Posts tagged summer

Italian lemon ice

Italian Lemon IceOur temps reached into the 90s this week proving there’s still some summer left before the leaves start turning. Celebrate sunshine with this recipe for Italian lemon ice from Dr. Jessie Voigts, the force behind Wandering Educators.

 

My husband remembers heading to New York City when he was young, to visit relatives. Every block, he said, he’d see an Italian lemon ice cart and beg his mother for one. And, in his memory, he did NOT receive a delicious lemon ice every block. Now we know that memories can be faulty, but I have a feeling she bought him plenty of lemon ices.

 

Recently, I found a recipe for Philadelphia Lemon Water Ice on Gourmet. I miss that magazine, and am so grateful that there is still Gourmet goodness pouring through online. I’ve tweaked it a bit, and we make it often – my husband savoring every spoonful, remembering hot afternoons in New York City, and now enjoying an abundance of Lemon Ice. We’ve also tried Lime Ice – delicious! Just switch out half the lemons for limes.

Lemon ice recipe

Ingredients

 

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest from 4 lemons
  • fresh lemon juice from 4 lemons

 

Directions

Heat the water, sugar, and lemon zest until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a glass container with the lemon juice (I use a 4 cup measuring cup), and refrigerate for at least 4 hours – 6+ is better (but who thinks of things that early?).  Put into your ice cream maker and freeze. The cool thing is that it starts out as liquid, and then forms little balls, and THEN turns into lemon ice. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, then you can make lemon shaved ice – pour it in a loaf pan, and then when it is frozen, shave off what you’d like to eat.

Mixing lemon ice

 

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7 summertime snack ideas

Taking a breather from the hot weather, poolside

It’s been one hot summer! Normally, you can find me cooking up something in the kitchen even in 90-degree weather. Not this year! All those 90-degree days with a heat index pushing 100 add up to me looking for cool snacks for the kids.

Here’s a few of my favorite hot-weather treats:

5-minute yogurt popsicles. Yogurt + fruit + freezer = a kid-pleasing snack once they’re done with their water gun fight.

Watermelon limeade. Update your lemonade! Try using limes instead and mix in fresh raspberries, watermelon, or blueberries.

3 Grab ‘n go snack packs. We make these to pack with us when we head to the zoo.

Firefly crackers. Inspired by my kids’ fascination with catching lightning bugs.

Magic smoothies. Secret ingredient? Spinach. It gives the smoothies some heft and nutrition, but your kids won’t even know it’s in there.

Energy bites. My version of granola bites feels like you’re eating cookie batter, only they’re good for you.

Elvis ice pops. Mini frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, then crushed peanuts. Yum!

Fireflies! Don't worry, my kiddos let 'em go at the end of the night

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Tips for tackling summer snack attacks

Anyone else suffer from the summer snack attacks? You know where potato chips, boxed mac ‘n cheese, and other usual no-nos or occasional treats become regulars in your kitchen cabinets? During the school year I’m pretty good at planning out dinners beforehand and having relatively healthy snacks on hand for my kids after school. While I thought summertime would make it even easier for my kids to eat good-for-them foods, what with berries, peaches, melons and all sorts of goodies available, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

I’ve discovered a few tips for the summer snack attacks that we’re trying around our house, maybe they might work for you too.

Keep it whole. It takes minutes (seconds, really) to down a cup of applesauce. But eating an entire apple? That involves more time and attention. I’ve found my kids feel fuller and are more satisfied when they eat whole fruits and veggies instead of juices or sauces.
Keep it cold. On a hot summer day my kids (okay, so do I) crave ice cream and other icy sweets to cool off. My teen started a trend that’s become a tradition around our house–eating berries right out of the freezer. While you can pick and freeze your own, I also like Costco’s mixed bag of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Keep it fun. So your kids like some unconventional snacks, hey as long as they’re good-for-them, I say go for it. My middle child loves to eat whole limes–she’ll take her time sucking out the juice then eating the inside. She’ll happily spend her entire 10 minute swim break at the pool taking apart her lime, piece by piece. I can’t think of a better snack, although I’ve seen a few people give her a doubletake as they pass by. My youngest likes banana chips dipped in peanut butter.

