Saturday, July 28, 2012

Strawberry Lemonade

Lemonade is a perennial summer favorite.  We love it at our house and make it as treat for our family.  We either make it by the pitcher or glassful.  It reminds us so much of the lemonade at the county fair where they make it right in front of you...delicious AND refreshing.

Our two sons were entertaining on a 90+ degree day.  They are amateur filmmakers and were filming shots outside with a couple of friends, so some cold watermelon and lemonade seemed just the ticket.  However, while regular lemonade was perfectly fine; strawberry lemonade sounded even better.  I had made this for the first time some months ago when going on a picnic with a friend and it turned out great.  

So, that's what I decided to make.  It's super easy and fast.

Start with a great basic recipe for lemonade.  We have our own recipe, I use half of a lemon per 12 oz of water.  Sweeten with 2 tsp of sugar (or more to taste.) But if you want to make a pitcher's worth, then here's a great recipe and it makes 2 quarts.  Click here for recipe.
Next, you add one cup of fresh or frozen strawberries to your blender for 2 quarts.  Add with some water to blend easier.  Blend until finely pureed and strain if desired.  I have a Vita Mix blender, so my puree was totally liquefied.  Add to your lemon concentrate and add water to the mix.  Sweeten to taste.  How much sugar will depend upon how sweet your berries are, but you'll need to add some as the lemons will be tart.  

Voila! There you go...strawberry lemonade.  Couldn't be easier.  I want to try this with other fruit as well, peach and mango to mention a few.  So fun...and you don't need a juicer to make this!

By the way, the guys LOVED the lemonade!  They were surprised by it being homemade and it tasted great on such a hot day. 

What fruit do you think would be fabulous with lemonade?  Blessings!
Check out some more great ideas at Frugally Sustainable.
Linked to Miz Helen's Country Cottage , Fresh Foods Wednesday Blog Hop

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rain Barrels: Save Your Rain for a Sunny Day...

This has been the perfect summer for using our rain barrels.  With lower than normal rainfalls and lots of hot, hot weather, these beauties have been a garden (and water bill) life saver!
I really can't say enough how thankful I am that we purchased two of these about five years ago.
I had been researching them and thought what a great idea to use free water to water the landscape.

If you do any kind of gardening or even water your lawn frequently, then an investment in one or more rain barrels is the way to go.  It's like harnessing solar or wind power, a great way to use what is around you to resource your own needs.  And with so many places in this country experiencing a drought, and many countries experiencing water's a way to...yes, I'll say it, help save the planet!

While they can be a bit pricey to purchase, depending on the size, design and company, the return far outweighs the investment.  We purchased ours online as most companies offer free shipping.  Craig's List is a good place to look too.  Click here to get started shopping online or if you're feeling very crafty, then click here to learn how to make your own.  There's also great tutorials on  You Tube that show you how to get started.

The only thing I don't like about our rain barrels is that they aren't big enough.  Go for the 55 gallon size, you won't regret it. Once you start saving water, it becomes a bit be aware!

Hope you were inspired to save your own water for a sunny day.  Blessings!

Check out more sustainable ways to live at this link!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

There's Nothin' like a Blueberry Lemon Muffin...

Summer means berries and lemon to I decided to bake up these beauties as a tribute to the best of summer.  
It all started because I was going to meet a friend for a picnic lunch in the park.  She always is gifting us with some kind of goodies and I couldn't go and meet her empty-handed!  These were the treats I decided to bake and take along for a great visit together.  This was a new recipe for me but it turned out great tasting!

I used a mix of some fresh berries I had along with a few frozen ones.  This recipe is pretty simple and what makes it even better is that it is a bit lighter/less calories than traditional ones without you being able to tell the difference. I also added 1 tsp of lemon extract to the batter because I LOVE lemon!

I switched to using all butter years and years ago because it's the only way to bake. It's better for you, still fat, but no chemicals as in margarine.  Because this uses 1/4 cup of butter for the whole recipe, it has still has great flavor without using two sticks of butter as in many traditional recipes.
  Using real ingredients and making your own baked goods is a super easy process for anyone.  It's much more rewarding AND better than anything out of a box or from the store.

I also used my own ground whole wheat flour to substitute for some of the total amount of flour.  It was a mix of oat, rice and whole wheat, so some extra fiber AND nutrition!  

Batter is ready to bake and on to making the lemon glaze!

I try to always have fresh lemons and limes on hand for cooking, baking AND drinking.  A half of  a lemon in a glass topped off with fresh water and ice (add sugar/Stevia to taste) and you have a glass of lemonade that is country fair worthy.

They turned out fabulous and of course I had to taste test one before I gifted them...delicious!
My friend was excited, she loves lemon and this was perfect.  

I don't bake as often as my family would like, but these muffins are definitely scheduled to be made again...summer OR anytime of the year!  

If you would like to try to make these, click here, for the's a keeper!  Blessings!

