The Best Mixers For Cocktails. Voila! you’re Now A Mixologist.

Life’s just a cocktail party – On the street. – Mick Jagger

When creating delicious cocktails, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Fresh citrus, herbs, your favorite spirits and quality mixers are all you need. I like to keep mixers on hand that have fewer ingredients and those that use real fruit. I have tried many and now my selections are not only refreshing, but healthier and offer versatility to create almost any cocktail. And they are also fantastic straight-up. Fever-Tree’s sparkling pink grapefruit and lime & yuzu are my favorites to enjoy right out of the bottle. Belvoir Fruit Farms is another one that is so good over ice or from the bottle. The elderflower and rose lemonade is like summer in a bottle.

Buy a bunch of mixers, ring up your friends and meet on the porch to exchange words of wisdom, vent and solve most of the world’s problems. Or maybe just your own. If anyone comes up with a solution to get your kids to heed your every word, please share. Please.

Here are my favorite mixers I use to make easy cocktails that look serious:

Belvoir Fruit Farms

Elderflower Rose Lemonade – just mix with sparkling wine, champagne, vodka or gin. Add a slice of cucumber if you want. No pressure. I make the effort and it’s really good, just saying….

Cucumber & Mint Lemonade – so very good with gin or vodka. Hendrick’s Gin is my favorite. Add muddled basil and lime juice to 2 oz gin or vodka over ice. Mix in Belvoir Cucumber & Mint. It’s a health drink.

Also makes a delicious martini. Pour 2 oz gin or vodka into a shaker filled with ice, add 1 oz Cucumber & Mint Lemonade and a squeeze of lime. Shake it like you mean it. Strain into a martini glass. Add a cucumber slice. Hendricks or The Botanist makes a great gin martini.

Fever-Tree

I keep these stocked in my fridge at all times. How cute is my egg basket? My cousin Cara gave this to me.

Lime & Yuzu – Made from limes from Tahiti and Japanese yuzu. I don’t know anything else about either except they are magic. Add 2 oz of tequila and fresh lime juice in a margarita glass. Top with Lime & Yuzu. Tastes like a delicious margarita. Salt the rim if you are into that kind of thing.

Sparkling Pink Grapefruit – add 2 oz tequila and fresh lime juice for the best Paloma. You can make one using fresh grapefruit juice if you want. Also amazing. But Fever-Tree makes it easier with their delicious mixer. Some like a salted rim with this one too. I do not. Suit yourself.

Elderflower Tonic Water – pairs perfectly with Hendricks Gin or The Botanist for the best gin and tonic. Add fresh lime juice.  Excellent with vodka too!

Mediterranean Tonic Water – Herbaceous and Mediterranean-y. I’ve used this in countless ways. Vodka and gin mostly. Add St. Germaine elderflower liqueur with fresh lemon or lime juice – or both. Go crazy!

My favorite over ice in a chilled red wine glass:  1.5 oz of gin or vodka, 1 oz St. Germaine, squeeze of lemon slice or lemon quarter and drop in the glass, top with Mediterranean Tonic Water. Rub fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs between your fingers to release the aroma and add to the glass. Don’t have fresh rosemary or thyme? It’s still good without it. But put it on your grocery list. Or plant some. Enjoy all summer!

Ginger Beer – I only use Fever-Tree for my Kentucky or Austin Mules. Kentucky Mule – I pair with Elijah Craig or Woodford Reserve. Add a bourbon cherry. Austin Mule – I use Tito’s Vodka (made in Austin, TX) and fresh lime juice. Serve over ice in a rocks glass.

Withco

My absolute favorite batch cocktail mixers. These are not for drinking straight. They are concentrated fresh and natural ingredients to add to spirits or sparkling water. Before using, shake each one with vigour. Vigour I said.

Ellis Old Fashioned – flavored with bitters, cinnamon, orange oil and vanilla. Makes a classic old fashioned.

I add 2 oz to 2.0 oz of bourbon over ice. I add a bourbon cherry too of course.

SweaterWeather – Apple, honey and spices such as cardamom, rosemary, all spice and others. Enjoy cold or warm in a sauce pan or crock-pot.

