Rainbow of Roasted Vegetables

WIN_20160206_213713It’s easy to get The Blaaahs this time of year.

“What exactly are ‘The Blaaahs‘,” you ask?

The Blaaahs is the highly scientific term (not really) for feeling run down, sluggish, under-rested, over-worked, and seriously lacking in the rejuvenating powers of sunshine and sand! Short of booking a plane ticket to Jamaica – not that I object to that idea – the best way to beat The Blaaahs is to fortify your diet with brightly colored, vitamin packed vegetables. Try this Rainbow of Roasted Vegetables for dinner tonight, and let me know if you feel a bit better tomorrow!

WIN_20160206_211338Ingredients (Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish)

1 bright orange yam, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 purple sweet potato, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 cup shiitake or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2 cups fresh green broccoli, cut bite size

1 small red bell pepper, cut bite size

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lemon

Directions

Step 1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon 3 tablespoons of coconut oil onto a large baking sheet with shallow sides, and place in the oven for 1 minute to melt.

Step 2) Remove baking sheet from oven, and use a metal spatula to spread the melted coconut oil all over the baking sheet. Place orange yam and purple sweet potato slices on baking sheet, then turn over with a spatula so that both sides are lightly coated with oil.

Step 3) Place baking sheet in oven and roast yams/sweet potatoes for 10 minutes.

Step 4) Remove baking sheet from oven after 10 minutes. Add broccoli to the pan, and turn over everything on the pan once more. Return pan to oven for another 10 minutes.

Step 5) After another 10 minutes have passed, remove baking sheet from oven again. Add mushrooms and red pepper to the pan, and turn over everything on the pan one final time. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over all of the vegetables, and return the pan to the oven for a final 10 minutes.

Step 6) Remove pan from the oven after the final 10 minutes, and taste to see that the vegetables are done to your liking. (If not, feel free to return the pan to the oven for a few minutes.) Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon evenly over all of the vegetables, and serve!

High Protein Breakfast Smoothie

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It is a fact, at least in the US, that married men have a longer life expectancy than single men. Plenty of married men have joked that this isn’t really true, life just seems longer, but I’ll leave that one alone. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†All kidding aside, I do what I can to look out for my favorite guy’s health, and that begins with breakfast. Favorite Guy isn’t much of a breakfast eater, but he works long days this time of year, and (I think) would benefit from quick, high protein breakfast. This breakfast drink packs upward of 15 grams of protein, and is the latest trick in my sinister plot to keep Favorite Guy healthy, breakfast fan or not!

Ingredients (Makes 1 high protein smoothie)

1 Tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 Tablespoon real peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

1 Tablespoon Chia seeds

1/4 cup frozen berries (any variety, I like blueberries)

1 cup skim milk

Directions

Simply blend all ingredients together until smooth. So simple!

Chinese New Year: Poached Tuna with Noodles

WIN_20160116_133238Chinese New Year falls on Monday, February 8th this year. 2016 is the year of the Red Fire Monkey. You fall under the sign of the monkey if you were born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016. Chinese astrology suggests that people born under the sign of the monkey should expect competition and challenge in 2016.

10 Pcs Fine Bone China Blue and White Bowl, with Free 10 Porcelain Spoons, Rice Bowl, Cereal Bowl, Soup Bowl, Fruit Bowl Set

Chinese New Year celebrations often span one week or longer, involving spectacular parties, fireworks, family reunions, and lots and lots of food! Today’s recipe for Poached Tuna with Noodles is just the dish to get you in the spirit of things, while still being kind to your body. Poached Tuna with Noodles is a heart-healthy dish complete with long vermicelli noodles for good luck! Noodles represent longevity, and according to superstition should never be cut.

WIN_20160116_131938Ingredients (Makes 4 side dish servings or 2 main dish servings)

4 inch piece of lemongrass, lightly crushed with the broad side of a knife

1 lime leaf

2 tablespoons tom yum paste

WIN_20160116_1307271/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

4 cups water

1 handful of vermicelli noodles (pinch your thumb and index finger together to make a circle, and fill the circle with noodles)

2 tablespoons dried shiitake mushrooms, broken into pieces

6 ounce tuna steak, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup snow pea pods, sliced into matchsticks

WIN_20160116_131525Directions

Step 1) Combine lemongrass, lime leaf, tom yum paste, ginger, and water in a wok or large pot. Bring to a boil.

