Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple (Breakfast) Cookies

Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesBack in July, I asked on Facebook what y’all eat on a family road trip.  Surprisingly, many of you snack on cold chicken tenders (which we tried and loved, thanks!) but very few of you take your breakfast to go.

Oh, friends, eating breakfast in the car is one of the main reasons that our road trips with one, three, and five year-old boys are even remotely possible.Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesYears ago, when T-Rex as a mere four months old, we discovered during a torturous and frustrating road trip that driving in the dark was the least stressful way to travel long distances by car with a baby.  We rarely drive all night, but we are often setting out in the wee hours of the morning.Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesThe idea is that if the kids are drowsy enough, they’ll snooze several hours under the cover of darkness (works better in winter than in summer, obviously).

When they wake up, we serve breakfast to eek out an extra 30-45 minutes of drive time.  By the time they’re littering the backseat with stray crumbs and wayward yogurt drips, we’ve usually arrived at our destination.Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesBut, what to give the hungry backseat monsters?  Cereal with milk is out; easy-to-eat carbs are in!  And bonus points if you can shove some extra fruit, veg, or protein in that package.Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesEnter cheesy apple cookies.  Now, you may think I’ve let 13 kilos of apples affect my better judgement, but have no fear.  These sound ridiculous, but we’ve eaten them on the way to Italy, Zurich, and Berchtesgaden (posts coming next week!).

Everyone in our family happily scarfs down these crazy creations.  Well, except the grumpy baby… but we love him anyway.Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesSo, seriously – don’t knock ’em before you try ’em.

p.s. – These cookies aren’t just for breakfast.  They make kids happy at lunch and snack time, too!Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple Cookies

Cheesy Apple Cookies

adapted from The Kitchn

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 T ground flax seed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans*
2 medium-sized apples, preferably Granny Smith or another tart variety
4 ounces cheese, finely chopped (about 1 cup)**

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the olive oil, egg, and vanilla together in a glass measuring cup until combined.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, oats, flax, and nuts together.

Grate the apples into the flour mixture, stopping at the core.  Stir to coat the apple with the dry ingredients, and then add the chopped cheese.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined. The dough will be loose and lumpy. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden and the cheese browns just a bit. Allow the cookies to hang out on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes and then remove them to a rack until completely cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for several months.

*The nuts are optional; feel free to substitute dried fruit if you’re a nut-free household.  **I’ve made these with regular (young) gouda, smoked gouda, and cheddar.  Cheeses with a stronger flavor (sharp cheddar, aged or smoked gouda) work best.  Otherwise the cheese flavor literally melts away.

If you want to make these whole grain, try using white whole wheat.  Going with 100% whole wheat will give you gummy cookies in this recipe.Thrifty Travel Mama | Road Trip Meals: Cheesy Apple CookiesSo, what do you think?  Will you give these nutty cookies a try?  If not, there’s always bagels!Signature-Marigold

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Apple Madness! A Recipe Round Up to Whittle Your Stash

Thrifty Travel Mama | Apple Madness! Recipes and Ideas for Whittling Down Your Apple StashOur boys so loved picking strawberries this past summer, that I determined we must go apple picking once fall arrived.  Well, fall is certainly here, and her glory is starting to show.  So, a few weeks ago, the boys and I headed out to a nearby farm with some friends to see how we fared at harvesting our own apples.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Apple Madness! Recipes and Ideas for Whittling Down Your Apple StashI was a teensy bit worried that apple picking wouldn’t turn out to be a good activity for little boys who are even more vertically challenged than I am.  Luckily, the fruit was within their reach, and we picked about 13 kilos in less than an hour.

Um, yeah.  13 kilos…

All I can say is that it didn’t SEEM like a lot at the time.  But we were (and kinda still are) up to our eyeballs in fragrant fruit.

So, if you find yourself fortunate enough to be wandering an apple orchard or unfortunately sitting on ten bushels of the suckers, here are some scrumptious ways to use those apples up.

By the way, Kim at Stuffed Suitcase has some excellent tips on going apple picking with kiddos in tow.  Check them out here.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Apple Madness! Recipes and Ideas for Whittling Down Your Apple StashApplesauce.  Duh.  There are a zillion variations (sugar, honey, no sugar, spiced, crockpot, stovetop).  Just pick one, and go with it.  It’s okay if you don’t have any special equipment (I don’t).  We’ve whipped up four batches of silky puree; the kids love making and eating it.

Apple butter.  Contains no butter – apple butter is really just applesauce cooked down further, usually with a little sweetener and spices.  The crockpot method is the most fool-proof, but you can also make it on the stove.  Some recipes contain a LOT of sugar;  I’d recommend only adding a tiny bit of sweetener and then adjusting to taste.