Add 2 oz to 1.5 oz bourbon. I don’t add anything else. Not even my beloved bourbon cherry. It’s so good just like this. It’s perfect for fall and winter – but I’m going to try it this spring and summer with vodka. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. (look it up)

Bouquet – I’m in love with this. It smells so good. Which is why it’s called Bouquet I think.

Here’s how they describe it: “Dreamy notes of lavender weave through fresh-squeezed lemon and rosewater.” Like a drink at the spa.

I pour 2 oz in a glass filled with ice. I add 1.5 oz of gin or vodka. Then I top with Fever-Tree Sparkling Soda. You can add a twist of lemon if you want. I do not because it is perfect without it. But you do you.

Champagne cocktail – 2 oz of Bouquet and top with champagne or another sparkling wine. Fancy.

Cheers Friends!

What Does Lemon Luster MEan ANyway? I Get This Question A Lot.

To truly have a zest for life, you must squeeze all the juice out of it….especially the lemons. Believe it or not, they make life even more delicious. The lessons you get out of them make you strong, resilient, and amazing. – Jenny G. Perry

On a trip to Nashville recently with a group of some of my very best friends. A young bride to be on her bachelorette party placed her veil in my hair. I jumped around in it for fun. But really I just felt so much joy being with beautiful and remarkable friends in a fun city on a gorgeous day. I always want to feel that joy and kick up my heels! It’s the epitome of what Lemon Luster is about.

I get this question all the time. What is a Lemon Luster, Why Lemon Luster….so many variations of questioning. Here is the short answer: all of the other names I wanted were taken. Of course, there is more to the story and here it is.

I hit menopause, went through a divorce, and my kids were in high school on their way to starting their own lives. My identity seemed unknown all of sudden. I felt old, nothing I used on my skin or hair was working anymore, I needed to start over in a career, and I wasn’t sure how to approach any of it. If all that doesn’t read like a mess imagine what was in my head.

I was talking to my mom one day about a piece of old furniture I have that is scratched and absolutely lusterless. It’s an antique from my grandmother. It just needed a good polishing to renew its shine and splendor. Cute Judy, my mom, went on and on about this lemon oil polish that she would bring over and we would give it new life and luster. Lightbulb!  I needed to bathe in the lemon luster oil polish. And that my friends became the name of my blog.

If you too are in a similar situation, here is the equation:

Cute Judy + lemon polish + aging + new shine + menopause + dry hair + new purpose = Lemon Luster

So really Lemon Luster is about being our best and thinking the best about ourselves. As well, being a source of light and love for others. With kids about to fly the coop I’m still wondering “now what”. I don’t have the answers but when I come up with something good, I’ll write about it. And if you think of something please let me know! We will figure this out together. This blog is like a virtual porch. Pour a glass of something good and come sit a spell.

Lemons really are one of my favorite things. Here’s a short list why:

  1. I love yellow. It is the happiest color on earth. Lemon yellow just evokes happy.
  2. I love lemons in everything – I can flavor my drink, add the zest to whatever I’m cooking, and then run that sucker around the sink to clean it with the same lemon. MULTI TASKING!!
  3. Lemons are healthy.
  4. Lemons symbolize shine, a refresh, zest for life.
  5. They smell good.

And that is the story behind Lemon Luster. I have more stories – about how I have started over and grown a career, turned dry as desert hair to lustrous once again – it took a while, and how I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ll share. To me, middle-aged with an almost empty nest just means I’m walking through a new door to see what’s on the other side. It’s going to be good!

No Matter The Question In Winter, A Hot toddy Is The Answer

Dorothy: Ma, another hot toddy? I think I’ve had enough.

Sophia: Shut up and drink.

Dorothy: This is the fourth one Ma! That’s a lot of whiskey!

