Monday, July 29, 2013

Cantaloupe Mint Frozen Agua Fresca

If you haven’t noticed lately, I’m obsessed with all things frozen.  The combination of hot summer weather and being pregnant has had me craving cold treats.  While I’ve been enjoying popsicles and ice cream, what I’ve really been loving is frozen drinks.

Something about the frozen texture is so refreshing this time of year (or maybe it’s just the baby in my belly talking!)  Either way, frozen drinks are amazing this time of year.  I especially love making “slushies” out of the regular things we drink like herbal tea or lemonade.

Auga Frescas are traditionally not really frozen but I say why not!  They normally consist of water, fruit juice and sweetener but there are tons of variations.  This recipe keeps things super simple with only 2 ingredients because I need more simple in my life right now.  I also eliminate the need to use any sweetener by using frozen melon instead of ice.

Cantaloupe Mint Frozen Agua Fresca

1 cantaloupe
½ cup fresh mint leaves, packed
¼- ½ cup water (if needed)

Peel and chop cantaloupe.
Spread about half of cantaloupe pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid.

Chill the remaining half in the fridge until ready to make.
In a blender, puree unfrozen cantaloupe until smooth.

Add mint and frozen cantaloupe and blend on high until the mixture is slushy, adding water as needed.


Everybody loves the agua fresca!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Virgin Mojito Freezer Pops

Yes, popsicles have become a daily habit around here.  After spending the afternoon at the lake, a popsicle is needed!  I've been putting our CSA fruits to good use in our popsicle molds and experimenting with all kinds of combinations.

Since pregnancy has put a damper on my mojito consumption, I decided to make myself a nice virgin version in popsicle form.  These are so crisp and refreshing!  One of my favorite herbs in the summer is mint since it's so cooling.  This delicious bunch of mint is from one of the local growers here and its been making my veggie drawer smell fantastic.

I love to leave the mint a little chunky in these but if you don't want mint chunks, you'll want to blend the mint longer.

Virgin Mojito Freezer Pops

1/8 cup fresh mint leaves
3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/4 cups mineral water
lime slices to garnish (if desired)

In a small bowl, muddle mint leaves.

Add honey and lime juice and whisk to combine.

Pour mixture into your blender and run on low until mint is roughly chopped.
(or longer if you prefer it less chunky).
Turn blender off and mix in mineral water.

Drop lime slices (if desired) into your molds.

Pour your delicious concoction on top of the lime slices and freeze.

Enjoy on a nice hot day, preferably after lounging by the water!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dairy Free Basil Pesto

Who doesn't love a good pesto sauce?  It's one of my all time favorite sauces.  I love it with pasta or just over some steamed veggies.  It's also amazing on top of some crusty bread.

Unfortunately for my kiddos, pesto usually contains cheese.  Fortunately, it's super easy to make your own and it's just as delicious minus the dairy!  I could probably eat an entire batch of fresh pesto if left alone with it!

Last week I got this massive bunch of basil from our CSA that was just begging to be made into pesto.  Right now basil is growing like crazy and it's super cheap so it's a great time to stock up.  If you don't have any growing, look for it at your local farmer's market in bulk, you'll get the most bang for your buck.

The great thing about pesto is that it freezes well so you can make a huge batch and use it whenever you need it!  The following recipe will make enough for a large pasta dish.  You can also freeze it in ice cube trays for some individual servings.

And a final note on oxidation: If you want to keep your pesto nice and green, blanch your basil prior to making the pesto.  This will kill those pesky enzymes that turn it brown.  If you're making a large batch you might want to do this, but I didn't bother this time around.

Dairy Free Pesto

1 1/2 cups (packed) of basil
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper

Place garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped.

Add basil, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, lemon, sea salt and pepper and pulse until smooth.

Scrape down the sides as needed.

Slowly add in olive oil.

Taste and add more salt if desired.

To avoid oxidation (if your basil isn't blanched), store your pesto covered with a layer of olive oil in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

CSA Love

One of the first things I did when we moved was search for a CSA to join.  We’ve got tons of options here and I'm happy to support our local farmers.  We signed up for both veggies and fruit (you can check out my farm here) and have been happily enjoying the plentiful growing season here!  If you’ve ever been curious about joining a CSA (or maybe you’ve never heard of one) and want to know what exactly you get, read on!

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, CSAs allow the community to support local farms and in return, share in the harvest.  You pay a lump sum for a season and each week, you get a share of whatever is growing.  CSAs vary widely depending on the farm and the area you live.  You can get veggies, fruits, meats and even flowers from CSAs.

Reasons to love CSAs

Support local farms: let's face it, our food system is broken in many ways.  But each dollar we spend determines the future of our food.  Supporting our local farmers lets them know we value their products and practices.  CSA dollars are collected early in the season, allowing farmers to invest more money for a successful harvest.

