Here we are at the tail end of the school year and I can tell you that I have been learning a lot lately. Take this week for example: I learned not to skip adding the potatoes to the skillet when roasting a chicken because the oven will become a grease covered, smoky mess. Coincidentally, I also learned how to clean my oven (steam cycle!) I learned that you can only say “yes” so many times before you have to say “no” to keep your sanity in check. Also, it is much harder to say “no” after initially saying “yes”. So hard! I’m also learning how to stand, which sounds even crazier than the first two, but while at a Pilates class, the instructor reminded us all to stand equally on both feet and not to lock our knees (room for air between the joints). This is called “active standing”. Locking the knees is called “passive standing” and I realized that I stand that way all the time. No wonder my hip joints and back hurt. So yes – I am learning how to stand. Lastly, I am learning how to create meals using what I have on hand and this is the most exciting of all the lessons. School is in session!
I started volunteering at a cooking school down the street from us and one of the classes was called “Cooking by the Seat of your Pants” by Becky Selengut. I have basically talked about this class nonstop since that night. It was was one of those aha moments. She talked about how to taste food a
nd the different ingredients needed to make balanced food, which is the most satisfying. The food made in class contained ingredients she had on hand and she didn’t use any recipes. This is my dream way to cook.
When I started out cooking a few years ago, I didn’t know how to roast a vegetable and had to Google search EVERYTHING. I didn’t know how to cook a pork chop or what tarragon tasted like. I can’t even tell you how many times the smoke alarm went off while I was cooking. So, I’ve spent the majority of my energy on learning how to cook and keeping the seasonings to salt, pepper and olive oil. I also use recipes religiously. But after listening to Becky and hearing the different ingredients needed to create all these different flavors, I realized that I had all of them sitting in my cupboards. What I don’t have is the experience to put them together in satisfying interesting ways…..yet.
Which brings me to the other thing that I learned from Becky. Curry is one of those dishes that you can make using a variety of leftover vegetables and proteins. According to Becky, coconut milk and curry paste will be your best friend on a busy Wednesday night. Well, I have a real soft spot for curry and now seem to not be able to go a week without whipping up a pot. This week I didn’t use the whole can of coconut milk (another lesson I learned – don’t skimp on the coconut milk!) but no matter – I had another concoction in mind for the remaining.
Unlike curry, popsicles are one of the foods I have made quite often. chocolate pops, smoothie pops, vanilla pudding pops – pretty much any recipe I see. We have had blue skies and sunshine this last week and I had my first after school request for a popsicle. I basically ran into the kitchen to comply and I encourage you to do the same. The coconut milk is sweet, smooth and creamy and the berries add that tart contrast that is irresistible.
Berry Coconut Freezer Pops
This recipe is so quick and versatile! Feel free to substitute any combination of frozen or fresh berries.
- 1 1/2 cups organic strawberries, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups organic blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons for coconut milk if layering popsicles)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
This recipe made 8 popsicles. Fill each mold half full of coconut milk and set aside. Combine berries, water, sugar and lemon zest in a small saucepan. Warm on medium-low, stirring and crushing fruit occasionally. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for a couple of minutes. I used a potato masher to really smooth out the fruit but you could keep the chunks. Pour mixture into a glass measuring cup and gently pour over the coconut milk to fill the molds the rest of the way. Take a knife and gently swirl the two flavors together. Freeze for an hour and then add popsicle sticks. Continue freezing until firm (3-4 hours more). Enjoy!
Directions for layered popsicle:
In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the coconut milk and stir to combine. Divide equally among the popsicle molds. Continue as above. Omit swirling with knife.