Honey Sweetened Lemonade

I’m not big on cliché sayings at any time, but one that has always irritated me – really gotten under my skin – is the old “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”.

honey sweetened lemonade

I get it; I do.

We’re supposed to be making the best out of every situation, to take what we’re handed and somehow, someway, create something good out of the bad. But – to me, at least – it seems like these kinds of positive thoughts only resonate when we’re not in the midst of a lemon-heavy time. Life isn’t always what we expect. We’re not guaranteed the opportunity or time or resources to turn misfortune into something else. We’re not guaranteed anything, really.

honey sweetened lemonade

Life is not fair, in any capacity. Cancer, car accidents, war, missing planes, losing a parent or sibling or child or friend. It doesn’t play favorites, and it certainly doesn’t spare anyone from tragedy.

Is life great? Yes.
Can it be incredible? Most definitely.

In my short almost 31-years on Earth, I have experienced both extremes. Pure, exuberant joy and soul-searing, devastating pain. Everyone understands what it feels like to be on the losing end – when you’re the one being handed lemon after lemon after lemon while everyone else around you seems to be getting peaches instead. When someone else gets the promotion or the dream house or the baby. Maybe it’s luck; maybe it’s just that life – real, complicated, painful, joyful life – hasn’t caught up to some people yet.

my favorite iced coffee

Iced coffee seems to be “it” right now. I mean, really – it’s everywhere! On menus, on Facebook, on Instagram. Everywhere I look, all I see is iced coffee.

iced coffee

It’s the new avocado toast.

The new egg-on-everything.

The new green smoothie.

Although, if I’m being honest, I still eat (and completely love) all of those things, too. And seriously – I tried resisting. I convinced myself that I wouldn’t like iced coffee because I love hot coffee. I tried. I really, really tried.

And I thought I was fine after I tried it the first time because it was…gross. Some places don’t make good iced coffee – don’t forget that.

iced coffee

But then. Then I tried the iced coffee at my favorite local place, Lucie Monroe’s, and the heavens opened up. It was magical! NOW I knew why people loved it so much. The coffee was perfect – everything I love about coffee, on ice. No bitterness, nothing to get in the way of the actual flavors of the beans.

My only issue? Most places only have regular (caffeinated) iced coffee, and I like having my iced coffee in the afternoon. I still like my hot coffee in the morning – cold drinks are just too cold to have when I get up! And since I like mine in the afternoon, I want decaf. If I have caffeine in the afternoon, I’ll get shaky or I won’t be able to sleep, so I try not to have it after 10 am.

strawberry rhubarb pecan crumble pie bars

It’s rare that I go back and make changes to desserts. Once we have something that we love, it usually stays the way it is. Just how I like most things. But sometimes, you have to change it up a little bit.

strawberry rhubarb crumble pie bars

It’s June, which means we’re finding every excuse to as many strawberries as humanly possible.

Strawberries on their own and mixed into fruit salads. Strawberries in oatmeal and smoothies, in salads and dressings, in pie and jam.

And specifically, and especially, these bars.

strawberry rhubarb crumble pie bars

I first made these for a work picnic a few years ago, and most recently made a batch to take to my nephew’s 4th birthday party as a dessert for all of the adults.

As expected, most of the bars were gone by that evening. I’m pretty sure one was eaten for breakfast the next morning, and the last couple in the pan ended up being an afternoon snack for my mom, Nick’s mom, and me while we chatted – and ate, straight from the pan – around the kitchen island. I think if the last crumbs are being scooped out of the pan with a spoon, you’ve got a good thing going.

Today is a very special day.

Nick and I were married, 10 years ago, on a sunny Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend with all our friends and family around, just steps from the beach.

brown butter macadamia cookies

I feel like there’s no way that 10 years have gone by…but at the same time, I feel as though I’ve known and loved Nick for as long as I can remember. We’ve been together for 1/3 of our lives already, which just sounds crazy!

Last year, I shared a salted chocolate pecan cookie recipe on our anniversary, and I think that sums us up perfectly so I knew I had share this one today.

brown butter macadamia cookies

These cookies have quickly become a family favorite and are already being requested anytime we’re visiting.

The secret?

