After a top-secret project, I had about a dozen lemons leftover in my kitchen. What to do?
Enter Taylor Swift and my love of a local spice shop. Olde Town Spice Shoppe in St. Charles, Missouri always has your basic spices and some blends of its own. They also have local Missouri products. Sadly they do not pay me to pitch for them but I used them for wedding favors and for today’s secret ingredient- lavender. They had edible lavender (meaning not chemically treated) that I just couldn’t leave the store without. Fate set in and shortly after a Vanity Fair article about Taylor Swift mentioned she sipped on lavender lemonade during the interview. At first I rolled my eyes but then I realized I wanted to know what it tasted like and I had all the ingredients. Fate, right?
Start by squeezing about 10-12 lemons into a measuring cup. Your goal is to have about 1 1/2 cups (more if you like a tarter lemonade). Set that aside and start working on your simple syrup. You want to soak your lavender in some hot water with some sugar. Between this and all the lemon squeezing, your kitchen will smell amazing.
Next up you’ll want to strain all that lavender off. I used a strainer first and then passed it through a cheesecloth the second time for perfection. Now add that lemon juice from before. My simple syrup was a bit cloudy looking and my lemon juice was yellow but when I blended them together, magic happened.
Beautiful. Now add water to taste. I split my lemon mixture evenly between two pitchers and added 2 cups of water to each pitcher for 4 cups total. After chilling I finally had a drink. It tasted like flowers, in a way I think that is probably why Taylor Swift drinks it and why I will have to keep on drinking it. It’s refreshing, sweet, and feels like a spring day upon drinking.
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 Tablespoons lavender
- 6 cups boiling water
- 1 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 4 cups cold water
- Combine sugar and lavender in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture and steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the lavender mixture with a strainer. You may want to run the mixture through a cheesecloth if pieces remain.
- Combine the lavender simple syrup with the lemon juice. The mixture will turn a beautiful rose hue.
- Pour the mix and cold water into a large pitcher and stir. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
This past weekend was a relaxing time. It started with a soccer game at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. We got to watch Manchester City beat Chelsea. We aren’t the biggest soccer people living in a town without a pro team but it was great seeing everyone enjoying a game together.
I took Friday off work. It was nice since I haven’t missed work this year with the exception of being sick and that’s never a fun reason. It turned out to be the sunniest day of the weekend so I’m glad I did it. While I waited for my husband to get home, I took advantage of Ancestry.com’s bonus war records. Does anyone else do geneology? I like doing it on a weekend like Memorial Day when I can see all the past relatives who fought bravely. I feel like it can bring me closer to my family, even if I’m not with them all.
Thankfully I do have a great family. Nova, Daniel and I had fun taking a walk in the park. My little doggie was thrilled to finally have nice weather to take a nice walk. She’s used to running 5Ks but if the rain comes she will trot right back inside.
Speaking of reasons to trot back inside…
This guy showed up in our yard this weekend. We’re used to squirrels, rabbits, opossums, racoons and a deer or turkey now and then but this weekend we saw a coyote and a snapping turtle. We live next to some underdeveloped park land that got a little makeover this week so I’m wondering if we’ll get more visitors.
It wasn’t just a yard full of animals though. We had a nice grilling session each night. Just us, the dog, some burgers and some beers. Oh, and of course some dessert.
How do you dress up your burgers? We set up some fun burger creations for ourselves this weekend. Here were our top three:
Chicken Parm Burger
- Ground chicken mixed with breadcrumbs and some seasonings, grilled
- Top with provolone cheese and marinara
- Ground beef mixed with Italian breadcrumbs, onion powder and Italian seasonings
- Top with pepperoni, provolone cheese, marinara and some white cheddar
Western Burger (pictured above right)
- Ground beef mixed with BBQ sauce, Monterrey cheddar cheese mix, seasoning salt, ground black pepper
- Top with American cheese, BBQ sauce, pickle, mustard, and french fried onions
The fabulous strawberry pie pictured below came from The Country Cook. I wasn’t sure if I liked strawberry pie but I ended up loving it so I’m glad I tried some. I’m going to go eat some right now in fact.
Before I run off for the night, I want to give you a tease about a project I started this weekend but will have to wait a couple months till it is ready. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you off that long!
