There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day then a nice fruity slushy. They were a favourite of mine growing up. These days I have a hard time justifying a run to the corner store just to fill my kids up on sugar, but I don’t want them to have to miss out either. My solution? Make healthy slushies at home, that can be enjoyed in an instant, when the craving strikes.
My kids love these slushies and I love that they are so much healthier and even have a little bit of nutrition packed in there. Of course I also love the fact that they take advantage of fresh July sweet cherries. We truly can never get enough!
I’ve made these several times already, always fiddling with the ingredients until we got them just right. The grape juice helps to sweeten it up and give a bit of punch. The almond extract may seem strange but it actually brings out the natural cherry flavour more, giving it a little flavour boost. And the lime juice brightens it up and gives it that reminiscent sour flavour. But don’t expect it to taste the same as the stuff from the store, this uses real ingredients after all. It’s such a simple recipe and a refreshing, healthful treat to enjoy in your own the backyard or on a walk to the park.
Feel free to add a swirl of honey-sweetened Greek yogurt to add some probiotics and make it a little more satiating. Or, for something a little more indulgent mix it with some soft serve ice cream – just like the corner store!
Fresh Cherry Slushies
These slushies are only as good as the cherries you make them with, so make sure they’re good, ripe, and flavourful. Feel free to add more sweetener, to taste, if necessary.
- 1.5 cups pitted sweet cherries (such as Bing)
- 1/2 cup pure, unsweetened grape (or apple) juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 12 ice cubes
- juice of 1 lime
- splash pure almond extract
Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse to break up the ice. Blend until thick and slushy.
Makes: 2-3 servings
It’s soup season! And, I couldn’t be happier about it. Soup is so comforting, flavourful and easy to make, and that fact that is warms you up instantly from the inside out is an added bonus. I find my feet and hands cold constantly these days and I’m wrapped up in my sweater for most of the day. But after a couple bites of soup the sweater goes off and I’m warmed right through.
Although soup is generally easy to make, it’s not always quick. I’ve had my eye out for quick soups for a while now. I’m lucky enough to have my hubby come home for lunch every day and I like to occasionally make a quick, warm, fresh meal to get us out of the sandwich/leftovers doldrums. Quick, being the key word because although we can take our time with supper, lunch has more of a time constraint.
This soup fits the bill on all accounts. It’s made from start to finish in 30 minutes (great for a last-minute dinner too), it’s so flavourful (the first chicken tortilla soup my family has actually loved), has just the right balance of flavours (I’ve tried so many versions of this soup that were far to tart and lacking in flavour) and it’s a warming, nutritious meal for the middle of the day. I know it’ll be on the table often when we’re in need of something to warm our bellies and our toes.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
You can use partially frozen chicken in this soup, making it perfect for a quick, last-minute meal. Thaw the chicken just enough to cut it into chunks, then add it to the pot as directed.
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1.5 cups frozen corn
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
- juice of 1 small lime
- To serve: crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, cilantro
In a large saucepan, heat a bit of oil over medium heat. Add onion, cook until softened. Add salt, bell pepper, garlic and cumin, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in broth, bay leaf, corn, tomatoes and chicken. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add lime juice, simmer for several minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve with desired toppings.
Adapted from Weelicious.
It’s been a while since I made my usual cold brewed iced tea. We’ve been having some pretty nice days again lately and the other day, when the temperature was climbing, I was craving a cold drink to share with the kids – Iced Tea to be exact, and I wanted it right now. Thankfully I had stumbled upon a brilliant last-minute iced tea just a couple of weeks before, so I quickly whipped some up and me and the kids were sipping away in no time. It was completely refreshing and gave me the boost I needed to get through that hot and sticky afternoon. (Just remember that regular black tea has caffeine! I water my kids’ iced tea down with additional water but if you’re worried about it make sure to use a caffeine-free tea.)
This last-minute iced tea works because it starts with a concentrated tea that’s quickly cooled down by the addition of ice, ice and more ice (so smart!). This will definitely be my go-to for the rest of the summer since the weather is so unpredictable and the hot days are getting a little fewer and farther between. I like to add a squeeze of lemon juice because that’s how my mom always made it and it just wouldn’t be the same without it. But, if you prefer you can leave the lemon out. To care-free sunny days!
Last-Minute Iced Tea
- 2 cups ice cubes (12 ice cubes) + more for ice bath and serving
- juice of 1/2 lemon, optional
- slices of remaining half lemon to garnish, if desired
Bring water to a boil. Add tea bags. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl or sink with ice and water. Place 2 cups of ice in a large pitcher or bowl (I prefer a bowl because more surface area comes in contact with the ice bath). Stir in tea. Set over ice bath and stir until ice is melted and tea is cold. Stir in lemon juice. Fill glasses with ice and pour tea over, to serve. Garnish with lemon slices.
