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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!

Danger: Calories Ahead

Captain’s Log. Day Four.

The…attempt to…eat sugar free for…10-days…appears to…be going well. Despite a…minor setback…on Day One…our heroine seems to…have recovered nicely.

It’s better if you imagine it in William Shatner’s voice.

So, today was another leftovers day, but I do have an update on the Butter Cups. Before I get to that, though, here’s a quick recap: breakfast was NAVI (coming soon!) and a one-egg omelet with goat cheese. I’m out of good omelet veggies or I would’ve thrown in some spinach or peppers as well. Lunch was the salad of the day and more broc and mac. Hey, what can I say? I cooked the broc and mac Italian-style (i.e.: for an army). One serving left. Any guesses what lunch will be tomorrow?

By the way, since my salads are many-splendored and varied, I’ll be posting each day’s Design-a-Salad on my Facebook page. Go there if you are looking for new salad ideas. And because I’m awesome.

Dinner was the same as last night, but just as delicious.

And now, onto more important things. Like dessert. Tonight I made Alex’s Butter Cups. I had been waiting for my weekly trip to the grocery store to restock the peanut butter I left at work over the weekend. Unfortunately, when I went out today, I forgot my shopping list, so no peanut butter. But I couldn’t wait any longer, so I decided to try them with cashew butter. I wasn’t sure how I’d like that, since I have pledged my eternal love to the crushed peanut, but…they were amazing. Oh boy, were they amazing.

I’ll share my pictures, but I’m going to make you go to Alex’s to get the recipe – which you’ll totally want to do after you see these babies. Here’s the play-by-play:

After I made the chocolate mixture, I pressed the bottoms and sides into the paper liners with my finger. I’m not coordinated enough to use a spoon. After I added water, the mixture got grainy rather than smooth, but it spread just fine. These got popped into the freezer while I prepared the cashew butter.

butter cup bottoms

When they came out, I added a dollop of the cashew butter mixture.

dollop of cashew butter

And spread it out with my finger.

patted down butter

Then another dollop of the chocolate mixture.

dollop of chocolate mixture

Spread that smooth and press flat.

top of butter cup

Then back in the freezer. I left mine for almost 20 minutes, as they were still a little soft after 10.

finished butter cups

I was afraid the paper liners would stick to the cups, but they peeled off easily.

peeled butter cup

But how were they? How did they taste?

butter cup middle

Like that. Yeah. They taste as good as they look. Better, even. Alex is right – these do melt in your mouth. I can’t even imagine these with peanut butter. I’d probably spontaneously combust upon tasting them.

I’m so glad I only made half a recipe. These are healthy, but because they are made with coconut and nut butters, they are highly, dangerously, deliciously caloric.

Glad I bought a wheelbarrow at Lowe’s today. I’m going to need it for my butt tomorrow.

Back in the Saddle

Howdy, Buckaroos! I’m back in the saddle for Day Two of The Sugar Free Challenge. Hey, that first part rhymed, kinda. I’m a poet and you didn’t even know it. Probably you still don’t, but that’s neither here nor there.

What is here is that I have successfully completed Day Two with no sugar. Here’s how it went down:

Breakfast was not my new (and vastly improved) all-time favorite, but it was delicious nonetheless. I had a veggie and goat cheddar omelet with red grapes, green tea and diluted pomegranate/orange juice.

Day Two - breakfast

Don’t ask me why, but I can’t take my vitamins with water first thing in the morning. I have to have juice, but juice is so “carby” that I use just enough to taste and dilute it with water. Very strange since I drink only water throughout the rest of the day.

What veggies are in the omelet? I knew you were wondering. Yellow peppers, scallions, spinach and jalapeno peppers with grape tomato garnish. Nice little kick!

I did my normal “Design-a-Salad” for lunch using whatever was in the fridge and whatever struck me. This one has: mixed greens, grape tomatoes, fresh dill, shredded coconut and chia seeds. I hijacked K’s suggestion and topped it with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. Seemed like sort of an odd combination, but I went with my gut and it worked!

Day Two - lunch

I paired my salad with leftover broccoli and macaroni from last night, topped with grated romano. Romano cheese is made with sheep’s milk, by the way, which is why I can eat it. I also threw in a few cannelini beans from yesterday, for protein.

Lunch didn’t quite fill me up. I’d worked out earlier in the morning, and I still felt like I needed something with a little more substance, so I added this:

Apple & Cashew Butter

Apple & Cashew Butter

That did the trick.

Here’s my late afternoon snack:

blue corn tortillas and salsa

blue corn tortillas and salsa

This salsa from Trader Joe’s is one of the few I’ve found that does not have sugar. It’s very, very good. I’d love to make my own – and do, on occasion – but let’s face it. I have to work for a living, too.

Suppah (or dinner, for those of you who do not live in New England) was leftover Sweet Potato Curry (from the Nutrition Diva’s Secrets For a Healthy Diet) on a bed of spinach. At the request of my husband, I add a couple of small white potatoes and a pound of chicken when I make this recipe, which makes it very, very filling.

Yup. Leftovers. That’s how I rolled today. My husband is at a MUTA 6 drill this weekend. That means drill starts at 0700 on Friday instead of 0700 on Saturday, like a regular old MUTA 4. It also means that I’m off the hook as far as cooking goes. Leftovers, vegetarian meals, cold lunches – anything goes. Woo hoo!

Does it make me a horrible person if I adore drill weekends?

Don’t answer that.

ANYway…because exercise is an important part of any diet plan, Owie and I went out this afternoon and tossed around the ol’ frisbee.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

frisbee

So, we’re off for a walk now. Later, we’ll probably have a chia pudding parfait while we watch a chick flick.

Did I mention that I love drill weekends?

How about you? What did you eat today that made you happy? What is your favorite thing to put in a salad?

Baby Booties

I wear a size nine shoe. This is not terribly small in the world of woman’s feet.

My husband also wears a size nine shoe (in men’s sizes, of course). This is not overly large in the realm of men’s feet.

All of which may explain T’s constant amusement when he folds our laundry and, in particular, our socks. He thinks I wear “little baby booties”.

baby bootie socks

I have to admit that even I don’t understand the physics behind this sock anomaly. I mean, there certainly isn’t this big of a difference between the size of our feet in real life. So what’s with the socks?

Isn’t it good that we have so many interesting things to ponder in life?