As much as I’ve been lamenting the never-ending winter we’ve had here in Massachusetts, a small part of me dreads one part of summer. And that part is sweat.
There’s no getting around it: I am not a dainty person who never perspires, and this has butt heads with my desire to use natural products for pretty much my entire life. Picture a scene: tween Amanda approaches her mom for deodorant after realizing that all the cool girls with straight hair and Co-Ed Naked t-shirts are using Teen Spirit, and not only am I not blonde OR tan, I do not have this essential product. Cut to the next day when my mom comes home with Tom’s of Maine … and eternal embarrassment, plus a not-insignificant amount of crying, ensues.
Nothing against Tom’s or any of the other natural brands I’ve tried over the years, but apart from being horrifyingly dorky for a pre-teen to sport at soccer practice, it just didn’t work that well for me at ALL. Fast forward to today, when many (many) years of trial and error later, I’ve finally landed on a product that smells really good, doesn’t bother sensitive skin, doesn’t require me to dip my hands into a jar of gunk, and most importantly WORKS AMAZINGLY, even on the hottest days. Even for power yoga, or the T without air conditioning, or that moment when you have to ask for a raise or tell off a mansplainer. I’m talking about Schmidt’s Naturals, from (where else) Portland, and it has finally made me a believer in vegan hygiene products. I use it every single day, and have stocked up on multiple scents and formulations so I always have what I need.
My hands-down favorite scent is Bergamot Lime, but I am REALLY fond of both bergamot and lime, to a degree that I don’t think is anywhere near normal. Got sensitive skin? My favorite gentle option is Schmidt’s Coconut Pineapple stick (again, two flavors I borderline freakishly love. See pretty much every post while I was pregnant). Of course, they also have plenty of fragrance-free options, too. They offer a subscription program and select scents are also sold in stores nationwide, including the Target near my house (woohoo!) Their deodorants are free of aluminum and instead use natural ingredients — plant-based minerals like magnesium and baking powder — to neutralize odor-causing bacteria and wetness. I love that it was founded by a mom who was just looking to improve the personal products she used while pregnant!
Now through Saturday, June 3, take 30% off your order at Schmidt’s in celebration of their 7th year in business with code “ANNIVERSARY!”
In closing, I’ll leave you with this fairly unfortunate snapshot of my 90s self at a neighborhood block party. Hopefully, I had some kind of deo on alongside my sambas and bad bangs, but you really never know.
With gardens getting ready and fresh, homegrown produce just over the horizon, I’m teeing up some warm-weather recipes perfect for using up the bounty of squash, eggplant, greens, peppers and basil we’ll all have handy soon. This one originally came to me via Blue Apron (read more about my thoughts on the service right here) and I’ve enjoyed making it many times over since.
We no longer subscribe to the service, but for a while there it REALLY helped us get out of our takeout rut after having a newborn. Cooking was the one thing I couldn’t handle amid scarce sleep, pumping, packing daycare bags, washing bottles and (of course) playing with my new baby, and I could always count on Blue Apron to drop fixings for three meals off on my porch every week. It was one less thing to worry about, but eventually we got our groove back and started meal planning and grocery shopping (sans meltdown) again.
The key to this recipe’s unique flavor comes from the Tomatillos, or “Mexican husk tomatoes,” which are the sweet-tart ingredient that gives salsa verde its flavor. Cultivated since pre-Columbian times, they are elemental to modern Mexican cuisine and also played an important role in Mayan and Aztec culture.
They’ll stay fresh in your refrigerator with husks on for a couple of weeks, or you can remove the husks and seal them in plastic bags to keep even longer. They’re easy to find in any grocery store.
Summer Squash Enchiladas
6 Corn Tortillas
½ Cup Jasmine Rice
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Poblano Pepper
1 Yellow Summer Squash
½ Pound Tomatillos
1 Bunch Cilantro
½ Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Grated Cotija Cheese+
1 Tablespoon Mexican Spice Blend*
+Cotija is a dry, Mexican grating cheese, similar to Parmesan. A good substitute is Feta.
