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Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

7 Aug

I am so glad to be back!

There she is! Will find that contact info soon!

There she is! Will find that contact info soon!

We were just in Puerto Rico for a month, which was fantastic and wonderful (especially for my son’s Spanish; he spent his days at a summer camp fending for himself  and emerging victorious!). But for those of us sitting home with nothing but fans blowing hot air around while he frolicked in the pool, it was ridiculously hot.

Putting it together was easy!

Putting it together was easy!

We headed for Rincón’s Famer’s Market a couple of Sundays (Rincón is higher elevation where it is not beachfront, so it is cooler), and we found a young lady selling iced teas…with a twist (now I can’t find her card or I would tell you who she is…).

How pretty is that?

How pretty is that?

Leandro fell in love with the Hibiscus-Mint Iced Tea Lemonade which she said is very popular for kids’ parties. So, of course I had to recreate it at home and I too emerged victorious. This stuff is super-refreshing and delicious, has no caffeine and looks beautiful. I used agave nectar, so I didn’t even have to fuss with sugar syrup….You could try honey too!

 

So refreshing!

So refreshing!

Hibiscus Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

6 Cups hibiscus tea, cooled (I used Tazo’s Passion – 5 teabags to 6 Cups hot water, then steeped for ten minutes)

½ generous Cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (strained to remove seeds and pulp)

¾ Cup agave nectar (you could also make a simple sugar syrup and start with 1/2 Cup)

Several sprigs mint and 1 Tbs chopped mint

Mix all the ingredients in a large pitcher until blended. Remove mint sprigs, stir in chopped mint and serve over ice, with additional sprigs of mint for garnish, if desired.

 

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20 Summer Tomato Recipes and Techniques (including rescuing and freezing!)

31 Jul

Here it is finally, a round-up of recipes for using summer tomatoes, including rescuing tomatoes past their prime and processing for freezing (without the trouble of canning!). Bookmark this one….

1. The Easiest of All: Chopped Tomato Sauce

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

Light and beautiful, any kind of tomatoes will do, as long as they are garden fresh!

2. Speedy Bruschetta (great for using up tomatoes past their prime salad days)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

3. Pan-Roasted Cherry, Grape or Sungold Tomatoes (Oil-Free options and another way to use up those minis gone soft)

4. Grilled Cherry Tomato Salad or Burger Topper

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor.

This recipe has terrible photos so I am not using them here, but great flavor. Try it!

5. Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic and Basil

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

Bung these in the oven while roasting other veggies!

6. Spanish-style Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes!

Stuffed Tomatoes!

7. Provencal Vegetable Tian (baked layered summer veggies with olives)

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

Assembly is easy on this vegetable tian

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone...but you get the idea.

By the time it came out of the oven, my natural light was gone…but you get the idea.

 

8. Marinated Mini-Mozzarella Balls

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

Perfect for a summer BBQ or buffet (and big savings over the pre-marinated from the Italian deli

 9. Classic Criollo Tomato and Avocado Salad

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

The go-to side for spicy, salty, strong-flavored creole cooking

 10. Cannellini and Tomato Salad (no cook)

Add crusty bread and you've got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

Add crusty bread and you’ve got yourself a no-cook hearty cool meal!

11. Pan-Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa (fat-free)

Pretty all the way from start to finish

Pretty all the way from start to finish

2012-08-26 04.56.47 tomato tomatillo

12. Oven Charred Tomatillo and Tomato Salsa

Oven Charred...Yum

Oven Charred…Yum

Next page: Bisque; Watermelon Feta and Tomato Salad, AND several ways to preserve tomatoes by freezing!

Continue reading

Sangría Tropical (and rainforest paradise pictures)

27 Jul

When the heat gets tropical, so should the drinks.

View from Noelia's where you can sit out on the deck and chat while waiting for dinner

View from Noelia’s where you can sit out on the deck and chat while waiting for dinner. See rapidly disappearing sangría in my mom’s hand

On a recent trip to the mountains of Puerto Rico, I was inspired by a wonderfully cooling and exotic sangría I had up around and about El Yumque (Caribbean National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service  system) at Noelia’s, recommended to us by Matthew at our hotel, Casa Cubuy EcoLodge — which is simple and wonderful and part of the rainforest.

