Browsing Category

Food & Home

Three Tips for Getting Back-To-Schedule Organized + A Gin & Tonic Recipe. To Celebrate Getting Back-To-Schedule Organized.

October 6, 2015
IMG_0083

This photo has nothing to do with being organized. But it is salt water taffy…and that’s fun, plus it’s organized into nice little bins. And this post was written by Kristin Paull. And she’s fun and organized. And it’s her birthday. Happy Birthday Kristin! We would like to give you a cake made out of salt-water taffy. And a gin and tonic. 

We have one more Back To School Night to go, and then we are officially back in the swing.  It doesn’t always feel that way though.  I have to say that each year I feel like the year starts faster- like I am jumping on the treadmill that is already going at top speed.  Sundays are the nights I get organized for the week and use the tricks that help me feel like I am taming some of the chaos.  Maybe these can help you manage your circus.  Our current circus involves an ongoing leak repair from a bathroom remodel combined with the arrival of a puppy.  We officially live in Crazy Town right now, and I am the mayor.  Here is what is keeping me from losing it.

Every year I have  a monthly calendar where I enter all of the big things- school holidays, late starts and early dismissals, practices and games, tests and quizzes.  Now, I don’t use this to helicopter my kids, though I know that can be tempting sometimes.  I do use this to know what they have coming up that week.  I want to see if my 10th grader is really prepping for that Chem test, my 8th grader is studying for a few days leading up to the Geometry test or my 4th grader is preparing for that History project.  I check in with them after it is done- “How was your test today?  Did you feel prepared?  How did you prepare?”  I grew tired of feeling surprised that they had tests and quizzes, because they never talked about it or stressed over it.  This makes me feel more connected to what they are doing rather than just relying on watching for the grades as they roll in.  If I am more concerned about the work ethic and effort going into school, then I need to put my money where my mouth is.  This helps me focus on the process and not just the result.

2

I also sit down to go over my calendar for the week.  I break it up into AM and PM sections for each day, and I write down all of the appointments or practices that have a start time.  Then, I work in all of the other things I am hoping to tackle- exercise, working in the yard, organizing projects, etc. It’s a lot. But it helps.

This leads me to my next big help- my menu board.  This is a chalkboard sticker I found at a shop in Austin, but I have seen them on Amazon as well.  I love to cook, but I don’t always have the time.  And, my kids don’t always want to try new things.  The Sunday night discussion of what we will eat for the week allows them to put any requests out there, and usually leaves me with a couple of nights where I can cook something new and fun.  

My kids complain far less now that they feel like they are heard or at least had the chance to be heard.  Also, I know can make my grocery list, and grab ingredients for two nights at a time.  I waste so much less this way, and I only have ingredients for two nights in case we have to pick up dinner unexpectedly.  I can always just push it to the next night.  If it is going to be a truly tight night, then I can do a slow cooker meal or a dinner like nachos or breakfast for dinner that I know I can execute in 20 minutes (the time it takes for them to run through the shower- two birds one 20 minute block).  This has been a huge game changer for us all!

1

We have a few responsibilities that the kids assume at certain ages.  By 3rd grade, we are packing our own backpack.  In 4th grade, we are managing our own workload, signing of papers or assignments, remembering to get our stuff ready for activities the night before, etc.  In 7th grade, the kids take over making their own lunches and managing their lunch accounts.  I deposit a certain amount in their lunch accounts, enough to cover two lunches a week, at the beginning of the month.  They can blow it all in the first week passing cookies out to friends in the lunchroom, or they can use those days when they are just over making lunches.  I do prepare four vegetables and four fruits in containers that we can all use to make the process so much faster.  Bonus- I can use the left overs to pack as snacks for my 4th grader!  

I HATE making lunches, and this has made it all so very tolerable and lightning fast.  Making the same lunches day in and day out (as my kids won’t eat leftovers) makes me want to poke a fork in my eye.  Instead, I prep on Sunday nights while I am having a glass of wine or gin and tonic.  Everything is better with a cocktail!

