Category Archives: Food

Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicles

Yesterday the pavement on our driveway was oozing and bubbling. Today the weather was slightly cooler – just enough to solidify the lava flow – but it was still blazing. My feet burned stepping out on the wooden planks of the porch and the metal clip of Owen’s leash was hot to the touch.

We’re Mainers. We’re supposed to be prepared for any weather, so we did what we do best: we coped. (Actually, Owen is reportedly from Arkansas and I was born in Massachusetts, but we’ve got squatters rights.)

Owen sat by the pool to beat the heat.

Owen by the pool

I sat next to him, dunked my feet and ate a wonderfully refreshing Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicle. And played Angry Birds.

What?

Now, you know you want to be as cool we are (or at least as Owen is), so you need the popsicle recipe.

First, you need these:

ice pop molds

Because store-bought popsicles are full of sugar, high fructose nastiness or other bad-for-your-body sweeteners. Not that I’m judging. Except that I am.

Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicles

Ingredients

  • 2 c. cubed fresh pineapple (canned won’t yield the right amount of sweetness)
  • 1 – 1-1/2 c. Pom juice
  • 1/2 c. ginger beer (I use Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, which is sweetened only with pineapple juice and honey)
  • 2 Tbs. lime juice

Directions

1. Place pineapple chunks in a blender. Pour in Pom juice until just covered. Add ginger beer and lime juice. Blend until smooth.

2. Pour into ice pop molds. Leave a little room at the top for expansion as the pops freeze. (Also, the ginger beer makes it frothy. You may need to scoop out some of the foam and pour in more of the mixture.)

full ice pop molds

3. Freeze for four to six hours.

4. Enjoy! You may need to run the molds under cool water to get the popsicle out.

popsicle under faucet

But it is so worth it!

Popsicle!

Sorry. This picture is actually of a watermelon-mango popsicle I made a few weeks ago (it sounds better than it was). I didn’t take any pictures of the Pineapple Pomegranate ones because I was too busy eating them, but they are a deep red with swirls of pink froth running throughout.

Beautiful on the inside and the out!

Like this guy:

Owen by the pool

Stay cool!

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Pineapple Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Creeeaaaak! Poof!

That was the sound of me opening my WordPress account for the first time in almost two weeks and blowing the dust off of my dashboard.

I don’t really have an explanation or any excuses, so let’s get down to business.

This morning I was chopping fresh pineapple and thinking about all the cool treats I could make to counter the temperatures that were bursting through the 100 degree mark like an angry bird on a mission. (The previous sentence contains a hint as to where I’ve been for two weeks.)

100 degree temps

My house, today.

Many people don’t feel like eating in the heat. I look at extreme heat as an opportunity. A delicious,  refreshing excuse to eat homemade popsicles, smoothies and ice cream.

My pineapple idea hit me harder than a Mack truck hits a moose. Not that I’m a moose. Although if I keep eating ice cream, it will become a distinct possibility. But who cares? How good does Pineapple Coconut Milk Ice Cream sound? Pretty moose-worthy, right?

So here’s what I did:

First, I ran to Facebook and posted this:

FB Ice Cream Idea

Then, oh, about nine hours later, I concocted this:

pineapple coconut milk ice cream

Let me assure you that the consumption was as spiritual as the conception. So, if you’re looking for a little religion in your life, try this:

Pineapple Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 c. cubed fresh pineapple
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (gluten-free, of course!)
  • 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum (optional, but it adds thickness)
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped pineapple (optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

1. Combine first five ingredients (coconut milk through xanthan gum) in a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for about an hour for best results. (But you can proceed to Step 2 if you’re desperate.)

2. Pour mixture in ice cream maker and use as directed. I have a Cuisinart and it’s awesome. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you could probably use these instructions, developed by the fabulous Chocolate-Covered Katie:

Mix the ingredients together in 1 or 2 shallow plastic containers. Freeze. (You could also use an ice cube tray.) Once frozen, pop the blocks out of the container (I thaw for 30 seconds in the microwave first) and blend in your Vita-Mix. (If you don’t have a vita-mix, you’ll probably have to thaw longer, but you can still get a yummy ice milk.)