Fruit leather.  You’re basically drying out your applesauce in the oven when you make fruit leather.  Try this easy peasy cinnamon variation.

Apple chips.  Another simple, healthy, kid-friendly snack.  Even the kitchen-challenged can make apple chips.  I like the simplicity of this no-sugar-added recipe.

Dried apple bits.  Make these at the same time as the apple chips, and use the bits in oatmeal or yogurt.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Apple Madness! Recipes and Ideas for Whittling Down Your Apple StashApple S’mores.  This was one of those happy accidents, born out of the desire to make a quick and easy apple dessert that went along with what I was already making for dinner on the grill (these juicy fajitas).  You don’t really need a recipe, but here’s what to do:

Wash your apples, core them, and slice into 1/2″ thick rounds.  If you don’t have an apple corer, use a knife to carefully cut out the core after slicing the apple.  Grill about 5 minutes.  Then flip, and grill the other side.  When the apple slices are done, cool slightly while you roast the marshmallows.  Carefully slide a gooey marshmallow onto an apple slice, and finish with a dollop of apple butter.  Devour while warm.

Baked apples.  I’ve made these in the crockpot and the oven.  My kids loved the Skinnytaste version.  For an extra special treat, serve a la mode.

Apple nachos.  These are on my recipe list for the weekend.  Apples?  Peanut Butter?  Nutella?  Yes, please!

Apple crumble pizza.  An indulgent-yet-healthy dessert.  I served this at brunch with chai tea.  Wowzers.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Apple Madness! Recipes and Ideas for Whittling Down Your Apple Stash

Apple butter donuts.  Alas, I do not have a donut pan, so I made these as muffins.  And instead of the glaze (though I’m sure it’s scrumptious), I filled the muffin cups with half of the batter, then added a tablespoon of apple butter before topping with the remaining batter.

Apple walnut lentil salad.  Crisp, sour apples make excellent salad toppings, especially when paired with spinach.  Add toasted walnuts, cooked brown lentils, and Parmesan cheese.  We ate ours drizzled with a balsamic honey mustard dressing which is really just a hybrid of two of my all-time favorites.

BBQ chicken apple pizza.  Everyone in the family LOVED this pizza variation.  I used an ABin5 dough, slathered it with a thin layer of BBQ sauce, and added finely sliced apples followed by a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.  I topped it off with BBQ rotisserie chicken and sliced onions.  A new family favorite!

Apple pie grilled cheese.  Change up your lunch routine with this funky sandwich.  Doesn’t it look scrumptious?  I can’t wait to try it!

Apple cheese cookies.  I’ve made these several times now, and they make perfect road trip snacks.  I’ve got a whole post on these babies coming soon!

Scrumptious apple pie.  And last, but certainly not least, if you need a showstopping dessert for any occasion, I can highly recommend this recipe from Pioneer Woman.  You’ll never go back to regular ol’ apple pie again!  (p.s. – it’s pretty easy to make your own caramel sauce!)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Apple Madness! Recipes and Ideas for Whittling Down Your Apple StashIf you’ve been paying attention, I’ve made all of the recipes above (except the nachos and grilled cheese which will be making an appearance at my table very soon)… and I still have more apples! 

So, instead of going bonkers for a few hours on Pinterest, I’d love to hear your favorite apple recipes.  Leave a link in the comments, and I’ll gladly take a peek.

If apples aren’t your thing, don’t worry – pumpkins are next!Signature-Marigold

Make It Yourself: Recipes for a Kid-Friendly Tuscan Pasta Feast!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta Feast

Along with cycling the walls of Lucca on a “gear bike,” the absolute best part of our trip to Tuscany according to my five year-old was learning how to make “noodles and sauce.”

I thought maybe I should correct him – actually we made tagliatelle, ravioli, ragu, and marinara – but I decided against it.  These are kid-friendly recipes, so let ’em call the food whatever they want!

T-Rex had a hand in every part of the recipes below from cracking eggs to pulsing the food processor to rolling pasta dough to cutting ravioli.

To create your own Tuscan pasta feast, whip up the pastas and sauces above.  Add a green salad tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a loaf of rustic Italian bread.  Don’t forget a bottle of Chianti for the adults.  Bonus points for adding a cheesecake and coffee for dessert.

So.. are you ready to make your own “noodles and sauce,” Tuscan style?  Bring on the recipes!

