Archive for the ‘Food & Recipes’ Category

Mint Watermelon Berry Fruit Salad: Turning a Fruit Bowl Into a Salad

Monday, September 1st, 2014

From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.

Mint Watermelon Berry Fruit Salad via MomAdvice.com
Summer is coming to a close. Once the kids go back it’s basically already over, but there are still warm weekends that you can make the most of before the wind turns cold and the produce stops flowing. It’s actually right now in this early September air that my farmer’s market seems to be bursting at the seams with tables overflowing and after months of waiting, there are watermelons for the taking.

There’s something about a watermelon grown locally that just sings more than any supermarket watermelon (that I’ve been enjoying liberally all summer long, mind you). We usually get our best watermelon of the season right at the end of summer, a bright flag-waving send off as we head into the colder months. It’s only right to dress it up then.

I’m the first to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with my melon baller. The waste is what gets me. There’s all this juice that seems to collect as you’re balling, and then the bits in between the balls are just byproduct – okay, so I just snack on all the little bits, and I’d do the same if I were slicing it.

Still, it’s a kitchen tool I don’t often use. I pulled it out recently to make a fruit salad for my daughter’s swim team (high school sports do so many meal functions), and everyone was excited about the end result, but none more so than my 6-year-old, who told me it was like “eating a bouncy ball made of watermelon” that was “so, so tasty.” That, folks, right there is how you win your mommy over.

Mint Watermelon Berry Fruit Salad via MomAdvice.com
This fruit salad gets a minty punch from reduced watermelon juice, and an extra special crunch from a few chia seeds sprinkled on at the end.

Mint Watermelon Berry Fruit Salad
Recipe type: salad
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
  • 1 watermelon
  • 4 cups strawberries or other summer berries
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • ¼ cup mint
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
Instructions
  1. Cut the watermelon in half and, using a melon baller, scoop the watermelon into balls. Collect the formed balls in a bowl, and pour off the excess juice that collects in the watermelon into another bowl or pot to use for later.
  2. Slice the strawberries, rinse the blueberries, and combine with the watermelon balls.
  3. Julienne the mint, setting aside 1 tablespoon for garnish, and combine with 3 cups of the reserved watermelon juice and the honey in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has reduced by half. Once the liquid has reduced, strain the mint pieces, remove from heat and chill.
  4. Pour the watermelon-mint syrup over the fruit. Sprinkle the chia seeds on, toss to combine, and serve cold.

 

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Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

I don’t know if I ever devoted an entire post to grapes in over a decade of running this site, but perhaps this showcases how underappreciated this fruit is.  It is a staple around here as a side to round out our sandwiches, it’s an effortless appetizer paired with wine and cheese, and it spends its freshly rinsed self at the pool with us as a snack that can withstand the heat and temperatures. We are definitely fans of the humble grape and I am sure you are too.

Walmart gives me a produce challenge each month to showcase one of their produce items. If you haven’t followed along on my journey towards appreciating fruits and veggies, I have roasted and churned a Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream,   Baked Strawberry Doughnuts, created a Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, threw on my grill  Grilled Tomato Bread With Prosciutto, churned Fresh Peach Sorbet, slow cooked my Slow Cooker Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal, wowed my family with a 3-ingredient Watermelon Granita,  and my fresh Gluten-Free Orange Chicken is our weeknight staple now. What a journey it has been to appreciate the produce section.

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Tips for Selecting Great Grapes

Unlike some of the more difficult fruits I have featured, it is quite easy to spot a good batch of grapes.  Did you know premium grape season is actually September and October? It really is the best time to buy a big bag of grapes for your family. It is advised to select grapes based on the color of them. For green grapes, they should have a slightly yellowish, translucent hue rather than a true, opaque green. Red grape varieties should be mostly red and have a rich, crimson tone.

One other way to check for a good grape is to look at the stem of the grapes. A dry and brittle stem indicates that the grapes might not be as fresh and seeing a little peek of green on the stem is a good indicator of a fresh batch. The shape of the grape should not be misshapen or wrinkled, but plump and juicy.  Of course, you can always bring them back to Walmart if they aren’t perfect thanks to their 100% money back guarantee so selecting great grapes is foolproof.

