With my herb garden’s bounty in end-of-summer explosion mode, I’ve been experimenting with ways to preserve my herbs. One delicious mode of experimentation I dove into further last weekend—with excellent results—was freezing herbs by way of popsicle. I encourage you to experiment. You have nothing to lose but maybe some less-than-stellar popsicles as the result of your experimentations (even the ones that come out bad are pretty good). I bought a bunch of fruits, picked a bunch of herbs and had a few kinds of organic yogurt on hand. Here are three of our best combinations (did I mention, these are wholeheartedly kid-approved!).
Mix about one cup of frozen strawberries with about 1/4 cup white sugar or honey and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Mash the mixture up a little bit and let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes. Add a couple large spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt and about 20 basil leaves and mix with a hand blender (or in the blender). Pour into popsicle molds, let freeze for 4 hours and enjoy.
First, de-stem and pit about one cup of dark bing cherries. Combine with vanilla yogurt and about 15 mint leaves. We used spearmint, but you could use any. Blend with a hand blender or in the blender. Pour into popsicle molds, let freeze for 4 hours and enjoy.
Basil Lemonade Popsicles
Squeeze the juice from two whole lemons into a blender or the container of a hand blender. Add about 20 basil leaves and a couple heaping spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt. Add about 1/4 cup sugar, then keep adding to taste. Once you’ve achieved the sweetness you want, pour into popsicle molds, freeze for four hours and enjoy.
If your garden is anything like mine, you are dealing with a basil explosion right about now. Basil is one of my favorite herbs, but no matter how much Caprese salad or pesto I make, it seems there is always more than I know what to do with. So I’ve been looking into good ways to use and preserve my supply. Here are a few favorites:
1. Basil Popsicles
To me, basil screams summer. And what goes better with summer than popsicles?? Search the internet, and you’ll find a huge variety of yummy-sounding recipes. This one from the blog Deliciously Organic yields a fresh and tasty treat that includes fresh basil, raw honey and organic yogurt.
Get the recipe to make these delicious treats from the blog Deliciously Organic!
2. Basil Beverages
For my friend’s strawberries-and-cream-themed bachelorette party early this summer, we made these delicious strawberry-basil-champagne cocktails that were a huge hit. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with basil beverages. They come in many varieties, are amazingly refreshing, and seem fancier and more complicated than they really are.
This recipe for basil limeade is perfect for summer.
3. Frozen Basil
When I’ve made all the basil recipes I can think of, I turn to preserving this summertime treat to enjoy all year. Last year, I exclusively froze basil as pesto—delicious, but somewhat more labor-intensive than I’d like for a superquick preservation job. This year I’ve made some pesto to freeze, but more frequently I’ve been taking the easy route: Chop some fresh basil, mix it with some olive oil, blend briefly with the hand-mixer and pour into ice-cube trays. If I’m feeling extra lazy, I will just chop the fresh herb, put it in ice-cube trays, cover with a bit of water and freeze. This winter, I will just pop the herb cubes into sauces, soups or casseroles for some summer flavor.
Kaitlin Jones, president of Living Whole Foods and mom of three young kids, sent me this recipe the other day and I had to share it! Vegan and chock-full of vitamins, this tasty meal is perfect for a weeknight family dinner. Try it and let us know what you think!
Cashew Alfredo Pasta
• 1 cup raw dry cashews
• 2 1/2 cups water
• 1 1/2 tablespoons onion, divided
• 1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
• 4 cloves minced garlic, divided
• 1 tablespoon miso
• 5 mushrooms, sliced
• 1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
• Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
• Your favorite noodles
1. In a blender or food processor, blend cashews until they are finely ground.
2. To the cashews in the blender, add water, 1 tablespoon onion, bell pepper, nutritional yeast and 3 cloves of garlic and blend until smooth, creating the sauce.
3. Pour cashew sauce into a sauté pan over medium heat.
4. In a separate pan, sauté the remaining 1/2 tablespoon onion, 1 minced clove of garlic, miso and sliced mushrooms in coconut oil for about 5 minutes.
5. Mix sauté into sauce, season with salt and pepper, and serve over your favorite noodles! Serves five.
I love St. Patty’s Day mainly because it’s the first holiday of the year during which we might be blessed with warm, springy weather here in Kansas. I’ve often been known to take the day off work and go downtown to watch the parade, then to my favorite outdoor music venue, where they always have bands playing all afternoon, along with green beer and traditional Irish dishes. With a nursing baby, this year I probably won’t be indulging in much Irish ale, but I am still hoping to celebrate the day with a few Irish favorites. Luckily, we have three excellent St. Patrick’s Day recipes in our archives.
1. Sweet Potato Colcannon
Made with sweet potatoes, leeks and collard greens, this yummy take on the traditional dish offers high levels of vitamins A, C and K—plus plenty of fiber. Bonus: It only requires six ingredients (plus salt and pepper)!
Get the recipe.
2. Herby Beer Bread
Infused with Guinness and topped with lavender, rosemary and mint, this hearty bread offers a nonalcoholic way to enjoy dark, bold Irish beer.
Get the recipe.
3. Asparagus Spears in Phyllo
OK, so this one isn’t Irish at all, but with the start of spring comes asparagus season, so I think we could make a wonderful new tradition out of eating asparagus at St. Patrick’s Day get-togethers. This easy recipe makes a perfect finger-food... plus, it’s green, right? If you prefer not to make the mint aioli dipping sauce from scratch (although it will taste so good), just bruise some fresh mint leaves, chop them up and add them to store-bought mayo.
Get the recipe.
