Berry Coconut Freezer Pops

Here we are at the tail end of the school year and I can tell you that I have been learning a lot lately. Take this week for example: I learned not to skip adding the potatoes to the skillet when roasting a chicken because the oven will become a grease covered, smoky mess. Coincidentally, I also learned how to clean my oven (steam cycle!) I learned that you can only say “yes” so many times before you have to say “no” to keep your sanity in check. Also, it is much harder to say “no” after initially saying “yes”. So hard! I’m also learning how to stand, which sounds even crazier than the first two, but while at a Pilates class, the instructor reminded us all to stand equally on both feet and not to lock our knees (room for air between the joints). This is called “active standing”. Locking the knees is called “passive standing” and I realized that I stand that way all the time. No wonder my hip joints and back hurt. So yes – I am learning how to stand. Lastly, I am learning how to create meals using what I have on hand and this is the most exciting of all the lessons. School is in session!

fullsizeoutput_40cf

I started volunteering at a cooking school down the street from us and one of the classes was called “Cooking by the Seat of your Pants” by Becky Selengut. I have basically talked about this class nonstop since that night. It was was one of those aha moments. She talked about how to taste food a

nd the different ingredients needed to make balanced food, which is the most satisfying. The food made in class contained ingredients she had on hand and she didn’t use any recipes. This is my dream way to cook.

When I started out cooking a few years ago, I didn’t know how to roast a vegetable and had to Google search EVERYTHING. I didn’t know how to cook a pork chop or what tarragon tasted like. I can’t even tell you how many times the smoke alarm went off while I was cooking. So, I’ve spent the majority of my energy on learning how to cook and keeping the seasonings to salt, pepper and olive oil. I also use recipes religiously. But after listening to Becky and hearing the different ingredients needed to create all these different flavors, I realized that I had all of them sitting in my cupboards. What I don’t have is the experience to put them together in satisfying interesting ways…..yet.

Which brings me to the other thing that I learned from Becky. Curry is one of those dishes that you can make using a variety of leftover vegetables and proteins. According to Becky, coconut milk and curry paste will be your best friend on a busy Wednesday night. Well, I have a real soft spot for curry and now seem to not be able to go a week without whipping up a pot. This week I didn’t use the whole can of coconut milk (another lesson I learned – don’t skimp on the coconut milk!) but no matter – I had another concoction in mind for the remaining.

Unlike curry, popsicles are one of the foods I have made quite often. chocolate pops,  smoothie pops, vanilla pudding pops – pretty much any recipe I see. We have had blue skies and sunshine this last week and I had my first after school request for a popsicle. I basically ran into the kitchen to comply and I encourage you to do the same. The coconut milk is sweet, smooth and creamy and the berries add that tart contrast that is irresistible.

Berry Coconut Freezer Pops

This recipe is so quick and versatile! Feel free to substitute any combination of frozen or fresh berries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups organic strawberries, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups organic blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons for coconut milk if layering popsicles)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk

Directions:

This recipe made 8 popsicles. Fill each mold half full of coconut milk and set aside. Combine berries, water, sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan. Warm on medium-low, stirring and crushing fruit occasionally. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for a couple of minutes. I used a potato masher to really smooth out the fruit but you could keep the chunks. Pour mixture into a glass measuring cup and gently pour over the coconut milk to fill the molds the rest of the way.  Take a knife and gently swirl the two flavors together. Freeze for an hour and then add popsicle sticks. Continue freezing until firm (3-4 hours more). Enjoy!

Directions for layered popsicle:

In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the coconut milk and stir to combine. Divide equally among the popsicle molds. Continue as above. Omit swirling with knife.

 

Afternoon Snack Pumpkin Muffins

fullsizeoutput_3da4Sometimes when life feels bumpy and what worked smoothly last month doesn’t feel smooth anymore, I want to take a hammer to it all and start over. I start making chore charts, sticker charts, afternoon schedules – anything to make the family run the way I want or expect. In reality, usually just a minor change can make a difference. Lately, the afternoon snack seems to be the problem area. I decided to get my chisel and set to work.

Our schedule is pretty much the same each day. School gets out, we play on the playground and then walk home. I unlock the door and remind them to take their lunch boxes and folders out of their backpacks and to go and wash their hands. Now begins the scramble to the pantry. The first child calls out “Mom can I have” and then the other “Mom I want”. I answer with a yes, no, then a yes. Cupboards banging, drawers opening. Pretzels flying. This week I decided to do something different.

