Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Son's Refrigerator Pickles

My space saver cucumber plant has turned into a prolific monster. Yesterday we were excited to pick our first homegrown cucumber off its vine.Wanting to do something special with it and also having an overabundance of dill growing in the garden, I pulled out my recipe for refrigerator pickles. I have fond memories of Mom making these easy pickles when I was a kid. She also canned dill and bread and butter pickles when she had a larger batch of cucumbers to use up, but refrigerator pickles always remind me of carefree summers and her big beautiful gardens.

While I was cooking dinner last night, my 12 year old took charge of the pickle making. Little brother "helped" too by pouring the measured vinegar and water into the pan. The slicing, boiling the vinegar mixture, preparing the garlic and dill were all taken care of by Thomas. The only part I had in making the pickles was pouring the hot liquid into the jar and photographing the finished product. I love moments like that where we are all working in our tiny kitchen together. And I love that my boys are learning life lessons that will take them beyond the kitchen and into the big wide world as adults.

Refrigerator Pickles

(makes one jar)

1 large cucumber
3/4 cups water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
several sprigs fresh dill
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp peppercorns

Add water, vinegar, and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Wash and slice the cucumber. Fill a jar with garlic, peppercorns, fresh dill, and cucumber slices. Pour vinegar solution into jar, filling up to about 1/4 inch from the top. Place lid on jar, cool, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Barley Salad with Lemon and Herbs

I had never really eaten barley other than in soup before I tried this recipe. It is an adaptation of a recipe from the cookbook, Clean Food by Terry Walters. Barley is a great food for reducing cholesterol, is easy to digest, and helps detox the liver. While I used pearl barley because it is what I had on hand, just as with any other grain, whole barley is superior to pearl barley because it is minimally processed and more of the nutritional value remains available. This salad makes a great stand alone vegetarian meal on a hot summer day or a great side to a family picnic.

Barley Salad with Lemon and Herbs

1 cup whole or pearl barley
2 1/4 cups vegetable stock
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 to 1 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove minced garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soak barley in water for at least 1 hour. Drain and cook with stock until tender and liquid is absorbed. While barley is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients. Remove cooked barley, fluff with a fork, and put into a large serving bowl. Add diced tomato, green onion slices, and olives. Coat with dressing and refrigerate in covered bowl until cool.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homemade Popsicles!

Now that the south Texas heat has started to climb the boys and I have been making popsicles to keep cool. Although I don't normal push specific brands or products, I am going to put in a little plug for the new Silk Fruit and Protein drink. It turns out they make yummy and embarrassingly easy popsicles. We tried the peach mango and the boys loved them. The little one, who has figured out he is strong enough to open the freezer door, tried to help himself to seconds. He came into my office holding the popsicle mold out to me and asking me for "more popskicle, Momma." I love the way little people speak.

If you go to the Silk web site right now they have a coupon you can use off one purchase (thought you have to sign up for their newsletter) Silk Fruit and Protein Coupon

Yesterday the little and I made strawberry yogurt pops. The boys love Jala frozen yogurt bars, but they are expensive so I came up with our own. They are only slightly more complicated than pouring Silk Fruit and Protein into popsicle molds.

Strawberry Yogurt Pops

1 cup strawberry or vanilla Greek yogurt (I used The Greek Gods Honey Strawberry)
1 scant cup strawberries, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk

Mix almond milk and yogurt together. Add in strawberry pieces. Lightly grease popsicle molds with coconut oil to make it easier to get pops out of mold. Pour liquid into popsicle molds and freeze until solid. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Warm Cinnamon Pancakes

As you can tell by my overabundance of breakfast recipes, we love breakfast around here. Heck, sometimes we even eat pancakes or waffles for dinner. On lazy Saturday mornings like this one, sometimes we don't even get it on the table until nearly lunch time. We especially eat a lot of pancakes around here. None of us are particularly gluten intolerant, so I don't avoid wheat flours or other gluten products, but I think it is healthy to mix it up a bit and introduce other grains into our diet. This pancake is made from a mix of wheat and brown rice flour. Brown rice flour is a tasty, light flour that makes a good substitute in recipes where you want the results to be less dense. My little one gobbled up these pancakes, so if you are looking for yummy kid tested breakfasts this one fits the bill. These are especially yummy topped with apple butter instead of syrup. Or for a variation, try adding dice apple right into the batter.

Warm Cinnamon Pancakes

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp. honey

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl until mixed well. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Mix well. Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Heat lightly oiled griddle or frying pan (my favorite is my cast iron). Pour approximately 2 Tbsp. batter into griddle for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, then flip and cook other side until golden brown. Serve hot. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

The boys and I have been eating more vegetarian meals the past two months for health and money reasons, but sometimes a girl has gotta have her indulgences. I fashioned this hearty sandwich after one on the menu at a little farm to market restaurant downtown. I'm not even sure the restaurant is there anymore, but this sandwich had a lasting impression. It is one of my 12 year old's favorites, with just the right amount of sweet heat from the sauce. It has enough flavor to appeal to the adults as well. Serve it up with sweet potato fries or a side of beans and you have a tasty summer meal.

