‘Move Over Water’ Watermelon Hibiscus Coolers

With the dog days of summer upon us, glass after glass of water might keep me hydrated, but I’ve been seeking out recipes for cold drinks to add flavor to my daily H2O intake. The Thug Kitchen Cookbook creators, based out of L.A., know how to make even the most ordinary fruits and vegetables sassy, and they shared several warm-weather drink recipes I’ve been wanting to try now that I’m not spending my days in wool and winter coat.

Last weekend Cameron’s parents’ visit coincided with a great fruit sale at our neighborhood Sprouts. (Have I mentioned I’m loving summer this year?) I grabbed a watermelon, a box of organic hibiscus tea, and set to work making Thug Kitchen’s Watermelon Hibiscus Cooler. Only when I cut into the watermelon did I realize I’d picked up a yellow-fleshed melon variety. Not much difference in melon flavor, but you’ll notice that the final drink is more sherbet than the deep magenta hibiscus tea and red watermelon share.

Watermelon Hibiscus Cooler 1

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Watermelon Hibiscus Coolers
(adapted from a Thug Kitchen Cookbook recipe)
Makes 4 glasses

– 6 cups of cubed watermelon (ideally seedless)

– 1 1/2 cups of brewed hibiscus tea, cooled

– Juice of 1 lime

– 3 tsp Grade B maple syrup

1. Place the cubed watermelon on a rimmed cookie sheet, and freeze for at least an hour.

Watermelon Hibiscus Cooler 2

Image by author.

2. When it’s nice and frozen, grab your blender and fill it with the watermelon, along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Give it a taste, and add more sweetener if needed.

Watermelon Hibiscus Cooler 3

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‘Tropical Paradise’ Caramelized Banana Ice Cream

Yesterday’s post brought you an easy and summer-appropriate blueberry dessert, and while a blueberry galette is great on its own, I learned quickly that adding a scoop of ice cream to a slice of that galette takes its deliciousness up a notch. A simple homemade vanilla bean ice cream would surely suffice, but now that I’m the proud owner of both an electric ice cream maker and the Bi-Rite Creamery’s excellent ice cream recipe book Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, creative ice cream flavors are all the rage at the Middleton and Turner abode.

This week our ice cream maker churned up a second batch of Caramelized Banana Ice Cream right around the time I baked the blueberry galette. If you have any doubts about bananas and blueberries deserving each other, this ice cream recipe should put those doubts to rest. Because our bananas had just ripened (barely a brown spot on the skin to be seen), I adjusted the sweetness in the recipe. You’ll notice that beyond the brown sugar used when caramelizing the bananas, I’ve added a small amount of maple syrup to the base. The original recipe adds no sweetener to the base, and if you have blackened, very ripe bananas, you may not need the additional syrup.

Caramelized Banana Ice Cream

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Caramelized Banana Ice Cream
(adapted from a Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones masterpiece)
Makes 1 quart

– 2 very ripe medium bananas, peeled

– 1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

– 5 large egg yolks

– 1 3/4 cup heavy cream

– 3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk

– 1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup

– 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 to 2 TBS rum (optional for the sassy)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Caramelized Banana Ice Cream2

Image by author.

Caramelize the Bananas
1. Combine the bananas and brown sugar in medium skillet and use a fork to smash them into a nearly liquid paste. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is dark golden brown and slightly reduced, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Let cool briefly, then purée in a blender or food processor to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

Make the Base
3. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up. Set aside.

4. In a heavy stainless steel pan, stir together the cream, milk, maple syrup, and salt and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

5. Carefully scoop out about ½ cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another ½ cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Returning to the pan of cream on the stove, use a heatproof spatula to stir the cream as you slowly pour the egg and cream mixture from the bowl back into the pan.

6. Continue to cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and leaves a clear mark when you run your finger across it, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

7. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer and into a clean container. Wash your whisk, add the puréed banana to the base, and whisk until smooth. Set the container into an ice bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Freeze the Ice Cream
8. Add the rum (if using) and vanilla extract to the base and stir until blended.

9. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you’ll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away or, for a firmer ice cream, freeze for at least 4 hours.

