Seeded Watermelons Are The Best

Nothing says summer like a big plate full of watermelon slices. When it’s too hot to take a break from running through the sprinkler, a slice of watermelon serves as the perfect snack for grown-ups and kids alike. I’ve rediscovered watermelon recently and am gravitating toward the seeded varieties. They pack so much more flavor! And my kids are finally old enough to handle a good ol’ seed spittin’ contest.

I found a Sweet Baby (solid green on the outside) and a Yellow (striped on the outside) watermelon at a farm stand.  Here’s the Sweet Baby:

And here’s the Yellow:

And here are the slices before we devoured them:

They were both delicious. I think the Sweet Baby was a little bit sweeter, but I’m a sucker for the color red.

Nasturtiums

My in-laws are growing these edible flowers in their vegetable garden. As soon as I saw them, images of snacks sprinkled with flowers started racing through my mind. I was feeling like quite the culinary genius until I finally decided to taste one. Whoa! Maybe I just got a bad one, but it was beyond bitter. If you ever have the opportunity, I recommend you keep a glass of milk nearby. Pretty flower though.

Banana Julius

I think the next series I do will have to be about ways to use up over ripe bananas. It seems to be a question that puzzles me too often. And maybe it would provoke me to make a banana cream pie. I’m up for anything involving pie.

So here’s a lovely way to use up an over ripe banana.  It’s creamy without containing any dairy, which is a bonus on these hot summer days. The kids gave this one rave reviews. I’m excited to make them an egg cream someday soon.

2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg white OR 2 tablespoons pasteurized egg white product*
1/2 cup cold water
1 ripe banana, peeled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ice cubes (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon honey

Unless you’re using a pasteurized egg product, pasteurize your egg white in a double boiler over gentle heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg white along with the sugar and 1 teaspoon water. Place bowl over a small saucepan containing an inch or two of simmering water.

Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an instant read thermometer to take the temperature. Keep the themometer in the egg mixture as much as possible and not touching the bowl. Once the thermometer reads 160, remove the bowl from heat and continue to whisk for another minute to be sure the egg doesn’t coagulate.

Pour egg mixture into a blender along with the 1/2 cup cold water, banana, vanilla extract, ice cubes, and honey. Mix until smooth. Serve immediately.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups
Prep-time: 10 minutes

Easy Banana Ice Cream

I was recently confronted with a pile of over ripe bananas sitting on my kitchen counter. Eight of them in fact. We are in the middle of a hot hot summer here in Connecticut and I haven’t felt like making any sort of food for my family lately, much less special snacks. But somehow I stumbled across a recipe for Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches in Gourmet Today. Et viola!

This recipe is easy to pull together and you don’t need an ice cream maker. If you don’t have dulce de leche lying around, you could try replacing it with carmel sauce or maybe even some brown sugar to taste.

Next time I’ll make a double batch and get rid of more of my bananas. The kids were more than happy to eat it all up.

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 ripe banana, peeled
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons dulce de leche
Butterscotch chips (optional)

Place the milk, cream, banana, lime juice, and dulce de leche in a blender. Process until smooth (about 60 seconds). Divide mixture between two ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Serve topped with butterscotch chips or any other topping that tickles your fancy.

Yield: approximately 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Freezer time: overnight

Homemade Strawberry Fruit Roll Ups

I’ve seen plenty of recipes for fruit leather using very low temperatures in a traditional oven. But I freed myself from having to fool around with that when I bought myself a refurbished food dehydrator for Mother’s Day a couple years ago.

I find myself using the machine more during the summer and the fall when we are suddenly surrounded by fresh local produce. And since we’re on the go so much more during the summer, I’m sure we’ll have no problem using up whatever I can find time to make.

There is a great deal of flexibility in this recipe. I’ve used all different kinds of berries along with the applesauce.

2 cups unsweetened applesauce, preferably organic*
1 pint fresh strawberries, preferably organic*

Lightly grease two dehydrator tray liners and place them on trays. (My trays are 15-inches square. You may need more or less trays if your machine isn’t a similar size.) Set aside.

Wash and hull the strawberries. Combine strawberries and applesauce in a medium mixing bowl. Puree the mixture with an immersion/hand blender until smooth.

Transfer half of the mixture to each prepared tray and spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon until it is approximately 1/4-inch thick. A large offset spatula might do an even better job of spreading.

Place trays in dehydrator for 4-20 hours depending on the machine, thickness of puree, etc. Set temperature to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine only takes about 5 hours at this temperature. Rotate the trays a couple times if you think of it.

When the puree has dried completely (I always seem to have one stubborn thick spot.) remove it from the tray and cut it into 2-inch wide strips. Layer strips with wax paper and store in an airtight bag or container. The roll ups, if completely dry, will keep for months.

Yield: 13 2 x 12-inch strips
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Dehydration-time: 4-20 hours

*Note: I encourage using organic ingredients in this recipe because the food, along with any pesticides it may contain, is concentrated by the process of dehydration. At least, that’s what I read somewhere once. I’m not entirely sure if it’s really an issue.

Frozen Banana Pops, Four Ways

The key with frozen bananas is to use ripe, but not over ripe, bananas. The bananas in the picture below are perfect canidates. These are full of natural sugar, but not extremely mushy.