3

Oh yes, Cocktails!!!  Speaking of cocktails, my family spent six fabulous weeks in Spain this summer.  There will be more on that later (specifics on Spain as well as traveling with kids).  One of the most interesting and delicious discoveries was the Gin and Tonic.  

To say they have taken this drink to a new level does not even come close to the reality.  It would often take at least 10 minutes to order!  You start by either picking a garnish or a gin, and then they have some sort of complex algorithm that they follow to craft your perfect drink.  Certain gins call for certain tonics which lead to specific garnishes.  

I am going to share my very favorite combo with you- fast, easy and so refreshing.  It is the perfect Sunday drink while I look at the week ahead.  I love Hendrick’s Gin- if you want refreshing cucumber taste then this is the gin they would always bring me.  Turns out, I already loved it and had a bottle at home.  You will also need tonic water.  I love Fever Tree Light (less sugar), but you can also do any of the other flavors or Schweppes.  Lastly you need ice cubes and garnishes.  I have a great little silicone ice tray- they don’t melt too fast, but help to mellow it all together nicely.  The garnishes I love are two slices of cucumber, a twist of lemon and half of a dried cinnamon stick.  Here we go!  

4

Kristin’s Favorite Gin & Tonic from Spain

Here’s What You’ll Need:

Gin (Hendrick’s recommended)

Tonic water (Fever Tree Light recommended)

A small cucumber

A lemon

Half of a dried cinnamon stick

Here’s What You’ll Do:

Grab a big balloon wine glass if you have one or at least a glass that is big enough to accommodate the ice cubes.  Place the cucumber slices, lemon and cinnamon stick in the bottom of the glass.  Add about 2oz of the gin, and stir with a spoon.  Add the ice, and stir again.  Lastly, you will add the tonic.  If you have a gin spoon (I hunted high and low for one), you are supposed to pour the tonic down the swizzle of the gin spoon.  Allegedly, this adds more bubbles to the drink.  I doubt it, but it is fun anyway!  You should have a 2:1 ratio of tonic to gin.  I usually have enough for two drinks from each small bottle of Fever Tree.  In Texas, where we are still enduring the 95 plus degree heat, we will be enjoying this cocktail for many weeks to come.  

Enjoy! 

Kristin Paull is one of the most thoughtful, fun (and organized!) people that we know. Plus today is her birthday! And she gave us a gin & tonic recipe (how thoughtful and fun of her on her own birthday!) You can read more about Kristin here. 

What to Plant in September

September 23, 2015
septgarden_feat

Well, Friends, we survived August. Someway. Somehow, we were able to slog through the heat waves of summer’s last-ditch efforts to show us who’s boss. (Conclusion: The sun. The sun is the boss.)

Related: Your garden is possibly tired. Mine is exhausted and totally over dying of thirst. If August kicked your and your garden’s butts, do not feel bad or sad. That is normal around here. In fact if you live anywhere south of the middle, don’t even try and worry about it. Instead, spend all your energy keeping yourself cool and drinking cold things in the shade. Because when it comes to growing things, August is the new December. Which means September is the new New Year. Just go with it.

Mostly, just know that September is not only a nice time to start fresh with crispy, shiny, new school supplies, it’s also a great time to green up your garden. Because this is the month you can plant lots of green things…or things that will produce green things…or really, both.

Here’s what you should plant in September:

What-to-plant-in-September

You can start any of these from seed…or you can do what we do and find your favorite green starts supplier and go to town. The most important thing to remember: do not stress about it. With a little sun and water, it’s hard to mess things up to badly. Just experiment. Most of these can be started well into October, so if you need to push it off, that’s fine too. Just start moving in these directions. You won’t be disappointed.

Best of Houston: El Bolillo Baker & Canino Market

September 16, 2015
houstonmarket1

Last year, since both my husband Marcus and our friend Carl enjoy cooking, Carl’s wife, Trish, and I sprang for a culinary tour of Houston for the two of them.  (Houston is, by the way, the best city in the country for foodies.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at this.)  The tour was led by Chef Hugo Ortega, a multiple James Beard award nominee and one of the most renowned of Houston’s chefs, and included a tour of various restaurants focused specifically on authentic Mexican food (Chef Hugo’s eponymous restaurant is one of the best in town).  And while the food (and tequila) were great, what Marcus came home raving about the most was the Mexican market where they started their tour.

