Lemon Ginger and Honey Hot Toddy

– johanna | March 1st, 2013

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage

When I first feel the tickle of post nasal drip itching the back of my throat I massage a combo of peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and lemon essential oils on my neck and chest. Then I make myself a mug of hot toddy. Nursing a cup of lemon and ginger tea sweetened with a touch of honey is both comforting and soothing on those first few days of a cold when all I want is to snuggle in my warm blanket.

Traditionally a hot toddy is made using a shot of whiskey, (brandy, or rum) in a base of warm water (tea, or apple cider) and then flavored with lemon and honey. You can also add all sorts of spices such as cinnamon or anise.
The amounts of each ingredient are really a matter of taste. I like more lemon and ginger than honey. My kids like it sweeter. The following recipe is for a non-alcoholic version.

Makes 2 servings
1 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger slices
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey

Bring water and sliced ginger (and any other spices) to a boil. Press the ginger slices to extract liquid. Stir in lemon juice and honey. Adjust to taste. Strain tea into two mugs.

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Raspberry Lemonade

– johanna | February 1st, 2013

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage

Last fall when I was Florida my mom took us to a quaint Tea House for lunch. The food was absolutely amazing. We dined on scones with clotted cream, pineapple compote and strawberry preserves, and a cold strawberry soup for appetizers. For the main course I had the apple cherry chicken with brie and steamed vegetables. Devine. To top it all off dessert was a heart shaped puff pastry with cherry filling, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. To drink we had water and raspberry lemonade.

For years I have been dreaming about hosting monthly tea parties. I love playing dress up and thought it would be a real hoot to wear fancy hats like they do in the social circles of London. What fun it would be to decorate our hats with bits of flowers, ribbon, or lace like the Bennett ladies on Pride and Prejudice. I was delighted when my daughter asked to have a tea party for her birthday. We found some frilly frocks at the thrift store for each of the girls to wear. I rummaged through my costume boxes for gloves and lace shawls. Instead of decorating hats they made pearl necklaces. As for the food I knew instantly we had to serve raspberry lemonade and tea sandwiches.

Source: Dawn’s Recipes
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
5 cups cold water (adjust to taste)
3 cups ice

In a blender, combine lemon juice, sugar, and raspberries. Purée for several seconds, making sure sugar has dissolved.

Place raspberry-lemon mixture in a pitcher. Stir in the cold water and add ice.

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Hot Chocolate

– johanna | November 16th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage

We have been searching and searching for a kid approved homemade hot chocolate recipe. After many failures and sad faces finally the kids have deemed Eureka! We found it! Just in time too. We have a long winter ahead with many a Saturday morning brew to make.

6 cups water
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (semi is fine if you like a darker chocolate)
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

In a large pot over medium heat, whisk together the water, half and half, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, 3/4 cups sugar, salt, and teaspoon of vanilla.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl beat the cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and powdered sugar on high speed until thick and the consistency of whipped cream.

Once the hot chocolate is heated through, and the ingredients dissolved, turn off the heat. Then stir in the whipped cream. Whisk until completely incorporated.


— Add up to 1 cup of the milk chocolate chips. Use can also use semi for a bolder taste.
— For kids with sensory processing disorders they might be able to detect the cocoa graduals. Try simmering the hot chocolate longer, stirring constantly as not to burn the chocolate and milk, or replace the cocoa powder with baking chocolate or chocolate chips. Use 5 squares unsweetened or semi sweet baking chocolate or 1 cup bitter or semi chocolate chips.
— For a richer hot chocolate use 6 cups milk instead of the water. You can also use milk in place of the water and half and half for a total of 8 cups or 2 quarts milk.
— Dairy free: Use 2 quarts water eliminating the half and half and milk. Sub rice milk or coconut milk for the half and half. Use dairy free chocolate. Buy dairy free whipped cream or make your own using 2 cans full fat coconut milk (cold) in place of the heavy cream.
— whipped cream: Substitute 1 (8oz) container whipped cream for the heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar.
— Sugars can be replaced with equal amount of honey or maple syrup but the flavor will be altered. You can also use coconut sugar or xylitol without a difference in taste.

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Halloween Mystery Dinner

– johanna | October 18th, 2011

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Photo: by Bunny Cakes


Slug Butter beer

Black Quagmire Potion


Freshly Picked Graveyard Morsels

Skinned Vampire Fingers

Zombie Brains

Crispy Fried Bat Wings

Main Course:

Roasted Heart of Troll

Ogre Eyeball Sub


Snickers Cheesecake

Fruity Ghosts and Pumpkins

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Apple Harvest Festival

– johanna | October 11th, 2011

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Photo: Courtesy of Istock Photo

One of my favorite children’s books is, “The Blackberry Mouse” by Matthew Grimsdale. “The Blackberry Mouse” is a wonderful tale about a greedy young mouse who learns a valuable lesson about friendship. The story ends with Mouse and his neighborhood friends gathered together around the table enjoying a blackberry feast. There is blackberry jam, blackberry jelly, blackberry pies, lots and lots of blackberry tarts, and blackberry juice.

