VEGAN SPICE COOKIES

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Vegan Spice Cookies

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup quick oats, gluten free if possible
1/4 cup Tablespoons organic coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
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Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the cookies:
        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2-3 half size sheet pans with parchment. Reuse a pan if you don't have 3.
        Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add the wet ingredients and process until well combined, about another 30 seconds. Before scooping, stir in any stray maple syrup into the dough in the bowl of the processor.
        Alternatively you could stir together all of the ingredients in a medium size bowl using 6 Tablespoons of oat flour for the quick oats.
        Spoon or scoop 2 Tablespoons at a time for large cookies, 6 to a pan, or 1 Tablespoon mounds with 12 to a pan. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes, take out and band a few times on a counter or the stove. Rotate the pans top to bottom and back to front and bake for about another 7-9 minutes, until a dark burnished brown. Cool completely on the pans. They will crisp up as they cool.
        Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 16 large or 32 small cookies. YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. If you don't have a food processor, you could sub in 6 Tablespoons of oat flour for the quick oats and combine everything in a mixing bowl. But the texture won't be exactly the same.
2. If you can, use gluten-free oats (not all oats are gluten-free), and these will be gluten-free too.
3. Make sure to rap the pan on the counter halfway through the cooking time.
4. Pay close attention near the end of the baking time. You want them to be a dark burnished brown, but not super dark or they'll burn.

New Years Lucky Lentil Soup

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NEW YEAR'S LUCKY LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:
2 cups French green lentils, picked through and rinsed
1 large plus 1 medium yellow onion, small dice, about 3 1/2 cups
2 Tablespoons minced garlic, about 4 large cloves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 taeaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 large ribs of celery, small dice, about 1 1/2 cups
4 medium carrots, small dice, about 1 1/2
1 1/2 quarts ( 6 cups) low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top, optional

Make the soup:
        In a large heavy pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 more minutes.
        Stir in the lentils, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 1 hour, until the lentils are tender. Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper. the seasonings. Stir in the red wine or red wine vinegar. Serve, sprinkled with some grated Parmesan, if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings.       YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The hardest part of this recipe is finding the French green lentils. But most supermarkets and health food stores will carry them. There's always online too.
2. You can sub in the regular brown lentils, but it just won't be the same.
3. Make sure to pick through the lentils, you may find a few small stones or twigs.
4. Since you only need 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste, buy it in a tube.
5. This recipe is easily doubled, the extra can be frozen for a quick winter meal.
6. Don't eat my grandmother's lentil soup!

Royal Icing for the Magical Cookie Forests

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ROYAL ICING
Ingredients:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 Tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional-but I use it
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the icing:
        In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat all of the icing ingredients together on high speed for 4-5 minutes until stiff and glossy. Lift the whisk attachment up out of the icing.
        You've got the perfect consistency when the icing falls off and melts right back into the bowl of icing within about 5-10 seconds. If it's too thick, add a little more water a teaspoon at a time. If it's too thin, add a little more sifted confectioners' sugar. While using the icing, to keep it from hardening, cover the bowl with a damp towel.
        The icing will harden in about 3 hours at room temperature or leave to harden overnight. You can store any extra in an air tight container in fridge for 2 days. Bring back to room temperature, and stir well to reuse, thinning with a little water if necessary.

Makes 1 1/2 cups, and can easily be doubled.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The canning jars and fairie lights are easy to find at lots of big box stores or online. I used Weck #743 3/4 liter jars and a 6-7 foot string of 20 fairie lights.
2. If you do make or frost your own cookies, which I highly recommend, you’ll have to plan ahead, because once they’re frosted, they’ll need to dry for a few hours or overnight.
3. Make sure the jars are sized small enough to support the cookies and keep them upright.
4. I like making royal icing with meringue powder instead of using raw egg whites, it also dries more quickly.
5. If you don't have a piping bag, put the icing in a ziploc bag and cut off a tiny piece of one of the corners. 6. Stand back and wait for the ooo’s and ahh’s.

Homemade Almond Milk

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Homemade ALMOND MILK

Ingredients:
1/2 cup raw whole almonds, preferably organic
water for soaking
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2 1/2 cups water
1-2 dates, preferably Medjool, optional
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, optional

Make the almond milk:
        In a medium-sized covered container, add the almonds and enough water to cover at least an inch above the nuts. Let the nuts soak overnight in the fridge, or for at least 8 hours.
        Drain the nuts, and add them with the dates and vanilla, if using, into a blender, preferably high-speed. If you’re using a regular blender or a something like a bullet, only blend one half of the nuts and water at a time, and then combine in the nut bag.
        Blend for 2-3 minutes. Place a nut bag, or a few sheets of cheesecloth into a medium-size bowl. Pour the blended nuts into the bag, and squeeze all of the liquid into the bowl. Pour into a container and chill. Immediately rinse out the nut bag to keep it unclogged.
        The milk will last for up to 3 days in the fridge. You can easily double the recipe. But, it’s best to make less more often.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Buy whole raw almonds (with the skins on), organic if you can. Not anything roasted or salted.
2. If you have a regular blender, blend smaller amounts and combine. Even in the high speed blender, I like to blend all of the nuts with 1/2 of the water first before adding the rest.
3. This will only last about 3 days in the fridge, so I make this smaller amount, but if you can use it all up, feel free to double the recipe.
4. If using a nut bag to strain the liquid, make sure to clean it right after you use it to keep it unclogged.

