In the Kitchen

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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Feeding our Famlies Feeding-our-families Feeding-Our-Families Feeding-our-families Feeding-Our-Families-I am joining a group of amazing women over the course of this year to discuss a subject that is so important in our family; food! I have a very powerful relationship with what we eat, and I am pretty sure that if you calculated how much time I spent researching, learning, and thinking about the topic, it would consume a good part of my day.

As I have mentioned many times in the course of my writing here, all of my children have celiac disease. While our way of eating did have to radically shift when our oldest was diagnosed seven years ago, it still continues to evolve as new research comes our way. I was raised in a family where processed food was never allowed (my brother has some great stories about sneaking Doritos), and our family valued not only good but healthy food. I always felt as though I had a great start when it came to feeding my own family, but as the years have gone on I have realized that I not only had to keep pushing the boundaries of what was considered healthy, but I also had to look at what worked for each individual person I was feeding.

Perhaps the biggest challenge has been having a large family with special dietary needs, and maintaining a system that feeds us not only well, but efficiently. The more kiddos I have been blessed with, the more I realize that eating well takes prep work. Gone are the days of just cooking on the fly, or running in and out of the grocery store. Now meal planning is the way that all of our weeks are organized, and washing, chopping, freezing, and storing become a big part of Sunday’s activities.

For this first post, I thought that I would share a few things that we do every week to keep ourselves eating well, eating the way we need to, and cooking with the most minimal amount of stress.

The Basics

:: I don’t use any type of formal system for putting my meal plans together. I have a pin board on Pinterest that I use for recipes for the coming week, and I love having them stored in one handy area. Once I get to my meal planning day, I look at everything on that board, decide what I for sure am planning to cook, open each recipe, and then put my list together. I normally also have recipes from books, magazines, etc. that I want to work with, so once I know how many other days I need to fill in, I start looking through those. I use Anylist (thank you Bernadette) on my phone for putting together my lists, and I send myself an email once a week with our meal plan (that way I can’t lose it).

:: I am a big believer in pantry cooking. I go through my pantry, including spices, every week to see where to start. My husband and I have been calculating lately that this one move saves us a nice amount on our grocery bill, certainly helps to ensure we are are not ever wasting food, and keeps the space where we are storing dry goods a little less crowded. Sometimes it can create more work in finding recipes that will fit, but if I am ever stuck on what to cook with, I will normally head to Allrecipes, search by ingredient, and see what comes up.

:: Once I get home from the store, I plan to spend the day cooking with my two older boys. This is a good time to provide a cooking lesson, spend some quiet time together, and build a family love of food. It also helps to give the two of them a foundation in what it takes to keep a kitchen running well. This day is devoted to washing produce that needs it, chopping up vegetables for upcoming meals (freezing if needed), cooking stock and beans (soaked that night or the night before if possible), making soups that can be stored in the fridge or freezer for the coming week, and making baked goods.

:: I always keep a hearty selection of salads, meats, and sauces on hand in the fridge. Once or twice a week I will make up the ingredients, sometimes without lettuce, for many different kinds of salads. This past week was chopped apples, hemp and pumpkin seeds, as well as Kale, carrots, onions, and celery. I grill and roast salmon and chicken, cook rice and grains, and prepare 1-2 favorite simmer sauces to add to any of the above. This makes lunch filling, super quick, and always at my disposal, no matter where we are going or what the day might look like. I have no idea why, but I always struggled with lunch. This one move of prep really helps me to make sure everyone is fed.

:: We keep cooked and prepped staples in the fridge or freezer for easy use. Cooked beans are frozen if not used, in easy to measure amounts. Cashew cream, herbed cashew cheese, and hummus is always on hand for quick snacks, or to enhance breakfast. We always have raw almonds, walnuts, carrots, and dried fruit for snacks for the kids to eat. It is a great way to add a zap of nutrients, and to try and teach them to not look at snacks as empty eating.

:: When we make something, we make extras. Having small amounts of food, either in the fridge or the freezer, that can be grabbed and eaten when needed has saved me on so many occasions. When we make smoothies, I always freeze 1-2 servings in a ball freezer jam container for future use. If the kids have a homeschooling class, hike, or outing, I just tuck it into their lunch box first thing in the morning, and it is ready to eat by lunch (it also keeps their food cold, so bonus!). Whatever leftovers we have, we decide how it could best be eaten, and how to save it. Last week we took about 3/4 cup of taco meat that was left from dinner, froze it, and then made crustless quiche a few days later when company arrived. Kids eat a lot, or at least my kids do, so having extra food on hand is always helpful. Some days it means we all eat something different for one meal, but it helps us stretch the budget, while still eating very well.

:: If I use a pre-made sauce,  such as a simmer sauce, I always add stock or coconut milk to make it go further. I also add in my own grains, beans, or meat to ensure that it fills my family up.

:: I make teas and flavored waters to reduce juice and sugar consumption. There seems to always be pitchers of mint or berry tea in my fridge, and flavoring water has become sport in my family,with the latest being a cucumber, mint and kiwi concoction from Elwood.

:: We make our own stock and bone broth. I love making stock. I love making soups, so making stock is just a fun way to begin the process. We use bone broth as a remedy for colds and flues, but we do not do a continuous cook method. We make our stock on the stove, and our bone broth in the crock pot, and then both are frozen for future use. We always save our broth making for the end of the week, and use the veggies that are wilted or not suitable for other recipes, but still perfectly fresh and yummy.

:: I always keep 1-2 homemade baked good in the freezer. Scones, muffins, etc. are made ahead of time, and are frozen so that I never get caught without a dessert or gluten free treat for birthday parties, play dates, etc. I have really strict rules on sugar consumption, and baked goods are certainly where my kids would be most at risk of gluten cross contamination, so this one is just a necessity. It also means that if I am having a craving, I can grab something healthy in a jiff, without going looking for something that I just shouldn’t have. I use gluten free, grain free recipes for most of my baking, and I try and bake with coconut oil and honey instead of oils or sugar.

:: While we are on the subject of sweets, I keep a dark chocolate bar on hand for dessert at night. That one piece of chocolate is always looked forward to by all of us, and it is a good way to give my family something yummy, and something semi-good for us.

These are only a few of our basics, but I have found that going back to the beginning is always good when I am struggling. With the addition of Emma Jeanne, life got crazier than I was anticipating, and over the past few months I have had to really put a rhythm and routine to our kitchen time. It has helped to not only make cooking and feeding easier, but also really helps our budget.

I do believe that eating well is not something that has to break the bank, or our time. It takes some basic prep work, organization, and pantry care, but it is so worth it in the end.

Feeding our Families is an on going discussion with a group of blogging women over the course of this year. I hope that you will enjoy each of their posts, and join in the conversation as well. The comments in each of our posts are a great place to continue this topic. So tell us, what are the basics in your kitchen?

Feeding our Families

Melanie from Our Ash Grove
Jules from A Little Crafty Nest
Melody from Bespoke
Sarah from Our Island Home
Tonya from Joyful Living
Taisa from Small Wonders
Lisa from Hullabaloo Homestead
Renee from Heirloom Seasons

 

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