Homemade Freeze Pops

homemade freeze pops

Let’s face it, most food that comes in tubes are not healthy.

*But it’s a fact that kids love to eat frozen food from a tube.

(*indicates that it is not really a fact and more of an observation)

homemade freeze pops (2 of 1)-3homemade freeze pops (2 of 1)-4

Luckily, there is an alternative to those sugar laced freezable yogurt tubes…

You can make your own and freeze them in small ziplock bags and your kids won’t even notice because they are just so happy to be eating sans silverware.

homemade freeze pops (2 of 1)-8

Homemade Freezer Pops

This being more of a technique than a recipe, the flavor possibilities are endless and they are super fast and easy to make.

Supplies:

Blender

Snack sized ziplock bags

baking sheet

tape

Ingredients for natural yogurt pops

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup raspberries (mangoes, strawberries, pineapple or peaches can be substituted)

1/2 cup orange juice or pineapple juice

2 frozen bananas

1 Tablespoon maple syrup ( or more to taste)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Puree all ingredients in a blender and pour about 1/3 cup into each ziplock bag. Gently press the air out of the bag and seal. Fold the sealed edge over and secure with a piece of tape. lay flat on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bags and freeze for 3-4 hours. When ready to eat, snip one end of the bag.

Chocolate Flower Pot Cakes

I grant you full permission to eat one of these healthy chocolate cakes for breakfast on the grounds that…

 

chocolate flower pot cakes

most of the butter and sugar were replaced with a heaping scoop of speckled mashed bananas.

flower pot cakes

Leaving a perfectly balanced and perfectly cute partner to your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

coffee

And wouldn’t they make a totally awesome gift or spring party favor?

flower pot cakes

Chocolate Banana Cake Pots

Recipe adapted from Betty Groff’s Chocolate Cake Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup mashed banana

1 tsp. salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup brewed coffee

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Before you start baking, wash and dry the terra-cotta planters and be sure to remove any stickers. Line the pots with parchment paper or lotus cup liners. The 3 1/2 inch planters are the closest size to standard cupcakes, but larger ones can be used, too.

Directions

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

1.Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add in the eggs, one at a time until smooth and fluffy.Beat in the yogurt and bananas.

2.In a separate bowl,  blend together the salt, flours, baking soda and cocoa powder.

3.Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the dry ingredients and beat well.

4.Beat in the coffee.

5. Pour the batter into terra cotta planters no more than 2/3rds full.

6. For 3 inch pots, bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. ( increase baking times for larger pots)

flower pot cakes

 

 

 

 

quinoa stuffed cabbage- a gluten free galumpki

stuffed cabbage, galumpki

I love putting quinoa in unexpected places. If I put it out somewhere expected, like in a bowl on the dinner table, no one would eat it. Myself included. But here, the quinoa blends seamlessly into the salty sausage, caramelized onions and it just loves being all snuggled up in a warm blanket of cabbage leaves.

I know, some folks still aren’t on the quinoa train, but this dish is sure to convert them. It even got the thumbs up from my inked up ex-marine brother who seldom strays from cheese steaks and meatballs. And he is way too cool to give an actual thumbs up.  It was more like “This is good”.

I interpreted this as an enthusiastic thumbs up.

stuffed cabbage-Easter

Gulumpki

Disclosure this is yet another one of my grandfather’s traditional Polish dishes that I have successfully butchered and healthified.

Ingredients

1 pound sausage, casings removed

1 cup cooked quinoa (about ½ cup uncooked)

1 cup chopped onions (1-2 small onions or one large onion)

1 head of cabbage, about 3 pounds

1 cup tomato sauce

Directions

Trim the stump off of the cabbage. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. During a full boil, add the entire head of cabbage and boil, rotating if necessary, until the leaves begin to loosen and fall off. This will take approximately 6-8 minutes. Using a  large slotted spoon, carefully remove the head of cabbage. Allow to cool while you prepare the sausage. Begin cooking the sausage in a hot skillet.  When evenly browned, remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spatula. Add the diced onions to the pan. Fry the onions in the sausage fat. (If you are hesitant to fry things in pork fat, feel free to wipe the pan out and cook the onions in olive oil)

