Welcome THANK YOU! Those are the first words I want to share with you…thank you for stumbling into my little corner of the internet and checking out my thoughts, ideas, and recipes. This is my first official blog post ever, and is a dream-turned-reality five months in the making. Today is also a Two-for-Tuesday recipe bonus day. I hope you enjoy your visit today, share my page with your friends, and come back again tomorrow (hint-there will be chocolate!)
Food for Thought We have all heard the popular words of wisdom, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Sometimes, that saying can be incredibly annoying, when you are in the midst of a life crisis, but more often than not, the words ring true, simply stated as “make the best of the situation you are in.” Lemons are sour and bitter, and when used alone, they are not all that pleasant. So let’s stop and think about the lemons of life. A friend gets cancer…lemon! A trusted mentor is going through divorce…lemon! An aging parent fights terminal illness…lemon! A steady income for your household is lost…lemon! And not all of life’s lemons are big, catastrophic events. Lemons can be small, too, but equally sour…watching a child struggle in a certain skill, having to cancel the date night you have been looking forward to, or an unexpected household expense comes up. Please do not misunderstand…I am not making light of anyone’s trials and struggles, we all have them, but maybe we can help each other through these lemons of life with another perspective.
This past year has left me feeling like a lot of lemons have been coming my way. I have particularly struggled in my profession as a teacher during the past few years. I prayed for lots of things during this struggle…for the situation to get better, to be removed from the situation, for better attitude, for better resources…sadly, I even prayed for a tragic health event for myself that would require me to step away from this job. I am so ashamed to say that now, but it was eye-opening to realize how desperate I had become to get rid of one of my lemons, that I would take on another. Then, in the winter, I had to go through a series of medical tests, followed by my husband having surgery, followed by a massive car repair bill. In the midst of all of these lemons, my professional life had to take a backseat. This would be the time that God would answer my prayers about leaving my job, but not in the way I would have chosen…funny how God works that way. Anyway, during some of my absences, some mistakes were made, and when I returned to work I had some of the most disrespectful and hurtful words put with my name that I ever thought possible. At the time, I did not understand why God would let this happen to me. After all, I had sacrificed so much for my place of employment and the students and families I served. I thought I was good at my job. I had been told that by many people. I had the important job of teaching little kids how to read. I worked hard and tried to be a good person…how could I possibly be in this situation right now? I knew I could not continue down this path when I had already been so unhappy. When I returned home that evening, in tears, I shared the school district’s documentation with my husband and the current situation (BTW, I was NOT fired). I told my husband between sobs, that I could no longer work for this administrator or school district, it was just too much of a struggle emotionally, as well as physically (hello, high blood pressure.) Fortunately, he agreed and said I could turn in my resignation for this to be my last school year. I cried a lot for several weeks, feeling hurt, lost, and like I had the biggest lemon of my life. But with a lot of prayers, support of family and friends, and continued hope I have slowly found the lemonade that was being made from my big lemon. I can even recognize now that God answers prayers in really unconventional ways sometimes. I had prayed for months to leave a job that was making me miserable, but wasn’t taking any action steps myself. God stepped in and gave me a push, and I thank Him for that.
So remember when I said lemons on their own are sour and bitter? But think about all of the yummy things lemons can become when we add the right ingredients…flour and sugar for a cake, or oil and seasoning for a marinade. Combined with the right ingredients, lemons can turn into some pretty amazing things. I think the same can be true for life’s lemons. It’s not always easy, but if you can add the ingredients of prayer, thankfulness, hope, faith, and supportive family, your lemon may just turn into something surprisingly delicious!
Today’s Scripture John 9: 3-5 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” I have underlined words of particular importance for today’s message. I often have to read this passage when I am struggling with lemons in my life. I’m pretty sure the man in verse 1 would consider being blind a huge lemon in his life, but the lemonade in his story are the miracles and lessons Jesus was able to perform here on earth. If God could use this man’s blindness for amazing work, I bet he can use my lemons for something amazing too!
Today’s Recipes Today is a Two-for-Tuesday…that means two recipes on one day! We’re going to turn those sour lemons into a refreshing lemonade and a sweet dessert, and just in time for summer and all of those great family picnics and backyard barbecues!
- Classic Summer Lemonade
- There are probably millions of recipes out there for homemade lemonade, but I like this one…simple and not too sweet and not too sour.
- Fresh lemons, squeezed to equal 1 1/2 cups juice
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 8 cups water
- 1 lemon, sliced thinly
- Combine lemon juice, sugar, and water in pitcher, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add sliced lemons to pitcher or to rim of glass. Kids especially think this is “fancy.”
Strawberry Lemonade Cake
I LOVE this cake…and I’m usually all about the chocolate! This has such a subtle hint of lemon, but the strawberry is really the stand-out.
- Cooking spray and flour to prepare cake pans.
- 1 white cake mix
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup strawberry lemonade concentrate, thawed and divided into 1/4 cups
- 1 1/2 cups strawberry pie filling
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
- 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
- A few drops of red food coloring, if desired
- Strawberries for garnish
- Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and lightly dust with flour. (When making a layer cake, this is an extremely important step so your cake layers come out in one nice piece that is easy to stack.) Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Combine the cake mix, eggs, water, oil, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and 1/4 cup lemonade using an electric mixer. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your bowl and make sure everything gets well-blended. This is the time you may decide you want to add some food coloring. I wanted a slightly pink tint to my cake and didn’t get the desired color from the lemonade concentrate alone, but this step is completely up to your preference. Divide the cake batter between the two pans, tapping gently to even out the batter.
- Bake cakes for 25-30 minutes. When the cakes are baked they will have a golden shine to the top and have a springy texture in the middle. Leave the cakes to cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the outside of your pans and invert onto cooling rack. Allow cakes to cool completely, about 30 more minutes.
- Prepare the strawberry lemonade frosting. Beat butter, 1/4 cup of lemonade concentrate, and confectioner’s sugar on low speed until combined. You may find you need to add a tablespoon of water or milk if the mixture appears dry. I added a few drops of red food coloring to up the pink factor for my frosting, as well. Turn up the mixer speed and continue whipping your frosting until light and fluffy, about another minute.
- Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on plate and spread with strawberry pie filling, almost to the edges, but not allowing any to run down the sides. Add second cake layer to top of pie filling. Place a mound of strawberry lemonade frosting in the middle of your top layer, and spread with frosting spatula, working your way out from center to the edges, adding more frosting as necessary. Frost the sides of the cake. Garnish top of cake with a few fresh strawberries.
Notes: If your are dealing with a lot of heat or humidity, your cake should be refrigerated or the frosting will melt down and become grainy, although a risk of refrigerating cake is that it can dry out. Also, I have never been able to find small cans of frozen strawberry lemonade concentrate, so I just use what I need and then make the rest of the can in a smaller pitcher for my family to drink.