When the weather warms up, one of the things we often cool off with are aguas frescas, those refreshing traditional Mexican-style drinks made from various kinds of fruit. You don't have to go to your local taqueria to get them, either—they're inexpensive and really easy to make at home. Kids love them, and they're a healthy alternative to sodas and other soft drinks.
We often make aguas frescas with melons like cantaloupe or watermelon; whatever we happen to have on hand. It's a great way to use up all that watermelon that's been sitting in the refrigerator, which is what we made out latest batch out of. You can use other fruits, like strawberries and even pineapple, but melon is an economical choice and a delicious one, too.
Whenever we get Chinese take-out, my kids love to order cashew chicken. Like many Chinese-American restaurant staples, cashew chicken is actually easy to make at home, and requires only a couple special ingredients, which you should be able to find in the Asian foods aisle of your local supermarket. Accompany this with stir-fried green beans and steamed brown rice for a healthy weeknight meal.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
This Mother's Day, why not make an old school dessert for Mom—pineapple upside down cake. Pineapple upside down cake is really old school, dating back to the 1920s when canned pineapple from was introduced to the US market by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which would eventually become Dole Foods.
Featuring moist and light cake topped with sweet pineapple and a caramelized brown sugar topping, it's no wonder this dessert has been popular for nearly a century. In our recipe, we use fresh pineapple, but you can substitute canned if you don't want to mess around with cutting up and trimming a fresh one. It's equally good with both.
Cinco de Mayo is coming up, so why not make a classic Mexican recipe for dinner? Pozole, a hearty soup based on nixtamalized corn, also known as hominy, is considered one of Mexico's national dishes. Usually you'll encounter it in its red form with red chiles and pork, but I think the green version is just a delicious.
Instead of using dried red chiles to flavor the broth, this green pozole feautures tomatillos, jalapeños, and ground toasted pumpkin seeds. This is definitely not a throw-it-together-after-work recipe. It's slow food at its best, and you can use even use your slow cooker if you like. While you can make this with canned hominy and it will still be delicious, definitely try to prepare it using the real deal, which comes dried. You need to cook it slowly for hours, but the texture and flavor are superior.
It's fun for each diner to customize their bowls of pozole: add crisp lettuce and radishes, creamy avocado, crushed tortilla chips, tart lime juice, Mexican oregano, sliced jalapeños, and spicy ground red chile.
I love it when I find a dish that everyone in the family loves and that's healthy, economical, and easy to make, too. This Chinese-inspired chicken and broccoli stir fry is all of those things. Serve it with some plain rice or Asian noodles and it's a complete dinner that comes together quickly.
One of the best things about spring is knowing that you can get fresh, sweet, locally grown organic strawberries at the farmer's market or grocery store. To celebrate, we love to make this easy and delicious strawberry shortcake dessert. This simple combination of lightly sweet shortcake, fresh strawberries, and vanilla flavored whipped cream is a hit with just about everyone, and is suitable for every occasion, from a fancy Easter dinner to a kids' tea party.
These shortcakes are kind of like sweet (but not too sweet) buttermilk drop biscuits, and don't take very long to put together. If you're really in a hurry, you can use whipped cream from a can, but it doesn't take too much time or effort to make some fresh whipped cream with your electric mixer, and it tastes so much better, too.
You can make the shortcakes and whipped cream in advance and let diners assemble their own strawberry shortcake creations at the table, if you like. It's fun for both children and adults. Whipped cream keeps fine in the refrigerator for a few hours, and you can make it extra-thick and rich by putting it in a strainer over a bowl and letting some of the water drain out.
My kids love to have a sweet treat when they come home from school, and I always try to make them as healthy as I can. These berry-filled oatmeal bars are really delicious, and I sometimes even use whole-wheat flour in them. Use either strawberry or raspberry preserves—they're both equally delicious. Even apricot would work! The sliced almonds can be replaced with chopped walnuts, too.
1 3/4 cups unsalted butter, cut into pieces (plus more for greasing the pan)
There's something about authentic style tacos that's so delicious, and one of our favorite variations is tacos al pastor, which consist of pork marinated in a red chile sauce with grilled pineapple. In taquerias the pork is usually cooked on one of those vertical spits (like the ones used to cook shawarma or gyros), but we make a simplified version that we cook on the grill and I think it's a great approximation of the real deal. The enzymes in the pineapple help tenderize the pork, and the sweetness plays off the flavor of the red chile and spices.
It's also fun—and surprisingly easy—to make your own corn tortillas, and there's nothing quite like a freshly made tortilla hot out of the pan. It helps to have a cast iron tortilla press, but you can use a rolling pin in a pinch. The kids love to make their own tortillas, although we leave the cooking to a grownup, since they're baked in a hot cast iron pan. Actually, quite a few of the tortillas never make it to the taco part of the meal, since they're so good on their own.
After seeing all the fantastic spring produce at the Marin Civic Center Farmer's Market, I've been determined to create a recipe that showcases some of the season's best vegetables. I made this spring pasta dish this weekend, and my kids loved it. It's built around the organic English peas that I picked up, and is fresh, light, and delicious. I also found the first of the season's white corn, which I usually think of as a summer thing, and I decided that would go well in this dish too (and it did).
Put the kids to work in the kitchen shelling the peas and shucking the corn. It's always fun for them to get involved in cooking a meal. If you don't have the time or inclination to deal with the fresh peas and corn, frozen would work fine, too.