Friday, July 30, 2010

Fruity Fun Friday- Asian Pears

Welcome to a new feature here on The Butterfly Jungle -- Fruity Fun Friday.

I love fruit of almost every shape and variety. One of the things I loved about Cambodia, besides the truly amazing folks I met there, was the fruit.

You only had to go a minute or two down any road before you would come across a fruit market with some of the most gorgeous and, I soon learned, delicious fruit you've ever met. My ho-hum "Oh yes, I like fruit" attitude quickly transformed into a renewed passion for fruit of every kind.

Except Durian. Maybe we'll talk about Durian some Fruity Fun Friday. Don't expect recipes.

Since returning home, I have made an effort to incorporate more fruit into our meals and to keep an eye out for any new varieties needing to be tested. So we'll take a look at a different fruit each Fruity Fun Friday. Some will be familiar to us and hopefully we'll discover some new fruit friends to keep a lookout for at the grocery store. We'll learn a bit about the featured fruit and if possible I'll share a recipe with you. Some fruits I simply won't be able to locate in my neck of the woods but that doesn't mean we can't get acquainted. And just so you know, Fruity Fun Friday will be a recurring though not weekly feature.

So let's look at our inaugural fruit, the Asian Pear.

Pear season is just beginning to get started and a nice progression of pears will be available from now with the arrival of Bartlett through winter with the Anjou . But what about those pear-ish apple-like things that you frequently see lovingly wrapped in their own cushy mesh net?

Asian Pears. Apple pears. Chinese, Japanese, Sand, or Nashi Pear. Delicious pears.

Asian pears have a very crispy texture and are very sweet and juicy. Their flavor is milder than the pears with which you may be familiar and are harvested ripe instead of green. While Asian pears have a longer shelf life than most pears the skins are more likely to bruise, which is the explanation for the cuddly nets. Asian pear trees are very labor intensive, requiring regular rather aggressive pruning in order to produce larger fruit. As a result yield per tree is low. The low yield and popularity of Asian pears combine to drive the cost of our Asian friend fairly high. This week they were $2.00 USD a pound at my local grocery store. However ....   they really are delicious and so I fork out the cash.

from Wikimedia Commons

Nutritionally, Asian pears ring in at about 50 calories each and are a good source of fiber as well as Vitamins C and K. And they are so juicy.

Alright-- let's talk business. What about eating Asian pears?

Asian pears are generally eaten raw, alone or in salads and slaws, as cooking them tends to destroy their unique crispy-crunchy texture.

I started with the slaw recipe from the CDC's great website Fruits and Veggies Matter. I did make a couple personal preference tweaks and those are reflected in the recipe below. An Internet search will bring you some really yummy looking possibilities and I may have to save my allowance for more Asian pears.

Asian Pear Slaw with Chilies

2 stalks of celery, sliced very thinly
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp crystallized ginger root, minced
2 Asian pears, peeled and sliced  1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup Vadalia onion
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp Jalapenos, minced

Whisk together the  liquids then add the remaining ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

The first thing you notice when tasting this slaw is the crispiness and mildness of the pears, followed by the tangy lime juice. And then the jalapenos sneak up on you. It's delicious.

expensive fruitImage by acloudman via Flickr

So thanks for stopping by today. Hope you enjoyed our first Fruity Fun Friday and I look forward to seeing you again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Flickr Favs- Remy

He's such a good boy. I've never had a dog that I didn't like, but my daughter's Rat Terrier is a real lover boy. Just had to share.

Rat Terriers are more a type of dog than a breed, though the AKC has recognized then for performance competition. They are similar in build, temperament, and history to the mixed breed "feist". Ratties were bred for speed and were likely crossed of other small terriers such as the Manchester and Smooth Fox Terrier, as well as Whippets, Greyhounds, beagles, and Chihuahuas. This varied genetic background makes the Rat Terrier a very healthy, intelligent dog.

