Back to Basics: Lemonade and Sweet Tea

Lemonade & Sweet TeaWhen I first moved out on my own, I didn’t know how to make ANYTHING in the kitchen.  I could open a can or a package and that was the extent of my culinary knowledge.  I even needed a recipe for lemonade and sweet tea!  I can make many things without a recipe these days, but I’ve had eleven years of practice.

It’s okay to need a recipe for the basics when you’re just starting out.  Or maybe sugary sweet southern drinks have never been part of your kitchen routine.

Here are some very basic recipes for Lemonade and Sweet Tea.  You may want to add more or less sugar depending on your personal taste.  You can always add in other flavors to create more complex drinks.

Lemonade

Ingredients

  • Fresh lemons (6-8)
  • Filtered Water
  • Sugar
  • One Lime

Directions

  1. Juice lemons until you have 1c of fresh squeezed lemon juice.  The number of lemons will vary, usually 4-6.
  2. Juice one lime.
  3. Bring 1c of water to a rolling boil and dissolve 1c of sugar in the boiling water.  Remove from heat once sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add the lemon and lime juice to a pitcher with the simple syrup we just made.  Add 4-6c (more or less depending on taste) of fresh, filtered cold water to the pitcher and stir.  Slice one whole lemon and add to the pitcher.  Stir and serve well chilled.  You can add more or less water depending on how tart/sweet you like your lemonade.

Sweet Tea

Ingredients

  • 2qt pitcher
  • filtered water
  • ice
  • Orange/black pekoe tea bags (approx. 7-8 small bags or 3-4 family size bags depending on how strong you like your tea)
  • sugar

Directions

  1. Bring a small pot of water a rolling boil and add 1c of sugar until dissolved.
  2. Add the tea bags to the boiling water/sugar solution and turn off the heat.  Let tea steep for 7 minutes.
  3. While tea is steeping, fill the pitcher with ice all the way to the top.
  4. When tea is done steeping, pour it into the ice filled pitcher.  Continue to pour water over the tea bags and fill the pitcher until it is full.  Stir well.
  5. You can serve immediately as the ice should sufficiently cool the tea.  Any tea served right away will be stronger and generally sweeter than tea served later as the ice will melt and dilute the tea further as it sits in the refrigerator.
  6. You can add lemon, mint, or raspberry syrup for a yummy treat.

One of my most FAVORITE drinks is an Arnold Palmer.  Simply fill a glass half full with lemonade and half full with tea.  It is simple, yet divine for the taste buds!

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Valentine Brownies

valentine browniesA brownie is one of my all-time favorite desserts.  There’s just something so delicious about that rich, fudgey taste.  Did you know that whipping up brownies from scratch is actually super simple and doesn’t really require much more work than using a mix?  These brownies are one of my favorite Valentine’s Day treats.

Ingredients

  • 1/2c melted butter
  • 1c granulated white sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • 1/4c white chocolate chips
  • 1/4c Valentine M&Ms

For Sprinkling on top:

  • 1/8c white chocolate chips
  • 1/8c Valentine M&Ms

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and grease an 8″ pan.
  2. Melt butter, stir in sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs.
  3. Beat in cocoa, flour, salt, baking powder, 1/4c chocolate chips, and 1/4c M&Ms.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining 1/8c chocolate chips and 1/8c M&Ms on top.
  5. Bake 25-30 minutes.

10 Ways to Keep Your Kitchen Clean

  1. Ten Ways To Keep Your Kitchen CleanGet rid of clutter.  No one needs fifty plastic cups!  If there are cups dishes, bake ware, or appliances that you never really use, donate them.
  2. Nest objects when possible.  There’s a reason that plates, cups, bowls, bake ware, flat ware, and virtually every other item in your kitchen is made to nest inside of each other.  It keeps them all neat and tidy and saves you space.
  3. Use baskets.  If you’re short on space, there’s no reason to keep all those bulky cardboard boxes that so many foods come in.  Get a basket and dump those fruit snacks, cereal bars, and snack size snack bags in it.  You’ll save cabinet space and all your snacks will be in one place which makes snack time or lunch prep easier.  You can also do this with measuring cups and spoons.
  4. Get vertical.  If you’re short on space, don’t forget that you can go vertical!  Ceiling racks for pots and pans can give you more cabinet space.  Installing wood or wire shelves in the kitchen can give you more space for canned or boxed goods.
  5. Always keep your sink clean.  I know, you’re thinking I’m nuts, but once you start doing it you won’t go back.  Dirty dishes in the sink make the room look cluttered and dirty even when it isn’t.  By keeping dishes in the dishwasher or washed as they’re used you don’t have to go back and do it later.
  6. Keep like objects together.  It seems like common sense, but sometimes we just get in the habit of slinging things into drawers or cabinets when we’re pressed for time.  If you keep all your like items together, you always know where they are and it’s quicker to both get them out and put them up.
  7. Ditch the table linens.  If you have kids you know why I say this.  It’s just easier to keep the table wiped off and cleaned up if you don’t have to worry about shaking out crumbs every time you serve a meal or snack.
  8. Do a bi-weekly fridge clean out.  Clean out the fridge on grocery day and trash day.  If those are close together, pick one and then another day earlier/later in the week.  It’ll keep you from buying things you don’t need at the store as well as give you more space for fresh foods.
  9. Wipe down counters and sweep floors after each meal.  It takes just a few minutes and this way cereal and other crumbs don’t get tracked into other rooms.
  10. Do a deep cleaning a few times a year.  Three or four times a year, do a deep clean. Reorganize your cabinets and give the kitchen a good scrub down.  You can throw out or donate items that you are no longer using during this time.

