Saturday, March 11, 2017

If Life Gives You Lemons

You know it - make lemonade!

A while back I posted a picture of our lemon tree here.  That was back in February and since that time I have made pounds of lemon bars, cleaned multiple times with lemons, freshened the garbage disposal, and yes, made lemonade.  I still haven't made a dent on that tree.  I am making a very gallant effort though.

I can't claim credit for this lemonade recipe - it comes from Paula Deen.  However, it is very simple to remember.  Two cups of sugar/two cups of lemon juice and a gallon of water.  What makes this recipe perfect every time is a trick I call - start HOT and end COLD.  Anyway, here's the recipe:

2 c. sugar (or Stevia/Truvia or other measure for measure sugar substitute)
2 c. fresh lemon juice
1 c. hot water
enough water to fill remainder of 1 gallon container

Put the 2 cups of sugar in the bottom of a dry gallon pitcher.  You can use all sugar substitute instead of sugar as long as it is the kind suitable for baking (i.e. Stevia).  I personally think using all sugar substitute adds a little bitter aftertaste, but it isn't overwhelming.  Recently, I've been combining 1 cup sugar with 1 cup sugar substitute because I'm trying to cut back on sugar.  I didn't notice any difference in taste.  If you don't have a problem with sugar, by all means use all sugar.

Here's the HOT part that is genius.  Heat 1 cup of water and add it to the pitcher with the sugar (or sugar substitute) and stir until completely dissolved.  As a kid, one thing I always hated about lemonade or sweet tea is that I always seemed to have sugar grains at the bottom of my glass.  If you use Paula Deen's HOT trick, it won't happen again.

After dissolving the sugar in the hot water, fill the remainder of the pitcher with water.  Stir well.  Here's the COLD part that may sound obvious, but maybe not.  Serve the lemonade over ice.  A lot of ice.  The more ice cold, the better.  Lemonade actually tastes better over ice, even when it is cold.  Garnish with a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint.

Best lemonade ever and a great Southern recipe from Paula Deen.  If my family drinks a couple of gallons a day, we might clear that tree before the fall!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spring in the Desert

It's been a really wet winter here in the Southwest and that results a color we don't often see - green.

If you are in the Midwest (or anyplace else but the desert), this probably looks a bit stark, but for us this is absolutely lush.

Our green is different than the green of grass or oak trees or hydrangea bushes.  It is verde.  The exceptional rain we have had this year has made this cactus fat and happy.

Looks can be deceiving, though.  These are Teddy Bear Cholla (choy ya).  Don't you just want to reach out and stoke that fluffiness?  That would be a serious mistake as it has needles so small they can't be seen, but will bury under your skin.  Ouch!  Beauty here is meant to be observed, not touched or cultivated in another environment.

Sometimes I miss tulips, daffodils and lilies in the summer, but Mexican poppies are also perennial and have the brightest oranges and yellows.

We also have beautiful wildflowers in the brittle bush.  You may know recognize some of them in the heat of the summer or fall as tumbleweed.

It's not for everyone, but after 20 years, I can't imagine Spring any other way.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Take Two - Lemon Squares

I originally posted this recipe in 2012, but as I'm about to make it again, I thought it was time for an update on it.

2 1/4 c. sifted all purpose flour
1 c. powdered (confectioners) sugar
1 c. melted butter
4 eggs
2 c. white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
5/8 c. lemon juice
(Really?  Why can't it say just a little over 3/4 c.?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  9 x13 pan, greased.  I use parchment paper for best results and no sticking.  Melt the butter.  Combine flour and powdered sugar.  Sifting is pretty important - I actually sifted all my dry ingredients so there are no clumps.  Blend the melted butter into the dry ingredients and press the resulting dough into the bottom of your pan.  Bake 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking, squeeze 5/8 cup of lemon juice from fresh lemons (or you can use store-bought lemon juice).

In a large bowl, beat four eggs until light.  Combine the granulated sugar, baking powder and 1/4 c. of flour in a separate bowl.  (This is an extra 1/4 c. flour different from that used in the crust.)  Slowly blend the sugar mixture into the beaten eggs and then add the lemon juice. 

Pour into the prepared crust while it is still hot and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

The squares should be golden brown when they come out of the oven.  Sprinkle some powdered sugar on the top, allow to cool completely, and enjoy!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fake News & Alternative Facts

First, let me start by saying this is NOT a political post.  Having said that, a year ago who ever heard the term "fake news" or "alternative facts"? Today, we know these terms all too well.  Just in case you've been on the moon for the past 6 months, "fake news" is an article that grossly exaggerates, and in some cases, presents false information.  "Alternative facts" are actually defined by a particular event (look it up on Wikipedia), but generally are statements presented as facts, without evidence (and maybe evidence to the contrary) to support them.

I am soooo over fake news and alternative facts. So what do you do to avoid this stuff?  Facebook is working on a filter which is good because most of this stuff is on social media. If you need relief before that, here are my rules:

1.  If the title leaves you hanging ("...and You Won't Believe What Happened Next!"), it's probably a ploy to get you to click a link to a story that has very little or no content.
2.  If there is a sensational photo attached to the title, especially if the title suggests something that seems implausible, it's fake news.  You may end up looking at stock photos with lots of ads.
3.  Look at the name of the website associated with the link.  If you've never heard of it before, it's probably not a reliable source of news.
4.  Finally, if no mainstream news sources are reporting a fact, it's probably "alternative."  You can also use Google and confirm that if you don't see similar information from reliable sources.

We are living in some strange times, and there is enough craziness out there without dealing with fake news and alternative facts.  Just say no to the clicks and keep your blood pressure down!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Recipe: Chili Verde

While the Super Bowl is over, I have to share a great recipe we love, especially in winter.  This recipe is also very low-carb, which is a bonus for me.  It was a big hit for our guests, and even if we didn't appreciate the result of the big game, we enjoyed the chili. 

The trick to this recipe is the use of pork instead of chicken.  Pork stays tender.  Also, note that depending on the brand of green chile you use, your chili may be more or less spicy.  That's why at the end of the instructions it describes the use of the jalapenos or hot sauce as optional.
Chili Verde
2 lbs pork, cubed
1 cup onion, chopped
14 oz chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
2 1/2 Tbl. chicken base
1 tsp celery salt
1 Tbl. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 Tbl. cumin
1/2 Tbl jalapeno
1 Tbl. Dried cilantro
1/2 Tbl. red chili powder
10 oz green enchilada sauce
27 oz green chile, chopped
8 oz green chile, pureed
1 tsp salt

Brown pork and drain.  Add onion and chicken broth.  Simmer 1 hour, stirring often.  Add spices and a little water.  Simmer another hour, stirring often to avoid sticking.  Add green enchilada sauce, simmer 1/2 hour.  Add chopped green chiles.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Add 8 oz pureed green chile.  Use jalapeno, salt or hot sauce to taste.

This stuff is so good!