October is Fair Trade Month, and we want to lift up one of our long-time Fair Trade partners: Equal Exchange. In their honor, we asked our staff here at LWR to take Fair Trade products from Equal Exchange and make anything they can think of, and boy do they have a treat for you.
This week, we present Christie’s yummy popsicles that several generations can enjoy together and Nicole’s beautiful crostinis just in time for the holidays. As you watch our blog this month, maybe you’ll be inspired to make some of these on your own. Happy cooking!
Christie’s Family-Friendly Popsicles
As a mom of a 2 year old toddler who is going through a picky-eating stage, I’m on a constant quest to find snacks that are fun and healthy. Popsicles are a favorite snack of choice for my son Griffin these days, and he doesn’t seem to have noticed that the weather is getting cooler. So when the Fair Trade team at LWR challenged staff to come up with new recipes with Equal Exchange products, I enlisted my 7 year old nephew Mason as fellow “cooking partner-in-experimentation,” and my son and 22 month old nephew Micah as taste-testers.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as the entire family was gathered for a beautiful September weekend at a beach house in Ocean City, NJ, to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. As you can imagine, there was a LOT of commentary about our cooking process, and even more who wanted to get in on the taste-testing at the end!
Mason and I started with a few theories about what would taste good. I had the idea that tea would make a great base for the popsicles, and is a lot healthier than the usual juice ingredients you find in popsicles. We chose Equal Exchange Chamomile tea, Organic Chai, and Vanilla Rooibos to try out, all brewed separately. We also got a big bunch of Fair Trade bananas, and a few fresh strawberries. And just to make the experiment interesting, we chopped up a bunch of Equal Exchange toasted almonds, and yes, also added the new Geo Bars (like granola bars) in Mixed Berry and Apricot!
We made 12 popsicles, 3 sets of 4 each, each one a different combination of tea, blended banana, blended Geo bar, and a choice of almonds! Although we had set out a very extensive taste test process, we quickly found that they all tasted great, and pretty soon the little boys were refusing to taste test the next one because they didn’t want to give up the one they currently had! If you ask me, I consider the whole thing a success. We had a lot of fun doing it, and oh, by the way, the popsicles turned out really colorful and fun-looking, too.
To make our healthy snack popsicles, brew your tea of choice and let cool. Pour into blender. Then add banana and ½ to 1 Geo bar. The volume of ingredients is in proportion to how many popsicles you want to make, but we found there isn’t one right way to do it- we made a few that were thicker and some that were thinner, and they all tasted good. My mom and I liked the finely chopped almonds added, because we love almonds and also liked the added texture, but my dad preferred it without, saying the almonds added too much “birdseed” texture. (The little boys, I should add, thought the idea of eating birdseed popsicles was really funny!)
Here are a few tips we did learn.
- Steep the tea bag in hot water only for 2-3 minutes, as directed on the bag. Steeping the tea too long makes the tea bitter.
- When you blend the Geo bars in the blender with the other mixture, a bit of it gets stuck in the bottom of the blender. Use a narrow spatula to help those good bits out and into the popsicle mold.
- The mixture from the blender does separate in the popsicle mold, but we found that once frozen, they came out with a pretty layered look, and tasted good too!
- You can also add a little yogurt for added thickness, and if you need to get a little more dairy into your picky eater.
- If you decide to add almonds, pay attention to how finely you chop them. Very finely chopped almonds add flavor but mostly blend in with the other ingredients. Chunkier pieces still add flavor but also some nice texture, sort of like ice cream with nuts in it.
- Plain tea popsicles were even great, without any added stuff. Probably my favorite was vanilla rooibos with banana and mixed berry Geo bar, but there weren’t any I (or the taste testers) didn’t like!
Equal Exchange is a democratically organized worker-owned co-operative dedicated to building a new model of trade based on fairness, environmental sustainability and strong relationships between farmers and consumers.
Nicole’s Quick and Easy Crostinis
I don’t know about you, but as we approach the holiday season I am always looking for quick and easy recipes to take to a holiday party or family gathering. Although not a total klutz in the kitchen, I’m also not about to compete on Top Chef or Chopped. I like my recipes with five ingredients or less, and if it can be done in under 30 minutes, all the better. So, I’m happy to share with you a deliciously quick and easy recipe for crostinis – the perfect finger food hors d’oeuvre with minimal mess.
The key to a good crostini is in the olive oil, so it’s probably no surprise that I sought out Equal Exchange’s Palestinian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), which comes from small-scale farmers in the West Bank. If you’ve ever visited the Holy Land, you’re probably familiar with all of the olive trees that dot the landscape throughout the region. Fair Trade olive oil offers Palestinians who have limited livelihood options, the possibility to earn an income cultivating the olive trees on their land. Something that tastes good, is good for your health and provides much-needed income to farmers overseas…. What could be better?
Here’s the recipe for Quick & Easy Crostinis:
- Approximately 4 Tb. Equal Exchange Palestinian EVOO (give or take – you may need more if you’re being more generous with your basting, but there’s nothing wrong with that!)
- ¼ cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts and almonds are also popular choices)
- ¾ cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1 baguette (French bread)
- Approximately 2 Tb. Honey
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F
- Slice up the baguette thinly and place slices on a baking sheet. To make clean-up quick and easy, I recommend putting aluminum foil on your baking sheet prior to setting the bread on top.
- Using a basting brush, paint the baguette slices with olive oil, so that each one is well covered but not saturated.
- Sprinkle the blue cheese and nuts evenly across all the slices. You may need to use your fingers to ensure that the cheese and nuts stay on the bread and that each slice receives at least some of both ingredients.
- Pop the baking sheet in the oven for 5-7 minutes. You will know the crostinis are done when the cheese is just starting to melt, the nuts look a bit darker in color, and the bread feels a bit more crusty to the touch (any one of these is an indicator, but you may not get all three as each oven is different).
- Pull the sheet out of the oven and immediately (while still hot) drizzle the honey over top of the crostinis, in thin ribbons.
- Let cool for a few minutes and serve. Or, make in advance and store in an air tight container to serve later. Recommend using within 24 hours of baking for maximum flavors.
Searching for the perfect gift for the host or hostess? Bring them a bottle of Equal Exchange’s Palestinian olive oil. Then later, when they’re raving about how tasty your crostinis are, you can share this simple recipe and get them started with the key ingredient – a great gift for your friends and family, and a gift to Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.