Monday, July 16, 2018

Mixed Drink Monday: Blackberry Long Island Iced Tea

I have had exactly ONE Long Island Iced Tea in my life.  (Which is more times than I've been to Long Island.)  That one Long Island was very strong.  Very strong.  I remember making it in the middle of the day at the lake, knowing it was going to be strong and thinking if I drank it in the afternoon there would be plenty of time to drink water in the evening and thus save myself a hangover.

That was a really good plan.  I drank a lot of water (I also just drink a lot of water anyways) and no hangover!  And I thought I didn't really like Long Islands after that.

Well, searching for a way to use the leftover Sweet and Sour mix I had from this, I came up with a recipe for a Strawberry Long Island.  And since I had all the ingredients besides the strawberry daquiri mix...I figured it was time to give Long Islands another shot.

And since I also had leftover blackberry simple syrup from the same margaritas and I didn't want to buy strawberry daquiri mix for the tiny bit needed...this turned into a blackberry long island iced tea.

Once again, being wise from past experience, I drank this in the afternoon at the lake.  I added a lot of ice, my favorite way to chill (water down) drinks.  And, you know what?  This was delightful!  I super enjoyed it, as did Matt (since he actually wanted one of my "fancy" drinks for once).  It was fruity, not too strong, and delicious!  I'm pretty sure I will be making another before the summer is out!  Maybe partially because I still have blackberry simple syrup and sweet and sour mix to use, but also because it was good.

One year ago: Mimosa Sangria
Two years ago:
Past Favorites
Three years ago:
Strawberries & Cream  
Four years ago: Sparkling Lemonade & Skinny Pina Colada

Blackberry Long Island Iced Tea

yield: 1 drink
Blackberry Simple Syrup
-¾ cup washed blackberries
-¾ cup sugar
-1 cup water

Iced Tea
-1TB vodka
-1TB tequilia
-1TB rum
-1 TB triple sec
-3TB sweet & sour mix
-3TB blackberry simple syrup

Blackberry Simple Syrup
1) To make the blackberry simple syrup, combine the blackberries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
2) Smash blackberries with a potato masher and let the whole thing cool for at least 10 minutes.
3) Press through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Store sealed in the fridge until ready to use.

Long Island Iced Tea
Fill glass with ice (or as much ice as you prefer), add all the ingredients and stir well.  Enjoy!


Source: modified from A Taste of Meghan's Kitchen
In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page!  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Quick Lit - July

I probably say this every Quick Lit June-August BUT summer reading is my favorite.  Ideally I'll do all of it next to the (inflatable) pool or at the lake...but in reality that accounts for very little of my actual reading time.  Most of it is reading before bed or during quiet time/nap time with approximately 100 interruptions per hour.  But when I look back at my summer of reading, I seem to remember the time spent reading next to the pool the most.

I'm on Goodreads here and linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy!
Some day, when the baby is taking more consistent naps (or naps at all, unlike today) and the big kid is in kindergarten (way too soon!) hopefully I'll get back to doing individual posts for books I've enjoyed (some here, if you scroll pasts the Quick Lits).   As for what I've read in the past month-ish, here it goes!

Honeysuckle Dreams by Denise Hunter
I've read most of her books and enjoyed most of them.  This one had plots that felt a little recycled from other books BUT the main characters were going through a court case to keep their baby son, Sam, and seeing as I've agonized (a little) over the past 4 months if we were going to get to keep our baby Sam (but not really since the putative father check came back clear) hit a little close to home.  Not my favorite of hers but not my least favorite either. 3 Stars 

 The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
This one kept popping up, mostly on Goodreads but also other places.  I finally read it and I was not impressed.  A boy and a girl (really, they are in their 30s-ish) meet in an elevator.  Boy needs a date to his ex-girlfriend's wedding tomorrow.  They go together.  Then they spent a few months both thinking the other thinks this thing is casual while also wanting it to be more.  I mostly got annoyed with their inability to be honest and emotionally vulnerable with each other.  The drama all seemed rather manufactured to draw out the story.   Maybe my being married for a dozen years means I don't understand current "dating" culture.  This one wasn't for me. 2 Stars