Sophia: I only put whiskey in the first one. The second and third were vodka. Amaretto and sambucca in the fourth one. That should kill everything. – Golden Girls

I really love the idea of winter. A fire in the fireplace, cozy blankets, that cold winter smell outside. But as soon as it turns really, really cold that daunting feeling sets in that I have to go outside and face winter’s torture. And put on a coat. Coats make me hot, then cold, then hot, then cold sweaty hot cold. I’m freezing to death and profusely sweating all at the same time. I hate wearing a coat! And I complain relentlessly about the cold and what a harsh, harsh world it is out there. And it is the season of DISEASES. People are coughing, sneezing, throwing up just minutes after being in close confines with them. Winter is very dangerous.

Of course, I became ill the second week in January. I don’t know if it was COVID because all the tests were gone and it was too cold to go out and try to figure out if I had the C word. I just stayed home until I got better (without even knowing if I had the C word….what?!?!). And I drank so much tea that I could have brewed tea straight from my pores in a hot bath. I really wanted a cocktail one evening as I started feeling better, but a cold one would’ve caused my teeth to chatter out of my mouth. And that is when I remembered the hot toddy. It is the most comforting and delicious drink. And it soothes a sore throat. Things were looking up.

Here’s the recipe: hot water, two ounces of bourbon, fresh squeezed lemon juice. That’s it.

Or toss in a candied orange peel or squeeze in a little fresh orange juice.

I made my toddy with tea – Earl Gray and Yogi’s herbal teas are my favorites. You use whatever kind of tea you like. Pour hot water over a tea bag, add honey, lemon and a splash of bourbon. So delicious.

Don’t like bourbon? Tequila, gin and vodka make delicious hot drinks too.

I mentioned candied orange peels. That’s because my cousin Cara posted hers on Instagram. I took one look and knew they would be perfect in a Manhattan or an old fashioned cocktail. Cara uses them as garnish for cream cheese iced chocolate cake. I run to the bar cart and she runs to the oven. I’m the bourbon to her candied oranges!

Ready for the very simple recipes? Here you go:

Cara’s Candied Orange Peels:

Wash and peel a bunch of oranges. Or just a couple. Cut into strips and boil for 20 minutes in water with a cup or two of sugar. Drain and cool, toss with sugar to coat and lay out to dry on a baking sheet. Toss in a cocktail, hot toddy or garnish a cake.

Classic Hot Toddy:

Pour one or two ounces of bourbon or whiskey in a mug, add hot water. Stir in honey and fresh lemon juice to taste.

Variations: Add vodka or gin instead of bourbon or whiskey. Add a cinnamon stick. Go crazy.

I prefer bourbon – either Elijah Craig, Woodford or Basil Hayden’s.

Hot Tea Toddy:  Pour hot water into a mug, add your favorite tea bag, stir in honey, lemon juice and a splash or two of bourbon. Add a candied orange peel for a little extra sweet citrusy flavor.

Hot Apple Cider Margarita

1 – 2 ounces of Tequila
4 ounces hot apple cider – heat in a saucepan
Squeeze of fresh orange juice
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Tsp of light agave nectar

Add all to a mug and stir to mix flavors. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg – or add a cinnamon stick. Or a candied orange peel.

Hot Vodka Apple Cider

Boil 6-8 ounces of apple cider and ½ tsp of cinnamon in a saucepan. Reduce heat and add 1 ounce of vodka. Simmer for about five minutes. You can add more to make a larger batch for friends.

Party idea! Have friends over and treat them to a hot toddy bar. Have various spices like nutmeg or ground cloves, oranges, lemons, teas, cinnamon sticks, apple cider, candied orange peels, bourbon cherries and plenty of hot water in the kettle. Tell everybody to get creative!

And just like that winter is ok.

2022 – Grace carried me here and by grace I will carry on

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.

– Max Lucado

It’s a new year and like everyone else I’m thinking about my resolutions or intentions again. I’m also thinking about what didn’t go right last year. I gained weight. I exercised all of three times. Ok maybe 10 times. Maybe. Unless vacuuming counts and then I exercised when the dog went through shedding spurts. I let politics and COVID make me angry and stressed. I didn’t write like I said I would. I also held grudges that should have been long, long gone and forgiven. And now I’m dragging it all into 2022 telling myself not to mess up like I did last year. That is not very encouraging. Don’t Mess Up Like You Did Last Year. When did I get so negative? How about – let go of the past and look forward to a new year. My favorite word is grace and I seem to have forgotten what it means and the importance of giving it to myself and others.