First, I did a pantry clean up. I realized that the easiest items to reach were the treats and pre-packaged items. I changed that and stuck those in a bin on another shelf higher up. Now they look and see nuts, dried fruit, and some crackers. Secondly, we slow it down. Lunch time was not all that long ago. No need to rush in and finish snack within 15 minutes of walking in the door. There is plenty of afternoon left, I guarantee it. Instead of snack being the first thing that happens, we all take a few minutes and relax and then I tell them that I will go make snack and will let them know when its ready. Simple really.

fullsizeoutput_3d7c

Lastly, this next step is really the most important change. I decided to  start planning out the snack. I was worried this would be disappointing to them. I thought that they liked being able to make these choices on their own, but you know what? I think they were as frustrated with the afternoons as I was and don’t seem to mind one bit. The food is served more family style (or party style) so each child can choose what they want of each item.

As an added bonus, since moving beyond the bunny cracker I’ve noticed that we’ve been able to get a little more variety into our mini-meal. Here are a few of the new(ish) items I’ve added to the rotation.

  • Air popped popcorn (going to add nutritional yeast this week and see how that goes)
  • Hummus and pitas
  • Mini bagels topped with blueberry whipped cream cheese (thawed blueberries whipped with cream cheese and a little lemon zest)
  • Tortillas rolled up with Nutella and bananas

This week I decided to make whole wheat pumpkin muffins. I have made these so many times and absolutely love them. They are the perfect addition to our after school routine.

It has been so nice not having to field so many “can I have” questions and to just enjoy catching up after the school day. I think this change will stay – unlike the chore chart.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

I originally found this recipe on allrecipes.com and have made adjustments over the years. You can replace half of the oil with applesauce if preferred. This recipe makes 24 regular muffins or like me, you can make twelve regular and twenty-four mini muffins like I have shown above. I like having both sizes on hand and they freeze great. You could also leave the batter in the refrigerator and bake them off each day as needed. The batter would keep for 3 days. Of course you could throw in some toasted nuts or chocolate chips if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup mild tasting oil (such as canola or vegetable)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Preheat over to 350° F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl whisk flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and spices and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, oil and eggs. Use a wooden spoon and stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture. Stop mixing when flour has been incorporated. Add milk and incorporate. The batter will be loosen and be less dense.

Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and bake. The mini muffins take about ten minutes and the larger ones are done in around twenty minutes. A toothpick will come out clean and the tops will spring back when touched. Let the muffins cool a few minutes and then remove from the pan. Let cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze.

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pitas and Easing into Summer

The lazy days of summer are almost here and I’ve made myself a promise. This year will be different. I will not put myself into a frenzy trying to schedule every minute and then feel frustrated that I’m the only one that wants to do these things that I’ve planned. Summer is to be enjoyed and not just by the children. I want to embrace the slowness.

IMG_0533

Relish in the sunshine and enjoy the adventures planned on the fly. As a child, I spent the majority of my time swimming at the local pool, reading at the library, and baking. And honestly? That’s pretty much what I want to do this summer (though I’ll take the beach over the pool).

IMG_0471

I want ice cream and fireworks and hikes through the woods. But even with all those adventures, the days can feel very looonnnggg. I know I’m not alone here feeling some pre-summer anxiety. So here is the summary of my list from last summer, my notes to myself for this year. (Are you really that surprised??)

  • Have a daily schedule written on the white board (great for negotiation purposes!)
  • The kids aren’t bored, I am.  Have a variety of home based projects to do
  • Grocery shop on the weekend (sanity!!)

IMG_0466

My favorite projects in the summer, require lots of time. Yeast bubbling, double rises, and the end result being something we can all devour and appreciate. Bread is spectacular. Practical (less trips to the grocery store!) and though it takes some time to let the yeast do its thing, it isn’t fussy. You can let it sit extra long or even pop it in the fridge over night like I did with these pitas.

IMG_0474

I’ve made pitas a couple times but these by far are my favorite. The bread flour adds a nice chewiness and the white whole wheat has an added bonus of whole grains. I found this recipe intriguing because of the extra step of a quick sponge. The end result is a chewy, soft, pocket pita with a complex wheat and yeast flavor.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

xoxo,

Rachel

Whole Wheat Pitas

This recipe is adapted from a recipe from epicurious.com. I used white whole wheat flour and added an extra rise so that I made them over 2 days. I found this easier, but you are welcome to skip the overnight rise and roll the pitas out after shaping them. Just let the pitas rest for a good 30 minutes before popping them into the oven. These made 10 pitas that were around 2 ounces each. I topped mine with hummus, roasted zucchini and red pepper, lettuce, and goat cheese.  You could also cut them in half to stuff the pocket.

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F), divided
  • 1  1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1  1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus more for rolling out pitas
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cornmeal for dusting baking sheets (optional)

Directions:

In the warmed bowl of the mixer, combine the yeast,  1/2 cup warm water and honey and let sit for 5 minutes until smooth and frothy. In the meantime, combine the flours in a medium bowl. Once the yeast mixture is smooth, mix in 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and combine until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes until doubled and bubbly.