Tuscan Ragu with Tagliatelle

1 medium carrot, peeled
1 small stalk celery
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
3 sprigs flat parsley
1/4 c olive oil
350 g (12 oz) ground beef
60ml (1/4 c) red wine
2 – 400g (14oz) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
500g (1 lb) tagliatelle pasta*
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Cut the carrot, celery, and onion into several pieces so that the vegetables fit in the bowl of a food processor.  Remove the leaves from the parsley sprigs and add them to the vegetables.  Pulse until fine.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta FeastHeat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat, and add the chopped vegetables.  Saute for about 5 mins until they begin to soften.  Add the ground beef and crumble.  Cook covered on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  Add the red wine, and let the alcohol evaporate.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta FeastWhile the meat mixture cooks, place the tomatoes in a food processor using a fork (do not add the tomato juice), and puree.
When the vegetables are tender and the meat is fully cooked, add the tomato puree.  Bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 1 hour.  Add a little water (no more than 60ml or 1/4 c) if the sauce looks like it is drying out.  Salt to taste while the ragu is still warm.
To serve, make a small nest of tagliatelle (recipe below) on a plate or in a bowl.  Ladle the ragu over the nest, and top with Parmesan cheese.
If you don’t have time to make Tagliatelle from scratch and you can’t find it in your local grocery, fettuccine is a fine substitute.  Make sure to cook it al dente!

Quick & Easy Italian Marinara

3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
60ml (1/4 c) olive oil
4 basil leaves, washed
2 – 400g (14oz) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
salt, to taste

Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta FeastPlace the tomatoes in a food processor (do not add the juice) and puree.  Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat, and add the garlic when hot.  Let the garlic sizzle for 1 minute, stirring constantly (don’t burn or brown it).

Carefully add the tomato puree to the hot garlic oil, and bring to a simmer.  Add the basil leaves, and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes until the flavors blend.

Serve with any pasta that strikes your fancy.


Basic Tuscan Pasta Dough

150 g all-purpose or type 00 flour*
50 g semolina flour*
2 pinches of salt (optional)
2 eggs

Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta FeastMeasure the flours into a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine the two types (if using).  Pour the flour into a small pile on a large, clean work surface.  Sprinkle the salt on the flour.

Make a well in the center of the flour, and crack the eggs into the well.  Using a fork, carefully scramble the eggs, and then gradually work the flour into the eggs until a dough forms.

Knead the dough with your hands until it become smooth.  Use the heel of your hand to form the dough into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 15-30 mins.

This sounds a lot harder than it actually is.  To see pasta making in action, The Italian Dish has a short video demonstrating how to make the dough.

Using a large rolling pin, roll the dough out on a well floured surface in a large rectangle.  Make it as thin as you possibly can, all the while checking to make sure the dough does not stick to the work surface.  When the dough is about 1-2mm (1/8″ to 1/16″) thin, leave it alone for 15-20 mins to dry it out a bit.

From here, you can make ravioli (filling recipe and cutting instructions below) or continue on with tagliatelle.Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta FeastTo make it easier to cut into strips, fold the dough inward in two inch sections starting from the outer edge and alternating sides until the two folded sides meet.  Use a large, sharp knife to cut off sections of noodles, about 6mm (a little less than 1/4″) wide.  Toss with a sprinkling of semolina flour on a large baking sheet or plate until ready to cook.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes or until al dente.  Drain and serve hot with the sauce of your choice.

* Italians use Type 00 flour and semolina, but you can substitute all-purpose flour for the Type 00.  Semolina is fairly easy to find (try Bob’s Red Mill), but in a pinch, you can simply use 200g of all-purpose flour.  Also, it’s best to weigh the flour for this recipe, but if you don’t have a scale, use 2 cups of flour with 2 eggs.


Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

45 ml (3 Tbl) olive oil
1 clove garlic
200 g (7 oz) frozen spinach
80 g (~3 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
200 g (7 oz) ricotta cheese
Basic Tuscan Pasta Dough, doubled (recipe + instructions above)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta FeastHeat the olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat.  Add garlic when hot and swirl for 1-2 minutes to flavor the oil.  Carefully add the frozen spinach.  Add 60 ml (1/4 c) water and cover.  Cook on low until the spinach is heated through.  Salt to taste, and let cool to room temperature.

Place the Parmesan in a food processor.  Add the cooked spinach and puree until smooth.  Add the eggs and pulse until incorporated.  Remove the mixture to a medium bowl, and stir in the ricotta cheese.

Separate the pasta dough into two equal portions.  Keeping one covered in plastic wrap, roll the dough out on a well floured surface in a large rectangle.  Make it as thin as you possibly can (1-2mm or 1/8″ to 1/16″), all the while adding more flour as needed to make sure the dough does not stick to the work surface.  Repeat with the second ball of dough, and leave both pieces alone for 15-20 mins to dry it out a bit.

Use a ravioli cutter to trim off any rounded edges to form a rectangle.  (Pass the scraps to the kids and let them make their own creations.)  Fold a strip of the dough over to indicate how large you’d like to make the ravioli.  Gently use the cutter to press a guideline along the cut edge of the folded strip of dough.  Unfold.

