Sunday, June 29, 2014

Freshly Squeezed Lemonade

The county where I grew up in Ohio hosted the largest county fair in the state. It was as big or bigger than most state fairs, with a ton of livestock, vendors, rides, and amazing fair food. There were these little lemonade booths all over the fair that always had lines of people waiting to get a cup. For me, it was always my first stop when I arrived at the fair. In high school, a lot of my friends worked at these lemonade stands and I often hung out with them helping to portion the lemons and shake the lemonades. It smelled so good in those booths, and the lemonade was sooooo good and refreshing. Little chunks of lemon mixed with sweet sugar water - I could pass on all the other fair food to have one cup of that lemonade. It was that good.

The boys are big fans as well. The other night, we went out for dinner, and before the server could introduce herself, Lex said, "I'll have a lemonade with strawberries in it, please." It was pretty cute. He finished off 3 cups by the end of the meal.

All that said, you just can't find that fair kind of lemonade in the juice aisle at the grocery store.  That taste only comes from squeezing the juice right from the fruit itself. And as it turns out, it's actually pretty easy!

Here are the ingredients you'll need:

8-10 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 cups of water, divided


1.) Zest 4 of the lemons
2.) Squeeze the juice from the lemons
3.) Heat 2 cups of water over low-medium heat and stir in the zest and lemon juice. It doesn't need to reach boiling - just enough to dissolve the sugar. This is your simple syrup.
4.) This step is optional. If you don't like little floaty things in your drink, then strain the heated mixture so the zest doesn't make it into the final mixture. Personally, I like the chunks. I think it makes it taste fresh and it also makes me think of that fair lemonade I love so much. Your call. 
4.) Pour the remaining 6 cups of water into a pitcher or large glass jar
5.) Add the simple syrup mixture to the water and stir well.
6.) Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 I hope you enjoy a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Three Bean Salad

 For this edition of my Summer Salad Series (see end of this post for the other recipes), I'm bringing you a classic, easy, low fat salad. If you haven't made it before, you've probably at least tasted it. The recipe is in just about every cookbook I own. It is colorful, and its vinegar based dressing gives it a tangy bite. Since it's all beans, it has a "meatier" texture than the other salads I've posted.


To begin, drain 1 can each of kidney beans, green beans, and garbanzo beans and put them in a bowl.

Dice 1/2 cup green pepper.

Dice 1/3 cup red onions.

Stir pepper and onions together with beans.

For dressing, combine 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 T. sugar, 2 T. olive oil, 1/2 t. ground mustard, and 1 clove garlic minced. Mix well. 

Mix the dressing in with the beans and refrigerate. This salad tastes better after the dressing has marinated with the salad for a while. This serves about 6 people for side dishes.  I would double it if I was taking it somewhere.

 Here are some of the other salads I've posted this summer.

1.) Grilled Corn Salad with Basil Dressing
2.) Watermelon Salad with Balsamic Dressing
3.) Cucumber Dill Greek Yogurt Salad
4.) Caprese Salad with Basil Pesto
5.) Southern Western Salad with Marinated Chicken

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bucket List Update

Here's a quick update of what we've completed off our bucket list so far this summer. Half way done and it's only 3 1/2 weeks into summer vacation. Not to shabby!

1. Build a camp fire - Done!

2. Make s'mores - Done!

3. Build crystal sun catchers
4. Go camping - Done!

5. Catch fireflies - Done!

6. Build sand castles
7. Run through sprinkler  - Done!

8. Have dessert for dinner
9. Make a picnic
10. Water paint outside - Done!

11. Make root beer floats - Done!

12. Make a bird feeder
13. Make homemade lemonade
14. Participate in library's summer reading program - In progress
15. Go to a Nature Center
16. Visit a new park - Done!

17. Go fishing - Done!

18. Hike a new trail
19. Swim in a creek

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Preserving Mint

If you've ever grown mint, you know that it tends to go out of control. I put a little plant in my front garden bed 2 summers ago, and it is massive now. I hate to see herbs go to waste, but we just don't eat a ton of mint. On that note, I decided to try preserving some to use other times of the year. I did some research and determined that freezing it was the way to go.

 I chopped up a big bunch of mint. Next time I will probably use the food processor and do more of a puree, but this worked fine too.

I put a loosely filled tablespoon of mint in each compartment of an ice cube tray.

Then filled them with water...

And froze them. Once they were frozen, I simply put them in freezer bags.

There's a few way to use the mint using this method. You can put a whole ice cube straight into a smoothie or juicer, or drop a few into a gazpacho. I like to put them in a glass of water, but you do get floating chunks of mint. If you want the actual mint, you can melt the ice cube and let the mint dry out on a paper towel. Fresh mint is pretty strong, so any of these methods will still yield plenty of flavor. Any other suggestions for preserving mint? Please share!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Camping Trip

Last year, we introduced Lex to camping with some good friends of ours and their son. This year, we started an annual tradition by going again with our friends. Eli came along this time too.

For this one night trip, we went to a pretty primitive campsite. There is an outhouse and a well pump with drinking water, but no electric and no other amenities. I grew up camping this way, so it doesn't phase me at all. Camping is all about being in nature.

The first couple of hours were spent just setting up the camp. We worked on laying out food where we wanted it, setting up tents, and basically getting the camp fire going. Last year, we bought this awesome Coleman tent that seriously goes up in less than 2 minutes. It's so convenient and easy that I wonder how on earth in took the camping industry so long to design it.  I've put together some pretty complicated tents in my days. 

Here is Eli "helping" put the stakes in the ground for our friends' tent.

Here's the boys getting the lay of the land in our tent. We have a no shoe policy in the tent so that dirt doesn't get tracked all over it. It still usually needs to be swept out by the end of the trip, but this helps a lot.

We typically don't need to provide entertainment for the boys when we're camping or doing anything outdoors for that matter. They find sticks, logs, and bugs to keep themselves busy. On this trip, though, I found this cute scavenger hunt for them to do. They loved it.  Here's the link to not only this scavenger hunt, but lots of other free scavenger hunts, too. Since it has pictures, even Eli could do it independently.

As for other kids activities, the boys found plenty of things to hang from.

 Or observe...

 Or drive (Aside from nature, dump trucks and glow sticks kept them occupied for much of the time.)

 Or climb on.

 Once we had tents set up and things somewhat organized around camp, we broke out the hot dogs for the boys to start cooking. Yep, we kept it pretty simple. We didn't even bring camp fire hot dog skewers. We just went into the woods and gathered up sticks that we thought would work. They had lots of fun cooking their own meal.

 And for dessert, of course we roasted marshmallows. See that puff of smoke in front of Lex? That's his marshmallow. He was less interested in eating the marshmallows and more interested in catching them on fire and then blowing them out.

Eli and Peyton seemed more interested in just having food on a stick that they could wave around.

And of course there were S'mores.

We also had yummy rice krispie treats.

 After dinner, s'mores, and snacks, all the kids played in the tent, while the grown-ups hung out by the fire.

 It was a beautiful evening.

 The next morning, we heated water on the camping stove for instant coffee.

And cooked up some bacon and eggs over the campfire.

 Then the boys took all of their dump trucks and had some fun on the little road that ran through the campground.


 And here are the boys after a fun night of camping!
  And we left with a family of happy campers!