3. While the ice cream maker is doing its thing, spread the finely chopped pineapple on a dish in a single layer and pop it in the freezer. Add it to the churning ice cream five minutes before it’s done. (If you are using the Vita-Mix method, omit.)

4. Enjoy! I sprinkled mine with some additional shredded coconut because I’m fancy that way.

Oh, and if you’re feeling guilty, don’t worry. T and I did a three-mile walk with nearly-full pack this evening, so I’m sure I sweated out some of those moose-inducing calories.

Probably.

By the way, I also made Pineapple Pomegranate Popsicles today (say that three times fast). It was probably the best popsicle I’ve eaten and that includes lime Freeze Pops. Any takers for that recipe?

How about you? What do you do to beat the heat?

The Planting

Back before my dad spent two weeks in-and-out of the hospital, having an ultrasound, an MRI and four endoscopic procedures, I wrote about how I built a raised bed garden frame all by my very lonesome. Well, Owen offered moral support, but mostly it was all by my very lonesome.

Now comes the part about how I made the frame into an actual garden.

First, I went to Lowe’s and used our military discount to buy starter plants. Since I went in early June, the pickin’s were kinda slim, so I mostly ended up with peppers. Red, yellow, orange and hot banana peppers, to be exact. For variety I added two zucchini plants, even though I have heard stories about how they consume everything in their path. I suspect they’ll make short work of my tiny 4×4 plot, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

I also had several container tomato plants and some herbs.

the plants

Ready to Rock

Owen helped me pick out the location by scouting the sunniest spot in the yard.

raised bed

After I moved Owen, I placed the frame where I wanted it, marked it off, moved it back out of the way, and started digging. I wanted to be sure the soil beneath was loosened up so the roots could grow down as well as out.

The ground was hard-packed, full of rocks and tree roots, and it was slow work. After about twenty minutes of jumping up and down on the shovel and shaking out grass clumps, all I had was this:

breaking the sod

Never terribly patient, I decided to enlist the help of a professional digger.

Owen digs

Not even kidding. I called the dog over, pointed him in the right direction and instructed, “Dig, Owie!” He tentatively scooped with one paw and looked up at me questioningly. When I said, “Yes! Good boy!” he went into high-speed Rototiller mode. Dirt flying, Paws of Lightning dug down about eight inches right quick.

I stopped him only to move him to the next corner.

Paws of Lightning

Look at that dirt fly!

Go Paws of Lightning, go!

I freaking love that dog.

Once we were dug down eight inches all around the square (can you be “around” in a square?), I filled it back in with loose soil. I used a completely random mixture of “native soil”, bagged garden soil from Lowe’s and composted manure that my neighbors had delivered by the truckful and were kind enough to share with me. I think my ratio was, ten shovelfuls of native soil-to-a dumped-in amount of garden soil-to-a few shovelfuls of manure.

I mixed it up as well as I could with my cool little rake from Lowes and brought it up to ground level.

soil mixture

Time to place the frame on! I discovered at this point that I needed to widen the square just a smidge on one side so that the frame would sit evenly. Then, because I am incredibly anal retentive, I made sure the frame was level on all four sides and packed it in securely from the outside.

almost perfectly level

Perfect!

Well, close enough for jazz.

I used the same(ish) soil ratio to fill the frame until it was about an inch from the top.

soil ratio

Next, I placed my plants approximately where I wanted them, ignoring the instructions to “place 18″ apart”. If I “placed 18″ apart” I would have had about four plants in my 4×4 garden. Instead I spaced about 10″ apart.

plant plan

Gardening is hard work. Snack break!

snack break

Sorry about the oogy bite marks but I was too hungry to wait to take the picture.

There’s not much left to tell. I peeled the bottom of my peat pots and sunk the plants according to instruction.

planted plants

Cute wheelbarrow, eh? I love my little barrow.