An eclectic and friendly joint, with loads of Puerto Rico memorabilia and drums!

Noelia’s is an eclectic and friendly joint, with loads of Puerto Rico memorabilia and drums!

Your balcony looks out on the mountain, with walks to several rivers and waterfalls right out the back door.

View from the balcony at Casa Cubuy

View from the balcony at Casa Cubuy

It was a wonderful night with a local couple and Noelia herself telling us tales of their region and showing up the island of Vieques in the distance, spotting palomas sabaneras (an indigenous and endangered bird) in the trees, coqui frogs in the kitchen keeping Noelia company, eating garlicky mofongo and seafood from the nearby coast (the little guy sucking on the bones of his delicious fried chicken).

Noelia herself!

Noelia herself!

moonshine!

moonshine!

There’s moonshine up in those mountains and we brought some of that home too, but I am not revealing my sources. Note that our moonshine is a potent cane rum, best mellowed with local flavors like coconut and passionfruit.

A boy's paradise

A boy’s paradise

So when I got back to sea level, it was clearly time to enjoy some of that flavor and bring back the cool of the high hills. I used a couple of tablespoons of moonshine, but I offer worthy substitutions in the recipe. Continue reading

Zucchini: 7 Superstar Supereasy Recipes

12 Jul

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all love summer veggies fresh from the garden. Except — admit it! — when there are piles and piles and piles of zucchini sitting around your kitchen counters waiting for a purpose. For that time there is this post.

I have collected some of my favorite zucchini recipes here to inspire you and yours to enjoy zucchini in different ways (and overwhelmed gardeners can send this to their friends as they pass off some of the overabundance of zucchini from the backyard).

Enjoy! You will remember these days fondly in the dark of winter.

Rosemary-Manchego Zucchini Fritters

 

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

Zucchini Rosemary Manchego Fritters Yum

 

 Remoulade (Easy Summer Squash Slaw…cooooool)

 

Zucchini Slaw

Zucchini Slaw

 Crunchy Creamy Zucchini Corn Fritters

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

Light and luscious, the abundant corn kernels make this fun to eat

 Easy Stovetop Lemon-Oregano Zucchini and Yellow Squash

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

How this dish looked at our campsite on the beach

Healthy and Happy Grilled Veggie Kebabs Continue reading

Easy, Hearty, Refried Beans for Bean Dip, Tacos, Burritos, and more

8 Jul

We’ve been having folks over or heading to other people’s houses for watch parties during the World Cup…as die-hard fanáticos del fútbol, this extravaganza of soccer is something we look forward to every four years with great anticipation.

I’ve mostly gonewith tried and true recipes like the incredibly delicious Chipotle Lime Jerk Slow Cooker Chicken and my Seasoned Ground Beef for Sloppy Joes, Tortilla Torcal (Spanish stovetop egg frittata with chorizo, ham and peas from our garden), Grapes and White Cheese (no-cook fab appetizer with just two ingredients — three if you count toothpicks), and such.

Go U.S.A.!

Go U.S.A.! Tim Howard is Hercules!

But for the first U.S. game of the Cup, I also made a new one: bean dip! I was very happy with the results. I did homemade refried beans (recipe below), then just layered it up with salsa and cheese and melted in the oven and served with tortilla chips, sour cream and avocado chunks and everyone liked it. A Lot.

This bean recipe is very versatile for Tex-Mex style foods like nachos, burritos, tacos and the like. Sure you can buy refried beans in a can, but this flavor and texture is more complex and of course the sodium and fat levels are reduced to human proportions. Give it a try!

 

Layered with cheese and salsa, this warm dip is a hot item

Layered with cheese and salsa, this warm dip is a hot item

Refried Beans for Bean Dip or Tex-Mex meals (with garlic scapes)

1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs garlic scapes (or garlic), chopped fine

¼ Cup diced ham (ham steak or deli ham)

½ Cup broth (chicken or veggie; not too sweet)

1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

3 Cups red beans (softened at home or from a can, rinsed and drained)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a generous pan to medium high. Lower heat and sauté the garlic scapes in the oil until tender. Add the diced ham and sauté an additional minute, then add remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and with a potato masher or a fork, mash mixture roughly until you have a thick, rustic paste, adding tablespoons of water or broth as needed. Layer with salsa and cheese in an oven-safe dish and heat up, then top with sour cream, guacamole and olives, or use it to top nachos or stuff tacos and burritos!