*Mexican Spice Blend is equal parts garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin and dried oregano. You can also buy pre-mixed Mexican Seasoning from a supermarket brand such as McCormick. Carne Asada Seasoning is also a good substitute, and you can find a version by McCormick or Wildtree for a certified organic, unprocessed option.
Preheat the oven to 475°F. In a small pot, combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 cup of water and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the cooked rice with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.
While the rice cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce. Remove and discard any tomatillo husks and dice small, then peel and mince the garlic. Using a zester, zest the lime peel then cut the lime into quarters. Dice the squash. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stems. Stack the tortillas on a plate; cover with a damp paper towel (or heat up in the microwave, then cover with a paper towel). Remove and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the poblano, then small dice, immediately washing your hands and work surface.
In a pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the tomatillos and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes or until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons of water; cook, occasionally smashing the tomatillos with a spoon, for about 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat then stir in half the sour cream and the juice of 2 lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the salsa verde cooks, in a medium pan, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the squash, poblano and spice blend and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until browned and softened. Transfer to the bowl of cooked rice.
Add the lime zest, half the cilantro, half the cheese and remaining sour cream into the bowl of cooked rice and vegetables and stir to combine. Place the tortillas on a clean, dry work surface. Spread about ⅓ cup of the filling into the bottom of a baking dish. Divide the remaining filling between the tortillas; tightly roll up each tortilla around the filling. Carefully transfer the rolled tortillas to the baking dish in a single layer, seam sides down. (**A good tip here: mist the tortillas with water to keep them soft and pliant and prevent them from cracking in the pan. As you can see, this happened to me on the day I photographed these, but the trick has worked for me every time since**).
Evenly top the assembled enchiladas with the salsa verde and remaining cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 2 minutes. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!
If you’re ever looking for a recipe like this on a menu, they’d be called “enchiladas suizas,” which technically means “Swiss enchiladas” — so named, supposedly, for the Swiss immigrants to Mexico who brought their love of dairy to the new country’s cuisine, resulting in a range of recipes with European influence. Blue Apron filled this version of enchiladas suizas with squash, poblano pepper, and jasmine rice, topping them with a “salsa verde,” or tomatillo sauce with a dash of sour cream.
This dish pairs very nicely with a fruity, crisp rosé … perfect for summer!
Want to make this dish even more hefty? Add in some beans for avegetarianoption, or some poached shredded chicken.
If, like us, you’ve just planted your garden and can’t wait to start cooking with the fruits of your labors, pin this recipe to save for later! I have a long list of dinners I’m dying to try, and Pinterest is the only thing that keeps me organized 🙂 You can see my own recipes, plus the ones I’ve saved from other bloggers and am dying to try, on my profile.
I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and Mother’s Day for all the moms out there. It was crappy weather in New England, but I had an amazing relaxing weekend with my babies. We took a drive up to Plum Island and grabbed dinner at a diner on route 1, and had a nice low-key lunch with my mom on Sunday, after which Gramma helped us pick out a big girl bed for G! We think we’ve decided on the one we want, and she is so excited to move out of her toddler bed as soon as we can order the new twin. (We are also excited for her to hopefully stop waking us up at midnight to fix her too-small blankets). On Thursday, Georgia’s school had all the parents in for an adorable Mother’s Day pageant with songs and poems, followed by treats in each child’s classroom. They all looked soooo proud of all the gifts they had made, including a miniature cake baked and decorated by each child to share with their mum that morning. It was just lovely and I never, ever want her to grow up from this sweet age.
Are you local? Don’t forget the Boston Public Market @ Dewey Square Plaza opens for the season tomorrow, right on the Greenway across from South Station! Check out a list of vendors here. They’ll have a farmer’s market plus prepared foods for lunch and dinner every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 to 6:30, now through November 21.