“I really need to take you there,” Marcus gushed.  “It’s where Chef Hugo gets all of his ingredients.  It’s amazing.  And it’s huge.  And there’s this bakery that has … well, everything.  It’s a photographer’s dream.  We have to go.”

It took almost a year for me to make it there, but late lasts month, Marcus finally took our daughterAlex and me to see it.  First, we stopped at the bakery to pick up a couple of pastries for breakfast.

houstonmarket2

houstonmarket3

houstonmarket4

houstonmarket5

El Bolillo Bakery is one of those places that smells like what I’m sure heaven smells like.  Everything is fresh, made right on the property (one of the employees told me that they have a team who bakes all night before opening at 5 a.m. every morning), and it’s sort of difficult not to be paralyzed with indecision, everything looks so amazing.  But I chose a fresh bread roll stuffed with cheese and jalapeños, and Marcus and Alex chose something equally delicious, and once we paid, we headed across the street to the market, while we munched on our very delicious breakfast.

Canino Market opens up into a gigantic (and immaculate) produce hall, with just about every fruit and vegetable that you can imagine — both locally grown, and clearly shipped in from more tropical climes.  The variety was astounding.

houstonmarket6

houstonmarket7

houstonmarket8

houstonmarket9

And then

… once we made it through the produce hall, we entered the real market.  This area was full of the more exotic fruits, as well as kitchenware, medicinal herbs, dried peppers, children’s toys, handmade pottery, piñatas, Mexican and Latin American candies — everything.  And while the clientele was clearly predominantly Mexican and Central American, I couldn’t help but be strongly reminded of my homeland of Trinidad, especially the open-air markets that we have there.  There were fruits I haven’t seen in years:  green — green! — avocados the size of my head (as opposed to the small black wrinkly ones that are more popular here in America), and we bought the most delicious mangos I’ve ever had in the United States.  Biting into it, I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s garden behind her house.

I was kicking myself for not having visited this place sooner.  It was amazing.

houstonmarket10

houstonmarket11

houstonmarket12

houstonmarket13

houstonmarket14

houstonmarket15

houstonmarket16

Both the bakery and the market have been in Houston for decades, and I can’t imagine how I missed visiting these places earlier.  So if you’re in Houston, don’t make my mistake — go see them both. But be sure to take cash — some of the stalls don’t take credit cards.

This post was written by Karen Walrond an all-around swell human who will always choose the fresh bread roll stuffed with cheese and jalapeños. Read more about Karen right here.  

Basil: Easy to Grow, Easy to Harvest, Plus There’s Basil Ice Cream

September 4, 2015
A

One of our “to grow” items this month is Basil (What to plant in August). It’s easy. It smells good. And, as our new contributor Kristen notes, it transforms into an impressive ice cream. Trust us. You won’t be disappointed.

Check it out.

(Kristin is our newest Contributor con Queso. Read more about Kristin here)

A few years ago a friend asked if I wanted to help start a school garden. At the time I knew less than nothing about gardening, but in a few short weeks, I learned all about amending the soil, fertilizing, drip irrigation, shade structures, organic pest control and on and on and on.  The best part though was working with the kids.  They always came to the garden excited to be outside and getting dirty.  As we would talk about planting this vegetable or that herb, I would ask if they liked to eat these foods.  Often we were met with blank stares or lots of heads shaking “nope.”  

C

The interesting thing about kids and gardening, I came to learn, was that when they plant it, feed it and water it they are so much more likely to eat it!  So at the end of each season, we would celebrate with a harvest feast.  It was always fun coming up with our menu.  We had so many successful dishes, but none was even close to the Basil Ice Cream.

What?!!!

Yes, basil ice cream. Kid crowd pleaser.

The kids would never believe me that ice cream made with herbs could taste good.  Truthfully, I think teachers had their doubts as well.  I felt like a magician pulling that rabbit out of the hat!  Every single time, the ice cream was a huge hit.  They always asked for seconds!  Kids still stop me to ask about that ice cream.  I hope they think of it every time they see some basil, and wonder what else they think they might not like but should try anyway.

