Enjoy Fall Cranberries with Sauce, Crisp and Cocktail recipes

Cranberries are a small, interesting fruit with a tart flavor that can be enjoyed in many dishes ranging from appetizers, sauce, stuffing, crisp, candy, and cocktails.  Cranberries have been reported to provide a wide range of health benefits, including control of chronic inflammation, chronic cardiovascular diseases and urinary tract infections (UTI).  This is attributed to the high concentrated source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients,  and vitamin C and vitamin E, which are important antioxidant nutrients.

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Background

These delicious little berries grow on a low-lying vine that requires special growing conditions, including acid peat soil and freshwater.  Cranberries typically grow in low-lying beds or bogs that were created by glacial deposits.  Modern cultivation practices use wetlands ponds and other water bodies.  The North American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is the fruit recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the standard for fresh cranberries and the cranberry juice cocktail.  It grows on trailing vines like a strawberry.

Normally, growers do not replant each year since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old and still bearing fruit.  While Wisconsin is currently the major growth region for cranberries (>50%), they are grown throughout New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.  Other regions grow cranberries as well, including Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.   Cranberries are typically floated in water for easy harvesting and there are no shortage of cranberry festivals across the country.

Recipes

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce (prepare extra for the crisp recipe below)

I absolutely adore the tart flavor of cranberries and I associate this distinct flavor with fall and the winter holiday season.  Orange is a great complement to cranberry.  Preparing cranberry sauce is so easy.  Dump everything in a pot, heat until the berries pop and the mix thickens, transfer to a storage container.  Doesn’t get easier!

Here is a link to my favorite Cranberry Orange Sauce Recipe.  I didn’t have a zester handy at the cabin, so I had to use a peeler and slice the strips with a knife.  If you don’t have the right kitchen gadget don’t give up.  There is always an alternative.  The trick is to avoid the bitter pith (white part of the orange peel).  I recommend going light on the sugar addition.   For me the recipe specified just the right amount, but it’s always best to add to your desired sweetness level as berry sweetness can vary.

Wisconsin Cranberries

Wisconsin Cranberries

juice the orange

I love this kitchen juicer. Makes it easy to add juice to the recipes that follow.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Mixing all of the Cranberry Orange Sauce ingredients over heat.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe at onceuponachef.com

Cranberry-Apple Crisp (Prepare using leftover cranberry relish or canned)

This is soooooo easy. Don’t overthink it.  Blend the cranberry sauce and apples to get a combination that you think will work for you.  You can use canned cranberry sauce, but I had about 1/2- of the recipe above leftover.  I prefer tart apples like Granny Smith or what I find to be just a bit sweeter, Honey Crisp.  I used 4 small-medium sized Honey Crisp apples.

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Butter a baking dish and fill with cranberry-apple mixture.  Add powdered sugar if desired to increase thickness of the sauce (I add 1 tablespoon).

For the topping, combine the following ingredients.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4-cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I melt the butter to make blending easier).

Mix topping and distribute over cranberry-apple mixture.  Bake approximately 40-minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes to thicken.  Enjoy as is or top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple crisp

Mix apples and cranberry sauce to achieve desired consistency. Add powdered sugar to thicken.

Cranberry Orange Apple Crisp

Top cranberry-apple mixture with oatmeal topping and bake.

Cranberry-Orange Crisp

Enjoy your cranberry-orange crisp alone or with vanilla ice cream.

Cranberry-Orange Infused Vodka

Celebrate fall and the holiday season with cranberry-orange infused vodka.