The beauty and signature of God’s grace is that he does not give up on us – even when we give up on ourselves. So my priority this year is living a life full of grace. Aging gracefully and not just through fitness and serums. Aging gracefully also means being a kinder person knowing more about how life polishes us. Kind of like old rocks in a river that have been washed over and over to perfect smoothness. A better understanding of how people feel, who they are and exuding more compassion.

It’s easy to get caught up in competition with others or slip back into bad habits that aren’t healthy. It’s worse to beat ourselves up over it. Put it in the past and forgive yourself. Start over. Grace allows us a fresh new life which is not condemned by God. Through God’s grace we are forgiven which should change our way of thinking, renewing our mind and heart.

According to western Christian theology, God gives grace to us because He wants us to have it – and not because we have earned it. It’s like power for us to do what we can’t do for ourselves. In Corinthians, God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul asked God three separate times to remove his thorn in the flesh. I don’t know what the thorn was, but it was troubling, and Paul didn’t believe he could rid himself of it on his own. But God said he could. I know what my thorns are and I’m sure anyone reading this has their thorns. Regardless of what they are or how bad or different, God’s grace is sufficient for us too and His power is made perfect in weakness.

Grace is my intention. Diet, exercise and other goals won’t help if my mental state is not clear of my burdens. No more dwelling. More faith, more grace to ourselves and others. I love this quote by Brené Brown, “Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.”

Happy New Year! Now go drink your two liters of water, hit the gym, write your book, eat more veggies, start your own business or whatever else you think your intentions or goals should be. But resolve to show yourself grace.

Here’s to a year more successful and better than ever simply by receiving and giving GRACE!

“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” – Saint Augustine of Hippo

What I have Learned From COVID-19

Life has handed us lemons this year. So I’ve squeezed them into cocktails, made divine lemon roasted chicken, and made my sink disposal smell like a lemon grove. Ha! Take that 2020!

– Me showing life who the boss is around here.

I’ve enjoyed reading about what others have learned from the pandemic. We’ve all gained something from it and much is with a silver lining. Certainly it goes without saying that COVID-19 is serious and the virus has caused much grief for so many. Humor and family always get me through tough times though! I have stayed sane laughing at ridiculous memes, the funny lessons learned from being stuck at home, and getting back to a simpler life where what matters the most is under your roof.

So here is what I’ve learned during COVID-19:

  1. I can eat an entire bag of Veggie Straws and not feel sick.
  2. My hair must be washed after four days. That’s the limit.
  3. My pajamas that I lived in for a while must be washed after four days. That’s the limit.
  4. Wearing a mask means it’s ok to talk to myself out loud in the grocery store.
  5. The 19 part represents the potential number of pounds you might gain.
  6. How much value people place on toilet paper. Should be distributed by the U.S Mint and priced like silver and gold.
  7. What six feet actually looks like thanks to the blue tape in stores. I have no spatial awareness and my guess would have been inaccurate and more like 10 feet.  We’d be lined up wall to wall in the store.
  8. I don’t like the word “unprecedented” anymore.
  9. People have VERY strong opinions.
  10. The importance of remembering manners and grace after reading opinions that differ from your own.
  11. If I wake up and can smell and taste my coffee I’m doing pretty good!
  12. Family and friends are everything.
  13. I’m a hugger.
  14. I make really good cocktails and elderflower and rose are delicious with gin.
  15. If I have lemons, flour, milk, eggs and cheese I can pretty much make anything into a meal.
  16. I don’t have to always go somewhere.
  17. How exhausting my life was. 
  18. How many people are medical experts with a side hustle as a politician! I am so impressed.
  19. What some people call prepping for a pandemic is also called hoarding.
  20. It is now necessary to announce to a group of people that you have allergies and try to convince them that if you sneeze no one will get COVID.
  21. It is now necessary that if you have allergies and might sneeze among a group of people that you might just want to stay home.
  22. The importance of supporting local small business owners. Shop small local businesses! 
  23. How popular puzzles are. I felt like I needed to run to Target to get one, slap half of it together, call the kids down to smile around it for a pic and post it on Facebook. “Look at us…..doing a puzzle! Together!”
  24. Nature and being outside is essential. Our country is beautiful!
  25. Not to take anything for granted. Be grateful for health, love, home, work, and each other!
Beaver Lake in Eureka Springs, Arkansas – A reminder of how beautiful our country is and that if you have love from those you love….you have everything.