(And no, those aren’t potatoes. They smell much nicer than that, they’re just a little naked right now)
I hope you all had a great weekend!Pin It
Remember my centerpiece from September with all those apples? The centerpiece sat on my table for most of the month but I headed out of town on the 19th so I hated to let the apples go to waste. On top of that, I had some eggs that would go bad while I was out of town so I figured doing some baking with the apples was a good way to use some up. I wanted a recipe that I could stick in the freezer and eat when I came back home too. Luckily, apple bread was the perfect solution.
This recipe makes two disposable loaf pans of apple bread. To freeze it, bake the apple bread and let it cool completely. Let it cool another hour more, just to be safe. Place the entire loaf pan into a gallon sized freezer bag and remove all the air you can. Place the bags into the freezer flat and store for up to a month. If you want to store these longer, remove them from the loaf pans and wrap in plastic wrap before putting them in the freezer bag.
Coming back from vacation I had virtually no food I could cook left in my house. I had been up for about 20 hours before crashing at night and the next morning I didn’t want to be eating cereal without milk so the apple bread was a welcome treat. To thaw, just leave out on the counter overnight and it will be perfect in the morning.
- 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 Tablespoon almond extract
- 2 cups skinless diced apples (about 2 apples)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Mix together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
- Beat together the eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, and almond extract.
- Slowly add in your dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed.
- Add in your diced apples and chopped walnuts.
- Pour batter into two greased loaf pans and bake at 1 hour for 350 degrees.
Is anyone as obsessed with the Olympics as I am? Back in 1996 I watched the Atlanta games obsessively. I still have a tote bag my mom bought me with the logo on it. I wrote a report on the US Women’s Olympic gymnastics team, nicknamedThe Magnificent Seven. I wrote to all the women on the team and just this week I broke out the 5 responses I received (I’m still waiting on you Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu). My husband wasn’t sure whether to be amazed at the stuff I hold onto or disturbed about my fandom until I broke out my books published back then. I didn’t even show him the poster I had!
In an effort to show off my super nerdy side, I made a dessert perfect for your Opening Ceremony party. What’s that you say, you aren’t having an Opening Ceremony party? IT IS NOT TOO LATE! You are so lucky I’m here. Do it for America, do it for me, do it for your love of all things miniature, or do it because cherries are on sale this week. You need these mini cherry pies and any reason will do.
These mini cherry pies use a store-bought pie crust for convenience but you can easily use your own favorite recipe. You might just need to adjust your filling levels to fit. The filling I use here comes from Recipe Girl and it’s a great tart base. You could go with a premade cherry pie filling but you’ll have a sweeter final result and fresh cherries are so worth it.
I used a small star cookie cutter to cut out some star designs and I rolled some dough out and cut it with a pizza cutter to form stripes. Have fun with these designs and sprinkle them with plenty of sugar before baking.
- 1 package of ready-made pie crusts (or make homemade)
- 2 1/2 cups pitted & halved fresh sweet cherries (about 3/4 pound)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 Tablespoons milk or cream
- coarse grain sugar, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8 of your cups in a muffin tin with nonstick spray.
- Roll out the pie crust into a thinner layer. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out 5 inch rings. You'll want to cut out 8 rings. Set your extra crust aside.
- Line your 8 prepared muffin cups with the dough starting from the center and pulling up the sides.
- In a large bowl, stir together cherries, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch and salt. Spoon mixture into your pie crusts.
- Use your leftover pie crust to cut out designs. Stars and stripes are perfect!
- Combine your egg yolk and milk/cream to form an egg wash. Brush the wash lightly over your pies and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Bake 20-25 minutes (watching carefully) until crusts are browned and the filling starts bubbling.
- Cool at least 15 minutes before eating. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Did you know yesterday was National Ice Cream Day? I didn’t until I already had made my latest batch of homemade ice cream. I think it was fate that brought us together. That or David Lebovitz– whose ice cream recipe I’ve adapted for today’s ice cream. This is my final recipe left from my blueberry picking day. Sadly the patch has all been picked so now I’ll have to go to the grocery store if I want any more berry recipes.