This ice cream recipe came to me via my sister from “The Sweet Life” by Kate Zuckerman.  You can make it with all kinds of good herbs- thyme, mint, lemon verbena, etc.  I have also served this ice cream with her Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp- so good!

Enjoy!

6

Basil Ice Cream

1 1/2 oz basil leaves (about 30 leaves)

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1 cup sugar

8 egg yolks

1 whole egg

pinch of salt

1/4 cup skim milk powder

special tools (fine mesh strainer, ice bath, ice cream machine)

1

Wash and dry basil leaves.  In a saucepan, heat cream, milk and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Once this mixture boils, add basil leaves and remove from heat.  Let infuse for 10 minutes.

2

In mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, egg, salt, skim milk powder and remaining sugar.  Whisk for one minute.  Use a ladle to slowly mix some of the hot cream into the yolk mixture to temper.  Gradually add egg mixture to the hot cream, whisking constantly.  Cook custard over medium heat until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.

3

Strain the custard through the fine mesh strainer, pushing it through with a spatula or spoon.  The basil leaves and any solids will remain in the strainer. Cool the custard immediately in an ice bath, and whisk until cool.

4

Remove, and cover the custard with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate for a minimum of two hours.

5

Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to instructions until the ice cream holds the lines of the stirrer.  It will be soft.  Remove to a freezer container, and allow to freeze overnight.

And enjoy!

Oh yeah, and also, we just found this recipe for Basil Mascarpone Buttercream Frosted Chocolate Cake. What?! Are you kidding me. This would go well with basil ice cream. And if you think that’s too much basil, you should probably reconsider. Because there’s never too much basil. Never.

This post was written by Kristin Paull, your new best friend and all-around swell human. Read more about Kristin right here.  And you can read even more about Kristin right here. 

And this post is written with love for good people at Garden Collage, a new lifestyle and gardening publication, which features stories on the new role that gardening takes in our modern lifestyle.  Be sure to check them out. And share your garden shots on Instagram and Twitter with #GardenCollage. We will! Because we love them. Join us!

San Marcos Special Summer Sangria

August 18, 2015
drink 1b

A few days ago I stopped in at my favorite spot in San Marcos, Root Cellar, and discovered that they just put in a bar. Oh yes they did. I’m not really an alcoholic beverage drinker…more of a sipper…but the bar is a lovely addition to the waiting area. And so I ordered a lovely white sangria. And here’s my interpretation of it.

San Marcos Summer Sangria

1  bottle white wine

2 Fredricksburg peaches, sliced

4 Poteet strawberries, thinly sliced

1 cup raspberries

3 tablespoons sugar, or more, to taste

1 bottle sparkling white wine

8 sprigs mint

In a large pitcher, whisk together the white wine,  peaches, strawberries, raspberries and sugar. Let chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Serve over ice with sparkling white wine, garnished with mint, because it’s nice.

Enjoy.

drink-2

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream

August 13, 2015
ice-cream-texas
Texans love ice cream. That should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever visited our state in the summer when the temperature is in the triple digits, the armadillos are sweaty, and all anyone wants to do is shove their face into a big bowl of Rocky Road until the chilly 90-degree temps of November roll in. Ahhhhh.

Alas, there was no comfort to be found in Texan ice cream this summer. Or, I should say, not in the state’s #1 Go-To because tragically, the Blue Bell factory that’s been churning out tubs since 1907 was shut down in June due to a Listeria contamination. (Not to be confused with a Listerine contamination, which is actually a good thing if you want super fresh breath.)

But while Texans wept, gallons and tubs and pints of Blue Bell joy were mercilessly yanked from every grocery stores and ice cream shops in the state. We were left bereft, overheated and well, a few pounds thinner because we weren’t gorging on ice cream every damn night. But honestly, is there anything sadder than a child who now has no choice but to snack on (gag) vegetables?