September marks the beginning of apple season. Mounds of succulent apples have already made their way to the market. The fall apple harvest reminds me of Mouse’s elaborate table laden with delectable blackberry goodies. There are so many wonderful edible creations to make with apples. What better way to celebrate the fall apple harvest than with an Apple Feast.

Many apple farms across California open their orchards to the public to celebrate the apple harvest. U-Pick It farms are ideal for an adventurous family outing. Although, the fun need not stop once the basket is filled. The real excitement begins at home making apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie, apple turnovers… However, fanfare such as this should never be enjoyed alone.

Mouse, in the story Blackberry Mouse, recognized that blackberries are nice but even better when you share them. Preserved goods such as jams and butters make perfect gifts for Christmas or to say “Thank You”. Tasty cakes, muffins and turnovers make the grand beginnings for a family apple festival.

Photo: Courtesy of HomeMadeSimple.com

An Apple Festival can be a small intimate gathering with family and/or friends. Or a grand event involving the neighborhood or community. Fun activities and good food made with apples are a must to pull off a successful Apple Feast.

**For those with allergies to apples substitute pears.

Apple Festival Activities:
Apple Bobbing Fill a large container with water and apples. Bob for apples using only your mouth, no hands. Or attach apples to a string- participants must pull the apple from the string using only their mouth, no hands allowed.

Apple Toss Stand in two lines. Each person has a partner. Toss the apple to your partner. If they catch it you both take a step back. If you drop it you are out. Last couple standing wins.
Apple Darts Attach ‘red balloons’ to a board or wall. Participants throw darts to try to pop a balloon. If offering prizes place a ticket or several tickets in each balloon that can be exchanged for treats and prizes.
Apple Tasting- Display a variety of different types of apples. Place each variety on its own plate. Label. Keep a tally of who likes what best.

Apple Crafts:

Apple Treats:

1. Apple Butter 2. Fruit Leather 3. Applesauce 4. Apple Dip 5. Apple Cake 6. Apple Turnovers 7. Praline Apple Bread 8. Autumn Cheesecake 9. Caramel Apples (caramel sauce) 10. Apple Cider 11. Fried Apples Pies 12. Spiked Apple Cake 13. Apple Zeppole 14. Apple Cider Doughnuts 15. Apple shaped cupcakes 16. Apple Pie-rate Ship 17. Apple Crisp 18. Fried Apple Fritters 19. Apple Spiced Punch 20. Apple Muffins 21. Apple Scones, Walnut Apple Scones 22. Apple Dumplings 23. Almond Apple Strudel Bars 24. Apple Pie 25. Candied Apples 26. Apple Strudel Bars 27. Creamy Apple Chicken Chili 28. Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

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Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri

– johanna | August 12th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage

Photo Source: Better Homes and Gardens

The first time I had a strawberry daiquiri was down in the Florida Keys. My best friend’s family invited me to tag along on their family trip that year. We were young teenagers at the time. The excitement unbearable. We thought we were so cool to hang out in the spa sipping a glass of non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri.

The original daiquiri is believed to have originated in Cuba in the early 1900’s. The concoction combined three of the country’s largest exports: rum, sugar and lime juice. The modern day American strawberry daiquiri incorporates blended ice. Although daiquiri connoisseurs believe the classic slushy strays too far from its roots. The preferred method for rum purists is shaken not stirred.

The strawberry season is at a close here in the valley. The farm stand’s daily rations are diminishing more and more each day. On the way home from our last outing of the summer we stopped by the stand to stock up on strawberries. Taking a cue from my Aunt Ruth I chopped some up to freeze. They will be great in a smoothie or as a topping over cake. We made another batch of strawberry jam. The last of the strawberries were made into various treats for my daughter’s strawberry tea party. There were strawberry shortcake cookies, crepes with strawberry cream cheese and chocolate sauce, tuna tea sandwiches, and a strawberry daiquiri.

Source: Ariane Hundt (Personal Trainer and Nutritionist)
5 ounces water
6-8 ice cubes
9-10 strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar, or sweeten to taste

Mix ingredients in blender. Serve in individuals glasses with a garnish of strawberry and whipped cream.

Serves: 4

– Replace sugar with honey or agave syrup
– Add a shot of lime juice or grapefruit juice

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Watermelon Frost Popsicles

– johanna | July 22nd, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Snacks

I have dubbed my oldest son the official watermelon picker. I was certainly not gifted my Aunt Ruth’s talent for choosing sweet ripe watermelon. The trait was passed on to my son. After we had our fill of watermelon we made watermelon popsicles. A request from my son who liked the watermelon flavored ice water I made the week before. I happened to have a container of juice concentrate I was planning to use to flavor snow cones with. You can substitute pomegranate or cranberry juice for the concentrate, adding a little sugar if the mixture is not sweet enough.

Source: Two Peas in a Bucket

4-5 cups seeded cubed watermelon
6 strawberries, optional
6 ounces frozen berry fruit punch concentrate

Puree watermelon and fruit concentrate in blender. Divide among 16 small popsicle molds and freeze.