I planted the tomato plants in the container (and one in the left corner of the bed), put some some cat grass seed in the colored pots and watered everything.

Planted garden!

Our garden: June 5th

The cool part is that the garden is already feeding our family. Owen likes to eat the composted manure chunks out of it. Which is pretty gross but, to his credit, he hasn’t once tried to dig in the garden since he helped create it.

Gratuitous artsy-looking plant photo:

pepper plants

Oh yeah, and I can’t forget the herbs! I planted those in a window planter right outside our door. Easy access when cooking!

herb planter

Parsley, basil, dill, thyme and rosemary. Plus sage, chives and oregano that I didn’t have room for and stuffed down along the sides of the raised bed garden. Along with the marjoram I got from my farm share.

So it’s a little crowded in there. But, it’s been a month and everything seems to be doing well so far.

updated garden

Our garden: July 1st

Especially the zucchini.

Building a Raised Bed

Welcome to Mowenackie’s Do-It-Yourself Home Show!

Your host for the day will be Sarah, a wannabe carpenter with absolutely no experience. Joining her is her trusty sidekick, Owen. Owen likes digging, rolling in the grass and chasing the cats. He also likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Today’s project (which was actually completed two weeks ago) is: Making a Raised Bed Garden. Or at least the raised bed part.

Here are the materials you will need:

tools

  • (2) 2×6 boards, 8 ft. in length (Aside: did you know 2×6’s are actually something ridiculous like 1-7/8″ x 5-3/4″? Why? This makes me feel cheated. Good thing Lowe’s gives a 10% military discount.)
  • 1 piece of flatwood, 1’x3′
  • handsaw
  • level
  • measuring tape
  • carpenter’s retractable pencil
  • power screwdriver
  • 2 “ 2.5″ screws (about 20, plus a few to strip or lose in the grass)
  • Band-Aids

Got all that? Okay, first lay your 8′ boards over two saw horses the picnic table bench. Use the measuring tape to find the 4′ mark, then draw a straight line across it. Try to follow this line as you cut the board with the hand saw. Try not to cut the picnic table bench.

4' boards

You should now have four 4′ boards.

Next, use the deck platform your husband just built as a level surface. Line up the boards face to end. This is called a butt joint, but I wish it wasn’t. I feel awkward telling you to hold your butt joint tight while you secure it with screws.

butt joints

You should now have a nice little frame.

Back to the picnic table. Measure off one square foot of the flatwood and cut. I made up the term “flatwood”. I have no idea what this type of wood is called. It’s not plywood. It’s flatwood.

Trace a line from opposite corners of your square and cut to form two triangles. Sawing the wood will be more difficult at this angle, but suck it up.

Repeat this step. You’ll need four triangles – one for each corner.

cutting corners

Secure the triangles in the corners using the screws.

finished bed

Fine. If you want to be all fancy-dancy and not lazy, you can go inside, get a hammer and some nails. Or you could probably use thinner screws if you had them or wanted to take another trip to Lowe’s. Because the 2.5″ screws may or may not split your flatwood.

split corner

In fact, they probably will.

As long as you can get the screw all the way in before the wood breaks completely, it will hold it. I think.

split wood

Perfect!

Other advice? If you come across a knot in the wood, it will be very difficult to get the screw through. You will have to take it out and start over in another place.

Or another.

Or another.

stupid knot

A word of caution: if you try to force the screw into the knot by using all your weight to lean on the power screwdriver, the screw will be %@#! hot when you finally give up and take it out. Handle with caution. Or have burn cream handy.

Don’t worry if your seams aren’t perfect.

gaps

The thing only has to hold dirt, not water. So get off my back, alright?

Injuries are possible.

scrape

Cue the Band-Aids.

Ignore the pain and focus on the results.

raised bed

See? Owen is ecstatic.

On our next show, well show you how to turn the sandbox-looking thing you just built, into this lush abundance of fruitfulness:

raised bed garden

Thanks for watching!

My NAVI Breakfast

Greetings!

