Berry Bars

Summer is a time of celebrations. And no matter if it’s a barbecue or picnic for a family get-together or just the occasion of friends gathering for a little repartee, things always go better with a delicious dessert.

Summer also is the tastiest time of the year when it comes to desserts because of all the seasonal and sweet fresh fruit that is available.

Here’s a light and easy summer dessert recipe from pastry chef and author, Paula Shoyer, which features raspberries and blueberries, two fruits that are readily available in this neck of the woods.

Shoyer, author of “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy,” says “Summer brings occasions when you may be baking for many people and need to whip up a tasty dessert with little more notice than your neighbor saying to come on by for a last-minute cook-out. Summer dessert baking does not have to mean spending hours in a hot kitchen.  As a busy wife and mother, I know how valuable time can be. I have created a fast and easy recipe that uses fresh seasonal summer fruits that pack and travel with ease for a picnic or party — if they last that long.”

Berry Bars
This easy recipe turns classic bar cookies into handheld two-bite pies that can be easily packed into a picnic hamper.  They hold up well, perfect for an afternoon in the sun or an evening concert.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) parve margarine, frozen for 15 minutes, plus extra for greasing pan and parchment
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with some margarine. Place a piece of parchment in the pan that is large enough to go up the sides and hang over a few inches. Grease the top and sides of the parchment.
To make the crust: Place the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds. Cut the margarine into pieces and add to the bowl. Process or use your hands to mix for another 10 seconds. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and then process or mix until the dough just comes together.
Divide the dough in half, making one piece a little bigger. Wrap both pieces in plastic; flatten and place the smaller one in the freezer. Take the larger piece and break it into pieces and scatter over the parchment. Press the pieces into the pan as evenly as you can. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile place the raspberries and blueberries into a large bowl and squeeze with your hands to break up the raspberries.
Add the sugar and flour and squeeze together. This part is fun, but you may still want to use plastic gloves as I did.  Remove the other dough piece from the freezer and, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining dough over the filling.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top starts to look golden brown. Let cool. Trim off about ¼ inch of the sides, if desired, and eat them immediately, and then cut into squares or long bars. Serve warm or cold.
Yield: 35 square bars.
Note: To learn more about Paula Shoyer, visit her website, www.PaulasPastry.com, and  www.kosherbaker.blogspot.com.

Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken

There’s generally not a shortage of food over the holidays. And much of it can be on the rich side. That’s why it’s prudent to have a few dishes here and there that don’t have that extra fat and calories.

One way to do that is to fix dishes that fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. That’s the philosophy behind the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate initiative.

During this holiday season, the Produce for Better Health Foundation has taken that a step further. At its Fruit and Veggies More Matters website (www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org), the group is sponsoring a Makeover Challenge, where readers are shown some “featured” plates with info on how to re-create each one. Readers are provided a recipe, nutrition info, cost analysis and a shopping list for each healthy plate.

They then are encouraged to make one of these “plates” (or another healthy plate), take a picture of it and enter the MyPlate Makeover Challenge on Facebook. Once a post is entered, people will get a valuable grocery coupon and be in the running to win a $100 grocery gift card.

Here’s one of those recipes that caught my eye. This lively dish gives a nod to buffalo chicken wings but without extra fat and calories. You start with a foundation of nutritious potatoes (naturally high in potassium, vitamin C and fiber) and replace fried wings with shredded chicken breast. It’s then topped with fresh tomatoes and onions. The recipe cost for four people is $9.37, just $2.34 per serving.

Potato Skins with Buffalo Chicken
12-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup water
4 medium russet potatoes (about 6 ounces each)
3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (like Frank’s, not Tabasco)
¼ cup non-fat milk
¼ cup fat-reduced sour cream
2 tablespoons margarine
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 green onions
2 medium tomatoes
4 celery stalks
Center oven rack and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken in a saute pan, add water, and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes and remove from pan; let cool slightly. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred using 2 forks (one in each hand).
While chicken is simmering, prepare remaining ingredients: Wash potatoes and slit each one lengthwise about 1-inch deep. Place potatoes in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Slice each potato in half lengthwise, scoop out potato, leaving a ¼-inch shell. Mash potato together with hot pepper sauce, sour cream, margarine, and milk. Fold in blue cheese and shredded chicken. Spoon mixture into potato skins, slightly denting center (to hold fresh toppings after baking). Place filled potato skins on a 9-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake about 15 to 20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Dice tomatoes and green onions. Cut celery stalks into 4-inch sticks.
Top potatoes with onions and tomatoes. Serve celery sticks on the side for scooping potato contents.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 360 calories, 12 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 30 percent of calories from fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams dietary fiber, 550 milligrams sodium.

