Monday, June 20, 2016

Lavender Mint Lemonade

Since today is the first official day of summer, and it is beautiful here in the Midwest (beautiful as in, we don’t have a heat index over 100!), I thought I would share one of my family’s favorite summer beverages.

I am not a big fan of lemonade, but I will drink gallons of this throughout the summer. In fact, it is so popular in my house, I have to dry extra lavender and mint, just to ensure I have enough to last the whole summer!!

Originally, pioneers used either lemon or ginger to make this refreshing drink. Pioneers were out doing all their farming by hand & horse, and there was no such thing as air-conditioning, so they needed something to drink as a pick me up throughout the long day of field work.

Plain water does not always go down well when you are very hot, so the addition of lemons or ginger, made it easier to drink what you needed to, to stay hydrated. Most farm wives knew that ginger was great for your stomach and circulation, and of course a little sugar would provide the extra energy you needed to keep working. Since lemons were a ‘specialty’ in most places, I imagine it was a real treat when you got lemonade instead of gingerade!

During the summer I always start with fresh herbs right out of my garden. Mint is best grown in either a pot, or a space you don’t care it takes over in. It will quickly fill your entire garden if you don’t stay on top of it! I usually freeze some of my mint and lavender as well, so that I can continue making this even after everything is done blooming towards the end of the season. 

I don’t have an exact recipe since my family loves this lemonade anyway I make it. Your family may not enjoy the same quantity of lavender and mint, so I suggest trying it with the amounts I have listed here, and then adjusting each time you make it until you find the winning combination.

To Make:
Using a gallon beverage container (I like clear so I can see everything), fill it about ¼ of the way full with almost hot water. The warmth of the water will cause all the ingredients to release their oils a bit faster, which results in a fresher taste.

Add 2 lemons, sliced. Now add a handful of fresh mint leaves, and about 5 lavender stems. You can use just the flowering heads if you like. Mix gently with a wooden spoon. Now add ¾ of a cup of sugar. I use white sugar for this so that it doesn’t affect the color. You could use honey, which would give a more golden color. Stir again, and fill the container with water. Cover, or replace the lid, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to drinking for best flavor. 

Stir and taste before serving so you can add additional sugar if needed. 

The longer it sits and steeps in the refrigerator, the stronger the flavor. If I plan on serving it sooner, I will squeeze the juice of an additional lemon in, and crush the lavender and mint a bit. I have also made this lemonade following more of a sun-tea method. Place all ingredients, plus water in container, and then let sit direct sun for about two hours. Refrigerate before drinking. 

My family loves it with LOTS of mint and lavender, so I usually use double the amounts I have listed above. I also serve it over Lavender Mint ice cubes, which are not only pretty, but help keep the flavor. Just place one medium-large mint leaf in each cube, add a lavender blossom, fill with water and freeze.

For a more grown-up version of this lemonade, you can add a shot of Limoncello to your glass. This is super tasty at the end of your summer cookouts! Defintiely use the herb ice cubes for this, as Limoncello should be served chilled and you don't want to water down the flavors too much.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A "Rosey" Beginning

I have been trying to sit down for weeks to get this written. We had a few extra twists in our world the last few weeks, and then of course the weather got nice, and it was time to get into the gardens. Never a dull moment!!

My roses exploded this year with buds, and I have so many flowers I am literally doing everything, and trying everything, I have ever wanted to do or try, with my roses!

Yesterday I posted a picture on IG of my Rose Petal Sugar and how I make mine. Last year, I made a super yummy Lavender Mint Sugar. Same process, just different flowers and leaves. In a few weeks the Lavender will bloom and I’ll have a recipe for Lavender Mint Lemonade to share with you!!

The most important thing to remember when you are consuming fresh flowers and herbs – be sure they haven’t been sprayed with anything! While you may not want to have aphids, you also don’t want to eat poison. Plus, I’m sure it would ruin the flavor!

I also encourage you to visit the library (I am a former Library Director so I always pick books over google!), and check out some books on edible flowers. There are so many that you can eat, or eat part of. It is a fun way to plan your flower gardens, and a great summer learning project with your kids. (I am a big believer in ‘accidentally’ adding education to everything – that would be the homeschooler in me!)

Here are some other fun facts about using roses. Rosary beads were originally (insert ‘way back in the day’) made using crushed rose petals, which became almost a clay when processed correctly. I have a recipe for making my own rosary beads, and it uses SO many rose petals!! This is on my list to try for the year. I’ve never had enough petals to do this, so this is the year!! If successful, I’ll have a few available in the shop!

You can add unsprayed rose petals to your tea, your bath water, and your face! Roses are great for skin as it begins maturing, as they actually help fight the aging process. Roses are okay with combination skin, but work the best with over 25 skin.

One of my other plans for this year – a small jar of rose petal honey. I have locally grown honey available to me, so I plan on placing about a cup of honey into a small canning jar, mixing in my fresh petals, and letting them sit for a week or so. Not sure how it will turn out, but will keep you posted.

You have two options for drying your roses. Either cut long stems and hang them upside down to dry, blooms intact, OR, you can pluck the petals when fresh, and lay in a single layer on a paper towel, out of the sun, in a cool room in your home. You can also try a preservation method I have never used, but have heard works great – place stems in glycerin, in a vase. The roses suck up the glycerin as they would water, and it is supposed to keep the flowers softer and suppler during the drying process. This is perfect for drying roses for use in bouquets, floral arrangements, etc… DO NOT eat these roses! (The exception would be if you used the edible glycerin found in some specialty and health food stores.)

Since all my rose bushes produce rose hips, which are the fruit of the rose, I have always left tons of flowers behind. This year, I am trying something different, I am going to pull the petals off without cutting the whole flower from the plant. My hope is this will actually hurry along the hip formation, so I will have some fruit to harvest sooner this summer, and they will be better. We shall see!

I am off to do more harvesting! Be sure to follow me on IG & FB for pics and some extra tips throughout the week. 

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