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

I decided to incorporate these grapes into a gluten-free pasta salad to take to a cookout. This salad was hearty and filling for someone who is often unsure if she will be able to eat at social events (ahem). Not only is this just the kind of creamy pasta dish I love, but it incorporates the smoky saltiness of turkey bacon and chopped toasted pecans for a protein punch that really fills you up.  The smokiness is balanced with the sweetness of the grapes making for an interesting flavor combination and perfect for showcasing the beautiful in-season grapes.

Oh, grape, you certainly are a wonderful fruit and I’m sorry we haven’t loved on you more over the years! I promise to do better!

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A gluten-free pasta salad laced with pecans, bacon, and sweet grapes.
Ingredients
  • 1 bag of gluten-free pasta (any variety)- 16 ounces
  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 packets Stevia
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes
  • 10 cooked turkey bacon slices, crumbled
  • ½ cup pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for about 6 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Once done cooking, rinse well before assembling.
  3. Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems and separate into small pieces using a paring knife. In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, yogurt, Stevia, red wine vinegar and salt and toss with broccoli, hot cooked pasta (that has been rinsed) and grapes. Stir to coat.
  4. Cover and chill for up to 3 hours. Stir in bacon and toasted pecans just before serving.
  5. Note- The sauce on this can be doubled if you desire a more creamy pasta.

Slightly Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

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Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Back-to-School requires a lot of planning and getting back on track with a healthy breakfast is one thing I want to work on this year. Today I wanted to show you a recipe for Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos that can be made ahead and also created for your gluten-free or dairy-free family members.  One batch of these freezer breakfast burritos can yield 15-18 burritos, depending on how you stuff  ‘em, and they are filled with everything your kids need to start their day on the right foot. I am partnering with Walmart on this back-to-school idea today so you can snag all the supplies you need right at their store.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

What I love about these burritos is that they are not only filled with fresh whole foods, but also that they are inexpensive to create. With kitchen staples like eggs, cheese, potatoes, and tortillas, it is likely you already have a few things on hand for this back-to-school breakfast. Create an assembly line of ingredients in the kitchen and have your kids jump in on the fun.

The potatoes are tossed in paprika and garlic powder for a tasty topping to the eggs. I love a little Italian turkey sausage, red peppers, and cheddar or colby cheese for these burritos. You can create your own flavor combinations or consider clearing out items from the fridge and making a unique combination all your own.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Be careful to not overstuff the burritos so they can be wrapped easily and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to place in the freezer until frozen. Once these are frozen you can tuck them in a freezer bag and just grab them when you need them. Do you know how to wrap a burrito?  If not, I love this tutorial for perfectly wrapped breakfast burritos!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

With one kid in middle school (GASP!) and a daughter who prefers not to eat in the morning, I am hoping that these burritos will be the perfect way to get them motivated to eat a healthy breakfast. Just grab one from the freezer and wrap it in a dampened paper towel  for the microwave for three minutes (flip it halfway through). Wrap in foil and let them eat them on the way to the bus or in route to school.  These also make a great after school snack,  after sports activities, or an impromptu dinner with their pals while doing homework.

To make them dairy-free substitute the cream with almond milk (which is what we did) and add a vegan cheese to them or leave them cheeseless. For a gluten-free burritos, Walmart offers this option in their stores.

We hope you love this delicious breakfast as much as we did. We have already started raiding our make-ahead breakfast burritos for quick lunches this week. I am shocked how beautifully these reheat and taste. There are no excuses why you can’t tackle a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check out my recipe for Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal for another fun breakfast treat!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
 
