Fruit: It’s what’s for dessert.
OK, many kids are skeptical about their parents’ attempts to push fruit. But when I was a child, fruit cocktail — with the coveted Day-Glo cherry — was all the rage when it came to after-dinner sweets.
For moms and dads on the lookout for new ways to cheat the omnipresent sugar gods, fruit compote is a smart yet soothing way to ease the taste buds into colder winter weather.
Essentially a warm fruit cocktail, The Star’s Warm Fruit Compote features canned fruit packed in extra-light syrup to reduce the amount of sugar in this dessert. A crumb topping made of store-bought macaroons, toasted almonds and crystallized ginger adds a modern taste twist to the recipe.
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Napoleon’s troops were among the first to understand the value of canned goods as a way to get edible rations to the battlefield. Today anyone who keeps a pantry is sure to have at least a few cans of fruit, vegetables or beans squirreled away.
Using canned fruit is a smart choice in the fall and winter, when locally fresh produce is harder to find and more expensive to buy.
When packed at the peak of harvest, canned fruit is every bit as nutritious as fresh or frozen versions. After taking it on the chin for several years from consumers who came to believe fresh was better than canned, the Canned Food Alliance (www.mealtime.org) commissioned two studies to compare the nutritional value of canned vs. fresh or frozen.
The first study, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, compared 35 canned fruits, vegetables, legumes, poultry and fish. The study found the canned products retained nearly the same amounts of dietary fiber, vitamin A, carotenes and folate. Although small amounts of vitamin C are lost during heat treatment, most remains in the liquid the product is packed in. Canned goods are shelf stable for up to two years.
A second study, by the University of Massachusetts in 2000, put 13 common family-friendly recipes to the test, including fruit smoothies and vegetable pizza. Using recipes gleaned from online sources and mainstream cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking and The Betty Crocker Cookbook, sensory analysis was conducted on each dish to compare taste, appearance, flavor, aroma and texture. Ten of the recipes were considered equal or more acceptable to the taste panel, whether ingredients were canned, fresh or frozen.
Pass the can opener.
Peaches and pears are low in calories, high in fiber and vitamin C. Apricots are a good source of potassium and are rich in beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. Cherries are considered a rich source of disease-fighting phytochemicals.
Shopping tip: Before purchasing canned goods, look for an expiration date. Always avoid a can that is bulging, which can mean the contents have gone bad.
For testing purposes, we used Archway brand macaroons, which measure about 2 inches in diameter.
Crystallized ginger has been cooked in sugar syrup and coated with sugar crystals. Look for it in the spice aisle.
Cooking tip: To toast almonds, spread in single layer on baking sheet. Bake in 350-degree oven, shaking the pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Do not let them burn.
Serving tip: Combine the fruit and you have a versatile dish that would make a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish. Serve it alone or spoon it over the top of steel-cut oatmeal. Or, serve it as an accompaniment to pork.
Warm fruit compote
Makes 8 servings
1 (15-ounce) can sliced peaches in extra-light syrup
1 (15-ounce) can apricot halves in extra-light syrup, cut into slices
1 (15-ounce) can pear chunks in extra-light syrup
1 (14.5-ounce) can pitted red tart pie cherries, drained
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger
8 coconut macaroons, coarsely crumbled
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
Place fruit in a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Combine brown sugar, ginger and macaroons; sprinkle over top of fruit. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Bake at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Per serving: 254 calories (14 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 56 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 71 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber
Recipes developed for The Star by home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.