Category Archives: Recipes

Recipes

Watermelon Mint Cooler with Vanilla Vodka #Recipe

watermelon-mint-cooler-vodka

 

 

Several weeks ago I traveled to Boston for work. It was my first trip to Beantown, and I took some time to escape from business meetings and spent an afternoon with my friend, Mira Greenland. She was my tour guide of beautiful Boston where we had drinks, food, laughs and walked the amazing Freedom Trail.

We walked, and walked and walked around this amazing city. To beautiful gardens, cemeteries filled with history and even stopped by for a quick picture at the bar that inspired one of my favorite shows of the early 90’s, Cheers.

 

me at Cheers

Where everybody knows your name…

 

beautiful-cemetary-headstones

Creepy yet beautiful.

 

Paul-Revere-Statue

 

Boston-at-night

The city at night captured my heart and I left with a full stomach after some amazing wine and gnocchi.

 

While the city was absolutely breathtaking, I very much enjoyed down time with my friend. We had cocktails, conversions and most importantly laughs away from the hustle and bustle of our lives as business executives. moms and wives. Quite randomly we ended up at a restaurant/bar for an hour or two before dinner where we enjoyed some wine and several amazing cocktails. One of which was a watermelon mint martini which I decided to re-create.

While I’m a fan of martinis, I wanted this cocktail to be versatile so I went with a cooler instead. It needs to be adult as well as kid friendly.  It goes from kid approved to adult friendly with just a touch of vanilla vodka which is exactly what Mira asked for when she ordered her customized watermelon martini.

I started with a medium sized watermelon and mint from the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market in Austin, Texas. I cut up the watermelon in cubes added them to a pitcher. From there, I added my mint, coconut water, sugar, limes and then the vanilla vodka for the adult friendly version.Mix well and refrigerate.

 

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The good thing about this cocktail is that it is almost like a sangria because it gets better and more concentrated with time. I made a double batch because I know that my daughter and husband will drink it while we enjoy our Austin, Texas, vacation by the pool and patio. I’m adding the vodka to my drink individually.

 

watermelon-mint-cooler

Watermelon Mint Cooler Recipe

3 cups of cubed seedless watermelon

3 cups of water

2 limes squeezed

1/2 liter of coconut water

1/2 cups of sugar

1 cup of mint

Optional: 4 oz of vanilla vodka

Mix together in a pitcher. Add as much vanilla vodka as you wish. I like to keep things a little light, but how strong it is can be customized to you. I like to garnish with mint on the top. Enjoy with friends, by the pool or just because.

Forgo the vodka and these could double as popsicles for the kids. I like these kinds of homemade drinks and popsicles because you can control the fruit and sugar levels.

 

 

 

For the Book Recipes

4 Important Canning Basics No One Talks About

canning-jam-making-BASICS

 

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

The biggest challenge in canning is overcoming the fear that you are going to screw up. I remember reading a handful of articles that scared the daylights out of me talking about unsanitary canning and botulism. I didn’t want to can because I was scared I was going to poison my family or waste 20 pounds of tomatoes.

Canning on the surface seems like a great deal of work, but it’s a hobby that I enjoy. I like that I can experiment with recipes and try different things while saving a little money and lowering the amount of processed food and chemicals my family is eating and ingesting. One of the biggest myths about canning is that it is time consuming. If you are organized in your efforts and love to multi-task, canning might just be your thing.

I decided to write about 4 “canning secrets” that are often overlooked in blogs, articles and other resources. If you are new to canning, these are 4 areas that you need to pay attention to because they are used most every time you are canning. The recipes are really secondary.

 Step 1: Sanitize Your Jars, Lids and Rings

I sanitize my canning equipment with a pressure cooker. I picked this up years ago at Wal-Mart. Your local Ace Hardware, big box home improvement store or Wal-Mart should have these on hand. You can also use a pot. I like the pressure cooker because it seems to work faster and alerts me to when the jars are sanitizer by “whistling.”

Place about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Place the circle rack in in the cooker that came with it. Add your jars, lids and rings to sanitize them. I suggest purchasing new lids for every time you are canning. You want your canning accessories to be clean prior to sanitizing.

You can add your kitchen tongs and funnel as well. Add your lid to the pressure cooker and slide to lock it in. For me, locking the lid is the hardest part of using the pressure cooker. Make sure you add your whistler top and ring the the cooker lid. Turn your stove top up on high. Once it whistles, you will slide your “whistler” to the side so the steam and pressure can leave the pot. Wait about 5 minutes. Slide to unlock and use your tongles to remove item. They are extremely hot!

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Step 2: Testing Your Jam

It’s really important to make sure that your jam or jelly has set. I’m not one to use a thermometer which you can absolutely do to determine if they have reduced enough to become jelly, jam or marmalade. Instead, I place 4-5 small plates in my freezer and chill them for 15 minutes. Once my jam has cooked for the recommended time, I pull my cold plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of my jam on the plate. I leave it for 2 minutes and then test to see if it has begun to set. If it doesn’t run off the plate or spread, then it’s time to place the jam in the canning jars. If it is runny, I cook my jam for another 4 minutes and test again.