Yesterday was Day Ten, the final day of the Sugar-Free Challenge. Minus that little (unintentional) slip up on Day One, I’m going to call it a success.

Want to know what I’ve missed the most? Ketchup.

Yep, ketchup. And I can’t imagine that’s something I couldn’t make myself if I really wanted to. Maybe I’ll try it someday. Or maybe there’s a sugar-free brand out there somewhere. Anyone ever heard of one?

In celebration of ten (almost) sugar free days, I’m going to reveal this NAVI (New And Vastly Improved) breakfast I’ve been going on about.

Let me start by telling you about my old stand-by breakfast. I love cold cereal. I’m a cold cereal freak. If I could walk hand-in-hand along the beach with cold cereal, I would.

One of the hardest things about going gluten-free for me was finding new cereals. Believe me when I say the options become much, much more limited. And when you cut sugar out of the mix, it gets even tougher. I found a couple of brands that I really liked. This was my one of my favorites:

corn flakes

Check out the ingredient list:

corn flake ingredients

Three ingredients. Three.

Is it sugar free? Technically, yes. Not-so-technically, this is a carb-fest. It’s basically just corn. Corn is a grain.

Let me say that again: corn is a grain. Not a vegetable, as so many people firmly believe.

Now consider that, due to my dairy sensitivity, I no longer drink milk. Instead I pour either rice or soy milk (or more likely a combination of the two) over my cereal. More carbs. Soy has some protein, but rice milk? Not so much.

Corn and rice for breakfast. Grain and grain. Carb and carb. And without even the benefit of the fiber, were the grains whole.

The straw that broke this camel’s back came when the camel looked up the glycemic index of “cornflakes”. The glycemic index ranks foods from 1-100 according to the impact they have on blood glucose levels. Higher ranked foods can spike blood glucose, while low glycemic foods keep it steadier. A diet based largely on high glycemic foods can lead, over time, to diabetes and other ailments.

Examples of high glycemic foods? Bagels, muffins, white bread, white pasta and, of course, sugar. Basically, the typical American diet.

Another example of a high glycemic food? Uh, corn flakes. They comes in at a whopping 74. Ouch. The suggested target is 55 or under. Even adding fruit and nuts, as I always do, isn’t going to do much to level out that blood glucose spike.

So, what’s a cereal-loving girl to do? Especially one who loathes hot cereal. Oatmeal, with all of its lovely fiber, comes in at about a 54, which is decent. (Let me clarify that by saying quick or slow-cook oats are a 54. Instant oatmeal, which is processed and usually loaded with sugar, is an 84 – not good.)

The problem is, I detest oatmeal. I find it too hot and heavy in the mornings. (Wait, what?) And cold oatmeal sounded gross.

I decided to try quinoa. It’s lighter than oatmeal, might be okay cold and has a GI rating of 53. I got to work experimenting with a couple of different versions. Here’s a sneak peek:

pumpkin quinoa

Quinoa is easy enough to make. It comes in red grain or white, but they taste similar. You can buy it by weight, or in a box. I use this brand:

Quinoa

Just boil one cup of quinoa in two cups of water for about ten minutes. I prefer to let mine cool, but you can eat it hot, too. Makes about four servings, so you have breakfast for the next three days as well! Of course, the fun part is how you dress it. I’ll share my two favorite versions here, but feel free to play around and add what you like.

Version one:

Summer Breakfast Quinoa
Top with sliced almonds, a generous dollop of cold coconut milk (for sweetness) and fresh raspberries.

Summer Breakfast Quinoa

I also like to add a bit of soy milk.

Summer Breakfast Quinoa w/soy milk

I probably should have shown you a picture of what the quinoa looks like, but I was too busy smothering it in luscious toppings. Trust me, it’s under there in all of its low glycemic glory. You can see the small, round grain peeking out in spots.

Version Two:

Autumn Breakfast Quinoa
Top with chopped walnuts, pureed pumpkin, cinnamon and a generous dollop of cold coconut milk. Sprinkle with nutmeg and a few dried cranberries.

