Strawberry Lemonade with Honey Simple Syrup

Strawberry LemonadeIt’s hot. Really, really hot.

I feel like I’m in a time warp that’s taking me back to my childhood. I grew up and spent a good majority of my life in Oklahoma – the land of red dirt and wide open prairie. Summers were excruciatingly hot and humid, but back then I loved it.

I remember that idyllic time when everything was simple and playful. Watching lightening bugs (fireflies) was a nightly activity and I could spend hours singing at the top of my lungs while swinging on my swing set in the back yard. I still know the feeling of that hot summer sun on my face – it feels totally different now.

One thing I loved about Oklahoma was the sky. The sky seemed bigger then, more open and full of wonder. Blue skies were bluer and the truth-telling clouds were fluffier and more defined into shapes that could take your mind to far off places. The stars burned brighter in an Oklahoman sky and you could never keep count of the billions upon billions of them that you could actually see. I can’t even tell you how many of my memories involve that sky.

This (newfound) love for Oklahoma may stem from the realization that my childhood was incredibly peaceful. My biggest worry was me. Not traffic. Not money. Not even what to wear each day. When was the last time any of us had that? I didn’t know how special it was then, but now I appreciate every second I spent there.

The rustling shimmer of wheat fields, the faint smell of cow manure, the pulsing hum of locusts all day, everyday – all of this will forever hold a place in my heart.

In lieu of taking you to Oklahoma to experience the summers there for yourself, I’m bringing you a lemonade recipe. Four ingredients make up this refreshing summer beverage. It’s almost as simple and sweet as an Oklahoma summer.

 

Strawberry Lemonade with Honey Simple SyrupStrawberry Lemonade

½ cup honey + ½ cup water

Juice of 8 lemons (about 1 cup)

1 pint of strawberries

5 cups water

First, make the honey simple syrup by combining ½ cup honey and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Next, juice the lemons. Ideally, you’ll end up with about 1 cup of lemon juice.

Then hull the strawberries, cut them in half and toss them in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth, then pour the pureed strawberries through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.

Combine the lemon juice, strawberry puree, 5 cups water and ½ cup of the honey simple syrup in a pitcher and stir well. Adjust the sweetness based on your taste. Chill and serve.

Top 10: Kitchen Tools

There are few things in life that you truly need. Food, abortion clothing, health shelter, love and laughter – that will pretty much get you through anything. The kitchen is the same way – few things you need, but a lot of things that will make playing in your kitchen much easier.

Do yourself a favor and invest in these kitchen items. Some of them are simple, some are expensive, but all are totally worth it!

10. Stand mixer

When I bought my stand mixer, I thought I would still use my hand mixer more often than this gorgeous countertop jewel. I was totally wrong. My hand mixer hasn’t seen the light of day since I brought home its older and wiser sister.

9. Immersion blender

I don’t make a lot of soups, but this is a wonderful tool for those that do. It is also great for pureeing fruits and veggies, baby food, etc. I actually use mine to froth milk for a weekend latte – it works really well!

8. Kitchen scissors

This one doesn’t need too much explanation – good kitchen scissors are great for cutting chicken, snipping herbs, etc. Love them.

7. Food processor

This is another “stand mixer incident” where I thought I wouldn’t use it, but it is shiny and beautiful and everyone uses it, so I must get it! And it’s another incident in which I was horribly mistaken. I use this for chopping, blending, making bread/biscuit dough and more. It is so versatile! If your gadget came with an instruction or idea manual, read it. You will be surprised by how much this one gadget can do.

6. Plethora of silicone spatulas

Whether you’re baking or making scrambled eggs, silicone spatulas come in very handy. They won’t scratch your pots and pans and they come in pretty much any size or color. (I know, that’s a little superficial, but I like colorful food and colorful kitchen tools!)

5. Good set of knives

I cannot live without my Wustof knives. Seriously. My 10-inch chef’s knife was actually my first “big” kitchen purchase right out of college. I cherish my knives. I implore you to go out and get yourself a good set of knives – they are safer, they make your life easier in the kitchen and let’s face it, they are gorgeous!

4. Quality, big cutting boards

With a good set of knives comes an addiction to chopping veggies, fruits, meats – anything really. (That’s what happened to me, at least!) And with so much chopping, it is important to get cutting boards that won’t damage your knives… or drive you crazy. Have you ever tried to use a 10-inch chef’s knife on a small cutting board? Yeah, it’s not fun. Get a couple of big cutting boards to make your workspace easier to use and get them in a material that’s easier on your knives. (Just remember, it is always a good idea to have one board for meats and one for everything else.)

3. Dutch oven

This little beauty is the perfect size for just about any meal… at least in my world. You see, I was born to a Southern mother. When people said they were “stopping by” or “coming for a visit” my mother made enough food for the entire neighborhood. And our family holiday celebrations are obscene what with a minimum of 20 different dishes. I love it. It makes us who we are. So, believe me, you can pretty much make anything in a dutch oven!

2. Super-absorbent kitchen towels – and a lot of them!

I am a mess in the kitchen. I try to clean as I go, but man, I can’t seem to cook or bake without getting the ingredients everywhere. My countertops are a war zone and the only refuge is my endless supply of kitchen towels to stop the bleeding. I have stopped trying to find cute, patterned towels and have switched to utility towels that I can throw in the washer and bleach. Plus, it saves on paper towels!