Hunted! Products and Finds Worth Telling Ya’ll About.

Chased. Foraged. Pursued. Shopped. Ferreted. Rooted. Scouted. – Synonyms for hunted or all the ways to describe my hard-earned acquisitions

I feel like I’m always on the hunt for something. The perfect tote, just right nude lip gloss, just right summer, spring, fall, winter lip gloss, boots, sandals, sundress, pillows…..and on and on. Not to mention a product for my face that provides enough hydration and fights aging…..since I’m aging and all. Sigh.

So, I decided to share what I’ve hunted down. Maybe it will work for you too! I’ll also share products and things that my friends have found that they love. These are not sponsored. Just tried and approved by real women with busy lives and budgets.

Here are my latest favorites! These were sought out based on the heat and my quest to not look like a melting mess. The shoes had nothing to do with the heat. I’m always on the hunt for great shoes.

  1. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Water Gel Face Moisturizer

My face is so very dry. And at the very same time sweats in the summer heat. I can’t stand a heavy face cream in the summer but I can’t go without a moisturizer. My dermatologist always recommends Neutrogena for my sensitive skin and gave me a sample. I love it in the summer. It’s not enough in the winter but perfect for now! Absorbs like a gel but moisturizes like a cream. Makes my makeup look dewy and fresh. My boyfriend loves it too. So get some and pass it around the family. Or don’t.

  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Lipshine

I’m always looking for the perfect lip color that isn’t heavy in the summer – but it has to be moisturizing. Hunted one down! This one doesn’t feel heavy in the heat and doesn’t bleed. Isn’t sticky or tacky feeling. It’s the perfect lip gloss for the summer. Radiant Rose is my favorite shade that looks natural for casual summer days.  On top of that it moisturizes like a lip balm and is inexpensive. Winning!

  • Trish McEvoy Liquid Face Color

I bought a Trish McEvoy makeup planner in February and this cream blush came with it. I wasn’t in love with it. I thought it was streaky and hard to blend. I hoped that because it was creamy it would work on my dry skin during the winter but it did not. My powder blush worked better. Fast forward to summer….it is perfect for hot weather! Dry blush streaks when my face gets hot. This cream does not move and it blends so well giving my complexion a little burst of dewy color. It’s more sheer which I like in the summer. It’s great as a lip stain too with a gloss on top. Love it!! It’s in a twist-up click pen with a brush head. Get it at Nordstrom.  It lasts a long time so spending $38 on it is well worth it!

  • Trish McEvoy FAST-TRACK Bronzer Stick

I bought this in February along with the liquid face color. I love it!! I usually find bronzers hard to blend and too orange or weird for my skin. I’m pale. This one is perfect. It’s a cream to powder stick that blends easily with your fingers or a sponge. It comes in one shade and you can just keep building until you get the right amount of warmth for your skin. Keeps you looking sunny! I wear it over my moisturizer with the liquid face color, mascara, lip gloss and I’m out the door.

  • Vince Camuto Felima Two-Strap Sandal

I needed a sandal that could be casual but fun to wear out with a dress or with denim shorts and a t-shirt. It had to have a square toe, a blocky heel, be stylish and comfortable. I looked for a while. Finally scored the perfect pair! I bought it in black but I’m going to buy the black/white snakeskin patterned pair as well I think. Yeah….I think I will. Cute isn’t it? And it’s on sale.

Anyone find anything this summer that they love? Anyone? I’d like to hear about it!

I Think Where There Is Fried Rice There Is Love

So you mean to tell me that a chicken fried this rice? -Someone hilarious

My fried rice recipe is one of my favorites. And my kids love it!  I have perfected the recipe and it’s healthy which means that I am, once again, WINNING! I adapted my recipe from one published in The Joy Of Cooking. My most beloved cookbook….worn out, tattered and stained from Lord knows what I splattered on it. I am a messy cook but I think the bigger the mess the better the dish. Right?