When the onions are fragrant and nicely browned, add the sausage back into the pan along with cooked quinoa. Gently heat and mix all ingredients together. Season with black pepper or any herbs you may have on hand.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the cabbage leaves are cooled, begin by laying a large leaf out and slicing out just the hard white core in the center. Scoop some of the sausage-quinoa mixture in the center of the cabbage leaf and roll it up like a burrito. Repeat for the remaining cabbage leaves.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan and arrange the cabbage rolls on top. Any extra cabbage leaves can be layered on top of the rolls. Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with additional tomato sauce.

stuffed cabbage-Easter (2 of 1)

loaded veggie calzone

veggie calzone (3 of 1)

If I was going to write sarcastic e-cards on Facebook, here are some examples of what they would say:

  • I love when I can see the smile lines on my cheeks even when I am not smiling. Said no one ever.
  • I love when my child has a diaper blow out in the middle of the grocery store and a substantial amount of poop ends up on my sleeve. Said no one ever.
  • I love when I order a veggie calzone from a pizza shop and there are only faint signs of vegetable existence buried in a mound of cheese and dough. Said no one ever.

(Ok, so they need some work. Sarcasm is not my strong suit)

veggie calzone (1 of 1)

I think pizza shops put veggie calzones on the menu, but they don’t ever expect anyone to order it because if you’re ordering from a pizza shop, you are probably not really concerned with your vegetable intake in that particular meal. Or maybe they consider the tomato sauce to be a vegetable?  Either way, I am concerned with my vegetable intake, and I want veggies in my calzone. But I ‘m not gonna make a fuss about it. I’m just going to make my own.

veggie calzone

And here it is… it’s a medley of unpretentious and fragrant vegetables like marinated artichokes, garlicky sautéed spinach and meaty mushrooms. All finished with a generous sprinkle of crushed red pepper and tomato sauce.

Loaded Veggie Calzone

1 pound of fresh pizza dough

Olive oil

1 bag of baby spinach

1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms

1 cup diced peppers

3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup chopped marinated artichokes

Tomato sauce for dipping

1 cup shredded mozzarella, Parmesan or provolone

1 egg, beaten

Bring the dough to room temperature and set out on a floured work surface. Cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll the dough out into a flat disc and place on a greased baking sheet.

Prepare the veggies:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute and add the peppers. Add the mushrooms and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the spinach on top of the veggies and gently wilt.

Fill one side of the calzone dough with the sautéed veggies and fold over. Using a fork, press down on the edges to seal the dough pocket. Poke a few holes in the top to allow steam to escape, and using a pastry brush; brush the top with the egg wash.

You will probably have some extra veggies that didn’t fit into the calzones. But this is good, because you can eat them alongside your calzone. Honestly, why don’t pizza shops do that?

Balsamic Apples and Roast Pork with Speckled Mustard

Balsamic Apples and Roast Pork with Speckled Mustard

“If we are what we eat, then I only want the best.” Ratatouille

When my husband and I started dating, we woke up every morning at 4:30am to squeeze in an early morning weight lifting session at the gym. On the weekends, we climbed mountains, ran marathons and biked until our cheeks were too sore to sit.

At one point, our living room furniture was replaced with Pilates balls and an exercise bike.

6 years and two kids later,  our running routine involves barefoot games of Sharks and Minnows and our weightlifting regimen has been replaced with tickling tournaments and kitchen dancing with two thirty pound toddlers.  We push a mammoth double stroller up steep hills while singing lullabies as the sun sets on the suburban sidewalks.

And although many things have changed over the years, 2 things will always be the same.

1. We will always love each other.

2. We will always eat great food together.

Happy Anniversary Steve, I love you and I will always make your favorite dinner for you…

Balsamic Apples and Roast Pork with Speckled  Mustard

So it’s like a grown up fancy-pants version of hot dogs slathered in mustard with a side of applesauce. Except it’s really not that fancy. It’s pretty simple, with only a few ingredients, most of which may be hanging out in your pantry.

Start roasting the pork in the afternoon while you go outback and rake leaves into colossal piles or stay at home in your jammies and build forts out of couch cushions and warm blankets and watch each others hair stand on end with static… or whatever else you do on lazy Sunday afternoons.