Step 2) Add broken shiitake mushrooms and vermicelli noodles. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

Step 3) Add tuna pieces and simmer for 5 minutes or until tuna is just barely pink in the center.

Step 4) Remove wok from heat. Stir in sliced snow pea pods. Serve immediately.

NEW Free Book Giveaway!

PandoraCover

Pandora’s Lunchbox, by Melanie Warner

Contest Ended February 15th

Congratulations to winner Cathy Crockett!

Here are the easy ways to enter to WIN a hardcover copy of this novel:

1) “LIKE” Crowded Earth Kitchen on Facebook! New LIKES between February 1st – 15th count as an entry.

2) “Follow” @CrowdedEarthKit on Twitter! New followers between February 1st – 15th are automatically entered.

3) Post a comment below! Each post counts as one entry. Feel free to enter every day. [Do you have any recommendations for future book giveaways? Tell us, below!]

4) Reblog this post!

Join Amazon Prime Music – The Only Music Streaming Service with Free 2-day Shipping – 30-day Free Trial

One lucky winner will be contacted when the contest ends!

Review

As teenagers and college students are prone to saying around bites of junk food, ‚ÄúJust, Wow!‚ÄĚ Based upon the author‚Äôs diverse writing background, including two years as a staff reporter for The New York Times, I was hopeful that Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox would be well written and engaging. As a chemist and an educator myself, I was hopeful that this book would find and walk the line between depth of accurate food science detail and clarity of presentation for a wide audience. Melanie Warner delivered on both counts. And delivered, and delivered some more!

Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox is as smartly written as it is impossible to set down. From her personal food ‚Äúexperiments‚ÄĚ (Did this used to be a chicken nugget? Is that facial mask or avocado dip?) to her broadly painted historical overview to the interview vignettes which highlight her journalistic expertise, Melanie Warner illustrates the landscape of modern day processed food in stark detail. Ms. Warner begins by explaining what a processed food is not (‚Äúpasteurized milk‚Ķ. frozen peas, canned beans‚Ķ frozen ground beef shaped into hamburgers‚ÄĚ) before succinctly clarifying what we are really talking about: ‚ÄúAprocessed food is something that could not be made, with the same ingredients, in a home kitchen. Your home kitchen‚ÄĚ (p. xvi).

Prior to reading this book, I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on the ‚Äúno-no‚Äôs‚ÄĚ of processed food. Little did I know! Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox had me rethinking the origins (and wisdom) of my daily multivitamin, the journey of ingredients in my children‚Äôs ‚Äúhealthy‚ÄĚ breakfast cereal, and even my store bought loaf of whole grain bread. As I progressed from chapter to chapter, I was both humbled by how little I knew and inspired to do better for my own health and the health of my family.

Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox confronts the business realities of the food industry, where processing and preservatives allow longer shelf lives and lower costs, corporate shareholders demand high profits over high nutrition, and consumers respond to slick marketing and artificial flavors. Melanie Warner ends her well written book with 216 referenced endnotes, placing well organized facts gently and firmly in the hands of her readers. Read Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox, and you will ‚Äď to your benefit ‚Äď never experience a trip to the supermarket quite the same way again.

Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

Three Food Resolutions to Consider

Happy New Year from Crowded Earth Kitchen! Let’s kick off 2016 with a few new and improved food habits, shall we? Not only can these three simple changes improve our health, they can help us save a LOT of money. What’s not to love about that?

picture650#1 ¬†Less soda pop, more¬†tea. The negative health effects of soft drinks, even diet soft drinks, have been well researched. Also, commercial sodas are expensive!¬†Think of all of those SuperBowl commercials… those advertising dollars have to come from somewhere, right? Let’s give this simple swap a try. Our bodies and our wallets will thank us.

#2 ¬†Less drive-thru food, more homemade freezer meals.¬†My weakness is drive-thru burritos, even though I know they are a nutritional nightmare. The wake-up call for me was when I admitted stopping at a drive-thru after pledging a boycott and a friend said, “Of course you’re having trouble stopping – you’re addicted. You’re addicted to the salt, the MSG, and who-knows-what-all in the chemical soup that is Fast Food.” Gross. I know better, and my body deserves better. Time to stock up on home cooked, individually portioned and frozen soups, stromboli, and other meals¬†which thaw and reheat easily.

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Chili freezes and thaws easily!