If you read different recipes they will tell you to make the rice the day before and start with cold rice. Do I do that? No. Am I telling you not to make it the day before? No. Feel free to plan ahead and use cold cooked rice. I am just not good at planning that far ahead. I just cook the rice and set it aside. I have found the key is to get the oil in the skillet very hot. And when you add the eggs, make a little well in the middle of the rice and scramble it right there in that little spot before stirring it throughout the rice. OK?

We like our fried rice simple. If I make ham fried rice then I don’t add anything else. Sometimes mushrooms but my kids don’t like that. So truly just ham and rice. Anytime I bake a ham I make fried rice with the leftovers. Ham seasoned with cloves is amazing in fried rice. Coriander is the star in this dish so add that to your grocery list! Coriander makes many recipes delicious. You can use cardamom in place of it if you have that instead. Other uses for coriander include roasted potatoes, vegetable soup, roasted eggplant, and any Indian or Asian rice dish.

If I make chicken fried rice, I like to toss in some broccoli. That’s it. We do not like cabbage or onion but you knock yourselves out adding the veggies you like. And I use brown rice sometimes, but we really prefer white rice.

Here’s the recipe:

¼ cup olive oil – heat in a skillet

3 cups cooked rice – toss it in the hot oil

Once hot throughout and golden add:

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked chicken (I like sautéed chicken), ham or shrimp

Mix well and and hollow out a center in the rice and add:

2 eggs – scramble the eggs and then stir into the rice

Add:

1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce – or more if you like

1 teaspoon coriander

Toast sesame seeds in a small skillet – about 1 tablespoon and sprinkle on top of the fried rice

Variations:  Add mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, onion, peas or whatever you like!

It’s not pretty…..but how it tastes is what matters and it’s really good! Let me know how you like it and how you prepare your fried rice.

Ham fried rice with coriander and toasted sesame seeds

One Ham, Three Recipes and Countless Memories

Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable. – Ina Garten

Ina….were you talking about ham?!?!?

My pictures aren’t pretty. Sorry.

I will never forget my friend Elizabeth texting me while I was at work one day early in March telling me I had better stop by the grocery store on the way home. She said the shelves were pretty bare with people gearing up to hunker down due to COVID-19. When my friend Elizabeth tells me to do something I just do it. So, I went and I walked down the aisles in disbelief that the shelves were practically bare.  It was like one of those old westerns where one lone cowboy is walking through a ghost town with tumble weeds floating around. Even old music was playing – it was Sheena Easton though – not eerie western movie music. That would have been weird. All the meat was gone! Gone! Except for a pork butt. One lonely pork butt begging for a home. And a section full of ham. Ham! Huge hams that would feed us for a month with an expiration date of November something. So, in the cart the ham went with the other five things that were left in the store. I grabbed some frozen taquitos and we had the most delicious dinner out of those. I’m a huge fan now!

I had to go back to another store the next day because Elizabeth said I had better since it was stocked for the most part. Since I was able to buy a month’s worth of groceries in 30 minutes, I put the ham on hold until Easter.  

Easter Sunday was definitely different but a wonderful day, nonetheless. I spent the day home with my beloved family and delicious food. The ham was so simple, but so good. The smell of a glazed ham in the oven is so comforting and brought up so many memories. Past Easters, Christmas, my grandmother’s baked hams and sweet family memories. It’s amazing how a scent can take you back to precious times. And it was just what we needed during those uncertain days at the beginning of the pandemic – comfort.

That ham and I….meant to be! The recipe couldn’t be any simpler:

You need a 8-9 pound smoked ham placed in a foil lined roasting pan. A pile of cloves. Yellow mustard. Brown sugar.

  1. Take the cloves – about a ¼ cup I’d say – and bedazzle that ham all over with them. Get creative with clove designs if you want! Some score the ham with a knife first…knock yourself out.
  2. Add about a ¼ cup of mustard and a ¼ cup of brown sugar to a small bowl and stir to create a paste.
  3. Rub the mixture all over the ham.
  4. Bake at 325 for around 3 hours 15 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 130.

