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Briefs: Choosing the best freeze-dried fruit

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We're currently enjoying a freeze-dried fruit explosion with big-box discounters, local markets, even Amazon.com , all stocking pouches of strawberries, apples, pineapple, mango and bananas for prices ranging from $2.99 (Archer Farms strawberry slices, 1-ounce bag, at Target) to $6.25 (Organic Just Strawberries, 1.2-ounce bag, on justtomatoes.com ).

Which is wonderful for dried fruit lovers — but is it a healthy trend?

"There's a time and a place for freeze-dried fruit," says Cricket Azima, founder of The Creative Kitchen, a company aimed at promoting healthy eating skills in children. "I don't think there's any substitute for fresh fruit."

A few things to watch for, to ensure your freeze-dried experience is the healthiest possible:

• Check the ingredients for "fruit." There's no reason for sugars or anything else to be added.

• Check the vitamin content. Some of the water-soluble vitamins may be lost during the freeze-drying process, so you want to see if it's been fortified to add them back in.

• Be mindful of portions. Because the water has been stripped from the fruit, your child won't fill up as quickly as she would eating a whole apple or a handful of fresh strawberries, so she may be tempted to eat two or three recommended serving sizes.

• If you place a high value on buying organic fresh produce, check the fruit's country of origin and whether it's organic.

Is it OK to double recipes?

For most recipes, you can simply double the ingredients, though many sources recommend using 1 12 times the amount of spices when doubling. That includes salt, pepper, curry powder, cinnamon, paprika and garlic powder. For example, if the recipe calls for 12 teaspoon salt, you would use 34 teaspoon.

With savory recipes, you can adjust the spices or seasonings to your own taste. And for something like whole roast chicken, simply cook two at once at the same temperature for the same time.

Baking recipes are trickier. On a small scale, it should be OK to just double all the ingredients. But other variables can affect the outcome. To get uniform results when baking, mix each batch separately.

Foraging 101

Anyone who has dug for clams at low tide, pinched a blackberry or two on a trail walk or tried to pry a black walnut from its rock-hard shell has been foraging for food. It's an instinct as old as mankind that's become a red-hot trend in a growing number of food circles.

Some warnings:

• Don't eat anything unless you know absolutely, positively what it is.

• Take at least two guidebooks for your region along with you to identify edible foods.

• Don't forage alone. Tag along with or join local foraging, native plant and/or mycological societies.

• Avoid foraging along busy roadsides where plants may absorb pollutants or car exhaust; ditto near fields that may be sprayed with pesticides.

• Know the foraging rules for public lands; don't trespass on private property.

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