  • Purchase a 1.5L bottle of vodka.  Select the best brand you can afford.  I prefer vodka that is sold in a glass bottle.
  • Remove more than half of the vodka to make space for the fruit.
  • Add 3/4 cup sugar.  You can add more later if the infusion is too tart.  I prefer it tart.  The sugar dissolves easily, so I have never found the need to use a simple syrup.
  • It’s not necessary, but I do cut the cranberries in half before adding back to the vodka bottle.  Fill the bottle to the neck with cranberries.
  • Add the juice and zest of one orange.  Mix well.
  • Add  cranberries and vodka until the bottle is filled and all cranberries are submerged.
  • Be patient.  Wait at least 3-weeks for full flavor and color to develop.
  • Transfer into decorative bottles using layers of cheesecloth remove  cranberry seeds.
  • Enjoy with friends  or use as a cocktail ingredient for holiday parties.  See below for ideas.

note: I always try an extra infusion with the remaining vodka.  This year I added fresh basil.  This will be perfect in holiday Bloody Mary’s.

Cranberry orange infused vodka

Simple Cranberry Orange Vodka Cocktails

This vodka makes a great hostess gift when presented in a pretty bottle with a ribbon.  If you are ready for a simple cocktail, just shake on ice and serve in a martini glass with an orange twist.  Be careful, this is pretty potent! You can also serve this homemade aperitif with seltzer (lime seltzer is great), ginger ale, or orange juice.  Any combination of these mixers work great, so create a signature cocktail that’s just right for your party.

Cranberry Vodka Cocktails

left: Cranberry Vodka with lime seltzer water and a squeeze of lime juice; center: fresh squeezed orange juice with a splash of Cranberry Vodka; right: Chilled Cranberry Vodka.

Cranberry Sauce, Crisp and Vodka

What are your favorite ways to use cranberries?  Please share below.  I would love to try out candy recipes.

Thank you.

Laura

 

5 Useful resources to organize, clean, and decorate to help you rekindle your love for your home

It’s darn hard to find the perfect home.

Finding a home to rent or buy is challenging and compromises are often required.  Once we finally settle on a home, it’s easy to fall out of love.  I do love the location of my home.  We live in the small downtown area close to shops, restaurants, beautiful parks, and we are fortunate to have great neighbors.  The area is filled with interesting homes and we live in an historic Victorian home (circa 1876).  Old homes tend to have lots of rooms vs. large open spaces.  While I am traditional and do love formal living and dining rooms, it can make it difficult for everyday living and entertaining.  On several occasions we considered moving, but it just didn’t make sense.

How we use our space and love our home can be especially challenging as our family needs change (babies, mobile toddlers, teenagers, no children, grown children or parents).  With a little creativity and elbow grease you can reinvent your home over and over again.  Additions or remodels are costly solutions.  Here are resources and tips to get you started without having to spend a lot of money.

Home is not a place, it’s a feeling

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Resources to help you rekindle your love for your home

Workbook

Gabby at Mom Makes Joy

Gabby has created a Love Your Space Action Steps Workbook.  This has to be one of my favorite resources to organize, clean, declutter, and decorate my home on a budget .   Mess = Stress.  This workbook breaks down the process into manageable steps to help you create a functional space you can be be proud of and enjoy.  Gabby describes the psychology around some of our actions and feelings regarding cleaning and decluttering.  Now I understand why I procrastinate!

Getting my cleaning strategy down on paper has allowed me to maintain a realistic level of cleanliness that doesn’t get in the way of other responsibilities.  It’ easy to browse the internet and magazines for pictures of beautiful, organized homes and rooms, but at some point you have to put those things away and live in your space.  By purchasing this workbook and making a small investment, you will feel like you need to take action.  It’s time to focus on the home and space you have versus what you think is missing.  You can do this!

 

Love your home again

Ideas and Inpiration

Erica Van Slyke at Designing Vibes

Erica provides great tips to help you claim wasted space, declutter, and organize.  Decor really sets the mood.  Fresh flowers, pillows, and area rugs allow for simple changes  You can also rethink furniture  to make a space more functional or storage friendly.

Useful resources to help you rekindle your love for your home

Yvonne Pratt at StoneGable

Stop comparing your home to others.  Search catalogs and Pinterest to find what you like and create similar settings in your home to recreate the feeling. Enjoy what you have, your personal belongings are a reflection of what you like and maybe even your family history.