That’s it my friends. Enjoy the most delicious scent throughout your house! And it’s so good. I mean, my son will stand at the refrigerator and snack on ham in the middle of the night.

Unless you have a large crowd, you should have lots of leftovers. I made white beans and ham, ham fried rice, and ham sliders. Ham and Havarti cheese……food couple of the year. All very different and no one complained that we were having ham again. I’ll post the recipes so check back!

Oh! It doesn’t have to be Easter to bake a ham. Ham is so good with baked beans, salads, macaroni and cheese – truly perfect for anytime of the year and feeds a crowd. Throw one in the oven and take the sliced meat to the lake. Sandwiches and sliders all week – perfect to pack in a cooler and enjoy on a boat ride. Or at breakfast with bloody mary’s – I definitely enjoyed that combo more than once before it was devoured.

Oh! In case you didn’t know…. ham is very lean and a great source protein. It’s also a great source of selenium, phosporous, zinc, vitamin B6, B12, thiamine, riboflavin, and choline. It’s also low in calories! A win!

Hope you enjoy and let me know how you like it!

Shepherd’s Pie. It’s What’s For Dinner During The Great Casserole Comeback!

“Where’d you get the shepherd?” – My boyfriend Kevin

“This looks so bad but it tastes so good!” – My Kids

Cooking has been challenging to say the least being at the mercy of what is available at the grocery store and my own pantry. I  never know what will be out of stock next at the grocery store. I was shocked to see that hot dogs and sausages were totally wiped out with a sign that said people could only purchase one. Hot dogs? Is that because they will last until the end of time? That is all I can think of. Anyway, as a result I have tried to buy things that will last and that I can stretch through the week.  I fondly refer to this time as the The Great Casserole Comeback. Oh what I can do with a roast chicken, rice, carrots, potatoes, 5 pounds of ground beef……endless possibilities! My kids look scared to death when they see a 9×13 dish come out of the oven.

Well, much to their chagrin they loved my shepherd’s pie. They ate it all. Only one little bit left for lunch the next day.  It’s not pretty…nooooooo it’s not. But what it lacks in presentation it more than makes up for in taste. And that is why I share it with you here today. The best part…..it’s healthy and very easy to make from scratch.  Use the vegetables you have and don’t worry if you’re missing any. Don’t have fresh veggies but plenty of frozen? Throw them in! It calls for mushrooms but they were sold out like the hot dogs. My kids were thrilled. Don’t eat meat or it’s not stocked? Leave it out – the gravy is so good with the vegetables and mashed potatoes alone. You can make it with ground beef or turkey.

Recipe is as follows – it’s easier than it looks!

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

1 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

3 whole cloves

1 tsp thyme

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced onion

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1 cup diced celery

1 cup frozen corn

1 tablespoon, plus ¾ tablespoon all purpose flour

½ cup low sodium beef broth

3-4 chopped, cooked, mashed potatoes

½ cup milk – low fat

1 tablespoon butter

1 -2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown beef in a large skillet and drain when done. Wipe the skillet clean. Return beef to skillet and stir in 1 cup broth, pepper, salt, bay leaves, cloves and thyme. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

While that cooks chop the potatoes and cover in a pan with cold water. Boil the potatoes until tender for 10-12 minutes. Drain in a colander and return to pan. Add butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. I have been known to add a spoonful of sour cream. Mash or mix until fluffy in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Add carrots, onions, mushrooms, celery and corn to the skillet with the beef. Add 1/2 cup or so of more broth if it’s low to cook the veggies. Simmer and cook covered for 7 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Preheat oven to 375. Put flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk in broth. Stir until smooth and blended. Add to beef mixture. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened. Transfer mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.

I hope your family loves it! I find that cooking for family is psychologically and spiritually nourishing. Food is love!