Drop teaspoons of filling along the inside of the fold in small piles where the center of the raviolis will be. When the row of dots is completed, again fold the dough over, lining the cut edge up with the previously pressed guideline.

Using a ravioli cutter, slide along the guideline, pressing firmly to seal the edges of the dough.  Now use the cutter to separate the pasta pillows from one another.  Set on a lightly floured baking sheet in a single layer to rest while you finish making the rest of the ravioli.

Fill a large pot with water and salt generously.  Add 45ml (1 Tbl) olive oil, and bring to boiling.  Cook the ravioli for 2-3 minutes or until al dente.  Drain and serve hot with the marinara or ragu.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Make it Yourself - Tuscan Pasta Feast

Buon Appetito!

This post is part of Our Tuscan Family Adventure: Two Weeks of History, Culture, Food, and Fun in Italy series.  Click on the link to view our bucket list and recaps of each excursion!Signature-Marigold

Make It Yourself: Bagels!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Make It Yourself - Bagels!A bagel is as practical as you can get when it comes to breakfast on the road.  Back when the bagel first became a hot item, bakers could easily display and transport the goods thanks to the giant hole in the middle.

Nowadays, that hole is the perfect size for little hands and an excellent vehicle for a nutritious on-the-go meal.  Fill it with peanut butter, almond butter, cream cheese, whatever!Thrifty Travel Mama | Make It Yourself - Bagels!There’s just one problem.

Germans aren’t into bagels.  Oh, the horror!  But, ’tis true, my Panera- and Einstein-loving friends.  Once or twice a year, the discounter grocery stores sell a package of 3 or 4 “American” bagels full of preservatives.  Outside of that offering, you’ll have to settle for a whole roll.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Make It Yourself - Bagels!So, why not try your hand at making bagels yourself?

Actually, I have tried once or twice.  But, I used the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I love their dough.. for bread.  The bagels turned into a sticky, sloppy disaster.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Make It Yourself - Bagels!I’d given up when I came across this recipe on A Beautiful Mess for everything bagels.  Emma always makes everything look so easy.. and gorgeous!

I resolved to give bagel baking another shot… and score!  We all loved these and chowed down on them while driving through Switzerland on our way to Schilthorn in the Alps.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Make It Yourself - Bagels!For the recipe, hop on over to A Beautiful Mess.  Since comments there are closed, if you make these everything bagels, leave one here instead to let me know how they turned out!  Thrifty Travel Mama | Make It Yourself - Bagels!Need more road trip meal ideas?  I’ll be posting more on this topic very soon!  Until then, click over to my Pinterest board, Meals For Traveling Families, to check out hundreds of ideas.

Signature-Marigold

Global Eatery – Sri Lanka

Thrifty Travel Mama | Global Eatery - Sri LankaLiving in Germany has stretched me in many ways, but perhaps most unexpectedly in the kitchen.  I cooked a fair amount of dishes from scratch when we were in the US, but here?  It happens daily.  Bored with the minimalist grocery store offerings and my paltry handful of recipes, I’ve had no choice but to step off and try loads of new recipes.

As a result, my boys have grown to like all sorts of different of foods (thank God, they might just escape the prison known as a picky palate).  In any given week, our menu hails from multiple regions of the globe.  Sure, we still eat baked chicken strips with fries once in a while, but my boys also love polenta, risotto, dal, and jap chae too.

Experimenting with different ingredients and cuisines has become a source of happiness for me.  So when the opportunity to take a Sri Lankan cooking course came along, I signed up immediately.  Along with pictures of the food we prepared during the class, I have the permission of the teacher to share my favorite recipe with you.  Yay!

I must say that before this class, I probably never would have sought out (let alone attempted) to make anything from Sri Lanka.  But everything was easy enough to replicate at home, and delicious enough to be worth the effort.

Give the recipes below a try.  The ingredients can be found at Asian or Middle Eastern grocery stores, and they don’t require any fancy schmancy cooking skills.

First, a look at the class…

A sweet apertif with citrus welcomes everyone to the class.

A sweet apertif with citrus welcomes everyone to the class.  I probably would have been satisfied with liquid dirt if it had ICE in it!  So refreshing, and not at all the norm here.

As we all arrive and get acquainted, we munch on these delicious fried papadums.

As we all arrive and get acquainted, we munch on these delicious fried papadums with mango chutney.  I was quite impressed with the Sri Lankan version of chips & salsa.

It's time to get real with ingredients.  Thankfully, other than these particular chiles, there wasn't anything on the table I hadn't seen before.

It’s time to get real with ingredients. Thankfully, other than these particular chiles, there wasn’t anything on the table I hadn’t seen or heard of before.