Useful resources to help you rekindle your love for your home

 

One Crazy House

This resource provides some great tips for storage solutions that can help you declutter your home.  It also has ideas for maximizing square footage in small spaces.

Useful resources to help you rekindle your love for your home

A Challenge

Creating Mary’s Home

Homes should be our sanctuary.  Here’s a challenge to help you declutter, clean, organize, and decorate.  Implement the challenge to get your home ready for holiday guests or use the challenge as part of your home organization New Year’s resolution.  Either way, you and your family win.

Useful resources to help you rekindle your love for your home


Resources to help you love your home

10 Easy, Low Mess, Transportable Tailgate Recipes

It’s fall and it’s football season.  You have tickets for game day.  Now it’s time to plan the tailgate menu.  Here is a collection of easy, low mess, transportable tailgate recipes to get you started.

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Tailgate Recipes

Image courtesy of skeeze @ Pixabay.

I selected the following recipes to please picky kids, satisfy grown-up appetites, minimize prep work on game day, eliminate the need for crock-pots and barbecues, keep utensil and serving -ware requirements simple, and to keep the mess to a minimum.  Sorry, no saucy wings in this tailgate recipe collection.

Tailgate Recipes

Appetizers

A wide variety of appetizer recipes is included here.  This collection will take care of those who like pizza, tacos, or even the classic corn dog.  I think every tailgate appetizer collection needs at least one dip, so be sure to check out the cheesy bacon ranch dip recipe.

Homemade pizza puffs from Cafe Mom.

pizza puffs

Sausage Roll Ups from Dreaming-n-color.

 

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip from Deliciously Sprinkled.

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip

Puffy Tacos from Plain Chicken.

Puffy Tacos - my favorite way to eat tacos! Only 5 ingredients - hamburger, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes and green chiles, cheese and puff pastry. Ready to eat in minutes!! Can make ahead of time and freeze for later. Great for tailgating and parties!

Corn Dog Muffins from The Pioneer Woman.

DSC_3034

Sandwiches

Appetizers are great for snacking, but it’s important to offer sandwiches in case guests have heartier appetites.  These recipes can be prepared in advance to minimize prep. work on game day.  The biscuit BLTs and empanadas can be wrapped in wax paper to make transport and eating while mingling even easier.  Tie the wax paper with ribbon in your team’s colors for even more team spirit.

Italian Pinwheels from Mother Thyme.

Italian Pinwheels | www.motherthyme.com

 

Fresh biscuit BLTs  from Country Living.

mini blts

 

Pulled pork empanadas from Singly Scrumptious.

Desserts

Cookies and brownies are easy desserts for a tailgate.  However, I love theme food and think it’s fun to offer desserts in the spirit of the game.

Chocolate Football Pretzel Rods from Sarah’s Bake Studio.  I love the idea of sprinkles in your favorite team’s colors.  Go Team!

Chocolate Football Pretzel Rods

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Footballs from Life, Love and Sugar.

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Footballs - perfect for a Super Bowl Party and College Championship party!

 Tailgating Essentials

No tailgating party is complete without coolers, tables, chairs and serving wear.  It always fun to find forks, knives and cups in your team’s colors.  Dollar Stores and party stores can be a great place to shop for these items.  I love the multi-functional items below.   A backpack cooler that serves as a seat!  A folding table that has a beverage bucket and drink holders.


DIY Spooky Halloween Wreath Tutorial

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I love decorating for Halloween.  I try to limit my Halloween shopping splurges, but this year I really wanted a nice wreath for my front porch.  It’s easy to find beautiful wreaths on-line and in catalogs.  However, I couldn’t justify spending $50-100 on a wreath I would only display for a few weeks.

I gave myself a budget of $20 and decided to see what I could create with my own imagination and a little effort.  I stopped at the Dollar Store on my way home from work to see if I could find any unusual, spooky items to inspire a Halloween wreath of my own.  They always have interesting, low cost items for all of the holidays.  I had barely stepped into the store when I discovered these fantastic glitter tarantulas in perfect Halloween colors.  I even found matching glitter ribbon.  The ‘crow’ feather boas were over the top.  I had to have them.  I had a plan!  I couldn’t find anything at the Dollar Store to use for the base, so I did order the straw wreath on-line.