PUMPKIN Coffeecake

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Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar-Pecan Streusel
(adapted from Kim Laidlaw)

Ingredients:
For the streusel:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
a pinch of fine sea salt
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (see below)

For the batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
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8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup full fat sour cream

For the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons milk, whole or 2%, or more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the Cake:
        Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan or any of the pans listed in Lessons Learned.

Make the streusel:
        In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and, using 2 table knives, a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a food processor. Stir in the toasted pecans. Set aside.

Make the batter:
        In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream and mix with the spatula. Stir in the flour mixture. The batter will be quite thick.
        Dollop half of the batter by spoonfuls into the bottom of the pan, and spread into a smooth layer. Evenly sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the streusel and spread the thick batter as best you can. Top with the remaining streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, a few moist crumbs are ok., about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire cooling rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge and remove the sides from the pan. Slide the cake onto the rack to let cool completely.

Make the glaze:
        In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla. If it is too thick to drizzle, add extra milk by the ½ teaspoonfuls until thin enough. To get thin lines, using a spoon, first start the drizzle in the bowl of icing, then draw lines in all directions over the top of the cake. Repeat as many times as desired. Allow some of the glaze to drip down the sides.

Makes 8-10 servings.     YUM!

Toast the pecans:
        Preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of the baking time—they can burn easily. Immediately remove them from the hot pan, cool, and coarsely chop them.

LESSONS Learned:
1. To toast the pecans: preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of the baking time—they can burn easily.
2. If you don’t have a 9 inch round springform pan.... you can use a 9” tube pan, a 10“ bundt pan, or make two 8”round cakes.
3. Make sure to get pure canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie mix.

Fresh Applesauce

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FRESH APPLESAUCE
(inspired by Anthony Williams)
Ingredients:
6 red apples, preferably organic, cut into medium chunks
2 ribs celery, preferably organic, cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
2-4 Medjool dates, or another variety
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 ½- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
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raw walnuts, raisins or chopped dates, dried cranberries or cherries for garnish, optional

Make the Applesauce:
        Add all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender. Alternatively, in a regular blender, work with smaller amounts and combine. Blend until smooth. In my Vitamix, I definitely need the plunger to get it going.
        Serve with optional garnishes. Will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Makes 4 cups, or 4-6 servings.     YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Get organic, if at all possible. If the apples are not organic, I would peel them first.
2. You can leave out the celery and the dates, but why?
3. A high speed blender is going to work best, but a regular one will work too, just do it in smaller batches.
4. Since it’s so easy to make, you can halve or quarter the recipe, and make a fresh batch whenever you want it.
5. If you like, experiment with other flavorings—a pinch of cloves or nutmeg, orange juice, ginger-fresh or powdered and on and on.

Throwback SUNDAY POT ROAST

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THROWBACK Sunday Pot Roast
Ingredients:
one 3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
salt and pepper for sprinkling on the meat
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
5-6 carrots, about one pound, peeled and cut into 3 inch chunks
4-5 medium-sized russet potatoes, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into 8ths
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, optional
3 cups low-sodium beef broth and/or water
3 Tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon celery seed, optional
1 ½ Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups low sodium beef stock or water, with 1 cup extra if needed.

Make the roast:
In the oven:
        If the roast is chilled, remove from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Remove the top rack in the oven to be able to fit the pot. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
        Heat the oil in a large, lidded heavy pot or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the roast ( If it doesn’t fit your pot, cut in half to fit) and cook until well browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes total. Arrange the potatoes, carrot and celery, if using, around the roast.
        Pour the broth and/or water into a 4 cup measure and add the onion flakes, salt, parsley flakes, pepper, onion powder, paprika, celery seed and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Pour the mixture all over the meat and vegetables. It should come up to about ¾ way up the side of the roast. Cover tightly and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until very tender when pierced with a fork.
        About 3/4’s of the way through, check to make sure there is still some liquid in the pot. Add another cup, if necessary. Gently toss the veggies to coat with the juices. When done, remove the beef & vegetables to a platter and serve with the juices.

