Ambrosia Salad

ambrosia title

As much as I am interested in new food trends, there are a few classics–especially those that I grew up with–that will always have a special place on my table.  As a child of the ’90s, some of these dishes waver on that edge of decidedly old-school, especially as we look at cold salads.  Ambrosia is one of those.  I am seeing this creamy fruit salad less and less these days, but, in my mind, ambrosia is one of those quintessential summer dishes.  Due to the lack of vegetables and the inclusion of fruit, it was a universal favorite in my house while I was growing up.  It also made an impression on our extended family (here is the recipe, finally, Lizzie!)  Ambrosia was always a true sign of summer (even though, using the canned options, it can be made almost any time of year that grapes are in stores).

ambrosia fruit

I’ve sampled a few ambrosia salads at various barbecues, either a store-bought salad or by someone else’s recipe.  And I was always disappointed, if not disgusted.  They were always horribly sweet.  There are rules about Ambrosia Salad (in my adamant opinion! 😉 ).  Rule #1: no maraschino cherries.  Listen.  I love maraschino cherries.  Especially the un-natural, bright-red ones.  A visit to any fro-yo place usually ends with most of my money paying for at least one extra ounce of weight made up entirely of half a dozen maraschino cherries.  However, they do not belong in ambrosia salad.  The juice makes it all vaguely pink and the flavor just doesn’t fit.  No maraschinos.  Rule #2: no vanilla.  This is often linked to the third and most important rule: Rule #3: don’t cover the fruit with a sweet topping.  I’ve tried this dish made with whipped cream, cool whip, vanilla yogurt….all of those options will leave your teeth aching and your mouth crying out for water from the sugar.  The marshmallows and the coconut and, you know, all the fruit, provide plenty of sweetness.  Even vanilla extract adds a heaviness to the salad.  You just don’t need it.

In adhering to rule #3, I will finally admit the ingredient that may give you pause.  Yes, the topping that mixes everything together into creamy goodness is…. sour cream.  Gasp!  I know!  Just reminiscent enough of those terrible 1950s recipes calling for mayo and shrimp and jello and other horrors to make you stop and reconsider.  But hear me out:  Sour cream is great here.  The tang balances the sweetness of every other ingredient and after a couple of hours, the marshmallows break down into soft little pockets and the sugar on the outside of the marshmallows has blended with the cream to make the whole thing perfectly sweet.  Yes, I suppose I would allow swapping plain yogurt for the sour cream, if it really rattles you.  But let’s be honest with each other.  Sour cream achieves a texture of delightfully-creamy-without-being-heavy that no other dairy product can.  Greek yogurt would be too thick and heavy, regular yogurt would be too watery, especially combined with the juicy fruit.  Sour cream is the best option.  Just don’t think about it too much and do me a favor: try it with sour cream first.  Trust me.

ambrosia close

I was delighted, in fourth grade, when I started learning about Greek mythology, to learn that ambrosia was the food of the Gods.   Having had this dish for many summers, I couldn’t imagine anything more appropriate to feed Athena, Artemis, Zeus, and Apollo. So try it out…it is the food of the gods, after all!  Not to mention a really great addition to any barbecue or potluck and the perfect option for a summer evening!

ambrosia mixed

Ambrosia Salad

Serves 6-8 | Prep time: 10 min. + resting | Cook time: N/A

  • 1 c. mini marshmallows
  • 1 c. crushed pineapple, drained (or 1 c. fresh, finely chopped)*
  • 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 c. shredded coconut (sweetened is traditional, but unsweetened would be fine)
  • 1 c. grapes (red or green), slice in half
  • 3/4 to 1 c. sour cream**

*My pineapple is fresh, but chopped too large in these photos.  As soon as I took a bite, I knew I should have chopped it much finer, when using it fresh.

**Depending on how juicy the fruit is, you may need less or more.  Gently fold in the smaller amount first, and then decide if you need the rest.

Combine the fruit, marshmallows, and coconut in a large bowl.  Gently fold in sour cream, being careful not to break up the mandarin orange pieces too much.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, to allow flavors to meld.


Budget Update and Meal Plan for August 13-19

This week will be spent readjusting to life without camp.  There is always a transition period–I’ve just spent the last seven weeks entirely immersed in a whole different schedule, workload, and focus.  This week is for cleaning the house, organizing my emails, and generally getting my life in order.