WIN_20150517_184936#3 ¬†Less brown food, more green food. This one is self-explanatory. Most Western diets are higher than they should be in breaded, fried “brown” food, and lacking in fresh, vegetable-based “green” food. Crowded Earth Ktichen is chock full of vegetable-based recipes for on-the-go snacks, simple lunches, family dinners, and a variety of ethnic dishes.

May 2016 bring you good health, and may your kitchen be a place that makes you happy!

Salted Green Bean Crisps

WIN_20150831_101227Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re big fans of vegetable snacks such as zucchini crisps, seasoned kale, and Brussels sprouts chips.¬†But green beans? Well, why not?

Green beans are abundant this time of year, so I trimmed a few pounds and experimented. First, I just dehydrated a few beans without any other preparation.

Yuck.

Second, I blanched a few beans in boiling water and salted them before dehydrating.

Better, but not something I would make twice.

My third attempt was spot on. I roasted the beans before placing them in the dehydrator, and the results were delicious! I now keep a little container of Salted Green Bean Crisps in my car, for guilt-free snacking as I drive past three ice cream stores (no joke) on my way home from the gym!

WIN_20150830_164418Ingredients (Fills a quart size container)

1 pound fresh green beans

1 tablespoon oil (I like toasted sesame oil, but coconut oil also works well)

1 tablespoon sea salt

WIN_20150830_171728Directions

Step 1) Wash and trim ends from green beans.

Step 2) Coat green beans with 1 tablespoon of oil on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Roast beans in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 3) Allow green beans to cool, then transfer to food dehydrator trays. Dehydrate for 12 hours, or until beans snap in half easily. Store beans in an airtight container.

Ronco FD1005WHGEN 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

 

Broccoli Mango Stir-Fry

WIN_20150517_184936It’s possible that a more vitamin-packed meal exists, but I can’t think of what that might be right now. Broccoli and mango are nutritional powerhouses on their own… combined, they are magnificent! Not big on vegetarian meals? No worries – feel free to top this dish with cooked shrimp or chicken for a protein packed dinner.

Please note that this recipe cooks FAST… have your rice cooked and your table set before the broccoli goes into the pan!

WIN_20150517_175606Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 large mango, cut bite size

2 large heads of broccoli, cut bite size

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons fish sauce, such as Thai Kitchen Fish Sauce – 7 oz

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, such as Napa Valley Naturals Organic Toasted Sesame Oil Unrefined — 12.7 fl oz

4 cups cooked rice

2 cups cooked chicken or shrimp (optional)

WIN_20150517_181456Directions

Step 1) Add coconut oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and broccoli to a hot frying pan or wok. Stir-fry over medium-high for three minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Add one or two tablespoons of water if the ingredients begin to stick to the pan.

Step 2) Add mango to the pan. Reduce heat to low-medium and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3) Whisk together fish sauce, lime juice, and cornstarch. Drizzle this mixture over the broccoli and mango. Cook everything over medium heat for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly.

Step 4) Serve over cooked rice. Top with chicken or shrimp if desired.

 

 

 

Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

WIN_20150723_182605Recently, I had a midnight visit from the vegetable fairy. OK, the visitor was my sister, but I’m not exaggerating the late hour.¬†The drive from her home in rural Arkansas to my home Up North¬†is many hours; we worry when she drives. Imagine my delight to find my sister on my porch, home safe and holding big buckets of vegetables. Yes, vegetables… tomatoes mostly, along with quite a bit of okra (recipe coming up soon) and a variety of¬†squash.¬†My sister knows me well – even at midnight, I started working on those buckets right away while everything was fresh, fresh, fresh! This recipe for Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce was a middle-of-the-night creation. It’s delicious. Give it a try!

WIN_20150723_011157Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

2 quarts cherry tomatoes

2 large carrots

1 large red onion

1 large, whole head of garlic

WIN_20150723_1737091 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20150723_181906Step 1) Wash all vegetables. Pierce cherry tomatoes with the tip of a knife and place in a large crockpot. Add carrots and onion. Cook on “low” with lid slightly open (to allow steam to escape) for 12 hours.

Step 2) Slice the top off of the head of garlic, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 1 hour. Allow to cool without opening the foil.

Step 3) Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel and into the crockpot. Add salt and brown sugar. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in basil.

Serve immediately over pasta or vegetables, or ladle into containers and freeze. This recipe freezes well.

