I really like living in Georgia but from June through August, I feel like I'm melting into a puddle. If you've never experienced a Georgia summer, it's hard to even put into words just how oppressive heat really is. This is the only place that I've ever lived where they install CHILLERS in the pools to keep them below hot tub temperatures. I was the biggest critic of the pool chiller when I first heard about them but I have to say that after 12 Georgia summers, I've become a fan. There's just nothing refreshing about getting into a 90 degree pool.
Keeping cool in the summer here is a priority. It's hard to stay hydrated when I don't love to drink plain water. I have to get creative with fluids in the summer. Fruit infusions seem to be the best way for me to intake more water. I realize that I'm getting more sugar in my diet with the addition of fruit but like I said - not a fan of plain water.
If you're looking for another great way to stay hydrated AND keep cool this summer - you will want to try my Strawberry Orange Popsicles. I really don't need to go into detail about these frozen treats. It's fairly obvious that these delicious frozen concoctions are primarily strawberries and oranges. What may not be obvious is that combing these two scrumptious fruits and freezing them together into one icy treat makes a pretty darn great popsicle.
Strawberry Orange Popsicles
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
6 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 cups clementine segments
6 Tablespoons orange juice
Unmold and enjoy.
If you find yourself melting into a puddle of humidity this summer, you need to rediscover the joy that a homemade popsicle brought you when you were a child. There's no shame in indulging in a fruity frozen treat to cool off this summer.
If you don't happen to have any popsicle molds, just use small paper cups and popsicle sticks like the one pictured above.
In another life, I would be a beachy, hang out by the ocean while sipping a fruity umbrella drinks kind of girl. I'd enjoy things like building sand castles, jumping ocean waves and spending hours staring out into the deep blue sea. Instead, I'm completely annoyed by the presence of sand anywhere on my body other than my feet. I'm slightly freaked out by swimming in salt water and I really, really don't like to sit still for any length of time.
A beach trip with me is really no Day At The Beach. The first thing that I do when I get to the beach is methodically lay my towel on top of the sand. I plop down my bag of supplies, kick off my flip flops and sit down on my towel with the intention to rest and enjoy the view. Within 5 minutes, I'm too antsy to sit still any longer and I take off on a test of endurance walk along the beach. After my epic beach walk, I usually grab some kind of ball or frisbee out of my bag and look around for some willing participants. A long beach walk and a good game of soccer in the sand sounds like a perfect beach day for me. This is the reality of beachy Amy.
Clearly, I need to work on my relaxation skills at the beach. Pondering the vastness of the ocean and contemplating deep thoughtful questions from the comfort of my beach towel sounds like an ideal situation. Unfortunately, the ability to find calmness and serenity from a seated position has never been my forte. My peace and tranquility come from a more upright position with continual movement. LOL.
Even more relaxing than a day at the beach for me is a day spent in the kitchen baking up something elegant and sweet. (Less chance of getting sunburned too.) I had a friend who tagged me in a Facebook video for this Almond Cream Cake on a day when I desperately needed a little baking therapy. I felt like it was a sign. I needed stress relief on the same day that my sweet friend thought I needed a new cake recipe.
Almond Cream Cake
1 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup egg whites plus 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups butter (softened)
2 cups granulated sugar
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate.
Set pan in ice water to cooled to room temperature.
Frost cooled cake.
I turned my almond cream cake into a birthday cake with a layer of raspberry filling and a few fresh raspberries on top.
I also made this almond cream cake for a baby shower.
I get a lot of requests for white cake and this is my new favorite white cake recipe. It's super versatile and this frosting - killer. This is one that you will want to try.
Admittedly, I was a little late to the coconut water party. I finally took notice of those super interesting coconut water bottles start to hit the shelves of my grocery store a few years ago and I was super enthusiastic to jump on the bandwagon. I read all about the health benefits. I'm always looking for ways to flavor my water and I LOVE coconut so it seemed like a no brainer. I eagerly pulled one of each of the different kinds of coconut water from the shelf and put them in my cart, eager to take home and start hydrating.
When I got home, I conducted my own taste test and sampled all of the different types of coconut water. I wanted to love it. I thought I would love it. To be honest, it never actually occurred to me that I wouldn't enjoy it. What's not to like? It's water, it's coconut, it's delicious, right? I tried it over and over again but I just couldn't seem to convince myself that coconut water was as wonderful as it was in my mind.
The fact that I don't enjoy drinking coconut water, isn't going to stop me from cooking with it though. Reducing it and using it as a sauce for chicken and vegetables is my idea of the perfect use for coconut water.