Bread Machine Buns

There are few smells more enticing than fresh made bread.  I can remember walking into the Merita bread store on Saturdays when I was little.  My mom and grandpa would pick out bread while my sister and I would descend on the snack cakes and pick out a treat.  The smell of fresh bread permeated the air and wafted its way into our being.

Nowadays I have my bread machine right here at home and that smell can be created anytime I want fresh bread.  One of my favorite things to make is fresh buns.  Hamburger or hot dog style, they just taste so much better when they’re fresh!  They also freeze really well if you end up with leftovers.  Here is my go to bun recipe.

Bread Machine BunsBread Machine Buns

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4c warm water
  • 2tbsp yeast
  • 1/2c applesauce
  • 2tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 4 1/2c to 4 3/4c all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • butter for brushing before you bake

Directions

  1. Sprinkle the yeast into the water and let it foam for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed.  You will likely want to start with the 4 1/2c flour and add more if needed.  This recipe tends to need more or less flour depending on the humidity.
  3. Turn the bread machine to the dough setting and let it mix the dough.  If you notice the dough is super sticky, add more flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer runny.  It will be a sticky dough, but it should form a ball as the bread machine mixes.
  4. Once the bread machine completes the dough cycle, spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or coat with your choice of oil.  Turn the dough onto the baking sheet and knead a few times until it no longer sticks to your fingers.
  5. Divide the dough into 8-12 equal sized portions and roll into a ball for hamburger buns or a log for hot dog buns.  If you want smaller buns, divide the dough into smaller portions.  Place the buns on the greased baking sheet.  You may find it easier to use two greased sheets, one to knead the dough and one to place the buns on.
  6. Cover the buns and let them rise for one hour.
  7. Brush the top of the buns with softened butter.
  8. Bake the buns for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned at 425*F.
  9. Slice your buns and enjoy!  Leftovers freeze nicely individually wrapped.

 

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles

Pumpkin Spice SnickerdoodlesAnother new twist on an old classic. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodle Cookies

Ingredients

Cookie Dough

  • 2    3/4c All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1 c Butter Flavored Crisco, room temperature
  • 1 c Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 c Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Coating

  • 1/3 c Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate large bowl beat shortening and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add in eggs one at a time.  Scrape down bowl and beat in vanilla.
  3. Add flour mixture 1/3 at a time, beat on medium until a smooth dough forms.
  4. Place dough on parchment or wax paper and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.
  5. Once dough is ready to roll and bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place rack in center of oven.
  6. Mix sugar and cinnamon for coating in a shallow bowl wide enough to roll dough balls in.
  7. Take spoonfuls of dough and roll into 1″ balls (you can make them a little smaller or  a little larger to suit your tastes).
  8. Roll dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place 2″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Flatten dough balls slightly with two fingers.
  10. Bake 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.

Butterscotch Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Butterscotch Cinnamon Roll CookiesRemember our cinnamon roll cookie recipe from a couple of years back?  I bet you do if you’ve made it because it’s one of my most requested!  I have a fun spin on that recipe to add to your holiday cookie trays.  What’s better than cinnamon roll cookies?  Butterscotch cinnamon roll cookies of course!

Butterscotch Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Filling
2/3c chopped butterscotch chips
3tbs brown sugar
1tb cinnamon

Cookie Dough
1 cup shortening (all vegetable or butter  flavor)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I add a little extra)

1.  For filling combine ingredients in a food processor or mini chopper and chop until you get a sandy texture.  Set aside.
*If you do not have a food processor or mini chopper, you can chop the butterscotch chips by hand or put them in a plastic baggy and break them up with a rolling-pin.