In the slow cooker:
        Remove meat from fridge for about 30 minutes and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. If desired, brown the meat first. Heat the oil in a large, 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total. Pour about 1/2 cup of the broth or water into the skillet where the beef was browned in and scrape up any brown bits from the pan. Place the browned or unbrowned beef in the slow cooker. Arrange the potatoes, carrots and celery around the roast. Pour the ½ cup broth from the pan plus 2 1/2 cups more broth or water into a 4 cup measure. Add the onion flakes, salt, parsley flakes, pepper, paprika, onion powder, celery seed and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Pour the mixture all over the meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or high 4 to 5 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Serve with accumulated juices.

Makes 8-10 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Even though back then, we never took the time to brown the chuck roast in oil on all sides first, I always do that now. But it’s up to you.
2. You can leave out the veggies if you like. Sides of mashed potatoes and green beans or broccolini instead would be perfect.
3. To save time, especially if you’re opting for the slow cooker version in the morning before you leave for the day, you can prep the veggies the night before. Just keep them in water in the fridge, so that they don’t discolor. Also, do not brown the meat the night before, as there is a risk of bacteria growth.
4. Don’t be afraid to make it one or two days in advance.

Spooky Witches Fingers

SPOOKY WITCHES FINGERS

Ingredients:
30 pretzel rods, broken in half
1 package white or green candy melts, I use Ghirardelli or 1 package white chocolate chips, about 2 cups
green food coloring for the candy melts or green “candy” colors for the white chocolate
slivered almonds, plain or toasted.

Make the fingers:
        Line a sheet pan, cooling rack or flat plate with waxed paper or parchment, set aside.
        In a small heavy saucepan, very slowly melt the candy melts or white chocolate, stirring constantly, adding the regular food coloring to the candy melts, or the candy color to the white chocolate.
        Using a wide flat spoon, scoop up some of the melted coating and roll the pretzel in it, leaving about an inch uncoated. Once coated, roll the rod lengthwise against the side of the pot to allow any excess to fall back into the pot. Place them on the prepared pan. Press a slivered almond into the tip of each to create a fingernail.
        Allow the fingers to partially dry. Then using a toothpick, draw 2 sets of 3 lines to create the knuckles. Harden them completely at room temperature or in the fridge. Store in an airtight container for up to a week until ready to use.

Makes 60 spooky fingers.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. You can buy green candy melts instead of adding the food coloring.
2. To color white chocolate chips, you need oil based “candy“ colors so the chocolate won’t seize. Plain old food coloring won’t work as well.
3. It’s easiest to coat the pretzels by scooping up some of the coating into a big spoon and rolling all but an inch of the rod into the coating. Alternatively you could tilt the pot and dip. Once coated, roll the rod lengthwise against the side of the pot to allow any excess to fall back into the pot.
4. Make sure to put the sliced almond nails on right after coating the pretzels.
5. You can speed up the hardening process by sticking them in the fridge for a minute or 2. But... make sure to draw on the knuckles before they are completely hardened which can happen quickly.

Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash (about 2 ½ - 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided –one for drizzling on the squash, the other for sautéing
1 small onion, about ¾ cup chopped
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1-3 t curry powder
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, optional
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste, start with 12 grinds
about 4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth, coconut milk or water
1 to 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, optional
For garnish: toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, croutons, and scallions

Make the soup:
        Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the neck off of the squash, as well as the top stem. Stand the flat cut side on the cutting board to keep it stable, and slice lengthwise in half. Place the cut side of the bulb on the board and slice that in half as well.
        Place the sliced butternut squash on the pan and drizzle the flesh side of each piece with the olive oil to lightly coat. Rub the oil all over the cut side, and sprinkle the pieces with salt and pepper.
        Turn the squash face down, and roast until tender and completely cooked through, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for about 10-15 minutes.
        While the squash roasts, in a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften. Add the curry, and continue to cook until completely softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
        Scoop the butternut squash flesh into the soup pot and discard the skin. Add the stock, milk or water, and the black pepper. Heat through and blend in batches in the blender until very smooth. Return to the pot, and if desired, stir in the butter or olive oil and heat until piping hot. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if desired. If you like, garnish with croutons, toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and/or scallions.
        Can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Makes 4-6 servings.       YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Pick a squash with a long neck and smaller bulb (where the seeds are). You’ll get more pulp, less seeds to deal with, and it will be easier to cut.
2. I like to cut off the neck of the squash as well as the very top. Then I stand the bottom, flat side of the squash on the cutting board to keep it stable, and slice it top to bottom in half. I also lay the flat side of the bulb on the cutting board, and slice that in half as well.
3. Don’t like the curry? Switch that out along with the garlic and red curry paste, for 1/8th teaspoon of nutmeg and cinnamon, and 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup for a sweeter, less savory version.
4. Don’t want to peel and cut squash? You’re in luck! You can find butternut squash already peeled, seeded and cubed in your grocery store! You can still bake the cubes, tossed with the oil, salt and pepper, just until soft-- which will take pretty much half the time.