A make-ahead breakfast burrito that you can tuck in your freezer for a healthy breakfast, snack or meal.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lb Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or milk substitute)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • ½ pound cheese of your choice (or vegan cheese)
  • 18 tortillas, soft-taco size (8-inch), whole-wheat, flour, or gluten-free tortillas
Instructions
  1. To roast potatoes, preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle diced potatoes with oil and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Toss the potatoes together to evenly coat in oil and seasonings, and spread out into a single layer on the parchment. Roast until browned on the bottom and tender, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Brown your sausage. Once it is cooked through, set aside in a large bowl, leaving about a 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan for the eggs.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the cream (or milk substitute) and pour into the sausage skillet. Cook over medium heat until just set, stirring as needed. season with salt and pepper and stir to combine, and transfer to the bowl with sausage.
  4. In the same skillet, cook your red peppers over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Make an assembly line- tortilla, cheese, followed by a small handful of potatoes and a scoop of the egg/sausage mixture. Roll the tortilla up.
  6. For freezing, place burritos on a wax- or parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm, at least an hour. Transfer to large freezer bags and keep frozen for up to one month.
  7. For reheating, place a frozen burrito in a dampened paper towel and microwave for three minutes, turning halfway through.

Recipe Adapted From: Dinners For Winners

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Refrigerator Pickles – Canning Made Simple

Monday, August 18th, 2014

From our food contributor, Diana Bauman.

Refrigerator Pickles - Canning Made Easy | momadvice.com

Okay, so a raise of hands: who here loves the icy cold crunch or sour pucker of a dill pickle on a hot summer day? Me too! Really, nothing says summer like a steaming footlong hot dog or a savory bbq pulled pork sandwich served with a cold pickle on the side. With cucumbers growing in abundance during this season, let’s make some pickles to enjoy at your next family bbq.

Dill pickles, made tangy and sour, are a cinch to make. I make them in a couple of different ways with no canning equipment required. I put up most of my cucumber harvest by fermenting them – brine cured pickles. They’re easy enough to make at home, requiring no vinegar to make, and the end result is a good old fashioned sour pickle filled with probiotics. I love the flavor of a fermented, brine cured pickle. The downside is that although you don’t need any canning equipment to make these pickles, they do need to ferment at room temperature for a good 1-2 weeks. If you’re having a family bbq soon, well, they just won’t be done in time. This is why whenever I make a large batch of fermented pickles, I also put up a few pints of refrigerator pickles that I know my family will be able to enjoy right away.

Refrigerator Pickles - Canning Made Easy | momadvice.com Refrigerator pickles are easy to make and don’t take much time at all. What’s great about them is that you can use this same simple recipe and pickle any kind of vegetable you may have in abundance. Cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, green beans, okra, hot peppers, and one of my favorites… red onions. Really, whatever you may have growing or bits and ends you have leftover from cooking will make great refrigerator pickles.

To make them, all you need to do is cut up the vegetable of your choice and layer them into a pint sized mason jar. I used pickling cucumbers.

Refrigerator Pickles - Canning Made Easy | momadvice.com

Then, add a couple cloves of smashed garlic, about a teaspoon of pickling spice, and then some dill weed, or if you’re growing them or can find them at your farmers market, the head of the dill weed with seeds. Not too much, about a couple teaspoons worth.

Refrigerator Pickles - Canning Made Easy | momadvice.com

Once you’re jars are packed, all you need to do is make a quick brine with apple cider vinegar, water, and salt, and fill the jar.

Refrigerator Pickles - Canning Made Easy | momadvice.com For refrigerator pickles, I like to use un-pasteurized, raw, apple cider vinegar since it’s filled with immune boosting probiotics. These pickles aren’t just tasty but nourishing. Just make sure to bring the brine just to a simmer, not a full boil. You can find raw apple cider vinegar at any natural food store or the natural food section of your local grocer.

That’s the entire process. Like I said, they are super simple to make, are full of crunch and mouth watering pucker, and will last a few months in your refrigerator…. unless you have a house full of boys that love pickles.

