A Picnic at Hamilton Pool

A picnic at Hamilton Pool

Since Jack and I first moved to Austin, we’ve loved exploring all of the local natural springs and watering holes. The heat here in the summertime is no joke and the best way to beat it is by getting around some water.

A few weeks ago, we took the day off and spent a lovely afternoon hiking and picnicking at Hamilton Pool. For this post, we’re partnering with Bota Box to share our little local adventure. Hamilton Pool is SO beautiful.It’s a natural pool with a gorgeous 50-foot waterfall. It’s about a 40 minute drive outside of Austin – an easy half-day trip.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool

There’s a quarter mile hike down to the pool. It’s scenic, but be sure wear decent walking shoes that will probably get a little muddy. Another quick tip: pack a lighter picnic than I did above unless you have as nice a husband as I do who will carry it all. (note: glass containers actually aren’t allowed, as we discovered later. Bota Mini’s are perfect to bring along since their alternative packaging contains no glass). 

Here we go!

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

The pool was naturally created thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion. It’s fun (and totally safe!) to hike around the massive limestone formations. Be sure to grab a walking stick at the beginning of the trail, it was surprisingly helpful.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

The day we were here, swimming wasn’t allowed, but that didn’t hold us back from enjoying our picnic on the small beach. I packed my favorite picnic sandwiches, hummus & veggies, a lemony chickpea & radish salad, and these vegan chocolate chip cookies. We brought Bota Minis because what’s a picnic without wine? The Bota Minis are so convenient and easy to pack. Because the weather was warm, I packed their Mini Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay white wines.

A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX A picnic at Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs TX

I just loved spending this day with Jack. It really reminded me that we should get away from our computers and go explore something new, yet nearby, more often.

A couple of tips before you go: be sure to make a reservation, they only let a certain number of people in at a time and, especially in the summer, it gets full. If you can take off a weekday afternoon, I highly recommend it!

This post was created in partnership with Bota Box. All opinions are my own!

6 steps to prep for a healthy week

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com

Here’s a little guide to how I like to plan for meals throughout the week. I don’t do a bunch of heavy weekend batch cooking, but I DO like to prep just a few basics that can be worked into versatile meals throughout the week. If I spend just a little time, I find that I can set myself up for a healthy week ahead.

And because chopping vegetables in silence is no fun, I’m partnering with Audible to share a few of my favorite foodie “reads” that I like to listen to while I work. I love how easy their app is to use – check it out for yourself and download a free book as part of their free 1-month trial offer.

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com

This plan changes by season, but this is what my basic summertime prep looks like. Store everything in air-tight containers in the fridge:

1. Clean & massage a big bunch of kale. I like to eat kale salads for lunch, but I hate to stop in the middle of my work day to make one. Having the kale prepped ahead of time makes these salads easy to throw together.

Wash and dry a big bunch of kale. Remove the leaves by holding the stem with one hand and stripping the leaf with your other hand. Place the kale in a large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and a good squeeze of lemon. Use your hands to massage the leaves together until they’re soft and wilted. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. (Tip: save the kale stems for pesto or soup – I also like to chop them and feed them to my dogs).

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com

2. Pre-chop some seasonal produce. This changes by season (for example, in the fall, I’ll pre-roast sweet potatoes), but current selection is corn, cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, red peppers and scallions. These veggies are great on my lunch salad (especially with avocado, chopped peaches and hemp seeds). Work them into dinners by tossing them with pasta or serving next to grilled fish with generous scoops of a good sauce…which brings me to item #3:

3. Make a good sauce. Put it on everything all week: your salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, etc. Toss with pasta or scoop onto whatever you’re grilling. This one is a creamy (vegan) basil jalapeño sauce made with hemp seeds. (Scroll down for the recipe!).

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com 3. Pre-cook a grain. I like to have cooked quinoa on hand for grain bowls. If you have extra at the end of the week make these cookies.

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com

4. Make a soup that’ll last the week. I love soup-prep because soups always taste better on the second day and they keep well all week. This time I went with a tomato-watermelon gazpacho because it’s so refreshing on hot summer days. I also strategically used many of the ingredients that I chopped up there in item #2 and I cut up extra watermelon to have on hand for mid-day snacks.

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com

5. Listen to a great book while you work! Currently, I’m listening to Michael Pollen’s Cooked (which is sort of ironic because this particular prep-session is entirely raw, but I digress). His previous book, In Defense of Food, was one of the reads that inspired my love for eating real, unprocessed, whole foods. His quote: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” has really stuck with me. I love listening to these books while cooking because they remind me why I love what I do so much.

6 steps to prep for a healthy week / loveandlemons.com

These are some other foodie books that I love:
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
The Third Plate by Dan Barber
32 yolks by Eric Ripert
Stir by Jessica Fechtor

If you have favorites, please recommend them to me in the comments! And don’t forget to download your first audio book for free as part of Audible’s 30 day trial offer. 