End of Summer VEGETABLE TIAN

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End of Summer VEGETABLE TIAN
(adapted from “Everyday Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan)

Ingredients:
4 - 9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 sprigs fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary
½-3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb. tomatoes, cored
1/2 lb. zucchini, green or yellow, scrubbed and trimmed
1/4 lb. eggplant, washed and trimmed—peeling optional
I large red onion, peeled

Make the tian:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil or parchment and set aside.
        Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the baking dish, tilting it so the oil coats the sides. Evenly scatter over half of the garlic and half of the herbs in the bottom of the dish. Season generously with salt and pepper.
        Slice all the vegetables about 1⁄4 inch thick, using a mandolin or by hand. They should all be about the same size, if possible. So, if any are particularly large, you might want to cut them in half to fit better. This is for beauty. If you choose not to stand the slices up in the pan, it’s not a necessary step.
        Alternate the veggies –tomato, zucchini, onion, and eggplant. If standing up in the pan, try to make them all about the same height. Arrange the vegetables in the dish in tight circles, starting from the outside in. As they will shrink once baked, try to keep the vegetables packed as tightly together as you can. Season generously with salt and pepper, and tuck the remaining slivers of garlic in among the vegetables. Scatter the remaining herbs over the top and drizzle another 1-3 Tablespoons of the oil over the top.
        Place the tian on the baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, and bake for 40 minutes. Drizzle another 1-4 Tablespoons of oil over the top, and bake for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are very tender and the juices are bubbling.
        Let the tian rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Or, cool to room temperature. Serve as a veggie side, scoop onto bread slices or dollop on top of chicken or fish. Don’t discard the extra oil in the bottom of the pan, but use for bread dunking or as a flavorful start to a salad dressing.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. This recipe works with an 8” or 9’ round casserole dish. But any size can be used—just adjust the recipe to fit.
2. If you have one, using a mandolin will cut perfectly even slices, but a steady hand and a knife will work just as well. I cut them freehand.
3. Worried about the amount of oil? You can reduce it down to 1/4 cup if you like, and it will still be delicious.
4. Peeling the eggplant is optional. The skin does add a little more texture though.
5. If you are missing a vegetable or herbs, just use the ones you have.
6. Be generous with all the herbs and seasonings.

Grandma's PLUM CAKE

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Grandma's PLUM CAKE

Ingredients:
¾ cup sugar
½ cup, 1 stick, unsalted butter, softened
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 pitted Italian prune plums, halved and pitted, or 3-4 sweet red or purple plums pitted, cut into ½” to 1 inch slices
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2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, optional but delicious

Make the cake:
        Place the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease whatever pan you are using well with butter. If using a springform, you might want to wrap the bottom with foil as well.
        Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about a minute. Fit a strainer over a medium size bowl, and sift the flour, baking powder, salt. Add the dry mixture and the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture and beat well.
        Spoon dollops of the batter into the chosen pan, 9” round or 9” x 13” rectangular pan and spread it evenly to cover the bottom. Place the fruit on top of the batter, prune plum halves skin side down. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over the fruit. You may not need all of it. You also may opt to use less if the fruit is already very sweet. Evenly drizzle the melted butter over all.
        Bake until the cake is browned and puffed around the fruit and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. For a 9” round pan, it will take about 60-65 minutes. For a 9 x 13 about 30-35 minutes. Cool to just warm, and serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, and if you like, whipped cream or ice cream. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Makes 8 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Any fresh seasonal fruit can be used. Instead of the plums, try sliced apples, nectarines, peaches, blueberries or raspberries. Use about 24-30 slices of fruit cut about ½”-1” thick, or 4 cups berries total. Or, mix them up. Use wider slices on top of the 9” round pan—bake time about an hour or so-- and thinner slices for the 9 x 13---bakr time about 30 minutes.
2. Make two. The second one, which you’ll want when the thermometer dives, will freeze really well for up to 3 months. Make sure to wrap it tightly, label and date it. Defrost the cake overnight in the fridge or at room temp, and reheat in a 300 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.
3. Flours can easily be switched up. I like using 1/4 cup cornmeal and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour for a more Italian take with a little satisfying crunch in the cake.
4. Depending on the shape of the pan you choose, you can lay the fruit out in a pretty circular pattern , starting from the outside and moving in, or layer them in neat rows.

CHIMICHURRI---MY WAY!