Refrigerator Pickles - Canning Made Simple
Author: 
 
Simple to make, refrigerator pickles recipe that is full of crunch and mouth watering pucker, and will last a few months in your refrigerator.
Ingredients
  • 9-10 small pickling cucumbers
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed then peeled (2 per jar)
  • 3 teaspoons pickling spice (1 tsp per jar)
  • fresh dill weed or dill heads (about a good 1-2 tsp per jar)
  • 1½ cups raw, apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons large granule sea salt (kosher or pickling salt)
Instructions
  1. Gently clean and remove any dirt and debris from the cucumbers.
  2. Slice the ends off of the cucumbers and quarter each one.
  3. Pack them into 3 pint sized mason jars.
  4. To the jars add the garlic cloves, pickling spice, and dill.
  5. In a medium sized heavy bottomed pan, bring the apple cider vinegar, water, and sea salt just to a simmer.
  6. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving about a ½" headspace.
  7. Screw the lids onto the jars and allow them to cool completely on the counter. Once cooled place the jars in the refrigerator. Let them sit for 24-48 hours before eating.

Have you ever made refrigerator pickles? Tell me, what vegetables have you used?

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Caprese Pasta Salad

Monday, August 4th, 2014

From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.

Caprese Pasta Salad #recipe via MomAdvice.com
Some evening meals require simplicity. They are the evenings when I’ve stood in my kitchen, sans air conditioning, feeling the heat condense on my skin as I look in the cupboards and attempted to choose a heat-less meal twice already that day.

They are evenings when the day has been one obstacle to climb after another. It’s when each child has separately skinned their knee on the driveway in four isolated incidents, each involving band-aids. It’s for days when even the excitement of a long-awaited package arrival ends in disappointment as it is opened to reveal a wrong item and a note indicating an “upgrade.”

This meal isn’t flashy. It’s honest and good. It’s your basic caprese salad, the one with the thick slices of summer tomatoes and too white mozzarella, full leaves of sweet basil, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil and balsamic – a summer essential. It’s that salad with a few extras. Pasta and green onions are invited, and if it’s a meal on its own, add a bit of protein in the way of beans or leftover chicken, shredded and tossed directly into the mix. It’s served in one bowl with one spoon, and it can be eaten on the patio or on a picnic blanket with slices of watermelon and a jug of iced tea. It can be tucked into a thermos and carried along to school or camp or off to the beach.

Caprese Pasta Salad #recipe via MomAdvice.com
In my repertoire of summer meals, I tend to rely on salads more than anything. This year’s has been an ode to simple pasta salads and a leafy salad with a hearty helping of quinoa dumped in for good measure. They’re simple, but they’re pulled together enough to be carried to a neighborhood barbecue or a family gathering where they’ll disappear on the buffet table in short order. You won’t regret doubling the recipe here.

Tomorrow, when you climb out of bed and feel the breeze coming through the open window, the world will feel new. And there will be leftover salad in the refrigerator for lunch.

Caprese Pasta Salad #recipe via MomAdvice.com

Caprese Pasta Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Pasta Salad
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces small pasta (in shape of your choice)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh basil (packed tightly)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Add-ins: shredded chicken, chickpeas, white beans, grilled peaches
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the box directions with the kosher salt in the water. Drain, rinse with cold water, place it in a large bowl, and chill.
  2. Make a chiffonade of basil by stacking the basil leaves on top of one another, rolling tightly, and slicing very thin strips.
  3. Once the pasta is chilled, add the grape tomato halves, the mozzarella pearls, green onions, and the basil to the bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, Dijon, and the sea salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat evenly. Stir in any additional add-ins to make this a meal on its own or serve as is.

 

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Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

For our family, birthdays are all about the cake and my son’s 12th birthday was just the reason to try out a new recipe. After browsing through the cookbooks, which is the birthday child’s honorary ritual and right, he decided to repeat his choice last year with another chocolate snickerdoodle cake. I rounded out our birthday dessert table with a gluten-free lemon chiffon cake so that I could enjoy a slice of cake with the family too. I would say that this cake was just as much of a hit as the the chocolate cake and tempted me everytime I opened the fridge.

“Just one more slice,” it screamed.

I would grab a fork and nip off a bit and eat it while still standing at the fridge.

Don’t judge.

