Family Traditions Old and New

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Posted December 15th, 2012 in Holiday, Posts

Last week I wrote about a family traditional Cherry Coke Jell-O dessert.  I heard that post provided an adorable second grader with some show and tell for her school assignment which pleased me very much.  (After all, it was about her own family tradition!)  I asked you all to share your traditions with me but since I had no takers I’m going to share some of mine with you.

Every Christmas my girls and I travel to sunny Southern California to spend the holiday with my parents and my sister’s family.  My brother moved to the Northwest many years ago and we have only spent the holidays together a handful of years.  But this year we have Stella.  Stella is the first great grandchild for my parents and her parents and grandparents decided to share her with us this Christmas. We get the rest of them as a bonus.

We are combining a lot of food traditions this year and resurrecting some concepts that don’t exactly qualify as traditions but that we have enjoyed a time or two. On Christmas Eve we will have an appetizer buffet prepared by the Queen of Tarts herself along with my princesses.  My mother, the Old Queen Mother has decided to sit out the kitchen duty in favor of playing with Stella.  This is a first.  Mom is 86 years old and the busiest Queen of the kitchen you have ever seen.  She must be really happy to have that toddler around!

On Christmas Day my sister prepares the famous brunch casserole before we go to Church.  My brother and his family will be treating us to a true English Feast complete with Prime Rib, Creamed Spinach, and potatoes prepared from Stella’s daddy’s family recipe.  I am in charge of dessert.  My brother is a tiny bit concerned that we won’t have enough so I will be bringing TWO pies.

I am doing the almost famous Coconut Scented Blackberry Apple Pie that I have presented here before and a new recipe I just discovered and adapted from a Cooking Light recipe published in the summer when fresh cherries are plentiful.  As you know the tart cherry crop disaster of 2012 has caused me to think outside the “can” this year so I am making a Royal Anne Cherry Galette.  It is VERY easy, beautiful and just a tiny bit different.  I make mine with a homemade crust but you can use Pillsbury Ready Crust if you like and it will be just fine.

Royal Anne Cherries are not as easy to find as some of our other fruit but if you have a Kroger Store (or any store owned by Kroger) you can find them there.  Several independent grocers stock them and you can also find them on

A galette is a free form pie.  The filling is not a traditional slurry either, just a sprinkling of cornstarch and sugar over the crust before spooning in the cherries brightened up with a bit of lemon.  I think it is delicious and kind of sophisticated.  (Can you tell I am a little intimidated by contributing to my brother’s fancy dinner?)

I am grateful to spend the holidays with my family.  Merry Christmas from my house to yours!

You Meet the Nicest People

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Posted December 8th, 2012 in Holiday, In the Kitchen, Posts, Serving with Style

A few weeks ago I was on a plane to Portland for a meeting and had the good fortune to sit next to a nice man named David Weiss.  David is a fellow food sales guy making his living selling Nestle Water to convenience stores.   Ironically, David’s family has a traditional holiday jello salad that contains Oregon Fruit!! What are the odds???

In my own family we didn’t eat a lot of jello.  I stopped eating it after the jolly green jello incident.  When I was in college and VERY POOR my siblings and I decided to throw a 25th anniversary party for my parents. We bought and prepared all the food.  My sister and brother were working so I am sure they either bought or made something good. My contribution was the Jolly Green Jell-O as it has come to be known in the family lore.  Of course I didn’t want to run out so I borrowed a VERY large banquet pan from the restaurant I worked in and made enough red/green Jell-O (In layers!) to feed the local soup kitchen.  I tried to get guests to take home to go portions in Ziploc bags.  I have not heard the end of this so I have never brought Jell-O to a potluck again.

I might have to change that rule this Christmas because the Weiss family recipe is delicious!  It is Cherry Coke Jell-O!  I have a very cute mold with a Christmas tree and the color is lovely.

While thinking about this post I decided to do a little Jell-O research.  I discovered that there is quite a cult following for Jell-O.  Did you know, for example that JELL-O is America’s most famous dessert?  Another interesting fact is that JELL-O was once considered a very decadent dessert and served by the upper class. They used fancy Victorian molds to create desserts that were both beautiful and tasty. OR that in 2001, after an astounding 14,000 people had signed a petition, JELL-O was made the Official State Snack of Utah? Another fun fact is that the people of Salt Lake City actually eat more lime flavored JELL-O than any other city in the world. And lastly that one million packs are sold each day? In America alone, 300 million packs are sold each year. I can assure this was all news to me.

This chance meeting on a plain reminded me that there are lots of old family recipes and several of them use Oregon Fruit. Who knew??  So I am challenging you all out there to share you family recipes with me, whether or not they contain Jell-O.  You can post them to our Facebook page, send them to me by email at or even mail them in the old fashioned way to: Erin Johansen Oregon Fruit Products LLC, PO Box 5283 Salem, OR 97304.

I really enjoy being inspired by other’s traditions so please provide me some inspiration. Happy Holidays!!