Lime Basil Salmon

WIN_20150719_204146Who wants to cook all day when it’s gorgeous outside? Not us. Moving into late summer, we’re all about fast, healthy food here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Today we have a super easy, nutritious¬†dinner for you! All you need are¬†25 minutes and 4 ingredients… ready… set… GO!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 salmon fillets (4 – 6 ounces each)

1 lime, sliced very thin

1 tablespoon sugar

8 basil leaves, sliced into thin shreds

WIN_20150719_195331Directions

Step 1) Grease a baking pan with shallow sides. Place 4 lime slices on the bottom of the pan (these add flavor and will help keep your fish from sticking to the pan).

Step 2) Place a salmon fillet on top of each lime slice on the baking pan. Fish fillets should not be touching each other.

Step 3) Dip one side of remaining lime slices in sugar. Place lime slices, sugar side down, on top of salmon.

Step 4) Bake salmon in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Top with basil shreds and serve immediately.

Summer Squash Spaceships

WIN_20150719_193616Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we grow spaceships in the garden. Known to many grown-ups as patty pan squash, “spaceships” are a fun vegetable for children of all ages. We’re combining this crisp, low calorie, nutritious summer squash with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and basil for a classic flavor combination. Go ahead – play with your food!

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Patty Pan Squash

WIN_20150719_192528Ingredients (Makes 4 side dish servings)

1 patty pan squash, approximately 6 inches in diameter, sliced into thin rings

8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin circles

1 ripe tomato, sliced into thin circles

6 – 8 basil leaves

1 long wooden skewer

balsamic vinegar and olive oil to garnish

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Place the first slice of patty pan squash on a plate, and push the flat end of a skewer into the squash. This will serve as your base. Slowly lower slices of tomato, basil, and mozzarella over the pointed end of the skewer and down to the base. Repeat layers until you have used the entire patty pan squash. Top with a triangle “flag” cut from a basil leaf. Serve immediately with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

In The Garden: First Harvests

Moving into late July, my Northern vegetable garden has been growing for almost eight weeks. This means – finally! – the first vegetables are being harvested here at Crowded Earth Kitchen! Weather permitting, we’ll enjoy increasingly bountiful harvesting for the next six to eight weeks. So exciting!

Here’s a peek at some of what’s happening In The Garden:

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Banana peppers, always the first peppers of summer, are bountiful this year.

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Ground cherries, a new garden addition, are coming along nicely.

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The first of the hot peppers are turning red!

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Broccoli heads are about six inches in diameter.

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Zucchini are surprisingly late this year, but are finally growing strong.

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We’ve picked about two quarts of beans so far.

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With a new net to protect raspberries from the birds, we’ve harvested a whole quart of berries so far. Happily, we’ll be able to pick again tomorrow!

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Poblano peppers, typically harvested near the end of summer, are already growing rapidly. So delicious…

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Cucumber vines are just beginning to produce. We hope to begin canning pickles in another week or two.

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The greens bed has exploded with chard and kale. Self-seeded tomato plants are peeking through the chard leaves, and will offer a cherry tomato bonus in September.

Freezing Summer Fruit

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Freezing mango slices on trays before packing in freezer bags keeps them from sticking together!

If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know that we do a lot of canning. You also know we do a lot of shopping at Aldi.¬†It won’t surprise you, then,¬†that the¬†ridiculously inexpensive summer fruit prices at Aldi have us giddy with delight!

Whole pineapples for $1.39! Mangoes for $0.49! Pints of blueberries for $0.69! Nectarines, peaches, and plums for $0.78 per pound!

It’s enough to make cooks passionate about food preservation dance for joy… but here’s the conundrum:

Who wants to stand over a canning pot all day in July???

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Use a straw to suck the air out of your freezer bags before sealing. This helps prevent ice crystals and freezer burn!

Not us, not even with those prices dangled before¬†our eyes. July is for swimming with the kids, reading romance novels on a hammock, and sipping mojitos (great recipe coming up for those) with friends.¬†So what’s a frugal cook to do?

Freeze!

All you need to do in order to take advantage of these prices without sacrificing pool/hammock/mojito time is place whole berries and/or bite size chunks of pineapple, mango, nectarines, peaches, and plums in a single layer (not touching each other) on a baking sheet or small tray. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours. As soon as the fruit is frozen, transfer the fruit to quart size freezer bags. Finally, use a straw to suck the air out of the bags before zipping completely closed. Tuck those bags back in your freezer, as quickly as possible.

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The individually frozen fruit slices in these airtight bags will taste like fresh summer fruit when allowed to thaw!