I am not much of a sweets gal, but this cake was so light and lovely that I couldn’t stop eating it.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake Chiffon cakes are my favorite cakes because they are so light. Much like an angel food cake, they are created with egg whites which really helps with the density of the gluten-free cakes. The cake is so delicate though that I ended up wrapping the cooled cakes in saran wrap and a layer of foil and freezing them overnight so they would not tear or fall apart when I frosted the cake. I highly recommend doing that too.  I still rely upon these two 8″ Wilton pans (affiliate)  (instead of those 9″ pans that produced flat layers for me) and a good spatula (affiliate) for all my cakes. With this cake, in particular, you want to make sure you don’t produce thin cake layers that crumble when pulled from the pan.

Smoothed between the layers is a delicious lemon curd (I used this recipe!) which sounds wildly impressive, but is so easy to make that you will wonder why you never tried making it before. My children fought over who could enjoy the last of the lemon curd that was in the jar.

I broke it up by telling them that since they were going to fight about it, I was going to eat it.

That’s the kind of mom I am, a true problem-solver.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

The cake is then frosted with a whipped cream frosting that has the lemon curd whipped through it.

I mean, seriously. It’s as if this cake fulfilled all my food dreams.

12

Happy 12th birthday to my beautiful boy. I think this is the happiest of his birthdays and it was because there was no fuss and no elaborate themes. We had just got back from vacation, I had a millionty projects for work, and our shed was in the process of being finished.  There was no time for an elaborate birthday. It ended up being the best birthday yet.

Just friends, a takeout pizza, and some cake.

Why have I been stressing about this birthday party every year?

The smile says it all- simple is better.

I hope you can give this recipe a try. If you gluten-free cakes aren’t your thing, definitely try this Cream Cheese Pound Cake With Homemade Lemon Curd- it’s a winner too!

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A beautiful lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd between the layers topped with a whipped topping laced with more lemon curd. It is the perfect summer dessert!
Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pans
  • 2 teaspoons rice flour, for dusting the pans
  • 1 extra large or 2 small lemons
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup orange juice (fresh or from a carton)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • For the filling and lemon whipped cream frosting: 1 jar (10 ounces) gluten-free lemon curd (or prepare the homemade version- link above)
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust with the rice flour. Shake out the excess rice flour and set the pans aside.
  2. Zest a lemon and measure out two teaspoons for the cake batter and place it in a large mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds. Measure ¼ cup of lemon juice, pour it into the mixing bowl with the zest, and set the bowl aside.
  3. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in another large mixing bowl and the yolks in the mixing bowl with the lemon zest and juice. Beat the whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Set the beaten egg whites aside.
  4. Place the cake mix, sugar, orange juice, and oil in the bowl with the egg yolks and lemon and beat with an electric mixer and beat until mixed.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no traces of whites remain and the batter has lightened.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side. Place a large mixing bowl and electric mixer beaters in the refrigerator to chill.
  7. Bake the cake layers until they are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 18-22 minutes. Allow them to cool on a wire rack.
  8. Freeze the layers wrapped in saran wrap & foil overnight to produce a sturdy base for icing.
  9. Meanwhile, make the filling and frosting. Measure ⅔ cup of lemon curd for the filling and set it aside in a small microwave-safe glass bowl. Pour the cream into the chilled mixing bowl. Using the refrigerated mixer beaters, beat the cream with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 minutes. Fold in the confectioners’ sugar and ¼ cup lemon curd. Beat again at low speed until the lemon curd is incorporated, 30 seconds. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.
  10. Remove the layers from the freezer. To assemble the cake, place the glass bowl with the lemon curd for the filling into the microwave on high power for 10 seconds to warm it. Transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving plate. Spread the top with the warmed lemon curd. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top and side of the cake with the lemon whipped cream frosting. Refrigerate the cake until time to serve.

Adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free (affiliate)

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A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad

Monday, July 28th, 2014

From our food contributor, Diana Bauman.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Summer is the season of abundant vegetables. My family eats such a wide variety of vegetables in this season that my husband often jokes with me and asks if we’re becoming vegetarian. We are certainly not but I do take full advantage of the abundance of vegetables in this season, both in my garden and at the farmers market, to cook them in many different ways.