Keep it handy. Stash the once-in-awhile snacks where your kiddos won’t seem them all the time and make sure healthier snacks are always within reach. I like to keep bowls of fruit in the middle of my kitchen table so it’s easy for my kids to grab a healthy treat. In the fridge I put mini carrots, cut up cantaloupe and baby cucumbers in various clear containers so my kids know right where to find them.

Your turn–what do you do to help your kids eat healthy snacks in the summertime?

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Mini oatmeal peach crisps

Warm peach slices with a crumbly, buttery filling, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a summertime tradition growing up. Of course, I’ve got to continue that one! When I see peaches at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, I figure it’s peach crisp baking time. And I like to take it one step farther and make ‘em mini. You can still use a regular dutch oven or casserole dish, but for change I’ve included the instructions for using ramekins (sorry, using a muffin pan for this one is a no-go).

I looked through several recipes—and even tried one that literally fell flat—before deciding on the one below. In my mind, fruit crisp has to have oatmeal in it (that’s so you can eat it for breakfast on day #2 and feel like it’s nearly as healthy as oatmeal on its own). But most recipes relied just on oatmeal without including flour, which made for a less crisp crust.

Another point on the crust—I like to cut the butter in with a food processor versus doing it by hand. But the first time I added in all of the dry ingredients from the beginning, then my oatmeal was reduced to crumbs. Ditto for the nuts. To keep my oatmeal and nuts from disappearing, I processed the dry ingredients with the butter first then added in the oatmeal and nuts at the very end. Two pulses so the pieces are still chunky.

Recipe

Tweaked from The American’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons flour

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons butter

1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant)

¼ cup almonds

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon cinnamon

About 10 peaches

Blueberries or blackberries (optional; I had some handy so I threw ‘em in)

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Place the peaches in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

    Found this little pot with a lid on sale--perfect for mini foods

  2. Allow the peaches to sit in the hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Pour out the hot water and rinse the peaches with cold water.
  3. Peel the skins off the peaches, remove the pits, and then slice into ¼” pieces. Place the pieces into a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch and cinnamon.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. In a food processor place the flour, sugars, salt. Pulse twice. Add the butter in pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs.
  6. Place the oatmeal and almonds into the butter mixture and pulse twice to four times (you don’t want to pulverize the nuts and oatmeal just break them up slightly).
  7. Lightly grease a 9” casserole pan or dutch oven (preferred). Place the peach slices into the pan and then add the butter mixture on top.

To make ‘em mini

  1. Grease one 7-ounce ramekin per peach.
  2. Distribute peach slices into ramekins (keep in mind the peaches will shrink by almost half when cooking so this will seem full but they’ll go down–promise). Toss the berries on top.
  3. Carefully top each ramekin with crumb mixture, pressing it down as you go.
  4. Bake on a cookie sheet (I overfilled one and it bubbled over but it still tasted good).
  5. Serve to smiling kids.
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Fruity animal mini popsicles

After finding each of my kids digging through the freezer looking for the yogurt popsicles I made last week (they’re all gone), I thought I’ve gotta to make more of these. But instead of yogurt I poked around the kitchen for ideas. My inspiration? Yet again leftovers, along with some candy-making molds from a friend.

The fruit. Yes, leftovers inspire me. Whenever I have fruit that goes uneaten or is a little on the squishy side, I chop it up and save it in the freezer. I toss it into sauces (savory and sweet), swirl it into smoothies, make fruit leather, and now use it in popsicles.

The molds. I’ve never used candy molds before, but since I don’t have popsicle makers or ice cube trays, I figure these would do the trick. I did notice the that molds don’t seem to like the cold. Next time, I’d take out the fruitsicles as soon as they became solid instead of letting them sit. The molds cracked a little bit on the edges but not so much that I couldn’t use them again. The molds happened to be of turtles. Why turtles? I have no idea. You could also follow the same technique though from the yogurt popsicles–no candy molds required.

The recipe. Simple, I thawed frozen strawberries and raspberries in the microwave (you could also let them just come to room temperature on their own), added 2 Tablespoons of water per one cup of fruit (you could also use fruit juice) then poured it into the molds. Instead of popsicle sticks, I used little swords (maybe it was the hot temperatures outside but I was feeling silly; paper popsicle sticks are fine too). So here are our turtle pops. My girls liked playing with these as much as eating them.

