The heat wave that clobbered us last week has gone as quickly as it arrived. We’ve had a couple beautiful warm days and have even been able to turn off the a/c and throw the windows open. But when we were in the midst of 100+ temps, the kids were screaming for ice cream. This was a great recipe to make with them because all you do is stir it up and pour it into the ice cream maker for about 15 minutes. That is literally it. Quick and easy and a cold treat in minutes.
Recipe: Hot Cocoa Frozen Yogurt
(adapted from kitchenability)
2 ½ cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
½ cup and 2 tbsp. instant hot cocoa mix
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. marshmallow fluff
2-3 Tbsp. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 Tbsp. Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Bits* (These come in chocolate or vanilla flavored. We used chocolate.)
Stir Greek yogurt and hot cocoa mix together until combined. Add the vanilla extract and marshmallow fluff and stir again until mixed. Stir in mini chocolate chips and marshmallow bits until everything is fully incorporated. Transfer to ice cream maker until your desired consistency is achieved. (It doesn’t take long to reach a soft-serve consistency, so keep an eye on it.)
(If you don’t have an ice cream machine, just pour your mixture into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze overnight.)
My kids are so funny when I ask them to try something, whether it’s a dessert or something new I’ve just cooked. They both look at me suspiciously and ask what the secret ingredient is. When did they catch on to my good-willed deception anyway? I guess the jig is up, as they say. I still hold out until they’ve tried the food in question, just in case they really love it and won’t care what I’ve added.
These brownies are a good example. Because they’re a little flatter than our normal brownies and the top didn’t get all nice and crinkled like it usually does, they knew right away that there was a “secret ingredient” in there. To their credit though, they both tried them and Claudia actually really liked them. Sam told me he did, but I found most of his in the trash later. Me? I am eating them left and right. Apparently, just because I know there is something remotely healthy in there, I can just grab one whenever I want. Right? Isn’t that how it works?
Anyway, the secret ingredient here is black beans. No one would have ever guessed. I’ve made chickpea brownies that were a big hit with the kids because they were over-the-top chocolatey, but I thought these were better. And they’re way healthier! The edges were a little weird to me – kind of crispy and chewy all at once, but Claudia couldn’t get enough of them, so we have been tag-teaming. She gets the edges and I get the middle. We’re a good team.
Recipe: Black Bean Brownies
1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 brownie mix
handful of chocolate chips, optional
Rinse black beans well and return to the can. Fill the can with water, covering the beans. Pour the mixture into your blender and blend for a couple minutes, until pureed (the mixture looked like a lot of liquid, but it’ll be fine). Pour brownie mix into a large bowl and add the bean mixture. Stir until combined. Add a handful of chocolate chips and stir. Pour into a prepared 9×13″ baking pan and sprinkle with a few chocolate chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely before cutting.
I don’t have a recipe to share today, but I really want to tell you about a girl who is making an incredible difference in her community. Cat Gleason is only 16 years old, but her mission is “Helping to feed the hungry and homeless one pie at a time,” and she’s been doing just that for more than a year. In Ocean City, NJ, Cat is known as Pie Girl. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying her pies, you’d know there couldn’t be a better name.
My sister and I look forward to riding our bikes to the Farmers Market while we’re vacationing in Ocean City every summer. Last year, we saw Cat’s array of pies and couldn’t pass by without a couple to take back to share with our families. To be perfectly honest, only Sam and I got to enjoy the blueberry pie I bought that day. Jim and Claudia stayed on the beach a little too long that afternoon and the two of us ate the whole thing before they got back. Oh my gosh, what a memory! We each sat there with a fork and just could not stop eating this incredible blueberry crumble pie. We truly savored every single bite. Needless to say, I became an instant fan.
Cat uses fresh ingredients she purchases at the Farmers Market and bakes weekly in her church’s kitchen. She donates 100% of her profits to God’s Kitchen at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church and a local food cupboard. She really is feeding the hungry and the homeless with her pies. I was, and remain, in awe of this young woman. I started following Pie Girl’s facebook page and looking forward to our next OC vacation.
Then, at the end of October, Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey coast and wreaked havoc in towns up and down the coastline. We love Ocean City and after 14 years of taking our kids there, we’ve come to think of it as a sort of second hometown. We followed the news closely, and worried and prayed as the storm hit. As I scanned news of Sandy’s aftermath, I saw an article mentioning Pie Girl. It turned out that Cat’s family decided to stay on the island during the storm and Cat moved into action. According to the Ocean City Gazette, Cat shared pots of homemade soup and freshly baked cookies with neighbors. She did the same in other neighborhoods. When she wasn’t handing out food, she was helping folks clean up. Then she reached out even further and created the Ocean City Relief Center, with the help of other volunteers. They provided a safe place for families to get a hot meal, some companionship, and access to charging stations for their cell phones.
We were happy to get back to OC this summer and enjoy all the places we’ve come to love. The crowds were a bit smaller than usual, but we hope that they were enough to help the town continue to rebound from Hurricane Sandy. We looked forward to Wednesday’s Farmers Market all week, and after we parked our bikes, we made a beeline straight to the charming Pie Girl sign.
