My guys have discovered a new passion; fishing. Oh, have they ever discovered it.
I now understand my friend who has referred to herself as a fishing widow for years. I have never seen my kids so motivated to get through their school-, house-, yardwork. They fly through assignments, chores, what-have-you just so they can spend a few more moments dangling their legs off of the edge of the paddle boat in the middle of the lake with baited hooks trailing lazily behind them in the water.
Interestingly, my house has become cleaner in their absence. Could there be a connection?
Their all-out obsession can be chalked up to three things. First, they're pretty uniformly successful. Hardly a fishing trip goes by that they don't come home with a string of brown trout or perch. Second, each trip ends with every one of them having caught something, even if it's been gently released back to the lake to fight another day. Third, and — upon reflection — most importantly, they're going loaded for bear in the snack department.
Pickles in zipper-top bags, homemade energy bars, rosemary and garlic roasted almonds, sandwiches, a giant thermos full of ice water, boxes of graham crackers and popsicles (at the top of the bag, of course) for the not-so-long, but extremely dusty and hot drive up the hill to the lake.
They're eating like the Kings of the Lake.
Given that they're often in a big hurry (because those fish might just grow legs and walk if they don't get there in time!) to grab snacks and get out the door, recipes that use few ingredients and come together quickly are non-negotiable.
While they dabble toes and lures in the water, I'll keep tidying. (Don't tell the guys, but I tidy for 15 minutes and then put my feet up and catch up on my reading while eating the same snacks I sent with them. The difference is they're not walking behind me messing up what I've just cleaned. Let this be our secret, eh?)
Below are four of our favorite picnic-basket stockers. Lemon Lime Curd is just the thing to spread on biscuits or bread for a quick pick-me-up. And it's indispensable for the Creamy Lemon Lime popsicles that are good enough to elicit moans of pleasure from those eating them.
Are you in the market for a healthier snack that will stick with you longer? Try the fragrant, roasted rosemary garlic almonds. There's nothing quite like nuts to fill you up and keep you filled and these hit all the right notes. If your tastes run more toward the sweets-spectrum, try the homemade energy bars. These combine chocolate, almonds and dates for a substantial but still decadent tasting treat.
Creamy Lemon Lime Popsicles
1 c. Lemon Lime curd (recipe follows) (or ½ c. each of lemon curd and lime curd)
1 can (13.66 ozs.) full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk
2 t. of lemon juice
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until smooth, about 15 seconds. If you do not have a blender, whisk the ingredients together in a bowl until very smooth.
Pour into popsicle molds (or small disposable paper cups), add sticks and freeze for 8 hours, or until frozen solid. For best flavor, eat within two weeks of making the popsicles.
Lemon Lime Curd (5-Minute Blender and Microwave Methods)
½ c. each freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice (for a total of 1 c. citrus juice)
1 c. granulated sugar
5 T. butter, melted and cooled slightly (If you're using the blender method the butter can be straight out of the refrigerator.)
9 egg yolks
Zest of 2 lemons and 2 limes (Use some of the lemons and limes you juiced)
The Blender Method (I use my Vitamixblender. Be sure your blender is well-built enough to run on high speed for 5 or more minutes without burning out the motor.):
Add the citrus juice, sugar, butter and egg yolks to the work carafe of your blender. Fix the lid firmly in place. Start the blender on low and slowly increase the speed until you reach the highest speed. Let the blender run on high until steam is pouring out of the top of the blender.
Turn the blender off and — wearing oven mitts — remove the lid carefully. Use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature of the curd. It should be at or above 170°. (If you don't have an instant read thermometer you can test the readiness with a spoon. Dip a spoon into the hot curd. Carefully draw your finger through it in a line. When the line stays for about 5 seconds before the curd comes back together it is ready.)
Also, the curd will thicken as it cools.
Stir in the citrus zest and immediately pour into clean jars or heatproof containers with tight fitting lids. Let cool slightly before storing in the refrigerator.
If desired, once the curd has cooled slightly, you can lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent skin from forming on it. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 1 year.
The Microwave Method:
In a microwave-safe bowl that is large enough to comfortably hold all of your ingredients, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are smooth. Whisk in the lemon and lime juice and butter until smooth.
Microwave on high — uncovered — for 5 minutes, whisking well after each 1-minute mark until you reach 4 minutes. In the last minute, whisk well every 15 seconds, until the mixture has reached at least 170° on an instant-read thermometer. (See above for what to do if you don't have an instant-read thermometer.)
Pour the hot curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove any curdled egg bits.
Follow directions above for packaging.
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Almonds
Recipe courtesy of my friend, Lisette Heckathorn
1 lb. raw, shelled almonds
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
½ t. dried rosemary, lightly crushed with the hands (or 2 t. fresh rosemary, roughly chopped)
Kosher or sea salt to taste
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the almonds, oil, garlic and rosemary until everything is evenly coated. Add salt to taste.
Spread the almonds evenly over the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet. Place into a cold oven and set the oven to the lowest temperature you can. Be sure to keep it under 200°, preferably around 175°. On many ovens this is the "Keep Warm" or "Hold Warm" setting.
Roast the almonds for 8 hours, or overnight. Let cool completely before transferring to a Ball jar or other storage container with a tight-fitting lid.
Homemade Chocolate Energy Bars (Larabar Clones)
4 c. whole, pitted dates (moist ones work best)
2 c. raw or toasted whole shelled almonds
1 c. chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
2 T. natural peanut butter (or sunflower or cashew butter), divided (or more, if necessary)
Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch straight sided pan with a piece of parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the long edges. Set aside.
Fit a food processor with a metal blade. Add the almonds to the processor and pulse until they are uniformly finely chopped (think fresh bread crumb texture.) Add the chocolate chips and pulse again until the chocolate chips are also finely chopped.
Pour the chocolately nuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Add half of the dates to the food processor and process until a paste forms and clumps together in the bowl. Open the food processor and add in 1 tablespoon of the nut butter and half of the chocolatey ground nuts. Replace the lid and process until evenly combined. Scrape into the prepared pan.
Repeat with the remaining dates, chocolatey nuts and nut butter.
When all of the ingredients have been thus processed, wet your hands and use them to press the mixture as evenly over the bottom of the pan as possible. Fold the excess parchment over the bars to cover them and use something flat and heavy to press down firmly on the mixture until it is smooth.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before moving onto the slicing.
To slice: Use the excess parchment paper like a sling to transfer the now-firm bars from the pan to a large cutting board.
Cut into desired size (I prefer 30 squares) and store in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container. An unrefrigerated bar will be good for 48 hours, covered, at room temperature.