Thursday, July 21, 2016

vanilla bean lemonade . . .

Lemonade will always hold a special place in my heart.

It's reminds me of long, leisurely walks through the local Farmer's Market in my home-town.

The Farmer's Market has been a part of my life since my early twenties.

For more than a decade,  I visited weekly. It was . . . and still is . . . a great source of inspiration for me.

Before I got married and moved South to a new county, I would venture to the Farmer's Market every Saturday morning with my sister.

There was a Lemonade Stand that offered a variety of amazing fresh lemonades . . . blueberry, strawberry, lime, and watermelon.

We would arrive early to beat the crowds and the heat; and even with our arms full of flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables, we always found room to carry a large cup of lemonade.

There's really nothing like the taste of fresh, home-made lemonade.

It's nothing like the lemon-flavored beverages you order in restaurants. Instead, home-made lemonade actually tastes (and smells) like real lemons. It's sweet and a little tart . . . and refreshing, especially on a hot Summer day.

Although our local Farmer's Market doesn't have a Lemonade Stand like the one in my home-town, it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy fresh lemonade at home.

One of my favorite Summer activities to do with my little ones is make lemonade.

We've made several flavors over the years, including blueberryblackberry mint, peach & thyme, cucumber mint, and strawberry.

With strawberry season in full swing here, we're looking forward to making Strawberry Lemonade the week after my six-AND-seven-year-old are on Summer break . . . 7 days and counting down (smile!).

While at our kids' Open House a few weeks ago, we were invited to pick more lemons from the tree on campus. It was an offer I/we couldn't turn down (smile!). I still can't believe how many lemons were on that tree! So we filled a bag and headed home with thoughts of what we were going to do with them. 

We thought it would be fun to make vanilla bean lemonade for our seven-year-old's class to thank them for sharing so many lemons with us over the last several weeks. 

You can see a photo of the lemonade basket I dropped off at Charley's class on my Instagram, here. I was so happy to hear that the lemonade was a hit! Yay!

vanilla bean lemon simple syrup
Do you see the vanilla beans?
((recipe below))

Have you ever had Vanilla Lemonade? It's so unique! 

It's sweet & tart . . . with a warm & smooth finish.  It might sound a little strange . . . but it's so good! 

I like to prepare the vanilla bean simple syrup a few days in advance, so that the vanilla beans have a chance to infuse all its warm flavor into the sweet syrup.

My little ones take turns squeezing the lemons, using the same glass lemon squeezer from my childhood (smile!); then we add just the right amount of water to make the lemon base for our lemonade; and finally, we add the vanilla bean lemon syrup. Voila! 

With the right lemon juice : water : vanilla lemon syrup ratio (see recipe below) . . . you, too, can enjoy Vanilla Bean Lemonade at home, which is sure to be a hit with your family and friends!

And stay tuned for my Strawberry Lemonade recipe . . . just in time for your Fourth of July picnic or gathering.

Have a great weekend!

for the vanilla bean lemon simple syrup
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
2 cup sugar
2 cup water
6 slices of lemon peel
2 vanilla bean, seeded
1 generous pinch of salt
Cheesecloth, to strain syrup
*For a stronger vanilla flavor, prepare one day in advance.
     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     
for the lemonade
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
juice of 6-8 lemons, strained
8 cups of water
1+ cups of vanilla/lemon simple syrup
lemon slices to garnish
    .     .     .     .     .     .     .     

Slice the vanilla bean in half and with the back of your knife scrape out all the seeds.

Bring sugar, water, vanilla beans and pod, lemon peels and salt to boil on your stove.

After sugar dissolves I gently simmer mine 5-10 minutes to really get the lemon peel flavor in there.

Remove from heat, strain through a few layers of cheesecloth set over a large measuring cup and cool. *For a stronger vanilla flavor, prepare (and refrigerate) one day in advance.

Once the syrup has cooled; add it to a large pitcher along with the 8-10 cups of water and strained lemon juice. Stir well. Garnish with a few lemon slices.

If you like your lemonade on the sweeter side, then add 1/4 cup more vanilla lemon syrup until you reach desired sweetness.

For a stronger vanilla flavored lemonade, prepare at least one day before serving.
The longer is sits, the stronger the flavors.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

greetings from Virginia . . . and a scruptious Summer recipe!

Greetings from Northern Virginia! We finally made it! 

I have amazing blog followers who have emailed me and checked in since March, as they noticed that my posts were tapering off. I was able to share with so many of you that my family was in the process of packing and relocating to the East Coast. 

You see, my husband accepted a promotion and relocation to Virginia in February. Big changes were about to happen. He moved to Virginia in late February, and the Littles and I stayed behind, as I wanted them to have the opportunity to finish the school year with their long-time friends. It also gave me more time to spend with my family and friends before our big move the East Coast!

It's been a long, hard, and stressful journey to get where we are today. 

Sadly, I didn't have time to blog for several months. I missed it terribly! I love coming here and sharing photos and recipes. Blogging is a creative outlet for me . . . it's relaxing and brings me much happiness.  I look forward to settling into a new blogging routine soon. Until then, I'm giving myself a chance to breath and settle into our new surroundings before sharing regular posts again. 

~ our view into town every day ~

We're still living among a sea of boxes that continue to call out to me daily. I unpack a few every day, but have spent more time exploring our new little town and the beautiful countryside with my Littles. It's way more fun than unpacking anyway. 

