Get Your Ice-Cold Lemonade Here!

Sometimes you just want a quick glass of cold lemonade without all the gross preservatives and excess sugar you get from the powdered junk. This little concoction is

Lemonade 1

Blue Castles | Lemonade

another gem from my childhood. I remember my mother keeping a jar of what we called Concentrate in the fridge year round, ready to be added to water for a tasty glass of lemonade at whim.

Lemonade 2

Blue Castles | Lemonade

If you’ve got a lot of citrus laying around that you don’t know what to do with, you’ll love this. There isn’t a specific recipe involved. It’s really just depends on how much you have on hand.

So grab those variations of citrus and bust out the juicer, my friends! I’m going to keep you in lemonade all summer long.

Literally all Concentrate is, is freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice (and orange if you want it a little sweeter), and maple syrup. It’ll store nicely in the fridge in a sealed jar. Your maple syrup should equal about half the amount of the juice. So if you have 1/2 cup of juice, you’d want about 1/4 cup of maple syrup. You can use less syrup if you add oranges, since oranges are naturally sweet. You can experiment until you get the level of sweetness you prefer.

Then it’s a couple tablespoons of Concentrate in a glass with ice and water and you have a fast, delicious, healthier version of lemonade on demand.  The juice and the syrup separate, of course, so just give the jar a quick shake to recombine before you make your drink.

I love the depth of flavour the maple syrup provides. It’s a much more complex sweet than sugar is, and it gives this lemonade a lovely round flavour.

So if you’re looking for a refreshing drink to fortify you from the heat, whip up a batch of Concentrate and keep it on hand all summer long!

Lemonade 3

Blue Castles | Lemonade

 

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(Inter)National Best Friends Day

I can’t think of anything more perfect to celebrate at the beginning of the summer than the joy of having a best friend.  Summertime is the perfect time for it – just think! There are so many things you can do with a best friend in the summertime. Continue reading

Grilled Coconut Curry Chicken

Happy First Day of June, my friends!

Summertime has arrived in full swing and I am absolutely loving the hot weather. After seven months of cold and snow, the sun is a very welcome change. As soon as the weather is even moderately warm, I start hankering for grilled foods of every variety. Since we don’t own a barbecue currently, this hankering is downright maddening.

This Coconut Curry Chicken is delicious no matter how you cook it, but if you have the means to grill it, it’s going to be absolutely amazing. Seriously, you will thank me afterwards.

If you want to, you can take the remainder of the marinade and turn it into a sauce by boiling it for five minutes. This will take care of the bacteria from the raw chicken, and the sauce is so good over the chicken and rice.

I always like to top this dish with fresh chopped cilantro, green onion and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. With the char on the chicken and some fluffy white rice, the flavour combination is unreal!

I always prefer to use chicken thighs for this recipe, because its so rich and flavourful. Chicken breasts would work as well if that’s what you have on hand. You can also bake the chicken in the oven or on the stove top if you’re like me and don’t have a barbecue.

Also, you can let this marinate for an hour and it’ll be mighty tasty, but let me tell you, I’ve marinated this recipe for a full twenty-four hours and it is the most amazing thing you will ever taste. I’m serious. This does not disappoint.

 

Coconut Curry Chicken

Serves: 6  Prep: 10 min + 1-24 hrs Cook: 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 lbs chicken thighs, two per person
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Zest and Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped, for garnish
  • Lime wedges

 

  1. Combine coconut milk, oil, lime juice and zest, cumin, soy sauce, curry powder and salt to make marinade.
  2. Place chicken in an airtight container and pour marinade over, seal and let marinate in the fridge for anywhere from an hour to 24 hours.  The longer, the better.
  3.  Separate chicken from marinade and set marinade aside. Grill chicken for 5 minutes, flip, and grill for another 5 minutes or until juices run clear.
  4. Put marinade into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for a full five minutes. Set aside to cool.
  5. Serve chicken with cooked rice and marinade sauce, topped with cilantro, green onions and a squeeze of lime juice.

 

Enjoy!

 

Renovation Survival 101: Fighting “While-I’m-At-It-itis”

Growing up, my family was involved in a lot of renovations. And my dad always jokingly warned us against the dastardly renovation disease “while-I’m-at-it-it is”. And he’s a doctor so he knows all about diseases.

This disease though is one of the biggest threats to your budget, your sanity, and your peace of mind. 