Although I love to experiment and develop new recipes using vegetables, an incredibly easy way to incorporate more of these nourishing ingredients grown from the earth is to make salads out of them. So often we think of salads as just greens tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese; however, salads can be made from a variety of vegetables tossed in a simple oil and vinegar vinaigrette – in Spain, this type of salad is called an aliño.

An aliño is just vegetables, cooked or cut up raw, and then tossed in a simple vinaigrette and seasoned with a large granule sea salt. It’s super simple to make and with the addition of fresh grown herbs, the salads become something to swoon over. Let me show you just how simple this beet and strawberry salad is to make:

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 1. Boil the beets, peel, and dice. Toss into a bowl.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 2. Thinly slice some red onions and add to the bowl.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 3. Slice up some perfectly ripened strawberries and add to the bowl.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 4. Add in a bit of herbs of your choice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with a large granule sea salt.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 5. Toss together and serve.

Salads of this nature can be made from any vegetable you may have on hand. Here are a few tips for making sensational summer salads.

  • Red onions generally go really well in most salads. They’re sweeter and compliment vegetables and fruit well.
  • Add in seasonal fruit as it comes into season. It gives salads a touch of sweetness without having to add sugar or honey. I’ve been known to add blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sliced peaches, and even watermelon to summer salads.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve tossed cauliflower salads, cucumber and tomato salads, beet and watermelon salads, roasted red pepper with red onion salads, etc…
  • Large granule sea salt is for more than flavor. It’s surprising how amazing salads can taste by the simple addition of a large granule sea salt. It gives them texture –  a delightful crunch.
  • Herbs can make a salad. It’s amazing how one salad can taste many different ways by using different herbs. Again, experiment with herbs. Some of my favorites are mint, cilantro, summer savory, marjoram, and lemon balm.

Now the key to a fabulous summer salad is in the vinaigrette. Often times we think we need to concoct a dressing made of 10 different ingredients to enjoy a salad but really it’s much simpler than that. As long as you have the seasons freshest fruit and vegetables all you need is a simple vinaigrette. On hand, I always have balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar. The following is my ratio for a simple vinaigrette.

  • 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbls of vinegar (red wine, balsamic, or apple cider)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp large granule sea salt

That’s it. As soon as you start experimenting making salads with a variety of fruits and vegetables I’m sure you’ll memorize that ratio as I have.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
 
A simple summer salad made with the seasons finest beets and strawberries dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
Ingredients
  • 3-4 large beets, boiled, peeled, diced, and cooled
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tbls marjoram (or any other variety of fresh herb like mint)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp large granule salt.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients.
  2. Chill or serve at room temperature.

Do you enjoy trying new summer salads? Please let us know in the comments below some of your favorite recipes for summer salads.

 

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Easy Lunchbox Solutions

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Easy Lunchbox Solutions from MomAdvice.com

The back-to-school season is just around the corner and today I wanted to share some easy strategies for packing those lunches this year. I have teamed up with Walmart to share three fun products that you can purchase this year for those lunchboxes: Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread, Frito Lay Chips in their 20-count variety pack, and Danimals Smoothies 12-packs (that just so happen to be worth triple the Box Tops for Education points!). These are all affordable and easy additions for this year’s lunchboxes.

Here are some additional fun ideas for making lunchtime fun for your child this year:

Easy Lunchbox Solutions from MomAdvice.com

Get Organized- As with all things related to back-to-school, getting organized is half the battle. Our family relies on this lunchbox creation station for creating our lunches for the week.  Take advantage of those back-to-school sales and get your lunchbox station stocked with reusable containers and baggies, water bottles, drinks, snacks and chips for the year.

As my children get older, I put more of the responsibility of lunch preparation on them and our lunchbox station really helps when assembling lunches the night before school as well as packing drinks & snacks for our extracurricular activities.

Insert Fun- Every year, I feel a little melancholy about my kids going back to school especially when we have spent so much time together in the summer. This is the perfect time to add a note to let them know how much you love them or add a comic strip and joke to an older child’s lunchbox.