This year, we spent a little time talking with Cat and her mom, Karin. I continue to be so impressed with Cat’s dedication, kindness, and talent. She is proof that there are no age restrictions on following your heart and helping others. We can each make a huge difference in someone’s life, and people like Cat show us that it really is possible to change the world. One pie at a time.
You can follow Pie Girl on Facebook or visit the Ocean City Farmers Market at Sixth & Asbury Ave., 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 4.
Our family vacation was last week and, for the 14th summer in a row, we spent some time in our favorite beach town. Every year we look forward to seeing if there will be any new offerings on the boardwalk to add to our can’t-wait-to-have-that-again list of foods. We were definitely not disappointed, but our new love came in a completely unexpected form. Bananas. Just bananas. We fell head-over-heels in love with a tiny little spot along the boardwalk called Freaky Fruit. Their motto is “It’s halfway good for you.” I love that!
My husband kind of stalked the place trying to figure out what they were really doing to make his banana whip taste so much like ice cream. I’ve seen this pop up on other food blogs over the past few months and I tried to convince him that it really was made with bananas, and only bananas, but he just couldn’t believe it. And in his defense, it truly is so darn good that it’s hard to believe there’s nothing to it but a couple of frozen bananas.
We’ve been buying bananas every time we stop by the store now and we’ve got a nice stash in the freezer. It’s so simple to drop some into my Ninja blender and in a couple minutes (and with a little bit of scraping down the sides) we’ve got frozen banana whips that totally rival the boardwalk shop. Our new motto is that we’ve gone bananas for banana whips!
Recipe: Banana Whips
frozen bananas… that’s it!
Peel and freeze chunks of bananas. When you’re ready for a banana whip, drop a few pieces into your blender and blend until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides occasionally. No need to add anything else, but be adventurous with them. You can add a spoonful of peanut butter, Nutella, or chocolate to the blender. They’re also tasty with a dash of vanilla extract or a sprinkling of cinnamon. Be creative!
After I made the Oreo Bowl Cake, I hid the few Oreo cookies that were leftover way in the back of the cupboard so the kids wouldn’t find them. I had been wanting to make these popsicles and since I only needed a couple cookies, those two chocoholics of mine needed to be kept away from them.
This was a fun treat to make with Claudia. Even though she’s never heard of pudding pops and has never seen a Bill Cosby commercial for them, I knew she would be crazy about these. She loved whisking them up and getting the pudding into the molds. It’s a great kid-friendly summer recipe and she’s already asking to make more.
Recipe: Cookies and Cream Popsicles
(from Tatertots & Jello)
1 4.2 oz box of Oreo Cookies ‘n Creme Instant Jell-O pudding
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used whole milk.)
4 Oreo cookies
Whisk together pudding mix and milk until it thickens up. Chop Oreo cookies and place a few pieces in the bottom of each popsicle mold. Transfer pudding to a large plastic baggie and snip off a corner. Squeeze pudding into popsicle mold from baggie. If you’d prefer, it is also easy enough to just spoon the pudding mixture into the popsicle molds. Tap popsicle mold onto counter top to even out pudding mixture and get rid of air bubbles. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze for 2-3 hours, or overnight.
(Made 4 popsicles so double or triple recipe accordingly.)
I love the idea of using zucchini as a shell for a fun take on dinner. And I love love LOVE these taco boats! They were absolutely delicious. Trust me, for my husband to eat squash, it has to be stellar, and he loved these as much as I did.
Anything you like on your taco will work in these boats, so go crazy. You can make them in the oven if you’d prefer, but we liked the grilled flavor and those perfect grill marks made me kind of happy. It was as nice to look at as it was to eat.
This is definitely a healthy version of a taco. Not only does the zucchini replace the taco shell, but I also like to sneak some farro into dishes where I’m using ground beef. (If you aren’t familiar with farro, check out this New York Times article.) I actually just buy the microwaveable pouches of farro at Target and in 90 seconds it’s ready to be added to my skillet with the cooked ground beef. I use it in tacos, chili, and hamburger barbecue. No one is really ever the wiser, since it blends in well with the hamburger and takes on the same flavors it’s seasoned with. I like the idea that I’m replacing a little of the meat with a healthier grain that’s loaded with vitamins.
As we were finishing dinner, I was already planning the other things I want to try in a zucchini boat… pizza… buffalo chicken… I need to get back to the farmers market and pick up some more zucchini!
small zucchini squash (1/2-1 zucchini per person, depending on your appetite and the size of the squash)
taco meat, cooked according to package directions or your favorite recipe
sharp cheddar cheese
taco toppings, such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, sour cream (or my favorite substitute, plain Greek yogurt)
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and use a teaspoon or melon baller to scoop out the seedy part of the squash to create a boat to fill later. Brush zucchini with olive oil. Grill, cut side down, for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Take the zucchini off the grill and fill the boat with cooked taco meat. Top with cheese. Return to grill, until the cheese melts. Serve zucchini with your favorite taco fixings and enjoy!
(If you’re making your taco boats in the oven, cook them in a 375 degree oven just as you would on the grill.)