The Newlywed Version (adapted from Men’s Health)

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

2 Boneless Pork chops

2 apples, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

1  Tablespoon bourbon or whiskey

Side of good quality grainy, country style Dijon Mustard

Sauté garlic in olive oil until softened, add the pork chops and cook on medium-high heat for 6-10 minutes. As it cooks, whisk together the vinegar, whiskey, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Add the mixture to the pan, filling in the spaces between the pork chops. Turn the pork chops over and stir the apples, cook for another 6-10 minutes until done.  Serve with mustard and a side salad.

The Family Version:

Pork Loin Roast, 2-3 pounds

4-5 apples, chopped

2 cloves garlic

4 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

5 Tablespoon whiskey or bourbon

Preheat oven to 375. Place pork loin in a roasting pan and add about an inch of water. Salt and pepper the roast generously. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 2 hours (or more, depending on the size of the roast). Whisk together the whiskey, vinegar and garlic in a small bowl.

When the pork has cooked for 2 hours, remove from oven and pour 3-4 tablespoons of the vinegar mixture over the pork. Cook another 30 minutes uncovered, or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees with a 3-5 minutes resting time. Toss the remaining vinegar mixture with the chopped apples in a skillet and saute until tender.

Slice pork and serve with Balsamic apples and a generous portion of speckled grainy mustard.

This pairs really well with a salad made up of fresh Asian pears or apple slices and toasted walnuts all tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.

One Big Apple Walnut Pancake

Would you believe I am in my third decade of life on this great earth, and I just learned the story of Johnny Appleseed? We played the Disney cartoon on YouTube for the kids, and I wept like a baby. Walt Disney has a way of doing that, you know. Making people cry during cartoons.

But I was the only one in tears. I think it was something about Johnny traveling the country barefoot that got to me. I once camped in Lake Michigan for a week without shoes, and to this day I am never completely comfortable unless my feet can feel the ground.

 

So I know we are all ready for something cleansing and healthy after a night of candy collecting and sugar sampling.

So this Apple Pancake is just the ticket for a fresh start. October apples are so full of flavor, I always feel guilty hiding them under piles of sugar pies and butter crisps. So here things are kept straight and simple with just a sprinkle of sugar, a dotting of butter and just enough milk and flour to keep them together.

One Big Apple Walnut Pancake

Ingredients:

3-4 medium apples, cored and sliced

1 Tablespoon butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk or almond milk

1/3 cup applesauce

Pinch of salt

For the topping:

3 Tablespoons sugar

3 Tablespoons chopped walnuts

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Cast Iron Skillet Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a cast iron skillet, saute apple slices in butter until softened, about 5-7 minutes. While they are cooking, whisk together the flour, milk and applesauce in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. Pour the liquid batter directly onto the apples in the cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the sugar-walnut mixture on top. Transfer to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes.

Baking directions:

In an ovenproof dish, such as a pie plate or Quiche plate, arrange the apples in the dish and dot with the butter. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until softened. While the apples are baking, whisk together the flour, milk and applesauce in a bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts.  Remove the apples from the oven and pour on the batter. Sprinkle the sugar-walnut mixture on top. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm.

Creamy Green Soup

I sip soups in mugs because spoons don’t keep my hands warm.

 

My soup-in-mug habit all stemmed from my former tea addiction. I drank obscene amounts of tea every fall and winter to the point where my husband would come home from work and ask…

“How many cups of tea did you drink today?”

And I would fib and give a number that equaled about half of my actual tea consumption. Eventually, others started noticing with comments like…

“Didn’t you just drink a cup of tea?” or “Your having another one?”

So I am proud to say that my afternoon mugs are filled with hot-lemon water or pureed veggie soups,such as this warm and satisfying Creamy Green Soup. I love this as an unconventional afternoon snack or a more adventurous late-stage baby food, minus the salt and cream, of course.

Bread optional, but highly recommended.

Creamy Green Soup

4 medium leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

About 4 medium-large baking potatoes, chopped into 1” cubes

1 bunch of leafy greens ( kale, chard, spinach, nettle, and dandelion greens work really well here)

2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 carrot

1 bay leaf

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Optional Garnish:

Organic Heavy Cream

Sprigs of thyme

Directions:

Saute leeks in olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute another minute. Add stock and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and carrot. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Add greens and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaf and use an immersion blender or standard blender to puree the soup until smooth. Ladle soup in bowls and garnish with a splash of cream and thyme.