Last summer, we featured a list of 14 sustainable food companies you can trust , which we compiled with the help of GoodGuide, a company that rates the health, environmental and social aspects of companies. We asked GoodGuide to use its rating system to devise a list of food producers that are independently owned, create a wide range of healthy products and do their part to benefit the world, both ecologically and socially. When they came back with their list, Plum Organics was one of the top scorers.
At the time, I was pregnant, so I was overwhelmed with choosing baby prep gear—not worrying about baby food, which seemed a far distant concern. Fast forward almost a year and my baby is now 6 months old (!!!) and starting to try a few foods (so far, bananas and sweet potatoes).
Great timing, then, that Plum’s PR department just so happened to send out a sample pack of its “Just Veggies” line for babies ages 4 months and up. As his second food was sweet potato and he’d already had some pureed potato we cooked up at home, the Just Sweet Potato veggie blend was a perfect thing to give him. And he loves it!
But more important, here are a few reasons I love it:
- Plum Organics features fruits and veggies that are gently cooked and minimally processed.
- They’re all certified organic and have no high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial ingredients or GMOs.
- They’re packaged in BPA- and phthalate-free packaging.
- Their manufacturing and transportation processes focus on waste and energy reduction.
- The company tries to source as much food domestically as possible.
- The foods are unsweetened and unsalted.
- Even the “just veggies” are mildly flavored with herbs (peas with mint and squash with cinnamon!), giving babies the chance to expand their palates. The “Second Blends” include interesting pairings designed to help babies become adventurous eaters (Sweet Potato, Mango and Millet; Zucchini, Banana and Amaranth; Blueberry, Pear and Purple Carrot—yum!)
So, after trying the free samples I’m lucky to get from time to time as an editor, I’m thinking, OK, so how much do these wonder convenience foods cost (this was not part of our article last summer). The answer? A very reasonable $9 for a six-pack at Target.com. I’m sure many of you already know all about Plum Organics, but I wanted to share my latest baby find.
(Of course, I’m still going to be making a lot of foods at home. Here are a couple favorite recipes if you’re more of a maker than a buyer.)
These three delicious recipes will have your Super Bowl guests begging for more. But they’re also filled with antioxidants, vitamins, healthy fats and more. So you can party hearty and feel good the next day—unless of course your team loses.
3 Healthy Super Bowl Recipes
Slow Cooker Corn Chowder
With poblano peppers and smoked cheese, this corn chowder will warm up guests by the bowlful while offering a dose of fiber, protein and vitamins. Ready for the slow cooker, it's also easy to start the night before or early in the morning and will be perfectly piping hot come game time. Get the recipe.
From 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley. Buy the book!
If you are a vegetarian (or if you're not!) and looking for an alternative to beef burgers, consider these yummy, simple and easy-to-make-ahead-of-time beet burgers. Made with cheddar cheese, eggs and brown rice, these burgers are hearty but healthy. Get the recipe.
From Farmstead Chef by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist. Buy the book!
Buttermilk Pecan-Crusted Chicken
This supereasy recipe requires only five ingredients. Marinating the chicken in buttermilk helps tenderize it and crusting it with toasted pecans and panko gives it a light, nutty flavor. For a Superbowl party, I might cut the chicken into strips and serve it on bamboo skewers. Get the recipe.
From 5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson. Buy the book!
If you’re a foodie, you’ve likely tried barley risotto—but if not, I highly recommend it. A more-nutritious cousin to regular Arborio rice risotto (barley has three times more fiber than white rice and is packed with vitamins and minerals), barley risotto is easy to make and easy to modify with whatever you have in your kitchen. We ran a recipe for it when I was an editor for Natural Home & Garden magazine a few years ago, but you can make this dish with a huge variety of ingredients. Since we first tried it a few months ago, my husband and I make it at least once a week if not more!
Because I’ve been raving about it to our staff, I thought I’d share the basic recipe with you all.
Start by mincing some crushed garlic (did you know you will get more health benefits from cooked garlic if you crush it and let it sit for 15 minutes before cooking?) and dicing some onions (one large onion will do).
Throw a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil into a pan (I like cast iron) over medium-high heat. Once it’s warm, add your onions and garlic and sauté until fragrant.
If you’re familiar with cooking risotto, you know that you start with a dried grain, then continuously add liquid, letting it boil down then adding more, which cooks and puffs the grain, giving you a creamy consistency. For your liquid in this recipe, you can use low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, boiled bouillon or just water. If you’re going to use boiled bouillon, prepare it as you are sautéing your onions and garlic.
Once your garlic and onions are fragrant, add your barley to the pan (I use about a cup of barley for two servings--often with some leftovers) and toast it for a few minutes until it starts to just slightly brown. Then add about a cup of liquid. Stir frequently as your barley cooks, and when you can clear a space in the barley and see no liquid, add more.
When your barley is cooked to the texture you desire (I like it with some tooth), add about a cup of grated cheese—traditionally, you would use Parmesan (and I normally do), but I’ve also made a “barley mac-and-cheese” version with broccoli and smoked cheddar, and many kinds of cheese work fine. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. I almost always also add diced fresh rosemary.
We add all sorts of things to the barley risotto. It can be easier to prepare your additions in a second pan, but you can also add them to the barley mix as it’s steam cooking (especially for something like broccoli). A mix of mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic makes a fabulous addition. Diced sweet potatoes, added about halfway through the barley cooking time, makes for a hearty winter dish. We’ve also added delicious chicken meatballs from Aidells (made with chicken and turkey raised humanely on independent farms) to bring in some additional protein—Aidell’s Caramelized Onion meatballs and sautéed Brussels sprouts is a delicious combination.
Try your own variation of this recipe and please let me know what you come up with!