Excluding glue sticks, I spent about $12.50 on the wreath and it took about 30-minutes to collect all of the supplies and assemble the wreath.  Ok!  Maybe a little longer if you count my bow preparation practice runs.  Well worth the small cost and effort.  Now I won’t feel bad if I want new decor and come up with even better ideas for next year.  I had fun in the collection and preparation phase.  Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?  In the end, I’m pretty proud of my work.  Hope the trick or treaters like it!

Supplies:

DIY Wreath Supplies

Preparation Steps (It really is this easy friends):

Step 1:  Spread hot glue on the surface of straw wreath and secure the end of feather boa to the wreath.

DIY spooky wreath tutorial

Step 2:  Continue to spread glue.  Wind the boa around the wreath as you go.  Adjust spacing to ensure you have enough material to cover the entire surface of the straw wreath.  I recommend a quick practice wrap before gluing, to get a feel for the spacing required.

DIY spooky wreath tutorial

Step 3:  Spread hot glue on top of feathers and secure tarantulas or other ‘spooky’ items.  For example, you could use mini skulls (with or without a coat of glitter).

Step 4:  Wrap ribbon around the wreath 3-4 times and secure with hot glue.  This will provide a nice background for the bow.

DIY spooky wreath tutorial

Step 5:  Tie bow and hot glue to ribbon on wreath base.  Here is a great loopy bow tutorial for tying this kind of bow.  Be patient.  It takes a little practice to get the ribbon twist down.  You see my third attempt below.  My kitchen counter still has purple glitter evidence.  Maybe feathers too!  Enjoy!

DIY spooky wreath tutorial

Safety tip: 

Hot glue is HOT!   Be careful not to burn your fingers when you are pressing items into the melted glue.

 

DIY Spooky Halloween

Grilled oyster recipes that everyone can enjoy

Raw oysters are great, but try grilling/broiling with spinach, garlic & Parmesan or Chorizo & cheddar. Don’t like raw oysters? Try these recipes.

As a kid, I spent a significant part of my summers down  in Gulf  Shores, Alabama.  We loved slow-living on the bay, fun times with family and good friends, and the delicious Gulf Seafood.  Shrimp, stuffed flounder, and crabs were fantastic, but my younger brother and I were HUGE fans of raw oysters.  One summer, during a side trip to New Orleans, my parents couldn’t get the trays of raw oysters to our table fast enough.  My favorite dinner as a ‘grown up’?  A wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese accompanied by at least one dozen oysters with lemon, horseradish and hot sauce.  Mmmmmmm!

While not everyone appreciates the slimy texture of oysters like I do, it is possible to prepare oysters that everyone will enjoy.  There is something primitive about cracking open the shells.  Throw a few on the grill and enjoy.

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Spinach Parmesan Grilled Oysters

Chorizo Jalapeno Cheddar Grilled Oysters

Where to buy oysters?

We found a local grocery store that often carries oysters.  I definitely recommend that you call ahead and order in advance.  You don’t want to prepare a menu only to find out oysters are not available.  Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience on this point.

The guys at our fish counter always give us a few extra.  They are typically priced by the dozen and usually one or two of the oysters are not good (won’t open or they are stinky when you open them).  Request that they pack the the oyster in a bag on ice.  Once you arrive home, be sure to open the bag when you place them in the refrigerator so the oysters can breath.

The old myth of ‘R’ months.