Peel two or three bananas and cut them into thirds. Insert wooden popsicle sticks into each piece of banana. Lay the pops in a flat-bottomed airtight container. Make sure that the bananas are not touching so that theydo not freeze together. Freeze for one hour or longer. If the bananas have been in the freezer for more than a few hours, you may want to let them sit out at room temperature for 5 or 10 minutes in order to make sure they are soft enough to eat.

 

1. Honey Crunch Banana Pops

I found this lovely treat at Baking Bites. It’s easy and a beautiful alternative to chocolate-covered bananas.

 

 

2. Chocolate-covered Banana Pops

Those of you who are pure of heart and more savvy than I in the kitchen would use some Valrhona melted in a double boiler. Me, I am haunted by a vague memory of the melted chocolate getting all clumpy when I made frozen banana pops years ago. If one bit of moisture sneaks into the chocolate or onto the banana, the chocolate goes from smooth to hellish in no time. Therefore, for this recipe, I enjoy the insurance policy that the coconut oil provides. Maybe I’ll work past it someday. But I doubt it because it’s pretty darn tasty as is.

It goes without saying that these treats are even more appealing rolled in sprinkles, finely chopped peanuts, or toasted shredded coconut. The banana pop in the picture above is covered with candy coated sunflower seeds.

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chocolate bar, chopped into small bits)
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (optional)

Microwave the chocolate and coconut oil in a cup on low power (10 or 20 percent) for 2-3 minutes. Stir well and microwave further if necessary, checking and stirring frequently. Dip the frozen banana into the melted chocolate once. (Excessive dipping creates a really thick chocolate shell that overpowers the banana.) Remove the banana from chocolate and allow the shell to set for one to two minutes. Roll in sprinkles, chopped nuts, or coconut before the chocolate sets, if desired. Serve.

 

3. The best of both worlds

Less apt to send your kids into a sugar coma and full of sweet crunchy goodness. Just drizzle some melted chocolate over #1 Honey Crunch Banana Pop.

 

4. Frozen Yogurt Banana Pops

This snack feels easier because you start with an unfrozen banana, throw it together, and pull it out of the freezer 6 hours later or whenever you need a quick cold treat.  

The jam and the ripe bananas make this healthy snack pleasantly sweet. It’s like eating a banana dipped in a thin layer of ice cream.

2 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into thirds
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon blueberry jam

Insert popsicle sticks into the base of each banana piece. Mix yogurt and jam together in a ramekin or small bowl. Dip each banana into the yogurt mixture or coat the banana using a spoon.

Place dipped bananas in a flat-bottomed airtight container on top of a sheet of wax paper. Allow to freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

 

More yummy banana possibilities I’ve seen around the food blogosphere recently:
Frozen Banana Bites from (never)homemaker via the healthy cooking goddessDebra Zambetti.
Frozen Bites (scroll down for Chocolate Peanut Butter Bananas) from Simple Bites.

White Cherries

How cool is it that I’ve found a food that perfectly matches my sidebar?

My family is having a grand time eating these cherries I picked up at the Billings Forge farmer’s market. After I ate a small bowl of them this morning I was overpowered by the sense of having eaten a lemon, but in a good way.

The vendor told me they are called white cherries. My best guess is that they are White Nanking Cherries. I’ll have to get more details from her next week.

While this is an exceptional time of year for fresh fruits and vegetables, I am happy to be reminded that we need not look to the latest designer cereal or energy bar when we are craving something new. There’s all kinds of crazy stuff growing out of the ground already. Use the summer’s bounty to get your kids excited about trying new foods. Or be a good role model and sample it all yourself!

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I don’t know about you, but our summer is off to a good start…

Gone are the orange and brown days of winter. The berries are finally here! 

 

1 pint (3 cups) fresh strawberries
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips OR chocolate chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil

Wash strawberries. Spread them out on a towel to dry completely.

Meanwhile, place the chocolate and coconut oil in a microwaveable cup, mug, or small bowl. Gently microwave the chocolate and coconut oil for 2 minutes at very low power (10 or 20 percent). Check the chocolate and stir if possible. Microwave for another minute on low power and keep checking until the chocolate is mostly melted. Stir vigorously until the remaining chocolate is melted and well combined with the oil.

If you don’t have a microwave, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium low heat.

Dip the strawberries in the melted chocolate. Place on a sheet of wax paper. The chocolate will set in a about five minutes. Serve.

Yield: approximately 24 strawberries
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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Strawberries with Balsamic Syrup

We are up to our elbows in fresh picked native strawberries right now. And I  wouldn’t have it any other way. Early in the season, we eat them raw for breakfast and snacks. But if this summer plays out like the last, I’ll gradually have to get more inventive in order to keep the strawberry magic alive in my household.

We served this as dessert after dinner tonight and it was a big hit. I sliced up the berries while my first-grader tended the vinegar on the stove. It was all done in a few minutes and the kids gave it a double thumbs up.

I didn’t use bargain basement balsamic for this syrup, but I didn’t use the super expensive variety either.

2 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Wash, hull and slice the strawberries. Place the berries in two small bowls and set aside.

Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened. Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over the strawberries. Serve.

Yield: 2 servings
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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