‘The Fancy And The Lazy’ Blueberry-Pecan Galette

It’s mid-July, and the entire state of Colorado isn’t burning from wildfires or underwater from flash floods. I’m marking this down as the best summer I’ve spent in my newest home yet. (Don’t remind me about the last spring hail.)

Over the weekend, I headed out to Waterton Canyon, southwest of Denver, for a morning hike along the Colorado Trail while Cameron trained with his school’s cross-country team. Dogs, even leashed ones, are not allowed on this portion of the trail since it meanders through a wildlife refuge for six miles. (Charlotte slept off her disappointment in our bed).

Waterton Canyon, Colorado

Waterton Canyon, through which much of Denver’s water supply flows. Image by author.

While I do like hikes with my favorite canine, I appreciated the wildlife who popped out from the hills and bushes because they weren’t worried about hyper dogs on the hunt. Birds sang and swooped above the South Platte as I hiked, and while I didn’t run into any bighorn sheep that morning, I met a sleepy gopher snake and a shade-seeking brown rabbit.

After Cameron clocked a seven-mile run with his speedy students and I finished my more modest three-and-a-half-mile hike, we’d worked up enough appetite to enjoy a summery treat. Below you’ll find the recipe for a blueberry galette that will make these hot summer days all the sweeter.

I’d been eying the cover of this month’s Bon Appetit that features a great image of this recipe. I love blueberries, but unfortunately, they’re a splurge in a state without much local berry growing. I lucked out last week, though, when the neighborhood supermarket brought in a big haul of sale blueberries.

If I didn’t convince you in yesterday’s post to put aside your spare change and purchase a food processor, let today’s offering of a lazy baker’s blueberry pie be the final inspiration for your next kitchen appliance investment. The food processor will mix up your dough in half the time and reduce the likelihood of a tough crust because whether you’re making pie or a galette, the less your warm hands touch the dough when you combine ingredients, the less the butter will soften and the less likely you’ll overknead the dough. (Soft butter makes for extra sticky dough. Overhandling wheat-based flours affects the gluten in the wheat, leading to tough crusts.)

Finally, galettes sound fancy, but the dough is actually much easier to handle than traditional pie dough because you only need to fold the dough edges over the filling. No dough trimming necessary. Assemble your-less-than-perfect dough and ingredients, and you still end up with a delicious, albeit rustic, treat. And you get to practice French. How’s that for feeling fancy?

Blueberry-Pecan Galette

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Blueberry-Pecan Galette
(a Bon Appetit recipe)
Makes One 10-inch galette


– 1/2 cup pecans

– 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

– 2 tsp sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

– 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Filling and Assembly

– 12 oz blueberries (about 2 cups) (I’ve had nothing but bad luck when baking with frozen blueberries, so I stand in-season fresh blueberries here.)

– 1 TBS cornstarch

– 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

– 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

– All-purpose flour (for surface)

– 2 TBS milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–15 minutes; let cool.

2. Pulse pecans in a food processor until the consistency of coarse meal. Add flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon and pulse just to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces remaining.

3. Transfer to a large bowl; drizzle with 4 Tbsp. ice water and mix, adding another tablespoonful of water if needed, just until mixture comes together. Because the dough will be sticky, place a sheet of plastic wrap on kitchen counter, and gently pat dough into a 6-inch-diameter disk on the wrap. Then seal in the plastic, and chill at least 1 hour.

*Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled, or freeze up to 1 month.

Filling and Assembly
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss blueberries, cornstarch, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl.

2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12″ round. (I laid out a sheet of parchment paper and lightly floured it before rolling out the dough and then slid it on my rimless baking sheet.) Mound blueberries in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges over, overlapping slightly. Brush dough with milk, and sprinkle with sugar. (I used organic cane sugar as the finishing sugar because of its larger grain and molasses finish.)

3. Bake galette until crust is dark golden brown and filling is bubbling, 45–50 minutes. Let cool before serving.

*Galette can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

‘Garden Gone Wild’ Collard Greens and Kale Pesto

Our vegetable garden is going wild these days. With the potato patch occupying a good portion of one raised bed’s real estate along with the bushy yellow zucchini exploding into a canopy, our kale’s humble land grab has been ill-fated for weeks.

Vegetable Garden 2015

Outtakes from one of our garden beds. Image by author.

