Category Archives: drinks

Take a Break, Get a Book

**Giveaway closed as of 8:00 p.m., May 25, 2011**

You guys. I need a break. I spent a good portion of the day yesterday scraping bumble bee stickers off a bedroom window with my old library card. Bumble bee stickers. As if I needed another reason to dislike bees. Stingy and sticky. We’re not currently not on speaking terms.

How about you? Could you use a break? A pick-me-up? Maybe of the cool, refreshing, sweet/tart variety? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Ahhh. Yes. The sound of tinkling ice cubes is like music after a long hard day. Is it blazing hot where you are? Then get out of here, I’m mad at you. Please take our cold, clouds and rain with you.

I’m kidding. You can totally stay. If you stick around, we can relax in a couple of virtual rocking chairs, have a cool glass of refreshing, rosy lemonade and I’ll tell you all about a fabulous GIVEAWAY coming at ya right now!

My little corner of the internet turns three on Saturday. Awww. My baby is growing up. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. We’ve been through a lot together and I’m so grateful for all of you, especially while I was on hiatus there trying to move. Twice. So, just to say hey, thanks for playing, I’m offering you a chance to get your hands on a pretty cool cookbook.

A couple months ago, I got an email from a rep from Andrews McMeel Publishing asking if I’d like a preview copy of a new book called Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig to mention here on the blog.

Would I? HECK YES, I would. I jumped all over this one like white on rice. First, I was so humbled and honored that someone took the time to read my blog, learn a bit about me and offer me a product that totally fits with what I’m all about. How refreshing! I’m a Heartland girl born and raised and it’s no secret how much I love Midwest. I was excited to get my hands on a book featuring food and stories from my little slice of the country. And second, I got an additional copy just for YOU!

Oh my goodness, friends. This is a beautiful book. You don’t have to be in the Midwest to appreciate the wonderful fresh ideas, gorgeous photos and nostalgic stories. Judith is clearly passionate about Midwest, it’s people and it’s food history and tradition. It’s wonderfully written and full of Heartland goodies. I will say a few of the recipes contain ingredients that even I, smack dab in the middle of the middle west, may have a hard time locating, but they are easily substituted for something more readily available. For example, I’m not sure where one would procure pheasant (less one shoots it themselves) but the recipe could easily be made with chicken, as noted. πŸ™‚

This book is full of delightful pantry basics like jams and sauces; hearty, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast fare; versatile bread recipes that can be made into loaves, rolls, coffee cakes, pizza crusts and more; soups, salads and main dishes brimming with the best of the Heartland harvest; and mouthwatering desserts that are perfect for sharing. In addition, it’s packed with resources on where to find the best of the best in ingredients, food and experiences right here in the Midwest!

I jumped right in by trying the Porch Swing Lemonade (recipe follows), and the Sunflower Cookie Brittle (coming soon!) and both were wonderful. I’m officially in love with this book. If you live in and love the Midwest like I do, if you’re a former resident transplanted elsewhere and looking for a little taste of home, or if you’re just curious about the people, food and culture of this (highly underrated, in my humble opinion) part of the country, please consider checking out this book!

Here’s how to enter:

Leave me a comment telling me about a favorite food or food tradition from your city or state (even if you’re not in
the Midwest).

You have until 8:00 p.m. central time, Wednesday, May 25 to leave your comment and I’ll use to pick a winner! Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (my apologies to international readers). Sorry, family…you’re not eligible either.

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Andrews McMeel Publishing – they provided me with two copies of Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions expressed in this post are my own.


Now, the lemonade. As a rule, I’m not a big fruit juice person, but if there is one thing I absolutely cannot resist, it’s fresh-squeezed lemonade, especially when it leans toward tart. It’s so refreshing. When I spotted this recipe featuring fresh lemonade kicked up a notch with a syrup made from an early spring Midwest favorite – Rhubarb – I knew I would love it.

And I did! Rhubarb, sugar and water cook down into a thick, perfectly pink syrup and from there it’s mixed with lemon juice and water and garnished with a bit of fresh rosemary. The result is an all-natural, rosy-cheeked lemonade with subtle rhubarb and floral notes. Depending how sweet you like it, you can add additional sugar to the finished product. I found that just the addition of the rhubarb syrup made it plenty sweet for my taste (and I actually decreased the sugar a bit when making the syrup) but remember I’m all about tart so adjust accordingly to your taste. πŸ™‚

Like I said, I need a break. If you do too, whip up a batch of this, grab a good book or a good friend and hit the porch. Stay there all afternoon. You’ll be relaxed, refreshed and recharged in no time.

PORCH SWING LEMONADE (Recipe adapted from: Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig, pages 34 & 127)


  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 7 large lemons)
  • 1 1/2 cups Rosy Rhubarb Syrup (recipe follows), Fresh Herb Syrup, or Blackberry-Lavender Syrup (you’ll just have to win the book to get these recipes which sound DIVINE, by the way!) πŸ˜‰
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Sugar, for sweetening (if desired)
  • Fresh lemon slices for garnish
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, for garnish


In a large pitcher, stir together the lemon juice, syrup, water and sugar, if using. Add lemon slices and rosemary. Taste, and add more sugar if necessary. Serve cold and poured over ice.


  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or thawed frozen
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar (I used only about 1-1/4 cups)
  • Juice of two lemons (because I used less sugar, I used only the juice of one lemon)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the rhubarb and water to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer the rhubarb until tender and pulpy (it will basically fall apart), about 10 minutes.