I am excited, because the end of the week is our annual canning day.  A few friends and I set aside a day to spend hours preserving and canning.  It is such a long process, so it is much more entertaining with company.  Our SO’s are in charge of lunch/dinner while we wash, chop, soak, boil, and reduce a variety of produce and then rev up a water bath to process it all.  This canning day was started because we wanted to make Squash Relish, which still remains as the primary act.  This year, I will also do a batch of tomato jam and my friends are tag-teaming the process of making apple butter.  We might try tomato sauce, or something else entirely.  I found a recipe for a carrot cake conserve that I’m still considering….but it may have to wait.  Even in a whole day, only so much can be made when limited to a 4-burner stovetop.  Whatever we do end up with, we’ll swap a few jars so that we all have a taste of the product.  The produce for canning will be separate from my weekly grocery budgets, since this is a true stock up.  However, I really don’t expect to pay more that $25-$30.  This will result in 10 jars of squash relish and 4-6 jars of tomato jam + 2-4 jars of apple butter, at least.

This week, M is working late nearly every day.  Dinners are, again, relying on protein from our freezer/pantry, and are simpler dishes or platters, in order to keep everything easy.  As such, a lot of our groceries from the store are aimed at stocking up.  A condiment or too, flour, some probiotic-rich foods as well as some simple items because my stomach has been pretty unhappy for the past few weeks, after all the stress and poor eating.  I even managed a bottle of store-bought kombucha to split over the course of this week, as I neglected my own homemade booch.  Check out that mother behind the groceries–it’s grew four baby SCOBY’s.  I restarted a batch last night, finally, but it will still take about a week before it is ready to drink.

Here’s what I spent this week:

(I was lazy and only went to Trader Joe’s this week, because I needed to grab paper goods.  The TP, paper towels, and dog treats came out to $10, so my total for food was $35.18.  I’m $0.18 over, as my math regarding tax was a little off.)

groceries list 8.14

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

 

Trader Joe’s: $35.18

Total: $50.18

I was able to take home half a dozen individual yogurt cups as we cleaned out the fridge at work (the students’ parents bring us food sometimes), which really helped my budget, since those were free and can serve as my breakfast all week long.  My mom’s egg lady is back, so I also got 18 eggs from her.  Those should last us well into next week.

Here’s what we got:

groceries 8.14

HH Produce Box: 2 lbs red potatoes, 3 peaches, 3 pears, 7 tiny cucumbers, 2 broccoli crowns, 1/2 lb kale, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 2 ears corn

Trader Joe’s: gluten-free English muffins, unsweetened Applesauce, White Beans, Butter, Red Onion, Sauerkraut, GF Flour, Kombucha, Coconut Aminos, Lemons, Ginger, Feta cheese, slice Deli Ham

plus another overflowing pint of cherry tomatoes from our own garden

We are really eating from our pantry this week!

Here’s what we’re eating:

Sunday: Out I was still at work (my boss got us all Chipotle) and then we went to our friend’s house where they fed us dinner and we watched Game of Thrones

Monday: Tomato Tarte Tatin, Cheese, Fruit, Salad using all of the tomatoes from our garden, some herbs, and a quick pie crust.  I served it withe last of the lettuce from last week’s box, plus some cheese that had been languishing in the drawer for a week or two (bleu and mozzarella) and with some of the pears

Tuesday: Burgers, Potato Salad, Roast Corn using beef and buns from the freezer.  I’m using about half of the potatoes from our box.

Wednesday: White Bean Dip, Tomato-Cucumber Salad, Baked Feta  I made this dip for a camp potluck while M was out of town.  It is sooooo delicious and super simple, so I’m making it again.  I’ll use all the cucumbers and most of the tomatoes for the salad.  I will mostly save half of that block of feta and freeze it for later.  We’ll serve everything with some crostini made from the English muffins, thinly sliced.

Thursday: Sausage & Kale Pasta with sausage from the freezer.  Whatever tomatoes don’t go into the salad on Wednesday will end up here.

Friday: Canning Day! I’ll make some broccoli salad to contribute to dinner at our friend’s–most likely hot dogs, as they are the ideal carrier for our prized Squash Relish.  We have some buns in the freezer that I will bring along, too.

Saturday: Sweet Potato Roast and Breakfast Sandwiches using last week’s SP’s.  Eggs and ham will round things out.

Breakfasts will be smoothies, applesauce & yogurt, or eggs.  Lunches are leftovers, caprese salad, or ham sandwiches, with fruit and/or sauerkraut, and kombucha for me.  I did indulge in homemade Eggs Benedict on Monday, when I was off of work, which explains the ham, lemons, butter, and English muffins in my basket.  🙂


Budget Update & Meal Plan for August 6-12

We are most of the way through summer camp (just one weeks left!) and I’m glad to say that I’ve managed to stick very close to our $50 weekly budget.  A few weeks have gone up to $60, but I eat more during camp.  I eat breakfast several hours earlier than normal; we have a scheduled snack and lunch with the students; and I usually need something to snack on when I get home, well before I cook dinner.  Camp is a marathon, and my eating adjusts with it.