2.  For cookie dough, combine shortening and brown sugar in large bowl.  Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended.

3.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl.  Add to creamed mixture and mix well.

4.  Turn dough onto waxed, freezer, or parchment paper. I recommend the shiny side of freezer paper.  Spread dough into a 9X6 rectangle near top of paper using a spatula and your hands.  You can also use a rolling-pin to help flatten the dough.  Smooth over any cracks with your finger.

5.  Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of cinnamon mixture to within ½ inch from edge.  Roll up dough jelly roll style starting with end closest to the edge of the paper (so your log will end up closer to center of paper).  Go slowly and smooth over any cracks with your fingers.   This is a stiff dough and can be difficult to work with as it cracks easily during the rolling process.  Just go slow and you’ll master it!  Dust your completed log with the remaining cinnamon mixture.Butterscotch Cinnamon Roll Cookies 2

6.  Roll your log up in the freezer paper and freeze overnight (I’ve even froze this for a week or two).  Trust me, you want to freeze for as long as you can to make cutting this stiff dough easier.

7.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Slice dough ¼ to ½ inch based on preference.  Thicker slices are less likely to fall apart.  If you do have any cracking, just smooth the cookie back together.  It will still taste the same.  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until slightly browned on top.  Cool on sheets for five minutes and then transfer to cooling rack.

Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie

Gingersnap Pumpkin PieWhat’s better than pumpkin pie?  Pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust of course!

Crust

  1. Crush 2 1/2  to 3 cups of gingersnaps in the food processor or by hand.  Combine with 4tbsp of melted butter and firmly press into a lightly greased 9″ pie pan.
  2. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 10-12 minutes.

Pie Filling

Ingredients

  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4tsp cloves
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 15oz can pure pumpkin
  • 3/4c whole milk or heavy cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425*F.
  2. Combine sugar and spices in a bowl, set aside.
  3. Beat eggs and stir pumpkin into eggs.
  4. Stir sugar mixture into eggs and pumpkin.
  5. Slowly stir in milk or cream.
  6. Pour mixture into your pre-baked gingersnap shell.
  7. Bake pie for 15 minutes at 425*F,
  8. Reduce temperature to 350*F and continue to bake for 40-55 additional minutes.

Apple Cake

Apple Bundt CakeFall is a celebration for me.  The scents, the colors, the rich flavors.  They make my whole being come alive.

There are few fall recipes that will make your home smell as warm and welcoming as this one.  It just screams ‘old fashioned’ and delicious.  I’ve played with different variations of this cake for the last few years and have finally tweaked it to be my ultimate, go to fall cake recipe.  It was good in its original form, but now, it’s just scrumptious!

Ingredients

Apple Mix

  • 6 apples (Whatever variety or combination you like best.  I’ve used fuji, macintosh, golden delicious, etc)
  • 1tbsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp sugar

Batter

  • Apple Cake2 & 3/4c all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cider spice
  • 1/2c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2c applesauce
  • 1 & 1/2c sugar
  • 1/4c fruit juice (orange, cranberry, apple, etc will all work well)
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a bundt pan and set aside.
  2. Peel, core, and chop the apples.  Toss with cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Set aside.
  3. Stir flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cider spice together in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together pumpkin puree, applesauce, juice, sugar, and vanilla.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  6. Beat in eggs one at a time and continue to whisk until fully combined.
  7. Pour half the batter into the greased bundt pan then pour half the apples over the batter.
  8. Pour the remaining batter over the apples, top with the other half of apples.
  9. Bake for 90 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool and then transfer to a cake plate.  Enjoy as is or top with your favorite sugar glaze.

 

Butterscotch Cinnamon Rolls

Butterscotch Cinnamon RollsA big bag of butterscotch chips has eyed me for about a month from our pantry.  I didn’t want butterscotch cookies or haystacks, not pudding.  I did want cinnamon rolls, and thus, butterscotch cinnamon rolls begged to be made.  And they were good…so good they were worthy of the extra cardio I had to put in 😉

Roll Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast (you can substitute bread machine yeast as I did, just follow the conversion on your bottle of bread machine yeast)
  • 1/4c warm water
  • 1 1/2c buttermilk
  • 1/2c unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 1/2c all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4c butterscotch chips

Roll Filling Ingredients

  • 1c butterscotch chips
  • 3 or 4tbs vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2c brown sugar
  • cinnamon to sprinkle