First off: here’s a real Mojito recipe if that’s what you’re about! My friend Terri brought this to Mark’s birthday BBQ this year and they were outstanding. If you just want the refreshing, minty, limey, sugary taste without the booze, though, here’s how I do:
In a large glass, like this mason jar, muddle (crush) 10 fresh mint leaves, 1 tsp sweetener (regular sugar, or stevia, etc.), and half a lime, cut into wedges. Add a large handful of ice cubes and pour ginger ale, seltzer water (plain or flavored) or club soda into the glass, topping with more lime wedges and sweetener to taste. You can also cut the fizz by using half plain water, half sparkling water. Stir to combine — don’t strain! — and enjoy without the hangover 🙂
Reasons I Love Mint
It grows easily. Ask anyone who’s put it in their garden outside a container!!
It’s a great digestive aid. Caffeine-free peppermint tea is fabulous for soothing an upset stomach, especially around the holidays when heavy food may be dragging you down.
It may relieve nausea. I did not find it helpful while pregnant (and some doctors caution that mint can cause contractions or discomfort, especially during your third trimester)… but at other times, it does seem to do the trick.
Mint can help inflamed, aggravated skin to calm down — especially if you tend to get hormonal breakouts. A few sprigs of mint in your water can soothe you inside and out! And some people swear by masks made of crushed mint. You can DIY, or try Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful Clay Mask with Mint and Lemon.
Happy almost weekend! I’ve come down with a summer cold, so I’m stepping up my eating habits to nourish myself back to health. Nothing helps kick an icky illness better than eating right and resting. The body needs real food to recover! Sunday night, when I felt this one coming on, Georgia and I grabbed the last lettuce from the garden and some fruit from our weekend grocery haul, and got down to business. This smoothie is refreshing, re-hydrating, energizing and nutritious. Sip happily!
Makes enough for two servings
1 cup water
2 slices watermelon
1 frozen banana
1 apple, cored and quartered
juice of 1 lemon
1 head of romaine, rough chopped
optional: 1 celery stalk, chopped (I love adding celery to smoothies :))
Using a fresh banana is fine, too. You may want to add a couple ice cubes to keep it cold if you do that. Subbing a lime for the lemon is also OK; you can also swap the romaine for any kind of lettuce, and any type of apple will do. This is a flexible smoothie that tastes sweet, not super green. My only advice would be to keep water as the base or it will get too heavy and won’t have the same smooth drinkability.
Adding the water, lemon juice and watermelon first, then the other ingredients, blend on high until smooth. Enjoy cold! Keeps well for up to a week in the fridge, or double and freeze extras to have throughout the week.
This post is dedicated to my adventurous husband and daughter who bravely tried something that they a) had never heard of, b) knew was a little spicy, and c) couldn’t slather with melted cheese, as is their typical preference.
This dish was super easy, and can be made both vegetarian and mild very easily.
(Or, you can go all-in and cook the jalapenos with their ribs and seeds and everything and get even MORE heat!)
What are Arepas? Similar to Polenta patties, they are like small pancakes made with pre-cooked white or yellow corn flour, available inexpensively in large grocery stores under the Goya brand or online. Pan-fried in a hot skillet with a little bit of oil, they are a fast foundation to several Central- and South-American dishes. They are very versatile and can be served at any time of day with eggs, vegetables, cheese or meat. All you need to do is mix the flour with water and form into palm-sized balls, then pat them flat and cook in a frying pan.
Arepas with Pickled Jalapenos & Avocado
Time: Less than 40 minutes start to finish.
Quantity: The recipe below feeds about 2 1/2 people, which was exactly our size. Adjust accordingly! It doubles very easily and most people will be satisfied with one arepa, or maybe one and a half if you’re a growing boy like Mark 😉
8 ounces ground beef (1/2 pound)
1 cup Masarepa (or corn flour) — see note above on where to buy
2 radishes, ends removed, sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 lime, quartered
1 red onion, sliced
1 large bunch cilantro, de-stemmed
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP sugar
1 jalapeno pepper (can sub jarred jalapeno slices)
seasonings, such as cumin & chili powder, to taste (I used carne molida blend)
1 cup room-temperature water
olive oil, for cooking
Start by washing, drying and preparing the produce: cut off the ends of the radishes, then slice them thinly into rounds; quarter the lime; pit, peel and slide the avocado to desired thickness; toss with the juice of 1 lime wedge to prevent browning; peel, halve and thinly slice the red onion; pick the cilantro leaves off the stems, discarding the stems; slice the jalapeno into rounds (or slice lengthwise and chop into smaller pieces, discarding ribs and seeds for less heat); end by washing your hands so you don’t transfer the heat of the pepper to other parts of the dish (or rub your eyes by accident — ouch!)