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The Mighty Blueberry

– johanna | July 19th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats, THE BOOKSHELF

Photo: Courtesy of Wiki Commons

July is National Blueberry Month. The honor was issued by the United States Department of Agriculture on May 8th, 1999. However, blueberries have been recognized for their health benefits and as a major food staple for centuries.

Blueberry season is at its peak and there is much to celebrate about this plump little orb. The blueberry, unlike apples which came from Europe, is indigenous to North America. Native Americans referred to them as ‘Star Berries’ for the five-pointed star that forms on the underside of the berry. It was believed that the Great Spirit sent the berry from the stars to sustain them, and the wild animals, during times of famine. The blueberry plant was utilized as a whole in various ways. The leaves and roots were steeped to make teas. The berry juice aided coughs and made excellent dyes for fabrics. The berries were eaten fresh, dried, and in powdered form in cultural dishes ranging from stews to seasoning for meats.

The blueberry contains the richest source of antioxidants among all fruits and vegetables. Scientists believe the high concentration of flavonoids in the blueberry just might hold the key to resolving some of the most serious threats to our optimal health- heart disease, obesity and various cancers.

Antioxidants are made up of minerals, vitamins and flavonoids. Antioxidants work to neutralize the cellular dammage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals have been linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and blindness to name a few. The body is exposed to free radicals when burning sugars for fuel and other bodily functions; as well as from natural and chemical pollutants.

We get the purest form of antioxidants from eating raw fresh fruits and vegetables. The substance in blueberries, called polyphenols, is what gives the fruit its blue color and delicious flavor. Polyphenols are made up of two antioxidant compounds: non-flavonoids (ellagic acid in berries) and flavonoids (anthocyanins in fruit). Polyphenols are major contributors in cardiovascular health. Ellagic acid, when consumed regularly, has been shown to prevent against arterial hardening, or atherosclerosis. Moreover, the anthocyanins compound can inhibit the formation of new baby fat cells; thus, reducing triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood stream used for energy) and cholesterol.

Before running off to stock up on all things blueberry remember not all things are as they seem. Many of the foods advertised as containing blueberries are really synthetic knock-offs. Read the labels first to make sure the package actually contains real blueberries. As always nothing is better than the real deal. Stock up on fresh ripe berries this summer to enjoy later in the winter.

Pork with Savory Blueberry Sauce:
Mixed Greens with Feta, Almonds and Blueberries
Refrigerator Blueberry Jam:
Blueberry Pops:
Blueberry Pancakes:
Blueberry Sauce:
Blueberry Pie:
Blueberry Smoothie:
Blueberry Crisp:
Blueberry Scones:
Blueberry Bars:
Blueberry Muffins:
Maple Almond Granola With Dried Blueberries:

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Honeydew Lemonade

– johanna | June 3rd, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage

I am guilty of wasting money by tossing overripe fruit instead of trying to find a way to “recycle” it. I should clarify here that I do not actually throw the food in the garbage. Rather I throw it in a pile in the back yard for compost. However, I was not feeling well with the idea of chucking usable produce. Maybe it was the thrifty side of my brain watching the all the money go to feeding the plants instead of the kids.

Recycling food is nothing new. People have been doing it for generations. Brown bananas are perfect for making banana bread. Mushy pears mix well into muffins. Tomatoes easily become a pot of tomato sauce. Smoothies are hands down the best way to transpose dying fruit. But what about melons? I had a large tasteless honeydew in my refrigerator that no one wanted to eat. I could not just throw it out. So what do I do with it?

I would have never considered pureeing a melon and adding it to lemonade but it works. In fact I think I prefer Honeydew Lemonade to plain lemonade now. It makes for a harmonious blend of sweet and tart without the overly sweetness of refined sugar. I will offer one word of caution. I had this brilliant idea to blend the sparkling water with ice to make a slush. Do not do it. Rather I would try freezing the honeydew/syrup mixture then blend with the water. Adding the extra ice drowned out the lemonade. We were left with watered down lemonade.

Source: Fine Cooking
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small honeydew melon (about 3 lb.), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
2 cups plain or sparkling water
Thin lemon slices and fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Combine the zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar dissolves, about 5 min. Strain and cool.

Purée the melon in a blender. In a pitcher, combine the melon juice and the cooled syrup and mix well. Chill. Just before serving, add the water and serve over ice, garnished with the lemon slices and mint.

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Fall Spiced Apricot Cider

– johanna | November 12th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Beverage

The weather here has been playing hide-n-seek. One day it is cool the next day back to warm weather. We have so longed for a change from the drastic heat that prevails here in the valley but now that my toes are chilled I wish for warmer weather. All is well though. I have my toasty woolen socks and my favorite fall cider to keep me comfortable. I remember growing up my mom would steal my dad’s warm socks to keep her feet warm. Now she has slippers but the charade was a fun jest to usher in the winter.

Source: Connie Cummings
2 cans apricot nectar
2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours or until cider reaches desired temperature. Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks before serving.

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