Autumn Breakfast Quinoa

Don’t forget the soy milk!

Autumn Breakfast Quinoa w/soy milk

Delicious!

How about you? Would you ever consider going sugar-free? Have you ever tried quinoa? And, most importantly, do you want to hear more about food on Mowenackie?

Buffalo Chicken Pizza!

Just in time for the weekend. Pizza is such a weekend-y food, isn’t it? And this Buffalo Chicken Pizza is a melty, gooey, spicy, tomatoey, crisp-crusted wonder.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

My version is also without sugar, gluten, yeast or (cow) dairy. Let me tell you, it took me long searches and many trials to come up with this, but it was well worth each and every experiment.

Now, don’t be a hater and close out or scroll past. You can make it with gluten and dairy and all of those other things, if you so choose. But for those of you with food sensitivities or who are on a quest for healthier eating, isn’t it good to know you have options?

Here’s what you need.

pizza ingredients

I’ll provide the full ingredient list at the end of this post, but for now, let’s get cooking. First, the crust.

Namaste Pizza Crust Mix

I’ve tried cornmeal crusts that were too heavy. I’ve tried others that were too salty. But this one was ju-u-u-st right! As you can see it’s very allergen free and it has no sugar. (Granted, pizza is pretty carb-heavy, but this is a treat meal – not an every week thing.) Even more importantly, this mix makes a crust that is delicious and crispy!

If you have a pizza stone (which I would highly recommend), put it in the oven and preheat to 450.

Measure out a cup and a half of the pizza crust mix into a medium bowl.

pizza crust mix

Add a cup and a quarter of water.

add water

Add one teaspoon of oil.

my thumb

Yes, I realize that is my thumb and not oil. But, conveniently enough, my thumb makes an indentation that is approximately the size of a teaspoon.

teaspoon of oil

See?  Saves time and having to wash the measuring spoons. Handy trick. You ought to try it.

Beat the mixture with an electric mixer for three minutes. It will have the consistency of cake batter.

pizza "dough"

While the oven continues to preheat, prepare the chicken so that it has a few minutes to marinate. Coat the bottom of a small bowl with Texas Pete Hot Sauce.

Texas Pete

Yee haw!

Cut one pound of chicken into bite-sized pieces.

bite-sized chicken

Here’s another tip: I hate cutting raw meat, but if it’s still slightly frozen, it’s not so slimy and slippery.

Put the chicken in the bowl, add more hot sauce and mix to coat.

coated chicken

Let that sit for ten or fifteen minutes.

Once the oven is preheated, take out the pizza stone and sprinkle with cornmeal.

cornmeal

This helps to prevent sticking and makes the crust even yummier. Learned this from K. (Thanks, K!)

With a rubber spatula, spread your pizza “dough” quickly and evenly, using as much of the stone as possible. It takes some practice, but is completely doable. Just make sure there are no holes!

pizza crust

Pop that in the oven for 20 minutes.

While that is cooking, get your husband to grate some cheese. Just remind him that he needs to lift the grater once in a while so that the cheese doesn’t get all mashed together in one big lump.

goat cheddar

We use goat cheddar, or goat mozzarella if we can find it, but if that doesn’t blow your hair back, use whatever moves you.

Next, heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Dump in the chicken and give it a stir.

buffalo chicken

You just want to sear it. If you cook it too much, it will dry out in the oven. Stir occasionally so that it cooks evenly, but take it off the heat once the sides of the chicken have turned white.

cooked chicken

About like this. (Sorry for the blurry picture. I was trying not to get steam in my camera!)

If I have time left, I prep the olive oil by pouring it into a small bowl or cup – just enough to cover the bottom. I’ll tell you what that’s for later.

olive oil

After 20 minutes, take the pizza stone back out of the oven. Your crust should be golden brown and a bit puffed up.

baked crust

Whee!

Now for the toppings. First the pizza sauce. I suppose I could make my own. My mom’s got a killer recipe. But let’s be realistic here. We do the best we can with the time we have and the best I can do right now is this:

pizza sauce ingredients

No sugar!