Tomato, Basil & Artichoke Picnic Sandwich

Tomato, Basil & Artichoke Picnic Sandwich with Basil-Edamame Spread (vegan)

Last week, I was in New York speaking at a Random House event with (one of my favorite bloggers ever), Jenny from Dinner a Love Story. We chatted about our shared love for the simple tomato sandwich and how you shouldn’t complicate things that are as beautiful as summer tomatoes. I forgot that I had this post in the queue – because I absolutely LOVE this slightly fancier tomato-with-other-things sandwich.

This reminds me of a juicy caprese sandwich except, well, there’s no cheese here. Instead, there’s a good slathering of this edamame spread that I’m still obsessed with. This time I made it with basil instead of cilantro which makes it taste completely different and oh-so summery.

The rest of the components are SO simple that the success of this sandwich depends on getting them right. First off, I recommend finding the best baguette you can get your hands on (we get ours from Elizabeth St. Cafe). Next, use in-season tomatoes and fresh basil. Since artichokes are out of season I used good quality jarred roasted artichokes which I’ve recently realized are far superior to canned artichokes.

Tomato, Basil & Artichoke Picnic Sandwich with Basil-Edamame Spread (vegan)

Assemble this early in the day at least a few hours before your picnic (or even the night before) so that the sweet tomato-basil juices do that thing where they mingle together and partially soak into the middle of the bread. I like to assemble this using one large baguette, wrap it up, store it in the fridge, and then slice it into individual portions just before I’m ready to pack them up.

Happy picnicking!

Mix & Match Summer Crostini Bar

Mix & Match Summer Crostini Bar / loveandlemons.com

Tell me, who doesn’t love a variety of yummy mix & match toppings on little pieces of grilled bread? Here’s a party idea that you can easily pull off this weekend. All you have to do is chill some rose, gather a bunch of toppings (and a bunch of friends)… grill some bread and voila, you have a fun, casual crostini party!

The combinations you can put together are endless, but my strategy here is pretty simple. I chose ingredients that hit on a variety of flavors and textures – sweet, savory, salty, fruity, herb-y, creamy, crunchy… you get the idea. For this post we’re partnering with Stonewall Kitchen because their delicious jams fit perfectly into this mix (hello, Hot Pepper Peach Jam!). I often reach for their jams, chutneys & crackers (among their other gourmet products) when I’m entertaining and when I don’t want to make everything myself.

Mix & Match Summer Crostini Bar / loveandlemons.com

Your guests can, of course, mix and match crostini toppings to their hearts’ desire, but these were some of our favorite combinations:

Strawberry Champagne Jam +  brie +  mint
Hot Pepper Peach Jam + cashew cream + a peach slices + pistachios
– Pesto + Roasted Garlic Onion Jam + cherry tomatoes

Mix & Match Summer Crostini Bar / loveandlemons.com

And because Stonewall Kitchen is celebrating their 25th anniversary, they’re giving away a Limited Edition 25th Anniversary Picnic Tote Gift which includes: a nautical recycled tote by Sea Bags, stemless wine glasses, a teak wood spreader, a cutting board, a jar of their delicious Mango Chutney, crackers, a picnic blanket & an insulated Corksicle water bottle. (A $349 value), check it out and enter to win by clicking here!

Mix & Match Summer Crostini Bar / loveandlemons.com

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

If you’re the salad-bringer in your family or circle of friends – this one’s for you. It’s super easy and also really super bright & flavorful. It goes great with whatever you’re grilling and packs up well for picnics. You can make it in advance which, in my opinion, is a key element to summer salad-ing.

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

This is not a traditional tabbouleh because, as you see, I’m using dried tart cherries (which are also sometimes called sour cherries) in lieu of tomatoes. I just love the pop of sweet bright flavor they bring here – it contrasts so nicely with the earthy flavors of the herbs and it balances so well with the tang of the lemon juice.

For this post, we’re working with the Cherry Marketing Institute. If you haven’t heard, I’m pretty obsessed with Montmorency tart cherries (see all previous recipes here). As their name suggests, they bring a pop of tart flavor to so many dishes, and I love the challenge of creatively working them into various types of recipes. They also have some great health benefits – they’re known to help with muscle soreness after a workout and studies have shown that they can help with sleep since they’re a natural source of melatonin. Give these superfruits a try if you haven’t already! I find mine in the bulk bins at Whole Foods, some of you have also mentioned that they can be found at Costco.

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur but I used millet here because it’s gluten free and the texture is pretty similar. I’ve included cooking methods for both in the notes of the recipe.

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

I mixed the millet with tons of herbs, diced cucumber, red onion, and scallions. It’s simply seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and a touch of white wine vinegar – mix it all in one bowl and serve. As I type this I’m trying to hold myself back from finishing the leftovers in the fridge – this salad is especially good on the 2nd day when the flavors have had the chance to mesh together.

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh