings (1 flatbread, 1⁄2 cup spinach, 3 slices avocado, 2⁄3 cup chicken salad) PER SERVING: 400 cal., 18 g fat, 20 g pro., 41 g carb., 8 g fiber, 613 mg sod. MEAL PATTERN: 2-oz.-eq. grain, 2.5-oz.-eq. meat/meat alternate, 1⁄4 cup dark green vegetable, 3⁄8 cup fruit, 1⁄4 cup other vegetable INGREDIENTS Chicken, cooked, diced—7 lbs., 8 ozs. Celery, diced—1 lb., 2 ozs. Dried cranberries—12 ozs. Green onions, sliced—10 ozs. Plain lowfat yogurt—6 cups Lemon juice—1⁄2 cup Dried mint—1⁄4 cup Dried chives, chopped—2 Tbsps. Sugar—2 Tbsps. Salt—2 tsps. Ground black pepper—1 1⁄2 tsps. Whole grain-rich flatbread—48 (2 oz.-eq. each) Fresh spinach—2 lbs. Avocadoes, sliced—9 lbs DIRECTIONS 1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the diced cooked chicken, diced celery, dried cranberries and sliced green onions. Set aside. 2) In a separate mixing bowl, combine the plain lowfat yogurt, dried mint, dried chives, sugar, salt and black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Add the dressing to the diced chicken mixture and stir until the dressing is evenly distributed. 3) To assemble, place flatbreads on a work surface with the presentation side (browned, bubbled side) down. Place 1⁄2 cup of the spinach leaves on each flatbread to cover one half of the surface. Use a #6 scoop to portion 2⁄3 cup of the chicken salad onto the spinach, spreading it out slightly with the back of the scoop. Arrange 3 slices of avocado over the top of the chicken salad, then fold the other half of the flatbread up and over the avocado. Photo, recipe and meal pattern analysis: California Avocados, www.californiaavocado.com Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.facebook.com/evolutionofthelunchlady, @chefsharonsns KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • If you can’t buy fresh avocados, many companies sell the pulp. You can spread it on like they do at Jimmy Johns! • I think this would really appeal to the teachers. You could make one ahead of time and email the picture out. • This could also be a great salad. Use the spinach as your base, add the chicken salad and avocado on top. Cut the flat bread into strips or triangles for a gorgeous grab-and-go salad box. What About Avocadoes? Although the avocado is not an official member of the stone fruit family—it belongs to the flowering plant family—you’d be forgiven for thinking it was, given its single stony center seed. And because avocado is always worth talking about, let’s learn a little more about this creamy fruit. With its rough, green skin and fleshy pear- or egg-shaped body, you can see where the avocado gets its “alligator pear” nickname. Likewise, it’s easy to understand why many people improperly believe it is a vegetable and not a fruit! After all, it’s often used in savory recipe applications and unlike most fruits (and vegetables) it features a very high fat content. Don’t let that deter you from eating it and finding appropriate ways to menu it in your school meals. After all, avocados feature healthy mono-unsaturated fat. (It’s the most amazing kind of fat, because current nutrition research finds it good for your heart.) Beyond this attractive attribute, the avocado provides nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. Avocados have many uses, from a tasty garnish on soups and salads, to a delicious spread on bread—and even a moisturizer for your face! Guacamole is arguably its most popular form. “Guac” is a tasty dip traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with a little sea salt using a mortar and pestle. Many guac recipes add in tomato, onion, garlic, lemon or lime juice, chili or cayenne pepper, cilantro or basil, jalapeño and additional seasonings for more kick. Contrary to popular belief, adding the avocado’s large pit to a bowl of guacamole will not keep it fresh for a longer period of time. What turns the greenish hue brown is the exposure to oxygen. Preserve the eye appeal by adding a little lime or lemon juice to slow down the oxidation process. You can also tightly seal the guacamole with plastic wrap, but don’t merely place it over the rim of the bowl; instead, press it tightly directly on the top of the dip. CALIFORNIA DREAMING SLAW YIELD: 100 (3⁄4 cup serving) MEAL PATTERN: 1⁄2 cup other vegetable, 1⁄4 cup fruit INGREDIENTS Olives, sliced, drained—3 qts., . cup Peaches, diced, in juice or light syrup, drained*—6 qts., 1 cup Broccoli slaw—7 lbs, 4 ozs. Greek yogurt, plain, fat-free—2 . cups Mayonnaise, reduced-sodium—2 . cups Salt—2 tsps. Pepper—1 Tbsp. Lime juice—1 cup DIRECTIONS 1) Mix yogurt, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lime juice together. Whisk well, cover and set aside. 2) Combine olive, peaches and slaw in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. 3) Add yogurt dressing and mix well. Cover and hold below 41 degrees F until service. 4) Using a 6-oz. spoodle, place .-cup of salad in a bowl. • Note: California Peaches and California Ripe Olives can be used in this recipe. Recipe: California Cling Peach Board, www. calclingpeach.com Meal Pattern Analysis: Chef Sharon Schaefer, SNS, www.facebook.com/evolutionofthelunchlady, @chefsharonsns Heidi Funkhouser is associate editor of School Nutrition. Photography by Thinkstock.com.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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