My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
This is YA about a young Indian-American girl who is somewhat obsessed with Bollywood movies...and there is a boy involved.  I honestly don't remember much about.  It was fine but a little too similar to another one mentioned below that I read first (which I didn't LOVE either).  So it was fine. 2.5 Stars

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist
I listened to this on audio over a few weeks and then the last 1/3 in less than 24 hours when I realized it was about to be auto-returned to the library.  I've enjoyed all her other books (which were all written after this one) and liked this one too.  I don't think as much sinks in when I listen rather than read but a decent amount of this resonated with me.  Plus, she read it herself which is nice on memoir-ish books.  3.5 Stars

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
I've read all her books and this one might be the most serious, dealing with teens and an inappropriate picture that goes viral.  It wasn't light and fun summer reading but it did highlight issues many parents now will likely have to face in some form.  I read it pretty quick but it wasn't the most enjoyable read, just because of the heavier subject matter.  3 Stars

Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter
This is middle-grade fiction dealing with two (biological) siblings that were adopted out of the foster care system.  They want to trace their story back, reconnect with past foster families to try to get more answers about where they came from.  It was sweet and heart-wrenching, especially having adopted two of my own, although mine came as infants.  But definitely a good read. 4 Stars

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
This was a very quirky story that I mostly read while waiting at the BMV.  It's a short book but also, I was at the BMV for awhile.  It's about a woman that has worked at a convenience store in Asia for all of her adult life and how that has shaped her.  DEFINITELY quirky but it was under 200 pages so quirky was ok.  3 Stars 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
A reread and one of my favorites of 2016. Emma and Jesse feel they are soul mates after meeting in high school, traveling the world, and getting married.  Then he disappears via a plane crash (his body is never found) on their 1st wedding anniversary.  Emma falls apart, puts her life back together, and eventually starts dating and gets engaged.  Then Jesse is found.  DUN-DUN-DUN.  I knew how it ended but I was still completely engrossed in the story.  4 Stars

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
I so enjoyed this book about a wedding being planned on Nantucket when one of the members of the wedding party turns up dead the morning of the wedding.  It sounds morbid but so fascinating to dig back into the stories of all the people involved.  Her books are pretty reliably great summer reads, I look forward to them and am rarely disappointed.  One plot point reminded me too much of The Island which I had just read a month earlier but other than that small quibble, this was a great summer read.  4 Stars 

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon
This is YA about a young Indian-American girl who is somewhat obsessed with Bollywood movies...and there is a boy involved.  Yes, I did copy and paste that from above.  This is the second book by the author of When Dimple Met Rishi which I really enjoyed last summer.  I definitely liked the first book better (they are not at all connected).  This was fine.  2.75 Stars

Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss
If you are a female of a certain age, say 20-50, you've probably received a "Hey Ladies!" e-mail.  I've both sent and received them.  This follows the e-mails and occasional texts between a group of friends leading up the wedding of one.  It made me glad I don't live in NYC, that I am not dating, and that I've never been semi-forced to spend money like is depicted here.  That said, it was a fun read and I had a hard time putting it down to do actual life things.  3.25 Stars

Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith, & Enduring Love by Lia Huber
The title pretty much sums it up, she writes about faith and trying to figure out their path in life, including a long stay in Central America which made me glad I live somewhere with running water and a Target 10 minutes away.  I love a good food memoir for all the descriptions of food I'll never make and probably wouldn't eat even if I did.  And this was that.  3.5 Stars

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Everywhere I read about this book it is described as "like Grey's Anatomy but in a book".  Which is pretty accurate, even if I am super behind on my Grey's (I think I have 8 episodes sitting on the DVR).  Two girl friends meet in med school, they are still friends years later when they are both married with kids and real jobs.  Then someone from their med school days comes back into their lives and drama ensures.  I mean, less drama than Grey's but that's a pretty high drama bar.  It was fun and I mostly enjoyed it.  3.5 Stars