Basically it’s anytime you embark on one task, and then, since you’re in fix-it mode, you add another.  And another. And what was supposed to be a new sink and backsplash has turned into tearing down a wall,  changing plumbing, and a $40,000 kitchen remodel. 

Now sometimes you run across something as you update one area that seriously requires attention.  Mold in the walls.  A leak in the pipe. An ant colony in your basement (this happened to my aunt -haha- and uncle). And what you hoped would be. Little thing turns into something bigger.

That’s not really what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about willfully piling on more to a simple job until everyone is unhappy.

But don’t despair!  There are ways to fight it!  Here’s my big three to fight the urge to think “while I’m at it….”

  1. Review your budget. Nothing brings you back down to earth faster than remembering how much money you don’t have left to spend.  And don’t spend your 10% contingency on the first great idea you have!  You need that!  There could be ants in the walls!
  2. Never leave the room. Not literally of course, but in the scope of your renovation.  If this is supposed to be a mudroom makeover, you have no business thinking about the whole garage, the laundry room, the kitchen, the bathroom……
  3. Start planning the next project. This may sound counter-intuitive, but recognizing that this is not your “last chance” to do everything you want to is good! If you come up with an amazing (but definitely add-on) idea, write it down and set it aside for the next project. It shall not be part of this one, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen.

Overall, stay focused and stay rational! It’s your home, so you can make some pretty emotion driven decisions at times – and you should love your home and have a beautiful place to live! But you can make it your dream home in chunks. – manageable, affordable chunks.

We, of course, are doing everything at once.  But we still have to fight the urge to add on unnecessary bells and whistles.  With such a large project it’s even more important to recognize what can wait, what didn’t need to be done at all, and what we truly can afford to do.

Anyone ever start a small project that turned into a monster?

Apartment Gardening For Beginners

I have got to say, I am loving the weather we’ve been having this week!

This past winter felt like it was never going to end. We had a week of spring-like weather in April and then we were hit with a string of spring snowstorms that just seemed to linger. Ever since the sun came back, I’ve been outside every day, trying to soak up all the sunshine I can possibly get.

Community garden

Blue Castles | Community Gardening

Getting the

Community Garden 4

Blue Castles | Gardening

gardening urge is always a little tricky when you live in an apartment building, like we do, but my husband and I decided we wanted to try our hand at it this year.

Gardening is definitely a hands-on learning experience. You can read books to gain knowledge about the best planting techniques but you won’t really know what you’re doing until you get your hands in the dirt and get to work.

 

 

Here are a few tips if you want to try gardening but you don’t have a yard of your own.

 

  1. Take Note of How Much Sunlight Your Apartment Gets.
    Do you get sunlight in the morning? In the afternoon? All day? How much sunshine you’re balcony gets will determine which kind of plants you can grow. Plants like tomatoes need full sun, which means 8 hours of sunlight, but things like carrots and beets do better in partial sunlight.
  2. Determine How Much Space You’ll Need.
    What kind of vegetables do you want to grow? Do you just want a couple of tomatoes or do you want to cut down on your grocery bills by growing your own veggies? Do you just want to have access to fresh herbs for the summer (who doesn’t)? Some plants need more space than others, and some thrive better when they’re planted with others.  Do your research, and be prepared that it might not be possible to grow some veggies.
  3. Check out Your Community.
    We are lucky enough to have a community garden in our town, where we can rent a garden plot for $25 for the year, which is a blazin’ good deal. The garden has every gardening supply you could think of, all of which is available for use at any time.  The only thing that is asked of us is that we take a few minutes to work on the plots that are dedicated to the Food Bank. I personally think that is a very fair trade. If you don’t have the space or the best lighting for growing green things on your balcony, do some research in your community and see if there are any gardening options that you can take advantage of.

 

Community Garden Tomato

Blue Castles | Gardening 

 

Our plot is about 4 feet by 8 feet, which tons of space for the two of us. So far we’ve planted three tomato plants, two Roma tomatoes and one Beefsteak, a Chili pepper plant, two basil plants and two sugar snap pea plants. We still have a ton of space, so we might add a few more plants in the next week or so. I’m so excited to have this project this summer! Especially because its something that my husband and I can work on together.

 

I’m here to tell you that you can still have a garden, even if you live in an apartment building. So, put those green thumbs to use this summer, friends!