Enough chatting - time to get to work!  We all chopped 'til we dropped: potatoes, green beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, bell peppers, pineapple, chicken...

Enough chatting – time to get to work! We all chopped ’til we dropped: potatoes, green beans, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, bell peppers, pineapple, chicken…

Working in pairs or small groups, we took turns cooking the dishes.

Working in pairs or small groups, we took turns cooking the dishes.

This chicken curry with its bell peppers and onions reminded me of fajitas - but obviously with a different flavor.

This chicken curry with its bell peppers and onions reminded me of fajitas – but obviously the flavors were completely different.  This dish is definitely the most kid-friendly of them all.

Our teacher, Chandani, set a beautiful dinner table.

Our teacher, Chandani, set a beautiful dinner table.  The best part of a cooking class is getting to EAT, right?

When everything was finally ready, we all eagerly heaped our plates with the fragrant food.

When everything was finally ready, we all eagerly heaped the fragrant food on our plates.

I was quite surprised to learn that the green bean curry was my favorite.

I was quite surprised to learn that the green bean curry was my favorite.

The potatoes were flavored with FIRE!  I'll be toning down the crushed red pepper before I make this for the boys.

The potatoes set my mouth on FIRE! I’ll be toning down the crushed red pepper before I make this for the boys.

This chicken curry was delicious and completely unlike any other chicken curry I have tried.

The chicken curry again, this time all dressed up with scallions.

When we couldn't look at another grain of rice, we headed back to the kitchen to make dessert.

When we couldn’t possible stomach even one more grain of rice, we headed back to the kitchen to make dessert.  Here is the coconut filling and a few completed crepes.

No Sri Lankan meal would be complete without a perfectly brewed cup of Ceylon tea.

No Sri Lankan meal would be complete without a perfectly brewed cup of Ceylon tea.  No, we didn’t add any garlic to it…

A delicious dessert of coconut crepes ended our lovely evening.

This simply elegant dessert of coconut crepes and Ceylon tea ended the evening.

Want to try your hand at Sri Lankan cuisine?  Here’s the recipe for a very delicious green bean curry!

Green Bean Curry
Serves 3-5

Ingredients:

  • 250g Green Beans
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • About 1 inch piece pandan leaf (rampa) (optional)
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons cooking oil

Preparation:

Wash and slice green beans with diagonal cuts into 1” or 1 ½” pieces.  Wash curry leaves & pandan leaf and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan and once hot, add mustard seeds.  When mustard seeds start to pop, add crushed red pepper, onion, curry leaves & pandan leaf.

Sauté for few minutes until onions are tender and become fragrant.  Then add green beans & mix well. Add all the other spices. Mix all together, cover with a lid, allow to cook over medium heat. Check the mixture from time to time, and add some water if needed.

Once the beans are fully cooked, add thick coconut milk.  Stir well.

Add salt to taste. Simmer for a minute or two more, and remove from the heat.

Enjoy!

Have you ever cooked or eaten food from Sri Lanka before?  If you try this recipe, please leave a comment – I’d love to hear how you liked the food!Signature-Marigold

Strawberry Madness!

Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesMmmmm strawberries!  Nothing says summer like a juicy bite out of a gigantic ripe strawberry.  The deepest darkest crimson ones are the sweetest, bursting with flavor.  Savoring each refreshing berry, it’s hard to think that life could get any better than this.

The boys and I have embraced this season by heading out to some fields in our area and picking our own strawberries.  Since we haven’t joined the harvest-it-yourself bandwagon for several years, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would they be bored?  Rowdy?  Would they turn into little thieves, stuffing their faces with pilfered fruit?Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesThankfully, after a quick lesson in which berries to pick (big, bright, all-over red) and which ones to leave (small, white, green, rotten) each of the boys dutifully placed the strawberries in their designated buckets.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesWhat’s more, I didn’t even have to give a soapbox speech about stealing.  Okay, we “taste tested” a few to make sure we were buying quality goods.  But, after doing our due diligence, we picked our way past 4 kilos!

While it’s great fun to fill your baskets, afterward you must decide just what to do with allllll those strawberries.Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesMay I offer a few simple suggestions?

Fruit leather.  A huge hit in our household, you won’t believe what a cinch this is to make.  Simply puree your fruit, spread it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and dehydrate in the oven at the lowest possible setting for 6+ hours.  If you must have a recipe, this one’s handyThrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesFor thicker, more pliable fruit leather (and a more balanced taste), add 1/2 cup applesauce to your strawberries before pureeing.  P.s. – you totally do not need sugar in your fruit leather.  You do, however, need to sweeten your syrup (see below).Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesBerry Sorbet True sorbet isn’t made with dairy, but this particular recipe uses a bit of yogurt to smooth out the texture.  Place frozen berries, yogurt, and a few tablespoons of sugar in a food processor.  Give it a whirl, and voila!  An easy summer dessert that’s good enough for company.

Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesStrawberry Syrup.  Another mighty fine condiment, this one is just as easy to whip up as blueberry or chocolate syrupBoil strawberries, water, and sugar until the berries break down.  Blast to bits with a hand mixer.  You can either leave the syrup as is or strain it to remove the seeds and pulp.  Though I strained the blueberry variety, I decided to leave the strawberry syrup as is.  If you need a recipe, here’s a good one.Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and Recipes

Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesThis sweet & pretty dark pink puree is the base for all sorts of kitchen magic.  Allow it to work wonders as a French toast topping or be the star of pink lemonade.  Make show-stopping strawberry milkshakes with this syrup and vanilla ice cream.Thrifty Travel Mama - Strawberry Madness! Ideas and RecipesOther ideasBesides the obvious jam option, toss sliced strawberries into a spinach salad with balsamic and toasted walnuts.  Make chocolate-covered strawberries with the biggest ones.  Bake a strawberry crumble, or even this amazing no-bake strawberry cheesecake.  If you really want to impress, this is the best strawberry cake EVER.

Dairy-free berry tart: crust recipe here, but sub coconut oil for butter.  "Cream" recipe (and gluten-free crust option) here.

Dairy-free berry tart from our Fourth of July picnic in Badenweiler: crust recipe here, but sub coconut oil for butter. Vanilla bean custard recipe (and gluten-free crust option) here.

Whatever you do, do it quickly for these sweet red gems don’t last long.  Eat, drink, and enjoy because soon the strawberries – and summer – will be gone.

In the mood for blueberries instead?  Indulge in a sip of summer with these refreshing summer blueberry drinks!Signature-Marigold

Make It Yourself: Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Thrifty Travel Mama - Whole Grain Peanut Butter Ice Cream SandwichesHave you ever made something in your kitchen so divine, so rich, so utterly successful that you can’t quite believe it?

Spoonful follows spoonful, one taste test after another.  You pester anyone within earshot, subjecting even your own self to this barrage of enthusiasm.  I made this! … I made this! … I made this!

Wanting to put you out of your self-delusional misery and pop your obviously over-inflated ego, the annoyed but oh-so-lucky onlooker grabs a spoon and snatches a bite.

A cold silk ribbon of flavor.  Immaculate texture.  Pure peanut butter.  You made that? … You made that? … You made that?

Daaaaaaaang.

Up until exactly twelve days ago, I was utterly convinced that peanut butter ice cream did not exist in Germany.  But, oh joy, I was wrong!  I now know of two places to enjoy such a smooth and sultry summer treat.  One is Ben & Jerry’s (for 6 euros per pint!), and the other is my own Barbie dream house kitchen.

I usually make something obnoxiously smothered in peanut butter for my husband’s birthday.  Though Doc Sci can’t help but love anything riddled with this legume paste, in my more neutral opinion some years treats have been showstoppers (Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cupcakes), others complete flops (Peanut Butter Pound Cake).

I keep a running list of new, time-consuming, peanut butter-laden recipes.  But this one just came to me, waiting patiently for me one day when I actually had time to clean out my Google Reader (er, shall I say Feedly).

Even better, this recipe comes from a friend, another American expat in Berlin.  Dare I say that this peanut butter ice cream is so epic it’s worthy of tradition?

For the recipe, hop on over to Texanerin Baking.  With only 5 ingredients and no raw eggs or ice cream maker needed, you won’t have any excuse not to make this today!  Thrifty Travel Mama - Whole Grain Peanut Butter Ice Cream SandwichesJust whip up the ice cream in a bowl, and set it in the freezer for a few hours.  I’ve heard that you should stir your ice cream every 30 minute if not using an ice cream maker.  I tried this, and it seemed like a waste of time.  I gave up, and three hours later I had frozen peanut butter bliss!

I almost didn’t make the peanut butter cookies because the ice cream alone knocked my socks off.  At the last minute, I changed my mind.  My house full of taste testers appreciated the extra effort.  This summery peanut butter combo will put any obsessed fans over the edge.

By the way, you don’t have to use coconut oil (sub softened butter) or coconut sugar (sub the regular, processed, terrible for you white stuff).  I did use whole spelt flour, but it didn’t adversely affect the taste at all.

Erin makes her cute little sandwiches with cookie cutters.  But because I didn’t know what to do with the leftover cutouts, I wanted to make mine square.

I used a German baking sheet lined with parchment for the cookies, removed them to cool, and then spread the ice cream on another sheet of parchment in the same (now cold) pan.  I folded the parchment over so that the ice cream would only take up half the pan.  Once frozen into this shape, I cut everything into squares and assembled the sandwiches.

