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.

Chipotle Bean Burritos (Vegetarian)

Chipotle Bean BurritoI love meat. Sometimes I just need a big, juicy steak with a pat of garlic butter on top. But most of the time, I don’t enjoy cooking meat (it’s really the raw part I don’t much care for)… so we don’t eat a whole lot of it (my poor husband!).

Growing up, some sort of meat was served for dinner every night. It was the focal point of the dinner plate. So, I grew up thinking that a meal wasn’t a real meal without meat. Even today, at this very moment as I share this recipe with you, I almost feel guilty about not including meat (ground turkey would be pretty tasty in this…).

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste and texture of this dish, which was inspired by an old Cooking Light magazine article. I made a few tweaks to the recipe and really didn’t miss the meat at all (for shame!).

So, next weekend when you’re wondering what on earth you’re going to fix for Meatless Monday, try this recipe out – it takes 15 minutes to make, it’s vegetarian and practically guilt-free.

 

Chipotle Bean Burritos (Vegetarian)

*Inspired by Cooking Light

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon ground red chipotle

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup water

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained

1 (15 oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained

1 (4 oz.) can green chilies

¼ cup chipotle salsa

Juice of 1 lime

4 reduced-fat flour tortillas

Toppings:

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

3 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped

1 avocado, sliced

Cilantro

Shredded cheese

Sour cream

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pan to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the ground red chipotle and salt. Then add the water, beans and green chilies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

While bean mixture is simmering, prepare tomatoes, lettuce, green onions and avocado.

When bean mixture is done, use a wooden spoon to mash the beans just a bit. Then stir in the salsa and lime juice.

Assemble the burritos with your desired toppings, give one more squeeze of lime and a touch of cilantro to the filling before rolling it up, and enjoy!

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and Spaghetti

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and SpaghettiAh, medical the power of a tweet! In a matter of seconds, viagra buy you can find a wealth of information on any subject just by sending a tweet or searching Twitter’s recent activity. It’s amazing how instant gratification just got a little more… instantaneous.

Case in point: Most of my meals consist of potatoes, breads, rice, pasta… you get the idea. I can’t help it. I love starch. So, when I decided to try this new low-carb diet, I was at a loss. My culinary creativity was stunted (must have been the lack of sugar in my system) and all I could think about was how much I wanted a greasy pizza and chocolate cake.

So, I tweeted (panicked) about needing low-carb dinner suggestions – and quick, before I gave into my cravings and my diet became another one for the books. Instantly, I got terrific suggestions from my fellow tweeters, and one in particular caught my attention: Dreamfields’ low-carb pasta. Uhm, hello? Low-carb pasta? I think the best of both worlds just emerged in my very own Twitter feed.

Honestly, I was a little skeptical about how this low-carb pasta was going to taste. Would it be gummy and have a strange texture? Would it have off-putting flavors to compensate for the lack of carbohydrates? Not. At. All. I LOVED everything about this no-guilt pasta!

To top it all off, this meal comes together in 15 minutes – seriously. It’s a perfect, delicious, feels-like-I’m-having-a-gourmet-meal, quick fix (save) for those not-so-friendly, ruin-your-diet cravings. (Whew!)

*A big thank you to my dear friend @MLBee and Dreamfields for sending me the delicious pasta. I don’t normally endorse specific products because everyone’s tastes are different, but this is truly an exceptional product. Try it out!

 

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and Spaghetti

1 package Dreamfields spaghetti

½ bag frozen shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined

1 recipe cilantro pesto (below)

½ lemon

Cilantro and lemon slices for garnish

Thaw the frozen shrimp and set aside. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, then drain when cooked. While the pasta is still piping hot, add the shrimp and toss. (This will warm the shrimp.) Add the cilantro pesto (as much as you’d like – I use the entire bowl.) and toss to coat the pasta and shrimp evenly. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta and garnish with cilantro and a fresh lemon slice.