There is an old myth that specifies the best time to eat oysters is during months that contain an ‘R’ (e.g. September through April) .   This is related to the potential for increased bacterial growth in the water during the warm summer months.  Oysters are filter feeders that have the potential to concentrate microorganisms or related toxins.  While levels of certain naturally occurring marine bacteria (e.g  Vibrio) are higher in coastal waters during warm weather months, they may still be present during colder months.  Most consumers are not susceptible to infection by Vibrio .  However, individuals  with certain illnesses or health conditions should only eat molluscan shellfish that is cooked.  Grilling is the perfect way to reduce risk of bacterial contamination regardless of the month.  Cooking oysters with heat can kill harmful bacteria and viruses.  While mussels, clams, and oysters can be safe to eat year-round if prepared properly, it is also important to ensure that they are harvested legally to ensure a sustainable supply.

Preparing to chop spinach and garlic

Oyster preparation tips and tools.

Writing with many years of oyster eating experience, I have learned a few lessons.  Some easier than others.  One of the best tips was to clean the the oysters and place them in the freezer for 10-20 minutes just before ‘shucking’ or opening.  This works really well.  All the strong parts of the oyster holding the shells together contract. If you stick an oyster shucker knife where the shells are connected, they are much easier to pry apart after exposure to freezing temperatures.   In addition to a good shucker,  I also recommend a good pair of penetration-resistant gloves.  Those oysters are always shifting, even when you think you have a good grip on them with a solidly placed kitchen towel.  Be safe!

 

 

 Grilled oyster recipes and dinner.

My husband hated raw oysters.  However, during a trip to  Gulf Shores , he discovered he could enjoy oysters after sampling grilled oysters at several restaurants.  Oysters were readily available and so began our quest to mimic and finally create our own grilled oyster recipes.

Currently, my family has two favorite grilled oyster recipes.  The first recipe is to top the oysters with chorizo, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese before grilling.  The second recipe uses garlic, spinach, and Parmesan.  The possibilities are endless.  Chop, top, grill and eat.  Modify as desired.  Use any fresh herbs or vegetables you might have available in your garden.  As I am writing, I think I need to try a summer Caprese versions.  Basil, tomato, garlic, and fresh mozzarella.

I love to use a kitchen chopper to help with slicing and dicing of all of the ingredients.  I precook chorizo or any other meat.  Other than that, we throw veggies and cheese on the oysters and barbecue until the cheese is very well melted.   Oysters should be cooked thoroughly  at this point.  Do not overcook or the oysters will become dried out and tough.  I threw breadcrumbs on top of the garlic, spinach, and Parmesan topped oysters. There was too much moisture for the crumbs to brown.  Therefore, I recommend browning the breadcrumbs in advance so they are crispier and soak up the moisture.

Serving a grilled oyster meal

I have only  one oyster grill pan to date.  This was used for the chorizo jalapeno cheddar oysters I used a disposable aluminum pizza tray filled with coarse sea salt.  ‘Plan B’ was very practical and looked great.  Just make sure the trays fit on your grill before you load them up with the oysters.

Oysters can be served as an appetizer.  I typically serve them alongside  a salad for a perfect meal.  On this particular occasion I was able to prepare a snap pea sprout salad with red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots from the garden.  I splashed the salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing.

Hope you grill a few oysters and help someone else discover the delicious flavor of oysters.

Laura

Snap Pea Sprout Salad



Parchment paper cooking: Eat a healthy fish dinner & spend more time with family

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Life happens fast.  We all have too many things we need need to do: work, sports, school activities, help with homework, etc.  Our lives are also filled with a long list of the things we want to do: spend quality time with friends & family, read a book, take a bath, travel, spend time working on a hobby, etc.  For me, family time has become more  critical than ever as I realize my son is growing up way too fast.  How did he get to high school already?

We also want to eat healthy and save money.  All of these conflicting desires and demands can really stress out a parent.  Let’s figure out a way to slow down the clock, hear about our kid’s experiences, achievements, and challenges over a healthy, easy, budget-friendly meal.  Here is a quick and easy cooking technique for shrimp and fish that will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I enrolled in a cooking class at a nearby farm.  We had a chance to try several different fish recipes and cooking techniques.  I immediately realized that ‘en papillote’ had the potential to change my life in the kitchen.  This fancy French term?  It describes an easy cooking method for healthy food with minimal clean-up!  Count me in!

