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Fruit, vegetable purees: New idea for healthy menus

May 28, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Tired of the same old menus? Need a new idea for serving healthy, appetizing foods to your family? Try fruit and vegetable purees. They're an easy way to give a nutritional boost to some of your favorite dishes.

Mashed potatoes are a puree many of us know and love. Other vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits also can be pureed for a variety of uses.

For appetizers, stuff mushrooms with tomato or spinach puree. Give mashed potatoes a new and delicate flavor by adding pureed cauliflower, green beans, turnips, celery root or onion. You can use fruit and vegetable purees year-round in soups, side dishes, spreads, stuffings for vegetables, omelettes, beverages and sauce for pasta.

Most vegetables require a little cooking before you puree. Steam green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus or broccoli until tender; boil or microwave root vegetables like carrots and potatoes to soften both their texture and flavor. Bake or broil such vegetables as eggplant and bell peppers.

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Most fruits also will need to be cooked until soft. Cut fruit in half, pit, if necessary and coarsely chop. Add one cup boiling water for each cup of fruit. Cook fruit until soft.

To puree, use a food processor at high speed. If you use a blender, be sure to process the fruits and vegetables in small batches. Vegetables probably will need a few added tablespoons of cooking liquid. To blend by hand, mash vegetables with a potato masher and whip with a whisk or fork. You can add sugar to taste as you puree the fruit.

After processing, vegetable purees benefit from heating until the excess water evaporates; this will both thicken it and intensify the flavor. Purees of different consistencies have different uses. Use thin purees for tossing with pasta, thick for stuffing vegetables or medium to serve as a side dish. You can store purees in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Here are some recipes to get you started:

Honey Squash

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

1 teaspoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed, dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon honey

In a large saucepan, bring one cup water to a boil. Add squash, cover, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well, then puree in blender or food processor. Melt butter or margarine in saucepan. Add squash and remaining ingredients. Cook until heated through. Serves 4.

Amazing Apricot Sauce

1 17-ounce can apricot halves in juice, drained; reserve juice

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

6 whole cloves

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon butter or margarine

1 angel food cake, cubed

Combine reserved juice from canned apricots with spices, sugar and butter or margarine in saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Puree apricots and add to saucepan. Heat thoroughly. Serve over cubes of angel food cake. Makes 1 1/3 cups puree.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland.

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