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CHIMICHURRI—MY WAY
(with chickpeas, tomatoes and feta)

For the chimichurri:
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup packed mint
1/2 cup packed cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, leaves only
½ -2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, depending on heat tolerance
½ -1 small serrano or other hot red or green chile, optional
1-4 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ teaspoon cumin
2 Tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice, extra to taste
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mild honey, optional
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
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For the salad:
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, low sodium
4-5 medium tomatoes, ½ inch slices
4 -6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
flakey sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the chimichurri:
       If using a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Process everything until it is roughly chopped. Through the feed tube with the processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil, mixing until well-blended. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Taste and adjust salt and lime juice levels, if desired.
       If using a blender, add all of the ingredients and blend until combined. Blend less for a chunkier version, more for a creamier one. scraping down the jar as needed.
       Let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavors combine. It may lose some of its verdant green color, but it will keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Just let it come to room temperature before using.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.      YUM!

Make the chickpea salad:
       Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas. In a small bowl, toss the chickpeas with about ¼ cup of more of the chimichurri. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to marinate.
       Slice the tomatoes about ½ inch thick, and spread out onto a serving platter. Spoon the chickpeas evenly over the tomatoes, crumble the feta over all and drizzle with the sauce. Sprinkle with the salt and the pepper.
Make 4-6 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Want to be traditional? Just leave out the cilantro, mint, and lime juice.
2. Want to be experimental? Use it as a blank canvas, or as a way to use up whatever you have on hand at the moment. Just keep the proportions in mind. Different herbs, oils or vinegars will all work.
3. Fresh oregano can be hard to find. You can use dried instead, about ½ to 1 teaspoon in this recipe.
4. Being the fresh garlic wimp that I am though, I always opt for a lesser amount. But, you can certainly up the ante here and throw in a lot more. As a precaution though, I would still add one clove at a time, taste, and then add more to your liking.
5. Smooth or chunky? Using a food processor, you’ll get a more rustic sauce. Throw everything into a blender, especially high speed, and you’ll end up with a creamier one. If you don’t want to use a food processor or blender, you can chop everything up very finely and then simply stir together, or use a mortar and pestle to do the work.
6. More ways to use it: toss with roasted veggies, stir into yogurt or mayo for a dip or dressing, marinate meat or cheese in it, use as a sandwich spread or add to your meatball mix before cooking them......

BLack Bean TARTINES

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Black Bean Tartines
(inspired by Annemarie Colbin)

Ingredients:
For the Black Bean Salad:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can black beans, unsalted or low sodium, about 1 ¾- 2 cups,
a pinch fine sea salt
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
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2 tbsp extra virgin olive
2 tbsp tamari
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
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2 ears of cooked corn, about 2 cups cooked kernels
1 red bell pepper, small dice, about 1 cup
3/8-1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
2 whole scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal, about ¼ cup

For the Tartines:
4 slices of crusty bread, toasted
4 oz. 4icotta or soft, creamy goat cheese
Lettuce leaves
avocado, thinly sliced
radishes, thinly sliced
extra thinly sliced scallions
freshly ground black pepper

Make the Black Bean Salad:
       Drain and rinse the beans. In a medium size saute pan, warm the oil and add the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, just until it starts to turn light brown. Add the beans, salt and black pepper, stir to combine and heat through.
       Combine the dressing ingredients and stir it into the warm beans. Transfer to a medium size bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the corn, red pepper, parsley and scallions. Gently mix to coat all of the veggies with the dressing. Allow the bean salad to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Taste for seasoning—you may want a little more salt or black pepper. Keeps in the fridge for 3 days.

Make the Tartines:
       Spread about 2-3 Tablespoons of the ricotta or goat cheese onto the bread slices. Place one leaf of lettuce onto of the cheese. Spoon the bean salad on top. If desired add a few slices of avocado and radish, and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper.

Makes about 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. If you can, try to get organic Eden or Westbrae canned beans with a BPA-free lining.
2. Use last night’s extra ears of corn or boil a couple extra to make this even faster.
3. To make easy work of mincing the garlic, you can use a kitchen rasp or grater instead of using a knife.
4. If you’re crunched for time, you can forgo heating the beans and garlic first. Just maybe reduce the amount of raw garlic.

PEACH COBBLER with a Hot Sugar Crust

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Peach Cobbler with a Hot Sugar Crust
(inspired by Renee Erickson from Seattle’s Boat Street Café)