This summer, I took a lot of the guess work out of my mornings by sticking strictly to one smoothie recipe.   I knew exactly what I would make each morning, which has saved my a lot of time.  I put in one handful of frozen, chopped greens (almost all of it has been Swiss chard from our garden–the plants are still going strong) and a cup of almond milk, along with a scoop of protein powder.  I let this blend for a minute or so.  By blending just the greens first, it allows the leaves to really breakdown.  I wait until the liquid has turned green and the flecks of leaves are very, very small.  Then, I add half of a frozen banana, a handful of frozen berries, a 1/2 teaspoon of chia or flax seeds, and a small scoop of peanut butter.  Every morning.  It has worked out wonderfully except for the one day that I managed to spill it all over me.  The greens and the berries come together to make a rather unappetizing grayish-purple drink.  But I know whats in there and I know its tastes good, so it doesn’t bother me very much!

Anyway, M was in New Orleans with some friends this weekend, so I’ve been a bit lax about actual meals.  Plus, I spent most of this weekend with my mom, since our birthday is on Monday.  We saw a special showing of Newsies (the musical), did a little shopping, and had dinner on Saturday.  I have to say, Silver Diner (for you locals) has really upped their game.  M and I had gone with friends about a year ago, sampling their gluten-free breakfast offerings (tasty pancakes and AMAZING coconut-crusted French toast–both GF), but Silver Diner’s seasonal menu. totally blew me away.  I had lamb meatballs with spinach, tomato sauce, feta, and pomegranate-quinoa.  It was delicious!  I really am shocked, because I hated going there even when I could eat gluten.  I am very impressed with this revamp.

On Sunday, we had brunch at Jackson’s, where we both had filet mignon + hollandaise + the best scrambled eggs that I’ve ever had in me life.  Then we window-shopped for a while and I came home to get some prep work done for the week.

For this final week of camp, there is a little less pressure, since I am not a primary teacher.  We have performances this weekend, but the week itself should be a tad slower.  M is driving home tonight/tomorrow, so my birthday evening is still up in the air, pending his arrival.  Otherwise, for this week’s meals, I’m using a lot from the freezer and leaning on some favorite meals.

Here is what I spent this week:

groceries 8.5

Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00

Farmers’ Market: $5.00

Aldi: $19.89

Trader Joe’s: $9.69

Total: $49.58

I’m using a lot of proteins from the freezer this week, which made this week’s shopping easier.  Also, as seen below, we have half a dozen tomatoes + a pint of cherry tomatoes from our garden.  With more ripening daily!

Here’s what we got:

food 8.5

HH Box: green leaf lettuce, 1 lb carrots, 2 nectarines, 2 apples, 4 sweet potatoes, 1 bell pepper, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 6 oz blueberries

Farmers’ Market: 1 canary melon, 1/2 lb green beans, 2 onions

Our garden: 6 med-large tomatoes, 1 pint cherry tomatoes

Aldi: mozzarella cheese, sour cream, yogurt, 2 bags GF pasta, frozen blueberries, margarine, 2.25 lb ground beef, garlic

Trader Joe’s: balsamic vinegar, 2 lemons, dijon mustard, GF bread

And here is what we are eating:

Sunday: Leftover/Clean out the fridge dinner  I made myself eggs, toast, caprese salad, and other vegetable odds and ends.  I knew I had the leftover meatballs for lunch on Monday.

Monday: M made me jambalaya and bananas foster!  While he used a few things, like the green pepper, most of his food was not included in our weekly budget, but neither would whatever money we spent on a dinner out at a restaurant, instead.  We do have some extras (bananas, andouille sausages, etc) that will go into the freezer/pantry stash for later weeks.

Tuesday: Swedish Meatballs with gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans. I’ll use half of the beef, plus some broth from the freezer along with the sour cream for the gravy.  I have a ton of potatoes in the pantry that I’m trying to get through before they spoil.

Wednesday: Chicken Tikka, Carrot Salad, Raita, Flatbreads. I have some pre-made flatbreads leftover from a potluck.  I’ll marinate chicken from the freezer in yogurt and spices, and use the last bit of last week’s cucumber in the raita.  Carrot salad is simply grated carrots, with a light dressing and some tasty additions: cranberries or pine nuts or almonds, really whatever we have in the pantry.

Thursday: Sausage Pasta. A meal entirely from the pantry/freezer.  I’ll probably do a salad alongside, from the green leaf lettuce.

Friday: We are out at my coworker’s for cocktails.  Depending on the snacks, we can make a quick sweet potato hash and eggs, if we are still hungry when we get home.

Saturday:  I’ll be at work and will be fed.  M can have free reign for his meals.

Breakfasts will continue to be my usual smoothie–we still have all the ingredients, or eggs on slower mornings.  Lunches will be leftovers, caprese salad, and/or BLT’s.   I also used the blueberries to make some bar cookies for my coworkers yesterday.  I’m really happy to have stocked up on a few crucial condiments this week as well.