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Sweet Southern Strawberry Iced Tea

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If you’re in our neck of the woods right about now, you’re probably seeing red. Strawberry red that is. Local markets and grocery stores are being flooded with them. And this year should be a particularly good haul when you take in the April showers leading to May flowers and all. And while the prices right now, and the produce, are fantastic there’s nothing quite as good as the strawberry you pick off of the vine yourself. If you haven’t already, my advice would be to find a local patch in your neck of the woods, and get in on some of the pick your own berry goodness. It’s a fun afternoon for the whole family, and we always leave with gorgeous pictures of the kids with their strawberry stained lips and fingers. It’s the perfect natural back drop. I’ve got to confess though, that I can’t wait another week until our patch opens for picking. So, I bought a few tubs from the store. I’ll just call it ‘anticipation building’ for the main event. And one of my favorite things to make with them, and the first batch this year, is this sweet southern tea infused with all the fresh strawberry flavor. Now, doesn’t that just look like a glass full of yum.

Southern Style Strawberry Sweet Tea 2

A cold glass of this is the perfect thing to enjoy on a warm Spring day. And while it tastes all kinds of complex and you’d assume it’s complicated to make, it’s not. It’s so simple. The whole world should know. So, whether you choose to purcahse or pick em, embrace that Southern drawl, get your pitcher of tea ready, and find a front porch with a rocking chair, or even a swing, and get to sippin ya’ll!

Sweet Southern Strawberry Iced Tea

Southern Style Strawberry Sweet Tea

2 1/2 cups strawberries, washed
5 tea bags of your favorite tea.
1 cup sugar.
1/3 cup lemon juice

Directions

1. Start by making the tea. Bring four cups of water to a boil and then let the tea steep , for about 5 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients. In a food processor, or in a blender, frappe’ the strawberries.
2. You will need about 2 lemons to get 1/3 cup of lemon juice, or the stuff from the bottle works just fine.
3. After the tea has steeped for 5 minutes remove the tea bags.
4. Add the sugar to the hot tea and stir until it’s completely dissolved.
5. Fill a pitcher or carafe up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with ice cubes.
6. Pour the strawberry frapp into a mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Using a wooden spoon rub the strawberry juice through, while leaving behind as many of the seeds as possible. Pour the strained strawberry juice and the lemon juice into the pitcher.
7. Pour the tea in the pitcher and stir to combine everything.
8. Refrigerate until served.

Re-purposing Coffee Grounds & A Homemade Exfoliating Scrub

Anybody else here live off of coffee? For the hubs and I, it’s just part of our morning routine, and as integral and necessary as say brushing our teeth or getting dressed. Don’t expect me to function if I haven’t had my coffee. But speaking of coffee, as you stumble your way into the kitchen, wiping the sleep from your eyes, how much thought have you given to the coffee grounds when you add them to your Keurig or coffee pot’s filter? If you’re like the hubs and I, of course you didn’t give them a second thought, before you used them OR after you threw them away. They’d served their only purpose in life, creating the lifeblood of our people. But if you’re also like us, one day you’re going to have a friend over and offer to make them coffee. Then you’re going to react with confusion and dismay when you toss the used coffee grounds out and they react like you’ve just thrown dollar bills down the disposal. And then you’ll be thanking the dear sweet Lord for the sweet sweet nectar of the gods while you’re lectured educated on the many, many, many used for coffee grounds. And then you’re not going to be able to forget. And then it’s going to click that you could be saving some money, and since you’re not above being cheap to do so, you’ll do some research and before you know it you’ll see coffee grounds floating down the drain as money washing away or it spilled on the counter as loose change to be scraped together. And pennies make dollars, people.

So yeah, coffee has A LOT of uses in a variety of applications beyond just being vital to starting our day off on the right, non violent, foot. Here’s a list of some of our favorites, with my personal favorite — a frugal exfoliating scrub — last, but not least.