Roll Dough Directions – Bread Machine

  1. Dissolve the yeast and water in your bread machine pan.  Let it get nice and creamy, this takes about ten minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat your buttermilk on low/medium heat until it is warm to the touch.  Stir constantly.
  3. Pour the buttermilk and applesauce into the yeast and water mixture.
  4. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and butterscotch chips.
  5. Turn the bread machine on its dough setting and let it mix.  If the dough seems too sticky, add flour 1tbs at a time until the dough starts pulling away from the sides.  The butterscotch chips will melt into the dough.
  6. When the bread machine completes its dough cycle, dump your dough on a floured surface and knead just a couple of times.
  7. Roll the dough out into a rectangle.
  8. Butterscotch Cinnamon Roll DoughMelt your butterscotch chips with the vanilla extract.  I just pop mine in the microwave for ten seconds at a time and stir.  DO NOT overheat the chips or they’ll be ruined.  Just patiently stir, stir, stir, and they will melt easily.
  9. Once your chips and extract mixture are melted, spread them out over your dough.  Get almost all the way to the edge, leaving just a bit to seal your ends.
  10. After the butterscotch mixture is spread, sprinkle on brown sugar.  You can really use as little or as much as you want here, I used far less than 1/4c and the rolls were still sweet and gooey.  Then sprinkle cinnamon over the butterscotch and brown sugar.  However much you prefer. I used freshly ground cinnamon which was pretty potent so I only lightly sprinkled.
  11. Roll your dough up into a long log.  Pinch the seams tightly to seal all that gooey goodness inside.  Slice your log into 1″ rolls and place on a greased baking sheet.
  12. Cover the rolls and let them rise for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.
  13. If you’re baking immediately, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Let stand to cool slightly before serving.  You can serve as is or with your favorite icing.

Roll Dough Directions – By Hand

  1. Dissolve the yeast and water in a large bowl.  Let it get nice and creamy, this takes about ten minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat your buttermilk on low/medium heat until it is warm to the touch.  Stir constantly.
  3. Pour the buttermilk and applesauce into the yeast and water mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and butterscotch chips.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the yeast mixture 1 cup at a time until a soft dough forms.
  6. Turn the dough on a floured surface and knead about twenty times until the dough is no longer sticky.  If you find the dough is still sticky, knead in more flour 1tbs at a time.
  7. Roll the dough out into a rectangle.
  8. Melt your butterscotch chips with the vanilla extract.  I just pop mine in the microwave for ten seconds at a time and stir.  DO NOT overheat the chips or they’ll be ruined.  Just patiently stir, stir, stir, and they will melt easily.
  9. Once your chips and extract mixture are melted, spread them out over your dough.  Get almost all the way to the edge, leaving just a bit to seal your ends.
  10. After the butterscotch mixture is spread, sprinkle on brown sugar.  You can really use as little or as much as you want here, I used far less than 1/4c and the rolls were still sweet and gooey.  Then sprinkle cinnamon over the butterscotch and brown sugar.  However much you prefer. I used freshly ground cinnamon which was pretty potent so I only lightly sprinkled.
  11. Roll your dough up into a long log.  Pinch the seams tightly to seal all that gooey goodness inside.  Slice your log into 1″ rolls and place on a greased baking sheet.
  12. Cover the rolls and let them rise for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.
  13. If you’re baking immediately, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Let stand to cool slightly before serving.  You can serve as is or with your favorite icing.

Bread Machine: Zucchini Bread

Zucchini BreadI love a good bread recipe.  One that also has veggies, fruit, and seeds, well then I’m in heaven.  Here is one of my favorite zucchini bread recipes for the bread machine.

Ingredients

  • 1/2c pumpkin purée (you could also use canola or vegetable oil, but pumpkin just ups the healthy factor of the recipe)
  • 1 and 1/8c shredded zucchini
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • 1/3c granulated sugar
  • 2 and 1/4c all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2c  raisins
  • 1/4c chopped dates
  • 1/4c sunflower seeds
  • 1/4c pumpkin seeds

Directions

  1. Place ingredients into the bread machine in the order listed.
  2. Set bread machine to quick bread or cake cycle.  Start bread machine.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bread machine pan a few minutes after mixing begins to make sure batter is fully mixed.
  4. The batter will resemble cake batter.  If it seems too thick, add water 1tbs at a time.  If it seems too thin or runny, add flour 1tbs at a time.
  5. Let bread machine run the full cycle.
  6. When baking cycle is complete remove bread from the machine and cool on a wire rack.

Store bread in plastic wrap or a zip-top plastic bag.  This bread is great by itself and makes decadent french toast if you have leftovers.