A fairly short ingredient list and I know what every one of these things is. Well, except for “natural flavor”. I’ve never been too clear on that vagueness. If anyone can enlighten me, I’m all ears.

Spoon about one cup of pizza sauce (or about half of a 14 oz jar) onto the crust. Add Texas Pete Hot Sauce according to taste and use a spoon to combine.

pizza sauce

Spread the sauce evenly over the crust.

Sprinkle with grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese. We use Romano.

Romano cheese

Because it’s made from sheep’s milk, not cow’s.

sprinkled with Romano

I probably use 3 or 4 Tbsp, but I’m Italian. I really don’t measure most things. Sorry about that.

Add the shredded cheese.

shredded cheese

Add the chicken. It’s fine if the Hot Sauce from the pan flows onto the pizza. The more buffalo the better, baby!

add the chicken

Do not skip this next step! Unless you’re weird and don’t like garlic bread. Then it’s okay.

Remember that little bowl of olive oil? Grab that.

brush & olive oil

Brush the olive oil onto the visible crust.

brushing the crust

If there is any left, drizzle it over the rest of the pizza.

Sprinkle your edges with garlic powder.

garlic powder

This will make your crust come out like garlic breadsticks.

garlic crust

I learned that trick from Laurie Loo. (Thanks, Laurie Loo!)

Slide the whole thing into the oven and bake for 12 and a half minutes.

in the oven

In the meantime, I prepare our salads.

simple salad

No meal in this house is ever eaten without a vegetable. Not even weekend pizza.

Once 12 and a half minutes is up, remove the pizza from the oven. It should look something like this:

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Let it cool for five minutes. Then make your husband cut it into slices.

pizza slices

Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Ingredients/Supplies

  • 1 ½ c. Namaste Pizza Crust Mix
  • 1 ¼ c. water
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb. chicken
  • Texas Pete Hot Sauce
  • Cornmeal
  • 1 c. pizza sauce
  • Romano or Parmesan Cheese
  • Goat cheddar (about 6 oz.) or other cheese, shredded
  • Garlic Powder

Directions

  1. Put pizza stone in oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
  2. In medium bowl, combine pizza crust mix, water and one teaspoon of oil. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer for three minutes. It will have the consistency of cake batter.
  3. Coat the bottom of a small bowl with Texas Pete Hot Sauce. Cut 1 lb. of chicken into bite-size pieces. Put the chicken in the bowl, add more hot sauce and mix to coat. Let sit for ten or fifteen minutes.
  4. Remove pizza stone from preheated oven. Sprinkle stone with cornmeal. With a rubber spatula, spread the pizza “dough” quickly and evenly, using as much of the stone as possible. Make sure there are no holes. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Sear the chicken until the sides have turned white. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Remove crust from the oven. The crust should be golden brown and a bit puffed up. Spoon about one cup of pizza sauce (or about half of a 14 oz jar) onto the crust. Add Texas Pete Hot Sauce according to taste and use a spoon to combine. Spread the sauce evenly over the crust. Sprinkle with grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese. Cover with shredded cheese. Add the chicken.
  7. Brush the visible crust with olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic powder.
  8. Bake for 12 and half minutes.
  9. Let cool for five minutes before cutting.
  10. Enjoy!

Oh, My Aching Bones

Today, Owie and I took this:

raised bed box

And turned it into this:

raised bed garden

Which made us feel like doing this:

Owen sleeping

All of which explains why you won’t be getting the recipe for this:

buffalo chicken pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

At least not tonight. But posts on all of the above coming soon! (Except the sleeping part. Because that would be really boring.)

I’m know you’re on pins and needles and all, but you’re going to have to wait. For now I’ll just say that Day Five was a sugar-free success. Oh, and I came up with a nice sweet-and-tart salad today, too. But you’ll have to go to my Facebook page to see it!

And now…good night!

How about you? How did you spend your Sunday?