Category Archives: Summer/Summer Holidays

Watermelon-Mint-Lime Water

When hot weather comes around, I usually crave watermelon. It’s so refreshing and it’s good for you too. And I discovered that watermelon is also great for making flavored water! Combining chunks of juicy watermelon with fresh mint and tart limes makes a great-tasting summery drink! You just have to plan ahead a little, since you need to chill the mixture for 1 to 2 hours before drinking.

I buy watermelon regularly throughout the summer and I grow my own mint in a large pot, so I had everything I needed to make this except for the limes. You can make it without limes, but I like the refreshing zing they add to the mix!

WATERMELON-MINT-LIME WATER by NancyC

Makes 1 large pitcher

  • 3 cups cubed watermelon chunks (cut in 1/2″ size cubes)
  • 4 sprigs of mint (a sprig is a stem with 6 to 8 leaves), lightly crushed or rubbed (to release flavor and scent)
  • 2 limes, thinly sliced (use organic limes or wash limes very well!)
  • 7 to 8 cups of water
  • 2 to 3 cups of ice

Add cubed watermelon, mint sprigs, and sliced limes to pitcher, then add water and ice. Chill for 1 to 2 hours to infuse flavors, then serve, pouring into ice-filled glasses. Tastes best the day it’s made.

It definitely does taste best the day it’s made, but you can finish drinking this flavored water up by the second day if you have any left over. It really is refreshing and more fun to drink than plain water! What do you like to add to your water?

Sharing at Inspire Me Monday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck.

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Summer Squash Cake

Just about everyone I know who has a garden grows summer squash. Summer squash usually grows really well, so home gardeners often have an abundance of it. Which is really nice if you have lots of good recipes to use it in, like zucchini bread, for example, or a yummy squash casserole! Here’s another really good squash recipe that I found in my review copy of Farm-to-Table Desserts, which has 80 recipes with seasonal ingredients. If you’re a vegetable gardener or love to shop at your local farmer’s market, you’ll enjoy these recipes for yummy treats that you can make with fresh, organic ingredients. There are a wide variety of dessert recipes included in this book: pies, cakes, cookies, tarts, puddings, sorbet, cobblers, and more. And lots of great color photos of the recipes.

I decided to try this Summer Squash Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. The recipe calls for 2 cups of grated summer squash. I used 1 cup of grated zucchini and 1 cup of grated yellow squash, but you could use 2 cups of one or the other. If you use all zucchini, the cake will probably taste a lot like zucchini bread. I liked including some yellow squash because it adds a nice flavor to the cake. I’m sure it would be great if you used all yellow squash too. The cream cheese frosting is also really good–very creamy and rich! Here’s the recipe–hope you enjoy making the cake this summer!

SUMMER SQUASH CAKE from Farm-to-Table Desserts

Makes one 9″ or 10″ round cake

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated summer squash (I used 1 cup zucchini and 1 cup yellow squash)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I substituted light olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (you can add a little more if you want a thicker frosting)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch round pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, squash, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until incorporated. Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. (Note: the batter fills up a 9″ round pan pretty much up to the top, so I placed my round pan on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven, just in case the round pan overflowed while baking-but it didn’t!)

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Sift the powdered sugar and set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 30 seconds to ensure no lumps remain. Add the powdered sugar all at once and mix on low speed until sugar is just incorporated. Scrape bowl well and beat on high speed for 10 seconds.

Remove cooled cake from pan (you may need to loosen the edges with a knife) and place onto a serving platter. Cut the rounded cake top off, if desired (I kept it on). Spread cream cheese frosting on top in a decorative design (you’ll have plenty of frosting to top the cake–you may even have a little left over). Store cake in refrigerator.

If you’re trying to cut back on calories, you could leave the cake unfrosted or just put a very light amount of frosting on top–or a thin glaze. So keep this in mind if you have lots of summer squash to use! Do you grow your own summer squash or buy it at a farmer’s market?

Sharing at Fiesta FridayWeekend PotluckMeal Plan Monday. Inspire Me Monday.

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Cream Cheese Mints

cream-cheese-mints-nancycI love the scent of pine during the holidays. And the taste of peppermint and mint–flavored sweets! This holiday season, I’m enjoying both.

Right now, I’m using the new limited-edition winter scent of ECOS™ Dishmate™ Hypoallergenic ecoswinterpineDish Soap–they have a special holiday scent called Winterpine that they sent me to try, and it smells so fresh and clean!  It’s a great way to add the scent of pine to your kitchen. If you’re not familiar with ECOS™ products, they are earth-friendly and made with plant-derived cleaning agents that clean well and are gentle and safe to use.

And I’m also eating some wonderful minty sweets! These Cream Cheese Mints are kind of addicting. They have a rich, creamy, minty flavor. I like them more than I thought I would, which makes them dangerous for me to have around. So I’ve been sharing them with friends and everyone really likes them. You can make these yummy mints for any special occasion–birthday celebrations, wedding and baby showers, wedding receptions, and, of course, the holidays! I tinted mine red (or I guess you could say pink) and green for Christmas, but you can tint them any color you want. Or don’t use any food coloring and leave them a soft creamy white. This recipe makes about 175 small mints, which is a lot, but you’ll need a lot if you’re making them for holiday parties or any other event!

CREAM CHEESE MINTS by NancyC, adapted from BettyCrocker.com

Makes about 175 small mints

  • 2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (or use 6 ounces from an 8-ounce block)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon mint or peppermint extract
  • Red and green food coloring, optional

In large bowl, cream the softened butter and cream cheese together, then add the confectioner’s sugar, 3 cups at a time, and blend until smooth. Mix in mint extract. The mixture gets pretty thick, so you may need to work everything in with your hands. Or, you can mix all the ingredients with a food processor (use on-and-off pulses until mixture comes together in a ball).

If you’re wanting to tint your dough red and green (or any 2 other colors), divide dough into 2 equal portions and place on wax paper or parchment paper; add a few drops of red food coloring to 1 mound of dough and a few drops of green food coloring to the other mound of dough; work in or “knead” food coloring into each mound until the coloring is evenly tinted to your desired shade. If you’re just making one color, you won’t need to divide the dough, and if you want your mints to be creamy white, you can skip this whole step–just leave out the food coloring.

Roll dough mixture into small balls (I rolled mine into balls that were between 1/2″ and 5/8″ in diameter-I wouldn’t go any larger than that or they will take forever to set–smaller is better!). Place on waxed paper or parchment paper–lined cookie sheets and flatten each ball with a fork. Let stand about 2 hours or until dry (If the mints are still a little soft after a few hours, go ahead and put them in the refrigerator to finish drying). When mints are set and dry, cover with another sheet of wax paper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

These mints are perfect for parties or sweet little food gifts! And this recipe makes plenty of them, so you’ll have extra for yourself! 🙂  Besides pine and mint, what other flavors and scents do you enjoy around the holidays?

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday.

Banana, Mango, Ginger, Orange Smoothie

Banana Mango Ginger Orange Smoothie @ NancyC

Yes, that’s quite a long name but it sounds good, doesn’t it? This smoothie recipe comes from a cookbook called Eating Clean in Costa Rica (softcover). As I looked through my review copy, I found lots of easy, healthy foods that the book describes as 616-fPC8brL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_“farm-to-table” recipes and there are 108 to choose from for breakfast and brunch, main dishes, veggies and sides, salads, soups, and desserts. The instructions for most of the recipes include amounts measured in grams, milliliters, etc., so if you’re used to cups and ounces like I am, you’ll have to convert the amounts.

I thought I’d try the Banana, Mango, Ginger, Orange Smoothie. It sounds kind of summery, but the day I made this it was almost 70 degrees. So a tropical-sounding smoothie was in order to celebrate this warm sunny day! It was so smooth and creamy, and had a great lightly-sweet taste. Normally I like to sweeten smoothies with honey, but this recipe does not need any additional sweetener.

BANANA, MANGO, GINGER, ORANGE SMOOTHIE from Eating Clean in Costa Rica

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 mango
  • 1 to 2 bananas (I used 2 bananas)
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 200 ml plain yogurt (I used 1 cup–it’s not an exact conversion, but it’s very close!)
  • A pinch of ground ginger (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 12 ice cubes
  • 2 slices of lime

Cut mango into cubes, removing the pit and skin. Chop the bananas. Juice the oranges.

Combine these ingredients into a blender, including the ginger and yogurt. Blend until smooth and creamy, adding a little water if needed.

Add ice cubes and blend once more. Serve in tall glasses decorated with a slice of lime.

I love smoothies and I’m sure I’ll be making this quite often during the warm weather. Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe?

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Show and ShareFull Plate Thursday, Create It Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Blackberry Honey Lemonade

BlackberryHoneyLemonade@NancyCreative.com

Drinking lemonade in the summertime is always a treat, and it’s always a nice change of pace to try different lemonade flavors. I’ve made Strawberry Lemonade and Raspberry Lemonade before, so I thought I’d try making some Blackberry Lemonade. And I wanted to sweeten it with honey instead of sugar to make it a little healthier. I really like the way this tastes! It has a rich fruity flavor from the blackberries, but it’s very lemony, too. This is the perfect thing to drink on a hot summer day, as you’re sitting in a nice shady area outside…with your feet propped up…maybe even reading a good book!

BLACKBERRY HONEY LEMONADE by NancyC

Makes about 4-6 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 4 cups cold water, divided
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (or use 1 cup, if you want it really lemony)
  • 2 lemons, sliced (use some for stirring into lemonade and some for garnish)

In a blender, add berries and 1 cup of the water and blend about 1 to 2 minutes, until berries are pureed. Strain the juicy part of the mixture into a small bowl with a wire mesh strainer, discarding the solids and seeds.

Heat a second cup of water with the honey in a small saucepan (or microwave in a microwave-safe container), bringing it to a boil; remove from heat and stir mixture until honey is dissolved in the water.

In a large pitcher (about an 8-cup size), pour remaining 2 cups of water, along with the lemon juice, the honey/water mixture, and the juicy blackberry mixture; stir everything well.

Refrigerate mixture until chilled. When ready to serve, add lemon slices to pitcher (save slices as a garnish for the serving glasses) and stir mixture to ensure all ingredients are well-blended. Serve over ice and garnish each glass with a lemon slice.

Of course there’s always good ol’ Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade, too…I like them all! Do you have a favorite lemonade recipe?

Linked to Inspiration Thursday, Create It ThursdayFabulous Foodie Fridays, Full Plate Thursday.