In Search Of…

Removal of outer edge and woody area at base.

Removal of outer edge and woody area at base.

Prickly Pear in the wild.

Prickly Pear in the wild.

While DH, MIL and I were out in Tucson, Arizona a couple of years ago, my Sister-in-law requested that we buy prickly pear paddles and ship them to New Jersey so she could make a sauce from them at Thanksgiving. Her theme was going to be all about the Southwestern USA. This was brought about as She and her DH had purchased a house in Tucson which they would be retiring in. So we went out there to see her new house and tour the area. We went to numerous supermarkets and specialty foods outlets, but no paddles. So after going to numerous stores and not finding the paddles, MIL called home to have my sister-in-law send the actual name. That is when we realized that MIL had been having us look for the wrong thing. Even the fruit was hard to come by, but we finally found some. MIL made the arrangements to ship them home which cost about $45. in shipping. They arrived in good condition. After we got home back to New Jersey, I went to our local grocery store, and there in the produce section were the paddles and the fruit.

So since I tasted the fruit of the prickly pear, I decided to taste the paddle as well. I watched a video on the Internet on how to clean and cook them. Even still I managed to get stuck with one of the thorns. I tasted a raw piece of the cleaned paddle. It was crunchy with a clear slime textured juice, and wasn’t bad at all. I could see tossing it into a salad. I then cooked the rest of it which caused the slime to be even more abundant. It reminded me of my experience with okra when I was a kid. If I was starving or out in the desert in need of nourishment, then it is good to know that these are edible and contain moisture. But otherwise, these are not my cup of tea.

Horned Melon

A single horned melon.

A single horned melon.

An unexpected discovery.

An unexpected discovery.

Jelly in a dish.

Jelly in a dish.

Okay folks, this was not what imagined would be in side this gorgeous looking fruit. It is native of South Africa, which is where our oldest daughter’s ex-boy friend is from. Over the course their relationship I have tasted or tried different South African foods, most of which were delicious.  However, the Horned Melon was in my opinion a total waste of money. Only after I paid $6.99 for it did I bother to look it up to see what it was all about. If you are in the desert, and you are extremely thirsty, a lot of liquid can be had from one of these beautiful gems. I sliced it in half as shown and scooped out the seeds, liquid and semi jelly consistency of the flesh. I used a mesh sieve to strain the seeds from the green slime. According to one site on the Internet, the Horned Melon is similar in taste like something between a banana, lime and cucumber rolled into one. To me it tasted quite tart and sour with no sweetness at all. I added it to a smoothie, which I drank but didn’t really care for the taste. I also added it to flavor hot green tea.

 

Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is a versatile side dish.

Acorn squash is a versatile side dish.

You may be surprised to know, that until last night, I had never eaten acorn squash. I decided to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it in the oven for an hour at 350 degree F. Unlike butternut quash and spaghetti quash, the acorn variety is not sweet at all. Once it finished roasting, I let it cool for about 15 minutes and scooped out the flesh. Added butter and Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. It was good, but I prefer the butternut and spaghetti squash more. What I thought was odd, is the green part of the skin turns black when roasted, however the orange part remains orange.

The Papaya Plus

I lived a sheltered life growing up as my family did not experiment in trying a lot of different foods or foreign cuisines. My Dad did one time convince my Mom to cook okra since he was convinced it was one of his favorite vegetables. It was the only time I can remember that my Sister and I did not have to eat everything on our plate. It was determined that it was not his favorite vegetable! It consisted of green wagon wheel like disks in a raw egg white like slime. Which years later, I found out the slime is the thickening agent in gumbo. And most people either fry okra or they put it in soup. And incidentally, the vegetable that my Dad had mixed up with okra was actually Zucchini. This post is the beginning of a quest to knock off food items on my food bucket list. So from this time forward, I will be trying new foods to me and giving my impressions on them whether good or bad.

The Papaya: I chose this piece of fruit from our local South Jersey grocery store. Of course, I don’t know if this one was at optimum ripeness. The flesh was sweet where it was the reddish and rather blah where it was yellow. The flesh is also not firm, it is rather velvety in texture, almost mushy. I also ate a piece of the skin, and determined that one should discard it. The flesh is easily removed from the skin. This piece of fruit cost me $2.50 and with that said, I have to say, I won’t be running out to buy another one any time soon. Although my friends who are foodies, have stated that  papayas are great in a fruit cocktail, made into ice cream, smoothies or sorbet.

 

My Newest Toy

Pulverized semi-sweet chocolate.

Pulverized semi-sweet chocolate.

Slurry being churned in ice cream maker.

Slurry being churned in ice cream maker.

Pulverized Chips have been added to the ice cream.

Pulverized Chips have been added to the ice cream.

Ice cream, ice cream, who doesn’t love ice cream. For my birthday, my MIL (Mother-in-law) asked me what I wanted? Well, I couldn’t think of anything, so she said to think about it? So the first two ideas, she shot down. So finally, I told her I always wanted an ice cream maker. Which actually brings up a memory from long ago, when I gave my Dad and ice cream maker. Or so I thought. apparently, it was just an extra tub for someone who already had the ice cream maker. So back it went, and gave him cash instead. So for my birthday, she bought me a Cuisinart Brand Ice Cream Maker. It has a tub that you place in the freezer and freeze it for at least 16 hours. I make the slurry as I call it in the AM, refrigerate it for at the minimum of 2 hours and make the ice cream in the afternoon, and then freeze the ice cream for our dessert for after dinner, usually around 8 PM. Also as soon as I wash out the tub, it goes back in the freezer. The first two recipes I made were straight out of the recipe book that came with the machine. However, I started changing things for the next ones.

Recipes:

Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt Ice Cream

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

 

 

Suddenly Liking and Disliking Certain Foods

Shiitake mushrooms with stems removed. The stems are too woody to eat.

Shiitake mushrooms with stems removed. The stems are too woody to eat.

I have most of my life liked the white button mushrooms, so it was a complete shock to my family when I suddenly stopped eating them. It came all of a sudden, and I can’t really explain it.  DH who loves all types of mushrooms of course wanted to add them to everything. I was constantly forced to pick them out or off of everything from pizza to hot sandwiches. This lasted for about 10 years. I avoided mushrooms like the plague, which is odd, when I suddenly flip-flopped and began eating mushrooms again. Only then and now I eat numerous varieties of mushrooms. My favorites are Crimini, shiitake, both baby and mature Portabellas. Onions are another food that I disliked from childhood until the moment I tried my first Vadalia sweet onion. From then on it is the one food item that I will go out in a blizzard to buy. I always have them in the house and I usually have at least three of them at all times. Yet another food that I once liked and suddenly detest is bananas and anything made with bananas.