Spicy Peach and Nectarine Salsa (for grilled chicken, fish or shrimp)

23 Jun

Between the World Cup, my son’s birthday, and all the crazy- end-of-school-year STUFF, I have not been blogging with my usual attention. And I have missed you! But in the last few days of entertaining and spectating, this peach and nectarine salsa (done quickly at half-time)  has been sparking up the fantastic grilled chicken my dad has been charring to perfection.

A combination of over-ripe and not-quite ripe peaches and nectarines make for a terrific salsa

A combination of over-ripe and not-quite ripe peaches and nectarines make for a terrific salsa

It is the result of buying a manager’s special of rejected peaches and nectarines on the cheap….You can substitute mango..in fact my mom thought it was mango! The important thing is the balance and excitement of sweet, citric, spicy and salty all at one go.  Nancy, this one is for you…

This is done in five minutes!

This is done in five minutes!

Peach/Nectarine Spicy Salsa (for grilled chicken or shrimp)

1 Cup peeled and chopped peaches and nectarines

1 tsp red onion, chopped fine

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp balsamic vinegar

1 pinch hot red pepper flakes

1 pinch salt

Mix together in a bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Serve with grilled chicken, shrimp or sturdy white fish.

Red, White and Blue Shortcake in a (World) Cup

16 Jun

My son’s birthday this year happens to fall on the day of the U.S. National Soccer Team’s opening World Cup match against Ghana. So — being a soccer/fútbol mad family, this is like thematic heaven for us!

USA shortcakeBetween last night and this morning, I banged together class treats that were all red, white and blue, homemade and — while they include cake and whipped cream — also include generous portions of summer fruit.

Very tender and moist cake....

Very tender and moist cake….

I like to think it strikes the right balance between healthy and sweet and it certainly reflects what is important to the little man today.

Pretty decent crumb!

Pretty decent crumb!

And the fact that I put this much time and thought into it reflects 1) my semester finished and I have some extra time on my hands 2) I am indeed the food DIY maniac everyone thinks I am 3) I love this little man so much I want him to be proud of the treats he brought in!

Piled it up nice (and casually no...LOW FUSS!)

Piled it up nice (and casually no…LOW FUSS!)

He went to school in his U.S. kit (with the non-playing Landon Donovan jersey, but never mind…I have to assume Klinsmann knows what he is doing) and seemed very pleased with the whole thing. He was down with a virus last week that has left him with painful bumps in his mouth….so I don’t know whether he’ll actually eat one, but he somehow managed to lick the whipping cream bowl clean all right this morning.

All tarted up for the big game

All tarted up for the big game

I include a link for the recipe for homemade whipped cream. I URGE you to try it…so much more fun and much more velvety and subtle…the kids around here love making it with the hand beater and eating it up! You can also make your own white cake (recipe for a very fluffy and tender one below) or substitute storebought poundcake. If you are going to make your own cake, I suggest you have a look at Paula Deen’s excellent Creaming 101 tutorial. Continue reading

Mango Chimichurri Salsa (for grilled meats and seafood)

7 Jun

When it comes to camping food, go bold or go home is my motto. This is no time for subtlety.

Our delicious dinner

Our delicious dinner

So, when Pedro (my dad) showed up at the campsite with some steaks last week. I was all in. He simply sprinkled salt and pepper on the steaks and got to grilling. His hint for you today is that starting with defrosted steaks still a bit cold in the center helps to keep the rare in medium rare when things start moving quickly on the charcoal grill. A fair bit of marbling on a steak is desirable, because you want that fat to melt and season the steak as opposed to drying out a leaner cut.

I decide to surprise everyone with a different sort of dressing for the steak: a mango chimichurri salsa, a riff on the parsley-based Argentinean salsa for steeak. Continue reading

You Need No-Knead Bread Dough in Your Fridge!