Sweet Sunshine Salsa

Sweet Sunshine Salsa

 

The bright yellow hues of pineapples, mangoes and peaches in this salsa look like little snippets of sunshine. Reminiscent of some favorite night spent at the beach. Mine was in a little off-beat dinner  spot tucked away in the grassy dunes, complete with a salty weathered white paint job. This salsa was piled perfectly on a plate of grilled shrimp and sticky white rice.

I love that sometimes the most ordinary things, may it be sunshine flavored fruits…

or puddles and driftwood…

can become something extraordinary…

 

if you look at it in a new light.

 

Recipe: Sweet Sunshine Salsa

So perfect for heaping on the most ordinary meals, like rice, grilled chicken and green beans. Use whatever leftover fruits you have on hand; cantaloupe, watermelon, nectarines, peaches.

½ cup mango, chopped

½ cup pineapple, chopped

½ cup peaches, chopped

1/3 cup red onion, chopped finely

1/3 cup bell peppers, chopped

2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 Tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients and serve with grilled meats and veggies.

 

Barely Fried Tomato Towers

On a weekly visit to a local farm stand down the road, there were plates of fried tomatoes being passed around to visitors and guests.

If there was such a thing as kindness making food taste better, than it happened with those tomatoes. The farmers said that giving away the first tomatoes of the season is said to bring good luck.

In an effort to continue the tomato kindness, I offered my first batch of sungold tomatoes to a neighbor. I imagined this occasion to be accompanied by a detailed discussion about the different varieties of heirloom tomatoes and their distinct flavor profiles and painterly hues among the likes of ponderosa pink, Cherokee purple, green zebra and of course, sungolds.

Ya know just some typical tomato talk.

I proudly presented my homegrown sunbursts, only to be cut short with…

“I don’t like that kind”

“You don’t like sunburst tomatoes? “ I asked. But they are sun.burst. A burst of sun! How is it even possible to dislike something with a name like sunburst?

While my toddler was in the grass doing a combination of worm hunting and tomato squishing, she noticed the stunned look on my face, as if I had just witnessed a great tragedy, and she said in a very zen fashion,

“We all like different things, Mom. It’s Ok”.

And she is absolutely right.

Having said that, I think you will absolutely love these barely fried tomatoes. I added a thin slice of fresh mozzarella to a batch, and it was transformed into a heavenly version of a grilled cheese, minus the bread.

Fried Tomato Towers with Mozzarella

A few really great tomatoes, sliced on the thick side

About ¾ cup of bread crumbs

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley or basil

A pat or two of butter

Mozzarella slices (optional)

Mix the breadcrumbs with Parmesan cheese and herbs. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet. Drizzle a little olive oil on the tomato slices and dredge in a bowl of the breadcrumb mixture. Gently place them in the pan and saute for  1-2 minutes on medium heat, or when the breadcrumbs start to get crispy and browned.  Flip them over and top with optional mozzarella.

Layer the slices on top of each other and top with a few shaves of Parmesan and a soft sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Peasant Potatoes with Sausage and Kale

This is vintage peasant food at it’s best. It’s hearty, unfussy and full of flavor. The crispy roasted potatoes soak up the broth from the big mess of garlicky green kale and sausage, forming a balanced and simple supper with just a few basic ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here goes:

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

large bunch of kale (or chard), washed, and coarsely chopped. (depending on what kind of kale you are using, you may want to remove any thick stems)

about a pound of sausage, cut into small pieces

8-10 small-medium sized red potatoes, washed

1/2 cup chicken stock, (or water if you don’t have any on hand)

swirl of olive oil

Here’s what to do:

Preheat over to 425 degrees

Start chopping the potatoes into small chunks.  Toss with a light dose of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt on a roasting pan. Roast until golden and crispy, about 20-25 minutes.

Give a large skillet a light round  of olive oil and saute the sausage and garlic  until no longer pink in the middle.

Add the chicken stock to the pan, then the kale. Cover and simmer on medium low for about 8 minutes, or until the kale becomes tender but still a bright green color. Salt to taste.

Heap some potatoes on a plate and top with the sausage and kale, allowing some of the broth to douse the potatoes.

Have you ever grown kale? I started my first rows of it this year, and it is a surprisingly independent little leaf.

Fellow gardeners have told me that it will continue to grow through the winter. I hope they are right.