I pulled the last of our kale from the bed this weekend and decided to try a summer Bon Appetit pesto recipe that calls for kale and collard greens instead of the traditional basil base.

Lacinato Kale

Image by author.

Beyond thoroughly cleaning the kale and inspecting each leaf for insects (a good idea even if you buy fresh greens from the supermarket), this recipe is a cinch. You will need a food processor or blender to smoothly puree the ingredients, but it’s pesto season, folks, and food processed homemade pesto is amazing.

We used the pesto as a spread for crusty bread and as the sauce for a simple sauteed shiitake and tomato pasta salad. It’s much more affordable than a traditional pesto ($19 a pound for pine nuts?!? No, thanks.) and actually maintained its vivid green for days longer than my basil-based pesto. It’s also delicious. If you’re not a fan of dark, leafy greens, this recipe is a nice start. Olive oil and cheese tend to make even the most “healthy” foods tasty.

Collard Greens and Kale Pesto

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Collard Greens and Kale Pesto
(a Bon Appetit recipe)
Makes 2 cups

– 1 small bunch collard greens, stems removed

– 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, stems removed

– Kosher salt

– 3 garlic cloves, chopped

– 1½ oz grated Parmesan (about ½ cup) ( I used Pecorino Romano because it’s less expensive.)

– 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

– ½ cup unsalted, roasted peanuts

– 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

– Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook collard greens and kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright green and tender, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a bowl of ice water (this will stop the cooking and help lock in the color). Drain, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible (to avoid a watery sauce).

2. Coarsely chop greens and place in a food processor. Add garlic, Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano), oil, peanuts, lemon zest, and lemon juice; process on low speed until a coarse but well-blended mixture forms. Season with salt and plenty of pepper.

Two Scoops of Maple Walnut Ice Cream, Please.

My ice cream maker has been getting a workout since I bought it last month. I’ve been checking out cookbooks from the library and browsing the Internet for ice cream recipes that will hit the spot on a warm summer night. Fortunately in Colorado, even during the hottest days, we have the good fortune of cool, high desert nights. The thermometer might bubble up to 100 degrees during the heat of the day, but we can usually count on the mercury slipping down to the 60s once the sun sets.

Having survived central Texas summers before moving here where setting up camp near an air conditioner for months on end was the only way I managed to offset heat stroke, summer along the Front Range is a gift I have no intention of squandering. I’ve been relishing the uncharacteristically green July we’re having (thanks, less-than-stellar weather in May and June) by tending our garden and finding as many opportunities as possible to sit out on our back patio during sun set. Scooping up homemade ice cream at dusk is an added bonus.

Below you’ll find a great maple walnut ice cream recipe I spotted on Lottie + Doof’s food blog. Though similar to my southern favorite, butter pecan ice cream, the sweetness from this recipe is almost entirely due to the earthy qualities of dark (Grade B) maple syrup. Combine dark maple syrup with lightly toasted walnuts and mix that into a ice cream custard, and you have yourself the kind of ice cream not likely to stick around long enough to lose its 1-week peak freshness. Cameron and I shared this concoction with friends after dinner last week, and they were also big fans. If I haven’t convinced you to invest in a homemade ice cream maker yet, check back this Friday for a tropical-themed ice cream that disappeared from our freezer within 48 hours after churning.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

Image by author.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream
(a Lottie + Doof recipe)
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

– 1 1/2 cups whole milk

– 2 TBS sugar

– 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

– 5 large egg yolks

– 3/4 cup dark maple syrup (Grade B is the way to go.)

– 1/4 tsp sea salt

– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 1/2 cups Wet Walnuts (recipe follows)

1. Warm milk and sugar in medium saucepan. Pour cream into a large bowl, and set a mesh strainer on top.

2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Add the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla, and stir over ice bath until cool. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

4. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the Wet Walnuts.

Wet Walnuts
Makes One and a half cups

– 1/2 cup, plus 1 TBS dark maple syrup

– 1 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and very coarsely chopped

– 1/4 tsp sea salt

Heat the maple syrup in a small skillet or saucepan until it just begins to come to a full boil. Stir in the walnuts and salt, and cook until the liquid comes to a full boil once more. Stir the nuts for 10 seconds, then remove them from the heat and let cool completely before using. The nuts will still be wet and sticky when cooled.


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