Category Archives: Cook N Tell

The Dark Side of Popsicles

My name is April and I’m a popsicle hoarder.

That is the sobering realization I had this morning when I opened my freezer and counted 58 different homemade popsicles in 14 different flavors. It all started innocently enough about a month ago with 2 pints of Pudwill Farms blackberries, some organic sugar, and a little bit of fresh tarragon. I realized that I could make pure magic on a stick.  Even better, I could SAVE that magic in my freezer and have it ANY TIME I wanted.

That is when the mentality of “If one is good, 1000 must be SO much better” kicked in. I started making about two types of popsicles a day from all of my farmer’s market loot. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit fanatical about farmer’s markets in the summer. It takes every thing in me to hold back from actually skipping around the booths of nectarines, peaches and strawberries. I realized I could now preserve those beautiful flavors in something other than jam. Before I knew it, my  produce-nerd soul was knee-deep in a serious popsicle-making addiction.

My popsicle babies, from bottom center, clockwise: Blackberry Lemon Verbena, Ruby Red Grapefruit + Yogurt, Coconut Key Lime, Watermelon Parsley, Cucumber Lime, Sour Cherry, Roasted Peach, Avocado Lime, Key Lime Pie, Rapberries and Cream, and Roasted Plum, Tarragon, & Yogurt

A few of my popsicle babies, from bottom center, clockwise: Blackberry Lemon Verbena, Ruby Red Grapefruit + Yogurt, Coconut Key Lime, Watermelon Parsley, Cucumber Lime, Sour Cherry, Roasted Peach, Avocado Lime, Key Lime Pie, Raspberries and Cream, and Roasted Plum, Tarragon, & Yogurt

As addictions often do, mine progressed to the next level: dealer. I had major popsicle overstock, and soon was meeting friends on my corner for popsicle pick-up drive-bys (seriously).  The BEST part about making your own popsicles: it’s EASY, and when you make them at home you have complete creative control. The general formula is: pick your favorite fruit, blend it up, add some simple syrup, and pop it in the freezer. Once you have that basic skill down, you can get crazy and take your pops to the next level (i.e.  swirl in cream or yogurt, or infuse herbs like tarragon and mint into your simple syrup).  The only real “skill” involved is making simple syrup. Here is a basic formula:

3/4 cup organic sugar + 3/4 cup water+ simmering for a few minutes= 1 cup simple syrup

An important thing to note is that you need to make your popsicle mix a little bit too sweet. Apparently some scientific reaction occurs when freezing that reduces the sugar’s potency, so you need to overshoot the sweetness mark before you freeze.

Giving credit where it is due, I drew lots of inspiration from these two fine popsicle cookbooks, which you can buy at Amazon here and  here:

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If, like me, you favor instant gratification – get a Zoku instant popsicle maker (while you are at Amazon, you might as well get one ). You can try your frozen brainchild creation in under  10 minutes, which takes popsicle making to a whole new level of fun. This, no doubt, was a major contributing factor in the development of my popsicle-making problem.

Of the 25 plus varieties of pops I have made, one particular popsicle takes the Prom Queen prize…..she’s by far the prettiest and most popular.  Feast your eyes on this beauty:

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This is my Double Fig Vanilla Yogurt popsicle creation, which you, too, can easily make at home. Recipe after the  jump…… Continue reading

Pop, pop, give: Your new favorite green snack

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Once  upon a magical time, on a tiny piece of  pacific paradise, my earth-loving Kauaiian friends introduced me to something sticky and green that changed my perception of life forever: spirulina popcorn.

What is spirulina, you ask? It’s blue-green freshwater algae. What else goes on this popcorn? Nutritional yeast.  Do these ingredients have your mouth watering yet? If you already know and love them, you can stop reading here. If you are feeling a little grossed out, let me drop some health-food knowledge on you. Spirulina is a freakin’ POWERHOUSE of nutrition – loaded with all kinds of vitamins and minerals that you want to be in you. It is also 60% (!!!) protein, and a complete protein, too….meaning it has all the essential amino acids your bod is probably hoping you’ll ingest, instead of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in your hand (yes, you). Nutritional yeast (not to be confused with Brewer’s yeast) is deactivated yeast that is loaded with B-vitamins and other good-for-you stuff. More importantly, it has a super-fab cheesy, savory flavor that really makes this recipe mo’ betta.