1. Deodorizer – Did you know that coffee, much like the tried and true baking soda, is a deodorizer and can keep your fridge odor free? Place clean, unused coffee grounds in an open bowl or cup at the back of the refrigerator to eliminate food odor. They can even be used in the freezer. You can also make closet freshening pouches with coffee. Take cheesecloth or another breathable material (the hubs prefers using coffee filters because they’re cheaper) and wrap around a small amount of coffee grounds, secure the sachet closed, and hang or place it somewhere in the back of the closet. Got babies? Putting a packet of coffee grounds in the bottom of the Diaper Genie works wonders! Hate the way your hands smell after chopping onions or garlic, even after scrubbing them with soap? Keep some coffe grounds handy near or under the sink and rub a  handful of them on before washing and they’ll absorb any smelly, lingering odors.
2. Healthier Harvesting: When it comes to gardening, coffee grounds are an unsung hero. You may think of worms as just another pest problem, but in the garden they’re a welcome sight. They’re little unsung, unseen miracle workers. They enrich and turn your soil just with their own body processes. Guess what brings all the worms to the yard? Coffee grounds mixed in with your garden soil. Planning on planting carrots or radishes this year? Sprinkle some coffee grounds in with the seeds at planting to help keep bugs and pests away and to increase your yield. Composting? Don’t toss out those used grounds with the trash. Add them to the compost bin for a healthy boost of nitrogen.
4. Pest Control: Slugs won’t cross over a perimeter of the stuff, and Ants are sensitive to strong smells so sprinkle a little (used or unused) at their point of entry to encourage the little buggers to find food elsewhere. Do the neighborhood cats liked your yard, or maybe your garden beds in particular? Sprinkle coffee grounds mixed with orange peel where you don’t want them to go and sit back and wait until your neighbors come asking for your secret!
5. Touch up furniture scratches – Overtime, all furniture begins to show signs of wear and tear, especially wooden furniture, but before you go by an expensive can of finishing wax, get ready to strip it down to refinish, or consider throwing it away, find some instant coffee. If your wood has a darker stain, mix the coffee grounds with water to form a thick pasta and rub it into the scratches, repeating as necessary until the scratched area matches the rest of the wood.

And lastly, I love, love love, using coffee grounds as a cheap (yep, I said it!) and very effective exfoliant. Add clean coffee grounds to a body wash. Massage into skin and rinse. It’s a great remover of dry skin. You can also use them for a great facial. Mix a few tablespoons of grounds with enough water to make a paste. Pat it on skin and let stand for a few minutes and then massage in circles. Rinse thoroughly.

This particular recipe for our coffee sugar scrub helps nourish skin and lessen the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite.  The coffee itself acts as a temporary anti-inflammatory helping skin appear firmer. The almond oil and vitamin e will moisturize your skin leaving it silky smooth. If you’ve got oily or acne prone skin, opt for lemon or tea tree essential oil instead as both help control oil production. This works either applied to a specific area, like hands, feet, or face, or even used as an overall body scrub.

Homemade Coffee Brown Sugar Scrub

Coffee Sugar Scrub

1 cup ground coffee, used or unused
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/3 cup almond oil
1/4 tsp vitamin e oil
10 drops orange essential oil (optional), or 10 drops lemon or tea tree essential oil for oily or acne prone skin

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir together until everything’s evenly incorporated.
2. Before full use, apply a small (very small amount) to a small patch of skin and check for a reaction to make sure you aren’t allergic to anything in the scrub. Wet the desired area. Apple sugar scrub and gently massage into skin in circular motions.
3. Use a dry rag or paper towel to remove as much as you can.
4. Wash away the rest in the sink or the shower, depending on your application.
5. Store in an airtight container.

Grilled Onion Bombs

Virginia weather is weird. Friday it was warm enough for sun-bathing. The next morning? We woke up to freezing rain and whipping wind. It’s nuts. Like welcome to the state where you can get sunburn and frostbite in the same week, nuts. But now that we’re at least ‘officially’ in Spring, the weather should trend on the side of at least moderately higher temps, and around these parts that’s all we need. We’ve got two wardrobes, winter and summer. First warm day? Pull out the tank tops and shorts. But it’s only 67 degrees out you say? That’s ok.

Another thing that makes its debut with the first Spring-like day? Our grill! Not to say we ever actually put it away, but it’s a lot easier grilling out at a cloudy 67 than in sleet or snow.

So, sun’s out … Grills out! And onion bombs are one of our favorites. They couldn’t be any easier to throw together and they taste incredible. These could just as easily be called meatloaf stuffed onions, and they’re easily adapted. I know the warmer weather hasn’t reached everywhere yet, but that’s cool. These can just as easily be baked in the oven, at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes in a covered casserole dish, without any sacrifices in the flavor infusion dept.

Onion Bombs

Do you enjoy camping? We do, and usually we stick to the easy realm of hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and cans of soup. But guess what makes a perfect meal cooked up over a camp fire? Yep, that’s right, onion bombs! Stuff em just the same, wrap em up in tin foil, and cook em over the hot camp fire coals for about 45 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Onion Bombs

Onion Bombs 2

1 large white onion, peeled

1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/2 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup of shredded cheese (any kind of cheese you like)
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of bread crumbs, or pulverized oatmeal, & 1 slice of bread torn into small pieces

Directions

1. Cut, from the top to the bottom right down the middle, a large onion in half. You want to cut from top to bottom, right down the middle, not sideways. Then take each layer from each one and pair them together making sure to match each side with it’s mate. Be careful when pulling the layers apart because they can tear easily.