I wanted one last recipe that tasted like blueberries and cream so I decided to go the ice cream route. I had some graham crackers leftover from my other desserts so I incorporated them into the sweet cream base of this ice cream. I heated up my berries with some sugar and boiled out some of the excess water (taking a cue from Jeni and her splendid recipes) and incorporated that into the final product.
The result? a creamy graham cracker ice cream base with tart blueberries swirled in. Blueberry pie ice cream is an improvement on the usual blueberries and cream.
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 graham crackers
- 2 cups cream, divided
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- In a small saucepan heat blueberries and sugar over medium high heat. As you stir, press the blueberries against the side of the pan to help release the juices.
- After 8 minutes, pour into a small bowl and place in the fridge to chill for an hour.
- Grind the graham crackers into crumbs using a food processor or with a Ziplock bag and a rolling pin. Completely crush them and set aside.
- In a medium sized pot, heat 1 cup of cream with sugar and salt. Over medium heat, stir the mix together until the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Remove pot from heat and stir in the remaining cream, milk, and vanilla. Add the graham cracker crumbs and stir till just combined. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
- After the ice cream base is fully chilled, pour it into your ice cream mixer and let it run for about 30 minutes (or the time indicated by your device).
- During the last 5 minutes of your ice cream maker's run, pull the blueberry mix out of your fridge. Lightly cover the base of a metal loaf pan with blueberry mix. When the ice cream finishes mixing, pour 1/3 of the ice cream into your pan. Top with 1/2 of the blueberry mix, then layer another 1/3 of the ice cream.
- Finish by layering the remaining blueberry mix and then the last 1/3 of ice cream into the pan. Run a knife through to gently swirl the mix together and refrigerate overnight before serving.
I mentioned last week that I’d made two blueberry cheesecake dishes and one was a White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake for my husband. The other is today’s recipe, a Blueberry Cheesecake Pie. The recipe comes from Mel at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. This cheesecake doesn’t even require a springform pan or a water bath so it’s a very easy recipe to make.
This dish is a perfect summer dish. Blueberries with cheesecake and lemon are pretty much the best thing ever. It’s a smaller portion than the cheesecake I made and a lot easier if you’re looking for a no-fail cheesecake. This recipe has more of a lemon taste and the blueberry flavor comes from a jam you make for the top of the dish. You bake the crust, then the cheesecake, and then pour warm berries on the warm cheesecake so it sets in one big pie. My dad sure gobbled it up. (That’s him holding his piece below)
Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
- 9 large rectangular graham crackers, crushed
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- Freshly grated zest from 1 lemon
- 2 cups blueberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- In a small bowl, combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar and butter.
- Pat the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for 8 minutes at 325 degrees. Let the crust cool completely.
- After the crust cools, zest your lemon into a medium bowl. Add in the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice and and beat until smooth. Mix in the eggs until just combined.
- Pour into the graham cracker crust and bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees.
- While the custard is baking, combine the berries, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and add the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Remove from the heat and cool until the mix is warm but no longer hot.
- After the cheesecake is finished, leave it out until the berries are warm. Spoon the berries over the cheesecake and chill for 1 hour.
After I went blueberry picking I got right to work cleaning the berries so I could start using them. I had all the ingredients on-hand to make my blueberry muffins so I just jumped right in. My recipe has a sturdy enough batter that you don’t have to worry about coating fresh berries with flour to prevent sinking, the berries just stay put on their own. If you don’t have almond extract you can easily substitute vanilla.
- 1 stick butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups blueberries
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Line 18 cupcake pan spaces (or 12 regular and 12 mini cupcakes)
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each one. Mix in almond extract.
- Add baking powder, salt, and half the flour and lightly mix. Pour in half the milk, stir, then the rest of the flour and milk and stir till just mixed. Fold in blueberries and spoon into cupcake liners.
- Stir together the sugar and nutmeg for your topping and sprinkle on each muffin.
- Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes for regular muffins and 15 minutes for mini-muffins.
Last week I invited my friend Wendy and her mom along with me to go blueberry picking. I had gone last year and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to go again this year.