I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen.  My kitchen experiments have not always turned out as planned and are never perfect, but  this is real life and I don’t recall a time when my family has ever turned down a meal.  The recipe outlined below works well with shrimp and any sturdy white fish such as orange roughy, tilapia, haddock, sole, or halibut. Buy whatever your budget allows.  I purchased a pack of individually wrapped tilapia filet (6) for about $10 at Target.

I really like the flexibility of this recipe.   It allows you to use what you have available for marinade or toppings.   It can be varied easily to make this part of a regular meal rotation without boring everyone’s taste buds.  If you keep a bag of fish filet in the freezer, you can make this last minute to avoid expensive food delivery or an unhealthy drive through visit.

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Plan an Oktoberfest celebration for family and friends

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Planning guide for Oktoberfest

OKTOBERFEST!  The best fall party of them all!  This is a perfect time of year to enjoy beautiful fall weather with family and friends.  Attending Oktoberfest in Munich Germany is on many people’s Bucket List (mine too).  For good reason, the party (originating from a wedding celebration) has been a tradition since 1810.  The official event in Munich typically takes place between mid-September and early October (Official 2017 dates: September 16th-October 3rd).  It’s time to start planning your Oktoberfest event.

Event Budget

This party can be as simple/complicated and budget-friendly/expensive as your heart and bank account can manage.  Smaller is simpler, but Oktoberfest provides a great excuse to mingle family, friends, and co-workers.  Just be sure to ask for help.

As the size of the party increases, consider asking guests to bring appetizers, entree, desserts, or beverages to share.  Many guests love the challenge of preparing a special, party-appropriate dish.

Invitations

Evite is a great way to send out a party invitation.  It’s easy to set-up and allows you to review guest RSVP’s quickly and easily.  You can even ask guests to sign up for food or beverage contributions.  This feature makes it easy to ensure your guests will have adequate food and beverage and prevents having too much of any one item.

If Evite doesn’t work for you e-mail is an easy option.  Hard copy invitations dropped in mailboxes or formal written invites sent by mail also work, but they do require a bit more planning.

Venue or Location

You driveway, patio, or yard provide a perfect venue for Oktoberfest.  If it’s cool build a bonfire or have baskets filled with blankets and extra sweaters to keep guests comfortable.  Tents are part of traditional Oktoberfest celebrations.  Don’t have a tent?  Consider borrowing a tent from a neighbor.  Tents and tables can be rented, but this will add significant cost to your party budget.  Another option is to decorate your garage or open your home to guests.  You might also consider renting a picnic facility in a nearby park.

Beverages

Oktoberfest food and drink

In my opinion, the guest list is the top priority.  Next in importance?  Food and beverages.  To keep the party simple, enlist the help of your crock pot, family, and friends.

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When life gives you lemons? Make dinner, dessert and cocktails!

I adore lemons.  I love the yellow color; they always make me feel happy and bring a smile to my face.  I also love the smell of the blossoms and fruit and cannot get enough of the flavor.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Hjalmar18).

When we lived in our little Spanish Bungalow in Long Beach, CA we had a lemon tree in our front yard.  I loved walking past it numerous times each day enjoying the smell and activity of the bees buzzing busily around it.  When we moved back to the Midwest, one of the things I missed most (besides milder winter weather, of course) was my little lemon tree.

Several years ago, my son gifted me with a lemon tree for Mother’s Day.  I loved this little tree, but it did not like indoor life in my home.  After about 1-year nearly all of the leaves had fallen off and it certainly wasn’t flowering or bearing fruit.  I almost threw my little lemon tree away, but decided it couldn’t hurt to place it outside on our porch for the summer.  The sunshine and fresh air breathed new life into my resilient little tree.  A couple of years later, summers outdoors and winters indoors, it is healthy and now it has two lemons ripening.