2. Add all of the other ingredients to a large bowl. Mix all of this up with your hands, squishing and kneading everything together, as you would with meatloaf until all the ingredients are . You want almost the same texture like meatloaf too. If it seems too dry, just add a bit more ketchup or a tad more mustard. If it feels too wet, add a few more bread crumbs.
3. To assemble the onion bombs, start with the largest pair of onion halves. Make a large meatball and place it in one side of the onion half and place the other onion half over the top, filling up the onion cavity and squishing the meatball in between both halves. Continue to fill the rest of the onion halves up with the meat mixture.
4. Here, were grilling them, so wrap each onion bomb in aluminum foil. You want to have enough room so that you can leave a little twist at the top so you can easily pick them up off the grill because they’re these things get hot! Now it’s time to grill them. Put them on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Flip them over on their opposite side and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.

NOTE: Grilling times will vary based on how high you have your grill set.

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

If you’ve followed us for any amount of time you know that I’ve got a thing for traditions. Every holiday has its own little nuances and little things that, come hell or high water, we are going to adhere to. Another Easter just came to pass, and it’s no exception to the ‘mom is a crazy lady who is dying to make memories’ rule.

For example, every year we go to a local historical park that features a variety of animals and gorgeous gardens and views. It’s a big affair, complete with grandparents and aunts too. Each year we kick the whole shebang off with a picnic lunch. Really. Every year. Sadly though, like everything else it seems, I was pretty sure the older sons had aged out of caring this year, and I purposefully didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to be all emotional when it was time for us to argue about it and for me to finally have to force them to go by pulling the ‘because I said so, and you’re gonna like it dammit’ card. I mean family time is family time. Right? Non-negotiable. But, to my surprise and utter delight, when I didn’t bring it up and Easter was creeping closer and closer, the older sons started to have a mild freak out.

Umm, excuse me? Of course we’re having an Easter picnic/park day. Duh. How could you doubt me? I was prepared to drag you there by the scruff even if you complained the whole way there, because tradition! But it made my heart so happy that you were that adamant about going yet again.

So, with that emotional crisis averted for all parties involved, we got back to the next most important thing. The food. After all, that’s our biggest tradition and the memories made around it one of our greatest legacies. For us no picnic lunch, especially an Easter Sunday picnic lunch, is complete without potato salad. It’s a staple. We’re not even real picky on the kind as long as it has the same style base. Potatoes, and something creamy, like mayo.

This lightened up, buffalo style version is one of our favs. Soon it’ll be one of yours too ;)

Light/Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

Light Buffalo Potato Salad

recipe adapted from The Weary Chef

2 lbs red and/or russet potatoes, diced into 1/4″ cubes
generous 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
generous 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-4 tbsp buffalo wing sauce, we prefer a mild sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized pot, add the potatoes and add water until it just covers them. Add about 1 tsp salt, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender. Transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain, and gently rinse with cold water for about one minute to stop the cooking process and cool them off.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, buffalo sauce, and salt and pepper. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining ingredients, stirring just until everything is evenly incorporated. 3. Serve as is, or refrigerate until chilled.

Chicken & Cornbread Stuffed Peppers with a Spicy Ranch Drizzle

For years we had always made stuffed peppers. They’re a nice easy meal I can feed everybody, or make ahead of time for any kind of ‘gathering’ we may be having. And our stuffed peppers were always stuffed the same, with some sort of ground beef, rice, and sauce mixture, stuff I always am guaranteed to have on hand. But after years and years of making them, and eating them, I had to confess that I never really liked them. They were always lacking something for me. Our meal plan needed a little more excitement, and let’s be honest, if I’m making it I might as well actually want to eat it right? It was high time for a change, so I phased those boring things out and never really thought twice about it.

 Chicken & Cornbread Stuffed Peppers with a Spicy Ranch Drizzle

Or so I’d thought.

Then I heard about Poppin Chicken Pones. Don’t they just sound like a refreshing change of pace? Intrigued, I pretty much put them on the meal plan immediately. Sorry, boys. Pizza night this week is out, and a new version of stuffed peppers is in. And boy oh boy was it the right move. These things were awesome. The chicken and cornbread had a perfect tex mex type flair to it. I could have eaten it cooked up all by its lonesome, BUT the pepper flavor that absorbed into it made actually stuffing the peppers a must. Top it all off with a drizzle, a dash, or even a wet dollop of the spicy ranch and you’ve got an all new stuffed pepper recipe that will rock your little stuffed pepper world. Oh, and next time you’re having a ‘gathering’ these will leave your guests relishing every last bite.