If your school lunch hour is anything like our lunchtime, our kids have very little time to eat. Try to keep the gesture simple so that you can be assured that they were able to tackle their lunch and not just your note.

You can also add fun details like pretty straws, washi tape flags with special messages on them, or a fun treat like Frito Lay’s Chips & a fruity Danimals Smoothie to round out the meal. I love to use Rick Rack Scissors to trim my washi tape to add a fast & easy detail.

  Easy Sushi Sandwich from MomAdvice.com

Try a Sushi Sandwich- Have you ever made a sushi sandwich? These are so fun to create and couldn’t be easier. Grab a loaf of Sara Lee Whole Grain White Bread and your favorite rolling pin. Roll the bread out thinly, but not so thin that the bread will no longer hold together. Add a few slices of your child’s favorite lunch meat and then a cheese stick in their favorite flavor (my kid’s love a swirled stick). Carefully roll this up and then slice in half with a sharp knife. For kids that don’t love sandwiches, these spin on the traditional sandwich is always a hit.

Keep Them Organized Using Their Lunchbox- Trying to keep myself organized is difficult. Keeping my kids organized too? Well, that seems even more impossible. I have found that my children rarely forget their lunches though and this is the perfect spot to clip items that they need to remember for their day. Utilize a binder clip or heavy-duty clothespin and use this spot to jot down notes of activities they need to do for the day, apparel that they need to bring for extracurricular activities, appointments they might need to be picked up for, or forms/permission slips they need to turn in to school. This has been a great system for us and helps remind us all of what needs to happen each day.

I hope you love these ideas for freshening up those lunchbox routines and wishing you easy and sweet transitions back into the swing of the school year!

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Watermelon Coconut Lime Ice Smoothies

Monday, July 7th, 2014

From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.

This watermelon ice smoothie is thick, smooth, and refreshing. With its coconut water and a touch of lime, it’s reminiscent of Slurpees and Icees, except all natural at home.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Smoothies #recipe via momadvice.com

I sat down back in May, an oversized paper calendar in front of me and five or six Sharpies at the ready. Neatly I wrote down the activities for each day through the summer, color-coding by child, so I knew when each one needed to be where at what time. It seemed like a worthwhile task to clear my Type-A brain from the clutter of keeping all the information piled together in one place. At the end of the August page I even filled in school orientation nights that we’d already received reminders for, lest we forget summer’s length and imagine it stretching on forever.

I sat back and admired my handiwork. There were the camps and the sports practices outline in a rainbow of color. Family activities were marked in black. I flipped back to June and rather than feeling better, I instead felt the dread of too much to do all summer long.

No one ever prepared me for the reality that comes with having children out of diapers. It’s this idea that they are now little people with lives and activities and interests of their own. Try as I might to keep our lives simple and our summers as low-stress and relaxing as possible, what ends up happening when you are outnumbered four to one is that activities get spread and spaced out.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Smoothies #recipe via momadvice.com

A month in and several deep breaths later I can tell you the secrets to surviving summer.

Take it one day at a time. Say yes (to beach days and trips to the park) as often as you say no. Forget about scrubbing your floor (bare feet and clean floors do not go together). Serve plenty of on-the-go snacks that keep you cool, hydrated, and are just plain fun to drink.

These watermelon smoothies are just what summer ordered with their hint of coconut and bit of lime. Whether you’re carting one kid to soccer while picking another up from baseball or just relaxing in the backyard, they are the refreshing, invigorating, and full of summer flavor.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Smoothies #recipe via momadvice.com

I’ve taken to freezing the leftover watermelon in batches, whenever there’s a bit leftover. I scoop the last cup or so into a container, covering it and pretending all is well. Rather than ending in the compost pile at the end of a meal, these leftover chunks become an intensely hydrating snack that boasts vitamin C and antioxidants. It’s just what the summer heat ordered.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Ice Smoothies
Author: 
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey*
  • 4 cups cubed watermelon, frozen
  • 1½ cups coconut water
Instructions
  1. In a small cup, mix together the lime juice and honey until the honey dissolves.
  2. In a blender, add the frozen watermelon chunks, coconut water, and the lime and honey mixture. Pulse until the mixture moves freely in the blender. Blend on high until smooth.
Notes
*More honey can be used to adjust sweetness for your personal taste and to account for ripeness of the watermelon.