9 Apr

500th POST!!!! 500th POST!!!! Thanks to all of you for following, commenting, liking, and cooking with Hot, Cheap & Easy these past few years. I appreciate your support and love having your company on this food and life journey…Don”t forget to sign up for email alerts if you haven’t already! xoxoxo

As we were learning about yeast for my first-grader’s Science Fair Project, it was obvious that blowing up balloons with anaerobic respiration, while cool, was not enough to fully demonstrate the wonders of this delightful fungus.

The best way to appreciate how useful and all around terrific these little creatures are is to tear into a loaf of steaming, fresh-from-the-oven, homemade bread. Yeast lifts flour from its one-dimensional powder form into the sublime airy, nutty, soft, comforting cloud of tasty goodness that is bread. Add a slab of good butter, and you know that manna from heaven must’ve been a yeast bread.

Basic ingredients

Basic ingredients

The problem is, bread is a pain in the ass to make. You knead, you wait, you punch down. You do it again. Or you have a standing mixer with the right paddles and let the machine do much of the work. And you still have to wait.

Sticky dough

Sticky dough

I don’t have a standing mixer. I don’t have the space for it. I don’t have the money for it. I don’t have the time to read all the reviews to find the best standing mixer with the best ratings and the best price that I anyway have no room for and no money for…so usually I don’t make bread. This is why bakeries exist.

After a bit more than an hour

After a bit more than an hour

But a bit of digging around the internet found me a fabulous recipe on Jezebel called Foolproof Refrigerator Bread by Jenna Sauers. It required no kneading, no standing mixer, and very little waiting and one batch is enough for three loaves that you can make one at a time when you get the urge. SOLD!

Slash the top for good looks

Slash the top for good looks

Here is our version, which doesn’t really stray much from the original. The measurements and instructions are easy enough for a little kid to follow. We shamelessly took a fresh loaf to the Science Fair and offered still-warm slices to the judges and voila! Leandro won the Creativity Prize (the K-4 category was otherwise non-juried except for a few special recognitions). Talk about fostering a sense of pride and joy in a little boy who loves science and food.

No sense skimping on the butter.

No sense skimping on the butter.

And ever since we have been keeping dough on hand to pop in the oven when we need a snack. It’s done in a half-hour….what could be better for a dinner side or something to wow impromptu guests? Continue reading to get the ever-so-simple recipe. Continue reading

Cucumber Sandwiches (Wilde Party Essential)

27 Mar

There is nothing that says English high tea quite like cucumber sandwiches. They call to mind white lace tablecloths, starched just so; the fine china; someone’s Aunts Augusta and Elizabeth; itchy wool socks, the smell of wet dogs just come in from a run in the garden, that sort of thing.

But when you are reading Oscar Wilde’s  The Importance of Being Earnest with friends, two things become apparent.

Watch them disappear

Watch them disappear

One is that it is not the prissy or genteel aunts who are nibbling delicately on the the cucumber sandwiches…no, no. they never get a chance. In this play of love and marriage and double entendres, it is the naughty, insouciant young gentlemen who can’t keep their hands off those cucumber sandwiches and who eat them up before anyone else has a chance. If you choose to look into this further, you might make some connections between the rigidity of social norms of the times and the lust for life that busts out around the edges of it all. Or you might not.

The second thing that becomes apparent is that cucumber sandwiches are fantastic. This is the recipe: Good white sandwich bread from a bakery (thanks to David and Citarella), crusts removed (thanks to Ashley), good salted butter (Irish, in this case), and thinly sliced English hothouse cucumbers (unpeeled, by executive decision; if they’d been the thick-peeled American ones, the peels would have had to come off), topped with a sprinkle of sea salt before putting the top slice of bread on, and there you have them.

“Why are these so good?” Lori kept asking me. “What is it?”

And there really isn’t a particular answer to that except that every one of the ingredients was exactly right. But they are really, really good, and I can see plates of these disappearing off the picnic platters this summer at my house.

Why are they so good? Because they are.

Why are they so good? Because they are.

For more on throwing a play-reading party, click here.

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