Ingredients:
6-7 medium or 4-5 large, ripe peaches (about 2 ¼-2 1/2 pounds)
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
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3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons hot water
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Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Make the cobbler:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil and set aside.
        To prep the peaches: Poke the peaches all over with a fork. Cut in half and remove the pits. Cut each half into 3 or 4 slices, and each slice into thirds. You should have about 6 cups of 1 inch chunks.
        Butter an 8 x 8 inch square metal or glass baking pan, or any similar sized baking pan or pie dish. Place the peaches in an even layer into the pan. Drizzle the lemon juice over the peaches, evenly dot with the lemon zest, and sprinkle all over with the cinnamon.
        Set a strainer over a medium-size bowl, and sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
        In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer, cream the butter and the ¾ cup of sugar on medium speed until evenly sandy, about 1 minute. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, and beat on medium speed until all the flour is incorporated, and the mixture is very crumbly, about 30 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
        With the mixer on low speed, pour in the milk. Increase the speed to medium, beating until the batter is well combined, about 1 minute. Scoop the batter by heaping Tablespoons all over the peaches. With an offset spatula or the back of a big spoon, carefully spread the batter evenly over the fruit as best you can. The peaches will peek through in places.
        Sprinkle the 3 Tablespoons of sugar over the batter, and drizzle the hot water evenly over the sugar, making sure it’s all dampened. Bake the cobbler until the top is golden brown, possibly cracked, and the fruit is bubbling, 65-75 minutes.
        Cool the cobbler for about 30 minutes. It will firm up as it cools. Serve warm. And if desired, top with whipped cream or ice cream. Will keep covered at room temp for 2 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Makes 6-8 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Get freestone peaches—the kind where the pits easily come out.
2. Make sure that the peaches are fully ripe, blushed with orange and red—no green skins-- and, that they smell fragrant.
3. The batter will spread unevenly over the peaches, with some peaches peeking through the batter, but that’s fine. Just spread it all over the top as best you can.
4. If you like, you can throw in a handful of blueberries or raspberries in with the peaches.

Chicken Milanese with Tomato Arugula Salad

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Chicken Milanese with Tomato Arugula Salad

Ingredients:
½ pound arugula leaves, washed, dried and roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼-½ red onion, thinly sliced, about ½ cup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or red wine vinegar
a big pinch fine sea salt
12 or more grinds freshly ground black pepper
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1 pound chicken cutlets, cut into 4 pieces, pounded 1/4-inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup olive oil, or more as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more as needed
extra Parmesan and lemon wedges for serving

Make the salad:
        If you like, you can place the onions in a small bowl of cold water for a few minutes first to remove some of the bite. In a medium size bowl, toss the arugula, tomatoes and red onion with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Make the chicken:
        Heat the oven to 250 degrees F and place a cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
        Lightly season chicken cutlets all over with salt and pepper.
        Set up a breading station: Place the flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Crack eggs into another shallow dish and beat well; combine the panko and Parmesan in a third dish.
        Dip a chicken cutlet in flour, shake off excess, then dip in the eggs completely coating, shake off the excess, and finally dip both sides in the panko mixture, completely coating and pressing the crumbs into the chicken. Place on a plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets.
        In a large skillet, preferably non-stick, melt the butter and the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot—you’ll see it start to shimmer and the butter will foam-- fry 2 cutlets at a time until the bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Flip them and fry until golden and crispy on the other side, about another 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, and sprinkle immediately with salt. Place on the cooling rack and keep warm in the oven.
        When ready to serve, give each cutlet a light squeeze of lemon, and top with the salad.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. In advance, set up a breading station with 3 large dishes, pans or bowls to hold the flour, egg and panko.
2. Use one hand to bread the chicken and keep the other hand clean to keep things less messy.
3. Panko will add extra crispiness, but you can you use regular bread crumbs too.
4. You can bread the cutlets up to 4 hours in advance. Just keep them in the fridge until ready to fry.
5. If you are making a bunch of these, place a cooling rack over a rimmed sheet pan, and place the cooked ones on the rack in a 250 degree F ovento keep them warm.

Green Goddess Dressing --Vegan or Not

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Green GODDESS Dressing---Vegan or Not

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Vegannaise, I like the one with Grapeseed oil, or a good quality mayonnaise, like Hellmans
½ cup vegan yogurt, I like Kite Hill plain almond yogurt, or a full fat sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2-4 Tablespoons chopped scallions, white and green parts, about 2
1 -2 Tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
½-1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1 fillet for non-vegans, optional
¼-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
lots of salad veggies of your choosing

Make the Dressing:
        Place all of the ingredients in a blender, preferably high speed, and blend just until smooth. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice, if desired. Refrigerate the dressing until you are ready to serve. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Makes 1 ½ cups. (six ¼ cup servings)      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. If your blender is a high-speed version, then just dump all of the ingredients in and whizz away. But if it’s a regular one, I highly recommend chopping the garlic and the herbs first.
2. There is a range of herbs and flavorings in the recipe. Start with the lesser amount and add more to taste.
3. Just as the quality of your produce makes all the difference, so does the mayo, yogurt and sour cream. For the vegans, I like the Vegannaise with grapeseed oil and Kite Hill plain almond yogurt. For the diary lovers, Hellmans mayo and full fat sour cream work best.
4. This will make enough for four to six ¼ cup servings. But it’s easily doubled or tripled.

