Friday, April 27, 2012

Mango Lime Coconut Milk Ice Cream




Who put the lime in the coconut?

Kermit did; that's for sure. But, so did I. With some mango. And then I put that in the ice cream maker. And you know what happened?


Yumminess happened.

I buy mangos quite frequently because I can get them relatively cheap and they are so deliciously sweet. Of course, they are one of the fruits highest in sugar, but they also have a good amount of fiber, Vitamin B6, A and C.

I think the combination of coconuts, mangos and limes is really a no-brainer -- nothing ground-breaking here -- but this ice cream get extra points in my book for being refined sugar-free and dairy-free. Now if I can only figure out how to make it calorie-free...


I've tried making frozen concoctions using coconut milk before and the flavor just wasn't there -- and either was the texture. I needed to get my husband's chisel from the basement so I could get a piece off. (Ice cream shouldn't be doled out in pieces.)

I've learned from the School of Hard Knocks, there are a few things at play when it comes to ice cream:
  • If you're using a non-dairy base, such as coconut milk or almond milk, there aren't any sugars (like lactose in milk) that help keep ice crystals at bay. Now combine that with alternative sweeteners and you've got yourself a recipe for an ice block -- not ice cream. The more sweetener you use, the creamier the ice cream. The sugars help break down those pesky ice crystals.
  • You need a good mix of fats; it's very hard to create smooth and creamy ice cream without any fat. And good fat is good. So that's no big deal; good results simply require finding the right ratio.
  • You don't need any gums -- xanthan or guar. I experimented extensively with them in a hopes to create a more scoopable ice cream, but all they proved to do was make things thicker (not in a good way) instead of making it smoother.
  • Grinding frozen bananas in a food processor and then calling it ice cream should be outlawed. I've tried it many times in an attempt to recreate a low-calorie, low-sugar, low-fat ice cream. Yes, the texture is quite reminiscent of ice cream, but it tastes like bananas. More importantly, it's very hard to cover up the banana flavor. So if you're looking for ice cream that tastes like ice cream using bananas, it's not going to happen. But if you grind up one frozen banana with some other type frozen fruit like strawberries, you still don't get ice cream, but you sure do get something mighty tasty.
For this ice cream, I used a mix of coconut milk (from the can) and light coconut milk (from the can) in an attempt to keep the fat down, but not at the risk of a "creamy" texture. But like most dairy-free ice creams, you do need to leave this out for about 5 minutes before you can scoop, but when you do scoop, it is very creamy -- not as creamy as ice cream, but awfully close.

Mango Lime Coconut Milk Ice Cream






Makes about 6, 1/2-cup Servings

Ingredients:

2 cup diced mango
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 cups light coconut milk
2 limes
1/4 cup xylitol
1/2 teaspoon stevia

Add everything to a blender, including the juice from two limes (discarding the lime solids) and pulverize.


Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to your machine's directions. I usually let my spin for about 20 minutes. It should be thick upon coming out.


Eat then or transfer to a container and freeze for later.  If eating later, let the container sit out for 5-10 minutes before serving. 


Happy ice cream making!





Nutrition Information Per Serving (1/2 Cup): Calories 154; Total Fat 12g; Total Carb 11g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 1g; Protein 2g

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen -- ★★★½

Source and Source
My reading habits have really increased since I had my second daughter.  I'm not really sure what happened between college and then, but I think I got caught up in the snobbery of literature which caused me to turn my nose up at all pop culture fiction and stick to the classics (whether cult or traditional). So I spent most of my limited reading time after college rereading the likes of Jane Austen and Henry James, while introducing myself to Jack Keroac, Charles Bukowski and the magical poems of Sharon Olds.  Contemporary fiction was lost on me.

It was lost, that is, until I became pregnant with my second daughter. I was at Costco one day and picked up one of the books teetering on top of one massive pile and decided to buy it. I was hooked on mainstream fiction. Needless to say, that entire pregnancy was filled with many trips to the bookstore. 

Shortly after she was born, we started going to the library (for both an attempt at fiscal responsibility and to fill our day with an activity). It was great. I would come home with a pile of books and read my way through them every night. The only problem with the library is that new books are hard to get your hands on, sometimes with a wait list of over 100 on 3 measly copies. Since I never really was one to care about what year a book was published in, I started searching old New York Times bestsellers list to get names of books to read. It worked like a charm! I still do it. The books are almost always on the shelf, so I don't have to wait months to read a book; I've got the whole library at my disposal! 

Yes, there are usually some not-so-great books mixed in with my pile every week (like Water for Elephants, ugh). One of the books I recently picked up, Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, was from the October 2007 New York Times Bestseller's List. I'm not sure what made me pick this one up considering the synopsis read: Two sisters overcome their differences and claim their heritage when one returns to their North Carolina home.

Source
This sort of description isn't normally something that would necessarily attract me and the inside flap summary didn't really offer any additional help with words like "enchanted" and "mystical plants." But I checked it out anyway. It was the last of a bunch that I chose to read. I started it, thinking that I was probably going to put it down after the first few pages and not pick it up again. By page 88, I had to force myself to go to sleep. The next night I finished it with ease. There was something so intriguing about it, something that for the first time in my life could actually be accurately summed up with "Je ne sais quoi."  