Enjoy these seriously cool sweet treats.  You can bet I’ll be cranking out whole grain peanut butter ice cream sandwiches again!Signature-Marigold

A Sip of Summer: Refreshing Blueberry Drinks

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaOur little Florida family has grown accustomed to the winters here – the snow, the slush, the sweaters.  But everyone has their limits.  Ours is June.

June means that no speck of winter should remain.  The sun should shine, the sweat should glisten, and salads should be served.  Not this year, though.  We’ve just greeted June in scarves and boots (yes, really).DThrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaSo, as the older boys lamented the impossibility of traipsing about in shorts and flip flops, and the baby protested the endless layers of fleece, I decided something.  If warm weather won’t come to us, we’ll just have to go ahead and make some summer ourselves.  Since summer means ice in your glass and not under your feet, it only seems fitting to start with drinks.

What’s that saying?  If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaAnd make lemonade, we shall.  But not just any lemonade.  And not just lemonade.  Let’s dress up ice cold lemonade and chilled green tea with blueberry ribbons, shall we?

First things first – we must make some blueberry simple syrup!  This drippy sweetness will be used to brighten up lemonade and green tea.  Have leftovers?  Drizzle it in yogurt or over pancakes or ice cream.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaLet’s talk lemonade.  It’s easy to make from scratch, but I had visions of lemon seeds flying all over the kitchen and juice stinging my eyes. I wanted a shortcut.

Germans only have something called bitter lemon soda, and I highly recommend taking the label at its word.  No frozen lemonade concentrate is to be found either.  But, knowing their fond affection for beer mixed with “lemonade” (known as a Radler), I persisted and discovered a huge glass bottle of Zitronensaft right next to the apple juice.  Score!Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaAfter our adventures in lemonade, it’s time to conquer green tea.  If you don’t like green tea, it’s usually due to one or more of these things: you’re drinking Lipton, you’re making it with boiling water, and you’re steeping it for more than 3 minutes.

Green tea is sensitive.  Use quality tea leaves (loose leaf is best), brew it with water heated to 185°F/85°C, and remove the leaves after 3 minutes.  For more tips, click here.  But, even if I haven’t converted you to the green tea lovers club, don’t worry.  Blueberry syrup makes everything better.

To add another dimension to our drinks, let’s add bubbly… water, that is.  Replace some of the water in the lemonade with club soda or mineral water.  Make a refreshing drink worthy of coffee shop fame by mixing some sparkling water in with your blueberry green tea.

Sip slowly and imagine that summer is really, truly, FINALLY here.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaBlueberry Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Place the ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer 15 minutes.  Smoosh the blueberries while cooking if desired.

Remove from heat; cool slightly.  Run the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, and mash blueberries with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Reserve the solids for another use (smoothies, ice cream topping).  Stir in the lemon juice.  Pour into a jar and refrigerate.

Adapted slightly from Closet Cooking

Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaBlueberry Lemonade

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup blueberry syrup (recipe above)
4-5 cups water or use half water, half club soda for sparkling lemonade

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher.  If using the German Zitronensaft, use slightly less than 1 cup as it is slightly more tart than fresh lemon juice.  Chill.  Serve in glasses over ice.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaBlueberry Green Tea

1.5 liters water
2 t green tea leaves
2/3 c blueberry syrup (recipe above)

Heat the water to 185°F/85°C.  Remove from heat, and steep the green tea leaves in the hot water for 3 minutes.  Discard the tea solids, and stir in the blueberry syrup.  Chill.  Serve in glasses over ice.Thrifty Travel Mama | A Sip of Summer - Refreshing Blueberry Lemonade and Green TeaTo make a blueberry green tea spritzer, fill a glass with ice.  Pour in 1/3 to 1/2 glass club soda.  Cover with enough blueberry green tea to make a full glass.  Stir gently with a spoon.  Sip, and enjoy!

What’s your favorite refreshing summer drink?Signature-Marigold

Make It Yourself: Homemade Salad Dressing, 3 Ways

Thrifty Travel Mama - Salad Dressing, 3 WaysSpring is officially here!  I sure hope it looks more like spring from your window than it does outside mine.  At least there is no snow.. today.

With the promise of sunnier days and warmer weather, it’s high time to start thinking about adding hearty dinner salads to your meal planning rotation.  We eat salad a LOT in our house, perhaps more than Doc Sci would like, because I really do have a soft spot in my heart for the green stuff.

When we first moved to Germany, the only prepared dressing I could find at the neighborhood grocery store was white, thick, and creamy.  I must admit, I’m not really a ranch dressing kind of girl, but this stuff couldn’t even be compared to Hidden Valley.