Corn on the Cob with Fresh Herb Butter and Parmesan

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Corn on the Cob with Fresh Herb Butter and Parmesan

Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, and rosemary
1 small garlic clove, minced or grated on a rasp
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 ears of cooked corn, boiled, baked or microwaved—see Lessons Learned
½ cup (or more) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Make the corn and herb butter:
        Cook the ears with the method of your choosing. In the meantime, in a small bowl, stir the minced herbs, garlic, salt and pepper into the softened butter.
        When the corn is done, slather each ear with the herb butter and sprinkle with the grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
        The herb butter can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge. Soften before using for easy spreading.

Serves 4-6.       YUM!


LESSONS Learned.
Here are a few ways to cook the ears. I just usually just shuck and boil mine.
1. You can simply shuck the ears by pulling off the husks and the silk, and then boiling them in a big pot of salted water for 5-8 minutes. I like to add a little sugar and milk to the water too---that’s a Jersey shore thing. The only problem with this method is that you usually end up with a lot silk still stuck in between the kernels and they’re a pain to remove.
2. You can throw the unshucked ears into a big pot of boiling, salted water for 8 minutes. Using tongs, remove the corn to a pan to cool for a few minutes. Then, using a kitchen towel, hold the ear of corn on a cutting board, and cut off the bottom, far enough up the ear to cut all of the leaves from the husk. The husk and the silk should easily come off.
3. Even easier, you could throw the unhusked ears of corn into an oven at 350 degrees F, and bake for 3o minutes. Peel back the husks to remove the silk, then continue to pull back the husks to the bottom of the ear, and you’ll have a handle to eat them with.
4. The latest rage is putting an ear in the microwave for 4 minutes, 8 minutes for 2 ears. Then cut off the bottom, again far enough up to cut all the leaves. And then from the tip end, gently squeeze the ear to allow it to slip out. Once a little of the ear is exposed, you can use a knife to hold down the ear as you pull the husk completely off. The silk magically and neatly stays inside the husk, leaving you with a nice clean ear of corn.
5. Oh, just a little aside, did you know that there is a piece of silk attached to every kernel of corn?

Whichever way you choose to cook them,
betcha can’t eat just one!


BROCCOLI PESTO PASTA

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BROCCOLI PESTO PASTA
(loosely inspired by Deborah Madison)

Ingredients:
1 pound dried pasta, such as fusilli or penne
½ pound broccoli florets, from about one head of broccoli
1-2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
¾-1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup, 2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
extra grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste
1 cup pasta cooking water

Make the broccoli pesto pasta:
        Cook the pasta according to the package directions checking at about 2 minutes before for doneness, reserving one cup pasta cooking water just before draining. Drain well, cool and set aside.
        Trim the flowerettes off of the head of broccoli and cut into 2” pieces. You may need to halve or quarter some of the pieces. Some of the tender stems are fine to use too.
        Place a colander in the sink. Fill a medium size pot with about 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt. Add the broccoli, stirring to cover with the water and boil until bright green and just tender enough to pierce with a fork, about 3 minutes. Immediately drain in the colander to stop it from cooking further, and rinse with cold water until the broccoli is cool. Let drain. You can use some paper towels to dry them off as well.
        Using a food processor fitted with the steel blade, turn it on and drop the whole cloves of garlic through the feed tube to mince. Stop the processor, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the broccoli, pine nuts and cheese to the machine and process until they’re finely chopped, about 1- 2 minutes. Add the basil, salt and pepper. Process again until finely chopped. scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Turn on the machine, and drizzle in ½ cup of the olive oil through the feed tube, processing until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding extra salt, pepper and oil, if desired.
        Stir the pesto into the cooked, cooled pasta, adding some pasta cooking water. Start with about ¼ cup, and add up to ½ cup to make the sauce looser and creamier. Taste for seasoning. Serve with extra grated cheese.
        The pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, Or frozen for 3 months. If freezing, no need to leave out the cheese or top with oil. It will happily keep its bright green color.

Makes 4-6 servings.      YUM!

To toast the nuts:
        Have a bowl ready nearby for the toasted nuts. In a small, dry skillet (do not use nonstick), add the nuts, and over medium heat, stir them constantly until they are fragrant and browned. Immediately remove them to the bowl so they don’t burn. Cool completely. It’s best to toast them on top of the stove, because in the oven you can burn them very easily, and pignoli nuts are expensive! Keep any extra untoasted nuts in the freezer for up to a year.


LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure the broccoli is cut in the same size pieces, so they cook evenly.
2. Once the broccoli is cooked, immediately pour it into a colander and shock it. That means stopping the cooking to set the color. Usually ice water is recommended, but I never have ice in my house, so I just use the cold water from the tap.
3. Only use the basil leaves. No stems.
4. I know that the real way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle, but I prefer using a food processor. It’s the easiest, quickest way, even better than a blender. Although if a blender is what you have, that will work fine too.
5. Remember to reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water. It’s easy to forget to do it.
6. Pignoli nuts are classic, and my favorite. But you can use walnuts or almonds instead. See below to toast the nuts.

Zucchini "BLONDIES"

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”ZUCCHINI "BLONDIES”
(slightly adapted from Kristin Cavallari)

Ingredients:
1 cup creamy almond butter, I like Justin’s
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or pink Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup coconut sugar, I like Nutiva brand
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, I like Cocolove
2 cups grated zucchini, from about 1 medium zucchini

Make the Blondies:
        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8" x 8" baking dish with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
        In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the almond butter, egg, salt, baking soda, sugar, and vanilla. Mix on medium low speed until just combined--the mixture may get very thick. Add the zucchini and mix again until well combined--the mixture will loosen up. Add the chocolate chips and mix on low just until the chips are evenly distributed. Dollop spoonfuls into the prepared pan and spread evenly. You can also mix the batter by hand in a medium-size bowl.
      Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. Can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or up to a week in the fridge.
Makes 9 squares.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Choose medium-size zucchini. Fresh ones are shiny. And, if they still have the blossom attached, even better. If you have your own garden and are overrun with them, don’t use the ones that have grown into baseball bats!--a regular occurrence in my NJ garden, they grow so fast! Those guys are filled with seeds and too mealy to bake with.
2. Grate them by hand through the large holes of a box grater. Using a food processor makes them too watery.
3. Make sure to use fresh almond butter that's smoothe and creamy. If it's very dry it will be too hard to incorporate into the batter.
4. Also, because the almond butter can still be hard to incorporate, I like to use my stand mixer to combine the batter, but you can also mix it by hand.
5. You can switch out the semisweet chocolate, for milk or white. Maybe add a handful of nuts or dried fruit if you like too. But when it comes to these, I’m a purist.

Watermelon Margarita Pops

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Watermelon Margarita Pops

Ingredients:
1 seedless mini watermelon
1/2 cup silver Tequila, I like Patron
1/3 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice, 2-3 limes
flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for sprinkling

For the non-alcoholic version:
1 cup limeade or lemonade
2 Tablespoons-¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice, or to taste

Make the pops:
        Cut the mini watermelon in half along the equator, Lay it on the flat side and carefully cut two 1 inch rounds from each half. You should have 4 rounds. Cut each round into 4 wedges. And then using a small knife, cut a slit in the bottom of the rind of each one. Wiggle the knife alittle to make a large enough opening and insert the popsicle stick.
        If you are making some non-alcoholic ones too, cut those into different shapes or use a different colored popsicle stick to tell them apart.
        In a 4 cup glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine the tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Place the watermelon slices on a rimmed sheet pan or split them between two large baking dishes. Pour the margarita mixture over the watermelon and place in the fridge or freezer. If desired, but not necessary, after every hour flip the pops. If they’re in the fridge, chill for 2 hours or up to overnight. Frozen ones, will take 3-4 hours to freeze, or pop them in the freezer overnight. they’re delicious partially frozen too. To serve, lightly sprinkle with the flaky sea salt.

Makes 16 pops.      YUM!


LESSONS Learned:
1. Check out the field spot. That’s the place where the watermelon sat on the ground as it grew. It should be a creamy, yellow color, not white. The darker the color, the better—it’s an indicator of a longer, sweeter growing time.
2. The watermelon should feel heavy for its size. That means that there is a lot of water inside---another good ripeness indicator.
3. Pick a dull looking one. Shiny means it’s not ripe yet.
4. Pick perfectly round or oval ones. If they’re misshapen, that means that they got varying amounts of water and sun while growing, which can lead to a less delicious fruit.
5. You can thump away on it with your knuckles, if you like. A ripe one will kind of bounce back. An under ripe or over ripe one will sound like a dull thud.
6. Did you know that there are little black sugar spots on ripe watermelons? That’s where the sugar is seeping out of the melon.
7. You might even see bee stings! Another good sign.

A FEW MORE TIPS!
1. To make it easier to insert the popsicle stick, wiggle the knife up and down to make the opening a little larger.
2. If you decide to make non-alcoholic ones too, cut them in different shapes or use different colored popsicle sticks so that you can easily tell them apart.
3. Limes are sometimes hard to squeeze. Pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds, and you’ll get lots of juice.
4. It’s not necessary, but I do like to flip them a few times during the chilling process for even coverage.
5. Since there really are no rules here, freeze them, chill them in the fridge, or skip all that and just put them in a glass with the margarita mix for dunking.