1. My dog…

I always need my sweet, little (big!) companion by my feet! He keeps me company and reminds me to take a moment to enjoy the simple things in life. He’s such a loyal taste tester of my recipes… especially when messy me drops a little something on the floor.

Linus

My kitchen companion, Linus McGee

And you?

What is your must-have kitchen tool?

Stocking Your Pantry

I’m buzzing. (No, I did not have one too many glasses of wine this evening.) I feel like I’ve awakened from a very deep sleep, refreshed, energized and ready to take on the world. And, in a sense, I have…

I’ve just returned from a weekend in the mountains of southern California where I chatted with some amazing food bloggers (not an understatement – trust me, you’d be amazed). As a seasoned writer, but brand-spankin’ new blogger, I had the opportunity at Camp Blogaway to pick the brains of the creative people behind some of my favorite blogs.

Every conversation had something new to offer my neophyte-blogger mind, from Erika at In Erika’s Kitchen and Andrew at Eating Rules with their SEO tips and tricks to Cheryl at 5 Second Rule with her incredible ability to write without wasting a single word to Lynn at Bijouxs with her breathtaking photography. Each person I met gave me a little insight into a different facet of blogging.

I realized that this conference is kind of like stocking a pantry. You collect the items that are your go-to staples, the ones that fly off the shelves at a moment’s notice. Then you collect the things that are interesting, intriguing and exotic, but that you might not need on a daily basis, so you shelve them until they’re needed. The information I collected at Camp Blogaway is just like that: all valuable, some saved for later and some used immediately. I’m compiling a list of go-to blogging staples, playing with the “recipes” of blogging and finding out what works for me. (And the new, wonderful friends I’ve made are good stock for my blogging “pantry!” I’m whole-heartedly grateful to each and every one of you.)

All this pantry stock talk makes me think I should actually discuss it… So, here are a few things I ALWAYS have on hand:

Whole grains/dry pastas – These make great, quick weeknight meals (something of which I’m getting all too familiar with).

Chicken stock (low sodium) – I would cook anything in chicken stock… for real.

Baking needs (all-purpose and gluten-free flours, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, etc.) – I never know when I’m going to crave a biscuit… Oh, man! And there it is…

Canned tomatoes – If you can find jarred, that’s a bit better. The acidity of the tomatoes can potentially cause the metals of the can to leach into your food.

Canned or dried beans – Sometimes I just don’t feel like eating meat, so beans are a great substitute, in my opinion.

Honey – LOVE this stuff. I use it in salad dressings, marinades, baked good, etc.

Oils & vinegars – These complex flavors add a lot of depth to a dish without a lot of work. I’m a fan.

Spices & dried herbs – We’ve discussed my obsession with nutmeg. But in all honesty, it doesn’t stop there – not even close.

That’s typically what’s in my pantry (that, and a lot of other random things). What do you always keep on hand? Any must-have additions for this list? Leave a comment and let me know.

2011 Camp Blogaway

Simplicity: A Cure for Writer’s Block

wooden spoonsI’ve been battling with writer’s block for a few days. This usually happens when my life is on overload and all circuits are busy. I have a lot of ideas, ailment but can’t quite seem to grab my own attention long enough to string two words together. So, recipe I’ll grease the wheel with something simple: my wooden spoons.

I love wooden spoons. I collect them. I hunt for them. At every kitchen or food store, order every farmer’s market, every arts and crafts show (yes, I’m the young woman in the midst of a senior citizens’ day out), I’m on the lookout for a new one.

I have an obscene number of spoons, some rough and gnarly, some rich and smooth. I love them all. (Have I mentioned that I love wooden spoons?!) The strange thing about my addiction is that I don’t actually use them when I cook. I just like to look at them. They sit on my countertop in a rustic ceramic holder, like flowers in a vase.

But I assure you: I don’t neglect them. I take them out, twirl them between my fingers, tap them against the palm of my hand as I flip through the recipe indexes in my brain. These spoons serve as a source of unparalleled inspiration. (And now, apparently, they’re also a cure for writer’s block.) Sometimes the simplest things are the most useful – in and out of the kitchen.

Welcome to Roots & Platters…

 

Logo beet…And welcome to a little bit about me. Typically, it’s not much fun to read a blog about food, music, technology or whatever your fancy if there isn’t a person behind the words. In my opinion, there should be an emotional response or connection, and I figure, hey, life is a learning experience, so why not lay it all out there.

Getting to know the woman behind this blog, bit by bit:

  • I live in a small mountain town with my husband (Rick), my cat (Dolce) and my dog (Linus).
  • I am a communications specialist/copy editor by day and a musician (violin), aspiring chef and struggling farmer by night.
  • My favorite food in the world is a doughnut. (That’s probably because I have such fond memories of getting them on Saturday mornings with my dad – doughnuts and baseball cards, even though I didn’t know a lick about baseball!).
  • When I wear big sunglasses while driving, I feel like no one can see me when I sing at the top of my lungs and car dance. (Or maybe I just don’t care that people can see me… hmmm…)
  • I always carry a red pen. (It must be the editor in me.)
  • I truly believe trees know things. (I’m a Virgo – Earth element – so I guess that makes sense.)
  • I use nutmeg as often as possible.
  • I am incredibly shy.
  • I love folk/bluegrass music a little too much.
  • I want to own a farm someday with sheep, chickens and a huge vegetable garden.

Thanks for joining me on this journey – hopefully, there will be plenty of laughs, ah-ha’s and useful information along the way!