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gluten free

gluten free

Summer in the Kitchen

June 24, 2014

My favorite time of year to cook is summer. Growing up in Northern California taught me an appreciation for seasonal and fresh foods, and while I enjoy every season’s own taste and goodness, Summer has a sweetness, a freshness that is all its own. There is something magical about biting into the first local strawberry, or the last cherry tomato of the harvest. Choosing my menus based on what is in the garden or at the farmer’s market makes cooking a bit more fun and spontaneous.

One of the requests that I hear from my boys every year is to take all their meals out of doors. Picnics become the norm, and our kitchen table is replaced by our patio table as we eat breakfast and lunch and dinner under the sky. There are a few staples that I just could not go without, and this year flavored lemonade, veggie pasta with basil aioli, and raw vegan pie are just a few that will grace our table (or picnic blanket) often.

Making homemade lemonade is one of those sticky sweet traditions that I remember with such fondness from my childhood in the northeast. My tiny town in suburban Boston would be littered with stands selling fresh lemonade for a nickle, and there was never a hot day that went by that my mother did not allow me to indulge.

Today making fresh lemonade holds the same appeal, and adding pureed fruit has become a welcome addition. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are perfect for changing this up, and the addition of rosemary, mint and basil adds a special kick. Cherry lemonade is on our summer solstice menu, and steeping this drink with rosemary for a few hours creates an aromatic drink for both children and adults alike. It can also become the base for an afternoon cocktail with friends.

Cherry Rosemary Lemonade

3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
Juice of 6 lemons
4 cups cold water
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped.
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water and heat on low until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Add the syrup mixture to the lemon juice and the 4 cups of cold water and stir. Pour the lemonade into a blender and combine with the cherries. Add the rosemary sprigs to a pitcher and pour the cherry lemonade over it. Allow to steep for 2 hours. Serve over ice.

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No matter where a picnic is held, from our backyard to the banks of the Poudre River, I like simple and fresh cooking. Packing my basket should be simple, and clean up almost non-existent. Pasta salad has been a tradition in my family since long before I came along, and that tradition has come along with me as I have had children. Although a great pasta salad is always a hit, we are also a gluten free family who has had their fair share of misses in the pasta department.

Gluten free pasta tends to soak up sauce quicker than standard pasta, and so when creating a cold (or room temperature) pasta dish, I like to make a sauce that is thick, creamy, and will hold up to the GF pasta.

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Prosciutto, Zucchini, and Lemon Basil Aioli

Pasta

4 oz prosciutto
1 small zucchini
16 golden or red cherry tomatoes
Basil, torn as a topping
1 lb pasta

Aioli

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
Juice of one lemon
1 medium garlic clove
2 tbsp mustard
zest of 1/2 a lemon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup light olive oil-based mayonnaise
Pinch of cayenne

Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, add your prosciutto to a pan and sautee until golden brown. Set aside. Slice zucchini in ribbons, and cut the tomatoes in half. Set aside.

To make the aioli, process of all of your ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor, and set aside.

Once your pasta is done cooking, add to a large bowl, and toss with vegetables. Add the aioli and stir until the pasta is completely coated. Top with torn basil and prosciutto.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Of course, no picnic is ever complete without the addition of pie. Recently I have fallen in love with the creamy and incredibly good for you raw vegan pies. There is something so satisfying to eating a delicious and healthy treat at the end of each meal. I first learned about how to make this type of pie from Heather of Beauty that Moves, and her recipes continue to inspire many changes in our diet and well being.

On of our family’s favorites is raw vegan lemon cream pie with blackberry coulis. The recipe is simple, the taste fresh, and the smiles plentiful. We hope that this recipe will be enjoyed by your family as much as it has been by ours.

Raw Vegan Lemon Cream Pie with Blackberry Coulis

Crust

1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates (pitted and soaked overnight)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pie Filling

3 cups of whole cashews (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup agave nectar
4 dates
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup coconut oil melted
3 tbsp. cold water

Blackberry Filling Base
6 oz. Blackberries

Place the pecans and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients.  The crust should just stick together. Press it into the bottom of a deep dish pie plate, and freeze until filling is ready.

Blend your blackberries in the bowl of a food processor or a blender until just slightly pureed. Pour into your crust.

For the filling, add all of your ingredients into a blender and blend until creamy. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 tbsp of water at a time. Pour the filling over the blackberry filling, and freeze until firm. You can eat as is, or top with blackberry coulis.

Blackberry Coulis

Add one cup of blackberries and 2 tbsp agave nectar to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the pie and enjoy.