Oregon Fruit Makes You Happy

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Posted November 30th, 2012 in Healthy Eating, Healthy Tips, News in Produce, Posts

From every turn we are encouraged, cajoled and admonished to eat more fruits and vegetables.  From the “5 a Day” campaign to Produce for Better Health, to the First Lady, Dr. Oz and Jamie Oliver on the Food Network we have been bombarded with this message.  No one could have escaped it unless you live under the proverbial rock.  Doing it, on the other hand, has been more elusive.  The “5 a Day” campaign began in 1994 and the latest research shows that only 31% of adults between 19 and 64 are reaching that goal.  For kids it is actually only 1 in 10.  Later research shows that even more servings are actually optimal-somewhere between 5 and 9 servings per day.  Last year a new icon was released called the “My Plate” to show us in picture form how to eat with half the plate made up of fruits and vegetables.

Economists and public health researchers from the University of Warwick studied the eating habits of 80,000 people in Britain. This  study found that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables not only improves your physical health, it helps your emotional well being as well!  The study determined that happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven 3oz portions of fruit and/or vegetables per day.

The study did not distinguish among different kinds of fruits and vegetables, nor did it matter whether the fruits and vegetables were fresh, frozen or canned.  (good news for US!)

Co-author, economist Professor Andrew Oswald from the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, said: “This study has shown surprising results and I have decided it is prudent to eat more fruit and vegetables. I am keen to stay cheery.”

This time of year many people suffer from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) , a kind of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter.  It is not known whether this is strictly related to changes in the weather due to long periods of dreary rain and cold, the holidays or some combination.   But it can’t hurt to combat with some extra fruits and vegetables.

I am with Dr. Oswald.  For those of us “keen to stay cheery” eat more Oregon Fruit!

Big Thanks for Small Treats

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Posted November 17th, 2012 in Holiday, Posts

Thanksgiving is coming up this week and I know a lot of you are particularly attached to cherry pie.  Lots of Americans could not imagine a Thanksgiving table without it. Many of us make our mom’s or grandma’s or great-grandma’s special recipe and it might be the only time we make it all year.  Regular readers of this blog are well aware that the tart cherry industry was hit hard by a weird weather pattern last spring/summer and the crop in the Midwest and Northeast was all but destroyed. That has resulted in VERY high prices on our Oregon canned Red Tarts this year.  There is no sugar coating it, they are expensive and it may not be possible for some families to make their favorite pie this year due to the cost.  So I came up with an alternative that I think might make some folks happy.  I baked up some individual Cherry Hand Pies and it made 8 servings with just one can!   A good cherry pie takes 2-3 cans so this will help your holiday budget and they are quick and delicious as well.

To extend the “cherriness” of the day, I also made a great appetizer with our Royal Anne Cherries.  This cherry is known as a “light sweet cherry” and grows mainly in the Northwest.  Thankfully the Northwest was not hit with the same weather so the price of this cherry is a lot lower.  And this Royal Anne Cherry with Goat Cheese Crostini is SO DELICIOUS!!!  If you are bringing a holiday appetizer to a gathering I guarantee this one will be a hit.

Just a quick story for you.

I saw a blog recently that touted the ease of making your own goat cheese ricotta at home in just an hour.  It sounded like fun to me (I hear you, I have a weird idea of fun) so I set out to make up a scratch version to use with my recipe.  I bought a quart of goat’s milk at the grocery store, I had a lot lemons I bought at the farmer’s market last week and the last ingredient was salt so I was good to go.  I followed the directions exactly but it sure didn’t look right. It was supposed to separate the curds and whey even before the 1 hour resting time.  That did not happen.  I jumped on the internet and found out that this may not work with ultra pasteurized goat’s milk.  After visiting 4 grocery stores it became clear that was the only type  available in the conventional grocery stores in my area.  I drove across town to a natural foods coop so determined was I to make my own goat cheese.  I found a quart that was not ultra pasteurized and I headed home to try again.  By now I was into this recipe for almost $10.  You can probably guess that  I achieved the same result.  I was now $10 poorer, and I had spent most of a day.  I ran down to Safeway and picked up 8oz of good goat cheese for $5.99, whipped it up in the food processor and it was darn delicious.    I give you this little parable so that you can save yourself the hassle and money and make a fantastic appetizer that your friends and family will love. It  will take you all of about 15 minutes. Your welcome.

A Restaurant Dessert to Make at Home

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Posted November 9th, 2012 in Posts, Serving with Style, Tips and Tricks

Last week I had the opportunity to dine at a very nice local restaurant with some friends.  I feel it my duty to all of you to order dessert at these occasions particularly if they contain fruit.  As you know I am committed to getting my 5-9 servings per day in a variety of forms and there, on the menu, was an individual Blueberry Cheesecake with Meyer Lemon Sauce.  Well really, what was I supposed to do when presented with an opportunity to get TWO servings at once AND do research that might prove beneficial to my readers?

So the dessert was delicious and beautiful. It was the perfect blend of the creamy, tart and sweet with a nice texture both from the pop of the blueberries which are inside the cheesecake as opposed to the traditional topping and the crunch of the crust. So after enjoying I decided to try to make my own version.  I baked mine in large muffin cups which worked out well but they sunk in the middle so they didn’t look as perfect as the one created by the professional pastry chef. Upon further analysis from my friend Lori, we determined that the restaurant probably baked full size cakes and cut the individual cakes out with a ring mold.  Too much waste for me. The trick to using canned blueberries in this recipe is to drain them well and then toss them with a bit of flour so they remain suspended in the cream cheese batter.

The meyer lemon sauce is amazing and you really want to make this during the short season you can find these lemons. They are sweeter, smaller and thinner skinned than a regular lemon. I found them last week at COSTCO!!


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