Photo via Mary Caroline Cruse Shreves

Photo via Mary Caroline Cruse Shreves

That’s why I decided to make it my mission to find new ice cream. Better ice cream. Ice cream that would cool me down on these scorching hot days while also keeping my waist in the peak muffin top shape that is both my money maker and my calling card. Yes, people, you can always count on me to do the heavy lifting when it comes to frozen treats. I am the Mother Teresa of the Freezer Section. My mantle is ready for the Nobel.

Here are a few of the new ice cream brands I sampled this summer. Please note that the pictures aren’t perfect because I took them when it was 2,000 degrees outside, I was under a red umbrella, and both my eyeballs and the ice cream were rapidly melting. I know, the ways I suffer for my art.
1. HEB CREAMY CREATIONS

hebNot only is HEB like, the best grocery store in Texas, but their store brand is consistently as good if not better than national brands. Their Creamy Creations ice cream is no exception. It’s flavorful, satisfying, and priced very reasonably. Plus it comes in a ton of delicious flavors, including Texas-centric ones like Houston Texans: Texans Tackle Crunch, Texas Vanilla Seguin Pecan, and Poteet Strawberry. Oh, and there’s also one named after me: Intense White Chocolate.

2. DREYER’S FROZEN CUSTARD

custard

What’s the difference between ice cream and custard? Same as the difference between roosters and chickens: EGGS. But what these eggs do is make the custard extra creamy and stay cold longer. Don’t ask me why. I’m not an Ice Cream Scientist. But my entire family thought the two Dreyer’s Custard flavors we tried—Vanilla and Snickerdoodle—were delicious, and now we plan on hunting down their Chocolate Malt Frozen Custard and making it our new bestie.

3. McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams

mcconnells
Shhhhhhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone in my family that we had this in our freezer. And don’t tell anyone in my family that I ate the pint of CHURROS CON LECHE by myself. And the pint of DOUBLE PEANUT BUTTER CHIP. And the pint of, well, you’re picking up what I’m laying down, friends. And whatever you do, DON’T TELL TEXANS THAT THIS GIFT FROM THE ICE CREAM GODS IS MADE IN SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA AND YOU CAN GET IT SHIPPED TO YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE I WANT IT ALLLLLLLL FOR MYSELF.

4. Tillamook Ice Cream

tillamook

Did you know that Tillamook, the Oregon makers of best cheese ever, also makes ice cream? I didn’t, but apparently they’ve been doing so since 1947, and it’s now available in certain Texas cities. The Horchata ice cream is based on the Mexican drink made from rice and milk, with added Vietnamese cinnamon. I’m sure many people would love the Horchata, but alas, none of them live in my house*. We much preferred the Marionberry Pie and Tillamook mudslide. And the Tillamook cheese we went out to buy after the word “Tillamook” gave us cravings for some sharp cheddar.

*They all live in Laura’s house. Or, actually, Laura loves it enough for about six people.

5. Adams Premium Ice Cream

adams

I love Adams Vanilla Extract. I use it every time I bake something, which is roughly once every nine years. But it’s the best, and it’s also made by one of the oldest continuously operated companies in Texas, and one of oldest spice and extract companies in the United States. Adams just celebrated their 125th birthday, and did so by launching this amazingly good ice cream exclusively sold at HEB. Flavors include Vanilla and Cookie Dough, but listen up: if you don’t scoop up every container of the Pecan Pie flavor that you can get your sweaty little hands on, then go buy a deep freezer for your garage, then store a lifetime supply of this ice cream in said deep freezer, then you sir, are a moron. It is THAT good.

So there you go, Texas. Plenty of ice cream choices to get you through our Blue Bell drought and through our endless summer heat. My muffin top is now in prime shape. And while rumor has it that BB will be back in business soon, try some of these brands in the meantime and keep your fingers crossed.

I’d cross mine, but they’re currently busy doing more “research.”

cone

This post was written by Wendi Aarons, extended-dance-mix writer and all-around swell human. Read more about Wendi right here. 

 

What To Plant In August

August 5, 2015
tomatoes-ripening

August is the least productive season in Central Texas … in almost every single way. And this is for sure true when it comes to gardening. There are a few vegetables that you can get going, but for the most part, ’tis the season to ride out the last of the tomatoes and peppers and just give the soil a freaking break.