I have so much to share with you! One of my neatest finds is "Fields of Flowers" . . . a pick your own flower farm located just a few miles down the road.  The farm boasts fields of seasonal flowers just waiting to be picked, cut, and taken home to enjoy! I can't wait to share photos from our adventure there. Since the nearest Trader Joe's is more than one hour away, this might be where I get my weekly fresh flowers. I've heard that their sunflower fields are stunning in the early Fall. I can't wait!!

Oh! So many of you have asked on Instragram and email about my culinary adventures in Virgnia so far. Well, to be honest, I haven't cooked too much yet. I only recently found and unpacked my favorite cooking utensils and pots and pans. Perhaps the dish that I've prepared the most lately are omlettes made with locally grown vegetables and fresh eggs. Yes, fresh eggs! As in, eggs from our neighbor's chickens!  Seriously, you can't beat simple recipes with exceptional ingredients!

Ok, well I need to close this post and get the Littles ready for our trip to the local library today. It's time to check out new books, and enjoy the free Arts & Crafts class scheduled at 2 o'clock. 

I'm not sure if you noticed yet, but I updated the sidebar on the blog with my favorite Summer recipes! Be sure and check them out for a little Summer inspiration!

Our local market has corn on sale this week . . . 20 for $2.00!!! It's too good of a deal to pass up. I see lots of corn on our menu the next few weeks (big smile), inlcuding this blueberry and corn crisp!

This is one of my favorite Summer posts from last year . . . I hope you enjoy!

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Summer is officially here! Woohoo!

It was our six- and seven-year-old's last week of school, so we were quite busy with end-of-school year festivities, and I had several cookie and cake orders. So by the time the week was over, I welcomed the weekend . . . and first days of Summer . . . with open arms!

Our kids had a wonderful school year, and were blessed with amazing and caring Teachers. They're actually bummed that their school year is finished. And our four-year-old, well . . . she isn't happy that her older siblings will be home every day, as "they're just going to bother us." Too funny!

Perhaps they'll appreciate Summer break a little more once we have a chance to shift gears and begin enjoying lazy mornings, trips to the library, and many, many picnics to the park and beach.

In the spirit of Summer, I thought it would be fun to share this delicious Summer chowder with you.

I love its versatility!

In the Fall, I change up the ingredients and add sweet potatoes and purple potatoes with ham . . . and a pumpkin-shaped 'crouton' topper. Yum!

So what do you think of the lobster and crab toppers?!

I dreamt them up one night when I should've been sleeping. This creative mind LOVES the quiet of the night to dream up recipes and CREATE! If I only had the time of day to bring to fruition what I dream up at night  . . . I'd be a millionaire, lol.

Ok, back on track . . . Let's talk corn & chicken chowder!

I found Sweet Summer corn at our Farmer's Market 5 for $1.00, so we've been enjoying grilled corn on the cob . . . and this sweet corn & chicken chowder. You can also substitute the chicken with sauteed scallops, grilled blackened salmon, or grilled shrimp. All are delicious!

The creamy base is so fast and easy-to-prepare . . . and is a great compliment to the onions, red potatoes, sweet corn, and roasted chicken.

The lobster and crab toppers are made using cookie cutters and pie crust dough. I love using Trader Joe's PIE CRUSTS from their freezer section.  They're buttery and flaky . . . and a make for quick soup and chowder toppers.

I thought it would be festive to make lobster and crab shapes in honor of Summer.

I sprinkled half of them with Smoked Paprika for a reddish-hue, but also because I love the smoky flavor it gives the chowder.

You can break up the lobster or crab crouton over the top before eating, or break off pieces with your spoon as you're eating it. I think the buttery and salty flavor makes this chowder extra delicious!

Corn and chicken chowder paired with big wedges of sweet watermelon and a tall glass of lemonade makes for a delicious and festive Summer lunch or dinner!

Happy, Happy Summer!

corn & chicken chowder
.     .     .     .     .    .
5 ears of fresh corn or 3 cups frozen whole kernel corn
3/4 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
3/4 cup chopped green sweet pepper (optional)
1 Tablespoon olive oi
1-14 ounce can chicken broth
1 cup cubed RED or purple potato (1 medium), skin on
.     .     .     .     .    .
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme
1 cup half-and-half, light cream, or whole milk
1 1/4 cups chopped roasted chicken (about 6 ounces)
OR sauteed scallops, grilled blackened salmon, or grilled shrimp
.     .     .     .     .    .
3 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and crumbled or 2 tablespoons cooked bacon pieces
2 Tablespoons snipped fresh parsley (optional)
2 Tablespoons snipped fresh chives (optional)
.     .     .     .     .    .

If using fresh corn, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cobs (you should have about 3 cups corn). Set corn aside.

In a large saucepan cook onion and sweet pepper in hot oil until onion is tender but not brown. Stir in chicken broth, potato, and corn. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl combine flour, salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir milk into flour mixture; add to corn mixture in saucepan. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Add chopped chicken; cook and stir until heated through. 

If desired, garnish each serving with parsley, chives, and bacon. Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings (5 1/2 cups)

Another delicious corn recipe . . .

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I love reading your comments and appreciate them so much!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's Spring . . . at home

Spring . . . at home
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lots of baskets
soft blues and greens
natural linens
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our Spring menu . . . at home
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buttermilk blueberry breakfast cake
pappardelle with  Spring vegetables
.     .     .     .     .     .     .

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Thank you so much for stopping by!
I love reading your comments and appreciate them so much!

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