It took me a while to figure out that the only way I was going to have a vinaigrette dressing up my hearts of romaine was to make it myself.  Sure, the discounters sell packets of salad dressing seasoning destined to be mixed by the consumer with oil, water, and vinegar, but they taste terrible.   Regular ol’ oil and vinegar was better than that.

And, so I started simply, with olive oil and balsamic which are both good and cheap here in Germany thanks to our close proximity to Italy.  I worked my way through a dozen or so variations, and I have four favorite salad dressing recipes.  I’m giving you three below; you can find the fourth here.Thrifty Travel Mama - Salad Dressing, 3 WaysBalsamic vinaigrette is the most versatile.  It’s extremely simple to make, and it goes with almost any salad.  I can’t think of any salad it doesn’t go with, but I’m willing to concede the remote possibility.

When I was pregnant last summer with Big Foot, I got the idea of making a Costco-sized bottle of the stuff to last us through the newborn days.  Pure genius, I tell ya.  I haven’t gone back to making a small batch since.

A few things you may notice about these recipes…

First, all of my salad dressings are heavy on the vinegar.  If you’d rather hold the sour stuff, just change the ratio of oil and vinegar to 2:1 or 3:1.

Second, all three incorporate strong flavors of raw onion or raw garlic.  Don’t be shy about adding them to salad dressing!

The key to mellowing out the bite is to age the dressing.  Toss together the ingredients in a screw-top bottle or jar, and leave them a week or more in the refrigerator, shaking at least once daily, before using them on your salad.Thrifty Travel Mama - Salad Dressing, 3 Ways

Blast of Balsamic Vinaigrette
adapted from The Food Network

12 cloves garlic
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 c extra virgin olive oil

Finely mince the cloves of garlic with a knife or garlic press.  Put the minced garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bottle (I use an empty 750mL olive oil bottle with the spout removed).  Carefully pour in the vinegar and oil.  If you prefer a 2:1 oil to vinegar ratio, pour in the vinegar first and eyeball it.  Seal and shake vigorously to combine.  Store in the refrigerator, and age at least one week before serving.

Goes best with: anything, but especially mixed greens, spinach, and salads containing hard cheeses such as Parmesan or soft cheeses such as blue cheese or feta.

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
adapted from Once Upon a Chef

3 Tbl honey
2 Tbl Dijon mustard
4 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 1/2 T finely minced shallots
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbl olive oil (or sunflower oil)

Add all ingredients to a screw-top jar.  Seal and shake vigorously to combine.  Store in the refrigerator and age at least three days before serving.

Goes best with: heartier leaves such as romaine and bitter greens such as radicchio.  Excellent as a topping for a dinner salad with chicken or a chef’s salad with ham and hard boiled egg.

Creamy Italian Salad Dressing
adapted from Marie’s RecipeZaar Collection

1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbl red wine vinegar
3 Tbl sour cream or low-fat yogurt
3 Tbl grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to a screw-top jar.  Seal and shake vigorously to combine.  Store in the refrigerator and age at least one week before serving.

Goes best with: heartier leaves such as romaine or spinach.  Excellent as an accompaniment to salads with pasta or pasta salads.

So, which one’s your favorite?

Signature-Marigold

Make It Yourself: Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub

Thrifty Trave Mama Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body ScrubThough I make lots of food items at home (as well as household cleaner), I haven’t quite immersed myself in the DIY beauty product world… yet.  Pinterest often features delicious body scrubs that look good enough to eat, and a friend’s birthday party was the perfect occasion to try my hand at making my own.

After I whipped up a batch for her, I couldn’t help but make another one for me.  It smelled heavenly!

And my-oh-my was it easy.  Crafting the label took the most time.  If you’re just putting together this luxurious sugar scrub for yourself, the whole process should take less than five minutes!  Thrifty Trave Mama Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body ScrubThough it’s in the name, you do not have to use brown sugar.  I made my scrub with half natural brown sugar (the kind with the crystals, not the soft American stuff) and half white sugar since it was more cost effective.

Also, if you don’t want to (or can’t) use coconut oil, olive oil works just as well.  But, of course, you won’t have that sultry coconut smell, so I highly encourage you to go coconut if you can!

Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub

1/2 cup sugar (natural, brown, or white)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted or softened (or olive oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, mix the vanilla and the coconut oil, stirring vigorously to incorporate the liquid into the fat.  Pour in the sugar, and stir until combined.  Let the mixture rest for an hour uncovered to allow the alcohol in the extract to evaporate (you want the scrub to smell like a tropical paradise, not booze).  Store in a glass jar with a screw-top lid.  Thrifty Trave Mama Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub

Enjoy!

Signature-Marigold