For more recipes and crafty ideas, check out this link!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just a Few of My Favorite (Garden) Things

It's time for another garden update for July!  So I've included some photos of what's growing and coming along so far in my zone 5 garden.  This first photo was taken during a severe dry spell, but the last garden photo was taken after a couple of great soaking rains came along.  So thankful for the rain.   I am also extremely happy owning two rain barrels which I'll show and talk about in a coming blog.  They are a lifesaver to a garden, not to mention to a water bill.  After all, one of the benefits to gardening is to save $$$ and the rain barrels certainly do that.  They are also eco-friendly, but I am getting ahead of myself.  
Enjoy the garden pics!

Before the rain...

You always have to watch peas. As soon as you see a bloom, the fruit's not far behind!  I snacked on some today.  

It's crazy to have these in July, but our garden got put in late and I really wanted some for snacking.  Besides, I got to use these nifty bamboo hoops which are perfect for the peas...

I planted this once years ago and it comes up faithfully every year.  I weed it actually.  It tastes good, not exactly like spinach, but very close. It's reliable, doesn't mind hot weather AND the bugs leave it alone.  A huge plus when gardening organically.
I have two beautiful eggplants (Click to see them!) ready to be picked in a few more days...!
Praying for a great crop this year to can for my own sauce...

Thanks for taking the tour.  I'll be showing harvested vegetables soon...blessings!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Celebrating at the Holden Arboretum

This recent July 4th had to have been one of the hottest days of the year so far.  However, the idea of being inside any building for most of the day just doesn't feel right on this special holiday, at least  for me!  So, even with the threat of hot, humid weather and severe thunderstorms lurking about, we decided to take the risk and visit one of our favorite spots in the area.
The Holden Arboretum contains preserved land with over a 1000+ acres and over 100 acres are accessible to visitors who come to this unique place.  With twelve collections of lilacs, trees, bushes, etc intersected with cement and gravel paths; there's something new to see around every corner.
As you can tell by the photos, the rain held off even if the temperatures were unrelenting!  We had a great picnic with some great friends and then set off exploring.
Here are just a few of the snapshots caught before the mid day heat set in.  They are all of the Butterfly Garden which is located right behind the Visitor's Center.  Knowing how much I like gardens, I think you'll agree that these flowers are just a little bit of heaven!

Monarda or Bee Balm, explodes in a fire cracker red.

The water feature section of The Butterfly Garden.

 A bee burrowing into a Stokesia flower. Notice the pollen sacs on it's legs.

Daisies are the essence of summer.
I really wanted to sit in the middle of that running water!

Another butterfly plant...I didn't see too many butterflies that day, I think they were smarter than us and stayed "in!"

A perfect shady spot for a little friend to dream...

It was a beautiful day all in all.  We had a fun 4th and took a two mile hike where we saw not one but TWO Great Horned Owls in a tree.  Amazing!  
Hope you had a super holiday as well...blessings to you all!
For more information on the Arboretum, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Version of Olive Garden's "White Peach Cooler"

Yes, with all of the recent heat we've been experiencing lately, it's definitely summertime.  And summertime means iced tea for us.  If you don't drink iced tea, I really encourage you to try it.  It tastes great and is a great alternative for sodas that are basically made of sugar and chemicals.  (Not that I don't enjoy a Coke or Pepsi once in awhile.)  It's full of antioxidants, phytochemicals with are bone-strengthening, and even is known to help prevent tooth decay.  Try that from a Pepsi-free!  Seriously, if you're not sure about it, try the recipe below and it will become your new favorite drink.  All of the fruit flavors combine to make a one-of-kind drink perfect for hot weather.

This is my own version of a drink I saw advertised while dining at Olive Garden.  I looked at the ingredients and realized, I can make that one!  So here it is and I hope you're able to try it and enjoy it yourself at home.

I happen to have a great spearmint plant at home.   However, if you don't, feel free to use a mint tea bag to use in your tea blend instead.

Here are the ingredients to make a one quart serving of this tasty tea.  It will make a cup for you and a friend.  

Minty Peach and Lemon Iced Tea

1 tea bag of Peach herbal tea
1 tea bag of black, green or white tea
(You can also use a tea bag of Peach black tea if you can find them.  I like separating flavors so I can make more combinations.)
Half of an average sized lemon
A sprig of spearmint OR a mint tea bag
One quart jar (or something that will hold 32 oz.)

Put your tea bags and mint into the jar.  Heat your water to a boil and once boiling, add water to your container only to cover the teabags and mint.  If you are drinking this iced, you don't need to add water to the top as it's only more water to cool.  Let the tea bags steep for 15 minutes or more.  I usually do this and then start working on something else around the kitchen.  Once your tea water has cooled quite a bit, juice your half a lemon and add to your tea.  You can put it in earlier if you need.  You can also add a bit of made up lemonade if you have it available.  Stir and add sugar to taste.  I use two Stevia packets for one quart.  Add ice and fresh water to fill the jar and DRINK!  

I believe you will love this flavored tea.  Now you can drink a restaurant quality drink and serve it at home for you and your friends!  Enjoy and blessings!

Linked to Polka Dots on Parade Wednesdays Blog Hop