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam
Laura Vanderkam is my time-management guru, or at least "changing how I look at how I use my time" guru.  She always brings a different perspective and interesting insights that she pulls from studying how many real people use their time.  Always interesting and worthwhile to read her books. 3.75 Stars 

What have YOU been reading? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

ICOTW: Strawberry Gelato

We went strawberry picking a few weeks ago, me and my boys.  I wasn't sure how it would go with a 3 month old and a 5 year old who was mostly interested in peeing outside the last time we went picking (these are things I NEVER experienced growing up with all sisters).  So I got my Mom to go with us and we headed out.  Managed almost an hour in the field, once the baby fell asleep and big brother actually got into picking!  I mean, between the two of us we only got about 2.5 pounds but the berries were SO good and my expectations SO low that I was pretty happy with that.

I turned most of our picked strawberries (that weren't immediately consumed) into ice cream.  Both this recipe here and this one back from the archives.  It was in the middle of a 4 day streak of churning ice cream every day (including another one still coming and an archived recipe).  Let me tell you, a 4 day streak of churning ice cream produces some pretty nice results for your freezer.  And then I haven't churned one since because...4 kinds of ice cream in the freezer.

When I made this I hadn't ever had gelato.  Then I let it cool in the fridge overnight while my ice cream machine base refroze from the last batch.  We went to Mass and a going away party for our priest where they had individual cups of gelato.  My immediate thoughts on gelato: it tastes just like ice cream.  I'm sure there are certain requirements to make something gelato instead of ice cream...but I have no idea what they are.  I liked the gelato I had that night.  I like this gelato.  I like most ice creams.  And everything I post here that I refer to as ice cream but might be sorbet or sherbet or frozen yogurt.  It's all very good.  Especially when temps are hitting 95° like they are today.  I think I need another 4 day streak of churning ice cream.

One year ago: Salted Honey Ice Cream
Two years ago: Lemonade Ice Cream
Three years ago: Peach Sangria Popsicles

Strawberry Gelato
yield: about 1 quart
-¾ cup sugar
-1TB cornstarch
-1 cup whole milk
-¾ cup heavy cream
-½ tsp vanilla
-2½ cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

1) In a medium saucepan whisk together the sugar and cornstarch.  Slowly add the milk and heavy cream.  Place the pan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
2) Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture, and put in the fridge until completely cool.
3) Meanwhile, puree the strawberries in the blender until smooth.  Press through a sieve to remove the seeds, pressing as much through as possible with a spatula. 
4) Once the creamy mixture is cooled, stir in the strained strawberries.  Recover with plastic wrap directly on top of it and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
5) Churn according to your machine's instructions.  Place in a freezer-safe container with a piece of parchment paper directly on top of the gelato.  Freeze at least 2 hours before serving. 


Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

In the summer I aim to make a different homemade ice cream (or other frozen treat) each week and report back here, good or bad!  I call it "Ice Cream of the Week".  You can follow the "ICOTW" tag to see them all chronologically or go to my "Recipes" page and scroll down to the "Ice Cream/Frozen Things" section for my favorites! 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mixed Drink Monday: Pineapple Vodka Limeade

Pineapple and lime are two summer staple flavors for me.  Between all the margaritas I've made (beginnings of a list here) and the MULTITUDE of pineapple flavored drinks (and ice cream) I've made...I've consumed a lot of both over the past few summers of this project.

BUT other than a pineapple margarita (and a pineapple coconut margarita) I don't know that I had ever mixed the two.  And I was super leery of mixing them for this one.  I didn't see how limeade + pineapple would be a good flavor.  They just both seemed too distinct on their own to make a good drink.

I don't like admitting I'm wrong (does anyone?) this case I was.  This was a fantastic drink. 

Even being leery of the flavors I still put it on my list (because I definitely have a paper list for drinks and ice creams I plan to make) for one main reason.  I had all the ingredients besides the fresh pineapple.  So as soon as pineapple went on sale at Aldi (and I bought 3), I went through my list to figure out how many drinks I could make with them. 