It’s also a good month to plant seeds for the fall. I’m cleaning out beds and the garden, cutting back all the overgrown and now frying plants and getting ready for what’s next.

garden-august

Seeds I’m planting this weekend in seed starter pots: broccoli, cauliflower, winter squash, kale, collards and varied greens. Find a place for them to grow that’s not too hot, but has bright sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon.

What-to-Plant-in-August

Beyond seeds, there just aren’t a ton of great things to start in August (September is a banner month, so save up for that.) But you can still start Sweet Potatoes for a few more weeks and Celery as well. Corn is good to start this month (from seed, directly into the ground) and it’s so pretty when it grows in the fall. Throw a scarecrow in it and you are full on for Fall for sure.

I mainly save August for herb freshen ups and starting seeds in seed starters. I always make sure I have plenty of Basil and Sage growing by now because basil = pesto (which is totally a Fall thing for me) and sage = sage butter and/or Thanksgiving dressing deluxe. So make sure that stuff gets going. Now’s as good a time as ever.

peppers-2

Mostly it’s a great month to be lazy. To gather your peppers and tomatoes while you may. And make a lot of salsa, to be consumed near a large body of water, if at all possible. Enjoy the fleeting summer and take a nap. You deserve it.

Paletas de Sandia + Watermelon Ice Cream

August 4, 2015
watermelon-popsicles

Summer tastes like paletas. Or paletas taste like summer. It depends upon where you grew up and how you look at things. As the world works, I’m sure they are available across the country, but walk outside any door and onto a street in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California, and if you stand there long enough (without passing out from the heat), someone will ask you if you’d like a paleta. And the correct answer is yes.

Paletas are extremely frozen popsicles made from fresh fruit and water…sometimes with sugar…but not much more. They are basically frozen agua frescas on a stick, a staple in southern states, and almost always pure and simple magic.

sandia-paleta

When I was younger, I would bribe my dad to take me to the Sac N Pac at the end of the street where they had a small freezer full of Michoacana paletas. At the time, I imagined the Michoacana company to be the most impressive company in all the land, headquartered in a castle-like Willy Wonka mansion full of magical frozen popsicles and love.

In actuality, it’s a bunch of mom and pop shops, which is of course even better.

Michoacana is a toponym, meaning someone or something from the state of Michoacán in western Mexico. But the name is used in virtually every state of the country, and it is not because it’s a national chain. In one very small town in the Huasteca region of Veracruz, I counted six paleterías named La Michoacana within a three-square-block area.

Read more about this on The Austin Chronicle. It’s a great article.

sandias-2

As an adult, I now bribe myself to go up the street to the Market 150, where they have a small freezer full of my current favorites from Austin-based La Super Michoacana.  This is one of the delights of the summer. Walking through a glass door, from epic heat into a boxed room of AC cold that smells like bubble gum, rubber tires and cooler contents. And inside, across the tiled isles, a freezer full of frozen bits of watermelon juice.

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think that watermelon can be improved upon or even should be attempted to, but considering Michoacana paletas, I was willing to look into Salted Watermelon ice cream.

watermelon-ice-cream

Lick ice cream in Austin has featured a version of this. And I found this great no-churn recipe, but I want to make some in my ice cream maker that only includes the following ingredients: watermelon, cream/milk, sugar, mint and salt. I attempted some before I left for the beach, but I wasn’t able to execute it in a way that I’m happy about…let’s just say a little mint goes a long way. Ironically, an attempt to use the fewest and simplest ingredients sometimes becomes the most challenging, until you get it right. In the meantime, this watermelon ice cream recipe is pretty good. If I can create what I have in mind, and get the consistency and flavor right, I’ll share it here. In the meantime, here are a few hacks.

watermelon-ice-cream-topo-chico

Enter Topo Chico. Make your favorite version of watermelon ice cream, add Topo Chico with Lime and some fresh mint…

watermelon-float-3

…And you have an Agua Fresca Salted Watermelon Ice Cream float. Whoa. Good. Or, look what I found here…

watermelon-slice-soda

This watermelon soda tastes like the 70s. This is possibly because it’s made up of very seventiesesque ingredients… no high-fructose anything… just carbonated water, pure cane sugar, a preservative, natural and artificial flavors and the dreaded Red 40. That’s really it, and if you can handle some artificial, I highly recommend picking these up.