The strawberry jam pictured below is almost ready. This is an important step for me when I am trying out new recipes. For example, I recently substituted 1/2 cup of honey for 2 cups of sugar and needed to make sure I got the consistency right. The cold plate test is the best way to make sure that your jam or jelly is done reducing and will set.

testing-jam-canning

Step 3: Seal Your Cans

After you fill your jars with jams, jellies or whatever canning goodness, you need to seal the jars. First, add the lid, ring and make sure they are extremely tight. This is key to making sure your canning goodies stay fresh. There are jar tighteners on the market that you can use.

Add your cans with the tightened lids back to the pressure cooker. Make sure there is enough water in the bottom to properly sanitize and seal the jars. I like to have a half inch. Slide your lid back on, place the cooker on a hot burner and wait for the whistle. The jars should make a popping noise when the properly seal. I like to make a mental note of how many jars are in my pressure cooker listening to make sure all the jars have popped. You can check them after you open the pressure cooker. Lids that are sealed should snap or bounce a little when you push the lid down.

 

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Step 4: Let Your Canning Sit

One step not to overlook is to let your cans sit and cool. I like to use a thick cutting board to set my hot jars on while they cool for about 24 hours before placing them in my pantry. This is especially important for jams and jellies. The sugars need time to cool so they can thicken. Otherwise, you have a bunch of syrup for your pancakes and french toast instead.

Read more about my passion for canning: Orange Marmalade RecipePlum Jam Recipe  and Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe

Recipes

Homemade Fresh Herb Pizza Dough Recipe

homemade-pizza-dough-recipe

Pizza for our family is a family activity where we spend time together making homemade pizza together. Using our pizza stone we can bake or grill our pizza which I love. It made sense to try our hand at making pizza dough that incorporates our love of herbs in a yummy and easy recipe.

Dough or specifically my grandma’s Thanksgiving croissant rolls are really complicated which is why I was really nervous about trying my hand at pizza dough. One Thanksgiving I made them successfully but have failed miserably to replicate the yumminess ever since. I was surprised at how easy it was to make pizza dough.

I make a double batch of the dough with each batch making 3 dough balls for a large pizza and freeze the extra. This recipe is a slight alteration to Paula Dean’s.

5 cups of all purpose organic flour

2 packages of active dry yeast

2 cups of warm water

1 tablespoon of honey (Paula uses 2 tablespoons of sugar)

3 tablespoons of flavored olive oil (garlic and basil olive oils are my favorites)

3 teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

4 tablespoons of assorted herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme and oregano)

Add your warm water and dry yeast to a large mixing bowl. Let your yeast sit for a few minutes until it’s foamy. While you wait, chop your fresh herbs. We pull these directly from our herb garden off of our patio (seen above in the cover photo).


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Add in your honey, salt, pepper, herbs and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once your yeast is foamy, add in your flour using your bread hook on your mixer. Add in small batches over time and knead together. Pick up your dough with your hands. Make sure it can be rolled into a ball. Add up to 1/4 cup of flour if needed, if the dough is still too sticky.

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Once your dough is in a ball, coat it with the remaining olive oil to give it that additional blast of flavor. Place your dough back in your mixing bowl, cover it with a clean towel and leave it in a warm place for 1-2 hours allowing it to rise. We use our kitchen griddle and turn it on 150 degrees for 5 minutes allowing the bowl to get a little warm. It makes the dough rise higher and quicker.

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Separate the dough into three sections. Each batch will make 3 large pizzas. I place the extras in plastic baggies and store them in the freezer for later use. This makes for quick and easy pizza making with your guests or family.

The honey is a great way to limit your sugar intake. I substitute it for sugar in things like our french toast and homemade smoothies.

We like to label our dough balls and have fun trying new herb combinations. Just this week we made a batch of garlic olive oil with basil, chives and thyme. It was so tasty!

 

Recipes

3 Great Juicer Recipes to Add to Your Smoothies

juicing-recipe

For me, juicing is a great way to ensure that I get a healthy dose of my fruits and vegetables first thing in the morning. Juicing is something you can do in advance making the most of your precious time especially in those busy mornings when we are rushing off to work, meetings and school. Here are three of my go to juice and juicer recipes.

 

Juicer Recipe #1 – Green Juice

 

2 cups of spinach or kale

1 apple

1 pear

1 -2 cups of wheatgrass

 

I like to balance out the sometimes unpleasant taste of the spinach or kale with the sweet taste of an apple or pear. As I mentioned, I my recipe is pretty simple and I often juice in large quantities for the week. My juicer of choice, the Breville Juicer does take time to set up, clean and take down. I make a week or two worths of juicing in one fail swoop freezing the extras in canning jars and using them throughout the week in my breakfast smoothies.