Frequently mistaken for Jack Russells, Rat Terriers have a less aggressive temperament and are not as high strung. They also have pretty solid couch-potato genes. When we first brought Remy home, he took one look at the couch and dove in among the pillows. He loves to rest and cuddle. Our Remy is loyal, loving, very sensitive to our emotions, and always in a happy mood. But when his "On" switch has been flipped he tears around like a small tornado.

So, Rat Terriers were originally bred for speed. To race? Nope- to hunt vermin. During the early 1900's your farm almost wasn't a farm if you didn't have a rattie or two in the barn. The reported record for most rats killed by one dog in an infested barn is 2501 rats in 7 hours. Our Remy is a sweet and lovable guy, but I've seen him transform before my eyes into a fierce and tireless maniac when a stray raccoon or possum wandered in from the field. They didn't survive.

I've also seen him on-task for hours, hoping to get his paws on a mouse that ran under the stove.

How can you not love a dog that has polka dots on his belly?

 Want to fetch more Flickr Favs on all kinds of subjects (not just doggie-love)? Trot on over to ArtMind for some tail-wagging fun.

Hey- thanks for stopping by today.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fruit Pizza

Mmmm- pizza.
Mmmm- fruit.
Mmmmmmmm- fruit pizza!

I got this recipe from a co-worker several years ago and even though I've seen other versions, this is the one I use. Let's get started...


Sugar Cookie dough- homemade or store-bought in the tube. Spritz cookie recipe is tasty or a regular sugar cookie recipe with almond instead of vanilla.

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

8 oz cream cheese
Whipped topping- small container
1/4 cup sugar

(Sorry this photo looks so garish.)

Fruit- your choice
Cup up fruit in manageable bite-size pieces or slices, depending on the fruit. Pineapple doesn't work real well because it leaks so much juice (which of course is why it's so good in the first place). Ditto for mandarin oranges and other canned or jarred fruit. Fresh mango over jarred or frozen.  Hold off on cutting up fruit that browns until you're putting the pizza together.

First- the crust. Press your cookie dough out into a lightly grease cookie sheet, or, as I did here, into a 9x13 casserole dish, which makes a thicker slightly chewier crust. I was taking this with me and this dish has a lid. You don't have to use all of the cookie dough in the smaller dish- just bake the extra as cookies. Someone will eat them.

You can, of course, bake the dough on a round pizza pan but that cuts up into such huge slices and I'll just be honest- this is a rich dessert. Small pieces go far. I've made this in 3 cake pans to get smaller round "pizzas" and the slices are more reasonable.

Oh- bake the dough until it's golden brown. In the casserole dish it takes 20-25 minutes. Cool completely.

While the dough is baking, make your glaze. Mix all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Keep an eye on it and a stirring spoon in it as it thickens up suddenly and can scorch. You can fiddle around with the water amount depending on if you want a thick or thin glaze over the fruit. Let this cool completely also. If you have to go away and come back later, you can stick this in the 'frig but you'll need to gently warm it back up again as it gets pretty thick when chilled.

Once the crust and glaze have cooled, you're ready to put it all together. Make the cream filling by mixing it all together and blending well. I've reduced the amount of sugar in this recipe considerably as the whole thing is fairly rich. Spread the cream over the crust in an even layer.

Cut up your fruit. You can do a couple of things here. Coat only the fruit that browns with the glaze (make the glaze thin in this case). This gives you the option of placing each piece of fruit on the pizza in a pretty pattern. Or you can mix all the fruit together and coat it all with the glaze and then just spread it out over the cream filling all in a riot of color and festivity. I suppose there is a thesis for a psychology major lurking in which method you prefer: ordered patterns or chaos. Anyway, you can ditch the whole glaze thing and soak the fruit that browns in lemon or pineapple juice.

Finally, chill the whole pizza before you serve. Cut the pieces small-ish because did I mention that this dessert is kind of rich? But it's OK- it has fruit and fruit is good for you.