If you’re in Texas, any H.E.B. grocery store has them right now. If you live elsewhere, you can probably find something similar in a spot near you. These old school bad boys taste like the 1980s watermelon Jolly Rancher sticks we used to hide under our pillows at summer camp, only in a fizzy water format. Add some vanilla ice cream, some mint, and a little rum for the adults, and you’ve got yourself a sample of frozen summer in a glass.

watermelon-float

You won’t be disappointed.

The end of summer typically brings a heat wave of slight nostalgia for me. An attempt to recreate childhood summer vacations, flavors of August and lazy summer days. As is often the case, the less we try the easier it comes. The less ingredients the better.  Paletas de sandia and watermelon frozen treats do the trick for me.

Agua de Sandia / Watermelon Agua Fresca

August 3, 2015
sandia-agua-fresca

Someone mentioned that it’s National Watermelon Day. Which really means nothing except that you should probably be eating watermelon as much as possible for the next month or two because, hand to heaven, it is hot outside.

watermelon-2

I’m not a big fan of dressing up watermelon too much. Watermelon margaritas, no. Watermelon frou-frou overdone recipes, hell no. Plain watermelon with a dash of salt on top is just about perfection. That said, I did try out a salted watermelon ice cream recipe (because it’s also national ice cream year…okay maybe not, but it should be) over the weekend, and it was pretty great concept. More about that in the next post.

But back to now. Now, the one thing I think is great to throw in the summer line up is agua fresca. Specifically agua de sandia. Watermelon water. Here’s what you’ll need.

agua-fresca-ingredients

Here’s What You’ll Need

4 cups of watermelon

3 cups of Topo Chico con Lime

(If you don’t have that, just use water.)

The juice from one lime

1 tablespoon of sugar

topo-chico-3

Here’s the deal with Topo Chico. It’s just the best. It is basically just fizzy water, it tastes great, and I hear it’s magic for hangovers. This may be just a thing you can pick up anywhere in Texas (Can you find it everywhere in other places?) Or you can get it on Amazon. This summer, I was introduced to Topo Chico with lime (Thank you, Brooks family) and it wins all the other Topo Chico contests. So look into that. I highly recommend that you drink it whenever possible.

agua-fresca-batch

Here’s What You’ll Do

All you do is mix up all four ingredients listed above in a blender. My blender is crap, so I chop up/blend the watermelon in my little food processor chopper and then put that slushed watermelon into the blender. It’s just easier for all involved.

agua-fresca-glass

And done. Agua fresca is served. It’s the easiest thing ever. And it goes great with tacos. Or sandwiches. Or anything really. Top it with some vodka or rum and you have yourself a boozy slushy agua de sandia beach party. Or just grab a watermelon and some salt. That works too.

Happy watermeloning!

 

The Easiest Watermelon Salad Ever

June 26, 2015
best watermelon salad

This has to be the easiest watermelon salad ever. Please tell me if you’ve ever heard of any easier watermelon anything (besides just salt on pieces of watermelon) because, honey, I think this it. And speaking of honey, that’s the brilliance, just three fresh, local ingredients (watermelon, mint, honey) and our favorite thing ever: queso. Well, queso fresco, but still. The best. Here’s how it happens.

 

unnamed-24Watermelon

fresh mint
Mint

unnamed-12

Queso fresco

unnamed-8Honey

Chop up the watermelon and mint, add crumbles of queso fresco, drizzle with honey (I love the word drizzle) and DONE.

the-easiest-watermelon-salad

You’re welcome.

Happy weekend!

Oh and okay so if you are in Texas, you should totally go to The Luling Watermelon Thump and challenge someone to a seed-spitting contest. This weekend. It’s happening all weekend.  Go.  And report back on Monday.