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

A loaf of sourdough bread, sliced
Good quality ham sandwich slices
Medium cheddar slices
Raspberry chipotle sauce, any brand
A sweet onion cut in thin sliced rounds
Unsalted butter

Saute desired amount of onion in generous heap of butter until golden brown. I use about a half an onion for four people. In a large skillet, melt about a tablespoon of butter. Layer a slice of sourdough bread with ham slices and sauteed onion. Pour a couple tablespoons chipotle sauce evenly over everything and top with cheese and another slice of bread. I usually butter the outsides of the bread as well, then place in heated skillet. Grill both sides until golden brown. Repeat for each sandwich you desire to make. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

I confess. I am an impatient person. I have never been able to make yeast based breads and pastries for my lack of patience in waiting for the yeast to do its thing. I get in a hurry. I don't want to go off for two hours and do something else while the yeast bubbles and rises. I want to flow from one step to another until I have my goodies baking in the oven, the pleasant scent wafting through the kitchen. That is why I love this recipe. No yeast involved and it is super easy, not to mention quick to make. In my opinion they taste just like the yeast variety and my kids still haven't figured out the secret ingredient that gives them the soft, yummy texture.

Disclaimer: These are old photos done in poor lighting. I think the next time I make up another batch I am going to get some better photos!!

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

3/4 cup Cottage Cheese (4% milk fat)
1/3 cup Buttermilk
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
4 Tbsp melted butter (unsalted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups Unbleached Flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Soda

1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter (unsalted)
2/3 cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup Chopped Pecans

2/3 cup Confectioner's Sugar
2-3 Tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 

Heat oven to 400 degrees f. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan.

In a food processor, mix first five ingredients together until smooth (about 10 seconds). Add remaining ingredients for dough and pulse in short bursts just until dough clumps together, careful to not over process. Dough will be soft and moist.

Scrape dough out onto floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth. Roll dough into a 12x15 inch triangle.

Brush the dough with the melted butter for filling, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edges. Combine brown sugar, spices, and pecans. Sprinkle evenly over buttered dough.

Starting at long edge, roll the dough up jelly roll style. Pinch at seams to seal and leave ends open. Cut roll into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife. Set the pieces cut side up in prepared pan. They should touch slightly.

Bake until golden brown, about 20-28 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, mix confectioner's sugar, 2 Tbsp milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl to make a smooth glaze, thick but pourable. Add 1 Tbsp more milk if needed. Remove rolls from pan and transfer to serving plate. Drizzle glaze over rolls and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's My Party (And I'll Cry if I Want To)

Boston Creme lit for my Birthday
Yesterday was my birthday, and I must admit it was tough being the first birthday since my husband separated from me. Determined to make it a happy occasion, the boys and I celebrated with cupcakes. There is no recipe for these yummy cupcakes, sorry, but since we had a dozen of them and there are only the three of us I wanted to share them with somebody. The cupcakes were the creation of Meemo's Bakery, a delightful periwinkle blue house on West Sunset in Alamo Heights. We picked a mix of their chocolate, almond delight, Boston creme, and red velvet. After dinner we each selected one for dessert. My oldest son added a candle and both of them sang happy birthday to me. It warms a mother's heart.

So why the tears? I took the boys to San Antonio's big free arts festival, Luminaria, last night.Well, there was some confusion as to where to pay to park. The lot was unattended. I paid for my spot (at least I thought I did) and we went to enjoy the night. At about 10:30 I drag two tired boys back to the car to head home. I get the little one buckled into his car seat and head around to the drivers side to get in and lo and behold there is a bright neon sticker on my car window warning me not to attempt to drive my car! My head is spinning and I am a bit in shock when I realize I paid at the wrong place! There are two lots right beside each other and I wrongly thought they were affiliated. So I call the number listed on the sticker and about 20 minutes later this unmoving parking lot bouncer shows up. My car will only be released if I pay $118.13. I don't have $118.03. I barely have $20 at the time. He doesn't care that I made an honest mistake and tried to pay for my parking spot. Nor does he care that I have two tired kiddos that I have to get home and that this is a particularly eventful way to end my birthday. So, yes, I cried like a big baby, then I called my neighbor to come rescue us.

This morning I emptied my savings, my twelve year old handed over the money he had been saving up, and my brother in law threw $50 into the pot. My car is back home. All is well that ends well, I suppose. Meanwhile, I think I am going to go enjoy a cupcake!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Revved Up Hummus

This easy and quick recipe is nutrient rich, energy filled, and delicious! It is great to make on a hot day when you don't want to cook and can be used as a healthy party dip or stuffed in a whole grain pita with some sprouts or baby spinach for a power packed lunch or dinner.

I was excited to use fresh cilantro out of my garden when I made up a batch tonight. Later in the season I'll have homegrown tomatoes, too, but for now I had to settle with store bought. In this modern world where we collect sub par food from grocery shelves, there is something really satisfying about picking fresh herbs and vegetable from my little organic garden patch. It is a great lesson for the boys, too. The little one loves helping me water the garden every night. I could get the job done in about 10 minutes with the hose, but we use buckets. I have my big bucket and he has his little one. It means so much to him to help take care of the garden that I don't mind the extra time involved. He always ends up soaked and I have to strip him down at the back door every night, but that is part of the fun when you are three.

Revved Up Hummus

1 15 oz can Chickpeas, drained, reserving 1/4 cup liquid
1/4 cup Tahini sesame paste
1/4 cup Fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp Fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/4 cup Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 Plum tomato, finely chopped and seeded
2 green onions, sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, reserved liquid, tahini, lemon juice, oil, garlic, ginger, and cumin. Puree until smooth. Transfer into serving bowl and stir in cilantro, tomato, and green onion. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, drizzle additional 2 Tbsp olive oil over the top and garnish with cilantro leaves. Makes 3 cups.