Strain out the pulp over a bowl, reserving the juice. Measure the juice and add enough water to equal two cups. Return the liquid to the saucepan and stir in sugar. Bring to a boil once more and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Allow syrup to cool (it thickens as it cools). Strain the syrup again, and pour into an airtight container or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.


Giveaway starts…NOW!

Ready, set, ENTER! Good luck everybody! πŸ™‚



Filed under drinks, fruit

Smoothie Sob Story

Edited: Had a funny little story here about trying to get a smoothie at my favorite place. Decided to remove it because that place is now gone, it appears. Sorries!

That is the true smoothie sob story. I am so so so sad. 😦

The good news is – it’s really easy to make smoothies at home. This is how I do it up in my kitchen – one of those non-recipe recipes, if you will. Eric really likes these for breakfast on the weekend! I love to use fresh fruit if I have it on hand, but frozen is fine in a pinch. Blend it up, pour into a glass and enjoy! The most time consuming part is hand washing the blender – which, if I’m being honest, is what keeps me from making smoothies at home more often.

I am nothing if I am not lazy. Even in the kitchen. πŸ™‚



  • 2 cups fruit (this time I used a combo of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt – any flavor (well, maybe not ANY flavor, I probably wouldn’t use that Boston Cream Pie flavor or whatever, but to each his own. I used peach this time)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey (or to taste)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of low fat milk (or to taste – depends how thick you like yours)
  • Ice (this is optional – if I’m using all fresh fruit, I add some ice to make it thick and frothy. If I use some frozen fruit – my strawberries were frozen this time – I don’t bother with the ice)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and garnish with fruit. This made enough for about three servings.



Filed under drinks, fruit

Kool-Aid Style

Oh, yeah!

Kool-Aid rocked my socks when I was little. Picture a little blonde haired, sticky fingered, slobby shirt mini-me running around the neighborhood with a bright red tropical punch Kool-Aid mustache. It was pretty much a daily occurrence in the summer. We loved the stuff and drank it by the gallon. So many delicious fruit-filled flavors. And the colors! Oh, the spectrum of fake reds, blues and purples, ready to stain any sort of fabric, surface or skin it came in contact with. (Come on, everyone rocked a Kool-Aid stained t-shirt at some point in their life. Gotta coordinate with that mustache.) It wasn’t like it was pop or anything…so it’s not like it’s bad for you, right? True there is nothing in that powder that comes from any sort of fruit, but it’s mostly water so….can’t be too high in calories, don’t you think?

I actually have no clue about the nutritional value of this kiddie drink. I could look it up but…….yeah, not going to happen. Instead, I just spent a minute Googling and YouTube-ing (new word?) the Kool-Aid Man and wondering how it’s possible we didn’t all have nightmares as kids because that thing is all kinds of freaky-deaky.

I had Kool-Aid on the brain because I made a SPECTACULAR Strawberry Lemonade over the weekend that turned out to be a gorgeous pinky-red that looks JUST like our childhood fave. The main difference…this one is all natural, made with real fruit and has not a speck of mystery chemical dye. And it tastes 110% better than anything from a powder or jug you can get at the store.

This fab summer drink gets its color from boiling strawberries and sugar in water, crushing up the fruit and straining out the pulp. Add your freshly squeezed lemon juice and ta-da! A delicious drink with a great color! I contemplated adding a bit more lemon juice, as I tend to like my lemonade drinks a bit more tart than the average person, but in the end I decided to follow the recipe exactly. Next time I will add more lemon. It’s very good as is, not overly sweet, but I need a bit more of a lemon punch.



  • 3Β  or 4 lemons
  • About 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2Β  teaspoonΒ  salt
  • 1Β  cupΒ  strawberries, hulled
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • Thin lemon slices (optional)


1. Cut the lemons in half and ream juice from them. Pour the juice through a fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup and discard the seeds and pulp. You should have 1/2 cup. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Place 4 cups water, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and strawberries in a pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir often with a spoon and, using the back of it, crush the berries. Continue to boil, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled.

3. Pour the chilled syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher; discard the pulp. Add the lemon juice to syrup and stir well. Taste, and adjust to desired sweetness.

4. Pour lemonade into glasses. Serve with ice cubes and garnish with thin lemon slices.

Note: Recipe makes four 8 oz. servings. Double to refresh more of your friends! πŸ™‚

PS….aren’t these handled mason jar glasses super cute?? I LOVE them! They were on super clearance at World Market the last time I was there (um, not around here….we don’t have cool stores around here). When I saw they were less than a dollar each, I snatched them up! I just couldn’t resist!


Filed under drinks, fruit

Holiday Grog

Grog? What’s Grog? Sounds kind of, sort of like something I might step in that would mess up my shoes. Ha.

Luckily, that’s not the case. It’s actually a super yummy, deliciously spicy, delightfuly warm apple cranberry drink. I thought it would be a nice change of pace from the usual cider or hot chocolate for the open house. Huge hit. This recipe will be featured in my next volunteer newsletter! πŸ™‚

I didn’t get a pic because I made it in my crock that has a black insert and I had had nothing to serve it in but icky Styrofoam cups, so yeah…not real pretty for pics. I just had to share the recipe, because it was so so good.

HOLIDAY GROG (Recipe Source: Gooseberry Patch – Coming Home For Christmas)


  • 2 cans frozen apple juice
  • equal amounts cranberry juice
  • 2 oranges, sliced and studded with cloves
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • sprinkle of nutmeg


Prepare apple juice according to package directions using water or apple cider (I used water). Pull all ingredients in a crock pot or heat on stove until hot. Ladle into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick, if desired.


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Filed under drinks, fruit