Friday, July 29, 2011

Homemade Flavored Waters: Chug-a-lug!


We all know how important it is to drink a lot of water, especially during these summer heat waves. Staying hydrated is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children. And yet so many kids -- and lots of nauseated pregnant gals -- are just not into drinking plain water.


You may be tempted to drink soda or juices, but those sugars are absorbed very quickly into your blood during pregnancy; a large release of insulin then becomes necessary to maintain your normal blood sugar levels. It's not good for you or for your baby. Plus, sugary drinks are very caloric and -- whether you're pregnant or you're a pre-schooler -- you don't need to be packing your body full of empty calories.


Of course, it is important that kids and adults alike learn to drink and enjoy plain water. But for those times when you need a little something extra, you can add some flavor to your water without adding lots of sugar and calories. Here are some fun, easy ways:



Add sliced whole fruit. Lemons and limes are always good, of course, but how about some wonderful grapefruit! Tastes terrific and, if you eat the grapefruit, you can fight the swelling and water retention associated with pregnancy. Peaches or apples would be nice, too.


Make whole fruit ice cubes. Add fruit to your tray, then fill with water. The cubes add a lovely flavor to the water and then (bonus!) you can eat the fruit when you get to the bottom. Like a sangria without the wine! My son was all up in my grill when he saw this; he wanted a sip of "fruity water."
Raspberries and and small pineapple chunks frozen into cubes


Add herbs to your ice cube tray before filling with water. I tore up some mint leaves for the cubes, then used a cucumber spear as a stirrer. It was a spa-worthy glass of refreshment, let me tell you.




Freeze pureed fruit into ice cubes. I did that with my Watermelon Mint Slushie. This is a great way to use up fruit that is overripe, or a little mealy -- something you wouldn't necessarily want to eat whole. The bonus is that pureed fruit retains the fiber that, in turn, slows the absorption of the fruit's sugars.

Make striped juice cubes. Add small amounts of juice to your ice cube tray; once it's frozen, fill the tray with plain water and freeze. The tiny bit of juice lends a tasty hint of flavor -- with minimal calories -- to your glass of water. I used 100% unsweetened cranberry juice here, which can be helpful in preventing bladder infections (a common problem for pregnant women). 


As the cubes melt, the juice flavors the whole glass.
Look who showed up to conduct a taste test.


Freeze something unexpected for a mocktail. If you're craving something savory, try freezing olives (and some of the brine) in your cube tray. 





Once frozen, add to some seltzer. A bit of salt can actually help keep you hydrated - just don't overdo it! And if anyone gives you any lip for drinking a "weird" drink, tell him or her you're pregnant and you're allowed strange cravings. Then promptly bite off that person's head.


Bottoms up!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho - Cold Soup for Hot Days

I cannot deal with cooking when the weather is this dang hot. But I still want to make food. So, that means lots of salads and lots of gazpacho! Traditional gazpacho includes stale bread as part of the soup; many newer recipes call for processed things things like a can of V-8. My version skips the bread and thickens the soup with lots of fresh produce, making it much less caloric, higher in fiber and more nutritious. It's a great way to add more veggies to your daily intake. If you're looking to lose some weight, try having a cup of this before your meals; you'll fill up on the gazpacho allowing you to be satisfied with smaller portions of your meal.

Oh, and did I mention it's ridiculously easy? All you need is a blender and you're pretty much good to go.

Ingredients
yields approximately 1 liter
  • about 2.5 pounds of ripe tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 kirby (aka pickling) cucumber
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt, to taste
  • croutons (optional)

Halve or quarter large tomatoes and remove any stems; I use a mix of vine-ripened tomatoes and some grape tomatoes, for a nice blend of different tomato flavors. 
Cut cuke into halves or thirds.

Remove stem and seeds from pepper and cut into large chunks.
Add EVOO and lemon juice to blender.


Toss in all the cut veggies and peeled garlic cloves.

Puree until smooth. If you can't fit all your veggies into the blender at once, just blend what you can fit and keep adding the chunks until it's all in. Add salt, to taste. Put soup in airtight container and chill for at least an hour before serving. I like to top mine with some croutons. Other nice toppings are chopped avocado, diced red onion and cucumber, or grilled shrimp.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Five Garlic Pasta. Yes, I said FIVE.