**For a fun frozen cocktail, add in 1.5 fl oz of vodka to 6 ounces of smoothie. I used Prairie Organic Cucumber Vodka.

 

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Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

With summer in full swing, I thought I would share another yummy frozen treat that you can create with  fresh fruit. If last week’s 3-ingredient Watermelon Granita was just too light for you, you will love the bold and rich flavors of this Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream. Today I am sharing this delicious homemade ice cream that you can create with just a few ingredients and a basic ice cream maker. Of course, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, no worries! Check out this technique for making ice cream without an ice cream maker and use that this summer.

I partnered with Walmart on this project. Each month they give me a produce challenge and it constantly pushes me out of my box to try cooking with produce items that I am less familiar with and to invent new flavor combinations.

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Have you ever cooked with plums? Confession time. I had not. Plums have never been on my radar before, but I thought I might try incorporating them into a fruit ice cream. They remind me a lot of peaches, although a bit more tart, and the flesh reminds a bit of a grape.  When selecting plums at the market,  look for ones that yield to gentle pressure and that are slightly soft at their tip. While you can also purchase plums that are firm and ripen them at home, avoid those that are excessively hard as they will be immature and will probably not develop a good taste and texture profile. When making this ice cream, it is better to go for a fruit that is a bit more ripe to add to the sweetness and also make it easy to remove the pit. Just as a reminder though, if you are unhappy with your purchase for any reason, Walmart does offer a 100% freshness guarantee on all of their produce.

Plums that are not yet ripe can be left at room temperature. As this fruit tends to mature quickly, check on them in the next day or two to ensure that they do not become overripe. Once they are ripe, plums can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

The roasting of the plums is a bit torturous because the house smells heavenly.The worst part is that then you have to scrape all of that heaven into your blender and then wait a whole day before you can churn it into ice cream. To help with these difficulties, be sure to make an extra pan of these and eat them with a pint of vanilla ice cream from the freezer. You will thank me later.

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

The beautiful hue of this ice cream is all naturally made. The skin give this ice cream it’s pinkish-purplish hue that happens to be my daughter’s favorite color. I loved this color so much that I decided to make this post dark and moody like these plums. The richness of the fruit deserved a little of the dark treatment on the shots. I hope you love them as much as I do. I admit that experimenting with light while photographing a frozen treat might have not been my smartest moment. In the end though, I loved how these turned out and am thankful that I have a creative platform where I can practice my techniques.

I hope you can treat yourself to this rich, slightly sweet, slightly tart, and fully roasted flavor of this Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream for a summer treat this year! If you are looking for more ideas to try with fresh produce this summer? Be sure to check out my Baked Strawberry Doughnuts, my Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, my Grilled Tomato Bread With Prosciutto, my Fresh Peach Sorbet, our Slow Cooker Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal, my 3-ingredient Watermelon Granita,  and my fresh Gluten-Free Orange Chicken for some fun ways to incorporate fresh produce in your family’s diet!

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Plums are roasted in cinnamon & sugar and then blended into cream to make a rich ice cream for the summer months.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds ripe plums, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (or more, depending on your taste)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the plums in a 9x13" baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle plums with dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and a few pinches of salt.
  3. Roast the plums for 20-25 minutes until they are fork tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 2 cups heavy cream, sugar, honey and vanilla extract to a saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add a ¼ cup of cream mixture ( to the jar of a blender, along with the roasted plums and their juices. Blend until very smooth, about 1 minute. If you have a high-speed blender, your pulp should be fully blended. If not, you can pour the mixture through a sieve to make sure you get rid of any pieces.
  6. Add the remaining milk to the bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours of overnight.
  7. Churn the mixture in the bowl of your ice cream maker, according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Serve immediately for soft serve or alternatively transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight.

Adapted Slightly from A Cozy Kitchen.

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