Here are a couple other pics I found on Creative Commons, just to give you a look.

by cbcs

by jeffisageek

What if you drizzled chocolate over the top? Oh my...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flickr Favs- Gladiolus Season

Gladiolus season is winding down in my garden and I just couldn't let it get away without sharing a few of my sweeties with you.

I never dig my bulbs up in the fall but rather just mulch them over. That seems to work in my zone 6 garden. These pink ones are the only ones I have but they are so pretty and so cooperative to come back each year, with babies along side them, that one color will do.

For now.

But for now, they sure are lovely.

So what's blooming in your garden?

If you enjoyed the mosaic at the top of the post, take a peek at all the beauties at ArtMind.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Story Stick- Keeping A Record of the Ordinary Days

A story stick is a piece of wood or a rod used by cabinetmakers to record the dimensions of a project  on site and is then taken back to the shop to construct the project. Not being a woodworker, it's a bit hard for me imagine how it's used so here is a link at that might be helpful to you cabinetmakers out there who want to ditch the tape measure.

There are Native American Talking Sticks, used in counsel, and I found this article at The Call of Story about recording and sharing stories and this looks like a fun thing to do. I'm imagining things tied in with the yard- seashells, washers, little twigs, keychains, who nows what treasures you could find.

But we didn't know any of that last summer when my kid started her story stick. It was a spontaneous idea that popped to the surface as she sat on the bench drawing on her latest stick treasure. We're hikers in our house and are always on the look out for a good hiking stick.
I did a quick Internet search and didn't find anything quite like this but that doesn't mean it's not out there. You adapt it to your needs. Find a nice sized stick that feels good in your hand when you hold it. Carefully strip off all of the bark and clean off all the dirt and tree-clingy things.

When you look closely at the story stick, you see that it is covered with small drawings. Every evening my little storyteller drew a picture of something she did that day, using a basic black Sharpie----

Sitting at the picnic table reading.

Fencing class.

(Someone is being unsafe without their mask!)

New horses in the field.

Extra time allowed to play on the Wii.

A nice sunny day.

The dog kept running away so we had to tie him up.

One day my daughter came to work with me and helped the patients during a craft group.

Changing the sheets on her bed. That's not such an unusual thing but this day we flipped the mattresses too.

The new puppy barking at the old dog.

We bought a new cabinet for the TV.

Um, yea-- something about driving Daddy's truck but they were both being vague and sheepish about this one.
And on it goes- a trip to Barnes & Noble, pitching the tent, roasting marshmallows, something about tribal Indians in the Amazon (our dream-fantasy trip is up the Amazon River).... just the ordinary things that we do from one day to the next. I tell my daughter that we need those ordinary days to keep us calm and steady.

Once the Story Stick was full of stories, my daughter coated the entire thing with Polycrylic, using a foam brush.

We used Polycrylic because it was what we had on hand, left over from a previous project. It is low-odor, dries quickly (for sealant) with a nice clear finish, and is water-soluble. Polyurethane would work just as well, probably even Mod Podege (I would suggest the Outdoor flavor).

Make sure you get your sealant into all the little cracks and dimples.

Let your stick dry- check the label of the sealant for drying time.

Next- add the shazaam, those elements that make any project really special. In this case we added ribbon and pony beads. Shells, twigs, washer and bolts, jingle bells, anything that can be tied to a ribbon would work nicely.

It's all about letting your imagination run wild.

Last step- tie your ribbons to the top of the stick. This stick had a nice nubbin' from a branch to hold the ribbon and keep it from sliding down off the bottom. You may need to cut a notch, fire a staple into it, hammer the ribbon down with a thumb tack, whatever works for you. It looks nice to have the ribbons at different lengths when you tie them on.

And there you go- ready to sit around the campfire telling stories.

Which makes me think of an upcoming post--- S'Mores.