Have I lost you? Are you thinking that this sounds waaay too much like hippie food* and can’t possibly taste good? I know we have probably not made it far enough in this relationship to have built total trust…but, I promise you…I only like to eat things that taste amazing. Not to mention there is another ingredient that I threw into this recipe to fancy it up and reduce the “granola”  factor: white truffle salt. Boom. I know all doubt has now been cast aside, so let’s make some popcorn:

First off, pop some popcorn. Stovetop is fine, but an air popper is preferable. If you don’t already have one, it looks as though we have found the cause of that lingering feeling that something is missing from your life. Air poppers RULE and have an awesome reputation, despite being totally cheap, fast, and easy. You can get one for under 20 bucks here.

A word about some of the other ingredients:  I like to use the good stuff. That means, organic (or at least GMO-free) popcorn, as well as organic olive oil.  But…I like to get it for cheap. Trader Joe’s has organic popcorn for under $5, and Costco has some of the best organic EVOO on the market – here’s some proof. Spirulina and nutritional yeast can be found at your local health-foods market, or here and here. (Ain’t Amazon great?!?!)

  • 1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
  • 3-4 TBS extra-virgin olive oil (plus a little extra)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. spirulina
  • nutritional yeast
  • white truffle salt
  • sea salt

Pop the popcorn in your awesome air popper. After it has popped, toss it into a brown paper grocery bag. Drizzle the EVOO over it, and give it a good shake. Add a generous amount of nutritional yeast, and give it another shake. Next, add the spirulina (1/4 tsp for spirulina virgins, 1/2 tsp for “experienced” spirulina eaters). Then, you guessed it….shake it up. Sprinkle with a little truffle salt,  and then embellish all of those savory flavors with some sea salt. Drizzle with a a bit more olive oil, and voilå – you just made yourself the easiest, tastiest, and (dare i say) healthiest snack on the planet.  You can even eat it instead of going to the gym – at least, that’s what I tell myself.

*Side note: No offense, hippies. I actually really like your food. Except carob.

Oh, Miso Honey!! Brussels Sprouts

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – a brussels sprouts recipe sure to set your valentine’s heart  (and libido) on fire.

Ohhh, Brussels Sprouts – the brassica that I adore that everyone else seemingly hates.  I have often wondered why that is the case, and my only guess is – my mom never made me eat them as a kid.  I had to eat other things I didn’t like, but bland and gross boiled  brussels weren’t one of them.  So, I had no veggie-induced PTSD to contend with when I started eating them as an adult.  And, man, do I LOVE brussels sprouts – especially roasted.  I have a few different ways that I love to make them, but this recipe is super easy. It is a flavor powerhouse – sweet honey, tangy lime, spicy sriracha,  and the savory umami of miso working together to bring out the best in one tiny little cruciferous vegetable.  Go ahead, make it for your date on Friday and see if the brussels aren’t the only thing that sprout. (wink)

* a note on selecting brussels sprouts: it may be tempting to have the mindset of “bigger is better” when selecting them. Don’t.  I’ve found that brussels are the best when they are small, with tightly  closed buds. I spend a fair amount of time sifting through bins at the farmers market, searching for the smallest sprouts possible. The tight leaves indicate freshness, and they will roast more quickly when they are smaller.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Brussels Sprouts (ends trimmed, and halved)
  • 1 Tbsp  + 1 tsp Sweet white miso
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp sriracha
  • 2 TBSP grapeseed oil
  • kosher salt
  • sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. In a medium size bowl, combine the honey, miso, lime, and sriracha. (Mix well to ensure that honey has completely dissolved). Add in the brussels, and toss until they are evenly coated. Distribute brussels evenly on baking sheet. Drizzle with grapeseed oil, and sprinkle  generously with salt (and sesame seeds, if you’re into them). Place in the oven and roast for approx 15-18 minutes, shaking pan midway through,  until they appear browned and crispy on the outside.(If you have small brussels they will roast quickly, so check on them frequently). Serve hot…..and then expect things to get hotter.

 

Not-your-average Buffalo Chili

Buffalo chili

Winter is coming…..to LA. That’s right, people – this week we finally have highs in the low 60’s and lows in the mid- 40’s.  Anyone who knows me is well aware that I abhor cold weather, so that means I have to prepare myself as much as possible….which means I have already made a giant pot of Bison Chili.

I have been a  big fan of bison meat for awhile now. I think it actually tastes better (but not vastly different)  than its much more popular  cousin beef, yet is way more healthful. Pound for pound, bison meat packs in more protein and less calories and saturated fat than beef. Even better, due to the way most bison are raised (very differently than poor factory-farmed cattle), you stand a much better chance of getting nutritionally superior grass-fed meat from animals that have been free to roam.  I get my bison from Lindner Bison at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market or from Whole Foods. Many major grocers now also sell buffalo meat, but be aware that odds increase that the meat has been grain-finished (check the label, if that matters to you). Continue reading