Cool Drinks for Hot Days

It finally looks like summer is here to stay. With the temperature in the mid-90s today and the extended forecast for 80s the rest of the week into next, any thoughts that we were going to miss out on nice weather can be forgotten.

But with the warm weather comes the need to keep hydrated. And what a better way than with cool drink such as milkshakes, parfaits or smoothies that are loaded with fruit.

Here are a couple of choices, a  Colombian Cholado, a nontraditional milkshake loaded with fruit and a couple of  slightly lower-fat alternatives, a Fruit Meethi Lassi, a sweet yogurt shake, and a Spiced Banana Shake.

Spiced Banana Thick Shake
2 small bananas, peeled
1½ cups ice cubes
3 scoops vanilla frozen yogurt or low-fat vanilla ice cream, softened
½ cup pineapple juice or apple juice
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients in a blender.
Blend until mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. If necessary, pulse a few times until the mixture blends easily.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 370 calories, 7 grams fat  (4.5 grams saturated), 17 percent of calories from fat, 23 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 71 grams carbohydrates; 51 grams sugar, 3 grams fiber, 75 milligrams sodium, 163 milligrams calcium, 450 milligrams potassium.

Fruit Lassi Meethi
2 cups whole-milk yogurt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom or to taste
2 tablespoons granulated sugar or to taste
1 pinch salt
1 cup ice cubes or ¾ cups crushed ice
1 cup coarsely chopped peeled mango, peach or other fruit
1 cup cold water (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender. (Omit the water for a thicker shake; add it for a thinner shake.)
Blend until smooth and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 127 calories, 4 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated) 28 percent of calories from fat, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, 97 milligrams sodium, 155 milligrams calcium, 258 milligrams potassium.

Cholado
3 cups shaved or crushed ice
6 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed partially, divided
½ cup regular or low-fat sweetened condensed milk, divided
2 cups mixed, sliced fresh fruit (bananas, strawberries, grapes, mango, melon, etc.), divided
3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, divided
2 maraschino cherries, for optional garnish
2 wafer-sandwich cookies, for optional garnish
Divide the ice between 2 glasses. In each glass, top the ice with 3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup fruit.
Top the fruit in each glass with 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk and 1½ tablespoons coconut. If desired, garnish with a cherry and cookie. Serve at once with a spoon, a straw and lots of napkins.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 481 calories, 9 grams fat (6 grams saturated) 17 percent of calories from fat, 26 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams protein, 92 grams carbohydrates, 83 grams sugar, 4 grams fiber, 140 milligrams sodium, 458 milligrams calcium, 898 milligrams potassium.

Pears and Pork

When Rex Huss of Grand Forks recently told me about dish he makes that features pork, pears and sweet potatoes, my interest definitely was piqued. I’m a big fan of all three of those foods as well as the other ingredients in the recipe (including honey, prosciutto and thyme). (See recipe at www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Features/tag/food/.)

That started me thinking about pairing fruit and meat in dishes. When I was growing up, I remember one dish that was a favorite of my dad’s that my mom used to make. It also featured pork (spare ribs), but the fruit in the recipe was prunes, in the form of a dressing.

It’s been years since I’ve had that dish, but the next time Mom invites us over for dinner, that’s going to be my request.

Rex’s recipe so intrigued me that I’ve decided to dedicate next week’s column on the food page of the Herald to pairing fruit and meat in recipes.

In my research, I came across the following recipe that featured pears, pork, garlic and rosemary. I guess that means there are now two pork and pear recipes that we’ll have to try.

Roast Pork Tenderloin and Pears
6 ripe pears
2 1-pound pork tenderloins
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
Heat oven to 475 degrees. Peel and core the pears, and cut each into 4 wedges; set aside. Cut 10 small slits in each tenderloin and stuff with garlic and rosemary. Season pork with salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a large oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook pears, cut side down, until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
Add pork to skillet and cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Return pears to skillet and transfer to the oven. Roast, stirring pears once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the pork registers 145 degrees, about 10 minutes.
Transfer meat and pears to a platter; let rest 5 minutes. Season pan juices with salt and pepper if needed and set aside.
Cut pork into ½-inch slices. Serve with pears, spooning pan juices over both. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Approximae nutritional analysis per serving: 268 calories, 38 percent of calories from fat, 11 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 6 grams monounsaturated), 86 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 64 milligrams sodium.