 

Juicer Recipe #2 – Carrot Juice

 

6 carrots

4 stalks of celery

1 cup coconut water

Optional: 2-3 Roma tomatoes

 

I like to sneak in carrot juice into my smoothie as well, but sometimes the juice is a nice quick drink as I’m heading out the door. I like to sneak in the celery for an additional vegetable. The carrots are already pretty sweet but you can also add an apple or a pear. I like to add in the coconut water because sometimes the carrot juice can be a little too think for me.

 

Juicer Recipe #3 – Orange Mango Fruit Juice

 

5 Oranges

1-2 Mangos

Grated fresh ginger

1 cup coconut water

Optional: 2 cups of strawberries, pomegranates, pears or peaches

 

In California we had 2 orange trees in our yard. Regular old orange juice was overdone at our place. We started adding a few small touches like mangos, strawberries, and ginger as a great way to breathe new life into a juice recipe. Side note, this juice can also be used to make popsicles and I use it as a liquid to make smoothies less stiff. This juice also freezes well. I use a clean 1 quart canning jar and fill it 3/4 of the way full screwing on the lid and freezing. By filling 3/4 full, you avoid the glass shattering once the juice expands as it begins to freeze.

Juicing is fun especially from the experimentation standpoint. Check out how I used my juicer pulp to make vegetable and chicken stock that was so easy!

 

More Juicing Recipes & Resources

 

Recipes

Homemade Chicken, Vegetable & Beef Stock Recipe

homemade-vegetable-stock-recipe

Whether it’s chicken, vegetable or beef stock, it’s a staple in my home and pantry. It’s also extremely expensive to purchase especially the low sodium organic variety. I find a lot of joy in making and creating things. This last year I’ve experimented with plum jam and orange marmalade. So it made complete sense that I would give a go at making stock from the items in my pantry.

Having received my new Breville Centrifugal Juicer, I had a lot of leftover carrots, celery and kale pulp that I didn’t want to go to waste. Normally, I toss them in my composter, but after purchasing yet another expensive container of chicken stock for our Christmas dinner, I wanted to try making my own stock and you can too. It is so satisfying, fun and easy.

But before I share the recipe, I recommend storing your extra stock in canning jars or plastic frozen containers. If you use canning jars, you will need to sanitize your canning jars and decide whether or not you are going to seal them or freeze them for future use and storage. For this batch of stock, I made the decision to freeze them. You can read more about the canning and sanitizing process by clicking here.

 

Homemade Chicken, Vegetable and/or Beef Stock Recipe

 

4 cups of vegetable and fruit pulp and scraps

Extra vegetables of your choosing

36 cups of water

2-3 bay leaves

assorted seasonings (sage, rosemary, salt, pepper, and garlic)

chicken, beef or pork bones (optional)

8 ~ 1 quart canning jars, large stock pot, strainer and ladle

 

In a large stockpot, add 4 cups of vegetable and fruit pulp and scraps from your juicer or chop and add vegetables of your own. This is a great way to utilize the veggie platter from your holiday party and meal. Add in 10 cups of water and an assortment of spices of your choosing. I used fresh rosemary from my planter garden and dried sage from my summer garden. I also added in salt, pepper, garlic powder and a few bay leaves along with some leftover frozen vegetables I had sitting around in my freezer. For this batch of stock, I added an assortment of peppers including mini bell peppers and jalapenos. You can add whatever favorite or leftover veggies you want. Onions and garlic are great options too. Then I added several pork bones I had from the hog we recently picked up from the butcher. You can add turkey, chicken or beef bones or make vegetarian stock. The choice is up to you.

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Stir and set your stock pot to just below a boil. Cover with your lid to ensure your liquid doesn’t reduce too much. Let cook for 2-3 hours until the vegetable pulp is absorbed completely. While you are waiting for your stock to cook and absorb all the flavors, grab all the canning jars and lids you have handy. Because we seem to use stock in so much of our cooking, I recommend the 1 quart containers. In this batch, I set aside 8 one quart sized canning jars.

homemade-broth-recipe

Using a strainer, ladle in the stock to remove the vegetable pulp and spices and add the broth into the jars. Leave a reasonable amount of empty space at the top of the jars especially if like me you are choosing to freeze your stock like me. This allows your frozen stock to expand without busting or breaking the jars. Allow your stock to sit 3-4 hours to cool before placing in the freezer. Otherwise, your glass cans will break.

Outside of the cost savings from making my own stock, I also have the peace of mind that our stock is not only low sodium but made in the most natural way. Once you open your stock, it can be stored in the refrigerator for use in rice, couscous and other culinary experiments you have cooking.

 

Broth Recipe Alternative: Soup

 

The homemade broth can also be made into a vegetable, beef, pork, turkey or chicken soup. Complete recipe as above. Cook your protein, shred and after straining your broth, add in new larger vegetable pieces and the shredded proteins like chicken, beef, turkey or pork. Add in rice too and even alphabet pasta. Cook for another 30-45 minutes before serving, canning or storing.

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