Looking for more ideas? Check out these for summer fun with a twist. As part of the Motherboard crew I’ve been clicking through for inspiration myself–I’m going to have to try the tweak on picnics by doing an after dinner dessert mixed in with some stargazing.

Your turn–care to share any ideas for summer fun you’re planning on trying out as the temperatures rise?

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5 minute yogurt popsicles

It started with leftover yogurt no one seemed to be eating and blueberries that were getting squishy. How to get my kids to eat the yogurt–and clean out my fridge? Popsicles!

I combined equal parts yogurt and fresh berries in a blender, drizzled in a tablespoon of agave (honey is fine too) then poured the mixture into little party cups (that hold about 2 1/2 tablespoons). My youngest was in charge of getting the popsicle sticks to stay upright. On their own the sticks fell so I had her poke the stick through a blueberry to give it enough stability to stay upright.

My kids thought this was the coolest thing ever. They’re already planning new flavor combos and asking to try out new fruits. My middle daughter wants to use the sticks to make frozen fruit kabobs.

To make your yogurt popsicles combine 2:1 parts of your favorite yogurt flavor, or plain, with fruit (thawed frozen fruit or bananas work well). You can add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or honey too. I don’t like to use popsicle molds. First, because I don’t have any and second, I like keeping frozen treats small. I find my kids are more willing to try something new if it’s kid-sized. For my batch of 8 small popsicles I used two 8-ounce blueberry yogurt cartons and 1 cup blueberries.

These are perfect summer-time treats, but if you’re looking to bring more colors of the season into your home (not just on your child’s popsicles) check-out these decorating ideas from Motherboard. As part of the MB crew, I’ve been checking out their recent articles.

Your turn–what kind of yogurt popsicle flavors would you like to try?

(I just discovered that my local grocers carries dried edible flowers you can buy in handfuls…lilac strawberry anyone?)

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Strawberry-Lemon Shortcake Muffins

I could eat plain strawberries all day long—so could my kids. But sometimes, I like to dress them up.

Shortcakes are the obvious choice to serve alongside fresh strawberries, but I get a bit bored with the tasteless variety you can pick up in the produce section of the grocery store. Those spongy cups not only feel greasy, but they tend to leave a sort of film in your mouth that takes away from the bright flavors of the strawberries.

Inside of using store-bought shortcakes, or even making ones at home that involve making the dough, rolling it out, cutting it and then baking, I tweaked one of my favorite muffin recipes and created a ‘muffin shortcake.’ These muffins—complete with a whole tablespoon of baking powder, puff up beautifully. Add some lemon zest and a kick of almond extract and they practically beg to be finished off with a helping of strawberries after they’re out of the oven.

Fashion these muffins into a delectable dessert by cutting them horizontally and placing fresh cut strawberries on the bottom half, add a dollop of whipped cream and then the muffin’s top. You can even dust the plate with a little powdered sugar and mint for a more dramatic presentation. Whether you eat these muffins with—or without strawberries.

Recipe
This is a variation of a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time 20 minutes

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
¾ cup sour cream
2 eggs
8 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Lemon glaze ingredients:
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons milk
3-4 cups powdered sugar
dash of salt

Fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl blend together all of the dry ingredients, including the lemon zest. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Blend in the eggs and then the yogurt, sour cream and almond extract.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture using a spatula or wooden spoon. Line two muffin cup pans with muffin papers or grease well. Fill each muffin cup to 2/3 of the way full. You will probably have enough batter for 15 muffins.

Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes or until just golden brown. Allow to cool. Mix the glaze ingredients—the consistency should be thick enough so that when it is spooned onto the muffins it doesn’t run too far down the sides. Add more powdered sugar to adjust the thickness. Gently spoon the glaze onto each muffin. Let the glaze set for at least an hour before serving.

Cut the fresh strawberries into bite-sized pieces. Cut the muffins in half horizontally. To serve, place two generous tablespoons of strawberries onto the bottom half of the muffin. Top with whipped cream, if you want, and then add the top half of the muffin. Dust with powdered sugar to add some flair.

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