There are approximately 50 varieties of lemons.  They range in flavor from sweet to sour and in acidity.  They are grown all around the world and are thought to have originated in northeastern India.
The ancient Egyptians are credited with ‘inventing’ lemonade around 500 AD.  However, only the Pharaoh and royal family were allowed to enjoy the beverage.  In 1630, a lemonade soda (lemon juice, honey, and sparkling water) was first sold in Paris.  Through the 1840’s demand for lemons grew as a cure for scurvy.  This debilitating disease was caused by a lack of Vitamin C and significantly impacted sailors and miners during the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s.  This demand for lemons resulted in the many California lemon groves, some of which still exist today.  Even in current times, many websites suggest that increasing consumption of fruits like lemons decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and lower weight.

And now that you have learned a little bit about lemons, let get to the recipes!

Dinner

Lemon Chicken is a quick and easy meal for a weeknight.  Add a salad and rice or pasta and you have a perfect meal. Continue reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning: Preserve Your Food in Jars

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Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables for later use.  When I was growing up my mom made delicious plum jam, but she did not can or pickle any vegetables.  No canning mentor for me.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Several years back, my husband and I decided to rent a community garden space to grow vegetables (check out one of my early posts on our farm plot).  We paid ‘rent’ for a 30’X30′ plot and got to work.  We started planting in late April-early May and by the time late July rolled around we had a bumper crop of vegetables and the bounty continued through early October.  We shared much of the harvest with friends and family, but we still had tons of veggies left-over.

In an effort to save our harvest for later use (think dark, cold winter days; I knew we would want to mentally escape), I scoured the internet and book stores for good canning references, magazines, and guidelines.  I had heard about the dangers of canning (exploding jars and food poisoning) and was honestly quite intimidated.  After reading the basics, it seemed manageable and I decided to give it a try.  I loved the process and the reward.  I hope you will follow the steps I have outlined below to get started on your own canning journey.

Step 1:  Collect recipes and tips

I recommend purchasing a good canning/preserving reference book.  Food safety is extremely important when canning and good quality resources outline critical procedures for produce preparation, processing, and storage.  Books, magazines, and Pinterest are great places for inspiration.  If you are interested in a particular fuit/vegetable, search the internet for recipes.  I highly recommend that you read the reviews.  Many recipes do not follow proper, safe canning procedures (for example, my beloved Blue Ribbon Pickle recipe) and usually this comes up in the comment thread.  If you are not sure, follow recipes in a canning reference book.  The book I got started with is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I do not recommend modifying or tweaking recipes.  They are designed to ensure appropriate conditions for canning and the quality and safety of your final product.

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Planning a Furniture Flip – Dresser to Bar Cabinet

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I recently ‘inherited’ a dresser from a friend.  When I opened the front doors on the cabinet, I knew it would make a perfect bar.  A wonderful storage spot for bottles of liquor, drawers for all the bar gadgets and linens, and a perfect spot towards the bottom for hanging wine glass storage.  Can you picture it?

I have been scouring Pinterest for ideas.  Here are a few examples I am using for inspiration.

Links to sources of inspriation: top lefttop right; bottom left; bottom right.

I’m going for a more elegant feel that I think black paint will provide.  To take it up another notch, I will paint the interior gold or I will try to find really unique wall paper with a gold tint and unexpected pattern.  I’m hoping the drawer hardware will work, but I will have to replace the cabinet lock.  I’ll just have to see how all the hardware matches up.  I have used chalk paint for other projects, but I am planning to use latex paint for this project.  I am going for elegant on this project vs. shabby chic.  A coat of polyurethane will also be essential to ensure the bar can stand up to endless parties and cocktails.

I’ll toast with a classic for my first round….The Manhattan

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
3 dashes bitters (so many to choose from; a fun opportunity to experiment and develop your own signature Manhattan cocktail)
cherries

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and stir in whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.  Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

The examples definitely look more fun with accessories, so I plan to stock up on bar essentials before I share the after pictures.   I have other projects scheduled for July, so stay tuned for an update in August. ‘The devil is in the details ‘ and ‘A project without planning is just a wish’.  I look forward to your feedback.

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