Adapted from Foodess.
This is a great last-minute dessert for company or when your craving something pumpin-y. I got this recipe from my cousin Rachel. It comes together in one bowl with simple ingredients and results in a comforting moist yet fluffy spiced cake.
This is the kind of dessert that I can eat way to much of. The cake itself is so delicious that we’ve enjoyed it even without the cream cheese frosting. But as everyone knows cream cheese frosting and spice cake go hand in hand and it definitely puts this over the top.
I know everyone has a different definition of sheet cake. A sheet cake to me is a one layer square or rectangular cake, any size. They are simple to make for last-minute company but since you’re serving them cake they’ll feel like you’ve laboured.
Its natural orange color (which is more vibrant when using canned pumpkin) makes it a perfect dessert for any Halloween parties in your future. For a simple decoration make a spiderweb pattern on the frosting with chocolate syrup. You could either do it over the whole cake or on individual pieces. The frosting stays soft so there should be no problems doing it just before serving (but you could also do it ahead if you prefer).
Whatever event you serve this at, be assured that people will be asking for more.
Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Double this recipe for a 9×13 pan.
Pumpkin Sheet Cake
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
Whisk together oil, sugar and eggs. Whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, until no lumps remain. Stir in pumpkin puree until evenly distributed. Pour into a greased or parchment lined 8×8 baking pan. Bake at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 oz. (1/4 cup) cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons icing (confectioners) sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons heavy cream (or 1/2 teaspoon milk)
Cream together cream cheese and butter. Stir in vanilla. Whisk in icing sugar until smooth. Stir in cream until evenly distributed. Spread onto cooled cake.
Makes: 9 servings
I seriously have so much fun making this recipe. I’m not sure what makes it more fun then regular pizza dough. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re making individual portions that can be adapted to each person’s liking. Or, that it’s baked on a grill, which is the closest thing to a pizza oven that I’ll ever get. Or maybe, it’s just the fact that you can decide so last-minute to make pizza, even if you didn’t thaw the dough first.
For even quicker prep: make a couple batches of dough when you have time. Grill on one side, allow to cool and then wrap in plastic wrap. When ready to use: pull out of the freezer, place desired toppings onto the grilled side and grill until dough is cooked through and toppings are melted. This is also a great alternative for those who may only be wanting 1 or 2 individual pizzas at a time.
We topped ours with Tropical BBQ Chicken Pizza toppings. I think it’s a match made in heaven. I’m planning on trying ham and pineapple next and I’m sure over the summer all our favourite toppings will have a go on the grill. Because, what doesn’t taste better with a little smoky flavour?
This dough can handle a lot of toppings. I’m so used to making my thin crust pizza dough that I’m always a little stingy with the toppings. But the truth is, the crust is so good that even if your toppings are skimpy, your pizza will still be delicious. Even my thin crust loving husband is a big fan of this dough.
And, one of my absolute favourite features: if you’re craving pizza on a scorcher of a day you don’t even have to turn the oven on!
A Couple Tips on Working with Dough:
For those who may be new at working with yeast doughs here are a couple tips to help you have success.
- Wetter is better. When making dough it’s always better for the dough to be a tad bit too sticky then to be too dry. You can always add lots of flour when you’re rolling it out but fixing a dry dough is a lot more difficult. Plus, the less flour the more rise you’ll get. You know the dough is done when it’s sticky to the touch but nothing clings to your finger when you pull it away.
- Keep it warm. When I make yeast based doughs I like to let it rise in a slightly warm oven. This way I’m guaranteed no drafts and the temperature won’t fluctuate. I always get a better and quicker rise this way. To do this: preheat your oven to the lowest setting while you make the dough. Once the dough is ready place it in the warm oven, turn off the heat and close the door.
- Knead it well. You want to knead the dough for approximately 6-8 minutes. This helps to develop the gluten which will in turn help the dough have better structure. You’ll know the dough is ready if it looks smooth and no longer scraggly.
I really have to pull back the restraints when I’m eating this. As if pizza wasn’t addictive enough, now I have an extra delicious crust to contend with. And, now you can too. :)
What toppings would you put on grilled pizza?
Last-Minute BBQ Pizza Dough
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 package (1/4 oz) quick rise yeast
- 2-3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and oil. Knead until smooth; adding additional flour if necessary to achieve a smooth, pliable and slightly sticky dough. Place in a lightly greased bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- Prepare grill: Coat rack with oil and preheat to medium heat.
- Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into a 6-7 inch circle. Transfer to the grill and cook, covered, for 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.
- Remove from grill. Top the grilled side with desired toppings. Put back on grill and cook, covered, for 4-5 minutes until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned.
Adapted from Taste of Home.