Next, pickle the jalapeno and onion. In a small pan, combine the jalapeno, sugar, vinegar and half the onion. Add 2 TBSP water and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cook and stir occasionally for just a couple minutes, or until the liquid is mostly reduced. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
Then, brown the beef. In a large non stick pan, heat 2 TBSP olive oil on medium-high until hot; add the beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, for 2-3 minutes or until it’s just cooked through (no more pink). Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside; wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
In the pan you just used to cook the beef, heat 2 TBSP olive oil on medium high until hot. Add the rest of the onion plus the spice blend to your taste (I did just the tiniest pinch because I was making this mild) plus salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, just a couple minutes or until fragrant; add the cooked beef and the juice of 1 lime wedge. Cook another two minutes, stirring, until just combined, then transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan again for the arepas.
To form the arepas, combine the flour with a huge pinch of salt and 1 cup of lukewarm water. Stir until just combined; the dough should be damp and easy to work with. Using wet hands, divide the dough into four equal-sized balls, then flatten into 1/4 inch thin rounds on a clean work surface like a dry cutting board.
In the pan you just cleaned out, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium-hot until hot. Add the arepas all at one time, cooking 2-4 minutes per side, or until they are golden and cooked through.
Plate your food by placing the arepas in the bottom of each dish, topping them with the ground beef, then avocado. Garnish with the radishes, cilantro and as much pickled jalapeno and onion as appeals. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side. Yum!
Carne Molida is a spice blend made up of 2 Parts Ancho Chile Powder, 2 Parts Chipotle Chile Powder, 2 Parts Garlic Powder, 2 Parts Ground Cumin, 2 Parts Ground Coriander, 2 Parts Mexican Oregano, 1 Part Cocoa Powder, 1 Part Ground Nutmeg, and 1 Part Cornstarch. I barely used a pinch of this; you can decide what type of flavor you like and what heat level you desire and adjust accordingly. You could just as easily add a dash of cumin and chile powder and call it a day.
Masarepa is a quick-cooking flour. Its most popular use is in making arepas; the name “masarepa” is a combination of the words “masa” and “arepa,” meaning “dough” and “cornbread.” As I said above, you can buy it online here if you can’t find it locally.
Cooking Jalapeno with sugar and red wine balances out its heat a little, but you should only use a tiny amount of chopped jalapeno in this dish if you really hate spicy food. Adding in the ribs and seeds will intensify that level significantly. I cooked a little bit and then made sure Mark and Georgia didn’t get any actual Jalapeno chunks on their plate, which satisfied my desire to get the flavor into the dish while making sure they didn’t bite down into anything hot.
This can be easily doubled with one pound of ground beef and so on. You can also very easily sub in vegetarian ground crumbles or omit the meat entirely and insert cheese, eggs, or sturdy roasted vegetables with the same seasonings.
The deconstructed toddler version:
And no, she didn’t really go for the radishes. She did try them, though.
Happily, avocados and carbs are already favorites of hers, so the patties and everything else went down the hatch. Like me, she never really eats red meat, so the hamburger she sort of picked at and gave a few courtesy nibbles. I’m not worried about her disliking ground beef, though. While it’s a rich source of iron, protein and zinc, no toddler needs to eat red meat to get those nutrients if they eat enough good fish like salmon, eggs and full-fat dairy products like cheese and whole milk, and she’s better off without all the unhealthy saturated fat in beef (to say nothing of the hormones and antibiotics found in most U.S. meat, which isn’t safe for anybody). If you do eat a fair amount of red meat, good tips for keeping it healthy enough for toddlers include purchasing higher-end cuts that have less fat; picking lean ground beef when buying it for hamburgers; and broiling instead of pan-frying, which reduces the amount of fat retained.