Roasted, salted macadamia nuts. I like macadamias, but I had know idea how much I loved them until I had them salted. They taste so different! Still buttery and rich, but balanced out with that little bit of salt. As soon as we tried them, we knew we needed to throw them in some cookie dough.

my favorite breakfast casserole

I’m always up for is a challenge in the kitchen. Especially when it’s tied to very specific memories and family recipes. There’s something special about being in the kitchen – with others, or even alone – and making something that feels like home to you.

breakfast casserole

So it may be an understatement to say that I’m super excited to be sharing about my favorite breakfast casserole with you again.

nick's hands Kitchen Play and McCormick emailed a bunch of bloggers, wanted an inside peek at what cooking for our family looks like and what makes it special. And I couldn’t think of a better example than this breakfast casserole.

Do you have holiday food traditions?

Not your normal turkey-at-Thanksgiving or ham-at-Christmas, but other holiday food traditions?
Read more at http://www.branappetit.com/2011/11/16/breakfast-casserole-blog-for-a-cause/#6oWRu4XgtbG258i1.99

Do you have holiday food traditions?

Not your normal turkey-at-Thanksgiving or ham-at-Christmas, but other holiday food traditions?
Read more at http://www.branappetit.com/2011/11/16/breakfast-casserole-blog-for-a-cause/#6oWRu4XgtbG258i1.99

Do you have family food traditions? And not just a turkey at Thanksgiving or ham at Christmas. Cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts? Giant cookies in place of the usual birthday cake (my personal favorite)?

While Thanksgiving as a whole has always been my favorite holiday, there’s something incredibly special about our Christmas mornings at home, and it has nothing to do with stockings or what is sitting under the tree.

Christmas morning, for me, will always be filled with memories of my mom and dad, two sisters, and friends might as well be family.

Every Christmas morning that I can remember at home meant going over to my parents’ best friends house, trading gifts – usually in pajamas, at least for us kids – and then sharing breakfast together. Always breakfast casserole. Always mom’s, and always Jill’s. Plus some fruit, coffee for the adults, Five Alive juice for us kids. Sometimes monkey bread or donuts, too, but the mainstay was always – and is still – the breakfast casserole.

There are times that this casserole makes an appearance at other times during the year, but it’s rare. I love it for a weekend breakfast or easy dinner, but I don’t make it often because it is so closely tied with Christmas morning and my family and the Lowell’s that it seems strange to have this in the middle of summer or on a cool spring morning.

It is a Christmas morning dish. The only Christmas morning dish.

Christmas morning

Christmas morning means:

Early wake up

Bed head pictures while opening stockings

Moving into the room with the tree and shiny bows and name tags from Santa

Taking turns opening gifts

Maybe, sometimes, accidentally giving away the presents before the person actually unwraps the gift…

And then breakfast, with extended family

In pajamas

Coffee, 5 Alive, fruit, donuts or danishes, and breakfast casserole

Mom’s and Jill’s versions, a piece – or two – of each, please

Laughs, oh the laughs we have

Retelling stories that we’ve heard a thousand times and still smiling at the memories
Read more at http://www.branappetit.com/2011/11/16/breakfast-casserole-blog-for-a-cause/#6oWRu4XgtbG258i1.99

Christmas morning means:

Early wake up

Bed head pictures while opening stockings

Moving into the room with the tree and shiny bows and name tags from Santa

Taking turns opening gifts

Maybe, sometimes, accidentally giving away the presents before the person actually unwraps the gift…

And then breakfast, with extended family

In pajamas

Coffee, 5 Alive, fruit, donuts or danishes, and breakfast casserole

Mom’s and Jill’s versions, a piece – or two – of each, please

Laughs, oh the laughs we have

Retelling stories that we’ve heard a thousand times and still smiling at the memories
Read more at http://www.branappetit.com/2011/11/16/breakfast-casserole-blog-for-a-cause/#6oWRu4XgtbG258i1.99

From elementary school through college (and even still when we’re home visiting at Christmas), this has stayed the same. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

peanut butter & co. giveaway

Happy hump day!

I’ve got one of my favorite things for you guys today – peanut butter! But not just any any peanut butter…Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter.

Their white chocolate wonderful is crazy addicting. The dark chocolate is delicious in smoothies and on toast. The cinnamon raisin is so, so good melted into oatmeal or spread on a bagel.

peanut butter and company

One of you will win the Big Six — 6 assorted jars of peanut butter in this cute little carrying case. Then you can be just as addicted as we are! I haven’t tried a flavor of theirs so far that I didn’t like, but seriously, the white chocolate wonderful is my kryptonite.

To enter:

Tell me your favorite way to eat peanut butter – on a sandwich? in a smoothie? in oatmeal? on a spoon?

Good luck!!