Once mixture is has risen, add the oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and the rest of the flour. Stir together. Using the hook attachment to your stand mixture, knead for 5 minutes. You will need to add additional bread flour during the kneading time. Add more once the dough starts to work its way up the hook, adding 2-3 tablespoons every couple of minutes as needed. The dough will be soft but not sticky. Shape into a ball and place in a large bowl that has been slightly oiled. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Scrape dough onto slightly floured surface and cut into 10 equal parts, about 2 ounces each (I like to use a scale for this part). Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Place dough balls into a tupperware container and let sit overnight.

The next day, preheat over to 500 degrees F. Let dough warm to room temperature for 20 minutes or so and then roll out into 5 inch circles. Don’t be shy with the white whole wheat flour for dusting. If the dough is still sticky, add some cornmeal to the baking sheets to prevent sticking. Roll 3 pitas per sheet. Place baking sheet on bottom rack and bake for 2-3 minutes on the first side (watch them puff!) Then flip and cook for another minute or 2.Place finished pitas wrapped in a kitchen towel and let them cool. Once cool, store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Enjoy!

 

Curry Spiced Chickpeas

Last week was an exciting week around here. My youngest graduated from preschool, which caused all sorts of mushy feelings within me.  Seeing him in his little graduation hat solidified that we are preparing for a different stage in life: both children in school full time. Since staying home with the kids these last 5 years, I knew that once they both hit school that I wanted to go back to work. As of last week, this idea has become a reality. I officially have a job again! (I know I know- I have done plenty of “work” these last 5 years). Starting in the fall, I will be working as a preschool teacher at the same preschool that Kai just graduated from. I’m so excited, nervous, and a bit shocked at how quickly it all came together.

IMG_0446

 

In the spirit of change, I thought I would change up my can of chickpeas and try roasting them. I tried it once before with lackluster results, but I thought I would give it another whirl. I saw this recipe in the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook, lent to me by a dear friend. I loved the curry and ginger combination and taking the skin off the chickpeas made them roast crisper in my opinion, but feel free to leave them on if you would like.

IMG_0448

I didn’t realize chickpeas had skins until I recently read it in David Lebovitz’s new book “My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories”. I definitely found my zen moment gently removing the papery skins from each and every legume so I would definitely recommend. I will be making this one again for sure.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Xoxo,

Rachel

Curry Spiced Chickpeas

This recipe is barely adapted from Sara Forte’s cookbook “The Sprouted Kitchen”. Her recipe makes double the amount, but since they are best the same day or so, I felt like 1/2 was sufficient. I loved the warm smell of the chickpeas’ baking and found this snack irresistible when paired with dried cranberries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries – for serving if desired

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Rinse and drain chickpeas. Lay out on a towel and gently dry and remove skins. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, except the dried cranberrries, and mix until smooth. Pour chickpeas in the bowl and gently stir to coat. Transfer chickpeas to the baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. chickpeas are done when crunchy all the way through and golden brown.

Cool in pan, mix with dried cranberries, if desired, and store in an air tight container for up to two days.

Tuesday Smoothie

I’ve been looking at my personality profile lately (ESFJ for those of you who are interested). Do I have to remind myself who I am? Apparently I do. I have forgotten that new ideas are actually hard for me and that I’m really not that flexible or spontaneous. I like to have a plan and I like to stick to it. You know what else I’ve realized? I always make smoothies for breakfast on Tuesday. I don’t do this intentionally but since I like to solve problems the same way as I have before (ESFJ remember?), it seems that Tuesday is the day that the stars align and I make smoothies. Why not Monday or Thursday? Because getting the blender out on Monday seems like too much work (same goes for Thursday and Friday). I still have bananas in the fruit bowl and it seems like a nice way to switch up the toast they are inevitably going to be served. So from now on, I’m going to embrace the Tuesday Smoothie and just put it on the menu.

IMG_0405

Now, even though I like to serve them on the same day for the same meal, that does not mean that I make the same one each time. We’ve had lots of hits and misses but this is the recipe that I have loved the most.

xoxo,

Rachel

Smoothie

2 – 8 oz servings. I love a creamy smoothie and I’ve found that the combinations of banana, yogurt, and frozen fruit makes for a great combination. I love that it is cold and thick. Feel free to swap out the blueberries for whatever frozen fruit you have on hand. Tip: double this and use the leftovers for frozen popsicles!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced into chunks
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (non-fat or whole milk is fine but whole milk is the creamiest)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • A few leaves of spinach or kale (optional)
  • Splash of milk or orange juice

Instructions:

Layer ingredients in the blender, adding enough milk or orange juice to get the blender moving. I like to use the “food processor” button on my blender first and then once combined to use the “puree” function until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust as needed. Pour into cups and enjoy immediately.