Summary

Claire Waverly lives in the home her grandmother left her and tends to her garden. She is one of two sisters from a small town in North Carolina where the Waverlys have the reputation of being rather odd. Haunted my memories of her wild-oats seeding mother, Claire lives a quiet life alone, working as a caterer.

Her work involves much more than preparing food though. The garden she spends most of her time tending, helps her produce combinations of food that can provoke different emotions, actions and visions. People call on her to help make children more thoughtful with cupcakes topped with candied pansies or dandelion petals in a fruit salad to evoke regret in an enemy. The apple tree in her backyard seems to have a mind of its own and has been known to give visions to those who eat its fruit.

Her distant cousin Evanelle lives in the same town and has the uncanny habit of walking up to people and giving them things -- coins, shirts, spoons. She has no idea why; she simply feels the urge to give people things that unbelievably, they end up needing in the days to come.

Claire's life is suddenly trespassed with the arrival of her sister and her young daughter, as well as her new neighbor, Tyler. Both sisters find themselves struggling with the past as they both search for a bond to unite their futures.

Review

I had never heard of the genre magical realism. I'm not really one for vampire books or anything that borders on the unrealistic where people have the ability to cast spells (although I do love my dystopian young adult fiction).  Magical realism, though (I have learned) "... uses magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the 'real' and the 'fantastic' in the same stream of thought." 

Yep, that's what this book did. It's almost hard to notice as you're reading along. Everything seems normal, but then something pops into a sentence that makes you reread it and you realize the author is presenting and accepting the idea of magic as if it's a natural occurrence. For instance:
He stood and ran back toward the house, a faint purple light trailing behind him like the tail of a comet. 
From his bedroom window, Lester watched his grandson run. All Hopkins men were like that. Lester had been like that. It was a common misconception that being old meant you couldn't feel passion. They all felt passion. They all had run that same stretch of field. Long ago, when Lester first met his wife, he set trees on fire by just standing under them at night.
Since this is my first time reading a book from the magical realism genre, I don't know if this is universally true for the entire genre, but what appeals to me is the imagery of magic. It's about describing a normal activity like running, but attributing something not common at all to running, like a purple light trailing you the distance of a run.  A tree that throws apples when mad seems silly and childish, but describing a tree as the center of a garden who uses its fruits and limbs to protect a family for a generation sets a much different tone. 

Plainly put: This story isn't about two sisters perched in front of a spell book, hexing everyone who rubs them the wrong way. It's a story that encompasses strong characters and a plot thick with the every day emotion -- love, family bonds, jealousy and heartbreak. What makes it unique is the way the story is told. It's bursting with vividness and herbal lore and I guess, simply put,  it is the essence of a modern day fariytale.

Verdict: Absolutely Recommend
Rating: ✭✭✭½



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lentil Turnip Soup


What's the deal with Facebook? Whatever happened to if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all? Holy cow people sure are mean on there. 

I recently "liked" the Today show on my personal account, so I get their updates and WOW -- the rage. I'd say (and this is not scientific) 85% of the comments are straight-up nasty with a few positive, nice comments peppered within. And then people start in with each other and the next thing you know, all hell breaks lose.

I mentioned this to my husband, wondering why Facebook seems to fodder such negativity and we both decided that it must be the anonymity of it. You don't see people acting that way in real life.

What does this have to do with Lentil Turnip Soup? Not much other than I momentarily thought: What would happen if I posted a recipe like this to that group of people? What a field day they would have! Turnips? EEEEEK! Lentils. YUCK! I mean they would have my head on a spear faster than I could yell: SUPER SLEUTHS!

But this soup is seriously delicious.




I've been making big batches of soup for myself lately that I have been eating for lunch. By the time the kids are done eating, it's my turn for lunch and I am famished.  It's so much easier to throw some in a bowl and heat up versus making something from scratch. Although I did make some pretty awesome gluten-free bread (I subbed teff flour for the millet flour) that I've been using to make pb & j sandwiches. (I've been alternating between the two.)


The lentils in this soup give a good kick of protein and fiber, while the quinoa adds a little girth and the turnip adds a bit of sweetness. I like to blend a portion of it to create a thicker, creamier soup.

Lentil Turnip Soup






Makes About 6 1 1/2 Cup Servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and pick over
1 turnip, peeled and diced
6 cups water
1/4 cup quinoa
Salt to taste
Plain yogurt (for dolloping) optional

Directions:

In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, season with salt and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute.


Add the lentils and the turnip.


Add the water. Stir and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.


Turn off the heat and ladle about 2 cups of the veggies into a blender.


Add some of the liquid, about 1 cup total and blend.


Add the blended soup back to the main pot, taste and reseason and return to a simmer. Add the quinoa.


Cook for 10 minutes or until the quinoa plumped up and are tender. Taste for salt.


Serve plain or topped with a dollop of your favorite plain yogurt!