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp and Spaghetti

Cilantro Pesto

1 cup cilantro, packed

1 large garlic clove

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. Then, with the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture is well-blended and at a smooth consistency. Adjust the ingredient amounts to suit your tastes. (That’s the great thing about pesto – you don’t really need to measure anything; just taste it along the way and adjust as needed.)

All-American Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie StackAhhh, the Fourth of July. Fireworks, family and food. I thought about doing a red, white and blue themed post for this very special occasion, but honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood. Then I thought about a grilling post. But let’s face it; I am the stereotypical woman when it comes to the grill: I leave it to the men (for the most part).

Wanting to be festive, I perused the grocery store aisles for inspiration. And what came to me were chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t stop thinking about those silly chocolate chip cookies! But when you think about it, how much more patriotic can you get than with America’s favorite cookie?

There is much debate over what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie, but really, you can’t go wrong with this old favorite. This is a very easy recipe – an adaptation from the Martha Stewart collection. These cookies are crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle, not to mention dripping with chocolate. Divine. Happy Fourth of July!

 

All-American Chocolate Chip Cookies

*Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, and eggs (one at a time). Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. (My cookies spread out quite a bit, so leave some room in between them!)

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center. (I’m not sure if it is the Colorado altitude or my oven, but it took my cookies about 18 minutes per sheet to bake.) Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Beet Salad with Arugula and Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Beet Salad“There once was a girl with an itty-bitty curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, troche she was very good. But when she was bad, cialis she was horrid.”

My mother used to recite this little ditty to me when I was young and would always place one of my countless tendrils in the middle of my forehead as she was speaking. I love that memory with her. I remember her smile when she would speak – it was kind of like that saying was just for us.

I’m sure this saying has more meaning behind it than I thought as a child. I was generally a very well behaved girl, but as with anyone, I had my days. This was made abundantly clear by my recent outburst… I was, indeed, horrid.

Do you ever have those days when everyone else is wrong? How about those days when everyone else is incredibly annoying, or constantly in your way? Oh, and we all know about those days when life would be going swimmingly well if it wasn’t for someone else’s mistakes, setbacks and poor decisions. I mean really, the nerve of some people.

I was recently stuck in this warped state of mind. I literally thought that everyone else was the problem and that I was in some crazy version of The Three Stooges. It wasn’t until I took a trip to the Boulder Farmer’s Market that I realized I needed to give myself a stern talking-to.

I was amidst a heaping pile of jewel-colored beets when it hit me: I am in control of my actions and I’m the only one who can change the situation. (Of course, logically, I already knew this. But sometimes everyone just needs a little reminder.)

I stared at those beets for a good five minutes, grateful for their beauty, grateful for the Earth from which they came and grateful that a couple of beet bunches would be coming home with me. With all of this beauty, why in the world would I waste my time being upset with anyone?

Today, I am incredibly grateful. And as a tribute to the beets that brought me out of my funk, here’s a simple salad of roasted beets, arugula, feta cheese and a delicate honey Dijon vinaigrette.  (There’s really no “recipe” for this – it’s all based on your personal preference.) Pair this with your favorite wine and some rustic bread for a perfect summer meal.

Mound of beets

Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula and Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette

6 large beets, any variety

Arugula

Feta cheese, sprinkling

Drizzle of the vinaigrette (recipe below)

How to roast the beets:

Preheat your oven to 375. Scrub the beets, leaving the skin on, and cut into quarters. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the beets in one layer. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and toss to coat. (Some people sprinkle salt on the beets before roasting, but I didn’t. Suit yourself.)

I always cover the beets with another layer of foil – I figure this would even out the cooking process and would essentially steam them. Cook until the beets are tender (mine took about 45 minutes, but this will vary greatly depending on your oven and beet size).

Allow the beets to cool to a temperature at which you can handle them and then peel them. The skins should easily slide right off. Cut the beets into bite-sized pieces.

 

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well mixed.

Assembling the salad:

Put a thick bed of arugula in a shallow bowl. Top with the beets and feta cheese. Drizzle the vinaigrette on top, being careful to use it sparingly so as not to overpower the sweetness of the beets (they are the stars, after all!).

Beet Salad