I go picking at Wind Ridge Farm in New Melle, Missouri. They also have blackberries and peaches depending on the season. They aren’t open for picking every day but they do update their website, twitter account, and facebook page to help you plan your next pick date. This method ensures that the plants aren’t overpicked and that guests have plenty of picking options.
When we arrived this year we could see the blueberries hanging off the bushes before we even entered the field. You just grab a bucket, listen as an employee tells you the best places to pick, and have at it. We spent less than an hour picking casually and ended up with about 2 1/2 pounds each. The blueberries are $2.99/lb and they even take credit cards if you have your whole family out there picking.
Their next pick date is on Sunday from 8 AM to noon or until the field is all picked. You could celebrate Father’s Day with some blueberries or even some blackberries since they will have a small batch of them ready to go. After we went picking we did a scenic drive along Missouri’s wine country. There are several wineries out in the area so if you time it right you could pick one day and stop for some lunch at a winery before shopping (like we did).
I’ve been planning out all sorts of delicious blueberry treats since I saw the fields were open and you can see them and other berry treats on my Berry Picking pinterest board. Coming up tomorrow I’ll show you my first cooking project or you can check out my favorite blueberry buckle recipe on my travel site.
I always seem to buy too many bananas. If I buy 6 I eat 3. If I buy 3 I eat 1. I hate letting them go to waste so they always end up in my freezer for a batch of banana bread to be made at some date in the future. This time I wasn’t in the mood to wait for banana bread. Even better, I had some Nilla Wafers in danger of going stale. Still, I didn’t have enough bananas or wafers to make my old school style banana pudding so I decided to work some magic to turn them into a parfait.
You’ll need bananas, Nilla wafers, and french vanilla pudding. It has to be french vanilla because I remember my grandma driving to an extra grocery store because regular vanilla just wasn’t good enough for banana pudding. She’d also demand the pudding be baked and have meringue but I’ve never been a fan or meringue or even whipped cream so I go without. You can do as you wish and maybe you’ll make my grandma happy.
The real secret to making these parfaits taste just like real banana pudding is letting them chill for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better. That way your vanilla wafers will get that creamy consistency that makes you think you’re in the South, eating nana puddin as I called it as a kid. The wait is long but it’ll be worth it. You can do as you wish and maybe you’ll make my me happy.
- 1 3 oz package instant french vanilla pudding
- 2 cups milk
- 32 Nilla Wafers cookies
- 2 bananas
- Whipped cream or cool whip (optional)
- Use the pudding package and milk to prepare the pudding as directed. Let chill 5 minutes.
- While pudding is chilling, place 8 Nilla Wafers cookies in the bottom of a wine goblet. Repeat with 3 additional goblets.
- Divide half of the pudding between the 4 wine goblets, placing on top of the cookies.
- Cut each banana into 1/2 inch slices. Place half of each banana in each goblet on top of the pudding.
- Spread the second half of the pudding on top of the bananas, dividing evenly.
- Chill for at least 4 hours.
- Top with whipper cream or cool whip and serve.
This all started before I knew what I was making. My local grocery store was having a 10/$10 sale on cake mixes and I was feeling kind of froggy so I bought a few to experiment with. The first creation was my Funfetti Doughnuts. For Valentine’s Day I wanted something simple. My husband’s birthday is the week before so we were a little overwhelmed with all the chocolate cake we’d had leftover. Valentine’s called for something lighter on our stomachs and something that looked like it took far more work than it did.
Enter chocolate covered cherry cupcakes.
I started with a cherry chip cake mix and all the ingredients it usually called for. Then I threw in some cherry pie filling to really bring home that cherry feeling. After baking you might notice that your tops will fall slightly as they cool. This is actually good because it forms a little holder for the icing of choice: chocolate ganache. You want to plop just enough ganache on each cupcake to fit in the depressed space. Once you ice all the cupcakes, take some cherries (or cheat like me and use some leftover from amaretto sours), dip them in chocolate and plop them on the cupcakes.
Now comes the hard part: you have to wait 2 hours to let the ganache harden enough to eat them. Still, it’s worth it. The cupcake itself is sweet so the chocolate ganache on top is just bittersweet enough to remind you of an actual chocolate-covered cherry without being too rich. They’re super simple so you can make one tonight and it will be ready for dessert tomorrow.Pin It