Do lentils freeze? I don't have a clue. If they do, this soup would probably freeze nicely if you're not into eating the same thing for lunch every day for five days like I am.





Nutrition Information Per Serving (About 1 1/2 Cups): Calories 160; Total Fat 6g; Total Carb 22g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 2g; Protein 7g
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This post has been linked to the following blog hops:

Fat Tuesday







Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chocolate Black Bean Snack Cakes




I present to you the snack cake, as in: Would you like a snack? A cake perhaps? Not heavy enough to be called cake and not snacky enough to be called simply a snack -- the snack cake.

We all like a good snack in this house and it's becoming clear that we all have been stricken with a sweet tooth, but sugar is my enemy and I don't exactly think hopping my children up on sugar every afternoon is a good idea.

Enter the Chocolate Black Bean Snack Cake: slightly sweet, with a spongy interior (not unlike a Twinkee of all things) and satisfying all of our sweet teeth or tooths (or something).


Plus, there's the added bonus of the good ol' black bean trick. You don't even know they're in there. At least my family didn't. And if my husband wasn't able to sniff it out with the earnest of a bloodhound, no one will be able to detect that you carefully popped open a can of black beans, rinsed them under water and added them to your snack cake batter. No one.

Cut them into 16 servings for only 100 calories or cut them into 8 for a mere 200 calories.

Chocolate Black Bean Snack Cakes






Ingredients:

15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 medium banana
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Add all of the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor.


Process until smooth.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.


Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the top cracks slightly and a few moist crumbs stay attached to a toothpick inserted into the middle.

Let cool completely.


Remove from pan and cut into 8 or 16 squares.


Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.





Nutrition Information Per Serving (16): Calories 100; Total Fat 4g; Total Carb 14g; Fiber 3g; Sugars 6g; Protein 4g

Nutrition Information Per Serving (8): Calories 200; Total Fat 8g; Total Carb 29g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 12g; Protein 7g
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cotton Ball Chicks




Houston, we finally got the craft. I repeat, we finally got the craft for the pre-kindergarten party.

You heard me right. This spring break week we are craftin' in anticipation of our pre-kindergarten Easter party on Monday. I had no idea what to do, felt sort of like a deer in headlights who was being taunted by a pile of empty egg cartons.

And then victoriously I jumped up and I shouted: We will make chicks! Cotton ball chicks in egg carton cups!

I sort of spun around with my battle cry and locked eyes with my two children, who simultaneously cocked their heads in a hesitant confusion.

Ignoring them, I ran to get the cotton balls.

Cotton Ball Chicks






I didn't exactly know how I was going to achieve this in a way that was easy for little hands and not complicated at all. But, it came together rather quickly and quite honestly, the hardest part to this Easter and spring craft is getting the adhesive peels off the backs of the googly eyes.

For some reason, it was very important to me that I use things I had around the house. I did not under any circumstances want to make a trip to the craft store; I was a scary thrifty woman on a mission.

Here's exactly what you need:

Cotton balls
Yellow marker
Googly eyes
White or cream photo corners
Orange marker
Orange pipe cleaners
Glue
Empty egg cartons
Scissors
Pink grass

Here's how to make them:

For the pre-kindergarteners, I have all of the supplies read for them, bagged in individual portions, so they can focus their motor skills on assembling the chick -- which is the best part! Here's the pre-work you must do:

Color as many cotton balls that you need (two per chick) using a yellow marker. Allow to dry on a paper towel.


I tried dying these with some India Tree yellow food coloring. The color was great, but the water caused them to lose their soft fluffly chick-like cotton ball-ness.


So I resorted to a marker which I think worked out well. But now I know you can successfully dye cotton balls for different applications! I actually think the swirled yellow and white adds character to these little chicks!


I wouldn't use washable markers, because I found the glue or any slight liquid caused the color to bleed slightly. Oh and your hands though, may turn yellow, but c'mon: Take one for the team!


Next, color the photo corners.


Using your orange marker, carefully color the small triangle on top making sure to get all of the edges.


Once dry, turn over the corner and carefully pull off one edge.


Our goal here is to get the orange-colored triangle off so we can use it as a beak. Flatten it out on a hard surface.


Cut it carefully along the edge using scissors. Recolor any edge you might have missed.

Using your scissors, cut each egg portion from the egg carton to make little cups.


Set those aside.  Cut out roughly a two-inch piece of orange pipe cleaner.


Now you have all of your supplies ready for assembly!


To assemble with your pre-kindergartener:

Squeeze some glue in the middle of one cotton ball.


Top with the other cotton ball and let dry for one minute.


Peel the backs off the of the self-adhesive googly eyes (this was the hardest part for my pre-k girl). Place the eyes on the head of the chick.


Place a little glue below the eyes and place the beak on it. Allow to dry for a minute or so.


Bend the pipe cleaner in half to make a V and place some glue at the point. Gently push your chick on top to connect.


Place the pink grass in the bottom of the egg cup.


Push your little chick inside and now your project is complete!


I contemplated gluing the chick in the egg cup, but my pre-k girl was having so much fun hopping the chick around that I decided against it.

Happy Spring!

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