Proof that my kids loved it:

This Too Shall Pass. Until Then……

“We fall into despair when the terrible gangs up on us and we forget the world can also be wonderful. We just see terrible everywhere we look. So what you do for your friend is you bring up the wonderful, so both are side by side. The world is terrible and wonderful at the same time. One doesn’t negate the other, but the wonderful keeps us in the game.”   – Catherine Ryan Hyde, Have You Seen Luis Velez?

How cute is this? Two little girls in my mom’s neighborhood painted and placed these on everyone’s driveway with a different word of hope for each family.

Keep making lemonade! I keep reading posts and articles right now about making lemonade out of the lemons being thrown at us right now. There is so much that is positive out there and people coming together….six feet apart and separated by phone screens and monitors of course. I do feel so much closer to people from so far away. Do you? All the references to lemons make me smile right now. Lemons are a symbol of well-being and positive surroundings. I don’t know about you but I could really use that right now! The stock market is down and the number on my bathroom scale is up. Shelter in place is in effect for the county in which I live. Oh, and the governor in the fine state of Georgia closed school for the rest of the year. It’s necessary I know. My kids miss their classes, teachers and friends. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The number on my bathroom scale is up. Did I mention that already? I think I did.

I have so many questions. Such as…..

  1. Can I get pulled over just driving to the grocery store? I don’t think I would have a problem if I did. One look at my crazed eyes, an ungroomed dirty dog in the back seat and two kids with home given haircuts should get us waved right on.

2. Are other people changing out of daytime pajamas to put on nighttime pajamas when it gets kind of dark? Asking for a friend.

3. Who is staying awake at night worried sick about loved ones getting sick? And keeping jobs and finances intact? Anyone else? I think I already know the answer.

Worries will continue but so will so many good things and lessons we take away from all of this. I see on Facebook and hear from so many about how it’s brought their families back to the kitchen table for dinner each night. I have always insisted on family dinner at the table but sometimes it was a snack at 9:30 after lacrosse practice and we were too tired to really talk. Now we have dinner every night together and talk, walk the dog around the neighborhood (not a rushed somebody please take that poor dog out right now plea), play tennis, cards (we are trying to learn to play poker – $1 buy-in), or just sit and watch television. Together.  It’s not perfect….we bicker, I try to cheat at cards, ghastly inappropriate things are expelled from both kids at the dinner table, I get mad and then laugh. Because I don’t care what anyone says – a fart is funny. And they work so hard at it and we should celebrate everyone’s God given talents during this difficult time.

I have friends making masks, inspirational jewelry with sweet messages to send to those who need it, dropping off desserts, cards, anything to help lift spirits. There was a drive-by birthday celebration for a neighbor in my neighborhood. Singing happy birthday out of the windows of cars. It brought joy to the entire street! My daughter and I went to a very large parking lot, sat six feet apart from dear friends and celebrated a 16th birthday. There were less than 10 people congregating. It was simple – balloons, bubbles, and singing happy birthday. It was awesome! I received this beautiful package on my doorstep. Lemons of course! With lemon macarons – I’ll share the recipe.

We are all in it together! I read this on LinkedIn from businesses, Facebook from friends, and tell my kids that. We will get through this together. From six feet apart, through FaceTime, Zoom, prayer, texts, funny memes, etc…. The memes! Hilarious videos and memes that I love sending to friends. We all need a laugh! Anyone have a favorite? Here’s a few of mine. Share yours in comments. Please!!!

So stand on that blue tape in the grocery store, wash your hands, stay home and I hope you all feel more connected than ever before. Life is precious and I don’t know many who aren’t waking up each day grateful for what they have right now. Our time with our children and loved ones is precious too. We will look back and remember when we had to stay home, play games, and just come together. That’s what I’ll remember about this when it’s over. How we all got through it together.

I can’t sew masks and I don’t make jewelry. I have never been a crafty person. But I love telling stories, writing and cooking. So that’s what I’m going to do! I have made delicious dinners that my kids have actually liked and I’m trying to compile recipes. I have to take time to write them down because I cook without them and I’ll share them soon. I think we all could use easy recipes right now and I hear people are running out of dinner inspiration. I’ll share mine!

I hope you’ll check back for stories, recipes and whatever else I come up with. It’s the least I can do to help us all get through this…..together!