Chicken & Cornbread Stuffed Peppers with a Spicy Ranch Drizzle

Cornbread & Chicken Stuffed Peppers with a Spicy Ranch Drizzle

recipe adapted from Poppin Chicken Pones by Kim B. of Heneger, Alabama

5 poblano chile peppers, or 4-5 green bell peppers if dialing down the heat
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 (1.25 oz) package taco seasoning, or roughly two generous tbsp
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1/2 cup creamed corn
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 (6.5-7 oz) package cornbread & muffin mix
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk

Spicy Ranch Sauce

1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp lime juice

Directions

1. Slice the peppers in half length wise and remove the stems and any seeds from inside. Arrange The prepped peppers, cut side up, in a baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, taco seasoning, green chiles, diced tomatoes, creamed corn, shredded cheese, egg, milk, and cornbread mix. Stir the mixture until evenly incorporated.
3. Spoon the filling into each pepper, making sure to fill each one evenly.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the tops of the cornbread are lightly browned.
5. In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing, hot sauce, and lime juice. Drizzle over stuffed peppers before serving.

If you happen to have any leftover chicken and stuffing mix, no worries! pour it into a greased baking dish and bake at the same temperature until cooked through.

Parmesan Vegetable Tian

So we have a lot of readers. And we post a lot of stuff. Mostly totally tasty dishes that don’t break the bank, but also tutorials, tips/tricks, and crafts. But like I said, were mostly all about the food. And good food too, although not necessarily always good for you. So I suppose the question was inevitable, even though it still caught me a bit off guard.

The Sons look pretty healthy, so where are all the leafy greens? Where are all the yummy veggie side dishes I’m holding back?

well there are several answers. First, with four boys and busy schedules I heart a good casserole. It’s the kitchen equivalent of one stop shopping. The Sons also usually have a salad before or with each meal, so even on nights we’re not doing a casserole, I don’t always stress a ‘veggie’ per say. And then those nights that we do have a side of broccoli, or cooked carrots, or peas etc, I tend to keep it either pretty plain or just tend to pay it no mind.

But we have heard your request! And this tian is always an instant hit at our table. It’s a great way to brighten up your table and your meal with a pop of color. It’s also a totally tasty way to get your veggies in.

Parmesan Vegetable Tian

 Vegetable Tian

recipe adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

cooking spray
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tsp minced garlic
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (1/8″)
1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced (1/8″)
1 medium baking potato, thinly sliced (1/8″)
2 medium Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced (1/8″)
heaping 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp grated Parmesan

Directions

1. Use your cooking spray to lightly coat a pie pan or a small casserole dish.
2. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Once hot, add the chopped onion and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread it out over the bottom of pan. Evenly arrange the sliced vegetables on top, alternating as you go. Once you get all the way around, continue layering to fill the middle until no open space remains.
3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over the layered veggies and sprinkle generously with Italian seasoning, before adding salt and pepper to taste. Cover with aluminum foil and bake covered at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
4. Remove the aluminum foil and sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over top of the vegetables. Return the dish to the oven and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Today I’ve just got to tell you guys about one of our favorite Summertime treats. I’m sure just about everybody has heard of chips and salsa, right? In the past few years, I’ve seen more and more interesting variations and takes on them. Well The Sons have their own take on chips and salsa. Except our versions twists the ‘average’ version into an interesting dessert that anyone can love.

Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Whatever ideas you brought to the table about chips and salsa, let em go. One bite and your taste buds will be blown. It’s full of fruit, oh-so-sweet, and coated with a light and tasty glaze.

Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips 2

And we’re not just bringing our new favorite summer salsa to the table. Nope, we didn’t stop there. We’re also pairing it with some Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips.

Seriously.

Dessert. perfection.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips 3

recipe adapted from Spend With Pennies

For the Chips

10 (10″) flour tortillas
cooking spray
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

For the Fruit Salsa

2 granny smith apples
1 lemon
2 kiwis
1 lb strawberries
1/2 lb raspberries, optional
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp preserves, strawberry or raspberry

Directions

1. In a small bowl, stir the cinnamon & sugar together to combine and set it aside.
2. Working with three tortillas at a time, spray each side lightly with cooking spray and then sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar on each side. Stack the tortillas together and cut into 12 wedges using a pizza cutter. Repeat until all tortillas are done.
3. Place the prepared chips on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes, or until crisp.
4. Peel and finely chop the apples. Squeeze two teaspoons lemon juice over the diced apples and toss to coat.
5. Finely dice the strawberries and the kiwis. Gently stir to combine all the ingredients, keeping in mind that (if using them) the raspberries will break up some but that’s ok.
6. You can either serve the salsa as is at room temperature or chilled. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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