I hope you enjoy this one. We tried it during our free trial of Blue Apron, which we’ve now decided to subscribe to this summer on a temporary basis to see how we like it. When pricing it out — $60 per delivery, which includes three meals that feed exactly two people — it made more sense than dropping $25 every other night on takeout when we don’t have enough time or ingredients in the house to make dinner. We always seem to have just enough extra to give Georgia a taste with her dinner, too, so it comes out to an economical $10 per person. I’ve decided to “skip” two weeks each month, so that we only get deliveries from Blue Apron every third week, and in between we rely on our old favorites, like pasta with meatballs, risotto, shepherd’s pie and spaghetti carbonara. Now that it’s summer and our garden is firing up, we’ll rotate this lemony pasta with sweet sausage in more frequently, as well as homemade pizza to use up all those peppers, tomatoes and basil. And, of course, there’s lots of fresh greens available at the farmer’s markets these days to go alongside any of these dishes to lighten them up and add some vegetables!
Just in time for March Madness! Make enough to get you from the Sweet Sixteen to the Final Four, and you won’t be sorry. Here’s what you need:
Tomatoes, canned jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and — my secret ingredient, cribbed from The Pioneer Woman’s salsa — two cans of Rotel. Here’s her original post, where she also makes some killer nachos.This fresh salsa is awesome with heirloom tomatoes from your garden or the farmer’s market, but regular old supermarket tomatoes will do just fine, too.
2 1/2 cups tomatoes (about 3 heirloom) or 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
2 cans (10 oz) Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild or medium
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
jalapenos to taste (start with a few slices and add if needed)
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp cumin
juice of 1 lime
Using a large food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients until you get the consistency you desire. I err on the side of chunky and not smooth. Test the seasonings, refrigerate for an hour and serve! This makes a pretty good-sized batch, so you can definitely bring plenty to a party and still have leftovers (or, if you have a huge family, just eat it all at one sitting).
I used this handy guide to figure out how many garden tomatoes would give me the same quantity as a 28 oz. jar of the whole canned variety (the answer: about 2 1/2 cups). So if you have no choice but to sub in the canned kind, that’s the size you want to grab.
This salsa has a satisfying smooth yet chunky texture with a tiny bit of heat, but not too much. In my opinion the fresh cilantro really makes it, but you can certainly adjust to your preference if cilantro isn’t really your thing!
***IMPORTANT!!!*** If you are considering canning your salsa, please consult a guide such as the Ball Canning Book or a reputable reference for proper food preservation — this website is a good place to start — because you can’t just take any old salsa recipe and throw it in a hot water bath to preserve it long-term. There are USDA guidelines over the ratio of acidic foods to alkaline ingredients to prevent spoilage and growth of dangerous bacteria. Unless you are using a pressure canner, please be very careful while canning salsa or similar sauces! Mine are pictured in Mason jars because I gave them out as gifts the day after I made them, so they’re safe to keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
This year, for the first time, I was lucky enough to participate in the Austin-Boston Food Blogger Swap (#atxbos), which matches food bloggers from Austin, TX and Boston, MA to swap foodie care packages in the month of October. The only rules? A $30 limit and a passion for local food products!
I swapped with Austin blogger Christy Horton, a pastry and dessert blogger at Epicuriosities.com, last week. Check out the fun stuff she sent me:
Make sure you check out Christy’s blog, Epicuriosities, and follow her on Twitter @Christy111luv. She sent me her own recipe for Southern Corn Bread, which I’ll definitely be making (and blogging!) soon. I may even take her tip to throw in the candied Jalapenos to keep it Texas style. I hope she enjoys her Boston food package as much as I liked getting her sweet n’ hot Texas goodies!