Monday, August 17, 2015

Five Ways to Use Mediocre Fruit

(yeah, some of them are healthy--I'm just trying to draw you in with this picture)

You know that 1/2 pint of blackberries you got for $1.69. Maybe it was even a bit of a splurge. I mean, it's such a tiny bit of fruit--just a serving or two, but you'd been unable to walk past them without tossing a clam shell into your cart. And they'd been so good all summer. Well, they're not anymore--when you open this batch, it's tart and/or bitter, with a few moldy ones thrown in for good measure. Yes, you could take them back to the store, but the cost of gas would be nearly as much as the blackberries themselves. And then there's the precious precious cost of your time. You'll just have to toss the blackberries. No! Wait! says your friendly, cheapskate friend (um, that's me, in case you were wondering why you let a crazy voice into your head). There are plenty of awesome things you can do with that fruit that comes to you in less than perfect form. Here are some ideas.

1. Baked goods. Fruit like berries, apples, pears, peaches, plums, and--of course--bananas go very well in muffins, sweet breads, and pancakes. Crumbles, crisps, and pies can also rock your mediocre fruit. Even if you only have a handful, that'll be great with pancakes. Or to add a pop of color to a pie with some other type of fruit. You can just throw a handful into your favorite baked goods. Or try them in one of these recipes. No-rise blueberry cinnamon rolls. Blueberry Pie Bars. Raspberry bars. One Bowl Oat Muffins. Peach Crisp (works with apples or pears too). Pancakes (this is a simple go-to pancake that holds fruit well; there are others on this site like Quinoa pancakes that also rock)

2. Smoothies. I often freeze my imperfect fruit and then throw it into the blender with milk or apple juice to make smoothies. You can keep your different fruits in different bags, or throw them all into the same freezer bag and make a "garbage" smoothie--a smoothie from all those ends or imperfect fruits you've got hanging around. The big appeal here is that you don't have to think about what to do with the fruit immediately. It's just sitting there waiting for you to get a smoothie craving.

3. Flavored syrup. This one's kind of my favorite. It's just so awesome and foody and sexy, but not too hard. This works best with berries or soft fruits. This is the type of pretty little thing you can gift a friend if you'd like because it's pretty and interesting. And so much 10 million times better than those colored corn syrups you'll find on the tables at Ihop. Use them as pancake toppings or ice cream toppings. Or pancakes topped with ice cream toppings if you have, you know, problems. Use this recipe for your berry syrups. In the picture above I used my very mediocre blackberries (the very blackberries that may or may not have inspired the start of this post). If you'd rather have more of a sauce, go here.

4. Salads. Fruit doesn't have to be perfect if you'll be pouring a savory or sweet dressing over top of it. I think that fruit works well with many lettuce-based or grain-based salads. So next time you're ready to toss your fruit, consider throwing it into your salad bowl instead. Berries go great with spinach. Apples or pears are nice with crispy sweeter greens. And I think most fruit would add a nice touch to arugula. Throw on some goat cheese or feta if you want to feel even more awesome and sophisticated. And try one of these dressings with your fruity salad. Lame citrus (or even pears or apples) could go in this Citrus Quinoa Salad. This Orange Vinaigrette would work with bland citrus, pears, apples, or berries. Use it with lettuce or leafy greens or both. This Balsamic Vinaigrette would be lovely with strawberries (or other berries). Ditto this Hot Honey Vinaigrette. This sweet Tree House dressing could rock any fruit (or nut). And this Rainbow Salad already calls for apples and could handle any other fruit you threw at it too.

5. Coat it with sugar. I know, I know. You just had to add a point to your Weight Watchers chart when you read that. Still,  even though this might not be the picture of perfectly healthy fruit, it's a heck of a lot better than fruit snacks. In fact, I think it makes for a nice after school snack. I mean, it does beat the classic chocolate chip cookie in healthfulness. And these are really pretty for guests too. You can simply coat them in sugar or whipped cream. Or you can go pure awesome, and candy them like this.

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