When winter arrives, you’ll be able to easily scoop individual pieces of fruit from your freezer bags¬†and enjoy summer goodness long after the warm sunshine is gone!

Now, back to my romance novel…¬† ūüėČ

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Berries may be frozen whole, but should still be individually frozen on baking sheets before packing into freezer bags.

Purslane, the Free Superfood!

WIN_20150714_130402I’ve known for a while that the Hmong women at my local farmers market possess an extraordinary amount of knowledge, having immigrated with many generations of organic agricultural experience, skill, and lore. Even so, I was surprised to see small bundles of pink stemmed plants with small, succulent leaves for sale at their booth.

Earlier the same day, I spent hours picking and discarding these very same “weeds” from my vegetable garden!

WIN_20150714_133026After only a few minutes of research, I discovered that the “weed” I have been hoeing right out of my garden is purslane, sometimes known as pigweed (no respect, I tell you!). Purslane is a highly prized edible plant in much of Asia, and no wonder! Apparently purslane contains more Vitamin A and more Vitamin C per serving than most dark green leafy vegetables, including spinach! In addition… get this… purslane is remarkably high in Omega 3 fatty acids, containing more heart healthy Omega 3s than some fish oils!

Who knew?

Perhaps a better question is, how do I use it?

WIN_20150714_133519Enjoying the bright, citrusy flavor of purslane can be as simple as plucking off the small leaves and tossing them into a salad or sprinkling them over grilled vegetables. Feeling a little more adventurous? In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse, purslane has thickening properties. To take advantage, simply dry purslane in a food dehydrator or oven (lowest temperature) and grind into powder using a food processor or coffee grinder. Then, add powdered purslane to soups and stews in place of cornstarch or roux.

The possibilities are endless. I’d love to hear your ideas for this underappreciated “weed!”

Discovering Fresh Lychee Fruit!

WIN_20150606_163925My local Asian market has always stocked dozens of varieties of canned lychee products, and additional dozens of lychee flavored products (tapioca desserts, for example). Today, however, was the first time I noticed FRESH lychee fruit in the produce section. The price, about $4 per pound, seemed kind of steep at a glance. However, lychee fruit are pretty small – smaller than a plum – and I was able to purchase enough for a pretty little dish for about $2.

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Fresh lychee fruit, peeled and seeds removed

Lychee trees are indigenous to parts of China, and are now grown in many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Recently, lychee fruit have been grown commercially in California and Florida, which is how fresh lychee ended up at my local market. It’s a small world! Lychee are low in calories, high in both Vitamin C and phytonutrients, and offer a refreshing, lightly sweet taste with a mild floral aroma. Amazing!

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These little fruit resemble big raspberries at a glance. The raspberry appearance is simply the bumpy red peel, which must be removed. Puncture the peel with a paring knife and gently pull back.

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Once started, the rest of the peel will unravel very easily, often in one piece. Break apart the peeled lychee fruit with your fingers (think of breaking a plum apart) and remove the single, smooth seed at the center.

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Your peeled, seeded lychee fruit are now ready to enjoy! I think they’re lovely all by themselves. If you want to experiment, try a sprinkle of cinnamon, a squeeze of lime, or even a drizzle of coconut milk. Have fun!

Watermelon Lime Cooler

WIN_20150529_105252What’s with the food industry’s obsession with fake watermelon? You know what I’m talking about… lipstick-colored watermelon sherbets and sorbets, cloyingly sweet and perfumed watermelon bubblegum, and powdered drink mixes containing a dozen different ingredients not found in nature. These products seem to grow in popularity during the summer months, when REAL watermelon is available! It just doesn’t make any sense.

Try this instead: buy an actual, real watermelon. Cut it in half, scoop out the delicious fruit, and puree it in a blender (this should be done in small batches). Then, freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can pop out the cubes, freeze them in a bag, and use them all summer in delicious beverages! I’ll even confess to freezing extra watermelon for “emergency” summer drinks in the dead of winter. True story.

To make today’s Watermelon Lime Cooler, simply puree 1/2 of a lime (with or without the peel, it’s up to you), 6 cubes of frozen watermelon puree, and 1/4 cup of cold water. That’s IT – for about 10 seconds of effort, you get a¬†refreshing glass of real summer flavor, complete with fiber, vitamin C, and beneficial lycopene. Need something a little sweeter? Add a teaspoon of¬†marmalade before you blend the ingredients together. Enjoy!