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December, 2010

Cozy up to the bar

By Mark Mulcahy

Cozy up to the bar...the fruit bar, that is!

Wouldn’t it be nice if you opened your lunch bag and you found a homemade fruit bar? Or how about coming home on Wednesday night and being surprised after dinner with a warm fruit bar topped with ice cream. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, if you would like it for yourself imagine how your kids, spouse, or partner would react to this nice surprise. Fruit bars are easy to make, yes even a novice cook can make them; and with the holidays upon us everyone will be glad you did! These Cranberry-Orange Fruit Bars are a good use of the cranberries you’ll be buying for the holidays and Melissa’s organic Valencia oranges are a great value right now. And both are great for you during this time of colds and flu. Cranberry’s generous supply of vitamin C is beneficial in maintaining a strong immune system; recent research has found that cranberries may relieve lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in older men, thereby, improving prostate health and reducing the risk of prostate cancer. Valencia’s are high in fiber, high in vitamin C and one of the best juice oranges available. Perfect for a holiday breakfast.

Try this recipe I adapted from EatingWell: September/October 2010

Cranberry-Orange Fruit Bars

18 bars | Active Time: 40 minutes | Total Time: 2 3/4 hours (including 1 1/2 hours cooling time)

Ingredients

Crust

* 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) or old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
* 3/4-cup whole-wheat pastry flour
* 3/4-cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 1 large egg
* 2 Tbsp. canola oil
* 1 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Fruit Filling
* 5 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, divided
* 1/2 cup orange juice
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 1 cup orange segments
* 1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
* 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation

1. To prepare crust: combine 3/4 cup nuts (or oats), whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter; pulse until well incorporated.
2. Whisk egg, oil, 1 tsp. vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the mixture to the food processor. Process, then pulse, scraping down the sides, if necessary, until the mixture begins to clump, 30 to 45 seconds (it will look crumbly). Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and combine in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped nuts (or oats). Set aside for the topping.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
4. To prepare fruit filling & assemble bars: Combine 3 cups cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. (It may take up to 10 minutes to get a thick result if you start with frozen fruit.) Stir in the remaining 2 cups cranberries, orange zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
5. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Spread the fruit filling over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling.
6. Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake until the crust and topping are lightly brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least 1 1/2 hours.

Take a bite and enjoy the fresh seasonal flavors.

The other day my friend was lamenting that is was difficult to eat healthy and stay within our budgets especially during holiday months. I said yes that can be true, but if you plan your meals and buy lots of fresh Melissa’s produce you can have enough to go around for all of your needs.

Here are some tips that can help you accomplish just that:

Make a Pizza
Instead of buying take-out pizza on Friday at the end of long workweek, make one instead. No you don’t have to make the whole thing from scratch. Many stores carry pre-made balls of pizza dough that can easily be rolled out to give you that real pizza experience. Use more Melissa’s veggies and less protein. Sauté some Melissa’s organic onions, sprinkle on some baby spinach leaves, top with some Melissa’s sun dried tomatoes, and a mixture of jack and mozzarella and VOILA you’ve saved at least 10 bucks off the price of that Friday night treat. Add a simple salad and a cold drink and you’ve got dinner.

Minimize waste
The EPA did a study and found that Americans throw out more than 25% of food we prepare, which when you consider what that costs in waste from farm to table the average family throws out about $540 worth of food each year? Can you afford to throw away $540? I know I can’t.

Here are a couple of tips to consider saving your hard earned money:

When you shop make a list and buy only what you know will use between shopping trips. Use those leftovers! If you make some spaghetti or a casserole put the extra in the front of the refrigerator and take it for lunch the next day. This is important because the longer you wait the easier it is for that wonderful dinner to end up in the back of frig as a science experiment found two weeks later.

Pack a lunch
The average lunch even at a bargain restaurant is between 5-10 dollars. Bringing leftovers or a nice healthy sandwich, piece of fruit, and even some chips bought in a larger bag can save you significant money over the course of a year

Make a soup or stew.
Using Melissa’s organic in season roots, onions and potatoes can be part of and awesome hearty soup dinner that will warm you at the end of the day. And be the perfect lunch later in the week

Eat vegetarian a few nights a week
Protein can be the biggest expense of many meals. Choosing a vegetarian meal can save you lots of money and open up your taste buds to some new taste sensations.

I hope these help. After all wouldn’t it be nice to have a few extra bucks in your pocket at the end of the year and create a new routine as well?