I love garlic. Luckily, so does my husband. One of his favorite dishes is my Three Garlic Pasta, adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe from ages ago (seriously, I've been making it for years). I recently decided to kick it up a notch to five garlics. Mission: blow hubby's mind. 

I decided to take the original three garlics -- roasted, toasted and sautéed -- and add raw garlic, as well as garlic scapes. That makes five. In your face, Martha!

As a born-and-bred city girl, I never had a garden; as soon as we moved to the 'burbs I knew I had to plant some garlic! Scapes are the lovely, curly tops of the garlic plant and have a wonderful, mild garlic flavor. You can find scapes at farmer's markets, although the season will be over soon, at least in my neck of the woods; if you don't have access to scapes, just make Four Garlic Pasta!
Graceful and garlicky!
Ingredients
serves about 6
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 pound cappellini (or other long pasta)
  • 3T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1c chopped garlic scapes
  • 1c dry white wine (if I don't have an open bottle, I use vegetable or chicken stock)
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1T red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • shaved parmesan cheese, optional
Roast one head of garlic. You can cut the whole head and bake it (per Martha's recipe); somehow I tend to lose too much of the flesh when I cut across the whole head. So, I like to break up the head into separate cloves, drizzle with a teaspoon or so of EVOO and bake in foil for about 45 minutes at 425 degrees.



Let cool and squeeze the flesh out of the papery skin. The cloves should be tender and golden.


Mash them with the oil in which they were roasted. That oil is precious!


While the garlic is roasting, chop half a head of garlic (setting aside one or two tablespoons)...

and slice the other half of the head.


Chop those scapes, while you're at it.

Heat about 2T of the EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and toast until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from pan with a fork or slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel (as you would bacon).
My husband requested a bag of garlic chips for our upcoming road trip to Sesame Place. The man is hooked!
Add chopped garlic -- minus the one or two tablespoons you reserved -- and scapes to the pan. Sauté until garlic is translucent and tender. In the meantime, start cooking your pasta (I like to use angel hair, which takes just a few minutes; if you're using a different pasta, plan accordingly).
Pour in the wine or stock and simmer for a few minutes. Whisk in the roasted garlic. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper. Just before draining pasta, take a ladleful (or two) of the pasta water and add to the garlic and wine sauce.

Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Add it to the skillet, throw in the parsley and raw garlic and toss until well-coated in the sauce. Drizzle with a bit more EVOO and sprinkle the garlic chips and some shaved parmesan (if you're using it) on top. If you like a little more heat, add a touch more red pepper flakes.


Get ready to enjoy a garlicky gastronomic delight! And don't forget to pop some mints before you do any smooching...


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Avocado Frozen Yogurt with Honey and Vanilla

My friend told me that she had a food craving/obsession during her pregnancy: smoothies made from avocado and vanilla yogurt. Now, I love avocado (and you should, too) but I tend to enjoy them in a savory setting: in a salad, mashed into guacamole, or just drizzled with vinegar. I do know that it is a fruit, though, so I was open to trying it as part of a dessert. 

In honor of a visit from the aforementioned friend, I made this avocado fro-yo. Pregnant ladies, if you're craving frozen confections, this one is actually pretty darn good for you: calcium, protein, potassium - even some folate and omega-3s! So dig in, y'all.

Ingredients
yield: about 1 and 1/2 pints
  • 1 large avocado
  • 2c greek yogurt, preferably organic
  • 1T pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2c honey (or to taste)

Peel and pit avocado and drop it in blender.
 Add yogurt....
and vanilla...
and honey. Blend until fully combined and smooth. 
Freeze in ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and place in your freezer to firm up. It is a wonderfully rich and creamy treat! The color is this lovely pale green - almost like green tea ice cream. There is a hint of avocado fruitiness, but (for you naysayers out there) it doesn't taste like guacamole, or anything. 
If you don't have an ice cream maker, you should get one! Seriously, if you have ice cream even once a month, the machine will pay for itself - and you can make quality organic, lower-sugar, better-tasting ice creams and frozen yogurt than you could ever buy! But if you insist on holding out (or if your kitchen doesn't have the room for one more damn machine) there are ways of making frozen yogurt without the machine.

Have you ever had avocado as part of a dessert or smoothie?
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