Summer in the kitchen is so very sweet, and from our table to yours, we wish you the best that the season has to offer.

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As avid hikers, we often hear a lot of parents speak of how much their lives outdoors are going to have to change once their children begin to want to walk on their own, and are no longer able to be carried in a pack.

Hiking with children under the age of 12 can seem like a daunting task, but with some creative thought and planning, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you can imagine.

HIking1 HIking2

Children are naturally curious beings, and hiking with them can be the ultimate experience in discovery. The natural world is a playground with an abundant amount of possibilities for children to seek out, and part of the experience of hiking with them should include the time to do just that. If hiking was a part of your life before you had kiddos, the one thing to remember is that the experience will never look the same as when walking with adults or by yourself. Children may walk too fast, too slow, or off the trail altogether. Some hikes may go just the way you envisioned them, while others may look so different, you cannot  even remember what you originally set out to do.

The key for many parents is to be prepared with as much as they can to ensure that any issues that may arise are easy to take care of.

What To Pack

Sunscreen

Sun hats

Water bottles

Compass

Nature journals

Colored pencils or pens

Trail maps

Trail snacks (small bites of energy can do wonders to keep children going)

A first aid kit that includes travel size containers of antihistamines and ibuprofen, bandaids, antibacterial wipes, and ointment

Tweezers (trust us, just throw them in there!)

A hiking/explorers pouch (have your children wear this on their belts)

Magnifying glass

Plastic bags for collecting goodies that you might not want to throw in a backpack

Extra clothes

Bug spray

Once you have what you need packed, it is time to get on the trail and start exploring. Encouraging children to seek out answers to what they see, to follow a trail of an animal, or to stop and examine anything from a pine cone to a scat track is the perfect way to ensure that they will want to hike with you each and every time.

Letting children keep a nature/hiking journal is also the perfect way to use your time hiking for teachable moments. Taking time to sketch, write, eat, listen, and just simply be in nature are natural energy stops that will let children rest, encourage them to take in what is around them, and give them the space and time that they need to process what they see. As kids get older, using a digital camera can also be a very neat way to encourage time outdoors.

Hiking in a group, and with other kids, can also be a fantastic way to get your children onto the trail. It makes for a wonderful playdate, there is nothing to clean up afterwards, and everyone goes home tired and happy.

Of course, checking out the trails ahead of time, keeping the hike as simple as possible as children are just starting out, and finding a trail with a ton of neat stuff for children to explore makes for a good day as well. Water play is by far what most kids love about hiking, so if there is a lake, stream, river or falls somewhere accesssible and safe, that is a pretty sure bet.

Above all else, have fun. Kids make wonderful hiking companions, and if they feel as though this is special time with their family, and a great moment to get outdoors and explore, they will be willing participants. Summer is a wonderful season to explore the joys of hiking, and to help kids learn to love being on the trail.

Hiking Snacks

As a mother of three boys who love to hit the trail, I have learned that if I only ever had one thing to bring with us when we hike, it would be food. My children are always hungry, but more importantly their ability to enjoy a long hike is dependent on their nourishment. High protein and yummy snacks are the cornerstone of our active lives, and a major reason that we are able to enjoy the outdoors with our kiddos the way that we do.

The following are two snacks that are staples in our kitchen. They are quick and easy, and are a proven way of nourishing us through just about any trail we seem to take.

Strawberry Almond Energy Bites

Every hike requires those small bites of energy to keep us going. These protein bites are the perfect easy treat for the entire family to enjoy, and can easily be made ahead and stored in the fridge.

1/2 cup almonds

6 dates

1/4 cup coconut

1/4 sunflower seeds

2 T almond butter

1 T coconut oil

1/4 cup dried strawberries – diced

Process the almonds in a food processor until chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients through the almond butter, and process until finely combined. Add the diced dried strawberries, and process only until incorporated.

Roll into balls and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 8

Frozen Banana Protein Smoothies To Go

This is a family favorite that is never out of stock. We use BPA-free freezer jam jars to hold the smoothie, and simply pop them in our backpacks on the way out the door for a hike. By the time mid-day comes and we are ready for a cool down, they make the perfect soft frozen treat.

2 bananas (we freeze our bananas to keep for smoothies, but frozen or not are fine)

3 cups milk (we use almond)

2 tbsp cocoa nibs

1 tbsp honey

1/3 cup dates (pits removed)

1 tbsp ground chia

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup raw almond butter

Add all ingredients into a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, and process until smooth and creamy. Pour into freezable containers, and allow to set over night. In the morning, simply throw into a lunchbox or hiking pack, and enjoy whenever you need a cold break.

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