Dining on dried fruits | SierraSun.com

Dining on dried fruits

Maria Martin
Special to the Sierra Sun
Stock photo/Sierra Sun
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In the past three months, Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District elementary school students have explored and tasted winter squash, persimmons, and a variety of dried fruits as part of the Harvest of the Month Program. Even at this early date, we have learned the following important lessons.

Parents enjoy sharing their enthusiasm about healthy eating with children. The Harvest of the Month program is provided at our Elementary schools through the help of a group of dedicated teachers and parent and community volunteers. Each month, these volunteers bring fun facts, nutrition information, and a sample of an in-season fruit or vegetable to the classroom for the children to taste.

Volunteers have enjoyed introducing the children to new foods and sharing foods they enjoy with the children. Some have even achieved celebrity status, and are approached in town to provide information on how they prepared that wonderful winter squash.

Enthusiasm is contagious. When new foods are presented in a fun and engaging way the enthusiasm of the presenter spreads to the children. It is encouraging seeing children excited about fruits and vegetables. They go back for seconds until the samples are gone.

Children enjoy trying new foods with their peers. Parents are surprised to hear that their child has willingly tried a food in the classroom, when the same food had been emphatically refused at the dinner table. Eating fruits and vegetables at school not only increases the chances that children will try something new, but also influences social norms about eating healthy foods.

Some children even ask their parents to fix these new foods at home. The greatest success of the program to date is hearing that kids have requested a Harvest of the Month produce item at home.

Repeated exposure to fruits and vegetables increases the likelihood that they will become part of the child’s regular healthy diet.

It is truly refreshing to see children enjoying delicious, healthy, colorful foods. If you would like to experience the joys of fruits and vegetables first hand, we still have a couple of classrooms at Kings Beach and Truckee Elementary that would love a volunteer. Contact me at the e-mail address below for more information.

In December, we are tasting a variety of dried fruits. Did you know that drying is the oldest method of preserving food?

Raisins are noted in ancient writings as far back as 1490 B.C. But, it wasn’t until 1876, when Scottish immigrant William Thompson developed a seedless grape variety in the San Joaquin Valley, that the raisin industry was launched.

Most dried fruits like dates, figs, plums, and raisins are a good source of fiber. Dried fruits are also a good source of potassium and some (figs and raisins) contain iron.

Remember, dried fruits are more calorically dense than fresh fruits. Choose fruits without added sugar and store in an airtight container to maintain freshness.

Billy McCullough, the chef/owner of Dragonfly Restaurant and Sushi Bar, has shared his recipe for Moroccan Style Couscous with Dried Fruit. The couscous is great served with grilled chicken and Dried Apricot Sauce. Enjoy!

Serves 4

4 tablespoons- olive oil

1 teaspoon- ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon- ground coriander

1 teaspoon- ground cumin

2 tablespoons- pine nuts

1 teaspoon- brown sugar

1/3 cup- currants or raisins

1/3 cup- dried dates- diced

1/3 cup- dried blueberries

2 cups- vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoons- cilantro- chopped

1 tablespoon- lemon juice

1 cup- couscous

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and add cumin, coriander and cinnamon. Stir for one minute.

Add pine nuts and sugar. Stir for 1 minute.

Add raisins, dates, blueberries, stock, cilantro, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil.

Stir in couscous, cover the pan and remove from heat. Leave to stand, stirring every 3 minutes, until the grains swell ” about 10 minutes.

2 tablespoons- olive oil

1 each- small onion- small dice

1 clove- crushed garlic

1 teaspoon- ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon- ground coriander

1 teaspoon- ground cumin

1 cup- vegetable stock

1/3 cup- diced dried apricots

Heat oil in a pan. Add onions and cook until soft and slightly caramelized.

Add garlic when onions are almost finished.

Add spices and stir for 1 minute

Add stock and apricots. Simmer for 20 minutes.