Chicken and Vegetables with Coconut Water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup coconut water
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon garlic
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
Slice chicken and serve with vegetables.
This recipe has single-handedly restored my faith in coconut water. This chicken was really good. There wasn't a ton of coconut flavor even though I used both coconut water and coconut oil but it was insanely delicious. Who knew that coconut water was such a great way to flavor vegetables and chicken? Now I can't help but wonder what other things I can cook with coconut water.
Ready for your daily cake lesson? I like to think of cakes as being organized into families with butter cakes and sponge cakes given "parent cake" status.
Butter cakes rely on baking powder or baking soda as the leavening agent to give them their tender crumb. Yellow, white, chocolate and pound cakes all fall under the butter cake limb of the family tree.
Sponge Cake, on the other hand, gets it light fluffy texture from whipped eggs. Angel food cakes, cake rolls and ladyfingers are all delicious examples of sponge cakes.
If you married a butter cake and a sponge cake, you would end up with a chiffon cake child. A combination of baking powder and whipped eggs gives this unique cake it's exquisitely light texture.
And as with most families, there's a black sheep of the cake family - the oil based cakes. Carrot, hummingbird and coconut all fall into this category. They resemble a butter cake in the fact that they use baking powder as a leaving agent but oil takes the place of the butter in these recipes.
I honestly can't choose which type cake I like the best. I bake a lot of cakes and I'm seeing more and more recipes that cross over the cake family boundaries. Butter cakes that use a combination of butter, oil and whipped eggs. They're amazing and delicious even though I don't know exactly where to put them on my cake family tree. Isn't that a perfect example of family though? Imperfect and complicated but lovely and beautiful, just the same.
I'm sharing a recipe for an Olive Oil cake today. This is definitely one of those hybrid cakes. Oil instead of butter, baking powder AND whipped eggs for leavening and baked in a springform pan. I think this one would be the "super fun uncle" on the family tree of cakes.
Olive Oil Cake
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup milk
Bake 40-45 minutes at 350.
Let cool 15 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Cool completely.
Top with fresh berries to serve.
Hey dad - this cake is butter and lactose free if you use a dairy milk alternative. I think you're going to like this cake.
I have a problem. I'm addicted to chips and salsa. Like really and truly ADDICTED.
I can describe to you the exact moment that I realized that I had a chips and salsa problem. I caught myself walking into the kitchen last week and gabbing a bag of corn chips and pulling a container of homemade salsa out of the frig. That wasn't really the problem. The issue was that it was 9:00 in the morning and I wasn't even hungry! Even at that early hour, my body was craving those salty little triangles of corn goodness along with the slightly sweet salsa with just the right amount of "heat." I caught myself dipping and eating chips almost unconsciously at such a rapid pace that before I even realized it - I had eaten half the bag - in 15 minutes. Yup, that's the moment I realized that I have a chips and salsa problem.
If I could eat just one serving of chips, I wouldn't be so worried. The problem is that once I eat even a single salty fried tortilla chip, I MUST have another. And another. And another. You get the idea. If only I craved celery or carrots, the same way that I crave tortilla chips.
In an effort to regain control of my chips and salsa addiction, I made the conscious decision to stop eating them altogether. (Or at least until my body stopped craving them.) I never realized just how many places served chips and salsa. They are ridiculously hard to avoid. I expected to have to decline the basket of chips and salsa at our favorite restaurants but was caught completely off guard at the chips and salsa sample tables in the grocery store. There I was, trying to fill my shopping cart with healthier snacking options when BAM! - more chips and salsa - right in from of me. Never fear, despite the grocery store attempt at sabatoge, I successfully survived day one of my chips and salsa fast. It was a rough one. LOL
I've armed myself with some new recipes up my sleeve to replace my chips and salsa habit. I love tacos and I'm not about to stop making them so I needed to come up with some new, healthy side dishes to serve with my homemade tacos. This Southwest Tomato and Corn Salad is a great compliment to any taco AND it's a way healthier side dish than chips and salsa.
Southwest Tomato and Corn Salad
1 1/2 pounds rips mixed tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 ear corn, cooked, kernels cut from cob
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon sliced green onions
1 Tablespoon jalapeno, minced
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup queso fresco
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro
Spoon dressing over tomatoes.
Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro.
I've been denying myself chips and salsa for exactly one week now and I have to admit that I still daydream about the crispy fried snack. I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to break that salt craving cycle but I am hoping that I'll eventually be able to eat just a single serving of chips, instead of scarfing down half the bag.
I'll keep you posted on my chips and salsa fast and let you know how it's going. Oh and if I seem a bit more irritated in the next couple of weeks - you'll understand. ;)
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