Eating locally & seasonally: investing in a CSA means your food is coming from just down the road and unless you've got a garden, it doesn't get any more local!  CSAs also naturally promote eating with the seasons since everything you get is currently growing on the farm.

Adding variety to your diet: if you ever feel like you buy the same produce each week, CSAs are a great way to mix things up.  Since you don't get to choose what goes into your box, you are likely to get a few things you normally wouldn't buy.  This is a great way to branch out or expand your meal repertoire.  I love searching for new recipes (or creating them!) when I get a veggie I don't normally buy.

As fresh as it gets: ok, if you've got your own garden, you can step out your door and collect your dinner, otherwise you won't find anything fresher!  Farms harvest the CSA shares on the same day you pick up your veggies.  This means you are getting maximum nutrition from your food since it hasn't been sitting around for weeks on a shelf in a store.  This makes a huge difference in taste and how long the produce will stay fresh in your own fridge.

Cost: I know cost is a big factor in how most people determine what they can eat.  Luckily, CSAs can be very affordable.  We pay around $25 a week for our huge box of veggies.  I do supplement this with extras since we eat so much produce, but a smaller family could easily use it as their sole source of produce each week.  If I bought the same produce at the store or farmers market, I would easily pay double that!

Choosing the Right CSA for You

Not all CSAs are created equal.   There are a couple things you'll want to consider when joining a CSA.  First and foremost, check out their farming practices and make sure they're inline with what you want to eat and support.

You'll also want to make sure they've got a farm share that’s right for you, whether that be small or large.  Check out when and where you'll have to pick your veggies up to make sure it's convenient for you too.

I also highly recommend visiting the farm and meeting the farmers.  Part of the wonderfulness that is a CSA is getting to see who actually grows your food and even helping.  Some CSAs require members to volunteer a certain number of hours each season while other just appreciate the help if you’re able.  Some farms also offer shares in return for volunteering at the farm.  If you live somewhere where it is difficult to garden, this is an awesome alternative to having your own garden space.

So what’s in my CSA box?  

You can check out this week’s box as well as a list from last week.

This week's box:
Sweet corn
Walla Walla onions
Green or purple peppers

Last week's box:
Sweet corn
Green beans
Summer Squash/zuke
Purple Potatoes

As you can see, we get a little variety each week along with a steady stream of seasonal standard produce.  This works well for us and normally everything is used up within the week.  I like to meal plan after I find out what's in my box for the week.  I fill in any gaps from our farmers market later in the week.  This allows me to really plan my meals around what's in season!

If you've got a CSA share, I'd love to hear about all of the fabulous things you've been getting!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dairy Free Mango Pineapple Creamsicles

Now that we have settled in here in California, I'm getting back in the kitchen and restocking all of the homemade necessities we love... including popsicles.  Yep, popsicles are definitely a necessity this time of year.  Especially if you happen to be pregnant!

It's been incredibly hot here and we've been spending a lot of time in the water at the river or lake.  We've also been cooling down with plenty of healthy popsicles.

There are so many reasons to make your own popsicles.  Most importantly, you get to control the ingredients!  Check out what's in the average popsicle at the grocery store: 

water, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, strawberry juice (from concentrate), sugar, contains 1 percent or less of each of the following: malic acid, citric acid, guar gum, locust bean gum, red 40, artificial flavor

Obviously, I'm not about to let my kiddos eat these everyday.  There are all kinds of things in them that I'm just not ok with.  Even the ingredients in "natural" fruit pops aren't great: 

Mango, water, cane sugar, natural stabilizers (guar gum, carob bean gum, carrageenan), citric acid

At home it's much easier to make a nutritious fruit pop that I don't mind my kids eating every day (ok, sometimes twice a day).  I get to use organic fruit and a little raw honey if needed, plus I can add veggies whenever I want!

I made these yummy popsicles since I was in the mood for something creamy.  Since mangos and pineapple are both super sweet, there is no need for any additional sweetener in the fruit layer.  I did add honey to the coconut milk to even out the sweetness of the fruit.  You'll find it helpful to chill the coconut milk in this recipe.  It will layer better the thicker it is.  This recipe will make 4 4oz popsicles (or 2 cups) so adjust accordingly for your molds.

Dairy Free Mango Pineapple Creamsicles

1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple
1 cup fresh or frozen mango
2/3 cup coconut milk, chilled
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp vanilla

Combine mango and pineapple in blender and run on high until smooth.
In a small bowl, mix vanilla, honey and coconut.
Pour a layer of fruit into the mold, then top with coconut milk.

Continue alternating fruit and milk until your mold is full.

Add in your stick/top and freeze.

These are the perfect treat to cool off with on a hot summer day!

This post is shared at Allergy Free Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Real Food Wednesdays, Gluten Free Wednesdays, Tasteful Tuesdays and Fresh Food Linkup.