(I didn't even get to the ice cream and popsicles I had hoped to make!)

I made this up at the lake (where I make a lot of my drinks) and it was so easy to mix up on a busy night when we arrived, had to unpack, make beds, and eat supper.  This was perfectly summery, delicious, and wasn't too strong.  Exactly what I am looking for in a drink.  I have leftover of everything (besides the fresh pineapple...those went quick) so I will likely be making these again!
Note: You could buy pineapple vodka.  OR you could fill a small mason jar ¾ full with fresh, cut pineapple, top it off with regular vodka, and let it infuse for a few days.  Or a few years (my jar has been around about 2).  And a small amount of pineapple vodka. 

One year ago: Homemade Lemonade
Two years ago:
Long Island Iced Tea
Three years ago:
Red, White, and Blue Sangria
Four years ago: Strawberry Coconut Margarita & Strawberry Lemonade

Pineapple Vodka Limeade
yield: one serving
-2 TB (1 oz) pineapple vodka
-4 TB (2 oz) frozen limeade concentrate
-3-4 fresh pineapple chunks

Combine pineapple vodka, limeade, and pineapple chunks in a glass, muddling slightly.  Add ice.  Enjoy!

Source: modified from Home Cooking Memories

In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page

Friday, July 6, 2018

Looking Back at June

Happy July!  July is peak summer, and summer is the peak of the whole year, in my opinion.  It's been hot, we've been playing in the pool and eating popsicles and I've been reading a lot, all things that really make it feel like summer!  Looking back at June!

1) My pretty flowers, before they were picked.
2) Running in the heat is basically the only thing I don't like about the heat.  Or being stuck in traffic in it too, I guess.
3) Strawberry picking with a baby who FINALLY fell asleep!
4) And Luke did great too!  He got almost a pound!
5) Sunset at the drive-in, so summery!
6) All our picked strawberries, turning them into ice cream!
7) Hydrangeas are just so summery and lovely.
8) There was a neighborhood dog wandering outside.  Luke was scheming how to get it through the mail slot.  Since he knows there is no way Mom would let it through the door.
9) Flowers picked for me by my boy!
10) Sparklers at the lake!
11) We were at the lake with other people for the first time all year.  Matt took Luke swimming with cousins.  I stayed in the cottage with a sleeping baby.  I like people but I also don't protest too hard about staying behind sometimes.
12) And I did make it out to the water later.  Luke was in heaven with cousins around all day.
13) Burning our Christmas tree at the lake.  Most people hold onto those for 6 months, right???
14) Lake sunset.
15) Playing in the backyard pool.  This time Matt was inside with a sleeping baby and I was supervising (reading) next to the water.
16) And more reading in the backyard with a drink coming soon!

Looking back:
1 year ago: {100} Picture Books to Read This Summer
2 years ago: The One Where Diana Hates Stain
3 years ago: Festive 4th of July Fruit Pizza Cookies
4 years ago: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
5 years ago: A Big Cloth Diapering Post
6 years ago: Awesome

Books finished: 15, 90 for the year!

Miles ran: 29.9, I really wanted to hit 30 but my last run of the month was in 90° with high humidity and I felt like I was dying. Another minute of running just wasn't going to happen. 
Currently watching: We are SO close to finishing Lost, which I'm pretty sure I've been saying for months.  But we have about 3 episodes left right now so it's really true this time.  And, also, American Ninja Warrior which is the best of summer tv.
Most read post this month:
Quick Lit, followed by Traveling with a Two Month Old
Luke's current favorite song:
We listen to "Grandpa's rock n roll" which is a Summertime Gold playlist my sisters and I listened to on cassette a lot growing up that I now have on my phone.  It's all classics from the 50s and 60s and we always listen to it while playing in the backyard pool.  It's wonderful and summery.

Just the fact that it's summer is definitely a highlight of the month!  What about you?